TL;DR: Each section has a tl:dr: Nightstalkers, Bloodlines, Community. I know this is a lot.
Let me preface my essay by stating I want this thread to be more a discussion than a call to the Admin to change anything within the game. I think my ideas might make the culture of this aspect of Aetolia better for everyone and therefore much more fun. I hope a lot of people see this and respond, so we can work off each other's ideas to form something concrete. I've played as a vampire on various characters over the years and the experience was relatively the same. I have one right now, super secret but seldom used because I have a lot to focus on with Leana. MOSTLY, these are just my thoughts and you might think nothing needs to change. This is a thought exercise for the most part. I think with all the changes, the vampire aspect of the game is still roughly the same as it was years ago when the PURGE happened.
Without further ado, here is my plan to reform the Vampires of Aetolia. I shamelessly steal from other vampire fiction, so if you see it, feel free to point it out. We can share a laugh.
Vampires are one of the main unique features of Aetolia that separate it from the other IRE muds. When the focus shifted from good vs evil (because that was too ambiguous) and undead vs living, some of the allure of Vampires got dampened. There is also the shift in popular fiction to consider too. A lot of what is currently there is good, but there is room for improvement. Here is my take. I'm going to divide this into a few parts and bring it all together at the end. Most of my suggestions require (Almost) no change to the code and be applied almost immediately, roleplay allowing.
Part 1: Nightstalkers
Background: Nightstalkers are vampire novices, just like guild novices mechanically, but with different lore surrounding them. Originally they were created because OG vampires had no class (before multiclass existed) and getting to the level requirement for embracement was a huge tedious affair (Punch to lvl 50). Rather than having them be in a guild and waste lessons on a class that wasn't their main purpose, Nightstalker let them 'Taste' the class without relying on others.
Observation: Changes to how novices work made it so the Academy gave them class at graduation, with entry into their associated guild, and guild rank 2 gave them permanency. Nightstalkers follow a similar path(unless I got this wrong!) Nightstalker, novice, join house after academy, novice, embraced, mastery. To parallel, other classes follow the: Novice, no lesson lost, Class, 10% lesson loss, Mastery, 50% lesson loss. Nightstalkers are still handicapped at Skilled in two skills. The lore states the third skillset is locked behind the 'Bloodgift' and is thematically appropriate in my eyes, but I'm only one opinion.
Novice vampires have two choices: follow the path to embracement set by the dominion and find a player sire or seek Vinessa for embracement to unlock their class.
Suggestion:(Requires little coding) Remove the skill blocks on Nightstalkers after the academy and let them know that graduating means a 10% lesson loss. Simple.
CRAZY SUGGESTION:(requires admin coding) Have academy graduation be different for Nightstalkers, with them being embraced by Vinessa, a low thin blood, and that until they are 'Sired by a House vampire to strengthen the bloodhold' they can QUIT CLASS (or give them a REJECT BLOOD) to lose 10% lessons and move on. Basically, class without permanency. Remove the GEAS messages, tt's just annoying. Instead, have it render all 'siring' skills unusable.
TL:DR NIGHTSTALKERS: Either remove the skilled restriction for nightstalker players or give them full vampire after the academy, with the ability to REJECT BLOOD up to the point they are SIRED for the first time by a player. Make the Geas prevent all siring related skills from working.
Part 2: Bloodlines
Background: On paper, the bloodlines each share unique 'qualities' that their Houses attribute to themselves. Forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm trying to summarize complexity in a word or two: Bahir'an - Prestige of Blood Nebre'seir - Warriors D'baen - Excellence Ve'kahi - Unity and Freedom Bouchard - Family and Freedom
They stem from Yrtez/Belladonna and the primus (after Yrtez's demise). The history is not as long as some other classes/factions but it has a lot of history where things can be changed. Lore can be added and altered to affect the ideas I'm going to present.
Observation: In action, most Houses act the same and are functionally identical to outsiders. Each vampire is the same in function, look, and design. They're all carbon copies with different lore applied to them, but without the titles, it would be difficult to tell them apart. Each House does try to set itself apart from the others and some do better than most (Like Ve'kahi), but for the most part they're all the same Praenomen.
Suggestion: Each bloodline should have some unique trait to them, both physically and in their personality. I'd leave it up to each 'Emperor/Empress' to decide, but it would need to be set in stone once decided. It would even be amazing if after deciding there was some way to add unique skills based on these bloodlines. But that requires a lot more work than a simple roleplay fix.
Examples: Nebre'seir could take on more physical changes, pronounced claws, enlarged veins, larger fangs, etc and this causes them to wear more armor to hide their deformaties or possibly show them off with pride. D'baen could be taller, slimmer, fairer, with extra grace in their step and a pension for haughtiness. You get the point, I think.
CRAZY SUGGESTION: Just like Shapeshifter, which there are a lot of parallels, have there be various 'Vampire Kinds'. Lock certain paths off from some or add skills to make them unique. Even passives which do other vanity or hindrances. Like Nebre'seir don't burn in sunlight, but suffer more from fire. D'baen get passive +1 int, but recover endurance slower. ETC IT'S CRAZY FOR A REASON!
TL:DR BLOODLINES: All the Houses are different and I believe would benefit from identifiable qualities attributed to them in both physical and personality traits that are expected to be applied after embracement. Or, go so far as to split the ckass up like Shapeshifter for each House and add passives and active skills to further divide the bloodlines.
Part 3: Community/Name/Dominion
Background: Vampires have a rich culture with a lot of lore set over a decade ago. They approach the world as nobles, superior over normal mortals, and they have innate powers that give them that advantage. Since as far back as they've existed, peerage and formality have been adopted by the majority of them. Some Houses abandoned it for their own, like Ve'kahi. The word, "Consanguine" was used over 'Vampire' and Praenomen became the class. The Dominion serves to connect the Houses together and work as a council for the various laws and edicts of their kind.
Observation and Suggestions: The term Praenomen was made to distinguish between normal vampires and bloodborn when that class came out. I think this was a missed opportunity to keep things simple. Praenomen should be dropped for Vampire or if suggestions above are followed: Vampire(D'baen). That really hits home that despite the social aspect of Vampires being 'Feral' and insulting, they are still classed as one, but are higher by will.
If the term 'Vampire' is considered offensive, then I suggest adopting a mandatory 'Masquerade' for Consanguine outside of private gatherings. Allowing them to drop their disguise in times of conflict or violence. Would need the admin to add it to the 'Sanguis skills outside of class' table. I would drop all formal titles too, but continue to use them within private gatherings and channel conversation. Exceptions for obvious high ranking members, like Primus and Emperors. Give more of a second society feel to being a Vampire by purposely excluding details from daily life.
CRAZY SUGGESTION: Remove Houses. Run all projects and scrolls through the Dominion, leaving each House to take advantage of their various clans for private communication. This will make the community feel much larger and it will definitely cause infighting and a new social structure to prevent 'Poachers' from claiming new vampires.
Give the Dominion a new name and rank system based on bloodrank, where each member is also identified by their bloodline in DWHO. Have low ranks have fewer privileges than higher ranked members. I've never liked the name 'Dominion', so I'd suggest calling it something more traditional. Praenomen Court? Vampire Court? Consanguine Council?
TL:DR COMMUNITY: Rename 'Praenomen' to 'Vampire' for the class. Drop all bloodrank titles and have a perma-masquerade. Keep all vampire details as secret as possible from others. Crazy idea: remove all Houses, funnel everything through the Dominion but give it ranks, mark members by bloodline as well, and perhaps change the name to be more appealing.
------ Even if all my ideas were accepted by everyone, they would require admin and org leader planning to weave into the narrative. It would take time and it would change fundamentally as other players altered things with their characters. Just like what happened with the Primus event.
This is just something that I thought about while talking to people OOC in webs. THANKS FOR MAKING IT TO THE END. Sorry about the typos.