Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Vampire 5: Non-Obtenebration Lasombra

It's amazing what a week away from home does for my creativity, as something which had been bothering me for a long time finally resolved into a solution in my mind. I now present to you a clan which I couldn't quite grok, so I cut pieces off it and stitched on others from different sources until I was happy.

Author’s Note: Why are there no shadow powers?
I found them annoying and reductive.

Who are the Lasombra according to canon? Prior to V5, they were basically the Sabbat’s version of the Ventrue who had shadow powers. Now that V5 has had the Lasombra quit the Sabbat and join the Camarilla for… reasons…  they’ve lost even that evil mirror aspect and are just another highbrow clan. V5 doesn’t do a great job of explaining how they differ from the Ventrue, just that they do.

Perhaps the differences were made more clear in 2e and 3e’s clanbooks, but it’s literally been decades since I read those and, to be honest, most clanbooks were crap. I recall the Lasombra being overshadowed (hah!) by the Tzimisce, who could be summarized with the fascinating concept of “monstrous, transhumanist Draculas” and who therefore occupied their own distinct space within the game.

I was also bothered by the literalness of the name. They are literally named “The Shadow” and they have shadow powers? It was just too much for me, far too blatant a show of power and capability. Then V5 came along and turned Obtenebration into Oblivion, which was then linked with Necromancy, and I said “NO. Hard no.” If the Lasombra had access to Necromancy then not only would they exploit the hell out of it, they’d find a way to control or destroy the Cappadocians / Giovanni / Hecata / whatever they’re called these days. That seemed like a lot of work to me, and I felt it was easier just to keep them separate.

Then a heretical thought occurred to me:  What if I made a shadowy clan who didn’t have access to shadow powers? Then their name would take on a whole new meaning, highly symbolic instead of literal, and that felt exciting to me. But how would I re-invent them?

My Storyteller, Adrian Rook, came up with a great concept for them regarding control. It didn’t completely suit my purposes (mainly because they still had shadow powers), but I could respect where he was going with it and I knew I could live with it in his game. However, it didn’t satisfy me and I kept thinking about ways to change them to make me happy. His influence can be seen here in both the clan compulsion and in various aspects of their personality.

It wasn’t until I read the V20 book Lore of the Clans that the concept of  the Lasombra being cancerous corruptors who blackmail people and hollow out organizations to wear as a suit fully blossomed. Maybe that concept has always been there and I never realized it, or maybe this was a new interpretation on the clan, but I found it different and unusual and it shifted my concept of the Lasombra from “like the Ventrue, only with more asshole” to “powers behind the throne”. As I considered this, things started to make a lot more sense: they’d tunneled inside the Church and twisted it to their own ends, and then when the Inquisition started they did the same with the Anarch movement, suborning it into the Sabbat. The Tzimisce became their enforcers and figureheads while the Lasombra ruled it like viziers, the Cardinal Richelieu to the Tzimisce’s King Louis.

I also realized that this concept was stealing a lot of thunder from the Followers of Set, and frankly I was okay with that. The Setites annoy me for a lot of reasons, mainly because their concept seems to be “We are evil corruptors because we are evil and we like to corrupt, tra-la-la.” Evil for the sake of being evil bores me, as does corrupting others because it’s your religion. But corruption in the service of personal power? Now that’s interesting, and it fit perfectly within the concept of shadowy control freaks accumulating power through taking control of organizations because in order to do that, first you need to control the people within them. Also, if you’re a clan named “The Shadow” (and especially if you have shadow powers) you really need to have a weakness to sunlight. Since I was stealing from the Setites, I figured I’d steal that too.

So yes, the Setites are on the trash pile with this concept. I’ll try to replace them with a more interesting group of evil bastards when I have time. Meanwhile, the new Lasombra have a more interesting mix of disciplines which are well-suited for their role: Animalism to sense the desires of the Beast and to quash it, Auspex to get leverage, and Presence to make people like them, trust them, and/or fear them.

Ultimately it comes down to this: I like this new version of the Keepers, and that’s what is important. If you don’t, that’s fine; you don’t have to use them.

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