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

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

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.

This is primarily for V20, yes. It also has an adaptation guide for V5. The material I'm still working on will be written to be compatible with both. It's a historical setting, so the changes that go on in V5 really haven't happened, yet, canonically. I've run it without issue in both editions.
 

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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.
This setting centers around the Philadelphia of 1876, during the World's Fair in Fairmount Park. If you check it out, I'd love to know your thoughts!
 

This is the type of pdf I will definitely buy simply for the lore, yet never play. I love books like this. Thank you for publishing it.
Even if you never play it, the upcoming campaign books for it will be treasure troves for lore fanatics. There's nothing in the setting book by accident, the chronicles to go with it use every character and setting presented, and will expand to more as well. So you'll be able to get your narrative fix with or without running it. Hope you stay tuned!
 

this is one of the books that make me feel really sore re: the storyteller's vault not allowing for pod.
I did a print layout for it, last time they were considering a POD program, and then it got canceled. I have the only self-printed copy that I know of, done through Lulu, and it is gorgeous. In the first six months this was out I probably had 50 people ask me about hard copies, and there's nothing I can do, unfortunately.
 

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