Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
“Trust funds and strategic marriages are all well and good if you want to have your own clothing line, but these fangs? This is where the world stops being your party and becomes your bitch.”
Part appetite, part lust, and part addiction, a vampire’s hunger gives voice to the Blood and claws to the Beast. It calls to vampires constantly, whispering and screaming of needs, urges, and desires. Every vampire awakens to hunger and must kill to silence it. The Kindred pay for their immortality and their powers in hunger, and the bill is always coming due.
…at the instant I saw that the cut had bled a little, and the blood was trickling over my chin. I laid down the razor, turning as I did so half round to look for some sticking plaster. When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.
“Take care,” he said, “take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”
Jonathan Harker’s journal, Dracula
Blood fuels a vampire’s existence. Every time a vampire rises each nightfall or calls upon vampiric powers (such as Disciplines or mending their broken body), they get just a bit hungrier. A vampire who’s conservative with their powers can go multiple nights before getting hungrier. A vampire who moderately draws on their powers takes about a night before getting hungrier. Most vampires feed nightly to “take the edge off” and out of simple pleasure. A vampire who liberally draws upon the Blood and pushes their undead body to its limis (such as in battle against other vampires), meanwhile, swiftly grows ravenous.
There are four broad levels “levels” of hunger that vampires can experience. These are narrative tropes rather than exact measurements.
• Gorged: The vampire’s Beast is glutted and complacent, like a human who’s just finished a solid meal. It’s not interested in more blood—it’s full. Someone can cut themselves in front of the vampire and they won’t blink. A vampire in this state is about as safe to be around as mortals can hope for. In fact, some enemies prefer to ambush vampires after they’ve deeply fed. They “lose their edge” and get less alert. However, they also have a great deal of blood to fuel their powers, and are at their strongest in protracted battle.
• Sated: The vampire’s Beast isn’t particularly full or hungry, like a human between meals. The vampire’s Beast wants more, but doesn’t need more. The hunger still gnaws but isn’t overpowering. The vampire can easily do other things. Someone who cuts themselves in front of a vampire will activate their predatory instincts, like a cat eyeing a dangling string. The vampire can probably control themselves, but it’s still unwise to do. This the “default state” for most vampires.
• Hungry: The vampire wants blood, like a human who’s skipped a meal. They get snappish and irritable. They can do other things, but the hunger is always there in the back of their mind. It’s a compulsion they can’t “just shake.” The sight or smell of blood is like catnip to a hungry vampire. If someone cuts themselves, the vampire will instinctively seek to feed. They might or might not be able to control that instinct.
• Starving: The vampire is ravenouly hungry, like a human who’s gone a day (or longer) without eating. They can think of little besides their need for blood. The vampire’s Beast is a pit of rage and hunger, and everything the vampire feeds it simply vanishes into its maw. The vampire risks losing control of themselves around any humans, not just bleeding ones. The sight or smell of actual blood is overpowering. It takes incredible determination for a starving vampire to resist the instinct to feed, placing even their loved ones in terrible danger.
“Find you a place that is yours,
And the mortals that dwell there,
let them be your sheepfold,
let them be your cup,
let them be your holy bread.”
The Book of Nod
The Beast screams your need for blood. The Beast gives you some desperation to strengthen your resolve. But the Beast is as good at coming up with a plan as a crazed shit-house rat. Time for the Man to step up. He’s got the Kiss, and he’s got the drive, now he just needs a little finesse to seal the deal. How do you tilt the machine? How do you work the angles that get the blood flowing into your funnel? But take a caution and a care as to what is going down that funnel. Remember, it changes you.
The blood is everything. It’s life. It’s food. It’s power. It’s closeness. It stands to reason that feeding is an all-important act for Kindred. Ask a dozen Kindred how they feed, you’ll get five dozen answers.
While most vampires learn numerous feeding practices from their sires, every Kindred develops their own methods and tricks. With different skill sets, social circles, and Disciplines at their disposal, their best meal ticket is the one they find themselves.
• You eat animals, stray cats and dogs, and even a pigeon once. You tell yourself you’ve got this beat, that you can continue this way forever. The easiest con to pull is on the self. Maybe if you just mix in a few drops of human blood, that would soothe the ache in your chest.
• You play the angel of mercy. You haunt elderly homes. You spend long conversations with the conversation-starved; and just at about 3 A.M., when you know them well enough that it hurts, you send them on their way and fill your belly. You have to talk to them first. It has to hurt going down.
• You prowl the most popular suicide spots. The Aokigahara Forest, in Mount Fuji, Japan. Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, in Nanjing, China. The Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco, California. Something pulled these people to this action, just as something pulls you to feed. On a long enough jump, a body hits the water as if it were cement. Not all of them die on impact. You help them along.
• You’re an EMT on the night shift. The flash of the whirling lights. Humanity at the gritty ground floor. Everyone knows your vehicle drives in that space between society and the dead—just where your kind is comfortable. It’s like meals on wheels, only you’re delivering to yourself. How long can this last?
• You migrate with the food, to the most war-torn lands. You have an old passport, expired press badge, and a camera that no longer works. You sleep in the earth, and all through the day you drink the blood that just spills and spills and soaks into the ground.
• You are an exotic dancer, and no one says no when you suggest going into the back room for the special. It’s money, and it’s cash, and they always tip bigger after the kiss.
• You frequent the strip clubs, and always say yes to the back room. The dancers never seem to mind your lousy tips after the kiss.
“Be careful, o sinners, for it is not saints that walk beside you.”
Not even predators remain immune to the need for adaptation. Perhaps because of their narrow ecological niche, predators and their hunting styles adapt together. A vampire’s hunting preferences determine how they obtain blood, and this modus predationis shapes what Disciplines they develop.
These categories aren’t absolute: nothing stops a vampire who feeds through hookup apps from being an alleycat for a night. Like humans, though, vampires are creatures of habit. A vampire who regularly feeds on recovering addicts at AA or NA meetings will get used to it and get better at it. They’ll discover what works, what doesn’t work, and refine their method accordingly. Tell them to score blood from a hospital morgue and they’ll be a fish out of water.
• Alleycat: A combative assault-feeder, you stalk, overpower, and drink from whomever you can, when you can. You may or may not attempt to threaten or Dominate victims into silence or mask the feeding as a robbery. Think about how you arrived at this direct approach to feeding and what makes you comfortable with an unlife of stalking, attacking, feeding, and escaping. You could have been homeless, an SAS soldier, a cartel hitman, or a big game hunter.
• Bagger: You steal, buy, or otherwise procure cold blood rather than hunt, relying on the black market or your skills as a burglar or ambulance chaser. Perhaps you still work the night shift at the hospital.
• Blood Leech: You drink from other vampires,either by hunting, coercion or by taking blood as payment—perhaps the only truly moral way of feeding you can think of. Unfortunately, this practice is usually forbidden in Kindred society. It is either risky as all fuck or requires a position of enviable power.
• Booth Buffet: You practice a profession which requires a great deal of personal contact in a private or semi-private setting. Maybe you are a hairdresser, a chiropractor, or a tattoo artist. you get your clients to relax when they are alone with you. Sometimes, they even experience an unexplained sense of euphoria as you work on them, which keeps them coming back. They have come to accept that after an appointment they look so awesome, but feel so… drained.
• Catfisher: You take your time to develop a number of personas online, and use these false identities on social media and forums to develop friendships with kine. You develop these connections to the point a person-to-person meeting can happen, which can be taken advantage for feeding. The benefit of doing so is being able to control the many factors involved in feeding, such as the time and location.
• Cleaver: You feed covertly from your (or someone’s) mortal family and friends with whom you still maintain ties. The most extreme cleavers adopt children, marry a human, and try to maintain a family life for as long as they can. Cleavers often go to great lengths to keep the truth of their condition from their family, but some also maintain unwholesome relationships with their own kin. The Camarilla forbids taking a human family in this fashion, and it frowns on cleavers as Masquerade breaches waiting to happen. Cleavers who get caught by the sheriff can expect harsh punishments, and their family’s lives are usually forfeit.
• Consensualist: You prefer not to feed against your victim’s free will. You might masquerade as a representative of a charity blood drive, as a blood-drinking kink-lord in the “real vampire community,” or by actually telling your victims what you are and getting their permission to feed. The Camarilla call that last method a Masquerade breach, but many Anarch philosophers consider it an acceptable risk. You could have been anything in life, but a sex worker, a political organizer, or a lawyer could all be wary of feeding without consent.
• Extortionist: You like to force your victims to bleed for you. Ostensibly, you acquire blood in exchange for services such as security or surveillance, but as many times as the need for protection is real, it is just as often a fiction engineered to make the deal feel acceptable.
• Farmer: You only feed from animals. Your hunger constantly gnaws at you, but you have not killed a single human being so far (except perhaps that one time), and you intend to keep it that way. You could have been anyone in life, but your choice speaks to someone obsessed by morality. Perhaps you were an activist, priest, aid worker, or vegan in life, but the choice never to risk a human life is one anyone could arrive at and struggle to maintain.
• Graverobber: You feed from fresh corpses, but you probably prefer feeding from mourners in cemeteries and sad, frightened visitors and patients in hospitals. Melancholic resonance in a victim’s blood appeals more than any other humour. You likely hold a haven in or connections to a church, hospital, or morgue.
• House Cat: We live in the age of delivery apps, online shopping, dating apps and all night services. Getting someone to come to you has never been so easy. Why go hunt in the streets when you can have the food come to your haven? The tech-minded modern Anarch never has to worry about going hungry.
• Osiris: You are a celebrity among mortals or else you run a cult, a church, or something similar. You feed from your fans or worshippers, who treat you as a deity. You always have access to easy blood, but followers breed problems with the authorities, organized religion, and indeed the Camarilla. In life, you might have been a DJ, a writer, a cultist, a preacher, or a LARP organizer.
• Patron: You dislike all the skulking and scheming necessary for most types of predation. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. The world runs on money and you use this to your advantage. You find people who lack wealth (or influence, drugs, a place to sleep, whatever) and offer to fix their problem. With the internet, you can even order in. All your employee has to do is go somewhere… private with you first. Most figure you’re just a rich pervert, but it feels good for them, too. In any case, they get paid, you get fed, and the Masquerade is upheld.
• Roadside Killer: You belong with the vagabonds, tourists, and truckers of the world—always moving, never at home. You know how to pick out the ones whose deaths are discounted as the risk of a woman hitchhiking alone, or who simply won’t be missed at all. You still have to fight to keep other vampires away from them lest the herd thins too much, though. In life, you either were one of them, or you met these vagrants as they rested at your roadside stop.
• Sandman: You rely on your stealth or Disciplines to feed from sleeping victims. If they never wake during the feeding, they won’t know you exist. Perhaps you were very anti-social in life; you don’t feel cut out for the intense interpersonal nightlife or physical violence of more extroverted hunters.
• Scene Queen: You rely on your familiarity with a certain subculture and a well-crafted pose, feeding on an exclusive subculture that believes you to be one of them. Your victims look up to you for your status in the scene (or perhaps just overlook you), and the ones who understand what you are get disbelieved. You may belong to the street or be literal upper class, abusing the weak with false hope and promises of taking them to the next level. In life, you almost certainly belonged to a subculture similar to the one you stalk now.
• Siren: You feed almost exclusively during or while feigning sex, and you rely on your Disciplines, seduction skills, or the unquenchable appetites of others to conceal your carnivorous nature. You have mastered the art of the one-night stand or move through the sex club scene like a dark star. You think of yourself as a sexy beast, but in your darkest moments, you fear that you’re at best a problematic lover, at worst a habitual rapist. Maybe in life you were a pick-up artist, movie producer, author, a glorious slutty kinkster—or a virgin who intends to make up for lost time post-mortem.
• Slayer: The Slayer hunts the scum of the mortal world, whether they be killers, rapists, crime lords, or other horrible figures which decent society would not miss. Perhaps their victims are open and proud, incarcerated, or even hiding amongst good people—their crimes undiscovered.
• Spider: Why go out and find vessels, when they can come to you? You’ve found or built a trap, and baited it with something to lure people in. Abandoned warehouses with rumors of valuable equipment left behind, dying malls with closed off anchor stores, and mysterious ruins with the sort of spooky reputations that draw urban adventurers have all worked for vampires.
• Typhus: The dead, dying, and sick are easy prey and even easier if you work within hospital wards or retirement homes. You use your knowledge of medical issues, and your ability to present yourself as a health worker to gain access to these people you can then easily feed upon, or draw copious amounts of blood from. Old Blood never tasted so sweet.
“Blood’s your new rack’a lamb, your new champagne—blood’s your new fuckin’ heroin, kid!”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
At the end of the night, every vampire takes blood from others. “Others” need not be human, though a vampire who is too squeamish to take sustenance from the kine is often ridiculed by their peers—vampires are predators, after all, no matter how unnatural.
The Assault, The Kiss
“Creep up on him, then bare those little fangs and feed. Don’t worry if you weren’t captain of the wrestling team. It’ll come so naturally you’d think you’d done it a thousand times already.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Vampires have two traditional avenues of feeding. They can feed aggressively, or subtly. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Normally, a vampire’s fangs retract, only looking barely sharper than normal canines. At will, a vampire can unsheathe them to bite, and to feed.
• When feeding non-violently, the process can seem downright euphoric for the victim; vampire’s fangs produce a supernatural intoxicating effect while opening up a blood vessel. This draws attention away from the reality of the feeding. Indeed, once a vampire breaks a vessel’s skin with their fangs, that vessel no longer resists (if they did in the first place). Only the strongest-willed mortals, or ones in immediate peril for their lives, can even try to. The ecstasy caused by the vampire’s bite is called the Kiss, and it engenders as much exquisite, subtly painful pleasure in vampires as it does in mortals, although they retain their wits and can resist its effects.
Many Kindred use the Kiss as part of a seduction. Assuming the vampire takes the time to hit a vein or artery correctly, they may lick the wound afterwards, leaving no trace of their feeding. Mortal victims may only remember the encounter as a drug trip, an interlude of weird rough sex, or just a delirious fog of drunken intimacy. They remember how it felt, though. Some kine even develop lusts for the Kiss and actively seek out vampires who will drink their blood. These individuals are known as blood dolls, and are by turns appreciated and disdained in the All-Night Society. Ultimately, they’re addicts.
• When feeding violently, the process is painful and traumatic for the victim. Once the vampire’s fangs pierce their flesh, they feel paralyzed and helpless; as before, only mortals of great willpower can resist this effect. The victim can simultaneously feel the Kiss’ pleasure tugging at them, though. Some may even give in to it and cry out for the vampire to continue.
Many victims of violent feedings describe the experience like unto rape and can suffer PTSD afterwards. The paralytic effect of the vampire’s bite can lead victims to blame themselves for “not fighting back,” while the pleasure of the Kiss is often a source of shame for having enjoyed it.
In reference to the effects of a bite, the word “mortal” applies to humans, ghouls, and other lesser night-folk that are mostly human. Vampires, mages, werewolves, mummies, fairies, and other true night-folk are not normally subject to the Assault and the Kiss. The bite is pleasurable or unsettling; just not enough to significantly impair them.
• Feeding Times: It takes time to drink blood and care to do it properly. As a general rule, attempting to preserve the victim’s life, health, or blissed-out screen memory (all of which of course also preserve the Masquerade) takes longer than simply ripping open an artery and slurping down the red stuff. On the other hand, a victim who fights back slows things down and endangers the Masquerade. The faster a vampire feeds, the more forcefully they steal vitae. A vampire can drain and kill a helpless or otherwise unresisting human in roughly a minute. It is generally impossible to take blood at a faster rate than this, though some Nosferatu with hideously distended mouths are able to take more through sheer surface area bleed. Most vampires drink their victim’s blood slowly, so as to savor the luscious fluid and draw as much pleasure as possible out of the experience.
Jack: “When it comes to feeding, it’s quality blood you’re looking for, not the quantity. Bums and lowlifes don’t pack the same punch that a healthy, well-bred human will. […] You ever had a Ph.D., kid? Oh, that’s good stuff."
The Fledgling: “Shit like that matters? Should I be holding interviews for honors students before I bite someone?”
Jack: “Kid, you’ll learn.”
Smiling Jack to the Fledgling, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Blood isn’t just blood. To vampires’ hyper-sensitive palettes, there are as many flavors of blood as there are types of human food. Vampires call the flavor of blood its resonance. Strong enough resonance can confer powers known as dyscrasias.
Full article: Blood Resonance.
Feeding, like sex, is never completely safe. There is always the chance that a feeding vampire may take too much from a vessel (whether from misjudging their health or simply getting carried away). Unhygienic vampires may communicate disease by exposing a vessel to bacteria and viruses carried in other blood that still stains their fangs. Neglecting to lick a wound closed can also expose a victim to infection. Even a careful vampire who feeds slowly, doesn’t take too much, and licks the wound might still leave behind an air embolism, to say nothing of long-term anemia.
A vampire may take 20 percent of a vessel’s blood (2 pints of blood for a normal human) and leave it relatively safe. Taking half of a vessel’s blood necessitates hospitalization for that vessel: they may or may not survive, and they’ll need a blood transfusion themselves. Taking all a vessel’s blood will kill it.
There are around 10 pints of blood in the average human adult body, although this will vary depending on various factors. During pregnancy, a woman may have up to 50% more blood. The average quantities of blood are:
• about 9 pints in an average-sized female (5’4" tall and 170 lbs)
• about 12 pints in an average-sized male (5’9" tall and 200 lbs)
• roughly (0.075 pints per pound of body weight) for prepubescent vessels
For this reason, vampires prefer tall, fit, healthy vessels. It’s more blood. Fat vessels are less attractive to vampires—most of their increased body mass is due to adipose tissue rather than blood volume. Many vampires also claim they taste worse. “If they don’t take care of themselves, you can taste it.”
Vampiric feeding is extremely efficient at its job, but even it cannot drain 100% of a victim’s total blood volume. Vampires who extract their victims’ blood through even more efficient means (meat processing equipment, tying them up and butchering them like livestock, the Vicissitude Devotion for Protean, some forms of Blood Sorcery, etc.) can extract up to several feedings’ worth of blood for later use, depending on the methods used. This behavior is obviously not conductive to maintaining one’s humanity, though.
Types of Vessels
“You can survive feedin’ on animals, if you can stomach that kind of thing. Bleh.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Vampires can find blood through numerous sources.
• Human Blood: Most vampires get their blood from humans. It tastes best warm, straight from the vein. Most other blood sources are inferior to “fresh” human blood.
• Cold Blood: Blood from a corpse or kept outside the body for more than a few minutes is edible to vampires, but far less satisfying. The longer it’s kept out, the less it fills, especially for stronger-blooded vampires. Many elders can’t subsist off such paltry fare at all. A minority of vampires—mostly Giovannini and some moribund Nosferatu—develop a taste for the blood of corpses. Kindred society looks down upon this as carrion-eating.
Blood that’s removed from a body and re-heated (such as in a microwave) is still as “nutritious” to vampires as the fresh stuff, but it tastes worse. Many Kindred compare it to the different between a steak hot off the grill and one tossed in the microwave after sitting in a takeout box overnight. Still, many vampires find it useful to keep refrigerated blood supplies on hand for a rainy day, or simple convenience.
• Bagged Blood: What about just buying and feeding from medical blood bags? Unfortunately for the Kindred, most medical supply blood is fractionated: centrifuged to separate the plasma from the
blood cells and then stored as plasma, packed red blood cells, or other blood products. Even whole blood comes stored with anticoagulant preservatives such as CPDA-1. All of these alterations makes bagged blood foul-tasting to drink, and significantly less “nutritious.” Stronger-blooded vampires find that bagged blood doesn’t slake their thirst at all. Weaker-blooded Kindrd can subsist off it, if they can stomach the taste.
• Animals: Animal blood is edible to vampires, but less nourishing. Even though large animals can hold a great deal of blood—a cow contains almost 40 liters of blood, and a horse more than 50—it just doesn’t satisfy like human blood does. It also tastes worse. (Rats and other “dirty” animals are infamous for their revolting taste.)
As with other “inferior” blood types, the stronger the vampire’s own vitae, the less filling they find such paltry fare. Many elders can’t stomach animal blood at all. Some younger and more humane vampires consider it an ethical alternative to preying on humans. Vampires who subsist exclusively off animal blood are known as “vegans” and scorned by Kindred society as wolves trying to live like sheep. Many Gangrel have a predilection for animal blood, though, and hold that “fasting” on it can clear their heads.
• Vampires: Kindred vitae is heady stuff. Compared with human blood, it tastes like wine next to water. Vitae is dangerous food, though. Feeding directly from another vampire risks a blood bond, and an involuntary “donor” can put up a stronger fight than mere mortals.
The blood of elder vampires is especially heady. Each pint may be so potent that it is actually worth two pints—or more!—of human blood. Elders don’t actually store a larger blood volume in their bodies: rather, the blood they ingest is more concentrated in their ancient veins (and has an incredible flavor to match). Such prized vitae is rarely available to neonates or even ancillae.
• Other Night-Folk: The blood of other supernatural creatures is rumored to carry all manner of powerful—and dangerous—effects. Few vampires get the chance to dine regularly upon such fare. It’s obviously much riskier to prey on werewolves and mages than ordinary humans.