The Stuffer Shack Press book Truly Terrifying Vampires is full of a lot of really interesting ways of creating horrific monsters – completely unlike the overused tropes of today. One refreshing way it achieves this is be making their behaviour, their origin story, and even their appearance and mannerisms unsettling, disturbing, and creepy, NOT by simply giving them cool new abilities or super-destructive powers.
One area not expanded upon within the book is the details of their lairs, which has been left up to the GM to design. Such as:
- the type of residence of the Living Vampire or the final resting place of the Undead Vampire
- the specifics of where they are
- what’s in there
- and who is in there with them
This isn’t a failing of the book. After all, every publication has a defined limitation in what it covers, otherwise every book would be a 20+ volume encyclopedia. At 26 pages, Truly Terrifying Vampires already packs a lot of useful information to help one describe and define the vampires themselves. Nonetheless, I did see an opportunity to create some additional supporting material, thus this article was written.
Rather than simply placing your vampire in a generic stone crypt or yet another Count Dracula knock-off castle in the mountains, here are some charts you can use to add difference and detail to your vampire’s lair. You can either select from the lists, or roll randomly to see what you get.
Where is the vampire? Depending on whether or not the players even know they are dealing with a vampire, it can be either a complete surprise or a well-known and dangerous place. A Living Vampire can sometimes be a well-known and trusted member of society, or other times a complete hermit or social pariah. People of all walks of life and levels of society could be a Living Vampire – the local priest, a noble, a street beggar, the village blacksmith, or even the blacksmith’s daughter. They can be either known to be vampires and actively hunted or avoided, or their true nature could be completely unknown.
With all of this in mind, it can sometimes be very difficult to realize you are in the lair of a Living Vampire, with nothing (at first) to alert you to the danger. By contrast, an Undead Vampire as defined by Truly Terrifying Vampires is not an eloquent and tragic antihero, they are a deranged and ravening monster without mercy, and completely unreasonable. Their lairs will be the home of something monstrous and horrific, and even then, there should be surprises to be discovered.
1d10 Living Vampire
- An opulent mansion or castle.
- An isolated hovel.
- A slaughterhouse.
- An abandoned building such as an old house or barn.
- A church or monastery.
- A large seagoing vessel.
- A brothel.
- In a Catacomb.
- Inside a dungeon or prison, posing as either an inmate or a guard.
- Within a false barrel in a brewery cellar.
1d10 Undead Vampire
- A simple grave.
- A stone mausoleum.
- An unmarked grave not in a cemetery.
- The basement of a collapsed building (home, church, business).
- The sewers of a city.
- Underwater beneath a dock.
- Buried under a large object such as a tree or a statue. There is no entrance, they enter and exit as mist or smoke.
- Walled up with the brickwork of a large structure such as a city wall, a bridge, or a major building.
- A tiny island, unable to sustain life.
- Inside a stone coffin or sarcophagus within a temple, pyramid, or cathedral. Usually the resting place of some ancient ruler or saint.
The typical assumption is that once inside the lair of a vampire, the only occupants will be the vampire itself and the adventurers hunting it. Maybe if it’s a high-level encounter there’ll be several vampires, or if the adventure is particularly story-driven there’ll be a damsel in distress to rescue from the clutches of the hungry vampire.
This approach may be fine the first time you ever encounter a vampire, but if you’ve been playing roleplaying games for a while and no longer consider yourself a neophyte, such obvious scenarios may become boring and predictable. Mix it up a bit, reference these charts to bring in the unexpected. Many times, the vampire will be solitary, but when they aren’t, make it memorable and interesting. A Living Vampire is more likely to have victims around, whereas an Undead Vampire is more likely to have more monstrous companions of circumstance more so than by choice or preference.
1d8 Living Vampire
- Hordes of rats.
- Orphaned children.
- A young woman, frightened, cowering in a dark corner, trying to stay hidden.
- Living, non-vampire relatives.
- Recently captured prisoners, soon to be fed upon.
- 1-4 angry locals looking for whomever they believe is the villain (which they may or may think is a vampire).
- 1-4 deranged, sadistic accomplices.
- 1-3 Living Vampires.
1d8 Undead Vampire
- 1-10 rats
- 1-6 wolves, bats, cats, or snakes.
- An ex-Vampire Hunter, driven mad, on the edge of becoming an animal himself.
- 1-6 listless and unthinking victims, previously fed from, who have yet to succumb.
- 1-4 foul, inhuman monsters who feed upon the Undead Vampire’s leavings.
- 1-4 deranged, sadistic accomplices.
- 1-6 Living Vampires.
- 1-3 Undead Vampires.
Accoutrements, possessions, contents, however you label it, we’re talking about what is in, around, and on the lair. These details can add a lot to an encounter, they can give clues to what the adventurers are up against, provide extra plot or setting details, or even grant evidence to especially investigative players as to who the vampire is. A Living Vampire usually still has some degree of personality, even if they are completely unhinged, noting the details they surround themselves with (or what is conspicuously absent) can be quite helpful in combating them. Owing to the more monstrous nature of the Undead Vampire, there is often less organized evidence or clues to their lair and more atmosphere to their surroundings, although sometimes even the most gore splattered pit can reveal untold secrets.
1d8 Living Vampire
- Odd collections of random objects, some macabre, all of which are sorted and arranged into precise arrangements or rows.
- Mirror frames, all with their glass smashed out.
- A large ceremonial basin, filled with blood.
- An alchemical or magical laboratory, with rare texts on eternal youth, life extension, regenerative powers, immortality, etc.
- The bodies of past victims and opponents, playfully arranged in dramatic scenes.
- Various torture and dissection implements, including an operating table with restraints.
- Disjointed scrawlings on the walls, some sacrilegious, others just insane ravings.
- The skull of an Undead Vampire, inscribed with all sorts of arcane symbols.
1d8 Undead Vampire
- The discarded and broken tools and other equipment of a master Vampire Hunter.
- Various bits of bone and flesh left over from prior victims.
- Bloody hand prints on the walls.
- The shredded remains of a casket and it’s lining.
- Bats hanging above you and bat guano beneath your feet.
- Tools and supplies from the Undead Vampires vocation when alive, scattered about and in severe disrepair.
- A shallow pool of pestilence-infused bile, offal, and charnel house leavings.
- The skeletal remains of an Undead Vampire. Perhaps the creator of this one?
Of course, the number one danger of a vampire lair is the vampire itself. You get to expect that one for free. What else is there which can harm you? This isn’t exactly a well-padded playground you’re entering, this is the lair of a vicious, murderous monster. You can always fill it with the stereotypical traps, but few vampires will spend the time to fiddle around with such contraptions. Instead, most hazards of a vampire’s lair will come about as a result of the habits and nature of the vampire itself, frequently being unintentional, but no less dangerous for their lack of intent.
- Concealed holes beneath detritus or rotted flooring, some only deep enough to twist an ankle, others revealing a deep pit.
- Noxious fumes which could render one unconscious.
- Pestilence-infused water or particles in the air which could convey disease or plague.
- Hungry carnivorous animals, drawn by the constant scent of blood and flesh.
- Madness-inducing sights, due to the absolute depravity of the vampire.
- An Unholy presence which could Tempt or Curse those who enter the lair.
Lair Rumours and Legends
The simplest situation is when an NPC approaches the adventurers in a bar, begging them to rid their village of the evil vampire who has been hunting residents for the past month. Much more often and more interesting though is to present the players with a situation which ends up being revealed to be related to the presence of a vampire. Setting it up for them to have to poke around and actually work at finding out there’s a vampire to hunt will make the encounter as a whole much more fulfilling to partake in. Then there is what the locals believe to be true. They may be right and their passed along intel will be helpful, or they could be wrong and the local legends will lead the players dangerously astray, leaving them unprepared for the true threat they face.
- This place is haunted by the ghost of a jilted lover who will embrace you as a lover, draining your life essence with her kiss.
- This was the site of a terrible battle where the War Priest of the losing army cursed his God and was struck down foe his blasphemy.
- If you carry a large bouquet of wild flowers of as many kinds as possible as you pass through this region, you are safe from the evil nature spirits who will tear you to shreds otherwise.
- It is the home of a pack of Skinwalkers, able to turn into wolves by the light of a full moon. Wearing Wolfsbane is your only protection.
- The grove surrounded by gargoyle statues facing inwards is the prison of an evil god.
- There is a hidden chamber within which is the lost laboratory of a long dead (wizard / alchemist / doctor / scientist) who was working on an elixir of eternal youth. Some say he was successful and left, not died.
- A secret cult to a demon who demands blood sacrifice is located somewhere nearby.
- A curse is upon this place. Any who sleep there will sicken and die, only to arise as a zombie!
- A great treasure once owned by a long dead (pirate / king / band of adventurers / dragon) lies here, guarded by magical defences which have been deteriorating for decades.
- A pack of wild (wolves / dogs / bears / tigers) roams this area, killing livestock and people alike.
Making a Lair Your Own
Don’t feel limited by the options presented in this article. These are just ones I came up with over the course of a day or so. Consider them a starter set. If you want your Living Vampire to be a family of cannibalistic hog farmers living on a farmstead outside of town with secret interconnected charnel pits beneath their barn leading to an underground river, or the sole remaining member of an evil blood cult in a glacial chamber above the Arctic circle, go right ahead – it’s your game. If you think of any additions to these charts, comment below and share your ideas.
Thanks for reading. I hope these ideas, along with the vampires themselves as created using Truly Terrifying Vampires, help bring your next vampire-themed adventure to the next level, creating some scary fun which your players will enjoy recounting long after the last wooden stake is used up.