'Darkening Sky' is the latest in the new line of classic WoD titles. It is good to see this 'lost title' finally in print.
The book covers the eclipse of 1230 AD from five different game lines, and each line has been set in a completely different geographic area. This decision was a pleasant surprise, as the developers have chosen to cast the net across the medieval world so that a wide range of plots can be explored. From an aesthetic standpoint, the book remains true to the designs of the original lines, the art is consistently of a high standard (as we have come to expect from White Wolf), and the editors have been meticulous. At this price point, the book represents excellent value.
The only segment of each chapter that I found of little use was the section on cross-over ideas for each story. Whilst I can understand that the authors aimed to make the book as useful as possible, each story stands well on it's own. Each story is well-situated in its' own line and their strength lies in 'keeping true' to their own line.
The chapters are as follows:
Set in Volga Bulgaria, 'The Evergreen Prison' (Werewolf) deals with an imprisoned spirit against the backdrop of an invading army. The chapter introduces the Stargazers and Uktena to Dark Ages Werewolf, including a range of Gifts and Rites. The Sept is well-realised, and there is plenty of storyteller advice about local cultures to use. Likewise, the plot will keep players on their toes as they need to explore and address very different story needs.
'Accidents and Deliveries' (Fae) moves the lens to the British Isles, with the story focused on ancient grudges and challenging the might of the Church. The story excels through personalising the NPCs. None of the characters charges are simply stats and stereotypes; and the storyteller is given ample tools to make the players actually care about the focus of the story. As with the preceding chapter, this is no simple linear plot, and the characters have a chance to seriously affect the outcome.
'Phantasmagoria' (Inquisitor) - set in Italy - is the high-water mark for this title (which is saying a lot considering the extremely high quality of the writing throughout). Whilst I have never played Inquisitor, this chapter really opened my eyes as to the possibilities for this simply as a single module. The story deals with a range of situations in which regular people have seen the supernatural and reported it to the Church. The characters are dispatched to mediate these difficult situations and the outcome is never a foregone conclusion.
'The Abyss Gazes Back' (Vampire) takes us now to Sevilla into a political story with the fate of a torpored Elder in the mix. It deals heavily with Lasombra mysticism, and draws in the Crimson Curia. As with any good Vampire story, the charm lies in the non-linear nature of story (despite the nature of the events set to unfold) and the depth of character given to the major NPCs.
Lastly, 'Divine Right' (Mage) is set in Jerusalem and is -at it's heart - a story of apotheosis. The religious backdrop of the city (something that has appealed to me since reading 'Jerusalem by Night') is brought to light, and in context the main NPCs' actions will be contentious and heretical. This story, more than any of the others has the potentially to go horribly, horribly wrong.
So, there you have it. Five quality stories in one book. If you're willing to run a series of short stories, it would be possible (and highly enjoyable) to work your way through the book - and the game lines - over the course of a few month. The title comes highly recommended and stands as a testament to the fact that these writers are still able to seamlessly evoke the feeling of the classic WoD, which is highly impressive and appreciated.
[4 of 5 Stars!]