It's all about conspiracies, about ancient vampire pulling strings behind the scenes... even the Camarilla are wary of the Black Hand. Yet in revealing a conspiracy, it's a delicate balance between giving you the tools you need to feature it in your game and exposing so much that it isn't scary or exciting any more. The Black Hand has had a chequered existance, being first introduced in Vampire: The Masquerade 2e with Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, then being wiped out by Vampire: The Masquerade Revised Edition - it's mentioned explicitly that they no longer exist - but had proven so enjoyable that it was decided to bring them back. Of course, if it's not to your taste, you can ignore them, but if the thought of a conspiracy running through the depths of the heart of vampire society excites you, presents an opportunity to build tension in your chronicle (or blow it apart entirely as what seems normal to your coterie is turned on its head) then this is worth a look...
The book begins with Chapter 1: Black as Hell, Dark as Night, which introduces the whole conspiracy, its rituals, practices and underlying ideology (not that it's that simple, there are various strands of thought and different factions), and provides the mechanics necessary for creating your own Black Hand characters, to play or as NPCs. The lineage of the Black Hand is truly ancient, predating all the other sects. Formed of disparate groups linked by common goals, the origins seem to lie in a 3,000 year old bunch of mages who came to the Middle East (but where from?) and attracted the attention of Egyptian immortals who took them deep into the underworld where they found an ancient city, sunless and brooding. Many alliances and betrayals followed as these originals worked with (and against) other groups during the ages between that initial discovery and tonight... for those who adore the sweep of vampire history, there are some treats in store here.
Then, Chapter 2: Bahari - Cult of the Dark Mother explores those who worship Lilith and the particular spin they put on things, including the unique way they practice thaumaturgy and necromancy. Lilit's faithful knew of that dark and brooding subterranean city, called Enoch, of old but were not great explorers. But they bided their time, formed alliances and eventually got there... yet soon had to turn their minds to the protection of their faith as other religions arose around them. Mysticism, beliefs, legends abound, delve deep to discover the Bahari take. Did Lilith spawn her own vampiric line? Some believe she did. The study of Litith is the study of pain, with creation and transformation mixed in, for how can these be accomplished without pain? Find out the appeal of this sect, what its adherants believe and do, and bring them into your chronicle to best effect.
In Chapter 3: The Dark Below, we read about infernalism and how some see it as a way to bring on the apocalypse while others regard it as a dark evil that needs stamping out forthwith. The true aims of the Black Hand, unlike other vampiric cults, are very obscure and known only to a few (and they probably don't agree completely as to what they are). In recruiting members, they seek out vampires who are curious about things they really ought not to be delving into... perhaps one or more of your coterie will attact their attention? More history, more philosophy, more ideas - plenty to read and mine for ideas here.
Next Chapter 4: Dirty Secrets talks about the wide range of characters involved in the Dark Hand apart from vampires themselves - mummies, werewolves and even more abominable entities... ghosts and even the mortal necromances of Enoch. Although the Dark Hand is very much a vampiric conspiracy, they are not above drawing anyone else they view as potentially useful into their ranks. There are notes on how to create many of the entities they might suck in, as well as information on how to use them as antagonists, allies or even as player characters.
Finally, Chapter 5: Watch the Hand provides an example chronicle, ready to use or as inspiration for one of your own devising. It's exciting and fast-paced, dragging the party straight into the heart of the conspiracy almost from the outset.
The addition of the Black Hand to your chronicles can add layers of depth and hidden meaning to your game. For some, it might be a bit too much, for others it will enrich the experience and give purpose to vampiric existance - as a part of the conspiracy or as an implacable opponent... or seeking to find out just what is going on before taking sides. You may even decide to keep it all bubbling away below the surface, barely perceived by the characters, until...
Return to The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra page.
Reviewed: 28 June 2016