Gangrel Antitribu Newsletter


In this Great-but-Flawed Issue .....
FICTION: The Chamber of Light and Darkness
EDITORIAL: Style, Jyhad, Clan: The Quest for Perfection Should not
become the Quest for Vanilla

FICTION: The Chamber of Light and Darkness

The servants finish clearing the tea-things [some of them still
wriggling], and then after a decent interval of pleasant conversation
our partners rise and retire, leaving us alone with our port. i call her
port, but she's really Portuguese, of genuine royal descent since you
ask - i picked her up in Sintra, complete with DNA pedigree, absolutely
pukka. And quite mad, of course, like that amazing palace with the huge
ceramic tits sticking out of the roof. We sip gently at her wrists and
neck and then leave her playing with her teddy bear in front of the
fire, into which we gaze with sad old eyes.

"Do you miss it, ever?"
"Sorry, i was dreaming there - miss what, my dear?"
"Being alive."
"No. But i miss the light."

i rise up and beckon you to follow. Down an oak-panelled corridoor, past
an armed guard and through an airlock we come into my secret place, the
Chamber of Light and Darkness. Partly it's a museum of light, as you see
- all manner of artificial lights, from an ancient egyptian oil-lamp to
modern beta-lights. Partly it's an art-gallery, just a few choice pieces
.... Rembrandt van Rijn's Night Watch, not the rather obvious fake which
hangs in the Rijksmuseum, a canvass or two by Velasquez, and a number of
works by Caravaggio, including the decapitation of John the Baptist.
You're absolutely right, the executioner actually used a cleaver thing
and not that sword-and-knife combo, but how was Caravaggio to know?
Anyway it's the light in these paintings that i keep them for. SOOO
lovely. In many ways Caravaggio is my favourite modern artist, but of
course he was flawed as a Draughtsman - he never, ever mastered how to
draw hands. Great, but flawed. Know him? We DID meet once, but despite
the stories i didn't kill him, it was some crazy Toreador aesthete who
couldn't bear the sausage-pudding hands anymore. Such a pity.

We gaze at a few more canvasses but it's obvious that the curator ghoul
is becoming uneasy, so we leave before the photons damage the paintings
any further.

EDITORIAL: Style, Jyhad, Clan: The Quest for Perfection Should not
become the Quest for Vanilla.

It's really true about Caravaggio in the above piece of fiction, both
that he was a great artist, and that he couldn't draw hands. On that
rather tenuous hook i want to hang a few thoughts about perfection, and
the quest for it.

Whether we acknowledge it openly or not, it seems to me that a great
deal of the traffic on the newsgroup and conversation between jyhad
players is about the quest for perfection. How can we make the game
better? Perhaps we should have card-limits, maybe fewer or more
expansions per year would help, maybe we should nuke over-powerful
cards, maybe we should not. How can we improve our own play? Maybe we
should become more aggressive, less aggressive, more/less focussed in
our deck-building. Maybe y'all could help me with my deck. What can we
do about sucky clans/disciplines? Maybe we should give them extra
bleeding/voting/fighting capabilities, either through library or crypt
cards. Boiled down, it seems to me that most of the talk we have with
each other is really about one or other of the above topics.

i obviously don't wish to discourage this sort of talk because, if my
analysis is right, to do so would outlaw virtually ALL talk on the
Newsgroup. i do however wish to suggest that there is a danger in the
quest for perfection, which is that eventually it leads to everything
becoming the same, and not necessarily better.

i feel that i'm on the strongest ground when i illustrate this point
from my own experience as a player. i'm a fairly aggressive forward
player, and i do best when i allow this facet of my personality to be
expressed - this is as true of chess and Vinci as it is of Jyhad. It
follows that i am actually not very good at games where aggression is
not the best strategy, so i pretty much suck at Munchkin, Twilight
Imperium and Hardcore Diablo, and equally i am not very good at building
and running jyhad combat or intercept decks [i know it sounds daft to
say that combat decks shouldn't be aggressive, but IMO there's a real
sense in which this is true]. Now, i could work on this defect in my
playing, but if i did i wouldn't be me anymore, and i would play worse
overall - so it seems to me.

If it's not to one's advantage to shoehorn one's own imperfections into
a new mould, this seems to me to apply equally to individual clans
within the game. Let's consider the clan Gangrel antitribu. They're
possibly the most deeply fractured of all Jyhad "clans", containing as
they do two bloodlines. Were one to lump the Brujah and Toreador
together [all of them, both Sabbat and Camarilla] they would still
present a more coherent discipline spread than the Gangrel antitribu.
This could be fixed, for example by eliminating the country gangrel. But
in so doing real peaches like Caitlin, Shane Grimald and Genevieve would
take the dirt-nap. That isn't improving the game, it seems to me - quite
the reverse.

If individual players and clans should resign themselves to imperfection
rather than embrace vanilla, then surely the same principle applies to
the game. Collectible card games have only been with us for ten years so
i have no real data to adduce in evidence for this point, but it's my
feeling that when a game tries to be like, or more like, something else
[another game, or an ideal version of games as such] it ceases to be
like itself. It's the same mistake that women are supposed to make -
marrying a man for what he is, and then spending the rest of their lives
trying to change him. i think we should encourage jyhad to put the
toilet seat back down and to fit new bogroll onto the holder when it
runs out, but in other respects we should accept its lovable little
eccentricities rather than try to recreate it in the mould of the Cosmo
magazine's absurd "New Man".

Caravaggio's greatness is not compromised by his inability to draw
hands. He was a great artist who thought hands were minor details, and
this liberating insight freed him for the important task of celebrating
darkness and light.


And that's it for March 2003! Nearly ten years into CCG games and the
end of the fifth year of this newsletter. Once we have all dried our
collective eyes at these sentimental thoughts it will be April,
probably, and i'll see you then!