Some vampires don’t get to be dark romantic heroes. At best, they get to be dark Romantic heroes—the homely kind that dwell in squalor and solitude and never get the girl. At worst*, they are utter monsters, barely more than animate corpses after centuries of undeath have stripped them of all muscle, feeling, and humanity.
Welcome to the nosferatu.
Nosferatu bring the age, the animal hunger, and the rot back to vampirism. They are not pretty charmers. They don't even get an elegant gaseous form; they collapse into a swarm of vermin instead. They have most of the rest of the usual vampire special abilities and vulnerabilities, though, gaining telekinesis at the cost of the default moroi vampire’s energy drain.
The most interesting thing about the nosferatu is that they a) continue to age and b) no longer have the ability to spawn. This makes them the very definition of a dying race, despite their individual immortality. Any nosferatu who have survived this long are therefore very old by default, and likely very smart or very isolated (or both) to boot. And with no hope of a cure, redemption, or childer, an individual nosferatu is likely capable of anything—anything—to further his or her aims.
Corpses drained of blood are appearing all over the city. A moroi vampire wishes to be declared the city’s baron in the Court of Night, but his liege will not recognize his claim because that title is held by a nosferatu. The moroi is determined to flush the nosferatu out of hiding to defend his title, and the death toll soon draws the attention of local adventurers.
Some nosferatu arise spontaneously, divorced from any of the old bloodlines. The samurai Yamata Nabutsuke swore an oath on his ancestral blade to defend his lord until old age took him. But when he abandoned his post after taking a bribe from a vishkanya wu jen, the sword of his forefathers struck back. Old age did not take him…and now Yamata the nosferatu hides in the dark hollows of his land, hiding from the sohei who would lay him to rest and the strix sorcerers who would feed on his bones.
The barrenness of the nosferatu line is not an accident. It was earned. Tantalizing hints in recently unearthed scrolls suggest that whatever crime was committed or curse that rebounded somehow involves the fey. The faerie queens will not speak of it. The Eldest Elfkin say nothing. Divinations offer no clues. But the nosferatu’s ability to procreate was snuffed out…and the gnomes were cast out of the fey realms.
—Pathfinder #8 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 268–269
*Actually, at worst they get a Disney movie made out of them.
PS: I would be remiss if I did not post a link to this thread, which includes some dude named wesschneider’s thoughts on the nosferatu.
And let’s not forget this game. I can't speak to any of the rules/editions past the 2nd Edition/Revised versions of The Masquerade, but the Nosferatu were always one of the more fascinating clans.
(I believe I’ve said this before, but while I have been collecting and reading D&D and Pathfinder books since four or fifth grade and think of myself as a D&D/Pathfinder player, if I’m being truthful there’s no question that I’ve clocked more intense time at the table as a Vampire: The Masquerade player (courtesy of my grad school neighbors—four interlinked campaigns over three-plus years with the same character, including most of Gehenna). So yeah, a shout-out to all the Kindred out there.)
Finally, in “basic” D&D’s Gazetteer series, the nosferatu label was used for a race of vampires that could survive the light of day. With all the benefits of vampirism and fewer of the drawbacks, these nosferatu played significant roles in The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, The Principalities of Glantri, and The Orcs of Thar.
Edit: Holy crap! I wrote this whole thing and forgot to name-check my mentor Jim Shepard’s novel Nosferatu. That would have been embarrassing.