Caveat: It is important to recall that the following discussions refer to what might be called the "typical" vampire. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "typical" vampire. Vampires are perhaps the most individualistic of undead. What is true for one is an outright - and dangerously misleading - falsehood for another. The differences between individual vampires typically become more pronounced as the creatures advance in age and power: while most fledgling vampires typically show at least some similarities with each other, the differences between the aged Patriarchs are often so great as to make one suspect that they are completely different types of creatures. The following discussions deal with the most common powers and weaknesses of vampires. Many vampire hunters have died - or worse - through over-generalizing such discussions, however. An assumption that any individual vampire has any particular power or weakness is a dangerous assumption, indeed! Great is the power of the vampire. These undisputed masters of the undead have an abundance of powers from which to choose, giving them an advantage in nearly every combat and noncombat situation. These monsters enjoy significant benefits in nearly every aspect of their being. Their senses, strength, reasoning, and intelligence are all far beyond human norms. In fact, if not for their special vulnerabilities (which I will discuss later), vampires would be nearly unstoppable. Although all vampires are extremely powerful, there is a moderating effect on the abilities of vampires, and this is time. A newly-created vampire (in the vast majority of cases) is relatively weak when compared to those that have been in existence for decades or centuries. On the other end of the scale, a vampire who has existed for a millenium or more is unimaginably more powerful than a newly-created fledgling. No one knows exactly why this is so. Some scholars believe this progression to be "an innate characteristic of vampiric nature", which of course is no answer at all. My personal belief is that all vampires are created with the potential to use all the powers available to a 1.000-year-old individual, but that actually using those powers is something that must be learned. Presumably, the more "advanced" powers require more subtlety to control, or are more taxing on the vampire, or perhaps both. To use these greater powers the vampire must practice the precision required and must build the willpower and mental fortitude needed to wield them. Personally, I hope that my belief is wrong because of the following logical consequence: if all vampires, no matter how "young", have the potential to use the greater powers, might it not be possible for an exceptional individual to come into being with a natural aptitude for some of the greater powers? The image of a one day-old vampire able to use any of the powers of a millennium-old Patriarch is horrifying to think about. It discomforts me to learn that tales of such "precocious" creatures exist, and apparently they do, although they are, thankfully, extremely rare. It is best to keep this in mind and to realize that the age progression discussed later (page 13) is merely a rule of thumb and not a law of nature. The well-prepared vampire hunter should expect exceptions. Such exceptions aside, the age-related progression of powers is perhaps the vampire hunter's greatest ally. A Fledgling vampire is less adept at covering its tracks, less experienced at playing on the weaknesses of those who would pursue it.
Vampires are divided into age categories. Essentially, as a vampire grows older, its power also grows. The creature gains new abilities that it did not previously have and becomes increasingly less susceptible to past weaknesses. In short, the older the vampire is, the more formidable a foe it becomes.
Happily, I know of only two Patriarch Vampires in existence. Patriarchs are extremely rare, for seldom do vampires survive this long. As will be discussed later, the strain of immortality is frequently too great for them. I see the hand of Providence in this, because to encounter a Patriarch is almost certain to become totally subject to its will.
VAMPIRE AGE CATEGORIES
|Elder||100 - 299 years|
|Lord||300 - 599 tears|
These titles are more of academic interest than of practical value; one would not normally refer to a vampire by its title. If someone were addressing Strahd, for instance, who falls in the 400-499 category, they would still call him "Lord Strahd", rather than "Ancient Strahd". It seems that vampires make use of similar terms when talking to each other. In such cases, however, they are much more concerned about relative age, and their uses of titles are almost exclusively symbolic and valued only for their psychological effect. For instance, a vampire addressing a vampire that is its senior in age might address it as "Old One", "Ancient One", or even "Eminence", regardless of the senior vampire's actual age category. In this case, the formal address would reflect respect (or, more accurately, fear) for the senior vampire. In the converse situation, an older vampire might address a younger creature as "Fledgling" regardless of the younger creature's actual age, to signify contempt for the junior vampire's weakness. In most cases, of course, vampires meeting for the first time will not know each other's age. The use of titles in such a situation would depend on the intentions of the creatures involved. They might refrain from using titles to avoid giving offense, or might use them extensively in a game of "one-upmanship".
Although age categories apply to all vampires in or out of Ravenloft (keeping in mind the exceptions discussed above), it is extremely unlikely that the most powerful of the vampires will be seen outside the demiplane of dread. Quite simply, as a vampire grows older and more evil, the chances of being drawn into Ravenloft increase.
VAMPIRE POWERS BY AGE
All vampires enjoy certain abilities which, were they possessed by a mortal, would certainly be ascribed to the realm of magic. To a vampire, however, such faculties are quite innate. Some of the powers, indeed, appear to be the result of casting spells, yet others render the creature "superhuman", so to speak. At this point I shall divide these capacities into "nonspell-like" and "spell-like" powers and expound upon each, but I hasten to add that to the vampire, they are one and the same, and altogether inherent.
All vampires are extremely powerful in the physical sense. The reasons for this are unclear. Perhaps the transformation from life to undeath somehow tempers the body physically, making muscles stronger and flesh, bones, and sinew more resistant to damage.
From the moment of their creation, vampires are hideously strong. Unlike mortals, who weaken as they grow older and their muscles atrophy, vampires actually gain strength as the years pass. Patriarch vampires, for example, develop a strength rivalling that of some lesser gods. Vampires gain great benefits from their monstrous strength, including both the ability break through an opponent's guard and to deliver massive damage when a blow strikes home. Although these creatures are very intelligent and will seldom enter physical combat, they certainly have the tools to dominate such bouts.
Vampires also possess great speed. Fledgling vampires are as fast a normal human. As vampires grow older, they become faster and faster until they reach Patriarch age, when they can move as quickly as an unencumbered light riding horse! These dark creatures will typically use this power to their advantage when facing a priest or someone presenting blessed accoutrements. If the vampire can close and attack before the mortal can attempt the turning or presentment, it can negate the danger to itself.
In addition to an advantage in their speed of movement, vampires enjoy an increase in their dexterity and speed of reaction as well. The process of becoming a vampire seems to imbue them with significantly increased coordination, and this benefit only grows as the years pass. Older vampires can react to events with a speed that is, quite literally, inhuman.
As a vampire grows older its intelligence, too, is enhanced. These creatures are extremely cunning, their actions calculated. Vampires have a keen power of reason and they will frequently achieve their goals through cunning alone, never having to rely on crude force. Do not draw the wrong conclusion from this: these creatures do not fear, loathe, or otherwise shun the direct use of force. They simply view force as one possible tool with which to achieve their aims, and will usually select the tool best suited to the situation. After all, why should a creature put its own "life" at risk when, through guile, it can get everything it wants at no potential risk?
When hunting a vampire, be especially careful to remember the creature's intelligence. Vampires may, for example, have their lairs ingeniously hidden and laden with many traps and snares to protect it. They can also blend into mortal society, dominating and manipulating the people around them, even going so far as to win unsuspecting allies and even friends. Cunning vampires may have the support, if not the love, of those around them. In short, do not assume that a vampire is a "two-dimensional" monster, interested only in drinking blood and draining life-energy. The creature's intelligence is often a more effective weapon than its other innate powers.
If these advantages were not enough, with time most vampires develop an incredible force of personality with which they delude and sway the gullible. This seems to spring from the immense self-confidence that vampires develop over centuries of existence, and from the fact that they have had sometimes more than a millenium to learn the nuances of human behavior. Even taking the monster's seemingly magical hypnotic gaze into account, conversing with a vampire is incredibly risky because the creature is persuasive enough to convince virtually anyone of anything. This same powerful magnetism makes most vampires incredibly charming characters - "charm" is used here in its nonmagical sense. Vampires are almost always exceedingly adept at gaining the favor of the opposite sex.
The above does not apply to all vampires, of course. While most vampires learn more about how the human mind works, and thus how to pervert its thought processes, there are some who become less attuned to human interests and desires with the passage of time. For these creatures, passing time leaves them more alien and less capable of understanding the motivations of mortals - and vice versa.
If one were to consider only the innate abilities discussed above, vampires would appear to be a lethal enough foes. Unfortunately for those of us who hunt the creatures, they have at their command a formidable array of spell-like abilities as well. These powers seem to be common to most, if not all vampires, and are independent of the spellcasting tradition that a vampire may have followed in life.
Some vampires that were spellcasters while alive do indeed retain their arcane abilities. This occurrence is generally limited to those who were wizards in life. Only very rarely do priests retain their powers, and then only if they served the most vile and evil gods during their lives. This particular section, however, deals exclusively with the innate spell-like powers of vampires. Spellcasting vampires will be dealt with later.
Perhaps the most fearsome and wholly destructive power of the vampire is its ability to drain life energy by touch. These monsters can, by making physical contact with their opponents, drain away the very living essence - experience levels of those opponents. Contrary to several tales, a vampire need not make actual flesh-to-flesh contact with its opponent to drain life energy. Even if the creature lands a solid blow on clothing or armor, it is capable of draining life force through such obstacles. Some theorists explain this fact through concepts of symbolism and symmetry, if a vampire strikes a blow hard enough to inflict physical damage, then it is also sufficient to drain away the life of its victim. As with many facets of magic, this theory holds that the symbolic force of the attack is more important than the superficial boundaries of armor or clothing. These same theorists are silent when it comes to explaining an additional fact, however: a vampire can drain life force only when it strikes unarmed. If the vampire uses a weapon, it is incapable of draining energy. For this discussion, metal gauntlets, and "brass knuckles" are considered weapons. Perhaps the open-handed attack symbolizes an action of seizing as much as one of inflicting.
All vampires have the power to charm a mortal at will. This is equal in effect to the wizard spell charm person, except that there is no casting time involved and the victim must be looking directly into the vampire's eyes. The range of this power, technically, is sight. For all practical purposes, however, a vampire would not be able to affect a victim at any range greater than ten feet. This power, as well as having practical combat applications, is highly useful for overcoming a number of vampiric weaknesses. If, for example, a vampire could not enter a prospective victim's home, it could attempt to charm the person into leaving the safe haven of the building. As with a charm person spell, the vampire is unable to order its charmed victim to do anything obviously self-destructive, such as jumping off a cliff. The creature could convince the victim that the vampire is his or her friend, however, and that the victim should leave a place of safety to greet his or her "friend".
As these dark creatures get older, their charm-gaze gets stronger. An Ancient vampire can charm simply by the sound of its voice. By uttering soothing words, the creature enraptures its victim. Under optimum conditions, the maximum range of this vocal charm is 40 feet. This range is greatly curtailed under certain conditions such as in a strong wind or loud battle. Most fearsome of all, perhaps, is the charm gaze of Patriarchs. These great vampires are capable of charming with their powerful will alone. No barrier is capable of blocking this ability. In fact their thoughts are so strong, they can affect a victim even on the other side of a stone wall. Thankfully, several restrictions apply to this power. First of all, this ability is limited in range to some 40 feet. Second, the charm can be performed only on someone that the vampire knows is present. A Patriarch could not, for example, simply extend its charm-gaze beyond a wall, on the off-chance that somebody might be there. The creature must know the victim is there by first detecting him or her with its delicate senses.
Vampires have the innate ability to imitate another wizard spell: spider climb. They are able to use this power at will, with no limits on duration or frequency. This innate spell-like power operates, in most respects, like the wizard spell except that it requires no verbal, somatic, or material components. Note that a vampire is still subject to all its normal restrictions when using its spider climb power. Thus, many vampires cannot climb up a tower and enter a castle unless they are first invited. They could, however, climb up a tower and attempt to charm someone through a window. (These and other restrictions, and weaknesses of, vampires are discussed in the next chapter.)
The ability to climb otherwise unclimbable surfaces enables vampires to situate their lairs in places that mortals cannot enter. A tall tower with no stairs or doors leading up to it would be a perfect place for a vampire to hide its sanctuary. It would be able to climb up the sheer wall of the tower and enter through a window to its waiting coffin.
Great magic is required to combat a vampire. These lords of darkness are not subject to attacks from non-magical weapons. To a vampire, mundane weapons are not even an annoyance. Only lesser magical arms are required to harm a young vampire, but as the creature progresses, ever more powerful enchantments are required.
If a weapon of insufficient enchantment is used against a vampire, it will simply be ineffective. In some cases, the weapon will simply glance off the body of the vampire, doing no more damage than would a strike from a feather. In other cases, the weapon seems to inflict a wound - albeit a very minor one - but this wound does not discommode the vampire one whit. In still other cases, the weapon seems to pass right through the creature, as though the vampire were simply a mirage.
The only common exception to this discussion is a nonmagical weapon that has been blessed by a priest of a good deity. This is not a certain thing, however. Blessed weapons are discussed in more depth In Chapter Five, "Vampire Weaknesses".
Even if weapons sufficiently enchanted to cause physical damage are wielded against a vampire, the creature's destruction is still far from assured. This is because the monsters have the innate ability to regenerate physical damage. Wounds close, broken bones reform themselves, even missing limbs regenerate with time. The speed at which this occurs increases with the monster's age. Still, even the most lowly vampire regenerates at an alarming rate.
The physiological (or more correctly, necrological) processes of vampire regeneration remain largely unknown, despite the best efforts of several sages. Symbolically, however, the reason is understandable: a vampire's undead body is somehow locked in its physical condition as it crosses the veil between life and undeath; as aging is halted, so is incurred damage. This has a number of interesting side-effects. For instance, if a vampire cuts its hair or nails, they will grow back to the length they were when the vampire died as a mortal, and then cease to grow further. A tatoo or other mundane mark placed upon the skin of a vampire after its mortal death will quickly fade, while such a mark that was in place before its death will reappear no matter what the vampire does to eliminate it.
Certain marks inflicted upon the flesh of a vampire by magical means, called stigmata, will not fade except under specific conditions. Such marks and stigmata are discussed In Chapter Five, "Destroying a Vampire".
Even with the above conditions taken into account, it is still very difficult to destroy a vampire through physical combat. In the majority of cases, once a vampire has suffered sufficient physical damage to "kill" it, it transforms to a gaseous form and attempts to return to its coffin or other sanctuary. After eight hours of complete inactivity, it regains corporeal form with all of its physical wounds healed. For this reason, it is vital that vampire hunters finish the job when they force a vampire into gaseous form! If they do not track the gaseous creature to its sanctuary or prevent it from reaching its sanctuary, they will be faced with the prospect of a totally unharmed vampire rising after only eight hours. This vampire will likely be somewhat "irked" and plan some distinctive kind of vengeance against those who challenged it. (If a vampire forced into gaseous form by overwhelming physical damage is prevented from reaching the safety of its coffin or sanctuary for a period of twelve hours, the creature is destroyed.)
Probably the most visually obvious testament to a vampire's supernatural nature is its power of shapechanging. In order to better protect themselves or combat others, all vampires share a common ability to spontaneously alter their physical forms. The forms presented here are those available to the "typical" vampire. There are many vampires, however, who possess unique powers and can assume an even wider variety of shapes.
Vampires are capable of intentionally disassociating the physical components of their bodies, turning into a cloud of mist. The transition from physical to gaseous form takes one minute (one round), during which period the creature is unable to take any other action, either physical or magical - including, of course, parrying attacks. While the creature is in the process of changing to gaseous form, it is also fully susceptible to physical and magical attacks.
A vampire in gaseous form is totally immune to any physical attack. Even the most highly enchanted weapon passes right through the vaporous cloud with no effect. Magical attacks are still effective against some vampires in gaseous form; this varies from individual to individual. Some vampires are totally immune to all magical attacks while in gaseous form. There seems to be no way to predict beforehand whether an individual vampire will show this immunity or not. I surmise that the older a vampire is, the more likely the creature is to be totally immune to all attacks when in gaseous form. Some sages see this as evidence that such immunity is an acquired or learned trait; I, however, think it more likely that creatures possessing this immunity are more likely to survive over the long term.
Vampires regenerate their damaged parts normally while in gaseous form. The only exception is if the creature has been physically defeated in battle, in which case it must rest in its coffin or sanctuary for eight full hours to regenerate fully. If a vampire is forced into gaseous form by physical damage and then the creature is pursued to its coffin or sanctuary, it will be found to have reverted to corporeal form within this sanctuary. In the majority or cases, the creature will be totally comatose - unaware of its surroundings and incapable of responding to stimuli - until eight hours have passed. In this condition, it is unable to revert to gaseous form again and is thus highly vulnerable to destruction.
This is not always the case, however. I, myself, have faced a vampire whose behavior was horribly different. I followed the vaporous cloud to the creature's sanctuary and gained entrance. Within I found the fiend, lying there still as death. I prepared my stake and mallet... and with a terrible roar the monster sprung up from its bier and attacked me and my colleagues with immense ferocity. At the first strike from my compatriot's enchanted sword, however, the creature crumbled to ash.
Returning to the subject at hand, a vampire in gaseous form has considerable control over its characteristics. It can modify its density to range from that of a thick fog to that of a thin, virtually invisible mist. As its density changes, as a matter of course, so does the volume the gaseous cloud takes up. In its most dense form, which is thick, while and totally opaque, the creature takes up a total volume of six cubic feet. In its thinnest form, it takes up a volume of 36 cubic feet. It can change the actual dimensions of the cloud almost without restriction, so long as the shortest dimension is no less than one tenth of an inch. Thus, in its densest form, a vampire could range from a sphere a little over two feet in diameter to a tendril of fog one-tenth inch in diameter and over fourteen miles long! A vaporous vampire can change the density and shape of its gas cloud at will, end such changes take no more than a few seconds (1 segment).
A vampire in gaseous form demonstrates an amazing cohesion that even the strongest wind cannot dissipate. The vaporous vampire can totally control its motion, and its movement is unaffected by winds up to hurricane force! If a vampire in gaseous form is caught in winds of hurricane strength, that is, speeds of about 75 miles per hour or more, it is swept along with the wind. Although it is not dissipated, it is totally incapable of controlling its own motion. This failing is of little help to mortals, I suspect.
Vampires in gaseous form move slower than do creatures in corporeal form, but not much slower, and their speed increases with age. Vampire hunters should be aware that an "Old" vampire in gaseous form can travel faster then a man on foot. This is very important because successful vampire hunters must be able to follow a vaporous vampire to its coffin or sanctuary and destroy it there. In gaseous form the creature must remain close to the ground; specifically, within ten feet. It can, however, flow up a flight of stairs, although not up a ladder or the wall of a building. The cloud of vapor can pour down a wall or cliff face, regardless of height, without any damage to the vampire, and does so at the same rate of speed as the cloud can travel across flat ground.
The ability to assume gaseous form offers many benefits to a vampire. The most obvious is a means of escape. Many vampire hunters have seen victory slip from their grasp as their infernal foe dissipated into a mist, invulnerable to their attacks. It can escape thusly from locked rooms, prison cells, sarcophagi - in essence, from virtually anywhere a mortal would be imprisoned. As long as there is a gap with at least a dimension of one-tenth inch - the space under a door, for example - the creature can reach freedom. (Remember, too, that with its great strength a vampire can frequently make such a gap.) Conversely, this ability makes it very difficult to forbid a vampire entrance to some place in which it is interested.
For those vampires that must return daily to a coffin or other sanctuary, gaseous form allows them to protect this sanctuary from intruders. As an example, I recall a creature whose sanctuary was a sarcophagus in the catacombs beneath a deserted church. The monster had waited up all entrances to the catacombs with stonework, and had surrounded the sarcophagus itself with rock, using a transmute mud to rock spell. The only entrance to the catacombs was a fissure between the rocks less than half an inch wide, and to the sarcophagus a tiny bore hole no more than one-quarter inch in diameter. The creature was indecently proud of its slyness, fully expecting that no prospective hunters would ever be able to find its sanctuary. As it turned out, its slyness proved to be its downfall. I located the sanctuary and blocked the fissure between the two rocks. Then, when my warrior colleagues inflicted sufficient damage on the creature to drive it into gaseous form, it had no way of reaching its haven and was hence destroyed. (Had the creature shown the forethought to leave two entrances to its lair, the story might have turned out differently.)
In addition to the ability to assume gaseous form, a vampire can physically change its form into that of a wolf or a bat. This transformation is always voluntary, unlike that to gaseous form; a vampire cannot be forced to assume animal form. (In other words, a vampire cannot assume an animal form when physically defeated in battle.) The animal form that a vampire assumes will always be slightly larger than the norm, and more menacing. Some experts claim that the animal form of a vampire is always close to the archetype for that creature, the perfect form of the species; others state that the animal form always has the spark of intelligence visible in its eyes. Personally, I believe both statements to say more about the experts than about vampires. A hunter trying to recognize a vampire in animal form should not depend on such subjective measures.
Even behavior is not a foolproof way of determining whether a particular wolf (or bat) is actually a vampire. An animal-form vampire is, of course, completely in control of its own behavior, and hence can act either in ways totally in or out of character for the natural animal. Thus, if it suits the monster's purposes, it can blend undetectably with the normal members of a pack of wolves or bevy of bats. Unless the monster commands otherwise, however, the natural members of such a group will consider the animal form vampire to be the dominant leader of the group, and will treat it as such unless the vampire commands otherwise.
The transition from human to animal form takes one minute (1 round), and during the change, the monster is unable to do anything else. Vampires are generally unable to transform directly from animal to gaseous form, or vice versa, but must change to human form as a transitional step. Thus, changing from animal to gaseous form would take the creature two minutes (2 rounds) - one minute to change from gaseous to human form, then another minute to change from human to animal form. The only exception seems to be when the vampire in animal form suffers massive physical damage. Then and only then the creature seems able, indeed forced, to transform directly from animal to gaseous form.
Considering that the transition from human to animal form takes one minute, and that the monster is unusually vulnerable during the transition, why would the fiend choose to change forms at all? The most obvious use for this ability is camouflage, allowing the creature to stalk victims unseen, or to escape detection by those with the temerity to hunt it.
There is another major benefit, too. When a wounded vampire changes form, it often seems to totally shake off all damage it has suffered up to that point. Speaking from experience, there are few things quite so terrifying as to have grievously wounded a vampire in animal form, and then have the monster transform into human shape and show no signs whatsoever of ever being wounded! It seems that when the vampire changes form, the new form it assumes is "perfect;" in this case, free of wounds or other damage. Luckily for all mortals, I have noted that the monsters seem to be able to use this ability only once per day, no matter how many times they change form.
It is important to recall one thing. As I staled at the outset, these observations refer to the "typical" vampire, and there is no such thing as a typical vampire! There are tales of vampires capable of taking the form of dogs, cats, birds (particularly owls or crows) - even, in one case, an evil black steed similar in appearance to a nightmare. I have come to suspect that Patriarchs have the ability to assume at least one form in addition to the "standard" wolf and bat, and that this additional form is specific to the individual vampire.
|The movement rate for a vampire in gaseous form is three less than the vampire's normal movement rate. For example, an Old vampire would travel at a rate of 13. While changing form, a vampire suffers a +4 penalty to Armor Class and a -1 penalty to all saving throws. Once- and only once- in any 24-hour period, a vampire can automatically heal all damage it has suffered to that point simply by changing form from human to animal, or vice versa. (It cannot heal itself by assuming gaseous form, however.) In other words, when the transition is complete, the vampire is restored to its full hit-point total. If a vampire in animal form has even a single hit point and reverts back into human form, it regains full points from the change. If the vampire in animal form is reduced to zero or less hit points, however, it is forced to assume gaseous form. The statistics for a vampire's two animal forms are as follows:|
|Wolf form: Int per vampire; AL CE; AC 2: MV 18; HD per vampire; hp per vampire; THAC0 per vampire; #AT 1; Dmg 3-36; SZ L; ML 16.|
|Bat form: Int per vampire; AL CE; AC 2; MV 3. Fl 18 (C); HD per vampire; hp per vampire; THAC0 per vampire; #AT 1; Dmg 2-12; SD Special: -3 penalty to opponents' attack rolls (see the Monstrous Compendium, Bat, Giant); SZ M; ML 16.|
|As with the transition to gaseous form, the vampire suffers a +4 penalty to Armor Class. and a -1 penalty to all saving throws during the change into and out of animal form.|
Combating and destroying a solitary vampire is difficult enough. The creature's powers and abilities are enough to strike fear into the heart of even the doughtiest vampire hunter. However, the hunter is almost never lucky enough to face an unallied vampire. The monsters are very protective of their unlife, and will usually surround themselves with servitors or minions of one variety or another. Vampires have the innate ability to summon and control certain species of lesser creatures.
By nature, a vampire is able to completely control all animals whose form the vampire can assume. Thus, because a "typical" vampire can assume the form of a wolf or a bat, the monster is the natural master of all wolves and bats. As with the shapechanging capability, there are probably vampires capable of summoning and controlling many different types of creatures. This could explain recurring, albeit unsubstantiated, rumors of attacks on mortals by huge flocks of crows and other birds. Theoretically, the creatures that can be controlled by individual vampires will usually relate to the personal nature of the monster, or to the characteristics of the vampiric line: a subterranean vampire might be able to control rats and burrowing creatures; a vampire that once was a woodsman might be the master of all forest creatures; a seaman converted into a vampire might be able to command fish, sharks, or even whales; a vampire from tropical climes might command tarantulas or venomous centipedes, and so forth. The possibilities are so wide-ranging as to be terrifying to dwell upon.
Before proceeding, it is important to note that there is not the same connection between a vampire and its minions as there is between a wizard and its familiar or a homunculus. There is no shared life-force. Thus, the vampire suffers no ill effects should a minion be destroyed.
Only the rarest of vampires can summon animals in the magical sense - that is, cause the animals to magically appear in the vampire's vicinity. Most vampires, instead, send out a mental call which all animals of the appropriate type must answer. The call seems to have a maximum range of something over one mile. If there are no appropriate creatures within that range, then of course no animal will answer the vampire's summons.
A vampire can call upon those creatures three times per day, but the type of animal the monster can summon is dependent upon the surrounding environment. In a subterranean place, for instance, bats or rats will typically be called. In the wilderness, wolves and, rarely, bats will be called. The creatures respond to this magical call and travel as fast as they can to the vampire. The summons fails if the animals are physically prevented from approaching the vampire (for example, by a crevasse, fast-flowing river, etc.). It is important to remember that summoned animals do not appear immediately - a wolf one mile away from the summoning vampire will take several minutes to answer the summons.
Once the animals have arrived in the vicinity of the vampire, they are totally under the monster's mental control. (Any such creatures already present will also obey the mental commands of the vampire; this does not count against the vampire's three daily uses of its summoning power). They will fight (to the death if so ordered) or do anything else within their physical and mental capabilities. The vampire is even able to overcome the summoned creatures' normal fears and instincts. For example, it may force wolves or rats to attack foes from which they would normally flee. The length of time the vampire can maintain this total mental control varies depending on the type of animal and (sometimes) on the individual vampire involved.
While a vampire can summon creatures from one mile away, it can issue mental orders to creatures no more than 50 yards distant. Thus, even though a pack of wolves might answer the monster's call, the vampire could not cause those wolves to attack an enemy more than 50 yards from the vampire.
Summoned bats do not physically attack. Rather, they will swarm around a vampire's enemies, confusing and blinding them. Hence, wolves are perhaps the most fearsome animals that a vampire can control; these beasts are usually ravenously hungry and will quickly answer a vampire's call. If wolves are called by the lord of a land, they will always be worg wolves, while wolves summoned by a common vampire will always be of the common variety.
Most vampires are unable to communicate bi-directionally with the animals they summon and control. The vampire issues mental orders; the animals obey. In general, there is no way the vampire can receive information from these animals. Thus, a vampire typically could not use a summoned bat as a spy to gather information. Of course, this is only true of the "typical" vampire. There are some unique individuals that can communicate bi-directionally with certain animals, or even "speak" their language. I must admit I find this a terrifying concept, because virtually any creature of the forest or hedgerow thus becomes a potential spy or scout for a vampire. Nevertheless, as with the spell speak with animals, there remain severe limitations on what the vampire can communicate and learn by this means. The minds of lesser animals are very limited, and are focused almost exclusively on the moment-to-moment requirements of survival. Animal communications reflect these limitations. Thus, it would be impossible to conduct a philosophical discussion with a rabbit, for example, or to instruct that creature to perform complex tasks, those involving judgment and contingencies. Nor would a controlled rat be able to turn a key, and a controlled wolf would likely be unable to remove the bar from a door, and so on.
These limitations of communication and control are not sufficient to stop a vampire who can speak with animals from forming close bonds - friendships, as it were - with certain creatures. These animals would consider the vampire a compatriot or a leader, and would obey the monster's commands willingly even after the period of complete mental control ends. Such willing "animal friends" would probably not sacrifice their lives for the vampire, but otherwise would be loyal minions.
A summoned swarm of bats will cover a roughly circular area measuring 20' in radius. Anyone caught in this swarm will be blinded, make all attack rolls at -4, have their armor class reduced by 4, and have their movement rate cut in half. The swarm will move at a movement rate of 18, attempting to envelop the greatest number of people. After 2-12 melee rounds, the bats will disperse. Under most circumstances, the bats summoned will be the tiny "flying mouse" variety. In special environments, larger bats such as flying foxes or fruit bats may respond. Only 4-24 of these larger creatures will answer the call.
|Swarm of Bats||10 minutes|
|Swarm of Rats||10 minutes|
In tropical climates, vampire bats may answer the summons. If the vampire summons the bats to bedevil foes who are awake, 10-60 of the tiny creatures will arrive, having the same effect as the "standard" swarm of small bats. Vampire bats frequently carry diseases, and anyone bitten by one of the nasty creatures has a 5% chance of contracting a serious disease.
It is an unpleasant point to add that vampires also exercise power over their fellow undead, particularly zombies, ghasts, and the like. Fortunately, they are not omnipotent in these matters, even though they are technically the "kings" of the undead, and many of the more powerful creatures may resist being controlled, particularly other vampires. Because of this, the presentment of holy accoutrements can disrupt the vampire's authority. Take not too much heart in this; breaking the vampire's control does not guarantee that the undead will leave you alone.
Undead Minion Control
Undead of higher HD (including special) are immune to control by vampires of any age category.
* Automatically controlled (no chance of failure)
** Vampires of any age category are automatically entitled to a saving throw, to resist being controlled
Once undead are controlled, the vampire can maintain its dominance indefinitely. A vampire can simultaneously maintain control over a number of undead whose HD are equal to half the vampire's age. For example, a 137-year-old (Mature) vampire can control up to 68 HD of undead.
Many laypersons and even some experts who should know better, cling to the totally false belief that all vampires are virtually identical. I must admit that I can understand this fixation: if one can list, categorize, and completely describe all the attributes and powers of a vampire, the fiend becomes significantly less horrifying. Humans and demihumans find the unknown to be much more threatening than the worst of the known. Consider, then, how much more terrifying a vampire becomes when one must admit that the creature might have abilities and attributes that are totally unexpected. Clinging to the familiar catalog of characteristics is, thus, intellectual laziness - a refusal to take that first step into uncharted territory. It is also a highly self-destructive behavior, particularly among those who would hunt vampires. As mentioned earlier, most of the discussions to this point refer to the "typical" vampire - and hence are wrong to one degree or another, because the truly typical vampire does not exist. We could, of course, consider "typical" to refer to a broad category of creatures into which most vampires fall. The majority of vampires will show some similarity with this "main sequence" of vampiredom (if I may so coin a word). The more unusual vampires, thus, fall outside this sequence. Even those vampires that do fall near the "typical" classification sometimes exhibit abilities beyond the norm. These otherwise undifferentiated vampires sometimes show one, or perhaps more than one, unique salient ability or power. Research seems to indicate that vampires develop such abilities over centuries of unlife. Whether this implies that the salient ability is a learned skill, such as a human's proficiency in some normal endeavor, or that it is merely a gift of prolonged existence, is unknown. Whatever the truth of the matter, salient abilities have rarely been reported in vampires younger than the "Eminent" age category. In addition, it seems that only vampires who are lords of a land can develop salient abilities. If, by some magical means, a vampire stops being a lord of a land, it immediately loses any and all salient abilities and becomes once again a mundane vampire. Once again, I feel it necessary to re-emphasize that the following descriptions are by no means comprehensive, but I hope that I have provided at least a solid foundation for understanding these creatures of the damned. One particular vampire may exude such control over its undead minions that they become very difficult to turn aside through the presentment of holy symbols. Thus, a common zombie or animated skeleton might continue to assault a cleric and his party who would normally obliterate the walking undead in their tracks. It is almost as if one were trying to turn the vampire itself. Such an occurrence becomes even more dangerous to the unwary vampire hunter because, occasionally, the undead master is not even present - it simply exercises its salient ability over its minions and they carry its power against holy wards with them into battle. And I believe the older the vampire, the more powerful the undead it may so protect.
One of the more alarming aspects of vampires which I have mentioned is their ability to drain the very essence of life from a victim with a touch. Even more troubling, I have heard reports of certain vampires who possess an enhanced capability. Long-experienced warriors and clerics can, at the touch of one of these ultra-powerful monsters, find themselves as weak as novices, and those of limited experience may die with a single touch! Just as some vampires may have superior life-draining abilities, other may enjoy superior regenerative powers. Imagine striking at a cursed beast with all the might of magic and steal that your party can muster, only to watch the vampire's wound heal a minute later! It is fortunate that such puissant creatures are far and few between. One particularly unpleasant vampire with whom I have battled was one of such ill temper that, at the end, when we had finally traced it to its lair, it flew into a frenzy of rage and became a blur of lethal blows before us. We were struck, it seemed, from all sides at once by this solitary adversary, and our best-executed blows in retaliation found only thin air where we expected its solid body to be. In its rage it moved so quickly, in fact, that we were forced to retreat until the sun rose, and then had to hunt until almost sundown for the creature's resting place. There are a few vampires who were spellcasters in their previous lives, and they frequently retain those abilities as long as they are not clerics whose deities have forsaken them. But there are also a few vampires who, through unknown means (perhaps their master is a spellcaster, perhaps they rest in a magical place; I cannot say with any authority), gain the innate ability to cast wizard or priest spells. The vampiric quality of immortality, alone, makes this type of vampire quite dangerous. Consider the ramifications of an evil being with innate magical powers and an eternity in which to develop them! While all vampires retain the facility of animal summoning, a few also have the ability to call upon gargoyles. These despicable monsters are often indiscernible from the ornate architecture which graces many castles, so they may become a sudden and terrible hindrance to vampire hunters who thought they had caught their quarry alone. Gargoyles are so malicious that a vampire need only summon them and they will do the rest, without need of instruction. They seem to sense goodness and delight in goading and torturing it. I have also mentioned previously the ability of the vampire to charm the unsuspecting. A simple look into the eyes of the creature and an unfortunate hunter becomes the vampire's ally or willing victim. Yet an even more frightening prospect is that of a vampire who can even charm you while it is in gaseous form! There are a few of those, by report, who have charmed their pursuers when they believed it to be helpless and on the run. As the vampire swirled into airy mist, it twirled in hypnotic patterns and left the hunting party dumbfounded, glassy-eyed, and altogether helpless. No matter that it was near death; it convinced its new devotees to follow it off a cliff and was rid of the danger. Another specific vampire who is particularly dangerous while in gaseous form is the one whose life-draining ability remains intact in that form. I have seen a young warrior cry in triumph upon dealing the blow to the vampire that dissolved it into mist, only to find himself immersed in that mist, swooning and dying before my eyes. He suffered no pain, no injury - only a look of dizziness and then death. Experienced vampire hunters have witnessed their prey taking gaseous form while attempting to escape or when severely injured, but few have seen the creature simply step through a nearby wall while in solid form. Yet, as I have once seen, there is a unique vampire or two who can do just that. Unlike the wizard spell passwall, which, as I understand it, requires the presence of even the tiniest fissure in the obstacle, these salient vampires may pass through solid objects as if they were not there! Still another special talent among some of vampire-kind is that for creating extraordinary fear, even beyond the norm. While most vampires must consciously put fear into their enemies, there are a few select monsters that are of such horrifying countenance that their mere presence strikes terror into the mortal heart. One other salient talent which springs to my mind is that of the lucky vampire who can disappear and reappear elsewhere instantly. Such vampires can hardly be fought to the point of dissolution. Rather, at that point in which they consider themselves to be in trouble, they simply "pop" out of view. Although I have witnessed this ability only as a means of escape, I imagine that the vampire could also use it to gain a constant surprise upon its adversaries.
In another vein (if you will pardon the expression), some salient abilities are not so enviable among vampires. For example, there are a small number of vampires who have an entirely unquenchable thirst for human blood. Such monsters ravage the countryside, attacking numerous victims every night, creating perhaps even more new vampires than they would care to. Such creatures, fortunately, do not long survive, for they enrage even the lowliest of the masses to hunt down and exterminate them. Those insatiable blood drinkers are usually the victims of lynch mobs who hunt them en masse and destroy their lair and everything in it. While they survive, though, they create an enormous amount of mayhem and suffering. A related "especially cursed" vampire is one who is enslaved to blood lust. The mere sight of blood pitches them into a frenzy which can be satisfied only by the ingestion of that source of blood, virtually at all costs. This is not much of a boon to the vampire if he is attempting to masquerade as a mortal, to live in even the slightest harmony with society. Such a compulsion might be compared to a water-starved man in the desert who stumbles unexpectedly upon an oasis protected by lions - he must have that water, even at the cost of his life. A few unlucky vampires are so affected by blood lust that they need not even have the sight of it; the simple warmth of the human body unhinges them. Still other unlucky vampires are unable to mask their true natures. With years of unlife, their skin tone changes perceptibly, becoming waxy or unnatural of color. This infirmity may be concealed with makeup, of course, yet the creature is vulnerable to the inevitable smudge or discerning eye. A rare few become somewhat translucent with time, almost ghostlike, and there is little that makeup can do for them. Lastly, there are some vampires who become so alienated of nature that their control of animals escapes them. Rather, animals become crazed in the presence of such a vampire, impossible to control, wont to flee. Occasionally, such animals are so enraged by the creature that they willingly, even anxiously help to track him down and attack him if possible (bless them).
The use of salient abilities is optional, and DMs should use them sparingly. Their purpose is to help create unique and powerful creatures that will keep player characters wary of creatures whose stats the PCs think they know. Of course, the DM is free to create other salient abilities to suit his or her needs. The following list of abilities can be used for random determination, but powerful NPCs are best shaped by the DM's designs and campaigns, enhancing the story as much as the vampire.
If random determination is required, the procedure is as follows: for every full century the vampire has existed beyond the age of 500, roll 1d10. (Thus, for a vampire that has existed 975 years, the DM would roll 1d10 four times.) For each roll that yields a result of 1-4, the vampire receives one salient ability; roll 3d6 and consult the following list. If the vampire already possesses the ability, follow the instructions given under "Reroll". Should a previously gained power be rolled a third time, disregard the result and roll again.
3. Innate Magic: The vampire can cast any selected 1st level spell at will. There is no limit to the number of times per day the vampire can use the power, and it never requires material components. The spell must be selected when the vampire first gains this ability, and it may never change.
Reroll: The vampire may select an additional 2nd-level spell that it may cast at will. As with the first-level spell, there is no limit to the number of times per day the vampire can cast the spell, and it need not use material components.
4. Passwall: The vampire can pass through walls at will as if they were simply not there, traveling at the movement rate appropriate for gaseous form (although the vampire is not gaseous while using this ability). Note that unlike the passwall spell, the vampire does not actually create a physical hole in the wall. It merely passes through the wall. The duration of the power is 2d4 melee rounds, and it can be used once per day.
Reroll: The power is the same as above except that it can be used two times per day.
5. Transport: Once per day, the vampire can transport itself as by the wizard spell dimension door.
Reroll: Once per day, the vampire can teleport itself, as per the wizard spell of the same name.
6. Charm While Gaseous: When the vampire is in gaseous form, it can attempt to "charm-gaze" with the same restrictions that apply to its normal charm attack. The mist will begin to swirl in hypnotic patterns, attracting the attention of the victim. This is considered a gaze-type attack. The vampire can use this ability once per day. Reroll: The victim of the gaseous vampire need not be looking at the creature for the charm to be successful. The vampire attempts the charm by "whispering" thoughts into the victim's mind. This may be used two times per day.
7. Blood Lust: The creature has a mad craving for blood and must have it at all costs. If the creature can see an open wound or other source of fresh blood, the sight drives the monster into a frenzy. While in this frenzy, the vampire will do whatever it takes to reach the source of blood and drink it. The frenzy is not so intense that the creature will put itself into a situation that it knows will certainly destroy it. (The DM must adjudicate this carefully. The monster will attack the largest of adventuring parties in its attempt to drink blood because there is a chance that it can defeat them. It will not attempt to ford a river (if running water destroys it) or expose itself to sunlight to do so.) The vampire is sated after having reached the source of blood, and isn't susceptible to further frenzies for 2d6 turns.
Reroll: So strong is the creature's craving that it need not see blood to go into a frenzy. The vampire can smell any exposed blood within 20'. If it can either see or smell the blood, but not both, the creature won't destroy itself in its frenzy, as discussed above. If it can both see and smell the blood, however, the frenzy is so strong that the creature will do anything, even something obviously self-destructive, in an attempt to reach its goal, The vampire is then immune to further frenzies for 1d4 turns.
8. Undead Master: Lesser undead under the control of a vampire are turned as if they were the vampire controlling them. The vampire must be in the immediate area directing the combat. Reroll: The vampire does not need to be present. It need only deploy its minions to a task.
9. Superior Energy Drain: The vampire drains four life energy levels with a hit, rather than the normal three. Reroll: The vampire drains five life energy levels with a hit.
10. Fear aura: All living things will fear the vampire because it constantly exudes an enchanted aura of fear. Any living thing within 10' of the creature suffers the same effects as a dragon's fear aura. (Humans and demihumans with fewer than one Hit Die flee for 4d6 minutes. Characters with fewer Hit Dice than the vampire must save vs. petrification or suffer a -2 penalty on attack rolls against the creature, and will be in constant fear of it. Characters with more Hit Dice than the vampire are immune to the fear.) The vampire can still attempt to charm-gaze a victim normally. If it falls, however, that person is immediately overcome with fear and may not be charmed by the vampire again that day.
Reroll: The fear aura has a range of 15', and even characters with more Hit Dice than the vampire must save vs. petrification or suffer a -2 penalty to hit. In addition, characters with fewer Hit Dice than the vampire make their saving throw with a -3 penalty. So strong is the fear effect that the creature is unable to charm a victim by gaze or by voice, A Patriarch can still charm a victim by will.
11. Vampiric Rage: Once per day, the vampire can fly into a vampiric rage. The rage will last for 2d4 melee rounds, during which time the vampire can make two physical attacks per round. This benefit does not affect spell-like or spellcasting attacks.
Reroll: The vampire not only enjoys double normal attacks while enraged, but its AC is improved by two (i.e., AC 1 becomes -1). The vampire may use this power three times per day.
12. Improved Saves: The vampire receives a bonus of +1 to all its saving throws (in addition to any other bonuses it might receive).
Reroll: The vampire receives a bonus of +2 to all its saving throws.
13. Superior Regeneration: The vampire regenerates two more hit points per melee round than it would normally.
Reroll: The vampire regenerates four more hit points per melee round than it would normally.
14. Animal Frenzy: Natural (non-monstrous) animals within 50' of the vampire sense the creature's evil nature, which drives them into a panic. This makes trained animals skittish, nervous, and nearly impossible to control, and causes wild or untrained animals to flee.
Reroll: So great is the evil nature the vampire exudes that animals are able to track a vampire. Only predatory or hunting animals (such as wolves or dogs) will willingly track a vampire. The base chance for success in tracking the vampire is 50%. The following cumulative modifiers apply: Each hour since the vampire's passing: -10% Tracking over muddy or slushy ground: -5% Light drizzling rain: -5% Downpour: -10% Animal is a trained hunting animal: +10% Note that the vampire can assume gaseous form or fly away as a bat in order to avoid being tracked.
15. Skin Tone: Years of undeath have affected the vampire physically. The monster's shin has turned stark white, identifying its nature to anyone viewing the creature. (The creature could still disguise its nature using makeup, of course.)
Reroll: The vampire's flesh is translucent, Any light source of equal or greater intensity than a torch will shine through the creature's skin and flesh, silhouetting its skeleton. As above, the creature can attempt to disguise this with makeup. Masks and clothing remain normal.
16. Gargoyle Control: The vampire can summon and control 1d4 gargoyles. The monsters will arrive in 2d4 melee rounds and will remain in the vampire's control for 2d4 melee rounds. When the period of control expires, the gargoyles will remain in the area as free-willed monsters. There must be gargoyles available to be summoned (within 1 mile) for this power to be successful.
Reroll: Gargoyles need not be in the area for the summons to be successful. The vampire has the power to transform any native rock in the immediate area (maximum of 1 mile) into an appropriate number of gargoyles. The transformation takes 2d4 rounds to occur.
17. Energy Drain While Gaseous: The vampire can drain life energy from a victim even when in gaseous form. The monster can affect only one victim per round with this attack. By surrounding the victim, it drains one life level but does no physical damage.
Reroll: The power is the same as above except the vampire drains two life levels from the victim.
18. Extra Feeding: The vampire must feed twice as frequently as normal (see the section on feeding).
Reroll: The vampire must feed three times as frequently as normal. All vampires with salient abilities are subject to the rules governing mundane vampires unless their special power specifically counters it. For example, a vampire that has gained the transport power cannot dimension door into a sanctified place that it has not received permission to enter.