The big blue book that rebooted a franchise.
This core element of White Wolf's World of Darkness revisioning, published in August 2004, provides a central set of basic rules applicable across all of White Wolf's new World of Darkness games, from Vampire: the Masquerade through to Geist: the Sin-Eaters, their last core game.
This book covers all of the basic rules, from character generation and development to task resolution, combat and basic Storytelling. All the World of Darkness core game supernatural types, from Kindred vampires, Uratha werewolves, Awakened mages, beleaguered Prometheans, anxious Changelings and paranoid Vigilant hunters through to morbid Sin-Eaters, have the same general attributes, such as Intelligence, Stamina and Composure, divided up into three categories - Mental, Physical and Social - and the same general skills, from Academics through to Streetwise, again divided up into the same three categories of Mental, Physical and Social.
These basic rules cover the computing of common characteristics from the Attributes, such as initiative, speed, health and perception rolls. The basic Morality characteristic is defined, along with the Virtues and Vices which remain the same across all the games.
From the opening fiction pieces by Rick Chillot, this core rulebook lays out the basic setting premise for the World of Darkness: that in the shadows of this world, otherwise very much like our own, darker shadows move and occasionally prey upon ordinary people.
Now, while lacking in actual monsters to fight other than a basic outline of ghosts, this book does manage to set the scene very effectively. And while later books allow players to become the dark creatures, or to take up the fight against them in the case of hunters, all the games that followed required the base rules in this book for everything from the creation of a mortal character in whom to base the supernatural template, through to the design of NPCs and Storytelling unique to each of the branch games.
As the root of all the World of Darkness games, this book is absolutely crucial.
[5 of 5 Stars!]