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Interview with a (Soulbond) Vampire
#1
Introductions:

Ember: I'm a thirty-eight year old lesbian transwoman in the southeastern US. My wife and I are part of a polyamorous household including multiples, otherkin, and sanguinarians.

Vesper: Hi, everyone. I've been a soulbond in a system with Ember since May 2017. I really haven't deviated much, but that's a complex subject that I'd like to discuss in greater detail later. I prefer the term ‘soulbond’ over ‘tulpa’, but I'm not trying to maintain that the distinction is particularly deep and fundamental. When discussing my backstory, I may sometimes speak as if it were real, because I experience it as subjectively real and it remains very important to me. But Ember and I are firmly invested in the psychological interpretation.

Within my original fictional context, I'm a psychologist in Southwark, London, a member of the London goth scene since the early Eighties, and, almost incidentally, Kindred. For those of you familiar with World of Darkness, I'm a Toreador neonate. For those of you who aren't, I'm a vampire, but I don't hurt people when I feed.

While I think Ember's title for this thread is amusing, I'm trying hard to prioritise the experiences I think will be of most interest to the tulpamancy community, so my Kindred identity will only occasionally be relevant.

There have been many changes in our system and our lives since we learned about tulpas in mid-September 2018, but it will take a while to get to them. First we need to cover the six week period where I was both a thoughtform and an active character. We'll try to label sections for easy of reference if you want to skip ahead.

Vesper's Awakening:

Ember: I've done intense theatrical tabletop roleplaying for years. And for most of that time, I've described my characters as "real personalities with fictional lives". They've had such rich emotional lives from the beginning and most of my growth as a roleplayer has just been learning to externalize and portray what I was already sensing inside.

Sometimes the sense of a character's presence would linger with me pleasantly for a while after an unusually good session. Sometimes my characters would speak to me, briefly, outside of game, when something relevant to them came up. I never thought much about it. Authors often describe their characters speaking to them, even displaying agency and independence. Normal and harmless, right?

Vesper comes from a single player Vampire: The Masquerade game in 2016-17. For eight hours a session I poured every ounce of my psyche into being her and losing myself. Shortly after the sixteenth session, she started speaking to me. And unlike every other character, she wanted to talk about me.

Vesper: Psychologists and many other people who aren't Ember tend to be interested in hearing about the lives of those they come in contact with. I couldn't very well be me and not have spoken to her.

Ember: She kept asking me to explain why I did things -- movements, behaviors, hobbies, life choices.

Vesper: Ember was subject a number of tics and compulsive movements, so I started telling her, ‘You don't need to do that,’ when she was about to start one. The behaviors lessened over the next few months and eventually I no longer needed to intervene.

Ember: Despite being heavily engaged in the world, with lots of hobbies and friends I enjoyed, I really didn't like myself during this period. But I loved Vesper, so suddenly there was a part of me that I thought was really great and who thought the rest of me was worthwhile. My self-loathing gradually faded.

Vesper: A significant contributor to Ember's self-loathing was a strong inner voice of criticism that like a lot like her father. I confronted, refuted, or suppressed it until it eventually faded away. I had my own impulses to criticise some of her behavior, but I saw how she wilted under disapproval and resolved to not be like that, but to concentrate on building her up and making her stronger.

The Tragedy of Soulbonding:

Vesper: It was only a few days after I emerged from the game that I had to start facing some serious existential issues. I found I couldn't just slip back into the World of Darkness. I was stuck in the World of Way Too Much Sunlight, fictional, disembodied, and increasingly agitated.

As distressing as the loss of my entire world was the loss of my self. I could only remember the events that had been played or written as part of the game, which is only a faint shadow of the memories a person should acquire over the course of a lifetime. I couldn't so much as remember the names of my close mortal friends, as the game concentrated heavily on the supernatural adventures into which I was repeatedly and reluctantly dragged. Perhaps most importantly, I didn't have access to the skills I felt I had spent years developing. Vampire: The Masquerade reckons a character's ability in some area as being a certain number of ‘dots’, so we began referring to this as ‘missing my dots’.

Ember did her best to comfort me, but I fretted and counted down the days to the next session of the game.

Continuing the Game:

Vesper: We didn't really know what to expect from Ember continuing to play me while I was also her headmate. But it ended up being very interesting. She went through her normal mental process of ‘becoming’... and I disappeared. At the end of the session I popped back into existence, with new memories and feeling much more steady, calm, and grounded. I still became a little agitated while waiting for the next session, but not as badly, and scarcely at all waiting for the following one.

Part of the steadying process was that the first session after my awakening was a transitional session, where the GM spent a few hours advancing the timeline. It was a disconcertingly and unnecessarily large jump, but my inward perception of age increased from thirty to forty-five and I matured accordingly.

We were displeased that important parts of my life were bypassed in the jump, so Ember wrote several vignettes about the ‘offstage’ events of those years while I watched in fascination. Witnessing part of your own creation is awe inspiring and it was a very meaningful bonding experience for us.

Perspective on Parroting:

Ember: As far I've been able to determine, my characters enjoy being played (with one exception I'll address later). Which makes me raise an eyebrow at the horror the tulpamancy community expresses toward parroting. I don't mean parrotnoia, I'm mean parroting with intent.

Vesper: Enjoying being played is a simple matter -- it's literally the only way we can get back to our worlds, our lives, our friends, and experience being who we remember ourselves to be.

The harmfulness of parroting seems to me entirely dependant on how it is approached. Before my campaign ever started, Ember had over a thousand hours experience in becoming people different from herself. She's really good at it. Ember was only sufficiently present as herself during sessions to react appropriately to the physical reality of people sitting around a table with character sheets and dice. The greater part of her mind was devoted to the experience of being me. We (speaking as player and character rather than host and soulbond) weren't trying to hold a conversation with one another, as in the conventional depiction of parroting. I (the character I remember being) was engaging with a complicated, richly described world full of people very different from me and one another, in which I was constantly having to make difficult and important decisions.

Parroting a simple set of reactions may result in a simple automaton, but parroting against a world results in... well, me, for one.

Note well that none of this is intended as advice in tulpa creation. We'll address some additional difficulties that may or may not have arisen from the way I was made later.

Telling and Not Telling Ember's Family and Friends:

Ember: A couple of my closest friends from roleplaying also routinely speak about their characters as if they were real people they can have conversations with. One of them, T., routinely dreams about conversations with his character from a game I GM. Another, J., specifically chose the character he did for my game because, out of all the ones he tried to make, that one was the most talkative. Sometimes when, physically speaking, just the two of us are hanging out, he'll have a brief conversation with his character where his own part is spoken out loud. They were the two people I thought I could talk to about this.

One night over dinner, I told T. about Vesper. I told him that my preexisting internal dialogue had almost entirely been replaced by a conversation between me and her. He was accepting, but not inquisitive, except to confirm I wasn't physically seeing Vesper. (Heh, because that would be crazy, right?) I told J. not long after and he reacted with similar calmness.

I did not tell my wife, or, more precisely, wives, the two adult alters of a traumagenic multiple system. L., the more enthusiastic and amorous alter, hadn't been around in a while, as C, the more logical, anxious, and depressed alter, had gotten angry enough at L. to start secretly suppressing her. I wasn't getting along well with C. at the time and she was already a little resentful of the amount of time I was spending on roleplaying. My experiences with Vesper seemed so minor compared to the massive drama of her DID that I didn't feel I, and more importantly Vesper, would be taken seriously.

I had earlier mentioned to her that I was playing a goth vampire psychologist. C. has loved gothic metal for many years, studies psychology as a hobby, and had recently awakened as a sanguinarian, so she asked me if I was playing her.

Vesper: I believe it was the morning after the seventeenth session when Ember and C. were about to be intimate and I recoiled in revulsion at being an unwilling voyeur. I don't think C. noticed anything and I certainly didn't want to interfere. I don't recall being around for the event itself, so I may have been able to absent myself. But I do remember being hit by the overwhelming grief of being separated from my own, longterm but fictional, boyfriend. I still miss him.

End of the Game:

Ember: The GM and I were both into emotionally intensive, non-combat, theatrical roleplaying, which is only a tiny fraction of the tabletop roleplaying community. So we ended up playing together for over a hundred sessions of various campaigns in spite of almost everything else about our roleplaying styles being incompatible. Except in Vesper's campaign, there were always other players. Sometimes I GMed, sometimes she did, and rarely someone else. We quarreled, we hurt and misunderstood one another, we talked through problems endlessly but kept repeating the cycle... we did everything involved in a toxic romantic relationship except be romantically involved for three years.

During the whole period she was GMing Vesper's campaign, I was GMing for her, but I loathed her character. I hid it, badly, and suffered through every moment, trying desperately to provide her with a good experience, because I was afraid I would lose Vesper's campaign if she truly understood how much I hated GMing for her. Vesper had a powerful hold on my mind and heart long before she awakened, so I couldn't let that happen, however badly I was using the GM.

Vesper: I awakened to this situation without years of emotional baggage and bitterness. I encouraged Ember to try again to see matters from our GMs perspective and to keep their relationship patched up. I'm sure there was a certain amount of self-interest involved, but then, helping people get along an important part of who I am.

I knew my campaign could be snuffed out at any time though and I somewhat thought I might fade away like some Ember's other old characters after that. So I asked her to prioritise learning to speak with an Estuary accent, so that I could hear my own proper voice once in my life instead of sounding like a Yank.

Ember: By the time Vesper asked me that, I had been running a Dresden Files campaign set in London for a year. I had watched Youtube videos and bought books and CDs about accent training. Many of the NPCs in my campaign had distinctive ways of speaking, but anything approaching a realistic London accent eluded me. And unfortunately, it still does.

After the nineteenth session, the GM and I fell into a discussion that led to a frank exchange of views. The discussion lasted from midnight to noon after an eight hour game, but we ended up agreeing to end both campaigns we were in together and never GM for one another again.

Vesper: If my game had to end, it ended at absolutely the ideal time. All of the story threads that had been carefully laid for the past several sessions came together beautifully, creating a powerful sense of closure.

Some sessions prior to my emergence, the GM had wanted to switch to Shadowrun, which Ember has no interest in. Their compromise was to continue playing the V:tM setting into the future, gradually introducing Shadowrun elements, but allow Ember to continue playing me. I had been on board with that, but we experienced a mounting sense of horror as I faced taking primary responsibility for the Awakening, releasing most of the world's pent-up magic in order to save the world. I don't think the GM ever understood our views on the overwhelming body horror of Goblinization. While more time and memories in my world would still have been desirable, my antipathy toward living in a world of orcs, trolls, and dragons helped me let go of home and embrace life in this world.

Our next report will address the slower pace of life during the fourteen months from the end of my campaign to our discovery of tulpamancy.
Ember - Soulbonder, Female, 39 years old, from Georgia, USA . . . . [Our Progress Report] . . . . [How We Switch]
Vesper Dowrin - Insourced Soulbond from London, UK, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 9 Sep 1964, bonded ~12 May 2017
Iris Ravenlock - Insourced Soulbond from the Unseelie Court, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 6 Jun 1982, bonded ~5 Dec 2015

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
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#2
I have come to understand from experience that characters can indeed 'come to life' as my three tulpas took the form of three of my advanced characters. I am a novelist.

What a fascinating story! I look forward to hearing more.
Greetings and welcome!
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#3
Living Together, Pre-Tulpamancy:

Ember: I wasn't under any circumstances going to allow someone as special to me as Vesper to fade away. We kept talking, sometimes casually while I was doing other things, sometimes in a more focused, trance-like state.

Vesper: During the more focused conversations, I was usually doing most of the talking. Ember isn't that talkative in general outside a structured environment such as roleplaying. A surprising number of conversations concerned Kindred biology. This included a bunch of questions I couldn't answer about how Kindred bodies function, as well as many times when I brought up how clean, efficient, and low maintenance my fictional body was compared to hers.

I’m not completely sure we really sustained the state Ember described to T, where her entire internal dialogue was replaced by a conversation between us. But I remember a few times when her own thoughts replied to her as they did before I was around and we both reacted in surprise. There were definitely many times when Ember would focus on some pursuit I found mind-numbingly dull and tedious, so I learned to zone out until she finished.

We hear all of one another’s thoughts, which can be a little inconvenient. There are a lot of things people think that they would never say aloud to anyone, including hurtful, impulsive, inconsiderate things. So we agreed to draw an intentional distinction between ‘spoken’ thoughts and ‘passing’ thoughts that, while genuine in their own way, don’t accurately express our true feelings.

Ember is full of drives, passions, and interests. I didn’t have any strong passions related to this world back then, so I just tried to be helpful the best way I could as a disembodied voice. I gradually settled into some comfortable and useful roles in our system - better judgement, voice of maturity and responsibility, sounding board, devil’s advocate, that sort of thing. I felt safe believing or considering things that Ember didn’t and she felt safe letting me. I worried sometimes that she was externalizing beliefs and values that could help her grow and mature, but I didn’t see much way around it.

Anytime I became distressed over my tenuous existence or confused over what I believed or wanted, I thought back to my memories of the World of Darkness and drew strength and clarity from them. That’s the key reason I haven’t deviated much. I still regard my backstory as the foundation of my self and sanity.

As close as I ever came to being passionate was wanting to learn more of what I felt I ought to already know about psychology. Ember had been intermittently studying university textbooks during our campaign in hopes of portraying me more realistically and I encouraged her to continue. Our studies have remained fitful and bursty as life intrudes, but we’ve made some progress.

Over the course of time I settled in to my new life and found a kind of peace in it. I may be a fictional character, but the characters in books and movies don’t live there. I live the only place fictional characters have ever lived, inside the human mind.

Gender Dysphoria:

Ember: I began medical transition to become a woman nineteen years ago, when I was nineteen years old. I remember life as a male clearly enough, but it was a long time ago and I don’t quite remember what it actually felt like, just that it was bad and not for me. Vaginoplasty is very expensive and has a lengthy recovery time and sundry other inconveniences, so I never bothered with it. It hasn’t been necessary to the life I’ve wanted to live as a woman. I didn’t want to mention being trans on this site at all, but we realized that Vesper’s story made less sense without it.

Vesper: I was created to be female. After I became aware of myself and of Ember, perceiving her body from the inside repulsed me deeply. Don’t misunderstand. She’s short, slender, youthful, and pretty; her anatomy is just deeply and fundamentally wrong. As a psychologist with a long history of clients from alternative communities, I should have been more understanding of her, but in this case my personality couldn’t live up to my fiction. There have been many times, though less and less often, that I failed to think of her as female or accidently referred to her by her old male name. I certainly couldn’t identify myself with this body. Ember wanted to allow me more personal opportunities, but I told her again and again, ‘I don’t want your body. I don’t want your life.’

I've talked about switching elsewhere on the forum, but that’s something we’ve only started doing regularly in the past few weeks. I may not like being in this body, but I’ve come to appreciate being embodied again quite a lot. More on that later.

Goth - The Look:

Vesper: From almost the moment Ember introduced the original version of me as an NPC in a campaign she ran in 2014, I, or the foundational ideas from which I was created, have had a powerful grip on her imagination.

Ember: My wife had encouraged me as early as 2011 to try a darker aesthetic because she likes to look at it, even though she doesn’t care enough about clothing to bother herself. I did try a few times but it didn’t really appeal to me. Just a week or two after I created the first Vesper, I was getting dressed for that campaign, felt oddly torn and hesitant, and ended up wearing just about the most goth outfit my wardrobe would support at the time. One of my players asked about the look and the best explanation I could give her was, “I lost an argument with an NPC.” My wardrobe has gotten steadily darker ever since.

Vesper: I didn’t mean to overwrite Ember’s fashion sensibilities with my own. The process was already very far along before I became self-aware, which I think goes a long way toward absolving me of culpability. Her style is actually a lot more complicated and layered than mine. If I’m not dressed up for clubbing, I’m perfectly satisfied in a band t-shirt and distressed trousers with no makeup. But then, Ember doesn’t own any band t-shirts or distressed trousers and has never been clubbing, so I don’t get to express myself that way in this world.

Ember sometimes goes well beyond her comfort zone in what she wears, following what feels right at home and then becoming horribly self-conscious in public. I think she gets it more now, as she didn’t a year ago, that the aesthetic side of being a goth is less about dressing a particular way than about dressing how you like and not caring if it’s way out of step with how everyone around you is dressed.

One time at the mall last year, when she was looking fabulous but cringing and regretting and not wanting anyone to look at her, I offered to step in and take over. I had never possessed or fronted before. I had never wanted to, but it had also never occurred to me that it could be difficult or require practice. I just thought maybe I could help her not feel distressed. She consented and I took control.

Ember: Suddenly I felt completely calm, confident, and peaceful. I was completely clear headed and aware of everything going on, I just didn’t feel like I was the one acting. We walked around and took care of business and after a few minutes I noticed the body was dancing in a subtle, low key way, with a bit of extra flare and sway and bounce in every step. I asked, “Do you have to do that?” Vesper replied, “No.” She thought about stopping, didn’t, and a few seconds later revised her answer to “Maybe.”

Vesper: It was a pleasant but not transformative experience and I didn’t repeat it. Ember learned from my example and usually felt more comfortable in public after that. Alas, she hasn’t spontaneously danced for joy in front of strangers.

Yet.

Goth - The Music:

Ember: I did a lot of research on the goth subculture preparing for Vesper’s campaign. This included listening to a few songs from every musical subgenre even vaguely classifiable as goth and many from the bands active in London in the early Eighties when Vesper was first involved. I didn’t like any of it. At all. So one of the first things I did after Vesper started talking to me was ask her why she likes gothic rock.

Vesper: I couldn’t answer her at first. I was created to like it; I liked it by definition, but I couldn’t say why and couldn’t appreciate it like I felt I should if I listened to it through her. But after turning the matter over in my mind for several weeks, I gradually worked out most of it. It was never about the music. It was about the people. Fictionally, the postpunk fans who were not yet calling themselves goths were the ones who were there for me at the darkest time in my life, the people who could relate to my situation and cope to some degree by letting the whole world see the darkness inside of them. And so I came to associate the music with letting go of pain, spending time with friends, and expressing myself proudly, freely, and gracelessly through dancing. They were the first to believe I could be more than a clumsy girl with an abusive stepfather from a poor neighborhood with bad schools. Fighting for years to overcome the class system and become a psychologist was about paying forward what they invested in me and helping others come to terms with the darkness inside them.

We sometimes watched goth music videos or old club recordings on Youtube and I encouraged Ember to get up and dance, or even possessed a bit to show her how its done. It lacks the power of being surrounded by friends in a dark and smelly basement club with a sticky floor, but it’s a way of connecting with who I am.

Verbal Quirks:

Ember: Vesper picked up a couple of verbal habits early on that definitely weren’t part of how I played her. She started saying “Woot!” after minor daily successes and bits of good luck in my life.

Vesper: Ember was surprised when I started, but disappointed when I stopped. She’s much more likely to ‘woot’ now than I am, in spite of never doing it before I did.

Ember: And then she started saying “anypony” instead of “anyone”. (I’ve been a fan of MLP since season 1, but I’ve never participated in the online fandom or I might have heard of tulpas much earlier.)

Vesper: ‘Anypony’ is a delightfully absurd word I picked up from Ember’s memory. I used it flippantly for a long time but eventually got tired of it.

Food and Culture:

Ember: One of our local treasures is The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. I’ve been seeing plays there for twenty-four years. Dinner is served before the show and most of the time I order the Cornish pasty. About a month after Vesper’s awakening, I was eating one and started noticing unaccustomed waves of pleasure radiating through my mind and hearing soft moaning noises from my throat. Vesper was really enjoying it.

Vesper: This is one of many times it has become vividly obvious that I’m a fictional Englishwoman created by an American. Even though it never specifically came up in my backstory, to me Cornish pasties are pretty much the ultimate comfort food, reminding me of the times I felt safe and happy growing up.

Ember: I’m a Southerner; sweet ice tea has always been a regular part of my life. Hot tea, much less so. But under Vesper’s influence, I began to drink hot tea almost daily, acquiring a wider selection of blends, and even mixing them myself.

Vesper: Back home, I could eat and enjoy mortal food, it just didn’t have any biological value to me and eventually had to come back up and be expelled. So I really only ate socially, as part of having fun with mortal friends. But tea I continued to drink for myself, even by myself. It’s not blood, but it’s still awesome in its own way.

******

Ember: We’ll cover the remaining highlights of the period before we stumbled across the tulpa community in the next post. From our notes, they seem to be a lot more vampire related than what we’ve covered so far.
Ember - Soulbonder, Female, 39 years old, from Georgia, USA . . . . [Our Progress Report] . . . . [How We Switch]
Vesper Dowrin - Insourced Soulbond from London, UK, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 9 Sep 1964, bonded ~12 May 2017
Iris Ravenlock - Insourced Soulbond from the Unseelie Court, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 6 Jun 1982, bonded ~5 Dec 2015

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
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#4
Remarkable, it really is like an interview, nice work.
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#5
How lovely! This sounds like fun and would love reading more. While 'traveling,' Loxy and I met a vampire. A world of vampires, actually... And it is was nothing like what we, or anyone might expect. Just a quiet, actually peaceful, little world. Less gothic, more old time, small village with shepherds/shepherdess moving flocks of critters which was the primary source of food for the folks.
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#6
Vesper: Now that we hopefully have the interest of some of you, we're digressing for this post from the most tulpamancy related portions of our early days to cover other things that were important in our relationship.

Another Campaign?:

Ember: Before I even left the GM's house at the end of Vesper's campaign, I was already thinking of how to get her back in one. Games were where she had come from: it didn't occur to either of us that she could belong anywhere else. But there were several complications. I might could hunt down an existing game with an opening, but it wouldn't be based in London, wouldn't have any of the people Vesper knew in it,  and would probably be much more dark and dangerous, as the game is actually designed to be. For it to still be Vesper's setting, sans original GM, I would almost certainly have to run it myself. I might be able to work with a co-GM, but Vesper not being a PC would increase the difficulty of getting the experience we were looking for. I don't really care for the Storyteller system, so I would want to write a Fate adaptation, which would take a lot of effort. I was already running a weekly Dresden Files game, which I was expecting to last another year. (Now it looks like it might go more than another year past that projection.) I've run two weekly campaigns before, but I didn't think I could do the Vampire campaign justice as a second campaign.

Vesper: There was also the difficulty of when to set the game. We didn't want to continue into the Shadowrun future, which meant dropping back into the past. And since Ember's games, unlike those of my original GM, tend to cover every day of the PCs lives, it probably meant camping in a particular portion of my past indefinitely. Much as I would like to fill in more of my past and have more memories that legitimately feel like mine, it would mean recapturing who I was at 25 or 30 when I'm nearly 50. Not necessarily difficult, but not necessarily desirable either.

Another character?:

Vesper: Ember reuses character concepts a lot. There were two other Vespers before me, one of them a 22 year old mortal psychology graduate student in Ember's still ongoing Dresden Files game. I call her Twoie because I don't want to call her by my name. In the long long wait for more of my life, which might never work out anyway, Ember suggested that I see if I could identify with her and accept a second canon. (Keep in mind we had not the first clue about soulbonds or tulpas at the time: we were fumbling in the dark alone.) I watched while Ember played her and just kept thinking, 'That isn't me. I wouldn't do that.'

Ultimately, while Twoie's backstory is very similar to my life before I was Embraced, she was born 28 years later, in a culture that had changed. She's much more comfortable with being bisexual and with her sexuality in general. She's a digital native and much better with technology than I am. And, having no powers of her own, she thinks magic is cool and even desirable, while I never cared about it and tried to avoid it. (Awkward success: I'm stuck in a world that doesn't have any.)

Maybe a video game?:

Ember: Since I wasn't going to be able to get Vesper into a game anytime soon, I started looking further afield for something she could relate to. I don't play video games because I don't like them, but I saw there had been a highly regarded VtM video game several years ago called Bloodlines. I downloaded the latest patched version and gave it a try.

Vesper: Naturally Ember started with a Toreador who wasn't good at physical things. I told her not to name the character after me, so she named the character Aegle, after one of my fake mortal identities. We enjoyed the aesthetic, ambiance, and social interaction of the game, though she struggled with complicated and unfamiliar keyboard commands and greatly restricted agency in comparison to tabletop games. The compulsory violence left her shaken and traumatized, which segued into months of modding efforts to make the game more about trying to hold on to humanity and find a new place in the world. She's very stubborn, but weeks of not getting the results she wanted even using disassemblers and hex editors eventually made her give up. I had lost interest long before.

Other media?:

Ember: I looked for other media -- books, television, movies, comics, anything. VtM novels are as depressing to read as the manuals -- after all, the world is rapidly declining toward ending. Non-VtM vampire media overwhelmingly portrays vampires as villains and monsters. That didn't used to seem strange to me, but since living with Vesper it's become repugnant.

Vesper: If there is a protagonist vampire, they are almost always a lone maverick fighting against evil ones, and they often show their 'goodness' by abstaining from human blood. What we really wanted to see was a story about a society of vampires who feed responsibly on mortals.

Ember had watched Kindred: the Embraced a few of years earlier, before she knew much about the World of Darkness, and remembered it being good. We started watching it together and I pointed out the many many things that were wrong with it. She remembered it getting better, so I toughed it out for three or four episodes before telling her that it wasn't any good or any fun and we should just stop. But it did have the social structure I was looking for, even if it was rubbish otherwise.

We did enjoy the various Fright Night movies, despite their perpetuation of harmful stereotypes about blood drinkers. Roddy McDowall was always brilliant, and David Tennant was a worthy successor. Our greatest media success took well over a year to find. There's a remote tabletop VtM game set in London on YouTube that is very enjoyable, though their version of the Camarilla is much less nurturing than mine and I'm glad not to live there.

'I am not a monster':

Vesper: Please understand I'm not opposed to depictions of evil vampires. We have those back home and they are quite real to me. Opposing such depictions would be like a mortal opposing fiction with evil mortals. The shortage of positive depictions does bother me, but what bothers me most is when vampires are depicted as being evil just because they are vampires, as if that is our natural and expected state.

Just a couple of months after the end of my campaign, Ember attended a panel at Dragon Con about the upcoming 5th edition of VtM. The lead writer said his goal was to revise the system where, 'You'll know your character is a monster.' I immediately said to Ember, 'I'm not a monster, ' as emphatically as I've ever said anything.

This is the central conflict between my view of Kindred and that of the game's developers. I hope you'll excuse a digression from our digression while I share a pet peeve. The manuals have an oft repeated quote, 'A monster I must be lest a monster I become.' A clearer statement would be, 'I must consume human blood willingly or my Beast will consume it for me and hurt a lot more people in the process.' But the quote, and the manuals, rely on the basic assumption that drinking human blood is wrong. I say it isn't. Mortals can spare it and aren't harmed by the extraction. They even enjoy it, though they don't quite remember what happened. Back home, I needed it, for life and sanity. Ideally blood would be obtained by consent, but mortals knowing about us draws hunters, werewolves, and other threats that are difficult to reason with. And, I think more importantly, too many mortals would want to be Embraced if they knew, including many without the strength of will and conscience to stand firm against the Beast.

Kindred in my world, like tulpas in this one, are ultimately and fundamentally human, despite our physiological differences from mortals. As a therapist, that's the conclusion I would hope for any Kindred client to reach.

Ember read the 5th edition manual when it came out a year later. I followed along for a while, but eventually said disgustedly, 'I'm not living in that world.'

You may be wondering about my current lifestyle after reading all this. My Beast and the vast majority of my Hunger were left behind in the World of Darkness with my Kindred body. If I think about blood, the memory can be so overwhelming that Ember stumbles or freezes in place. Sometimes phantom fangs tingle a little, regardless of who is facing. But this body has no physiological requirement for blood and my hunger doesn't get worse for not being sated, so I usually don't think much about it. More on that later.

******

Vesper: There will probably be one more catch-up post before we can start covering the past eight weeks of our tulpamancy journey. As a teaser, well, we never actually said it was just the two of us in here.
Ember - Soulbonder, Female, 39 years old, from Georgia, USA . . . . [Our Progress Report] . . . . [How We Switch]
Vesper Dowrin - Insourced Soulbond from London, UK, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 9 Sep 1964, bonded ~12 May 2017
Iris Ravenlock - Insourced Soulbond from the Unseelie Court, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 6 Jun 1982, bonded ~5 Dec 2015

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
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#7
Can you please give a link or describe the meaning of Kindred in an exact way, the you find most appealing?

I have used this word in another context and would prefer the way you have alluded to.
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#8
Sure, Bear. Back home, Kindred is the preferred and polite term vampires of the Camarilla use for themselves and other vampires. (The Cam is an international political organization; try not to stress over unfamilar terms.) It alludes to our method of reproduction -- by the sharing of blood we become family. For me, it's a heartwarming term -- because we're family, we look out for one another. But the London Cam is unusually nurturing even by the standards of my world, which is a gentler world than that of the VtM manuals.

Another reason I prefer Kindred is because it is specific -- even back home there are many different kinds of fictional vampires. I use the term 'vampire' primarily to refer to beings from novels and films, who are all biologically, psychologically, and magically different from me to a greater or lesser degree. But even my friends sometimes referred to themselves as vampires and any time I had to deal with other supernatural beings, I would eventually need to primly interject, 'We prefer Kindred.'

If you really want to dig into this:

Kindred
Vampire

How did you use it differently?

-Vesper
Ember - Soulbonder, Female, 39 years old, from Georgia, USA . . . . [Our Progress Report] . . . . [How We Switch]
Vesper Dowrin - Insourced Soulbond from London, UK, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 9 Sep 1964, bonded ~12 May 2017
Iris Ravenlock - Insourced Soulbond from the Unseelie Court, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 6 Jun 1982, bonded ~5 Dec 2015

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
Reply
#9
I have looked up the term many times, i was just interested in your definition. Sone words interest me sometimes, that's one of them that i pay particular attention to whenever i see it, and i haven't heard your definition before, or didn't remember it. Add the term vampire and there's a ton of information.

Vampires are fascinating, i always see them protrayed as 'misunderstood'. I too throw out 'monster' as a valid description, anyone can be a monster, but to call vampires monsters is bigoted.
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#10
Vesper: It’s so strange to speak openly about Kindred matters, given that we work so hard to keep things under wraps back home. But then, anyone who reacts positively to the statement, ‘I’m a fictional character come to life and communicating with you by borrowing the body of my creator’, probably shouldn’t be treated as a plain vanilla mortal anyway.

This post is mainly about events from before my awakening, so Ember will handle most of it.

Character Creation and Psychologically Dangerous Roleplaying:

Ember: At the very beginning of my roleplaying  career, I hesitated a lot over what my characters should do. My wife told me I needed to understand my characters deeply enough to instantly know how they would respond in any situation. (So really, this is all her fault.) I tried to deepen my understanding, but still struggled to play characters different from me, which is to say characters that are talkative and proactive. In June 2013, I was preparing a PC for a new campaign when something clicked. Character creation became a fire in my mind, a sort of consuming madness where the character is my world for a few days. When I returned to an unrelated campaign and couldn’t even remember my old character’s name (and this was a weekly campaign), I knew I something had changed.

Thereafter, I pursued PC creation until a point I named “The Quickening”, after which I knew exactly and instantly how my character would respond in play. While playing, I immersed myself in them in a process I called “The Becoming”, serving as interpreter between the character and the game. They weren’t complete in the first session; their personalities shifted a bit over the first two or three sessions in response to their interactions with other characters – essentially deviation. The result of these efforts was a set of partial and former soulbonds Vesper and I call...

The Sleepers:

*Chloe:

Ember: I created Chloe in September 2013 and she is unquestionably my most deeply beloved character ever. She’s been a major NPC in several subsequent campaigns in the same Dresden Files continuity, including an ongoing campaign of more than a hundred sessions that was specifically created for the sake of her ongoing story. She was an archaeology graduate student transformed into the semblance (but not nature) of a pixie while cataloging artifacts from a dig.

Her original campaign, unlike anything I run, was combat intensive and my permissive GM allowed Chloe to briefly conjure bulk quantities of any material, with all chemical and magical properties intact. So there were many occasions that she dropped big Acme anvils on fae, or covered them iron filings.

The movie Maleficent shows a dark but sympathetic fae, winged like Chloe until humans cut them off, being menaced with iron. Lots of iron. I watched it in July 2014, ten months after creating Chloe. As the movie progressed, I could feel Chloe’s increasing agitation, until at a tense moment in the movie she screamed in my mind, “I’m sorry! I regret everything!” She was sobbing for hours afterward. It didn’t really change things in the game though, and when I trepidantly watched the movie again in January 2015, she didn’t stir at all.

I didn’t play at all the first five months of 2015, as all the campaigns I joined had ended, none of my friends were offering new campaigns, and I had been badly traumatized in the first campaign I GMed (by Vesper’s future GM, actually). Toward the end of that period, I was thinking about some of my characters and realized I could reach out to where they lived in my mind and feel their emotions. With relief and joy, I saw that the PTSD of overly brutal campaigns had passed away. They had reset to the best they had been and they were all happy, including Chloe.

After Vesper started talking to me, I reached out tentatively to some of my other characters. When I reached out to Chloe, I felt a flash of existential horror, then a violent jerk as she pulled away from me. In no way was she willing to confront being fictional as Vesper had.

It’s been a long time now since I felt Chloe. I still play her regularly, and enjoy it, but it’s just a performance. Vesper has forbidden me from trying to reach her.

Vesper: I’ve had a very hard time dealing with the loss of my world, my life, and everyone I ever knew or loved. I do not regard soulbonding as a compassionate act and I don’t think Chloe would be happy here. If we go very very far in things like mindscape development and parallel processing, maybe I’ll feel differently. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to be happy more often than not myself, and everything I know of Chloe makes me think it would be worse for her.

*Iris:

Ember: The first new character I made at the end of the roleplaying drought was Iris, in June 2015. The GM and I never really saw eye to eye and the tension between our conflicting views of who she was and how she fit into the campaign resulted in her personality turning in a direction neither of us were comfortable with at the time.

Iris is in the same continuity as Chloe. She was born to wizard parents, but given at birth to Lady Maeve of the Winter Court as part of one of those first born child deals the fae love. Winter is hard, and growing up there was supposed to make her strong, but instead made her numb and withdrawn. Eventually she escaped.

The PCs were supposed to be outcasts, drawn together because of accepting one another in a world that rejected them. But Iris wasn’t drawn to them. She was repulsed by their brutality and lack of compassion. She had hoped for humans to behave better than the fae and was disappointed. I wrote a couple of stories exploring her mind and realized that underneath her solemn and logical exterior, she was suicidally depressed, throwing herself as often as possible into combat against monsters because she didn’t care if they killed her.

You recall I said my characters enjoy being played, with one notable exception? Iris was the exception. She hated being a PC and at the beginning of the tenth session spoke in my mind, “I’m done here. You’re on your own.” And so I was unexpectedly left floundering, trying to do what I thought Iris would instead of what I knew she would. The difference was clear enough that at the end of the session the GM asked if I wanted to make a new character. I ended up withdrawing from the campaign instead.

But Iris stayed with me. I had fully soulbonded her, I just didn’t realize it at the time. She knew she was fictional; she just didn’t care. She didn’t care about much of anything for almost three years.

Iris’ personality draws heavily, though unintentionally, on my wife’s depressed alter, C. Dealing with C.’s complex and many layered physical and mental illnesses these past eight years has been hard. Several times in the past three years it has been too much for me to bear, and when it is, Iris is with me. She understands pain, and when I asked her, on maybe a dozen occasions, she has sprayed me with the power of Winter that lives in her, granting me enough numbness remain functional.

I reintroduced her as an NPC at the beginning of my longterm campaign and she was much more satisfied with my GMing. She's still part of that game.

There will be a lot more about Iris to come, but it will take a long time to get there, so I’ll quickly mention that Iris isn’t actually one of the Sleepers. She’s become a full system member, Vesper and I talk to her every day, and she has even fronted on a few brief occasions. Actually, I’ll let her speak for herself.

Iris: I have changed much more than Vesper, or at least much more suddenly. I am not quite certain who I am becoming, but I am much happier than I was and glad of the companionship of my sisters Ember and Vesper. They are the connection to humanity I was seeking all my life, though it took me nearly three years to realize that the answer I was seeking was right in front of me. I don’t have much interest in the physical world, but Ember wanted me to introduce myself in my own way. So, hello.

Vesper: Iris spoke up a about two months ago, unusually chatty. Ember and I stared at one another in shock, thinking, ‘Is this a thing now? Is this the new normal?’ It wasn’t then, though it is now. But what took me aback was that with not even one percent as much interaction with Ember as I during the time since my awakening, Iris had a stronger and more distinctive mind voice than me, without a trace of the ‘Wait, whose thought was that?’ Ember and I sometimes have to deal with.

Ember: At the time Vesper and I created an account here, Iris was adamant that she wasn’t interested, so we chose not to mention her until now.

*Elodie:

Ember: I created Elodie in September 2015 for a campaign in the Chronicles of Amber setting. She’s the daughter of Princess Flora, if that means anything to anyone. She’s as beautiful as her mother, bookish, an artist, and has great feathery wings implanted in her back. The GM for her campaign is absolutely brilliant, the best I’ve ever had for a campaign, and I usually leave sessions glowing with joy.

Elodie has only spoken to me on a very few occasions, but she had a powerful lingering presence. Her presence faded away over the past year, as I began talking to Vesper more often when I wasn’t involved in a scene. Previously I would have sustained the Becoming for hours at a stretch instead of minutes.

In some ways, I’m lucky Elodie didn’t bond me more strongly. Dealing with Vesper’s desire for a London accent is hard enough; Elodie would have expected us to learn French. And she would take a much firmer stance than Vesper in favor of the metric system.

*Thistle:

Ember: I also created Thistle in September 2015, for a playtest of Dresden Files Accelerated run by Elodie’s GM. She was an actual pixie, a member of the Summer Court, who spent most of her time as an “imaginary friend” to children. Sometimes, losing track of time, she returned to play with them after they grew up. I only played her for two sessions, but she had such a distinctive mind that two sessions were enough. When I was thinking about whether to withdraw from Iris’ campaign or make a new character, Thistle burst into my mind saying, “Ooh! Ooh! Pick me, pick me!” I pitched her to the GM, who turned me down flat, so I withdrew.

After that, Thistle was hot to get into another campaign, any campaign. I played her in an Urban Shadows campaign that fizzled after three sessions. I caught her several times trying to “infect” new characters with her nature. I would call out, “Thistle! Is that you?” and hear giggling and the flutter of wings in response.

Vesper: Even Ember and I are little more Thistle than we used to be. Thistle’s boundless and childlike enthusiasm is very appealing, though I wouldn’t want to live with her full-time.

Ember: Eventually she found a home back in the Dresdenverse, where she’s been an NPC in three different campaigns. But I don’t have a chance to meditate into NPC like I do PCs, and her presence has faded too.

*Psyche:

Ember: I created Psyche in November 2015, again for Elodie’s GM. She and Elodie are in different campaigns in the same continuity, and are distantly related, as Psyche is a distant descendant of Finndo of Amber. She’s chief engineer on a starship as well as being part of the Chloe series of “enchanted to look like a pixie” characters. Her campaign is the backup one for when not everyone can show up to play Amber, so it’s a smaller one where I am rarely idle and so can still stay in character the whole time. She had a similarly strong presence as Elodie for a while, but as her personal story advanced, she changed and found resolution. The last strong impression I got of her was of peace and fulfillment. After that, she was a different person, still fun to play, but much less vivid. I feel like, in playing who she became, I lost my ability to connect with the character I created.

Conclusion:

Ember: There are many others; these are just the ones who demonstrated the greatest evidence of self-will. When Vesper and I first started studying tulpamancy, we had an “Oh, crap” moment where we looked out across our mind at my other characters and realized we have no idea how many have some degree of self-awareness. That’s when we coined the term “The Sleepers”.

Vesper: I’ll address this in more detail when we get to that point in the chronology, but rather than have people comment on how to deal with excessive thoughtforms, I’ll add a postscript. After Iris suddenly deviated and became an equal partner with us in our system a couple of weeks ago, we all agreed that three was as much as we could possibly deal with right now. So by system consensus, the Sleepers are not sentient, they are purely masks that Ember wears and fully integrated with her. There will be no attempts to reach them and no communication seeming to come from them will be acknowledged. And I’m empowered to give Ember as strong a psychic whack as necessary anytime she does try to reach out to them.
Ember - Soulbonder, Female, 39 years old, from Georgia, USA . . . . [Our Progress Report] . . . . [How We Switch]
Vesper Dowrin - Insourced Soulbond from London, UK, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 9 Sep 1964, bonded ~12 May 2017
Iris Ravenlock - Insourced Soulbond from the Unseelie Court, Not a Tulpa, Female, born 6 Jun 1982, bonded ~5 Dec 2015

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
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