The V20 Companion is a fine piece of work all round. To me, the mark of a good product is having to shelve it multiple times whilst reading it; because the ideas simply pour out of the pages. I’ve always tried to run games which focus on political machinations and smiling backstabs, as well as trying to grasp the intricacies of the vampiric condition and culture. This book gives me more information on both counts (and more besides).
The first section covers the myriad of titles which the ‘canon’ has accumulated over the years and describes (usually in a paragraph) the function of title. Interestingly, the titles have been drawn from many facets of Masquerade, from table-top sourcebooks, LARP and even the VTES CCG – which gives it a great holistic feel. The breadth of roles is quite invigorating, and when combined with the chapters to come, it guarantees that their application in individual chronicles can be highly tailored. There is also a light set of mechanics to accompany the usage of titles in specific circumstances, and admonition against constantly leaning on title, rather than wits and charisma, to get the job done.
The second chapter focuses on Prestation, and the manner in which Boons are traded and dispersed. This ‘social economy’ is covered in some detailed, including scaling Boons, and how trading and recording of these assets occurs. There is also an interesting section on trading Boons between Sects – something I’d like to explore further in my chronicle to add a layer of politics and consequence that might surprise players. In the past, the lines between Sects has been fairly firm, but I find this interpretation a lot more flexible and realistic.
Next, technology and its’ impact is scrutinised. By far, this was an intelligently written chapter, and one that needed to be addressed. 2nd edition V:tM spoke of the Computer skill in terms of booting up PCs and using floppy disks (or even CDs) – so social media, wifi, smartphones and tablet computing all needed to be discussed in light of not only the Masquerade, but also how Kindred perceive the world and leverage opportunities. It does contain an interesting section about the rights of the Prince in policing the Traditions and whether they extend to a Cainite outside their Domain using technology remotely to commit transgressions. These sorts of questions highlight the archaic, feudal traditions (and Traditions) of the Kindred against the contrast of modern nights.
The last chapter deals with a number of iconic locales from the World of Darkness, from the Cathedral of Flesh, Lodin’s Boardroom, the Succubus Club and even Netchurch’s lab. Each is given a few paragraphs of flavour that could spark chronicle ideas. In all, I found it useful, but not as much as the preceding chapters.
There are a few closing pages talking about design and reflecting on the process of pulling the book together. I didn’t find this superfluous, but others may only find it tangentially interesting. It reminded me of the final page of many of the oWoD sourcebooks which had some anecdotes and reflection – so not out of place at all in a product like this.
Overall, I have a lot of love for this book. I can see it being a ‘go to’ title for any V:tM chronicle I run in the future and $15.00 on this PDF is money well spent, but I’ll be definitely adding a print copy to my shelves as well.
[4 of 5 Stars!]