Strange Dead Love is a book for Vampire the Requiem released by White Wolf in the winter of 2012. It is about running a paranormal romance campaign, namely a romantic relationship between a mortal and some supernatural creature, here a vampire. The romantic part includes sex, but it is not limited to sex. It is not porn but occasionally is erotica. Jess Hartley, Monica Valentinelli and Filamena Young wrote Strange Dead Love. It is also one of the first books from White Wolf since the company endured a shake up and staff reduction in 2011. Unfortunately… this is neither a good book, nor a bad book, merely a mediocre book.
Strange Dead Love is organized into four sections, including an introduction, chapter one discussing themes and props, chapter two details shards and chapter three provides storytelling notes.
The introduction is standard fare, though useful as it discusses what appears elsewhere in the book.
Chapter one covers the usual tropes in a Requiem game and a paranormal romance, including the blood bond – or creating additions to vampire blood – redemption, a lover’s triangle and the like.
The middle portion of the book provides nine shards – this is the longest part of the book. Shards is the White Wolf terms for the suggested plots of campaign arcs and while the idea of making these suggestions is good, using the term shard is unnecessary jargon. The shards here do not discuss any endings or middles – they are only set up. Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons books also present the plots of suggested campaign arcs in many of their books and here at least WotC out does White Wolf, because the 4E books avoid jargon and include middles and ending in their suggested plot arcs.
Another problem it is tendency to tell people what they could figure out for themselves. The shards here include things like potentially reincarnated lovers meeting, a vague take on Romeo and Juliet and jilted lovers dealing with the collapse of a relationship. These are all fine fodder for a campaign arc, but why do gamers really need a book to tell them these are options? People should be able to figure out these things for themselves.
Chapter three provides advice to storytellers on issues like campaign structure, creating NPCs tailor made for a paranormal romance and providing useful play examples. The material here is good, including the sections on tools for handling pacing and special games involving just a player and the storyteller.
A perennial problem for White Wolf books is a tendency to use 100 words when 25 would suffice. Strange Dead Love suffers from this issue throughout all three chapters. Amusingly chapter three starts with the sentence “Prolific advice has been offered to Storytellers for both the World of Darkness and Vampire: The Requiem.”
Like most White Wolf books, this one includes bits of flash fiction between sections of the book. The interstitial fiction here is good, reading somewhat like the early books in the Anita Blake series, before the books became stupid.
Art, with interior images by Ken Meyer. Jr. and a cover by long-time White Wolf photo-shopper Christopher Shy, in the book is decent, though not remarkable.
Strange Dead Love is a part of White Wolf’s persistent push into the digital world – it is generally available in PDF and only available in hardcopy through print on demand. The PDF version is highly bookmarked, with hyperlinks throughout – including the table of contents – and it is searchable. It does not have an index, but that is forgivable given its organizational strengths.
This books biggest problem is it actually fails to make a real case for including a paranormal romance game in a vampire game. Vampires, as depicted in the Vampire the Requiem game series, are soulless beasts that feed upon people and at best they have good table manners and know how to pretend to have emotions. They typically get people to “love” then with supernatural powers or by using their vampiric blood like heroin carefully doled out to an addict. Strange Deead Love is part of this in name only.
I wanted to like this book but that is not enough. A work must be judged on its own where that it possible, unless the work is a part of a larger whole, at which point it must be judged as a segment of the whole. Strange Dead Love is part of Vampire the Requiem series, which brings certain thematic expectations but the book fails to be a coherent part of the line. It cannot be both a Requiem book and something off doing its own thing. It would have been better as a World of Darkness book. However, that would not have solved the issue of the wordiness or telling the reader things they could figure out for themselves – reducing the page count by even a third would have narrowed the focus and improved the whole work.
Strange Dead Love gets a 10 on a d20 roll. It is a mixed bag, with as many problems as good elements. I can only recommend it to the die-hard fan.
[3 of 5 Stars!]