The end of he world as we know it...
So, after 10 years of releases White Wolf are closing shop on the World of Darkness. The time of judgment is here to sweep away (deservedly in some cases) the accumulated detritus of a decade's metaplot. Soon there'll be a new version, with a new continuity...
Gehenna is the end of the world as seen by the protagonists of Vampire: The Masquerade. Well, more precisely it's four different endings and some advice on how to go about making it really good for your players. Some spoilers may follow, so if you plan to play, you might want to read something else.
First off, it's a nice book. Hardback and with a cover that evokes the events presented within. Illustrations inside are also excellent. It looks like they went to town with the last book of the line.
The early parts of the book are general advice on Gehenna and how to use and abuse it. There's also a general who's doing what and to whom, and which antediluvians are involved. It also introduces the concepts that will spill through all the scenarios, including the Withering, the failure of the curse of Caine, a nice plot device for making seemingly insurmountable enemies weaker. There are also some letters between various metaplot characters that add some nice colour.
The first scenario is called Wormwood, and of all those presented is probably the truest to the original premise to Vampire. It's a story about humanity and what it means, and striving for some sort of redemption. The scenario will involve a lot of talking, a heavy amount of angst, and maybe a bit of salvation. The character's are drawn to a church and while the rest of vampire kind is expunged by the rays of the red star, they get to prove their worthiness and humanity. Great stuff, but not for everybody.
Scenario number two is a bit of a mix. It involves Caine and Lilith. Lilith turns up on your PCs turf and tries to draw out Caine in order to punish him for his sins. The scenario is quite abstract, and is vague as to its purpose in places. To my mind it would be harder work to get players interested in it. Part of this stems from the way the scenes are described. The scene where characters fight off Liliths minions at the docks is a good example, there's not the motivation there should be. Still, if you like the Lilith mythology this scenario is brimming with it.
The third scenario is the Metaplot one. It's full of signature characters and railroading. If you enjoyed Transylvania Chronicles then it would make the ideal climax to that series. It's a good story, but how much your players could actually affect events is limited as written. If you just want to go along for the ride, then it's an entertaining romp, and involves the masquerade being torn asunder, the PCs hunting for clues to various antediluvians and ending up at the city of Gehenna in a confrontation with the awakened ancients.
Scenario four is called the Crucible of God, and features a Gehenna where the antediluvians war on each other. Again the masquerade is torn asunder (by your player's characters, nice) and what follows is a series of abstract scenarios dealing with humanities reaction, the war that ensues and the way in which the different antediluvians approach it. There are also a few set pieces thrown in. There's a lot more opportunity for PC influence over events here too, rather than just witness them.
Chapter 6 is about storytelling and is full of sensible advice (like making sure your PCs are center stage). In fact it's better than much of the storytelling advice in other Vampire books, and really tries to hammer home the themes of the game and how they should be approached at the end. It's followed by a couple of appendices, one on characters who appear in the scenarios and one on how to use (or not) Caine.
Overall: What's nice about this book is that it has something for everybody. If you like your Vampire to be moody and angst filled, or rowdy and katana wielding, if you like metaplot or loathe it, there's something for everybody here. Obviously, this broad scope also means that there'll likely be something in here that you don't like too. But the ideas here are well worth looking at for anybody who wants to end their vampire game with a bang.