Since time immemorable, Gangrel (known as the Wah'Sheen in Arabic) have travelled the wastes of the Middle East and North Africa, following the patterns established by their mortal Bedouin kin. All of this changed in the 7th century, when a Prophet arose in Arabia claiming to have recieved a revelation from God. Although most of his clan was not interested, Khalid ibn Zakariah al-Assad was drawn to this new faith. Islam matched comfortably with his own beliefs of honor, survival, self-relience and the quest for primal spirituality. Although he could never approach Mohammad or his companions, being kept away by their strong faith, he studied the revelations of Islam with great zeal. Under the righteous caliphs, the Rashidun, he instructed his childer (and other clanmates) in the mysteries of the faith.
As Islam spread across the world, what had once been a nation of tribes and nomads became a great empire incorporating much of Spain, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The arts and learning flowered in cities like Cairo, Baghdad, Samarqand, Lahore and Damascus. Muslim scholars studied the texts of the ancients, pioneered the sciences and brought the arts to great heights. The flowering of Islam also changed the Taifa. Whereas once they had been simple Bedouin nomads, they now had become hakim - philosophers, scholars, scientists and holy men. Unlike their more savage brethern, they had seen the beauty of culture, religion and learning and merged it with their own primal wisdom and simple codes of honor.
The Crusades and Reconquista served to sever the Taifa off from the western world, while the Mongol invasion destroyed many of the great achievements of Islam. al-Assad went into torpor around the 12th century, and the Taifa experienced a general decline. Most turned to the role of theologians, teaching mortals and Kindred alike the ways of Islam. It is a role they continue to play to this night. Many serve as 'ulama, qadi or marabouts to the Kindred of the Islamic world. Others have taken to trying to guide mortals. Although their attempts to guide the Ottoman Turks and Iranians into a new golden age of Islam had little success, the Taifa have managed to establish themselves in many the political and business arenas of Arabia and elsewhere.
The modern nights have not been kind to the Taifa though. Although the British, French and other colonial powers have pulled out, the Middle East is still subject to the whims of the west. It is a position many Taifa find humiliating. Many have decided the best way to beat the west is to play its own game, while still keeping true to Islamic values. To this end, they have sent emissaries to the cities of Europe and North America. Disguised amongst the countless refugees from their homelands, these Taifa seek to learn as much as they can about science, technology and political power in the west. Others have come seeking converts (bringing them into even more conflict with the Lancea Sanctum).
Parent Clan: Gangrel
Nickname: el-Amin (the faithful), el-Mujahideen (the holy warriors)
Covenant: Most Taifa are members of a minor Covenant called the Ashirra, a Muslim sect strongest in Arabia and other Islamic lands. However, the Ashirra are practically unheard of in North America or Europe. Politically inclined Taifa tend towards the Invictus, which serves much the same in the Middle East as elsewhere, styling themselves as sultans and viziers. Some younger, pro-western Taifa (particularly women) throw their lot in with the Carthian Movement. These revolutionaries see democracy and equal rights as staying true to the teachings of Islam.
The other Covenants are more rare. Although some sufi mystics are drawn to Ordo Dracul, too many remember Dracula as an infidel who fought against the Ottoman Turks. The Circle of the Crone is unpopular too, since the Acolytes continue to reject Allah in favor of pagan deities like al-Ussa and Hubal. The Lancea Sanctum, based on a heretical form of Christianity, has a bad history with the Taifa going back to the Crusades. Both sides consider each other infidels and blasphemers of the worst kind. No members of the bloodline have ever joined either of those Covenants.
Appearence: Most Taifa, especially the older ones, look either Middle Eastern, Indian or Mediterranean. However, the bloodline Embraces from across the Muslim world so a few blacks, Asians and even caucasians can all be found within their ranks. Most Taifa wear traditional clothing such as the thobe, turban, kaffiyeh, tarbosuh and salwar-kameez. This is done to distinguish members of the bloodline as scholars and pious individuals. When neccessary, though, they will don western style clothing. Women within the bloodline almost always wear the hijab, or head scarf, particularly when in the west.
Haven: Traditional Taifa prefer to wander the Islamic world as dervishes or Bedouin, simply melding with the earth when they need shelter. However, most members of the bloodline have become accustomed to the luxuries of civilization. Even they tend to prefer traditional baked clay houses, with the open courtyards popular amongst the Moors. They also tend to have many piles of books, artifacts and scientific equipment.. Almost all Taifa decorate their Havens with Arabic calligraphy, usually passages from the Qur'an. Prayer rugs are also common, as the Taifa perform the salat as best they can.
Background: Almost all Taifa were devout Muslims in life (and those who weren't converted after the Embrace). Originally, the Wah'Sheen drew from tribal people like the Bedouin, Kurds, Qashqai, Berbers and Turkmen. The Taifa broke with this tradition, looking for great scholars, intellectuals, leaders, mystics and men of faith. In modern nights, they've expanded to accept archaeologists, scientists and journalists. The only real requirements are strong faith and some insight or intelligence. Hence, a simple Egyptian fellahin is as likely to be Embraced as a Saudi oil tycoon. It should be mentioned that, although primarily drawn from the Arabic world, the Taifa do accept Muslims from all countries and races. Hence, they have African, Asian and even western members.
Character Creation: Unlike most Gangrel, the Taifa tend to prefer Social and Mental Attributes over Physical (though Stamina does tend to be high, if only because many Taifa led rugged lifestyles). Skills like Survival, Animal Ken and Stealth are fairly common but Mental and Social Skills are most prized (particularly Academics, Expression, Medicine, Occult, Persausion, Politics, Science, Socialize). Likewise, both Mental and Social Merits are highly prized. Many Taifa have the Language Merit (particularly Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hausa, Swahili, Urdu, Malay and other languages important to their faith). Allies, Contacts, Status and so forth are also fairly common.
Bloodline Disciplines: Animalism, Protean, Resilience, Sihr*
Weakness: Like all other Gangrel, the Taifa's closeness to the Beast causes them to behave in a feral, bestial way. With regard to the Intelligence and Wits dice pools, the 10 Again rule does not apply. Additionally, any 1's that come up on the role are subtracted from the successes (this does not apply to dramatic failures). This weakness does not affect dice pools for perception or reaction to suprise, or to Resolve actions.
In addition, their faith has changed them. Taifa who does not perform nightly prayers suffers a +2 difficulty on all Social rolls until he resumes his nightly prayers. In addition, Taifa cannot harm or feed from a truely devout Muslim. This weakness only applies to mortals, not to other vampires or supernatural beings.
Organization: The Taifa have very little formal organization. Because they have been so rare in the west until very recently, its unlikely that any city would have more than one or two Taifa anyway. In their homelands, though, the Taifa are very social. They mingle freely with one another and with other Ghuls. Amongst themselves, they often form into madrassas (schools) or khannaqahs (sufi lodges), to better pursue their studies.
Concepts: Archaeology professor, dervish, engineer, foreign exchange student, humble person of strong faith, Islamic scholar, missionary to the West, pillar of the community, refugee seeking political asylum, scientist, Sufi mystic, tribal freedom fighter
- I know it got used in "Veil of Night", but Sihr is the Arabic and Islamic term for "black magic" (though the Urdu term "Jadoo" works too). I'm working at coming up with a ritual style magic, similar in some respects to Theban Sorcery. Dark miracles that draw on Middle Eastern faiths. Obviously, it'd be more limited in scope, not being able to do anything that would "usurp God's will" (ie, control someone else's minds or actions, for instance, or do anything thats not covered in Middle Eastern folklore). Probably would deal with the djinn quite a bit. I'm probably going to flesh out the Ashirra sect a little more too.