Vampires and their spawn are common threats found in many types of RPG games. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for the GM to roleplay them in a simplistic manner (as simple monsters to vanquish) giving them no backstory or interest, and an opportunity for world-building is lost. But by giving them a culture, examining vampires from around the world, reducing or changing their weaknesses, and giving them allies they can count on, they can truly become the threats they should be.
In real life, human vampires are not the types of things that you see on TV, in the movies, or read about in books. They are different. See these links to see how:
- Porphyria, Vampire Disease
- 7 Strange ways humans act like vampires
- Real life vampires exist, and researchers are studying them
- We spoke to real-life vampires about blood, lust, and hunger
- Real life vampires drink blood
- Real life vampires interview
- Six ways to stop a vampire
- Vampiric Studies: the Classical Vampire
In myth and legend, vampires are creatures that arise from unholy pacts, divine punishment and/or being bitten by other vampires.
Vampire Culture: Clans
According to White Wolf’s World of Darkness, ‘Clan’ is a term used by vampires to describe the major groups of vampires (originated by Cain from the bible) who share common ideologies and characteristics that are passed on by their blood.
Clans have a unique set of powers called Disciplines, and a unique set of weaknesses, based off of Cain’s curse for killing off their sires. If you want specific information regarding the clans, it can be found here: (Wikipedia) Vampire: The Masquerade
Vampires Around the world
Bhoot(s) are souls in purgatory whose physical body died an untimely or violent death. Like ghouls, these creatures inhabit cemeteries or other derelict places, reanimating corpses which attack the living. Attacks from them cause severe ailments or death.
Brahm Rahshas are high-caste malevolent demonic spirits who either committed evil deeds or used their knowledge for evil. They’re typically described as having gruesome features – such as its head being enveloped by intestines or having a pair of horns protruding from their head.
Mandurugo are creatures that take the form of a beautiful girl by day and, by night, sprouts wings and grows a giant proboscis like tongue at night. It feasts on human entrails, the mucus of the ill, and fetuses of pregnant women.
Manananggal (literally “self segmenters”) are beautiful old women who are able to detach her winged upper body and prey on sleeping pregnant women, consuming their unborn children and drinking their blood.
Jiang Shi or the “hopping” vampire – caused by raising a corpse through supernatural means, supernatural possession of a dead body, or when a soul cannot escape due to improper death or suicide. These creatures sleep in coffins and rise nightly to leach off a victim’s qi (life essence). They’re frightened off by their own reflection, axes, fire, vinegar, a copy of the I Ching, the blood of a black dog, or the hooves of a black donkey.
Camazotc: A Mayan vampire bat god which ruled death and twilight, depicted holding a victim and a knife, which resided in bloody caverns and other dark places, avoided for fear of disturbing him. Check out Native American Vampires of Myth and Legend.
Changing or Eliminating Vampiric Weaknesses
Vampires are typically immortal nocturnal creatures which feed off of the blood of the living, spending their days in coffins, shunning silver objects, garlic, and holy symbols. Some are unable to cross running water or oceans. Fire, a wooden stake through the heart, and decapitation are common ways to kill their undead existence once and for all.
But these “universals” don’t necessarily need to be so.
If the vampire is powerful enough, it may be able to walk around in broad daylight, unharmed. Or maybe in your world’s mythology, vampires were never adversely affected by exposure to the sun. Conversely, they may be harmed by sunlight, but if protected somehow, either through powerful magic, or through broad scale environmental protection such as a wall of mist or fog. There’s also the fact in some situations (such as being in a desert region), being clothed from head to toe is appropriate, thus it wouldn’t be suspicious for them to be covered.
Vampirism doesn’t necessarily need to be a thing of the siphoning off of blood. In Star Trek, the original series, there was a monster that tricked its victims into believing it was a long lost love. It fed by draining the salt out of its victim’s skin. There was another monster that showed up as pure energy that both fed on and gave energy in a type of symbiosis. If you have a bit more adult game, vampires might feed off the energy of sexual contact, similar to what an incubus or succubus does.
Silver is another bane of the vampires’ existence. But maybe this is only a misconception in your world. This metal might simply only weaken them, as it does the fae, but it would take exposure over a long period of time to for it to do any real harm. This might be why they don’t like mirrors, as they are typically silvered glass, not because they can’t cast reflections, or are hideous (though in some versions, they certainly are). Conversely, maybe this weakness is a lie spread by the vampires themselves, who actually heal faster from its exposure and want easy prey.
Garlic is said to drive vampires away. One theory as to why it does so is because it’s a powerful antioxidant, and it interferes with their undead physiology – and being too close to a too strong of a concentration of its odor would put them into anaphylactic-shock. Yet, if the vampire can’t smell it, it can’t cause it damage. A vampire could wear a gas mask or wear a perfume or oil that prevents him from smelling it.
But what if the only reason that they didn’t like garlic is because they don’t like bad breath or the body odor it causes? Vampires are shown to be the masters of charm, something that would be difficult (if not impossible) if they couldn’t get close enough to their victims to hypnotize them!
Vampires are typically also harmed or hindered by holy symbols, which echoes back to the idea that their origins hail from them being cursed or being created through demonic deals. But all holy symbols aren’t created equal. Vampires shouldn’t be harmed by holy symbols that had nothing to do with them during their life. For instance, why should a vampire fear a holy symbol from a deity whose portfolio is plants, growth, and animals? Or what about a holy symbol from a deity whose power is over well-crafted things, greed, and armor? They shouldn’t!
Vampires have a variety of allies that can help them terrorize their victims or control the battlefield. The first type of ally is simply mortal ones: those that help the vampires for their own ends, or for something they get out of it. In White Wolf’s World of Darkness, mortals can become addicted to the vampire’s blood.
The next type of allies are the animals they are associated with: the wolves and bats associated with them. But this too can be changed. Instead of bats, vampires might be associated with ravens or crows. In other areas they might have different animals associated with them. In areas without either bats or wolves, vampires might pick up the largest dangerous animal. Some land-based ideas include alligators, crocodiles, lions, cheetahs, panthers, and bears. In terms of masters of the air, consider birds of prey such as vultures or hawks as their spies.
The third type of ally are the vampire spawn they create. These can range from totally feral creatures with no mind except to throw themselves headfirst into battle – to more cunning creatures who will use strategy, craftiness, and intelligence to separate the adventurers in order to more easily deal with them. If a vampire spawn is powerful enough on her own, she might have her own allies, and when the players finally defeat her (and have exhausted their resources), the real vampiric master reveals itself.
The fourth and final type of ally are created allies. These can include mindless undead and incorporeal undead, but may include such things as animated objects as well. For ideas on how to play them, see here and here. One specific type of a golem that would be very useful to a vampire is a blood golem, and if the vampire is low on health, he can siphon off the golem’s substance to heal himself.
Using culture to differentiate the vampires from one another, examining vampiric creatures from around the world, and giving them allies that they can count on are all ways to make vampires scarier. With these tips, there’s never a reason to have a boring encounter with these undead ever again.
The next part of this article is hosted on fantasyroleplayingplanes.blogspot.com. See you there!