Posted by: markfender | December 24, 2013

V:tR – Belial’s Brood and The Blood

Circle of the Crone wasn’t the final Covenant book! NOOOOOO!

BelialsBroodBelial’s Brood are like VII in that they’re pretty much an antagonist faction. They’re the Satanic vampires, a concept that White Wolf has always handled with dignity and taste. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to this book. The first thing I learned from this book is that they’re really called The Forsworn and that Belial’s Brood is just their slave name. They have a twisted gnostic belief that the world is a lie and their humanity is part of that lie. So, of course, they embrace the Beast and have a great mystical quest to shed all of their humanity. The history chapter is written as fiction with three possible origin stories. So that’s not annoying or anything. Belial’s Brood has six factions beneath its sexy Satanic robes. Unfortunately, this book uses the format of all the Covenant books and doesn’t talk about the Factions until near the end of the book. Except that the whole section on neonate, ancillae, and elder relationships that all these books have talk about how the individual Factions relate to each other. Which, of course, means nothing to me, since I don’t know who the Factions are. This section also annoyed me by writing up all their rites as fiction, an obvious attempt to make the book less and less useful as we progress.

So, let’s talk about the Factions then. Each of them is based on one of the possible histories of the group, so their beliefs don’t always coincide with each other. The Nameless believe that Belial’s offspring will usher in the End Times. The Roaring Serpents believe that Belial was the first vampire. The Pandaemonium pretty much try to live up to their image as big, annoying Satanic vampires. The Mercy Seat go with the sexy tempter role instead. The Throne of Smokeless Fire are all about ruthlessly crushing humanity and the Scarlet Rite are pretty much just a sex cult.

As far as powers, Belial’s Brood brings back the old concept of the Vinculum, the Blood Bond shared between members of a covey. This is obviously to prevent the evil campaign you decided to run from exploding in the first hour as the players immediately turn on each other. Another nod in this direction are the Therion, the only Bloodline in this book. These are the priests of the Covenant. However, they are actually chosen by their covey and can be from any Clan. Their Discipline essentially lets the covey as a whole ignore all the mechanical downsides of Humanity loss (like waking up during the day, how long you stay in torpor, etc). Yeah, it’s purely a game-rules thing, but I actually like the idea that the Therion has to be chosen by the group, perhaps forming some cohesion around that. They also have access to Investments, which are powers they gain from their understanding of the Beast. In order to learn any of these, a character has to possess the Tongue of the Beast, a secret language the Brood possesses. This is kind of interesting because the Tongue is actually a Derangement that they gain for losing Humanity. One particularly cool Investment is the Undying Beast one, which lets a diablerized Brood member’s soul take over the diablerist’s body.

This book went a long way towards redeeming Belial’s Brood in my eyes. I still don’t find a lot of story potential in ravening monsters intent on killing everything in their path, but at least it’s not just Satanism this time and had more thought put into it. I could see some decent antagonists emerging from this book into a campaign with some genuinely weird beliefs that could throw some ‘normal’ vampires for a loop. But I think I still prefer VII.

The_Blood

The Blood is billed as The Player’s Guide to the Requiem. A White Wolf player’s guide is usually a new faction or two, a whole bunch of new merits, powers, and equipment, all stuff for character creation. This is not what this book is. Instead, this book takes every single dot on the character sheet and describes what it means to have those particular dots. “Every dot has meaning” we are told, right before we throw up a little in our mouths.

So then the book goes on to describe what all those dots mean. I sort of thought that was already covered in the main book, especially in the sections where they lay out what each dot means and who would have it at that level. But I guess that wasn’t enough. Some of these discussions can trigger some character ideas. I mean, what does it really mean to need to spend blood every night in order to wake up? Having Auspex would change your outlook and how you interacted with other people. Those are potentially interesting thoughts that could influence a character. Except I’ve been playing this game for over twenty years and I’ve already had those thoughts. So this book mostly feels like a really detailed list of questions: “What do all these rules feel like?” or “What is the taste of an empty Discipline?”

This book was obviously not for me. It might be for people struggling with the concept of playing a vampire. It might be for people who only just picked the game up and don’t really get it. It might be for people who collect White Wolf books.

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