The most visibly cursed of all Kindred, the Embrace warps each Nosferatu into a hideously deformed creature; the archetypal Nosferatu resembles Max Shreck's Count Orlok, though the curse has any number of variations. The Nosferatu are the spymasters of the dead, collecting information and selling it for a dear price. They are also the masters of the underground, living in the sewers for protection.
Due to their inherent clan weakness, all Nosferatu have Appearance ratings of zero. They may not improve Appearance with experience points. Most Social actions based on first impressions, except intimidation and the like, fail automatically. In Fifth Edition, where Appearance is absent, this translates into all Nosferatu having the Repulsive Flaw, being unable to increase their rating in the Looks Merit, and being penalised by their Bane Severity on any attempts to disguise themselves as human.
As with all of the Antediluvians, the Nosferatu Antediluvian (referred to as Absimiliard) was Embraced in the shadow of Enoch. Powerful and vain, Absimiliard was a hunter of great skill and beauty who attracted the attention of one of the second generation, who stalked him down as prey. The Embrace was quick, but left him with a tiny facial scar that inflamed his vanity. His wounded pride, coupled with his ego, led him to resent, then hate, then kill his sire, precipitating the revolt by the Antediluvians.
As with his brethren, Absimiliard had sired a small clique of childer by the time of the Second City. His childer, hunters all, remained loyal to him except for one woman who fled further than he could chase. When Caine returned in judgment, he cursed Nosferatu with hideousness, a curse passed to all his descendants, including the hidden maid. Since that time, Absimiliard's eldest descendants, the Nictuku, have chased her. The maiden came to be known as the Matriarch for according to legends, she gave birth to the entire modern incarnation of the Nosferatu clan. Through his loyal Nictuku, Absimiliard hopes to exterminate all of the Matriarch's childer in atonement for his crimes against the laws of Caine – or in bitter vengeance, some would say.
In the beginning, most Nosferatu resorted to hunt humans as prey, as they were unable to coexist with them in their cities, as the mortals either ran away in fear or resorted to fire and violence to drive them out. Most hid from the sun in subterranean caves or in the grounds of rivers and lakes. Many Nosferatu hid in the great rivers like the Tigris or the Nile to prey on farmers at night. The development of the catacombs in ancient Rome connected the Clan with mortal society, although they were regarded as low-blooded by the ruling Ventrue and Malkavians. Rumors, however, tell of the dyulamansa, the Hidden Kings, who ruled Nosferatu Kingdoms in sub-Saharan Africa. This may refer to the Guruhi.
In the middle age, Nosferatu were one of the Low Clans, and notable in particular for their embrace of Christianity and redemption (flagellation in particular). They were, however, not without power, as they had discovered the connection between human waste and plagues and used it to defile the water sources of a village if a local Cainite lord became too arrogant. Many Nosferatu chose to dwell among the beggars and outcasts of society, feeding from the muck of society and hiding their disfigurements as illnesses like leprosy.
The Nosferatu did effectively split during the formation of the Sabbat; however, Nosferatu antitribu are largely identical to their Camarilla kin. Nosferatu tend to place a higher emphasis on clan unity and mutual survival, and are consequently fairly cordial with each other even though technically enemies.
During this period the Nosferatu began to construct their urban lairs, using the urbanization as a means to disappear from the mortal world to ensure the protection of the Masquerade. Many ghettos and tenements housed large populations of Nosferatu that lived hidden from the views of the Toreador and Ventrue who had instituted themselves into mortal society. The Renaissance also saw an increase in Embraces that had only spite and hatred as reasons, as many Nosferatu grew to resent the new arts and philosophies that began to develop.
With the start of European colonization of the Americas, the 1600s brought the revelation that many Nosferatu had been living in North America alongside the indigenous peoples for thousands of years. These "manitou" as they called themselves lived as solitary hunters in the night, accepting sacrifices from human clans to forestall their wrath, and were strong practitioners of Animalism. The manitou were largely wiped out or assimilated by the European Nosferatu.
The Nosferatu were very (some would say suspiciously so) quiet during the Victorian Era. In a time when physical beauty was supposed to reflect spiritual beauty, the Nosferatu experienced one of the greatest periods of exile in their long and lonely history. Where the Toreador were ascendant, the Nosferatu were relegated to the slums and ghettos of Europe. More than one Prince of London banned them from entering Elysium.
So, instead of parading around the brightly-lit mansions of the wealthy and noble, the Nosferatu scuttled around the back alleys of London, taking over derelict buildings and, yes, the sewers. The banks of the Thames were downright infested with Nosferatu, for the river was a convenient way to cross the city without being seen. The Nosferatu also lived in what was termed "the Thieves' Citadel", which was the name given to high-crime areas of London. These zones tended to be self-contained both culturally and architecturally – the Nosferatu ensured that they controlled how and when new construction went on in these zones for their own protection and that of their herd.
In the modern nights, the Nosferatu feel their Antediluvian metaphorically breathing down the back of their necks. Technically savvy, the Sewer Rats adopt every technique they can to protect themselves, encouraging the fears evoked during the Cold War to use many of the now deserted bunker systems as supplements for their own warrens. Most notably, the Nosferatu developed an information sharing network – ShreckNET, a parallel internet that the Nosferatu used to enhance their traditional information gathering and reporting skills.
The most terrifying and unique event in the early 1990s was the rise of the Shadow Curtain in Russia, a mystical barrier that separated the vampires of the former Soviet Union from the rest of the world. The Shadow Curtain eventually was revealed as the product of Baba Yaga, a fourth generation Nosferatu of almost incalculable power. Most frightening of all was not the witch, however, but her demise. In the late 1990s, Baba Yaga was destroyed by a Nictuku.
in 2004, the NSA compromised ShreckNet, the information they gathered from it contributing to what would become known as the Second Inquisition. After this new Inquisition started cutting a swathe through Kindred society in 2007-2008, the Camarilla ordered the Wipe; older Nosferatu hackers dismantled ShreckNET's servers, beginning the removal of as much Kindred communication as possible from the Web. Although they took a hit to their credibility and lost many clan members, the Nosferatu still remain a significant presence in Kindred society.
Nosferatu are generally organized into broods; communities centrally located around a sewer system and serving as underground cities which may house dozens of their kind. Nosferatu are stereotyped as ugly on the outside, humane on the inside - this is not entirely true. There are many Nosferatu who never leave the sewers, the Nosferatu make a habit of sending their friendliest to communicate with the rest of the Camarilla.
Nosferatu strongly stress clan loyalty over almost everything else. Given their hideous appearance, they depend heavily on clan support structures for everything from havens to food. Broods are generally gerontocratic, with the eldest Nosferatu setting policy and guiding the youngest. Most Nosferatu can acquire jobs within their clan, including assisting on construction or other survival projects. Most Nosferatu are inculcated with a survivalist mentality and increasing the strength of their havens is a constant preoccupation. The Nosferatu also use ghouled animals as defenses and have created Spawning pools, which are tainted by their vitae and turn, over the course of many years, every animal that drinks from them into a monstrous creature loyal only to the brood.
Bay't MutasharidThe Nosferatu in Ashirra territories experienced a schism of sort after Islam became the dominant force. The Bay't Mutasharid were those Nosferatu that refused to convert to Islam or renounce their ancient roles as hunters and bogeymen. Focusing on survival, the Mutasharid used similar information-gathering strategies like their occidental cousins when living in cities, or retreating into the deserts and taking oases as their domain. In modern nights, the Mutarashid seem to have vanished from Arabia, but some believe that they are still around.
Those Nosferatu that converted to Islam, however, became quickly respected figures. Seeing in Islam a promise of redemption even for wretched creatures as themselves, these Nosferatu quickly became a pillar of the Ashirra sect. A key figure for their success was Tarique al-Hajj, a Nosferatu blood sorcerer who helped to ward off the most disastrous effects of the Keening. For this, he and his brood were renamed the Hajj, the guardians of Islam's holiest places. As proof for their mandate, more Mutasharidin managed to enter the holy sites of Islam, Mecca and Medina, than any other bay't; as the sites are the purest places in the Arabic world, it is nearly impossible for any Kindred to enter. The Hajj still maintain their guard in the Modern Nights.
Nosferatu antitribuThere is no real difference between the Sabbat Nosferatu and their Camarilla cousins: to the Nosferatu, clan loyalty trumps sect loyalty any night of the week.
Ironically, or perhaps because of their disfigurements, the Nosferatu antitribu are perhaps the most humane (if not human) of the Sabbat clans. Having transcended the need for ostentatious brutality, the Creeps have come to grips with their monstrosity. They do not caper in blood or senselessly slaughter mobs of kine; rather, a Nosferatu antitribu's every move is one of calculated precision, designed to get the exact response she seeks, whether that be respect, fear or understanding. Many young Sabbat consider the Nosferatu antitribu soft – until they step into the sewers and see the true malice of the Creeps' black souls. Many antitribu also have a pathological fear of their own Antediluvian and the desire to prepare for the last stand against him is one of the main reasons Nosferatu desert the Camarilla and join the Sabbat.
In both the Camarilla and Sabbat, the Nosferatu are famous information brokers and spymasters. While this is partly supported by their use of the Obfuscate and Animalism disciplines, the Nosferatu also emphasize information interchange as part of clan culture. Nosferatu invest an awful lot in teaching their childer with riddle games, memorization exercises and other activities which emphasize sharing and hiding information. Most Nosferatu tend to present themselves as antisocial creatures and as they seldom play the games of Elysium, instead focusing on the acquisition of knowledge to make themselves irreplaceable for vampiric society.
The Nosferatu have a deeply ingrained complex about physical beauty, especially with clans like the Toreador. Nosferatu will tend to charge Toreador higher prices, and make the higher clans crawl through humiliating or disgusting tunnels to actually negotiate with them. Similarly, Nosferatu will often accentuate their hideousness by cultivating an array of disgusting physical habits. Some of the Nosferatu who dwell underground can develop a penchant for bizarre forms of art, in particular for music, gardening and sculpture. Rumors tell of the development of acoustic subterranean chambers – some of which employ channeled water, and of fantastical gardens with fungi the size of trees. The greatest work of Nosferatu art is the Escalera, a giant sculpture of twisted metal and piping that spans an underground chasm in Lima. On several cases where Nosferatu have embraced a caitiff, the childe has been exiled or killed. Nosferatu also tend to use Obfuscate for practical jokes involving their appearance, such as dropping a discipline's use for a brief instant and reveling in the effects.
The most bizarre relationships can occur between Nosferatu and mortals. Even the most hard-bitten Nosferatu may discover a weakness for a certain human or types of humans. Living as they do in places many would consider to be Hell, there is a long tradition of the Nosferatu offering help to others like them. There are many, many cases of cruel Kindred preying on homeless people, children or mental patients who have inexplicably been beaten black and blue and left somewhere as a warning to others. Cliché as it may be, many orphanages, scholarships and self-help organisations owe at least part of their funding to the Sewer Rats. Living in the gutter, there are a lot of Nosferatu who want to help those who still can get out of it. Unlike the Toreador and the Ventrue, they seldom if ever brag about their accomplishments, and most outside the clan are unaware of them.
The Nosferatu tend to embrace two classes of people: first are those for whom the Embrace is a step up, such as the homeless, the hopelessly antisocial, derelicts, the mentally ill, the emotionally damaged, the flawed, vagrants or other people at the bottom of the totem pole, often out of a feeling of kinship with them. The second class are those for whom the Embrace is a step down, such as beauty queens or people from privileged backgrounds. Nosferatu are notorious for revenge Embraces, and the resulting Cleopatras often lead miserable lives within the clan.
The Embrace of the Nosferatu is especially painful, as the body warps and twists as the blood creates a new vampire. The chance of a Nosferatu dying in the process of the Embrace is higher than in other Clans and many emerge as simple brutes, their brains damaged and incapable of higher thought or basic survival skills. For these reasons, some elders of the medieval world used the Embrace by a Nosferatu as a punishment for disobedient ghouls. Rumors tell that those poor souls are most often killed directly by their own sire to spare them an eternity of pain and misery, but that some instead resort on hiding their childer and trying to feed and care for them.
Each Nosferatu is disfigured in a unique way that make each of them unbearable. Rare breeds of Nosferatu that have often geographical connections, however, tend to develop similar disfigurements, creating differents stocks of the Clan that come and go as time develops. Example for this are the Greek Larvae, who were said to burrow through soft rock with their teeth and to feed on their victims through strange serrated proboscises, the German Volsi, who were bog-dwelling giants and cannibals, the French Parisii, who have near translucent skin, and the Turkish Lazarenes, whose disfigurements are similar to those of leprosy. Many others are rumored to have existed once and have vanished with the Clan's focus on the sewer systems of major cities.
The most notable difference between 1st and later editions of Vampire is a bugfix. Nosferatu always fail any roll involving Appearance, and most of the first edition Obfuscate abilities involved Appearance rolls.
In V5, the Nosferatu's Bane changed: hideous and vile, all Nosferatu count as having the Repulsive Flaw (-2) and can never increase their rating in the Looks Merit. In addition, any attempt to disguise themselves as non-deformed incurs a penalty to the dice pool equal to the character's Bane Severity (this includes the Obfuscate powers Mask of a Thousand Faces and Manifold Guise). However, most do not break the Masquerade by just being seen. Their Compulsion is that the need to know permeates the vampire. They become consumed with a hunger for secrets, to know that which few or no one knows, almost as strong as that for blood. They also refuse to share secrets with others, except in strict trade for greater ones.
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