- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Organization
- 4 Clan Variants
- 5 Culture
- 6 Weaknesses
- 7 Version Differences
- 8 Gallery
- 9 References
Malkavians are an enigmatic and deeply disturbed group of Cainites. Members of the clan have assumed the roles of seers and oracles among Kindred and kine, eerie figures bound by strange compulsions and the ability to perceive what others cannot. They are also notorious pranksters whose "jokes" range from silly to sadistic. Against all odds, however, the children of Malkav are among the oldest surviving vampiric lineages. They are one of the 13 original Cainite clans and can trace back their history to times preceding the biblical Deluge. They were also among the founders of the powerful Camarilla, and are widely known as one of its pillars in modern nights.
As with all the major clans, the Malkavians originated in the pre-Deluge city Enoch. Little is known about the clan's early composition, only that their Antediluvian, Malkav, was a seer Embraced by one of the Second Generation. Malkav was particularly close to two other Kindred: Saulot, the founder of the Salubri, and Set, self-appointed god to his followers. Some accounts suggest the three shared the same sire, possibly Enoch.
Sometime after the Flood, Malkav was ambushed and murdered by his fellow Antediluvians. Most Malkavians believe that he is still undead, only now he exists entirely within the Madness Network (or "Cobweb"), the group mind that all Malkavians share. Some Malkavians speculate that Malkav literally is Clan Malkavian and that when Gehenna arises, he will devour the clan whole and reconstitute himself.
Many of the early Malkavians posed as city-gods, using their oracular powers to convince the population that they spoke and listened to the gods. In Greece and the lands of the Fertile Crescent, many of the early Malkavians prospered as oracles and soothsayers and later, their foresight placed them into the role of viziers and advisors to the ruling Ventrue of Rome. It was on behest of the Malkavian prophetess Tryphosa that Camilla called for the war against Carthage and it was with the aid of Alchias, the Malkavian ruler of Syracuse, that the Romans proved to be successful in the end. Later, however, the Malkavians were blamed for the more unstabile emperors and when Rome finally fell apart, the Malkavians drifted away, shattered and lost. Several Malkavians, however, became attracted to early Christianity (a running gag within some elements of the Clan are the consequences of a grave robbery in 33 CE), seeing Jesus as the reborn Malkav who would end their curse. Some even claimed that Andreas, one of the disciples of Jesus, was secretly a Malkavian, and tasked by him to find Caine to persuade him to finally ask for forgiveness from God.
|“||When we attended the Convention of Thorns, our clan divided into a roughly 50/50 split. The true maniacs, those who lost control over their temperament and connection to humanity, of course drifted. But where did they drift? The Camarilla... Sabbat drove the sane insane and Camarilla acted as nepenthe to the madness.||”|
|— Jacob in a letter to Therese Voerman|
The Dark Ages were a difficult time for the Malkavian; still suffering from their fall from grace as an important clan after the collapse of Rome, many of the Kindred feared and distrusted the Madmen. Many more pitied their sad, insane state. Humans, needless to say, also feared the madness of the Malkavians; many were persecuted more for their derangements than vampirism. That is not to say all Malkavians suffered horribly; quite a few became advisors, seers, and jesters to well-placed and powerful Cainite Princes. However, the bulk of the clan lived up to the Low Clan status bestowed on them by the more self-important Kindred. Part of this age were also the Ordo, secret covenants of Malkavians who sought to utilize their madness to predict the future and carried on the legacy of the Malkavian Oracles of Antiquity.
The Renaissance was a chaotic and paradoxical time for the Lunatics, much to their delight. The developing forms of literature and philosophy granted them a freedom that was only overshadowed by the religious backlashes against it. Malkavians stood on both sides of the fray, often also enjoying dabbling in Camarilla and mortal politics that provided an intricate web of possibilities to disrupt. Many Malkavians also came to regard the growing medical developments, particularly insane asylums.
The Victorian Era was the time of Freud and Jung, as the old theories of phrenology, demon-possession and divine punishment gave way to more learned theories of psychology and psychiatry. Asylums now started doing what Malkavians had been practicing for centuries – taking an interest in insanity. While the reforms of these hospitals no doubt crippled more than one Malkavian's supply of blood, the new system permitted the Lunatics to experiment with madness like they had never before. Some set themselves up as psychologists – others visited psychologists as patients.
The rise of the Bohemian lifestyle within society meant many more kine were willing to expand their own perceptions with new cultures, experiences and drugs. The Malkavians were only too happy to oblige. New forms of expression and ways of thinking both nourished the Malkavians and allowed them to be as florid as they pleased – after all, if a finely dressed gentleman is shouting about how dogs on the street are telling him to kill people, why it must simply be the newest performance piece going around the salons. In fact, a friend of yours heard it on the streets of Paris...
|“||I can feel them out there. I don’t dare reach out for them; they’re so cold, my fingers would freeze and snap off. They’re the ravens waiting for Gehenna, the hounds at the gates. So many more of them in these last few years before it all ends; they must sense the finality as it’s coming, and give themselves over to it. Most of them young, younger than me; the elders, though, the ones who’ve been waiting for centuries and centuries, and are grinding their teeth against whetstones, they’re starting to move...||”|
|— Unnamed Malkavian in Clanbook: Malkavian Revised|
The Malkavians always had a dangerous reputation due to their madness and their signature Dementation discipline, which can induce madness in others. With the Inquisition and the formation of the Camarilla, the clan faced possible extinction at the hands of other clans – the Malkavians were just too dangerous to continue existing. In order to prevent this, the elders of the clan changed the Clan in ways unknown and incomprehensible – the result was that the majority of Clan Malkavian discarded Dementation in favor of the Dominate discipline. More disturbingly, the majority of Malkavians, even those present at the time of the change are unaware that this happened. A small fragment of the clan preserved the Dementation discipline, defecting to the Sabbat and becoming antitribu.
This "Great Prank" means that almost all Malkavians are antitribu. While Sabbat Malkavians possessed the same mystical abilities as their ancestors, the violent environment of the Sabbat drove the antitribu even madder: all Malkavians have a mental disorder they cannot overcome, but Sabbat Malkavians have two.
This division was fixed in 1997, when for reasons unknown to anyone, the Dementation resurfaced within the Camarilla, although several "Domination" Malkavians remained unaffected, for some reason.
Beckett's Jyhad Diary states that the Jerusalem's penchant for religious mania has been attributed to the presence of the Malkav somewhere near the city. A creature of great power lies within a pit near the Valley of Hinnom, rumoured to be either the Antediluvian himself, one of his direct, his sister Malakai or one of the original Baali.  As the Final Nights draw close, religious mania and hysteria becomes more widespread, believed by some to be connected to the creature that lies in the pit. 
On the surface, clan Malkavian is barely a clan. The majority of Malkavians are only marginally aware they belong to a clan; Sabbat Malkavians generally claim to be Panders. What connections Malkavians generally have are informal and generally paternal, sire-childe relationships being the most common, although Malkavian sires are prone to abandoning their childer.
Scratch the surface, however, and the Malkavians become a smörgåsbord of paranoid delights. Malkavians operate on their own timescale, and will gather spontaneously for incomprehensible events. Malkavians usually do not explain how they know these gatherings are occurring, and when they do the explanation is not necessarily worth anything. Scratch deep enough and it appears that the Malkavians are highly organized, so highly organized they do not even know they are, and instead they continue to pursue incomprehensible and arcane goals that even they are not aware are relevant.
This organization is generally termed the "cobweb", "Malkavian Time", or the "Madness Network" and is a form of shared consciousness unifying all Malkavians. The strength of the voices varies from Malkavian to Malkavian, however all of them are at least aware of its call and capable of interacting with it. Dead Malkavians' memories live on in the Cobweb, and it is implied heavily that Malkav himself is this network. The cobweb is only accessible by Malkavians, and they themselves only marginally understand it – most of them merely listen to the voices, but elders have demonstrated a powerful capacity to manipulate the rest of the clan through it. It is rumored that powerful Methuselahs partially exist within the Cobweb and can "download" themselves on their descendants if needed. The Cobweb also reacts to the presence of powerful Malkavians, like the Ankou.
|“||I do not recall a time before the whispers clawed at my mind. I only know that I was never more alone, nor more accompanied, before I was dragged into the ranks of my clan.||”|
|— Cassius, Elder of the Moon|
A remnant of a bygone age, members of the Ananke bloodline are said to have kept the ancient temples, where oracles performed haruspex (the art of divination through reading the entrails of a freshly killed animal) to read truths in blood. Ananke believe that the secrets of the universe can be witnessed in a microcosm by scrutinizing the bodies of the recently dead. Wisdom can only be gained by savagely tearing into the corporeal, physically delving through the inner workings of each creature in creation. This means that an Ananke Malkavian often has a low morality, sacrificing their Humanity to their search for grisly answers.
Although the bloodline is experiencing a resurgence (more promising childer are available, due to the modern fascination with serial killers), by and large the Ananke are few. A member of this bloodline is compelled to collect trophies of their murderous exploits, using Auspex on them in meditative contemplation. They surrounds themselves with the visceral "workings of the universe" in an attempt to find deeper understanding. Scholars suspect that one of the first Ananke Malkavians was the methuselah known as the Ankou.
Additional Weakness: All Ananke are compelled to take grisly trophies of their activities, and if deprived of the opportunity to take a trophy they become utterly unreasonable. If their collection is threatened, stolen, or destroyed, they cannot regain Willpower until they have started a new collection of memento mori.
The Malkavians of the Ashirra, the Bay't Majnoon, are more respected than those in the Occident. Many were held as advisors, bodyguards, and even Islamic prophets. Legends tell that Malkav (or "Marid", as they call him) sought to understand the secrets of the djinn. He stood on the same rock where Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, where he made a deal with a powerful djinn. In exchange for inhabiting his body and witnessing the material world, the djinn would allow Marid to see the spiritual world. The deal, however, backfired on both and turned them insane. Every time a Majnoon creates a childer, a small portent of the djinn is fused to the recipient, turning them insane and allowing them to see the world of the spirits. The voice of this djinn then guides the Majnoon throughout his unlife, growing stronger until it is ready to be divided again (through another Embrace).
With the advent of Islam, some Majanin rejected this origin myth. The divine insight they possessed was those of the prophets, raising controversial discussions among the Ashirra. These Majanin argued that Muhammad was indeed the last prophet, but only for the living. They preached their visions to the unliving, traveling across the Middle East to spread their interpretations of the faith.
Although they typically do not differentiate themselves from the main body of the clan, this offshoot was, for some reason, protected from the Great Prank which caused the clan to reacquire Dementation as its signature Discipline. Dominate Malkavians continue to have Dominate as their Camarilla brethren did throughout most of the modern nights. Although certainly suffering from the same weakness as their brethren, the derangements of the Carriers are stereotyped as being more internalized and "sedate" (such as sociopathy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a tendency towards hallucination). Similarly, they show no particular propensity for prophetic wisdom, and often seem somewhat contemptuous of the ones that do. They still carry the "infection" for Dementation, and may infect other Kindred despite not being infected themselves.
Almost the opposite of the Carriers, the Malkavian antitribu are, if possible, even more insane than their Camarilla siblings. This is in no small part due to the brutal (un)living conditions associated with being a member of the Sabbat. To the antitribu, insanity is a weapon, albeit one that hopelessly distorts them. Mastery of its use may take decades, or even centuries. At once completely independent, yet strangely joined to other Freaks by an inscrutable group consciousness, a member of this clan is not easily forgotten – no matter how badly one may wish it so. Malkavian antitribu are skilled at psychological abuse. By combining forceful words with subtlety, and the use of trust violated by moments of sheer terror, the Freaks can pry information from the most stoic victim or mortify even the staunchest of captives. Rumors abound of Sabbat packs' seers who divine a War Party's success by reading entrails ripped from a still-living human and of blood-maddened prophets who presage the coming of Gehenna in this, the Time of Thin Blood. The most dangerous of all – the serial killers, suicide cultists, and the like – may be "bred" for special missions into fast-held Camarilla territory, sent to spread the madness with which they are burdened, to pave the way for the Great Jyhad.
The possible origin of name 'Malkavian' is from "mala cavilla", Latin for "bad mockery".
Malkavians have traditionally fulfilled two roles in Vampire society: seers and jokers. As seers, the Malkavians have relied on advanced Auspex and the Cobweb (Madness Network) to provide information. Malkavians being Malkavians, this information is generally jaundiced, incomplete, filtered through cracked lenses or a total lie.
The joker role is somewhat more complex: Malkavians have a clan tradition of pranking. The exact purpose of these pranks is open to debate; they often appear intended to readjust the target's perceptions, but are also often sadistic.
In the Camarilla, Malkavians are tolerated; they are rarely princes but often are important primogen or otherwise figures of authority. Given their obvious insanity, princes traditionally give the Madmen a certain amount of latitude; in return, Malkavians are generally expected to demonstrate enough self-control to not break the Masquerade. This is not a benevolent arrangement but largely driven by fear on both sides: fundamentally, Malkavians are unknowable and the general attitude among Princes is that it is better to keep them quiet and happy, since unhappy Malkavians have a tendency towards introducing bizarre and inexplicable incidents to the equation. Conversely, Malkavians need the protection of the Camarilla, and have been modified as discussed above to make them more amenable to it.
Many Malkavians are gifted with insight into the world around them. Through their shared madness and the powers of Auspex and Dementation, many are able to glimpse little bits of the future or the past. True Oracles and Seers, however, go beyond these common talents. They are blessed (or cursed) with strong visions that come upon them without warning. No one knows for sure from where this connection originates. Some embrace their powers and attempt to channel them. Some try to shun the visions and get on as if nothing happened. Other unsensitive Malkavians use the picture of the prophet for their own advantage like mortal fortune-tellers, using vague prophecies to secure themselves safe places. Those with the true Sight, however, often suffer for it, as they receive visions they do not understand at first and then watch helplessly unfold before them. During the Dark Ages, the Malkavian Orders of Mystery, also known as Ordos, tried to channel the gift of prophecy to mimic the Methuselah-Oracles of Antiquity, but with the formation of the sects and the severing of Dementation, their practice fell out of use.
Despite their madness, most Malkavians are not anti-social. In a certain period of time during their unlives, they may experience the cravings of companionship. Often, such companionship can ground the Lunatic's madness, giving them a focus that solitary Malkavians often lack.
The Malkavians are one of the more intellectually focused of the Camarilla clans (with the Tremere arguably being the only clan as interested in cerebral pursuits). As a result, Malkavian candidates for the Embrace tend to be intelligent and more than a little... odd. While the Malkavian embrace guarantees insanity, they do tend to choose candidates who are already halfway there.
Lunatic childer do come from all economic and cultural strata however, though most have some sort of hard-luck story or black secret behind them that caused their sire to take note. Truly damaged Malkavians who are unaware of the meanings of their actions may not even be aware that they have sired childer, which makes for very difficult entry into Kindred society for these castoffs, many of whom end up among the Caitiff.
Those Malkavians whose derangement is so severe as to make them non-functional are called the Gnawed.
Due to their inherent clan weakness every last one of them is irredeemably insane in some form or another. Among the Kindred, some attribute their insanity to a curse of the blood forced upon them by Caine himself, while the Lunatics themselves actually call it a special blessing, a gift of insight. The mortal mind collapses as it goes through the Malkavian Embrace, and the resulting vampire is a being forever changed by the experience. From the moment they are created, Malkavians begin to suffer from at least one derangement that can never be permanently overcome. Their insanity can be temporarily fought with Willpower, but madness is never far away and as a result their members are unpredictable at best.
Afflicted by their lineage, Malkavians are cursed with at least one type of mental derangement. Depending on their history and the state of their mind at death, they may experience delusions, visions of terrible clarity, or something entirely different.
Delusion: Malkavian's extrasensory gifts running wild, the vampire experiences what might be truths or portents, but what others call figments of imagination, dredged up by Hunger. While still functional, the vampire’s mind and perceptions are skewed. They receive a two-dice penalty to rolls involving Dexterity, Manipulation, Composure, and Wits as well as on rolls to resist terror frenzy, for one scene.
In 1st Edition Vampire, the Malkavians were portrayed as something halfway between mages and changelings. 1st edition Malkavians had strong ties to the Faerie realm, and were also generally obsessed with altering perceptions; pranking was part of a long tradition of "reality busting".
This has led to a traditional "Fishmalk" problem. Malkavians are one of the easiest clans to play badly, generally as comic relief or overly "cute" characters. Later editions of Vampire emphasize the violent and unpredictable nature of Malkavians, mentioning that the insanities of the clan are less likely to involve bunny rabbits and more likely to involve straight razors. This is particularly notable when comparing the two editions of Clanbook: Malkavian. The first edition includes a mess of inside jokes and arcane editing (notably the canonical appearance of Page XX), while the revised version implies that the clan are largely puppets of Malkav.
2nd and Revised edition Malkavians differ primarily in whether they possess Dementation or Dominate in-clan. Since this is an event in the Vampire timeline, players are allowed to (optionally) choose which discipline their Malkavian follows, and elder Malkavians can opt to switch Dominate for Dementation.
Since Dementation was typically only possessed by the Malkavian antitribu, possession of the discipline marked an individual as Sabbat. This may be the origin of the stereotypes of the "gentle joker" Camarilla Malkavian and "psycho killer" Sabbat Malkavian; no such easy distinction is possible in the Revised edition.
- , p. 414
- , p. 415
Banu Haqim (Assamites) · Brujah · Gangrel · Hecata (Cappadocians, Giovanni) · Lasombra · Malkavian · Ministry (Followers of Set) · Nosferatu · Ravnos · Salubri · Toreador · Tremere · Tzimisce · Ventrue