Bloody Hearts [Vampire: The Masquerade]

“I consider myself a seeker of reluctant information. ‘Scholar’ sounds like academia. Ugh.


Happy (day after) Valentine’s Day, Onyx Path fans! I’m Neall Price, beleaguered freelancer and developer of Beckett’s Jyhad Diary. On this feast day (after) of St. Valentine, let’s talk about two sides of the same coin: love and hate.

People love metaplot. People hate metaplot. Metaplot – interconnected stories between books that reference one another and move the setting forward – provides a rich story and context within a larger world. On the other hand, metaplot alters the setting with the actions of characters who aren’t PCs, shifting focus away from the people at the table. Over thirteen years, Vampire: the Masquerade amassed a tremendous wealth of interesting canon characters and timeline events that shook the World of Darkness as it slouched towards Gehenna. It also gave characters the opportunity to witness those world-shaking events, through connected stories such as the Transylvania Chronicles or the Giovanni Chronicles.

One very attractive element of metaplot was that it gave you the sense of being in a much larger world. You stare at the great black lake and see huge shapes and shadows moving under the surface, not yourself reflected back at you. If you were to go into torpor this very night, and sleep for a decade, the world would not move around you, it would move on without you. Individuals – even player characters – can’t stop the machinations of powerful elders that began centuries before Christianity got real big. But they can situate themselves at flashpoints emblematic of the larger conflict. And maybe, with a little luck, pluck and technology on their side, they can make a difference.

Metaplot isn’t quite the same as a setting moving forward in time, nor is it the same as fleshing out lore between books. Vampire’s moved on since 2004, and so have elements of the plot. While Rites of the Blood and Anarchs Unbound reference events happening in the future, they both explicitly move many events to the modern day, and incorporate elements of Vampire: The Eternal Struggle to boot. Further, even V20 itself explicitly changes some details that existed in Vampire Second Edition: Dominate Malkavians, the breaking of the Assamite Curse, the rising of the Ravnos Antediluvian. V20 presents them as setting options, events that could potentially transpire in your chronicle.

Part of the goal of Beckett’s Jyhad Diary is to introduce elements and events of the metaplot, but in a way that sets them up going forward as potential events or events-in-motion, easily incorporated into your game. By discussing elements of the metaplot as flashpoints – events that could transpire, versus events that move forward – we keep Beckett being just ahead of the storms sweeping across the world.

We’ll do this in the book by taking flashpoints of the Jyhad as individual diary entries of Beckett’s, compiled by his faithful (and put-upon) ghoul, Cesare. Each flashpoint is comprised of recorded transcriptions, interviews, photographs, and Beckett’s own take on the events going on around him. The title of this blog entry isn’t just a cute reference to Valentine’s Day: one of the first supplements to delve deeply into the nature of the Jyhad was Bloody Hearts: Diablerie Britain. Our faithful seeker’s investigation of the Jyhad centers around the pursuit of a tome mentioned in that early supplement: the Book of the Grave-War, a text that details how the rising of elders heralds Gehenna.

Here’s a snippet of one of the earliest interviews in the book, detailing Beckett’s entry into Milwaukee to confront Carna, the Tremere regent whose chantry-mate (Doc Mortius, if you’re keeping track) translated the Book of the Grave-War. Unfortunately, she’s got ambitions of her own.


[Recording begins]

Akawa: You’re a lucky fucker. How do you think Homeland Security reacts to corpses awake and sat at the table?

Beckett: I was confident it wouldn’t be mortals greeting me.

Akawa: I’m guessing your boy there is allowed to hear all I’m about to say?

Beckett: He once scraped me off the road in Mexico City and helped put me back together. Cesare is a trusted ear.

Akawa: Fine. Who in fuck do you think you are, flying into Milwaukee without invitation from the Prince?

Beckett: My name’s Beckett. I’m an archaeologist.

Akawa: Whose side are you on?

Beckett: In most cities they get Blue Bloods or Warlocks to do all the probing questions.

Akawa: Yeah, well, we’re running short. Answer the fucking question, please.

Beckett: I’m not of the Sabbat, if that’s what you’re getting at.

Akawa: But you’re not Cam?

Beckett: Bright boy.

Akawa: Don’t talk down to me, you limey prick. I know how to disguise my age.

Beckett: I apologize, unreservedly. No, I’m not in bed with either clubhouse.

[There’s a pause in the conversation at this point, the only sound being Cesare’s breathing]

Beckett: I’m not lying, but feel free to study me. I had no idea how to contact the Prince in advance of my trip. In any case, my reasons for coming to Milwaukee aren’t related to the Camarilla or the Sabbat.

Akawa: Everything is related to those shitheads.

Beckett: Which ones?

Akawa: Both. Sabbat want to dick Camarilla. Camarilla want to dick Sabbat. We all get pulled into it.

Beckett: Aren’t you of the Camarilla?

Akawa: Up ’til recently I’d have called myself an Anarch, until the shit hit the fan in the last couple of weeks. The Kindred working security detail here disappeared, leaving me to meet and greet visitors.

Beckett: You’re quite the welcoming committee. What shit hit which fan?

Akawa: Did you say your name was Beckett?

Beckett: I did.

Akawa: [laughs] Well, you’re the shit. You were expected. Decker is going to love meeting you.

Beckett: I’m guessing I have cause to be concerned.

Akawa: Could say that. The Sabbat have been huffing and puffing for a good few months now. That wasn’t changing. The Lupines were increasing their attacks on the city. That was hell, but we could deal with it. Then the Primogen council dissolved. Do you know what we found when we went searching through former council member Carna’s library?

Beckett: Former council member? Where is she? What did you find?

Akawa: Nice to see a cool-ass Kindred in shades losing his composure. Carna’s flown the nest. She left Milwaukee two weeks ago, brought along a weird cult of Tremere from along Lake Michigan shoreline. Chicago, Green Bay, even one from Manitowoc. Nobody had any idea why the Warlock population suddenly shot up, but we figured they were to be a weapon against the Sabbat packs. No such luck. They all left, even the native Milwaukee Tremere. And her library? Nothing but hundreds of scraps of paper with your name scribbled over them.

Beckett: I see.

Akawa: Yeah? Word is that Carna went Anarch somehow, which I didn’t even know was possible for Tremere. But fleeing your home city just before it’s about to get attacked? That’s fucked up. Most of the non-Tremere Anarchs saw it as permission to make a break for the Free States. But I’m not about to just quit Milwaukee. I’d rather be Cam than tarred with that brush. This city’s defenses are falling to pieces because Carna decided she preferred the view on the West Coast. At least, that’s the way I heard it.

Beckett: What’s your name?

Akawa: Akawa. I was born on this land, Embraced on this land, and I’ll die here to protect this land if I have to.

Beckett: I’d like to see your Prince.

Akawa: Thought you might say that. Come with me.

[Recording ends]

That’s it for this week. Next week (or two) we’ll talk a bit more about metaplot and what that means for Beckett’s investigation into the Jyhad.

Music: We need something that’s both early aughts and mid-new teens. Ah, here we go.

50 thoughts on “Bloody Hearts [Vampire: The Masquerade]”

  1. I’m not a fan of metaplot or the signature characters (although Beckett is one of the few I kinda like). The only thing I would ask is that the changes are treated as optionals in this and the following books. If the next books assume some of the changes, and V20 core book becomes more and more outdated, we could say OP had taken bad habits from WW.

    You mention that Giovanni and Transylvaninan chronicles gave the characters the opportunity to witness the events. That’s the key, many times the players are forced in a history in which they had little to say. Hey, it’s Lucita and Anatole again, let’s see if they do something awesome.

    I must say I’m quite touched with the Diablerie on Britain reference. When I think of metaplot, I tend to think on Revised era. Incorporating previous editions lore is quite cool.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • My impression is that the V20 line is lacking some degree of editorial control from OP.

      V20 declared itself as metaplot agnostic. Then Rites of the Blood drafts evolved the metaplot. That was undone in the final product, but Sabbat was completely tranformed, something that I think is no apropriate to do in a book about blood magic.

      Then V20DA happened. That book not only introduced weird elements as Ahrimanes existing in the Middle Ages, but even destroyed something as central to the setting as the Giovanni family history, among so many, many changes.

      Each book in the V20 line seems to have its own ideas about metaplot, and introduces the changes its developer finds attractive. I think the full lines is loosing coherence with each book and that is becoming a very confusing setting. I think that OP should think where it wants the game to go and should enforce that vision to their developers.

      • Actually, Rites of the Blood had a sidebar where it talked about the fact that it was presenting a variety of options related to the theme of the book. That’s something we’d done with all the V20 books after — presenting material that can be construed as “true” or not depending on each person’s chronicle. As an anniversary edition, I want to present a wide variety that might appeal to anyone who was a fan, instead of enforcing the “one true way.”

        • Thanks for your response, Eddie.

          I knew you with the Lore of the Clans Open Development, and I think you made great, I liked your work, but I liked your way of working even more. But I have to say that the Sabbat depiction in Rites of the Blood pissed me.

          It’s the only part of the book I have read (just because Thamathurgy bores me to death). The Sabbat is re-imagined and reworked from “down the tyranny of the Elders!” to “let’s pray to Caine”. And this is not presented as optional. I could make an argumentation about why I thinks that is so wrong, but the point I was trying to make before is another. Why the Sabbat get transformed in a book about Blood Magic? Does OP as a whole has an idea of what they want the Sabbat to be?

          That did not want to be an attack specifically to RotB, but an example for a reflexion about a presumed lack of editorial control that I think can become a problem.

          Also, in my opinion, giving possibilities and uncertainty is great. But doing that too much can be confusing. Specially when we come to new players that do not have the experience in the revised era to understand where all that Tremere Antitribu/Ahrimane/Assamite/Dementation/etc weird things come from (I insist in that I have not read RotB, except for the Sabbat part).

          • To be fair, the Sabbat switching to a religious slant is not really Tome’s fault. That started happening before the oWoD line was ended. Just attending any Sabbat larp in the last decade would have made that apparent. Even the Grand Masq that introduced V20 had too much of a “Grand Church of Caine” feel. It’s always peeved me that their direction headed down that path.

            But it isn’t OP to blame. That’s just where things went over a long period of time.

          • As Kyle mentions, much of that comes from Guide to the Sabbat. The options we presented were more surrounding the Tremere antitribu and the tweaks to the ritae — both of which were very thematic to a book on blood magic.

            But I appreciate you letting me know your concerns! It’s something I’ll keep in mind going forward.

          • Thank you Kyle for that perspective I didn’t know. The question is: should the LARP determine the interpretation of the game? (true question, I can’t tell myself). What you told is shocking to me, from my (limited) experience in LARP.

            When V20 Spanish translation was presented in Madrid, there was a LARP with more than 600 players. The plot was that the Sabbat was trying to launch a Crusade against Korea, and they reunited Sabbat from all Spain (and Europe) in the Palla Grande to gain support for this. When the Prisci chose an Ultraconservative as the second in command for that Cursade, the great majority of the players started to shout against that. The Sabbat upper echelons saw themselves confronted by at least 400 ravaging Sabbat near frenzy, and the fucking Regent himself was forced to change the Prisci decision and choose and admit that charge to be occupied by Loyalists. All the auditorium celebrated the decision with chants of: “FREEDOM! FREEDOM! FREEDOM!” Not all the Sabbat there were loyalists, but most of them saw Freedom as the base of the sect (Caine is not even named in the Code of Milan).

            Maybe it’s just that the Spanish and USA players are different, or maybe is something related with regular or sporadic players.

            Eddy, thank you very much.

    • Less of a “this is something Beckett and Lucita are doing to drive the plot” and more “Beckett is commenting on a certain event at a certain place”. By portraying these events as flashpoints, we’re seeking to give players and STs the tools to grab the events and own them at the table, rather than acting as passive observers.

  2. I personally despise metaplot under most circumstances precisely because it yanks the focus away from the people at the table. (On top of that, I find it a particularly bad fit for Vampire – if we’re going to play a game of personal horror, let’s keep the scale personal, hm?)

    So on that basis, on behalf of the haters I’d like to thank you and OP for quarantining the metaplot to supplements such as this rather than letting it rule the entire V20 line, it’s made V20 by far the most useful version of Vampire for me. 🙂

  3. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I love metaplot and I can’t wait for a book that may stand to further it. Excellent material up above! There’s a soft spot in this old coot’s withered heart for Milwaukee.

    • I completely agree, I as well love metaplot! It adds flavor and color to what would otherwise be a non-discript setting. When players can have a shared history, even across gaming groups with strangers, I’ve found that to be a fun and bonding experience. I’ve also found it useful from an ST perspective. There was a time in High School and College when I would have loved to world build from the ground up. But I don’t have that kind of time anymore and metaplot/cannon NPCs can be a great jumping point or inspiration to get a consistent feeling world going.

      I’ve never understood why there are those who see metaplot as a detriment in the first place. If we didn’t like something in the metaplot my circle of friends have always just ignored it. Mechanically the game works the same way regardless of what story elements are cannon in your groups universe.

    • I love metaplot too and I’m greatly troubled by all the loud voices that constantly wants for it to just dissappear. V20 got rid of it so they won, but atleast we get this book. I’m really excited about this book, thanks heaps for making it. And if it contains more text like this, interviews with other known vampires I’m gonna be in absolute awe!

        • I’m a huge fan of both Hesha and Khalil if we talk about the big signature characters! But also seeing some of the minor characters from different novels would be awesome. As an example, If Beckett would interview an Assamite about the Schism it would be cool if it was one of the minor ones mentioned perhaps in a novel before, instead of a completely new one. That was one of the biggest kicks for me when I saw that the new Darkening Sky authors made reuse of Gotzon who was just a minor sidekick in the Dark Ages Ventrue Novel. Unfortunately many of the really cool sidekicks has a tendency of dying in the novels 🙂 Like the Setite; Vegel – May Set rest his soul.
          This might be quite unrealistic wishes ofc, I’m fully aware of that 🙂 But any use of old good characters is appreciated!

        • Something that has bothered me since the publication of New Orleans by Night is what (Justicar) Xaviar is doing in New Orleans. Page 9 of NObN mentions he is “sucking power” from an abandoned werecreature caern. Although he has an extensive list of Disciplines in Children of the Night including Abombwe I haven’t read anything that would allow him to do that. I realize this can be chalked up to NObN being an early edition book. But, Children of the Night & I believe some other Revised Era books also made mention of him frequenting New Orleans. I would be very grateful if you could provide a canon explanation for this. Maybe he has contacts among other supernatural groups that he allows access to the caern in exchange for boons, information, etc. Although this is a very minor thing it might be interesting for Beckett to address this & provide some closure/sanity for me. Thanks!

  4. I’m definitely a fan of metaplots. Huge fan if you will. So this is probably my most anxiously awaited book from OP.

    Loved the interaction from Bloody Hearts.

    Neall, by any chance have you checked out Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines? I felt Beckett was done extreme justice by the writers and voice actor of that game.

    If not, I’m sure there are a ton of videos of Beckett on youtube. Just an awesome, awesome job on him. In fact, when reading the above dialogue that you posted, I actually read it in his voice from the game. Worked perfectly!

  5. I am very excitied for this book and glad to see metaplot be handled this way. I love white wolf’s old metaplot.

    I always felt the books should be broken into two ways. Rules etc and plot books. That way I can choose what I want to use for my games and ignore the rest. I always disliked the stance of metaplot bad.

    I can always choose to just ignore it and use what works in my games. I always liked the idea of books thay basically said “do what you want for your game. But for those of you curious is it what is going on in our world!”

    • My problem with metaplot was that it tended to come across not as “Here’s what is going on in our world” and more as “This is the canon we are going to support from now on, so if you liked the anarch free states it sucks to be you.” The metaplot version of the setting was privileged above people’s home games by virtue of being the version supported in supplements, and if a region or group you particularly liked got wasted in the metaplot it felt like a slap in the face. “Ha, you actually liked the Free States? What a goddamn loser.”

      • As you might have guessed, the Free States/LA were a sore point with me, because taking what was a really excellent sandbox for anarch-based games and then wiping the slate clean for a Kindred of the East tie-in was so utterly needless.

        Sure, you could say “we’re going to ignore the metaplot now”, but I say that metaplot which flat-out destroys (rather than evolves) perfectly good game-worthy settings is bad metaplot. If you’re going to have metaplot, it should create and support game opportunities, it shouldn’t shut them down.

        • Yea but you can just golden rule and not use it.

          In your games the anarch free state could simply not have fallen. While I agree in revised Era it could be a bit heavy handed at times…I could also simply choose not to use what I didn’t like and make up my own metaplot and stories.

          I like seeing into the mind, so to speak, of the creators as to their vision if the world and what’s going…then cherry pick what I want to use for my own games.

          • “You can just golden rule it” is a tautology though. You can golden rule everything in an RPG book; doesn’t mean criticism is fruitless or has no place.

        • I completely agree, and that’s the impetus behind the “metaplot agnostic” feel of V20 — presenting options that groups can rewind or skip around instead of telling them how to play the game.

  6. Jyhad Diary is filled with “flashpoints”. Flashpoints are toolboxes and dynamic settings rather than just events you can observe. Each chapter will be filled with hooks and teasers for plots a Storyteller can make their own, or a player can incorporate into their character’s backstory. Were deliberately avoiding the use of dates so the events in this book can take place whenever you see fit, within your chronicle.

    It’s lovely to see some of my dialogue from this book up on the blog 🙂 I wrote the Milwaukee chapter, among others, and specifically requested this one as Milwaukee by Night was one of the first sourcebooks I owned for Vampire.

    • Just as a clarification to Matt’s post, some of what would be considered Vampire metaplot – such as the death of Lodin – still happens and has a date (1993, to be precise). And you’ll see that certain events in the Revised-era of the metaplot still occurred (such New York becoming a Camarilla city or Mithras’ diablerie). However, the events described in Beckett’s Jyhad Diary leading up to flashpoints are deliberately kept somewhat fluid to help STs integrate them fully into the stories at their table – heck, that’s the whole point of the book. And even if we do give a hard date, it’s mainly in-character. Nothing says vampires can’t be wrong (or, you know, lying).

      • Boo new york falling to the cam!

        ::says die hard sabbat fan::

        I will be curious to see how certain stuff like that is done without the metaplot of the fall of the east coast or the gangrel leaving the cam that helped make the story understandable.

  7. Not a big fan of the dialogue and cursing here, comes across as a bit juvenile and repetitive. I’m not sure that a dead ‘thing’ would talk like this. Also really pads out the central info., which could be summarised in a paragraph.

    This style of presentation (interviews etc.) has been done really well before in Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, Nights of Prophecy etc. I’d model how those books frame this style of presentation.

    • Thanks for the feedback! What I was trying to get at here was Akawa’s frustration with Beckett, the situation in Milwaukee, and the “job” he’s just inherited. He’s an old vampire, but he’s also reasonably well acquainted with the ways of the kine. I don’t see why he wouldn’t pick up some of their vulgar argot.

    • “I’m not sure that a dead ‘thing’ would talk like this.”


      People curse. All the time. Kids, teenagers, adults, and even the elderly. This is the World of Darkness, not the World of Sunshine.

      Perhaps it’s the Brujah character in me speaking out, but I see no problem with it. I know plenty of people who do not curse, and I know plenty of people that do. I don’t see this as a problem.

  8. I’m looking forward to this book, for sure, but I am MORE looking forward to seeing how this ‘metaplot agnostic’ experiment plays out. That is, I’m curious to see if we fans ever quite ‘get’ what you (Onyx Path) actually MEAN by ‘metaplot agnostic’…

    I always and ever took the tack of seeing ‘metaplot’ as optional, and historical changes that have come up (e.g. Giovani ‘family’ history, Telyav survivors, Sabbat as a proper church) only make me giddy to have more options to make the milieu more complex. I’m glad to see I’ll have more grist for that mill!

  9. Bring on the metaplot! Oh how I have mined these for ideas over the years!

    Any chance we can see some cross genre metaplots? Vampires, Garou and Mages stepping on each others toes? Hell, Bob Weinbergs Red Death Trilogy is still one of my favorite reads. To bad the Mage trilogy was not as good, to much going on with to many characters, the plot never really gelled well for me.

    Hope this brings in enough $ that Op will consider doing more and including Werewolf and Mage!

    Take my $!


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