The world around you is not what it seems. If you look out of the corner of your eye, you might catch a glimpse of something lurking in the shadows. Sometimes, whatever is lurking in the shadows turns its attention towards you.
The premise of John Snead's After The Vampire Wars is a world transformed by the discovery that the supernatural creatures of myth and legend, vampires in particular, have been living among you humans all this time, and you never knew.
Back Page Blurb
Here's the description on the back page.
The shadows have always been with us, and so have those who dwell within: the sorcerers, the fae, the lycanthropes and, darkest of them all, the vampires. All have secretly lived alongside humanity, veiled from mortal view, for milennia, but now they are exposed to the light, and the supernatural walks among us.
Early in the 21st Century, the US Government discovered the existence of vampires and sought to eradicate them. Thus began the Vampire Wars, killing thousands, and ended only by the triggering of a nuclear warhead.
And now, after the Vampire Wars, the world must adjust to a new reality: one where vampires openly walk the streets, where lycanthropes prowl the urban centres, and where sorcerers tout their services from strip malls.
In After the Vampire Wars, you play the creatures of the shadows: seers, fae, lycanthropes and, of course, vampires. Each species has its own special powers and abilities, and some possess formidable magical and psychic talents. After the Vampire Wars adapts the Mythras rules to the contemporary era and the urban fantasy genre. It supports a wide range of campaign types: from gritty Noir, to fast and deadly cinematic adventure; from whimsical urban fantasy to passion-fuelled paranormal romance.
After the Vampire Wars takes Mythras into new territory and does it with style. Fully compatible with the entire Mythras range, After the Vampire Wars creates a fascinating alternate universe where nothing is quite as it seems and where the supernatural struggles for control with the mundane.
That says more than I can about the game.
After The Vampire Wars is basically the answer to the question "What if the Masquerade from Vampire: the Masquerade or Vampire: the Requiem had been broken?"
This is The Design Mechanism's foray into the urban fantasy genre. John Snead, the author and developer, spins a lavish and detailed history of an alternate Earth where all kinds of supernatural creatures have dwelt among humans for centuries, and the aftermath of a bloody war when the humans collectively saw through the veils drawn around their supernatural counterparts for the first time, early in this century (the 21st).
When AtVW first came out, the year was 2017. The date of your game can remain in the modern age (2022, at the time of writing) or set in the future or distant past. Nothing prevents you from setting AtVW in 1917 if you like, with the Vampire War taking place against the background of The Great War, or even setting it in the 1980s in the dying days of The Cold War.
In the sourcebook, however, the year is 2017. AtVW outlines a history of the world from 2008. In a story harking to the TV series Person of Interest, the US government began using modern street surveillance technology to identify vampires, with the ultimate agenda of exterminating the post-life species.
The backlash from the vampire communities was devastating. Nukes came into play. A number of nuclear weapons were spirited away, including an entire US Navy nuclear submarine. The war dragged on for two years. The sourcebook mentions Russia and Ukraine, and the Eastern response to the outing of vampires. This is an alternate timeline, after all.
The World of AtVW
The modern, post-War, world of 2017 (or 2022, if you want to advance things to the present) is one where supernatural beings live more or less openly alongside people. They remain more or less separate from most people thanks to the supernatural effects of Shadowing (a phenomenon of supernaturally-imposed psychological denial imposed on people by the presence of the supernatural, similar to The Mists and Lunacy from Ony Path's Changeling and Werewolf settings). There are laws in place, and many supernaturals have limited human rights. Vampires have fewer rights than other species - something which rankles some vampire community activists.
Seers are humans who develop some form of supernatural powers. There are plenty of those in AtVW; shifters, vampires, the Fae and so on all have access to various powers, but only Seers can develop supernatural abilities (other than becoming a supernatural being, such as rising from the dead as a vampire).
Seers are humans who regularly interact with the supernatural beings of the world. This makes them conduits to the human world, ambassadors, and go-betweens. Human seers can also be private investigators delving into the supernatural world on behalf of human clients, or working with supernatural clients to investigate human involvement in their world.
AtVW focuses on the conflicts - conflicts between the vampire and human communities; between vampires and other species such as half-fae, lycanthropes, shifters, and Seers; and political conflicts, when the agendas of one species, usually humans, comes up against the rights of other beings.
Vampires have few rights. In some parts of the world, they have no rights whatsoever. Supernatural communities form pressure groups to fight for recognition and parity with humans.
Sometimes, adventures take place beyond the confines of the physical world, in a place called The Otherworld; a land of "imagination, creativity, and memory" with ties to the half-fae, but also to dreamers, artists and others.
And yes, sometimes The Otherworld has its own agenda, and individuals within The Otherworld have designs on the physical realm.
After The Vampire Wars introduced the concept of power levels, three tiers of character development and three levels of play. Street level, a default middle, and an epic scale where protagonists and antagonists possess incredible powers.
Outlay Of The Book
After The Vampire Wars is organised into chapters, beginning with Shadowing (there's a typo - it's spelled "Shawdowing" on page 7), which describes what it is, how it's triggered and its effects on human minds. It moves on to History, which outlines the development of the setting right up to current events.
Chapters 3-5 are the crunch section - character generation, skills, and powers. Chapter Six moves on to cover The Otherworld, while Chapter Seven takes on Supernatural Society, and the various cultures present in the world and how they interact with humans, and with one another.
Chapter Eight covers the supernatural species themselves, and Chapter Nine rounds off with Storytelling (rather than Gamesmastering), and how to run After The Vampire Wars for your players.
Inspirations are listed on page 8, but there are a lot more modern inspirations, beside the obvious Anne Rice stuff - Poppy Z Brite's and Nancy Collins' books, for example. Inspirations which never made it to the list include more mundane books, shows, and TV series. Consider a modern cozy murder mystery show along the lines of Midsomer Murders where the victim is a supernatural being living uneasily with the human locals in Badger's Drift, or a grim and gritty setting such as The Bridge (Bron / Broen) with Saga Noren (Landskrim Malmo) as a Detective / Seer with autism and a very loose connection to the idea of conversational boundaries.
Please pay attention to this chapter. Page 134 outlines the major themes of AtVW. It is urban fantasy noir, which means secrets, loyalties tested, the past catching up to people, and betrayal. The lines between right and wrong are blurred, but justice is still clear, even if it does sometimes fall on the wrong side of the divide. It is about ethics, and cynicism versus idealism, and not so much about living with ethics, but with clinging on to what few ethics you have which haven't yet been eroded away by bitter experience.
You can tell stories of faith tested, faith broken, and faith renewed. There is even room for romance in the shadows. AtVW does bring up the topic of romance - covered on pages 140 and 141. You have license to create such dark romances as you would find in Buffy or in Anita Blake (before the latter series went right off the rails).
And yes ... if you want to, you can even create a slice of life setting like Being Human, or even What We Do In The Shadows.
Final Word ... For Now
After The Vampire Wars is currently just a single title, begging for product support. The setting can be tied to Luther Arkwright, Destined, or the rules and mechanics tied to any modern Mythras setting you like. AtVW can be used to support your homebrew world where the supernatural forces are present but still hidden, sucessfully concealed by very potent Shadowing; or you could run AtVW in Gemelos City, and have your half-fae characters stand alongside costumed masks such as Spiral, The Thaumaturgist, and Miss Destiny to fend off invasions of spirits from The Otherworld in a blending of the supernatural and the Godstrand.
At the lowest level, AtVW can even be sneaked into an otherwise mundane setting such as Department M, and have your Seer characters help out trained superspies to ferret out some mad spy ring which has taken captive of a circle of vampires in an attempt to create supersoldiers from their blood.
I recommend giving AtVW a go, if you want to run an urban fantasy which doesn't force you to trawl through volumes of back history and metaplot, and I'm looking at the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness lines here.
Edited by Alex Greene