The Chicago Folios (Vampire: The Masquerade) by Onyx Path Publishing Book Review

Write on: Sun, 16 Feb 2020 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 3003


THE CHICAGO FOLIOS is one of two supplements successfully added as Kickstarter stretch goals for the wildly successful CHICAGO BY NIGHT 5E for VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE. Chicago by Night 5th Edition updated the famous city supplement to the year 2018 and  brought substantial changes to the Windy City. Furthermore, it had a wonderful effect on games as a whole as like the web series LA BY NIGHT by Jason Carl, it illustrated to many fans how the new setting was supposed to work on practice. We understood how the Camarilla, Anarchs, Elders, and Neonates were meant to interact in a post-Gehenna War world.

The Chicago Folios is best described as a book of adventure hooks. It also has a number of NPC write-ups and Loresheets but is primarily a book designed to give you a bunch of ready-to-run short stories if you don't have any ideas for the evening. These aren't full Chronicles like "The Sacrifice" in or even "Baptism by Fire" but a rough outline of a story as well as three or four ideas on how it could end. There were dozens of these in the back of Chicago by Night 5E and I very much enjoyed them all.

The adventure hooks are, for the most part, fairly low stakes. These are not adventures about admitting the Lasombra in the Camarilla but more like settling the individual fates of one vampire or another. Sometimes, they're not even that like a hook based around helping an Ancilla turn an empty building into a new Elysium. But if house flipping isn't your idea of what a dark creature of the night should be up to, there's still plenty of solid hooks like resolving the issue of Gengis' "Anarch List" and dealing with a group of Thin Blooded murderers who are engaged in Blood Bank robberies that threaten the Masquerade.

Indeed, I think the best adventures of this are the ones that designed to be run in a single night with a beginning, middle, and end. Some of the adventures benefit from being more a premise than anything else. "The Black Rose Society" is a group of Toreador who are engaged in cannibalism of Thin Bloods among other horrific Ashwood Abbey (see Hunter: The Vigil) Sabbat-esque decadence. The only solution for humane Kindred is to burn the place down but this is going to make them a huge number of enemies. The Second Inquisition stories show horrifying Nazi-like experiments taking place alongside them trying to stop genuinely monstrous Kindred.

I think it's very possible to also combine a lot of these adventure hooks into a Chronicle that is quite exciting if you work at it. Multiple vampire plots occurring simultaneously can substitute for a larger storyline in the background or add to one as we see in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. You can also combine all of the tiny little plots into one big one.

In addition to the adventure hooks, there's a good number of awesome NPCs spread throughout the book. These include some old favorites like the Wolf Pack, Al Capone, and Shejana as well as a totally new cast of characters. I especially liked Arden Canty, the Priest of Caine who has recently moved to Chicago after defecting from the Sabbat and losing faith in its due to its atrocities. I do have a minor complaint that Joshua Tarponski (a.k.a Blackjack) receives a stat write-up but not a full character write-up with his history, plans, and associations. I feel like he's  character who deserved a full write-up.

Much to my surprise, this book ties into CULTS OF THE BLOOD GODS and includes the addition of The Church of Caine, Church of Set, Cult of Mithras, Ashfinders, the Bahari, and a new weird cult devoted to a severed tongue among its adventure hooks. I felt a scene where a Bahari member compares Caine to Ted Bundy was a bit ridiculous since they worship a goddess who kills pregnant women but that's on me. There's a few characters who didn't quite land with me, including one who attempts to interpret the Camarilla through a patriarchy lens that I feel undermines characters like Helena and the Sybil. Really, the world of V:TM should be a bit of a refuge from real life struggles as we're all united in our disdain for the real inferiors of our society: humans.

The big benefit of this book is that it actually gives some solid answers on things that have been asked by players since the new line started: including the state of the Sabbat and the status of the Ravnos. According to this book, the Sabbat in North America have collapsed and no longer are holding territory. They have since been reduced to terrorist cell-based groups engaged in campaigns of sick mind games. One of the best bits of in-game fiction is a suicide note from a man completely broken by exposure to the "new" Sabbat. The new Sabbat are pretty much the old Sabbat but their horrifying treatment of mortals is now being treated seriously. No longer are they the Leatherface, Hydra, and Joker sect so much as the Ed Gein, ISIS, and John Wayne Gacy sect. As for the Ravnos, character Shejana is now treated as Caitiff with saying her clan is now gone in what is either the Week of Nightmares or a second traumatic event. Chimestry is also replaced with either Dominate, Obfuscate, or both.

There's a selection of new Loresheets in the book including Descendant of Menele, the Convention of Chicago [for Camarilla characters], and a few others. I feel like there's a missed opportunity here as there ren't many Anarch Loresheets and they had their own section. A Maldavis and Anita Wainwright Loresheet would have been appropriate here. I really loved the Goblin Roads Loresheet, though, as I did a short story about a Psychopomp in Darkened Streets. The book finally ends with a bunch of Tremere rituals adapted for 5th Edition and I feel these are desperately needed for anyone who wants to play a mage.

The art in this book is incredible. I loved the art in Chicago by Night 5E and felt it was a great improvement over the edgy photo-quality images of the main book. The Chicago Folios steps it up a notch, though, and many of the pictures tell actual stories. Really, I think this book is great and a solid 4 star entry into the World of Darkness' libraries.

Available here

Last modified on Sunday, 05 April 2020 21:21
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.