Saturday 21 March 2009

Power is a disease one has no desire to be cured of

As a rule, I'm not a fan of vampires. The whole idea never captured my imagination even as a child, and ever since Anne Rice and Vampire: The Masquerade the things have had this awful veneer of supposed 'coolness' and a geek cache that I loathe so much I can't adequately put it into words. Skinny bisexual spoiled rich kids are not cool - they're ANNOYING.

But I like the idea of politican-as-vampire, and I think that White Wolf missed a trick in going down the teenagers-and-ennui route. (Financially they didn't miss a trick, but in noisms' Ranking of Good Games they certainly did, and we all know which of those is the more important.) I really think there's great potential for a game about vampires in the Corridors of Power, whether in Westminster, Capitol Hill, the Diet, or whatever country you prefer. I say this mainly because vampires and politicians are practically indistinguishable from one another, but also because I just saw the film Il Divo, the story of Giulio Andreotti, three-time Italian Prime Minister, who happened to bear a striking resemblance to Count Orlok of Nosferatu fame - both in looks and personality. This then reminded me of Michael Howard, one time Home Secretary in one of Margeret Thatcher's cabinets, who famously resembles a vampire, not least in having Romanian ancestry. (Anne Widdecombe once offhandedly remarked that "there is something of the night about him" - one of the most notorious comments a British politician has ever made about another.)

I think some political systems would be more amenable to this sort of game. The Japanese Diet, and the Italian Parliament, with their well known ties to organised crime, would be the easiest to envisage being populated by vampires. The more open British and American systems, with their intense media scrutiny, perhaps not so much. (Although trying to maintain a blood habit while avoiding the prying noses of journalists could be a great game in and of itself.) Play could revolve around all kinds of corruption and derring-do - from assassination of rivals to bribery to tabloid indiscretion. I think I'd be more inclined to use a diceless system to run it, though - maybe Amber (if I ever get around to properly reading it) or Nobilis.

Or perhaps Risus...


  1. I have toyed with the notion of a story for some time where a small group of (benevolent at first) leaders or politicians would seek immortality at any price.

    Their driving idea behind this, rather the personal desire for immortality itself, would be their belief that a government, any system of government, is limited by how good its leaders are. Since death deprives a nation from enlightened and benevolent leaders it is only natural the best ones should seek a means of providing their guidance for more than a couple of decades.

  2. I rather like the idea of Van Helsing as a muckraking journalist.

  3. Btw what was that about The Diet having well-known tis to organized crime? I had not heard of it before...

  4. Hmmm... It would certainly explain a few things about Dick Cheney.

  5. For the US government, I'd recommend vampires-as-lobbyists, personally.

  6. It sounds way better as a part (maybe a surprise part) of a larger game than the main focus of that game, since once you get the idea--Politician-As-Vampire--it seems like you know exactly where everything is going. Plus, I feel like vampire powers automatically make political power less interesting and scary--I mean, if everything is secretly about getting lots of blood, then all the political machinations are really just a smokescreen and stop being tactically interesting on their own.

  7. For the US government, I'd recommend vampires-as-lobbyists, personally.

    I've been thinking of running just such a game myself. They'd be good at it.

  8. British politics + vampires. Shades of Ultraviolet (the Channel 4 drama, not the execrable films), or possibly House of Cards.

    Come to think of it, the idea of Britain being run by a coterie of vampiric Whitehall mandarins could have potential.

  9. Edsan: That sort of leader is everywhere. Think of Hugo Chavez. "What, I can only stand for election twice? Change the constitution - I want a third term!"

    Max: Van Helsing is too intelligent and well educated to be a journalist. ;)

    Edsan: Supposedly the upper echelons of Japanese corporate life, political life, and criminal life are basically the same. For example, it's often said that the reason why Japan doesn't have the kind of drug problems that other rich nations have is because the LDP and the various yakuza clans have arranged a deal whereby the yakuza don't get involved in drug smuggling in return for certain quid pro quo 'benefits'.

    There's a famous book about it - I wish I could remember the title.

    Fitzerman: Dick Cheney would probably be the arch-vampire. Like that old guy who spends most of his time sleeping in a bath of blood in Blade II.

    Kuni: Lobbyists are one of those uniquely American things that I don't really know much about, so I'll have to take your word for it! ;)

    Zak: You lack vision! Think about all the hijinks you could get up to if you were immortal, utterly amoral, and at least partially in control of a State's apparatus. Blood would only be a tiny part of the game. I was thinking of making the players stipulate three or more 'ambitions' at the start of play ('to survive' or 'blood' being taken as read) which they would aim towards realising - could be anything from 'become president' to 'prevent the nationalisation of the railways'. The blood thing just adds an element of danger, because you have to have it live and straight from the source, and how does a politician do that and get away with it? It's a way to inject conflict and make things difficult, without being the main point of the game.

    Chris: Easy to imagine, isn't it? Maybe not even politicians, as such. A coterie of civil service bigwigs who feed the politicians just the right kind of information to manipulate them in certain directions...

  10. I think this might be the sort of game best played without an organized system, terrible as it sounds.
    I recall a free game I once saw called Accord that handled conflict resolution by having the players make bargains with each other and the DM. Perhaps that?

    Verification word: Punkin
    Definition: 1) Diminuitive of Pumpkin. 2) A small chitinous being, possibly of fey origin, that makes its living tending and eating gourds and squashes.

  11. You might want to check out Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series of novels, which postulates exactly this:

    (I can recommend the Bloody Red Baron, personally).

    Sir Harrok

  12. Be sure to check out The Werewolf of Washington, which is unfortunately terrible satire (see but has the germs of a similar idea. And, after all, that's all a GM needs.

  13. Rach: Sounds a little like Amber Diceless. I might try to track that down.

    Sir Harrock: Thanks very much. I'll try to track them down.

    crazyred: Exactly. Who needs term limits when you can bribe, blackmail or manipulate parliament into changing the rules? ;)

    Swordsman: Thanks very much. The title doesn't fill me with confidence though. Does satire get more obvious than that!? ;)