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Sell me on the 20th Anniversary Books! [LONG]

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  • Sell me on the 20th Anniversary Books! [LONG]

    Hello, there!

    Many of you probably don't know me, but I used to be a fixture in these parts, until health and work issues minimized my online presence. Things are getting better, so I hope to visit more often now! From the title, you already know the point of this post, so you can just skip to the end, but I'd really like to set up some things first...

    White Wolf's World of Darkness was one of my favorite fantasy settings when I discovered it in the 90s, and I really invested a lot of myself into it. I would never claim to have mastered all knowledge of it, but my in-depth lore was pretty comprehensive! Then, something happened that I did not expect: WW announced that they were ending the WoD. While distressed, I understood the reasoning behind this move, and warily looked forward to the next version. Turns out, I loved it! It had some issues, but I still got so into it, that I packed away my many volumes of OWoD, and resolved to close that chapter of my imaginative life, and fully embrace the new!

    But then something else happened that I did not expect: After awhile, WW came out with the 20th Anniversary Classic WoD! At first, I thought this was simply a one-off, intended as nostalgia for those who had supported the gameline; which was nice, but I'd already moved on. Then, more supplements came out, and it eventually dawned on me...the original WoD was back!

    I should have been happy. But actually, I was a bit perturbed, tho it took awhile to pin down WHY. I started to figure it out when they actually rebranded the NWoD to "Chronicles of Darkness" and gave a lot of multi-media support to the WoD instead. I hate to sound petty, but...I'll just say it, I felt *betrayed*. I had made a great effort to put something away that really meant a lot to me, based on WW's word that it was OVER...and here they were, seemingly going back on that word. Worse, although they certainly still supported CoD, taking its very identity from it felt too much like a tacit admission that it didn't really measure up, that it wasn't the REAL thing, and I can't help but wonder if they have considered cancelling it (if they HAD no choice but to choose which to go forward with, I'm pretty sure I know which one they'd go with). I don't keep up with sales figures, but does WoD really out perform CoD by such a huge amount? Earthblood looks awesome, but where's Forsakens' video game??

    As you can imagine, this all soured me on something that I should have been excited about, and so I simply ignored the 20th books for quite a while, focusing on CoD instead. But then something else happened that I did not expect (last time, I promise!): Unusually heavy rains recently hit my hometown, causing lots of flooding...including in my parent's basement, where I'd left my old WoD books. Fortunately, many were not that damaged, and in the process of cleaning up, I found myself paging through them, revisiting a world I had not read up on for many years...and it all came back to me! I'd always said that Mage and Changeling were my faves, but I'd honestly forgotten how much into Werewolf's setting I'd been into, and lost a whole day rereading up on the various Fera!

    Anyway, long story cut short, I'm *finally* casting a curious eye towards the 20th Ann. books...but before I take a chance on it, have questions:

    1) The Time of Judgement metaplot definitely ended the WoD. Is that still canon, and this is some version of What Happens Next, or is this an "alternate universe" where those events never happened? A great deal of CoD is built on the idea that "looming apocalypse is bad", so does WW also carry on that attitude here, or is it more like it was back in the day?

    2) Is the setting still the early 2000s, or contemporary 2020s? Also, much of the mood and tone of WoD was forged in the "edgy" 90s, when it was considered "cool" to be shocking and disturbing, with nothing more than a blurb about "mature readers only, proceed at your own risk"...but the Culture (and the younger gamers coming up now) has changed, and times and attitudes are very different now. Which era are the new versions of these old games written for?

    3) Mechanically, are the games identical to their original versions, or have they taken this chance to tweak the systems, perhaps even incorporating some ideas from CoD? Did they get the same creators, both in designers, writing and art, or are they all-new creators?

    If you made it this far, I thank you for taking the time to wade through the above. You may not know my past here, but I've always tried to be one of the more positive voices in these forums, I don't like banging on about my dislikes, but these are my genuine feelings, and I hope you don't mind that I just really felt the need to finally get them off my chest in the one place I know there are people who might understand! Thanks for any feedback and suggestions you can give me!

    Dex,
    whose birthday just passed by as this was being written...

  • #2
    Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post
    I should have been happy. But actually, I was a bit perturbed, tho it took awhile to pin down WHY. I started to figure it out when they actually rebranded the NWoD to "Chronicles of Darkness" and gave a lot of multi-media support to the WoD instead. I hate to sound petty, but...I'll just say it, I felt *betrayed*. I had made a great effort to put something away that really meant a lot to me, based on WW's word that it was OVER...and here they were, seemingly going back on that word. Worse, although they certainly still supported CoD, taking its very identity from it felt too much like a tacit admission that it didn't really measure up, that it wasn't the REAL thing, and I can't help but wonder if they have considered cancelling it (if they HAD no choice but to choose which to go forward with, I'm pretty sure I know which one they'd go with). I don't keep up with sales figures, but does WoD really out perform CoD by such a huge amount? Earthblood looks awesome, but where's Forsakens' video game??
    There are two things going on here.

    One is that after enough time had passed from the Time of Judgment, and during a time when it looked like White Wolf's future publishing prospects might either be closed out or refocused (the video game company CCP had purchased White Wolf to work on a World of Darkness MMORPG and had begun to funnel both funds and talent away from the book publishing team), they tried an experiment with the Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, at the time expected to be a very fancy collector's edition for hardcore fans. It did well enough that they started to produce supplements and other Anniversary Edition books, beginning the period of both Worlds of Darkness being supported in publishing.

    The other, which is largely unrelated and came later, is that when said MMORPG project fizzled out, and after Onyx Path Publishing had already spun out as a separate company with publishing rights licensed from CCP, CCP sold the properties to video game company Paradox Interactive, who also wanted to work on World of Darkness video games. The new owners of the intellectual property did not want two separate universes being published simultaneously under the same "World of Darkness" brand identity to confuse consumers buying their video games. This is why the "new World of Darkness" became the "Chronicles of Darkness."

    On to questions:

    1) The Anniversary Edition books tend towards a "metaplot-agnostic" approach that assumes that the world, of course, did not end in 2004. Metaplot events tend to be presented in a framework of "this is what happened in the books and here is the mechanical support for if it happened in your game." That is to say, for example, Anniversary Edition Vampire is intended to support both games where the Ravnos were devastated by the Week of Nightmares and games where they were not. The general attitude is that the millenialist doom-fear is still around; perhaps the world briefly brushed up against the risk of apocalypse, but pulled back and returned to a point where apocalypse remains a looming worry but has not yet come.

    2) The Anniversary Edition books are generally written on the assumption that time has continued flowing and most games occur in the modern period. They are, at the same time, deliberate nostalgia products that seek to recapture the old game's feel. Kind of a middle path here attempting to bridge these two "eras," holding onto what was beloved while acknowledging some influence of the new.

    3) As above, these are deliberate nostalgia products which chose not to deviate too far from the original games; the developers chose not to overhaul the systems as much as they could have with modern design principles, even where the old systems are a little clunky. There are system tweaks; the rules are not just reprinted and they've been touched up for play and balance here and there. But they should work in a way that's very familiar to Revised Edition players.

    I believe authors are a mix of older and some newer voices. There was definitely an effort to bring back old hands for the corebook development and writing teams in particular. Vampire 20th has Justin Achilli on core development, Werewolf 20th has Bill Bridges and Ethan Skemp, Mage has Phil Brucato, Wraith has Rich Dansky. This is not an exhaustive list and I'm not familiar enough to call out all the returning authors, but there are more. Lucien Soulban, Jackie Cassada.
    Last edited by Stupid Loserman; 08-19-2021, 01:03 AM.

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    • #3
      Hey man, welcome back!

      And to offer a different perspective on #3:

      The 20th game line, while never departing from the original 90s versions core design, progressively get more involved in being rules updates. For Vampire and Werewolf, this is mostly in supplements as their core books are very much Revised with a few tweaks. Mage's core was the first to have more significant rules adjustments, but a lot of that is because M20 dances a very fine line in balancing the very divided 2e vs. Revised fandom in Mage (and does so very well IMO). Changeling and Wraith (which also crams Orpheus into it somehow) have very significant changes to the rules to make up for those games never getting Revised edition.

      To try to illustrate, if you made a starting level Revised character without optional rules (like Merits and Flaws, or expanded systems like creating Familiars for Mage in Forged by Dragon's Fire) and wanted to update them to their 20th's counterparts:

      Vampire and Werewolf would take zero to little effort, as the Ability lists were altered a bit. The Werewolf PC might want to look at having more Gift options at start than before, but all the Revised ones are still available.

      Mage would be some significant effort, but more to address the new approach to conceptual matters than mechanics (though M20 revised a lot of the Mage specific Backgrounds). The big thing here is that what used to be call Paradigm is now (somewhat confusingly) called Focus. M20's Focus is a much more thorough guide to creating your mage's magical worldview in a fashion that works for a game instead of a metaphysics class. It's not difficult, but it takes some adjustments to get the hang of.

      Changelings and Wraiths might as well completely restart char-gen because it will be faster than trying to make a few tweaks to account for the changes.

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      • #4
        It's definitely true that as the release chronology went on, the Anniversary Edition books drifted from their initial plan as big extravagant nostalgia-fueled books for committed fans that compiled a lot of material into one place mixed with some new content and presentation, to something partway between that and a whole new edition of the gameline. V20 Dark Ages in particular, too, goes much farther afield from its predecessor, compared to the V20 corebook which is quite committed to reflecting what had come before.

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        • #5
          There's not that much incentive to buy the corebook, honestly. It's a good book, but it's a painful revised rehash at times.
          There are some really good suplements that fall under 20th and which aren't mirrors of earlier works. Hunters Hunted II and Rites of the Blood are worthy addition's to one's WoD Folder. The latest book of the Wyrm has some cool stuff and differs from prior books.

          DAV20 was a wild and crazy experiment. The Freelancers went nuts and there wasn't anybody to reign them in. Thus DAV20 has some wonderful improvements over the vampire formula but it also has some catastrophic are-you-for-fucking-real moments of sheer stupidity: The Assamites turn hearts into crystal snacks as a level 1 power, The Ahrimanes section reads like a parody of female empowerment stories, warhammers do bashing damage until one of the companions released a reasonable weapon table, and every second picture is a female salurbri paladin. Still, I recommend having a look, because there is good stuff there and you can apply much of it to a modern-nights game. Still. DAV20 for me at least was released around the point of 20th going off the rails with unchecked freelancers. Lore of the bloodlines radically reimagines many of the bloodlines, with none of that being good.


          Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post

            There are two things going on here.

            One is that after enough time had passed from the Time of Judgment, and during a time when it looked like White Wolf's future publishing prospects might either be closed out or refocused (the video game company CCP had purchased White Wolf to work on a World of Darkness MMORPG and had begun to funnel both funds and talent away from the book publishing team), they tried an experiment with the Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, at the time expected to be a very fancy collector's edition for hardcore fans. It did well enough that they started to produce supplements and other Anniversary Edition books, beginning the period of both Worlds of Darkness being supported in publishing.

            The other, which is largely unrelated and came later, is that when said MMORPG project fizzled out, and after Onyx Path Publishing had already spun out as a separate company with publishing rights licensed from CCP, CCP sold the properties to video game company Paradox Interactive, who also wanted to work on World of Darkness video games. The new owners of the intellectual property did not want two separate universes being published simultaneously under the same "World of Darkness" brand identity to confuse consumers buying their video games. This is why the "new World of Darkness" became the "Chronicles of Darkness."
            That makes a lot more sense, honestly. Although it could be argued it shows a lack of faith in the constumers, as fantasy fans in particular are well used to the notion of following multiple continuities at the same time. This really isn't any harder to follow than the Marvel Universe and its Ultimate counterpart (easier, in fact, as these lines don't share different versions of the same characters)!

            Do we know how the sales of Earthblood have been? Good enough to warrent other games? Dare I dream for a Mage or Changeling game...?



            1) The Anniversary Edition books tend towards a "metaplot-agnostic" approach that assumes that the world, of course, did not end in 2004. Metaplot events tend to be presented in a framework of "this is what happened in the books and here is the mechanical support for if it happened in your game." That is to say, for example, Anniversary Edition Vampire is intended to support both games where the Ravnos were devastated by the Week of Nightmares and games where they were not. The general attitude is that the millenialist doom-fear is still around; perhaps the world briefly brushed up against the risk of apocalypse, but pulled back and returned to a point where apocalypse remains a looming worry but has not yet come.

            2) The Anniversary Edition books are generally written on the assumption that time has continued flowing and most games occur in the modern period. They are, at the same time, deliberate nostalgia products that seek to recapture the old game's feel. Kind of a middle path here attempting to bridge these two "eras," holding onto what was beloved while acknowledging some influence of the new.
            .
            20th

            So, the Avatar Storm is either still blowing, died down, or never happened, depending on YOUR game? I guess that's the best way to go about it!

            Also, I see that the original 5 games seem to be the only ones out. Are Mummy, Hunter and Demon going to be given the 20th treatment? Are they still canon, depending as they do on the ToJ metaplot?

            Thanks for the answers!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
              Hey man, welcome back!
              Thanks, it's great to be back!

              And to offer a different perspective on #3:

              The 20th game line, while never departing from the original 90s versions core design, progressively get more involved in being rules updates. For Vampire and Werewolf, this is mostly in supplements as their core books are very much Revised with a few tweaks. Mage's core was the first to have more significant rules adjustments, but a lot of that is because M20 dances a very fine line in balancing the very divided 2e vs. Revised fandom in Mage (and does so very well IMO). Changeling and Wraith (which also crams Orpheus into it somehow) have very significant changes to the rules to make up for those games never getting Revised edition.
              Oh man, the Mage Edition War brings back a LOT of memories! I definitely recall which side of that *I* was on, LOL! Will be interesting to see how it's handled now...OK, I probably need to refresh my memory of the rules and powers anyway, so it might be better to ignore my old books and just start with the 20th Ann. versions from scratch...

              Changelings and Wraiths might as well completely restart char-gen because it will be faster than trying to make a few tweaks to account for the changes.
              There's no intended order, is there? I know Vampire started the ball and set the stage, but there's no real need to start there, instead of just leaping right to Changeling or Mage, right?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post
                Also, I see that the original 5 games seem to be the only ones out. Are Mummy, Hunter and Demon going to be given the 20th treatment? Are they still canon, depending as they do on the ToJ metaplot?
                They were never "decanonized" or anything, but the Paradox Interactive purchase happened while Changeling 20 was still in development and before Mummy, Hunter, or Demon ever started up. (Remember the 20th Anniversary conceit. It still hasn't been 20 years since Demon: the Fallen came out yet!) Paradox agreed to let Onyx Path finish making Changeling 20th and its associated Kickstarter stretch goal supplements, but once they launched Vampire: the Masquerade Fifth Edition it was implicitly clear that V20 was over. I don't know the arrangement with other 20th Anniversary lines; my assumption is that the pitch is not a hard "no," especially since Fifth Edition had a rocky rollout and still hasn't launched corebooks for any of the other gamelines yet, but that Paradox would probably be less receptive to more of them now that they have their own WoD edition.

                A lot of this has to do with intellectual property ownership and marketing strategies rather than necessarily the pure intent of the people writing the books, especially since, with Fifth Edition being published separately under Paradox's supervision, there is not only not one team of writers but not even one company involved in writing said books.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post
                  There's no intended order, is there? I know Vampire started the ball and set the stage, but there's no real need to start there, instead of just leaping right to Changeling or Mage, right?
                  You don't need to have Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition to read and use and run Mage 20th Anniversary Edition any more than you needed Vampire Revised Edition to run Mage Revised Edition. They're separate games.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post
                    Oh man, the Mage Edition War brings back a LOT of memories! I definitely recall which side of that *I* was on, LOL! Will be interesting to see how it's handled now...OK, I probably need to refresh my memory of the rules and powers anyway, so it might be better to ignore my old books and just start with the 20th Ann. versions from scratch...
                    If you're planning on getting the 20th books? Yeah, it's generally best to not go back and brush up on the old stuff. The 20th cores are massive tomes for a reason, there's very little from the older books they don't cover. Plus if you forgot how something used to work anyway, you don't have to try to remember the changes. That said, there are times I go back to Revised (esp. for VtM and WtA) because something that was clarified in an errata or FAQ wasn't changed in wording for the 20th books.

                    For Mage in particular, as you noted a lot of the metaplot related stuff is handled with options for your preferred take on things. The status of the Avatar Storm is literally what you guesses: hasn't happened (yet), is happening (still or moved to recently), or happened and blew over. M20 is peppered with side bars called "Future Fates" which generally discuss a major late 2e/Revised metaplot item, and offer three idea of how to handle them. M20 introduces two kinda new groups: The new Council of Nine (as in nine new people to fill the seats) for games where Horizon got demolished, but the Traditions endured (though they work well as just being young "upstarts" with more respect among the street-level mages than the wizened bunch out in the Umbra), and the Disparate Alliance which takes a bunch of the Crafts and has them finally decide they hate the Traditions too much to join with them but are tired of being kicked around because they don't have numbers like the Traditions and Technocrats. This further expands the options on what you can do with things rather than force a lot of changes.

                    The mechanics lean a bit more 2e than Revised, with the Revised changes offered up as optional rules, with some new stuff sprinkled in. Of course, there's brand new stuff to get into Internet debates about for it.

                    That said, for better or worse, M20 is most obviously the product of one vision: Brucato's. His authorial voice is really strong in the game in stark contrast to the other 20th books that work harder to strike a tone that represents the game more than one person.

                    There's no intended order, is there? I know Vampire started the ball and set the stage, but there's no real need to start there, instead of just leaping right to Changeling or Mage, right?
                    As noted, nope. The books were just done in the original order. They're all stand alone core books.

                    Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
                    I don't know the arrangement with other 20th Anniversary lines; my assumption is that the pitch is not a hard "no," especially since Fifth Edition had a rocky rollout and still hasn't launched corebooks for any of the other gamelines yet, but that Paradox would probably be less receptive to more of them now that they have their own WoD edition.
                    There's also some other issues. The W20 team got really pissed off as Paradox kept demanding inserts into their work, and W20 Changing Ways seemed to have killed any appetite to try to pitch new W20 books even before W5 was announced (and now that W5 is supposed to be in development, it seems safe to say that like V20 new books are unlikely). C20's lead developer was finally outed as a sexual predator and booted from working on Onyx Path projects, but that seemed to really tear apart the C20 team (who were more slanted towards newer writers rather than returning old hands) leaving the line without a lead to do pitches, or a unified group to work on them. Rich Dansky is kind of essential for Wr20, but I'm not sure he wanted to do a bunch of supplements anyway. M20 is still getting some love, but you can probably chalk that up to Paradox not even close to M5 yet, and Brucato's passion for it leading to a harder push for pitches.

                    There's also the factor of the Storyteller's Vault opening. With the ability to (in a limited fashion) make your own fan supplements and put them up for sale, the C20 writers esp. seem to prefer just making stuff for that rather than trying to pitch to Paradox. It's not great for players that deal with games where it's "official books only," but it's worth looking at.

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                    • #11
                      Apocalyptic Record is coming out for W20 and Lore of the Traditions for M20.

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                      • #12
                        In the end you'll mostly recognize the mechanics, see some improvements in then, and some supplements really bring something new, but they're not that many. It is good for someone who likes to play the oWoD and don't expect major changes. But it also means that the X20th line will never see really major changes to it, it's not the goal.

                        This is the goal of the 5th edition. It assumes (or at least assumed for Vampire) that the Time of Judgement came and is still raging on, and the metaplot really advances... kinda. It does, although we are told little on how, at least that I saw up to now. Elders are going to war in the Middle East and that's about it. And Second Inquisition may be or not a thing.

                        Personally I bought a lot of the 20th books, they're really good at doing what they're supposed to do. For my current Changeling chronicle that's great! If you plan to go back to play WoD and don't wanna change to 5th, they're as good a purchase as you could get, although keeping your Revised books is totally an option.

                        V5 did take a LOT from CoD. Many of the rule changes are CoD stuff, not most, maybe, but certainly many. But beyond that I can say it's an... interesting read? You may like it, and for the novelty of the rules it is totally worth a look, but I think most people stop at that and play Revised/20th.

                        Of course, CoD is still up and going, business as usual for now, and I personally prefer it for Werewolves and Vampires.

                        EDIT: About the "tastes of the times", the 20th series is far more modern in sensibility. If you don't like it, it still have all you need, but I personally like it a lot.

                        Also, congrats on your birthday! It was mine, too!
                        Last edited by monteparnas; 08-20-2021, 08:44 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post



                          1) The Time of Judgement metaplot definitely ended the WoD. Is that still canon, and this is some version of What Happens Next, or is this an "alternate universe" where those events never happened? A great deal of CoD is built on the idea that "looming apocalypse is bad", so does WW also carry on that attitude here, or is it more like it was back in the day?

                          2) Is the setting still the early 2000s, or contemporary 2020s? Also, much of the mood and tone of WoD was forged in the "edgy" 90s, when it was considered "cool" to be shocking and disturbing, with nothing more than a blurb about "mature readers only, proceed at your own risk"...but the Culture (and the younger gamers coming up now) has changed, and times and attitudes are very different now. Which era are the new versions of these old games written for?

                          3) Mechanically, are the games identical to their original versions, or have they taken this chance to tweak the systems, perhaps even incorporating some ideas from CoD? Did they get the same creators, both in designers, writing and art, or are they all-new creators?
                          Hey. Welcome back! Short version, as others have said, is that the setting has been updated to extend many of the themes of modern world as it has developed (for better or worse!) and the rules are tweaked in several ways but the basics have not been changed. As for the time of judgment itself, the books provide options for what did or did not happen (especially mage which is the line I am personally most familiar with). But the basic assumption is that the apocalypse never happened and the world kept going as if that whole storyline had not existed OR they go with the "soft" versions of the apocalypse ie the end of the supernatural world "as we know it" (or at least the end of that particular corner of the supernatural world as we know it) but NOT the end of the world. That leaves lots of space for saying things like the reality war as we know it is over but the world didn't end and so forth.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Hand-of-Omega View Post
                            So, the Avatar Storm is either still blowing, died down, or never happened, depending on YOUR game? I guess that's the best way to go about it!
                            This is a good example of the idea of metaplot agnosticism. V20 has a supplement that brings the Tal'mahe'ra up to date, under the assumption that you want to run a Vampire chronicle where the bombs never went off in the Underworld and triggered the Maelstrom.

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                            • #15
                              The new Tal'mahe'Ra book is great. The only one to skip, maybe, is the V20 Companion, as it was mostly fluff and very little in the way of mechanics (a model embraced, it seems, for V5's Camarilla and Anarch books).

                              I would heartily recommend getting in the X20 line. But then, we may be biased sample, since most of us came here because of our 20th Anniversary game of choice.


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