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My review of SABBAT: THE BLACK HAND 4.5/5

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  • 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.


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

  • #2
    I should point out the Shepherds of Ur Shulgi are set to appear on the next Onyx Path v5 book they are undead and well ,just not in Alamut

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Nicolas Milioni View Post
      I should point out the Shepherds of Ur Shulgi are set to appear on the next Onyx Path v5 book they are undead and well ,just not in Alamut
      This is true.
      Last edited by CTPhipps; 09-24-2021, 09:17 PM.


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

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      • #4
        I am really looking forward to getting my hands on this.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Jonny View Post
          I am really looking forward to getting my hands on this.
          It fills in a lot of holes that had been warping the V5 setting's continuity.


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

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Nicolas Milioni View Post
            I should point out the Shepherds of Ur Shulgi are set to appear on the next Onyx Path v5 book they are undead and well ,just not in Alamut
            Which book will this be?

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            • #7
              A little correction, they've been available as PCs since 1992 (Player's Guide to the Sabbat). 1994 was the year of Dirty Secrets (and even then, only in December).

              Personally I find that a complete lack of members on Humanity hurts the Sabbat as a story concept more than helps, and will definitely solidify their role as pure antagonists for an even longer time. It is also a shame that they didn't do rules on the Paths, simply forgo the system completely, specially if you consider that the base rules already make for an excellent basis for the Paths.

              On positives, I do think that Thin Bloods in the Sabbat make sense, as they're regarded as signs of Gehenna, not servants of the Ancients. And personally to me Ur-Shulgi and everything that makes the Assamites obsessive assassins should be gone, it is a shame that they'll come back.


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              • #8

                Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                A little correction, they've been available as PCs since 1992 (Player's Guide to the Sabbat). 1994 was the year of Dirty Secrets (and even then, only in December).
                Thanks for the correction!

                Personally I find that a complete lack of members on Humanity hurts the Sabbat as a story concept more than helps, and will definitely solidify their role as pure antagonists for an even longer time. It is also a shame that they didn't do rules on the Paths, simply forgo the system completely, specially if you consider that the base rules already make for an excellent basis for the Paths.
                I dunno, I think there's an argument that removing Humanity from the Sabbat removes the confusion about what they're supposed to be. Just like taking the Anarchs out of the Camarilla did the same. The Sabbat are the guys who hold Humanity in complete disdain and actively commit atrocities to eradicate those lingering vestiges of human sympathy. I liked Low Humanity and Paths being earned but if they're all on Paths, they're terrifying in a way that will scare even the undead.

                On positives, I do think that Thin Bloods in the Sabbat make sense, as they're regarded as signs of Gehenna, not servants of the Ancients. And personally to me Ur-Shulgi and everything that makes the Assamites obsessive assassins should be gone, it is a shame that they'll come back.
                Eh, I think the Ur-Shulgi/Old School Assamites are gone. Even if their cult shows up in Blood Cults final supplement, they'll be so small as to be irrelevant. They weren't exactly in any of the main books.


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

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                  Eh, I think the Ur-Shulgi/Old School Assamites are gone. Even if their cult shows up in Blood Cults final supplement, they'll be so small as to be irrelevant. They weren't exactly in any of the main books.
                  That's my expectation. Old-school Assamites are horrible, and Ur-Shulgi on top of that is overpowered in the dumb way. If he can break clan curses by moving his pinkie, why he didn't singlehandedly won the game, yet?


                  #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs
                  #AutismPride
                  She/her pronouns

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                    That's my expectation. Old-school Assamites are horrible, and Ur-Shulgi on top of that is overpowered in the dumb way. If he can break clan curses by moving his pinkie, why he didn't singlehandedly won the game, yet?
                    Yeah, I kind of wish they'd had Alamut destroyed by the Sabbat or Second Inquisition. It'd be a questionable victory ala the Tremere but at least it would make the issue irrelevant in a lore friendly way.

                    Also, the Sabbat killing Ur-Shulgi (perhaps with the help of a mysterious Stygian shadow or someone dropping a drone strike or 20 on him first), would go a long way to justifying the Gehenna War.


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

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                    • #11
                      -hows the art?
                      -hows the layout?
                      -does the book comment on playing sabbat at all?

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                      • #12

                        Originally posted by Ragged Robin View Post
                        -hows the art?
                        High quality digital drawings, Mark Kelly has done some phenomenal work. It really delivers the idea of madness and anguish

                        Originally posted by Ragged Robin View Post
                        -hows the layout?
                        Very neat and clear!

                        Originally posted by Ragged Robin View Post
                        -does the book comment on playing sabbat at all?
                        The book gives really good advice to use the Sabbat as antagonists and Storytelling tools, and in doing so it gives a very clear look of how the Sabbat lives nightly and what themes and situations could arise in a Sabbat story ... but also ​clearly and strongly says that you should not make players empathize with the Sabbat.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Manfr View Post


                          High quality digital drawings, Mark Kelly has done some phenomenal work. It really delivers the idea of madness and anguish



                          Very neat and clear!



                          The book gives really good advice to use the Sabbat as antagonists and Storytelling tools, and in doing so it gives a very clear look of how the Sabbat lives nightly and what themes and situations could arise in a Sabbat story ... but also ​clearly and strongly says that you should not make players empathize with the Sabbat.
                          That's some positives although I'm tickled by the suggestion you shouldn't emphathize with the Sabbat since I don't really empathise carmilla or anarch vampires either, since the only correct move of the great game in setting is not to play.

                          I'm probably going to hold out until a sale but it does at least sound like it's worth a look. Step up from anarchs book but still far from ideal.
                          Last edited by Ragged Robin; 09-25-2021, 04:54 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                            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."
                            Damn, that was my worst fear. I guess it makes sense then that Sabbat aren't playable if they didn't publish rules to do so and then went out of their way to explicitly note that the rules we -do- have (Humanity) can't be used because no vampires in the sect use those rules.

                            I was really hoping we'd get rules, even if not robust ones, for characters following a Path and then the obligatory note that the rules are for NPCs and Sabbat aren't intended to be playable, similar to how we got mechanics for Nephandi and other NPC only factions.

                            But yeah, it looks like they went out of their way to lock out the Sabbat as NPC antagonists by ensuring we can't even use the existing rules for them. And that's a damn shame.
                            Last edited by AnubisXy; 09-25-2021, 06:39 AM.

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                            • #15
                              So there aren't rules for paths now?
                              Whatabout Vauldrie?


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