The Erciyes Fragments
Continuing in the proud tradition of the Book of Nod and Revelations of the Dark Mother, The Erciyes Fragments is another "chapbook" containing only setting and flavor information for Vampire: the Dark Ages (and for Vampire: the Masquerade by extension). I was amazed when I heard that the superb fantasy writer C. S. Friedman had been contracted for the book, and I was expecting some high quality material, and I got it. Ms. Friedman certainly did her job, both in writing and in researching the game - it was almost like she was intimately familiar with the setting already.
at a glance
The book has a brown cover, oddly enough. I was half-expecting the same old black, and this was a nice change. The text inside is nicely laid out and well illustrated (some very nice pictures indeed). A variety of fonts are used to distinguish between different commenters, and that works well also. There are none of the formatting errors from the Book of Nod, like having backgrounds too dark to read the text or having lots of wasted space. The only problem was there some pages did not have a comfortable margin towards the spine, making it a little harder to read.
I found that The Erciyes Fragments to be better than I had hoped. This is the kind of thing I've been waiting for from Vampire for a while now, more occult documents that both manage to cloud the issue and reveal more truths at the same time.
The book is the story of a ghoul of the Cappadocians by the name of Niccolo Giovanni who finds an almost frightening number of fragments of the Book of Nod at a remote monastery. After translating the texts (and the comments of older scholars that he found scribbled in the margins of the books), the monk is found as a pile of ash. For those aware of the conspiratorial interplay between the higher levels of the Cappadocian clan and the Giovanni family, the implications of some of the notes and letters in The Erciyes Fragments are instructive indeed.
I was also pleased to find that there were no repeated passages from the Book of Nod, everything was fresh and new. Much of it was the same story, but worded differently, and with different details (including a different number of Second Generation). This new telling of the story, while perhaps clearing up mysteries like that of Brujah and Saulot, adds more questions about Caine, the Second Generation and the Salubri. Some of the most memorable sections of the book include the section where Caine curses the Antediluvians as well as the later prophecies. Throughout the whole book, flavor and mood nearly stains your finger. The Lamentation during the Flood is eerie and creepy, almost sending a shiver down the spine as the mind imagines the scene.
Furthermore, the running commentary throughout the volume serves well to add further insight (and futher questions) as well as provide some context for the book, and emphasize how centralized knowledge is in the Dark Ages, and in the World of Darkness in general. Questions that I could answer in a snap are puzzled over by characters who don't have the advantage of way too many White Wolf books.
The reality that the World of Darkness is a world of mystery and lies is something that is often lost by the wayside in published material as well as many games, I'm glad that The Erciyes Fragments managed to muddy the waters some.
just go buy it
Really, it's quite good - but then again, I really liked Revelations of the Dark Mother as well. I do think that this will be more popular, however, partly because it is more in the tradition of the Book of Nod than that volume. It has more general use in Vampire games, and is, in many ways, much better.
Ms. Friedman has managed to craft a superb addition to the myths and legends of the World of Darkness, I just wish that she will come back for more.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)