One of the principle takeaways from Tim Hutchings’ classic solo tabletop RPG Thousand-Year-Old vampire is that immortality can be devastatingly lonely. A new twist on that formula in the form of 500-Year-Old Vampire contests that a bloodsucking monsters’ misery might not be solved by company, but at least you watch each other’s former humanity slowly bleed away.
500-Year-Old Vampire is the creation of Jason Cox, Ph.D, and artist Jabari Weathers, who published the collaborative tabletop RPG through the Central Michigan University Press, the same academic outlet responsible for Rising Waters. As such, this is a game that was designed to play as well with three to five people around the kitchen table as it does in the classroom or at a convention.
Each session of 500-Year-Old Vampire is structured as a convocation between the members of a coven, night-roaming creatures of myth who gathered every so often to recount their lives through letters and personally crafted trinkets. The player-controlled vampires expressly use this time to cling tightly to whatever shreds of their former, mortal lives are left to them - but the exercise is always in vain.
Once the sharing is done, each vampire draws two prompt cards from an included deck and chooses one to guide the next phase of their unending lives - five phases mark the course of the game as it progresses through rebirth, neophyte, elder, ancient, and into the conclusion. The other card is passed to other members and illustrates the subtle (or not so subtle) influence they hold over the only other creature that understands their existence. Then, everyone departs until the next fated convocation.
Cards are designed to provide everything players need to frame the creation of letters or physical artefacts - an addition Cox attributes directly to Jeeyon Shim and Shing Yin Khor’s work on keepsake games such as A Mending and Field Guide to Memory. A basic prompt guides the content and context of their creation, while effects spell out how this phase of life changes both the vampire and their cohort. Printed questions evoke lingering thoughts or doubts rattling around their character’s mind, and every card includes instructions on rolling specific sets of dice to chart the passage of years for the entire group.
Like Thousand-Year-Old Vampire, players won’t experience every detailed moment of their character’s ceaseless unlives. Instead, time will progress in somewhat random intervals as they becomed unmoored from humanity and its culture. At the same time, they will perpetrate astonishing and horrific actions as the gulf between the cohort and the moral laws that govern humanity widens.
500-Year-Old Vampire will launch a Backerkit campaign on July 18th to fund a physical version of the game that will contain everything needed for play. Cox explained in a press release that the game will satisfy both the US national common core writing standards and the national core art standards, making the game a clever way to smuggle tabletop games into creative writing or visual arts classrooms.