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5 Non-Vampire Movies You Should Watch Before Running a Vampire Game

Inspiration For World of Darkness Storytellers

By Neal LitherlandPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

The World of Darkness is a setting filled with deep shadows, where players are asked to gaze into the abyss and grapple with the questions about the line between the human and the monstrous. While there are numerous spheres of this setting, the flagship has always been Vampire, since it was the game that really launched the World of Darkness into the public eye.

Storytellers for Vampire (either Masquerade or Requiem) can find all sorts of inspiration for their games in the vastness of vampire media out there. Especially given how influential the World of Darkness has been in crafting vampire fiction since the 1990s. However, I'd argue there are some films out there that don't have a single vampire in them that should be on every ST's watch list because they get some things right that even the best bloodsucking blockbusters didn't.

For Vampire fans looking for a bit of inspiration, take a moment to check out New World Nights: 100 Ghouls For The American Camarilla. Or, if you're more of a Werewolf: The Apocalypse fan, take a look at the 100 Kinfolk Bundle (which has over 1,400 kinfolk NPCs in it), as well as 101 Savage Kinfolk.

Additionally, if you're interested in more gaming content, make sure you check out my blog Improved Initiative, as well as the rest of my Vocal archive here, where I touch on all sorts of games and settings!

#1: Highlander

My clan? MacLeod

There can be only one, and it is only right that this one kicks off our list. For those who haven't seen Highlander (somehow) the basic idea is pretty simple. There are a number of so-called immortals hidden among the population, and the only way to kill them is by removing their heads. Every kill transfers the power of the defeated immortal to their opponent, and they are dueling one another until only one remains.

And if that isn't just diablerie without the mess, I don't know what is.

For all its silliness (and it's very 80s aesthetic), Highlander brings across a lot of things a Vampire game can benefit from. We see flashbacks to the past of someone who's lived since the days of the claymore and the cavalry charge, and who has traveled the world. We see the haven Connor has assembled for himself, and how he interacts with mortals. Perhaps most importantly we see how Highlanders sense one another's presence, able to judge the threat of the challenger approaching them... and if that's not a perfect metaphor for Predator's Taint, I don't know what is.

#2: John Wick

You do not know who hunts you. I do. You are already dead.

I talked about this before in a blog entry of mine, but it bears repeating all the same. Because while John Wick as a film series has no supernatural creatures, it shows something a lot of storytellers have trouble with; the pageantry of the secret world.

From the mystery of the gold coins, to the secrets of the Continental, to the blood markers, the films slowly reveals a world filled with unspoken rules, unusual servants, and bizarre rituals that determine what behaviors are and aren't allowed. If you gave the assassins fangs, and changed the Continental to the Camarilla (with ghouls operating the various services available to members in good standing), the chronicle basically writes itself!

#3: The Old Guard

Some guards are older than others.

This movie made a big splash on Netflix, and for good reason. The premise is simple; a team of immortal mercenaries from various times in history find themselves targeted by someone who's discovered their existence, and they must fight this new threat while taking the first new immortal they've found in centuries under their collective wings.

The Old Guard touches on several things that often get overlooked in Vampire games which can really add some depth to them. First is the cultural norms of history, since so many people have a skewed or blatantly inaccurate view of what the past was like. We see the enduring relationships between characters who are unique kinds of creatures, and who share an experience that draws them together even when they are angry with one another. And perhaps most importantly we see the callous, cruel nature of the grinding machinery of capitalism trying to turn miracles into money (as the big pharma villain wouldn't be too out of place as the CEO of a Pentex subsidiary).

#4: The Last Witch Hunter

It's good odds this one slipped under your radar.

Unless you're a dedicated Vin Diesel fan, chances are good you never actually sat down with this one. In short, we have a protagonist who was a witch hunter that was cursed with immortality when he slew a witch queen, and he's been continuing his bloody trade for centuries since then. This has led to peace accords with the magical community, a rather dark reputation attached to him, and a serious case of ennui from someone who's been fighting a never-ending war.

While I won't argue it's a great piece of cinema, aside from John Wick, this movie really gets The Small Legend for a character right. So much of what happens among vampires is myth and legend that storytellers need to really build up to convey who a kindred is, what they've done, and why people fear them, hate them, or trust them as the case might be. You could also use it as an example of the tenseness that comes with inter-sphere conflict, if you wanted to have a cold war between vampires and mages, changelings, or another sphere of the setting as part of your chronicle's ongoing plot.

#5: Tuck Everlasting

What's all this... color doing here?

You probably didn't expect to see a Disney film on this list, but Tuck Everlasting hits on an important theme that's often forgotten in the World of Darkness; you need contrast if the story is going to have an impact on the players.

Too often in World/Chronicles of Darkness games we focus on, well, the darkness. Grisly murders, body horror, eternal damnation, loss of humanity, the death of morality... all of that stuff is important to the game. But if things are terrible 100 percent of the time then it just becomes the new norm. You need to actually have something good happen for contrast, and to give characters something they don't want to lose in order to create stakes.

While it has a PG rating, if you read between the lines you see exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about in Tuck Everlasting. Miles's story is particularly poignant, in that his wife believed he must have sold his soul to the devil, and fled with their children. They grow old and die while Miles himself has to keep moving around so no one learns his secret, until he eventually returns to his family.

What we see in this movie, though, are immortals who still embrace life. Though they have a secret they cannot share, and they are apart from normal people, we see the family try to experience the good things in life, and to form connections with others even though it's eventually going to hurt. Loss is one of the central themes of immortality stories, and of vampires. How they cope with that loss, and what they turn to, is often what makes them interesting, though.

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.

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Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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