Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Late Review: Clanbook: Brujah

Clanbook:  Brujah
By Steve Crow
1992, 66 pages

            Violent Revolution!  Since their birth in the Second City, the Brujah have embodied change and struggle against the system.  The Brujah are the first Anarchs, the first to turn against their Antediluvian founder when Troile diablerized the Brujah progenitor.  While the Lasombra and the Tzimisce later destroyed their own Antediluvian founders during the Dark Ages, they are both late-comers to the struggle against the Elders that the Brujah began millennia ago.  This revolutionary ideal continued from that first act of diablerie and into the modern nights typified by three revolutions:  the American Revolutionary War, the Russian Revolution, and the creation of the Anarch Free State. 
2nd Edition Brujah
            As glorious as this history sounds, Clanbook Brujah falls flat with its presentation of the clan and its ideals.  Themes of struggle and revolution run through this book because it was written from the perspective of the Anarch movement, and according to this book, the primary conflict of the Kindred world is not Sabbat versus the Camarilla but the Anarachs against the entrenched power of the Prince and Primogen, what the book calls the Toreador/Tremere/Ventrue triangle of power.  However, by limiting the perspective to just the Anarch’s voice, many of the deeper themes of the Brujah fall by the wayside.  They are reduced to being just rabble rousers.  For example, when discussing the three types of meetings that the clan has, the Rant, the Rave and the Debate, the Rant and Rave are described as exciting and intriguing events, but the Debate is a mind-numbingly boring affair for Elders.  A Rant is the most common meeting of Clan Brujah where clan members argue and fight, shouting at each other and even getting into fights.  Rants are where the Brujah hand internal crimes and resolve clan issues.  A Rave begins with a scavenger hunt where clan members have to hunt down a series of clues to find the location of a massive party or even a Rant.  A Debate is best summed up as a House subcommittee meeting where point after sub-point after sub-sub-point is discussed endlessly about an unimportant issue but is never resolved. 
            The Brujah, according to this clanbook, are divided into three groups.  The largest group is the Iconoclasts who are typically Anarchs that fight against the entrenched power of the Princes and Camarilla.  The second group is the Idealists who are the Elders of the clan and represent the more academic minded.  Finally, the smallest group is the Individualists who act as mediators between these two groups.  However, because this clanbook has a strong Anarch bias, the Idealists and Individualists aren’t all that interesting and aren’t really given much depth. 
How many of these people sleep with their eyes open?
            Chapter 2, Legends of the Brujah which discusses Troile’s overthrow and murder of Brujah (or Ilyes) in the Second City, the American Revolution, and the Russian Revolution is blandly written.  The text is matter of fact and reads like a history book.  Carthage is mentioned, but not much depth is given other than to say it was an attempt to recreate the “paradise” of the Second City where vampires could roam openly amongst mortals and ruled the city directly. 
            The inclusion of vampires into the history of the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution is almost comical at times.  Benjamin Franklin is mentioned, but he was so popular that several clans wanted to embrace him.  None did because he was more useful as a mortal.  The birth and fall of the Soviet Union is a comedy of errors perpetrated by and on a council of Brujah Elders who can’t make up their minds about Lenin, Stalin or their plans to turn the Soviet Union into a new Carthage in the 20th century.  Rather than being indirectly involved in world history, Clanbook:  Brujah suggests that Kindred are actually the real movers and shakers of the world but can’t accomplish anything because they are too busy stabbing each other in the back.  Finally the Nosferatu Elder Baba Yaga awoke from torpor and destroyed the Brujah Council’s hold on the Soviet Union and most of the council members as well leading to the Soviet Union’s destruction and the creation of the Russian Federation.  The whole section on Russia is a comedy of errors and the Brujah are the punch line. 
A Brujah that's not an Anarch?  Say it isn't so!
            As for new mechanics, only the Debate resolved by rolling the Secondary Ability Debate, (In V20 this would be Performance or Expression) and the introduction of Combination Disciplines are added.  The Combination Disciplines are for Brujah only, and generally interesting.  However, the lack of an experience point cost attached to these new Disciplines could encourage power gaming.  The only requirement is that the character must learn these abilities from a mentor, and the required time could take months.  Burning Wrath, for example, makes all brawling attacks do aggravated damage.  Although no mechanics are introduced for the True Brujah, these direct descendents of the Brujah Antideluvian (not Troile), are included in a side panel.  Their discipline, Temporus, is briefly mentioned as well, but again, no actual mechanics.  These are left to the Storyteller to explore, but the seed is there for the mystery of these strange Kindred, much like the Nictuku in the Nosferatu book.  Although unlike the Nictuku, the True Brujah are detailed later in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand and in Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition. 
            Chapter 4:  Brujah Templates provides a large variety of stereotypical Brujah for players to use.  The only templates that go beyond the basic stereotypes are the Fake Rapper and the Rapper.  Because this book was published in 1992, Vanilla Ice and Ice Cube are the obvious origins of these templates.  This pair of templates best represent how to draw inspiration from real world celebrities and bring them into the World of Darkness without being too cheesy.  The Rogue Cop/Vigilante Template is a great twist to the classic Brujah.  This character was once a cop who went rogue and became a vigilante after seeing too many criminals set free by corrupt cops.  She/He hates the typical Brujah because they have a complete disregard for Mortal and Kindred laws and are no different than the criminals she/he hated when she/he was a mortal. 
Smilin' Jack from VtM Bloodlines
            Of all the clanbooks, this one is the weakest, but it is also the first.  Clanbook:  Brujah does offer some information on the mysterious Baba Yaga and the events happening in Russia which has always been a great mystery.  However, even those morsels are not enough to make this book a good investment except for fans of Vampire the Masquerade who want to complete their collection or fans of clan Brujah who absolutely must know every little detail of the clan.  Groups that have transitioned to V20 will have to make changes to make templates fit in the new system because of changes to some of the skills and abilities.  Finally if you’re a fan of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, then you’ll recognize Anarch Smilin’ Jack who has a short write up in the Appendix of famous Brujah.           
Clanbook Brujah is available at DriveThruRPG as PDF or you can purchase the original book from Amazon.             

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