RPG Reviews – Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition – Cults of the Blood Gods (Onyx Path Publishing)

Cults of the Blood Gods (Onyx Path Publishing)

Someone really wants me to start playing Vampire: The Masquerade again. Reading Cults of the Blood Gods is like discovering the game all over again. There are familiar elements and revised pieces and wholly new inclusions and it gives me the feel I got when I first read Clanbook: Lasombra (here is power), Clanbook: Giovanni (here is mystery), and Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand (here is a wider world beyond the Camarilla and Sabbat).

It’s an absolute beast of a book focused on the role of faith and religion in the vampire (and mortal) world of The Masquerade, and revisits the Clans and Bloodlines focused on Death, [soul]forging them into a new entity.

It opens with some moody fiction that thrusts the reader into the intrigues of the Hecata and its associated lineages, then hints at the revelations to come with a great chapter of in-character pieces revolving around the hows and whys of Kindred faith. Slowly peeling back layers it teases us with the finer details we’ll learn later. My favorite piece is “Protect the Flock”, involving the interrogation of a Duskborn and the fate that befalls his captors.

These religions get fleshed out and contextualized in the next chapter. There are a lot of old groups and philosophies brought back and updated, which is really cool. The religions here could be great organizations for PCs to belong to or to be antagonists one a Chronicle. Each is well-detailed, with their beliefs and convictions clearly stated, along with their feelings towards the other cults. Key Storyteller characters and locations are also detailed, with numerous plot hooks.

Reflecting the current world of darkness, the Ashfinders use blood alchemy to increase the power of the Duskborn without diablerie, but also gain access to their memories, putting them in a powerful influencer role. The Lilith-worshipping Bahari and Cainite Heresy return (the latter as the Church of Caine), bringing growth through pain and salvation as divine predators, also reintroducing the Lure of Flames path of blood sorcery.

The Cult of Shalim are perfect antagonists (or curious protagonists). Lovecraftian in concept, they are the adherents of the word of Apolleon, a Lasombra who is said to exist as a mobile black mass (physically, not “satanically”). He preaches of the first Kindred, Shalim, and the master of the Abyss, who was here before anything existed. If you want a nihilistic “end times” cult then look no further.

The Church of Set reveals the schism formed between the true faith of Set and The Ministry, with the latter positioned as a multi-religion Clan of Faith that aims for independence for all, using any religious trappings to reveal Set that they like, and the “true church” sits back from sectarian conflict, providing Kindred enlightenment and freedom from their constraints, as a true cult of chaos would.

The worshippers of the Methuselah Mithras are revisited, and we get a thorough history of the cult of personality surrounding the Ventrue “sun god”. The Mysteries revolve around a quest for enlightenment and control through mastery of the vampiric urges. In the modern times, Mithras is even seen as a savior-type to Kindred who believe the end is at hand. Fundamentally opposed to the Church of Set, a conflict between the two would make the good basis for a Chronicle.

From the ashes of Constantinople (not Istanbul) rise The Nephilim, followers of the Toreador “Archangel” Michael. The Children of the Angel aim to be divine in all they do and have their sights on a society of perfect beauty. Reunited since the fall of the city they want to bring about Michael’s perfect society. Naturally, any group focused on purity and beauty is going to have serious problems, so the Nephilim are well-suited as an epic threat.

Those are the most significant cults in the Kindred world, but minor cults also exist, including diablerists, fertility and life cults, a pyramid scheme, and my two favorites: The Eyes of Malakai (who are said to be descended from the sister of Malkav, given the Embrace by Lilith and who inexplicably become predatory towards other Kindred), and the Servitors of Irad, the Second Generation vampire who sided with the Antediluvians when they turned on his kin. His cult claims to follow the Antediluvians will and foment chaos and dissent between the other groups of vampires. While not explicitly stated as such, they could stand in for or be connected to the Tal’mahe’ra, for fans of the [True] Black Hand. A number of Loresheets provide mechanical support to members of these cults.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for among your fellow Kindred and Cainite mythology, why not make your own and sucker the Kine into following you? A chapter is dedicated to example cults led by Kindred, but composed of humans. There are pyramid-scheme prosperity gospel groups, love cults, ghouled goth vigilantes, front cults for forces of the Second Inquisiton, and more. A little shout-out to the accidental evangelical movement of “The Church of Nigel, Reborn”, who will make it into my next Chronicle as soon as possible. If you’re wanting even more there’s a really well-written chapter on constructing your own cults. Rooted in academic study of cults, it gives some very good guidance on how to build a believable one and fit it into the world of The Masquerade. There are even random tables and a big list of cult concepts to help you out.

I was very excited for the section on the Hecata, the Giovanni and other bloodlines of the Clan of Death have long been favorites. For old hats: all the bloodlines that were involved in Necromancy or death-related Disciplines have formed a coalition, primarily populated and structured by the Giovanni families (who threw off the yoke and ambitions of their Elders), but also made up of the Samedi, Nagaraja, Lamiae, and Cappadocians/Harbingers [of Skulls]. They’ve become one big Cult of Death, and while mechanically they’re one Clan (Hecata), various Loresheets focus a PC to one of the parent Bloodlines. You can also do this (optionally) by swapping around Disciplines to match what they originally had (base Hecata have Auspex, Fortitude, and Oblivion). Oblivion for the Hecata is focused around death and ghosts and further specialized with Ceremonies that allow the raising of zombies, summoning spirits, etc. If this is your first time encountering these vampires, you’re given a very good background on the whole drama involving their origins and schemes throughout history, all presented through in-character perspective. There’s advice on how to fit a Hecata into a Coterie, but also info on Hecata-only Coteries and Chronicles, which is one of my favorite parts – frankly there’s enough diversity in characters here to identify them as a full Sect.

The book wraps with a chilling sample story focusing around the Hecata. While other Clans could be involved it seems they would need to be very mercenary in attitude, as it really is focused on the ins and outs of the Hecata. The Cult of Mithras makes an appearance, the history of the Clan of Death is explored, and a mystery awaits the PCs with the timer ticking down. In addition, the story is a great primer for the city of Munich, whether you use it for a Hecata game or not.

The layout continues the style established in the core rules – sometimes two column, sometimes three. Design elements make the pages moody and stylish – reminiscent of a magazine (not my original words, but very appropriate), these appear frequently as page cutouts from books or journals, or typed transcripts There’s gorgeous art, depicting the alluring and dangerous world of Vampire in all its splendor.

I absolutely love this book. It is so full of atmosphere and flavor, has plenty of crunch for players and STs, a great layout reflecting the stylish, modern take on the game alongside gorgeous artwork, and has more background than you could use in any one Chronicle. As I mentioned, reading it reminded me of delving through 2nd edition Vampire books at the age of 14, seeking out new setting revelations and piecing together the mysteries of the World of Darkness. But it’s not nostalgia fueling my praise, the content is really well-written. Even though it’s set in the universe of Vampire: The Masquerade I’ve been able to yank parts to use in a Vampire: The Requiem game because, at its core, this is a really solid book on the exploration of faith and vampires.

To peel back the mysteries of the Cults of the Blood Gods, preorder the traditional offset print from BackerKit or follow the below Affiliate link and receive salvation through a tithe to this site! (Disclaimer: The Tabletop Almanac guarantees no actual salvation…yet.)

DriveThruRPG (PDF and Print-On-Demand)

This book was provided for purpose of review.


One thought on “RPG Reviews – Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition – Cults of the Blood Gods (Onyx Path Publishing)

  1. Pingback: RPG Reviews – Children of the Blood (Onyx Path Publishing) | The Tabletop Almanac

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