|Year of the Reckoning|
Summary: One hell of a meaty plot book. Some faults, and maybe less revelation than I'd like, but still pretty well done. A good buy if you like the "metaplot", if not, you may want to stay away.
I only just finished reading Nights of Prophecy, and all that comes to my mind is "My word that book was DENSE." This is, as I said in the summary, an incredibly "meaty" tome. It's 160 pages of almost pure plot, with less space for things like artwork than a lot of other books I've seen (the book even lacks all the usual end of book advertisements!). This book is a large source of metaplot and setting updates for Vampire Revised. If you don't like the metaplot, you may not care for this book, though the scenarios presented therein are still quite interesting.
This book's production values and layout are decent. There were a few minor typos I noticed in the last chapter in particular, but other than that it's fairly well squeaky-clean. The art is very much unobtrusive, almost seeming like its not even there, and good quality overall, be it simple mood setting pieces or pictures reflecting the action of a scene.
The book is laid out as a collection of five scenarios involving the WoD's overarching metaplot, each dealing with a different aspect thereof, and each very different in tone and mood and theme. It starts with an Introduction which is surprisingly large, and contains several direct spoilers as to recent goings on in the WoD, as well as a treatment of how to use the scenarios contained therein, why have a metaplot at all, and a few different ways to use it in a chronicle. There's a nice discussion on the alteration of the metaplot to suit a given chronicle, including a well-thought look at the case of the Assamite blood curse and a few alternate explanations as to how it was broken. This was very solid overall.
Following this is a series of "Case Studies" in the metaplot and setting updates, each of which reveals some new truth about the WoD, often answering unanswered questions, and also posing new ones. These sections are additionally useful to an ST as they suggest story seeds for ideas as to how to use these revelations and notes as to how characters can become involved. The aftereffects of the lifting of the Assamite blood curse are examined, including the growing fractures in the clan as small splinters occasionally break off from the clan chain of command. Also treated are hints that something in South America is driving out the Sabbat, recent developments in the Sabbat and Camarilla's political structures and organization (some very interesting), and even the Camarilla's recapture of New York (plenty of plot and chronicle seeds there, for certain). These are all very well handled. The only thing I potentially object to is the revelation as to exactly what the Tzimisce antediluvian is doing under New York… I can only hope some of it was metaphorical. The section also takes a look at the effects defending against the Cathayans has had on the Anarch Free State, and the ultimate fate of the Tremere antitribu. It closes with several letters from various people in the WoD, which imply or hint at several interesting things about the Tremere's future plans, the True Brujah, and the recent goings on in India and the Kindred there.
Chapter One: The Return of The Succubus Club takes a look at the resurrection of the Chicago Succubus club as a traveling party on wheels. This little scenario is very much non-linear, consisting of a description of the club itself and several plot hooks/issues that are being played out at the club, ranging from the sale of a stolen painting to the negotiation of local drug distribution rights to a remote attack by the Methuselah Menele against his foe Helen. This loose scenario is largely social in nature, with no combat or the like for any but the most bloodthirsty of coteries. A nice feature here is the use of the NPC social interaction charts, which quickly delineate the feelings of one NPC to another (IIRC these were first used back in the Chicago Chronicles or Chicago by Night). Very handy, I hope something similar might be used in the future supplements. This chapter is very much about role-playing. A well written section, with lots of opportunities for a troupe to just gather around a table and talk in character for some time, and with lots of room for the ST to adapt as necessary.
Chapter Two: Walking After Midnight is a scenario that puts the coterie in the position of being part of the entourage of the Justicar Madame Guil as she oversees negotiations with the Kuei-jin in California. The Cathayan invasion and its reasons are detailed herein, as well as its progress and further elaboration on its effects on the Anarch Free State and the response of it, and of the Camarilla. It includes some surprising developments (such as an alliance between the Kuei-jin invaders and some local anarchs) in the backstory, as well as a fleshed out scenario. This plot outline is like night to day when compared with that of Chapter One. Whereas the latter was a good bit of non-linear, often sedate conversation, this is a fast-paced shot of what can happen when kindred negotiations go wrong, with some scenes that almost sound like something from John Woo. The players, as part of Guil's entourage, are to oversee final exchange of tribute/damages to be paid sealing a deal between the Cathayans and the Camarilla, halting the ever escalating and bloody war. They play as either Kuei-jin and their Anarch allies, or the Camarilla's agents. Almost from the getgo this is an explosion of mayhem and action, and it sticks with those themes solidly. Though some ST's may clamor for more story and less carnage, a fun little romp (especially with such potential effects) is good now and again, and this one is succinctly and nicely handled.
Chapter Three: To Grandmother's House is the third scenario, and the one perhaps that looks the most like "metaplot", as it requires a PC coterie to be willing to risk an incredible amount (read: their unlives) to follow it. It involves an investigation into the heart of Russia in search of Baba Yaga or the Nosferatu Antediluvian. It details both the attempts of some (including Baba Yaga and Durga Syn) to find the location of said antediluvian, and how said attempts lead to the downfall and death of the legendary Crone of Russia (whose death the Coterie witnesses and plays some small part in). It includes everything from apocalyptic prophecy to talking with a Methuselah and witnessing said's destruction at the hands of one of the dread Nictuku. The plot, however, can almost seem a little forced here and there, possibly requiring some nose-leading on the part of the ST. Other than that, it is a pretty decent scenario, and will likely leave the players with a lingering impression of just how small even the movers and shakers of the WoD are, and how incredible the events they witness are. Still, some may find the comparative lack of player's ability to influence the outcome of this scenario (since Baba Yaga is supposed to die in cannon) somewhat irritating.
Chapter Four: The Hunters Hunted details the efforts of a small group of Hunters to rid a city of the plague of vampires, all against the dual glitz and emptiness backdrop of Las Vegas. It servers to introduce the new players in the WoD stage, the Hunters (as in those from Hunter: The Reckoning). This scenario is one laced with a good dose of suspicion and paranoia, as the coterie will be left wondering who the mysterious people are that seem to be watching them… This chapter left me with very mixed feelings. While I'm all in favor of anything to put PC's on their toes, especially to drive them to paranoia and fear, the setup for this seems a touch unrealistic in places. For example, I find it hard to believe that the kindred would just roll over and take it as much as they do in this chapter, so to speak…little effort seems made on the part of the NPC's of Vegas as writ to look into the appearance of mysterious golden aura'ed mortals. Moreover, despite the disappearances and later deaths of numerous kindred, few seem to put two plus two together and go after the mysterious watchers. Maybe I'm just vastly overestimating Kindred in general, but I think more would have been done. The plot to this section is otherwise OK, though it is my least favored section of the book.
Chapter Five: House of Lies deals with a lost fragment of the Book of Nod to be unveiled by the Librarian pack of Montreal. I was particularly fond of this chapter, as it consisted of a blend of paranoia, betrayal and intrigue neatly blended with a sense of looming danger from the fragment and its contents. The coterie arrives in Montreal to investigate this fragment, and soon finds themselves hobnobbing with renowned Noddist scholars from all over. They're soon thrust into the center of an investigation to find the thief and the truth about the shroud, before the Sabbat inquisition starts executing all those involved under suspicion of infernalism. This section balances a fair amount of social interaction with a good amount of investigation, and the BoN fragment is one never before published in tabletop (though I believe it was in the recent Laws of the Night MET guide) and quite interesting. This section was well done overall.
In the end, this book is a good showcase of several different ways that vampire can be played, from social negotiation to action to treacherous intrigue. The revelations herein are a good start to the Year of the same name, though they certainly leave me thirsting for more. It deals with a diverse selection of metaplot related issues, including how to use the metaplot in a chronicle. My only wish is that more were explained, I can only hope this will be dealt with in future books. Overall, I'd say it's a solid book, despite what I feel to be a rather unbelievable set of circumstances in one chapter and the occasional feeling of being forced in others.