- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Organization
- 4 Clan Variants
- 5 Culture
- 6 Weaknesses
- 7 Version Differences
- 8 Trivia
- 9 Gallery
- 10 References
If someone were to call a Tzimisce inhuman and sadistic, the Tzimisce would probably commend them for their perspicacity, and then demonstrate that their mortal definition of sadism was laughably inadequate. The Tzimisce have left the human condition behind gladly, and now focus on transcending the limitations of the vampiric state. At a casual glance or a brief conversation, a Tzimisce appears to be one of the more pleasant vampires. Polite, intelligent, and inquisitive, they seem a stark contrast to the howling Sabbat mobs or even the apparently more humane Brujah or Nosferatu. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this is merely a mask hiding something alien and monstrous.
While Tzimisce is presumed dead at the fangs of Lugoj, the Tzimisce clan still holds their deceased founder in some reverence. Far more than their Darwinist Lasombra brethren, the Tzimisce are a clan of tradition and history, and while the founder may be dead, its ideals and quests still capture the minds of the Fiends.
What the Eldest originally was is open to debate, although only marginal interest - the Tzimisce consider humans to be clay at best, and the Eldest's mortal existence would be a trivial prelude to a far more important undead career. However, at least one legend among the Tzimisce suggests that the Eldest was an experiment. Enoch, seeking to expel all of his bestial qualities spat out his existence into an Embrace using a modification of the Protean discipline – the Beast, according to those Metamorphosists, who adopt this theory is not just rage, but also change, whimsy, intuition, and imagination, all traits that the Eldest showed after its Embrace. In this interpretation, the Eldest is not just a creature, but also a visible manifestation of Vicissitude.
The Eldest struck out early, eventually travelling to Eastern Europe, where it became tied to the land and Kupala, the demon of the area. Kupala's instruction of Tzimisce eventually culminated in an event known as Kupala's Night. Before the Deluge, and long before the rise of Rome, Tzimisce and its eldest and wisest childer gathered in the depths of the Carpathian mountains. Though the Lupines attempted to keep the demon-spirit imprisoned, the Tzimisce triumphed, and Kupala was set free – mostly. All of its chains to the mortal world were broken, save two: the Carpathian mountains, within which it had been bound for so long, and Tzimisce itself.
With the rest of the great demon freed, its only outlet was into the Clan, through the blood of the Antediluvian. The childer of the Eldest speak of a legendary single night in the Clan's history, during which their powers of Vicissitude were heightened to incredible levels, and their sorcerous magicks rivaled that of the gods. This was known as Kupala's Night – the night the Tzimisce Clan established their power and damned themselves for the rest of eternity.
Since Kupala's Night, the Clan has waged a private war with the werewolf tribes of Eastern Europe for custodianship of the Carpathians. Though any single werewolf is easily a match for an elder vampire, with the aid of koldunic sorcery and fleshcrafted war ghouls (vozhd), the Tzimisce eventually gained the upper hand, and from there largely drove off or slew the Lupines. Occasionally in later years, werewolf "crusades" were launched against the Carpathians, but the Tzimisce (oftentimes aided by Gangrel allies), kept the terrain free of their shamanistic influences.
In the Carpathians, the Eldest Embraced others, notably Yorak, Kartarirya, Byelobog, and the Dracon, each of these descendants spread both intellectually and physically around the world. While the Tzimisce are now noted for the madness and sadism of Metamorphosists like Yorak, creatures like the Dracon show an entirely different side – the Tzimisce are experimenters and creators, whether it be Constantinople or the Cathedral of Flesh.
The Tzimisce had little to do with Rome and its many conquests. Their real influence lay further eastward, in Constantinople. There, noted scholars such as Myca Vykos and the Dracon furthered the knowledge of the Clan in unheard-of ways. The city was the site of a major spiritual movement among Cainites: it seems that the Damned may not be so Damned after all. With this revelation, the Clan Tzimisce, along with many others (Malkavians, Brujah, even Nosferatu) could learn to enjoy the fruits of their decades-long labor and co-exist more-or-less peacefully among the mortals.
The Obertus order was involved in this movement most heavily, of all the Tzimisce lines. They had preserved quite a bit of the lost Library of Alexandria, making them some of the most well-read supernaturals in the world at that time.
The Tzimisce Voivodate, a loose confederation of Tzimisce domains in Eastern Europe, had survived since the fall of the Second City only to face new threats to its existence during the Dark Ages. The first threat to Tzimisce power in the region was the emergence of the Tremere. Though the magi of the Order of Hermes were a familiar presence in the region, they invoked the wrath of the neighboring vampires after prying the secret to vampirism from captured Tzimisce. House Tremere, led by Goratrix officially became Clan Tremere in the wake of the diablerie of Saulot. Despite making enemies of mortal magi, the Tzimisce, the Salubri and later the Gangrel and Nosferatu, the fledgling Tremere managed to survive the Omen War with the Tzimisce. Voivode of Voivodes Vladimir Rustovich's assault on the Tremere was interrupted by the invasion of the Ventrue under Jürgen of Magdeburg. While Jürgen's assault was ended through the efforts of Myca Vykos and the Obertus Order, the Omen War continued until the Anarch Revolt rendered the Tzimisce incapable of any real organized efforts as a clan. Despite the Warlocks' continued survival, most Tzimisce continue to bear a grudge against them into the modern era, though many younger Tzimisce fail to comprehend why. The Voivodate, and with it the feudal structure of Tzimisce society, would last only a few centuries longer.
- Main article: Anarch Revolt
- Kupala's Eve
- Diablerie of Tzimisce
- Founding of the Sabbat
Perhaps the most significant thing in the Victorian Age for the Tzimisce was the publishing of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Perhaps the most famous vampire novel (although by no means the first), it actually detailed a member of their clan (although a somewhat errant one). It introduced audiences to Transylvania, the home of the clan.
However, it was the Victorian Age that saw the beginnings of the Tzimisce's decline – once proud and aristocratic, the modernising of the world turned them into anachronistic jokes. The ease at which mortals could travel and communicate meant that the Fiends could no longer exist as lords and rulers of their own fiefdoms – troubling news of shambling monstrosities and villagers impaled on pikes would reach more civilised parts of the globe in no time.
Science began to shake the iron foundations of folklore and superstition that the Tzimisce had built their fearsome reputation on. This was truly a double-edged sword for the Clan. Their hated enemies, the Tremere had become very powerful during this time, and the peasants over which most of the Fiends ruled rose up against their masters. Once again burned from their rotting manses and forced to hide from the Kine, most considered the age a great indignity. However, the leaps and bounds made in medicine and the sciences during this time yielded both a new crop of potential childer and a new way to study the effects of mutable forms. The Tzimisce had always been students of a sort, and having biology and anatomy codified and much easier to learn, their own knowledge of the body expanded.
The Tzimisce are a clan in decline, and have been ever since the Anarch Revolt. However, only in the Final Nights do these events come to a head and only, until the last moment, in the head of one vampire.
Lambach Ruthven, an unwilling sire of Dracula, finds himself dissolute and wandering throughout Sabbat territory, haunted by occasional messages from his dead sire. Weak-willed and ineffective as Lambach is, he is still fifth generation and a major figure in the Anarch Revolt – respected (and feared), he is largely left alone by the cannibals of the Sabbat. He is eventually forced, or encouraged, or led to the sewers of New York City, where he finds a horrifying truth: Lugoj was destroyed that night, and [Tzimisce] "lives".
The Tzimisce Antediluvian, through advanced mastery of Vicissitude, has become a gigantic (miles-long) pseudo-fungal infestation under the tri-state area. Its consciousness is spread across thousands of creatures, and it can form bodies or new selves at will. It offers Lambach metamorphosis, a chance to be as it is as part of what it is. Lambach fled and tried to tell anyone who will listen, but the result is fruitless.
The Tzimisce who bother with politics still remain most populous in the Sabbat in these nights, but there is now also a non-insignificant number who have found their way within the Anarch Movement; especially younger, disenfranchised ones whose ambitions cannot find purchase in other domains, and must redirect their impulse to dominion beyond the old ways. Finally, although it is understood by both parties that their presence is barely tolerated, a few other Dragons still associate with the Camarilla, mainly for instrumental purposes.
The Old Clan also remains an unliving presence in modern nights, one notable name being the autarkis Mayumi Shibasaki, a powerful Kindred corporate who exerts a great deal of influence over the city of Tokyo.
Historically, the Tzimisce Embraced broods who maintained a particular plot of land. Tied to the land, Tzimisce broods were incestuous, violent hierarchies of hateful creatures who maintained a bare modicum of civility through raw power and the blood bond. The central government of the Tzimisce, so to speak, was the Council of Voivodes, guided by the Viceroy. The Viceroy was elected by his peers, but his tenure was set "for life". However, given the jealousy and suspicion among the Clan, there was a relatively regular progression of Viceroys, as one after another fell to the political or physical traps set by another ambitious clan member. The Council had anywhere from less than a dozen to nearly a hundred members during the Dark Ages, making it the single most influential factor in Clan politics.
With the elimination of this hierarchy during the Anarch Revolt, the Tzimisce have become intensely solitary creatures. They now tend to Embrace more unusual individuals, psychopaths and sadists are common choices as are people who indulge in self-mutilation, however intelligence and dignity are still key concerns: the Tzimisce would choose Hannibal Lecter over Leatherface any day of the month.
In the modern era, the Tzimisce have a recognized clan head, the voivode, but the office is largely religious. For most Tzimisce, authority is a function of power.
Tzimisce who have awakened their zulo shape (i.e., have achieved the fourth level of Vicissitude), who have at least one level of Koldunic sorcery, and/or who have demonstrated wisdom and loyalty to the sect and clan are known among the clan as zhupans. Zhupans are respected for their knowledge and power, and may "suggest" courses of action to lesser Tzimisce. The lesser Tzimisce are not required to heed a "suggestion," but ignoring a zhupan is considered extremely rude and will almost inevitably alienate the zhupan so snubbed.
Within the Sabbat, the Tzimisce are the spiritual leaders and scholars, in contrast with the Lasombra's preference for leadership and temporal power. While the Lasombra are the Cardinals and Bishops, the Tzimisce prefer being Pack Priests, Prisci, or even not having titles at all and focusing on personal development. Some people even ponder (out of earshot, of course) that the Tzimisce are not very sincere in their attachment to the sect, and that the only reasons they are even present amongst the Sabbat is their dislike of Camarilla clans (especially the Tremere) and not fitting with the Camarilla's policy of hiding among humans (Tzimisce tend to see humans as mere plaything below their consideration). However, those Tzimisce who show genuine dedication to the Sabbat ideal are paragons of their sect, impressing (and even scaring) other Sabbat with their fervor and contributions.
In Eastern Europe, however, many Tzimisce give only lip service to the Sabbat and prefer to live solitary unlives following their own pursuits. Most Sabbat give these Tzimisce leeway, since most of them are very old and very powerful. More than one upstart neonate has been toyed into an unrecognizable visceral mess by angry Tzimisce wanting to be left alone.
While all Tzimisce consider themselves scholars, scientists, and sorcerers of a sort, those who call themselves kolduns claim to be the first vampires to have mastered sorcery. It is uncertain if kolduns are a true variation of the blood or a title bestowed upon those who have mastered the eldritch energies of the land, but in any case, kolduns are rare and respected among the Tzimisce. Not all have the aptitude to properly harness and control the land's spirits in the practice of koldunism, and those who fail are incinerated by the unbound power. Those who succeed are Kolduns. Due to their unique ties to their ancestral soil, most Kolduns belong to the Old Clan, and the discipline is almost universal among them; most Tzimisce in the Sabbat lack the spiritual strength to master Koldunism, although exceptions are becoming increasingly common in the modern nights.
Old Clan Tzimisce
The younger generations of Tzimisce have taken to calling them the Old Clan Tzimisce, members of the Tzimisce clan who did not join the Sabbat or cultivate the use of Vicissitude, but they call themselves the Dracul and do not consider themselves a bloodline. Most of them are old (at least 500 years old, as they predate the formation of the Sabbat), of low generation and rule small domains almost exclusively in Eastern Europe.
The majority of Tzimisce elders met Final Death when the clan joined the Sabbat, but a fair number escaped their vindictive progeny. Securing their demesnes against the ravages of the Sabbat, these vampires continued to exist much as they had for centuries, albeit more warily.
Though some refer to these Tzimisce as the "Old Clan", that is a misnomer. These hoary vampires have little use for sect, clan, or other ties. They remember well the nights of old when each vampire was a law unto itself, and any other vampire was a potential enemy. (Note that like the surviving non-Sabbat Lasombra, Old Clan Tzimisce do not call themselves "antitribu".) Some of them have gathered in the Oradea League to fend off the sects who threaten their autonomy.
Accordingly, Old Clan Tzimisce society is structured around individual broods comprising a sire and one or more Blood Bound childer. Childer, for Old Clan Tzimisce, fill the roles of lovers, family, friends, bodyguards, and servants. Tzimisce mastery over the Blood Bond allows the sire to attune the emotions of his childer to the desired pitch. Thus, a vampire lover may be Blood Bound to feel all-consuming desire for the sire, a guard may be Blood Bound for loyalty, and a mate may be "programmed" for love. The fact that these emotions are artificial and one-sided rarely bothers the sire.
Old Clan Tzimisce rarely congregate. Other Tzimisce are, if anything, even less trustworthy than other vampires. Indeed, many Old Clan Tzimisce spend more time brooding over some millennia-old, centuries-forgotten slight by one of their "peers" than they do worrying about the genuine threat that the Sabbat poses. This is not to say that Old Clan Tzimisce have forgotten their traitorous progeny. On the contrary, many Old Clan Tzimisce have gone so far as to disown younger Tzimisce entirely. These Tzimisce, the Old Clan claims, are not vampires at all, but fleshly hosts for otherworldly parasites called "Asakku" or play-doh for the Antediluvian once it rises again. This distinction seems to be based on the possession of Vicissitude, although some ancient non-Sabbat Tzimisce have verifiably possessed Vicissitude for millennia.
Some Sabbat whisper that a few Old Clan childer have been rendered immune to the Vinculum by their elders and sent into the world with the purpose of infiltrating the Sabbat and bringing it down. The clan publicly scoffs at these rumors, but some high-ranking Sabbat have expressed private unease about such a prospect.
According to Old Clan lore, before Enoch was swept from the firmament by the wrath the Deluge wrought, the Eldest, in his wandering, found a well. Around the well he found a city in veneration to entities who, like he, enshrouded themselves in the bowels of the earth, possessed of a horrific grace rivaling his own. The city’s kine cried out in forbidden tongues against him, but the language therein supplied only succor and soothed the Eldest. Their rituals he found wanting, their depravities and atrocities no more than children dressing in the cloth of their parents’ emulation. He educated them, and was in turn enlightened. Infused with this new wisdom, the Old Clan guided by the Eldest bored deeply into the heart of the Carpathians; there the Eldest caged, bound, and tamed the demon Kupala, crucifying the spirit to the Clan and shackling it to his will. Cleverly, by intent of the Eldest, the demon found purchase in the Antediluvian and spread itself through his blood — only the Old Clan was spared the indignity. In the eyes of the Old Clan, their kinsmen from main clan have not the clarity of vision to see the lesson of the master, adrift in bowed supplication to the manipulations of his pet, Kupala. They are the medium exercising the Eldest’s own grand and beautiful project. They are not his students; they are his art, blind to their true purpose, and unworthy of his teachings. The Old Clan pity the main Clan, recognizing them as vessels of the Eldest and not individuals in their own right — speaking at them, rather than to them in meetings, regarding any interactions as a means of direct communication with the Eldest.
Strictly speaking, there are no Tzimisce antitribu. They are not widely political creatures to begin with; merely territorial, and their choices of allegiance reflect this.
The vast majority of politicized Tzimisce do belong squarely to the Sabbat, and most others are younger Dragons who have joined the Anarchs in search of greener pastures. There is barely even a handful of Tzimisce in the Camarilla, and those few are only there for personal reasons, and tend to leave once their objectives are completed. The presence of the Tremere virtually guarantees that the Tzimisce have no interest in remaining. It cannot be said that there is enough of an ideological difference to be found in these exceptions, or enough members to constitute an antitribu bloodline: these exceptions simply prove the rule of how they behave and operate.
Even before the rise of the Sabbat, the Tzimisce viewed their mortal charges as little more than a sophisticated form of herd beast; following the Anarch revolt, the majority of Tzimisce have abandoned lordship in favor of their own projects. To purify their thought and detach themselves from human subjectivity, Tzimisce either founded or developed the various Sabbat Paths of Enlightenment. These beliefs and rituals serve diverse purposes: engendering solidarity among vampires, providing new habits to replace human-learned ones, and fostering an understanding of what it means to be a vampire. As a result, the Tzimisce are intensely focused on the Vampiric condition: they gladly abandon their Humanity in favor of the Paths of Enlightenment, and they have spent more time thinking about their state than any other clan. One of the immediate results of this is that Sabbat culture is derived from medieval Tzimisce culture; traditions such as Vaulderie derive from Tzimisce custom.
Tzimisce culture, philosophy, and self-image are intimately tied with their practice of Vicissitude. The Tzimisce view Vicissitude as a key to higher mysteries of the vampiric state, and consequently see deeper mastery of Vicissitude as part and parcel with vampiric enlightenment. Tzimisce almost invariably modify their own appearance using Vicissitude, sometimes on a nightly basis.
Tzimisce also use Vicissitude as a solution to a variety of problems that would not occur to a vampire possessed of a conscience. Unlike the other rulership clans (e.g., the Ventrue or Lasombra), Tzimisce have no particular facility for Dominate. As a result, they rule their subjects not by mind control, but through sheer fear, using creative applications of Vicissitude to strike that fear home. Giant sculptures of living flesh, tables made from ghouled children, lovers glued together and transformed into dogs, all of these are tools for a sufficiently insightful Tzimisce. The most infamous of these creations, the szlachta and vozhd, are used as bodyguards and tanks.
The Tzimisce are also the last practitioners of a form of Koldunic Sorcery.
A particularly interesting phenomenon which is practically exclusive to the Tzimisce is the existence of Revenants. Revenants are families of ghouls maintained continuously by the Tzimisce, who serve as mortal pawns and possible candidates for the Embrace. Centuries of vampiric contact, infusions of vampiric blood and inbreeding have transformed the Revenants into a distinct type of supernatural creature. They produce a weak vampiric-like vitae, which sustains their bodies far beyond average human lifespans (although not immortal, Revenants can live to be hundreds of years old), and also gives them the ability to use Disciplines. Revenants are fanatically loyal to their vampiric masters and consider themselves superior to the average human, as well as "regular" ghouls. This, added to their treatment by the Tzimisce and their inbred, unsavory lifestyles, have shaped their mindsets into completely alien directions. Most Revenants could never function as normal human beings. The four Revenant families also provide the Tzimisce with a very diverse "breeding stock," giving the clan much flexibility in its membership. Warriors, scholars, aristocrats, and freaks are all found in equal measure amongst the Revenants, and this translates to them being found amongst the Tzimisce as well, once they Embrace the Revenants in question. Although there are other Revenant families in the World Of Darkness, the four Tzimisce families (the Bratovitches, the Obertus, the Grimaldi, and the Zantosas) are the biggest and most well established. What follows is a description of the four families:
- The Bratovitches are the muscle of the four families. Violent and animalistic, they are quick to anger, rough and savage. They are also the kennel masters for their lords, raising dogs, wolves and other wild animals so that their masters may shape them into fearsome creatures they may hurl at their foes.
- The Grimaldi are the Tzimisce's primary liaison with human society. They are the most "human" of the Revenant families and are usually in charge of maintaining Tzimisce estates and handling mortal endeavors like finance and politics. They are also the most independent of the Revenant families, some of them even secretly plotting to free themselves from their masters' yoke. Other Revenant families see the Grimaldi as soft and hold them in contempt. The Grimaldi return the favor, seeing the other families as mindless slaves and freaks.
- The Obertus are scholars and occultists and are held in high esteem by the Tzimisce, as many of their most celebrated scientists, spiritualists, leaders, and sorcerers have been Embraced from their ranks. Sascha Vykos, the most famous (and notorious) Priscus of the Sabbat, was Myka Vykos adopted of the Obertus family (but formerly Magus of House Tremere).
- While the Grimaldi are the Tzimisce's pawns in mortal society, the Zantosas are their main link to culture. Zantosas are hedonistic social butterflies, on par with any Toreador in their dealings with human culture. They stimulate their senses and play with humans with reckless abandon. They are probably the Revenants in the least control of themselves (even more so than the Bratovitches), and many believe the only reason the Tzimisce have not wiped them out is because they value their tradition and history. The Fiends' anachronistic mindset may be the only thing saving the Zantosas from annihilation.
The Tzimisce are unique in how much their culture is centered around their signature Discipline, Vicissitude. This unique and quite disturbing Discipline allows the Tzimisce to shape flesh and blood (both living and unliving) into practically any shape they can think of. Their exploration of it rivals (some people even say surpasses) that of the Tremere towards Thaumaturgy, and the Tzimisce ascribe a spirituality that contrasts with the Tremere's practical view of their own Discipline. This results in most Tzimisce not looking at all like humans, having shaped themselves into alien or monstrous forms, or even looking beyond human, having sculpted themselves into paragons of mortal beauty canons, more beautiful than any human created by nature. In fact, this exploration of the Discipline, along with their studies into how it affects the body, mind, and soul of the user or subject of its use, have led to whole philosophies being based around it, particularly the Path of Metamorphosis (it also facilitates studies in the other Tzimisce path of enlightenment, the Path of Death and the Soul). Rumors of [Tzimisce]'s godlike proficiency with the Discipline have given way to the Fiends giving it an almost religious importance. While other clans may have their own personal Disciplines (like the Gangrel's Protean, or the Assamites' Quietus), none base their unlives around them like the Tzimisce do with Vicissitude.
It is an unpleasant fact to some Kindred that a large portion of the Tzimisce culture revolves around ways and means of hurting other beings. Many Kindred would understandably prefer to ignore or gloss over this aspect of the clan. Still, Tzimisce are dubbed Fiends for a good reason, and information from that perceived evil that is the Clan Tzimisce may be particularly useful to those used to a more benevolent Camarilla perspective.
Psychological preparation is vital for any torture session and Tzimisce disciplines are admirably suited to this. Vicissitude allows the torturer to assume a shape appropriate for the situation. Perhaps an incredibly beautiful member of the gender to which the victim is attracted, to heighten their shame; or an impossibly hideous one, to heighten the revulsion and terror; or even the form of the victim's worst enemy, or closest friend. Auspex allows the Tzimisce to discover the victim's phobias and dirty little secrets, and to discern which areas of the victim's body are particularly sensitive.
Tzimisce disciplines also vastly aid in the actual torture session. Vicissitude allows the torturer to become his own toolkit, reforming his extremities (or the victim's extremities) into a variety of intrusive implements, perfectly shaped to fit the victim (or, not quite fit, as the case may be). Then, too, the sight of one's bones heaving of their own accord through one's skin is always disconcerting—and it becomes difficult to find release in a scream when one's tongue has been grafted to the roof of one's mouth. Animalism allows for a variety of noxious creatures (particularly those inspiring panic in the victim) to be summoned and precisely directed around, on top of, or even into the victim.
Of course, common physical torture has its limits, and this is particularly true concerning Kindred. Most Elders worthy of that title have experienced massive body trauma at least once during their unlife and thus, are somewhat numb to the usual concept of pain. Moreover, Kindred scoff at threats that would break many mortals, such as amputation or castration, given their regenerative capabilities. Moreover, how does one threaten a Nosferatu with disfigurement? Sometimes even mortals display surprising resilience.
Unfortunately for such victims, Tzimisce are equally skilled at emotional torture. Centuries of unlife have given Tzimisce torturers an uncanny degree of psychological insight into the way the human, and Kindred mind operate. Furthermore, Tzimisce control over the Blood Bond provides torturers with a variety of fiendish new ways to hurt their victims. For example, two Kindred may be forcibly Blood Bound to one another and then one painstakingly disfigured before the other's eyes. Alternatively, the Tzimisce may break one victim's Bond, while leaving the other still Bound; then the un-Bound victim may then be re-Bound to the torturer and induced to inflict physical or emotional pain on the other remaining victim. Tzimisce may also, through rituals, can cause already Bound beings to feel emotions other than love. A victim capable of bearing the most atrocious wounds without flinching may be utterly broken by a contemptuous slap from the hand of the now hostile love (or childer).
The rights and treatment of guests forms an indelible part of Tzimisce culture. There are many archaic rules concerning deportment, manners, greetings, goodbyes, allowances, and settlement of grievances, but there are a few Clan-wide obligations that are always honored. A guest of the Tzimisce is entitled to several things:
- Shelter and nourishment for three days and three nights (not counting the night of arrival)
- The protection of the host against third-party aggressors
- Suspension of inter-family grievances for the duration of the stay
- The best quarters in the home of the host (up to and including the host's own chambers)
However, the guest also has a few obligations that makes them worthy of such special treatment
- A ritual exchange of gifts or services (on arriving, departing, or sometimes both)
- Respecting the host's boundaries and property
- Not needlessly angering the host or any of his family
- Not staying any longer than the requisite three days and three nights unless invited to.
The balance of these laws is to ensure that no advantage is taken of either the host or guest – a Fiend's honor can be completely shattered by infringing upon either one of these sets of rules. Given the warfare that exists between lineages of Tzimisce, exercising patience and honoring these laws is a way to ensure that there is always a sort of "neutral ground" where combative families can meet and prevent any further outrages.
The older a Tzimisce is, the more seriously they treat these laws, for they remember the nights when the only shelter to be had was in the domain of a rival voivode, when travel was arduous and only undertaken when necessary. Most elder Tzimisce respect these laws in the modern nights, but their grandchilder may not even be aware that these laws exist, much less still enforced in their ancestors' domains. Minor breaches can be forgiven, though some effort must be made to show that the trespasser is apologetic. Major breaches can fix a Tzimisce's reputation in a very bad way – slaughtering guests during the day is a sure way to make sure no one comes to visit you, or ever wants to make a deal.
Historically, the Tzimisce have viewed mortal life as largely irrelevant before the Embrace. While they do look for specific mortal characteristics, they tend to see this as the barest flicker of potential rather than a compelling argument. Tzimisce Embraces are supremely selfish – often based on specific obsessions or interests of the sire, rather than any distinctive characteristic of the childe. Those with interests matching their own are particularly prized, and many Tzimisce childer were masters of their field in life – whether this field was medicine or serial murder is a trifling distinction though.
That said, the Tzimisce have a reputation for choosiness, largely from a general disdain for mortals. The Tzimisce have partly addressed this by instituting breeding programs among mortals, resulting in ghoul families such as the Bratovitch or Zantosa line, which serve as the preferred fodder for an Embrace.
It seems curious that the Tzimisce are a clan that has Embraced many non-humans. Among their childer were magi, shamans, prophets or some other exotic creatures (particularly the Shadow Lords kinfolk and some even speculate about fairy blood running through Tzimisce veins). We can assume that this disposition may emanate from the Elders who refused to define themselves in mortal terms, or even from those sires in search of a better symbiosis between their vampiric powers and those of magical blood.
The Tzimisce clan weakness dictates that whenever a Tzimisce sleeps, they must surround themselves with at least two handfuls of earth from a place important to them as a mortal. Failure to meet this requirement halves the Tzimisce's dice pools every 24 hours, until all their actions use only one die. This penalty remains until they rest for a full day amid their earth once more.
Grounded: Each Tzimisce must choose a specific charge — a physical domain, a group of people, an organization, or even something more esoteric — but clearly defined and limited. The Kindred must spend their daysleep surrounded by their chosen charge. Historically this has often meant slumbering in the soil of their land, but it can also mean being surrounded by that which they tonight rule: a certain kind of people, a building deeply tied to their obsession, a local counterculture faction, or other, more outlandish elements. If they do not, they sustain aggravated Willpower damage equal to their Bane Severity upon waking the following night.
Covetousness: when a Tzimisce suffers a Compulsion, the Kindred becomes obsessed with possessing something in the scene, desiring to add it to their proverbial hoard. This can be anything from an object to a piece of property to an actual person. Any action not taken toward this purpose incurs a two-dice penalty. The Compulsion persists until ownership is established (the Storyteller decides what constitutes ownership in the case of a non-object) or the object of desire becomes unattainable.
- When they originally appeared in Second Edition (Players Guide to the Sabbat, Storytellers Handbook to the Sabbat, Clanbook: Tzimisce) the Tzimisce symbol was simply a letter T in a wax imprint design.
- Between second and revised edition, the Tzimisce were subject to a controversial change imposed in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand. The sourcebook introduced the concept of Souleaters, alien entities who reproduced by spreading the Vicissitude discipline. As the clan of Vicissitude, the Tzimisce were hosts for the souleater disease. Souleaters were retconned out of the World of Darkness history, but some rules (notably Vicissitude as a disease) were maintained.
There was a Byzantine Emperor John I whose nickname "Tzimiskes" was derived either from the Armenian Chmushkik (Չմշկիկ), meaning "red boot", or from an Armenian word for "short stature".
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