'Strange, Dead Love' was a product about which I had deeply mixed feelings. On one hand, the whole paranormal romance genre is one whihc I simply can't stand; at least in the over-commercialised, over-published mainstream sense. On the other, the concept of love, and the storytelling opportunities it offers has always had a place at my table. Whilst this is written for vampire: the Requiem, the principles in here could be easily adapted to any game. The last section alone is worth the cover price, but I'll come to that.
Three elements are introduced in the first two chapters to blend into the chronicle as one sees fit. The beauty here is that none of the leemtns are absolutely mutually exclusive and are extremely scalable. The first two which go hand-in-hand (no pun intended) are Themes and Props. The Theme is the over-riding feel of the chronicle and it is possible to bring in elements of many of the themeses across a long-running chronicle. Each Theme presents love in a different perspective, and if communicated to players effectively, allows for the shaping of characters which either align (or more interestingly, reject) that perspective. Even though I had used themes like 'Redemption', 'The One' and 'Against all odds' in other chronicles, there was still something fresh in those entries that has given me new ways of approaching this subject matter. The Props support the executiuon of the story, and range from an examination of the Traditions to physical locations (such as the ubiquitous nightclub). Whilst a lot of these ideas are not new, they are presented with great clarity and they have enough substance to spark the imagination. What I did notice in this section was that each individual Theme or Prop spoke with a distinct voice; I'm not sure if the three authors were allocated different sections but this change of pace made this chapter extremely readable.
On that note, the quality of writing throughout the whole book was very good. It was clear that all of the authors had a great grasp of the genre and were able to distill the very essence (and then twist it to suit the World of Darkness). I didn't feel that the serialised fiction added anything to the product overall, but the rest of the writing was excellent.
The second chapter presents Shards, which are somewhat fleshed-out chronicle starters. There is still some major work to be done to bring these to life, but (as I noted with other products like 'Glimpses of the Unknown') these are well worth reading. The initial spark, basic NPCs and plot are sketched out for the Storyteller and all you would need to add is localised flavour and expand the scenes into a playable format. Normally in these sections I can find some dead wood; but was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the Shards were usable and engaging.
The last chapter is one on Storytelling Advice. It is acknowledged in the opening paragraph that pages have been written on the subject of storytelling already; but I felt that this product deserved some specialised attention. Given the genre, there needs to be a very particular approach to story and character development, a strong buy-in from both the Storyteller and all players and what this chapter calls 'Social Contracts'. I think that any group who approaches this chapter with the intent of an open dialogue between ST and players (if you don't have this already) will find their game stronger for it. Overall, I'd recommend this chapter for anyone wanting to run any game with a romantic theme - not just WoD.
Overall, I think this is an excellent product, supported by a realistic page count, and solid writing. It can be easily read in one sitting, but you will find yourself (as I did) drawn back to re-read sections and ponder how they'll fit into your chronicle.
[4 of 5 Stars!]