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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.