Clan is a term used by vampires to describe the major groups of Cainites who share common characteristics passed on by the blood. There are 13 known clans, each of which was reputedly founded by an Antediluvian, a member of the Third Generation.
- Clan: A vampire group of shared "Blood" or heritage, who can trace their Generations back to a common ancestor, in particular to the Third Generation.
A kindred’s clan is her lineage, the vampiric “family” into which she was embraced. The clans are distinguished by their Antediluvian founders. Kindred society generally acknowledges 13 Clans tonight, though some may have been lost to history, some may exist in secrecy, and some may never have been known.
Like all bloodlines, each clan has greater familiarity with a set of three Disciplines, a clan weakness largely unique to its members, and various stereotypes attributed to it as a result of a tendency to Embrace individuals with certain characteristics. The clans are generally differentiated and set above bloodlines by their greater number and influence throughout the world, identification with an Antediluvian progenitor, a history that reputedly extends back to the Second City, and clan weaknesses that were said to be handed down by Caine himself.
Very few non-vampires recognize the differences that set apart members of each clan and may in fact consider all vampires to be roughly the same as they all share a common ancestor (Caine). The majority of Cainites take the divisions and lineage in general quite seriously, particularly the Elders and those who know their complete lineage. During the Dark Ages, the High Clans and Low Clans marked the upper and bottom rungs of vampiric society, with one's ancestry greatly influencing the possibility for advancement and respect. Centuries later these class divisions would be abandoned for the division of sects between the Camarilla, Sabbat, and independent clans.
Each clan has its own organization and culture that is considered important by its members, and though individuals are rarely willing to make any self-sacrifice for their clanmates a general sense of understanding often elicits some preference for those of similar blood. Likewise, since vampires of any particular clan are often grouped together for political means, such as representation among the Primogen of a city, they may work together and present a unified front out of necessity. Such appearances almost always mask internal conflicts, however, and it is considered incredibly naive to treat all individuals of a clan the same.
The 13 major clansEdit
- Clan Assamite - silent masters of assassination, killing for hire and collecting blood for rituals to bring them closer to their progenitor.
- Clan Brujah - once philosopher-kings of an ancient civilization, but are now rebels and rogues with a fearsome inclination toward frenzy.
- Followers of Set - venerate a chthonic god while seeking out the world’s secret places and protecting ancient artifacts.
- Clan Gangrel - bestial and untamed, often coming to resemble the animals over which they demonstrate mastery.
- Clan Giovanni - an insular family of vampires who practice the art of commanding the dead while commanding global finances, as they have since the Renaissance.
- Clan Lasombra - proud nobles who command the very essence of darkness and shadow — to the point of worshiping it, some say.
- Clan Malkavian - a clan fractured by madness, each member irrevocably suffering under the yoke of insanity.
- Clan Nosferatu - hideously disfigured by the Embrace, so they keep to the sewers shadows and traffic in the secrets they collect.
- Clan Ravnos - nomads and tricksters who can force the mind to see what isn’t there, though they are slaves to the vices they indulge in.
- Clan Toreador - Cainites that enjoy every sensual pleasure the world has to offer, idolizing physical beauty and the adoration of their thralls.
- Clan Tremere - vampiric sorcerers that wield the supernatural power of their past as a hermetic house, though they became vampires through treachery and artifice.
- Clan Tzimisce - eldritch Old World lords who have little in common with the mortal world and can manipulate flesh and bone at a whim.
- Clan Ventrue - observe the noblesse oblige of vampire society, though their entitlement and greed encourages them to seek ever more at the expense of others.
There is some ambiguity in the standards that determine clanhood. Two of the above lineages, the Giovanni and Tremere, are actually recent replacements, having begun as bloodlines of established clans and risen to clan status within the last millennium after mostly wiping out Clan Cappadocian and Clan Salubri, respectively. Even though members of these fallen clans may yet survive, with their numbers so small and their Antediluvians destroyed they have been relegated to bloodline status, particularly as knowledge of their existence is gradually forgotten.
On the other hand, several clans have held onto their positions despite the fact that their Antediluvians are believed to be dead. Likewise, the Ravnos are nearly extinct following the destruction of their progenitor during the Week of Nightmares, but they are still considered a clan (though some speculate that another bloodline will rise to take their place).
Clanless and AutarkisEdit
Caitiff is the most common term used by kindred to describe a vampire of unknown clan, or of no clan at all. They are typically of high generation, where Caine’s blood is too diluted to pass on any consistent characteristics. The clanless have no inherent clan society, support, or even characteristics; they are like orphans among the great families of vampires. The Caitiff have no inherent clan weakness, but no inherent disciplines as well.
Not every cainite belongs to a sect, nor swears fealty to a clan, Prince, Bishop, or other such entity. These Autarkis often lead solitary unlives not unlike hermits or outcasts. In some cases, an Autarkis is beneath notice, in other cases, the Autarkis is simply too powerful or otherwise ungovernable for the local sect to bring under its sway.
- Vampire: The Masquerade Rulebook Revised, p. 19-20, 59