I’d like to take you back to 1991. I was a Junior in high school and at lunch I would gather with a couple of my friends and we would play RPGs, mostly Shadowrun 1st edition. One afternoon when I had gotten out of school for an early release day, I decided to stop by the mall and the gaming store within.
That’s when I saw it, a book with a cover that appeared like green marble with the words “Vampire the Masquerade” plastered along the top. Having always been interested in vampires from a young age, I was intrigued so I immediately snatched up the book and went home to read it.
That rulebook changed the way I gamed. It also had later effects on my life. I immediately introduced it to my group in school and thus began my foray into the World of Darkness and an 8-year long campaign , my longest ever, set in the world of Kindred, werewolves, Awakened and other assorted beasties. Throughout that time, I made many friends I still have today and even met my first wife through the gaming group I had assembled. While that first marriage was pretty catastrophic except for the birth of my oldest daughter, the bonds of friendship that I made as a direct result of the World of Darkness have remained through the years and I still have contact with many of the people that have gamed under my Streets of Shadow Chronicle.
After the release of the so-called New World of Darkness, I drifted away from the WoD. Not because the nWOD rules were bad, nor because I disliked them but because for reasons I could never quite fathom, it didn’t ignite my spark, or the spark of my players, as much as the classic World of Darkness.
So, when White Wolf announced that they were coming out with a 20th Anniversary edition of the Vampire the Masquerade rules, updated to the modern nights and including (nearly) every published Bloodline, Clan and Discipline in the history of VtM, I jumped on the pre-order.
Friday night, I got my notification that the free .pdf was available for those that had pre-ordered the physical book. After struggling with DriveThruRPG’s server issues as well as my own internet being goofy, I managed to get the massive 120+ meg download completed and loaded up on my iPad.
The first thing that will probably strike you is the sheer size of this book. 529 pages is a lot of material and it has taken me quite a while (nearly 24 hours, minus 8 for sleeping and maybe a couple of more to tend to the needs of my children here and there) to read the book, but read it I did, from digital cover to digital cover, to the exclusion of pretty much all other forms of entertainment.
I don’t do that very often.
So, does this book deliver? Yes, yes it does. There aren’t a whole lot of changes here, and many of the changes that do exist are relatively subtle. A few Clan weaknesses have changed, a few Disciplines are different, the often-abused Age Background is missing, there’s a new background I don’t remember having seen before (Domain) and rules for pooling backgrounds. The “timeline” has been advanced somewhat, with mention of tablet computers. There’s even a way to reconcile the Week of Nightmares, but it’s only mentioned once in the book and I’m not going to spoil it for you.
If you didn’t like the Storyteller system as presented in the classic World of Darkness, you won’t like this as well. The core system is still the same one as Vampire Revised Edition, with multiple dice rolls for combat and shifting Difficulty numbers. However, if you are like me this feels like coming home again. There’s a certain sense of comfort and familiarity, almost like I never left the WoD. In short it hits the nostalgia button just right, which is I believe the point.
The book focuses mainly on the Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarchs and Independent sects, with a few mentions of the True Black Hand and Inconnu, but really no details and certainly not as many as there are for the Camarilla. I can’t really fault the book for this; those two sects are not all that important for most Chronicles, and the book is already chock full of information.
The mainline of the Clans is presented in one chapter, with the massive list of Bloodlines and clan variants (such as the antitribu) in a chapter at the end of the book. This same bloodlines/variants chapter includes the information on the Week of Nightmares I alluded to earlier, as well information about some of the other metaplot considerations, such as the defection of the Gangrel from the Camarilla, allowing a Storyteller to play either as the game was originally printed or with the metaplot ideas in place. Several completely dead Bloodlines (such as the Lhiannon) are detailed, but I didn’t see the Laibon mentioned anywhere. The clan variants section also contains information on Koldunic sorcery, Old World Tzimisce and Telyavelic Tremere. Options for both Dementation Malkavians and Dominate Malkavians are presented as well (though Dementation is treated as the main entry in the previous chapter).
All of the Disciplines are included in the book and taken to their max rating (often times 9 dots). Most of the Paths of Necromancy and Thaumaturgy are presented as well as a healthy dose of rituals for both types of blood magic. Again, the main clan Disciplines are presented in a separate section from those of the bloodlines/variants, so to find Koldunic Sorcery, you’ll need to hop into a different Chapter than the Disciplines chapter.
What about Merits and Flaws? Yep. They’re there. Information on Ghouls and Ghoul Families as well. Are you getting the idea that this is a very complete book? You should be, because it is. Pretty much everything has been included here, with few exceptions.
The art in the book is a mixture of old black and white stuff that you’ve seen in previous editions of Vampire (which will bring back memories, I promise) and a few pieces of new, color art work that is very nice.
The book sets out to do what it means to do, and does it with love and care. If you’re a fan of the original Vampire the Masquerade, you really can’t go wrong with this book. If you didn’t like the classic World of Darkness or didn’t like VtM the first time around, there’s nothing here to change your mind.
I give the book a 5 out of 5, and I can’t wait to get my copy of the physical tome. And, remember that daughter I mentioned earlier? She’s 15 now, and at the request of her and one of her friends, I’m going to begin a new Vampire the Masquerade Chronicle for them on Wednesday nights. It’s the circle of life..or unlife, as the case may be.