Excerpts and Explanations [Vampire: the Masquerade]

Open Development, Vampire: The Masquerade

Beckett: Providing I’m not immediately immolated, I’ll yell the safe word.


Cover to “Vampire: the Masquerade: Beckett“, by Guy Davis and Vince Locke.


Greetings, true believers! It’s been a while since our last Jyhad Diary update, I know. Joining me as Beckett’s Jyhad Diary developer is Matthew Dawkins. We’re both excited for BJD’s upcoming release, and knowing the work the writers (ourselves included) poured into the book, we felt we should explain some of the purpose of what you’ll see in Jyhad Diary.

V20 is a celebration of the Clans, Disciplines, Sects, chronicles, and rules that make Vampire: The Masquerade the powerful game it remains in these nights. The one key element of Vampire it doesn’t cover is the metaplot.

That word is emphasized for good reason. Metaplot has been controversial, from time to time. We feel it’s one of the driving reasons behind Vampire fans’ consistent support of the gameline. The strength of the events across Vampire’s many books helped draw players in to this vibrant game of sometimes personal, other times grand, sweeping horror and drama.

Beckett’s Jyhad Diary is ripe with metaplot. We reached into every element of Vampire for the book – card games, novels, comics. But where metaplot has been criticized for being inaccessible or the kind of thing players’ characters are meant to observe rather than partake in, Jyhad Diary exists to enable players to seize these stories, integrate them, and feel as though they’re part of a larger, darker night. Our main theme is a larger world, in fact; our main mood is on the brink, in motion. The contents of the book can be used to fashion chronicles, while the cast who appear in its pages can be interacted with in your games. We cover a number of the high points of Vampire’s metaplot, but the events in the book are left open-ended to invite play. From chapter to chapter, the book introduces flashpoints to act as tipping points for chronicles. Political intrigues in Camarilla courts! The (not particularly) civil conflicts within Sabbat territories! Introspective and eschatological examinations stemming from the rise of the Thin-Blooded! Bloody machinations of Methuselahs and Antediluvians! Princes rising from the dead! Mysterious bloodlines! Setite plots! Giovanni plots! Assamite plots! Even Ravnos plots! Baali! Salubri! Cappadocians! We could go on.

And we do go on. Our chronicler Beckett travels around the world, encountering characters of interest, places of intrigue, artifacts of great danger, and dramatic events aplenty. But don’t be mistaken into thinking Beckett’s Jyhad Diary is a simple travelogue. We want Storytellers and players to use these plots, characters, locations, events, and more — swapping out place names and coteries and replacing them with their own protagonists, or having them taking the role of Beckett and his colleagues (Anatole and Lucita may admittedly struggle with the idea that they’re replaceable), or — if the mood takes you — your coterie can wade through the wreckage left after Beckett’s investigations leave a location in far worse a state than when he arrived. Your characters aren’t passengers on this ship laden down with canon, unless they want to be.

Here’s an extract from my appendix chapter on integrating types of metaplot into your home chroncile, and another from one of Beckett’s adventures in the chapter currently titled “The Fall of the House”, written by Matt.


Metaplot Proper — The Path of Story

Distinct from setting progression and background mythology, the overarching storyline that binds together events in the official continuity, and major story events that change the world or simply move signature characters from city to city, are part of the metaplot. Simply put, metaplot reflects the actions and agency of characters and events other than that of the player characters or the Storyteller’s chronicle at the table or in the live-action parlor. If the flashpoints in Beckett’s Jyhad Diary take place independently of the player characters in a Storyteller’s home chronicle, these plots — along with setting progression, such as events that occur on a set timeline — will progress with or without their actions, potentially to the point where it impacts a chronicle. If Pieterzoon misjudges his targets, every city in the American South and Midwest will become an entrenched, permanent battleground.

Vampire’s metaplot covered four broad aspects, signified by flashpoint events:

  • Movements of the elders: Baba Yaga falls to an agent of her sire, while Saulot’s victory over Tremere becomes complete. In the struggle, the Tremere antitribu of House Goratrix meet Final Death, while Tzimisce slithers and crafts the Cathedral of Flesh anew under New York. Jerusalem sings again with the chorus of the many who are one within Malkav’s curse.
  • War of the Sects: The Camarilla prepares to take back the American South, while the former [redacted] of [redacted] gears up to take back his throne. The Anarch Free States arise across the world entire. A prominent [redacted] abandons the Dream of a [redacted], whose madness infected an entire Sect of vampires.
  • Machinations of the Independent Clans: While the Setites work to raise Set in fulfillment of their faith, the Giovanni attempt to rip down the Shroud to cause the Endless Night. Artifacts such as the Sargon Fragment and the Book of the Grave-War achieve a singular importance. Meanwhile, the Ravnos Clan battles their asuratizayya, “countless demons”, on the Indian front. Their war will lead to the rising of their progenitors.
  • Signs of Gehenna: The time of the thin-blooded arises, while Noddists in the Sects search for the woman with the crescent sign. The signs in the Book of Nod come due. Conspiracies bloom in the midnight garden, flowering and opening to the red star in the sky.

Case Study: The Book of the Grave-War

Of singular importance to Beckett is the text detailing how the rising of elders heralds Gehenna, how even the dead blood of Antediluvians can be worth warring over. Beckett pursues the Book over various cities, slowly learning about its nature and the various forces it involves. This pursuit pushes him, albeit reluctantly, into the machinations of the Jyhad. He touches upon the major beats of the Vampire setting, his curiosity compelling him even when the Book’s arc is resolved.

This plot to acquire the Book is driven by signature characters, one that alters — however slightly — the nature of the Vampire setting. It functions independently of any player characters, and leaves ripple effects that may impact their chronicles. The arc involving the Book flows organically into the remaining arcs within Beckett’s Diary, clearly placing itself within a larger story.

Extract from The Fall of the House… (complete with in-house notations for our artists and some redacted elements so we don’t spoil)

[Recording begins]

Beckett: [unclear] — here? I was expecting Oliver Thrace.

Schrekt: Oliver is indisposed.

Beckett: For the purposes of the tape, I’m now in the presence of Herr Karl Schrekt of Clan Tremere. I don’t mind admitting his very presence unsettles me. He stares straight through me, bears the scars of a hundred battles, and is known to have investigated, interrogated, and put to Final Death countless terrifying creatures.

[Margin notes in Aisling’s handwriting]

I fear for the continued existence of Oliver Thrace.

[Aisling margin notes end]

Schrekt: Quite the introduction. I do not mind your recording. It’s a novelty to be interviewed, when typically I pose the questions, albeit in less comfortable surroundings. One correction though, [redacted]. My kills are not countless. I remember every one.

Beckett: I haven’t been referred to as [redacted] for—

Schrekt: You think I do not know you? Such a prominent Kindred possessed of such overwhelming ego. Hardly surprising. I did not become four-time Justicar for my Thaumaturgic ability alone.

Beckett: I respect your prowess. Would the epithet “the One Who Knows” mean anything to you?

Schrekt: Perhaps.

Beckett: I assume you know the truth of your Clan’s recent intrigues. Were you aware of the practitioner and reasoning behind the ritual that consumed most of the Tremere antitribu?

Schrekt: The English language ever finds a way to butcher a perfectly straightforward question. Allow me to be blunt. Every Tremere felt an altering of the blood in the nights before Goratrix’s brood fell. A surge of power. Councilor Etrius and even that wrinkled old muschi LeDuc came forth to assure the elders it was merely a ritual of the Inner Council. [laughs] Tremere was waking, and calling some of us to him. Most specifically, the antitribu. Tremere consumed the antitribu of our Clan.

Beckett: I’ve a recording showing the perpetrator of the ritual to be Goratrix.

Schrekt: Tremere controls him by some means, but I do not yet have evidence to state exactly how. What I do know is the entity in Vienna posing as Tremere, is not Tremere.

Beckett: That’s a disturbing revelation. Are you aware Goratrix bears the eye of the Salubri?

Schrekt: Demonspawn. I was not. It confirms some of the suspicions of my companions in E Division.

Beckett: Are you willing to share them?

Schrekt: I share nothing until I know it for a fact. This is fact; the wyrm in Vienna is not Tremere even if once it was. An albinoid invertebrate with three pitch black eyes at one end.

[Margin notes in Aisling’s handwriting]

Has Schrekt gone insane?

[Aisling margin notes end]

Beckett: You’ve seen the white worm? It’s Tremere?

Schrekt: I saw it and would have slain it had I not been ejected from the chamber. Etrius bathes it in vitae, which it absorbs through its skin. Where Tremere himself is, I cannot say, but he exerts thralldom over Goratrix while his physical form becomes monstrous. This wyrm — it possesses intelligence and crushing psychic will. I would see the Tremere destroy the abomination, but for Etrius’ obsession with protecting it.

[Margin notes in Anatole’s handwriting]

Sounds more like some fleshcrafting experiment gone wrong. Did the Tremere not originate as a bloodline of the Tzimisce?

[Anatole margin notes end]

[Margin notes in Aisling’s handwriting]

Do not believe everything Vykos writes.

[Aisling margin notes end]

Beckett: You would not be the only Tremere to forge a separate path at this time. The technomancy-wielding Anarchs, House [redacted], whatever remains of the antitribu…

Schrekt: I am no leader of a splinter cell. I am loyal to Clan Tremere, and the Camarilla. Councilor Meerlinda supports my aims. Through evidence and merciless force, I will assist in bringing this Clan back to its true aims and capability.

Beckett: Such elitist action will likely make enemies within your Clan.

Schrekt: Perhaps. My Clan has ever been controlled from on high. This wyrm sitting in Tremere’s place; it conveys its will and the Clan follows. What if through the power of its vitae — which I assure you, is that of Tremere himself, even if his soul is absent — it commanded the Clan to join the Sabbat, or urged us to sacrifice ourselves? I am not on this Earth to form part of a buffet. Tremere consumed the power of the antitribu. This wyrm will attempt the same on the Clan’s main body. That cannot be permitted.

[Margin notes in Aisling’s handwriting]

I will be passing this on to Pontifex Dorfman. Schrekt has lost his mind.

[Aisling margin notes end]

Beckett: It would make sense Tremere — as an enemy of the Sabbat — used Goratrix to destroy the antitribu. But what consciousness now resides within Tremere’s limbless body?

[Margin notes in Lucita’s handwriting]

Schrekt would be familiar with limbless existence. Do you recall what Breidenstein did to him?

[Lucita margin notes end]

Schrekt: I do not speculate. But there’s a reason we’re in Hong Kong. While you and I chat, E Division are en route to the Bank of China Tower.

Beckett: I assume not to make a deposit.

Schrekt: Quite the opposite. A vampire makes his haven within one of the building’s many vaults. He will be withdrawn and brought to me for questioning.

You see, I always check my sources. When fed information, I don’t just blindly spread a swathe of destruction at my informant’s behest as you do. Before I even examine a target, I scrutinize the request’s source. Information pertaining to the wyrm in Vienna, Goratrix being manipulated by Tremere, House [redacted]’s formation, even talk of a Salubri in Hunedoara — it all came from this individual, and all proved correct. This information has festered while I’ve struggled to verify his identity. I need to know if I’m being used, and if so why, before I act.

Beckett: Who is this Kindred?

Schrekt: The native vampires call him [redacted] of the [redacted]. Does the name mean anything to you?

Beckett: No.

Schrekt: Good. I’d hate to have to interrogate you too.

Beckett: I will be taking my leave.

[Recording ends]

  36 comments for “Excerpts and Explanations [Vampire: the Masquerade]

  1. Nazfool
    March 20, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I feel like I’m eagerly awaiting the newest season of a soap opera, with all the guilty gusto that comes with it.
    I’m not sure what it says about me (as a player and a person) but I’m *really* looking forward to this tome of metaplot juiciness. ^_^

  2. Unsilent Majority
    March 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Oh God I want this book so bad…

    Great work, Neall!

    • Neall Raemonn Price
      March 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Matt Dawkins is the real hero of this book. He saved my bacon more times than I can count. Rightly, it’s his hog.

  3. Unsilent Majority
    March 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Quick question:

    At the beginning of this blog post you said you’re drawing inspiration from card games, novels, and the comics.

    What about the videogames? Will we see any characters from Bloodlines or Redemption for use in a chronicle?

    • March 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      The adroit among you may spot several references to the video games. Due to licensing issues, we can’t pull directly from the games, but that doesn’t mean we’ve not slipped in some Easter eggs here and there.

      We have a whole chapter set in L.A. Look out for that one…

      • Unsilent Majority
        March 20, 2016 at 5:20 pm


        Sounds awesome, Mathew. Thank you!

  4. IgnyteZero
    March 20, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I want this so badly!

  5. Primal Flame
    March 20, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Do we have to read Transylvania Chronicles and Giovanni Chronicles to understand to have a better grasp of the upcoming book, or are your guys summarizing the events from those two series of books?

    • Neall Raemonn Price
      March 20, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      We are not, though certain events are referenced, and the advice on integrating metaplot should allow you to run the TC and GC with greater efficacy.

      Keep in mind, though, that this is primarily a V20 book, so we limited our references to non-V20 books.

  6. ClockworkJim
    March 20, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Are you going to keep Pieterzoon’s official clan weakness? Or change it up a bit?

    • Neall Raemonn Price
      March 20, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      His weakness has changed slightly. Ventrue weaknesses can change involuntarily, in response to trauma or population concerns, as per Lore of the Clans and CB: Ventrue.

  7. PookaKnight
    March 20, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Awesome! I’m really looking forward to this one!

  8. Redgrave
    March 20, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for this sample! I cannot wait to see what the next step is. Beckett was always my favorite, and the soap opera aspect of the old material was always what drew me. Can’t wait to see what you guys have in mind.

  9. March 21, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I can’t wait for this book. I love VTM metaplot… yeah, I’m one of these people. 🙂
    Can you share some info about the Tzimisce?
    Thank you.

    • March 21, 2016 at 5:17 am

      I believe each major Clan receives a good degree of focus, including the Tzimisce, who from memory have prominent involvement in at least two chapters.

      Expect both Transylvania and New York City to make at least fleeting appearances.

  10. March 21, 2016 at 5:20 am

    Worth noting – the [redacted] parts will not be [redacted] in the published version, but we want to keep some cards close to our chests. Feel free to speculate as to what they conceal.

    • Anaximander
      March 21, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      I was actually going to ask about that! Thank you for clarifying!

  11. Ammolite
    March 21, 2016 at 11:05 am

    This book looks amazing!

    I’m currently running a V20 game set in New York City circa 1927. Will any of the information in this book be adaptable to that period/setting, or will it only be applicable for “Modern Nights” (1990’s and on)?

    • Neall
      March 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      Only Modern Nights. However, there’s an extended section on how to run published stories from different Vampire editions in V20, and what the characteristics of the line during those editions was.

  12. Bob
    March 21, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I am really looking forward to this.

  13. Julian Moon
    March 21, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Will the Assamites’ breaking of the Tremere curse on their clan be included?

    • Matthew Dawkins
      March 21, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Oo. That would be too spoilerish. I can confirm the Assamites receive at least one chapter dedicated to their activities however, with several Children of Haqim appearing throughout.

  14. ThomasM
    March 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Beckett was a prominent character in the Year of the Scarab books. By chance are the events of that escapade referenced?

    • Matthew Dawkins
      March 21, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      We definitely reference one or two of the events, with Beckett re-encountering at least one of the characters he fell afoul of during those novels.

      • Phaolan
        March 21, 2016 at 7:51 pm

        Lemme tell you why I love Beckett so much. It’s ‘coz he has an ‘everykindred’ vibe to him, even if he is very specific. He moves through the worlds of the undead (and others, as we saw in those Year of the Scarab books) with something like grace… If a Kindred can have such. His appearance in the BRILLIANT (but oh-so-poorly edited) Victorian Age novels cemented my love for Beckett.

        I wasn’t too crazy excited about this book at first, but I’m all for it now. Most of this has to do with YOU, Mr Dawkins, and your obvious love for what you do. Thanks for that.

        …Oh, and the [redacted] are, in no particular order: Solomon, your mom, and El Manzardo. Um, unless they are not. 😛

        • March 22, 2016 at 6:03 am

          That’s very kind of you – thank you for saying so. I’m particularly enthusiastic about this book. I honestly think it’s going to be fantastic in a lot of ways, finding a lot of use at the table and as reading material both.

          You have one right! But it’s *your* mom.

  15. Simon RJ Brake
    March 22, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    I’m really hoping two of those redacteds are ‘Prince’ and ‘London’, because as a London native that story has always had me wanting more.

  16. Benjamin Quintana
    March 23, 2016 at 5:01 am

    Excellent write up Matt. To be honest I’d never put much stock in the WoD’s metaplot, but that was mostly due to starting out with Changeling the Lost and the other CofD gamelines. My original assumpion was that the metaplot served more as a tone building mechanic for the different editions of WoD, but this new information has proven that it’s far more nuanced than I gave it credit for.

    I’m happy to say that I’m now very much looking forward to this new material and can’t wait to learn more about the story of the World of Darkness, as well as draw inspiration for Chronicles of my own from the stories presented in the new supplement. 🙂

  17. Nicolas Sabbione
    March 25, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    As a viewer of Matt’s youtube channel , I am really looking foward for this book, I think his knowledge of the vampire metaplot may even challenge mine! 😛 .I hope this book also takes a step ahead and paves the way for an ampliation of metaplot themes in other future titles, without falling in the “gehenna entrainment” so characteristical of vtm revised.
    Bringing back and putting to date the whereabouts and activities of characters like Gratiano,Montano,Iountius,count jocalo and many other luminaries lost to time would enrich the metaplot so very much.

    • Matthew Dawkins
      March 25, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      The Jyhad Diary is “dateless” in the sense that we’ll not affix its entries to certain years. We’ll be covering *where* certain characters are, but *when* they are is entirely down to the Storyteller.

  18. Reasor
    March 29, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Let me add my voice to the chorus of fans of V:TM’s metaplot.

    Not too long ago, another blog entry mentioned a 4th Edition, set after Gehenna. I understand that the new White Wolf Publishing are almost certainly the rights holders for a 4th Edition now, but is there any chance of seeing a post-Gehenna metaplot supplement or splatbook for V20 from Onyx Path?

    • richt
      March 29, 2016 at 6:44 am

      Likely, but it is still early and will depend on WWP and how their plans come together. Meanwhile, we have plenty of 20th Anniversary projects to work on.

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