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Minireview: Chicago (World of Darkness)

World of Darkness: Chicago is a huge setting/crossover book for the (new) World of Darkness. And I do mean huge… at 400+ pages, you could use this as a melee weapon. Fortunately, it’s both a good book and a (surprisingly) good read, so that page count isn’t a bad thing. Even though it’s titled as a general “World of Darkness” book, it’s really not. It’s a crossover book for Vampire, Werewolf and Mage; while a “normals” WoD campaign can get some mileage out of this, the bulk of the book is for the three main game lines.

After some initial chapters detailing the general history of Chicago, the book splits into three parts: unsurprisingly, Vampire, Werewolf & Mage. The Vampire section is easily the best, it’s a showcase of how to create an interesting (vampiric) political situation for a city without leaning much on stereotypes. The NPCs are interesting and the given political situation is full of options and dangers, without being too much of an instant powder keg. Too many vampire games start off with the good old “the old Price has just been deposed” trope. Well, here that has happened…. but it was some time ago, and the new Price is already entrenched, but not too entrenched. There are tons of PC options both for supporting the current regime and opposing it (and also lots of “don’t care” groups). This book is worth the cover price on the strength of the NPCs in the Vampire section alone, they are quite excellent.

The Werewolf section isn’t quite as strong, but does contain some very cool touches. I especially liked some of the Pure packs lurking in the suburbs, some quite creepy stuff going on there. Also, many of the totem spirits used here are interesting and not at all “nice” (I say that as a good thing). The fact that Chicago has a long and bloody history, both in human terms and in terms of the meat packing and slaughter industry, makes for lots of very nice spirit-world options.

Last and unfortunately also least is the Mage section. While not strictly bad, it’s nowhere are tight and interesting as the previous two chapters. There are some interesting NPCs here, but a lot of the main elements seemed quite off to me. Real names are supposed to be a big deal in this game… but here we have a major faction leader openly using his real name and also being the head of a big corporation. The bad guys, supposed to be shadowy puppeteers who may not even exist, suddenly have a headquarters in some highrise building, and the Pentacle mages actually seem to know who and where they are. It’s quite inconsistent with the game, as originally written. At times it shows quite badly that this book was written quite a while ago, back when Mage was still trying to figure itself out. I’ve been told Mage has improved over time, but here it’s a bit of a mess. Still, there are quite a few nice NPCs here who could be used in pretty much any game.

There is some interconnect between the three main parts of the book, but it’s a bit rough – the Mage section has a nightclub/pub which is portrayed as a major meeting point for supernaturals, but this isn’t mentioned in the Vampire or Werewolf parts. Still, the book does try to provide for crossover use, and succeeds to a point. Overall, it’s a very solid city sourcebook with coverage for the three main supernatural splats. Even if your campaign isn’t set in Chicago, there is lot here you could steal for many other WoD games.

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