Vampire: Requiem for Rome
You need a copy of the New World of
Darkness core rule book AND a copy of Vampire: Requiem for Rome to play this
Vampire has always been the flagship
line of the world of darkness, both classic with the Masquerade and new with the Requiem. It was the first game
to be released in the line, way back in 1991, when its gothic punk setting and the chance to play as a “monster”
offered role-players a real alternative to what was already on the market. Today vampire is still going strong,
with the 20th anniversary edition of Vampire: the Masquerade being released a couple of years ago and the
upcoming chronicle book coming up for Vampire: the Requiem about shake up the setting. And so after 22 years of
stalking the “modern nights”, perhaps it is time for a change of scenery. Vampire: Requiem for Rome takes all
the good stuff about VtR, the politics, the back-stabbing, the grasping for power, and puts in a historical
setting famous for its politics, back-stabbing and people grasping for power. Caligula with fangs? Who wouldn’t
want to play as that guy?
I’m going to do this review a bit
differently to normal and start with the setting (as this book is technically a setting book for VtR). It should
come as much surprise that it is set during the Roman empire, the default time being 125AD, Christianity is on
the rise and the Roman Empire has begun its conquest of Britain, but there is more than enough info and advice
to run a game in any period of roman history. It isn’t quite Rome as we know it however, vampires are very real
and have been playing a hand in roman destiny since the founding of its city-state. Unbeknown to the average
citizen, a whole other city underneath Rome comes to (un)life once the sun goes down and its undead citizens put
their grand schemes in place. Vampires need blood, human blood, but take too much, leaving a trail of dead
bodies, and people will get suspicious. Too many people get suspicious and next thing you know you have an angry
mob knocking at your door, not something any vampire wants to deal with! But vampires have ways of covering
their tracks, powers and magic know as “disciplines” allow them to perform incredible feats and exert powerful
influence over their victims. These can be anything from controlling a person’s mind, shapeshifting into a wolf
or other predatory animal, giving a victim nightmares, the list goes on, anyone familiar with Vampire
(Masquerade or Requiem) will already be aware of this, those that are new to the game will find a huge range of
thematic powers that will allow you to build the Archetypial Dracula figure, a exuberant LeStat or so new horror
the world has yet to see! But I don’t want to focus too much on the main rulebook, instead let’s look at what
Rome brings to the table.
The first chapter of this book details
the history of the Roman Empire, complete with the influence of vampires and how their society came about. As
background for someone who is not an expert in history, this section was a real bonus, it is well written and
very thorough (I learnt more about Rome in an afternoon reading this than in 5 years of high school history!).
At first the vampires seemed to have had very little impact on human society which almost feels a bit
disappointing. After further thought, I realised this makes a lot of sense as people will be coming to this game
with different levels of knowledge about the Roman period, and by leaving the vampires effect at a minimum, it
means people can work with what bits they know. Say the period of roman history you were most interested in was
the conflicts with Egypt, Marc Antony and Cleopatra etc, you have a good knowledge of that time and had a good
idea for a game. However, imagine that due to some invented vampire conflict, Marc Antony never went to Egypt and Cleopatra was never ruler, so
all that knowledge and the plan for your game goes out the window. By keeping Vampires in the background, groups
are free to use as much or as little real world knowledge as they like.
Being in the background and being
non-existent are two very different things, vampires and their society are very real in this world, and are
fleshed out in detail in this book. Vampire, specifically the roman born Julii (a clan of vampires that are
basically the Ventru from the modern nights’ game) have formed a society known as the Camarilla (similar to but
not the same as the Camarilla from VtM) based in the Necropolis (an undead city beneath the streets of Rome).
Here they control the stock of humans, decide who can feed and when, who gets control of areas outside of Rome
and punish vampires who break the rules of the society. Non-roman vampires can join (Daeva, Mekhet, Gangrel and
Nosferatu) but are viewed as second class citizens, above humans of course, but not quite the level of the noble
Julii. Rising up the ranks of the Camarilla will almost certainly be one of your character’s
There is of course much more to this
setting than is reasonable to describe here, it is a political hotbed to say the least, any vampire, Julii or
otherwise, will need their wits about them to survive in this world, let alone get ahead of their rivals,
exactly what you want in a vampire game.
I haven’t mentioned the main
supernatural (non-vampire) antagonists, the Strix, mainly because I am already running on a bit, but also, with
them being the focus of the new chronicle book due out soon, I thought it best to save any description till then
when no doubt they will get a lot more attention.
Zen Jeru recommends:-
BBC’s Rome series, 2005 & 2007.
We aren’t all experts in Roman era history, and to be honest, it
isn’t in-depth knowledge you need to run a Vampire: Requiem for Rome game, it’s more the feel of
the times and a few trappings to add for flavour. A great way to immerse yourself in the Roman age
without attending various university seminars is the BBC and HBO series Rome. It follows the story
of Julius Ceaser in the first series and his nephew Octavian in the second; but they share equal
screen time with the series other stars, including two ordinary Roman soldiers giving a contrast of
life at the two ends of the spectrum in the roman world. The script, acting and sets are amazing,
imagine Game of Throwns with only four storylines going at once and you’re not far away. Definitely
for mature audiences only, this grim snapshot of life in the Roman Empire is the perfect backdrop
for the Camarilla’s scheming.
So as this is just a setting book, you
would be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much system in this book, and at first flick through that would seem
to be the case, all fluff and no crunch. This isn’t true, split up and hidden amongst the pages are a whole
range of new powers and system tweaks designed to tailor your game to better suit a roman campaign. New merits
from fighting styles such as Gladiatorial and Formation tactics, to social merits such as Patron or Noble
Heritage help give that flavour. This book even contains rules for social debate to be used in the senate, and a
couple of debating styles, like the fighting styles, to really enhance the politics of your game. This is such a
good system and can be used in all world of darkness games, why is it buried away in this sourcebook and not in
the core rulebook I do not know.
In the section on the Rome itself,
every area described, such as the coliseum to the aqueducts, come with a simple set of rules that can be used to
bring that area into your game. Simple things such as getting a +3 bonus to stealth rolls when sneaking through
the crowds at the coliseum to +1 to social rolls at parties at the baths of Caracalla. Easy to use and get the
players engaging with the setting, brilliant!
This is Vampire: the Requiem’s serious
older brother, everything that makes Vampire so appealing is present in Rome in spades! Anyone familiar with VtR
should definitely give this a go as it will give your characters the ability to shine in ways not possible in
the modern nights (what with all the CCTV and police SWAT teams etc). If this is your first time at the Danse
Macabre, this may not be the easiest way of
getting into the game but it will certainly be a rewarding one. This book is RECOMMENDED 4/5, just missing out
on full marks as it does require a couple of extra books to play. That said, if you already own VtR corebook
then, although this is not an essential purchase, it will enhance your game no end, and is almost worth the
price for the debating rules alone.
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