Thursday, November 17, 2011


Vampire: the Masquerade burst onto the scene in 1991. I was 5 years old, and much too young to appreciate it.

When I first began gaming in '95, I had toyed around with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition but never "met" Vampire until D&D3 came out and I started going to game shops instead of Games Workshops or the library for my gaming. That's when I first saw White Wolf's games, and I was not impressed.

You see, at the time I was a little different than I am today. I was still a nice, and smart kid, but things that were outside the box were strange to me, and I was also the type of kid who jumped to conclusions before looking, and Vampire was "weird and gothy." I'm sure 14-year-old Carmin and 25-year-old Carmin would have some laughs if they met now.

Suffice it to say, I've never played Vampire: the Masquerade.

Fast forward to 2008, and I had already been working in an independent games shop for two years. After two years of seeing Vampire: the Requiem sitting on the role play shelf, I finally decided to take the plunge and I bought the World of Darkness (WoD or nWoD (new World of Darkness)) rulebook and the Vampire: the Requiem (VtR) add-on. I was hooked from the first chapter.

What I love about Vampire is the overwrought grimness of the whole setting, and the unapologetic intelligence with which the staff at White Wolf write. Every book they produce opens with a story, or set of stories before the credits and printing information are even displayed. VtR was also the first time I've seen (in writing) a games designer suggest a rule as opposed to offer an official ruling. Sure AD&D2 had optional rules in the blue boxes, but they were always add-ons or replacements for the basic mechanics, never was an entire mechanic merely a suggestion. To the mind of a role player who came to his formative  years during the late-'90s/early-new millennium this was revolutionary.

During the beginning of 2011 I hadn't paid much attention to the White Wolf website, so one day in May I decided to pop-by the new re-vamped (har-de-har-har) website and take a look at what was new (especially because I had heard that they were moving to a digital-first model of distribution. More on that in a later post). I saw an ad for the 20th anniversary of Vampire: the Masquerade (VtM, which is part of the classic World of Darkness (cWoD)). I was curious; here was the father to VtR, and though the two games share only superficial details, I wanted to see where my favorite RPG had come from. Though it was $100. I wavered for a month, but finally decided to buy it. I just received it today. Let's take a look shall we?

Now, before you express shock at the fact that a book I ordered in June finally arrived, take note that White Wolf only printed these books in September/October, and they were taking order for the whole summer as a "print on demand" sort of deal.

Here's the book:
That's a leatherette cover with the ankh of the Camarilla on the front.

Here's a shot of the inside:

The book is full-color, and 520 pages long. It's got silver gilded edges that are mirror-like, and it's got two (that's right, TWO) cloth bookmarks. 

Now here's what the book isn't: It's not a re-do of the game. It still has the old clans, the old mechanics, and the old storyline. The wonky die-rolling system of a combination of a die-pool and a variable target number is still there, and all the clan weaknesses and benefits are there as well. However, it's meta-plot neutral, which means that it doesn't further the meta-plot from VtM Revised (3rd edition), and is, therefore, compatible with wherever you decided to situate your campaign. There's still the Camarilla and the Sabbat, and the Anarchs, but it doesn't force the plot down your throat. 

The folks at White Wolf describe it (in their typical style, that I love) almost as a love letter to the old game that everyone loved. Their target audience was those those that played and loved the old edition, and this book is a celebration of that game. In fact, it's all you ever need to play VtM.

So why do I have it? Well, like I said, I love Vampire, and want to take part in all aspects of Vampire. I want to use the book for ideas, or perhaps even to play the old game. I also mentioned that it's all one would need to play VtM, therefore it seems like a good place to go from for a person like myself who is interested in the old Vampire system, but doesn't want to collect the hundreds of old books, or pdfs.

What started out as a "love letter" is becoming a saga, as White Wolf is releasing a bunch of products set in the classic World of Darkness (cWoD) under the "Onyx Path" line. These books will be new productions of the old systems (Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, Changeling: the Lost, etc.) along with new supplements. They just released a 50-something-page adventure that's a loose continuation of the old book "Ashes to Ashes," called "Dust to Dust." The next book to be released for the Onyx Path is the V20 Companion (a book of "hacks" for V20). Similar things will be in development for all the cWoD games.

So, what do I think of this book? I love it! It's fascinating to look at where my favorite game came from, and satisfying knowing that what I bought was not a shard of a larger work, but almost like an omnibus. If I really wanted, I could go back and collect all the old books, but I don't have to. My enjoyment of this work of art can stand alone. And a work of art it is. Some art is re-hashed from the old supplements and core books, but because it's an homage to the old system this isn't a problem. New art by Tim Bradstreet are very impressive. 

My complaints with the book, stem with some faults in the printing. There's a magenta line running horizontally in the Clan Giovanni section. It's not enough to ruin the book, but it shouldn't be there. Also, the book is bowing:
I'm going to try and put some heavier books on top of it for a couple of days, but I don't think that will actually do anything. 

Was it worth the $100 I paid for it? Yes. Barely. Would it be worth the $100 if one was a fan of VtM from the beginning, and got huge play out of it in the '90s? Very much so. However, this thing was a limited run, and if you didn't order it before the end of the summer, you're shit outta luck. White Wolf is going to put the thing on print on demand through One Book Shelf soon, but right now you can purchase the pdf. From what I hear the book will either be in one volume in black and white, or two volumes in full color. I suggest you pick it up.


P.S. As a bit of a housekeeping note, you'll notice that I tagged this as both "Vampire the Masquerade," and "V20." From now on, things that do not pertain to the V20 or Onyx Path will be labelled as "Vampire the Masquerade," while things that pertain mostly to V20 will be labelled as such. Expect to see much more "V20" labels than "Vampire the Masquerade" labels, as I'll be collecting just the V20 books. 

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