Review Title: Dread Names, Red List
Authors: Monica Valentinelli and Matt M. McElroy
Edition: Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
Onyx Path Publishing
Purchase Link: DriveThruRPG Direct Link
Dread Names, Red List is a look at the war the Camarilla continues to feed by looking at the biggest enemies of the sect. The characters in this book offer some of the most dangerous and intriguing stories to tie into any chronicle. This review looks at the book itself, and does not take into affect game balance or play testing.
As with most Vampire: The Masquerade books, it starts off with a character tie in, a short attention grabber to pull you into the reason behind the book. It gives a great in character tie in to the whole book, making it seem more like a document then a storytelling guide. The history of how the Red List came into existence is rather extensive, outlining a history of how the Traditions had been violated by kindred, blood hunts ignored and the structure of the Camarilla was continually threatened and those in the upper echelons of the Camarilla trying to instill the importance of following the Traditions.
In this section, the upper echelons of the sect are outlined, from the Justicars and their role down to the Alastors and their organization. It outlines how a kindred ends up on the Red List, the politics behind it and some examples of it being manipulated with the right strings pulled at the right time to push a personal agenda. This section is wonderful for feeding a heavily political game, with plenty of tie-ins to many different aspects of this list. The Justicars are outlined as well, giving insight on how they represent the Inner Circle, serve the Camarilla, hunt the Anathema and their role in managing their clans. The hunt for the Anathema is dangerous and time consuming, but the rewards that come with victory are great. Many different prizes are offered as ideas on payment for the trophy clan, however creativity is encouraged.
The Anathema all have interesting backstories, dramatic falls leading to their ultimate placement on the dreaded list. The chapter dealing with the characters stories does not disappoint, and definitely delivers on more ties to use for hooking your current game into this direction. What's nice is that the character stats are included in their story and any special powers are given their spots at the end of the character stories along with how the particular Anathema uses it and passes the power on.
The role of the Alastors are also written out in this book, giving PCs the chance to lead the hunt, should this be an option for a game. This outline includes the Alastors, the Red Alastors and the Josians. Each area is outlined, with their specific goals and limitations laid out as a reference. It goes through how they work amongst the Traditions, and how each keeps the Masquerade in tact should it become damaged. One of the most interesting parts of this section is the Mark of the Trophy, which is the Mark Alastors get upon their ascension into this rank. There is a lot of speculation as to what this mark actually does, which gives storytellers many options on what direction to take it. Alastor's are masters of creativity when it comes to discipline use as well. Several disciplines are outlined and their most common uses during the hunt for Anathema.
This guide helps to give PCs a role in the hunt of Anathema, so it gives a good rundown on how to create an Alastor, as well as suggestions for making one that will be more likely to survive the hunt. The Anathema are powerful and cunning. It will take witt to capture one, let alone destroy them.
If characters are going to walk this path, a storyteller needs to know how to run this type of game. In the Storyteller Kit section it shows how the mood of different types of hunts develop. From the politics heavy, to the epic fight scene, the tool kit gives storytellers the necessary information to make the game fun for all involved. A quick read through this whole section will give storytellers enough information to provide a good balance to their game.
The last section of the book is an outline of the Path of Evil Revelations, which is the infernal morality path several of the Anathema walk. While it may seem out of place at first glance, in the V20 system it hasn't been discussed at length. If players are looking for an in depth game, this chapter gives a very important insight to the NPCs that will be pulling characters along, possibly corrupting them along the way. This is a wonderful chapter for the antagonist of the story, and if the right strings are pulled, possible PC falls from humanity.
The art in this book was done by Ken Meyer Jr, a veteran to the World of Darkness. And he certainly delivered, giving a wonderful throwback feel to the art in the books. Full color illustrations are done for every Anathema NPC outlined, which brings a wonderful breath of life to the stories.
My one criticism in this book was I was hoping for several NPC Alastor characters to be included along with their stories. I know the point of the book was to give that position a PC purpose, but I think having even a couple of Alastors, Red Alastors or Josians included would have given wonderful PC tie ins to the hunt. There were several ones hinted in the book, but nothing ever laid out. This may be on purpose, as many Alastors go undercover while on the hunt, so a storyteller can easily incorporate one in disguise for their game.
Bonus section: I'm including a little teaser because there was a small text box included in the very first chapter called the Council of Scales. I am mentioning it because if you enjoy the position of Harpy, or you love politics, this little box should be a highlight for you. I could go on and on about the Council of Scales and the ramifications of it on global politics, but I will not here. As I said, it is a small text box and was not outlined in great detail, which is why it is a bonus and not part of the greater review.
Overall I would say this book is definitely worth the purchase. If you don't plan on running a Red List game, purchase it for the stories of cannon NPCs, which can filter into your chronicle. The teasers of infernal in the book are also wonderful flavor, and can turn into a long term story arc. The art is beautiful and the layout overall is very easy to follow. Please follow the link above, and if you purchase it, please leave a review!