In 2004, game tables were introduced to the magnificent series of the new world of darkness. The core book “world of darkness” was a brilliant masterpiece of tabletop engineering. Shortly thereafter White Wolf released their flagship template book Vampire: Requiem. Like the core World of Darkness book, Vampire Requiem proved to be a true masterpiece. The writers and creators of these 2004 edition books successfully integrated easy to use narrative style mechanics with accessible, fast rules for new players and veterans alike. The company, White Wolf was ahead of the game in the narrative style RPG’s that are so popular in today’s market. Unfortunately, vampire the Requiem second edition falls flat on its face in comparison to its predecessor.
There is a lot I can say about this new edition and my hopes are that I do not ramble too much in explaining why I’m giving such a low review. The 2004 editions of WoD and the subsequent template books are by far my favorite RPG’s. I’ve been gaming for nearly 20 years and played virtually every type of RPG on the market and very few measure up to this books predecessors. That is why it saddens me so much to give a low review for this book. So let’s get started.
I have a lot to say about the artwork choices of this book but I will save that until the end of my review. I’m also aware that many people may disagree with my review and it is important they keep in mind that this is my opinion my opinion alone. Also, It is late so please don't mind some of the spelling issues.
Unlike most other world of darkness books, vampire 2nd jumps right in to the clans and clan descriptions. Very little has changed in this section but the writer spends a lot of time trying to fluff up the clans into being more interesting. In many ways, I do not feel like it works here. Each clan gets somewhat of a disjointed conversational description in order to build “mood” as well as spotty origins that the storyteller can pick and choose for his/her campaign. With the exception of the Nosferatu, each clan got a new Clan Bane (clan weakness). I will admit that the clan weaknesses were not the best in the 2004 edition. However, I feel like they’re pretty uninteresting in this edition as well. If anything, they become a little overcomplicated. I did notice that the Daeva had their nicknames changed from succubus to serpents. As you’ll read about later, this was done for political correctness reasons.
For a second edition book, I was really hoping onyx path would take a little more of a risk here and perhaps add in one or two new clans for this update. There were many great clans from the masquerade era that could have easily been brought back here and they chose not to. Sticking with the five clans I felt was a mistake this time around.
The next section are covenants. In my opinion, covenants were something that really needed to be re-examined for any new edition. In the 2004 edition, covenants were easy to understand but quite frankly, they were not as interesting as the politics of the original game vampire the masquerade. They always seemed a little anemic and underwhelming. In this edition, Like the clans, the covenants have a short story to introduce the reader to them followed with quick background, history and overview of each covenant. To be perfectly honest, I felt the 2004 vampire did a better job of describing the covenants. For example, The Invictus come off more as mafia type thugs then in ancient noble hierarchy. Many of the clans including The Invictus seem less interesting this time around which is strangely peculiar. We also see the loss of one of my favorite covenants Belial’s Brood. Why this covenant was removed? I honestly do not know. It is very disappointing.
Jumping to chapter 3, the character creation section, we are introduced to the new rules and experience system for the God machine (world of darkness second edition) and vampire Requiem second edition. This is where things start getting a little bit clunky. Unlike the previous edition which was more or less a template book, onyx path decided to go back to the old world of darkness “all encompass” book style. It makes for this book to be rather bloated. You still may need the God machine in order to run this game as well as the world of darkness rules. However you no longer need to build a human then make a vampire. I personally feel how they did it for vampire second edition is shortsighted and significantly less flavorful than first edition. The template system seemed far more fun.
They’ve also included this absolutely awful new experience system of beats. Now players and storytellers have to keep track of beats that get converted into experience points that can be spent on attributes, merits, skills, disciplines etc. This is all an attempt to try to force role play and instead, it bogs down the game tremendously! It’s as if the creators of this game tried to grab any idea they could from other narrative games with the hopes that it would make their game better. The end result is that the XP system becomes more of a headache that can be easily manipulated and argued over. With the change to the experience distribution, the authors chose to change experience costs to lower numbers and removed experience escalation for their new linear model. In other words the first dot of an attribute costs 4 experience and the fifth dot of an attribute costs 4 experience. What my players and I discovered is that the new system allows the players to power game a little bit easier than they could before. Every scene becomes about trying to get a beat. I hope you enjoy bookkeeping.
The next thing that really bothered me about this edition was the reimagining of merits. Merits have gone from humanlike abilities that enriched your character to now looking like Dungeons & Dragons feats of awesomeness. One minute onyx path is trying to convince us that this is a storyteller game and the next, they’re trying to make it more action-packed and combat heavy. The merits read more like devotions or superpowers than I believe they ever were intended to. Do you want your claws to do aggravated damage? It’s a merit. Want to see in the dark? It’s a merit. Etc. etc.
In this section we also see a change to the disciplines. The changes for the most part are not bad here. However, most of the changes require you to look up the condition it puts on somebody under the condition section in the back of the book. Similar to the experience system, the introduction of tilts and conditions is an absolute cluster to the flow of game. This is also an attempt to have you buy the condition cards sold here on drivethruRPG. In other words, if you use your mesmerize ability, a player gains a mesmerized condition which they have to follow. However, they can get a beat for having the power used on them if they overcome the condition… fun…
I’m going to go ahead and skip a lot here. There is a chapter on combat, rolling dice, what attributes are etc. the next section I want to get to his chapter 5 which is the introduction of the villains in the new Requiem second edition. And that is the Strix. If you have ever played or read Requiem for Rome you know who these antagonists are. In truth, they were never interesting when they were introduced and they are really bad here. I do agree that there needed to be some more antagonists introduced in vampire and I think the brood would have served as a much better villain type. The Strix feels very contrived and bogeyman like. They really don’t make a lot of sense and I can see a lot of people completely ignoring this chapter. Again, they could have removed nearly 40 pages right here and you would not miss it.
The next chapter focuses on other covenants and vampires around the world and for the most part, this was pretty interesting. I can see a lot more been written regarding this subject matter. If you decide to pick up the PDF of this book, this would not be a bad chapter to peruse.
There are a few more chapters regarding storytelling and The Living, in which it concludes with the long endless list of conditions. In truth, I could talk a lot more about this book. There’s a very good chance that you already know whether or not you’re going to buy this book, regardless of my review. I do know that a lot of people are reviewing highly of this edition (and the God machine book) and I believe more out of loyalty than out of substance. This book was created by committee on the onyx path forum and quite frankly you can tell. There’s a lot of ideas that were thrown in here and in many ways it seems to be lacking the same level of confidence that the first edition book had. It feels like this edition is trying to wear many hats ranging from being a storyteller narrative game to a combat game. The end result is that it does not succeed the same way the 2004 edition did.
I’m sure you’re getting excited about coming to the end of the review as I’m getting excited about ending the review. However, I really need to talk about the artwork. I do not want this to get political and everyone will have their own opinion but the artwork in this book is not only bad, but it reeks of political agenda. There is approximately 47 pictures in this book. There are approximately 5 pictures that show inanimate objects (a car, buildings, heads etc.). So far, no big deal. Except, there is unquestionably a gender bias of female superiority and an anti-male sentiment throughout the entire book. There are 21 pictures that depict women as authority figures over men and only about 2 pictures that depict a male with confidence or authority one of which is a man giving another man a good time in the shower (p.93). Men are consistently depicted as weak, victims, or servants. When a man does get a picture it is usually to depict pain or anguish (P.102). The artwork constantly depicts women as powerful (P. 111), (P. 279), confident (P. 274), (P. 33), (P. 36) (P. 39) or unstoppable (P. 54). Men on the other hand are only there to be bloody messes or aloof. Even most of the men’s clothing in the book shows a lack of organization or confidence. (Don’t think it’s sexist art? Reverse all of the female characters into male character in your head and ask if it is not sexiest).
Another major issue is the emphasis within the text that vampires are sexual and sexual beings while almost all of the artwork shows rather conservative looking characters. To be honest, this is probably the least sexual depiction of vampires I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not sure when exactly the creative team behind this product became so terrified of sexuality in art but it clearly shows in this book. And most importantly, the extreme pro-woman anti-male artwork honestly does subtract from the content. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. Even the picture of the Daeva which is supposed to be the pinnacle of sexuality shows a rather benign looking vampire that doesn’t exude any confidence or charisma under the clan section.
In conclusion, Vampire the Requiem second edition is more Buffy the vampire slayer then say The Lost Boys or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Both in flavor and in game mechanics, second edition seems like an identity crisis. It doesn’t know if it wants to be more storyteller orientated like its predecessor or if it wants to corner the market on crunch and combat. With the inclusion of conditions, combat becomes very much about who goes first, who can break someone’s arm, who can put the first power/condition on etc. I believe it could even be argued that in this addition it would not be unwise to have a combat mat which I’ve never said before regarding world of darkness products. It attempts to force role-play with a half thought out beat system for experience points and it tries very hard to force mood.
In the past 10 years, I have gotten many people interested into world of darkness. However, I really cannot endorse the new second edition WoD model. And though it goes without saying, I know many players and gaming groups who wholeheartedly agree with this review. Not only do they agree with the issues of mechanics but also regarding the appalling art. It took me a long time to write this review and it does sadden me but I hope that the game developers do take my suggestions to heart. Quite frankly, I am waiting for the world of darkness second edition revised and vampire the Requiem second edition revised books. Maybe then we will get a good product. Hopefully one without agenda.
[2 of 5 Stars!]