There various mechanisms how vampires actually work aren't yet fully understood, even when vampires themselves have often been willing to be studied by scholars and mages.
So far, the factual foundation of how vampires subsist has been discovered. Like many undead, vampires require sustenance of Ether, and because blood has the richest concentration of accumulated ether in living people and animals, vampires have adapted to utilise it.
What is currently less well understood is the method of propagation of the vampire "curse". Especially in civilised areas, vampires regularly do not drink their victims to death, those who die do not necessarily become vampires themselves, and sometimes even those who survive a vampire bite may either eventually turn into vampires or not. Vampires themselves sometimes claim that they have the power to bestow this curse to whoever they want, but other vampires claim this is nonsense. Mages theorise that vampires "curse" belongs to a class of regrettably hard-to-study phenomena of self-replicating and self-sustaining magical effects.
Humans and elves are susceptible to vampirism. How dwarves react to vampirism is not well understood; the subject appears to be a rather prominent taboo in the dwarven culture. Goblinoids are theoretically subject to vampirism, though in them, the changes are much more prominent and they appear to turn into more savage and monstrous form of undead.
Physiology, abilities and weaknesses
The most prominent powers vampires have is their practical immortality, provided it is sustained through ethereal powers.
Contrary to what stories and legends tell, vampires in itself are not particularly powerful compared to mortals. Supernatural powers do not occur "naturally" for vampires, they are all learned over time.
The popular idea of vampires says that older vampires grow incredibly powerful and perform legendary feats of dark arts, but this is merely a result of continual practice of powerful magic and enchantment that is particularly suited to utilise the essence and nature of vampires. Mages prefer to refer to this as "vampiric magic", and like most schools of magic, it takes the form of formalisms and innatisms; mages do not generally consider it a specific unusual form of magic, merely a specialised application of existing magical theory.
For example, the popular image of vampires turning to bats is nothing but an incredibly popular meme among vampires; it's just the kind of a magic the vampire culture has adapted as one of its prominent "things" that everyone does. Every vampire turns into bats because a bat transformation is just one of those bits of magic everyone wants. (However, it must be said that while no one disputes many of the abilities traditionally ascribed to vampires are merely cultural, some insist that the affiliation with bats in particular goes deeper than that to the nature and psyche of the vampires.) There are even popular compilations of lore that are taught among vampires, such as the Tome of Dark Wings.
Outwardly, vampires have often pale or mottled skin, sometimes slightly shrunken and stretched in appearance. They retain the hair and eye colour they have in life, though their eyeballs turn light purple and their irises often have additional and quite prominent blood-red tinge.
Vampires have a form of "vision" of Ethereal forces, similar to the sense elves have, but amplified to the levels that are impossible to ignore. Elven vampires often just describe that their previous Ethereal sense had amplified to cover and overlap with other senses. Some have said that the fact that vampires can sense magic similar to the elves is what also enables vampires to be powerful mages, just like elves, but the legitimacy of this claim is disputed by some.
“So... can you just see where my veins are?”
“It doesn't work like that. I can see you glow with forces of life coursing through you. Sure, I suppose your veins are part of that. It's not just your blood I see.”
Aversion to sunlight
- Main article: Vampire aversion to sunlight
The vampire aversion to sunlight is frequently misunderstood - many people incorrectly think that sunlight immediately burns vampires, when this is not strictly true. Due to ethereal interactions, vampires suffer rather insidious form of damage when exposed to sunlight, and will eventually suffer what could be termed a spontaneous combustion.
Another light-related concept that applies to the vampires is the supposed fact that vampires don't have reflections. The physical bodies of vampires actually do cast reflections - it is just that if their ethereal field is ever visible, it is not reflected by silver and other silver-like substances with high ethereally reactive properties. In other words, some magical abilities used by vampires sometimes fail to show in silver-based mirrors. Mages often say that vampires show their true faces in mirrors. However, this is not something that is unique to vampires - certain forms of magic practiced by mortals also have this property.
Blood and ethereal sustenance
- Main article: Vampire sustenance
Most notoriously, vampires have an intrinsic lust for blood. In purely technical terms, this is merely a simple side result of their true requirement — subsistence on ether. They can survive without drinking blood (at least up to certain bare definitions of survival), but their instincts require them to drink blood. Instead of preying on people like the tales tell, most vampires prefer to get their blood in more civilised manners such as through donations and purchases.
- Main article: Vampire sexuality
Another interesting misconception is the way vampires and vampire bites are often sexualised. Strangely enough, vampires are actually mostly asexual – or rather, for most of their existence, they're completely oblivious to any sexual urges, past or present, until they might manifest.
Garlic and other herbs
There are several other myths about vampires that range from vaguely relevant to accurate for wrong reasons. For example, most vampires find garlic just highly unpleasant, while other just vaguely dislike it; the smell actually causes similar ethereal reactions as sunlight, but it's not in any way directly harmful to vampires. Several other rarer herbs actually cause similar reactions in vampires, and they just try to avoid kitchens and herb gardens unless they have actually relevant business there.
Vampires have ability to eventually regenerate most injuries. The only way to truly destroy a vampire is to separate the spirit from the mortal frame. As spontaneous combustion shows, one of the few ways to do that is to cause very thorough damage to the body, either at Ethereal level or physical one. Hence, while driving wooden stakes through vampires does cause a pretty significant hamper to them and may incapacitate them for long times, it does not actually kill them. Thoroughly burning or otherwise disintegrating the body often works, through care should be taken to choose a method that truly destroys the body.
Vampires and society
- Main article: Vampires and society
Contrary to popular belief, most vampires come from low social strata. Vampires were once feared, but nowadays, in much of the civilised world, they have little to fear as long as they obey the laws, and even have had their rights recognised.