Review – Libellus Sanguinis 2: Keepers of the Word (Vampire: the Dark Ages)

Vampire: Dark Ages does have several Clanbooks (Cappadocians, Salubri, Baali), but White Wolf (wisely, I think) did not print individual splat books for the twelve vampire clans that already had modern-era Clanbooks. These clans were not without coverage, however, as they received a similar sort of attention in the Libellus Sanguinis (White Wolf says this means “Blood Diaries”) series – four books to cover the 12 clans. The first book, Masters of the State, was covered last week. The second, Keepers of the Word, covers the Brujah, Toreador, and Tremere.

Each clan is covered in its own section (with its own author), and each section includes the usual short flavor introduction, a two-part survey of the clan’s place in the world (this can be history, philosophy, current areas of control, thoughts on other clans, or other topics; it varies within the books and between them), a smidgen of crunch, a handful of character templates (thankfully the character sheets don’t get their own pages), and at the back a page or two of something ‘secret’ (e.g., some insight into the status of Tremere).

My favorite section of Masters of the State was the Tzimisce, and my favorite section of Keepers of the Word is the Tremere, and that’s not a coincidence (also, I like Transylvania by Night, House of Tremere, and the Transylvania Chronicles – go figure). The Tremere are the most dynamic clan during the Dark Ages time period, and so the discussion of them is more readily a gripping read – what might read as a list of locations without a lot to distinguish them can become a list of places where real stuff is happening, with a real arrow of time into the future. Much of the Tremere section of Keepers of the Word is from the point of view of Meerlinda, recently decamped to the British Isles, but a healthy dose of Etrius and Goratrix is worked in for good measure. There’s a nice review of how the Tremere figured out being a vampire worked (what, we don’t have to sleep underground in coffins?). Mechanically, there’s a new splinter group/bloodline (the Telyavelic Tremere, a pagan-focused offshoot in Lithuania) and a couple of specialty Paths for them.

On the other hand, I found the Brujah section the weakest, despite the fact that it avoids too much of the gazetteer approach (because are the Brujah really in charge anywhere?). Instead there’s a lot of focus on ancient traditions, especially material on ancient Greece (which this section focuses on as being a Brujah stomping ground prior to Carthage). But the focus on all of that ancient material – while understandable, since the modern Brujah have lost all that, and so this would be the place to cover it – still feels outdated even here, because the Brujah who follow that already seem like they’ve been left behind. Also because it’s just not interesting to read about Brujah weight-lifting.

Somewhere in between are the Toreador (my favorite Clan, to the extent that matters). This section is very focused on France and the so-called ‘Courts of Love’ – the Toreador as masters of chivalry and courtly romance. This covers not only an idealistic take on the Toreador as maybe caring about these things, but also how the Toreador use their mastery of the setting to manipulate and extract favors from everyone else. There’s also some discussion of the ‘what are the Toreador doing when the arts really aren’t at big thing at this point,’ which has some overlap with the discussion of the Toreador in the church. Mechanically, while I usually pass right over the Disciplines section because I don’t really care about elder powers, the Toreador here get a new use for Auspex 3 in reading the ‘soul’ of an artwork instead of a person. There are also a couple of Merits available for those who want their character to have a very close relationship with another vampire (and since I like Toreador a lot, you might extrapolate that I think this is a concept worth exploring, and you would be correct).

Keepers of the Word does a good job of feeling like a list of locations and how the various Clans are doing there, although the Brujah’s focus on their traditions didn’t spark my interest. But the Tremere are also a good subject of focus during this time period, and the Toreador section is solid.

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