Sunday, March 31, 2019

Guide to the Camarilla - Chapters 1-4

You are being lied to. A mortal danger looms around you, threatening your life, your dignity, your very soul. And the institutions you rely on to protect you, the police, the media, the church - they will turn a blind eye. They are compromised, infiltrated. But this is not a conspiracy of men. They do not seek power for its own sake. Nor do they pursue wealth, except insofar as it furthers their aims. They want you docile and quiescent, trapped in a cage of ignorance, but they care little for your obedience. They are not the servants of an ideology or a faith or a creed. Nothing so human for them.

They are fattening you for the slaughter. One night, and it will feel to you like any other, because they have suborned the watchmen, their teeth will be on your neck. And then you won't feel anything at all.

They are the Camarilla and they rule from the shadows. Their agents are everywhere, addled with sorcery and fed the tainted blood of ancient gods (when they aren't corrupted by ordinary cupidity, that is), keeping you in the dark so that the deathless aristocracy of the night can feed upon you at their leisure. They stand astride the centuries, unrelenting in their cannibalistic hunger, and to them you are less than livestock. You are a toy, a pawn in the ceaseless games of power and pride with which they while away their immortality.

This book isn't really about them.

I mean, in the strictest sense, it is. It is the Guide to the Camarilla and its subject matter is indeed the Camarilla vampires from Vampire: The Masquerade, but I think, on some level, it has lost the plot. It's about an ancient occult conspiracy, but it doesn't really convey the oppressive mystery, the seductive danger, or the constant paranoia of such a thing.

But neither does it really get into the dry details of how the organization works. At least, not in the first half of the book. It just sort of repeats and expands on the core book. That makes a certain sense, as "Camarilla vampire" is the expected default mode of play, but it's nevertheless a little disappointing that they didn't take the opportunity to bring some new insights into the material.

The most useful part of the first four chapters would probably be the expanded Discipline powers. They're only available to elder vampires (or to PCs who have somehow managed to diablerize an elder), but since, in a Camarilla game especially, the elders are going to be major campaign antagonists, I expect that GMs got significant mileage out of them.

The most contentious part of the book is probably the poorly-explained metaplot. The Gangrel are no longer part of the Camarilla. It's not a surprising twist, because there was always an undercurrent of condescension between the Gangrel and other Camarilla vampires, but it's not really deployed with any efficacy here. They're using a supplement to shake up the status quo, but 90% of the book is business as usual. Maybe it will pay off somewhere in the last four chapters, but for now it just looks like change for the sake of change.

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