"We all go a little mad sometimes."
-- Norman Bates, Psycho
Description: We live in a world of psychiatry and antidepressant drugs, a world where electroshock is largely a thing of the past. We don't call it madness anymore, since that might imply some kind of moral judgment; instead, we call it mental illness and expect it to be overcome or controlled like any other illness. It can be difficult for us to imagine that, not one hundred years ago, the mentally ill were caged, often forced to endure terrible treatments, and if none of those worked, there was always lobotomy. Before that, the handling of the mentally ill was even more severe, especially since many believed that madness was a symptom of demonic possession. But regardless of the age, the beliefs, or the treatments, madness has remained unconquered - and as long as one Malkavian continues to exist on Earth, that will always be the case.
Malkavians come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, but they all share one thing in common: from the moment of their Embrace until Final Death, each Malkavian is incurably insane in at least one respect. The trouble is, Malkavian derangements are intensely personal, based on their personalities and backgrounds, so as a rule of thumb no two Malkavians are alike. This is the unique curse of their blood and it takes hold immediately, although many Malkavians never understand that they are insane. To make matters worse, Malkavians can use a unique power called Dementation to bring out madness in other people; they can also use Dominate to similar effect. All of this can make dealing with Malkavians extremely dangerous, whether you're a member of the clan or not. But the Malkavians can also be useful.
Allegiances: It is interesting to note that Malkavians can be found in every major sect of vampires: the Camarilla, the Sabbat, the Anarchs, and the True Black Hand. Sometimes it's good to have a Malkavian around to "think outside the box," a task that grows harder for most vampires as time goes by. Malkavians are also able to provide handy diversions with their ability to sow madness and discord. The clan is known for a kind of wisdom and for prophecy, though these things are not always trusted. Generally speaking, it's considered a good sign to have a few Malkavians and Nosferatu hanging around, in the same way that it's natural to have rats on a ship. It's when the rats start jumping overboard that you know you're in big trouble...
Founder: A legion of stories exist about the founder of the Malkavian clan, varying wildly from one another and covering every kind of crazy possibility. These stories might be discounted altogether were it not for certain persistent commonalities betweeen them. Most often called "Malkav," the Antediluvian who started the Malkavian clan is generally agreed to be a male. Many old legends say that madness was impressed on Malkav's mind and blood by Caine himself - though why is hotly debated. A number of very convincing stories declare that eternal insanity is some sort of ultimate punishment that carries over to the whole line. Other tales, however, link Malkavians to the difficult gift of divine madness and the wisdom that can be found beyond sanity; it is even said that Malkav delivered prophecy. Although a confirmed sighting of Malkav has not occured in centuries, few believe that he has been destroyed entirely. Some wonder if he is responsible for the strange mental link that a good portion of the clan experiences, sometimes called the Cobweb or Malkavian Madness Network. If so, the Antediluvian might exist in a purely mental/spiritual form and/or in the blood of all of his clan - neither of which are comforting ideas.
Weakness: As noted above, all Malkavians have one derangement that they can never get rid of. While other derangements can be roleplayed into submission or bought off by spending Willpower, a Malkavian's starting derangement will never permanently abate. Sabbat Malkavians are doubly cursed; they begin with two permanent derangements instead of one. For a discussion and list of derangements, please click here.
Disciplines: Auspex, Dominate or Dementation, Obfuscate
Gaming Concerns: Troubles with Malkavians often stem from the way that they're portrayed. Many people play their Malkavians super silly and the second edition clanbook does have a lot of silliness in it. Some gamers don't mind this and like to have a Malkavian around for comic relief. It can be difficult to respect such a character, however, and even more difficult to respect the affliction of the Malkavian clan weakness. The third edition books stress the dark and painful nature of insanity and Storytellers can stress this as well. A Storyteller can, if they desire, refuse Malkavians wielding teddy bears and walking around in fluffy bunny slippers. A Storyteller should discuss the Malkavian's derangement(s) with the player so that both parties thoroughly understand what is expected during play. If a Malkavian character simply disregards their derangement(s) during gameplay, a Storyteller can require the player to spend Willpower to explain it and might consider withholding the experience point for acting. This is not merely to penalize or piss off the player but to show that no Malkavian is immune to the clan weakness. This is a part constructing the boundaries and the setting of a given game, and is entirely at the Storyteller's discretion.
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