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Mature Content Warning: contains graphic and written content of a mature nature, including violence, sexual themes, and strong language. Reader discretion is advised.
When you have already experienced death, why have faith?
If you accept that you and everyone like you is cursed by God, why cling to His word?
When you return from the other side as a blood-drinking monster, what purpose serves belief?
Kindred build and are drawn to faiths for myriad reasons. The exertion of power over a flock. Satisfying their Hunger and their Beasts. Elevation of the self. Reassurance of the possibility of redemption. A grand plan they forged or that was bestowed upon them by secret masters.
While some vampire cults span the globe hiding in plain sight, others are fringefaiths with morbid practices and ancient conspiracies lasting centuries. Others such as the incestuous Clan of Death and the malignant Church of Set — arguably the largest vampire cults of all — believe in a destiny that will enable them to impose their wills on the world of the living and the dead.
Whether for power, salvation, or transcendence, all Kindred cults wallow in blood. They shed it in sacrifice, demand it of their followers, and exalt in it in unholy baptisms proclaiming their divine glories. These cults dedicated to blood gods are among the most insidious, damning sects of Kindred, and tonight they approach their apex of power.
Cults of the Blood Gods includes:
- An in-character breakdown of the rise of esoteric beliefs among theranks of the undead and how faith drives many of the major aspects of vampire culture.
- A host of religions — from historic theocracies and globe-spanning conspiracies to fringe cults and mortal beliefs arising in the modernnights — introduced for incorporation into your character backgrounds or as supporting casts and antagonist groups in your chronicles.
- The history, structure, and ambitions of the Hecata, the vampire group known as the Clan of Death, as well as a chapter dedicated to playing a vampire among the Necromancers, and the rituals for their signature Discipline: Oblivion.
- Guidance on how to use ecclesiastical horror and construct cults in Vampire, making them a vivid backdrop for your own stories, including new coterie styles focused on cult play.
- Faith-based story hooks and a full chronicle centered on the activities of the Hecata, involving walking corpses, ghosts, ready-made characters, and the secrets of the most twisted family in the World of Darkness.
- New Loresheets, Backgrounds, and Predator types for inclusion in your chronicles, encouraging player characters to engage fully with the material presented in this book.
Download the fillable PDF character sheet here.
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Cults of Blood and Death - a Mephisto review
Cults of the Blood Gods With an ominous cover and a title that does not bode well, Cults of the Blood Gods, this thick sourcebook for Vampire V5 is dedicated to both vampiric cults and a clan that was once many: the Hecata. After the introductory story surrounding a family dinner of the various families and clans that became the Hecata, the book first gives orientation to the focus of this sourcebook. One central theme of the book is the cults and religions of Kindred; the other is the Clan of Death, the Hecata, which evolved out of Giovanni, Harbingers of Skulls, Samedi and other necromancer clans. An adventure rounds out the book. The chapter Rise of the Methuselah Cult highlights the current development of the rise of vampiric cults and religions with various documents, comments, conversations, etc. from the in-game perspective. Here you get a first impression of the multifaceted cults that are no longer hidden fringe phenomena but are more or less openly gaining importance within the Camarilla. The chapter Kindred Religions supports this introduction with background information and game material by presenting a wide range of influential cults in detail on more than ten pages each. Here you will find old acquaintances as well as new movements. For example, the Ashfinders appear as a new influencer-driven Bacchanalia cult. On the other hand, the Bahari, who worship Lilith, are old acquaintances, just like the Church of Caine – even if they were not previously rooted in the Camarilla. On almost 100 pages, cult after cult is presented – with background, origins, philosophies, selected characters, and sometimes new disciplinary forces. In doing so, the book – unlike the core sourcebooks – ties in strongly with the extensive background of Vampire. For example, the Nephilim base themselves on the Toreador Michael, the Mithraic Mysteries continue to focus on the former Prince of London, the Church of Caine rescues a worldview of the Sabbat over to the Camarilla, or the Church of Set provides the perspective that the new clan version of the Ministry lacks. While the approaches are often exciting, in my view, they are too much of a good thing due to the sheer mass: seven major and ten minor cults are definitely more than one or more chronicles need. Newcomers to the game are left too much alone here, in my view. While experienced players might be able to understand the details of terms like Bahari or Lilin, beginners lack the glossary here. Furthermore, concepts like the Abyss, which is introduced with the Cult of Shalim, may be as mysterious as Latin phrases that do not get a translation. Perhaps even more severe here is the fact that the complex concepts and ancient mysteries that Vampire V5 left behind in the rulebook creep back in. For example, the Church of Set brings back large parts of the former philosophies of the Followers of Set, but turns it into a religion that spreads across multiple clans. This approach of creating a complex web of backgrounds shows up in details that mention relationships with other game characters, you can only know them if you own the corresponding sourcebook. Here, the Mortal Cults, which the book presents in a separate chapter, are more accessible. In these cults, whose core followers are humans, the reader will find a mix of typical cults that exploit their members, groups that superimpose a philosophy on their goals and methods, and some surprising variants. A cult that has developed a dangerous momentum of its own as an experiment of the Second Inquisition is among the original ideas. If the sheer amount of presented cults is not enough for the inclined game master, a whole chapter is still dedicated to the approach how to compose own cults for the game round – including a name construction kit and description fragments, which only lack random tables... Several chapters are also devoted to the second central theme of the book. The Cult of Death and Undeath, which is placed between the Cult chapters, focuses on the changes that the Giovanni and other Clans of Death have undergone: in the so-called Family Reunion, the Hecata have come into being, uniting Giovanni, Harbingers of Skull, Cappadocians, Samedi, Nagaraja, Lamia under the guidance of the Capuchin to form the last independent clan. Even if these reorganizations cost many Elders their lives and the once hostile clans have not yet found complete peace, a powerful player has emerged outside Camarilla and Sabbat. What is also special here is that the Elders of the Hecata are not affected by the Beckoning, which gives them another unique role. The Hecata are also the focus of another chapter as a playable clan. The formerly disparate clans have been merged and unified (which is explained as a change resulting from the Family Reunion), so that, for example, the Samedi are no longer rotting corpses. Gamemasters may, however, allow discipline variations for these branches of the family and use loresheets to differentiate bloodlines. The Hecata share the Oblivion discipline with the Lasombra, but have a distinct approach, their own powers, and new ceremonies that replicate the earlier Necromancy powers. The numerous lore sheets thematize the smaller families and bloodlines, such as the Dunsirn, Samedi, Nagaraja, Gorgons, but can also be used in part for the cults. In the end, the Styx and Bones adventure lets the player characters participate in the reunification of the family and its pitfalls alongside the Hecata in Munich – and again picks up on old secrets in the form of a former signature character. Unfortunately, the adventure describes hard challenges for the players, but remains very vague about the solutions. I have a hard time rating Cults of the Blood Gods. The book offers extremely extensive material, tying back into the complex background of times past while attempting to continue the simplifications of V5. It also introduces the Hecata, an essential clan that probably experienced gamers will not miss – and it does so in epic breadth with an additional 25 pages of background, bloodlines, and their own discipline (which they only formally share with the Lasombra). This comprehensiveness seems almost unfair compared to the other simplified clans like Ministry or Banu Haqim, which were much more streamlined. On the other hand, from my point of view, the book falls back into the earlier approach of overwhelming game masters with too much material. The cults overwhelm the reader with philosophies and their details, although many of the cults will probably never appear within a chronicle. The fact that three additional books (Forbidden Religions, Trails of Ash and Bone, Children of the Blood) published as part of the Kickstarter offer further cults, characters, and adventures makes the topic even more complex. In other words, the material is provided here could make Vampire all about the topic of cults. Personally, I liked the tie-in to the old complex backgrounds of Vampire. However, the approach of making V5 more accessible to newcomers is wholly left behind here. Cults can add a facet to the intrigue within the cities, but the amount of material in the book almost seems to make this a dominant game theme. The Hecata approach is also ambivalent – the Family Reunion as a metaplot is an exciting theme and cleaning up the chaos of the death clans makes sense, yet the approach seems a bit forced and then comes up with surprises like the return of the Lamia. The fact that Necromancy is now the other side of the Oblivion discipline is done coherently. On the other hand, it may also blur the lines between Lasombra and Hecata (if players should not mix discipline powers from both clans, Oblivion could have been left as two separate disciplines). Unfortunately, for the complete picture of Oblivion, you also need to know Chicago by Night, which you will notice in the adventure at the latest, where Oblivion powers appear that are not found here. Those who love a complex variant of Vampire, know the storylines that extend into the Dark Ages, and need the Hecata in the game will not be able to avoid Cult of the Blood Gods. However, beginner players risk being overwhelmed with a sourcebook on a particular topic that is 2/3 the length of the basic rulebook. In the end, I enjoyed reading it despite some overly detailed aspects, though I, too, will only be able to actually use a fraction in my game. (Björn Lippold)