Palla Grande takes place on All Hallows Eve, and all Sabbat in the city are expected to attend. Nomadic packs, not wanting to miss the festivities, travel to the closest Sabbat city in order to attend. The highest-ranking Sabbat in the city preside over the affair, and the city's most renowned priest opens the celebration. It is held in a public place such as a civic auditorium or a public park, as long as most of the revels take place in full view of as many humans as possible. In fact, most Sabbat arrange their Grand Balls like raves or public festivals, sometimes even charging mortals admission for the secretly malignant privilege of attendance. The vampires often go the whole nine yards when creating this party atmosphere, hiring bartenders and providing liquor and other refreshments for their guests.
As the Palla Grande is a major social event, the Ventrue and Toreador antitribu, Lasombra and Tzimisce usually find themselves with the responsibility of planning the affair. In true high-society fashion, many vampires also compete with each other for the most elaborate costumes. Often the most spectacular and unusual displays are by one or two elder Tzimisce skilled in the art of Fleshcraft, but it is not unheard of for a Toreador antitribu to exchange favors with a talented Tzimisce "artist" to create a finely fleshcrafted face or costume for the party. Indeed, the regent herself is rumored to have once had 50 mortals fleshcrafted to resemble her at a Grand Ball in the interests of "being everywhere and talking to everyone – and leaving an indelible impression."
Hidden away from the public debauchery, the Sabbat also consecrates a Blood Feast at the Palla Grande. The "kine-kegger," as the younger Sabbat call it, capitalizes on the public location of the masquerade ball. Victims for the feast are often vampire wannabes, drunken revelers and "witches" out for a good time on Halloween night. These victims are often lured to the feast under the pretense of being invited to attend an exclusive social affair. They have no idea just how fleeting the honor is to be. Other possible sources of vitae for the blood feast include retainers or ghouls selected from the Sabbat covens' own members who may be of no further use to the sect (or are too dangerous to allow to live).
The main event, which kicks off the affair at midnight, is the re-enactment of an event from vampire legend or history. This stage play could be anything from the slaying of Abel by Caine as told in Biblical terms to the dramatic interpretation of signs and portents of Gehenna. It is completely organized, acted and choreographed by a group of vampires, though "audience participation" in events depicting sacrifice or feeding does occur, with the "guest actors" being whisked away or quietly disposed of after their debut.
After the final act of the historical play, all Sabbat present retire to the Blood Feast for a special version of the Blood Bath. This night the archbishop bathes in the vitae, as a symbol of the sect's power and vitality. The ritual begins with blood from the victims suspended overhead flowing freely into a large, ornate receptacle where the archbishop reclines. Each vampire in the coven adds some of his own vitae to the bath, first bleeding into a ceremonial Vaulderie vessel, then tipping it into the bath. The archbishop performs various rituals and incantations while this process proceeds – details vary city to city. It is rumored that the Palla Grande Blood Bath imbues the archbishop with certain powers until the next sunrise, such as the ability to see into the realms of the dead.
At the conclusion of the Blood Bath, all Sabbat at the Palla Grande begin a frenetic dance of undeath, dancing to near-deafening music and drinking insatiably from the archbishop's bath, from the hanging vessels and from each other. Many of the participants fall into frenzy, driven on by the violence of the dance and the scent, sight and feel of blood coagulating on the floor, caked on walls and plashing from the carpets as dawn draws near.
Once the night's revels conclude, Sabbat ghouls take care of the clean-up. Any potential loose ends are swiftly dealt with over the next couple nights through death, the Discipline of Dominate or the Embrace, depending on the extent of the problem and potential use of the individuals involved.
In addition to the benefits gained from the Blood Feast and Blood Bath, Sabbat vampires who attend the Palla Grande completely replenish their Willpower
Palla Grande is an unfortunate translation nightmare. A more accurate translation should be Gran Ballo.
The word "ball", in italian, can be translated in "palla", meaning a spherical object used in games. But also, and more correctly considering the context, can be translated in "ballo", meaning a dancing event.
- Guide to the Sabbat, p. 152-153