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Beckett's Jyhad Diary (Vampire: The Masquerade)

Write on: Sat, 29 Sep 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 1013

VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE remains the most influential of all tabletop roleplaying games in my life and is pretty much under DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS for influence on the world as a whole. The Blade Trilogy, Underworld, True Blood, Dark, Vampyr, and a huge number of other works were all influenced by it. Recently, Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition came out and electrified the fanbase. However, 5E didn't cover what a lot of people most remember about the game: the metaplot.

Metaplot for those unfamiliar with it is basically an ongoing story carried from book supplement to book supplement. In, say, Book 1# you'd meet a character called Lucita who is a vampire assassin and in Book 2# she'd show up again, only to be on the run from her sire and in Book 15# we'd find out she'd killed her sire. The metaplot of the vampire books covered everything from the oncoming vampire apocalypse, a war between vampire secret societies, conflict with Asian vampires, and who ruled what cities.

The problem with metaplot was that it often disrupted people's games. If you were playing your home game, the sudden discovery 1/13th of the vampire race was destroyed by a magical order to kill yourself was kind of a big deal. At least if you cared about fitting in with official material (and if you didn't then future supplements would be worthless). It also often set up huge dramatic plot points then completely dropped them. A 6000 year old vampire wakes up in the Middle East, declares jihad on all non-believers in the Blood God, and then is never heard from again.

BECKETT'S JYHAD DIARY is a chronicle of virtually every single metaplot raised by the gameline from the conflicts in Milwaukee (yes, seriously) to the attempt to unearth the tomb of a 2nd generation vampire (that's a big deal). For about a decade, V:TM was a dead line in publication and all of these plots were put on hold. This basically brings them to the present and gives the Storyteller some idea how to use them. It also uses an excellent framing device in Beckett to tell the story of how all these things may go down.

One of the most endearing characters about the V:TM setting was Beckett. Beckett was a sarcastic vampire archaeologist who traveled around the world, looking in dark tombs and crumbling castles for the secrets of vampire history. I'd always felt he was a better signature character for the Gangrel clan than the somewhat generic Ramona but I suppose we needed a Neonate somewhere. Basically, vampire Indiana Jones, Beckett was used by supplements to talk about vampire stuff in-universe. This book is a chronicle of his year-long traversal around the globe, finding out absolutely everything there is to know about these plots.

Beckett's journey is hilarious as he goes from meeting one angry godlike elder vampire to another and never fails to tick them off with his attitude. He's completely fearless and more than a little stupid in the way he snarks at beings who could crush him with a single fist. Beckett gets nearly killed more than a dozen times and inexplicably always gets rescued, only to plunge into another insane situation. At one point, he's possessed by the Antediluvian (big deal vampire) underneath Jerusalem and another, he's made into Dracula's bride (yes, seriously). Only a few chapters aren't entertaining just for the ridiculousness of his situation.

There's one serious downside, though. This book is going to be completely incomprehensible for anyone who is not a Rhodes Scholar of Vampire: The Masquerade. I'm talking 5 Dots of Occult: Vampire: The Masquerade specialization with maybe a few dots of Lore as well. If that doesn't make any sense to you, then you should stop reading because you're already well outside of this book's target audience. I'm pretty incredibly well-versed in V:TM trivia and know the setting only slightly less than I know Star Wars' Expanded Universe--which I could get a doctorate in. Here, there were chapters I was going, "Who, what, when, where, how? Is this a new character? Who is making these annotations? What book was this in?"

My knowledge of setting trivia actually worked against me in some places because the book wasn't afraid to retcon and change things at will. Ur-Shulgi didn't awaken in 1999, no, he might be awakening now. The Anarch Free States are back after being apparently destroyed, conquered, and restored with nary a Cathayan in sight. Again, if you have no idea what that's about then this isn't the book for you because this is a story which includes references to books I think sold like 30 copies as major plot points.

It is a grand guginol of fanservice with people I never expected to show up, showing up again and references ranging from Necropolis: Atlanta's vampires to city supplements on Carthage (destroyed millennia before any edition of the game is set) and Constantinople. I loved the heavy focus on fan-favorites like Lucita, Jan Pieterzoon, Anatole, and others, though. It also canonizes video games Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines and Redemption as part of the mainstream universes.

Favorite moments of the book that will make sense only to fans of the series

* A return to Chicago to find out what the hell has been going on there for 20 years after Chicago by Night 2nd Edition.
* Lucita stealing Beckett's plane for an emergency trip to Montreal.
* Beckett getting a car ride from the "tutorial on how to make a character" Malcolm the drug addicted vampire vigilante.
* An Anarch Tremere faction led by a feminist revolutionary.
* An obnoxious stenographer rewriting an angry meeting with Beckett and Jan Pieterzoon as yaoi fanfiction.
* The return to life of Marcus Vitel, one of the setting's most over-the-top brilliant villains.
* Lucita getting her character fixed after the hatchet job of the Clan Novel: Lasombra trilogy. I am uncomfortably obsessed with this character.
* The aforementioned canonizing of the video games.
* The fact they actually manage to replicate Cristof the vampire knight's incredibly obnoxious Shakespearian speech patterns.
* Ecaterina the Wise getting back some of her mojo.
* Acknowledging that Carthage was simultaneously a center of ancient glory and kind of a horrible bunch of child burners.
* The appearance of Helene (of Troy) in all her horrific ancient glory.
* Victoria Ash managing the Succubus Club. It's so brilliant, I'm surprised I didn't think of it.
* The Ravnos are no longer extinct but aren't Romani stereotypes anymore either.
* Rebekah the Chicago Monitor explaining the Inconnu and Golconda are not nearly as weird as people think, making them actually usable in-game.
* The whole Dracula section where Beckett drops all his usual snark because he's genuinely unsettled.
* Anatole! Back alive and as crazy-sane as ever.
* Mithras possessing Coven and actually making some interesting twists on it.
* The True Hand are nicely re-imagined as those crazy cult guys from Indiana Jones protecting all the torporous elders.
* The Setites joining the Camarilla.
* The Cappadochians back on their feet.
* The Laibon (African vampires) getting a seat at the big boy's table. Ditto the Ashirra (Middle Eastern vampires).
* Vykos and Beckett being forced to work together.
* The great analysis of how to use Signature Characters in game.
* The also great analysis of how the various editions were themed, including how each treated sex and sensuality. Revised being, "Eww." Hehe.

There are some mistakes in the book, like the fact Cristof is reported as dying during the events of V:TM:R despite the fact he's alive and talking to Beckett throughout the chapter. The fact they name Kevin Jackson as Prince of Chicago when we know he's not in 5E Chicago by Night (it may not be a mistake depending on how they write him up). There's also the fact the book is already outdated by 5E with major events of that book's opening completely uncovered by this despite the book having some allusions to it. I really wish they'd managed to insert a scene about the Second Inquisition, the Anarch takeover of Berlin, and the assassination of Hardestadt the Younger by Theo Bell at the end. Then again, the book is already a mind-numbing 500 pages so I understand why they didn't. Still, we needed like a metaplot update for what's already a metaplot update.

Which is a shame.

The book is beautiful with fantastic art and many wonderful hidden homages, winks, nudges, and excellent game advice. It's extremely well-written but I actually think, in retrospect, it's many met Kickstarter goals may have hurt it a bit. The book has some bloat in it that I think might have benefited from splitting it into two products (say, Beckett's Jyhad Diary Volume 1# and Beckett's Jyhad Diary Volume 2#). I found the whole, "The Sabbat try to take credit for 9/11" plotline to be in horrendously poor taste despite it being less than one chapter and the fact it's stated to be an overt lie by Archbishop Polonia. I also had difficulty reading the handwriting of some of these Elders, which is problematic in a supplement. Still, it's probably my second favorite of all time supplement after Chicago by Night 1st Edition.

9/10

Last modified on Saturday, 10 November 2018 21:57
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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