I have not written a review in years (my last was for Chaining the Beast for the now long defunct site Ex Libris Nocturnis) but I have to end that today. Since its inception in 1991 Vampire the Masquerade (VtM) has become a phenomena with a richly detailed and insanely complex metaplot, a connected series of story arcs that moved the world and setting forwards, ultimately towards 2004s Gehenna. When Onyx Path was formed and picked up the line for development again in 2012 they faced the delicate challenge of navigating this tangled web in an updated form but with an almost 10 year gap in which there was a void to be filled. This product, Becketts Jyhad Diary, began life as an update to the metaplot but with the arrival of V5 its directive morphed into also being a stepping stone between the old and new editions as well as a V5 'metaplot bible' for the line going forwards. These are all significant development challenges made more significant in combination.
Personally a book collecting the metaplot in an accessible form is something I have felt the WoD and especially Vampire has been badly missing since 2nd edition time so I was very excited to be part of the KS that helped design it's content. I'm reviewing this from a copy of the deluxe, but I'm going to focus on content everyone gets. I will say though that OP have delivered what is easily the most beautiful Vampire book ever made in the deluxe, and I have it all on my shelves (V20 Dark Ages is it's rival). The deluxe book feels very satisfying to handle.
Zoning out on me and want the point? Ok. Regardless of whatever edition you play, regardless of how much you use the metaplot, and regardless of what your chronicle looks like or whether you are brand new, intermediate or a scarred vet to VtM, this book is hands down the most important book to get beyond the core. You will mine it forever for good ideas, interesting characters, plot hooks, locations, clues and even for comedy. It is not just the best Vampire supplement ever created, it is also the best looking, with the entire art department excelling themselves. Based on previous books I had fears that over 500 pages of text with fonts for different handwriting and reports would look jumbled and pain my eyes, especially when the dimensions of BJDs more compact form were considered, but the visual impact of flicking through it is a devastating example of a mastery of layout on the part of Mike Chaney. Everything is beautifully and thoughtfully presented and requires no effort to enjoy.
And there is SO much to enjoy. Perhaps you are sitting on the fence wondering if this book has anything in it for you. It absolutely does. It's crammed with stuff. A brief and woefully inadequate list includes updates on every city or region featured in a By Night book, Baba Yaga, Rasputin, the Giovanni Chronicles, countless canon characters, the Clan Novel series, the independent Clans, Carthage, the thin blooded and the Sabbat Civil War. Refracted throughout all of these sections are strands of the metaplot gathered from all over Vampires publication history, including the Dark Ages lines. Major metaplot threads (many chosen by fans) are put under the spotlight but in the granular details of their exploration other threads from elsewhere in the metaplot are hidden for the discerning eye to uncover like easter eggs. Its an ingenious design and presentation of something that could have been presented very dryly and boringly.
This brings me to another point about the design decisions in this book. We not only get a feast of metaplot to gorge on, we get a STORY to frame it in (it always bothered me that fiction in WW rpg books was often underappreciated, as telling a good story is the point). The diary is built to look and feel like a real diary, and so we get the creepy feeling as we read that we are spying on Beckett and globe trotting with him. So the story is engaging on a number of levels, and it's also presented in bite sized portions like a real diary so you can dive into it anywhere and not feel lost in the narrative. It's only loosely a linear story. The real story is in the fractal like emergence of the World of Darkness as seen through undead eyes over the last 25 years. Which, by the way, ignites the imagination into a creative frenzy. It's full of inspirational content but the main point I want to stress here is that i think this makes BJD also the best fiction ever published for the WoD.
But this is primarily a book about telling our own stories using this book as a springboard or in game prop, and so the narrative sections are all rounded out by a presentation of that part of the metaplot for gaming or storytelling purposes. These include interesting questions raised by the diary and seeds for chronicles and stories, as well as information on the background of the elements involved. They have no "crunch" for tabletop games as they are written to be useful to LARPers, film makers, or anyone else wanting to tell a story set in the world of Vampire.
In summary if you like VtM this is the best gift you could hope to receive. It's truly an outstanding work of art and Onyx Path have surpassed themselves. Standing applause for Matthew Dawkins, Neall Raemonn Price, Eddy Webb, and everyone who contributed, fans included. This is THE book Vampire needed. It cannot be criticised for not covering everything as there was always going to be way too much metaplot to do that, but like all good things it definitely leaves me wanting more.
Wiith all this said, it saddens me that Matthew Dawkins, one of the writers and developers, has had to shut his social media down following his being doxxed by an ex-Onyx Path developer. His contribution here gives me faith that V5 will be what I want it to be, and I feel it'll be a terrible shame if due to some bitter person's actions, he leaves this field.
[5 of 5 Stars!]