Review – Children of the Inquisition (Vampire: The Masquerade)

Vampire: the Masquerade supplement Who’s Who Among Vampires: Children of the Inquisition was released in 1992 (VtM was first released in 1991). At least, I suppose it’s a Vampire supplement. There’s some text on the back stating that the book is “set in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade,” but the front cover doesn’t have the Vampire logo (there are also no mechanical aspects to the book). The front cover does, however, tell the reader to “Prepare yourself for a shocking journey into immortal evil.” It’s a distinctive book in a number of other ways.

Overall, Children of the Inquisition is a collection of vampire backstories – 13 vampires, all of significant age, and most of significant notoriety. It is also just as much an art book, with the art taking up fully half of the book and the three artists (Tony Harris, D. Alexander Gregory, and the legendary Tim Bradstreet) getting credits and a bio on the back cover alongside the author (Daniel Greenberg). That might be why Children of the Inquisition is an oversized (12.5” x 10”, still barely fitting in my 13”x13” cube shelves) book, thus forever causing anxiety among those of us who would prefer their roleplaying bookshelves to keep a neat, tidy line.

For those seeking to dive into Vampire lore, Children of the Inquisition is probably most noteworthy for setting up a number of characters who have continued to play a major role in the Vampire setting/metaplot, including:

  • Vlad Tepes/Dracula (yes that Dracula);
  • Tyler (aka Patricia of Bollingbroke; a pivotal figure in the Anarch Revolt, killer of Hardestadt the Elder, eventually took up residence in Chicago); 
  • Gratiano (the Lasombra who purportedly diablerized Lasombra);
  • Lambach Ruthven (the Tzimisce who realized Tzimisce had not been diablerized, went on to sire Dracula);
  • Etrius (one of the original Tremere, he opposed the plan that result in their transformation into vampires; located the slumbering Saulot; loyalist foil to Goratrix); and
  • Durga Syn (Ravnos elder best known for opposing Baba Yaga, she is tied to Draclua and to the events in the Transylvania and Giovanni Chronicles)..

These vampires had the benefit of ongoing metaplot and historical chronicles to boost their visibility for players (or, at least, for me). In particular, the intersection of the four-book Transylvania Chronicles, with its interlocking plots about the Tremere, Tzimisce, Transylvania, and Dracula, helped make a lot of these characters memorable.

There a a few others I would classify as having potent titles and fearsome powers – they are important characters in the setting, but I don’t think as much in the metaplot:

  • Rafael de Corazon (widely recognized as one of the founding pillars of the Camarilla);
  • Jalan-Aajav (Seraph of the Black Hand, he would eventually go on to be tied to all of the various conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy versions of the Black Hand/Tal’Mahe’Re)
  • Karsh (warlord of the Camarilla, later suspected to be the same vampire as Jalan-Aajav);

The others, who I don’t think have had the same staying power in the setting, are Vasantasena (Malkavian prophet of Gehenna and against blood bonds; she has a bit more life in V5 as she ultimately ends up rejecting the Sabbat for blood-enforced loyalty as well), Montano (despite appearing in multiple other books, he’s mostly notable for being the oldest Lasombra left), Genevra (Giovanni who is buddies with the Sabbat), and Dominique Touraine (Ventrue antitribu advocating for responsible behavior).

Of course, that tells you who is being written about, but not so much what is being written. Overall, the structure of each entry goes through the life, death, unlife, and nature of the vampire. The emphasis between these categories shifts between the characters, however. For example, most of Vasantasena’s story is who she was before becoming a vampire and how she became a vampire, while Lambach’s life and death are disposed of in a couple of inches. Most of the vampires are covered in four pages, but Vasantasena gets six and Dracula gets a whopping twelve. The most interesting, at least to me, are not always the most ‘important’ characters, from a metaplot perspective. I imagine that, back in 1992, learning about the origins of the Tremere or the non-diablerie of the Tzimisce Antediluvian was a big deal. Reading it from this day and age, my favorite characters were actually two of those left behind – Dominique and Vasantasena. Maybe I’m just feeling drawn to characters who can’t escape the hypocrisy of the Sabbat?

I was a bit worried in the early parts of Children of the Inquisition. It starts with the profile of Dracula, who gets about the most positive coverage I’ve ever seen of a murderous tyrant. Every atrocity seems to be justified, he chooses his own embrace, tricking or overpowering basically all of the other vampires as a mortal and then as a vampire himself. Children of the Inquisition moves from Dracula to Tyler, who is mostly cast as a noble opponent of corruption and the abuses of both morta leaders and vampire elders. That was followed by two more almost glowingly positive presentations, although each in their own ways – Karsh as the mighty and loyal warlord of the Camarilla, Vasantasena using her own mystical madness to fight against blood bonds and the Antediluvians. I was a bit worried that everyone here was going to be cast as a true soul, in their own way (or, at least, as much as one can be while still being a blood drinking monster).

Then came Rafael de Corazon, and things started changing up – a mostly weak and mostly spiteful man who was able to exploit his sire’s prestige to make one crucial pitch for an emphasis on the Masquerade, thus forever cementing his place in Camarilla history. There’s more balance from there on out. Vampires born to power, and those who had to scheme for it. Vampires with some moral fiber, vampires whose unlives are entirely driven by fear or greed, and those with a more complex interlacing of motivations and actions. 

I also really loved seeing so much of the book filled with art (note that, because this is the 1990s, the interior art is all black and white). I think that Alexander’s full-page illustration of Tyler is a classic, and his work throughout is solid. Bradstreet’s full-page images of Karsh, Lambach, and Jalan-Aajav are so very Bradstreet, although I actually like the full-page shot of Dominique (which focuses more on the background than the character) best. Tony Harris does a great series of Vasantasena, although I don’t think his Etrius turned out that well.

It’s hard to sort out what I would think of Children of the Inquisition if I wasn’t a long-term fan of Vampire. It can be a bit melodramatic at times – but, then, wasn’t that kind of the point? But I am a long-term fan of Vampire, so the extra kick of feeling like I was peering into a historical archive was enough to ensure that I ultimately found reading Children of the Inquisition to be a fun time. I imagine that other long-time fans will have fun with this artifact as well, so I would recommend picking one up if you see it.

 

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