Guide to the Sabbat (1999)

Look, I love Vampire: The Masquerade lore. I think it is rich as peanut butter pie and entirely stupid at points, but you have to appreciate the commitment to both the scope of the world building and the devotion to its fine details, especially since a good 80% of it seems useless for, you know, running a game.

This is Guide to the Sabbat (1999), the third book on the Sabbat and a substantial revision of the organization’s portrayal and operation. So, most vampire clans want to keep on hiding and scavenging on humanity, because largely, some semblance of their humanity is still intact. This is mechanics as narrative – player characters need to take care against increasing their power, which erodes their humanity, lest they succumb to the Beast and are removed from play.

Sabbat offers an alternative – embracing the Beast. The Sabbat knows that all the vampire clans descend from a handful of hibernating ancients who will awaken soon. When they do, they will feed not on watery human blood, but the blood of vampires. Sabbat isn’t down with that, so they’ve completely embraced their vampireness and seek to destroy the ancients and, after that, will probably enslave humanity as livestock and bathe the world in endless night. They also worship devils. In short, they’re the psychotic vampires you probably wanted to play, but never could.

Earlier incarnations of the Sabbat (talking game design, not lore) were just that: psychopaths, like Severen in Near Dark. This made them fairly unplayable, because, well, the game is called the Masquerade, and Sabbat isn’t really down with that. This sourcebook, for the revised (third?) edition backs off the psychopath angle a bit. The psychos are still around, but the successful Sabbat vampires are a bit more restrained. Like Jesse Hooker in Near Dark.

Basically, if you wanted to run your V:tM game like Near Dark, you want Sabbat. That Bill Sienkiewicz cover accurately and entirely captures the essence of Sabbat. Lots of Guy Davis illustrations inside continue to sell it.

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