Anarchs Unbound (Vampire: The Masquerade) by Onyx Path Publishing Book Review

Write on: Wed, 08 Jan 2020 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 5204


The Anarchs are my favorite faction of Vampire: The Masquerade. The angry resistance to the corrupt Camarilla and yet still moral enough to not give in completely to the Beast like the Sabbat. I fell in love with them in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines and have been eager for new content regarding them. For those unfamiliar with the Anarchs, they're based on such rebellious modern vampires as Kiefer Sutherland's David in The Lost Boys and Deacon Frost in Blade. Unfortunately, the Anarchs have not really been treated all that well by the setting.

While initially set up to be the primary opposition to the Camarilla by the gameline, it had that role taken over by the Sabbat (who were like Anarchs+). The gameline continually struggled to define what the Anarchs were for and what their relationship to the Camarilla was. Sometimes they were the loyal opposition that were the first line of defense against rampaging shovelheads and other times were actively plotting vioent overthrow of the Princes. Sometimes both at once.

One of the things that I enjoyed about Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition was that the Anarchs went from being a third-tier sect to being one of the primary focuses. They were formally separated from the Camarilla and given their own three clans plus both the Caitiff as well as Thin Bloods. I wasn't a huge fan of The Anarchs supplement, though. Which is why if you want to play an Anarch character, I recommend you pick up the V20 supplement Anarchs Unbound. I feel like this is probably the best thing to come out for the Anarch faction throughout all five editions.

Anarchs Unbound gives a history of the Anarch Movement, shares its opinions on various elements of Kindred society, talks how they are (loosely) alligned, how they should deal with a variety of power structures, and also gives a number of interesting backgrounds as well as tools for Thaumaturgically inclined Kindred. Some of this is outdated like the massive focus on how the Anarchs are using the internet no longer applies since the Second Inquisition is monitoring it so closely but others are still very useful for the modern iconoclast.

The best part of the book is probably the fact that it codifies the original Anarch Revolt didn't end with the Convention of Thorns. While the Anarchs split between those who surrendered and those who became the Sabbat, not all of the former gave up the fight completely. The French Revolution and Russian Revolution are revealed to have ties with the Anarchs. I feel the latter and the establishment of the Brujah Council goes a long way to making it clear the Anarchs are a dangerous as well as terrifying movement to the Camarilla. While authoritarian communism isn't what most of the freedom-loving revolutionaries wanted to achieve, it at least shows they weren't harmless for five hundred years either. Some of this was present in the previous Guide to the Anarchs but I feel it was much better established here.

The book introduces the Red Question as a radical new organization within the Anarchs that has the potential to change everything. Sadly, I think they're a bit oversold. Imagined as an Anonymous-esque hacktivist collective, they are stated to be influenced by Randian thought as well as responsible for the 2008 Stockmarket Collapse. If ever there were two things that seemed less like an endorsement to free the masses from Kindred oppression, these are among them. Randian economics being perfect for the Ventrue and the corporations having weathered that better than anyone. It's weird seeing both as Anarch accomplishments.

One thing I did like about this book is it does emphasize the Anarchs are connected to real-life social movements. Things ranging from the socialist movements of the early 20th century to Occupy Wallstreet as well as more radical issues are things that both influence as well as are influenced by the Anarchs. It doesn't necessarily mean that the Anarchs are going to be progressive about their beliefs but they are plugged into the heart of revolution (for good or ill). Anarchs can't agree on what they fight for but they all agree they must fight.

I also feel like the book lacks information on one of the most important groups that should be a bedrock of their membership in Thin Bloods. They are not even acknowledged to exist. I suspect this is due to the fact that Thin Bloods were introduced primarily as a prelude to Gehenna in Vampire: The Masquerade Revised while V20 was a canon agnostic setting. Still, seeing them glossed over even as references are made to things like "Cleavers" and even Gargoyles was a surprise.

Crunch-wise, the book provides a somewhat mixed bag. It gives a good amount of techno-magic that allows vampires to use the internet without detection by kine (though obviously didn't have access to this). It also includes some level 6 Disciplines, which felt off given I don't think many non-diablerist 7th generation Anarchs are going to exist. Some of the Backgrounds were lame with things like "Anarch Status" versus regular status but others like Armory and Communal Haven are very useful. I also likes several of the Merits and Flaws like Prized Patch and Black Sheep. We also get a bunch of solid Anarch archetypes that allow player characters to populate their Movement with quick and easy stats like Barons, Gang Leaders, and Molotovs.

I think the best element of this book is the fact that it really does give a sense of what the Anarchs are about, how they're structured, and how a disordered rabble can still pose a significant threat to the Ivory Tower. I also think that it gives a sense of history and weight to the Anarchs that separates it from the Sabbat and Camarilla. The biggest weaknesses of the book are its overfocus on the internet, technomagic, the Red Question, and First World resistance movements versus a more international attitude. I feel the absence of Maldavis and the Council Wars from Chicago by Night is also a serious misstep. The lack of Thin Bloods and Jenna Cross is also a mistake.

I think Anarchs Unbound is a really solid piece of writing and one of the better supplements from Onyx Path Publishing. While I prefer Beckett's Jyhad Diary and Chicago by Night 5th Edition, those are some of my all-time favorite supplements period. Anarchs Unbound gives us a solid look into how the Movement functions (or doesn't) and tells us why they're rebelling. I think it's an excellent purchase even for 5th Edition gamers who want to fight the power. Ra-ra.

Available for purchase here

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 October 2020 19:05
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.