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The Tal’Mahe’Ra as a Player Faction

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  • The Tal’Mahe’Ra as a Player Faction

    So I want to preface this whole thread by saying I have yet to read the new Guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra book. I'm waiting till the final version comes out, as the errata process looks to be a little larger then your average preview edition.

    Anyway, I am aware from reading the forums and reviews and such that the last chapter in the book is a sample adventure for True Black Hand PC's.

    This got me thinking a bit. Info on the True Black Hand prior to this book basically came from Dirty Secrets, which lets face it is not everyone favorite book. I know that in revised edition the Vampire the Masquerade Storytellers Companion had some advice on how to deal with the sect blowing up. Apart from those two sources I'm not aware of any other book that went into any detail about them prior to the new Guide book.

    I came to Vampire during the Revised era, so the first time I read Dirty Secrets it was a bit of a shock to my system. That's not to say I hated it, I liked bits and used them (Nagaraja anyone!) and ignored the hell out of the rest of the book.

    Since first running into the Tal'Mahe'Ra I've played in a fair few Masquerade games. In some they were not present at all, in others they where in the background and in a few they had a notable presence in the plots we ran into. Yet as both a player and ST I always viewed them as NPC material. I never really thought that they were really conductive to PC stories in Vampire.

    This is to say that I felt and do still feel that Masquerade is at its best when it focuses on personal stories of the PC's and those NPC's they interact with in a meaningful way. Larger wheels-within-wheels plots are a must too, but as a way to contrast the internal vs external battles Kindred have to deal with.

    The Tal'Mahe'Ra always struck me as just a little to epic and a little to over-the-top and a little too well...odd for that. I felt that a Tal'Mahe'Ra game would be a great epic adventure across several dimensions fighting foes that would not be out of place in a Lovecraft story. Which is fine, hell its even fun, but it never gelled with my idea of a Vampire game. It felt like a fantastic game for a sorta uber-WoD storyline of different splats dealing with a larger problem, but while that is great I also felt it watered down Masquerades core focus (at least as I see it) a bit too much.

    So my question is this:

    Has anyone played in or Storytold a Tal'Mahe'Ra game/campaign?

    Follow up questions for those that have:

    How well do they feel it kept a focus on Masquerades themes?
    Did it feel like a Vampire game or did it feel like a crossover game?
    Did you feel it was more challenging to play in or run such a game then a similar length campaign in a more tradition Camarilla or Sabbat game?
    What unique aspects did the fact it was a Tal'Mahe'Ra game bring to the campaign?
    How crazy did it all get?

    Also as a side question for those that have had the True Black Hand as NPC's in their games:

    How did you use the Hand in your game?

    Where they:
    Unsung heroes?
    The true face of evil?
    Wacky cultists?
    The only people who new the truth in setting?
    All the above?

    Thanks in advance to anyone to takes the time to answer these questions for me.


    "There is no God in the Badlands." - Sunny


  • #2
    I honestly like them best as a ghost story, something the dead tell themselves is out there and scarier than they are. The fear of an ancient elder conspiracy is more effective than an actual ancient elder conspiracy.


    Remi. she/her. game designer.

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    • #3
      One of the main campaigns I played in 20 years ago was a Black Hand game. It didn't have much of the dimension-hopping stuff though, it was mainly centered around the covert takeover of one European metropolis with a couple of Indiana Jones-style side jaunts, and could have played out much the same for a conspiracy among a handful of elders belonging to any Gehenna cult. (Just with a few more scenes reminiscent of Carpenter's The Thing than usual.)

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      • #4
        The game we used, on-and-off, for the past two decades involved PCs (and NPCs, of course) of 5th to 10th generation across eras dating back to pre-3,000BCE (the oldest was a Brujah-variant of 5th generation who was embraced circa 3,200 BCE, before the fall of the Second City; needless to say, his perspective on things was less-than-subtle in certain regards...). We've ran/played it as showing how millennia-old vampires slowly/gradually find themselves in the situation where things such as the Camarilla, Sabbat, Inconnu and (for our characters) the Tal'Mahe'Ra come to be "things" in their unlives. The real trick, as it were, to understanding/playing a Tal' chronicle is not just the base-line, "DnD-esque" aspects of "fight the other-worldly Things and keep the world on a guided path" -- which is fine, relative to that context -- but rather really *getting* that said groups (as they all essentially come after the Tal') aren't the "graph-paper-delineated" things that some (many) (mis)perceive them to be, but rather are much more loose and variable from city-to-city and especially country-to-country. Our Tal' characters (some of whom, in terms of Real Life(tm) played years, have been "members", as such, for many centuries with nary a clue as to what, exactly, it is that they are a part of) have seen a great deal of shit go down, particularly over the past thousand years (we don't always play things in chronological order, and fill-in events from centuries or millennia ago as part of the ongoing narratives, not unlike how some long-running TV shows provide character history for "x" but 5 or 10+ seasons into a show -- it's understood that "x" must have always been that way, but it wasn't "known" to the viewers until {blank} episodes aired, so to speak) and even more for those who are millennia old. Two of them have tangential "memberships" in three or more sects/groups at once, including one who has managed to maintain a subtle presence in both the Tal' *and* the Inconnu... no mean feat given the justified paranoia both groups have.

        That isn't to say that a given Tal' group can't be played as simply a "higher stakes" Cam/Sab/Anarch/what-have-you game -- it certainly can be, and rightly so -- but doing so overlooks and negates a fundamental aspect that is at the heart of the Tal' as a group/setting: almost all of them have been around for at least several centuries, and a small number for millennia (depending on your table's take on the fluff in the book). They, as a group, are the proper progenitors of "The Long Game", contextual to having a "sect" of vampires working on doing "x" together (exploring the various Umbrae, learning more about the undead condition, subtly guiding the world/politics to a given agenda, etc. and et al...). Before them, it was really just the Antis doing their own thing with their own personal agendas, but not acting in-concert with other vampires, proper, since the Fall of the Second City. That's some heavy shit when taken in the proper context.






        I have been around here for waaaayyyy too fucking long...

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        • #5
          Has anyone played in or Storytold a Tal'Mahe'Ra game/campaign?

          I play a Tal'Mahe'Ra vampire in my current campaign. It's a fun contrast to have him as the Noddist Path follower in a group which is predominately atheist secular high humanity vampires. They think of him as something of a kook but also their biggest expert on Kindred society. He's also 200 years old while they tend to be newly embraced but ridiculously powerful prodigies.

          The PCs have ended up doing work for the Tal'Mahe'Ra on occasions but I emphasize they're not to be trusted when the ST uses my character as the PCs' contact. I've also played a couple of other short Black Hand games which have been good and terribad.

          How well do they feel it kept a focus on Masquerades themes?

          I use the Tal'Mahe'Ra as an opportunity to explore the themes of inhumanity without EVILtm. I use the Sabbat to emphasize the causal cruelty, corruption, and evil of the vampire lifestyle. However, the Tal'Mahe'Ra is not so much the True Hand as the True SabbatTM. They're pretty much the actual Kindred who have transcended their humanity, know ancient secrets of the Kindred, and are the Chosen of Caine. They're a promise and a warning that there's more out there than just the Camarilla or Inconnu. They are guardians of humanity but in the context of shepherds guarding sheep rather than actual protectors.

          I use them as sort of an Illuminati figure in terms of Camarilla legends, that theirs this ancient sect of weirdo religious cultists controlling everything: manipulators among the manipulators.

          Did it feel like a Vampire game or did it feel like a crossover game?

          It's definitely a vampire game even though mages are members of the True hand in my games (predominately Euthantos).

          Did you feel it was more challenging to play in or run such a game then a similar length campaign in a more tradition Camarilla or Sabbat game?

          In general, I think Beckett and Hesha are great examples of how to run True Hand Elders as well as potentially things like the Transylvania or Giovanni Chronicles. They're great for globe trotting adventures involving Kindred mythology. For city-based games, they're best for being a secretive organization which doesn't impact their lives 90% of the time but 10% of the time have, "There's an Ancient Methusaleh in the sewers. Contact him."

          What unique aspects did the fact it was a Tal'Mahe'Ra game bring to the campaign?

          It really does a great job of bringing Cainite lore to games which would normally treat it like an urban legend among Kindred. It's basically like you start as a vampire and then you find out there's a vampire Illuminati and oh, yes, they actually know about Vampire Jesus and the Apocalypse as a fact. They're a great opportunity to bring the weird, arcane, and creepy to events.

          Above all, even to its members, the True Hand is MYSTERIOUS.

          How crazy did it all get?

          In general, I don't really talk about Soul Eaters but just have the True Hand hunting demon worshipers among the undead. They fight the Baali and other monsters but generally have bigger things to worry about than personal crusades. I also don't include the True Brujah or abominations. I do make their upper ranks have many Revenant mages, though.

          Also as a side question for those that have had the True Black Hand as NPC's in their games:

          Kay.

          How did you use the Hand in your game?

          In a non-True Hand game, I had the PCs have a contact among the True Hand in the cities' Sheriff. He was constantly stirring up shit between the Anarchs and the Prince as if he was playing them off against each other (he was) and had a lot more occult knowledge than a Brujah really should have had. Eventually, he offered to help the PCs assassinate the Prince before dropping his identity and leaving them a copy of the Book of Nod.

          Leaving them wondering "Who the hell was that guy? What was his goal? Why did he help us?"

          Where they:
          Unsung heroes?
          The true face of evil?
          Wacky cultists?
          The only people who new the truth in setting?
          All the above?


          The vampire League of Shadows. It's such a shitty world, though, Ra's Al Ghul may be better than the alternative.

          Fun fact: In the games I ST, the True Hand are right about 90% of their lore but missed the WORST of it. The Aralu aren't meant to be served, they're meant to be GUARDED AGAINST. Caine hates the Antedeluvians.

          Thanks in advance to anyone to takes the time to answer these questions for me.

          You're welcome.

          Here's a scene I did where the PCs join the True Hand in my games.

          http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/g...-the-true-hand


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

          Forum Terms of Use
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          • #6
            I've quite enjoyed using the TmR in games. They can be anything from a sect that has all the answers to a bunch of delusional elders and their pawns. I tend to make them about as right as any group, in that they may have landed on a kernel of truth here or there, but they aren't objectively right. Furthermore, I have many of the rational members aware that this might be the case, and have them use the sect as a means to an end (vampires are selfish, after all).

            Cautiously accepting the Order of Moloch into the sect's ranks to track down infernalists, for example, is probably a good thing. Believing that the Aralu are Antediluvians is probably misguided, but protecting Enoch might be a worthy cause because of the information stored there (e.g., the Guarded Rubrics) that would otherwise be lost.

            And Inauhaten obviously has a plan and was probably tasked with guarding the Aralu for reasons that will turn out to be entirely at odds with those of the True Black Hand.

            In the Revised metaplot, it was strongly suggested that the Aralu were the Ministers of Hunter. An answer that doesn't rely on the Reckoning metaplot might include powerful beings important to the mummies, such as Isis, Osiris and Horus; or to bane mummies, such as Apophis, or even Set, the founder of the Tal'mahe'Ra's most hated clan.

            Or maybe Inauhaten is something else -- the V20 book suggested he could be a demon, fae or even mighty wraith. One option given in that book is that the Aralu are the three Baali founders, but they could also be demons of great repute, the offspring of Lilith, the things the Baali call Children, or even a Malfean or three.

            All of those possibilities allow for slightly different ways of handling the Tal'mahe'Ra. They might be getting played, or guarding things that cannot be disturbed, or making way for the will of Caine in judging all vampires.

            Meanwhile, most members of the sect will just be getting on with neverending onion layers of infiltration and spying -- perhaps even just for the sake of it.


            Writer, publisher, performer
            Mostly he/his, sometimes she/her IRL https://adam-lowe.com

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            • #7
              I like the various bloodlines but anything beyond -secretive cult with a bit too much political influence- is not really on the table. Actually setting up a base in enoch seems more like a joke.


              Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
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              • #8
                em, but while that is great I also felt it watered down Masquerades core focus (at least as I see it) a bit too much.

                So my question is this:

                Has anyone played in or Storytold a Tal'Mahe'Ra game/campaign?

                No we haven't in our game and view them as a rumored collection of ancient scary monsters that elders like to use as a reason to accept there leadership over some strange unknowable monsters.

                Indeed we treat the Inconnu in the same light in our game. Our kindred are not sure if they exist at all and are used as an excuse of half crazed paraniod elders & ancients when there plans go awry and can't acknowledge that maybe they made some careless mistakes or didn't account for x-factors that could crop up.


                What in the name of Set is going on here?

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