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Long story short: my story has magical humanoids (known as "immortals" due to their immunity to old age and disease) existing in secret on mostly-modern-day Earth as a 1-in-1000-humans minority. One of these species is vampires, and they are arguably the dominant immortal species on earth. One of the reasons why is their ability to swiftly replenish their numbers by turning humans into new vampires, instead of having to have more children like most other species are restricted to (although to be clear, in this setting vampires can do this too).

An important thing to note about this is that there are four degrees of magical potency a human or immortal can possess, called arcana. While this has no impact on humans while they are humans, as an immortal the higher your arcana, the more of your species' powers and the fewer of its weaknesses you possess. In ascending order of power these arcana are: gamma, beta, alpha and cambion. While in those who were born immortals these arcana are inherited based on what their parents' arcana was, for those born human it's entirely random, with your parents' arcana being irrelevant. Humans have a 60% chance of being born a gamma, 30% a beta, 9% an alpha, and 1% a cambion.

And the reason this is important is that a human can only be turned into a vampire if it's done by a vampire who is at least one arcana higher than the human is. Meaning that it is impossible to turn a cambion human into a vampire.

Due to this, cambions are not just the most powerful members of the species, but they're also the rarest and hardest to replace, and as a result most organized groups of vampires go to great lengths to keep their cambions safe, leaving the most dangerous tasks to the lesser arcana vampires who can easily be replaced in a night or two.

However, something interesting occurred to me about this system:

Higher arcana are indeed significantly rarer in humans than lower arcana are, but thanks to the fact that there are ways to tell what arcana a human is, that's largely irrelevant. The highest sirable arcana, alpha, may only constitute 9 in 100 humans, but as I said earlier immortal beings as a whole, let alone vampires, constitute a mere 1 in 1000 humans. Meaning that even in areas whose immortal population is 100% dominated by vampires, there would be 90 alpha humans to every vampire. So logically, vampires would be spoiled for choice as to who to turn into a vampire even if they excluded all but those of the highest arcana they are able to turn.

For this reason, it seems to me that any organized clan of vampires with access to cambions would have no practical reason to ever sire non-alphas into their ranks, and betas and gammas would be almost exclusive to smaller groups that have lost their cambions and only have alpha or perhaps even beta vampires to turn humans with. Sure, there might be vampires who would want to make betas or gammas into vampires out of emotional attachment to them, but it still seems like betas and gammas would ironically be an overwhelming minority in cambion-run clans, despite technically being the more likely result if you turned a human at random.

I don't particularly have a problem with this. Those lesser clans would offer plenty of opportunity to explore the lives and the obstacles of vampires of lesser blood. But I want to double-check my logic a bit, and see if I'm missing something here.

Given the system I have established above, is there any practical reason why a vampire clan wouldn't fill its ranks with the highest quality of vampires they can make?

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    $\begingroup$ We don't know much about the societies and their relationships - are the cambion/alpha humans more likely to be able to afford bodyguards? How do most people feel about the idea of being turned? $\endgroup$ May 10 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ @LittlePickle. Q1: It varies on the clan. Some are rich old-money sorts that act more like a monarchy and knighthood, other clans are of more modest financial means but still magically powerful. Q2: Humans at large don't know immortals exist, though when they do find out, eternal youth and superhuman powers are generally pretty appealing, setbacks aside. $\endgroup$ May 10 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I suppose my question now is - can immortals tell the rank of humans easily, by say look or smell? Can mistakes be made? $\endgroup$ May 10 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ How do you get new cambion vampires? Just by natural reproduction? $\endgroup$ May 10 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ So once the cambions are gone, then the same thing happens with alphas, and eventually all the alpha vampires are gone. Ditto beta. $\endgroup$ May 12 at 17:48

13 Answers 13

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As Sir Terry Pratchett put it, 'humans raise their successors, vampires raise their competition'.

Raising a lot of vampires of high rank increases the chance that they will be able to overthrow you. After all, they didn't ask to be turned into vampires with the recruiting process you describe.

The people at the top usually don't fancy more people at the top to share their power. They'll limit what power the other vampires can be sired at.

There's also the risk of an immortal civil war. If the vampires expand too much, the other immortals might feel threatened and start attacking the vampires. Better try to look less harmful by siring mostly weaker vampires.

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    $\begingroup$ Elegant solution that fits with all the biology theories I know. $\endgroup$ May 10 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ You have to take into account that vampire can only raise vampires of lower ranks. An alpha would never be the competition of a cambion, a beta of an alpha... And often in Vampire mythos, the converted vampires must obey their sire. So they never raise competition but servitors. $\endgroup$
    – Echox
    May 11 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Echox yep, wrong wording. Edited. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    May 11 at 12:21
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Too many generals, not enough privates.

Alpha vampires tend to be jerks. They usually have a chip on their shoulder because they are not cambions, and they are always jockeying for position, scheming against the other alphas, trying to get out of doing necessary things and generally just being total tools. Even if an alpha has a good idea, other alphas will find fault with it or try to sabotage it because the other alphas cannot stand the thought that one of their kind has risen higher than the rest.

Gammas and betas totally have their uses. Betas are good followers. They are glad to be there and they are fine with taking direction from the alphas. They are motivated to get things done and they do. Often a group will be mostly betas with the few alphas having well defined and nonoverlapping domains. Gammas do well in groups of their own kind and there can be a lot of them; with direction a mob of gammas is a force to be reckoned with.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 a simple solution. It does make the assumption that the rank of a human is either determined by personality or magically affects personality on transformation. If it's the former, vamps long ago learned to look no further than the boardrooms and political halls of a city to find large numbers of alphas to convert! $\endgroup$
    – MarielS
    May 10 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MarielS. Not necessarily. The burden of the position has a lot to do with it. There are some workplaces in modern society known to be toxic. People either fit in or leave. In vampire society, there is no leaving, so everyone fits in. $\endgroup$ May 10 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. The “Brave New World” solution. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Boldewyn
    May 12 at 11:41
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It's More Dangerous, And A Bigger Pain In The Butt

How many of these 90 human alphas are going to APPRECIATE their lives being disrupted by being turned into a vampire? Even if they decide they like their newfound powers, are they really going to be happy joining YOUR clan no questions asked and fall into line? If you're nice and ask permission before turning someone, you have a lot who say no, and have to revert to turning lower rank humans anyway to boost numbers; if you don't ask permission, you are going to have a bunch of people who are A) just as strong as the majority of your members and B) super pissed at you. Why risk revolts, troublemakers, and rogues who refuse to cooperate when you don't have to?

It seems to me it would be practical to make a lot of Beta vamps who are easier for your existing trusted alphas to control without having to potentially get the big cambion boss involved. Then you carefully select which of the 90 alphas you recruit based on things like their traits and personality. Pick the alpha humans who are going to be most useful and easiest to integrate into your clan and turn them, leave the potential trouble makers alone.

Of course this answer does depend somewhat on how big your vamp clans are. I was assuming you are aiming to grow your clan to maximum numbers for power and territory reasons, but I can think of reasons you might want small clans, too. A clan of only a few dozen would likely consist of only alphas and a cambion, and they probably are even more picky in their selections since spots in the clan are limited.

On the other hand, if your clan is big ENOUGH, you can afford to assign each new alpha a whole group of trusted alphas to keep an eye on them and force them to comply, tracking them down and kicking their butt en masse if necessary. This will lessen the number of uncooperative new members you are forced to kill or give up on because you can't control them, since you have enough people dedicated to the job of doing just that. New alphas can slowly earn trust and lesser supervision over time until you are convinced they are not still resentful or planning to organize with other resentful recruits to hold a coup. In this case you probably can afford to only have alphas in your clan. Only the biggest clans can do this, unless you are willing to greatly reduce the rate at which you grow your numbers to allow for time to break in however many new recruits you have the manpower to supervise at once.

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Population Control

The system you've described means the lowest level vampires can't sire new vampires at all.

So if your vampires have any particular interest in keeping their population in check to avoid decimating their food supply they're may be a strong argument for only turning the weakest humans who won't be able to sire others themselves.

It means any disaffected or ambitious troops can't defect and try to build their own army to challenge you with as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Oof, wow, this is a really good point that sounds scarily typical of some of the vampire clans in my story. $\endgroup$ May 10 at 20:01
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Conversion takes a toll

To convert a human to a vampire, the sire has to pay a price in life force and the stronger the human, the higher the price (exponentially). It would kill an alpha vampire to convert an alpha human, but it's not easy for a cambion either. After the conversion of an alpha, a cambion vampire is weakened significantly for a few months or years, which would make the whole clan vulnerable to attacks.

So you always need to consider the long terms benefits in view of the short term risks.

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The vampires are getting paid.

Being a vampire has its perks. Even a lowly "Gamma" vampire is still more powerful than a regular human. So lots of humans would want vampires to turn them into vampires too, even if they are rather low on the arcana hierarchy. So they might approach vampires and offer them to pay them for the privilege.

When the business of turning humans into vampires is driven by the human demand instead of the vampires interest to increase their population, then vampires will be a lot less selective about who to turn.

Sure, those humans who are aware that they could not just become a regular vampire but have the potential to become a really powerful vampire would have more incentive to make the transformation, so there would be more demand among that strata of humans. How can we counter-balance this?

Because creating too many alphas could disrupt the balance of power in the vampire community.

The cambions will be dominant in the vampire community due to their powers. But if there are too many alphas, those might band together and challenge the cambion rulership by sheer power in numbers. And if they work together, they might even win some privileges the cambions would like to keep.

Which means creating alpha vampires without permission from the other cambions would be frowned upon or even punishable. So it would be rather difficult for an alpha-human to find a cambion-vampire willing to turn them.

But those elite vampires might not care as much about some more betas and gammas running around, because those aren't as much of a threat to them. So they don't mind if some of them make a quick buck by turning some betas and gammas into vampires.

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I’d argue that the alpha’s may be aware that if all cambion vampires were killed/made unable to sire new vampires, then logically new Alpha’s cannot be sired from humans. Essentially the alphas become the new cambions within vampire society. All it takes is a few influential greedy individuals who care less about their race as a whole. The logic cascades downward as well meaning that keeping a well balanced society is a safety mechanism of the upper caste.

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  • $\begingroup$ "All it takes is a few influential greedy individuals who care less about their race as a whole." what do these greedy individuals do? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 10 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ The implication was that those individuals valuing self over society would act in self interest rather than towards the greater good of vampire kind. They have the ability to make themselves the top of vampire society at the cost of society as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – DKincaidM
    May 10 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ and how might they do that? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 10 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron Kill the cambions (as the first sentence of the answer says). $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    May 10 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ This might be a particularly big fear if there was a believable legend of an ancient, greater-than-cambion class of vampires who had ruled before being overthrown and destroyed. Every cambion would be watching his/her back. $\endgroup$ May 11 at 12:24
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Because vampires retain a vestigial reproductive drive, and are no more selfless than humans

Lets assume there was a particular gene in 10% of humanity that made them stronger, smarter, more selfless, and more efficient at metabolizing food in a way that makes them require fewer resources to live and produce less waste/pollution/greenhouse gasses. They're generally better at everything, by almost every metric, not just individually, but for humanity and the planet as a whole. Logically, humanity and the world would be better if only those humans reproduced, right? Mating should only be allowed when at least one, ideally both, of the partners possesses "The Good Gene", because otherwise you're just making worse humans, right? (To be clear, this is the root of eugenics, which is usually based on bigoted nonsense and applied in horrible ways, but I'm positing an actual, identifiable trait that, for whatever reason, be it lower fertility or whatever, has not been selected for heavily enough to dominate all of the human gene pool)

Well, turns out the other 90% of humanity still kinda wants to have babies of their own, even if it's "bad for humanity and the world". Vampires aren't any different, they feel the urge to reproduce as an urge to create more vampires, and they don't like being told "for the good of all vampires, never reproduce".

Sure, the lead cambion vampire can say "We should only make more alpha vampires, so I'm the sole vampire allowed to create vampires", but how many will listen? Especially when there's no way to tell who made a given vampire, and therefore no way to punish disobedience?

This leads to two possible outcomes:

  1. The cambion vampire converts only alphas, following their own plan for the vampire super-race, and those alphas, out of a warped remnant of the procreative urge, surreptitiously create betas and/or gammas on the sly. Since producing new vampires is relatively easy, even a few such alphas could easily produce more betas and gammas than the alpha population; the betas they produce in turn tend to reproduce by bloating the ranks of the gammas.

  2. If uncontrolled vampire population increase is a major problem, the cambion vampire, rather than risk uncontrolled vampire population increase by creating new "fertile" vampires, almost exclusively converts gammas (which cannot in turn reproduce), thereby keeping direct control over all vampire reproduction (any alphas they produce must be kept limited and heavily monitored to avoid devolving to scenario #1), at the expense of a weaker clan.

Point is: Nobody likes it when eugenicists say they personally should not reproduce, only when it applies to "some other inferior people that aren't me". Do you really expect vampires, a parasitic race that exists solely because they consider their own needs more important than that of other sentient beings, to be more selfless than humans?


P.S. To be 100% clear: I am not endorsing eugenics under any circumstances here. But the planned "all alphas vampire population" is a special case of eugenics, and the analogy had to be made to make the argument. Even when eugenics is based on actual facts (and it never has been in the history of the world), as a moral and practical matter, applying it is essentially impossible, because the reproductive urge is an essentially selfish urge, and no one wants to be told "you're too inferior to exercise it".

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If you only sire alphas, that means only your cambions are siring new vampires. If you were to raise lower ranks as well, your lower ranks (the alphas and betas) can also sire new vampires. If there's only one cambion in your society for example, there's a limit to how many new vampires they can sire. But if there are also a bunch of alphas siring lower rank vampires, suddenly you can sire a lot more. If there are for example 5 alphas and 1 cambion and every vampire can say sire 1 new vampire each day, you can now suddenly sire 6, instead of 1.

Of course some societies would be perfectly happy with only having "elites," but others would want as many as they can get.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep, this is what I was about to write. If you're only turning alphas, that means that only cambions are doing any turning. Which also probably means a lot more risk to the difficult-to-replace cambions. Letting alphas and betas do most of that work means less risk to the cambions, just at the price of lower average blood. This way, you only need to risk the cambions when you need to replenish your stock of alphas. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    May 12 at 15:50
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Biology requires randomness

A rule you can add is that only a few percent of reproducing vampire can get a higher level rank baby. So for most cases, 2 alpha (or even gamma) vampire will get an alpha vampire, but in 1% of the case, it's a cambion.

That way, lower level vampires are still hoping to get a better future (hoping that their child will be grateful enough not to betray them). Also, once they have one, they can expect favors from the higher level vampires to join their clan.

In an immortal society, raising children doesn't make sense, so you need to give it some compensation. Also, for long term viability of your world, you need some feedback loop to limit the population of immortals or the world will be overwhelmed by them in few generations.

Giving birth can be limited (for example, a vampire body can not support giving birth more than once since it breaks the uterus and never heal or whatever). This means that doing this is a bet.

Siring should also be limited the same way (else an alpha or lower would sire in series and force the resulting gamma to reproduce until a cambion is born).

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, the permanent extinction of higher arcana of an immortal species is an important plot point. There's a Native American species called the Taxti Wau (deer woman) that is "cambion-extinct". All the cambions are dead, and there's no way to get them back. And a lot of social norms revolve around the fact that cambions cannot be replaced once gone. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 10:14
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Every army needs low level fodder. If you also have the common trope of higher level Vamps being able to control low level ones you will also appeal to the power trip crowd.

Look at it this way, if the Cambion turns 10 Alphas they have 10 strong soldiers. But if each Alpha in turn turns 10 Beta and each Beta turns 10 Gamma you have 1110 soldiers that can be spread out to distant outposts and you can replenish your fodder without risking your leader.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    May 10 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ If he has "the common trope of higher level Vamps being able to control low level ones" then it actually counts as a very strong argument for higher level vampires to turn the highest level humans they can (in the OPs described system one level below the makers level) because the higher level your controllable minions are the fewer of your competitors can control them, if you're a boss you don't want your goons to take orders from others you've not told them to obey do you, so I think you may have got it bum b4 face there 🙂 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    May 10 at 19:46
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Keep your abilities quiet.

If your only visible vampires are lower in level than they have to be, they mislead people about your powers. Any higher level vampires must be kept secret, but misleading your foes is a good thing.

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Wouldn't there be other reasons to select a human for siring besides Arcana level? Surely a vampire might be smitten with a human and want to keep them around. Or maybe Albert Einstein was only a Gamma but the vampires thought he would be a good addition to the club for his intellectual prowess. Maybe Elon Musk is a good target since he might use his wealth to help his new kin regardless of his Arcana.

It seems like even a "racist" or "aristocratic" clan of vampires would find some humans desirable because of their physical atrributes, experience, wealth, charisma, etc.

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