Organization In The Sword of Caine
Although it would be difficult to discern from the outside, the Sabbat actually has a codified hierarchy. The sect has leaders and followers, commanders and foot soldiers, like any other war effort.
Of course, the "war effort" is purely subjective to the sect. Sabbat do not spend every night in constant struggle with Camarilla vampires or the insidious Antediluvians. In fact, to the untrained eye, very little exists to distinguish Sabbat-controlled cities from those of the Camarilla, apart from higher crime rates, more missing-persons cases, greater urban human suffering and less hope for salvation. Then again, in the World of Darkness, these things exist on sliding scales, and what may be passable to one city's bishops may earn the Final Death in another.
The Sabbat is not ruled so much as it is led - even the regent and cardinals do what they do out of devotion to the sect's cause. Leadership among Sabbat, however, is a precarious thing. Among the higher echelons, Sabbat vampires tend to lose touch with the younger vampires who fight the battles nightly. At lower tiers of the hierarchy, ductus' or priest's decisions sometimes carry more weight than those of a city's archbishop or bishop. In the end, the Sabbat's fervent support of its cause proves its undoing, as the disorganization endemic to a sect sworn to uphold freedom prevents it from achieving consistent success. Despite their seemingly slavish devotion to the sect, members of the Sabbat are vampires first and foremost. Eternal, parasitic creatures, Sabbat vampires must deal with the same fears as the other Damned - witch-hunters, fellow Cainites, the mysterious other supernaturals who sometimes pass through cities and even members of "the masses" who catch on to a vampire's depredations all conspire to end a Sabbat's unlife as quickly as they would any other threat. Although they would never call it thus, the vampires of the Sabbat support an unspoken Masquerade; the sect isn't stupid, and its leaders know that there is no way to succeed if the sect collapses before establishing a way to fulfill its goals.
As such, the Sabbat has created a few "offices" to serve its best interests. These titles are artificial at best, though any vampire who has managed to acquire one certainly has the personal power or influence to back it up. Sabbat vampires, being the passionate creatures they are, also harbor grudges as deeply as any Camarilla harpy or anarch dissident - intrasect politics are as murky as the Camarilla's, though the Sabbat pretends to be above such things (at least in front of others). Vampires at various levels of the power structure invariably owe some fellow Sabbat favors, harbor vendettas toward others and manipulate all the resources at their disposal toward making things difficult for their foes while gaining (or erasing) debts sworn by (or to) others. It is even said that the recent upheaval wrought by the Inquisition in Montreal is the direct result of one vampire trying to play too many factions off each other - a consequence any Cainite familiar with the workings of the Camarilla has seen innumerable times.
That said, the Sabbat has pulled itself up by the bootstraps, leading a campaign of conquest unheard of since the colonization of the New World. Recent crusades in Miami, Atlanta and Atlantic City have turned the tide of the Sabbat's war effort on the East Coast of the United States, while relatively bloodless seizures of power in Washington, DC and parts of Europe prove the Sabbat is as capable with intrigue as guerilla tactics. Conservative members of the sect warn against resting on their laurels, however, arguing that "complacency has lost more than one war." More often than not, Sabbat crusades fail, even as early as the scouting stages, because lines of communication and duty breakdown, leaving the sect unable to improve its lot.
To delineate responsibilities, the Sabbat has created for itself a rough organization. In theory, this organization provides a strong base for sect leadership, as skilled vampires claw and plot their way to prominence. In practice, however, the model breaks down, as elder vampires demand anachronistic subservience from the Cainites below them, and younger vampires rebel openly against the leaders who should be establishing coups rather than plotting against each other like the depraved Licks of the Camarilla. The Sabbat is perhaps its own greatest enemy, with many of the battles fought in the hearts and minds of the sect's members.
The regent of the Sabbat supposedly coordinates the grand-scale master plan of the sect, much like a mortal dictator or corporate president. Supported by a consistory of other powerful vampires, the regent holds little sway over the sect as whole, however. Young Sabbat often make a big show of rejecting this hypocritical figure of authority as elder Sabbat flout her rule for their own personal gain. In the end, the regent may demand service, fealty and respect, but she had best be able to back it up, as the Sabbat has no lack of wide-eyed megalomaniacs who would not hesitate to usurp the position for themselves.
The regent's nightly affairs - if such can be said of a vampire who spends as long as a month at a time in the cold arms of sleep - consist primarily of entertaining sect luminaries, hearing progress reports, plotting against other vampires (both in the sect and out) and deciding which tactical or strategic maneuvers to make. Add to this list the incessant cultivation of influences, moving and counter-moving to keep one's enemies at bay, presiding over ritae and weathering the countless intrigues inherent to centuries among the undead.
The current regent of the Sabbat, Melinda Galbraith, makes her haven in Mexico City. A member of the Toreador antitribu, Galbraith draws much fire from her many detractors as being more involved with the petty affairs of the sect than with the Sabbat's larger purpose. Apparently content to offer " bread and circuses" to those below her, the regent stages elaborate ritae, replacing actual accomplishment with much pomp and observance of ritual. Galbraith has been instrumental, however, in providing support to some of the key sieges in North America. For this reason, she finds little approval among the Sabbat of the Old World, who tend to believe she concentrates on her immediate surroundings too greatly to see the big picture.
Cardinals oversee Sabbat affairs in grand geographical regions. As the superiors of the archbishops, cardinals coordinate the Sabbat in their cities and direct them in the Great Jyhad.
Cardinals wield immense amounts of power as their influences cross great distances. Yet, even if they no direct influence in a particular arena, their underlings generally do. The office of cardinal is far more than simply regional management, however. The cardinals bear the responsibility of the crusades - it is their direct duty to bring cities within their diocese under the Sabbat's sway. Of course, doing so is quite difficult: The fall of a city takes years to plan and execute. Additionally, sweeping in and taking over requires finesse. Simply firebombing an entire town leaves nothing within the town to be desired.
Obviously, the responsibilities of the cardinals are vast. On one end of the spectrum, cardinals appease their political peers and betters, proving their worth as cardinals and maintaining the Great Jyhad. On the other end, they must exercise caution and restraint, as turning their cities into hellholes diminishes their worth.
Most Sabbat see their cardinals no more than once per year, if at all, as the duties of the office keep them in constant communication with bishops, archbishops, prisci and of course, the regent herself. When the lower echelons of the sect do see their cardinals, it is often during various sect rituals or honorific festivals.
Cardinals vary widely in style - some are bellicose warlords, leading their crusades at the front of the columns and destroying those who stand against them with frightening powers. Others are clever tacticians, carefully orchestrating every move the vampires they lead make. Still others are charismatic firebrands, whipping their charges into frenzies and turning them loose on the unsuspecting, soft Camarilla "Kindred." Almost all cardinals are feared by those beneath them, as their tremendous physical and political power makes them terrible foes, in whose good graces one must remain, lest one meet Final Death.
Preeminent among the Sabbat, the prisci are vampires of great age or power, selected by the consistory to join its ranks as advisors. Prisci require little or no temporal power; they are not responsible for maintaining Sabbat influence in a city, nor must they coordinate sieges or other war efforts. Rather, the prisci offer their unique insight to other members of the sect, particularly the regent, cardinals and archbishops.
Often, however, prisci do achieve some degree of political influence, usually at the expense of those who have failed them. Most prisci belong to Clans Lasombra, Tzimisce and Toreador antitribu, though no formal rules exist as to whether or not a member of a given clan may belong. Of course, becoming a priscus requires that one prove oneself to be of inestimable value to the sect - no vampire younger than 200 years has ever attained a priscus' position.
To young vampires, prisci epitomize he hypocrisy of the Sabbat. Sure, they've proven themselves, but they don't do it consistently. Maybe in some long-forgotten night over a century ago, Priscus So-and-so did something memorable, but what has he done lately?
Naturally, young vampires rarely have a chance to see the prisci in action. Devoted as they are to the regent and her support, much of the prisci's affairs take place in the Sabbat's hallowed catacombs of power. Young vampires have not entirely missed the mark, however. The consistory (which also includes a few cardinals) greatly resembles the upper layers of the Camarilla, as elder vampires stab each other in the back and usurp each other's influence in endless Cainite games of supremacy. The priscus' role is to ensure the Sabbat's long-term success through good advice and careful planning. This role serves the interest of all Sabbat, since it lets the younger vampires see actual results for their efforts as it lets the sect's elders enjoy the luxuries acquired from unlives of treachery and double-dealing along with the occasional important effort.
Most prisci, having reached advanced age, spend a good deal of time in torpor, rising only when needed or when a masterstroke demands their attention. Prisci are responsible for much of the upper-level advancement in the Sabbat - a priscus' patronage is required to become an archbishop, for example, and the consistory selects its own members from lesser ranks of the sect.
Being a priscus is not all Blood Feasts and Epicureanism, as should be duly noted. Many prisci were lords or military strategists before becoming vampires, and their vast experience (tempered with the caginess required to attain the position in the first place) serves the sect well. Often, a siege's success or failure rests on a bit of information, such as what defenses a given prince can muster, or which sympathetic vampires may be convinced to look the other way as the Sabbat roars into town. Such is the role of the priscus: to maximize the flaws of the others through proven strategies. Some cities even have prisci on hand to advise the archbishop or bishop's council on matters of Cainite relevance. As kingmakers, they are often the true power behind the obvious figurehead.
Archbishops officiate the nightly affairs of individual cities, often as the most powerful vampire in the locale. Appointed by the cardinal of a given region, archbishops bear the responsibility for all vampires underneath them, and they must see to the maintenance of the city in the Sabbat's best interests. Of course, the Sabbat's best interests are not always (and in fact, are rarely…) the best interests of the mortals of a given city. As mentioned before, Sabbat-held cities are urban wastelands or teeming dens of violence - which suits the Sabbat reasonably.
Most archbishops support "nondisclosure" policies similar to the Masquerade. Less strict than the Masquerade, however, the Sabbat attitude towards mortals bears more disdain than secrecy. Such is the reason crime rates in Sabbat cities skyrocket; it's often easier to kill a mortal who has observed a vampire in action than it is to clean up afterward. Given the general feeling toward mortals that most Sabbat vampires espouse, most archbishops are fine with this arrangement.
The archbishop, as the title suggests, is the foremost spiritual authority of a given city. Most archbishops were pack priests before attaining their positions. (This fact reveals much about the title, as few archbishops are over 200 years in age. Those who are, however, are often vastly more than 200 years old, and have become de facto archbishops, as they are the oldest and most influential vampires in their cities, as is the case with Archbishop Moncada in Madrid and the former Archbishop of Milan, Giangaleazzo. Truly old Sabbat Cainites tend toward the ranks of the prisci and cardinals, or bear no titles at all, allowing their potency to speak for itself.) Archbishops take active roles in may of the auctoritas ritae of their city's Cainites, and they may have had a hand in determining local or regional ignoblis ritae as well. In the end, the archbishop balances temporal power with skilled administration: Cities in which the packs run wild become barren, and cities that become barren cannot support the race of vampires.
If a city has no archbishop, it generally hosts a council of three to five bishops depending on the city's size. Similar to the archbishops, bishops bear the responsibility of maintaining Sabbat influence in their cities, as well as the spiritual growth of the vampires therein.
Sabbat bishops often hail from the ranks of the pack priests, but many originate among the ducti as well. Because bishops are generally younger and/or less capable than archbishops, the Sabbat installs the councils. In this manner, no bishop needs to function in a capacity to which he is ill suited. For example, a charismatic and iron-fisted administrator may not know the first thing about presiding over the mystical ritae, so the sect makes sure it covers all its bases with the bishops. Most bishops, promoted directly from the packs in which they serve, are 200 years old or younger.
This division of power among multiple figureheads often creates conflict. Sabbat priests are rarely known for their even tempers, and a council of headstrong leaders often hamstrings itself. For this reason, bishops answer directly to cardinals, who have no qualms about beating or twisting problematic bishops into their proper places. In some ways, the position of bishop demands more from its title-bearer than that of the archbishop, as diplomacy is key to a bishop while an archbishop can push through his own agendas with less resistance.
Leaders of individual packs, ducti attend to the operation matters of their charges. As most packs number between three and seven individual members, ducti resemble gang leaders or chiefs of small tribes.
The title of ductus is largely honorific, according recognition to the most accomplished member of a pack. Some authority accompanies he title, however, but the ductus who throws his weight around is likely to find his ass kicked and dumped unceremoniously in a trash bin, if not staked out to welcome the next sunrise. Ducti rely more on presence and force of personality to motivate those in their packs. They work closely with pack priests to coordinate attacks, grow sect and pack influence, and act as liaisons to the bishops and archbishops.
Ducti may call esbats, which are pack meetings, and most usually do so weekly. At esbats, the priest generally conducts the most important ritae, after which the ductus assesses the pack's progress. Ducti also assign duties to pack members that fit the group's needs; someone has to maintain the haven, someone has to get rid of the bodies, et cetera.
The position of ductus is, with a notable few exceptions, the highest position to which a nomadic Sabbat may rise. Nomadic Sabbat travel from place to place, obviously, and most are unfit to hold titles of archbishop or bishop. Nomadic Sabbat have no explicit prohibition from holding the titles of priscus or cardinal (or regent...), but few, if any, ever have.
In matters of rank, the ductus supercedes all others in the pack - though not always the oldest member, he is certainly the most something else, which most ducti can bring to bear should their authority come into question. The wise ductus, of course, listens to his pack, resorting to rank only when others refuse to see the strength of his arguments.
The Pack Priest
Priests bear the responsibility for the spiritual well being of their packs. Most priests are Tzimisce, but anyone of any clan may become a priest with the proper instruction.
Second in command to the ductus, the pack priest officiates all ritae observed by the pack, and often creates a few for the sole use of the pack. This creates great bonds of loyalty and also bestows a sense of self on the pack - they become valuable, unique individuals with the tradition to prove it.
All packs have at least one priest, though some rare and large packs have two. In the event that the ductus is eliminated, the priest becomes the pack leader pro tem, until a new leader can be appointed by the bishop or archbishop (or in nomadic or autonomous packs, the pack itself).
Priests shoulder a tremendous responsibility: They must keep their pack mates from succumbing to infernalism and from letting their Beasts rise to uncontrollability. Priests, most often, have abandoned their Humanity (adopting instead a Path of Enlightenment), and they are encouraged to support their pack mates' journey down their own paths. Obviously, the priest is as much counselor as he is witch.
Also know as paladins, the templars are an elite force of bodyguards appointed by a bishop or greater leader. Although they have no formal organization, being named as a templar is a great honor for the Cainite so titled. Being recognized as such is a symbol of strength in the Sabbat and a public acknowledgement of one's fighting skills.
Templars serve a variety of duties, always in a martial capacity. Most archbishops keep a cadre of paladins in their retinues to handle delicate matters best solved by a judicious application of violence, while Inquisitors tend to bring templars with them as backup muscle for their travels and trials.
Templars are forbidden from becoming members of the Black Hand, which is seen as a conflict of interests as the paladins generally have no secondary factional agendas. Sometimes referred to as bloodhounds or buttonmen by other Cainites, templars are almost always found in the employ of sect leaders, though some may belong to packs for periods of inactivity or have been honorably discharged from their duties in times when said leaders have no need for standing paramilitary attendants.