LOST WARHAMMER: VAMPIRES

The vampires of the WFRP1 rulebook were, like their WFB2 precursors, only briefly described. They also reflected an entirely conventional view of vampires derived from Bram Stoker and Hammer horror films. Graeme Davis, however, proposed a sourcebook that would have expanded vampires in a quite different direction:

My vampire sourcebook (or outline, for that’s as far as it got) was actually something I’d started developing at Flame, and really it fell victim to the changes in GW’s source material since then. It relied heavily on vampires as portrayed in Drachenfels and the other Genevieve stories, and in the intervening time GW had decided that Warhammer fiction was not to be regarded as canon. Additionally, they had developed vampires in a different direction in the undead army book. The Karstein vampires owe much more to the Hammer movies of the 70s (even unto the family name) than they do to Genevieve, Anne Rice, or any of the other sources that Vampire: the Masquerade is built upon. Given that GW’s concern is for the battle game and its associated miniatures sales, this makes perfect sense, and I can see why they would not want a roleplaying sourcebook that suggested that vampires might not be entirely evil, and even occasionally fought on the side of the Empire, for instance. It would play hell with the balance of the army lists, and the battle game has far less room for the moral uncertainties that make for great role-playing, because you simply must be sure of who’s on what side.

– Graeme Davis, Warpstone

Davis’ comments, if taken literally, suggest that his vampire sourcebook was under consideration for quite some time. He states that the idea emerged at Flame Publications after the publication of Drachenfels, which indicates some time between 1989 and 1992. The changes in source material that he mentions did not take place until 1994, with the publication of the Undead Warhammer Armies book for WFB4. It is possible that the idea was even still under consideration in 1995 when Hogshead took over the WFRP licence.

This timeline means development of the vampire supplement coincided with the success of Vampire: the Masquerade (1991), which Davis also worked on:

It was about this time in 1990 that I first heard about the game that would become Vampire: the Masquerade. Having seen the writing on the wall for RPGs at Games Workshop, I was planning to leave, so I was looking around for freelance work. Ken Rolston put me in touch with a young game designer called Mark Rein-Hagen, and we had a series of transatlantic phone conversations about his idea for a game where all the players would be vampires.

This was a revolutionary concept at the time, and very much in tune with the 90s zeigeist. A new wave of Goth and Gothpunk was starting up. Though I wasn’t a part of it – I preferred Rainbow and Pink Floyd to the Sisters of Mercy – I had been weaned on Hammer horror before graduating to Augustin Calmet and Montague Summers, and I knew quite a bit about vampires. I was commissioned to write an introduction for the core rulebook, and I also got to see and comment on early drafts of the rules.

My introduction – framed as a letter from Dracula to Mina Harker after the events of Stoker’s novel – was popular, and it was reprinted in various places over the following years. I worked as a writer and editor on almost every release during the game’s first couple of years, and I attended my first GenCon in 1991 as a guest of White Wolf publishing.

– Graeme Davis, blog post

There seems to be a reasonable probability, therefore, that both games explored similar themes. Davis’ supplement was to expand on the vampires presented in Kim Newman’s Drachenfels*, which in turn appear to have been influenced by Anne Rice. Newman seems to signal this with a characteristic allusion: one of Genevieve’s names is du Pointe du Lac, recalling Rice’s character Louis de Pointe du Lac.

Mark Rein-Hagen has said he deliberately avoided reading Rice while developing Vampire: the Masquerade, and was inspired more by sources like the film The Lost Boys (1987), but his comment reveals how ubiquitous Rice’s influence was and some of her ideas surely infused Vampire: The Masquerade.

Genevieve

Genevieve

Moreover, Rice’s books, Drachenfels and Vampire: the Masquerade can all be seen as part of a broader trend to humanise vampires that accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. The roots of the trend go back to the 19th century, when vampires first ceased just to be the monstrous creatures of eastern European folklore. They were portrayed as licentious aristocrats (William Polidori, The Vampyre, 1819, apparently in imitation of Lord Byron); as victims of their condition (James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest, Varney the Vampire, 1845); and as sexual predators (Sheridan le Fanu, Carmilla, 1871-2, acknowledged as an influence on Anne Rice).**

These ideas coalesced into Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), which largely defined vampires for much of the 20th century, and certainly accounts for the vampires in the WFB2 and WFRP1 rulebooks. But from the late 1980s the influence of Stoker’s view waned and a series of works reinvented the genre: Anne Rice’s sequels to Interview with the Vampire (1976), starting with The Vampire Lestat (1985); The Lost Boys (1987); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992); Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001); and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005). Even Genevieve herself lived on in other incarnations in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (1992) and his Diogenes Club series (2006).***

Graf Orlok

Now that’s a vampire

With a common author and similar influences we can guess that Davis’ proposed supplement might have resembled Vampire: the Masquerade in a number of ways. It would be interesting to know where the similarities started and ended and how the supplement would have avoided simply being Warhammer: the Masquerade, had it not fallen victim to changes at GW.

FOOTNOTES

* Under the pseudonym Jack Yeovil.

** Carmilla also introduced the name Karnstein, which would persist in vampire literature, through Hammer horror films to Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (1992). As Graeme Davis notes, it clearly inspired the name of Warhammer’s Carstein vampires.

*** I have drawn significantly on Wikipedia  for this review of vampire literature. Apologies if I am perpetuating any errors.

This is part of a series on unpublished Warhammer supplements. The first post in the series can be read here. The next can be found here.

Title art by John Blanche. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

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4 thoughts on “LOST WARHAMMER: VAMPIRES

  1. I read Drachenfels for the first time a few months ago and I was surprised at how Genevieve’s vampiric nature is not only well known in the Empire, but accepted at all levels of society. It makes for a different sort of Warhammer World.

    That said, even after vampires became more evil and villainous with the greater influence of the wargame, Sylvania was still sitting there within the boundaries of the Empire, so there was still an element of acceptance.

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    1. It’s been a very long time since I read Drachenfels, but even at the time (1989) its conception of vampires did not sit well with my view of the Warhammer world. As I hinted above, I saw vampires as the monstrous creatures of folklore, lurking on the fringes of society – more Max Schreck than Robert Pattinson.

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  2. My vampire sourcebook, as I planned it, would probably not have been as interesting as the fully developed Vampire Counts background became. Ironically, GW seem to have borrowed some ideas from White Wolf – Necrarchs were very similar to Nosferatu, for instance.

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  3. I have to raise an eyebrow about the Vampire: the Masquerade bit. “Sabbat” and “World of Darkness” as terms are straight out of Rice (so is “chronicles” as a term for “stories associated with vampires”). The very concept of ancient vampires rising from their tombs to reshape the world in their own image while the younger ones blend in with humanity to keep themselves sane is… sort of the core of her first three books. I could see Rein-Hagen refusing to read the books during the period of time in which he was writing the game, but they’re… such a massive and obvious influence, even despite that.
    Anyway. I’ve always quite liked the Drachenfels-era vampire (“some of them are sort of all right”, or at least “we know there are vampires among us but if they keep their fangs to themselves and pay their taxes we have worse things to worry about, like Bretonnian expansionism!”), and I think the idea survived into the Lahmian Sisterhood (who you wouldn’t expect to see on the battlefield often but who did kind of… rehabilitate the Genevieve-era concept, and seemed like they’d be a better fit for a roleplaying game).

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