Vampire: The Requiem
Vampire: The Requiem begins with forty pages of printed fan service to the kind of Vampire player who was too insecure to simply walk into a bar and have fun. The Requiem itself is described at great length as being little more than schemes and social interactions that “all” Vampires they must indulge in. This core focus of the game is thankfully contradicted around 150 pages later.
The text becomes really dry in between this description of the Requiem and the end of the Rules chapter. Much of this is essential reading, so maybe it's appropriate that these sections have all the life and vigor of a textbook. Then again, this is also a game. Games should be fun.
The last pages of the Special Rules and Systems chapter begin to paint a broader picture of different character goals. Now the book starts getting good.
At this point, it is important to stop and point out that White Wolf's staff have taken great care to relate Derangements to real world mental illness. In the days of Second Edition, it was not uncommon to troll White Wolf's own forum and read a frightening number of posts about “A Malkavian who thinks he is a […]”. The staff was no doubt reading their own forums as well.
Beginning with the Third Edition of Vampire, the writers tried to make absolutely clear that mental illness is anything except humorous or cartoonish. They have absolutely outdone themselves with care and responsibility toward the subject in Requiem.
The following section on Travel is laced with a great deal of welcome humor.
Then comes one of the best Storytelling sections they have written. I am a goal oriented person and find the same happiness in role playing games. I also tend to find myself on both ends of the GM's screen. If you can't find a good game from someone else, make your own! The Storyteller section goes so far as to describe the creation of a story, character, and “drama” oriented game with clear ideas and goals for the budding Storyteller. It's the best of both worlds.
Later text goes so far as to suggest that “A good plot needs focus” and that coteries aren't groups of socialites who meet to henpeck each other in bars. Thank you, White Wolf.
Bloodlines provide a mix of interesting new ideas, or new twists on familiar faces from the past. After new bloodline specific Disciplines are detailed, the book focuses on designing new Bloodlines and their disciplines. As much as I love world building, this was a little bit tricky. New bloodlines using existing Disciplines could be amazing. Creating new rules entirely for new Disciplines is a frightening prospect. Playtesting is important when creating new rules, and no amount of advice will ever take the place of testing those rules in a real game situation.
Overall, I am happy with how far this book goes to veer away from some of the worst trappings of their game. Player characters are not super heroes with fangs. Nor do they commit murder without regard for the consequences (and see the next night, anyway). Nor are they content socialites looking to hen-peck each other into or out of status. The game-crushing Meta Plot is almost completely thrown away, except to give flavor and purpose to bloodlines. All of these can be elements to create a fun game, where any one to the exclusion of others is a bland and lifeless experience. This book pushes for a balance of characterization requiring goals, goals requiring actions, and actions requiring reactions again from the characters all to create a consensual and enjoyable story.
Players of prior editions lacked this balance, and I gave up looking for any Vampire group years ago. Hopefully much of the new advice will be taken to heart.
Technically, The PDF file was obviously compressed for ease of downloading. Many images in the book suffer from harsh compression, creating very noticeable artifacts in the artwork. The Table of Contents might have also been moved to a better position than page twelve, but this is readily countered by an even more detailed set of Bookmarks built into the document itself.
I have to give this product four stars for being above average, and even outdoing prior editions in many ways. The first definitions of the Requiem, the long dry spell in the first half of the book, and the sketchy advice on creating Disciplines stood in the way of that fifth star. Overall, this still a really good product at a more than reasonable price.