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My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5

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  • Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
    If it's not possible to make them interesting without poaching ideas from the Sabbat, maybe that's just a sign that the anarchs are a crappy excuse for a sect.
    I agree with the rest of your post, but found this last passage completely unnecessary.

    The Anarchs aren't a crappy excuse for something just because you don't like to play them. Although I do agree they don't work as a sect, they're as fundamental to the setting and interesting a play option as any other. They do need a better treatment without stealing anything from the Sabbat, because indeed, everything the Sabbat have was created for the Sabbat and the Anarchs aren't owed anything.

    But you don't like when people crap on your favorite play style and faction, don't do that on others. It doesn't help your cause.


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    • Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
      I've always found this line of argument ridiculous, and dangerously close to the sentiment that occasionally pops up in V5 discussions that everything after the 1991 core book was a mistake.

      Steven C. Brown did not steal anything from the anarchs when he and Andrew Greenberg first dreamed up the Sabbat. The Vaulderie, the Inquisition, the Infernalists, the Noddist scholars, the Black Hand; none of these concepts existed somewhere in the ether as the rightful property of the anarchs, they were made up wholesale in order to make the Sabbat more interesting than just "ravening packs of wight boogeymen." It's not the fault of the writers who created the Sabbat that nobody to this day has managed to produce equally compelling material about the anarchs.

      The anarchs are not "owed" a goddamn thing. If it's not possible to make them interesting without poaching ideas from the Sabbat, maybe that's just a sign that the anarchs are a crappy excuse for a sect.
      I was more giving a postmortem on why the Anarchs will never function as a viable faction of their own (versus a subgroup of the Camarilla) is because focus and attention was given to the Sabbat instead; including ideas that could have been added to Anarch culture.

      But that ship sailed barely a year after VtM even became a thing. Short of a complete reboot you can’t go back and change that. The Sabbat are just more interesting because of all the developments added to them.

      The question is what to do with the decision in V5 to push the Anarchs while turning the Cam and Sabbat into caricatures (and declared the latter unplayable) and the fact that Anarch culture is about as interesting as wet cardboard in comparison.

      My solution is “Sabbat Diaspora” into the Anarchs as a way to infuse cultural elements into the Anarchs without having to retcon anything.

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      • Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
        I've always found this line of argument ridiculous, and dangerously close to the sentiment that occasionally pops up in V5 discussions that everything after the 1991 core book was a mistake.
        In 1992, they established the Sabbat WERE Anarchs. Just the bad ones.


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        • The simple truth is that a Sect composed of numerous different religions awkwardly trying to work together to save vampirekind is simply more interesting to roleplay than "I want to stick it to The Man"

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          • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

            In 1992, they established the Sabbat WERE Anarchs. Just the bad ones.
            They were very good at actually overthrowing Camarilla cities, and offering and actual alternative, something the Anarchs need to do to make sense given they have been declared the one true faction (not by you but the rules and setting make it clear playing anything else is not going to get much (Cam, Independents) or any (Sabbat) support.

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            • Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
              It's not the fault of the writers who created the Sabbat that nobody to this day has managed to produce equally compelling material about the anarchs.

              The anarchs are not "owed" a goddamn thing. If it's not possible to make them interesting without poaching ideas from the Sabbat, maybe that's just a sign that the anarchs are a crappy excuse for a sect.
              I think many players gave up on the Anarchs after the publication of Los Angeles By Night in 1994. I knew a lot of players who were extremely excited about what we'd learn about the Free States. We had gotten some information in Chicago By Night and the Anarch Cookbook about the Anarchs, but little information on the Free State itself and therefore what an Anarch focused campaign might be like and how it'd be different from a game set in a Camarilla domain. But once they had the book in their hands, they were not impressed. Being an Anarch just meant gangs. You were in a gang. That was it. Compared to the pseudo-feudalism of the Camarilla or the strange depravity and mysticism of the Sabbat, it was just boring.

              It's a shame because we had some interesting ideas established about the Anarchs earlier in those other books (and Clanbook: Brujah). If LAbN had shown more imagination, developed its ties with the other Free States (like Madison) and the greater Anarch movement in Camarilla domains, then being an Anarch would seem more interesting as a player choice. It would have lots of hooks.

              I think fundamentally the Anarchs aren't a sect. They are a movement (for the ones who are serious) or just a label applied to them (for lots of vampires who just don't fit into the Elysium culture). Once any group of Anarchs actually becomes some kind of real sect, it seems to me they stop being really Anarchs. Because the Anarch cause of "freedom from the elders" isn't really possible. Whenever they become a sect, you just create another thing for "real" Anarchs to fight against. So Anarchs can't be a real sect, but they lead to the creation of a multitude of extremely small sects before they fail by internal self-contradictions or get crushed.

              What was potentially interesting about the LA Free State was that it was a laboratory for what Anarchs might introduce. This group does this thing, that group does another, and so on. All barely tied together under the leadership of Jeremy MacNeil and a common cause against the threat of Justicar Petrodon and his agents. When it turned out to just be a bunch of gangs, and didn't even make being a vampire in LA seem actually interesting, many players moved on.

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              • Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
                The simple truth is that a Sect composed of numerous different religions awkwardly trying to work together to save vampirekind is simply more interesting to roleplay than "I want to stick it to The Man"
                Its hilarious because until the second part, I assume you were defending the Anarchs as is. Which is a loose alliance of people united by a common enemy.

                Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
                The question is what to do with the decision in V5 to push the Anarchs while turning the Cam and Sabbat into caricatures (and declared the latter unplayable) and the fact that Anarch culture is about as interesting as wet cardboard in comparison.
                Have you read Anarchs Unbound?

                Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

                I think many players gave up on the Anarchs after the publication of Los Angeles By Night in 1994. I knew a lot of players who were extremely excited about what we'd learn about the Free States. We had gotten some information in Chicago By Night and the Anarch Cookbook about the Anarchs, but little information on the Free State itself and therefore what an Anarch focused campaign might be like and how it'd be different from a game set in a Camarilla domain. But once they had the book in their hands, they were not impressed. Being an Anarch just meant gangs. You were in a gang. That was it. Compared to the pseudo-feudalism of the Camarilla or the strange depravity and mysticism of the Sabbat, it was just boring.

                It's a shame because we had some interesting ideas established about the Anarchs earlier in those other books (and Clanbook: Brujah). If LAbN had shown more imagination, developed its ties with the other Free States (like Madison) and the greater Anarch movement in Camarilla domains, then being an Anarch would seem more interesting as a player choice. It would have lots of hooks.

                I think fundamentally the Anarchs aren't a sect. They are a movement (for the ones who are serious) or just a label applied to them (for lots of vampires who just don't fit into the Elysium culture). Once any group of Anarchs actually becomes some kind of real sect, it seems to me they stop being really Anarchs. Because the Anarch cause of "freedom from the elders" isn't really possible. Whenever they become a sect, you just create another thing for "real" Anarchs to fight against. So Anarchs can't be a real sect, but they lead to the creation of a multitude of extremely small sects before they fail by internal self-contradictions or get crushed.

                What was potentially interesting about the LA Free State was that it was a laboratory for what Anarchs might introduce. This group does this thing, that group does another, and so on. All barely tied together under the leadership of Jeremy MacNeil and a common cause against the threat of Justicar Petrodon and his agents. When it turned out to just be a bunch of gangs, and didn't even make being a vampire in LA seem actually interesting, many players moved on.
                I would say more but this is literally what I have always believed about why the Anarchs went from being the most popular sect in 2nd Edition to ceasing to exist as anything other than a faction of Cammie cannon fodder until Bloodlines.
                Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-14-2021, 07:38 PM.


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                • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                  Its hilarious because until the second part, I assume you were defending the Anarchs as is. Which is a loose alliance of people united by a common enemy.



                  Have you read Anarchs Unbound?



                  I would say more but this is literally what I have always believed about why the Anarchs went from being the most popular sect in 2nd Edition to ceasing to exist as anything other than a faction of Cammie cannon fodder until Bloodlines.

                  What is your basis for saying the Anarchs were the most popular sect in second edition? Or even at one point were the most popular sect in second edition?
                  Last edited by MarkK; 10-14-2021, 08:23 PM.

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                  • Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

                    Whenever they become a sect, you just create another thing for "real" Anarchs to fight against.
                    I disagree with this. Anarchists can be organised, in fact anyone worth their salt is and thats all a sect is really. "Don't mourn, organise!" is literally an anarchist motto.

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                    • Originally posted by MarkK View Post
                      What is your basis for saying the Anarchs were the most popular sect in second edition? Or even at one point were the most popular sect in second edition?
                      Generally the massive amount of support the Anarchs had and discussion of them as such. The default was being Anarchs after all.

                      The Anarchs were badly done by the later editions.


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                      • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                        Generally the massive amount of support the Anarchs had and discussion of them as such. The default was being Anarchs after all.

                        The Anarchs were badly done by the later editions.

                        What massive support and discussion are you referring to? I'm not asking if you and people you agree with really like the Anarchs and liked talking about how much you like the Anarchs, I'm asking what tangibly in VtM showed the Anarchs were the most popular sect in the fanbase at one point in second edition? Did someone do market research or something?

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                        • Originally posted by MarkK View Post
                          What massive support and discussion are you referring to? I'm not asking if you and people you agree with really like the Anarchs and liked talking about how much you like the Anarchs, I'm asking what tangibly in VtM showed the Anarchs were the most popular sect in the fanbase at one point in second edition? Did someone do market research or something?
                          So you are postulating the idea the Anarchs weren't the popular sect? Just for the sake of clarity. Just how popular did you think they were?


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                          • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

                            So you are postulating the idea the Anarchs weren't the popular sect? Just for the sake of clarity. Just how popular did you think they were?

                            It's really not a great feeling to have my questions answered with questions, it feels like looking at me asking something and going "I'm not going to answer you, but you have to answer me". You claimed something, I asked where you got that claim from, because it so far seems like from nowhere?

                            It seems like your answer at this point is wanting to say that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Which, sure, but that's extremely different from saying "the massive amount of support the Anarchs had."

                            What massive amount of support? What showed that? What actual thing?

                            The Anarchs were certainly a group in Vampire the Masquerade that were popular enough to profitably exist as npcs and a sect presence in several city books, to get mentioned in VtM corebooks, to get some Anarch specific supplements, to get a hardcover specifically devoted to the sect, and so forth, across the several decades pre 5e VtM existed. But the same thing could be said about the Camarilla. And the same thing could be said about the Sabbat. Any claim of popularity beyond that, like, say "they were the most popular" comes off as dubious without something that tangibly supports it. Was the Anarch Cookbook the highest selling book in VtM at that point maybe (and if you want to claim that, does something support that claim)?

                            You want to claim that before LA By Night, or the Player's Guide to the Sabbat, the Anarchs were the most popular sect in VtM. I am asking you what proves that claim, or at the very least strongly supports that claim. "Massive amounts of supports and discussion" feels pretty much like your opinion. What massive amounts of support? From where? Showed by what?

                            You have not exactly been the most objective of opinions when it comes to the Anarchs, so when you make a huge claim like "they were the most popular group with the fans of VtM at one point", I'd like to know what actual things that can be pointed to supporting that.

                            edit: You're also seemingly doing that binary thing where if someone disagrees with you it means they have to be taking the most extreme view possible. The Anarchs can have been relatively popular without being "the most popular sect in VtM". Everything with you seems to have to be rigid absolutes and I don't know why. Questioning the idea that the Anarchs were "the most popular sect in VtM" is not actually questioning the idea that the Anarchs were popular. They were clearly popular enough to sustain a presence and several Anarch related books in a multi decade gameline.

                            edit edit: I guess I'm going to ask this as clearly as I can. What exists on actual record that you can show that shows that the Anarchs were the most popular group with the fans of Vampire the Masquerade at one point?
                            Last edited by MarkK; 10-14-2021, 09:11 PM.

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                            • Originally posted by MarkK View Post


                              It's really not a great feeling to have my questions answered with questions, it feels like looking at me asking something and going "I'm not going to answer you, but you have to answer me". You claimed something, I asked where you got that claim from, because it so far seems like from nowhere?
                              Oh, I'm happy to answer your question but I wanted to ask what your opinion was. Please don't take offense and I very much appreciate your answers.

                              It seems like your answer at this point is wanting to say that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Which, sure, but that's extremely different from saying "the massive amount of support the Anarchs had."
                              I feel like my answer will be when I give an answer. Which I haven't yet because I wanted to know more about what your feelings on the subject were before I did.

                              What massive amount of support? What showed that? What actual thing?
                              The Anarchs were initially given a lot of support as the central opposing sect of the Camarilla in the main book with BAPTISM BY FIRE (Modius vs. Juggler) followed by 1st Edition CHICAGO BY NIGHT. The Anarchs were presented as the "friendly" faction in the module ASHES TO ASHES as well as in THE SUCCUBUS CLUB. Certainly, MILWAUKEE BY NIGHT made it clear that the Anarchs were a major power inside the city with the feud between the existing Elders having the Anarchs led by "The Black Prince" who was, himself, an ancient Elder.

                              THE ANARCH COOKBOOK was a release in 1993 with Salvador's introduction and the idea of how to wage war against the Camarilla as well as overthrow Princes being a primary introduction of the story. This was all before CHICAGO BY NIGHT introduced the Anarchs as the central threat to the reign of Prince Lodin with Maldavis shown as a Humanity 10 vampire versus Lodin as a Humanity 4 as well as just being a real asshole.

                              UNDER A BLOOD RED MOON is also notable as one of the main releases for a vampire module and the premise for the vampire chapters assumes that the player characters are Anarchs because they have the central goal of killing Lodin and his supporters if at all possible. Both DIALBERIE books also speculate that the PCs are going to want to track down and destroy Elders for their blood because they are Anarchs and thus seeking to gain power as well as strike a blow against the Elders. Even Berlin By Night has a large amount of Anarch content despite it being grossly offensive.

                              The Anarchs were certainly a group in Vampire the Masquerade that were popular enough to profitably exist as npcs and a sect presence in several city books, to get mentioned in VtM corebooks, to get some Anarch specific supplements, to get a hardcover specifically devoted to the sect, and so forth, across the several decades pre 5e VtM existed. But the same thing could be said about the Camarilla. And the same thing could be said about the Sabbat. Any claim of popularity beyond that, like, say "they were the most popular" comes off as dubious without something that tangibly supports it. Was the Anarch Cookbook the highest selling book in VtM at that point maybe (and if you want to claim that, does something support that claim)?
                              Yeah and the Camarilla content is generally from the perspective of a society the Anarchs are a PART OF and to oppose. The Sabbat have been playable since the near beginning but they were an Anarch offshoot that also came to prominence AFTER Los Angeles by Night. The Sabbat were not a major focus of the game until the 1999 Clan Novels where they went from being the occasional threat via siege to happening everywhere.

                              You want to claim that before LA By Night, or the Player's Guide to the Sabbat, the Anarchs were the most popular sect in VtM. I am asking you what proves that claim, or at the very least strongly supports that claim. "Massive amounts of supports and discussion" feels pretty much like your opinion. What massive amounts of support? From where? Showed by what?
                              See above. I'm also happy to ask developers if you want me to Twitter them.

                              You have not exactly been the most objective of opinions when it comes to the Anarchs, so when you make a huge claim like "they were the most popular group with the fans of VtM at one point", I'd like to know what actual things that can be pointed to supporting that.
                              I take it your answer is, "I do not believe the Anarchs were the most popular sect before LA by Night"? Just want to be clear. I mean no hostility or insult, I just want to know that you think another sect is and am curious which one: the Sabbat or Camarilla and why.

                              I'm mostly operating off fan impression and talks with developers online as well as interviews so I'll ask them for something that can be reprinted. I wouldn't want such a claim to be unsubstantiated after all.
                              Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-14-2021, 09:29 PM.


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                              • Originally posted by Jonny View Post
                                I disagree with this. Anarchists can be organised, in fact anyone worth their salt is and thats all a sect is really. "Don't mourn, organise!" is literally an anarchist motto.
                                What's in discussion aren't Anarchists, are the VtM Anarchs. It's literally (and literary) a world of difference. And largely due to the authors referring to irl Anarchism, but having a limited understanding of it at the time (as they had a limited understanding of everything, something absolutely normal for a bunch of 20-somethings with no internet access writing games).

                                Originally posted by MarkK View Post
                                edit edit: I guess I'm going to ask this as clearly as I can. What exists on actual record that you can show that shows that the Anarchs were the most popular group with the fans of Vampire the Masquerade at one point?
                                As much as I like the Anarchs (or at least my understanding of them), I agree that saying they're the MOST popular is a bit too much, at least at any point in time in which it was possible to evaluate this (like 2nd ed).

                                But that's kind of a moot point. One thing for certain is that LAbN just making them a bunch of gangs was... frustrating.

                                Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                                I take it your answer is, "I do not believe the Anarchs were the most popular sect before LA by Night"? Just want to be clear. I mean no hostility or insult, I just want to know that you think another sect is and am curious which one: the Sabbat or Camarilla and why.
                                I believe it is, and at least mine is, that we can't ascertain which of the three were THE most popular.

                                What those publications actually show is something I already said before: the Anarchs being the "protagonist sect" isn't something new, but the default of the game in 1st edition and for a time. As a Gothic Punk setting written at the dawn of the 90's, Vampire was written with extreme sympathy for the Anarchist Movement and take most of its stances from there in the beginning, even if their understanding of it, or at least how much of it they put in the game, was limited.

                                The early Vampire isn't nearly as dark as it seems on the surface. You see in the subtext that keeping high Humanity is actually just a matter of good will. You'll hardly do it if you play the Jyhad and try to accumulate power, but the Jyhad is a rigged game. The answer IS not to play. The powerful are abusive and you can't compete with them without becoming like them, but as hard as it seems, their downfall is possible if you just don't compromise. They want you to not believe in Golconda, but the signs that it is actually real aren't that hard to find. What really keeps the Kindred trapped in the darkness is The Man, The State, The Powers That Be and their Petty War, although more through paper tigers and fake walls than anything else.

                                Early Vampire is a World of Darkness just waiting for your players to bring it to the light when they feel like it, and the faction that will birth the heroes IS the Anarchs.

                                Just to be clear, I'm not saying that I think the game should be like that or that this theme stood the test of time, although I do like it as a possible theme. But this is pretty clear to me when I read most books from 1st and 2nd editions. The earlier, the strongest this theme is. And yes, this is also extremely Christian, no wonder early Saulot was Vampire Jesus.


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