Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Changing Face of Blood-Sucking Wallachians

I came across this post on enworld this morning after clicking on a link at another site. No, don't worry, I'm not going to put up Yet Another Anti-4e Rant. Rather, I found myself reading the "spoiler" information on vampires, about half-way down the post, and suddenly realising how much D&D vampires have changed:

Vampires are no longer repelled by garlic or unable to cross running water. (Granted, for those of us using Van Richten's Guide to Vampires, they've been able to cross running water for over seventeen years . . . ) The art's recycled from the 3.5E MM, so yes, the example vampire lord is using a spiked chain. There's also a ritual for vampire creation by vampire lords--it involves an exchange of blood, killing and burying the victim, and a prayer to Orcus.

Personally I'm not a great vampire fan - I tried reading an Anne Rice book once, but the ennui was just too much for me - but I quite liked the monster's incarnation in older editions of D&D, because it tried to emulate all the old European legends: vampires could be unmasked by passing in front of a mirror, were scared of garlic, couldn't cross running water, could only be killed by a stake through the heart, and could only enter somebody's house if they were invited in. I enjoyed that mythical feel, and the way it harked back to old horror films and ancient childhood stories.

Nowadays vampires have a totally different feel in D&D. I suspect a large part of this is the influence of White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade, which along with the Anne Rice books and the Blade films completely re*vamp*ed (geddit?) the image of the creature in the fantasy/role playing community. Suddenly, in the mid 90's, vampires were too-cool-for-school, self-absorbed, emo-core, image-conscious supermodel types, rather than the suit-wearing Romanian nobles of old. They were the in-thing. At the time I was probably too young to notice, and wouldn't have cared much anyway (gothic horror has always left me cold), but I suppose at the time it was refreshing to do away with the old cliches. Nowadays, of course, the "new" vampire is a cliche itself (take a look at the art for the 3.5 edition vampire, for example, to see just how trite it has become) and so the "Old School" version (there's that phrase again) has a kind of retro appeal.

There has been quite a lot of talk of trying to create a "back to basics" feel for 4e, but obviously this hasn't been extended to vampires if the last vestiges of the old mythical version (dislike for garlic and running water) have been removed. Shame. I'd much rather see this in the 4e MM than the 3.5 edition picture linked to above:


  1. If you're up for some good Vampire reading, fo for the Necroscope series from Brian Lumley. Instead of the romanticized version of vampires long portrayed in literature and by hollywood, Lumley asks the question, "would you romanticize a tick or a leach?"

    The Wamphyri are awesome, and deserve a spot in a D&D campaign.

  2. Xyxox: I actually read the first of that series, back when I was about 15 or 16. It was good stuff, although I can't remember too much about it.