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Minireview: Chicago By Night 2nd edition (Vampire: the Masquerade)

Chicago By Night 2nd edition is an update on the original Chicago By Night, so most of what I said about that book still applies here. The focus is (still) on the NPCs and their plots, which remain quite interesting, by and large. Some sections are slightly expanded, and the layout and art are of more professional quality. The biggest change is, of course, in who is now “living” in the city and who is (permanently) dead – this book marked the beginning of White Wolf’s game metaplot, which, love it or hate it, was a big factor in all of their World of Darkness books. I have mixed feelings about the metaplot myself; on one hand, it did make the world feel alive and interesting, and it made for lots of interesting reading (and heated discussions over beers). One the other, it started to suck as soon as your own game started to deviate significantly from White Wolf’s metaplot, with large parts of later setting books becoming useless and players being confused about what was true and what wasn’t. So it was a mixed bag, and it began around the time this book was written.

The main change here is that Prince Lodin is dead, as detailed in the book “Under a Blood Red Moon”, due to a huge werewolf incursion (and other factors). If the PCs have played through that, it’s even possible that they have had a hand in Lodin’s demise. Along with Lodin died or vanished a number of other prominent Chicago Kindred, leaving a power vacuum with no clear taker. Many parties are interested, of course, but the strong Primogen in the city hold the reins of power and get to play kingmaker. In short, it’s a much more unstable environment for PCs to be in, which can be a good thing as far as stories are concerned.

In the end, though, this is very much the same book as the first one, which makes it very good. Which one you want to use depends totally on which version of Chicago you prefer: the traditional Prince-run Camarilla city, or the more anarchistic and unstable one after the Prince has died. Both have their strengths. As with the first book, the game at this point in time is still quite different in many respects from what it became later; the Sabbat are very different, being more like Anarchs with some mystic shit thrown in, and in general vampires just “hang out” with each other a lot – the paranoia of the later editions is not as strong here. Whether this is good or bad depends, once again, on personal tastes.

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