Playing Castlevania: Circle of the Moon not only inspired me to rant on sensible dungeon design, it also inspired me to re-read Dracula.
I love those opening chapters where Jonathan Harker is Dracula’s ‘guest’. The building tension and sense of impending doom is tangible. But it also reminds me, Dracula is a dick. While at first seemingly affable, he is incredibly and unnecessarily evil. Harker is being used as a tool by Dracula to get himself established in London. But why does he need to imprison him, torture him psychologically and (unsuccessfully) try to do away with him? Dracula could’ve just gotten his business done with Jonathan, got all the deeds and contracts signed, had arrangements made for the transfer of goods to Carfax, Harker could’ve gone home to his wife and Dracula could’ve got his evil on once he got to England. Instead, Dracula keeps Harker a prisoner for months.
Same with the Demeter. Might have made more sense for Dracula to NOT kill the entire crew of the ship taking him and his stuff to England, but ever the chessmaster, Drac has planned it so that he can kill everyone AND make sure his stuff ends up at his new pad on time. What a dick!
Compare with Varney, one of the other famous classic vampire villains. Varney needs money because comfortable immortality is expensive, but his scheme is about as well thought out as a Scooby-do villain’s (menace & scare away the family living in the mansion where he knows his old friend’s treasure might be hidden) and about as successful (his castle gets burned down by an angry mob, and he has to apologize to the family he’s harassing, since they’re the only people nice enough to save him from the pitchforks).
Varney’s selfish and petty, but hospitable (“Yes, I am the vampire harassing you; now who want’s wine and food?”) and not overly cruel. Once he realises he overplayed his hand, he knows there’s no reason to keep the girl’s fiance imprisoned or kill him, so he free’s him. Drac would just kill him out of spite.
So, I guess I’m wondering, what sort of undead villains occupy your campaigns? How cruel are they? Are they relatable and redeemable, or are they just evil for evil’s sake?