The Masquerade, Chapter 16-Epilogue + Conclusion and What’s Next

The chapter starts with a recap and Pavel wank. It doesn’t get better.

So, the first scene is a Council meeting discussing the events of the previous chapter. Everyone agrees that Alexei was super-powerful, and that Pavel was really special for killing him. They then examine the Elder blood found with Alexei. They all taste the blood, trying to determine its source. Ah… do vampires here all taste each other blood or something? Or does blood have a signature? Pretty sure only Tremere can trace blood like that, and even then it takes a spell, not merely tasting it. Either way, nobody knows the answer until blood is passed to the Brujah leader. He makes a big show of reminding us all about his unsaid theory from earlier and saying to the Nosferatu leader they were right, it’s Sabbath. They are grinning while saying it. Again, way to build tension here. I understand the author was very proud of this twists, but the characters shouldn’t be.So, back when I started this, I’ve complained about the elimination of Sabbath, and you’d think this twist would help, but my main complain still stands: removing Sabbath for so long from the story removed the conflict that could have been there. More, Sabbath presence would at least partially explain why Camarilla is so weirdly militaristic compared to normal. In this book, they are portrayed as the kings of the world, barring an occasional hunter they have no enemies. They really have no reasons to train all vampires into professional fighters and doing those insane tests. With Sabbath actively fighting them, however, it would be somewhat justified (forty people murder would still be stupid, naturally). The plot with “wild vampires” invading Moscow would still work, but there would also be constantly building tension over what’s their grand plan and what are they going to do next instead of what we have here, with tension petering out. Pavel traveling the country would also face far more danger, which is always good.

As it is, Sabbath was destroyed only to bring it back in the last chapter, which, in the context of VtM, is a rather weird decision.

Still, Sabbath at the end is better than no Sabbath, let’s see how the organization is handled here.

Then we have a brief exposition on what Sabbath is. Right away it says that Sabbath and Camarilla often worked together against hunters. I honestly don’t even know what to say to that. Basically, no, vampires were more likely to try and use hunters against other vampires than unite with them. The hatred between two groups is too deep for anything else.

We get a quick headcount of Sabbath: two founding clans, antitribu vampires, Panders… Mostly correct, surprisingly. Caitiffs are said to unofficially belong to Camarilla and not Sabbath, which is not correct. Individual Caitiffs may belong to Camarilla, they don’t really a group identity as such.

We also learn that after seemingly destroying Sabbath Camarilla went after independent clans and bloodlines. In that I believe easily. Without the need to watch over their back for Sabbath movements, and with the cure giving them an advantage, Camarilla does have the power if not to wipe out the independent clans, then at least reduce them to a shadow of their former glory. Some would probably just hide, though.

Still no mention of Anarchs.

After the exposition, the meeting continues. The gist of it is that apparently the Brujah leader recognized the blood of a Tzimisce Elder. He thought he killed said Elder, but never actually saw him die. Yeah, that’s pretty stupid of him. Vampires are already dead. If you don’t kill them for good, they tend to continue existing, no matter the severity of their wounds.

The Council cracks up Sabbath plan with a double attack, then decides to attack them. Conveniently, Nosferatu gets a report about wild vampires spotted returning to an old abandoned Camarilla base where the cure was once made.

Next scene is about vampire strike force boarding a train. All at once, wearing matching black clothes, talking to no one and generally behaving as suspicious as possible. We are told later that’s it’s a distraction and that Camarilla expects Sabbath to learn about the strike force, which is why it’s composed of young and relatively weak vampires, but come on, some method of alerting them that wouldn’t potentially break the Masquerade? Not that anyone worried about the secrecy at all during this book…

Pavel and Ira are there, too. Ira informs us that Pavel is still angsting. A bit too late for that.

We get a flashback about Pavel attending Elena’s funeral where their parents accuse him of killing her. Yeah, I would think so too in their place. Pavel tries to explain what happened, but without much success. Parents tell him to leave, so he howls and breaks some metal railings because he’s secretly a petulant five year old boy. We get a mention of the Beast. For those who don’t know, the Beasr in VtM is an animal part of vampires concerned only with drinking blood, killing threats and running from danger. When a vampire, say, faces big fire, there is a chance of the Beast taking hold and causing the vampire to run away in blood panic.In this book, however, apparently Malkavian madness is explained as the Beast taking hold, which is not how it works. Malkavian madness is a separate and ever-present thing, not mere frenzy. I really think the author mistook them for Brujah or something. Also, Pavel didn’t attack anyone and didn’t run from any dangers, so it couldn’t be frenzy anyway. Beast cares not for angst, it has more practical if monstrous desires than howl in ill-defined despair.

We get back from the flashback to Pavel angsting some more. He thinks he’s going insane. Well, if you call the lack of empathy insanity, sure. Ira reassures him and says she loves him and will be with him forever because that’s her sole purpose in this book: to be there when the author and Pavel remember her.

We cut to script-type dialogue of Sabbath once more. The guy identified as that Tzimisce Elder whose blood was given to Alexei chats with his superior. Basically, they know Camarilla’s plan and expect it to attack in full force, but the Tzimisce is ordered to do a last stand anyway with minimal chances of escape, just to convince Camarilla they destroyed Sabbath once more. With that, iit’s pretty much confirmed that the battle will be won by Camarilla. Given the lack of fleshed out characters, the only tension left is the fate of Pavel and Ira, but Pavel is going to survive anyway, and Ira’s death would be less tragic and more infuriating on account of fridging, given her role so far and the last scene with her.

So, yeah, way to undermine the climax here.

We cut back to Pavel. The train reached the destinations, and all vampires jump off it. Again, Masquerade, anyone? Oh, and Ira is afraid of jumping. When she actually jumps, she runs into Pavel because her being inept at physical activities despite having the same training as him is hilarious.

They go through a forest for two days and get to a clearing where they are attacked by a hundred wild vampire, matching their numbers. They kill them all pretty quickly and without losses, then continue their way to the old base uninterrupted. Because we just needed that scene that only serves to show how much of an advantage Camarilla forces have. I harped on it many times before, but seriously, way to build tension here.

So then we are treated to a long scene of vampires trying to open the gate to the base. First Tremere break magical defenses, or, as the author put it, “hack.” Then the rest of vampires try to break the physical gates. They don’t get much results and soon run out of stamina. That’s when the gates open, and Sabbath attacks. Yeah, I don’t know, feels like just sitting inside and letting Camarilla spend more resources would be a better plan. Still, at least they picked a good moment. Camarilla forces retreat. Sabbath pursues, and they are faster. But suddenly the rest of Camarilla forces emerge from under the ground. You see, they secretly dug up bunkers here and were lying in wait. No, seriously, I am not joking, they secretly dug up bunkers. Sabbath didn’t notice extensive digging right near them. Seriously, what.

Camarilla forces eliminate the first wave of Sabbath and go inside the base, young vampires follow.

We cut to the Tzimisce Elder who stands on a stage in a meeting hall of the base and angsts about his superior leaving him here to die. He says that Sabbath doesn’t betray its own people, that they only use dirty tricks against their enemies, and I am laughing and laughing. Sabbath speaks big about the freedom of the manipulations of Elders, freedom to do anything you want, and there is some truth to it, at least in earlier editions, but it comes at a price of more direct violence. Sabbath is not a happy place to be. It’s brutal to everyone, including members of Sabbath.

We cut to Camarilla forces entering the hall, and finally get Tzimisce’s description. Despite being Tzimisce, who are basically Cenobites of vampire world and like to turn their bodies into grotesque abominations against nature, he just looks like a perfect swordsman, according to the narration. Yeah, because that’s what I want to see when a Tzimisce appears: swordfighting. No body horror, that would be gross or something. It’s also worth noting that he has two Z-shaped swords, “like lightnings.” Pavel thinks the form is good for catching opponent’s weapons, but I rather doubt such a shape is good for anything on a sword. There is a reason Shirou wonders if Caster’s dagger can actually kill anyone, and the reason for it applies to those swords just the same.

So, the Tzimisce speaks to the Camarilla forces, demanding to know why they are here. For some reason, clan leaders indulge him and formally accuse him of taking their base, creating too many vampires, threatening the balance and stealing their patented cure (seriously, a patent?). The Tzimisce answers that they themselves didn’t know about this base, what with it being abandoned for so long, the vampires he created are the seeds of his clan, and the patent is supposed to be acknowledged by both Camarilla and Sabbath to have power.

It’s like Camarilla and Sabbath have shared laws they abide or something. Seriously, they are at war. Sabbath scoffs at Camarilla’s traditions. They aren’t just rival groups forced to cooperate, they are global organizations trying their best to destroy each other.

So, then the Tzimisce is accused of cooperation with hunters, his blood being identified by the Brujah leader being presented as a proof, and he challenges the Brujah to a duel, accusing him in turn of slander.

For some reason, Camarilla agrees instead of just slaughtering him. Seriously, what even the hell.

The Tzimisce and the Brujah fight. We don’t see their battle because they move too fast for Pavel. Yeah, that excuse worked great for Twilight, too. I shouldn’t complain, though, as it spared us another boring fight scene. In the end, they emerge from the super-speed, and the author does the classic fake-out with the Brujah seemingly heavily wounded and the Tzimisce standing victorious, but then the Tzimisce falls dead.

That’s the climax of the book, by the way, as with that the chapter ends.

Epilogue starts with the leader of Sabbath appointing a new Tzimisce leader becauseLasombra are notorious for ordering Tzimisce around, I guess. He then ominously comments that not everyone likes the status quo, and so Sabbath will gain strength again. Yeah, whatever. Go Embrace a hundred people at once, then we’ll talk.

Next scene is the Council meeting, where they discuss that Sabbath is probably still alive. No kidding. They also speculate if its return signifies the return of other lost things, like the independent clans and such, though they don’t consider the possibility seriously. At this point, I feel like the author is mocking me. Seriously, VtM has its share of flaws, but it’s certainly more rich than this book. Just sticking with the setting as written would have improved the overall quality by an order of magnitude. Judging by the scene, even the author has some appreciation for non-Camarilla clans, and yet he deliberately removed them from the work. Logic, there is none.

They also imply that Sergei is probably going to become new Pander. Yeah, whatever.

The scene concludes with the Council discussing that they should expect new antitribu to appear as not everyone likes Camarilla (well, maybe if you were killing less people, you would be more liked. Ever tried that?) and how to counter possible Sabbath agents in their ranks.

The last scene starts with Pavel and Ira celebrating their victory. Then Pavel’s sire arrives to talk ominously, so Ira leaves because she’s useless. Sire says that Pavel’s horoscope has changed with the new elements at play. He no longer scheduled to become the new clan leader, and his chances of survival drop to 50%. Again with the numbers. What. does he have Dinah Alcott in his basement or something?

And good move here with rising the tension now, at the very end of the book. Sure I care about whether or not Pavel will survive in the future. And it was important to kill all tension through the book just for this moment.

Anyway, they chat, Pavel confines in him that he thinks his madness – pardon, Beast, because Beast is responsible for Malkavian madness here – is getting out of control, to which the sire replies that Pavel should find his own way of controlling it. Yeah, mental illness is something you can just ride off, sure.

Then Pavel shouts that he wants to just live, not survive, and the sire says he should join Sabbath then. At first it’s a bit vague if he’s serious or just wants to provoke Pavel, but the author quickly clarifies that yes, the sire is into Sabbath. Yeah, because Sabbath is one big happy family that allows its members to just lounge around.

The sire leaves, Ira returns and asks Pavel what’s going on. Instead of explaining, he just asks her if she remembers how the Ventrue leader said it was over, then says it’s not over, “MASQUERADE MUST GO ON!” Caps and all.

On that cheerful note the book finally ends.

Ugh, what to say about it? It’s garbage from top to bottom. The original setting is mutilated to the point it cannot be even recognized, any tension is destroyed either deliberately or via “witty” banter filling every scene, there are no sympathetic characters, there are various problematic elements, primary sexism, the plot is at best basic and at worst insulting and the pacing is non-existent. The only good thing I can say about it is that there are worth books around, some reviewed on this blog.

The last few chapters were a torture to cover, and I am glad it’s now behind me.

I wanted to do a rewrite suggestion in tradition of this blog, but really, it’s not worth the effort. Just google Vampire the Masquerade playlog, you are guaranteed to find something better.

Now, for my next project, I was torn between Sandman Slim, which is like Dresden Files but worse, and Midnighters, which I remember fondly, but which also have some serious world-building problems, and there are probably some issues I’ve missed. In the end, I realized that to review Sandman Slim I would need to touch this book again, which is not something I want to do. I’ll probably make a short post about the most wasteful world-building point contained in that work, though.

So, Midnighters it is. Hopefully it would be a more positive experience.

7 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    Even if we disregard that this is supposedly a V:tM novel (and we shouldn’t, but hypothetically), it makes no sense for the Camarilla to respect any covenants or agreements with the Sabbat, considering how both sects already had an all-out war which ended (as far as they knew) with one side’s complete destruction.

    Despite being Tzimisce, who are basically Cenobites of vampire world and like to turn their bodies into grotesque abominations against nature, he just looks like a perfect swordsman, according to the narration.

    W-ell, there is a canon explanation for why that could be, but it would be convoluted and I seriously doubt the author even thought of it.

    1. illhousen says:
      Best I can figure, the Camarilla leaders didn’t want to openly disregard their laws in presence of their underlings, but yeah, with the war to extermination it’s kinda too late for honorable gestures.

      What I wonder is how they’ve got treaties signed in the first place.

      1. SpoonyViking says:
        If I remember it correctly, there have been treaties between the Camarilla and the Sabbat before in the canon setting. And, if I’m not mistaken, the Prince of New York has a treaty with a Sabbat Archbishop, although it might be more of a behind-closed-doors kind of deal? Eh, it’s been years since I last read the setting sourcebooks.
  2. Wright of Void says:
    So, yeah, way to undermine the climax here.

    Why on Earth does the author think that explaining a plan beforehand and having it play out exactly as described is terrible writing? That’s why books and movies don’t show you the plans that actually work! This is, like, Writing 101.

    And, so what, the climax is that the main character takes a backseat and watches an NPC fight the final boss? How did the author think that was a good idea?

    What’s Pander, by the way?

    1. illhousen says:
      “Why on Earth does the author think that explaining a plan beforehand and
      having it play out exactly as described is terrible writing?”

      I think you mean either “not terrible” or “good,” given the sentence structure.

      And I think it’s a consequence of what we see being close to the first draft. I can see the author thinking up this plan, getting it written as an exposition, and then just proceeding with it. Editing would normally fix it, but I have a hard time imagining this work being edited beyond very basic grammatical errors.

      “And, so what, the climax is that the main character takes a backseat and
      watches an NPC fight the final boss? How did the author think that was a
      good idea?”

      To be fair, that’s how quite a few official VtM adventures play out in the end. White Wolves were good at world-building, but kinda awful at connecting it with the actual process of playing.

      It’s still an awful idea. And we don’t even get that fight shown.

      “What’s Pander, by the way?”

      Basically, there was a caitiff leader Joseph Pander who united a bunch of rubble and joined Sabbath in search of better treatment. His followers are called Panders.

      1. Kaze says:
        “To be fair, that’s how quite a few official VtM adventures play out in the end. White Wolves were good at world-building, but kinda awful at connecting it with the actual process of playing.”

        Thank God they came out with the NWoD, ditching the metaplot and building the corebooks back from the ground up. In my opinion it’s quite a bit better than OWoD.

        1. illhousen says:
          Well, it’s more case by case basis for me. I liked VtM, warts and all, but I don’t care much for VtR. It’s not even something specific, the game just didn’t click with me. I don’t know, I am probably just not as much into vampires anymore.

          I am divided about Mages. I kinda like that post-modern redefining of reality they had going for them, but the new version is definitely much more streamlined (especially when it comes to mechanics. Mages are no longer a game of convincing GM that your bullshit interpretation of rules is totally valid due to your paradigm) and has a consistent mythical feel about it. Plus, bad guys are actually bad guys, which is always a plus.

          I like new Hunters more (at least first two tiers, Conspiracies are kinda meh), and Slashers are just funny.

          I also like new Changelings, but I wouldn’t actually play them.

          But yeah, fuck metaplot. It was always the weakest part of oWoD.

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