by Loyd Blankenship
The blacktop is steaming under our wheels tonight. The smell of tar and water and heat soaks into our denims. The liquid is black in the moonlight, turning the pavement into an oozing scab on the skin of the city. We roar down the road, taking all lanes. Anyone who spots our red headlights behind them nervously pulls to the shoulder, praying we'll pass them by. We fly past with cold, knowing stares. We hunt other prey tonight . . .
Every since Vlad the Impaler was voted Least Popular Slavic Liege Lord in the 15th century, people have been fascinated by the vampire. This interest was rekindled in the 1980s by Anne Rice's tour de force Interview With a Vampire, and its sequels The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned.
Although Rice's works bring the vampire into the 1990s, with Lestat's slick MTV videos and hit album, the subject of the cyberpunk vampire has yet to be explored. This article will show some of the ways the vampire can be used in a cyberpunk campaign, and describe a biker gang with a genuine taste for blood – the Shadow Eaters.
Cyberpunk is perhaps the perfect genre for vampirism. In most settings, someone who goes out only at night is conspicuous. In cyberpunk, it is practically de riguer. Anyone impertinent enough to ask questions is shrugged off with a condescending "It's my style, punk – you wouldn't understand about style, though, would you?"
The urban-blight jungle of a metroplex sprawl also provides the vampiric equivalent of the happy hunting grounds. It is littered with the homeless, runaways, and street scum; no one is likely to question a sudden disappearance or two (or two hundred, in most cases!). And if a corpse turns up drained of blood, the cops (if they even notice) will likely just shrug their shoulders and forget about it – they see weirder things every day.
The standard fantasy vampire (GURPS Fantasy, p. 123) is presented below. Normal cost is 100 points, but the GM may assess an Unusual Background cost that permits vampiric magic to function (and vampires to exist) in a no-mana zone (typical in a cyberpunk world). Many cyberpunk vampires will have additional modifications as per GURPS Cyberpunk. When a vampire becomes insubstantial, his cyberwear should go with him – this is one of the first tricks taught to a newly-created vampire (Of course, not everyone gets it right – some will leave behind important body parts!)
Vampires are magical, undead creatures who still walk upon the earth. They must feed on the blood of living beings in order to continue their undead existence. Not all vampires are evil, but most are, and even the good ones must be totally ruthless to survive! There is no "race" of vampires; all vampires were once ordinary beings who were bitten by another vampire.
Advantages: A vampire's ST is doubled; HT is increased by 5, and they have a DR of 2. Vampires also have the Night Vision and Immunity to Disease advantages. Metal weapons pass through them without effect, but they take full damage from any weapon made of wood or other plant material. They cannot be poisoned. Magical attacks (and high-tech ray guns) affect them as normal. Vampires do not age. They also have powerful magics (see below) which they can use at no energy cost!
Disadvantages: Vampires are magical; they require mana in order to exist. A vampire in a no-mana area loses 1 HT per turn, soon aging to a powder-dry corpse. The level of mana doesn't affect them – they are just as powerful at low mana as high.
Almost all vampires are (justifiably) Paranoid.
Vampires cannot cross open running water under their own power. A vampire cannot enter a dwelling for the first time without being invited by someone within.
If exposed to direct sunlight, the vampire takes one hit of damage per minute. Heavy clothing halves this damage. Even indirect sunlight (e.g. indoors) hurts their eyes terribly; they are at DX-4 on all actions.
Vampires lose one HT every day at noon. If they do not spend the daytime hours in a coffin filled with the earth of their homeland, they lose two extra HT at noon each day. A vampire whose coffin is opened between sunup and sundown is mentally stunned; it must make an IQ roll before reacting!
A vampire will take 2 dice of damage from holy water. However, a mere vial-full will only annoy him. It takes a pint of water to do 2 dice damage.
Daily HT loss can only be replenished by drinking the blood of an intelligent mammalian creature using the Steal Health spell (see below). A vampire cannot repair his daily HT loss through healing (though healing spells will cure other injury). A vampire has no reserve of HT below 0. If his HT is reduced to -1, he crumbles to dust!
Friends and Enemies: Everyone reacts with hatred and fear (usually justified) to a known or suspected vampire. If a reaction roll is needed, make it at -6.
Likes and Dislikes: A vampire can sometimes be turned by a holy symbol in the possession of a true believer, as long as the wielder is conscious and actively presenting the symbol. If such an attempt is made, try a Contest of IQ between vampire and foe (Strong Will counts!); if the vampire loses the contest, he may not touch the holy symbol or its user on that day, and must stay at least 3 hexes away from the symbol when possible (even if it means fleeing). If the vampire ties or wins, then the symbol doesn't affect him! If affected, the vampire may try a Contest of Fast-Talk vs. IQ, modified by Will, to charm his victim into putting down the holy symbol.
A vampire must roll vs. HT-5 to cross any portal sealed with garlic, or, in general, to tolerate the odor of garlic without fleeing.
Vampires automatically know five spells at level 15: Shapeshifting, Steal Health, Control Mammal, Charm, and Body of Air. These spells may not be studied or improved; they are inherent to the vampire (though the vampire may learn other spells, and even be a mage). There is no energy cost for them to use any of these spells.
Shapeshifting – The vampire can take the form of a giant bat; the change (either way) takes 3 seconds. Stats are the same as for a were-eagle (p. 122).
Steal Health – For every minute the vampire spends feeding on the blood of an unconscious or helpless victim, the victim loses 3 HT, while the vampire gains either 1 HT or 1 ST, as the vampire chooses. If the victim's HT drops below 0, he dies. The marks left by this feeding are unmistakable.
Mammal Control – The vampire may control the actions of one large mammal (any size) or a group of small ones (up to 100 lbs. total weight). This spell can be used on intelligent mammals (IQ 8 or greater), but it is resisted at +2.
Charm – A victim who fails to resist this spell (roll vs. IQ) becomes the vampire's faithful slave and obeys any command, no matter how dangerous. The vampire must instruct the subject verbally or in writing, though the victim will automatically protect the vampire, even without orders. In all other respects, the subject will be mentally normal and alert. He will be unable to explain (and unwilling to think about) his loyalty to the vampire. This spell takes 3 seconds to cast, and lasts one minute after the vampire leaves the subject's presence. Once a person successfully resists a vampire's charm, that person is immune to that vampire's charm forever. However, once successfully charmed, each successive attempt by the same vampire will be resisted at -2 (with a maximum of -10). After five successful charms, the vampire may make that subject an "agent" who will remain charmed 24 hours a day, and will devote themselves to caring for and protecting the vampire. A vampire may have only one agent at a time.
Body of Air – The body of the vampire becomes vaporous, along with his clothing and any small objects he carries. In this misty form, he can change shape, seep through cracks, float through the air. He can no longer by affected by physical attacks, but he cannot do physical harm either. This spell may not be used in combination with the shapeshifting spell – the vampire must return to human form first. If exposed to direct sunlight while in mist form, the vampire dies instantly.
The Shadow Eaters are a biker gang; they might roam the streets of any sprawl. The number of gang members varies – roll 3d+3. The average gang member is worth 250 points, assuming that points are being charged for cyberwear – otherwise 207 points.
ST 24; DX 13; IQ 10; HT 17 (70 points total for attributes).
Advantages: as for normal vampires
Disadvantages: as for normal vampires
Cyberwear: Claws (razor implants, 15 points); Audio Dampening (5 levels, 25 points); Speakers (3 points)
Skills: Area Knowledge (the sprawl)-13 (6 points); Beam Weapons (laser)-16 (4 points); Brawling-15 (4 points); Carousing-16 (1 point); Dancing-13 (2 points); Guns (pistol)-16 (4 points); Knife-15 (4 points); Motorcycle-14 (2 points); Sex Appeal-18 (4 points); Stealth-15 (+10 when still, from Audio Dampening, +5 when moving) (8 points).
Quirks: Overly concerned with looking hip and stylish; Likes to toy with victims.
The Shadow Eaters cultivate the image of vampirism – no one actually believes they are vampires, but many think that they are crazy enough to actually drink blood! Their secret has remained safe for a number of years through this "hiding in plain sight" tactic. As dawn approaches, they retreat to a well-secured underground lair, where they sleep until dusk.
Shadow Eaters are very concerned with their image – it is unwise to make fun of them, even if you don't think any are listening! Over the years they have earned a reputation as deadly (and completely ruthless) killers – though many of their enemies just seem to . . . disappear.
The typical gang member wears all black – leather pants and jacket and a t-shirt. They will often use makeup to accentuate their already pale faces, and often sport neon-red contact lenses. Their cycles are usually painted with bats and graveyard scenes. Their symbol (of course) is a bat silhouetted against a full moon. Don't make snide "batman" remarks around them – it might prove fatal.
A gang of Shadow Eaters makes an effective and deadly foe for a group of cyberpunk PCs, especially if the GM keeps their true nature hidden. In combat, the vampires' strength and resilience – as well as their ability to vanish – will come as a surprise to the characters.
Shadow Eaters usually have their hands in various illegal enterprises, so it shouldn't be difficult to arrange for the PCs to cross their path. Or perhaps they are looking for someone's daughter who was last seen running with the biker gang . . .
Whatever the case, they are sure to give the players a challenge as well as a frightfully good time!
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