James Brown's Guide to Being a Vampire
Hi! I keep hearing all kinds of people complaining about the way people play Vampires in live gaming. I also keep seeing people doing the same things over and over that scream WRONG in big funky letters.So in my arrogance, I've decided to write the ultimate guide to playing a Kindred, regardless of clan or age or any of that stuff.
Part 1: Whaddya mean, I'm dead?
I'm going to start with some elements that are common to all vampires.
First off, you died. Dead. Life flashed before your eyes, light-at-the-end-of-the tunnel kind of thing. No matter who you were or how strong willed you are, the very first thing that happens to you is that someone faster stronger and nastier stuck his teeth in your neck, and drank your blood until you died. That is not a good way to start out the rest of your existence. Then, just when you're getting used to this whole dead thing, as your soul is leaving your body, and you're pretty much resigned to heading off to your eternal reward, some nasty-ass bastard comes along and yanks you back. That's right, no afterlife for you, buddy. You're going to spend the rest of your existence right here, in this body. This dead body. That's right, dead. Your body is dead. The only thing that keeps it moving is the poor bastard stuck in it. Namely you. This is an experience to cause problems in the most stable personalities. How's your night so far? Which brings me to the second point.
Night. So tell me, what's it like never having any choice regarding when you'll sleep? As soon as the sun edges the horizon, boom, out like a light. You don't know what hit you and you stay like that until the sun is down. Oh, sure, if you really exert yourself, you might stay up for 10 or 15 minutes, but it leaves you drained for at least the next week. And what's the point really, you're groggy and can't make a coherent thought if your life depends on it, and oh yeah, don't get caught in that sunbeam.... can you say FOOM? Vampires are slightly more combustible than lighter fluid. And harder to put out too. Something to do with drying out and not decomposing.
And there's one or two other things too. Have you ever been hungry? I mean really hungry? Like haven't eaten in the last two days. Nothing at all? Then you know how hungry a vampire is right after feeding. Now, have you ever been starving? I mean literally, dying from lack of nutrition starving? I think you get my point.
Do you believe in God? In Hell? Eternal salvation and damnation? Because your character does. Or should. Because in the World of Darkness, God exists, cursed Cain and all his progeny to eternal damnation. And somewhere deep down in your characters soul, he knows it.
And then there's that whole Beast thing. You have this growling, out of control monster in the back of your brain, that can only process information in one of three ways; eat it, kill it, or run from it. And the really neat thing is that the older you get, the stronger it gets, until eventually you go stark raving mad and get put down like a rabid dog.
Wow, eternity's just rockin' so far eh?
Part 2: I Remember the Good Old Days....
Have you ever noticed that in any group of people mostly 30 or older, the conversation will eventually move towards "I remember when...," reminiscing about the good old days, and how much better things used to be? Well, I don't think I have to remind you that the average vampire is between 50 and 300 years old, with some oddball ones being a whole lot older.
So, the World of Darkness being what it is, you've got an eternity of looking forward to things progressively getting worse. (Until, of course, Gehenna, but we won't talk about that yet). And that's not even the best part! Ok. Nobody is so utterly reprehensible that they don't have any friends. So you get to look forward to any 'safe' friends (you can never trust another vampire, but we'll get to that later, too), family, kids, great-great-grandkids, anyone you ever meet, growing old and dying. Now some people don't have too much of a problem with that, they're expecting that, they steel themselves for that, but then they turn around and get floored by the fact that their favorite band is doing a comeback tour, and some of them are over 50 years old! And you still look 23. You cannot prepare yourself for the world moving on without you. Your mind is built to grow old with the world around it, and keeps getting clotheslined everytime it notices the world moving on without it. Because, and here's the real slap in the face, you're dead, and just too active to realize it. People and times will change, but you won't! Get it? No matter how up to date you keep yourself, or how fast a learner you are, you are still the person you were when you died, and will stay that person for the remainder of your unnatural life. Basically, you stop evolving and growing, and start reacting.
OK, so this doesn't seem like such a big deal to you so far... well, there's one other drawback to the whole immortality thing...boredom. That's right, boredom. Everybody gets bored now and then, but that's in your ordinary lifetime, with all kinds of distractions like raising a family, or growing old, and all sorts of living to keep you busy, but you don't have those distractions. It's going to be a constant struggle, just to remain interested in existing.
Part 3: When in Rome....
Well, now that we've battered you about with all these personal issues you're struggling with, it's about time to introduce you to other vampires. I bet you just can't wait...
Ok, lets start out with the Boss. The Prince. The man with the power. Somebody so powerful, tough, smart and ruthless that he (or she, lets be fair) is on top. Someone intimately familiar with part 4. Basically, this guy makes the rules, enforces the rules, and breaks the rules. Don't kid yourself about Primogen-run cities, or anything like that; Vampiric society is a dictatorship at the city level. Unless you're the guy in charge, you've only got as much power as he gives you. And you're still here because he doesn't want you dead. Pretty straight forward, right? Kiss the Big Ass and you're doing ok. Wrong answer.
Which is not to say that kissing the big ass is not a good thing, it just means that when it comes to Vampires, nothing is simple. For one thing, the big ass is going to be smarter than you. And is going to utterly ignore your ass-kissing until and unless he has some kind of use for you. Or unless he owes you. Or owes someone else. Or has some other reason that never becomes clear until 15 years after it's relevant. Machiavellian has nothing on these guys. The mafia, the tongs, the FBI, every organization in the world that is devoted to sneaky underhanded screwing of the other guys and utter paranoia is being completely manipulated by vampires. This should tell you something. That fact that these sneaky and paranoid groups don't know about it should tell you more. And these people are the society you are now moving in. Let's look at some of the things we talked about for you, and apply it to them for a moment. They're dead. They're predators. They're paranoid. They've all got a beast. They're all bored! And you, the new guy shows up. Who's he working for? How easy a prey would he make? What am I going to do for the next three years? Let's play with the new guy; that should take up some time.
Part 4: Healthy Existing Through Paranoia!
Is all this starting to make you wonder if you can cut it?
Let's start with one basic fact. You are not paranoid enough. You didn't check in your closet last Thursday for an assassin. Don't worry, he was only supposed to kill you if you had the letter in your apartment. What letter? Oh, you are so dead.
Discounting for a moment, the mortals (you know, the ones that will, if they find out about you, start another crusade and give you a suntan) and they are not easily set aside, let's look at vampires. If they have survived, paranoia is instinctive. They are predators and they are bored predators. You are a toy. If you're really really good, and fight back, you will advanced to the status of interesting toy. And they have had years of experience at this. Centuries for some of them. And if you're trying to strike back, they are likely to be prepared. Never ever believe anything anyone tells you. Never ever trust anyone. When you got sired you just became your only friend. And you can't even trust yourself. Plans within plans within plans. The truth is out there? Forget it, the truth doesn't exist. Scully and Mulder wouldn't last a month in vampiric society. Life's hard, death's harder. But don't worry, if you're not dead, then someone, somewhere thinks you're useful enough to not be worth the effort of killing. And besides, you've got all the side benefits of being a vampire, like never growing old, being able to do whatever you want and, of course:
Part 5: That Funky Voodoo Shit!
Congratulations, you are now a creature of the night.... Stronger, faster, more powerful than any ordinary mortal. You have the power to cloud men's minds, women swoon and hearts beat faster in your dark presence.... The very blood is yours to command with dark rituals, mere mortals cannot help but obey your commands, their lives are yours to play with - what? What was that? What do you mean this stuff works on me too?!
That's right! Every time you learn a vampiric power, you learn about something someone else can do better. You can tear apart a car in minutes with your bare hands? Pretend you're a car for a second or two. Learning animalism? Ever wondered who all those rats are working for? Is that really just a bat up there? How about obfuscate? There's no one here, really. You can trust me. Which brings us to presence. That last guy you got a good first impression off of.... Why exactly did you like him? And while we're on the subject, what happened just a few minutes ago? Are you sure? Why is it that some people always seem to know if you're lying? All I have to say for Thaumaturgy is never ever let anyone even see your blood. No one has? What happened last night around 7:00? Memory fuzzy? Don't worry, I'm sure it's normal.
Fun eh? And I've not even begun to list the possibilities of what other people can do to you. Which, of course, brings me to my last point....
Part 6: There Is Always A Bigger Fish!
If there are any absolutes about the World of Darkness, it's that there is always, always, always, ALWAYS somebody out there who can beat you 10 for 10. If you're the biggest fish in the pond, then you find out there's a lake. If you're the biggest fish in the lake, there's an ocean. If you're the biggest fish in the ocean, then some bastard is shooting at you with harpoons, and selling you as dog food.