What follows is an excerpt from the Southern Claw Field Manual. This is the introduction to the chapter: “Vampires”.
Our enemies are numerous, but there is little question that the most enumerate, organized and intelligent of humankind’s foes are the vampires of the coalition called the Ebon Cities. Controlled in a rigid but mysterious military structure, the Ebon Cities vampires are ruthless, efficient, and merciless.
As undead, a vampire never tires, and they can push their bodies well beyond the limits of what even a thaumaturgically enhanced human can achieve. Vampires need neither sleep nor rest, they are utterly silent, and, so far as Southern Claw research has been able to determine, vampires feel no emotional drive save for the violent need to satiate their seemingly limitless hunger.
Physically, vampires appear very similar to humans, save for their exceedingly pale complexion and above average height (vampire males average six-and-a-half feet tall, while females are roughly six feet tall). Vampires are lightweight for their size, and tend to be muscular and lean. Their hair is uniformly black, and most often long; their eyes lack pupils, and are similarly pitch black.
Vampires bear fangs and claws that are both of a dark bone-like material. Both claws and teeth drip narcotic venoms naturally produced by their undead metabolisms. Separate stores of venom can either slow their victim’s reaction times (claws) or infect them with the disease we simply know as vampirism (fangs).
Vampirism is in actuality a micro-plague carried in the bloodstream. A host of incredibly miniscule necrotic insects spread and multiply throughout the victim’s body, assaulting major organs and the human pulmonary system in such a precise manner that it is impossible to assume the disease is anything other than constructed. The disease can be slowed or possibly even reversed through the use of magic, bloodletting, transfusions, and a variety of alchemical substance combinations.
Victims of vampirism MUST be treated quickly if there is any hope of curing the disease; in the field, total reversal of the process is unlikely, and a field surgeon or mage should instead focus on slowing or halting the spread of the necrotic insects so that the victim can be transported to a properly equipped medical facility. In either case, victims must be expunged of as much vampire venom and given as much clean blood as possible within a manner of minutes.
If a victim is not treated, they will gradually transform (or “Turn”) into a vampire over the course of the next twelve hours. Once Turned, the new vampire retains few to no skills, memories, or even personality traits they may have possessed in life, but they instead become violent and bloodthirsty killing machines (thought most vampires are still possessed of a keen feral instinct and above-average intelligence). It is believed that all vampires employ some manner of telepathic bond, a sort of collective consciousness that allows them to function cohesively. It is also widely accepted by Southern Claw intelligence that, on occasion, the Ebon Cities Command has reason for a particular “convert” to retain the skills he or she possessed in life; the vampires have a separate process for this sort of slower Turning, one that involves a lengthy stretch of both physical and psychological torture.
(It is worth noting that, to date, the vampires have NOT been able to replicate human sorcery through these means. The fact that they are actively researching a way to do so is alarming in and of itself.)
Regeneration and Immunities
One popular misconception among Southern Claw civilians is the notion that vampires are impervious to most forms of physical harm. Let it be clear: vampires arenot immune to any form of physical violence. A bullet or knife injures a vampire just as it does a human. What IS a fact is that vampires possess an unlimited pain threshold and incredible regenerative abilities. Even severe wounds begin to heal moments after they are received, which is why it is of utmost importance that any attack directed against a vampire be fast, efficient and unrelenting. If a vampire sustains a serious enough wound or else receives enough serious wounds, its regenerative abilities will prove unable to keep up with the trauma that the body has sustained. While blood loss seems to have no effect on vampires, their bodies still can only take so much damage before they shut down. Head wounds are the preferable means of dealing with our enemy, as vampires seem incapable of recovering from such injuries. They also have difficulty regenerated damage caused by fire.
As they do not breathe or tire, many varieties of chemical and alchemical weapons available have little effect on vampires; indeed, the Ebon Cities has been known to make use of such weapons precisely because their own soldiers are by and large unaffected by them.
Just as they bear no special invulnerabilities, vampires also display no particular vulnerabilities. Myths and tales from the old world that imply vampires can be destroyed with direct sunlight, that they can be repulsed by crosses, that they cannot abide garlic or cross running water have all been uniformly disproven, in some cases to the detriment of the Southern Claw military. It is best to use conventional means for destroying vampires, preferably from a distance or with artillery. Man-to-vampire combat is not recommended.
(The one old world myth that does seem to have some bearing, surprisingly enough, is the vampire’s aversion to mirrors. While they do indeed cast a reflection, there is something about large mirrored surfaces that seem to disturb the undead. More research is being conducted in this area in the hopes of finding a way to exploit this weakness.)
In addition to their superior strength and natural weapons (the utterly lethal nature of a vampire’s fangs and claws cannot be emphasized enough: a vampire is never unarmed until it is destroyed), vampires employ a number of deadly ballistic and projectile weapons, all of which are covered more thoroughly elsewhere in this field manual. Suffice to say that these grotesque and varied weapons — which range from bone launchers to pyroclast rifles to triple-barrel cylinder guns — are every bit as deadly, if not moreso, than any Southern Claw ordnance.
Vampires (especially the highly trained Shadowclaw Hunters) also like to make use of exotic blades crafted from steel, obsidian and bone. Many of their melee and hand-held projectiles are also coated with a number of toxins and narcotics. (Luckily, it does not appear that vampirism itself can be transmitted via projectile, but Southern Claw intelligence is positive that Ebon Cities lich scientists are researching this possibility.)
The vampires utilize Crujian arcane-engineering techniques so as to render their weapons unusable by any non-vampire. Their weapons simply will NOT function in humans hands, a fact that severely limits our capacity to learn more about them.
(So far as the technology of the Cruj goes, what litle we know is detailed in the “Enemy Ordnance” section of this Manual. Vampires make ready use of Nightform and Ghost-steel armor: take special note of those entries.)
Vampires, of course, do not work alone. Some of the more commonly encountered vampire allies, servants, and mounts include:
Zombies: Drone undead, fast and resilient. Contrary to popular belief, zombies range in intelligence from near mindless minions to those allowed to retain most of their intellect even after their reanimation. While not particularly difficult to kill, zombies are cheap and easy to animate, and can be deployed in great droves.
War Wight: Bigger, meaner cousins to zombies, war wights combine human intellect and cunning with a vampire’s resiliency. War wights’ considerable-sized claws — larger even than those of a vampire’s – are their only weapon, but they are considerable weapons. These creatures are field leaders and should be considered highly dangerous.
Lich: A lich is a highly intelligent and often fragile undead creature somewhere between a zombie and a vampire. The majority of lich encountered by the Southern Claw have been scientists. Little else is known of these creatures at this time.
Razorwing: Large, leathery reptiles roughly the size of a small jet fighter. These draconic beasts are fearless and formidable, and an armored Razorwing will take direct hits from automatic weapons fire and still be able to slice through steel with the keen bone protrusions on its body.
Blood Witch: Fortunately rare, Blood Witches (or the even rarer Blood Warlocks) are enslaved mages whose minds and arcane spirits have been broken and subjugated by the vampires. The vampires have thankfully converted only a very few mages to their service.
Vampire military units are broken into Fangs, Wings and Claws.
A Fang is our equivalent of a Batallion, a Wing is the equivalent to a Platoon, and a Claw is the equivalent to a Squad.
Strangely, the Southern Claw has had a difficult time understanding the dense structure of the Ebon Cities’ chain-of-command, largely in part, no doubt, to the shared consciousness that enables the undead to communicate through largely non-verbal means. It is known that every city is presided over by a single military ruler called a Deacon; the Deacon or Deaconess is assisted by a Viscount or Viscountess, who manages the daily affairs of the city. Beyond this, as well as the fact that the Grim Father’s authority is abolsute and that the elite soldiers called Shadowclaws are afforded a great deal of autonomy, much of the intricacies of the rigid vampire military autocracy remain opaque to us.