Original SA post
Interviewer: " What were the things you especially wanted to cover in the book."
Filamena Young: "Sex. Absolutely, sex. I think vampires should be banging all the time."
So I have a ugly and embarrassing confession to make: When I was in middle school, I stumbled across a copy of LJ Smith's
Vampire Diaries: The Awakening
. I proceeded to read the entire series. Don't get me started on how I felt when I eventually found
Interview with a Vampire
. I currently love "True Blood." Basically, I am all your moms and all your sisters.
So that makes me pretty uniquely qualified to go through a book that promises to ensure the longevity of
this particular thread
, White Wolf's newest release:
Strange Dead Love: I Think Vampires Should be Banging All the Time
So once you get that blushing and furtive glancing over your shoulder done with, let's get started. Also, I can't tell if that the person playing little spoon is male or female. I've been staring at him/her
for the past minute trying to decide. Oh well.
The first thing I notice is that this is a pretty short fucking book. Only 63 pages. Oh well. At the very least it maximizes the chances of me actually finishing this write up. The book starts, as many White Wolf releases do, with a bit of intro fiction:
I couldn’t bring to mind his name, but he had a body no woman could forget. He was perfection. Honey-blonde hair. Bright blue eyes. Broad shoulders and six-pack abs. He was a long stretch of sculpted steel and sex appeal. And he was calling my name.
Oh baby. Is your engine revved? Because mine is. Let me fan myself, I think I'm getting the vapors.
No seriously. I have a love/hate relationship with White Wolf fiction, but this stuff is pretty bad. As in literally painful to read. I feel like a middle aged housewife right now. Why doesn't my husband notice me. I don't feel sexy because all I do is take care of the kids. Someone make me a Bloody Mary.
Anyways, let's get started.
The author really likes to start things off with sentence fragments. This is sort of a thing that they do at the beginning of each chapter. Stuff like:
The rustle of silk. Spicy perfume. Bare skin, cool to the touch. A long neck. A throbbing pulse. Hot breath. An anticipatory quiver. Then, sharp fangs.
Lacy lingerie. Silky lotion. Moonlight and soft violins.
I see we are trying to evoke a style here, but is this how romance novelists write?
I was under the impression that it was mostly just finding a bunch of euphemisms for
The intro spends a little time talking about the all the trappings of the romance genre, and all it's attendant clichés. It also launches into this gem:
In more recent examples such as Twilight or Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, protagonists can even fall head over heels in love with the undead.
Oh boy. Twilight's really the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about this book; it's success is what some people are pointing to as the primary motivation behind releasing this book. Well, we'll see. I'll be making note of all the (godawful) pop culture references this book makes, rest assured.
To tide you over till next time, here's a little more of the fiction.
“It’s… complicated.” Gabriel’s voice, a subtle blending of the myriad European countries he’d spent time in, was normally unshakably confident. The hesitation in it, as much as the fact that he’d dared to rouse me from my bed, would have been enough to call me to him. But his next words assured I was on my way.
“I’m calling in my favor.”
“Knock it off,” I growled, keeping my gaze firmly glued to his chest, a silk-shirt-covered expanse that made my dream blonde look puny by comparison.
The goal here is intimate, not creepy...
Original SA post
Strange Dead Love: "The goal here is intimate, not creepy..."
Now into the book proper: As a note, If it feels like I'm sort of being sparse with the details, that's because the book is being sparse with the details. This is a really short book.
Look it's Kevin Corrigan.
Chapter one hilariously starts out with a summary of the basic steps of an adult relationship, in case anyone out there is too spergy or sheltered to know from personal experience. It’s basically broken down into the following steps: meeting the person (“Maybe a Nosferatu is shy and a police officer dares to lock eyes with him”*), initiating contact with the person (“A Mekhet trails a few steps behind a librarian for days until the mortal realizes he’s there” Huh?), courting the person and escalating to physical contact (“A Gangrel walks around with his hand on the back of his lover’s neck.” What?), then finally physical intimacy.
If you skip several steps between strangers, physical expressions of love become distinctly creepy.
This is great advice for everyone!
Blood Bonds and Disciplines
Eep! Disciplines, in case anyone was unaware, are vampire superpowers, and they include several that involve mind control and emotional manipulation. And blood bonds occur when either a vampire or a mortal drinks a vampire’s blood three times, he becomes enthralled to that vampire. This causes the drinker (the thrall) to feel an unnatural attraction and devotion to the vampire he drank from (the regnant).
The Vampire core books have always stressed that this is nasty shit, yet its historically been a rather uncomfortable area where creepy fucked up people playing Vampire to express their creepy fuckedupedness.
To authors’ credit, they sort of acknowledge that mind controlling people into loving you is creepy and maybe it be best to stay away from that shit.
Make no mistake: blood bonds and Disciplines force intimacy rather than allow it to flourish naturally... grounds for something much less pleasant than romance.
You mean like rape? Because that sort of sounds like rape.
Of course, you can tweak the setting a bit to help. For example, making the blood bond two-sided removes some of the consent problems
Wait what? No, that really doesn’t help at all.
Themes and Variations
The rest of this chapter is devoted to various story elements common to the romance genre (paranormal or otherwise) and how they could be worked into a VtR campaign. I’m going to only briefly touch on the parts that aren’t as funny.
Redemption: The idea that a vampire’s love for a mortal could redeem the vampire, maybe even make him human again. Redemption is already a part of the WoD as one of the many possible results of Golconda so this isn’t as out there as it sounds.
What happens when a vampire doesn’t want to be saved? What if she becomes human entirely by accident? How about the mortal who feels responsible for their now-human lover?
Then… you wouldn’t be playing Vampire anymore? I take back what I said about it not being as out there as it sounds.
Some highlights from other themes:
Perhaps the scent of a mortal’s blood attracts a specific vampire.
You smell like lavender and freesia. It’s mouthwatering.
Imagine a ghoul who throws himself over a Kindred’s body or a thrall who takes a bullet.
Wait. Didn’t we just establish that blood bonds are creepy and romance games shouldn’t be using them?
Hey look there's a bit on swinging:
Triangles, Squares and Other Shapes allows Kindred and mortal couples to experiment with multiple partners as a way to increase dramatic tension in a romantic plot.
It's nice that White Wolf is acknowledging its polyamorous fans.
This theme is not about having an orgy for the sake of an orgy or exploring the technical details of managing multiple partners.
Sure it's not.
Then there is section is followed by a bit where it talks about how to make your Vampire game at home closer to the current popular vampire media. Like those Mirrors books except based on like Lauren K Hamilton and True Blood and stuff. How would such and such faction operate under a relaxed or nonexistent Masquerade (e.g. came out of the coffin), and etc.
It also gives us this alternative wording of VTR's fourth tradition (traditions, by the way, are basically vampire laws):
You are forbidden from Embracing out of love. If you violate this Commandment, both you and your childe will forfeit your claim to the Blood.
Wow. That's not overwrought at all. I'll just file that with the rule in the CIA that dictates that spies never fall in love.
There's even a section on how to have a supernatural night club.
The layout of a club supports a wide range of intimate expressions. A slow grind on the dance floor. Bodies jammed together. Eyes meet across a crowded bar. These physical acts in a public place can be sexy or innocent, intentional or accidental, rough or gentle.
This quote is really indicative of this entire chapter: It isn't really notable for its horrificness, as a lot of us thought it would be, but rather for the way it clinically dissects.... well, the idea of having a social life.
Aaand, that about wraps it up for this chapter.
E: I almost forgot! Have some bonus fiction:
*Does anyone have any Nossie/Kine fanart they’d like to share with us?
His voice was honey and silk, and I wanted nothing more than to meet the man behind it. He sounded so attractive, so handsome, so
Something weird was going on. Was it some sort of vampiric power? This wasn’t the iron fist I’d been forced under before. It was…It was like hearing the best sex you could imagine going on just outside of your reach. I wanted to crawl out on my hands and knees and beg to be allowed to join.
...somewhere between brainwashing and a Pygmalion story.
Original SA post
Strange Dead Love: "...somewhere between brainwashing and a Pygmalion story."
Sorry guys! I've been busy with work and shit. I know all two of you who are interested in this book have been waiting on bated breath.
So let's draw that bubble bath, light those candles, pour ourselves a glass of red wine, and let's get this whole tawdry affair going.
While the last chapter of Strange Dead Love devoted most of its word count to hashing out the broad characteristics present in most paranormal romance, this chapter gives us actual campaign hooks and ideas. They are present in what nWoD calls shards, which comprise a witty title, a basic premise for a campaign, and brief descriptions of NPCs and Situations such a campaign might entail. This is by far the longest chapter in the book, and it’s going to be a multipart update.
He’s sleeping with you, you’re in love with her, and everyone is getting screwed. Vampire desires are a powder keg full of fangs.
Probably the most straightforward premise of the bunch. "Everyone is sleeping with someone while wanting to sleep with someone else." Tangled webs of jealousy. Wacky misunderstandings. Will they or won't they? (They will! Multiple times even!) True Blood meets Melrose Place meets High School Musical.
There's an interesting mechanic that the book suggests in which all the players write their PC's name down on a strip of paper and everybody draws from the hat.
Each player draws out a name, and that’s the object of their Secret Desire.
And then everyone proceeds to in-game hit on the person they drew. Your in-game crush effectively acts as a second Vice, giving you willpower points whenever you pursue them. The NPC suggestions include ex-lovers, sires, and others who could potentially serve as obstacles to keep various PCs from shacking up. The suggested situations include this gem:
Meet the Sires:
One or more of the characters’ sires are returning to town or coming out of torpor. The coterie has to prepare for their sires’ arrivals, hide the youthful trouble they’ve been getting into, and deal with the potential interpersonal pressures. After all, some particularly sensitive sires might be able to feel their childer’s romantic obsessions. Awkward can turn deadly very fast with Kindred.
Vampire Ben Stiller. Think about that for a second.
The Prince’s Childe
He’s too “delicate” to hold the city alone. How can you assure you’re the one he shares it with without losing all your allies in the process?
From such classic works as
Pride and Predjudice
, we get the "seduce the rich heir-apparent and be set for
undeath plotline." Basically the premise for this one is that the Prince of the city is going into torpor (a vampire coma, there are legitimate reasons for wanting to do this in Vampire: the Requiem) and leaving his childer in charge of the city. For some reason that is never fully explained, when the prince announces his dirt nap, "eligible kindred" from all over the city get together to try and.... marry the future prince-pro-tempore. And the PCs are in the running.
I'm honestly a little weirded out by how weak and effete the NPC lead of this romance is supposed to be.
He's young and fragile[...]People keep calling him delicate[...]the childe is seen as a helpless prize."
Sexy, I guess? So I guess the idea is that everyone thinks that because this heir is so weak willed, whoever shacks up with him will basically get to run the city from.
Oh but what if he's not so weak willed. What if he's wonderful and sensitive and dreamy?
However this shard goes, I imagine ending with that scene out of She's All That where the PC explains that the relationship might have started as business, but the PC really, truly fell in love with him at the end. As NPCs the book recommends other suitors, the prince as the disapproving father figure (what is with this book and daddy issues?), and factions that seek to support and oppose certain unions for political reasons.
Oh and story ideas for this premise:
Kiss Me Kate:
The childe has decided that one of the characters is particularly vile. While pretending to allow himself to be seduced, he’s actually manipulating the character to behave better. [The whole thing is] somewhere between
brainwashing and a Pygmalion story.
This section also includes rules for an Invictus Marriage Ritual. Married couples get to use the highest City, Clan, and Covenant status they have between them.
The last one I will do for this update (we aren't even halfway through).
Embrace for Love
Can you make yourself fall in love? Can you find the “right one” as part of a political game? Can you engineer your own lasting love, only to potentially destroy it?
I'm not sure I fully understand the premise behind this one. A successful Carthian society has been set up, and to really stick it to the man, they order everyone to go out and break all the old rules that they disagreed with under the other covenants. One such rule was the Lancea Sanctum's "Don't embrace [make another vampire] for love" so you're tasked with embracing for love. Oh no. What if the person you love doesn't want to be a vampire? What if he's already a vampire? What if you're a character doesn't believe in love?
Basically the book frames this as a move by the Carthians against the Lancea Sanctum, and tries to play up the political possibilities but it's not really fooling anyone.
Consider tragic stories that could be turned around by the Embrace, such as those of the terminally ill, abused ghouls, the disenfranchised victims of society, and so on.
Your DM is Nicholas Sparks. Turn up the exploitative tragedy.
There's a suggested mechanic of having your True Love act as a second Virtue for you, but honestly I'm still a little too baffled by the premise to consider how that might work in practice.
Next time on Strange Dead Love: The werewolf-vampire romances everyone's been waiting for. "Can you stem the tides of your own passion for these magnificent beasts?" Gosh I hope not!
Also, elsewhere in the world of paranormal romance:
What? Halflings? Really?