The Introduction opens with a glowing recommendation for the 'open development' style of writing game books, where developers, writers and players kick ideas around in discussion forums as the book is written. This book was created in such a style, it's testimony to its effectiveness. Many 'companion' books consist of material that had to be cut from the core rulebook to keep the beast to a manageable size, but from the outset that was not the intent with the V20 Companion. Instead it presents options and setting information, and a fair bit more.
Chapter 1: Titles deals with social structure and titles of honour and position used in vampire society - given that vampires tend to be a proud and acquisative bunch who will grab any opportunity to lord it over others, you can guess that they are very fond of titles. It all goes back to mediaeval days (or before) and those ancient vampires who remember those days feel right at home... more modern vampires can find it all quite stultifying and frustrating (especially, of course, when they are at the bottom of the heap!). Yet titles imply order and rules and without them there would be chaos - herding vampires being a bit like herding cats. This chapter is deliberately rules-light due to player feedback during the development process, but there is sufficient structure to help you work it all out to good effect. Titles are generally conferred by a more senior vampire, but there are options to handle them like backgrounds and spend experience points to gain them or use them as status benefits. It's best if there are story reasons for that shiny new title however the character actually acquired it, though! Many titles carry duties and responsibilities, which can make for some interesting plot lines. There's a survey of the different titles to be found in various sects and more, a towering and confusing array made mostly clear... and yes, even Anarchs have titles.
Next, Chapter 2: Prestation discusses the whole process of trading, repaying, and incurring favours - the very essence of vampire interactions. Everyone does favours and owes them in a dizzying web that's in part based on trust (between vampires?) that favours will ultimately be repaid. Reneging on a favour owed is a quick way to get into deep trouble real fast, yet sometimes impossible conflicts arise: what if someone you owe a life debt to is declared target of a Blood Hunt? You aren't excused from the Hunt, but it is also very bad form to ignore the fact you owe him a life. Oathbreakers are the worst of low-unlives, so to speak. Moreover, favours can be traded, just as commercial debts are sold on in the real world - so a vampire may find himself owing a favour not to the person who did him one but someone else entirely. It's all part of the mad, intense, social status games vampires play all the time. Fascinating, and replete with plot potential.
In Chapter 3: Kindred and Technology we get to look at how vampires, who have often been around quite a while, cope with the march of modern technology. Consider how much technology has changed since Vampire: The Masquerade appeared in 1991... you carry more computing power in your pocket than an Apollo spacecraft, and my job as an e-learning specialist hadn't even been dreamed of! It was so much easier to conceal being a vampire without social media or international travel and many other things we take for granted. A wealth of ideas and concepts are discussed here, all with an eye to enhancing the story you're telling, of course.
Finally, Chapter 4: A World of Darkness takes a look at several notable locations that have significance for vampires. Scattered around the world, these may serve as background, places worthy of a passing visit or become central to your chronicle.
And then there's an Appendix: Director's Cut. This contains material dropped from the V20 Companion during the development process and is provided partly as an interesting footnote and partly because some people might like to use it, even if the majority opinion was set against.
Overall, a wealth of fascinating, if a bit disparate, material to dip into and use to enhance your game as you see fit.
Return to V20 Companion page.
Reviewed: 14 June 2016