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[OSSR]Player's Guide to the Sabbat (2E) [VTM]
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11276

PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:47 am    Post subject: [OSSR]Player's Guide to the Sabbat (2E) [VTM] Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
A Sourcebook for VAMPIRE: The Masquerade™


Not to be confused with “Guide to the Sabbat” which is a different book that came out 4 years later because go fuck yourself.


Despite the scandalously similar title, this is a completely different book that is part of a two book box set that... never mind. Fuck it. We'll do it live!

Our musical accompaniment will be Anarchy in the U.K.. Because that's literally the first quote in the book.

AncientH:

Longes, your request for an OSSR was cowardly and unmanly, but I've been stalled on Space Madness! and Frank was down for a tag-team, so let's do this thing.

Before Clanbook Baali or Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, there was the Player's Guide to the Sabbat. I brought it up during the Guide to the Technocracy OSSR because this is pretty much where White Wolf...I won't say jumped the shark, but where they began to deliberately make their villains accessible as player character options. This has always been a bit tricky in any game, both mechanically (since villains often have unique powers and advantages to compete with PCs) and storywise (since you have to make these former NPCs playable they can't all be rapemonsters - at least, not until Exalted: the Lunars came out). Not to mention that as soon as you make the old villains "goodish," you now need new villains.



FrankT:

White Wolf had a tendency to reprint things whenever and wherever they felt like. Sometimes they gave them new item numbers or changed the covers or publication dates. This sort of behavior made it especially annoying when they also printed wholly different books with virtually identical names, like the various books called Mummy, or in this case “Player's Guide to the Sabbat” and “Guide to the Sabbat.” And that's not even counting books which were changed radically between editions or the fact that edition numbering was always pretty dubious. To make things even more exciting, in 1997 they reprinted the Player's Guide to the Sabbat and the Storyteller's Guide to the Sabbat with the titles and covers switched. Like, you can get a book that is word for word the Storyteller's Guide to the Sabbat but says “Player's Guide to the Sabbat” on all the chapter headers. I think this happened because they wanted to reprint some books from a few years back and couldn't be fucked to read all the way through the printing proofs before sending that shit off to the printer. You'd think the opening line “Welcome to the Storyteller's Guide to the Sabbat.” would be a fucking clue that the printing proofs you were holding were not the Storyteller's Guide to the Sabbat, but whatever.

So the bottom line is that White Wolf reprinted the same book with different identification numbers, but sometimes also printed completely different books with the same name. And also they sometimes just printed off entire printings of books that were fucked up in incredibly amateurish ways. So if you were trying to collect White Wolf books in the 90s, it could be a very confusing time for you. There were straight up rumors of secret White Wolf books that had limited distributions and I'm not even sure those are all false. There are multiple competing White Wolf wikis, and none of them are actually complete. So if you told me that various books that were on release schedules never actually existed or conversely that there were books that got printed and never got an official release, I would totally believe you.

AncientH:

When Vampire: the Masquerade came out, the Sabbat were the bad guys of the setting. I mean yeah, there were the Van Helsing types that wanted to end your unnatural existence, and the werewolves would tear you a new asshole if you left the city limit, and eventually there was weird shit like faeries and mages and whatnot to deal with, but the main competition came in the form of other vampires. Which meant internal politics, and external politics, and old blood feuds and shit... and then you had the Sabbat. And these were supposed to be the guys that scared the rest. I mean yeah, the Giovanni were Mafia-style necromancers fucking their own grandmother's corpses, but the Sabbat were scary.


Welcome to Team Sabbat.

FrankT:

This book came out originally in 1992 and promises to provide you with the information you need to roleplay a member of the Sabbat. Right here in paragraph one we run headlong into the core problem this book is attempting to address: Why the fucking hell would you roleplay as a member of the Sabbat? How the fuck would that even work?

1992 was just a year after the original Vampire: the Masquerade™ came out, and before that the Sabbat were presented basically as just generic vampiric baddies. Originally they were presented with no particular ideology other than that they hated Camarilla vampires. They were an endless source of antagonists and owned most of the important cities in North America. Possibly to excuse White Wolf's desire to focus on cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and New Orleans and to completely ignore New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In any case, the line expanded very quickly, and while the original seven clans were all thematically rich and reasonably well thought out (though mechanically unbalanced), the additional clans were issued in a first-come-first-served manner. All of them are one-note ethnic stereotypes that are offensive and boring, but all six of them were named and written up within a year.

And let's be honest: in the original books the 7 clans got expanded with: Giovanni, Salubri, Ravnos, Settites, Assassmites, Lasombra, Samedi, Daughters of Cacophony, Children of Osiris, and Baali. Which is itself enough to cover 17 of the 13 clans. Retconning a bunch of those into being various bloodline offshoots of each other so that there would be 13 original clans was the work of years of tedious author and fan conflicts. It's important to remember that there really wasn't any editorial control at any level, so various authors and promoted fanboys and shit were just doing stuff, and presenting their various fan theories as canon. And not to put too fine a point on it, but most fan theories are shit. Like that bullshit theory that Jar Jar is a master Sith Lord or some shit.


Basically shit like this.

Going into this book the Lasombra and Tzimisce had been named, but not described, giving this book full license to write in whatever crazy shit they wanted. And they did! And by “they” I most just mean a guy named Steve, because this book only has one credited writer. But it does give special thanks to seventeen people other than family members for help on the project. So like... I dunno.

Quote:
Teeuwyn “Con Games” Woodruff, for her help on the Ravnos and her sordid suite at Sci-Con.


Teeuwyn Woodruff is of course the person who wrote World of Darkness: Gypsies, a book so racist and insensitive that it is frequently nominated for most uncomfortably racist RPG book in history. It doesn't win, but only because it turns out that the RaHoWa RPG happened. But it's certainly the most uncomfortably racist RPG book put out by a major game company. And that's including all the weird ass shit TSR and Games Workshop said about Pygmies. Getting her advice about how to handle the gratuitously racist Gypsy Vampires is like asking Dick Cheney how to handle state secrets.

AncientH:

I made a point in the GURPS: Vampire: the Masquerade that one of the important but least-discussed aspects of Vampire is that a large part of the entire game centered around catering to Christian taboos. The whole thing about being a vampire to begin with is that vampires are monsters, and the game goes on to emphasize that they are unholy, bloodsucking, cursed, blasphemous violations of the natural order. They dabble in sorcery, they're violent, they're possessed of monstrous appetites and toy with minds and sexual assault. The fact that some people started treating them as superheroes with fangs is a later development, the selling point of the game was basically "Hey...what if, like, it's D&D, but you're the monster?"

And it was sexy and cool and stylized and it worked. That's important to remember because even the basic concept of the game is already about flipping "evil" NPCs into "playable evil" PCs. So that means that they have to constantly set up new ways to be evil, new taboos for players to become aware of...and then breach. And the deeper and weirder it gets, the more acclimated they get to it, the less impact the original thrill gives. So at some point, just being a vampire wasn't enough; they needed something worse than regular vampires...and they came up with the Sabbat. Which is a lot like the Matrix sequels, in that involves more sex and leather and not much more thought.


Trick or...treat?

You have to remember, most RPGs don't go into complex philosophies about what constitutes evil. Frank touched on that in Book of Exalted Deeds OSSR, but Vampire didn't even do the Law/Chaos/Good/Evil moral axis thing...they wrote up a fucking hierarchy of sins using the Seven Deadly as the main guidelines. Keep that in mind: being human in a vampire context is not about being virtuous, and to make the Sabbat work as something scarier than the key players of the Camarilla, Steve would have to get...freaky.

FrankT:

The book opens with a disclaimer that anything and everything in the book may not be true. This may seem to somewhat violate the point of having a setting book in the first place. I mean, players are supposed to roleplay characters in the world, unreliable narrators are not helpful to shared world storytelling. If you roll the dice at the table, you do not get to say “I may have rolled six successes” and leave it at that. So it's kind of weird and insulting that the authors of these books felt that they could get away with this shit. This was sort of a White Wolf gimmick, and essentially started as their way of explaining why different books contradicted each other all the time. The actual reason being that they had seventeen plus fucking people writing away in various parts of the country and sending their drafts around in manilla envelopes and no central editorial oversight at all. So people were just writing whatever they felt like and could only incorporate ideas written up in books they'd already read, which wouldn't be out for months after they had been written. So when different books presented radically different versions of events or descriptions of characters and groups, White Wolf's policy was to say that they were various points of view. All this came to a head with Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, a book whose proposed storyline was so convoluted and out there that White Wolf eventually just fucking redacted the whole thing.



The Sabbat presented in this book does not resemble the Sabbat described in other books previously very much. And this book's explanation for that is that there are like different points of view, man. You gotta find your own truth!

This makes the book superficially not very useful for cooperative storytelling, and for a while it really wasn't. As time went on, the Sabbat descriptions in other books became more congruent with this one, and it became more of a valid reference as time went on. Simply put: other writers read this book and then incorporated elements from it into their own Sabbat writings and the result was that the gestalt Sabbat descriptions became more similar to this book as time went on. Which is not to say that everything in this book stayed canon. Good god no.

The How to Use This Book section basically just tells you that you aren't supposed to read it if your character isn't a member of the Sabbat. Which is the kind of thing that was extremely tone deaf even in the 80s, but it's not like shit like that isn't still getting written by pretentious douches, so whatever.

AncientH:

We need to dissect some of the text itself.

Quote:
The Sabbat appears to the outside world as a sect with no purpose other than diablerie and the spread of dissension among the youth of vampire society. Its members are seen as callous brutes who place no value on human or Kindred existence, and seem to love releasing the Beast during
frenzy. They are entrenched in the occult, carrying on bizarre and unspeakable rituals unseen by outsiders. They speak as if they were the true sons and daughters of Caine and continually try to convert Camarilla Kindred to their own wild ways.


So, let's run down the list: they have fun. They upset the status quo. They do stuff your parents elders tell you not to do. They literally seduce and corrupt the youth. They're described as "callous brutes" (not at all like the Brujah, no sir). They are "entrenched in the occult" (which is weird, when you remember the Tremere are on Team Good Vamps), and do stuff in secret (nothing at all like the Masquerade!) They question authority and the sacred truths handed down.

This is, basically, a PSA to try and get kids to do drugs. If this were written today it would probably start with six pages of introductory fiction where young vampire Mike ends up raped and staked and left out to be burnt by the sun, with his friends finding his ashes when night falls. The Christian/1950s Americana rhetoric has all the subtlety of a Chick tract.



Quote:
The mystery of the Sabbat has long fascinated younger Kindred of the Camarilla; indeed, some even join the Sabbat's ranks, never to be heard from a gain by their comrades in the Camarilla. The young Camarilla Kindred seem to be the focus of Sabbat attention and most rumors about the Sabbat begin among the anarchs.

They were still pushing the War of Ages at this point. The idea that your all-powerful Elders might be lying and manipulating you generally goes down well with a teenage audience. Hell, it goes down well with Millennials, and most of them are in their fucking 30s.

FrankT:

The core non-Vampire groups the introduction believes you care about are the Lupines, the Society of Leopold, the Arcanum psychics, and the Rosicrucian and Alli Allahis Mages. The World of Darkness was in a lot of flux back then, and most of those factions were sidelined as new books came out with new. Mage the Ascension hadn't actually been written yet, and the Mages described in this book don't look a fucking thing like the Mages from that fucking game.

AncientH:

They actually give a laundry list of rumors:

Quote:

* The Sabbat is controlled by Brujah elders. The Brujah clan is also believed to have deposed the Ventrue leader of the Camarilla. This allows the clan to pit the two opposing sects against one another while advancing its own secret schemes.

* The anarchs are in league with the Sabbat, acting as spies for them and as recruiters from within the enemy.

* The Sabbat has infiltrated both the Brujah and Toreador clans. The spies are gather ing information for a major assault on the Camarilla.

* The Sabbat has a pact of alliance with an order of wizards. This could be the reason the Tremere and Sabbat hate each other so much.

* The Sabbat is a tool of the Antediluvians, to be used as their great army at the time of Gehenna.

* The Sabbat was founded by Caine himself. It is the Camarilla that is controlled by the Antediluvians.

* Diablerie is the true goal of the Sabbat. The sect intends to eat its way through all the bloodlines of the Camarilla.

* Certain Sabbat vampires know a ritual that allows them to move freely in daylight for short periods of time.

* No member of the Sabbat can be Blood Bound. The sect uses special rituals to prevent the creation of Blood Bonds and to break existing Blood Bonds.

* The Sabbat is organized in a manner similar to the Tremere. There is a small group of elders to which all Sabbat must be Blood Bound.

* The Giovanni clan controls the Sabbat of Europe. While it does not control the Sabbat of North America, it is beginning to establish control within certain cities in the United States.

* The Black Hand is actually only a small group within the sect. Its members are the really vicious Sabbat vampires.

* Clans within the Sabbat are not recognized as distinct and do not hold clan gatherings. Sabbat vampires consider the sect first and their clans second.

* Sabbat rituals involve fire walking and other uses of fire. Some Sabbat vampires have even developed immunity to flames.

* There are Assamites within the Sabbat who are free from the curse of the Tremere. They are the assassins of elders, practicing their beliefs in diablerie for the benefit of the Sabbat.

* The Sabbat vampires have a secret language known by a few within the Camarilla.

* The Minions of Set secretly control the Sabbat.


These are basically written in the same voice of adventure seeds, the kind of shit you'd hear in the tavern at the start of the game. Many of them are deliberately contradictory (or just a disturbing laundry list that was ticked off while writing Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand), and highlights one of the issues that Vampire - and other games - has with big bads: trying to keep them Big and Bad and Mysterious. If they had done a better job of laying the groundwork, they could have built them up a bit better, like, say, Aztechnology/Aztlan in Shadowrun, or the Sith in Star Wars. Here...eh.

FrankT:

Six chapters and two appendices, but this is a short book from the early 90s, so we should mostly be able to do more than one chapter per post. Next stop: Inside the Sabbat.


I'm in ur base...

AncientH:



Keep in mind, the monster is always the person in the mirror. The thing about the Sabbat is that if the person writing/presenting this didn't think what what the Sabbat did was bad, then they wouldn't be the bad guys; and if what the Sabbat did wasn't desirable, no one would want to play them. So like Vampire itself, the pitch for the Sabbat has to make them both bad enough to be distinct from the Camarilla, and yet that badness to be something the players want to play. To a large extant, the pitch so far is: you became an immortal bloodsucking monster and escaped from your old life, forever damned by your family and religion...only to find yourself under the bootheels of a new group of Elders and a new mythology (which is a rider on your previous Southern Baptist upbringing). So maybe it's time to join a new gang...
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Last edited by Ancient History on Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:54 am; edited 2 times in total
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11276

PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
Chapter One: Inside the Sabbat


I think they meant inside the group rather than inside the individual members of the group.

Your musical accompaniment will be Leaders of Men by Joy Division because the book suggests that you listen to it.

AncientH:

Quote:
The Sabbat has very firm beliefs concerning all outsiders. Its members are known for their distinct separation of everyone into "them or us." To the Sabbat, all non-Sabbat are "them," regardless of whether "they" are vampires, Lupines, mortals or whatever. The Sabbat does have a few allies, but the sect cooperates only to a limited degree, and only when it is to the Sabbat's advantage.


Basically, this is the best way to be an asshole. Also, it's not hideously different from any other Vampire or supernatural groups. It would take a while for relations to get a little more muddled so that someone from group A could deal with someone from group B without attacking on sight.

It gets weirder the farther you go in: the basic premise is that the Antediluvians are real, and they're coming to eat us all. Which gives us gems like:

Quote:
What is truly unbelievable is how most other vampires outside the Sabbat do not even believe in the Antediluvians.


The sad part is it's not like the Camarilla drank the kool aid as much as the writers. I would have been cool if the Antediluvians had remained a legend, which would have added some fuel to the fire of the Sabbat as a medieval death cult. Then there's the Anarchs...

Quote:
The anarchs have been blinded by their elders' lies and thus see the Sabbat as a terrible evil that must be stopped. How stupid can they be? They do not even take the time to listen, so they refuse to learn the truth.

The anarchs see themselves as rebels. The Sabbat sees them for what they are - part of the establishment.


1) The Sabbat just admitted that they treat everyone that isn't Sabbat like shit, and 2) I think the Sabbat are vampire hipsters.

FrankT:

We open with the Sabbat perspective, and the Sabbat perspective is apparently complete fucking gibberish. The most important thing to do is to have all the younger vampires stop fighting each other and join up to fight the eldest vampires when they wake up in the upcoming Gehenna – this is why the Sabbat spend all their time fighting vampires who aren't members of the sect and refuse to have open dialogues with other vampires. That is obviously how you'd go about stopping an opponent you believe is working to keep younger vampires “disorganized and ignorant.” Now my eyes hurt from rolling too hard.

There's a box about how the Sabbat reject the Masquerade and “raise hell in the mortal world” and vampires in general and this sect in particular are still a secret because... um... they just are, OK?! You're not the boss of me! This premise is so hard to buy into that they made a piece of box text just to try to sell it, and I'm not buying. No White Wolf product has ever managed to explain how the Masquerade could continue to be a thing if there was a large sect of Vampires who openly flaunted it that has been around and doing that for hundreds of years. This was the first Sabbat book and probably it's main job was to explain how the Sabbat could exist in a way that was consistent with the game world previously described. And the most important conceit of the game world is that the general public is unaware that there are vampire conspiracies. That conceit is totally incompatible with there being vampires who raise hell and flaunt their vampirism as a regular thing who control entire cities. This book crashes and burns on page two of Chapter One.



AncientH:

The Sabbat's views on the various independent clans and other supernatural groups is weird even if you keep in mind that it's 2nd edition. For example, they don't think the Children of Osiris exist, that the Followers of Set are evil and must be destroyed, that the Giovanni aren't a big deal, the Ravnos are a powerful clan, the Tzimisce have an alliance with a group of Magi, and they're divided about the Assamites. No word on the Changelings, which is probably for the best. Really, the Sabbat's approach to the other vampire groups isn't very different to the Camarilla's perspective.

tl;dr: The Hentai Club is mortally opposed to the Anime Club.


Then we get to the pretension titles.

FrankT:

Early Vampire books all had lexicons. Later ones often did too. White Wolf authors thought they should make up a bunch of words.



Looking back at this, it's interesting to see which of these words actually entered use among Vampire players and subsequent authors. Like the original Vampire, many of these words never caught on and I had forgotten that anyone tried to make them be a thing.



So people referred to ranks of Sabbat members like Priest and Bishop (although I didn't remember there being multiple bishops in a city, that seems like dumb rank inflation), but I can't recall anyone ever talking about Ignoblis Ritae. While nothing is ever going to be as egregious as “Jyhad,” the crimes against English committed by this book are also quite risible. They want us to use the word “siege” to mean conquering a city rather than attacking a city – which is just not what that fucking word means and what the actual fuck?

AncientH:

The Catholic religious terminology applied to the Sabbat is just weird. I want to think they were going for a kind of Black Mass/mirror of the Catholic Church as an organizational principle; it kinda-sorta serves as a counterpart to the Camarilla use of the term "Prince" and the like, so you can have people talking about the Archbishop going against the Prince and you're not going to be confused about which faction is which, but honestly the approach to religion by the Sabbat is mostly lip-service. Like, technically they all take the Book of Nod literally, but you don't get the impression that the Sabbat actually pushes the religious angle heavily except with the terminology and the fervent hatred of the unbelievers. Like I said, all fucking Southern Baptists at heart.

That said, there is a sidebar on the titles:
Quote:
The Sabbat uses many titles derived from those of Catholic church officials. There are good reasons why the Sabbat chose those titles. First of all, the name of the sect itself shows its contempt for the Inquisition and the witch hunts. Also, some Sabbat vampires actually managed to create alternate identities as church officials to steer the Inquisition away from the Sabbat and point them toward the Camarilla. The titles were kept by many after the brunt of the Inquisition died. Other Sabbat vampires began to use the titles, and they eventually came to denote actual positions of leadership.

This would almost make sense if they actually worked out a backstory for the Sabbat that wasn't insane.

Also, this:
Quote:
Headhunter - A Sabbat vampire who collects the skulls of vampires he has destroyed.


Kindred collapse into ash when you kill them, dumbass!

FrankT:

The Sabbat is smaller than the Camarilla but has more different clans in it. The actual reason for this is obviously because the Sabbat was written later when more clans had been written up. Now a very good question to ask at this point would be “So what?” I mean, there was nothing written in the original Vampire book that suggested that you couldn't be a member of another clan and still be a member of the Camarilla. The unit of account was the Coterie (a group of vampires roughly the size of the group of players playing the game), not the clan. In fact, some of the core clans are defined by not caring about clan structure (Brujah, for example), and the only clan presented as even having clan leadership that a player character would be expected to listen to was the Tremere. So you'd think that White Wolf would have done up their expansion clans as “these are clans whose members only infrequently are seen in the ranks of the Camarilla outside certain regions in Africa or Europe” or whatever. But that is not what they did. Instead they wrote up all the expansion clans as dudes who were never in the Camarilla, despite the fact that that makes it very difficult to play the fucking game.

Anyway, written as it was after the first wave of explosive clan expansion had been done, the Player's Guide to the Sabbat promises a spot for almost every clan that had been so far written up. That's Lasombra, Tzimisce, Assasmite, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Panders, Ravnos, Serpents of the Light, Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue. That's 13, and they don't include Giovanni but do include Caitiffs as a clan. A bunch of those clans have “Antitribu” at the end of their name and that is fucking dumb and what the actual fuck?

This is the first formal attempt to reconcile all the shifting accounts of what clans exist and compile it all into a list you could actually play. Also Steve thinks that some of the basic clans aren't cool enough and gives the Sabbat version the option to take disciplines that he likes better. This all boils down to the fundamental issue that Vampires don't actually get enough powers in Vampire: the Masquerade and people were constantly trying to squeeze more blood from the stone. The main solution should have been to just give out more powers, and the Sabbat book agrees, giving every Sabbat vampire an extra dot to start with. Which isn't going near far enough, but is a step in the right direction.

Then it throws that good will down the toilet with its section “The Structure of the Sabbat.”
Player's Guide to the Sabbat wrote:
The Sabbat is not a very structured sect.




There is a rant about how titles don't have consistent meaning in different areas, which is probably a preemptive excuse for why the titles aren't used in any consistent way in this or future books. But it's fucking exhausting is what it is. The explanation for why they use ecclesiastical titles is pretty lacking. It's supposed to have something to do with having fought the inquisition a few hundred years back, but um.... what? I had remembered it as being because they started in pre-enlightenment Europe and they adopted church structure because that was the social system of the time. Because that is a totally reasonable and sufficient explanation. But it turns out that was a later retcon and the original explanation was much much stupider than that. In any case, there are equivalent ranks to all the various positions in Camarilla society because of course there are, plus a few more, and the end result is that the demographics of the Sabbat are completely fucked. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

AncientH:

The Sabbat basically has two clans: the Lasombra and the Tzimsce, and then a bunch of antitribu - i.e. Sabbat factions of the various established clans. This was more important before the game entered the Final Nights, and you can kinda see how a few vampires defecting from the Camarilla to the Sabbat could start up their own bloodlines just kind of naturally. And that is interesting, and could have been pursued further, but they don't do that.



Also, Steve cannot keep his goddamn terminology straight:

Quote:
Brujah Antitribu: The Brujah of the Sabbat are almost exactly like the Brujah outside the sect. While Brujah are considered rebels by the Camarilla, the Sabbat Brujah are part of the establishment. The Brujah antitribu hate the Camarilla more than any of the other clans, but try the hardest to convert anarchs to their side.

Yes...the anarchs that a couple pages ago you dissed as being part of the establishment. Which is it, Steve? Are the Sabbat the establishment or anti-establishment? This was, of course, before they came up with the True Brujah, because the Brujah antitribu weren't cool enough.

As much as the Sabbat claims to be different from the Camarilla, it really isn't for most practical purposes - all of the Sabbat clans are concerned about looking rebellious while basically following the same social structures and prejudices as the Camarilla clans. Members claim to be "inhuman," but they still paint others as "evil" which is really weird; it's like the serial killers, rapists, and cannibals refusing to associate with the necrophiles because that's a step too far.

Like Klingons, the Sabbat has a practice of settling political disputes with one-on-one combat. Which I generally approve of; it's stupid and it leads to some of your best people dying, while your top levels get choked full of whoever is best at hand-to-hand combat.



Then there are the Loyalists. These are sort of like the Soviets who actually believe in Communism, and would argue about things instead of following orders; the Loyalists believe in the ideals of the Sabbat (whatever those are) rather than blind loyalty to the regent/cardinals/archbishops/bishops/abbots/etc. Today, they'd be the Tea Party Sabbat.


Let's never forget that the Tea Party is full of racist assholes.

FrankT:

Quote:
The Sabbat has its share of assassins in addition to the Black Hand.


There are a lot of wheels within wheels in this book. It's not as insane as Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, but you can definitely see how that book got where it did. The core issue is that the vampire demographics described in the original Masquerade are unworkable garbage, and none of the later books really had the courage to walk that shit back. The presented vision was one in which the United Kingdom had more Members of Parliament than it had vampires. And that means that the whole idea of there being sects within sects and secret assassin units and other different assassin groups and regional leaders and councils of advisers and shit is completely insane. The West Midlands region has 28 MPs for Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, and surrounding villages combined. Assuming that's collectively the size of a Sabbat region, and we have an Archbishop and Bishops and Prisci and Palladins and Black Hand members and an Abbot a Regent and a Consistory Council and shit, there really isn't room on the force organization chart for anyone who isn't in upper management or elite strike forces. When you hold your Palla Grande there are only twenty people there and they are the folks you meet every other night, so the masks are pretty pointless.

Honestly, the demographics issue is the number one problem of Vampire in general – the numbers are way too small. But the Sabbat is worse about this than the Camarilla because they are supposed to be smaller and have more nomadic packs and neonates relatively speaking. So the demographic numbers were already impossible but they are being squeezed from both ends.

AncientH:

There is a Sabbat Inquisition.


No one expects the Sabbat Inquisition!

Nominally, this is an internal secret police to stamp out the Path of Evil Revelations, one of the new Paths of Enlightenment introduced in this book that is especially attractive to Diabolists. Because murderdeathkill is cool and fun, but the Sabbat draws a line at dealing with demons and (apparently?) diablerie. However, there's only 15 of them. Well, "only." In Sabbat demographics terms, that could be as many vampires as there are in most mid-sized cities.

Then we finally get a bit of Sabbat History.

Quote:
Long ago in Europe, a great panic erupted among the vampires. After centuries of relative peace between kine and Kindred, the ignorant peasants were ignited by the fire of the Inquisition to destroy all that they deemed
supernatural. The old vampires had grown complacent and proved to be no match for this new threat. Because most of the Methuselahs feared Final Death, they sacrificed their childer for their own survival. Due to the strength of the Blood Bond, there was little these young Kindred could do other than rush out and meet death head-on.


That would be cool if there was absolutely anything in any other product to back it up, but...yeah, not so much. Later products largely ignored this history.

FrankT:




OK, White Wolf history is always pretty WTF at the best of times. The Sabbat history is pretty messed up even by those low low standards. The basic concept is that the Inquisition was waging war on the supernatural so the Elder vampires sent younger vampires to die in battle with the inquisitors and then a bunch of Spanish younger vampires went around doing a children's crusade to die in battle against the Inquisition. But in a totally free and independent way and not at all exactly like being ordered to go fight the Inquisition by their Elders in the first place. And then the Elders got super pissed that these younger vampires were fighting the Inquisition because they wanted to instead of following their orders to go fight the Inquisition and.... what the fuck?!


Don't even try to figure out what this has to do with the actual historical Inquisition. As far as I can tell, White Wolf authors learned everything about the Inquisition from Monty Python sketches.

Anyway, this led to people figuring out a magic ritual to break blood bonds, and then there came the Anarch Revolt, which seems to have mostly been the Anarchs doing the things they had been ordered to do earlier, but now for Anarchy! And this really pissed the Elders off, and this escalated the conflict even higher and there were spies and betrayals and big battles and all kinds of other things that don't make a lick of sense considering how few vampires there actually are. A bunch of Elders got killed, mostly by Assamites and various vampires joined the Anarchs (not the Assamites) because of that. Anyway, elders from seven clans formed the Camarilla and went to war in earnest against the Anarchs (not the Assamites) and what the fucking hell?

Anyway, the Anarch revolt was put down and most of the Anarchs surrendered, but some of them didn't and formed the Sabbat to continue war with the Camarilla. And that's why tonight the Sabbat, the Camarilla and the Anarchs are three different groups that all hold territory. Wait, what? 200 years later, the Sabbat would decide that they needed an ethical framework and some rituals and an organizational system and stuff like that. And this part of this book's history didn't stay canon very long because the entire Dark Ages line decided that the paths of enlightenment predated the Camarilla instead of being a new innovation that came after hundreds of years of Camarilla-Sabbat conflict.

There were various squabbles inside the Sabbat over factional differences and I don't think any of this shit stayed canon for long either. I suspect this is because I'm already bored of reading the Sabbat history shit and I'm more patient than a typical White Wolf author and I'm actively trying to read this book. We are also told that the Camarilla controls the majority of North America despite the fact that it had previously been established that the Camarilla had been forced out of three of the largest North American cities (New York, LA, and Ciudad de Mexico) and had pretty much ceded the entirety of rural America to the dog fuckers. I know these guys really care a lot about Chicago and Atlanta, but by mileage or population the Camarilla is objectively getting its ass kicked, so all the other books claiming that today's flavor of the week is an underdog to the Camarilla in America has always been very weird.

Quote:
Austria
The Sabbat practically does not exist in Austria.

Austria is a postage stamp with the population of Dallas. Who fucking cares whether the Sabbat exist in Austria? Why does that get a headed paragraph? What the actual fuck? And then it goes on to say that there are a few packs of nomadic Sabbat members in Austria, which is very much the opposite of practically not existing because the entire vampire population of Austria is supposed to be like 75 vampires. So if there are at least two packs, that means that about 20% of the vampires are Sabbat members. I genuinely don't think the author understands that Vienna is about the size of San Antonio or Orlando.

Quote:
Scandinavia
The Sabbat of Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark are different from most other Sabbat. The sect is still strong in this region, but it makes no effort to increase its power except in Amsterdam.




Where to start? Is it that Luxembourg is on the French border and not by any possible stretch of the imagination in Scandinavia? Is it that Amsterdam is in Holland and not in any of the named countries? Is it that Finland, Estonia, and Iceland exist? Fuck. Start anywhere. Then look at a fucking map, like these clowns should have done while writing this piece of shit.

AncientH:

One thing that strikes me about re-reading this history after, oh, at least a decade is how simple it is. You'd really expect vampires to have a lot more factions - I mean, above and beyond the clan level, which is sort of a natural "unit" of vampire-dom insofar as you can trace back whom-sired-whom and have similar powers and weaknesses and shit. It would, eventually, get complicated as Dark Ages and 3rd edition came into their own, but it was still pretty much: Camarilla, Sabbat, Inconnu (who nobody cares about), and Anarchs (who nobody cares about). Also, large parts of the history just don't make sense with the presentation of the Sabbat so far:

Quote:
As soon as a leader claimed power, he was challenged by other power -hungry vampires. Soon factions began to develop and wage war on other Sabbat, both within their own territory and in other cities. The Black Hand was shortly the only element of the Sabbat to remain somewhat intact, though it had its own problems. The schisms made it that much easier for the Camarilla to gain control of many of the Sabbat-held cities. The internal conflict waged from the mid-1800s through the 1930s. Since that time, the Sabbat has become a little more structured, but is far from being organized or having a strict hierarchy.


Look, Klingon Promotion (mistakenly associated with Darwinism in the text) helps a lot with maintaining a fluid hierarchy on something resembling a meritocratic basis, but the older vampires probably hit harder and live longer so they rise to the top anyway; and the Sabbat's hierarchy seems just as fucking rigid as the Camarilla's. So this is less "descent into gangland style conflict" to "that's not what you said three pages ago." Then we get to the Sabbat Today, and back to nomenclature problems:

Quote:
The most important of all Sabbat activities is the subversion of Camarilla influence. The Sabbat was founded on the principle of rebellion and today the establishment is the Camarilla. The Camarilla controls the majority of North America and virtually all of Western Europe. Believing its mission to be a sacred one, the Sabbat has decided to reestablish its dominance on the North American continent.

Again...none of this has been established. The book goes back and forth between calling the Camarilla the Establishment and the Sabbat the Establishment. The "sacred mission" really hasn't been hammered out except for rabid xenophobia of anything that isn't Sabbat.

So basically, the Sabbat book contradicts itself at every fucking turn, and a lot of it just...doesn't make sense.

FrankT:


Quote:
If their Camarilla enemies protect themselves from mortals through the Masquerade, the Sabbat destroys the Masquerade.


Wait. What? How is the setting not destroyed at this point? That isn't some big future plan, that's just a thing the Sabbat do, in the progressive tense. The Masquerade gets destroyed, it's just a thing that happens sometimes. How the fuckity fuck sticks is there still a Masquerade fucking anywhere if that is a thing that happens?



I can't even evaluate the setting as described here, because the entire game is called Vampire: THE MASQUERADE™. If you tell me that actually the Masquerade has been a dead letter for hundreds of years and we're actually playing in True Blood or something more out-there than that because the great unmasking happened decades ago, what is there for me to hold onto?

This is like one of those surrealist discussions from the Simpsons where Bart or Homer just casually mentions that shit has been super weird for a long time and people just stare at them incredulously while they carry on earnestly and the scene moves on to another joke. But this is a fucking cooperative storytelling game, you can't do shit like that. The first rule of improv is “Yes, and...” not “No, actually you're wrong and also none of the shit you talked about happened because there was a vital historical change decades in the past that you failed to consider, and...”

AncientH:

The image of the Sabbat in the world is...piecemeal. This is because most of the World of Darkness hadn't been detailed yet, and wouldn't be for years. Some of the shit they do talk about is hilariously stupid. For example:

Quote:
The Sabbat has almost no power in the West Indies. Sabbat pirates have long patrolled the waters of the West Indies, but until recently the Sabbat has had no interest in acquiring territory in the area.



Pirates? In the 20th century?

Quote:
United Kingdom and Ireland
The Sabbat has been enjoying the state of confusion and dissent that has raped these magical lands of pride and unity among the Kindred. The Sabbat has sent a number of scouts to add fuel to the ever-spreading fire, but the sect as a whole is simply waiting to move in after the dust settles.


Raped? Really? On the other hand, if I had to make an Irish Sabbat vampire...


Jaysis.

Quote:
Rumor has it that this powerful vampire has sought to unite the power of the Mafia and the Lupines with the Sabbat of Italy. No proof has been given and those who claim to have some tend to vanish very quickly. Sabbat leaders in America wonder if Giangaleazzo is working toward the betterment of the Sabbat or scheming to increase his own personal control over Western Europe. It is known to most Sabbat leaders that Giangaleazzo does not get along well with the Sabbat of Germany.

World of Darkness: Mafia is a thing that would eventually happen. Not a good thing, but a thing.

Quote:
The Sabbat presence in Australia is small, numbering less than 40. The Australian Sabbat are unique in that they select only their mortal kin as new recruits.

...I got nothing, that's just hilariously sad. There must be about three Sabbat in New Zealand, claiming that they aren't like the cousin-fuckers in Australia.

Africa and Asia are just jokes, because they've been retconned all to hell and gone with Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom and Kindred of the East.

Now: Sabbat Ideology.


FrankT:

So many tone deaf things to hate on. We got the perplexing piece of box text about vampiric disease. I work with disease every day. I have no idea how a disease would work that infected undead people. The whole concept really doesn't work that well because if regular bacteria and shit could infect vampires they'd putrefy exactly like a regular corpse. If they aren't alive, they shouldn't be subject to viruses at all. And so on. But this book casually discusses the idea that a third of the Sabbat vampires died of some sort of blood borne illness in the last fifty years. Which would be fucking insane.

Anyway, the list of Sabbat allies has the headings “Wizards,” “Native American Shamanistic Societies,” and “Voodoo Cults.” These have exactly the level of cultural sensitivity that you'd expect from White Wolf. And yet... at least it's trying to be multiculturally inclusive.



And in the middle of a rant about how Sabbat vampires don't act human or interact with human society it casually mentions that they own corporations. Why would you own a corporation if you didn't care about the trappings of mortal society? It's literally just a legal entity recognized only within human law that entitles the people recognized by human society as its owners to have certain amounts of “money” which is unit of account in human society. If you're just going to wander around stabbing people and taking whatever you feel like, corporations don't even exist!

This book tries to sell me on the Sabbat vampires being post-human douche bags, but it can't even step outside the human condition enough to see that dollar bills have no meaning to sharks and bears.

AncientH:

One of the interesting ideas for the Sabbat in this book - and thus one which was immediately abandoned - is that vampiric existence is cyclical and that Gehenna is just the Kali Yuga. The elders rise and feed on the young, the strongest survive, and then they become the elders and the whole cycle goes on again. And the thing is, that could have worked as an alternative to the Caine mythos. They could have pursued something like in nWoD where blood potency gets so high that the Elders can only drink the blood of other vampires, and periodically the Elders rise up and feast, with their childer scrambling to survive. If that happened every couple hundred years it would work out well. But they abandoned the concept. Not Christian enough, maybe.

"The Holy Crusade" is the Sabbat's battle for...North America. Because presumably that's where the bulk of their audience lives, and they are willing to fight and die the final death over Peoria, Illinois. The description of Sabbat tactics...doesn't work. I mean, however good you think the Masquerade is, tactics like mass embrace of people into Kindred to throw a bunch of cold bodies against possible enemies is loud, noisy, and probably unworkable - if they outnumber your enemy, they also outnumber you.

The description of Sabbat scout operations is also weird to me. There aren't so many vampires roaming around that a new guy showing up at Elysium or a random body washing up drained of blood won't go unnoticed, and if they claim to be Camarilla vampires they'll be expected to know people and it's like one phone call away from verifying any information they give out. So Sabbat spies should have much better cover stories than what is discussed here, is what I'm saying.

Quote:
When hunting humans for blood or sport, Sabbat will not hesitate to kill their prey. They love to drink victims to death and will even drink them dry when they do not need any blood. However, they usually kill only in cities they do not control. They know killing on a regular basis in their own cities would lead to trouble.

...and when we talk about the Sabbat and the Masquerade, this is the shit we mean. Don't shit where you eat. Even wolves understand that.

The section ends with a brief mention of the Lasombra antitribu and the Old Clan Tzimisce. Because nobody gets out of here without taking a drink.


Are you a Sabbat spy?

Next up: Chapter 2: Running with the Sabbat
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Longes
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Kindred collapse into ash when you kill them, dumbass!


They actually don't. Everyone assumes that they do, but as far as I can tell, there is nothing anywhere that would support this idea. With the exception of VtM - Bloodlines.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
One of the interesting ideas for the Sabbat in this book - and thus one which was immediately abandoned - is that vampiric existence is cyclical and that Gehenna is just the Kali Yuga. The elders rise and feed on the young, the strongest survive, and then they become the elders and the whole cycle goes on again. And the thing is, that could have worked as an alternative to the Caine mythos. They could have pursued something like in nWoD where blood potency gets so high that the Elders can only drink the blood of other vampires, and periodically the Elders rise up and feast, with their childer scrambling to survive. If that happened every couple hundred years it would work out well. But they abandoned the concept. Not Christian enough, maybe.


This is funny, because Mage, or at least parts of it, ran with the whole Kali Yuga part pretty hard, and it would have been a nice thing to have present in portions of both games but I guess that would have required way too much coherency.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:

Kindred collapse into ash when you kill them, dumbass!


What if you carefully remove the skull while they're still alive undead and wait for them to grow a new one before killing them?

Quote:
Wait. What? How is the setting not destroyed at this point? That isn't some big future plan, that's just a thing the Sabbat do, in the progressive tense. The Masquerade gets destroyed, it's just a thing that happens sometimes. How the fuckity fuck sticks is there still a Masquerade fucking anywhere if that is a thing that happens?
'

A bullshit Path of Technomancy/Dominate combo discipline that lets you erase memories through the television set and some very overworked Men in Black?


Quote:
Lupines with the Sabbat of Italy


Is this written before or after Werewolf was a thing? Because I'd love to see a Vampire-Werewolf-Mafia alliance, but I don't think that's compatible with WtA.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

World of Darkness: Mafia was a thing. A very weird thing. A not very good thing. Worthy of its own OSSR.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Maybe not fully on-topic, but after reading the OSSR for this, Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Mummy, Promethean, Changeling, Black Hand, and numerous others, I have to ask, why was the fluff to this so popular? Not the crunch, which is generally awful, but is not the reason I've heard as to why people play WoD, which is supposedly the fluff. The issue is, reading these, the fluff sounds pretentious, self-contradictory, moronic, and stepping so far over the line that it crosses into funny, and then crosses back over into legitimately disturbing. There's a few bright spots and overall a decent concept, but the rest of it seems purpose-built to sink it the bottom of the sea. What was the appeal?
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talozin
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
Maybe not fully on-topic, but after reading the OSSR for this, Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Mummy, Promethean, Changeling, Black Hand, and numerous others, I have to ask, why was the fluff to this so popular? Not the crunch, which is generally awful, but is not the reason I've heard as to why people play WoD, which is supposedly the fluff. The issue is, reading these, the fluff sounds pretentious, self-contradictory, moronic, and stepping so far over the line that it crosses into funny, and then crosses back over into legitimately disturbing. There's a few bright spots and overall a decent concept, but the rest of it seems purpose-built to sink it the bottom of the sea. What was the appeal?


I think there's two things at work here:

It was kinda new and interesting at the time. 25 years later, all the White Wolf tropes have been done to death and undeath and back again a couple of times. But in the 1990s it was all sort of fresh and new to have a game line that dealt with this stuff in a way that was at least trying to be cool and grown-up about it and that frankly acknowledged that the material for a game could be sexy rather than spending all its time face-down over hex maps. Looking back, we can see that the idea of 'grown-up' involved is actually not very grown up at all, and is in fact pretty immature all things considered. But of course we have the benefit of hindsight now. Which leads me to the second thing:

It was marketed to the young and callow. All the gamers, and some of the hot goth chicks, I knew when when I was in college and then a young twentysomething were into White Wolf stuff back in the 90s. And all of us were, by and large, young and clueless and with very little experience of the world and desperately eager for gaming to be "cool" rather than something that gets you stuffed into a locker by the football team. It's like how, 25 years from now, people who graduated from college in 2016 are going to be super embarrassed by how they thought Harry Potter constituted a useful tool with which to examine adult life.
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, as I've said before ttrpgs are still very much a DIY hobby so a lot of the fluff and themes often ends up as a value added that runs parallel to your own games rather than something every group is really chained to. This leads to a situation where the quality standards are very low because MCs are the ones most likely to buy every book that comes out and MCs are often just magpies who loot books for inspiration and shiny bits rather than picky bastards who expect some degree of rigor. Oftentimes the people most irritated by a non-committal approach to canon and rigorous rules are the players since they're the ones who have agreed to live by someone else's whims and rulings, but again that only matters insofar that the players read enough shitty source books to notice the contradictions in the first place. Personally, I was often too busy sussing out how much I was allowed to ogle the young lady in the fishnet tank top to care that things would be super lame if we followed the rules closer.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

talozin wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:
Maybe not fully on-topic, but after reading the OSSR for this, Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Mummy, Promethean, Changeling, Black Hand, and numerous others, I have to ask, why was the fluff to this so popular? Not the crunch, which is generally awful, but is not the reason I've heard as to why people play WoD, which is supposedly the fluff. The issue is, reading these, the fluff sounds pretentious, self-contradictory, moronic, and stepping so far over the line that it crosses into funny, and then crosses back over into legitimately disturbing. There's a few bright spots and overall a decent concept, but the rest of it seems purpose-built to sink it the bottom of the sea. What was the appeal?


I think there's two things at work here:

It was kinda new and interesting at the time. 25 years later, all the White Wolf tropes have been done to death and undeath and back again a couple of times. But in the 1990s it was all sort of fresh and new to have a game line that dealt with this stuff in a way that was at least trying to be cool and grown-up about it and that frankly acknowledged that the material for a game could be sexy rather than spending all its time face-down over hex maps. Looking back, we can see that the idea of 'grown-up' involved is actually not very grown up at all, and is in fact pretty immature all things considered. But of course we have the benefit of hindsight now. Which leads me to the second thing:

It was marketed to the young and callow. All the gamers, and some of the hot goth chicks, I knew when when I was in college and then a young twentysomething were into White Wolf stuff back in the 90s. And all of us were, by and large, young and clueless and with very little experience of the world and desperately eager for gaming to be "cool" rather than something that gets you stuffed into a locker by the football team. It's like how, 25 years from now, people who graduated from college in 2016 are going to be super embarrassed by how they thought Harry Potter constituted a useful tool with which to examine adult life.


It probably is just an age thing and not being around at the time. I was born in '97, never read Rice or any of the similar gothic fiction, and my idea of a vampire is mostly based off the performances of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. Although even at the age this is supposed to be aimed at, this stuff still feels really overdone. It's trying way too hard, and I think a lot of the problems can be linked to that. Really, a lot of this stuff could make a terrific B-movie. Well, if you subtract stuff like Werewolf dog rape and Mage anti-vaccer stuff out.

Actually, as someone who never read Rice, how close does WoD follow her work anyway? Because the vampires in-game are certainly nothing like Dracula and the other 'classic' vampires.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:

Actually, as someone who never read Rice, how close does WoD follow her work anyway? Because the vampires in-game are certainly nothing like Dracula and the other 'classic' vampires.


Not very. Anne Rice doesn't have any clans, doesn't have any real concept of Generation beyond the vague notion that being vamped by someone awesome makes you awesome by extension, and doesn't really have any idea of large-scale vampire conspiracies like the Camarilla and the Sabbat.

The things Anne Rice did that WoD also did are basically:

1) Vampires are super hot and drinking blood and stuff is super sensual. You could argue that this goes back to Bram Stoker rather than Anne Rice and I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, but Rice took the sexy vampire thing and ran with it.

2) Being old makes you more awesome.

3) There is a single vampire ancestor who is super old and therefore super awesome, and one day s/he's going to wake up and fucking kill you.

WoD has the Toreador, who are the closest they get to being Anne Rice-y vampires, but even there the resemblance isn't all that great, because so much of what makes Anne Rice vampires is the mythology and backstory, and WoD tossed all that out the window.
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Overall it's way more Queen of the Damned than Dracula. Plus, an important thing to understand is that in the moment the whole goth scene was past its sell by date but nowhere near as dead as it is now. So while Vampire is super duper self-serious when taken at face value in context the theatricality and camp was often pretty obvious at the table because deep down most people already knew that Peter Murphy, Andrew Eldritch and Lydia Deetz were silly, silly people. Goth shit just has a super weird relationship with authenticity in general and the angsty stereotypes often came not from the people who inspired the aesthetic back in the late '70s and '80s but rather from grumpy teenagers who latched onto that stuff after the fact and weren't immediately in on the joke. The games could end up wildly different if you were playing with older theater kids in college instead of the high school Marilyn Manson set.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

talozin wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:

Actually, as someone who never read Rice, how close does WoD follow her work anyway? Because the vampires in-game are certainly nothing like Dracula and the other 'classic' vampires.


Not very. Anne Rice doesn't have any clans, doesn't have any real concept of Generation beyond the vague notion that being vamped by someone awesome makes you awesome by extension, and doesn't really have any idea of large-scale vampire conspiracies like the Camarilla and the Sabbat.

The things Anne Rice did that WoD also did are basically:

1) Vampires are super hot and drinking blood and stuff is super sensual. You could argue that this goes back to Bram Stoker rather than Anne Rice and I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, but Rice took the sexy vampire thing and ran with it.

2) Being old makes you more awesome.

3) There is a single vampire ancestor who is super old and therefore super awesome, and one day s/he's going to wake up and fucking kill you.

WoD has the Toreador, who are the closest they get to being Anne Rice-y vampires, but even there the resemblance isn't all that great, because so much of what makes Anne Rice vampires is the mythology and backstory, and WoD tossed all that out the window.


Well, at least it's a better interpretation than Twilight. I've never really gotten the thing with giving Vampire's high numbers of superpowers anyway, or where it came from. In the original story, Dracula was tough and powerful, but also got killed by three mortal, regular men armed with knives. Even movies featuring him or other vampires usually had him killed by two-three hunters using their wits. Or by gigantic flaming windmills. If only the Storymaster's pets of the WoD was given the same treatment.

I will say generations is a neat idea that at least makes sense. Blood gets diluted as it travels downstream, making vampires less powerful as it goes. Too bad Whitewolf didn't really seem to use that concept in their other books.

Whipstitch wrote:
Overall it's way more Queen of the Damned than Dracula. Plus, an important thing to understand is that in the moment the whole goth scene was past its sell by date but nowhere near as dead as it is now. So while Vampire is super duper self-serious when taken at face value in context the theatricality and camp was often pretty obvious at the table because deep down we already knew that Andrew Eldritch and Lydia Deetz were silly, silly people. Goth shit just has a super weird relationship with authenticity in general and the angsty stereotypes often came not from the people who inspired the aesthetic back in the late '70s and '80s but rather from grumpy teenagers who latched onto that stuff after the fact and weren't immediately in on the joke.


Okay, so this stuff wasn't taken that seriously even during it's heyday. I got the wrong impression, because the way the OSSR's discuss it and the people who took over later, it comes across as very full of itself.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I should emphasize that it really mattered what table you were at. I really do think most of the authors took themselves way too damn seriously and a lot of the fans really did as well, particularly the sort of people who still try to carry the torch today. But it was also hardly the only level that you could enjoy the game on. As someone who used to be in a group that routinely played while watching WCW Nitro it was super weird to find out just how seriously some other groups took it and I think the gameline is super duper doomed as long as it belongs exclusively to that sort of person.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In the original story Dracula could shapeshift into animals, hypnotise women, control weaver, control animals, teleport, was immune to attacks at night and could create illusions. It's not an understatement to say that Dracula would have 3-5 dots in every single Discipline in VtM.

Vampires get taken down because a hunter finds their lair during the day and jams the stake into a sleeping vampire. Not because hunter's kung fu is stronger than Dracula's.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Whipstitch wrote:
I should emphasize that it really mattered what table you were at. I really do think most of the authors took themselves way too damn seriously and a lot of the fans really did as well, particularly the sort of people who still try to carry the torch today. But it was also hardly the only level that you could enjoy the game on. As someone who used to be in a group that routinely played while watching WCW Nitro it was super weird to find out just how seriously some other groups took it and I think the gameline is super duper doomed as long as it belongs exclusively to that sort of person.


Well, if that is the case I get the feeling I would have appreciated WoD better if it had been done by people who weren't so serious. Or at least had gone a different direction. As is, my one experience was using a homeruled version of Mage for someones attempt to do a Fate:Stay Night. Fun game, horrible time trying to read that rulebook. Beneath the no. 1 most needed fix of good rules, and no. 2 of good fluff, no. 3 definitely needed to be formatting.

Longes wrote:
In the original story Dracula could shapeshift into animals, hypnotise women, control weaver, control animals, teleport, was immune to attacks at night and could create illusions. It's not an understatement to say that Dracula would have 3-5 dots in every single Discipline in VtM.

Vampires get taken down because a hunter finds their lair during the day and jams the stake into a sleeping vampire. Not because hunter's kung fu is stronger than Dracula's.


That is true. Maybe I'm letting memories of the movies mix with ones of the book a little too much. Even still, I don't think anything in White Wolf would have someone like Dracula get taken out by mortals, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, another quick question for ye olde sages of RPG history. i understand that in 1st edition the different lines did not really interact because they didn't know what was being made and what wasn't, but from what I understand, the same issue was there in later editions, so what reason was it then?

It's going to be mages turning vampires into lawnchairs isn't it?
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Longes
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
Even still, I don't think anything in White Wolf would have someone like Dracula get taken out by mortals, but please correct me if I'm wrong.


White Wolf NPCs are wearing so much plot armor that they look like a Mammoth tank from the side. The literal Dracula appears in Transylvania Chronicles and you get to see how awesome he is compared to you. Specifically, Dracula starts out as a mortal your party is tasked with escorting to a 4th generation Tzimisce (meaning one of the settings biggest badasses short of [Tzimisce] himself). Said Tzimisce wants to embrace Dracula. However, Dracula is so awesome that his blood kills the 4th generation vampire and Dracula rides off into sunrise proclaiming that he'll only be embraced on his own rules.

The next time you see Dracula, he is still a mortal, and has captured two 5th generation vampires, whom he forces to Embrace him and then diablerizes. And then within a century Dracula rakes up more skills and magic powers than your entire party combined. Your entire party which is a couple centuries older than Dracula.

Oh, and he also has the goddamn Soul Reaver. A literal blood and soul sucking sword.

It's all bullshit, all the way. With the exception of [Ventrue], not a single antediluvian has ever been killed. [Lasombra] merged with the Abyss. [Saulot] immediately booted [Tremere] out of [Tremere]'s body and took over clan Tremere. [Tzimisce] appears in the Transylvania Chronicles where he tricks the PCs into diablerizing a schmuck who was made to look like [Tzimisce]. White Wolf NPCs are better than you and the only people to beat them are other NPCs who are even more betterer than you.


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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Longes wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:
Even still, I don't think anything in White Wolf would have someone like Dracula get taken out by mortals, but please correct me if I'm wrong.


White Wolf NPCs are wearing so much plot armor that they look like a Mammoth tank from the side. The literal Dracula appears in Transylvania Chronicles and you get to see how awesome he is compared to you. Specifically, Dracula starts out as a mortal your party is tasked with escorting to a 4th generation Tzimisce (meaning one of the settings biggest badasses short of [Tzimisce] himself). Said Tzimisce wants to embrace Dracula. However, Dracula is so awesome that his blood kills the 4th generation vampire and Dracula rides off into sunrise proclaiming that he'll only be embraced on his own rules.

The next time you see Dracula, he is still a mortal, and has captured two 5th generation vampires, whom he forces to Embrace him and then diablerizes. And then within a century Dracula rakes up more skills and magic powers than your entire party combined. Your entire party which is a couple centuries older than Dracula.

Oh, and he also has the goddamn Soul Reaver. A literal blood and soul sucking sword.

It's all bullshit, all the way. With the exception of [Ventrue], not a single antediluvian has ever been killed. [Lasombra] merged with the Abyss. [Saulot] immediately booted [Tremere] out of [Tremere]'s body and took over clan Tremere. [Tzimisce] appears in the Transylvania Chronicles where he tricks the PCs into diablerizing a schmuck who was made to look like [Tzimisce]. White Wolf NPCs are better than you and the only people to beat them are other NPCs who are even more betterer than you.


Yeah, that is complete and utter BS. If it was anything like the supposed source material, there'd be a lot less of it. Never mind actually, there would probably be more BS so NPC's didn't go down to people with actual brains and knives.

In hypothetical, I'd love for it have been a possibility to just kill Dracula and steal his cool sword for yourself. Impale his head on a stake, give it to the Turks for a bounty, then ride off into the moonrise.

The issue that often comes up with these NPC's that designers don't seem to get at all is that if you want to preserve the character, you don't have to make it so that they are leagues beyond the players to do it, just assume they survived in cannon in whatever published material they are in if you want them to, and give suggestions in the next one for what to do if he's not available to show up in that adventure, and the same if a character who is supposed to be dead is alive. Leave the option for it open and give suggestions for the different paths. Obviously it can't cover everything, but it's better than what White Wolf does.

Although it does sound like WW goes a step beyond in ensuring that no one ever dies at all, which is just annoying for a game that has a supposed meta-plot. If they don't kill off more than characters invented just in that book, the WoD must be a very crowded world.
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Schleiermacher
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:

Although it does sound like WW goes a step beyond in ensuring that no one ever dies at all, which is just annoying for a game that has a supposed meta-plot. If they don't kill off more than characters invented just in that book, the WoD must be a very crowded world.


Some people do die, but yes, if you were to use all the canonical NPCs it would be very crowded indeed.

Although that's not such a bad thing because most of those NPCs will be wastes of space for any given game, so when you have a lot of them you at least have a lot of material to sift through for inspiration... which is basically how I approach Vampire.

It's not an RPG, it's a "build your own vampire RPG"-kit.


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talozin
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:

Also, another quick question for ye olde sages of RPG history. i understand that in 1st edition the different lines did not really interact because they didn't know what was being made and what wasn't, but from what I understand, the same issue was there in later editions, so what reason was it then?

It's going to be mages turning vampires into lawnchairs isn't it?


There actually is some interaction in later products, mostly Werewolf and Mage. One of the Werewolf supplements mentions a Sabbat Malkavian being on the board of Pentex, for instance.

Wraith never had much interaction with other game lines for fairly obvious reasons, although the Giovanni writeup for Vampire at least pays lip service to the different types of ghost that are written up in Wraith. Changeling didn't have much interaction because -- while it's a pretty horrifying game if you look closely -- it's superficially about pretending to be a magic knight who fights dragons with the help of Tinker Bell, and thematically speaking that doesn't really work with any of the other game lines. Like, at all.

But fundamentally the game lines don't really work together all that well, often for game balance reasons but almost as much for thematic reasons. I think that Werewolf and Vampire are probably the closest to being compatible, and that's probably why they had the most overlap -- but even then the cosmologies of the two games were so at odds that it was usually limited to "<guy from game line A> is a big bad for <setting for game line B>".

Quote:
Although it does sound like WW goes a step beyond in ensuring that no one ever dies at all, which is just annoying for a game that has a supposed meta-plot. If they don't kill off more than characters invented just in that book, the WoD must be a very crowded world.


Important NPCs do sometimes die in White Wolf, it's just that their death has nothing whatsoever to do with anything your players did. The first writeup of London had it under control of a super ancient Roman Ventrue, and then he gets diablerized by another NPC who becomes a big penis NPC in his own right.

The absolute nadir of White Wolfiness was reached in an "adventure" about taking a little girl to find Baba Yaga, in which the little girl turns out to be a brainwashed slave of the Nosferatu antedliuvian who kills Baba Yaga for not being blood bound to Nosferatu. And your role as players is basically to just stand there and watch the cutscene play out around you, because nothing you do ultimately has any effect on the outcome of the adventure.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So it's not as bad as I thought, it's worse. It's beyond idiotic that you pay money for a published adventure only for your character's actions to have no impact on what actually happens in the climax. You're not buying an adventure at that point, your buying a novella or a CYOA book (and not a good one). I could get the lack of impact in a CoC way where the forces you fight are so big an massive that you cannot think you could possibly affect the outcome, except that there player impact matters, and can even save the world and fight off these massive horrors, even if through Deus Ex Ritual. It sounds like WoD has arguably less player character impact and is darker and bleaker than Call of Cthulu.

As for the lack of crossover, that's a big missed opportunity. I can get that thematically they don't match-up, but crossover battles/team-ups/so on would at least make for interesting ideas or stories. I could see scenarios similar to Dracula vs Frankenstein or even Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
Maybe not fully on-topic, but after reading the OSSR for this, Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Mummy, Promethean, Changeling, Black Hand, and numerous others, I have to ask, why was the fluff to this so popular? Not the crunch, which is generally awful, but is not the reason I've heard as to why people play WoD, which is supposedly the fluff. The issue is, reading these, the fluff sounds pretentious, self-contradictory, moronic, and stepping so far over the line that it crosses into funny, and then crosses back over into legitimately disturbing. There's a few bright spots and overall a decent concept, but the rest of it seems purpose-built to sink it the bottom of the sea. What was the appeal?


Well, there's a couple of things here. WW hit its peak in the late 90s and then kinda coasted on that through the earlier 00s before finally collapsing and becoming a zombie company (though they were hardly alone as 4th Edition saw this happen to D&D in roughly the same timeframe).

First, the competition during this time period was weak. The biggest game was 2e AD&D, but TSR was going/actually bankrupt and the line was dead. There were relatively few other games with anything even resembling real markets: CoC, L5R, and GURPS are not and have never been juggernauts, but that's basically who WW was up against.

Second, the Storyteller system, while awful, is not as terrible it seems. It's mostly the powers that are screwy as all get out, but the base roll mechanic of Attribute+Ability as a dice pool works for a lot of everyday things. "Roll Wits+Alertness" is a thing that people quickly figure out how to do. That mattered - it's a simple system that's easy to learn and produce. You can fill out a VtM character sheet in under a minute and have a viable build. 2e was a convoluted mess by contrast and even 3e, when it came out was much, much more complicated and took longer to put together. As a result WW games appealed to gamers who were not mechanically minded (which was and is the majority). So yes the system sucked, but so did every other system concurrently available (okay, GURPS doesn't suck, but its a pain) and it was easier to learn than pretty much all of them as well.

Third, and this is important, girls liked Vampire (and to a lesser extent the other WoD games). At the time Vampire came out female gamers/nerds/etc were a massively underserved market and WW aimed squarely at them in a way no one had before and it worked. And then the female gamer chicks dragged the male gamers along by virtue of the simple fact that dudes wanna get laid. I commented in the Technocracy OSSR that every Technocracy game I ran (and most of the Mage ones) had more female players than male players. That didn't happen when I ran D&D in the same general pool of people.

And while the oWoD fluff is pretty terrible its not actually any worse than your average modern vampire/werewolf/wizard-based urban fantasy. The fluff for Twilight is jaw-droppingly terrible but it's not like the fluff for True Blood or the Vampire Diaries or anything else along those lines is good. Honestly, WW fluff is solidly middle-of-the-pack as far as this sort of thing goes and as a game it had the advantage of getting there first.
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tussock
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, Vampire has "good fluff" because at the time it's competing with, basically, Spelljammer, Elminster, and Bigby from the early 90s.

2nd edition AD&D has almost zero fluff.

2nd edition AD&D wrote:

Priest: A priest sees to the spiritual needs of a community or location. Two types of priests - clerics and druids - are described in the Player's Handbook. Other types can be created by the DM to suit specific campaigns.
The cleric is a generic priest (of any mythos) who tends to the needs of a community. He is both protector and healer. He is not purely defensive, however. When evil threatens, the cleric is well-suited to seek it out on its own ground and destroy it.
The druid class is optional; it is an example of how the priest can be adapted to a certain type of setting. The druid server the cause of nature and neutrality; the wilderness is his community. He uses his special powers to protect it and to preserve balance in the world.

Pretty much everything else about those classes is rules (written in mediocre prose). Clerics might be something like a Teutonic Knight, if you want them to be, optionally. The alignment descriptions are there to demonstrate to you when the penalties hit for breaching your character's alignment. Dwarfs are dour spirited, heavy drinkers, can't do magic, and hate Orcs and Goblins: which is their mechanics, -1 Cha, resist poisons, can't be Wizards, +1 to hit Orcs and Goblins. There's just no fluff at all.

Something like Battletech TR 3025 has a lot more fluff than D&D did when VtM came out. Vampire dedicated pages to having purposeful organisations you were a part of and personalities who ruled those organisations and made them the way they are. It's a huge step up. It's like if you started D&D as a Harper Scout and a Red Wizard and a Rashemani Barbarian and the stuff from the Novels about them was in the core books, rather than just a bonus or two if you even knew what they represented.

A Vampire clanbook was a set of stories about your clan, the vamps in it, and how it came to be and what it did to fill in ten thousand boring evenings and who might object to that and what that might mean, even if none of it really made sense. The D&D Splatbooks were free proficiency in rope use and less balance penalties on a ship for being a "Sailor", and none of that made any fucking sense either.
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talozin
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
So it's not as bad as I thought, it's worse. It's beyond idiotic that you pay money for a published adventure only for your character's actions to have no impact on what actually happens in the climax.


I am being a little unkind. By no means all White Wolf's adventures were that bad. There were some early adventures that were just vampire dungeon crawling and at the end you and your friends get to diablerize the evil 4th generation dude at the bottom of the ancient Aztec tomb. (And some early adventures were just as bad -- there's a reason Samuel Haight, the ultimate big penis NPC, became a punch line among White Wolf players.)

But I think that, in general, it would be fair to say that player involvement became more and more secondary to the White Wolf metaplot the further into the publication timeline we got. Justin Achilli (the line developer for VtM Revised, aka 3rd edition) would probably have flipped his shit at the idea of players getting to beat a 4th generation vampire, never mind diablerizing them. There's one infamous NPC writeup of a 4th generation from late in Revised that literally just says "this character doesn't need stats, if the players fight him they lose."
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I can't really comment on True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and similar, never watched them. But in the era of Spelljammer and 2nd edition, I can see why this sold pretty well. And the initial stuff doesn't seem that bad either, it's when they started double-downing on the more idiotic parts and either not understanding or purposely writing really bad subtext into the different types of player characters.

It looks like somewhere there did have a sense of humor, since Haight's current listed status on White Wolf's wiki is 'ashtray'.
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