Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grognard's Grimoire: The Vampires of Dwimmermount

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I loathe the domestication of the vampire that has occurred over the last forty years or so. I find nothing that is attractive or admirable in the idea of creatures who attain immortality through the consumption of the blood of others, even if the concept of the vampire is an intellectually fascinating one to me. Consequently, you're out of luck if you're expecting a sympathetic portrayal of a vampire in one of my RPG campaigns, especially my Dwimmermount campaign, where a vampire -- Doux Cyrus Agallon -- is an important NPC. Though his cooperation with the PCs has, thus far, had no obviously negative repercussions, no one, least of all the PCs, believes this state of affairs will last forever. Cyrus is a vampire: an inhuman, rapacious monster whose continued existence depends on violence against the living. Ultimately, he must be destroyed, for there is no comprising with him.

The vampires of the Dwimmermount campaign are based on those of the LBBs, but I've reinterpreted them in various ways, in accordance with the idiosyncrasies of the campaign world, most notably in the fact that one cannot be made a vampire against one's will.

The text in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.
Vampire
No Enc.:
1d6 (1d6)
Lair Probability: 20%
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40'), Fly: 180' (60')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 7 to 9
Attacks: 1 (see below)
Damage: 1d10, drain life energy (see below)
Save: F7 to F9
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 3,590/5,560/8,000

The vampire is a hateful undead creature created by means of an abhorrent necromantic ritual that requires the free and active consent of a human (and only a human) being to effect. The vampire survives only by drinking the blood of the living. It is immune to sleep and charm spells and can only be struck by magical weapons. If damaged, a vampire regenerates 3 hit points per round. If reduced to zero or fewer hit points, it is not destroyed but rather reduced to a gaseous form (which it can also assume at will).

A vampire is immensely strong, dealing 1d10 points of damage with each strike of its claw-like hands. Though this creature looks like a hideous, emaciated corpse, it nevertheless can exert a powerful attraction over mortal beings with its gaze, which acts as a charm person spell (save at -2 to resist). A vampire will drink the blood from a charmed victim, draining two levels with each feeding. Drinking blood cannot be done in combat and the victim will have no recollection of the event afterward. Victims entirely drained of all their levels simply die, but they may not be restored to life by any means, including resurrection. A vampire must drain a number of levels per week equal to its hit dice or it will permanently weaken, losing one hit die per week of insufficient sustenance.

Though powerful, a vampire will quickly disintegrate if exposed to sunlight. It cannot cross running water (which they cannot cross except by means of a bridge, boat, or similar construction) and impalement with a wooden stake immobilizes (but does not kill) it. A vampire is repelled by the scent of garlic or its reflection and can be turned by a cleric of sufficient level. During the day, this creature must return to a grave, tomb, or casket that contains soil from its native land or else it will lose hit die per night until it reaches 0 hit dice and fades away. Lost hit dice are restored at a rate of 1 per night of slumber in its proper hideaway.

A vampire can summon 1d10x10 rats or 3d6 wolves once per day, which arrive in 2d6 rounds to aid it. The presence of an active vampire creates a miasma that slowly spreads at a rate of 1 square mile per day up to a maximum number of square miles equal to the hit dice of the most powerful vampire in the area. Anyone within the miasma suffers a -2 to saving throws against diseases, curses, and similar effects.

33 comments:

  1. "Vampires : Never Trust A Junkie."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like your restrained use of level drain - confining it to a more focused circumstance (blood-drinking after charming the victim) will make it easier to integrate into the game than the traditional version. At the same time, it's still easy enough for the vampire to pull this off that the PCs should remain wary of these monsters. Nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like the miasma effect. Is that your creation, or an adaptation of the original?

    ReplyDelete
  4. My views on vampires are along the same lines. I like this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I vary vampires in my game quite a bit, by region, but they all share the quality of being inexorably driven to unrepentant evil.

    I really like the version you present here. I think the only thing I might alter for use in my worlds would be toning the miasma down from miles to acres.

    Exemplary work James!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think you did a good job putting the scary back into the vampire. Your point about it being an emaciated corpse reminds me that Bram Stoker made Dracula sound like a rat with a mustache (why does everyone forget the mustache). I am intrigued by the idea of it being a voluntary process, but I think one of the more terrifying aspects of vampires is their ability to create more of their kind. In my campaign vampires are demons which possess the bodies killed by such a creature. That way nobody can really think it would be cool to be a vampire, because you'd still just be dead.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice work. The miasma effect is a nice touch.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sorry for the second comment, but you've also inspired me a bit with your presentation of their level drain. I'm pretty sure I'll be borrowing it for my vampires, with the addition that if the vampire is slain, the curse is lifted and the levels restored. I think this imitates the way Lucy suddenly feels better at the end of all the movie versions of Dracula.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How long before a vampire can reform if reduced to zero? Pretty tough if he can just return to normal. I would say about 24 to 48 hours of coffin time sounds right.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Still can't accept level draining as a substitute for life/soul draining, but a great write up none the less.

    ReplyDelete
  11. On the miasma: I know that the Greek version of vampires (whose name I forgot, but it's something kinda sorta close to varolac) was responsible for disease in that manner. I think it's also used in Salem's lot, but I don't remember terribly well at 2 in the morning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've always been puzzled by the supposed turn on of sex with someone who would be room temperature, but that might be a rant for another day. On the subject at hand, I've got to agree with Crow - I have trouble accepting level draining as a substitute for life/soul draining, and would probably go with stat damage myself.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The go-to source on realistic vampires is probably the book "Vampires, Burial, and Death" by Paul Barber (Yale University Press).

    More bloating. No sparkling.

    ReplyDelete
  14. jonhendry2 said...
    The go-to source on realistic vampires is probably the book "Vampires, Burial, and Death" by Paul Barber (Yale University Press).


    I second this recommendation. I think it's just been re-released, too.

    Matthew Beresford's "From Demons to Dracula" is a good one, too.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Nice write up!

    My vamps are a bit less corpse like (well some of them are) but otherwise I pretty much agree with your assertions here.

    I'll note I use the constitution damage to represent blood loss as well and I allow more random vampires to arise (some people are just cussed enough to come back )

    and heck as long as the thread is including book recommendations, I Like The Vampire his Kith and Kin my Reverend Montague Summers, who was basically a real life Call of Cthulhu investigator and quite an interesting man on his own terms

    Its free and legal on line too

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/goth/vkk/index.htm

    ReplyDelete
  16. Vampires : Never Trust A Junkie

    Indeed! I like the way, in China MiƩville's work, vampires are looked upon with disgust by other undead, who see them as little more than junkies, dependant upon the living, while the other intelligent undead have striven to separate themselves from the living world.

    I'm also fond of Zak S' every-vampire-has-different-rules approach, although it makes improvisation more difficult. As always, random tables help. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent write up for the truly monstrous predatory vampire of legend. I might make a few modifications for the Dracula type; a vampire who embraces his curse, and seeks to extend his power by both creating lesser vampires and undead servants while making sure his food source remains thoroughly cowed.

    Decades ago I played in a campaign where the vampires had legions of willing human troops. Simple enough motivation. If they conquered a neighboring state, the vampires would feed on the neighbors, not them.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I like that vampires come out scary in this, but I think that you are missing something by having him appear to be an emaciated corpse. The sexuality element is an important part of the vampire's menace.

    The vampire has survived in the Anglo-American mythos because it is such a powerful symbol of unrestrained lusts: hunger, sexuality, drive for power, etc.

    Making vampires "nice" is a new thing, of course, but the white-person view of the vampire has always been sexy, been charismatic. His beauty is the very thing that draws us in, even though we know in our hearts that something about him is perverted, is wrong. What's frightening isn't that he is hideous and uses magic to lure women, it's that one can never be sure how strongly his victims protest his advances.

    ReplyDelete
  19. We are muchly in agreement.

    The vampire that scared the bejeezis out of me when I was little was exemplified by Christopher Lee, as he portrayed Dracula in the old Hammer films. I've rewatched them, recently, and it's astonishing how well his portrayal holds up, despite the dated melodrama of the films themselves.

    Lee's Dracula is a monster, plain and simple. He is capable of PRETENDING to be human, sure. He's even capable of some charm. He can be sexy, sure... but it's camouflage, period, and he discards the disguise the moment it's not useful to him (or when he loses control of himself). When he does not need to be projecting humanity or charm, he reverts to his true nature: predator, junkie, monster. Not a human being at all... and that's one of the most horrifying things ABOUT him.

    Dracula and his vampiric brides are not supposed to be sexy. If anything, it's disguise, it's bait, it's something to draw the victim in.

    Today's vampires aren't scary. They're not much different from yesterday's elves. In fact, "The Fair Folk" is as good a description of Twilight's vampires as it is of fairies...

    ReplyDelete
  20. I like the miasma effect. Is that your creation, or an adaptation of the original?

    The miasma effect is an adaptation of a plot point in Nosferatu. It's also found in some variations of the vampire legend but it's never been part of D&D lore so far as I know.

    ReplyDelete
  21. In my campaign vampires are demons which possess the bodies killed by such a creature. That way nobody can really think it would be cool to be a vampire, because you'd still just be dead.

    I like this.

    ReplyDelete
  22. How long before a vampire can reform if reduced to zero? Pretty tough if he can just return to normal. I would say about 24 to 48 hours of coffin time sounds right.

    I was thinking 24 hours myself.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I Like The Vampire his Kith and Kin my Reverend Montague Summers, who was basically a real life Call of Cthulhu investigator and quite an interesting man on his own terms

    Summrs was a very strange fellow indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The vampire that scared the bejeezis out of me when I was little was exemplified by Christopher Lee, as he portrayed Dracula in the old Hammer films. I've rewatched them, recently, and it's astonishing how well his portrayal holds up, despite the dated melodrama of the films themselves.

    I think Horror of Dracula includes the best portrayal of the Count I've seen on film. It's one of my favorite movies of all time.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I loathe the domestication of the vampire that has occurred over the last forty years or so. I find nothing that is attractive or admirable in the idea of creatures who attain immortality through the consumption of the blood of others, even if the concept of the vampire is an intellectually fascinating one to me.


    Gilbert Gottfried said it best.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think Horror of Dracula includes the best portrayal of the Count I've seen on film. It's one of my favorite movies of all time.

    I thought Louis Jourdan was great, but for some bizarre reason the BBC shot interiors on videotape so it looks like a soap opera.

    ReplyDelete
  27. As a writer, i share your contempt of the modern vampire. I tried selling, many years ago (before "Twilight"), a novel that featured a corpse-like, traditional sort of vampire. I was told, repeatedly, to make it more "Anne Rice." I imagine today the market is even more slanted towards the "vampire as sex object." Your take sounds intriguing. Publish a Dwimmermount campaign book soon, please. I am dying to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. My image of the vampire was shaped by 70's horror films. The sinister gentleman motif never captured my imagination like the many scattered memories I have of beast like creatures stalking through the woods after maidens and children. I prefer my vampires as deathly and ghastly and far from human. Interacting with the living only through unholy feedings and willing human/other supernatural agents. I really loved Stephen King's take on them in Salem's Lot. It really summed up my image of the vampire. The master with his minions who are little more then rabid dogs. The master too horrific even to expose himself to the living. The dark rites that prepared the house for the creature to move into the town. The disease and madness that accompanies the creature. Eastern Europe folklore I encountered deal with the undead in a very straight forward way. They aren't even the vessels of human spirits anymore but merely shells for other darker spirits that know nothing of humanity's morality. They feed on us in many ways. From the many stories of unbaptized children who drown returning as deadly vampires like creatures to skeletons that stalk the night and chasing down those who dared to venture out at night. I fear in my heart the best undead are never human but simply a shade of the outer world scratching through the pale veil to snatch our breath.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I tend to agree with @adventurematerials, although @Tom O'Bedlam makes some pretty persuasive points. Since I know mentioning anything about Cullen-esque vampires will immediately negate any argument I have to make, (*sigh*)I ask about the Wraith campaign you were in eons ago, where vampires were terrible but not in the grotesque way - comments?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've always really liked the "undead or witches can't cross running water" motif, but very few use it these days. The exception is Garth Nix, who made a very big worldbuilding deal out of it in his Old Kingdom books.

    ReplyDelete
  31. White Dwarf way, way back had a article with random table builds for AD&D vampires. Truly inspirational.

    It also began with a quote from Hammer's Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, there are as "many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey".

    ReplyDelete
  32. Publish a Dwimmermount campaign book soon, please. I am dying to read it.

    We'll see. I am generally reluctant to do anything as elaborate as that, because I think the hobby is better off when each referee creates his own setting. But lots of people keep asking me to publish a campaign book, so it's something I'll give some consideration to. Maybe I can find a way to do it that encourages rather than discourages individual creativity.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I find your take on Vampires very interesting. In what I have read/researched vampires were symbols of disease before Bram Stoker changed that to unhealthy desire/sexuality. Your miasma idea and the generally disgusting appearance seems to mirror the earlier portrayal. However, the fact that no one can become a vampire against their will seems to play against that symbolism. Disease stikes whom it will (especially in a medieval mindset when people had no idea of how disease worked) and there is no real defense against it. That helplessness seems key to the vampire's menace. It would be very interesting to read/hear more about your intellectual fascination with the concept of vampires as apparent incongruities add subtlety and depth to very familiar archetypes.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.