I’ve written before about the genesis of Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, so I won’t reiterate much of that here. Long pre-order period, original one-volume luxury edition only available for people who pre-ordered (or attended the Grand Masquerade in person), etc etc. Now that I actually have the book and have read it, I’ll start with this: the book is absolutely gorgeous, it’s probably the fanciest and more impressive rpg book I own currently. It’s also huge.
The book is now also available via DriveThruRPG’s print-on-demand (“Now In Print”) scheme, though the cover there is a normal book cover and not the embossed faux-leather used here. The black & white edition is available as one volume , while the color version is split into two tomes because of print-technical reasons. If you want a one-volume full-color edition… too bad. You can’t have my copy, so eBay is your best bet. Be prepared to pay mucho cash. I do suggest you get the color version, even if it is two separate volumes, since there’s a lot of beautiful new full-color art here.
Enough about the physical presentation, what about the content? Well, I’m happy to report that it’s also fantastic. They’ve taken the whole Masquerade core, updated and totally revised it, and then added similarly updated and revised versions of Sabbat and most independent clans there. All Disciplines (including very weird and rare bloodline disciplines) are described up to 9 dots, and are heavily revised. I’ve never actually played or run tabletop Vampire so I did not catch all the changes, but a lot has been tweaked in this book (most due to fan input). In general, Discipline power level has been slightly reduced (at least at certain gonzo levels), and many old loopholes have been closed. Lots of things have been streamlined, for example Mortis is now a Necromancy path, and in general the layout of the various disciplines is more logical than much of the old rambling mess. Skills have been streamlined a bit, and in general things have been tweaked all over the place.
In short, this book contains a distillation of the major Vampire books over the last 20 years, with fixes to issues that have cropped up and general streamlining. To me, this is very much the “ultimate” version of Vampire: the Masquerade, and the version I would use if I were to run that game at some point. While I’m sure some people will gripe at the various nerfs to this and that uber-power, I see the general balancing of the power levels as purely a good thing.
The book leans heavily on the Revised edition of Vampire, but most of the metaplot events incorporated in that edition (or published after) have been relegated to the sidelines and sidebars here. Some others are mentioned as “rumors” and options, so that the GM can decide to either use them or now. They did keep some of the really stupid shit, though, there is still mention of the Week of Nightmares (though that, too, is thankfully left quite vague, so the GM can do the smart thing and ignore it). There is mention of the Tremere Antitribu maybe suffering a mass die-off… but it also is left somewhat vague. Overall, I think this is a good approach – there were some cool bits in the WoD metaplot, but also some astoundingly stupid bits. Mentioning them but leaving them open to interpretation is probably the wisest path to take, here.
I cannot really find much to gripe about this book. It’s a massive single-tome compendium of the whole expanded Vampire core, including Camarilla, Sabbat, the Independents and lots of bizarre bloodlines to boot. It contains revised and tweaked rules for everything, based on 20 years of “playtest” (i.e. fan input). Sure, the biggest value of this book is probably to collectors and people who remember the game with nostalgia – but honestly, purely as a game core book, this thing rocks. The layout is clear, the art is a combination of the old classic stuff and very pretty new pieces, and the game itself… well, it’s a classic.
The lazy approach would have been for White Wolf to cut+paste pieces from the old books, slap some fancy covers on, and call it an “Anniversary Edition” (I’m looking at you here, Chaosium). They didn’t do anything remotely like that, a huge amount of work went into writing and polishing this thing, and it shows. It’s clearly a labor of love for the writers, too.