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Matt-M-McElroy

Requiem for Rome RPG Review

Posted on August 8, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy


Available at RPGNow.com

Glory Reigns Above

The living world is civilized by the vision and the power of Rome. But not all that walks is living, and not all that falls will die.

We Do Not Live.

We are but shadows and worms, consigned to the earth and shamed by our incompletion.

But We Are Creatures of Rome

And that which is not conquered by the children of Romulus shall submit to his brother’s get.

In the name of the Republic.
In the name of the Camarilla.

–S. Julius Macellarius Corbulo

Requiem for Rome is a historical supplement and setting for Vampire: the Requiem from White Wolf Publishing, much like Dark Ages: Vampire was a historical setting for Vampire: the Masquerade. Requiem for Rome is a beautiful, but dark, book full of cunning aristocrats, noble savages and mysterious monsters. It is a 260 page hardcover (or eBook) filled with history, rumor and legend.

I was a big fan of the Dark Ages line-up and had several fun games over the years with some of the ongoing meta-plot (primarily the War of Princes and the rise of the Tremere). Like the rest of the old World of Darkness the game line ran its course and it was time to move on.

It took me a bit to get into Vampire: the Requiem. Admittedly, the core book did not “wow” me all that much. Vampire: the Requiem just wasn’t new or different enough for me. Out of the five core Clans, three of them are hold overs from the previous game (and we get three more of the Masquerade Clans in the Bloodlines section in the back of the book). Certainly, there were some elements of the Requiem core book I really liked (I’m a big fan of the Ordo Dracul, for example) and the game has grown on me quite a bit since then.

Having been a big fan of the previous historical game I had pretty high expectations (and a few grumbles) for a historical setting using Requiem. There is certainly a lot you could in a game with Rome. There is a ton of available resource material ranging from historical text to movies and plenty of fiction.

Requiem for Rome doesn’t disappoint. This book is full of great writing and contains many, many cool ideas for players to explore. The setting is very different from the “modern” world of Requiem (including a “new” Clan) and the perils that the undead face are altogether different in this age.

Ken Hite’s Foreward, The Deathless City, sets the mood immediately with a look at the history, secrets and terrors of Rome. Any Storyteller should be able to gather more than a few ideas from this section of the book alone. It is definitely worth the read if you get the chance.

The Prologue and Interludes (chapter breaks) are written in-character and show off a bit of the mindset of characters in the setting. Meant to look like a handwritten script, the text is a bit difficult to read and takes a lot of the mystery away from the tale. This is actually my one real complaint about the book.

The History chapter is probably my favorite section of the book. This part is also written as “in character” journals, records and memories of members of the Camarilla (the ruling body of vampires). Each of them tells a story about some point in the history of Rome and more specifically the history of Necropolis (the “city” the vampires inhabit under Rome). Unlike the Prologue, this chapter is in a readable font, with plenty of great sidebars of curious trivia to keep things interesting (the timeline is very helpful during character creation for folks creating older characters or charting their Sire’s lineage).

The Camarilla

The Camarilla is the political and religious faction of the Roman vampires. Technically all Roman vampires are part of the Camarilla and are represented by one of the Wings. The Wings are factions much like the Covenants in the modern Requiem core book, each with a core philosophy that most member share. The Wings also have their own Rituals, Titles and preferences on who gets to join them.

The Senex – The “ruling body” of politicians, schemers and lawmakers of the Camarilla. The Senex decide who has Domain, who has violated the laws of the Camarilla and various other administrative actions. At first they sounded a bit boring to me, but the potential for favor trading, deal making and back stabbing within the Senex can be a lot of fun.

Legio Mortuum – The military and police of the Camarilla. These violent and deadly vampires enforce the laws that the Senex agree upon and keep the peace between the members of the Camarilla. They also are the first line of defense should the Necropolis ever be attacked by outsiders (including other vampires, werewolves and other monsters). Players looking for action should take a look at the Legion of the Dead.

The Cult of Augurs – The Oracles and seers of the Camarilla, the Wing of Prophets are a mix of true believers and opportunistic schemers. This Wing is by far the most twisted and corrupt of the Camarilla, yet many vampires can amass quite a bit of power with the right proclamations and favors traded. They pray to the old gods, keeping tradition alive with sacrifices and rituals.

The Peregrine Collegia – The commoners and outsiders of the Camarilla. Those Kindred who just don’t fit into one of the other Wings for some reason. Looked down upon by the Senex and regularly harassed by the Legion these vampires have begun to form their own society in the dark places of Necropolis.

Lancea et Sanctum – The newest Wing of the Camarilla, these religious vampires are even more outcast than the Peregrine Collegia. Brought together by religious devotion these undead are expanding their influence and recruiting new members while trying to codify their varied beliefs into a more specific set of teachings.

It could be interesting to see what kind of mix different groups choose to have during character creation. Having characters from different Wings in the same Coterie can definitely add tension to any group regardless of what outside antagonists are introduced throughout the story. One could assume at first glance that the Senex and the Legion would often side against the Peregrine and the Lancea, with the Augurs playing both sides against each other. Naturally, nothing is ever that easy in a society of the dead.

Characters

The Julii are the “new” Clan in this book (there are no Ventrue in Rome). They founded the Necropolis and the Senex. Their history matches that of the mortal Romans, they are even nicknamed “The Founders” since they claim to have been in Rome all along. The History chapter in the beginning of the book details how they came into being and hints at the Clan’s destiny. The other Clans are outsiders, regardless of how many Romans they Embrace or what position their Elders have in the Camarilla. The Julii are the dark heart of Rome, beautiful and corrupt at the same time.

The other Clans (and Bloodlines) in this book offer some interesting history and dark secrets for players to explore. These write-ups can be useful for players in the modern Requiem game as well. Anyone looking for a slightly different style of Gangrel or Daeva has plenty of good material here to be inspired by.

Character Creation is much the same as in the modern game, but this book offers up plenty of Roman-era Skills, Merits and a look at the various Disciplines through the eyes of the Roman vampires. There is also a write-up for Veneficia, the rituals of the Cult of Augurs. I would have liked to see a bit more in this write-up, but there are suggestions for renaming Cruac rituals and focusing them on the gods.

Storytelling

Plenty of information on Rome and Necropolis is offered up in the book. Maps, detailed write-ups on both “iconic” and “generic” locations with notes for story ideas and equipment that might be available to characters exploring the area. There is also a lot of useful information on the daily (and nightly) life in Rome. Entries on gladiators, slaves, religion, laws, feasts and more fill the chapter.

Detailed information on debating in Necropolis is offered up as well. Suggestions on Rhetorical Technique, the Nature of Dispute and other factors to keep the debate interesting are provided (as well as a detailed example of three characters using the techniques provided earlier).

The storytelling chapter offers up advice on how to make the story a Roman story, including using history, conflict and character goals. There are plenty of great antagonists to choose from, but a good Storyteller will need to see where the player characters want to go. Goals, backgrounds and choice of Clan/Wing are important to crafting a good story for this game.

The book wraps up with some sample Allies and Antagonists that are ready for the Storyteller to use in play. Each of them offers up an idea or two and can be twisted to fit the needs of the story easily should the chronicle call for it.

There is a companion volume to Requiem for Rome called Fall of the Camarilla. Which claims to be:

An epic, companion Chronicle to Requiem for Rome, that’s detailing the end of the last great unified society of vampires. A comprehensive resource for Storytellers to run the chronicle from the very first sign of trouble to the calamitous finale a hundred years later!

I would recommend playing a few stories just using the Requiem for Rome book before diving into Fall of the Camarilla. This helps establish the characters into the ongoing plots of Necropolis and gives them a chance to build up their own stories before getting involved with the epic tale. Their interactions with the different Clans/Wings will gain them Allies and Antagonists of their own, which makes the story more personal for each of them.

Storytelling Requiem for Rome can be a challenging task, but one that is well worth the effort. The book offers up a ton of great material to work with, including suggestions for exploring the themes of the city (both living and dead). Storytellers can also find great inspiration outside of RPGs for ideas. Rome and Gladiator are just two ideas. There are more suggestions in the Introduction section of the book.

This is a great addition to the Vampire: the Requiem game line. It adds a deep history to several of the Clans without forcing an ongoing metaplot into the modern books. The possibilities for amazing chronicles (with or without the use of Fall of the Camarilla) are nearly endless. The combination of great writing, amazing art and new mechanics to explore makes this one of the best Requiem supplements released so far.

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