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Sabbat Speculations

I’ve been running a V20 Chronicle lately because my players were interested in trying out a Sabbat chronicle, having played as both Camarilla and Anarch coteries using the V5 rules.

Personally, I’m slightly sad that there hasn’t been much for the Sabbat as of yet. For the most part, we’ve heard that they’ve been destroyed, are busy with the Gehenna crusade, or have become small cells of die-hard members.

I’m curious what direction everyone thinks the Sabbat will go in, and when we might see a proper sourcebook for them as we’ve had for the Camarilla and the Anarchs.

From what I have been able to price together from interviews and comments on FB and Twitter Sabbat was planned for this year early next and then was taken off the schedule around March or so. The camarilla guide talks about them very briefly in passing in the Gehenna section and I hope we will get a bit more in the PG.

That’s a shame, any mention why it got cancelled back in March? Be interested to hear the reasoning behind that decision.

It really surprised me that the Sabbat, who’d been one of the big players got so little development and support with the new addition. I’m happy they developed the Anarchs some more, but at the same time the Sabbat deserved an equal showing to the Camarilla in my opinion.

Yeah I read the stuff in the books so far several times trying to work out if I could run a Sabbat chronicle. I’m tempted to try and homebrew some stuff and give it a go, but when V20 has so much more stuff for the Sabbat it seems silly not to make use of it.

My thought as to why is, that they are trying to stress Humanity and the introduction of the Sabbat would have to introduce the idea of alternate Morality paths which seems to be going against the grain of what has been established. As Touchstones are a huge part in maintaining ones Humanity in this game.

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See I thought that would be a problem, but then I wondered if the mechanics for the Vaulderie could be changed to fix it. Maybe the Vaulderie would allow players to take fellow vampires as touchstones? Then with the touchstone and chronicle tenet rules we could handle Sabbat morality using the new V5 systems without too much trouble.

I still think it is the stressing Humanity, alternate Morality paths tended to gum up the works (Rather like Elders did) thus in my mind is why they removed both (again a theory). I mean don’t get me wrong I loved Sabbat, but it was problematic in a game that was about not losing ones humanity to the monster within.

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I dunno, whilst I agree that V5 does stress the morality aspect much more than V20 I don’t see why it wouldn’t be easily modified for Sabbat morality.

After all, aside from violating Chronicle Tenets, maybe your Convictions depending on the ST, and then any acts your ST thinks warrants stains there’s no hard rules on morality anymore.

The lack of hierarchies of sin, and the mutability of Chronicle Tenets and Convictions makes me think they could handle the morality side quite easily.

I do agree regarding the elder stuff though, my current V20 game a lot of the players very quickly min-maxed, something I’ve yet to really see in our V5 games.

My personal theory for why they haven’t done much with the Sabbat is that due to the current political climate. They’re not sure how to write them without compromising on what the Sabbat should be, whilst also not getting themselves involved in a PR nightmare. Given what happened with the accusations of supporting fascism and the whole thing with Chechnya in the Camarilla book; handling the Middle East, religious extremism, terrorism, through the lens of a sect that utterly dismisses humanity is going to be hard to do right.

The Camarilla is much more in line with Fascism than the Sabbat, the Sabbat are a huge Cult you could almost liken them to religious extremists which would also be another reason to not include them in this climate as that could be viewed as stereotyping something the game has tried to move away from in the last almost 10 years.

As for the Alternate Morality thing we will have to agree to disagree here, though that being said the material kept insisting that most of the Sabbat were on humanity though it was really low and a small fringe group were on alternate paths, yet the source material did not support that claim as all the characters in the books released were all the ones on Paths I guess as I think maybe there were like 3-4 characters in Sabbat books that showed as being on Humanity through the stats they provided of the character builds.

Certainly the Camarilla are much closer to Fascists than the Sabbat, I was merely saying that such an accusation was levied at the designers during V5’s beta-testing, hence the expansive discussion on handling Fascism in play within the corebook.

The religious extremism problem is where I think the real sticking point is though. As you say they’ve tried to move away from negative stereotypes of different people, making the writing more respectful. But then the question becomes how do you translate that to a sect like the Sabbat without making them completely evil.

I don’t think most fans would be happy with either a watered-down Sabbat that’s less ruthless, or one that’s just turned into a bunch of evil villains, with a million caveats as to what you should and shouldn’t do as a Sabbat character.

That’s my biggest concern really, either that the Sabbat won’t see a release for a long time 'cause they’ll be hard to write, or that White Wolf and Modiphius will compromise in order to avoid outrage.

The Sabbat shouldve stayed npc enemies, not a playable option. That took away all of their mystike mystery savage danger otherness and horror.

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I agree RCAUTELA, the Sabbat should of always been NPC’s. The Sect had mystery and power as a big bad when they were ambiguous like they were in the beginning. That being said the genie is out of the bottle and were going to have people heavily pushing or pinning over their lack of inclusion in this iteration of the game. As much as I love the Sabbat I really hope they don’t come back as a playable option, the religious zealotry hits too close to some in this day and age and as Karos said a watered down version of the Sect would be even more of a sting than their lack of inclusion thus far.

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I think it’s rather inevitable that the Sabbat became playable, rather than just being used as NPC’s. To give ST’s the necessary details to set up this mysterious and powerful sect, meant giving them sufficient information to make the sect somewhat concrete. Combine that, with the allure of playing a mysterious and monstrous faction, its rather inevitable that the Sabbat would get player support.

On the whole however, I think its quite a good thing, the Sabbat handled right can make for some great chronicles, and its easy for an ST to keep plenty of great mysteries for players in a Sabbat chronicle. The Black Hand and the Inquisition for instance can add wonderful complications, and that’s before you look into messing with Noddism or the Revelations of the Dark Mother with Lilith.

On the point of the religious extremism element though, I think whilst that’s likely the hanging point, White Wolf should tackle it head on. WoD games have always been about confronting difficult subjects, the dynamics of power, social interactions, class conflict, totalitarianism, identity, etc. I don’t see why without the proper tact they couldn’t expand that to religious extremism.

I’m just worried they’ll think the community will react to any such attempt poorly, and it’ll be the Chechnya debacle all over again, when in fact many in the community would be more measured.

I agree that making the Sabbat playable was always going to happen. Not even taking into account the money made from additional sourcebooks, there are so many variations on how vampires are depicted that there were bound to be those that wanted the more monsterous approach.

Regarding the religious aspects. We have a biblical figure depicted as the original vampire. There’s not really a way to get rid of religious aspects without completely rewriting the historical lore. That said, there are ways to trim it down, if they felt it would be poorly received.

To me, the Sabbat was always more about reveling in what they are, versus the religious stuff. They were the opposite of the Camarilla in almost every way. With Anarchs filling the middle ground to bridge the two.

Camarilla = Interview with a Vampire

Sabbat = 30 Days of Night

It seemed to me that the more overt religious aspects came from the clans and individuals that were leading the organization. So depending on what they decide happened to the Sabbat, a leadership change could be used to excuse a change in religious references, while still maintaining the overall feel on the group. “I’m a vampire/monster, and I LOVE IT!!”

PS - I’ve always felt they dropped the ball with how they handled the Black Hand in the OG sourcebooks for them. I preferred the direction they seemed to be going with them prior to fleshing them out.

I have to disagree with RCAUTELA and Kingofshadows. While the idea of “sub-human monsters who revel in debauchery and have given themselves over to the beast” sounds like a great boogey-man, the reality is that any large organization such as the Sabbat have to temper their mustache-twirling evil. Moreover, to truly revel in the monster you inherently cannot behave like a sect, instead following one of a few paths; a collection of debauched monsters who work together (which would inherently be limited to a few groups and keep such groups small due to the Venn relationship between being social while being a sociopath), be a lone monster who hunts in the night (by nature of being solitary you are harder target to track and catch), or be a large group of beastly monsters that hunt together in a hive a mind or social consciousness (which would allow for large groups, but not complex social regulation - more like the group from 30 days of night or I am Legend).

The last could definitely work as a concept of what the Sabbat is now, but that isn’t how they described the Sabbat. How they did describe the Sabbat fits far closer to the idea of the Anarchs - as evidenced by the current Anarchs, the Russian experiment, and the McNiel movement all being connected back to the Convention of Thorns and the original Anarch Revolt. In oWoD, the Anarch Revolt was far more a Sabbat origin story, not an Anarch one, and the Anarchs were a second revolt all their own; fall outs from a younger generation who didn’t have the chance to make the choice to join the Camarilla. Due in large part to this narrative choice in oWoD, the Tzimisce and Lasombra were given their regal Dark Age format and that narrative was sent through to the later modern day representations as well, and the idea that the Sabbat was founded on the idea that not all of the 13 clans agreed with rule by Elder (the two without Antediluvians to be specific) and refused to sign the pact to form the Camarilla. This made the Sabbat an ideologically disparate Sect, who had been demonized by the Camarilla.

In V5, the Anarchs are given this agency, but they are kind of trapped by the backstory at this point. The Convention of Thorns (and three years later the Treaty of Tyre) was the end of the Anarch Revolt officially, and specifically led to the creation of the Sabbat by those clans and individuals (who then became antitribu) who refused to sign either document, and so extricating the Anarchs from the Sabbat immediately becomes a difficult thing, simply because the very creation of the Sabbat was done by those Anarchs who refused to bend the knee. The very fact that the Sabbat had the “Silence of the Blood” leads to definitively refute the idea that the Sabbat “revel in their beasts” as the beast cares very little for discretion. Much of the Sabbat of the oWoD was written the same as the Anarchs of V5 are designed to be; wanting to find a way free of Elder rule, live their unlives by their own designs, and screw rules and regulations. The difference laid in the idea that in place of rules and regulations, the Sabbat had a religious practice and belief in Caine and Gahenna that held them together.

This, though, provides a very real way of mending the problems in the narrative between Anarch and Sabbat. I think there’s real opportunity in merging the Anarchs and social aspects of the Sabbat in the current narrative. The Lasombra and Tzimisce were always at odds, two ruler clans vying for the soul of the Sabbat, it was one of the big role-playing aspects of Sabbat storylines. The Lasombra moved further and further from their religious roles as Christianity (and thus their powerbase within it) fell out of favor and power, and the clan pivoted towards industry, taking all the lessons they learned in the Dark Ages as advisers to Ventrue regents into practice. Meanwhile, the Tzimisce roots in Slavic magic only strengthened, and the religious roots of the Sabbat led them towards ascendancy within the sect. It was almost inevitable that when war between the Lasombra and Tzimisce heated up that the Lasombra would exit for the Camarilla, where their finesse and sensibilities would be appreciated instead of curtailed. The Tzimisce, on the other hand, was a clan of two minds (and many faces), one side of them always pushing the boundaries towards becoming something inhuman and new, the other so steeped in tradition and the past that they were stagnant and forever seemingly trying to get back to “the good old days.” While the exit of the Lasombra may have given the Tzimisce power, the presence of the Lasombra kept these two parts of the clan from tearing themselves apart. This dichotomy among the remaining clan of leadership in the Sabbat provides a great opportunity to unite the concepts of Anarch and Sabbat, with the traditional and nostalgic Tzimisce and those Sabbat looking for ‘freedom and a way to survive the arrival of the Antediluvians’ joining the Anarchs, while the inhuman monsters among the clan lead the remaining monsters into the depths of their madness.

This would allow the Tzimisce and antitribu to be introduced in a “religious Anarch” motif that would smooth the history of the Anarchs and unite the movement again (giving them the kick in the behind they need in McNiel’s absence) while allowing the remaining Sabbat to be truly evil and horrific. Moreover, it makes sense the Anarchs would be happy for the strength of the Tzimisce and Salubri antitribu in light of the Lasombra bolstering the Camarilla, and it’s even alluded to be starting to happen with the stories of packs going into hiding and laying low cities. Moving a group of Gangel and Brujah antitrbu into the city to get reputation, then using that reputation to vouch for Tzimisce and Salubri antitribu later on.

As for the idea of paths of enlightment and conviction ratings, the existing Conviction system already covers what you need. Hell, even Dark Ages removed “humanity” and started calling it a “Via” rating, and by the 20th anniversary edition Path Rating and Humanity were covered under the title “Morality.” There’s no reason why the mechanic of “humanity” needs to change - I already tell my players that if they have a hard time deciding on Convictions to use the Ethics of the Path as guideposts.

Want a vampire who effectively is on Path of Caine? Take a Conviction that states “Always seek information about Caine and learn from his actions.” The touchstone can be a College professor or biblical scholar who seeks information about the Second City or speaks Aramaic. Their loss would remove the ability to study new findings or translate old documents, making your connection to keeping the beast controlled that much harder.

Want a vampire effectively on Path of Night? Okay, we’ll skip the easy-peasy Conviction of “Experience every sensation imaginable” and take the tougher to do “Kindred, as souls damned by God, fulfill their purpose by preying upon mortals.” Basically, you don’t miss a chance to feed - and the Touchstone for it is a specific human who you hunt repeatedly - maybe its a member of your Herd, or just someone who gets a strange kink in being chased.

The Paths of Honorable Accord, Feral Heart and Blood are even easier than that!

In the end, the idea of the “Sabbat” being truly horrendous monsters no longer on a leash or accepting pretext would be great. The true “Sabbat” being NPC antagonists that cause chaos and disrupt order, creating the need for the PCs to help fix the problem and remove terrors that threaten everything they hold dear is exactly what the Camarilla and Anarchs claim they are, and what they should be, but at the same time, allowing the social and religious story opportunity of the old Sabbat to move to the Anarchs would be a great way to move the narrative forward while fixing and reorienting the existing lore to a more functional storytelling.

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Those are very good points, Jarl.

I agree that it has almost always been difficult to differentiate the Sabbat from the Anarchs, other than to say the Sabbat are organized Anarchs…

I kind of like the thought of the Sabbat degrading to isolated cells, or at least thinking they have with maybe hints of puppet masters. But that does make it harder to again differentiate Sabbat from Anarch.

If the biggest distinction is going to be that they are organized, then there needs to be something they are organized around.

If I had my wish, Sabbat-Camarilla would be set up to have similarities to Malcolm X-Martin Luther King Jr or Magneto-Professor X. Same beings with different set approaches to a situation.

A friend of mine for my current story introduced me to a little known biblical story about Tubal-Cain. This in turn led me to thinking more about “What if Caine wasn’t cursed, but blessed?” I’d use that core thought to define the differences between Sabbat and Camarilla. My phrasing before was a bit extreme, so to put it better. While they may not revel in being a vampire, they dont consider it a bad thing or something to hide/be ashamed of. Tho there will always be those on either side that go to extremes in their beliefs and practices.

But then we’re back to religious references…

The Anarchs would then fall in between to cover those that don’t want the set structure of either side, but instead want to pick and choose what works for them based off the individual. Making them Anarchs not because of actions, although maybe for some, but simply because they refuse to join and be told what to believe or how to act.

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In part, I think the big problem is calling them “Anarchs” to begin with. I really like the idea of the Anarchs being the counterpoint to the Camarilla. Let’s face it, before there was a Camarilla, there were Anarchs and Elders. Then, those vampires that wanted to continue to live under Elder rule signed a treatise at the Convention of Thorns called themselves Camarilla, and those that wanted freedom from their Elders refused to sign and called themselves the Sabbat or remained Independent (Assamites and Setites). They were still, however, Elders and Anarchs, and the setting went very far to define this as a binary choice.

I think we’re at the precipice right now of course correcting that, with those who were the Sabbat after the Convention of Thorns being able to join the Anarchs. Moving forward, you just blur the history of the naming conventions as time and rumor get things confused until the religious belief that the Elders (Antediluvians) are going to rise and eat their young so you need to get preapred is what all “Anarchs” believe. Those (currently labeled Anarchs) who aren’t down with the belief that they descend from Caine and need to prepare to survive a religious armageddon are be called “the Unbound.” This makes the name even more significant in that they aren’t refusing Camarilla law, but rather they are truly refusing to be controlled by either religious or Elder puppet strings.

It also then means that we can make the truly monstrous actions of vampires, and the inhuman things they do, a right proper boogeyman named “The Sabbat” because that’s the term they give to the debased and unhinged - regardless if that monster considered themselves a member of the Camarilla or Anarchs. The Baron fell to wassail and slaughter a bus full of nuns before we could take him down? No worries! That wasn’t the Baron - he left town a month ago - that was a member of the Sabbat that we had to take out! Oh, the Malkavian Primogen was secretly a serial killer responsible for ripping apart families and making public works of art out of them? Well … he was really a Sabbat infiltrator that was trying to destroy the Masquerade!

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Exactly!! I’ve generally considered “Anarchs” as being baby Inconnu. Mostly just wanting to be left alone to do their own thing. They painted themselves in a corner using the Anarch name, then having the Sabbat on top of that…

While I prefer the three party system, I could see them instead embracing (pun intended) the similarities most see between Anarch and Sabbat and making the Sabbat an organized sub-sect of the Anarchs. If they wanted to keep things a bit more simple.

Like how we have independent or small groups of terrorists, but then we also have ISIS.

It’s just a random vamp acting out, no real threat…wait…they’re starting to pull together?!

EDIT: Sabbat as we know it are gone. However, there are some that remain that joined up with the Anarchs of today. Being used to structure and having had some effectiveness in the past, these former Sabbat start pulling people to them slowly to act more as one.

Very interesting perspectives all round I have to say. Personally I got the sense that the way they’re steering the Sabbat they’re essentially all going to be members of the Black Hand.

This even has a modicum of precedence, many in the Camarilla and the Anarchs confuse the Hand and the Sabbat for one another, such a transition would simply cement that misunderstanding.

The more freedom loving Sabbat will simply become less humane Anarchs, whilst the ‘true believers’ as it were become a consolidated martial and religious force. It makes perfect sense as well, because with the massacres of the Gehenna crusade it wouldn’t be surprising if the less devout Sabbat simply struck out and left trying to live their own unlives how they saw fit.

In a lot of the Sabbat guides reference is made to the conflict between the Conservatives and the Loyalists (the latter favouring freedom for all Sabbat opposed to organised resistance to the antediluvians). The realisation of this conflict in V5 could be a good way to move their metaplot forward, I’m just curious as to how the new ultra-orthodox/puritanical/fundamentalist Sabbat would be handled.

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Making more of a connection between the Sabbat and the Black Hand would be great.

One of the things I struggled with about their old source material was their connection to Wraith. While I almost entirely favor connecting the various supes together in different ways, that one always seemed off to me somehow.

It would be interesting to see how a more fundamentalist Sabbat would be handled. It’s going to depend a lot on what direction they go in for core beliefs.

I’m still hung up on the plot I have going for my friend mentioned above, which may be coloring my current opinions. However, regardless of how V5 turns out…this has given me a lot to help flesh out the reality behind the myths, regardless of if they are ever actually found out.

Well, a large part of the problem inherent with the Black Hand was the manner in which the book was developed and published. What not a lot of people know is that Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand was Stephen C Brown’s last book for White Wolf. This isn’t because Dirty Secrets was bad, rather, he got canned before it came out … and he found out about it.

At the time, my friends and I were HEAVY into White Wolf, with my buddy, Dave, buying two copies of EVERY White Wolf book as it was released, one for the collector’s bookshelf, one to read and use. He was regularly on the phone with them as a new product was coming out and often got to hear scuttlebutt about production schedules and whatnot. So it was that it became common knowledge to us that content wasn’t reviewed past a certain point, and once the book got to a period of production, it pretty much went on rails. Apparently, Brown found out that he was getting canned late into the process of Dirty Secrets, so the copy that went to editing wasn’t exactly the one that went to content oversight.

As a big ol’ F you to everyone, he threw open the doors to the metaplot and basically spilled not just the Black Hand’s “dirty secrets” but the whole Vampire line’s. As it was the editing, typesetting, and printing part of the process, there was no one to notice the issue, and it wasn’t until print that it was discovered. Too late to do anything about it at that point without tanking the company in losses, everyone had to kinda re-hash the metaplot and develop a plan B. Thankfully, he didn’t know too much, and so they were able to recast a bunch of what was written in new angles.

But yea, that’s why it’s kinda off the rails, not very well developed, and seemingly all over the place. It was supposed to be much more laid back and subtle, but Brown kicked it up to “11” after he heard the news.