Posted on April 9, 2009 by Megan
The concept behind this book is that, just like the rest of us, vampires tell stories. This is a collection of some of the myths and legends told throughout time in vampire communities. Interestingly, none are presented as being ‘true’ – this is left to the Storyteller to decide for himself – and so players can read the book freely without compromising their knowledge of their particular game world’s alternate reality… they will, instead, absorb the tales told amongst the vampires that they play with as little knowledge as their characters have about which are real and which pure fiction.
The book opens with a story about a mirror, and then there’s an Introduction which explains what it is all about. Following chapters look at several myths about the origin of vampires, modern legends (or urban myths) told amongst vampires tonight and finally some of the things that really scare even the bravest vampire.
Chapter 1: Damnation looks, as mentioned above, at the various stories told to explain how vampires came to be. Depending on the way your Chronicle works, one of these may be true, may even be known to be true; or they may all be told with varying degrees of certainty. Perhaps certain vampires tell their childe one as the ‘truth’ without any particular knowledge that this is so, or maybe they are discussed only amongst more bookish and historically-minded vampires. It starts with the Mithras myth, a popular deity in the days of the Roman Empire but about which little is known by historians. Worshipped in small dark underground sanctuaries, at least one vampire scholar has speculated that Mithras may have been the first vampire and that the process of becoming one was part of the mysteries of the faith. Many ideas are thrown out about what just might have been going on, and how a cult of Mithras might interact with vampire society, particularly that of the Lancea Sanctum. There is more detail, sufficient for those who wish to pick it up and use it, of one version of the cult – even down to a new Merit of Mithraic Status, used to denote a character’s advancement in the cult. And this is just the first ‘origin myth’ presented. Next is a collection of ideas based on the story of the Serpent (the one which caused all the problems in the Garden of Eden). In the vampire version, the Serpent did not just persuade Eve to eat forbidden fruit, he fathered a child with her as well… and this offspring is the original vampire. The Circle of the Crone claim that the offspring was a girl called Lilith and is indeed the original Crone herself, but other theories abound. The next myth is a more original concept, that the very origin of vampires is enshrined in fear… a fear so great that the individual cannot even die for fear of what might be going on in life. Different fears spawned the first vampire of the different clans. And then there is the tale of the Blood Gods and ones based on Imperial Rome… each myth comes with ideas and even game mechanics to help you incorporate it into your chronicle if you choose it as the (or ‘a’) truth.
Chapter 2: Modern Legendary looks at current stories, the sort that occupy the roles of urban legends within contemporary vampire society. Can vampires eat sin rather than partake of their victim’s blood? Or do they actually need blood at all to absorb the ‘life force’ that they need – perhaps feeding directly on lust or terror instead? Or even more esoteric practices such as absorbing breath or eating the victim’s liver… Again, rule mechanics are provided for the Storyteller who wishes to incorporate any of these alternate feeding methods into his game. Other vampires seek drugs that will work on them… they soon discover that any they used when alive have no effect once they become undead. Another route to pleasure might be through drinking the blood of someone who is dreaming, and getting the dream as well. And what happens when a vampire goes into torpor? Can a painting hold a soul? These and other myths run through vampire unlife and some just might be more than a story. The main thrust of this chapter is to present some myths which curious vampires might wish to investigate to find out if there is indeed some truth behind them.
Chapter 3: What Monsters Fear looks at some of the stories – real or otherwise, Storyteller’s choice – that scare vampires themselves. It launches with some tales about mirrors, which are spooky enough things to begin with and unwise to think about for too long. And of course vampires do not have reflections… but other things may appear in their stead. Next comes an avenging angel who might turn up to chastise any vampire who has really overstepped the mark. Some versions of this myth have the angel as one who requires vampires to hold true to their role as predators and monsters, and so targets those vampires who are attempting to hang on to their humanity. Next comes some things that maybe, just maybe, will harm a vampire – but do you want to be the one to test the truth of those myths? Oh, and are ghouls useful servants or deadly dangers? Perhaps some mortals seek ghouldom believing that other pacts or powers they possess will protect them from being controlled, or maybe there are spirits who can possess an innocuous ghoul and turn him against his master. And is there a ‘frenzy plague’ that somehow allows the Beast to take control and send vampires into madness? Or perhaps there is something that hunts vampires… but only attacks when the target is on his own.
Overall, this book is crammed full of ideas to give depth to the mythology surrounding vampires, and to give them themselves plenty of legends to worry over. It should enhance the role-playing elements of your chronicle to new heights, well worth a look even if only a few or just one myth actually makes its way into your game.
Review by Megan Robertson