In many ways, Bram Stoker's Dracula is the O.G. of vampires: he is a one of a kind and beholden to no one. He made himself into one of the undead and although he is sometimes shown with three vampires he sired, they have no real personalities or impact on the story. Dracula has no one who came before him and does not owe anything to those who have followed after, adding to the sense that he is truly alone in the modern age. Most vampires would do anything to avoid that sense of isolation - even if it means making someone else one of the undead.
It is one thing to be overcome with mortal passion and biological imperatives and to create another life. There is much in human nature that seems to invite such accidents. Similar passions can drive the Kindred to Embrace without intending to, but this is not the norm. Most vampires have ample time to decide when and whom to Embrace, and sometimes they share the same basic motivations as mortal parents. But at the end of the day, mortal parents give birth to beings too weak to function on their own. This gives mortal parents unprecedented control and influence and minimizes any potential threat.
Vampires, on the other hand, have far more at risk with their progeny. While the newly Embraced are clueless and fragile in their own way, they have just enough power to cause real damage. A new vampire is a person who has lived their own life up until that point; their sire is unlikely to know all of their secrets, quirks, and imbalances. A new vampire who feeds too much or too openly can draw down bad consequences for themself and the one who made them, so a sire has to keep a steady rein. But if a sire's rule is too ironclad, they risk creating an enemy, or someone who will work with greater enemies. And even if a childe does manage to get along with their sire, any relationship will sour, given enough time and stress. Eventually, a sire will have to release their childe into the world - or destroy what they have made.
The sire-childe relationship has made for some compelling movies and television, from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles to True Blood, because it is one of the most complex and intense relationships a vampire will ever have. There is a certain intimacy present when a person takes your life and then gives you a new one, but it is an intimacy that can be twisted beyond human measure. Without the boundaries of law and taboo, sires can become parents, lovers, tormentors, mentors, and jailers. Beyond the restrictions of time, a sire can try each role on for size and never look a day older.
After a hundred years or a thousand, a vampire will never feel for their food or their friends or their enemies the way they do about their sire. After years of tutelage and torment, a vampire may come to wonder why they were Embraced in the first place - and if they haven't wondered, they should.
Storytellers and players will find it necessary to consider sire-childe relations when they are involved with vampiric player characters. In chronicles about new and young vampires, sires will take center stage as NPCs. It can be helpful to get some input from the players about how they imagine their character's sires. Sometimes players will have stories about their character's sires, why their characters were Embraced, and the basics of how their characters get along with their sires. A quick interview can provide plot hooks or points that interest the players and can give Storytellers clues as to the kinds of things the players want to explore.
In the Vampire the Dark Ages game I ran a couple years back, I started the characters generally within their first 50 years of unlife. One of the players wanted to portray a Brujah raised in the tradition of the enlightened warrior, with a Roman flavor. He came up with his character's birth name and with a Roman name. Together we figured out that Cornelius' sire was one of the few who traveled; Cornelius was raised by his grandsire, a man who was reared by a Roman vampire. This explained Cornelius' idealized views of strength and humanity and suited the player's tastes.
In some cases, a vampire has already been released from their sire but the two live in the same city. It can add depth to the characters to think about how the relationship has evolved to the present night. Did things start out passionately but burn out? Was the childe Embraced as a student, only to feel that his sire had nothing more to teach him? These things will affect how characters regard and react to one another, and will play into allies and enemies. It can also help Storytellers to create or develop NPCs. One NPC in my Dark Ages game, Acibella, had a childe she Embraced to spite another vampire. Thus, Cecily started out as an altogether too sweet vampire under Acibella's thumb and in her shadow. Since one of the player characters hated Acibella, she got to know Cecily and I had a basic idea to build from.
Not all sires will be around to provide such immediate tension, however. The older a vampire is, the more likely it is that their sire has perished in some way. An elder vampire might not know what happened, or might hold a deep hatred for whoever killed their sire. There is also the possibility that someone's sire has gone into torpor or has moved on from the city. But not all vampires can afford to kill or harm their sires, and not all player characters will have sires out of reach. A sire in torpor is a land mine waiting for the right moment. A sire who lives somewhere else could at any time reveal themselves and throw a character's world into upheaval.
The different reasons for siring are like a palette of colors waiting to be mixed. Few sires have one reason and one reason alone for making someone else immortal. Even those who insist on a singular motivation might find that they acted on hidden desires that were far more compelling. But the reasons themselves can give insight into the sire and will likely shape how the childe reacts. Click on the links below to explore the possibilities.
It must be said that not all Embraces are planned; some come about through bad circumstances and recklessness. A vampire never knows when they'll lose control and drain someone to the point of death before they come out of their frenzy. These fits tend to happen around mortals that a vampire spends the most time with - thus, the mortals that are most valuable. Guilt can be a powerful motivator to save a person's life, even if it means giving them an eternal dependence on blood. It seems far easier to become someone's parent and mentor than to let them die, especially if you already like or love them. It might even fulfill a vampire's long-term plans or wishes, just a little early. Sometimes regret stems from panic rather than fondness, however. Some mortals are simply too important to a vampire's plans and livelihood to allow them to die. And sometimes an Embrace is so accidental that the sire doesn't even know it's occurred. It used to be that purely impersonal Embraces happened when vampire blood flew across battlefields of dying men. The right drop in the right mouth, and a while later, a body would rise from the corpse piles. It is more likely now that a sire has frenzied and Embraced to avoid losing their victim, but every now and again random blood will find a way.
Few things are as miserably cornered as a vampire who is forced to sire by some outside authority. Some vampires take their condition seriously and do not want to spread it around. They might feel it is a curse, a weakness, a disease, but it is so bad that they would not wish it on their worst enemy. So they will not Embrace unless acted on by an outside force: necessity, or a more powerful vampire. There are also vampires who do not want the responsibilities that come with siring a vampire; there's too much else to do, or they can't imagine anyone worth the trouble. And though it is not necessarily common, it is not unknown for vampires to be forced to sire. It could be that the elders want to replenish the numbers of Kindred in a city (perhaps after a war with lupines). It might be that the Prince wants to saddle an up-and-comer with a burden for the next however many years; being a sire will do it. Or siring could, as in the quote above, be the punishment for taking another vampire's life.
Cast adrift in time and destined to outlive mortals, sometimes vampires feel nostalgic for a sense of family ties. The pride of parenthood, the loyalty of blood relations, and the familiarity of old roles can become very appealing to an isolated vampire. We have been told for time out of mind what a father, a mother, and a child are supposed to be (although elder vampires might have ideas from older times and cultures that aren't as prevalent now), and the familiar titles can be comforting. Sometimes this reason for Embrace becomes apparent in sires calling their childer "Son" or "Daughter," and in childer calling their sire "Father" or "Mother." It can be very apparent in the expectations of a sire, particularly when the sire is grooming their childe as their legacy in the world. Maybe the sire has holdings to pass on or hidden knowledge, or perhaps they want a child to groom in their image; either way, their childe is supposed to be their lasting masterpiece. The family urge might also crop up in a sire's overindulgence of their childe.
It is one thing for mortals to mope after living alone for a few months, and another thing to express the loneliness that comes with being Kindred. There is an eternal divide between vampires and the mortals on whom they feed; vampires must keep their secrets, and their lifestyle tends to wear heavily on the living. There is certainly a divide between vampires and ghouls. Vampires are so utterly in control of those relations that it can become difficult to listen to ghouls seriously, even if they've served faithfully. And while other vampires can be stimulating, they can also be notoriously difficult to trust. It can seem best and safest to start from scratch - to find a person who interests you and bring them into a whole new world. Not only is the sire likely to be the most fascinating thing a childe has yet seen, but the sire is also the repository of things the childe doesn't know. There is so much to learn that a childe can be kept enthralled for many nights, and the sire will be able to make the vital connection they crave so badly.
Most people wish for the immortality of their loved ones, and that desire can drive people to Embrace friends, family members, and lovers. The initial intention can stem from a selfish refusal to live without someone, but it can also come from the need to share love forever. This sort of Embrace is most likely when a sire is still relatively young and fresh, and when their mortal loves are still alive. Although it seems unlikely, an elder vampire can turn a new leaf and feel stirrings for mortals again, but pure love is harder to come by. Sometimes love is confused for or at least related to the lustful need for a person's body and the intense sensations that lovers can share. Whether or not romantic love is a component, who would not want passion to live forever? Lust can cause quick, impulsive Embraces that may or may not be sanctioned. It can be a dangerous start and a short-lived bond.
In a paranoid world full of scheming vampires, it is easy to long for someone to trust. A worthy confidant, student, or partner in crime - even Kindred want these things, but the chances of betrayal run high. And enthralled mortals and ghouls can only benefit a vampire so much. They will never be able to stand by a vampire the way that other Kindred can, at least while they are still breathing. But once they've been Embraced, a sire can mold their childe from the first night to see things a certain way. A dutiful sire will be worthy of trust and able to instill it into their creation, thereby gaining a staunch ally. A childe will owe their sire - in some way, shape, or form - forever. Even if sire and childe part ways, it is likely that a childe will feel obligated to respond when their sire calls for aid. Once a childe makes their own life, everything they own or influence is also potentially at the command of their sire. But for real loyalty to be maintained, a delicate balancing act has to occur: the sire must inspire trust and take care not to break it, lest all of their secrets be up for auction.
Most times, the Embrace is done to bolster the sire in some way. Since a childe is expected to be loyal to their sire, this gives the sire a new work horse at worst, or ally at best. The sire might want to take advantage of a childe's knowledge, resources, or contacts. The sire might also want to train their childe to support them in the future through disciplines or raw strength. A Prince will often Embrace a few childer to support his reign over other vampires in a city; the Prince and his childer then form a front against the others. But childer also stand to gain from such arrangements. Perhaps an aging man wants to run his business forever, or a mortal otherwise exchanges what they have for immortality. A vampire might be willing to Embrace a mortal as a kind of sponsor; such an alliance can start an empire. The thrill of power that comes with the Embrace can be a hefty reward for loyal service and service to come.
Related to loneliness but not necessarily dependent on it is the motivation of revitalization. Boredom can compel humans to procreate, and after decades of the same old thing, vampires can grow just as desperate for something fresh and meaningful. The sense that nothing is new or that nothing is worthwhile can make unlife seem like an eternal jail sentence. And even if things are not that glum, after a half a century it can be difficult to keep up with the spirit of the times. After a while, a vampire can seem outdated not just in their preferences but in their instincts. This is especially true after a vampire has risen from torpor. Having constant access to a modern thinker can teach sires to understand things that inform every age but are not necessarily easy to explain. This is not just a matter of fashion trends but things like free love, the terror of nuclear war, and other movements that affect how people live their lives.
It could be the experience of hunting, killing, and reviving a new vampire. It might be the hilarity of watching a fledgling stumble stupidly through the world. Or it could be that real drama is far more interesting than television to a sire's rarified tastes. Either way, some sires Embrace purely for their own amusement rather than any lofty goal. This can generate a lot of abuse and disregard of a childe, and a lot of resentment and anger in a childe. Oddly enough, it can also grant a childe more freedom than they might have otherwise. As long as they provide entertainment, their sire might not feel the need to interfere with them.
Making someone immortal can tweak a number of different noses, depending on the situation. Sometimes a vampire will seek out a mortal that an enemy has spent time grooming for the Embrace and sire them instead. Embracing an enemy's servants, family members, and friends can also qualify. In the example above, Lestat prevents Louis from leaving him by making him responsible for taking care of a child. Louis didn't ask for the honor or want it, but it kept Louis around despite his desires. It can even make enemies envious if a vampire is able to Embrace at all. Every new child is potentially a new ally and an extension of power, and gaining permission to Embrace from the Prince can be an indication of political power in the local hierarchy. Embracing for spite can also be an act against the childe. If a vampire has some kind of nasty thing to pass on, like the old Nosferatu clan weakness, they might Embrace someone who angered or humiliated them. For an example of this kind of Embrace, look here.
A vampire who has lived long enough has had the potential to amass an amazing amount of knowledge. Historical perspective, bygone beliefs, and dead languages remain at the fingertips of Kindred even as the information slips onto Wikipedia with inaccuracies or slips into obscurity altogether. In a way, vampires become time travelers. They lived what no one else remembers and they know what the historical record will never account for. And many things are worth passing on to a worthy student, someone with the intelligence to grasp the importance of their lessons and to put the knowledge to some kind of use. It is also vital to preserve the things that Kindred have managed to hold onto: bits of ancient papyrus, copies of illuminated manuscripts, and tablets with symbols of power. For an intellectual, there are few things as enjoyable as enlightened dialogue with another. And while some vampires are desperate to teach, there are also some desperate to become students of the modern age. It can be dangerous to teach an elder who can crush you in their frustration, but the embrace can make a childe hardier, and give a hoary sire enough time to learn.
It is incredibly tempting to preserve forever those mortals with outstanding talents, beauty, and other rare qualities. Those who truly stand out are valuable in their own way but few realize it the way that vampires do. They have seen tides of humanity come and go, and eventually, most vampires will meet a mortal that is one-of-a-kind. Who doesn't want an extraordinary childe from the start? And it can be unbearable to lose raw ability. Before the advent of sound and film recordings, how much genius was short-lived and then lost forever? Even now, Kindred will want to see how a thinker or an artist will develop given all the time in the world. But perhaps worst of all is the need to Embrace those mortals who inspire Kindred to feel and create. A muse is an ephemeral thing and a powerful point of brightness in an otherwise dark existence. It might not be that the mortal is truly extraordinary in and of themselves, but they are precious for what they inspire in an undead heart. Sires of such childer can be frighteningly possessive and demanding, but sometimes become disappointed when their brilliant childer do not evolve as desired. My first character was an example of this kind of Embrace.
Luckily, vampires tend to get their kicks torturing mortals for a limited duration. After a while they get tired of it or the mortal dies; in any case, the vampire moves on. But every now and again, a vampire uses the Embrace to prolong a person's suffering. Examples of this involve choosing to Embrace the severely mentally ill, suicidal people, and those who have been physically or mentally tortured into madness beforehand. This can also include Embracing the very innocent and sentencing them to live with the violent and bloody urges of the undead. Sometimes this is done to punish a mortal for some offense, but most times it is done for sadistic thrills.