Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy. This makes perfect sense. At its core, the Gothic is about the Old World invading the New. Pull back the curtain and the demons are still there. We have the Vampire.
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It was hit with more delays that some video games. The key thing is that the book is finally out and V:TR fans can rejoice. At first I thought it was too bad that Blood and Smoke came out the same time as a glut of other releases like FOUR different Werewolf: The Apocalypse titles, two Shadowrun supplements, a new Numenera game, a Deadlands Noir adventure, the launch of Accursed and so many other titles.
However instead of having its sales cannibalized by all the titles hitting at once, Blood and Smoke sold like it was the cure for cancer.
Nope, all you need is Blood and Smoke. It has all the rules you need to play the game. Over the past few years, things have started to tighten up and flow better. There seemed to be more cohesion and continuity between products and a definite uptick in terms of writing quality.
The stories being told and the new rules that were showcased had me convinced that Blood and Smoke would be the overhaul Vampire: The Requiem desperately needed. It turned out that it was. One of the biggest detractions the NWoD gets is that the books have been written in such a way that they assume you already own everything that came before it.
For those new to V:TR, the book contains everything you need to play along with copious amounts of back story, description and content. There are also short write-ups of the three extinct clans: The Akhud, the Juli and Pijavica.
By broken they mean, died out in a figurative sense. Covenants are how vampires group their allegiance in V:TR. Much of the book is about the mood, theme and atmosphere rather than mechanics.
But World of Darkness games have always been about the story first and so the newest version of V:TR is no difference. The book takes you through what it means to be a vampire and how the longer you stay a vampire the harder it is to hold on to your humanity.
You have touchstones, aspects of your former mortal life which keep your grounded and your baser instincts in check. A Touchstone could be anything from your gravestone to the children you had when you were a mortal. It could be the baseball stadium that you always had season tickets to or perhaps an opera. Regardless these touchstones give your character something to work with in-game as well as story thread potential for the person running the game. Here then, the PC can protect the touchstone which makes the adventure a metaphor for protecting his or her slowly eroding humanity.
Touchstones exist for the character first and foremost and help keep them grounded. The newer a vampire is to their unlife coupled with how high their humanity is, determines how much damage you take from the sun and how often. Higher Humanity levels can tolerate the sun for longer periods and the same with being a younger vampire. Now this is the inverse of V:TM or most horror games like Ravenloft where the older a vampire is the more sun they can withstand. Personally as a folklorist, I prefer the pre vampire where sunlight was an annoyance at best and never lethal.
Stupid Count Orlock. However, the past century has pretty much cemented sunlight as a weakness for vampires unless they are sparklepires… , so as much as I was hoping that sunlight would be downplayed entirely, I do approve of this reworking of the weakness.
When you lose Humanity, you lose what you once were. Memories, emotional, connections, empathy and the like all erode. So in this respect the more sunlight you can tolerate, the more of yourself you are and the more damage you take from it, the more you have slipped towards the embrace of the Beast. While this goes up with age, it can also go down from entering a deathlike sleep called torpor.
For example, the higher the Blood Potency, the more limited your feeding options are. You might lose the ability to feed off animals and then humans, leaving your only prey option to be other vampires. At this point, you might choose to enter Torpor to lose BP and thus feed normally. So two things.
First, notice how in the previous paragraphs you have rules and mechanics, but without dice. They are pure storytelling. I love this. Sure, the option to roll or whatever is still available, but Blood and Smoke does put an emphasis on as little rolling as possible.
This is kind of a throwback to older RPGs rather than the 3. Again, I prefer the limiting of dice to big moments and letting the group of players and Storyteller control the majority of the tale.
Second, notice how in the previous paragraphs I also commented how a play mechanic is a metaphor for something else. This is constant throughout Blood and Smoke. I love games where mechanics flow into the story rather than run parallel with them.
It makes the game a more immersive experience overall. We also see Conditions make their return from God Machine Chronicle. Conditions are similar to derangements in that they are mental states a character can enter. Unlike derangements conditions can be temporary as well as persistent or permanent. There are nearly fifty Conditions, and each has their own way they can be developed and beaten.
I like this because it ties a specific mental state down to the character and make them actual act it out. Conditions feel a lot like the temporary insanities, phobias or philia you can pick up in Call of Cthulhu.
Plus, you can gain a beat for some of these, which is a nice reward a la the GM Intrusion from Numenera. Beats are fractions of experience points by the way. Get five and they become 1 XP. Okay, I should probably move on to the titular aspect of the book, which are the Strix. Although in previous versions of V:TR supplements and sourcebooks, information about the Strix has been contradictory and oddly defined. If there was one thing I was really looking forward to being overhauled and getting some much needed cohesion, it was the Owls.
The overwhelming hunger, the pure monstrosity, the bizarre weaknesses, the ability to go out in the sun. Or is he? So many possibilities there! Anyway, with the Strix, VLTR pays homage to the vampires from yesteryear as well as the modern incarnation.
What this means is that a Strix is still a monster for the monsters, but that they can be defeated in a similar vein to Call of Cthulhu where investigation and knowledge helps a mere mortal stop the machinations of an being utterly alien to our own form of existence.
Masks and Dirges are the equivalent of Natures and Demeanors. Disciplines, Frenzies, ghouls and everything else are similar to earlier incarnations of Vampire: The Requiem. Are they exact? No, but they are so close that the devil is in the details.
It gives you all the rules and is as inviting to newcomers as it is full of references and telltale hints that only long time fans of the game will pick up. I go back and forth on it. I absolutely think this is a step in the right direction and with these changes I am actually inspired to run a game of V:TR. This was just a fantastic job all around by the writing team.
The question now is, where does V:TR go from here?
Download Vampire the Requiem - Blood and Smoke - The Strix Chronicle.pdf
In addition to updating the mechanics, White Wolf revised the lore around these blood-suckers to become more game-friendly and less splatbook dependent. Combined with the unique powers that come standard-issue with each vampire, the various combinations of clan and covenant can yield completely different kinds of Kindred. The possibilities for both hardcore roleplayers and hardcore undead number-crunchers are absolutely dizzying. Special mention, of course, must be given to the Strix who grace the title of the book. The Strix are both more and less than the Kindred; predator, prey, ally, and nemesis, all rolled into one.
Onyx Path Publishing: Many Worlds. One Path.
A clear-cut dedication to exploring humanity through the lens of vampirism makes for great personal horror: you can tell some very powerful stories in this manner. Also having mechanics in place to support this recurring theme conditions, a characteristic actually called "humanity," an outline of suggestions about what could be considered monstrous to list a few is amazing. Many of the descriptive changes to game functions Great addition to the WoD or nWoD, for those needing the designation. Many of the descriptive changes to game functions skills, disciplines, etc are inspiring from a narrative point of view, as well. Speaking of narrative The departure from a long-established meta-plot is a welcome change. The meta-plot in oWoD worked very well for that time.
Vampire: The Requiem Second Edition
Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle – Vampiro, o Réquiem revisado