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New Wave Requiem RPG Review
Posted By Flames On April 14, 2009 @ 7:52 am In RPGs | 1 Comment
White Wolf takes us back to the Eighties in New Wave Requiem (WW25320). The decision to turn back the clock nearly twenty five years seems to be a brilliant one (Yes, I did say TWENTY FIVE years). Sob. Vampire: the Masquerade hit bookshelves in 1991, so readers never really got a feel for the Reagan Era of gaming. This appears to be their attempt at remedying that issue. This slim supplement weighs in at eighty-one pages; however, it wastes no space with ads (an oddity considering the waste the 1980s created). There are a few pages devoted solely to pieces of art, but these terrific characterizations demand forgiveness as they summon images of The Warriors and an evil Susanna Hoffs.
The text’s layout (down to the character sheet) plays with the same cold digital font used on alarm clocks, Doogie Howser, M. D. journal entries, and arcade games. As much as I wanted to hate this dominating font, I could not. It was the perfect fit to this book. Instead of the typical green or blue that the font should be, they wisely turned it blood red The cover art is another story; I loved it immediately. Erik Jone’s cover art depicts the sex, drugs, and money required to capture the “feel” of the 1980s; furthermore, the scantily dressed vamp reminds the reader that, despite being consumed by the infernal Trinity, blood is still king. It’s a great cover, probably the only one in recent years to pull me in on artistic merit alone. The interior artwork by John Christopher, Marco Nelor, and Frederico Piatti is sparse, which is to be expected with a release of this size. The art is well-placed, working to lead into chapters or show off one of the great NPCs.
While I found the lead-in artwork to be okay and somehow fitting, the character depictions are flat-out amazing. The icon associated with these pieces leads me to giving John Christopher credit for them. There are a few duplicates of a few characters within the books; however these full-page reproductions look like iron-on decals for ringer tees. Great, great stuff!
I emphasized the word “feel” when talking about the cover art. The writers explicitly explain that New Wave Requiem attempts to capture the cinematic essence or Zeitgeist of the period rather than provide an accurate play-by-play of the decade. I feel like this is what most gamers want, which makes it the right choice. The “Just-the-Facts” crowd will always do their homework in other places anyway.
The book opens with fiction entitled “Nightlife of the Living Dead.” The characters in this story have stats provided for them at the game’s end. I don’t know if White Wolf has done this in the past or not, but I found myself liking the idea as I think it could help offer quick inspiration for a Storyteller operating on time constraints. The writing feels like most of White Wolf’s flash fiction with one real exception: humor. A nice stream of dark humor runs through the opener, making it much more readable than the typical snippets of urban horror they offer.
An Introduction comes up next to lay out the game’s theme, mood, chapter overviews, and inspirations. The supplement’s theme is “speed of history.” Essentially, it examines the fact that the Eighties are both distant and immediate. It seems improbable that something that feels like yesterday is years upon years ago. The mood (“similar but different”) strengthens the theme quite well as it works to remind players and Storytellers of the subtle changes in the last thirty years. The final bit of the introduction gives readers a blurb of the upcoming chapters and closes with the music, movies, and (one) video game that helped inspire this book.
Chapter One, “Decade of Excess,” is the most historical section of the book, which isn’t saying much. The watercolor treatment of the decade works for the writers want. They are making the most of their material. If anything feels like it is lacking, there is always Wikipedia to save the day. The attention to eclectic details intermingled with “have-to” high points stood out to me. Also, this chapter looks at a handful of cities that witnessed tremendous highs and lows in the Eighties. Each city gets two paragraphs of meaty information, more than enough to get a campaign’s spark going. Next, culture is examined with particular interest to the AIDS epidemic. For creatures that feed on blood, the costly disease cannot be ignored in a book of this nature. Remember that this is a Vampire supplement. None of the other races make much noise in this brief volume. The Iran-Contra Affair and Princess Diana’s wedding are also mentioned. I first thought the wedding was one of the odder inclusions of this book; however, the spin put onto the whole thing makes it fit amazingly well.
Chapter Two, “The Nights of Modern Kindred,” discusses what it was like for the vampires during the 1980s. For me, this chapter felt more like “Introduction: the Revisiting.” This chapter’s opening volley discusses the encompassing emotions of the period and how they related directly to both vampires and their Masquerade. In a smattering of pages (the book’s shortest chapter at a mere three pages of text and one full page of art), the information handed out here really could have been better placed within the book. The writing itself is fine, just misplaced.
Chapter Three, “Lean and Hungry Types,” provides the details of the Eighties you won’t be finding in other history books. This bad boy is pure fiction that lays out what this decade means to the various Clans. I’ll say precious little about this chapter to appease the spoiler-haters out there. What you basically get from this chapter is a page to three about each Clan, a few Disciplines created during this time (VHS is such a pain), and some seriously fun ideas to either enjoy or use in a game.
Chapter Four, “Telling Stories of Sin,” is pure Storyteller material as the authors work to either remind older Storytellers of Eighties or explain some rough concepts to newer generations. Writing-wise, I felt this chapter offered the most to me. Themes like business and AIDS are examined again, along with the strange concept of the . . . happy ending. I believe my favorite part of this chapter was discussion on the montage. You want your vampire to crank up “Eye of the Tiger” while he trains for a supremacy duel? Maybe you’d rather see your team of grease monkey vamps trick out a bulldozer for some “urban renovations” to the theme of the A-Team.
Yeah, the authors actually throw in some brief rules to do this sort of thing. It’s this love for the era that just wins me over with this book. This chapter follows along with a few more concepts respective to the age and sprinkled out some campaign-starting story seeds at the end for good measure.
Chapter Five, “A Good Man Bad,” is a Storyteller Adventure System game tucked right into the supplement. I obviously need to stay away from details on this except for the most basic. This game works to introduce players to 1980’s Chicago and its Kindred power structure. The writing for this chapter does not take a drop off and continues to hold the minor details strengthening this book. An example of this is the scene headers (where they tell you the physical, mental, and social aspects of a particular part). The titles for the scenes are music lyrics with either no alteration or minor touches to give it that morbid feel. The scene cards at the end of this chapter are insanely useful.
The Appendix comes next. It’s full of characters for either introducing as NPCs or PCs. Their presence goes through the entire book as the fiction and each chapters’ introductory notes are linked to them. This is also where my favorite artwork is. Too many games let the generic character artwork go down the drain. I don’t know exactly why this is; however, New Wave Requiem doesn’t cotton to that. I’m telling you that the characters they put onto the specialized one-sheet pieces just demand to be ironed onto a fanboy’s t-shirt. At the least, get a kick out of Kenneth Bryce’s cell phone on page 69 and then turn to page 71 and tell me the inspiration behind that artwork isn’t Ally Sheedy’s portrayal of Allison Reynolds. Maybe you’ll never use the pre-generated characters for the book (I know I’ve let may go by the wayside), but these guys are surely worth a look.
Yes, I loved this book. White Wolf rarely takes the step to bring the darkness of their world and let John Huges and Princess Diana run around within it. That is what I felt they did with this supplement however. I think the biggest reason a reader may dislike this book is if the Eighties just doesn’t do it for them. If so, I doubt they’ll pick up a book dedicated to it. Let me show you my scores:
Layout: 5 out of 5 Dice
Artwork: 4 out of 5 Dice (the chapter lead-in pieces just nicked it)
Writing: 4 out of 5 Dice (I felt like the book could have had a little bit more to it. The three pages devoted to what I called “Introduction: the Revisiting” may have benefitted from taking snapshots of the other White Wolf lines. How rowdy were the Hunters from the Ashwood Abbey during this time?)
Overall: 5 out of 5 Dice (This project gets my first perfect score because, for me, it hit all
my buttons mostly right. I’d like to see if they could take another time-period I’m less familiar with and make it as engaging)
Review by Todd Cash
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