Tag Archives: writing vampires

Q&A: Multiple Monsters

Trying to plot out a fight scene. My character’s fighting vampires and has to keep three of her friends safe. I’m planning to have her putting up a decent fight, but ultimately losing when another person arrives to help and together they manage to fight the vampires off. How many people do you think would be a realistic number of vampires to confront her at first?

One might be too many. So, a few problems your character needs to solve. First, you’re not dealing with other humans, they’re facing supernatural monsters. Second, they outnumber her. Third, she’s not their target.

The vampire problem is going to depend on your setting, and possibly the specific variety of vampires from your setting that your characters are facing. If these are mindless blood fiends that will scamper after any warm, moving body, your character could probably protect her friends by drawing them off.

However, if your vampires are fast, intelligent, supernatural predators with centuries of experience backing up their hunting, she might be completely screwed. One could be far more than she can handle, and more could easily be a death sentence for them all. Or undeath sentence, depending on their goals.

Depending on what she’s facing weapons may be able to even the playing field, (just remember, your vampires might be packing).  The more experienced and powerful your vampires are, the less likely weapons will be enough. On-her-feet creativity may be help, but, again, it depends on what the vampires have seen and experienced.

Dealing with multiple human opponents is always a serious risk. Even for a practiced martial artist, getting into a fight with two or more foes is not a good idea. While your focus is on one foe, it’s easy for another foe to flank and shank you. This is considerably more difficult when you’re facing things that aren’t human.

Usually, weapons are one of the ways you can seriously skew the balance for situations like this. Multiple unarmed attackers aren’t going to have a good time going after someone with a handgun and CQC training.

One of the easiest methods for dealing  with multiple attackers is to control your environment so they can’t come at you simultaneously. If you’re facing ten foes in a tight corridor where they can only come at you single file, the ones behind them are, basically, irrelevant. In an emergency, densely packed crowds can serve a similar function, if you keep moving, and can track the attackers.

This is, also a function of classic infantry combat. The total volume of forces you bring to bear is less important than the number you can actually get into contact with an enemy.

When you’re alone, controlling the environment and, “juggling,” your foes by controlling who has the opportunity to attack is the only safe way to handle multiple foes.

I should probably put, “safe,” in scare quotes, because this is still quite dangerous, with very little margin for error.

If you actually pay attention, you’ll frequently see this at work in a lot of martial arts films. Jackie Chan will maneuver one foe into another, use a door to block an attack, or bounce over a car to restrict the potential vectors for attack. It looks good on film, but isn’t that far removed from how you can actually employ these tactics. Positioning so that enemies will get in each other’s way is a basic element of threat management.

Now, here’s where things get really difficult. Your character isn’t the target. She’s trying to protect her friends. This means a lot of conventional juggling tactics won’t work, because one or, maybe, two enemies will break off and engage her, while the rest will keep going. Obviously, if you’re positioned in tight quarters where they can’t push past, that’s less of an issue. Still doesn’t deal with the vampire problem, where they could just shove her out of their way, but still.

Again, weapons are a way to make this more viable. Your vampires are less likely to try to shove their way past an improvised flamethrower, or shotgun loaded with flare shells. Though, it’s worth remembering your character doesn’t share their immunity to bullets and they may be carrying guns.

Regardless, your character probably can’t juggle foes the way she would if she was their target; meaning she needs a different plan.

With your scenario, advanced planning, and controlling the environment is far more important. If you know you’re going to be attacked by multiple opponents, you need to pick places where you can control the avenues of attack, limit access, have options to fall back, and ultimately a goal which will put you in a safe environment or a defensive position that you can hold until help arrives (or until daybreak).

If your characters are being pursued, that’s not going to be easy, but, it should give you some ideas to work for.

At this point, the only resource your character starts with are her friends. So, plan accordingly.

-Starke

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Okay so I’m trying to figure out a way to keep vampires from feeding on a character without actually having that character die. Destroying Angel (the mushroom) is enough to make the vampires sick, but that’s all I’ve got so far. Any ideas? A list of antidotes? Books that cover this stuff?

The short answer is, you can’t really have vampires that kill
every time they feed. I’ll go into the details in a minute, but the solution is as simple as the problem, don’t.

We’ve said this before, but there are
no such thing as vampires. I don’t mean this in the, “well, they’re mythical creatures, so they’re not real,” sense. I’m talking about how there isn’t a single, universal, vampire myth.
Vampires are a persistent fear lingering in the back of the human
subconscious. Originally just a fear of the dead, and what might happen if funerary rights weren’t properly observed, and later as an expression of of Victorian hangups over sex, and xenophobia. As a result, there is no, true vampire myth; they are as varied
as human cultures that created them. There is no unified set of rules for how vampire behave, what they can do, or what can kill them. You set the rules, and need to tailor those to fit your story.

This includes things like their powers and weaknesses. If you want vampires that walk in the sun, you’re not “ripping off” Twilight. Sunlight vulnerability is a possible weakness, but it’s hardly universal. The same is true with immortality. Some vampires in myth have a very limited shelf-life, and then die… again. Even the need to feed on blood isn’t universal. I doubt anyone’s clamoring to write about vampires that literally survive on human fecal matter for 40 days before dying, but the myths are out there.

Your vampires? Your rules. You don’t need someone else telling you what they can or can’t do, because there is no universal kind of vampire.

That said, running with the idea that vampires kill every time they feed, or turn everyone they feed on, will run into serious logistical problems, quickly. Even if you want to run with this, it’s worth thinking about, because it will push your story in very specific ways.

For killing, the issue is dead bodies. Last Year, NYC reported around 350 homicides, total. The highest annual Homicide rate for the city was around 2,250 in 1990. If you have a vampire that needs to kill every night, would, on their own, double the modern the figures. Even in the 90s, you couldn’t slap another 365 homicides on the pile without raising a few eyebrows. Even if you scale it back to once a week, an extra fifty two bodies a year on the pile will, still turn heads.

And that’s for one vampire. If you intend to have a community, then all of them need to eat, and the numbers above multiply. Maybe if they share their meals, that’s more viable, but it’s still a lot of bodies. Where you have a lot of bodies, you’ll have a lot of pissed off relatives, and, inevitably, vampire hunters.

Vampires that turn everyone they feed on run into similar problems, except there problem is geometric. If you have vampires who turn everyone they feed on, and need to feed once a week. Starting on January first with a single vampire, by the first week of February, you’ll have 32 mouths to feed, and by mid August of the same year you would have, by necessity, converted every single human on the planet. (Specifically around 8.6 billion by the 34th week.)

So, the simple answer is to look at vampires as parasites. Sure, they may think of themselves as apex predators, but at the end of the day, they’re still ambulatory leeches. Wandering the night, and chewing on unsuspecting coeds. In most settings the best way to approach that is to make themselves as undetectable as possible. No dead bodies, no hoards of the undead wandering around, just parasites, with delusions of grandeur, picking at the human population.

If vampires killing or turning their victims are the exception, rather than the rule, it changes the dynamics, and the entire thing becomes a lot more functional. If you have a vampire who does kill his prey, it gives the other vampires in his city, a very specific motive to hunt him down as fast as possible, before he draws unwanted attention, and puts them all in danger.

Even if you’re running a setting where the vampires are out in the open, and in control of everything, a rogue vampire killing their meals is still a threat to the food supply.

A rogue vampire constantly turning others is an immediate threat to the other vampires. If he’s raising an army, then what does he need it for? And who is he going to use it against? Short answer? If you’re not his friend, it might just be you.

Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with them, the two things you should take a look at are Ultraviolet and Vampire: The Masquerade. There’s also Daybreakers, which might give you some ideas for vampires who are operating openly and in control of the world.

Ultraviolet was a British TV miniseries with Idris Elba and Jack Davenport that has no relation to the the American film. Ultraviolet focused on a group of paramilitary vampire hunters sanctioned by the British government. Wtihout going into too much detail, it does a fantastic job of examining vampires dealing with the threat of a man-made apocalypse, and planing accordingly.

Vampire: The Masquerade was an Urban Fantasy RPG focusing on Vampires. It’s part of the larger World of Darkness setting. It owes a lot to Anne Rice’s novels, but the resulting setting spends as much time explaining why things work the way they do, as simply saying “these are the rules.” It also has some vastly different takes of vampires, ranging from aristocratic puppeteers to sewer dwelling monstrosities preying on street people.

Daybreakers is a very good look at specifically violating some of the rules I listed above. It’s vampires are highly contagious, and as a result the vast majority of the population. As a whole, the film is an allegory for oil consumption, but it’s worth looking at if you’re wanting a post apocalyptic setting where vampires have decimated to the human population to near extinction.

-Starke

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Starke, if you filled the cavity on a hollowpoint with stuff (garlic for vampires or iron for the fey or similar), would that affect the performance of the round significantly?

Does roast garlic affect them?

With handguns at close range, it shouldn’t. Though, once you start getting past about 50ft, I’d worry. I’d be more worried about the garlic slipping out and jamming the mechanisms, though. If it was ground into paste, and then capped with something, it should be fine.

That’s certainly not the only creative ammunition option though. High explosive rounds come to mind. There are a lot explosives that will detonate on contact, and can be fired from a gun… mostly, safely. mercury fulminate is the first one that comes to mind, thanks to an old Law and Order episode. I’m not sure if picric acid would detonate when the weapon was fired, or only on impact, but it would also deliver a devastating wound from what you could pack into a hollowpoint.

If mass tissue disruption is enough to stop them, Glaser safety slugs might actually be a legitimate choice. These things are designed to shatter on contact spraying birdshot everywhere. I could easily see someone taking the basic design and loading it with a far more disruptive payload, like holy water, or maybe even the garlic paste above. This might be a better delivery method for an explosive round too.

With fey, if any iron would do, steel core AP rounds might actually be a better option. The softer metals should slough off on contact, and the resulting iron would do… whatever it was supposed to in the first place.

In theory you could make the entire bullet out of iron, but, with anything other than a very soft metal, you’ll irreparably damage the barrel’s rifling after the first or second shot. That said, you can stick a soft jacket over it, lead or copper are common choices. This protects the barrel from damage, but allows for much harder bullets to be fired. If you’re curious, that’s what the term Full Metal Jacket refers to.

Copper is a good option, even for lead rounds, because, unlike the lead, the copper isn’t toxic. So you can handle the rounds without having to be as paranoid about lead exposure.

You can use iron shot in a normal shotgun load, so that might be an easier option. I think you can actually buy up to 6mm steel shot commercially.

For iron bullets, there are apparently issues with them losing momentum faster than with normal rounds. I don’t know if this is relevant at handgun ranges or if it’s a rifle issue. That is the case with silver rounds, as I found out a couple years ago. (They’re fine for pistols, but rifles lose range and accuracy.) This has something to do with the density of silver, but explaining it requires a slightly better grasp on ballistics than mine.

If you’re wanting to take a more high tech look at vampire hunting, my recommendation will always be the British TV series Ultraviolet. Not to be confused with the 2006 American film. It takes a very non-mystical approach to tracking and eliminating vampires, with characters using graphite fragmentation rounds, and re-purposed gas grenades that disperse the active ingredient from garlic that affects them. Also, it’s got Jack Davenport and Idris Elba as the leads with some very sharp writing. This really is worth watching if you want to do vampire hunters in urban fantasy.

-Starke

So, my character goes to fight another character that she is a bit stronger than. He’s a guy, but they’re vamps and she drinks more blood. If they were to get in a fight starting at the center of a room that’s about 15 ft across both ways, how long should it take her to get him pinned to a wall?

But, the real question is, how many dots does she have in Celerity?

The problem with a question like this is, whether you mean to or not, you’re basically asking me, “which of my character’s superpowers are better?”

Vampires are rapidly becoming the urban fantasy counterpart to elves. Which is to say, when you use the term, there’s a vague understanding of what you’re talking about, but no uniform, concrete rules.

Hell, when it comes to a vampire’s power scaling with when they’ve fed last, my first thought is actually The Elder Scrolls setting, where feeding weakens them, but makes them harder to detect. While starvation makes them stronger and more feral. But, that one scales over time, not how much the eat.

When it comes to overall power, I tend to lean towards World of Darkness’ generational system, or the idea that they just get more powerful over time, so it’s an age issue, not a feeding issue.

This is all dancing around the point that I don’t know how strong your vampires are. Yes, yours. Unless you’re writing fan fiction, or RPing in an established setting, those are your characters with superpowers you’re defining.

For that, you probably need some kind of system to operationalize your vampires. Your options are to either cook up a system for yourself, or borrow one.

If it’s the latter, then World of Darkness isn’t a bad system to pull from. Basic character generation is really fast, and the system is good for getting a quick feel on what a character’s strengths and weaknesses are. It doesn’t hurt that one of the main games in the series is focused on vampires, so you might end up with some ideas to flavor your setting with along the way.

Vampire: The Masquerade provides the tools for a huge range of different styles of vampires in the core book alone. They’re all, more or less, inside the European immortal blood drinker genre, but it’s still fairly diverse group. And looking at the disciplines (specialized powers characters pick from) should give you some ideas about just how powerful you want your characters to be.

There’s also Werewolves, Mages, Hunters, and Demons. Given the series started in the early 90s, it’s a surprisingly comprehensive look at the common Urban Fantasy lineup. Though Demon: The Fallen was a smaller run, so that one will set you back a bit, if you end up wanting it.

I actually did an article on the setting awhile back, but, right now the main takeaway is looking for a rule system to say, “my character is this strong, and is this good at fighting.”

If you’re familiar with D&D, or GURPS, or really any RPG, and know what their numbers actually mean, then that will probably work just as well for you.

I’m not a fan of recommending D&D for stuff like this because character creation is a fairly involved process. Just crunching the numbers can take awhile. But if that’s the system you know, it’ll still do what you need.

I’m also more of a fan of recommending GURPS for the contents of its source books, over the actual game system. Speaking of, if you want a good quick primer on actual vampire folklore, GURPS: Blood Types spends the first 30 pages on the subject, before going into game systems. There’s also a chunk further in the book focusing on a lot of more obscure varieties of the myth. The discussion on how to make vampires is a little rule heavy, but still worth taking a look at.

-Starke