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[OSSR]Player's Guide to the Sabbat (2E) [VTM]
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
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.

Vampire specifically was written to appeal to the flaunting of Christian taboos, while very specifically confirming that the context in which those taboos are important is correct. God exists in Vampire: the Masquerade, the Bible is essentially correct for the majority of its points, and the Christian church/religious practices are generally efficacious. It's a game written by people raised Southern Baptist, the type of people that really get their rocks off with Ashley Madison accounts. The game appeals to players very specifically by invoking taboos like violence, cannibalism, sex, devil worship, and being an unclean thing in the eyes of God...all while very much re-affirming that those are all Bad Things. It's escapism as an appeal to the shit your preacher thunders about as what's wrong with this generation on Sunday.

Quote:
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.

I'd put it closer to the treatment of Immortal Elves and Great Dragons in Shadowrun, except more annoying, because even the elves don't run everything.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
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.


Ahaha. Oh no. Tremere is not one of the most powerful vampires in the setting. He's not even the most powerful Thaumaturgist. Tremere is the head of the clan known for Thaumaturgy, and none of the Tremere vampires (Tremere included) are even in the top three.

In terms of power Tremere is a complete chump who was tricked and manipulated at every step of the way. The very creation of clan Tremere was a long con by Saulot to get a new body and a loyal army of vampire wizards. The Gehenna plot by Tremere to mind control the whole world is actually a setup by [Tzimisce] to merge with the whole world. There hasn't been a single thing clan Tremere achieved that wasn't later attributed to manipulations of some other vampire.

And to make it worse, every single thing Tremere had was stolen by other clans. Nagaraja did the "wizards turn into vampires to reach immortality" literally ten thousand years before the Tremere. Assamites and Settites were later revealed to be supreme masters of Thaumaturgy, their elders dwarfing Tremere (and THE Tremere) in power. Metaplot fucked Tremere hard.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Longes wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:
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.


Ahaha. Oh no. Tremere is not one of the most powerful vampires in the setting. He's not even the most powerful Thaumaturgist. Tremere is the head of the clan known for Thaumaturgy, and none of the Tremere vampires (Tremere included) are even in the top three.

In terms of power Tremere is a complete chump who was tricked and manipulated at every step of the way. The very creation of clan Tremere was a long con by Saulot to get a new body and a loyal army of vampire wizards. The Gehenna plot by Tremere to mind control the whole world is actually a setup by [Tzimisce] to merge with the whole world. There hasn't been a single thing clan Tremere achieved that wasn't later attributed to manipulations of some other vampire.

And to make it worse, every single thing Tremere had was stolen by other clans. Nagaraja did the "wizards turn into vampires to reach immortality" literally ten thousand years before the Tremere. Assamites and Settites were later revealed to be supreme masters of Thaumaturgy, their elders dwarfing Tremere (and THE Tremere) in power. Metaplot fucked Tremere hard.


Okay, so no Vampire Leto II Arteides. Noted. So essentially the entire clan went through Badas Decay because the latter clans were powercreeepd, at least in the fluff. Not something Vampire alone does, but at this point whenever someone is announced as he master of something in fiction at the start of the series, expect secretly better people to start crawling out of the woodwork.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:

I'd put it closer to the treatment of Immortal Elves and Great Dragons in Shadowrun, except more annoying, because even the elves don't run everything.


I'd say that a cool setting to write novels in is not the same as a cool setting to play games in.

And all the ancient vampires pulling strings behind the scenes are cool for novels. They're just terrible for games, unless you're playing as those ancient vampires.

And an Antediluvian game using 2E rules wouldn't actually be bad. It isn't until Revised and 10 dot Disciplines become "Plot Device, do whatever you want" that Antediluvians become really overpowering.

The Antediluvian power creep is one of the worst things about the setting.

Nath wrote:
(the Bible can get credit at least for avoiding most of those and accepting to move its timeline forward).


Revelations was a giant Shark Jump that shat all over the entire setting. Sometimes moving the setting forward isn't a good thing.

FrankT wrote:
So shit like “Refusing to participate in the resurrection of Set” is absolutely never going to come up and is perfect.

If I were GMing a game with a Settite Warrior, I absolutely would make it come up and I would make it matter. I'd make it a genuinely gut-wrenching decision Where the character has to choose between Set or his Packmates, or something of similar value to him.

If the Storyteller isn't willing to resurrect Set at the worst possible time, then he isn't trying.


Last edited by hyzmarca on Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Longes wrote:
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.


I'm stretching back about 15 years to remember this, but how we played it, and I think that it was canon, was that a vampire who met final death reverted back to a corpse that was as old as the vampire was. This degeneration took place quickly in our games, not instantaneous like Blade, but more like Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade.

If you're a few years undead, your body rots away in like... 5 minutes and bones remain. If you're a thousand years old, you ash in like 2 seconds. Though in the right conditions we admitted that skeletons and bones could remain. usually we kept that for dramatic effect. One particularly old vampire got Super Sayan'd and ashed so fast his bones still were upright and leaning against the wall. Stuff like that.

Saying a vampire got ashed was saying you just killed a very, very old vampire in our games.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

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.


Dracula was... an admitted anomaly I think in WoD. Every clan claimed Drac was their member, and there was some kind of thread half joking/half serious that Dracula *wasn't* a vampire but something else.

They tried to address more Dracula like vampires in nWoD with Order of the Dragon, which I appreciated. But nWoD had it's issues as we all know.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:


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.


Probably. You had movies like The Lost Boys, which I think is where they ripped off the Brujah, and Anne Rice, and a bunch of other more modern spins on Vampires influencing the genre. Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee represented a campy/stiff vampire that you could kind of see in the Ventrue.

If you want to read a basic ripoff of World of Darkness, the Anita Blake series is basically marginal yet popular fanfic before it turned into erotic dark urban fantasy (well, more than it had been) like 6 books in and turned into furry/fantasy orgies. Came out in 93 so like... she probably wrote it around early 2nd edition Vampire. It's really hard to *not* see the books as being inspired by Vampire.

Anyway, culturally we were ready to accept it, and from an RPG standpoint we were kind of hungry for something set in "our world" as it were. There were a handful of modern setting games out there but generally you had sci fi and D&D and a few others.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
"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?")


We literally had a powergamer do this. The Storyteller decided to be a prick and say to make enough space, he had to remove his heart. Cue Followers of Set discipline that Jars your heart. He gleefully agreed, thinking he was getting a double-power up. He *thought* he had his heart in a jar somewhere but the Settite of course had the real one squirreled away, which caused some serious shit down the road when the powergamer had to fuck everyone over to stay undead.

Probably you shouldn't do this though without some vicissitude to create a pocket in your torso, or else a permanent wound level that if you ever heal your body pushes the dirt out.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Flatline wrote:
I'm stretching back about 15 years to remember this, but how we played it, and I think that it was canon, was that a vampire who met final death reverted back to a corpse that was as old as the vampire was. This degeneration took place quickly in our games, not instantaneous like Blade, but more like Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade.


That is unambiguously how it works for Ghouls. There's an age chart and when they die or run out of vampire jizz they decay based on how long they've been putting off the natural aging process.

For Vampires, we're back to the "No Editorial OVersight" thing. Different books (and sometimes even different chapters of the same book) would present final death in different ways.

Lost Boys wrote:
I think I should warn you all, when a vampire bites it, it's never a pretty sight. No two bloodsuckers go the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode, but all will try to take you with them.


Depending on which book you've read last, the following may be canon:
  • Collapse into pile of dust with the remaining blood they have drunk falling separately.
  • Revert to what their mortal body would look like at time of death.
  • Revert to what their mortal body would look like if they had been dead and decaying the entire time they were a vampire.
  • Revert to what their mortal body would look like if they had lived the entire time they were a vampire, getting older and older (and turning to dust if they'd lived long enough to far outstrip their natural lifespan).
  • Just be a corpse.


Practically, Vampires on Final Death just do whatever the author of the moment thinks sounds the most poetic. But considering that there are questions like "Are dead Nosferatu a potential breach of the Masquerade?" that are quite important, the decision of White Wolf editorial staff to never make a hard and fast rule that they applied to the whole setting was a gross failure.

-Frank
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Longes
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

TheFlatline wrote:
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.


Dracula was... an admitted anomaly I think in WoD. Every clan claimed Drac was their member, and there was some kind of thread half joking/half serious that Dracula *wasn't* a vampire but something else.

They tried to address more Dracula like vampires in nWoD with Order of the Dragon, which I appreciated. But nWoD had it's issues as we all know.


Dracula is a focal big penis NPC of three adventures in Transylvania Chronicles. His clan has been solidified by now as Tzimisce, and he has a character sheet.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


He also manages to breed an entire castle of revenants within about a century.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Also, he's the last member of a revenant bloodline which is why he's allergic to garlic.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

TheFlatline wrote:
If you want to read a basic ripoff of World of Darkness, the Anita Blake series is basically marginal yet popular fanfic before it turned into erotic dark urban fantasy (well, more than it had been) like 6 books in and turned into furry/fantasy orgies. Came out in 93 so like... she probably wrote it around early 2nd edition Vampire. It's really hard to *not* see the books as being inspired by Vampire.


Really? I'm hardly an expert on VTM, but I started reading the Anita Blake books (Don't judge me! I was young...), and I'm not seeing obvious similarities.

For one, there's no Masquerade, I don't think vampires worry about their "humanity", I don't recall different bloodlines.

There was a lot of sex and "edginess" and pretentious waffle, though.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
Chapter Five: Traits


White Wolf never fully established what the numbers were for.

Musical accompaniment is Blutengel because I honestly don't know how we went this long in this review without having a Blutengel song. It's basically the Vampire LARP band. In German.

FrankT:

As we have mentioned in previous reviews, “Trait” in White Wolf speak is “anything that has a number attached to it.” If it has a number or a number of dots drawn in after the title, it's a Trait. That's not a particularly helpful distinction and there's no particular reason to collect things that have numbers into a chapter. But White Wolf did this fairly often. Stuff that has a number attached like Virtues and Skills and some kinds of magic powers is a pretty heterogeneous group. And stuff that doesn't have numbers attached like clan affiliation, nature, and derangements are also a heterogeneous group – but not really different in any way you could put your finger on.

Certainly it would superficially make more sense to group Virtues with Nature since those are things that describe your character's personality and motivation. Rather than grouping Virtues with Thaumaturgy Rituals because they both have numbers attached. But well, White Wolf just fucking does this shit. It makes things easy to find if you know White Wolf, but explaining why anything is where it is in White Wolf books to someone who isn't already familiar is pretty hard.


We must imagine Sisyphus happy.

One thing to keep in mind is that while everything in this chapter has a number, these numbers are not on the same scale and a lot of the numbers are not used in the same way. Most numbers in White Wolf games are rated 1-5, but dicepools for actions are often two or three (or more!) different numbers added together. And some numbers just run 1-10 anyway. And then some numbers are just off doing their own thing. Merits and Flaws just have arbitrary values which determine how many you are allowed to start with, but don't actually do anything in play.

AncientH:

The main Sabbat Traits are "Secondary Abilities," which encompasses Talents, Skills, and Knowledges. These are layers of distinction that are never used for anything, and are therefore bad. Seriously, one of the hallmarks of a mature game is to "simplify, and add lightness." If you have a tag or category which does not measurably add to the setting, that is probably a bad mechanic and you should get rid of it. This sort of thing normally shows up in CCGs, which is why both Magic: the Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings have multiple types/tags/keywords that basically just don't do shit, or what shit they do they do so badly that the game would be better off if those categories never existed.

So it is with the World of Darkness! There is no especial distinction between Skills, Talents, and Knowledges; they're all used about the same way and they're all increased at the same costs (except Mage, which made Knowledges cheaper). They also distinguished between Primary Abilities and Secondary Abilities. Primary Abilities were included in the core book and would be the skills/talents/etc. that tests were actually supposed to reference; while Secondary Abilities were largely stuff included in the splats and wouldn't generally be used by Disciplines or probably in any other use.

FrankT:

The core mechanic of Vampire is that you have stats and skills and these are both soft-capped at 5, and you add one of each of those together and the result is how many dice you roll. So normal dicepools are soft-capped at 10. Back in the old days, the number you were looking for on a die also moved up and down due to various stuff, and that was also terrible. But there are two core issues that the White Wolf guys don't seem to have thought about:

  • The amount of dice that hit the target number is generally going to be lower than the number of dice in the pool.
  • The amount of dice you have in an average pool is going to be lower the more different traits you introduce.


And so we see a bunch of “success inflation” where shit is constantly asking you to hit the target number on 5 or more dice to get results you want. And we get the constant introduction of new skills, despite the fact that writing these up makes everyone less skilled across the board.

So this book introduces the Panhandling skill. If that didn't exist, you'd probably just roll Manipulation + Streetwise or something to panhandle if for some reason it was important. But when there exists a separate Panhandling skill, the Streetwise skill stops letting you Panhandle. And so the player who has the Streetwise skill has to choose to either buy an extra skill, and become less skilled at the things he can do because he doesn't get any extra points to fill this hole with and something has gotta give – or he has to accept that as of now he just has less actions available to do with the skills he already has.

What this all boils down to is that the authors of Vampire never really sat down and crunched the math as to how good characters were at actually doing stuff, and just randomly wrote shit in all the time that undermined the players every which way. People were expected to play without using the rules much of the time, so when actual rules got popped out, people were like “holy shit, why does my character suck so bad?”



AncientH:

From a game design standpoint, Abilities are cheap and fast to churn out. You don't have to work out target numbers or anything else, they go on the character sheet, and some people will like them. In many ways, it's like the Big Dick merit. If the Big Dick merit exists, even if it doesn't do anything, some players will want to take the Big Dick merit just to point at their character sheet and say "My Character Has a Big Dick. It says so right here." So it is with Sabbat abilities like Fire Walking. Most of these abilities are just window dressing.



Now, there is also the slight power-creep options that people work in. For example, Blind Fighting adds:

Quote:
For each level of ability the character has in this Skill, reduce the difficulty for performing actions while blind by one.


I looked up fighting blind, and I think it's only a +2 difficulty modifier to fight completely blind, so this could be potentially useful for combat monsters. Sort of like those blind archers in AD&D who dump four proficiencies in Zen Archery.

And sometimes they add new systems (like Disciplines) and declare new abilities to use that system. So, like, Koldunic Sorcery used Heath Wisdom the way that Thaumaturgy uses Occult (except where Koldunic Sorcery uses Koldunism, because sometimes they make the systems incompatible.) Which is why have skills in this section like Body Alteration and Dreaming. But then we also have skills like Snake Charming, and wtf? Was Animal Ken just not fucking useful enough on its own?

Also, the Fortune Teller skill is racist:

Quote:
* * * * * Master: Gypsies take lessons from you


FrankT:

Nomenclature in White Wolf games is fairly bad. We've been playing fast and lose with it, but technically all this shit had specific words that they used over and over – but were still shockingly unhelpful for people actually playing the game. So each die that hit the target number was called a success. But getting enough successes to achieve the desired result was also called a success. The things we call Skills were actually called “Abilities” despite the fact that everything your character could do was also called an “Ability.” The skills were grouped into three categories, called Talents, Knowledges, and get this: Skills. As mentioned before, this chapter is called “Traits” because everything with a number after it was called a trait, but in-character the unit of blood was called a “blood trait.” So um... yeah.



AncientH:

Also, if you're wondering how the new abilities Fire Eating and Fire Walking work with Rotschrek: fuck you.



However, this does provide a good period to point out one of the weirdnesses of Vampire. I won't say a weakness, but a weirdness. Most of the abilities and merits and powers they make accessible to Vampires and other flavors of supernaturals take into account certain given norms. So when they provide mechanics for firewalking and fire-eating to Vampire, they're working under the assumption that you are a Vampire and are afraid of/vulnerable to fire and that this is a limited workaround. So how does it work if a ghoul or a werewolf takes one of those abilities? No one fucking knows. How does it work if your vampire is a pyromaniac or immune to fire? No one knows. There's just a lot of situations where it's not just that the skill isn't applicable, but there's a divide by kumquat error because you have entered unknown territory beyond what the designers ever envisioned...and that happens a lot.

FrankT:

The new magical powers were an odd mixed bag. Vicissitude exists because the transformation powers in the basic game were pretty much bullshit. Level 4 Protean just to turn into a fucking bat, with no real incidental transformation at all. So since people wanted to have some sort of rubber skin melty-face transformation powers and needed a whole new discipline for that because that is how White Wolf games worked. Obtenebration existed because someone wanted Shadow powers and they made a grab bag discipline full of awesome for that. And Dementation happened because Steve decided regular Malkavians just weren't crazy enough and needed more Crazy.


Dementation is actually completely fucking worthless. It's 5 dots worth of various magical powers that make your target have a kind of bad time for a variable amount of time. Get a good enough success and it's damn near permanent. But you know what else is nearly permanent? Hitting them in the face with a chain saw. Investing heavily in offensive magical powers where you use them on people and they don't die is a complete fucking waste of time.

This pretty much gets to the heart of why the whole five dot discipline system was bullshit. While you can itemize anything and split it up into five distinct levels, that doesn't mean you should. So Obtenebration ended up being 5 distinct powers with shadow themes that (other than the first one) are each pretty distinct and powerful. On the other hand, Dementation is pretty much just five dots of incrementally creeping people out.


Nick Cage can creep people out and he probably doesn't have Dementation at all.

AncientH:

It's worth noting that these powers go up to 11 9 dots, which you are probably never going to see play with. Level nine powers are pretty badass, but your character is never going to be of the generation to use them, and even if they do manage to diablerize their way up to 4th generation, they're never going to get enough XP to buy those powers. So what the hell?

Obtenebration is weird on a couple of levels, but mostly because it became somebody's pet project in future splats with something called Abyss Mysticism. The thing is, the designers of Vampire twigged pretty early on that players were frustrated that all the really cool powers were 1) expensive and 2) completely out of their reach. They tried a few different ways to get around this, with varying levels of success.

Way #1 involved combination disciplines, where if you had the right set of powers you could spend more XP and get new powers without actually going up in level - this was so successful they formalized it as devotions in nWoD.

Way #2 involved finding a spin-off of your powerset that you could spend XP on. In extreme cases, this meant that you could have multiple disciplines that handled related subjects - Protean and Vicissitude for shapechanging, for example, or Necromancy, Nihilistics, and Thanatosis - but it also meant you could have spin-off shadow powers like Obtenebration and Abyss Mysticism.

Way #3 developed out of Way #2, and basically meant re-writing a discipline (or multiple disciplines) as a blood sorcery Discipline with a bunch of paths. Paths provided a bunch of relatively cool powers that were accessible to all vampires at your starting generation level and were fairly inexpensive. Yes, Thaumaturgy 6 existed, but you didn't need it because with one exception, Paths all topped out at 5. Frank an I have talked about how this should probably have been the template for all Vampire disciplines before - Fortitude, Celerity, and Potence, if you need to have them, work better as paths of a single discipline than standalone Disciplines.

Also, sometimes they jumped the shark and combined #2 and #3, so you have both Voudoun Necromancy and Western Necromancy, but we'll get to that in a bit...

FrankT:

I defer to AH on the permutations and retcons that blood sorcery went through over the following editions. The bit I want to talk about is the setup right at the beginning. Vampire: the Masquerade was originally Ars Magica 1999, with the shift to Vampires as a subject matter being a last minute substitution. And so all the different vampire powers were divided up into disciplines, but all the “sorcery” abilities got dumped into a single discipline called “Thaumaturgy” that used a different system where you got to know several paths and learn a bunch of rituals and spells. This was originally given to just a single clan (who were originally an Ars Magica wizard faction), and that clan was much better than you.

But since the only way to really write in lots more magic powers people might actually use was to write new paths and rituals for Thaumaturgy, that kept happening. And because only Thaumaturgy let you actually get any of those magic powers, future sourcebooks pretty much gave access to Thaumaturgy to fucking everybody and their dogs. But at the time of Player's Guide to the Sabbat, Thaumaturgy was still basically a Tremere-only playground.


And it was a weird playground.

AncientH:

Yes, this is before we got the true Blood Magic bloat (which is an OSSR that needs to happen). One of the issues with early Thaumaturgy is that because it basically represented all the blood sorcery available (outside of the highly obscure Enchantment discipline), it was highly eclectic. It basically encompassed any and all magical systems that the writers wanted, and Thaumaturgy rituals were a kitchen sink for any and all effects. The only common denominator is that they generally avoid rituals as D&D-type "spells." They're closer to Call of Cthulhu spells, where there is little to no consistency between effects, level of detail, or mechanics. Eventually they'd try to clean this up a little, but it was messy as hell for the first couple of editions.

In this book, one new Path (the Gift of Morpheus) and a shitload of rituals are introduced. None of these are Sabbat-specific. Gift of Morpheus lets you put people to sleep and enter their dreams, which is a bit like hacking in Shadowrun or Inception except you can't take your team with you so everybody else goes out to have a smoke while your RP one-on-one with the Storyteller for a bit. Gift of Morpheus also does not interact in any real way with any of the other dream-based powers written before or after this book for this or any other White Wolf game line...which is par for the course. What happens when you use this on a sleeper that a Sandman is currently visiting? Who the fuck knows?

The rituals are even more of a grab-bag, but include a couple of important ones. Preserve Blood is an alternative to having a minifridge.



Eyes of the Night Hawk creates magic birdseed that lets you see through the eyes of any bird that eats it, something that should basically should be an Animalism power, and is a classic example of Thaumaturgy making other vampires feel small in the pants. There's another ritual later on called "The Haunting" that should basically be a Necromancy ritual, but Necromancy wasn't a blood magic discipline yet at this point!

Power of the Invisible Flame lets the flames you make with Lure of the Flames be invisible. So they won't cause Rotschreck, but you can just watch fuckers burn anyway. Which could cause some really weird arson. Does invisible fire make smoke? I'd assume so.

Recure of the Homeland uses your native soil to heal you, and is plainly intended for Tzimisce but they never get it because fuck you nobody cares.

...I'm not going through all of these; there are a lot of rituals, and they do a lot of things, and many of them should just be discipline powers for other disciplines, and they go all the way up to Level 7 where you can cast Shadow of the Wolf and be a Werewolf for a night. No word if that's supposed to be a living werewolf or an abomination, but a lot of these rituals were pretty light on the mechanics back in the day.

FrankT:

Merits and Flaws are pretty insane. There are flaws that are not bad, even basically good to have. And there are Merits that screw you over. And there's no real correlation between the cost of a merit and how awesome it is. This was ported pretty much straight from Ars Magica, and while some Ars Magica Fanbois tried to sell the basic insanities of the system as features, it was pretty obviously a poorly constructed rinky-dink operation even at the time.

AncientH:

Merits & Flaws are hilariously weird, in that they read like something from GURPS and should have been part of a general "build a vampire" kit, but nobody actually could be arsed to make that work.

Backgrounds: there are a few, but you don't get any free backgrounds so you're probably not going to spend Freebie points/XP on them. Do you care about Black Hand Membership, or being acknowledged as the Leader of your Pack, or about Sabbat Status? Probably fucking not.

Sabbat Virtues we talked about; they did not need extensive write-ups. Then we get to the tips on playing a Sabbat vampire.

Quote:
Playing a Sabbat character is much like playing a Camarilla vampire. The major difference is that Sabbat accept their vampiric natures and thus do not try to act human. This can lead to many problems when you start playing, especially since part of what may have attracted you to the game is the tortured, tragically hip angst of humanity within the Beast.


If I drank, I would drink.

Quote:
It is up to you to search out meaning for the character's existence. You should not play a stereotypical evil vampire, but should ask yourself questions about what it would really be like to believe oneself superior to humans and to be required to feed upon them or die. From these two aspects alone you can get many hours of entertaining roleplaying. Happily, there are few guidelines. Each player is encouraged to seek the answers in her own individual way.


I am filled with rage.

Quote:
Please keep in mind that Sabbat are much more inclined to combat
than Camarilla characters.


Fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Quote:
Also keep in mind the Vinculum bonds and their effect on the character's mind. You should often encounter problems where the character is forced to act against her better judgment due to these Blood Bonds. The game can be greatly enhanced through portraying the character as externally free, while at the same time a prisoner in her own mind.


This almost approaches a philosophical point. The problem is, within the context of the game, the rules and mechanics do constrain the character. If you're playing a game where you don't get to play how and what you want to, you could be playing something else. The only thing that's stopping you is your own mind.

Chapter Six: Templates
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FrankT:

When White Wolf books say “templates” they mean “sample characters.” And they continue to savage the English language because no one stops them. I think part of the original deal was that the Dot Meister just went fucking hog wild with a thesaurus and named every single thing a thing that you wouldn't quite expect. And sometimes he strained this shit to the actual breaking point because I don't think his actual vocabulary was that big. But he very obviously had a thesaurus, and damned if later authors weren't going to use one too!

This book doesn't actually have fully fleshed out sample characters. Like, they don't got numbers and shit. It's just some sample character backstories and roleplaying tips and shit. Not really a lot to say about these.

AncientH:

Not much to add here. White Wolf just paints in broad colors, doesn't fuck with equipment lists, and yet every single one of these characters has at least one weapon. It's weird, but not especially weird. Just kinda ho-hum wanking.

Next up: Appendices and Wrapup!
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A few minutes of googling TV tropes and wikis is enough to find out that Anita Blake has bloodlines, blood bonds, a "Master of the City," a ruling student vampire council based in Euope and forbidden werewolf lovin'. The biggest discrepancy is that the setting is apparently recently UnMasqued like True Blood rather than running an active Masquerade. Everything else pretty much fits--sure, the major vampire doesn't sound like a whiner, but that's actually typical for a World of Darkness game where the local vampire Prince is an NPC. Otherwise Anita herself is apparently a repressed bisexual who feels wangst over being excommunicated by the Catholic Church for being a necromancer. That's so WoD that it stings my eyes.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
As we have mentioned in previous reviews, “Trait” in White Wolf speak is “anything that has a number attached to it.” If it has a number or a number of dots drawn in after the title, it's a Trait. That's not a particularly helpful distinction and there's no particular reason to collect things that have numbers into a chapter.


For bonus fun: while that is the definition of Trait in VtM, it then goes and immediately lists among the Traits such things as "Name", "Player" and "Chronicle". I'll take a 5 dot Player for my 3 dot Chronicle.

Quote:
The main Sabbat Traits are "Secondary Abilities," which encompasses Talents, Skills, and Knowledges. These are layers of distinction that are never used for anything, and are therefore bad.


Entirely not true. They differ in what happens when you have 0 dots in an ability. For Talents, you just roll the Attribute. For Skills you roll the Attribute and increase the target number by 1. For Knowledges you can't roll. Got 0 Medicine? Can't do any first aid, ever.
Unless of course you are playing Mage where this distinction is dropped. For reasons.


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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Right, so I stand corrected. It's not a meaningless distinction, just a stupid and terrible one.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Whipstitch wrote:
A few minutes of googling TV tropes and wikis is enough to find out that Anita Blake has bloodlines, blood bonds, a "Master of the City," a ruling student vampire council based in Euope and forbidden werewolf lovin'. The biggest discrepancy is that the setting is apparently recently UnMasqued like True Blood rather than running an active Masquerade. Everything else pretty much fits--sure, the major vampire doesn't sound like a whiner, but that's actually typical for a World of Darkness game where the local vampire Prince is an NPC. Otherwise Anita herself is apparently a repressed bisexual who feels wangst over being excommunicated by the Catholic Church for being a necromancer. That's so WoD that it stings my eyes.


Ok, when you put it like that, yeah.

I don't remember bloodlines at all, but then it was ages since I read the books.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Also an inconsistent distinction, because the basic rules aren't the same in different books, and shit like "what happens if you are asked to roll Streetwise and you have zero dots?" is exactly the kind of shit that isn't the same book to book. I honestly couldn't tell you what the difference between a Talent and a Skill is in the different editions of Vampire: the Masquerade or different timeline versions of Vampire or different Vampire-inspired quasi-standalone games like Ebony Kingdoms, let alone the semi-independent games like Werewolf and Wraith.

Many of the books just don't even mention the possibility, and I don't know what you're supposed to default to when the author has zero dots of game design. Remember that after Vampire went to fixed target numbers that books were coming out that blithely talked about variable target numbers three years later, so who fucking knows?

-Frank
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
TheFlatline wrote:
If you want to read a basic ripoff of World of Darkness, the Anita Blake series is basically marginal yet popular fanfic before it turned into erotic dark urban fantasy (well, more than it had been) like 6 books in and turned into furry/fantasy orgies. Came out in 93 so like... she probably wrote it around early 2nd edition Vampire. It's really hard to *not* see the books as being inspired by Vampire.


Really? I'm hardly an expert on VTM, but I started reading the Anita Blake books (Don't judge me! I was young...), and I'm not seeing obvious similarities.

For one, there's no Masquerade, I don't think vampires worry about their "humanity", I don't recall different bloodlines.

There was a lot of sex and "edginess" and pretentious waffle, though.


It's been covered but yeah, aside from the masquerade thing not being an issue it basically felt like someone's WoD game where they decided the Masquerade was stupid AF and rolled with it.

And don't feel bad, my ex used to read that stuff as jill-off material so I'm familiar with it.

As Frank has said many times, for most of my life you could make the blanket statement that everyone woman I slept with played Vampire at some point or another. The 90's/Early 2000's were... weird.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Player's Guide to the Sabbat
The Last Bits


Just because it's a bad idea doesn't mean I'm going to stop.

Final countdown music will be The Final Countdown.

FrankT:

There are two appendices at the end of the Player's Guide to the Sabbat. The first is just a list of some stats for extra weapons you might want to use (chainsaw, flamethrower, machete, and straight razor). And by “might” I mean definitely. I have no complaints that people would think Vampire characters would need to have stats for using flamethrowers, chainsaws, straight razors, and machetes, because fucking obviously Vampire characters are going to want to use those. There are of course a couple of problems with all this.
  • You are never going to remember that the equipment list that includes the stats for chainsaws is in Appendix 1 of the Player's Guide to the Sabbat. That is simply not an appropriate place to put rules that everyone is going to want to use.
  • The rules for weapons in early versions of Vampire are a fucking trainwreck. Later versions weren't spectacular, but these versions have fucking difficulty numbers on them and concealability letters.



We aren't asking for rules for Scooby characters to get moon equipment, we're asking for rules for chainsaws in a horror setting.

The second appendix is a list of magic items. Not rules for these magic items, just a list of them with verbal descriptions of what they do. Many of these went on to be written up in other contexts. These magic items were all supposed to be “stuff your Storyteller might want to use as inspiration for magic items in your home game.” But as the first compilation of magic items I'm aware of, this became the foundation of the canon.


This wasn't even from the Sabbat expansion, but from the core set.

What this speaks to of course is the fact that players genuinely want their supernatural characters to regularly interact with supernatural stuff. So the thing where most World of Darkness books claim that your characters will never get a magic item is not something that goes down easy for the target demographic. It may be tucked away in an obscure appendix to a weird and optional sourcebook, but the fucking magic item list entered everyone's headcanon basically immediately.

AncientH:

This was waaaay before any World of Darkness game had a workable enchantment mechanic, or even a coherent theory of how-do-you-make-something-magical, outside of a few Thaumaturgical rituals. They were basically operating on very weak storytelling-driven ideas where an item became enchanted in association with its use, or assuming magic items could be generated through magic rituals which PCs didn't have access to, or involved "supernatural" materials taken from more legendary supernatural beings.

So, for examples:

The Ivory Bow; any arrow fired from it causes aggravated damage to vampires and werewolves. No thrills, no backstory, very generic, if utilitarian. Very fantasy RPG-ish item.

Giant's Blood - a personal favorite; it's the blood of giants. Causes temporary or possibly permanent increase in a vampire's Potence discipline.

Concoction of Vitality - Vampire turns into a human, but only for 24 hours.

Talbot's Chainsaw - "The rusty yellow chainsaw she used is believed to possess some unknown supernatural powers. Rumors include: complete immunity to bullets, blades and fire, as well as the ability to call up zombie-like creatures."

Etc. Some of these could conceivably have been standardized in the way D&D did for magic item creation in d20 - have a ritual that let's you create a potion for any one blood sorcery power, for example, and the Potion of Vitality becomes just a Level 5 Mortis item. But a lot of these are just D&D-isms being snuck in to a vampire game. I mean, consider the Vestements of Vileness:

Quote:
This unholy article of clothing is a priestly vestment with a Sabbat blessing and curse upon it. The curse dooms the owner to lose any loved one who touches the robe. The blessing allows the vampire to use Necromancy (as the Giovanni Discipline) up to level four. The necromantic powers of the robe are not compatible with any Necromancy the vampire may already have.


Why? How? Who cares?

Several of these magic items are basically relics of ancient vampires, and that's a cultural cachet that proved influential in at least a couple of media.


I didn't say they were good.

FrankT:

Looking through the book, it's hard to make the argument that the Sabbat were sufficiently fleshed out that you could actually play a game as them. Sabbat campaigns certainly existed, but they did not tend to last long. At the time, White Wolf fans would pass this off as the Sabbat being too evil and edgelordish for most groups to handle – like how explicitly Evil D&D games don't tend to last long. But honestly I think it has more to do with the fact that if four people sat down to play a Sabbat campaign they'd have four different sets of expectations about what that even meant. Was the Sabbat supposed to be a bunch of LOLrandom pranksters? A bunch of cartoonishly evil cannibals? A bunch of terrorist resistance cells against a worldwide conspiracy? A religious cult planning for the apocalypse? What? Basically the book tells you that you are “The Joker” but neglects to actually nail down which Joker you are playing.


The Roger Stoneburner Joker is from the Birds of Prey TV series, which is why you do not remember him.

It's basically exactly like if the book said “Hey! You should play a superheroes game where you play the Legion of Doom!” Which could be a cool campaign but honestly having one player who wants to play the bad guys in Super Friends while running around stealing forty cakes and shit while another player wants to be the secret society from Wanted and spend their time stabbing people in the eyeballs and shit (literally stabbing people in the shit, if we're talking the original comic)... you're going to have a bad time. Different players in a cooperative storytelling game don't all need to agree what should happen in every scenario – that is why we roll fucking dice. But they damn well need to agree on what the overarching tone is going to be. And this book is just too schizophrenic about that issue to give a serious starting point. Even that could be salvaged if there was some kind of essay or series of essays about what different kinds of themes you could do with your chronicle and how different takes on the Sabbat fit into that.

Those kinds of essays never came. The book just goes from being super serious to low comedy to gross-out gorefest without taking a breath. And because of that, I have never seen or heard of a group of Vampire players who were able to sit down and play a Sabbat game without almost immediately descending into acrimony. It's like “how do you handle rape in your games?” levels of coopertive storytelling boobytraps, but for basically every part of the whole game.



AncientH:

The Sabbat ultimately fails for the same reason the Camarilla fails: what the fuck do you do? "Be a vampire" by itself is barely enough for a one-on-one game or a choose your own sexventure novel. Getting a group of vampires together is more challenging - although the Sabbat's pack structure and viniculum makes it a little easier to get all your serial killers in a room without killing each other, you still have to deal with what the fuck do we do? We've touched on this before, but it bears repeating because...I don't think they ever really answered it. I mean, you can get marching orders from your Sabbat Bishops to fuck up the Camarilla's shit, which is a noble and worthwhile effort if you just want a series of missions - but they still haven't really outlined what you're fighting for, besides territory and a vague worry that the Antediluvians are going to come back and eat everybody. The problem is that the things the Sabbat wants are so vaguely defined it makes it really difficult to plan an actual campaign around the concept.

So first, you have to design the sect's goals. And at that point, you're almost better off designing your own sect. One with blackjack and hookers, and mandatory classes for fledgling vampires to get their shit together. At that point, you're basically playing a Camarilla campaign, only one which fights with the Sabbat a little less often.

FrankT:

Terminology in White Wolf games is... not good. I think it dates back to the Lion Rampant days of Ars Magica – deliberate misspellings and bad scholarship because we're looking at the product of some pretentious college kids basically. But White Wolf just sort of made that part of their brand rather than sweeping it quietly under the rug. They never grew out of spelling magic as “Magick” or replacing Is with Ys. And back when I was a teenager, this was only sometimes insulting. Like, “Jyhad” was never OK, and Dotmeister's insistence that “Brujah” was pronounced “Brew-Jaw” despite being an actual word that's pronounced “Brew-Ha” was so fucking tone deaf that people basically just didn't even believe he had said something that stupid. But lots of other minor shit didn't really grate on me until I got older and more worldly.



So shit like naming one of the teams “Sabbat” and then having them not be witches or pagans but instead some sort of fringe Christians is just par for the course. That this is both stupid and offensive is not actually a thing that White Wolf authors particularly noticed or cared about.

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Indeed, later authors made this shit so much worse. Take a step back and think about how fucking deep you have to go into a Latin textbook before you come up with “Serpentis” or how deeply you have to dive into a thesaurus to come up with the term “Obtenebration.” We're talking extremely obscure words, and they don't exactly mean what the authors wanted them to mean. Serpentis is fucking genitive case, which makes the phrase “I activate Serpentis” technically gibberish.


Genitive case using you are.

AncientH:

The thing about the Sabbat is...it works if and only if you're talking about the Inquisition, who get a bunch of peasant women and rip out their fingernails and crush their feet in iron boots and in other wise torture them while asking the same leading questions until you get the story you want to hear, and that story tells you about witches as an underground force counterpoised to the Catholic Church and they all fly out to group meetings and do bizarre sexual things to each other and learn sorcery and have fun, all of which are big no-nos. It requires those stories, constructed to appeal specifically to what the Inquisition was looking for, to be true to a certain extant...and it would have to apply to a group of rebellious vampires.


Basically true.

And if you're in the 13 to 18 age category and just read Margaret Murray's The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and you're interested in Wicca, you could maybe think there was something to all that, and write up how the Inquisition stumbled upon vampires and their organization of ghouls and human victims and agents, and the existential threat of these Catholic vampire-hunters and the threat they posed to the vampires was sufficient for a group of them to decide "Fuck it, let's hide" (Camarilla) and another group to decide "Fuck it, let's fight" (Sabbat).

But that isn't this book. Never mind that Margaret Murray was wrong, the whole history of the Sabbat isn't written and organized well enough to give a clear idea of what the sect stands for and how it is significantly different from the Camarilla in terms of overall goals. The philosophical differences don't stand up to scrutiny, so the difference between regular clan and antitribu is more about partisan politics than anything else...and even that isn't well defined. The Sabbat and the Camarilla ultimately use much of the same methods as each other because they're both fucking vampires and they both need to work in the shadows. If one of them just starts openly ruling a city, that would be noticed and commented upon, and since it isn't, we can safely say that hasn't happened yet...unless you just want to mindcaulk it.

The thing is, I like the Sabbat as a medieval vampire death cult which decided the whole Camarilla thing is bullshit. That's workable. But the Sabbat as presented here isn't.

FrankT:

The Sabbat book was in many ways a hard left turn for the entire World of Darkness. The book tackled a lot of unworkable assumptions and subsystems for Vampire the Masquerade head on. Unfortunately, Steve's reach exceeded his grasp and I would say that a considerable majority of the replacements were also basically not workable. Many of the things being overhauled are quite tricky game design questions, like how to get player characters to care about being members of in-world factions while still being able to accomplish tasks in a cooperative fashion with the other player characters. But while failure is in many of these cases understandable, it is still failure.


Grand aspirations explain failure but they do not excuse it.

AncientH:

Despite the fact that this book is basically a steaming pile, it was fairly influential - in this grab bag "some authors refer to this and other authors refer to that and players just build up a headcanon idea of what the Sabbat is rather than actually try to run what's in the book" kind of way. Which is par for the course with a lot of vampire. People like the imagery of the Sabbat vampire as being more edgelordy than the Camarilla, because when you're dealing with transgressive material the liminal threshold of what counts as taboo moves. After your fifteenth or fiftieth clip of watching anal porn, anal porn loses some of its cachet. After you've been reading and roleplaying a vampire for a while, just being a bloodsucking abomination in the eyes of God isn't special any more. So as vampire went along in its editions, it kept having to dig deeper.


Eventually, these guys weren't hard core enough. So they created Black Dog. And then they did Scroll of Swallowed Darkness. Etc.

As one philosopher put it when talking about commitment:



That's what the Sabbat is, in a nutshell. An effort to keep the Vampire game fresh for the gamers who devoured this stuff. To give them new images, new concepts, and (unfortunately) new mechanics to play with. It doesn't do a good job at any of that, but the expectations of the crowd weer pretty low back in the 90s, and it worked...for a while.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
The Roger Stoneburner Joker is from the Birds of Prey TV series, which is why you do not remember him.


Huh, I thought *googles*. Oh, Mark Hamill just did the voice.
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