Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • CTPhipps
    started a topic My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5

    My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5



    Link: https://booknest.eu/reviews/charles/...attheblackhand

    4.5/5

    SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND is the latest supplement to come out for Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition as well as the first to come from new license holder Renegade Games Studios. The Sabbat have long been one of the three bedrocks of the setting with the other two (The Camarilla and Anarchs) having their own supplements. The fact the Sabbat did not have a supplement before now and were left conspicuously undetailed has been a source of controversy among the fandom. Even more so with the revelation that, even in this book, they would be regulated to NPC antagonists rather than player characters as have been available since 1994.

    For me, I've always been a fan of the Sabbat and they are my second favorite sect after the Anarchs. I've played many interesting and fascinating Sabbat characters both as a Storyteller as well as a player. I feel like if there's any gameline that shouldn't judge you for being "evil", it should be Vampire: The Masquerade. Nevertheless, that doesn't automatically discount my interest in this book. I feel like the Sabbat are something the setting desperately needs to be complete and even if I have to make my own rules for playing them, I want as much as I can about them in Fifth Edition. So does the book succeed on that level?

    Thankfully, yes. This is easily the best of the main game books, surpassing both sect books as well as the main book, IMHO. I prefer Chicago by Night Fifth Edition and Blood Cults but this is definitely one of the better works done for Fifth Edition. It is written almost entirely out of character and gives clear, concise, as well as informative facts about what the state of the Sabbat is as well as how to run them. There's also ample crunch to be found here as well as lore. The book is more than a little on the short side, though, with 134 pages in length. Given the Camarilla was 204, I have to wonder who decided to not give the writer room to breathe. I don't think anyone would have disliked having more material to follow up on.

    The Fifth Edition version of the Sabbat has suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Second Inquisition, their massive Gehenna War, as well as in-fighting. The Sabbat has forfeited most of its territory to the Camarilla and Anarchs with defectors to both sects. Some of the more popular Paths of Enlightenment have also become forgotten with the Path of Beast (Feral Heart), Honorable Accord, and Lilith being all but abandoned. 5E amalgamation has also hit a few of these paths too with the Path of Night and Path of Metamorphosis becoming "flavors" of the Path of Cathari and Path of Death and Soul. There is no Regent of the Sabbat and it is controlled by a loose alliance of warring Cardinals. No sign exists of the (False) Black Hand special forces that once were the deadliest killers outside of Alamut.

    However, not all is ill in the Sword of Caine. The Fifth Edition version of the Sabbat is more ideologically committed and united than ever. No Sabbat remain on the Path of Humanity and infighting is practically nonexistent. While they have lost vast swathes of territory, they still maintain Archbishopdoms and strongholds across the world. They do not suffer Stains, have Touchstones, or have penalties for diablerie. Oh and among their tricks are now the ability to raise feral zombies, create Blood Brother-esque mini-vozhd from ghouls, and other abominations against both magic as well as reality. The Gehenna War is all but it is not fought in the Middle East but every corner of the globe against anyone the Sabbat wishes.

    The Sabbat is not a swarm of locusts even if their focus is entirely on the war against the Antediluvian. They engage in hot war of Mass Embraces, mass diablerie, and Sabbat Crusades as before but this is only part of the way it's done. Instead, they also engage in cold war using subversion, destabilization, and infiltration that is every bit as intelligent as before. The Paths replace Clans for dividing up the Sabbat with all of them identifying as antitribu now. We get insights into the various ritae the Sabbat perform as well as how each Path treats the process of doing so. We also have a new Path in the Path of Sun that is followed exclusively by the Thin Bloods that may actually have a better time in the Sabbat than the Camarilla.

    The art of the books is fantastic and those few fiction elements of the book are well-handled. I was disappointed we didn't get more information on Sabbat NPCs but Lucita is apparently (accent on apparently) still unalive and ruling Madrid. She's now a Lasombra Antitribu. Vykos is also alive, back to referring to themselves as Sascha, and a Tzimisce Antitribu. We also get a part of the book detailing what happened to the Web of Knives and Alamut. It's ridiculously gonzo and I think meant to state we're never going to hear of Ur-Shulgi or the diablerie-happy murder cultists of the Banu Haqim again.

    In conclusion, this is a solid and entertaining book but I can see where massive amounts of content could have been added that would have made it an even better experience. They could have easily included a Path system and mechanics for running them rather than just say, "Sabbat don't suffer your puny degeneration unless they are nice to mortals or are other kinds of freaks." The seeming loss of the Inquisition and (False) Black Hand is also notable with no commentary on the Harbingers, Salubri Antitribu, or other matters that could have been inserted into the abbreviated history. But for what the book is, sharing a truly terrifying fanatical sect that will not be stopped, it does gloriously.
    Last edited by CTPhipps; 09-24-2021, 08:40 PM.

  • Chris24601
    replied
    Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
    If this is the final nail in the Coffin, I wonder what W5 and M5 will be.
    How about the rational answer… they will just not be relevant to me.

    People have different interests and that’s okay. I don’t think it’s edition warring to say that V20 and V5 deliver different experiences with different points of focus and that’s okay.

    I’m just glad that M5 was far enough down the pipeline that I got a complete set of mechanics out of M20 that I can apply whatever set of fluff I wish to it. I went more than a decade using Mage Revised after that line was replaced with Awakening. People have gone decades using just 1e AD&D and their imaginations. A game edition ending isn’t a cataclysm unless it’s incomplete.

    And honestly, between the books they did put out, V20 has covered virtually every mechanical bit I can think of (admittedly they squeezed the dhampir update into BJD… literally the last possible V20 book and literally the ONLY reason I got a book filled mostly with fluff I’ll never use… but still, all the mechanics are there and updated).

    Everything else I could think to add is mostly fluff text describing more locations and for that you can use V5’s fluff (though I’d personally set the Beckoning at 7th Gen or less since the normal PC range tops out at 8th Gen… thinblood alchemy if it ever needs to be a thing for your game is just an Inceptor who turned the HH2 path of alchemy into a discipline that uses blood points instead of willpower) -or- make your own.

    Personally, I could see some potential Sabbat fluff here to be useful if I wanted to go a certain direction with my sandbox. The nearby pack was one of the stationary ones and was mostly on Honorable Accord with one on Feral Heart and a few at low Humanity. So, if I used the V5 Sabbat book, they pretty much got overlooked when the Crusade got called and spent years holding down the fort as the bulk of Sabbat left and transformed.

    They’re basically the post-WW2 Japanese soldiers left behind on an island unaware the war is over and waiting for orders that will never come. And when they DO figure out what happened and that they’re basically no longer welcome in the “New Sabbat” they’ll have to figure out what they’re going to do next, because they’re all still loyal to each other, but otherwise are without a Sect.

    ****

    As for the Niktuku, I’ve never used them, but if I do I’ve got the idea in my head running with the idea that Absimilard forbade his childer from siring and only Baba Yaga disobeyed… basically, the idea is that, in a twisted sort of morality, the Niktuku only go after Nosferatu who have sired (i.e. many Nosferatu don’t choose to be Embraced and so the Niktuku do not find guilt in that… but siring breaks the founder’s command and so your life is forfeit). Deploy one in that fashion with a PC Nos neonate and you can inflict all manner of horrors with everyone questioning afterwards how a few neonates survived when elders were slaughtered. All sorts of potential complications there.

    Leave a comment:


  • CTPhipps
    replied
    Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
    If this is the final nail in the Coffin, I wonder what W5 and M5 will be. Nuclear weapons? Astroids the size of jupiter? The sun expanding? A black hole? The so-called inevitable heat death of the universe? Vampire is the safe game in the series.
    No Edition warring, please.

    Leave a comment:


  • MyWifeIsScary
    replied
    Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
    This book was the final nail in the coffin
    If this is the final nail in the Coffin, I wonder what W5 and M5 will be. Nuclear weapons? Astroids the size of jupiter? The sun expanding? A black hole? The so-called inevitable heat death of the universe? Vampire is the safe game in the series.

    Back to the topic that's wildly off topic.
    I really just imagined Niktuku as Nosferatu on steroids. Mindbendingly ugly. But also... more myth than not. Sometimes a Nosferatu will become a wight and destroy the warren. Some Nosferatu just disappear because drains and sewers and other underground localities have some pretty gnarly hazards that can crush or trap a vampire. Honestly speaking, Nosferatu are probably the second worst vampire clan to piss off (next to Malkavians) but they're quite close knit and are not great investigators like malks are. If you need to kill the Nosferatu, you should do it all in a single sweeping movement, and hope they blame the Niktuku. The Ratkin are the next biggest cause of "niktuku" happenings.

    The Ventrue have their secret masters, which is also kinda interesting but not needing as much explanation.

    Leave a comment:


  • Taggie
    replied
    Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

    I mean they explained how it worked just fine. They have a different set of values and a Path of Caine member mourning a mortal is a mortal sin. There's just no rules for it.

    Which isn't explaining it, any more than suck, squeeze, bang, blow actually explains the internal combustion engine.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nyrufa
    replied
    Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post

    I mean they explained how it worked just fine. They have a different set of values and a Path of Caine member mourning a mortal is a mortal sin. There's just no rules for it.

    Right, they explained how it works for an NPC. We were hoping for an explanation on how they work for a PC.

    Leave a comment:


  • CTPhipps
    replied
    Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
    This book was the final nail in the coffin, that convinced me to abandon any hope of ever being interested in 5th edition World of Darkness. I was really, really hoping that a book about the Sabbat would give us the opportunity to play vampires who have turned their backs on Humanity, but no. They're relegated to being exclusively antagonists, and there aren't even any mechanics for how a Path of Enlightenment functions.

    Meaning there are no rules for explaining how / why these vampires haven't succumbed permanently to the Beast. They just haven't; and no, the players can not do the same thing, because that would ruin the Humanity focused aesthetic that 5th edition is trying to go for.
    I mean they explained how it worked just fine. They have a different set of values and a Path of Caine member mourning a mortal is a mortal sin. There's just no rules for it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nyrufa
    replied
    This book was the final nail in the coffin, that convinced me to abandon any hope of ever being interested in 5th edition World of Darkness. I was really, really hoping that a book about the Sabbat would give us the opportunity to play vampires who have turned their backs on Humanity, but no. They're relegated to being exclusively antagonists, and there aren't even any mechanics for how a Path of Enlightenment functions.

    Meaning there are no rules for explaining how / why these vampires haven't succumbed permanently to the Beast. They just haven't; and no, the players can not do the same thing, because that would ruin the Humanity focused aesthetic that 5th edition is trying to go for.

    Leave a comment:


  • Matt the Bruins fan
    replied
    Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
    Nictuku are awesome, but again always offstage. I do think the Nosferatu often run across things they shouldn't, and it bites them in the ass. And having this legend around can make things seem much more sinister than what they are.
    I don't believe I've ever done anything with them as a storyteller, but in my headcanon Nictucku are just campfire stories the Nosferatu tell each other to explain members of their warrens (or occasionally, entire warrens) going missing without explanation. Sometimes it might be to fellow Nosferatu fallen to the Beast, sometimes to hunters, sometimes to werewolves, sometimes to stranger things skulking underground.

    Leave a comment:


  • monteparnas
    replied
    Originally posted by Banu_Saulot View Post
    I find those myths fascinating, Nictucku being one. Makes sense for the most paranoid Clan to have a boogeyman. And probably many Nosferatu who have unaffiliated themselves from the Clan, will be deemed Nictucku. Cuz what is a Nosferatu that doesn't make things according to the Clan, or at least that the Clan knows about? Nictucku! Probably not, but vampires are paranoia machines. If you want to fuck with the Sewer Rats, it is simple as make they think Nictucku are in toe.
    I don't think Nictuku would be a label to every Nos outside the clan because they don't use the label to explain common setbacks. They use it to explain out the entire clan presence in a city going MIA. This is kind of a big thing, so a Nictuku is by necessity a big threat capable of pulling this out in some fashion.

    Otherwise their legend is really that they're kind of just a group of Nos. To be exactly, the 4th gen minus Baba Yaga. Some also say that the old Hag is the sire of their entire 5th gen, as Absimiliard forbade the 4th from siring and the Nictuku obeyed, hence she being in their target list.

    The Tal'Mahe'Ra didn't intervening in the Gehenna Crusade. They weren't a thing in the period in the official lore. They got blew up in the 6th Maelstrom and there are signs of them reforming now, so at the time there was just no True Black Hand.

    Leave a comment:


  • Banu_Saulot
    replied
    I really like the concept of fallen Bloodlines desperately trying to remain or become significant, of old bitterness that has no more target to satisfy itself with (like, "the guy I hate cuz he usurped my city in Corinth died two hundred years ago, and I just learned today"). And aside of the 'let's make an awesome amazing cool sect of ultra-rare unique edgy secret vampires that are 'in the know' more than any other", it makes a lot of sense for ancient vampires, or lost bloodlines to get together. So Inconnu, Hand Without a Sun and the Lost Tribe are fun to exist.

    Now, with the True Brujah it is a very problematic matter, because to define their true intention and purpose you have to define or affirm many of the "Can's and Do's" of the setting. Or risk having your entire vengeance cult of True Brujah being bitter and stupid vampires who hate an entire disparate Clan cause of some old myth that few believe, and even fewer know more about. Although it can be an ironic affect, that those who think are beyond or over the Jyhad are actually the ones most manipulated by it.

    I find those myths fascinating, Nictucku being one. Makes sense for the most paranoid Clan to have a boogeyman. And probably many Nosferatu who have unaffiliated themselves from the Clan, will be deemed Nictucku. Cuz what is a Nosferatu that doesn't make things according to the Clan, or at least that the Clan knows about? Nictucku! Probably not, but vampires are paranoia machines. If you want to fuck with the Sewer Rats, it is simple as make they think Nictucku are in toe.


    Also, I interpret that many Bloodlines and groups, like Nictucku, Daughters of Cacophony, Baali... are basically just labels. Not really bloodlines, with their own innate powers and banes. Some of these cases are very controversial of course. My take, in my own setting, is only that things are more organic, a bit more complex (but only that its no new slate, just bits of others with misunderstanding thrown over it) and not simply a new Clan; Banes and Disciplines can take some different shapes. The Baali, for me, are a name for infernalists generically speaking, used by old vampires and lore masters; tere are cults, sects, rituals and lores yes, like a 'true Baali', which most of the structures, the types, the differences are lost to most Cainites; but they ain't a new Clan, they are inducted from other Clan (like Setites taking members from all over).
    To me the original Baali were not made by a single Ante, but at least three, and the founders of the Baali are Cainites from these Clans, with some uniquely developed powers and amalgams, but most of it coming from demonic Blood Sorcery and et cetera.

    I still haven't decided what True Brujahs are in my setting... but if there were, they would either be hermits, or vengeance bound seekers. Probably they would want to destroy every Dream and Carthage they see, so Inconnu is more probable (numerous) than Tal'Mahe'Ra.

    That brings me a thought. If the Sabbat was always decentralized, with the Regent having limited power over the worldwide sect, how the Tal'Mahe'Ra truly manipulated the sect? I imagine they would have to do it locally in each case. And mostly would use the sect as a coverup and host to them. So when the Gehenna Crusade exploded, and many started running to Beckoning Zones, and invading cities, the True Black Hand would go nuts trying to either stave off the assault of the sect on the ancients, or fighting them back directly. This is, if their infighting didn't brought them down before that.
    As surreal and sometimes silly that these plots got, I kind miss them.

    Leave a comment:


  • monteparnas
    replied
    I don't believe in binding any element or idea to just one interpretation.

    Can I come up with uses for the True Brujah outside the context of DSotBH? Yes, I can. They may be this old cult all by themselves, or a bloodline with a different origin story and a grudge, they may be conspirators behind many of the high-level moves of the Jyhad, they may be an ancient offshoot that still holds to really old artifact and lore.

    They may be what they claim to be and yet not all of them follow the same beliefs or goals, or they may be another thing entirely and still act upon it, or yet they may have nothing to do with the elements in DSotBH and work out entirely because of their own main characteristics, an emotionless bloodline of philosophers with a strange variation of the Brujah Disciplines, a case in which Temporis is a good twist, and sometimes that's all you need.

    What I definitely don't need is to interpret lore so strictly as to rob myself of the ability to apply a tool in other, interesting ways when those benefit my games or character (because yes, I already had players interested in playing True Brujah and I see no reason to say no).

    Other than that, even by going to their roots I see absolutely no need for the True Black Hand to be right. Legends are legends. I find this notion in many RPGs that legends, myths and religions are either 90+% truth or conspiracy crafted hoaxes as stupid. It ignores the fact that stories within stories may be themselves concepts as complex as characters.

    How a foundation story shapes the peoples who know of them or are shaped by those people is, for me, far more relevant than deciding if this story is real or not. Their reality is meaningless outside my own satisfaction, while their interaction with contemporary characters is what can really shape new tales for me to tell. What characters do because of those stories? What they did in the past that left objects, places and stuff that can tell new stories? How the narrative itself affects the present?

    And how can this narrative be used and altered, by design or accident, by its narrators in the world? This's far more relevant to me than deciding whatever truly happened at the distant past. And by letting characters reinterpret and change the narrative, something that is pretty common and natural irl, I can make room for even more new ways those characters can be used.

    Leave a comment:


  • Black Fox
    replied
    The True Brujah only make sense to me as part of the original package of the True Black Hand. One does not go without the other. It's part of the super secret mystery of the Tal'Mahe'Re that there is this unknown Brujah bloodline who wants revenge on the usurper's bloodline because the entire point of the Tal'Mahe'Re is to serve the antedeluvians, and since the Brujah murdered theirs, that means the entire Brujah clan is their enemy. Only the "real" Brujah survivors who escaped the purge are worthy of membership and survive Gehenna. If you divorce the True Brujah as members of the True Black Hand and talk about them separately, it doesn't make any sense. They aren't an independent thing, they are part of this greater conspiracy. If you handle them as some kind of independent faction, they lose their entire purpose of existing in the narrative.

    Now personally I never liked the idea of the True Brujah mainly because I think Temporis is silly. And while I now like Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand as an example of huge mysteries to include in your chronicle world, I can't actually use the book itself because the act of publishing it robs it of any mysteries. I can't surprise the characters at the table because I can't surprise the players. There are elements I use in my games along with a bunch of other stuff, but the True Brujah as written aren't one of them.

    I do like the idea of these very high level Jyhad mysteries that can be discovered by the PCs if they want to go looking for them. But from my experience, PCs don't go looking for them unless the ST is crafting and forcing such a plot on them. PCs quickly get bogged down with their own backstories (always the most fascinating things to players) and the mundane aspects of living in a domain. Still, I have them in my setting lurking off stage. Just gives me more time to refine and add to them.

    I've never actually seen any ST actually use the True Brujah. Though in some of my early LARPs that welcomed practically any character concept, there were some twinks who played True Brujah PCs. I can call them twinks because the first thing they did was tell everyone they were actually True Brujah so they could lecture us on lore, as if we didn't have access to the same books they did. Needless to say, if you are a True Brujah, telling other vampires you are one is not something you'd actually do.

    = =

    Nictuku are awesome, but again always offstage. I do think the Nosferatu often run across things they shouldn't, and it bites them in the ass. And having this legend around can make things seem much more sinister than what they are.

    Leave a comment:


  • Nicolas Milioni
    replied
    those are great ideas!

    Leave a comment:


  • Elphilm
    replied
    I've suggested before that one way to differentiate the Brujah and the True Brujah discipline spreads is to flip around the dynamics of their physical and mental disciplines. Instead of an active, aggressive physical discipline (Potence), give the Trujah a passive, reactive physical discipline (Fortitude). Instead of passive, emotional mental influence (Presence), give them active, calculating mind control (Dominate).

    Dominate, Fortitude, Temporis. The True Brujah start to look like the Ventrue dialed up to eleven: imperious, impervious, implacable, eternal. These are creatures that should look like classical sculptures when at rest, and as deadly as the Weeping Angels when they come after you.

    Leave a comment:

Working...
X