The Nosferatu are one of the thirteen Great Clans of vampires which feature in White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness setting. Hideously disfigured creatures, these poor Kindred are nevertheless spies and information brokers par excellence; they tend to function as the eyes and ears of whichever organisation they offer their services to.
Nosferatu legend tells that their Clan founder, a mortal who went by the name of Absimiliard, was in his mortal days a great hunter and a man of unsurpassed beauty; both of these traits cultivated in him an enormous vanity and sense of self worth. During the time of the First City, one of the Second Generation (it is unclear which, although many believe it to have been Zillah) was attracted to this prideful man and decided to stalk him for sport. At the conclusion of the hunt, the ancient vampire Embraced her prey, although the struggle left Absimiliard with a small scar, marring his otherwise perfect face.
As time passed, this blemish grew to be a source of first resentment then hatred for his sire, and as a result, Absimiliard killed her, an act which ultimately brought about the destruction of the First City.
Like the others of the Third Generation, Absimiliard had created a small group of vampiric Childer as company, and after the fall of the First City one of them, a lone maiden who had been his first progeny, fled beyond the reaches of her sire. This vampire was to become the dread entity known as the Baba Yaga, and the founder of the Clan as it is known today. When Caine returned from his wanderings, he was said to be so furious with Absimiliard that he cursed him and all of his line with the vile appearance that the plagues the Nosferatu to this day.
Since that time, Absimiliard has spent his waking centuries sending the Childer who remained with him after the Fall to wipe out the descendants of the Baba Yaga. Some say that this is to atone for his misdeeds in the First City, whilst others claim it is simply as revenge for her defiance.
A Different Story
It should be noted that there is another tale of Absimiliard‘s early years. In this version, he and the Toreador Antediluvian Arikel were lovers, but over time his scar made him incurably jealous of Arikel’s flawless perfection. Finally this pustule of hate erupted, and Absimiliard disfigured himself beyond recognition, claiming that if he could not be the most beautiful creature in existence, then he would be the most ugly. He then passed this curse on to all those whom he begat. This story tells that Absimiliard hunts his offspring in an attempt to wipe out the vile creatures which he set loose upon the world.
As with all of the legends from this time, which version is correct may never be known.
The Nosferatu found their early years as a Clan difficult ones, as their appearance made coexistence with humans problematic at best. They initially resorted to a hermitic existence, hunting humans from beneath bodies of water or dark caverns, as their mere appearance tended to make those unfamiliar with the supernatural either run in fear or attempt to destroy them with fire and blade.
However, the advent of the Roman Empire and its sophisticated sewer systems did allow the Nosferatu to establish havens in areas where they were able to approach mortals from the safety of the shadows, and enabled an interaction with the human population which they had previously not known. This singular turn of events set them on the path which the bulk of the Clan follows today.
The Dark Ages
During the Dark Ages, the Nosferatu were very much at the bottom of the vampiric heap. Usually forced to survive as the consorts of beggars and lepers, they nevertheless held a certain power in Kindred society; their unique existence gave them unsurpassed knowledge of the link between the filth of the masses and the diseases which came hand-in-hand. This allowed them the ability to strike down a township which was hostile to their kind, or to destroy the herd of an opponent who had incurred their wrath.
The Dark Ages also saw the formation of the vampiric sect known as the Camarilla, of which the Nosferatu were one of the seven founding Clans. This act was to bring about a slight upturn in their fortunes, and afford them a measure of protection against those who would see them as nothing more than a blight to be scourged from the face of the Earth. (See main article: Camarilla)
With the onset of the Renaissance, the Nosferatu began their urban colonisation in earnest. With larger cities came larger slums, and hence greater scope for the Clan to thrive in a mortal environment. It became more common for the down-and-outs of a city sprawl to be seen in more upmarket areas of town and so the Nosferatu extended their sphere of influence through the gathering of dirt on not only those of a low status but those in power as well.
The Victorian Age
The Victorian Age was something of a mixed bag for the Nosferatu: on one hand, it saw the attitude that outer beauty reflected the soul inside, obviously not something that would do a creature who looked like it had just crawled from a torture chamber cesspit any favours. On the other hand, the massive growth in city infrastructure (such as the sewers and associated accessways) allowed the Nosferatu an unparalleled access to all parts of the urban environment; indeed, many influential Nosferatu had specifically-designed underground systems built for themselves and their fellows during this time, many of which survive to this day.
In the current era, the Nosferatu maintain an information network unequalled by any other group, be it mortal, vampiric or otherwise supernatural. The Cold War and its end has left them with a vast array of disused facilities which they have taken as their own and adapted to suit their own needs. The advent of the internet has allowed the exchange of information on a scale bever before seen, and has given the Nosferatu an advantage in data brokering which has done nothing but enhance the standing of their Clan.
However, amongst this rise in fortune has come a great disaster: the Clan‘s founder, Absimiliard, has awoken from a centuries-long sleep and is pursuing in earnest a pogrom against the Nosferatu. Whilst the Clan as a whole could weather the attacks of a handful of elder vampires, whether it can withstand the onslaught of an Antediluvian remains to be seen.
Culture and Organisation
The Nosferatu’s physical disfigurement has played a large part in the development of their society over the years. As a result of the stigma associated with their appearance, the Nosferatu have learnt to instill a sense of loyalty to the Clan as a whole, rather than to whichever sect the individual vampire belongs. As a result, the Nosferatu are a more united, cohesive Clan than any other, with the possible exception of Clan Tremere. The two Clans differ in this loyalty and cohesion in that the Tremere function through forced indoctrination and ambition, whereas the Nosferatu are built this way through necessity. For example, imagine a vampire who belongs to a group whose other members are all power-hungry fanatics, desperate to impress those higher in the food chain in order to advance their careers. Then imagine a vampire whose only possible means of survival is to band together with others of his kind in order to make themselves too valuable a commodity to do without.
Because of this, The Nosferatu tend to group themselves together in units known as broods. Whilst these broods may be composed of a single vampire and its Childer, this is not a compulsory feature of a brood. Broods are usually comprised of the Nosferatu of a particular geographic region or city, but can be groups of vampires who interact online, or sometimes as wandering agents from across the globe; the only universal feature of a brood is that its members have a strong bond of loyalty to one another.
A less well-known aspect of the Nosferatu is their humanitarianism. Living unlife at the bottom of the pond gives one a different perspective on things, and many (if not most) Nosferatu have a certain empathy for the mortals which are forced to endure such hardships. As a result, there are many orphanages, rehab centres and homeless charities which are quietly funded by the Clan, sometimes even by the misappropiation of other Clans’ assets. This is often aided by the subtle manipulation of information by supposedly “rogue” Nosferatu operatives.
Created by an enterprising Nosferatu not long after the birth of the internet, SchreckNET is a global electronic network which piggybacks off of the mortal internet. Initially conceived as a series of data sharing and collecting sites, SchreckNET has since evolved into the world’s premier information network. Whilst still under the control of the Nosferatu, the Clan have recently granted limited access to this “Dark Web” to other Clans and individuals in return for boons. Those privileged few who can afford it can now view almost anything, from insider trading news to the personal habits of their least favourite rival. In the digital age, information most definitely is power. The irony of this is not lost on the Nosferatu.
The Nosferatu are reputed to be particularly caring for their ghouls, of which they are said to have many. Unfortunately for Nosferatu ghouls, the blood that they imbibe imparts a certain ugliness to the drinker. Whilst not as extreme as the affliction of a true Nosferatu, their ghouls are no lookers. Fortunately, they are rarely intended to be. For example, who actually thinks that those hobos on the subway platform listen to a word you say? And it’s certainly not like that bug-eyed air-conditioner repairman can hear anything when he’s working on the office three doors down, is it? The ghouls of Clan Nosferatu are an indispensable part of their network, and any member who thinks otherwise will be looked down upon by his broodmates.
What isn’t so well known is that the Clan creates “spawning pools” to create animal ghouls. These pools are formed by mixing Nosferatu blood with a mixture of the sewer water and rainfall so that, over a period of years, the animals which drink there develop certain low-level Disciplines (vampiric powers) and are more susceptible to the suggestions of the Nosferatu who created the pools. These creatures are another indispesible form of intelligence for the Clan. Whilst they are mostly incapable of communicating their findings to a normal human, a vampire with the Animalism Discipline can discern the gist of a conversation by reading the gestures and pantomimes of a fox, squirrel or rat. Sometimes, even the conveyance of a conversation’s mood can earn a Nosferatu incalculable information.
(See main article: Vampire (World of Darkness))
The Embrace is a particularly painful experience for a Nosferatu: as the blood of his sire changes not only his soul but the very body in which the recipient lives, the poor Childe becomes wracked with physical mutations, his skin rupturing, warts forming and pieces rotting before falling off. The end result is a pitiful wretch of a creature, looking nothing like the human it was before, and the percentage of candidates who perish from this ordeal is considerable higher than that of the other Clans; some that do survive are little more than mindless animals, their consciousnesses stripped away by the savagery of the change.
The Nosferatu tend to Embrace new vampires from one of two categories. The first are those for whom becoming a vampire is nothing but a step up; the bottom class of human society, the beggars, addicts and lifelong homeless. These Childer are usually of high mental acuity, men and women whose potential has been lost in the depths of their despair. Bringing them into the fold gives these lost souls a chance at doing something with their (un)lives, and of belonging. The second is a much darker reason: spite. Sometimes, when a mortal antagonises a Nosferatu (particularly if that person was considered handsome or pretty), an aggrieved Nosferatu will Embrace them, bestowing their curse of hideousness on the target for all of eternity. These wretched souls are usually abandoned by their sired immediately after their Embrace to die by the hands of those that found them so appealing during their breathing days.
As can be gathered by the previous writings, the weakness of Clan Nosferatu is that they are all physically ugly in some way, shape or form. This ugliness does not manifest in a conventionally ugly-human way however; each and every Nosferatu is deformed in a way which makes it immediately apparent to the observer that they are not viewing a human being. Because of this, any Nosferatu vampire without the ability to cloud the perceptions of a human onlooker, or who has lost this ability, is automatically in breach of the Masquerade, the tenets by which the Camarilla is founded upon. Whilst most Nosferatu possess the Discipline of Obfuscate (a power which allows the user to cloak their features or appear to be a normal person), this means that any Nosferatu who lets his disguise slip for even a second may be subject to Final Death at the hands of his protectors, the Camarilla.
- Nicktuku: whilst not technically an offshoot and more of a parallel Clan, the Nicktuku bear mentioning here. Controlled by none other than Absimiliard himself, they are a small group of ancient Nosferatu whose sole aim is to wipe out the “real” Clan.
- Absimiliard, the Antediluvian progenitor of Clan Nosferatu.
- Baba Yaga, first of Absimiliard’s offspring, and the Kindred thought to be responsible for the Clan as it is in the current nights.
- Vasilisa, a Nicktuku vampire who killed the Baba Yaga.