Existentialism and Vampires

  • I’m-a gonna play around with Kindred and philosophy. This is inspired by Mal’s posts On Being Kindred (and predators). I don’t actually subscribe to Existentialism, but there are very intriguing elements within it. Even more, for Kindred.

    Jean-Paul Sartre is perhaps the most famous, or at least best-known, existentialist philosopher. He spoke of Humanism in the sense that humans are placed at the very center of things. To further that, he wrote about Anguish, Forlornness, and Despair - ‘urges’ that go beyond mere emotion.

    Anguish being the awareness of one’s freedom and choice. It’s alllll on you. Not just the knowledge, but the weight of that responsibility. Forlornness is the understanding that we are alone; that God’s forgiveness is not an option, redemption is not just around the corner or further down the line and that we are left to the consequence of our choices. And Despair being the lack of hope people face since they can’t know the consequences of their choices. Choices will be made; even failing or declining to make a choice is still a choice. There are no excuses.

    In a sense, this seems straight out of a Vampire’s playbook. Godless (regardless of one’s faith), trapped within themselves, yet with a driving, primal urge, they seem the epitome of existentialists. That’s not really a point in their favor (or whatever) - because one of the chief criticisms of existentialism is the ultimate nihilism at its core. Inevitably, the question will arise, “Why bother?” Why get up in the morning? Why soldier on? Why try? Why live?

    And, in all likelihood, once that place is reached the answer in the negative is always there. And it only needs to be chosen once. Ask enough times, and some day (or night), it will come up negative. Oblivion is the better option. And it only needs to be chosen once. The entire length of existence rests on that one choice always coming up the same, positive answer…until it doesn’t.

    (Yes, this is all a massive simplification)

    But there’s a catch - at least for Kindred. Because choice is all well and good, but Kindred are NOT actually left to their own devices, their own judgment. Kindred have the Beast within, and the Beast never, ever considers “Why bother?” I think of Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in “The Avengers.” “I got low. I didn’t see an end, so I put a bullet in my mouth…and the other guy spit it out.”

    The Beast is the other guy. And so Kindred remain trapped within themselves, ridden like a host by a loa, only not a docile passenger, but a vehicle and instrument of destruction. If they comply and take initiative, the Beast will ease the throttle, letting them drive. But if they get to complacent, then it has no problem taking over. Truly, Kindred must have Despair, truly, they will know Anguish…but being Forlorn is not for them, no matter how they may wish it.

    At least there’s some payoff. That sweet, sweet Kiss, that high of feeding.

    I bet Sartre tasted particularly good.

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    Wow. Just…wow. I like it.

    No, I love it. THANK YOU!

    Y’all, read and heed. This is good shit.

    Again, THANK YOU.

  • Storytellers

    That is a fantastic perspective. I love it.

  • Lead Storytellers Administrators

    I’d say you are mostly right. However, the alternative with the Beast is not the pleasant one nor deservings a downplay that it relents the throttle. It is and it will always remind the host that placating it is a forever far better option than naught.

    The Beast’s path is one of animalistic intent, The Savage. While some clans, notably the Gangrel, idealize it to a Noble Savage intent, even they fear the true savage that is the Beast should it gain full control and frequently, through other editions and V5, seek to establish discordant harmony with it. Other clans seek to dominate it and others revel in the debauchery of the Beast’s intentions.

    Learning of this reality, generally, rather quickly, most will opt for some part or balance among them. Much of the lore of the game is written around the idea of surviving, simply surviving, the tests of the Beast and the machinations of ancient madmen that have dwelt with their Beast, as it slowly crafted them into something that was no longer human at all.

  • … am I the only one that just RP’s this shit without overthinking it?

  • Storytellers

    Somewhere in the world, Anne Rice is casting a curse on you Duh.

    Overthinking it is half of her schtick! (The other half is homoeroticism and taking 5 pages to describe a tree. Actually, I guess that latter part falls under ‘overthinking about trees’.)

  • @syn - Anne Rice loves me. She said so herself.

  • Storytellers

    She said that during her ‘No more vampires! I’ma write about JEEEEESUS’ phase. Nobody pays attention to what she said/did in that period. We pretend it didn’t happen.

  • Hilt

    1. WIIIIIN…

    2. After Hector, you may or may not wish to play a Lore Whore.

    3. This stuff is 100% why I’ve always wanted to play a Path character (one of the intellectual ones).


    5. Fuh rill. Winz and wubs.


  • @duh You suck, Duh! No…wait - the other thing: You rock.

    I have to keep reminding myself this, because I find it easy getting caught up in, well, not necessarily trying to be the hero, but more like Andy Dufresne. To crawl to freedom through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine and come out, well, if not quite clean on the other end, at least somewhat whole and upright.

    'cept it doesn’t work that way. There’s always accommodation to be worked out. With a new character, there’s having to work out personality, quirks, style, etc…but there’s also having to work out how one accommodates the Beast.

  • @scarecrow - maybe at the end of the day… I’m just a horrible person. 😧

  • @onyx

    That will be my first Malk character, I suspect. And then think of all the ways I can twist it.

  • @duh said in Existentialism and Vampires:

    @scarecrow - maybe at the end of the day… I’m just a horrible person. 😧

    S’okay. These things happen!

  • This is also why it is fun to play a high humanity childer template type character, too.

    Sure the beast is there. But for many of them it’s only been a few years at being a vampire, so they’re still clinging to things that remind them 100% of being human. It’s the whole like, trying to build and maintain human-like relationships, while realizing that humans are now food, and the beast is always there. It makes for a lot of internal back and forth and sometimes irrational decisions in a way to try to prove that the beast doesn’t own you (often resulting in the beast proving it does).

    I think it is perfectly valid, particularly with the younger characters, for them to sometimes go too far to the extreme to try to mimic their old human selves. Then on the other hand, at times they may revel in giving in to their new selves. After 5-10 years I imagine things are still confusing and hard to come to grips with it.

    Fun times!

  • Hilt

    Let’s ride this train all the way down to Hell.

    If we take a different Existentialist, we get something a smidge different. We’ll stick with the French just to make Syn’s life a nightmare.

    Albert Camus: One of his big contributions here was the notion of the Absurd. Everything we do, and every everything, is capital-A Absurd. Basically, none of it can possibly, ever, matter. YOU GON DIE IN LESS THAN A HUNNIT YEARS, BOO… Death is certain AF, and this certain death renders our entire lives utterly inconsequential and meanjngless. We live a hundred years on a tiny rock on one of 100 billion stars in the galaxy, knowing that there are 500 Trillion galaxies, and that the universe is already 14.3 billion years old. Time is the great destroyer. It’s not possible for us, individually or collectively, to make any difference, ot to do anything that will be remembered 6 billion years from now, much less 20 billion, and even if you did, this universe still (prolly) gon die too, so…

    So in his book The Myth of Sysiphus, he takes up the question, “Does the Absurd provide a genuine motivation to go on living, or to commit suicide?”

    Camus’ answer is that the Absurd is precisely what frees us to fully experience the moment, to love the living of life, the doing of it. The Absurd is actually what makes absolutely every impermanent thing precious beyond measure, in all of its temporariness and specificity. He uses Sysiphus as an illustration, saying that the reason the dude pushes the rock up the hill for all eternity is cuz he fucking lover that rock, and all of its particularness. He therefore says that the Absurd, paradoxically, provides genuine motivation for living, and not for suicide.

    Cainite Application: Well, here’s where it gets cray.

    Camus’ analysis does and does not apply. Vampires might well live forever. Like, FOREVER forever. For the sake of this part, we’ll assume that the universe doesn’t collapse and doesn’t reach heat-death, that vampires might outlast our sun which wI’ll go red giant in 5 billion years, etc etc. Like the big ultimate forever. So Cainites have a genuine shot at not being Absurd. They might actually be freed from the ultimate plight if mortal humans. So his analysis doesn’t apply, right?

    Well, maybe.

    I’d argue the opposite. Cainite immortality is actually the worst thing that could happen to them, through Camus’ lens. It means that absolutely every single microscopic detail of their lives, thoughts, and actions now matters, like far more than a human can comprehend. They will be affected by every microscopic movement they make foreverrrrrr. In this sense, they are literally figuratively carrying the weight if the universe on their shoulders. They now have more responsibility than they can possibly bear. So they’re not Sysiphus. They’re Atlas.

    Really imagine it. Some one approaches. You can wave, say hello, ignore, or an infinite number of other things. And what you do will still be affecting your life 5 billion, 10 trillion years later. Forever forever. How many times did you blink? You will never be free of the consequences of that. Ever.

    It gets worse.

    They are eternal, not Absurd. Everyone and everything around them is Absurd. See, the Absurd makes everything meaningless but precious. Eternity makes it meaningful but not precious. Not. Precious. Touchstones? Convictions? Empathy? Humanity? Not possible now. You’very got your Eternity Goggles on, thinking in terms of trillions, quintillions of years, and you wanna talk to some one who’ll be dead in 50 years? Non-Absurdity has robbed you of something. It has robbed you of the ability to experience the moment, the ability to lose yourself in the doing of life, the ability to love particularity and impermanence.

    Now… Sysiphus was eternal too. So maybe you can achieve his joy and liberation? Push the rock up the hill, knowing it’ll fall again and loving it!! Right? Right? Knowing that everything else dies is like knowing the rock will fall back, right?

    Well, maybe.

    But remember, Sysiphus knew his efforts were inconsequential. The rock would fall and he would push and it would fall and… none of it mattered. Cainites don’t have that luxury. Yes, everything else will die. But again, the consequences of every detail will ripple forward and back upon you for all eternity. So no. You can’t lose yourself in the meaningless preciousness of all things.

    It turns out…
    Immortality took something infinitely precious from you, and gave you something beyond horrible in exchange.


  • My simple reply:

    Totally agree. How I imagine the philosophy. Also. Waking Life.

  • @onyx — Is there a tl;dr version of this? Asking for a friend… no, who am I kidding? i’m asking for me.

  • @duh OOC HARPYING?!

  • @unclean - I’m at work! I can’t read book replies! tl;dr is necessary for my well being! Shut your meat flaps.

  • @duh I HAVE ADHD. I just skip over it and hope I’ll get clues from the replies.