The language is everywhere that of Men of Honour, but their actions are
those of Knaves; a proof that he was perfectly well acquainted with human
Nature, and frequented what we call polite company.
Voltaire on the plays of Congreve
The most human of all the clans, the Toreador in many ways embody the best and the worst of human nature. They are capable of great nobility of spirit and unparalleled dedication, but they are just as capable of pettiness, vicious meanness and caprice. The key to understanding this seeming contradiction lies in the quest for perfection which drives each and every one of them in some way.
Sadly, the clan's reputation is often based more on their bad points than their good. Although more generous observers may acknowledge that the Toreador have exceptional sensitivity and taste, you are more likely to hear them accused of degeneracy and superficiality. This reputation is not entirely deserved, and in fact the Toreador are much misunderstood. This is best explained by looking at the difference between Toreador nature and Toreador society.
The nature of Toreador blood is most commonly expressed through some form of art, or appreciation of beauty, but this is simply the way that it usually manifests. The heart of the matter is that each and every one of them is continually searching for some form of perfection. Needless to say, they are usually disappointed, and while this can lead them to aim ever higher, it can also lead them into cynicism and degeneracy.
Their longing for perfection is so strong that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Toreador are a clan of obsessional fanatics. This is what makes them absolutely the best at their own forms of art, and what can lead them to see art in areas others consider entirely prosaic. It fuels them to keep working when others would give up, and, paradoxically, it can cause them to drop a project, or a person, like a hot potato when they see something which seems closer to their ideal. It produces an attention to detail which you won't find anywhere else.
Although this burning desire for perfection is most commonly expressed through media such as music, painting, architecture, individual Toreador see art in surprising places. They are just as capable of obsessing about political systems, or philosophy, or strategy, and the skill and sensitivity they can bring to such fields should not be underestimated. Toreador make superb politicians, armed as they are with a greater understanding of people and society than any of the other clans, and with the unparalleled charm they can exude, especially with the higher levels of Presence. For this reason, there are plenty of Toreador Princes, and while the Ventrue have the greatest control over the organisations of the mortal world, the Toreador have greater influence over society. Their influence is subtler, but just as strong, able as they are to move the hearts of the people, to sense what they want and give it to them, or to change what they want and give them that. Fashion houses and PR companies are as much the stronghold of the Toreador as galleries and cafes.
The Toreador are the most adaptable of the clans, and the least likely to become stuck in the past. They are generally able to embrace new trends, and new skills, with greater ease than their peers, and dislike stagnation. Nonetheless, vampires are, by nature, prone to stagnation, and for this reason the Toreador tend to value mortals highly, and many consider themselves the protectors of mortals as well as their patrons, despite their conviction that no mortal can ever match a Toreador for pure sensitivity to beauty and perfection.
'My party has to be perfect. At his party a certain rival harped on
for hours because the sashes on the geishas were tied incorrectly.'
'A certain rival?'
'Oh, alright, it was me.'
Niles and Frasier
This is where the clan's terrible reputation comes from. The Toreador quest for perfection causes them to be obsessed with the intricacies of things, whether it's a play or a political system. For them, it's all in the details; they can make a huge deal about things other clans won't even have noticed. This, when combined with the refinement of their senses which demands the best in everything, is the major cause of the nature of Toreador society. In essence, their insistence that everything should be perfect creates a society in which you can be ostracised for driving the wrong car. In Toreador society, failing to be seen at the opening night of this month's hippest play, saying the wrong thing about a painting, having the wrong people (or simply failing to have the right people) at your party, or, horror of horrors, being derivative, are all genuine social crimes. Anyone who has seen this season's Frasier, or the film Ridicule, will know exactly the kind of attitude I'm talking about. You can never relax, because, fundamentally, you can't win; not just because noone is actually perfect, but also because tastes differ. The best you can do is try and change with the prevailing wind.
Among the Toreador, trends are usually set by the people at the top; the elders who are so old or powerful or respected that you have to suck up to them. However, it is perfectly possible for a young and clever Toreador to set the opinion du jour simply with a particularly witty or memorable criticism; as long as he doesn't go too far. Insulting a respected elder will get you nothing but shocked looks from other Toreador, so if you're going to say something controversial you'd better be confident that people will be prepared to publicly agree with you, and remember that, when threatened, elders tend to close ranks. That's how they've survived for so long. Few things will score you as many points as successful innovation, but innovation is risky.
The basic attitude to assume in order to survive Toreador society is to behave as though you're at a high society party at all times; mind your manners, your clothes, and your opinions, and be first to point out (with style) if someone else behaves inappropriately; you win as many points for your rivals' failures as you do for your own successes. For this reason, it is worth pointing out that the absolute worst and most embarrassing sin any Toreador can ever commit at a social event is violence, and being seen to frenzy is likely to ensure that you're never invited anywhere ever again. Imagine the reaction you'd get if someone started a knifefight at one of the Queen's garden parties, and just how long people would be talking about it afterwards. No Toreador is going to let something like that lie.
Toreador embrace for many reasons, but always with an eye on their reputation. They expect their childer to be a credit to them, and give short shrift to any who embarrass them. A childe's behaviour can reflect not only on his sire, but also, if other Toreador are feeling ungenerous, on his sire's sire, and so on. For this reason, any Toreador who behave embarrassingly are likely to be dealt with using any means their elders have at their disposal, whether it be a Discipline, a blood bond, or some more direct form of sanction. There have been cases where a particularly angry sire chose to remove their childe's tongue for insulting the wrong person. After the fact and in private, of course. An insulted elder will expect the insult to be avenged, and will rarely expect to have to do it herself. You know you've hit the big time when people queue up to tell you how they've avenged your insults for you.
That having been said, Toreador childer are often better treated and more treasured than childer of other clans, because they are usually embraced because their sire adored them for their talent, potential or beauty. Toreador are the most likely of all the clans to embrace for love, and can be as obsessed with their childer as with any objet d'art. These passions are strong, and can, very occasionally, result in embarrassing mistakes, as a Toreador is temporarily besotted by someone they later consider unworthy. Many Toreador maintain excellent relationships with their childer, but there are also those who alienate their childer by dropping them the instant the next bright young thing comes along. These resentments tend to bubble beneath the surface, as Toreador are almost always polite and pleasant to each other on the surface (while planning how to ruin your next party).
Toreador childer also tend to receive a great deal of tutelage from their sires, if only so that they can conduct themselves in a manner which will not embarrass them. The Toreador tradition is that each new childe's first entrance into kindred society will be in the form of a debutante ball, where they will be very much on show, and only an idiot would launch their childe into such an arena unprepared. Because they are thrown in at the deep end, their sires are very careful to make sure they can swim, since if they sink, they'll probably drag their sire down with them.
Things to consider when creating a Toreador character:
The most important thing to consider is the way in which Toreador nature manifests in you. It's possible that, as a mortal, you were already a Toreador personality type, endlessly trying to perfect your art, but it's also possible that you were Embraced for love, or because your sire saw a potential others didn't. But whether or not you were that way inclined as a mortal, the Toreador obsession with perfection and beauty will have manifested after the Embrace; it's in the blood. What form does this take in you? What form of perfection is it that so enraptures you that you cannot tear your eyes from it, that you can spend hours gazing at it and barely notice the time go by? What form of ugliness are you least able to bear?
The other thing to consider is that you are unlikely to be able to get away from the sniping, so you need to be able to bear it, and appreciate that the less inclined you are to play the game, the more likely you are to be sniped at, unless there are very good reasons for people to hold their tongues. To do well in Toreador social games you need to bear in mind that small gestures can mean a lot, and to be able to make a fuss over tiny things. So, in short, you need to accept that you will be watched and talked about, and that there will be pressure to be brilliant.
The Toreador in Wessex
The Toreador of Wessex are a clan divided. The Royal Primogen has two childer who hate each other with a passion and devote much of their time to promoting themselves and embarrassing their rival. Their descendants have been dragged into this feud to varying degrees. Relations between the two bloodlines are made worse by the incompatibility of their attitudes; the younger of the two, and her line, are modernists, embracing new trends and forms of art, while the elder of the two and her line are largely of the opinion that modern society and culture lack the skills and graces of earlier times, and prefer older art forms. Most Toreador in Wessex are members of this family, though there are a few exceptions. These others may or may not have involved themselves in the feud. Most Toreador in Wessex live in Southampton and Portsmouth, considering Oxford a little outre and provincial. The traditionalists mostly live in Portsmouth, and the modernists in Southampton, and this forms a large part of the rivalry between the two cities.
Much of the basis of the bad feeling between the two feuding elders seems to be based on their relationship with their sire, and whenever one of them seems to be preferred by him they are unbearable. Fortunately, their sire is an extremely sensible man, adept at bestowing just the right amount of favour to each. It is thanks to him that the Toreador remain an effective political force in Wessex despite their in-fighting, as he commands the respect of both sides, and, indeed, of most of the kindred of Wessex. He acts as Caradok's warmaster, and his uncanny tactical ability and dedication to his job have won him the respect even of those who don't like him.
The Toreador in the rest of the world
The Toreador have as strong a political presence as the Ventrue and the Tremere, and traditionally act to balance the relative influences of those two clans. While the Ventrue and the Tremere like to control mortals, the Toreador prefer to gently influence them, supporting and promoting the individuals and trends they prefer. They can be found anywhere they consider cultured; they have a particular fondness for New York, and Paris has been theirs for centuries.
However, even in those places where they don't hold direct power, they are capable of exerting great influence over kindred with a few well-placed words. Criticism and posturing exists among the Toreador at levels you won't find anywhere else, but Toreador are so good at affecting public opinion that a toned-down version of their culture is prevalent in the Camarilla as a whole. This is the phenomenon generally referred to as the harpies. The Toreador have the best understanding of the importance of appearances, and though other clans may think they take it too far, they know how a person can be destroyed or raised up by their reputation. The only sensible thing for them to do, since they can't beat them, is to join them, and hope that by doing so they can avoid the sharp end of the Toreador tongue themselves. The Toreador are the heart of the rumour mill, and when someone uses the derogatory term 'harpies', most of the people they're thinking of will be Toreadors. For this reason it is easily as dangerous to offend a respected Toreador as a Brujah looking for a fight.
One quick word on harpies; contrary to the impression given by Mind's Eye Theatre, harpy is not a job, or a position; it is simply the derogatory term that those who can't keep up with the gossip use for those who can. Noone, not even the most self-satisfied, bitchy trend-setter, calls themself a harpy, and to call a Toreador a harpy is analogous to approaching a gossip columnist or It-girl and calling them a harpy; they're going to take it as an insult. And then they're going to make it their life's mission to turn you into a laughing stock. Harpies are one of those things that everyone knows exists, but no-one considers themself to be.
If you would like to play a Toreador character, please contact Kate.
Return to main Vampire page.