Changes in the Anarch and Camarilla Books

As yet another pair of revised PDFs for the Vampire: The Masquerade, 5th Edition sourcebooks Anarch and Camarilla dropped the other day, I found myself wondering what was the list of actual changes. So I googled for it, and found many people wondering the same but no actual list.

So, I pulled up the first-released PDFs and the newest versions alongside them and compared to get the following. This is just a list of additions, removals, and changes in the content. Some of the edits are pretty simple and inconsequential, but others can be read politically. I did not make mention of corrected typos, changes in the artwork, or shifts in layout. Some of the changes I agree with, such as the removal of the Abrek Blight, and some I do not, such as the rewriting of The Gehenna War. On the balance, I’m pretty happy with my uncensored hardcovers. I do appreciate, though, that of the additional cities in the revamped Camarilla, all but one are outside the United States.

It should be noted that in addition to the two that I compared, the original and them most recent one, there exists a third version, which is the quick edits right before going to print. I haven’t looked at them in detail but I think the only major change in those is that Camarilla has had Abrek Blight excised and a bunch of new city entries added to make up the page count. The first print edition does have the original Gehenna War chapter.

I worked by comparing the profile of the the text on two adjacent PDFs, not by close reading. I will have missed stuff, especially in sections of Camarilla where they jiggered the layout and made my technique harder. In such cases I did have to do close reading, but I am but a fallible mortal.

In entries where the pages differ between the two versions, the first page number is the original.

Anarch

pg 1: Additional writing by Steffie De Vaan.

pg 27: Section titled The End of the Dream substantially rewritten to remove references to Central Asia and ambiguity as to whether Oksana refers to lording over humans or Communism itself.

pg 32: Chapter “Damsel wants YOU to join the Anarch Free States” inserted.

pg 40/42: Section “Overpopulation and Suicide” rewritten as “Overpopulation and Wights”. In the original version, it talked about how many newly Embraced Anarchs kill themselves in their first few months of unlife. In the new one, they succumb to the Beast.

pg 66/68: Chapter “Is It OK To Feed Vitae To a Baby?”, a cutting satire on internet’s baby and self-help forums cut away. “Damsel wants YOU to join the Anarch Free States” exists to make up the page count.

pg 104: In the Chapter “The Blood of the Patriots”, paragraph “Here’s a pro-tip: Don’t combine pretending to be human by eating food and drinking from girls who pass out at parties. Being so fucked you puke on your shoes is possible even as one of us, if the conditions are right.” changed to “Here’s a pro-tip: Don’t combine pretending to be human by eating food and drinking from people who’ve been chugging beer all night long.”

pg 114: A third eye removed from the picture of a young woman. Guess no Salubri here, then.

pg 120: In the chapter “A vér hanaja”, title corrected as “A vér hangja”. Two paragraphs in section “The Fate of Humanity” reading:

This is a simple truth: When a mortal breeds true, their blood tastes divine. If it doesn’t, something has gone wrong. Modern medicine has allowed the weak to survive, polluting the gene pool with their hereditary trash, spoiling our hunt in the process.

We must break apart human civilization, separating, radicalizing and regimenting them until only the best and purest blood rises to the surface. The human waste matter with no culinary value will starve out.

to

This is a simple truth: When a mortal feeds on too much processed food and refined sugars, their blood tastes different, wrong. Modern society has weakened most humans, spoiling our hunt in the process.

We must break apart human civilization, separating, radicalizing and regimenting them until they are forced back into an age of hunting and gathering.

pg 127: In the chapter “Electric Vitae Acid Test”, the text “(For extra credits, use the recipe with horse sperm. It’s online, look it up.)” from advice on harassing elders with custard pies.

pg 152: In the section “Caitiff in Vampire Society”, the sentence “All Thinblood are Caitiff, their weak 14-16th generation so diluted (or just different if you want to be politically correct among the unbound) […]” edited to remove the text in parentheses.

pg 157: A sidebar advertising the mobile game Vampire: Prelude has been removed, as the game is no longer being sold.

pg 177: A glyph, presumably of the Ministry, has been added on the photo illustration.

pg 196: Moloch’s Will removed from the Ruins of Carthage loresheet.

Camarilla

pg 1: Additional writing: Khaldoun Khelil.

pg 2: “How to Use This Book” added.

pg 21/23: In the section “The State and humanity, sentence “Tinfoil hats and anti-semitic hate-mongers looking for the fingerprints of “the Illuminati” in early US history will find only traces of night-wars and alliances between creatures unimaginable to their limited faculties.” edited to remove the words “and anti-semitic hate-mongers”.

pg 29/31: In the section “The Ur-Shulgi Cult”, the last paragraph

It is worth noting that the awakening of the Skinless One parallels the growth of extremist interpretations of the Qur’an on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide. His thirst for destruction is shared by many mortals, and in his wake violence rises, tainting the image of Islam (and the Banu Haqim to those who know) in the minds of the West.

was rewritten as

It is worth noting that the awakening of the Skinless One and the schism it sparked within the clan has exposed the fact that we’ve misunderstood them all along, bringing us closer, first to those in the fringes, then to major factions within the clan.

pg 34/36: Chapter: “The Reformed Congregation of the Veneration of the Methuselah”. A couple of lines of context added to the beginning, apparently text that was accidentally omitted from the original.

pg 45/47: Sentence “A subfaction of the Camarilla call themselves the Kindred-Kine Collective, but anyone not of the group refers to them as parasites, or cleavers if we want to be polite” rewritten to “A small but repellent subfaction of the Camarilla has made itself known among the larger body of the sect. Anyone not of the group refers to them as parasites, or cleavers if we want to be polite.”

pg 53-62/55-64: Chapter “The Gehenna War”. Extensively rewritten. In the epigraph, “Elysium is empty of elders, as if a plague had swept over the city, and we ancillae now rule Lisbon as Prince pretenders.” rewritten as “Elysium is almost completely empty of elders, as if a plague had swept over the city, and we ancillae now rule Lisbon as Prince pretenders.”

Victoria Ash’s introduction to the material extensively rewritten. Example: sentence “We all feel the call” replaced with “Many in the Camarilla claim to hear the call, the soi-disant Beckoning.”

The entire timeline has been bumped back by a year, from 2018 to 2017.

A lot of the author’s characterization of the Ashirra has been cut.

Entry for 27.7.2018 set in Ramallah rewritten and relocated to Tunis. I must admit that the removal of the Palestinian connection rankles me. Juhana Pettersson, the author of the chapter, blogged about his own design decisions. Khaldoun Khelil, who did the rewriting, has posted a brief explanation of his own philosophy on his Patreon for backers only.

Entry for 1.8.2018 set in Jerusalem removed.

Entry for 19.9.2017 set in Kabul rewritten to be set in Dubrovnik.

Entry for 3.10.2017 set in Baghdad rewritten to be set in Heraklion.

Entry for 5.10.2017 set in Baghdad rewritten to be set in Khartoum.

A finale set on 31.10.2017 in Venice added.

pg 63-71: Chapter: “The Abrek Blight” removed due to international incident.

Hey Ramzan Kadyrov, is this your cat?

pg 74-68: Credit added to Manfred Vaughn, Steward of Arms. This takes up an entire column and affects the layout of the entire Second Inquisition chapter.

pg 88/84: Flavor text about forcing a Blood Bond on a neonate slightly rewritten.

pg 107/103: Mention of Kowalski majoring in political science removed.

pg 117/113: Entries for the cities of Budapest and Cairo added.

pg 118/115: Entry for Jerusalem added.

pg 119/116: Entry for Miami added.

pg 121/119: Entry for St. Petersburg added.

pg 163-164/161-162: In the section “The Banu Haqim in Mortal Society”, the sentence “It is not racist to admit our clan is predominantly one of many hues.” changed to “Our clan is predominantly one of many hues.”

pg 179: Chapter: The Thin-Blooded. In the sentence “Some pass medical inspections with ease, while others change their gender through strange alchemies using their blood.” changed to “Some pass medical inspections with ease. Others appear to have the ability to change their physiognomy over time.” (Yeah, this was a good change.)

And there we go. I may return later to edit in new material as it turns up.

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All the Stuff I Didn’t Write in 2018

It’s time for my semi-annual “imma write more this year i promise” post. Last year was terrible on so many levels, and though my inability to stick to any kind of posting schedule is kinda eclipsed by the President’s office of Chechnya whining about RPGs, this is at least the kind of thing I can affect personally.

Hey Mr President Ramzan Kadyrov, is this your cat?

Well, in any substantial fashion, at least.

Truth be told, there were a lot of posts that I started and then never finished, or that never made it past the outline stage, or that I promised but never even began to write. It’s been an exhausting year and news, gaming and otherwise, make the entire genre of horror fiction feel redundant. Writing about anything of substance – and a lot of perfectly inconsequential things – feels like it carries with it an invitation for abuse from a myriad of online cesspits.

But hey, illegitimi non carborundum. So here’s a turn-of-the-year listing of the ten most interesting posts that never made it off the drawing board but actually really should have, cut down into a couple of paragraphs instead of the nuanced 2,000 words most of them would deserve.

Delta Green Has Aged… Poorly

First of all, let it be known that I love Delta Green. The first edition and Delta Green: Countdown are some of the finest gaming books ever written, and especially Countdown keeps getting named as the best ever. It’s not entirely undeserved. The idea of a conspiracy of agents within the American law enforcement, intelligence, and military organizations fighting against the gribbly things of the Cthulhu Mythos was a really great idea. In the 90s.

The problem with this is, of course, that we’re no longer in the 90’s. The cultural touchstones for FBI agents and American special forces is no longer The X-Files and Hollywood action films. Nowadays it’s Guantanamo Bay, and Seal Team 6’s war crimes, Black Lives Matter, NSA Director Keith Alexander’s megalomania, and a drone strike after drone strike. While as a game DG2E is very good, where it falls down for me is in its lack of acknowledgement that as a member of these organizations the PCs themselves or their superiors at the very latest are very likely complicit or directly guilty of some pretty terrible crimes. JSOC isn’t a heroic background, it’s what you should be fighting against. And it really doesn’t help that Tcho-Tchos are nowadays a legitimate and recognized ethnic minority in the United States with their own anti-racism initiative.

This post actually did make it out into the world, in the surface-scratch form of a review I wrote for PlayLab!

I Was a Magic Newspaperman

Professor Rabasse. Photo by Przemysław Jendroska.

I played at College of Wizardry again, bringing back my character from College of Wizardry: The Challenge. This time around, Étienne Rabasse was a hotshot young journalist attached to a visiting lecturer position at Czocha College, which meant that I did the school paper again.

This post, if it ever sees the light of day, would be a practical look at churning out several issues of a fake broadsheet during a larp, what the benefits are for the game, how to make the on-site production as painless as possible, and perhaps a different alternatives to how it could be made. I will not even attempt a summary, and to be honest, it’s more likely to be in a future KP book than here, because it’s also going to be rather more rigorous work than my usual word-noodling here and possibly even deserves the dead-tree treatment.

As an entirely tangential side note, I will be playing Professor Rabasse for the third time at College of Wizardry 20 in April. I will not do the newspaper.

Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition – Twelve Hangry Men

I bought and played the fifth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade. I liked it, especially the Hunger Dice and how they drive the game onwards. I also like the recommendation that combats are played for three rounds and the ended the way things were going. Fighting was always the least interesting bit of Vampire for me. I like the graphic design, though admittedly a part of that is because some of the images are from the 2016 run of the larp End of the Line, which I played.

I also like the Anarch and Camarilla books, except for the Chechnya chapter which really is badly written, though in my opinion if it offends Ramzan Kadyrov that he’s depicted as a bloody-handed tyrant in thrall to a greater power he really should stop oppressing his own people and donate his collection of Vladimir Putin t-shirts to Goodwill or something.

I think the ruleset in general is superior to the older version, and the advances in metaplot and slight rewriting of things make for a more playable setting. Tremere are allowed to do cool shit without being immediately dusted by their superiors. The major sectarian conflict being now Camarilla vs. Anarchs feels like both sides are playable much more than the former Camarilla vs. Sabbat. I’m kinda on the fence about the Second Inquisition, but it’s very versatile in how it can be played.

I backed the Chicago by Night kickstarter. I’m looking forward to future releases, though if Modiphius is really not going to make Camarilla and Anarch available after the preorders are done, that is a shame.

And though the current incarnation of White Wolf made some definite missteps in PR and marketing, their stewardship also saw the production of a Vampire larp in the European Parliament.

Living Greyhawk Ten Years Later

The Living Greyhawk organized play campaign ended ten years ago. The campaign saw the release of over 2,000 adventure modules in its eight years of existence, and it was magnificent. Sometimes it was terrible, sometimes weird, often clunky, but always fun. It was a baroque creation that ran away from its creators as the regional triads started creating their own regional identities and the players took plotlines in unexpected directions. It was simultaneously a marketing scheme and an enormous, unique co-creative work of art. Nothing has approached it since – Pathfinder Society and Adventurers’ League are both too firmly in the leash.

We shall never see its like again, and it should not be forgotten.

I did write a post about Living Greyhawk for Loki, but of course, the language barrier applies.

Fairweather Manor Revisited

I also played at Fairweather Manor. Again. Whereas my last game was mostly serious except when it a scene out of P.G. Wodehouse intruded, somewhat political, and somewhat removed from the scheming of the aristocracy, this time was the complete opposite.

My character was Patrick “Jack” Hennessy, the firstborn son of the Duke’s black sheep brother. He was born in Hong Kong, lived there for most of his life and was stuck in England because of the war along with his younger sister Ginny. He was essentially an entitled brat with no sense of consequence but all the privilege. He was also Buddhist, and Orientalist in a somewhat insipid culturally-appropriative way, and wrote letters to his Chinese mistress in Hong Kong. I folded them all text-side outwards and gave them to servants with the instructions to mail them to Hennessy House in Hong Kong, they’ll know what to do with them. They were signed “Your Monkey, Jack.”

It’s a testament to the robustness of design that what for me in one run was a serious and emotional experience, in another run was transformed into an upstairs-downstairs comedy while still allowing other people to play the experiences they sought. Partly this is due to the sheer size of the game, partly because having a fully realized character also allows you to step into more – or less – serious play when someone else’s game requires it.

This is another game I will be revisiting in 2019. Having played two of the three male pacifist characters in the game, I thought I’d go for an officer.

We did some fencing. Photo by Kamil Wędzicha.

War of Agaptus: Fate of Ashes Review

This is actually something I was supposed to do over a year ago, but a computer malfunction ate around a thousand words of text, and I was too pissed off to continue, and then it was just one distraction after another in real life, around the same time as my output here generally petered out. I’ve returned to the review now and then to noodle around with it, but I’d really need to re-read the book to do it with the proper depth. So here’s the short version.

War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a new [okay, was new] fantasy role-playing game from Evil Hat. Like most of the company’s games, it’s got FATE System purring gently under the bonnet.

The lead designer on the project is Sophie Lagacé. Fate of Agaptus is actually based on a pair of miniature wargames from ZombieSmith, called Shieldwall and Shieldbash. To capitalize on an existing miniatures range, Fate of Agaptus contains a more detailed combat system, involving the use of those miniatures. The book itself is 370 pages long.

The setting is an early Medieval fantasy that eschews the D&D cast of fantasy races and instead presents the four factions: Elvorix, Vidaar, Jarl, and Kuld. The Elvorix are a formerly great civilization now in decline, the Vidaar are an aggressive offshoot of the same race that are raiders and pirates, the Jarl are militarist expansionists, and the Kuld are beastly creatures that are coming down from the north to eat everyone. The sun is growing dim and the inhabitable area of the world is growing smaller, driving everyone to fight for resources. The game calls its aesthetic grimsical. It’s The Muppets in the ranks of The Black Company.

The setting is designed for a wargame and unsurprisingly there’s a lot of combat rules. Some of the stuff adds on to the standard FATE set, such as the froth phase in combat, a cultural feature of the world, where the warriors psych themselves up and try to intimidate their enemies before the bloody business starts. There are occasional asides where the writer highlights this or that thing and explains why it works the way it does, which I like.

Overall, it’s a cool game and executed well, but the setting has a very specific aesthetic that will inevitably divide opinion. Definitely worth a look.

Just a Little Lovin’: A Larp About AIDS and the 80s

In June, I played in the Finnish run of Just a Little Lovin’. It is a larp about the AIDS crisis in the USA, and is set over three consecutive 4th of July parties from 1982 to 1984.

It was one hell of a larp. I have never had my emotions manipulated with such deftness and elegance. It is a larp about friendship, love, and death. It’s regularly described as a life-changing experience. I can likely never hear Dusty Springfield’s “Just a Little Lovin'” or Dolly Parton’s version of “Star-Spangled Banner” without a part of me returning to the yard outside Mr T’s summer retreat, saluting a flag as Dennis, a veteran of Vietnam and a member of a free love commune. It’s weird to miss people who are not real. It was a deeply emotional, sad, sometimes sexy game with the warmest, kindest, most supporting player community around it that I have been a part of. 

I’ve had several abortive attempts to write about it but trying to unpack the staggering complexity of the larp and my personal experience feels like a daunting task. There’s a book about the 2013 Danish run of the game available as a free download, and I feel like explaining everything I have to say would probably take another. And then I always have to answer the question of who the hell am I even to tell this story? I belong to none of the communities hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic. It is emphatically a story that I have no ownership of. It’s a question that occupied me even about the game itself, and throwing up a wall of text about it on my blog is something I’ve yet to find the confidence to do. 

Just a Little Lovin’ will be run in the UK in the summer of 2019. Signup is now open. The photos on that site are all from the Finland run, incidentally, if you want to see what it looked like.

In Memoriam – Greg Stafford

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the passing of one of the greats of the field. Greg Stafford was the father of Glorantha and creator of King Arthur Pendragon. It’s one of my favourite games even though I’ve only managed to play it a couple of times. Stafford’s grasp of mythology was tremendous, and the influence of his work runs through the DNA of many modern role-playing games.

I never met him, though I did see him in passing when he was at Ropecon many years ago. Unfortunately, I had yet to discover Pendragon at the time.


Hell of a year. I have plans for 2019, but they warrant their own post.