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V20 Rites of the Blood
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2016 12:39:21

Just as their unlife derive from it, so does vampire sorcery have its basis in blood. Quite messily at times, as the opening piece of fiction describes (all in the best possible taste, I'm glad to say, your imagination is left to fill in the less pleasant bits!). Many vampires wonder just how blood does what it does for them, the more curious ask what else it can do. Out of this inquiry comes more exotic knowledge. Raw power shaped and controlled by ritual... magic. This book, then, looks at what effect blood rituals (and indeed blood sorcery as a whole) has on vampire society, as well as the price an individual vampire pays to develop his arts.


Ultimately, it's all about power. Raw power. Some clans codify their knowledge and pass it on, master to apprentice, sire to childe... but others reach deep into themselves to tap into powers they might have learned to control but do not really understand. The theme here is the cost of power, the mood is the strange and often scary wierdness of it all. Even vampires themselves see it as unnatural, which coming from unnatural beings is strange indeed! Ancient secrets and recent discoveries, quite apart from the disciplines practiced by all vampires, blood magic involves individuals wielding almost limitless power that can as easily overwhelm as it can serve. Treat with caution...


Chapter 1: The Ivory Tower starts a survey of blood magic as practised by various vampire groups by looking at the Tremere and thaumaturgy. The very history of the clan is bound up in their practice of thaumaturgy and it makes interesting reading to see how they used it to claw their way from untrusted outsiders to valued members of the vampire community (even if viewed somewhat warily)... and then the Camarilla was formed, and they established their position. There's more on their current status and the way in which they work, then follow detailed descriptions of commonly used rituals, including the rule mechanics for using them.


Then Chapter 2: The Sword of Caine continues in similar vein, explaining how blood magic is used by vampires of the Sabbat. Various kinds of magic are practiced and these are explained at length. The recurrent theme is that whatever magic is studied depends on the clan affiliation of the vampire studying it: although there are a few exceptions when particularly curious individuals somehow manage to learn a different style. The Sabbat also practice a variant form of magic called the ritae, which involve not just blood but faith as well. Detail is immense, reflecting the way in which spell-casters pore over their books and scrolls, amassing vast amounts of knowledge, a constanct feature of this entire book.


And so it continues with chapters exploring the blood magic practices of other groups - Chapter 3: The Movement looks at what Anarchs do including wierd and wonderful 'Hacktivist Thaumaturgy' that mixes computer technology, blood and magic and Chapter 4: The Independents explores the exploits of Assemites, Setites, Giovanni (who are in to necromancy big style). Then Chapter 5: The Unusal covers the Inconnu, the Tal'Mahe'Ra and even looks at the magical creation of creatures such as gargoyles. Not that that is supposed to happen any more, the Tremere had to give up their gargoyle habit when they joined the Camarilla but... well, the appropriate rituals are laid out here. Chapter 6: The Damned looks at demons, with a note explaining that these demons are not the ones of Demon: The Fallen, but rather demons as vampire view them. This chapter is steeped in the history of vampiric dealings with demons and inclues a section on the Sabbat Inquisition. Don't mess with them...


Finally, Chapter 7: Secrets of the Blood attempts, as far as is possible, a systematic analysis of blood magic from its fundamental principles. Whilst this mainly concentrates on the game mechanics necessary, there is enough background for a studious player to make his vampire character sound like he knows what he is talking about!


If magic is to play a leading role in your chronicle, or your character wants to study it, this work will provide ample resources. It is perhaps a bit of a niche interest, but reading through these chapters gives an insight into quite a lot more than just ritual spellcasting vampire-style... it provides added depth to the activities of sects and clans and so gives further insight to the shadowed world of vampires.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Rites of the Blood
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V20 Ghouls & Revenants
by james S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2016 13:42:45

Having played Vampire the Masquerade since it's inception, I have read many excellent and a few not so excellent books. Ghouls and Revenants is one the better books I have read.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Ghouls & Revenants
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V20 Ready Made Characters
by jeffrey l. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2016 12:34:56

A GREAT RESOURCE FOR QUICK PLAY! I PERSONALLY LOVE BEING GOVEN A CHARACTER TO PLAY, I FIND THE CHALLENGE OF PLAYING A CHARACTER ON THE FLY GREAY!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Ready Made Characters
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V20 Anarchs Unbound
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/23/2016 08:44:17

Some vampires have no time for the traditions that have built up night by night amongst their kind. Some do not want to wait to gain seniority and status within vampire society but want to grab it now, even if to others it seems that they haven't earned it yet. These are the Anarchs, who can be summed up as being more like the kine on which they feed than like the kindred to which they belong. They are the agents of change, who see vampire society as stagnant and lost in its past and seek to incorporate new ideas and new tools as they drag it into the present day. No wonder older vampires hate them!


Yet their rebellion often does no more than replace one tyrant with another, their demands that their ideas be heard fade into stoney silence if anyone else wishes to express a contrary concept. Are they actually any better than that which they seek to replace? This book seeks to enable you to portray them warts and all, with background and setting details for those who want to play Anarchs and Storytellers who want to make use of them in their chronicles.


Beginning with Chapter 1: The History of the Anarch Movement - a look at the history of the Anarchs, nowhere as 'new' as they'd like to think that they are. Elder vampire look back and wonder if they could have stopped this pesky cult long before it erupted, but it's embedded in strands that go so far back that it would have been well-nigh impossible. It all goes back to the fall of Carthage - which of course had vampiric involvement, it wasn't just a political struggle led by Roman senators trying to ensure that no other power would get big enough to threaten the might of Rome. Brujah there had tried to build a life in some measure of harmony with the kind, and Roman Ventrue were having none of it, laying the foundations for the elder-dominated traditional vampire society we know tonight. This was reinforced by the development of the Camarilla and the Masquerade in the 14th century as a response to Church-led attacks on vampires... but many young vampires saw it as a blatent attempt by their elders to enforce control over them and organise vampire society at their expense - and revolt ensued, with neonates no longer slavishly following orders. And when those orders left them at the mercy of the Inquisition whilst their elders escaped, who can blame them? And so it continues to this very night, weaving through real-world history in a compelling account that encompasses exploration of the Americans, Soviet Russia right up to contemporary nights. Plenty of ideas here as to where (and why) Anarchs might fit into whatever is going on in your game.


Next, Chapter 2: The City Upon a Hill looks at how they organise their domains and the sorts of structures and internal politics that they have. Presented as a fascinating, if a bit rambling, diatribe, there's a wealth of information here, including notes on particular hot-beds of Anarch activity and plenty more of use to anyone wishing to construct or inhabit an Anarch domain. In keeping with their modern nature, there is even a virtual domain lurking in the Deep Web.


Chapter 3: Spreading the Movement is the 'cookbook' of ideas, showing how they destablise and attempt to destroy other vampire organisations. Whichever side your coterie finds itself on, they should find things of use here from traditional dissent and violence to cunning manipulations of the World Wide Web. A heady mix of anecdote, fiction and discourse conveys the information.


Then, Chapter 4: Characters and Traits provides what you need to create Anarch characters. Of particular use if you want to play them, a Storyteller can of course produce detailed NPCs by the same method. New archtypes, backgrounds and traits suited to Anarchs are provided. Chapter 5: Anarch Disciplines then follows on with new Disciplines and powers which in some way draw upon Anarch ideology, although they are in the main not confined to Anarchs alone. Some are strange indeed, mixing coding with magic to operate across the Internet!


Finally, Chapter 6: The Storyteller's Toolbox is just what it says, aimed at Storytellers and providing ideas for those wishing to add an Anarch flavour to their game. It's quite different to adding other sects or clans, for Anarchs define themselves by what they stand for, not where they are in relation to anyone else. Their central tenet is equality of opportunity for all vampires, but they do not espouse any particular outcome, let the chips fall where they may provided everyone gets a fair chance.


The Appendix: Antagonists and Allies also mainly for the Storyteller, covering useful NPCs with historical documents in Appendix II: The Anarch Accords. Yep, even Anarchs keep some records.


This work gives a fascinating glimpse into the Anarchs and how their history has been interwoven with that of oher vampires through the nights from the earliest to the present... as background invaluable, if you want to play Anarchs or involve their machinations in your game, priceless.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Anarchs Unbound
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V20 Ghouls & Revenants
by P. B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/22/2016 22:47:53

This book answers a demand that I'm not sure many fans had. Right in the credits, there is a thank you to a group at 'L.A. by Night' whose enthusiasm led to the creation of this book, a book that seems written for a VERY specific audience. If you weren't at the L.A. event, you'll find this adds very little of substance to Vampire: the Masquerade twenty or so years after the still preferable Ghouls: Fatal Addiction.


There is some good here. The fiction and art look great for the most part, and the attempts to get inside the head of a ghoul Bound to a vampire is nicely done, but there is little recommend this book otherwise.


Discussion of running or playing a ghoul-centric chronicle lacks much in terms of persuasive reasoning beyond saying it's a challenge. The mechanics for doing so bog-down in pages and pages of Merits and Flaws that do not really fit in World of Darkness. The ghouls themselves are presented as 'splats' for the respective Clans of vampires that make ghouls, but there is prescious little in the text offer differences between a Gangrel ghoul and a Lasombra ghoul beyond what you'd find as differences between those two Clans. The revenant 'splats' fair little better in presenting dry history and sterile description of fashion. Somehow the D'habi and Bratovich are wrung of anything scary in their write-ups, and the newly elevated Rossellini and shiny new Kairouan Brotherhood come across as, frankly, a little boring. This lack of feeling carries throughout the book.


V20 Ghouls and Revenants is a nearly bloodless stab at making the mortals who accept the blood of Caine into something valuable, but its lack of passion leaves the book difficult to justify. I'd expected more from Onyx Path and the V20 line.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Ghouls & Revenants
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Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Screen
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2016 09:00:19

PDF screens are always a bit odd: what do you do with them? Do you print them out and stick them on card? The 'GM-side' tables often provide a useful summary of the rules you might need to refer to during play, so you might want to print those out, but the 'player-side' - usually graphics-intense pictures - can prove a bit more problematic, it's a lot of printer ink for little enhancement to your game.


This screen is pretty much what one would expect. The three panels of player-side art is top notch, Onyx Path are good at that... there's a selection of decadant-looking, langorous vampires lounging around gazing out at you looking as if they are in two minds whether to bite you or seduce you... pretty much encapsulates Vampire: The Masquerade vampires, really. It is dark, it will use up your ink, but if you enjoy the art then you might well want to print this out and either actually make a physical screen or just decorate your gaming room with them.


As for the 'Storyteller-side', the tables are clear and well laid out if a little eclectic in choice. Health levels, combat summaries, generic difficulties, combat manoeuvre charts... yes, these you can and will use. Probably quite often, at least until they all become second nature. But generation traits, the changes due to which generation a vampire is, that's not something you often need mid-game. Or bearing? Somehow linked to the vampire's humanity or lack thereof, but it ought to be filed away with your description of that vampire rather than something you need to check on mid-game.


A print-on-demand version would have been a welcome addition for those who do like physical screens. As it is, at only a couple of dollars it's probably worth taking a look to see if you do want it.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Screen
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The Hunters Hunted II
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2016 10:38:57

Opening with some evocative fiction that sets the scene, this book is about those mortals who have realised that vampires actually exist and have decided to do something about them: the Hunters. The Introduction expands on this, explaining that whilst vampires are predators, there are also those who prey on them... and that 'vampire hunters' are one of the few things that actually scares a vampire. They hunt for various reasons and use a variety of methods, but they all have the same purpose: to rid the world of these evil creatures.


Hunters are generally driven by hate. They often don't know that much about vampires, and what they do know is a mix of fact and fantasy. After all, it's not a topic of respectable study, it's even hard to find anyone who will agree that yes, the monsters are real. The main themes here are personal horror and sacrifice, and the mood is one of desperate determination. Vampire hunters often do not last long, even if they escape the nearest lunatic asylum and public ridicule for their beliefs. There are two ways you can use this book: either you run a game based around a party of vampire hunters or you use the material herein to create potent adversaries for your coterie.


Chapter 1: Alone in the Night looks at how people come to be hunters in the first place. Delivered as a monologue that at times seems deranged, it's a good rundown of why people become vampire hunters, what motivates them and what they actually do. Many start curious, just wanting to know more, but nearly all end up wanting to destroy the vampire menace. There's a lot of ideas for how to combat vampires and their special abilities too, as well as the warning that using most of those ideas will likely attrack police attention, and the average cop will not be impressed when you start going on about vampires... There is also material about working as a group of hunters rather than a solo vigilante.


Then Chapter 2: Character Creation and Traits shows you how to generate hunter characters (whether you want to play them or use them as well-detailed adversaries). It starts will getting the group together (players, I mean) and deciding what sort of game you want. This will help the Storyteller build the right sort of chronicle and the players create appropriate hunter characters. Of course, the process works as well for a Storyteller who wants to use hunters as major antagonists in a conventional Vampire game, but then it will be a more solitary thing.


Next, Chapter 3: Tools and Tactics expands on the ideas already expressed and provides a wealth of new ones. It is also replete with story hooks and suggestions that spawn plots of their own accord as you read. There's also some notes on how to plan and run a hunter operation (as hunters, that is) - along with rules suggestions on how to judge its efficacy in a way that makes it exciting to all participants. Then Chapter 4: Numina gives hunters that extra edge, assorted mystical powers some of them can tap into to help them in their fight. There's hedge magic, divine powers, healing, psychic powers and more.


Chapter 5: Storytelling goes behind the scenes with masses of good advice for Storytellers, particularly those who want to run a chronicle based on vampire hunters. It looks at what is different about a Vampire game run from that angle, and what is still the same as in a regular game. It explores the themes and moods you might want to use, and how to construct a chronicle from a bunch of misfits getting together to... well, whatever climactic battle ends your chronicle. You may be after action/adventure, mystery, horror, survival, investigation... or probably a bit of a mix. There are plenty of ideas here to help you. It's well worth a read, and ideas spawn as you do so, never mind the actual hooks and story seeds liberally scattered throughout.


Next, Chapter 6: Organisations and Resources provides some organisations that hunt vampires. Your hunters may join them, work with them or even come into conflict with them. Many have specialised tools, techniques and contacts which members can use to effect. Everyone from the Catholic Church to the US Government and organised crime seem to be getting in on the act, so there's plenty of scope to twist your game in whatever direction you fancy. Loads of examples and ideas here...


Finally, an Appendix presents Sample Characters. Perhaps you cannot wait to run your game, or you want a few hunters to throw at your vampires... or maybe you just want some examples of what can be done.


This puts a whole delightful spin on a Vampire game, and fills your head with ideas, whether you want to hunt a few vampires or threaten the ones you've got with something other that vampire intriques and power struggles. Well worth a read.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hunters Hunted II
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M20 How Do You DO That?
by Ryan P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/17/2016 12:25:18

Very discriptive and answers a lot of questions about specific, as well as general, effects.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
M20 How Do You DO That?
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V20 Children of the Revolution
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/17/2016 06:43:01

Times of strife or turmoil or civil unrest are perfect for vampires: when people are dying or even better disappearing in great numbers it becomes very easy to cover their tracks. Some say that throughout history vampires have even brought about trouble, they've certainly taken advantage of it. Many vampires who were themselves Embraced in such times find them to their liking and will seek them out or even cause them in nights to come. In this book we meet several such, fully detailed with stat blocks, background information and more. Perhaps what they are getting up to will have an effect on your coterie or the chronicle you are running, or at least reading about them may spawn your own ideas.


Each clan's approach is discussed. For some, like the Assamites, civil unrest or outright war is an absolute gift - there's always work for assassins! Giovanni look for opportunities to acquire stuff whilst its owners are distracted, or have been slain or displaced. And so on. Their approach also informs who a typical member of that clan will Embrace during the turmoil and how they will go about it. This makes for fascinating reading, and can guide you in developing clan-based plots whenever there is some turmoil that can be taken advantage of within your game.


And then we come to the vampires themselves. Richly detailed with everything from their personal appearance to their backstory and game statistics, you can have them pop up as suits your chronicle... or even build events around one of them as they stir up trouble to their own advantage. Will your coterie try to hinder them or will they latch on to whatever's happening as suits their own best interests? Many of these vampires have been around quite a while, and their stories make interesting reading. Many retain habits and mannerisms of a bygone age, perhaps finding it hard to adapt to modern life. Each also has a full-page illustration that seeks to capture their personality on the page.


Role-playing hints are provided for each one, this is a book to be used, with vivid NPC vampires to make your nights more colourful. But it goes far beyond a clutch of interesting and well-detailed NPCs. Each gives a glimpse into a much wider picture of vampire society and other aspects of the World of Darkness that you can incorporate into your chronicles as background setting, or weave entire plotlines around. Much of it is complex and intrigue-ridden (much like vampire society itself) and makes for fascinating reading whatever use you intend to make of them in your game. Perhaps a book for the completist, but if your interests and style turn to the convoluted intrigues and machinations so beloved of vampires, this is a real treat.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Children of the Revolution
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Exalted 3rd Edition
by Ed G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2016 10:06:22

Here's my review of Exalted, Third Edition: http://www.geeknative.com/55612/gre-
at-game-read-review-exalted-third-edition/


Spoiler alert: it's really, really good.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Exalted 3rd Edition
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V20 Companion
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/14/2016 08:55:22

The Introduction opens with a glowing recommendation for the 'open development' style of writing game books, where developers, writers and players kick ideas around in discussion forums as the book is written. This book was created in such a style, it's testimony to its effectiveness. Many 'companion' books consist of material that had to be cut from the core rulebook to keep the beast to a manageable size, but from the outset that was not the intent with the V20 Companion. Instead it presents options and setting information, and a fair bit more.


Chapter 1: Titles deals with social structure and titles of honour and position used in vampire society - given that vampires tend to be a proud and acquisative bunch who will grab any opportunity to lord it over others, you can guess that they are very fond of titles. It all goes back to mediaeval days (or before) and those ancient vampires who remember those days feel right at home... more modern vampires can find it all quite stultifying and frustrating (especially, of course, when they are at the bottom of the heap!). Yet titles imply order and rules and without them there would be chaos - herding vampires being a bit like herding cats. This chapter is deliberately rules-light due to player feedback during the development process, but there is sufficient structure to help you work it all out to good effect. Titles are generally conferred by a more senior vampire, but there are options to handle them like backgrounds and spend experience points to gain them or use them as status benefits. It's best if there are story reasons for that shiny new title however the character actually acquired it, though! Many titles carry duties and responsibilities, which can make for some interesting plot lines. There's a survey of the different titles to be found in various sects and more, a towering and confusing array made mostly clear... and yes, even Anarchs have titles.


Next, Chapter 2: Prestation discusses the whole process of trading, repaying, and incurring favours - the very essence of vampire interactions. Everyone does favours and owes them in a dizzying web that's in part based on trust (between vampires?) that favours will ultimately be repaid. Reneging on a favour owed is a quick way to get into deep trouble real fast, yet sometimes impossible conflicts arise: what if someone you owe a life debt to is declared target of a Blood Hunt? You aren't excused from the Hunt, but it is also very bad form to ignore the fact you owe him a life. Oathbreakers are the worst of low-unlives, so to speak. Moreover, favours can be traded, just as commercial debts are sold on in the real world - so a vampire may find himself owing a favour not to the person who did him one but someone else entirely. It's all part of the mad, intense, social status games vampires play all the time. Fascinating, and replete with plot potential.


In Chapter 3: Kindred and Technology we get to look at how vampires, who have often been around quite a while, cope with the march of modern technology. Consider how much technology has changed since Vampire: The Masquerade appeared in 1991... you carry more computing power in your pocket than an Apollo spacecraft, and my job as an e-learning specialist hadn't even been dreamed of! It was so much easier to conceal being a vampire without social media or international travel and many other things we take for granted. A wealth of ideas and concepts are discussed here, all with an eye to enhancing the story you're telling, of course.


Finally, Chapter 4: A World of Darkness takes a look at several notable locations that have significance for vampires. Scattered around the world, these may serve as background, places worthy of a passing visit or become central to your chronicle.


And then there's an Appendix: Director's Cut. This contains material dropped from the V20 Companion during the development process and is provided partly as an interesting footnote and partly because some people might like to use it, even if the majority opinion was set against.


Overall, a wealth of fascinating, if a bit disparate, material to dip into and use to enhance your game as you see fit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
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Tribebook: White Howlers
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2016 12:07:28

I am so glad Onyx Path made this book. It covers all the information I wanted to know about the tribe before the fall to the Wyrm. My only problem is not with the book or the content, but in the delivery. USPS, despite a note on my door saying otherwise, threw the book over my fence. Not usually a problem, except it rained. The book got damp, so now the pages are wavy. Bummer, but it does not detract from how awesome the book is.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tribebook: White Howlers
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
by Wesley B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2016 20:35:32

Hands down my favorite V20 book so far.


For GM/ST: The book is full of wonderfuly well writen lore and the largest issue you will have with the book is your players might read it and get ideas...


Players: Tal'Mahe'Ra are a myth, this is all folklore.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
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V20 Ghouls & Revenants
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2016 13:07:40

It is an expanded rehash of the "Gilded Cage" with other pieces bolted on. This book is useful if you have a very ghoul focused campaign, but otherwise it is kind of flat.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Ghouls & Revenants
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/08/2016 22:22:33

For those who are tired of the World of Darkness, who have read all the books and know all the secrets, this book proves that notion completely wrong. It has been a very long time since we've gotten a Vampire tome so rich and dense with mystery, with the occult and the arcane. The Black Hand also dispells the notion that the V20 books are simply "add-ons" to all that we've gotten before. The Black Hand lays new ground, and buries within that moldering earth corpses from the past, reanimate yet slumbering still... just on the edge of waking to feed.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
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