Posted by: markfender | July 30, 2013

V:tM 20th – Bloodlines

This edition has so many Disciplines.

Yes, that mask will totally disguise your identity.

Yes, that mask will totally disguise your identity.

As a collected volume of Vampire stuff, this book has a giant section on alternate options. This includes most of the Bloodlines published over the years, including groups that no longer exist. It also covers the antitribu and other variations on the main Clans. It’s here where some of the worldbuilding that the game has done over the years shows up. For instance, we’ve got the groups that were replaced by some of the blood usupers of the setting, most notably the Salubri (replaced by the Tremere) and the Cappadocians (replaced by the Giovanni). So, this section was actually pretty interesting from a setting perspective. It’s one of the first instances we have of setting that isn’t just Camarilla/Sabbat. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of stupid things.

First, we have all the Bloodlines. Well, all the ones that weren’t expunged. And a lot of these are quite dumb. Many of these barely have a schtick to hang their unique snowflake hats on. Plus, they’re all illustrated by Leif Jones, so that sucks. Luckily, a lot of these groups are actually ugly and if there’s one thing Leif Jones knows, it’s how to draw ugly.

First up are the Baali, who have the dubious distinction of having the worst clanbook every published (First sentence: “Johnathan, half-lost in the bliss of intercourse, smiled stupidly at the naked youth straddling his manhood.” It goes downhill from there.) I don’t even understand why they have a clanbook, since they’re not a clan. But whatever. For the purposes of this book, they’re stupid demon-worshipping vampires that worship demons. Am I repeating myself? That’s how much interest these guys invoke.

Blood Brothers are a Sabbat experiment in creating some sort of monster. I guess it worked, since these guys are able to switch consciousness with other members of their little group. This is a weird monster idea that foolishly got written up as a playable bloodline. They have no personality and sort of require multiple bodies to work, so I don’t know how exactly someone would play one.

The Daughters of Cacophony are what you get when someone just finished reading Queen of the Damned and focused on the wrong parts, namely the rock star vampire. You can play a male one if you like.

Gargoyles are a Tremere experiment in creating, well, gargoyles. These are cooler than the Blood Brothers because they’re actually playable. Now you can recreate the Disney cartoon in your gothic-punk setting.

Harbingers of Skulls are the Cappadocians. It’s never stated that they’re the Cappadocians. It’s just *wink wink* highly implied *nudge nudge*. I’m not sure why they’re written up separately in this book. All it takes is a sentence in the Cappadocian section stating “In modern nights, the surviving Cappadocians are called Harbingers of Skulls.” and we’ve saved two pages of text and a terrible picture by Leif Jones.

The Kiasyd are some sort of faerie crossover bloodline. I don’t get it.

The Nagaraja are flesh-eating vampires, which doesn’t make much for a character concept. They have Necromancy so they get to summon ghosts and deal with the Underworld a lot. So that makes the second bloodline that does so (This will be a recurring trend. Pay close attention.)

The Salubri are next. They have a third eye and a weird Discipline that lets them heal, both physical wounds and psychic scars. They’re the goody-two-shoes vampires, which explains how their antediluvian was diablerized by Tremere. The Tremere have done a good job of vilifying them in modern nights so that everyone hates them, leaving very few left around. Because D&D has to work its tendrils into every roleplaying game ever, they have an alternate Discipline that gives them paladin powers (to match with their cleric powers).

The Samedi are another ugly group of vampires who have powers over death. But, in this case, it’s not expressed as having access to Necromancy (even though their Discipline is remarkably close to a Necromancy Path). Still, this group manages to hit both touchstones from this section: ugly and necromancy.

Last, we have the True Brujah. I sort of like them, even if their Discipline is wacky. Back in the day, when the Brujah antediluvian was diablerized by another Brujah, the Clan became a bunch of rebels. The True Brujah are what remain of the original bloodline of Brujah. They’re big into philosophy and have difficulty forming emotions. In this version, this is actually a playable weakness, so that’s good. I like how they’re the opposite of the Clan they’re based on. I’m not actually sure how powers over time fit into that concept but whatever.

The Ahrimanes are next and you’ll notice that alphabetical order sort of disappeared. These next groups are historical bloodlines that no longer exist. There’s no page break or explanation of this distinction in sections in the book. It just sort of happens. Not confusing at all. “Historical” in the Ahrimane sense means “disappeared in the 1990s.” They’re also all female and can’t reproduce, which sort of explains why they’re extinct (not the female part).

The Anda were a Mongolian Gangrel offshoot. That’s the new trend in this section: groups based on cultures the main Western mythologies ignored. So, there’s that.

Cappadocians are next. These guys were replaced by the Giovanni. They are ugly and have Necromancy. I prefer them over the Giovanni because they don’t have that silly Mafia angle to them.

The Children of Osiris are the enemies of the Followers of Set. Their Discipline lets them ignore various vampiric weaknesses because they’re just so damned spiritually pure. They’re also weird because any other Clan can join the Children and learn their Discipline. So, it’s more of a group than a bloodline. This game is confusing.

The Lamia are next. They were a bloodline of the Cappadocians, so guess what Discipline they have? They also infect everyone they feed on with a hideous wasting disease.

Lhiannan are druids. Seriously.

The Noiad are Viking vampires because the Brujah weren’t good enough to hit all those stereotypes.

The next section covers variations within the main groups. This is another world-building exercise that goes into more detail on some of the Clans. It even details some of the metaplot changes in a sidebar, if you care to incorporate that into your game. I’m relieved that this method was used. It’s like White Wolf learned a lesson from Requiem or something. I’m not going to talk about all the variations here, as there’s a lot and this is already long enough. However, the highlights include the antitribu, those groups that belong to the opposite Sect than their main Clan. So, we’ve got a bit about what a Lasbombra in the Camarilla would be like. For some reason, the Followers of Set evolved into voudoun vampires when they joined the Sabbat.

We also get the three branches of the Assamites: the warriors (the main Clan write-up), the sorcerors, and the viziers. These really helped branch the Clan out from their “super warrior” origins, so that’s cool. There’s three variations on the Followers of Set, who worship various other “evil” deities from other religions. Is anyone else getting the idea that basing a Clan concept on one particular culture’s religious beliefs maybe wasn’t a good idea? This section finishes off with the Koldunic Tzimisce and the Old Clan Tzimisce. The Koldunic are sorcerors based on their bond with the land. It’s a concept I like far more than the “alien disease” one, so that’s good. Old Clan Tzimisce are the remains of the Clan that don’t have Vicissitude. They’re also pretty cool because they also don’t have an alien disease.

Next, we have all the Disciplines these varying groups have. A lot of these are super-specific and don’t match any ideas from vampire mythology. They’re just cool powers (or, at least, they’re supposed to be cool). This includes Assamite Sorcery (which is really just one Path and some suggestions about what Thaumaturgy Paths would also be a part of that). Koldunic Sorcery also has Paths, based on the classic elements. There’s one particular power in this section that I could use some clarification on. Koldunic sorcery uses a particular Attribute for each Path and the rules mention that only the natural Attribute value is used (so pumping a Physical stat with blood doesn’t help). That’s all well and good, except that the second level of The Way of Earth increases your natural Stamina by two, which is the stat that this particular Path uses. So, do those two extra points add or not? Temporis is the True Brujah Discipline and it lets them control time. This is less broken than it was previously. Clotho’s Gift, which lets you gain extra actions, prevents you from using Clotho’s Gift again. So, no wishing for more wishes.

However, there isn’t any Abyss Mysticism in this section, which was a set of rituals old-school Lasombra were into that let them do various “worship the darkness” things. Not sure why this was left out, since Koldunic sorcery and Assamite sorcery were also mostly practiced historically. Since I like the Lasombra, this angers me. Where’s my “worship the darkness” powers?!

And that’s the Bloodlines chapter. It was half good ideas and half bad ideas. I liked the worldbuilding we got and the additional groups that related directly to the already existing Clans and their various histories, but was less enthused about stupid concepts like “druid vampires.” But, hey, at least we got some more setting stuff, something this book has been remarkably lacking in.

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