Nosferatu is an alternative name for vampire that has come to have some certain special meanings on /tg/. Whilst mostly associated with the World of Darkness, it also has its associations with the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Ravenloft and Red Steel, and with Pathfinder. Nosferatu is term for vampire in real life whose origins are unknown; it was actually used in Bram Stoker's orignal novel "Dracula". Most people claim that it's the Romanian word for "vampire", but that's actually not true. The prevailing theory is that it actually stems from a corrupted, garbled English translation of one of two words; the Romanian "Necuratu," meaning "unclean spirit," or Greek "Nosophoros," meaning "bringer of plague."
It sank into the vampire-fandom's consciousness with the 1922 German silent horror film "Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror" - or, as it's more commonly called, "Nosferatu." An unlicensed Expressionist adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, this fairly short film depicts an unwitting English real estate agent who arranges the transport of a Romanian "aristocrat," Count Orlock - actually a hideously deformed, rat-like vampire, to a quiet port town in England. There, he fatally drains multiple victims before one young woman, the agent's fiancee, sacrifices her life to lure Count Orlock into the sun's rays, where he is destroyed. The film is hugely popular amongst horror fans, you can watch it here since it's in the public domain. Its biggest influence was creating the idea that exposure to sunlight kills a vampire, rather than rendering it powerless or dormant. Orlock himself is a prime example of vampires done completely right.
World Of Darkness
The Nosferatu are a Clan of Vampires in both the Old World of Darkness and the New World of Darkness (or the World of Darkness and the Chronicles of Darkness, whichever you prefer to use).
Vampire: The Masquerade
In Vampire: The Masquerade, the Nosferatu are cursed denizens of the sewers and storm drains who mutate into deformed monsters after being Embraced, usually looking just like Count Orlock.
Caine's curse manifests within the Nosferatu as physical monstrosity. Even the fairest become foul when Embraced, which some particularly spiteful Sewer Rats take advantage of to "humble" people they think are getting by on their good looks. In the Middle Ages, Nosferatu could pass themselves off as lepers or particularly filthy peasants, putting themselves beneath notice and into position to discover otherwise guarded secrets. In modern nights, the Nosferatu make lairs in disused storm drains (where the clan got its common nickname) and other abandoned places where mortals won't notice their activity.
The clan maintains a private digital network called "ShreckNet" that members use to exchange information. ShreckNet means their reach is almost unlimited; if a Sewer Rat in one city needs dirt on a newcomer, he can put it to ShreckNet and see if somebody already knows something. Aside from its common uses to keep informed about goings-on in Kindred society, ShreckNet is also a vital means for Nosferatu to track sightings of a bloodline that strikes fear into their very souls, the Nictuku. Their sewer warrens also double as heavily-defended fortresses should any murderous Nictuku find them.
Vampire: The Requiem
In Vampire: The Requiem, whilst Nosferatu are still cursed to freak people out, they are not as stereotypical as their Masquerade counterparts; their freakishness can manifest in countless different ways, and some are actually so beautiful that it's unnerving, looking more like a too-perfect mannequin than a living being.
|The Clans of Vampire: The Masquerade|
|Brujah||Gangrel||Malkavian||Nosferatu||Toreador||Tremere||Ventrue|| Daughters of
|Independent Clans||Fallen Clans|
| Absimiliard - Augustus Giovanni - Arikel - Cappadocius - Ennoia - Haqim - Ilyes |
Lasombra - Malkav - Saulot - Set - Tremere - Tzimisce - Ventru - Zapathasura
|The Clans of Vampire: The Requiem|
Dungeons & Dragons
Ironically, in D&D, Nosferatu is actually used to refer to vampires based more directly on Dracula as he appeared in Bram Stoker's novel, most notably in being unharmed physically by sunlight.
The Mystaran Nosferatu is characterized by its immunity to sunlight and its strong resistance to clerical attacks - holy symbols, for example, don't work on them. They are all cursed to crave the blood of others, but not all of them are evil. Read more here: http://www.lomion.de/cmm/nosferat.php
The Nosferatu of the Demiplane of Dread is another beast entirely. These vampires are unharmed by sunlight, but it does strip them of access to their special attacks and supernatural qualities. They drink blood, and anyone they bite is subject to the nosferatu's mind control whenever the nosferatu wishes. They got a lot more powerful when the edition switched from 2nd to 3rd, such as gaining the ability to regenerate when exposed to moonlight (the moonlight biz may have been based on John Polidori's 1819 short story "The Vampyre", which you can read here). For their AD&D statblock see here: http://www.lomion.de/cmm/vampnosf.php
In stark contrast to their D&D counterparts, the Golarion nosferatu is intended to resemble its film namesake, with bald scalp, rat-like hands and vaguely bat-like features. Believed to be a failed precursor to the "standard" vampire (Moroi), these ancient vampires are known for their sterility, which leaves them a dwindling, dying breed that other vampires laugh at.