By Clayton Oliver, White Wolf, £8.99
There was a problem with the Assamite clan, and the problem was cliche. From the very begining they were defined as the assasins of the vampire world. They were one dimensional killers, capable of nothing more than turning up to kill people, worse than that, they conformed to the worst of the wests stereotypical views of the Islamic world. The original clanbook did little to change this, promoting an "us against them" ideology and falling into the "our antediluvians bigger than yours" trap, some of the ideas were good, but they still made it impossible to play an Assamite as part of a normal coterie. Fortunately the excellent Libellus Sanguinius 3 came to our rescue, providing a much more interesting view on the clan, and managing to completely turn the clan around, while still enabling the clans stereotype to exist. The same author has now produced the revised clanbook, and I'd be tempted to say it's the best release for vampire since 3rd Ed arrived.
So what do you get for your money? Well, it's a nice sized book, with plenty of quality illustrations, which give a nice feel for the clans apearance and history. The book is written from the point of view of the Assamites who have feld to the Camarilla (see below), but manages to not be too cloyingly in-character. The book is well layed out, and the writing style is very readable, without the annoying changes of narrator that jarred other recent clanbooks (Lasombra springs to mind).
The first section describes the Assamites' history from the first city 'til the modern nights. It's a storming chapter, covering how the clans three castes (warrior, sorceror and visier) came into being, and how their interactions have shaped the clan. One of the best bits about this is it really gave a feeling of how the internal politics of the clan works, giving every current event a solid grounding in the past. The chapter also geals with how the warrior caste came to be seen as the only Assamites by outsiders. Nice touches include how the assamite "Judges", as the warriors were originally known, became addicted to diablerie (it was a punishment in the second city). It also touches on the Assamites activities in Europe before the anarch revolt, as well as their founders various appearances down the centuries.
The next chapter deals with the way the clan works and functions. It describes the three castes in more detail, giving a splat for each, along with an expanded weakness and a section on ways to roleplay them. In addition we get a detailed rundown of the current political climate in the clan. To give a brief explanation, the methuselah Ur-Shulgi, woke up and started to reshape the clan as he feels Haqim would want it. Unfortunately he demands that every assamite worship Haqim, which immedietly set him at odds with the large number of Muslim Assamites. The clan then split into two factions, the schismatics who fled into the Camarilla under the guidance of Al Ashrad and Tegyrius, and the loyalists under Ur Shulgi. As well as details of these factions, we get various other groups within the clan, the Web of Knives, Leopards of Zion, the 1000 meter club, all of which have extensive roleplaying notes. We are also given details on the organisation of the castes before the schism, with some interesting characters mentioned in passing to inspire plot ideas.
The discipline powers detailed in the book mainly focus on extending Quietus, as well as a new assamite sorcery path and a few powers for other disciplines. The quietus powers are mainly well thought out extensions of the discipline. Selective silence is a wonderful little power for choosing who can speak and who can't. Some of the powers deal with effecting the blood of mortals who the assamite has fed off, and these are also particularly original. Of course we also get more combat powers, including a blood poison so corrosive it melts weapons. The chapter is rounded off with some flaws, one of which is particularly nasty, in that you still suffer from the Tremere curse, but thirst for kindred blood too. All in all, a good solid chapter.
The next chapter details the famous Assamites, most of which are memorable and spark plot ideas, which is largely their point. Tegyrius, was particularly interesting, being an ancient scholar of law, especially the note that he may be vying to become the first Assamite justicar. Last of all we get templates, better than average, but still just templates.
Overall: This book is great, well thought out background, quality powers, a complete reworking of the clan into a usable and inspiring group. In fact, I think this book has put the Assamites in line for my favourite clan, and I can't really give a better compliment than that.