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Lasombra and Tzimisce were never introduced as NPC-only options

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  • Lasombra and Tzimisce were never introduced as NPC-only options

    Both received their first full writeup in the Player's Guide to the Sabbat in 1992, right after VtM2e came out and a bit over a year after VtM came out. They were explicitly written to be playable, as the PgTTS was written to enable Sabbat chronicles. Obtenebration and Vicissitude were not that powerful compared to other disciplines, so the idea that both clans were extremely overpowered NPC-only material is nonsense.

    I've seen people say that the Storyteller's Handbook to the Sabbat came out first with complete clan writeups, but that player demand resulted in the PGttS coming out and making them playable, and I have few comments on this.

    The first is that no one needed a player's guide to give them permission to play these clans or allow them to be played if they already had full writeups.

    The second is that the STHttS doesn't have writeups for Lasombra or Tzimisce (nor for Malkavian Antitribu's Dementation)

    The third is that the STHttS came out in 1993, a year after the PGttS. If it had come out a year earlier it would have been one of VtM's first supplements, as opposed to Chicago by Night, for example.

    I don't think people are lying or trying to deliberately mislead. I've seen this come up on this forum more than once, and it has the feeling of received wisdom. That it's a story that started circulating and is now accepted as fact without reference to the actual original publication dates.

    The wiki states their original appearance as being PGttS, STHttS, and Clanbook Lasombra. https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/La...on_Differences

    When they originally appeared in Second Edition (Players Guide to the Sabbat, Storytellers Handbook to the Sabbat, Clanbook: Lasombra) the Lasombra symbol was simply a letter L in a wax imprint design.
    They also weren't that strong in their original appearance. Lasombra could mostly just create and manipulate darkness and Vicissitude spread the fleshcrafting stuff across the first three dots. The fifth dot allowed the user to turn their body into blood, in whole or part. The blood wasn't anything special. You could create blood bonds with it but if you turned into a puddle of blood you could do nothing but become another vampire's meal or turn back. It has its uses, but it's kind of a joke. Horrid Form/Zulo is a good combat power, at least. Lasombra also could make shadow tentacles, but they weren't super amazing.

    I also see people claim that "players whined to make the clans playable" and I don't know how many on this forum were active online before 1994, but the online community for World of Darkness fans was quite different. Whenever someone wanted something in a game (not just WoD but any) they'd just write it up. I don't really recall any massive pressure to produce a Sabbat book although I do think people wanted one. I'm also fairly certain that the PGttS was planned within the first six months of first edition's publication.

    I'm not sure if people realize how long it takes books to get from the planning stage to the outline stage to the contracting writers stage to the first draft to the redlines to the second draft to editing, art, layout, and finally publication, but despite having a greater capacity to publish supplements faster than OP has now, they weren't just popping out books instantly. It could take six months or so to get through the entire process. And that's aside from the fact that there were other supplements also in the works, many of which would come before it. By the time anyone might ask for playable Sabbat clans they'd probably already be in progress.

    I also wrote this last month. Quoting just in case I missed anything in this post.

    Originally posted by Resplendent Fire View Post
    I keep seeing this and it bugs me, and I seem to recall this has come up on other occasions, but:

    The Lasombra, Tzimisce, etc. were introduced along with their disciplines in the Player's Guide to the Sabbat in 1992, an early supplement for V:tM second edition
    The Storyteller's Handbook to the Sabbat was a second edition sourcebook published in 1993, and was intended as a companion to the PGttS. It didn't repeat material from the PG, but added more stuff such as bloodlines, material on infernalists, and so on.

    They were never introduced as "Storyteller only clans" that needed correcting to make them viable for PCs, they were always intended to be playable.

    RPGGeek lists its publication date as 1993: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...-Sabbat-WW2225

    And PGttS as 1992: https://rpggeek.com/rpgitem/44483/players-guide-sabbat

    The preview for the STHttS on dtrpg also says copyright 1993, but the player's guide to the sabbat is from a later printing (1997) Steven Brown wrote both, however and his last work for Vampire was in 1994, Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Steven_C._Brown

    That page dates Freak Legion at 1999 and that doesn't right to me, but the page for Freak Legion says 1995, which does.

    This leaves me trying to figure out who was developing Vampire between Dirty Secrets and Vampire Revised, as my impression was Greenberg's last developed product was that. Edit: Rob Hatch developed during the interim
    Last edited by Resplendent Fire; 12-19-2020, 08:17 PM.

  • #2
    They're actually mentioned by name in the first edition corebook (page 183) as "bloodlines"/lineages within the Sabbat, and then clarified to be two of the 13 full clans in the first edition Players Guide (page 97). However, no details or were given until the first edition Storytellers Handbook, where the sample Sabbat Pack Leader antagonist (page 88) has Vicissitude at 3 dots and gives the sans mechanics description of what those three levels do. The Blood Brothers entry also is one of the first mentions of their proclivity for weird experiments.

    I'm sure more than a few first edition players back in the day made their own write ups for what they were supposed to be like before the original Players Guide to the Sabbat came out. Unfortunately, since this was back when the Internet was still mostly bulletin boards and mailing groups, such creative efforts are lost to time. Which is a shame, as it would be interesting to have seen what different people came up with. (Likewise for the Giovanni and Followers of Set, who also get name dropped in the first edition corebook.)


    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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    • #3
      I know they were mentioned in the first and second edition rulebooks as well as first edition supplements. My point was that there was never a point in which they were explicitly presented in full as storyteller-only NPCs, that there wasn't a campaign to make them playable, and everything I know about RPG publishing tells me that they were already in the works to be published as playable by the time the Vampire ST Guide was published, hence seeing Vicissitude get a mention. Like how hunters are antagonists in the core rules but we got The Hunter's Hunted in 1992 as well, with rules for playing them.

      Other clans mentioned in the first edition are the Giovanni and Followers of Set.

      Back in the early 1990s, when I first got on the internet, it was mailing lists and usenet newsgroups. Relatively few BBSes were on the internet, although some interfaced via FidoNet. The fun thing was that the Camarilla fan organization was started by Wizards of the Coast employees, and the closest thing WW had to "official mailing lists" was WotC's majordomo server, which also hosted many Camarilla mailing lists.

      This site still exists, although the other big archive (B.J. Zanzibar's world of darkness page, sadly linked from this page) no longer does. http://vampirerpg.free.fr/

      I also recall Mark Rein-Hagen posting playtest docs for the Vampire Player's Guide 1e and Werewolf 1e on the mailing lists. I don't have those documents anymore, unfortunately.

      And then there was The Storyteller's Circle MUSH which was an entire thing of its own, with WW employees hanging out with fans and such. And the old AOL chats.
      Last edited by Resplendent Fire; 12-19-2020, 09:54 PM.

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      • #4
        I feel this is a weird thing to make a thread over. They were introduced as villainous NPCs but eventually became playable.


        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
          I feel this is a weird thing to make a thread over. They were introduced as villainous NPCs but eventually became playable.
          They weren't, though? One Tzimisce in the STH but there are a lot of character types given the same treatment in that book, and given that both the Storyteller's Handbook and the PGttS were published in 1992, both Lasombra (who had no writeups anywhere prior) and Tzimisce (who appears alongside Brujah bullies and Ventrue manipulators) had their first explicit, complete writeup in a book explicitly intended for player use.

          Yes, the Sabbat was presented as antagonistic in the core rules, which were geared toward playing anarchs or Camarilla. It also suggested playing characters who were ex-Sabbat members and are now refugees looking for safety from their sect.

          The reason I made this thread is because these claims I've seen are factually incorrect:

          • That the first writeup for both clans was meant strictly as NPCs - an NPC template isn't a clan writeup
          • That they were originally only intended to be NPCs and never playable
          • That they were only made playable because players whined for them to be playable
          • That they were originally published in the Storyteller's Handbook to the Sabbat and made playable a year later in the Player's Guide to the Sabbat
          • That they were introduced with overpowered disciplines

          These assertions loom large in any discussion it comes up, where the claim that they were overpowered, that they were only ever meant to be NPCs, that players whined to make them playable all travel together, and that's demonstrably not the case.

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          • #6
            It's a common statement I've heard, that the Lasombra and the Tzimisce were 'obviously' intended to be NPC/"Bad Guy" Clans. They certainly do well as protagonists, and their Disciplines have wreaked havoc in many a Chronicle over the decades, because they are fairly potent*. However, to say that they are intended to be the "bad guys" is a bit hyperbolic, as one could easily say the same thing about the Tremere (and the Ravnos, and the Assamites/Banu Haqim, Followers of Set, etc. etc.).

            In Vampire, everyone is the "bad guys", lol. Now given that several of the 13 Clans (and the ones most aggressively pushed as 'core') don't have much in the way unique Disciplines (until Revised decided to give Dementation to the Camarilla), there has long been (to my experience) a stigma against many Clans and Bloodlines with regards to 'power creep'.

            Many Disciplines suffer from issues with regards to bad editing, confusing wording, and a lot of their limits being undefined. The more open-ended a Discipline is, the more likely someone will try to abuse it. While it's true the Storyteller was always intended to make rulings to balance the various Disciplines, without any real guidelines as to how to actually do that, and what is or is not "too powerful", that proved difficult for some. In truth, almost every Discipline is unbalanced or too strong. Vampire can easily become a game of 'rocket tag' where he who goes first, wins. Sure, Obtenebration is hated by many for it's ability to quickly disable groups of enemies, leaving the Lasombra virtually immune to assault. And precious few things counter it's staple powers, even when they logically should, such as Protean level 1.

            But that doesn't really make a Lasombra any more invincible than it does a Gangrel or a Tremere, if they are allowed to strike first. Most players find that when they are on the back foot, Final Death is imminent, and avoiding combat is the main way to survive to become a long in the tooth Elder. Vicissitude suffers from being open-ended, and both players, Storytellers, and the developers have added to the various wacky things it can be used to do. And without good guidelines, it becomes difficult to adjudicate, and allows (like many other Disciplines) the player to do things that certainly seem game breaking.

            Storytellers who are confident in their craft will scoff complaints of certain player options being "too powerful". But these complaints exist because there was often nobody to guide those complaining in explaining how it all works in the big picture, and how, in the right situations, every power can be game-breaking. Plus, many complaints apply to combat, which really should be a rare event BECAUSE there are so many scary ways you can be dispatched without any real defense.

            Except for Fortitude. Calling Fortitude overpowered is laughable. While having the Discipline is great, I've yet to encounter a situation where Fortitude alone was ever game-breaking. Maybe at 6 or more dots, but at that point, every Discipline is laughable.

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            • #7
              Fortitude really was the weakest physical discipline. Not useless by any means, but compare to all those extra actions from Celerity or strength auto-successes from Potence. These days I kind of think the early Potence and Celerity were overpowered vs. Fortitude being underpowered, though.

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              • #8
                If this is straying further from the topic, I apologize, but I have been one of those players who have said, in the past that the Lasombra and the Tzimisce really feel like their powers were intended for NPC's as opposed to players. And it's true. Both have access to something that is, in many ways, equivalent to one of the greatest vampire powers, Mist Form. A lot of my players underestimate Mist Form, and I never understood why. With that power, the Gangrel can infiltrate almost anywhere, and even better, (since his clothing, etc, changes with him) transport materials with him (such as, say, a quantity of C4 to blow up someone's Haven with. In addition to that, the Tzimisce have a combat form that is equivalent to the Crinos of a Lupine (and it wasn't until the Revised Gangrel Clanbook that Protean 4 got anywhere close to it's power). Shroud of Night and Arms of the Abyss are designed to disable entire Coteries (and the historically shoddy wording of Arms, in particular, has led to many, many, many rules debates and discussions over the years). And that's not before even getting into what kind of crazy Vicissitude modifications the Storyteller might allow (really, it's right up there with Path of Conjuration for ridiculousness- oh they penetrated the first line of defense? That's fine, I Conjured an M230 Chain Gun a few nights ago..). I've seen "dermal armor", "reinforced skeletons" and all manner of insanity, which are beyond anything the rules state, but the open-endedness of the power is on full display whenever a VtM book describes a prominent Tzimisce NPC, well, surely it must be fair game!

                But even if these abilities do seem beyond the pale, requiring a great deal of Storyteller adjudication to keep everything on a level playing field, there are many examples where even the 'core' Disciplines can lead to equal levels of insanity.

                I've always understood the visceral enjoyment players get out of destroying their enemies with their powers. And traditionally, I've allowed the players to run amuck to their heart's content. My latest Chronicle, however, takes place in a Barony in the South Suburbs of Chicago, where things are little more dangerous with regards to roving bands of Anarchs, Sabbat, and Lupines, and they have less protections (although at the same time, more freedoms) compared to living in a full Camarilla City. However, they've gone and gotten involved in Chicago's politics, and they've come to respect (hate, actually) exactly how ridiculous the "non-physical" powers can be.

                They recently got into a skirmish with Bret Stryker, thinking he'd be a pushover as a Toreador, and they quickly realized he could defend against all their attacks and slowly charm them one by one with Entrancement (or just use Dread Gaze), both attacks they have almost no defense against, since they have to roll Willpower diff 8 just to be allowed the option to spend a Willpower point to negate the Presence for a turn. One player, in particular, seems to be cursed- no matter what they do, any use of Presence against them nets multiple successes, every time. The Obfuscate users keep griping about 'everyone' having Auspex to see them (lol), and the first time I had a Ventrue utilize Dominate, there were howls of displeasure, and then complaints for an hour about how broken that Discipline is. This from players who have long said that no power is better than Celerity. But last I checked, Celerity doesn't let you Dodge Dread Gaze, a power that can instantly take you out of the fight.

                Worse yet, they made a personal enemy of a Sabbat Pack Priest, who demonstrated to them in short order exactly how dangerous Animalism could be. He possessed various animals and tailed them to their local hangout, and just...watched. Eventually they got careless, and when they separated to go to their respective Havens, he followed them. The next night, he commanded some mice and rats to start trying to gnaw their way into one of the Havens, then, just for the lulz, for the next few nights, had them wake up to find a dead mouse laying on the silk sheets of their bed. The message was clear (to quote Mulholland Falls): "The only thing that can save you is if I can't find. And I already found you."

                Yes, Obtenebration when you're not prepared for it, is incredibly lethal. Heck, it can be even if you are prepared for it! Crazy Vicissitude alterations, or just the sheer combat potential of a Tzimisce who is prepared to face you is equally ridiculous- but no worse than a Tremere who has had time to prepare a stack of Rituals, lowered his Generation to 5th for a few hours, and filled up on Blood (when the guy can jack his Attributes up to 9 and can top himself off on your Blood thanks to Theft of Vitae, it doesn't matter how wimpy he normally is- for that fight, he is a juggernaut. And worse is, even if you run, he can do some nasty things now that he has some of your Blood). But a humble Makavian or Ventrue can get up to some shenanigans, given time, that will have any vampire frenzying out of sheer frustration. The reason vampires don't do this sort of thing is that they learn quick that the instant you start abusing your Disciplines, everyone else will start abusing theirs, and there's not much you can do about it. It's a cold war, because once escalation begins, there's no end in sight.

                You think Auspex is 'wimpy'? Yeah ok, just wait until the guy with Telepathy figures out you were the one who slew the Prince's Grandchilde, uses Aura Perception to find out you committed Diablerie, and tracks you to your Haven via Astral Projection, all without ever exposing themselves to harm.

                All this having been said, it is the role of the Storyteller to define what Disciplines can and can't do, when the rules are vague or simply suffer from bad formatting. Often players will read in other books about various feats NPC's have pulled off, or some line of text that an editor didn't catch about what some freelancer 'believes' you should be able to do with a power. In all these cases, you can simply say no, or, if like me, you'd prefer to explain it further, say "oh that's a combination Discipline ability" or "that took a lot of diligent research and practice", to even "he has an Innate Magical Ability" or "actually, it turns out, that's not a use of Dementation at all, she's an Inceptor". Vampire is, and always was, a game about mystery. The unknown. If a Kindred figures out a trick, they're not just going to share it. No you can't just get Burning Wrath because you invested in enough Potence and Celerity- turns out the Brujah are touchy about that power, and only teach it to properly vetted vampires. And if you're not a Brujah and they catch you with it, well.

                If there is one thing that is ALWAYS true about Vampire, it's that there is ALWAYS a bigger fish.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Resplendent Fire View Post
                  Fortitude really was the weakest physical discipline. Not useless by any means, but compare to all those extra actions from Celerity or strength auto-successes from Potence. These days I kind of think the early Potence and Celerity were overpowered vs. Fortitude being underpowered, though.
                  Well If WW would have allowed Stamina to be added to Fortitude to soak agg damage from claws, fangs and the like. And Fortitude alone against sunlight, fire, and certain discipline powers, then it would not have been so under balanced...

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                  • #10
                    The only issue I ever had with that was that it makes high Fortitude kind of undervalued. If I got Stamina 4, and one dot of Fortitude is all I need to soak most aggravated damage, then the xp cost for higher dots when all you get is another soak die seems kind of...blah. What I do in my Chronicles is I have Fortitude not actually grant extra soak dice. Everyone can soak aggravated damage with Stamina, and how Fort works is, odd dots grant extra Bruised Health levels and reduce wound penalties by 1, and even dots lower the diff of all soak rolls by 1. So Stamina is good for everyone, and Fortitude makes it better. It also starts to terrify my players when they consider the 6th Generation Ventrue they're about to tackle could have 11 Health levels and reduces the diff of all soak rolls by 3.

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                    • #11
                      Lynceus Love your post, although I disagree that turning into an immobile puddle of blood is equivalent to mist form.There are circumstances in which it can be useful but it's not very versatile. Horrid Form falls short of Crinos in that it lacks any aggravated damage, except for bites. It's still really good. I didn't get the feeling Obtenebration and Vicissitude was only ever meant for NPCs, but I suspect that might have something to do with why people think they were originally presented as NPCs and only made playable after fan pressure. Also, Dementation has some nasty stuff going for it but it doesn't come up nearly as often.

                      Also making a note of your Fort house rule. Thanks!

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                      • #12
                        Good thread.
                        All variants of mist form are, however, 5th level powers, and thus I believe that they are fairly ballanced until you find a way to attack from them.
                        Mist form- Has an innocuous appearance.
                        Visc- Can use for free, so can free oneself from a staking.
                        Obten-Can use tentacles on acquiring. The most broken.

                        Originally posted by Resplendent Fire View Post
                        Fortitude really was the weakest physical discipline. Not useless by any means, but compare to all those extra actions from Celerity or strength auto-successes from Potence. These days I kind of think the early Potence and Celerity were overpowered vs. Fortitude being underpowered, though.
                        Originally posted by Gangrel44 View Post

                        Well If WW would have allowed Stamina to be added to Fortitude to soak agg damage from claws, fangs and the like. And Fortitude alone against sunlight, fire, and certain discipline powers, then it would not have been so under balanced...

                        You guys know that stamina could soak agg damage in V1 and V2 right? It was only during revised that they fucked this up. Now everyone whines that getting aggravated weapons at level 2 is absurdly overpowered. Nah, you see they weren't, they were just balanced around something that isn't there any more. Revised completely fucked up the combat balance by doing this, and it's a mark of failure that V20 followed revised.


                        Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                          Good thread.
                          All variants of mist form are, however, 5th level powers, and thus I believe that they are fairly ballanced until you find a way to attack from them.
                          Mist form- Has an innocuous appearance.
                          Visc- Can use for free, so can free oneself from a staking.
                          Obten-Can use tentacles on acquiring. The most broken.
                          The second edition Obtenebration was just to take shadow form and nothing else. They did the tentacle war form in Revised, I think. And yeah it's way more powerful and not my favorite five dot for the Discipline.

                          I think that disciplines that can be used while staked say so explicitly. V20 says vampires can use sensory powers such as auspex, but cannot move or spend blood points.

                          Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                          You guys know that stamina could soak agg damage in V1 and V2 right? It was only during revised that they fucked this up. Now everyone whines that getting aggravated weapons at level 2 is absurdly overpowered. Nah, you see they weren't, they were just balanced around something that isn't there any more. Revised completely fucked up the combat balance by doing this, and it's a mark of failure that V20 followed revised.
                          First edition Fortitude was that you could only roll Fortitude to soak aggravated damage, and the words "Stamina is no use" are in the discipline description.

                          Second edition says you add Stamina + Fortitude to soak anything but Fire and Sunlight. I feel like this was probably an omission, but I could be wrong.

                          At any rate, I wasn't saying it was too weak because of aggravated damage. Just that it doesn't really provide the same level of mechanical power that Potence and Celerity does.

                          Last edited by Resplendent Fire; 12-20-2020, 06:44 PM.

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                          • #14
                            You certain about 1st edition?
                            I might recall feral claws reading something like Normal damage, healed as aggravated at least.




                            Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
                            There's more coming soon. Pay what ya want.

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                            • #15
                              The way they wrote Wolf's Claws is really weirdly phrased, and while my interpretation was always that Wolf's Claws caused aggravated damage per the final sentence, the fact that it comes right after healing means that it could probably go either way depending on the reader.

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