Posted by: markfender | October 16, 2013

V:tR – Lancea Sanctum

It’s the first Covenant book for Requiem. Let’s hope it’s good.

lancae sanctumThis book details the Lancea Sanctum, the religious order of vampires. It’s a Judeo-Christian religion, so expect the sort of things you find in Judeo-Christendom and you’ll be fine. The origin of the Lancea Sanctum is Longinus, the Roman centurion who pierced Christ’s side while he hung on the cross. Apparently, that sort of a thing is a no-no and he was cursed by God to be a vampire. I guess that sort of thing makes you believe, however, so he became a devout something and started a whole church of vampires. The basic beliefs of the Lancea Sanctum is that vampires are cursed by God to act as his judgement on humanity. So, it’s in the Covenant’s best interests to act like the monsters that they are and terrorize humanity for their sins. That’s a particularly problematic viewpoint for reconciling with actual Judeo-Christian beliefs, but it’s a fantasy setting and it seems like a good enough justification as any other so we’re going with it.

After the Introduction, we’re given the history of the Covenant. It’s an interesting section because it tries to follow actual religious movements, i.e. there’s a split in the Lancea Sanctum right around the time of the Reformation, etc. The causes for the split are different, but it’s still occurring simultaneously with the real-one. This approach generally works as it sounds reasonable. It only falls down when you compare to real-world religious history and start noticing distressing similarities. Unfortunately, I’m a little too well-versed in actual religious history so this section doesn’t always fall under the best light. If you’re a little less familiar, however, I think it would “feel” realistic.

The end of the History chapter covers the Covenant in modern nights across all the continents. This seems like a slightly odd place to put this information, especially since it talks all about various Creeds and where their strongholds are. Except, I have no idea what these Creeds are, since they’re discussed later. So, on a first read through, this section doesn’t really tell me anything. Of course, if you just transpose real religious Creeds with that area of the world, you’ll have a pretty strong idea what that particular vampiric Creed is about, but that might not be an option for everyone.

The next section covers Unlife in the Lancea Sanctum. This covers such diverse topics as the religious texts of the group, the catechism of the group, and the Creeds – all decent background info for informing your character. The Creeds are, as previously noted, pretty close to actual Christian Creeds. The Tollison Creed seems to be written by someone who has a very…interesting view of Southern Baptists. But then, I guess we can’t expect a White Wolf book to not take potshots at religion. So, yay. There’s minor mentions of some farther out Creeds, which map to other Abrahamaic faiths. So, all your bases are covered. There’s also Heresies in this section, which were slightly disappointing. After the exceptional Cainite Heresy book for old school Vampire: The Dark Ages, I was all excited about reading about some heretical ideas. Instead, we get a heresy who believes that Longinus was immaculately conceived and a die-hard apocalyptic movement. Neither of which are bad, necessarily, but left me a little nonplussed. It might not be fair to compare this section to an entire sourcebook for an old game, but, you know, it was the best sourcebook published for the Dark Age line.

Next up, we’ve got Titles within the Lancea Sanctum. These are fairly standard for what you might consider within a religious organization. Inquisitor might not be a modern-day position, though. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s not. We’ve got a decent discussion of the role of each of the Clans inside the Covenant as well, which is useful. One of the more interesting ones is the Curia Curentus which acts as a overseer for the entire Covenant. If you noticed that this makes the Covenant a worldwide conspiracy while the main book swore that none of the Covenants are, then you were paying attention. It’s an optional group if you want to make your particular World of Darkness more entwined. So, I approve. Then, there’s quite a number of Rites, from how a church service would typically run to holidays and other celebrations. Some of these Rites have game effects which sort of makes it seem like the Lancea Sanctum faith is right. Which could be problematic. Luckily, there’s a sidebar discussing the implications of this, since games that provide actual power to religious rituals end up deemphasizing faith. At least WW recognized that fact and addressed it. There’s some stuff about Domain politics at the end of this chapter, which was also pretty decent.

The next chapter covers each of the “ages” of vampires and their place within the organization. So, neonates, ancillae, and elders all get some page space dedicated to them – how would they be recruited, what would their duties be, etc. This could have been more interesting. It started out decent but then the neonate section went on for 20 PAGES!! That is way too much information! It seems strange to be complaining about a glut of information on such a subject, but it seriously took me like two days to work my way through this section…it just kept going on and on. I can’t say I even gleaned high-level information from it. The one thing I did notice is that the Lancea Sanctum prints out pamphlets and distributes them to potential recruits which seems like a major Masquerade breach. Suffice it to say, if you have a question about a neonate’s role in the organization, I assure you it is here. This continues for ancillae and elders, who get less pages dedicated to them, but still cover far more than I think I wanted to know.

Next is Factions and Bloodlines (with a shadowy KKK picture on the title page – so that’s not ominous). Factions are your hardliners, unifiers, and reformists – like you would find in many religions. Some outlier factions are also presented but with sample groups attached to those ideas. For mendicants, we get the Nepeshim, a group of traveling vampire monks. So, that’s another book with vampires who travel around, in direct contradiction to the main book. Next are Bloodlines of the Covenant. The first are the Icarians, one of the heresies talked about earlier. They basically believe that they should be ruling the Covenant, which is one of the lamest heresies I’ve ever read. EVERY heresy thinks they’re right so an entire group who’s heretical idea is “we’re right” doesn’t really go out on a limb here. Their Discipline lets them spend Blood to boost Resolve rolls which, combined with their other Discipline of Resilience, would make them pretty hard-ass. They’re a Legacy of the Ventrue, if you’re curious. Mortifiers of the Flesh are an ecstatic Club into punishing themselves for their wickedness. An interesting factor is that they can come from any Clan. The last Bloodline are the Ossites. If you couldn’t guess from the name, they’re necromancers. Yay. They’re a Club as well.

Next is a section on the signature Discipline of the Lancea Sanctum – Theban Sorcery. Besides having new rituals, it also talks about its origins and how it’s used today. While it resembles old-school Thaumaturgy, it’s actually quite different as no one creates a new Theban ritual. Instead, they’re discovered, or re-discovered in most cases. This section includes some sample sites to find new rituals which was cool. We’ve got new rituals here as well. It’s interesting to note that the level five rituals are pretty damned blatant, but likewise are pretty powerful.

Last are a selection of Allies and Antagonists within the Covenant. Very few of these have full stats, but they’re a decent cross-section of what you’ll find in the organization.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty decent. The highlight was definitely chapter two with the actual practices of the Covenant. The chapter on how various vampires fit into the Covenant was a little much, however. I mean, it just kept going and going and going. As an amateur religious scholar, I like the Lancea Sanctum because I like seeing fantasy religions explored (as long as they aren’t just a list of gods and their purviews). Despite some of the more blasphemous elements, the Lancea Sanctum strikes me as a fairly “realistic” religion (provided you buy into the existence of vampires and this particular manifestation). I’m a little bummed out on the lack of heresies. After all, there’s a Title called Inquisitor – if you’re gonna call that out you might want to provide some more heretical ideas. I like the inclusion of Creeds and Factions, however. These lead to low-level conflict, since they technically do tolerate each other. Some more actual heretical thoughts would have provided some more out-and-out internal conflicts for them.

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