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Vampires in "Vampire: the Masquerade" can't eat normal food. Not only do they not get any nourishment out of it, it tastes foul to them and if they swallow it they'll immediately vomit (unless you bought the "Eat Food" advantage for the character, in which case they still don't get anything out of it but can eat and taste it, but I'm talking about ones that don't have that, here).

Does this apply to plain water?

If not, how does that interact with swimming, or falling into water, and accidentally getting water in their mouths? And there's an entire bloodline of them, the Mariner Gangrels, that can turn into water creatures and spend most of their time out at sea, so evidently that's no problem. So I'm thinking it would hang together better if they could drink water, but is there any mention of this question either way in any of the books?

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No, they can't

I haven't seen an entry in any official publication that describes water, specifically, as something vampires can or cannot consume. But we have quite a few examples suggesting that they can't:

Even the Eat Food merit doesn't let you do anything normal with the mortal sustenance you consume; it sits in your stomach until you vomit it back out later. You just have an easy time holding on to it until it's convenient to expel:

Of course, you can’t digest what you eat, and there will be some point during the evening when you have to heave it back up. (V20 Core Rulebook, page 480)

Fifteenth generation and weaker vampires have some better-than-normal ability to consume mortal foods, but they too are unable to keep down food or drink:

You can hold down mortal food and drink for an hour or so; other vampires vomit immediately if they try (unless they have the Eat Food Merit). (V20 Core Rulebook, page 481)

One power listed under Thaumaturgy causes vampires to be unable to consume blood, treating it as any mortal food or drink:

The victim of this power can no longer consume blood, vomiting it up as he would mortal food or drink. (V20 Core Rulebook, page 227)

The Nagaraja clan weakness requires them to consume flesh as well as blood to survive, but this line explains that that weakness does not give the Eat Food merit. It explicitly states that the vampire cannot drink non-blood liquids, generally:

This weakness does not allow them to eat food or consume other liquids. (V20 Core Rulebook, page 407)

The game doesn't really simulate this too closely, but it's also worth noting that most water a vampire might encounter (especially in the ocean) isn't going to be just pure water. It will have things dissolved in it which are certainly not water, and those will be problematic. They cause problems even when added directly to blood! Consider the Necromancy ritual Minestra di Morte:

The necromancer obtains a piece of a dead body and simmers it in a pot with half a quart (or half a liter) of vampiric vitae. To this stew, the necromancer adds rosemary (for remembrance), basil (the funerary herb), and salt (the alchemic principle of clarification). After bringing the concoction to a full boil, the necromancer eats it. [...]

Necromantic vampires without the Eat Food Merit (see p. 480) can’t keep the soup down, but can still use the ritual and gain the information. (V20 Core Rulebook, page 178)

Some flakes of herbs and a pinch of salt, coupled with some simmered meat, makes the blood indigestible. Even if pure water were OK for vampires to consume, most of what they encounter won't qualify.


If not, how does that interact with swimming, or falling into water, and accidentally getting water in their mouths?

I don't think that these would interact. Getting water into your mouth doesn't mean you need to inhale or swallow it, and when that does happen it tends to be down to issues around trying to take a breath. Vampires have no need to breathe and so there is generally no reason for them to even open their mouths while in the water, let alone swallow some of it. By that token, most humans have trouble swallowing seawater, but that doesn't preclude swimming or coastal living.

Vampires don't have any physical processes related to eating, digesting, or passing material through their intestines, and all mentions of their consuming anything other than blood (Nagaraja excepted, plus a couple of odd Disciplines) describe the need to vomit it back up later. Nothing comes out the other end, so to speak, and there are no digestive operations that move the water out of the stomach or absorb it or do anything at all with it. Generally speaking, they can't consume any material other than blood.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't have said this proves they can't; the balance of implications is towards not, but you could take "drink" as referring to liquids with some element of food, like milk or booze. I'd have thought that it would be difficult to swim underwater for a long time (and the Mariners live and sleep underwater) without ever swallowing water, but I don't know. As for excreting the water, blood is about half water and a busy vampire can go through several litres a day, so that problem arises either way. Either way, you have told me what the rules do say, so mission accomplished and thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – A. B.
    Apr 10 '21 at 1:56
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Technically in 5e, vampires can eat food and drink water if they have enough humanity with Blush of Life active.
Humanity 6: successful check can keep food down for up to an hour.
Humanity 7: successful check can keep food down for a bit w/o Blush of Life.
Humanity 8: can digest wine.
Humanity 9: can digest some liquids and raw meat.
Humanity 10: nearly normal human digestion.

As the book mentions when Vampires can properly digest food/liquid in the manner of humans, this might be evidence that less humane vampires cannot drink water.

Given this, swimming would have no ill effects on vampires with Blush of Life. Less human vampires might need to hold their mouths shut to avoid the taste/vomit while swimming.

Outside of humanity I don't recall any specific mention of ability/inability to drink water (Even the eat food merit doesn't specifically mention it), and I couldn't find one in my Vampire book. So, I'll take a different tact. Roughly, blood is composed of over 50% water. That is, about 55% - 60% of blood is plasma, and 90% of plasma is water. https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-percentage-of-water-in-our-blood

The ratio of water to other ingredients in blood can range widely in people beyond 50%. Given that information, I think we can deduce that vampires are already drinking a variable amount of water with each feeding. Therefore, they must have some ability to safely drink water.

For example, if Vampire A drinks some blood that is 50% water by volume, and Vampire B drinks blood that is 55% water by volume, logically vampire A could have mixed in additional water equal to 5% volume and successfully consumed it. Of. course, this is talking about mixing water with blood, not pure water consumption.

While I've never seen a scientific/technical answer on how vampires actually absorb the blood (or where the blood goes), I've read that ascension Mages think that blood contains quintessence and that is why Vampires can get sustenance from it.

This would mean that outside of special abilities, vampires could not drink pure water, only water that is infused with quintessence (via vitae). Potentially, there would be a threshold where the ratio of quintessence to other ingredients is too low to be consumable by vampires. Is the ratio 1 part in a million, a billion, a thousand? Perhaps, one drop of blood in a gallon is enough for water to be drinkable. I had never considered homeopathy to be a useful tool for vampires until now.

All that said, if you're running the game, just make an executive decision and allow them to drink water. You'd probably have to answer what happens to the water after it is imbibed. Does it get absorbed right away, but have no real affect on the vampire? Does it just sit in their mostly non-functioning stomach until it evaporates? Can it evaporate? Can they poke a hole and let it leak out? Will it eventually mix with blood and be absorbed? Does it make them pee?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was primarily after information about whether there's anything laid down in the rules, not logical arguments (after all, VtM's worldbuilding often seems to me to defy logic!), but I like your logic a lot. I suppose, if you wanted a counter-argument, you could justify a distinction between blood with water added and blood that was naturally at 55% water by claiming that the latter was magically altered in some way by having been in a human. And magic does seem to be more important than physical properties in how WoD vampires function. But equally, you don't have to. \$\endgroup\$
    – A. B.
    Apr 10 '21 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not running the game. Of course, it still comes down to what I can persuade the people who are running the games to do. But I wanted to know whether there was anything in the rules to say I couldn't. You caught at least one rule Upper Case's answer didn't, the Humanity rules. As it happens the game's running on V20, not 5e, but it's still worth knowing. \$\endgroup\$
    – A. B.
    Apr 10 '21 at 1:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Kudos for the last paragraph :-D This is the kind of thing I tend to want to know, too, and WoD isn't in the habit of! \$\endgroup\$
    – A. B.
    Apr 10 '21 at 1:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I found a small nugget in GURPS: Vampire the Masquerade Companion (published y Steve Jackson Games with Licensing from White Wolf in 1994.) On page 14 under "Clarifications" it reads: "In GURPS Vampire <the Masquerade>, the adventure 'Mortal Desires' assumes that vampires can and do drink and enjoy wine and other liquid refreshment, which serve to aid them in the masquerade and acts as a social lubricant when it's not practical to take vitae ... It's quite reasonable, for example to suppose that Camarilla vampires drink wine, but Sabbat vampires find this a loathsome and repellent custom. \$\endgroup\$
    – zenijos10
    Apr 11 '21 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice! On the other hand, this about Carousing rolls on p265 of the V20 rules: "On a botch, your character comes off as an obnoxious boor, or people begin to question why your character hasn’t touched her own food and drink....". I think we can gather from this, at least, that VtM has a culture of allowing things like that to be whatever makes for a good plot at the time, and where the book contradicts itself you're meant to take whichever answer you think best. \$\endgroup\$
    – A. B.
    Apr 12 '21 at 3:52

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