on 21 November 2009
They say you miss what you don't have and in re-reading the initial review I wrote I felt it wasn't as helpful as it should have been. Originally, I made the point that I was uncomfortable with the portrayal of the Crone in Requiem and I feel that those sentiments still stand. However in reading my other review of the Lancea Sanctum covenant book, I thought it might be best to contrast a little with the other religious covenant to give a more general oversight.
Circle of the Crone has plenty of "crunch" to get into with five bloodlines, two of their unique Disciplines and some intriguing Devotions and a whole host of Crúac rituals. An initial look at the bloodlines shows a heavy Gangrel focus with nothing on offer for either the Nosferatu or the Mekhet - however, the Jim Morrison inspired Carnon are an interesting concept as well as the Asnâm, which have the single creepiest Discipline in this book (excepting the Crûac, which I'm coming to). However, there appears to be a great deal of cut-and-paste with the Carnon and Ventrue-based Medusae suffering from similar clan weaknesses. The devotions are intriguing with a fun Nightmare-based power that draws in courageous mortals that any sadistic Storyteller can have fun with.
Where Circle of the Crone comes into its own is with its treatment and discussion of Crûac, the covenant's signature power, examining everything from roleplaying the dice pool and the mechanics behind casting to the erosion of Humanity necessary for understanding. The teaching method for learning new rituals is also one to give players pause and highlights the game's themes of age, power and virtue neatly. The powers themselves are fairly flavourful drawing upon hedge-witchery and the powers of figures such as Baba Yaga with a neat focus on divination and blood as well as yes, homunculii and gargoyles as described in the core book. In many ways, Crûac gets a great deal of interesting and flavourful development but many of the more common and useful powers are detailed in the core rulebook.
However where the rest of the book falls flat is in the writing of the fluff - the Circle of the Crone are meant to be somewhat generic in tone. In my experience, the Circle of the Crone and the Carthian Movement are frequently popular choices for new players tapping into both neo-pagan esoterica and modern political understandings respectively. To its credit, Circle of the Crone avoids this somewhat with some amusing factions but their rites, ranks and rituals feel unnecessarily Frazerian in concept - the Rex Nemorensis in particular. The issue is that the book has had a great deal of opportunity to provide players and Storytellers with some interesting toolkits to create fascinating Crone domains but never really rises beyond some grab-bag of cultural and classical stereotypes. In many ways, it's a shame as Lancea Sanctum was a very clever commentary on the development of the Christian faith as Ordo Dracul presented an interesting pastiche of Masonic lodges and academic posturing. Circle of the Crone isn't a terrible purchase and I would say it offers something for any Acolyte player and some good ideas for a canny Storyteller that picks and chooses shrewdly from the book. However, as a whole-cloth it is somewhat lacking.