In the World of Darkness RPGs from White Wolf the characters are usually powerful supernatural creatures, but they spend most of their time engaged in politics and dominance rituals, or demonstrating traditional American family values by trying to blow each other away with shotguns, pistols, and automatic weapons. They commit horrible crimes then weep about them. It seems an odd way for monsters to behave. One explanation is given in the first of these games:
The Beast may only be kept subdued by the greatest effort of will... ...Thus we must commit monstrous acts to stop ourselves from becoming monsters...
[Vampire: The Masquerade - Mark Rein-Hagen]
But other authors have had other ideas:
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man"
- Dr Johnson
[Quoted in Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson]
We were somewhere on the edge of the desert when the Hunger really began to take hold. And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the night was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car. "Friends of yours?" I shouted, as they banged into the headlights and windscreen, and my attorney swerved to avoid as many as he could, skidding a little on the ones that went under the wheels, and wrestled the convertible to a stop.
"Nope, just bats I think. Want one?" He snatched one out of the air and waved it at me.
"Never liked them, too much like rat." Then it was quiet again. I took the bat anyway; it tasted like shit, and there wasn't enough blood to do me any good. I threw it out of the car while he got us moving again. The windscreen was cracked.
It was almost midnight, and we still had more than a hundred miles to go. They would be tough miles. Very soon, I knew, we would both be thinking of heading back to the nearest truck stop. But there was no going back, and no time to rest. We would have to ride it out. The Conclave started the next night, and we had to be in Vegas by four to claim our lightproof suite.
Our Prince had given us $3000 in cash for expenses, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous hardware. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile armoury. We had two 9mm Glocks, three hundred rounds of hollow point ammunition, five sticks of high-powered dynamite, a satchel half full of grenades, and a whole galaxy of throwing stars, knives, and disks... also a pump-action shotgun, buckshot, a hunting bow, and two dozen arrows. Not that we really needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious weapon collection, the tendency is to keep adding to it.
"Man, this is the way to travel" said my attorney. He leaned to turn the volume down on the radio; reception was clearer as we got closer to Vegas, and it was a little too loud for ears that can hear a mouse at fifty feet.
He saw the hitchhiker before I did. "Let's give this boy a lift," he said, and before I could mount any argument he was stopped and this poor Okie kid was was running up to the car with a big grin on his face. How long can we hold out? I thought. How long before one of us gives in? If we do, we'll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere, both of us are too far gone for any restraint. My attorney got us moving, skidding a little on the sandy road as he went through the gears.
As we hit a hundred miles an hour I switched on a tape; 'Sympathy for the Devil'. When it stopped we took a side road, found a deserted spot, and did what we had to do. It delayed us nearly an hour, but both of us were feeling much better by the time we'd got rid of the body and were moving again. It was my turn at the wheel.
Let's get right to the heart of this thing. There are people who'll tell you that vampires have to feel horrible remorse when they kill someone. It's bullshit. A vampire is like Charles Manson crossed with Arnold Schwartzenegger. When you take fresh blood it's like you're pumped full of iron and steroids. Killing someone is wasteful, sure, but there are millions of humans to spare. The rush you get is worth it. You just have to be careful how you get rid of the empties, and make sure that you don't pick on anyone who'll be missed. The old farts who think they run the Kindred try to make us feel guilty, but it's really just another of their power games. If vampirism is about anything, it's power and dominance. That's why so many of us are into weapons, of course, killing is the ultimate expression of power and you don't always want to do it with your teeth.
Some of the Kindred really buy into the myth. You see them weeping into their glasses of blood: "Oh god, I'm a really powerful creature of the night, I'm a bad-ass dude, I can kill people with my bare hands, I'll live for centuries if I don't get careless, and I'm soooo unhappy..." Like I said, angst-ridden bullshit. If their Prince tells them to kill someone they'll do it without arguing, enjoy every minute while they're doing it, and pretend to agonise about it afterwards.
Before I was Embraced - no, that's a euphemism if ever there was one. Before a vampire drank most of my blood and condescended to let me have a little back, I'd hardly heard of this sentimental crap. Not that I believed in vampires, of course, but movie vampires and the ones I read about when I was a kid, Dracula and the rest of them, were total monsters. They wouldn't think twice about carving little old ladies into kebabs. They wouldn't cry about it afterwards. My kind of people. By the time I was killed the stories were getting soft and romantic. People like Rice and Yarbro, Coppola and all the rest started depicting vampires as tragic misunderstood figures. A lot of the Kindred went along with it because it tied in to the line that the Elders had been feeding us for centuries, as a means of controlling us and keeping the number of killings small enough to be concealable. Someone, and I'm convinced that it was one of us playing a sick joke, started the Goth scene, and the whole thing snowballed. Today angst is a fashion statement, and I can't remember the last time I saw one of us admit that he was happy.
I started to explain this to my attorney, and he pretended to belch and said "It's not just us, it's the way the world is. Doesn't matter who you are or what you are, somebody wants you to be miserable. You take your werewolf now..."
"You take 'em, they scare the shit out of me."
He ignored me. "...Your werewolf is a killing machine, about as unstoppable as Superman. He can tear a man limb from limb, leap buildings at a single bound, all the power you could ever want. He's so weird that normal people can't even remember what they see when he goes by. Is he happy? No way, he'll say, he's too busy saving the earth. At least, that's what they'd like you to think. But I'm willing to bet that there isn't one of those bastards that doesn't love every second of it deep down inside. Tear someone's throat out, run through a shopping mall and eat a chihuahua, piss on the sidewalk and howl at the moon. It has to be fun."
I said "That's gross. True, but gross. Same with magicians, of course." He nodded, but I hardly noticed. I was starting to think about the bats and the kid, and beginning to get scared.
Bats don't attack cars every day, and neither of us had called them. Why were they there? Why had the kid been hitch-hiking at midnight in the middle of the desert? Did someone mess with his mind to put him out on the road when we were passing? Was someone playing games, or trying to delay us? It was possible, although we were only going to the Conclave as observers. There are Kindred that can do that sort of thing, but they're thin on the ground. Magicians are much better at screwing with reality.
Mages give me the creeps. Vampires, and I suppose werewolves, don't choose to become what we are, and once the change is made we have to use our powers to survive. Not that I'm complaining, I'm more alive as a vampire than I ever was as a human, but using my power is an essential part of my life; since I have to use it, and co-exist with other vampires, I have to deal in power, but it wasn't my choice.
Magicians don't have that excuse; nearly all of them are into power for its own sake, however they dress it up. It isn't a matter of survival; if they didn't go looking for power, they wouldn't run into situations where they needed it. So your typical magician starts off with a lust for power that makes Stalin look like an amateur, then uses it for the sake of using it. Despite that, every magician that I've ever heard of bitched about how cruel the world is, what a burden it is to know about magic, and so on. They've bought into the myth too, the idea that it's good to be miserable.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if vampires, werewolves, mages and the rest of the supernatural crew could use our powers without having to pretend that they are a horrible burden. Vampire lib, I could relate to that. It would be a darker world, of course, but maybe there would be compensations. For us, of course, not for our prey.
Las Vegas was up ahead. I could see the casinos and hotels, a cluster of blazing rectangles in the distance, rising above the dark horizon. A night town, my kind of town. Time to stop musing, shake off my doubts, and check in for a good day's sleep.
Mark Rein-Hagen; Vampire: The Masquerade; Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Stewart Weick, Chris Earley and Stephen Wieck; Mage: The Ascension. All published by White Wolf.