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  • Clanbook: Giovanni (part two)

    And once more into the depths.

    The Tomb Robber
    So, the first Tomb Raider game came out in 1996, and probably had a minor influence on this character. Namely the fact that its female and her equipment includes a pair of automatic pistols. There's also an obligatory Indiana Jones riff in the character quote. Anywho, she had a life long interest in archaeology and ancient cultures, as well as an awareness that real archaeology isn't like the movies. But she managed to become a fairly renowned published expert in her field, especially in thanatology. Eventually, she was offered a massive research grant, on the condition that she first undertake an expedition to Peru and bring back certain artifacts there. This eventually led to the embrace and now she travels the world (or at least the Americas; its a little vague here) hunting down ancient lore and relics that expand both her and the clan's understanding of Necromancy. She's a little atypical, personality wise, for a Giovanni, being pretty straight forward and forthright. Mental is primary, with a 3/4/3 split, and Physicals are secondary with 2/3/3 (taking advantage of being able to augment Strength with Potence). Socials go for a 3/1/2, making her pretty much what you see is what you get. She has the secondary ability of Archaeology at four dots. (The only character in the book with a secondary ability.) Security, Investigation, Linguistics, and Occult are all three dots. Alertness, Stealth and Survival are at two each. Combat skills are all at a single dot. Overall, a pretty competent character, extremely good at her niche but also able to apply those abilities in other areas. Disciplines are two each in Necromancy and Potence, both of which fit the character. Backgrounds are the bare minimum of five dots, with one in Allies, and two each in Contacts and Resources. I really think this is a character that could've justified a dot in Fame, given her background. Humanity is seven and Willpower is five. The art looks like that of your average everyday real world archaeology or eco-tourist. I find myself liking this character quite a bit. It plays very strongly with the clan's Necromancy focus, but in a way that doesn't hew to stereotype. She also feels like she could easily fit in with any mixed clan Coterie that has any sort of academic or Noddist leanings. If pressed to find a complaint, the only thing I can think of is that maybe she's too nice. But I suspect that might change after a century of age.

    The Goodfella
    Speaking of stereotypes. So, yeah, its basically one of the guys from the movie of the same name. Well, not entirely. He's apparently from a Sicilian branch of the main Giovanni family (it doesn't specify if he's from Sicily or just his mortal family originates from there) that is heavily involved with the Mafia. He loved being in the Mafia as was good at it, eventually becoming a capo and being embraced. He holds to the old school ideas of honor and loyalty, perhaps more to the Mafia than to the Giovanni (perhaps because he doesn't really like being a vampire; this may have something to do with his having a wife and kids while alive, but what happened to them after his embrace isn't mentioned). He's a highly competent killer, but considers himself a professional and not a psychopath. Physicals are primary, with a 4/3/3 split, and Socials at secondary with 2/3/3. Brawl, Intimidation, Streetwise, and Firearms are three dots each, with Dodge and Melee at two. Then there's a scattering of single dots. Disciplines are one dot in Dominate, two in Potence, and then one in Celerity. Backgrounds include two dots in Allies, one in Contacts, four in Generation, and two in Resources. I presume Allies are the Mafia, and I once against find myself wishing that at some point there'd been something that looked in depth at what the different ratings for backgrounds like Allies, Retainers and the like could/should be for things like individuals, gangs, household staff and so on. Humanity is five and Willpower is nine. The artwork very seriously looks like it's Christopher Shy trying to mimic Tim Bradstreet's style, to the point where I could swear I've seen a very similar image on one of Bradstreet's covers for Hellblazer or The Punisher at some point. I have mixed feelings about this character. It's not a bad character by any stretch. But I can't escape the fact that it's based on a clan stereotype, and one that the author had repeatedly pointed out made little sense given the clan's Venetian origins. It feels like it's here to check off an item on a list and that's all. But once you move past that, it's a perfectly solid vampire character, and one who has some interesting loyalty conflicts. (Incidentally, I will note that there is a Venetian organized crime group known as Mala del Brenta, originating in the 1970s or so with local Veneto bandits, racketeers and smugglers organizing themselves in a fashion similar to the Mafia. They were actually supplying guns to Croatia when Yugoslavia fell apart, but were heavily cracked down on near the end of the 90s.)

    The Cynical Bastard
    And from a pair who almost feel like normal Kindred, we move to this. A product of incest (at least it doesn't dwell on the details) and born incredibly ugly, he was never allowed to leave the house or interact with anyone outside the family. So he had two main hobbies, learning about necromancy and spying on everyone else in the house. And also r**ing all of his younger cousins. Because, sure, why not. At least he was constantly beaten for this. Which I'm not sure is much of an improvement. Eventually his "uncle" - the one that used to administer the beatings - made him a ghoul, and eventually a vampire. Of course, because of his misshapen appearance and lack of social skills, he'd almost totally dependent on his retainers to being him food. Basically, he hates his existence, hates himself, and hates everything else as well. Mental is primary, with Perception maxed out to five dots, Intelligence at three and Wits at two. Strength and Manipulation are both four dots. Dexterity and Stamina are two, while Charisma and Appearance are one. Alertness, Stealth, Bureaucracy, Investigation and Occult are all three dots each, and Brawl and Linguistics are two. The rest are single dot abilities, including Subterfuge, Firearms and Finance. Disciplines are one dot in each Clan affinity power plus an extra dot in Necromancy. Backgrounds are five dots in Allies, two in Generation, four in Resources, and two in Retainers. I'm forced to ask the question, who are his allies? Seriously, this is a character without even the slightest semblance of a friend at any time in his life, and who apparently doesn't even leave the house. This is also when I note that not a single one of these characters has a Mentor, not even ones like this one who've clearly been overseen by a vampire family member for much of their life. Anyway, Humanity is six (higher than the previous Mafia killer) and Willpower is four. The character image is of a heavy set older guy in a suit with his face largely obscured by cigar smoke. Contrast this with his equipment list, which includes "sweatsuit purchased at Good Will." There seems to be a slight disconnect here. But overall, I'm not sure what the point of this character is, aside from an NPC masquerading (npi) as a premade PC. He really does nothing beside sit in his house all night stewing in his own misery and being a jerk. All the other characters go out and do things. This one doesn't even show any indication of that. He used to have an interest in studying Necromancy or in gathering information for his Uncle, but there's no indication he does either of those things anymore. So I'm just kind of at a loss here.

    That's it for part two. Next will be part three, with the final two templates and closing thoughts.

    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)


    • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
      This is also when I note that not a single one of these characters has a Mentor, not even ones like this one who've clearly been overseen by a vampire family member for much of their life.
      I've noticed this is a common problem in both many of the templates you've discussed in this thread, and in PC character creation. Players will mention stuff in their background that their character sheet does not support.

      One of my old GMs (long, long ago; in fact he was my first Vampire ST) would often give additional attributes based on character description so that the PC's stats reflected what the player said they were. This would always anger me because I always made sure my character sheet reflected my character background, and thus would lose out on build points compared to other players. I wonder how many other GMs and Players were in a similar dynamic where the GM would effectively give certain backgrounds or skills "for free" if something was in the character background, but not reflected mechanically.
      Last edited by Black Fox; 10-12-2020, 09:11 PM.


      • Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
        But I can't escape the fact that it's based on a clan stereotype, and one that the author had repeatedly pointed out made little sense given the clan's Venetian origins.
        Actually a LOT of the Giovanni clan's backstory as it developed doesn't make sense for a Venetian merchant family. While Venice was incredibly important to the Medieval economy and would remain rich for quite some time, being based on the Adriatic Sea and the eastern Mediterranean during the Age of Discovery meant the city as a whole declined in its great power status, and the reach of its merchants limited.

        Not only did it lack a connection to the Sicilian crime families well known in popular culture and connected to America, it had few dealings with the Atlantic trade, connection to the Spanish colonies, or the seaborne trade with the Orient. That eliminates not only the Putanesca, but the Dunsirn, Pisanob, Della Passaglia, Ghiberti, and other minor families.

        It's one reason why in my own chronicles I've moved the Giovanni family to Genoa, Venice's main commercial rival. Genoa actually had ties to Sicily and the Spanish/Portuguese colonial empires, and was represented much better in Western Europe and so could cultivate ties there with local merchants. It actually fits quite well, and eliminated all the problems I had with contradictions with history while preserving almost everything the clan had if based in Venice.

        I said the Giovanni family initially recruited the Putanesca as local strongmen in Sicily as a result of Genoa's support of the Crown of Aragon during the War of the Sicilian Vespers. Eventually as a result of long service, that family was rewarded with certain members being embraced; something that remained controversial within the clan. The Giovanni later became bankers that helped bankroll the Spanish crown during its Golden Age, and their merchant sailors helped the Spanish fleets explore and trade during the Age of Discovery, putting the Giovanni into contact with Mexico (the Pisanod), Angola (a Portuguese colony and major slave market - which the Ghiberti helped build), and Macau (where the Della Passaglia were based). Furthermore, even the timing of the Promise of 1528 fit well because that is the year the Genoan admiral of Spain, Andrea Doria, seized the city from occupation of the French. The Camarilla used the struggle between France and Spain for control of the city as leverage to force the Giovanni to accede to their demands, or risk being completely destroyed if the city was sacked.


        • Eh, I just see that as a feature of the Clan moving on and expanding its power base. The Ventrue aren't still in Babylon after all.

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


          • The Ventrue (and every other clan) has a major advantage that the Giovanni don't - they don't restrict themselves to embracing only their own mortal descendants or their carefully selected lineages they marry into. They can quite easily send someone off to wherever, and they can start building a new powerbase. The Giovanni must grow organically in the sense they first need to make contact through their living relatives and only then embrace. Therefore, it makes more sense to see what are the natural paths for the mortal Giovanni to travel to and base themselves out of.

            (I also believe that having an established family/merchant presence in an area would make it much easier for the vampire Giovanni to expand and not be in violation of the Treaty of 1528. It's a much easier justification for them to say, hey, our mortal family already has a presence there, so we're sending a vampire to look after them. Prince of wherever, please let us into your domain. Rather than the clan sending someone to a place where they don't already have a presence, and thus have many more objections to overcome.)

            It just happens to be that all the areas where the Giovanni are supposed to go to don't map well to Venice, but they map very well to Genoa.

            So I made the change. It seems much more right to me. And it has the bonus of allowing me to figure out a lot of other details about the clan in my chronicles (like in what cities are they well represented; backstory behind some of the families; the other activities the clan and mortal family can be involved in).

            I'm sure 99% of players don't care. And that's fine. I wouldn't nitpick about it if I was playing in their games. But I think a base in Genoa makes much more sense than Venice, so I made the change in my own chronicles. And I can't see any negative to it.


            • Venice has a rather curious history. (Thomas Madden's Venice: A New History is probably one of the better and more readable summaries of the city.)

              As for the Giovanni, I always just sort of assumed in my own head canon that they were, originally, Etruscan or thereabouts, and ended up mostly settled in the north around and above the Po River, and during the 7th century were one of the various extended families who fled into the lagoons and founded Venice. But there were probably a few minor branches still lurking around places like Rome, Noli, Ancona, and Genoa (but not Pisa, as they'd keep coming into conflict with their long time rivals/enemies, the Pallattino).

              Incidentally, given Venice's long connection to the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople, I'm kind of surprised in hindsight that there's no Greek family within the clan. Some old maritime family with a long history of smuggling, piracy, and weird old Chthonic rituals would be interesting, to me at least.

              Also, just because I wanted to, I decided that I wanted at least a couple of the families to be other Cappadocian families/cliques/cults who decided to throw in with Augustus and his coup. Hence, I've long had the Koenig be the remains of a Northern German Odinist cult who got into the iron-monger/arms dealer business early as a way to spread death and amass power. The other main one being a Portuguese faction whose name I invented and can't find my notes about them at the moment. After the Giovanni usurpation, they gradually incorporate the Rothstein's (Sephardic witches/necromancers), the Dunsirn (Scottish cannibals and smugglers), the Pisanob (Aztec priests), and the Milliners (Puritan witches turned early industrial mill owners), and a few others in the more modern era. But this is just because these include a lot of things I find interesting and enjoy playing around with (such as incorporating a bunch of Hawthorne, Lovecraft and King elements into the Milliners).

              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)


              • Clanbook: Giovanni (part three)

                And the grand finale.

                The Doom Seer
                A child prodigy among a family deeply immersed in death, and from the sounds of things able to sense the presence of the restless dead even as an adolescent. He was given the embrace apparently before even leaving his teens. Already incredibly fatalistic, this didn't exactly improve his outlook any. He's a genius who sees life - as well as his own existence - as entirely meaningless, and works to hasten the inevitable end of all things. Mainly this seems to be motivated by a deep seated hatred of all the things he was denied in his own life. Mental is primary, with Intelligence maxed out to five dots, and Perception at three. Stamina is at four dots. Everything else is two. Occult is maxed out to five dots as well, and Linguistics is four dots. Alertness and Investigation are three each. Empathy, Subterfuge and Computer at two each. Then there's a scattering of ones, including Firearms, Medicine, and Science. Disciplines are all three dots in Necromancy, and a dot of Thaumaturgy bought with freebies. Backgrounds are one dot in Allies (again I'm wondering who/what this is), one in Generation, and three in Resources. Humanity and Willpower are both six. The art is perfectly fine. Almost nondescript in a way. I think this is probably a good choice. Too many times a character like this seems to get drawn as some sort of robed cultist or the like, so it's nice to see one that avoids that trope. Strangely, this character doesn't really illicit any strong reaction from me one way or the other. There's absolutely nothing wrong with him. But I'm not sure there's anything really standing out either. It's perfectly well written, but doesn't hook me the way a lot of other templates have. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why. He looks perfectly playable, even in a mixed clan coterie. But he's probably be on the bottom half of a list of such characters I'd want to play.

                The Corporate Lick
                I'm kind of tempted to call this the black sheep of the family. He was the normal one of the bunch, and has always aspired to just fit in comfortably and not make waves or draw attention to himself. And for all his life, he was very good at it. Good grades, but not too good to stand out too much. A job with the family shipping business where he was competent but avoided unwanted attention. But apparently someone was paying attention because he ended up a ghoul and eventually embraced. Now he continues to do exactly enough work to not stand out as either incompetent or as exceptional. If he just keeps quiet and does his job, maybe he can survive. Mental is primary, with a 4/3/3 spread, and Physical secondary with 3/2/3. Acting and Alertness are three dots each. Drive, Etiquette, Bureaucracy, Computer, Finance, Investigation, Linguistics and Occult are all two dots. Empathy, Leadership, Subterfuge, Stealth, and Law are one each. Disciplines are two dots in Dominate, and one each in Necromancy and Potence. I kind of feel like this would probably be the one character who could do without any Necromancy, but I can also see where he'd learn the basics just to not stand out. Backgrounds are two dots in Allies (again, who/what?), two in Contacts, one in Influence, and four in Resources. Humanity is eight and Willpower is six. The art is exactly what you'd expect, and could do perfect double duty as a typical Ventrue. I find myself liking this character. He's very easy for me to empathize with, and feels like he'd have a lot of interesting internal conflicts during a chronicle, especially if part of a mixed coterie. And for a clan that, in its own way, is as screwed up as the various Tzimisce revenant families, he's refreshingly normal.

                And so those are the Giovanni. Overall, a fairly strong set. The strongest standouts, for me personally, would probably be the Ingenue (face tattoo aside), the Tomb Robber, and the Corporate Lick. The only really weak one is the Cynical Bastard. He just doesn't do anything but sit in his haven and stew in his own misery. The others are all perfectly fine. I just like those other three better.
                For representation, we have three women and four men. And none of the women are sexualized in the art (not even the Degenerate). However, they're all very white. I can mostly understand, given that with the exception of the Pisanob and Ghiberti, they're all very white families. Still, it would've been nice to see at least one character from one of those families as a Mesoamerican or half-African Giovanni.
                I'm honestly a little disappointed that there isn't some sort of parapsychologist character. Someone who takes a (quasi)scientific view towards necromancy, going out and investigating hauntings in order to capture ghosts for enslavement and locate places where the Shroud is thin so that the clan can buy them for future use in their efforts to tear it down. That and maybe some sort of creepy medical doctor type.
                I'm not sure there's really much of a theme here, save that of screwed up family dynamics and a general sense of trying to be hip by snarkily dismissing almost every aspect of the game and its setting. My own take has always been that the Giovanni are mostly about Corruption, be it moral, ethical, or spiritual. And most of these generally hold true to that, be it the slothful acceptance of the Corporate Lick, the greed for knowledge of the Tomb Robber, or the vile hate of the Cynical Bastard (or its cold counterpart in the Doom Seer).

                So, that's the final part of the final 2nd ed Clanbook. Next, will be closing thoughts.

                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)


                • Fantastic write-up and I should have mentioned how much I appreciated this thread from the very beginning more often. Some parting comments.

                  * I always figured the Giovanni were part of the Fourth Crusade since the sacking of Constantinople and the looting of that ancient city by Crusaders was driven by the kind of families the Giovanni are descended from. As such, they would have either wiped out the Greek branch of their family or had it destroyed by vengeful servants of Michael.

                  * I am surprised that there's not more literal color in the faces of the Italian branches of the family. One of the interesting things to happen to Helena Bertinelli (Huntress of DC comics) was that when 52 was announced, they went for a more classic Sicilian appearance and many fans complained, not realizing that they're often a little browner than pure pale skin.

                  * I generally view the Treaty of 1528 as consisting of a variety of loopholes that both the Giovanni and Ventrue are aware of. For me, the basics are that the Giovanni will never hold any title in the Sabbat or Camarilla or rule any cities themselves. They're welcome(ish) at Elysium and can be accepted by Princes to build up their mortal holdings but the Jyhad is off-limits. This is, of course, nonsense and they're heavily involved but just staying indirect is it's own reward to many Ventrue.

                  * This is purely headcanon but in my games, Augustus Giovanni is not as omnipotent as other Antediluvians. I stated in my games that Augustus has only 1 Level 10 Discipline and that is a Dominate 10 that allows him to dominate any one of his blood descendants or family by marriage in the world. Which is why the clan has it's weird...quirk.

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