Vampires fall into more categories than sparkly an non=sparkly. As the iconic Vampire: The Masquerade RPG taught us, there are 13 vastly different clans of vampires for players to choose from, some good, some weird, and some so terrible they might as well sparkle. Here are all of Vampire's various clans, ranked from best to worst.
Ventrue represents vampires at their most classy. As the most noble of vampires — at least they consider themselves to be — they infiltrate and use human government to maintain their power over other vampires. They've been a part of the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and pretty much all the empires in-between. The Ventrue are usually successful, rich, and in charge of vampire society called the Camarilia, which enforces the Masquerade, which is the social pact vampires have to keep their existence secret from mortals. Ventrue have the best "normal" set of powers in the game, including Dominate and Presence, which makes them the charismatic vampires who can make their enemies piss their pants in fear or make them fall in love with them even as they drain their blood. If Dracula were a Vampire: The Masquerade character, he should have been a Ventrue. If you want to play a classic, awesome vampire, then Ventrue is definitely the clan to choose.
There's something sad and desperate about having a vampire clan full of nothing but badass assassins, but damned if the Assamite don't manage to be kind of awesome anyways. First of all, they're not just assassins; they also include sorcerer and Viziers (scholars of a sort), all with their own specific powers. Despite happily taking contracts as hitmen, they aren't evil and they don't get involved in all the nonsense of the other vampire clans. Most important, all Assamites have the Discipline of Qietus which, despite its name, allows vampires to control the blood of others, which lets them do awesome things like force targets to sweat blood, turn blood acidic, and other craziness. Yes, it may be completely clichéd to be a quiet, noble assassin, but when you can take control of another vampire's blood from afar, people don't tend to give you too much grief about it.
Although one of the newest vampire clans, the Treme are essentially Ventrue Lite — super-organized, super-into the Masquerade, super-pro-vampire society. What they lack in the Ventrue's social status and power they make up for with Thaumaturgy, or blood magic. Not only does Thaumaturgy have the benefit of creeping other vampires out, it has a huge variety of powers to choose from, including alchemy, elemental control, conjuring, corruption, and so much more. Tremere are the mages of Vampire, and since all vampires are at least somewhat durable, Tremere don't necessary get knocked out the second someone bumps into them like D&D's mages do. It's this massive flexibility that makes the Tremere one of the best clans in the Masquerade.
Yes, the Lasombra are one of the clans of the evil Sabbat, and yes, they tend to have those traditionally evil, full jet-black eyes and they're also the vampires whose reflections don't show up on mirrors and thus are considered extra-damned by God for some reason. But if you don't mind being outright evil, Lasombra are awesome. They're basically evil Ventrue, with the same society and power and resources, but with more backstabbing. Plus, Lasombra have super-awesome shadow powers, including crazy-black shadow tentacles… and at only Stage 3 of the Obtenebration ability. If you don't mind being evil — and if you do, maybe you shouldn't be playing Vampire in the first place — Lasombra are the way to go.
5) Followers of Set
Like it says on the tin, these vampires worship Set, the Egyptian god who they believe will be coming back to clean shop. Their goofy-ass philosophy says that souls are good and eternal but that flesh is corrupt, which somehow translates into "let's corrupt every corporal being we see." This is a license to just be ridiculously, hilarious evil to everybody and try to ruin everybody's day/week/life. The Followers of Set are basically the Bastard class of Vampire, and they have all the freedom that a completely lack of morality allows. Also, they have the Serpentis disciple which allows its user to paralyze people with their gaze, have a giant serpent tongue to attack with, and most awesomely, lets Settites take out their own heart and hide it in a broom closet somewhere so they can't be staked.
The Chaotic Neutral of the Vampire world. While Chaotic Neutral is a huge plus in Dungeons & Dragons games — it basically allows you to do anything and justify it because you're crazy, woo! — it's supremely annoying in Vampire, where players all need to be on the same page regarding the Masquerade, lest the adventure quickly become crazy and/or dumb. If a character can be insane without wrecking the entirety of vampire society in the first five minutes of playing, they actually have some cool benefits, including Obfuscate, the power to disappear, and Dominate, which can be used to drive other people insane. And that's plenty of fun.
Typically described as the hotheaded rebels of the Vampire world, the Brujah seem to be an inexplicably popular choice among players. Possibly this is because the Brujah are the closest Vampire comes to having a basic "Fighter" class, whose powers include Potence and Celerity — super-strength and super-speed — which is good because Brujah are basically just thugs. They don't really have a society to speak of, so they wander around, doing what they want, despite the fact its kind of hard to be a rebel when you're still bound to the rules of the Masquerade that keeps vampirism a secret from the mortal world. Apparently, many Brujah are still bitching about the destruction of Carthage, where hey had their golden age. It was 2200 years ago, guys. Get over it.
Toreador are the artists of the vampire world, which is to say they're really pretentious and annoying. They're the ones who fall in love (with humans, other vampires, soup cans, whatever) and thus inspire crap romances like Twilight. They're also like drunk babies; easily captivated by shiny things that happen to catch their eye. As the Vampire Wiki states, "Such things as paintings, neon signs, or even sunrises can captivate [Toreador]. It requires a successful Willpower roll to break the fascination quickly; otherwise, the Toreador will stand, awed and helpless, for minutes or even hours." Which is stupid and dangerous. The only reason Toreador are this high on the list is because they have the super-speed power of Celerity.
Another outright evil vampire clan, the Tzimisce are the spiritual leaders and scholars of the Sabbat. What do they study? Vicissitude, or the magic of bone and flesh shaping. Basically, it's Clive Barker: The Magic Power. Humans exist only to be messed with and tortured in order for the Tzimisce to continually evolve themselves, although I think we all know its mostly about the torture. On the down side, Vicissitude doesn't seem traditionally Vampire-y at all, so you're basically playing an evil wizard who needs to drink blood for some reason. On the plus side, apparently Dracula was a Tzimisce, even though it makes no sense whatsoever. So that's something.
The Nosferatu seem like they might be the worst clan in Vampire; they're all ugly as hell (think Count Orlock from Nosferatu, natch), they can't hide among humanity at all, and they generally hide in sewers. Moreover, they don't really have any benefits to balance all the crap life (er, unlife (well, the Vampire RPG)) has dumped on them. Sure, the Nosferatu are supposed to be really good ad spying thanks to their Obfuscate ability, but Malkaians have Obfuscate too and they don't make people want to throw up when they see them. Basically, the only reason the Nosferatu aren't on the bottom of the list is that there a power in being a monster that looks truly monstrous — a dignity in saying "fuck it" to the rest of Vampire society/the game and choosing to wear your hideous curse on your sleeve. And face. And everything else.
Basically the vampire mob, the Giovanni are obsessed with money and necromancy, because with necromancy they'd basically just be the regular mob, and that'd be super-boring. They only make vampires out of their own very large family, which — and this is ridiculous — who don't know their family is full of evil blood-sucking magic vampires until they get chosen to become vampires themselves. Although the Giovanni don't support the Masquerade or the Sabbat, they tend to be evil assholes, what with all the mafia and death magic and whatnot. But being a vampire and choosing to spend all your time trying to make money is like having a giant robot and using it for doing nothing but carry groceries.
Gangrel have two primary characteristics: they're nomads and they have an affinity for animals. The first is just a fancy way of saying Gangrels are basically bums. The second is far less cool than it sounds. While other vampires are casting blood magic and tearing humans apart like fresh bread with shadow tentacles, Gangrel are talking to dogs and shit. Okay, technically they could have a wolf familiar, but this isn't Westeros; you don't just find wolves lying on the side of the road, and even if you do it's not like you can bring them into a nightclub. Even worse, when Gangrel frenzy and lose control, they start to gain animal-like physical characteristic, like tails or cat ears, which makes them look like perpetual furries. They only thing that would make Gangrel's even slightly cool is if they could turn into clouds of bats, but they can't. Ever.
Ravnos are vagabonds, which is a fancy way of saying nomads, which we've already established is itself a fancy way of "bums." The Ravnos are thieves and charlatans who are closely entwined with the Gypsies and have helped perpetuate the stereotype that Gypsies are also thieves and charlatans. In fact, the game demands that all Ravnos have at one vice they constantly have to make Willpower roles to avoid doing, "ranging from plagiarism to mass murder." So in Vampire, the stereotype is apparently true, which is kind of racist if you ask me and why they're at the bottom of this list. (Also, calling "mass murder" a vice seems… a bit of an understatement to me.)
Top image: Clyde Caldwell.