“I’m not dead yet!” Fleshing out Vampirism in the Fantasy Trip

November 2, 2021 at 7:35 pm

“We enjoy the night, the darkness, where we can do things that aren’t acceptable in the light. Night is when we slake our thirst.”

— William Hill

It might be a little late for Halloween, but lately we’ve been thinking about vampires in the Fantasy Trip. Unlike most legends and pop culture references, vampires in TFT are not members of the undead (or Unliving in game parlance) but victims of a microscopic pathogen. They are diseased yet living entities, now flying about, drinking blood, and rising from any murder blow other than the proverbial stake.

Unfortunately, we get very little more than that in the written rules. And since Mr. Van Helsing isn’t returning our calls, we have to speculate ourselves to fill in the details on this exsanguinating enigma.


Catching cold

The infection that causes vampirism is known by the Physickers as Sanguinosis Vampiri and is passed by a bite from an infected. The microorganisms are supernatural in nature and can be detected as magic, but they cannot live outside the host, and to date, no Alchemist has been able to successfully extract them.

To bite an active, unwilling victim the vampire must enter HTH combat and pin the target. The vampire gains a +2DX on this attack as well as +2 damage from their fangs. If the victim takes damage they must immediately make a 3/ST test or fall victim to the disease. If the victim is incapacitated in the attack, the save is 4/ST.

A vampire can drink one pint of blood per round, and this causes 2 hits in addition to any bite damage. A man-sized vampire will stop drinking after rounds, although they still might attempt to kill their victim. If the vampire had been taking damage from lack of blood, it regains 3 hits per pint.

If the save is unsuccessful, the victim will collapse in three days’ time — dead for all intents and purposes. Even a skilled Physicker would need to make a 5/IQ test to discern life in the victim. A few days later (commonly 2-4) the victim rises as a new vampire, desperately seeking to slake their thirst for blood. While they gain great strength and retain much of what they learned in life, much of their memory is scrambled and uncertain. Any goals or motivations from their previous existence pales in comparison to their desire for fresh blood.

Living like the undead

Those with vampirism still maintain a semblance of their previous life, but there are marked differences. They are extremely sensitive to light (and suffer –4DX in its presence) and work to avoid it at all times, which gives them a pallor over time. Their teeth extend and gain canine edges. The disease lowers their body temperature, and they often seem to be no warmer than the air around them. They do not gain bulk with their great strength, but there is a power in their movements. These changes are enough to give occult Scholars and very close colleagues of the victim a 4/IQ to notice vampirism.

Risen victims retain the Talents and training from their previous life, and wizards retain spells and any mana stored in their staves. A vampire retains much of their old personality, but the constant thirst magnifies their negative aspects. Secretive people become more secretive, greed becomes more pronounced, and vampires tend to distance themselves from old comrades — either out of fear of discovery or a desire to spare them from the same fate.

Vampires are usually solitary and have few close contacts. The one exception is the vampire that infected them, known as their sire. Vampires often seek out their sires, and happily ally themselves and serve them. It is speculated that the disease recognizes itself in the sire, and works to improve the colony’s chances of survival.

A sire’s command works similar to the Control Person spell (ITL, p.25) without any ST cost or duration. However, if the sire breaks faith or demands an action that gives the target a Save test, and the scion succeeds, that devotion will turn to hate, and the young vampire will leave their sire’s service and do all it can to undermine their elder. Thankfully for humanity, this break of confidence keeps the numbers of vampires down as one of them is invariably eliminated.

For this reason, and for the blood required to keep multiple vampires sated, vampire nests are very uncommon. However, they are known to associate with creatures of a similar mindset — ghouls, necromancers, and free-willed undead can often be found in the company of vampires. Nosferatu find the existence of vampires abhorrent and do not share hunting territory with them. Unless they wish to use the vampires as patsies to cover their own bloodlust.

The driving force of their new ‘life’ is the search for blood. They can go a week without ill effects, but the desire is constantly rising, and they work feverishly to ensure a supply. This can get overwhelming past a week, and a vampire will get more aggressive in their search. A vampire will get progressively more feral once damage starts being taken, and if their ST reaches 3 or less they will fall into a torpor and lay in wait for a victim to come near. Any scion of the vampire will become aware of their scion’s status and will become compelled to aid them. Any living figure coming within roughly 500’ of the vampire will waken the hungry fiend, who will rush to take its blood.

Countering the curse

While there is little evidence that religious symbols have any effect on vampires, they do seem to have an aversion to symbols of life. Strong herbs like garlic and mustard, and plants like roses or holly, act as an Avert spell to them if they do not make a 3/IQ Save test. And for reasons that elude scholars, unless a vampire is impaled by a fresh-cut wooden stake it can survive mortal wounds and rise the next sunset (with a 4/ST save). While there are debates among experts over which wood is best, any wooden stake will serve as long as it has been freshly cut.

As with many diseases, vampirism can be overcome. The Cleansing spell (ITL, p. 312) will eradicate it along with any other pathogens, but it will cause 1d damage to the target (as it is a living being). However, many people do not have access to such powerful magic. There is a non-magical treatment known to some healers, requiring a mixture of garlic, sage, and other more rare herbs — and blood from the vampire’s sire. This mixture must be swallowed and allows the victim a new Save test against the affliction (at their pre-vampiric ST). If the formula is created by a Master Physicker or Alchemist the victim gains a +2ST to this save.

A ‘cured’ figure will lose the added ST and powers granted by the disease, and the aversion to sunlight and certain plants will fade in time. The victim will always have an affinity to their sire and suffer a -4IQ to saves concerning attempts to persuade or control the victim.