If Clan Lasombra is the heart of the Sabbat, Clan Tzimisce is the soul. Even other vampires grow uneasy around these eerie Kindred, and the clan's nickname of "Fiends" was given to it 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 war packs that compose much of the Sabbat. Most Tzimisce appear to be rational creatures, formidable intelligent, possessed of an inquisitive and scientific bent, and unstintingly gracious to guests Kindred who treat with the Tzimisce, though, realize that the Fiends' human traits are the merest veneer over something. . .else. For millennia the Fiends have explored and refined their understanding of the vampiric condition, bending their bodies and thoughts Into new and alien patterns.
Should it prove necessary, enlightening or simply enjoyable, Tzimisce do not hesitate to bend 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 the emotions relevant. In nights past, the Tzimisce was among the most powerful clans in the world, dominating much of the region now known as Eastern Europe. Potent sorcerers, the Fiends dominated the region's mortals as well, in the process inspiring many of the horror stories about vampires. Clan after clan conspired to uproot the Tzimisce, but it was the sorcerous Tremere who finally succeeded. Indeed, as some tell the tale, the Tremere used captured Tzimisce vitae in their experiments to become immortal. For this, the Tzimisce hate the Tremere unrelentingly, and T Tremere who fall into the Sabbat's clutches typically. suffer a hideous end at the talons of the Fiends.
During the Great Anarch Revolt, the Tzimisce clan turned on itself, as younger members of the clan discovered mystic means of breaking the blood bonds ensnaring them in the service of their elders. In the ensuing struggle, the younger Fiends destroyed many of their elders and demolished what was left of their power bases. Certain Sabbat whisper that the clan managed to find and destroy its own Antediluvian progenitor, though the Fiends will neither confirm nor deny this tale.
Now the Tzimisce serve the Sabbat as scholars, advisors and priests. many of the sect's practices originated in the customs of the clan. By exploring the possibilities and limits of vampirism, the clan hopes to discover the greater purpose of the Kindred as a whole. If this means the wholesale destruction of the archaic Antediluvian, the razing of the Camarilla, and the vivisection of millions of kine victims, well, all experiments have their consequences.
Sect: Most Tzimisce serve the Sabbat. A few powerful Tzimisce elders retain their Independence; these are believed to be Inconnu Almost no Tzimisce are in the Camarilla; even those Fiends unsympathetic to the Sabbat find the Camarilla's skulking among the masses to be distasteful.
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.
Haven: 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 or Toreador dwellings. The amenities of mortals matter little to the Fiends.
Background: 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 are most prized among the clan. Although descended from a background of nobility, the typical Sabbat Fiend is unconcerned with petty social interplay; thus, Social Attributes ( with the notable exception of Appearance) are rarely primary. Knowledges are favored, and Tzimisce are as likely to follow a Path of Enlightenment as they are to retain Humanity. Tzimisce often have Status (in the Sabbat), Resources and Retainers (ghouls).
Clan Disciplines: Animalism, Auspex, Vicissitude
Weaknesses: Tzimisce are very territorial creatures, maintaining a particular haven and guarding it ferociously. Whenever a Tzimisce sleeps, she must surround herself with at least two handfuls of earth from a place important to her as a mortal perhaps the earth of her birthplace or the graveyard where she underwent her creation rites. Failure to meet this requirement halves the Tzimisce's dice pools every 24 hours, until all her actions use only one die. This penalty remains until she rests for a full day amid her earth once more.
Organization: Despite the Tzimisce's pride in their heritage and customs, little organization exists among the clan. Sires and childer remain closer than most Sabbat vampires do, but in general each Fiend makes her own way in the world. One among the Fiends' number bears the ancestral title of Voivode; the Voivode is nominally the clan leader, though in practice he acts more as a "priest" or rite leader than a temporal ruler.
Bloodlines: Many Tzimisce are descended from specialized "ghoul families" who have long served the clan as minions. Tzimisce descended from the ghoul family Bratovitch replace Auspex with the Clan Discipline of Potence, but suffer + 1 difficulty on any roll to avoid frenzy. Certain Tzimisce are koldun, or sorcerers. These Kindred replace the clan Discipline of Vicissitude with Thaumaturgy, but suffer + 1 difficulties to resist magic as well. [Sabbat Admin Note: Tzimisce Koldun actually learn the Discipline of Koldunic Sorcery instead of Thaumaturgy, and they must possess the Knowledge of Koldunism in order to work that Discipline.]
Quote: Welcome; a thousand welcomes! I am honored that we could put aside the Jyhad's foolish rivalries for a night, that you might come under my eaves in the spirit of - eh? You start? Ahh - that noise! A trifle! Nothing that need concern you, sweet guest!
Clan Tzimisce of the Victorian Age
Of all the clans whose members prowl the nights of the Victorian era, none so perfectly embody the popular, Romantic myth of the vampire as the Tzimisce - at least on the surface. As Gothic literature becomes more and more widespread, so, too, does the legend of the Eastern European count, immortalized in Bram Stoker's 1897 treatment of the Kindred whose act of grand defiance shakes the undead world to its foundation, Dracula.
In truth, however, the Tzimisce are hardly the refined nobles doomed to a tragic unlife of unrequited desire, though they can be. Beneath the suave facade of the "gentleman vampire," Clan Tzimisce rots and festers. Blighted by alienation, isolated from the world by the barbarism of their native demesnes and reviled as monsters by those who witness their nightly affairs, the Tzimisce are an exercise in utmost cunning and utmost wickedness.
For the Tzimisce, these are nights of nadir, the last epoch during which the Fiend on the Mountain could cow the peasants living beneath his castle with impunity. In the nights to come, the Tzimisce withdraw ever more into themselves, pursuing blasphemous faiths and almost futilely warping their bodies in an attempt to shock an ever-more-jaded world. Tonight, however, during the reign of Victoria and at the height of the British Empire, it is truly a time of revelry for the Fiends. They are. for the time. the lords of the night in lands where they do not yet have to hide - but the end of that time draws closer with each passing sunset.
When one thinks of the barbarous lands, places untouched by the Victorian progress and largely unchanged since the feudal brutality of the Dark Ages, one cannot help but think of Eastern Europe, even in this enlightened time. The "lands beyond the forest" mean not just Transylvania, but all of the "uncivilized" world, where peasants still toil and lords still rule. The Tzimisce fit very well into this idiom, for they are the ruling lords, the domineering masters who make such backbreaking (and blood-draining) demands of their subjects.
Many Tzimisce hail from aristocratic backgrounds - note the avoidance of the word "noble." While it is not outside the capacity of the Tzimisce to be noble, few seem to exhibit even the desire, exsisting instead to do whatever their will dictates, for they are the children of the very earth where they were born. Not all Tzimisce come from royal families, however, and the Fiends have almost as much of a tendency to Embrace out of passion as do the Toreador. Those passions differ greatly, however, as the Tzimisce may choose a loyal manservant or an exceptionally ugly child, while the Toreador chooses a mortal paramour or an individual with an artistic gift.
For all their attachment to aristocracy, however, few Fiends care about governance. What they truly want is little more than what is little more than what they want at any given moment (though only a fool underestimates the Tzimisce's ability to put centuries-long schemes in place or to bear a grudge for even longer than that.) As such, many Fiends in positions of authority delegate their governmental responsibilities to viziers or local leaders... many of whom they subject to blood oaths or even more mystical rites of fealty.
The fiends also practice their flesh-warping powers of Vicissitude with aplomb, using it to "beautify" themselves or others, to punish those who have earned their displeasure, to test the limits of mortal, animal or vampiric endurance or to conduct experiments that defy the understanding of anyone but themselves. Visitors to a Tzimisce's domain might shudder to think that the hairless albino peering in their window is not the same as the identical hairless albino who greeted them at the train station - and that neither is the same as the hairless albino who welcomes them to the Fiend's sanctum. But the Tzimisce do so well as causing shudders.
The idea of domain lives very close to the hearts of the Tzimisce, even if those hearts no longer beat. Part of this principle stems from the fact that the Fiends must rest in their native soil by day. Removing a Tzimisce from the ability to spend her slumber in the earthen humors to which she was born makes her irritable to say the least, and the condition of her demeanor is probably the least troublesome aspect anyone who encounters her will have to deal with. The most significant factor of the Tzimisce attachment to domain, however, is the fact that the Fiends have populated their lands since even before the Ventrue attached themselves to Rome or the Brujah to fabled Carthage. Quite simply, the lands the Tzimisce call home are theirs, and many Fiends go so far as to claim that they are part of the land itself, as indigenous a portion of that part of the world as the trees that grow there or the wolves that prowl the countryside.
Tzimisce laying claim to a domain spare little effort in making the land a reflection of their presence. In some cases, this manifests outwardly, with the sorcerous members of the land literally reshaping rock to bear their visages or calling upon streams to reroute themselves according to the Fiend's will. Such sorceries have long been on the wane, however, and most Tzimisce rely on artificial methods to mark the domain as their own. Given that most Tzimisce domains lie in the barbarous lands, progressive Western governmental philosophies have yet to have any impact on those regions: Some Tzimisce are still literally the feudal masters of their lands. As such, the Fiends maintain cadres of guards, cultivate networks of agents and even turn local peasantries against one another for the purpose of keeping in their lord's good graces... or, more accurately, to avoid his poor graces. Many Tzimisce go beyond even this, having a close, personal entourage composed of hellish creations the likes of which nature never intended. Rabid beasts, fleshcrafted monstrosities, twisted ghouls known as szlachta and the attendant members of noble or revenant families heed the beck and call of the Fiends, serving to report to them or bring their will to places where they cannot physically be. Wicked broods of Tzimisce even develope in this manner, with the master Fiend of the domain (or a favored childe) spawning some sort of blighted love for one of the residents of the area and bringing her into the night.
Childer in these situations don't take long to rankle under their sire's watchful eyes. The Fiend's blood calls out to the land, and many childer petition their sires for the right to go and claim their own domains - a right many sires grant, having grown sick of the very sight of their get before long and wondering why the bothered to Embrace them in the first place. Broods that have lingered too long in one domain or in one Fiend's household almost invariably become dens of vipers, each childe scheming against the rest (and whatever other horrid monstrosity has earned the head Fiend's dotage for the night) in a desperate attempt to leave without inviting retribution from a resentful sire.
Tzimisce domains lie almost exclusively in the swath of land that constitutes Eastern Europe, just past the domains of the eastern Ventrue and Tremere. Transylvania, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, certain eastern expanses of Germany, Austria-Hungary and even parts of traditionally Turkic lands belong to the Tzimisce. An appreciable amount of Tzimisce have also sought their fortunes in the New World, where domain tends to be fleeting, but for a while, at least, the Fiends are masters of the domain there.
As mentioned in the discussion of domain, most Tzimisce pursue the acquisition of their own territories with vigor. If this cannot be done or if their sires refuse it, the may rebel out of frustration, scheming against the Cainites who made them vampires to begin with. Such truculence seems common in any domain where more than one Tzimisce shares a haven with others.
To that end, Tzimisce are often the equivalents of princes in their domains, though they often use the Sabbat term bishop (or archbishop) to describe what they do, if they bother with something other than the term voivode. It is not uncommon for a voivode or bishop to have several Cainites dwelling inthe domain she claims as her own, even extending into the lands beyond the city or the village proper. Unless they have active dealings with the Sabbat, however, Tzimisce politics usually end at the local level.
Not every Tzimisce needs to achieve lordship over a dwindling fief to achieve the clan's esteem, however. Many Tzimisce leap wholeheartedly into the Sabbat cause and, indeed, torment those Tzimisce who pay lip service to the sect. Others become attendants to the local master of the domain, serving as woodsmen, as enforcers, as diplomats to toher Cainites or domains or as guardians of the domain's borders. A tzimisce is equally as likely - more so, in fact - to have more concerns in the city than in the lord's castle. The Fiends who cling to eldritch thrones are simply more recognizable than the Tzimisce who slink through the streets at night - and this serves them well.
For those who do participate in Sabbat activities, the Tzimisce have partaken of a wide variety of the sect's offerings, from developing several of the ritae practiced in the sect to serving as spiritual leaders known as pack priests. Bishops, archbishops, prisci, cardinals and even less universal titles observed by the sect have all counted the Fiends among their number, and the only limits to a Tzimisce's potential in the sect are her ambition.
Many Tzimisce believe that something exsists beyond the vampiric condition, much as they believe the Caimite condition surpasses the mortal state. These Fiends pursue (or at least study) a philosophy known as Transcendence or Metamorphosis, and many conduct bizarre rituals and experiments to learn exactly what lies beyond and how to achieve it. In the case of a Tzimisce hosting visitors from Western lands, the guests might perceive this as a form of the occultism so prevalent in their own lands. Were they to learn the truth, it would likely horrify them, as these are no parlor tricks or table-thumping seances - these are the desires of alien minds seeking to put all that is human and compassionate behind them and to embrace the inknowable horror that lies beyond. The Path of Metamorphosis (see Vampire: the Masquerade, pp. 292-293) works as a model for the moral code upheld by these Cainites.
You have come to my domain - the land where I am the law for Cainites as well as kine. The moon does not rise without my blessing, the fog does not creep and the beasts do not rouse. I am not the master of this land. I am this land. - Frantisek Patrescu, Romanian Voivode