|Written by Justin R. Achilli|
|Cover Art: Brad Noble|
Conclaves, Covens and Councils : In the world of the Kindred, vampires lurk behind every shadow, planning their machinations and watching their prey. But who watches the watchers? Powerful Kindred from all sects (and none) move among their peers, protecting the Masquerade, interpreting the traditions of Caine, leading the Sabbat against the Antediluvians or subtly pulling strings in the darkness. Who are the most feared and most powerful vampires in the World of Darkness?
Lords after Dusk Children of the Night fully details the heavy-hitters of Vampire's World of Darkness. Included are the justicars and many archons of the Camarilla, as well as key princes, bishops, pack priests, Sabbat cardinals and prisci and an inscrutable Inconnu or two - all the undead to know ...and fear.
A top notch supplement, well worth the unbelievably cheap price. This is what Vampire has been needing for a long time: a point of reference, an anchor, that all players and STs can refer to (if, and only if, they want to). Of course, I can already see the grumbling on Usenet ("Well, I didn't get to pick the Seraphs, whine, whine, whine, I would rather have a supplement that detailed how to create a Seraph, and not give me one that I must use under penalty of death, whine, whine, whine.") I was hoping that they were going to do a book like this for the Jyhad card game, similar in vein to the Warriors of the Apocalypse for Rage. I'm glad they waited.
The book begins with a word of warning, ultimately about munchkins wasting the characters presented within. This was very appropriate, since I've already had players flipping through it, saying, "He ain't so tough - we can take him out." Sheesh. There are also simplified rules on creating old NPC vampires for use in Vampire, but I think most experienced STs will just toss those rules out the window, and create whatever character they want. But it's a handy guideline.
For those who don't know, the book details some of the major players in the vampiric World of Darkness. A section on Sabbat, a section on Camarilla, and the last section on Independents and Inconnu. All of the Seraphs, all of the Justicars, several princes, archbishops, archons, etc. Ultimately many folks thou shalt not mess with. A few can only be described as a Jumbo Size Can of Whup Ass. But even this doesn't cover everyone: no Inner Circle, no non-Monitor Inconnu, no Antediluvians (thank god), no Salubri antitribu, no Adonai (dammit!). There are also a few secrets and plots that are revealed (at least partially): how the Assamites lost the Curse, how Montreal will soon be the scene of a major, major Sabbat-Camarilla conflict, and the San Diego staging ground for a Camarilla-Sabbat-Cathayan stand-off.
The writing was consistently good. No flubs that I've noticed after reading through it once. Some characters I like more than others, which I suspect will be different for everyone who reads it. I love the Nosferatu wrestler (whose name I can't spell without the book in front of me), and I sort of wish there were a couple of other characters also not as serious. The folks in Children of the Night are mostly a morose, serious bunch (which is right on target - since this is a horror game), but moments of levity are appreciated. In my opinion, the wrestler did not need the disclaimer.
I wish that there were some Cathayans described. However, I realize that they probably didn't have the room, and they were trying to keep the supplement useful to people who only had the main book (and maybe the two guides), and also keep the book cheap for us. But the psychotic gamer in me is always screaming more, more, more. However, on the same note, I'm glad to see Asians in the book that are not Cathayans (like Kyoko, the Tremere Scourge of San Francisco). It was also interesting to see that Kuei-jin and the Kindred see each other as signs of the apocalypse.
The portraits by SHY were excellent, as usual. I fell in love with his work in various Conspiracy X supplements, and I've always thought that he would be perfect for Vampire. (See the Sabbat Templates in the Guide to the Sabbat, if you don't have Children of the Night.)
Understand, however, that you may end up only using a handful of these characters in your Chronicle. (Unless your Chronicle is ungodly epic.) I will probably only use one or two, and only in the background, behind the scenes, or as guest stars. This is a book that you don't so much as use word for word, but which fans the flames of your own creativity. It's also a fun read.
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
When I heard about this book, I was at first somewhat skeptical. I already had Children of the Inquisition and Kindred's Most Wanted, I was worried that Children of the Night would just be a re-hash of the old material. It wasn't.
Children of the Night is not simply old NPCs given a new book to sell, it is a collection of characters, both new and old, from the setting. I have to warn you though, I was expecting a book of "Movers and Shakers of Kindred society," but that's not what the book is. While it does contain many of the more important figures in undead society (like the Seraphim of the Black Hand and the Justicars of the Camarilla), not everyone presented is of either great importance of renown. While not necessarily bad, it was not what I was expecting and so somewhat disappointing. I hear that every character in the book does have an intended use later on, however, so I may just be jumping to conclusions.
The format of the book was quite nice, with one chapter each on the Sabbat, Camarilla, and Independents (after an introduction by Justin Achilli on why the new book was done and on how to create an elder character). Individual character entries start off with the history and story of the character, and then move into a reasonably comprehensive list of traits. Aside from a few mistakes here and there (there is no Death and the Soul Path rating for Unre, and both Karsh and Jalan-Aajav are on the Path of the Feral Heart with Self-Control 5, to mention a few) the characters are well done. The sections are, for the most part, short, sweet, and well done. With a few exceptions (Unre's history is terribly unclear on chronology, very hard to decipher) most of the characters are interesting and hint at Larger Things. Art, other than the full-page pictures done by Leif Jones (not his best stuff. I found them extremely lacking), was all provided by the great Christopher Shy in small 1/6th-page head-shots. While the art was definitely not up to Shy's usual standard, some of it was quite good. I think that there should have been more discussion between Shy and the authors of the characters though, because while some illustrations fit perfectly and serve only to enhance the character (like Justicars Maris Streck and Lucinde), some really did not fit at all (the Sabbat Inquisitor Mercy). The proliferation of facial tattoos was annoying sometimes, but not nearly as bad as I had expected from the reaction the book received on the net. For the most part, the art was good, if not exceptional.
So just who is in the book? Well, to make a quick note of some of the more striking characters, Jalan-Aaljav and Karsh are interesting, especially in relation to each other. Unre, the Keeper of Golgotha has many, many interesting tidbits in her section, although the part mentioning how long she was behind the Shroud with the other Harbingers (third paragraph in) is terribly unclear. It mentions two centuries to "fall into madness" and three centuries of watching the Giovanni destroy the Cappadocians. Is that 200 years before the Giovanni purge and then watching for 300 years while the clan is slaughtered, or is it something else? I'm all for mystery, but sometimes obscure writing makes more for annoyance than mystery. All of the Black Hand Seraphim are beautifully done, and all provide loads of plot ideas. Tariq the Silent is a surprise for those who read Kindred's Most Wanted. Francisco Dominga de Polonia is a Lasombra Embraced with a horrid sunburn. The Cardinal of Canada is an idealistic Sabbat member with some interesting plans. The new information on Archbishop Moncada is as interesting as ever. Cicatriz, the Bishop of Tijuana holds some hints to Gehenna and the Time of Thin Blood. And you can't forget the Marilyn Manson paradoy, Jayne Jonestown.
On the Camarilla side, the Malkavian Justicar, Maris Streck is very, very well crafted, exactly how a Malkavian Justicar would be. Madame Guil, the Toreador Justicar has a story full of interesting and surprising twists. Francisco DiPadua, the Right Hand of the Camarilla, is another nicely done NPC. Ilyana Ravidovich holds some interesting information concerning Baba Yaga, the Nosferatu Methuselah. Giangaleazzo, the Traitor Prince of Milan gets a bit in the book. An Abomination is even done up in the book, Pariah, a former Silver Fang Embraced by a Ventrue. While not over-done, I didn't see much need for Pariah, myself. Cesar Holfield is a 15th generation Caitiff with the "mark of the moon" upon him, despite his not being the "last daughter of Eve." Wrestling fans, fear not, El Diablo Verde is indeed in the book, and he sure ain't no jobber.
For the independents, we get Brunhilde, the leader of the Valkyries. Ambrogino Giovanni, a necromancer who seems to have discovered the "incident" between Enoch and Stygia by witnessing the Maelstrom it generated and interrogating wraiths he caught later. The information he has could prove to be very interesting. Ah-Ashrad, Amr of Clan Assamite, and ur-Shulgi, his truly ancient sire, are also mentioned, and ur-Shulgi does not bode well for the clan at all. Xaviar, the former Gangrel Justicar that prompted his clan's departure from the Camarilla is there. Qufuram-Heru, Champion of Set, is also included, and I found him to be a very interesting Methuselah, lots of possibilities there. Three Inconnu are described: Rebekah, Monitoy of Chicago; Mahatma, Monitor of Istanbul; and Dondinni, Monitor of Genoa. All of them have some very interesting bits of information in their histories. Even Dracula, the independent Tzimisce is given stats and space in Children of the Night, and I like this entry better than his older ones.
Overall, the book answers some questions and raises others. Is Unre the Cappadocian signature character Constancia? Is Ambrogino Giovanni really a Giovanni? What information does Cicatriz have that make shim so interesting in California? What are the Keui-jin doing on the West Coast anyway? It is a good book, and a great resource for someone running a world-spanning or large-scale Vampire chronicle. While of less use to more local-level games, it is still a good resource.
Quite a good book of NPCs, both "movers and shakers" and smaller fish...