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Dev Diary #11: Developing Banu Haqim

Let's now leap into Banu Haqim, another captivating Vampire clan that the players will encounter in Bloodlines 2. The essence of the Banu Haqim is defined by their mastery of stealth, precision, and a moral code that guides their hidden hand of justice. Our team had a lot of fun in reflecting these properties in their subsequent departments. 

Designing modern Banu Haqim for Tabletop

The Banu Haqim (“Assamites” at the time) were one of the first clans to be added to the original assembly in 1991. As such, they were less connected to a vampire archetype out of fiction and instead modelled on the Hashshashin — the Order of Assassins — out of Alamut. In time, they were expanded upon in the setting and incorporated new elements of mysticism and religion, but the core stereotype — the “arab assassin-cultist as vampire” — regrettably remained. Needless to say, they needed some work to align with the design principles of Vampire: The Masquerade’s latest edition.

The concept of a hunter of hunters driven by strong principles or a deep-seated sense of justice does resonate with powerful elements of vampire and vampire-adjacent media. Blade, Angel, and (for those that remember it) Forever Knight all feature vampires seeking redemption by taking the fight to their own, while the very vampire-esque Dexter is a poster child for the concept, as is the Caped Crusader. It is no fluke that the internal shorthand for the Banu Haqim was “clan Batman”.

Thus, while their origins are still the same, the shift in focus has provided the Banu Haqim with a role more easily applied to characters of any background or conviction. Cursed with a hereditary thirst for vampire Blood, the so-called Warriors shackle their impulses to strict codes of conduct, derived from mortal religions, vampiric tenets, or personal creeds. These traits, along with their feared reputation, makes them sought after as soldiers, lawbringers, and — occasionally — assassins in the societies of the night. Yet, the siren song of Kindred vitae perpetually tempts them, and more than one Judge has been tasked with the destruction of one of their own. To be Embraced into the Banu Haqim clan means walking an eternal tightrope, with no end and with nothing to catch you when you fall.

Karim Muammar, Designer of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition and Brand Editor for the World of Darkness

Characters Render Niko

Niko Angelov

“This vase belonged to a man who promised to visit his mother in hospital but did not. So I ripped out his spleen. Some people really do not know how to behave!” 

Niko is wholly committed to living an honest life, to the point of barely being able to keep a single thought to himself. 

You can find him at Aurora Pawn surrounded by the trinkets of hapless mortals. He pleases the Court by sourcing rare artifacts and by taking on special tasks for the Prince. Equally, he infuriates the Court by refusing to deviate from using strictly honourable means in all his transactions. 

You might find that transparency helpful as you unravel the mysteries of the city, but be warned; he won't keep a secret, not even yours, so choose your words with care.

Writing the Banu Haqim

“One of the most interesting facets of the Banu Haqim is their blue-orange morality. It's a clan that often appeals to seasoned players of the tabletop game because it allows them to challenge themselves with the self-imposed restrictions of their character's unique moral code. This is something we wanted to reflect with Niko; his obsession with absolute truth renders him incapable of being complicit in the back-stabbing nature of Kindred politics, so he must find other ways to make himself useful. His sincerity also makes him vulnerable to the manipulation of the Camarilla, which the player can choose to protect him from... or you could manipulate him yourself, if that's the kind of game you're playing.” 

– Cherish Goldstraw, Writer

Combat Discipline Design

“Banu Haqim, alongside Tremere, is our second clan that leans more into stalk within combat. While we’ve tailored Tremere for a slower, more tactical style of play, the Banu Haqim clan’s use of Obfuscation and Celerity make them much better suited to a faster, more confident approach.

The Banu Haqim abilities primarily focus on these two disciplines – the player can silence themselves and others, move impossibly fast, and vanish from sight completely. These can be used at any pace, but they truly shine when used swiftly together, dancing in and out of sight and dispatching opponents quicker than they can react. This makes them ideal for a player who likes to stay hidden, toy with their victim’s senses, and when needed, kill everyone in the room faster than a Tremere could decide their first move.

While we use quite a bit of slo-mo effects across combat, Banu’s version of celerity is its biggest use case - we needed a small subsystem specifically to manage time dilation across gameplay, to allow for its use in combination with other abilities. This has really paid off, I genuinely never get tired of using Banu Haqim’s lethal beheading strike in (almost) stopped time!

– Max Bottomley, Senior Game Designer

What do Banu Haqim sound like?

In our Audio Design for the Banu Haqim clan, I leaned into harnessing the sounds of whispers and wind signifying the clan's predilection for stealth and silent execution. Our department here introduced a use of real-time Audio processing techniques that bring the player's manipulations of time and silence to life. As you use Split Second to slow time you will hear the pings of bullet shells dropping to the floor and strange voices slowed down to really sell the idea of good ol' Bullet Time. We intend to craft a fully immersive experience that comes with moving faster than sound, making every moment a deliberate and calculated dance between predator and prey.

– Marcus Bagshawe, Sound Designer

What do Banu Haqim look like?

“When putting together the aesthetic identity for the Banu Haqim clan in the game, as always with us at The Chinese Room, we started with a rich palette of inspirations and tonnes of brainstorming. A tonne of good stuff ended up on our mood boards - functional aspects of Techwear (Health Goth, utility-based items with a high-end edge), the blend-in quality of corporate attire, and the vibrant, enduring spirit of Modern Persian fashion. These choices reflect a mixture of tradition and modernity, embodying the clan's adaptability and their profound connection to both their heritage and the demands of the modern world.

Banu Haqim’s garments in our game then are as much about form as they are about function – concealment, illusiveness. The ability to quickly disappear into the urban landscape or emerge as a silent avenger is key to the Banu Haqim's visual identity, mirroring their role as the unseen arbiters of justice in the shadow world, their righteousness and role as silent guardians of the vampire society.

Characters Phyre Banu02 IH

Drawing inspiration from iconic figures and settings such as John Wick, Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the Fremen from Dune, we sought to imbue the Banu Haqim with a sense of concealed danger and an air of mystery. These influences helped shape a look that is both understated and unmistakably potent, emphasizing the clan's themes of elusiveness and intent. Our designs focus on clothing that allows for quick concealment or blending into the background, highlighting the Banu Haqim's proficiency in moving unseen and striking from the shadows.”

– Ben Matthews, Associate Art Director


Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

Fight your way through a modern-day Seattle on the brink of an open war as an elder Vampire. Meet the power-players, ally yourself and decide who will rule and what the city will become.