Endnu en blog om rollespil…
“1791 was the year it happened. I was 24, younger than you are now. But times were different then, I was a man at that age: the master of a large plantation just south of New Orleans. I had lost my wife in childbirth, and she and the infant had been buried less than half a year. I would have been happy to join them. I couldn’t bear the pain of their loss. I longed to be released from it. I wanted to lose it all… my wealth, my estate, my sanity. Most of all, I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it. A release from the pain of living. My invitation was open to anyone. To the whore at my side. To the pimp that followed. But it was a vampire that accepted it.”
Louis – Interview with the Vampire
Jeg elsker Vampire; The Masquerade. I 90’erne da rollespillet blev lanceret, revolutionerede det måden at spille rollespil på med “personal horror” konceptet. Men hvad ligger der egentligt i dette koncept og afviger det så markant fra de mere generelle koncepter??
Traditionelt i rollespil udsættes karaktererne for en række ydre faktorer som driver handlingen, og typisk hvor målet eller løsningen konkret kan defineres og tage udgangspunkt fra. Horror rollespil er ingen undtagelse. Fx i Call of Cthulhu er karaktererne mennesker som involveres i kampen mod trusler fra det ukendte. Uhyggen og rædslen ligger i erkendelsen af at universet er fjendtligt, eller at rygende ondskab eksisterer udenfor karakterernes egen dørtærskel. I Dungeons & Dragons kæmper heltene mod monstre og anden ondskab for da at udvikle sig til en stærkere karakter.
I modsætning handler Vampire om karakterernes personlige og indre ondskab i kraft af den forbandelse de har fået – vampyrisme. Vampire er på mange måder et tragisk rollespil i sin tematik, bl.a. fordi karaktererne går en uundgåelig mørk skæbne i møde – i sidste instans at blive opslugt af deres indre instinkt eller bæst. Nogle vil måske her argumentere for, at netop derfor er handlingen i Vampire ensporet og åbenlys. Dog synes jeg dette faktum danner en smuk og tragisk ramme for spillet.
Interview with the Vampire
“Personal horror” konceptet i Vampire bliver fortrinligt fremstillet i Interview with the Vampire. Denne film mener jeg, på en god måde uddyber konceptet på.
I Interview with the Vampire følger man Louis’ forbandelse fra at være et menneske til at være vampyr. Der sker først og fremmest en fysisk ændring i kraft i at Louis krop “dør” eller “visner”. Derfra følger ellers en ufrivillig deroute mod accepten til det han er blevet (vampyr) mod det var han (menneske). Denne personlige kamp fremstilles meget skarpt og smertefuldt. For enden af denne smertelige rejse hvor Louis endelig anerkender sit væsen, da begynder en række nye spørgsmål og søgen – hvor har forbandelsen ophav fra?, er der andre vampyrer? osv. På dette tidspunkt lærer han (i begrænset omfang) om det mere etablerede dekadente vampyrsamfund i Paris. I slutningen af filmen er vi tilbage ved filmens begyndelse i nutiden. Her præsenterer Louis sig som en et væsen der overlever æraer og følger tiden i en ensom og meningsløs cyklus – udødeligheden.
Tilbage til Vampire
Karaktererne i Vampire bliver altså konfronteret med en række personlige valg og dilemmaer som alle er progressive og forværres indtil det stadie, at de mister den sidste genkaldelige menneskelige del i sig. Personal Horror er altså en indadvendt kamp mod det overnaturlige man er blevet. Smukt.
Her følger teksten fra Vampire: The Masquerade (2nd. ed.) som i 5 korte afsnit beskriver nogle af de tragiske konsekvenser forbandelsen som vampyr medfølger – det er så fedt beskrevet!!!
Where to begin? So much ink has been spilled down the centuries. I am constantly amazed by the regularity with which you mortals stumble across truths and half-truths – sometimes very profound ones – by the most haphazard and fallacious thinking; and then, unaware of what you have uncovered, proceed to expound generalities of entirely the wrong order. We are monsters to thee, yet heroes as well. We are the incarnations of dark metaphors and suppressed desires, yet we are also the nobility of fairy tales, beloved of children. We are a baseless superstition, an artistic genre,a psychological condition, a yearning made flesh, an externalization of a guilt-lust-violence complex, and many other things beside.
Mortal superstitions deal at great length with the means by which a vampire may come into existence. These range from the predictably religious to the utterly bizarre, and can make an entertaining evening’s reading if one is so inclined. Other than entertainment, however, they serve little purpose.
The first and most common of these myths is the legend that anyone bitten by a vampire will himself become a vampire. Thus, each time a vampire feeds, it creates another of its kind. One wonders how it is that any mortals are left in the world. Furthermore, a corpse may become a vampire if it was a suicide, an oathbreaker, a member of a tainted bloodline, or de tout an evil person. Again, the globe would be deopled with nothing but vampires – and I tell you this, I have not seen this army of undead. Indeed, to my understanding, there are not many of us upon this globe. To my knowledge, there is only one means through which a mortal may become a vampire. Shame fills me again when I recall that I intended this fate for you, and I rejoice that Providence denied me. Truly do I repent the eternity of sorrow which so nearly was your destiny.
There is a grain of truth in the legend de gustando. To become a vampire, one must lose all one’s mortal blood -but that is only part of the horror. Mortui exsanguinati mortui veri, if nothing further is done; the fang will kill as everlastingly as the blade or the bullet.
As mortality stands on the brink of extinction, as the fleshslowly dies, the vampire assailant may choose to spare the victim from death or deny Heaven’s grace, for all is one hisrebus. By replacing the stolen mortal blood with a little of the vampire’s own, a Progeny is created. But a single dropof blood upon the lips of the dying arouses him sufficientlyto drink from the wrist of his Sire.
How can I express the horror of the Embrace? The fearand confusion? The revulsion and terror? The pain? Even the passing of centuries has not dulled the memory. Understand that I am no coward. As a soldier, I endured the privations of the camp, the perils of battle, the savagery of the victor, of which I plead guilty to my share, for such was the Zeitsmode. But even those things I witnessed as a prisoner of the Turks could not have prepared me for the experience of being hurled into this cursed half-life.
I was, de gratia potestates descriptis, in a most peaceful state of mind as my blood was stolen. As deaths go – and I have seen many kinds – this was surely the least distressing. It was as though my experience was a strange and somewhat unsettling dream. Far off in the warm, soft darkness of my failing mind, I became aware of a light; I knew that this was where I must go, and I knew that, once I arrived there, all would be well with me. I began to drift toward it.
Abruptly the welcoming light was extinguished. My face felt an impact like a musket-ball, and as I tried to scream, my mouth filled with liquid fire. The vitriol seared my throat and stomach; consciousness returned as though it would rend me limb from limb. A thousand fishhooks tore my flesh in every direction. I prayed for death – anything to stop the pain – but I could not even lapse from consciousness. Nec Turcos, nec Inquaesitores ever commanded such torment. Magnify a thousandfold the sting of vinegar on a cut finger, and flood the feeling through every limb and every vein. Add to this the gnawing, starving ache of five days’ forced march without food or water. Deny sleep, swooning or any other surcease from the all-consuming dolor. But no. My meager wordsmithing can convey nothing of it. I knew only that I must drink, and as I did so the pain abated a little.
My eyes cleared, and I saw what it was that I drank. My first reaction was denial. This could not possibly be happening. Even in the ifteenth century, men of education and breeding scoffed at the superstitions of the peasant. As a child, my nurses had frightened me to sleep with stories of the terrible vrolok, but I had outgrown such tales long befor e. This was a nightmare, an hallucination of some kind. I tried to focus on thoughts of meat, fruit, wine – but to no avail. Blood was all. Blood was reality. All else was discarded. I can only be thankful that I was in a remote place. Had I been Embraced in a city, with people all around, there is no telling what havoc might have ensued. The Hunger blotted out reason entirely. Had my own son appeared before me then, he would have died to feed the Hunger, for I was utterly enslaved to it. No opium fiend in a Limehouse or Shanghai den was ever so helplessly, so wretchedly dependent.
To live as a vampire is to live with horror. Always squatting on one’s shoulder like a warlock’s fiend is the knowledge of the Hunger. And always, always, does it approach – sometimes slowly and surreptitiously, sometimes with great haste, but always ravenously. The Hunger can never fully be satiated. Hunger, we call it, but the term is woefully inadequate.
Mortals know hunger, even starvation, but this is as nothing. The Hunger replaces almost every need, every drive known to the living – food, drink, reproduction, ambition, security – and it is more compelling than all of them combined. More than a drive, it is a drug, one to which we are born with a hopeless addiction. In the taking of blood lies not only our survival, but also a pleasure beyond description.
The Hunger is a physical, mental and spiritual ecstasy which throws all the pleasures of mortal life into shadow. To be a vampire is to be trapped by the Hunger. The Beast may only be kept subdued by the greatest effort of will; to deny the Hunger enrages the Beast, until nothing may keep it in check. Thus we must commit monstrous acts to stop ourselves from becoming monsters.
The Beast rages constantly for release and only the strongest will may hold it back. Sometimes it breaks its bonds, and runs riotous until it is recaptured. The strain of self-control, and the shameful memories of failed control, is hard enough to bear. Worse still is the knowledge, constant as the Hunger, that these things will surely happen again. Over the decades and centuries, this awareness gnaws at the mind like a rat at a ship’s cable.
To be a vampire is to live on the edge of madness. Obsessive devotion to some self-appointed task can help keep despair from the mind, and if the task is one of great goodness, it is possible to reason that the end justifies the means. Some deliberately cultivate addictions, such as gambling or collecting art. Others shut themselves away and confine their hunting to a small, sparsely -populated area, telling themselves that they are protecting the rest of the world. These things can perhaps delay the onset of madness, but they can also provide it with its first foothold.
Ultimately, hard as we may strive against it, madness awaits us. The flame of Humanity ebbs and putters until finally it is extinguished. Then the Beast is victorious, and monsters we become in truth. The Beast resides within the heart, and directs us towards evil, but when it overtakes the halls of the soul, then shall we be evil.
Some speak of Golconda, the vampire’s Salvation. Both mortal and Kindred lore deny us Heaven’s grace, but in Golconda we look for surcease from the Riddle. It is a stasis, where an individual may balance the Man and the Beast against each other so that striving is no longer needful. The descent into madness is halted, and although the individual is no longer recognizable as human in his thoughts and deeds, what remains of Humanitas is safe. In almost five centuries, I have met a meager few Kindred who have reached this blessed state, but all desire it as mortals desire Heaven.
The Burdens of Immortality
We are, as the most cursory student of folklore knows, ageless and immortal. In this case, lore and tradition have the right of it. Once made, a vampire lives until actively destroyed, or until the Beast wins over the Man, or until, after countless millennia, the Blood is exhausted. Down the centuries, mortals have hungered for the secret of immortality, thinking it would give them great power. From the priests of heathen times through the alchemists of my own breathing days and down to the physicians of the present, mortals have expended more wealth and effort in the war against aging and death than in the cause of any religion or trade.
Many newly made Kindred – myself included – rejoice in the thought of immortality when they first overcome the shock of the Change and begin to reconcile themselves to their new situation. Yet it is a barbed gift, and another door by which madness may enter in.
Consider, for example, having to watch your loved ones – even your children and grandchildren – grow old and die, while you remain strong and vigorous. There is a necessity to live completely outside mortal society, or at least to move on every decade or so, lest it be noticed that you do not age. The tide of history flows over you like a stream, leaving you unchanged.
The longer one lives as a vampire, the greater the sense of detachment from mortal affairs. It can be an advantage at first, helping to deaden the guilt of killing and the pain of losing one’s mortal family to remorseless Time. But as detachment grows, Humanitas wanes, and the Beast grows stronger. The most terrible of mortal serial killers often are detached from their kind, atrocitates tranquilliter gestandae. It is the same face on a different coin, as the Turks would say.
Even if one can fight off this dehumanizing verschiedenskeit, Time lends madness other weapons. For without detachment, guilt and remorse may work unchecked, eating at the feelings like acid eating metal. Mortal soldiers return from foreign wars wounded by the violence they have seen and done, yet they have only to live with their memories for a few brief decades. A vampire’s guilt is eternal, and time can sap the strongest will. Another face of the Riddle: we may lose our Humanity to avoid losing our minds, yet what is madness but lost Humanity? Sooner or later, grins the Beast, you shall be mine.
A further paradox – we grow stronger as we grow weaker. The older a vampire, the more powerful – the more cunning to have lived so long, the better versed and practiced in certain arts and powers, the better able to withstand those things that are anathema to us. And, perhaps, the stronger of will, not to have become a monster. Yet the weaker, for the Beast tries the bars of its prison ceaselessly, and in time they must yield. The oldest shut themselves away from the rest of their kind, fearing the day when they shall become monsters and distracting themselves with paranoid games of cat’s-paw using younger Kindred as playing-pieces.