I failed my Resolve check and bought Vampire 5th Ed

(Crossposting this from Dreamwidth)
I was at a con. I was chatting with a trader (The Shop on the Borderlands). I succumbed and bought Vampire the Masquerade 5th ed.

The cover is just as pink in reality as it looks on t’interwebs. Though Mark of Shop on the Borderlands kept saying “It isn’t pink - it’s purple! Purple!” He turned the book round to show the back cover, which is indeed the purple of Vampire Dark Ages. :slight_smile:

I’ve started reading it. Due to the weird way it is laid out, I’m jumping from chapter to chapter like a demented flea, rather than starting at the beginning and progressing smoothly to the end. For instance, all sorts of bits of the basic game mechanics and of character gen have a short paragraph ending in “see page blah blah”. I’d had to read page blah blah to understand how this version differs from earlier versions… or in some cases to understand what the hell they are on about at all.

Setting (so far): I’m not sure a newbie to Vampire could grok the setting. It is a weird mixture of “Yeah the old setting was trashed by world events so you don’t need to know about that” and casual mentions of famous people, places and events from the old setting, quite often with no explanation as to who the hell they are/were. For instance, I’ve played a fair bit of Vampire, but I’ve never run it, so I’ve never bothered to buy the oodles and oodles of splat books. Thus I vaguely know who Theo Bell is, but I’d never heard of Mithras, Hardestadt or the Convention of Thorns. Or it mentions the 13 clans in several places, but there is no LIST of those 13 (there are only 7 clans to pick from in character gen).

The Camarilla is described as waning in power and a spent force in some places, and the Anarchs have taken over huge tracts of land. However, it constantly bangs on about the Camarilla and gives no clues as to how the Anarchs organise themselves. It leaves me thinking I’d have to buy the (forthcoming) Anarch sourcebook in order to be able to play in/run an Anarch campaign.

Some of the Disciplines have been nerfed, which is probably a good thing for reining in the combat monsters. The Tremere have split into 3 factions, and one of them is actually interested in MAGIC, not just in being power hungry wankers who manipulate/threaten other PCs. There is a new option to play a Thin Blooded, who have no set Disciplines but do something called Blood Alchemy instead (haven’t read that yet).

It is annoyingly still focused on Europe and North America. There are throwaway lines here and there about the Ashirra (a sort of Camarilla, but in Muslim countries not Christian ones) or a mention that clan Something Beginning with G dominates in Africa. I say Something Beginning with G because it is not Giovanni and the index is frak all use in finding that page again, since it contains neither the clan name nor ‘Africa’. The pdf search function can’t see anything in the ‘letters and documents’ which make up the first 30 or so pages of the book.

Game mechanic changes look interesting, but I’ve only read the ‘rules lite’ chapter and random bits of the ‘rules in full’ chapter, so can’t comment on that properly yet.

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Coming soon: Vampire 5th, Black As My Soul edition.

I’ve never played Vampire. (I played in a Werewolf campaign, which shifted to GURPS Werewolf after a bit.) I find it hard to take seriously based on what people say about it; I suspect that if I were actually playing it I’d be able to carve out an accommodation, particularly if the GM and players were interesting people.

I’ve played but never run Vampire (apart from a one-off which was really a Werewolf ‘hunt down the vampire’ adventure tweaked to make it into a Vampire ‘fix this masquerade breach’ adventure).

I think this not wanting to run earlier editions boils down to me not giving two hoots about any of the ‘these guys are usually in charge’ clans. e.g. Ventrue, Tremere, Toreador. I think that it is telling that my first ever Vampire character was a caitiff (clanless). And that in this edition the clans I enjoy playing in earlier editions are either:

  1. The clans who have dumped the Camarilla and gone en masse to join the Anarch Free States mob.

  2. The clans who are Sir Not Appearing In This New Core Rulebook.

I was always skeptical that a handful of vampires could rule the world from the shadows. I was more skeptical that vampires could keep themselves secret in the modern world. I was really skeptical that 7 billion humans couldn’t deal with the vampire threat and kill them all to death. I was amazingly skeptical that the werewolves or mages hadn’t given mortals incontrovertible proof that vampires exist, in order to get the humans to eliminate them. I never bought the “Oh but then the humans would figure out werewolves exist too” argument.

I also never bought that a PC becomes a vampire and immediately dumps all prior loyalties and converts to the Dark Side of the Force. In the (recently started) Vamp 2nd ed game I’m in, I am thoroughly enjoying playing an MI5 agent who was undercover infiltrating a terrorist cell, and who was turned into a vampire and has not switched his loyalties. It is all going to end horribly for him, as he’s diligently gathering information on this conspiracy of weird supernatural nutters and intends to dob them in to MI5. And/or to return to MI5 and let them assign a bunch of scientists to study him and learn how vampires tick. At no point in the game has any NPC or PC vampire given any reason to switch allegiance beyond “If you disobey our rules, we’ll kill you”. And I’m thinking “And if the terrorist cell finds out I’m an MI5 infiltrator, they’ll kill me - so how are you pointy toothed guys any different?” Defence of the Realm trumps obey-or-die.

Also, vampire power bases are tiny! Like I’m going to stop defending the whole UK and suddenly only be interested in defending London? In the actual game, it is Slough!!! :slight_smile:

The bits of this new edition which appeal are:

  • PCs as vampires trying not to get killed by the FBI/MI5/Vatican hit squads
  • The new rules for totally losing it when you get too hungry
  • The Thin Bloods who have weak powers but can survive in daylight a bit.

The closest I’ve come to running Vampire was a campaign idea similar to what your MI5 agent is thinking: some centuries-old scumbag has decided that I can never see the sun again, and I’m meant to be grateful to them and the system that lets them keep doing it. The only sensible reaction is to burrow to the heart and burn it all down.

Which I suppose a dedicated WoD-er would say is an Anarch campaign.

The impression I always got was that the original V:tM fans were people who hadn’t been roleplayers beforehand, but really fancied the idea of being hidden powers in the shadows of a modern world. The only time I’ve played the game, the setting was San Francisco in the 1990s, and it was mostly detective work, trying to keep the city from being messed up. The Camarilla were just a background element. I like your MI5 agent scheme.

I ran VtM 2E for five or so years in the regular back around undergraduate. And played in several games. And ran werewolf. And mage. (We were a plurality White Wolf addict group for a while for sure.) The system was never our primary focus.

Two things stand out to me from your posts.

First is that it’s unfortunate the book doesn’t facilitate a straight read. VtM 2E is one of the few gaming books I sat down and read cover to cover smoothly. I think this is a modern design issue. Unknown Armies 2E is one of the other books that was a smooth front to back read for me and the new edition did not accomplish that either.

Second is the character focus of play. Newly made vampires working to hold on to parts of their previous life was always our sweet spot. The sessions focused on the characters in that position were our best. The characters set up as older vampires never engaged with play as well no matter how mechanically powerful and satisfying they were for their players.

Focus on people who are now struggling with being vampires rather than vampires who are struggling with how monstrous they can be appeared most productive for play from my GM seat.


My next observation is that the book says that every Malkavian suffers from a mental derangement, but buggered if I can find any such derangements in the book. Again neither the index nor the search function on the pdf helps me to locate any such list.

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I have to say I’ve never actually been tempted by Vampire. I bought Mage back in the 1990s and am now running my second campaign of it, I’ve played Changeling (which was hilarious and scary), and I’ve wanted to run Wraith for a long time (however, after seeing that the anniversary edition has MANY pages of comic strips before you ever get to game stuff, I’m not spending any money on it). But the fantasy of vampirism just never tempted me. I once played with writing myself up as a vampire, and the only clan I could plausibly fit myself into was Nosferatu—and I couldn’t figure out how I could find anyone to feed on.

I’ve been amused for a long time by the thought that the classic WoD games reflect a model of the stages of human life: Changeling is the child living in a world of imagination and make-believe; Werewolf is the adolescent struggling with passion and violence; Vampire is the college student who’s discovered political cabals, seduction, and staying up late; Mage is the adult who’s trying to gain control of the world or at least their part of it; Wraith is the old person resisting despair and looking back on life.


Right I’ve now finished reading Vampire 5e. System-wise it looks interesting and I want to try it to see if it has fixed a bunch of the problems with earlier versions. Especially the Hunger Dice mechanic (replace some of your regular dice pool with Hunger Dice and if all your successes are hunger ones, then bad things happen like accidentally killing the person you are snacking on, or losing your temper and ripping the door off the safe of which you were attempting to pick the lock).

Setting… a world where most of the centuries old vampires have dropped dead and the humans can spot you with thermal imaging cameras or trace your money laundering appeals much more than VTM eds 1 to 4. However I still don’t give the proverbial fetid dingo’s kidney for the Camarilla stuff they tell you in detail and want more about all those ‘throwaway lines’ places such as Africa and the Middle East, or the Sir Not Appearing In This Corebook places like Central America.

Central America brings me to one of the things which kind of irks me about the whole World of Darkness: religion. Namely VTM being thoroughly rooted in Biblical history, and all written as if the story of Adam & Eve, Caine and Abel are literally true, and therefore the Abrahamic religions are right about God, creation of the world etc (even if we add in a few thousand years to biblical literalism to get the right archaeological dates for the first farmers in the Fertile Crescent). Yet Werewolf has an entirely different pantheon of Wyrm, Weaver and Wyld, and spirits all over the place, from Gaia herself to the tree at the bottom of your garden having a soul. Reincarnation is also a thing in Werewolf.

Meanwhile, whenever they do a splatbook for somewhere other than Europe/modern USA, then other religious traditions turn out also to be true. For instance Native American theology, and I’m sure they banged on about Australian Aboriginal theology in a book I borrowed years ago.

First of all this means things fail to hang together very well. How do the “there is only 1 god” religions cope with overwhelming evidence that there are actually lots and lots?

Secondly… Vampires should have been all over the Aztec/Toltec/Mayan etc religions of blood sacrifice like a rash. I mean Aztec folks were supposed to make a personal sacrifice of blood (pierce a sensitive portion of your anatomy with cactus thorns threaded on a string) as well as all the killing the losing team on a ball game and cutting people’s hearts out on top of a pyramid stuff. This is vampire heaven. Why didn’t vampires fight tooth and nail to preserve those religions and/or get bits of them incorporated into Christianity when the Conquistadors turned up?

“Yes Senor Cortez, Jesus gave his blood for us, so we should spill a few drops for him…”

I kind of feel that to run this I want to invent my own clans for Central America, the Indian subcontinent, huge tracts of Africa etc, to tap into an “its not all fekking Caine and Lilith” vibe.

Also, I now want to go work out how many vampires the world could support in Imperial Roman times or the Ice Age or whatever. VTM don’t seem to have noticed that the world population has expanded to 7 billion.


Yeah, Vampire’s official background is a laughable mess. I re-wrote the whole thing when I was running it.

What sort of things did you include in your background? Did you keep anything? The clans, for instance.

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T’interweb informs me that the population of Tenochtitlan was 200,000 in the year 1500. The site helpfully informed me that was the same size as Paris and Naples were at that time.

According to VTM5e, that means that Tenochtitlan can support a vampire population of 2. Plus 2 in Paris and another 2 in Naples. And modern day Aberdeen has 2. That makes for a bit of a dull campaign!

I have a vague notion that the first edition of Werewolf said there was 1 werewolf per 25,000 humans (so my home town couldn’t afford a whole werewolf), but I can’t actually find that reference. If it is true, the 8 Aberdonian werewolves should kick the 2 Aberdonian vampires’ arses pretty fast! :slight_smile:

At least the fact that their figures dictate there were only 50 vampires in the world at the time agriculture was invented thus explains why vamp numbers did not proliferate until much more recently.

One per hundred thousand? Hmm. That seems awfully low.

Presumably that’s in order to spread out your feeding at a rate where humans won’t notice it. What about if you simply kidnap and imprison your victims, feeding them well, and get enough of them to spread out your feeding to a rate where they won’t die of it too quickly? (You avoid a statistical anomaly by first eating the people who would have been causing others to vanish without a trace.)

I suppose the desired effect of this – 88 vampires in all of London, 54 in all of Scotland – is the small town politics effect, that you can’t get away from those tedious or unpleasant people because there aren’t that many of you, you all have to live in the same place, and you all have to keep seeing each other. How ghastly, like being a role-player (or any other minority hobby) in a small town before the Internet.

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That makes V:tM into a game where players have to worry about logistics, or else be loyal to the vampires who do that work. That’s doesn’t seem to be the desired atmosphere.

Well, that’s always been one of my minor problems with the setting – on the one hand you’re meant to be a normal person who’s suddenly been vamped, and some of the theme is the conflict between the old life and the new. But when I’ve looked at the source material, it seems to be entirely focused on high-school vampire personal politics.

In other words if the book is going to say “vamps don’t work that way” it needs a reason why the new people wouldn’t try it.


My minor problems with the setting were sadly numerous. As I recall there were several Clans that had no Discipline that would allow them to see in the dark. But vampires faced a significant risk of disastrous-to-catastrophic panic at the sight of so much as a candle-flame, and they can’t hunt by day. Which meant that bloodlines such as Clan Brujah must be more recent than Thomas Edison.

One time I estimated the unlife expectancy of a vampire following each of the means of unlivehood suggested in the rules, and all the variations I could think of. Most of them came to less than a year. I think I posted that to VAMPIRE-L, back in the day.


Here is some old text!


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?

(13) Lethe

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.

(16) Tag-teaming.

Establish a mutual blood-bond with your lover. Thus you both become immune to other blood-bonds.

Any thoughts?


Here is some more archival text:

As discussed previously, the triune constraint on vampiric existence is (1) to obtain blood, (2) without revealing yourself to the world at large, and (3) without rapid loss of Humanity.

Leaving aside for the moment the various means of obtaining blood from blood banks rather than direct from vessels, a vampire has to accomplish three things to obtain a meal:
(1) The vampire must gain access to a vessel in circumstances under which no outsiders are watching. That usually means getting people alone at night.
(2) The vampire must obtain blood from the vessel. A surgical instrument may be used, but usually this means that the vampire must press his mouth against the victim’s flesh.
(3) The vampire must ensure that the victim will not tell anyone that he or she was bitten by a vampire or will not be believed.

(1) We will leave aside discussion of how vampires got by in a world lit only by fire, in which nightlife was a rare privilege of the rich, and in which few people went out of their houses by night. How do you get someone alone at night these days?
(a) Break into an inhabited house.
(b) Call on someone who lives alone (who do people let in to their houses at night?).
© Approach someone who is out alone.
(d) Pick someone up as if for erotic dalliance, and take him or her aside.
(e) Arrange for a private meeting under some pretext of business or professional service. (Vampiric prostitutes are old hat. Vampiric pizza dudes are passé. How about a vampiric night-shift ER surgeon, or a vampiric night-shift Auto Club roadside service provider?)
(f) Meet with the vessel by routine for blood-letting. (Eg. as part of a blood-cult’s routine observances, or with a knowing and willing vessel.)
(g) Make the person come to you using Disciplines or other vampiric powers. Dominate will suffice, but Presence•••• is the prince.
(h) Go into a place where a vessel is confined: a prison cell or hospital room.

Of these techniques, only (g) requires disciplines (Presence or Dominate), though Auspex• and Protean• are useful for ©, Obfuscate is useful for (a) ©, and (h), Obtenebration is useful for (a), Presence and Dominate are useful for (b), (d), and (f).

Of these techniques, only (a) is inherently sinful, and burglary is not a serious sin.

(2) (a) Blood may be drawn without fuss if the vessel is unconscious (sleeping or in a drugged stupor, spontaneously or becasue of drugs administered by the vampire or a retainer), but there is a danger that the vessel will awaken. Dominate•• is a very useful backup for a vampire who is relying on such means.
(b) The vampire might render the vessel unconscious by battery. But the latter approach is tantamount to drawing blood by force, and causes rapid degeneration.
© The vampire might simply grab the vessel, overpower him or her by superior strength (such as Potence might provide) or wrestling technique, and bite. This is drawing blood by force, and causes rapid degeneration.
(d) The vampire might induce the victim to hold still by menaces. Presence is very useful for this. But this is tantamount to drawing blood by force, and causes rapid degeneration.
(e) The vampire might engage in erotic play, and press his or her mouth to the vessel’s neck or groin in guise of a kiss or oral sex technique. This technique is really only possible for a vampire with very high sex appeal (perhaps augmented by Presence•), or who has got the vessel alone by establishing a sexual context.
(f) Various kinds of herd member might willingly acquiesce in the Kiss. Blood bond, Presence, and Dominate are useful in creating such willing vessels.
(g) A vampire in the guise of a surgeon might draw blood under pretext of medical bleeding. But medical bleeding is out of fashion nowadays. This technique cannot be used except in the Third World, or if the vampire has a herd of patients with haemochromatosis, which is a rare condition.
(h) In various types of blood-cult, the vessels might be induced to draw their own blood as an auto-sacrifice.

Of these techniques, (b), ©, and (d) are inherently sinful, and therefore not viable.

Disciplines are not essential to drawing blood. But Dominate is useful for techniques (a), (f), and (h), while Presence is useful in (d), (e), (f), and (h).

(3) The critical part of earning an unlivelihood turns out to be ensuring the silence or at least incredibility of the victim. The main approaches are:
(a) Kill your victims. This causes rapid loss of Humanity, and so is not viable.
(b) Feed only on the dying. Obfuscate is useful, but not essential, to this. Access to a hospice for the dying or terminal ward is almost indispensible.
© Feed people while they are unconscious: sleepers and those who had passed out from drink and other drugs. Obfuscate is some help, and Dominate is very useful, in case the victim wakes up. See also (h).
(d) Render one’s victims unconscious before applying the Kiss. One method is battery, but this causes disastrous loss of Humanity. Another is to surreptitiously drug them, or have retainers do so. Another is to encourage them to drug themselves.
(e) Confuse the victim’s impressions at the time of the Kiss. Recreational drugs, Dementation, and Chimaestry may be used for this purpose.
(f) Make the Kiss seem to be something else, eg. an erotic act. High Humanity (at least five), the Masquerade talent, and social skills are almost essential to this approach. Presence and to a lesser extent Dominate or Dementation may be helpful.
(g) Render the vessel incapable of further communication after the Kiss, eg. by mutilation. Unfortunately, this approach guarantees loss of Humanity.
(h) Feed on vessels who are incapabale of communication: animals, the comatose, the catatonic. Animalism is valuable for obtaining animal victims. Obfuscate is valuable for gaining access to comatose and catatonic patients.
(i) Keep the vessel imprisoned and incommunicado. Unfortunately, this approach guarantees loss of Humanity.
(j) Feed on people who are kept imprisoned and incommunicado by other people: eg. inmates of an insane asylum, prisoners in a gaol.
(k) Using Dementation, or (less reliable) Chimaestry, Obfuscate, obtenebration etc., make your victims seem incredible as witnesses. This will likely cause Humanity loss.
(l) Feed on people who are naturally unlikely to be believed: children, the insane, supposed superstitious savages and peasants. Only in the case of the insane is this at all reliable.
(m) Ensure the victim’s silence with menaces. This is prone to cause loss of Humantity.
(n) Coerce the victim’s silence using Dominate••. This is prone to cause loss of Humanity.
(o) Erase the victim’s memory of the Kiss using Dominate•••.
§ Feed from those who are inclined to help preserve the Masquerade. Eg. one’s lover-allies, ghouls, other vampires.
(q) Manufacture vessels who are inclined to help preserve the secret. Blood bond, Presence•••, Dominate••••, and Vicissitude are all helpful for this, and though all methods cause Humanity loss, a vessel once created provides prolonged benefits, so deterioration is not rapid (unless, perhaps, the Vicissitude method is used).
® Draw blood without using the Kiss, ostensibly for some other purpose than drinking it. Presence is very useful to most of the ways of doing this. Some other disciplines (eg. Dominate, Chimaestry, Vicissitude) are also applicable, but not nearly as good.

The really important thing to note from the above is the vast usefulness of Dominate. Only vampires with at least three dots of Dominate, and vampires who have not cause to fear violating mortals, dare engage in the classic hunt. Vampires without Dominate must engage in ‘vegetarianism’ or in some form of herding, or else must engage in fairly elaborate feeding rituals, many of which involve passing for human.


Animalism is useful to young vampires who subsist on animal blood.

Auspex is of minor use in earning a vampire’s unliving, because it can help them find their way about in the dark, and sometimes provide useful information about intended quarry.

Celerity is of no practical use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence.

Chimaestry can be used to impress the herd in a blood cult, and might be used to reduce the credibility of a victim as witness by making him or her seem mad. But it is expensive to run.

Dementation can be useful in making mortals behave suitably in some of the more elaborate means of unlivelihood, and it can undersome circumstances be useful to drive a person insane (eg. to reduce their credibility as a witness). But unfortunately the latter use is expensive in Humanity.

Dominate, especially the third dot, is immensely useful in earning an unliving. The fourth dot provides the best and most certain means of creating willing vessels who will keep their silence.

Fortitude is of no practical use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence.

Necromancy is of no practical use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence.

Obfuscate is useful in obtaining access to sleeping, imprisoned, mad, dying, and comatose vessels. It can also be useful to Flamens and Osirises, and for discrediting victims as witnesses.

Obtenebration can be useful to Flamens and Osirises, and in gaining access to some victims (those in locked rooms, for instance).

Presence is useful in some of the elaborate social-based means. It is also very handy to Osirises and Flamens. The third dot is useful for creating willing vessels, but it is no substitute for the blood bond. The fourth dot is useful for luring vessels aside without leaving witnesses that one was the last to see a victim alive (but that is only really useful to Path vampires) or when one can no longer seduce mortals without having to spend more blood than it is worth.

Protean is of minor use in earning a vampire’s unliving, because it can help them find their way about in the dark.

Quietus is of minor use in earning an unliving where Silence of Death can improve necessary Stealth. But this costs blood, so it is not very useful.

Serpentis is of no practical use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence.

Thaumaturgy is of no practical use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence.

Vicissitude is of little use in obtaining a vampire’s subsistence. Most of the powers that might be useful cost too much blood to be worth it. The one slight exception is that a bonecrafted or fleshcrafted vampire might have a slight advantage passing for a god or dark angel in a blood cult.

This all has interesting repercussions when contemplating the viability of various clans. The clans without Dominate must keep herds or else work hard for their livings.

Brujah must either keep blood-bound herds, roll drunks, or engage in elaborate subterfuge.

Gangel are okay with Animalism for so long as they can subsist on animal blood. Then they are in lots of trouble.

Malkavians are probably best off herding, or preying on the insane. Obfuscate lets them slip into padded cells unnoticed.

Nosferatu are okay with Animalism for so long as animal blood will sustain them. Then they have to switch to rolling drunks and haunting prisons, hospitals, and asylums.

Toreador are virtually restricted to maintaining blood-bound herds, or else engaging in elaborate charades.

Tremere had Dominate, and therefore have a wide range of viable feeding strategies.

Ventrue, possessing both Dominate and Presence, have great freedom in means of unlife. Pity about their clan weakness.

Lasombra have Dominate, and with it, versatility.

Tzimisces lack Dominate, and also tend to make themselves look weird by use of Vicissitude, which cuts off most of the subtle means of unlivelihood. They have a choice between running blood-bound herds and adopting a Path of Enlightenment (which opens up the more gruesome alternatives).

Assamites and Setites lack Dominate, but have Obfuscate. Apart from herding, various skulking means of unlife are open to them, but hanging around prisons, asylums, and hospitals doesn’t seem like their style. That leaves rolling drunks and the various more elaborate and laborious means of livelihood. The Setites, with Presence, could do well inteh Flamen/Osiris line.

The Giovanni have Dominate.

Ravnos can use Animalism to support vegetarianism for a while. But from there on it’s herding or hard work. Though I have noted a few ways that skilful and unscrupulous use of Chimaestry could be useful.

So there you are. Food for thought at least, I hope.

I don’t remember the game in much detail, but wasn’t there a drawback to drinking blood when there were interesting substances in the bloodstream? Or was that just part of the cloud of vampiric pseudo-lore that hung around the general community?

A slaughterhouse in a country where they don’t make black pudding would seem particularly effective; the animal blood is simply a waste product. (And I can readily see an older vampire running such a thing too, since if the young 'uns aren’t going out hunting there’s less likely to be a human panic.)

The sexual approach or the baroque things like paramedics feeding at accident scenes obviously have more narrative appeal, but for the amount of blood you get per incident it seems inefficient compared with bulk purchase.

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Since I wrote that text therapeutic blood-letting has enjoyed a major resurgence: the once-rare diagnosis of haemochromatosis is now believed to have an incidence of one in 600 population in European-descended populations, and a typical patient is being bled four times per year or more often (I have averaged about ten venesections per year since diagnosis). Except I think in Sweden the blood taken is destroyed as medical waste.

Ninety patients being treated for haemochromatosis ought to be enough to support a vampire, and 5,400 adult population would be enough to produce that many. It occurs to me that I only ever see my haematologist in a dimly-lit windowless room.

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