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Vampire: the Masquerade (V5 pre-alpha playtest)
by Nicholas K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2017 23:41:35
This is a direction that, frankly, is not good for Masquerade and the adjoining World of Darkness game lines. I initially hoped the new version would be a refinement on the 20th anniversary edition released a few years back, that for me revitalized my interest in the game. This iteration comes across as a shallow parody of the previous system with far too many gimmicks that remove player agency while being mechanically less robust.

In particular, I have three distinct point of contention that struck me concerning the rules. The first is the elimination of Attributes as we know them in every other presentation of the Storyteller system. The tripartite division cuts out too much depth and complexity that existed before. In this iteration, I cannot have a character who is gifted in intelligence but flawed in terms of wits, the archetypal absent-minded professor. In making the specializations purely additive it takes away from the richness of characters who have mechanically backed up flaws and make the proficiency of characters far to one note.

The second, and perhaps most important, issue is the inclusion of the gimmick mechanic of hunger dice. Instead of facilitating player agency by giving them the tools of resource management with the blood pool. the dice leave this aspect to chance. This is not fun, engaging, or rewarding in any sense of the term. Moreover, this mechanic defeats the design goal of creating a system that is simple to learn and utilize. A resource management system that utilized integered units that is found throughout World of Darkness game lines is profoundly simple to teach and keep track of in midst of play. The hunger dice fail in this as they necessitate consulting a table, always a no-no for fast paced and approachable mechanics, and make the use of blood more of a gamble than a true cost, which defeats the core concepts of Masquerade. The third is the spliting of Willpower into "willpower" and "composure". There is no reason for this other than finding a way to make a trait that goes to 10 go to 5 twice instead. It adds nothing of substance to the game system and the narrative of heroic exertion that the mechanic is meant to model. A further problem is how the lower value of trait or pool is rolled for resisting powers. The sample disciplines that were shown that tested against willpower had players rolling pools that could potentially get to 10, easily get to 7, and often start at 4 or 5 dice against a pool that would max out at 5 if the opponent had never spent willpower. This strongly favors the initiator of the power and gives little chance to defend. Much like the attributes issues above this depicts characters who have strengths but few weaknesses, success without much fear of failure. This is bad for drama and bad for gaming.

There are myriad other issues. The unbalanced allotment of skills across categories and the profoundly confusing decisions on grouping (Firearms are Mental?!?). The compulsion table tearing away the player agency in an unsatisfactory way, like the hunger dice making what could be strong conscious choice into a gamble. The lack luster physical disciplines that make me think this is a third edition of Requiem. The basic mechanics that make this a third edition of Requiem. The replacement of Nature and Demeanor with Virtue and Vice from Requiem. Both Requiem and Masquerade are great games and neither deserves this butchering of mechanics in such a slip shod manner.

Finally, the tieing of clan flaws to compulsion is baffling as what should be a core part of a vampire's curse is instead far into the compulsion track. Additionally, the implementation of Generation as an afterthought in the rules is not a good sign. The weight of generation is a key part of the politics and power in Masquerade and a core system should be designed with it in mind and not as an afterthought. Yet another instance where the hunger dice and compulsion mechanic show their design flaws. Now for the scenario presented alongside the rules. It is not good. In fact, I honestly have to say that I found it horrible. Firstly, it utilizes the blood bond as a means to shanghi players into a stupid plot. This stupid plot involves going up against the German Police's equivalent to S.W.A.T. alongside other assorted factions such as a Second Inquisition. The Second Inquisition is not what bothers me but rather the conflict with the police, as it is basically the last thing that you would ever want to do in MASQUERADE. Throughout all the previous iterations of the game line it was hammered in that mortal authorities are the biggest threat to the vampire community, not the hunters, not the factionalism of vampire politics, just the authorities having undeniable proof of their existence and responding as one would against blood stealing monsters. That this scenario so flagrantly invites players to slap that in the face, in what is supposed to be a Camarilla game, is galling. Additionally, I noticed that in giving the ST "advice" on encouraging role play it specifically mentioned to "let the player discussion play out like a small larp scene". Why? Why assume that the players and ST of a digitally distributed product that mainly caters to TABLETOP players have any experience with larp? Why privilege larp by making it a presupposed common ground when it is not? It almost leads me to think that the oversimplifications and inclusion of gimmick mechanics was made to appeal (somehow) to larp players, except I don't think they would appreciate the loss of characterization from butchered Attribute and the intrusion of gimmick dice would be even more time consuming during larp than at the table. As a final note, I am galled that the authors of this pre-alpha thought this would be easy to teach and run. I taught my group the basic rules to the 20th anniversary edition in maybe 5 minutes, scaling difficulties and all, and it was not hard for anyone to pick up. My players felt the pressure of expending blood far more acutely as they watched the boxes ticking down, each time knowing that they were choosing to push themselves closer the thirst and frenzy without needing gimmick dice to create drama. As a fan of both the Old/World of Darkness and the New/Chronicles of Darkness settings and systems I can honestly say that this is a highly disappointing and unnecessary overhaul of a system that has been doing well for over two decades. I honestly believe that an implementation of the 20th anniversary rules with some of the expansion for the dramatic systems that were seen in Werewolf 20 and Mage 20 would be the best way to go for this edition. Particularly with how the interest in gimmick dice could effect those game lines The direction of this pre-alpha rule set only alienates old fans with its gimmicks and removal of meaningful complexity and does nothing that would be appealing to draw a new audience in and renew interest in the brand in the wider gaming community. I have spent several years practically evangelizing these games in my local gaming community, with many people not realizing that these games and White Wolf are still around. This pre-alpha rule set feels like a slap in the face to both the rules and setting as well as to me as a fan who has made other fans of the brand.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: the Masquerade (V5 pre-alpha playtest)
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Secrets' photo pack: churches
by Mars H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2017 15:11:26

Secret's of The Masquerade's photo pack is a nice insight into some older, european churches, and surrounding areas. As an American player, who often tries to bring my campaigns to places my players can't get to, I find this invaluable. There are some lovely outside shots, the rooftop views are my personal favorite, and a wealth of interior shots detailing the stained glass windows.

Some of the shots are a bit blurry, but it isn't enough to really pull away from the overall pack, much like previosuly mentioned in other reviews. Overall, I would give this pack a high rating and push people to download and use it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secrets' photo pack: churches
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Berlin by Night
by Lucas v. D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2017 07:56:28

Berlin by Night is a very good book. This opinion might be biased since its the first story, chronicle AND roleplaying experience I ever had. I played it 2times now: the first time as a player and the second time as Storyteller. Both these stories were with Neonate Troupes trying to survive among the powerful vampires of this city. I am planning to run it again in the alternative setting (presented in the book) where the Troupe plays the Archeons.

The book has a very rich background that really captures well what Berlin has been through all these years. It explains the motives of both princes why they do what they do very well, and why people support or opose either side. In my opinion this chronicle has a lot of replayability. Not only because it gives a lot of small subplots to work with (before and/or after "The Ascension of Caine" story included in the book). But also because the players can choose to support either West Berlin, East Berlin or (even more dangerous and thrilling) play both sides. I also must mention that "The Ascension of Caine" story can be quite challenging to new players, because the city is full with very old and strong Kindred. However as long as the players try to ally some of these vampires it shouldn't be much of a problem. Also because there is soo much danger it can really instill caution in the players to act more smart and calculated: a trait you want in a Camerilla Chronicle. Furthermore the story is VERY good. I remember the first time I played it I was mindblown by it all. I won't go in further detail though, because I don't want to spoil this gem.

The NPC's in the book are also very intresting. Some who are inspired on historical figures even. The same goes for the Coteries. They give a new storyteller a great sence of what Jyhad is really about.

And the artwork is really grim. Thats always a big plus for me.

Overall 5/5. I'm glad I own this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Berlin by Night
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Secrets' photo pack: churches
by sophia g. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/27/2017 11:18:03

Some of the pictures are a tiny bit blurred - Not enough to really lower the quality but it would irk me to use them. I especially enjoyed the pictures of the windows and the shots that showed the church from above, as they give a perspective rarely gained otherwise. Would be interested to get further ones. Also those angels holding the book are honestly very cool (And I would love to have a complete one with the lighting of the second one, but I guess that's not possible..) Nice work overall!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secrets' photo pack: churches
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Our Lady of Sorrows
by Kurt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2017 15:47:07

Short, but full of atmosphere. I'm sorry, but I just never get tired of Giovanni Mafie Gangster fun! This is the set-up for an ongoing Giovanni-centric chronicle and it looks to be quite entertaining. If I had more time, I would be running this right now. Even in the short space available, the Carbine and Carbon Building is a character in and of itself. I admit that I am a little baffled by the lack of Disciplines in the write-ups for the Giovanni Don and his right hand guy, but since they are mostly high level plot movers and unassailable by neonate characters, I don't see that as an insurmountable problem. The personalities of the characters are well-drawn and more than sufficient for the needs of this introductory scenario. I rate this: A slow Goomba nod and a thumbs up!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Our Lady of Sorrows
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Madison by Night
by Kurt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2017 20:45:35

Great setting information and a wonderful cast of Vampire characters to play with! Looking forward to future expansions! Mad City rest-stop on the Anarch Highway! Very cool.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Madison by Night
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Clanbook: Karnstein
by Kurt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2017 20:38:05

Wow. Nicely done! I like the write up for Carmilla a lot and the whole Clan history is very well done, with two divergent legends about how the bloodline began (I tend to like the second one the best!). The IC parts are well-written and add flavor while also providing useful information on running Karnsteins. The Karnsteins are a nicely balanced minor bloodline which can easily be dropped into any Chronicle to add some flavor, but won't drastically distort any of the usual elements of the canonical WoD. There aren't enough of them to change politics and their signature Discipline, Pretense, is interesting without being overpowering. With archetypes provided, there are LOTS of ways to incorporate Karnsteins into a game. Right off the bat I found myself designing a Golconda "Prophet" using the Pretense powers to lure gullible marks into eradicating themselves. The Karnsteins are creepy and tragic and romantic all at the same time, which is as it should be! Recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Clanbook: Karnstein
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Engagement
by Kurt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2017 23:21:31

A well-written short piece describing a new Discipline, a variant of Presence, which is useful and well balanced. The Engagement powers are carefully presented with just enough tweaks to be interesting and several built story hooks. The origin of the new Discipline is described and there are write-ups for the 14th Gen Inceptor who created it and his cold and cruel Sire who has taken the credit for it. The characters are worth the cost of the product in themselves as both come with interesting backstories and an insight into Toreador politics that would be easy to spin into a number of stories. The new Discipline, "Engagement", is centered on the relationships between artist and audience with four ranks worth of powers, each with with systems, examples, and potential pitfalls. All in all a nifty package with lots of usable stuff, well worth the miniscule price!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Engagement
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VtM Character Sheets [V20/4th Edition]
by Erica H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2017 07:10:31

Would be rated higher if all the pages were interactive.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
VtM Character Sheets [V20/4th Edition]
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Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
by John M. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2017 06:07:22

This is a fantastic book for anyone wishing to start playing Vampire the Masquerade, or a long term player looking to see what is updated. I have the PDF and hardback, and despite constant use is still in good condition. I did a full review of this book on my site https://itsmorethanjustgaming.com/2017/08/16/vampire-the-masquerade-20th-anniversary-edition if you want to know more. Otherwise, thoroughly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
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Madison by Night
by Andrew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/14/2017 12:32:45

As someone living in Madison, it's a lot of fun to see how Bill merged all of the real (and semi-fictionalized) places together into a very interesting setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Madison by Night
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VtM Character Sheets [V20/4th Edition]
by Arturo R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2017 10:44:01

In the spanish versions there is a health level box missing. Kudos.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
VtM Character Sheets [V20/4th Edition]
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Madison by Night
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2017 18:06:38

Very well writen and a great resource for any storyteller that would want to run a game in Madison.

Well worth the price!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Madison by Night
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Madison by Night
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2017 15:24:45

Madison by Night is a solid introduction to the affairs of the Anarch Kindred in Wisconcin's Capital City. This book covers a brief history of the Kindred within the city, as well as profiles on numerous vampires who currently make Madison their home. Several locations of interest are detailed, including two neighborhoods which are declared part of the Rack, giving a Storyteller just enough information to build on.

The book ends with a number of compelling plot hooks/story ideas. Armed with this volume, a troupe is ready to begin exploring the World of Darkness Madison!

If I have a complaint about this product, it is simply that I would like to have seen a little more information about the city itself. Hopefully there will be a follow-up volume or expansion piece. At the price point, it is an EXCELLENT value!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nightmare on Hill Manor
by Stephen E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2017 15:39:38

Good stuff. Looking forward to running it. Also looks like a good jumping off point for becoming a Mage, though not so much Vampire or Werewolf other than learning the rules-system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nightmare on Hill Manor
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