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Book of Nod
Publisher: White Wolf
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/26/2016 22:17:57

One of the reasons I prefer Vampire: the Masquerade to Vampire: The Requiem is the mythology. Millenarianism is pretty passé now, and I bet for a lot of people the word would make them think of another damn thinkpiece about how Millenials are ruining everything their parents built--though come to think of it, that's actually pretty apropos for Cainite history--but it was in the air in the 90s, whether religious or secular. The Book of Nod, with its tales of ancient past drawing directly from Biblical myth and its warnings of Gehenna, drew on that zeitgeist in exactly the way necessary to reach directly into my brain and poke the parts that wanted his RPGs to be infused with profound meaning, before I had even heard the words "trenchcoats and katanas."

This is the first totally fluff book I ever bought for any RPG, and the only totally fluff book I've actually gotten some use out of. The longest-running Vampire character I played was a Noddist who quoted extensively from the Chronicle of Secrets, and I've had Noddist characters in a couple of the games I've run. I even worked in a few of the signs of Gehenna into the longer game I ran while I was at university, not because it had any greater meaning for the game's plot, but just to provide the illusion of a wider world.

At its worst, the Jyhad and the manipulations of the Methuselahs made Vampire players feel like nothing they did mattered, and that they had entered into a power structure where they would always be at the bottom of the totem pole and it was completely impossible to ever advance. But at its best, it provided a sense of mystery to Vampire games. Beyond the nightly politics and the struggle for survival, there was a worry that something else was out there. That the blood gods slept beneath the earth, and one day they would rise and cast down the cities of men. The survivors would gather in the last city, called Gehenna, and the children of Caine would reign over an empire of blood.

See, I can't even talk about it without my writing style changing.

Though I totally bought into the Caine mythology when I was younger, the best part about the The Book of Nod is that it's all conjecture. The intro explains that Aristotle de Laurent assembled the translation from fragments all around the world, including some that he only saw for moments or in part, and has translated them into English himself. He believes the Caine and Abel source for vampires, but his adopted childe Beckett interprets the myth as a tale of conflict between a tribe of herders, the "Tribe of Abel," and a tribe of agriculturalists, the "Tribe of Caine." And this is perfectly reasonable. There's no one the PCs are likely to talk to who remembers Caine or the First or Second Cities.

Even in the course of the mythology there is plenty of place for GM interpretation. Who was Lillith? Who was the Crone? Is the Second Generation really destroyed? Did any members of the Third Generation get written out of the histories? Revelations of the Dark Mother and The Erciyes Fragments take some of these concepts and run with them, adding extra ambiguity to the real source of the Curse of Cain.

Some of the poetry is kind of silly, as can be expected when game designers write a book that's supposed to be a mythic chronicle. There are moments I really like, though. Most of those are in the Chronicle of Secrets, the third section about the coming of Gehenna, which have a wonderfully apocalyptic tone:

And you will know these last times by the Time of Thin Blood, which will mark vampires that cannot Beget, you will know them by the Clanless, who will come to rule you will know them by the Wild Ones, who will hunt us even in the strongest city you will know them by the awakening of some of the eldest, the Crone will awaken and consume all you will know these times, for a black hand will rise up and choke all those who oppose it and those who eat heart's blood will flourish and the Kindred will crowd each to his own, and vitae will be as rare as diamonds

But there are bits scattered throughout that are great. Like the proverb "Let not the priest, poet, or peasant see you feed. Not one of them will leave it be."

I loved it enough that I bought the collector's edition of Vampire: the Masquerade: Redemption at least partially because it came with a hardcover copy of the Book of Nod with a ribbon bookmark and silver page edging. The game was not nearly as good as I was hoping it would be, but I still have that book.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Book of Nod
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