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Dark Colony - New England by night

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  • Dark Colony - New England by night

    Dark Colony was one of the first by nights of Vampire the Masquerade, following the publication of Chicago by night and Milwaukee, and showing many of the early issues the line had: a setting disconnected and rooted in a lone and only moment of its history, ancient elders stealing the spotlight, rampant crossover, high fantasy and few opportunities of the characters to actually make a significant change.

    The game was about the british versus the US, vampire version. Although the secession war ended for the mortals, Mithras sent three powerful elders to New england. They conquered many cities and this triumvirate ruled many cities from the shadows, fighting a war against the local camarilla and the sabbat.

    The book contained a superficial view of Boston and other minor cities in the area, some of this content was used and updated for the Giovanni Chronicles IV. It also included an adventure, barely connected with the setting, about the Salem witch trials. The only thing I can remember is that there was lot of crossover and a nexus crawler from werewolf as the "final boss".

    Recently, with Swansong, it was published Boston by night, a new update of this old book. Written by Mathew Dawkins, this 97 pages pdf updates the setting, giving some bits of lore about what happened between 1993 and 2022, including the Giovanni chronicles episode. I am going to review this book in our channel (in spanish), but I took this as the chance to review also Dark colony.

    So, after this long introduction, what are your thoughts abouts Dark colony and Boston by night? Without Swansong spoilers!!!
    Last edited by Justycar; 06-12-2022, 01:37 AM.

  • #2
    Players who think they'll never get political power in a game of Vampire and are raging against the machine should read The 48 Laws of Power.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Justycar View Post
      Dark Colony was one of the first by nights of Vampire the Masquerade, following the publication of Chicago by night and Milwaukee, and showing many of the early issues the line had: a setting disconnected and rooted in a lone and only moment of its history, ancient elders stealing the spotlight, rampant crossover, high fantasy and few opportunities of the characters to actually make a significant change.
      I'd say it was a little more complicated in that particular book's case, but yeah "let's write #### by Night: the novel"" syndrome was really shaping up at the time just after Chicago 2nd ed.

      Originally posted by Justycar View Post
      The game was about the british versus the US, vampire version. Although the secession war ended for the mortals, Mithras sent three powerful elders to New england. They conquered many cities and this triumvirate ruled many cities from the shadows, fighting a war against the local camarilla and the sabbat.
      Wait what? Ok, either you are basing yourself in some revised era retcon nonsense or that's a figment of your imagination, because nothing of the sort is in Dark Colony - and i took the time to find mine and spend an hour checking.

      Roman Pendragon and Biltmore were actually exiled regional powerhouses and prince-makers from the Isles, who made an alliance with Warwick while weathering away from the colaterals of their past mistakes in Switzerland. Some methuselahs behind the scenes were indeed involved - because every by night needed to have meths behind it all (even if no, not really), for reasons - it was a trio of 5th gens with no connection whatsoever to Mithras.

      But yes, the utterly unnecessary Americans x British in 20th century New England narrative was very much a thing....

      Originally posted by Justycar View Post
      The book contained a superficial view of Boston and other minor cities in the area, some of this content was used and updated for the Giovanni Chronicles IV. It also included an adventure, barely connected with the setting, about the Salem witch trials. The only thing I can remember is that there was lot of crossover and a nexus crawler from werewolf as the "final boss".
      Giovanni Chronicles IV is a book that i have a love-hate relationship with in that it's pretty nice as a standalone chronicle and mini-by night but a complete disservice as the conclusion chapter for the Giovanni Chronicles as a whole.

      About that adventure in Dark Colony... no, it had nothing to do with Salem witch trials per se, everything to do with a lone social failure of an elder Tremere obsessed with rebuilding the Boston chantry, no matter how many times his regent said it was a stupid impractical idea for many reasons, went rogue because of it and turned to a deal with Pendragon (except not really) involving sicc'ing a "demon" (the Nexus Crawler) upon the Sabbat that were causing him trouble in exchange for permission.

      Except the crazy Tremere didn't have the ritual yet, had to gank one or two covens of the Golden Dawn to get his hands upon it - only to then botch the ritual, get attacked by the Nexus Crawler and get so traumatized he suffered amnesia from it. Some fratboys might have been sacrificed along the way too. I kid you not.
      Last edited by Baaldam; 06-12-2022, 02:10 PM.

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      • #4
        Personally, I'm annoyed by it because I went and made my own alternate Boston about four years ago with a whole different slate of NPCs under the thinking Dark Colony kinda sucked and they'd never be doing anything with the area. Now I'm going to have to explain to any new players that a sourcebook they may have bought is less than useless for the ongoing campaign I'm running. At least its a V5 book and they know I'm running a V20/DAV20 hybrid.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Baaldam View Post
          Wait what? Ok, either you are basing yourself in some revised era retcon nonsense or that's a figment of your imagination, because nothing of the sort is in Dark Colony - and i took the time to find mine and spend an hour checking.
          This is new lore from Boston by night, which I have read recently, so it is a retcon. Not very different about how Mithras sent Strathcona to Canada.

          Page 11: "British Kindred under the yoke of the Camarilla Prince of London, the god-emperor Mithras, arrived, but not as allies to the few Camarilla in New England; they came to seize the territories for their master a century after they’d fallen from mortal Britain’s grip."
          Last edited by Justycar; 06-12-2022, 04:52 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Justycar View Post

            This is new lore from Boston by night, which I have read recently, so it is a retcon. Not very different about how Mithras sent Strathcona to Canada.

            Page 11: "British Kindred under the yoke of the Camarilla Prince of London, the god-emperor Mithras, arrived, but not as allies to the few Camarilla in New England; they came to seize the territories for their master a century after they’d fallen from mortal Britain’s grip."
            This is just so painfully wrong, on so many levels.
            • Why would you want to do this? New England was not, the last time I checked, one of the suburbs of London. What do you achieve by this? You can present "seize the territories for their master" as an obvious objective without further elaboration.
            • Why Mithras? What happened to transform Vampire: the Masquerade into Vampire: the Referentialism? What's so good about Mithras that you need to add him into the story in this way?
            • What's so good about the "British are bitter about the American War of Independence that British vampires want to refight it" narrative that you want to emphasise it with this change? If you wanted to make a better version of Dark Colony, surely de-emphasising the colonial material is the obvious first thing one might wish to do?
            Incidentally, "Mithras sent Strathcona to Canada" is also a retcon. Originally, Kyle Strathcona want to Canada on his own account, and Mithras later recognised his claim over Montreal, because it would be politically expedient. Were I doing any retcons around here, the first would probably to give Kyle Strathcona a period-appropriate name for when he was embraced...


            Learn more about the hidden history of the British Isles in England Will Burn.
            Find out about the struggle to control medieval Syria in The Gates of Damascus.

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            • #7
              I view Dark Colony as a failed attempt to provide a New England setting for Vampire. It just isn't that good. But there are a few gems buried within it.

              Here are the major problems that I have:

              1) The setting tentpole is uninteresting. British vampires fighting American vampires in some bad replay of the American Revolution just doesn't work. It's a weak hook. It would have been better if that theme was limited to some elders dating back to colonial times still quarreling with each other as a result of some dispute back them. There is no problem with the idea that New England is haunted by its past. That's interesting. But not the way it was actually done.

              2) It's nice to have a regional book rather than just one city. Seeing how relatively close domains affect one another was a good idea. But the book really needed to provide the ST with details on the major separate domains. Boston, Providence, New Haven/Hartford, Concord/NH. Give us a coterie chart and description of each of these domains. Then a coterie chart between the domains. How do these domains and their Prince feud with one another? How do they cooperate? Is there a history of regional Conclaves to regulate disputes? If so, how did they decide things? Lots of missed opportunities here.

              3) It didn't utilize the setting properly. New England is one of the few areas of the United States with real history behind it. There should be NPCs and secrets going back four centuries. Interesting folklore and history of the area should be embedded in the NPCs and history of the Camarilla there. Very few NPCs actually "feel" like they are from New England. Instead we have ancient vampires who aren't from there, and lots of generic NPCs that could be used in any chronicle. There's several characters whose origins are in New York City. Why not make them embraced in the setting's cities instead? What is the point of detailing someone's embrace in NYC only to have them move to Boston or wherever? Likewise there is an elder Gangrel who was a lost European explorer abandoned in America who befriend the Indians. But he is from Spanish ship left in Latin America who merely wandered north to New England. Why not make him part of Henry Hudson's crew and tie him directly to that area of New England? It's little things like that that could have greatly improved the book's NPCs.

              4) Too much of its page count was wasted on things that did not add value - an overly long introductory adventure, information on Lupines and Mage, and all of it poorly integrated with how it should impact a vampire game.

              5) The concept of Quentin King being "King Arthur" with a round table of Malkavian knights. It's just bizarre. Not an inherently bad idea, but it seems out of place in New England, and doesn't build on the other themes already present.

              6) How can you have a New England setting and not include the Puritan Witch Hunter Caiaphas Smith from Hunter's Hunted in it?

              The things I liked?

              A) I liked the Ventrue Upton Rowlands, his history of disguising himself as his own relatives, his powerbase out of Yale (but no mention of Skull & Bones secret society!), and his domain covering New Haven and Hartford.

              B) The Gemini League as a social club controlled by vampires who use it as base to conspire against their enemies.

              C) I like the general idea of Warwick's Web as an effective Nosferatu intelligence network over an entire area, just not the story behind it.

              D) Elsa Linden. There was an opportunity here to show how an individual vampire can survive in small towns (since she essentially lives in small artist colonies around the seashore), but be connected to the greater vampire world.

              E) The idea of New England being controlled by the Camarilla, but subjected to ongoing raids by the Sabbat had promise. But we needed more details and history on how these raids worked out, and how the Camarilla defended themselves from it. And why wasn't there one Archon and his gang (like the Wolfpack in CbN) or some group like the Anubi (in MbN) that could punch the Sabbat in the face?

              Some of the other NPCs in the book have promise provided the ST fiddles enough with their history and backgrounds, but overall most of the NPCs are best ignored and replaced with brand new NPCs.

              I have no idea about Boston By Night and can't comment. I don't support V5, and since I find Dark Colony to be a bad product I'm not interested in an update to it. If I ever run my own Vampire game set in New England, I'll raid some ideas that I like in it, but otherwise it'll be 80-90% of my own ideas.
              Last edited by Black Fox; 06-13-2022, 01:59 PM.

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              • #8
                In perfect hindsight, I've long wished the book had talked a lot about what makes New England unique from a storytelling and gothic horror perspective, including influences from the works of Nathanial Hawthorne, HP Lovecraft, and Stephen King and the different themes, moods, and tropes they tended to work with. Some discussion of Boston, but not having it as any sort of main focus (save that for a theoretical Necropolis: Boston book which would've included some crossover material), but more about the web of small towns cities spread across the region, as well as the various swaths of wilderness, and just what that means for the Kindred and their unlives.

                Likewise I'd have enjoyed a similar book about the Deep South/Southern Gothic genre and the Western regions/Western genre. Maybe also the Caribbean and its various fictional genres like Caribbean noir and pirate stories.


                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                • #9
                  Honestly, I remembered that Mithras backed Strathcona, but not the details. The matter is not mentioned in Boston by night, I just quoted it as a similar situation to the elders sent to New England. Supposedly, Mithras wanted to ruled all Great Britain, not only London. In my opinion, the setting it is not barely affected with his name appearing in the book, the plot of the british camarilla attacking the US camarilla and the resulting civil war is the same.

                  Boston by night, with his 97 pages, could be described as an effort to present and introduce new players to Vampire the masquerade (the casual gamers that have bought Swansong), an introduction to the lore of Boston (explaining what are the factions involved), an update of the lore of the last 20 years of the area (a long chapter for Dark colony readers) and a few tools for 5th edition players in form of two datasheets.

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                  • #10
                    I have read again the book, Dark colony, putting special attention to the details mentioned. About 120 pages. This are my bullet points:

                    CONS

                    - Indeed, 12 of the 15 characters with the sheet are foreigners (from Yugoslavia to China), they are there as they could be anywhere, and they do not represent the culture of the history of there in special. Even beyond the british invaders, this is an common trait.

                    - Elders behind everything. This was also very common in 2nd edition and consequently, the agency of the mortals and the neonates in the setting is very low.

                    - Setting disconnected with the current history. This setting is a deliberate anachronism, with the vampires still replaying the secession war, 250 years later. This gave the setting a distinctive mood, but also one that seemed inappropriate. It reminds me to Berlin by night, which seems had nothing more than the WW2.

                    -Overwhelming crossover. In the early editions books the crossover ran rampant, the werewolves had vampires in every book (to hook the vampire players) and the werewolves appeared in the vampire books as a way to promotion the new game. Dark alliance Vancouver, Under a blood red moon, Rage across Russia or Milwaukee by night are other examples of heavy crossover.

                    In this book, as well in many others, the inclusion of the werewolves and the nexus crawler is just unnecessary. Mages appeared as well, and even if they fit in the setting, they are barely explained.

                    -An strange chronicle with a nexus crawler as a final boss, occupies half of the book. The chronicle itself it is not as bad as others in the same era, but neither actually good. I dislike the manicheism with which were the british depicted.

                    -I dislike the six mad-knights and their lore, their shared delirium and the depiction of their disorders is as inaccurate as it was usual in their time.

                    PROS

                    -As many early books, it is fully developed with only 7 major clans. And even if a Gaki made an apparition, it is clearly stated how you can develop a whole setting without the need to include more bloodlines, more powers, more disciplines, more... Lore above rules, here there is not the new clan syndrome.

                    -Some interesting characters and complex relationships. If one thing is detailed and deep in this book is the quantity of conflicted loyalties a character could have: clan, nationalism, sect, motivations. I liked the crossed loyalties and grudges in the triad and also in many characters, as the tremere with the ventrue. I also liked the love plot between the nosferatu spies.

                    -The chronicle is... playable with some changes. It also makes some effort to reflect the power of superstitions and the treacherous loyalties of the area,


                    In conclusion, this could have been a very good book, but it is a flawed book that shows many of the problems of its time. Not only "roleplaying issues", but also from a genre perspective is notably how few are and how are described the women in the book, one a toreador doll, the other a nosferatu hag, and the third a victim raped of the anarch brujah. There are also two minor characters described as tomboy.

                    This book needed and heavy update to be playable in 5th edition and in 2022, in general. And I think that Boston by night was this update.
                    Last edited by Justycar; 06-19-2022, 04:39 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Justycar View Post
                      I have read again the book, Dark colony, putting special attention to the details mentioned. About 120 pages. This are my bullet points:

                      - Setting disconnected with the current history. This setting is a deliberate anachronism, with the vampires still replaying the secession war, 250 years later. This gave the setting a distinctive mood, but also one that seemed inappropriate. It reminds me to Berlin by night, which seems had nothing more than the WW2.
                      Yeah, New England has so much history and culture that plays very well with Vampire's personal and gothic horror themes - the surviving native populations, the French influence in the north, the timber, whaling, and fishing trades, the old mill towns, lighthouses, colleges, places dependent on outsider tourism, recent economic depression, and long stretches of empty wilderness - that the Revolution should almost be just a small sideshow.

                      Likewise, I still can't understand how you do a Vampire book about Berlin in the early 90s and completely ignore both 1920s film and cabarets and the 1970s and 80s music scenes.


                      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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