“A man without friends is not a man, but an outcast.”
How is it that a Clan as well-known for its savagery and solitude as the Gangrel could have produced the Taifa, who have used their sophistication and social aptitude to prosper in the cities their parent Clan avoids?
Most of the other Clans’ “explanations” play on the nature of the Gangrel, who are mocked throughout the region for their “messy” - some would say “unclean” - feeding habits. The story goes that, ages ago, a wandering Gangrel took a shine to a traveling salesman (or his daughter) and claimed the mortal for his prey. Once besotted with blood, however, he Embraced his prey with no real understanding of what he was doing, and dragged them both into the sands to sleep.
On the night following the mistake, the Gangrel was filled with disgust at his own actions. But he also felt pity for the weakling childe, so he dealt with the problem the only way he knew how: leaving the progeny to fend for itself. And a Bloodline of groveling shopkeepers, overly familiar “friends” and whispering powers behind the throne was the result.
Needless to say, the Taifa do not like those stories. And, much like stories about their parent Clan, such rude tales are only told BEHIND their backs, lest the Bloodline’s infamous temper be let loose.
The Taifa, meanwhile, have their own story. It mostly follows the pattern of the one above, but differs in the night after the deed. They say that, before leaving back to the deserts, the Gangrel looked down at his Childe with unimpressed eyes. And he told the new vampire to make something of himself, before he next returned that way - otherwise, he would “rectify” his mistake.
The Gangrel left, and his childe did as he was instructed, using his salesman’s smile, sense of hospitality and ability to bargain to do it. The Taifa Bloodline, and all they have built up together, are the result of these things. And the Gangrel has yet to return from the deserts, most likely afraid of facing up to his TRUE mistake...
As with so much else in the region, the truth of these stories are all in their telling, and there is no way to be certain of what really happened. All that is certain is that, while their parent Clan vastly prefers to stay in the deserts and mountains of the Middle East, avoiding cities as much as possible, the Taifa have, over the centuries, made those cities their own.
Indeed, some say that the Taifa now OUTNUMBER their parent Clan in the region. This is very ironic when you consider that “Taifa” - as used to name the Bloodline - means “faction.” But the majority of the Bloodline claims to have no desire to change their diminutive name, citing their desire to be humble servants and kindly friends. And such “service” and “friendship” have paid off very well over the ages, for the Taifa are a highly-visible part of the Middle East’s nightlife.
How can this be? The Bloodline’s members realized, long ago, that they could never rival the Ventrue for sheer power, the Mekhet for whispered advice or the Nosferatu for sensitive information. Selling and handling animals came naturally to them, thanks to their parent Clan, but the Ventrue were already in that market as well, and not eager to share.
So, in true entrepreneurial spirit, the Taifa made their homes in the corners that others weren’t using at the moment. They then sold what they found there for two to three times the price... unless it was to a “friend,” or someone they’d have liked to have as one. And as masters of the hard sell (you REALLY wouldn’t want to disappoint them) they made an awful lot of friends.
This move allowed them to gain a small corner on the information and influence markets, which in turn earned them entry into the halls of nighttime power. As long as they didn’t overextend themselves - which could be a costly and fatal mistake - they were begrudgingly allowed to stay there. And they just kept going and going: hoarding their favors and seizing their moments, and refining their use of Majesty along the way...
And now, with small but reasonable percentages of every city they make their Havens in under their thumbs, the other Clans can only mock their origins. They do this knowing full well that to challenge the Taifa is to face down a wall of their friends, followers and favors. And they also know that, sooner or later, they’ll have to swallow their pride and go to the Taifa for something, anyway.
But if they’re lucky - and don’t make them mad - then maybe they can get a good price for it.
Parent Clan: Gangrel (Wah’sheen)
Nickname: Darlings (Habaibi)
Covenant: The Bloodline exists for the good of the Bloodline alone. Those who are outside of it - even the Gangrel who spawned them - are of secondary importance at best. So while the Taifa play the game of Covenants, they do so only as a means to an end: the betterment of the blood.
In fact, the Bloodline is notorious for its members joining Covenants whose tenets and philosophies they really care nothing about. It’s all about making friends and influencing people, thus adding a little more prestige to their person. And those who are truly more interested in Covenant than blood had best keep their divergent opinions to themselves...
So it isn’t a question of which Covenants the Taifa would want to get into so, much as which Covenants will welcome them. And in spite of their somewhat mercenary reputation, the only Covenant active in the Middle East that deliberately excludes the Bloodline is the secretive (and Pagan) Circle of the Crone.
Appearance: “Well-appointed” would be the way to describe the Taifa, who believe in presenting themselves as well as possible under the circumstances. Impeccable grooming and demeanor is a must, along with the finest clothes that can be purchased. The bloodline’s members tend to keep with the times in terms of fashion, both when dealing with mortals and other Clans, but many of its Elders retain their older finery for dealings within the Taifa, such as a Majlis (see Organization)
Haven: Where there are shops, cafes, bazaars, backrooms, sheesha bars, dens of pleasure, and palaces, you will find the Taifa. They most often have two Havens apiece: one for dealing with mortals - including most of their Ghuls - and vampires of other Clans, and one for themselves and other Taifa.
The “public” Haven will most likely be small, and tastefully and professionally decorated, with an eye on impressing one’s guest but not overwhelming him. The ideal “private” hideaway, on the other hand, will be a well-appointed room - or set of them - that speaks proudly of one’s wealth and accomplishments, so as to impress one’s brothers and sisters in the blood.
This hideaway is also best kept close to the ground, so they need only open a hidden trapdoor to touch the earth, where they can sleep undisturbed...
Background: The Taifa prefer to Embrace businessmen, social climbers and the well-connected. Much like their parent Clan, they seek out those with high levels of self-awareness, self-reliance and - most important of all - self-confidence. They also share the Gangrel’s appreciation of survival: the ideal Taifa is one who’s worked hard to make something for themselves out of nothing at all, rather than having it all handed over to them by an indulgent patron or dead relative. (Those types of people make better Ghuls, anyway.)
The Bloodline has always been fairly even-handed about accepting both men and women into their ranks, but has only recently started taking members who aren’t of Middle-Eastern descent, much less Muslims. Such things can no longer be avoided with the coming of the global economy, but the presence of “outsiders” and “infidels” within the Bloodline has caused its share of friction in some areas.
Other, more cosmopolitan cities’ Taifa are less picky, putting the good of the Bloodline over their own preferences. In their eyes, once someone is of the blood he or she is kin, and worthy of a chance.
Character Creation: Taifa characters tend to be as “specialized” as the Gangrel, but in the opposite direction. Social Attributes and Abilities are given a high premium, while Physical ones are allowed to slide in favor of Social Merits (especially Allies and Retainer). Mental matters usually wind up in the middle, as the Taifa are wise enough to understand the curse of their blood, but believe that being surrounded by good “friends” can cure some of the problems it causes. Sometimes, anyway...
Bloodline Disciplines: Animalism, Majesty, Protean, Resilience
Weakness: Like their parent Clan, the Taifa have problems holding onto their wits and higher reason in the face of the Beast. They also suffer from quick tempers, and are notorious for going into Anger Frenzy at even the suggestion of an insult. All checks for Anger Frenzy are made at -3 dice (they have no such problems with Wassail or Rotschrek, however). Also note that this penalty does not apply to the Frenzy risked when vampires meet one another for the first time, unless, of course, the other vampire chooses to greet the Taifa by being insulting...
Organization: The Taifa believe in the weight and wisdom of the eldest amongst them. Those who can maintain the growth of their chosen business and not succumb to sudden Torpor - at least not without making suitable arrangements ahead of time - are seen as the true leaders of any city. Such shrewdness and intelligence in the face of the blood’s curse is considered greater than years alone, much less Blood Potency, and it is this one who usually winds up as Priscus, thus ruling over a the Taifa of a given Domain.
One custom the Taifa have retained from their parent Clan - or perhaps developed independently - is the Majlis: a regular gathering of the Bloodline in a Domain to discuss news and settle disputes. This gathering takes place at a shared Haven (some might call it a Taifa-only Elysium) under the patronage of the Priscus of the city, who presides over it.
The “news” consists of each member quickly saying what he or she has been doing since the last Majlis. This formal declaration of gains, losses, holdings and intentions is done to shore up one’s standing in the Bloodline, as well as inform others what to keep their hands and fangs out of. Disputes, meanwhile, are written out ahead of time, and handed to the Priscus for his consideration. He will mull the matter over and, following the meeting, give his decision to the one bringing the complaint, and then the one complained about.
Needless to say, losing one’s temper at such a time is not a good idea. Anyone who embarrasses himself in this fashion must give HALF of what he holds as his to the Priscus, who takes it to redistribute as he sees fit. The desire to hang onto what one has made is often enough to keep even the hottest heads in check - at least until AFTER the meeting.
Concepts: Information Broker, Camel Farmer, Dragoman, Internet Cafe Gossip, Harpy, Seneschal, Herald, After-Hours Moneylender, Diplomat, Man or Lady About Town, Palace Presence, Humble Procurer of Fine Wares for the Discerning.