One of the reasons I bought so many of the Vampire source books was for the characters. Well, the stories too, and the background lore and the history. But I have a particular fondness for many of the NPCs who populate the World of Darkness.
I do, however, have a favorite. Even though the artwork depicting him is grotesque and horrific (ignoring the fact his Appearance score is listed as a 7 on a scale of 1-5). Even though he—or it, depending on which century we’re in—is almost always badly written, treated not as an incredibly intelligent and intensely driven personality, but a plot device whose mere mention explains all manner of horrific incidents without need for motivation or logical connections. Motivation and logic be damned, just say it was Sascha Vykos, then it doesn’t have to make sense.
I just can’t see him that way. I don’t play him that way. He’s definitely a monster. But not a monster without purpose. What’s so incredibly scary about Vykos is that it—or he, depending on what period of its history you’re in—does have a purpose in everything it does. Vykos is incredibly focused on whatever its purpose is at that given point in time. And it has absolutely no scruples, conscience or residual humanity to deter it from doing whatever it takes to achieve those goals. It is utterly logical and methodical about its approach, and not even necessarily subtle about it. (Vykos has no Obfuscate. It doesn’t care if you see it coming). It has a genius level IQ, almost unlimited resources, and the age and power to do anything it wants. It is calculating, cold-blooded, devoid of any compassion or empathy, and nearly devoid of all emotional response altogether. And it is absolutely, certifiably batshit insane.
But even so, Vykos isn’t crazy or random in its actions or behavior. It just perceives an entirely different reality than anyone else. It’s a reality it is eternally dissatisfied with, and seeks to modify to be closer to what it believes it should be. And one very large part of the reality it wants to modify is itself, and it has put a great deal of effort and careful, methodical, nihilistic thought into that process. The fact that such a process is inherently self-destructive does not deter it one whit; destruction of those parts of its own personality that it deems flawed or simply unnecessary are merely part of the entire process, the ultimate in metamorphosis.
Most of the time, it comes across as being entirely sane, in perfect control of its thoughts, its emotions, and its physical form. Its control over its own shape (or any other individual’s unfortunate enough to feel its touch) is uncanny even for a Tzimisce, It has mastered a thorough understanding of biology, physiology and anatomy, down to a cellular level. It has learned this through centuries of study and experimentation, on itself and on other subjects (willing or not). It also has a dangerously keen understanding of psychology, and uses the tidbits of information it gleans as a scalpel to pick apart the minds and emotions of others. Its curiosity about others’ emotions is a detached, almost clinical observation—it uses what it knows to poke at its subject of the moment in the same way someone might poke a stick in an anthill, just to see in which direction the ants come pouring out., and what obstacles might be most effective in turning them in a different direction.
I enjoy introducing Vykos because its history and background put it in some of the most pivotal events in Kindred history—from the last nights of Constantinople, to the wars in Hungary/Transylvania, the Anarch revolt, the Council of Thorns, the formation of the Sabbat—and any point after that where it might be interesting. Its age, rank and rock star-cult status in the Sabbat, but it doesn’t seem to have political ambition—its purposes are purely its own. It doesn’t even really care that much that it has rock star status among many Sabbat—unless, of course, it needs to use that status in order to get a bunch of Sabbat to do something for its own agenda. It definitely has an agenda—but its agenda may or may not be in line with the Sabbat leadership, or even the sect’s best interests—when it comes down to it, Vykos doesn’t really care that much about the Sabbat, save as a means to its own ends.
Vykos is the ultimate Kindred wild card; it can appear anywhere, for a wide range of reasons, and its reasons will always be its own. Vykos is a scholar of Noddist lore, Cainite history, Occult lore, human and Cainite mythologies—and a collector of historical artifacts and odd things. (That was the reason it eventually appears in Heart of Darkness.) Its appearance is not necessarily a bad thing for the player characters; it just depends on how their goals and ambitions intersect or clash with its own. It can be imminently reasonable if that is in its own best interests; it can even be a reliable ally. It is not prone to act irrationally, and it takes a LOT to get it to react emotionally, without thinking (though it has been known to needle others to see how they might react, just to test their limits). If it makes a bargain, it will (usually) keep it. And being a Tzimisce of ancient blood, it will remember those to whom it owes prestation—or retribution. Vykos does not forget, and it does not forgive.
Its appearance raises the stakes—or at least appears to, since characters can’t tell (and it isn’t likely to admit) if it is acting on its own or as a representative for the higher-ups of the Sabbat. It can be a formidable and coldly brutal adversary; it can persuaded to indulge in games of wit and riddles (and it enjoys a challenge, if offered one it believes worthy of its time). But impertinent young Sabbat should remember it is dangerous to meddle in the affairs of dragons—and that if nothing else, Vykos is one of the true remaining dragons among Tzimisce.