Scenes of the Embrace is an anthology product put out by White Wolf as part of their Storyteller Adventure System which seeks to reduce prep time needed to pull together a World of Darkness story. Each SAS product is presented in landscape format and contains hyperlinks for ease of browseability with a laptop or eBook reader screen. Besides laying out each scene in the main text there are scene cards in the back giving you the shorthand of what happens, the motivations of the players, and difficulty modifiers to consider as well as room to add your own notes.
I am used to SAS products being standard, yet non-linear adventures segmented into scenes which can easily be shuffled around on the fly depending on what decision your roleplaying table makes but here Monica Valentinelli presents fourteen stand-alone scenes for detailing the vampiric Embrace in your Requiem chronicle. The Embrace is the act of creating a new vampire and it should not be overlooked in either a character backstory or if a character is siring a childe of her own in play. It should be the defining moment in their existence wherein they surrender their mortality, cease to be a human who eats and drinks food and enjoys the summer sun on their faces and becomes an inhuman thing who is burnt by the Sun, lives off of warm blood and has this spiritual bestial drive to struggle against that now defines their nights. There is also a mechanical component to it as well as the sire must sacrifice a Willpower point to create a new vampire, which is one of the most precious character assets. I liked the sidebar with an optional rule to risk Humanity instead. I thought it was a nice touch.
Valentinelli takes the vice in the World of Darkness Virtue/Vice morality system for as inspiration and offers two scenes for portraying the Embrace for each of the Seven Deadly Sins. This is an important moment for both of the characters involved, there is no guarantee the embraced will survive, so it is nice to get a little more attention and suggestions for creating gripping atmosphere. That is something that made Vampire special from the start, the meditations on what it must be like to become one of these monstrous yet still human creatures. It should not be glossed over in the prelude or a lost opportunity for narrative control as part of a storytelling session. Never miss a good opportunity for great storytelling.
The scenes are pretty generalized so you can adapt them to the specifics of your chronicle. I love the idea of an anthology of scenes that you can plug-and-play into your game. They're kind of like plot hooks or "bangs" as they call them in Sorcerer but a bit more detailed and planned out, with situational modifiers pre-planned and consequences for success or failure. Storytellers will still need to think on their feet when running a scene in their chronicle or adjusting to the infuriating inventiveness of their players and the capricious nature of die rolls but it’s nice to have this foundation to work on, and kind of refreshing to have just one scene to run rather than girding your loins for a whole multi-chapter adventure.
Valentinelli has really set her sights upon moral choices being key to a gripping Vampire game and gives these vices center stage. I can almost hear the Greek chorus off to the side predicting doom in each scene. Care is taken to emphasize the relationship between mortal and sire. There are consequences if the neonate is unwilling or unaware of Kindred society or if the Embrace is not sanctioned by the player's Covenant. I like the fact that consequences of a failed Embrace are not simply the death of the mortal (through an unsuccessful Embrace) but a breakdown of the situation entirely such as the mortal fighting his way out and calling the police. The master-servant dynamic is not always cut and dried. Sometimes the mortal is the one seducing the vampire into doing the deed though sex, money, or power. Sometimes she might not fully know the consequences, but merely sensed the danger and chose the wrong person to seduce.
While this supplement is not essential by any means I do see its utility. It is essentially a toolbox that helps you give a bit more gravitas to the transformation of a human being into a undead monster rather than a meek "Step Five: Apply the Supernatural Template". The only fault I see is that the scenes needed to be very general in order to apply to any situation. I would have liked a bit more color, a bit more horror but I can see where space constraints may have applied. As usual the layout is gorgeous and easy to read and artwork spectacular and up to Requiem standards. I like the fact that they tie in the Vice mechanic as a storytelling technique. From what I can see the Scenes From line are Requiem-only but as a diehard Changeling: the Lost fan I know the act of introducing a mortal to the Hedge and its dangers is one of the few unelaborated areas of the series and I would love to see Ms. Valentinelli or Jess Hartley pen a Scenes of Enchantment.
[4 of 5 Stars!]