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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/30/2024 14:29:14

From monsters to characters and back again - a Mephisto review

Sabbat: The Black Hand

If there is one sourcebook for Vampire V5 that is at best controversial in current discussions, it is Sabbat: The Black Hand. As with other books and concepts in the fifth edition, this sect is significantly changed regarding systems and background. In some respects, the game returns to its beginnings. If you look at how the Sabbat as one of the major sects in Vampire: The Masquerade has developed over the editions since the beginning, you can see that the sect has been slightly reinterpreted with each edition.

In the first edition, the Sabbat or the Black Hand was only touched on as a horror story to scare player characters, where you learn little more than that Sabbat vampires are evil and dangerous. The second edition of Vampire went a significant step further in this respect, with the Player's Guide to the Sabbat not only introducing this sect, but also making it playable. By the third edition, at the latest, Sabbat vampires were integrated into the setting on an equal footing with Camarilla vampires. The background of the Sabbat was expanded further and further, becoming more and more complex with concepts such as the Black Hand sub-sect, which then became entangled with entirely different power groups and metaplot intrigues. As in the first edition, for Vampire V5, the term Black Hand became again just an alternative name for the Sabbat and no longer a sub-sect in its own right.

But back to the current edition: A lot has happened in the Vampire V5 timeline lately. Thanks to the Beckoning, the elder vampires are moving to other places, apparently to take part in the Gehenna War. This development has also affected the Sabbat. In addition, the Lasombra clan has surprisingly left the sect and joined the Camarilla, at least as far as the influential members are concerned. As a result of these changes, the Sabbat has lost many of its domains, and indeed, most of the sect's vampires are drawn to the sites of the Gehenna War. While the Sabbat once had organized cities under its control, these domains now serve at best as temporary bases to find resources, especially new vampires and food. Cities that are permanently controlled by the Sabbat are practically non-existent, as the sect's vampires are constantly on the move.

The mentality and organization of the Sabbat are also redefined in this book. While the earlier version of the Sabbat still had complex hierarchical structures from the Regent down to individual packs, in the new edition, the pack (the counterpart to the coterie), is the only relevant form of organization. The Sabbat therefore operates in groups of a few vampires who work together, led by the so-called Priest. Here, too, there is a simplification in that the dual role of leadership within the pack has been reduced to one person. As the Pack Priest is now also the leader, all packs focus on a common path of revelation (see below).

Although formal titles such as Bishop and Archbishop still exist, and even the Regent is still mentioned as a title, these positions are vaguely outlined and, in some cases, not filled at all. Another innovation is the importance the book places on the paths of enlightenment. Since the actions of Sabbat vampires cannot be reconciled with humanity, the paths, as inhuman moral codes, are supposed to keep the beast in check for Sabbat vampires. While the paths have always been an important aspect of the rules for Sabbat vampires, their significance will be further adjusted for Vampire V5.

The existing paths are reduced to significantly fewer options, and a path that is popular among the thin-blooded is newly introduced. A significant change is, however, that within packs, all members generally follow a common path that influences their actions. While the Cathari are hedonistic seducers, the followers of the Path of Caine appear as diableristic lone wolves. In fact, the paths, and therefore the vampires that follow them, are described in a much more inhuman way, so you get the feeling that these vampires can barely interact with humans. This is toned down a little in the later chapters. For each path, it is indicated how it behaves in encounters with player characters, i.e., how the corresponding packs of the path behave during preparatory scouting, during a full siege, or when dominating a domain. There are also several profiles for characters.

What is also special is that Sabbat vampires define themselves almost exclusively by their path, and clans play no role in the Sabbat, as belonging to a clan represents a connection to the hated Antediluvians. In fact, the Sabbat's main mission is to destroy the treacherous Antediluvians to gain the favor of Caine, whom they see as the perfect vampire. Sabbat: The Black Hand devotes a lot of space to the question of how Sabbat vampires think and how they differ from regular vampires in that they are much more inhuman. My impression is that the book not only tries to bring these aspects closer to the reader by repeating them over and over again, but also likes to use the same formulations and images, such as the comparison to sharks. 

Sabbat: The Black Hand is clearly designed as a game master resource. This means that the new version of the book in no way envisages players taking on the role of Sabbat vampires, but clearly makes them non-player characters. Accordingly, while the paths are described in terms of their ideas and alignments, they are not backed up with rule mechanics to replace the regular system of humanity.

The only rule material is some additions to the discipline powers, which, depending on their disposition, might also be suitable for Camarilla or Anarch vampires, but on the other hand, often use dark powers that would endanger the humanity of the player characters accordingly. The new discipline powers only take up eight pages of the book. This is followed by the so-called Ritae, which were already present in previous editions of the book. These rites describe the various practices of the Sabbat, from the Vaulderie, i.e., the communal blood blond of a pack, to the creation rites and the like. These sections also contain a brief hint on how to incorporate these rites into your chronicle, but do not include any rule mechanisms. The player characters should either only witness these rites or have to deal with their effects. This means that the rites provide interesting descriptions but have an entirely different significance than they had in the days when player characters could play Sabbat vampires. The various titles of the sect are also touched on, and some illustrious personalities are mentioned in very short sections, whereby at least some signature characters of the earlier editions are mentioned here. 

It is not until late in the book that it finally turns to the Gehenna War, and it is only at this point in the book that the history of the Sabbat's origins and some of its background are explained. The book also takes a look at several regions, such as Mexico City, Brazil, Russia, the Maghreb states, and Alamut in the form of in-game texts. However, these descriptions are presented in such a way that, at best, they convey a mood but, in no case, any concrete information. Anyone hoping for answers about the Gehenna War will learn nothing essential. 

There is a storyteller chapter at the end, where various elements are described for incorporating the Sabbat into a chronicle, be it as a siege or as an infiltration of the sect. In addition, some narrative techniques are explained, as well as some approaches to combining the Sabbat with the Second Inquisition, for example. These different techniques and elements provide a few more ideas for incorporating the Sabbat into the game. Again, I felt the book was a little inconsistent, as in many places, Sabbat vampires are described as not being able to really interact with vampires or humans at all. However, the scenario in which Sabbat vampires infiltrate the city and try to convert other vampires to their cause is, in my view, a much more fitting approach for Vampire than the combat-oriented sieges. 

That the Sabbat sourcebook will divide opinion is probably an understatement. On the one hand, the book chooses an interesting way to simplify the sect and consistently develop it further. The new Sabbat bears much less resemblance to the Camarilla. The more nomadic packs that only occasionally take over cities and devote all their attention to the Gehenna War fit the Sabbat's alignment, even if this transformation comes relatively suddenly and is not really described or explained in detail. Nevertheless, the whole background of these vampires facing off against the Antediluvians, whom they see as a dangerous threat, is quite coherent.

On the other hand, players will be put off by the fact that, after many years in which Sabbat vampires were a game option, this possibility has been censored out because Sabbat vampires are suddenly too strange or dark for players. Of course, Sabbat campaigns have always run the risk of degenerating into violent splatter orgies. However, the third edition sourcebooks in particular have shown perspectives on playing the Sabbat as an exciting, intriguing, and dangerous sect. And indeed, the concept of the Sabbat vampires facing off against the overpowering ancestors and Antediluvians is also a coherent option for player vampires. On the other hand, it can, of course, be argued that the Sabbat vampires here (as in the first edition) should appear as mysterious opponents who are not available to players in order to create a counterpoint.

Of course, this means that the usual information on clans, disciplines, etc. falls by the wayside, as this is not a playable option. So anyone hoping for the so-called anti-clans and their disciplines will be disappointed. In fact, clans no longer play a role in the Sabbat, which is a very intriguing approach and a plausible interpretation of this sect. While I think that those who really want to play Sabbat vampires should be able to find their own way from the existing material or, if need be, resort to alternative supplements in the Storyteller's Vault, this limitation is still what did not convince me about the book. While there is a strong attempt to emphasize the perspective and strangeness of the Sabbat vampires, the book often remains extremely vague otherwise. Neither the development that led to the disappearance of the Lasombra and the complete reorganization of this sect is described, nor do we really learn anything concrete about the Gehenna War. Of course, it can be argued that this keeps secrets for which each Storyteller can find their own truth, but this leaves the material vague at best and could have been summarized even shorter than the 130 pages. I could have done without dozens of example profiles for Sabbat vampires, for example. 

In short, I think Sabbat: The Black Hand offers some very exciting approaches. The new Sabbat stands out because it is clearly different from the Camarilla and the Anarch sects, and thus provides a consistent alternative. However, I find it lacking in usable material for the chronicle, and the fact that the Sabbat is primarily dedicated to the hotspots of the Gehenna War and otherwise only gives minor and short-term importance to Anarch and Camarilla cities makes it much more irrelevant as a threat. Sabbat: The Black Hand thus offers a few interesting ideas, but often remains too vague and is therefore not an essential sourcebook. Players hoping for a playable sect or expecting further metaplot elements similar to Cult of the Blood Gods to appear will definitely not enjoy this new form of sect. In the end, the book remains dispensable in my view and only relevant for a few gaming groups.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
by Kyran S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2023 15:31:58

There simply isn't a system that does political horror better! And it is so easy to introduce new players to the mechanics (once you get past the obligatory lore dump). I have told so many amazing stories with this system, and I can't wait to tell more.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
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Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition Core Rulebook
by Simon [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2023 13:57:42

Very interesting reimagination of the older werewolf editions. I like the new and simple rage system. The rules are simpler and faster than in the older versions.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition Core Rulebook
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Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition Core Rulebook
by Dontrell H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2023 11:05:17

I originally wasn't going to buy this game, but honestly I'm glad I did. It's actually a pretty cool game with an interesting premise. It's self contained and doesn't follow the previous metaplot, so it's easier for people new to WOD (like me) to get into. If it seems like a cool game to you, then go for it. If it doesn't maybe try W20 or Werewolf the Forsaken (which is pretty good as well.) But decide that on your own. Most negative reviews are just people who dislike the new changes.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition Core Rulebook
by Oliver S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2023 09:25:33

Sadly to me, this new version seems like a massive departure from a lot of the fun and interesting aspects of the older versions. In total, it feels like a very different game using the same or similar names and themes of a game I have enjoyed gming for over twenty years. That is not to say that all is bad or lost, but it simply isn't for me

First, the good:

  • Changing the names of certain tribes, especially the Gale Stalkers (former Wendigo) and Ghost Council (former Uktena) is a step in the right direction and is something I will most probably incorporate into my own games
  • the rage dice are an interesting idea, though not that well implemented in my opinion
  • tying gifts to renown is a really neat idea that was only vaguely explored in a handful of gifts before, but something I really like
  • doing away with the always hard to use appearance attribute for composure makes certain rolls rather interesting and is again something I like quite a bit
  • I also like the implementation of the Rage dice, though I must admit that it feels like a not that well thought through translation of the hunger mechanic of the V5 mechanic
  • adding tribal totem favors and bans is quite cool and is something I will likely take back to the "previous edition" in some way
  • the addition of touchstones is a nice touch (no pun intended)
  • shifting forms a lot can cause damage
  • the artwork is beautiful
  • the pdf is well bookmarked, but does not allow the adding of own bookmarks

Next the different but still alright:

  • the Cult of Fenris (former Get of Fenris) being a group of Garou who have fallen in a different way to the Black Spiral Dancers is rather interesting and not as bad as it seemed at first, not quite my cup of tea, but I can see the reasoning behind it and it can be used as an interesting story hook, though branding the entire tribe as fanatics who see problems everywhere and want to remain "tribally pure" is a bit strange when this is something many tribes had in common
  • the rewrite of the Black Furies and Red Talons seems strange to me, but again, can give out some interesting stories. For those who played the W20 or older versions, they are basically the Get of Fenris with a few tweaks, no more female only or wolf only tribes
  • other tribal rewrites are less drastic, but still present, but again, a thing for personal preference
  • some gifts were changed in their level, which I have not fully gone through yet, but that seems alright in general, as nothing stops an "old school" gm (or a "new shool" one for that matter) from rearranging them once more
  • Willpower as a "mental" health track is cool in general, but it has issues as I will list further down below
  • a "native gift list" for all Garou is quite cool, but it came at the cost of breed gift lists
  • the claws of a Crinos wolf only do superficial damage, only the bite does aggravated, seems strange once again, but hey, punching or clawing is the same

Lastly, the stuff I dislike

  • Renown as traits that are raised with experience instead of something that organically increases next to renown
  • the removal of Gnosis in favor of Gifts costing Willpower or a Rage check, the former seems excessive, since it doubles as a frenzy stop and health pool...
  • the removal or rank in favor of only using total renown
  • the removal of Metis and Kinfolk
  • the removal of pack totems
  • the seeming removal of most other Changing Breeds (though this could just be a slight retcon, that they are no longer known)
  • the ridiculous swiftness one frenzies in Crinos (you frenzy, unless you have killed something last round or spend a point of Willpower)
  • forcing rage checks to regenerate in every form, which means that a few bad rolls ensure that you cannot regenerate, as you have lost the wolf
  • gifts are "only usable in the supernatural forms" but just about every other gift I looked up seems to circumvent this rule
  • the experience cost of gifts increases with each gift known, this is interesting in theory, but will force many players to simply ignore a "fluff" gift, since is would not only be rather expensive, but increase the cost of "useful" gifts as well
  • having two "if this fills your character becomes unplayable" tracks seems both excessive and reductionist, and having a "your mental health will deteriorate" track is something I will definitely not add to any game I run that is not Cthulhu, as only few players I know would be alright with roll mandated mental breakdowns. As for the "callousness and brutality" track, I prefer to keep stuff like that behind the gm screen so player's are unsure how "tainted" they are
  • the "Gaia is dead or the apocalpyse has already started" storylines are not something I like that much

All in all, I think this might be an interesting buy for those who want a nihilistic modern system about werewolves fighting a lost war where they will ultimately succumb to depression or callousness. For those who enjoyed the previous systems, I would reccomend sticking to the W20 edition and possibly taking a few things from this edition (Galestalkers and Ghost Council will be my pick and I will probably run a storyline using the some of the Cult of Fenris ideas)



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
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Children of the Blood (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Peter T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2023 19:24:14

It was a great isght to Vampire society and how they Unlive each Night !!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Children of the Blood (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
by Alex B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/20/2023 16:41:48

This is the second core book for Vampire the Masquerade that I've had, my first being the 20th aniversary, while I'm rather new to the series I actually prefer this one more, this book is easier to navagate, has far better art, a more fleshed out system for the thin-blood vampires, and while it doesnt have the chat system to show the various other clan's opinions of certain things it is easier to understand and doesn't feel like it pushes players to enbrace vampiric stereotypes, and I also genuinely appreciate the first page warning avalible on it.

Again, I'm new to it, I can't say as much as people who have been playing it since back when I was born back in the early 90's, but I can say what I personally see and enjoy about it, and I genuinely enjoy how well made this one is. two thumbs up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition
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The Chicago Folios (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Lee M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/28/2023 03:03:44

Start to finish this is absolutely top quality. Content, art, layout and writting qulaity are all superb.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Chicago Folios (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Let the Streets Run Red (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by REMI T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2023 14:17:22

When I buy pre written adventures, it's because i don't trust myself to write a good story and good NPCs, and events I cannot have without a lot of thinking. A good chronicle book will save me a lot of time and thinking. In this book none of the stories gave me surprising or inspiring ideas. Exemple: the "monster in the field" story is just a poor Call of Cthulhu adventure without any surprise, there is even a baaad ritual at the end!! The other chronicles are just not inspiring or compelling either. Trails of Ash and Bone is a lot better, if you really want a good chronicle book for Vampire or the WOD.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Let the Streets Run Red (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Trails of Ash and Bone (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition)
by REMI T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2023 14:09:18

Four really good adventures for Vampire! I didn't like at all the poor ideas of other recent chronicle books (Chicago Folios, Let the streets run red) but this one is stellar. Each adventure offer something new or surprising for your players. A weird cult, a necromantic murder investigation in Florence, a mysterious vampire who performs true or false miracles and a modern thriller. Lots of detailled NPCs, even ready-made characters to play immediatly!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trails of Ash and Bone (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Hunter: The Reckoning 5th Edition Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
by Scott B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/21/2022 21:50:24

I bought this just to leave this review. I was disappointed in this book, though not as bad as I thought it was.
V5 Hunter's Hunted (or the 2nd Inquisition) was a complete disappointment, though THIS book helps a bit.

You can re-build your old smite & cleave Avenger from the orange books. But they aren't as great as they used to be. So 3 stars, because I wasn't as disappointed as I thought I would have been, though still plenty of room to improve.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hunter: The Reckoning 5th Edition Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
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Forbidden Religions (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2022 10:15:16

Dangerous and mysterious cults - a Mephisto review

Forbidden Religions

Forbidden Religions is a sourcebook that complements themes and topics introduced in Cults of the Blood Gods in Vampire V5. The book focuses on vampiric cults and, in this respect, contributes additional game material that adds to the Kindred groups from Cults of the Blood Gods. These cults are dealt with in different thematic chapters, such as paths to power, the dream of Golconda, or even the end of the world. As usual, the cults are presented with their ideology, traditions, and beliefs, as well as some new discipline powers. On the one hand, some groups tie in with old metaplot elements, like the Shepherds of Ur-Shulgi or the Withered Ones, who worship the mysterious Nictuku. Therefore, some clan secrets left out in the streamlined main clan descriptions make their way back through these cults. On the other hand, new cults are established with e.g. the Children of the Devourer or the Penny Dining Club. While most cults appear to be local, many of them have far-reaching goals.

Forbidden Religions brings quite interesting cults into play, some of which have extreme views and rituals. In addition, there are always several story hooks to incorporate each cult directly into the game.

The book also concludes with several loresheets and some advantages and disadvantages for characters that complement the game. However, the rating of the book does not come easily. Indeed, the presented cults are exciting and a great addition for Vampire. But on the other hand, the book primarily presents 15 more cults that add up to the already large arsenal from Cults of the Blood Gods, definitely providing more material than a single gaming group can use.

Ultimately, this means that gaming groups will use only a fraction of the book practically, although they may find various tailored themes for their campaign here. The loresheets are also a nice addition, bringing the Gehenna theme back into play as well. However, even they alone do not carry the book.

In some ways, Forbidden Religions feels like a collection of material that did not fit into Cult of the Blood Gods because the book would have been too long. Game masters who want to know all the details from the world of Vampire will get a good supplement with Forbidden Religions. But how much of it they can use in the game practically is questionable - especially if they already own the primary sourcebook Cult of the Blood Gods. So, you get a fascinating and well-written sourcebook here that seems limited in terms of its practical usability.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Religions (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/20/2022 13:30:51

Cults of Blood and Death - a Mephisto review

Cults of the Blood Gods

With an ominous cover and a title that does not bode well, Cults of the Blood Gods, this thick sourcebook for Vampire V5 is dedicated to both vampiric cults and a clan that was once many: the Hecata.

After the introductory story surrounding a family dinner of the various families and clans that became the Hecata, the book first gives orientation to the focus of this sourcebook. One central theme of the book is the cults and religions of Kindred; the other is the Clan of Death, the Hecata, which evolved out of Giovanni, Harbingers of Skulls, Samedi and other necromancer clans. An adventure rounds out the book.

The chapter Rise of the Methuselah Cult highlights the current development of the rise of vampiric cults and religions with various documents, comments, conversations, etc. from the in-game perspective. Here you get a first impression of the multifaceted cults that are no longer hidden fringe phenomena but are more or less openly gaining importance within the Camarilla. The chapter Kindred Religions supports this introduction with background information and game material by presenting a wide range of influential cults in detail on more than ten pages each. Here you will find old acquaintances as well as new movements. For example, the Ashfinders appear as a new influencer-driven Bacchanalia cult. On the other hand, the Bahari, who worship Lilith, are old acquaintances, just like the Church of Caine – even if they were not previously rooted in the Camarilla. On almost 100 pages, cult after cult is presented – with background, origins, philosophies, selected characters, and sometimes new disciplinary forces. In doing so, the book – unlike the core sourcebooks – ties in strongly with the extensive background of Vampire. For example, the Nephilim base themselves on the Toreador Michael, the Mithraic Mysteries continue to focus on the former Prince of London, the Church of Caine rescues a worldview of the Sabbat over to the Camarilla, or the Church of Set provides the perspective that the new clan version of the Ministry lacks. While the approaches are often exciting, in my view, they are too much of a good thing due to the sheer mass: seven major and ten minor cults are definitely more than one or more chronicles need. Newcomers to the game are left too much alone here, in my view. While experienced players might be able to understand the details of terms like Bahari or Lilin, beginners lack the glossary here. Furthermore, concepts like the Abyss, which is introduced with the Cult of Shalim, may be as mysterious as Latin phrases that do not get a translation. Perhaps even more severe here is the fact that the complex concepts and ancient mysteries that Vampire V5 left behind in the rulebook creep back in. For example, the Church of Set brings back large parts of the former philosophies of the Followers of Set, but turns it into a religion that spreads across multiple clans. This approach of creating a complex web of backgrounds shows up in details that mention relationships with other game characters, you can only know them if you own the corresponding sourcebook.

Here, the Mortal Cults, which the book presents in a separate chapter, are more accessible. In these cults, whose core followers are humans, the reader will find a mix of typical cults that exploit their members, groups that superimpose a philosophy on their goals and methods, and some surprising variants. A cult that has developed a dangerous momentum of its own as an experiment of the Second Inquisition is among the original ideas.

If the sheer amount of presented cults is not enough for the inclined game master, a whole chapter is still dedicated to the approach how to compose own cults for the game round – including a name construction kit and description fragments, which only lack random tables...

Several chapters are also devoted to the second central theme of the book. The Cult of Death and Undeath, which is placed between the Cult chapters, focuses on the changes that the Giovanni and other Clans of Death have undergone: in the so-called Family Reunion, the Hecata have come into being, uniting Giovanni, Harbingers of Skull, Cappadocians, Samedi, Nagaraja, Lamia under the guidance of the Capuchin to form the last independent clan. Even if these reorganizations cost many Elders their lives and the once hostile clans have not yet found complete peace, a powerful player has emerged outside Camarilla and Sabbat. What is also special here is that the Elders of the Hecata are not affected by the Beckoning, which gives them another unique role.

The Hecata are also the focus of another chapter as a playable clan. The formerly disparate clans have been merged and unified (which is explained as a change resulting from the Family Reunion), so that, for example, the Samedi are no longer rotting corpses. Gamemasters may, however, allow discipline variations for these branches of the family and use loresheets to differentiate bloodlines. The Hecata share the Oblivion discipline with the Lasombra, but have a distinct approach, their own powers, and new ceremonies that replicate the earlier Necromancy powers.

The numerous lore sheets thematize the smaller families and bloodlines, such as the Dunsirn, Samedi, Nagaraja, Gorgons, but can also be used in part for the cults.

In the end, the Styx and Bones adventure lets the player characters participate in the reunification of the family and its pitfalls alongside the Hecata in Munich – and again picks up on old secrets in the form of a former signature character. Unfortunately, the adventure describes hard challenges for the players, but remains very vague about the solutions.

I have a hard time rating Cults of the Blood Gods. The book offers extremely extensive material, tying back into the complex background of times past while attempting to continue the simplifications of V5. It also introduces the Hecata, an essential clan that probably experienced gamers will not miss – and it does so in epic breadth with an additional 25 pages of background, bloodlines, and their own discipline (which they only formally share with the Lasombra). This comprehensiveness seems almost unfair compared to the other simplified clans like Ministry or Banu Haqim, which were much more streamlined. On the other hand, from my point of view, the book falls back into the earlier approach of overwhelming game masters with too much material. The cults overwhelm the reader with philosophies and their details, although many of the cults will probably never appear within a chronicle. The fact that three additional books (Forbidden Religions, Trails of Ash and Bone, Children of the Blood) published as part of the Kickstarter offer further cults, characters, and adventures makes the topic even more complex. In other words, the material is provided here could make Vampire all about the topic of cults.

Personally, I liked the tie-in to the old complex backgrounds of Vampire. However, the approach of making V5 more accessible to newcomers is wholly left behind here. Cults can add a facet to the intrigue within the cities, but the amount of material in the book almost seems to make this a dominant game theme. The Hecata approach is also ambivalent – the Family Reunion as a metaplot is an exciting theme and cleaning up the chaos of the death clans makes sense, yet the approach seems a bit forced and then comes up with surprises like the return of the Lamia. The fact that Necromancy is now the other side of the Oblivion discipline is done coherently. On the other hand, it may also blur the lines between Lasombra and Hecata (if players should not mix discipline powers from both clans, Oblivion could have been left as two separate disciplines). Unfortunately, for the complete picture of Oblivion, you also need to know Chicago by Night, which you will notice in the adventure at the latest, where Oblivion powers appear that are not found here.

Those who love a complex variant of Vampire, know the storylines that extend into the Dark Ages, and need the Hecata in the game will not be able to avoid Cult of the Blood Gods. However, beginner players risk being overwhelmed with a sourcebook on a particular topic that is 2/3 the length of the basic rulebook.

In the end, I enjoyed reading it despite some overly detailed aspects, though I, too, will only be able to actually use a fraction in my game.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Chicago By Night (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by Lucas D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2022 05:36:32

Great lore and flavour, but all of it is laid out incredibly poorly.

As a Storyteller, I need setting supplements to be easy to parse and reference. If I look at a character entry, I should be able to quickly tell the basics - what other Kindred know about them, what is their current position, whether they're a Neonate/Ancilla/Elder or whatever, where they can be found etc.

I don't think you can actually use this book as reference material when running, but rather you need to read through it, and make your own notes. This largely defeats the purpose of buying a premade setting supplement.

Also, it's 2022 - why would you not include an easily downloadble version of the Chicago map included for VTT play?

The actual writing is solid, and the mechanical additions (e.g. the Spirit of the City) are largely very good. Probably still worth buying if you have your heart set on playing in Chicago, or if you just don't want to make your own city from scratch - as I write this review, there aren't really any other V5 alternatives to this book.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Chicago By Night (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Let the Streets Run Red (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
by John M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2022 19:02:16

My copy, which was purchased back when it was Onyx Path Publishing that printed this and not Renegade Game Studios, came with some damage along the spine and rear cover of the book. The adventures inside themselves are pretty interesting and fleshed-out, but it's not my favorite book out of the line. It's also really weird to write a review for a book produced by one company and now distributed by another, but to be fair, this is at least one failure with V5 overall that I can't lay at Renegade's feet.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Let the Streets Run Red (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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