Posted by: markfender | March 19, 2014

V:tR – Danse Macabre

This is another monster supplement. (Ha ha. Get it?)

DM_CvrThis book doesn’t quite know what it is. Is it a player’s guide? A chronicler’s guide? Both? My tentative answer is: “Yes?” It’s a book with a bunch of new optional systems, new campaign ideas, and stuff. Just another toolbox in a long line of toolboxes the game line has done. So it should be cool.

The first section is super-cool, since it introduces the Tier system from Hunter: the Vigil to Requiem. The Tier system divides the game into, well, tiers, each focussed on a different aspect of the world. In this case, we’re talking about coterie, city, and conspiracy. The coterie Tier pretends that there aren’t monolithic Covenants standing over your characters and that vampires are rare and scattered. This is focused on more of the night-to-night activity of your characters and how they move amongst the humans. The City Tier is the tier that the game already operates in: Covenants bind together disparate vampires but these Covenants don’t necessarily extend past the city you’re in. The Conspiracy Tier makes the Covenants into worldwide groups that probably secretly control the world. To go along with these, we’ve also got some themes for each as well as some rules tweaks. For instance, there’s an Inhumanity system for elders at the Conspiracy Tier which helps keep them from becoming ravaging monsters while still using the standard Humanity system (that isn’t really designed for being a puppet-master). Next is a write-up of the Clans…again. I’m really not sure why. There’s some optional system present in these if you want to give them a Strength as well as a Weakness, but I’m not sure why this needed a whole new write-up. There’s a new system of Masquerade and Requiem. This is essentially your Cover and your place in undead Society. These sort of touch on previous systems (like isn’t Requiem just a variation on Status?) but expand them into some new ground mechanically. I’m not sure what I’d do with these, honestly. But there they are.

The next section has a whole bunch more Covenants, including ‘upjumping’ the standard five into the Conspiracy Tier. These all include new rules effects for claiming Status in these groups. The Commonwealth is the Carthians but with an eventual plan of “coming out,” despite the fact that this is a terrible idea. The Covenant is the Lancea Sanctum, except that they supposedly forged a new covenant with God to help usher in the end times. So, they’re the Sabbat. Again. *Sigh* The Devil’s Eye are the Ordo Dracul, but with more Nazi experiments. They have the eventual goal of improving not just themselves, but everyone, whether they want it or not. I guess they’re more transvampire than they were before. The Mother’s Army is the Circle of the Crone who want to convert everyone else, forcibly if need be. And they want to wake up the Mother’s other children…whoever they are. One of their rules benefits is being able to buy their Potency cheaper, which is gross. The Prima Invicta is the Invictus. They still want to rule everything, but now they’re at the level that they probably do. They get really cheap Social Merits. Like, really, really cheap. They’re practically giving them away.

But wait! There’s more! There’s new Covenants presented as well, in case you want to mix it up. Some of these detail how they’d operate at the different Tiers, but some of them don’t. Annoying. Anyway, the first are the Brethren of the Hundred Faces. They believe that vampires have no soul and that the best way to keep the Beast in check is to take on a ‘shadow guide.’ These shadow guides are the personalities of the elders of the Covenant, who can eventually subsume the original personality and become them. So that’s squicky. There’s also the Brides of Dracula, who are a biker gang. Because the Bruja bloodline and Belial’s Brood in the main book weren’t enough biker gangs (Belial’s Brood got a little broader in their book, to be fair). The Children of Thorns can enact the Bloody Mary myth and actually travel to her realm through mirrors. The Harbingers are bent on understanding the Kindred condition (sorta like the Ordo Dracul) and have mastered the ability to move their Blood Potency into other vampires to keep themselves out of torpor. The Holy Engineers receive prophecies from the God Machine (a potential bugaboo from the the main World of Darkness book and the God Machine Chronicle as well as Demon: the Descent). The Nemites are into Frazier’s Golden Bough, acting as Sin Eaters for humanity essentially. They believe they take on the sins of humanity and thus cleanse the world through self-sacrifice. The Society of the Accord is kind of like an accepted Belial’s Brood. They’re all about the Beast and expressing it, but they do clean up their messes afterwards. They sort of have Coils like the Ordo Dracul, except these help make their Beasts more powerful. Finally, the Sun Walking Knights are actually named after the ghouls of the Covenant. These vampires managed to lessen the effects of the Clans’ Weaknesses but lost the power of the Blood Bond. Therefore, their ghouls were on more equal ground with them and eventually gained some political traction.

The next section is more like an extended Player’s Guide, as it offers a lot more systems to tweak existing rules. The first of these new systems is Social Combat. It’s a variation on physical combat but with a trading of “hit points” until someone emerges the victor. A neat effect is that the person who wins gains the “Edge” which actually has mystical properties. A vampire who beats someone in social combat feels more empowered since they just beat someone down, so they get a bonus as their blood, well, boils. It’s a nice addition for vampiric social interactions.

There’s also mental combat, which gets far less rules space. It even recommends not using it all that much. So there’s that.

Combat gets a few systems as well. There’s one-roll combat in case it’s not really all that important a fight and you don’t want to roll dice for the rest of the night. And there’s Tilts, which are essentially just Conditions (from D&D). These sort of incorporate preexisting rules but write them up in a new format, along with some others. Being low on blood already had rules, but those are now incorporated into the Hungry Tilt, for instance.

The next section gives advice on how to run montages and how to skip forward in time in a game. You mean people didn’t already know how to do that? Weird inclusion.

The next bit gives you a few options on how to make Disciplines better. In case you felt like they weren’t cool enough.

Atrocity is next and it’s an alternate Humanity system. Basically, as you do bad stuff, you accumulate Atrocity Dice which then get added to various other things as negative effects. It’s a bit complicated but seems well thought out. There’s an odd little rule tweak that people with low Atrocity can actually go out in the sun, so I guess if you want that to be happening here’s your system.

Anchors is another sort-of alternate Humanity system. This is a system of mortal relationships that help keep your character sane. These end up being a lot more work, however as all these people have stats and you’ve got one for every point you have in Humanity. So, looks like your character sheet just added a few more pages. There’s some neat ideas here, though. For instance, your Anchors can accumulate Hurt and Exposure. Hurt is when you’re mean to them and determines when they might stop being your friend/Anchor. Exposure is how much other vampires know about them. So, yeah, don’t be mean to your friends and don’t let your enemies know about them. Otherwise, it could suck for you.

Banes provide an alternate to Derangements. Instead of going crazy when you lose Humanity, now you can gain restrictions, like being unable to cross running water or having to pick up every grain of rice. These are nice if you want some more traditional vampiric myths to effect your players.

There’s also a system for creating new Devotions, usually through ordeals. And Gargoyles get a big ol’ writeup. Every Clan gets a few different types of homonuculi they can create, which is pretty neat.

The last thing in this book are some more campaign archetypes. These include advice on how to run a noir game or a post-apolyptic game. I liked some of these because they weren’t just “slap another genre on.” For instance, one of them is how to set up a revenge plot against elders, while another one assumes that everyone is an elder from the same coterie and is now being hunted down one-by-one. That last one even features a new variation on VII, if you’re interested.

So, that’s the book. It’s got a lot of stuff in it, a lot of which won’t enter into your games. But there’s enough new stuff here to surely incorporate some of it. As another giant toolbox book, it fits well with the other books that made this line more appealing to me than Masquerade. So, go get it, I guess.

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