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Libellus Sanguinis I:
Masters of the State

      Libellus Sanguinis II:
Keepers of the Word

Craig Bolin, Richard E. Dansky, and Robert Hatch
      Jackie Cassada, Richard Stratton, and Cynthia Summers
White Wolf, 100 pages
      White Wolf, 112 pages

Masters of the State

Art: John Bolton
Keepers of the Word
Additional Information
How have the Tremere survived the onslaught of the vengeful Tzimisce? What reins of power do the foppish Toreador actually hold? And what vengeance do the Brujah plan in the name of slights perpetrated in centuries past? The answers to these age-old questions, and more, are here.
--Everything you need to play a member of one of these clans in Vampire: The Dark Ages
--The Tremere's fearsome response to the Tzimisce onslaught
--All the mysteries, revelations and powers of Vampire's Clanbooks now unveiled for Dark Ages
--New Merits, Flaws, powers and more

White Wolf Games

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

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I remember when White Wolf first started coming out with the clanbooks for Vampire: The Masquerade. "Wow," thought I to myself. "Great idea! The secrets of the clans, insight into their history, juicy dirt on the Kindred..." As it turned out of course, there was a bit of juicy dirt, a little insight, and a few good secrets. There was also a lot of information that made the filler light in my head blink like mad. Still, they were and are a great idea -- witness the vast array of clan, tribe, breed, tradition, guild, and kith books White Wolf has published for all of the World of Darkness games. So what do you do when you translate a popular game from a contemporary setting to a historical setting, but you've already produced histories for the popular clans? Supplements!

No, that's not a dirty word, although it easily might have been. The libelli sanguinium are the supplementary clanbooks of Vampire: The Dark Ages, bringing the idea back full circle and covering the medieval existence of the modern clans. You want history? Here it is, and very well done. It would have been easy to stuff these supplementary clanbooks with filler. I'm glad White Wolf resisted the temptation. Instead of trying to give each medieval clan its own book, three have been put into each libelli sanguini. Remember that filler light? Nary a wink while I was reading these books.

Libellus Sanguinis I: Masters of the State came out in 1997, so it has been floating around for a little while. It details those Cainite clans most interested in worldly power: the Lasombra, Tzimisce, and Ventrue. The write-ups here are wonderful. Each clan gets a nice chunk of treatment, enough that each also develops a distinct personality. Did you ever feel that there wasn't much of a difference between the Lasombra and the Ventrue? This book will clear that up. I'm very impressed by the way that the unique perspectives of the clans are brought out. The presentation of what it means to be Lasombra or Tzimisce or Ventrue is strong. The geographical and social power bases of each clan are detailed and brought to life as well. I'm particularly impressed by the section on the Tzimisce. Disgusting, monstrous, horrendous, and bloody damn... well, bloody, not just for the sake of being gory but because that's the kind of inhuman creatures the Tzimisce are. Well done! In fact, I'd even go so far as to say this is better stuff than the original Clanbook: Tzimisce.

Libellus Sanguinis II: Keepers of the Word is the newer book, released in late 1998 and detailing the learned clans of Brujah. Toreador, and Tremere. The format is basically the same as that of Masters of the State, with each clan detailed and brought to life. This time around though, the descriptions are a little more philosophical and a little less concerned with raw power -- as befits clans that are less concerned with politics. The section on the Toreador is particularly interesting, focusing on the arts of Courtly Love that give the clan so much meaning in the medieval period. It really goes a long way toward giving the Toreador the special place that they deserve in the Middle Ages as barons of culture and not just reflections of the decadent contemporary clan. A similar theme appears in the sections on the Brujah and the Tremere. The Brujah of the Middle Ages are much closer to their lost wisdom and nobility -- in fact, they are very much in the throes of the changes that will create the rebels of the contemporary World of Darkness. The Tremere are likewise close to their past as mages and Keepers of the World reinforces the sense that at this time they are still wielders of "magick" first and vampires second.

Both of the libelli sanguinium provide a number of interesting tidbits that filter down through the World of Darkness timeline. Various Tremere and Ventrue characters mentioned here have appeared before in other World of Darkness products. The roots of the Sabbat can be seen in the Dark Ages Lasombra and Tzimisce... and, surprisingly, Ventrue! In addition to these subtler links, each clan write-up concludes with a short description of what succeeding centuries will bring. And remember those clan secrets I looked forward to in the original clanbooks? Well, some of them come out here. A Lithuanian branch of Tremere practicing a form of Thaumaturgy derived from shamanism. The Lasombra involvement on both sides of the Reconquista -- not all of the vampires of Moorish and Middle Eastern descent have to be Assamites! The magic of Tzimisce Koldunic Sorcery (just another example of the richness Masters of the State adds to this clan). Fascinating stuff!

If you're keeping score, Masters of the State and Keepers of the Word cover six of the thirteen clans described in Vampire: The Dark Ages. Clanbook: Cappadocian is also available, bringing the total covered to seven (counting Clanbook: Baali and the forthcoming Clanbook: Salubri outside of the clan total of thirteen). That leaves another six clans to be covered -- a perfect fit for two more libelli sanguinium. I'm looking forward to them. If the original idea to produce clanbooks was good, the Dark Ages supplements are great, adding a new layer of historical detail to the World of Darkness. Even you don't play Vampire: The Dark Ages, I'd recommend getting your hands on these books. A good history sense of history adds so much to a story!

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).


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