Immortality is a trait usually reserved for the gods. This trait is a statement as to the vampires’ overall level of power within the mythological pantheon. However, immortality for a vampire is not the same as it is for the gods. There are a number of fine print clauses that have been attached to this status.
First is the issue of appetite, which we’ve already looked at. The vampires may be able to continue on without feeding on blood or life force, yet the overpowering urge guarantees that the vampires will not be enjoying their immorality until they do feed.
But the big issue comes from the near universal understanding that vampires are dead. Immortal, but dead. Their status is not one of true power over death, like that of the gods, or, say, Highlanders. Instead they occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. Alive and yet not. They are trapped between the living world and the world of death. This means that they are usually described as being cold, like a corpse. Their skin has a lifeless pallor, and their hearts do not beat. They are animated by the power that made them into vampires, but they are not truly alive. Because their hearts do not beat, and for their propensity of rising from the grave, we can extrapolate that they have no need to breathe, save for the purpose of speaking.
Yet they are not zombies. They retain their intelligence, and they are not in a state of decay. They don’t have the stench of the grave about them, though they do have its feel in their flesh (don’t ask about their breath though, especially before they brush).
Their immortality is also loaded with more vulnerabilities, especially to sunlight, which limits their operations considerably. Depending on the myth, vampires may be conscious during sunlit times, but unable to walk in the sunlight, so must remain indoors. The other school of thought runs that vampires are unconscious while the sun is up, so their immortal lifespan is cut to less than half of any given day.
This isn’t a balancing act, though. Many times, particularly with my D&D background, there’s a tendency to balance out the good with the bad, but that’s not what’s going on with vampires. Their immortality ties directly back to the religious influence and is a statement about their unique position between life and death. It’s important to remember that these traits, good, bad, and in between, all are part of the story that make up vampires. This story is what makes them so rich and fascinating to explore for stories.