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Thousand Year Old Vampire: Heathcliff

I just finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and was struck by the parallels between Heathcliff and the classic vampire. That’s no accident, I expect, as Heathcliff and Dracula are both Byronic anti-heroes. (Did Stoker read Brontë? Probably, right?)

As I have already been thinking about journaling games again, this seems like exactly the right opportunity to pull out Thousand Year Old Vampire” again. In fact, when I played this, I was alone (albeit with my dog) in a cabin in the woods on a reading vacation,” making it an ideal opportunity. I played this largely analog, journaling by hand, and now I’m publishing a version of my notes here. This means it might be a little messy, but it’s all practice anyway.

(Originally, I had also considered using Joseph Curwen from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as a template. Perhaps I’ll do that next time I play this game.)

Setup

At the time I created this character, I gave him the following:

Initial Characters

  • Catherine, my adopted sister and the love of my life (mortal)
  • Hindley, my adopted brother who torments and rejects me (mortal)
  • Joseph, a farmworker with deep Christian faith (mortal)
  • Earnshaw, my adoptive father and a vampire who groomed me for hatred (immortal)

Initial Skills

  • Hunting on the Moors
  • Farming
  • Raising My Hand in Anger

Initial Resources

  • Gnasher, a hunting dog
  • A small library of books
  • A well-oiled shotgun

Initial Memories

Each of these represents one experience in a separate memory, per the instructions for character creation.

  • I am Heathcliff, the adopted son of the Earnshaw family in northern England. They raised me from a foundling in Liverpool.
  • Joseph and I work together on the farm; his incessant religiosity repels me.
  • Catherine reads my books with me and together we learn rhetoric, history, mathematics, and a bit of Latin, along with how to kiss.
  • I am happiest when hunting on the moore accompanied only by Gnasher, my loyal dog, and my shotgun, where no one looks down upon me or commands me.
  • When the rest of the family is at church, Earnshaw beats me severely until I am near death, then drinks my blood and converts me into a vampire.

Initial Marks

  • My eyes are entirely black and red, with no whites in them at all.

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights as a vampire Image generated by ChatGPT

Journal

I’m going to record the journal entries, generally leaving out the experiences and memories this time (unlike last time when I recorded my experiences but didn’t journal them). I did record the Experiences and Memories as I played, however.

Prompt 7.1

Your body manifests some trait related to the vampire that created you. How do you become more like them? Create a Skill that reflects this.

After I am changed, my body begins to reek of alcohol even though I do not partake. Others assume that Earnshaw is giving me drink, but everyone fears his anger too much to say anything directly to him about it. Despite the fact that I have no part in this consumption, I feel myself sometimes tormented with uncontrollable anger. (New Skill: Unbounded Rage.)

Prompt 5.1

You murder someone you love or respect rather than let them expose you. Kill a Character. Check a Skill. If you have no living Characters, kill no one and create a beloved mortal Character who you have betrayed.

One night, Catherine seeks me out on the moors, thinking on a clandestine tryst. When she finds me feeding on a poacher, she screams and runs back towards Wuthering Heights, our home. Her betrayal forces me to kill her before anyone else can hear her. I then arrange things to seem as though the poacher killed her and I then killed him in revenge.

Prompt 8.1

You are recognized for what you are by another creature like yourself. Create an immortal Character, lose a Resource, and gain a Skill. What did you lose to them?

While venturing near the village of Gimmerton, I attempt to feed on a merchant travelling through the valley. He is indomitable, however, and recognizes me both as a monster and more specifically as the vampiric progeny of Earnshaw. In my attempted ambush, though, Gnasher is thrown aside and dies under the hooves of the horses. Eventually, the merchant - a man named Lockwood - has done with me and moves on. (New Skill: Ambush Predation.)

Prompt 8.2

You gain an advantage over an immortal Character. What do you take from them? What do you learn? Convert a Memory to a Skill; strike out that Memory. Gain a mysterious Resource.

Knowing now what Lockwood is, I swear vengeance upon him. While he sleeps in a post-feeding torpor, I sneak into the room and rob him of the money he carries, though some curse accompanies these riches. (I forget my memories of hunting on the moor, and gain a chest of ill-gotten wealth.)

Prompt 15.1

While travelling, you come into conflict with another immortal. Gain a Mark. Who are they? What trick did you play upon them? Create a new immortal Character.

I range out to Liverpool and find myself competing with another vampire named Linton. He treats the whole city as his personal hunting ground, but I bribe the local constabulary to corner him and force him to flee. In the process, however, my ears grow pointed, and I must wear my hair long to hide them.

Prompt 16.1

Some mortals have banded together to hunt you, well-armed and wise to your tricks. How do you defeat or evade them? Create a new mortal Character related to one of your checked Skills. Check a Skill.

Eventually, a busybody named Nellie realizes that the dead young working girls are my work and organizes a group to hunt me. I must use every hunting tactic I know and flee back to Wuthering Heights.

Prompt 17.1

You commit a despicable murder, but not for the sake of feeding. Why? Check a Skill. Remove a mortal Character, if you like.

While roaming the farmland I once worked, I come upon old Joseph. As soon as he begins castigating my lack of Christian faith, I break his limbs and leave him bleeding out under the plow. (Checked Farming.)

Prompt 19.1

Two friendly Characters become embroiled in an internecine conflict. Become involved and check a Skill. Create up to two Characters, if needed. How do you profit? Gain a Resource.

Earnshaw and his son Hindley have a dispute during a drunken game of cards. I convince Earnshaw that I am his truest heir, and eventually he bequeaths his estate to me before his fakes his death and leaves England. Hindley comes to hate me for swindling” away his inheritance. (Checked Ambush Predation, considering that I lay in wait for this opportunity. Gained Wuthering Heights, the estate.) I also record my memories of Catherine, my love who died and left me here alone, in a leather-bound notebook.

Prompt 25.1

Your methods for acquiring victims are no longer effective. What has changed? Lose a Resource and create a Skill which describes your new feeding techniques.

That vampire hunter, Nellie, and her followers have tracked me back to the valley. It’s caused me to stop preying on the travelling merchants; the highwayman” approach turns out just to get them to have escorts on the coaches. Instead, I visit outlying farms in the guise of an itinerant minister, causing the clergy to be viewed with suspicion. (Lost shotgun and gained new skill Imitating Clerics.)

Prompt 26.1

You accidentally create a vampire through sloppy feeding. Create an immortal Character from an existing mortal Character. Why do you not destroy them? Check a Skill.

I thought I had it all worked out and would finally consume that horrid brother of mine; however, a peal of thunder at exactly the wrong moment causes me to flinch and Hindley rose. For a moment, illuminated by the lightning, I see our father’s face, and I cannot bring myself to end him.

Prompt 25.2

What physical labors are necessary to utilize this method? Create a simple, practical skill and strike out a Memory.

Eventually, to continue hunting as a cleric, I start to ride donkeys. This humble animal gives my victims initial confidence that I am in fact who I appear to be. (New skill: Rides Upon an Ass.)

(To be honest, this is where the narrative goes off the rails a bit. More on this in the conclusion.)

Prompt 33.1

You know where the old things are. Create a Resource and make an enemy Character into a friend.

Lockwood returns and finds my disguise entertaining. I have, over these years, learned where the vampire hunters and their patrons maintain a storehouse of knowledge, and we discuss how much of a threat this might pose to us. We manage, via proxies, to insert false information, making it easier for us to continue our ways.

Prompt 38.1

Your whole being becomes centered in your senses and your hungers. Create a Skill that demonstrates your feral vampire nature and lose an existing Memory.

Time passes, and all I see are lambs to be slaughtered. At times, I forego the effort of disguising myself, being unwilling to do anything that would delay my feeding. My antipathy towards the church is fading, and I have forgotten Joseph as well. (New Skill: Impatient Butchery.)

Prompt 37.1

Things fall to dust. Lose a Resource for which you have no corresponding Memory. Do not create a new Experience for this prompt; it simply happens as you stare in silence.

Who was Catherine, truly? Why do I burden myself with this silly tome? I throw the leather-bound notebook into the fire and watch it burn.

Prompt 40.1

How do you conceal yourself while you sleep? What steps have you taken for protection? Check a Skill and create a Resource. Create a mortal servant Character, if you like.

Rather than continue this clerical charade, I simply move from farm to farm, feasting and resting there until I move to the next. A young maid named Isabella finds me in a moment of satiation. Rather than shriek and run, she finds this strangely alluring. I decide she is useful for now and keep her as a servant. (Checked Imitating Clerics and gained Isabella, a farm girl who serves me.)

Prompt 46.1

You are exposed and flee to a far-off land. Convert any stationary Resources to a new Resource representing portable cash or treasure. What name do you travel under? What profession do you claim when you come to rest?

They have found me out and turned my tactics against me. Somehow, Isabella and I escape, but the time has come to look west. The United States have just acquired the Louisiana Territory, and thus this seems an opportune location in a great deal of flux. I take the name Thrush” and claim to be a travelling writer,” attended by my secretary, and we take up residence in New Orleans.

Prompt 43.1

You have archaic ways in spite of your focus on blending in. Create a Resource based on a checked Skill that reflects this.

Farming has changed so much with all this new machinery. The locals attribute my befuddlement to my English origin, and eventually I pen an almanac that reflects old, quaint ways. (New Resource: Father Cross’s Almanac.)

Prompt 43.2

Swap around the proper nouns between two Memories. Do not create an Experience about this.

(I swap between the very first memory, of Heathcliff’s identity, and the second, of his conversion to a vampire. This is also an opportunity to move them to a new diary.)

As time goes my, and my feralness occasionally grips me, names and memories swim. It’s time to record them with my secretary.

Prompt 52.1

The beauty of the dawn calls you. Create an additional Memory slot dedicated to beauty, nature, or peace.

Watching the sun rise over the ocean, rather than setting in it as in England, reminds me that there is something to be admired in the eternal, undying nature of the Sun - just as I am.

Prompt 54.1

Your strange accent and old ways always reveal you as an outsider, mocked and cheated at best or hated at worst. Smother these useless traits by converting an old Memory to a new Skill for blending in.

With the passing of years, my accent and, worse, antiquated vocabulary draw unfortunate attention. Eternal as I am, I must be ever-renewing, and thus I learn to frequent the dock taverns, both for feeding and for listening to the ways those from faraway places speak. (New Skill: Dockside Rat.)

Prompt 58.1

Society has changed. How has travel become easier for you? Recover any stationary Resources for which you still have a Memory; they are re-added to your list of Resources.

Steam makes sailing easier. I take occasional excursions up the Mississippi and across the Atlantic, and I find that the local vampire hunters, the Holy Brotherhood, are as easily hoodwinked as those in long-ago England were.

Prompt 57.1

Your knowledge of old things becomes a strength. Based on a checked Skill, what knowledge do you share with contemporary mortals? Check a Skill. Create a Resource.

I write a novel that places the Anglican Church in a bad light, based on my experiences imitating clerics. Of course I do this under a pen name, as I still need to keep a low profile. And while the Church of England is not particularly popular here in New Orleans, this creates enough criticism that Catholics manage to take umbrage as well. (Checked Imitating Clerics and gained Income from an anti-Church novel.)

Prompt 58.2

What memories are unearthed by wandering these old places? Get back a lost Memory related to the stationary Resource, or gain a new treasure Resource which you’d concealed there.

As I occasionally sail back to England, eventually I find a cache of vampire-hunting artifacts left behind by the hunters I fled. Perhaps they may serve me in the future, should other immortals become obstacles to my goals and purposes.

Prompt 66.1

Your knowledge is outmoded. Lose an unchecked Skill which is now useless.

Who even rides donkeys anymore? I appreciate their ornery nature, but these modern steam engines have changed life. In fact, why did I ever find these beasts useful? Like the humans around me, they are simplistic tools to be used and discarded.

Prompt 69.1

You bond with an ancient enemy Character over your shared past, finding in it something more comprehensible than this modern world. Check a Skill. You become friends. Share a Resource and gain a Resource that is shared with you.

On a ship back to America I find myself face-to-face with my brother Hindley. We reacquaint ourselves and share a drink, reminiscing about the old ways. I find the bounds of my rage (checked Unbounded Rage) as we feast upon the lesser passengers, and he shares his vintage preserved human essences with me.

Prompt 75.1

An old friend or foe murders you in your sleep. What do you see in those seconds between dream and non-existence? The game is over.

On our last night before landing back in New Orleans, I awake only briefly to find Hindley and Lockwood standing over me, vampire-hunting artifacts in hand. Before I can protest and explain my intentions, they end me.

Conclusion

I don’t love how I lost sight of the core here, Heathcliff’s rage and revenge. That said, things started off well and I liked how I reworked the characters and themes of Wuthering Heights at the beginning before my focus wandered.

Next time, as noted, I may start with a character based on Joseph Curwen. I will likely use the alternate prompts as well. Taking it more slowly will help me stay focused on this inspirational core throughout. That will also include reviewing my annotations and notes from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (Or would some other game suit this work? It’s hard to imagine a better fit!)

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