Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 4: Vampire: the Masquerade

Vampire was the first WoD game, and is probably the most popular and certainly the best-known.  It’s the only WoD game to have achieved wide recognition outside gaming circles (albeit as the focus of the sort of moral panic that D&D used to be part of, at times).  It’s had a TV show, two PC games and one of the longest-running CCGs, and action figures.  There are over 100 books just in the main line, and three spin-off games.  If you choose to start collecting with Vampire, there’s a lot to buy, but a lot of it isn’t hard to find.

There are four publishing eras in VtM, each connected with its own edition of the corebook: 1st edition, 2nd edition, Revised, and V20 (the VtM 20th Anniversary edition).  In general, 1st edition books aren’t much sought after but are harder to find in good condition.  2nd edition books vary in desirability, but aren’t very rare.  Revised has the highest ratio of sought-after and hard-to-find books.  V20-era books haven’t been printed for the retail market; print copies are either limited editions or PoD.

Vampire books generally have a 4-digit product code beginning with 2. (White Wolf Publishing came from the merger of White Wolf Magazine and Lion Rampant, publishers of Ars Magica, which I believe has the codes beginning with 1.)

Core books.  As mentioned above, there are four core books.  The first two editions aren’t hard to find, although 1st edition books don’t have the best binding and are generally somewhat worn.  Revised books cost a bit more but can be found for a reasonable price if you keep your eyes open (eBay sellers have a tendency to overcharge for it).  The limited, deluxe Revised rulebook is the hardest to find of the deluxe editions from this era, and the most expensive.

V20 is another matter.  The only non-PoD printed version was a deluxe, limited printing that was pre-ordered from White Wolf’s website.  This was the first new cWoD product in nearly a decade, so ordering it was more of a gamble, and those who were willing to spend that much were dedicated enough to want to hang onto them.  As a result, you’ll almost never find a copy for under $200 on eBay.  There was also a special edition available only at the Grand Masquerade convention in New Orleans, which has a special cover and is even more rare. (I don’t own a copy, but I consider it a variant that I’d like to own but isn’t critical to my collection.  Or so I keep telling myself…)

Core guides. There are a lot of these: Players Guides, Storyteller Handbooks, and Companions of various stripes.  1st edition guides practically can’t be given away, as they’re mostly interesting in a “What were they thinking?” kind of way.  It’s not uncommon to be able to pick up an eBay lot of a 1st or 2nd edition rulebook and some 1st edition supplements on the cheap.  2nd edition guides are more common and not much more expensive.  This includes the two guides to the Sabbat, which until Revised were the only place to get the rules on the Lasombra and Tzimisce clans and thus stayed in print for a long time.

Revised edition had more comprehensive guides that gathered together information from a variety of sources.  Apart from the Storyteller’s Companion (a thin paperback that came with the Storyteller’s Screen), they were all hardcovers.  The ST’s Handbook and Guides to the Camarilla and Sabbat can be had for a reasonable amount, since they’re core supplements that came out early.  The Guide to the Anarchs can be more expensive but not unreasonably so.  The Player’s Guide was a late release that wasn’t very popular at the time, since it had practically no game content and was mostly advice essays, which makes it relatively rare (it’s one of two books that I paid more than cover price for).  Finally, there were deluxe editions of the ST’s Handbook (and ST’s Screen) and the Guides to the Camarilla and Sabbat.  The ST’s Handbook is the least expensive of the deluxe editions, and the Guides are mid-range.

The only book of this sort for V20 is the V20 Companion, which had a limited Kickstarter release.

Splatbooks. There are 26 of these, 13 each of the 1st edition versions (which were released over the course of 1st and 2nd editions) and Revised.  The 1st edition versions are easy to find inexpensively; they’re not as useful for reference as the Revised versions, and the early ones in particular were in print for a long time (1st edition Clanbook Brujah may be the most common non-corebook across all their games).  While individual copies of the Revised Clanbooks can be found at reasonable prices, this can take more work, since they’re less common and more popular.  You’re more likely to see large lots of 1st edition Clanbooks on eBay, or a couple thrown into a larger lot.

Note that unlike Werewolf and Mage, the 1st edition Clanbooks were never released in collected editions.  Also note that 1st edition Clanbook Tzimisce was released sealed in plastic, due to some “edgy” imagery on the back cover.  There don’t seem to be a lot of still-sealed copies out there, which would make finding one an interesting challenge.

Other sourcebooks. There were a lot of these, which generally follow the overall availability trends.  I’ll mention a few of note below:

Chaining the Beast: This was a Revised sourcebook that brought together and updated all the Paths of Enightenment.  As a result, this is an invaluable reference book, and is thus one of the more sought-out sourcebooks.

Children of the Inquisition and Kindred Most Wanted: These were collections of characters that were printed as oversized books.  Due to their age and size, I’ve never seen one that was in especially good condition.

Children of the Revolution: A deluxe Kickstarter release, and at the time of this writing one of only three that have been shipped.

Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand: This sourcebook is infamous for introducing a lot of ridiculous and unbalanced new material.  It’s not especially rare, but it brings attention both because of its reputation and because it has a lot of rules material.

Encyclopaedia Vampirica: A reference book that was actually produced by Feder & Schwert, the company that released German translations of the WoD, and translated for the US.  As a result, it’s the only English source for some material that was released in the German-only sourcebooks (about which more later).  It would be an excellent reference book except for one problem: it was released as a deluxe edition that had terrible binding problems.  It is possible to find copies that aren’t falling apart (I have one) but that fact adds to the cost and rarity of what would already be an expensive and rare book.

Giovanni Saga 1: Reprints the first two Giovanni Saga adventures.  This isn’t of particular note for the print editions; however, the PDF copy at DriveThruRpg costs as much as the first adventure does by itself.  If you just want a PDF to read, that’s the one to get.

Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom: Just to explain what this is: It’s a sourcebook detailing variant vampiric Clans that have adapted to Africa.  It’s not a standalone game line like Kindred of the East, and the variant Clans are versions of the existing ones rather than completely new.  This isn’t the highest-demand sourcebook but it isn’t super-common either.

Tim Bradstreet Vampire Portfolio: A collection of art prints by one of the classic VtM artists.  It has no game content, so it’s really a tie-in collectible rather than a game product.  Since the prints are in a sort of folder, there’s a danger that used copies may not be complete.

Storyteller screens. The 1st and 2nd edition screens came with booklets that aren’t on the official checklist (or mine, but I’ll add them) or available as PDFs.  It’s not uncommon to find just the screen for sale, so keep an eye out for complete or sealed versions.  The Revised screen came with the Storyteller’s Companion; neither is especially rare, but you don’t always find them together.  A V20 screen is being released as part of the Hunters Hunted II Kickstarter.

In-setting books. There are two principal books here: The Book of Nod and Revelations of the Dark Mother. The BoN is not especially rare in its base form, but there is a deluxe hardcover that’s less common.  There are two other editions of note.  The BoN was infamous for being hard to read, with text over illustrations or blurry backgrounds, so a clearer version was released recently.  There’s a PoD version, which is not as essential as the PDF version and doesn’t have the nice cover of the original, but is there for the completist (raises hand).  There is also a special hardcover edition that’s part of the most recent Kindred the Embraced DVD set; if you want one, I recommend buying the set now to be on the safe side.

Revelations is less common than BoN; not exactly rare, but not ubiquitous, either.

There are also three books that fall into a grey area.  Book of the Damned is essentially the setting material from 1st/2nd edition VtM without the rules content, and was released both as a standalone and as part of the original Masquerade LARP boxed set.  Book of the Kindred is a mass-market version of BotD that has additional short stories, released as a tie-in to Kindred the Embraced.  Prince’s Primer is a similar-sized book of advice on vampiric politics.  I call these a grey area because they could be considered supplements for either VtM or Mind’s Eye Theatre.  They lean more toward the MET side (going by size and product numbers) but there’s nothing preventing their use in VtM, either.

That covers the basics of the Vampire gamebook line (not counting MET).  Up next, tie-in merchandise!

Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says, “This is the weather the cuckoo likes, armored division submissive to vernacular the world into a gambling birdhouse velocity.”

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