Lore of the Clans is the uber-splatbook of V20, providing individualized information on each of the 13 clans. This review is based on the Kickstarter deluxe version (pictured right), but this 300-page, full-color tome is still available in hardcover, softcover, and pdf (you just won’t get the embossed cover and the built-in bookmark, but instead the traditional Vampire marbled green). Out of that page count, about 250 is devoted to clan-specific sections.
I really like how the arrange the art in Lore of the Clans. The full-page art at the start of each clan’s section of the book (which are also used on the cover), is (of course) from the excellent Tim Bradstreet. Then all of the other interior art in each clan’s section is all done by a single artist (or, at least, that’s the way it appears to my untrained eye). This goes further than the art – each clan also has its own graphic design, with a clan symbol watermark and unique page borders and coloration. This gives a nice, consistent feel within the presentation on each clan, while distinguishing each from its neighbors (although there is some overlap in artists).
The section on each clan provides a historical look from an in-character perspective (replete with warnings that everything is subjective or mythical and no one really knows what happened), presenting myths on the clan’s origins and self-aggrandizing discussions of the clan’s place in more ‘modern’ times (e.g., most of the clans present as either being the true power behind their sect, how they use their sect to get what they want without really believing in it, and/or how they just play both sects like a fiddle). These historical presentations are followed up with material on the modern-day functioning of the clan, which continues to update the World of Darkness meta-plot (for example, the Assamites continue to fracture), but does not use some of the earthshaking plot points from the original game line (for example, there’s nothing about the Ravnos founder being destroyed). There is the most variation in the sort of topics covered in the ‘current issues’ section – everyone has to mention the formation of the Camarilla, but the clans’ current-day interests are more distinctive.
My favorite chapter was the Giovanni. Of course, they don’t get the same sort of mythical prehistory, which I’m usually really fond of, but the chapter did a good job of conveying mood, theme, and practical discussion of unlife in the clan – the ‘family’ aspect of the clan (including the non-Giovanni Giovanni), characteristics of intra-clan politics and how the clan relates to the Camarilla, and universal clan traditions like the proxy kiss and the last night. On the other hand, the practicalities of life latter concern bogged down the Ventrue chapter, along with a split point-of-view historical/modern days presentation – I know the Ventrue are formal and all, but I’m not sure how there are enough of them to fill out the highly detailed, multi-layered local (and international) organization presented.
Several other mechanical components round out each of these chapters. These include about 10 single-paragraph character concepts, a few merits/flaws, a couple of high-level discipline powers, and half a dozen combination disciplines. I’ll admit I’m not terribly interested in some of this (no need for rules for six-dot discipline powers in anything I’ve played in), but I do like merits and flaws, and some I found nifty include:
- Drug Resistance (yup, you have an easier time resisting the effects of alcohol and drugs);
- Hive-Minded (allows Animalism and Protean to function with insects);
- Totemic Change (pick a new animal form whenever you shift);
- Insubordinate (have a tough time following orders, even when you really really should);
- Dead Inside (harder time regaining Willpower); and
- Unblinking (your eyes never close).
There is usually (but not always) some other mechanical bit for each clan – alternate basic discipline powers (Assamites), a path or two (Brujah, Settites, Ravnos), alternate animal forms (Gangrel), rituals (Giovanni, Lasombra, Tremere). Note that some of the mechanics presented are new, while some are updates of material originally published for Masquerade.
There are also shorter sections on caitiff and antitribu, and the book finishes off with a baker’s dozen of “kindred of note.”
All told, I was really happy with Lore of the Clans. The Clanbooks (especially the Revised ones) are some of my favorite Masquerade books, and Lore of the Clans is playing in that same space (just with a more modern publishing sensibility of putting everything in one book instead of making one per faction). Obviously 20 pages per clan isn’t the same as a full book per clan, but you’re getting something of a concentrated dose (e.g., ten single-paragraph concepts on one page instead of five concepts with full character sheets that only maybe the GM would ever use spread over ten pages).
Now I just need someone to put a hardcover copy of Lore of the Bloodlines up on eBay for cheap …