It’s always helpful to have a list of go-to non-player characters to use in your games. Maybe you need to flesh out your setting, find yourself in need of a background character on short notice, or are tired of creating them yourself. For whatever reason, books focused on a set of NPCs are always useful. Of course, they can also just be a fun read to get the creative spark going (nothing says you can’t twist, alter, and fleshcraft them right?
So what does one need in a book of NPCs? Personality and background that generate story hooks, enough statistics to use them in-game (even if they’re minimal), and ways to tie them into a game setting and specifically connect them to the PCs.
Children of the Blood, for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, is a collection of Storyteller Player Characters drawn from, but not restricted by, the content in Cults of the Blood God. These are characters thematically related to the concepts of faith and belief in the World of Darkness, so make great additions to any storyline focusing on similar ideas.
Ultimately, I’d say the question of utility and respective power levels of these SPCs is dependent on your own Chronicle. Since there are 23 of them, I thought a fun way to cover them would be identifying who would make a fun Sire, who would I want on my PCs side, who would make a great antagonist, and why? That does mean I’ll only cover three, but hopefully that whets your appetite to unearth the remainder.
For Sire, I choose Grace Boateng, a Brujah of the Osebo Legacy (from Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom). A former privateer, revolutionary, and idealist, she aims to bring an end to Kindred conflict and currently works for Sejanus, Lasombra Emperor of D.C. (which was the first I’d come across this fact!) As a Sire, she’d be a perfect entryway into Kindred intrigue and politics, with a noble goal and extremely high-stakes.
Faith Corrigan would be a great Coterie-mate if my hypothetical PC became disillusioned with the goals of Grace and Sejanus. As a mortal, Faith had very conflicted ideas about the Divine, but post-Embrace, the Banu Haqim is driven and with purpose. She takes the ideology of the Church of Caine and melds it with Anarch ideals, positioning Caine as the first rebel and exalting him over an uncaring God. As a Coterie-mate, the group would be moving regularly, spreading the “good” word, and hiding out from the powers-that-be. Pretty punk rock.
While originally I thought I might choose Tobias Novak for an enemy, as Dr. Starr’s cult and compound are super-creepy, I think I’ll choose Ignaz August Von Kral as a Chronicle antagonist. During his mortal life he was a brutal butcher of a soldier, participating in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion with gusto, this Ventrue has a fascination with the occult and as one of the Sons of Irad, would be an excellent mastermind behind the threats one might endure during a Chronicle as he pushes the aims of the Antediluvians and plots to destroy the other sects of the Kindred.
To help Storytellers make full use of the SPCs in the book, a few example Coteries are presented, made up of some of these characters. You’re given histories, details on their relationships, schemes, and goals, as well as what mechanic choices have been made. For PCs, a few new Coterie types are defined, related to how the group is established in their particular cult (Missionaries, Excommunicates, or others.) In addition, an Ancillae Coterie of the Charleston chapter of The One a True Way is detailed, along with the 4 fully detailed members to be used as protagonists or antagonists, depending on your Chronicle.
The new mechanics are fun: there are Loresheets allowing players to be members of the Rosselini or Milliner families of the Hecate (Giovanni), new cults like the anti-diablerist Amaranthans or the Meneleans (who aim to assimilate with humanity, as per the dream of Carthage), and a few others, including the return of the Nosferatu Cleopatrans. My favorite of these surprised me. I spent too long LARPing to always be a fan of Malkavians (sorry), but their Starfall Ranch cult is great! In short, they’re a cult that believes the Clan is one entity experiencing itself subjectively [here’s Tom with the weather.] To reflect that, it’s various merit levels represent a collectivity and a sort of hive mentality. Very cool stuff and I’d love to use them as antagonists (or shady allies to a PC) in a game.
There are a number of Merits & Flaws belonging to the major cults of Cults of the Blood God, both flavorful and potent (The Nephilim’s “Archangel’s Grace” or Church of Set’s “Fixer” stand out to me as fun. I wouldn’t say any are overpowered, but I also don’t exactly believe in that concept. They’re there, so use them!
While Children of the Blood does sort-of stand alone, I feel it really works best as an extension of Cults of the Blood God, as the context of the major different faiths and cults isn’t fully explored in this book. That being said it’s still a great expansion, full of useful Storyteller content and some fun stuff for PCs. This title was provided for purpose of review.
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