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When a vampire embraces, her childe rises from death one Generation higher than she — one more Generation removed from Caine. The clan founders comprised the Third Generation, their progeny became the Fourth Generation, their childer became the Fifth Generation, and so on and so forth up through the distant Thirteenth Generation prevalent in the modern nights.
All Cainites trace their ancestry according to how far removed they are from Caine, how many generations down their cursed line they are. Caine is considered the First Generation of vampires, the most powerful of them all and Cainites use Generation to describe their heritage as Caine' children. Those of low generation, two or three times removed from Caine, are accorded more respect than those nine or ten times removed.
Generation is the crudest measure of vampiric power, or more accurately, vampiric potential. In game mechanics, all Kindred have a Generation Trait, which is ranked between 0 and 5 for standard characters. Each rank represents a step below the default generation, which is 13th in modern times, and 12th in the Dark Ages. Thus, standard VTM characters range from 13th to 8th generation, and DAV characters from 12th to 7th. Members of the 14th and 15th generation are special, and detailed rules for them are provided in the Time of Thin Blood supplement. The V20 supplement Beckett's Jyhad Diary introduces the 16th generation.
Low generation provides several benefits. Dominate cannot be used on vampires of a lower generation than the character, and some other Disciplines are weaker as well. The number of blood points a Cainite can spend a turn and the maximum size of their blood pool also increases as generation is lowered, though this represents a concentration of power within the blood, not a larger physical capacity to store it. Vampires of below the 8th generation can raise their traits to truly superhuman levels: instead of the human maximum of five, they may raise their traits as high as (13 - their generation); this includes learning Advanced Discipline powers.
Generally, the only way a vampire changes generation is through diablerie. When a Cainite diablerizes a vampire of lower generation their generation decreases by one or possibly more if the victim was particularly potent. There are other, much rarer, methods of changing generation, but they usually involve powerful sorcery and are closely guarded secrets.
Caine has the dubious honor of being the first among the damned, the malignant seed from which all other Cainites claim their heritage. He is regarded as the First Generation.
The most prominent tale says Caine has embraced only three childer - the mythical second generation and sires of the 13 Antediluvians. Like Caine, little is known about the three, who most likely all met their end in the Great Flood or in the upheavals of the Second City. Even the mighty Antediluvians were said to be hesitant to speak of their sires, beings of incredible beauty, but also tyrants and demigods.
It is with the third generation that myth and legend meet reality. The Book of Nod claims that only 13 vampires belong to the third generation and that each are the progenitors of one of the 13 clans. Only Caine and the Three, however, know how many of the third generation were actually created. They are quite literally "Antediluvians," having survived the biblical flood by slumbering under the waters to hide from the sun. They are so ancient it is said they can exist only in torpor, that state of dark slumber that affects all Cainites of advanced age.
4th & 5th GenerationsEdit
Known as Methuselahs, the vampires of the fourth and fifth generations are almost as powerful as their sires. Although they are old, some have escaped the call of lasting torpor, and even those who have failed are only condemned to slumber a few centuries at a time. Their power lies in their advanced Disciplines and age. Few vampires of subsequent generations can match a Methuselah's power. It is said they can erupt and command the legions of Hell itself. Their age is also their greatest weakness, though.
6th & 7th GenerationsEdit
Not to be confused with the Seventh Generation
Younger than the Methuselahs and Antediluvians, many of the vampires of the sixth and seventh generation are still elders of Cainite society. While few Cainites ever cross paths with a fourth generation vampire, most encounter the self-styled lords of the sixth and seventh generations. Although they are not as powerful as the Methuselahs, these Cainites are still formidable opponents, who gladly sacrifice mystical and spiritual power for temporal influence. These Cainites rule over vast kingdoms, donning the crown of monarchs and commanding armies of younger Cainites and mortal thralls.
8th & 9th GenerationsEdit
Achieving a delicate balance between age and generation, these vampires are the most visible ones of the 14th century. Although they are young, the blood of Caine flows strong through their veins, usually enough to give them an edge over those of higher generation. They are nowhere near as old as most Cainites of lower generation, however, which places them in a delicate position. Most Cainites of eighth and ninth generation overcome this disadvantage by siring large covens of childer.
10th & 11th GenerationsEdit
While they are comparatively young, most vampires created within the last few centuries belong to the tenth and eleventh generation. The blood of Caine still flows through them, but they have only recently overthrown the shackles of their sires and become powers in their own right.
12th & 13th GenerationsEdit
Fledgling and neonates, these vampires are separated by blood and millennia from Caine. Nonetheless, all are powerful creatures by virtue of their damned nature. Although they lack the powers of the lower generations, the vampires of the 12th and 13th generations stand above men, capable of besting the strongest mortal knight in battle and wielding influence over barons, merchants and courts.
14th & 15th GenerationsEdit
The last generation is known as thin-blooded vampires and are heavily crippled. During the Dark Ages the Thirteenth Generation was believed to be the last, but in the Final Nights this is comprised of the Fourteenth Generation and Fifteenth Generations.
16th Generation Edit
Although the 15th generation has long since been the highest generation, the numbers of the 16th generation are rising.
The weakening of power from earlier to later generations is typically considered to be a natural dilution of the Curse of Caine. However, the Erciyes Fragments suggests that it is a result of a curse Caine placed on the Antediluvians after the Second Generation was killed, in the hopes that by ensuring childer were less powerful than their sires, they would be less likely to rebel and upset the gerontocratic rule.