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Guide to the Sabbat
Sourcebook for Vampire: The Masquerade

Justin R. Achilli, with W.H. Bourne, Anne Sullivan Braidwood, Joanne FitzRoy, and Jess Heinig
White Wolf, 224 pages

Art: Bill Sienkiewicz
Demon Hunter X
Additional Information
Guide to the Sabbat is a companion volume to Guide to the Camarilla which details the two warring vampire sects of White Wolf's seminal RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade. More than just a comprehensive look at the Camarilla, the 2nd volume helps set the stage for a climactic confrontation involving the ancient vampire elders, the dread Antediluvians, the Sabbat, and more. "The Final nights are here. The proud Camarilla is beset by doubt, betrayal, and the rage of its enemies. The Masquerade has worn dangerously thin. In the bloody cauldron of the final nights, this might be the last time as well..." Includes details on the disciplines of the elders, the powers of the justicars, and the war on the terrifying Sabbat. Both are available in a deluxe slipcased set.

White Wolf Games

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

You think you know the Sabbat? You think you know the real Sabbat? Monstrous, cruel, inhuman, vile to the core, war to the core, "no, I'm sorry, you can't talk to the elders today... we ate them last night." Think again, and then think again after that. Because what you know is both true and false.

Contradictory? No, not really. The Sabbat is one of the most complex elements of the Vampire: The Masquerade and World of Darkness mythology. Sabbat Primer 101 (heavily simplified): the Sabbat is a sect of vampires (no fussy "Kindred" for them -- they know what they are and don't shy from it) that rebelled against their elders, rejecting their games and actively declaring war on them. They are the anti-heroes of Vampire: The Masquerade -- horrible and monstrous, yes, but also free and vibrant. Compare and contrast with the Vampire standard-issue Camarilla, creators and promoters of the Masquerade that keeps vampires hidden from human knowledge, a strict hierarchy where Sires rule their Childer, Elders rule Neonates, and ancient Methuselahs and Antediluvians manipulate everybody from their earthbound slumber. Small wonder that the Sabbat has been a popular fascination with players from the first edition of Vampire: The Masquerade. The first full survey took the form of The Player's Guide to the Sabbat (1992), followed by The Storyteller's Handbook to the Sabbat (1993) -- both excellent books that allowed players to taste the forbidden fruits of Sabbat unlife and brought some of the first deep mysteries of the World of Darkness into the game. They also presented a fuller picture of the Sabbat that exposed the contradictions of the sect. Yes, the vampires of Sabbat were the wild and bloody creatures they had always been portrayed as, but the Sabbat also had a deeply ritual side and a strong hierarchy that kept the anarchic sect from flying apart.

With the release of a new edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and the growth of the World of Darkness over the years, it only makes sense to take another look at the Sabbat. Enter the Guide to the Sabbat, companion volume to the Guide to the Camarilla, and everything you wanted to know about the Sabbat but were really afraid to ask. If you already own and love the old guides, you probably won't find too much here to surprise you. The basic information is still much the same: Sabbat history, Sabbat structure, the anti-tribu clans of the Sabbat, and the traditions of the Sabbat. All of it, however, has been expanded on. The section on history has more detail, building on previous histories and drawing on information presented in other World of Darkness sourcebooks to present background on the Sabbat from its roots to the present. The section on structure and politics is likewise more detailed, although unfortunately the detail here is overwhelming and not in a good way. Is it, for example, really necessary, to describe supporters of the status quo, moderates, and ultra-conservatives as "factions"? Certainly characters of these views have a place in politics-driven games, but the weight of detail takes away the oomph that the other factions deserve. I think something similar is happening in the section that details the traditions and ritae of the Sabbat. There's just too much detail presented, maybe to satisfy the rules lawyers that want mechanics for everything or maybe just in a well-meant attempts at completeness, but either way it doesn't work. The rituals are reduced to game stats and lose some of their mystery, which is unfortunate because the ritualism of the Sabbat was one of my favourite things about it and what really underscored the paradox of the sect in my mind.

As with the previous guides, though, the real shining stars of the Guide to the Sabbat are the descriptions of the clans. These are the standard clans you know and love with a savage twist guaranteed to tweak your interest. The descriptions of the clans have again been expanded, with more history, more detail and some great art to illustrate the archetypes. One slight disappointment for me was the removal of the long descriptions of clans Lasombra and Tzimisce -- they have been shifted to the main Vampire: The Masquerade gamebook. Still, that's a small thing compared with the information that has been added: expanded information on the horrific Blood Brothers and eerie Kiasyd, the mass defection of the Gangrel to the Sabbat (I'd love to know when this happened and get more information -- a reference to the appropriate sourcebook or novel would be very welcome), and the appearance of the frightening Harbingers of Skulls (née clan Cappadocian of Vampire: The Dark Ages -- sorry, it's just a little too obvious) and equally revenge obsessed Salubri antitribu (a very nice touch). The Ventrue antitribu have also been reworked nicely. The original guides presented them as obsequious brown-nosers, but the new and improved version restores their dignity and paints them as "grim knights and paladins" who believe that Camarilla Ventrue have fallen away from their noble roots and become moneygrubbing merchants. Gone are the Tremere antitribu, bumped off in mystical attack by their parent clan (as with the Gangrel defection, a reference to the appropriate sourcebook for the event would be nice). Something else that those familiar with the old guides will notice is the relative absence of Infernalism -- the threat of demonic corruption has been removed. A sidebar makes specific note of this in fact, stating that the infernal "is no longer as important to the sect, or to the game." Good choice -- I always found the original presentation of Infernalism in the Storyteller's Handbook to the Sabbat somewhat out of place and the further development of the World of Darkness has simply rendered demons out of place in its cosmology.

The Guide to the Sabbat is certainly a very worthy reference book for any Chronicle that involves the sect -- and absolutely indispensable, of course, if you want to run a Sabbat-based Chronicle. The extensive section on creating Sabbat characters remains very strong, updated to conform to the revisions in the game, and the advice to Storytellers on running a Sabbat Chronicle is excellent. Potential drawbacks to the book? Storytellers may want to monitor players' access to information in the book if you want to keep any secrets from them. The original format of separate player's and storyteller's books was nice for that, although admittedly the storyteller's book did have a lot of chaff that is thankfully done away with in the new Guide. The format might also put off some would-be consumers -- another big hardcover rulebook to buy at US$25.95/Cdn$40.95. If you are going to run a Sabbat Chronicle though, it will be money well spent on a really solid product. And that hard cover should provide much need durability because this is a book you will find yourself referring to a lot.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).

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