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High Clan/Low Clan; Why was this a thing?

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  • High Clan/Low Clan; Why was this a thing?

    From an outside perspective, I get it; it was the 90's, common people got their history from shlock like Braveheart, and there needs to be some pulpy dichotomy so we can have punk in our setting. But from an in-universe reasoning, this is near-utter foolishness. Sure the Ventrue can save themselves from the pissed-off "second class" Nosferatu by having a Malkavian play counterspy or situating a Capadocian near them at all times but that's... needless effort, and totally reliant on ages being aproximately the same. Fact is if a vampire's old you fear and respect them even if they have the countenance of a six year old mortal, and it doesn't matter what clan the ancient's from, they're still an ancient. While they're not great at dinner parties, I can only imagine a city trying to make Nosferatu second-class citizens in a scenario where the Auspex proficient clans want to bully the Ventrue and Lasombra (which, in fairness, they might) since such clans have the most to lose from such an arrangement. Clanism is wonderful and all but arbitrary strata? No. Many of the High clans embrace low borns and many of the Low clans have great opportunities to embrace highborn mortals...

    Does anyone have better reasoning for this?


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  • #2
    Better reasoning? No, not really.

    Aside 90's being 90's this was the result of bad understanding about the Middle Ages. Which isn't completely unfounded, to be sincere.

    Only in the 2000s we really started to drop the misconceptions and prejudices about the Middle Ages that were introduced during the Renaissance.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
      From an outside perspective, I get it; it was the 90's, common people got their history from shlock like Braveheart,
      Does anyone have better reasoning for this?
      Too far! Some stuff is just good entertainment, Braveheart need not be a documentary to be a great movie.

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      • #4
        I’ll quote myself from the other thread:

        Really, the idea of High Clans and Low Clans makes no sense. An elder vampire is royalty among the undead, regardless of the Clan or Bloodline. An Englishman might hate Spain and think that Spaniards are trash, but when he has an audience with Queen Isabella, he had best bow, call her “your majesty”, and generally show her the difference she’s due. If you’re a Ventrue or Toreador ancilla and you’re meeting a Nosferatu elder, it doesn’t matter if you have a gown made of diamonds and the mayor is your personal ghoul, even if the elder lives in the sewer and is covered with shit, you show respect to your better.

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        • #5
          High Clan/Low Clan was something introduced in the Dark Ages campaign setting, a time and place when rank and class were of utmost importance. High clans typically recruited from the nobility/wealthy/important people. Low clans just kind of grabbed whomever and ended up with lots of commoners and such in their ranks. Many of these important members of nobility didn't really want to think of themselves as being on the same level as someone who had been a street urchin so they brought their mortal biases with them beyond the Masquerade.

          Really the High Clan/Low Clan divide was a product of the Middle Ages and isn't something you really see most vampires referring to in the modern nights, because most vampires these days don't give a fuck about concepts like nobility. The idea that the Embrace is egalitarian is something largely viewed as positive rather than viewed in a more negative light. It might also have to do with the growth of the Camarilla, an organization in which all clans and vampires are, at least on paper, equal to one another.

          So really you need to look at High Clan/Low Clan as being a product of a certain time period and place, and it probably isn't a concept that really existed outside of Dark Ages Europe. It doesn't exist in Africa or India or the Middle East. It probably didn't exist in the Americas. Depending on what they do in Asia you might have seen something similar crop up in some places (like Japan) where class was incredibly important, but maybe not. It's hard to say.
          Last edited by AnubisXy; 09-13-2021, 09:00 PM.

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          • #6
            It's meant to emphasise the social and psychological differences between the "Dark Ages" and the Modern Nights. That Nosferatu elder might, on paper, have masses of experience, power, resources, and allies to call upon, but if he was born the illegitimate son of a fuller and the only mortal education he ever knew was that honouring that position gained him a place in heaven, he might take a righteous pride in prostrating himself before that Ventrue ancilla (and it's not like there aren't other ways for the elder to achieve their goals). And he might be horrified at the prospect of embracing... let's say, a lord: not only would the lord lose what made him valuable in the first place or be an outcast within the clan, but trying to brute-force someone from one station into another station would be akin to blasphemy for this particular Nosferatu. Everyone has their place in Creation. It's not even really that different from the modern gamethe social stratification is just more overt.

            Short answer: it gives the game a different roleplaying flavour. Whether it's historically accurate or makes "sense" is another thing entirely, but there are still canonical cracks in the High Clan/Low Clan dichotomy if you want to break from it. Malachite, Ruxandra, the Furores, the Ravnos Phaedymites... the Assamites and Setites barely even recognise the distinction in the first place, and the Tremere actively chafe against it.

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            • #7
              Oddly it works a little better in modern nights with the patrician big 3 tremere, toreador and ventrue with the lasombra as a rough 4th sabbat ruling clan in contrast to the plebeian clans/bloodlines/clanless The lower number of upper class clans works a little better than 7 high vs 7 low.

              Which has a nice subtext to our current society.
              Last edited by Ragged Robin; 09-13-2021, 09:26 PM.

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              • #8
                I think it's best seen as an OOC attempt to 1) introduce a new tension into the Dark Ages setting to serve the purpose of something like the sect conflicts of the modern setting (more Elder/Cam vs Neonate/Anarchs than versus Sabbat) and 2) to better distinguish the Dark Ages setting from the modern Camarilla (something that should have been more pronounced, but lacking in its original presentation). I think it was a very artificial distinction. It clearly wasn't something developed naturally out of previous canon. And it didn't even necessarily make sense in-character. We previously were told that the Ventrue and Malkavians ruled together in Rome during the Classical Era so why are the Malkavians now a Low Clan?

                I do think to a certain extent that each clan would evaluate the others and put them into a category, and those clans with a more obvious unpleasant weakness/curse might be looked down upon. But that's not really the High Clans / Low Clans concept as that is only partially it and not consistently (otherwise the Cappadocians would be in the Low Clans, and there are several Low Clans that could justifiably claim to be a High Clan).

                If you really wanted to emphasize a division between the clans, I likely would have gone with something like grouping them under the supposed divisions of the second generation. The Clans of Irad, the Clans of Zillah, the Clans of Enoch type of thing. And make them more like feuding grandchildren than sharing the same theme. And just to keep a little mystery, allow that some clans are bitterly divided over which group they were in.

                I think the Dark Ages game had a lot of neat ideas, but they clearly didn't know how they wanted to portray conflicts among vampires in the setting (or more honestly, what would justify more sourcebooks to be bought by completionists for the supplement treadmill). So they kept trying different things that actually undermined any sense of continuity with the modern era setting. Was it to be based around Roads? Was it High Clans/Low Clans? What about creating multi-domain fiefdoms like the Courts of Love or Fiefs of the Black Cross? They were things that superficially made sense, but not when you looked at the greater setting and established canon.

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                • #9
                  My impression has always been that it was something mostly arbitrary a bunch of elders and ancilla from the High Clans came up with to designate themselves as the Cool Kids and the others as the ones who don't get to sit at the Cool Kids table in the cafeteria. (Probably starting when Western European Kindred society was shaking itself out after the Roman era set up collapsed, and becoming more of a thing when the War of Princes, with its lords often being from those clans, took off.) But others' mileage may vary.



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                  • #10
                    I think this thread kind of shows clearly why this divide was created.

                    The distinction makes no sense from a Real World perspective. But for most players, it does. It helps create conflict. This conflict is arbitrary and baseless, but it makes sense for a lot of players. It doesn't conform to the Middle Ages, but it conforms to how many people think about the Middle Ages. And as such, to the game experience they expect from a Dark Ages setting.

                    Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
                    High Clan/Low Clan was something introduced in the Dark Ages campaign setting, a time and place when rank and class were of utmost importance.
                    Just to make things clear, this is historically inaccurate. Although those kinds of social divide did existed in the Middle Ages and before, it was so much more complex as to render this divide disingenuous. As many popular misconceptions about the Middle Ages, this is actually a Renaissance/Modern Age development in the form it is presented.

                    But this is for real history, not DA setting.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                      From an outside perspective, I get it; it was the 90's
                      Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                      Aside 90's being 90's
                      Dark Ages: Vampire was released in 2002. The High/Low Clan distinction is a Revised era thing; it didn't exist in the original Vampire: The Dark Ages game line.

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                      • #12
                        Ah, early 2000's and late 90's, it's the same thing right?
                        /Youthful ignorance.

                        Revised was a silly edition.


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                        • #13
                          As for the reason why, I don't think the High/Low distinction is a result of anything more complicated than a desire on the part of the authors to divide the clans into more manageable chunks instead of presenting 13 options for new players all at once.

                          The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two is a concept in psychology that argues in favor of the importance of two related research observations: 1) Working memory capacity for most adults is in the range of 7+/-2 objects (i.e., 5 to 9 objects); 2) Short-term memory capacity is also 7+/-2 when measured for English speakers memorizing, say, a string of random digits.

                          In other words, it may simply be good practice to present new players with 5 to 9 options to consider at once when introducing them to a game. The original Vampire: The Masquerade accomplished this perfectly by presenting players with seven clans and consigning all additional clans to supplemental material. The Revised Vampire: The Masquerade core book also accomplished this, even though it featured all 13 clans in the same book, by dividing them between the Camarilla, Sabbat, and Independent clans.

                          The original Vampire: The Dark Ages core book simply presented all 13 clans in alphabetical order. Regardless of the "historical" merits of the High/Low Clan distinction, I would argue that the Revised Dark Ages: Vampire book is better than the original at not overwhelming new players with more than a dozen options all at once. It's a way of organizing the content, not some claim about real-world or in-game history.
                          Last edited by Elphilm; 09-14-2021, 03:25 AM.

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                          • #14
                            I feel they could've had such an effect with "common" and "rare/exotic" clans. Excluding the Tremere, the OG 7 clans were always the most prolific (having the best discipline spreads for easy dissemination) . The Ravnos, FoS, Assamites and to some extent, the Tzmisce have always been off in the corner doing their own thing. The Salubri were never big either. So you've got 8 "common" clans and 6 odd clans to work with.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
                              From an outside perspective, I get it; it was the 90's, common people got their history from shlock like Braveheart, and there needs to be some pulpy dichotomy so we can have punk in our setting.
                              I feel like that's a bit like, "Why is Star Wars so obsessed with rebels versus fascists?"

                              I mean, it's baked into the very DNA of the game that there is a serious class and social conflict between vampires because some vampires are rich, beautiful, powerful people and some vampires are trash persecuted and left as outsiders. Some fans prefer the idea that the game is, "The Rich Middle Class and the Super-Rich Elite" but I don't think they've ever gone that way in canon. There's the guys in the slums and sewers and the guys in the Ivory Tower.

                              In the Dark Ages, it helps underscore that some vampires identify with the nobility and other vampires identify with the peasantry. There is no Middle Class really.

                              Originally posted by Sergeant Brother View Post
                              I’ll quote myself from the other thread:

                              Really, the idea of High Clans and Low Clans makes no sense. An elder vampire is royalty among the undead, regardless of the Clan or Bloodline. An Englishman might hate Spain and think that Spaniards are trash, but when he has an audience with Queen Isabella, he had best bow, call her “your majesty”, and generally show her the difference she’s due. If you’re a Ventrue or Toreador ancilla and you’re meeting a Nosferatu elder, it doesn’t matter if you have a gown made of diamonds and the mayor is your personal ghoul, even if the elder lives in the sewer and is covered with shit, you show respect to your better.
                              Society is full of meaningless distinctions and classicism.

                              Yes, if you meet an Elder Nosferatu then you should bow and scrape as a Neonate. However, said Elder Nosferatu will be shunned and considered a monster by Elder Ventrue and Toreador even if cautiously. And if you meet a Neonate Nosferatu then that guy will get all manner of disgust and loathing from Neonate Toreador and Ventrue.

                              Indeed human history can be defined as, "making a meaningless nonsensical distinction to kick someone else."
                              Last edited by CTPhipps; 09-14-2021, 06:50 AM.


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