In a line full of terrible books, one stands out. One
Vampire: the Masquerade
book worse than any other (in my humble opinion). One book
that subsequent books went out of their way to insert sidebars about how everything in it no longer applied.
That book is...
The Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand . It is terrible. I have decided to suffer through it so you don't have to.
A bit of background. The three major factions in V:tM were the Camarilla , the guys with Princes and Masquerades and whatnot; the Anarchs , who want to tear down the Camarilla because it's oppressing them, man; and the Sabbat , who believe that vampires are monsters and they should fucking well act like it. There's also the Inconnu , but no one knows jack shit about the Inconnu.
Now, each of V:tM's thirteen Clans of Vampires can trace their lineage back to an Antediluvian - a Third Generation Vampire who basically founded their Clan (Caine, as the First Vampire, is First Generation; he made 3 Second Generation Vampires, and they made the Third Generation. The Second Generation are all toast, supposedly). The Fourth and Fifth Generations tend to be called Methuselahs , in that they are very old and probably sleeping.
The factions tend to have differing views on the Antediluvians. The Camarilla likes to pretend that they don't exist, but even if they do exist they're all sleeping anyways and it doesn't matter now shut up and do what you're told and no I'm not acting as a pawn to ancient, unspeakable evil, how dare you suggest that. The Anarchs tend to not know what the fuck an Antediluvian is. And the Sabbat is sworn to fight and kill the Antediluvians whenever they can (good fucking luck with that).
With me so far?
Okay. In previous books we've been introduced to the term "The Black Hand." This was said to be just a nickname for the Sabbat. Then the Sabbat books came out and it turns out that the Black Hand isn't the Sabbat, it's a faction of the Sabbat that acts like kind of a Sabbat KGB.
Not only does this book explain that that's all crap...
That's right! It's crap that might not even be true . White Wolf published this book, you bought it expecting to learn the secrets of the Sabbat KGB, and now you learn that not only is it not about the Sabbat KGB, not really, it's also not even pretending to be true. Fuck you, White Wolf! There's a difference between "you should feel free to tweak our setting to fit your own game" and "Ah hah hah, we're just fucking with you!"
You see, the Black Hand isn't just a faction within the Sabbat - it's an entirely separate faction of Vampires entirely (a 'sect' in V:tM parlance) that just pretends to be part of the Sabbat. Surprise! You wanted a book about a secretive Sabbat faction and you're getting something else entirely. Thanks for the money, sucker!
The "True" Black Hand is pretty small, somewhere on the order of 150 vampires or so, and their true name is the "Tal'mahe'Ra," which, okay, sure. It also claims as members a handful of mages and wraiths, an Abomination (a Vampire Werewolf), and a Mummy.
............back that the fuck up.
White Wolf, as you all probably know, had five different game lines in the old World of Darkness - vampires, mages, werewolves, wraiths, and changelings. They also had a few 'other' things that kind of got bolted on without getting game lines of their own, like mummies and gypsies. They all used roughly the same system.
The problem, as anyone who ever tried it in an actual game will tell you, is that despite crossing over mechanically and in the setting, these five groups do not play well together . Power levels were wildly inconsistent (especially in early editions, when a chargenned Mage with 0 XP could turn a Vampire with 500 XP into a lawn chair without being in the same state), not to mention that each group had their own preferred 'turf' (vampires were urban creatures, where most werewolves couldn't thrive, and wraiths lived in the fucking afterlife and could barely even interact with most vampires and werewolves, and and and...).
Basically everything that a sane and stable GM ever told you you couldn't do in a game? The Black Hand does. Again... fuck you, White Wolf.
Now, that bit about the Antediluvians above? You may wonder why I brought it up. I did it because the Black Hand - the 'true' Hand, the Tal'mahe'ra - has a different opinion on the Antediluvians - namely, that they try to serve the Antediluvians, willingly making themselves pawns of the creatures that every other group in the game line either opposes or tries to ignore. So, there's that.
Not only is this book laughing at you for buying what you thought was a Sabbat sourcebook, it's also all about a group that has willingly signed on with the people that every other book in the game line has told you are the bad guys. It's like buying a Forgotten Realms book called "Secrets of Neverwinter" and getting a book about being in the Red Wizards of Thay or some shit.
Tune in next time when we learn the History of the Black Hand !