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Revelations of the Dark Mother
Accessory for Vampire: The Masquerade

Phil Brucato, with Rachelle Udell
White Wolf, 123 pages

Revelations of the Dark Mother
Phil Brucato
Phil Brucato is the developer of Mage: The Ascension. He has spent nearly 20 years in gaming, 10 years in theatre and film (his college major and minor). His first break was a sale (Sword & Sorceress #9) which began his mass-market fiction career in 1989. His first free-lance job for White Wolf was Book of the Wyrm. He and his life partner Wendy share a small house in Atlanta.

White Wolf Games

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

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First off, let me say two things about this book. One: Rebecca Guay, I love your art. Two: Phil Brucato and Rachelle Udell, you two are seriously twisted.

1993: The Book of Nod brings new depth to the myths of the World of Darkness. Purportedly it is the writings of Caine, the Third Mortal, first murderer, and progenitor of the Kindred, painstakingly collected by a vampire scholar. Laid out in verse and heavily illustrated, it presented Caine's story in "his own words": his life as a mortal, his punishment for the murder of Abel, his exile from the Garden of Eden to the land of Nod, the spawning of his childer, and his words to the founders of the 13 clans. All in all, quite a stunning piece of work, with some lovely morsels for a storyteller to work with. Not the least of the those morsels are Caine's encounters with the sinister Crone, who enslaves him in the first Blood Bond, and with the wise and beautiful Lilith, who teaches him to use the power of his blood in the form of the vampiric Disciplines. The Book of Nod had its weakness -- it tended to repeat a lot of what was in the Vampire: The Masquerade rulebook, recast in flowery poetry, and the art was dark, unclear, and sometimes not very well laid out -- but it was great for flavour.

Late 1998: Lilith speaks up on her own behalf: her exile from the Garden of Eden for the crime of disobeying Adam, her wanderings in the desert and the ocean, the plantings of her own gardens, her mating with the angel Lucifer, and the murder of her children by Caine and his descendants.

Revelations of the Dark Mother is Lilith's story, a counterpoint to Caine, and the story of the Bahari, those denizens of the World of Darkness who follow her. If you compare the two books side by side, you'll notice several things right away: same cover design (stylish silver on black), same "vampire-scholar" framing technique, same verse structure, same heavy use of illustration. Slightly more subtle are the echoes between the symbols on the cover, a progenitor surrounded by offspring (Book of Nod: one fanged skull, surrounded by three, surrounded by thirteen; Revelations of the Dark Mother: the pictogram for Lilith, which is composed of the joined pictograms representing the moon and the sun [together the pictogram for Lucifer] and allies [six leaves, as the six offspring of Lilith and Lucifer]... No, this sort of book doesn't encourage looking for hidden patterns at all). These are companion books through and through. At the same time, however, they are significantly different in both content and, I think, use.

Remember that seriously twisted bit? Well, that's one difference. The Book of Nod didn't really go anywhere -- it didn't seem as though it were meant to teach the Kindred anything nor, as I recall, was its existence in the World of Darkness particularly controversial. Revelations, on the other hand, does and is. The Revelations are heresy: Caine was nothing compared to Lilith, a mad dog to her graceful, powerful bitch-mother. Lilith's lessons are the transcendent power of pain and suffering. From pain comes strength. From suffering comes wisdom. The Bahari, somewhat euphemistically referred to on the jacket copy as Lilith-cults and described in the most detail in the book's framing foreword by "scholar" Rachel Dolium, follow those lessons. But this isn't feminism for the Kindred, a correction of the patriarchy of Caine. This is self-mutilation, torture, ecstasy of hurt. No wonder the Clans want to suppress the story of Lilith. You thought the Sabbat were bad? They got nothing on the Bahari. Why?

The Bahari aren't all vampires.

Which leads into another significant difference: although Revelations of the Dark Mother is imprinted for Vampire: The Masquerade, it has some serious implications for the rest of the World of Darkness. Lilith isn't exactly a vampire, either. In many ways, she has more in common with mages and there are hints that a goodly number of the Bahari are mages. In fact, read liberally, Revelations of the Dark Mother might even present an alternate cosmology for the World of Darkness that could really rock the world of some characters. And of course Lilith is all tied up with the End-times, whatever they might be called -- like Caine she will return, with the Bahari as the waves preceding her arrival.

While Caine's story in the Book of Nod was more or less familiar ground World of Darkness-wise, Lilith's story is startlingly (perhaps disturbingly) fresh. Probably the best way to describe it, in fact, is mature. Not just mature in terms of content (I wondered a couple of times why this wasn't presented as a Black Dog product), but mature in terms of product design. There's a more sophisticated feel to the product, as if the designers had more to work with and more room to move. They certainly had the rich tapestry of the World of Darkness to play with, a tapestry that has grown significantly over the years. They've given Lilith a unique voice, too -- the text of Revelations reflects a strong, independent, magickal woman where the text of the Book of Nod hints at a raving, power-mad lunatic.

The design and layout of the book are mature as well, the third significant difference from the Book of Nod. Where the Book's art seemed almost haphazard, there is a clear unity of art in Revelations. Three artists are credited with working on the book: Rebecca Guay, Eric Hotz, and Vince Locke. I couldn't see any signatures for Hotz' work through the book, so I'll have to guess that he was responsible for designing the Bahari pictograms, an interesting, very organic looking set of ideographs. Locke illustrated the foreword, capturing the image of Rachel Dolium in panels that set off the rather disturbing text quite nicely. And Rebecca Guay got the plum of illustrating the words of Lilith herself. If you read my review of The Bestiary for TSR's Dragonlance SAGA, you'll already know I like Rebecca Guay's work. If you're not familiar with it, take a peek in Revelations. Her pencil (charcoal? Sorry, I'm not an artist) drawings are gorgeous and convey an image of Lilith that is variously powerful, afflicted, sorrowful, loving, and avenging. It's truly beautiful work.

So how will this book be used? Gamers who play a highly mystical game will find it most useful, as will those who play conspiracy and End-times. There's a great section at the back called "The Rising Tides" prophesying the return of Lilith. Other gamers may find it interesting as a curiosity, but however you use it, Revelations of the Dark Mother, like the Book of Nod, will definitely add to your Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle -- to almost any World of Darkness chronicle, in fact: Mage: The Ascension certainly, Vampire: The Dark Ages (there's a record of an interrogation of a "witch" included), and dark stories of Changeling: the Dreaming spring to mind quickly. Whatever you do, though, approach this book ready to read between the lines and to think outside of the page. Use it with your imagination.

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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