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V5 December Companion - Review, Critique & Comments

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  • V5 December Companion - Review, Critique & Comments

    Review of V5 companion 16.12.2020

    In general the Companion is well written, with a lot of art and is completely in the style of the core book. But luckily we are not having the character art style back, that looks like vamps on a catwalk. The publication of all the clans over several books, in a pastrami-slicing kind of manner, was a point of critique before. It was a good decision to give these 60 pages for free. The please the beast that is the fandom.
    The best decision would be a revised edition core book or player's guide, with all clans and powers and some rule options as we had the last two editions of VTM.
    I do not wan´t to discuss design flaws of V5 here, to keep a bit more focused. Also definitly NO EDITION WARRING! I come from Requiem, even though I might welcome a lot of VTR stuff in V5, I don´t approve all fitting well for VTM (5).


    Part I: the clans and their aptitudes

    This presents us the last missing clan´s of the 13 clans. Well the Salubri are only a bloodline now… or the Tremere. The scholars are still debating it. ;-)

    I did include the discipline powers and amalgams under their respective clans. For some reason the Ravnos got 2, The Salubri 3 and the Tzismisce 4 plus one additional Dominate power to cement their status as prime ghoul shapers, but according to the V5 design rule that powers are only tied to discipline requirements and not clan, this makes it available to the other Dominate clans.


    The Ravnos


    The write up is evocative of tricksters of old and the questionable portrayal of the Rom & Sinti is not reiteratet and more form the picture of the Ravnos just being leeches on several subaltern mobile societies. No new lore is introduced. The changed the old crosslike symbol with a sinister looking sun/eye or dharma wheel symbol.


    Discipline Make up shifted from: Animalism, Chimerstry, Fortitude, to Animalism, Presence, Obfuscate
    Even without Amalgam powers this makes them Charmers, Animalism is extremely useful for any vampire traveling and for scouting, having a bunch of Raven Famuli around is not only useful, but also a highly efficient emergency blood bank if they get Animalism 3 (Succulence)
    But as Amalgam's powers sometimes quite creatively choose the secondary discipline, in this case Obfuscate/Presence is not illogical.
    I can also imagine it being Fortitude (It hardens the illusions made with Obfuscate) and thus have the Illusion powers a bit safeguarded against the Ministry vampires that also share Obfuscate & Presence. But V5 does not bind discipline powers to clan blood anymore, any vamp that meets the requirements can use these amalgams.

    Clan bane: doomed
    If they slumber in the same place more than once in a while. They receive damage equal to the number of 10’s (critical results) rolled as they are scorched from within. Ouch!

    - This is one of the most dangerous clan banes ever developed. Also it does not give you options and will greatly affect them every night. As stated by J.Achili on twitter this might also affect them if forced to stay in one place, like being in torpor.
    What is not clear, if two 10´s count as criticals and thus four successes. Thus destroy an unlucky Ravnos in 2-3 nights.
    -- I'd change it to: if they voluntarily choose to stay in one place or that this damage can't destroy them, but put them into torpor. Also there is mentioning that there still might be Ravnos in torpor, which would not work with the bane RAW.

    Compulsion: Tempting Fate
    If triggered, everthing that is not "thrilling", bores them a penality

    -- This is good as it leaves the player with agency over this compulsions. They can still try to play it save, but will likely not succeed. Also instead of a static -2, I´d rather would use the Bane Severity modifier.

    The four archetypes:
    The Midnight Motorcycle Courier & Operative for Hire & Travel Agent (Which sounds perfect for the the Circulatory System) & Antiquarian
    Are all interesting - the first two got art: both are well executed, the first maybe is overburdened with japanese tropes. The second is perfect for the Operative and invokes the Ravnos from “The Ebony Kingdom” which painted the Ravnos less as rogue trickster and more as tough as nails mercenaries. He got traditional face scarring and a very dapper look. The person that explains to you that it is nothing personal, but he has got a contract to fulfill.

    The Discipline Powers (mostly Amalgams), for the Ravnos these are:

    Chimerstry(Obfuscate 2, Presence 1,) if the victim fails, they lose the action and can only defend against attacks with a penality.
    The illusion can´t be recorded or transmitted. (This is new! But as Obfuscate is only mindtricks, it´s logical.)
    -- This is more a trick of the eye / jumpscare distraction
    Instead of making it more mechanically potent - it would work better like the Lev 1 Requiem Obfuscate power - and without a Rouse check. Positive - it´s in reach for a starting character.
    - In combat this can be quite a powerful power.
    - Also to cut less into Obfuscate, it could also be a Presence 2, Obfuscate 1 power. The main effect of the power is to draw attention to the illusion.


    Fata Morgana(Obfuscate 3, Presence 2 The more successes the more senses you can affect with your illusion.
    -- This includes the first 3 levels of the old Chimerstry discipline and made it as versatile as needed. Sadly it's not in reach for starting characters.

    No words on Permanence (4th dot) and Horrid Reality (5th dot), I would have wished for these powers. Permanence as either a feature for Fata Morgana for an additional RC.


    The Salubri

    From Auspex, Obeah/Valeeren, Fortitude to Auspex, Dominate, Fortitude
    Using Dominate is quite logical both in an Amalgam power aspekt, and to get them closer powerwise to the Tremere lore wise.

    Bane: hunted and appreciative blood : their blood is tastier than other vitae (and triggers Hunger Frenzy with quite a high Base-Diff) and now their opened Eyes drips blood when in use and will cause Hunger Frenzy in any Vampire seeing it is hungry.

    Compulsion: Affective Empathy. The Salubri, involves themselves in other people's problems, any non related action is at a penality.
    -- Again the penalty should be Bane Severity.

    Both the Bane and the Compulsion are way better than the old Clan Flaw (imho) of not being able to feed without consent. But it's a very severe Bane as the use of the Eye might trigger a Hunger Frenzy. Because Resisting Frenzies is Willpower + Humanity/3, and the Diff ist at least 2+ - this can surprisingly often go side ways.
    it's in a Salubris best interest to have anyone of their coterie well fed and adhere to victorian humane principles.

    Also you don't need a different write up for the warrior caste. The compulsion is very good - as it pushes the Salubri to involve themselves.

    They don 't get archetypes - because they are too few. This is bloody lazy writing.
    Archetypes have a function: to give players engaging character concepts to play with. This is a let down.
    As Art they get only the title photo of a female salubri with all three eyes open with darkened eyes. The other is a blurry face in the crowd picture of a salubri in hoodie, blending in. Especially the second one transports the hunted vibe.

    Salubri get 3 Amalgams

    Obeah (Auspex 2, Fortitude 1) Heals Willpower and, if used on a mortal - calms them if used more than once a night the Salubri suffers WP Damage)

    -- I`d rather make it a Dominate 2, Auspex 1/Fortitude1 power.
    The reason is, the subject is controlled. Also As two powers are Auspex based this cuts into the Salubri reputation as typical Auspex users but mainly leave them with a normal Dominate progression.

    Unburdening the Bestial Soul (Auspex 5, Dominate 3) The power removes Humanity stains or provides armor against getting stains. Regaining Humanity is a one time thing. A Salubri can use freely Dominate effects on the victim.

    -- I´d rather make it a Dominate 5 and Auspex 2/4 Power, The Power can be forced onto a subject: Soulsucking still should be an option, there is no mentioning of this. This is a level 5 Amalgam power, Dominate 5 got Mass Dominate and Terminal Decree at this level, why is Soulsucking not possible? The secondary effect of numbing implies that actually mainly Dominate is at work, not Auspex. It turn the mind of the victim essentially into butter.

    Valeren(Fortitude 2, Auspex 1) Works mechanically the same as Obeah, but mends Health Levels.

    I miss other Obeah Powers as Sense Vitality (feel the health of a person and how they came to harm) or Neutral Guard / Shepherds Watch. Sense Vitality could be Auspex 1/3 Fortitude 1/3 power at no RC. Neutral Guard a Dominate 3 / Fortitude 2 to erect a barrier.

    Again, Dominate is a slightly odd choice for the Unicorns - but it ties nicely with the Tremere´s Dominate, but I would make most Obeah/Valeren powers Dominate+X Amalgams to leave them the other Auspex powers and not making them standard Dominate users.

    The Tzimisce

    They get a heavily manipulated photo of a monstrous clawy thing and two for the archetypes:
    The Landlord, a regal, porcelaine but offputting Lady with a bloody eviction note in hand. And the Gang Leader. The art is also very evocative. The other archetypes are the grudgebearer and the special forces commandant.

    Additionally we also get info on the szlachta & vozhd ghouls including great art and game mechanics, but currently rule wise a level 3 retainer is weaker than a szlachta and thus the creation of a szlachta is currently only possible if the storyteller handwaves it. We get a Level Dominate power that might explain why these creation are still somewhat loyal and that these creation are only done by elders.

    From Animalism, Auspex, Vicissitude to Animalism, Dominate, Protean
    Dominate is very in theme with the possessive Tzimisce, but it diminishes their old sabbat role as mystics, even though Auspex wasn't very much used for the Tzimisce or as a clan signifier.
    One could easily use Auspex as a substitute, instead of Dominate for the fleshcrafting amalgams. Might be worth a house rule.

    Bane: grounded- they now must sleep by their "charge" - no need to sleep in dirt from a place significant when they were mortal.
    -- The new bane is very thematic with their possessiveness and also gives the players options to engage with their bane. It feels a bigger touchstone. As a bonus, you can still play it out as the old clan flaw. (I remember that many Tzimisce players fleshcrafted a bag of dirt into their bodies to cheese around the Bane.)

    Compulsion: Covetnousness
    They pursue something they fixate over, If not their actions are under penality.
    Also the resolution is Fullfillment or unattainability - they don´t snap out of it after a while.

    -- This is a passionate compulsion, and can easily fill the whole story of a Tzimisce. But will drive the character - a lot!



    Tzimisce Amalgams

    Domitor´s Favor
    Dominate 2 - it makes hyper loyal ghouls and cements their status and give a gamistic reason that explains that they can do horrible things to their ghouls without them defying them.
    -- This is no amalgam, but a Tzimisce credited power, i wish the credit to more of the old powers that got redistributed into other disciplines. Like Silent death that moved from Quitus to Obfuscate. Especially gracing us with a new second dot power is nice, as the core book, only presents 1 power at the second dot by the other disciplines.

    Vicissitude
    Protean 2, Dominate 2
    Each change uses up a physical attribute dot to either redestribute it or build armor, change the face etc.
    -- The Power is good and creative, not too powerful, That the changes are mendable is a bit of redundant, as it would be way “cheaper” to activate the power to change it back.
    It is reachable for a starting characters, which I always like with signature powers.

    Fleshcrafting
    Protean 3, Dominate 2,
    Works the same as Vicissitude, but on others, can´t be used in combat. Permanent but mendable, which I like.
    -- because permanently changing another vampire was also OP back then.


    Horrid Form
    Protean 4, Dominate 2, turn into a monster of your own creation and get closer to the beast. Gives access to free Modifications to build your Horrid Form

    -- Good, not to powerful, and it will get messy, But the very bestial aspect should substitute Dominate with Animalism

    One with the Land
    Protean 5, Animalism 2, It extends the power of earthmeld over non natural surfaces or even water. And in addition it gives them sensory stimuli as perceived by animals in a wide radius

    -- Very thematic - in some circumstances very powerful, as it helps to surveil an area. But it's limitation is Earthmeld (Level 3 Protean) - Which means a Tzismice must forgo either Fleshcrafting or Horrid Form, and because it functions as earthmeld, the character goes naked into the earth. bleh.
    It irks me that you can't have a single Tzimisce with all the powers presented - but the main reason are the severe design flaws of Protean in general, as they kept Earthmeld a level 3 power, and did it made a Level 1 power. Or you change it into a Animalism 5, Protean 1/3, Prereq: Earthmeld power, especially as it relies on sensory connection with all the animals which is an Animalism 4 power.
    As one can see, the Tzimisce got the most love - considering character options, a very versatile but always thematic bane a game forcing compulsion and a declawed form of Vicissitude in the Form of working Amalgams. Dominate is a bit odd - but can be waved away that Dominate reflects the power of the mind over the body. Also, as most Protean “slots” will be slots for Vicissitude shenanigans, there is little fear that they will turn into “Weird Gangrel for the Cities, but more Stoker like”.


    Part II: Clans & Coterie Merits

    It got 3 great full body art of a Lasombra in Berlin, a Malkavian surrounded by reflections of him in mirror shards and a Nosferatu Muay-Thai Martial Artist, and another vampire casually checking their phone and sipping from a blood bag and a Tzimisce artist showing off the fleshcrafted arabesque flower patterns on a person's back.


    I like these merits thematically / conceptionally, as a general “it's cool to have clan X in the coterie”, But I dislike the different Merit cost, as they range from 1 to 3 dots. I´d rather have them all cost 2 dots and make the weaker ones a bit more powerful. Maybe even as free perks of the clan.


    Part III: Mortals & Ghouls

    The first part is about Mortals and also gives creation rules. I like the perk on Willpower for Mortals: Good!
    The second part is about ghouls. The Ghoul merits and flaws are okay, but I miss some pieces. The Ghoul paragraph is nice and thorough - It´s lampshaded heavily that they want you to play ghouls - which is fun.

    Both paragraphs give nice ideas how to play mortals(i.e. as touchstones) and ghouls in relation with their vampire(s).

    Part 3 of the companion is actually the most inspiring part of the companion.
    The character art is nice and evocative and yells “player character”.


    Part IV: Errata & Rules Update

    Blood Surge increases.
    I like Blood Surges and it's increase very much, as it carries the trope of a vampire to be stronger, faster, more charismatic, mesmerizing just by burning through Hunger.
    Also mechanics that let the players "PUSH" things are always nice.


    Bane Severity increase
    Also welcomed - no huge change for the average starting vampire but it gets nastier than before.

    Compulsions by Messy Criticals
    This is a welcomed game changer - in my experience Bestial Failures are rare and Messy Criticals become quite common with higher Hunger and Dice pools. But it gets boring to either have the character burn through Hunger and Willpower or creating Death and Masquerade breaches all the time. A Clan compulsion is also a very vampire thematic, The beast helped you achieve this, but now it wants something in return.

    Taking Half
    I see this a bit too powerful, as it symbolizes the character taking a safe route, i.e. ignoring the potential of bestial failures / messy criticals due to hunger dice.
    -- "Taking a third" or half minus 1 would be better in my opinion.

    Lingering Kiss
    Limited Duration, and the Benefit is only one night. Seems okay

    Blood Potency Table
    This is just an update due to the changed values in Blood Surge & Bane Severity.
    -- But I would change a few things: Thinbloods (and freshly turned vampires ) get Blood Potency 1. Why? Thinbloods are vampires and not ghouls. The character creation of Thinbloods in general is lacking and needs an overhaul. As they sometimes feel like weaker ghouls.
    When a freshly turned full blooded vampire acquires a predatory style they should get BP 2. Yes, this would mean that a typical starting vampire is BP 2.

    In general, I´d had wished for some more rule errata or power errata. There are several powers that are either off, do not work as intended or especially in the instance of Protean, which is quite weak in comparison, or the early levels of some of the physical disciplines.
    Last edited by maekkel; 12-22-2020, 04:13 PM. Reason: I deleted how the powers, banes and compulsion work in crunchy mechanical terms. - I hope this is okay.


    Gamelines: Requiem, Lost, Awakening, Trinity Continuum: Aeon, some V5.
    Likes cheesecake (quark-based)

  • #2
    As a general rule, we don't approve of copying and pasting whole things from the rule book. Small relevant passages, yes, but this is a bit much. Could you edit it and summarize?


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

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    • #3
      Originally posted by maekkel View Post
      Part III: Mortals & Ghouls

      The first part is about Mortals and also gives creation rules. I like the perk on Willpower for Mortals good. The second part is about ghouls. The Ghoul merits and flaws are okay, but I miss some pieces.
      Both paragraphs give nice ideas how to play mortals(i.e. as touchstones) and ghouls in relation with their vampire(s).
      The Ghoul paragraph is nice and thorough - It´s lampshaded heavily that they want you to play ghouls - which is fun. The Ghoul merits and flaws are okay, but I miss some pieces.
      Part 3 of the companion is actually the most inspiring part of the companion.
      The character art is nice and evocative and yells “player character”.
      I think my favorite part is that with the changes to ghouls (they basically don't get any discipline powers that require rouse checks) it is very easy to extrapolate out a Dhampir or Revenant for V5 by using the ghoul mechanics and just not requiring them to receive a Rouse check's worth of blood each month (since their bodies generate it naturally) to sustain that state. BOOM! Done.

      I'll miss the Dhampir reserves that allow for nigh-instant healing in an emergency, but the wound penalties and the like in general are so much softer in V5 its not as critical. Still, we'll probably house rule in something to represent that emergency healing vs. lethal damage that having a small blood pool allowed in prior editions (i.e. you're down to crippled by lethal damage so you spend a turn or two to burn some blood to get yourself up to a level where you can stagger/run away). Maybe a "convert 1 aggravated damage into 1 superficial damage with a check once per night" or something.

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      • #4
        Ghouls: I also favor that you don´t have to keep track if your ghouls "battery". For the Dhampir you could either to that or give them just max. Hunger 2.


        Gamelines: Requiem, Lost, Awakening, Trinity Continuum: Aeon, some V5.
        Likes cheesecake (quark-based)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by maekkel View Post
          Review of V5 companion 16.12.2020



          Vicissitude
          Protean 2, Dominate 2
          Each change uses up a physical attribute dot to either redestribute it or build armor, change the face etc.
          -- The Power is good and creative, not too powerful, That the changes are mendable is a bit of redundant, as it would be way “cheaper” to activate the power to change it back.
          It is reachable for a starting characters, which I always like with signature powers.
          I first thought this too. After a second read however, I realized by raw any change, including changes to revert a change requires the loss of a Physical attribute. In that light healing any transformations is cheaper.

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          • #6
            I did not think about that. You are correct. You need to mend those changes that are not redestributions.


            Gamelines: Requiem, Lost, Awakening, Trinity Continuum: Aeon, some V5.
            Likes cheesecake (quark-based)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by maekkel View Post
              I did not think about that. You are correct. You need to mend those changes that are not redestributions.
              I think that they should be able to "spend" their other existing vicissitude endowments on new ones. That way, they could continuously use it without ever reverting to their original body's state.

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