reviews

The Camarilla (Vampire: The Masquerade)

Write on: Sat, 10 Nov 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 1831

2.5/5

THE CAMARILLA (sourcebook) is an incredibly flawed book that would have otherwise been a 4/5 if not for one incredibly ill-conceived chapter (plus many editing errors) that I think needs to be removed. But we'll get to that. Actually, no, it's probably best to get it out of the way before anything else. The Camarilla (sourcebook) contains a chapter devoted to describing Mordor meets Latveria. There's a murderously evil little country ruled by a vampire dictator which is rounding up all the gays and other innocents to be vampire snacks. Here's the problem, it's a real country. You know, you can describe Montreal as a Satan-worshiping hellhole, that's actually funny. It's considerably less funny when it's a real country.

At our table, we have what's called The Century RuleTM. It's a simple enough thing that nothing can be said to be the fault of something supernatural until at least a century has passed and all of the people victimized by it are dead. You can state that the Confederacy was actually a massive Ventrue and Toreador scheme where all plantation owners were ghoul families or vampires. Don't say the Baali were behind the Bosnian genocides. Especially if, in this day and age, you can actually talk to the poor bastards who survived them.

So, I'm knocking off two points from my score because of Chechnya's chapter. It's one of those things which will go down with World of Darkness: Gypsies (The Holocaust was Hitler's fear of Romani magic!) and Himmler the Tremere for really bad ideas. If you're going to make a vampire run country full of blood camps and slaves, at least make it a fictional country.

But aside from that? Yes, the book is (mostly) excellent! Yeah, I know that's like saying, "Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?" after that opening but it really is strange how the tone of the book is so different from the single offending chapter. Overall, I like the Camarilla (sourcebook) even more than the Anarch (sourcebook). There's some areas where I think they went a little weird for a book about the Camarilla like its Sabbat-like focus on religious practices but, mostly, I thought it was an informative update to the sect and its policies.

For those unfamiliar with the Camarilla and starting their roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade with 5E, they have long been the default sect for player characters to side with. Even the Anarchs were considered part of the Camarilla despite being their archenemies. It was sort of the United States of Vampires and you were a citizen whether you wanted to be or not. Still, they were the guys who cleaned up the Masquerade and it was often portrayed as an overall good thing (for vampires) or at least the lesser evil.

No longer.

The Camarilla in the 5th Edition has expelled the Anarchs, exiled the Brujah, and lost the Gangrel. They've also refused the membership of the Ministry (Followers of Set). They have, however, taken the Banu Haqim (Assamites) in as members. They're now, as a result, an elite boys club of the super-rich and influential that will come down on you hard if you don't follow their rules. They're more like the Invictus from Requiem than the Camarilla we knew but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines treated them the same way.

A surprising amount of material is devoted to the Camarilla's complicated relationship with religion. The Camarilla is mentioned to have been involved in the Protestant movement, has numerous ancestor worship cults (Menele and Mithras are both cited as vampire gods), and there's also talk about how they've worked to undermine faith in the Modern Nights only for this to come back at them. The Camarilla is surprisingly prone to naval gazing compared to the Anarchs and its members need some higher power or ideal to guide them.

The book is almost entirely fluff as opposed to crunch, focusing instead on giving a sense of how the Camarilla operates with beloved characters like Victoria Ash. Unfortunately, we're lacking one of our favorite Camarilla stooges in Jan Pieterzoon and no one really replaces the iconic Ventrue apologist. One of my favorite chapters is the discussion of the Gehenna War from the perspective of a Muslim Ventrue who is struggling to deal with the fact he's only a Camarilla agent in the eyes of the Ashirra.

If I have one (of two) other complaint(s) about the book, it's that the Gehenna Wars feel remarkably dull for something so apocalyptic. The Elders of the Camarilla have been summoned there (seemingly you need to be about 800 years old to have it happen as it's shown many-many younger Elders don't feel the urge) and they mostly fight the Sabbat. There's nothing Biblical like secret ceremonies to the Antediluvians, Ur-Shulgi wiping out divisions of US troops with sand storms, and sanity-blasting madness no one can remember because Ventrue has Dominate 10 so he wins. It makes the "apocalypse you weren't invited to" far less interesting.

On the plus side, though, we finally get an explanation how the Second Inquisition works as the Camarilla hasn't been sitting on its coffins waiting to deal with it. They've been gathering information about how the Society of Leopold, Project: Twilight, and other familiar groups have joined together to overthrow the established Kindred order. Basically, it boils down to the fact the governments of the world has more money than even the Camarilla and bigger guns. Also, somehow, they've developed a way to immunize people from Dominate and Presence. Sadly, despite the fact they killed an Antediluvian, the Technocracy is not even alluded to. Nor are werewolves, Pentex, or any other crossover threat which would help justify the SI's success.

I give props to the writers for doing an amazing job with the book's diversity. We have Kindred from all of the world depicted of every color, creed, sex, and orientation in positions of power. The new owners of White Wolf are taking it to the next level in making sure a global community of characters is shown. I also notice it seems to be implying the Kuei-Jin don't exist since no mention is made of them and we get Camarilla rules Tokyo. Honestly, I'm cool with that as the Kuei-Jin were not a great idea, IMHO.

We also get a lot of interesting tidbits about things like Camarilla rituals and practices. There's oaths, rules for vampire weddings (No! How could you marry that Assamite, Victoria! You were supposed to be mine!) and so on. We also get explanations for things like the duties and powers of the Prince, Seneschal, and Sheriff. Finally, there's the details of the V5 version of the Banu Haqim that are described less as a murderous Blood Cult and more akin to a clan of rich jackasses who fit right in with the rest of the Camarilla's leadership.

I'm going to have to also make another criticism in the fact the editors for this book didn't do a great job. I'm not a guy who whines much about typos, grammatical mistake, or misalignments but these were very noticeable. At one point, it mentions Kindred controlled through "vage slavery." It seems much worse than in the Anarch book. The lack of crunch and out of universe narrative material also gets a bit frustrating a the "voice" of characters is rarely neutral so we never know how we're supposed to feel about a lot of things going in the Camarilla. Unreliable narrators can be useful but it hurts the usefulness in the book as you're only halfway through before you realize the man speaking is a baby-eating psychopath.

In conclusion, this is mostly an entertaining but somewhat dry book. The Anarch (sourcebook) had a lot more flavor and were far more wild as well as extreme. Which is to be expected with Anarchs but I was hoping for a bit more pizazz from the Camarilla. The Elysium supplement had a lot of Gehenna cults, weird parties, and other story hooks. This Camarilla seems a bit too focused on organized religion and I say that as a real life theist fanatic. Where's the human chess games where the taken pieces die? Where's the chefs who prepare human prisoners for years before draining them? Still, overall, a very good supplement--with one large exception.

UPDATE 11/12/2018

White Wolf has issued a formal apology for the content of the book. I've also been in contact with the author of the Chechnya piece who has stated that it was originally written as two 1st person in-character texts with one being by a psychopathic vampire supremacist while the second was written by a more appropriately horrified one. It was somehow changed to 3rd person and the meaning was lost. While I still the chapter is in poor taste, I understand it was meant to bring attention to the problem and a result of spectacularly bad editing decisions.

UPDATE 11/16/2018

White Wolf Entertainment has been folded into Paradox Interactive. Basically, the controversy blew up into a whole international incident. They're re-editing and re-releasing the book without the Chechnyan chapter. White Wolf will not be producing RPG supplements anymore but will be licensing it out to third party publishers like Onyx Path Publishing.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 November 2018 20:08
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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