“A lure, a snare, a chain. All in a drop of blood.”
It is one thing to understand the vampire, to sympathise with its plight as a former human, but quite another to aim at becoming one. In the world of White Wolf Publishing’s Vampire: the Requiem, this is exactly what one is encouraged to do – become the monster and learn to stabilise the fine balance between man and beast before the monster takes over permanently.
V:tR was first released in 2004 and is a table-top role-playing system revised from White Wolf’s earlier Vampire: the Masquerade which sees the player assuming the role of a vampire (neonate or elder), attempting to survive the political machinations of others of their kind within the city they inhabit. A player can choose the details of his own induction into the Danse Macabre as character background or, if he so wishes, he can begin as human and experience the embrace of his character – the events upon which his character becomes a vampire. The game is based on the premise of becoming a monster, being forced into a situation where the character must, firstly, come to terms with, and learn to control, this new body with abilities far beyond that of his former life. Secondly, the player must guide his character into making the right choice, avoiding slipping into the Beast’s clutches.
V:tR is managed on the Humanity system which allows the character to play a dicey game with certain cardinal sins. For instance, if the character plots and commits the murder of another in order to further his plans, the player must roll two dice. If the roll fails he loses Humanity as the character becomes more callous and unfeeling regarding his actions. This change in perspective draws him further away from the ‘man’ he once was and witnesses his descent from humanity as he becomes ever more savage and beastly in nature.
‘The Beast’ is the term used for the savage nature which drives the vampire to commit crimes in the name of survival, to frenzy at the smell of blood, to behave as the monster inside of him dictates. A normal person, innocent of criminal activity, should begin with a Humanity of seven. However, as the player makes harsh decisions which incur injury to others all in the name of his own selfish needs, the Humanity begins to drop. Unfortunately, as Humanity drops, so it becomes easier and easier for the character to act out his cruelty.
“A number of techniques await: perhaps you’ll tilt the neck toward the canvas, dazzle the white with a mist of arterial spray.”
We choose to keep with this theme as far as the Sanguinem Emere trilogy is concerned, however, the ‘beast’ in this case is simply the instinctive nature of vampirism feuding against the perpetually in-control human nature. Ironically, the model is based closely on simple mortals, perfectly balancing their instinct (to eat, sleep and fuck) with their rational minds which drive them to constantly undermine the animal inside them. Except that everything for a vampire is heightened beyond imagining. Social slights sting like sunlight and the need to screw everything that moves becomes blurred with the need to eat everything that moves as well. Consequently, a Sanguinem Emere vampire could only be subject to incredibly devious and dangerous love depending on how out of control his/her emotions are.
“God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.”
Richard and I are both avid role-players, choosing to expend as much leisure time as we are able to on the game of Vampire. The reasons for this are many and varied, but above all, we do so to spark up our imagination, to garner ideas for stories we would not have thought of in the less impressive location of an office while staring at a very blank computer screen. On the spot we find ourselves moulding ideas for characters that fit exquisitely into the universe as it stands and we insert them into the tales we write, continuing to run them as role-playing characters as well as literary figures that we have not only created on paper, but lived and expanded upon in a realistic setting.
Vampire Daeva Kiss of the Succubus (Vampire: The Requiem (White Wolf))Vampire is the opportunity we all crave to act out our sinful and saintly aspects, to be the monster in a world which dictates we should be as predictable as possible. When we live in the real world (and yes, even writers live in the real world) we find ourselves seeking out something more in the darkness…
More dangerous, more sinister, more palpable.