This was supposed to be a post about Vampires in Las Vegas. It’s not. Instead it’s a take on the historical demographics of the Undead. Its also very long.
Kindred populations in Vampire the Masquerade have always bugged. The whole 1 per 100 000 has always felt a bit rough. It would make a lot of decent sized urban centres have a population of less than five vampires today, never mind if you started to look at a North American city’s historical population.
Similarly, assuming this ratio is anywhere near accurate for the campaign world, trends in global demography mean that the percentage of Elders with more than 200 years experience should be small, even if every one of them survived from the day they were created to the present. And the number of Kindred with any experience of the Roman Empire or even the Carolingian Empire would be mind-blowingly small.
Now I am not a demographer and my grasp of statistics is a bit rough, but poking around on the internet during slow moments at work, I’ve pieced together some data that will be the foundation of my upcoming VtM campaign.
First off, I assume that the whole ‘1 vampire to 100 000 mortals’ thing is a rarely met ideal. Looking at the game line’s own location supplements, every major centre is overpopulated by this standard. So I’m going to assume that the ‘1 to 100 000’ ratio is used to justify pushing neonates and others out of the city by the powers that be and the reality is that most places fall between the ideal and a ratio of ‘1 to 50 000.’
Suddenly, if you want to run a game in your home town of one million people, you might have 20 Kindred floating around instead of 10. Of these 20 vampires though, how many of them are ‘Elders’ with more than 200 years unlife? Based on the various supplements the usual number seems to be ‘a lot.’ I don’t think that makes sense. Here’s why.
Digging through a bunch of scattered and sketchy sources ranging from Wikipedia to papers on demographic growth, I’ve put together the table below. It shows the global population from 0 AD until 1960 and then calculates how many potential Vampires there would be based on the 1 to 100 000 and 1 to 50 000 ratios. I have to stress that this is a purely off-the-cuff, back of the envelope, affair.
Now, from what I’ve read, by 1500 Europeans accounted from roughly 18% of world population. Assuming this ratio holds from 0 AD until 1500, it would put Europe’s share of the vampires of 0 AD at 360 if we go by the 1 per 100 rule.
However, this chart looks purely at population. It does not take into account the percentage of people living in urban areas. Vampires, we are told, come to quick ends in rural areas and need higher concentrations of people to survive. So to be more accurate, I think we should be applying the vampire population rules to the urban rather than raw population numbers.
Frankenstiening together some rough data on global population growth until 1500, some European data from 1500 to 1960 and some similar data on average percentages of city dwellers, you get the table below (sorry for the lack of coherent footnotes, but this is blog post not a research paper).
It is important to stress that in this chart ‘Urban’ is defined as ‘living in a city of 5000 people or more.’ I think this is a little generous, but I have tried to consistently err on the high side with my numbers.
So, the total number of Vampires likely to be running around ancient Rome is, at most 144.
This assumes that every time a city could absorb another kindred it did; meaning that a kindred fought their conservative impulses and created one. So we aren’t talking about the vampire population so much as we are potential vampire population.
It’s also interesting to note that the number of kindred would have nearly doubled between 1800 and 1850 and then would have increased by nearly a factor of 8 between 1850 and 1950.
I’ve also put together a similar chart using US census data. However, the US Census Bureau considers an ‘urban’ area to be living in a centre of 2500 or more. That’s way too generous for me. Now, I have used the Census’ numbers, but I’ve also included a set of columns cutting them in half to bring them roughly in line with European numbers during the same period. This has likely led to some weird numbers.
Assuming these numbers are good enough for an RPG campaign, it looks like Revolutionary America could comfortably support between 1 to 4 Vampires, depending upon the numbers you like. And again, the number of Vampires that can realistically claim a pre-1800s stake in a city is limited to maybe 7 Kindred. How many of them could possibly be survivors of the fall of bloody Troy like Helen and Menelaus in ‘Chicago by Night?’
To answer that question, you have to ask yourself how many Vampires manage to survive more than 100 or 200 years. What is the percentage of kindred that, at any given time, will manage to avoid final death by intrigue, hunter, accident, boredom or despair?
Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I’d guess less than 20% make it pass the 200 year mark and probably fewer 10% survive more than 500 years. But let’s be crazy and assume that a whopping 20% of kindred created in a given year will just keep on keeping on. If that is the case, then using our figure of 144 European kindred circa 0 AD a total of 28 could possibly still exist, and what percentage of those are currently in topor?
Moreover, even if they are still awake and around, how many of them would have risked the journey to North America? Not a ton, I’d bet.
Similarly, looking at the 620 odd European and American Kindred active in 1750 only around 124 are likely to still be around in 1960. Again: how many of them would risk the trip the U.S. and, more importantly, given how small Vegas was at the end of the forties, how many of them would have bothered to move there by 1960?
Anyways, those are my rough numbers. If you’ve made it this far, please let me know what you think.