Posted by: markfender | December 10, 2013

V:tR – Carthians

It’s time for a book about anarchy.

carthiansFrom the outset, the Carthian Covenant is the least interesting to me. I mean, it’s basically the anarchs from Masquerade made into a group. As an individual character concept fighting against the man, I’m on board, but a whole book of “screw you” doesn’t sound all that interesting to me. Still, I found myself buying more into the concept after the book explained some basic tenets, namely in a society ruled by monsters all susceptible to the Beast, it doesn’t make much sense to follow a feudal model. The more you can compartmentalize rulership, the less your society is going to be upset by someone losing control. That actually makes a good bit of sense and made me more amenable to the Carthian model of rulership. Can the book continue to win me over?

The first section is the History section and it’s mostly recent stuff. As the youngest Covenant, it doesn’t have an extensive history to call upon. Still, we’ve got some notable uprisings, both successful and not, that are detailed. This chapter didn’t really do much for me – other Covenants have had more interesting background events in their past.

The next section lays out some of the tenets of the group: being modern, being collectivist, and being diverse. Unfortunately that last one sort of hurts this chapter as we tend to just get various examples of different groups and how they’d rule. This book suffers a bit from the factional nature of the Covenant, detailing specific examples instead of being able to talk in general terms. That being said, the general details are pretty interesting, as it shows how a group that’s very diverse can learn to work together. One example of this is how the book discusses the place of Clans in the Covenant. In fact, it doesn’t. Instead, it talks about how useful each of the Disciplines is to the group. That implies a Clan following (after all, only Mekhet have Auspex as a Clan Discipline), but doesn’t outright state it. In other words, what you can bring to the Covenant is more important than who you came from. I found this a nicely subtle bit of extending the metaphor of the group.

The next chapter talks about the role of vampires within the Covenant. This includes recruitment from other groups as well as from outside the vampire community. There’s a decent primer on the various forms of government here as well, for those too lazy to go to wikipedia. There’s a section on Frontier Domains, which seems out of place. Frontier Domains are those areas where humans are but vampires aren’t (yet). That’s all well and good and would make for an interesting setting, but it doesn’t seem exclusive to the Carthians. Wouldn’t all the Covenants be interested in these? One little sidebar doesn’t quite address my issues with this section being in the Carthian book. I also found this chapter badly organized. Relations with other Covenants is separated from the section on joining other Covenants, for instance. Politics is spread throughout the whole chapter. Sample governments are broken up by the discussion on frontier domains, only to be picked up later with a section on conquering a domain, which followed the section on relations with the World of Darkness as a whole. And then after the section about leaving and joining other Covenants, we get back to a discussion on politics with maintaining communication across multiple domains. The information as a whole was interesting, but it wasn’t quite laid out in what I’d consider a logical layout.

The next chapter is Factions and Bloodlines and, owing to the disparate nature of the Covenant, is pretty long. The big groupings for Factions here are Individualists, Collectivists, and Moderates. Not really a big surprise. But then things get weird. There’s a sub-faction listed here of the Cult of Self that goes on for page after page. I’m not quite following how the Cult of Self is different than the Individualists. I would buy this as a sub-faction of the Individualists (the Cult of Self seems more solipistic than the general Individualists are, for instance), except that it’s listed after the Moderate section. And then there are more groups listed after this, but they get the bigger heading that the Big Three got earlier…so they’re not sub-factions but full factions, despite the fact that they get the typical Appearance/Haven/Background headings like Bloodlines normally do? I’m a little confused by the layout here.

Regardless of that, the next Faction is the Bodhistracy, which is an awesome concept. Basically, it’s the belief that Kindred society should be ruled by those who have reached Golconda. That feels like a new and unique form of government that could only happen within a group with real supernatural powers, so I approve of White Wolf branching out from the standard forms of government. Sort of counter to that are the next group: Carthian Atheists. When there are demonstrable supernatural powers, its a tough line to hold. Next up are the Sabotage Artists, who are pretty much political nihilists who spend a lot of time blowing shit up to demonstrate their point. I like the idea of this group but found them a little short-sighted. They apparently only practice mechanical sabotage to disrupt politics in an area. But there are lots of different kinds of sabotage. Why only focus on one type, especially a type predicated on technology, which the entire game line has repeatedly stated that vampires don’t get along with very well? A staid group of Invictus ruling from an old mansion lit only by gaslight and eschewing modern inventions like the telephone aren’t going to be too effected if you cut the power to their house. Better to approach from a different form of sabotage. Riffing off some of those ideas are the next group The Anti-Obstructionist Army. I really like these guys. They believe that vampires are staid beings incapable of true creative thought. Only mortals can come up with genuinely new ideas and therefore should be protected from vampires attempting to manipulate them. So, they tend to attack vampires who are trying to influence mortal society. I like this idea as it seems to get to the heart of the Carthian cause and provides a reason for those anarchists to be raging against the elders in charge with a bit more focus. The Oppositionists, on the other hand, are dumb. They’re big believers in physical effort as an expression of freedom. This basically means they’re sports vampires. Whatever. Finally, we have the Paranormal Phenomena Investigation Cadres, which are basically X-Files vampires.

Next up are the Carthian Bloodlines. The first of these are the Barjot, who are basically a Gangrel hippy bohemians gypsy Legacy. Bleah. Next are the Deucaliones, a Ventrue supremacist Club. They believe that all the other Clans are flawed (due to their Weakness) and only the Ventrue are free from these problems. The fact that this directly ties into the Ventrue’s Weakness is lost on them. Finally, we have the Zelani, a Daeva Legacy. This isn’t much of a Bloodline. It’s more of a coterie surrounding one particular power player vampire. It’s very small and the progenitor is still active. I like the example of a smaller Bloodline but they don’t have much point other than serving as the personal power source for one NPC.

Next up are rules and systems. The first such thing introduced is Carthian Law. Carthian Law is a meta-power that blanketly prevents Disciplines from working if the will of the Carthians in the area would have it be so. Basically, if there are rules in place set by the Carthians and someone attempts to go against those laws, their powers may not work. This is not a great idea. I don’t quite follow why the Carthians have an entire force of magic working for them that no one has access to, nor has ever heard of. Also, on a pure gamer note, if my powers suddenly didn’t work, I’d want to know why and a smug look from the GM isn’t going to cut it. This whole section is really long too, in an attempt to define a really ambiguous power. While I think the writers succeeded in creating a definition for this power, I still wonder about the purpose behind it. There’s also some new Merits. I like the Carthian Pull one, since it lets you gain other Merits based on how much of a team player you are that’s disconnected from Status, but the other social merits are a little silly. You can be a member of a Book Club! There’s also a new Fighting Style in Swarm Tactics which doesn’t work because of math. There’s also a ton of Devotions. So many, I guess due to the Carthians’ emphasis on experimentation. There are, in fact, a whole category of Devotions called Experimental Devotions which are pretty powerful. They’re called Experimental because they consist of odd combinations, but I think the real reason they gained that name was because the game designers thought they were a little too broken and needed careful watch if you wanted to include them in a game. Finally, we have Artifacts…which don’t do anything. Thanks for including them?

So, that’s the Carthian book. It turned out to be pretty cool. I liked the various Factions as I think they really helped broaden the idea of the Covenant. They’re no longer just ‘punks who don’t like the rulers.’ They’ve got some philosophical backing on why they’re not keen on those in charge. The Anti-Obstructionists are the particular standout to me from this section. I also liked some of the political discussions on how to overthrow the status quo and introduce a new government. I could see that being pretty useful to a campaign. The Carthian Law power is pretty dumb though. Skip that.

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