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Overview

In the Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying game, vampires are "genetically" and socially divided along familial lines -- each and every vampire is embraced into one Clan or another (except for the Caitiff and the Bloodlines; we'll deal with them in the section titled Exceptions). There are thirteen great Clans of vampire in the World of Darkness; members of each clan exhibit certain tendencies and disadvantages as a result of their common blood (such as the Malkavians and their insanity, or the Brujah and their short tempers). In addition, each Clan has a set of three Disciplines which are easiest for members of that clan to learn. Some of these disciplines come easily to more than one clan; others such as Protean or Obtenebration are unique to a single clan.

The Importance of Having a Clan

To some segments of Cainite society, Clan lineage is extremely important. It is true that a vampire's Clan can say a lot about that individual -- after all, members of certain clans very carefully pick childer who are well-suited to life in that Clan (most notably the Lasombra and the Ventrue, and perhaps the Tremere). Others are less particular, of course, so one must be careful not to stereotype.

Individual Clan Organization

Each Clan has its own peculiar sort of organization, ranging from near-total anarchy and social Darwinism (in the case of the Brujah) to the almost military precision of Clan Tremere, which is organized along the lines of a magical Order. Between those two extremes lies a wide variety of organization, too lengthy to cover here.

Clans In The Camarilla

In the vampiric sect known as the Camarilla, one's Clan is an extremely important aspect of the hierarchy of unlife. Camarilla governmental structure is organized along Clan lines. Within a city (the basic unit of organization in the Camarilla), the Prince heads the Primogen Council, which is made up of the eldest and (presumably) most powerful Kindred in the city, one from each Clan. The Primogen in turn are supposed to represent the interests of their clan in the city, and are supposed to have a measure of authority over the actions of individual Kindred of their Clan. For more information on the Camarilla hierarchy and the way that Clans fit into the whole thing, see that node.

Members of a particular Clan within a city will often trade favors, create friendships, coteries and rivalries, and work towards mutual goals. Camarilla vampires are likely to interact more with members of their own Clan than other Clans; the other Clans are often distrusted, hated or feared. The Camarilla's organizational system -- which is adversarial, pitting members of different clans against one another in competition for resources -- encourages this.

Clans In The Sabbat

The other major vampiric sect takes a very different view of Clans and their importance. The Sabbat isn't oriented along clan lines at all; rather, vampires are organized into packs which can be made up of any of the clans which have members in the Sabbat (namely, nearly all of the Lasombra and Tzimisce, with a smattering of all the others -- except for the Giovanni, who are strictly Independent, and the Tremere, who once had rogue members in the Sabbat but now are entirely Camarilla). The Sabbat is of the nature of a religious organization, and since all Cainites are brethren, by grace of God and Caine, it is considered most impious to seek to alienate one's brothers and sisters by worrying about things like one's Clan.

That, of course, never stopped anyone, but the clans don't have the same adversarial relationship as the clans of the Camarilla. The lack of tension between entire clans has opened the way for religious, class-related and individual differences to wreak havoc instead. Never let anyone tell you that the Sabbat is civilized.

The Clans - A Brief Look

Here is a brief look at each of the thirteen Clans, their sect allegiance, their clan weakness and their native Disciplines:

  • Clan Assamite
    Sect Allegiance: Independent (?)
    Weakness: Addicted to Kindred blood.
    Disciplines: Celerity, Obfuscate, Quietus
    Description: The Assamites have, for thousands of years, been deadly assasins-for-hire, based out of a secret mountain fortress in the Middle East known as Alamut. The Assamites are ostensibly independent, though some Assamite Antitribu have existed in the Sabbat since its inception, and some Assamites have recently joined the Camarilla.
  • Clan Brujah
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Quick to Frenzy.
    Disciplines: Potence, Celerity, Presence
    Description: The Brujah are passionate and short-tempered; the blood of Caine runs hot in them. They tend to make inspiring and dedicated leaders... or dangerous, angry mobs. A real mixed bag of geniuses and anarchists.
  • Followers of Set
    Sect Allegiance: Independent
    Weakness: Takes an additional level of damage to sunlight; cannot stand bright light of any kind.
    Disciplines: Presence, Obfuscate, Serpentis
    Description: The Setites worship the ancient Egyptian god known as Set, whom they believe to have been a vampire and the founder of their Clan. The Setites seek to spread darkness and corruption in hopes of bringing about Set's return, and thus are often found in unpleasant pursuits involving drugs, prostitution, or virtually anything else that people believe they shouldn't do, but want to anyway. The Snakes are masters of seduction and deception.
  • Clan Gangrel
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Takes on bestial traits after frenzying.
    Disciplines: Fortitude, Animalism, Protean
    Description: The Gangrel tend to dislike the company of other vampires, preferring to spend time in the wild with the animals. Most vampires think they are unpleasant, overly bestial creatures.
  • Clan Giovanni
    Sect Allegiance: Independent
    Weakness: A Giovanni's bite induces pain, not pleasure.
    Disciplines: Potence, Dominate, Necromancy
    Description: Descended from a group of mortal Italian necromancers who were originally embraced by the now-extinct Clan Cappadocian, the Giovanni are very family-oriented and have strong links to organized crime, as well as having a strong grasp of the world of the dead.
  • Clan Lasombra
    Sect Allegiance: Sabbat
    Weakness: Casts no reflection.
    Disciplines: Potence, Dominate, Obtenebration
    Description: Lasombra consider themselves to be the leaders of the Sabbat, temporally if not spiritually. Their mastery over shadow, and their powers of manipulation, give them a definite leadership edge. The Lasombra believe that vampires have a place in God's plan for the world, and that place is to be the dark reflection of humanity -- scaring humans into being good, by showing them what true darkness is. Many would say that, ironically, the Tzimisce are closer to filling this role, but the Lasombra will never admit it.
  • Clan Malkavian
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Afflicted with at least one derangement.
    Disciplines: Auspex, Obfuscate, Dementation
    Description: The Malkavians are the mad seers of the Kindred world. Insane each and every one, their fractured vision sometimes allows them to see hints of the past or future that are invisible to others. The Malkavians have been getting weirder and weirder lately...
  • Clan Nosferatu
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Ugly.
    Disciplines: Potence, Animalism, Obfuscate
    Description: The Nosferatu are spies and information-gatherers. Their horrible deformities prevent them from mixing with humans to any great degree, so they hide in the shadows, using their powers of invisibility to gather information for trade. The Nosferatu are a vital resource for any Kindred on the road to power.
  • Clan Ravnos
    Sect Allegiance: Independent
    Weakness: Compulsive criminals; each has a signature 'crime'.
    Disciplines: Animalism, Fortitude, Chimerstry
    Description: The Ravnos spring primarily from Romany ancestry; they are gypsies, wanderers, tricksters and all-around illusion-casting good-for-nothings. Most clans dislike them, as they tend to cause a lot of trouble... but woe betide the Prince who should treat one unfairly, because then that Prince will be inundated with obnoxious Ravnos. Ancient Ravnos lore has it that the Ravnos once had a much greater purpose, but if so, that purpose is long forgotten...
  • Clan Toreador
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Hypnotized by beauty.
    Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Presence
    Description: The Toreador are a Clan of artists and art critics. They love beauty, culture and style... not to mention gossip, kingmaking and sensuality. Of all the Clans, the Toreador strive to retain their Humanity the most... the better for enjoying the pleasures of life throughout eternity.
  • Clan Tremere
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Level one blood bond to all other members of the Clan.
    Disciplines: Auspex, Dominate, Thaumaturgy
    Description: The Tremere have been called the most powerful clan in the modern nights. This opinion is entirely justifiable. The Tremere are an entire clan of magic-users; they use the powers inherent to vampiric blood in order to cast spells and rituals. These strange and unique abilities, combined with an unequalled talent for manipulation, power-building and deception, have brought the Tremere a long way in the 900 years since the Clan's creation (as a result of the destruction of Clan Salubri, who the Tremere usurped). The Tremere are the most tightly-organized of all the Clans; it is a truism that one needn't necessarily fear an individual Tremere, but one should damn well fear that Tremere's boss.
  • Clan Tzimisce
    Sect Allegiance: Sabbat
    Weakness: Vampire must sleep on a double-handful of soil from its homeland.
    Disciplines: Animalism, Auspex, Vicissitude
    Description: The Tzimisce are the fiendish, inhuman vampires of legend and story. Dracula was a Tzimisce of the old school. The thing that the legends don't tell you, though, is that the Tzimisce are flesh-crafters, able to mold flesh and bone at a touch... creating some of the most horrific living sculptures imaginable. The Tzimisce are also noted occultists and sorcerers; the rivalry between the Tremere and the Tzimisce goes back to before the Tremere's founding.
  • Clan Ventrue
    Sect Allegiance: Camarilla
    Weakness: Blood preference. Refuses to drink anything other than blood from individuals with a particular characteristic or set of characteristics.
    Disciplines: Dominate, Presence, Fortitude
    Description: The Ventrue are on the decline. Once they were the undisputed leaders of the Camarilla, but the vampires of Clan Tremere have slowly and quietly usurped that authority as well. The Tremere manipulate the Ventrue from the shadows, and the noble, inspiring Ventrue are rapidly becoming obsolete in the halls of power, turning more and more to their other avenue of interest: business and finance. Dollar for dollar, the Tremere are better at acquiring and using power, but the Ventrue are better with money and earthly concerns by far.

Exceptions

There are of course vampires who do not belong to any of the Thirteen Clans. There are the Caitiff -- the poor vampires who do not exhibit characteristics of any particular clan, due to thin blood or other accidents of Embrace -- and the Bloodlines, which are assumed to be offshoots of the main clans... though some seem to have developed spontaneously from the Catiff, or even pre-date the modern Clans. It's not easy to be part of a Bloodline, but it's even harder to be Caitiff -- the Caitiff have no status in Kindred society, and no hope of gaining any, either.

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