Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vampires in FRPG

Yes, I am well aware that White Wolf has a hugely successful line of vampire based games, but to me, that’s not FANTASY RPG. I’m thinking about the more fantasy based games, well like [[Legend Quest]].

In the current edition of Legend Quest (Gold Edition), vampires take up almost a full page. In comparison, the four dragons would probably only fill a page together if it weren’t for that big illustration of a dragon in the way. Why are vampires such an important part of fantasy based RPGs? (In defense of the dragons being “shorted”, we had always intended to come out with Monsters and Other Menaces where I go into vast details on dragons, dragon breath, dragon armor, etc etc etc.) This has really come up in my thoughts, because I keep wondering how much space I am going to give vampires in the new 25th Anniversary Omnibus edition.

OK - First, why do they need more text? Because they have powers different than most other creatures. Dragons eat meat, bite people with their fangs, and breathe massively powerful flames, but they are flames. Fangs and flames are covered in most rule books in multiple places because other creatures do them too. But a vamp’s bite is different. He can turn you. You also have to think about his weaknesses - how much do they affect him in combat? (FRPGs are all centered around combat, even LQ which has other aspects still has a lot of combat.) What about his other powers?

That’s part of the problem. Vampires have been covered in so many different works of fiction, that it is difficult to pick and choose which pieces of lore will affect your game. After all, do your vampires smolder in sunlight, turn to ash or sparkle? (If your vampires sparkle in the sunlight, please stop reading this blog. Delete any links and never come back!) Are they unable to cross running water? Must they sleep in their own earth or will any dark place work? Even legitimate vampire lore disagrees on a huge number of subjects, and if you’re writing a game, you have to set up some rules.

But I think it’s more than that - or at least it should be. Vampires have captured our imaginations. If we took a poll, vampires would probably be voted most popular monster. But I want to take it a farther step. In your campaign world, how powerful are they? How instrumental are the vampires in controlling the world and the world’s major events?

Don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end. Vamps are immortal, they can create armies of their own kind (which are tough), and they are typically very intelligent, at least the masters are. How much could you accomplish in your life if you knew it was going to last another three to five centuries? My point is that if you are not considering vampires as a major race in your world - able to compete with the elves, dwarves, humans and halflings - you are being unfair to a really cool monster.

On Fletnern, there is a region that was inhabited by kobolds, goblins and other “prey” races. These are the smaller races that often get pushed into the worst areas but still raided by the bigger races when the bandits need easy targets. Here the vampires have come and set up castles (or at least forts). In exchange for a number of servants who will act as servants and as meals, the small races get the protection of a vampire lord. In theory, the vamps drink small amounts of blood from each servant and have enough servants so that they can heal up in between the encounters. In this way, a small number of “slaves” pay for the protection of the community. If any bad guys come by, the vampire goes out at night and hunts them down before they can attack the fort or village. Few bandits are willing to risk nighttime attacks by vampires in order to loot a kobold village; it is not like they’re sitting on a gold mine. Meanwhile the vampire gets to live like a king, hardly ever exerts himself to hunt, and has a large group of followers who will protect him during the day. That’s a win-win.

Oh, and there are a number of vampires in the Tunnel World. There they typically have to buy slaves to feed on, so they must have some manner of job. They also collect in larger numbers, including a couple of religious cults. Yeah, cults of vampires are really nasty!

How do you do it for your world?


  1. After reading your post titled other uses for fantasy races, a very inspiring document for those who want to shake up the usual; I have been pondering vampires most of all. Especially in how they relate to governance. They, like dragons, can offer protection for a price; literally -- blood.

    There are just so many decisions to make, as stated in this post, about what a vamp is and how they operate. What is the MO of a creature who lives on and on, shuns the sun, and must feed on blood. I am sure there are psychology papers written concerning what such a creature would want and or get out of "life".

    I would assume that they have a whole disparate organisation of wronged folk who want them "deader", thanks to the killing of a loved one, etc. But also, how many people would willingly trade their lives and freedoms for immortality...or less. Think of the serial -killer worshippers out there. Perhaps vampires develop a profile of their victims. Perhaps they are used by a dark god to end certain bloodlines....maybe they themselves are removed from the 'fabric of the fates' and unwoven into the destinies of the living, interlopers in the affairs of mortals who are not meddling gods, but pesky and powerful (but not indestructible) forces of anti-prophesy...much to think about.

    Then, I think of modern celebrity, and it's seeming relation to the cult of the vampire. People who are more an 'image' than a 'person'. Superficial physical Glamours help to misdirect and cover their true intentions, which can be as varied as those of the living.

    And yet, I think that perhaps there could be a way that vampires can be 'turned back'. Perhaps a powerful Goddess is willing to forgive them if they refuse the nourishment of people and attack their own kind. They can be rewarded with a forgiven and redeemed afterlife, or a 'life' in the aethyr, where they can rest for eternity or decide to enter oblivion.

    These 'turned' vampires could even have a clerical order, with followers of warm blood, perhaps some newly minted PCs?

    See, you got me thinking!! Thanks J.


    1. As per usual, you took a turn with one of my ideas and got my mind whirling. That serial killer aspect - the profile. I think it would be less like sexual preference (blondes vs redheads) and more an actual taste issue. People like white meat or dark meat. Why wouldn’t vamps be the same? Would it have to do with hormones? So men and women would likely taste different, as would kids before puberty and adults after. Would there be a diet factor? You know when you eat too much garlic and you sweat it out? even if it wasn’t in the blood, there would likely be a taste difference when biting the neck (or wherever). I always liked the LoEG (comics, not the movie) where Mina’s neck had been savaged, not just two tiny fang marks. I also liked Lastat (at least movie) where they used little knives on their thumb rings to do the actual cutting. You’re right - so many little variables!