Theme Thursday: Vampire Players

Vampire Players

Hey,

In Pathfinder, the existence of the Dhampir (and excellent Adventure Paths like Carrion Crown) has some people very excited about the idea of playing vampires, or vampire-like heroes. A metric ton of content has been produced for this purpose. But how do you know what’s worthwhile or interesting? Welcome to Theme Thursday, where we separate the wheat from the chaff.

Today, we’ll be looking at how you can make a vampire-themed character interesting, without actually getting bitten and turned. Because that means you become a DMPC, and no one wants that. Some of what we’ll be showing is designed for Pathfinder, and some for 3.x: a little tweaking makes them compatible.

Dhampir

A fairly cool race widely re-introduced in  Bestiary 2. These guys are the progeny of a vampire and a normal human, lending them the opportunity to be dark heroes. They’re also a well-designed race with very cool balance between powerful advantages and major disadvantages. Mix with ranged attacks or spells for best results.

Blood Knight

A homebrew prestige class. These are deathly knights who serve vampires. When I first read the idea, I was turned off–why would the vampires have this complex prestige class rather than just turning humans into spawn? But when I looked more closely, I saw that this class has a neat little set of mechanics and actually makes thematic sense. It’s nasty and cool. I would change the Handle Animal prerequisites to Knowledge: History, however.

Vampiric Touch

Basic, obvious, yet still interesting. The repeated use of this spell can lend your character a flavor that will never go away. Being a vampire (or someone struggling with vampirism) is all about living off the lifeblood of others. Stealing HP is the best way to do that.

Undead Bloodline

Amazingly enough, the base sorcerer bloodline straight from the Pathfinder core rulebook does a bang-up job of giving over the vampire shtick: you’ve got mind control of lesser undead, fear effects, and even the gaseous form at 15th. Too bad sorcerers just aren’t up to par in general. There are other bloodlines to choose from and you can get a list from here.

Vampiric Feats

These four feats have some pretty cool mechanics and are amazingly well thought out. At first I wasn’t sure I’d allow “Blood Transfusion,” but then I remembered how much that comes up in Stoker’s Dracula. Now I think I’d actually encourage players to utilize that feat. Instead of “vampire heritage” as a prerequisite, you might want to make the Dhampir race or a sorcerer bloodline take that role.

Notes:

There are lots of other things out there, but these strike me as actually usable.  Not in just any campaign, of course.

I would not allow much of this material unless it was in a very specific (probably horror-themed) campaign. That’s partly because it wouldn’t make sense anywhere else, but even more, a character that extreme would tend to take over most campaigns. Let players do what they want to do, but don’t allow situations where someone’s “mystery diva” character takes over the stage all the time.

-Max

Weapon Wednesday: Spinning Starblade

Spinning Starblade

2-handed exotic weapon. 2d4 damage. 6 lbs. Monk weapon. Cost: 175 gp.

This sturdy bamboo haft holds a star-shaped blade set in a hinge that allows it to spin madly as blows are struck in combat. The unique structure of this weapon grants the weilder a +1 attack bonus on all iterative attacks. However, because it utilizes moving parts, the weapon is vulnerable to sundering, and the user takes a -2 on CMD against sundering attempts on a spinning starblade.

 

Notes:

This weapon is meant to have a unique flavor. I wouldn’t recommend it for all games, though it should be balanced. It works best in a splashy, asian-style setting with ninjas and samurai using crazy weapons and cutting down legions of baddies.

The spinning starblade grants a user a slight edge at high levels, which really can make all the difference. To use this weapon in 3.x instead of Pathfinder, change the CMD to “attack roll.”

-Max

Tuesday Tweak: Adept Spellcaster

Adept Spellcaster

You can add some caster levels together for different spellcasting classes you possess.

Prerequisites: Levels in at least two spellcasting classes.

Benefit: You can add your caster level from one class to your caster level in another for spells cast from that class. You cannot add more levels than the lower of the two spellcasting classes you have. You can add caster levels from divine and arcane classes, so long as you stay within the above limitation.

For example, if you are a Druid 3/Wizard1, you can take this feat to allow you to add 1 to your caster level as a Wizard. You cannot add all 3 levels of Druid because you are limited by the lower-level Wizard class.

Normal: You can’t add caster levels from two different spellcasting classes.

Notes:

This comes from Ben Lesel, who’s a player in my campaign The Great Escape. It’s a feat meant to help out those low-level folks in a world where Mystic Theurge may or may not exist.

I know all about Practiced Spellcaster and I don’t personally find that feat to my taste. It’s extraordinarily boring and feels very forced. Practiced Spellcaster is broken at low levels and becomes gradually more worthless as you go up. Ben’s version, which I’ve rewritten and called Adept Spellcaster, scales in a way that seems much smoother to me.

-Max