Saturday, January 19, 2013

Late Reviews: Clanbook: Ventrue

Clanbook:  Ventrue
By Andrew Greenberg
1994, 68 pages

            The most striking thing about Clanbook:  Ventrue is the art.  Just flipping through the book, I was drawn into the images of warrior kings and family crests.  Each piece of art is perfectly chosen to fit the mood of the book and the clan from the 18th century style portraits to the depictions of bas relief from ancient churches.  Not only is the art striking but it exemplifies how Clan Ventrue thinks of itself.  They are the leaders and kings of the Camarilla and the Kindred.   It is their destiny to lead the other clans through the centuries. 
            Beyond the art, the most surprising aspect of the book was the lack of any mechanics.  There are no disciplines, merits, flaws, or new skills.  Instead, the entire book is focused on telling the history of the clan through narratives written by various Ventrue with each writer denoted by his own font.  Also, an organizational history is given to show how the Ventrue have adapted themselves from the democratic Senate structure used during the Roman Empire to the modern Directorate based on the corporate boardroom.  Each organization is equally detailed and shows how the Ventrue have evolved to meet the struggles of each passing era. 
Prince La Croix from Vampire Bloodlines
            The organization structures are really useful for parties that have multiple Ventrue characters or in cities heavily dominated by the clan.  Setting up a Directorate for a large city would be an interesting task, especially when a Brujah punk or Nosferatu sewer rat has to enter a corporate boardroom, completely out of their element.  As with Clanbook:  Toreador, the Directorate isn’t as useful in small cities because there aren’t enough Ventrue to need an organization. 
            Clanbook:  Ventrue also introduces a new twist to the old World of Darkness:  The Secret Masters.  I hadn’t heard of this group before, but apparently it is a powerful and ancient society that has controlled the flow of history since the beginnings of the world.  The Antediluvians are a part of this group but not the only ones, powerful mages and spirits are involved as well, at least according to the Ventrue. 
            Honestly, I’m not sure what to the think of the Secret Masters.  I haven’t seen reference to them in any other book, so they remain a complete mystery.  Nevertheless, they add an element of paranoia as even the kings of Kindred society are look over their shoulders.  Of course, the Secret Masters could be any group such as the Inconnu or the True Black Hand, both of which are powerful enough to be manipulating events from behind the scenes.  Or it could all just be a figment of the Ventrue’s imagination.  Or it could be a trick played on them by a crafty Malkavian who is still snickering to himself as the great Ventrue run around looking for who is pulling their strings.
            The Templates section which provides character ideas is wonderful.  From the Anarch Wannabe, who defies her clan, to the Corporate Executive, who is a perfect fit for the Ventrue and looking to rise in the organization, each template provides a wealth of character ideas for either the PC or the Storyteller who needs an idea for a Ventrue.  These Templates represent both the stereotypical Ventrue and the rebel along with a few twists on those themes, such as the Counselor who is a sneaky, passive-aggressive manipulator. 
            Clanbook:  Ventrue also offers one of the best crossover story ideas in the game.  In the final section “Distinguished Ventrue” Stephen Workman’s character history is included.  Stephen Workman controlled part of the computer industry in California’s Silicone Valley.  When a group of Ventrue Elders decided to confront this upstart ancillae, they met some unexpected resistance as they tried to push out Stephen.  Glasswalkers and Technocracy Mages were also heavily involved in the computer industry and didn’t enjoy having Vampires try to take control of their businesses.  Things escalated and Elder Ventrue learned that sometimes even the Ventrue can’t control everything.  I love how this character history uses Mages and Lupines as antagonists in a Vampire story.  Rather than focusing on combat, Stephen and his rivals, Kindred, Mage, Lupine and otherwise, are battling through proxy corporations and never meet eye to eye. 
            Clanbook:  Ventrue is an excellent read for anyone wants to run a Ventrue PC or for a Storyteller looking for a  few good ideas on how to challenge players who run vast corporate empires.  However, if you are interested in mechanics or crunch, this book has none, so maybe you should steer clear.  The extra depth for Ventrue character is much appreciated, but some crunch would be appreciated to round out the book and make it more useful. 
            For those of you who are running V20 games, this book is as useful now as it was then because you don’t have to worry about converting anything over. 
            Clanbook:  Ventrue can be purchased on DriveThruRPG as a PDF only.  The original printing can be found on 

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