ANother World of Darkness - Alpha Network
“Never in my house.. Ye abide by m’rules ya see…”
Quote: “Wow, you haven’t flinched for almost two minutes. I must get prettier when you want something.”
Favored Attributes: Composure or Strength
Clan Disciplines: NIGHTMARE, OBFUSCATE, VIGOR
Not all curses are created equal, and even the Damned have outcasts. These are the Nosferatu, the most overtly disturbing of the undead. Only sometimes able to pass as human, the Haunts are horribly warped by the Embrace, either physically or otherwise. They dwell in shadows that other vampires would not dare. Even other undead fear the Nosferatu, for their unsettling seemings are constant reminders that those Kindred who look mortal are not. They grudgingly respect the Nosferatu as well. These blighted creatures have incredible powers of stealth, terrifying strength, and they embody the monstrous destructive force that every one of the Damned can muster if pushed too far. If they had their druthers, most other clans would prefer never to associate with the Nosferatu at all, yet the Haunts’ inarguable talents and brute force make them too dangerous to ignore. So other Kindred offer them a tense hospitality, hide their unease behind wary diplomacies, and pray that the Nosferatu leave as soon as possible.
Many Nosferatu conceal their loneliness and resentment behind masks of indifference. They scoff in turn at those who recoil from them, belittling pretty vampires with soirees and silly political games, all the while seething at their exclusion. This isolation has fostered strong familial bonds among the Nosferatu. To those outside their ranks, they put on a unified front, creating the impression of a single extended network. The truth, of course, is that Nosferatu squabble and compete with one another as much as members of any other clan — but when faced with an outside threat, they close ranks.
The Nosferatu’s inability to blend in with society forces them to dwell apart, often congregating in places others shun. Some find sanctuary in the sewers, using influence with mortal government and construction, as well as their own substantial strength, to expand simple maintenance tunnels and sluiceways into vast underground warrens. Others lurk in cemeteries, sharing aboveground crypts with sedentary occupants. Still others prefer abandoned homes, often giving rise to neighborhood urban legends of haunted houses, or exist in the basements or boiler rooms of modern office buildings. Tradition holds that any Nosferatu is welcome in any warren until she provides her brethren reason to expel her. The Haunts might not all get along, but they recognize their common bond — not that they have any choice, since it follows their aspect like a miasma.
Feared by and therefore ostracized from society, many Nosferatu become as alien as their demeanor. Others choose the opposite path, becoming suisingly cultured, well mannered and well spoken to compensate for their unnerving seeming. The latter are the Haunts most frequently found playing politics with other Kindred. The Nosferatu are also known as purveyors of information. Not only do their supernatural powers make them foes to be reckoned with, but many elder Nosferatu are keepers of ancient lore, rivaling anything preserved by the Ventrue or Mekhet. Sophisticated Haunts trade knowledge the way other Kindred trade favors, and if a Nosferatu doesn’t know something, he can probably scare someone who does into telling him. It is this trade in terror, more than anything else, that makes the Nosferatu too valuable — and too dangerous — to ignore. After all, one never knows what the horrid Haunts tell one’s enemies, or how many of them wait in ambush.
The Nosferatu are everywhere. The Invictus nervously welcomes them as enforcers, informants and soldiers. Those Nosferatu who obtain power in the First Estate tend to extremes; becoming relatively benevolent rulers, remembering what it was like to be downtrodden, or attempting to make up for the anguish they suffered by heaping it upon others. Haunts who seek to understand why God has done this to them, and those penitents who feel that they must atone for whatever sins drew the curse upon them, find solace in the ranks of the Lancea Sanctum. Haunts often find a place among the Ordo Dracul, where their disturbing bearing has little immediate effect on their achievements in the covenant (and might even aid them, as it discourages casual social calls). The Carthians appeal to those who are concerned with constructing a society in which everyone, no matter how unsettling, has a voice. Those Nosferatu who truly suffer beneath the weight of their curse often find the redemptive teachings of the Circle of the Crone far too tempting to resist. Even the unbound attract those who accept their terrifying nature and who want to tear down the system that quakes at their passing — or those who just want to get away.
No two Nosferatu have exactly the same air, though troubling characteristics often follow patterns within “families.” Discolored leathery skin, gaping maws, rubbery skin, misshapen heads, odors like grave earth, bulging eyes, queasy stares and personal habits, gnarled hands, ineffable feelings of dread, sagging flesh — all these and more are the hallmarks of the clan. Not every Haunt is physically deformed. Indeed, many are not, instead discomfiting those who look upon them with indescribable unease. The darkness and filth in which many Nosferatu dwell make their foul miens (and fouler odors) even worse.
Most Nosferatu dwell in places far from mortals, such as abandoned warehouses, graveyards, basements and of course the ever-popular sewers and subway tunnels. That said, some few Nosferatu choose to flout tradition and take their havens in penthouses, fantastic manors — any place where they can enjoy the luxuries of wealth yet still count on substantial privacy.
Nosferatu normally choose progeny from among society’s castoffs, such as the homeless, the mentally ill, and criminals. Many Nosferatu Embrace out of spite, using the curse to punish vanity, cruelty or other such “sins.” Assuming a sire wants a childe to survive — which isn’t always the case — Haunts tend to choose self-reliant individuals who might actually be able to manage their new condition. Few Nosferatu Embrace out of love or affection, though even this is not unheard of. Rare but heartbreaking are the tales of a Nosferatu determined to “gift” his love with the Requiem, only to find himself the object of his beloved’s loathing when she learns what’s been done to her.
Physical and Mental Attributes are more useful to most Haunts than Social. Nosferatu frequently make use of Skills such as Stealth and Survival. It’s unwise to begin with too high a Blood Potency; until a Nosferatu has obtained some experience in the Requiem, he might be forced to rely on animal blood. Although Nosferatu aren’t social creatures, certain Social Merits such as Contacts can be useful for gaining information from inaccessible areas.
All Nosferatu are repulsive or at the very least uncomfortable to be around. The cause need not be a physical deformity. A palpable aura of menace, a charnel odor, or the undeniable manner of a predator is just as compelling as a twisted body. With regard to dice pools based on Presence or Manipulation Attributes in social situations, the 10-again rule does not apply. Additionally, any 1’s that come up on a roll are subtracted from successes. (This latter part of the weakness does not affect dramatic failure rules.) This weakness does not apply to dice pools that involve the Intimidation Skill, or to the Composure Attribute.
The Nosferatu have little formal organization, but as stated previously they do tend to band together in the face of outside threats. The clan is almost tribal, with differing “families” of Nosferatu often sticking together or warring against one another. Clan hierarchy, such as it is, is usually determined by a combination of seniority and actual merit.
Bogeyman, circus freak, crude sadist, guardian angel, leg-breaker, parvenu, petty thief, rat king, reclusive eccentric, snitch, sycophantic servant.
Daeva: Got themselves fooled into thinking they can fuck the pain away.
Gangrel : Just pat ‘em on the head, pretend you’re grateful, and whatever you do, don’t call ‘em on their idiocy. You may be a creep, but your face looks better on the front of your head than hanging from some animal’s claws.
Mekhet: Moths are drawn to flame just like shadows. Do shadows burn, too?
Ventrue : They want to play king of the mountain? Fine. Haven’t seen one yet willing to come over here and enforce his “rule.”
Lupines : Scarier than this? I sure fucking hope not.
Mages: They know something… I’m just not sure I want to know what it is.
Mortals: Yeah, it sucks having to hide from your food. Yeah, you could take any mortal out without thinking about it. When you can take out a few thousand of ’em, then come talk to me. Until then, keep your fucking head down.
Quote: “Every time you dangled a foot over the bed’s edge, you made a promise. I’m collecting.”
Something dead approaches. You shouldn’t even know that it’s there. But you do! Imagine them all lurking, the sad monsters. Just hanging around unseen. Trying to feel like part of the surrounding humanity. They sit in cafes. They go to movies. They ride in cabs next to people on their way to the airt. Pretend they’re having conversations with the warm folk. Yet, their curse weeps like a cyst. People get the creeps. They don’t know why. You wake up with a horrid taste in your throat, thinking you swallowed a statistical spider. You don’t see the thing hanging above your face, drooling with longing. Oh, you would quiver to know what it would take to make a sad monster glad.
All vampires should be feared, but the Nosferatu control fear. They might look horrifying, or they might look like anyone else, but there’s something about them. Something of the grave, something of the deep places that writhe with too many eyes and limbs and fingers that are not fingers, something just wrong.
The Haunts have always been there. Haven’t they? In the dark corners and crawly cracks of things. They haunted ancient Greece. Mothers prayed to them, even as their blackened babes ripened with plague. They called upon the name Nosphoros, “disease-bearing”; cursed by Artemis and Apollo to carry pestilent blessings. “O dread eater,” they prayed. “O glorious worm, O ruined mouth, O pale thing that is both ghost and flesh, please pass over my household tonight.” They haunted Rome, where the Brothers and Sisters Worm held court in the forever-dark of Necropolis. They haunted the hidden places of Romania when the empire fell. Through the dead rats, waste, and clotting gutters, they wriggled down the centuries, an undulant dread, lubricated on disgust.
Terror is a constant. Always, there is fear, always pouring, and the Nosferatu drink from a chipped cup. They wake to these strange nights, where grotesquery is chic. Always, they emulate not just the underground, but the Underworld. Look to the names of their modern Necropoli: Sheol in Los Angeles, Muspelheim in Hamburg, The Fields of Aaru in Detroit, and Mictlan in Mexico City. They answer the echo of something chthonic that wriggles in the ruins of their ribs. The elder Haunts tell stories of the Hidden Ones, the Gods Below, and even the most skeptical neonate can almost hum along to the song of the ancient and the sleeping. Whatever is in their Blood, it moves with a sickening plasticity of puse. Every black drop is a carnival freak show. Horrid delights, grotesque wonders, endless putrid potential all stored in the family Vitae, expressed in endless variety through the petri dish of each living soul it slithers into.
See the street artist. For ten bucks, she’ll draw the most insightful caricature that you ever did see. They say for a little extra, she’ll draw something that’ll turn your hair white. You ask for the extra. Eels squeeze your lungs. Legs give out. You can’t take your eyes off your own wad face and what the impossible lines and angles reveal about yourself. She walks toward you, face like a rain-damaged charcoal drawing. She takes her payment.
See the urban legend. Sometimes he is a hook-handed brute stalking lovers’ lanes, or a masked maniac with a corn knife. Sometimes he appears as a bleeding woman when teenagers dare to say her name nine times before a darkened mirror. He writes spiraling limericks on bathroom stall walls, and if you read them backwards, you’ll die in three days. So they say. Sometimes he researches local legends. Sometimes he makes up his own. He creates living stories that evolve and mutate as they pass from lips to ears, fingers to keyboards. He infects minds, just as his Curse and fangs and Blood infect the neighborhood. The Kindred don’t know why he does this. Some say the circulating myths carry secret messages over the Cacophony. Some say it’s for his own vanity, an attempt at a more complete immortality.
See the underground cinema club. Very exclusive. Hushhush. But you knew a cataphile who had an in with the urban subterranean exploration movement. “Do not fail to see this,” he said. How long have you been down here? One hundred seventy miles of catacombs beneath Paris. Roman-hewn stone. Walls of skull and bone. Everyone walks silently. Tunnels full of glowing paint. Strange symbols. Melting-wax faces in the half light. An amphitheatre, terraces cut into the rock. Fully-stocked concession stand and bar. Short horror films play on the full-sized screen. The things you see. The nervous laughter. The shrieks. Strobes interrupt the film, backlighting the silver screen, revealing the things writhing behind it. You’re so proud of yourself, the last one to keep from screaming, even when you cut your hand squeezing the Pepsi can. You join the chorus when pale salamanders, eyes sewn shut, lap up your blood.
The Haunts are still here. They never left. They perch on the edge of your periphery. They swim with the floaters, contaminating your vitreous humor. Always behind you. The more you turn, the more tired you get. Hush now. There are no such things as monsters.
Why You Want To Be Us: Never back down. Look the biggest, baddest guy you know in the eye and he’ll look away first. Even in the city’s most dangerous places, people give you a wide berth. Want to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers? Done and done. Want to scare the shit out of your asshole brother-in-law? Brother, it’s easy.
Why You Should Fear Us: You don’t get a choice in the face of the Nosferatu. You can’t be brave. Your fear isn’t yours; it’s his, and he can mold it as he wishes. You will quake. You will cower. You will run. And you can’t do a damn thing about it. Terror, real terror, is not sweat y palms, pounding hearts, and screams — these are incidental. Terror is the stripping away of every construct of ego and society, all the things we like to think about ourselves. The Haunts have the power to tear that curtain down and force you to look at what’s hiding there. And nobody, but nobody, likes what they see.
Why We Should Fear Ourselves: Better to be feared than loved? Maybe, but Machiavelli was presuming the prince had a choice. The Nosferatu don’t have that choice. They’ll always be outsiders among outsiders; and even if they can wield that as a weapon, it’s a weapon that can cut back. Isolation is their lot, and isolation feeds the Beast.
- In that year, the graves of every land vomited up a quota of their dead. Spontaneous Damnation given not to fresh, pliable cadavers, but the decayed and worm-kissed.
- They dug into the suffocating black of the hollow Earth, this coterie of Kindred, the Brothers Worm. They devoured the writhing god that lived there, tasted the immaculate slime. Divinity changed their souls and bodies. Embracing their new siblings and chthonic nobility, they spent an age in the darkness that is all tongues and fingers and shivering hairs, dancing to the churn of the Earth’s organs.
- In the coastal city, it was custom to cast deformed infants into the deep sea. They sank, wailing, never knowing the security of suckling upon a warm breast. Down in the crushing depths, the babes came to rest amongst the hideous creatures that hunt in the sunless eternity. Later, the castaway children returned with all they had learned, and they suckled upon that costal city.
- Once upon a midnight darkly, seven grotesques gathered around a glass coffin. The snowy-skinned princess came to them in exile, saw the beauty that reposed beneath their deformities, and they hid her in their remote cabin. But poison and treachery had laid her low. The good-natured grotesques vowed to stand vigil over her lovely body, until a hero or wise person came to break the spell. But the nights grew long, and the winter was cruel, and no one came. In the throes of starvation and self-hate, they nibbled — only extremities — only what she would not miss. Tiny bites. When the nightmare of winter broke into spring, they looked inside the glass coffin and saw naught but skin and bone. In horror, they f led in seven directions; and whether by the alchemy of the black apple or the curse of their act, their insides matched their outsides. And their children’s children’s children continue the feast — fearfully ever after.
A Nosferatu might begin play with any set of Attributes as primary. All the more tragic if they were strongly social in life. Most Haunts have high Composure ratings. They witness so much horror in their Requiems that it becomes difficult to unnerve them. More than a few Nosferatu develop high ratings in Resolve, over time, as the isolation of the curse often makes them self-reliant.
Members of this clan usually have an affinity for the Intimidation and Stealth Skills. This is a product of both their supernatural natures, and which abilities they have to hone to survive. As for Backgrounds, Nosferatu often have ratings in Haven (underground lairs), and benefit from having Retainers to deal directly with the mortal world.
A young Nosferatu’s use of the Nightmare Discipline benefits most from Presence and Empathy, while the Discipline’s capstone power favors Intimidation. Strength dots benefit from the persistent effects of Vigor. Obfuscate suggests taking dots in Wits and Larceny, though most powers don’t require rolls.
Perhaps the most important consideration when creating a Nosferatu character is the form his horrific curse takes. Players have more creative latitude here than with the other clans. Haunts are infected with a weirdness that wa their bodies or the world around them.
The curse can express itself as a series of physical deformities: Bulging eyes, empty sockets that still yet see, coelike skin, grotesquely long fingers, withered limbs that can somehow upend a car, hideously large mouth, mouths in places they should not be, vestigial limbs, skin that hangs like wet clay, scales, malformed skull, excreted fluids, a miasma of cloying dust, a stench. Players can find a treasure trove of inspiration by Googling images of subterranean or deep sea fauna.
The curse can express itself in ways stranger still: an animate shadow that moves when the Nosferatu is still; a shadow belonging to someone else (her last victim?); maggots manifesting in any place he lingers; objects (including her clothing) rotting away at her prolonged touch; strange twittering and giggles that manifest about him; her mouth never moving when she speaks; his voice always seeming to come from a few feet away from his head; lights flickering low in her presence. Perhaps the viewer’s eyes always slide off the Haunt’s features, and no one remembers what it was that was so wrong about him.
The Lonely Curse: You are an avatar of disgust. Dread and discomfort oozes from you, scabbing everything over in the putrid film of your rotting soul’s exhaust. Your body is wad, or the world around you wa. This could manifest in ways grotesque or subtle. Fear and all its gibbering siblings come easy for you. Most other forms of social communion do not. Yours is a lonely Requiem.
Carthian Movement: Sometimes, the politics of change are the politics of fear. The people should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its dead. Underground networks and subterranean lairs are handy things when taking on the Man. Who better to wage guerrilla war on the entrenched establishment? Who better to initiate a reign of terror?
Circle Of The Crone: Some Haunts look at their own visages and see a reflection of the Crone. Divinity is terrible for mortals to look upon. These hags and hierophants preach that they are blessed with a divine beauty recognized by eyes ancient and deep that operate under different aesthetics. The Nosferatu murmur about the Gods Below. Why not worship the Hidden Ones more directly? Who better to become a perfect monster than one unfettered by a human face?
Invictus: The First Estate knows the value of Haunt agents. Some Nosferatu creep to great heights. There are cities where rat lords and worm ladies hold nightmare court below. The Invictus of other clans are forced to descend, to speak courtesies on gritted teeth to the Haunt lackeys who guide them down, hoping the wretches do not abandon them in the dark. What was that Machiavelli said about fear?
Lancea Et Sanctum: Some Haunts look at their visages and see the faces of demons. Religion comes easy after that. In centuries past, Nosferatu serving the Spear carried sickness and pestilence as the wrath of Heaven upon humanity. Terrorizing sinners comes so easy to them. This gives their horrible curse a puse. What wretch would not want to learn that her malady serves a divine plan? Who better to instill the fear of God? Who more fully embodies a divine plague on mankind?
Ordo Dracul: Seclusion, and something to contemplate to fill that seclusion, suits the Nosferatu. The Haunts have strong stomachs and adjust quickly to performing grotesque surgeries and disturbing procedures. Underground sanctums make for ideal laboratories, and Dragons know the value of recruiting local Haunts. Some Nosferatu toil their nights away, subjecting themselves to all manner of esoteric experiments, trying to fix their twisted forms, or transcend them and enter the next stage of change. Who would be more driven to subvert his Curse?
Daeva The Sents tempt with spoiled fruit. We worms hide inside, eating your apple to the core.
Gangrel For us, the worst has fallen that can befall. For them, it’s still crawling out of their skins.
Mekhet They are the silence. We are the stage whisper.
Ventrue There is a moment — after the meticulous planning, the flawless execution, the perfect victory — a moment of triumphant respite. That is where we nest, in the shadow between seconds, waiting for you.