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.

8 Responses

  1. I’ll mention for the sake of completeness that vampires also get temp hp from their energy drain attack.

    Also, I’m not sure why being evil is considered a downside, nor do I see where the “worst possible social issues” comes from. Sure, people may be uncomfortable around creatures who can control them and are evil, but that’s assuming that they notice the lack of shadow, and also assuming that the vampire hasn’t convinced them that it’s been hit with an alignment-changing spell, and it’s also assuming that the vampire isn’t interacting primarily with people who are already evil. For that matter, it could actually have been hit with an alignment-changing spell.

    In a similar vein, most of the other weaknesses aren’t much of a problem either, especially for a spellcaster. Prestidigitation can get rid of garlic smells. You’re probably not making melee attacks, so the holy symbol thing isn’t that big of a deal, unless people are trying to surround you, in which case you’d need something like Dimension Door. Similarly, you’re probably not going to be in range of holy water most of the time. The running water thing is unlikely to come up that often, except as a roleplaying thing, and if it does, there’s still teleportation. (Or you can get janky and fly around on a Greater Floating Disk while being inside your coffin. Also makes Resurrecting easier.) The invitation thing can be a problem, although between Disguise Self, Hypnotism, Charm Person, and good old fashioned Bluff and Diplomacy, you should be able to manage most of the time. Against sunlight, PF gives us Protective Penumbra. Against immersion in running water, try not to get into such a situation in the first place, I guess. The domains and familiars don’t really matter that much, especially in Eclipse.

    Of course, a spellcaster wouldn’t really get that much out of being a vampire, but you can get most of the stuff you need pretty easily in other ways.

    Innate Encahntment for constant Prestidigitation (1,000 gp) and an unlimited-use Anklet of Translocation (3,500 gp). That’s 6 CP well spent.

    Presence, Specialized for increased effect/only affects you for Protective Penumbra. 6 CP and you’ll never be sunburned again.

    Side note, Inherent Spell comes before Immunity in the book. That’s not in alphabetical order. Don’t know if that was an editing mistake or if the formatting worked better that way for some reason.

    Anyway, Inherent Spell with bonus uses for Obliging Silent Image, Specialized for making it look like you have a reflection and shadow. 6 CP, or 12 if you want to buy off the Specialization and just make illusions.

    What’s the duration on an Obliging spell, anyway? You might not need bonus uses.

    Anyway, that’s an extra 18 CP, for a total of 165 CP. Still +4 ECL, and you’ve gotten rid of most of your weaknesses. Technically, I suppose it should only be 9 CP, because it’s covered by the Specialization of the the template, but that seems overly cheeky.

    I forget where I was going with this, and why I brought this up in the first place. I had Internet issues, so I started typing this hours ago.

    I’m also not sure why the whole thing matters in the first place, because you can just buy the abilities that you want. I suppose that you get the added ability to Specialize some abilities an additional time, but you’d probably still come out ahead by only buying what you’re going to use.

    • As for where “the worst possible social issues” comes from, consider the following:

      The worst possible survival strategy for any animal larger than an insect is to be seen as a possible predator of humans, their livestock, or their crops. Humans have pretty much exterminated all the major fauna of the planet that regularly posed a threat to humans and weren’t specifically avoiding humans on sight. This includes dire wolves, american cheetahs, wooly mammoths, wooly rhinos, and hundreds more (possibly thousands) species. All of which promptly went extinct shortly after humans arrived in their respective regions. Those surviving animals that can kill a human without a lot of effort and learn to do it are almost immediately hunted down by a large group of very angry primates with pointy sticks and boomsticks.

      Humans also have the habit of murdering their own kind who do not fit into the “in group” and are believed to be competition or a threat. This covers everything from being from the wrong neighboring tribe on up to being accused of being a witch or werewolf. It a group of people thought one of their own were murdering members of that group, responses tended to range from calling in the army to restore order on down to forming a posse to lynch whatever scapegoat the locals tended to latch onto. As such, anything that identifies you as weird or different from the rest of the group was seen as a major survival disadvantage for much of human history.

      Vampires have the unfortunate circumstance in life (unlife?) of ticking both of these boxes. In the real world many people have been killed by mobs for the mere suspicion of being a vampire despite such things not being real. So you have a creature that is going to stand out (never seen out in daylight, weird eating habits, never seeming to age, etc) when people start asking why all these dead bodies start to pile up. It doesn’t matter whether or not the vampire does this around other evil people as evil people still (usually) possess survival instincts and preferences for members from the same in group. Just look at the carnage wrought in various regions of the world as various gangs and criminal empires carve out territories, ensure all criminal activity is under their control or is ruthlessly suppressed, and outright try to exterminate each other. After all, evil people dislike being murdered or targeted for theft as much as good people do and will fight violently to ensure such things do not happen. Presumably this includes the fear of being eaten.

      This is mostly a direct consequence of the fact that humans are the premier apex predators on the planet and have one of the slowest and most resource intensive gestation and childhood phases of any animal that isn’t at least forty times their weight class. When it takes the efforts and resources of multiple adults to ensure another child makes it to adulthood and said species’ survival strategy relies heavily on the defense of the pack, then it is pretty much a given that anything that causes the loss of a member of the pack is to be met with the utmost violence possible.

      I grew up in an area where bears were not uncommon not very far from my parent’s house. Every year you’d hear tales of some idiot that got between the mama bear and her cubs, but more rarely you’d hear on the news that someone had been found in the woods partially eaten by what was presumed to be a bear. In those rare occasions, within days the suspected bear would be hunted down and killed by park rangers and hunters and the confirmed kill would be announced on the news. Now compared to a vampire, the bear has numerous advantages: it doesn’t need to eat humans, doesn’t have to blend into human society, doesn’t need alibis, is usually encountering humans singly or in small groups when it does encounter them, and is seen by a large segment of the population as something to be preserved and defended from humans. Despite all of these advantages plus the ability to easily overpower even the largest humans, bears are always on the losing end when it comes to matters of who is the apex predator. And vampires have it worse as they have to have alibis, dispose of bodies, can only eat humans/sapients, need to be in close proximity to their prey (humans), have numerous well-known disadvantages that relatively weak humans can exploit, and by the very nature of their disadvantages tend to stand out from everyone else.

      As for being a spellcaster negating most of the issues, that is only true to the extent that you’d be expending power to do so. A large orc with an axe is not going to be too concerned about a bunch of elementary school students with crosses, garlic, sunlight, or silverware, but a vampire is going to have issues with those things and have to expend spells to avoid situations the orc could solve with said axe or outright ignore. This includes scenarios like the mentioned “move coffin into house and shut the door”. An orc is not going to be the least bit bothered to kick the door in and murder everyone inside. Indeed his biggest problem may be trying to figure out what the fuss with the box was all about. As such, if you are having to expend limited resources or time to overcome a disadvantage, then it probably is a disadvantage.

      Furthermore, one of the biggest issues with vampires is that just about everyone has heard of them and has heard of the various weakness they are believed to have. Contrast this to something like an illithid or a Sphere of Annihilation – there will be the typical fear response, but any group of farmers seeking to combat them is going to have to either have an expert on hand or seek one out first and even then is probably better off seeking the help of adventurers (which might as well qualify as calling in the experts). On the other hand, waiting till morning, burning the vampire’s house down, and driving a stake into anything that remains is completely in the realm of options available to farmers. Indeed, this kind of thing still happens to this day in some areas of the world (i.e. Malawi, although the vampires are presumed to be not real). There is defense in obscurity after all.

      As for why it matters, we had a GM that had several encounters built using vampires as the antagonists. Said GM was disappointed as the vampires were frequently little more than speed bumps to a small group of four or five (admittedly highly optimized) adventurers. Given the disparity between anticipated challenge and actual challenge, the question naturally arose as to where the disconnect was in terms of how powerful the source books tend to treat vampires vs actual performance and what might be done to “improve” things going forward without the GM having to spend a lot of time writing up his own version of vampires.

      • I’ll mention that, despite the real-world mythos, there’s nothing that says that vampires have to drink blood. It’s just an ability that they possess. Furthermore, there’s nothing that prevents a vampire from using its Blood Drain ability on animals. I’ll also mention that there were plenty of people throughout history who killed people relatively frequently without consequence, usually because they were members of the upper class, or because they preyed on members of the lower class (as in the case of many serial killers today, who prey on either the homeless, or the elderly without close family).

        Furthermore, the same argument applies to all evil creatures. Either they don’t prey on humans, or humans aren’t the top of the food chain. Besides, there’s no reason why vampires can’t form their own tribes. In fact, if somebody were turned into a vampire, probably the first thing they’d do is turn all of their family members.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that unlike animals, if any intelligent species were in danger of being hunted to extinction, by this point all of the surviving members would be the ones who changed their behavior to either not have people want to kill them, or to not be in danger.

      • Unfortunately, the rules as written (RAW) don’t have a lot to say regarding much of anything needing to eat or drink. What rules I can find specifically references characters only and tends to make generalities regarding the various types and subtypes without much in the way of guidelines (i.e. Undead are specifically noted to not eat, breathe, or sleep) that are then seemingly contradicted elsewhere – i.e. vampires must return to “rest” in their coffin when reduced to 0 hp. So if “rest” isn’t sleeping (as undead are specifically noted to not sleep) then what is it? There isn’t a whole lot of text given to the matter beyond that they are helpless while resting and regain 1 hp after 1 hour. Elsewhere, “rest” is specifically noted to be sleep or the equivalent for creatures like elves.

        As such, and I know this is a bit of a home-brew, I tend to subscribe to the idea that much of the text is written from the perspective of “it’ll be dead in a few minutes anyway and thus such details like how many times it can actually cast this spell isn’t worth tracking”. So beyond the RAW, we have to look elsewhere to fill in the blanks or at least help guide us when discrepancies arise. Personally, I would argue that vampire characters (or npcs that last long enough to matter) have to rest, and have to eat/drink blood to sustain themselves since the cultural lore suggests this is the case. That is me reading between the lines and it keeps the sparkly vampire nonsense in the corner of shame where it belongs.

        Admittedly, there is apparently a supplement called the Libris Mortis that supposedly goes into this level of detail and includes rules on such matters, but I don’t have a copy of that one. However, from what I’ve heard it does include needing to drink blood periodically.

        I also wouldn’t say that people have killed others without consequence is entirely justified. Even tyrant rulers who went on genocidal campaigns against their rivals had a nasty habit of falling into bouts of paranoia and increasing insanity as their actions made their subjects ever more hostile to them. Having to keep bodyguards around you at all times, constantly fearing those guards are in on any potential coups against you, keeping a gun under your pillow, and killing friends and family members when they try to restrain you isn’t a consequence free existence. Examples of these can start with Stalin or the Kim family and go back to ancient Egypt. Elizabeth Bathory is an excellent example of how being a part of the upper class can only protect you for so long when the pile of dead bodies becomes too large to ignore.

        Secondly, it isn’t always necessarily about whether the right target is brought to justice so much as it is a very telling behavior on the part of humans. People were branded as witches and blamed for blights, droughts, crop failures, and all sorts of things that no one was at fault for. Humans (and any cooperative sapient species) are going to lash out violently at anything perceived as a threat and whether or not they pick the right target, something is about to get destroyed. So the trick is to be sure that you aren’t labelled “it” this go around.

        So how not to get labelled as “it”? Well historically it helped to not be of a different religion than the majority, be of the same general physical appearance (skin color, hair color, eye color, and so on), not be a social recluse hardly anyone interacts with, be seen engaging in activities not atypical for the group (not being nocturnal in a society of dawn to dusk farmers for instance), not have signs of mental illness or physical deformity, not dressing or speaking weirdly, and not be known for speaking viewpoints out of line with the mainstream. Bonus points if you are of the same social and wealth class as your peers. After all, when the peasants started starving in France, being a king was one of the fastest ways to ensure you were among the first to die as Louis XVI found out. Even if they don’t blame you this time around, as the bodies continue to pile up there are going to be continued hunts for someone to blame and like it or not, vampires stand out.

        In a supernatural world like D&D you have to add additional factors like not catching fire when sprinkled with holy water, not catching fire when the local cleric blesses the inhabitants of the village, not catching fire when touching silver, not shining like a beacon when a group of adventurers come through town looking for zombies and the cleric casts detect undead, never being seen out in daylight, having a coffin in your residence, refusing to cross the stream that runs through the middle of town, seemingly never aging, not participating in big communal feasts with everyone else, healing from major injuries far faster than normal without the assistance of a cleric, must avoid garlic at all times, and having weird issues with entering people’s houses. Plus countless more issues that are all going to make you stand out. Worse yet, you don’t even NEED to be the one responsible for whatever riled them up as they will be perfectly willing to use you as a scapegoat to satisfy the mob. And may whatever gods your vampire pray to be feeling particularly merciful if someone actually gets the bright idea to test if you are a vampire or whatever as all claims towards innocence will be roundly ignored when its shown you most definitely are one.

        So the best strategy is to lay as low as possible and try to mask your habits to the greatest extent you can. Towards this end, making MORE vampires is one of the worst things you can do because you won’t be able to micromanage every little detail of their lives in addition to your own. More vampires means more chances for someone to slip up and get the whole lot of you in trouble. It gets even worse if vampires actually do have to feed as this just increases the generated body count that has to be hidden. This also means you need even more prey to sustain yourselves without rapidly depleting the population. Unfortunately, while it is easier to hide amongst a large crowd, this also means there is a much larger mob that is going to come after you when you slip up. And it is likely that members of the mob will be better funded, more experienced, and have all sorts of nasty ways to deal with monsters.

        You also need to be particularly careful when removing humans from the top of the food chain under most circumstances. As mentioned in my previous comment, humans do not replace their numbers quickly. It doesn’t take a lot of losses to start seriously hampering a settlement for generations to come (as a note: the minimum viable population for humans is somewhere between 100 and 500 genetically distinct individuals depending on timeframe). This assumes attrition from disease and accidents and also reflects the human need for division of labor. Much of human progress over the last ten thousand years has been utterly dependent of people specializing in ever increasingly narrow tasks to build and maintain the technology pyramid that keeps everyone alive. Start knocking out a few extra people here and there and things can rapidly start to fall apart. Take a look at most any society where violent deaths have ticked sharply upwards. You either see a decrease in the available technology or a decrease in social order (frequently both).

        On the plus side for vampires, more technology and social organization means more available prey, on the down side it means that prey is going to likely have access to better weapons, numbers, and resources to throw at you should it detect your presence. Less technology and social organization means easier prey, but that prey is going to be fewer in number and unable to sustain as many vampires. And anything preying upon humanity is going to be pushing population numbers downwards in a species that cannot tolerate too many losses to begin with – further increasing downwards population trends. Humans just take too long to reach adulthood and require too many resources to do so. This is the primary reason why the decreases in child mortality have largely come with decreases in the fertility rate – most parents just cannot afford to raise eight or ten children to adulthood.

        To put it another way, one of the big reasons a lot of the major fishing stocks collapsed and never recovered is that it was never appreciated until it was too late just how slowly some fish species breed and mature. And fish have the advantage of being mostly instinct driven and not helpless at hatching. Similar issues are being documented in whales and other large mammal species with the added problem that there are fewer adults around to teach survival behaviors that are not instinctive. The issues appear to be a lot worse when it comes to humans since we have pretty much the slowest maturation rate of anything not a whale and are utterly dependent on adult care and teaching for decades. Overhunted humans are not going to bounce back in a generation or two without a lot of outside help. Again, this is why humans instinctively exterminate suspected predators at the first whiff of hunting behavior and why any animals much larger than a human anywhere except Africa (where such animals evolved alongside humans and thus adapted to cope by avoiding humans) are now extinct.

        Vampires are specifically noted as “Always Evil”. As a note, most definitions of evil can largely be summed up as follows: “doing selfish things for your benefit that threatens the cohesion and/or survival of the group”. Now, you can try to be sneaky about this or even claim to take the long view of things, but an awful lot of “evil” can be simplified in this way. And killing members of the group to feed yourself is mostly definitely imperiling the survival of the group and thus evil. Thus any attempts to deviate from this behavior starts running afoul of the “Always Evil” rule. So we either have to accept that vampires are not human predators (at which point why is it called a vampire then?) or vampires are evil creatures that prey upon humans and due to the notes above we can derive that there simply can’t be that many of them otherwise human society would have collapsed. You aren’t going to find large clans secretly controlling entire city states or kingdoms while fighting each other for power. You might find one pulling a “The Man from the Train” type of killing spree, or one or two in a large city quietly and carefully picking off the homeless and then carefully disposing of the body afterwards. But they are always going to have to be on the move or taking an immense amount of precautions at all times to avoid the inevitable witch-hunt they’ll stir up.

        After all, Al Capone had to be legally caught and tried before a jury of his peers, vampires can be killed on sight and no one will question you afterwards as to WHY you just killed the vampire.

  2. All valid points, although as I mentioned above, vampires can feed on any living creature, including animals. Still, it seems reasonable to assume that they don’t want to, and would only do so if starving.

    Speaking of which, I checked Libris Mortis. To sum it up, every day that a vampire doesn’t inflict negative levels through energy drain, it needs to make a DC 25 Will save or take 1d6 WIS damage, which doesn’t heal naturally. Every 3 days that a vampire doesn’t drink blood it needs to make a DC 15 Will save or take 2d4 WIS damage. It’s mentioned that vampires suffer a loss of mobility or abilities if it doesn’t drink blood, but no more than that is specified. A vampire that goes to 0 WIS essentially becomes a mindless creature that will do anything to feed. All WIS damage is healed if it feeds. Vampires never actually die from hunger. Also, vampires don’t need to sleep, although they can regain hitpoints from 8 hours of inactivity.

    Of course, this is the kind of thing which even Libris Mortis acknowledges is just a suggestion, and if you want to run a game where things work differently, there’s no reason why you can’t.

    • Kalkra I

      -I’ll mention for the sake of completeness that vampires also get temp hp from their energy drain attack.

      Ah, I should have explained the technicality: A creature gains 5 temporary hit points (10 on a critical hit) for each negative level it bestows (though not if the negative level is caused by a spell or similar effect). While Eclipse does use spells to compare levels of effect, this is a Presence effect, not a spell or spell-like ability. Ergo, they do indeed get the hit points.

      -Also, I’m not sure why being evil is considered a downside

      D20 (and many other sources) tends to present a series of behaviors that promote group coherence and survival as “good”, while labeling behaviors that promote strife and encourage non-survival behaviors as “evil”. Being forced to adhere to non-survival behaviors is always a downside.

      -nor do I see where the “worst possible social issues” comes from. Sure, people may be uncomfortable around creatures who can control them and are evil, but that’s assuming that they notice the lack of shadow, and also assuming that the vampire hasn’t convinced them that it’s been hit with an alignment-changing spell, and it’s also assuming that the vampire isn’t interacting primarily with people who are already evil.

      Common d20 settings include various groups and religious orders specifically dedicated to hunting down and eliminating the undead in general, and fairly often vampires in particular, as well as a wide variety of abilities and spells specifically oriented towards that goal. Having large, powerful, groups dedicated to hunting you down and destroying you is about the worst possible social issue – and exists regardless of whether or not you are in an evil area, are noticed by those immediately around you, or whether or not you convince particular individuals of something else.

      -For that matter, it could actually have been hit with an alignment-changing spell.

      The quick answer there is that – since the template specifies the required alignment to have it – if you lose that alignment, you lose the benefits of the template, just as losing a qualification for a prestige class causes you to lose the benefits of the prestige class. Since the Vampire template brings the character (partially?) back from the dead, changing alignment reverts them to being dead.

      On a more complex level, importing negative energy to am area is an act of evil. Sentient undead are powered by negative energy from the negative material plane. They are committing evil acts constantly merely by existing. Even if you feel that they can change alignment without reverting to being dead, it is literally true that the only way a being powered by importing negative energy can remain good or even neutral is to be destroyed before it reverts.

      -Prestidigitation can get rid of garlic smells.

      Prestidigitation probably can get rid of garlic smells – although it is specifically unable to duplicate the effects of other spells (such as the Hedge Wizard Deodorize spell or Pathfinder’s Negate Aroma spell) I’d let someone do so. Unfortunately, it is limited to affecting one cubic foot per casting. so it will take 1000 castings to deodorize a 10x10x10 room – presuming that there is no ongoing source of the odor in the room and that none of it drifts around while you are taking those 100 minutes. Also presuming, of course, that you have unlimited use of the spell. Many spellcasters do not have access to it at all. Worse, simply masking the odor with another will not work; the garlic odor will still be present, even if another odor is making it hard to detect.

      -You’re probably not making melee attacks, so the holy symbol thing isn’t that big of a deal, unless people are trying to surround you, in which case you’d need something like Dimension Door.

      In which case all they need to do is to keep walking after you so you are constantly driven back – and so will not generally be able to cast anything requiring a standard action or more. Like it or not, any familiar that is given a holy symbol can chase a vampire around. Pathfinder modified this, but this is building the 3.5 template.

      =Similarly, you’re probably not going to be in range of holy water most of the time.

      Now this is probably true. Unless you want to go and dip your fingers in a holy water font, you will probably only be “in range” of holy water when people want to use it against you, or are using it to test for undead and evil spirits, or are blessing an area.

      -The running water thing is unlikely to come up that often, except as a roleplaying thing, and if it does, there’s still teleportation. (Or you can get janky and fly around on a Greater Floating Disk while being inside your coffin. Also makes Resurrecting easier.)

      Unless, of course, it rains – in which case running water will be all over the place. For that matter, swampwater is running, it’s just slow. So are ocean currents. Or you are in an area where the farmers irrigate their fields. Or an eastern area with rice paddies. Or want to cross a bridge. Or in most places where people live, since – before plumbing and the building of modern roadway networks started relegating creeks and rivulets to underground pipes – many settlements would boast many streams, aqueducts, or qanats. (Amusingly, I’ve played in one game where water moving through underground pipes or eve garden hoses did count, but I suspect that most games will never consider them).

      Teleportation is possible, if you assume that every vampire is a high level spellcaster (difficult even at +4 ECL) and that the spell bypasses the restriction. After all, demons can teleport, and can still be restrained by magical circles and such – so it is certainly possible that “cannot” means “cannot”, regardless of any means other than those specified as being able to bypass the restriction. Similarly, Greater Floating Disk is level four – and only moves at 20′ anyway. Not to mention that this exposes your coffin to damage, and there is no apparent rule for replacing it if it is destroyed.

      Secondarily, I tend to assume that most characters are at least starting out at fairly low level, so there is no guarantee of having access to those spells.

      -The invitation thing can be a problem, although between Disguise Self, Hypnotism, Charm Person, and good old fashioned Bluff and Diplomacy, you should be able to manage most of the time.

      Quite often – but this, once again, assumes a selection of spells and / or fairly high skills. It also assumes that your targets answer the door AND that you are not seeking your coffin because you’ve been forced into gaseous form – in which case you can’t do anything to get in, and are going to shortly be destroyed.

      -Against sunlight, PF gives us Protective Penumbra.

      True, for Pathfinder anyway. It is interesting that their sample vampire does not have it. After all, it specifically protects against light blindness, light sensitivity, or vulnerability to sunlight. Of course, all of those are specific game-defined qualities that vampires (Pathfinder or not) do not actually have – despite the fact that the spell then references vampires. It also states that it counters “penalties from these qualities”. A Penalty is defined in the SRD as a type of modifier – to quote: “A modifier is any bonus or penalty applying to a die roll. A positive modifier is a bonus, and a negative modifier is a penalty”. Being destroyed is not a penalty. For that matter, even the description of the effect – “slightly in shadow” – does not help. Even if only .01% of the light is coming through, that is still direct sunlight. No quantity is specified.

      While that is likely being overly critical… the fact that someone published a spell with very badly written mechanics in a particular sourcebook does not make it universally relevant. A player might be able to persuade their game master that this should work – but so would a parasol. And relying on an easily dispellable effect to remain alive in a very common environment strikes me as seriously risky.

      On the other hand, you could use a version of a Phantom Mill (built around the unlimited use of Unseen Servant) to keep a portable wall between you and the sun at all times. Also handy versus snipers, as one character demonstrated much to the snipers frustration.

      The running water thing has come up a few times with PC vampires – including falling into an underground river and some flooding-room traps – but I must admit that that one is usually easy to avoid unless you’re doing an adventure on a boat (in which case a vampire is stuck in its coffin anyway), or climbing a waterfall, or exploring a flooded tomb, or underwater – and even there it mostly amounts to “you have to sit out this adventure”.

      Now for the innate enchantment options…

      Prestidigitation will take too long, but you could use the L1 Hedge Wizardry deodorize spell.

      Unlimited-Use Anklet of Translocation would need GM approval. Still, 10′ limited teleport is probably doable at level one more cheaply anyway – although it does, as noted above, depend on how the GM interprets those “cannot” restrictions.

      The Presence one is a bit iffy, but then (as previously noted) you could just use a swarm of Unseen Servants to constantly carry a wall of rocks between you and the sun.

      Silent Image is quite workable – although I suspect that a tailored cantrip would work just as well. Even using Silent Image… with the application restricted to just faking a shadow and reflection you’re probably down to a x.5 multiplier or less. (Although d20 is very weak on the physics of illusions anyway).

      Obliging can be pretty much indefinite as long as the base spell has no duration limit (yes, that lets you get away with “concentration” indefinitely) – basically the usual “long enough that the exact duration generallyldoesn’t matter”.. Of course, it is +3 levels.

      So yes, there are ways to neutralize many, most, or even all of the problems (depending on how the GM thinks things work) – but that runs into the basic problem of “a limitation that does not cause serious problems is not a limitation” – so a character who insists on making sure that the various limitations are not really problems no longer has a specialized template, and has to pay the full cost (although what they”ve put towards abilities that only serve to neutralize the problems does count towards the total) before they can advance again.

      And I must agree that it really doesn’t matter; the request was for a breakdown of “how to build the standard vampire template” – not “how to build a reasonable vampire”. Thus the recommendation for using the +1 ECL templates if you wanted to play a vampire.

      Spellweaver I

      This is mostly addressing general observations – although I have to note that there are quite recent cases of (for example) a disruptive youngster being judged by the village as unmanageable – whereupon they tied him to a tree, hung an old car tire around his neck, and set fire to it (a nasty way to die). His grandmother protested, but the villagers apparently wanted to set an example for the other kids.

      Now, it is true that the game mechanics of vampires do not address behaviors, preferred targets, and similar items – in part because each GM will want to use the monster for their own purposes and in part because the general behavior of a vampire is so well-established in popular culture that addressing all of that would be a waste of space. Other changes are made for game balance purposes. If an in-game vampire was invariably compelled to stop and count each grain of wheat, or rice, or sand, that was scattered on the floor… everyone would carry a little bag of grain or sand and vampires would not be a problem. Neither do they go exclusively after those they loved in life, graduating to more distant relatives only when they have destroyed their families. Nor do slain werewolves become vampires unless staked and buried at a crossroads.

      d20 tells us some basic things about undead and negative energy to extrapolate from.

      Do vampires need to eat people? Possibly not physically – but they are driven by negative energy as defined in d20. They are inherently inimical to life. They wish to cause the maximum possible pain and suffering, to destroy society, and to kill other sentient beings before destroying everything else, They are not “nasty psychopathic people who are basically rational and self-interested underneath”. As beings of negative energy they exist to bring negative energy into the world – to perform evil and destructive deeds. They may be subtle about it, and may take the long view – but they exist to destroy the world and wipe it from existence. That is what negative energy does. It creates and empowers undead and ultimately it annihilates everything it touches.

      Why bats, rats, and wolves? Because humans tended to see those as foul creatures that existed to destroy their crops and herds and themselves. And so they could be commanded by the incarnations of destruction.

      Kalkra II

      While it is true that there is nothing that says that vampires HAVE to drink blood, there is also nothing that says that Humans have to breathe oxygen. Nothing in the rules states that you cannot encase your head in a helium balloon to avoid suffocation. Or that you need an eye slit to see through a helmet. Of that you cannot take 1000 GP worth of salt and use it as raw materials to produce whiskey (the rules place no requirements beyond GP value on what you use for raw materials). Similarly, there is nothing that says that an Efreeti granting a wish cannot simply decide that you are speaking Ancient Akadian very very badly, and that you obviously are asking for whatever it would like to hear.

      The rules mostly cover combat. Both the players and the game master have to supply the details needed to make the game and the setting work.

      There is an excellent reason why vampires do not form their own tribes; they are always evil – which is to say that they are focused on behaviors that are socially disruptive. Why would a vampire want to turn it’s family? Vampires – like all sentient undead – do not have the original creatures soul (discussed further in another article). This would quite literally be killing them and creating rival monsters from their corpses. This is why their organization listing is “Solitary, pair, gang (3-5), or troupe (1-2 plus 2-5 vampire spawn)”. They do not naturally form larger groups. (Possibly that should be under :disadvantages”, but that would not have fit in with the request to duplicate the template as it is presented).

      Vampires are not an animal species. They are dead,mockeries of life animated by negative energy. They do not have a drive to reproduce, or any survival imperative beyond wanting to continue committing acts of evil and destruction.

      No, that is not how they are usually portrayed in movies. That is, however, what the d20 rules and spells involving negative energy and undead tell us.

      Spellweaver II

      I have to agree on the text viewpoint – it’s written to run combat scenes and maybe (as in the old “ecology of the…” articles) provide some hints as to setting up adventures.

      Now, I do have Libris Mortis – but it isn’t one of the better books. It does at least note that vampires are driven to feed, but it tries to soften a lot of the baseline restrictions on the undead to make them more playable. It does maintain the +8 ECL modifier for Vampires, which is reasonable enough since it provides easy ways to get rid of almost all their limitations. Of course, that means that in a – say – 14’th level party, the Vampire will be at character level six – short of hit points, with spells of up to level three, and likely to keep being sent back to his or her coffin while the rest of the party is doing just fine.

      One spot for vampires would be preying on orphans (throughout history soon to die anyway), children (with a monstrous childhood death rate through most of history), the insane, hobos, and similar folk who are far less likely to be missed.

      It looks like you are tending more towards the Character Quiz definition of evil here – but that is because you’re looking at reality, rather than at a game mechanic of “the energies of the outer planes cause you to do stupid things” which is more or less how alignments work in d20.


      I must agree – as noted above, Libris Mortis has problems, and is still devoted to “playing the game” not to “how this all works and makes sense”. That’s only to be expected of course- “how this makes sense” has a small market – but I still found it disappointing.

  3. Just a small quibble, but Prestidigitation can affect one cubic foot per round, rather than per casting, so it could affect 600 cubic feet per casting. That would still take a while, something which I had completely neglected.

    Regarding Prestidigitation not being able to mimic other spells, that seems to me one of the clearest cases of language being descriptive rather than prescriptive, or else Prestidigitation would be completely useless in the face of all the redundant spells which exist, and which must exist.

    I kinda want to kill a vampire by making it good now. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “killing with kindness”.

    Regarding running water, I just learned that the phrase “running water” refers to “water distributed through pipes and fixtures” and not to rivers. In other words, your guess is as good as mine what qualifies and what doesn’t, and it’s all WoTC’s fault. As usual. Still, there have to be some bounding principles, or else bodies of water on the other side of the planet (assuming that the planets in D&D are round), and celestial bodies containing water or ice passing overhead would make all vampires immediately die. Where the line is drawn is up to the DM, I suppose.

    • Ah, quite true for Prestidigitation! I misremembered… still, that’s why just go with the “Deodorize” spell instead. Sure it’s another 1000 GP / 1 CP – but that’s pretty trivial and it saves SO much time.

      And yes, that is indeed the most restrictive reading of the limitations of Prestidigitation – which is why I noted that I’d allow it anyway, regardless of the wording.

      Now it would be fun to kill a vampire by making it good. It’s not something that anyone in any of my games has tried yet…

      And not exactly. While that is what “running water” refers to in modern real estate (as opposed to, say, a farmhouse with a pump at the sink that supplied water only when you pumped the handle); more classically “Running Water” refers to exactly that – water in motion, going from somewhere to somewhere. The notion, like vampire legends, is much older than modern plumbing and real estate dealers – one reason why it references ships (which definitely are not related to pipes and fixtures). When the streets outside the house flooded back when I was a kid, they were quite definitely full of “running water”. Thus, for example, a Imperial Roman public toilet – which operated on a constant flow of water through a trough running below the seats – had “running water” although it had no pipes OR fixtures as such.

      WOTC, of course, expected each GM to interpolate as necessary. They do not present any rules at all in many situations (what happens if I inject an earth elemental with a stimulant? It is, after all, not a poison) and they are awfully vague on a lot of other things. Now, I think we can rule out instances where the water is crossing the vampire (thus allowing stories involving vampire coffins pulled out of shipwrecks) since there IS a hint on that; according to the rules if there’s a magical effect preventing something from approaching you, and you advance on it without letting it withdraw, then it will pass through the effect unharmed and will be free to approach. Since the prohibition is on an action by the vampire – thus letting other people assist in bypassing it – I think that we’re home free on the celestial bodies. Ice is good too; as a solid it isn’t meaningfully “running” – although it may distort and flow given sufficient force (thus Glaciers).

      There’s nothing in the rules about things deep down – as amusing as it would be to have rivers in the Underdark ten miles down blocking vampires on the surface – so you’re quite right there; it’s pure guesswork. Personally I’d ignore it – figuring that, like some detection-type divinations, a reasonable thickness of intervening material blocks the effect – but that is very much a spot where the rules offer little to no guidance.

      Thus my personal preference for including something on HOW things work, as opposed to simply listing game effects. It produces far fewer headaches!

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