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[OSSR]Player's Guide to the Sabbat (2E) [VTM]
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Nath
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The World of Darkness was built on a strong foundation: an Earth contemporary setting, with "classic" supernatural creatures and a secret History.

It is easier to get the players on board when you tell them that a vampire is trying to take over Miami from a rival who defeated him during the French Revolution than, say, a priest of Lolth is gathering a kobold army to attack Heliogabalus and kill the heir of King Dragonsbane.

Sure, you need to learn a bit about the masquerade, clans identity, diablerizing and a few other concepts. But VtM was way more accessible in that regards than any other game, once you realize that a large number of potential players had never read Tolkien and Lovecraft (I'm talking about the 90ies, indeed, before the movies and all that).

The funny thing is that White Wolf people seemingly had absolutely no idea of what made their games work in the first place. They keep on pilling up new obscure concepts, proved unable to keep their setting tidy on a geographical and an historical level, while keeping the same protagonists around. Generation, Diablerie and Torpor were to avoid the older characters being always the more important. But they have never been able to make better backstory than "he/she have been around since [very ancient period]" (they couldn't do that for Dracula, and it was worse than anything).


Last edited by Nath on Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Out of curiosity, since they couldn't do 'very ancient' for Dracula, how bad was the fluff they did make? The actual life of Vlad Tepes was very interesting, and I would think a veritable gold mine of interesting information, especially for playing in the Dark Ages. Plenty of opportunity to tie the vampire clans into the conflicts involving Wallachia, Moldovia, Hungary and the Ottomans.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
Out of curiosity, since they couldn't do 'very ancient' for Dracula, how bad was the fluff they did make? The actual life of Vlad Tepes was very interesting, and I would think a veritable gold mine of interesting information, especially for playing in the Dark Ages. Plenty of opportunity to tie the vampire clans into the conflicts involving Wallachia, Moldovia, Hungary and the Ottomans.


Like I said earlier, it's garbage. Dracula is better than you because he is better than you because shut up.

Longes wrote:
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.


Also Dracula was a revenant while mortal (i.e. a bred vampire servant with minor magical powers). All the events with Dracula happen after his official death date - he embraces himself in 1495. At this period Dracula lives in a secret castle in Transylvania. Then a century after you have to convince him not to summon an evil SuperSatan. You can't actually defeat him, he has plot armor. Then Dracula goes underground and manipulates everyone in the world to his ineffable ends. Then Dracula goes to the UK and forces Bram Stocker to publish his biography as an act of defiance against the Masquerade. I'm not shitting you, that is how "Dracula" novel exists in VtM. And then Dracula once again goes underground and manipulates everyone.

VtM's Vlad Tepes is the most mind-numbingly boring piece of shit NPC who only exists for you to see how much better he is than you. The three adventures that involve Vlad are:

1. The party escorts Vlad to a 4th Generation Tzimisce, whom Vlad kills and rides off into the sunrise. The party has literally nothing to do in this adventure other than carry Vlad's bags.
2. The party comes to Vlad's secret castle to put a magical graffiti on the wall. Vlad invites them in and the party gets to watch Vlad capture a 5th generation Tzimisce and force him to embrace Vlad, followed by diablerie of said 5th generation Tzimisce. The party has even less to do in this adventure than in the previous one.
3. The party, consisting of a group of 300 years old vampires formerly known as Prince, investigates disappearances of children in Transylvania. They automatically fail. Because it's Vlad stealing the children to sacrifice to SuperSatan. An NPC comes and tells the party where Vlad will hold his summoning ritual, so you all go there. You automatically lose in combat against Vlad, so you have to talk him out of summoning SuperSatan.


Last edited by Longes on Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That is beyond idiotic. Firstly, Vlad Tepes was never exactly the underground manipulator type. If anything, he got manipulated more often than not.

It's not that hard to adapt the actual history and involve the vampire clans in it. I don't know enough to really say which clan would support who, and this could be terrible since my knowledge of the lore isn't that good

Vampire Clan X was behind the invasion of Vlad Dracul and Mircea Dracul and installation of Vladislav II. John Hyundai could have been a member of Clan X. Dracula, learning of the masquerade because of this, went to the Ottomans, who are supported/controlled by Clan Y (Assamites?) and get their support to retake Wallachia and gets embraced by them, goes to take his princedom back during Hyundai's 1448 campaign, but is forced to retreat back to the Ottomans after Vladislav returns to the kingdom. Vlad deserts Clan Y, and goes to Clan X in charge of Hungary, and agrees to sell secrets of Clan Y in return for Hungarian support in taking back Wallachia, which he gets. Clan Y, angry, demands his return to the fold, which he refuses, and compounds on his treachery by impaling their envoys (lower-generations vampires?) and crosses over killing thousands of the local serfs. This leads to the 1462 campaign by Mehmed II to install Radu Dracul. Vlad flees to Clan X, but since they feel that him killing the envoys has provoked Clan Y too far, imprison him in an attempt to appease them. Twelve years later he's released because of pressure on Corvinus by Stepehen III of Moldavia, who could be a representative of a third clan looking for power in the region or to destabilize it, or a splinter faction of Clan X who think Vlad is a good tool, which he proves when helping Corvinus fight in the Hungarian(Clan X) campaign against the Ottomans (Clan Y) in 1476. At the end, since this is the renaissance and the Camarilla and possibly the Sabbat have formed or are forming, Vlad and his well-known cruelty are a risk to the masquerade and he's forced to retire to a lonely castle in his princedom, death faked. Or possibly actually done by PC's.

As far as adventures go, there's plenty of opportunities to play a group serving either of the two (or three) clans in either aiding or opposing Vlad's wars for the Wallachian Princedom. They can be dispatched to kill him, bodyguard, free him form his Hungarian imprisonment, try to kill Mehmed II, Stepehn III, John Hyundai, or Mathias Corvinus, whether any of them are Vampires or mortals. Actually affect the story of Vlad Dracul. After the history ends, I'm not so sure how to lead it, because my knowledge of Vampire isn't that great.

Edit: Okay, so this doesn't work because the Camarilla formed in 1435, while the source I initially looked at said 'early renassiance'.


Last edited by saithorthepyro on Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Nath wrote:
It is easier to get the players on board when you tell them that a vampire is trying to take over Miami from a rival who defeated him during the French Revolution than, say, a priest of Lolth is gathering a kobold army to attack Heliogabalus and kill the heir of King Dragonsbane.

Sure, you need to learn a bit about the masquerade, clans identity, diablerizing and a few other concepts. But VtM was way more accessible in that regards than any other game, once you realize that a large number of potential players had never read Tolkien and Lovecraft (I'm talking about the 90ies, indeed, before the movies and all that).


Never played VTM (beyond the Bloodlines computer game and the beginning of the one before that), but would you not have a problem of players knowing about history that you wouldn't with a purely fictional setting?
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Mord
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

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


Not quite. What White Wolf learned from Sam Haight wasn't "players hate big-dick NPCs who steamroll the PCs and turn them into side characters in their own story." What they learned was "having cool powers is BAD and people who want to cross our game lines are WRONG." Then, in order to punish by proxy all those EVIL players who want agency, or powers that could disrupt the almighty Storyteller's precious railroad, they decided to officially skullfuck Haight in the most humiliating way they could think of.

It's almost exactly the opposite of having a sense of humor about the whole thing.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 3:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

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


Not quite. What White Wolf learned from Sam Haight wasn't "players hate big-dick NPCs who steamroll the PCs and turn them into side characters in their own story." What they learned was "having cool powers is BAD and people who want to cross our game lines are WRONG." Then, in order to punish by proxy all those EVIL players who want agency, or powers that could disrupt the almighty Storyteller's precious railroad, they decided to officially skullfuck Haight in the most humiliating way they could think of.

It's almost exactly the opposite of having a sense of humor about the whole thing.


Wat

This makes me wonder why the authors of this just didn't write novels to have this stuff happen in and not an RPG, because it increasingly looks like they had no interest in the game side of things. Either that, or they are the same people who typically fail at logic. If they don't want other people interfering in what they write, just write a book, and not a game, where your guaranteed to have player interference.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

True Blood actually does have a better premise for a modern vampire game that would appeal to modern audiences. That premise being that you're vampire civil rights activists. And also that you have deviant sex with kinky Southerners.
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talozin
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:

This makes me wonder why the authors of this just didn't write novels to have this stuff happen in and not an RPG, because it increasingly looks like they had no interest in the game side of things. Either that, or they are the same people who typically fail at logic. If they don't want other people interfering in what they write, just write a book, and not a game, where your guaranteed to have player interference.


A lot of people in the RPG industry want to be writers. Hell, a lot of RPG players want to be writers. At the time all this was happening, though, being a novelist was a lot harder than being an RPG writer. This was during the prehistoric days of the internet, before Amazon was a thing, and publishing your novel involved not just all the hard work of writing a novel -- which is hard enough in itself -- but finding a publishing company somewhere that would agree to publish it for you. And, because this was also before vampires became the massive cross-cultural phenomenon they are today, the number of publishing houses who wanted to market books about secret conspiracies of sexy vampire chicks and hot vampire guys in black leather was ... limited.

On the other hand, you could be an RPG writer by knowing someone who worked in the RPG industry, getting them to hook you up with a gig to write 5,000 words on something, and being willing to actually do the writing in exchange for the absolute garbage pay they offer. Pretty much everybody I personally know who's done work on RPGs got the jobs through what my Dad would have referred to as "the old boy network."

I'm not trying to slag off people who write RPGs by saying this. It's hard work for shit money. It's even harder work if you want to turn out something actually good. But objectively speaking, it was an easier industry to break into than book publishing. And, of course, today if you want to publish a novel you just e-publish it and the standards are so low they might as well not even exist.
_________________
TheFlatline wrote:
This is like arguing that blowjobs have to be terrible, pain-inflicting endeavors so that when you get a chick who *doesn't* draw blood everyone can high-five and feel good about it.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
Chapter 2: Running With The Sabbat


There's a context for this, but meh... fuggit.

Music for this is Public Enemy. But not the important songs you've heard of like Fight The Power or 911 Is A Joke. Also not the big popular songs like Bring The Noise or Don't Believe The Hype. For whatever reason, Cold Lampin is the song we are treated to in this chapter. I think this is some sort of proto-hipsterism, where they are calling out the fact that they know the lyrics to third tier Public Enemy songs.

AncientH:

"Running with the Sabbat" attacks one of the fundamental questions: how do you corral these vampiric cats? I actually addressed in a recent reddit post that the idea of professional adventurer is very weird and kind of ahistorical concept. Normal people in the middle ages did not wander down to the local tavern and receive quests involving violence and loot from strange men. That is still not a thing that happens today outside of Detroit and maybe Craigslist. The primary job of most vampires in Vampire: the Masquerade is...to be a vampire. The exact duties beyond that are not well defined and very much arbitrary beyond night-to-night survival. How do you make money? Do you make money? I mean, a lot of vampires unlive off-the-grid by necessity. And it's not like Shadowrun where the concept of "shadowrunner" had grown up which basically is the professional adventurer class. So in any Vampire game, you really do have to ask not just what each vampire PC is, but what do they do, and why? What motivates them?

Now take all that, and remember that it applies mostly to Camarilla vampires, who aren't supposed to run around killing things noisily or waving their vampire dicks out in public. How do you then run a group of Sabbat vampires, where that's basically the job description?

FrankT:

One of the core problems of Vampire: The Masquerade™ as a game is the part where you want to actually start playing it. Like, in D&D you are a group of adventurers and then you meet up in a tavern and go adventuring. In Shadowrun you are a group of shadowrunners and you meet Mr. Johnson in a club and go on a mission. In Vampire... hmmm.... well that's a bit tricky. You're a vampire, and you're in a coterie of vampires. But the other vampires are almost certainly not in your clan, so there are fairly basic impediments to the player characters even knowing each other, let alone having mutual goals of some kind or cooperating in some endeavor to accomplish them. Vampire is thick with reasons why various characters would have difficulty working together, but explanations for how or why the player characters would be a group or share common goals are thin on the ground.

The Sabbat presents a much cleaner setup. You're a member of a pack. You all did some blood sex magic and now you are hyper-loyal to each other. Also the organization that did this to you wants your group to go do missions for them. And you know what? That's fucking fine. One guy wants to play a Nosferatu Luchador and another player wants to play a Toreador pretentious painter? Fine. Blood sex magic, you're a group now. You fight crime. Go fucking do it.


Sabbat blood sex magic is sugar free.

Quote:
A Sabbat vampire does not have much choice about the pack to which he will belong since he has no control over who chooses to Embrace him.


This is actually fine. More than fine. Everyone makes their own characters and then everyone becomes a vampire and is forced to join a pack and go fight crime together. That's a pretty good pitch. It's miles better than anything else that any other part of the World of Darkness ever figured out. Sabbat Vampires have literally the best backstory for why the player characters work together of any group in the World of Darkness. Or the New World of Darkness, for that matter.

The one narrative problem with this whole deal is that the explanations for how new players to the group would get to join the game or characters could get retired when players left the game temporarily or permanently are pretty strained. Packs probably shouldn't last for your entire unnatural life and should be a bit more fluid so that you could easily excuse new blood sex rituals when new players joined the game three sessions in. But aside from that issue, it pretty much perfectly matches the needs of the game. The book gives a feeble suggestion that you could actually still be in a coterie rather than a bonded pack, but now we're back to the regular Vampire problem of having 20 million reasons the different player characters couldn't work together or share common goals.

The big structural problem introduced by this Pack thing is that the book still wants the clans to be political groups, and that doesn't make any sense. A new Serpent of the Light doesn't spend any significant time being mentored in a Serpent of the Light cultural context. They literally crawl out of the ground next to a brand new Lasombra, Nosferatu, and Ventrue with no previous exposure to vampiric society. That's not a narrative problem, having a group of teenagers with different powers learning to get along and fight monsters is a fine setup that has worked for Power Rangers and Captain Planet and Chronicle and so on and so forth. But the setup means that the excuse for our new Serpent of the Light knowing and keeping any Serpent of the Light secrets or holding any Serpent of the Light specific political opinions is pretty damn thin. This doesn't have to be a problem, but the book makes it a problem by refusing to drop the V:tM conceit of clan politics.

AncientH:

It also doesn't help that according to the intro chapter, the Sabbat doesn't like or trust the Serpents of the Light and thinks they're all evil Setites and will have to be destroyed eventually. Which is really weird when you consider that a not-insignificant number of Sabbat packs will have Serpents of the Light in them.

I like the pack angle, but it's a bit weak in the actual fiction; solo NPCs often work better than small groups of NPCs, because you don't have to split the screentime/page count among different people. That's why when you get group superhero films, you tend to have one main villain, and maybe a dragon or lieutenant. For example, in Dracula the main bag guy is the Big D, and it takes an occult investigator, a psychiatrist, a real estate agent, and a Texan with a big fuckin' knife to team up to stop him. For the Fantastic Four, the villain is Dr. Doom - or sometimes the Mole Man. You don't see the Frightful Four on screen in the movies for a reason; grudge match-ups are hard to do. Even in wrestling, they generally limit that to tag-team matches.


This is Gangrel. He is a professional wrestler. Who shops in the women's department.

So while the pack works for the Sabbat in the streets, it tends to fall apart as you move up the chain of command and things start to get populated by NPCs. So the packmates are loyal to each other, but not necessarily to their nominal boss or other packs, and the same is true. There is nothing stopping two Sabbat packs from having a pissing match, or for an archbishop to randomly order you to go on a suicide mission against a Giovanni zombie factory. This is something closer to the soviets of the old USSR than anything else, with the soviets bucking against the Party. To top it off, the potential lack of clearly-defined "pack leaders" can get dicey for moments of indecision.

FrankT:

Where the book's presentation of the Sabbat character motivation totally loses me is the Ambition vs Loyalty thing.

Quote:
All Sabbat put their sect before themselves and everything else in the world. They know what will happen to them if they do not.


This, to put it bluntly, doesn't make a lick of sense. Fear and loyalty aren't the same thing, and putting sect first out of fear of personal consequences is actually putting yourself first.



More broadly of course, the whole Pack bonding thing makes for a pretty good reason why the group hangs together, but it doesn't particularly offer any insight into why the player characters would want to follow the teachings and orders of some Regent in Ciudad de Mexico. Like, I get why you're a super team of vampire ninjas, but I don't get why you suddenly are fanatically loyal to a religion you hadn't even heard of before last Tuesday.

Like many books from White Wolf, the Player's Guide to the Sabbat blithely assumes that organizations have seemingly limitless resources to spend hunting traitors and defectors. I don't know how that's supposed to work. They don't have limitless resources for anything else, they are supposed to be an underdog faction. They have nomadic packs that don't make contact with any leaders in Sabbat cities for decades at a time, if a Sabbat pack moved to Portland, Atlanta, or San Diego and joined the Camarilla or the Anarchs or something, who would even know? And even if they did find out, and called a war party against Atlanta, how is that different from what the Sabbat would do anyway? They are already dedicated to invading Atlanta, what fucking difference does it make if they are pissed off about defectors?

Mostly this just seems to be a preemptive temper tantrum over the fact that players might want to play characters from this book in other parts of the setting. Like, obviously you're going to want to play Sabbat bloodlines and former Sabbat members because fucking obviously. Even if that wasn't strictly superior game mechanically for a number of character types, and even if that was the only way you would be allowed to both play in the usual sorts of Vampire games and read this fucking book, it was just obviously a character concept people would want to play. So having Steve play the Gygaxian fun police and tell you that hordes of dudes will come and kill you for no good reason if you try to play these character concepts is just really odd. It's the kind of thing that seemed like a total dick move when Gygax did it in 1979, and it didn't feel any less out of touch in 1992.


But it will end in tears regardless, you're playing Vampire.

AncientH:

Quote:
The Sabbat provides protection, freedom and loyalty to all its members. These gifts are not without their costs. The members are required to protect sect interests, carry out missions and to give the Sabbat total fealty and devotion. Sabbat express this devotion in their packs.

The Sabbat viniculum is basically supposed to be like the brainwashing you get from joining a cult, where your individual interests are seconded to furthering the cult's goals. This is like drinking the kool-aid, but with more protein.



Mechanically, there isn't a good way to represent that. It's important to remember that each individual vampire is basically a serial killer, and the more of them you have in a given area the higher the chance is that they'll be discovered. It's just a lot easier to hide three bodies a month than it is to hide six bodies a month. In practice, a lot of this is handwavy - if the player didn't want to play the game, they can take their character and leave at any time. But the book emphasizes the fanatical devotion aspect rather than player individuality, so the Sabbat which promises "freedom" feels a lot more like an abusive relationship than magically-enhanced camaraderie.

You also get the start here of extra-Clan relations; or bonds that can tie vampires together outside clan affiliation...in this case, the sect, the pack, and the Path of Enlightenment. They liken the Path to a religion, which they followed through with more heavily in Dark Ages with the Ashen Priest sourcebook and various Road splats, and while Paths of Enlightenment are inherently terrible I think it was a sincere attempt to start to give vampires from different clans/bloodlines reasons to not kill each other and interact like grown ups. It's like how an Irish/Mexican marriage can work as long as both families are Catholics or Satanists.

FrankT:



Being in the Sabbat isn't all about fighting Klingon duels to the death. It's also about training up teenage suicide bombers.

The Fun and Games section is probably where the book jumps the shark. It talks about how Sabbat vampires do stupid dangerous and extreme shit like they were the villains in a xXx movie. Street racing, shooting each other in public for “fun” and all kinds of stupid crap with corny nicknames to show how hardcore everyone is. Basically this section reads exactly like it was originally written for Nightlife, which honestly it may well have. Nightlife of course predated Vampire: The Masquerade™ and it was best known for a more in-your-face Poochy the Dog style vibe. So having this book introduce more shit like that is just the game going back to its roots.

Those roots happen to be jumping on a dorm bed playing air guitar.


The roots.

A bit later we get into a basically equivalent list that is much less gonzo in the form of various Sabbat rituals they do. Some of those are things that I actually remember people talking about Sabbat members doing, most notably the fire dancing thing. There are still a lot of misses in there, and even while I'm literally reading and reviewing the book right now I can't tell you which activity is “Blood Bath” and which is “Blood Feast”. A lot of this is edgelord tryhardism is what I'm saying. The rituals are divided into various categories (Ignoblis and Auctoritas), but I don't care. The hit rate of these activities isn't high. Between the games and the various rituals, I think maybe one in three are things that actually permeated the consciousness of players and future authors as thing Sabbat members did. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone in any game or sourcebook claim leadership of a pack by dint of taking on a Test of Pain. That is not and was not ever a real thing.

AncientH:

A lot of the rituals don't work because 1) there are no stats for any of this shit, 2) you can't safely LARP it, 3) utter confusion over what constitutes a "ritual" and ritual, and 4) some of these are amazingly stupid. Examples!

Quote:

* Gangbanging: The Sabbat ride past Camarilla Kindred and fill them full of lead. Seldom do they kill the enemy vampires, but this game stirs up a lot of trouble among mortals, especially when the guys they supposedly killed get up and stumble away.

* Headbanging: The pack members go into the mosh pits of clubs, work themselves into a frenzy and begin tearing people up and drinking blood. The only reason any mortals survive this is that the frenzied Kindred often attack each other . This is a terrible game to play in one's own town, but it can lead to wonderful escapades when played in a Camarilla Rack.

* Horse Racing: The Sabbat will often race horses just as they race cars, except they can take the horses places cars cannot go - shopping malls, hospitals and grocery stores, for example.

* Human Gladiators: The Sabbat often capture a few humans, equip them with knives, clubs and chains, and make them battle each other. The Sabbat tell them the survivor gets to keep his life. Whether or not this is true is up to the pack, but most are enjoyed as post-game meals.

* Spirit Games: A Sabbat pack with Thaumaturgists who know the proper magic summons a spirit and asks it questions. This is similar to using a Ouija board, but much more spectacular - and dangerous.

* Torture Games: Sabbat often find the suffering of others most amusing. They take kine and Kindred "performers" to their communal haven, where they test the individual's pain resistance.

* Trick or Treat?: Sabbat often go door to door trick or treating, even when it is not close to Halloween. If they are not given candy by the people inside, they usually "trick" them by sneaking in and drinking their blood. Sometimes they play silly pranks instead.


This is the Lost Boys/Near Dark type of shit, only much stupider and more juvenile. Using your illusion powers to make somebody think their fried rice is maggots is a cute prank; going into a bar and starting a fight so you can kill everyone in a frenzy is something a psychopathic vampire might do. But none of them are exactly traditions that encourage group play.

And the fuck is up with the trick-or-treat thing?

FrankT:

The Player's Guide to the Sabbat tries to have its cake and eat it too with regards to Caitiffs. Your character is one of a group of new vampires that was created collectively by some other vampires from various bloodlines and you don't really have much contact with them specifically. The vampire whose blood literally runs in your veins is like the heroin addicted mother who gave you up for adoption. Except of course you're a vampire, so they are also that creepy dude you ran into at the bus station who beat the shit out of you and took your bus money.

And yet, the book wants us to believe that “The Lasombra” represent some sort of individual faction. I have honestly no idea how that's supposed to work. But because it basically fails to sell me on the idea that anyone in the Sabbat should give half a shit about what clan anyone is from, all their discussions about what it means to be clanless in the Sabbat are just puzzling. Whatever parallel clan hierarchy is supposed to exist doesn't make any sense, so people being excluded from it also doesn't make any sense. It would be like Irish Americans getting into fights based on historical Irish clans, but actually makes less sense even than that because at least Irish Americans have some sort of continuity to the previous generations.


There's not actually a point being made by showing the Arch Enemy singer, I just want to do it.

AncientH:

Actually, Irish Americans in the early 20th century routinely got into pissing matches with Northern Irish Americans, especially after the establishment of the Free State, but I digress.

Quote:
The recruiting of humans for the Sabbat is handled by all True Sabbat. The True Sabbat are sect members that have proven themselves in combat.

True Scotsman jokes aside, you can see how Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand happened when you read this book.

The Sabbat Creation Rites are hazing rituals that new vampires go through to make them strong weed out the weak for lulz. They are loosely inspired by the practice of the Parisian vampires in Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, which was obviously a major thematic influence. This is shit like burying the fledgling vampire and seeing if they can dig their own way out. It's kind of stupid and shits on vampire character creation a bit, but whatever. It's still less stupid than what the Baali had to go through. Even if you're leaving another sect to join the Sabbat, you still have to go in the ground first.


This works a lot better with Potence.

FrankT:

We've complained about Blood Bonds in Vampire: the Masquerade™ before. Fundamentally, they don't work narratively. Vampires should want to drink your blood. Having blood drinking be an act of submission by the dude doing the drinking is kind of missing the whole point. You're not a predator, you're a cocksucker. Look, vampires are supposed to be dominant over humans because they feed on them. Fucking hell, do I have to draw you a fucking diagram? This basic failure to make Blood Bonds be a thing that successfully reinforced vampire tropes is a big problem that permeates V:tM at pretty much every level.

The Sabbat have replaced all that with the previously mentioned blood sex magic. Everyone gets in a circle and pours their essence into a cup and drinks from the cup. And that really sounds a lot like a euphemism for homoerotic frat games when I say it outloud. Making it a group activity makes it a lot less off-theme, since of course everyone is bleeding and drinking you don't have the problem where predation is an act of submission. So the Sabbat Vaulderie is much more on-theme than the regular blood bond rules.


Also a reference to circle jerking.

For reasons apparent to no one, the Sabbat make it really hard to join the sect. The rest of the book rants about how they are always trying to infiltrate other vamp organizations and get converts and shit, but perhaps the author suddenly realized that player characters might actually want to do that in order to get access to sweet Sabbat magic powers and gave us a rant about how it's super hard to join. That is not how cults work!

AncientH:

Quote:
The lust for vampire blood is strong within the Sabbat. Diablerie is condoned, with the Methuselahs outside the sect as the main targets. Packs of Sabbat gather into groups known as War Parties to hunt specific elders. The challenge is to see which pack, if any , gets the elder first. A War Party may consist of any number of packs, but two or three is the most common number.

Vampire eventually kinda-sorta frowned on munchkins that wanted Moar Powah! and kinda-sorta played directly to those same munchkins by printing sourcebook after sourcebook of Moar Powah! The traditional route of improving yourself as a vampire was to earn XP and use that to raise skills, attributes, disciplines, and backgrounds; that was fucking expensive and meant a huge investment in time. Or you could commit diablerie, which was "forbidden" but... well, forbidden fruit tastes sweetest. Especially if you bought powers that gave you more power out of diablerie.

Anyway, this is a long way to say that a "war party" to assassinate an elder is actually a thematic Good Idea; it even works if the PCs get too big for their britches and become the elder. Of course, because this was Vampires in the 90s, they have to be culturally insensitive and stupid like they were eight year olds in 1960 playing Cowboys and Indians:

Quote:
The chief of the War Party offers the participating packs the challenge. The chief chooses the target and reveals the target only after the
packs have committed to the hunt. A pack can back out if the target is exceptionally dangerous, but doing so humiliates its members. The object is to steal some of the elder's blood but, almost always, the elder is also destroyed. Wagers on the outcome are made between the packs and individuals; the most common bets involve the performance of services for the winner. The participating packs take the War Path the following night. Most vampires even paint their faces with war paint while on the War Path.


FrankT:

Sabbat Justice is that people in positions of authority torture or kill you or both whenever they feel like it. There's way too much ink spared on this.

AncientH:

There really is. While I can appreciate that the gist of this chapter was to try and provide a distinct Sabbat culture, a group culture marked by regular and irregular rites, taboos, practices, etc. that players could sink their teeth into, I think it really fails on a couple levels...because the Sabbat are just a bunch of fucking hooligans. They're not fighting a war in the shadows with the Camarilla, they're just a bunch of bloodthirsty assholes on a gap year. It's like being in a fraternity where occasionally the alumni give you some money and tell you to go on a panty raid like "the good ol' days." When we think of war today, we think of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, a loose cell structure that's impossible to destroy - and that is something that the Sabbat could have been, a sort of vampiric resistance against the Camarilla. But that's no fun to play, apparently; they'd prefer vampires play trick-or-treat or read sermons aloud from the Book of Nod.

I mean, when you really think about it, the numbers game on the Sabbat vs. the Camarilla is bullshit in the first place. Vampires aren't limited to the native population of their member states or the birthrate; they control the birthrate. When the Sabbat wants to make up the numbers, they just do mass embraces. That is a tactic that they do. If the Sabbat wanted to have as many vampires as the Camarilla, they could do it in a couple of nights. The reason they don't is...I dunno. Control, probably. It takes a while to really inculcate the Sabbat/vampire ideals into recruits and train up their powers to be useful - a lot of investment in time and effort and blood, especially if you have to stare at the asshole for the next thousand years. But no-one did the hard math on any of that; the Sabbat looks like it is because they have to be the edgelordy underdogs compared to the Camarilla - because if they were equal or superior in numbers, they'd just be The Man.

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This is the map from Montreal by Night, trying to show how little influence the Sabbat has compared to the Camarilla, but...uh...look at a Population Desnity Map of the US.

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Alright, next up: Character Creation.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
It's still less stupid than what the Baali had to go through.


For those curious. Normal vampire Embrace goes like this: nasty dude sucks all blood out of you until you are dead and then pours some of his blood into your mouth. Then you wake up as a vampire.

Here's how the Baali do it: a nasty satanist dude kills a bunch of people and tosses them into the pit. He fills a heart with his vampire blood and also tosses it into the pit. He then sucks all blood out of you and tosses you into the pit. If you manage to find the heart and drink some of the vampire blood (how would you know to do that?), then you get to wake up and be a nasty satanist kid. If you don't - you die.
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Ancient History
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Which, technically, should just make you a ghoul. But never let a little thing like rules consistency challenge the edgelordiness.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's not really a surprise that WW products don't have a lot of concern with making sense.
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Ancient History wrote:
Which, technically, should just make you a ghoul. But never let a little thing like rules consistency challenge the edgelordiness.


Eh, it's close enough to the proper Embrace to work narratively. The difference between drinking directly from the vampire's vein and drinking from a prepared heart doesn't look like a big deal to me.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So what I get is that the Sabbat were supposed to be a powerful organization opposing the Camarilla that stood for essentially treating the mortals like things and tearing the masquerades to shreds, but was at the same time doing things just for the evulz, spreading the chaos around for the fun of it and a juvenile sense of delinquency. And somehow the Masquerade is still upheld despite this.

Given the Sabbat's control of Mexico, was the insinuation supposed to be that the Sabbat was in control of the Mexican drug trade and using to try and cause chaos? Was that ever a thing? Because that actually sounds like a neat idea.
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Longes wrote:
Ancient History wrote:
Which, technically, should just make you a ghoul. But never let a little thing like rules consistency challenge the edgelordiness.


Eh, it's close enough to the proper Embrace to work narratively. The difference between drinking directly from the vampire's vein and drinking from a prepared heart doesn't look like a big deal to me.


The difference is obviously not being dead because you can find the heart and drink it yourself, which would require a rather substantial amount of human blood to be left in your circulatory system.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
So what I get is that the Sabbat were supposed to be a powerful organization opposing the Camarilla that stood for essentially treating the mortals like things and tearing the masquerades to shreds, but was at the same time doing things just for the evulz, spreading the chaos around for the fun of it and a juvenile sense of delinquency.


Eh, sounds like that could be a decent idea. At many political protests who get people wanting to turn it into a riot, but pretending to be socially enlightened.

saithorthepyro wrote:
Given the Sabbat's control of Mexico, was the insinuation supposed to be that the Sabbat was in control of the Mexican drug trade and using to try and cause chaos? Was that ever a thing? Because that actually sounds like a neat idea.


Not sure about that, it's taking a nasty real thing and making it into some silly vampire waffle. Leaves a bad taste, IMHO, but then that's a risk with the concept of VTM, I guess.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I never read the entirety of Mexico City by Night, so I'm not sure.
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Mexico City by Night doesn't have any obvious drug trade references, and I don't feel like actually reading the book. Here's what WhiteWolfWiki says about Mexico:

Quote:
Mexico is the true seat of power for the Sabbat. Here the sect holds almost absolute sovereignty. While the Camarilla holds some sway over the Yucatan Peninsula, the sect's influence is fading fast; only the < Camarilla's vast wealth allows it any influence at all in Mexico.

But while the Sabbat holds near-total political dominance of the region, the Camarilla's use of money as a weapon has taken a powerful toll on Mexico. Before the Sabbat wrested complete control of the area, the American dollar and the Mexican peso were fairly well balanced in value. However, the Camarilla has worked diligently to ensure the decline of the peso's financial power. Over the years, the powerful seat of the Sabbat has been sucked nearly as dry as a vampire's victim. Rampant political corruption and electoral fraud only add to the malaise.

Recent Sabbat attempts to bring about a more concentrated source of power in the area have failed, despite the best plans the sect could design. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the carefully proposed plan conceived by the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has so far proved ineffectual, despite the Lasombra's hopes.

The kine of Mexico are largely opposed to the NAFTA agreement, and a combination of kine corruption and Camarilla manipulation has undermined the planned fiscal resurgence of the Mexican peso. Despite the sheer numbers of Sabbat vampires in Mexico, the Camarilla has managed to keep the sect from expanding, at least on one front, while increasing its own wealth by taking advantage of the new NAFTA regulations.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:
Given the Sabbat's control of Mexico, was the insinuation supposed to be that the Sabbat was in control of the Mexican drug trade and using to try and cause chaos? Was that ever a thing? Because that actually sounds like a neat idea.


Not sure about that, it's taking a nasty real thing and making it into some silly vampire waffle. Leaves a bad taste, IMHO, but then that's a risk with the concept of VTM, I guess.


I'll agree on the bad taste part, but considering this setting already has plenty of bad taste, and messes with pre-estabilished history/events already. I don't now how much it incorporates events that were current at the time, so maybe it does cross a line. However, I think it's a good way to establish the Sabbat's villiany in a way many newcomers know about. Also, it makes sense for the Sabbat to do this, since it gains them power in Camarilla lands, spreads chaos, and they could even use it to start getting humans to use as blood bags.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
Chapter 3: Character Creation


Hopefully like that.

Our musical accompaniment is going to be The World is Yours. Firstly because there's no musical suggestions in this chapter. And secondly because Arch Enemy makes a much better pitch for Nietzsche's Master Morality than this fucking book does.

AncientH:

You could write this chapter. Seriously, while we go on about White Wolf books being formulaic, the character generation chapters are like prayers copied by medieval monks. They're not just predictable, they're almost uniform and the few small changes they do have are absolutely unoriginal. This is basically a reprint of V:tM rules, just with a bunch of antitribu choices in place of regular clans.

And yet, they still find ways to be terrible. For example, the clan descriptions.

Quote:
Ravnos Antitribu: The Sabbat Ravnos are almost all gorgios (non-Gypsies). Most are members of nomadic packs. They treat all other Sabbat with honor but hate Gypsies and Ravnos outside the Sabbat, especially Romany Ravnos (those of Gypsy descent). They are still among the best liars and tricksters of the vampire world.



Too angry or appalled to meme.

We don't talk about it much, but the Lasombra and the Tzimisce get variations on two of the classic vampire weaknesses - the Lasombra don't appear in mirrors, and the Nosferatu need to sleep with their home soil.

"Not showing up in mirrors" is sort of a "cursed with awesome" superpower: in the panopticon state of the future, these guys are invisible to cameras, making it super easy to live off the grid and even commit crimes - if there are no eyewitnesses, then there are basically no witnesses period. What are they going to do, check your fucking fingerprints? If Vampire had ever done a cyberpunk future, the Lasombra are on easy street. (The whole "reflections" bit originally pertained to people selling their soul no longer having a shadow, and the Lasombra manipulate shadows, hence the weakness.)

The home soil thing is...weirder. Depending on the source material you're going for, it specifically had to be consecrated soil, from your grave. The exact determinant of what is or is not "home soil" is a fine point and I have no idea how Tzimisce are supposed to determine that, except by what "feels right." I have no idea how players and gamemasters are supposed to decide what constitutes home ground, either - a plot of earth? A cemetery? A city block? Who knows?

It's very much a Dracula sticking point, and at the same time it helps give the Tzimisce their image of being very territorial, for natural reasons, and that feeds into their backstory as the traditional Transylvanian vampires and a lot of the powers they developed, like Koldunic Sorcery and some of the weirder higher levels of Vicissitude. It also runs into...territory issues. Because if you're a Tzimisce, you basically have troubles traveling. That's not a huge issue for a lot of games that take place in the same city, but sometimes you grow up somewhere shit and don't want to spend the rest of your unlife there. (And this is before you get into weird questions like "What if the vampire was born at sea and spent their whole life on the ocean and was embraced on a boat? Do they have to carry around some salt water with them?" or "Look, I'm a walking corpse and I'm not using most of my torso for anything, can I just cut it open, stuff two fistfuls of dirt in there, sew it up and sleep wherever the fuck I want?")

The Assamite antitribu don't have the traditional clan curse; instead they get addicted to drinking vitae super easily. They added a rider that vaulderie doesn't count, because otherwise these guys would be unplayable, but as it is you're basically still playing with a character that wants to eat everyone.

Malkavian antitribu start play with two derangements; so this is fishmalking squared.



I shouldn't go on about this, but I will. The approach to mental illness in World of Darkness games is bad, for similar reasons that mental illness in Call of Cthulhu is bad. "Derangements" cover anything that is now or was once considered a psychiatric disorder or "madness," but beyond that being "mad" is often depicted as being "lolrandom."



It's not an issue that is unique to Vampire by any means, but it's a simplistic and inaccurate take on what could be both major parts of the character's...character, and potentially major life issues. Nobody should want to play a vampire with depression, and if they did, they would almost certainly do it wrong. Further, a lot of the "mental disorders" are inherently neurobiological, and vampires don't have a functioning biology for the most part! How are you supposed to have fucking dementia if you can literally get your brain shot out and then regenerate? Moving on...

Tremere antitribu have the "weakness" that regular Tremere recognize them on sight. This is supposed to be a replacement for the fact that all regular Tremere are in a blood-oath hierarchy, but it's sort of a non-weakness. Any Tremere can just point at another vampire and claim they're Tremere antitribu - who the hell is going to gainsay them? This only ever comes into play if the Sabbat Tremere come into contact with Tremere (or technically "many other practitioners of magic") anyway, so it's not exactly something you deal with on a night-to-night basis. Also, the antitribu viewpoint on their Camarilla counterparts is:
Quote:
Tremere - "They are our brothers and sisters, but they
serve the Antediluvians and therefore must be destroyed."

Motherfucker, Tremere ate Saulot.

FrankT:

It's definitely true that most of the rules in the chargen chapter could have been almost (or even literally) word for word in some other White Wolf product written five or even fifteen years later. It's kinda weird how rapidly some very weird and bad ideas became cemented in the White Wolf way of doing things. But we can pretty much skip all that shit.

The big draw of being a member of the Sabbat was that you started with 4 dots of Disciplines instead of 3 and 0 dots worth of backgrounds instead of 5. A discipline dot costs more than 5 backgrounds, so the cheese stands alone. We're talking about 2 freebie points, but for real – people got told off for being powergamers many times because of this shit.



But moving small amounts of points around wasn't the only minor change, Steve also decided to rename the virtues that Sabbat characters get. This was a thing that Vampire experimented with a lot in the early days, like where they tried to make new virtues for mummies to have in the original Mummy. It's also something they never wholly gave up on doing, as the final product of pre-bankruptcy White Wolf was Scion. And let's get this out of the way: it never really worked. Sabbat vampires tried to make Callousness, Instinct, and Morale work as the three virtues, and that's stupid and also pointless edgelordism.



But fundamentally it also doesn't work. The virtue system of Vampire was pretty bad, and looked worse when you thought about it for any length of time or tried to interact with it in any game mechanical way. Some of that is that Compassion and Courage aren't really enough to define a character's motivations, and some of that is that these virtues were on a different numeric scale from other dice pools in the game so a Courage Roll was just way different in expected output from a Willpower roll or a Dexterity + Driving roll or whatever. But it's also equally true that Callousness just isn't a thing that can seamlessly fit into all the places in the system where it asks you to use your Compassion. It's just a divide by zero error.

Now mostly people realized that the Nature and Demeanor system worked a lot better for explaining and defining character motivations than the virtues system did. So I wouldn't say that there were a lot of rules that called for you to roll Compassion for anything. But those few places where it did come up, the fact that the Sabbat virtues were sort of negativland evil versions meant that the rules just broke down whenever that happened. You'd have some magical effect that was resisted by the target's Compassion or Self Control, and Sabbat Vampires just didn't even fucking have those things and it didn't really make any sense to have people resist those effects with how Callous they were supposed to be.

Virtues in Vampire: the Masquerade™ were bad design. And all the alternate virtue titles they came up with were also shit. You can kinda see why nWoD went for its Virtue and Vice system, although that was also hot garbage. I could imagine a scenario in which assigning numerical values to virtues made sense, but it's really difficult. As we saw with both the Masquerade and Requiem, characters are quite difficult to describe in terms of the same set of virtues – but if you have the choice of virtues you also have to build in the assumption to the entire game that people will have different virtues that have numbers attached. And that means that all uses of virtues have to be voluntary. No effect or rule in the game can blanket-call for a Self Control roll if characters are not in fact guaranteed to have a Self Control number at all. That's really fucking basic.

AncientH:

Paths of Enlightenment happened because they solved several perceived problems. The first one is that you were playing the bad guys, and if you did what the bad guys were supposed to do then your Humanity dropped faster that a Call of Cthulhu investigator's SAN, and with the same result: the characters became unplayable. So they wanted something besides Humanity to serve as a measure of...something...and as a character guideline. Paths of Enlightenment filled that niche, since they were measures of spirituality that let you wear somebody's face for an evening without, y'know, no longer being able to play the game.



...and the alternate virtues also helped differentiate the Sabbat/Paths of Enlightenment characters from others. As Frank mentioned, they made a serious hash of the mechanics of it all, but the basic idea came about through a quite natural process of reasoning. Unfortunately, they immediately dropped the ball on "not making Paths a religion," which tends to make these highly Eurocentric and unworkable. Sortof. They're basically formalizations of some stock character viewpoints.

There are seven Paths given in this book:

Path of Caine - Catholicism for vampires, basically. The character believes in the Book of Nod and the Old Testament (New Testament, Qu'ran, Book of Mormon, and Gnostic gospels are optional add-ons). This eventually led into the Cainite Heresy in Dark Ages.

Path of Cathari - The Cathars were a Christian break-off sect in Southern France, often associated with certain Gnostic beliefs, and were the subject of the Albigensian Crusade. They had a kind of Manichaean view of the world, with a good God and an evil God; vampires were made by the evil God, and should have fun. End of sermon.

Path of Death and the Soul - The basic viewpoint of necromancers, the vampire is an immortal soul trapped in a physical body and is trying to sort out what that all means. This would have worked better if the Sabbat had any necromancers at this point (next edition!), as it is you're spending a lot of time mooning about in graveyards.

Path of Evil Revelations - Remember those vampires in Anne Rice's novels that thought because they were vampires they were Damned and should worship Satan? Yeah, that's these guys. These are Chick Tract vampires.

Path of Harmony - When is Humanity not Humanity? When you want to be at peace with yourself and also eat people. They work on coming to terms with being a vampire, and being a vampire means eating people, so eating people must be OK in their book. After all, most living humans don't have problems eating cows.

Path of Honorable Accord - This is quite literally a code of ethics spelled out in a book called The Code of Milan. You can play it like a Klingon or like a lawyer.

Path of Power and the Inner Voice - "It is the penultimate expression of vampiric Darwinism"...well, no. This is you as the Vampire Gordon Gekko. It encourages you to embrace your inner asshole and powergame. Very popular with players.



You'll notice right away that while some of these hew a bit wide from accepted dogma, most of them are still reinforcing the basic Old Testament premises. You don't exactly have a Path for practicing Hindus or Buddhists or Shintoists or anything like that.

FrankT:

My biggest complaint with the paths of enlightenment is that I don't understand how people are supposed to be members of different ones inside the same Pack. Everyone is a member of the Sabbat cult and they all participate in readings from the Book of Nod and getting in a circle to pour out and drink each others' essence and all that. But like Marco Rubio they all apparently go their separate ways to attend a completely different church on Wednesdays where they do different secret rituals away from where their Sunday Church Friends might see them.

How does this happen? How do Sabbat members all manage to be members of two different cults? And how do they manage to be members of cults without involving the other vampires that they spend every night having blood orgies of loyalty formation with? What the actual fuck?

There are of course good solid reasons from a character development side to have each player have several different toggles they can use to personalize their character. But there just isn't a time frame for any of these secret cult things to happen.

Probably what should have happened is that each new Sabbat vampire would be mentored by their personal creator like a Sith lord or a Camarilla vampire for some period of time and then get turned over to a pack as some sort of graduation deal. Probably Camarilla vampires should do something like that too. Really the game sort of demanded that everyone have a reason for giving a shit about various secret clan and cult business but also that everyone have a reason to join up with the team. The Camarilla had
just the first part, the Sabbat had just the second. But both versions of character generation just blithely assumed that both were covered somehow. But they really weren't.

AncientH:

The interaction between Sect, Clan, and Path are some of the more interesting dynamics in the Old World of Darkness, even if they were never followed through to the point they were quite functional; Dark Ages devoted much more screen time to the various "Roads" that the Paths were retconned as having emerged from.

And the thing is, again, you can sort of see how this works. Not all people are Christian, and Christianity has many different flavors and permutations - Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, African Methodist Episcopalians, Southern Baptists, First Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Fifthists... but what's the difference between a former Southern Baptist vampire and a former Methodist vampire? Undeath tends to level out a lot of the normal precepts of your former operating religion. But people still like to get high and talk philosophy when they're teenagers and in college. So, Paths.

As Frank mentioned, you've got serious issues here with timeline and population - how many Tzimisce antitribu who follow the Path of Cathari can there be in the Camarilla? And what happens when they meet up with a Sabbat Kiasyd who followes the Path of Evil Revelations? - and there's not a lot said about how various followers of a Path feel about their co-religionists. It's like when a couple of Fighters meet up in D&D; are they supposed to go have a beer together because they're the same class? Maybe trade notes on feat-trees?

I don't want to trivialized Paths, although if I did I would make each player pick two hobbies for their character, so that they would have something to kibbitiz with the other vampires about at the annual masquerade ball, but they're simultaneously trying to do too much and not enough. They're a score of spiritual...something...that guides/limits your character's behavior and interactions with others, but there's no real benefit from them except "well, I can still play after ripping the fetus out of the pregnant woman and drinking its blood." So of course players are going to work to find the path that allows (or encourages) them to do what they want to do anyway and then obtain the minimum rating that lets them get away with that shit.



FrankT:

I will grant that the various rants about how various clans feel about each other is at times insane and sometimes has enough hooks to make people want to play in these various groups, we still have the problem where none of this has any back end support. The Lasombra talk shit about how various factions and clans are or are not a threat to “us” but who the fuck is “us”? A new Lasombra climbs out of the fucking ground and then immediately has an orgy with a Ravnos, a Ventrue, and a Gangrel. There is no clan organization to have these opinions and your character wouldn't know about it even if there was one.



AncientH:

Believe it or not, all this ranting about Paths has occurred before we get to the actual Paths.

I'd also like to say that every single one of the Sabbat clans has a schizophrenic viewpoint on the Black Hand, which in no small part probably contributed to Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand. Which is bad. It's fine to produce multiple opposing possibilities, it is terrible to try and simultaneously realize all of those multiple opposing possibilities.

Chapter 4: The Paths of Enlightenment



FrankT:

Such that VtM was about anything it was about coping with horrible urges and degenerating into a monster of the night. And the system they had for that was Humanity, a number that gradually went down as you succumbed and compromised with your monstrous nature. And yeah, the specific lists of sins that would get you in trouble were immoral, insane, and not particularly conducive to playing the game. In fact, the whole concept rewarded inaction rather than action. If you didn't have your character do anything, they couldn't lose any humanity. For all its insanity and fundamental brokenness, the Humanity system presented in Nightlife was much better as a starting point. At least in that system you were rewarded for trying to be human rather than punished for taking inhuman actions. That at least has incentives that point in the right direction.

But the big hit against the Humanity system was that you couldn't really play a super hero or a serial killer because it punished actions. Proactive characters were pretty much fucked because they were going to end up punching people and taking stuff that didn't belong to them and shit and they were going to degenerate all to hell.


And then you're like: Wait, defusing a bomb is intentional property destruction and I just committed a level 5 sin. Fuck!

So being a Sabbat dude under the regular humanity rules is basically impossible. Every dumb Sababt prank is a sin and your humanity just evaporates pretty much immediately. And rather than just rolling
with that, or realizing that they should rethink that whole piece of fundamentally fucked game design, they didn't do that. Instead they just wrote up crazy alternate lists of sins for different moral systems to have. So you were still playing the degeneration game, but you were being dinged for crossing whatever arbitrary lines your religion flavor tells you shouldn't be crossed.

AncientH:

I managed to rant about all the Paths in the previous chapter, because I seriously forgot that there was a whole chapter devoted to them. The long-form descriptions of the Paths are not really improvements; aside from a hierarchy of sin, you also get recommendations for preferred abilities/disciplines, how they interact with the other Paths, do's and don't's, etc. Some of these (well, a lot of these) don't make any sense. For example, the Path of Evil Revelations has this bit:

Quote:
Preferred Disciplines: Auspex and Domination are highly valued Disciplines. Most followers of the Path of Evil Revelations possess secret Infernal powers granted by the demon with whom they have a pact.


Demonic Investments were a thing at this point, but not a common thing, and even summoning a demon to make a pact with wasn't as easy as killing cats.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

So you're basically down to Dark Thaumaturgy, which is an out-of-clan discipline and leads me off to another rant!

Unlike the Camarilla, where you get nurtured by your clan for a bit and taught how to use your powers, there's really no excuse why the Sabbat shouldn't be more open about sharing powers between different clans. This goes double for Paths. In fact, if you had certain Paths that taught different Disciplines, that would probably work out a lot fucking better than the bloodline bloat that assaulted us in subsequent books/editions/etc. It makes sense, right? It would add an interesting other layer to the whole Sect/Clan/Path divide if there were some actual mechanical deviations. But we never quite get that - although nWoD did try a bit with their new sects, they still preferred bloodline bloat to everything else.

FrankT:

The big issue with all the paths is that they are bullshit. And I don't mean that in the sense that the Path of the Inner Voice is moral gibberish. Although it is. It totally is. The main issue is that there's no way to extrapolate from the list of sins to what actions are in general good or bad. Like, the Humanity system presented in the core VtM rules was an incoherent mishmash of religious edicts, civil laws, and common sense morality. People could kinda sorta get the gist of what it meant to be sinning at any level of Humanity. Yes, you could get into multi-hour arguments about the fine points of whether an activity counted as a level 5 sin or a level 4 sin and sometimes that shit was game mechanically important. But in general people could most agree about what sorts of stuff you weren't supposed to do.

With the new paths, they were based on the teachings of religions that do not in fact exist. The Cathars were real people of course, and they had their own real world moral codes, but the path of Cathari is so tenuously linked to real world catharism that it doesn't even serve as parody. In-world it's the culmination of several hundreds of years of vampire philosophy based on the rediscovery of Christian dualist dogma which belonged to a human sect that had itself been essentially wiped out hundreds of years before the Sabbat came into being. Out of game, it's a minimally sketched out dualist dogma named after the first Dualist dogma that Steve found in an encyclopedia of philosophy. And the fact that real world Catharism was essentially exterminated by the Albigensian Crusade which ended in 1229 (hundreds of years before the Sabbat was a thing) is pretty much beside the point.



This paved the way for really obscure paths in future supplements, like the Setite Warrior Path. Fucking nobody has any idea what that shit is supposed to be about. From a power gamer's standpoint that is pretty much ideal. You want a path that will never ever fuck with you, and that means picking one where the player expects that none of the sins will ever come up in-game. So shit like “Refusing to participate in the resurrection of Set” is absolutely never going to come up and is perfect. Everyone is pretty much looking for “the path of telling me not to do things I wasn't going to do anyway” but the more thoroughly divorced from real world philosophy the better.

AncientH:

Call of Cthulhu was all about your SAN ticking down to zero; Vampire morality is all about trying to keep your metaphorical head above water. Golconda is not something that's ever going to happen in a vampire game - if you did max out your Humanity/Path score at chargen, you're still not going to survive long enough to hit the magic number when...something happens. Which is up to the Storyteller anyway. (Notably, none of the paths say anything about oral sex, one way or the other.) The Paths in Vampire are there to keep you from being an NPC, like SAN in CoC, but that is about it. It's more forgiving in a morality spiral kind of way, but it's still just holding the player's feet to the fire with the "Look out or you'll go to hell no longer get to play!"

FrankT:

You actually can't follow these things all the way to the top. I don't know if ascending to perfect moral perfection in the Path of Evil Revelations was supposed to get you to Golconda or what. But most of these paths run into outright contradictions at some point or another. So to max out on the Path of the Inner Voice you have to never spend less than two hours a night in silent meditation (level 10), but you also have to never use whatever means necessary to achieve greater power (level 9). So if you spend
two hours in silent meditation you aren't using 2 of your hours of night to achieve power but if you don't do that you aren't spending enough time meditating. It's a sin either way. They are all like that: the path of Harmony nails you are level 8 for not hunting but also dings you at level 9 for killing animals. And so on. I don't think you're expected to actually get to the top of any of these paths.

But of course you don't have to. Getting to the top of a path is basically meaningless. The goal is just to not degenerate. And all you need for that is a sin list that is sufficiently bullshit and weird. Of which there are plenty.


The path of Death and the Soul is gibberish all the way down. And players wanted that. Because the Humanity system had failed that badly.

AncientH:



They eventually opened the Paths up to humans. This was supposed to be a sign of something Deeply Wrong, that people had abandoned their humanity and yadda yadda. It was more probably inevitable, given the way Vampire allowed workarounds for damn near everything. If you accepted enough supplements, you could have a vampire cult where mortal blood mages could buy dots in Disciplines using the Sorcery/Hedge Magic rules and take Paths of Enlightenment and even create blood-laced beer to ghoul each other and do blood oaths and shit. The game itself never put all those flavors and options together, but all the different options existed, if you so chose to do it.

Which is kindof where we get into heartbreaker territory again. Paths of Enlightenment are dumb and don't work. They're a solution to a problem that shouldn't really have existed in the first place; the game designers wanted to quantify morality to a degree, to set a mechanical limit to how being an immortal monster that drinks people was causing you to shed your values and test your limits. To measure, if possible, the depths of how depraved you dare get, and to assign consequences for going past an arbitrary limit of too far.



It didn't work. Arguably, it could not have worked. Humans do fucked up shit every day, no matter what religion or code of ethics they believe or pay lip service to. There are Marines that believe strongly in their creed, and Marines that raped locals while on deployment, and some of those are the same Marines. You could say the same thing about any religionist under the sun. Maybe what Paths should have been is more like a creche or finishing school - or some organization that you willingly join as a vampire that cuts across normal clan/sect boundaries, like how you can be American and Buddhist and a Freemason. I don't know. All I know is, as-is these don't work as written and they don't work as intended.

Next up: Sabbat Traits
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Longes
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Motherfucker, Tremere ate Saulot.

So, this is getting into metaplot, and I don't know if that particular point was invented by the time of writing of this book, but here goes.

In the metaplot, after Tremere ate Saulot, he fell into torpor and transformed into a giant white worm occasionally giving telepathic commands to his council. This lasted until the late 20th century, when Tremere got un-wormed. Saulot, now in control of Tremere's body, casts a spell that boots Tremere into the body of Goratrix and performs a ritual that blows up all Tremere Antitribu (which now includes Tremere himself). And then he goes on to run clan Tremere as his personal army. So from this perspective Tremere Antitribu are entirely correct, and mainstream Tremere are in fact pawns of the antediluvian.

In 20th Anniversary Edition this got retconned so that Tremere was booted into Goratrix's body immediately after the diablerie of Saulot, and Saulot was the actual Tremere Antediluvian from the start.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

As I recall, in 3e vampire, Tremere-in-the-body-of-Goriatrix actually cast the ritual that destroyed the antitribu to temporarily raise his generation.



But still, for most of the game the key point for both clans Tremere and Giovanni was that their founders had killed and diablerized two antediluvians. Now, the game started to walk that back pretty hard as 2e crept along - the Cappodacians and Salubri had more fucking spin-offs than anyone knew what to do with and it turns out that Saulot and Cappodacius were only dead for certain values of "death," but at this point as far as anyone knew they'd both been eaten.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So for a while one of the most powerful vampires in the setting was a vampire sandworm? That's at least interesting. Vampire-God of Dune.

I don't get why designers would make a faction stronger than another by pure logic, and then get upset when people chose that faction over the other. It's just logical, and it's not like it ruins the experience. It's not like Pun-Pun, which was based on various rules from different books combined in an unforeseen way, it's just another two points that they themselves wrote in and was easy to see.

Also, I've often heard on here about how White Wolf try to stick the christian values and traditions, and I can see that, but why do they combine it with well, White Wolf? It's weird, conflicting, and makes no sense. You've got the christian religious parts, but then you also have New Age based Mages and bestiality performing werewolves.

Also, Humanity. Should have been made much less based on actions and instead on end results. So, you had to kill some people and rob a nightclub and steal a car, but at the same time you prevented some Sabbat death cult from doing a 'lolrandom' kill spree on the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, so overall you get some Humanity.


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Nath
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
it turns out that Saulot and Cappodacius were only dead for certain values of "death"

White Wolf refusal to have the eldest vampires out of the picture is in the same vein to Marvel and DC Comics refusal to keep people dead. This reminds me of a discussion I had a while ago, about how game settings like the World of Darkness or Shadowrun actually reached a point where they have had more content written than most other works of fiction in History, making Harry Potter or Game of Throne look thin.

That's a sorta small club in which you'd meet the Bible (few books but total word count past 800k), Homer, Hesiod and other greek authors work, Star Wars Expanded Universe (I think around 450-500 novels and RPG books, plus movies, videogames and comics), and DC Comics and Marvel universe (a non-definitive list here, I'm just quoting those I come to think about).

And most of those are rife with inconsistencies of all sort, from Aphrodite two or three different birth stories to the number of capital ships the Galactic Rebellion had (the Bible can get credit at least for avoiding most of those and accepting to move its timeline forward).

My point was that amateurs or, in the best case, grossly inexperienced writers in the RPG industry were trying to build a consistent setting on a scale no one in History ever managed to. Well, in White Wolf case, some of them may have been willing to try. I think. I guess so.


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