RPG Autopsy #10: Vampyr (Part Ten – Vampire Rats)

(Welcome to part ten of our mini-series on Vampyr. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Today we’ll be heading down into the sewers, fighting a big punchy man, and questioning the judgement of God.)


It’s time to head down into ever gamer’s favourite environment – one full of beautiful vistas and countless opportunities for interesting, varied level design – a sewer!

Mercifully, Vampyr doesn’t make us punch giant rats or navigate a labyrinth of identical brown corridors. It’s a quick jaunt, with one ‘puzzle’ (open and close some sewer grates in the correct sequence, because video games), and we soon run into something pretty interesting: the Big Grey Man me met before, only now he’s absolutely going to town on some Skals.

After crushing the heads of a few Skals like so many delicious grapes, he – the subtitles call him ‘Fergal’, which, okay, I guess that’s his name now, maybe I missed when they told me – tells us that he’s here to eradicate the Skals on behalf of the Ascalon Club. Reid tells him off a bit, and then Fergal decides to kill us for reasons.


He says, before crushing the heads of a few more Skals like so many delicious maggots.

What can I say? It’s a Vampyr boss fight, so all the complaints I’ve made before are still in play. We dodge around. We get caught in some janky attack animations. There’s an approximately 70% chance we die a couple of times, and an approximately 1000% chance that I get annoyed and raise my voice at a loading screen. But it’s fine. It’s fine. Eventually Big Grey Fergal dies, and I’m left thinking ‘Oh, I guess he’s not going to end up being a major character, then.’

Tramping through the sewers some more, we discover a group of peaceful, talkative Skals living in the sewers. That’s right – apparently Skals are not always feral, flesh-eating beasts. I mean, these ones still eat human flesh, but it’s still an improvement.


Most of the Skals hanging around the sewers are of the ‘repeat the same two voice lines whenever you walk past them’ variety of NPCs. There’s only one we can properly talk to, which feels like a huge missed opportunity in a game about talking to interesting NPCs.

We meet a mysterious, scarred woman – seemingly the leader of these Skals – who goes by ‘Old Bridget’. She tells us a little about the Ascalon Club (they’re the upper echelons of vampire society – think ‘Vampire Tories’), and its relationship with the Skals (they see Skals as lesser beings fit only for slavery or extinction – remember: ‘Vampire Tories’).

She also tells us that Sean Hampton is not only charitable to poor, downtrodden mortals, but has long been a friend to the poor, downtrodden Skal of London – even before becoming a skal himself.

She also also tells us that Harriet Jones – whom we thought murdered by Hampton – is in fact alive. For whatever reason, she turned undead at Pembroke, and Hampton brought her here to live with the sewer Skals.

I said alive before. What I really meant was: ‘alive’. We find Harriet, and find her looking very strange. Her flesh is twisted, and her body is bloated to all hell – to the point where Old Bridget isn’t fully convinced she’s even a Skal. No one really seems to know what’s going on with her, or what’s the cause of her strange mutations (THIS DEFINITELY WON’T BE MASSIVELY IMPORTANT LATER).


Harriet Jones, here pictured sitting in a very questionably rendered armchair.

But two things are clear about Harriet Jones – she’s full of overwhelming bitterness and hatred for basically everyone, and she’s definitely killed at least one person. That murdered man in the docks was her work – an old grudge of hers. Turns out Hampton brought her here to the sewers as much to protect the world from her, as to protect her from the world.

She also says something very disconcerting – apparently she was visited by some kind of shadowy presence – one ‘born of hatred’, that spoke only to her, and that asked after us (Dr. Reid, that is) specifically (THIS DEFINITELY WON’T BE MASSIVELY IMPORTANT LATER LOL).

Harriet is quickly exhausted by all this exposition, and we leave her to rest. And now that we know the truth about Sean Hampton – i.e. that he didn’t kill anyone – it’s time to head back and absolve him of our suspicions.

When we do so, we find him sitting at his table eating raw human flesh with a knife and fork. Okay then…


In case you missed out on your college’s ‘Creepy Horror Tropes 101’ class, ‘Communion’ means eating dead people.

Well, we already knew that as a Skal Hampton has to eat human flesh, and that he only eats the flesh of the already dead. But Reid is (I have to say, justifiably) worried that Hampton will one day cross the line, succumb to his hungers, and actually kill someone.

So, much like with Nurse Crane (RIP, deffo not my fault), we now have a choice. We can spare his life or kill him, or we can ‘Turn’ him. Not into an Ekon like us, but we’ve just learned from Old Bridget that vampire/Ekon blood can sustain a Skal, removing their need to eat flesh entirely.

This is a really cool choice, because I (and I expect a hell of a lot of other players) got burned by the Nurse Crane choice. The option I chose there was also coloured blue – an indication that it was unlocked by collecting Hints about the character (and basically presented as ‘click this option to win’). Choosing the option that seems obviously correct with Nurse Crane ended up screwing me over big time, and so naturally I was suspicious that the same thing would happen here.


More very weird vampire eyes that no one notices somehow.

And the game knows that. It’s an obvious attempt to make the player feel nervous and unsteady about their choice, and it works fantastically. So fantastically, in fact, that I’m almost willing to forgive the game’s missteps with the Nurse Crane choice, since it’s what allows this choice to work so well:


Mess with your players’ expectations and make them doubt their choices.

A player thinking ‘Oh god, I don’t know – will this come back to bite me in the arse later?’ is orders of magnitude more interesting than a choice coming back to bite them in the arse later out of the blue, with little or no foreshadowing.

If they player knows they’re making a fraught choice, they’ll probably care about it, wring their hands over it, and be more willing to accept a negative outcome. If they feel like they’re making a normal choice, then you suddenly screw them over, they’ll just feel annoyed and betrayed (even though, yes, sometimes real life does just screw you over with no warning).


This will definitely, 100% go badly.

I eventually choose – against my better judgement, as I’m pretty sure it’s too good to be true – to give him my blood. I don’t think he’s lying about not killing people, but I am scared that he’ll one day succumb to the cravings and snap.

But Hampton is really not into it. He says God made him this way, so going through with this plan would be against God’s will. Reid (without any input from us – we’ve shit out bed and now have to sleep in it) begins to strong-arm Hampton. Hard. He questions his trust in God’s plan, using the facts we learned about Hampton earlier as ammunition.

How can he trust God’s plan when he was abandoned as a baby. Was it God’s plan for him to be molested by a priest as a child?



It feels incredibly icky, but that’s the point, and it works perfectly in the moment – Reid is being manipulative, and downright awful here. Which is entirely in-keeping with his ‘I’m very nice, but I retain my birthright privilege to tear you down at the drop of a hat if I deem it necessary’ posh, upper-class character, and the manipulative nature of every vampire we’ve met (or will meet in the future).

And we don’t really ‘convince’ Sean Hampton with all this – we merely target where he’s emotionally vulnerable, and proceed to pummel him there until he’s unable to stand up to any more. And after using his own personal trauma against him in the name of making him do something he desperately doesn’t want to do (but that we’ve decided, in our doctorly magnanimity, is best for him), he stops fighting back, kneels down, and drinks our blood. We win.

I feel awful.


In my defence, I now hate myself.

So, uh…yeah. Next week we’ll be continuing our investigation into the epidemic, and I’ll be trying to forget what we just did here.

For now, though – as always,  you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. And if you like RPG Autopsy – why not be lovely by supporting me on my newly-opened Patreon?Alternatively, if you hate RPG Autopsy – why not spite me by supporting me on my newly-opened Patreon? Find that Patreon here.


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Life in Japan #1: Spending Time With the In-laws

(Hi! This is the first in a semi-regular series of posts on my life in Japan. Loads of people are already making blogs/vlogs about Japan, but most of that’s either (a) flashy Japanese travel stuff, or (b) incredibly depressing ‘everyday Japanese life’ GoPro vlogs where the person does nothing but walk around a 7-11 and talk about how much they hate their job. 

So I decided to make something of my own – something that’s neither flashy travel stuff, nor depressing (hopefully), but instead an honest, middling-to-moderately funny look at some aspects of living in Japan that don’t usually get much attention. 

Also, some background for anyone who doesn’t know me all that well: I live in Japan, working as an interpreter. I have a wife (who’s Japanese), and we’ve been living together for a few years now. Okay, here we go!)

Recently my wife left for Paris on a three month business trip, meaning I’m currently living alone for the first time in years.

Before you roll your eyes – don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be one of those stories like: “man left to own devices by wife, immediately reverts to eating takeout pizza standing over the sink, accidentally burns house down trying to do laundry”.

tenor (1)

I can take care of myself, on account of being a big, grown-up boy, and I’m actually the household cook (a fact which absolutely blows the minds of 90% of Japanese people I meet, because (due to a mysterious time anomaly) Japanese gender norms are forever trapped in the 1950s).

So I’m fine living alone for a few months (if you’re wondering: yes, of course I miss my wife (and if you’re my wife reading this: yes, of course I miss her so much all the time I can’t live without her)).

But a few days before she left we went to see her family, and my mother-in-law seemed very worried about me being left all by myself. She even invited me to come round and have dinner with them sometime while my wife is away. I like to think I’ve made a pretty good impression on her (she likes my weird, foreign cooking), but she still seemed worried about me (either she was just being motherly, or she wasn’t 100% convinced that I wasn’t going to turn into some kind of feral, trash-eating dog man the moment my wife was gone).


I have a good relationship with my in-laws, and I was very happy to be invited, but honestly the thought of going there without my wife filled me with a hefty serving of dread: not only would I have to make conversation all afternoon, I’d have to do it in Japanese, and all without my wife to help me out.

Now, I should stop and emphasise this point again: I’m an interpreter. My job involves me standing around all day talking to people in Japanese. Speaking Japanese is literally something I’m good enough that I get paid to do it. So of course I can speak to my in-laws in Japanese.

But there’s this weird thing about anxiety – reality is only relevant when it’s giving you a reason to be anxious.


You’ve been learning Japanese for a little while and now you have to speak to some Japanese people? Better get really anxious about it. It’s years later, and you’ve spoken Japanese countless times in countless different personal and professional contexts? Well, that’s all well and good, but what about a slightly different context? Better get really anxious about it all over again.

My wife was a little embarrassed that her mum invited me round, and said she was probably just being polite – that I didn’t have to go see them. But I kind of wanted to (I obviously didn’t want to, but you know what I mean). I mean, her family is now my family, and I should make the effort to build as good a relationship with them as I can.

So a couple of weeks after my wife left, I went round to see my in-laws for the afternoon. I didn’t commit any terrible faux pas. I didn’t accidentally insult my mother-in-law’s cooking or burn their house down, or recreate that Fawlty Towers episode and repeatedly bring up the Nanjing Massacre.

Instead, I stayed for a few hours, had dinner, chatted for a bit, and then went home. Oh, and I helped out with some farming in my mother-in-law’s vegetable garden. Which I managed just fine, thank you.

giphy (3)

It isn’t a particularly fascinating or life-changing story (sorry), it kind of meant a lot to me.

It gave me more confidence speaking and being friendly with my in-laws – people who are going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. And it gave me more confidence in my Japanese abilities (even though I know I’m just going to find something else to get anxious about in the future).

Learning a language (at least for me) generally takes the form of a steady grind where I barely notice any improvement – at one point I’ll think: “Man, I’m struggling to talk about the weather”, and then three years later I’ll think: “Man, I’m struggling to talk about Brexit” And in both cases I’ll feel like an absolute dipshit who can’t speak at all.

But occasionally there’ll be a moment – this afternoon with my in-laws being a great example – where all of a sudden I look back at where I used to be, look at where I am now, and see how far I’ve come. All through hard work and perseverance, and a lifelong drive to play all those cool Japanese PS2 games I read about as a kid, but that were never brought over to the UK a desire to learn more about high-brow aspects of Japanese culture like haiku and ikebana.

Also, my wife was very happy I made the effort and spent time with her family while she was away. And It’s always nice to get brownie points.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. or you could be the loveliest person alive and support me on my newly-opened Patreon, while also getting some nice rewards for yourself.



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RPG Autopsy #9: Vampyr (Part Nine – Whoso Eateth My Flesh)

(Welcome to part nine of our mini-series on Vampyr. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Today we’ll be heading back to the docks,  investigating a murder, and following the trail of the most Irish man in the world.)


When we arrive back at Pembroke Hospital things are in a right bloody state. We find Dr. Swansea locked in a rather tense standoff with Geoffrey McCullum – leader of the vampire-hunting Guard of Priwen. When McCullum sees us he immediately clocks us as a vampire (or, in Guard of Priwen rude anti-vampire language: ‘a leech’), and the gears shift from ‘tense’ to ‘imminent bossfight’.

Fortunately, after a long staring contest, McCullum finally blinks. He leaves, and Dr. Swansea gives us some (more) bad news: apparently the man we saved back at the docks – the priest Sean Hampton – was infected, and has now become a skal. It seems he killed a patient – one Harriet Jones – and fled into the night. As a result, the Guard of Priwen is now convinced the hospital is harbouring vampires (which, I mean, it is).

Since Dr. Swansea’s very keen to avoid a public investigation (possibly because of all the vampires), it’s up to us to track Sean Hampton down.


We will definitely not be seeing McCullum again, no siree. No foreshadowing here whatsoever.

This takes us back to the docks. Looking at the District menu, we see Hampton is the ‘Pillar’ of the docks – i.e. the person who keeps the whole community together in the face of the epidemic. Killing the Pillar of a district is bad news, which we saw when we (accidentally) killed Nurse Crane back in Whitechapel – the Health Status of the whole district plummeted, coming terrifyingly close to ‘Hostile’ (at which point everyone in the district disappears, you lose all their side quests, and it becomes full of high-level enemies for the rest of the game).

So I’m not super keen on killing Hampton – hopefully there’s a way to solve this grisly murder amicably.

When we arrive at the docks we’re greeted by a dead body splayed out in the street. It’s being examined by one Ichabod Throgmorton – a ‘vampire hunter’, and man who’s genuinely called ‘Ichabod Throgmorton’. While Throgmorton declares the death the work of a vampire, and acts like he’s the world’s foremost expert on vampire hunting, it’s immediately obvious that he’s either a charlatan, or an absolute idiot (possibly both).


There are some great NPCs and side quests in the docks, but I’ll save that for another time.


The conversation with Throgmorton is great, because Reid is obviously having the time of his life. Throgmorton is a delightful mix of pompous and utterly clueless, and when Reid asks him about the vampire threat there’s a constant tone of barely-suppressed mockery in his voice. Throgmorton is bang on about the existence of vampires, sure, but (a) he can’t even recognise one when he’s looking right at it, and (b) he’s clearly never actually fought a vampire, and wouldn’t last two seconds if he tried.

Not getting too much useful information from Throgmorton, vampire hunter extraordinaire, we turn to the rest of the locals. Asking around, we quickly learn that Hampton is a Catholic priest, and that he runs a ‘night asylum’ for the homeless in the western part of the Docks.

We can technically go confront him right now. But I don’t want to rush things – looking at Hampton in the NPC menu, I notice there are two as-yet undiscovered Hints about him. So we ask some more NPCs about him, and learn the following:

  1. He was abandoned as a baby back in Ireland, and raised at a catholic orphanage
  2. While there, he was molested by a priest, but his faith has remained strong

I just noticed how weird the shelves in the background look, and now I can’t unsee it.

I’ve talked before about how well Vampyr handles these kinds of Very Serious topics, and this is no different. It’s not sensationalised, and it isn’t just there for the sake of giving the game the feeling of being a grown-up game for grown-up people. These kinds of traumas are sprinkled throughout the game because this is a game about people, and these kinds of traumas are sprinkled throughout people’s lives. It’ll also prove relevant soon, as we’ll see in next week’s post.

With all of Hampton’s Hints unlocked, we head to his Night Asylum (I’m not going to mention this every time we travel somewhere, but don’t forget that whenever you move between safe zones in Vampyr you’ll constantly be interrupted by fight after tedious fight with by-now very boring enemies, and almost no reward for your troubles).

When we arrive, we find that no only is Hampton a card-carrying skal, he’s not particularly upset with that fact – or particularly interested in hiding it. While he’s not going about telling mortals he’s now a vampire, he’s more happy to talk to us about his new condition.


The lighting in this game really works wonders at times.


We learn from Hampton that skal are not just crappy vampires, but that their diet is completely different – while ‘true’ vampires like us (i.e. Ekons) must drink fresh human blood, skals merely (merely!) eat human flesh. As a result, while we kill anyone we drink from, skals can – if they control their hunger sufficiently – survive on the flesh of the already-dead.

He also tells us that his status as a horrible flesh-eating night monster is actually a blessing from the lord. While my eyes immediately rolled at this, he actually makes a pretty decent point – as an immortal, he’s immune to disease, so he can help people suffering from the epidemic without fear of infecting himself. Also, while us Ekons are repelled by holy symbols, Hampton is not, and proudly wears his crucifix even now.

After getting school by Hampton on scripture, Reid accuses him of killing Harriet Jones.  Hampton is shocked by this accusation, and tells us that he didn’t, and that he can prove his innocence. He gives us a key to the sewers and tells us we’ll understand more if we go there. If we still think he’s a threat when we get back, well: “I’ll surrender myself to your judgement”


I do slightly resent being lectured by a flesh-eating gremlin man.

He seems to be telling the truth. I mean, he certainly seems to be on the up and up, and his friendly Irish accent is incredibly disarming, but who the hell knows at this point? Guess it’s down into the sewers, where we’ll most likely find a trap the truth behind all this.


(bit of a minor one here) Deciding whether or not you trust someone who seems on the level, but could be lying through their teeth is inherently compelling.

Something RPGs could benefit from focusing on more of is this exact kind of stripped-back human drama – sometimes being forced to answer gut-feeling questions like ‘is this person bullshitting me?’ or ‘do I think this person has really changed?’ is sd compelling as any amount of investigation and gathering of iron-clad evidence.

Next week we’ll head into the sewers and find out what happened to the apparently-murdered Harriet Jones. In the meantime, as always,  you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. And if you like RPG Autopsy – why not be lovely by supporting me on my newly-opened Patreon? Alternatively, if you’ve read this far out of some misguided sense of hate – why not spite me by supporting me on my newly-opened Patreon? Find that Patreon here.


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