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  • [5E] Chicago by Night discussion

    Exactly what the title says.

    Since Chicago by Night has finally started to arrive in the hands of its backers in physical form, I thought I'd create this thread to discuss the book, its changes, and its merits/flaws.

    What did you like about the book?

    What did you dislike about it?

    Who is your favorite updated character?

    Who is your favorite new character?

    How did you like the Lasombra update?

    Anything you would have done differently?

    And so on.


    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

  • #2
    I have a question that I was going to post as a separate posting but then I saw this. I haven't played or run V5 yet but I do have the core. It was pretty clear that overall vampires were weaker when compared to V20 and most of the previous editions but I was a little surprised at the stat listings for some of the previously published elders, especially ancients like Critias and Helene as some examples. Is there an in-game explanation for this weakening or just a part of new edition tweaks? I'm curious about for those running a game using these NPC's has it made it more difficult to represent these elders as threats or are player characters advancing more slowly than before now too?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Merinoc View Post
      I have a question that I was going to post as a separate posting but then I saw this. I haven't played or run V5 yet but I do have the core. It was pretty clear that overall vampires were weaker when compared to V20 and most of the previous editions but I was a little surprised at the stat listings for some of the previously published elders, especially ancients like Critias and Helene as some examples. Is there an in-game explanation for this weakening or just a part of new edition tweaks? I'm curious about for those running a game using these NPC's has it made it more difficult to represent these elders as threats or are player characters advancing more slowly than before now too?
      New Edition Tweaks but I think you can easily say that they have lots of Combo Disciplines capable of ridiculous feats.


      Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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      • #4
        I haven't read the previous Chicago by Night books so I cannot comment on character updates. I will say that the Tally story really helped thread the book together and gave a nice bit of foundation for the Lasombra joining the Camarilla. It is an above average presentation of a clan. The Gold star is the Hecata in the Cult of the Blood Gods. I hope we can see similar treatment of the other clans in future supplements.

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        • #5
          I think the best updated character from Chicago by Night is Anita Wainwright. I always had her as the "Friendly Neighborhood Vampire" in my games and Granola girl. Here, she's been updated to being an angry powerful new leader for the Anarch Movement nationally. I feel like Maldavis was hurt a bit but I actually like that the two women hate each other. The Anarchs often get a bad reputation and have been underused in previous editions but their new leadership of her and Gengis show the two different sides of them with revolutonary (Anita) and sellout hypocrite (Gengis).



          I also really enjoy Kevin Jackson's ascension to being Prince because while he was always a dark horse candidate, he was someone who had a serious chance to become them. He had the money, the military force, and the Ventrue pedigree. There was always the hint he might join the Anarchs or lead them but he had a better opportunity to become Prince with the Camarilla. Part of what I like is that KJ is very powerful but his reign is also the result of a perfect storm of events and while he has the help of Critias (who could easily be Prince himself), Ballard (who is broke), and Sovereign (who is just SLIGGGHTTTTLY less than being prince himself), others. But if at any point his allies decide to turn against him or something like Olaf One-Eye then he'll find himself in a serious problem.

          Damien's change is probably the best as we see a character that was originally a lovable heroic (as vamps tend to be) Anarch as well as support character betray all of his friends to become the Sheriff. It's understandable and well-done character development despite (or because of) being a Fall from Grace. The fact that he is a 6th generation powerhouse also gives Kevin Jackson someone who actually has some meat as an enforcer. He's also probably one of the few people genuinely loyal to him--yet only because Kevin has broken him.

          I think the art was magnificent in the book and only a few pieces didn't really gell with me. For example, I don't think Erichtho's picture really suits her. That looks a bit more like Anne Rice than a precocious young spiritualist and adventurer who a boy finally reaching puberty would crush on. It's still great art but this is just one of my few criticisms.

          I think the character who most benefited from new art would probably be Balthazar. Going from being a fat hick redneck to Bill the Butcher really amps up why people would fall in with him despite being a racist piece of trash.



          I also think Dusable and Marcel had the best art pieces for their characters.
          Last edited by CTPhipps; 01-23-2020, 05:20 AM.


          Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

          Comment


          • #6
            CTPhipps Amalgam disciplines still take your discipline slots.

            Originally posted by Merinoc View Post
            I have a question that I was going to post as a separate posting but then I saw this. I haven't played or run V5 yet but I do have the core. It was pretty clear that overall vampires were weaker when compared to V20 and most of the previous editions but I was a little surprised at the stat listings for some of the previously published elders, especially ancients like Critias and Helene as some examples. Is there an in-game explanation for this weakening or just a part of new edition tweaks? I'm curious about for those running a game using these NPC's has it made it more difficult to represent these elders as threats or are player characters advancing more slowly than before now too?
            It is deliberate v5 Core design for the dice pools to be squashed. Time of the Thin-Blood is the name of the game, and you are playing it. No one is a permanent superman now, though the high potency elders can still dish out some mean feats just with blood surges.

            The upside of this is that the PCs can be an interesting threat. No one is invulnerable now. You may be Critias or Helena or Tulley, but a team of homicidal bastards with shotguns will put you down and steal your shit. So there is more incentive for the Elders to be diplomatic and political now. That's good.

            The downside is that the writers don't seem to take the smaller stat range into account when designing NPCs, so a lot of NPCs end up being very similar mechanically. Let's say you are in Chicago and you want to consult clan Tremere about something magical. Do you go to the regent, Abraham DuSable, the Golconda mystic, Erichtho, or the neonate, Sun Che? Well it doesn't matter, because their dicepools for Intelligence+Occult are respectively 10, 10 and 8 (9 for Witchcraft). Going by mechanics, DuSable is exactly as knowledgeable as Erichtho, and Sun Che is very close to them both.

            So I would have liked to see in the future NPCs who are weaker overall, but have more clearly defined mechanical differences. As is a lot of them end up being "Dice pool: 10, Disciplines: yes".
            ---
            In terms of the NPCs I liked. Balthasar has a really cool portrait. Kevin Jackson is great fun. Ben Galura is probably the thin-blood I'd have the easiest time using out of the three.

            Nerissa Blackwater is by far my least favorite thing about the book. She, and all other mysterious elders with mysterious plans of mystery, can go to hell and die.
            Last edited by Kammerer; 01-27-2020, 04:14 PM.

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            • #7
              I want to add that the best part of the book is the big list of ideas, plots, hooks and plothooks that is Chapter 7. There's a lot of good, useable material in there.

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              • #8
                I received my copy last night and spent a few hours reading through it. I found starting with the Kindred of Chicago section more helpful to acclimate myself to the personalities that are quoted throughout the first few chapters as someone unfamiliar with the setting. One thing I found annoying was the large amount of signed incriminating messages these supposedly Machiavellian elder Kindred send implicating themselves in various plots and schemes. I understand it helps paint a narrative but I think it damages the credibility of some of the NPCs intelligence. Maybe an unpopular opinion but it stuck with me. Overall though I'm very pleased with the book and I am enjoying learning more about a setting I've never really spent any time with since I always homebrewed my VTM settings. Im sure I'd have a lot of fun running a game in this city.

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                • #9
                  CTPhipps I totally agree with you, especially about Anita Wainwright and Kevin Jackson. Anita is one of my favorite characters and I think Kevin will make a great Prince.


                  The die is cast.

                  Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                    CTPhipps Amalgam disciplines still take your discipline slots.
                    Eh, I generally allow people to buy multiple ranks of powers as a way of illustrating the diversity of powers in V5. This is a house rule, though, to compensate for the fact that this system doesn't work for methuselah.


                    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I like Anita Wainwright as leader of the Anarchs. 1e established she was very well-connected to Anarch groups across the country, so it feels logical for her to wind up in a leadership position. The fact she's 12th generation also nicely highlights that generation doesn't equal competence or authority, and also nicely contrasts the Anarch leader with the Camarilla leader, who comes from a more "privileged" background at 8th generation.

                      CbN 1e gave a Brujah Anarch from every generation of revolutionaries. You had Blackjack the socialist, Karl the communist, Hank Cave the beatnik, and Dooley and Wainwright the Civil Rights Movement activists. I'd have liked to see maybe an Occupier as Anita's childe, and an activist from a contemporary movement (Antifa? Black Lives Matter?) as her grandchilde. Given that they'd be a thin-blood, there'd be a neat chance to highlight just how accepting the Anarchs actually are (or aren't) of the last generations. "Yeah, thin-bloods are part of the Movement. But I don't want one as _my_ grand/childe."

                      Anita's Mask as Dooley's widow seems weird, but makes more sense if he was passing himself off as his own son/grandson/nephew.

                      Happy to see Critias still around. I'd say "he was my favorite of the primogen," but really, they were all done so well. He's the iconic Brujah philosopher. I'd have liked more info on what's happened to his network of former mortal students who've risen to prominent positions. Otherwise pretty happy with the direction they took him in.

                      Gordon Keaton. Where the heck was he? I feel like he'd have come very far in V5's sociopolitical climate and lowered his generation with a few more diableries.

                      (Mind, I've only read about half the book, so maybe that's explained somewhere?)

                      Introducing Nerissa Blackwater defeats the point of killing off Menele, IMO. While she nicely highlights "hey, other vampires lived here before the white ones," I find her a much less compelling character than M was (even if her concept is interesting).

                      Loved all the thin-bloods. Revised never actually put out that many specific thin-blood NPCs, and it's been good to put some more faces to the concept.

                      I especially liked the one who's an agent for the Second Inquisition (who even Embraced him for that purpose!). Nicely illustrates how vampire/Second Inquisition interactions don't have to be purely adversarial.

                      Rosa Martinez went from a fairly one-dimensional and semi-jokey character to a serious one with real depth. Kudos.

                      Son winding up as primogen was great. Just great. A charming sociopath who attains high office in the Camarilla is... exactly what should happen. If anything, you could argue it's weird he didn't do so sooner (although also that the political climate was pretty different).

                      I missed Khalid. You can basically boil down his character concept down to "just because a vampire wants to be good person doesn't mean they'll be one," and there was great nuance there. Khalid was a Golconda seeker who the book outright said "morality is very important to," and he was still a whopping Humanity 2. If they had to kill him off, I think his character would've been done a better service if he'd failed his suspire and become a wight.

                      Cedrick Calhoun is looking dapper as ever. Feel like at least a few Toreador would like him for his smart dressing. He might be a Nosferatu but he's clearly trying where it counts.

                      1e Nathaniel Bordruff had a very lackluster description as "a tall, gaunt Nosferatu." (New Orleans by Night seemed like it was almost trying to outdo that with "a very tall, gaunt Nosferatu" for Lawrence Meeks.) Boy, is his new description and artwork great. Most Nosferatu come off to me as inhuman, but Bordruff actually sounds/looks pretty scary.

                      I'm not sure it was necessary to change his character motivation into "he's hungry for glory and always was." Bordruff has always been one of the setting's clearest "bad guys" and he's a more tragic figure if he used to be a genuinely good hunter who was out to fight the good fight.

                      I suspect I'm completely alone in appreciating how Bordruff's sire's name was expanded from "Virginia" into "Virginia the Hag." I run a New Orleans chronicle where most of the local clan is descended from Virginia, and the "Hag" sobriquet gives me something new I can immediately plop into my game.

                      Brett Stryker's self-hate over his sexuality gives him a nice bit of depth from 1e's "asshole bodybuilder."

                      Helena was okay. Not bad but not great. I feel like "she's looking for a new adversary now that Menele's gone" was a somewhat predictable route to take, and was executed in a manner that made it feel like she genuinely wanted a new enemy vs. "she's paranoid a new rival predator will try to take what she has." Why does that seem like such a fun prospect her? I tend to think Helena is ultimately an abuse victim who just wanted to get away from Minos and be safe with Prias, and who came to equivocate Menele with her husband-sire because he was threatening the same things. Now Menele and Prias are both gone, so what's left for her? I could see her committing suicide. Or maybe finding a neonate to pull a Mithras on her after seeing how that worked out in the Middle East. Or heck, maybe even replacing Menele as her foe with the Antediluvians: they essentially tried to kill her via the Beckoning, and she doesn't have a history of suffering attempts on her unlife lightly.

                      So it just feels kind of flat to have her still hanging out in Chicago looking for a new foe among vastly younger vampires. I don't think she'd see Kevin Jackson, or anyone besides Critias, as worth more than mud off her shoe. It doesn't feel like the loss of Prias and Menele have substantively affected her despite being the only real constants in a 3,000-year existence.

                      I think they could also have made her interests feel more global. Yeah, Chicago by Night is locally-focused supplement that's exactly what the title says, but they brought in some pretty global plots too with Talley (who could give two figs about Chicago) and the Lasombra entry into the Camarilla, and I feel like they could have done that too with Helena. She has childer running around who included the prince of Paris and the former regent of the Sabbat. I always thought that excellently illustrated what behind-the-scenes manipulators methuselahs can be, and just how much an afterthought sect is to them.

                      Bobby Weatherbottom was handled really well. The writers exercised a pretty deft touch with his "lovestruck incel" background: it's simultaneously sensitive to the inappropriateness of his mortal behavior (how he apologizes to Amanda after essentially stalking her), makes a story that was pretty culturally dated feel contemporary, _and_ doesn't try to whitewash the horrifying stuff he does as a vampire (turning Amanda into a vegetative blood bank). Like with Khalid, there's good nuance there. Bobby isn't a good person just because he's self-aware.

                      Another great touch: how computer hacking isn't magic. In 1e, they said Bobby was paying rent for a crappy apartment (in the '80s) and making all of his other bills and expenses disappear via hacking. Now, they just had him making money via an electronic fraud scheme, and using that to pay for stuff.

                      I also liked how the NSA's cybersecurity experts are way ahead of Bobby in some areas even though he's a computer genius. 1e/2e VtM had a ton of "hacking genius" characters. V5 feels a lot more realistic with, "Hey, this is a fast-changing field where even a whiz kid's knowledge can become pretty dated." I heartily approved of the NSA essentially beating the Nosferatu at computer hacking.

                      Whatshername the new Ventrue was the only real miss for me in a book that's otherwise been lots of hits. She came off as a deliberate attempt to create a "strong character" from lots of underprivileged demographics, only there wasn't anything else there. Her writeup goes out of its way to play up how awesome she is and none of it feels earned, especially how her sire submits to voluntary diablerie to make her stronger. She also runs a school that's somehow a combination high school/college? That didn't make sense to me. I think there's value in having "good guy" vampire characters, and having more black female Ventrue is also nice, but the character just didn't click for me.

                      Kevin Jackson winding up as prince was great. I think a lot of elders looked at him and went "Anarch scum" because he came from the streets, but V5 shows that's a misrepresentation of who he is on numerous levels: for one, that he actually came from an educated and politically engaged family who were victims of redlining and forced to live in a poorer neighborhood. For two, that just because he's from the streets somehow meant he'd want to stay there. He is basically Stringer Bell, someone from the projects with their eyes on a penthouse.

                      It also feels eminently plausible that he's so virulently anti-Anarch. I don't remember the context, but I read somewhere (it was somehow associated with The Wire) about a couple black prison inmates who were asked in 2008 if they thought electing Obama as president would improve things for African-Americans. They said no way, because Obama would have to be quiet about his race and even tougher on crime than a white president if white politicians were going to take him seriously.

                      So, yeah. You have a neonate prince, but in his own way he might be even more ageist than Lodin, because he needs to prove to the Camarilla that he's "serious." There's plenty of older vampires who'd love his job if Lucinde gets unhappy.
                      Last edited by False Epiphany; 01-23-2020, 08:15 PM.


                      Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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                      • #12
                        False Epiphany this is amazingly insightful, though I did prefer Bret Stryker when he was straight (I flipped through the old Chicago by Night books when I was first getting into the game).


                        The die is cast.

                        Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon

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                        • #13
                          False Epiphany I second that, bloody good review! I hadn't thought about that RE: Prince Jackson needing to prove he's 'serious', but it makes a disturbing amount of sense.

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                          • #14
                            I also want to point out that Bennett Steadman looks very similar to former Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Orlando Scandrick.

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                            • #15
                              Awesome insights, False Epiphany. Hope you don't mind me making a huge number of comments.

                              Originally posted by False Epiphany View Post
                              I like Anita Wainwright as leader of the Anarchs. 1e established she was very well-connected to Anarch groups across the country, so it feels logical for her to wind up in a leadership position. The fact she's 12th generation also nicely highlights that generation doesn't equal competence or authority, and also nicely contrasts the Anarch leader with the Camarilla leader, who comes from a more "privileged" background at 8th generation.
                              I like Anita Wainwright definitely but also note that it seems weird that they're making her antagonistic to Maldavis who is still in her funk 20 years after the events of Chicago by Night 2nd Edition. Mind you, I find it completely believable that the two women would irk the hell out of each other with one being a low generation Civil Rights legend who is not active versus one being a hign generation who is plus the fact Anita is a white woman involved in radical black activism versus Maldavis...not being. They could go further with this, I suppose, but it feels a little cheap so far.

                              I like how Anita thinks Critias could come to her cause too, but is very likely killing Anarchs left and right.

                              CbN 1e gave a Brujah Anarch from every generation of revolutionaries. You had Blackjack the socialist, Karl the communist, Hank Cave the beatnik, and Dooley and Wainwright the Civil Rights Movement activists. I'd have liked to see maybe an Occupier as Anita's childe, and an activist from a contemporary movement (Antifa? Black Lives Matter?) as her grandchilde. Given that they'd be a thin-blood, there'd be a neat chance to highlight just how accepting the Anarchs actually are (or aren't) of the last generations. "Yeah, thin-bloods are part of the Movement. But I don't want one as _my_ grand/childe."
                              While not of the generation, Gengis is associated with Antifa and Bobby Weatherbottom seems to be the "internet social activist hacker" that would be associated with Anonymous and Occupy Wallstreet (given that he is actually a member of the now-defunct Red Question--which was a nice little bit of V20 homage).

                              Anita's Mask as Dooley's widow seems weird, but makes more sense if he was passing himself off as his own son/grandson/nephew.
                              For those who enjoy romantic vampire stories that are a bit creepy, I like how Anita has a Touchstone of someone who is just her replacement for her dead lover and how Gerard is dating someone who reminds him of Anita--you know with Brujah that could probably end with either murdering the other's lovers.

                              Happy to see Critias still around. I'd say "he was my favorite of the primogen," but really, they were all done so well. He's the iconic Brujah philosopher. I'd have liked more info on what's happened to his network of former mortal students who've risen to prominent positions. Otherwise pretty happy with the direction they took him in.
                              One of the most interesting complaints about Critias is the historical Critias is nothing like the one in the book, being one of the Tyrants of Athens. The twist here that Menele had been controlling Critias' mind via the Blood Bond for millennia and that his "normal" persona is a petty toady who kisses up to someone literally a 40th of his age is fascinating. Critias should, by all means, rule Chicago but his true self isn't a strong leader.

                              He's also a petty son of a bitch which makes him more useful if you have a game where it's Neonates versus Elders. It's also the one place where being able to assassinate someone much-much older in 5E is easier because otherwise he'd wipe the floor with the PCs.

                              Introducing Nerissa Blackwater defeats the point of killing off Menele, IMO. While she nicely highlights "hey, other vampires lived here before the white ones," I find her a much less compelling character than M was (even if her concept is interesting).
                              I agree, the big issue with Nerissa for me is that she's actually a very flat character. The fact she's associated with Lilith-ism also defeats the purpose of making her one of the Drowned. Either she's a wholly original character or she's not.

                              I especially liked the one who's an agent for the Second Inquisition (who even Embraced him for that purpose!). Nicely illustrates how vampire/Second Inquisition interactions don't have to be purely adversarial.
                              Noah Grewal is an amazingly fun character. I'm surprised more people haven't commented on him.

                              Rosa Martinez went from a fairly one-dimensional and semi-jokey character to a serious one with real depth. Kudos.
                              She actually has a place now as a Loyalist Gangrel who thinks the Camarilla does more than ruins lives.

                              Son winding up as primogen was great. Just great. A charming sociopath who attains high office in the Camarilla is... exactly what should happen. If anything, you could argue it's weird he didn't do so sooner (although also that the political climate was pretty different).
                              Exactly, Son is the perfect kind of Camarilla Elder as he's a sadistic villain with lots of influence and power. He's alot more interesting than Maureen O'Leary. I am stunned that he hasn't hit wassail yet, though, and wish we'd gotten an explanation why not, though.

                              Brett Stryker's self-hate over his sexuality gives him a nice bit of depth from 1e's "asshole bodybuilder."
                              While it's always interesting to examine real-life issues and expand on previously one-dimensional characters, I kind of wonder if Brett Stryker is the best guy to do this since he's literally a guy who Embraces women to feed to his diablerist serial killer master. I also feel like his Flannel GuyTM art is weird.

                              Helena was okay. Not bad but not great. I feel like "she's looking for a new adversary now that Menele's gone" was a somewhat predictable route to take, and was executed in a manner that made it feel like she genuinely wanted a new enemy vs. "she's paranoid a new rival predator will try to take what she has."
                              I feel like Helena's writers doubled-down on the "she's the designated villain" role that she had in previous editions. They even said that she was associated with the Baali in Carthage versus Menele, who is the guy who has Spirit Thaumaturgy. I think Helena could have been more ambiguous but they just made her a serial killing bored aristocrat. She's great as a villain but that's kind of all she is.

                              Bobby Weatherbottom was handled really well. The writers exercised a pretty deft touch with his "lovestruck incel" background: it's simultaneously sensitive to the inappropriateness of his mortal behavior (how he apologizes to Amanda after essentially stalking her), makes a story that was pretty culturally
                              dated feel contemporary, _and_ doesn't try to whitewash the horrifying stuff he does as a vampire (turning Amanda into a vegetative blood bank).
                              Agreed. Bobby Weatherbottom is horrifying and sympathetic but only in the, "he's a serial killer like on Netflix's YOU" way. It's wonderfully horrific.

                              So, yeah. You have a neonate prince, but in his own way he might be even more ageist than Lodin, because he needs to prove to the Camarilla that he's "serious." There's plenty of older vampires who'd love his job if Lucinde gets unhappy.
                              I actually did like Matthew Dawkins suggesting in one of his podcasts that it was actually GENGIS who came up with the idea of the 10 Anarchs to be saved idea, though. The idea Kevin Jackson didn't even need to start purging the Anarchs before they started betraying each other to him.
                              Last edited by CTPhipps; 01-24-2020, 02:03 AM.


                              Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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