Friday, December 28, 2012

Fishmalks and Wareadors

            Of all the character stereotypes in World of Darkness, Fishmalks and Wareadors are the most annoying and distracting.  I have played in many Vampire the Masquerade games, and these characters pop up again and again.  While I’m sure many of you who are familiar with 2nd edition or Revised edition are familiar with these, I’ll explain the terms.  A Fishmalk is a Malkavian who’s derangement is that he does wacky or silly things.  The name “Fishmalk” comes from a picture of Malkavian kissing (or talking to) a fish in Vampire the Dark Ages which typifies the goofy behavior.  A Wareador is a Toreador whose chosen art form is a martial art rather than a more conventional art, such as music or painting.  The term “Wareador” is a portmanteau of “war” and “Toreador.”  On the surface these two character types don’t seem that bad, but when you play them in the World of Darkness, they quickly become distracting to the mood and atmosphere of a session.   
I will tell you my seeeecreeets, Mr. Halibut.
            Why are Fishmalks so bad?  In the World of Darkness, the emphasis of gameplay is on the characters and the story, rather than on combat.  While Fishmalks aren’t combat focused, they disrupt the mood of the game through their antics.  They add inappropriate humor that can ruin a scary or poignant moment in a game.  I have never had a Fishmalk player when I was running a Chronicle, but I have played in several games with Fishmalks.  
One of the most memorable was a Malkavian PC with multiple personalities.  One personality was a nerd and the other was a D&D style barbarian.  The character wasn’t played for the drama, but rather for the silliness and the attention of playing that kind of character.  Not to mention that the player was a bit of a power gamer, who was able to convince the Storyteller to let him have two characters sheets, one for the geek with high Mental stats and the other for the Barbarian which was a physical powerhouse. 
I am an artist of destruction!
Speaking of physical powerhouses, Wareadors are the epitome of this archetype.  I really don’t know why Wareadors exist, except as way to power game the Toreador clan which gives Celerity, Presence and Auspex.  Prior to the 20th Anniversary edition, Celerity was considered to be overpowered by many players because a starting PC could get 3 extra actions a turn by spending one point of blood.  The extra actions made that PC a combat monster, especially in Camarilla games where Assamites or other clans are not commonly allowed.  Toreadors also had a “better” clan weakness when compared to Assamites or even Brujah, the other clans with Celerity. 
The problem with “Wareador” is that it’s a combat focused character in a system that doesn’t rely on combat as a primary way to resolve conflict.   I’ll be honest.  I did play several Wareador characters when I started playing Vampire.  My first character was a Venetian duelist in Dark Ages Vampire who fought using the Florentine style (Twin-Sword).  I swear I hadn’t read any of R. A. Salvatore’s novels yet either!  And later, I played a Toreador who used two pistols.  However, those characters were in response to the Chronicle that was being run, which was more combat heavy and really not the kind of Vampire the Masquerade game that I would play in now. 
Laughter is the best medicine!
With either the Fishmalk or the Wareador, I believe that the PCs miss the point of Vampire the Masquerade.  Malkavians, in my opinion, shouldn’t be silly.  They should be frightening, one step removed from total psychosis or babbling lunatics whose words could be true and more terrifying because of that truth.  They should be more like Joker from The Dark Knight, and not the Joker from the 1960s Batman TV show with Adam West.  If you want to see a real psychotic, watch Goodfellas.  Joe Pesci plays Tommy DeVito, who is usually a very nice guy.  He laughs and has a good time, but the moment that someone shows him any disrespect, he snaps and stabs them in the throat with a pair of scissors.  And then a moment later, he’s laughing and joking with his friends while you’re bleeding out in your car.  Tommy is a psychotic, and when he snaps, it’s frightening.  Even his friends are scared of him when he goes berserk and try their best to avoid him.  Tommy’s psychotic tendencies are subtle, and terrifying. 
Wareadors don’t fit into the World of Darkness for a different reason.  Toreadors love art and the expression of their creativity.  A Toreador who was a martial artist might be extremely good at the exhibition of the martial art that they study, but might not be good at applying it.  A Toreador martial artist might use a flying round house kick, which is gorgeous in the dojo, but is almost useless in a real fight.  Certainly, this Toreador martial artist wouldn’t have ever killed anyone.  And the first time that this Toreador martial artist does kill someone, it would shake him to his core, making him question his values.  How would he feel as he realizes that he’s killed someone, even in self defense?  He’s a murderer.  This is a much different character from the Wareador who slices through every problem with his twin katanas and diablerizes his way up the generation chart. 
Add Chuck Norris Joke from 2004 here.
The problem with Fishmalks and Wareadors is that they don’t fit with the setting or the intent of the system.  When creating a character, regardless of the system, please consider the setting and the atmosphere of the game.  When your character’s concept is contrary to the theme of the game, it becomes difficult to fit that character into the story.  You wouldn’t play a Space Marine in a Forgotten Realms game or a Dungeons and Dragons style Wizard in a Star Wars RPG.  So, don’t play something silly or disruptive in Vampire the Masquerade!


  1. Personally I think a Toreador that knows his way around a fight is a perfectly valid character concept. The problem lies with the type of players that come up with this kind of characters; power-gamers. And also with the fact that they feel they have to tie these martial leanings to the clan concept.
    Cause although Clan Toreador holds beauty in all its forms in high regard there should be a lot more to an individual Toreador than just the clan stereotype.

    1. I don't disagree. The martial artist is a perfectly viable build for a Toreador, and the problem is the player's intention behind the character. There's an example of the martial artist in Clanbook Toreador that is a great build. It's not the stats on the character sheet but the player's goal for those stats. Even a combat character can be well rounded.

  2. Have you ever thought that the original Fishmalk might be...(glasses on) A bass player? (sorry, had to say it)

    1. I think you just murdered comedy! Let me find the defibrillator!

  3. My one gripe about Vampire in either incarnation was being in a group that took things much too seriously.
    While I'd agree that there is some disruption from Fishmalks, the worst is actually the overly intense player with a personal 50 page plan to amassing ultimate power within the story and treats every other player as the inferior tools he is forced to utilize to achieve that epic goal.
    Enough of that and I'd eventually quit trying anything productive in order to become a "Fishmalk".

    1. I think that a good game should be a balance of the serious and the silly. Everyone should have fun. I don't want a game group that is super serious about everything. On the other hand I don't want a guy who does nothing but joke and ruins the mood of the game for everyone else. There needs to be a balance between the overly intense player and the player who quotes Monty Python and the Holy Grail every 5 minutes.

  4. I'm rather fascinated at how the "meme" (for lack of a better word) that the Malkavians are CRAAAZY! took over the game. In the 1st and 2nd Edition core book, they list a number of Derangements, and most of them are eminently playable. They're not "slapping people in the face with a fish" crazy, they're more realistic, and sad. Similar to your observation regarding Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas. I'm not sure if it was the clanbooks that set it off, or just players wanting to bring their Kender into the World of Darkness that did the clan in.

    I suppose it's not a big surprise, as their is a certain type of player that delights in being "wacky" and "goofy" and will look for any opportunity to play that character.

    1. I think a lot of it may have to do with DC Comic's The Joker and how he has been characterized over the years. Especially in the 90s when he was a mix of the silly 60's Cesar Romano Joker and the scarier Joker of the 90's comics where he killed Jason Todd and crippled Barbara Gordon that got bundled together in the 90's Batman the Animated series as one character that is both silly and scary. Some of it may have to do with Clanbook Malkavian as well. Also, there was a tendency in the 90s to play Chaotic Neutral as crazy at least where I was playing D&D.
      It's a good question though and I really don't have an answer, but it's something I should look into that's for sure.