Making Vampires Frightening

From: Maurice (
Date: Thu 21 Nov 1991 - 09:56:33 EET

  I have recently run through a vampire scenario in my RuneQuest III   campaign, and came to the conclusion that vampires aren't nearly   scary enough. A few simple changes, however, should make them as   frightening as they need to be.

  One problem I found is that vampires cannot make very effective   spellcasters. They *cannot* cast spirit magic, not having POW. They   may have any divine spells they had while alive, but these would   certainly become one-use (I find it hard to believe that any non-   chaotic god would continue to allow a chaotic undead to renew divine   magic). All that's left is sorcery, and the Creatures Book says that   vampires make potent sorcerers. I'm sorry, but if you don't have POW   to enchant foci, you're a pretty wimpy sorcerer. You may have all the   manipulation skills at 100%, and 200% skill with 4 dozen spells, but   you can only have your INT in spells memorized at once, and if that's   full, you can't manipulate jack. So, somewhere between 1 and 18   spells, with the reciprocal number of points of manipulation   available. Unless you steal foci from your victims (and how many   sorcerers are going to wander your way?) you're a pretty pathetic   spellcaster.

  And without magic, vampires are no match for a group with even a low   level shaman or sorcerer. With only their own magic points to defend   against incoming spells, it's just a matter of time before they're   befuddled or something, and then it's all she wrote. Or the shaman   can discorporate and engage them in spirit combat. Once reduced to   zero magic points, it's goodbye Charlie.

  This problem can be gotten around if one of the RQII rules for   vampires is modified a bit. It says in Cults of Terror, that if a   vampire drains a victim down to 3 POW or less the vampire get's one   use of the latest rune spell for which the victim sacrificed. The   victim looses the spell completely, and must resacrifice for it, not   just renew it. Let's change this just a bit. Every time a vampire   drains a victim to zero magic points (rendering them unconscious),   both the latest spell for which the victim sacrificed and 1 point of   POW is stolen. This POW will vanish at the next sunrise, but until   then the vampire may use it as if it were ordinary POW; in particular   it can be used to enchant items. It even generates magic points if   the vampire's magic point level is below their POW level (not often,   but it could happen).

  However, this transferral has other dangers (to the victim, that is).   It is a shock to their nervous system; each time they must roll under   CONx5 to survive. Also, the vampire must roll under INTx5 to avoid   going into a feeding frenzy at the sight of a helpless opponent that   has just yeilded their last magic point to him. If the roll is   failed, the the vampire will be irresistibly drawn to the victims   blood, and will feed until the victim dies unless stopped. This is   less likely to happen in combat, as there are other distractions   around. Each melee round in combat the vampire has another INTx5 roll   to recover if undisturbed, and will notice anyone engaging him in   melee (i.e. coming up behind him) if a Scan roll is made. Otherwise,   he is still overwhelmed by the sensuous thrill of feeding.

  Now we have a frightening creature. Loosing magic points to another   creature is no major scare to adventurers; they do that whenever they   learn a spell. Loosing POW, however, is a frightening occurrence.   And so is loosing those divine spells you were counting on to get you   through your assault on the vampire lair, even more so when you see   them turned against you. Plus, the Vampire Lord can now become a   truly formidable mage, more able to enchant foci for his spells than   a normal sorcerer. The vampire sorcerer knows the POW will be lost   come sunrise, so there is every reason in the world to perform more   enchantments. It's not an inexhaustible POW source; only a rare (and   unlucky) victim will survive long enough to loose all POW to the   vampire, but a given victim could supply 1 or 2, more if taken back   to the vampire's lair to recover between drains. And this also   provides a mechanic whereby one vampire may make another one. In the   Create Vampire sorcery spell, the caster must sacrifice 8 POW in the   enchantment (I think, I don't have my books here). Well, now the POW   can be stolen from victims. Or, bypassing sorcery altogether, when a   victim is drained to zero POW, then Vivamort places the twisted and   withered spirit back into the body. Something that's not well   explained by a simple draining of magic points, fatigue, or STR.

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