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A D&D Creepy Creature Feature: Voracious Vampires

Petar Blagojević, a Serbian peasant, died in the small town of Kisilova in 1725. In the eight days to follow, nine other people in Kisilova died – each of whom claimed to have been visited by Petar in the night, including his wife and son. The symptoms of the deceased included exhaustion and massive blood loss.

Whispers of vampirism spread throughout the town, leading to the demand that his body be exhumed and examined for the telltale signs – specifically a lack of decomposition and any evidence of the growth of hair or fingernails.

To the town’s horror, Petar’s body checked all of the boxes and more: blood was found in his mouth. Some accounts report that he was breathing almost imperceptibly and even that his eyes were open and tracking officials as they moved about his body.

A German military officer authored an official document concerning this event and concluded it with the following:

In short, all the indications were present that such people (as remarked above [vampires]) are said to have. After both the priest and I had seen this spectacle, while people grew more outraged than distressed, all the subjects, with great speed, sharpened a stake – in order to pierce the corpse of the deceased with it- and put this at his heart, whereupon, as he was pierced, not only did much blood, completely fresh, flow also through his ears and mouth, but still other wild signs (which I pass by out of high respect) took place. Finally, according to their usual practice, they burned the often mentioned body, in his case, to ashes of which I inform the most laudable Administration, and at the same time would like to request, obediently and humbly, that if a mistake was made in this matter, such is to be attributed not to me but to the rabble, who were beside themselves with fear.

D&D Vampires with Some REAL Bite

The vampire is such an iconic monster! And, like the werewolf, their reputation will precede them and add an element of unease to any encounter. But, again like the werewolf, their stats in the 5e Monster Manual feel a little underwhelming given their legendary status.

D&D vampire Monster Manual

A 5th edition D&D vampire’s Unarmed Strikes deal 1d8+4 (for an average of 8 damage) and its Bite deals 1d6+4 (average = 7) plus an additional 3d6 necrotic damage (average = 10).

With these numbers combined with the vampire’s Legendary Actions, they can deal somewhere between 40-50 points of damage on average per Round (assuming every attack hits, of course), and this also assumes they never go for the Grapple. Considering vampires can only bite willing (read: Charmed), grappled, restrained, or incapacitated PCs, those numbers see some decline.

Some suggest this output doesn’t quite live up to a Challenge Rating (CR) of 13 and recommend changes to the stat block. Mike Shea (@slyflourish on Twitter, and a great follow for all D&D fans) has a great article called “Unsuck My Vampire” that features a few suggested tweaks that he believes help the vampire earn that CR13 tag including adding necrotic and even max-HP-reducing elements to their Unarmed Strike.

When Are D&D Vampires At Their Scariest?

Vampires are at peak scariness when they seem to be in complete and uncontested control. You can play this element up in two ways.

First, play up that Charm ability! If you can get a PC under your power, you can swing the battlefield wildly, in part due to the fact that according to the rules for the vampire’s Charm as written (RAW):

Each time the vampire or the vampire’s companions do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.

So their fellow PCs can’t just snap them out of it; it takes one of the bad guys attacking the PC to do so, and the odds that the vampire permits as much is slim unless he’s going for the Bite to turn them (more on that in a second).

And to make matters worse, the Charmed person can be lead to attack his party members. So whereas 4 level 13 PCs vs 1 CR 13 vampire is a medium challenge, 3 level 13 PCs vs 1 CR 13 + their friend is going to make it a hard challenge…possibly even deadly. And there is no limit on how many you can have Charmed at once.

The second thing you can do is make the vampire the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG). Think: final boss. He or she is the person behind the curtain of so much evil that the party has to wade through before they can face the fanged-one. He is the shot-caller, an unwanted lord and ruler of his domain; but that’s not to say he doesn’t have his willing followers and devotees. Vampire spawn are no-brainers, but what about a fanatic cult who are trying to prove themselves to the vampire in order to earn their undeath and immortality?

These guys have been around for a while in their undeath. They’ve got lairs with layers of security and defenses. They didn’t live this long without taking precautions, after all.

If the PCs take the fight to the vampire’s lair (which I 100% think is what a vampire would arrange for), they’re sure to be met by minions before the master. Vampire spawn, for sure – and their Bite also lowers the max HP of the PCs. It would be a tough task for the vampire, all by himself, to lower that max to 0 and thereby turn a PC into a vampire spawn themselves, but with a little help from some spawn and a refusal to let the party leave or rest once they’re on his home turf, it could happen!

And that last bit is key: Once the fight is taken to the vampire’s lair, he or she will do everything in their power to ensure it is their final meeting one way or the other. No escape, no rest. What scares a PC more than just about anything? When they can’t regain spent resources (including HP!).

D&D Vampire Encounter Ideas

  • A local church is shipped the remains of a body meant to be buried alongside its family members in the graveyard. The grave digger is found dead; eviscerated and drained almost entirely of blood. The coffin appears to have been broken out of. All of the family members in the town now fear for their lives, but an investigation reveals that a soft-hearted uncle has given the monster refuge in his basement.
  • A city has been plagued by a series of vandalisms and missing persons. The defacing markings are strange glyphs unknown to anyone. The PCs manage to thwart an assassination attempt on the mayor and find that the perpetrator has a tattoo matching the glyph. Interrogation reveals a secret cult’s attempts to bring another city under their dark lord’s control.
  • The party receives an invitation to dine with an über-wealthy local lord at his castle. The lord explains that some element of the party’s current quest conflicts with goals of his own and attempts to dissuade them from their current course. Included are veiled threats. He doesn’t engage in combat or reveal his vampiric nature, but if the party attempts violence he Misty Forms away. The palace does not prove to be his actual resting place/lair.
  • The PCs are stalked in the night by a group of vampire spawn…who know their names. If the spawn’s numbers drop below that of the party, they attempt to flee. If questioned, they mention a “master,” but would rather die than divulge any further information.
  • The party is subtly approached by someone who refers to himself as a vampire hunter. He believes the vampire he’s after has charmed a bride-to-be, the local beauty, into breaking off a long-standing and high profile engagement – with him. Will this story prove to be true, or is the just the rationalizing fictions of heartbreak?

Other Creepy Creature Features:

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