Philadelphia by Night Brings the 1800s to Vampire: The Masquerade

Philadelphia by Night is a community content release, and a big one (in terms of file size too).

I’ve visited Philadelphia a couple of times, usually as part of a Gen Con road trip with my friend Walt. But instead of taking me to see the Liberty Bell he usually insists we see the “real America” and hit the huge “all you can eat” buffet at Shady Maples. So this supplement is a nice way to see what I’ve been missing.

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Philadelphia by Night is a community content release, and a big one. The main book is 177 pages of material, originally written for 4th edition Vampire the Masquerade. An additional file of 14 pages offers plenty of detail on using it with 5th edition. There is also plenty of supplementary interactive character sheets for NPCs and PCs, a refreshing change as are usually in the main book with each character description. Because all the NPC character sheets are made using the interactive pdfs, the GM can easily adjust them as appropriate for their campaign. It is also worth noting this is not a supplement for modern Vampire. This is Philadelphia of 1876, so while a copy of Victorian Vampire is helpful, it’s not essential.

The main book is divided into five chapters that follow some short scene-setting fiction. The first is the introduction, which gives a good grounding in what the book is all about. There is the usual detail on mood and theme as well as many fiction and non-fiction sources to draw from. It is nice to see the authors follow the style of White Wolf on this too.

Chapter Two takes a look at the city itself, its mundane and vampiric history, and locations of interest. There are a few historical maps included, just enough to give broad strokes of the city. What I particularly like is that while it starts with the founding of the city as a small colony, the vampires don’t move in the instant it is set up. Despite the modern importance of Philadelphia, it begins as a place of little interest to vampires that has gradually grown. This is mirrored in the vampire history as well. An elder embraces a mortal friend who he has served with in the Civil War; after telling him he is the Prince of this city, he promptly leaves. Jacob, the new Prince, is left to his own devices as the only Kindred resident, and during that time he gradually grows his power base in the city. As he and the city prospers, other vampires arrive, clan by clan, but Jacob is clever enough to maintain his position as Prince and keep the peace.

Chapter Three goes into detail on the various vampire residents of the city in 1876. There are representatives of all the Camarilla clans, as the Ivory Tower maintains a solid grasp. However, the Giovanni have managed to gain a foothold, suggesting more might follow. The Sabbat have yet to make a concerted effort against the city, but Prince Jacob has enough on his plate to deal with managing the conflicts of the Camarilla clans. Each clan has a variety of rivalries and a few outright hatreds between its members, more than enough for several adventures focusing on just the conflict in one clan. There are also details of a few cross-clan coteries that might serve as a player character model or simply another layer of politics.

Chapter Four is one of the shorter chapters, but an essential one. It focuses on creating characters, and includes details about life in Philadelphia for mortals and their various social mores. Despite being short, this is one of the most important chapters as it helps the Storyteller make the city fit the era in a way that feels natural.

The last chapter, Herman’s Revolution, an adventure. It is set in 1852, detailing a set part of the sourcebook’s canon. The adventure is curiously not set in the official year of 1876. Given it is the nature of Vampire player characters to go off on their own, the adventure doesn’t offer a specific timeline to follow. Instead it gives a general outline of the plot in the three acts, and then offers a series of locations and what might happen in them. It works; PCs can go to any location as the clues lead them, in any order. However, a novice GM might find it a little confusing. .

The V5 update book contains a few new rules and some notes on using the current system. It's mostly made up of new loresheets. These work well, but I would have liked more system in the abilities. Most give a narrative advantage without a clear way to apply it, such as "you are well liked by the Giovanni." I’d have liked to have a specific bonus and its circumstances for use listed for each ability. Similarity, the NPC states for 5th edition lack touchstones and convictions, which would be helpful character details.

Philadelphia by Night does all it sets out to do. The author has a plan, and it shows, building and expanding on the city's lore. This supplement is an excellent way for Storytellers to try out a different-style of campaign. It embraces the city's quirks well and gives a vast amount of source material to work with. In fact, there's so much material that there could easily be a modern sequel: I’d like to know who survives the next 200 years, how the rise of the Second Inquisition affects the kindred, and how the Camarilla re impacted. The next supplement for the setting is a more detailed and-smaller scale adventure set on a riverboat travelling to the 1876 book fair. I expect it will pair well with this supplement and serve as a better introduction to the setting.
 

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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine

StoicElf

Level 1 Sorcerer
I'm excited to check this out. I miss the old White Wolf/Onyx Path vampire products. The fact that this looks so professional and tries to mimic their style and quality, sounds exciting.
 

This is my book! Thank you so much for doing this review, Andrew, we worked really hard to bring this to the Vault!

I can answer a couple of the questions raised here:

1. Herman's Revolution was written to be a short campaign for STs and players to experience some city history. The 1876 material we're working on will span a prelude book (50+ pages) and a much larger, more expansive chronicle book covering May to November of 1876 in pretty granular fashion. The setting book was meant to platform those upcoming adventures. I expect the larger chronicle book to be at least as long as the setting book.

2. V5 became available on the Storytellers Vault two days after we published this. The V5 addendum is thus a fairly hasty work for the setting book. Future material includes V5 considerations from the ground up, and will offer more robust tools and narrative elements, including character expansions.

As far as a modern era goes, I'd love to do that, but I'm not yet sure if we will. For now, we're focused on creating the best content we can to complete this era, but if you want to see who survives another 200 years, stay tuned. A lot of these bloodsuckers won't even make it to 1877. 😬🧛‍♂️

This was a labor of love, so thank you again, Andrew, for your review! Also, really want to shout out our illustrators, Gerald Spades and Jenée Harrison, for making this book. Look the way it does. They're as professional as it gets!

Quick point of clarification: Jacob is a Revolutionary War vet, not Civil War.
 
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deadenedglow

Villager
This is my book! Thank you so much for doing this review, Andrew, we worked really hard to bring this to the Vault!

I can answer a couple of the questions raised here:

1. Herman's Revolution was written to be a short campaign for STs and players to experience some city history. The 1876 material we're working on will span a prelude book (50+ pages) and a much larger, more expansive chronicle book covering May to November of 1876 in pretty granular fashion. The setting book was meant to platform those upcoming adventures. I expect the larger chronicle book to be at least as long as the setting book.

2. V5 became available on the Storytellers Vault two days after we published this. The V5 addendum is thus a fairly hasty work for the setting book. Future material includes V5 considerations from the ground up, and will offer more robust tools and narrative elements, including character expansions.

As far as a modern era goes, I'd love to do that, but I'm not yet sure if we will. For now, we're focused on creating the best content we can to complete this era, but if you want to see who survives another 200 years, stay tuned. A lot of these bloodsuckers won't even make it to 1877. 😬🧛‍♂️

This was a labor of love, so thank you again, Andrew, for your review! Also, really want to shout out our illustrators, Gerald Spaded and Jenée Harrison, for making this book. Look the way it does. They're as professional as it gets!

Quick point of clarification: Jacob is a Revolutionary War vet, not Civil War.
I can attest to one character that didn't make it through 1876 and went out in a fiery blaze in the chronicle I play in of yours. :LOL:
 

AndromedaRPG

Explorer
One minor nit pic, and only because I live in the area: it's Shady Maple and its about an hour from Philly.

For those interested, its the world's largest smorgasbord (buffet effectively). If you visit (and literal bus loads do), come hundry with no time rush! A meal could last an hour minimum!

On the actual topic, thanks for the info!
 



Joe Pilkus

Explorer
As a native Philadelphian who has returned to the city after many years away ~ service in the Air Force and time with the Department of Justice in D.C. I'd love to see the maps and how the author treats this magnificent city.
 

kronovan

Adventurer
Question: is this based upon the 20th Anniversay edition of the VTM core rules?

20th Anniversay is the only edition for which I own a decent amount of content. So if this was indeed published for that edition, I'd be interested in it.
 

StoicElf

Level 1 Sorcerer
Question: is this based upon the 20th Anniversay edition of the VTM core rules?

20th Anniversay is the only edition for which I own a decent amount of content. So if this was indeed published for that edition, I'd be interested in it.
I am not 100% sure, but I think it is. In the article it says the "4th edition of Vampire the Masquerade", which I think is the 20th Anniversary edition. As there have been, as far as I know, now five editions:

1st and 2nd edition, Revised (3rd edition), 20th Anniversary edition (which would be the 4th) and now there is a fifth edition.
 

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