Eclipse d20 – Adventures with Mario

And for a somewhat off-the-wall request… it’s how to build a d20 RPG character resembling Mario, of video-game fame.

  • Well, Mario is mostly a fighter type. He can take a lot of damage and keep going, hits well, may know various martial arts, and seems to be resistant to most attacks. He sometimes uses abilities such as Whirlwind Attack and uses several different weapons. I’m not aware of him dual-wielding anything, but he apparently does fairly often use a big two-handed hammer, with which he charges at things and smashes them. That’s a pretty standard charger build.
  • While he apparently is skilled in a lot of professions (race car driver, doctor, demolitions, sports referee, etc), that is not at all hard in d20 where a total of +5 (easy enough with adventurer-level attributes and even a minor general skill booster) represents a normal human level of proficiency for holding a job in any given field.
  • He’s been shown to have some pretty incredible superhuman attributes too – but those are far less consistent and mostly only appear in games that are arguably set in superhero worlds. Such demonstrations can reasonably be taken to go with higher levels, the superheroic world template, and buying the Four-Color Template. After all, once you start ignoring physics there’s not much point in trying to rate abilities in terms of physics.
  • He’s a destined hero, one of the Seven Star Children who will possess extraordinary power. Of course, this is d20 where heroic destinies are a dime a dozen and pretty much EVERY player-character can quickly grow into a being of extraordinary power.
  • He somehow finds “power-ups” pretty much everywhere he goes.

So what do we need to make a reasonable low-level Mario?

Race… I’d put him as a (Pathfinder) Dwarf personally. Sure, that slows him down a little – but the general modifiers fit and he kind of looks like a dwarf to me. It will also let him use a Dwarven Longhammer as a martial weapon and helps him spot all those bonus boxes disguised as stone blocks.

His most favored method of attack is jumping on or kicking things. Ergo, his usual weapon will be…

Plumber’s War Boots

  • Weapon Construction (Pathfinder Weapon Creation Rules): Two Footed, Close Martial Weapon (Must wear both to use, 5 DP), Additional Design Points +3 (+45 GP), Attached (Cannot be disarmed, 1 DP), Improved Critical Threat Range (19-20, 3 DP), Improved Damage (2d6 at Medium Size, 5 DP),
  • These finely stitched boots are ornamented with the sigil of Sun Wukong, and so carry a small hint of the power of the Great Sage, Equal to Heaven. Anyone who wears them can kick or stomp on things really, REALLY, well. Melee. They come as a pair, and both must be worn to use them effectively (Treat as two-handed weapons). Damage (M) 2d6B, Critical 19-20/x2, 50 GP (May have both Weapon Enchantments and/or a +2 Masterwork Tool Bonus to Balance, Jump, and/or Tumble added).

He’ll need a Martial Art to go with those. So how about…

Tai Kwan Leep (Str Based Weapon Form – Plumbers War Boots):

Ed Gruberman, you fail to grasp Ti Kwan Leep. Approach me that you might see… Boot to the head!

  • Requires: Jump +5 or more, +2 or higher BAB specialized in Melee Combat, and Dex 12+.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Damage 4, Defenses 4, Synergy/Tumble, Synergy/Jump.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Enhanced Strike (Crushing) with +4 Bonus Uses, Opportunist (May make a Full Attack after a Charge), .
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Healing (Specialized for Double Effect / Personal Only), and Inhalation Of The New World (Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to recover Inner Strength, 6 CP).

Star Child Template (32 CP / +1 ECL).

I usually recommend limiting characters to 12 CP worth of Innate Enchantments, so as to avoid them simply going after every possible small bonus – but this doesn’t quite cover the basics this type of character seems to require, so he or she will need…

  • Immunity to the normal value-limit of Innate Enchantment (Very Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized for Half Cost / only allows exceeding the limit by 6 CP, not 12) (4 CP). This allows the user to have up to 18 CP worth of Innate Enchantment.
  • Immunity/The XP Cost of his floating Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Minor, Great,, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects Innate Enchantments, 6 CP).
  • Opportunist: May renew Innate Enchantments as a free action when necessary (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: Up to 17,500 GP total value. All effects Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x .7 (Personal Only) if relevant (18 CP).
    • Ant Haul (Triples Carrying Capacity, 1400 GP).
    • Immortal Vigor I: Provides +12 (2 x Con Mod) HP. (1400 GP).
    • Jump: +10 Enhancement Bonus to Jump (1400 GP).
    • Lead Blades (Hammer Only, x.7, 1400 GP). Hammer does 3d6 damage.
    • Light Foot (1400 GP). +30 circumstance bonus on ground movement speed+10 circumstance bonus on jump checks, as well as DR 10 versus Falling Damage [only]. The user is, however, considered one size category smaller in a Bull Rush, Grapple, Trip, or Overrun situation.
    • Muleback Cords (1000 GP). +8 Strength for the purpose of computing Carrying Capacity.
    • Personal Heroism: +2 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Saves, and Skills (2000 GP).
    • Personal Haste (2000 GP). +30′ Enhancement to Movement Rate,
    • Produce Flame (2000 GP).
    • Skill (Any) Mastery: +2 Competence Bonus to All Skills (1400 GP)
    • Wrath: +2 Morale Bonus to Str and Con, +1 to Will, -2 to AC (1400 GP).
  • Weaponry:
    • Plumbers War Boots (50 GP), Masterwork Weapon (+300 GP), Masterwork Tool (+2) for Balance, Jump, and Tumble (+150 GP)
    • Dwarven Longhammer (2d6 (3d6 with Lead Blades), Crit 20/.x3, Reach, Exotic Weapon, 70 GP).
  • Conventional Items:
    • Adventurer’s Sash (20 GP). For carrying an inventory of power-ups.
    • Air Bladder x 30 (3 G). Can easily hold his breath for three minutes.
    • Canteens x 2 (4 GP). Rarely needs to stop to drink.
    • Cold Weather Outfit (8 GP). Traverses icy glaciers without concern.
    • Compass (10 GP). Keeps moving in one direction with no errors.
    • Hot Weather Outfit (8 GP). Traverses deserts without concern.
    • Masterwork Tools for any one profession or craft skill (50 GP).
    • Music Box (20 GP). Star Children are often accompanied by tinkling music wherever they go.
    • Toolbelt, Heavy (Haramaki, 3 GP). +1 Armor Bonus to AC. Lots of tool loops and pockets (+4 GP).
          • Grand Total: 17,500 GP.
  • Template Disadvantage: Obligations. Must go to the rescue whenever people are kidnaped or held hostage, even if no reward is in the offing (although there is almost always cake somehow) (-3 CP).

For the power-ups take…

  • 4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to produce Relics (as above) and minor power-up devices, only a specific list of items specific to the character, devices must be “harvested” from relevant areas, the user may only carry a maximum of (Cha Mod) devices along with him or her (8 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +16 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only usable to refill the pool for producing power-up devices and relics above, only usable between levels/maps/stages/whatever (10 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to allow the creation of a limited set of relics appropriate to the character, Relics only function for the duration of a level / world / extended scene / what-have-you before resetting (2 CP),
  • Double Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP, can be reassigned immediately via the expenditure of 1 Mana per CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to invest in Relics, Relics only function for the duration of a level / world / extended scene / what-have-you before resetting, only for a limited set of relics appropriate to the character (4 CP).

While I’ve never been much for video games, it would be hard to miss the memes – and quite a lot of video game “power ups” are pretty awkward in RPG terms. RPG “power ups” tend to come in two forms – short term stuff like spells and potions that usually only last for the length of a scene or two and semi-permanent additions to the user’s character sheet. Short term video game powers ups match well enough, but many video games have an intermediate level – stuff that lasts through one dungeon/world/adventure/module/whatever you want to call a stage of the overall game / adventure and then goes away. RPG’s don’t have a lot of stuff like that, if only because they tend to be settings, not a collection of maps and levels that you go through one by one. Sure, that intermediate duration does turn up in RPG’s sometimes – occasionally you get loaned an item for the duration of your quest, or the blessing of the water goddesses shrine lets everyone breathe under water while adventuring there (so that everyone can play with the rules for underwater adventures for a bit), or something like that, but that sort of thing is always set up by the game master simply because levels/maps/whatever are not nearly as strictly designed in freeform RPG’s as they have to be in computer-run video games.

In addition, you generally don’t just find power-ups laying around. After all, in most RPG’s, the setting doesn’t revolve around one particular character – and if that rare mushroom can heal wounds in moments, somebody will grab it as soon as they see it. Doom may have had weapons and healing kits laying all over it’s volcanic demon maze, but in an RPG people will be asking “who put them there, and why aren’t the demons either using them or kicking them into the lava to keep the characters from using them?”

Neither will most RPG’s turn the characters into sharks with laser beams for the sake of an underwater novelty level, just as RPG’s don’t usually reset characters to “unwounded but none of the enhancements they just finished collecting” at the start of each new segment. If a RPG character gathers eight fire orbs that let him or her throw blasts of fire of ever-increasing power, and which work forever as long as they are in the pixie kingdom… they are going to want to know why all the fire orbs they’ve collected so far vanish as soon as they leave the pixie kingdom for the gnome tunnels, forcing them to start collecting a new set of the blasted things so they can throw blasts of fire again. They may also start wondering why no one ELSE bothers collecting fire orbs when they’re just lying around in odd corners – or perhaps why that ancient shrine has a puzzle you have to solve to get in? Shrines are places that get a lot of traffic!

Sure, you can invent convoluted reasons for that kind of thing, but that gets old fast. Worse, since power-ups are a pretty integral part of a video-game character, it’s kind of incumbent on said character to build them in.

So here’s a package for that. The user’s Mana Pool should be full at the start of any given “Map” (World? Level?). It will deplete as the user adventures.

  • Pass by a forest spring? That’s a good place to look for a Fairy! (Legend of Zelda)
  • Visiting a Cathedral? Probably a good place to get a bottle of Castlevania’s super Holy Water.
  • At a carnival? Perhaps it’s time to pick up a Tanooki Suit (Mario).
  • Haunted House? Look for Magic Fruit that lets you eat ghosts for a bit (Pac-Man).

In general, things like Super Mushrooms or Fire Flowers (Mario) generally just cost Mana – although the amount depends on just how potent the game master thinks that they are. Things that last through a level (such as Pegasus Boots (Zelda), the Hammer from Donkey King, or Mario’s FLUDD are generally relics.

So that’s +1 ECL for the Star Child Template and 24 CP for the Power-Up Package. That’s not really too bad. You could take it at level one. Sure, you won’t be able to afford much else with only 10-12 CP left over from Disadvantages and Duties or some such (Proficiency with Simple and a limited set of Martial Weapons (6 CP), and a skill point (1 CP), +1 BAB Specialized in Melee Combat (3 CP), and +2 HP (2 CP)) – but you’re going to be fast (about 80′ ground movement), get two attacks that hit fairly hard, have (17 + 3 x Con Mod) HP, will be all around competent, and will be able to find useful items pretty much wherever you go (a relic that provides a decent AC boost would be a good choice until you get to level two). That’s not at all bad for a starting character.

Where to go from here? Well, there’s a long series of articles on fighter-type builds already, but… more hit points (possibly using Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus to add in another attribute modifier), more BAB, Luck for Saves (and better base saves), more Skill Points, Fast Learner (probably specialized in Skills or Hit Dice), Expertise (Power Attack), and various weapon or attack boosts (such as buying up the immunity on Innate Enchantment and applying Lead Blades to his boots too, for 4d8). If you want the “Extra Lives” you’ll want Returning – but RPG’s are usually a lot harder to die in than video games anyway, just because it takes a lot longer to make a new character than it does to press “start”. If you want Yoshi you want Companion, and use the level-based bonus points to add the ability to swallow things whole.

For special tricks throw in 3d6 Mana with Reality Editing/Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only to boost the Innate Enchantments of the Star Child template, requires a full-round action to use (6 CP) and Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses (Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the “Special Tricks” pool, only between encounters, 6 CP).

That will let you turn Produce Flame into a Fireball, use Jump to bounce over a castle or reach something flying high above, boost the Mule Cords to lift some incredible weight, or use Light Foot to imitate an effect like Dimension Door or just to run up walls or stand on clouds. Sure, you can’t pull those tricks off all that often – but it’s always nice to have semi-freeform special moves in your back pocket.

Overall this looks like a decent “mystic warrior” build, and will probably be fun to play – at least if you know enough about the Mario video games to know what kind of power-ups you might be able to come up with.

Eclipse d20 – Creating A Vampire

This request was straightforward – to break down the various elements in the Vampire Template for Eclipse and see what they should cost, because there’s quite a gap between “CR + 2” and “ECL + 8” – which mostly says “Vampires aren’t all THAT tough, but we think that some of their powers are easily abused by players”. So here we go:

“Vampire” is an acquired template that can be added to any humanoid or monstrous humanoid creature with quite a few effects:

  • All past and future hit dice become d12’s – but the new vampires Con becomes 0. Honestly, this is sometimes an advantage for mages – but a d12 is effectively equal to (1d4+4), and very few adventurers actually dump Con, and most buy boosters. This is usually a penalty, and awkward to buy to boot. So replace it with 0 Con (0 CP) and Advanced Finesse (Gets bonus HP from some attribute other than Con, 12 CP).
  • Gain +6 Natural Armor. This is kind of expensive, at least at lower levels, to buy straight. And honestly, it doesn’t really fit in with my ideas about vampires – so I’m going to use Defender (Natural Armor variant) (6 CP) to provide a natural armor bonus that will slowly increase with level and Improved Augmented Bonus (Applies an Attribute Modifier (most often Strength) to the user’s Natural Armor rating, 12 CP). That will generally cover the bonus at lower levels and improve on it at higher ones.
  • A vampire gains a slam attack (usually 1d6, but varying by size) if it didn’t already have one. Once per round, a vampire that hits with it’s slam attack or primary natural weapon attack can inflict two negative levels. Now level drain used to be a terrible and frightening power. The victim lost levels instantly – and it was hard to get them back. Every player hated level drains – and so they were heavily nerfed in third edition. Now “negative levels” are a pretty good debuff, but they are fairly readily fixed and usually go away on their own even if you don’t fix them. There’s a fourth level spell that inflicts 1d4 of them at range (a touch-based version would thus be only level three). That’s reasonable enough; after all… a simple Bestow Curse is FAR more flexible and can be at least as debilitating and the vast majority of monsters don’t survive meeting the party – so why would they CARE if they get a few negative levels before being killed? So forget the “could be permanent” part. On any target worth worrying about, they’ll either die in combat or get it fixed because they’re going to be a recurring villain, and so have to grow in strength to continue being a challenge rather than losing power to negative levels. So build this as Presence/Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (touch based Enervation): only works on one target at a time, only works once per round, requires a successful slam or natural weapons attack instead of a touch attack (6 CP). The easiest way to get a Slam attack is to just buy a bit of Martial Arts – presumably a Strength-Based “Vampire Style” – at a net score of at least three (pretty much any unarmed style which lets you buy Strike and Power I) at a cost of 1-3 CP depending on the users (boosted!) Strength score. As an advantage, this is easy to improve upon later. Just spend some more skill points on the martial art.
  • A vampire can suck blood from a living victim with its fangs by making a successful grapple check. If it pins the foe, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such successful attack, the vampire gains 5 temporary hit points. Now this… honestly, this is weaker than the drain from the Slam attack. And grappling is hardly the most effective attack (sure, there are grapple builds, but they aren’t exactly amajor factor), and – while it isn’t really mentioned – I’d say that this only works on creatures that HAVE blood. Moreover, once again… ability drain isn’t that hard to fix. So Presence again, requiring a successful Grapple check that pins the foe, only working on creatures with blood, etc (6 CP).
  • Anyone with unprotected eyes that the vampire targets must succeed on a Will save or fall instantly under the vampire’s influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th, and so lasting for twelve days). The ability has a range of 30 feet. Now vampires usually use this to maintain control of a few NPC’s, likely including a bodyguard or two, to make trouble, and to try to turn characters against the rest of the party when it comes to a fight. PC’s, of course, are mostly fighting non-humanoid monsters – which is why “Dominate Person” is only Brd4, Sor/Wiz 5.This will still be a serious pain in a PC though, because – with unlimited use – it’s going to get used on everyone the party wants to interrogate, on every officious guard, on every shopkeeper, and against every allowable opponent – whom the user will then throw at other opponents and foul up all of the GM’s encounters. For this one I’m going to be applying the general Eclipse rule that “unlimited uses” in a monster template generally means “enough so that the GM need not worry about it during the course of a fight with the PC’s”. Is that unfair to someone who pays for an +8 ECL template? Yes, it would be – but if a character is taking it that way, there’s no need to figure out how to build the template. Eclipse is back-compatible. We’re going to be recalculating the cost with the price break for somewhat limited uses – and it’s VERY unlikely to be anywhere NEAR that high. Buy this as Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (level five Dominate Person” effect, +6 Bonus Uses) / maximum range of 30 feet, user must look into the target’s unprotected eyes (12 CP).
  • Once per day the vampire can summon 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. Arrive in 2d6 rounds, serve for up to one hour. That’s basically Inherent Spell II (L4 Summoning, Can summon 1d4+1 creatures of CR 2 (Like Rat or Bat Swarms) or 4d4 of CR 1 (Wolves) – but upping the duration to an hour takes us to about level six. So Corrupted for Increased Effect (Level Six Effect) / creatures do not arrive for 2d6 rounds (6 CP). I suppose that could be handy at times – but it’s not a big deal. Buying it this way does open up the opportunity to buy more uses or some summoning-boosting effects though.
  • A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by a vampire’s energy drain rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. If the vampire instead drains the victim’s Constitution to 0 or lower, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or less HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of the vampire that created it and remains enslaved until its master’s destruction. At any given time a vampire may have enslaved spawn totaling no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit are created as free-willed vampires or vampire spawn. A vampire that is enslaved may create and enslave spawn of its own, so a master vampire can control a number of lesser vampires in this fashion. A vampire may voluntarily free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again. This, of course, is another ability that will will be grossly abused by many players. The “Returns as an Undead” part is normal enough; negative energy (and I think we can presume that the normally-permanent Constitution loss is something more than simple blood loss, as you get with any normal wound) tends to produce that effect. The “under the user’s control” bit is just as open to abuse as any other version of getting minions is – and is essentially a minor variant on Leadership with a Specialization – you have to create your minions yourself, they are malevolent evil undead (and so often create problems), and have severe social and feeding issues (3 CP).
  • A vampire can take the form of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action, losing access to Slam and Dominate, but gaining the natural weapons and extraordinary special attacks of its new form. It can remain in that form until it assumes another or until the next sunrise. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might allow other forms.). Once again applying the general rule of “enough uses not to have to worry about it in an encounter”… That’s Shapeshift (6 CP) with Dire (+3 CP), Growth (+3 CP), and +4 Bonus Uses (6 CP), Corrupted for Increased Effect (can always take those four forms even if their hit dice are too low, +6 Bonus Uses, so at least 7/Day) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only those four forms, loses access to their Slam attack and Dominate Person powers, limited by sunrise (Net 9 CP).
  • A vampire has damage reduction 10/silver and magic. A vampire’s natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. So, does a weapon have to be Silver AND Magic, or is it Silver OR Magic? I think “Or” is the way to go on this one. That’s Damage Reduction 5, Specialized for Increased Effect (Physical Attacks Only, for 10/-), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (Not versus Silver or Magical Weapons) (8 CP).
  • A vampire heals 5 points of damage each round so long as it has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, it automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. It must reach its coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (It can travel up to nine miles in 2 hours.) Any additional damage dealt to a vampire forced into gaseous form has no effect. Once at rest in its coffin, a vampire is helpless. It regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round. This is a bit tricky – anything “unlimited” always is – but once again we can look at what this actually DOES. Coming back from death is Returning – and this is a rather limited form. A two hour time limit? A specific, vulnerable, point of return? A form which only moves at 20′ and can be fairly readily seen and followed to interrupt the process? Sure, it flies… but few mid- or high-level groups of adventurers will be stopped by THAT. So Returning, Specialized as above (3 CP). As for the fast healing part… d20 fights generally don’t last all that long. For the Fast Healing take Inherent Spell III (Personal-Only Harm) with 4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / only inflicts (heals for an undead) 5 points of damage per round, does not provide the secondary effects of Heal, cannot be activated for an hour after a successful Return, and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Triggers as needed). OK, that’s only 50 HP/Hit Die/Day (to a maximum of 750 per day), but that will look unlimited enough for practical purposes. I would guess that this is one of the big items that “justified” the +8 ECL rating – since you could keep going in, dying fighting mindless monsters, and coming back a few hours later to do it all over again and keep whittling them down – but is that really any different from a group that keeps falling back to rest after a fifteen-minute adventuring day? Character deaths are a lot less common than they were in older editions, so this isn’t a very big advantage any longer.
  • A vampire can assume gaseous form at will as the spell (caster level 5th), but it can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability. But this as Inherent Spell IV (L6 Effect, Gaseous Form upgraded to One Hour / Level, 20′ Base Movement, effect can be toggled on and off) with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP). That should be enough. After all, at a mere level five that’s all day.
  • A vampire has resistance to cold 10 and electricity 10. That’s Damage Reduction 5, Specialized for Increased Effect (Energy Attacks Only, for 10/-), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (Cold and Electricity only) (8 CP).
  • A vampire can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell. That’s Celerity with an Additional Movement Mode (Flight), Specialized / the user must maintain contact with a surface that can reasonably support them (9 CP).
  • A vampire has +4 turn resistance. Well, that’s Turn Resistance IV (8 CP).
  • Abilities increase from the base creature as follows: Str +6, Dex +4, Int +2, Wis +2, Cha +4. As an undead creature, a vampire has no Constitution score. This is pretty expensive to buy directly; Even taking them at half price for being in a template, that’s a total of +18 in Characteristics, for a total of (108 CP). That’s pretty pricey – but then attribute bonuses are just generally good. There’s something there for pretty much everyone. On the other hand, most characters won’t need most of those, which makes this a lot less valuable than it might be. That’s… actually pretty good, at least up until the point that no one really cares about skill checks any longer.
  • Vampires have a +8 racial bonus on Bluff, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks. That’s Adept, Specialized for Increased Effect (those seven skills) / only works for the template skill bonuses, not for buying further increases (6 CP) and +28 SP to buy the skill boosts with (28 CP).
  • Vampires gain Alertness (Skill Emphasis x2, Spot and Listen, 6 CP), Combat Reflexes (Reflex Training, Combat Reflexes Variant, 6 CP), Dodge (Defender, +1 to AC purchase, Specialized and Corrupted / only versus one designated opponent at a time, 2 CP), , Improved Initiative (Improved Initiative, 6 CP), and Lightning Reflexes (Resist, +2 to Reflex Saves, 6 CP). Fortunately, in Eclipse, there are no prerequisites to worry about.

Now that comes out to 294 CP – which is pretty costly. On the other hand, the template has some serious drawbacks:

  • Vampires are Undead, are inherently (and always) evil, have about the worst possible social issues, are harmed by positive energy and holy water, and can be Turned with positive energy.
  • Vampires cannot enter an area that smells strongly of garlic.
  • Vampires can be driven and held at bay back by a mirror or strongly presented holy symbol (a standard action in either case). A vampire cannot touch, or make melee attacks against, a creature taking such action for the rest of the encounter and must stay at least five feet away from them.
  • Vampires are unable to cross running water, although they can be carried over it while resting in their coffins or aboard a ship.
  • Vampires are unable to enter a home or other building unless invited in by someone with the authority to do so. They may freely enter public places, since these are by definition open to all. (How long such an invitation is good for, or if it may be rescinded, is never explained).
  • Reducing a vampire’s hit points to 0 or lower incapacitates it but doesn’t always destroy it (see the note on fast healing). However, certain attacks can slay vampires. Exposing any vampire to direct sunlight disorients it: It can take only a single move action or attack action and is destroyed utterly in the next round if it cannot escape. Similarly, immersing a vampire in running water robs it of one-third of its hit points each round until it is destroyed at the end of the third round of immersion. Driving a wooden stake through a vampire’s heart instantly slays the monster. However, it returns to life if the stake is removed, unless the body is destroyed. A popular tactic is to cut off the creature’s head and fill its mouth with holy wafers (or their equivalent).
  • Vampires only have access to the following domains: Chaos, Destruction, Evil, or Trickery.
  • Vampires can only have Rats or Bats (or, presumably, evil spirits) as familiars.

Those are some pretty glaring weaknesses. It’s a bit of a stretch – but if one of them somehow gets overhead to seal the exit from the circle… seven kids with wooden holy symbols could trap a vampire until the sun rises and destroys it. Putting garlic in it’s coffin will be a serous problem for it. If you just move said coffin inside someone’s HOUSE, it will be unable to get back to it if “slain”, since it would have to be invited in. Sure, a party can compensate for many such problems – but even if the game master allows a few substitution weaknesses (and opts not to enforce some of the other traditional weaknesses), I’d say that there are enough weaknesses on that list to count the entire template as being Specialized. That gives it a total value of 147 CP – a +4 ECL Template.

Honestly… that seems about right for this template. Vampires have some specific easily-abused powers – especially against monsters who often aren’t even intelligent, much less in possession of holy symbols or mirrors – but then a +4 ECL Half-Celestial gets some impressive attribute bonuses and a pretty good array of other powers (including, at higher levels, access to Holy / Unholy Word, Resurrection, and Summon Monster IX) for the same cost – which is arguably better, even if the payoff is somewhat delayed.

On the other hand, this isn’t exactly the sort of template that I’d recommend to a player. It’s more than a bit all-or-nothing, there isn’t much focus to it or room for growth, their major offensive ability (negative level infliction via brute-force bashing) is built around an abstract game mechanic that has nothing at all to do with anything in the original myths, and the real principle advantage – being able to send in the Thralls and dominated villagers – isn’t actually a lot of fun in play. Classical vampires were subtle, mysterious, and horrible, not just wandering monsters with a suite of abilities meant to annoy player characters.

Personally – and most of the current players seem to agree – if someone wants to play a vampire, I’d go with either the Shadowed Galaxy First Stage Vampire or the Basic Vampire template. Those are only +1 ECL (a modifier easy to buy off later) and provide an interesting array of abilities useful outside of combat.