The half-damned aren’t what you think. The Dampyr is a curse upon the cursed, and a proof that even the Damned can still transgress.
The vampires that haunted the Balkan region during the preindustrial age must have been a lusty and perverse lot, for it's from this region that the predominant legends (and indeed, the name) of the Dampyr arose. The spelling and pronunciation varies regionally from the Serbian vampirović to the Bulgarian dzhadadzhiya (or the less exotic sounding glog).
The offspring of unholy unions between vampires and mortals were typically said to possess some or all of their vampire parent's power and vitality, without the usual assortment of conventional and unusual weaknesses, and further were driven to hunt and slay the undead. The power of the Dampyr to pierce the veils of vampire glamour or defy their influence made them especially effective hunters, and some legends have them able to share this ability through several bits of folk mummery and charms—looking down the sleeves of a Dampyr's doffed shirt being one of them.
Dampyr would rove the countryside, seeking out vampires to slay for proper remuneration from appreciative locals—taking their payment in silver, livestock, food or clothing. Many seemed to diversify into general traveling exorcists who would arrive to (miraculously!) find vampires in the local graveyard, or other unquiet dead that needed putting to sleep. After an impressive show of seeking them out and putting an end to them, the Dampyr would move on. Regional folk-history records several instances of opportunists making use of the Dampyr legends to perpetuate cons on credulous locals. The range of physical features identifying a Dampyr was so flexible as to encompass any trickster willing to put on a good show.
Most reliable reports of mortal and semi-mortal beings with distinctively vampiric powers almost inevitably turn out to be of an unfamiliar or particularly accomplished ghoul, a member of one of the ghoul families, or even another vampire adopting the blush of life. It's all clouds, swamp gas and weather balloons. Most of the time.
What is a certainty is the explicit forbiddance in pursuing natural-born offspring found in the older canonical writings of the Lancea Sanctum, the mysteries of the Ordo Dracul, and the lore of the Circle of the Crone. One can also find prohibitions against it in the volumes of edicts and laws in long-established princedoms (notably in the older Eastern European cities) indicating at some point in the long history of Kindred society, a ruler felt the need to explicitly rule against vampires knowing mortals in the biblical sense.
Conception and BirthEdit
Dampyr are not conceived by accident—unlike the easy breeding of mortals, to breach all natural order and force dead semen to fertilize living eggs or withered wombs, to nurture and feed a living child, requires some kind of dramatic and deliberate effort. But even when the passion and willpower needed to force this is lacking, there are occult methods to foster the sin.
The conception of a Dampyr is not constrained to females alone. Occult pregnancy is by its very nature a perversion of the essential human procreation—a piratical invasion of something sacred and primal. Distinctions in what is and is not possible have already left the building, and that leaves us with female vampires impregnating women and male vampires impregnating men (with variations on these themes). Carrying pregnancy and giving birth is not something human males are biologically prepared for, nor socially conditioned to deal with. The parasitic Dampyr fetus that finds its own niche in a male abdominal cavity is protected by an occult placenta and cowl of tissue, but the male body it feeds upon is unprepared to handle the hormone flux, the swelling, the discomfort. It's a disconcerting experience, but compared to the (possibly fatal) agonies of delivery, the months of pregnancy seem like a fading nightmare. Surgery can save the father's life, but his sanity will be another matter.
The course of pregnancy for a mortal mother to a half-Damned child is fairly typical, though the usual cravings run to the bizarre, and there are the dreams, and the waves of emotion and unfamiliar memories. The blood of the father has some effect, of course—Nosferatu means night terrors, Ventrue inexplicably grandiose moods, Gangrel hunger and the urge for open spaces and fresh air, Mekhet quietness and a peculiar interest in puzzles and patterns, and Daeva a glow of health and horniness.
Delivery can be a rougher matter, with the conflicting vampire and human natures in the tiny mindless child warring, and, again, seeing the father's blood run true—the Gangrel's child biting and snarling, the Daeva's a chortling cherub, charming from birth. But minor irregularities aside, there's nothing to distinguish the Dampyr from any pure bred mortal child until one day when inexorably he attracts the eye of a vampire whose blood resonates with his, and the engine of revenge is first fired.
A Dampyr can live a long time and never even know they're something other than an ordinary unhappy human being. They think the horrors visited upon them again and again are a result of circumstance rather than a function of who they are. And what they are, is payback. They're walking revenge for the act that gave them life.
A Dampyr isn't cursed, but rather a vessel for a curse—the vehicle for a mindless cosmic revenge. She doesn't destroy vampires by hunting them down with axe and stake and sword and fire, but by walking down the street, having a night out with friends, and striking up a conversation with the nice (if a little pale) guy who offers to buy the next drink.
Her blood makes her a vessel to deliver retribution upon a transgressing vampire, and upon that vampire's whole line. The clan of her vampire parent always influences the course of the child's life in dramatic ways, shaping her destiny, and pushing her into proximity with vampires of the same clan. The child inherits some traits and behaviors broadly similar to the clan of the vampire parent, but also possesses a quality that fascinates and attracts members of that clan, ultimately luring them into a particularly apropos doom.
No sense a vampire can bring to bear upon a Dampyr shows the undead anything weird about her. She looks like a perfectly ordinary mortal, flawed and afflicted by all the ordinary foibles, and some oddly fascinating particular ones. Obsessing over mortals is nothing so unusual in Kindred experience, and certainly nothing to be laid at the feet of the mortal herself.
But all it takes is one taste of the Dampyr's blood to unleash hell upon the vampire that dares pluck the fruit. In the end, the blood contains the essence of his own destruction, and the bemused half-Damned bastard is left reeling, another relationship disintegrating into madness and chaos around her.
The blood of the Damned marks the child with a touch of sympathetic damnation, imprinting in him like wet clay the negative image of the vampire's own nature. The child is born complicit in the murder of his own parent (or at least, his parent's blood kin). The child carries a tiny measure of his parent's power, and the means to unmake the unnatural undead thing that forced him into existence.
- The Penetrating Eye: Dampyr can sense, and with an effort of will negate, the effects of Obfuscate, Dominate, Majesty, Nightmare and other psychological Disciplines. If the Discipline is being used by a member of the clan from which the Dampyr is descended, this effect is much easier, and the immunity persists for a longer time. If the Discipline is used by a member of another clan of vampire, then it requires more effort. The Dampyr doesn't even have to know this is happening—it's a reflex action of sorts. Dampyr don’t recognize vampires on sight alone. Even the sense of being subject to strange mental fiddling can seem normal enough that some Dampyr remain ignorant of their true nature for years, sometimes even after meeting vampires themselves.
- Aura of the Ordinary: To any vampire perception, mundane or magical, a Dampyr appears completely mortal. There are hints this might not be entirely true, but nothing obvious. Were vampires easily able to identify the half-Damned, they'd make it a point to avoid them, and a curse upon the cursed won't be so easily fooled. Other supernatural creatures that can see auras can notice something in the Dampyr's aura, flashes and veins of paleness. Vampires simply can't see this.
- Poisoned Veins: To vampires of their clan, Dampyr blood brings doom—a curse that robs a vampire of some essential part of his nature without which he'll find survival plenty difficult. To vampires of other clans, the blood of the Dampyr is oddly unsatisfying. It occupies space, but when it's tapped for use it provides no power. The blood has to be expelled from the system before it can be replaced with fresh healthy blood. The vampire knows the Dampyr Vitae is useless as soon as he drinks it, and the vampire has to make himself vomit the blood up.
When considering a Dampyr, the clan of her vampire parent determines much of her power, and charts a ridged destiny nearly impossible to escape. Sometimes, the strange Vitae of a parent's bloodline may also tell in the child's nature (the half-Damned child of a Morbus, for example, may be prone to carrying diseases without getting them, or the issue of a Toreador might be an exceptional artist), but typically the stronger strains of the line's parent clan dominate.
- Advantage: Beyond the advantages all the half-Damned possess, they also inherit a particular potency to mirror the undead nature of their parent. These provide a constant subtle sympathy with the parent's powers, and with an exercise of will, a more obviously supernatural effect.
- Affliction: Born with dead blood in his veins, the child inherits some weakness of body or character like a stain, further reinforcing the gross injustice of his existence, forcing him to suffer for the sins of another even as he willingly or unwillingly works toward vengeance for those sins.
- Favored Attributes: Another sympathy to the parent, the child inherits the favored attribute of the vampire's clan.
- Lure: As the true mark of the Dampyr, the constant and inescapable proof of their purpose as instruments of automatic revenge, each Dampyr possesses a quality or aura that those of their parent's blood find fascinating and irresistible, attractive and compelling. The Lure promises a surcease from suffering, a reawakening of life and hope in even a cynical hard-worn vampire's still heart. For the child, it means living as a beacon to trouble and death, betrayal and horror. At the first taste of the Lure, the vampire feels emboldened and stronger. When he swallows the hook, however, he'll suffer when he fails to follow the Lure's compulsion, and then when finally reeled in, suffer the doom carried in the Dampyr's blood.
- Escape: Even a hooked vampire might slip the hook, and escape with nothing more than a metaphorical torn mouth, and some much-needed paranoia. Escape means deliberately thrashing against the Lure, and it will hurt, and will compromise the vampire morally, possibly leading to loss of Humanity or worse.
- Doom: It isn't by fire or sword that the Dampyr destroy their parents, but through a slow spiraling dance of attraction and withdrawal, until the vampire is wholly entangled before the true realization of their true positions, who hunts, who feeds, and who lives until tomorrow. At the culmination of the seduction, the Dampyr's doom is visited upon the vampire that dares the incestuous feeding upon children of his own blood. Vampires that willingly drink the blood of a Dampyr of their own bloodline suffer terribly—a doom is a curse that could easily mean the end of a vampire's immortality, and one requiring an effort and sacrifice and a story event to lift. Each doom has an Out, some way to escape this deeper curse. Finding the Out is challenging. It requires a vampire to question and change something essential about himself, to in some way atone for his sins and sacrifice a part of himself.
- Advantage: The Dampyr can create an infatuation in one target. This can turn sour to drive the target away, or turn really bad, resulting in a violent blowout or a psycho obsession.
- Affliction: Drama Junkie – Gain willpower when you hurt someone who trusts you emotionally, or when you end a relationship, leaving the other person the worse for it. If you break up a relationship with the big drama or betray someone who trusts you, leaving him seriously messed up for a long time, all willpower returns. Emotionally significant milestones in a relationship after the first phase of passion and infatuation is done cause a loss of willpower. Meeting your SO’s parents, moving in together, anniversaries, holidays, even hearing certain songs when you're together. Things that normally reinforce the relationship make you feel constrained and claustrophobic.
- Favored Attributes: Dexterity or Manipulation
- Lure: Romance – The Daeva may be shallow, manipulative creatures, but they're vulnerable to self-delusion, and of the delusions, romance is among the sweetest. Therefore, their Dampyr exude an inexorable sense of this—the promise of rekindled human feeling, of passion, of, dare we say it, love.
- Escape: Escaping the Daeva Lure requires a messy breakup scene that leaves absolutely no room for doubt that the relationship is over.
- Doom: Heartbreaker – When the vampire finally succumbs, as she inevitably must, to her hunger, seeking to consummate the romance she feels so intensely, the Dampyr's doom is visited upon her in the sweet but tainted blood. The poison annihilates the vampire’s capacity to feel anything save for the sorrow of loss. It hits the Daeva where she's most vulnerable, in her already-atrophied ability to feel.
- Advantage: Shrug off deadly wounds, from which you can recover normally. You look a mess, but the bullet somehow managed to miss all your vital organs.
- Affliction: Temper, Temper – Gain willpower when resorting to physical violence to solve your problems if you initiate the fight and it could have been resolved with other tactics, or when someone else backs down from your threat of violence, and blinks first. All willpower returns when using violence brings down a world of pain on you and your allies, causing trouble and danger beyond the immediate confrontation. Lose willpower when you demur from a fight, back down, or succumb to intimidation.
- Favored Attributes: Composure or Stamina
- Lure: Trust – Loners, wanderers, driven to seek the company of animals, but finding only salivating slaves and followers, Gangrels feel the Beast rise to challenge their fellows, the urge to dominate and establish hierarchy. Not lonely by choice, but instinct. What would such a creature crave? Trust. The space to relax around someone, to be silent with someone, the Beast sleeping soundly. Nothing like love or sex, just companionship and ease.
- Escape: Escaping the Lure requires the Gangrel throw herself into social situations as hard and as often as possible, forging as many ties with others as possible, serving others, and being served.
- Doom: Put the Beast to Sleep – The blood of a Gangrel-born Dampyr brings a particularly appropriate doom upon Gangrel that take their blood—it puts the Beast to sleep. This frees the vampire from all his unnatural instincts—the threat of Frenzy the most noticeable, as the constant snarl falls silent, and the clarity of those first few minutes is almost pure joy before the true depths of the doom are revealed. With the Beast slumbering, the vampire loses all his protective instincts and fears. Fire and the sun hold no particular dread, and the Predator’s Taint of other vampires doesn’t even register anymore. Sound almost wonderful? The doom is truly revealed with the vampire’s first efforts at feeding. Without the Beast’s hunger, the vampire can no longer judge how in need of Vitae he is. Worse, the experience of drinking blood is grotesque and revolting. It’s hot and cloying in the mouth, salty and metallic, and the gorge rises, the long quiescent gag reflex reawakens. Drinking blood requires willpower to overcome this alien disgust. And without even the sense of hunger to warn, it is all too easy for a starving vampire to fall torpid, and without the instincts to seek shelter from the sun, to do so on a park bench or the backseat of a car.
- Out: Awakening the Beast again, and being free of this doom, requires the Gangrel to engage in a truly savage series of acts, which shocks the Beast from its slumber. Without the instincts of the Beast to inspire this horror, the Man must commit atrocity and horror willingly and unflinchingly.
- Advantage: Gain an uncanny insight into a given situation, person, object or place. This might be the result of exceptional deduction or induction, the processes of logic and reason, but it often stretches credibility the point where something unnatural would be easier to believe.
- Affliction: Obsessive Secrecy, Secret Obsession – Gain willpower when you withhold important information for no other purpose than keeping it secret. If withholding this information has no inherent benefit, and also leads to danger and hardship for yourself or those about whom you care, all willpower is restored. Willpower is lost when you fail to pursue a mystery or secret when presented with the opportunity, including when you ignore the chance to poke around in things that don’t concern you (such as someone's marital troubles or his safe, left half-open).
- Favored Attributes: Intelligence or Wits
- Lure: Mystery – There’s something inexplicably fascinating about Dampyr of this blood to Mekhet vampires. A nagging sense of hidden truth lurking somewhere in the mortal’s body or mind or life. Yet, also the sense that this truth is fragile, and one wrong step will crush it, and snuff out any chance of ever uncovering it. The investigation begins at a distance.
- Escape: Escaping the Mekhet Lure is agony—because the secret investigation has become so wrapped up in everything the vampire does and pursues, he must abandon all research and all investigation, ceasing any search for truth or insight.
- Doom: Paranoia – With the first taste of the Dampyr's blood, a hideous realization crashes upon the vampire, and drives him away from his chosen acolyte—Who better to destroy me than those I trust? This poison seed grows into a black vine choking the vampire’s loyalty and trust. The more he pushes people away from him, the more he feels abandoned and betrayed. The vicious circle continues. His thralls and servants must be conspiring against him, so he drives them off or concocts schemes to send them to their deaths. Allies are preparing to betray him, so he takes the initiative and moves against them instead—actions that seem like betrayal, but to him are sound strategy. He’ll begin to avoid all direct contact with other beings, instead relying upon increasingly difficult to decipher messages and duped intermediaries. If he has the power, he cloaks himself and never becomes visible if he can help it. He'll eventually become so much trouble that his fears will be self-fulfilling, and the local authorities within his community will stalk, capture, and put him down.
- Out: Being free of this doom requires a nearly superhuman commitment to do the opposite of its driving impulses. The Mekhet must throw himself open, reveal his secrets, sleep in unsafe unsecured havens, and make himself vulnerable. He must confess his crimes, reveal his weaknesses, and entrust everything up to and including his very survival to strangers.
- Advantage: You seem like a wholly forgettable non-person to those around you. So long as you do nothing to draw attention to yourself, or act out of place in a given situation, most people will ignore you and won’t remember anything special about you. Stand on a street-corner and shake a cup filled with change, and you read as a perfectly ordinary panhandler. Pursuers might run right past you. Walk into an office with a blazer and a suitcase, and people will assume you work there.
- Affliction: Alienation – Gain willpower whenever you reject an offer to join or participate in a group or alliance, or to otherwise join with others in a formal way, if your actions or demeanor see you chastised or excluded, and most of all when you are persecuted or harmed in a significant way for being an outsider. Lose willpower when you seek out membership in a group or seek the approval of others, and when you cave in to social pressure or expectations, or obey social convention because doing so is easier.
- Favored Attributes: Composure or Strength
- Lure: Pity – Cold fish that he is, the Nosferatu vampire is often far more humane than his appearance or aura would sug- gest, sometimes even more than he himself suspects. The Dampyr spawned of his blood touches a nerve in his kind, wakening a rough and unexpected pity. The sullen mortal, alienated from society for his aberrations, deformities, personality, anger—yet so obviously ripe with a potential that will never be appreciated. It resonates with him so profoundly, even a true monster will rarely question the upswell of sympathy.
- Escape: Escaping the Lure demands the Nosferatu confront everything he hates about himself, and try to find closure with those who’ve rejected him in the past.
- Doom: Revelation – Upon tasting the mortal’s blood to initiate the Embrace, his eyes are cleared, the Lure’s veil dropping, and he sees the same shudder at his touch , the same curled-lip disgust, and the same gasp of fear he always dreads seeing. And it breaks him.
The haunt becomes manic and extravagant; rather than hiding his nature or concealing his deformity, he flaunts it aggressively. What’s all this secrecy worth anyhow? It doesn’t protect us from rejection, it doesn’t even give us the sympathy of those who’re most like us. The vampire must have the willpower to resist whenever an opportunity to flaunt his true nature presents itself. Every night he remains isolated and hidden also costs him willpower, as he’s driven to seek mortals to outrage with his hideous reality. So driven to ignore the Masquerade with casual flagrance, he cannot expect to long remain existent when the wrath of terrified mortals, or worse, his own Kindred falls upon him. Overcoming this doom requires the Nosferatu find a sane mortal who'll accept him without pity, even knowing what he is, without prejudgment or disgust, and requires he win the approval of this mortal.
- Advantage: Assume a mantle of authority others accept unless there is some obvious reason not to. The effects of this advantage vary a bit based upon the situation and the people involved. Exactly who you're assumed to be to warrant the authority varies—in a prison, people may assume you're a prison official, guard, or a gang leader, depending upon the context. In a police station, cops might assume you’re a detective (if you're in plainclothes), or a local politico. If you’re dressed like a hood, they might disbelieve their first reaction to you, or with some suggestion believe you’re undercover.
- Affliction: Dominance – Gain willpower when showing dominance over another, and lose willpower when showing subservience to another.
- Favored Attributes: Presence or Resolve
- Lure: Challenge – Who is this aggressive young turk? Across the vampire’s domain, the presence of another mover and shaker is felt. The Dampyr is a cunning and able leader, and his attitude is fierce. Even though he’s only a mortal, something in the vampire rises, feels challenged by him. Not threatened—the Beast doesn’t demand blood—but if this formidable mortal can be guided, shaped, if he can learn to accept the firm hand of a just ruler then he would be a powerful asset. But before he can be turned, he must be trained—broken to the saddle, without breaking his spirit. It’s a slow game, and not unpleasant.
- Escape: Escaping the Lure demands the Ventrue abdicate some of his responsibility—give over his power to another, at least for a time.
- Doom: Futility – What’s the point? Even knowing the nature of the Lure and the doom doesn’t console—they’re further indictments of the Ventrue’s natural right to lead. Utterly gone is the vampire’s desire for power, advancement and position. His Beast is cowed, and accepts the dominion of any other.
- Reel it In : Unlike most Dampyr, you can temporarily suppress the effects of your Lure, preventing it from attracting unwanted vampire admirers. While the Lure is suppressed, you can't use your advantages.
- Boneless : You are like the Balkan Dampyr whose exploits fed much of the old mythology, and possess flexible bones. Though you appear normal, you're able to bend and contort your body in grotesque ways, easily allowing you to fit through gaps as small as a human fist, though doing so requires several minutes (tighter squeezes taking longer to negotiate). You are also extremely resilient to Bashing damage. Your flexible bones don't protect your organs as well as normal human bones.
- Unmask : You may share your ability to pierce vampiric veils and undo vampiric influence by touching a target and using some willpower.
- Scourge : Your half-Damned nature is flexible and potent, affecting any vampire that encounters you as if your Lure and doom were perfectly attuned to her blood. None of your other traits or advantages change, and this power is almost more of a curse—your life will be an unstoppable pageant of tragedy and revenge, but for all vampires you are a whirlwind of endings, leading your obsessive admirers into conflict with one another.