London falling - a Mephisto review
The Fall of London
In addition to the city sourcebook Chicago by Night, a volume on a European city has now been published for Vampire V5. The Fall of London focuses on London and the events around this city in the world of Vampire. Those who have read the rules carefully already know that the vampires of London suffered severe setbacks and that the old order was completely destroyed by vampire hunters. One of the once most powerful domains of the Camarilla in Europe has fallen.
But The Fall of London is not a typical city book that presents the situation in the city today. Instead, the book offers a comprehensive adventure that takes players back to the year 2012 - precisely the year of London's dramatic changes. Not only do players get to experience the fall of London at first hand, but they are part of that development. The story is based on the premise that the players play with ready-made characters who awaken after decades of torpor. Upon their awakening, they are given a clear mission to recover several artifacts that once belonged to Mithras. These artifacts are in the hands of various powerful vampires in the city, and it is up to the player characters to obtain them piece by piece. The fact that the current owners are some of the most powerful ancestors, including Queen Anne herself, probably weighs little compared to the fact that this is also about Mithras: a 4th generation vampire who was supposedly destroyed during World War II, but whose shadow still shapes the fate of the city. As if this starting point was not challenging enough, 2012 is the year Operation Antigen is launched in London: one of the first major actions that will be the prelude to what will later be called the Second Inquisition.
The story is divided into several chapters, each of which usually revolves around one of the artifacts. The chapters can be played in relatively arbitrary order and usually introduce a part of the city as also some vampires - among them, of course, always the respective owner of the artifact. However, the chapters do not only focus on the central task but always offer secondary characters and additional storylines to give the players a more colourful picture and offer deeper insights into the vampiric world. The way the characters behave towards the non-player characters also has an impact on the later chapters. The challenges are manifold and confront the players again and again with different situations to obtain the artifacts.
The idea that most of the chapters offer flashbacks that not only give impressions of London at other times but also offer more in-depth insights into the central characters is brilliant. Within these chapters also the most important vampires are introduced with background and the game stats. These representations are very well structured and very detailed: a description can easily be longer than two pages. Even if the events in the campaign shape the metaplot of the World of Darkness, the players have a lot of freedom here, how they behave. They can make their own decisions so that the story can end extremely different in the final chapter. However, players cannot change the fact that London will fall as a result of Operation Antigen.
In the appendices, the book also provides some information about London as a city, but without providing the information content of a classic city book. Besides, some loresheets supplement the game material. At the end, the ready-made player characters are presented, which are very diverse and very well designed.
The Fall of London is in an unusual sourcebook. Specific stories have been rare with Vampire so far, but The Fall of London is not a sourcebook to play London as a city in the long run but presents the city in one of its most critical moments. The ready-made characters - as much as many players probably do not want to use them - are an essential part of the story. They are crucial for the players to get in contact with some quite legendary vampires and to be able to interact with them on an equal level, at least roughly. However, meeting vampire elders during the first great vampire hunt (which will develop into the Second Inquisition) confronts players with an extreme situation. Also, the players often have to make difficult decisions, none of which can be clearly identified as right or wrong, but which can have significant consequences. And of course, players - unlike their characters - probably know that London will fall. This is a fact they cannot avert.
Personally, I enjoyed The Fall of London, because players can not only experience a critical moment in the history of Vampire but also help shape it. This approach makes them an active part of the metaplot. The price for this, however, is that players have to use ready-made characters, which is perhaps not bad considering the threat level. The non-player characters, some of which you already know from the former London sourcebook for Vampire Victorian Age, are updated here. However, they look comparatively weak due to the current discipline limit of five points, which is especially true for the real heavyweights in this adventure. Like all new books, The Fall of London uses the new layout. It relies more on photos than on drawings, which leads to a comparatively lower number of vampire illustrations in comparison.
If you're looking for a London sourcebook to play a long-term Vampire campaign in one of the biggest and most powerful Camarilla cities, you will not be happy with this book. However, those who want their players to experience and help shape a historic moment in the world of Vampire and are not frightened by the appearance of some legendary vampires, will get a comprehensive campaign with The Fall of London, which will challenge the players for many game nights. With its new design and its far-reaching background, The Fall of London breaks new ground here, which sets a good example fort future sourcebooks. I recommend The Fall of London as an excellent for any Vampire group - especially for those looking for a real challenge.