Our Vampires Are Different
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"What happened to the good old days when all that vampires sucked was blood?"


Basic Information

This speculative fiction trope describes the increasingly common practice of using Vampires in your story (or game), and twisting or nuancing them just a bit so aren't straight off the rack. Go ahead, it's fun to mess with players expectations.

Old School Tropes

These are the tropes that define old-school vampirism, from folklore and early fiction up to the end of the first generation of Vampire films. Using these tropes will give a "classic" feel to your vampires. Really early vampire myths made them ugly peasants, then John Polidori and Bram Stoker decided they should be sexy aristocrats. What they have in common is the supernatural evil. A vampire of this era is not a sympathetic character.

Ours Use Different Tropes

These tropes, in relation to vampires, used to be new and edgy, but are now old trope-hat. Over time, villainous Vampires in film have become more and more like Zombies. At the same time, vampires are more likely than ever to be sympathetic characters, just normal people who got bit, or possibly Goths. A couple decades ago, these ideas would have seemed fresh or even out of place. Now, they just mean you're up on your pop culture. As a result, using these tropes will give your Vampires a more modern feel.


You could brainstorm up some new twist on vampirism that no one will anticipate. A big part of your vampire characterisation may revolve around how human your vampire remains - not just does it look human (which will still be important), but can it eat or drink things other than blood? Can it feel genuine emotions? Can they enjoy the same sensations as humans? Can they have sex? A vampire which is just a pale, unaging human who has to stay out of direct sunlight is a very different beast to a walking corpse driven mainly by its hunger for blood, whether the two look the same or not. Equally a hideous monster that is still human on the inside may be plotworthy - ugly-equals-evil can be played straight (the vampires that have clung to their humanity still look human, those that are a beast on the inside become a beast on the outside) or subverted - with a compassionate, humane person, turned into a vampire against their will and trapped inside a partially rotten shell.

Even in a single setting, vampires may vary - a lot of writers make a big deal of heredity amongst vampires with specific sets of characteristics being inherited a vampiric "parent". Some bloodlines (ahem) may be at least human looking whilst others may be bestial or rotten. Bloodlines may also have a bearing on vampiric powers.

Then, of course, you can get vampires that are not even remotely human, as in the case of the Red Court in the Dresden Files which are vaguely bat-like things that can cram themselves into a skin-suit to pass as humans.


This page is derived from:
2. I Vant to Upend Your Expectations — Why vampire movies always break all the vampire rules

Game and Story Use

  • It's all about image, baby. What kind of blood-sucker does your game need? Old school menacing Count, or new school complex-and-brooding antihero?
  • Finding a completely different angle on your games vampires can help make the campaign feel distinct and unique. Too much of it will leave the players wondering why you bothered to use the V-word, but a little bit here and there can really spice up the game.
  • See also both our Vampire page, and Page at TV Tropes Wiki for more detailed enumeration of common vampiric powers and weaknesses.
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