Since no two vampire universes are exactly alike, here are the traditional vampire myths and restrictions and how they apply, or don’t, to the Shadow World, as well as some things that make it unique.
Physical Abilities: Vampires can move at least 10x faster than a human, and have enhanced senses including hearing, sight, proprioception, timing, and sense of smell. They are also far stronger than humans and have much better reflexes, though their abilities depend on age, activity level, and diet. Vampires aren’t born able to fight like ninjas; they have to learn.
Psychic Abilities: Not all vampires have well-developed psychic gifts, though their physical senses are enhanced enough that it can seem that they do. Most can influence the will of their prey in order to keep them from struggling or running, and can cause the human to forget being fed on, but not all can implant specific memories. Signet-level vampires typically have a range of psychic abilities that normal vampires do not; the most common are telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, or a combination of two or more.
Misting: 95% of Signet-level vampires are able to Mist, an intuitive form of teleportation. The body essentially dissolves into a mist and then reassembles at the destination. Those with telepathic or telekinetic gifts are able to Mist farther and with better control. Those without such gifts are able to Mist into places they can visualize clearly but have a much harder time with unfamiliar locations, and are more likely to “scatter” themselves. Scattering occurs when the vampire is not strong enough to pull the body back together at the destination, and is usually unpleasant but rarely fatal. Misting takes practice and initially causes dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. The most experienced and strongest are able to tandem-Mist, taking another vampire along, but this is very difficult and only attempted by a few.
Shape-Shifting: Shadow World vampires do not turn into bats, birds, or any other animal.
Weather Control: Affecting the weather is not a common ability among vampires, though it is not entirely unheard-of.
Body Temperature: Vampires are not walking corpses; they are alive. Their body temperature, heart rate, and respiration rates are all lower than a human’s, so they tend to feel cooler to the touch than a human. Many, but not all, find heat comforting and thus wear winter clothes or manipulate the environment to stay warm. (Vampire populations are densest in warm climates.) They can also raise or lower their body temperatures at will for short periods, a trick often used to calm and relax their prey or pass among humans.
Fangs and Biting: The canines (cuspids) are sharper and more pointed than a human’s, and retract partially into the upper jaw when not in use. The canines can be elongated or retracted voluntarily with practice, but still extend automatically in cases of extreme hunger and exposure to blood. The canines are used to create punctures in the flesh and then the blood is sucked out with the mouth. Most bites close up within 10 minutes and disappear within 12 hours.
Blood: Vampires draw their nourishment from the life force in blood. The amount of blood a vampire needs per night varies wildly depending on the blood itself; those drinking animal blood must consume far more than those drinking human. Humans who are healthy, strong, and psychically powerful tend to be more nourishing. There are ways to increase the available life force in the blood, such as feeding on humans who are sexually aroused. As with disease, health and diet flavor the blood; different vampires have different tastes. Vampires do not need to kill their prey in order to be fed; death releases high amounts of energy, but so does sex. Death energy tends to fade quickly and is addictive, and the strength it gives is not as reliable, and is much harder to control. A vampire who feeds only on vegetarians is called a vegetarianarian.
Hair and Nails: Grow continuously like a human’s, but more slowly, at about half the rate.
Eating People Food: A vampire’s body doesn’t properly digest solid food; they can acclimate themselves to small amounts in order to appear human, but it will almost always cause digestive upset. Liquids and liquid foods (such as gelatins and frozen dairy foods which melt into liquid) are digestible, but the only thing that offers any actual nourishment is blood. Vampires who feed exclusively on animal blood typically have cravings for raw meat to offset the lack of quality blood, sometimes even resorting to eating the flesh of their prey, which causes further digestive misfortune. Urban vampires living in the United States often have a mild addiction to sugar due to the high blood glucose of many Americans, though they suffer no ill health effects from it. Some vampires consume caffeinated beverages and enjoy them, while others dislike their stimulant effects. And yes, vampires pee.
Reproduction: Vampires cannot make babies. Female vampires do not menstruate, and males do not produce sperm (non-viable seminal fluid is released as with human males who have had a vasectomy). The only way they can reproduce is via blood. A human must die with vampire blood in his or her system in order to become a vampire. In most cases this is handled by blood exchange, where the sire drains the human to the point of death and feeds the human his blood. The transformation begins as soon as the vampire’s blood is consumed, but unless death occurs, any changes will fade in a few days (ie, a human fed vampire blood will temporarily develop heightened senses and a psychic connection to the vampire). If the siring vampire wishes to ease the transition, she can keep the transforming human asleep while the change occurs, but if not, the transformation is excruciatingly painful.
Sex: Sex is not a biological imperative for vampires as it has no reproductive value. Statistically, however, those who engage in frequent sexual activity live longer than those who do not. There are many who have sex with their prey in order to charge the blood with extra life force, but most just do it for fun, and the physical and psychological benefits promote longevity. Sex among vampires serves the same social functions it does among humans. Heterosexuality is the norm among older and Signet-level vampires due to historical stigma, but among younger generations sexuality is far more fluid.
Aging: Vampires do not age; however, the older they get (meaning the farther they are from their humanity), the more the rules apply to them. For example, a new vampire can withstand a few more seconds of sunlight than an older one, and will take longer to ignite. Younger vampires show up more clearly in digital images. Older vampires are usually stronger.
Socialization with Humans: Though opinions on the human race vary widely among vampires, very few vampires associate extensively with the Day World, and those who do tend to stick to the fringes of human society (subcultures that gather mostly at night, such as Goth and fetish subcultures). Most prefer to live, work, and socialize with their own kind, though there are no hard and fast rules; but secrecy in the Shadow World is paramount. In some Signet territories revealing the existence of the Shadow World to a human is punishable by death, though in most of those areas there is a strong prejudice against humans in the first place so intentional exposure is unlikely. Turning a human into a vampire is often against the law or at least taboo in modern cities, as an increased population equals increased risk of exposure, but such rules rarely need to be enforced by the Signets as population tends to self-regulate based on available resources.
Sunlight: Direct exposure to the sun burns vampires’ skin and will cause the body to combust after 10-20 seconds (whether the vampire is dead or alive). In fact, most vampires find it difficult to stay awake during the day, as their bodies are designed to sleep when the sun is out. Indirect exposure, as in being in a room with an open window but not in the light itself, causes discomfort and severe anxiety but not death.
Reflections: Vampires do not show up in mirrors or naturally reflective surfaces like still water or plate glass. They also do not show up in film photography. However, they do appear in digital formats that don’t use mirrors – but the image quality is poor, usually blurry. As of Shadow’s Fall Prime David is trying to figure out why exactly this happens and what can be done about it.
Wooden Stakes: Vampires have accelerated healing ability, which enables them to recover from injuries that would kill a human in a matter of minutes. Wood, however, slows down the healing process almost to a human rate. This means that a vampire can bleed to death if a wooden object penetrates the body and is not removed immediately. A shot to the heart with wood is fatal.
Crosses: No effect.
Garlic: Oh, please.
Coffins: Unnecessary. Most do, however, sleep better in very dark rooms.
Running Water: Vampires can cross running water all the livelong day. Er, night.
“Dusting”: Upon death a vampire’s body does not fall to dust; it must be burned first, either by fire or by exposure to sunlight. Among most Western vampires it is considered most appropriate to construct a funeral pyre for the dead, but in some cultures sun exposure is considered a proper “burial.” If not burned the body will decay just like any other dead organism.
Starvation: Blood deprivation will kill a vampire, but the process takes months or sometimes years. Starvation is agonizing, and often those who are revived from a state near death suffer from psychological damage, sometimes reverting to an animalistic state.
Illness: Vampires can contract illnesses via the blood of their prey, but they are healed almost instantly, usually without any symptoms occurring. Disease makes blood taste bad, however, and most give off an odor, so vampires can easily avoid them. In the same way, if a human is drunk or on drugs those drugs will affect the vampire briefly. Poison cannot kill a vampire though toxins can cause pain and other symptoms.
Other Ways to Kill a Vampire: Incineration and decapitation are both fatal, as the damage to the body is too extreme to heal. Other injuries can be fatal if the vampire is unconscious or too weak to heal them before he bleeds out.