“City of Dread” Invites You to Survive Sunless Shadeport
“Some call it the Singing City or the City of Song. Others… call it the City of Dread.”
System: Vampire the Masquerade, 5th Edition
Gamemaster: Gavaroc (@gavaroc on Twitter)
Format: Livestreamed via Twitch, VoDs available on Twitch and YouTube
Time: Every Other Sunday at 11:00 PM Australian Eastern
Vampire: the Masquerade has a long history by this point – going on near thirty years by my count – and it’s always been tumultuous. The newest edition has seen its fair share of troubles for its age – but that hasn’t stopped Storytellers around the world from telling tales of the darkest reaches of the night. In City of Dread, Gavaroc – a Storyteller out of Australia – offers us a lens through which we can take a look at the nights in the fictional city of Shadeport, a city believed emptied of Kindred a mere five years ago and now slowly rebuilding under the reign of a new Camarilla court.
I will be honest here: I have run some 5th Edition Vampire; I ran a game that ran for a couple sessions but we were still in the process of learning the rules changes. Without going into a full system review here, we enjoyed many of the changes that the system brought but didn’t have time to get a thorough understanding of the rules under our belt. But from what we explored, we found the system to have somewhat more narrative focus than previous editions while still have a good amount of dice throwing to back everything up in a way that always had forward impact on the story being told. Without a doubt, I find this an absolute upside to the system and how it presents itself during actual play sessions.
Now, if you’ve been reading any of our Games to Watch reviews to this point, you’ll be well aware that – almost above all else – I tend to value the way the narrative is presented both to the players and for the benefit of the viewers when it comes to Actual Plays. This is a balance that’s often hard to achieve appropriately. From the beginning of the game’s first session, Gavaroc sets a cinematic tone with looks at scenes that, perhaps, the players aren’t necessarily part of that are for the benefit of the story; this is something I’m beginning to see more often in games after decades of hearing people warning game masters away from such techniques. Personally I enjoy these vignettes, a glimpse beyond the players’ points of view to suggest at other things happening. In the City of Dread, these are done to great effect, piquing interest in the larger view of things as it applies to the characters’ stories – and the extent of the gaze of a certain individual who resides within Shadeport.
Adding to that cinematic feel is a liberal implementation of music – I didn’t personally recognize any of the music and couldn’t find a source listed for it so I’m unsure whether it’s unique to the game or just very well sourced from, perhaps, video games – and both the storyteller and players embracing (pun intended) their characters and doing their best to drop fully into the roles they’re playing. While it does take some time for the players to get into that swing, by the end of the first episode everyone’s descended into their vampiric personas and setup the potential for so much in the future.
Now, if you’re an old hat at Vampire in any way, shape, or form, there’s an extended segment at the beginning of the second episode you may find a little dull; this is a story about at least one new vampire who has to be taught the basics and we bear witness to this at the beginning of the second session. You’d be remiss to skip this section, though, as it’s a good window into several of the characters and establishing how they might interact with each other in the future.
On the whole, I would heartily recommend City of Dread – either as your first foray into Vampire 5th Edition or as an extension of anything you currently watch in the game. As an independent production, it’s a relatively solid high quality presentation with the foundation of a good story backed by cast members able to step up when the time is needed to provide excellent characterization. I am very much looking forward to catching the third episode and, hopefully, many more beyond that yet – just to see where the story of this young coterie is heading.
You can catch City of Dread on Gavaroc’s Twitch every second Sunday at 11:00 PM Australian Eastern time with the next episode airing on the 28th of February.
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Episode 1: A Gift for the Prince
A small group of young vampires are sent on a mission to retrieve a gift for the new prince…
Episode 2: Whispers of Nathaniel
As the coterie comes together and initiates its youngest member, they’re set on a task in the prince’s name…