So, I haven't bought any PnP RPG books for ages, and I justified the $50 price tag by buying a discount card as well for use this Christmas.
I have just started to read the book, but, while the premise is somewhat jarring for those familiar with the "Traditional" World of Darkness books, I'm finding it pretty facinating so far.
The game is a heavily modified Open Source Gaming game based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition rules and currently consists of only one book (this might be the only book that's going to be produced, I'm not sure). As would be expected, it was designed by Monte Cook, one of the veteran developers of Dungeons and Dragons.
Real world, circa NOW. Well, almost. A year ago in the backstory, Enormous Alien Beings From Beyond Comprehension appeared and turned a 300-mile diameter bit of South Dakota into something akin to The Nothing from The Neverending Story
called the Intrusion. Personally, I wonder, if they destroyed the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, can they be that bad? They would have destroyed the earth, but humanity's collective spirit, embodied in less than 1% of the population known as "Awakened," somehow keeps them at bay... like plankton being rather standoffish towards the whale.
To get even more metaphorical, the aliens, known as "Inconnu" (I love how Cook uses terminology from the OWoD in a completely different way), bring the cosmic equivilent of blankets filled with cholera to rid themselves of the humans preventing them from destroying the world. Summoning the evil dead (yes) and beastial spirits to possess people, creating vampires and werewolves, as well as calling in demons, they seek to kill the Awakened and complete their absorption of the earth. Some of humanity, in response, were able to tap their potential and become mages, who are the wildcards in all of this. This is all leading to a sort of secret war across a landscape partially ravaged by apocalypse.
Players can run any of the following types-
Awakened: The allegory for jack-of-all-trades Humans in D&D, these are basically the paragons of the human spirit. They don't have super flashy powers or the ability to shoot chainsaws from their eyes, but they do have a nearly indominatable will, extra skills & feats, and great stats.
Mage: Pretty much identical to their OWoD counterparts in theory, though they do not suffer from Paradox and are limited to a number of Component points per day as far as what magic they can cast (spells cost Component points based on their range, duration, effect, etc).
Vampires: Dead, evil spirits merging with living human bodies to create a joint entity with a personality conflict, they are supposed to be gathering information on the Awakened for the Inconnu, but often get involved with their own obsessions. Some even break from the Inconnu completely to do their own thing. They fit into five psychological profiles represented by the five NWoD clans, Mekhet, Gangrel, Daeva, Nosferatu, and Ventrue; unlike the normal WoD, the clans just signify their mindset and loose organization, rather than an established ancient society (as they've only been in existance a year or so). Vampires have pretty much all the same sorts of powers as they do in the classic games: blood bonds, disciplines, ghouls, et cetera.
Werewolves: Many of the spirits that merged with human hosts are simply raging, beastial spirits from another world. Until they merge with a human to gain human sensibilities (which many proceed to ignore unless convenient). They're from a nocturnal world where it's always night and the moon's phase is determined by your geograpical location (!?). They're governed by those phases even on our world. Some are rational enough to talk to and reason with, but if one changes into their ("fucking awesome") werewolf form, their beastial natures will overcome them and they'll pretty much chew up everyone. That's in fact, their mission from the Inconnu: smash shit up and kill things. If that isn't enough comparison to Barbarians in D&D, they also get d12 for their hit points, +2 Str, and +2 Con.
Demons: Far from the humanized fallen angels in Demon: The Fallen, these are completely alien spirits who craft themselves flesh & blood bodies from inanimate materials like dirt, wood, plastic, or the like. Unlike werewolves and vampires, there is no human soul to mitigate their evil, and are pretty much nasty customers through and through. They can shapechange, have freakish powers, and normally never die
. They are catagorized as Tempters and Scourges, and have corresponding stats. Very few demons exist; fewer turn against the Inconnu, and those that do aren't benevolent, they've just got their own agenda.
All PCs start as what would be 4th level characters in normal D&D : they have 4 HD and better saves & skills than a starting character usually has, in accordance with the more fleshed out starting characters that tend to exist in World of Darkness games.
The book has two chapters based on example cities for use in the chronicle. Chicago is the signature city on the edge of the radius of the Inconnu's nightmare zone, plagued with ghost risings, supernatural creatures, and freak happenstance. I like this; Chicago was always the showcase city for the Old World of Darkness (with three editions worth of "by Night" books), and is a city I'm personally familiar with. The other city is of more interest to me: Minneapolis/St. Paul, the city where I, personally live, is within the original blast zone, and perhaps 50,000 people (and non-people, I suppose) have survived from the few million who once lived here. It's a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with the US military frantically trying to get to the surviving populations and get them to safe havens along I-94 such as Hudson and Eau Claire (my hometown). I hadn't known about these settings when I bought the book, but I was fairly pleased with the level of research in the short chapters attributed to them.
As I said, I haven't read the whole book yet, but I thought it at least deserved a mention here (I hadn't seen a thread dedicated to it yet, and I searched for "Monte Cook" and "McWoD"). The section on the Twin Cities kinda makes me want to do a "Year Zero" sort of thing with the players starting off as normal mortals and witnessing the Intrusion and Nightmare Wave firsthand. Of course, I haven't run anything PnP in years