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My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5

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  • Speaking as someone who started playing after 20th aniversary was released.
    I never got the impression that the Anarchs were a strong choice to start the game with. I'll admit my Biases; my first character was a Ventrue and I almost picked Tremere, but the first game I played was a Camarilla game with too many players and a few of them decided to be anarchs. It might be purely coincidental, but those Anarch players were morons that had little engagement with the game beyond the occasional fishmalkery, While the Cam players, at 2/3rds of the table, were at worst slightly inadequate; most were magnificent, cunning bastards having a lot of fun trying to skew prestation their way.

    Cam players just benefit a lot from the rules and regulations around them. Oh their characters might not, but it's a lot of fun from the player perspective. It's a challenge. It's nice to fight over something ephermal like a favour or a title. Anarch players just don't have anywhere near as good a framework around them. The only book of late that made me think "anarchs are cool" was rites of the blood, because Anarch sorcery is dope.
    Last edited by MyWifeIsScary; 10-15-2021, 08:30 AM.


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    • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

      Hell some are socialists and some are outright fascists.

      Aaah, the twin scourges of humanity, that'll be why no-one i know likes them...



      Prone to being a Classic Curmudgeon, goshdarned whippersnappers...

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      • For my taste VTM is the strongest when you either feel trapped in the machinations of Vampires and their institutions or you feel like you are in a horror movie.

        The anarchs are way too ill defined for the first and are unnecessary for the second.
        Last edited by Ignithas; 10-15-2021, 02:38 AM.

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        • Originally posted by jamiemalk View Post


          Aaah, the twin scourges of humanity, that'll be why no-one i know likes them...
          There's a reason the Anarchs don't get along. Everyone has a different idea of what the City of [strike]God[/strike] Caine will look like.


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

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          • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
            There's a reason the Anarchs don't get along. Everyone has a different idea of what the City of [strike]God[/strike] Caine will look like.
            Then why do you object when the game portrayed them like that? As far as I can tell, whenever the anarchs win, the end result has a good chance of looking exactly as presented in Los Angeles by Night.

            I honestly don't get what people who champion the anarchs as a separate sect want. Are the anarchs supposed to be a ragtag group of malcontents who don't even get along with each other, and also a brand new sect that steamrolls the opposition in a highly efficient manner?

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            • Originally posted by Elphilm View Post
              Then why do you object when the game portrayed them like that? As far as I can tell, whenever the anarchs win, the end result has a good chance of looking exactly as presented in Los Angeles by Night.

              I honestly don't get what people who champion the anarchs as a separate sect want. Are the anarchs supposed to be a ragtag group of malcontents who don't even get along with each other, and also a brand new sect that steamrolls the opposition in a highly efficient manner?
              Allow me to expand on my answer: The problem with LA BY NIGHT wasn't that the Anarchs weren't an enlightened Neo-Carthage where they (gratituous Latin reference) immanentized the eschaton (gratituous Latin reference). It's the fact that it DUMBED DOWN the conflicts among the Anarchs.

              LA by Night had a lot of issues, not the least of bit being that the "gang warfare" element was also making sensationalist gameplay from a very real tragedy going on at the time with the Crack epidemic and feuds between the Bloods and Crips that killed many real young men. But aside from that, all of the Anarchs were basically some variant on, "Dumbass Brujah or Caitiff are shooting at each other over turf." Which is fine for one or two gangs. However, ALL OF THEM are one variant of a street gang or another.

              If you're going to do the Anarch Free States then you should have a variety of groups trying to build their own variety of Anarch Free State. You should have the communists, the idealistic "Harm no mortals" literal hippies, the fascists (who everyone should hate), the black nationalists, and some high powered businessmen who want to build a capitalism based Kindred society. Anyone who doesn't fit in Cainite society should see this as a place for building their own.

              At least that's my take. It's funny because Chicago by Night actually ALREADY DID THIS and did it pretty well. In CBN 1st Edition the Anarchs were composed of:

              * The 1920s Socialists and Union workers (Blackjack, Hinds)
              * The 1970s Black Panthers and radical racial activists (Theodore Dooley, Anita Wainwright)
              * The 1980s Civil Rights workers and Democrats (Maldavis)
              * The 1990s Punks and Nihilists (Gengis, Damien)

              The Anarchs were HUGE in Chicago but none of them could cooperate long enough to take down Lodin.

              That was my take at least.


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

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              • Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                I attribute to this the general whitewashing and slow change of the Technocracy from an embodiment of the evils of capitalism and colonialism to the "one true champions" of the human race against the evil supernaturals. The Technocracy embodying Western hegemonic power and rampant techology was greeted by many aging players as, "Why the hell not?" That, of course, was before the War on Terror, Recession, and other elements that I think may be a major reason why Paradox has chosen to lean into the Anarchs HARD. A lot of the systemic corruption and abuses of power in the world are once more in the public mindset.
                The trouble is ... issues like "Western hegemonic power" or "rampant technology" are incredibly abstract as concepts to fight against within a game, and rely on a lot of cultural assumptions to work, whereas the benefits of technology, as provided by the Technocracy, are concrete and straightforward. You're fighting a losing battle if you are trying to tell readers that the bad guys are a group that creates sci-fi guns to kill the eldritch horrors from the void which want to consume humanity.

                And the point is that this is also true of the Camarilla and the Anarchs. We are told that the Camarilla are cruel and evil whereas, in almost every appearance, they are the fairly benign and hands-off rulers of the Kindred. Sure, they eat people, but so do the Anarchs, so the latter don't have the moral high-ground there. V5 tries to paint the Camarilla as the elite, exploiters of power and privilege ... but again, in relative terms any vampire is part of a privileged, immortal elite, so that doesn't really work either. Really, we are never presented with a strong reason as to why the Camarilla is inherently oppressive, and why we should be sympathetic to the Anarchs.

                This, again, goes back to a point which I frequently make on these boards, which is the value of concrete writing. Too often, supplements present ideas in generalisations or, worse, as part of in-character texts. However, if you want to explain how your game world works, you need to explain and present your ideas in a solid, explicable, and coherent way. But with the Anarchs we are too often told that they are characters fighting for a sympathetic cause, without the reader ever being given the reason to believe that this is the case.
                Last edited by James_Willoughby; 10-17-2021, 06:04 AM.


                Learn more about the hidden history of the British Isles in England Will Burn.
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                • Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post

                  The trouble is ... issues like "Western hegemonic power" or "rampant technology" are incredibly abstract as concepts to fight against within a game, and rely on a lot of cultural assumptions to work, whereas the benefits of technology, as provided by the Technocracy, are concrete and straightforward. You're fighting a losing battle if you are trying to tell readers that the bad guys are a group that creates sci-fi guns to kill the eldritch horrors from the void which want to consume humanity.

                  And the point is that this is also true of the Camarilla and the Anarchs. We are told that the Camarilla are cruel and evil whereas, in almost every appearance, they are the fairly benign and hands-off rulers of the Kindred. Sure, they eat people, but so do the Anarchs, so the latter don't have the moral high-ground there. V5 tries to paint the Camarilla as the elite, exploiters of power and privilege ... but again, in relative terms any vampire is party of a privileged, immortal elite, so that doesn't really work either. Really, we are never presented with a strong reason as to why the Camarilla is inherently oppressive, and why we should be sympathetic to the Anarchs.

                  This, again, goes back to a point which I frequently make on these boards, which is the value of concrete writing. Too often, supplements present ideas in generalisations or, worse, as part of in-character texts. However, if you want to explain how your game world works, you need to explain and present your ideas in a solid, explicable, and coherent way. But with the Anarchs we are too often told that they are characters fighting for a sympathetic cause, without the reader ever being given the reason to believe that this is the case.
                  Yeah, that's part of the deeper issues here. It's also really emphasised by the fact the Anarchs don't really have a plan going forward to moderte the hierachy of kindred which intrisically sets in because they're inherantly in competition with each other. and get more powerful with age.

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                  • Originally posted by MarkK View Post
                    I was replying to CTPhipps' take on things, not yours.
                    Oh, my bad, sorry.

                    Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                    The Evolving Nature of the Anarchs, Traditions, and Rebellion
                    I agree with the general gist here, but I think it was far more nuanced, both on rl and in the game.

                    Counterculture wasn't dead by the 90's. If it were, VtM wouldn't be the hit it was in the RPG world. In fact, my personal theory is that VtM became a cultural behemoth (which it is) because of how it reflected that decade better than any other RPG, not only at the beginning but also as the game and the 90's evolved.

                    Yeah, the 90's was a point of inflection for the counterculture. It was pretty much "the End of History", and I remember that feeling very well myself. It wasn't about the inequalities not being recognized, but about old ideas of what caused them and how to fix them falling apart. We were locked in the Cold War for decades, suddenly it wasn't a thing anymore and our ideological systems had been created to address the problems of a world that didn't existed anymore, while we entered that bold new age no one knew what to do with.

                    This is too big to tackle at once, and I feel overwhelmed by t right now, so many things to say and many of then hard to put into words. I actually thought for a long time into actually writing an entire book about this, maybe a proper academic one. But this isn't just about how the game began, it is also about how it evolved, and I think that reducing any group in the game to what they were supposed to be at the start and its evolution as "giving up" a disservice to both WoD and the evolution of our collective understanding of the world through the 90's.


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                    • And, another small point; I think the conflict between the Camarilla and the Anarchs, and its role in the game, exists mostly because writers and developers thought it was a good idea, rather than it being driven from any organic desire to express ideas. As an analogy, over the last ten years there have been a whole host of films and television series about the banking, created in the wake of the global financial crisis. These are, in general, mostly quite flat; they don't really deliver a critique of capitalism, or banking regulation, or even just explain how derivatives work. Instead, they were created because the global financial crisis was a big event, and people felt that this was a subject that they ought to be looking at when creating films and television series.

                      I kind of think the Camarilla / Anarch conflict is a bit like this, particularly in V5. I feel that we have writers who want to write about social and cultural conflict in the contemporary world, and reproduce this through the core group dynamics within the game; however, they don't have a message, or a critique to offer, or even a sense of any social commentary which they might present through the game.


                      Learn more about the hidden history of the British Isles in England Will Burn.
                      Find out about the struggle to control medieval Syria in The Gates of Damascus.

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                      • i think the issue with the anarchs is caused by expanding scope, the anarchs are about fighting the political opression of the camarila but to allow the ST some creative freedom with the cam they made the political opressing nature of the cam come from the evils of middle managment. but as the scope of the game expanded to be more about upper managment in the cam that initial conflict was gone and attempts to try and bring that conflict to upper managment of the cam either made the anarchs look stupid. (demands for freedom only goes so far until you've entered the ranks of deranged anti-maskers shouting at wallmart employees) or took away the creative freedom of the ST.

                        later factions like the sabbath and some of the independant movements solution was to have them take issue with the cam's supression of religion which while it does take away some ST freedom doesn't take it away completly (and the game is more so about politics then religion and there are some work arounds) and there exists a valid argument for why the cam would do that but that doesn't apply to the anarchs because they're a political movement not a religious one

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                        • What are you rebelling against?
                          what'ya got?

                          The most painful thing about the V5 changes is that it looks like it wants to imitate reality but... actually does worse at it. The Bipartisan nature of Cam Vs Anarchs falls appart because, y'know, they're all parasites that lord over mortals. It doesn't matter if you vote Democrat or republican, they're still going to go to war because the arms industry wants them to. Liberals VS a Conservative stereotype doesn't work when... like.. .how is it in the best interest for a Vampire to be pro-abortion, Tremere occultism and Ventrue feeding preferences notwithstanding. The NuCam now believes in a bunch of bullshit as they are now an archconservative caricature, and the Anarchs oppose them by... not believing in that bullshit but also not really having any of their own talking points beyond "I want more power". How do we have a dichotomy when one side doesn't actually believe in anything other than that they don't like the Camarilla but they're simultaniously not going to take anything cool or useful from the sabbat because... those guys are Evil with a capital E. At least in prior editions, the Anarchs could pick up alternative paths rather than humanity; The Anarchs in V5 are just a vacuum of good ideas and intellectually challenging content. They offer nothing. The NuCam needs to be opposed because they're pants-on-head **DELETED** and are absolutely determined to create the thing that the sect explicitly formed to avoid, and the Sabbat need to be opposed because they torture babies, but the anarchs don't actually have anything to say. A loyal opposition is intriguing, a radical revolutionary force is interesting, but the V5 anarchs have somehow muddied the waters and became a bland faction.


                          My other concern is, well, Anarchs might allow you to explore a lot of radical ideologies, but most people aren't into radical ideologies, or at least, they could do those radical ideologies within the Camarilla so long as they don't abandon humanity, break the masquerade, or start believing in Gehenna/Golconda. Not to mention.. like, how do you put veganism or Nazbol ideas into practice when you're elite vampires... The Anarchs are a very blank canvas and that might be a good thing but most people aren't artists and can't really get much out of a completely blank canvas. The Camarilla come across as an interesting IP, the Anarchs are just... you might as well create your own work.

                          Edited: Removal of an abelist slur. That sort of language is not tolerated.
                          Last edited by CTPhipps; 10-17-2021, 08:21 AM.


                          Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
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                          • Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                            The Anarchs are a very blank canvas and that might be a good thing but most people aren't artists and can't really get much out of a completely blank canvas.
                            I think this is the core conundrum with the Anarchs, both old and new. They are a blank canvas and their thing is to be that blank canvas. You can't call them a sect per se being like that, but that doesn't mean they're not a relevant thing.

                            But the game must provide tools to facilitate filling that canvas and models you can copy. This is a game, not writing class, give then Mario Paint instead of an actual canvas.


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                            • Frankly, the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen done with “Anarchs” was when a local Prince declared all thinbloods and Caitiff anathema as a way of dealing with overcrowding.

                              That’s not really Anarch though… that’s an already underprivileged group living on the fringes facing a pogram of “ethnic cleasing” for the benefit of the elites.

                              The real kicker, the Prince excluded any proclaimed Anarchs of sufficiently thick blood in his city from the pogram specifically to encourage them to not get involved because it “wasn’t their fight.” No, it was just “taking out the trash.” Guess which side all the Anarchs of sufficient generation chose?

                              So basically the Anarchs were portrayed as raging hypocrites who only care about their own privileges while turning their back on a genocide… because vampires are asshoe.

                              The Thinbloods in that game had more culture (all the refugee/underground railroad tropes), internal conflicts (run, hide, fight) and character (sell-outs, martyrs, opportunists, faithful, broken) than I’ve ever seen put into an Anarch faction.

                              Because, frankly, “elitists who can’t even see their own privilege want more” is a poor concept to build a ‘protagonist’ sect around compared to “struggling to not be murdered by a ruthless elite just for existing.”

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                              • Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post

                                The trouble is ... issues like "Western hegemonic power" or "rampant technology" are incredibly abstract as concepts to fight against within a game, and rely on a lot of cultural assumptions to work, whereas the benefits of technology, as provided by the Technocracy, are concrete and straightforward. You're fighting a losing battle if you are trying to tell readers that the bad guys are a group that creates sci-fi guns to kill the eldritch horrors from the void which want to consume humanity.

                                And the point is that this is also true of the Camarilla and the Anarchs. We are told that the Camarilla are cruel and evil whereas, in almost every appearance, they are the fairly benign and hands-off rulers of the Kindred. Sure, they eat people, but so do the Anarchs, so the latter don't have the moral high-ground there. V5 tries to paint the Camarilla as the elite, exploiters of power and privilege ... but again, in relative terms any vampire is party of a privileged, immortal elite, so that doesn't really work either. Really, we are never presented with a strong reason as to why the Camarilla is inherently oppressive, and why we should be sympathetic to the Anarchs.

                                This, again, goes back to a point which I frequently make on these boards, which is the value of concrete writing. Too often, supplements present ideas in generalisations or, worse, as part of in-character texts. However, if you want to explain how your game world works, you need to explain and present your ideas in a solid, explicable, and coherent way. But with the Anarchs we are too often told that they are characters fighting for a sympathetic cause, without the reader ever being given the reason to believe that this is the case.
                                I don't think that a faction that enacts order and to some degree prosperity through autocratic/fascistic/feualistic means is an abstract concept. I also don't think that VTM and V5 in especially holds back when depicting the Camarilla as cruel. Be it through ruthless machinations, very strict rules that can easily end in the death of innocent people, not punishing extremly unmoral vampires with power and generally advancing social inequalities.

                                That said, the rest is spot on. It is hard to feel sympathetic to the Anarchs if every second story is about gang warfare or barons abusing their power. And the rest are unreliable narrators musing about abstract ideas. If the authors want us to care about the Anarchs, they need to depict how those abstract ideas are making a positive change. And as you said, that needs concrete writing.

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