Review – Libellus Sanguinis 4: Thieves in the Night (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 three books (Masters of the State, and Keepers of the Word, and Wolves at the Door) were covered in earlier articles.

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., a Book of Nod-ish fragment from Malkav).

For each of the prior Libellus Sanguinis books (and may I say that, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to re-type one of those words because I put the wrong vowel, I would be a very rich person), I’ve led off with a ‘favorite section’ of the book (and had a ‘least favorite’ section) because it was really clear to me which ones I liked the best. And it’s not that I don’t have a more or less favorite section in this book either. But I think the quality/interest for each of the sections was steadier here.

The Ravnos section, perhaps true to its roots, pulls a bit of a switch on you. A lot of the focus is ostensibly about the Eastern Ravnos arriving in Europe during this time frame. But the thing is that those Eastern Ravnos are relatively familiar, because they’re mostly what you get with the Romani-centric modern Ravnos (as the book notes, the Romani really didn’t start showing up in any numbers in Europe until the 14th century, well after the time period covered by Vampire: the Dark Ages). And, to be sure, there’s content on them. But that content is used as a contrast with the Ravnos already in Europe, who are a group that is relatively little-covered in the Vampire library. The reader is treated to another gazetteer-style overview, but here the geography isn’t really geography, it’s distinctive ‘families’ of Ravnos – typically one elder with their own philosophy, building a following of its childer around that outlook. Mechanics include two new versions of the Road of Paradox

The Nosferatu get the short stick in Vampire: The Dark Ages. And they get the short stick here as well (although, as noted above, not as short as most of the short sticks in the Libellus Sanguinis books). Like the Ravnos, they get a survey of different lineages of Nosferatu in different parts of the world. Unlike the Ravnos, it’s usually just some combination of ‘this is how this group of Nos look ugly’ + ‘these Nos are [insert one: accepted/hunted/powerful]”. This includes some broods that are so far out there that they would really only be functional as NPCs ‘monsters’ to scare the players with. Thieves in the Night does include (and I believe introduces, although I’m not positive) the story of Yima, a Nosferatu Methuselah supposedly embraced before Caine cursed Nosferatu to be hideous. This may or may not have left him appearing normal, depending on which version of the story you run with. Yima will get referenced again in the V5 Camarilla book.

Perhaps appropriately, the Malkavian section of Thieves in the Night is the most ‘out there’ of all 12 of the Clans discussed in these books. Since the Malkavians don’t run anywhere and have very little organization to speak of, there’s very little space dedicated to things like the strength of the clan in various parts of the world. The history that is presented is ancient history, filled with contradictions and myth – which is often some of the best Vampire history. And the section has the luxury of plunging feet-first into questions about roleplaying ‘insane’ characters and how such characters are viewed in the Dark Medieval world (cursed, blessed, etc.). Since I’ve gone on record as saying pre-V5 Malkavians were close to unplayable in practice, any sort of advice along these lines is probably worth twice as much as any other random topic.


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