Gehenna scenarios are fairly well outlined in The Book of Nod, the Erciyes Fragments, Revelations of the Dark Mother and other sources, so much so that Gehenna cultists can provide Jack Van Impe-style outlines of the events leading up to the end of Kindred society. While certain signs (notably the prophecies of Octavio) outline peripheral events, the main sequence from the Book of Nod is roughly as follows:
- The Time of Thin Blood. Caitiff and Thin-Blooded Vampires become more common, leading to Caitiff Princes. This particular warning is used by Princes to rationalize offices such as the Scourge, eliminating out high-generation vampires.
- Increased violence by Garou and other traditional enemies.
- The rise of ancient vampires, notably the Crone, until the Antediluvians themselves rise and "break their fast on the first part of us"
- The darkening of the Sun
- The return of Caine to pass judgment on all Vampires from Enoch, followed by a duel between the Dark Father (presumably Caine) and the Dark Mother (presumably Lilith).
- A thousand year reign from the city of Gehenna, with "no love, no life, no pity/the mighty will be as slaves/the virtuous will be made foul" through the Dark Father's agency.
- The arrival of the Last Daughter of Eve who will decide the fate of all creatures.
The Erciyes fragments provides additional commentary and extensions on these events. Among the folklore of the vampires of the Dark Medieval was the arrival of a comet called Wormwood, which was identified as the Red Star during the Final Nights.
Older sources seem to imply that Gehenna is a cyclical event, occurring every 2300 years, during which the Antediluvians arise, feed on their descendants until only a handful remains, and then retreat back into torpor. Previous Gehenna-events are told to have happened during the fall of the Second City and during the Hellenic period.
Signs of Gehenna
Through the four books that comprise the Transylvania Chronicles, the characters have had the opportunity to discover – and in some cases participate in – the Eight Signs that herald the coming of Gehenna. Noddists scholars in both the Camarilla and Sabbat disagree as to the nature of these signs. Some traditionalists maintain that the signs of Gehenna revealed in the Book of Nod are the true signs. These scholars posit that the signs revealed instead merely herald the rise of the demon called Kupala and that this demon only affects the small portion of Romania – hardly a concern for most Kindred.
The tablets and other documents the characters have acquired through the centuries indicate otherwise, however. Not only do the writings reveal Saulot's duplicity and his connection to the Baali, they refer to Saulot’s visions of these other signs as the true indications of Gehenna. The visions of the Malkavian prophets Octavio and his heir Anatole corroborate that these signs, which began in the Dark Ages and end in the last of the 20th century, are true. Kindred familiar with the signs of Kupala and the Book of Nod maintain that both are needed to fully understand the many warnings of the impending conflagration. Controversy rages in some circles as to whether the eight signs merely announce the coming of Gehenna or actually set in motion the Final Nights. Whether they serve as warnings or milestones on the road to Gehenna, the signs offer visible proof that the Antediluvians threat is real.
These are the eight signs of Gehenna as revealed throughout the Transylvania Chronicles:
- Sign One – The Hidden Darkness: the diablerie of Saulot by the wizard Tremere.
- Sign Two – The Threefold Breaking: the destruction of the Templars; the loss of the Holy Land, and the fall of a mighty wizard.
- Sign Three – The War of the Children: Young vampires rebel against their elders, sparking uprisings that become the Anarch Revolt. Young Lasombra and Tzimisce seem to diablerize the founders of their clans, laying the groundwork for the Sabbat. Zelios the Master Mason constructs his geomantic web. Though not itself one of the omens, it leans to the fulfillment of the next to last sign.
- Sign Four – The Rise and Return of the Dragon: Most Kindred who know the sign believe that it pertains to Vlad Țepeș, known as Dracula (the "Younger Dragon"). Another interpretation has gained credence in the light of recent events the true "dragon" of the prophecy is Saulot, whose dominance of Tremere reveals that he is still very much part of the Jyhad.
- Sign Five – The Making and Breaking of the Compact of Kindred: the formation of the Camarilla and the subsequent creation of the Sabbat after the Convention of Thorns.
- Sign Six – The Martyred Innocence: The death of Maria Asunción, last faithful member of the Cappadocians, ends the Giovanni purge of their parent clan and assures the onslaught of the Final Nights.
- Sign Seven – the Web of Power: The activation of the geomantic web built by Zelios many centuries past places Eastern Europe (and Manhattan) on the verge of nuclear disaster.
- Sign Eight – The Cracking of the World: Terrible storms and upheavals rock the world, signifying the rise of the Antediluvians – and their elders.
There may be some slight misinterpretations of these signs however, as in Transylvania Chronicles III, if Maria Asunción is saved through faking her death, then further study of the prophecy reveals that only the illusion of her death is needed.
Starting in 1999, Gehenna became a pressing concern for many Kindred. With the appearance of the Red Star and the actual rising of the Ravnos Antediluvian during the Week of Nightmares, Gehenna stopped being a matter of speculation and more a matter of survival. The Week of Nightmares was a wake-up call for Kindred on both sides of the Gehenna fence.
For the skeptics, the Ravnos clan founder's rise was disturbingly violent proof for the existence of Antediluvians (or some kind of unimaginably powerful, vampire-devouring blood God, at which point Noahide distinctions are largely academic). These new events led to an upsurge in Gehenna cults and the purchase of heavy weaponry among the Camarilla vampires.
However, for Gehenna cultists, the results were equally disturbing, most notably for the True Black Hand. For centuries, Gehenna cultists had been waiting for the Antediluvians to return. When one does, it barely lasts a week and during that time, didn't pay the slightest attention to them. For true believers, this was a horrifying possibility, not just because they might be wrong, but because it may imply that no matter what happens, they might be lunch.
Another in-game mechanic for Gehenna involved misinterpretation of the Book of Nod. The rationale for destroying the Thin-blooded came from the Book of Nod's prophecy that a rise in high-generation vampires was a sign of Gehenna. However, the actual event was the deaths of large numbers of vampires; since high-generation vampires die easily, they die more often. The constant slaughter of Ravnos in India caused by wars between the Ravnos and the Infinite Thunders Court led directly to the Ravnos Antediluvian's rise – a detail unknown to Princes pushing pogroms for the last generations.
Secular Point of View
Even without Noddism, there is ample reason to believe that Gehenna or something like it will eventually occur. As vampires age, they must sustain themselves on increasingly potent blood. Vampires of low generation are more powerful than their descendants, and there are various potent Disciplines which have particularly strong effects on an elder's own descendants and other higher Generation vampires. Given the power gap between vampires of 8th and 7th Generation, imagining a hungry Third Generation blood god is not a large leap.
Reactions to Gehenna
Vampiric culture is broadly divided on Gehenna. Officially, the Camarilla doesn't acknowledge Gehenna, Antediluvians, ancient blood gods, or Caine. Conversely, the Sabbat is a Gehenna cult - its raison d'etre is to provide muscle for Caine's return to judge the (un)dead and the living.
While the Camarilla ostensibly observes a "no-Gehenna" policy, it doesn't enforce that particularly heavily – princes will use the Book of Nod to justify decisions, and various clans (notably the Nosferatu) openly prepare to defend themselves against their Antediluvian.
Given this, there are a variety of visible Gehenna cults throughout recorded history. Given that Kindred are on the whole pragmatic, self-interested and secular, these cults can loosely be viewed as making sure that when the Antediluvians come, there will be someone else available to eat. So maybe there isn't a Caine, but if sacrificing a virgin every Walpurgisnacht ensures that grandsire doesn't devour your unliving soul, the world can stand a few less virgins.
Research done by Beckett and his allies seems to suggest that Gehenna-like events are cyclical and have appeared throughout history. The culmination of events in the 2000s, including the Red Star, the Week of Nightmares, the rise of Thin-bloods, and the Beckoning has lead some the Kindred to believe that Gehenna has begun, but not as the apocalyptic event which would smother civilization they had imagined. Instead, elders are drawn to fight to the Middle-East, Europe and other corners of the world. The Sabbat believes that they fight in the Gehenna War against the ancients and has led a mass exodus to the Middle East and the Eastern Europe to aid them to slay the Antediluvians.
Gehenna As Game Tool
Throughout the revisions of Vampire: The Masquerade, Gehenna was an event that was always incoming. Gehenna mythology was progressively elaborated through a variety of supplements, most notably:
- Book of Nod, an ostensible transcription of all the major fragments of the original Book of Nod.
- The Erciyes Fragments, A Dark Ages supplement written by C.S. Friedman which provided an alternative description of the events in the Book of Nod.
- Time of Thin Blood, a Year of the Reckoning supplement which details the Week of Nightmares, the rise of Gehenna Cults, the thin-blooded and the office of the Scourge.
- Gehenna. Four different Gehenna scenarios and a wealth of other information to assist Storytellers in bringing the world of the Kindred to an end.
Gehenna, along with most extensive metaplot was excised from Vampire: The Requiem. Gehenna has always been a bit of an "albatross" [personal opinion] for the Vampire storyline, and the consequent ahistoricality of Requiem vampires eliminates that problem by removing both the origin and eventual end of the Kindred.