The Ventrue have long been one of the proudest lines of vampires. Its members work hard to maintain a reputation for honor, genteel behavior, and leadership. A sense of noblesse oblige has long pervaded the clan, accompanied by the genuine belief that the Ventrue know what is best for everyone. They not only consider themselves the oldest clan, but see themselves as the enforcers of tradition and the rightful leaders of Kindred society.
They have long been Embraced from the ranks of nobility and privilege, whether kings or merchant princes, but they have also been known as knights and warlords who sought to live by the laws of chivalry and duty. If anything, the Ventrue have adapted to fill the roles of leadership over the ages, and in the Final Nights are more politician than noble warrior, more CEO than baron lord. They remain the largest supporters of the Camarilla and the Masquerade, believing both institutions to be the surest means of protecting vampires from the growing mortal masses, and of guarding their own power.
The Ventrue cherish history more so than any other clan, believing it to be a worthy guide to live by and to justify their positions of authority today. This is not to say that they have any particular obsession with the truth – a myth can be much more powerful than the real thing, after all. But they take history very seriously, a fact that is no doubt aided by their tale being one of conquests and grand achievements the likes of which few other clans can boast. To hear them say it, their claim to fame begins in the early days of vampire history with Caine himself commanding his eldest childe Ynosch to Embrace the Ventrue Founder, who they believe to be the first member of the Third Generation and who is often called Ventru. He was to be Caine's advisor in the nights of the First City, and when the Dark Father prepared to leave he chose to hand the burden of stewarding his people to Ventru. Through this story the Ventrue justify their position of superiority and leadership over the other clans, just as they believe their progenitor led the other Antediluvians for a time.
The first major achievement of the Ventrue is attributed to Artemis with the creation of militant Sparta. Wary of the mortal masses even in those ancient nights, Artemis saw promise in the ideas of the philosopher Lycurgus and supported him, seeking to make the humans a tool to be used rather than fought, and eventually making herself Sparta's patron goddess. They would soon become the perfect example mortal potential in her eyes: loyal, brave, and completely devoted to self-perfection. Sensing the rising power, other Ventrue gathered to become a part of the Spartan war machine, urging the neighboring City-states to ally with Sparta while establishing their own domains within the Peloponnesian League. This also made possible the rise of the mercantile city of Corinth and its Prince Evarchus, who exemplified the power of wealth in a role for all Ventrue to follow.
The growing power of Sparta and the Brujah alliance in Athens would lead to the first Brujah War, a conflict that would set the stage for a bitter rivalry between the two clans millennia afterwards. Though the Brujah or Ventrue never came directly to blows in the conflict, the eventual invasion of Athens led by Lysander caused many Brujah and Toreador to regard the Ventrue as power mad barbarians, while Spartan Ventrue considered the Brujah dangerous idealists.
After Sparta's fall, the rise of Rome signaled one of the clan's greatest ages. Many Ventrue had long settled in the region and lived relatively quietly while it was ruled by the Etruscans. Nevertheless, the rebellion that freed the Roman people was attributed to Collat, who would become the city's first Prince. Recognizing the mortals of Rome to be a proud and superstitious people that would sooner stake any vampires than consider living with them let alone beneath them, Collat did not seek to rule the Romans directly or make himself a deity as vampires in the past had done, but influenced events from behind the scenes by collecting favors from the city's citizens. This system would later be refined by Camilla, childe of Collat, who replaced his sire and set about establishing political connections with the patrician families of Rome. Instead of using Disciplines to force his will on the city's leaders, Collat ruled through ghoul proxies delivering favors and contacts, allowing him to grow rich and powerful while the mortals remained ignorant. This strategy would be widely adopted in the centuries to follow and would serve the clan well once the Masquerade was adopted.
The second Brujah War would parallel that of Rome and Carthage, where Brujah, Assamites, and even Baali ruled the mortals openly, demanding blood and sacrifices while living as gods. In such contrast to what the Patricians had fostered in Rome, the African nation was seen as a den of infernalists and monsters. Despite Lysander's repeated efforts to convince Camilla, the war with Carthage would not begin until a Brujah named Dominic antagonized the Malkavian Prince of Syracuse, Alchias. Alchias turned to Artemis and supposedly the bull-dancer Arikel for help, and the three made plans with Lysander to arrange the war. Cainites largely avoided direct fighting during the first two Punic Wars, but in the final assault Ventrue, Toreador, Malkavians, and Gangrel of Rome battled openly alongside the Romans against the people of Carthage. In the end both sides were greatly wounded, but the Ventrue prevailed, and the Brujah would never forgive them for destroying their fabled city.
In the years that followed Rome prospered. The Ventrue shared its power with many of the other clans that had taken part in the wars against Carthage, establishing friendships with other Cainites even as the Ventrue themselves began squabbling with one another. Most Patricians of the time were independent, with the only organization of the clan being a largely ineffectual assembly that eventually fell out of practice. Following the cue of Julius Caesar, Camilla reorganized the Ventrue into a structure that gave authority over the clan's members to the most important Ventrue in the region. While the power over the younger and less important Ventrue was not absolute, it did create a means for settling disputes, establishing connections, and identifying friends and enemies of the clan. These reforms served the clan well, and the Patricians prospered for several centuries until the empire itself dissolved.
When Rome fell, most of the Ventrue elite abandoned the ruined city to establish new centers of power elsewhere. During the rise of the Merovingian dynasty in Frankia (later the Holy Roman Empire), the Ventrue began infiltrating existing government as feudal lords, thus taking credit for the creation and expansion of the medieval feudal system. As the Frankish state expanded into Germany and Italy, the Ventrue began to prosper once again. When the Holy Roman Empire was dispersed, the Ventrue moved their center of power to Italy. However, since Rome was dominated by the Lasombra (as was much of the Church), the Ventrue established centers of power elsewhere in Italy, in Venice, Milan, Genoa, and Firenze. Here, the Ventrue constantly opposed the Lasombra (and their proxies in the church and in Rome) in their quest for power, as their own early efforts had not succeeded. Posing as kings and merchant princes, the Ventrue expanded their influence across the Mediterranean through trade routes and crusades, thus becoming again a force to be reckoned with.
During these times, many Ventrue were influenced by the laws of chivalry and personal honor. Some of these separated themselves from the main clan during the founding of the Camarilla and turned to the Sabbat.
1800s England was a good time to be Ventrue. The combination of centuries-old feudalism with the nouveau riche middle class served to keep the Ventrue at the top of the power structure. From there, they could oversee both international politics and the finances of an entire country.
Many Ventrue childer, already hungry for territories of their own, were sent to colonies through the British Empire, creating Camarilla beachheads in India, Australia, and Egypt. The vampires who already occupied these regions (primarily Ravnos and Daitya in India, and Setites in Egypt) faced years of vicious propaganda declaring them to be heathens, savages, and worse. Most people - both Kindred and kine - adopted these views wholesale, making the work of controlling popular opinion that much easier for the Ventrue. If a Ventrue wanted to increase profit from a mine in Africa, all they had to do was spread the word that the mine's workers were closet heretics, justifying the decline of pay and living conditions. The Danava of India were able to invoke their historical connection with the Ventrue to leverage themselves into a position resembling neutrality, at least on the surface. After over a century, the native Daitya were able to eventually wrest control of India back from the foreign British Ventrue.
Not all Ventrue were robber-barons and misanthropes, but enough of them were to make vampiric opinion turn against them for the first time since the founding of the Camarilla. The Toreador were repulsed by the Ventrue obsession with money and political gains; the Tremere had more important things to worry about than who was Prince of a small English town; the Gangrel were treated as servants and animals when they were not being hunted down.
The Ventrue made just enough compromises to smooth things over, at least with any Kindred whom they could make use of; it was during this time that the Ventrue learned to temper their cutthroat business dealings with an outward veneer of philanthropy. They remained, of course, a clan out for profit and prestige, but there is no reason not to remain civil while doing so. This policy was put to the test in the New World, where the Ventrue spread West across North America and provided much of the impetus for doing so: The clan's money could sponsor quite a few landstaking ventures and West Coast mines, and wherever cities sprang up so did Ventrue interests.
The years following the World Wars have seen Clan Ventrue reassert itself once more over a half-century of troubles and decline. The clan thrived during the four-decade cold war, taking full advantage of the paranoid on both sides to make massive profits and sink its tendrils into the growing government bureaucracies that came to dominate industrialized governments. Having learned a valuable lesson from the debacle of the Crusades, savvy Ventrue have determined to hold their resources together despite the mortal conflict raging around them. Ventrue on both sides of the Iron Curtain worked in concert, watching their respective "governments" act against one another for the greatest advantage. The Ventrue were particularly fond of the various incarnations of secret police that came into existence, finding them an excellent way to keep the kine in line and under supervision. In the West, the Ventrue concentrated on the recovering European industries, all but abandoning the last of their feudal and noble ties for big business and majority shares in multinational corporations.
When the Cold War ended, the few former Communist Bloc Ventrue who did manage to cultivate some degree of influence found themselves stripped of power just as the governments they supported had been. A decade later, these Ventrue are still trying to recover while Western Ventrue-owned companies step into the dismal economies and invest heavily in national infrastructures. As a result, a number of Ventrue in the East – particularly in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine – have turned to organized crime as a new field of influence.
The Ventrue are second only to the Tremere in terms of organization and interrelation, and take pride in the fact that every clan member has a place and knows just where he stands within the clan in relation to everyone else. Of course, the system is not at all like some military organization.
Acquiring dignitas is the only way to advance in Ventrue society. One does not necessarily ascend a ladder of advancement from rank to rank. Rather, members can move through the (largely honorific) system as their abilities and fortunes decree. The Ventrue feel that this system allows them more flexibility and lets them spot new talents within the clan and reward it, if desirable.
The clan elders often point this latter facet of the system out to young Kindred who are anxious and frustrated at the lackluster success of their own unlives. The system borrows heavily from the Roman Republic's political institutions. Although the democratic elements of that system were stripped away long ago, the overall structure and some of the names remain.
Clan Internal Structure
The Clan is headed by the Ephorate, which arbitrates intra-Clan disputes, chooses the representative for the Inner Circle of the Camarilla and maintain the unity of the Clan in the face of global issues (although only Ventrue in power positions, like princes or primogen are actively inclined to heed them). Other influential figures within the Clan are the Strategoi, who enforce the dominance of the Ephorate along geographic regions. As agents of the strategoi act the Lictors, who often specialize in a specific field (finances, warfare etc.). On a more local scale, the Tribune acts as a messenger to a Ventrue in a political position, often to alert him of the directives set by the Ephorate.
Clan Internal Structure within a city
Inside cities, the Ventrue organize themselves into an institution called the Gerousia, (or simply "Board" in modern nights). This Council effectively adjudicates Ventrue concerns within the city, overseeing Ventrue business and political interests within a domain. The Board is officially headed by the Praetor, who brings issues before the rest of the Board and hosts their meetings. Below the Praetors are the Aediles, who aid the Council and Praetor just as supervisors assist managers in a business. By their turn, the Questors act as assistants for their elder (or otherwise experienced) Ventrue. Finally, below the Questors lie the common Ventrue, without a formal title or useful experience to the Clan - they are called Eiren.
The El Hijazi are a distinctive lineage of Ventrue. Unlike the main body of the Clan - who are traditionally associated with the Romans or Christian Europeans - El Hijazi bloodline claims descent from native Arabian lineages. They have adopted Islam and are accepted as part of the Ashirra, but they are also relatively few in number. Nonetheless they wield considerable political, financial and even religious power in the Arabian Peninsula. They claim rulership over several Saudi Arabian cities, including Riyadh. However, they do not have any particular differences from more "mainstream" Ventrue that would qualify them as a bloodline.
The Ventrue antitribu are the knights and paladins of the Sabbat, sworn to combat the Antediluvians and bring down the degenerate Camarilla. They see their Camarilla counterparts as failures, and have assumed the roles of the race of Cainites' saviors to atone for this. They believe mortals to be ignorant cattle, sufficient only for food and service to their terrible vampire lords. To accept anything less is to take the path of the disgraced Ventrue of the Camarilla, and the Sabbat Ventrue are not willing to accept that failure.
Ventrue obsession with the purity of their own breeding causes them to find the idea of "impure" Ventrue bloodlines displeasing. Under such social pressure, if an offshoot bloodline ever came into existence and managed to survive, it most likely did so by pretending to be nothing other than pureblood Ventrue. Such is the case within Camarilla territory anyway; outside of Camarilla territory is a different story...
Ventrue culture places a heavy emphasis on dignitas, the Latin word for "dignity." In modern days, it is often described as "Face". Ventrue are completely aware of the unsavory aspects of power, and while a Ventrue leader is just as likely to lead organized crime as he is a Fortune 500 company (the Ventrue really do not object to theft, so much as petty theft), he must always comport himself with dignity, with grace and with honor. At least publically. Ventrue take assaults on their stature very seriously. Spreading rumors, taking credit for another's work and insulting a Ventrue without just cause (publicly or privately) are just a few of the ways one can diminish dignitas. Doing so is a sure way to make an enemy for all unlife, and it can indeed be cause for severe punishment or discipline.
Perhaps no tradition sets the Ventrue more apart from other clans than their Ethic Succor. While other clans, such as the Tremere, are closely knit and often support members, no clan has the same “no excuses, no exceptions” practice of coming to each other's assistance in times of need. Many Blue Bloods credit this tradition as the foundation for the clan's continuing strength. Respecting other Ventrue means not violating their territory, not competing with them in their established holdings and, most importantly, not impugning their dignitas. It also means that a Ventrue gives aid to a fellow when in need, no matter how damned inconvenient doing so might prove be.
As the products of five millennia of noble upbringing, class and culture, the Ventrue place great importance on gentility. Ventrue etiquette can become quite complex, especially in Europe where deathless standards persist unto the modern nights. Things are often less formal in the New World, but only by comparison. Even the most casual of Old World cities usually seems stodgy and overly polite by modern standards. For the Ventrue, politeness means more than just carrying on with traditional ways and means. It serves some very important functions, especially when it comes to making sure that individual clan members can overcome their petty personal differences and respect the social structure. By nature, Kindred are excitable creatures, prone to holding grudges and overreacting to insults. Add in the average Ventrue's regard for his dignitas, and politeness becomes not only a matter of manners but a matter of survival. Interacting with one another in a sophisticated, polite and admittedly distant manner helps alleviate the threat of flaring tempers. As a clan devoted to proud detail and tradition, the Ventrue have managed to accumulate a code of conduct large enough to fill several weighty tomes (not that they have ever collected them thus). “Suggestions” can be found that govern everything from what color clothing to wear at Board meetings to what kinds of presents to give at deathnight celebration.
According to their own oral history and annals, the Ventrue have Embraced only those “worthy” of the honor. Nobles, religious leaders, and great military men have all found their way into Clan Ventrue over the centuries. The Ventrue have high standards of admittance into their ultra-exclusive club of undead. Neonates who fail to meet the clan's benchmark find themselves shunned by their blood-siblings, left out of important opportunities, and otherwise disadvantaged. Many would-be sires discuss their potential childer with their elders (often their own sires) before the Embrace, thus gauging the new Ventrue's acceptance into proper society.
Even after the Embrace, the fledgling has to pass a training regimen, known as the agoge, in order to be accepted as a full Clan member. They must learn the ins and outs of Ventrue etiquette and traditions quickly, all while learning to master their undead potential and discover their place within Camarilla and Kindred society. The agoge demands that the sire test his childe constantly, quizzing him on facts and challenging his understanding. Many sires prefer Socratic tests, as well, teaching their childer more as they assimilate previous knowledge. Failure or missteps result in withering insults and even physical pain. When the Ventrue is deemed acceptable by his sire, he introduces himself officially before the prince of the domain and passes the first part of the agoge. After another period of training, the young Ventrue is groomed to introduce himself before the Board. To prove his worth, the sire poses a challenge to the neonate. The young Kindred must go forth on her own and establish a domain of influence with the city without the assistance of any other Ventrue. If the neonate succeeds, she is taken before the assembled Board members of the local Ventrue. She then gives a full accounting of herself, clan traditions, history and how she met the final challenge. Ritual then has the assembled clan vote on whether the neonate should be accepted into the clan. In reality, only the dullest sire places a childe before the Board without first making sure that the Gerousia finds her acceptable. The assembled clan then assents to the Kindred's acceptance unanimously (those still strongly opposed may remain silent if they wish). The praetor then asks the neonate a series of ritual questions devised by any Ventrue who cared to proffer one. In answering them, the neonate also recites her lineage and promises to uphold the traditions of both the clan and the Camarilla.
No ancestors are as important in the Ventrue lineage as the Fourth generation Methuselahs. Each of their lines of descendants manifest certain traits habitually, fuelling claims they possess blood more potent than other Clans. Scholars of the vitae postulate each Methuselah spawns a new bloodline, but learned Ventrue refute such speculation. Up to date, clan members trace their lineage back up to to seven ancestors:
- Alexander, whose brood are known for passion, oratory resonance, and skills in convincing even the clenched fists of nobles and bishops to give up coin and deeds to territory. Alexander’s childer and grandchilder also possess a reputation for loose tempers and fits of frenzy.
- Antonius, whose descendants are known for a predisposition towards tactical thinking and administration, and in modern nights are part of churches and cults that seek to reclaim the Constantinople Dream, ushering in a new age of prosperity and cooperation.
- Arakur, whose brood have achieved fame based on displays of immense personal power, oftentimes cruel or inhumane, and are tragically prone to bad decisions, reputed to include diablerie, communion with devils, and hubris.
- Mithras, whose line exemplifies pride and power, displaying unassailability both in the court and on the battlefield, as well as being allegedly impervious to flame, characteristics interwoven into the beliefs and practices of the Mithraic mysteries and cult.
- Nefer-meri-Isis, whose descendants exhibit acute awareness, with a reputation for self-sufficiency, and a resistance to obeying orders.
- Artemis Orthia, whose line are known for destroying their enemies through force of arms, building great warrior herds and fanatically loyal armies, and for seizing the glory they believe they are due through violent power.
- Tinia, whose descendants have a passion for discovery, seeking new knowledge and powers to continuously expand their domains, at times with dire consequences.
However, lines of higher generation elders have also risen to prominence in recent nights:
- Hardestadt, descendants of the Camarilla luminaire, known for their poweful voices and talent for command.
- Lodin, descendants of the former Prince of Chicago, known for their hardiness.
Due to their inherent clan weakness, Ventrue have exacting and rarefied tastes. Even when it comes to blood. As such, every descendant of this clan suffers from a feeding restriction that renders them incapable of feeding on anyone other than very particular mortals (e.g. only young men, only senators, only frightened children, only virgins, etc.). The type of preferred vessel may be any type of person of some significance to them—and some are so severely restricted they can only feed from one specific person—but the Ventrue will not feed on any other type of blood. Not even if starving or under duress. Attempting such brings no nourishment whatsoever.
Newly-Embraced Ventrue who have yet to develop such preferences are an exception. Until they find their preferred vessel, they can experiment freely. But the moment they get a taste of their preferred blood, they are forever unable to take sustenance from any others. Only in the most exceptional circumstances, when a preferred vessel type is entirely unavailable (e.g. certain nationalities no longer existing), may a Ventrue change their feeding restriction. And even then, said Ventrue still develops a new feeding restriction. This restriction applies only to mortal blood however, and a Ventrue may feed from vampiric vitae without any such restrictions.
Rarefied Tastes: In V5, the Ventrue's Bane is almost the same as ever. When a Ventrue drinks blood from any mortal outside their preference, a profound exertion of will is required or the blood taken surges back up as scarlet vomit. Preferences range greatly, from Ventrue who can only feed from genuine brunettes, individuals of Swiss descent, or homosexuals, to others who can only feed from soldiers, mortals who suffer from PTSD, or methamphetamine users. Ventrue can sense if a mortal possesses the blood they require. If Ventrue want to feed from anything but their preferred victim, they must spend Willpower points equal to the character’s Bane Severity.
Arrogance: the need to rule rears its head in the vampire. They stop at nothing to assume command of a situation. Someone must obey an order from the vampire. Any action not directly associated with leadership receives a two-dice penalty. This Compulsion lasts until an order has been obeyed, though the order must not be supernaturally enforced, such as through Dominate.
In 1st and 2nd Edition, Ventrue antitribu possess Auspex, Dominate and Fortitude as in-clan Disciplines. Revised Edition changed their Disciplines to Presence, Dominate, and Fortitude like the main clan. Some 1st and 2nd edition books will thus present Ventrue antitribu characters with Auspex and little or no Presence. The antitribu was also first described as a bunch of wise guys and low lifes, an antithesis to the 'blue-blood' concept of the main clan. In the Revised Edition the antitribu are instead those Ventrue who did not approve the change from nobility to merchant the main clan chose.
The discrepancy can be dealt with by assuming that the Ventrue antitribu exist as two pseudo-bloodlines sharing the same name. One is a true bloodline in having a different Discipline spread, the other is a "bloodline" based primarily on social conditions. They are sufficiently difficult to tell apart (due to possessing the same weakness) that they never completely split into two separate bloodlines. Lore of the Clans offers an explanation by stating that the development of Auspex is the result of an ignobilis ritus.
|Vampire: The Masquerade Clans|
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