Posted on January 3, 2012 by Billzilla
Available from RPGNow.com
A Covenant book for Vampire: The Requiem
White Wolf Publishing
Predators are competitors. They compete with other types of predators for food; they compete with others for territory. And they compete with others of their own kind for both food and territory as well. Sometimes, predators will form alliances with like-minded individuals to protect a larger area, making survival – even prosperity – more likely for all within the group. So it is with apex predators like vampires; they don’t care much to be around each other, but when faced with threats too big for one to handle, they band together to form protective groups. Those groups of like-minded vampires are called Covenants, and one of the most interesting of those is the Carthians. Based on the premise of greater equality and of emulating the institutions of their prey, Carthians hope to both blend in better – be less obviously a predator among the flock – and keep the stifling, unchanging nature of near-immortality at bay.
Carthians begins with a fine piece of fiction by Greg Stolze to set the mood, then launches into a dissection of the Carthian Movement – its history, goals, and styles of governance. Carthians are no less monstrous in nature than other vampires, but are more inclined to help other Kindred within the movement, fully expecting that, when those others are on their feet and doing well they’ll help their fellow Carthians in return. This is about as selfless an attitude as one can expect from Kindred in the World of Darkness, making them fairly unique.
Because of the Movement’s egalitarian notions, the Carthians are a popular covenant choice for Kindred only a few years into their Requiem. They tend not to have amassed the temporal control of other covenants, or have the monstrous supernatural abilities of ancient creatures found among the Invictus or the Circle of the Crone, but they do have one thing going for them: unity. Say what you will about factional in-fighting – and in any group of Kindred there’s plenty to say – but when the chips are down, Carthians will unite against common enemies more readily than other Kindred. Due to being favored by neonate Kindred, Carthians are frequently more up to date on popular culture – including the latest technology – than their more hidebound rivals. This is a quirk the covenant as a whole encourages for its obvious advantages.
One issue I had with this book is not trivial: I found myself feeling deja vu as I read through the free PDF copy graciously supplied by White Wolf/CCP; the first two chapters seem as though they repeat information somewhat extensively. The words may be slightly different, but it ends up feeling repetitive and dull, and makes for a tough slog as a read. It’s as if they felt the concept of vampires trying to adopt a parlimentarian style of government would be too alien to grasp all at once, repeating the information like zen masters trying to drum a lesson into a dull student. It made for a lackluster reading experience, though it’s likely most interest in this book will be for reference rather than solely as a pleasurable read. Unlike the Invictus covenant book I reviewed several months ago, Carthians failed to hold my interest for long; I fully admit that may originate from my own biases, but again the repetitive nature of the material as presented plays a part.
Another issue is chapter five’s definition of Carthian Law in a domain where Carthians hold praxis. Carthian Law in the instances given is a potent enough force unto itself to literally cancel out the attempted use of Theban Sorcery, Cruac, and other disciplines; this seems to wildly unbalance the game. Naturally, White Wolf repeats in each book the worthy mantra that these are not rules so much as guidelines – interesting suggestions a Storyteller may choose to incorporate if she so wishes. There is nothing forcing anyone to institute such rules regarding the psuedo-magical effects of Carthian Law. Perhaps this choice was seen as a measure to level the playing field against the powerful weapons at the disposal of the other covenants; point taken. Experimentation with rules in an RPG is a given so tossing out ideas is par for the course. Carthian unity is still a powerful weapon at the Movement’s disposal; even an ancient, evil Kindred will think twice about taking on a half-dozen younger Kindred. They may not be a match in terms of sheer power, but getting lucky and putting a stake into the heart of even so mighty a creature is vastly easier with more hands to try.
The Carthian Movement is an intriguing concept within Vampire: the Requiem. While the Carthians covenant book may have flaws, they don’t diminish the intriguing possibilities inherent in such a faction. Carthians does a solid job of informing the reader of the workings of the Carthain Movement, fulfilling its intended function more than adequately.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Bill Bodden