The Baali are a bloodline of vampires associated with demon worship. Because of their affinity with the unholy, the Baali are particularly vulnerable to holy iconography, holy ground and holy water. They are highly vulnerable to True Faith.
Some versions present the true purpose of the Baali as keeping demons sleeping by feeding them with carnage and destruction. But most presentations show them as infernalists, using demon worship to gain additional power.
They have a somewhat complex heritage, appearing at times as a bloodline and at times as a clan. There is some indication that they may be a bloodline of the Salubri, Cappadocians, or Tzimisce, although one earlier source suggested they may instead be descendants or even predecessors of the Gangrel line. They also recruit vampires from other clans to become Baali via a dark thaumaturgic initiation, further confusing the issue and making them also a sect or cult.
The origins of the Baali are shrouded in mystery and deceit; the versions recorded to date are detailed in the Version Differences section below. What is certain is that the Baali are among the few things that caused the thirteen Clans to put away their differences and unite against them in various Baali Wars.
The Baali are rumored to have had a stronghold in the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia and Phoenicia, masquerading as some of the myriads of city gods to gain blood sacrifices for their dark masters. Baali-influence in Carthage, which rose to a peak once Troile and Moloch became lovers and resulted in massive sacrifice ceremonies and bloody abominations, was what spurred the Ventrue of Rome to action against the Brujah and led them to salt even the earth around the city in order to bind whatever horrors the Baali had awoken. Many of the Baali, however, dispersed into Roman society, practicing their vile craft in various mystery cults.
Some claim the Assamite Warriors' current blood addiction can be traced to a curse leveled by the Baali. The Baali faced a series of attacks and counter-offensives from the Assamites, who raided their lairs and destroyed numerous Baali by exposing them to the sun. In the organ pit of Damascus, however, the Baali met to gain revenge on the Assassins for their persecution. With the aid of the demonic Decani, they placed a curse on the Warrior Caste of the Clan that filled them with a murderous hunger that could only be sated via diablerie, thus tarnishing the Clan's image from its previous position of Warrior-scholars into a bunch of cannibalistic murderers for hire. Although the Baali's numbers were diminished by the Al-Amin, and many kindred were strengthened by Islam and the Ashirra, they managed to keep a corrupt hold in the area.
The advent of the monotheistic religions as major power-players put the Baali in serious danger, given that most of these religions disbanded their cults and other covers for their infernal rites and exposed their depravity to the world. Baali in the Medieval age were constantly on the run, hiding their practices and origin from other Cainites and dedicated to spreading corruption and disease (many Baali prospered in the times of the Black Death, as many desperate victims turned to infernal powers in order to survive) to further the services to their dark masters. The growing rise of scriptures over their practices, however, slowly took the powers to invoke demons out of the hands of the Baali, something many of the younger Baali encouraged, while the Elders regarded it as foolish and dangerous.
However, a surprising change in the bloodline came with the upstart Azaneal's bid for power and Moloch's childe Tanit's fall into torpor after an ambush. Tanit's grandchilde Sahar-Hannibaal took over leadership of the Molochite line, rallying survivors of Azaneal's attack and going to war against the would-be Shaitan. Sahar-Hannibal unified the Molochim hives, turning them into the Order of Moloch, and brought Azaneal and his brood down after a century of conflict, mystically binding them in the ruins of Chorazin.
The Order went north after that, finding respite among the Old Clan Tzimisce, and recruiting many as members, but soon enough had to return to the duty they would come to set themselves: eradicating infernalism with extreme prejudice, knowing its potential to break the world.
As far as wider Cainite society was concerned, the Baali practically ceased to exist as an organized bloodline, let alone an organized threat, following the Chorazin conflict. Surviving infernalist Baali hid themselves within the newly formed sects and posed as other vampires, practicing their arts in secrecy. By the Victorian Age, the Baali had faded to a historical oddity, used to scare young Kindred and warn of the dangers of infernalism.
In the Final Nights, the Baali have proven that they are still around. The capture and destruction of a cabal of North American infernalists (and subsequent recovery of their blasphemous grimoires) has brought to Kindred attention a looming shadowy truth: The Children of Baal were not wholly extinguished by the Inquisition, as was previously believed. And as Gehenna draws close, many foolish Kindred seek salvation from the thirsty Antediluvians by making pacts with demonic entities, thus allowing the Baali to regain their strength slowly, but steadily.
For the Order of Moloch, however, centuries of conflict with their infernalist kin had seen their resources stretched almost to breaking point with every member they lost in battle. While they had the most complete library in the world regarding the eldritch Children of the Outer Dark (which are the orthodox Baali's duty to keep asleep) and infernalism in general, members were more difficult to replenish, and by the modern nights they were nowhere near as numerous as the Baali infernalists.
Then word came that the ruins of the city where the Baali founders had been first Embraced had been found, and that it now held something malevolent and powerful beyond human comprehension, waiting to be born onto an unsuspecting world. The Order could not handle this alone; they needed assistance. And so they sought out the Tal'mahe'Ra, believing them to be the only Cainite organization that would take the threat seriously – and would, perhaps, listen when the Baali warned of great danger.
Fortunately, the Tal'mahe'Ra did listen, making common cause with the Order, albeit after several safeguards were put in place to ensure the Order's good behavior. So far, the alliance has proven a fruitful one.
The Baali are explorers, first and foremost – students of the unknown, the unknowable, the unspeakable. They will do almost anything and sacrifice almost anyone to gain access to occult mysteries. They squander the wealth they have accumulated, they make deals they cannot live up to, and they do so with no apology and no attempt at excuse. They are, however, not Faustian bargainers, although many Baali neonates fall into that trap.
They believe that the world is doomed, that the End Times are nigh and every sacrifice they make, every murder they incite, is one more chink in the dam holding back the deluge of blood called Gehenna. If they have to die to break that dam, so be it. As such, the Baali can be considered a doomsday cult.
Most Baali during the Dark Ages defined themselves after the first Three of their kind, the Nergali (named after Nergal, often called Orphans after Nergal's apparent disappearance after the first Baali War), the Molochim (named after Moloch) and obscure adherents of the Unnamed third progenitor. Each branch has different outlooks on their infernal work: The Nergali favored more direct and blatant acts, like the introduction of mortal occultists into their ranks and the spread of demonology, while the Molochim were more secretive and often inserted themselves into vampiric and mortal society. The followers of the Third Progenitor have been too insular to be pinned down, but some believe that the tenets of the insectoid Avatars of the Swarm and the Via Hyron stem from the third Progenitor.
Other sects depicted the outlook of the mission of the Baali line:
- Destroyers: Often derided as mindless maniacs, the Destroyers seek to reduce Creation back to the infinite darkness that was before God created light.
- Celestials: These Baali seek to unravel the secrets of the cosmos to achieve apotheosis
- Children of Enigma: The Children of Enigma are another more scholarly bend, who seek the ultimate secrets of the universe
- Avatars of the Swarm: In contrast to the previous sects, the Swarm has a deciding more alien view of the world, seeing every mortal as a means to propagate the Swarm. They have a primal link to insects and other vermin, often filling their undead bodies with multitudes of them and using their ghouled vermin servants as means to draw mortals into the Swarm. They also entertained a small branch of the Cainite Heresy named the Swarm of Samael.
The Baali usually only Embrace those who are intelligent and driven. Most who are Embraced into Clan Baali had interest in the occult during their mortal lives.
The Embracing ritual of the Baali is one of their most disturbing rituals. A Baali will capture his or her prey and bring him or her to a site he or she has prepared. There will be a large pit, filled with dozens of decomposing bodies. The Baali drains his or her victim to near death and tosses him or her into the pit. In just one of the corpses the Baali hid their blood inside one of the corpses' heart. If the victim manages to find the heart before they die and drink the blood, they are considered worthy of becoming Baali. Ironically, this makes the Baali the only clan that regularly gives their victim the choice of becoming a vampire or choosing to die.
All Baali have at least two identities, if not more. Among their own kind, they organize into small, tightly-knit groups called covens, usually in three or six. These covens meet only rarely, gathering only to perform some dark ritual or discuss matters of dire consequence. They prefer to meet under the new moon, though lunar eclipses hold great meaning for them and major rituals are performed at that time. Covens meet in secret places where their activities will not be disturbed, yet still within the city they wish to prepare. They frequently ally with Black Spiral Dancers and make use of their tainted caerns. A grand ritual involving both Baali and Black Spirals usually portends some great and awful occurrence.
These meetings are few and far between, however. In the interim, Baali usually pose as upstanding members of either the Camarilla, Sabbat, or both, depending on who controls the city. Contrary to popular belief, they do not pose as Caitiff – Caitiff are distrusted enough on general principle alone. Instead, they are far more devious, hiding behind a mask of blood passed down through millennia: they pose as Tremere..
The blood of Saulot runs through Tremere's veins since his diablerie close to a thousand years ago. Now, almost all Tremere are descended from their founder, and therefore from Saulot himself. Only those with a high proficiency in Thaumaturgy can detect even a slight difference and even then it is usually dismissed as a minor change in blood chemistry – perhaps the vampire's sire was of House Bonisagus or Flambeaux. Reports of corruption deep within the Tremere hierarchy are scoffed at. Surely the Tremere, the masters of deception and manipulation, would know of a conspiracy within their ranks! But this conventional wisdom is wrong. With the immense occult resources of the Tremere, the Baali are gaining strength like never before. They have access to supplies, knowledge, and potential recruits. They have even started two secret orders within the clan: the Order of the Wyrm and the Illuminated Brotherhood.
The Order of the Wyrm is the more mainstream of the two, the conservative front for the more radical Brotherhood. Through the Order, the Baali hope to attract Tremere who share some of their beliefs, who have the potential to be recruited, corrupted, or both. Once an applicant has progressed high enough in the Order, they are inducted into the Illuminated Brotherhood. Only after their corruption is complete, their turn to evil assured, do the Tremere meet their Baali masters – and their masters' Masters.
Sabbat Baali have an easier task in some ways, harder in others. While the vampires of the Sabbat have forsaken their Humanity, the Inquisition within the sect limits their activities. Whatever sect they belong to, however, the Baali are united in their cause. Their eventual goal is to turn both the Camarilla and the Sabbat to their infernal masters – and if that does not work, to destroy them. Indeed, many Sabbat-Camarilla conflicts can be attributed to the machinations of Baali on both sides, destroying those who oppose them while garnering greater influence and power. After all, power is the name of the game.
The Baali recruit vampires from other clans into their ranks; such a successfully recruited vampire is called an Apostate. The Baali even have a dark thaumaturgic ritual commonly called the Rite of Apostasy which proves the recruit's loyalty to the Baali and grants the recruit the demonic Discipline of Daimonion in place of one of their former Clan Disciplines.
Effectively, there is a unique Baali bloodline for every Clan or bloodline who has had a former member undergo the Rite of Apostasy. This dark thaumaturgic ritual grants the Baali bloodline a "viral" property to laterally grow their ranks that no other Clan or bloodline is known to possess. The most populous bloodline of Apostates are the Lasombra known as the Angellis Ater.
The Azaneali (also sometimes referred to, perhaps confusingly, as the Black Angels) are a variant that has branched off of the Baali bloodline. Supposedly, the Azaneali are the result of a pact made by the Baali methuselah Azaneal and infernalist Black Angels. Only twelve such Baali were sired. It is uncertain if any survived into the modern era.
Azaneal sought to find the lost city of Mashkan-shapir said to be built over an ancient demonic entity named Namtaru. The Azaneali are dead-hearted, spiritually compromised diabolists even by the standards of the Baali. The Azaneali serve powers of shadow, and often work with the "Black Angels" of the Lasombra in pursuit of their goals.
As masters of darkness, the Azaneali use the Discipline of Obtenebration in lieu of Daimonion or Presence. However, Azaneali have surrendered much of themselves to the shadows that they serve: many of them have effectively lost their free will to their masters' desires.
The Azaneali were extremely similar to the Angellis Ater bloodline of the Lasombra, and so the two groups were often confused with each other by the players. Therefore, the V20 sourcebook opted to rectify this by merging them into a single bloodline.
In their first appearance, in the original Vampire Storytellers Handbook, the Baali were given no particular origin or motivation beyond demon worship. Later, the crossover chronicle The Chaos Factor introduced the methuselah Shaitan, who had supposedly founded the Baali bloodline. According to that book, Shaitan was Embraced in the Second City sometime around 4500 BCE by Ashur.
The history of Shaitan presented in that book implies that all of Ashur's childer in the Second City were ultimately outcast and became the progenitors of the Baali bloodline, with Ashur's childe Ennoia being the only one who was not corrupted (the Gangrel "clan" was actually a bloodline that branched off of the "Ashurians", as opposed to their having a direct Antediluvian ancestor).
The backstory also implies that the entirety of the Baali bloodline descends from 13 separate methuselahs, each of whom sold their souls to the demon Ba'al. However, many elements of The Chaos Factor were retconned in later editions of the game, since it was considered by fans to be an unpopular sourcebook that promoted thematically inappropriate crossovers and munchkinism, like Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand.
Subsequent Vampire: The Dark Ages books presented a more complex and ambiguous history for the Baali. In several books, "Ashur" is considered to be another name for Cappadocius, although it remains unclear if "Ashur" was in fact the original sire of the Baali.
The Dark Ages Companion presents a history for the Baali in which Shaitan was the most beautiful member of the Fourth Generation, but was not Embraced as a Baali; instead, he became the first Baali when he made a pact with Ba'al out of jealousy towards the Toreador Antediluvian.
Although this tale of the origin of Shaitan is contradicted by later books (mainly Clanbook: Baali), the other parts of this account, which describe the Baali War between the Baali and the thirteen clans (particularly the Salubri), are reinforced or clarified by later sources.
Clanbook: Baali repeats the rumor of Cappadocius-called-Ashur siring the Baali (and adds more, such as Saulot being the Baali's sire), but alters the details of who the first Baali actually were. Here, "Shaitan" is the name that the Baali know their Antediluvian progenitor by. The first three Baali were the childer of "Shaitan"; they were Nergal, Moloch, and the Unnamed, who some Baali variously believe may have been a female (Zillah, Lilith, or the Crone), and who may have been the founder of the inhuman Via Hyron ("Path of the Hive"). The "Shaitan" who appears in the Baali War and in The Chaos Factor is actually Nergal, masquerading as Shaitan.
As detailed in Clanbook: Baali, the Baali acted to placate "The Children" (slumbering demons, who were likely Earthbound if considered in the context of Demon: The Fallen) by appeasing them with sacrifices and chaos. The Gehenna sourcebook hints that the Baali might have been guarding Antediluvians, who are hardly distinguishable from chthonic deities or demons, and Clanbook: Baali describes how one of these so-called "Children" was excavated by accident and perished from the sunlight.
Clanbook: Baali also clarifies that "Baal" is not the name of any particular demon, but is a title meaning "lord" that is applied to the demons who the Baali serve, although more ignorant Baali childer sometimes fall prey to their own propaganda and actually believe that the bloodline venerates a singular demonic master named Baal.
Later Vampire: The Masquerade supplements shy away from firm details; for example, the Vampire Storytellers Handbook Revised presents an enigmatic origin involving a "dalliance with a low-born singing slaveboy". However, Gehenna treats Saulot's creation of the Baali as fact in at least one scenario, as does the Gehenna novel.
The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal'Mahe'Ra draws on multiple previous versions of the Baali's origins. Lorekeepers of the Tal'Mahe'Ra hold that Ashur brought a childe back to the Second City, a boy of exceeding beauty rescued from a tribe of demon-worshippers. Some stories say it was this childe who spread corruption amongst the Third Generation and caused the downfall of the Second City, others that it was Saulot, others still that it was a nameless member of the Third Generation that perished in the Second City.
The Baali themselves tell a story much like the one in Clanbook: Baali, though the third Baali progenitor is rumored to have been male, female, both, or the slave boy Ashur rescued. One possibility raised is that there might have been four Baali progenitors - Nergal, Moloch, the Unnamed, and the slave boy.
Some parts of The Black Hand suggest the Tzimisce Antediluvian was the Baali's sire, describing what looks to be the Baali origin from the sire's side. The book claims that the Eldest used the knowledge it gained from the encounter to bind Kupala to its will, and identifies the Old Clan Tzimisce as the Baali's cousins.
The book goes into greater detail on the Children: they exist in a state of physical and psychic separation and imprisonment. Their flesh exists in the material realm, embedded in the substance of the Earth itself; in "tombs" that show no sign of construction and that have walls etched with the scars of their thrashing. Their minds, however, exist somewhere else, in a sea of tormented horror that is to them sweetest bliss.
Should some event encourage one of the Children to awaken, their minds and bodies come closer to union, their unclean knowledge is released into the world around them, the essence of their nature spills over into all sapient minds in the vicinity, driving them to greater and greater acts of depravity, and reality warps and twists to breaking point. They do not appear to be Earthbound, as the Earthbound are aware, cognisant, and active, while the Children are quiescent and sleeping. There are, however, certain parallels with the Neverborn Malfeans.
Lore of the Bloodlines adds to this, describing the Children as "The First People", remnants of previous creations of God before Humanity. Here, Nergal and Moloch were already Embraced when they stumbled upon their burial sites and re-Embraced themselves as the first Baali.
According to some readings, which overemphasise the Baali and Lasombra's shared interest in the Abyss and the shadowy demons therein, the Lasombra Antediluvian might also be the true progenitor of the Baali bloodline. This theory is not supported anywhere in canon, however, and ignores the most prevalent claim that Saulot sired the Baali. Having the Baali be a bloodline of the Lasombra would make the Azaneali bloodline simply a vestige of their Lasombra roots, although it would not explain why the majority of the bloodline remains distinct from the Lasombra and instead worships Malfean-like beings.
A newer theory, gaining traction since the new Guide to the Black Hand was published, is that the Baali may have had multiple progenitors (Saulot, Tzimisce, and perhaps even Haqim). In this theory, it is the Well at Ashur itself that creates the Baali, and not any one clan founder. One of the arguments for this theory is that Ur-Shulgi, an Assamite methuselah who was able to break the Tremere curse, has a similar origin story to Shaitan and, like Shaitan, is a formidable blood sorcerer. Ur-Shulgi was created during the Baali Wars and is hinted to be something less and more than human. That Ur-Shulgi could not (or perhaps would not) strip the Assamites of the Baali curse suggests Ur-Shulgi's loyalties may not lie with Haqim. One suggestion is that Ur-Shulgi was either spawned from the same tribe of mortals as the Baali founders, or may itself be one of the Baali founders.
That Ur-Shulgi's childe al-Ashrad is a member of the Assamite sorcerer caste would argue against the methuselah being of the known Baali bloodline (although al-Ashrad is noted for his pale skin, unique among the Assamites, which remains unexplained), but does not rule out it being an apostate or fellow traveller.
The Baali font is Bergell LET Plain.