Posted by: markfender | March 12, 2014

V:tR – Invite Only, Strange Dead Love, and Blood Sorcery

White Wolf started shifting their publishing to PDF only products. So, instead, we’ve got some shorter books.

inviteonlyInvite Only is the sourcebook for throwing parties. So, obviously, this is the Most Important Book Ever Published. Unfortunately, it almost immediately ruins its credibility by recommending Cruel Intentions over the obviously superior Dangerous Liasons. Not a good start, book.

The first section talks about the reasons to throw a party, including the all important part about hiding your true intentions. It also discusses who to invite, who not to invite, and who you might want to show up without an invite. The next section has places to throw a party. These are very specific. I was expecting more like “the art museum,” not the Rockefeller-Ashford Center for the Performing Arts. Now, none of these are inherently bad. They’re easy enough to slot into whatever city you’re playing in, but they lean towards specific places and don’t provide general advice about what to find in those sorts of places. There’s also some new Devotions and stuff so that you can impress people while you’re wining and dining.

The book then has a lot of sample scenes that might happen at a party. Some of these were interesting, but I’ve already mentioned I’m not a giant fan of the way White Wolf writes these up. The introductions to each of these were more useful to my particular style than the actual game write-ups. Finally, there’s an appendix with the social rules from Danse Macabre in it. What’s Danse Macabre? Well, it’s a sourcebook that wasn’t actually out at the time that this came out. So, I’m gonna talk about them when we get to that book instead.

This book was okay. The first chapter had a lot of interesting stuff to consider when throwing a party, like security. But the other sections fell a little flat. I should also mention that, instead of the social combat rules from a book that was going to be coming out, I would have preferred a reprint or update to the party rules from the Fall of the Camarilla book. Seeing as how that book was a campaign, there’s better odds that people didn’t pick that up, versus Danse Macabre which has a lot of useful systems in it. And it does leave the book about parties not actually having any rules about throwing parties in it. Now, a party is generally a social occasion, but since we’re talking vampires there’s Status on the line here. The Fall of the Camarilla system considered those options, whereas this book doesn’t even mention the possibility. So, overall, bleah.

strange dead loveStrange Dead Love is the sourcebook of romance. It took until the Year of Our Lord 2011 before White Wolf published a book about getting sexy with your vampires. I’m not the target demographic for such a book, but it boggles my mind that the last thirty years of pop culture vampires somehow never actually received any attention from White Wolf (or maybe just the wrong emphasis).

The first section talks about the tropes of the romance genre and how to work those in. This includes some fun write-ups of typical props of the genre, like the Chosen One, or a Blood Substitute. I wonder what properties those are about? The next section has some sample ideas for campaigns to really push the tragic nature of romance. We’ve got cross-species love affairs, affairs between the living and the dead, as well as dead-on-dead action. Hot. Lastly, we’ve got a bunch of storytelling advice, which I only found so-so. But, you know, I’m rarely impressed by storytelling advice so take that as you will.

Like I said, I’m not the target audience for this one. Still, I’m amazed it took this long to actually target that demographic. Not like many of them (you know, “them”) would suddenly realize this crazy book with the rose petals on the cover was all about fulfilling their sexy fantasies once this book came out. They were probably already LARPing somewhere or just ignoring this entire field of entertainment. You know, like normal. Either way, I highly approve of this book existing. I’m just not that interested in it.

Blood-Sorcery-cover-thumbnailBlood Sorcery discusses both Cruac and Theban Sorcery and provides new systems for those Disciplines. This basically divides the Discipline into Themes, which are then given a dot rating, which determines what sort of effects you can achieve at that level. This is a more generic system instead of the super-specific rituals the game line has previously provided. And it since that means vampires can now improvise rituals, it also means that the proviso in earlier books that there are no new Theban rituals is false. Which I’m okay with, but it is a definite setting change.

All right, so you’ve got five Themes: Creation, Destruction, Divination, Protection, and Transmutation. Each level lets you perform different feats. They’re obviously fairly generic, but I note that they’re still tied to the powers that Blood has offered in the past. There’s no way to go out into the sun, for instance, no matter how high your Themes get. The level of the Themes involved determines how many successes you need. And then you modify this value by Duration, Area, Potency, etc. etc. If this sounds like every generic spell system you’ve ever seen in any game ever (including some by White Wolf), then you’d be correct. Frankly, these systems never work for me. They sound cool, but then you get at the table and a person casting a spell has to consult five different charts and it becomes a morass of rules that aren’t ever any fun to use. Personally, I’m sticking with the preexisting rituals.

The next section covers Threnodies, which is a terrible term. These are new rituals that modify existing Discipline powers. These are for everyone looking to expand what they can do with their Disciplines. In game terms, they cost Merit points and require a Song (another unfortunate term) and a Sacrifice. Each Discipline gets a number of new powers, some of which are quite cool. Unfortunately, the Sacrifices required are almost always way worse than the effect you’re gaining. If I’m killing my True Love, I want a little more effect than making one particular person believe something unequivocally. I mean, I’m sure a smart person could come up with some twisted beliefs to make someone believe in that might be worth it…once. But then, you’re out a True Love and how many of those are you supposed to have? That’s an extreme example, of course, and some of the powers are not that bad. Ripping out your eye and making someone swallow it so that you can see everything they see? Seems legit. But a lot of these other powers aren’t all that awesome considering what you’re giving up.

Lastly, we’ve got some sorcerous antagonists to throw in your games. These include some NPCs as well as some groups. The Sons of Phobos are interesting as they’re a mortal cult who can basically access Cruac rituals by sacrificing people’s hearts. And there’s weird ideas like the Empty Liars, who are just hollow people who absorb rituals into their skin (to be extracted later by drinking their blood). Weird, but might be cool for a session or two.

This book did things to the basic Sorcery system that I’m not a fan of. Build-Your-Own-Spell systems have all been the same since Ars Magica invented the concept and this book didn’t revitalize the concept any. I’m also not a fan of most of the Threnodies. I’d skip it.

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