Clan Guide: Nosferatu
 
Strengths and Weaknesses

The Nosferatu are the monsters among monsters--the vampires that other vampires are afraid of--and there's a good reason for that. A Haunt's tools are designed to amplify the vampire's monstrous characteristics above all else. The combination of Nightmare and Vigor ensure that, whether physically or mentally, an encounter with a hostile Nosferatu is going to be trying at best, and life-alteringly terrifying at worst. But the real star of the show here is actually Obfuscate, which in combination with the other two Disciplines adds a dimension of finesse and subtlety to the Clan; allowing the vampire to appear on his own terms means that you never quite know when a Haunt is about to strike. 

It's this last point that really solidifies the Nosferatu's effect on other Kindred in the long term, because the threat of action is often far more influential than the action itself. A good Nosferatu, in other words, thrives typically not by going around terrorizing others, but by cultivating the imaginations of his enemies: making them afraid not by what he has done, but by what they suspect he might do. Like the antagonist of a good horror movie, a Haunt's absence is often more influential than his presence. 

Of course, Obfuscate also means that Nosferatu are incredibly good spies, with direct information-gathering skills second only to the Mekhet. 

Those who underestimate the Nosferatu capacity for wielding proxies often forget that fear can be a motivator that is every bit as powerful as the admiration or devotion inspired by the likes of the Ventrue and Daeva. A mortal who believes his family will be killed if he does not comply, for instance, will take action with just as much urgency as one who is fanatically loyal to the vampire directly. 

There are situations in which fear tactics just won't work, though. Sometimes you don't want to burn bridges, or invite hostility--and it's in that particular arena that the Nosferatu flounders. Indeed, most neonate Nosferatu don't start out their Requiems looking to terrify people; they end up playing into this stereotype largely because, as they are ostracized more and more, it becomes the only thing that works for them. The older a Nosferatu gets, the more difficult social niceties become--not merely from her Clan Bane or declining Humanity, which make it difficult enough, but also from the effects of her past actions. The real weakness of the Nosferatu comes from the simple fact that people remember the way you treat them; once you start down the path of fear, the long memories of your fellow Kindred will ensure that the only viable way forward is to double down. 


The Hunt

A good samaritan walking by an alley hears a frightened cry for help. Wanting to do the right thing, knowing that a call to the police would be too slow, he dashes into the alley, and finds it empty. For a moment, though unnerved, he is relieved--until he is attacked suddenly from behind. Blunt force trauma to the head ensures that he is helpless and disoriented as the mugger robs him of all his possessions. When the terror is finally over, he's so grateful to be alive that he barely stops to think about how strange it was that his depraved, faceless attacker bit him during the assault. 

She doesn't want to go to that terrible house. She doesn't want to open the creaky old door that she knows will be unlocked, to descend into the belly of the beast. She doesn't want to look the Devil in the face, to kneel before it in supplication, to offer it willingly her blood. But she knows that this--the aching fear, the fainting dizzy spells--is a small price to pay. The monster knows where she lives, where her son sleeps. If she doesn't appease it, if she doesn't keep quiet, it'll kill him. 

A father sits down to a late dinner with his young daughter after work. But the girl won't touch her food. As impatience turns to irritation, and his hackles raise after the stress of a long work day, he begins to come under the wild belief that his daughter isn't eating not because she's a spoiled brat but because she's changed somehow--that she's become something else, some inhuman thing that does not eat. Trying to shake off the belief he knows to be insane, he distances himself from his daughter, goes to bed early. The idea keeps him wide awake in bed, and after a while of being unable to sleep he sneaks out for a glass of water and finds the shadow of his daughter standing outside his door in the pitch darkness. "What's wrong, Daddy?" she says sweetly--just before she sinks her fangs into his neck. When he wakes up the following morning, he remembers that her mother had custody of her yesterday. His daughter was never there. 


Roleplaying Tips

The single most important thing to master when playing a Nosferatu is timing. You need to know when to hide and when to come out of hiding, when to make threats and when to deliver on them. An assault at the wrong time, even bolstered by Nightmare and Vigor, can fall terrifically flat and make you as much a laughing stock as an all-out assault from a movie monster would be if it happened in the first five minutes of the film. Learn to lurk, to sit back, to be patient, and above all to cultivate a fearsome reputation. 

To a Nosferatu, Kindred existence is like prison. You don't exactly need to kick someone's ass on the first day, but you do need to make sure the other inmates are too scared to mess with you. A Nosferatu is better off being a total unknown than a pushover. 

While Haunts seldom have real friends, there's no reason you can't cultivate allies in the Kindred world just as well as a member of any other Clan. Nosferatu have a reputation for intelligence-gathering, and for a willingness to get their hands dirty that few others possess. Swallow your pride, learn to be a good stalker or thug, and the secrets you learn or the damage you inflict will fetch a high price from those who are eager to pay. These kinds of working relationships are the lifeblood of a Nosferatu's existence in the Danse Macabre--and when your clients see how much dirt you're able to dig up, or how much damage you're able to do, they'll be less likely to cross you--not merely for your usefulness, but also for fear of what you might do to them if they did. 

As with any vampire, it's important to cultivate a network of servants. Frighten, intimidate, and force people into the blood bond. Scared, pliable humans provide easy access to blood and will often possess skills and abilities that you lost with the Embrace. Though Nosferatu lack Animalism, consider an animal ghoul anyway--they don't carry as much of the same burden of fear, revulsion, or threat of retribution as human servants do. 

Special mention needs to be made of the Mekhet Clan, who seem like they're designed to make Nosferatu lives harder. They can see you when you don't want to be seen, and--even more frustratingly--they can hide from you anytime they want. There are two ways to deal with this: either avoid attracting the interest or ire of the Mekhet in the first place, or wait for an opportunity to catch them in the open and apply brute force. The former is typically easier. That said, even if a Mekhet is on to you, clever use of Obfuscate can still keep you hidden; Auspex only serves them if they're actively searching for you, after all. 


Disciplines

The Nosferatu signature Discipline of Nightmare looks on the surface to be a blunt tool, lacking any subtlety. That first impression couldn't be any further from the truth. More than any other Discipline (except maybe Dominate), Nightmare rewards those who can leverage it with creativity and finesse. Remember that, in addition to boosting Intimidation rolls, the first dot of Nightmare lets you create simple, brief, unsettling hallucinations, and that this costs you nothing and (mostly) can't be resisted. Try to craft illusions which will continue to have an effect even after they've passed, rather than just going for thoughtless jump scares. The scream of an illusory child won't merely spook your victims; it'll prompt them to investigate. Use that. 

The second and fifth dots of Nightmare have straightforwardly useful applications (defense and attack, respectively), but the third and fourth level powers are where the Discipline truly shines. There's a reason why The Grand Delusion costs more Vitae to activate than any other Nightmare power: the ability to convince another person of a specific belief is an incredibly potent thing. Tricking your prey into thinking his friends are in danger, or that they're out to get him, can have powerful and predictable effects on his behavior. The full-on hallucinations of Waking Nightmare are similarly useful in manipulating others into doing what you want them to do if you're careful; direct an imaginary assailant to chase your prey, for instance, and you can coax them into running right into your waiting fangs. 

Another advantage Nightmare has over other social Disciplines is that its powers tend to have longer-lasting effects. Majesty's effects are almost always measured in hours; Nightmare's are frequently measured in days. More than that, a terrifying experience leaves more of a lasting impression than a pleasant one of any kind--so while a mortal might become disillusioned with a vampire who once charmed him, a mortal who is afflicted by Nightmare will probably always be terrified of the vampire who used it or the location in which it was used. Never underestimate the ability to adjust someone else's behavior forever. 


Vigor is a straightforward enough Discipline that not much needs to be said. As with the other physical Disciplines, though, don't neglect Vigor's active effects. Being able to increase your Strength and jump distance permanently is fantastic, but even better is being able to spend a Vitae for an extra weapon bonus on your attacks. At high Strength, Vigor becomes truly awesome, as you get to start chucking cars at people--but until then, remember that the improvised weapon use with Vitae is limited only by Size. Finally, since Vigor is an in-Clan Discipline for Nosferatu, consider that there's no point to actually buying up Strength until your Vigor is maxed out; buying Vigor grants you free Strength anyway, in addition to its other benefits, and costs less than purchasing an Attribute. 


I've already talked at length about Obfuscate, both in this guide and in the Mekhet guide, so there isn't too much more to say about it. However, it's worth pointing out that Obfuscate does synergize much more powerfully with the Nosferatu's other Disciplines than it does with the Mekhet's. Vigor means that those ambushes will not merely be sudden--they'll be devastating. And when you start combining the higher powers of Obfuscate and Nightmare, it starts to become truly scary the degree to which you can influence what another person experiences and believes; a vampire employing Oubliette, Waking Nightmare, and The Grand Delusion simultaneously can practically transport his victims to another reality.