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The basic problem of unlife is to obtain blood without revealing oneself to the world at large, and without suffering rapid loss of Humanity or Path rating. This triune constraint dominates unlife in the way that getting a living and raising children dominates life. A vampire is defined, his or her actions are constrained, by his or her means of livelihood in the same way that a mortal is defined and constrained by his or her profession or job.
Previous classifications of means of unlivelihood have concentrated on the technique that the vampire uses to gain access to the victim that will be uninterrupted for the necessary amount of time. They have listed such techniques as seeking privacy for pretended sexual intimacy, attacking people who happen to be alone, sneaking into solitary bedchambers, constructing a context in which the others who happen to be present will accept the vampire’s behaviour, etc. The following list includes basically the same means of unlife, but classifies them according to the means used to prevent the victim from bearling witness. Therefore some distinct Means are here classified together, and some means normally considered mere variants on a basic means are here classified separately.
There are, in general, four sources of blood: animals, humans, blood banks, and other vampires. The problem then is to obtain blood from one of these sources without committing serious sins and without arousing suspicion among the mortals.
Animals fall into three categories: wild animals, other people’s animals, and one’s own animals.
(1) Wild animals may be hunted, trapped, or summoned using ‘Beckoning’ (Animalism ••). Killing animals is not a sin on any Path. The carcasses are not difficult to dispose of (they may simply be sold). The problems with this Means are two: (a) older vampires cannot subsist on animal blood, and (b) reasonably large wild animals are generally found in areas infested with werewolves, which are implacably hostile and very dangerous.
(2) Mortals’ herds of animals are usually found in rural areas, which are dangerous because of werewolves. Further, most herdbeasts are guarded and cared-for. A rash of cattle mutilations or ‘wild dog attacks’, or an epizootic of anaemia, will draw unwanted attention. But on the other hand, killing or bleeding a mortal’s property is not a significant sin on any Path. Finally, these Means will not support a vampire of low Humanity or advanced age (over 100 years).
(3) Keeping a slaughterhouse or feedlot is an excellent means of unlivelihood for younger vampires. It is inconspicuous, not sinful, and requires only Resources and perhaps Retainers.
Human blood may be obtained from blood banks by robbery, embezzlement, or purchase. But none of these Means was available before 1901.
(4) Robbery or burglary of blood-banks is horribly conspicuous.
(5) Embezzlement of bloodbanks and collection services is easy enough. Records are not closely audited, and in any case, there are several plausible grounds on which it may be claimed that blood was disposed of. Resources, Allies, or Retainers, and the Medicine knowledge trait are useful for these Means.
(6) A vampire who runs a hospital or medical/haematological research lab can simply buy blood from donors or blood banks. This is not very conspicuous, and is only a low-grade sin on any Path.
The main trick when obtaining blood from humans is to prevent their telling about it. There are six reasons why they might not tell: they are dead; they weren’t aware of losing blood; they they are aware of having been bled, but don’t think a vampire did it; they know they have fed a vampire, but don’t want to tell; they know they have fed a vampire, but can’t tell; they have forgotten what happened. An alternative, but perhaps a very risky one, is to tap people who will tell but won’t be believed: children, the insane, and perhaps prisoners or superstitious slaves.
(7) Dead men tell no tales
(a) A vampire may feed on those who are on the point of death anyway. There is a slight problem in that a great many of these people will be undergoing post-mortem examinations. There is a larger problem in that such feeding must be expected to hasten death: which is a high-grade sin on the Path of Humanity. Still, I imagine that running or haunting hospices for the dying must have been a popular Means in the Middle Ages and might still be practiced now.
(b) A vampire may kill his victims. If he or she hides the corpses, this Means allows for fuller meals of human blood than any other. But unfortunately this is a high-grade sin on the popular Path of Humanity.
(8) What they don’t notice, they can’t tell of
(a) Mugging: A vampire may beat his or her victims unconscious before tapping them. But such battery is a serious sin on the Path of Humanity. Also, it may lead to police investigations unless it is common for people to be thus violently beaten by muggers or sexual contacts.
(b) Slipping Mickies: A vampire may administer drugs to his or her victims, either surreptiously or under guise of carousing, either personally or by proxy, and then tap them in their stupor.
© Rolling Drunks: A vampire may seek out people who have stupefied themselves, drunks and dope fiends, and tap them.
(d) Cauchemar: A vampire may steal into the bedchamber of a person in normal sleep, and surreptitiously tap him or her. This itself is not a very serious sin, especially if the vampire deludes himself or herself by laying a romantic cast over it. But unfortunately there is a significant risk that the sleeper will awaken. If the vampire has at least two and preferrably three dots of Dominate this is not so serious, and with dissimulation and quick wits it might be passed off as a sexual misdemeanour. But there is a serious danger that the vampire will have to commit a serious sin to prevent a disastrous breach of masquerade.
(e) Casanova: A vampire may engage a mortal in a sexual encounter, and pass the Kiss off as an erotic act: a violent kiss to the neck or upper thigh, as fellatio, or as cunnilingus. If this is timed right, the victim will confound the passion of the Kiss with his or her orgasm, and will be distracted enough not to notice his or her blood being sucked out. This sounds well in theory, but I would think that there must be a great risk of it going wrong, in which case the dangers would be as for 8(b) Cauchemar. As regards degeneration, such casual seduction and violation of trust is a fairly serious in on the Path of Humanity, and no vampire on any other path has much chance of getting a human into the sack without Dominate or skilful use of high-level Presence.
(9) Anything but a vampire
(a) Therapeutic bleeding: It is less common now, but people used to allow themselves to be bled by medical practitioners, for supposed medical reasons. If a vampire-surgeon were to drink the blood afterwards, that would hardly be a sin at all. Unfortunately this Means is scarcely viable any more.
(b) Autosacrifice: In several religious traditions the devout used to make sacrifices of their own blood. If a vampire were to pass himself or herself off as a priest in such a cult he or she could surreptiously or openly drink the accumulated sacrifices, or in any case the lion’s share of them. Such a cult would be easy enough to start in these days of the New Age and Urban Primitivism. The sin is not serious, but security is a problem.
© Osiris: a vampire can pass himself or herself off as a god or angel in a blood cult (especially with Presence, Vicissitude, Chimaestry, Obtenebration, Necromancy, etc.) and openly drink the sacrifices. But such deceit makes this a more sinful Means. It is also even less secure.
(d) Banking. Now that blood donation is common enough, a vampire can collect for research or a blood bank and skim a little of the collection. See Means 5 and 6.
(10) What they can’t tell, they shan’t tell
(a) A vampire might in theory render each victim physically unable to communicate by inflicting mutilations. If the vessel is only tapped once, this is worse in every way than simply killing them, and I only include it for logical completeness. But a mutilated vessel may be kept prisoner and regularly tapped by a sufficiently ruthless vampire. Even were he or she rescued, he or she would be unable to reveal the vampire’s nature.
(b) A vampire might in theory ensure a person’s silence by blackmail or menaces. But such threats are a medium-high sin on the Path of Humanity. Besides, this can’t be reliable, and this Means does not seem viable in the long run, unless perhaps the vampire has high Presence.
© Using Mesmerise (Dominate••) a vampire can compel a person not to talk. This option must be fairly common as a backup to Cauchemar or Casanova strategies, and to the maintainance of a Herd, and can also be used by itself in raking. This allows good security, but such compulsion is a fairly serious personal violation of the vessel, and counts as a sin on the path of Humanity.
(d) Using Conditioning (Dominate••••) a vampire may turn a person into a vessel who will willingly offer himself or herself up to be tapped on demand, and who is quite incapable of telling any secrets. This allows excellent security. The offence against each such vessel is serious under the Path of Humanity: a deliberate violation. But it isn’t as bad as the casual violation that nightly feeding under any other Means mentioned so far must become. And each vessel only needs to be thus violated once, after which it will provide a lifetime’s supply of blood.
(e) Comatose and catatonic patients can be tapped with impunity.
(11) Who wants to tell?
(a) A retainer or ally who spontaneously loves the vampire may allow the vampire to feed on him or her, and will not be inclined to tell. This means is not sinful and is fairly secure. But unfortunately mortal lovers do not last forever.
(b) Any vampire may blood-bind a vessel, and then tap him or her indefinitely. Provided that the vampire is careful not to put the blood bond under strain by harsh treatment, this Means is fairly secure. If the vampire is able to delude himself or herself into thinking of blood-swapping as an erotic act of mutual devotion, this will not even be a sin. If the vessel willingly enters into the arrangement, perhaps for the advantages of becoming a ghoul, it will not be a sin. And if it is a sin, it is not so serious a sin as conditioning, and need only be committed very occasionally, as a single blood-binding can provide a long stream of benefits.
© See 10(d)
(d) A vampire may create a willing, confidential vessel by diligent use of Entrancement (Presence•••). This is not quite as secure as using Conditioning (Dominate••••), because of the danger that the vessel will inadvertently let a hint of the vampire slip out. But on the other hand, it is not so serious a violation of the vessel, and hence, a less serious sin.
(e) Old ghouls are dependent on vampire goodwill for their existence from month to month. They will often provide mortal vitae in exchange for smaller quantities of vampiric. And it is in their interest to maintain secrecy.
(f) By means of Vicissitude a vampire can so transfigure and mutilate a vessel that he or she cannot return to the mortal world. It is therefore in the victim’s interest to stay with the vampire and keep quiet.
(12) Who would believe them anyway?
(a) Small children might not be able to give any coherent or intelligible account of being tapped by a vampire. If they do say anything revealing, it might be mistaken for a fantasy, a nightmare, or a confused account of sexual abuse. But unless reinforced somehow, this means seems very risky. If anything goes wrong there will be an uproar.
(b) Long-term prisoners in a gaol controlled by a vampire might have no-one to tell except for one another and the staff–who would be allies etc. of the vampire.
© A small community of people generally supposed to be ignorant and superstitious might not be believed if they were to tell stories of vampire depredations.
(d) If the inmates of a lunatic asylum were to say that they had been bitten by a vampire, their stories, even were they recognisable, might well be discounted, especially if key staff were in the vampire’s service.
(e) Use of Dementation or Dominate, or to a lesser extent of Chimaestry, Necromancy, Obfuscate, Obtenebration, Thaumaturgy, and other spectacular disciplines can make a person act or at least talk crazy. Who then is going to believe their stories of being bitten by a vampire?
Using Forgetful Mind (Dominate•••) a vampire may cause his or her victim to forget about an attack, or about being bitten in a sexual encounter or other meeting, or about someone in their room at night… This offers better security that 10© above, and is also a less serious sin. In short, this marvellous power allows the vampire great variety and spontaneity in obtaining access to vessels, because it will cover up almost anything.
When obtaining blood from vampires it is only necessary to maintain secrecy if one is intending to diabolise one’s way up through the ranks. Vampires are aware of one another’s existence, and share blood for various reasons. The problem is not breaking the Masquerade, but avoiding blood-bond.
(14) One use only.
Hunting vampires is all very well when one has diablerie in mind, and is planning to climb in generation. But vampires are too rare, and contain too little blood, for this to be a viable means of obtaining one’s nightly sustenance.
(15) Herd your childer.
If a vampire is already blood-bound to you, you cannot become blood-bound to it. So blood bind one or more proxies to yourself. Send them out to drink human blood. And draw your needs of vampire blood from them. I imagine that many elders create coteries of childer for just this purpose.
Establish a mutual blood-bond with your lover. Thus you both become immune to other blood-bonds.