Lore of the Bloodlines for Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary is the follow-up to Lore of the Clans, providing supplementary information on some of the vampiric bloodlines detailed in V20, but lacking whatever exactly it takes to be considered a Clan (have or a had a progenitor who got down to third generation, plus political reality, I guess). Note that a copy of V20, or a thorough recollection of the existing canon material on the bloodlines, is necessary to read Lore of the Bloodlines – the books assumes that you’re familiar with this, and does not spend its limited page count reiterating the basic information about the bloodlines. Lore of the Bloodlines is available as a PDF or print on demand.
Lore of the Bloodlines covers the Baali, Daughters of Cacophony, Gargoyles, Harbingers of Skulls, Kiasyd, Nagaraja, Salubri, Samedi, and True Brujah. Of the “bloodlines” from V20 that did not make it in, most are fairly obscure, even for bloodlines – the Blood Brothers (only kind-of-sort-of vampires anyway; they were an unachieved stretch goal in the Lore of the Clans Kickstarter), the Ahrimanes (a recent bloodline that no longer exists), five Dark Ages era bloodlines that no longer exist (Anda, Lamia, Lhiannan, and Noiad – and the Cappadocians, of course), and the Children of Osiris (not actually a bloodline).
With nine bloodlines covered over 100 pages, this makes for 10-12 pages per bloodline. Most of that page count is spent on an in-character presentation of the bloodline’s background (except for a couple of small sidebars, there is no accompanying ‘objective’ presentation), with each bloodline also getting several character concepts, several merits/flaws, one or more combination disciplines, and one or more 6+ dot elder disciplines. Note that there is an incredibly detailed table of contents, which makes it very easy to find – every part of every chapter is listed out, including exact page citations for each of the crunchy bits.
As usual for this sort of book, the in-character presentation is from a member of the bloodline, and is biased in favor of that bloodline. Lore of the Bloodlines takes this to great lengths at times, as there is some pretty serious self-aggrandizement at play (the Harbinger of Skulls asserts that the bloodline was always distinct, rather than being the remnants of the Cappadocians who were trapped in the Shadowlands, the Nagaraja places their origins in Enoch, the Daughter of Cacophony asserts that they were created by the Tal’Mahe’ra, etc.). Personally, I feel like some of these more grandiose presentations somewhat detract from the pre-existing material (e.g., I liked the Daughters just fine without a long-term meta-plot tie-in for their origin). But regardless of personal opinion, it is the case that for many of the bloodlines, the lore in question focuses focus more on their historical origins than their status in the modern nights.
My favorite chapters covered the Gargoyles and the Salubri. The Salubri chapter sticks with the fairly straightforward origin story and touches on both sides of what’s left of the former Clan in the modern nights (it probably also helps that I’ve got a soft spot for the Salubri). The Gargoyles chapter has the luxury of a more modern and relevant origin story, plus some good discussion of how the Gargoyles relate to the Tremere. I was least thrilled with the Baali chapter, as it has yet another origin story for the bloodline, and one that’s pretty confusing – and the contents on the modern nights didn’t inspire me.
Each bloodlines also gets the usual full-page art lead-in to its chapter. These pieces were created by Mark Kelly (as you can see from the link, he also contributed some work to Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition – although not that Brujah gangland photo shoot I complained about). My personal favorite is the Daughter of Cacophony, but you can check the link earlier in the paragraph and judge for yourself, since they have all of the art available as prints.
As for the crunchy bits, there’s not as much as usual that might be of real interest to me, in that I consider disciplines above the fifth dot to be effectively meaningless, and because I consider a good number of the bloodlines to be unplayable as PCs in any ‘normal’ game of Vampire, although they could appear as NPCs – the Baali and Nagaraja make poor PCs, and the Harbingers of Skulls, Gargoyles, and to a lesser extent Kiasyd have severe difficulties interacting with mortals but don’t have Obfuscate (the Samedi have similar difficulties, but do have Obfuscate). With that said, there are several merits/flaws that could work well for an NPC, such as Carrion Presence for the Baali (if want to make one of them a really obvious Bad Guy) or Stillness of Death for a Gargoyle (to increase the chances of getting to pull off the ‘surprise that was a really a vampire not a statute’ trope). The Daughters of Cacophony merit Chorus Trained requires multiple Daughters with the same merit to function, but could be handy for an NPC appearance or for a PC if the Storyteller is willing to permit the Daughter PC to have others of their bloodline in town. The Salubri pick of the Scent of the Other merit (which helps them pass in Kindred society) and Sight Beyond Sight (sort of a Salubri variant of Oracular Ability).
Overall, Lore of the Bloodlines is nice, but not great. It requires the reader to know a lot of the existing lore to fill in the gaps and get a decent picture of the bloodlines. This leaves it appealing to a hardcore audience (and, I know, this was a supplement to a Kickstarter for an anniversary edition that wasn’t widely released, so the audience is kind of inherently a hardcore one) – but this member of the hardcore audience, at least, would have liked to see less embellishment on origin stories and more discussion of something like how to work characters of these bloodlines into a chronicle.