Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The power of 5

 So, today we're reviewing The Quintessential World of Darkness, a collection of 5 novels/novellas/short stories from each of the original 5 World of Darkness games. (Well, sort of.) As such, I'll be looking at each entry as a separate paragraph or so. 

The book opens with Kevin Andrew Murphy's The Lotus of Five Petals, which centers around the Eastern Vampire courts that became their own game somewhere prior to the Revised editions of the mail line games. Interestingly enough, it's the whole reason I bought a used copy of the collection, since this one amused me more than the game ever did. (In theory, Kindred of the East had a very interesting setting and managed to reconcile the main games into one more integrated world. In practice, it tended to turn into vampires doing Jackie Chan or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.) Anyway, this, the only piece of fiction ever published outside of the sourcebook for the setting, tells the tale of Anchalee, knocked up by Minnesota sailor Howard, who gets killed on the streets of Bangkok. She gets her Second Breath (aka becomes a vampire) and gives birth to Howard's baby, who is now a Dhampir. Lady Miao, one of the more enlightened vampires of Bangkok brings Anchalee into her court, where a prophetic game of Mah Jong suggests Howard should come back in the picture. Howard returns, along with his friends Jim and Warren. Lady Miao claims Warren (who is of Chinese decent) as her choice of playmates during the visit, while her female impersonator secretary, Phat Ho, chooses Jim, who, despite being straight, has more than a few Obviously Gay Traits. Howard gets gifted with a blessing from Kwon Yin, and it eventually resolves as best it can. It's very subversive in its humor, and I love it like candy.

The second book, The Silver Crown by Bill Bridges, I actually have as a paperback, and you can find that review here

Third is Mister Magick by Edo van Belkom, which concerns the world of Mage. You can tell this one was written fairly early in first edition, since nothing lines up with more detailed pictures as the line evolved. Our main character, Romano, is an Italian-Canadian who escapes Canada to become a big name Vegas magician. He has two enemies, one of whom is a jealous assistant, and another a televangelist. While Romano is supposed to be a Cult of Ecstasy mage, one gets the sense that all he has in common with the Tradition is Time magic. While it's ok, I had a hard time trying to translate the setting with the later much richer metaplot that the game had. 

Next, we come to the world of Wraiths and Rick Hautala's Beyond the Shroud. I'll be honest, Wraith has a really engrossing setting, but the few times I've played, it runs into the issue of every character actually being Psyche and Shadow, which gets confusing easily. This book does a fairly good job of illustrating this world, with David trying to save his living wife and dead daughter from another Wraith with designs on one of Jack the Ripper's blades that's conveniently in possession David's ex-wife's new boyfriend. 

Last, we have the short story The Muse by Jody Lyn Nye. In this one, a Scottish artists finds a fairy muse who wants to return to Arcadia. Nothing really happens where the narrator can see it, so we're left with a guy who loves to draw the lady doing strange things who eventually disappears on Samhaine. 

As you can tell, the fiction within is kind of a mixed bag, and not all of it particularly resembles the source material. But, if you can find a copy, or just want one of the volumes, it will entertain.

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