My story, set in 1990, has secret societies of immortal beings (vampires, werewolves, elves, leprechauns, etc.) living amongst the human race and trying to survive while remaining a secret. One idea about this world that I've had for ages is the concept of "grades" of magical blood, both in the immortal beings and in the human stock they mutated from. There are four grades, in increasing order of power and rarity: gamma (60% of the human population), beta (30%), alpha (9%) and cambion (1%). The higher your grade of magical blood, the more of your race's powers and the fewer of your race's weaknesses that you have. If you're a human, your blood grade is randomized at birth, basically completely irrespective of what grades your parents were. However, if you're an immortal, the grades of your parents are taken into account, and due to how it works, it'll most likely be the lower grade between the two. For example, a cambion immortal with an alpha partner has a 1 in 10 chance of having a cambion child, with a beta partner it's 1 in 31, and with a gamma partner it's 1 in 61. In addition, in cases where it's an immortal and a human, if the human is the one with the higher blood grade, it will automatically default to the immortal's lower grade.

This means that the cambion immortals are rare and, crucially, impossible to replace should all of them be destroyed. This has caused immortal species whose cultures emphasize protecting the cambions among their ranks to have a survival advantage, meaning most immortal societies regard cambion life as far more valuable than the lives of lesser blood grades. The way I envision it currently, the culture many immortals are brought up in drives most lower-grade immortals to be prepared to die to protect the cambions among them. A "lowblood" who allowed a cambion to die to save their own skin is regarded in nearly all immortal circles with the same visceral contempt with which a human would regard someone using an infant as a human shield.

Now, obviously, I know enough about history to know that it's far from impossible to make people prepared to die in the name of something they perceive as greater than themselves. The issue comes with species like vampires.

See, vampires, like in nearly all popular culture, have the ability to "turn" humans into more vampires. A vampire can't turn a human of an equal or higher magic grade than themselves, so this isn't a way to make more cambions, but it allows them to replenish their ranks extremely quickly as long as the cambions stay alive, and it's a major survival advantage that has caused vampires, along with other races with the ability to "turn", to become the dominant immortal species.

But this means that vampires will regularly be replenishing their ranks with ex-humans who grew to adulthood in a completely different culture that didn't drill into their heads how important it is to keep the species alive at any cost. The entire survival advantage of these turned vampires is the ease with which they can be replaced, but with this ability to turn, most of the "cannon fodder" will be coming from a background that hasn't actually taught them to view themselves as cannon fodder.

For vampire clans where this bigotry is overt, on-the-books marginalization of the non-cambions, where failure to do what the cambions say is punishable by death (and the incentive to become a vampire in spite of all this is the general license to abuse your power that these more villainous clans grant), this doesn't matter as much. But if I want to explore this bigotry in a less overt fashion, more in the form of cultural values and social enforcement, I'm having trouble imagining how this sort of culture could survive when it keeps getting new members who are naturally inclined to see it as nonsense, and nonsense that comes directly at their expense.

How can I stop the regular influx of people who weren't raised as vampires from inherently undermining the culture of "species patriotism" among the lower class that these immortal clans rely on to flourish?

  • $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. The concept of vampires being magically forced to obey their maker? No, that's not a thing in this setting, with the exception of one tribe of vampires with the power to do this. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Drake Jan 29 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. Oh, so vampire mind control powers? Yes, vampires have the power to control the minds and memories of humans, though anything they do to their brains won't stick if you turn them into another vampire. Why do you ask? $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Drake Jan 29 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. I'm afraid I don't quite understand. Can you give an example of how it changes things? Like I said, it doesn't have any effect on other vampires, or even other immortals. It can only work on humans. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Drake Jan 29 at 3:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And you are right to not understand as I was talking utter nonsense. It's very late in my timezone and I misread the question. You have my apologies. "If we mortals have offended, think but this and all is mended.. etc." I'm signing off and catching-up on much-needed sleep. I look forward to re-reading this tomorrow. :) $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Jan 29 at 4:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Couldn't the vampires mass-produce cambions like this: (1) scour humanity for cambions; (2) have a cambion vampire turn those humans? You'd still need one cambion vampire -- if they get wiped out there's no way to bootstrap back -- but it seems like this would actually guarantee results, which is more than we can say for sexual reproduction. $\endgroup$ – Tom Jan 29 at 6:06

Only use Renfields to make vampires

Vampires in fiction often have mortal hangers-on who are fanatically loyal to the vampire, either out of hypnosis or because they hope to eventually be bitten and turned into one. Renfield from Dracula is one of the earliest exampled but there are lots of more recent examples in urban fantasy. The way this usually works in modern urban fantasy is the people serving the vampires do so because they believe they will eventually be rewarded with vampirism and immortality.

The problem with converting random people is not just that they have no reason to abandon their social structure and conform to a foreign group (not just that, but conform to a foreign group where they are at best second-class citizens and at worst slaves and cannon fodder due to the fact that they cannot rise in rank due to blood purity) is that it creates a large, disgruntled underclass who would just love to take the first chance to rebel against their vampire masters. People will often support a corrupt system if they believe that they have some chance to achieve social status within it. It's the "Path to Glory" fallacy. This is why most of the soldiers that fought for the American Confederacy never owned slaves. Or, to use a vampire example, a lot of vampires in setting like Vampire: The Masquerade follow the rules because they believe that eventually they can become top vampire.

However, in the case of vampires, there is a big issue in that the disgruntled underclass has a very easy way to screw over the vampire nobility. All they have to do is publicly reveal the masquerade by demonstrating vampire abilities in public to a large audience, like a late-night talk show. They may want revenge on how vampire society treated them, and they will probably be spiteful enough that they won't care that exposing secrecy hurts them as much as it does the other vampires. Notably, in this case threats of violence and killing them won't work because the vampire underclass have nothing to lose, and they are likely to just hide their motivations until it is too late.

The best way to minimize this is by having strict criteria of who gets to be a vampire, specifically valuing loyalty and desire to conform to vampire culture as prime values for a candidate. If only those who are loyal fanatics and complete vampiraboos get bitten, then it dramatically reduces the risk of creating disgruntled underlings.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a pretty good point, but one quick correction, something I didn't think was relevant to point out in the OP: due to a third party of immortals known as the veilkeepers, it wouldn't be possible for disgruntled vampires to out immortalkind. If an immortal deliberately or accidentally reveals their true nature to too wide a net of people, they are promptly killed and erased from the memory of every human on earth as punishment. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Drake Jan 29 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake Hence the "hide their motivations until it is too late". In this case what the disgruntled vampires would do is engineer an event so large the veilkeepers can't cover it up, like say a vampire army openly descending on London a la Hellsing. If the veilkeepers have enough power to cover that up they're basically gods, and with that kind of power why are they bothering to hide from humanity in the first place? $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Jan 29 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake Alternatively, the vampire servants might just settle for "kill all vampires of higher blood type and set themselves up as top dog" since it would strike an irreparable blow to their former masters. The rebellious sentiments are going to be expressed somewhere. The issue is no matter what you do the system is going to foment rebellious sentiments somewhere due to potential abuses of power by the cambions. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Jan 29 at 21:45

It's actually pretty common for newcomers into a culture/religion/organization to be somehow more zealous/radical in their observance of the related norms than those who are born and grown up into it.

Since it has been learned over a shorter time, it's easy to miss some of the nuances of the adherence to a certain set of norms which one develops while growing into it.

The Japanese have a term which translates roughly to "turning into a tatami", to indicate when foreigners living for some time in Japan start taking habits of the Japanese culture which they think are "too Japanese" for a foreigner to embrace, like enjoying eating natto stirred to make sticky strings.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "There's no zealot like a convert," is a saying. $\endgroup$ – Tom Jan 29 at 5:58

Going off of user2352714's answer, what if vampires are capable of blood upgrading?

In my mind, if a vampire bites you, no big deal. If a vampire drains you of all your blood, very big deal, you'll wake up the following night feeling drained and thirsty....thirsty for blood.

Now, perhaps the newly-born vampire is vulnerable; perhaps they need to drink enough blood to "refill," so to speak, and they naturally become fanatically loyal to whoever gave them the blood they needed to remain alive and become a true vampire. (They're not a vampire until then; just a 'blood husk.')

If a cambion is the one who gives the blood husk the blood they need (the cambion should have extra, having just Husked some poor sap) the result will be a totally devoted thrall. Come on, how can you betray the one who literally gave you life?

Additionally, what if the blood grade of the vampire is added to the husks? If cambions are the most powerful of their kind (which I believe is implied in the OP), the end result could very well be an army of thralls far superior to every lesser vampire's thralls.

If it goes vice versa (the husk's blood grade is added to the vampire's,) vampires should soon rise into the ranks of the most powerful magical beings, like dragons.

Even better, this makes it so vampires will A) have incentive to vampirise (or Husk) other people, which will conflict with their need for secrecy and eventually humanity itself, which won't want vampires to take over and B) a simple thrall could eventually become the head vampire!

Anyway, I hope this helps.


Chivalry. Human societies evolved with a fairly similar issue: men and women could both fight, but only women could replace the casualties of battle. Many societies reacted by protecting (which is to say marginalizing) women from battle and often other roles, and focused on keeping them reproducing. The overall effect was not particularly pleasant for women, and by extension, I would expect that the life of your cambions might similarly be dominated by an imperative to reproduce.

Where things diverge from humanity is that these cambions would be able to reproduce in the absence of all other castes, and the way you describe them, have considerable physical superiority. Given the opportunity, they could completely supplant all the other grades. They might have some sort of Nuremberg laws to keep from "wasting" their reproductive potential with lower castes. They might seek to sterilize the lowest caste and remove it from play entirely, to be followed by the next lowest. On the other hand, physical superiority does not guarantee higher social status! In the early United States, planters in the South would pay a premium for "seasoned" slaves from Africa, who had proved resistant to malaria and were capable of surviving the horrible conditions of labor ... that did not translate, of course, to political power.

Politics is not always tremendously rational, and it is possible that different countries of vampires would have radically different social structures. War between them might be almost inevitable.

  • $\begingroup$ So the way I read this is that it's likely cambions wouldn't actually have that much political power in some communities, but bringing up the chivalry concept also gives me other ideas, because depending on the "subspecies" of vampire, the cambion vampires are all either all-male or all-female (long story short, both male and female vampires can reproduce with human women, and the child will always be the same sex as the vampire parent). The all-female tribes could very well do something with this, especially in the past, translating human chivalry into "protect the cambion" instincts. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Drake Jan 31 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ The thing with chivalry and similar systems like bushido though is that they were an over-idealized version of what the nobility should be like, rather than what they actually were, and people rarely followed it. Even though these societies had honor codes against harming women it didn't stop men from beating their wives or going on rape, pillage, and murder sprees while at war (example: the first Crusades). It won't be a good block on abuses of power. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Feb 9 at 17:22

Might be a bit of a cop out, but have you considered magic?

A common vampire trope is that vampires are subservient to the one who turned them, often whether they like it or not. You’ve stated that you don’t want this in your setting (in the comments but not the body of the question), but that doesn’t mean lower-level instincts can’t be imbued.

lIf you frame this power as ‘other vampires want to protect/serve me’ (like ants in a colony don’t directly follow the Queens orders but will die to protect her), then protecting the Cambions is an inevitable consequence

If blood purity gives greater power then Cambion vampires will have the most overwhelming protect/serve aura. Vampires of the same grade as them will resist and act under their own initiative, and alpha vampires will act like loyal retainers/ subjects but those below will become increasingly overwhelmed to the point that low-level vampires in the presence of a Cambion will become fanatically devoted.

Furthermore if you tie this ability to bloodline (so a subservient vampire feels more loyal to their progenitor than another high level vampire) you get the ‘vampire clan’ scenario. Expect lots of backstabbing/political manoeuvring in the alpha ranks to become the Favourite of their Cambion overlord (who they literally cant think about deposing).

Of course: if someone didn’t want to be turned there is every chance this mental whammy will just break them, especially if they are low level. At that point they become a mindless thrall, useful only as cannon fodder or playthings for their superiors who have embraced the dark. At that point you get two kinds of vampire: broken thralls and willing converts, either of whom will protect their superiors (and especially the cambions).

Thralls would be the lowest of the low amongst their own rank but could still inspire protective instincts in those below them, and since you want your low level mobs to be focussed on the tasks you’ve given them rather than protecting a broken alpha it makes sense to keep high level thralls in reserve as ‘sub bosses’ or dumb bodyguards to use after the low level cannon fodder is all dead.

After all: your clan-leader can always make more.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.