OFFICIAL VEKN GANGREL-ANTITRIBU NEWSLETTER Vol 3 Number 1 January 2000 IN THIS ISSUE ..... FICTION: THE GENERAL INDULGENCE GANGREL-ANTITRIBU HAPPY FAMILIES DECK PLUS A BIT OF MUSING IF YOU CAN PLAY JYHAD WHILE ALL AROUND ARE PLAYING MAGIC ....... FICTION: THE GENERAL INDULGENCE Walther von Aachen reined in his horse at a bend in the track and gazed back in the direction he had come. Far below, another mounted figure was toiling upwards, and the knight sighed inwardly at his companion's slowness. Still, there was no doubt that Friar Joachim was a persuasive speaker, and on this mission it would be Joachim's abilities that would determine success or failure. So he waited patiently, and as he did so he let his gaze rise up to the endless horizon of Tartary out of which, like a mighty wave, the Carpathian mountains swelled. Walther permitted himself a grim smile. Since King Sigismund of Hungary had granted the Teutonic Knights this fief on the edge of his lands, hard up against the Golden Horde, the Knights had learned how a chess-piece feels when it is interposed to counter a check. At last Friar Joachim caught up with his escort and together the two of them forged on along the track. Night was falling but at least, removing their all-enclosing helmets, they could now see their destination, a brand-new stone castle conspicuously surrounded by scarred earth and tree-stumps, some five miles distant. Both the Brothers noted the extreme modernity of the design, incorporating all the latest ideas from the towering fortifications of Outremer. Evidently Count Miroslav's reputation as a learned man was well-earned. As they grew closer the darkness thickened, and mounted figures could just be made out against the snow, riding out of the thick forest to the right of the castle. A welcoming party? But no, those were horse-archers - the accursed paynims of the Horde! The two Brothers loosened their swords, but for now the Mongols seemed preoccupied with something else - a lone horseman was riding among them, swinging a great broadsword. As they watched, a Mongol toppled from his saddle, clutching at his throat. His feet drummed desperately on the snow for a few moments, and the lone rider swept over him with a thin cry. In a few more minutes all was over. Six Mongols lay dead upon the ground, and the horseman sheathed his sword, dismounted and drew a dagger. Then seeming to catch sight of the Teutonic Knights for the first time, he waited for them to draw near. "Welcome to my demesne! I am Count Miroslav, and by your badges I see you must be Brethren of the Nobel Teutonic Order! A Hundred Times Welcome, indeed! Soon I will see to your refreshment, for it is a long and cold journey from Si-, I mean, Hermanstadt, but first, if you will forgive me, I need to give meaning to the wretched Godless existences of these flat-faced scum". The Brothers bowed politely, and Miroslav got to work. From the sockets of each Mongol he prised out the eyeballs, which he carefully stored in a little leather bag. Since eyeballs are slippery and some of the Mongols were not quite dead, this took some time. By the end of it the Brothers were as white as their woolen cloaks, and disappointed ravens were pecking at the bloody faces of the dead. Satisfied, Count Miroslav remounted his horse and gestured for the Brothers to ride abreast of him. Feeling the need to say something, Friar Joachim indicated one of the bodies which was still twitching a little. "A most .... effective demonstration, My Lord. Do you find that this keeps the Paynims off your land?" Count Miroslav looked surprised. "Probably it would, if I let any escape, or left the bodies to rot. But I do neither. Later the Schlachta will conceal the remains. For I don't wish to lose my main source of experimental material." He shook the bag and chuckled. "Material, my Lord?" "O yes, for the elixirs, you know. But perhaps you don't read Arabic? I must admit that obtaining the latest texts from Alexandria and Damascus has also become difficult of late thanks, in part, to your Order's efforts. Well, you shall see, when we reach the castle." Into the castle they rode, and after seeing to the comfort of their horses all three went up into the Great Hall. Servants bustled around, laying two places for the Brothers. "Aren't you going to eat, Lord Miroslav?" "No indeed, I have already dined, and I do not drink wine." "Pardon us, Noble Lord, but at this season of fasting we too are unable to do your hospitality full justice!" "A pity! But of course I respect your Holy Vows. Perhaps, then, you would like to see my workshop, and then we can talk of the weighty matters that have brought you here?" Taking a lighted torch from the wall the Count led the two Knights up a spiral staircase to a wooden door which he opened with a key. Inside lay a firelit chamber, and beside the fire three Ladies were busy at their embroidery. They rose and curtseyed: the Knights bowed. "Ah my dears, please let me present Walther of Aachen and Friar Joachim, Knights of the Teutonic Order. My friends, allow me to name the Lady S-, the Lady M- and the Lady V-." All three women were exceptionally beautiful and uncannily pale and, after a few conventional pleasantries, the Count indicated that they should leave, which they did. Once the door was shut Count Miroslav drew his guests towards an arras behind which he passed, beckoning them to follow. Another firelit room lay beyond, and here was obviously the Count's workshop. Scroll-racks covered the walls, except where shelves held books, curios and alchemical equipment. A much-scored table was in the centre, and an unpleasant acrid smell filled the air. The Count busied himself among the shelves, collecting a stone mortar and several little bottles containing coloured powders or viscous liquids. Setting these on the table he drew the leather bag from his robe and tipped the eyeballs into the mortar, then added carefully-measured quantities of material from each of the bottles, consulting a book between each addition. " ..... two grains of Cinnabar .... one of Mithridate .... there, all finished. Now, grind widdershins 7 times, pour into the copper cauldron, and heat for three hours. Yes my friends, as you see Ibn Shazar is most explicit in his instructions. The principle as I expect you realize is that the Essence of Eternal Youth is to be found in the sparkling eyes of the young. It is simply a question of finding the right extraction procedure. And I believe I HAVE found it. Let me show you!" Count Miroslav showed the two Knights a pair of jars. In one, labelled "Elixir - 2 grains" a fat green caterpillar crawled among much-chewed leaves. In another, labelled "Solvent - 2 grains" a faded butterfly tapped listlessly at the glass. "This has been my most successful experiment, and after a sufficient number of repetitions I intend to try it on my wives. I have previously essayed other treatments for them, partially successful if at all, and with certain unfortunate side-effects - I'm sure you noticed the unhealthiness of their colour? But Eternal Life is a subject very close to my heart." Brother Joachim inclined his head. "Most commendable, Great Prince. And so it is to ours. Indeed, it was to offer you a gateway to eternal Life that we came here. For eternal Life can be yours, if you will but accept the contents of this package." Count Miroslav took the linen package and unwrapped it. Inside was a white wool surplice with black silk crosses sewn before and behind. "A pretty thing, indeed. Perhaps some Theological riddle?" "No Sir, no riddle! Do but take the cross, fight God's Holy War against the Unbeliever, and Eternal Life and the Kingdom of Heaven shall be open to you! As the Blessed Holy Father saith, by a General Indulgence shall all the sins of our former existences be washed away, and no present sin shall contaminate us!" "ALL sins?" "Indeed! Brother Walther and myself were both sinners and damned for all eternity before we took the cross. And since then, slay as we might in the Lord's name, we have remained spotless as the snows on the high peaks. Only believe, take the cross and so it shall be for you!" Count Miroslav bowed. "You show me too much honour, my friends. And let me assure you that we fight shoulder to shoulder against the Heathen, and doubtless at the last we shall all meet in Heaven where eternal life waits for us. But we must travel by different routes, and I must decline your most generous invitation. Come, let me show you to your quarters." "I'm afraid that refusal is not an option available to you, respected Count Miroslav." The Count turned, amazed at the insolence of Walther of Aachen, and his jaw dropped. A Hideous fanged beast stood where the Knight's voice had come from, and with a shout the Count reached for his sword. At that moment the strong rubbery arms of Friar Joachim wrapped around him, and cold prehensile lips explored his throat in a ghastly parody of an erotic kiss. Shuddering with revulsion and yelling with panic, the Count felt an unbearable pain in his neck. Being a strong man well-trained to war he struggled against the two Vampires for fully a minute before they drained him. The next night, three pale riders wearing black crosses left the silent and deserted castle, and rode to the east. GANGREL ANTITRIBU HAPPY FAMILIES DECK Happy Families is a deck-constructing formula that aims to build a flexible playable deck around a given selection of vampires. Usually these will all be vampires of one clan. Basically you choose the vamps you want to play with, and the library size you want to use, and then you determine the cards in the library as follows: 20% or so should be master cards The remaining 80% or so should be minion cards, divided up with respect to discipline in the following way: Count the number of vampires in your crypt: Call this number p. Count the number of vampires with the most common discipline in your deck: call this number q. Count the number of vampires with the second most common discipline in your deck: call this number r. Count the number of vampires with the third most common discipline in your deck: call this number s. Count the number of vampires with the fourth most common discipline in your deck: call this number t. Now if 80% of your chosen library size is a, then you want [(p/[p+q+r+s+t]) x a] cards that require no discipline to play [(q/[p+q+r+s+t]) x a] cards that require the most common discipline to play [(r/[p+q+r+s+t]) x a] cards that require the second most common discipline to play [(s/[p+q+r+s+t]) x a] cards that require the third most common discipline to play [(t/[p+q+r+s+t]) x a] cards that require the fourth most common discipline to play Of course this is not a totally formulaic method: you can have more or fewer disciplines, and you probably are going to favour particular cards within a discipline at the expense of others, depending on how you visualise the clan, how you like to play, and what cards you actually have. Additionally, a lot of the art of Happy Families comes from choosing what master and non-discipline cards to pick. Basically you have a choice of making these cards strengthen whatever your vamps already do well, or else trying to compensate for whatever they do badly. Personally I tend to go for the latter, but I'm far from sure that's strategically right - it's the old question of focus versus flexibility. Nevertheless this method REALLY WORKS, creating fun decks that are ideal for teaching, that actually work OK at playgroup level and even, sometimes, do surprising and thought-provoking things [Blood Brother Ambush playing Burning Wrath is one that springs to mind]. Currently we at Legbiter Mansions are playing with 12 Happy Families decks and others have been made for Andrew Sparkes' playgroup at Safeway head Office. Here is the Gangrel antitribu HF deck which, having six disciplines instead of the usual 4, generally bombs, but tonight stormed to a sweep in a five-player at Louisa's house. CRYPT [12 Vamps] Caitlin Luther Samantha Zachary Shane Grimald Genevieve Sadie Pieter Monique Blaise Leon Huang LIBRARY [70 cards - usually we play threesomes at home] MASTERS Auspex Twisted Forest Blood Doll x 2 Pentex Loves You! Fortitude City gangrel Connections Obfuscate Dominate Animalism Haven Uncovered Protean Gangrel Conspiracy Minion Tap NON-DISCIPLINE CARDS Ambush Atonement Saturday Night Special Black Spiral Buddy Computer hacking x 2 Wake With Evening's Freshness x 2 Bum's Rush Arson Gas Powered chainsaw Laptop Computer Shadow Court Satyr Sengir Dagger Leather jacket DOMINATE Conditioning Redirection Govern the Unaligned Grave Robbing PROTEAN Homunculus Claws of the Dead x 2 Shadow of the Beast Bone Spur x 2 Wolf Claws x 2 Earth Control x 2 Rapid Change ANIMALISM Carrion Crows x 2 Murder of Crows Cat's Guidance x 2 Army of Rats Rat's Warning x 2 Guard Dogs x 2 Raven Spy FORTITUDE Skin of Rock x 3 Superior Mettle Restoration x 2 Hidden Strength AUSPEX Spirit's Touch Precognition My Enemy's Enemy Aura Reading OBFUSCATE Cloak the Gathering Faceless Night Swallowed by the Night Lost in Crowds Spying Mission Now i know this looks like a pile of shit and often it plays that way too: it's also most definitely the weakest of the HF decks. But sometimes, like tonight, it REALLY kicks against quite competitive opposition. A key play is often Caitlin doing a bit of graverobbing. The difficulty of course is the enormous diversity of !Gangrel disciplines [there are actually two mini-bloodlines, the city and country gangrel], and yet this is also the source of the deck's flexibility and fun-play factor. i am always happy when i beat John Eagles but to do so with this deck, tonight, was absolutely tip-top fun, MUCH better than having afternoon sex with a gorgeous 21-year old blonde. Actually no, that was a slight exaggeration, but it WAS a good game. Happy Families decks can be evolved, too, and for that idea see one of the earliest !Gangrel newsletters of all, maybe July 98. IF YOU CAN PLAY JYHAD WHILE ALL AROUND ARE PLAYING MAGIC ....... Here is another of my decks that aims to give a Jyhad twist to Magic. I like Magic, really i do, but i'd rather be playing Jyhad, most of the time. This deck allows me to do both, effectively, because if the Recycle/Spellbook combo comes off i redraw every time i play a card. It's a vampire deck in the sense that Drain Life and Animate Dead are key concepts in it, and it also contains some vampiric creatures. Furthermore, it explores an aspect of the vampire myth that's neglected by White Wolf but not by Gothic literature - the Necrophage. Best yet is a 36/36 Kabal Ghoul. Fun! Not really competitive, i should add, but ok for multiplayer games in a relatively friendly environment. GREEN Wall of Roots x 3 Recycle x 3 Verdant Force Quirion Elves x 3 Volrath's Gardens BLACK Ashen Ghoul Demonic Tutor Dark Ritual x 4 Necrite x 2 Basal Thrull x 4 Drain Life x 4 Blood Pet x 4 Khabal Ghoul Animate Dead x 2 Ravenous Vampire x 2 Ebon Praetor GOLD Squandered Resources COLOURLESS Book of Rass Spellbook x 3 LANDS Swamp x 11 Forest x 8 Here Endeth the lesson for this month. Next month's will contain whatever fevered nonsense happens to be coursing through my brain at the time, plus probably the rules for Pokevamp. Michael [Anklebiter] played in a Pokemon tournament at school yesterday.