Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mail Order Nostalgia: The Unboxing

So, Monday evening (as my wife and I were, appropriately enough, on our way to a Peter Murphy concert), this showed up on my front porch:

This being the 20th anniversary special edition of Vampire: the Masquerade, the game that probably shook the RPG hobby harder than anything else.

I remember purchasing the first edition, with no idea what to expect.  Twenty years ago, there was no internet hoopla, no huge buzz about the Next Big Thing.  Certainly not in San Antonio, a gaming backwater at the best of times.

But in 1991, I was definitely into vampires and horror and all that good stuff.  I'd discovered splatterpunk fiction, that darker, edgier, less genteel take on horror writing and I was all about anything that gave a middle finger to the established status quo.

And so I picked up Vampire: the Masquerade, entirely on the strength of that beautiful, iconic cover.  I have an incredibly distinct memory of reading the opening fiction (the letter from VT to WH) sitting out on the patio of a Mexican restaurant, late on a Saturday afternoon and being transported to another world.

Over the years, V:tM would take up a significant portion of my book-buying and reading.  Oddly enough, the one thing it didn't take up was gaming time.  To this day, through multiple editions of the game, despite having bought and read many volumes of rules and sourcebooks, I've never played the game (or it's successor, Vampire: the Requiem, for that matter).  It's one of my dark gaming secrets and an omission I hope to rectify with the receipt of this glorious new volume.

The book is, simply, a thing of beauty.  In the past few years, I've allowed myself the occasional purchase of big special edition RPG books.  I've got the Guardians of Order A Game of Thrones RPG, with the special art and the George R. R. Martin interview.  I've got a copy of Ptolus, and the Shadowrun 20th Anniversary book as well.  In terms of sheer production quality, this one has them all beat.  Which is only fair: back in 1991, White Wolf substantially upped the ante on presentation and trade dress.  To do less with an anniversary edition would be criminal.

The first thing I noticed (because it was still in the box) was how massive it is.  At 520 pages, it wasn't going to be light in the first place, but add in an embossed leatherette cover and silver leaf edging on the pages that, in the words of one of my friends "You could cut yourself on," and you get the very definition of a weighty tome.

(Much to my amusement, the spine is stamped with "XX," which is a wonderful visual pun for folks who may recall one of White Wolf's signature ongoing editorial failings back in the day.)

The interiors are beautiful:  full-color art on slick paper all the way through.  The art is a combination of some classic pieces from past editions, along with new work, including a brand new series from Tim Bradstreet, an artist who very much defined what the World of Darkness looked like (IMO).

Needless to say, I'm still working through the rules and will be for quite some time.  Since I never actually played the game, I never really grokked a lot of the differences between the various editions.  I know that the rules here are substantially like the ones from earlier editions of V:TM, cleaned up and tweaked in a few places.  It keeps the Clan-centric model of character creation that was an essential part of the old game, and pretty much throws in as much of everything from the old sourcebooks that they could fit in.

All in all, a most satisfying purchase.  But unlike all the other WoD stuff I've bought over the years, one I hope to actually put to practical use.  Maybe in conjunction with that Los Angeles I've been mulling over.

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