Vampires and Nuclear Weapons

Originally posted on the website: By The Sword

"If this missile explodes, millions will die! You will die!"
"I shall die with honor!"
"All over the world, fools are poised ready to let death fly! Machines of death, Morgain! A screaming from above! A light brighter than the sun! Not a war between armies, nor a war between nations, but just death! Death gone mad! A child looks up at the sky, it's eyes turn to cinders. No more tears, only ashes. Is this war? Is this honor? Are these weapons you would use? Tell me!"

Vampires and Nuclear Weapons. This topic has been discussed off and on the Palladium Mailing List for some time, do nukes kill vampires and why or why not? The only way to really know for sure would be to go out, find some vamps, and toss them into a reactor so we can see what happens. Unfortunately, this is only slightly impossible, so we have to figure it out from scratch. The best way I know of to do that is to consider every element of a nuclear blast and guess at what they would do to an undead creature.

First, the loose points. These are going to either be important later on or are just good general disclaimers.

One: a certain Palladium Rep on the list, when asked if nukes kill vamps, answered "No." Not only that, but it specifically states in Vampire Kingdoms (page 26, second column, first paragraph after the "Weaknesses" headline) that a "a vampire can survive a nuclear blast". Why is this? Because they're the writers and can say anything they want. Neener, neener, neener...

Two: If you want to change things around with the vamps, you are more than welcome to. As it happens, Palladium's description of vampires' strengths and vulnerabilities make them impervious to nuclear detonation, as I'll soon try to show. If you change ANY powers the vampires' possess, you could change the whole equation and make them die when hit by a nuclear blast. You've also left the realm of the books and any argument you make based on those changes will be pretty much pointless since other people can always go by different rules as well.

Three: The world, even in a role-playing game, is not a simple place. You can't just go around using weapons of mass destruction to wipe out whole cities and not expect there to be consequences. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every cause, there is an effect. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. And it isn't even that simple. The world is a complex system made up of interrelated complex systems that could easily fall to pieces with just the slightest nudge, much less dropping a nuke on them. Tossing around this kind of firepower is the best way I'm aware of to destroy a planet, and all the PCs in it.

Four: All the facts on nuclear weapon effects were originally learned from The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy and were double-checked against a 1988 home edition of the World Book Encyclopedia and triple-checked against the Nuclear Weapons Frequently Asked Questions document, found on the MILNET Military Open Source Encyclopedia ( and authored by Carey Sublette. They disagree on the exact order of the effects, but the elements were all there in both places.

Five: Vampires are supernatural creatures. Note the word Supernatural there. It means above or beyond the natural world. So for our puposes, laws of physics do not apply. Similarities between nuclear detonations and forces of nature are pretty much irrelevant.

On with the show. Once again, we're using standard Palladium rules for Vampires. Feel free to change weaknesses at any point you want to.

The first effect from a nuclear explosion is the release of the initial radiation. Heavy amounts of gamma and X-rays pour out of the explosion, producing such wonderful effects as igniting bones and frying nervous systems. Normal living creatures will be incapable of handling the amount of radiation they get hit by at Ground Zero and will simply vaporize. Vampires won't have this problem because they are immune to radiation (World Book One, page 24, second column, first paragraph, third sentance).

Next up is the light and heat energy. These will burn skin and destroy the sight organs of any natural creature. The heat for vampires isn't a problem, since you have to stake them before fire and heat will work on them (World Book One, page 26, first column, eleventh paragraph). The light is a little problematic, though. Here is the major point of argument, is the light from a nuclear blast the same as natural daylight? I say no. The sun IS a thermonuclear furnace, but it burns slightly different materials than an atom bomb does. Different atoms mean a different amount and frequency of energy released and, therefore, a slightly different spectrum than that of daylight. If its not the real deal, it won't hurt a vamp (World Book One, page 26, first column, twelth paragraph). Its also my belief that the sunlight aspect of Vampires is more of an elemental or supernatural connection rather than a matter of science. This is indirectly supported by the book (World Book One, page 28, first column, sixth paragraph, second sentence), but the exact wording leaves room for doubt. Is it just the warmth and light or is it Elemental?

Its Blast Time. The air around the detonation absorbes a ton of radiation and turns into a solid, visible wall. Further radiation is unable to escape and pushes the wall outward at several times the speed of sound. If this will level a building, it will make short work of any organic life form. Vampires? No problem. Only wood and silver have any physical effect on a Vamp, so, while the blast may throw them a few miles through the air, no harm will actually come to it (World Book One, page 24, second column, first through third paragraphs).

Now come the blast's secondary effects. The mushroom cloud. This, in and of itself is nothing special. Any explosion powerful enough will make a mushroom cloud.

Fallout. Radioactive dust from the bomb falls from the air to the Earth in a wide pattern. Once again, this has no direct effect on vampires, since radiation doesn't work on them (see above). But indirectly... well, we'll get to that.

EMP. The Electromagnetic Pulse is an effect discovered after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima during WWII. Basically, the explosion sends out a wave of electromagnetic energy which disrupts all devices that use electricity. Cars die, flashlights won't work, radios either stop working or will only recieve static, and so on. This isn't a problem for Vampires because they have very little need of technology (World Book One, page 34, first column, third section "Vampires Avoid Technology").

There are political and military ramifications to using nuclear weapons, as well. What does the Coaltion Government think of using Weapons of Mass Destruction in their own backyard? According to Coalition Navy, they regard the use of city-buster nukes as a last restort, a fail-safe for when the fight truly turns into an us-or-them battle. Now, if this is how a near-fascist dictatorship feels about their own side using these weapons, what will they think of PCs or other governments using them like there's no tomorrow? And that's just the CS. How will Atlantis react? The nations in South America? The Intelligences in the Vampire Kingdoms that don't get nuked?

So far, it seems that Vampires have it pretty good when it comes to idiots tossing around megatons of destructive power, and for the most part they do. But, as I've pointed out, a flash and bang isn't the end of the story when nukes fly.

The blast and the fallout will be more than enough to kill any living (read: filled with blood) creature in the area and keep them out for at least a good three hundred years. The Vampires may survive but will have to move to a new location anyway to find a new food source. This could lead them to encroach on the other Vampire Kingdoms, but it's not really a lethal effect.

Another possibility is the elemental nature of Vampires. Vamps are connected to the earth in a major way, as is said several times in the Weaknesses section of the book. Could a nuclear blast make the affected land unsuitable for a Vampire to live in (changing matter to energy, fallout, ect...)? Still, this isn't something that the books give any real idea on one way or the other, so we can't really discuss it properly.

Another problem caused by nuclear detonations is the depeletion of the ozone layer. Every megaton of yield in a nuclear explosion generates some 5000 tons of nitrogen oxides, a signifigant factor in the disappearance of the ozone layer. The only thing this could possibly mean to a vampire is that they might burn up faster when exposed to sunlight. But, once again, the sunlight factor is probably more of a supernatural element then a matter of science. If this is the case, then it doesn't matter how much sunlight hits them, they still cook at the same rate.

Still more problems for vampires involve Nuclear Winter. In a global nuclear winter, nearly all life could die out. If the war starts in the spring or summer, sub-tropical plants would die off as temperatures drop below the needed range for good crops. After the plants die out, the plant-eaters go next. And then the meat-eaters, all the way up the food chain. The human race would die out within a year, as they don't keep enough food stored to last them until the next season. Once the humans are gone, the vampires will probably go insane from blood deprivation. So, we'd win in the end. I guess.

The only real problem that vampires will face for certain is the fact that *nothing* else around them is invulnerable. A nuclear blast will be more than enough to blow up the town and the vampires' coffins with it. If the blast occurs during the night, the vampires will have until sunrise to find a new place to sleep or they'll get cooked. If the blast happens during the day, they'll have until the cloud moves away from the sun to do the same. Hope they're not good diggers. Or that they didn't think to build MDC coffins.

As a side point, remember that every living creature has a certain amount of PPE, and that amount doubles at the point of death? Imagine what happens when everything, and I do mean *everything* in an 5 mile radius dies in half a second. People, cattle, pets, small furry woodland creatures, mosquitoes, slugs, bacteria... Can you say Ley Line Flash?

So what is my point with this little tirade? Good question... Actually, my point is that you cannot kill vampires with a nuclear blast. It simply does not work in Palladium system. On top of that, there are other points to consider with an atomic bomb, few of which pose a problem to the undead. A nuke isn't just a bright light and a big bang, like a really big firecracker. Nuclear weapons are some of the most powerful weapons the Earth has ever known, and few people seem to consider all their uses or the ramifications of their use.

Nukes don't kill vampires, the living do. It's probably better to keep it that way.

Vampires-and-Nuclear-Weapons.php -- Revised: January 27, 2021.