This game of Vampire: The Masquerade is (I hope) a return to V:tM's roots.... before 12 years worth of supplements and White Wolf's meta-story arcs.
I am using only the basic Vampire rulebook. No supplements, no Player's Guides, no Clan splatbooks. (And definitely not San Francisco By Night.) No NPCs or meta-stories from White Wolf apply in my game. This is Vampire as "personal horror" and angst, the way it was meant to be. Player Characters roleplaying creatures who want to retain their humanity while turning into monsters.
Character sheets may be written using either White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade (3rd edition) or GURPS Vampire the Masquerade. I will be running the game mostly systemless.
The following is "common knowledge" among those who have been vampires for a few years. Your PCs can be assumed to know this much, unless they have knowledge skills that would allow them to know more about a particular area. Note that none of the following is necessarily accurate...
Everyone who was formally Sired knows the Litany of Caine, that Caine was the first vampire and the clans were largely founded by Caine's "grandchildren." Not every vampire actually believes this, of course... many think that Caine is just a legend, and if he ever did exist, he is certainly not still wandering the earth. Likewise other names, like Lilith, and the supposed 3rd Generation Antediluvians -- Lucian, Mekhet, etc. -- are regarded with a mix of superstitious awe and skepticism.
Do elder vampires manipulate Kindred society and engage in petty power struggles? Everyone believes that. That Methuselahs are ancient, powerful and dangerous creatures that most Kindred don't want to meet is also pretty much accepted. But the degree to which Kindred and mortal affairs are shaped by ancient vampiric puppetmasters pulling strings is a subject of much debate. Many vampires believe fervently in the Jyhad, and see the hand of the Antediluvians everywhere, and preach of the coming of Gehanna. Many vampires, however, consider them no different than mortal conspiracy theorists and religious cultists preparing for the "End Times."
Childer are taught that the Camarilla is vampire society, that the entire hierarchy of Princes, Primogens, Justicars, and so on, is the natural order of things for the Kindred, and the way it has always been, and that those outside the Camarilla -- Anarchs and the Sabbat -- are evil, insane, and doomed.
A vampire may live for quite a long time before learning that the Camarilla is just a sect (albeit a large one, now covering most of the Western world), and that it is only a few centuries old, and that not every vampire actually has to be a "member."
The power and influence of the local Prince, after all, extends only as far as he can reach. Vampire society is based almost entirely on power. The traditions and formality that so many elder Camarilla vampires are devoted to may be just a means of keeping neonates from realizing this. Not every vampire who rejects the Camarilla is an Anarch actively opposing the sect. Some have just chosen to walk away. As long as they don't run afoul of any Camarilla enforcers, they can go where they like, hunt where they like, do what they like. Of course a vampire who decides he wants to display his vampiric powers on the 10 o'clock news is going to be hunted down and killed with unusual efficiency... the Camarilla may be nothing more than a collective agreement by the Kindred to play by a certain set of rules, but there are a lot of very, very powerful vampires who are very, very good at exterminating those who won't play.
Most younger Camarilla vampires just know the Sabbat are "bad guys" -- worse than Anarchs, they want to tear down the Masquerade and revel in their bestial natures. Atrocities that would make even a Nosferatu blanch are supposed to be all in a day's work for the Sabbat. It's also known that there are some clans not found in the Camarilla who serve in this rival sect.
While the Camarilla rules most Kindred territory in the U.S., certain cities (such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Miami, Albuquerque, and parts of New York) are Sabbat-controlled (meaning they have killed off any Camarilla vampires in those cities). Furthermore, the Sabbat is deeply entrenched in Mexico and much of the rest of Central and South America.
Called "Cathayans" by most elder vampires, the Kuei-Jin are Asian vampires. They are very mysterious to the Kindred -- Asia is a place where no Kindred dwell, and those who go there never return. It is known that the Kuei-Jin are very similar to Kindred, yet different. Supposedly they feed on humans also, but not necessarily by drinking blood. They have a variety of supernatural powers which are similar to Kindred Disciplines, but supposedly some of the things they can do are tricks no vampire can duplicate. The Kuei-Jin's own claims that they "climbed back from Hell" are usually regarded as metaphorical descriptions of their version of the Embrace.
There are a few Kuei-Jin outside of Asia, but they seem to mostly avoid contact with the Kindred.
It is important to note that "Asian vampire" can mean two things. The Kuei-Jin are actually a different sort of creature than vampires. If a vampire Embraces a mortal of Asian ethnicity, that mortal becomes a vampire of Asian ethnicity, he does not become one of the Kuei-Jin. Becoming a Kuei-Jin apparently is a different process. Whether or not it is possible for a non-Asian to become one is unknown... no Kindred has ever seen an occidental Cathayan.
While a few neonates who have never set foot outside a city doubt the existence of werewolves, believing them to be boogie-men elders use to keep childer from leaving, any vampire who has been around for a while will have seen evidence otherwise. Even Kindred who do know werewolves exist know very little about them, and most information comes from mythology and Hollywood. It is known that werewolves hate vampires, and are quite capable of shredding vampires. Gangrel supposedly have contacts with the lupines and are rumored to even be "friends" with them. (Gangrel PCs may know a little more about werewolves, but still won't know a lot.)
A lot of vampires claim to have seen and even talked to ghosts. Younger Kindred may be skeptical, but even those who've never met a ghost are likely to be somewhat open to the idea.... after all, if vampires and werewolves exist, why not ghosts?
You're kidding, right?
Almost no one believes in literal demons, from Hell. But there are tales of... things, hiding deep in the earth or in the wild places where even garou will not go, and the Tremere also talk about "Names that should not be invoked."
A lot of vampires dismiss this as either superstition or ghost stories for frightening childer, of course.
Over the centuries there have been a number of vampiric religions that tried to explain Kindred in the greater scheme of things. Very, very few Kindred remain devoted to a conventional faith, but some do believe that there is some Higher Power.... though not necessarily a benevolent one.
Angels are like demons, the stuff of myth, and vampires who claim to talk to God are usually Malkavians. However, there are tales of mortals whose faith is so intense that they can actually drive a vampire away with the strength of their religious fervor. These tales are common enough that many vampires believe them. The implications are not something that many Kindred dwell on.
Magic, or something like it, exists -- the Tremere are proof of that. (Though some neonates think the Tremere do it all with magician's tricks and clever uses of some secret Discipline, older vamps know better.) Just what magic can do (and what it can't) is a secret to everyone but the Tremere, but most vampires, even older ones, dismiss tales of Gandalf-like wizardry or Harry Potter chicanery. Magic is (supposedly) slow and done in rituals, and combative vampires say they'll take a shotgun over a spell any day.
Reportedly some mortals have acquired magical powers as well, though usually more by accident than anything else. Few vampires consider a "mage" anything to worry about.... even if a few mortals do learn some rituals for summoning rain... or preventing vampires from stepping across a threshold uninvited... they still bleed. No one thinks there are mortals running around who can toss fireballs. Well, almost no one.
The Bay Area By Night -- Mundane and Kindred information about the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Francisco Kindred -- important characters in the city.
Kindred History -- A brief history of the area from the Kindred perspective.
Locations -- important places in the game.