Sleepless Nights: initial campaign plans and vampire racial template

Sleepless Nights (Unettomat yöt, in Finnish) is a vampire-centric GURPS campaign I’m currently planning. I won’t get to run it until spring 2017 at the soonest, but campaign planning is a joy in itself.

niina2
Niina, a vampire from 1989

I played in a great Vampire: The Masquerade (2nd ed.) campaign my close friend ran last year, and since then, I’ve been itching to run a campaign with vampire PCs. You can see my drawing of my PC above. One of the central conceits of the campaign was to embrace the aesthetic of that game and the time it was designed, and that’s what the picture, and my character design, was meant to reflect.

I like VtM for all its flaws – its essence and focus, if not all the rules or most of the fluff – but this will be a GURPS campaign whose setting owes more to Cabal. My plan is to run a campaign that will span hundreds of years, picking up PCs as they leave behind their mortal lives and join a group of vampires. The genre will be more occult action-adventure than horror, but leaning strongly on horror imagery and tropes. I’m not entirely decided on the location, and maybe the players will choose to move elsewhere anyway, but I’m leaning towards Poland, a part of old Catholic Europe, but close to the Orthodox  and pagan parts as well, with a history chock full of invasions and intrigue. Players may decide freely when their characters lived, and I’ll try to make each character’s death and resurrection into an adventure. Until one’s own PC becomes available, players may run NPCs, either recurring allies or one-offs.

Now, I mentioned about this game to the people I usually play with, and one of them told me he wanted to make a neolithic character. I had thought the Dark Ages would have been the earliest era available, but when a player comes up with something that cool, I try my best to accommodate. So I told him to make a human character, 125-225 points, from a small tribe that we would later classify as part of the Corded Ware culture, a late neolithic assortment of peoples descended from the Proto-Indo-European Yamnaya invaders and the Pre-Indo-European populations they conquered. This character’s resurrection will be the focus of a prologue adventure that will set the stage for the campaign proper.

As a game master and designer, I’m drawn to crunch as much as fluff, so let’s get to the meat of this post: the vampire racial template. To me, this is a cornerstone of the campaign, because it defines what the central supernatural creatures of this setting, the player characters, are like.


1                  Vampire Template (350 points)

1.1              Attributes and Secondary Characteristics [235]

The vampire is stronger and faster than any but the most exceptional humans. It also has exceptional motor control and sensory acuity, and never grows tired with exertion.

  • ST +10 [100]
  • DX +4 [80]
  • Per +4 [20]
  • Basic Speed +1 [20] (+2 total)
  • Basic Move +3 [15] (+5 total)
  • No FP [0]

1.2              Advantages [400]

As the vampire’s flesh is not alive, it needs no oxygen, food, or water to survive, and is immune to all types of sickness and poison, except blood agents, which can affect the living human blood in the vampire’s veins. It also does not deteriorate with time, making the vampire immune to aging.

While sufficient physical injury can harm a vampire, it can only be truly killed by fire, sunlight, decapitation, or destroying the heart. Puncture wounds, except those to the head, neck, or heart, are especially ineffective. A vampire can be knocked unconscious either by massive trauma or a solid hit to a vulnerable location, but it recovers much faster than a human.

The vampire’s only real need is for fresh human blood. If it goes without too long, it enters into a state of hibernation, which it can also initiate actively and remain in for years, even decades. To draw blood, a vampire has sharp teeth. To hunt by night, it can see clearly in poor lighting and reasonably well in all but total darkness.

The vampire is more resistant than a mortal to all supernatural powers of the nocturnal kind, as this same force animates and permeates it. Its most mysterious powers, namely its bite and its ability to mesmerize others, are dealt with separately, below.

  • Bite (see breakdown) [200]
  • Doesn’t Breathe [20]
  • Doesn’t Eat or Drink [10]
  • Immunity to Sickness [15]
  • Immunity to Contact Poisons [10]
  • Injury Tolerance (No Blood; Accessibility: Only at -1×HP or lower, or after a long hibernation, -20%) [4]
  • Injury Tolerance (Unliving) [20]
  • Mesmerism (see breakdown) [53]
  • Metabolism Control 1 (Hibernation, triggered by unconsciousness from Draining, -60%) [2]
  • Night Vision 5 [5]
  • Recovery [10]
  • Resistant (Nocturnal abilities; +3) [10]
  • Sharp Teeth [1]
  • Unaging [15]
  • Unkillable 1 (Achilles’ heel: burning, sunlight, and injury to Heart, Neck, or Skull -50%) [25]

1.2.1         Bite breakdown

The vampire can suck the blood from a human or another vampire to recover from injuries. From the victim’s point of view, the pain of the initial bite gives way to intense pleasure. The effects of any poisons and intoxicants in the victim’s bloodstream will temporarily affect the vampire. If the victim is another vampire, its Mesmerism, and any additional vampiric abilities, pass to the feeding vampire for the remainder of the night. This requires 2 seconds of uninterrupted feeding, and fails if the victim’s will is too strong. The victim can, of course, return the favor and steal back its power by biting its attacker in turn! If a vampire successfully resists this ability, it is immune for the remainder of the night.

  • Leech 4 (1d/turn; Accelerated healing, +25%; Link, +10%; Side Effect, Euphoria, +80%; Accessibility: Humans and vampires only, -10%; Blood agent, -40%; Nuisance effect: affected by victim’s bloodborne afflictions, including poisons, -5%) [60]
  • Neutralize (Nocturnal; Extended duration, 1 night, +120%; Link, +10%; Power theft, +200%; Blood agent, -40%; Increased immunity, one night, -30%; One Power, Vampirism, -50%; Takes extra time, 2 seconds, -10%; Terminal condition, sunrise, -20%) [140]

1.2.2         Mesmerism breakdown

By locking eyes with a mortal, the vampire can attempt to bend its will to its own. If the target resist successfully, it becomes immune to this ability for the remainder of the night, but if it succumbs, the vampire may silently issue a simple command (a few words’ worth) which the target will followto the best of its ability, for a few minutes. In addition, the mortal will forget the vampire and anything that happened in its presence, shortly afterwards. The mortal may later dream of the vampire and events, or believe they were dreams to begin with. With this ability, vampires may feed on humans without killing them and still avoid detection.

  • Affliction (Amnesia, +10%; Based on Will, +20%; Link, +10%; Malediction 2, +150%; No Signature, +20%; Permanent, +150%; Accessibility, Mortals only, -20%; Increased Immunity, one night, -30%; Vision-Based, -20%; Vision-Based, reversed, -20%; Vampiric, -25%) [35]
  • Mind Control (Independent, +70%; Link, +10%; Accessibility, Mortals only, -20%; Short-Range 2, -20%; Suggestion, -40%; Vision-based, -20%; Vision-based, reversed, -20%; Vampiric, -25%) [18]

1.3              Disadvantages [-285]

The vampire requires roughly half a cup of fresh human blood daily in order to survive. It can go days, maybe even a week or two, with no blood before collapsing from the thirst and entering hibernation, but the psychological effect of the thirst is such that if feeding is possible, the vampire will gradually become unable to resist it. If the vampire kills a human with its bite, the victim also rises as a vampire in a few nights, if its body is preserved. This does not happen to victims who survive the vampire’s bite!

The vampire is very vulnerable to fire and extreme heat: its supernatural resilience does not protect it from fire, and any significant burning injury causes it to burst in flames. The other sure killer of vampires is the Sun. If the vampire is exposed to direct sunlight, it is first scorched and then destroyed in less than a minute. Even sunlight through heavy clouds, clothing, darkened glass, and other such impediments will kill, though more slowly. Fittingly, vampires have an uncontrollable, though not irrational, fear of fire and sunlight. A vampire can stay awake during daytime, but soon grows drowsy; its instinct is to sleep in a secure, dark hideaway whenever the Sun is above the horizon.

The vampire cannot heal from injuries like a mortal, but must either hibernate or consume extra blood. Its flesh is cold to the touch, except when it has fed very recently. For some reason, the vampire has a strong aversion to plants with a strong smell, particularly medicinal ones. These traits may reveal a person to be a vampire to those who are alert to these signs of the condition.

  • Draining (Fresh human blood, illegal; Healed by hibernating, -50%) [-7]
  • Fragile (Combustible) [-5]
  • Infectious Attack (Victims killed by Leech only, -60%) [-2]
  • Phobia (Fire; Self-Control 12) [-15]
  • Phobia (Sun; Self-Control 12) [-15]
  • Revulsion (Pungent plants, e.g. garlic) [-5]
  • Secret (Vampire) [-30]
  • Sleepy (All day) [-8]
  • Supernatural Features (No body heat; Not after feeding) [-1]
  • Uncontrollable Appetite (Self-Control 15) [-7]
  • Unhealing (Partial: Hibernation/Leech) [-20]
  • Vulnerability (Burning, ×4) [-60]
  • Weakness (Sunlight, 2d/second; Reduced time 7, +140%; Variable, -40%) [-120]

Design notes

Obviously, this is a very expensive template, even with a whopping -285 points in disadvantages. The big-ticket item here is Bite, worth 200 points, so let’s look at that first.

  • 30 points of this ability is due to the Side Effect enhancement. That’s technically only for Innate Attack, but what with Leech costing so much more than an equally damaging IA, it’s not overpriced by any means. This could be a linked Affliction with Follow-Up, and you’d end up with a comparable point cost. I did it this way to tie it into the amount of blood taken. Symptoms would have been another option, but I like giving the victim a resistance roll. Either way, the bite is pleasurable, but it’s not directly addictive – that would be a much more expensive enhancement, which does sort of speak against using Side Effect with Leech, considering an Addiction Side Effect would be dirt cheap compared to the +200% Addictive Bite is priced at in Gurps Horror. Oh well.
  • Neutralize with Extended Duration and Power Theft is what really bloats the price, though. And it’s supposed to! We’ll look at the Nocturnal power source and the Vampirism power in a later post, but it’s a big part of any old, mighty vampire’s point total. If you can manage to bite Dracula, you get all his abilities for the rest of the night. That +120%, by the way, for Extended Duration, would buy you 16 hours × Margin of Victory by the book, but it’s limited by the Terminal Condition. For the same price as those two combined, you’d get +100% worth of Extended Duration, or something between five and a half and 33 hours, the way Quick Contests tend to shake out. The 0-12 hours you get this way, depending on the time, is not quite as good. I would prefer it if Extended Duration worked by shifting the time unit instead of just a multiplier: second to five seconds to minute to hour to day to month to year to decade, maybe.

How about Mesmerism? This is how I see vampires managing to hide their existence from humans: you use Mesmerism on a human, and if they submit, you quickly take them to a secluded location and feed. If they resist your Mesmerism, you slink away and they think you were just some creep. The Mind Control with Suggestion is rather straightforward, and the Affliction part just imposes Amnesia. The point cost is based on the suggestion in Horror that missing your memory of having been abducted by UFOs is worth -10 points. Having been fed on by a vampire seems like a close equivalent to that. The extended duration is Permanent at the +150% level, not +300%. Hypnotism, witnessing someone being fed on, or being resurrected as a vampire, could all work for recovering your memories. I’m not sure if this is how the Disadvantage enhancement on Affliction is supposed to work, by the way, when the disadvantage is one that must be specified. If you take the ability to impose a 10-point disadvantage like this or, say, Compulsive Behavior, does that mean one specific version of the disadvantage (my interpretation) or any variation that costs the same? I’d price the ability to pick the specifics case-by-case at maybe 3 × the cost of the disadvantage, so for +30% you could choose which 10-point Compulsive Behavior to impose.

Regarding the other advantages, I chose not to use Immune to Metabolic Hazards, partly because these vampires can be affected by blood agents, up to a point, and partly because Doesn’t Breathe and Doesn’t Eat or Drink should already cover respiratory and ingestion agents, the way I see it. I’m not 100% sure this is right, though.

Hibernation is a bit of a kludge. Basically, I want vampires that sleep in coffins or caves for years at a time, conveniently waking up for the next adventure. So, Metabolism Control with Hibernation seems about right for that, except that vampires don’t need oxygen or food anyway. So it’s there just to put a name on being able to take long naps. I priced the “Healed by hibernation” limitation on Draining at -50%, because it turns it from a possible killer to an inconvenience. When you’re active, you need to feed. Partial unhealing doesn’t set strict parameters on what’s an appropriate trigger for healing, but I figure hibernating is about right. This way, if you go without feeding until you collapse (10 days, typically), then assuming you’re still in your coffin or fridge or whatever, you’ll lie unconscious for the 20 days or so it takes to heal that HP loss, and wake up with full HP and just your Uncontrollable Appetite to keep you company.

Speaking of HP loss, that’s -120 points’ worth of Weakness over there. Yes, these vampires die from sunlight quickly. Not explosively, but 2d/second is no joke. This use of Reduced Time is ok’d by Kromm, by the way, although he didn’t seem thrilled about it on the forums. But I like the cinematic idea that vampires exposed to sunlight die pretty much right away, and the 1d/minute unmodified Weakness gives you just won’t cut it. I’m thinking of interpreting Variable liberally, with injury being reduced, though not eliminated, by any reasonable precaution, but also doubled whenever the sky’s clear. Fire is a bitch as well: quadruple damage, and you’re Combustible to boot. I see rolling on the ground and screaming being a significant part of combat in this campaign.

How about Unkillable? As you can see, you don’t need a wooden stake specifically to kill a vampire: it’s just a reliable method of doing sufficient damage to the heart. A sword or gun works just as well. Likewise, you can cut the head off or just blow it to bits. Or, of course, burn the vampire. I’m not exactly sure how the Achilles’ Heel limitation is supposed to be played. As a house rule, I’m going to have the players keep track of “lethal” and “nonlethal” injury separately, with the understanding that even nonlethal will kill if the sum of the two types takes you to -10 × HP. If lethal damage reaches twice your base HP, you roll against dying, and repeat each time you hit a multiple. All the other injury effects are based on the sum of the two types. Healing and Leech can come off lethal injury first, just to keep everyone happy.


So, there’s the basic racial template. Next time, we’ll look at optional traits, both positive and negative that might accompany your resurrection, and after that, the Vampirism power.

All comments and suggestions are welcome!

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