Back in the day when I was playing Vampire the Masquerade, I had a good friend who explained to me why everyone played Malkavians like shit.
A bit of context: In Vampire the Masquerade there are character “classes” that are divided up into Vampire clans. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and some signature powers. Clan Tremere was the Artsy/Beautiful clan, Clan Ventrue was the powerful corporate clan, Clan Gangrel was the angry/bestial clan etc… Malkavians were the insane clan. They all had mental derangements, so most people would create somewhat cooky ways to integrate their derangements into the concept so there was a comical feel to the character.
My friend believed that Malkavians should conceal their “debility” and be nasty plotters and schemers rather than the clowns of vampire society. The sad thing was, for many years I believed him.
Of course there’s no reason why a cooky insane vampire can’t be a manipulative power player too. But that wasn’t the point, the point was that Malkavian’s clan disadvantage wasn’t supposed to be funny according to my friend, and that people who were playing them as clowns were just ruining the feel of the game.
Which of-course is bullshit.
I now look on Malkavians as a necessary light-hearted contrast to an otherwise very dark game. Sure in real-life mental illness is not funny at all, my sister has related some stories about people who struggle with schtzophrenia and it’s sometimes almost enough to bring tears to my eyes. It’s always very hard to see someone willfully destroy his own life bit-by bit because the rules in his head can’t come to an accord with the necessities of his body. But in VtM, Malkavians should be the funny ones. The ones that paint the dark tones of evil monsterous vampires pink and yellow. That’s important. It’s like in Fallout, the bleak hostility of the wasteland is balanced by the light hearted tone of Pip Boy and showtunes.
I’ve always seen the new Vampire as a superior game to Masqurade, because it had more plausible structure. Many people disagreed with me on that, and now I see why. Masquerade might have had its structural flaws, but the game it’s self was better balanced to entertain, and that is more important by far.