[Adventure] The Giovanni Chronicles I – The Last Supper
Daniel Greenberg (White Wolf)
“Die, monster! You don’t belong in this world!”
“It was not by my hand that I’m once again given flesh. I was called here by humans who wish to pay me tribute.”
“Tribute?! You steal men’s souls and make them your slaves!”
“Perhaps the same could be said of all religions.”
“Your words are as empty as your soul! Mankind ill needs a savior such as you!”
“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk! Have at you!”
– Richter Belmont vs Dracula, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
In response to a challenge offered to your humble host I have gone boldly forth and ventured into the murky abyss that lies beyond the golden isles of the OSR, delving deep into forgotten depths best left undiscovered. A British officer with a trackball by the name of Jon has suggested I check out the Giovanni Chronicles, a tetraology of adventures for Vampire the Masquerade and provide him with my take on it, has generously provided me with the required source material in question and that, as they say, was that.
A quick primer for the slow and the uninitiated: Vampire the Masquerade is a 90s era horror roleplaying game made by White Wolf that gained immense popularity at its height, eclipsing that of TSR at some point, before mercifully dwindling after the goth era passed on into well-deserved obscurity. It’s supposed focus is on exploring deep, mature themes, personal horror and roleplaying as opposed to vulgar dungeoncrawling and other such proletarian pastimes. I consider it vaguely ridiculous for its pretentious style , pseudo-artistic aspirations, incoherent game design, prissy fan-base and the insane railroadery nature of its adventures that actually bled over into Dnd adventures, though I would be lying if I said I considered it entirely without merit. In short, VtM has a philosophy to gaming that is almost diametrically opposed to that of myself.
Before I start this review I think it would be best if I established a baseline of my familiarity with Vampire the Masquerade and other World of Darkness games so it is possible to get an idea of the value of my perspective. So first and foremost let me begin by confessing here and now that I ACTUALLY PLAYED WORLD OF DARKNESS GAMES ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. It never went beyond 1-2 sessions because of either the lethargy of the GM or the scheduling conflicts but I have known people that claimed to have played in extended campaigns (particularly of Mage the Awakening, an even MORE pretentious personal horror game that attracted players that were EVEN WORSE). I have read the Vampire the Masquerade 20th anniversary edition and have a basic understanding of the system and the setting and in preparation for this adventure I opened a tab to the White Wolf Wiki and read the Giovanni Sourcebook (1st edition) so I would have a working understanding of the principal actors and the plot. In order to make this review somewhat digestible to those so blessed as to be unfamiliar with the Vampire the Masquerade Universe I will add notes here and there to clarify certain matters.
The Giovanni Chronicles are 4 linked adventures that are concerned with the struggle against the Giovanni, an insular bloodline of vampires necromancers that secretly plot to breach the barriers between the world of the living and the afterlife so as to gain dominion over all existence. It is published under the Black Dog label, which was a line of products with an (even more) mature and gritty edge to them meant for advanced and mature role-players, whatever the hell that means. The adventures form a mini-campaign in and of themselves and are meant to be played sequentially.
The Last Supper takes place in April 4, 1444* near the Carpathian Wilderness and takes about 10 pages to explain itself and give you enough backstory so you at least vaguely understand the plot, before diving right into the adventure proper. Its subject matter concerns a major event in the lore of the VtM Universe; the genesis of the Giovanni clan as one of the major Bloodlines** via the Diablerie** of their legendary sire***, Cappadocius. The plot is quite complex and has a fucktonne of backstory, a staple of VtM, with a cast of NPCs that all have their own conflicting motivations and history. Cappadocius and his undead progeny are concerned with the study of the boundary between life and death, and after consulting Gnostic texts, Necromantic lore and fragments of the Book of Nod he has concocted a ritual to essentially diablerize God and grant everlasting life to all creatures, mortal and vampire and thereby lift the curse of Vampirism. Augustus Giovanni, Venetian Necromancer turned Cappadocian vampire, seeks to diablerize his Sire and take control of the Cappadocian line via a conspiracy with several elder vampires of different clans known as the Conspiracy of Isaac. The plot thickens to Dune-like levels of intricacy with the addition of a third group, the Founders, a band of elder Vampires that seek to unite the factitious Vampire clans into a unified front in order to combat the recent wave of rebellious young vampires that seek to cast off the yoke of their immortal progenitors and the growing power of the Inquisition respectively. The Founders have a relatively convoluted agenda as the murder of Cappadocius would bring the normally scholarly Cappadocians under the influence of the far more pragmatic Giovanni faction and thus make them more amendable while the death of Cappadocius and his follower Japheth would provide a justification for an alliance between major clans and the formation of what is essentially a Vampire EU. A magic super gypsy vampire serves as a type of magical minority that foresees the dangers of this coming clash and seeks to prevent it via the PCs. Fortunately for her, the linearity of this adventure means she does not have much to fear on that account.
But before we get into snarking heavily, I should focus on some additional recommendations we get in this 15 page long introduction. This adventure can be adapted for LARPING, just in case you thought the mere act of playing Vampire the Masquerade was not embarrassing enough in and of itself, while also dwelling on the fact that in this adventure, the players CAN in fact choose with which side they want to ally, something that is apparently so alien to the mindset of White Wolf that it must be spelled out. The adventure also makes use of some ‘advanced storytelling techniques’ by giving the players control over some of the supporting cast during their own incarceration and interrogation, a decision that is meant to somewhat ameliorate a long ass section where the PCs are powerless and are getting interrogated one by one in the manner of an ignorant surgeon ameliorating the symptoms while leaving the disease untreated. It ends with a note on the themes of the game (personal responsibility) and notes on Mood that are so vague and general as to be almost useless. You must evoke a mood of Grandeur and Decay! Operatic majesty and even religious awe! Players should feel as though they are part of a vast and grandiose play.
This is incidentally a major difference in philosophy between the effete VtM would-be thespians and the finger-sniffing OSR troglodytes. This adventure is focused very much on the facilitation of roleplaying and seems to consider the very act a worthy pursuit in itself, not an enjoyable means of reaching a goal. If roleplaying is the essential icing on the delicious cake of OSR games in VtM the very purpose of the game seems to be to facilitate this roleplaying, with game-like elements often included almost like an afterthought. This is incidentally why I do not balk at my relatively sparse knowledge of VtM’s leveling system because stats are very often irrelevant in this adventure.
The adventure proper is divided into three Acts, like the play it seeks to emulate
Act I: The Art of Fine Dining.
All PCs begin as mortals. The purpose of the first act is to transition them from dung-covered medieval ragamuffins to nail-polish wearing sulking vampires in the most drawn out, stylistic manner imaginable. This section was by far the most shocking to me because it contains virtually no significant decisions, which was disappointing. It does a good, one can almost say obsessive, job of building up atmosphere and there are SOME decisions that have an effect on the rest of the adventure but they are nuggets of gameplay in an ocean of fluff.
The decision to have players pick a vampire bloodline first and then play as mortals with any vampiric abilities essentially on hold for the time being is an erroneous one in my opinion because it removes any sense of peril from the adventure by already firmly establishing that the character in question will be embraced by a Vampire of the bloodline he has selected. What the adventure should have done is to order the PCs to make a group of mortals and have the GM (called the Storyteller because Dungeon Master is the vulgar rank of the dungeoncrawling proletariat unbecoming of an adherent of the New School of Serious Storytelling Experience that is Vampire the Masquerade) secretly decide which Vampire will “embrace”***** him, or just play it out and let fate and interaction decide if he deems it will not be too time-consuming.
The characters in this serious operatic drama meet…at an inn. They, alongside NPCs of all walks of life (forming the inauspicious number of 13 in total) have been invited to the mansion of Lord Giovanni for a grand feast. The scene is specifically set up so everyone can get in character, which is not a bad idea, and does both foreshadowing and significant gameplay by introducing the fanatical Brother Clement who will rave about Lord Giovanni’s evil reputation, the injured Crusader Paul who seeks employment with the Giovanni household and asks the players to intercede on his behalf and the Ghoul ****** servants Lothar and Roderigo and even the magic gypsy lady that will turn up later on. Everyone is given roleplaying hints and there are several scripted lines that must take place to build up the evil reputation of the Giovanni and the fact Lothar the ghoul steward is a total creep that smells and licks the hands of the people he meets and mutters about feasts and savory inner qualities. If you try to help out poor Paul you will actually get him as a Ghoul servant later on in the story, while snubbing him just to be a dick will get you nothing. This is the only significant action the PCs can take at this time, but as foreshadowing it is not too bad. There is an instance where the PCs must pass some sort of test to gain certain information but since the information is mostly atmospheric I see no reason why you couldn’t simply tell one of the PCs, unless it was to maintain the illusion of interactivity, something which VtM is very adamant about.
The railroading unwittingly leads to hilarity. If the PCs attempt to escape the Inn and avoid the dinner party (and they have to be total assholes to do that, seriously watch out for anyone who does a chimp-out at this stage on how ‘his character has no motivation to go to the party.’ Nip that shit in the bud right then and there) they get captured and brought to the party to wake up at the dinner later on. That one is understandable. However, if they treat Lothar like shit they can actually find themselves snootily uninvited and subsequently kidnapped to wake up at the dinner table, which cracks me up.
After the introduction, the characters face a wall of description as they ride up to the Giovanni mansion, complete with tombstones in the gardens, crucified locals in the woods and stone gargoyle faces on the walls. There is a point where the PCs arrive at a door and Rodrigo (the Ghoul coachman who turns out to be a secret spy for the Founders later on) knocks on a door but it does not open, and the GM is meant to rack up the tension by asking the PCs what they do and so and so forth, and there is another opportunity to gain Rodrigo’s trust, which has NO MECHANICAL BENEFITS OR TRUE STORYLINE IMPACT unless the GM decides otherwise. The section takes for fucking ever to reach the point where the PCs can actually interact with other objects, and the use of the fake tension ramp-up, while good at retaining the attention and atmosphere, is another example of patching over what should not be there in the first place.
Anyway, the invisible walls are up in full, and several guards with crossbows make it obvious there will be no escaping by the power of GM fiat. Every detail of the mansion that contributes to the atmosphere is described like a Russian novel until eventually the characters are introduced to the Lord Giovanni and his 12 other fucking elder vampire guests. At this point we have met 17?!? NPCs with significant parts in the adventure already while we still do not really know what is going on or why. The Last Supper then decides that after all that hard-hitting, pulse-pounding fake ambush action it will hit you with…a scene where each player meets his future Vampiric liege to be, individually so the rest of the PCs can sit while one interacts with an NPC. Anyway, all the vampire elders have a distinct appearance and backstory, but curiously enough the art in the book does not seem to match up with the descriptions given, which is a baffling error.
Anyway, each NPC puts his future dinner through something called the ‘Harrowing,’ where they test their mettle, philosophy or character. These little vignettes are mostly very well done, with my favorite being the Assamite******* elder challenging his prey to a sort of assassin’s game that can actually be won and a hideous lady in a leper mask deforming someone with magic to show them the transitory nature of beauty. Some of the vignettes have a chance to fuck with your Humanity or give you a Derangement or something and each offers a chance to win the respect of one of the Elders, which as written can serve as an entry point for gaining the trust of Giovanni in Act II, though the exact process by which this happens is rather vague. Each vignette does serve to give an introduction to the Vampire clan the character will become a part of and thus give the player some inkling of what they are about. It is impossible fail or succeed during this section since failure will generally mean a hideous punishment followed by waking up during the third part of the Act, at the dinner party. From a gameplay perspective this section is saved because many of the segments do allow your CHARACTER to make a decision that does not affect the storyline but affects YOUR CHARACTER AND WHAT HE IS LIKE, therefore it does have some merit. I might be starting to get into the VtM mindset or perhaps that means the drugs are starting to kick in.
After the PCs have faffed about and everyone is done watching everyone else interact with their vampire mom or dad to be, they are brought to the feast. The scene is again, wonderfully described but also very sparse in terms of interaction. After carting in wonderful smelling food Claudius Giovanni gives half a page worth of lines before bringing in a sheep and asking the PCs if they will murder it with an axe since it is their food. This section is set up so that the PCs either comply or the vampires use magic powers to overcome their resistance and it happens anyway. This is followed by a long ass rambling speech that is self-indulgent on the part of the writer since it forces both GM and player into a state of passive acceptance, the resolution of Paul’s fate and then everyone gets a collar and a cork and is about to be drained dry as mere cattle. As the PCs are about to face death, the party is interrupted! Turns out the mansion is under attack by the Founders (who bear the livery of a red rose upon a black flag, awesome) and someone needs a distraction to escape via secret tunnel. Looks like the PCs will not become dinner just yet as there are 13 wonderful candidates for vampire suicide rearguard. Finally, all the PCs and NPCs are turned into Vampires.
This section of the first act allows A LITTLE freedom on the part of the PCs. Resistant PCs are Dominated into making a last stand and are again railroaded in place, which is fucking bullshit. PCs that accepted their fate have now been given some volition. There is no map of the castle and the numerous attackers are not given stats beyond the Commander Hardestadt and the traitor Ghoul Roderico in A DIFFERENT SECTION OF THE ADVENTURE, which is a bizarre omission that only serves to illustrate that stats are mostly cosmetic in WW and you should put all of your XP (uh I mean points) in cool powers. The idea is that the players face overwhelming odds and will lose no matter what, but you can at least earn an extra point of XP in this section by surrendering and pleading for the lives of the others. Who was this made for, the French? I will give the adventure minimal credit by stating that if some of the PCs die instead of being reduced to unconsciousness they can go fuck themselves and pick one of the NPC vampires that survive, though the possibility is very slim.******** Act I ends with the PCs being captured, the NPC vampire turned by Claudius missing in the melee and the rest of the NPC vampires being murdered.
Incidentally, a non-shitty way of handling this is to give the PCs a chance to escape if they use skill and then have them captured somewhere outside the mansion. It is still filler, but at least you give them a chance to use tactics and show some sort of defiance to their captors before that.
ACT II: In the Halls of the Dead
ACT II begins by leaving a sour taste in your mouth. Prepare for long descriptions of coach rides to Castle Deverick during which the adventure places ghoul soldiers in the coach so you can’t escape easily, followed by a tedious and lengthy interrogation scene that is the worst in the adventure. I will attempt to explain to you why it is terrible.
The pacing is glacial to “build the atmosphere” but what it actually does is draw things out and any savvy players will pick up on it. You get thrown in a cell. A ray of sunlight comes in and might hit you while you are immobilized…only it stops just short. You can’t make any ruckus or the guards will hit you in the stomach with a Torch! We get it the PCs are powerless. After that the PCs are interrogated and humiliated one by one by Hardestadt and his 6 NEW FUCKING ELDER VAMPIRE NPCS AND THE GYPSY FROM THE PROLOGUE on the nature of Giovanni’s plot THAT THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. WHICH MEANS EVERYONE GETS TO SIT ON THEIR ASS AGAIN AND WATCH THE GM SCARE THE PLAYERS WHO KNOW NOTHING AND CAN THEREFORE TELL NOTHING. In fact, this is so tedious the adventure gives you the option of letting the players TAKE OVER THE ROLES OF THE OTHER ELDERS SO THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO. Oh my god, there are so many additions here that add NOTHING and WASTE TIME. This is aggravating because Hardestadt for the most part ALREADY KNOWS ABOUT THE PLOT AGAINST CAPPADOCIUS and any names the characters give him WOULD ALREADY HAVE BEEN TOLD TO HIM BY RODERIGO.
After this we get into yet another fucking stupid scene where the elders discuss the fate of the PCs by squabbeling like idiots where the adventure is actually so asinine as to suggest the FUCKING PLAYERS TAKE OVER THE ROLES OF ELDERS IN A DEBATE TO DETERMINE THEIR FATE BEFORE HAVING THE FUCKING WHOOPIE GOLDBERG GUINAN GYPSY WOMAN OVERRULE EVERYONE BY MAKING A PROPHECY BY CRACKING AN EGG AND HAVING BLOOD POURING OUT. After that I hope you practiced on your voices because hot damn you can read a bunch of dialog lines in different voices to yourself while the PCs watch in incredulous horror, waiting until they get to do something.
Finally…after PAAAAGGGEESSS and PAAAAAGGGEESS of read aloud sentences (I think Bryce would have an aneurysm if he would ever touch this) the PCs are drafted by Hardebrecht into helping out with the destruction of Claudius Giovanni and his plan to diablerize Japhet Cappadocius (It is unclear if he knows about the parallel diablerization plot by Augustus to devour Cappadocius himself). They are cleaned up, fed blood and Roderigo tells them some shit about Vampires that they need to know, like the Masquerade, their powers, their weaknesses etc. etc.
After expository dialogue, Hardebrecht calls them over to discuss plans. He needs them to get infiltrate the Conspiracy of Isaac again and keep him informed on when their attack on Japheth takes place. If they can kill any elders secretly they should totally do so. The reason this is not an idiot plot and Hardebrecht does not just simply steamroll over the vampires with his hordes of statt-less ghoul soldiers is actually addressed. He does not really care about saving Japheth, he just wants to use this crisis to form the Camarilla*********. It gets even more complex because one of his clan members (the Tremere), is in the Conspiracy of Isaac and plans to eliminate Japheth so the Cappadocians are more amendable to joining the Camarilla but he also plans to have his elder and more influential co-conspirator die in the fighting so he gets all the credit. He informs the PCs they should kill her if they can kill anyone. They are also informed they need to chill the fuck out and keep a low profile or the Inquisition will find them and murder the shit out of them.
After this the PCs are driven to yet another inn when SOMETHING FINALLY HAPPENS. The coach is ambushed by bandits (hired by Lothar and equipped with torches and stakes that they neglect to use because they didn’t want to ruin any silk and they weren’t actually told they would be facing vampires) so combat may take place. The bandits are given no stats but there are conversion notes so I assume the corebook takes care of generic thug stats and the fight should be a pushover since 3-5 vampires vs 6 humans is a curbstomp. After you get to the Inn you get to look like an asshole when the entire conspiracy simultaneously decloaks after making you wait. Regardless of how terrible you behaved, Claudius still tries to enlist you in his conspiracy to kill Japhet, and the adventure goes into quite a lot of detail about the reasons why. He makes a pretty good case that Cappadocius is a madman that wants to diablerize God and that the Giovanni are going places but its weird that its this parallel murder plot that nobody seems to acknowledge, since Japhet is not actually the Cappadocian Elder vampire. Anyway, Claudius wants you to deliver a message to Japhet to set up a meeting between the two so they may now be murdered.
The adventure pulls another dick move by stating that if you actually try a stealth attack one one of the conspirators (whose locations are within the Inn and are not given any attention, making such a prospect unlikely) and the PCs succeed, the conspirator dies, UNLESS THEY ARE CLAUDIUS OR FUCKING HARDEBRECHT’S NEMESIS IN WHICH CASE THEY HAVE A CHARACTER SHIELD. So first Hardebrecht points out you should really kill one of them, and subsequently the GM pulls his fiat to ensure this plan fails. Just deliver the fucking message already. The adventure is set up so that even if you go to the Cappadocians with the message and essentially proof they will not believe it since Claudius is their kin, which is remarkably stupid for a vampire, but then again the Cappadocians ARE sort of weird Religious Mystic monks so it checks out. You finally get Ghoul Paul as a willing servant if you saved him in Act I btw.
This is about the point where the actual gameplay begins and the adventure starts to GET GUD, since the PCs can actually decide to ally with the Founders, the Conspiracy or even stay to defend the Cappadocians and join up with them. Before they reach the monastery, the game actually becomes awesome again by AMBUSHING YOU AGAIN. It is brother Clement! The Doom-saying monk of the opening Act, along with Six Templars. They use burning arrows, throw rocks wrapped in rags dipped in holy water have imbibed so much holy water draining them actually inflicts damage on you. So formidable are these templars they are actually given a stat-block next to the encounter. The adventure fucks it up again by stating that if all the PCs are subdued by the Templars they wake up in the monastary of the Cappadocians? Why? Why have combat at all if you are going to bail out the PCs and undercut the dramatic tension.
Urgh. The Cappadocian monastary is next. The scene is set up really well with the Cappadocians coming off as a sort of bizarre fusion between the profane and the divine and turns up the weirdness to 11 by giving the possibility to learn more about the path of the Cappadocians if the characters to desire. It’s really well written expository lore, but it is still expository lore. They must go back to the site of the ambush and “forgive” the ambushers, which will cause them to rise up, healed of all injuries, but zombified unbeknownst to the characters. After witnessing this necromantic miracle, the Cappadocians are maddeningly placed and state that the other cheek must be turned and what will be will be and thus will take no action against Giovanni. The Act ends with the PCs now having to make a decision and the attack taking place in…a week. Flight is, of course, very difficult because of some fairly credible barriers. Actual fucking gameplay might damn well occur.
Act III – The Choice.
The segment White Wolf was so uncertain about, they felt they had to put in some reassurances that players would be able to do that even though their decisions were not dictated by the plot. The adventure focuses on possibilities for information gathering first and foremost, assuming the PCs will want to figure out what the fuck is going on by talking to everyone. It then proceeds to give EVERY SINGLE ELDER VAMPIRE NPC something of importance to impart, which is a psychotic level of dedication that I appreciate. However, I could have done it with one or two lines of text per NPC entry in a single boxed entry. However, you figure out that the Founders suspect the Giovanni also have a God plot, which they find a credible threat, as opposed to the Cappadocian God-plot, which they do not find credible.
In the meantime the characters do receive some homework from Vampire Gypsy queen in terms of another cryptic prophecy for which they need Giovanni Blood to prevent them from absorbing the soul of Cappadocius via their diablerie/necromancy shit plan. I like this addition because it requires trickery, plotting or some sort of thought on the part of the PCs to obtain and the solution is variable (though gaining the trust a certain member of the Conspiracy of Isaac will make it possible also). The adventure mentions you get a ‘boon’ for winning Character-shield Ventrue’s trust but doesn’t mention what a boon is. You can also learn about the coming ‘Maelstrom,’ a sort of metaphysical storm of souls that is soon to erupt, but the knowledge is useless because it cannot be applied. You can’t stop the attack and you can’t delay it, though you could theoretically off one or 2 elders or get yourself disqualified before it takes place.
Now, the adventure grows some balls again by setting you straight and keeping you on your toes. First up, Lothar (the dick from ep 1) is still alive, has six ghoul retainers (what the fuck is up with that number, was it laziness or is it symbolism or something?) all of them without stats. He follows you around and thus you have to figure something out because otherwise he will know or come to suspect that you are a traitor. The adventure makes it clear that if one of the groups suspect that you are a traitor, YOU WILL FUCKING DIE AND CAN ONLY BE AVERTED BY THE MOST BRILLIANT OF ACTING. You can theoretically kill the Founders since they do not have character shields but in practice that is a hard bargain.
There is more ass covering. If you do the logical thing and make yourself a vampire army from a nearby village (good old 1e VtM makes it pretty easy to make new Vampires), you will call the wrath of both the vampiric factions and the Inquisition on your ass so that one is out. Choosing no sides and fleeing means both groups will suspect you of treachery and hunt you down like a dog. The options for joining several factions are all covered.
FINALLY the final showdown happens, a boatload of boxed text is read and what by all accounts should be one of the most complex vampire smackdowns in history is now taking place. The adventure does not seem to realize that running 19+ unique Vampire Elders with powers could prove to be quite a challenge and does not bother to give you any tips on handling that, only concerned with the railroadery part of its adventure.
The Cappadocians, both Japheth and Cappadocius himself, will not resist the attack and turn the other cheek, offering forgiveness for betrayal. The scene is trippy as fuck with weird religious imagery interspersed with vampire stuff, astral projections and the game going so far as to HAVE CAPPADOCIUS RESSURECT AUGUSTUS TO ENSURE THAT THE DIABLERIE IS FINISHED so you get the idea its part of some higher plan and the Jesus parallel is pretty obvious here. The characters SHOULD or CAN have something interesting to do by ensuring that the blood of Giovanni is spilled on the dove that must collect the soul of Cappadocius but he will be hidden behind some sort of spirit storm (the Maelstrom). You can either force your way true which is difficult or use boots and a cloak that it is possible to obtain earlier, though pretty much by luck since one cannot specifically ask for them nor figure out why they are important beforehand. You can save Japhet but the adventure doesn’t seem to consider this worthy of a reward or anything. Even trying something super awesome like draining Cappadocius before Augustus Giovanni, who is also there in ghost form for no explicable reason (I assume Necromancy) can do so is prevented by fiat. The adventure pulls one last FUCK YOU by having an NPC prevent the dove from capturing Cappadocians if the PCs fuck up, thereby rendering this stupid plot useless.
Anyway, this entire sequence is a bizarre phantasmagorical mess. I feel like I just watched the End of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It could be cool but as a game its a fraud since you have no idea how to run the combat, no one has tactics and its clear the game doesn’t give a shit either. Cappadocius ascends, the Giovanni are forever cursed with a vampire bite that is intensely painful to mortals and the Founders are successful unless the PCs joined the conspirators in which case the Conspirators are successful (despite being numerically superior and of comparable power to the Founders).
So anyway, the adventure resolves, good or bad, with Claudius alive (even if he is captured by the Founders they are forced to set him free since the Giovanni are now in charge of the Cappadocian clan and Hardestadt needs them to make his plan of a Vampire EU work. Saving Japhet is not given a follow up, which one would expect given the fact he is easily the most powerful vampire (fucking 7000 years old) in the adventure barring only the stat-less Cappadocius himself, who is a creature from before the Flood of literally godlike strength. Even for an adventure that cares far more about story, roleplaying and interaction, that is very sloppy.
I will not be grading this series since I am quite clearly not the target audience and this manner of roleplaying is alien to me. I am still trying to distinguish between genuinely bad decision making and scenes that are “features not bugs.” The Last Supper sets up this century long chronicle with the same characters and introduces an impressive cast of characters, and the central premise is intriguing and at times the imagery is downright inspiring. The problem is that the adventure as written is a fucking slog with tiresome scene upon tiresome scene and the characters having minimal agency throughout more then half of the adventure. Combat is treated almost as an afterthought to keep the rabble entertained and many interactions lack meaning because of the railroading. When it gets its head out of its ass, which is not often, the intricate layer of betrayal and counter-betrayal can actually be exploited and the information that is gathered can be used to gain leverage or presumably enact some sort of ambush on a trusted conspirator. The opportunity to gain a permanent NPC follower via a minor act of kindness in the opening act is rather interesting.
Nevertheless, an ending with a preconceived resolution and little to no gain for achieving impressive results doesn’t sit well with me or anyone. Saving everyone’s ass when they fuck up or pretending the PCs have a choice when they obviously do not are the Black Arts of Dnd, best used sparingly if at all. I cannot shake off the feeling that Greenberg wrote this less as something to be played and more like something to be experienced and only vaguely interacted with. A lot of people call VtM pretentious but I think it’s worst folly is its long-windedness. This thing is almost 89 pages long yet so little actually happens.
Join me next time as we go deeper into the Rabbit Hole. Part fucking two is up next.
* = Vampire the Masquerade is set in the real world, albeit one rife with occult conspiracies and various monstrosities.
** = In lieu of race VtM has different bloodlines of vampire, each a descendant from one of 13 surviving progeny of the biblical Caine, the first Vampire.
*** = The Vampire that spawned you by the act of feeding his blood to a drained mortal. Each generation is weaker then the last.
**** = The act of draining the lifeblood of another Vampire thereby consuming his soul and gaining part of his strength if he is older, considered the most heinous crime a Vampire can commit.
***** = bite and turn into a Vampire, a term so pretentious that even the Giovanni Clanbook admits it sounds faggy.
****** = Mortal thralls of the Vampires, imbued with a fragment of their power via their blood. Have you ever seen Blade? Now you know what a Ghoul is.
******* = A clan of religious vampire assassins that hunt and diablerize other vampires that are members of the gentle desert religion of peace that predominated the middle east at the time. I have been reliably informed by the wiki they are actually misunderstood good guys that fight demon-worshippers and help mortals and are only perceived as horrific monsters that feed on their own kin because of the demon-worshipper curse because the modern college education system has an ideological bias that informs its subject matter.
******** = Vampires in VtM only die via burning, sunlight or Diablerie (and maybe some really obscure magical shit). Staking them will just paralyze them until the stake is removed, whereas any other form of harm can eventually be regenerated if the Vampire has sufficient Blood Points (mana). Getting fucked up without sufficient means you go into a sort of coma called Torpor, but any blood dripped onto your shriveled corpse means you are back in the game.
********* = The Vampire EU. Structured like the mob and meant to uphold the Masquerade, a conspiracy to prevent the general populace from knowing about Vampires. Not applicable in the Middle ages because people like the dreaded Inquisition, know Vampires are real. Nevertheless, there does appear to be a sort of proto-Masquerade going on.