Posted on September 25, 2004 by Flames
Written by Jackie Cassada, Jason Feldstein, Edward MacGregor, Nicky Rea, Jesse Roberts and Andrew J. Scott, White Wolf Publishing (WW5041)
“The Age of Romance and Gothic Elegance” proclaims the first line on the back of Vampire by Gaslight, and the Victorian era certainly seems tailored to be the Age of the Vampire. No other period in human history seems to suit the proclivities of the Kindred more than the end of the nineteenth century, and so the expansion of White Wolf’s Minds Eye Theatre into this complex and rich historical period is both welcome and daunting.
Welcome because the Victorian age provides the perfect lens through which to view both the Kindred personal condition, and the grander scope of Kindred society. The emotional and psychological suppression of the Victorians closely parallels the deep-rooted conflict between a Kindred’s fading humanity and the devouring Beast. As the Kindred wrestles with this conflict in the deepest regions of her soul, she finds herself surrounded in a world mirroring that struggle, with corruption, madness, and violence barely contained and hidden beneath layers of false sincerity and severe etiquette. The class warfare waged daily by London’s aristocracy and working poor is shadowed in the social battles between lowly neonates and their entrenched elders, as well as the conflict between the Clans. The Age of Industry plows forward towards the modern nights, leaving the Kindred to pine over past glories as they struggle to keep up with the progress of mankind. Horror stalks the fog shrouded streets as the Kindred are joined by the likes of Jack the Ripper in London’s Whitechapel area. New hunters appear as interest in the Occult and in the Sciences give birth to the Arcanum and other groups. And as the age reaches towards its crescendo, the entire edifice of Kindred society is shaken to the core as vampires are brought out of the shadows of ancient superstition and thrust into the public consciousness by the writings of one mad author and the most infamous Kindred of them all. Every aspect of the game of Vampire is magnified and expanded under the illumination of gaslight.
Daunting because, like any historical period setting, running a successful Victorian Age LARP demands a commitment and attention to detail that few groups seem able to muster. White Wolf’s detailed research, insightful suggestions for setting the Victorian mood, and excellent new rules for Dueling, physically and socially, can only work for those who are serious about taking on the challenge of placing themselves fully into the Age of Gaslight. Much more than the Modern Age, conflict in the Victorian Age is a battle of politics and status, where a quick turn of phrase is deadlier than any sword. White Wolf’s system for social dueling speeds the process of challenges presented in Laws of the Night, creating riveting scenes with less mechanics, but demands more imagination and drama from the players engaged in the battle of wits. Entering the Victorian mindset demands even greater effort on the part of players, whose unintended anachronisms easily spoil the delicate balance so necessary to Victorian society.
My greatest concern after paging through Vampire by Gaslight was whether any group could truly do the setting justice. Enormous effort would need to be put into costuming, atmosphere, and learning the lingo and customs to make the Victorian era come to life. Victorian Age Vampire seems best suited to carefully planned one shots or short chronicles, rather than an ongoing game because of the amount of energy and creativity required to keep the game atmosphere going. That having been said, I believe completely that any troupe of players willing to invest the time and effort necessary to play Vampire by Gaslight as it was intended could never be disappointed in the result. The Victorian Age is quintessential Vampire.
Whether or not you’re interested in taking the step of running a full Victorian chronicle, I strongly recommend picking up this book. Victorian manners and social etiquette are appropriate for Elysium gatherings in any later age. Also, the section of Vampire by Gaslight which covers creating and maintaining the atmosphere of a Victorian game, is readily applied to any LARP. The Dueling rules can be integrated into Modern Ages games to quicken challenge resolutions and add to the drama of any scene. This book is certainly one of the most useful and insightful resources White Wolf has produced for Minds Eye.
Reviewer: Tony Pileri
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