Constantinople By Night
Sourcebook for Vampire: the Dark Ages
Wolf Games Studio
[sterling]??? - 126pp
Apart from the predictable cover art (vampire posing, de rigeur, on
moonlit rooftop with the Hagia Sophia looming in the background), this first
sourcebook for Vampire: the Dark Ages is full of pleasant surprises.
For starters, it's a city sourcebook for Constantinople. I mean . . .
Constantinople! Alongside Rome, absolutely central to any medieval chronicle -
but who knows the first thing about the Eastern Empire? Shows how parochial my
history education was, I guess.
So I settle down for a long hard read with a lot of eye-scrambling Greek names
but, lo!, the book reads like a dream, putting campaign atmosphere and a sense
of the city's texture way before dry lists of assassinated emperors and grain
And what a city! The campaign date (1197 AD) sees Constantinople still basking
in decadent glory, but poised on the edge of ruin, rife with historical irony
for the cognoscenti but chocka with intrigue and skulduggery for the
rest of us. Maps (yes!!! a White Wolf book with a MAP in it!) are clear
and the city is broken into regions with a tourist-guide style tour of the
important political, mystical or artistic sights. The vampiric perspective
comes through the side-panels, offering biographies of principal NPCs and
first-hand accounts of empire-shaking events.
So, the vampires. Here again Constantinople delights, particularly if you're
fed up with the Prince-and-his-Primogen shtick which has been done to death in
the Masquerade era. The Cainites of the Dark Ages are religious
for one thing and motivated by fairly abstract visions of "their"
Constantinople as a Heaven on Earth. The vampires live in the shadow of the
so-called Trinity: Ancients established the city with high ideals and
sanctioned duty-bound bloodlines to make their dreams come true. Now the
founders are diablerized, vanished or, in the case of the mightiest
Methuselah, in torpor and the floundering families of Cainites are
contending with the rise of the apocalyptic sects which are going to dominate
the next 1000 years of vampiric history.
Everything here cracks along with imagination and no small scholarship and,
mercifully, each faction and major NPC is described with a set of "hooks"
explaining how PCs might be drawn into their conflicts.
Overall: Constantinople By Night is, put simply, exemplary. Not
only a well written campaign setting, but it accomplishes something rarely seen
in Fantasy/Historical RPGs - a sense of period. These NPCs do not think and
act like moderns, having a distinctly medieval outlook, and this is the
greatest challenge for Storytellers in games like V:TDA (or Ars
Magica - for which this supplement is also useful). Moreover, the authors
boldly rewrite the vampiric clan-system for this setting, providing a few
surprises for those who think they know how Brujah, Tzimisce or
Gangrel are "supposed" to behave. Top marks for this one.
Reviewed by Jon Rowe
Product supplied by Caliver Books