Worldwide vampire club doesn't suck

May 15, 2007 (The Lantern / Zack Timmons)  -- A group of vampires stand, each doing their best to evolve through interaction with one another. When a challenge arises, hands come out and a game of "rock, paper, scissors" decides their eternal fate.

Every Sunday, 30 to 40 role-playing Ohio State students and Columbus residents gather outside Baker Systems Engineering to play "Vampire: The Masquerade."

"Vampire" is a live-action, role-playing game. LARP games feature players physically interpreting role-playing games in the vein of "Dungeons & Dragons" or "World of Warcraft." The local chronicle, known as "Columbus In Darkness," is one of many around the world.

"Our particular group is part of One World by Night, which is a confederacy of games across the world," said Susan O'Connor, a graduate nursing student at OSU. "... we are playing in the same game ... It makes it fun because the world we play in is therefore bigger."

That world, created in 1994, extends domestically to cities such as Chicago and Indianapolis, and internationally to countries such as Brazil and Canada.

White Wolf Inc. was created in 1991 with "Vampire: The Masquerade" as its flagship game. It began as a book-based game, and expanded into a live-action game.

The Columbus branch will temporarily expand this summer as the local chapter hosts the convention, "Origins."

Held July 5 through July 8, the convention looks to unite many gamers.

"People from all over the world come to Columbus to play and hang out for a weekend," O'Connor said.

The large expected turnout is a testament to the dedication exhibited by the participants. Lead storyteller Kelly Pratt has been playing "Vampire" for the last decade.

"Some of the players I've known all 10 years," Pratt said. "I met my second wife through playing."

Pratt gathers the players each week to tell stories in character, and set scenarios for play.

Regulars of the Columbus game sometimes travel to Dayton and Cincinnati to further develop their characters. Often times players from other cities return the favor by joining the weekly game in Columbus.

During play, characters are separated into clans. Losing battles can sometimes mean switching clans.

"Each clan has benefits and drawbacks," said Kristen Kinsey, a three-year veteran of "Vampire."

Characters are distinguished by a series of categories including physical, social and mental attributes, as well as status.

"It defines who you play and who you are," Kinsey said.

Emulating politics, status within the game includes the respect garnered throughout the society.

"The politics are like modern society," Steve Hill said. "You can go against the President (of the United States) but you won't win. ("Vampire") has similar politics."

The game is mainly a way to have fun and meet new friends.

"It's just laid back people looking to have a good time," Hill said.

While most attend to have a good time, weekly meetings can also help overcome the stress accumulated throughout the week.

"There are moments where it's more like a support group," Pratt said.

O'Connor, in addition to being a grad student, is a mother of two. She uses the meetings to alleviate the pressures of being a student and parent.

"(The game) is a harmless form of escapism," she said. "Once a week, for a few hours I don't have to deal with my own stress. I get to play a part."

Playing those parts can also be a way for aspiring actors to hone their crafts.

"Even if you're an amateur actor, it's a good place to create a persona," Hill said.

"None of us really think we're vampires. It's just a game and we all know it," O'Connor said. "It sounds really odd to outsiders, but it is very fun if people give it a chance.

Fanged Films

South Korea / Japan, 2010
UK, 2010

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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