Sleepless Nights: Optional traits for vampires

In my first post I included the racial template for vampires I’m planning on using in Sleepless Nights, and mentioned optional traits. Vampires all use the same template, but there’s a lot of variation between individuals; one aspect of that variation, a big one, is the assortment of abilities available as part of the Vampirism power, which we’ll look at next time. But those are learned advantages that player characters can accumulate over the course of the campaign, but there are other options that are available right away. Part of my reason for including these is to enable players to create human characters of very different point totals, and end up with vampires that match the campaign total – but more on that later.

2                  Optional Traits

2.1              Additional Advantages

On transforming into a vampire, a human keeps all of his or her personal traits, with the exception of those that are redundant or incompatible with traits in the vampire racial template. In addition, the human may gain any of the following additional advantages and increases to attributes and secondary characteristics. All of these are personal traits, not included in the racial template and therefore carried over if the vampire shapeshifts.

  • ST up to +5 [10/level]
  • DX up to +3 [20/level]
  • HP up to +3 [2/level]
  • Per up to +3 [5/level]
  • Basic Speed up to +3 [20/level]
  • Basic Move up to +2 [5/level]
  • Acute Senses up to +3 [2/level]
  • Appearance up to one level higher [4 or 8 points]
  • Charisma up to 3 [5/level]
  • DR (Bane: Burning, -10%; Tough skin, -40%) up to 4 [2.5/level]
  • Fearlessness up to 3 [2/level]
  • Flexibility [5]
  • Hard to Kill up to 3 [2/level]
  • Hard to Subdue up to 3 [2/level]
  • Lifting Strength up to 3 [3/level]
  • Magery 0-2 [5 for 0, 15 for 1, 25 for 2], and an additional 1-3 levels with the Night-Aspected limitation, -40% [6/level]
  • Mind Shield up to 3 [4/level]
  • Night Vision up to 9 (5 levels included in racial template) [1/level]
  • Silence up to 3 [5/level]
  • Spirit Empathy [10]
  • Striking Strength up to 3 [5/level]
  • Vampirism abilities [varies]*
  • Vampirism Talent 1 or 2 [10/level]*
  • Voice [10]

*Superhuman speed, shapeshifting, controlling animals, and many other abilities are available as part of the Vampirism power. These are detailed in the next chapter.

2.2              Additional Disadvantages

The transformation from mortal to vampire does not leave the person psychologically unchanged. All vampires feel an insatiable thirst for blood, which they can usually suppress if well fed, but which comes to dominate their thoughts when they are deprived. In addition, fire and sunlight cause a debilitating terror in all vampires. Some individuals develop additional mental disadvantages. Possilities include almost every mental disadvantage in the book, depending on the player’s thoughts on how the experience of death and resurrection affects the character’s psyche. Some options deserve special mention:

  • Bloodlust [-10*]: Since a fight is also usually an opportunity to feed, a vampire who fails his Self-Control roll against Bloodlust must also roll against Uncontrollable Appetite; on a failure, he must kill with the bite. This is how vampire epidemics start!
  • Compulsive Behavior (Counting, Undoing knots, etc.) [-5*]: Vampires are particularly susceptible to dysfunctional little habits like these, which enemies can exploit. Many compulsions are mentioned in folklore and occur among vampires.
  • Dread (Running water, Holy objects, etc.; Common; Insensitive, -50%) [-5]: Like Compulsive Behavior, above, this disadvantage can represent an individual vampire’s peculiar disability, and it likewise tends to conform to traits found in folklore.
  • Lecherousness [-15*]: It is not sex, of course, but feeding, that is the ultimate goal of the lecherous vampire, but up to the moment of intimacy, the attraction the vampire experiences is sexual.

2.3              Thirst Defects

For some vampires, going without blood brings additional problems besides loss of vitality and a gnawing thirst, relating to some imperfection in their contact with the force that animates them. These are optional disadvantages that are not part of the Vampire template, so a shapeshifting vampire keeps its thirst defects in all forms. Players are welcome to propose new options.

All these disadvantages share the Mitigator limitation “Fresh Blood, Daily”, worth -55% because fresh blood must be acquired by force or guile. This means the vampire must get one extra HP worth of blood, over that required for recovering from Draining. If, on any given night, the vampire does not drink itself full and take an extra point for mitigation, all its conditional disadvantages take effect at sunrise. It can only suppress them by drinking enough blood to fully replenish its HP, and taking an extra point of blood.

2.3.1         Atavistic [-13]

You become like a wild animal when thirsty, oblivious to human emotions and social norms.

  • Bestial (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-4]
  • Low Empathy (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-9]

2.3.2         Cadaverous [-4 or -9]

You look obviously dead when thirsty: like a fresh but drained cadaver at level 1, or decomposed, even skeletal, at level 2.        Level 1 [-4]
  • Supernatural Feature: Pallor (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-4]        Level 2 [-13]
  • Appearance: Monstrous (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-9]

2.3.3         Frenzied [-6 or -12]

Thirst drives you to uncontrollable rages, in response to injury at level 1, or to any kind of stress at level 2.        Level 1
  • Berserk (Self-Control 9; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-6]        Level 2
  • Bad Temper (Self-Control 9; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-6]
  • Berserk (Self-Control 9; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-6]

2.3.4         Insomniac [-4]

You can’t seem to rest when thirsty. This might even drive you to seek blood during the day, if you can keep away from sunlight!

  • Light Sleeper (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-2]
  • Slow Riser (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-2]

2.3.5         Lifebane [-4]

When the thirst is on you, flowers wilt and insects curl up and die in your presence. Terminally ill humans might perceive your proximity as a chilling threat.

  • Lifebane (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-4]

2.3.6         Paralyzed [-9]

You are completely immobile, perhaps even comatose, during daylight hours, unless you’ve had your fill of blood the night before.

  • Nocturnal (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-9]

2.3.7         Putrid [-4]

When thirsty, you exude the stench of the grave.

  • Bad Smell (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-4]

2.3.8         Rigid [-8]

When you go without blood, you suffer from something resembling rigor mortis. Your speed and strength don’t suffer, but your fine motor skills are lost, and your walk becomes a clumsy hop.

  • Ham-Fisted (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-2]
  • Total Klutz (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-6]

2.3.9         Shaky [-10]

If you haven’t had enough to drink, you suffer from tremors and tics, and gnash your teeth like a freezing human.

  • Neurological Disorder (Mild; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-6]
  • Stuttering (Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-4]

1.3.10       Torpid [-5]

You need fresh blood to warm your dead flesh. Without it, you stiffen up in cool weather, and can actually freeze solid in extreme cold!

  • Cold-Blooded (Self-Control 9; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%) [-2]
  • Vulnerability (Cold damage; ×2; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%; Not while hibernating, -20%) [-2]
  • Weakness (Intense cold, 1d per 30 minutes; Mitigator, Fresh Blood, Daily, -55%; Not while hibernating, -20%; Variable, -40%) [-1]

1.4              Social Traits

Vampires have no organized society of their own, so Wealth, Status, and other social traits reflect the vampire’s standing in mortal society. They are all vulnerable to the vampire’s Secret being revealed, and therefore require some effort to maintain. Vampire characters that have no mortal identity should take Status 0 or less [0 to -10], and either Poor [-15] or Dead Broke [-25], unless they maintain their wealth through a slave or associate bought as an Ally [variable]. Zeroed [10] is appropriate either way.

Although no organized vampire society exist, informal relationships between vampires and possibly other supernatural beings can be represented as Allies, Contacts, Patrons and Enemies. A vampiric patron has a base cost of 10 or 15, possibly with the Equipment enhancement, and very likely imposes an associated Duty. For the purposes of Reputation, vampires and related supernatural creatures count as a large group. There may exist smaller-scale organized associations of supernatural creatures that count as small groups for Reputation, and may grant Rank or Claim to Hospitality in exchange for a Duty.

Mortal servants paid in money are included in above-average Wealth. Those dominated with the Enslavement ability or otherwise acquired through personal effort (cults etc.) must be bought as Allies, or possibly Contacts. New ones can be acquired during the game, and it’s the player’s choice whether to invest character points in them. Allies and Contacts enjoy some degree of plot protection and full loss insurance: points spent in them are retained, and can be re-spent later, if the Ally or Contact is lost. Associates without point investment, on the other hand, may be lost or turn traitot at any time.

Design notes

Mental disadvantages and thirst defects are for players who’ve created a high-power human character and are running up against the campaign point total with the vampire template. They’re easily good for another 10-20 points without derailing the game, and should help with what I see as a major part of the campaign: playing out each PC’s resurrection and first couple of nights, as they adapt to their new undead existence. These traits help create variety for those particular sessions (I hope).

The additional advantages, conversely, provide an extra point sink for players who made a low-total mortal character. They fall into three categories:

  1. More of the same: Extra ST, Basic Move, etc. I intend to advise my players that these should optimally improve the character’s existing strengths, not negate weaknesses. But an interesting exception is usually welcome!
  2. Things that mesh well with the broader concept of vampires but don’t appear on the racial template, and need no further explanation: Charisma, Silence, etc.
  3. Supernatural advantages with strong implications regarding the setting: Magery, Mind Shield, Spirit Empathy, and Vampirism abilities.

That last group deserves a bit of elaboration. So, magic and spirits exist, and vampires have some sort of dealings with them. I’m not sure yet what variety of magic system I’ll use – the standard spell-based system is a possibility, as I’ve never tried it in my nearly 20 years of running Gurps. If I do select it, then mana will be closely connected with the nocturnal force that animates vampires; perhaps instead of mana level varying from place to place, it’s a matter of timing: daytime is low mana, the night is normal mana, and the midnight hour is high mana. The various modifiers found in Cabal (and updated in Thaumatology) will certainly see use in that case. Solar correspondences might be cause for a Fright Check for vampire casters!

Spirits, though, I’m even less sure about, but I might make the call that aside from vampires, very few corporeal supernatural creatures are running about – but spectres and apparitions, and maybe demons too, wield great influence. This would be convenient for the wainscot fantasy aspect of the campaign.

What about the Vampirism power, then? That’s for my next post!

4 thoughts on “Sleepless Nights: Optional traits for vampires

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