Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
“Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood is the life thereof.”
The blood-drinkers who stalk the World of Darkness mostly call themselves Kindred, licks, or Cainites. The term “vampire” seems déclassé to the habitués of Elysium and the theorists of Anarch utopia, reminiscent of cheesy Hammer sequels and tourist-friendly reactionary folklore. However, those Embraced in recent decades increasingly use the term among themselves, (“taking the v-word back”) establishing their claim to this status, despite the thinness of their Blood. When challenged, they respond: “Who has a better right to the name? Those of us actually out in the night, or the mythical monsters from movies?”
Vampires cannot afford too many illusions; as predators, their existence depends on fooling their prey, not themselves. Whether they call themselves Kindred, Cainites, licks, or vampires, they face certain immutable truths. To be a vampire is to be driven by an insensate hunger for human blood and by the immortal legacy of your vampiric blood. Hunger drives you to murderous frenzy, impels you to slake your thirst in mortal veins. The human blood you drink alchemizes and resonates, granting not just ecstasy but also immortality; not just strange powers, but also slavery. More than most of us, vampires are what they eat. More than most of us, vampires must retain their humanity if they want to be more than that.
The Cycle of Unlife
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die.”
The Requiem is significantly different from mortal life. From the moment of Embrace, everything takes on a new, bloody tone that defies logic and reason. Certain phenomena drive that home.
Kindred traverse a long path for what could be eternity. Sometimes, they move at a crawl, with stagnation and inevitability weighing on their every step. Sometimes, they sprint at a fever pitch, confused and confusing. But Kindred never walk this path alone. They walk with their Beasts, and with the Beast comes the hunger.
“The soul, which is spirit, can not dwell in dust; it is carried along to dwell in the blood.”
Saint Aurelius Augustine
The Embrace is the process of becoming a vampire, and entering the Requiem. On the surface, it’s quite easy. The sire drains a mortal completely of their lifeblood, then feeds them a bit of the sire’s own vitae (it can be no more than a drop) to rouse them back to the land of the living.
It’s just two things:
Bite the mortal.
Feed their corpse.
It’s so simple. However, with all things in the Requiem, it’s not always straightforward.
Full article: The Embrace.
“Human blood is to our blood like water is to wine.”
There’s blood, and there’s Blood. Vitae carries with it a series of potent and important properties in addition to fueling eternal life and Disciplines.
• Vitae and Blood: Kindred vitae is not human blood; at least, not directly. Kindred create vitae as a byproduct of processing the blood they absorb. There’s no digestion; the blood seeps through the gullet and washes through decaying tissues. Vitae is the perverse fuel that exists within the Kindred’s blood.
• Appearance: Blood bearing vitae is slightly darker (although not abnormally so), and has an almost syrupy quality. It has all the normal metallic smells blood should, but also has a subtle, sweet smell, like a dessert wine. It’s flavored by the vampire’s most recent victims. Other Kindred can taste a thousand and one other influences from clan to emotional state.
• Losing Vitae: Vampires do not bleed vitae when cut. The Beast is too selfish to let go of that fluid. Or the vitae is possessive; either way, it pulls back to the body in the way a drop of mercury absorbs back into a pool. Vampires bleed when cut, but don’t lose vitae. If a vampire loses a limb or other wholesale chunk of flesh, the blood will remain with the lost part, and pour out as the tissue and bone decays. Only in these terrible cases does blood loss equate with vitae loss.
Picture Kindred blood as paint. Blood is the oil, the water, the vessel. You can’t paint with oil or water. The vitae is the pigment. It brings color, it makes the paint vibrant. It’s only a small part of the mixture. You could remove the pigment and still have a pail of fluid, it just wouldn’t be very useful on a canvas.
Many of the powers iconic to the undead, from enslaving the wills of others to fighting with the strength of ten men, cost vitae. Just waking up every night, and turning a motionless corpse into an animate one, costs vitae.
The more vitae a vampire loses, the hungrier they get.
“Everything comes back to this. Pick any door. It doesn’t matter. In this funhouse nightmare, every hallway comes back to the feeding room.”
Like anyone else, vampires need food. They thirst for the blood of the living. A vampire’s hunger is more urgent than a mortal’s. If they exhaust themselves and fail to feed, they’ll slip into torpor, the long sleep of the dead.
Full article: Hunger.
“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble.”
The vampire is immortal, yet they live on a countdown—tick-tock. Every morning at dawn, they are compelled to sleep. If they resist that call, and expose themselves to the light, their skin begins to smolder. A young vampire slowly blisters and burns. An older one, far removed from the humans who laugh and smile in the sunlight, may actually catch fire. Kindred must have shelter—a proper haven.
Where should one sleep? A better flat? The Kindred are nocturnal predators, corpse-demons styling in human skin. What do they need with the comforts of home? Yet the urge to nest lingers. Four walls do more than hold out the sun; they hold something in. Smart Kindred build themselves mausoleums in honor of the lives they lost. Add a bit of hearth, decorate with a few things familiar, and the ghost of the Man might haunt your halls a little while longer.
Full article: Havens.
“Don’t kill them—least not the innocent ones. You’re a monster now, make no mistake—one of the damned and the fallen. You need to hold onto every last shred of humanity you have.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Kindred are not human. They were, once, but now they’re something entirely different. However, to blend in with mortals, to walk among the flock, Kindred must maintain perspective and understanding of their former lives. Humane Kindred live side-by-side with mortals. Monstrous vampires grow distant and alien; they lose sight of what they once were, and more importantly, what they prey upon.
Full article: Humanity.
Jocelyn: “You can’t be an elder if your blood’s too far away from Caine.”
Caroline: “So every generation is weaker?”
Jocelyn Baker to Caroline Malveaux-Devillers
The shark eats the minnow, and the big shark eats the little shark. Vampires are not created equal. They never were. They never will be. Some are bigger sharks than others, and a ruthless pecking order exists. This is the cannibal totem pole, the hierarchy of the Damned.
Vampires are obligate predators. Power is the only thing they respect, and some of them have so much more power than others.
Full article: Age, Generation, and Blood Potency.
“I don’t know what God thinks of you, or how He’s going to judge you. That’s up to Him, not me. All that’s up to me is being your mom.”
If you were turned into a monster, who would you risk everything to see again? Whose memory keeps you from tearing out a helpless throat?
Those people are a vampire’s Touchstones. They literally define the best in humanity for a vampire and keep them anchored to their old lives. They might be a vampire’s wife and child, their best friend and their old sergeant, or their bartender and a beautiful girl they watched from a distance but never approached.
Full article: Touchstones.
“Daysleep isn’t much of a rest. It’s a power nap. If you want real sleep, that’s torpor."
Over time, through great injury, starvation, or simple world-weariness, Kindred fall to the sleep of ages: torpor. Vampires can linger in this cold, dead slumber for anywhere from nights to millennia. Older, stronger-blooded, and more monstrous vampires tend to experience longer torpors than younger, weak-blooded, and human ones.
Full article: Torpor.
“Everything ends in death, everything. Death is terrible.”
Vampires are incredibly resilient and can survive punishment that would kill a human several times over. Even their deathless bodies have limits, though. Fire, sunlight, decapitation, deadly supernatural attacks, and anything that would destroy a human’s entirely bodily volume—dissolved in acid, fed into a wood chipper, explosive overpressure, etc.—can end a vampire’s immortal existence. This second death is known as their final death.
Many vampires suffer final death in combat with their own kind, werewolves, Strix, or vampire hunters. Some commit suicide by greeting the dawn. Others simply go missing over the centuries, their final fates unknown to their fellow Kindred.
Vampires destroyed by fire or sunlight are reduced to ash. Nothing remains of their bodies except, at most, a few charred bones. Vampires who meet final death by other means revert to their true ages… or at least a measure of such. Neonates become rotting corpses. Ancillae become withered mummies. Elders become fleshless skeletons. Methuselahs become dust. The stronger the vampire’s Blood, the more advanced their body’s state of decay.
As with mortal, no one can say for sure what happens to Kindred after they die. The Sanctified teach that their souls are condemned to Hell—they aren’t called “the Damned” for nothing.
Gifts of the Blood
Jack: “All right now, you got the blood, you’re feelin’ all kickass, feelin’ better than your best day livin’—but wait! It gets better! All Kindred […] have a few things in common, things that set them right square above humans on the food chain."
The Fledgling: “Yeah? Like what?”
Jack: “Like sharper senses, a body that can take a beating, and, if you play your cards right, eternal life. That’s no sure bet, but still, a chance at immortality’s not a bad deal. And that’s just for starters; fringe benefits for joinin’ the club.”
Smiling Jack to the Fledgling, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
The Embrace comes with many drawbacks. However, it also comes with numerous advantages. Every vampire has access to the following powers.
“Don’t judge them by their bodies. Even the frailest-looking wisp of a girl, if she’s been turned into a leech, can hit like a heavyweight champ if she really wants to.”
By spending precious blood, vampires can temporarily become stronger, faster, or tougher—by a lot. Even the weakest vampire may be able to lift a car, outrun a motorcycle, or withstand blows that would fell trees.
Every few seconds of such power drains precious blood, however, so few vampires use it frivolously. Only vampires who possess the Disciplines of Celerity, Fortitude, or Potence possess such awesome physical gifts permanently, and can call upon them without limit.
For players who prefer to quantify such things with numbers…
Blood Surge lets a vampire temporarily raise their Strength, Dexterity, or Stamina score to (4 + Blood Potency). Thus, a vampire with Blood Potency 2 could have Strength, Dexterity, or Stamina 6 while using Blood Surge. This lasts long enough to accomplish a single dramatic action, such as hurling a car or walking a tightrope.
The GM will probably have the player roll a die to see if their PC gets any hungrier.
“I don’t use guns much. They’re […] practically useless against vampires. But still, a Kindred’s gotta keep up with the times."
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
There are certain advantages to being a walking corpse. One of the biggest is having a body vastly more resilient to physical trauma than humans’.
Kindred are naturally immune to most diseases. AIDS, COVID, SARS, cancer, syphilis, and other illnesses mean little or nothing to the undead. But immunity to disease doesn’t mean the vampires can ignore diseases. Any illness that can be transmitted by the blood is a potential problem for vampires, because they can carry the illness and transmit it from victim to victim. Indeed, several Kindred have become active carriers for HIV. By drinking from someone infected with HIV and then feeding on different victims, these vampires have helped to spread a particularly virulent infection.
In some fiefdoms, any vampire found carrying such a blood-borne disease is locked away for the good of the herd. In rare cases such carriers have even been put to final death for spreading disease. Such plague-dogs are frowned upon heavily in the Camarilla, for not only does disease threaten the human populace, but victims of the disease might speak of their affiliation with vampires, putting the Masquerade in grave danger. Even the vampires of the Sabbat, with their lack of concern for the herd, have begun to consider regulations regarding disease carriers.
Kindred legends speak of certain plagues potent enough to affect vampires. Very few vampires have any knowledge of such ailments, and those who do are highly prized. Despite the Kindred’s formidable powers, they are ill-prepared to handle the occasional illness that can cause them harm.
Vampires have limitless fatigue. They can run, jump, and swim all night without getting tired. They don’t need to eat or breathe, so they can’t drown or asphyxiate. They don’t suffer headaches, blisters, itches, soreness, hiccups, periods, “low energy,” or any of the other countless little aches and pains that burden the living. A vampire can sleep on hard floors or stand for hours in a stress position and feel fine. With a few rare exceptions, a vampire is always “at 100%”—at least physically. Mentally, many vampires find that enduring inhuman conditions for extended periods puts them in inhuman mindsets, which isn’t without drawbacks.
Small-caliber firearms are less effective against vampires, and feel more like punches to them than actually getting shot. Unpleasant, but not fatal. Headshots and weapons with serious stopping power (such as shotguns and assault rifles) can hurt them more effectively. Between this resilience to bullets, as well as their other physical powers, swordfighting and hand-to-hand combat remain in vogue among vampires and those who hunt them.
Vampires’ bodies are dead. They don’t sweat or secrete biological fluids, nor do they produce bodily odors. They don’t urinate or defecate. While sleeping, a vampire doesn’t move at all. Wearing the same clothes for days is no more unhygienic for a vampire than leaving the clothes on a mannequin. A vampire still picks up scents from their environment, and many shower out of habit (and enjoyment), but a vampire in clean surroundings could go years without bathing no worse for wear.
Vampires can only be destroyed through fire, sunlight, banes, decapitation, or the total destruction of their entire bodily volume. Physical trauma that would kill a human instead sends a vampire into a hibernation-like state known as torpor. To an untrained eye, it’s indistinguishable from death. Continuing to stab, shoot, or beat a torpid vampire has no more effect than continuing to mutilate an unresponsive corpse.
Poisons and Drugs
As undead, vampires have little fear of conventional poisons. However, they may succumb to poisons or drugs contained within the bloodstream of their victims. A vampire who feeds from a drunk vessel will get drunk themselves. Indeed, certain vampires actively seek out victims under the influence of alcohol or drugs to receive a vicarious buzz. More dangerously, some vampires (and vampire hunters) may “poison” Kindred enemies by lacing a vessel’s blood with debilitating substances.
Vampires, being undead, suffer little from the privations of temperature. A vampire can walk naked through snow or wear heavy clothes in blistering heat without discomfort. However, extreme heat that literally bakes their flesh can have the same effect on them as fire. Some resource-strapped hunters have destroyed staked vampires by baking them in ovens.
Though vampires cannot die from cold, they can suffer the effects of frostbite and even become entirely frozen in severe temperatures. Cold presents a special danger to vampires, because most of them have no bodily warmth save for a few minutes immediately following a feeding. Thus, they cannot easily detect dangerous drops in bodily temperature. A vampire who spends long enough in extreme cold can literally freeze solid. If they don’t get help, and the sun doesn’t burn them, they’ll enter torpor from starvation.
“We can blend in with the night, see in the dark, pick up a virgin’s first cycle a mile off. We fly, we shift, we run so fast we cross water. We make people love us with a snap of our fingers and command complete obedience from others. We crush cars into soup cans, command wolves with a snarl, bend the rules of reality with blood and bone.”
A soon as a mortal receives the Embrace, they receive access to the powers colloquially known as Disciplines. Developed from the temperaments of victims consumed and refined to devastating potential, vampires bring these blood-borne gifts to bear against foes and prey.
Full article: Disciplines.
“I am the master. [You are] the slave.”
The hungry dead take and take, but they also give back to the community. They spread their blood because it makes mortals pliable. It can make a ghoul too, if you’re willing to put in the work.
Ghouls are half-damned mortals who drink vampire blood. In addition to a wicked rush, they get some of the vampire’s supernatural powers, with few of their ugly weaknesses. Vampires use ghouls not only to do dirty work by day, but to keep in touch with the mortal world. The most successful Masquerades are built on understanding the living at least well enough to bullshit your way along, and ghouls can bridge the gap between the living and the dead.
Among other vampires, ghouls are servants at best and slaves at worst. They’re not family, not Kindred by any means… but a ghoul represents someone that another vampire was willing to cultivate. Of course, that also makes ghouls vulnerable, for putting fear into the heart of a ghoul is one way to chill the blood of his master.
A ghoul becomes an addict, feeling a bit of a vampire’s hunger. But human blood won’t sate this hunger. The ghoul needs vitae.
Full article: Ghouls.
“D’ya get winged? Hey hey! Look at them potholes! Those’ll close up soon enough—better feed, though.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Kindred blood seeks to return a vampire to the state of their Embrace. Hair and fingernails regrow as they sleep. Even feet of chopped-off hair will fully regrow by nightfall. For this reason, many sires recommend their childer groom for the Embrace—a vampire Embraced with bad hair will have to style it every night (or learn to live with it).
More importantly, vitae can force a vampire’s injured body to reconstruct, mending bones and knitting torn flesh in seconds. The stronger the vampire, the faster they regenerate, although even the weakest vampire can recover within minutes from injuries that would leave a mortal crippled in the ICU.
Vampires can reattach severed limbs by holding them to the stump. They can even regrow lost limbs from nothing, although this can take anywhere from nights to weeks, depending on how strong the vampire is and how extensive the amputations are. Only injuries sufficient to reduce the physical volume of a vampire’s body—and far past what it would take to kill a human—can leave a vampire “bedridden” for an extended period.
These regenerative powers aren’t unlimited, though: they cost precious blood. Regenerated injuries sufficient to kill a human will leave a vampire ravenous with hunger and unable to heal themselves until they feed again. As one vampire remarked, “We just shift the bill from getting hurt to someone else.” Only vampires with the Discipline of Fortitude can regenerate injuries without expending vitae.
Vampires also can’t easily regenerate wounds from fire, sunlight, and banes. These take at least all day to heal, and extensive enough wounds can take even longer.
“Humans might as well have a wet cloth over their faces, for all the good their senses are.”
Kindred exist in the dark. Not only can they see better than humans in the dark, their other senses are sharper to facilitate their predatory needs.
Vampires have senses to rival any shark’s at detecting blood. A vampire can smell even the faintest traces in the air. They can effortlessly track a bleeding man by scent. They can smell when a woman is menstruating. They can tell how fresh the cut under someone’s band-aid is.
If a vampire encounters traces of blood, even if dried or hidden (in a carpet, for example), they immediately see even very small quantities.
Vampire hearing is similarly enhanced. They can hear the heartbeats of mortals at the same range as speech, making it highly difficult for humans to sneak up on them—at least in isolated areas.
If a vampire has tasted a particular human’s blood, they can track the human by scent, even if they aren’t bleeding. As one vampire hunter once warned his proteges, “Once a vampire has your scent, it’s for life.” Kindred blood does not offer this advantage, since it’s mostly old, dead, and its smell is a blend of all the vampire’s recent victims.
Vampires with stronger Blood, and ones who are proficient in Auspex, can detect blood at even farther ranges.
Kindred have night vision comparable to owls and other nocturnal predators. They can see perfectly well at nighttime. A moonless night in the wilderness is as clear to a vampire as a sunny day. Vampires can’t see in pitch darkness, though: they need at least some light, however dim.
When a vampire tastes blood, they can discern details such as: emotional state, blood type, how long it’s been out of the body, the presence of popular drugs, blood-born toxins and diseases, whether they’ve tasted it before, and similar information. If the blood is sufficiently alien, they can tell it’s not human.
Vampires can even recognize their own clans and relatives by taste, as well as the approximate strength of another vampire’s blood. It’s possible to fool this, though—if a vampire has recently fed from another vampire, that second vampire’s taste comes through instead, so long as their blood isn’t substantially weaker. The Obfuscate Discipline can also deceive the senses through taste.
“You could say we’re camera shy.”
A vampire does not lack a reflection. You just never see them in the mirror. The Beast knows precisely where to stand. A vampire is not a blurred mess in a photograph, but for some reason, never seems to look at the camera, or the flash smears the image, or it goes over- or under-exposed.
Frustrating, yes, but hardly supernatural. Unless you are a rogue statistics professor, manically analyzing vampire sightings and… what was that in the mirror? Surely nothing. Surely too much caffeine.
It’s a defense mechanism. The vampire rolls in lies until they soak into skin. Kindred lie about their origins, lie to each other, secrete lies to mortar their honeycomb society, lie to themselves, lie to make themselves seem bigger and scarier, to seem smaller and less threatening, to seem fuckable when they should be creepy. Lies collect on a vampire like remora on a shark.
“All I knew was Simon’s eyes, the heat of them, the rage and suspicion there. I could feel the thirst burning within him, and the sight of it woke my own long-buried bloodlust dimly, like calling to like until I was afraid. I could not look away. Nor could he. We faced each other silently, moving but slightly in a wary circle, eyes locked. My glass fell and shattered on the floor.”
“How much time passed I cannot say. But finally Simon looked down, and it was over. Then he did something startling and strange. He knelt before me, and bit open a vein in his own wrist so the blood flowed out, and held it up to me in submission. […] I commanded him, and he did as he was told."
Joshua York, Fevre Dream
Every step they take, every corner they turn, a Kindred’s Beast stands ready to face threats, to defend territory, and most importantly, to feed. To the Beast, everything is a challenge, a potential conquest, a meal, or a combination of the three. To other predators, the Beast is a palpable thing, something that identifies another monster.
This presence, the predatory aura, builds a paradox in Kindred society. On one hand, it guarantees vampires will never truly be civil, as all remain one misstep away from each other’s throats. On the other hand, it forces Kindred to hold tight to traditions and propriety, in order to keep the Beast at bay and force a modicum of nicety.
Without the Obfuscate Discipline or other ability to mask or suppress the predatory aura, vampires recognize other vampires on sight. If they can smell a vampire, they know it’s a vampire. If they touch a vampire, they know it’s a vampire. Note that this is one-sided: One character may not notice the other. It’s not just the aura, it’s all the right cues. Kindred notice the shallow or nonexistent breathing of their kind. They notice the subtle, predatory tones in a voice. They smell multiple victims’ blood on another.
By hissing and baring their fangs, a vampire can lash out with the raw force of their Beast. This is a dominance signal not unlike bulls locking horns or apes beating their chests. Against other Kindred, this escalates the encounter, forcing fight or flight instincts. Against mortals, this asserts power and cows the lesser creatures. The loser (usually the vampire with weaker blood) is the first vampire to flinch and look away. It’s frowned upon in Elysium, but it’s a quick means of cementing hierarchies among Kindred.
Prices of the Blood
“Well, you can still be destroyed, but forget the books and movies.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
While Kindred carry many gifts and advantages, their Requiems are far from blessed. Vampires suffer numerous banes. Collectively, Kindred all suffer from the “great banes”: fire, sunlight, and stakes through the heart. Every vampire except Caitiff suffer the banes of their clans. All Kindred feel the pull of the Beast, which tempts them into violence. Torpor drags them to lengthy slumbers. As the years pass and they fall away from humanity, Kindred develop other, unique banes.
“[Caine] cursed us all, for killing the first part of his Children, the Second Generation.”
The Book of Nod
While all vampires suffer from the great curses of fire, sunlight, frenzy, and so forth, banes are folkloric supernatural curses and compulsions that individual vampires suffer from. One vampire might be nauseated by garlic, while another might be repelled by holy symbols.
Additionally, every vampire suffers from a bane determined by their clan. The Nosferatu are hideous and disfigured, while the Malkavians are incurably insane, and the Tzimisce cannot enter private dwellings uninvited. Kindred myth holds these curses were imposed by Caine long ago.
Full article: Banes.
“Vampires are helpless during the day. They turn back into the corpses they are. There’s no better time to shove a stake in their chests.”
Daysleep is the death-like slumber of the undead. While the sun shines overhead, they become like the corpses they truly are. Vampiric sleep is much deeper than mortal sleep and leaves the vampire vulnerable to threats.
Once the sun rises, the vampire’s soul drags them toward slumber. There is no stage of “twilight sleep” like there is with mortals—they instantly collapse into death-like slumber unless they’re in a position of imminent peril. Staying awake outside of a life-threatening situation requires great effort of will, and is rarely possible for longer than a few minutes.
As mentioned, vampires sleep much deeper than humans. They don’t move. They rarely dream. They don’t experience sleep in five deepening stages. Daysleep is death in microcosm. For a long as the sun shines overhead, the vampire is functionally a dead body.
To a vampire, daysleep passes in less than an eyeblink. Their head hits the pillow, and a second later, they’re back up again. This is one of the draws of torpor to a mentally exhausted vampire—it’s the only sleep that feels like real rest.
When Kindred sleep, they stay asleep. A slumbering vampire is almost completely insensate to their surroundings. The vampire’s blood becomes quiescent, even gelid, and weighs them down. Outside of torpor, there’s no other time when a vampire is more vulnerable.
Rousing a sleeping vampire is hard, but not impossible. Only life-threatening disturbances like sunlight, fire, a collapsing building, or a stake in their chest are guaranteed to wake a sleeping vampire—and by then it may be too late.
The act of waking is hard, fast, and disconcerting, like a heart attack in reverse. The dead heart shoves vitae through the body once, with all the shock of a defibrillator paddle. The body hurts and does not work. The heart slowly begins pulsing, and the body slowly fights back to life. The limbs begin paralyzed, but then tingle and grow flush. The disoriented vampire rises.
A vampire active during the day is weak and sluggish, weighed down by their Blood. In fact, the stronger the vampire’s vitae, the groggier they are. While most hunters would rather stake a slumbering vitae and have done with it, there’s no better time for mortals to fight the undead head-on than during the day.
Once a crisis is dealt with, the vampire collapses back into death-like sleep. Adrenaline doesn’t keep them up like humans.
Waking at night isn’t disorienting for a vampire. It isn’t anything, besides instantaneous. There’s no transition period between slumber and wakefulness. One second, the vampire is an insensate corpse. The next, they’re a fully animate corpse. Attackers who expect a just-risen vampire to be groggy with sleep are in for a rude surprise. Once night falls, the creature is in its element.
When exactly that happens, though, varies by vampire. The closer a vampire’s connection to humanity, the earlier they wake. Most neonates wake around nightfall, while jaded enough elders can take as long as an extra hour to rise. Some vampires empathize enough with humanity to rise at twilight, or even sunset (although sunlight still burns them). A few Kindred are also naturally “early risers.”
Humanity and Daysleep
More humane vampires are much less affected by daysleep than their more monstrous peers. Conversely, the most monstrous vampires are totally helpless during the day, and easy prey for vampire hunters. These differences are detailed on the Humanity page.
“Fire? That’s real trouble.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Fire represents humankind’s dominance over the natural world, and ability to manipulate its environment as a tool. This symbolically human tool destroys Kindred flesh like nothing else. The Circle of the Crone believes fire burns as a lesson to Kindred, reminding them from whence they came, and can never return. Most Kindred just acknowledge that it could mean final death within moments.
Vampires greatly fear fire, for it is one of the few things that can end their immortal existences. Vampires are extremely flammable: just passing their finger through an open cigarette lighter causes the tiny flame to spread, and eventually burns the vampire to death, if it’s not put out. Being trapped in a burning building means a rapid final death for all but the hardiest Kindred. As one vampire hunter passed down to her students, “You should think of them as being constantly soaked in gasoline. That’s how much even a little fire can fuck them up.”
Fire greatly agitates a vampire’s Beast, instinctively driving them to flee. To many vampire hunters, fire is just as useful repelling vampires as it is destroying them. For this reason, it’s rare to find a vampire who smokes, despite the popular image. The proximate heat source constantly nags at their Beasts.
Even to vampires who survive an encounter with fire, burns can’t be lighly shrugged off, and take at least an entire day to heal. Extensive enough burns take even longer and may even cause permanent scarring. Vampires destroyed by fire are reduced to no more than blackened ash.
“The Beast is always there, waiting to take over. When it does, it’s like a wild animal wearin’ your skin… desperate, scared, reckless. It’ll do anything to survive and it’s you that has to deal with the consequences.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Sometimes, the Beast grows impatient. When the vampire faces danger, hunger, or threat, the Beast goads them to immediate and extreme response, usually meaning a blood-soaked frenzy. Frenzy comes from many sources, but always shares the same response: End the problem by any means necessary.
When faced with a strong enough stimulus, the vampire risks losing control of their Beast. They can temporarily hold the monster inside, but eventually they must face their monstrosity. Either they’ll force it down, or the Beast overwhelms them to fight, feed, or flee.
Full article: Frenzy.
“A stake? Only if it catches you in the heart, and then it just paralyzes you.”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Staking a vampire through the heart leaves them paralyzed and near-helpless. A staked vampire can’t use their powers or perform more than minute movements: opening their eyes or twitching a finger, and even these require great effort of will. Without fresh blood, a staked vampire inevitably succumbs to starvation-induced torpor.
Driving a stake through a human sternum is much harder than Hollywood makes it look and is physically impossible for ordinary mortals. Wood, however, pierces vampiric bone as easily as steel pierces flesh. (Wood is anathema to the Kindred due to photosynthesis: the trees that produce wooden stakes are symbolic reservoirs of sunlight.) A popular tactic among hunters is to stake a sleeping vampire during the day and then decapitate them or drag them into the sun.
Mallets are a popular tool among vampire hunters and Kindred who want more secure prisoners. Mallets making staking easier and can drive a stake deeper once it’s in, making it less convenient to free the paralyzed vampire. A deeply inserted enough stake is impossible to remove without extended finagling or carving away a potentially literal pound of flesh. Vampires with Potence, it should be noted, have the raw strength to simply shove a stake as deep as they like, without recourse to mallets.
“Sunlight? Well, you catch a sunrise and it’s all over, kiddo, get it?”
Smiling Jack, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Sunlight represents truth and honesty. It stands for visibility, where Kindred exist in the deceptive darkness. While it’s rarely instantaneously fatal, it burns Kindred flesh. The their lower vampire’s Humanity, the hotter and faster they burn. The Lancea et Sanctum attributes this to the judgment of God.
Effects of Sunlight
Sunlight, even more than fire, is deadly to vampires. Even diffuse sunlight running through a heavy curtain can cause burns, and direct sunlight sears vampires to ash. High doses of sunlight look like normal burns: the flesh chars, sears, and smokes. Lower doses of sunlight look more like decay, as the flesh sloughs off with time.
• Humanity: Humane vampires can survive longer doses of sunlight than monstrous vampires. A newly-Embraced vampire who still remembers being alive can survive maybe five minutes. Wights (vampires completely ruled by their Beasts) are incinerated instantaneously.
• Disciplines: For as long as a vampire is directly exposed to sunlight, they cannot use Disciplines. Their undead powers fail them.
• Frenzy: The pain of sunlight triggers frenzy in vampires, instinctively driving them to flee. Humane vampires less harmed by the sun are more likely to resist their Beasts.
• Recovery: As with fire, burns from sunlight take vampires at least an entire day to heal, and potentially far longer, depending on their severity. Sunlight burns may even leave permanent scarring.
Cloudy days and protective gear (thick clothes, boots, gloves, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat) can slow the effects of sunlight, but only a vampire whose entire body is shielded by a thick protective barrier is completely safe. Most vampires consider it good practice to sleep away from windows in their havens, or else maintain curtains thick enough to fully block the passage of light.
No part of a vampire is immune to the rays of the sun. Any vampire looking into direct sunlight is blinded instantly, their retinas burned by the illumination. Fortunately for vampires, the light reflected from the moon is not strong enough to inflict any serious damage, though some suffer the equivalent of mild sunburn if they are exposed to the light of a full moon and aren’t wearing any protective gear.
Sunlight and Final Death
Any vampire destroyed by sunlight is completely incinerated and reduced to ash. Not even bone is left over. For this reason, many princes execute Kindred criminals by leaving them staked for the sun. It’s a favored disposal method by vampire hunters as well. There’s no body to clean up and it’s less hazardous than using fire—not to mention a painful way to go.
States of Damnation
“Not one drop of blood is left inside my veins that does not throb: I recognize signs of the ancient flame.”
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
Vampiric blood can enact profound change in those who consume it, whether the drinker is mortal or undead. Whether these changes are for better and worse depends, as Leninist Anarchs put it, on who’s drinking whom.
“I will not sit here and give you blood because it feels good. Of course it feels good. It’s a fucking drug. You’re an addict now. Congratu-fucking-lations.”
Vitae is life. Life tastes very, very good. In fact, it tastes so good, it’s addictive. To humans, vampire blood is addictive like crack or heroin. The stronger the vampire’s blood, the more addictive it gets.
Vitae’s addictive quality is one of the strongest tools Kindred can control their ghouls with. Even ignoring the blood bond, vitae is a remarkable bargaining chip. Just as in the mortal world, addiction’s a terrible thing when leveraged against a person. Vitae addiction feels very similar to addiction to a strong drug. An addict does not have to see their vice to want it; they always want it. It sits in the back of their mind, festering. An addict could just let their wound heal, but instead, they poke at it, they tongue it, they just can’t let go. At any given time, no matter what they’re doing, they are also thinking, “I could be getting my score instead of this.”
Vampire blood usually doesn’t addict other vampires the same way as it does humans. However, it satisfies their hunger as well as—if not better than—human blood, and tastes far stronger. It’s not unheard of for some vampires to become “addicted” to the taste and to pursue it to the exclusion of human blood.
“They want us in the cage. To look pretty behind the bars. To eat what they tell us, when they tell us, how they tell us. To make pretty little songs for them.”
While addictive, a vampire’s vitae carries a far more sinister effect for those who drink it three times over three nights: the blood bond. It’s a strand of powerful, one-sided emotion. One subject to a blood bond finds themselves drawn to, wanting, needing, devoted to, and even loving the one from whom they’re fed.
While many Kindred expose humans to the blood bond, often as part of creating ghouls, other Kindred are just as vulnerable to the blood’s draw. Many sires bind their childer. Many princes impose bonds on criminals. Every city, every covenant, and indeed every vampire, views the bond differently. Some abhor it. Some find it a regrettable inevitability. Some revel in it. Most fear it. Some Kindred willingly succumb to the bond with a trusted ally, because a given Kindred may only be enthralled to a single vampire. This serves as a form of perverse protection against a less desirable bond. Some mutually blood bond each other, to heighten feelings of intimacy. A bound character is called the thrall, the character they’re bound to is their regnant.
Full article: Blood Bonds.
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
Blood calls to Blood, adding an eerie, connective pitch to the chorus. The Damned are lone predators, but they are not islands. The Blood recognizes. The vitae that oozes through the still heart knows its own. The Blood knows the sire, the sibling, even the clan, even when the vampire isn’t conscious of it.
No matter how selfish the Kindred might be, the Blood ties them together. Family matters. Meetings between related Kindred, sire and childe, take horribly dramatic tones. They feel the tidal pull of each other. The common blood makes them more susceptible to their preternatural charms, the arts of the Beast, and sorcery.
Blood ties can go horribly wrong. Hard enough to be a monster; you are anchored to other monsters. When Katrina tore apart New Orleans, related Kindred the country over frenzied in one great nightmare wave. There were vampire riots. The Masquerade frayed.
What does it mean that the Blood knows and reacts? What does the Blood whisper between us? What is the Blood plotting?
Blood calls to blood. Relatives by blood share a certain amount of mystical sympathy; they can feel one another at their most important moments. They sometimes feel strong sensations and emotions from their relatives, including frenzies, the pain of violent torpor, and the shame of crushing defeat. This is rarely with clarity; it comes in the form of cryptic symbols, daymares, and hallucinations. Only the strongest ties—such as those between sire and childe—can result in clear messages. The closer the relation between two Kindred, the stronger the tie. Weaker connections result in vaguer and less frequent sensations.
• One step: Sires, childer. Sympathy can affect sires and childer across the entire world.
• Two steps: Grandsires, broodmates, grandchilder. Sympathy can affect these Kindred across the same continent.
• Three steps: Great-grandsires, a sire’s broodmates, broodmates’ childer, great-grandchilder. Sympathy can affect these Kindred across the same country (or region of a large country).
• Four steps: Great-great-grandsires, first cousins, great-great-grandchilder. Sympathy can affect these Kindred across the same city.
• Five steps: All clanmates. Sympathy can affect these Kindred within the same mile or so.
• N/A: Kindred from different clans. No blood sympathy exists with these vampires. Caitiff and thin-bloods, interestingly, never share blood sympathy with Kindred who belong to clans—even their own sires.
Many Disciplines have powers that are tied to blood sympathy: it’s easier, for example, to summon your childe to your side with Presence than your grandchilde, and easier to summon a grandchilde than a clanmate.
Sympathy is strongest whenever a vampire’s relative enters torpor or suffers final death (though it’s not always clear which). Sires and childer experience it as an almost physical pain. It’s weaker for more distant relatives, but the simultaneous final deaths of many clanmates can still drive Kindred to frenzy.
Any particularly powerful emotion can potentially trigger sympathy. This is less a foolproof detective tool, more a dramatic device: a “disturbance in the Force” rather than clear visions.
“We are not bound by the sins of the father. We can change each individual sin, make it one of our own choice.”
Dr. Miranda Estes, Malkavian Ordo Dracul scientist, Beyond Post-Mortem
While all Kindred owe lineage to one of the thirteen clan trees, sometimes the blood twists and warps the branches into something altogether different. These bloodlines shift and focus the Kindred condition toward specific, often familial abnormalities.
Full article: Bloodlines.
“This is the shortcut. This is what the elders don’t want us to know. This is the freedom from their games. The ability to compete on the same playing field. Sin incarnate, and how exquisite the experience.”
Diablerie, often called amaranth in the old form, is the act of murdering another Kindred and drinking their soul. Diablerie is seen as cannibalistic, and is taboo in even the most lawless of cities. Only fringe groups within the Camarilla covenants condone diablerie, and their parent covenants tend to root those groups out and disown them once uncovered.
Most Camarilla neonates do not know about diablerie. That’s just how the elders prefer it.
Full article: Diablerie.