reviews

Let the Streets Run Red (Vampire: The Masquerade) by Onyx Path Publishing Book Review

Write on: Thu, 22 Oct 2020 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 5829

4.5/5

LET THE STREETS RUN RED by Onxy Path Publishing is a collection of four Chronicles for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition. It is a stretch goal from the 2018 Kickstarter for Chicago by Night 5th Edition, a book detailing the supernatural movers and shakers for the Windy City. Basically, for non-tabletop roleplaying gamers, it's a book of four adventures to play as vampires. I've been waiting for this book for a long time, specifically two years, and I'm extremely excited to finally get to dive into its complicated adventure hooks.

Obviously, you need a copy of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition to run this book and it is set in the modern nights. Fans of previous editions of the game shouldn't have too much difficulty converting the adventures, though. The book makes mention of Touchstones, the Beckoning, and the Second Inquisition but none of these things are strictly essential for running any of the scenarios. Mortals that vampires care about, vampire hunters, and so on are all things that existed in prior editions after all.

The cities of Chicago and Milwaukee reflect changes to the setting but are these are not strictly rules base. Even the inclusion of the Ministry, formerly known as the Followers of Set, doesn't mean too much because this is still the Set-worshiping cult of evil version. Which is all a roundabout way of saying that people who don't like V5 might still get some benefit from picking this up. Even if you don't plan to set your game in the American Midwest, you can definitely use the NPCs and adventures as something to adapt for your home game.

The actual crunch in the book is somewhat limited but not absent either. There's some new Loresheets, some Blood Sorcery rituals, and a collection of interesting NPCs to spice up your chronicle. Fans of the original Forged in Steel characters from way back in 1st Edition will appreciate several of their characters make a return appearance. So do characters from Milwaukee by Night. Let the Streets Run Red is capable of being run as a series of four interlinked adventures but really they strike me as best run as standalone or separate Chronicles. There's no central villain or plotline like the One Ring to link them, just a general setting of the American Midwest. This is probably for the best as it's impressive the writers managed to account for as many roleplaying game possibilities as they did.

Indeed, one of the things that makes the book work is that it's actually like one adventure module and four mini-city books. It gives wide-open sandbox descriptions of haunted village Willerton, vampire police state Milwaukee, cult-ruled Indianapolis, and urban warzone Gary. In a real way, the book just presents the situation and characters before telling the players to do whatever comes naturally. This is probably the best way to make a World of Darkness adventure module.

Thoughts on individual sections:

Blood will Flow (fiction): The Wolf Pack continues to have a surprisingly robust life in fiction with this being a short story about how they were hunted by former Special Forces operative Duncan MacTavish. It has a surprisingly touching ending that reminds you that, sometimes, vampires do care about people other than themselves. I feel like it could have involved the Wolf Pack interacting more with the NPCs of the Chronicle and I would have especially loved seeing them deal with Walter Nash or Evelyn Stephens but you take what you can get.

Power Prey (Chronicle): The player characters Touchstones are being blackmailed by someone who knows they're vampires. The players get recruited by Walter Nash, an eccentrically scummy Ventrue who is in the same boat, to track down the fool. My only regret is Walter is such an engaging character I really wished it was revealed he was behind the whole thing somehow. He really could be the next Lodin or La Croix with how much of an obnoxious yet charming ass he is. I feel like the ending could have used a bit more oomph too. Walter Nash is a lot more interesting an antagonist than "Redwood", who is the actual villain at the end and seems like a discount Jigsaw. Despite this, I loved the fact that it incorporates the Night's Cross from The Chicago Folio. They play only a small role in the chronicle but I hope they'll show up in future supplements as a Midwestern Society of Leopold. Despite my criticisms of the villain, this is probably the best of the Chronicles and the one I will adapt first to my home game.

The Dying Fields (Chronicle): The Children of the Corn, The Wicker Man (original only), and The Shadow over Innsmouth are all stories that depend on a central truism: small town people are evil. I can confirm this is true. We all worship ancient prehuman gods and commit acts of human sacrifice. The player characters find themselves trapped in a small town and, for once, aren't the biggest monsters around. I only wish they'd given some actual stats for the Harvest God, spoiling the mystery or not. I like the premise of this book but I honestly wonder if it will work with the fact the PCs are all horrifying superhuman monsters and the locals are mere mortal humans. Then again, the best part of Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines is the Oceanview Hotel that has you terrified by ghosts despite the fact you're a vampire. If I were to adapt this, I'd probably have the Harvest God contact the PCs and make offers to be their patron. It seems like a good part of any evil god story should be the temptation. I will say I love the NPCs in this one as the central villain is a deranged hippie New Ager and one of the local biker Anarchs is a an instagram influencer.

Innocence in Blood (Chronicle): A rich man's daughter goes to join an evil cult and said rich man hires a group of shady characters to bring her back. Yes, this classic plot to noir private eye classic Conan: The Barbarian by John Milinus. Except this time the rich man is the tyrannical ruler of a nation and the cult is the Followers of Set (wait, that was John Milinus' Conan the Barbarian too). Okay, you're supposed to rescue Prince Decker's childe from the Ministry cult she's joined. I really liked this one because both option suck and the players are stuck between bad choices. There's a lot of NPCs in these two cities from classic supplements of the past and I liked reading how they were updated for 2020. The two cities are also a great contrast with the city of Milwaukee safe for mortals but a hell for Kindred and the opposite in Indianapolis. Loved the update to Milwaukee and write-up for Indianapolis. My problem with this part of the book is the fact that it doesn't really present much in the way of third options like rescuing the girl to take to other Anarchs or how to talk her out of the evil cult she's joined. Still, it's essentially two mini-By Night books so I'm not going to complain too much.

Rusted Jungle (Chronicle): I'm going to admit this is the reason I backed the book. The update for Gary, Indiana is something that I've wanted since Dust to Dust. We've got updates to Allicia, Modius, Evelyn, Juggler, and Maxwell. There's a war going on for the city of Gary and there's a good question whether it's worth the effort from a Kindred perspective. My only regret is I think the climax could have been bigger with maybe a chance to lead your allies to slay the former Prince of Chicago. I liked this storyline because Gary is a classic Vampire: The Masquerade location and this Chronicle provides enough material to play it as a fully-detailed campaign setting. There's plenty of hints here as to the fates of other characters like Danov, Lucian, Sullivan Dane, and Michael but nothing that's 100% finished. I kind of wish this section had been longer since I would have liked full write-ups on them as well. I think Evelyn is a much better Baron of Gary and leader of the Anarchs than Juggler, so I would have also liked some more conflict there. Weirdly, I also wish they'd included the Torch (Allicia's strip club from the Storyteller's Screen adventure) as a setting in Gary since that was the kind of obscure 1st Edition lore I would have liked to have seen updated.

NPCs: This is a great selection for some reasonably stated NPCs. One of the things that previous editions had a problem with was that they were often far too overpowered to be useful. While I think some of the NPCs are too weak in V5, especially with the lack of 6+ Disciplines, these are much more useful for low-to-mid powered game. I also appreciated stat and character updates for both Modius and Juggler despite neither being interacted with in Rusted Jungle. All of the NPCs are interesting with my favorite being Gabriella, a Nosferatu Twitch streamer who is adapting to being a Hound for the Camarilla now. I also felt the updates to both Allicia and Evelyn Stephens were very well done. What's funny is this includes a collection of gamers, instagram followers, and even a LARPer who could easily be a coterie of geeky undead if all assembled together.

Loresheets: Loresheets have been one of my favorite editions of V5 since their implementation. Vampire: The Masquerade has one of the most complex and extensive lores in tabletop gaming and they allow you to become intimately connected to one element or another. I'm glad they included Modius and Juggler as well, though I think 4 points for Juggler as a Malwa is a bit much. I would have appreciated a little more in the way of Gary Loresheets with the fact that their police department is actively hunting vampires being something that I wished a Loresheet reflected. Another "missing" Loresheet that would have been interesting was a vampire connected to the Harvest God. That might not really fit with the Chronicle within as described but is something I would have loved to have seen done up.

Overall, this is a very solid supplement with a lot going for it. The book expands the representation of Vampire: The Masquerade with several LGBT characters and also pays homage to past editions of the game with numerous classic characters being brought into the modern age. The art of the book is gorgeous and really brings a lot of the characters to life. I think my favorite art pieces are Allicia, Modius (who no longer looks like a joke), Evelyn Stephens, and Keisha Phelps who are all things I'd just love to hang on my wall. This isn't a must-have, necessarily, but the adventures are some of the best I've read for the line and ones I'm definitely going to use.

Available here

Last modified on Thursday, 08 April 2021 14:03
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/