I posted very briefly about last month's Halloween reading: Anno Dracula and 'Salem's Lot. They reminded me of an important lesson I learned, at least back when I read Bram Stoker's original novel, if not earlier. As Van Helsing realized, he was dealing with a manipulative genius, who for most of the novel proved himself a mastermind always one step (at least!) ahead of his opponents. In Kim Newman's novel, it is easy to believe that this is how he rises to become Royal Consort and de facto ruler of the British empire (I could say more, but I'll avoid spoilers). The vampire in Stephen King's modern classic is of the same stamp as Dracula -- a fact which the Van Helsing analogue among the latter-day vampire hunter characters explicitly acknowledges.
Vampires in fiction and gaming should follow this line if they want to evoke the same kind of responses. The vampire should be more than a feral undead predator of the living. The ghoul is more on this level, and Nosferatu starts to tilt in that direction. For myself, I intend to work harder the next time I use a vampire to portray the villain as a creature at least as intelligent as it is evil -- a planner, a manipulator, a strategist of the highest order. A GM should be thinking about how the vampire could reasonably anticipate players and keep them reactive. There should be enough cat-and-mouse where the players understand that they are the mice and they are in real peril -- even if they prevail, some cruel suffering on their part would seem unavoidable.
I'd love to hear any stories or tips of effective use of the vampire.