Much like their counterparts in other media, these vampires come in as many different shapes and forms as there are peoples on the planet; more in fact, since some of the horrific aberrations caused to some by the Curse are found in no human race. There are, however, a number of traits common to all World of Darkness vampires: they both fear and are harmed by sunlight and fire, possess powers beyond those of normal humans, and require the ingestion of blood in order to survive.
HistoryMost of the known history of vampires in the World of Darkness comes from the ancient tome The Book of Nod. This volume tells of how when Abel was killed by his jealous brother Caine, God marked him with a great Curse. Caine then walked the world for a time before using the powers of his blood to develop the vampiric abilities known as Disciplines.
After spending many years alone, Caine grew weary of his solitude, but found that by using the power of his blood he could create more like himself. He proceeded to create (or Embrace as the process is known by the Kindred) a trio of others to keep him company throughout the long ages, and these three beings became known as the Second Generation. Caine and his three Childer then went on to create a great metropolis called the City of Enoch wherein humans and vampires lived in harmony but the Second Generation were not content with their lot and created thirteen children of their own, the Third Generation, or Antediluvians as they later came to be known.
This did not work out well, as the Third Generation began to plot and feud amongst themselves, bringing chaos to The City of Enoch and eventually resulted in the deaths of all three of the Second Generation. The Book of Nod tells that God saw this and was unhappy, and so sent a great flood to Earth which wiped out most of the human population and destroyed the city.
After the deluge Caine disappeared from recorded history, although the Third Generation (now known as the Antediluvians as they predated the Great Flood) survived and each went on to sire their own Childer, the groups which would in time come to be known as Clans. Each of the Antediluvians imparted to their offspring certain peculiarities of their blood which would mark which Clan a vampire derived from down the ages.
Since that time, vampires have operated throughout nearly every level of human society, exerting their influence over the course of history in countless different ways, although modern-day vampires tend to work more from positions of hiding due to a series of threats posed to them by the burgeoning human population over the years.
The EmbraceThe process of creating a new Childe is known amongst vampires as the Embrace, or occasionally the Kiss. Whilst most different groups have their own rules on Embracing mortals such as requiring the permission of the region’s Prince (ruling vampire), the process is the same no matter what allegiance the creature holds.
First, the vampire must drain the human of all of his or her blood, then allow a little of his own vitae (the vampiric term for blood) to trickle into the exsanguinated corpse’s mouth. The new Kindred will then awaken with a terrible thirst and will attempt to feed upon anybody unfortunate enough to be nearby at the time.
Whilst the act of giving the Embrace will create a new vampire, this creature will have a potential power level lower than that of his or her sire. Thus, the further distant in relation to Caine the vampire is, the less powerful the vampire will be, and there are no recorded instances of vampires of higher than fifteenth generation.
Society and Social Structure
Vampire society varies wildly depending upon which sect they belong to, although most groups have some kind of hierarchy or pecking order. This is usually, but not exclusively, determined by either the age of the vampire, or its generation (how close their blood is to that of to Caine).
Vampires divide themselves into several distinct groups, each with their own customs and social mores. A few of these are listed below, although it should be noted that not every vampire belongs to a particular sect or group, and even those whose Clan are largely part of one sect might themselves be a part of an entirely separate one. For example, whilst most Lasombra count themselves as Sabbat, there remain a small number who are part of the Camarilla, and yet more who identify with no group whatsoever.
The largest of the vampiric sects, the Camarilla was formed by the coming together of seven of the Great Clans in the fifteenth century, largely as a response to the growing threats posed by both the Catholic Church’s Inquisition and a large-scale revolt of vampire Anarchs bent on overthrowing what they perceived to be an oppressive undead hierarchy.
Overcoming these troubles, the Camarilla established itself as a unified organisation which exists into modern nights, with its major goal being the concealment of vampire society from the mortal populace. It should be noted, however, that the Elders of this sect are also dedicated to spreading the story that the Antediluvians are either so deep in torpor (vampiric sleep) that they will never wake again, that they were all destroyed aeons ago, or that they simply did not exist.
- Ventrue: The nobility, politicians and CEO’s of the Camarilla, these Kindred form the majority of the ruling body of the sect.
- Tremere: Old-fashioned mages, none are as secretive as the Tremere. One of the Camarilla’s most prominent supporters, they were also the first Clan to develop the Discipline of Thaumaturgy, a power which they guard with fanatic jealousy.
- Brujah: Once warrior-philosophers, these vampires have mostly devolved into a Clan of feuding ideologies.
- Gangrel: The Kindred most in touch with nature, the Gangrel are one of the few Clans whose members have been known to establish good relations with Werewolves.
- Malkavian: Malkavians are crazy, each and every one. Whether it be multiple personalities, extreme OCD or uncontrolled psychotic urges, one should never underestimate a Malkavian. This being said, they count amongst their numbers an exceptionally high number of genius-level intellects, so one should never discount entirely the ramblings of a madman. On the other hand, one should always watch his back . . .
- Nosferatu: A hideous Clan of vampires, all Nosferatu possess physical traits which would make any human instantly view them as monsters. This has made them watchers, however, and these vampires have created an information network which is second to none.
- Toreador: Artists and critics, the Toreador are the “beautiful people” of the Camarilla. Many of their arts, however, lie with the manipulation of humankind in one way or another, and so they tend to occupy the higher echelons of the sect.
After the fifteenth-century Anarch uprising was put down by the nascent Camarilla, two of the Great Clans and many of the remnants of the revolt came together in opposition to the Camarilla. This sect is drastically different from its opponents in a number of ways.Firstly, although they too work largely from the shadows, this is more a matter of convenience than any actual fear of mortal reprisals. The Sabbat is of the mindset it is preferable to simply avoid something than it is to have to stamp on that something on one’s journey.
Secondly, the Sabbat believes in the Antediluvians wholeheartedly, the two Great Clans which form the nucleus of the sect having already murdered their Clan progenitors. They believe that they are to be used as Caine’s army against the Anteduluvians when the First Vampire returns.
Thirdly, members of the Sabbat regularly engage in the practice of Vaulderie, whereby each Pack (a sort of hunting group of vampires) will share blood with each other in order to create bonds of loyalty which transcend that of Clan, and strengthen their unity of purpose.
- Lasombra: The opposite number of the Camarilla’s Ventrue, the Lasombra tend to invest heavily in religious organisations, particularly the Catholic Chuch, to gain influence with mortals. These Kindred are the absolute masters of working from behind the throne, thanks to their signature Discipline Obtenebriation, which grants them the power to control shadows.
- Tzimisce: The Tzimisce are largely composed of relatively young vampires with an affinity for fleshcraft. Highly territorial, One who enters their domain uninvited is unlikely to escape looking the same way they did before . . .
A loose-knit community of vampires from every Clan and bloodline, in the modern day the Anarchs are dedicated to overthrowing the power of the Elders of every Clan. What they intend to replace it with is anyone’s guess, though the Anarch Free State of South California has remained intact for several decades, albeit a hotbed of gang warfare, internecine conflict and petty power struggles.
Four independent Great Clans exist in the World of Darkness, and each have individual societal structures with associated cultural practices.
- Assamite: A feared Clan of assassins hailing from the Middle East, the Assamites take their payment in the form of blood.
- Followers of Set: These vampires believe that their Clan Antediluvian was in fact the Egyptian god Set, and that one day he will return to consume all non-Setite vampires. They are a secretive yet seductive Clan, perceived by other Kindred as being untrustworthy and deceitful.
- Giovanni: A Clan of necromancers, the Giovanni are an inbred and insular lot who have a tendency to utilise organised crime syndicates as a method of securing power. Embracing only from a select group of families, they are seen by the Kindred community at large to be the “vampire Mafia.”
- Ravnos: Gypsies, tramps and thieves is how the majority of Kindred perceive this Clan, yet they are much more than that. Magicians, con-artists and showmen par excellence, the Ravnos make everyone they meet happy, at least to begin with . . .
The Inconnu are a reclusive and difficult to find group of vampires. Over centuries, each one of these beings has managed to come to terms on a spiritual level with their condition, and in doing so has gained powers far beyond that of most Kindred. They spend most of their time either maintaining their condition or teaching other vampires how to achieve their own level of acceptance.
However, when one of the Inconnu is moved to act, the powers which it can bring to bear are truly terrifying. Hundreds of years of utilising vampiric Disciplines, in addition to the the material resources and devotion of countless servants required to free the Kindred from outside concerns, combined to make even a single Inconnu a force which few vampires could stand against. This does not even take in to consideration the fact that most Inconnu would move to protect any one of their kind which was endangered.
One of the powers granted to the Kindred through their vitae is the ability to create ghouls. Ghouls are creatures with certain of the vampire’s abilities, but none of their weaknesses.
To create a ghoul, a vampire must simply feed a little of their blood to a mortal. Once the human (or animal, it is possible to create non-human ghouls, although it may be harder to get an animal to drink from a vampire’s veins) has imbibed the blood it gains a certain portion of the Kindred’s powers; enhanced strength and durability are the most common manifestations in ghouls, although other abilities may be present in addition to or instead of these.
If a mortal drinks from the same Kindred three times, then that being will become blood bound to the vampire. Creatures under the effect of the blood bond will be unable to act in a hostile manner towards the vampire and will feel an intense love for, and desire to do the bidding of, the bloodsucker.Whilst ghouls suffer none of the traditional weaknesses of vampires (vulnerability to sunlight, etc.) if a blood bound vampire goes for longer that a period of about a month without ingesting vampire blood then it will begin to suffer from withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by substance addicts. The process of “detox” for the weaning of a creature off of Kindred blood is exactly the same as that for substance abuse, but due to the magical properties of vitae can take a significantly longer time, and in the case of the actual blood bond itself, may never wear off.
There also exist a number of insular families of ghouls which are capable of creating new ghouls through the process of procreation. These Revenants as they are known, produce their own watered-down version of vampiric vitae which they can use to power their own limited disciplines.
Whatever the source of the ghoul, vampires use them in a number of different ways. Some are used as little more than muscle in the nightly conflicts which the Kindred are involved in across the globe, others are used to spread a vampire’s influence into offices and institutions which the vampire himself may not be able to gain direct access, while yet more simply provide a willing pool of vessels from which to feed.
DisciplinesThe various abilities of the Kindred are known as Disciplines. These powers come in an astonishing variety, yet are distinguished from true Magick in that they require the expenditure of vampiric vitae, and that their effects tend to be very specific and remain the same no matter the vampire employing them. For example, while a Gangrel vampire may summon wolves to his aid when a Nosferatu calls upon rats, the same basic effect is achieved. Similarly, a Toreador might use its Presence to create the illusion of allure, when a Ventrue would use the same power to impose an aura of dark majesty.
The Kindred are limited in the usage of these powers by their generation, literally how close their blood is to that of Caine’s. The lower the generation of the creature, the more blood the vampire may use to create effects, and the more powerful those effects may be. Many of these powers require the imposition of the Kindred’s will upon its target, and the closer to Caine the vampire, the more powerful its will is likely to be.
The Disciplines of the thirteen Great Clans are listed below.
The power to communicate with and command animals and, at higher levels, to control the raging Beast which lurks beneath the surface of every vampire. Kindred adept in the use of this Discipline are capable of projecting their animalistic urges into other creatures.
This Discipline grants its user enhanced levels of perception. Not only can it heighten the vampires natural senses and allow him to detect falsehoods, it is also capable of allowing him to see the emotional state of others, tell what a person was thinking when they interacted with an item, send limited telepathic messages, and travel outside of his body to observe events in far-distant locales.
Some amongst the Kindred possess a speed and level of thought far beyond the human norm. These are the ones which utilise Celerity, and these vampires may rain down a flurry of blows upon an opponent, dodge an arrow, or appear to be in two places at once.
The Kindred has the power to create illusions, and not merely those beheld by the eye. Practitioners may affect all of the five senses, and with greater command of this ability may cast a victim’s mind into an imaginary world of their own creation.
This is the signature Discipline of Clan Ravnos.
A vampire with this Discipline is one to be truly feared. It is capable of enhancing or deadening it’s targets emotions to incapacitating degrees, allowing the victim to perceive previously-incomprehensible patterns, or sending the poor unfortunate into an unending condition of rage.
The signature Discipline of Clan Malkavian.
Dominate grants the power to control another beings mind. A Kindred with this power may command another to do his bidding, remove or replace memories, and at higher levels simply take control of the targets body, doing whatever the vampire wishes. Although this Discipline is commonly associated with the Ventrue and Lasombra Clans, this power is found frequently in other Clans and bloodlines.
Whilst all Kindred are capable of healing themselves over time, those who possess Fortitude are capable of shrugging off all but the most grievous of wounds. Even those injuries inflicted by means which a vampire would not normally be able to heal quickly - such as fire or sunlight damage, massive impact trauma, or the wounds inflicted by Werewolves - can be at least partially negated through the use of this Discipline.
As its name might suggest this power allows control over, and interaction with, the dead. However, Necromancy is a Discipline akin to Thaumaturgy (below), in that there are several distinct Paths to be learned, and advancement in one Path does not automatically bestow upon the vampire the same level of abilities in a separate Path. Whist this is the signature Discipline of Clan Giovanni, there are several bloodlines which practice the use of Necromancy, and most possess their own unique Paths.
The major Paths of Necromancy are as follows:
The Sepulchre Path
- This enables the vampire to enact with and control the spirits of the dead.
The Bone Path
- Whereby the vampire might use the traditional necromantic powers of reanimation.
The Ash Path
- A Path which will allow the Kindred to actually enter the realm of the dead, and physically interact with its inhabitants.
Necromancers also enjoy the benefits of certain Necromantic Rituals. See Thaumaturgy for details.
Whilst Chimerstry grants the power of illusion, Obfuscate lets a vampire go unseen. A Lick with this Discipline may change his appearance, confound recording devices or straight-out become invisible.
The signature Discipline of the Nosferatu.
The Kindred are creatures of shadow, and some take this to an extreme. Obtenebriation is the ability to manipulate shadows as though they were a physical thing. Whether it be simply using the shade to hide oneself and others, observing through another being’s shadow, or employing it as a weapon and armour, vampires with this power are at their best when cloaked in darkness.
The signature Discipline of the Lasombra.
This Discipline grants the user levels of strength beyond that of mere mortals, allowing seemingly-harmless licks to toss others around like ragdolls, leap enormous distances, or shatter steel with their bare hands. Masters of Potence may create small shockwaves in the very ground or even use its power to telekinetically send an opponent sprawling. Many Kindred employ Potence, regardless of Clan, and it is an ability commonly manifested by ghouls.
Presence is the Kindred’s ability to affect emotions through sheer force of personality; whether it be through the art of seduction, convincing groups of people that his opinion is the only correct one, or simply causing those who oppose him to run in terror from his dark majesty, Presence is used by a vampire to persuade others not to displease him. Although those with a particularly strong will may shrug off the effects of this power, many may never even realise that they were under it's spell at all.
One of the “classic” vampiric powers, Protean gives the power to change one’s own physical form. The more common uses of this ability allow the user to grow vicious talons, assume the form of an animal traditionally associated with vampires (wolves, bats, etc.), sink beneath the earth to sleep, or even transform into an ethereal mist.
This Discipline is the signature of Clan Gangrel, and the one which has allowed them to successfully survive in wildernesses so often hostile to other Kindred.
Kindred who possess the power of Quietus are masters of silent killing. Granting the ability to move without a sound, suck the life essence of enemies from afar, or simply spit a gob of poisonous saliva at an opponent, this Discipline is geared towards the murder of a vampire’s enemies. The signature Discipline of Clan Assamite.
This Discipline draws many of its powers from abilities associated with snakes. Vampires who employ Serpentis may hypnotise their victims, extend their jaws to massive proportions and sometimes even transform into a man-sized serpent themselves. In addition, a true master of Serpentis has the ability to remove his own heart and store it in another location, rendering the user immune to the effects of staking.
This Discipline is the signature power of The Followers of Set.
Thaumaturgy is a very different Discipline from the others. Rather than simply progressing from one stage of mastery to another, practitioners of Thaumaturgy must learn different Paths, with each Path granting a specific ability as the thaumaturge advances. The Paths are too varied to list, but range from the weather control to the ability to transform a victims biology. The signature Discipline of Clan Tremere, although a handful of other Clans practice Paths of Thaumaturgy unknown even to the Tremere.
Thaumaturgy also confers the capability to use Thaumaturgic Rituals onto its users. Rituals are a a series of individually-learned rites. Each Ritual allows a vampire who performs the rite to effect a very specific magical effect such as summoning a guardian corpse or dispelling any true Magick cast upon his lair. Some take only a few minutes to perform, whereas others require the investment of weeks or even months. Whilst some of these Rituals may be very powerful in effect, their basic nature means that they are generally unsuited for use in combat.
Vicissitude grants the vampire the ability to reshape flesh - both living and undead - into a form which the user chooses. A vampire with this Discipline has the power to make others look beautiful, hideous, or simply something which the crafter deems pleasing. At higher levels, it also gifts the Kindred the ability to adopt a form similar to those assumed by Lupines when they go to battle: a half-man, half-monster hybrid, with proportionally higher strength, durability and stamina. These Zulo forms gave rise to many of the European legends of monstrous vampires. The signature Discipline of Clan Tzimisce, Vicissitude has been theorised by some vampiric scholars to be not a Discipline at all, but a disease which grants those whom it infects a greater degree of control over their physical form, and that of those which it passes on to.