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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
 
€29,52
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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2024 14:29:14

From monsters to characters and back again - a Mephisto review

Sabbat: The Black Hand

If there is one sourcebook for Vampire V5 that is at best controversial in current discussions, it is Sabbat: The Black Hand. As with other books and concepts in the fifth edition, this sect is significantly changed regarding systems and background. In some respects, the game returns to its beginnings. If you look at how the Sabbat as one of the major sects in Vampire: The Masquerade has developed over the editions since the beginning, you can see that the sect has been slightly reinterpreted with each edition.

In the first edition, the Sabbat or the Black Hand was only touched on as a horror story to scare player characters, where you learn little more than that Sabbat vampires are evil and dangerous. The second edition of Vampire went a significant step further in this respect, with the Player's Guide to the Sabbat not only introducing this sect, but also making it playable. By the third edition, at the latest, Sabbat vampires were integrated into the setting on an equal footing with Camarilla vampires. The background of the Sabbat was expanded further and further, becoming more and more complex with concepts such as the Black Hand sub-sect, which then became entangled with entirely different power groups and metaplot intrigues. As in the first edition, for Vampire V5, the term Black Hand became again just an alternative name for the Sabbat and no longer a sub-sect in its own right.

But back to the current edition: A lot has happened in the Vampire V5 timeline lately. Thanks to the Beckoning, the elder vampires are moving to other places, apparently to take part in the Gehenna War. This development has also affected the Sabbat. In addition, the Lasombra clan has surprisingly left the sect and joined the Camarilla, at least as far as the influential members are concerned. As a result of these changes, the Sabbat has lost many of its domains, and indeed, most of the sect's vampires are drawn to the sites of the Gehenna War. While the Sabbat once had organized cities under its control, these domains now serve at best as temporary bases to find resources, especially new vampires and food. Cities that are permanently controlled by the Sabbat are practically non-existent, as the sect's vampires are constantly on the move.

The mentality and organization of the Sabbat are also redefined in this book. While the earlier version of the Sabbat still had complex hierarchical structures from the Regent down to individual packs, in the new edition, the pack (the counterpart to the coterie), is the only relevant form of organization. The Sabbat therefore operates in groups of a few vampires who work together, led by the so-called Priest. Here, too, there is a simplification in that the dual role of leadership within the pack has been reduced to one person. As the Pack Priest is now also the leader, all packs focus on a common path of revelation (see below).

Although formal titles such as Bishop and Archbishop still exist, and even the Regent is still mentioned as a title, these positions are vaguely outlined and, in some cases, not filled at all. Another innovation is the importance the book places on the paths of enlightenment. Since the actions of Sabbat vampires cannot be reconciled with humanity, the paths, as inhuman moral codes, are supposed to keep the beast in check for Sabbat vampires. While the paths have always been an important aspect of the rules for Sabbat vampires, their significance will be further adjusted for Vampire V5.

The existing paths are reduced to significantly fewer options, and a path that is popular among the thin-blooded is newly introduced. A significant change is, however, that within packs, all members generally follow a common path that influences their actions. While the Cathari are hedonistic seducers, the followers of the Path of Caine appear as diableristic lone wolves. In fact, the paths, and therefore the vampires that follow them, are described in a much more inhuman way, so you get the feeling that these vampires can barely interact with humans. This is toned down a little in the later chapters. For each path, it is indicated how it behaves in encounters with player characters, i.e., how the corresponding packs of the path behave during preparatory scouting, during a full siege, or when dominating a domain. There are also several profiles for characters.

What is also special is that Sabbat vampires define themselves almost exclusively by their path, and clans play no role in the Sabbat, as belonging to a clan represents a connection to the hated Antediluvians. In fact, the Sabbat's main mission is to destroy the treacherous Antediluvians to gain the favor of Caine, whom they see as the perfect vampire. Sabbat: The Black Hand devotes a lot of space to the question of how Sabbat vampires think and how they differ from regular vampires in that they are much more inhuman. My impression is that the book not only tries to bring these aspects closer to the reader by repeating them over and over again, but also likes to use the same formulations and images, such as the comparison to sharks. 

Sabbat: The Black Hand is clearly designed as a game master resource. This means that the new version of the book in no way envisages players taking on the role of Sabbat vampires, but clearly makes them non-player characters. Accordingly, while the paths are described in terms of their ideas and alignments, they are not backed up with rule mechanics to replace the regular system of humanity.

The only rule material is some additions to the discipline powers, which, depending on their disposition, might also be suitable for Camarilla or Anarch vampires, but on the other hand, often use dark powers that would endanger the humanity of the player characters accordingly. The new discipline powers only take up eight pages of the book. This is followed by the so-called Ritae, which were already present in previous editions of the book. These rites describe the various practices of the Sabbat, from the Vaulderie, i.e., the communal blood blond of a pack, to the creation rites and the like. These sections also contain a brief hint on how to incorporate these rites into your chronicle, but do not include any rule mechanisms. The player characters should either only witness these rites or have to deal with their effects. This means that the rites provide interesting descriptions but have an entirely different significance than they had in the days when player characters could play Sabbat vampires. The various titles of the sect are also touched on, and some illustrious personalities are mentioned in very short sections, whereby at least some signature characters of the earlier editions are mentioned here. 

It is not until late in the book that it finally turns to the Gehenna War, and it is only at this point in the book that the history of the Sabbat's origins and some of its background are explained. The book also takes a look at several regions, such as Mexico City, Brazil, Russia, the Maghreb states, and Alamut in the form of in-game texts. However, these descriptions are presented in such a way that, at best, they convey a mood but, in no case, any concrete information. Anyone hoping for answers about the Gehenna War will learn nothing essential. 

There is a storyteller chapter at the end, where various elements are described for incorporating the Sabbat into a chronicle, be it as a siege or as an infiltration of the sect. In addition, some narrative techniques are explained, as well as some approaches to combining the Sabbat with the Second Inquisition, for example. These different techniques and elements provide a few more ideas for incorporating the Sabbat into the game. Again, I felt the book was a little inconsistent, as in many places, Sabbat vampires are described as not being able to really interact with vampires or humans at all. However, the scenario in which Sabbat vampires infiltrate the city and try to convert other vampires to their cause is, in my view, a much more fitting approach for Vampire than the combat-oriented sieges. 

That the Sabbat sourcebook will divide opinion is probably an understatement. On the one hand, the book chooses an interesting way to simplify the sect and consistently develop it further. The new Sabbat bears much less resemblance to the Camarilla. The more nomadic packs that only occasionally take over cities and devote all their attention to the Gehenna War fit the Sabbat's alignment, even if this transformation comes relatively suddenly and is not really described or explained in detail. Nevertheless, the whole background of these vampires facing off against the Antediluvians, whom they see as a dangerous threat, is quite coherent.

On the other hand, players will be put off by the fact that, after many years in which Sabbat vampires were a game option, this possibility has been censored out because Sabbat vampires are suddenly too strange or dark for players. Of course, Sabbat campaigns have always run the risk of degenerating into violent splatter orgies. However, the third edition sourcebooks in particular have shown perspectives on playing the Sabbat as an exciting, intriguing, and dangerous sect. And indeed, the concept of the Sabbat vampires facing off against the overpowering ancestors and Antediluvians is also a coherent option for player vampires. On the other hand, it can, of course, be argued that the Sabbat vampires here (as in the first edition) should appear as mysterious opponents who are not available to players in order to create a counterpoint.

Of course, this means that the usual information on clans, disciplines, etc. falls by the wayside, as this is not a playable option. So anyone hoping for the so-called anti-clans and their disciplines will be disappointed. In fact, clans no longer play a role in the Sabbat, which is a very intriguing approach and a plausible interpretation of this sect. While I think that those who really want to play Sabbat vampires should be able to find their own way from the existing material or, if need be, resort to alternative supplements in the Storyteller's Vault, this limitation is still what did not convince me about the book. While there is a strong attempt to emphasize the perspective and strangeness of the Sabbat vampires, the book often remains extremely vague otherwise. Neither the development that led to the disappearance of the Lasombra and the complete reorganization of this sect is described, nor do we really learn anything concrete about the Gehenna War. Of course, it can be argued that this keeps secrets for which each Storyteller can find their own truth, but this leaves the material vague at best and could have been summarized even shorter than the 130 pages. I could have done without dozens of example profiles for Sabbat vampires, for example. 

In short, I think Sabbat: The Black Hand offers some very exciting approaches. The new Sabbat stands out because it is clearly different from the Camarilla and the Anarch sects, and thus provides a consistent alternative. However, I find it lacking in usable material for the chronicle, and the fact that the Sabbat is primarily dedicated to the hotspots of the Gehenna War and otherwise only gives minor and short-term importance to Anarch and Camarilla cities makes it much more irrelevant as a threat. Sabbat: The Black Hand thus offers a few interesting ideas, but often remains too vague and is therefore not an essential sourcebook. Players hoping for a playable sect or expecting further metaplot elements similar to Cult of the Blood Gods to appear will definitely not enjoy this new form of sect. In the end, the book remains dispensable in my view and only relevant for a few gaming groups.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
by Erin R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2022 23:38:32

i honestly dont normally bother to post reviews but this is just SO disappointing a product.

Yes the page count is low and the price is high, but I could overlook those faults were the content not so vapid and uninspired. This book is simply... lazy. Given the evolution of the setting I was genuinely excited about this book as it seemed to me that a Sabbat verging somewhere between extremism (even for the Sabbat) and collapse was ripe for some amazing storytelling fodder. The content of the book comes nowhere even close to meeting this potential and reads with all the thought of a 6th grade book report hastily thrown together the night before the assignment was due based on fast forwarding through a B movie knock-off.

Dont waste your money. Any idea you come up with yourself is going to be better. Invest the money in some good coffee and snacks to fuel a few good hours to sketch out your own vision of the Sabbat.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
by John M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/18/2022 20:56:59

Honestly, unless you're completely new to Vampire: the Masquerade, and only then if you're wanting to be a Storyteller, and only then if you really feel the urge to include the Sabbat directly, there's no reason that anyone should buy this book over any of the other previously published Vampire: The Masquerade Sabbat books instead and just operate under the knowledge that "Gehenna War is going on, lots of Sabbat went to that" because that's more or less what this book amounts to in around 140 pages. The PDF has a disturbingly high number of misspellings and grammatical errors, and while I realize this book isn't intended to present any of the antitribu as PCs, it does a piss-poor job of presenting any real SPCs involved with the sect whatsoever, save for in brief passing. If this is the quality that we can expect from Renegade, which I'd been leery of when they took over for Modiphius, maybe Paradox should just give the license to Onyx Path instead, because they've had the best handle on the material thus far in the whole line's run. This was a waste of cash and probably the last of the V5 titles I buy, and I've bought all the hardbacks. How disappointing.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Sabbat: The Black Hand (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
by Landon B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/07/2022 09:28:54

While I think the price of the book is too high, I'm giving this book 1 star mainly because its a watermarked PDF. I've been trying to go through the V5 books and consolidate all the necessary information for my table into one file, but because this PDF is watermarked then I'm unable to copy and paste from the document unless I have the password. None of the other PDF's have a password restriction. The cost might be too high, but I enjoy the new powers my group gets to use at the table, the antagonist stat blocks and some of the lore. Unfortunately I'm going to have to commit alot of time to re-typing all the information I need for my table. You can absolutely avoid buying this book: paths can be recreated using convictions, no mechanically different bloodlines are added, storytellers are going to create the stat blocks they need anyway and lore can always be shifted based on the table.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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