Dark nights in Dubai
Quote: “Welcome; a thousand welcomes! I am honored that we could put the danse macabre’s foolish rivalries aside, that you might come under my eaves in the spirit of – eh? You start? Ahh – that noise! A trifle! Nothing that need concern you, my guest!”
Among the myriad factions and bloodlines of the Ordo Dracul, few represent the motives of the Covenant as strongly as the Tzimisce. Even other Dragons grow uneasy around these eerie Kindred, and the bloodline’s nickname of “Fiends” was given to them in nights past by horrified Kindred of other lines. The Tzimisce’s signature discipline of Vicissitude is the subject of particular dread; tales speak of crippling disfigurements inflicted on a whim, of ghastly “experiments” and tortures refined beyond human – or vampiric – comprehension or endurance. This fearsome reputation often seems unwarranted at first. Many Tzimisce are reserved and perspicacious beings, a far cry from the howling monsters many would believe them to be. Most Tzimisce appear as rational creatures, formidably intelligent, possessed of an inquisitive and scientific bent, and unstintingly gracious of guests.
Kindred who deal with the Tzimisce, though, realize that the Fiends’ human traits are the merest veneer over something…else. For many centuries the Fiends have explored and refined their understanding of the vampiric condition, bending their bodies and thoughts into new and alien patterns. And should it prove necessary, enlightening or simply enjoyable, many Tzimisce do not hesitate to bend their victims in similar fashion. While younger Fiends might be described as merciless or sadistic, elders of the line simply fail to comprehend mercy or suffering – or perhaps they do comprehend, but no longer consider those emotion relevant.
The origin of the bloodline is clouded in myth. The only thing that is sure about the birth of the Tzimisce is that it occurred around the Baltic region sometime earlier than 653 A.D. Most elders point to a document from this year as proof of their ancient claim to their lands. The document in question is addressed to the Camarilla of Byzantium and describes a “monstrous and horrifying creature drinking [the] blood of the pagans in Transdanubia” [modern-day Hungary]. This report goes on to the describe a cult based around this creature, a vampire that could mold its own body and the bodies of its servants. The Tzimisce don’t appear in the scant documentation from the following period, and only gained their infamy far later, when Teutonic Ventrue from Die Unbesiegt tried to wrestle the Baltic region from the Fiends’ grasp. This campaign was a land grab by the Ventrue Hardestadt, who tried to install his own bloodline in Lithuania. Where the crusaders conquered and converted the last pagan kingdom of Europe, the Tzimisce stood fast against the Christian Kindred. Die Unbesiegt didn’t manage to establish a permanent foothold in Lithuania and the so-called Omen War ended when the Invictus emperor refused to give any more resources to Hardestadt. At least, this is the way the Fiends tell the story. Invictus scholars point to the total amnesia surrounding the emperor and doubt that the Tzimisce would remember this so clearly. Whatever the cause was, the war was over and the Voivodate reigned supreme in the Baltic States and big parts of Transdanubia. Their Koldunic sorcerers used rituals to create many monstrous servants, an army of horrors defending the last pagan strongholds of Europe. This wouldn’t last though. The Tzimisce could not exist in the newly Christened world and slowly the Voivodate ceded ground to the Invictus and the Lancea Sanctum. From the North, the Circle of the Crone also appeared. They used the same practices that the cults of the Voivodate used, but they weren’t exclusive to one lineage. The numerical superiority and inclusiveness managed to draw far more members to the covenants and the Voivodate could no longer control the Baltic Region around 1300 A.D. Transdanubia was lost way before that time, at the end of the Omen War.
Today, the Voivodate isn’t big enough to be covenant and membership in it does no longer exclude membership in the Invictus or any other covenant. The decline of the Voivodate also has another cause. During the 1700’s, it still existed as a covenant in the Baltic Region and it was powerful enough to compete with the other covenants in most cities. This fell apart when the Ordo Dracul appeared. They were persecuted in a lot of Kindred domains, but the Fiends welcomed them with open arms. They were hungry for their secrets and their coils. When they couldn’t get to those by force, most joined the Ordo Dracul. Its methods and ideology appealed to many Tzimisce, who had their own ideas about transcending the Curse. Most Fiends who joined the Ordo Dracul still retained their vassalage to the Voivodate. Since the Ordo Dracul wasn’t a fully formed covenant yet, this wasn’t an exceptional occurrence. Only when the Dragons became more powerful did membership in the Ordo become more important than the Voivodate. The final nail in the coffin for the Voivodes was the power wielded by the Ordo Dracul in Transylvania and the other ancestral lands of the Tzimisce. Many Fiends traveled back to the domains they were chased out of centuries earlier. Of course the fog of ages obscured many claims to land, but the Ordo Dracul welcomed every new ally they could get in those first decades of its existence.
The Tzimisce have an intricate relation to their lands. Their bloodline weakness means they don’t travel often. Overpopulation eventually resulted in a few Fiends seeking greener pastures. This trickle turned into a flood after the communists came to power in Eastern Europe. Few Tzimisce could challenge the established power of Western Europeans elders though, so many came to the New World. The fugitives settled on the East Coast, unwilling to travel further. Here they created childer to seek out new abodes for them if they ever need to leave again. This means Tzimisce can be found in quite a few American and Canadian cities.
Parent Clan: Ventrue
Covenant: Most Fiends are members of the Ordo Dracul. Their scholarly bent and emphasis on transcending the vampiric condition appealed instantly to those Tzimisce preaching the path of Metamorphosis. Many Fiends flocked to the Dragon’s banner, even when it was dangerous to do so. Tzimisce can mostly be found among the Sworn of the Dying Light and the Sworn of Mysteries. The Sworn of the Axe hold little attraction to the very cerebral Tzimisce.
A few of the eldest Tzimisce are still members of the Circle of the Crone. They can shape and change their bodies and create life, or at least twisted mockeries of it. Since the inceptions of the bloodline, the Tzimisce have been involved in pagan cults and their fight against oppression. They will take the place of the blood gods the Acolytes worship and they will show their worshipper the true meaning of tribulation. The inhumanity and cruelty of a Tzimisce Acolyte is almost unsurpassed in the Danse Macabre. Those who don’t hold themselves to the veneer of nobility masking the beast of the Fiends can most often be found in the Circle of the Crone.
The undead nobility of the Invictus appeals to most Fiends, and so the second largest faction of the Tzimisce can be found among their ranks. The Voivodate styles itself a feudal hierarchy and thus the medieval society of the Invictus is a natural fit for those looking for temporal power. Those rare Tzimisce who join the Lancea Sanctum embody the very worst of a church of predators. Sanctified Fiends often serve as priests or spiritual leaders of some kind. These positions are an outlet for their eerie fanaticism.
No Tzimisce has joined the Carthian Movement. The Fiends have shed their mortal lives and they no longer see the need to keep its trappings. Unbound are rare among modern Tzimisce, but can still be found in Eastern Europe. There they dwell in their ancestral keeps with no company but their experimental subjects. While the traditional imagery of a Fiend terrorizing his subjects from a gothic castle is mostly outdated, a few Tzimisce still cling to the old ways, masquerade be damned.
Appearance: As masters of the Vicissitude Discipline, Tzimisce often have striking appearances – whether strikingly beautiful or strikingly grotesque depends on the whim of the Fiend in question. Younger Tzimisce, seeking to explore their inhuman natures, perform all manner of body modifications on themselves. Their elders, though, often affect flawless, symmetrical forms; the body is merely a passing useful machine, after all. Tzimisce faces often resemble masks of blank perfection, and the Fiends typically laugh little, though some have been known to chuckle during particularly elaborate experiments.
Body modifications are popular and range from piercings to extruding bone structures. The most obviously supernatural modifications are rare outside of the homelands of the Tzimisce, for few princes suffer a walking masquerade violation to live.
Haven: Their bloodline weakness ties the Fiends to the land they live in. As a result of this, most Tzimisce pay a lot of attention to the security of their havens. If an enemy manage to destroy a Fiend’s haven, his Final Death is only a matter of time after all. Tzimisce are exceedingly private beings, placing great value on the sanctity of the haven. In fact, the clan has an entire series of elaborate protocols based around hospitality. Guests invited into a Fiend’s haven are protected with the host’s unlife; trespassers are pursued to the ends of the Earth and punished in gruesome and lingering fashion. Surprisingly, Tzimisce havens, or “manses,” are not necessarily comfortable or well-kept in the manner of Ventrue dwellings. The amenities of mortals matter little to the Fiends. Most Tzimisce make their havens away from places where lots of mortals gather. This is partly because of an urge to make a land for oneself, not bothered by the Kine masses, and partly because someone might hear the screams.
Background: Most Tzimisce are still Eastern European in origin. Several families have been manipulated by the Tzimisce through history. These lineages were made to be the best breeding stock for childer. The madness of the Tzimisce took its toll on these families. Subjected to torture and cruel experiments during their lives, over half the family members turn into fleshcrafted madmen. Stories of inbred monstrosities in Eastern Europe still surface from time to time. These failed experiments are sometimes set free by particularly callous Fiends and roam the countryside of the Baltic nations.
Tzimisce rarely Embrace capriciously; choice of childer reflects on the sire, and thus Fiends choose only those mortals who they feel have the capacity to improve the clan as a whole. “Brilliance” and “insight” are particularly prized; whether a childe’s brilliance and insight manifest in scientific theory or serial murder is a trifling distinction.
Character Creation: Mental attributes and skills are usually primary. Science, Medicine and Academics are prized among the Tzimisce and rare is the Fiend who doesn’t have at least a dot in these skills. The Retainer, Herd and Mentor merits are common among the Fiends, but the Haven merit is undoubtedly the most widespread of the bloodline. Most Fiends are groomed before their embrace and thus have a few dots in socialize. The Tzimisce attach much importance to proper manners, after all.
Disciplines: Animalism, Auspex, Dominate, Vicissitude
Weakness: All Tzimisce suffer from the Ventrue clan weakness. In addition, if a Fiend doesn’t sleep in at least two handfuls of soil important to him, he gain -1 penalty to all dice that night. Failure to meet this requirement in the next nights result in cumulative penalties until all actions use chance dies. This could mean earth from the place of his embrace or the home he lived in as a mortal.
Organization: Theoretically, every Tzimisce has his place in the Voivodate. Practically, the need for privacy means the Voivodes don’t have much say in the night-to-night business of the Fiends. Nevertheless, the old ways are respected. The Voivodes act as spiritual leaders for the Fiends, whether they be Invictus, Acolytes, Dragons or Sanctified. Under the Voivodes, the other Tzimisce are considered vassals. The leadership of the entire bloodline lies in the hand of the Voivode of Voivodes. Regional leaders are Knézi and the warlocks of the Voivodate are referred to as Koldunic sorcerers. Powerful Tzimisce have an advisory role in Voivodate politics. Every Fiend over 150 years old becomes one of the Szlachta, a noble council advising the Voivodes and Knézi.
The Fiends’ signature discipline, Vicissitude is a horrific power that reshapes bodies in a way that the Tzimisce sees fit. To use Vicissitude, the user must have skin-to-skin contact with his subject (or victim, as may be more appropriate). This means the Tzimisce has to grapple an unwilling victim to use Vicissitude on it. The specialty Craft (Body Crafts) is needed to perform Vicissitude, but the specialty does not add the normal +1 to the Vicissitude dice pool.
A vampire with this power may alter her own bodily parameters: height, build, voice, facial features and skin tone, among other things. Such changes are cosmetic and minor in scope – no more than a foot of height gained or lost, for example. She must physically mold the alteration, literally shaping her flesh into the desired result.
System: Changing the vampire’s form requires a roll of Dexterity + Crafts + Vicissitude and the expenditure of one Vitae per body part changed. Impersonating another person requires a Wits + Subterfuge roll. The successes on this roll dictate the maximum number on successes that can be gained on the Vicissitude roll. The character can grant herself the Striking Looks Merit using this Discipline. Doing so requires the expenditure of a Willpower point, and imposes a –2 or –4 penalty depending on which version of the Merit she is trying to gain.
Using this power in combat requires the character to grapple the target (p. 157 of the World of Darkness Rulebook), and this makes fine manipulation impossible. The character can disfigure a character fairly easily, imposing a –2 penalty on Social rolls depending on physical appearance. The character can also inflict organ damage, using this power as an attack inflicting lethal damage. Given time, the vampire can shift flesh and muscle, reordering a target’s Physical Attributes as she sees fit.
Using this power for quick and dirty alterations is an instant action (Dexterity + Crafts + Vicissitude – Stamina). Using it to bestow Striking Looks or reordering Attributes (No dots are added, they may only be swapped between Strenght, Dexterity or Stamina) is an extended action using the same dice pool (each roll is one hour of work, three successes per dot moved or level of Striking Looks bestowed). The power requires one Vitae. The Nosferatu clan weakness cannot be subverted by using this power. To make a change permanent on a vampire, either the Fiend or its subject must spend one willpower dot, or else it lasts as many nights as successes rolled.
The character can alter the target’s bones. Used as an attack, the roll is Dexterity + Medicine + Vicissitude – Defense, and inflicts 3L damage. The character can also cause a target’s rib cage to move inward, piercing the heart. This imposes an additional –5 to the roll, but instantly kills a mortal target. Against vampires, it halves the target’s Vitae pool in addition to inflicting lethal damage normally.
Used to alter, the character can give a target (or himself) bony spikes on his knuckles or quills from anywhere on the body. Either application inflicts one point of lethal damage. This requires an extended action (one hour per roll, target is three success for knuckle spikes or five for quills). The roll is Dexterity + Crafts + Vicissitude – Stamina. Knuckle spikes inflict 1L damage, and quills inflict two points of lethal damage per turn during a grapple, or one point of lethal damage to anyone making a barehanded attack on the character. Both spikes and quills are easily noticeable.
Clever players will doubtless come up with other uses for this power, and the Storyteller should use these systems as a guideline.
The Tzimisce use this power to become hideous monsters; naturally, this provides great advantages in combat. The vampire’s stature increases to a full eight feet; the skin becomes a sickly greenish-gray or grayish-black chitin; the arms become apelike and ropy, tipped with ragged black nails; and the face warps into something out of a nightmare. A row of spines sprouts from the vertebrae, and the external carapace exudes a foul-smelling grease.
System: The player spends two Vitae to awaken the horrid form as an Instant Action (this might take multiple turns, depending on the character’s Blood Potency). All Physical Attributes increase by two, while any Social actions other than Intimidation automatically fail. The character also grows bony spikes from his hands, which inflict 2L damage. If the character knows Protean, it cannot activate Claws of the Wild while in this form (You need the Talons of the Dragon devotion for that, see below). This transformation is an instant action and takes multiple turns if the Blood Potency of the user only allows the expenditure of one vitae each turn. This power lasts until the character cancels it, or until the Tzimisce goes into torpor or daysleep, whichever comes first. If the character changes shape into something else, using Bloodform, Shape of the Beast, Body of Spirit or any other power, he loses the benefits and drawbacks of Horrid Form and when he changes back from this new shape he reverts to his original body.
The character can liquefy his physical form, turning part or all of it into a pool of blood. If the character changes part of its body into a pool of blood, the player determines how many Vitae points that part is “worth.” The blood can move on its own, and the vampire can see through the blood, manipulate objects as though the blood had Strength 1, and slip into the mouths of sleeping individuals to create a Vinculum. If the pool is destroyed, the vampire can grow back the missing part by expending Vitae equal to the amount that the part was “worth.” If the vampire liquefies his entire body, he can move up walls an through the smallest cracks. The character cannot frenzy in this form unless provoked by supernatural means. If the character frenzies he must revert to his original form immediately. He is likewise immune to physical damage, except for damage caused by fire or sunlight. The transformation takes one turn for a single body part. Three turns are needed to transform the vampire’s entire body in bloodform.
Talons of the Dragon
Protean 3, Vicissitude 4
Cost: 1 Vitae
Those Tzimisce who learned Protean in order to step in Dracula’s footsteps found the powers of the Dragon’s supposed clan far more potent than what they could fleshcraft. They devised a way to use these powers while in Horrid Form, in order to inflict even more damage than before.
This devotion allows a Fiend to activate Claws of the Wild while in horrid form.
This power costs 10 experience points to learn.
Unchain the Wrathful Beast
Animalism 5, Vicissitude 5
Cost: 2 Vitae + 1 Willpower
A Fiend with this power may project her Beast into a hapless host, where it immediately sets about warping flesh and bone to better accommodate its
monstrousness. The host writhes in agony, skin sloughing off and muscles boiling into new and terrible forms. Once the change settles, the host frenzies as a
terrible living weapon, wreaking a swath of carnage until the vampire bids his Beast return.
System: The Character must first Unleash the Beast of another Kindred using Animalism 5. Then the Fiend must burn 2 points of vitea to awaken the Horrid Form. The frenzied target transforms in Horrid Form and attacks all those nearby. The Fiend can cancel the frenzy he created, but the beast strikes back at him and this means the Tzimisce has to roll for Anger Frenzy too, 6 successes needed.
This power costs 30 experience points to learn.
Hiding the Soul
Auspex 3, Obfuscate 2, Vicissitude 3
Cost: 1 Willpower
The Aura is a byproduct of the body. Change the body, change the soul. The body’s experiences can be summed up in the aura, but this phenomenon is the product of physical forces. By crafting certain locations on the body a Tzimisce can “paint” whatever aura he chooses. Auras summarize the individual, revealing the emotions, the Curse and even the stain of diablerie..
System: Roll Wits + Subterfuge + Vicissitude with the following penalties:
|-1||for changing the primary color of the Aura|
|-2||for changing the other colors in the Aura|
|-3||for concealing the Curse or the stain of diablerie|
|-4||for concealing the Curse and the stain of diablerie|
The roll can be made without penalties if the Character only wants to change the shade of the Aura (bright or weak). This power lasts for a scene, after that time, the aura goes back to its original colors.
This power costs 24 experience points to learn.
Birth the Vozhd
Animalism 5, Vicissitude 5, Blood Potency 7
Cost: at least 15 ghouls
The Vozhd is an war machine not seen since the war between the Teutonic Ventrue and the Baltic Tzimisce in the Dark Ages. The Tzimisce fleshcrafts the ghouls together, forging the bodies in a single entity. The Fiend then feeds the mess of bodies a mixture of the ghouls’ blood, creating a kind of proto-vinculum among them. This bond in place, the Fiend uses Animalism to coalesce the Beasts of the ghouls into one insane and imperfect Beast that drives the Vozhd to crush or devour everything in sight.
Roll Intelligence + Craft + Vicissitude. The standard time is one year to create the Vozhd. Subtract one month for each success. Subtract one die for every 5 ghouls below 30 used in the creation of the Vozhd. Add one die for every 10 ghouls over 30 used in the creation of the Vozhd. If humans ghouls are used in the creation of the Vozhd, the creator automatically loses a dot of humanity and has to roll for degeneration.
This power costs 40 experience points to learn.
Vozhd: The Tzimisce Behemoths
Vozhd are gigantic amalgamations of ghouls, at least two stories tall and weighing almost six tons. Their very bodies are implements of destruction, covered as they are with mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, six-foot bone spikes jutting out at every possible angle and tentacles to draw prey into their reach. These creatures have little intelligence, are notoriously too enraged to control reliably and have but one use: to destroy everything in sight.
The creation of such a monstrosity requires at least 15 creatures, though some include well over 30. The Ordo Dracul chapterhouse in Vienna houses an account of a Vozhd created from 100 ghouls contributed by six different Fiends.
Animals, as well as humans, can be used to create these beasts. In the Old World, most Tzimisce who knew the proper rituals used wolves, goats and falcons, even the horses and livestock of their subjects when other animals were scarce. Few
Tzimisce know how to create Vozhd in the modern nights, but in Riga, rumors persist of a titanic monstrosity composed of human bodies mingled with household pets, sea creatures and thousands of smaller animals such as rats or snakes.
To create a Vozhd, the Fiend fleshcrafts the ghouls together into something like a cohesive entity. Perhaps she forms all the ghoul’s skeletons into one structure then wraps it with the ghouls’ flesh and organs. Though the process can take months, the Fiend must hurry because these broken creatures, not yet one entity, require constant infusions of vitae to prevent death from shock. Still, a certain amount of prolonged suffering is necessary to give the resulting Vozhd the proper rage.
Once the construction is complete, the Tzimisce feeds the ghouls a concoction of blood drawn from each of them, in effect creating a blood bond among all the minds that will eventually become the Vozhd. Building upon this bond, the Fiend must coalesce the Beasts within into a single, albeit road and imperfect, Beast.
Even at the height of the clan’s dominance in the Baltic nations, few Tzimisce knew the proper ritual and fewer still resorted to the creation of such uncontrollable wrecking machines. In the modern nights, most Tzimisce think the Vozhd extinct and too big of a masquerade violation to recreate.
|Strength: 8||Presence: N/A||Intelligence: 1|
|Dexterity: 2||Manipulation: N/A||Wits: 2|
|Stamina: 6||Composure: 3||Resolve: 3|
Attempts to influence a Vozhd with Animalism carry a -3 penalty. This penalty is raised to -5 if the Character attempting the Animalism isn’t one of the Vozhd’s creators. A Vozhd cannot use any weapons, but might deal lethal damage, depending on its parts. A Vozhd follows the rules for ghouls laid out in the Vampire: the Requiem rulebook. Keep in mind that a being as single mindedly aggressive as a Vozhd will get violent if denied his vitae.