I generally play D&D (O or A 1e, if you’re curious), mostly focusing on creating and overcoming challenges for myself and other players. But after spending a few weeks watching lots of vampire movies, I thought I might play a game that would help me explore characters, situations, and emotions common to the genre. I didn’t want to spend any money so I made my own.
The rules are as follows:
% Vampire game for two
One player is the vampire and one player is the victim. The vampire wants the victim to willingly surrender. The victim wants to be loved — not necessarily by the vampire, by anybody.
By the end of the game, the victim will have surrendered to the vampire, or will have fled from the vampire. If the victim offers, the vampire will always feed on the victim. If the victim flees, the vampire may or may not feed on them anyway.
The vampire and the victim talk for 10 minutes. By the end of this first conversation, the victim must know the vampire wants them in some abnormal,scary sense. Then the victim leaves.
During this first conversation, try to establish, without directly saying it,what the vampire’s weaknesses and limitations are — can they go in the sun? Are they afraid of holy symbols? Similarly, but more explicitly, establish some social ties for the victim. Only one of these ties can be even remotely satisfactory.
Then spend 5 minutes describing the activities of the vampire and the victim after their conversation. Does the vampire sulk, or do they follow the victim? Does the victim have any additional sources of support not discussed in the past 10 minutes? Do they have any habits that leave them vulnerable to attack? Do they research the vampire?
Second scene onward
Players switch characters.
The vampire and the victim talk for 10 minutes. Quickly establish the reason the victim returned to the vampire. Continue developing the characters, their relationships to each other and the world, and the vampire’s powers and weaknesses. At the end of this and future scenes, the victim should decide to surrender to the vampire or not, and to flee or not. If the victim will neither surrender nor flee, spend 5 minutes describing the activities of the characters between conversations, then switch and play another scene.
If the victim surrenders to the vampire, the vampire will feed. Describe how this will happen, what this means for both of them. If the victim flees, describe the precautions they take, if any, and the effect these encounters will have on their life going forward. Finally, the vampire should decide if they will feed on the victim anyway.
Maybe add a third player and rotate between all three? Maybe add scenes between the victim and the other people in their life — possibly the victim begins play secure in their life, and the vampire has to destroy their security to get close to them.
Considerations when writing these rules
It had to be a two-player game, since it was just my partner and myself playing, and it couldn’t have a dedicated referee, since my partner wanted to play a game with me as a fellow player. It couldn’t be very mechanically complex, because my partner doesn’t care for heavy rules.
I thought it would be difficult to know when to end a scene, so I decided to put strict time limits on them. 10 minutes just seemed like a workable number. Since the game would be (I expected) extremely dark, mostly the tale of a vampire isolating their victim socially and psychologically manipulating them into giving up their life, so the players switch characters regularly, to avoid getting too personally invested in either of them.
At my partner’s choice, I was the vampire and she was the victim. We decided our setting was Edinburgh, a city she knew well but still felt “exotic”, in the late 1800s. Cobblestone streets and foggy alleyways, very classic. We decided we were probably both fine with whatever content or themes came up in the game. I had an explicit veil, but I can’t remember what it was now.
My partner voiced the concern that there would be no reason for the victim to surrender to the vampire, and that every game would end the same, with the victim fleeing. I had the exact opposite concern, which tickled me.
We agreed that our characters had bumped into each other on the foggy street (an accident, on the victim’s part at least) and began play with the vampire helping the victim to their feet. We established quickly that the victim was a poet, living alone, with no important social ties. The vampire meanwhile was very well read, well traveled, and tired. The vampire spoke about a desire to rest — after one has seen enough wonderful things, one may want to see ordinary things as wonderful, instead. The vampire offered to walk the victim home, and we decided that the remainder of the conversation would be that walk, ending when they reached home.
The victim was much more forward and relationship-hungry, or maybe just horny, than I had expected. She wrote poems about longing and “little deaths”, and was very open about her desire for a relationship and passion. The vampire, my partner decided, looked young and attractive, and so it seemed that the vampire would conquer the victim through romance and sensuality.
The 10 minute timer went off surprisingly quickly. We spent most of the first conversation world-building, essentially, and I had forgot to establish the crucial fact that my character wanted to feed on the victim in some unnatural and scary way. I kind of half-assed a very quick sentence about using people, draining them, and burying them, and then my partner said, “But I want to live!” and we closed the scene.
Then we debriefed for a little bit. It was interesting, to me, that we had pretty much just role-played dialogue, with no accompanying actions, and all in first person. (This is directly contradictory to my usual style, which is third-person, and somewhat abstract; I don’t say exactly what my character says unless I have a neat turn of phrase in mind, or it’s another player’s preference to hear exact wording.) We reviewed the rules and described the characters’ interim activities. The victim, overcome with longing, threw herself against the door like a Disney heroine coming back from a wonderful date. Later she wrote a letter to her sister, describing the events and her feelings about them. Finally, she did a little “Twilight”-style research montage, learning about the vampire and vampirism in general. The vampire meanwhile watched her through the whole night. We decided, since the vampire’s threat was a little weak, that the victim would go to meet the vampire the very next day. Excitement would overcome any qualms.
The next scene started off a little rocky. My partner forgot that we were switching characters, and so the first two minutes of conversation was very strange indeed. Once we realized the error we reset the clock and started over.
The victim walked to the old ruined abbey where the vampire said they sometimes spent time. The vampire saw her and approached. They talked, flirting a bit and discussing the poem the victim had written for the vampire. The poet wanted to be great and to be remembered. The vampire told the poet that everyone would remember her work if she were found dead, an exquisite corpse, under mysterious and terrifying circumstances. She further wanted to write more poems, and the vampire told her she could only write great poetry if she had interesting experiences. She said she was afraid of losing her sister, but the vampire said that sacrifices were necessary for art, that great pains make great art. Finally, she was afraid of pain, but the vampire said it was a good pain. At the end of the scene she surrendered to the vampire.
We decided that the vampire would turn her into a kind of thrall, keeping her around, maybe for a long while, but not making her an equal. Her body would be found (before she rose again) and people would wonder about the case, but her poems would not surge in popularity, nor would she write any poems while in thralldom. Eventually the vampire would grow dissatisfied.
My partner has only played a few games, ever; I am much more experienced, but not with this sort of game! It was very different and very cool. I think she’d be down to play many more like it.
I was a little disappointed at some aspects of play. We probably needed stronger story beats, or maybe conversation topics, to hit on the first scene. As it played out, it felt like we had a scene going in a certain direction and then the vampire comes out of nowhere saying, “I want to eat you! Grrr!”, which is just not very compelling. I also think we should have given the victim a few more ties to life, or made the vampire more horrible. The game was too easy; it was a forgone conclusion that the victim would surrender.
I think I should have done more to establish my expected tone, which was darker, grimier, and meaner than the game we in fact played. I had wanted to play a game about manipulation and despair. In fact we played out some sexy fan-fic. Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t what I was hoping to explore.
I’m curious what in the procedures of the game could make the grimier outcome more likely. Or is it a problem at all? Maybe the same game could be an exploration of abuse and an opportunity for foreplay? I’m not sure.
Even though we didn’t delve into the themes I was interested in, we both had fun. I would play again, maybe starting as the victim, and reacting less positively to the vampire’s attention, so that we would actually be interested to see why the victim kept returning to the vampire, and whether they surrendered to the vampire at the end.