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V20 Companion $9.99
Average Rating:3.8 / 5
Ratings Reviews Total
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V20 Companion
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V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2018 13:13:27

This book is fantastic, i cant find better words for it, for one the deeper look into Kindred Politics and economy despite it being in favors ( Boons ) owed, is super appreciative and honestly abit fun to read about, the amount of ideas i got reading through that 1 section for how to make not only my characters but the NPC characters i create when i Storytell is amazing, i created a Elder Brujah Harpy for my game just reading that and hes already a favorite among the players who both love him and fear him. Its also been useful for them giving them so much of a better understanding on Boons and how they work given some of them where very new to Vampire but have already fallen in love with it! I highly suggest this book, the information here is informative, fun to read and well written. The Subjects explained and discussed in the book are elaborated on and explained but kept informative without being drawn out which if your in the middle of a game and need a refresher is very helpful. The Section on Titles i found very fun and interesting and have already been implementing it in my games, no longer is this elder just some old kindred in the eyes of my players because he just walks by them at Elysium now he is a Consul or a Warden or a Head-Hunter. It adds a sense of vibrancy and for some of my players all new ambitions and concepts to play with and iv been playing since 1st edition. Massive Props to all the people who worked on this!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Joseph P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2017 19:08:08

I'm honestly not sure why this product got anything higher than a 3 Star review. The material is very dry and uninformative pretty much across the board. The topics are very brief, not really adding anything to the game, except for using a lot of words to effectively say nothing. It feels like it was really rushed, and really that is about it.

I honestly can not think of a single things I'd use from this book. Even the section talking about some diffrent concepts for the changes the had considered for the V20 line itself don't actually go into any actual depth. While the book does cover everything in it's description, it does NOT do so in a fashoin that allows it to be useful at the table, and just leaves the reader wondering, why even bother?

[1 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/14/2016 08:55:22

The Introduction opens with a glowing recommendation for the 'open development' style of writing game books, where developers, writers and players kick ideas around in discussion forums as the book is written. This book was created in such a style, it's testimony to its effectiveness. Many 'companion' books consist of material that had to be cut from the core rulebook to keep the beast to a manageable size, but from the outset that was not the intent with the V20 Companion. Instead it presents options and setting information, and a fair bit more.

Chapter 1: Titles deals with social structure and titles of honour and position used in vampire society - given that vampires tend to be a proud and acquisative bunch who will grab any opportunity to lord it over others, you can guess that they are very fond of titles. It all goes back to mediaeval days (or before) and those ancient vampires who remember those days feel right at home... more modern vampires can find it all quite stultifying and frustrating (especially, of course, when they are at the bottom of the heap!). Yet titles imply order and rules and without them there would be chaos - herding vampires being a bit like herding cats. This chapter is deliberately rules-light due to player feedback during the development process, but there is sufficient structure to help you work it all out to good effect. Titles are generally conferred by a more senior vampire, but there are options to handle them like backgrounds and spend experience points to gain them or use them as status benefits. It's best if there are story reasons for that shiny new title however the character actually acquired it, though! Many titles carry duties and responsibilities, which can make for some interesting plot lines. There's a survey of the different titles to be found in various sects and more, a towering and confusing array made mostly clear... and yes, even Anarchs have titles.

Next, Chapter 2: Prestation discusses the whole process of trading, repaying, and incurring favours - the very essence of vampire interactions. Everyone does favours and owes them in a dizzying web that's in part based on trust (between vampires?) that favours will ultimately be repaid. Reneging on a favour owed is a quick way to get into deep trouble real fast, yet sometimes impossible conflicts arise: what if someone you owe a life debt to is declared target of a Blood Hunt? You aren't excused from the Hunt, but it is also very bad form to ignore the fact you owe him a life. Oathbreakers are the worst of low-unlives, so to speak. Moreover, favours can be traded, just as commercial debts are sold on in the real world - so a vampire may find himself owing a favour not to the person who did him one but someone else entirely. It's all part of the mad, intense, social status games vampires play all the time. Fascinating, and replete with plot potential.

In Chapter 3: Kindred and Technology we get to look at how vampires, who have often been around quite a while, cope with the march of modern technology. Consider how much technology has changed since Vampire: The Masquerade appeared in 1991... you carry more computing power in your pocket than an Apollo spacecraft, and my job as an e-learning specialist hadn't even been dreamed of! It was so much easier to conceal being a vampire without social media or international travel and many other things we take for granted. A wealth of ideas and concepts are discussed here, all with an eye to enhancing the story you're telling, of course.

Finally, Chapter 4: A World of Darkness takes a look at several notable locations that have significance for vampires. Scattered around the world, these may serve as background, places worthy of a passing visit or become central to your chronicle.

And then there's an Appendix: Director's Cut. This contains material dropped from the V20 Companion during the development process and is provided partly as an interesting footnote and partly because some people might like to use it, even if the majority opinion was set against.

Overall, a wealth of fascinating, if a bit disparate, material to dip into and use to enhance your game as you see fit.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2015 04:17:44

Chapter One: Titles covers titles and their importance within the hierarchical structure of Kindred society. Collections of titles are broken down by sect and each is tied to the Status background. As a storyteller I found this to be a very useful mechanic and I also liked seeing the titles for every sect gathered in one place. Assigning Status values also allowed for easy comparisons between the sects. It is not hard to discern the difference between a Prince and a Cardinal but what about a Camarilla Primogen and a Sabbat Priscus? Who holds more status within their respective societies? Using this new mechanic it is easy to determine they are of roughly the same standing.

Appropriately this chapter also includes an entry for Caitiff which was left out of the Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary core book.

Chapter Two: Prestation touches on the boon system which serves as an economy within the society of the Kindred. Kindred can exchange promises, or boons, for the things they desire. These boons can come in several different types but any kindred would be smart not to throw them about because boons can be traded. Offer a boon to a resourceful Nosferatu and you may find yourself paying it back to a slimy Ventrue who wants you to handle his dirty work.

Chapter Three covers Kindred and Technology. Though some may find this chapter useful many of us have been integrating technology into our games along the way. There isn’t much in this chapter which I would think of as revelatory. Chapter Four: World of Darkness is a tour of several interesting and important locales populated by the Kindred. From Hunedoara Castle to the Succubus Club fans of the game line will find many of their favorites here.

The Appendix is an overview of material which was left out of this volume and the motivations for their exclusion. Some might think of this section as rubbing salt in the wound but I did not mind.

Artistically the book includes a number of classic pieces from past publications mixed with several new pieces as well. Going back and forth means the book lacks a cohesive look but I think this is fitting for a book of this nature. No two troupes ever played the same way or saw it through the same lens so to speak. To restrain the artistic elements to one style would have been a shame.

There was some negative buzz about the length of the book. Many felt the companion was too short. Comparing it to other companions White Wolf has published reveals that the V20 Companion sits on the high end when it comes to page count even after subtracting ten pages of credits for the Kickstarters and the appendix. If we look at the shorter game lines (Werewolf the Wild West, Sorcerer’s Crusade) we start to see companions with hundreds of pages but White Wolf only published the larger companions for the smaller projects. Since fewer books were being published for these game lines more was packed into the companions.

Overall, the V20 Companion is a great addition to the game line and it includes a lot of material for both players and storytellers.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Ryan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 19:42:22

I was so unhappy with this book and their Kickstarter, that I threw them up on eBay and took a loss just to get rid of it. The worst part of this very short book was there is a section of what they didnt include in the book....yeah, rather than include SOMETHING else decent, they blab on about what you aren't getting.

[1 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2014 05:43:41

By chapter: 1) Titles add names to Status levels, some interesting fluff, but without any gravitas.
2) Boons tells a lot, and says little. I am at least glad that the author didnt have his way to mechanize the whole concept with charts. 3) Kindred and Technology is what put me off the most, discussing at length how people who try to live a secret and nightly life can co-exist with modern technology. But authors failed to think of them as vampires, mystical creatures who may have intelligence and knowledge far surpassing our own. Failed to consider that today's safest secrecy method is NOT going digital at all - even written records should be considered a breach of masquerade. 4) A World of Darkness - briefly mentions a dozen or such locations. Good seeds, but way too little, and nothing innovative or surprising there.

Overview: Merits: a few titles and locations with potential. Flaws: Dry. Shallow. Unimaginative. Dropping names in examples is not an all solving tool for drama and mood.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/17/2014 09:51:03

Let me start by saying that I LOVE the Classic World of Darkness and strongly urge anyone who hasn't bought the core books to buy them immediately and enjoy an incredibly rich world full of hope, horror, possibility, intrigue and, of course, darkness.

Now, on to V20 companion.

This incredibly fluff heavy book does a great job of filling out some of the interesting parts of vampire society, introduces a few pages worth of new systems information that is centered around the ideas of Vampire society presented in the fluff and the cover really is gorgeous on the hardback version. At the end of the book is a section telling you about they stuff they didn't include and why they didn't include it (instead of just including some of it). All in all, if your games run directly in line with canon VTM lore, it's a great resource. If you like to branch out and create your own settings and stories and only use cannon VTM lore as a loose guideline for your game settings (like me), then your money is probably better spent elsewhere, because you won't get a lot of new or useful systems or ideas here.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Paul H. D. B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/06/2013 03:03:38

Not much new is added in this volume, but the core essential information about rank, title and status is well recycled from the guides to the Camarilla, Sabbat and Anarchs. It contains what V20 missed out. V20 Companion does well to fill in the blanks of the 20th Anniversary Edition, even though certain elements like the Black Hand are not featured. V20 Companion brings back the great material that gave more detailed information about the sects, clans and organization of the Vampire society of the Masquerade. The section of Kindred and technology explains how Vampires regard modern devices and how they would use them to their own ends. A blend of metaphysics and technophobia is a strange mixture, but this title will help you determine how to combine them to best effect.

The art of the book preserves White Wolf's creative spirit superbly. Whoever is behind the recompilation of the the Masquerade genre know how to put the right illustrations in the best places. I could spend hours looking at the images. They make me feel like me as they could come alive at any moment.

The title of Sheriff is described in a very one dimensional way and the book could have expanded on the others that had been mentioned before in V20 without asking the reader to refer to that volume. The publication has a slightly encyclopedic feel that is not typical of White Wolf's writing staff method of writing supplementary material. Another twenty pages could have been written to round off some of the ideas a little better.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by ismael s. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/14/2013 15:00:41

This has to be the biggest rip off in WW history. What Onyx Publishing did is a travesty to all fans by shortchanging us like this.

It has only 80 pages, with about 20% of t being rehashed and useless, the backer names are in one garbled mess and there are typos everywhere.

The product looks rush and these guys to include asshole Achilli get a big thumbs down.

I wont be supporting these schmucks any more!

[1 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2012 18:16:49

The V20 Companion is a fine piece of work all round. To me, the mark of a good product is having to shelve it multiple times whilst reading it; because the ideas simply pour out of the pages. I’ve always tried to run games which focus on political machinations and smiling backstabs, as well as trying to grasp the intricacies of the vampiric condition and culture. This book gives me more information on both counts (and more besides).

The first section covers the myriad of titles which the ‘canon’ has accumulated over the years and describes (usually in a paragraph) the function of title. Interestingly, the titles have been drawn from many facets of Masquerade, from table-top sourcebooks, LARP and even the VTES CCG – which gives it a great holistic feel. The breadth of roles is quite invigorating, and when combined with the chapters to come, it guarantees that their application in individual chronicles can be highly tailored. There is also a light set of mechanics to accompany the usage of titles in specific circumstances, and admonition against constantly leaning on title, rather than wits and charisma, to get the job done. The second chapter focuses on Prestation, and the manner in which Boons are traded and dispersed. This ‘social economy’ is covered in some detailed, including scaling Boons, and how trading and recording of these assets occurs. There is also an interesting section on trading Boons between Sects – something I’d like to explore further in my chronicle to add a layer of politics and consequence that might surprise players. In the past, the lines between Sects has been fairly firm, but I find this interpretation a lot more flexible and realistic. Next, technology and its’ impact is scrutinised. By far, this was an intelligently written chapter, and one that needed to be addressed. 2nd edition V:tM spoke of the Computer skill in terms of booting up PCs and using floppy disks (or even CDs) – so social media, wifi, smartphones and tablet computing all needed to be discussed in light of not only the Masquerade, but also how Kindred perceive the world and leverage opportunities. It does contain an interesting section about the rights of the Prince in policing the Traditions and whether they extend to a Cainite outside their Domain using technology remotely to commit transgressions. These sorts of questions highlight the archaic, feudal traditions (and Traditions) of the Kindred against the contrast of modern nights. The last chapter deals with a number of iconic locales from the World of Darkness, from the Cathedral of Flesh, Lodin’s Boardroom, the Succubus Club and even Netchurch’s lab. Each is given a few paragraphs of flavour that could spark chronicle ideas. In all, I found it useful, but not as much as the preceding chapters. There are a few closing pages talking about design and reflecting on the process of pulling the book together. I didn’t find this superfluous, but others may only find it tangentially interesting. It reminded me of the final page of many of the oWoD sourcebooks which had some anecdotes and reflection – so not out of place at all in a product like this.

Overall, I have a lot of love for this book. I can see it being a ‘go to’ title for any V:tM chronicle I run in the future and $15.00 on this PDF is money well spent, but I’ll be definitely adding a print copy to my shelves as well.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Eidan R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/25/2012 12:46:54

Originally published @Inx.mx: http://ixn.mx/2012/09/25/resena-v20-companion/, in spanish.

Pues bueno, despues de un poco retraso tenemos por fin disponible el Companion para la Edición de 20 Aniversario de Vampire: The Masquerade (Vampiro: La Mascarada). Pero empecemos por lo primero, ¿que es un Companion? Para todos aquellos que no sepan un Companion es un libro que se genera generalmente con las ideas o las partes que por cuestiones de espacio o por conteo de hojas no se pudieron incluir en el libro básico de reglas de algun juego.

Todos aquellos que hayan tenido la oportunidad de haber visto una de las ediciones de lujo del V20 podran testificar la gran cantidad de material que contiene y es dificil pensar que podria haber material que se quedo fuera, pero sin embargo paso. En el companion se incluyen materiales que van desde lo teorico, como seria como se adaptan los vampiros a las tecnologias modernas y como se usan, hasta sistemas nuevos para el sistema de la prestacioón entre vampiros y como se otorga y pierde el status. Otra parte intersesante del libro es la parte que habla de los diferentes posibles titulos que se pueden tener en la sociedad y las responsabilidades y beneficios que estos implican.

También se incluye una seccion en la que se habla de lugares interesantes para la sociedad vampirica a nivel mundial, que pueden servir como referencia o para ser usados como escenarios en las sesiones de juegos. Esta es una parte que me gusta mucho por dos razones: por ver a nuestro pais (México) representado, con el infame y tenebroso “Palacio Negro” de Lecumberri, y porque esta aparición fue recomendada por mi. =)

Finalmente se incluye una sección, breve, que habla del material que se elimino y por que, en algunas cosas incluso se presenta el material por si algún valiente lo quiere incluir en sus crónicas. Escrito por Justin Achilli y Eddy Webb, el material es directo pero no pierde la ya esperada mística de la linea de juego y se nutre de la experiencia y talento de ambos autores.

Pero bueno, todo lo anterior es un vistazo rapido al libro ahora si vamos a lo bueno, y lo malo:

Lo malo: Para aquellos que nos comprometimos en apoyar el libro a través de la campaña de Kickstarter fue un poco decepcionante el tamaño. Son menos de 100 hojas, un tamaño muy pequeño comparado con otros Companions que hemos visto de White Wolf. Si se sintió como que hubo una falta de atención al libro pero queda claro que la intención no era poner todo el material sino complementar un poco el extenso libro de V20. El libro se siente ligero y al parecer se corto mas material del que hubiera sido necesario para apaciguar a los rabiosos fans del juego.

Lo bueno: Lo bueno, afortunadamente, es mucho más que lo que malo. Para empezar, el libro viene de entrada en dos versiones. Una que es la edición de lujo, se parece tanto al V20 que bien pudieron haberlo sacado al mismo tiempo. Tiene su cubierta de piel, las paginas vienen con una orilla plateada, el papel es “glossy” y de buena calidad. En pocas palabras, el libro se ve genial. Existe también una segunda versión del libro que es la que se hizo “abierta al publico”. Y la verdad en esta opción quiero creer que todos mis problemas con DTRPG y el V20 PoD sirvieron de algo. Para empezar el libro viene en formato de pasta dura lo que hace que el libro se vea mejor y el empastado se ve mas solido que el de las versiones PoD del V20. El papel viene con mucho mejor calidad y se imprimió el libro a color, evitándonos el problema de los horribles marcos blancos que aun no alcanzo a entender porque no se pueden eliminar de las versiones en blanco y negro. En general, incluso la versión ”normal” se presenta como una buena opción para aquellos interesados.

Es dificil juzgar un libro como este, porque tenemos que tomar en cuenta que es el primer libro de una compañia nueva y que se esta apenas familizarizando con algunos detalles de como funciona la industria. Si bien se puede decir que quiza deeberiamos de esperar mas de gente como Rich Thomas y Justin Achilli, que llevan muchos años en el negocio, tambien hay que tomar en cuenta que la logistica y el modelo de trabajo que se ha escogido es relativamente nuevo por lo que se puede entender algunos de los problemas.

Yo en lo personal considero que es un buen libro y claro que ver mis ideas y mi nombre publicado en el libro me hace sentir muy feliz, pero no me ciego. El tamaño deja mucho que desear y no fui el unico que le hizo saber eso a los chavos de Onyx Path y estan trabajando para corregirlo. Recomiendo, si pueden, que le hechen un vistazo a una copia impresa para decidir si lo compran. No digo que no lo deban de hacer pero quiza la mayor parte de la información es mas dirigida a un Narrador que a un Jugador.


[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Arthur D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/24/2012 01:46:11

The V20 Companion is ... a companion book to the V20 core book. It has its shortcomings, but it also has some interesting content that could be quite useful, depending on the ST, the game, and your own purposes.

Looking for details on Titles and Boons for the Cam, Sabbat, Anarchs and more? Congrats! half of the content of the book is just for you.

Looking for a page spread and info for the Caitiff? It's right there.

Looking for how Kindred utilize today's technology? ... YouTube, Social Networks, and the likes? There's (arguably the best update to the V:tM setting) a nice chapter for you.

How about some setting locations all around the world? A bunch of pages with about 4 paragraphs for each, describing places of importance/interest to Kindred.

Included in the page count (aside from pages of contributors, cover page, legal info, and artwork) is an Appendix that includes some un-used/un-finished material that shows some of the ideas that were unfinished, or deemed unworthy of the V20 Companion, but still presented in their most raw forms nonetheless.

In all, if any of these things sound like they would complete your understanding/interest in V20, then this book might be for you. But if none of this sounds specifically important to you, then you might be disappointed.

Because of its limited usability, its somewhat awkward content, but because it does also contain information missing from the V20 core book, I would say that this book does have its audience. Whether or not it's for you?...

NOTE: this book contains illustrations with nudity.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Companion
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2012 10:30:31

Originally published at http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/05/17/tabletop-review-vampire-the-masquerade-20th-anniversary-edition-companion/

Note: this review was originally published in May of 2011 when the Kickstarter backers recieved their versions of the PDF

Back in 2011, White Wolf revived their slumbering franchise, Vampire: The Masquerade, and began releasing new content for it for the first time in nearly a decade. This revival of the original World of Darkness became known as “The Onyx Path.” In 2011, you could pre-order a copy of the core rulebook for a whopping $100, or wait until the end of the year and purchase a PDF or Print on Demand version. I thought V20, as it has come to be known, was merely okay. I loved the art and the fact the game was revived, but per my review, I was disappointed by a several of the changes, like the new rules for the physical Disciplines and I felt the layout was pretty terrible. I loved the artwork and the SHEER amount of content you were getting for your money. I was further impressed by the first (and only) adventure for V20 so far, Dust to Dust and it was one of the best adventures that I reviewed that year.

Come the end of the year, Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition won two Tabletop Gaming Awards from us: Best Remake/Re-Release and Best Art. So with all this in mind it’s probably no surprise to hear that I joined 1,134 other people in crowd-funding the Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Companion over at Kickstarter. There were a lot of different reward options, but I just backed for a physical copy of the book and a PDF. The campaign was wildly successful and raised nearly $100,000 dollars, causing White Wolf to plan further Kickstarter campaigns, including Children of the Revolution which is currently ongoing. With an outpouring of love by V:TM fans and a dump truck full of money, everyone on all sides was expecting the V20 Companion to blow us away.

Unfortunately, when the PDF was released a few days ago, there was indeed a nigh unanimous reaction – but it wasn’t a positive one. In fact, if you read the comments from the backers, all but one is negative. Some are mildly disappointed about the page count, content, typos, and formatting issues while others are downright irate. The fact of the matter is that they SHOULD be upset on some level. White Wolf has released one of the most overpriced products they’ve ever put out, and what is here doesn’t really resemble what was promised at the start. In the condition that the book is currently in, I’m honestly a little embarrassed to have my name in the credits. In the days of Second Edition, a book of this size would have cost roughly ten to fifteen dollars (It’s the size of a Clanbook). Even with inflation, charging $50 for an eighty page book and $25 for a small PDF like this when that is the same cost for the 520 page core rulebook PDF is pretty much the equivalent of telling your fans to open their mouths and close their eyes and you’ll give them a nice surprise…which ends up being rancid diarrhea instead of something enjoyable. It’ll be interesting to see if the outcry of disappointment is as great as it appear to be, or if it’s mostly just sound and fury by a minority of backers. White Wolf was/is counting on Kickstarter to be a new business model for them, and it will be interesting to see if you actually have to deliver a quality product if you want to repeatedly use crowd funding or if people will blindly back a franchise via crowd-funding as they do with yet another movie/video game sequel. After all fool me once…

It’s also worth noting that White Wolf appears to be outright ignoring the complaints about the V20 Companion. They made an update on the 15th of May saying they will correct some typos and formatting issues, which is great as it’s better to catch the mistakes in the print version. It will be interesting to see if White Wolf takes the many criticisms about the quality and/or amount content to heart or if they’ll ignore the disgruntled. Will there be an apology to all the people who were expecting more in terms of page count and quality, and do the naysayers even deserve one? It’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Now I won’t lie. I’m disappointed by what White Wolf put out as much as everyone else seems to be, but I’m still backing Children of the Revolution. Why? Because part of me is still optimistic that White Wolf will have learned its lesson from this faux pax and put out a really quality product. After all, the core rulebook was VERY pretty, even if I strongly disagreed with some rule changes and Dust to Dust was very well done. Maybe this was the one burp in the system. However as I look through this over and over for my review, I’m reminded of how much the “open development process” has become proof of the adage “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” I still have around three weeks to pull out of Children of the Revolution and the fact is, I will probably drastically lower my pledge if not pull out completely. For now though, let’s just focus on the V20 Companion itself and what went wrong.

Let’s start with the price. It’s not unheard of to have $25 PDFs or $50 books for a tabletop game. However, you’re generally getting far more content than you do with the V20 Companion. Here you’re getting eighty pages. Compare that to the core rulebook for V20, which is the same cost but 520 pages long. This is pretty skimpy for the cost. Even other companies that have $25 PDFs have a hell of a lot more content than this thing. Catalyst Game Labs just put out a $25 PDF for Shadowrun entitled Hazard Pay. That PDF is 170 pages long. The physical copy of the book is only $35 which means it’s slightly more than twice the length of the V20 Companion and only three-fourths the cost! That’s offensive to me, and it would seem, nearly everyone else. Even those that appear happy with the V20 Companion seem upset about what they got for the sticker cost. Another great cost comparison would be with Chaosium, makers of the Call of Cthulhu line of RPGs. Chaosium was well known for massively overpricing their PDFs until recently, when I wrote a commentary about them pricing themselves out of the digital marker, and they responded to me and the public at larging by dropping their PDF prices by 20%. This means something like Masks of Nyarlathotep which is 252 pages and considered to be one of the best adventures ever published in the industry regardless of system…is only $19.22 for the PDF. That’s over three times the length of the V20 Companion and a fraction of the cost, but it’s also a book on its fourth printing. We could also look at another recent PDF from Chaosium. Children of the Storm is eighty pages, just like the V20 Companion. It’s an exceptional supplement and adventure collection but the cost? Only $8.22 – a full THIRD of what the V20 Companion PDF costs. So as we see, people were expecting a hell of a lot more content for the price point because it’s what gamers are used to. White Wolf is now in a lose-lose scenario. If they lower the cost of the PDF for the general public when it is released, they will piss off the people who made the book possible EVEN Further and risk damaging their crowd-funding source to the point where this won’t be an option for them any longer. If they leave the book at the current price – people simply won’t buy it because it’s overpriced and the word of mouth on it is horrendous. Talk about your PR nightmare. White Wolf has pretty much blundered in every way possible from cost to content, but it’s also their first time using something like Kickstarter, so is this a one-time blunder or a quick cash grab? There’s no way to honestly know until we see Children of the Revolution.

So let’s look at the actual content now. What are in the eighty pages of the V20 Companion? Well, not much to be honest. The first ten pages aren’t even content. That means nearly 13% of the PDF is filler right off the bat. In these ten pages, you’re getting the cover, table of contents, a re-used piece of art from the early 90s and SEVEN pages of credits and acknowledgements. Now I’m fine with the backers getting their due and the usual White Wolf Credits page, but the pages thanking backers should have been in addition to content that were added on after everything was written. So if the book was planned to be eighty pages from the start, it should have been eighty pages of CONTENT and then White Wolf should have added on the acknowledgements as extra pages that they paid for above and beyond said content. God knows they raised enough money to do that and it’s what pretty much every other crowd-sourced RPG has done. Even worse is the formatting of the Kickstarter backers. It’s an eyesore to say the least. Proper formatting could have saved them half a page of room – at least. They could have used that half page for the standard credits and legal info and then voila! Another page of CONTENT. Sheesh. Thankfully this is being fixed in both the print copy and PDF, but man, what a bad first impression. Still, I’d rather see the errors caught and corrected in a soft release than in a mass one.

Besides this, the last three pages are devoted to what was cut and an explanation as to why. This is a complete waste of space that could have been a blog post. Instead it’s padding in a book that DESPERATELY needed content. All of the appendix is outright junk that could have been used in literally dozens of better ways. Then the last page of the book is a full page ad for upcoming Onyx Path products. Really? In a completely crowd funded project that is well aware of what is coming up, you’re going to waste a page on AN AD? If this doesn’t bother you on some level, than I don’t know what to tell you. So that means the first ten pages aren’t content and neither are the last four. That is a whopping EIGHTEEN PERCENT of the book that is padding instead of what people actually paid for. If you include full page art pieces as padding (which may or may not be your mindset), that jumps up to twenty pages of padding or a full fourth of the book. That’s horribly thought out and of the worst things I’ve seen in my nearly two decades writing for or about the tabletop industry. I personally don’t mind full page art in a book, especially V:TM as it tends to have some of the best art in the business, but honestly, when the page count is this small, these pages should have been put to better use. It also doesn’t help that said full art pieces are amongst the worst I’ve ever seen in a V:TM publication. Just…wow. I can’t believe that twenty-five percent of this book is padding. To put it another way, you’re basically paying eighty-three cents per page of content which is astronomical compared to pretty much every other RPG supplement well…EVER. Remember, that doesn’t even begin to touch on the pages that are one-third to one-half art in addition to content. Again, if this doesn’t make at least make you mildly disappointed my friend, than I don’t know what to tell you.

The rest of the book is divided into four sections: Titles, Prestation, Kindred and Technology and finally, A World of Darkness. Each section is of mild interest at best and it covers stuff that most V:TM players already know by heart (more or less). You may be asking yourself WHY White Wolf would publish a book for its most diehard fans that is full of content they already have or know by heart? Well, that’s a puzzler, isn’t it? The truth is that it’s not all a rehash. In fact, a lot of it is a new twist on old ideas. I applaud the concept, but not necessarily the end result.

“Titles” covers just that. They cover titles and what they mean in Kindred Society. You get a list of titles for the Camarilla, the Sabbat, the Anarchs and surprisingly the Tal’Mahe’Ra and the Inconnu. I’m really happy about the Black Hand titles as they’ve never really been covered in depth before. I’m a little disappointed they gave official titles and info on the Inconnu because they need to be mysterious and as open to interpretation as DC Comics’ The Phantom Stranger (which DC ruined recently anyway…). At least with the Inconnu, details about the organization as a whole aren’t given out and what’s here is vague enough to be interpreted in multiple ways, but there’s enough substance to make gamers know how to run one. The Cam, Sabbat, and Anarch titles have all been covered in depth repeatedly, so unless a gamer is new to V:TM as a whole, they probably don’t need this. Still, if you’re going to cover titles, at least you’re covering them all.

The big problem with the title section is the book gives rules for how to purchase them with EXPERIENCE POINTS. This revelation of course will annoy most fans of V:TM or the World of Darkness in general as it really goes against how the game is played and what it is all about. Titles are to be earned through role-playing, not purchased like a new power or enhanced skill. This actually made me a little ill to read. Thankfully the book talks about how to earn titles in-game but man, out of all the things to keep in, they kept in rules to obtain titles through experience expenditure? That’s just wrong. It’s mechanics that are neither needed nor wanted by most V:TM players. So the titles are a nice idea. The pages are through and descriptive, but you’ll be left baffled by the decision to let players purchase titles. Thankfully, most Storytellers will chuck that right out the window.

“Prestation” is a chapter that I’m still confused as to why it was put in the book. This section covers Boons, how to use them, transfer them, and get out of them. This is all standard stuff that any V:TM player should already know, so this amounted to little more than a dozen pages that could have been used better. Much like “Titles,” we get a list of how the different factions use boons and unfortunately, we also get optional rules for purchasing boons with experience points. Ugh. Again, I don’t know who would use these optional rules and I can see it pissing off a lot of V:TM fans who prefer the game for its light rules and emphasis on role-playing over character sheet micro-managing. I don’t know. On one hand, I think it’s nice that someone put a decent amount of effort into explaining boons in every way possible down to the most minute detail, but on the other hand, it’s a dozen pages that could have been put to better use as most fans of V:TM know this stuff like the back of their hand.

“Kindred and Technology” is my favorite section in the book as it’s not only the best written, but it’s the thing that most needed to be updated in game. Aftter all, VTM started two decades ago and the tech of 1991 is so vastly different from the tech of 2012 that it’s almost mind boggling to think about. Look at back then. The Sega Genesis was top notch in terms of video gaming. Cell phones were giant bulky things. Pagers were all the rage and how you contacted people in an emergency. Telephone booths were common-place. The internet was sparsely populated and BBCs were more frequently used. It was almost a different world entirely. This section of the book looks at those changes and what it means for the game. It talks about the use of trolling on the internet to protect/obscure Masquerade breaches, how a Kindred uses social networking, record and finance keeping with the cloud and other forms of digital storage (no more floppy disks!) and the like. I loved this section. If the entire V20 Companion was of this quality, people would be far happier with the product methinks. “Kindred and Technology” is a proper update, containing NEW information that longtime players and neophytes alike can make use of that hasn’t been covered elsewhere and is thankfully free of optional in-game mechanics (“It costs five experience points to buy a computer.”).

The final section, “A World of Darkness” is a good idea, but poorly written and badly implemented. It’s thirteen pages divided between twenty-five locations. That’s approximately three to four paragraphs per location. That’s nowhere enough room for a quality look at any of them. Several of these locations have been covered before in FAR greater detail, so it’s a bit insulting to see what we get here. If anything, each location should have had a full page to it, with greater detail and perhaps some story hooks or information about local Kindred. In truth, “A World of Darkness” should have been its own book, as it has been in the past, contained far more information about a great many more locations. To have it shoehorned in here with such sparse detail is an insult to the previous books by the same name and to the gamers that own them. Perhaps if you’re new this section won’t pale in comparison to what has previously been done, but how many people purchasing this will fall under that category?

All in all, the V20 Companion is one of the worst books (if not the worst) that White Wolf has ever put out in terms of getting what you pay for. In terms of actual content quality, it IS lackluster and a disappointment, but I honestly wonder if everyone who feels that way still would if the book had been stuck with a ten to fifteen dollar price tag. It’s the size of a Second Edition clanbook, but with less content and five times the price tag. What’s here is filled with typos (which White Wolf is already aware of and in the process of correcting) and lacks any real substance. Only one section is of any real quality (“Kindred and Technology”), while another (“Titles’) is equal parts good information and terrible ideas, and the other two sections are either not very useful or a pale mockery of things that have come before. I can see why quite a few backers are reacting to the Companion as if it was an insult to the Vampire: The Masquerade franchise and an even greater insult to the eleven hundred people who trusted and backed White Wolf in this endeavor.

To be honest, I can’t reccomend the V20 Companion at all, mainly due to the cost per page issue. There is no reason at all for anyone to buy a copy of this unless you absolutely must own anything and everything V:TM related. At best, the V20 Companion is a perfect example of how crowd-funding can go wrong. At worst, it makes you wonder what happened to the extra $50,000 White Wolf raised for the book (above and beyond the actual goal was), and what it was used for. Caveat Emptor indeed.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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