Legacy of Lies – A Vampire: The Dark Ages Jumpstart Chronicle

Hello everyone and welcome.  Today I am going to be doing another World of Darkness Library review, this time for Legacy of Lies – the recently released Jumpstart adventure for Vampire: The Dark Ages.  I have to say, I was quite excited when I saw that this supplement was being released.  Somehow it passed me by and I wasn’t aware it was coming out until it was shared on the Onyx Path blog.  Good job I read it!

What is it?

Legacy of Lies is a short PDF and/or Print on Demand supplement for Vampire: The Dark Ages 20th Anniversary Edition.  It contains a simplified character creation system, an abbreviated clan and discipline list (Everything the writers believe you will need to play), as well as a bit of lore about the specific setting surrounding the 6 scene startup adventure.  Players wishing to play this adventure will be able to choose from Ventrue, Toreador, Brujah, Nosferatu and Gangrel Vampires.  The adventure is intended for very recently turned vampires, and revolves around the Vampire Elder Marcus Verus, Prince of Chester, and his desire to slumber – but his unwillingness to do so until he is sure that his domain is in safe hands whilst he sleeps.

Naturally, there is a plot against Verus and he will recruit the player characters to chase down leads and find out who his enemy really is.

The supplement contains character sheets and biographies for the important characters that players are likely to meet during their adventure which will take them from Chester to France, Edinburgh and then back to Chester again.  If the players succeed, they will have the patronage of a Vampire over 1000 years old.  Fail and they will have the umbrage of a Vampire over 1000 years old.

The Good Stuff

Probably the thing that appealed most to me in this book was the simplified character creation.  As the book is quite short, it is easy to find the character creation section and you can speed through this for pretty much any Vampire: The Dark Ages character whether you play Legacy of Lies or not.  There was also a pretty easy to follow section on the various dice rolls that a Storyteller will call for, and in the individual scenes for certain things it specifically suggests what rolls are needed and what level of success to achieve the objective.  Also, what factors to consider when reducing or increasing difficulty.

As I am in the middle of writing my own little starter Dark Ages adventure, I also found the character backgrounds interesting as it detailed the reasons for various vampires wanting to undermine their rivals, even rivals from the same clans.  Whether you play the adventure or not, the intrigues between characters are good story fodder for a powerplay type game of Vampire.

The Less Good Stuff

I felt that they played it safe with the clans chosen for this story.  Basically, the five easiest to play Camarilla Clans (even though there is no Camarilla at this point).  That is to say, there were no Malkavians, no Tremere, no Lasombra or Tzimisce, and no named Assamites or Setites.  I have seen this combination of clans once before, in the very short lived TV series, Kindred the Embraced.  That was not an amazing TV series, though there are still parts of it that I do like.  However, it felt like they were avoiding controversy (By not having Malkavian Madness onscreen) and keeping things simple (by not having Tremere on the screen).  I had to wonder if that was the case here.  I may be overreacting on this score based on my association with that TV show.  So, I will not dwell on it.

The Discipline list was incomplete.  I was fine with the list being comprised only of the Clan disciplines of the 5 aforementioned clans but each discipline did not recieve equal/fair treatment.  It seemed that the disciplines of the Ventrue and Toreador were privileged over the Nosferatu and Gangrel.  That is to say, all of the rank 1 to 5 powers for Toreadors and Ventrue were covered.  The Nosferatu Discipline of Obfuscate got up to level 4, the Gangrel Discipline of Protean had 2 entries and Animalism went up to 3 or 4.  Granted, the NPCs didn’t need powers beyond that, and the players are unlikely to start beyond those levels but I still felt that they should have been included for completeness.  (And also as part of my next point)

Some of the NPCs had backgrounds, but virtually no stats as they were deemed less important.  However, they are folks the players could encounter and one such “Less important” NPC was the one that summoned the players to court in the first place.  To give that character a name and brief background, and then say he has priority in mental areas, to list no abilities or powers or clan, and then say “Experienced Storytellers can give this character a clan should they wish…”  seemed a bit rubbish to me.  Players will be players, and they will investigate stuff – because that is fun.  For my money, a jumpstart should be ready to play.  To have characters that are half done seems less good to me.  And one of those characters, when I read their background, read like a Follower of Set – less likely, but possible.  And there were no rules for them.

The Stuff that could be Good or Less Good Depending on your Perspective

There was one thing that stuck out to me.  Once I had gotten past the rules introduction there was a pretty decent introduction for the Storyteller about the background of the adventure (That was good.  Thumbs up).  There then followed Six scenes to play.  One of these scenes was a replayable random encounter type thing, with a list of possible adversaries that was quite good.  The objectives were outlined reasonably well and the adversaries had character sheets and a basic reason for being hostile.  One scene was a replayable “We need to go to a place to arrange a thing, and feed whilst we are there” scene.  This also was fine as it outlined the general area, who was there and who could help or hinder.  This was all fine.

The other four scenes were directly plot related.  And I felt the layout for these sections of the book was unforgiving if the reader is a rookie storyteller.  That is to say, each section outlines characters who are about/nearby and what there current motivations are, and what the players need to achieve from those characters and what the Storyteller’s objectives for that scene is, however, it does not tell you how to present all of this to a player.  An experienced storyteller might love this as they can look at the players, look at their characters and tailor each scene.  However, if it is your first time and you are just wanting to run a straightforward adventure, I think the layout is not helpful.  My basis for comparison, I have read books in the Transylvania Chronicles and Giovanni Chronicles, both of which are adventures that players can buy.  In those books each scene has a description of what is going on, with a few paragraphs dedicated to specific npc motivations.  It felt smoother.  Legacy of Lies felt like a pile of alphabet spaghetti requiring the intervention of a human to actually finish the adventure.

My response to this seems to contradict my ethos on planning adventures for RPG.  I still don’t tend to plan what happens next in my games, I write what has gone on before and where people are now and what they are doing.  And then I leave it to the players to get from A to Q.  However, for something that is an off the shelf adventure I would hope for a bit more planning laid out in the book so that any Storyteller, of any experience level can pick it up and get started.

My Final Thoughts

Is the adventure interesting – yes, though I felt the scale of it was strange (I am struggling with the Geography of Chester and Edinburgh being rival domains in a time where travel between them likely takes days and weeks).  I liked that there was a layer of mystery in the adventure surrounding the sponsors of the plot.  I didn’t like there was little to no explanation as to who they were.  I liked the theme of Edinburgh – a vampire population that is starving, though the numbers of humans living there seemed unnaturally low – even with a large Vampire Population.

The simplified rules and character creation are very useful for getting anyone into the game, though it is my judgement you still need the core V20 Dark Ages Rules, and the useful stuff you get from this book you could also get on the Dark Ages Storyteller Screen.

I bought this as a PDF from DriveThru RPG.  It wasn’t that expensive and I am happy to support this supplement’s production as there are some good things in there.  I just don’t think it warrants spending the money on a physical copy of the book.


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