[Thoughts] The Black Hand, Vampire the Masquerade V5 Sabbat Sourcebook Announced!
The Black Hand, the newly announced Sabbat book to grace the Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5), has caused a bit of a mixed reaction from the fans of the World of Darkness line of Table-Top Roleplaying Games (TTRPG or TRPG). There are those who feel that the outward antagonistic label put on the Sabbat is excluding those who enjoy playing as what many can call, the darkest of the Sects that Vampire the Masquerade has to offer.
I personally welcome the change to the dynamic of Vampire the Masquerade’s 5th Edition. The game as it stands right now, is more about slowing losing yourself to the Kindred Monster you are, through the Humanity system. And I find the Sabbat, at their core, go against this mindset of Humanity as written in V5.
The key to how they don’t fit in, lies with the Humanity and Remorse system in place, which is mechanics used to tell the vampire story of the slow descent into becoming the monster.
In Matthew Dawink’s words, the Sabbat is a “brainwashing-heavy death cult focused on Armageddon prophecies and cannibalism.”
But does this mean that the Sabbat are inherently evil?
In the first edition of Vampire, they were the monsters that even the monsters wanted to keep hidden.
In Vampire the Masquerade 20th Aniversary Edition (V20), and the supplementary material, they evolved to have a backstory and mechanics revolving around pack, in a sort of blood-infused found family under one sword trope.
The Sabbat in Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, was shown as a pack of almost feral like Kindred (one who might also be a Malkavian that knows we are playing), who attacked the theatre the Camarilla was using as a meeting place and whose own Tzimisce leader was flesh crafting monsters that threatened to break the Masquerade.
Now they are back to being the monsters, the monsters who are split between fighting in the Gehenna War, and the ones that were left behind to hide in Camarilla’s closest.
This edition of Vampire the Masquerade, V5, is its own edition separate from the thoughts of szlachta hunting through the tunnels of Los Angeles, separate from the Pack mindset of being united under the Sword of Caine, and separate from the monsters we know. Now we have the chance to see the Sabbat in a new way under the V5 mindset of humanity.
We have already gotten a taste of this in The Chicago Folios, with The Seven Fires who; “leave nothing but carnage and perplexing propaganda in their wake. In their graffiti, their trail of mutilated bodies, and arcane scrawl, they reference the story of Peter Pan, possibly an allusion to the Lasombra defection and “losing their shadow”. [Source: https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Sabbat#V5_Timeline]
This in no way shape or form, means that no one is allowed to play as a Sabbat in V5. In my storytelling of V5 history, we did have a group of Kindred playing Sabbat with V20 homebrew for missing pieces. In the end, it was about the mindset of the players. The players who chose to play as a pack. I’ve even included references to hidden Sabbat in my own Boston by Night Live Play, Sabbat who may seem more like Kindred than you think. No one should be made to feel guilty out of character for their desire to play as a member or ex-member of the Sabbat.
I welcome this return to the Sabbat being the monsters in the closet, a kept secret from the new neonates of now. And even then, being an antagonist, just means that they will stand in your way.
One of the major themes in my writing of Vampire the Masquerade, especially in V5, is the theme of the new generation. As a new generation of fans finds the dark tales of the World of Darkness through Live Plays, Board Games, Video Games, and all the wonderful creations out there, we cannot hold ourselves to expect that V5 will be a copy-paste of Vampire the Masquerade 20th Edition.
Allowing these new Kindred to find the Sabbat through the new lens of V5 is something I cannot wait to experience myself. But this doesn’t mean that it’s the end for a Sabbat playing table.
I do understand that some fans are upset with having to homebrew this newest supplement to suit a playing table, rather than it being available at launch, and I do feel sympathetic towards those I know who enjoy playing as a Sabbat fresh from a book. I myself will be 100% writing homebrew to suit the “So You Wanna Play a Sabbat?” concept, and will probably be releasing that here for all members of the Vamily to see. And I understand the passion that is coming from those who are excited for the book, and those who are disappointed.
Regardless of your stance on the PC-Sabbat concept for V5, I do hope that we can all be excited for this first release from Renegade Games Studios, and you can pre-order The Black Hand here for release in August. They have not been able to secure international shipping yet, but will release more information once they have: