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Vampires are one of the three main supernatural races in the World of Darkness and the fundamental characters of Vampire: The Masquerade and Kindred of the East. They are split into two main species: the predominantly western Cainites (also called Kindred), and the oriental Kuei-jin.
The Cainites (also called Kindred), are descendants of Caine (the Biblical Cain), cursed with a thirst for blood, vulnerability to sunlight and immortality. They are forever subject to the Beast, their raging animal urges of hunger, fear and rage.
Cainites generally live in cities, which are run feudally by Princes; life in a city is one of constant political manipulation and paranoia, as the powers of the city vie for power, control and food. They are creatures ruled by fear, most importantly the fear of exposure to the Kine, everyday humanity.
Vampires are created through the Embrace; during the Embrace, a vampire drains a candidate of all their blood and replaces it with a small amount (generally a single drop) of their own. This causes the corpse to rise as a (very hungry) vampire, usually instantly (though those of the highest generations may appear to lie dead for some time before they awaken). The vampire who initiates the Embrace is the Sire; the new vampire is the Sire's Childe.
When a vampire is Embraced, their internal organs wither away, and almost all their body fluids are replaced by blood. The only exception being the stomach, which pulses with the blood that the vampire consumes. Vampires use blood (also called Vitae) for a variety of purposes; blood replaces most bodily fluids, so vampires will cry blood and sweat blood under certain circumstances. Blood is also used to get up and move; every night, vampires expend a certain amount of blood to rise. In addition, vampires can use blood to enhance their physical attributes and use supernatural powers called Disciplines. Blood is used to Embrace, as noted above, and also to create Ghouls. Finally, vampires can use blood to heal damage.
Blood is generally replaced by sucking it out of humans. While vampires can feed on other creatures, they do not enjoy the taste of animal blood and older vampires will acquire no sustenance from it (whilst the blood of the supernatural creatures are an entirely different matter). The process of taking blood is euphemistically called the Kiss or feeding. Vampires do not have to completely drain a victim, although frenzying vampires are likely to do so. Vampires can hide the puncture marks of feeding by licking the wounds, making the process fairly subtle. The Feeding process is highly pleasurable (arguably the only pleasure) for vampires, and is also extremely pleasurable for victims. Vessels who are drained regularly can become addicted to the Kiss.
Vampires change considerably after the Embrace. Physically, they are incapable of eating food, with most vomiting it up almost instantly (and even those that can keep it down for a while will still have to regurgitate the food later), they have no need for sex as the need to feed replaces all physical and emotional urges, although they can imitate the physical reactions for sex if needed and will even feel pleasure from it, though all such mortal pleasures pale in comparison to the ecstasy of the Kiss.As a result of these processes, the vampire is paler and generally thinner than they were before the Embrace. Certain clans have more extreme physical changes, such as the Nosferatu or the Cappadocians.
Once Embraced, vampires are locked into a form of stasis. Apart from wounds (healed with blood), vampires are restored to their condition at the time of Embrace every time they rise up for the night. This physical condition eventually extends to their mindsets - old vampires almost always find it very hard to learn new things, much like how an older human will often find it difficult to keep up with next generation's innovations and ways of thinking.
In addition to the physical changes, vampires experience extreme intellectual and emotional changes. The vampire is now a predator, and has a raging ID called the Beast, that may take control of his body (be it through fear, hunger or hatred). Vampires are highly durable against physical threats, except for fire or sunlight. If set ablaze they burn easily, and will burn up almost instantly in sunlight. However, outside of these, vampires are very hard to kill - bullets do not cause much damage, and those who possess the Disciplines of Celerity and Fortitude are extremely hard to hit, let alone damage in combat. That said, shotguns and similar weapons are warily respected or feared; while an individual bullet might not frighten a vampire, it becomes a different issue when the weapon can remove their head entirely with a well-placed shot, or remove limbs in seconds with a never-ending stream of lead.
When severely wounded, vampires can pass into a deathlike stasis called Torpor, which allows them to heal more extreme damage. Torpor can last for centuries depending on the circumstances, and as a vampire gets older, Torpor becomes a more attractive option due to social and personal issues often suffered by vampires of significant age or those who cannot cope with the changes in society. Some vampires have been in Torpor for millennia, such as the Antediluvians.
Every vampire has a Generation, numbered from 1 (Caine) to 15 in the Canonical games. A vampire is always one generation higher than his Sire, thus farther removed from Caine. Generation has a variety of effects - mental powers do not work on vampires of lower generation, and the lower a generation the more potent a vampire can become.
Generation has a variety of gameplay effects, the most important being Blood Pool. The amount of blood a character can store and spend changes radically as their generation decreases, this makes a low-generation character far more potent in combat, especially once they can spend multiple blood points at a time. Generation also affects most mental disciplines - characters generally cannot use mental disciplines on characters of a lower generation. In addition, Characters cannot raise attributes or disciplines above 5 dots unless they are 7th generation or lower. Higher dot disciplines tend to be highly idiosyncratic.
Vampires cannot lower their generation except through diablerie, a form of vampiric cannibalism in which the diablerist consumes the soul of his or her victim - which is usually a rare opportunity and a very severe crime. A Diablerie is easily detectable on an aura, and the Camarilla views it as a capital crime.
- Main article: Clan Curse
Aside from the particular curses of each clan, the Cainites share a few disadvantages. For instance, vampires must feed on the blood of other beings to survive and heal their wounds (with few notable exceptions, such as the Nagaraja, who must feed on flesh as well). In addition, they universally fear fire, sunlight, decapitation, and the teeth, claws and powers of other supernatural creatures. A wooden stake through the heart will immobilize them.
Also, after the embrace every vampire must be wary of the influence of the Beast upon their behavior. The Beast continuously assaults the character, and if the Beast's demands exceed the character's own capacity to control it, it will react in a Frenzy or Rötschreck. Vampires can permanently lose control to the Beast, entering Wassail, a state of permanent Frenzy. In this condition, all humanity is lost and the vampire becomes a mindless killing machine.
Cainite's history begins with a homicidal farmer: Caine of the Biblical story. According to Vampiric mythology (detailed in the Book of Nod), Caine killed his brother Abel and was exiled by God to Nod, East of Eden. Outside of Nod he met Lilith, who taught him the basics of vampiric power. At this time, he was also cursed by God's Angels to be vulnerable to fire, sunlight and the treachery of his descendants.
Caine then traveled to Enoch, the First City of the human race. There he embraced its ruler and became the God-King of the city, embracing three childer as the Second Generation. These three childer in turn embraced the thirteen Antediluvians, the founders of the clans.
Some time after this, the Antediluvians rebelled against the Second Generation, after which the Great Flood covered Enoch in water. The Antediluvians survived for 40 days under water, devouring their own, until the floods receded.
Some time after the flood, the Antediluvians build the Second City, which they rule over as Gods, until Caine returns to pass judgement on them. Caine curses each of the Clans, then leaves.
The Antediluvians spread across the world at this time, travelling to various places and embracing further descendants. Eventually, they sink into Torpor. Vampires fear Gehenna, the time that the Antediluvians will rise from Torpor and devour their descendants, then Caine will return in judgement. The Camarilla claims Gehenna is a fraud, and that there are no Antediluvians. In contrast, the Sabbat is strongly Noddist and sees defeating the Antediluvians as their entire purpose.
Nominally, every vampire is Embraced into a Clan, which is a line of vampires tracing their ancestry back to a common Antediluvian. Each Clan has specific strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own distinct history. A vampire without a Clan is Caitiff, generally a second-class citizen in vampiric society.
Most vampires belong to one of two major sects: the Camarilla and the Sabbat. The Camarilla consists of those clans who are dedicated to preserving the Masquerade and (generally) their Humanity. The Sabbat are dedicated to the coming Gehenna and the superiority of the vampire species over humanity. It should be noted that the distinction is not between Good Vampires and Bad Vampires as much as between Bad Vampires and Worse Vampires (which is which depends largely on who you ask). The Camarilla and Sabbat are violent enemies.
In addition to these two Sects, several lesser divisions exist. Vampires who reject both Sects in favor of more indepedence are grouped into a loose community called Anarch. Several Clans are loyal primarily to their Clans, and are independent of the major Sects. In addition, there is a group of mysterious elder vampires, the Inconnu, who eschew all politics in favor of their own projects. However, not every Kindred 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.
While they are still globalized, most vampires are generally confined to one city (which is ruled in a feudal fashion). At the apex of the power structure is the Prince, who is generally served by a council of Primogen, the prince controls access to feeding grounds which he allocates as fiefs. There are additional city offices, notably the Harpies and Sheriff; later editions of VTM introduce the Scourge, as well as other, more specialized minor offices.
Sabbat cities use a slightly different structure. Cities are generally ruled by a Archbishop, who is supported by a number of Bishops. Below this level are the various packs who make up the bulk of Sabbat society; these packs are led by Ducti.
In addition to these offices, however, the Sects impose their own additional offices. Princes report to the Camarilla, whose most visible officers are the Archons, roving agents of the Justicars, who are the highest public Camarilla official. Each clan provides one Justicar, who controls his own stable of Archons. Justicars are roving troubleshooters, each one generally focusing on one major project at a time - such as conducting a war to take over a city.
- Brujah: Originally warrior-philosophers, the Brujah are now petty rebels, roughnecks and political activists. The Brujah are powerful combatants and charismatic speakers, but are more prone to succumbing to frenzy.
- Gangrel: The Gangrel are nomadic vampires and the only ones who regularly travel outside of cities. The Gangrel are also shape-shifters with the Discipline of Protean, which has left them with a tendency to acquire animal features as they frenzy.
- Malkavian: The Malkavians are a clan of mentally-ill vampires afflicted with a strange madness which varies between individuals. This doesn't mean that they aren't also insightful and highly intelligent, but they are controlled by madness from the moment of their Embrace, if not before.
- Nosferatu: Nosferatu are hideously deformed by their Embrace, every Nosferatu is horrifyingly ugly. Eschewing other Vampires, they live in sewers and generally keep to themselves. Nosferatu are information brokers par excellence.
- Toreador: The Toreador are obsessed with art and beauty, and are the clan that spends the most time around humanity. Toreador tend to get lost in art, becoming enraptured by beautiful things.
- Tremere: The Tremere are a Hermetic order (originally from Ars Magica) who turned themselves into vampires to preserve their magic. It didn't quite work out as planned. Since the 11th century, the Tremere have risen from outcasts to one of the pillars of Camarilla society. Tremere are the most powerful practitioners of the Discipline of Thaumaturgy, but are also tightly bound to their highly organized and incredibly paranoid clan.
- Ventrue: The Clan Of Kings. The Ventrue are the leaders of the Camarilla. They are businessmen, aristocrats, monarchs, captains of industry, crime leaders and tend to occupy any other position where control, social status and power are required. They are the clan from whom the majority of Princes come. Ventrue are careful to whom they Embrace and who they feed from: every Ventrue feeds exclusively from a specific type of prey.
The Sabbat is composed of many different clans and bloodlines. While all the Camarilla clans certainly have an antitribu representation within the Sabbat, the term also applies to factions within three independent clans which have joined the sect. However, there are two clans whose main body adhered to the Sabbat since it's foundation:
- Lasombra: The leaders of the Sabbat, the Lasombra slew their own Antediluvian during the Anarch Revolt and then led the Sabbat against the nascent Camarilla. The Lasombra are elegant, powerful, cruel and predatory espousers of a social darwinist approach towards control and leadership. The Lasombra are also masters of shadow, able to manipulate darkness in bizarre fashions; this power has a cost however, Lasombra cast no reflection.
- Tzimisce: The Tzimisce hail from Eastern Europe, and are the former absolute masters of their nightmare domains. The Tzimisce are the least human vampires in VtM, casually cruel and more than a little mad, and possessing the most potent shapeshifting powers of any Vampire. Tzimisce can shift not only their shape, but mold flesh and bone like it was clay. The Tzimisce crave stability - they cannot find peace at night without some of their grave earth.
- Assamites: The Children of Haqim are a cult of assassins located in the mountain fortress of Alamut in the middle east. Descended from Caine's judge, the Assamites accept assassination contracts against vampires while fulfilling their clans own (more obscure) goals. The Assamites are practically a sect unto themselves, with three castes, each of which has its own weakness.
- Giovanni: The Giovanni are a clan of Venetian businessmen and necromancers who entered the scene in the 15th century; originally an offset of the more sedate Cappadocians, Augustus Giovanni diablerized his sire and purged the clan of all Cappadocians. Since that time, the Giovanni have become a very rich, powerful and incestuously twisted family with tentacles throughout the world. The Giovanni do not feed lightly - Feeding is a nightmare for their Vessels, causing excess damage and intense pain as oppose to the erotic ecstasy of the Kiss.
- Ravnos: The Ravnos are Vampires from the Indian subcontinent, where they are engaged in a genocidal war with India's Cathayans. The first Ravnos seen in the west were Gypsies and were generally assumed to be charlatans and rogues (which isn't that far off, since many Ravnos are charlatans and rogues), however the Ravnos adhere to a complex philosophy of enlightenment through destroying Maya. Each Ravnos has a vice, from gambling to plagiarism.
- Setites: Descendants of the Egyptian God Set, the Setites are a Gnostic cult dedicated to overthrowing the rule of the tyrant gods who oppress all creatures. This makes them inconceivably evil to almost every other life form in the universe, as the Setites seek liberation through vice and by confronting the darkest corners of the soul. The Setites are creatures of Darkness, light does even more damage to them.
Clans that are believed to be extinct.
- Salubri: The Clan of Saulot, discoverer of Golconda. The Salubri were a clan of healers and demon-fighters. After the Tremere became vampires, the Founder Tremere sought out Saulot and diablerized him, they then launched a campaign against the clan, branding them as demon-worshippers and soul-stealers. There are only a few Salubri today.
- Cappadocians: The original Clan of Death, the Cappadocians were a monastic order of vampires who studied death, the soul and the Embrace. They were destroyed by Augustus Giovanni in a coup d'etat. The Cappadocians were noted for their corpselike appearance, even more so than most Vampires.
Bloodlines And AntitribuEdit
In addition to the thirteen clans, there are a variety of bloodlines, who are offshoots or mutations of existing clans. These bloodlines are generally small and normally politically impotent. Examples include the Daughters of Cacophony, Kiasyd and Samedi.
The Sabbat has two major clans, but in addition, members of the Camarilla clans have joined the Sabbat since there was a Sabbat (actually, technically before there was a Sabbat). These clans are called antitribu and usually differ slightly from their parent clans, either in terms of disciplines or weaknesses.
In the World of Darkness, there is an increasing number of "clanless"—vampires who were abandoned by their sires immediately following the Embrace and who are ignorant of their clan status; a vampire cannot choose to become clanless. They are called Caitiff by the Camarilla, and regarded as a sign of the Masquerade spiralling out of control, therefore gaining little respect from their elders. The Sabbat, on the other hand, gladly embraces the clanless (which they call Panders) into the sect. The more superstitious see the growing numbers of these vampires as an omen of the coming Gehenna, the Final Nights of prophecy when all childer of Caine will be destroyed.
Vampires observe a set of customs that exists somewhere between being coded into their undead natures and a social contract that’s ratified every night among the courts of the Damned. Not every vampire affords the idea of the Traditions the respect they deserve — the Sabbat in particular make bold claims about the flaws of the Traditions and the weak wills of those who hide behind them — but in practice, most vampires observe the Traditions to some extent. This is most true of the Masquerade, for as bold as the Sabbat or Anarchs may be, even they don’t have the concentrated might to stand against a world of mortals who learn the secret that the undead walk among them.
Interpreting and enforcing the Traditions is the privilege and responsibility of the Cainite rulers. In some domains, particularly those of non-Camarilla Sects, both the titles and the Traditions themselves may vary, but the core principle is found everywhere: that an undead authority makes the rules and woe to any who feel that they don’t have to heed them.
Vampire espouses a virtue system which has changed in the various editions. The core of the system is three humane virtues: Conscience, Self-Control and Courage, rated from one to five. In addition to these virtues, all vampires have a Humanity score, rated from one to ten.
Humanity is ultimately a measure of how much control a vampire has over the Beast; the lower the Humanity, the more a vampire is controlled by his appetites. The default humanity for human beings is around 7.
Vampires lose humanity by committing sins; whenever a vampire does something that violates his morality, the player rolls a degeneration check. Losing the roll costs the character a point of humanity, while winning the roll maintains the morality. It should be noted that by winning, the character feels guilt - he realizes he's done something wrong. Conversely, losing means that the character is more comfortable with that sin, be it stealing a book or killing a friend. What qualifies as a sin depends on the character's morality score; as a character's humanity rises, the opportunities to degenerate become more common.
In general, humanity is inimical to being a vampire - as a blood-drinking nocturnal marauder, the character must engage in a variety of socially deviant behavior. As a result, most characters drop humanity until they reach a stable, if low, level. Low humanity has gameplay effects; a character cannot roll more dice on a social roll involving people than his humanity score. The remainder drop all the way to zero, Wassail, storyteller control and a violent death.
Humanity is not the only moral path available, the Sabbat and independent clans espouse Paths of Enlightenment, which outline alien and rigid moralities strongly divorced from the human norm. These are descended from the Dark Ages Roads, but are generally not practiced by Camarilla vampires.
There are also other creatures who share the Classic World of Darkness with the Cainites. Some are oblivious to them while others actively hunt them down. Here are a few examples on their perspectives regarding vampires:
In the modern nights the majority of mortals have been convinced by The Masquerade that vampires are myths, and thus possess only the knowledge found in the average novel or movie. There are a handful of cults and organizations that are aware of the existence of vampires, such as the Society of Leopold, though their information is often skewed and incomplete.
Most Garou regard vampires as servants of the Wyrm and attack them on sight. Thus, discussion between the two races is incredibly rare and neither side really understands the other, aside from recognition of the mutual antagonism. As most vampires prefer civilization over the wild (largely because werewolves are not believed to spend as much time in cities), encounters between the two are infrequent but usually violent.
Very few of the Awakened realize that vampires are real, though their interaction with both the wondrous and monstrous makes them fairly open-minded to the idea of their existence. Regardless, most mages have no more knowledge concerning vampires than the average mortal gets from modern fiction. Those that have encountered vampires, however, often are intrigued by their apparent abilities to avoid paradox and the levels of quintessence contained in their blood.
Most wraiths couldn't care less about vampires; after all, their posturing and manipulation have no effect on the dead side of the Shroud. A scant few vampires with Auspex have become aware of the presence of wraiths, but most of the time, vampires and wraiths leave each other alone.
The exception comes with the nigrimancer Giovanni, who seek to control wraiths, the Shroud, and the Shadowlands. Fear towards these invaders is not unknown among the dead, but far more react towards the Giovanni with rage and fury, especially if the Giovanni attempts to manipulate wraiths against their will. A few wraiths have been known to form alliances with the more "pleasant" Giovanni, but these are rare, and most go out of their way to avoid the Necromancers. Some wraiths have also made contact with the Tremere and the Samedi; these have usually been of a slightly more pleasant nature.
The eastern Kuei-jin are an entirely different species of vampire. Their society is very exclusive and they recognize only their own kin as meriting any sort of fundamental rights or respect. The cainites are commonly called Kin-jin, and seen as the foreign devils who have brought down the Fifth Age upon the Middle Kingdom. Most Cathayans see the Kin-jin as enemies, menaces and infiltrators, the ignorant and corrupt tools of the Yama Kings..
Demons and the kindred are usually competitors for the same prize - mankind and all it has to offer. Both groups are highly territorial, prideful and more than willing to resort to violence if threatened. It’s not surprising, then, that most demon-vampire relations tend to be highly confrontational. This is especially true when a fallen and one of the kindred find themselves vying for a hold over a particular mortal or mortal institution. Both sides will spare no effort to protect what they see as theirs. This is not to say that all demon-vampire relations are ultimately destructive. Some of the fallen, particularly of the Reconciler faction, have forged ties with individual vampires, hoping to use their lore to restore the kindred’s humanity in exchange for knowledge and support as the demons try to further their agenda worldwide.
Mummies call vampires as ghuls and have an ambivalent relationship with the Cainites. While they loathe the Setites as the spawn of their dreaded enemy Set, they cherish the Children of Osiris. According to the Undying lore, when Osiris proclaimed an end to cannibalism, some ghuls rebelled and were burned to death by Ra's fury for their defiance. The surviving blood demons slipped into the shadows and carried on in their vile ways.
- Main article: Kuei-jin
The Middle Kingdom, while hosting western vampires as well, has its own nocturnal predators: The Kuei-jin. These creatures, while similar to western vampires, differ from them in a number of ways, most being metaphysical and cultural.