Monday, January 3, 2011

Vampiric Musings, Or How Do I Kill It, And Why Does it Work?

I've been thinking about the standard ways to kill a vampire. I've got a few questions:

Stake to the heart:
1. How much of the heart has to be pierced? Is it a square hit to the center, or will a slight contact that's completely surrounded by heart tissue do?
2. How much of the stake has to be wood? Is it the entire thing, or will a metal tipped one, such as an arrow do? Does a completely metal-shod wooden stake count?
3.Why does it work at all?

1. How do you get them to catch fire? Does it count if they simply grab something hot?
2. How much of a vampire must be burned? For example, if you burn a vampire's hand off will it heal?
3. Does sudden, non-prolonged, contact with flame such as that from an explosion kill a vampire if none of the other conditions are met? If so, why?

1. Why? Just, why?

Also, this will be part of a series of posts titled "How Do I Kill It And Why Does It Work?". This won't cover everything, only those with some special methods of killing them, instead of, or in addition to, the standard means. Each post will be two parts: In the first I ask questions, about things I don't get about the ways you can kill something, and in the second, I post the best responses to those questions with the author's name/identifier being listed. Suggestions for what I should do next, if they include a list of weaknesses, are welcome.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hm... A lot of these answers are going to be dependent on setting. For example, if it's a fantasy setting, lots can be explained away by magic.

    Anyways, I'll take stab (heh) at this...

    Basic vampire physiology:
    Vampires cannot be killed through normal means because they regenerate rapidly - so rapidly, in fact, that regeneration is visually noticeable. Take a monster of their approximate level, triple the HP, and allow characters to kill it by doing that much damage - effectively bludgeoning the vampire into meat soup and scattering the bits. Throw in hefty in-combat regeneration as well.

    Stake to the Heart:
    For whatever reason, vampires cannot regenerate their heart (feel free to extend this to their brains too! Potentially include their whole central nervous system?). The heart must be completely obliterated for it to be fatal. However, glancing blows can cause complications; if the heart is gouged, much of their regenerative power will go to keeping blood replenished and the heart at the proper pressure. Any implement whatsoever will work - a sufficiently spiky morningstar, for example, could suffice. Stakes are, however, cheap and easily wielded.

    Cauterizes as it burns, requiring an egregious amount of effort to regenerate. Burning to death requires lighting a significant amount of the vampire on fire; the regeneration must be cancelled and exceeded in fire damage. After this, they rapidly burn to ash. Vampires are especially flammable, but must be exposed to something hotter than fire-warmed steel. Explosions will catch them alight.

    Acts as burning, but instantaneous and affects all exposed body-parts. Magical side effect of vampirism.

    Works as per stake by separating brain and body. Decapitated head must then have its brain caved in with blunt force to ensure a proper kill; bodies may eventually form off a decapitated head, but never vice versa (headless bodies are always non-threatening).

    Wrapping it all up:
    Vampirism is a magical disease transmitted by blood/saliva/fluid contact (as saliva->blood in bites). It creates a desire for blood (and associated physiology; hearing+, smell+, fangs+) in the victim, and uses the blood in a magical/alchemical reaction to fuel regenerative powers. Vampires may be killed through traditional means, but requires such excessive force that the shortcuts - heart trauma, skull trauma, burning, and sunlight - are the best known.

  3. @Tylhandrias:

    What did you have there?


    Cool! This is the kind of thing I'm looking for. Just to clarify though: Does this combat regeneration translate to if you cut off a finger, it grows back, etc.?

  4. @C'nor:
    Tylhandrias/Ashton are both my accounts; having some issues with the blogspot commenting. I accidentally double-posted and removed the first. :)

    Anyways, you could spin it both ways, but it makes vampires far more exciting (and threatening) enemies if they regenerate back to their original form over time. This would be dependent on wound type / extent, with burns being the hardest things to heal and lacerations the easiest. For example, a decapitated and cauterized head could regenerate its body in approximately a month (but the body couldn't regenerate a head!). It's important to note, though, that since the vampire would require a steady diet of blood to fuel the regeneration, they must be helped along by someone if they cannot seek blood alone - picture an evil minion in a dungeon, spoon-fooding a vampire head with blood daily, in the promise of power later. I think there's potential there. :)

  5. Hmm. Sets things up nicely for something I was thinking about. See the next post for more on that.

  6. Also: Is it simply the there's no way for the body to get blood? If so I imagine a suitably insane character could work up a way to do and IV, even though we're working at D&D tech levels.

  7. Certainly! An IV drip for the technically-minded (or the much lower-tech pool of blood, rinsed and replaced every two or three days) would probably be sufficient to allow the vampire to regenerate. Maybe a little gurgling stream of blood, so it doesn't clot... Whatever seems most appropriate for the setting / characters involved!

  8. Better cloning through magic! (See the results for more on that)

  9. There's lengthy explanations for all classic vampire afflictions from lots of different sources. The original I Am Legend novella has a neat modernist breakdown. There's photophobias, OCD complexes, agoraphobia, and stuff like Carmilla where drinking or bathing in its blood gives you their life/beauty/power/whathaveyou.

    The mythos behind the stake was that it 'popped' a vampire's heart. Basically gas builds up in a corpse after you die, so if you stab it, the gas releases and the body deflates -- thats where that all came from. Wood or silver was considered the best material for the job because it's natural and holy, respectively, so really anywhere on the torso would kill a vampire, but stories went with the 'through the heart' motif cause it's more dramatic.

    Vampires are considered high evil, and incredibly vulnerable to holy items and substances. Sunlight has always been considered holy, so of course vampires can't experience it directly. Every author has made their own judgment calls on how much is too much.

    Same deal with fire -- everyone has their own judgment calls, but there's been a longstanding folk belief that if you want to send something back to hell (a witch or vampire), its best to do it through flame. Also it was the best way back then to have as little remains as possible.

    I suggest you do a bunch of reading up from more reputable sources than commenters like myself before you start writing. Good thing these topics are real interesting.

  10. I'm actually pretty knowledgeable about the origins of things like this in real life, as I have spent some time researching it. Still, I was mostly looking for stuff usable in one of my games, so...

  11. This is less of just an RPG thing but a lot of monsters seem to have a sole weakness according to certain myths.

    -Dragons can only be killed with swords forged of dragon's blood.

    -Rakshasa's must be stabbed by a bronze blade through the heart.

    -you have to burn the bones of ghosts

    -demons don't like salt, etc.

    I've thought of using these types of things to make certain villains more prominent. There's no way to harm them unless these conditions are met so you players may have to run (something my players almost never do no matter how bad things get). This also can create another quest. Obtaining a new item, like a dragonsword could be very difficult.