I did some speed-blogging while reading my physical copy of the V20 book, and commented on the PDF on Google+. I will copy and paste these entries here. If you want the TL;DR version, this is it : V20 is a compilation of most of the game elements that made the success of Vampire: the Masquerade. It uses the Revised (3rd edition) rules set for the most part, and brings in a lot of stuff from various supplements including Sabbat game elements, Dark Ages and True Black Hand bloodlines and disciplines, and a whole lot of stuff besides, tweaking it as needed so the whole works as a sort of metaplot-and-fiction-free toolbox from which you can pick and choose to build your Chronicles.
The PDF is good, and up to "industry" standards, optimized, searchable with bookmarks and all. The $29.99 price tag for a 520-page, all-in-one document like this one pertaining to one of the greatest RPGs of all time is worth it for those who are fans of the game.
Now for my G+ entry (wall of text warning) :
Well, I just received my copy of the 20th anniversary Vampire: the Masquerade edition. It is quite simply one the most gorgeous TRPG books I have ever seen. Brings back memories of the moment I first laid eyes on my copy of Ptolus.
This is a thick, black leather bound volume with a silver trim, cloth bookmarks, full color... the works. It lies flat when you open it on the table. Binding looks durable. No gripes come to mind. From a physical value standpoint, it was well worth the price.
Opinion on contents are pending since I kept myself from looking too deeply into the PDF to get maximum pleasure from reading through this tome when I would receive it.
Read all the preliminary setting information of V20. The description of the world of darkness is actually pretty well done in the sense that it is metaplot neutral without being adverse to what came before. It is set in a sort of Year 0 but does mention the True Black Hand, the possibilities regarding the Assamites and their relationship with the Tremere Curse, or the Week of Nightmares and how it would affect the Ravnos. It basically lays out all these elements as options for the GM to pick and choose from, rather than some sort of script one would have to follow throughout the Chronicle, step by step. All for the better IMO since it places this responsibility back in the hands of the GM and the game table, where it should have remained all along.
Vampire 20th anniversary reading: Clan descriptions feel like their Revised counterparts minus metaplot. Subtle changes, as in Clan weaknesses, where the Nosferatu still have 0 Appearance but do not automatically fail rolls involving the attribute, or Assamites getting the Curse back without having the blood payments ratios explained as in 2nd edition.
Vampire 20th anniversary reading: some new skills (hobby talents, professional skills), sharply defined Backgrounds, including Domain. Possibility to pool background dots within the same coterie. Black Hand Membership lands assistance from other BH members per story. Lots of subtle changes like this.
Vampire 20th anniversary reading: reaching the Disciplines. I have seen no trace of the Elysium rules in this book. The only option to play starting characters other than neonates is to create them as neonates and then allocate in the dozens or hundreds of XP to bring them to the desired level of power. Ever tried to do that? I did in the past. It's a nightmare. So, no alternate chargen to play Ancillae and Elders in the game in that huge tome? That's a bummer.
V20 reading: Ooooh. Out of clan Disciplines development requires a teacher (as Revised). The student must drink vitae from the teacher (1 BP worth). That is new! You want to learn a new discipline? You are one step closer to a blood bond, mister. Harsh!
V20 reading: Animalism and Auspex are pretty much un changed compared to their Revised equivalents. Nice to see dots beyond 5 included as per 2nd ed player's guide (some changes probably, but I do not notice them outright). Celerity is changed : adds to Dexterity pools, spend 1 BP per extra action (expenditure may go beyond normal maximum BP per turn), dot(s) used for extra actions may not be used to add to Dexterity pools. MUCH less powerful. Can't say I disagree with the change IF Potence and Fortitude remain the same. Will see...
V20 reading: Chimerstry, Dementation a priori unchanged. Dominate is the same as Revised, which is to say, really powerful vs. mortals, fairly useful against Kindred of weaker blood/higher gen, and useless against vampires of a lower gen than yourself. Includes some new rules about eye contact and how to avoid it with a bunch of rolls.
V20 reading: Fortitude works as Revised. Wording was changed at the end of the "system" paragraph, making it sound like Fortitude is useless against Vampire bites, Werewolf claws, True Magic and the like, while it actually is. An instance of editing/rewording that confuses an issue instead of clarifying it.
V20 reading: Necromancy works using various paths and rituals, as Revised, but seems to have been greatly expanded upon. Seeing stuff I've never read about before, like a Path of the Five Humors and the like. The discipline's description stretches over 25 pages of the book! Apparently Mortis has been incorporated into Necromancy. Awesome. But I'm not seeing any power or ritual beyond 5 dots, contrarily to all the other disciplines mentioned before. That is weird.
V20 reading: Obfuscate and Obtenebration work as Revised, plus powers of 6-9 dots, as for nearly all the other disciplines. Potence has been gimped: it is not a sum of automatic successes, but instead dice added to Strength pools with the opportunity to spend blood to convert dice into automatic successes on a 1:1 basis, except that unlike Celerity and extra actions, you still are limited in the number of BP you spend per turn as per generation chart, which still makes Celerity the obviously better choice, as far as physical (Celerity, Fortitude, Potence) disciplines are concerned.
There's really something to be said about this, in that WW has consistently failed to address the issue of balance between these disciplines throughout the editions of the game ... and beyond (Vampire: the Requiem, I am looking at you).
I would say that the balance in this edition is better, probably the best, actually (though Potence could have done without the cap on BP spent per turn implied while Celerity does not, again, play by those rules). Still, I am wondering what the hell the designers are thinking, sometimes.
V20 reading: Presence is the same as Revised (targets avoid being affected with the expenditure and roll of Willpower, vampires of significantly lower gen than your own being basically immune), which itself is gimped compared to 2nd ed's version.
I'm still not sure I like this. Ever since the publication of Revised actually.
I understand the awesome power of pre-Revised Presence, but I'm not sure the gimped version is really that useful against vampires, while part of the point of Presence was to have some sort of mental power that worked on them compared to the useless-on-Kindred-but-so-awesome-on-mortals Dominate.
Now Presence seems more balanced, sure, I guess, but it also seems to suck in all cases as a result. Meh.
V20 reading: Protean, Quietus and Serpentis like their Revised versions.
Thaumaturgy has a huge section collecting paths and rituals from across the supplements. Paths include stuff like Neptune's Might, the Green Path, Path of Technomancy, Path of Mars and much, much more. Path of Corruption has bee fixed*. Thaumaturgy is like Necromancy in that rituals only go to level 5. Lots of them. Too many to name individually.
- In 2nd ed, Path of Corruption 1 (Evil Eye) and Serpentis 1 formed a killing combo: give 1 botch for each success you score on your Evil Eye roll, then activate Eyes of the Serpent and automatically win the Willpower v Willpower contested roll. Target is frozen into place, no matter the generation. Diablerize. Rince. Repeat. Here in V20, Evil Eye no longer exists, and the Eyes of the Serpent no longer work the same. Thank God.
V20 reading: Vicissitude works like Revised as well, except that Body Crafts rolls (a specialty of the Crafts skill in Revised) have been replaced with Medicine rolls, with Body Crafts now a specialty of that skill instead.
These are the "base disciplines". All the Bloodlines and their specific disciplines have been gathered in another part of this huge tome. Next up: Chapter Five, Rules.
V20 reading: Chapter Five, Rules basically lays out the type rolls and actions which may be undertaken in the game. It seems to have been completely rewritten from Revised. It contains pretty much the same type of information as before, but in a way that is much clearer to the reader, or so it seems, anyway.
V20 reading: Chapter Six, Systems and Drama, makes a laundry list of sample activities and associated systems, explains the uses of Willpower and Blood Points, Combat (systems, maneuvers, charts), states of being (blood bonds, vaulderie, derangements, deterioration, diablerie, disease, electrocution, faith, falling, fire and burns, frenzy and rötschreck, poisons and drugs, Golconda, sunlight, temperature extremes ... LOUD Breath...) and an Example of Play. Pretty similar treatment than Revised.
V20 reading: Chapter Seven, Morality, features all the rules and systems regarding Humanity, Degeneration, alternate virtues and Paths of Enlightenment. Paths included are (Path of...) Blood, Bones, Caine, Cathari, Feral Heart (Harmony), Honorable Accord, Lilith, Metamorphosis, Night, Paradox, Power and the Inner Voice, Typhon. Each Path is throroughly described, including tenets, history, practices etc.
V20 reading: Chapter Eight, Storytelling, is one of those things I could describe as a laundry list, but that wouldn't tell you much about it, would it? It stretches over 25 pages, covers story structures, working with the players, chronicle starting points and various techniques (flashbacks, dream sequences and the like).
The real question should be: is the advice any good? Well. Let me put it this way: ask anyone, I'm not too sympathetic when it comes to the idea of conceptualizing an RPG session or campaign as "a story being told between players and GM." I run my "by Night" as a "sandbox", old school and all. I don't think of the game in terms of narratives, never have.
And yet, once I get past this initial reaction of mine, inherited from my return to the roots of our hobby with the Original D&D game a few years back, I see a lot of advice here I really like, and will surely use in my games.
There is not much dividing us in the end. We are all gamers. And this game, well... is as good as it gets.
Anyway. This Chapter is good stuff. Next up: Antagonists.
V20 reading: Chapter Nine, The Others, is really about giving amunition to the GM besides vampires. It covers the Inquisition, the US government, the Arcanum, criminals, werewolves, magi, demons and provides a bestiary of sorts including all manners of animals, including packs and swarms.
Well organized, this is strangely the chapter which reminds me the most of the original Vampire game, back when all these game elements were still mysterious and open to whatever your imagination would make of them.
V20 reading: Chapter Ten, Bloodlines, gathers their detailed descriptions, their unique disciplines as well as the antitribu and similar subjects surrounding the variations of the Blood.
Bloodlines included: Baali, Blood Brothers, Daughters of Cacophony, Gargoyles, Harbingers of Skulls, Kiasyd, Nagaraja, Salubri, Samedi, True Brujah, Ahrimanes, Anda, Cappadocians, Children of Osiris, Lamia, Lhiannan and Noiad.
Discussion of their backgrounds include what happened to them throughout the ages. One piece of advice I really like is that they encourage players to play the characters they really want, like if you want to play the last of the Lamia in the modern nights, by all means, as long as the character makes sense, GMs and players should totally go for it. This emphasizes the "Year 0 sans metaplot toolbox stuff you build your chronicle with however you see fit," and boy, do I like to read this.
There are variations and minor changes compared to previous rules sets of course, but too many to enumerate. It's well done though. Really well done.
The presence of the Dark Ages bloodlines and disciplines, as well as their general presentation suggest to me that various "Dark Ages Anniversary" tomes like this one are really, really unlikely to happen in the future. This tome is it, folks. Let it be known.
Next: the Appendix.
V20 reading: the Appendix lays out the system of Merits and Flaws which works the same way as Revised (that is, Merits are bought with freebies, and Flaws, up to 7 points, add to your total amount of freebies).
Laundry list of said Merits and Flaws follows.
Then we have rules to create and play Ghouls, including their own XP development chart and the like. Information about the various, numerous Revenant families follows.
The Appendix closes with details about the various Sabbat Ritae, which are front and center in the social gatherings and Pack protocoles of the sect.
And this is it, folks.
The book ends with a short Game Terms Glossary, a very detailed Index, and a (five dots) Character Sheet, plus advertisement schedule for the Onyx Path products, which brings us to a round total of 520 pages for Vampire: the Masquerade, 20th Anniversary Edition.
Next: some last thoughts about this book.
Last thoughts about Vampire: the Masquerade, 20th anniversary edition.
Have a look at my previous entries on G+ to see the detail of the various aspects of the game explained as I was speed-blogging about the reading itself. Now, having read the game, I can answer a few questions that have been popping up on the internet here and there.
What is this V20 thing? Is it Revised in another name? Is it Masquerade with Requiem rules? Etc.
V20 is basically a compilation of most of the game elements that made the success of Vampire: the Masquerade. It uses the Revised (3rd edition) rules set for the most part, and brings in a lot of stuff from various supplements including Sabbat game elements, Dark Ages and True Black Hand bloodlines and disciplines, and a whole lot of stuff besides, tweaking it as needed so the whole works as a sort of metaplot-and-fiction-free toolbox from which you can pick and choose to build your Chronicles.
What this book is definitely not is a throwback to the first or second editions of the game, nor is it Masquerade updated to Requiem/WoD mechanics. It is celebratory in nature, in that it brings back some of the elements of these games into its tweaked-Revised frame, but it is basically is the game you know by nature, more than anything else.
Is this book worth the price?
If you're not a fan of the Masquerade to begin with... probably not, though the production values themselves are very high: this is a very nice book, after all. Physically speaking, it's worth it, yes, but is it worth it for you in terms of contents? Maybe not. If you hated the game before, chances are you'll still hate it after reading this book.
If you are a fan of Vampire, still play Masquerade, or play Requiem while seeing some stuff from Masquerade you'd like to use in your Requiem chronicle, and that the prospect of having an encyclopedia, all-in-one huge tome is appealing to you, this is certainly it (get yourself the Vampire Conversion Guide on PDF or POD in the latter case and you're good to go). Go get yourself a copy if you can find one (good luck).
What about the PDF?
The PDF itself is extremely well done, in the sense that it is up to "industry" standards. It is optimized for its size, gorgeous to look at, fully searchable, includes bookmarks and all.
At the moment of this writing you can purchase the V20 PDF on OneBookShelf/RPGnow/DriveThruRPG for $29.99 USD. For an all-in-one game including 520 pages of contents in a format on par with current PDF standards, that's a good price.
If you're a fan, you can invest and are likely to be pleased - if you can stand reading on a computer (printing this baby would be a huge, ink-sucking undertaking, that's for sure).
If you're worrying about the quality of the contents, don't. It's really cool.
Any last words regarding your boring little self?
Well, since you mention it, I'm going to talk a little bit about myself here so that hopefully all this commentary, speed-blooging and everything is put into perspective for you. You'll know then how that relates to your own experience with the game, and decide from there if all this writing is worth anything to you.
I started playing the game in 1992, I think, with the first edition of the game. I went through all the editions of the game and had a very long "Paris by Night" chronicle running throughout this whole time period. Vampire is basically the game I know the absolute most, besides D&D. I kind of lost interest gradually, becoming jaded about the whole thing mostly after Kindred of the East, which I did not like, but kept playing and running games for a while after that.
I had then a pause with RPGs for about a year, and came back to RPGs with the publication of 3rd edition D&D. I was not interested at all in Requiem when it came out. I already had Masquerade, so I didn't see the point of buying the same game all over again at the time. I burnt out on d20 mechanics (mostly the rules lawyery arguments over the web, the insane focus on game mechanics all the time for everything over and over again) and gradually made my way back to the original edition of the game, to then come back to my first love, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition.
Around the same time, maybe a little earlier, I was interested in Promethean: the Created, because this was a NWoD game that had NOT been done before in OWoD, and the basic themes of Frankenstein, Golems and the like mixed with Alchemical themes really appealed to me. So I purchased a copy of the WoD rules, the PtC game, read all this... and fell in love with the whole thing, prompting me to get Requiem and the other games to then look at them with a changed perspective that made me appreciate them for what they were, instead of what I thought they were a few years back. I rebooted my Paris by Night chronicle using NWoD rules and it is still running to this day.
Now, when I look at Masquerade, I see a sort of parallel universe I can use along side my NWoD chronicle. Two by Nights which exist in the same multiverse so to speak, with huge correspondances between the two. I look at the V20 game and see the toolbox with renewed interest. There is still a lot of cool stuff I could do with this game, and I'm loving it to pieces, just like I love my AD&D game.
If this story sounds remotely familiar to you, by changing the games' names, the dates and whatnot, then do yourself a favor and check out V20. If all this sounds like a bunch of nonsense to you, then sorry to have wasted your time. I just hope all this made you more aware about what the game is and isn't, and what it could bring to your game table, if anything.
Over and out.
Benoist Poiré, December 3rd, 2011.