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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra $19.99
Average Rating:4.2 / 5
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2016 00:37:53

opens up many options for a vampire campaign from both a players point and a storyteller standpoint.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 11:28:11

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...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Wesley B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/10/2016 20:35:32

Hands down my favorite V20 book so far.

For GM/ST: The book is full of wonderfuly well writen lore and the largest issue you will have with the book is your players might read it and get ideas...

Players: Tal'Mahe'Ra are a myth, this is all folklore.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2016 22:22:33

For those who are tired of the World of Darkness, who have read all the books and know all the secrets, this book proves that notion completely wrong. It has been a very long time since we've gotten a Vampire tome so rich and dense with mystery, with the occult and the arcane. The Black Hand also dispells the notion that the V20 books are simply "add-ons" to all that we've gotten before. The Black Hand lays new ground, and buries within that moldering earth corpses from the past, reanimate yet slumbering still... just on the edge of waking to feed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Joseph P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/27/2016 06:46:43

The writing in this book felt very stale, and it's another one of the V20 line that just didn't feel like Vampire the Masquerade to me, but rather like a combination of someone's personal campaign ideas and a semi generic supplement. I would say really only about 1/4 of the book is really about the Tal'Mahe'Ra, with pretty large portions essentially being Bloodline (Clan?) Book Baali, material on Lilith cults that really just don't seem to fit much, and then a large, but still no too fleshed out section on the other game lines in the Tal'Mahe'Ra.

In the end it really comes off as a huge hodge-podge of material that doesn't really seem to fit together or mean to really even go together. It also goes out of its way to remove all of the great things from Revised, while at the same time making the reader even LESS clear on what the heck the Sect is or actually does, or why we should care. One of the big selling points for me early on was the idea about infiltration rules and ideas, which I either missed, or turns out it just wasn't there, as I really don't remember that in the book.

Somewhere around page 50 to 60, the book just becomes a very dull read. It may be my bias, as I'm not a fan of the Baali, (particularly the "oh poor me" Moloch Baali camp) or the cult of Lilith (at least as the major players they just seemed to become out of nowhere here). But, again, possibly my personal bias, it really felt like the authors just took the aspects that they really liked and amped them up, just very artificially and unbelievably. As in the goes seemed to be "lets make sure we fit this in" rather then "lets make sure it actually makes sense and works".

In the end, while I'm not regretful for the purchase, I also can not, in good faith recommend it either.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/18/2016 19:17:00

This book is a nice update and tranisition of Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand to the V20 setting. It is well written with a RetCon of the '99 3rd Ed Changes. There are a lot of clarifications and expansion of the material. If you are interested in the True Hand, Ghenna Cults, Baali, or Lilith Cults; this is the book for you.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2016 10:54:41

Being a fan of the original Dirty Secrets, I've been anxiously waiting for the V20 treatment of this sect. This book does so and more. I especially like that it includes a fully realized BH Chronicle.

My only real issue I have with it is that there have been some mentions of certain bloodlines, but no real information on them, other than what's mentioned in the fluff.

Can't wait for the PoD version.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by P. B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 18:50:17

I've been a fan of Vampire: the Masquerade for, well, a long time. I think of it as THE game of personal horror that I love to share with my friends. The thing is, there is a LOT of this game that falls a bit outside the 'personal horror' milieu, into realms of fantasy, historical revision, even absurdist ideas. The most 'gonzo' examples of what Vampire could be can be found in the original Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, a book that offered a look at a shadowy, cultish, end-of-times vampire club called the Tal'mahe'Ra or the Manus Nigrum or the True Black Hand... And it was, to put it mildly, a very interesting book.

This is not the same book.

...Oh sure, there is revisions for the Black Hand here, but this tome gives us much more than a simple revised take on the group. Here we find new agendas, new power players, new locations and interpretations of history, but we also get classics polished and trotted out anew, as well as some of what we already knew, insomuch as anything is actually know-able about the True Black Hand.

Is it a perfect book? No. The biggest issue that I find here is that the contents are not linear in presentation, and as a matter of fact, they cannot be. What I mean is that the chapters do not build on one another so much as they interlock with each other. There is information in Chapter 1 that won't make sense until after you've read Chapter 4, and much of it is like this. For a reader like myself, it makes reading on my tablet or computer frustrating when I'd flip back-and-forth with a physical book. However, that's why I shall buy the physical book when it's available.

Is it an easy book? No. The whole notion challenges what we have seen in the rest of the V20 line, but that's totally what the Tal'Mahe'Ra is good for. These monsters are different – in their own estimation as well as when seen by outsiders – and to be different as a monster so iconic as a vampire is... difficult. It's difficult to express, AND it's difficult to maintain. However, this book does a wonderful job of 'going with the crazy' that it embodies without getting too hung up on its own angles.

Is it a worthwhile book? Yes. Vampire doesn't offer us a LOT of 'toolbox' approach books, but I have always seen Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand as just that; you take what you want and like from the book and ditch the rest until you need it. V20 The Black Hand: a Guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra continues this approach, I think. Everything in here is kinda briliant, but NONE of it is necessary for YOUR game... Unless you want it to be. That's exactly what I wanted from this book, and it delivers splendidly!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 12:52:22

The intrigue and skullduggery is what I remember most from using the old Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand. This rendition has this and so much more. The decimation of the sect in the Revised/3rd edition was somewhat controversial, andso this is the supplementI was most looking foward to andto those who had contributed tothis treatment...you didn't disappoint me tyvm :)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Karl E. L. H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/09/2016 08:51:58

It is a well written book, but it has a few problems in relation to overstuffing the game. They reference bloodlines that do not get proper write ups in the book beyond a few sentences like the resurfaced Lamia that was granted a new name. The tlacique are also a bloodline that i would have welcomed a write up about.

The book introduces several new paths of koldunic sorcery and thaumaturgy, old paths of necromancy, rituals and several merits and flaws. They rework the rules for abominations, ghoul mages, fae, mummies and ghosts as player characters using V20 as their basis rather than their own books. These elements might i add are positive since i am biased towards supernatural additions to vtm since unlike it's more esoteric siblings: werewolf and mage it can end up being less supernaturally involved unless you are playing a tremere or a similar clan.

They take the old dark ages mage system to apply it to mages serving the Tel Mahe Ra named the Intarajara. Now this could have been given an even larger section to be honest. Because since they took the time to introduce so much of them anyway it would have been nice to have been given some more information on their duties, views and culture after all these years.

They also reworked the ghoul mage rules which is nice since being a mage ghoul is a 5 point merit in mage and having a 5 point merit that screws you over is bad game design considering that you in the revised write up of ghoul mages you slowly lost your avatar and later arete rating...this is dumb considering you spend 5 freebie points on a merit that has enough problems as it is. Therefor seeing this very welcome rule change is a very good addition to not only vampire, but also to mage the ascension for future reference which i am grateful for. It also ties up inconsistencies in past write ups in ironically the original dirty secrets of the black hand and the rafastio family having mage members while also being revenants.

The sect also has had an excellent write up for the Harbingers of Skulls along with several cults that are fronts for the Tel Mahe Ra's true designs. The Harbingers of Skulls in this write up are less driven by a need for revenge than their Sabbat siblings and they take a more long term and enlightened view which is only natural considering their age. The mystery of the famous Capuchin character gets some interesting hints, but i will reveal nothing more here about that. The different cults/organizations presented as the different fingers of the hand is a lovely collection of original creations and new write ups of already existing groups like Terrell & Squib from Orpheus and the Midnight Circus. These groups functions as tools for distraction, infiltration, recruitment, information gathering and more so that the true hand is not revealed to main stream vampire society, but they still have ways to keep the upperhand in the Jyhad.

Some fans of VTM might come to dislike how many supernatural and to put in other words fluff based elements you find in the game. Abominations, Mage cults using a different variant of true magic than the one in mage the ascension, mummies, fae, ghosts, demons and more is being mentioned as either potenitial antagonists or player characters or both. Still keep in mind that VTM is not an island and it is in a world ladden with supernatural creatures, places, time periods, objects and groups. Elders who have chosen to find allies among some of these or thralls is only natural and this book makes it easier to have crossover chronicles from a systematic perspective. There is a system for mages now in stead of just copy pasting a discipline. Rules for stepping side ways for werewolves is properly introduced as is rules for how to make abominations, ancilla and elder characters and other things that don't fit the norm without the st having to buy 3 to 5 different gamelines so he can use them properly in a cross over game.

Note that some of these flaws can be rectified with later books. Lore of the Bloodlines being the one that springs to mind, but for now i have to say i am disappointed by all the avenues they open, but that they don't properly explore. As I said beyond that this is a very well written book that is worth a read, but might have attempted to eat more than it could chew. Now I hope to see the writers involved with this project and the other 20th anniversary content continue to produce great material, but please be careful with what you promise so you don't over extend yourself. As much as i would like to see a Tlacique write up or a new bloodline with a new discipline ((HINT HINT)). It is more important that you get in the basics of the sect like you know The True Brujah who are conspiciously absent in any proper way here in stead of having promised so much, but only get it in vague mentions.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/09/2016 00:20:42

There's a few things a book on antagonists needs to have to really sell me on it. 1: They have to be playable, unless it's a monster manual I don't want to see a list of bad guys and their groups that don't allow for play. 2: They have to make you want to play them, this is very important, as it's common (though blessedly less so lately) to have bad guys be 'stupid evil,' somehow working off of an obviously wrong idea that even an insane person might realize doesn't make sense. And 3: They still have to be antagonists. This last one is hard, too, as when it comes to part 2, a lot of companies seem to go too far in the other direction, where it turns out they weren't bad guys at all, they were just misunderstood, or the bad guys are only a small faction of them and everyone is really heroic.

The Black Hand: A guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra, successfully passes those checks. On top of that is a lightly detailed history of the group, allowing you to drop it into a modern or Dark Ages campaign, or a number of other times, a number of Fingers, cults you can drop into your game and advice to tailor new ones to it. The bulk of the rest of the book is in chapters describing various factions within the Hand, including the Bahari, Infernalists, as well as a chapter talking about the oddities one might meet in the Hand, not nearly limited to vampires. New powers are scattered throughout the book, and the last chapter contains a pre-made adventure designed to get you into the sect.

It's a solid book. The writing is great and innovative, even still in its advance stage. While I'm not part of the traditional scene for Vampire the Masquerade, I know people have had problems with the original take on the Black Hand and this should certainly fix them. A problem some die hard fans might have is with the sort of toolbox approach to the setting. It's a great thing to have, in my opinion, but I understand it's a turnoff to others. Still, even the most negative of readers would find things to like in the book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Jean-Baptiste V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2016 08:24:57

As of this moment, the book is still going through errata, etc... But just to say, I love what it does with VtM. It was a game of personnal horror, manipulation and politics. With this book, it touches to the root of Vampire, its mythology, its origin, and perhaps its future. All in a great fashion. It's manipulations upon manipulations, and mostly, a view far reaching in the long term. The possibility of a Black Hand chronicle isn't a far fetched dream, but a reality. Many factions, paths, and a peculiar view of one of the oldest "almost" vampiric sect makes it a compelling read.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2016 00:14:59

Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy few paragraphs.

Here's the main problem with this book, or I should say, with the concepts that drive it: It isn't Vampire. Not really.

Recent interviews with the new guiding minds at White Wolf lamented the turn the games took away from horror and into urban fantasy. Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand went even further than that, divorcing Vampire -- the World of Darkness game always tied most closely to existing within the world and its immediate perils and politics -- from that world entirely. And this book is very much an update of that title.

There is some value to be had in the exploration of esoterica that have always been hinted at in other game lines, including the Cults of Lilith, Infernalists and those who hunt them, and so on and so forth. This book is a cobbled together patchwork of all of those things, and is arguably as much or more crossover material than content for a straight-up Vampire: the Masquerade game.

But that doesn't adjust the important point:

When this book comes into play, you're no longer playing Vampire: the Masquerade, you're playing a fantasy adventure game with vampires in it.

This is the supplement Vampire doesn't need, and the fact that it was published before a "Lore of the Antitribu" or another book the line DOES need rankles a bit. Between this and the Anarch Movement getting the longest chapter in the new blood magic book, I can't help but worry that Onyx's Path's vampire division is off the rails.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
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