Tuesday, February 16, 2016

D&D: Dhampyr Homebrew (Part 2)

Eek!  A vampire!
Last week, we laid out a case for creating vampire PCs.  We started this project because my ten-year-old daughter Emma wanted a way to play a vampire PC in our home game, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.  However, lots of folks seemed interested in the project, so I decided to spend some time this week expanding the concept with a pair of vampiric PC subclasses.
Most of last week’s commenters liked the idea of vampiric PCs only to the extent that we made an effort to support truly horrific, monstrous archetypes.  Many readers pointed out that vampires are supposed to be hideous and terrifying, that vampirism should be viewed as a curse and not a superpower.  This is doubly important because of the way that so much of today’s Young Adult fantasy has neutered the modern conception of vampires.
I’m trying to oblige.
Dungeons & Dragons
With a little help from the paragon paths presented with the original dhampyr power-swap feats in Dragon Magazine #371, I started building my vampiric subclasses.  It’s worth noting that there are a few existing subclasses that are already an obvious fit for vampires.  For example, Necromancers and Clerics of the Death Domain.  Fallen Paladins.  The Awakened Mystic is a character archetype that I think fits the vampire concept perfectly but which may not be an obvious choice at first glance.  Regardless, I don’t know that we need new builds for any of these.  I have therefore done what Dragon #371 did and tried to come up with ways to play truly savage vampires, vampires that embrace their inner monster and/or owe fealty to a powerful sire.  The idea here is to create a vampire PC that is truly a creature of the night, reflecting a more visceral interpretation of the monster’s mythos.
The idea of doing a Barbarian path was mine.  Commentators on G+ suggested doing the Warlock Patron as a way of reflecting a vampire’s servitude to its sire.  Several folks noted what a pain in the ass it would be if, in the middle of an adventure, your warlock got called away by her sire for a side-quest.  Most thought that was on-theme for this character archetype.

I'm pleased with the way that both came out, though they are very different conceptions overall.
Dragon #371 introduced dhampyr PCs in 4e.
Barbarian: Path of the Damned
Restriction: You must be dhampyr to take this path.
Subhuman.  Starting at 3rd level, whenever you rage, you lose any vestigial traces of your lost humanity.  Your face becomes hideously inhuman, your hands grow into claws capable of dealing 1d8 slashing damage, and your canines grow into long vampiric fangs capable of dealing 1d6 piercing damage.  Your claws are considered light weapons.
Whenever you hit with both claws on the same turn, you can make a grappling attack as part of your offhand claw attack.
Feral Senses.  Starting at 6th level, you can smell the blood of sentient creatures.  You can detect such creatures by scent alone, even when they are well-hidden or invisible.  You gain advantage on Perception checks involving the smell or scent of the living and can use this feature to find and/or track hidden adversaries.  This power has no effect on constructs, the undead, or creatures that do not require blood to stay alive.
Fear of the Damned.  When you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points, and you are raging, you can use your reaction to rip your enemy apart.  One creature of your choice within 30 feet must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened until the end of your next turn.  You may only use this power once per rage.
Feast of Blood.  Starting at 14th level, you may bite a creature you have successfully grappled as part of the grappling action.  This includes grappling attacks made using your Subhuman feature.  If you have not yet used your Vampire’s Bite, you may use it as part of your grappling attack as well.

Notes: This is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer build.  It creates a savage vampire who rips people apart by way of scaring the Hells out of their companions.

Depending on how your game is going, you may also need to consider making the vampire's claws magical weapons, though there's no actual need for this.  Nothing's stopping you from using a weapon here when one's necessary.
Warlock Patron: Master Vampire
Restriction: You must be dhampyr to choose this patron.

Master Vampire Expanded Spell List
Spell Level
Disguise Self, False Life
Blindness/Deafness, Warding Bond
Animate Dead, Feign Death
Confusion, Freedom of Movement
Dominate Person, Modify Memory
Hypnotic Gaze.  Starting at 1st level, you can lock eyes with your prey and enthrall them instantly.  As an action, you can cast the spell Charm Person simply by staring at into your intended victim’s eyes.  Your target must be able to see you, and you must be able to see your target.  Victims enthralled in this manner make their saving throws with disadvantage.  

Once enthralled, your victim seeks to enter your embrace physically, allowing you to grapple them uncontested and then use your Vampire’s Bite.  Your victim regards the Vampire’s Bite as pleasurable; as a result, your bite does not break the charm.

Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until you finish a short or a long rest.

Form of the Bat.  Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a vampire bat of either ordinary or giant size.  You can do this by using an action on your turn or as a reaction when a hostile creature attacks you in combat.  In combat, the first opportunity attack made against your bat form is made with disadvantage if you changed as a reaction to a melee attack.

While you are in bat form, you retain your normal hit points, but your other statistics are those of a bat, either regular or giant, whichever you type you became.  You can use your Hypnotic Gaze while in bat form, but you cannot cast spells or take other actions that require your to speak or make somatic gestures, and you cannot access your equipment.  You can end this effect as a bonus action starting on your next turn after your transformation.
You can stay in bat form for up to one hour.  Once you have used this feature, you can’t use it again until after you’ve finished a short or a long rest.
Eternal.[1]  You no longer require food, water, or air, and you no longer age.  You do require rest and sleep, however, both to recover spells and to ward off exhaustion.  When you sleep, your sleep is indistinguishable from mortal death.
Sire Vampire.  When you kill a humanoid creature whom you’ve previously bitten with your Vampire’s Bite, you can choose to raise that creature in undeath as a vampire spawn.  Doing so requires a long rest, during which you must channel your energies into the creation of the new vampire.  
The new vampire makes a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each day against your spell save DC.  On a failed save, the vampire must follow your commands for the next 24 hours per the spell charm person.  If the vampire spawn succeeds on its saving throw against your control, it attacks you immediately, stopping only when one of you has been completely destroyed.  It also attacks if anything happens to it that would end the effects of the spell charm person.  
You can communicate telepathically with your vampire spawn as long as you and it can both see each other.  This power is not limited by distance or even by planar location, and it will function even if your line-of-sight is achieved through magical means such as a scrying glass.  
You can have at most one vampire spawn active at any one time.

Notes: This is a more magical, more traditional build.  I considered trying to make it a melee specialist subclass but ultimately decided that there was no good way of accomplishing that while also making the subclass good at grappling.  You could build this subclass for melee, but I imagine that most folks would go for a DEX-based, finesse weapon variant, and that's no help at all for wrestling people to the ground and sinking fangs.  Hypnotic Gaze is the work-around for this issue, and it's fine as long as you're facing living, sentient creatures.

It's worth noting, too, that you could run the Archfey build and reskin it for a Master Vampire pretty much without change.  With that in mind, most of the powers listed here are based on existing Warlock powers, though they're all from different builds.  

[1]  This is intentionally similar to the 10th level Undying patron power.


  1. This is a fun project. I'd say you could combine methods and offer some Dhampir-only feats for some of the powers as well.

    1. Thanks Paul. I thought about that and, given your suggestion, probably will. Anyway, I still want to put together a Rogue subclass, so there's still maybe one more article left in this series.