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  • Feeding in the Dark Ages

    A good while back I ran my first game of Vampire with DA:V20, a Transylvania Chronicles game that barely managed to get off the ground before petering out. I'm thinking of trying to take another shot at it one of these days, but I'm taking some time to figure stuff out more and be better prepared before I start looking for players. There was one small issue I had regarding feeding, at least in my opinion. Based on my understanding of what I had read about 13th century Transylvania, the common folk definitely stuck to their houses come nightfall, what with the typical behaviour of the Tzimisce and their ongoing war with the Tremere. However, my players were pretty insistent about the idea that they would be able to roll into a village at night and fight someone to feed one; one of them argued that they'd be able to catch people going outside to use relieve themselves, the other thought they'd be able to use Dominate on people looking out the window. I was not really persuaded by either of these arguments, but they were new to the game, and I didn't want to ruin the fun (potentially lose the players even) by being stubborn about it.

    But with time to reflect and prepare better, I figured I would get some feedback from people here on the forums on the topic. I was wondering if anyone has any sources or experience regarding feeding in the Dark Ages that they could share with me so I could have more information prepared to head off arguments, if it comes to that; just bludgeoning people into submission with Rule 0 isn't ideal, so I'd rather not have to lean on that more than necessary, and having good answers helps there.

  • #2
    A few liberties can be taken in this regard. It is the World of Darkness after all. In cities big enough to harbor numerous vampires, I tend to keep a few areas populated and functional all night. Docks, taverns, guard houses, even counting houses and smiths as greedy bosses force labor round the clock. And of course nobles and the aristocracy stay up all hours indulging in social affairs.

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    • #3
      Actually, people tended to have two sleeping periods that resulted in them being active around midnight. People would go to sleep at sunset, wake up around midnight, do a few things like relieve themselves, have sex, engage in a light chore or two, tell bedtime stories, and then go back to bed.

      Keep in mind, the human body hasn't changed much in thousands of years. We always needed roughly eight hours of sleep, and the darkness has always lasted about twelve hours.

      The idea of going to sleep once and that sleep lasting 8 hours straight is actually really, really new, like just a hundred years and change.
      Last edited by CajunKhan; 04-06-2022, 08:07 AM.

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      • #4
        People simply staying indoors in droves is definitely funnier, and I support it for that reason.

        There should be an arms race between vampires and serfs, but for breaking and entry techniques versus Home Alone strategies.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Garygeneric View Post
          A few liberties can be taken in this regard. It is the World of Darkness after all. In cities big enough to harbor numerous vampires, I tend to keep a few areas populated and functional all night. Docks, taverns, guard houses, even counting houses and smiths as greedy bosses force labor round the clock. And of course nobles and the aristocracy stay up all hours indulging in social affairs.
          Agreed, I likely would be more open to the idea in a city setting; people probably feel more secure, and there's more likely to be a small handful of exceptions in a larger population. In this case, we're talking about rural villages with 100-200 people, in a place where Cainites are pretty well-known for prowling the night.

          Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
          Actually, people tended to have two sleeping periods that resulted in them being active around midnight. People would go to sleep at sunset, wake up around midnight, do a few things like relieve themselves, have sex, engage in a light chore or two, tell bedtime stories, and then go back to bed.

          Keep in mind, the human body hasn't changed much in thousands of years. We always needed roughly eight hours of sleep, and the darkness has always lasted about twelve hours.

          The idea of going to sleep once and that sleep lasting 8 hours straight is actually really, really new, like just a hundred years and change.
          That is an interesting point historically, but it's not really the issue at play. It's not about whether or not people will sleep all night, it's about whether or not they are going to go outside at night when they have good reason to suspect that blood-sucking monsters might be stalking them from the shadows.

          Originally posted by Reasor View Post
          People simply staying indoors in droves is definitely funnier, and I support it for that reason.

          There should be an arms race between vampires and serfs, but for breaking and entry techniques versus Home Alone strategies.
          Yeah, they were never willing to resort to outright breaking-and-entering, and probably for good reason. After a couple of times where they were (nearly) caught going after villagers, I actually had the locals start organizing into torch-wielding militias that would patrol the villages at night. They were in a bit of a thorny spot, being a bunch of strangers in the region who had coincidentally showed up just a little while before the attacks started, without any real fortifications to hide behind. The game didn't last long enough for it to really hit them at their home, but it was heading in that direction.

          Ironically, they were pretty adamantly opposed to the solution that the chronicle-book itself suggested; feeding on the labourers camped at the worksite they were supervising, which is how the whole hunting-in-the-villages thing started for the ones that weren't willing to feed primarily on animals. I can kind of understand their thoughts, but quietly sneaking into tents to nip someone as they sleep would really be a lot less likely to go sideways that nabbing people right out of their homes, I think.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Kharnov View Post
            That is an interesting point historically, but it's not really the issue at play. It's not about whether or not people will sleep all night, it's about whether or not they are going to go outside at night when they have good reason to suspect that blood-sucking monsters might be stalking them from the shadows.
            They definitely did, don't sweat it.

            Night chores and affairs existed back then as much as it exists today. Even if less common, people would go outside at night to hunt, to do chores that couldn't be done earlier for whatever reason, or just to stretch. Even to more whimsical things like spying on neighbors, having affairs or gambling. Sometimes a few social gatherings could also happen at night, even religious ones.

            And people wouldn't have any reason to suspect blood-sucking monsters unless said monsters were extremely careless. If you make a kill for every feed, no method will keep you from raising alarms, that's plain stupid. Kindred in the DA used shallow feedings as much as today unless they had already a really good setup in place to get victims frequently, which wasn't the case for most of them, much less for Neonates or Ancillae. Being quiet about your feedings you won't raise alarms and most people won't really worry that the ghost stories are happening at their village.

            People in the Middle Ages weren't nearly as superstitious as we frequently depict them, actually weren't significantly more superstitious than people today, that are still quite superstitious. And while leaning towards bleak tropes is usually good for the WoD, in this case that will just make things hard for yourself for no good reason.

            What would really change is that difficulties may be at +1 or +2 tops for typical modern hunting techniques, or the result would yield less victims, but would work nonetheless and the lack of modern amenities like street lights and so on could mean that bonus and penalties just cancel each other for all effects. Breaking into houses would be a completely different beast as most people in the DA do not sleep alone, period, entering a house before about 3 in the morning you would face a huge chance of finding someone awake that would promptly alert the entire family and household. Even nobles slept with their families and personal servants, and travelers either slept at someone's house in the same bed as the rest of the family or slept in taverns in rooms where 3 to 6 people would share a bed. Sleeping alone just wasn't a thing in their minds.

            More specific DA methods for feeding exist when you make the effort to create a better setup. You can feed on the mortals sleeping at your home, arrange for yourself access to a place where people gather at night for some reason, or offer any service at night like a doctor, craftsman or whatever and subtly feed on your clientele. Other than that you would have to live as a bandit.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
              And people wouldn't have any reason to suspect blood-sucking monsters unless said monsters were extremely careless. If you make a kill for every feed, no method will keep you from raising alarms, that's plain stupid. Kindred in the DA used shallow feedings as much as today unless they had already a really good setup in place to get victims frequently, which wasn't the case for most of them, much less for Neonates or Ancillae. Being quiet about your feedings you won't raise alarms and most people won't really worry that the ghost stories are happening at their village.

              People in the Middle Ages weren't nearly as superstitious as we frequently depict them, actually weren't significantly more superstitious than people today, that are still quite superstitious. And while leaning towards bleak tropes is usually good for the WoD, in this case that will just make things hard for yourself for no good reason.
              Originally posted by Transylvania Chronicles I: Dark Tide Rising, p.34
              Once they cross into Transylvania, the local peasants act uniformly abject and terrified of the "great lords who travel the winds of the night." While some Hungarian nobles and Saxon shopkeepers may be fooled by the characters, the peasants know exactly what they are dealing with and avoid them if at all possible.
              In Transylvania, during the Omen War, you are incorrect. The local peasantry are quite on guard for this sort of thing, without it being a case of "silly superstitious peasants"; they can literally hear the Tremere and Tzimisce trying to murder each other some nights, not to mention the Tzimisce themselves not being especially discreet about such things as a rule.

              Fair enough that the situation is exceptional, and wouldn't broadly hold up in the rest of Dark Ages Europe, but I did want to acknowledge that I'm not pulling these concerns out of nowhere just to make my life more difficult.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Kharnov View Post
                In Transylvania, during the Omen War, you are incorrect. The local peasantry are quite on guard for this sort of thing, without it being a case of "silly superstitious peasants"; they can literally hear the Tremere and Tzimisce trying to murder each other some nights, not to mention the Tzimisce themselves not being especially discreet about such things as a rule.

                Fair enough that the situation is exceptional, and wouldn't broadly hold up in the rest of Dark Ages Europe, but I did want to acknowledge that I'm not pulling these concerns out of nowhere just to make my life more difficult.
                Fair enough, you're not. The books already made it extraordinary difficult for no reason beyond being racist.

                My point wasn't about "Dark Ages" in a game, it was about the Middle Ages IRL. What TCIDTR says is canon for the setting, but incorrect from a historical perspective.

                Your question, though, was about the reasoning of your players and the best way to deal with it. What I'm directly saying is that ditching the racist stereotype in the game is the best course of action, because it won't improve your game in the least, unless you go for the full "Lord of the Night" rule: the characters ignore subtlety completely and demand blood for protection, which is similar to how the book assumes the Tzimisce did things.

                Even if you just go for the canon of this particular book (that doesn't seem to have thought to thoroughly on how vampires organically live in the region, making an artificial option for the PCs to compensate), it just makes for the worst case for my proposition. Vampires or no vampires people still have to go out during the night and, being far more numerous than the vampires, most of the time nothing happens. A population aware of vampires would be harder to feed on (+2 dif to hunt), but not impossible. Especially if they know that making life too hard for the monsters will only make the monsters more violent on them.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                  Fair enough, you're not. The books already made it extraordinary difficult for no reason beyond being racist.

                  My point wasn't about "Dark Ages" in a game, it was about the Middle Ages IRL. What TCIDTR says is canon for the setting, but incorrect from a historical perspective.

                  Your question, though, was about the reasoning of your players and the best way to deal with it. What I'm directly saying is that ditching the racist stereotype in the game is the best course of action, because it won't improve your game in the least, unless you go for the full "Lord of the Night" rule: the characters ignore subtlety completely and demand blood for protection, which is similar to how the book assumes the Tzimisce did things.

                  Even if you just go for the canon of this particular book (that doesn't seem to have thought to thoroughly on how vampires organically live in the region, making an artificial option for the PCs to compensate), it just makes for the worst case for my proposition. Vampires or no vampires people still have to go out during the night and, being far more numerous than the vampires, most of the time nothing happens. A population aware of vampires would be harder to feed on (+2 dif to hunt), but not impossible. Especially if they know that making life too hard for the monsters will only make the monsters more violent on them.
                  It's true that The Dark Medieval is not historically accurate to the IRL Middle Ages, but that's to be expected, it's a work of fiction, and in itself I don't think it's wrong for it to be true to itself rather than pure historical accuracy. In a Dark Medieval World, having people be a bit more superstitious than they would be in actual history makes some sense because, in setting, there is actual truth behind those superstitions. Acknowledging a degree of racism in the Uberwald trope, it's definitely the sort of thing that has been handed down more unconsciously than consciously due to the popularity of the genre, and those assumptions are kind of built into the background of the setting; to sensibly get rid of them, you have to alter the characteristics of the setting. In a previous topic where the racism of the Uberwald trope was being discussed, I noted that it bothered me less in a Medieval context because it made more sense for *everywhere* to be a more superstitious than it would be IRL.

                  So for example, to not have that extra degree of superstition among the Transylvanian peasantry, it would mean that the Tzimisce would need to be far more subtle and discreet about their vampiric nature in their historical territory than sources have generally depicted them. You would need to excise it entirely, or have those depictions essentially be Clan propaganda, stories that they tell themselves about themselves that were never actually grounded in fact, an example of idealizing the past. But more generally the Dark Medieval has always depicted vampires as being more populous (I believe the ratio is 1:1,000 compared to the 1:100,000 cited for the modern era) and being less concerned about secrecy in general, even if they were still being careful not to stack up corpses like woodpiles. While there were other factors, vampires being less discreet was supposed to be one of the things that led to the Inquisition, which in turn led to the Camarilla. I guess I'm just wondering if/how you would rearrange the lore as-written if you didn't want to depict the setting the way the authors have generally.

                  I'm not entirely persuaded by the idea that there are absolutely necessary reasons to be going outside for extended periods at night on a regular basis in the Dark Medieval world. I'll admit I have not dug into the topic before, but it seems like hunting at night, for example, is a rather dangerous proposition; you could trip over something you can't see in the dark and hurt yourself. Beyond that, the main example of a good reason to leave your home at night that I can think of would be to check on your herd animals, and that seems like the sort of thing you'd most likely be doing due to some kind of disturbance, which would put your guard up. When the idea of people going outside at night to relieve themselves was brought up by my players, "chamber pots" was the answer that immediately came to mind for me; perhaps that practice wasn't universal, but it might make sense to be more widespread if you lived in a world where everything is worse and monsters do actually stalk the night.

                  I will acknowledge that evening festivities are one thing I did not consider, and getting an idea of what kinds of celebrations might carry on after dark would be helpful. More generally, if there are some sources regarding medieval nightlife that you could point me towards so I could be more informed on the topic, it would be greatly appreciated.

                  Regarding the setting not doing a great job of providing an "organic" set up for feeding, I am definitely willing to acknowledge that what I've read of the Transylvania Chronicles so far is definitely flawed and rather clunky in some respects. But in this case, there is some justification; the first Act has the players moving away from the more settled areas that vampires usually frequent and into a more sparsely-populated frontier. If they had been more experienced, or had a better idea of what they were getting into, some of them might have chosen Herd as a background (I can't remember how informed they were about what their first "adventure" was going to be like when they were coming up with their characters). At least one of them was averse to feeding on humans, and he relied a lot more on hunting animals, but he wasn't especially good at it so he tended to struggle when it came to vitae.

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                  • #10
                    One question that doesn't seem to come up often is how did vampires feed back when average blood potency was much higher, and the human population much smaller? Vampires with high blood potency pretty much have to eat people. Walking around with high default hunger isn't believable. Vampires back then would have been eating people, not just sipping from them. How does that work when humans simply didn't have the numbers needed to sustain a significant population of predators?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kharnov View Post
                      It's true that The Dark Medieval is not historically accurate to the IRL Middle Ages, but that's to be expected, it's a work of fiction, and in itself I don't think it's wrong for it to be true to itself rather than pure historical accuracy. In a Dark Medieval World, having people be a bit more superstitious than they would be in actual history makes some sense because, in setting, there is actual truth behind those superstitions.
                      That's certainly true, but the matter is how intense the difference would be, as it affect player options. This is the bigger problem with this particular book: regardless of reasoning, it ended up limiting the PCs to either have Herd or feed only in the specific setup the story built for this, making hunting outside it nearly impossible for no gain. That's a flaw in Adventure Design if nothing else.

                      All the other aspects, while true (for the setting), can exist in several intensities. How common vampire attacks are? How much will one person expect to be a victim? Urban violence is a reality, yet we risk it because it isn't overwhelming, your chances are still reasonably good of making it back home safe and sound. How much isn't this still the reality for those people? How frequently people expect to be attacked by vampires? Much less killed? What do they really expect a vampire to look like if their experience in the area is mostly with the Tzimisce? How blatant are the Tzimisce? How violent or murderous for the common people in their everyday lives? None of those things are binary, and the book goes directly for a very extreme take that isn't really necessary, likely or useful.

                      For reasons to go outside, there may be many, because common disturbances and happenstances are still a thing, especially in a rural area. Torches didn't existed for nothing (they weren't used indoors, candles were), you could have to see something with your animals, get something you forgot, go get some water or fresh air. Medieval houses were almost always a single room, so while this space was used for many things you couldn't have everything inside. Certainly chamber pots and whatnot were a thing and most people would remain indoors most nights under such dangerous circumstances, but there are too many possible reasons to go outside that it is fairly reasonable to expect some people to go out at some point most nights, even at such a dark setting.

                      In my opinion the Tzimisce openness should be considered somewhat overblown, it doesn't need to be completely so. They were the de facto lords of the land, but still not the apparent ones (those were their living kin). They lived mostly reclusive lives, so while their presence was known and felt, it was far from a nightly sight. Most people probably heard about them, but very few ever saw them even from afar. And while they were in somewhat open command, they probably didn't publicly indulge in wanton murder and blood feasts, just because that's stupid: they would be weakening their own lands and making life harder for themselves for no good reason. They were the Tzimisce, but they were not the Sabbat yet, much less the Camarilla's depiction of the Sabbat.

                      You can PM me later for references, I'll try to grab some, it is just too late here for me to go after that right now.

                      Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
                      One question that doesn't seem to come up often is how did vampires feed back when average blood potency was much higher, and the human population much smaller? Vampires with high blood potency pretty much have to eat people. Walking around with high default hunger isn't believable. Vampires back then would have been eating people, not just sipping from them. How does that work when humans simply didn't have the numbers needed to sustain a significant population of predators?
                      Not often, but it does comes sometimes.

                      Thing is, if you go with V20 or previous rules, even the Antes still consume blood in the same rate as everyone else. So, managing your consumption to keep your reserves is mostly the same for everyone. While really low Gens can make huge expenditures at once and then need to drain some people completely, only a fool would do so in anything resembling regularity, so most vampires will spend blood on most nights based more on their regular flow of victims than on their Generations.

                      V5 puts more stress on the historical setting, as those vampires do have to drain their victims more. But in practice DA still stays close to the modern nights in this regard, the standard Generation goes down only one step, and while older vampires are more active they are not so numerous. In practice, while you'll have more active vampires with higher Blood Potency, the far majority will still be below 5, solidly, and won't really need to kill humans or anything.


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                      • #12
                        One of the great flaws in all editions of Vampire: the Dark Ages is that the writers never seemed to take account of the fact that the action would be taking place in the hours of darkness, and, unlike in the modern world, there were very distinct differences between how people behaved during night and day. Fortunately, there is a Storytellers Vault sourcebook which covers all the practical issues, found here.

                        In practical terms, night during the medieval period can be divided into five phases, dusk, eventide, dead-time, cock-crow, and dawn. The best time for hunting would be eventide, as there is sufficient darkness to hide the activities of Cainites, whilst people are still somewhat active. Conversely, absolutely no-one, except criminals or shepherds, would be outside of the home during the dead-time, so it would be a pretty poor time to hunt.

                        What do people do out of the home? For a start, people would be visiting alehouses (in northern Europe) or taverns (in southern Europe); there are enough court cases covering violence stemming from drunkenness to indicate that people were present at these venues well after nightfall. It is not uncommon for Christians to attend vigils in church, which span the period between dusk and dawn. In urban areas, there are many services which are carried out at night (no-one wants their cess pit emptied during the day) whilst in rural areas people will attend on their animals throughout the hours of darkness. Whilst sensible people try to stay at home (there's a reason why "shutting-in" is considered a synonym of sunset) there are still many reasons to be outside at night.

                        Hunting requires some skill, but it should not be too challenging for the average Cainite to find suitable targets from which to feed at night.


                        Learn more about the hidden history of the British Isles in England Will Burn.
                        Find out about the struggle to control medieval Syria in The Gates of Damascus.

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                        • #13
                          ‚Äčmonteparnas James_Willoughby

                          Thank you very much for your thoughtful answers and your willingness to provide sources to back them up

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
                            One question that doesn't seem to come up often is how did vampires feed back when average blood potency was much higher, and the human population much smaller? Vampires with high blood potency pretty much have to eat people. Walking around with high default hunger isn't believable. Vampires back then would have been eating people, not just sipping from them. How does that work when humans simply didn't have the numbers needed to sustain a significant population of predators?
                            Aside from what Monteparnas said, having a base hunger of 2 is livable with for most nights, and when you foresee a more eventful night, a murder would be warranted. With Blood potencies of 8 and above, only reachable by 6th gens and below, frequent murder does become more needed but at that point you could start feeding on other vampires. Or go into torpor for some time to ease the restrictions, as Elders generally did in the Dark Ages.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
                              One question that doesn't seem to come up often is how did vampires feed back when average blood potency was much higher, and the human population much smaller? Vampires with high blood potency pretty much have to eat people. Walking around with high default hunger isn't believable. Vampires back then would have been eating people, not just sipping from them. How does that work when humans simply didn't have the numbers needed to sustain a significant population of predators?
                              Just personally, my longstanding suspicion is that most Bronze Age vampires were cannibals who mainly created childer for the purpose of eating them. That or "blood gods" who demanded large numbers of human sacrifices from their followers. But I'm just paranoid that way.

                              Originally posted by James_Willoughby View Post
                              What do people do out of the home? For a start, people would be visiting alehouses (in northern Europe) or taverns (in southern Europe); there are enough court cases covering violence stemming from drunkenness to indicate that people were present at these venues well after nightfall. It is not uncommon for Christians to attend vigils in church, which span the period between dusk and dawn. In urban areas, there are many services which are carried out at night (no-one wants their cess pit emptied during the day) whilst in rural areas people will attend on their animals throughout the hours of darkness. Whilst sensible people try to stay at home (there's a reason why "shutting-in" is considered a synonym of sunset) there are still many reasons to be outside at night.
                              I suspect this is why more than a few vampires operate as priests, tavern keepers, or the like, or at least try to include such things as part of their Domain, Retainers, and/or Herd.


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