Author's Note: The mythology of the vampire is one of the most complex and diverse in all of horror/fantasy. Almost every culture on earth seems to have some sort of vampire myth, and while there are similarities between them, they do vary widely in the particulars. I have had to pick and choose to decide what vampires should be in this world, so don't be surprised if the version you see here differs from your usual conception of the vampire mythos. It is entirely possible that mundane characters will believe any number of different things about vampires, as they do try to keep their actual strengths and weaknesses disguised as much as possible; however, if a character's beliefs about vamps don't match up with what's written here, the character is probably wrong.
This article is about vampires as creatures -- their origins, biology, psychology, and capabilities. For information on vampire business organization and social hierarchy, see the article on the Vampire Syndicate; for more on vampire religion, see the Church of Eternal Brotherhood.
Origin | Biology | The Blood-Bond | Reproduction | Psychology | Powers | Vulnerabilities | Limitations | Slaying Vamps | Dispelling Misconceptions | Author's Note: MK2K versus Buffy
A vampire is a sentient, once-mortal being whose body is fueled by death-aspected mana, often referred to colloquially as negative energy. This magical metabolism acts as a substitute for the biological metabolism of a living creature, allowing the creature to continue to "live" after mortal death, but the magic that sustains it requires regular ingestion of mortal blood in order for it to remain active. Vampires are a kind of undead, like zombies, ghosts or liches, but they are unique among undead in several respects: no other undead can mimic living beings so closely, and no other undead is so dependent on mortals for its continued existence.
Vampires can be created from most types of sentient, mortal beings, including humans, part-humans (such as Silvaan and Plane-touched), Elves, lutins, and Maeril. The creation of a vampire from a dragon is theoretically possible but has never occurred, since the blood of dragons is laced with elemental fire and is lethal to humanoid vampires. Outsiders and the more powerful sorts of Fae cannot be turned into vampires.
The first vampire was created by the Daedra Lord Lilith as the result of a dispute between her and her sister, the goddess Artela. Both had taken the position of nature-deities soon after discovering Earth, but they differed in which aspects of nature they most valued. Artela saw beauty in the cooperation between different individuals, and believed that strength and vitality in nature came from cooperation between members of a same species and the mutualistic coevolution of interacting species (such as that between a tree and the animals who dispersed its seeds). Lilith, on the other hand, saw the value in competition and predation, believing that the elimination of the weak and unfit led to stronger species and a more robust and successful ecosystem. While each could see points in the other's argument, they also each believed that the forces they championed were the more important.
This might have remained a purely academic debate, but both deities had taken a keen interest in the mortal race of Elves, a forest-dwelling species that was obviously deeply in touch with the natural world. Both sisters wanted to help the Elves to become strong and prosperous, but they disagreed sharply on how it should be done. Artela believed that promoting cooperation would help the Elves best, while Lilith believed that strife and competition were necessary to remove the weaklings who would hold back the species. Lilith also lamented that while the Elves were at the top of their food chain, they did not behave as she believed a top predator ought to -- they ate relatively little meat, and their tendency to avoid killing animals until after they had already bred kept them from being effective at culling the weak and infirm.
Both Lilith and Artela sought out disciples among the Elves, trying to find those who would adopt their philosophies as their own. Lilith's philosophy of the strong culling the weak was obviously not very popular among the usually-gentle Elves, and she quickly found herself becoming marginalized, viewed more as a demon than a goddess. Lilith was angered by this rejection and decided that the Elves were unfit to be top predators in their ecosystem -- they had too much of an herbivore mentality for her to use them. A new predator was needed, one that could strengthen the Elven race by preying upon them in the same way that the wolf's predation strengthened the deer.
Lilith had one truly faithful disciple, an Elf named Kainos. He was a master woodsman and a superb hunter, and he was considered somewhat mad by the rest of his people. He shunned the company of others and devoted himself to the teaching of his mistress, methodically slaying creatures throughout the forest that he considered unworthy of reproducing. Lilith offered him a bargain: thin the herds of the Elves as he did for the other species of the forest, and she would make him into someting more than mortal -- the ultimate predator, with super-Elven strength and agility and a variety of supernatural abilities to let him stalk through the forest like a wraith.
Kainos's transformation from a mere obsessive loner into a fanatical serial killer was met with outrage by the Elven community; never before had an Elf dared to slay his own kin. The Elves banded together and formed a hunting party of their greatest wizards and warriors to track down Kainos and put an end to his reign of terror. The pursuit was long and difficult, and many Elves fell in the process, but in the end Kainos was killed and his body left for the scavengers to find.
Lilith vowed that her perfect predator would not be ended so easily. Fortunately, she had been able to trap Kainos's soul in a soul gem when he died, so he was not beyond her help. Mere resurrection was not enough, though, for the Elves had already proven that they were strong enough to defeat a living predator, even one strengthened by her power. (Besides, Lilith's innate power could not heal the injuries the Elves had dealt him, since healing was Akkala's domain.) Calling on the dark magic of necromancy, she reanimated Kainos's body with negative energy and placed his soul inside it once more. This new body would be beyond death, able to regenerate from most injuries and transmute itself in ways a living body could not. Since there was no longer any way for Kainos to carry on his line in the usual mortal fashion, Lilith built into his body a way for its magical metabolism to be instilled into the body of another mortal being. (In essence, this was the first use of nanopixies to spread a magical disease, though that terminology did not come into use until the 20th Century CR.)
Unfortunately, the use of negative energy had a number of consequences for Kainos's new body. Anything that disrupted the negative energy flowing through his body would break its now-tenuous hold on the world of the living. Direct sunlight and running water acted as conduits for life-aspected mana and could quickly disintegrate his enchanted flesh; even indirect sunlight left him as weak and sluggish as an ordinary mortal. The enchanted metal mithril would burn and poison his flesh, just as it did the bodies of the daedra themselves. A stake of wood, which carried the magic of life within its sturdy fibers, could disrupt his soul's control over his body if driven into his dead heart, rendering him as helpless as any corpse -- and even Lilith's necromancy could not ward off the lethal effects of fire or decapitation. Perhaps most importantly, the death magic that sustained Kainos required a regular sacrifice in order to sustain it -- the body had to be fed with the blood of mortal creatures. Still, for all his vulnerabilities, Kainos was far more powerful than he had been before -- and when he returned to prey on the Elves again in the darkness of night, the mortals were filled with a terror like they had never known before.
The gods, particularly Artela, were outraged at what Lilith had created, and quickly began to seek out Kainos's weaknesses and develop spells to exploit them. Artela appealed to the Elders, parents of the gods and daedra, claiming that Lilith had violated her role as a nature goddess by resorting to the death magic of necromancy. She feared that Lilith would begin crafting entire ecosystems of death-aspected creatures, twisting the magic of the natural world into her own distorted reflection. Lilith, in her own defense, argued that death was as much a part of nature as life, and that her perfect predator would help to strengthen the mortal races in the long run, as had always been her intent.
The Elders finally decided on a compromise: Lilith's creation was allowed to continue to exist, and to make more of its kind in the manner Lilith had provided for it. In return, the Elders placed a geas on Lilith: she could not make any further improvements to her design, and she could not make new a vampire herself more than once a year. Any new vampires beyond that would have to be made by existing vampires spreading the contagion directly. The gods were not entirely happy with this decision, but they had little choice but to accept it and make the best of the situation.
Blood Requirements: A vampire needs to consume mammalian blood on a
regular basis in order to survive. Just how much is needed isn't known for certain,
and it seems to vary somewhat depending on the individual and the quality of
blood. Vampires seem to be almost reptilian in their feeding habits -- a large
meal can sustain them for many days before they need to feed again. As a general
rule of thumb, most vampires seem to need at least four liters of fresh, high-quality
blood per month to stay active and healthy; powerful vamps require more to stay
in peak condition. Vampires can and do consume other kinds of food and drink
regularly, both for pleasure and for the raw matter that they provide (which
acts as fuel for the vamp's regenerative abilities). But they must have blood
to maintain their magical metabolism, and they can survive on blood alone (though
they will become very thin and skeletal in appearance if they live in this way
for a long time).
If food is scarce, a vampire can remain in hibernation for a very long time -- their blood needs seem to drop to only a tenth of the amounts required to remain active. A vampire can easily hibernate for a year if it has a good meal before retiring; however, that vampire will likely be ravenous when it finally wakes. A vampire who hibernates for too long is not destroyed, but it dries up like a mummy and cannot rouse itself unless several liters of fresh blood are force-fed into its body.
Feeding: When a vampire bites a mortal, it injects a kind of venom through
the fangs and into the victim's body. This venom has narcotic effects and appears
to be magical in nature; it causes the victim to experience a rush of ecstasy,
quickly rendering him or her both docile and compliant. (This effect is short-lived,
but the psychic effects of blood sharing come into play before the venom's potency
fades -- see The Blood-Bond). The vampire then sucks
the blood from the puncture wounds it created. It cannot draw the blood through
its fangs -- it must place its mouth over the wounds and suck out the blood
into its mouth, where it can be swallowed. Coagulants in the vampire's saliva
cause the wound to close quickly when the vampire is finished; it need only
lick the wound after feeding to ensure that the victim does not die from blood
loss (assuming it has not drained the victim too severely).
After-effects of feeding: If the vampire's victim does not die, he will
experience no ill effects from the feeding other than those typical of blood
loss (light-headedness, fatigue, etc.). If the victim does die, and is fed a
small amount of the vampire's own blood shortly before or after the moment of
death, then the victim will rise again as a vampire, unless preventative measures
are taken to keep the body from reanimating. A quarter of a liter (250 mL) of
vampiric blood is sufficient for reanimation.
Those who are killed by a vampire in more direct means, such as throttling or evisceration, do not come back as vampires. Those who are drained and left for dead, without receiving the vampire's blood, will also not rise, though another vampire can substitute its own blood for the blood of the one who drained the victim. A vampire can also give its blood to someone who has been mortally wounded in some other way; if the heart, brain and spinal cord are intact, the person will then become a vampire, and the injuries can be healed through regeneration.
Blood-gifts: A vampire can also give its blood to a person who is not on the verge of death. While the nanopixies in vampiric blood are not strong enough or fast-breeding enough to turn a healthy person into a vampire, this blood nevertheless has substantial regenerative powers and can temporarily boost a mortal's strength, speed, agility and rate of healing, while also suspending the aging process. Essentially, the blood attempts to turn the person into a vampire, but only succeeds in shifting the person partway toward a vampiric state. Manologists refer to this condition as "living stasis". Eventually, the vampire NPs are destroyed by their exposure to the life-aspected energy of the mortal body, and the effects fade out.
Vampires tend to keep the effects of the blood-gift secret, for fear of human wizards hunting them to use their blood in potions and the like. A vampire will usually only give its blood to aid a mortal who is already tied to them through the blood-bond, and can be instructed to keep it secret.
For mortals, the benefits of the blood-gift last for about one full lunar cycle before the vampire's blood-gift is burned out of the body. The loss of the supernatural abilities bestowed by the blood-gift causes the mortal to feel empty and hollow; many have said that their blood "feels stale" as their gift begins to wane. This sensation of loss is often enough to cause mortals who have received blood-gifts to become psychologically addicted to them, sometimes after only a single dose.
Feeding on other vampires: In addition to its effects on mortals, vampire blood has an effect on other vampires, as well. A vampire who feeds on another vamp takes from that vamp a portion of its essence, and thus its supernatural power. This feeding process initiates a blood-bond (see below), which can be used by the stronger vampire to bind the weaker one closer to itself. Powerful sires will often allow their childer to feed on them in order to strengthen the feelings of intimacy between them, as well as to give the childe a measure of power to carry out the sire's will. If one of the vampires is unwilling, however, a psychic battle for dominance will take place -- and if the feeding vamp wins, it can steal the other vampire's power for itself, and can even go so far as to drain the other vampire until it lapses into a helpless hibernation state. The process of draining unwilling fellow vampires to obtain power is considered abhorrent by most sane vampires, but it is not an unheard-of tactic for young vampires who are desperate to strengthen their bloodlines. The practice is called blood-jumping in the slang of the young vampires, since it is a way for a vampire to "jump" up the rungs of the proverbial ladder of the bloodline hierarchy. No vampire could do this to its own sire, but there are enough powerful vamps in the world that there are plenty of potential targets for this sort of treachery. Talia is generally lenient with young vamps who succeed at blood-jumping a more powerful elder, so long as they do not actually destroy him -- even attempting a blood-jumping is extremely dangerous, and those who are able to pull it off have displayed the sort of ambition and creativity that she finds useful in her servants. Furthermore, a certain amount of paranoia keeps the elder vampires from growing too complacent or abusing their power -- a blood-jumping coup is far less likely to succeed if an elder is well-liked than if the usurper can draw on the aid of many disaffected underlings.
Appearance: A vampire has one natural humanoid form, which even elder
vampires cannot alter through their shapeshifting powers (though a vamp can
alter its appearance through the use of magic). This form is, for the most part,
identical to the form the vampire had when it died. As the vampire ages, its
skin, hair and eyes grow pale; at extreme age (no less than 500 years, assuming
even a barely adequate blood supply), new wrinkles appear and the face becomes
haggard and worn. A truly ancient vampire may lose some or all of his hair.
All vampires have enlarged upper canine teeth (fangs), though they are not as
ridiculously large as some illustrations make them out to be. They are quite
sharp, however, and contain channels to the vampire's venom sacs.
Under normal circumstances, a vampire (at least a relatively young one) looks just like any other human, so long as it doesn't reveal its fangs. When it prepares to feed, however, a vamp will manifest its true nature more visibly. The face distorts and becomes more predatory in appearance, and the eyes glow yellow. Picture the way characters "vamp out" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you've got the right idea (but see MK Vamps vs. Buffy, below). Vampires are very pale and their skin is cold to the touch when they have not fed recently, but after feeding they regain some of their color and their bodies return to near-normal temperature while the blood-meal is absorbed. These effects persist for three or four hours after a light feeding, and may last for up to a week if the vampire has gorged itself.
Both vampires and their victims experience a powerful telepathic bond while
feeding is taking place: the psyches of the two become intertwined, and each
sees into the thoughts and memories of the other. The more blood that is taken,
the more complete this bond becomes. In particular, the recent emotions of both
vampire and victim are transmitted strongly to each other through the bond,
becoming a permanent echo in their consciousness.
This blood-bond has a number of effects. First, the vampire can call to its
victim through the bond after the feeding has taken place, using its force of
personality to dominate the victim and force him to do its will. The effect
becomes stronger and harder to resist as more blood is taken from the victim,
and fades over the course of days and weeks as the victim's body produces new
blood. If the vampire ever drains its victim to death and introduces
its own blood into the body (shortly before death or shortly after), the victim's
psyche becomes wholly dominated by the vampire; thus, the new vampire that is
made is bonded to its sire and cannot disobey its orders. (Vampires made
by giving vampiric blood to a person dying for some other reason, or to a person
drained by a different vampire, will be somewhat bound to the vamp who gave
the blood, but not as strongly as a vampire created solely through the draining
and blood-gift of one sire. For this reason, vamps are rarely made in this fashion,
since the childe's obedience is not guaranteed; many young vamps are
not even aware that childer can be made in this way.)
Second, a willing act of blood-donation (called the Sharing by vamps)
can be intensely pleasurable for both the vampire and the mortal (who is usually
called the "vessel" in this situation, rather than the "victim").
The blending of souls that accompanies Sharing is an intimacy deeper than sex
(and often accompanied by sex), and a mortal who has willingly Shared
with a vampire will often seek to do so again, usually with the same partner.
The vessel can sense, however, if the vampire truly cares for her or if it is
simply using her for blood, and this can sour and cheapen what would otherwise
be a positive experience. It is difficult for a vampire to keep a large "stable"
of mortal vessels without poisoning its relationships with its partners through
simple selfishness. A vampire, particularly a powerful one, can command obedience
and worship from its thralls, but maintaining a true atmosphere of love is almost
impossible in this situation.
Third, because of the intense intimacy of the act, an unwilling victim of a
vampire experiences a violation that is worse than rape. Having the predator's
psyche pressed down on you, viewing you as a meal, an object, a thing to be
hollowed out and then discarded, can have permanent and scarring effects on
even the strongest mortal minds. Some commit suicide, drift into masochistic
behavior, or seek other opportunities to be dominated out of their own sense
of worthlessness; even those who can withstand the psychological trauma will
be haunted for years after the event. This is doubly true for those who have
been dominated by a vampire after the feeding.
Fourth, a vampire who uses its victims in this way soon feels the consequences of his actions. The blood-bond is reciprocal, and the vampire can no more escape the mind of its victim than the victim can escape its attacker. A vampire who makes a habit of feeding on unwilling victims will soon find himself haunted by thousands of accusing voices -- little pieces of their souls, trapped inside him, crying for revenge, damning him as a monster. Most of these tormented vamps go feral, their minds reverting to such a bestial state that they are no longer able to understand the emotions of their prey (and are therefore unmoved by their cries). Others commit suicide, throwing themselves into the sunlight to end their torment. Rarely, a vampire haunted by his victims becomes neither bestial nor suicidal; in these cases the mind twists and warps under the pressure, remaining sentient but becoming so deranged in its outlook that it is able to accept, even embrace, the voices of its accusers. The exact nature of the madness experienced by these vampires varies from individual to individual, but in nearly all cases these are among the most horrifying and frightening vampires for any mortal to encounter.
Vampires, being undead, are completely incapable of reproducing in the "normal" fashion. (This fact has not, however, diminished the popularity of sex among vampires in the slightest; the hormones released during sex give an added sweetness to the blood.)
Vampires reproduce themselves only by "turning" (or "siring")
mortals. A new vampire that has been created by turning (hereafter called the
childe, plural childer) will be subservient to the vampire that
created it (hereafter called the master or sire). The childe
need not always agree with the sire, but s/he is unable to take any direct action
to harm the sire, and s/he must obey any direct order given by the sire (though
the meaning of the order is subject to the understanding and interpretation
of the childe). A vampire is also subject to obey the commands of his sire's
sire, and so on up the chain of command to the Vampire Queen herself. If a vampire
is created by Talia's kiss, he is subject to no master but Talia herself.
If a master vampire is killed, all of his childer are released from their servitude and become independent masters themselves (with the exception that they must still obey Talia). A vampire who has been freed in this way can never be subjugated to another vampire again.
Vampires refer to their condition of unlife as the time Between (i.e., between life and final death). They will often describe their length of time in unlife by saying that they "have been in Between for [however many] years".
Vampires in general are not irredeemably evil, even though their method of
creation is wholly unnatural and they themselves are walking vessels of negative
energy. They retain their free will, though their execution of it is subject
to veto by their sires, and hold on to at least some of the same drives and
desires they had in life. Certainly, some vampires are evil, but then so are
some mortals. Vampires show the same range of moral and ethical alignments found
Most vampires are just self-centered beings trying to survive in comfort without
getting in trouble with the rest of society. Many view themselves as predators,
and the mortal population as their livestock; while they see mortals as inferior,
they are driven to see to the health and well-being of their "cattle",
both out of a sense of noblesse oblige and out of enlightened self-interest.
Because of this, many vampires promote philanthropic causes and charity work,
to improve the overall condition of the mortal population. The Church
of Eternal Brotherhood, the front for the vampires in MK2K,
is widely respected throughout the world for its tireless work in humanitarian
To be sure, many vampires are only interested in the well-being of mortals because their own well-being depends on it, but there are numerous good-hearted vampires out there who have a genuine fondness for mortals and really want to see them do well in life. For most of these noble vampires, this fondness is much like that which a human shows to his pet dog, and it is accompanied by more than a little patronization, but other vampires really do try to look at mortals as equals and respect them as such. Such a view is, admittedly, rare among vampires overall, but it can be found from time to time, especially among those who have not been undead for long.
All of the above assumes that the vampire remains sane and sentient, and is not tortured into madness or bestiality by abusing the blood-bond. Vampires who have become deranged through the psychic haunting of their victims are often reduced to feral predators or inhuman monsters. In this case, everything said above about the enlightened self-interest of vampires must be set aside; these creatures are simple monsters that must be destroyed for the protection of others. Naturally, every sane vampire is greatly afraid of being reduced to this state.
Age, Bloodline and Generation:
Vampires differ from one another in their strength and supernatural abilities. There are a number of factors that influence what a vampire is capable of, but the most important factors are age and bloodline.
Vampires who feed regularly and keep away from harmful substances will grow in power and supernatural potency as they grow older. Mana accumulates in their bodies with repeated feeding, as they take in more than the minimum their bodies need to sustain themselves. This mana can then be applied to a variety of uses, some easier to master than others. Some of the oldest vamps have supernatural abilities that can rival even the Avatars of Metamor.
Just as important as age, however, is the bloodline that gave rise to a vampire. Simply put, strong sires produce strong childer, who will have greater power and potential than much older vamps sired by weaker bloodlines. This phenomenon is only quasi-hereditary, however, because a vampire can improve the potential strength of its progeny by improving itself -- the strength that a vampire accumulates over the course of its unlife, whether through feeding on mortals or through more desperate measures, is passed on to its offspring, though the childe will always initially be somewhat weaker than the sire. Many vampires abstain from deliberate siring until they themselves are old enough and strong enough to ensure their childe a good position in the vampire hierarchy. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for younger vamps to lose control of themselves during feeding, and then be forced to sire the unfortunate human to avoid committing murder; few vamps reach their tenth anniversary in Between without siring at least one childe.
As a general rule, vampires of earlier generations -- i.e., with fewer steps between themselves and the Vampire Queen -- are stronger than later generation vamps, even if they haven't actually been in Between any longer. Unusually light or heavy feeding practices will also affect this equation -- though, as noted, indiscriminate or reckless feeding is also likely to render a vampire insane.
The combination of a vampire's age and the strength of its bloodline determine the supernatural powers that are available to it. The most common vampire abilities are discussed below; however, this should not be considered an exhaustive list, and powerful elder vampires may display unique talents that they have cultivated over the course of centuries. Characters in-story may or may not be aware of any of these abilities; if they are aware of them, they may believe that they are possessed by all vamps, by most, or only by a select few. Vampires themselves do little to disabuse mortals of any misconceptions they might have -- both under- and over-estimating them can work to their advantage, depending on the circumstances.
Vampires are commonly attributed with superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes, and for the most part this is true. The extent to which it is true, however, is highly variable. A weak-blooded fledgling vampire may be no stronger than a human bodybuilder, no faster than a college track-and-field star, and no more agile than a circus acrobat. A strong-blooded elder, on the other hand, might be able to lift a skimmer overhead, move ten meters in the blink of an eye, and snatch knives and arrows from mid-flight while doing backflips.
Stealth & Mobility:
All vampires have the ability to move very, very quietly, though some hone this ability more than others. This is more a matter of practice than the strength of one's blood -- Lilith designed vampires from the first to be the perfect predators, and their bodies move far more lightly on the earth than their size or strength would indicate. Some manologists argue that this is proof that vampires exist only partly in the material world, and partly in the realm of spirit -- but all such matters are theoretical, since no vampire will submit to the tests that would be required to prove such an idea.
Those vampires with a little more power -- a weak-blooded vamp with perhaps a hundred years of experience, or a young vamp from a strong bloodline -- are able to push this disconnection from the material world even further: with concentration, they can climb up sheer walls like a spider, and (with a bit more concentration) even upside-down across ceilings. Vampires at this power level are also able to jump very high -- exact distances will vary depending on the type of jump and how well-fed the vampire is at the moment, but a standing high jump of 20 feet is not unreasonable.
The more powerful vampires -- elders of any bloodline, and strong-blooded vamps with a century or so of experience -- are actually able to levitate, denying the bonds of gravity altogether. They move slowly when doing this, but with patience they can reach even the highest towers of Metamor City (though not much higher than that). In most cases, spider-climbing is faster and more efficient, but when it's important not to touch anything, levitation is the better option.
While all vampires can move about with little chance of being heard, avoiding being seen is another matter entirely. Vampires can be seen by cameras, videocameras, and other forms of electronic detection -- and contrary to some myths, they do have shadows and reflections and can be seen in mirrors (though mirrors do cause problems for vamps in MK2K).
Vampires can avoid being detected visually, in most cases, by changing into mist form. This is another supernatural ability that requires more practice than innate power, and even young vamps can quickly master it if they have a teacher to help them. In mist form, a vampire appears as nothing more than a small cloud or wisp of fog, and is thus likely to go unnoticed on security cameras and the like. Little can harm a vampire in mist form, though they can be trapped by mundane or magical means and direct sunlight will destroy them almost immediately. The main disadvantages of mist form are that it is slow, vulnerable to wind currents, and prevents the vamp from attacking its opponents in any way. It is also somewhat taxing to switch between mist and corporeal forms; most vampires need several seconds of concentration to make the transition at will. Only a strong elder vampire has enough control over its body to "fog" out of the way of bullets and stakes, for example, while still reconstituting itself quickly enough to land its own blows against an attacker. In most cases, mist form is used only for infiltration and escape.
Since their entire physiology is powered by magic, vampires have an inherent advantage over living mages when it comes to shape-shifting -- there is no need for their mana fields to preserve the delicate biochemical balance present in living systems. All vamps have a natural talent for transmutation that is comparable to that of a gifted sorcerer (though, like a sorcerer, it can take years for them to hone and develop that talent).
As noted above, even young vamps can quickly master the talent of assuming mist form -- the magical pattern involved is relatively simple, though only the strongest vamps can shift back and forth instantly and repeatedly.
One talent that is possessed by some vampires, but not all, is the ability to selectively alter parts of their bodies, growing claws, wings, or powerful, predatory jaws. Those who focus on mastering this ability often fail to master other vampiric powers, but such shapeshifting talents are formidable in their own right.
Older vamps, especially those from strong bloodlines, can also gain the ability to assume the forms of completely different species. Usually, these are creatures that are commonly recognized as being associated with the night -- rats, bats, wolves, etc. -- so as to improve the vampire's chances of moving around unheeded in the dark. Naturally, vamps living in different parts of the world often adopt different animal forms, choosing species that are consistent with the region in which they live. These copies are not perfect -- an expert can tell the difference between bite marks or footprints left by a real wolf and those left by a vamp masquerading as a wolf -- but unless closely inspected, the difference is likely to go unnoticed. Creating an alternate form that looks convincing requires a great deal of practice or an eidetic memory, so few vampires bother to master more than one form. Since altering one's body in this fashion is rather taxing, it is seldom done more than twice a night -- once to shift into the chosen form, and then again to return to the vampire's humanoid form. These alternate forms are seldom as combat-capable as the vamp's humanoid form; they are used chiefly for reconnaissance and infiltration, especially in circumstances where the vamp's mist form cannot move fast enough for the task at hand. Any vampire who can shape-shift at this level, however, is likely to be very strong indeed, even if he only turns into a rat.
A vampire's inherent shapeshifting abilities are not strong enough to imitate the appearance of specific individuals; a strong, elder vamp might be able to look like a dog, but not your pet dog. The detail involved in imitating a unique individual is too great. For the same reason, vampires cannot make themselves look like other people; humanoids are highly sensitive to proper proportions in the faces of their own species, and the alterations a vamp could make to disguise its identity would be immediately perceived as wrong and unnatural by other people. A vampire who wishes to disguise itself as a different person must resort to the exacting, precise magic of a trained wizard, and ideally one with an eidetic memory. (Of course, if the vampire happens to be a trained wizard with an eidetic memory, all well and good, but it still must go through the ritual of preparing and casting the spell just like any other wizard, and the vamp will bear the marks of a wizard's spellwork on its aura.)
Endurance & Damage Resistance:
This is the area where Lilith's ultimate predator displays its greatest power, for a canny vampire is very, very difficult to "kill". As a creature powered by a magical metabolism, a vampire is not bound by the usual constraints of mortal bodies, and can remain perfectly functional under conditions that would quickly subdue any living being.
Vampires are immune to heat exhaustion and hypothermia (although they are not immune to fire). They can exert themselves continuously all night, without growing tired or slowing down, though they must still stop and rest for 6-8 hours per day to maintain their full health and vigor. A vampire who has spent the night racing skimmers (while on foot) or lifting 1000-pound weights at the gym will be no more exhausted at dawn than one that spends the same amount of time sitting around and reading.
Vampires are somewhat more vulnerable to ingested and inhaled substances than they are to most environmental hazards. This is because Lilith wanted her predator race to be able to savor the hunt and the scent and flavor of the kill, and gifted them with heightened senses of smell and taste. Because she expected her vampres to continue eatng normal foods (so as to provide mass for regenerating from injuries), Lilith gave them the ability to "digest" these substances -- and consequently made them able to be affected by substances they take into themselves. Because of this, many organic substances will affect vamps in ways similar to how they affect humans. Organically-based poisons, like belladonna or cobra venom, will cause vamps pain or debilitation in keeping with their normal effects on a mortal body, but they will not kill them unless they have been alchemically treated to make them specifically effective against vampires. (Also see the entry about garlic under Vulnerabilities.) Vampires can also get drunk or high, but no amount of alcohol or drugs will kill them. (Some vamps prefer to take in drugs that have been "filtered" through the blood of drug-using mortals; this reportedly enhances the potency of the experience, since the vampire shares in the mortal's drug-induced state through the blood-bond.)
Vampires do not need to breathe, and can operate in complete vacuum without difficulty. Immersion in running water, however, "grounds" the mana currents that sustain them, and those that are able to change into mist form will "fog out" in short order if this is done to them. A vampire that is too young or weak to fog out will simply be destroyed.
A vampire that is adequately supplied with blood can heal itself very quickly. Injuries from acid, mundane weapons or blunt trauma are healed almost instantly -- short of dropping a boulder on it or blasting it into giblets with a rocket launcher or a chain-gun, mundane physical sources of harm are unlikely to injure a vampire enough to require it to "fog out" and return to its casket for regeneration. A vampire does not experience additional harm or pain from hits to its vital organs (heart, brain, viscera, etc.), compared to hits to other parts of its body. To take a somewhat grisly example, a bullet fired through the eye into a vampire's brain case merely deprives it of vision in that eye until the damage can be repaired; the loss of brain tissue does not slow down the vampire or impede its thinking to any significant degree (though it still hurts like crazy). Decapitation does destroy a vampire, permanently, but this is easier said than done. Vampires require organic matter to fuel their regeneration, and thus must eat normal food periodically to replenish their supply of raw materials. A vampire that has adequate blood but is low on this raw material will take matter from other parts of its own body to heal structural damage, which can result in a vampire with a very skeletal, wasted appearance (though this does not affect their supernatural strength in any way).
Vampires regenerate more quickly when they are resting in their coffins (or other designated sleeping place). Any damage that a vampire sustains that cannot be healed instantly will be restored during this period of rest, and the vampire will not awaken until it has fully regenerated. This has often been a source of great frustration for vampire hunters, since their quarry would simply fog out when it was too damaged to fight any longer and drift off to its coffin, which was generally kept in a secret and well-protected location. By the time the hunters found their quarry again, the vamp was at full strength once more. Needless to say, vampires guard the location of their sleeping sites very carefully, since they cannot rouse themselves until their injuries are healed. A vampire that is badly injured and low on blood may never be able to rouse itself, slipping into hibernation until someone else provides it with the blood to finish healing.
All vampires have a limited form of telepathy, though it varies greatly in strength depending on the vamp's age, bloodline, and current mental and physical health. Anyone who meets a vampire's gaze for more than an instant will immediately feel the presence of that vampire's will attempting to dominate their own. This is initiated unconsciously, without any effort on the part of the vampire. If the individual accepts that dominance, submitting readily to the vampire's will, then there is no sense of discomfort, though the presence of the vampire's "voice" in their mind remains; if the person resists, however, a contest of wills takes place. If this contest takes place between a non-telepathic mortal and a vampire, success by the mortal simply allows him to resist the vampire's influence on his mind; if the contest is between two vampires, the winner of the contest gains dominance over the mind of the other.
If the vampire wins the contest of wills -- or if the subject capitulates and no contest occurs -- the vamp can manipulate the subject as if the subject were in a deep hypnotic trance, or under the influence of a mind-effecting enchantment spell like suggestion. Any suggestion made by the vampire during eye contact will be carried out to completion to the best of the subject's ability, even if the subject breaks eye contact with the vampire. The vampire can also plant post-hypnotic programming that can be triggered at a later time in response to a specified stimulus. Suggestions that run contrary to the subject's nature and personality can be resisted, but the stronger the vampire is, the harder it is to overcome the effects of its programming. However, any suggestion implanted by a vampire will lose its power the next time the subject is exposed to direct sunlight. Often, clever vampires will make a command to avoid direct sunlight the first of their implanted instructions, but this can make the programming easier for others to spot if they know what to look for.
A vampire's mental powers do not work against dragons (whose minds are too complex and alien), Elves (whose sense of self is too strong), most kinds of Fae (whose minds are too chaotic to submit to a vampire's imposed sense of order), full-blooded celestials and daedra (who cannot be controlled by this shadow of Lilith's magic), or creatures that lack self-aware minds (such as "mundane" invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and reptiles). For obvious reasons, the vampire's "gaze attack" also does not work against creatures that are blind, or otherwise unable to see the vampire. (In this latter case, however, the vampire can still attempt to initiate a blood-bond to dominate the subject.)
Telepaths are highly resistant to vampires' mental powers. (Recent research, in fact, suggests that the telepath genes confer resistance to vampiric domination even in relatives of teeps who do not have active telepathic powers themselves. Some biologists have hypothesized that the selective pressure to develop defenses against vampires might have been the reason humans evolved telepathy in the first place, though others counter that vampires have not been around long enough for this to be the only cause.) In most cases, teeps are able to raise psychic shields and simply block the contest of wills from occurring altogether. They cannot, however, gain control of a vampire by winning such a contest, nor can they use their own powers to attack a vampire's mind the way they would attack a mortal's. The vampire's undead mind does not reside entirely in the material world in the same way as a living mind, nor even entirely in the spirit world like a ghost, and as such it is difficult for a teep's powers to focus against it.
Teeps can use their powers against a vamp, however, if they can trick the vampire into initiating a blood-bond with them; while this is dangerous, the telepath has a decided advantage in the resulting mental contest, and the blood-bond can be used as a conduit to send the teep's own powers back against the vampire's mind. Telepaths and vampires rightly fear each other's abilities, and their mutual dislike usually becomes evident within seconds of meeting each other. See here for more details on the telepath-vampire feud.
All vampires have a natural affinity for magic, even if they had no magical aptitude before death. A vampire can continue to use most spells or other magical powers it developed in life, but to gain new abilities -- with the exception of shape-shifting -- it must study like any other wizard. Elven vampires, called Bales, have an even stronger magical affinity, and can develop new magical talents like sorcerers -- simply by trial and error, with no need for further study.
Vampires cannot, however, channel life-aspected mana through their own bodies, as it will do horrific damage to the death-aspected mana fields that sustain them. Because of this, most healing magic is beyond the reach of vampires, though they can channel death-aspected mana to heal themselves and other undead creatures (as well as many kinds of daedra). A vampire that wishes to manipulate life-aspected mana must follow the same precautions as a living wizard using death-aspected mana: the mana must be channeled and focused using ritual magic, never passing through the vampire's own body. The mana can then either be used directly during the ritual -- e.g., to heal a person inside a magic circle -- or channeled into wands or other enchanted items that can be activated later. Any backlash from the ritual is likely to cause life-aspected mana to surge through the vampire's own body, however, and as a result few vampire wizards will work with it unless they have no other choice.
Vampires can act as channels for divine magic, but only if it originates from one of the daedra lords. (They might be able to channel the demonic powers of the Fallen, as well, but the very idea is so abhorrent that most vamps refuse to even consider it.) The divine energy of Kammoloth, Akkala, or Artela affects them the same way as life-aspected mana, and the power of Yajiit will effect them in the same way as fire or sunlight (depending on how the energy is shaped by the cleric). The divine energy of Lilith/Talia, however, strengthens them just as effectively as death-aspected mana, though it also imposes her absolute control upon them.
While vampires' powers are many, their existence is also tenuous. Vamps exist halfway between life and death, the material and the ethereal, and there are many things that can disrupt their hold on reality or exploit the unique magic that binds them to the world.
Vampires cannot survive in direct sunlight -- it burns them to ash within seconds (though the bones will survive if the vamp was particularly powerful). The only way a vampire can be outside in direct sun is if it is covered by something that blocks out the light -- a skimmer with blacked-out windows, a thick, dark blanket, or a large cardboard box, for instance. Running around in direct sun with only a blanket over its head will cause a vamp to start smoking after a few minutes. Indirect sunlight, such as the light outside on an overcast day, can be tolerated about as well as humans can tolerate the tropical noonday sun -- it won't kill them outright, but it saps their strength and leaves them exhausted if they remain exposed for more than a couple of hours. Indoor lights pose no problem for them, though UV lamps can burn them horribly in a short amount of time (but usually not enough to kill them).
Holy Ground and Blessed Items:
Vampires cannot enter a consecrated holy place dedicated to Eli, Kammoloth, Akkala or Artela. If forced into such a place, they will suffer burns as a human would if exposed to open flames.
Since vampires have begun showing interest in the Way of Eli, some churches have begun building special unconsecrated wings of their facilities, add-ons built after the buildings are dedicated. Vampires enter and exit through their own door and can watch the proceedings through glass or closed-circuit TV. There are few vampires among the Follower congregations, however; most join the Church of Eternal Brotherhood, and even those who continue to serve Eli will often find their places of worship in the mountains, forests, or other natural settings.
Vampires are harmed by contact with any holy symbol of one of the above-mentioned deities. Contact with any of these items burns them like white-hot iron. Vampires are also harmed by contact with holy water blessed by either Eli or Akkala. Contact with holy water affects them like hot, concentrated sulfuric acid. Accidentally ingesting any significant amount of holy water is a ticket to an incredibly agonizing reversion to mist form, at the very least.
Vampires can be injured normally by blessed, enchanted and holy weapons. Wounds sustained from such a weapon will heal no faster for a vampire than they would for a human (though the vampire can use negative energy to heal itself, or go into hibernation to wait out the healing process). Such injuries will not "bleed", however -- i.e., will not continue to sap strength from the vampire -- unless the weapon is also made of mithril.
Most Follower theologians stress that it is only the vampire's body that is held separate from Eli's holy things, not the soul. Vampires are as capable of receiving salvation as anyone else, though as long as they persist in Between they will be separate from the Lord's other followers.
Mithril, or Elfsilver, has long been known to possess a number of incredible properties -- it is light and strong, holds enchantments extremely well, and can cause great harm to both the undead and the summoned bodies of daedra manifesting on the material plane. The reason for these properties has long been debated by manologists; the titan Nathales once famously stated that mithril was imbued with "the essence of magic", but what s/he meant by this has never been fully understood. The most recent research indicates that mithril contains a sort of "proto-aspected" mana that has the potential to become either life-aspected or fire-aspected, but which acts in opposition to death-aspected mana.
Whatever the nature of mithril's "essence", its touch burns a vampire's flesh like white-hot iron, and wounds made by a mithril weapon will heal no faster for a vampire than they would for a mortal man (though the vampire can use negative energy to heal itself, or go into hibernation in order to wait out the healing process). Such wounds do not bleed, but they seep with black, oily smoke as the death-aspected mana fields that hold the vamp's body together are disrupted. This loss of essence will affect the vamp just as a bleeding wound would affect a human, though shifting into mist form will forestall any further damage.
A vampire's body catches flame quickly, and the flames are difficult to put out. Magical or elemental fire, in particular, is extremely potent, and can burn weak-blooded vampires to ash in a matter of seconds. Stronger, older vamps are more resistant, but even the oldest vamp shows a healthy respect for the power of fire.
If a vampire survives an attack by fire, the burns heal as slowly as they would for a mortal, though the vampire can use negative energy to heal itself, or go into hibernation to wait out the healing process.
Most offensive spells affect vampires normally, although they do have a certain small degree of natural spell resistance that grows as they become older and stronger. Fire- and sunlight-based spells usually deal double damage to vampires, and healing spells will damage them to the same extent that they would heal a mortal being.
A wooden stake through the chest immobilizes a vampire; however, if the stake is removed, the vampire will then be able to move about normally. (A gaping cavity in the chest is not a great hindrance to the undead, though it will still hurt like crazy.) Anything wooden that is pointy enough to penetrate the vampire's chest qualifies as a stake, including wood-tipped arrows and crossbow bolts, wooden spears, table legs, etc.
Wood carries a strong link to the mana of the natural world, a result of the many years of living that it takes for a tree to lay down this tissue. This life-aspected mana disrupts the death-aspected mana that keeps vampires moving around like living beings; inserting the wood into the heart, the strongest power center in the body, short-circuits the flow of the vamp's mana fields and leaves the vamp acting like an ordinary dead body. This inherent magic in wood, however, is not strong enough to cause lasting injuries like a mithril or holy weapon -- the blow has to strike the heart to be effective.
As noted above, immersion in running water will cause a vampire to dissolve into mist, at which point it must return to its coffin to regenerate. "Running water" means any body of water with a current, including streams, rivers, and the ocean. (Keelhauling is a very effective way of disposing of a vampire, should it be foolish enough to board one's ship ... and assuming one is strong enough to force it to enter the water...) Running water grounds magical fields, including the ones that hold a vampire together.
Vampires have a very severe allergy to garlic -- its smell causes violent sneezing, coughing, and nausea, and ingesting it (or inhaling a large amount of garlic powder) will put them into something akin to anaphylactic shock for at least twenty-four hours.
This is by far the most bizarre of the vampire's weaknesses, and scholars have debated its meaning for centuries. The most popular theory, at present, stems from the symbolic/associative nature of magic. For countless centuries in the distant past, garlic was used by many civilizations to mask the smell of death and decay, disguising the scent of burnt flesh around funeral pyres and the many unpleasant smells found in the houses of dying people. The plant was widespread and easily grown, and its scent was potent. As such, garlic became psychologically associated with warding against death in the collective consciousness of a huge proportion of the human race. That unspoken belief carried with it a kind of magical power, not unlike the power carried by the holy symbols of the life-affirming deities.
The garlic plant has thus become curiously entangled with the life-magic of the entire human race, transcending its mundane existence to become something infused with a transcendent meaning: protection from death. Vampires are subject to the effects of this symbolism whether they believe in it or not, simply because so many humans have believed in it for so long. The humble garlic plant disrupts the mana fields of the vampire's body -- not in a lethal way, but as a persistent, merciless irritant. It frustrates the vampire's imitation of life, producing symptoms analagous to illness or allergic reaction, as the power of belief associated with the garlic tries to remind the vampire's body of its own status as a dead thing that must be warded against.
Many vampires are extremely annoyed that this simple plant has so much power to cause them discomfort, and show a strong aversion to even the sight of garlic. Others, who enjoyed garlic-heavy cuisine while living, are just disappointed that they can no longer eat their favorite foods.
In addition to their physical vulnerabilities, there are a number of behavioral quirks and limitations that are imposed on vampires as a result of their unique nature.
A vampire cannot enter a private dwelling uninvited. If the vampire has once been invited into that dwelling, however, he may thereafter come and go as he pleases. A room at an inn or hotel, however, is considered a public place, so travelers should take appropriate precautions.
The reason that vamps can't enter homes uninvited is that a home has power associated with it -- the power of the shared emotions and life experiences of those who dwell within it. This phenomenon is known as the threshold to magic users. It's not just vamps that are affected by it, either; any magical creature will find its powers hampered if it crosses a home's threshold uninvited, and even human mages will find their powers greatly diminished. A public place, such as a hotel room, is unable to accumulate these magical impressions and is therefore still vulnerable to intrusion. Ditto for a private business run out of a home; the area open to the public is not protected by a threshold, although if the living quarters are in a separate section of the building, they will be protected.
While the threshold may make you "safe as houses", however, it doesn't block all magical effects directed from outside. Vampires can use their mental domination powers to seduce mortals into granting them permission to enter their dwellings, so it's important to avoid eye contact with a vampire even if you are behind a threshold.
A vampire cannot cross running water, under its own power, while in corporeal form -- not even by walking over a bridge or using levitation. The flow of the water creates a magical barrier similar to the circles used in ritual magic, and a vampire that is carried across that barrier will become like any other dead body for the time it is in transit. However, vampires can change into mist form and then cross the water. (All vampires dislike large bodies of water, though, and will avoid traveling over them unless it cannot be helped.)
All non-feral vampires are obsessive-compulsive. They like things in their world to be neat, orderly, and in place. If the items in a vampire's home are disturbed from their proper places, the vampire will spend a great deal of time making sure that things are put back "just so". Vampires pick the lint off of their sweaters, straighten the tassels on their throw rugs and polish their bathroom fixtures until not a spot can be seen. If something is spilled in his presence -- rice, seeds, marbles, etc. -- a vampire will be compelled to stop whatever he was doing and clean up the mess immediately, even if this causes his prey to escape. Note that this weakness only applies to things that are not where they are supposed to be -- a vampire would not, for example, be compelled to straighten up every leaf, twig and rock in the forest. Pulling weeds in his garden, however, is another matter.
Nobody's quite sure why vampires are OC, but it is believed to have something to do with the strong lawful impulses that Lilith instilled into them when she created them; these impulses keep them obedient to her and their superiors in the hierarchy, but they also give the vamps an almost fanatical dedication to keeping their surroundings orderly. Others have suggested that because the vampire's own existence in the world of the living is so tenuous, it feels a continual and instinctive need to keep its environment under control. Undeath, after all, is a state of desperate defiance against the law of entropy, and it may be that this need to hold back the tide of chaos is so deeply instilled in vampires that colors their entire psyche and expresses itself in OC behavior.
OCD is the vampire weakness that is least-known among mortals, and the vampires go to great lengths to hide their OC behavior from others. Many vamps hate being subject to these impulses; the disorder makes them look and feel weak, and there are many mortals who might take advantage of their condition in order to exert power over them. One mortal who does know about it is Kathryn Kitaen; her observant nature, eidetic memory, and close friendship with Morgan Drauling allowed her to quickly recognize the signs of OCD after Morgan was sired, though she has been discreet enough to avoid mentioning it to Morgan herself or those who might use her condition to torment her. Kate, for her part, uses her knowledge to mercilessly taunt the powerful figures of the vampire underworld, though she pretends complete ignorance as she casually inspects, tweaks, and adjusts a dozen different items whenever she visits the mob boss's lair. She keeps a small pack of sunflower seeds in one of her reagent pouches at all times, as a last-ditch defense against any vampire who might try to make trouble for her; scattering them on the ground should buy her at least a little time to escape.
Regeneration in Coffin:
A vampire must rest in its coffin for at least 6-8 hours a day to retain its full health and vigor. (A vamp's "coffin" need not be a wooden casket -- it could be a slab in a crypt, a flat spot in a cave, a bed in a mansion or even a refrigerated compartment in a morgue. The vampire chooses its coffin at will, but when it is reduced to mist form it must return to the place where it last slept.) Undead or not, vamps still need time to rest their minds and allow the mana fields holding them together to reassert themselves.
While MK2K vampires can be seen in mirrors, they are strongly averse to looking at their reflections. This is because a vampire's own hypnotic gaze has negative effects on its psyche, though few mortals are aware of this and few scientific studies have been done to explore the nature of these effects. The only study known, a particularly grisly experiment conducted in the Southlands by a battlemage who was one of the heirs of the Revonos power, involved removing the vampire's eyelids and restraining it inside a room with mirrors on the walls, floor and ceiling. The vampire soon began behaving erratically, and apparently experienced repeated hallucinatory episodes before finally slipping into a non-responsive catatonic state. The battlemage then released his subject, but the vampire displayed severe paranoid schizophrenia for the rest of its life until it was hunted down and exterminated nine years later.
Vampires avoid having any mirrors in their homes that they might look at accidentally; often they keep only a small compact or hand mirror in a purse or drawer. Their OCD makes vampires too concerned about their appearance to abandon mirrors entirely, but the smaller the mirror is, the better the vampire can control what it sees and avoid meeting its own gaze directly. Still, most vamps find even using a small mirror to be deeply stressful. Truly wealthy and powerful vampires often employ servants to groom them and apply their makeup for them, so as to avoid ever having to see their reflections. Others use high-resolution, closed-circuit TV cameras to groom themselves, since their hypnotic gaze is not transmitted through a video image.
Most of the time, a vampire that receives severe injury -- from magic weapons, holy water, magic spells, or UV lamps -- will transform into mist and return to its coffin until it regenerates. Once a vamp masters the ability to shift into mist form, permanently destroying it requires one of the following methods.
Destruction by direct sunlight. If the vampire was strong enough that its bones survived this treatment, the skull should then be severed from the spine. (Regeneration from bare bones is unlikely, but possible in the strongest vampires if the spine is not severed.)
Decapitation or incineration. This is enough to destroy most vampires, although the strongest ones will simply dissolve into mist form and return to their coffins.
Starvation. A vampire deprived of blood for years on end will fall into a hibernation so deep that it cannot leave it until someone else forces blood down its desiccated throat. A vampire that has entered this state is completely helpless, and can be safely disposed of by sword, fire or sunlight.
"Stake and Bake". Once the vampire has been staked -- which usually must happen in its coffin, since vampires will rarely let down their defenses enough to be impaled in combat -- the head must be cut off. The head and body can then be destroyed by immersion in running water (or standing holy water), or by cremation, or by exposure to direct sunlight. This is the most fool-proof way of eliminating vampires, and it will work on even the very strongest ones.
When a vampire is permanently destroyed, its body will crumble to dust. (If being destroyed by immersion, of course, the body will appear to simply dissolve into the water.) In MK2K, this has led to the slang term "to dust", meaning to slay or destroy. The average vampire will be dusted instantly by decapitation or incineration, whereas a powerful master vampire would simply "fog out" under the same conditions and return to his coffin. Fortunately, even an inexperienced hunter can tell the difference between dusting and fogging out.
If a person has been killed by a vampire, the law requires that the person be allowed the opportunity to rise as a vampire unless the person left explicit instructions in his/her will ordering against it. In the latter case, it is necessary to take precautions when it is unclear whether a person killed by a vampire might have been given vampiric blood around the time of death. Ecclesiasts can keep the body from becoming a vampire by staking it, cutting off the head and filling the mouth with communion wafers. Meraists and most other faiths cremate their dead, so there is no risk of the victim becoming a vampire as long as the body is cremated promptly.
The following points should be noted by fans of vampire lore (some of these are repeats from above):
Author's Note: MK2K vs. Buffy
Many MK readers will probably have gotten their ideas about vampires
from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", so a quick run-down of the
similarities and differences between the two types of vamps is in order.
The most profound difference between the two vamps is what they essentially
are. A Buffy vamp is a demon that has co-opted the body, memories and
personality of a human being. The vampire still thinks of itself as being the
person it was before it was sired, but it is really an entirely different (and
demonic) creature. The human soul that once inhabited the body is gone, leaving
only its imprint behind for the vampire to take over. Because it doesn't have
a human soul, a Buffy vampire is inherently evil and possesses no conscience.
Buffy vamps steal, kill and destroy with the same enthusiasm as any other
demon, and deserve to be eliminated with the same extreme prejudice. (Angel
and Spike, of course, were special cases, since their souls were restored to
them -- rather a bad deal for the souls, I think.)
An MK vamp, in contrast, is not a demonic creature at all, though
the manner of its creation is still wholly unnatural and daedric in origin.
The original human (or Elven) soul remains tied to the body, but that body is
now maintained by magical rather than biological means. As such, the body is
nearly ageless and immortal, as long as a steady diet of blood is present to
maintain the weave of daedric magic holding the vampire together. Because it
is still the same person it always was, an MK vamp may be good
or evil, or somewhere in the fuzzy gray areas in between. Of course, living
an immortal life by feeding on the blood of others tends to produce certain
personality traits over time, regardless of how the person started out -- but
those changes in personality are not due to any inherent evil in their vampiric
nature. (MK vamps do suffer from blood lust, however --
a primal, predatory urge to hunt and feed -- and this can have a strong effect
their minds over time, though like any instinct it can be fought.)
In addition to their difference in moral alignment, there is also a difference
in ethical alignment. Buffy vamps, being demonic creatures, are inherently chaotic:
they bicker and squabble amongst themselves and cause destruction and mayhem
for the fun of it. MK vamps, in contrast, are more lawful in nature,
because of the rigid hierarchy they live under. Every vamp is part of a chain
of command that stretches from the Vampire Queen at the top to the freshest,
youngest new recruits, and every link in the chain is subject to the will of
the link immediately above him. MK vampires have strict rules
of conduct among themselves, passed down by their Queen -- obey your master,
do not harm your master, do not kill other vampires except by your Queen's command
-- and they are careful to obey them. Even those vamps who are freed by the
deaths of their sires are still subject to the commands of the Queen herself.
This orderly hierarchy means that MK vampires are more dangerous
and effective in large groups than Buffy vamps, because MK vamps
are able and willing to work together to achieve long-term goals (though like
any organized crime syndicate, there's a healthy amount of intrigue and back-stabbing
between co-workers). A large group of Buffy vamps is little more than
a rowdy mob.
MK vampires are far more difficult to kill than Buffy
vampires. Buffy vamps can be killed outright (and instantaneously) through
incineration, direct sunlight, decapitation and, of course, staking. In addition,
they can't dissolve into mist or shapeshift into other forms (except for Dracula,
who was unique among vamps). MK vamps require a more careful approach,
since they will just mist away if a situation gets too dangerous for their liking.
Slaying MK vamps requires tracking them down to their own lairs
and staking them in their beds -- a substantially harder task than Buffy had
to deal with. It's a good thing that not all MK vamps are evil!
Like Buffy vamps, MK vamps can pass for human until they
are about to feed, at which point they "vamp out" and reveal their
predatory nature. This is just as scary for people in MK as it
is for people in Buffy's world (if not more so).
Lastly, Buffy vamps are far more plentiful than MK vamps. Buffy slays a handful of them almost every night, and yet there are always more of them popping up, sometimes in the most unlikely places. If not for the Slayers, the vamps might overrun the planet. In contrast, while MK vamps are widespread, they still make up only a very small percentage of the overall population. In MK2K, there are only about six million vampires worldwide -- far less than the total number of, say, incubi and succubae living in secret among humans. The vamps deliberately keep their numbers down in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves, since they know that if humanity ever decided to turn against them they would ultimately be wiped out. Despite all their powers, vampires are crippled by too many weaknesses to win an all-out war against humans, and their inability to operate in sunlight would quickly be their undoing.