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  • Ghouls: Fatal Addiction

    So, 1997 was White Wolf's Year of the Ally, and Vampire's entry for that event was a book about ghouls. This book was written by Ronni Radner (a name I don't recognize from anything else) and Ethan Skemp (Werewolf developer at the time). It was developed by Robert Hatch, and that will probably explain one of these templates. Artwork for these templates was by Vince Locke, who has a style that reminds me a little of Josh Timbrook, if only a little more detailed and more stretched out.
    We only get four templates here, which is kind of a shame, as I always felt ghouls were the sort of thing that could benefit from a lot of examples. The book divided them into three categories: Vassals, Independents, and Revenants. (And sadly, revenants didn't even get their own chapter or anything, looking at how completely alien they are on certain levels from normal people.) So we get two Vassals, one Independent and one Revenant.
    This book introduces a new Background, Dominator, which is effectively both Mentor and Generation for ghouls, being a mix of how much their master cares about them and how potent the master's blood is, which dictates if they can learn a Discipline above level one or not. (The background is effectively useless at anything below four dots unless your ST opts for the optional rules for making ghouls more powerful.)

    The Patron of the Artist
    An art school grad who apparently was more interested in running an art gallery and living the trendy art lifestyle than actually being an artist. Unfortunately, she didn't really have the contacts or other "ins" in the art world to pull it off properly. Then she met her mistress at a trendy coffee shop hang out for artists. They became lovers and she was fed vitae. Now she'll do anything to help further her mistress's art career and is happy to have that first level of Presence to help attract new clients, patrons, and customers to her gallery. Naturally, she worships the ground her mistress walks on, but is insanely jealous of her other ghouls. After all, she saw her first. Socials are primary, with a 4/3/3 split. Wits are a three also, with everything else at two. Abilities include three each in Subterfuge, Finance, and Art History. Acting, Alertness, and Etiquette are at two each. Then a number of one dots round things out. Besides the default dot in Potence, she has one in Presence as well. (It's not stated anywhere, but I guess we're meant to presume her mistress is Toreador, although I could just as easily see her being interpreted as one of the other Presence possessing clans.) Backgrounds include three each in Contacts and Resources, and one each in Influence, Allies, and Dominator. Humanity is seven and Willpower is six. Overall, I rather like this character. It's a very archetypical ghoul, and kind of clan specific, but I think the backstory is really good and gives you an insight into the character's mind, including the sort of insane fixation ghouls tend to have for their vampire regents. And she seems like she'd be interesting to play in a chronicle that was heavily focused on Elysium and other social gathering aspects of the game.

    The Revolting Revenant
    Well, this one certainly lives up to its name. I should probably warn people that if you are easily squicked out by various sexual depravities, you may want to just skip this one and go right to the next template. I honestly don't even like writing about this one. Anyway, it's a member of the Bratovich family, them being the inbred hillbilly Texas Chainsaw Massacre group of Sabbat revenant families. They share the Tzimisce affinity for Animalism, which means they were frequently used as breeders and trainers of warhorses and hunting hounds, among other things. So this is a "semiautistic" (I'm not even sure how that works) teenaged girl. Who has sex with all her animals. (Seriously, things like this make me regret starting this thread.) And if the animals don't do what she says, she abuses and murders them. And there are a few worse aspects of this write up that I'm not even going to mention. Physicals are primary, with Strength maxed out to five and Stamina at one. All Social dots are in Appearance (at four), leaving Charisma and Manipulation at one each. This seems a little crippling for Animalism roles, as I believe the first level power involves Manipulation + Animal Ken. As far as Abilities, Survival is four dots, and Animal Ken, Melee and Stealth are three each. Athletics and Brawl are at two. Then there are a scattering of ones. Besides the single dot of Potence, there's one each in Animalism and Vicissitude. Backgrounds are five dots of Allies. She's on the Path of Harmony at six, with Willpower at five. I really dislike this character. While I understand that the revenant families are meant to be horrific degenerate freaks engaged in all sorts of depravities, I don't see why it needs to be the sole focus on the only revenant template we've ever had. This feels like it was one of those "shock for the sake of being shocking" things that was heavily plaguing White Wolf at the time (see also any issue of White Wolf Inphobia magazine). I can honestly think of three better Bratovich ideas off the top of my head, and at least nine more for the other families. This just feels gratuitous and fails on a number of levels.

    The Rebel without a Regent
    If the first template was our archetypical Vassal, this is our archetypical Independent. A high school burnout/dirtbag type who dabbled in various forms of rebellion and troublemaking. Then he met a girl who was into that kind of thing. And she turned out to be a vampire. While getting high together, she gave him some of her vitae. I guess something about the drugs messed with the usual psychological effects of the ghouling because instead of being worshipful, he was pissed off and left her. Except now he was jonesing for more blood. So he started hanging out on the streets at night looking for lone vampires to beat up and take blood from. Somehow, he's not dead yet, and entertains the notion of leading some sort of ghoul revolution. Physicals are primary, with Stamina at four, Dexterity at three and Strength at two. Wits is also three, with the trade off of Perception being only one. Manipulation is also three. Besides an Area Knowledge of three, all of his abilities are ones and twos. The twos are Alertness, Brawl, Streetwise, and Drive. I kind of feel that Area Knowledge could've been spent on better things. For one, his write up says he has a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook and has been doing stuff from it for a few years, and his equipment includes "plastique (for bomb making)". Yet he has no Demolitions ability, or anything in Science or Repair that could be used for that. Apparently all his freebies went to Disciplines, because in addition to Potence, he has Fortitude, Celerity and Obfuscate. (I feel like one of those could've been dropped to help round out the character's abilities and backgrounds a little more). Backgrounds are two each in Allies and Contacts and one in Resources. Humanity is six and Willpower is five. This isn't a bad character. Like I said, it's pretty much the archetype for Independent ghouls. I rather like the "ghoul revolution" angle, even if it is unrealistic, and wish that had been expanded on a little more. And that includes having his abilities and backgrounds buffed up a bit. If you did that, I think this would be a really good character.

    Le Femme Serpentina
    Gee, I wonder which clan this character is a ghoul of? So, a former small time drug user and dealer in Miami who got busted as a teen and sent to juvie and rehab. There she found AA and Jesus and became born again and decided to become a cop. And naturally someone decided it would be a great idea to send a recovering addict out to do undercover narc work where she'd end up having to do drugs to keep her cover. Then she fell under the sway of a Setite who'd apparently had his eye on her for a while, apparently thinking that the way she turned her life around for the better would make her a good candidate for making other people turn themselves around for the worse. No, I don't really follow the logic either. Anyway, now she's both a recruiter and an enforcer for her master and his local cult, and apparently still a cop too. Dexterity and Charisma are four each, and Strength is three. Everything else is two. Firearms is four dots, and Streetwise is three. Brawl, Dodge, Intimidation, Leadership, Investigation, and Occult are all two dots. Besides Potence, she also has a dot in Presence. I will certainly give props here for not giving her Serpentis just because she's a Setite ghoul. Backgrounds are two in Dominator, four in Contacts, and one in Resources. Humanity is six and Willpower four. Although ghouls aren't really supposed to be on paths of enlightenment unless revenants, I could actually see a case for this one being on one of the Setite ones, as she's a member of a cult and it really does feel like she's being groomed for eventual embrace. I sort of have mixed feelings about this character. It's not a bad one, overall. Like the other two ghouls, she has a pretty detailed backstory that makes it feel like a fleshed out person. However, I'm kind of tired of the whole Setites + Drugs thing. In some ways, this feels like a repeat of the Bent Narc from their clanbook, only done better. It's not a bad template, but it doesn't click with me for some reason.

    So, that was Ghouls. With one exception, these aren't bad. They're kind of basic, concept wise, but a lot of effort has been put into the three ghoul characters and their backstories, so they feel like real people. I kind of wish we'd had two or four more, to get a better sampling of ideas. The revenant character, however, is really terrible.
    Representation wise, we have three female and one male. However, given that ghouls are inherently subservient, I do recognize the curious fact that the only male is the only one who has rebelled against that state of servitude. And three of them are white, while only the Setite ghoul is black. And the art patron is bisexual (although it's entirely possible that this was a result of the influence of Presence; one of the creepy things about that discipline is that makes such things so questionable).
    I admit that I would've liked to see a classic butler type. That and someone who actually is in a relationship with their vampire rather than just being used. And most certainly a much better revenant character. Like an Oburtus parapsychologist or a Grimialdi version of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. However, I am thankful that we didn't get a Ravnos character, as this was when the clan was still leaning into the whole The Rom thing. (There's even a "True Gypsy" merit, for making your ghoul character able to have those silly Blood Affinity powers from WoD: Gypsies. Bleah.)
    If there's an overall theme to ghouls, it's slavery. And the three ghoul characters evoke this pretty well. While the revenant families are certainly slaves to both the Sabbat and their own warped impulses, I feel like maybe they should've been the subject of their own book.

    Next, I'm going to go back and look at The Inquisition, Vampire's book from Year of the Hunter. (And no, that isn't just so I can put off having to do Ravnos, why do you ask?)


    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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    • To be fair to the Sabbat writers, there might just be only so many variations of "You got hit over the head with a shovel" before that origin story becomes repetitive.

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      • I always found the Patron of the Artist more fascinating than I should with the description implying that her Presence resulted in her falling in love with her despite being of incompatible sexualties, only to have that also cemented by the Blood Bond.

        Pressing how much mind-control is in every ghoul-vampire relationship versus "real" feelings fascinates me.


        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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        • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
          I always found the Patron of the Artist more fascinating than I should with the description implying that her Presence resulted in her falling in love with her despite being of incompatible sexualties, only to have that also cemented by the Blood Bond.

          Pressing how much mind-control is in every ghoul-vampire relationship versus "real" feelings fascinates me.
          One of the more interesting bits in John Steakley's Vampire$ novel is when it looks at the damaging psychological effects the Presence-like power of vampires can have on a human being, in regards to one of the villain's herd.


          What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
          Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

          Comment


          • The Inquisition (part one)

            So, setting the Wayback Machine to 1995. This was the trial run of White Wolf's "Year of" efforts for the World of Darkness. In this case Year of the Hunter. Three of these books would expand on various groups from the original Hunters' Hunted book, each being handled by the developers for the Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage lines. Meanwhile, Wraith would get a book about various ghost-hunting factions, while Changeling got a book about Banality. This had two weird side effects. One was that the Wraith and Changeling books weren't very useful outside their own game lines. The other was that each of the first three tended to follow character creation standards for their particular developer's game line, rather than having a more universal "mortal witch hunter" set of rules. Because Vampire handled The Inquisition, it means they all have Vampire's Virtues and Humanity traits, while Twilight Agents and the Arcanum do not. That means these characters have more traits to spend freebie points on, which puts them at a slight disadvantage compared to the other two.
            This book was written by James Estes, who I mainly remember for doing a lot of Mage work (including the original Celestial Chorus tradition book and the Arcanum book from this Year of series), as well as stuff for the Fading Suns RPG. Andrew Greenberg was developer. Four interior artists are listed for the book, but I can't tell who did the template artwork, as it isn't signed. I can tell by process of elimination that it isn't Ron Spencer or Mike Chaney, so that leaves either James Daly or Nick Ruskin. I'm unable to narrow it down more, which is a shame, because I'd like to know whose artwork I'm saying is so off-putting and annoyingly underwhelming.

            The Christian Kabbalist
            So, James Estes was apparently very well read on the more mystic and esoteric aspects of Christianity and other Western traditions, and this character kind of highlights that. He's also here to showcase the Inquisition's own form of magic/Numuna called Theurgy (which are basically just the various sorcery paths with Latin names and ritual). He has had a lifelong fascination with the occult and magic, but his Catholic faith kept him from actually trying to practice any of it until his parish priest introduced him to the idea of Theurgy and offered to become his mentor. He was gradually inducted into the Society of Leopold and while he shares their faith and general beliefs, he's ultimately in this for the potential knowledge and magical lore he can collect. As such, he doesn't really participate all that much in actual hunts, and tends to be more active in local mystical circles. Mental is primary, which each of them at three, as is Manipulation. Linguistics is maxed out to five dots. Occult is at three. Alertness, Empathy, Etiquette and Firearms are two each. I really don't understand why he has those dots in Firearms, as he's borderline non-combatant. He has two dots in Theurgy paths, one each in Via Genorium (spirit magic) and Via Oraculli (divination). Backgrounds include three dots in Mentor and one each in Allies, Resources, and Status. Humanity is seven and Willpower is five. The artwork looks more like what I'd expect his mentor to look like: A very old, wizened, and balding man in priestly robes who I might place in his sixties. (His mentor must be at least 90.) Generally, this is a pretty good idea for a character. It eschews the stereotypical fire and brimstone idea for the more scholarly and mystical aspect of the Catholic Church. I think it could be improved with having the priority for Talents and Skills swapped, so that he could maybe pick up a dot of Dodge, Acting, Leadership, and/or Subterfuge in place of the seemingly out of place Firearms. He's also got five freebie points unspent, which could've boosted Willpower a little, as well as maybe another dot in Occult and Investigation.

            The Condotierre Bodyguard
            The Condotierre are the Society's paramilitary security force. Our character is a former member of the Secret Service, but apparently only for five years. But in that short time he was shot more than once in failed assassination attempts. (Something about that feels off for some reason.) He then became a private bodyguard, and while guarding some rock star who turned out to be a vampire, he ended up siding with the Inquisition team that came to destroy his boss. They recruited him. He's very much the cautious and plan-ahead type. Physicals are primary, with Stamina maxed out to five, and and extra dot from freebies to bump Dexterity to three. Mental is secondary, with Wits also being bumped to four with freebies. Brawl and Firearms are both at four dots, and Melee is three. Alertness, Drive and Security are two each. (Dodge and Investigation are both one dot. I feel like there may be some confusion here about just what a Secret Service style bodyguard does and what skills that may require.) He has no Numina. Backgrounds include two dots in Contacts (Society - I presume this means the Society of Leopold), and one each in Allies, Resources, and Status. Humanity is eight and Willpower is nine. The artwork is just odd. It looks more like some sort of Victorian Era dandy than a modern bodyguard. The front of his shirt has these little ruffles on it (like a 1970s prom tux) with a bow tie, and he's got a cane. I really don't know what to make of that. Art aside, this is another pretty good idea for a character that seems to forgo the Faith-based witch hunter stereotype. He's a professional with a sense of duty to protect people from monsters. (I could easily see this guy ending up as a SAD agent if he'd taken a slightly different life path.) However, I think he'd be a bit stronger if some of his trait dots were shuffled around a little, putting a stronger emphasis on situational awareness and forward planning than on direct combat.

            That's all for this one. Next will be more Inquisitors.


            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

            Comment


            • The Inquisition (part two)

              And picking up.

              The Gladius Dei Wannabe
              The Gladius Dei, or sword of God, is the Society's elite military branch. And I've previously expressed my dislike for the term "wannabe" in any character concept name. Our character was an eager beaver go-getter, an Eagle Scout, star athlete, clearly destined for greatness, etc. Except that once he neared the end of college, he really wasn't sure what to do with his life. Then on a camping trip with friends, they were interrupted by a fight between a werewolf and Inquisitors. He jumped in to help, and ended up being recruited. Finally, he's found his calling in life, and he's actually pretty good at it. He wants to be the best of the best, and he'll probably end up part of the Sword provided he doesn't get killed first. Physicals are primary, all at three dots. Charisma is also at three. Athletics, Brawl, and Firearms are all at four dots. Alertness and Melee is only two (and he has no Dodge). Then there are a few one dot abilities (including Leadership, Drive, Stealth, and Occult). No Numina. Backgrounds include two dots in Resources and one each in Allies, Contacts (Outside), and Status. Humanity is seven and Willpower is nine. The artwork is OK. It's got that same sloppy, smeary, blurred look and crippling lack of detail as the rest, but is at least recognizable as a normal looking guy with a gun and a rosary. Conceptually, this is a pretty good character. A talented individual who finally found his calling hunting monsters. The main problem is that he's kind of a one-trick pony He's got two jacked up combat skills and almost nothing else. While this makes him useful in a fight (at least until that total lack of Dodge gets him hit), in any non-combat scene such as investigations, covert activities or political intrigue, he runs the risk of turning into a piece of furniture. And I think part of this is because he has a whopping 13 unspent freebie points. I mean, seriously. That is at least six additional Ability points that could've been spent on things like Investigation, Medicine, Dodge, or Leadership, as well as some more backgrounds. So this is basically a really good idea that just fell completely on its face from lazy implementation.

              The Puritan
              And here is an oddity. Obviously, one of the signature weapons against monsters for a faith-based organization like the Inquisition - the very Catholic Society of Leopold - is that of True Faith. So, naturally, our character with True Faith is a very non-Catholic extremely fundamentalist Protestant who is willing to associate with the Society but considers the Catholic Church to be the Whore of Babylon. (It occurs to me that I think almost every major Truth Faith vampire hunter I've seen in the early books was a New England or English Protestant, with the only True Faith possessing Catholic I can recall being an elder Lasombra vampire of the Sabbat.) Exactly what this character did when not reading the Bible and thinking that the reason his father left is because he was "seduced by a harlot" is never discussed. Love of the Bible and a minor distrust of Catholics are pretty much his only character traits. Anyway, his brother died of a drug overdose and came back as a ghost, which he drove away with his faith. This prompted him to become an occult investigator and eventually into contact with the Inquisition. Mental is primary, with a 2/4/3 split. Charisma is also a three. Investigation is at three dots, and Alertness, Empathy, Etiquette, Music, Stealth, Linguistics, Medicine, and Politics are two dots. Firearms, Bureaucracy and Occult are only one. I find this ability spread odd. The write up specifically describes him as "somewhat of an expert on the occult", yet he knows almost nothing. He's specifically a King James Bible guy, which makes me wonder exactly why he has Linguistics, as that typically lends itself to a belief that the KJV is somehow the perfectly and divinely inspired translation of God's Word and reading any other is unnecessary. I can't really see him going into many immigrant/non-English speaking communities as part of investigations (or evangelical work) either. I'd love to know the story behind those Music and Medicine abilities as well. Anyway, he has two dots of True Faith, making him the only character in this book to have that trait. Backgrounds include one dot in Allies, three in Contacts (Outside), and two in Resources. Humanity is nine (mainly because that's the prerequisite this book gives for having True Faith), and Willpower is five. Just as a personal thing, it sort of feels like someone that sure of their Faith should maybe be higher in terms of WP. But basically any of these characters who don't have Numina instead have their WP cranked up super high, almost like it's being used as its own superpower. I have mixed feelings about this character. One the one hand, it's nice that it's not the low hanging fruit of the Fire & Brimstone, burn them all and let God sort them out stereotype. On the other hand, I feel slightly cheated in the fact that our one True Faith character in a book about a society of Catholic hunters isn't a Catholic. A priest or nun, or even just a very devout lay person, feels like it would've been more fitting. Also, the abilities kind of feel like they're all over the place with little rhyme or reason. So a middle of the road one, that isn't a total failure, but isn't a success either.

              And that's part two. Next will be part three, with the final two templates and final thoughts. Then finally on to the Ravnos clanbook.


              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

              Comment


              • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                (It occurs to me that I think almost every major Truth Faith vampire hunter I've seen in the early books was a New England or English Protestant, with the only True Faith possessing Catholic I can recall being an elder Lasombra vampire of the Sabbat.)
                I believe that you forgot about Sullivan Dane, a jesuit 🙂.


                Warrior of the Rainbow
                Saint among the sinners
                Pure among the dirt
                Loser among winners

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                • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                  It occurs to me that I think almost every major Truth Faith vampire hunter I've seen in the early books was a New England or English Protestant, with the only True Faith possessing Catholic I can recall being an elder Lasombra vampire of the Sabbat.
                  Well, Sullivan Dane, who is VERY Catholic being a Jesuit Priest.

                  Anatole is also Catholic rather than the Cainite heresy according to Dark Ages: Malkavian. I liked that book as Anatole explains his philosophy in detail.
                  Last edited by CTPhipps; 07-07-2020, 05:04 PM.


                  Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                  • Weird. For some reason I was remembering Dane as a Puritan, probably because Solomon Kane was.


                    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

                    Comment


                    • In Halls of the Arcanum there was another true faith priest, this time a protestant puritan who hated catholic and by extension the Society of Leopold. Jebediah, I believe it was named.

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                      • Puritan wise, you can't get more so than Ciaphas from Hunters Hunted.


                        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                          Weird. For some reason I was remembering Dane as a Puritan, probably because Solomon Kane was.
                          In Nouva Malattia there was a boy accompanying Jesuit Hunters whose name was Sullivan. I think it was young Dane on his first hunt. After that I rather imagined him like Kevin from Sin City, but going after Cainites rather than hookers 😜.

                          And who was that Lasombra with True Faith cause I can't recall him.
                          Last edited by Nail Eater; 07-08-2020, 09:38 AM.


                          Warrior of the Rainbow
                          Saint among the sinners
                          Pure among the dirt
                          Loser among winners

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Nail Eater View Post

                            In Nouva Malattia there was a boy accompanying Jesuit Hunters whose name was Sullivan. I think it was young Dane on his first hunt. After that I rather imagined him like Kevin from Sin City, but going after Cainites rather than hookers 😜.

                            And who was that Lasombra with True Faith cause I can't recall him.
                            Moncada.

                            Lucita's abusive pervert of a sire.


                            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                            • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                              Moncada.

                              Lucita's abusive pervert of a sire.
                              Thanks, that's what I suspected. I didn't know he has True Faith, I thought only Anatole has it.


                              Warrior of the Rainbow
                              Saint among the sinners
                              Pure among the dirt
                              Loser among winners

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                                Moncada.

                                Lucita's abusive pervert of a sire.
                                Yeah, he's usually the first thing I think of when I consider the idea that non-mortals maybe shouldn't have access to True Faith. (I've long considered that ability to be kind of broken on a number of levels, but that's probably a discussion for another thread.)


                                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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