Hey, you may well know me as one of the hosts of Darker Days Radio, and so we have had some exclusive access to V5 in the lead up to the release, and so I was asked by Libra to give my impression of it all.
So if you didn't know I am a long time CofD fan, and love Requiem. Hell I abandoned the stale setting of Masquerade for Requiem. Mainly for how I can create such variety in the social and political structures that appear in my games, along with how I want to build any form of mythology into the setting. I could just do what I wanted and to hell with anybody else.
After a good 10 years of just not caring about Masquerade, and not listening to the whining about how Requiem sucks, V5, which I was sceptical about, even after attending World of Darkness Berlin, was something that I took a dive into.
Let's be honest the first alpha was not great with the example character (I do believe her interests were in young vampires, not young people, but I could see how it could be read that way), and the example die roll (I do not think that was a dog whistle, just dice were listed in ascending order), and the Brujah compulsion being called Triggered (though I do think the word triggered is often used incorrectly when people say something is not to their tastes). But the new systems were definitely innovative. The Hunger dice were tactile tension, much like using Jenga blocks. Coupled with compulsions, we now had systems that nudged players to be mindful of feeding, hunger, and the cost of those things. It was more than just topping up the engine. Hunger was now a spectrum, and not one easily predicted.
The Beta was a clear improvement, and one that I ran at Dragonmeet 2017. This was a great demo, and built strongly on the Hunger system, and the new humanity system, with stains, is again a far more tangible sliding scale. Characters and plots were much improved, representing the quality of writers being brought on board.
Darker Days Radio then was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of the game a month before release, and we recorded a play through of the game for the podcast. Art and layout are all about taste. Some works, some doesn't. Honestly I like that the book is not pages and pages of walls of text. It seemed much more focused on a particular play experience as neonate vampires of the Camarilla or Anarchs. The rules were simple and fast, something that even for my home games my group are enjoying a lot. More importantly, the setting is clearly updated to create gaps. Gaps either in the hierarchies of the Kindred, or more uncertainty in the things that we once took for granted with regards to the mythology. This is why I felt able to write the "Ascension Night" scenario for Darker Days Radio, a scenario you can download for free, and one which is heavily influence by the things I like in Requiem and in Vampire the Dark Ages. V5 feels as if sacred cows are being killed in the setting, and myths are being upturned and re-evaluated.
Now of course the core book did have issues. But I feel the mention in the Brujah section of an example character as being a neo Nazi is not an issue. Brujah are typically rebels and revolutionaries, and not all revolutions are positive, especially when you look at the current political climate in Europe.
Some of the highlights of V5 so far then have been the return of the Church of Caine, which featured prominently at the WoD Berlin Larp event, Enlightenment in Blood.
Now what of the new books, the Anarch and Camarilla guides?
Long story short, as I wrote an article and review for these two books for Beasts of War, is that if you ignore the Abrek chapter, which was crass and egregious, the Camarilla book is filled with some really good ideas, and lots of information about how the Camarilla in the modern nights is now harbouring many old faiths and heresies now that the sect acknowledges that the Antediluvians are real. The Anarch books is far weaker in terms of gameable content. Both books also have nice updates of the Assamites (Banu Haqim) and the Setites (The Ministry). The art in the Anarch book is much stronger. But both books suffer from "show don't tell" taken to the extreme. The sheer number of first-hand accounts and vignettes do not help when you want to find game content and ideas to apply to your games. In particular advice on how to represent each faction.
So is V5 a bust? No. Is it poorly managed and thus leads to stupid mistakes? Yes!
V5 in terms of gameplay and the setting is far more interesting for a lapsed VtM player and Requiem fan like me. I can apply so many ideas from the latter to the former.
But is V5 trying too hard to be shocking in the way that the original appeared to be? Yes. Back in the old days, just having diversity in the characters, such as gay, bi, lesbian, black, islamic etc, was seen as shocking and ground breaking. Now to be shocking is not as easy. Nor is the audience as easy to appease with content (even if there is a portion of the community that confuses crass and crude shock horror material as mature themes).
The team at WW are not the WW we once knew. Some are familiar faces, but they are still learning. There is some good talent there. But better guidance is needed.
If you haven't tried V5 I do suggest you give it a shot for the rules. And the plot is interesting in places. But WW is quickly burning up the free passes that we have been dishing out.