Being dead could sometimes be lonely. You are all alone, doomed to see everyone you know die out and everything you love getting destroyed. You are forced to let go of your old life because you no longer belong, because those you once loved have now turned into something you need to feed upon, and that they would probably want to kill you for that. But you can’t stand too far away, or else you would starve, or the Beast would consume you whole. You are damned, but not by some higher power, but by forever being stuck in the middle- forced to live so close to the living, without actually being a part of them.
Thank god death gives you a new family.
As we have established in the former post, Vitae may be identical, but it is distinguishable. You recognize the blood of your sire and the blood of your child. You bloodline goes back to the shrouded days of history, to some certain progenitor which was “blessed” by a Blood God out of unknown reasons. Each true Kindred in the world is a part of a Clan, a family to which you were Embraced by death. You are not alone- whether you like it or not. That gives you benefits. That gives you responsibilities. You can try to escape, but blood always finds blood. You are who you are, bound by the blood of your sire, and their sire before them, and their sire before them, a descendant to an unbroken dead bloodline which comes from the very first vampire of your clan. You should be proud of who you are- a member of one of the greatest predator species this world has ever seen!
Anyway, let’s examine what exactly being a part of a clan actually means, other than having some sort of “common origin” with other vampires. The first, and most important, thing it gives you is a curse. Your Clan Bane defines you, as it says how exactly being a vampire sucks for you. Sure, all vampires has to feed upon blood, and all vampires are hurt by sun, fire and any other curses they got through their unlife, but the Clan Bane defines them- it is, in many ways, why the Clan exist. The things which caused the Clan’s birth, the circumstances which gave life to the dead.
Unlike the sun and fire banes, which were described as being distributions in the vampire’s animation field, Clan Banes are more like the Humanity banes- that is, the ones which are created from the rise of Monstrosity and the strengthening of the Beast over the soul. They are all strongly connected to the vampire’s Humanity score, after all. That means that your Clan Bane defines your Beast- it is the Beast’s type, or breed. It is what kind of monster you are. It is the basic connection between the Beast and the Body, and how it express itself. The fact that each Clan has its own Bane means that the very Beasts of the different clans are different from each other. They are the most successful of all monsters, and the only thing which stops them from tearing each other’s throat is the soul, which desperately fights against the curse.
The two other aspects of having a clan are a little bit more positive- first, the Favored Attributes. As we may notice, each clan has its own two possible attributes, which is probably a manifestation of the vampire’s animation field, as all are modifications to the vampire’s body. However, we may notice that it is a choice- a player’s choice, of course, not a character’s- but a choice nevertheless. It means that the animation field does not always strength the same trait, and that there is a certain mechanism which determines which aspect of the vampire it would increase. That could be a probabilistic mechanism, which means that there is no real reason- borrowing terms from Quantum Mechanics, the animation field is found in Superposition during the moment of the Embrace, which means that it favors both traits. Once the Embrace is complete, a measurement is performed for the vampire’s animation field and it collapses to either of its favored attributes.
That’s cool- but the truth is that everything sounds “cool” with Quantum Mechanics. Other explanations, more deterministic ones, could be used instead of this one. For example, you may say that the animation field enhance the aspect of the body which is more dominant of the two, turning it better at doing what it does. On the other hand, it may strength the weaker trait, in order to compensate for it. Or maybe it is linked to the vampire’s bloodline, with sire passing the favored attribute to the child. However, each of those explanations would require certain changes to either the setting or mechanics, like certain limitations about how to choose your favored attribute. The Quantum interpretation is the truest to the existing mechanics and setting, and as quantum phenomena only come to existence when the system is of the same dimensions as the wavelength of the particle, we can deduct that the Vitae’s wavelength must be very long (at least on the same scale as light).
The last thing that the Clan gives you is your Disciplines- that is, the dark powers which turn you into a real monster. As we have said in the previous post, Disciplines are permanent modifications to the animation field- certain interactions which are enhanced though shaping of the field to the wanted geometry. However, it seems like each Clan has its own “built in” geometry for the animation field, which makes it that certain interactions are “easier” than others. Two of the Disciplines are considered as “common”, which means that the changes from the “neutral” (theoretical clan-less field) are not that drastic to develop. It only gives you a slight edge over the regular vampires, that’s all, and they aren’t too unique to your clan.
The third Discipline, however, is a bit more dramatic. The Clan specific Discipline is usually a weird power, one which uses certain strong interactions between the vampire’s field and the environment. That means that the changes in the field’s geometry which are required to create the said interactions are much more drastic compared to the neutral field, and the existence of two such changes do not occur naturally, as they require too much energy to happen. At any case, the geometry of the vampire’s field is usually constant, and can only be changed through interactions with other animation field (that is, drinking another vampire’s Vitae), which create a Superposition of the two fields. Sure, the field of the vampire is still mostly Daeva, but in order to learn Dominate she had to make herself a little bit Ventrue (unless she developed a Bloodline, of course).
So, from that we can understand that having a Clan gives you 2 things:
- a Beast
- an animation field
Now, on the surface those are two different things- the vampire’s animation field is part of their body, while the Beast is a part of their soul. However, we have noticed that the Beast acts through the animation field- in a way, you may say that just like Humanity is the soul’s mind and Monstrosity is the Beast’s, the physical body is the soul’s body while the animation field is the body of the Beast. If we think about the “soul” values as energy potentials, than the mind is the divergence (3D first derivative) of that potential (which means they are the force/field of the soul) and the body is the Laplacian (3D second derivative) of the soul (making is the “soul’s density”). That means that the geometry of the animation field is decided it potential value, or the Beast- and so by each Clan having a different Beast, each naturally gains a different geometry for their animation field, and as such different favored Disciplines and attributes which express the Beast’s nature.
So, after this initial overview of what a Clan actually means (which is, the type of Beast which gnaws at your soul), we can start examining each of the existing Clans. As the three Lost Clans presented in the book have been expanded in A Thousand Years of Night, we are going to ignore them for this post and talk about them when their time would come. Instead, we would only focus around the 5 main Clan, and the Jiang Shi optional Clan from the Triangle section. Here we go!
First, we have the Daeva- the serpents in the garden, incubi and succubi which whisper in your ear, tempters which test the sins of mankind. Their curse makes them bound to those they feed upon. They are graceful and manipulative, they know their way in the world. Their powers are mostly physical, taking the form of great speed and great power- together with enchanting smile and an alluring aura.
Now, if we describe the Clan as the collections of features created from the Beast which birthed it, we can get an interesting view of the Daeva Beast. First, we can see that the animation field of the Daeva puts some great emphasis upon enhancing the physical body- that hints about being direct hunters. They see their prey, they chase it down and smash it to the ground. On the other hand, they shouldn’t need to chase anything- they can lure the prey to them, by creating the attractive force interaction between them and their target’s field. That is also shown in their favored attributes- one meant to draw their prey, the other meant for quick blows. And if that’s not complicated enough, their curse makes them attached to their prey. You may say that this is how the Beast tries to break the bonds between the vampire and the mortal world- but the point is that the higher the vampire’s Monstrosity, the more likely she would grow attached. It is the soul which fights those bonds, not the Beast. In that case, what’s up with that?
In order to understand the Daeva Beast, we need to look on the fundamentals- it is a physical creature, which likes a powerful predator body. Both of its favored attributes are Finesse attribute, which means that it is not about direct confrontation but about delicate manipulation of events. It is also a social monster, which likes being surrounded by its prey. It loves it so much, that it gets addicted to it. The Beast likes to be surrounded by its prey, it loves having an whole herd dedicated to it, to be worshiped like a god. The Daeva seems to be built to create blood cults around themselves, both drawing believers and growing dependent on them, and that raw physical strength is not made for an hunt, but to impress their believers.. or to protect their herd from other vampires.
Think about it for a second- the Daeva are in love with their herd. They are obsessive toward them, they want them to themselves. Other predators may not respect their claims. They may try to feed upon their herd, about people who belong to them. Other vampires may see it as an insult for their territory- but for the Daeva, it is a personal harm. They don’t try to take a prey from them- they try to take a part of themselves. The Daeva live in their cult to a point they no longer understand if the love they feel is truly love, and if their followers truly love them back. They need to protect their cult from threats, and that requires a great emphasis about knives in people’s face. The Daeva are self styled demon gods, and just as people should worship them, they should protect their worshipers.
I must say that having the purpose of the Daeva’s creation to make cults around them sounds really cool to me. It makes them from the standard “social monster” into creatures which has some purpose for their creation. Let’s see if we can find such reasons for the rest of the clans.
The next clan is the Gangrel, the self styled savages of the wilderness. While the Daeva have more raw power, the Gangrel seem to be more focused around survival in places which lack humans. Both their attributes are Resistance traits, which meant to allow them maintain their body or self control when food is scarce. Their Disciplines are Resilience, which grants them to ability to withstand damage, Animalism, which allows them to control animals, and Protean, which grants them both protection, weapon and escape. Their curse, however, drives them toward feral madness, making them into savage animals controlled by instinct and rage.
From all of that we can gather that the Gangrel Beast is way more animalistic and primal than those of the other clans. It a mercurial thing, which constantly changes and adapt, while always motivated to survive. The Gangrel are meant to live outdoors, to hunt outside of the cities, to take the skin of another and infiltrate the safe communities of humanity only to wreck havoc and escape before they could be hunted down. The Gangrel Beast was made to survive alone, in the darkness, when only the moon serves them as company. The Gangrel may very well be the first Clan to rise from the primordial mix of wicked dead, and it survived where countless others has fallen.
Next we have the Mekhet- shadows among shadows. The Mekhet are more bound to their banes than any other clan, favor two mental attributes (Wits and Intelligence), and have Celerity, Obfuscate and Auspex as Clan Disciplines. The fact that Humanity based banes seems to have much greater influence over that clan than the usual- which means the hold the soul has over the body is weaker than expected compared to that of the Beast. That makes the Mekhet much “deader”, or closer to being a vampire than the other clans. Their animation field overshadows their body, and the Beast manifest itself much easier in it.
The fact that the field always favors attributes which are connected to the collect and analyze data reinforce the idea that the Mekhet Beast is a “smart predator”, one which is meant to gather information and use it to set traps. Obfuscate and Auspex are both tools meant to be such unseen predator which can plan the hunt in advance, walk invisible among its target, learn what it can and vanish without trace. Celerity also helps, as it allows them to move faster and never miss a thing, and also be much harder to catch. The Mekhet seems to be very well made to collect intelligence and hidden secrets, all while their Beast seems to make them much more “vampiric” than the usual.
Let’s think about it for a second. The Mekhet Beast is a smart predator, always planning ahead of time. They are made to be spies and, to some extant, assassins. The question is how their Bane serves that purpose- after it, it does serve the goal of the two other clans (cults and living in the wild). While it is hard to think about such a reason in advance, maybe in their case, we are looking on this wrong. After all, we know that the original Mekhet were all Hollow. Their Beast, their Ka, was much more independent, and as such they were much closer to death (being all Embraced postmortemly).
Now, when they learned to use the regular Embrace, the Beast which once roamed free was stuffed into the body- but it is not how things should be. The connection between the soul and the body is weaker, while the one between the Beast and the animation field is stronger. For the Mekhet, their Clan Bane is not the natural way of things- but an artifact of switching from one form of Embrace to another. The original form of the Embrace, which separates the Ka from the body, seems to meant to serve better the Clan’s reason for creation- but we’ll talk about it more in Thousand Years of Night.
After the Mekhet, we get the Clan of Nightmares- the Nosferatu. While all clans are being transformed through the animation field, it looks like the one which revives the Nosferatu has some dramatic effects when interacting with their dead body. It doesn’t preserves the body- it change and transform it, creating an image which simply do not belong. Unlike the former clans, the Nosferatu’s two favored attributes have nothing in common- one is a Social Resistance trait, while the other is a Physical Power trait. Their Disciplines are also quit random- one is made to hide them, another is made to give them supernatural strength and the third allows them to radiate fear and break minds. So- what’s up with them?
It looks like that what ever the unholy maker of the Nosferatu was, it had one goal in mind- creating monsters. Unlike the maker of the Daeva, which wanted them to have strong relationship with mortals, the Nosferatu are made to exist alone, without any company but themselves. They are meant to be unseen and invisible, or else everyone would see the monsters they are.
They are meant to be outcasts and lonely, yet they are given with great power in order to protect themselves (after all, there is nothing people love more than tormenting outcasts, right?). Surviving such unlife requires a certain amount of self control, as expressed in Composure as a favored attribute. The Nosferatu Beast is meant to be scary, it is meant to bring nightmares upon those who look at them, being fear itself- but in order to protect them, they were gifted with power, the ability to hide themselves from their enemies and enough self control to not go mad in the first decade of their Embrace.
The last of the five main Clans is the Ventrue- the self styled Lords over the Damned. Their curse makes them more likely to detach, which makes them colder and more calculated, with nothing being too important to sacrifice. They favor social power and mental resistance, which means they are very focused on their goal and their charisma is overwhelming enough to makes others follow them- two important qualities for a leader.. or a general. Their Clan Disciplines are all about control- ruling others, ruling animals, ruling your own body.
That makes the Ventrue Beast very well defined- they are creatures of control, undead god kings which rule after death. They don’t hunt- they demand people to sacrifice their blood, and people listen. They were made to stand at the top, divinities worshiped from the distance or generals who lead the battle like playing chess. They don’t get involved with others, they don’t know how to play on their feeling or try to know them. They know how to command, and they expect others to listen.
And finally, the last Clan we shall discuss in here is the Jiang Shi. Those vampires are quit different from the regular Kindred- first, the way they Embrace, but having weird way to be born is something they have in common with some of the more exotic Clans, like the Hollow or the Pijavica. Second, is how they are bound to the place of their “death”- which makes more in common with ghosts than with vampires. That may mean that their animation field is a bit weaker than the normal, or at least less stable, which is why they have to spend more vitae when they are away from their grave or require the whole blood of a “pure one” (remember that Vitae is distinguishable?).
The reason for the field’s instability comes from the fact that it is not actually their own animation field- it is the victims. The Jiang Shi’s Embrace does not take a fraction of the sire’s and use it to generate a new one- it “steals” the animation field of the right geometry (a “pure blood”), and allow the Phantom to “ride” upon it (hence why giving the heart, which is the source of the animation field, gives higher Blood Potency). The field’s instability is also why a Phantom spends more Vitae away from their grave- as one of the Vitae actually dissipates instead of being used to “cool” the system (and pay the Sponsor for their unlife)- and is also why they can manifest in their grave with a little bit or Work (the field is not in their body, so the Beast can connect between the field and the vampire to teleport them to the goal).
The fact that the Jiang Shi Beast is separated from its “body” (the field) may also explain the Clan Bane- the Assault and the Kiss are outcomes of interaction between the vampire’s field and its prey. With the field being so detached from the vampire, such interaction are not easy to preform, and the Beast can’t force itself upon the target. The attributes they favor hints about their need to find a suitable sacrifice and ritual for their Embrace (Intelligence) and their ephemeral nature which makes them “not really here” (Dexterity). Both reinforce their existence as occult ghosts which ride upon the life on another.
Now, another interesting thing is that this Clan lack a unique Discipline. All of their Disciplines are considered “common”, so the differences between their field’s geometry and a “neutral” one are not that drastic. That means they share more with Revenants than with true Kindred, which probably comes from the fact that Revenants also has an unstable field (more about this in later posts). About the Disciplines themselves, Celerity and Obfuscate both reinforce the Jiang Shi’s nature as ghostly beings which don’t fully exist.
Animalism, on the other hand, is not that clear- why would ghosts need to control animals? That may be explained through the field’s instability- as we said before, the animation field of animals is quit different from that of a human, but as we have seen from the Clan Bane, the Jiang Shi’s field is too unstable to create strong interactions with humans. Perhaps that instability makes it that just as it less disturb the human field, so it less disturb the animal field, and as such gives them greater control over it. That only shows that the Jaing Shi are more distant from humans than the regular vampire, as their field works more naturally with animals than with the members of their former breed.
So, that gives us the 6 Clans if the core- the Tempter, the Savage, the Shadow, the Monster, the Lord and the Ghost. Now, before we finish, let’s talk a bit about the special Clan Merits and the origin of each of the Clans, shall we?
First, the merits- as those merits depends on the vampire’s Clan, we can assume that they are some sort of “adjustments” to the existing geometry of the vampire’s animation field. The Mekhet, for example, can increase their field’s range to make interactions with the collective mind of mankind (Temenos). The Daeva can reinforce the interactions between them and their prey’s animation field in order to intensify the sensations of the Kiss. The Gangrel creates an interaction with the animation field of other vampires, forming a “pack”- and packs work better in the wilderness than a lonely predator. The Nosferatu can use the repulsion interaction created between their field and the fields of others in order to break their very mind with fear. The Ventrue, while not having an official merit, have one that David has made- Heart of a Challenger- and it shakes the target’s place in the world while cementing the Lord’s, reinforcing the chain of command and eliminating competition.
As for the Clan Origins, we could see that each clan has a number of options. As you may have noticed, each of the templates in my cosmology have their own “patron deity”, but each of the splats also have one, which create some sort of “pantheon” of great monster gods. In the case of vampire, those “smaller gods” are the Blood Gods, those who buy the licence from the Sponsor in order to make vampires of their own, and as such they gain a seat of their own in Dis.
Following that logic, I assume we should use the more mythical Clan Origin presented in each of the Clan (although the “Once Upon a Midnight Darkly” section is one of the most beautiful things in CofD, IMO). First, we have the Daeva, and their legendary maker- Inanna, goddess of love and war, two aspects which show themselves thoroughly in her Clan. According to the story (which may share origin with the Tammuz Lineage), Inanna has returned from death only to discover her high priestess having sex with her husband in her own temple. Furious, she kills them both- but then she regrets. She gives Tammuz to the ravens of day, and her priestess to the owls of night. The stories of the Daeva have always called the priestess Lilith- but I don’t like giving her that name. I’ve always thought it was a propaganda created during the Roman Empire so the Julii would see the Daeva as equal to them 😛
At any case, we can assume that the Daeva do come from Mesopotamia, and that they have their origin as priests of Inanna. As her priests, it only makes sense that they are so well built to create Blood Cults around them, making each an incarnation of the goddess which Embraced them, all meant to adore her even if they aren’t aware of that. The stories about Inanna tricking the strix makes me think that unlike other Blood Gods, Inanna hasn’t bought her licence directly from the sponsor- instead, she made a pact with the strix for the right to make vampires, only for the sponsor to buy them, and by doing so “stealing” the Daeva from the Owls. A smart move for Inanna, but the strix won’t give up on their due.
While Inanna was the one to make the Daeva, as she is not a true vampire it makes me feel like it is better for the actual Blood God being the priestess, which I’ll call her Geshtinanna, which (from what I have gathered) is the one to replace Tammuz in Kigal and is a goddess of wine- and we all know that blood and wine go together. Perhaps selling her licence from the strix to her progeny was a part of the trick Inanna has played on the Owls, which has created the debt which the Daeva now must pay.
The Gangrel, on the other hand, are the children of Echidna- the Mother of Monsters. I like to see Echidna as some sort of dark counterpart of Eve- which is the Mother of all Life. Where I see Inanna as either a powerful Sin Eater which has ascended to some divine form, I think that Echidna always is, and always was, a vampire- perhaps even the first one, a primordial monster that has since learned how to manipulate her Vitae to create countless of other horrors. Unlike Inanna, Echidna didn’t wanted to achieve worship or some other planned goal with her Clan. All she wanted was kinship- other monsters to roam the wilderness next to her, things she could call as “children”, and in order to do so she made her pact with the Sponsor.
The Mekhet is another clan which was created for a certain goal- and a very specific one. Their origin comes from the Cult of Set, which has used some forbidden right to hide their Ka and kill the Witch King. That connects them, of course, to Set- or Sutekh, who is known for the Arisen as the Nameless Serpent. According to the Ascending Ones and the Khaibit, the Cult of Set was made to protect Egypt from horrors worse than vampires. The ability of the Bloodline to manipulate shadows hints for strix involvement, although the Witch King’s act seem to indicate about things much worse. As Sutekh is one of the Nameless Gods, we can assume that the act of the Mekhet’s creation was connected to some sort of Sekhem Sorcery, perhaps inspired by the Rite of Return. In that case, perhaps the Cult of Set originally fought against the spawn of the Devourer. At any case, they were made to collect occult secrets and use them against their enemies as part of the Vigil they had back in Egypt- but nowadays, Sutekh may have found other uses for them, one which is dedicated to make as much chaos as possible and fight the Law of his brothers.
The Nosferatu’s origin story talks about an ancient coterie called the Brothers Worm, which has found a chthonic god sleeping bellow the earth and devoured its flesh for terrible power. That talk about “worm god” automatically makes me think about the Zmei from Werewolf- a great worm which lurks bellow the earth and which creates vampire like beings, and as such may be the progenitor of at least one of the Clans. Speaking about terrible animal gods from beyond time makes me think about the Pangaeans, in turn. that makes me think that the progenitor of the Nosferatu is Worm, one of the Pangaeans which survived the Sundering and was trapped on the side of flesh. As its Host may hint, it has affinities for death and corruption, both traits which makes her as the most likely candidate for the Nosferatu’s maker.
While there are many fan theories about the Ventrue being either Gangrel which devoured the Julii to become Lords by themselves or Julii which were mixed with the Gangrel to survive the massacre of the strix, I like having each of the Clans as its own creation. Following the core’s creation myth, the Ventrue are being connected to Cronus, making the Ventrue to the Olympian Gods. Their Clan Book also mentions their connection to the Western Civilization, with the story of Troy and the connection to Venus. If we do follow the origin story in the Core, Cronus could be some sort of a primordial vampire, like Echidna- yet were Echidna created monsters, Cronus wished to make gods. The first Ventrue, however, devoured their maker- yet Cronus live still, its blood pulse in the dead heart of every Lord upon the face of earth.
Finally, we have the Jiang Shi. Unlike the other clans, the Phantoms lack a “Clan Origin” section in their writeup. Instead, we need to turn to Chinese mythology and search for an “appropriate divinity”. The initial instinct is turning to Yama, as he is the Chinese god of death. However, as you may have noticed, the rest of the Blood Gods are not necessary death gods- in fact, only Worm would qualify as such (and to lesser extant, Inanna). Also, Yama doesn’t feel “right”- his shtick is judging the dead, while the Jiang Shi are about stealing another’s purity.
That actually makes me think about Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West. Originally a terrible monster goddess with power of pestilence, she turned into goddess of life and immortality. I don’t know what about you, but that makes me think about a corrupted being which steals another’s purity to become immortal! If anything, it makes me think that the Queen Mother is more like Echidna and Chronus than the other Blood Gods- a primordial vampire which rose to greatness through a pact with the Sponsor.
It’s important to mention that those Clan origins are still before a deep examination of the Clan Books, and that personally I think that it is possible to make a number of similar versions of the same Clan a number of times through history, only for those Clans to mix together, creating a number of different “Clan Origins” for the same Clan.
And that’s all about Clans! The next post will be the first Open Development post! Notice that I still count votes, so please say what you would like to see!