Posted by: markfender | November 27, 2013

V:tR – The Invictus

Rulers rule.

The_InvictusThe Invictus should be the most popular Covenant, since they’re the closest to the old ideas of the Camarilla. Plus, they’re all about feudalism, which is the only form of government that roleplayers seem to be familiar with. So, yeah, it’s another Covenant book.

We start out with the History section and it’s kind of lame. There’s an apocryphal story about the origins of the Covenant and then some vampires sail across the ocean. That’s it. It sounds like I’m being flippant here, but I’m honestly not.

The next section is all about Unlife in the Covenant. As a feudal organization, it’s all about fealty. So, lots of stuff about properly addressing your betters, various titles, and patronage. It’s a decent primer if you’ve never read anything about history before and have no idea who feudalism works. Some of the titles are pretty interesting as well for your average Requiem political game. Then we’ve got Cyclical Dynasties, which are a “new” idea. I put “new” in quotes because it’s a new idea for Vampire, but it’s pretty much stolen from the Underworld movies. Of course, since the Underworld movies stole everything from White Wolf, I guess turnabout is fair play. Anyway, cyclical dynasties are a pretty cool idea. Basically, a couple of vampires promise to watch over each other when they’re in torpor and in return the awake vampires get to control the empire that the torporous vampire has built. And then they sort of rotate around who gets to control the empire while the others are sleeping. It’s a neat idea that requires a whole lot of trust in a group of people that don’t trust. So, we get a number of pages dedicated to sorting that all out.

The next chapter covers various ages of vampires and how they interact with the Invictus. If you guessed there’s no upward mobility, you guessed right. It’s a feudal system where those in charge never die (from natural causes). No wonder no other group likes them. We also get the concept of Guilds here, which are groups of vampires who band together to form, well, a guild in the strictest medieval terms. These might be modern concerns (how to master a Discipline, for instance), but it’s the same concept brought forward into the 21st century. There’s also a pretty extensive section on politics and growth of the Covenant and how that is accomplished. It’s only here that we begin to see the group spread from its medieval roots as we’ve got discussions on investment banking and other modern-day devices of rulership.

Next up are various Factions within the Covenant. The first are the Cherubim who are all into collecting art. So, your typical Daeva can now act like the typical Toreador of yesteryear. The Most Noble Fellowship of Artemis is a hunting club that hunts the most dangerous game – deer. Seriously, it’s a hunting club without even a vampiric twist. Yawn. The Octopus are the political machine in all their Sinclair’s The Jungle glory. The Most Honorable Order of the Thorned Wreath is essentially a knightly order for all the vampires who miss Grail-quests. Die Nachteulen are a spy organization, but with an emphasis on occultic secrets so as to destabilize the other more occultic Covenants. I’m beginning to understand why the Invictus are the de facto rules of the Covenants – they have a political machine, an army (er, knightly order), and spies as internal factions. Makes it tough to combat when all your Covenant can do is dance around a sacred fire and splash blood everywhere.

Next up are ghoul families because the Invictus like breeding humans to be their servants. So, of course, we have a ghoul butler family in the Hostewicks. Subtly named, also. Next are the equally subtly named Bulls, who are combat ghouls. So there’s that.

Bloodlines! There’s more bloodlines! The first are the Annunaku, a Gangrel Club dedicated to ruling over a patch of land. You know, like the Tzimsce. Next are the Kallisti, a Daeva club all about being ice queens. They have an interesting Weakness in that their blood can’t form blood bonds. If you think through the implications of that, it means that high Potency vampires can feed from a Kallisti with impunity, making them by necessity sort of secretive. Their Discipline lets them reverse the feelings caused by a Viniculum so that’s pretty cool. The Lynx are next, a Mekhet Club who are into networking. They have a pun in their name so they suck. Next are the Malocusians, a Ventrue Club into territory. So, pretty much like the Annunaku. The only real difference is that the Malocusians concentrate on a house of some sort, being haunted house vampires I guess. Their Discipline is pretty similar to the Annunaku as well, making one of these two Bloodlines kind of redudant. Next up are the Sotoha, a Ventrue Legacy of samurai vampires. They’re all into acting proper at all times, as dictated by the tenets of bushido. Lastly, we have the Spina, a Daeva Club that’s really into politeness. They’re also connected to the Horned Wreath so their politeness is connected to notions of chivalry and courtly love.

Next up are all the powers of the Covenant. As a non-occultic focused Covenant, you wouldn’t think there’d be much to this section but you’d be wrong. Instead, they have Blood Oaths, which allow them to mystically bind people to fulfilling certain duties. These often have positive benefits in order to get people to agree to sign them. So, besides the typical contract-style oaths, there are also protective oaths and exclusion-based oaths. These are pretty cool, but could quickly get out of hand in the hands of PCs. After all, there’s nothing preventing people from writing up their own oaths and swearing to perform minor, piddly tasks. In exchange, they’d get bonus dots in Disciplines, Blood Potency, or other game systems. If kept to NPCs, these Blood Oaths can lead to interesting stories, but they could also destroy a game if left unchecked. There’s also a handful of Dynastic Merits, which deepen your connection to a Cyclical Dynasty. These are pretty neat.

Then there’s the typical Allies and Antagonists chapter with sample NPCs. Overall, I’d say this is a pretty decent book. It suffers from being the sort of ‘typical’ Covenant, making some of the information a bit dry, being about things you’ve seen in thousands of other games. However, the unique twists like the Cyclical Dynasties, the Blood Oaths, and the factions help give it a unique vampiric spin.

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