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Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Review

Posted on November 3, 2011 by spikexan

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    Where has the time gone? Knowing this game has been out for twenty years seems wrong to me. There are gamers in my group who were ONE when I was thumbing through my first copy of the original edition. Wrong, so wrong! Rather than share my Vampire recollection here, I’ll instead talk about this massive (529 pages) winner of the (I assume) 2012 Origins award.

    One aspect to the book that is unchanged is it’s layout. The book looks identical to the 2nd release in terms of fonts and structure. Mixed with art both new and old, this makes for a strong sense of nostalgia. The look of the book–fenced in borders, eye-catching headers, and more–was excellent twenty years ago and has aged well. If anything, they have enriched it by adding much-needed color to the mix.

    Which lends towards discussion of the amazing art one finds in the book. First, Timothy Bradstreet returns with a bevy of models to bring in the book’s many chapters. The new full-page looks at the Nosferatu and Toreador are just great. In fact, I’m fairly sure the lead pipe-wielding Nos has shown up in a Denver campaign I ran many, many moons ago. Not all the artwork appealed to me. How could it? We’re talking about hundreds of pieces generously scattered throughout the book. Where I had most of my dislikes fell at the individual clan/bloodline depictions. I also didn’t care for Christopher Shy’s artwork making this book as it had no place in the book 20 years earlier. I consider Shy’s role in the artwork one of the factors that pulled me away from the line in the first place. There were other things as well (cough-Metaplot-cough), but because his art was so distinguishable, it just became the most memorable thing I hated about those books . . . and one of the things I don’t like about this one. It’s a shame really since I’ve seen Shy’s other excellent styles that he chooses these.

    The writing and editing of the book is an impressive feat. I enjoyed looking through the hybrid of writing to see such a satisfying final product. The book’s layout is identical to the original (Riddle, Becoming, and Permutations), although with a great deal more material.

    Readers will find all 13 clans, numerous bloodlines, many disciplines, and more. It’s almost like packing the corebook, the clanbooks, and Sabbat books in one tome (boiled down to their key ideas). It might even be too much.

    The book was a semi-transparent project that sought out fan input. Since I believe fan input causes a ruination of the product, there are just aspects of the book that seem too much. Let me go ahead and offer a caveat. I realize this book is created for fans, not newbies. With that realization, I know it makes PERFECT SENSE to have fan input throughout the project.

    I’m just not the typical fan of the mythos, so it made sense I’d have problems with the book’s direction. What are some of these complaints? Since you asked:

    I don’t think the book needs to be large just because it can be. Bloodlines can be ditched. Opening the book with discussion of Vampire: the LARPing just started the book off on the wrong note. Yes, the live-action side of Vampire is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, most of the most enthusiastic fans I’ve met at conventions over the year enjoy LARPing over Tabletop.

    My point though is that (with pictures removed), the discussion of Live Action only merited about a page and a half in the original book. It is the original book that is getting the 20th anniversary, not the Masquerade. It’s its own entity and doesn’t deserve placement here. What becomes strange is what was allowed to remain dated. We have Witch-Hunters instead of Hunters the Vigil or, Hell, even Hunters the Reckoning. We have Fairies, not Changelings. That which merited an update and that which didn’t is beyond me. I simply don’t get it. At least I still have my stats for Spiders.

    I believe this book is an excellent GPS for taking a trip down Memory Lane. It does an excellent, excellent job of letting gamers (okay, me) access old memories of games gone by. I suspect my friends will argue this point, but I don’t remember putting as much love into any game as I did Vampire. This book is running into an old college girlfriend. She’s different, but damn the attraction is still there. Of course, she’s got to go (White Wolf isn’t kicking off the Masquerade line again). Maybe I’ll see her again in ten years.

    Fans of the series who don’t get this book will probably kick themselves. Newcomers may be fearful of the sheer volume of information contained within the book, especially if they want to keep pace with the setting. If a setting ever deserved the attention though, it would be this one. It was and is still a game-changing book.

    Overall: Five out of Five Dice (a Labor of Obvious Love)
    Artwork: Three out of Five Dice (omit one artist and my score goes up)
    Writing: Four out of Five Dice (a bit too much, but still worth reading)
    Yeah, I know the sum is greater than its parts. Just gotta go with it.

    Review by Todd Cash

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    One Response to “Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Review”

    1. B.K.Scott says:

      I came to this review much later then it was made, however I felt like leaving a few words.
      1.) I, like many I’ve talked to, had some issues with the art. Bradstreet’s black and white work is so iconic to V:TM that we all would have liked to have seen more. It made the characters feel very real, verses several of the more anime styled portraits of other artists in V:20. Again, this complaint came out in Revised too…
      2.) The Complaint over size and the suggestion that bloodlines should have been cut out of hand I disagree with completely. From early design it was told that this would be a tome of ALL the major bloodlines and powers in one place. You have no idea what a blessing it is to not pour thru literally hundreds of books for such things. It was a major factor in my purchase as a point of fact. As you stated yourself, this was FOR the fans in that aspect. Physically, I’d have liked even a far more elaborate cover (perhaps with an antiqued lock) for a work of this size.

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