Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/07/02/tabletop-review-dread-names-red-list-vampire-the-masquerade-20th-annivers-
Dread Names, Red List is a remake/update of both The Kindred’s Most Wanted and bits of other books like The Storyteller’s Handbook to the Sabbat. Dread Names, Red List came about as a stretch goal to the Kickstarter campaign for Children of the Revolution which was a mediocre release (to be fair, all the early WW/OPP Kickstarters were underwhelming in terms of final product). It’s also kind of shocking it took three years for the stretch goal to make print, but at least it’s here, right? The good news is that Dread Names, Red List is MUCH better than the product that spawned it and the supplement is guaranteed to fill any Storyteller’s head with ideas. Plots and adventures to through at their players’ coterie.
The Red List is a vampire equivalent of the FBI’s Most Wanted List, except it’s maintained by the largest undead organization in world. As well, the Red List isn’t made up of just vampires. It’s controlled by the Camarilla sure, but Lupines, Mages, Technocrats, Fae and demons could make the list if they were a big enough threat to the organization and/or the Masquerade. The list as it stands within Dread Names, Red List is mostly vampires, but there is one mortal in the set. Of course, just because it’s 92.3% vampires doesn’t mean the list isn’t diverse. You have the offspring of Set, one of the heads of the Sabbat, a Typhoid Mary for Kindred, a religious zealot, an anarch and more. With these thirteen characters you have a wide range of potential antagonists that could fill up an entire Chronicle with their machinations. The characters are a lot of fun and it’s worth noting that several of the art pieces are based on some very recognizable people. For example the portait of Raymond Narcisse is very obiously David Heath, the professional wrestler known as both the Vampire Warrior and Gangrel. My wife, whose only exposure to V:TM is through one episode of Kindred; The Embraced and The Brood from WWF/WWE programming took one look at that picture and recognized him immediately. Part of the fun will be recognizing familiar faces in the art. Oddly enough Gangrel is a Torreador in Dread Names, Red List.
Moving on, much of Dread Names, Red List is not actually about the thirteen beings named to the Red List. The book’s true focus is on the Alastors. An Alastor is essentially a parallel to an Archon. Both are positioned given to Kindred by Justicars, but while Archons are more the police of the Kindred, Alastors are more the equivalent of its military/CIA assassins. Once given the position of Alastor, you hold it until Final Death. The problem is that your job is now to eternally hunt down and destroy those who are on the Red List. So your life becomes one of intrigue and combat. This is perfect for people who like V:TM but want something a little more dungeon crawling or hack and slashy instead of talking heads and their politics. Still, being an Alastor doesn’t mean all fisticuffs and heaping amounts of Fortitude soak rolls. You still have to investigate, sleuth and other cerebral type activities. This is V:TM after all. I’m just saying an Alastor oriented campaigns offers you a lot more combat potential than any other Classic World of Darkness game save Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
The book has five set sections along with an introduction and an appendix. The intro is the usual “This is the purpose of the book” yammering. “History and Tradition” talks about why the Camarilla has the traditions along with the origins and evolutions of the Red List. Here you learn about the Justicars and their role in the Red List as well as what happens when someone is removed from the Red List (ie, killed). The second section is unnamed but it gives you all thirteen of the current Red List “participants” along with their history, stats and a full page portRait of them. Again, several should look quite familiar to you.
“Role of the Alastor” is the next section and it’s the longest in the book. Here you learn why someone is chosen to be an Alastor and it is quite interesting to see all the aspects the Justicars look at. Age, clan, generation, politics and so on. You also learn about the complex relationship between Justicars, Alastors, Archons and Josians (Infernalist/demon-worshipper hunters). There is also a list of preferred Disciplines and their respective powers in case you want to min/max (which is odd for a V:TM game, but this also shows you how combat heavy an Alastor is meant to be).
“Characters and Traits” is for players who want to make an Alastor or who will be taking part in an all Alastor campaign/Chronicle. It gives you some things to think about when designing your new character, with a lot of emphasis on the importance of the background traits you choose. There are also some new combo Disciplines and Thaumaturgy rituals to take. This section does have a Merits & Flaws area but there is only one of each provided, both having to do with “trophies” – a type of boon and other associated rewards a character gets when they knock someone off the Red List.
The final section is “Storyteller Toolkit” and the title is pretty self-explanatory if you know your WoD jargon. This section gives some great advice on designing a Red List/Alastor oriented campaign and how to keep it both flowing and fun. There are also some story hooks in case you can’t think of any and also some people to put onto the Red List in case your players manage to destroy one of the current members.
The final part of the book is an appendix called “The Path of Evil Revelations.” As mentioned in the beginning of the review, this was originally part of The Storyteller’s Handbook to the Sabbat and allowed characters (although preferably NPCs/antagonists only) access to an infernal versions of both Thaumaturgy and an alternative to Humanity/the usual paths. It’s not a straight lift from Second Edition V:TM, but rather a recreation of the same themes and ideas to better fit the game twenty years later. It’s a lot shorter than the original version, but the Path of Evil Revelations is better left as some more open ended than concretely defined. I know WW/OPP has difficulty leaving concepts nebulous but hopefully they will leave the Path of Evil Revelations as is.
So that’s the book. Dread Names, Red List is a short little supplement, but it’s well written and one of the best releases for V20. The price for both the PDF and the print of demand versions are decent, making this a fine addition to your Vampire: The Masquerade collection. I can certainly recommend this over several other V20 releases, including the one that made this possible Children of the Revolution. That has to be some degree of irony, right?
[5 of 5 Stars!]