The guide to Vampire Hunters fro Osprey
Vampires have had a place of honour in folklore and fantasy literature for millennia. One way or another, they have been present in legend and myth and the 21st century hasn’t done anything to diminish their popularity. Even the Twilight Saga hasn’t been able to damage their reputation!
However what’s not very clear is if they are a force of good, evil or both. Osprey think they are all evil and have decided to put all their knowledge and expertise in this treaty that aims to teach us what we are fighting and how to fight them.
Let’s start with the production and physical description of this book. Cloaking up 80 plus covers, it is a soft-cover and perfect-bound small book that won’t break your bank and will keep you amused for an afternoon or two. The layout is not perfect, but it’s easy to read and the number of illustrations is quite large, so your eyes are never too far away from some visual treat.
The illustrations come in a mix of styles; from old style medieval illustrations to lavishly painted scenes that depict encounters with vampires.
I say depict encounters because the book has been written in a “realistic” style. The language describes everything as if it were actually real information and not fantasy. This is very much in line with the style of the whole series and we saw the same technique used to great effect in The Nazi Occult.
The chapters take us around the world and describe not just what kind of vampires we are likely to find in those areas, but also their origins. This is where things get interesting.
One thing I noticed is that this book is firmly aimed at the American market. Although the European Vampire does take a lot of the book, there is a whole section to the presence of Vampires in the USA and the creation of a special forces unit dedicated to fight them. And actually it’s a pretty good story with a lot to offer and it does feel very American, so, quite frankly, I am very pleased they added it.
The African Vampire, Asanbosam, takes yet another twist. Vampires are thought of as having evolved somewhat and the origins of the species is explained as coming from a sort of ape creature that became extremely adept at jungle life and needs blood to survive. It also describes a class of warriors, the Ashanti, who dedicate their lives to fight the presence of the monster.
Chinese vampires again take a very different twist. These seem to take about 100 years to be created and, to start with, they look like clumsy and mostly harmless stiff puppets that can’t hurt you unless they get too close. And yet, they reveal a series of very powerful and dangerous tool to survive, turning them into pretty lethal enemies. And this was a huge surprise for me. To start with my scepticism made me sneer, and then, as the chapter went on, I kept smiling at the devious ways in which those vampires operate and how they can be destroyed by the Shaolin monks who spent centuries learning the ways, not just to fight them, but also to return them to their graves where their souls can rest forever.
The South American vampire is the one with the least coverage in the book. In a nutshell, it’s the Chupacabra. A legendary monster that is just that, a very advanced and dangerous animal that doesn’t resemble the vampires as we know them. At all.
I did enjoy reading this guide, though I must admit I struggled with it on two counts.
Firstly it portrays vampires as irredeemable evil creatures, sometimes mindless. Secondly it really plays up with the origins of vampires in totally new ways and that took me a while to come to terms with.
After having played so many games in which I was a Vampire, to see them as the evil people no matter what sat hard on me. This is not to say it does’t make sense or that it’s badly done, quite the opposite. However if you expect this to be something like Twilight or Vampire: The Masquerade, you’ll be disappointed.
The origins of vampires really got me by surprise. I have always associated vampires with some sort of mystical beginning, so to think of them as the produce of evolution… that was weird!
And yet it does work to a great degree. Considering that we’re talking about a manual about fantasy creatures, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work. It has a tough fight to battle against our pre-conceptions, though and that’s quite a challenge.
The one thing I struggled with most with, though, was the way in which the book tries to tie all the vampires together as if they’re somehow related. Yes, they have the common trait of blood drinking, but whereas the European and Asian vampires are intelligent creatures, the African and South American are little else than beasts. That is just strange for me.
As a gaming aid, this is one to have. It is affordable enough that it won’t hurt your pocket too much, it reads well (as in being very entertaining and well written) and it’s full of ideas that can be used in pretty much any game with a touch of supernatural.