Review – Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: The Masquerade)

On the heels of the excellent Chicago by Night which, among other things, introduced the Lasombra to V5, Onyx Path Publishing moved on to Cults of the Blood Gods which, among other things, introduces the Hecata to V5.

The V5 launch titles presented faith/religion/cults (especially Methuselah cults) as somehow more of a thing in the Camarilla than it used to be, but even adding in the Camarilla supplement there was a distinct lack of clarity about how this worked or what it meant. Since then, we’ve mostly gotten detail on the cult of Mithras, which showed up a little bit in Milwaukee and a lot in The Fall of London – but even all that lacked clarity, as it seems like the cult of Mithras is both more widespread than ever and at the same time has probably died (again) at the hands of the Second Inquisition and his cult had to abandon its primary stronghold. Cults of the Blood Gods addresses that, and introduces the Hecata to V5.

The Quick Take

As much as folks wanted to get the Lasombra, Chicago by Night felt first and foremost like a city book, and I talked about it as a city book first. Cults of the Blood Gods, on the other hand, felt more to me like a vehicle for delivering the Hecata. With an entire chapter about them beyond the default four-page intro and lots of Oblivion material, this is as close as we’ve gotten (or, unfortunately, are likely to get) to a clanbook for V5 (despite all of that only being about a fifth of the book, with 20 pages of that just Oblivion). The Hecata both are and are not a single clan. By default, the fundamentals are the same for everyone. There’s an optional rule to give most of the bloodlines different Discipline sets, which I’m guessing most games will use. Cults of the Blood Gods introduces Loresheet-like Bloodlines for each of the bloodlines, but note that these are generally not ways to reintroduce ‘biological’ differences between the bloodlines.

The additional Oblivion options fill that Discipline to the brim, giving it a variety of non-amalgam power options that puts any other Discipline to shame, and that’s before adding in Ceremonies (like rituals, but for Oblivion instead of Blood Sorcery).

More than a third of the book is a presentation on vampire religions, with most of that devoted to seven ‘focus’ ones – the Ashfinders, Bahari, Church of Caine, Church of Set, Mithraic Mysteries, Cult of Shalim, and Nephilim. Notably, these generally are not ‘Methuselah cults,’ and, when it comes down to it, feels more like a nail in the coffin of the notion that Methuselah cults are really a thing in the Camarilla (despite a chapter literally titled “Rise of the Methuselah Cult”), notwithstanding the hand-waving in that direction in the corebook and Camarilla. Unfortunately, given the page count devoted to it and what I think is a relatively interesting topic, the material on vampire religions tends to be weaker than the rest of the book, with a presentation that lacked clarity. I would not really want to be coming into this without already knowing the generalities of the Bahari, Church of Set, etc.

The material on mortal cults (including how to design them), on the other hand, was very well written and helpful. I admit that it’s harder to get excited in a vacuum to get material on some new mortal group than it is on the Bahari, but each of the five cults presented was distinctive and interesting and I could easily see being used in chronicles. The material on cult construction really excelled. Advice sections in roleplaying books can all-too-often be disappointingly unhelpful, but this stuff just hits the spot – not only for a storyteller looking to round out their city but also for players looking to have a well-thought-out cult for their Osiris to take advantage of.

The final portion of Cults of the Blood Gods is a mini-presentation on Munich plus a smallish story. The information on Munich is interesting, but the story is fundamentally flawed and I can’t recommend it.

Overall, Cults of the Blood Gods is not as strong as Onyx Path’s first V5 offering, Chicago by Night. But Chicago by Night was the best V5 supplement, and Cults of the Blood Gods is the second-best (although, of course, the V5 Companion is great for the price). It’s a must-have if you want to play a Hecata (or, to a lesser extent, a Lasombra), and well worth getting if you’re a V5 player/fan of any sort.

The Hecata/Oblivion/Bloodlines

The Hecata get two full chapters (out of six), plus almost all of the Loresheets/Bloodlines, and also serve as the focus for the Styx and Bones adventure. One of these chapters is formally about the Hecata, with the usual short clan write-up and new options for Oblivion and Oblivion Ceremonies. The other is formally about “The Cult of Death and Undeath,” but this is something of a misnomer, as there isn’t really any sense in which the Hecata are a cult, any more than the Camarilla is. They’re just a clan (they keep referring to themselves as the last independent clan, apparently having forgotten that the Ravnos still exist). But that’s fine, because it means that this chapter is essentially a big long write-up about the clan, which is great. I wish we could get write-ups like this for everyone else. The clanbooks are some of my favorite old Vampire books, and they just don’t make “splatbooks” anymore (because, as I understand it, making a book about only one faction/group/clan/whatever means that too many players will skip buying it because it’s not the group they are fans of).

The Hecata, as you’re likely aware, are a fusion of all of the clans/bloodlines that descended from Cappadocius (plus the Nagaraja). Cappadocius, as you may recall, was an Antediluvian who was diablerized by Augustus Giovanni, who went on to wipe out most of the non-Giovanni Cappadocians and become the founder of the Giovanni Clan. The most prominent of the Hecata are, unsurprisingly, the Giovanni. The next most prominent segments are the Harbingers (a.k.a. the Harbingers of Skulls, who are a group of Cappadocians who existed in the Shadowlands for centuries before coming back to Earth and joining the Sabbat) and the Samedi (a voodoo/vodun/vodou/vodú-inspired group of vampires centered in the Caribbean). Other groups include Cappadocians who have been in hiding this whole time, the previously-extinct Lamiae (Bahari Hecata), and the flesh-eating Nagaraja (necromancers, but no otherwise related to rest of these groups).

In prior editions of Vampire, all of these groups were distinct bloodlines, and many of them hated each other (or, at least, everyone hated the Giovanni). How did they all come together again? Well, Augustus himself is gone (details not provided), the Harbingers attacked Venice, disgruntled Giovanni youngsters helped them out, there was a Family Reunion, and now they’re all working together (as much as vampires every work together). Is it all a bit vague? Sure. Am I okay with that? Absolutely. I liked the vagueness better than the effort in Chicago by Night to detail a precise detail between the Camarilla and the Lasombra, because trying to have a detailed deal means that you have the task of coming up with details that make a lot of sense, and then you risk that effort failing (as it did in CbN).

But all of that surely begs the question of how, mechanically, all of these different bloodlines now come together in one clan. The default is that they’re all just Hecata. They get Auspex, Fortitude, and Oblivion as Disciplines. Their clan compulsion is to predict or solve a death. The clan bane is the traditional Giovanni clan weakness. While it is pleasurable to receive the Kiss from most vampires, a Hecata drinking your blood causes intense pain. All drinking of blood is harmful, inflicting damage. Unwilling mortals will try to escape, and even willing (or coerced) ones may run if they fail a Stamina + Resolve check. As a practical matter, this means that Hecata characters must devise specific methods to feed that don’t involve directly drinking from victims or be casually vile in a constant way that most vampire characters can avoid.

That’s the default, however. Some of that is unchangeable – everyone gets the clan weakness and the clan bane, for example. But there’s an optional rule (one which I imagine will be the de facto default) that some of the old bloodlines can have a different array of in-clan Disciplines. Giovanni can toss Auspex for Dominate. Samedi can replace Auspex with Obfuscate (which is nice, because one of the problems with the V20 Samedi, where they essentially had the Nosferatu clan weakness, was that they didn’t get Obfuscate and so had not ready way to avoid Masquerade breaches). Lamiae hand in their Auspex for Potence. The Nagaraja, for a chance of pace, can drop Fortitude to gain Dominate. Alternatively, the storyteller can allow Hecata to purchase a 4-dot Meirt that grants them access to the fourth in-clan Discipline.

The other differentiation between these bloodlines is the, well, Bloodlines background. Bloodlines function the same way as Loresheets, but because “Bloodline” is a different background from “Loresheet,” you can have one of each (there is an option to count all of the “Descendant of …” Loresheets as Bloodlines). Note that, because these are backgrounds, they aren’t something that every member of that bloodline has – they’re just options to purchase. There are eight Hecata Bloodlines. Five of these cover bloodlines mentioned above – Giovanni, Samedi, Nagaraja, Cappadocians/Harbingers (one Bloodline for both), and Lamiae. The other three were families of the Giovanni – the Putanesca, Dunsirn, and Pisanob. Note that the names of the Bloodlines are not the names of the bloodlines. Sometimes it’s obvious who it is (“Bankers of Dunsirn”) and sometimes not as much (“The Gorgons”).

There are also two Hecata-themed Loresheets – Calling the Family Reunion and The Promise of 1528. The Promise was the arrangement between the Giovanni and the Camarilla whereby the Camarilla agreed to leave the Giovanni alone (even though they had just slaughtered the Cappadocians) and the Giovanni promised to … be left alone to make piles of money and try to diablerize God? But apparently there was a previously-unrevealed clause in the Promise that it would only last for 500 years, and there are some Hecata who are concerned with what the Camarilla will do when that time runs out.

Then there’s Oblivion, which is now officially the most versatile of Disciplines. Chicago by Night had a full set of Discipline powers and Cults of the Blood Gods does as well, meaning that Oblivion has four options at every level but one (4 dots). It does, however, continue to carry the 20% chance of getting a stain every time you need to make a rouse check to activate a power, so Humanity beware. Most of the new powers derive from Necromancy, but they also pull to a lesser extent from bloodline disciplines like Thanatosis and Mortis. The new lower-level options include:

  • Ashes to Ashes (1-dot): destroy corpses
  • The Binding Fetter (1-dot): identify fetters, the objects that tie wraith’s to the material world
  • Fatal Precognition (2-dot; amalgam with Auspex 2)): see the target’s coming death
  • Where the Shroud Thins (2-dot): learn how thin the Shroud is in a particular location
  • Aura of Decay (3-dot): organic (but not alive) material near the vampire becomes toxic and living things will be damage (absent Fortitude, the resistance roll is Stamina + Medicine, so one can be reasonably confident of getting some hits in)
  • Passion Feat (3-dot; amalgam with Fortitude 2): temporarily derive sustenance when in the Shadowlands

On top of that, Oblivion also now has Ceremonies, which work like Blood Sorcery Rituals, except that each Ceremony has a prerequisite Discipline power. For example, you can’t make zombies with The Gift of False Life unless you have the Ashes to Ashes power. Ceremony options include the aforementioned zombie-making, summoning spirits, ordering spirits around, creating homunculi, allowing a spirit to possess you, and summoning a lot of zombies. Again, old school players will recognize many of these from various Necromancy Paths of old. Note that there are some stats for ghosts and zombies to go along with all of this stuff.

As for Styx and Bones, because it’s an adventure a full review would mean spoilers, which I’m not going to get into in this review. My short, spoiler-free version is that Styx and Bones serves as a mini-introduction to the current status of Munich as well as being an adventure. It is designed to be played by an all-Hecata coterie, and features their sort of occult stuff, investigation, and internal politics. Unfortunately, while it’s nice to get information on another city, I cannot recommend it as an adventure. I can’t get into detail without spoilers, but there are some fundamental flaws. Most problematic is that the investigation – which is the majority of the story – is essentially meaningless. The coterie goes around, doing its thing, repeatedly being pushed to look into details that are irrelevant, and then someone randomly comes up after all that, essentially hands them the clue they need, and the story just ends. It seems like a recipe for frustration.

Vampire Religions

OK, so let’s get  to the cults aspect. From the point of view of what’s going on in the world of V5, Cults of the Blood Gods provides some clarity, but not a ton. Notably, from what I can tell, for all of the talk of the “Rise of the Methuselah Cult” there really aren’t any Methuselah cults, except the enhanced prominence given to Mithras in V5. There are ostensibly cults of Helena and Menele (who has met his final death anyway), but these are minor cults at best and don’t seem to be anything more than the pre-existing influence/control networks of those Methuselahs but with the ‘cult’ label slapped on them. What you do get from a ‘state of the World of Darkness’ perspective is some identification of cities where particular cults are ascendant, either ruling the city outright or being the power behind the throne. The Ashfinders are in charge of Ibiza. The Bahari get Budapest. The Church of Caine grabs St. Louis. The Church of Set is heavily influential in Kharkiv. The Nephilim have sway in Johannesburg. That sort of thing. Ultimately, it feels to me like that – again, aside from Mithras – the world of Vampire isn’t really any more faith-driven than it was before. Maybe less, if you consider the religious aspects of the now-uprooted Sabbat. I don’t know if there’s any cult in here that couldn’t have been done in the V20 version of the world (and most of it was). It’s not so much that the in-game world has changed as it is that we’re getting a light shined on this part of the world more emphatically and sooner in the game’s lifecycle that we otherwise would have.

Aside from the Hecata, Cults of the Blood Gods presents seven major cults and ten minor ones. Minor cults get at most a page, while the major ones get about ten. Each major cult gets some history, a character write-up, convictions, the location mentioned above, and probably a couple of mechanics. The convictions are presented as Convictions, presumably so characters focused on the cult can use 1-3 of them (there are six for each cult, so it’s not possible to cover them all), but they’re mostly handy as the main place where the book clearly spells out some of the cults beliefs. The write-ups could, in general, use a bit more clarity. Not the sort of lack of clarity that comes from the deliberate vagueness about the actual state of affairs in the World of Darkness, but rather a lack of clarity on the very basics of the cult. Most of the cult write-ups have this in media res feel to their openings, where they skip things like ‘who is Set supposed to be and what are the basic tenets of this religion’ in favor of something about sowing chaos and making the beast a weapon. I’ve been involved in Vampire for a long time, so I went in with an existing knowledge of these basics for most of the cults, but I don’t think I would want to be a neonate trying to learn from scratch with just Cults of the Blood Gods.

So, what are the major cults presented?

  • Ashfinders: The Ashfinders are a thin-blood cult centered on drug usage, partying, and New Age-y wellness. With a heavy influence on social medial influencers, the Ashfinders are presented as something of a “millennial” cult. Of course, the vampire behind the cult is not a thin-blood (he’s a 450-year-old 7th generation Tremere) and is basically conducting a giant pharmaceutical experiment on the thin-bloods. This comes from various iterations on Ashe, a drug that only works for thin-bloods and includes the ashes of a destroyed vampire as a required ingredient. Along these lines there are several Thin-Blood Alchemy rituals include for making basic Ashe (which increases blood potency) and fancier versions with effects like re-living memories and temporarily gaining Disciplines. Personally, while I like thin-bloods in general, I find the V5 revamp to be overly complicated, especially Thin-Blood Alchemy. Ashe adds to that by introducing “beast shards,” monsters that seem to be shadowed remnants of the vampire whose remains were used to create the Ashe. Additionally, although the flavor presentation indicates that Ashe addition can be a real problem, the actual mechanics of it (which only come up if the vampire takes aggravated Willpower damage) seem unlikely to result in addiction. But if you’re a fan of the whole Thin-Blood Alchemy/mechanically very distinct thing, then the Ashfinders will probably be up your alley.
  • Bahari: The Children of Lilith are one of the long-standing religious organizations in the World of Darkness, positing Caine as deriving his post-curse power from Lilith and therefore positioning Lilith as the proper object of kindred adoration. There was even a Lilith-focused companion (Revelations of the Dark Mother) to the better-known Book of Nod supplement. The Bahari traditionally emphasize gaining power through pain as well as fertility (as much as a bunch of dead people can be associated with fertility, anyway). The write-up of the Bahari here doesn’t really deal with the former, but instead focuses on the latter, and specifically on the creation of gardens (Lilith is said to have created several gardens, each later destroyed). Bahari create literal gardens, but also center their organizational structure around these Gardens. Suffering, in Cults of the Blood Gods, is something to be inflicted on Lilith’s enemies, especially the Church of Caine. Mechanical additions are two Blood Sorcery rituals (Coax the Garden at 1-dot and Eden’s Bounty at 5 dots – like I said, there’s a big emphasis on the garden thing). I’m a bit torn about the presentation of the Bahari here. On the one hand, I’m a fan, I really like their presence in the setting, and I’m happy to see them get more screen time. On the other hand, this seems to me like a fairly narrow take on the Bahari. On the other other hand (you have one of those, right?), it’s not always the easiest to fit a Bahari character into a chronicle, and maybe something like a focus on organizing into Gardens and seeking vengeance works better than embracing your own suffering as a means to power.
  • The Church of Caine: The Church of Caine is sort-of a rebirth of the Cainite Heresy, a Gnostic-infused Dark Ages sect that posited Caine as the emissary of the true God, with vampires essentially a form of angel who were tasked with bringing down the evil material world created by the Demiurge. The Cainite Heresy was, however, essentially destroyed. Except now it’s back. Except no one involved with the Church of Caine now really knows what was going on with the Cainite Heresy back then, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve gotten the cosmology upside-down, identifying the Demiurge as the highest god, with with Caine as his emissary. I mean, the general gist seems to be in the right place, the book just seems to misidentify the Demiurge as the real supreme God, when Gnostics would identify the Demiurge as the lesser god who created the darkness that is the material world. On the substance of this section, the main takeaway is that Caine is great, all praise Caine, and remember that you’re a higher being. Consistent with what seems to me to be a desire to provide guidance on how to use the cult at the gaming table, there’s a focus on roles within the Church and the semi-routine sacraments of the Church – accepting themselves as vampires and eliminating mortal fears, enlightenment through exposing one’s clan bane, and good old firewalking (it’s not just for Sabbat anymore!). There’s some pretty handy stuff – I just wish it wasn’t wrapped in vexing terminology. The new mechanics for the Church of Caine are three Blood Sorcery rituals (1-dot Dampen the Fear, 3-dot Fire in the Blood, and 5-dot Creatio Ignis).
  • The Church of Set: I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but this is the second Church in a row that uses terminology that I found unfortunate. When I first read Anarch, I found the Ministry write-up a bit unenlightening – exactly what were they up to and how did they get from being the Followers of Set to being the Ministry? But when I read about the Ravnos in the V5 Companion, I thought I finally had a handle on it – the lack of explanation was a feature, not a bug. The ‘ethnic’ parts of the clans were being excised; trying to call out and explain that change in game terms would only put that history back into the game world. And they point was to just excise it. Or so I thought. But then the Church of Set section in Cults of the Blood Gods just seems to go back down that path I thought they were trying to stay away from. I presume that it’s intended to be an in-character perspective that the Followers of Set (a clan) is the same thing as the Church of Set (a cult), and the Ministry are some sort of breakaway faction. But it just reintroduces the notion of the clan as an ethno-religious entity, when I thought we were moving past that. I’m not sure why this couldn’t have just been presented along the lines of how the Ministry is a clan, the Church of Set is an organization, and it so happens that the Ministry is the leading clan within the Church. Also like the Church of Caine, the section on the Church of Set presents a good amount of detail on the ritual steps of the cult, although they are more focused on entrance into the mysteries of the cult and less on the day-to-day activities after that point. Personally, I am greatly amused at a cult that’s supposedly devoted to liberation having “always do what we tell you” as one of its convictions (because this seems likely exactly the sort of thing a cult would teach). There are actual new (amalgam) Discipline powers here. Mental Maze (Obfuscate 3/Dominate 1) can warp the target’s perceptions such that they cannot leave the building for the rest of the night. True Love’s Face (Presence 3/Obfuscate 3) allows the vampire to appear to the target as a mortal for whom the target has strong feelings (not necessarily love). The Heart of Darkness (Protean 5/Fortitude 2) is the classic Serpentis power to remove one’s heart and store it somewhere else for safekeeping.
  • The Cult of Shalim: Effectively an NPC-only organization, the Cult of Shalim is a nihilistic organization that bows before an Abyssal entity and mostly works to make everyone miserable (including, in theory, themselves). Unmaking reality isn’t a happy business, after all. All told, it seems a narrower and less likely to be useful than the other major religions/cults presented The new mechanical options here are Oblivion ceremonies (the 1-dot Traveler’s Call, 3-dot Name of the Father, and 5-dot Pit of Contemplation).
  • The Mithraic Mysteries: As you might infer from the title, the Mithraic Mysteries is a mystery cult centered on the Ventrue Methuselah Mithras. Dating back at least to ancient Roman times, the mystery cult tends to venerate strength, courage, loyalty, and – because it’s a cult – veneration of Mithras and obedience to the cult. Again, there’s a nice batch of information on progressing through the layers of cult membership, as well as some annual rituals (running bulls, a sex/fertility feast, fasting and feasting on blood). For some odd reason, however, the cult has decreased its emphasis on the blood of Mithras himself, what with him not being around so much for the last 70 years. There are new Discipline options to be had, and one of them isn’t even an amalgam. Slavish Devotion (Dominate 2/Presence 1) makes it harder for other vampires to interfere with your control. Ancestral Dominion (Dominate 4/Blood Sorcery 3) allows a vampire to Dominate their “descendants” without the need for eye contact or verbal commands. Shatter, a 4-dot Fortitude (prerequisite: Toughness), can harm those who strike the user, breaking melee weapons and inflicting damage for brawl attacks.
  • The Nephilim: Once upon a time, there was the Triumvirate – the Methuselahs Michael, Antonius, and the Dracon – and The Dream. The laid the groundwork for Byzantium/Constantinople, and (if you believe their press agents) created an enlightened utopia there that lasted a thousand years. Bloody Fourth Crusade. The Nephilim are sort-of-not-really the inheritors of that Dream. The Nephilim focus almost exclusively on the Toreador Michael (whom they refer to as The Angel) and almost exclusively on beautification. It is more than a bit shallow, which makes it perfect for vampires who wanted to be pretty, sponsor the arts, be seen with likeminded kindred, and be seen doing it. Alas, they will have to make do with lots of dots of Presence, as the Nephilim have not yet contributed to the Discipline or Ritual knowledge of the world. The are, however, the only major cult that gets a Loresheet.

Note that, because almost all of the ‘Loresheet’ space is occupied by Hecata-related material (mostly Bloodlines), you have to wait for Children of the Blood to get Loresheets for most of these cults. This has a bigger impact on the minor cults – when your entire write-up is two-thirds of a page, getting a Loresheet adds a lot. The minor cults are:

  • Amaranthans: The term ‘Amaranth’ as a synonym from diablerie derived from the name Amarantha, who is purported to have been the first victim of that act. The Amaranthans hunt vampires guilty of diablerie.
  • The Cleopatrans: As one might expect, it’s like the Nephilim for Nosferatu.
  • The Cult of Isis: Protection of sacred/magical things and people, and in particular helping mages (editor’s note – no, we’re not getting M5 anytime soon).
  • Eyes of Malakai: Crazy killer vampires. Supposedly linked to Malkav’s sister, who was (again, supposedly) embraced by Lilith.
  • Gorgo’s Nest: In theory, The the destroyers of tyrants, murderers, rapists, and monsters of various sorts, tending to focus their vengeance on men. In practice, spend most of their time sabotaging the Bahari because of a personal feud. Note that, although the term Gorgo is derived from Gorgon, Gorgo’s Nest is not covered by the “The Gorgons” Bloodline, which is about the Lamia.
  • Los Hijos de Si: Seeing themselves as the children of the moon goddess Si, this cult is filling some of the power vacuum left by the Sabbat’s departure from South America. Their beliefs mostly consist of venerating their leaders.
  • Sons and Daughters of Helena/The Meneleans: As mentioned before, these ‘cults’ are basically just the influence networks of these Methuselahs. Or dearly departed Methuselahs, as the case may be.
  • The One True Way: The revised-era supplement Lair of the Hidden contained information on the Inconnu, the castle Hunedora, and the identity of the Master of Ravens (there’s more information in Beckett’s Jyhad Diary). Moving into the modern era, the Master of Ravens is now spreading his message of Golconda through pamphlets and seminars. I can’t say that PowerPoint presentations and team-building exercises would be an attractive spiritual option to me, but some folks are just masochists, I suppose. The One True Way then seems to develop a cult-like (or multi-level-marketing-like) structure, where members start running their own sessions, attracting more recruits, and so on.
  • Servitors of Irad: Irad is supposedly a member of the second generation, the direct childer of Caine who were struck down by the Antediluvians when they revolted. The Servitors of Irad do not, however, purport to follow Irad, but rather the Antediluvians. So the Servitors of Irad are, like the Sabbat, occupied with the Gehenna Crusade, but on the other side. The Servitors of Irad are the only minor cult to get a Loresheet in Cults of the Blood Gods.

Mortal Cults

That leaves us with two chapters. One describes some vampire-related mortal cults, while the other is about designing your own cult. Of course, that cult you design might be a cult made up of vampires, but it seems much more likely to be used to create a blood cult for a vampire to prey upon (aka, How To Be An Osiris).

The mortal cults are, on the whole, much more clearly cults than the vampire religions. Five of get a longer presentation (about 4 pages). Between them there’s a lot of diversity of concepts. The House of Anteros is a free love/bloodletting cult run by a pair of vampires. The Church of Means is a multi-level marketing scheme with muscle to back it up. Leah’s Circle is a ‘good’ vampire who has brought her friends together to help her hunt ‘bad’ vampires, but who has unwittingly blood bonded all of them. The Dread Cult of Eligos is a fake vampire cult, set up by the Second Inquisition to see how well they could mimic actual vampire cults even though they didn’t have an actual vampire with mind/blood control powers – it turns out there are plenty of morons out there. Finally, the Order of the Broken Branch is a collegiate secret society that has been taken over by the Society of St. Leopold and turned towards anti-vampire activities. All of the mortal cults are sharply written and it could be interesting to drop any one of them into a chronicle.

The cult construction chapter is surprisingly thorough and effective. I always found older Vampire ‘how to’ supplements (about sect wars or political maneuvering or the like) to be generally unhelpful. But here there’s a lot of detail without being pedantic and a lot of material a player or storyteller could use when thinking about how exactly it is that this cult is organized and holds itself together. What sorts of rules to cults have? What types of writing to they produce and what sorts of rituals do they engage in? Even the giant table of inspiration words for cult names was helpful (I mean that literally; I’ve already used it).

The Conclusion That You Already Read As An Executive Summary

Overall, Cults of the Blood Gods is not as strong as Onyx Path’s first V5 offering, Chicago by Night. But Chicago by Night was the best V5 supplement, and Cults of the Blood Gods is the second-best (although, of course, the V5 Companion is great for the price). It’s a must-have if you want to play a Hecata (or, to a lesser extent, a Lasombra), and well worth getting if you’re a V5 player/fan of any sort.

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