The game is set in Europe in the late 15th century. Population levels are still recovering from the Black Death. The Hundred Years’ War has come to an end within living memory, and the printing press approaches its fiftieth birthday. The Renaissance is about to spread from the Italian Peninsula to the rest of Europe, and the Spanish Inquisition has just been formed.
Meanwhile, in the darkness, vampiric society has been turned upside down. The Catholic Church has been waging a war against the blood-drinking monsters for over two centuries through their Shadow Inquisition, and they are winning. Vampiric elders have used the power of their blood to compel their childer to draw the ire of the Shadow Inquisition, sacrificing their unlives so the elders can be spared.
The Shadow Inquisition make no distinction between vampiric Clans or sects: they see all vampires as demons in more-or-less human form. The Shadow Inquisition are not especially interested in heresy, leaving that to their comrades in the Holy Inquisition. Instead, the Shadow Inquisition fight against monsters, and are doing so very successfully.
Outraged and terrified by the increasing danger from the Shadow Inquisition and their elders’ callous indifference, many younger Cainites have come together in rebellion. They have committed the worst sin of all among vampires, drinking the souls of their elders. They have learnt dark magic with which they can break the control of the Blood Bond. And they have set about toppling Cainite society, calling themselves the Anarchs and this movement their Revolt.
The elders have not sat by idle, however. Elders of more than half of the thirteen Clans of Cainites have come together in a new endeavour, rewriting the Traditions of Caine and resolving to hide among humanity rather than rule them from the shadows. Now the elders are at war with both the Anarchs and the Shadow Inquisition, and they are fighting for their very very long unlives.
The Revolt has been building for decades and now both sides are poised to launch the campaigns they believe will see them victorious. The game will cover six key moments in the conflict, one held each year from 1487, culminating in a seventh and final event set in 1493. The overall outcome depends on who has taken the most territory, who holds the key cities and whether either side has weakened the other enough to force capitulation. Each event will see the meeting of four Councils which have been established to direct the Anarchs’ combined resources and to ensure they can work together to overcome the might of the Elders and their new organisation The Camarilla.
The Councils will only succeed if they cooperate, but will have competing priorities to manage. Not all players will sit on these councils. Some will be going on sorties to take out key targets that can only be tackled in person. Some will be negotiating for alliances with groups not currently committed to the Anarch cause. Others will be attempting to ensure the support of their fellow characters for a specific objective they hold dear.
A key factor will be a characters’ Road. This is the moral code Cainites use to guide them through their existence. While the Bible is still a key force for some, and almost all Cainites believe in a deity (or several), many have decided that the ethics they followed as mortals do not fit the needs of undead creatures driven by a thirst for blood.
Finally, Anarchs have organised themselves into Affinities – small groups of 3-6 Cainites united around a shared factor of Road or home Domain. They are mutually bound by supernatural ties of loyalty, and can trust one another like no one else.
Look and Feel
This game is set in the late 15th century in Europe, but many characters will have been born and become vampires long before then. We encourage players to dress their characters like someone from the place and period where the character spent either their mortal life, or their first century as a vampire. We want players to create characters and wear costume that fits the setting and their part within it. To help with this, we have a Costume Guide to which we are in the process of adding extensive information about each part of Europe and nearby areas and the costumes that are appropriate for characters of various ages. The goal is for everyone involved to be ambitious and work together to create a game that looks stunning, while not requiring perfect historical accuracy down to the decade.
What happens at events?
Each event (except possibly the final event) will represent a Muster – a gathering of Anarchs to fulfil a Call To Arms. The characters will have travelled a long way to reach a single city. They will meet in a relatively safe location and there they will choose representatives to fill seats on four Councils that make strategic decisions about the war against the elders. Each Affinity will also have the opportunity to go away from the Muster to another location in the Domain (or perhaps further afield) and perform a sortie selected by the Councils. These sorties will directly benefit either the immediate situation for the Anarchs in that Domain, the wider Revolt, and/or the personal agendas of one or more Councillors (or their puppeteers).
While at Muster, there is a strong in-character prohibition against using violence against one another. This extends to many forms of vampiric magic, called Disciplines, and so most of what happens at Musters will be primarily roleplaying with little interaction with the mechanics of the game. Characters will build relationships, engage in political manoeuvring, share ideology, discuss strategy and tactics, exchange boons, and otherwise seek to fulfil their personal and Affinity goals. Only under very extreme circumstances will there be any external threat of violence against a Muster – you do not need to worry about a “ten o’clock monster” attacking. However, that does not preclude a character deciding that their personal grudges must be settled at the Muster and attacking; the prohibition against violence between Anarchs at Muster is purely in-character, although it is likely that serious infractions will be punished severely by the Constables and the Keeper of Elysium.
Sorties will be much more likely to involve the mechanics of the rules – they may involve burglary, assassination, dark rituals, information-gathering, diplomacy, and all manner of other activities. There is therefore much more danger involved in going on these missions, but the potential for personal gain and glory cannot be ignored. Success on these missions could spell victory for the Anarch Revolt; failure could lead to ruin at the hands of either or both of the Camarilla and the Shadow Inquisition.
What is this game about?
- Anarch Vampires fighting against the Camarilla to gain independence from their elders and determine the future balance of Cainite power
- Class conflict
- Personal/ideological/ethical/human/vampire cost of revolution
- Power and corruption
- Violence and non-violence (and the choice between)
- Do the ends justify the means?
- One No, Many Yeses
- Portraying the culture and era your character comes from
- Setting the scene for the negotiations that occur at 1493’s Convention of Thorns (only the name and date are fixed)
- Dodging the fires of the Shadow Inquisition
- Balancing the Silence of the Blood with the effectiveness of throwing your cool vampire powers around
- Interpersonal and intergroup conflict, based on Affinity, Road, Clan and/or personal grudges
How does it go about doing that?
- Military strategy game layer
- Emphasising Roads and Paths as ideological groupings – and the personal and moral cost of taking action
- Sorties to gather intel and resources and achieve specific objectives
- Player-specified sect goals – emphasising player agency
- Scarcity of opportunity/bounded choice
- PCvPC and PCvNPC / PCvPCvNPC conflict
- Status mechanics – reinforce keeping Elysium, value of Road membership, paying your debts
- Very few elder PCs
- More neonate PCs than ancillae PCs
- If you don’t specify your Affinity with someone that can perform the Vaulderie, your sire is alive and you are Blood Bound to them
- Diablerie and infernalism are tempting but risky
- Feeding mechanics, variety of approaches to solve problems
- Fostering philosophical discussion
- Divided loyalties – Clan, Road, Affinity, sire
- Dress in the fashion of your location while you were a neonate
- Consequences of your choices and actions – both short term and long term
- Looming threat of Inquisitorial interest if you go too “loud”
What behaviours does it reward?
- Having clearly-defined goals and taking decisive action towards them
- Getting a squad and performing the Vaulderie
- Prestation – keeping your word and paying your debts
- Broadly abiding by Elysium
- Getting involved – saying YES to fun!
- Strategic thinking
- Playing your Road/Path really hard
- Playing to brief (through Status)
- Thinking about blood
Why is that fun?
- Smashing the state is cool
- You play skilled Cainites who are good at what they do
- Interested and engaged STs and NPCs
- Playing in close groups is fun
- Everyone loves being a vampire
- Early Renaissance historical setting
- Tactical and strategic level gameplay
- Well-established arena for social play, combat play, and mystery play
- Grand scale, important characters, fate of Europe
- Cool vampire powers
What is this game not about?
- Africa or the Middle East – the Laibon and the Ashirra have got their own things going on
- Bringing the Anarch Revolt down from the inside
- Negotiating an early peace
- Playing through canonical events exactly as written with no ability to change the outcome – canon is a starting point that we look forward to breaking
- Technological advancement in general or Leonardo da Vinci, clockwork or gunpowder in particular
- Historical sexism or racism or homophobia – human attitudes to this stuff remain as they were in history, but Cainite attitudes aren’t like that (see EDI policy)
- Open-ended campaign play
- NPC on NPC action, hot or otherwise
- Kit snobbery
- Significantly changing the course of human history – this is a Cainite conflict
- Supernatural romance – sex might be a tool of manipulation or a way to express your Road, but most vampires don’t experience romantic or sexual desire the way humans do
- Everybody getting on with each other
- Combat in the main play area
- Mass combat – uptime combat will be at the Affinity level, downtime combat will be at the level of dozens or hundreds rather than thousands
- Other supernatural creatures besides vampires – they might appear as incidental characters or obstacles but they’re not movers and shakers