Posted by: markfender | December 17, 2013

V:tR – Circle of the Crone

Let’s get pagan.

circleThe Circle of the Crone is the fifth and final (?) Covenant book for Requiem. It details the groups who fall under the umbrella of the Circle of the Crone. Like the Carthians, however, the Circle is not a homogenuous group. Different areas focus on particular deities and beliefs. So this book could suffer from some of the same problems the Carthian book did.

Of course the first chapter is history. But, in this case, it really isn’t. There’s some stuff about it, but its mostly about individual cults and the respective “ages” of the cult. This is a nice general talk about how a cult forms, grows, dissolves, splinters, and whatever else cults do. It’s decent information but, as already mentioned, isn’t really history. One bit I did like is that it was oppression from the Lancea Sanctum that actually caused the various disparate pagan cults to unify into the Circle. There’s also a bit about treating the cults in a particular city like a state religion, i.e. everyone agrees on a certain set of rituals that will honor all the gods, and then individual cult members can go do their own rituals for their particular god. There’s also a sample city with its particular rites, if you need an example.

The next chapter is the Unlife chapter which gets into the nitty-gritty of the cult. There are two tenets that drive the Circle: Creation is Power and Tribulation Brings Enlightenment. Most of the cults that fall under its aegis subscribe to these beliefs. The Circle also tends to only focus on female deities, which I guess might have been obvious from the name (This is when we all scream “but what about the mens?!?” in our best patriarchy-fueled voices). Another cool idea from this section was the Circle’s belief on Golconda. Most have the normal belief – it lets you transcend the Beast – but a subset believes that allows you to become a full-on god, worthy of worship from other cults. But, you know, since these are vampires, they’re not going to be happy gods. They’re going to be the monsters of legend. Some even go so far as to begin guarding important treasures of the Circle, the way a dragon might guard its hoard.

This section also has how individual members fit into the Cult. This, due to the number of cults, has to be presented in a wide style, which basically means we get Jungian archetypes as filtered through Campbell. Examples include: the Maiden, the Trickster, The Hermit, etc. There’s also a discussion about the Circle’s relationship with spirits, since vampires don’t tend to interact with those much. There’s a big section on standard rituals seen across the Circle. This includes a Eurovision ritual. I don’t know either. Then there’s a whole lot on various forms of tribulation that the Circle ascribes. That section goes on for quite awhile, but it does provide some decent advice on enacting pilgramages as tribulation, which could make for some decent gaming. The chapter ends with a discussion on the Circle and Homosexuality and how they’re totally cool with it (unless they’re not). That’s all well and good, except that it sort of made me realize that there hasn’t been any discussion on the third gender. Things like the hirajas of India or the berdache of Native American would seem to fit into the sort of religions/cultures that the Circle if covering, but there’s no mention anywhere of even a hint of this concept. Bit of an oversight there.

The next chapter is about joining the Circle and, as you can imagine for a group about tribulation, usually sucks. Take all your Sabbat hazing rituals from Masquerade and transplant them here. There’s also day-to-day tribulation that the cults engage in. My favorite mentioned here is challenging art. So, snobbily standing around at art galleries counts as worship. Sweet.

Factions are next and, like the Carthians, we’ve got a lot of them. The first is called the People of the Land. Which basically takes every Native American tribe west of the Mississippi and makes them into a vampire faction. In other words, this chapter is going to be a nuanced look at religion and culture, the kind of thing you have come to expect from White Wolf. Moving on…the Second Descent is about combining every underworld deity from every religion ever. One idea from them that’s pretty cool is that vampires are the personification of the Underworld since they’re already dead and all. The Hag is next and it’s a weird one. Basically, its all a bunch of vampires who are frightened of the images they receive in torpor. So they’re worshiping a cthonian entity in order to avoid those visions in the future. The Disciples of Silence are about worshipping the void found in nihilism, which makes for some balanced individuals. There’s also the Sipan, who are a South American blood cult dedicated to keeping their god at bay. There’s also the Amontosuki, who are Japanese vampires who worship purity. The Daughters of the Goddess are next and are basically your “boo patriarchy” group. You knew there had to be one of those. The Semioticians are obviously my favorite group, since they think all beliefs are metaphors. It’s like an entire faction of Joseph Campbell, so I’m on board. And then there’s the Bellsmeade, a ghoul family whose basic concept seems to be “what if Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining had a baby?”

So, that was a lot of factions. But we’re not done. Because now we have all the Bloodlines associated with the Circle. The first of these are the Asnam, a Daeva Legacy that worship a Tibetan blood goddess. I thought the basic concept was interesting as you don’t get a lot of Tibetan beliefs showing up in RPGs, but then I read their Discipline and I swear I’m gonna have nightmares. Their Discipline is all about ghouls, including hiding inside a ghoul’s body so you can rip your way free to surprise your enemies. But the most horrifying power allows them to steal the soul of a child so that the vampire is reborn within the child when the vampire meets their Final Death. Ick.

The Carnon are a Gangrel Club of uncontrolled neohippy Wiccan Jim Morrisons. I don’t even know. The Childer of the Morrigan are female warriors who act as the enforcers for the Circle. They’re a Gangrel Legacy and can turn into birds. But you knew that. The Gorgon are next. They’re a Ventrue Club who are all about being super sweet Medusas. Their snake powers are far more disturbing than anything seen in Serpentis. Finally, we’ve got another Gangrel Legacy in the Mara, who are basically vampires who live underwater. So they’ll integrate into your game well.

The next chapter is powers and it details new Cruac Rituals. The particular standout for me is the ritual that lets you make gargoyles. Now I know where that NPC in the main Requiem book came from! There’s also a lot of stuff about creating new Cruac rituals so that’s cool.

The last chapter are the standard Allies and Antagonists that we see in all these Covenant books. This one features my favorite: the Nuturing Mother, a spelling error that implies the exact opposite of what they meant. And that’s the Circle. I think the general stuff in this book was quite good. I now understand how the Covenant operates a lot better than previous impressions, which pretty much consisted of “So, they go out in the woods and have sex with each other? And they have magic?” So I’m glad I’ve got a better handle on them now. I also liked the idea of the individual cults within the overall structure of the Circle and how entire cities might just follow one particular cult. However, I didn’t like many of the example cults, as described by the Factions. They felt like they were trying to be too inclusive of every possible culture that might slightly fit into its mold, which kind of annoyed me. As a person who has read a lot of stuff on other religions, the genericizatons didn’t win many points with me. But that might just be because I know too much about actual tribal beliefs.

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