Saturday, January 12, 2013

Late Reviews: Clanbook: Toreador

Clanbook:  Toreador
By Steven C. Brown
1994, 68 pages

            From my first experience playing Vampire (a Dark Ages Vampire Game), I have played Toreador characters.  Whether it’s a punk rock musician that I recently played in a one-shot game or the variety of Wareadors that I played in various games during college, I’ve always been draw to clan Toreador.  If you’re unfamiliar with clan Toreador, they are the artists and socialites of the Kindred, and typically the ones who associate with mortals most often.  Perhaps, it’s because as I was growing up I wanted to be a writer or because I wrote bad poetry in high school and college, but I have always felt like an artist.  I even took a few creative writing classes in college.
            Clanbook:  Toreador focuses on the essence of the Toreador experience:  Art, Society, and Mortals.  The word “art” is given a wide variety of meanings for clan Toreador.  Sculpture, painting, music, martial arts, and plastic surgery are all equally valid choices for a Toreador, and each of these choices are represented throughout the book as examples.  A Toreador thrives off of social interactions, whether it’s a covert meeting between lovers or an extravagant party at Elysium.  Mortals provide a bulwark against the beast and the loss of humanity.  A Toreador who loses his or her humanity is a sad creature indeed.
            Art is both a Toreador’s reason to exist and his/her greatest weakness.  Mr. Brown explores both sides of the Toreador fascination with Art and divides them into two groups, the artiste and the poseur.  Artistes are those who create true art which is profound and breathtaking.  Poseurs are those who lack the ability to create real art and instead operate as the clan’s art critics and social butterflies.  However, both terms, artiste and poseur, are derogatory.  Clanbook:  Toreador includes a system which randomizes a character’s creativity.  So, a player will never know how good his or her artwork will be until it is unveiled.  While those Storytellers and Players who prefer more dice rolling may enjoy this system, it is an optional system, and honestly, I think it’s unnecessary for running a game.
I am a simmering cauldron of angst.
            What is Art without an audience?  Toreador are known for their social graces and lavish parties as much as for their art.  The Guild is an organization of Toreadors within a city which plans its parties and controls politics for the clan.  The Guild provides a way of exploring intraclan politics amongst the Toreador as they establish the pecking order within a city and decide on what agenda the clan wants to pursue as a whole.  However, this is only useful in the largest of cities which can support a large population of vampires.  In smaller cities, which have only one or two Toreadors, it would be unnecessary.  Guilds also provide a way for artists to find mentors and patrons for their work.  In smaller cities, finding a patron or an art teacher could be the driving goal of a Toreador PC’s early adventures. 
            Finally, Mortals provide Toreadors with both sustenance and inspiration.  Clanbook:  Toreador creates a distinct separation between those two roles.  A Toreador has her circle of mortal friends, admirers, and lovers and then she has those whom from which she feeds.  These two groups never cross over. 
            So, the question is does this book remain useful for players after 20 years?  I believe that it does because the information on the clan and its structure is still useful for filling in the gaps left by Vampire the Masquerade:  20th Anniversary Edition.  V20 is comprehensive with rules and shows off the wide array of clans and bloodlines; it does not go into any depth with those clans.  Perhaps my favorite part of the book is how it describes the Toreador weakness.  Rather than suggesting that it is a weakness, the Toreador’s fascination when they become entranced by something beautiful is shown to be a strength of the clan.  Toreador are not entranced, but they seek to explore every facet of a piece of art.  Their clan weakness is a source of inspiration and creativity. 
            As far as the mechanical side of Clanbook:  Toreador, I will leave that to individual storytellers.  Disciplines may or may not be useful in a particular game, and all of them are for lower generation characters.  However, they might provide a starting point for players looking to develop their own disciplines.  The Merits and Flaws found in this book should be approached carefully by Storytellers.  Supernatural Spouse, Vampiric Spouse, and Powerful Ghoul could give a PC access to a powerful NPC that would die for him or her.  Blasé is also found in this book and players looking to make an “invulnerable character” will pair this with Iron Will so they are immune to both Presence and Dominate. 
            Perhaps the most useful section for Players and Storytellers is the templates.  A wide variety of Toreadors are explored here.  My favorites are the speed metal guitarist with 3 points of Celerity and the Plastic Surgeon who desperately wants to learn Vicissitude no matter the cost.  These provide great starting points for players who want to move beyond the standard Toreador archetype with the Comic Book Artist who is better at Finance than drawing and the Social Burnout who is more interested in gaining power than creating art. 
            Clanbook:  Toreador is still helpful to Storytellers and Players because it provides a wide range of options for players in generating their characters and for Storytellers looking for plot points to entice Toreador PCs.  The book is dated because of its system and some of the art is VERY 90s.  However, for a person who enjoys playing Toreador they will find a much better and deeper examination of their favorite clan here. 
            Clanbook: Toreador is available for purchase at DriveThruRPG as a PDF or reprinting or you can purchase a used copy on Amazon. 

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