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Thomas Hall
Thomas Hall

Vampire The Masquerade V5 - Camarilla

Contents: Camarilla used to be an umbrella organization for all vampires. In the game's 5th edition, this is no longer the case. The book is partly written as a series of letters from Victoria Ash, the line's iconic Toreador, addressed to her Childe. It is thus through an insider's lens that one experiences the Camarilla, and not through an objective exposition that a detached observer reads. Her texts usually serve as an introduction to texts, reports, e-mails, transcripts and what have you written by others.

Vampire The Masquerade V5 - Camarilla

Following a short introduction, The View From The Top tackles the upper echelons of vampiric society, the inner circle, as well as sectarian diplomacy. Our Faith is about religion, with articles on how once vampires were distortedly pious themselves, how they unshackled themselves from religion, and what eventually substituted it. Expect texts on cults, heresies and orders, and even a blaspheme catholic ceremony. Our Mission Statement sounds like a deeply-buried page out of a corporate website, in this context however it is about what the Camarilla does. In one word, it controls. The chapter covers traditions, most importantly however it covers the Masquerade, the means through which vampires avoid unwanted attention in a world where cameras are ubiquitous. Articles in this chapter include items on keeping up with culture, how to pay the bills, or how to weaponize the Masquerade.

The Second Inquisition is not church-related; it is a massive, secular, intergovernmental operation against the kindred. Allegedly an anti-terrorist grouping, it changes faces and shapes through its entrenchment into government bureaucracy. The narratives ponder upon the organizations in the US, the UK, Brazil and more, while the chapter also discusses how the vampires are hunted and what they need to do to survive.

The Court is the basis of vampiric culture. The homonymous chapter first discusses the Prince (the vampire in charge of a city), along with his duties, style, and notable examples. Then comes the Seneschal (the Prince's right hand), the Primogen Council (the representatives of the most prominent clans in the domain), the Clan Whip (a second in command under a Primogen), the Sherrif (a vampiric police of sorts), the Herald (the Prince's port-parole), the Principal of Faith (an advisor irrespective of matter), the Shadow (a formal advisor to a coterie), and the Keeper of Elysium (an organizer and host of ceremonies). A large chunk of the chapter is devoted to nineteen important cities in the world of darkness. Each city gets a listing a few paragraphs long, designed to showcase its feel. The cities are varied, with examples like Aleppo, Brussels, Istanbul (still Constantinople for the vampires), Jerusalem and Miami.

Setting-wise, the tenets behind the 5th edition's timeline remain the same. The vampiric steering of human history has been toned down, even though it remains one of the game's themes. I won't enter into the differences between this edition's Camarilla and the previous ones, even though some of them radiate from the pages themselves. The Camarilla is much smaller and not all-encompassing, yet at the same time it feels like more structured and even more hardcore than before. The institutionalization of coteries and the forced attribution of mentors to n00b vampires is rather indicative.

The book's production values are high. It has a very particular artistic direction which is nowhere near my cup of tea, that is however subjective. As an example, I find the cover pretentious and a wide miss, as I do most of the photography in the book. At their worst, some of these pictures feel like soap opera adds from the 90's reimagined for the contemporary viewer. A look at the women over the globe on page 126 or the man making a chess move while intently looking at the viewer wearing a suit and weirdo secret society accessories on page 38 speak for themselves. Yet, I can't honestly say that the art is 'bad', or that this is not an interesting take on how vampires look like. That's how the 5th edition wants them to look, and that's where things end.

The weak points: The elephant in the room first. The book initially contained a chapter on Chechnya, in which the whole warring and persecution of homosexuals was attributed to vampire power plays. The consensus was that it was inconsiderate, if not crass, and woefully missed its target. The current book, both the one I have in print as well as its accompanying pdf, does not contain this chapter. On the contrary, it contains the Message to the Reader written in December 2018, an apology about the incident and an explanation of what material substituted the removed entry. Following that incident White Wolf went through a corporate restructure and got integrated directly into Paradox Interactive so that no future fumbles like that take place. It now only oversees the licenses it provides and does not develop nor publish the lines itself. If anybody has an issue with the Chechnya brouhaha and how bad White Wolf might be, it is old news.

Camarilla is not an easy book to read. I am not convinced that it is supposed to be read from cover to cover. In fact, jumping around here and there might be better, in order to a V:tM initiate to better understand what is going on. Therein however lays the book's biggest failure: it does not examine anything holistically, and opts for taking shots at different subjects instead. How deep it wants to go on each subject is mostly a matter of fancy. The content might not always be pertinent to the game, catering instead to the veterans who might smirk at an Easter egg or how that thing or the other changed in relation to the previous edition. Easy example: the Reformed Congregation of the Veneration of the Methuselah, a blaspheme iteration of a catholic litany, and all which precedes it. We are talking about five pages wasted, with content that, unless you incorporate it in one of your chronicles, is useless even as fluff. It is not the only text which failed the pertinence test. All this noise surrounding the snippets of useful information is overbearing for an initiate to the setting; it definitely was for me. Yet, a book will grossly miss its target if it is addressed to people who know of its contents already, due to their exposure to the game's previous editions. I felt like trying to understand a rich, complex tapestry by looking at shards of a broken mirror ten meters away, some of which do not even reflect the tapestry. How can a fledgling storyteller build the world when he perceives it as a subjective, sketchy image? Make no mistake: the practicalities and day-to-day (or is it night-to-night?) trivialities of a contemporary vampire are not explained. You will understand the basic framework, but when it comes to the details you will have to work yourself.

With V5, that has changed. The Camarilla has closed ranks. It no longer considers all vampires to be members, even if they live in Camarilla cities. The Brujah and the Gangrel are no longer collectively members (of course, individual members of the Anarch clans can be members of the Camarilla, and individual members of the Camarilla clans can be Anarchs). The protections of the Camarilla only extend to members of the Camarilla, and membership is a formal process. But these basics we knew from the V5 core book.

A longer presentation is, of course, reserved for the Banu Haqim, who are given a lawgiver/peacekeeper spin. They get the equivalent of the material presented in the core book plus the equivalent of the material presented here for the other Clans (including the Clan Compulsion). The spin on the Banu Haqim still leans towards the combat side, even though it was the vizier caste that more heavily went to the Camarilla. But there is no longer any mechanical distinction between the two lineages. They share the traditional Assamite Discipline spread, with Blood Sorcery replacing the signature discipline of Quietus (this was expected, since some of the Quietus abilities were distributed to Obfuscate and Blood Sorcery). Possibly because all Banu Haqim now know Blood Sorcery, there is no reference in the Camarilla book to the third caste, the sorcerers. The Clan Bane still relates to a possible urge to diablerize other vampires, although is only triggers in a particular situation, rather than being a free-ranging urge (indeed, a Banu Haqim will mostly be able to entirely avoid the bane if they so choose).

the brood, the sabbat and the gangrel have all been infiltrated by the camarilla. the brood and gangrel have been reduced to mere catspaws, used as a tool to sway public opinion and bolster the church's anti-tenebrean cause. the sabbat has been crippled, pushed into the shadows, and crushed. the antediluvian rules with an iron fist, making a show of his power and authority, and counting on the lasombra to bow to his will. his motives are far from pure, however, and he has a deep-seated resentment of the lasombra for being so genetically similar to the vampires he created, as well as a lingering hate for the antediluvian's protectors, the tzimisce. the lasombra are far from united, and many of them flocked to the antediluvian in hopes of a better deal. while the antediluvian's rule is harsh, it is for the most part benevolent, and the lasombra endure, creating their own network of power-brokers and corrupt officials. the antediluvian has little opposition as he has the support of the tzimisce, who believe themselves to be the only 'true' vampires. the antediluvian has no problem with keeping the lasombra in line, as most of the lasombra are in a state of constant paranoia, and have the tzimisce's formidable power to watch their backs. with the exception of a few kati deneith-spawned sorcerers, all lasombra who serve the elders in the sabbat and camarilla are products of the amici noctis. ghouls who refuse to serve the amici noctis are executed. almost all the ghouls who serve as lasombra keepers in the sabbat and camarilla are not only in a position of authority, but also they are the ones most likely to sacrifice themselves to prevent the camarilla from spreading its influence to their own ranks. this is even truer in the case of lasombra keepers, who are at the bottom of the totem pole in the camarilla's hierachy. 6a6f617c0c 041b061a72


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