Posted on September 20, 2004 by Flames
Available at RPGNow.com
Written by Daniel Greenberg
White Wolf Publishing (WW2250)
It seems such a long time ago now, 1992, that so many of us were so naïve we thought vampires could be dissuaded from eating us by garlic or that they would recoil from their appearance (or lack of it) in a mirror. Worse, we believed in our ignorance that vampires were pretty much all of a piece. Since then, we have been educated to understand that there are endless machinations among the numerous tribes and clans of the vampire world that is kept secret from we mere humans – the kine on which the powerful but shadowy kindred feed.
A few lucky people have been able to peep beyond the veil in the meantime, of course, as White Wolf has educated us over the years in the secrets of the vampire world, their habits, powers, foibles and (frequently) how they can eventually be killed. White Wolf’s endeavors have been assisted by the concurrent success of vampires and the supernatural more generally in books, films and television. The revelation that these hidden worlds exist and that some amongst us actually participate in them while having to shield our real identities is a powerful symbol of the wired world, with the internet providing the medium by which secret negotiations affecting millions are conducted.
These days we are much more knowing about vampires and their clans. Few RPG players would be unaware of the role of an antitribu in vampiric society, the need to preserve the Masquerade and the threat of the dreaded Sabbat. Achieving this transformation has been a lengthy process but one which has been conducted with a consistent level of style and skill. The Children of the Inquisition is an example of that style and skill – it is in its way a classic of the White Wolf range.
Children of the Inquisition contains within its 70 pages some basic facts about vampires in the White Wolf World of Darkness and narrative of thirteen leading vampires, together with a brief lexicon (or glossary) explaining some terms. Of the descriptions, that of the first, Dracula himself, is much longer and fuller than that of any of the others (he is also one of the few vampires to be permitted a surname, albeit a nickname). The purpose of retelling his story is to help create a sense of history among the young players – who are not known for their expertise in medieval European history – and demonstrate how the great Dragon was drawn into and ultimately reveled in a context of politicking, delicate negotiations and the occasional release of rage in an orgy of violent blood-letting. In other words, this is an attempt at community development and a successful one at that. As a result, the various luminaries are exemplars of their clans and their secret histories are invaluable supports for storytellers and players alike. Adherents of most of the major clans have something they can use to shape their imagination and their playing style.
Consequently, we find Vasantasena, the Malkavian Antitribu of the Sabbat, Rafael de Corazon, the Toreador Elder of the Camarilla and Gratiano, the Lasombra Elder of the Sabbat. These entries follow a common format, with description of early life, embrace and unlife. Enough details are provided for readers to get a good understanding – albeit there subsequently arose a problem not entirely unexpected in that generations of players then fairly slavishly based their vampire characters on stereotypes inspired by these early exemplars.
There are some stylistic issues which should have been addressed, above the occasional typo. The choice of epigraph is occasionally a little jarring: Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, Stephen Sondheim? Further, some of the inclusiveness seems tokenistic: there is Montano, who was an African tribesperson and Karsh a Muslim from Turkey (it would be interesting to know how this would be dealt with were the World of Darkness to be launched today), both of whom are brought into what is the mainstream of western European culture. There is no one from further east, of course, because of the attempt to develop the Kindred of the East line. There is also an absence of the artwork which so many people seem to enjoy in White Wolf products and (thankfully) none of the flavour text fiction that has been used to fill up later books, largely in an attempt to bring game-play away from the stereotypes produced by the early works.
It seems churlish to criticize products available for free, apart from download charges. Moreover, in this case, it is hardly necessary. The Children of the Inquisition was a deliberate and largely successful attempt to foster a community of game players and we can tell by the success of the World of Darkness setting how well that has been managed.
Reviewer: John Walsh