Vampires are a form of blood-drinking undead.
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
One of the things that is frequently misunderstood is the vampiric aversion to sunlight. Many people incorrectly think that sunlight immediately burns vampires.
What is actually harmful to vampires is the interaction between direct sunlight and the Ethereal flow of the area; simply put, direct sunlight changes the nature of surrounding Ether in manner that is somehow harmful to Ethereal interactions that happen within vampires. When most vampires feel "sunburn" it's actually usually just a normal reaction to heat or perhaps a psychological reaction; the actual damage is occurring deep in their cores, usually in ways that are not immediately apparent to the vampires. When left to sunlight for several hours, vampires eventually succumb to what could be called a "spontaneous combustion". Rarely, it may take only minutes and extremely rarely the reaction is indeed almost immediate. The mechanics of this are not entirely well known, but what is known is that it's a very violent reaction that the vampires often have no way of predicting.
As a defense mechanism, most vampires experience a very strong panic reaction when exposed to sunlight, forcing them to flee to darkness, though sometimes this panic turns into the kind of paralysis that can subsequently lead to them getting burned in the sun. Some foolhardy vampires even overcome their panic, though older and more experienced vampires generally consider this too reckless.
“Hah, why are you cowering in fear, friends? I do this all the time! If I need to take a stint outside in the setting sun, I can easily do that without harm to mysArAARARAAAAA–OHGOOODSSSS–GGAGAGAAHH”
—Colyn Eredward of Mordgrovinbay, last words
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, leading to some people 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.
Vampires require sustenance of ether. On purely theoretical terms, if vampires merely stayed in an environment with normal background ethereal flows, they would be sustained for the absolute bare necessity of their existence. The ethereal field of vampires would not be sustained in areas with dampened ethereal flow, and they would essentially starve to death. It should also be noted that while normal ethereal background levels sustains the absolute bare necessity of the vampire existence, they often need much more to function at all. Without such sustenance, vampires can fall lethargic and may be reduced to dormancy and sleep, and usually they hunger to stay more alert.
Interestingly enough, their instincts demand blood specifically. This can create interesting conundrums: there's a legend about a powerful vampire called The Tormented One, who is suspended in the very heart of the Foundation where he obviously has all of the ether to subsist to eternity. However, he's tormented because his instincts crave for blood, which he's unable to get due to the fact that nothing else can survive in the Foundation and he's unable to get out.
To put it in terms of blood, most vampires feel they require feeding of about two fifths of average human's blood every week – most vampires instead prefer non-lethality and choose multiple people over weeks and draw less blood from them.
Vampires do not need to eat to survive, though their bodies can burn most food completely through curious magical processes somewhat like how ghouls process dead tissue and bones. However, most vampires say the process is exhausting rather than rejuvenating; vampires are simply not as efficient at processing tissue and bones for latent ether as ghouls are, unless the bodies have fresh blood in them - and in that case, the vampires just prefer to drink the blood anyway.
Another interesting misconception is the way vampires and vampire bites are often sexualised.
Vampires do seek out romantic companionships. However, these companionships always form out of some other facts than sexual affection - usually they involve intellectual bonds.
Like with most undead, the sexual urges of vampires mostly cease upon death, as does their ability to procreate. That said, vampires are by far not asexual; being in more lifelike state than most undead, vampires are physically capable of sex and even sexual pleasure. It would be inaccurate to say that they merely lack any libido; instead, sexuality is something that lies dormant and completely out of sight in their minds for most of the time, until it sometimes does present itself.
Mutual sexual lust, however, is usually kindled by other things. Lust and any willingness to engage in sex is something that the vampires rarely have any actual control over.
“Perhaps I can give you an estimate of how a living human would feel in the same situation. Picture yourself just living your life for seven years straight, except you never, ever feel any kind of need to get laid. Not even the slightest. Then, you experience all that pent-up lust from those seven years for a hour and a half. And then it's back to the beginning. Except maybe it's just two years next time - who knows.”
As far as lust itself goes, many vampires claim that their sex is even more passionate beyond the grave.
“How would I best describe what I felt? I remember being in love and being horny when I was alive. Now I have this strange blind spot in my feelings. There have been... times... when I've gotten intimate with fellow vampires and even humans. It's... as if part of me awakened again, only to disappear completely afterwards, not even leaving a memory of itself to hang onto. I just can't think of people or sex itself to arouse those feelings in me. It doesn't work. And reigniting it its not as clear-cut as just being close to someone. I have no idea how it works when it works.”
There have also been several vampires whose lusts did not die with their humanity, and who managed to vastly outdo the stereotypes of the tales in their bedrooms.
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.