I don’t even know why I wrote this in a forum discussion in the first place, but I spent a lot of time on it and dammit, I’m going to get some blog content out of it.
So in the V20 Black Hand book, people have asked how it’s possible to support dozens of vampires and thousands of mortals in Enoch, the Underworld shadow of city that Caine once ruled . . . allegedly. There isn’t any native supply of food and water, and no life (obviously). It’s on another plane of existence. How do they do it?
I did the math. This requires a knowledge of the book to understand, but once we get to the end, there’s a message you can appreciate even if you didn’t read it.
How Many People Live in Enoch?
We avoided hard numbers because Storytellers might find them restricting, but if you had to corner me?
The closest thing to guidelines are:
- Sometimes the city hosts more chatterlings (mortals raised in the True Hand) than vampires
- The mortal population can be as high as “the low thousands” in the Slums.
As described, Enoch is less a settlement than an outpost; I’d compare it to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, which can support over a thousand people. Unlike Enoch, it’s possible to grow things in greenhouses.
Now in the original book for Second Edition Vampire, they do provide definite numbers of Cainites and other powerful, they-get-a-game-class supernatural beings: just under 200. Between that and the inhospitable nature of the place, I’d make “the low thousands” in the Slums 2000 people. These people are revenants, ghouls, and chatterlings.
Now they say that “sometimes” the city hosts more chatterlings than vampires. So to reconcile this with the supernatural being numbers and the “thousands” comment, I’ll say that the Pits of Irad (where chatterlings are indoctrinated) hold up to 200, and this bit refers to that place, while the rest make up about half the city’s mortal population and mostly live in the Slums.
The V20 Tal’Mahe’Ra book also says “a hundred thousand ghosts” live in Enoch. That makes for a crowded city, but as the book explains, the True Hand’s necromancers have been expanding the city for centuries, primarily by ripping off parts of other destroyed cities, and possibly carrying their inhabitants with them. The Slums was nicked in part from Pripyat, for example.
Food and Drink
You usually need to be a necromancer to get to and from Enoch, or benefit from magical aid. A proto-Euthanatoic spell now called the Nihilistic Gate is the preferred means of transport. It requires some skill to cast, but the Itarajana sorcerers of the True Hand have been making magical items — usually enchanted funerary items — to do the job for them for thousands of years. This is important. The Enochians need them to transport food (nothing grows in the dead city) and water (the Tempest’s “water” cannot be decontaminated, and can probably randomly stop acting like water, since it’s made of death-stuff).
When it comes to supplies, a typical Nihilistic Gate (scoring 4 successes to create a sphere 24 meters in diameter) transports a volume of 3500 cubic meters (actually more, but it would be impractical to utilize the entire volume, so I’ve cut the real number in half I’ve rounded down).
Water? I’ll halve the number again to account for for packaging and logistical headaches, leading to 1,750,000 liters of water per transport. At 3 liters per person per day, Enoch’s mortal population (if 2000) requires 2,190,000 liters per year. So two transports (one at less than half capacity) is sufficient to meet the city’s needs for a year.
The population needs 2,190,000 meals per year, too. A case of 12 MREs occupies about half a cubic meter. So each transport can send 3500 cases, or 42,000 meals: a week’s worth of food, so one mandatory transport per week. This is not to say that everybody eats MREs, but the stats about them are easy to find and they can stand in for “generic food.” Since 3 MREs is about 3750 calories, we’re actually being generous here – we could slash rations by a third.
Thus, for the city’s mortals to survive, someone must open a typical Nihilistic Gate 54 times per year. Let’s double that for a measure of waste and to bring in sundries. That’s 108 times a year. That’s a good number; it probably has mystical significance for the Idran cult, too, due to its importance in South Asian religions.
Now I would estimate that there are probably 20 Nihilistic Gate-opening items in existence: one for every 10 powerful supernatural members of the True Hand. Perhaps half of these will be occupied with serving functions related to Hand operations, leaving 10. So even though I’d guess there are probably no more than 6 or so Itarajana necromancers capable of casting the spell, they probably don’t need to do it very often. Given the numbers above, each of the 10 items must be used about 11 times a year for logistical purposes.
So what do we end up with? 10 True Hand kamuts (that’s their super-secret deadly operations squads, er PC groups) with an annoying monthly task. Foe the Tal’Mahe’Ra, supporting a population of mortals in the lands of the dead is the easy part. The reason this article is even vaguely interesting comes next.
Blood, So Much Blood
Blood is a problem.
The entire True Hand rarely gathers in Enoch. The city probably plans for a population of 100 at any given time, and each vampire wants 1 blood point every 24 hours. They could probably get by on less, given that the population is mostly transient and can fast, but we’ll start pessimistic and account for occasional frenzies. Nevertheless, we’re talking about 36,500 blood points per year.
You probably don’t want to feed on a given human more than once per month for that single blood point or else they’ll get sick, so the mortal population provides 24,000 blood points per year – except not really. Mortal Enochians get diseases you don’t want to spread. Some of them are ghouls, so the net gain in blood would be 0. Let’s cut this number in half, to 12,000. Enoch can supply a third of its blood needs through on-site vessels.
Interestingly, under Vampire’s rules a blood unit (500 ml) in a bag is 1 worth blood point. The WHO estimates that 108 million units are collected per year. I’ll guess that in the World of Darkness, 1% is diverted for Kindred use. That’s 1,800,000 blood points. By population, the True Hand in Enoch is only entitled to about 0.15% of this (assuming 70,000 vampires of all types). Thus, they can “bank” 2700 blood points from mortal blood supplies, and probably do. Now Enoch has 14,700 blood points to slake the thirst of 100 vampires. Not enough!
As the V20 book says, the Hand gets vitae by disappearing human trafficking victims. (The True Black Hand are not good people, by the way.) How many does the city need? 21,800 blood points’ worth, or 2,180, to be drained to death, per year. That’ll make up the shortfall.
This is unrealistic, of course. This is dangerous. The most secretive of vampires are going to get exposed. 2180 is about one murder victim per 200 worldwide, or in 100 definitively vanished missing persons. That’s according to the sources I found. Somebody would notice.
But is it that big a deal?
See, this is where we get to a halting point when we pretend the World of Darkness or any other urban fantasy or horror setting needs to be “realistic.” There’s a point where under enough scrutiny, it falls apart.
Let’s expand this analysis. Let’s say there are 35,000 Western Kindred – that is, vampires who are recognizable as the creatures covered by the Vampire core rules, and not Wan Xian or anything. They need 12,775,000 blood points a year: over a million murders of blood. Even if one blood point in a thousand was harvested through murder, that would still equal a quarter of the murders (about 400000) in the real world. Somebody would notice that, too.
There’s a point where you need to throw up your hands and suspend disbelief. Something will always defy your attempts to rationalize it. I wrote for Mage: The Ascension. Trust me on this one.
But Blood is a Story
Ultimately, when rationalization fails us, we should use these contradictions and stopping points to build stories. This transforms you from a nitpicking nay-saying asshole into someone who builds cool plots. Everybody will like you better.
What does this mean for Enoch?
Maybe I’ll take the blood shortfall semi-seriously. I can deal with it in three ways.
First, the city actually supports around 40 vampires before suffering shortfalls. If I revise down to this number, the masters of Enoch must strictly limit the Cainite population. That means vampires jockey for the right to reside there. They build grudges. They trade favours to lair in the shadow of Ghemal, fortress of Caine.
Second option: a class system. Of the 100, only 25 can feed full time. 50 feed every other day. The bottom 25 must bring their own supply or fast. While the first option creates rivalry about access to the city, the second intensifies it within the city. This option still creates a shortfall, but in this case, only leads to 355 killings per year.
Finally, we can expand the mortal population. You want to come to Enoch? Bring vessels. This of course increases the need for supplies and co-conspirators. Increase the population enough, and they might develop an independent streak and revolt. After a certain point can’t Blood Bond absolutely everyone or watch them all the time. Dangerous.
One of the interesting outcomes here is the way in which Enoch grows more vulnerable as vampires rally to it. They might flee there in a disaster, or hold it against armies of wraiths, but when they gather in force they need more blood. So they need people. They increase their exposure or hate for one another. The Del’Roh’s logistical officers frown. People sneak favoured blood dolls in. Supply lines swell, increasing magical transportation and danger.
That’s how it works. That’s what “realism” is for: story fuel.