Posted by: markfender | August 20, 2013

Vampire: the Requiem

Oh my God there’s so many vampires.

vampirerequiemAfter looking at Vampire: the Masquerade 20th anniversary edition and being disappointed, I thought I’d look again at Vampire: the Requiem. I spent a lot of time complaining about how Masquerade wasn’t Requiem so it seems only fair to look at what makes Requiem better. It’s certainly not perfect, but it did a lot of things right.

So, our first stop is the cover. And it’s weird. There’s a hand and some rose petals and it’s all in this red-tint. It’s hard to tell what’s going on. Definitely not as evocative as the old-school marble + rose cover. But, we do have modern layout inside so that’s good. The interior is two-toned, with red being the other color. There’s some blood drippings in one corner and some more rose petals in another. Plus, all the headings are written in red. Luckily, I can actually tell that these are red, unlike the last book. The headers are in an annoying cursive font. These are kind of hard to read sometimes. There’s a few headers that I’m not sure what they say, even after reading the relevant section beneath them. Each Covenant write-up also features its own font, with a couple of these being more annoying than evocative. The Ordo Dracul one has a really annoying “S,” for instance.

The whole book is about 300 pages. However, in order to use this book, you need the World of Darkness corebook, so that’s another 250+ pages. So, this book is actually just as thick as the 20th anniversary edition of Vampire: the Masquerade. Interestingly enough, it has a lot more setting information in it too, which makes it superior. This is primarily due to the enormous space spent on Disciplines in Masquerade.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s called Vampire: the Requiem. What’s a requiem? All vampires are musicians? A masquerade made more sense. In the context of the game, a requiem is the individual vampire’s unlife, since a requiem is typically a dirge. Not at all pretentious.

The next thing you might notice is that it’s a Modern Gothic Storytelling Game. That’s right, the “Punk” is gone. Which is good because after having the Sabbat, Anarchs, and Brujah in the last game, I’m a little sick of punk.

As for the rest of the Introduction, it’s not much different from previous vampire games from the same company. It’s got common myths of vampires, themes, and moods. It’s also got a big list of inspirations, from novels to movies to music. Interestingly enough, the music list tells you to pick your own appropriate music. White Wolf isn’t going to force its tastes on me!? What the hell is going on?

The next chapter is Society of the Damned, which covers all your basic vampire knowledge. A lot of this is similar to the previous game. After all, there’s only so many ideas you can do to vampires to make them different. Instead of a Jyhad, we’ve got the Danse Macabre. Probably because Jyhad took on far more negative implications since the original game was published. We’ve also only got five Clans and five Covenants. More on those later.

One cute mention is that the Camarilla was the name of the first vampiric society, but it collapsed in Rome. Heh.

There’s a weird emphasis on “politics is local.” In this book. It is repeatedly mentioned that vampires don’t travel and don’t communicate with groups of other vampires in other cities. I don’t necessarily mind this, but it does go on and on about it. Is this an attempt to distance the game from its previous “global conspiracy” angle? Most definitely.

To push the break from the previous game, we’ve also got a section that details vampire politics. This is interesting because it presents multiple ways to do it, instead of the old traditional Prince/Primogen setup. The Prince is still there, but the game go out of its way to mention other options, things like boardroom, diocese, and feudal monarchy. Already, we’re seeing the ways that this game presents much more of a toolbox approach to vampiric roleplaying. This section finishes off with the traditional political roles. So, there’s your Prince, your Herald, your Sheriff, etc.

Following that, we’ve got some history. There’s not a lot of specifics, but it does go into how and why vampires tend to spend their unlives plotting against each other. There’s also a setting reason why vampire history is so vague – vampires don’t remember so good. When they go into torpor, they exist in a weird fever dream state that tends to confuse them as to what actually happened while they were up and walking around. This is another break the new game takes from the old one, again in an attempt to remove the “global conspiracy” angle. This saddens me a little as this won’t be the first instance of the game lessening the impact elders have on the game.

Next we get into Covenants. Covenants are awesome. With the new “5 x 5” framework (five clans; five covenants), this presents a whole slew of interesting set-ups that just weren’t possible in the old game. Each Covenant gets 3-4 pages detailing the general idea, who might join, their philosophies, their rituals and observances, specific titles, and their opinions of the other groups. So, that’s more information than was in Masquerade, for those keeping score at home.

The first Covenant are the Carthians. They’re your Anarchs. Basically, they have a lot of ideas about how Kindred (yep, same term) should be ruled. They’re running hippie communes, experimenting with meritocracies, and any other weird political idea you want to throw in. I like them more than the Anarchs because they’re not just rebelling to rebel. Depending on how you frame the group, they could be rabble-rousers, the minority party, or even a bold new experiment in undead unlife.

The Circle of the Crone are the paganistic sect. They’re into worshiping a Mother Goddess (whatever form that might take) and performing icky blood magic. Again, they’re more broad than previous groups as this section acknowledges that “pagans” aren’t a cohesive group. Whatever weird cult idea you want to introduce can slot into their beliefs.

The Invictus are the new Camarilla (both in reference to the group destroyed in Rome and the old Masquerade game). Elders should rule, lessers should work for their favor, and that’s how it should be. Unlike the old Masquerade Camarilla, they’re a lot more active, which is cool. They don’t assume that everyone’s a member of their group, even if they do think everyone should be. So, there’s a lot more potential for active politicking with other groups than the old setup.

The Lancae Sanctum is based on one possible vampiric origin myth (no Caine in this game), specifically Longinus, the Roman Centurion who pierced Christ’s side while He was on the cross. Apparently, that was a no-no and he became a vampire. This is a vampire religion that definitely takes some ideas from the Sabbat. However, I find their stance a lot more approachable than the previous group. They believe that being a vampire is a curse and their new purpose is to act as punishment for sin. Basically, vampires would have been behind all of Job’s sufferings if this group is to be believed.

The Ordo Dracul is the last group and they’re based around another potential vampire myth – Dracula. Supposedly, Vlad Tepes broke his word and so was cursed with vampirism. Since then, he’s been working on a philosophical framework to overcome vampiric weaknesses and has attracted other like-minded vampires. This one is closest to the Inconnu in the old game, but with a healthy mix of Tzimsce ideas. They’re philosopher-kings, intent on understanding the vampiric condition and, more importantly, overcoming it.

There’s a few other minor covenant ideas here, too. Like the Unaligned, which is pretty much what you’d expect. There’s also Belial’s Brood, who are demon-worshipping vampire bikers. *Sigh* Because we couldn’t not have Baali and/or Sabbat somewhere in this game. Another group is VII (Seven), who are awesome. They’re mysterious vampires who hunt other vampires. The cool part is that no one knows why they’re doing it, nor who they’re working for. They’re impossible to mind read, refuse to divulge information, and are generally just a boogieman you can throw at your players.

Next is mythology, which goes over that whole “no Caine” thing as well as explaining how some of the Covenant beliefs are met by other Covenants. The bottom-line is that no on really knows where vampire comes from. However, Golconda is still a concept, which is explained here. There’s also the Traditions, which are pretty much the same idea from the old game. However, there’s a lot less of them; three to be exact: Don’t reveal vampires, don’t sire childer, and don’t commit diablerie. What’s interesting about these this time is that they actually developed based on part of the Kindred condition instead of just being handed down like the Ten Commandments. “Don’t reveal vampires” developed because of that whole “vampires don’t appear in mirrors/pictures” thing, “don’t sire childer” developed because it takes an active act of will (a Willpower DOT) to sire another vampire, and “don’t commit diablerie” developed because it taints the soul (automatic Humanity loss). I like the fact that these are game rules to reinforce these – it actually makes more sense why these would develop without one giant overriding group declaring certain rules. There’s a few other traditions, like the idea of domain and blood hunts explained here as well.

There’s also some stuff about how cities are divided up: where it’s cool to feed, where you go to get away from it all, and who gets to decide what those areas are. And finally, there’s a Lexicon. This is almost verbatim from the previous game with many of the same terms that never see the light of day again. However, it does contain a pronounciation guide which is new and quite helpful.

So far, the game isn’t that far away from its previous incarnation. I mean, they’re still vampires with traditions, a penchant for politicking, and drinking blood all sexy like. But the idea of Covenants are far more playable than the old Camarilla/Sabbat dichotomy. With more factions introduced, there’s the chance of even more tricky politicking, so that’s cool. I’m less enthused about emphasis away from global conspiracy and weakened elders. It’s not essential that those things be in a vampire game, but I did like their inclusion.

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