This post was originally cobbled together from campaign notes from 2015. It was the first post on this blog, and received some seventeen views before I de-published it in shame. I have not edited it except by fixing the image-embedding HTML that Blogspot broke at some point. There doesn't seem to be much difference between how I wrote then and how I write now. I have revivified it, and here present it as the second entry in GLOGtober.
|Crudely traced from an old issue of Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly|
Drinkers of blood, eaters of flesh. Vampires travel the world righting wrongs or causing new ones as the whim takes them. Sun-warding bandages cover them so thickly that their identities would be impossible to determine even if you could find someone who was alive however many centuries ago the vampire was. Like all immortals, vampires are vulnerable to (and sometimes masters of) fire and water. The bodies under the bandages are little more than dust, and will burn or dissolve easily. They fear the ocean like they fear the Devil and will only cross running water in the name of causes they are willing to die for. If they hate you, killing you is such a cause.
It is not difficult to make vampires hate you. They write the names of their enemies on the inside of those bandages they wear over their hearts.
The arrival of a vampire is heralded by all senses. Their voices are dry (or sticky-moist) as the air of a tomb. Their ancient bandages stink of rot, crackle like fire, and are rough as sharkskin. Tasting the bandages is ill-advised.
Old vampires have names in dead languages. Some of those names are recognizable to students of history; others are famed in story from the territory of the Hobgoblin Emperor to the endless deserts of the Parch. Many vampires lie about their names, but not all.Vampires are encountered in almost any climate or region. Like crows or ants, they are attracted to battlefields and sites of slaughter, but they can also be found walking the streets of the great cities at night, or simply wandering through the wilderness testing their skills on any travelers they come across.
Weapons, even enchanted ones, deal half damage to vampires. While they are on fire they receive 1D6 damage at the end of each full turn, and they burn until they immerse themselves in water or something smothers them magically. Immersion in water deals 1D6 damage to vampires, 1D6 at the end of each turn if the water is running or the vampire is moving around. If you can remove their bandages without killing them (and they will fight to prevent this), sunlight will destroy whatever parts of them are still human.
Each vampire carries trophies: perhaps a pennant of a kingdom long vanished from living memory, a lock of woman’s (or man’s) hair, a broken wedding ring, a religious symbol — detritus of a life that might not even be theirs. If a vampire loses a trophy through misfortune, it will abandon its tasks and wander off in a random direction to sulk, or meditate, or raze a village. If someone stole the trophy, on a 4-in-6 chance the vampire will hunt him until one of the two is dead. 2-in-6 chance for it to hunt the culprit for forty-eight hours, then lose interest.
Contents of a Vampire's Pocket (D8):
1 - Heavy broach in rococo style, studded with semi-precious stones. Sold in parts, the broach is worth 30 sp. Sold whole, 120 sp, less whatever negative value the merchant assigns to running away from a vampire for the rest of his life.
2 - Blood-encrusted crossbow bolt poorly inscribed with runes of dragon slaying. A relic of a forgotten age. 4-in-6 chance a sage will identify these as runes of vampire slaying. Do not shoot a vampire with this. 20 sp.
3 - Slender book which the vampire has used to press daisies. The book was once the possession of Ozurdex the Groping Hand, a powerful prince of a race of necromancers. The flowers have ruined the text. Reading the title aloud messily kills all small animals within 200 feet. -50 sp. (You will have to pay someone a great deal of money to take this cursed thing off of your hand. Burning it yourself might be dangerous. Don't sleep in its presence.)
4 - Ring of Saffron. +1 to any reaction roll with creatures who can smell. There are nations of blind things, deep beneath the earth, who will recognize you as their vengeful blood-drinking g_d. 60 sp.
5 - Ram's horn, capped with silver on the cut end. A lifetime (or just a single war) ago, carrying this marked you as a revolutionary. It now marks you as an officer of the secret police. This vampire, unlike many, was probably only one of those things. 10 sp.
6 - Finger-sized lump of Alchemical Sapphire. This substance repels or destroys many supernatural effects. Someone has carved the base of this piece into a bolt so you can screw it to the tip of a dueling foil and hunt ghosts. 50 sp, 100 sp to an alchemist.
7 - Packet of Lead Sugar. Upon consuming this, take 1 point of damage to your highest stat. 1-in-6 chance of permanent loss; else a full night of sleep heals you. Tastes like home. 10 sp.
8 - A golden crown. Spake Synagis, Offa's Brother, "Crown of eight points, crown I hold in my hands, crown of kadzkadzat and opal, crown you took from our father, crown with the words of Mana over the inner arc, crown you wore as you killed your son..." This has the eight points, the jewels, and the holy writ, just like the skalds still sing. Where did the vampire find this?
Every vampire is a master of the Sacerd style of fencing, which emphasizes powerful killing blows with a plain iron smallsword and forbids the use of weapons or tools in the offhand. Fights between two students of the Sacerd style are over within three blows. Fights between a student and a non-student are typically also over within three blows.
Sacerd was developed by the paladin-priests of Tabernak, who believe evil men killed by this style are offered some slight remittance of sin, then perfected by assassins, who believe its coup de grace kills instantly and painlessly, and is now beloved of vampires, who hope (but do not believe) both things are correct.
Traditions of the Sacerd Style:
Nothing More - These traditions may only be used with a plain one-handed sword and an empty off-hand.
Grooves in the Granite Floors of the Temples - Students of the Sacerd style train for years in the same basic positions and responses. +4 to individual initiative roll, or always get a surprise round if your group wins initiative. This tradition can be learned as a novitiate in a seminary, or in one year's study at a sufficiently old monastery.
Extensive Study of the Vascular System - It takes many long evenings, and careful diagramming by hand, before anyone can fully understand the arteries, veins, capillaries and other vessels that tangle through and about each other inside the human body. Expand your critical hit range by 1. This tradition can be learned as a student in a university, or in one year's study at a military surgery.
Mindless, Blind Brutality - Few have a natural aptitude for the highest and most esoteric levels of the Sacerd style. Anyone struck by one of your critical hits must make a save vs. death. This tradition can be learned as an abused child, or directly from a vampire. How long it takes him to teach you depends on who you are.
The first five- or six-hundred years of immortality are full of wonder, as the weaknesses of the human condition melt away and the vampires are free to do anything that interests them. But as their half-rotted eternities wear on, ennui and self-hatred grow, and the vampires begin to pursue ever-more self-destructive pastimes.
In what free time they have between fighting for a cause or against each other vampires do little besides feed their bodies and train their swordsmanship, driven ever onward by their wholly justified fear of retribution. If a vampire were to convince himself that nothing persists beyond death and his soul would never face judgement, never be held accountable for his actions, then he would most likely kill himself immediately. But many vampires are old and strange enough to have actually spoken with the g_ds, and some have gone so far as to war with them. Vampires are rarely atheists.
Adventurers with a specific problem and a specific plan to solve the problem almost certainly won't be able to rouse vampires to assist them, even if the plan involves excitement and murder. Still; the worst thing the vampire can do is say no and eat you, so why not ask?