Doc Sammy Reads The Classics Volume 1 (Vampire: The Masquerade 1E + Chicago Chronicles)

Doc Sammy

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Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!
-Freddy Krueger
Alright, welcome to the first installment of a new series of "Let's Read" threads titled Doc Sammy Reads The Classics.

As the name implies, I will be doing commentary as I read through old-school RPG books from the 1970's to the early 2000's.

We'll look through different games and supplements released between 1974 (OD&D) and 2008 (D&D 4E) but most of the books I will be doing commentary on were released before 2000, with a few noteworthy exceptions like D&D 3.5, BESM d20, and Vampire: The Requiem.

For the very first installment of this series, we're going back to the halcyon days of the early 1990's with a twofer "Let's Read" of both the original core rulebook and the first volume of the Chicago Chronicles, which was a compilation series of several Vampire 1E books that were released late in the game's second edition run. All the original materials from this compilation series were released between 1991 and 1993, and were out of print by the mid-point of Second Edition.

For a quick reference, these are the different books in each volume.

Chicago Chronicles 1: Chicago by Night (1991) and The Succubus Club (1991)
Chicago Chronicles 2: Under a Blood Red Moon (1993) and Chicago by Night Second Edition (1993)
Chicago Chronicles 3: Ashes to Ashes (1991), Blood Bond (1992), and Milwaukee by Night (1992)

Why the second volume is composed of the last of the original Chicago books instead of the third volume is beyond me, but I digress.

Side Note: There were also The City Chronicles which contained other early sourcebooks and modules that were set outside of Chicago, such as Alien Hunger and Dark Colony, the two Diablerie adventure modules, as well as the supplementary books The Anarch Cookbook and Elysium: The Elder Wars.

Since we are doing a twofer of the First Edition core rulebook and the first volume of the Chicago Chronicles, I will be covering the following books in this thread...

1. Vampire: The Masquerade, First Edition (1991)
2. Chicago by Night (1991)
3. The Succubus Club (1991)

We're going to start with the corebook and then move onto Chicago by Night and then conclude with The Succubus Club.

There is a reason as to why I am starting with a commentary of Vampire 1E before moving onto Chicago by Night (which was the winner of the poll) and it's mainly the fact that the mini-setting of Gary, Indiana that is featured near the end of the core rulebook is intended as a starting point for Chicago by Night. Also, I'd like to get into the feeling of what the game was like when it first came out contrasted against what the game would later become, and I think starting with the corebook and then moving directly into the immensely influential and well-regarded Chicago by Night would help establish that context better.

I also welcome open commentary from all the users in this thread, and since these books were released before I was even born, I would greatly appreciate input and commentary from those at the Pub who were actually there at the time.

The commentary proper will begin later this evening with both the introductory fiction and the first chapter of Vampire 1E.
 

Baeraad

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I'm intrigued. I came in right at the tail end of Vampire. It'll be interesting to know how it all started.
 

Doc Sammy

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I'm intrigued. I came in right at the tail end of Vampire. It'll be interesting to know how it all started.
Hell, I came in right at the tail end of Requiem 1E, just before V20 came out. I had to backtrack my way into the classic World of Darkness stuff.

I have read several of the books from the game's early days as well as researched what the game's heyday was like to the best of my abilities, but some of the information came from heavily biased sources such as RPGnet, Onyx Path Forums, and The RPG Pundit, so I'm going to go take a second more detailed look into the game's early days so I can re-examine and re-evaluate my stances on the game and its early years.

So this should be interesting for us both!
 
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Séadna

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Vampire: The Masquerade, First Edition (1991)
There's a subtle shift in focus between VtM 1st and 2nd edition. Way down the line that might be interesting to look at. 1st, in my experience, is a little closer to Anne Rice's world. Where as 2nd Edition takes the play style that grew out of Chicago by Night and extrapolates a bit.
 

Doc Sammy

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There's a subtle shift in focus between VtM 1st and 2nd edition. Way down the line that might be interesting to look at. 1st, in my experience, is a little closer to Anne Rice's world. Where as 2nd Edition takes the play style that grew out of Chicago by Night and extrapolates a bit.
Interesting, I actually did not know that.

I was always under the impression that VtM 2E's core rulebook was largely the same as 1E, but was simply re-organized and with errata and some different artwork added into it.

The only Vampire corebooks I have yet to read or own are Second Edition and Fifth Edition, I even own the GURPS version and the Mind's Eye Theater books (well, I don't own the By Night Studios MET version, but I have read it over)

I didn't know 2E was different than 1E, so I didn't buy it since I bought 1E earlier.

And I hate Fifth Edition so much that I don't even consider it worthy of pirating, let alone spending actual money on...

Well, I guess a physical copy of V5 would be useful if you were lost in the woods and needed kindling or toilet paper, but did not have access to any of those actual items and you didn't want to risk using poison oak by accident.
 

Séadna

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I might go as far as saying 1e is closer to Anne Rice from Interview and Lestat it's more intimate... 2e is broader in scope in feel... like Queen of the Damned
Yes that's quite true, I felt 1E had a smaller more ambiguous world. Like when Louis shows up in Paris. There is just the community there, who've been there for a long time and know little of vampires elsewhere. Except Armand but he's quite aloof and what he knows is his personal experience not organised lore.
 
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Black Leaf

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And I hate Fifth Edition so much that I don't even consider it worthy of pirating, let alone spending actual money on...
Have you actually read it now? If so, I'm interested to know what you disliked about it (although probably in another thread!).
 

Voros

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Yes that's quite true, I felt 1E had a smaller more ambiguous world. Like when Louise shows up in Paris. There is just the community there, who've been there for a long time and know little of vampires elsewhere. Except Armand but he's quite aloof and what he knows is his personal experience not organised lore.
That would be my preference, a smaller, more believable number of vampires mostly hidden in the big cities and none of the conspiracy 'power behind the curtain' stuff. I'd take Barbara Hambly's vampire novels like Traveling with the Dead as inspiration. Easy to do of course, the fluff is easy to ignore.
 

FeralToaster

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I seem to recall Chrod's Chicago book was better at doing both the big conspiracy of many vampires in Chicago proper while also doing the "Satellite Domains" tucked away in nearby secondary cities and larger suburbs that were populated by a single coterie or bloodline. As I remember it being played people enjoyed being part of the expsanive Chicago game then having their character duck into the suburbs to study diaries when things got hot and let the claustrophobia sink in, but I alway played with Gurps fans (or at least willing to put up with Gurps) your mileage may vary and all that.

unrelated sidenote while i'm talking CHrod
CHrod Chicago also gave substantial page count and thought to the werewolfs and mages and how they would effect the supernatural ecology. Owod chicago "under a blood red moon" was a bit of a let down for werewolf players if I remember correctly.
 

tenbones

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I seem to recall Chrod's Chicago book was better at doing both the big conspiracy of many vampires in Chicago proper while also doing the "Satellite Domains" tucked away in nearby secondary cities and larger suburbs that were populated by a single coterie or bloodline. As I remember it being played people enjoyed being part of the expsanive Chicago game then having their character duck into the suburbs to study diaries when things got hot and let the claustrophobia sink in, but I alway played with Gurps fans (or at least willing to put up with Gurps) your mileage may vary and all that.

unrelated sidenote while i'm talking CHrod
CHrod Chicago also gave substantial page count and thought to the werewolfs and mages and how they would effect the supernatural ecology. Owod chicago "under a blood red moon" was a bit of a let down for werewolf players if I remember correctly.

Chicago By Night, for me, is about as big as it should ever get. Contextually it represents a very playable ecosystem of inhuman predators doing what predators do - staking out territory, establishing a pecking order, and the game is where the PC's enter that order. Better, they are perfectly open to disrupting or hiding from that established order... while figuring out how they're going to live their unlives.

I agree about the other supernaturals being... interesting. I completely re-tooled Under a Blood Red Moon for my own uses. It almost had *nothing* to do with the adventure as presented. What was more interested was the idea of regional werewolves gathering to lay siege to a Vampire controlled city.

I made it scary.
 

Mankcam

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I dropped out of rpgs in my mid undergrad uni student years, 1991 -1992. By the time I started following rpgs again in late 1993, the whole Vampire the Masquerade thing was gaining traction. I remember buying the softcover VtM core book and being blown away; it was so different for the time.

By 1995 I had read the original Vampire Chronicles Trilogy by Anne Rice (I may have started on the subsequent books as well), and the nice hardcover of VtM 2E was also out.
That's when the whole WoD phenomena really hit bigtime, almost completely wiping D&D/AD&D off the shelves for a while. D&D usually had over half the shelf space, with the remainder left to miscellenous others rpgs. However by the mid 1990s that had changed, with WoD taking the previous D&D real estate, throwing D&D/AD&D in with the miscellenous other rpg titles, all of which were dwindling in the face of the WoD tidal wave (allthough I think the whole trading card thing was also making a big dent by then).

Urban Fantasy was huge; movies like The Crow perpetuated it, the goth-rock and grunge-rock scene somehow intersected with the insular rpg scene, and the rest is history.

I only had VtM 1E for a year or so, and by the time my group were into it in 1995 we had VtM 2E as our game. The second edition was really just a refinement of the first edition, and the whole WoD scope was ballooning out much more by then.
We played Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mage the Ascension, and Changeling the Dreaming. MtA became our default game by the end of the 90s, but VtM was always present.

I never bought VtM 3E, and when the nWoD line was rebooted (now CoD), I just didn't dig The Requiem and the other titles, I ended up cashing them in, and only keeping the core book to play mortals investigating the WoD (The X-Files was still popular).

I now have the Classic WoD 20th Anniversary Edition books, so the V20 tome sits nicely next to my VtM 2E on my bookshelf.
From what I have seen, the glossy new VtM 5E also looks quite good; more than enough to bring me back if I had a crowd interested in playing it.

I'll follow this thread with interest, to see the subtle differences between these original editions.

VtM is such a milestone title in the history of the rpg scene.
 
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FeralToaster

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Chicago By Night, for me, is about as big as it should ever get. Contextually it represents a very playable ecosystem of inhuman predators doing what predators do - staking out territory, establishing a pecking order, and the game is where the PC's enter that order. Better, they are perfectly open to disrupting or hiding from that established order... while figuring out how they're going to live their unlives.
Oh certainly I agree that the Cwod Chicago book set up a very good city template that was easy to get players involved in (perhaps too good even with later books copying the setup rather then let a city have its own identity). I'm just looking at rough spots and how the layer line handled'em or didn't. Like if you read the Werewolf wild west line there the parts that have shadow lords being really into cattle ranching and setting up western towns. with the Union stock yards being so major to the city economy (even earning it the moniker slaughter house of the world) it would seem the perfect place to have a sinister alliance between shadow lords cattle barons and insert x vampire faction.

You try to make the game scarier (which is good) I try to integrate the local history to make it weirder.
 

Malleustein

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I remember being told about Vampire: the Masquerade and getting very excited. I have a long-standing love for the Hammer gothic horrors, so it sounded fantastic. I ordered first edition, but the store owner gave me the first copy of second edition that came in instead!

While I've always appreciated that, it does mean I missed out on the original incarnation of the game, which has therefore held a fascination for me. Perhaps this thread will inspire me to buy it PoD.
 

FeralToaster

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Might I suggest a used bookstore instead. Old VTM corebooks, 1ed thru revised are very common and usually priced at the 2 to 4 dollar mark and usually are filled with scrawled notes from the era so it doubles as a historical artifact being all vintage and whatnot.
 

Malleustein

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Might I suggest a used bookstore instead. Old VTM corebooks, 1ed thru revised are very common and usually priced at the 2 to 4 dollar mark and usually are filled with scrawled notes from the era so it doubles as a historical artifact being all vintage and whatnot.
There are not many used bookstores in my neck of the woods that would carry anything remotely like that.

Besides, I am not terribly concerned with collecting old books for a game I never played. My only proper "classic" collection is the original Traveller boxed set in pretty good condition. But that has a lot of fond memories attached to it.
 

Brock Savage

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When Vampire was released I was in the Marine Corps Reserves and going to school while working at a game store. The game certainly captured the zeitgeist of the early 90's. Like most everyone else, I played the hell out of it; the gothic-punk aesthetic attracted a lot of people to gaming who would have never given more traditional RPGs a chance.

I see a lot of love for Chicago by Night here. It was groundbreaking for its time but I will trot out the unpopular opinion that I found it ridiculous that Helen of Troy and Menelaus were 4th generation vampires chilling out in the Midwest. I feel like the later city books such as New York by Night and Montreal by Night were better written and more plausible.

Personally I preferred the 1998 revised edition (green marble cover with red rose) because they cleaned up the rules and retconned some of the goofier stuff (e.g. Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand).

So an almost thirty year old corpse vs a crazy Scientologist, hmmm...

+10 cool points for the Brazil reference. It was my favorite movie at age 12 or 13 and I had a massive crush on Kim Greist's character. It's still one of my favorites.
 

Mankcam

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Yeah lots of later VtM stuff was a bit better in many ways, until near the end of the 90s when the whole WoD was straining under bloat weight.

Still, the rough edges of the original line does hold a place for many of us, even if it is only nostalgia.

So I'll be checking back here for some insights on those early days
 

tenbones

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When Vampire was released I was in the Marine Corps Reserves and going to school while working at a game store. The game certainly captured the zeitgeist of the early 90's. Like most everyone else, I played the hell out of it; the gothic-punk aesthetic attracted a lot of people to gaming who would have never given more traditional RPGs a chance.

I see a lot of love for Chicago by Night here. It was groundbreaking for its time but I will trot out the unpopular opinion that I found it ridiculous that Helen of Troy and Menelaus were 4th generation vampires chilling out in the Midwest. I feel like the later city books such as New York by Night and Montreal by Night were better written and more plausible.
After having used Chicago By Night TO DEATH (npi)... in later years whenever I ran Vampire and we ended up in Chicago - I simply changed/removed the Helena/Menele duopoly. It's pretty trivial. I mean outside the external manipulations of those two on everyone in the city - it actually smooths out the political mayhem by a significant layer and allows some of the other NPC's to emerge as more interesting power-players.

The core of what Chicago By Night is - a self-contained political sandbox stands pretty strong. I actually prefer the assumptions of 2e with Maxwell as Prince. It made a lot more sense than Lodin (especially with the meta-history between Maxwell, Lodin, Siegried (Prince of Vancouver), Decker (Prince of Milwaukee).

But all of this stuff is pretty modular which makes it a snap to pick and choose. One of the best campaigns I ever ran started in Milwaukee, ended up in Chicago - and we played through the transition of power from 1e to 2e and Maxwell didn't even succeed, one of the PC's ended up becoming Prince with Maxwell behind him as his "advisor" (i.e. he was a pawn of Maxwell).
 
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tenbones

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Oh certainly I agree that the Cwod Chicago book set up a very good city template that was easy to get players involved in (perhaps too good even with later books copying the setup rather then let a city have its own identity). I'm just looking at rough spots and how the layer line handled'em or didn't. Like if you read the Werewolf wild west line there the parts that have shadow lords being really into cattle ranching and setting up western towns. with the Union stock yards being so major to the city economy (even earning it the moniker slaughter house of the world) it would seem the perfect place to have a sinister alliance between shadow lords cattle barons and insert x vampire faction.

You try to make the game scarier (which is good) I try to integrate the local history to make it weirder.
IF one is to include the other splats of the World of Darkness into the respective game you're running. You have a WHOLE lot of consideration on where you want your cosmology to be pinned down and you're going to leave a whole lot of trimmings on the floor. This is one of the reasons I really liked the more cohesive NWOD mechanics - but I prefer the cosmology of Classic WoD more.

All those assumptions have to be distilled down into whatever you as the GM want it. And it's great fun to do - but requires some real consideration and setting knowledge or you can paint yourself into a corner. Especially if you try to square the Cainite heresies of Vampire (which are all conjecture and only true where the GM wants it to be true... or is it?) and the Triat cosmology of Werewolf and Mage. And lordy... Mage... that's introducing a whole new level of gnostic insanity into an already complex pool.

For me - I made Cain real and made him part of the Wyrm triad - he is the embodiment of the Eater of Souls. Which is why vampries are largely "wyrm tainted" to Garou. Narratively it makes sense. It squares with the conspiracy notion that Cain is indeed still "around", and he'll one day rise to eat all his children in Noddist lore, with the Lupine apocalypse prophecy of the Wyrm rising full force and destroying everything.

Same concept - two different perspectives from two radically different cultures.

But I digress ... I don't wanna jack Doc's thread heh.
 

FeralToaster

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I'll respond as I'm quite enjoying the discussion but then I'll be quiet for a bit as i'm very much looking forward to this Let's Read.

1. Gurps Wod made multi splats games much easier to use and retool. (Not including Mage, always gotta do extra homework if you want Mage)
2. The use of a Session Zero is a strongly recommend by the storytellers handbooks (at least as far back as werewolf revised last I looked) for the start of any chronicle. It reduces the whole building the cosmology to fit thing down to asking the players what perspective is cool with them. Made things lot more efficient.
2A.Expect Session Zero Mage to take multiple session, I've learned from experience.
3. I always felt that Ennoia as a dark Gaia route was more interesting to endgame Vampire-werewolf crossovers. Have the werewolves deal with them rethinking their belief system and the vampires thinking about how they should develop their own faith for cool powers (lot great character choices there that can go in a lot of fun ways). Oh and I recently chatted with someone that argued that the were-spiders worked great in their Vampire game.
 
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