A few days ago, the lovely Kojitmal commented on one of my posts about Fixing Elves, saying the following thing:
I know this is all done and said a gazillion times now, but I really do think it`s time we step away from the teen vampires, sparkly or not. Can we make vampires scary again, please?
Well, I believe we can! Thanks to this interesting question, I will devote a whole post to the blood-sucking fiend who introduced me to proper role-playing games and what made them way scarier than those angsty, sparkling posers of recent years.
Before I continue, I need to clarify myself a bit. In this post, I will talk about what I find scary about vampires. That’s the whole problem with making something scary: what gets others screaming like a little girl, causes nothing but a “meh” and a smile in others. Just like my friends and I are divided about the creepiness of Paranormal Activity (I almost soiled myself when I saw it), so are horror fans about the scariness of vampires.
With that being said, let me tell you about a boy who’s first impression of vampires came from Anne Rice and her books. Needless to say, the whiny, artsy and somewhat melodramatic vampires starring in Queen of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat weren’t really doing it for me. I enjoyed them, but Anne Rice made me feel like all the vampires of modern fiction had to be pale, sobbing weaklings talking about their emotions. Well, enter Vampire: the Masquerade.
Vampire: the Masquerade was my first serious role-playing experience. In the world created by the guys from White Wolf, vampires are many things: bloodsuckers, nocturnal politicians, power brokers and rulers of the night. But no matter which facade they choose, every “Kindred” in Vampire: the Masquerade is a monster, controlled by the destructive and primal urges of a concept known as “the Beast”. Most vampires are good at hiding their monstrous side, but sooner or later, the leach slips and out comes the side that is meant to eat and kill.
This is to me the first ingredient to making vampires scary: no matter their cover, they need to be animals. When you’re around one of them, you should feel like being a deer in front of a wolf. Their gaze should be unsettling, their presence dominating, and every word from their mouth a dagger in your stomach. When they restrain their thirst for your blood, you should still live with the fear that, at any moment, this person could leap on top of you, pierce your jugular vein with his teeth and suck the life out of you. Some vampires might wear silk and haute couture, but underneath it, they are all predators. Predators who want nothing but your red, sweet blood.
However, to amplify the feeling of fear and dread, we have to make sure that vampires remain human enough so we can relate to them. In Vampire: the Masquerade, every Kindred was once a human with hopes and dreams. Now, as an undead creature of the night, these hopes and dreams are shattered, and all the fledgling vampire has to hold on to are his last shreds of humanity holding back the Beast. Once those are gone, his darkest desires will be amplified by the power his vampiric form bestows upon him, and no concept of mercy or righteousness will hold them back. Essentially, a vampire needs to be an avatar of the evil inside of us, empowered by the curse of undeath. Only when we realize that humans have a Beast of their own, will we fear the evil done by a vampire even more.
Finally, vampires need to have power, but at a price. No matter if they use the power of their mind to force others to do their bidding, or kill their victims with claws of bone, we need to be aware that a vampire has power and will use it whenever he can. However, this comes at the price of never seeing the sun again, consuming the blood of the living and fighting back an incarnation of your darkest side. There’s nothing threatening about a supernatural creature that can be potentially powerful, but doesn’t use its power, or that has all these cool gifts but has no price to pay. True, intimidating vampires should be dark demigods, who are forced to live in the darkness of their own soul and to prey upon that which they once were.
Now, just remove the glitter and stupid female lead character, and I think we got ourselves some intimidating and dark vampires again. You can thank me (or disagree with me) in the comments below. I’ll be over here preparing my torches and holy symbols, in case I meet one of the badboys I described above!