Character Studies: Vampires

The main antagonist in my graphic novel, The Tale of Stanto Pigwalter, is not just one person, but rather a never-ending army of fiends from the darker corners of the night: Vampires.
In recent years, Vampires have become a bit overused; there hasn’t been this much overuse of Vampires in popular culture since Bela LuGosi helped usher in the craze of the 50s.

And looked damned handsome whilst doing so.

As such, Vampires have become somewhat less dangerous; hell, now there are vegetarian sects that sparkle in the sunlight and agonize over their virginity.
In my tale, I wanted to take the current trend of “harmless” Vampires and  drop-kick it out a window.  Also, one of the things I wanted to make sure was clear in the story was that my Vampires were not bat-based.  There are more Vampire myths than those that Bram Stroker brought us.  My Vampires are slightly feline in nature… but that’s not to say they’re sissies who sit around washing their paws all day long.  When I say “feline,” think more “rabid Bengal tiger” and less “hairball-coughing tabby.”
Another way I wanted to get across that the Vampires in this story are something wholly alien, was to show that their leadership is entirely alien itself.  To that end, I decided to dip into Lovecraft’s pool of inspiration a bit and make my vamps led by some sort of eldritch abomination that, if glimpsed, could drive one to madness.  Tentacles a-plenty.

Click for full size.

Another idea I had was to make the Vampire hordes caste-based.  To that end, I came up with four main castes: the High Priests (the aforementioned tentacled horrors,) the Clerics, (the slightly humanoid feline hunters,) the Ghouls (based visually on Max Schreck’s Nosferatu,) and the Thralls (hopeless hypnotized, but otherwise normal humans, dwarves, elves, and whatever other races the Vampires encounter).

Click for full size.

One of the most important things for a pen-and-paper gamer to do when creating a character or a campaign is to write meticulous descriptions of any and all creatures, situations, and characters the player party will encounter, so that when that amulet of healing that just so happens to have a demon trapped in it from an unholy war beyond space and time, falls into your player’s hands, there’s enough material to back up what this item is and how it came to be in the hands of said player.  There’s nothing worse than a party hijacking your entire game by a few well thought-out (or in most cases, not thought-out in any way) questions about whatever is currently happening in the campaign.  As a GM, or indeed as a writer in general, you have to be prepared for these sorts of off-the-rails occurrences, and if your story starts to get out of your control, then you need to figure out where it went wrong and how to get it back under control.

(That is not in any way to say that if your story begins to have a life of its own that you should immediately squash it; if it looks like a cool idea, let it breathe for a minute: see if it’s going anywhere.)

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