Watching this man from a distance, I can see the iconic insanity of the Malkavian clan of vampire shining through. Not the blithering idiot trying to bite off his ear so he doesn’t have to hear the voices, but one who has stepped up to the stage of life, lead by their insanity into a world without fear, and all the clarity that comes with it. Like a ring master, this man, young and vibrant in appearance, dressed to the nines as a showstopper of a ring leader, calls out to the crowd around him with charisma and verbosity.
Jumping up on a box and stretching his arms wide, he speaks in a voice that nearly yells at the start of a sentence only to fade away to draw the crowd in so they don’t miss a thing, “Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls of all ages! You have seen that seeing is believing! Please forget your seats, as you will not be needing them. This show is one for the ages, his age to her age, and all the ones in between! You will see wonders, and what will you wonder? That is the question and you will question everything from this world and beyond!” By this time I can hear the whispers, the edges of my vision clouded by the iconic infectious insanity the Malkavians have become synonymous with.
Turning, as if filled with knowledge that no one should have without being told, he addresses a crowd only he can see, “Nerdachy readers, you will see all that you can imagine and more than you ever dreamed. Not just a collection of glorious beards. Come with me, and you will see a world of pure horrific imagination!”
Well … that was unexpected. Wait … why is the crowd wearing bunny suits? Oh, boy … time for another trip down the rabbit hole …
The Malkavian vampire
The Malkavian clan is like a sack of cats that was thrown into a field of overgrown catnip. They are able blessed and cursed with more than they can handle, but most only live long enough to get a taste of what is out there. This of course stems from their curse and their powers interacting. After all, we are the products of the experiences of our lives. Thanks to the way the vampire curse manifests, the lives of the Malkavian are interesting, to say the very least. If you can imagine insanity, and remove all chance of being cured, add in a bit of that insight the truly insane are so famous for, and you start getting a good idea.
The Malkavian are one of the founding and most loyal clans of the Camarilla. Few are the princes without a lunatic telling them what is to be, or the court without a Malkavian who keeps the kindred on their toes. See, the Malkavian clan serve an important facet within the court. They keep things from becoming stagnant by making others face their inner demons and question their philosophies. The kindred mind tends to stick to its guns unless they are given a shove, and there is no greater shove then that of the Malkavian hinting at what he knows or the not-so subtle hint of an enforced psychotic break.
Insanity, sweet release from reality, is not what is portrayed in as in so many movies. The gibbering insanity, the random slasher, the free spirit who does as they please, are actually a rare form of insanity. The fact is actual psychological problems come from a myriad of sources, a full spectrum of spectrums. When you play your Malkavian, you are struck with an incurable derangement. This derangement is not a power up, it is not an excuse to do as you please, it is a flaw or drawback and should be treated as such. Work with your storyteller to find your derangement. What I mean by your derangement is one you can bring to the story every session and one that can make your character have a greater depth with each time it rears its head. An example of this is my friend who played a Malkavian who heard voices. Yeah, kind of boring, how can we make this more entertaining and full of depth? Well, the voices came from a skull the character always carried with him. Enter, Mr. Mittens, a character unto himself that would talk to the Malkavian and even react to current situations in ways the Malkavian would not. Granted, it was all in the Malkavian’s head, but Mr. Mittens became a staple at the gaming table, and not just because there was an actual prop skull that had its own place at the gaming table (picture to the right). Finding out why and how your insanity manifests is essential, and can be one of the multifaceted aspects of your characters. Revel in it, and find your own Mr. Mittens.
All right, while now the clan drawback is out of the way, let’s get to the power that fuels that very flaw. See, the Malkavians are so insane their insanity is infectious, and they know it. Others fear this ability as much as they fear the unknown. The unknown is exactly what you get with the discipline Dementation. With this you can infect others with emotions, visions, and voices that are beyond the control of anyone. The Malkavian simply speaks to others, applying simple guidelines as to what the dementation will be. Though this does not mean the psychosis will be exactly what is said, for what lurks in the mind that is effected is a secret only the storyteller can know. For this reason, individual results may vary. Now here is the fun part: If you botch, the insanity you wished to inflict comes raining back on you in all its glory. One of my favorite abilities in dementation is one that allows you to tell the inner secrets of a person without them ever having to tell you.
The Toreador vampire
Now remember what I said about the Toreador and their enhanced senses? Well, the Malkavians have the same ability. The discipline known as Auspex is just as potent within the Malkavians as it is in the Toreador. Though the ability to turn all your senses up to eleven, and even see what is behind people’s exteriors, is a little different with the Malkavians because of its interaction with the other discipline, the Malkavians can learn things even the Toreador cannot. See, the Malkavian also have a discipline known as Obfuscate. This ability allows them to fade from sight, memory, or even just to appear as someone else. Imagine what super senses, telepathy, and such can learn when you speak as if no one was there at all. Imagine if you will, if somehow played a trick on your mind to where you can’t stop talking, even when you are actually all alone. Now you can see a part of why the Malkavians are sometimes known as the mad prophet. Not to mention the ability mentioned earlier to discern secrets of a person, coupled with auspex’s ability to read an object or place, and the Malkavian tends to know everything.
Forewarned is for forearmed. If you are insane, and you know what everyone is up to, you get to walk around with some swagger and confidence that no one can ever find the source for. The world is your stage, and you are the only one who has seen the script. Get up there, let your psycho flag fly. After all, who is going to stop you? Only someone who wants to see just how far the rabbit hole goes, or worse, wants all their secrets spread in a world that breathes political intrigue. That being said, the Sabbat have their lunatics, too. Unlike the Camarilla vampires, the Sabbat Malkavian will try to inflict their madness on others for the sheer joy of watching insanity run rampant. They are miserable and wish to inflict their miseries on others. Torture on a psychological level is their bread and butter.
Find your insanity, role play it out. Find ways to bring your personality to bear alongside it. Do you suffer in insanity, or do you relish it? Are you the kind to suffer in silence, or do you go loud and proud? You know things others would rather keep secret, but do you keep them secret or blurt them out? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what do you have going for you beyond the derangement? Remember my friend and Mr. Mittens? Well, whenever he does not talk to himself, he remembers his life as a social worker devoted to helping of the homeless. It added life and breath to the character, not to mention it came in handy at times. You are more than your insanity, more than your powers. You are more than the sum of your parts. Think of all the aspects of the Malkavian, as so many fall into Hollywood Psychotic tropes.
Well, there is the Malkavian, I am sure you can see a million ways to make them fun. The Malkavian is what you make it, and I am sure you can make an absolute gem of a character. I know I have had fun with these guys. What are some of your Malkavian memories or hopes? I would love to hear them! Next week I am going to cover the aristocracy of the Camarilla, the Ventrue. What can we expect from those so used to getting their way? I am sure we all know the type, who seem to always have their orders followed. Let’s see the vampire equivalent.
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