[Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em] Dark Ages: Europe

The Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em series charts my attempt to read all the books in my gaming library that crept in over the years and went overlooked for too long.

Dark Ages: Europe came into my library for two reasons: I had fallen madly, impossibly in love with Dark Ages: Mage, a medieval World of Darkness fatsplat about the 13th century forerunners of the groups and philosophies of Mage: The Ascension, and because the FLGS, Quarterstaff Games, had an end of year sale where a lot of unpopular RPG books were going for $5 a pop.

Right off the bat, I was disappointed because I thought Dark Ages: Europe would be like the similarly-titled Dark Ages: British Isles, a catch-all grab bag of setting material spanning all the supernatural denizens of White Wolf’s Dark Medieval: vampires, mages, werewolves, faeries, inquisitors and such. Rather, Dark Ages: Europe is just about vampires. In fact, there’s an ad in the back advertising the coming publication of Dark Ages: Mage, so clearly I didn’t check hard enough when buying the book.

Once I found that out, I lost pretty all interest in reading the book. I gave it a very light skim, enough to realize there’s a ton of dense historical information in there presented in such a way as to make it more like a textbook than a banquet of mad ideas for GMs to pick and choose from when generating campaign and story arc ideas. A GM could draw inspiration from here, certainly, particularly with regard to vampires, but why bother? Surfing Wikipedia seems a lot easier and conducive to bizarre, yet occasionally inspiring tangents.

Case in point: the Cathar heresy. Dark Ages: Europe spends more time talking about how the crusades against the Albigensians affects politics and everyday life, giving only a couple paragraphs — that I spotted in an admittedly cursory glance, although I slowed down for this, because I’ve been intrigued by the Albigensians since reading David A. McIntee’s Sanctuary — to explain what the Cathars believed and why it was so repugnant to established Christianity.

That’s great for a Dark Ages: Vampire GM, where the game’s as much about politicking and influence as it is “superheroes with fangs,” but it doesn’t do me any real good, who’s more interested to know how the Albigensians and the Messianic Voices, say, interact.

In the end: skimmed it, snoozed.

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