Posted on May 25, 2010 by Billzilla
Available at DriveThruRPG.com
Gangrel: Savage and Macabre
Published by White Wolf Publishing
Written by Chuck Wendig and Russell Bailey
In my previous review of Nosferatu: The Beast That Haunts the Blood for Vampire: the Requiem, I made the claim that Nosferatu was arguably the best clanbook of the series. I still stand by that claim, though Gangrel: Savage and Macabre is definitely a very close second.
Gangrel follows the same basic pattern as Nosferatu; a low-status vampire – probably a neonate – is recruited to write a journal on the nature of the clan, along the way interviewing a number of clan members for their thoughts and insight. In this case, the book begins with a note that the author, Alice, has apparently gone AWOL. She eventually left this journal on the chest of a dead man, and as time goes on has been taking fewer and fewer pains to cover the tracks of her kills. She seems to be slipping deeper into the arms of the beast that afflicts all vampires – the thing that stirs within them, driving their animal impulses to hunt and kill without thought or care.
As the beast gains ascendance, the human nature is subsumed, until, finally, the human exists as barely a whisper. Even other vampires agree that at that point a vampire who has succumbed to the beast must be put down for the safety of all. Except perhaps for the Ventrue, Gangrel are the most suceptible to madness that can cause vampires to go feral; fitting in this case as the Gangrel as a clan are considered closest to their beast to begin with. It’s no coincidence that much of this volume deals with the nightly struggle of each vampire with their beast. The section on the “Red Surrender” details the step-by-step decline from humanity to beast. We’re able to follow along in this journal as Alice herself wrestles with her beast constantly, and it feeds her dreams that threaten her grip on humanity and sanity as well. Alice is being followed – or perhaps preceded – by another vampire who leaves her messages, taunting her to unknown purpose.
Gangrel includes a number of engrossing pieces of fiction, each illustrating different aspects of the nature of Gangrel vampires. Several are in the form of transcribed interviews conducted by Alice; others exist as tales written down and passed on to Alice from various sources – some anonymous. Alice does a fair bit of traveling in pursuit of more exotic interview subjects – made possible by her level of mastery in the Protean discipline, allowing her to sink into any patch of soil at sunrise to sleep away the hours of deadly sunshine. Arranging those interviews in the first place requires the kind of high-level connections Alice doesn’t have; she must bargain for favors to arrange the necessary introductions, and wonders often how deep a hole she’s digging for herself.
The art in this book is uniformly solid; the standout piece of the bunch is the cover by John Van Fleet, which is repeated in expanded form on pages 108-109. The illustration by Efrem Palacios of the Unholy on page 13 is chilling, and captures her potent menace admirably. Craig Henderson also does fine work in this book on pages 110-111.
I found this volume intriguing in it’s treatment of the Kindred clan most known for kicking butt in the World of Darkness. The clan’s potent abilities are well mitigated by their sword’s-edge balancing act of keeping the beast in line. Naturally, this book also includes the expected mix of new Bloodlines, Devotions and Merits, not to mention a huge raft of plot hooks and story ideas to keep any VtR game going for months, if not years. As with the Nosferatu clanbook, the sample characters in Gangrel have depth and real character; I want my character to interact with them in-game, just to learn more about their personalities.
Gangrel: Savage and Macabre is the definitive source for running a Gangrel character in Vampire: the Requiem. Beyond that, it’s fantastic reading for any fan of vampire fiction, even if the reader has no particular interest in playing the game. At $19.99 for a print copy – less for a PDF download – it isn’t as cheap as a mass-market paperback, but is well worth the price in any case.