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Tabletop Game / Stay Alive Monte Cook
aka: Stay Alive

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Stay Alive! is a supplement for the Cypher System published by Monte Cook Games. It explores the many subgenres of horror, provides creatures, rules and advice to build your own horror campaign, plus a horror mini-campaign setting: Masters of the Night.

In Masters of the Night, players portray newly created vampires in the modern world. Without the guidance or presence of more experienced vampires, they have to find their place in the city and adjust to the risks and needs of being undead, including how to manage their hunger for human blood, the ethics of killing humans, and what to do with all of the corpses. Their job isn't to make the world a better place. Their job is just to stay alive.


The setting-neutral information provide examples of:

  • Angelic Abomination: Fundamental angels are mysterious holy beings that maintain and guard fundamental concepts of the universe. They have powers and agendas deriving from higher states of reality, and operate on a mental and metaphysical level far above humans. In their native dimension, they exist as pure thought and spirit, and, when needed, assume strange, terrifying and inconstant forms, unlike the relatively comprehensible winged humanoids from religion and myth.
  • Anyone Can Die: One of the common fears that horror relies on is the fear of death, and the genre pushes that button by frequently killing off characters, especially in tragic, undeserved, shocking ways. If you're playing in a horror game, you should feel there's a significant risk of at least one character dying.
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  • The Assimilator: A blob absorbs its prey, integrating a victim's tissue into its own. In essence, the victim becomes the blob, and all of the victim's knowledge is available to the blob. If it later desires, a blob can release a nearly perfect replicant of any creature that it has absorbed.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A monkey's paw will grant three wishes to the user, but each wish always has terrible consequences. No matter how clever the user thinks they are or how precisely they word their wish, the result is always fulfilled in a way that makes them regret using the monkey's paw.
  • Blob Monster:
    • A blob is a huge, undulating, half-amorphous creature composed of a mucus-like solid.
    • Shoggoths have no real shape. They can adjust their form into whatever is practical for a specific task, but usually resemble large gelatinous blobs that sprout tentacles and/or multiple eyes and mouths.
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  • Brain in a Jar: A brain cylinder is designed to hold and preserve an intelligent brain, keeping it alive indefinitely.
  • Charm Person: Hivemind children can force an intelligent living creature within short range to take a physical action, including something that would cause the target harm.
  • Creepy Child: Hivemind children, created by alien creatures sent to study and infiltrate human society, have a psychic link, unusual powers, and loyalty to their creators. They look very similar even if they have different parents, eerily match each other's expressions and movements, think and speak as if years older than they are, and their emotional responses are muted to an almost sociopathic extent.
  • Fish People: Ichthysians are thought to be aquatic evolutionary offshoots of hominids or the result of experiments trying to fuse human and amphibian or fish DNA. They are physically similar to humans standing fully upright, with webbed hands, claws, froglike or fishlike features, gills, and strong muscles from a lifetime of swimming.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: A reanimated is a humanoid creature patched together from corpses or crafted directly from muscle, nerves and sinew, brought to life through electromagnetic induction. This process substantial increases the reanimated's hardiness, resistance to injury and longevity but obliterates the mind in the brain. Sometimes the reanimated is bound to obey its creator, but this bond is fragile and can be broken in rage.
  • Grand Theft Me: A yithian inhabiting the body of another creature is in complete control of that body.
  • Healing Factor: An ichthysian regenerates 2 points of health each round as long as it starts the round with at least 0 health. This regeneration greatly extends their lifespan, and it is common for them to live to be more than two centuries old.
  • Human Disguise: Rumour has it that a few very rare, particularly intelligent shoggoths intentionally reduce their own mass and learn to take on the forms of humans so they can integrate themselves into society and prey upon humans at their leisure.
  • Mental Time Travel: Yithians have the ability to transfer their consciousness backward or forward through time, swapping minds with a creature native to the era they wish to observe.
  • The Mothman: Cryptic moths, sometimes referred to as mothmen, are malign and intelligent entities of another realm.
  • Mummy: Mummies are intelligent undead, usually royalty or members of the priesthood, risen from their burial places to destroy those who disturbed their rest.
  • Ouija Board: The spirit board is a handcrafted wooden board with the power to contact the spirit world. People put their fingers on a wooden planchette and allow a supernatural force to move it around the board, spelling out words to answer questions from the participants.
  • Precursors: Elder things created multicellular life that spread across Earth billions of years ago and ultimately brought about humanity. As the younger species grew in numbers and influence, the elder things went into decline.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Example artifacts suitable to the horror genre include the Book of Thoth, the Necronomicon, Pnakotic Manuscripts and Shining Trapezohedron.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Because dangerous encounters with cryptids are much like animal encounters, this book includes cryptids as part of the survival horror genre unless the specific creature has a more obvious connection to another category.
  • Spell Book: The Book of Thoth usually contains several spells, but its greatest power is a ritual that can revive a mummy as a living immortal human.
  • Tickle Torture: Victims grabbed by a nightgaunt are automatically tickled by its barbed tail, hindering their actions.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: A reader who understands Latin can use the Necronomicon to accomplish a wide variety of occult operations, all of which risk their sanity. Indeed, one must be a little insane or at least naive to use this tome, given its storied history.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sometimes people in horror do dumb things. Using the Poor Choices module, the GM can use intrusions to make the characters do things that the audience of a horror movie would think are stupid. However, while these intrusions can be risky, they shouldn't be obviously self-destructive or harmful: the idea is to put the character in a complicated situation more forcefully than the player might choose, but not set up failure.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Shoggoths were created by the elder things but overthrew their masters and now roam the vast, ancient cities they have claimed for themselves.
  • Weirdness Censor: Fundamental angels don't care if they are witnessed by humans, as human minds are good at rationalising unbelievable, incomprehensible things.

The Masters of the Night setting provides examples of:

  • Appropriated Appellation: Some vampires that feed on non-human blood have proudly reclaimed the slur 'vegetarian vampire' for themselves.
  • Asshole Victim: Some vampires ease their conscience by feeding only on murderers and child molesters, but those kinds of people are scarce.
  • The Beastmaster: Vampires of the Animalist bloodline hold power over beasts, such as communicating with them, commanding them, summoning them, or emulating their abilities.
  • Beat It by Compulsion: Arithmomaniac vampires have an obsessive need to count things. Although in most cases this is only mildly distracting as a need to count important things, it becomes debilitating if the vampire suddenly finds a large number of small items, such as spilled seeds or grains of rice.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: A vampire with a strong or lethal degree of aversion to running water cannot cross it on their own, including using bridges.
  • Charm Person: The Presence bloodline grants a vampire conscious and unconscious power over minds, turning them naturally irresistible, unnaturally intimidating, or able to control thoughts.
  • Dark World: Game Masters are encouraged to set their campaign in a city they know well: their hometown, current city, or somewhere nearby, put through a dark, corrupt lens. Vampire-run criminal gangs carve up turf like a pie and skirmish along the borders when tempers are hot and profits are down. Politicians probably aren't vampires, but are likely on the take or in the pocket of shady business interests with ties to the vampire gangs.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Vampires who only drink animal blood are derogatorily called 'vegetarian vampires', and those who only drink blood substitutes are called 'vegan vampires'.
  • The Ghost:
    • There are no elder vampires to give younger ones, including the PCs, orders or keep them in line. One of the main questions of the setting is 'What happened to all of the older vampires?' The PCs are told very little, and they (and the players) will probably speculate on this question a lot before the big reveal: fundamental angels have eliminated most vampires in the world, and are coming for the PCs.
    • Theoretically there could be a primordial vampire, or a god of vampires, who has the power to resist, banish, or destroy the crusading fundamental angels. However, this entity has not been seen since ancient times, and modern vampires either haven't heard of it or think it is just a myth.
  • He Knows Too Much: Humans who know the Big Secret and aren't employed by a vampire are likely to end up dead; it's far easier for a vampire to eliminate a potential problem than to risk being blackmailed or exposed.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Some vampires are averse to objects and areas imbued by positive supernatural power. The mere presence of a religious symbol may be sufficient, but in some cases the aversion is triggered only when the icon is held, worn or presented by a faithful person. Consecrated ground applies as well, although its power may be greatly weakened by actions contrary to the faith. Formerly-religious vampires have an aversion to the power of their faith but not others, suggesting that it might be a supernatural manifestation of the vampire's guilt.
  • Horror Hunger: Vampires feel hunger and need blood to survive. Without it they starve, wither, and eventually fall into a coma-like state. Once the vampire starts feeding, they have a hard time stopping. Just thinking about all that delicious blood makes the vampire feel weird, and limiting one's consumption of human blood feels much harder than choosing to eat exactly one potato chip.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Vampires are vulnerable to things that are harmless to living creatures. As a baseline, all vampires have at least a weak aversion to sunlight and religious power. However, to make each vampire PC unique and add to the mystery and discovery process of their nature, no two vampires have exactly the same aversions, or the same degree of aversion to some things.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Count Orlok from Nosferatu is cited as an example of a vampire made inhumanly ugly by their transformation.
  • Man Bites Man: All vampires can grab an opponent, immediately bite them and drink their blood if they want to.
  • Masquerade: Most humans don't know that vampires are real, except a few who are paid very well by vampires to keep them safe. Vampires usually don't brag about their true nature because that's how you get caught and killed.
  • Missing Reflection: Vampires with an aversion to mirrors cast no shadow, although this causes them no harm. On film, video and digital visual recordings, they look blurred, warped, grossly distorted, monochromatic, like a photo negative, or something equally strange.
  • Must Be Invited: Some vampires require permission to enter a private building. A vampire with a strong aversion to inhospitality takes 2 points of damage per round inside a private space uninvited; one with a lethal aversion cannot voluntarily enter such a space at all.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In the Masters of the Night mini-campaign, vampires are immortal, supernatural creatures that feed on human blood and turn humans into vampires. Some vampires have unusual abilities above and beyond superhuman endurance and reflexes, but are vulnerable to things that are harmless to humans. Like humans, vampires need to rest about eight hours in each 24-hour period, but do so during the daytime.
  • Super Smoke: The Mist Form gift allows a vampire to change into a cloud of mist for up to ten minutes and pass through any barrier that allows air to move through it.
  • Undeathly Pallor: Vampires don't look vibrant or healthy, and are a little paler than they were when they were alive.
  • Vampire Hunter: Vampires have recently come under attack by fundamental angels, who have already killed most vampires in the world.
  • Vampire Procreation Limit: Vampires propagate their kind by turning humans into new vampires, but the characters aren't told how to do this. This is a deliberate design choice for the setting; otherwise, the PCs could abuse the rule to create an army of vampires. Game Masters are instructed to keep this ability under wraps and out of PC hands for as long as possible, if not permanently.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: The unobstructed presence of garlic is enough to trigger a reaction among some vampires, who should not feed on the blood of a creature who has eaten garlic in the past day or so.
  • Vampires Sleep in Coffins: Some vampires are unusually attached to the coffin they rested in while their body transformed from human to vampire. If they don't rest for about eight hours during the day in their coffin, they do not regain their recovery rolls.
  • Vampiric Draining: In order to 'live', vampires have to or drink blood, or something very much like blood.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Vampires who drink animal blood instead of human blood are sometimes called vegetarian vampires. Vampires can subsist on animal blood, but they only thrive on human blood. Vampires who don't drink human blood aren't as powerful as those who do.
  • Villain Protagonist: Masters of the Night is a horror campaign with villainous vampire protagonists who need to kill in order to survive. At best, you're an Anti-Hero. At worst, you're a sympathetic villain.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Morphic bloodline lets a vampire change their body, such as by growing claws, transforming into a beast or a swarm of smaller creatures, or turning into mist.
  • Weakened by the Light: All vampires are at least weakly averse to sunlight. A vampire with a strong aversion takes 4 points of damage per round it remains in direct sunlight or 2 points per round in indirect sunlight.

Alternative Title(s): Stay Alive