In games that exist within a supernatural/urban fantasy/modern horror setting, usually only a very small percentage of the population is actually supernatural.

Using World of Darkness as an example, it's approximately 1 vampire per 50,000 in Vampire: the Masquerade (IIRC, and vampires having the largest population of the splats), and it's less than 100 Prometheans worldwide in Promethean: the Created. Prometheans aside, when you find one of these things you're likely to find more, since almost all of them are social creatures. This means that less than 1% of the population is supernatural.

How do you portray this in games so that the players don't start thinking, "what is this, what is that?" and so that they realize that these things aren't actually super common, without making it boring?


5 Answers 5


Don't show more than you have to

Unless you have a very good reason not to, keep appearances of the various supernatural creatures very rare. For example, in a VtM game you have, by default, an excellent reason to have lots of vampire NPCs because the PCs are vampires and the setting encourages them to find each other and interact. However, there is no such reason why ghosts, fairies or witches would be especially common or visible to the vampires.

Some form of "Masquerade" or policy of silence is a common trope for supernatural groups in this genre. That means that even if multiple sorts of creatures are present in a city, they will probably not notice each other unless a specific plot device is bringing them into contact.

The lone example

Sometimes, having just a single representative of a group appear can help reinforce the feeling of rarity. Sure, the party is used to werewolves and probably some of them believe in ghost stories. But they've never seen a real ghost until tonight!

An encounter like this lends more credence to all of the tales of "others" that abound. It tells the players that there really are lots of hidden things in this world. Because they only saw the one, it also tells them that these things are hard to find and they probably know very little about them.

Be careful not to overdo this. If you get to see one example of every creature type then "weird supernatural critters" start to feel common even if one particular species doesn't. One example of one or two (at most) things will do the trick.

Scare the mundanes

If supernaturals are rare, then most humans don't either know know about them or have never (knowingly) seen one in action. Have a human witness in a scene who can become terrified or dumbstruck at the sight of blatant supernatural power. Let this person's emotional reaction illustrate just how fantastical the monsters really are.

Compare and Contrast with Humans

Make humans plentiful. Chance encounters with supernaturals shouldn't happen much. Either the PCs are seeking one out, or being sought out. If you're just walking down the street it should be filled with regular human beings.

Show that the monsters are different. In something like VtM, this often means setting up a situation in which the PCs' vampirism sets them apart from humanity, often in a socially isolating way.


  • Interacting with a family with children who are sleepy from being out late at night. THe vampires cannot have kids, and probably see disproportionately few children due to their nocturnal habits.

  • A friendly mortal is injured in an accident, and the PCs are the nearest people. The NPC, bleeding and in pain, asks them for help. Portray the NPC sympathetically, and possibly introduce them earlier so they're already liked. Then, describe the person's blood in terms tantalizing terms. Watch you players' blood pools and time this so at least one PCs should need to check for frenzy when they try to be helpful.

If the PCs are human, show them examples of NPCs acting in ways that no same human would. This doesn't have to be outright villainy (but it can be in an us vs them story).


  • Some human-form werewolves are having a civil chat with the PCs. When finished, they transform to go hunt a deer with their pack.
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a Storyteller I have previously used all of these techniques and I can vow they work if used properly. Great advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – arthexis
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 5:08

So, first off, like you said, most of these communities are social. That means that even though they are the 1% they likely all know each other, hang out together, hate each other, and otherwise interact almost solely in their own little supernatural clique. This is also true in real life; the wealthy don't tend to live side by side with the poor and, as a result, most wealthy people grossly underestimate how much more money than the average person they have, how much higher their standard of living is, etc. They think of themselves and their community as 'normal' even though, objectively, they are extremely abnormal. So this isn't something you should be doing just because Vampires are rare or whatever.

That being said, if you want to do this, regardless of your reasons, you can. If the PCs don't regularly encounter 'normal' beings, they will conclude that 'normal' beings are abnormal. If they encounter 'normal' beings most of the time, they will conclude that 'normal' beings are, in fact, the norm. In World of Darkness, for example, try giving them 'normal' opponents rather than supernatural or supernaturally connected ones. Have a heavily armed local gang hold up a PC's landlady for protection money, and kill her when she can't pay (or some such). Have horrible people trafficking drugs, people, weapons, etc. into and out of the city. Have a PC's bike stolen by a juvenile delinquent. Have the IRS come after someone for back taxes. If any of the PCs have a real job, have their new boss try and frame them for embezzlement. Etcetera.


EDIT (Cut since it was OT)

So try this approach:

"We are the monsters that try to stay humane, but look around, how monstrous are those calling themselves man". WoD (or any similar system) is a dark place, crime,corruption, poverty is much higher than in the real world: teenage girls sell themselves to run away from abusive parents and why you walking down the street someone is quite often willing to kill you just for your shoes. Show them that dark side: let them chase some gruesome serial killer believing that its some monster, just to find its an ordinary man - I highly recommend you to watch the movie "8 mm", where detective chases masked killer who in the end looks like a dorky maths teacher. Make the players angry, let them start killing those low-lifes, let them feel like gods among mortals...and then in one moment let them realise, how low they themselves fell. On the nicer note, introduce them to some good humans: not corrupted cop, local social worker or simply a nice boy/girl that might start feeling something towards one of your players. Make them mingle with humans and play the masquerade (if you play WOD) - avoid being detected while still force them to feed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't like my answer, please put a comment before down voting, thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not the downvoter, but I can see at least one issue: this answer is very specific to WoD, when the question is asking about any games where you supernaturals and just using WoD as an example to illustrate the problem. The idea you're going for is good and you might be able to rewrite it to be generally useful, but right now, as written, this answer wouldn't be useful for someone playing Dresden Files RPG, for example. (Aside, explaining downvotes is not required.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the answer to make it more system generic, but the original post has WOD as one of its tags as well... \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that tags are for describing the content of the question, so if you think they don't match the content, the tags are the part that you should ignore. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:55

Another strategy here is to make the supernaturals in your world interact with the mundane world as if they were mundane people. Day (or night) jobs, parenting, transportation, clothes, and shelter can all add interest and depth, or even entire other dimensions, to a seemingly tropish supernatural character; for instance, one of the character concepts I kick around in my head on a regular basis is a vampire who is a first officer for UPS, flying cargo jets around.


Play up the Veil/Masquerade/etc.

Whatever your supernatural group is doing, the World of Darkness requires them to keep up rules that ban the characters from showing the world who they really are. Those rules are often enforced by more powerful or older ones from the same splat - and indirectly by other splats too!

If a Vampire acts incautiously, it's a gamble: Maybe a Garou Pack comes along and hosts a Claws-For-You, or the Order of Hermes sends an exorcist that makes lawn chairs. But the real problem is the Society of Leopold, totally normal humans armed with torches, pitchforks. They are just in the know and that makes them dangerous. They are the reason that the whole Masquerade is in place. The normal humans that just know too much. They are the Van Helsings, the Vordenburgs and Van Rictens.

Tap into the Theme

The different splats interact with humans very differently and act with them in different manners.


To Changelings, humanity as a whole is not only giving them life, but their lack of creativity and rising Banality give them pain without the need for any supernatural foes. Just surviving in the world, facing tasks like taxes and being bombarded by advertisements is a struggle on its own.

Interactions with normal mortals outside of your circle happen all the time, and in a good part, trying to make their world a tiny bit more palatable and magical is goal of the game. At least one of them.


Sleepers are everywhere! Your goal is common ascension, your Ascension War with the Technocracy needs to be made in such a way to prevent their involvement. You need to shape your message to them in such a way that it does get accepted, that they accept your paradigm.


Humans are Prey and Predator at the same time. Whenever a Vampire needs to feed, they have to interact with them. Just to keep their hiding place, they need to set up elaborate schemes to direct their Ghouls or servants to stay safe. Besides that, the goals of the Vampire don't neatly align with the goals of the mortal communities often, and they have to figure out ways to in influence them in such ways that they do. Be it bribing the right people or breaking bones...

You might be a monster among them, but you have to thread carefully to not pop up on the radar of a bigger monster!


Your enemy might be the Wyrm, but the Wyrm isn't just Fomori and BSDs and elder Vampires... it's Pentex. Pentex is a corrupt thing with subsidiaries and maybe one in a thousand is a Fomori in a First Team, but the other 999 are mortals. Mortals armed with the power of cash, disregard for nature, and enough wyrmy material to turn an area into a toxic wasteland. They don't need special powers, they are cogs in the machinery that destroys the earth. They don't even fight against you. But they are there!

And mingled in between them are the innocents. You shall not butcher them with the others, or so the tenets go. You shall not be noticed by them. They limit how you can act. They are who you actually want to help at times! They might be living off the dregs or be high in society, but they are one part of what you fight for: They are a part of the cycle. Not all of them are implicated and need to be culled.

Realise that mortals are the others to the Supernaturals.

Whatever splat you have, your players will intensely act with their own community. Be it the Freehold of the Changeling, the Court of Vampire or the Caern of the Garou: those are part of your type and the mortals are the contrast to them. To the Mortals, you are the Other, you are the monster. But to you, the mortals are the Other, you are just a normal member of your group. Once you might have been one of them, but now you are not. Contrast the societal differences, allow the players to realize that Humanity is not accepting them as who they are. They might be weak, but mortals are many.


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