Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Late Review: Clanbook: Setites

Clanbook:  Setites
By Richard Watts
1995, 68 pages

            Of all the independent clans, The Followers of Set have a truly unique perspective on their place in the World of Darkness.  The other independent clans claim to have sole possession of the “truth” and act within the bounds of their own morality to defend themselves from the machinations of the Camarilla, the brutality of the Sabbat, or any other enemy howling at the gates.  The Setites instead claim to be evil.  They embody evil and use it as a weapon to defeat their enemies.  Clanbook:  Setites is an examination of the origins of the Setite’s perspective and their use of “evil” to further their goals. 
            The Setites embody “the other.”  Whether they are Voodoo witch doctors or archaeologists, or gangster drug dealers, these Kindred adopt the appearance of known evils in the world, understood evils.  What is known and understood is safe.  A drug dealer makes sense in the world and so does the prostitute and so does the corrupt cop.  However, the Setites hide a darker mystery to which readers of this book do not receive access.  Consequently, the Setites begin to embody all the evils of the World of Darkness.  They make allies of Bane Mummies, Technocracy Mages and Black Spiral Dancers.  They worship Satan and evil and become the “truth” of the Baali legends.  They claim to hunt the Nosferatu in their warrens and allege that they are the truth behind the Niktuku myths.  They even claim that their progenitor, Set, began the Jyhad as a war to punish the murders of the Second Generation by the Antediluvian founders of rest of the Kindred. 
Nobody really knows what Al Pacino snorted on the set of Scarface
            The Setites are Tony Montana, staggering drunkenly in a restaurant looking at out the horrified faces of the crowd and shouting, “Make way for the bad guy.  There’s a guy comin’ through.  Better get out of his way!”  While the other clans hide behind the veneer of their supposed goodness or victimhood or humanity, the Setites throw off this veil and claim that they are the bad guy.  This is both a refreshing take on the World of Darkness and a bit boring because the Followers of Set can now be every evil in the world. 
            Like all the other books in the clanbook series, Clanbook:  Setites is divided into four chapters and an appendix (also included are errata for The Last Supper with character stats).  The introductory story and the history of the clan tie into this overall theme of claiming dominion over all the evils of the world.  They claim both modern vice (prostitution, drug abuse, political corrupting) and ancient evils (the Jyhad) were originated by them.  The individual members are chosen from the corrupted, the Templates chapter gives many examples of these, but Setite initiates must also be emotionally and mentally strong to survive amongst the Setites.  Incidentally, Setites’ greatest triumph is to corrupt another Setite; in that, they are no different from any other vampire or denizen of the World of Darkness. 
            The Setites creation myth is tied to the mythology and religion of ancient Egypt.  They claim their progenitor was a mortal named Set.  Set was betrayed by his grandfather, Ra, who murdered Set’s parents.  While his brother Osiris chose to prostrate himself at Ra’s feet, Set defied the unjust Ra and was banished for his rebellion.  As I am unfamiliar with Egyptian mythology, I can only assume that this is an inversion of the Set & Osiris myth.  Set battles Osiris who eventually becomes the first mummy and finally destroys him completely.  Although Osiris’s son, Horus still lives on as a mummy and continues to plague Set and his followers.  Since it was Ra who initially cast Set out of Egypt and into the desert, the Followers of Set are plagued by a greater sensitivity to light than even other vampires. 
Art by Henning Ludvigsen
            This history pulls together a lot of strands in the World of Darkness.  The Setites made enemies of the Silent Striders (a tribe of werewolves), Mummies (through their war with Horus) and even the Children of Osiris (a strange clan of vampires thought to be destroyed).  The Setites are thus put center stage as the perfect antagonist for parties of mixed supernatural creatures.  Clanbook:  Setite even makes mention of a plot by the Setites to blot out the sun with the help of smog (Wyrm taint and Technocracy machinations) and the help of a powerful sorceress and the unwitting help of the Sabbat.  For a World of Darkness chronicle steeped in themes of pulp adventure, this would make a great plot. 
            Clanbook:  Setite includes a lengthy section on Setite havens or temples.  While the author doesn’t go into detail on any one temple, he does discuss the variety of Setite temples that could be created.  The most interesting thing is that he makes allowances for the resources available to a Setite temple.  While describing the grandest and most ostentatious temple would fill the reader with visions of pyramids hidden beneath cities or in deep jungle, the addition of poor temples with a tiny idol of Set and a simple blanket hung to separate the inner and outer sanctums is more intriguing and shows the diversity of the Setite clan.  Not all of them are millionaires with a secret cult behind the sliding bookcase in their library. 
            Mechanically, this clanbook doesn’t add much.  There are a number of merits and flaws introduced including the flaw Aura of the Wyrm which causes nearby werewolves to hunt the Setite relentlessly.   Essentially, It’s a 5 point death sentence for the player character.  Thaumaturgy’s Path of Corruption is made available to Setites in this book.  However, this does not require the purchase of Thaumaturgy, and the Setite merely buys points in the path which seems strange, and use of this optional system should be carefully considered by Storytellers and players. 
            The Templates Chapter is filled with a variety of obvious Setite PC ideas:  the corrupt cop, the corrupt politician, the drug dealing gangster, the exotic dancer, the Egyptologist, and the priest of darkness.  It’s the usual cast of characters you’d expect.  However, two of the templates stand out as interesting.  First is the Closet Setite who was embraced but didn’t know her sire or anything about her nature.  She made her way into Kindred Society and thought she was either a Toreador or Caitiff until she accidentally activated her Serpentis.  Now, she’s afraid others will discover her secret and despise her based on her clan.  The other is a corrupt nun who began her spiral into sin by tasting the commune wine.  She becomes an alcoholic and has to steal from the collection plates to replace the wine she’s stolen.  Finally she becomes a Setite and is put in charge of a church orphanage where she teaches the orphans to be thieves.  Both of these concepts are twists on the idea of the Setite.  The Closet Setite is excellent for play in a Camarilla dominated game, and the Corrupt Nun has an excellent backstory about how easily it is to get caught in a web of sin unable to escape and always needing to go a little further in to get out. 
            The Appendix includes several examples of globe-trotting Setites, but none of them stand out.  The only NPC that stands out is Rasputin, but that’s purely because he is a historical figure and not because he was embraced by the Setites. 
Clanbook:  Setite, as a whole, is a worthy book for anyone looking to learn more about the clan or is looking for a villain for a chronicle that includes vampires, werewolves, mages, etc.  The concept of a clan that labels itself as the villains and the bad guys is refreshing, but what the book lacks is an in depth examination of the clan’s motivations.  By only skimming the surface of the clan, Clanbook:  Setite gives us just one more possible explanation of the origins of the Jyhad or the truth behind many of the rumors.  In this case, “a Setite did it” is not sufficient. 
            Clanbook Setite is available in PDF Format at DriveThruRPG.  You can purchase an original printing at Amazon. 

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