Partial Undeath

A black robed necromancer surrounded by undead creatures
Artist unknown. Sourced from Forgotten Realm’s Wiki

For evil wizards not ready, or unwilling to attempt the transformation into a lich, partial undeath offers an interesting middle ground. Through dark and bloody rituals, a character’s body parts can be infused with negative energy, causing them to fail, and be reanimated as though they were part of an undead creature. While the caster themselves remains alive–able to enjoy life as only the living can–the parts of them which have become undead confer powerful benefits which can give the caster great advantages.

Zombie Lungs

Requirements: Animate Dead, 2 Assistants, 10,000gp worth of materials.

A focus is required to complete this ritual, and it must come in direct contact with the lungs to be successful. Once completed, the target will not need to breathe in order to survive. They can survive indefinitely underwater, and become immune to any inhaled poisons.

Zombie Stomach

Requirements: Animate Dead, 2 Assistants, 7,000gp worth of materials.

As with the Zombie Lungs, a focus must come in contact with the stomach directly. Once the ritual is completed, the target will not need to eat to survive. They also become immune to ingested poisons.

Zombie Eyes

Requirements: Animate Dead, 3 Assistants, 12,000gp worth of materials.

The eyes must be temporarily removed from the head in order to accomplish this task. When the ritual is completed, the normally white color of the eyes turns to gray. The subject gains darkvision 60ft.

Skeleton Hands

Requirements: Animate Dead, 3 Assistants, 12,000gp worth of materials.

During this ritual, all the flesh must be cut from the hands, leaving nothing but the bone beneath. When it is completed, the subject will have a 1d4 claw attack.

Ghoul Tongue

Requirements: Create Undead, 2 Assistants, 30,000gp worth of materials.

Performing this ritual requires that the tongue be split, and stretched out of the mouth until it freely hangs past the lips. Once the ritual is completed, the subject’s tongue will produce the Ghoul Fever disease. The subject themselves will be immune to it, but if they bite a victim, and that victim fails their fortitude save, then they will rise as a zombie under the biter’s command. This ability does not allow a caster to exceed the normal amount of undead they would be able to control.

Mummy Eyes

Requirements: Create Undead, 4 Assistants, 40,000gp worth of materials.

Like Zombie Eyes, this ritual requires the eyes be fully removed from the head, and then re-inserted once the procedure is complete. Along with turning the white color of the eyes grey, Mummy Eyes causes the iris to turn red and become slightly luminescent. Not so much that it would be obvious in a well lit room, but enough to be visible in darkness, or candlelight. In addition to conferring the subject with darkvision up to 60ft, Mummy Eyes also grant the Despair ability described on page 210 of the Bestiary. The only difference is that the caster must make eye contact with their victim for the ability to come into effect.

Vampire Teeth

Requirements: Create Greater Undead, 4 Assistants, 70,000gp worth of materials, Vampire’s Teeth

Vampires cannot be created by common necromancers, so in order for this ritual to be successful, the teeth must be acquired from an already existing vampire, in addition to the ritual’s other components. These teeth are not grafted into the subject’s mouth, but ground up int an enamel which is applied to the subject’s teeth, and swallowed. Once the ritual is complete, the subject will be able to regain hit points by consuming the blood of the living. While biting a target, they may deal 1d6 damage per round, and heal that same amount.

Note that a the victim does not become a vampire, or any kind of undead, if they are killed by this ability.

Ghost Skin

Requirements: Create Greater Undead, 10 Assistants, 170,000gp worth of materials, a ghost.

This is among the most difficult grafts, even though ghosts are a relatively common form of undead. Because of the level of difficulty involved, an actual ghost must be somehow captured and used in the completion of this ritual, in addition to the ritual’s other components.

Performing this ritual is a grisly ordeal. The subject’s skin must be flayed from their body, and burned in a magical fire along with the ghost. The ash from the fire must then be collected and carefully applied to the skinless body of the subject. When the ritual is complete, this will create an illusory skin which will appear and feel completely normal, though any effects which dispel or disrupt illusions will allow people to see through the subject’s skin. Many casters view this as an acceptable sacrifice, however, since the end result of this ritual is the ability to become incorporeal at will.

Bow Before The Great Pumpkin

Linus, one of the cultists from "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" by Charles Schulz
Linus, one of the cultists from “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” by Charles Schulz

My post on mechanics for the gods is still among the best I think I’ve ever written. It is detailed, without becoming complicated. I very much enjoy detailing my deities using the rules presented there, and below is a god appropriate to the season.

The Great Pumpkin

The Grin in the Dark

Lesser Deity (Divine Rank 2)
Holy Symbol An Orange circle with a smile made of of fire at the bottom.
Home Plane 402nd layer of the Abyss
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Major Portfolio Trickery
Minor Portfolio The Season of Fall, Those who Hide
Domains Trickery, Plant
Worshipers Rogues, Rangers, Druids, Squash Farmers
Clerical Alignments CE, NE, CN
Favored Weapons Concealable Blades, and poison.

The Great Pumpkin is a little-known deity whose sphere of influence is limited to agrarian areas which rely heavily upon fall crops. He is rarely seen, because he rarely wishes to be seen. When he does appear, it is as a pumpkin standing upon a dozen vines which serve as both arms and legs. A wicked, grinning faces is carved into the pumpkin, and iluminated from behind by a yellow light. The face appears to be static, but frequently changes when no one is looking.

Dogma The Great Pumpkin admonishes his followers to do whatever they must to ensure that they thrive and their enemies do not. He also teaches that if your enemies know that you are their enemy, thriving will be much more difficult for you. Furthermore, if you focus on thriving only within your family, then your family may falter within your community. If you focus on thriving within your community, enemies from without may surprise you. Be aware of who wishes you ill, and never risk long term survival on a short term goal. Unless you can succeed at both.

Clergy and Temples The Great Pumpkin, being a god of subtlety, prefers that no lasting structure be publicly dedicated to him. Worshipers gather in pumpkin fields in the dead of night to pray and offer sacrifices to their god. Once a year, during the harvest season, a temporary church is built late at night, from dried and bound stalks of corn. Here the most important sacrifices of the year–often children–are offered to the dark god. In exchange for this sacrifice The Great Pumpkin blesses his worshipers with good fortune. Once the structure has served its purpose, it is burned to the ground until next year.


Not so long ago as you might think, a small farming community existed far beyond human civilization. The people there rarely traveled away from their small, interconnected villages. They did not need to. Their soil was rich, and they produced ample food to support themselves. Shortly after the founders settled there, the community made an alliance with a coven of elven druids. It is rare that settling humans and druids get along with one another. But these humans were uncommonly happy to adapt themselves to the druid’s viewpoint and in exchange the druids helped them to cultivate the land responsibly. Teaching them to live as part of nature, rather than simply living among nature.

For several human generations this arrangement continued happily, with the druids taking on the role of community leaders. The humans, for their part, were happy to tend their crops, and live simple lives. But then new humans came. They came as humans always come to the edges of civilization: as conquerors. The human drive to expand meant that the lands shared by druids and settlers must be tamed. The inhabitants tried to fight back against the encroaching battalion, but they had no skill for war.

The druids bade their followers gather in a large pumpkin field, where together they would summon a powerful nature’s ally to defend their land. A thousand or more gathered to participate in the summoning, unaware that the evil leader of the druids intended to sacrifice them all so that he might summon a guardian of great power. The ritual began, and the masses prayed whilst the high druid wove his spells. The process continued for an hour, growing louder and more impassioned, until just as it reached its climax–

An arrow flew from the darkness and struck the high druid in the head.

The invading battalion, in full force, charged the field. They seemed prepared the slaughter the innocent villagers and remaining druids. But they had let their arrow fly too late. The ritual was completed. Their shouts of victory turned to confusion and horror as vines leaped up from the field to drag them to the ground, strangling soldiers and horses alike. The entire invading force was left gasping for breath as the life was wrung out of them. But this was not salvation for the settlers, for the vines grasped incandescently. Everyone who stood in the field that night: soldiers, farmers, druids, and generals; all died gasping for air at the culmination of the summoning ritual.

And when the last body ceased twitching, the Great Pumpkin rose up out of his pumpkin patch.

Evil Rituals

Aztec Human Sacrifice as depicted in the Codex Magliabechiano
Aztec Human Sacrifice as depicted in the Codex Magliabechiano

Evil rituals will show up in any fantasy themed adventure game from time to time. Maybe some cultists are trying to summon their lovecraftian god, or perhaps they’re attempting to transform their high priest into a huge monster. Either way, the GM will need to produce a ritual for the players to try and stop.

The way I see it, each ritual has three essential elements: preparation, preamble, and catalyst. There are also a fourth element which is optional: Timing. While not all rituals will require it, sometimes they will only work if they are performed at a certain time, such as during a full moon, when the planets align, or on the anniversary of an important event.

The preparation for a ritual may involve gathering the necessary components, or learning an ancient incantation which must be spoken for the ritual to succeed. Strictly speaking the preparatory phase is not part of the ritual proper, but it is vital to the success of the ritual. Additionally, the preparation phase is frequently how the players will learn about an upcoming evil ritual, and it serves as the best opportunity to nip the villain’s evil plans in the bud.

When the time for the ritual actually arrives, it begins with the preamble, which can go on for a long while  The length serves two purposes. First, it lends greater weight to the upcoming catalyst portion of the ritual. This buildup is essential, because nothing of great importance is accomplished quickly. Secondly, the duration of the preamble is the only period of time when the ritual has begun, but has not yet resulted in anything really bad happening. This gives time for the players to act to stop the ritual, which can be exciting.

The final phase of a ritual is the catalyst. This is short, generally a single action which will trigger whatever end result the ritual was intended to produce. If the cultists are summoning their evil god, then the moment the catalyst action is performed, then the portal will open, and the dark god will step through it.

Below are ideas for the preamble and catalyst of an evil ritual. Mix and match as you choose! A ritual could even combine multiple preambles together, as many real world religious ceremonies do. Additionally, almost any of these rituals could require a certain number of people to participate.


Reading from an important book: Sacred texts have great power, particularly in religious ceremonies.  But an arcane ceremony could also include this trope. Perhaps a wizard summoning a demon must read that demon’s 20-page true name in its entirety before the demon will respond.

Singing/Chanting: While it may sound a little silly to sing at a ritual, this is actually quite common in many real world rituals. Imagine, for example, most christian ceremonies. They include a great deal of singing. Many Native American rituals do as well.

Praying: Normally a very particular prayer would need to be said, one which glorifies the being who will choose to grant, or not grant, the ritual’s end result.

Telling a story, giving a speech: Storytelling has long been an important part of human culture. To use a real world example, imagine that those performing the ritual wished to ask Heracles to bestow his strength upon them for an upcoming battle. Part of that ritual may involve a recitation of the 12 labors of Heracles.

Torture: The victim here could either be willing or unwilling, and the torture need not end in death. Perhaps the victim of the torture will even end up being the beneficiary of the ritual’s gifts. The god must see that the person they are empowering is willing to endure suffering.

Creating An Appropriate Environment: If done ritualistically (especially in combination with one of the other Preamble elements above) this could be part of the ritual itself, rather than part of the ritual’s preparation. Imagine, for example, a dozen cultists painting arcane symbols on their bodies, while a high priest chants the words of a magic spell.


Sacrifice: The numerous ways in which a victim could be sacrificed could be a post unto itself. Nearly any way a person could be killed might be used in an evil ritual. I, personally, would avoid the cliche of tying the person to an altar and stabbing them with a ceremonial knife. Be creative, and make the catalyst match the theme. If the cultists are summoning a tidal wave to wipe out a city, then drown the victim. If they’re summoning the god of snakes, then have them kill the victim with poison snakes.

Sex: This one works best if the result of the evil ritual is being applied to the child which is being conceived at the time. By having sex under the full moon while a dozen cultists chant prayers to The God of Horribleness, the child will be born as the Avatar of Horribleness.

Inducting New Members: Evil religions make a big to-do out of bringing new members into the fold. At the conclusion of an evil ritual, a new member could be baptized (whatever that means for the particular religion), thus increasing the number of the evil god’s followers.

Desecration of a Holy Object: Destroying a sacred artifact of great power, or otherwise desecrating something which radiates holy magic is sure to please any evil god, and weaken the followers of good.

Cannibalism: It’s difficult to imagine an act more evil than this. Once a person eats another, there can be no redemption for them. So it makes the perfect centerpiece to an evil ritual.

5 Killer Curses

1944 movie poster for The Mummy's Curse
1944 movie poster for The Mummy’s Curse

Curses don’t show up in tabletop games as often as you might think they would. Traditionally, curses are placed on tombs to prevent grave robbers from stealing the wealth which is buried there, right? But adventurers rob tombs all the time; the worst they ever need to deal with is an animated corpse. And while placing a curse on everything would be a massive time sink which would ultimately not be any fun, a curse here or there could add variety to game play. Sitting down with a notepad just now, I came up with five curses in about 15 minutes which I think would be interesting to use in a game.

Forgive me if this post lacks any of my usual style. As I write this, I am immensely tired.

Mummy’s Curse: Probably the most iconic of curses, the curse of the mummy is simple. When you break into a tomb under the protection of this curse and take something, the mummy rises from the dead. It then hunts you down, kills you, and retrieves what you stole. In D&D, however, mummies are really just another type of undead creature, rather than being part of a curse. They are described as a guardian creature, and are able to spread the curse/disease of Mummy Rot, but there’s nothing which matches the traditional Abbot and Costello style curse.

I propose that, while mummies can exist anywhere, they are most commonly created when a tomb must be protected against robbery. When that is the case, the doors to the tomb are sealed with magics which bestow the curse of the mummy upon trespassers. While the curse is active, the mummy who protects hte tomb which was trespassed upon will always be aware of the location of all of those who bear the curse, and will hunt them, or be destroyed in trying.

Destroyer’s Curse: When a sacred object such as a statue or talisman is broken, sometimes it will confer a curse to the character responsible for breaking it. Until the curse is removed, the character will find that they cannot handle anything safely. Everything they touch with their hands breaks. If they pick up a sword, the blade and pommel will fall apart, leaving the object useless. If they try to don clothing or armor, cloth will tear and straps will snap.

The power of this curse has limits. It cannot be used to destroy a wall or mountain. A rock will not crumble into pebbles simply because it is touched by the character. A good rule of thumb is that tools, weapons, and other items which would commonly be found in a character’s equipment will break if touched. While anything larger than the character themselves will probably be immune.

Captain’s Curse: A spiteful warlock may place a curse upon a position of authority, such as the mayor’s office of a certain town, the captaincy of a ship, or even just the king’s chef. When a job is covered by a captain’s curse, anyone who takes the job will mysteriously end up dead the moment they start trying to do the job competently. For example if the king’s chef made a delicious stew, then somehow they would end up falling into the pot and drowning.

When a position is afflicted by a Captain’s Curse, anyone who fills that role must do their best to perform their job incompetently, lest they become victims of the curse. A captain’s curse cannot be dispelled simply by using Dispell Magic. Normally a more involved decursing ritual is required.

Curse of Secrecy: Sometimes, knowledge itself may be cursed. This would be extremely unusual, as casting a spell on a concept is a difficult task. But for a dark god who wishes to keep their true name a secret, for example, it would be an easy feat.

Anyone who learns a piece of cursed knowledge will find that it is the only secret they can keep. They will be unable to speak a word to anyone about the cursed knowledge, but every other secret they know will constantly fall out of their m omouthes during casual conversation. If remove curse is cast, then the secret which originally caused the curse is forgotten as well.

Broken Mirror: A classic curse bestowing act. A broken mirror is, traditionally, seven years of bad luck. This is nothing but hokum. Breaking a mirror has no effects on a character’s luck. Breaking a magical mirror, however, has significant consequences. A doppleganger of the character will form out of the shards of broken glass within seven weeks of the mirror being destroyed. If the shards are seperated, then the largest group of them will fopminto the doppleganger with no loss of strength. Once it is created, the creature will have but one mission: to find punish the person whose face they wear.

Magical Marvels 8: The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams

The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams, as painted by Daarken for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game High Resolution
The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams, as painted by Daarken for the WoWTCG

Once long ago, an evil wizard summoned a demon into the world, intending to use the demon’s grisly might in a nefarious scheme for power. The wizard’s plans were foiled, however, by a daring paladin who had hunted the wizard for weeks. She assaulted his sanctum, and he bade his demon to attack her while he fled. The battle between the paladin and the demon was fierce, but ultimately the paladin was victorious. She swung her greatsword down into the demon’s head, lodging it so tightly between the beasts eyes that she could not pull it free. Not wishing to allow the wizard to escape, the paladin drew a short sword, and ran after him. Whatever happened to her and the wizard is unknown, but there is no doubt of this much: she never came back for the sword.

Normally when a demon is slain on the material plane, their soul fades away, and is reformed anew within the Abyss. But the greatsword lodged within the demon’s brain was powerfully enchanted. Among many abilites which it granted its wielder were spells to seal evil, and to prevent travel between planes. And though the blade now had no wielder, these magics none the less prevented the demon from returning to its home plane. Trapped within a dead body, all the fiend could do was dream.

For centuries dreams of slaughter and chaos unparalleled dominated the demon’s half-conscious mind. Over the ages, the flesh of the demon rotted away, leaving naught but bones, the blade, and the pulsing brain in which the greatsword was buried. The dreams of the demon began to corrupt the blade, sapping at the purity of the paladin’s weapon until none remained. When the greatsword was finally recovered by an adventurer, over 700 years after it was placed there, it had become a fully evil thing. And as the demon’s soul fled back into the abyss, it took some small comfort knowing its centuries of imprisonment had produced an item which would sow chaos among mortals.

The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams is unique among weapons, because in order to access its full potential, it must have two wielders. When in the hands of most people, the blade appears to be a bright shade of blood red, and grants the wielder abilities very useful to physical combat. When in the hands of a caster able to cast 5th level spells or higher, the blade’s color takes on a purple hue, and the wielder gains access to a completely different set of powers.

The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams (Warrior’s Blade)
Artifact Greatsword


(Blade)(Attack) +4
(Blade)(Damage) 2d6 + 4 (Slashing)(18-20/x2) plus Curse of Horrid Dreams


At Will – Dimensional Anchor, cast by holding the blade so that the hilt faces towards the target. When the command word “You will not flee.” is spoken, red and black tendrils of light emerge from the crossguard of the blade, enveloping the target and creating a barrier around them which prevents planar travel according to the rules of the spell as written on page 270 of the PFCRB.

1/1d4 minutes – Bestow Curse, cast by tilling the target “You will X,” where X is a word or phrase which represents the curse. To use the examples given in the PFCRB, if you wish to decrease the targets wisdom by 6, you might say “You will die a fool,” whereas if you wished to give your target a 50% chance to take no action on their turn, you might say “You will falter before my power!” This ability otherwise follows the rules and limitations laid out on page 247 of the PFCRB.

3/Day – Hallucinatory Terrain, cast by twirling the blade in your hands (requiring a dexterity score of at least 10 to accomplish) and saying “Battle amidst a demon’s dream.” The only terrain which this use of the spell can create is a hellscape, battlefield, or other place a demon might dream of. It otherwise functions as the spell on page 293 of the PFCRB, as cast by a 12th level caster.


  • Psychic strike – 5/day, the wielder of The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams may channel the power of their own horrid dreams into their attacks. By dwelling on a horrifying dream which has plagued them in the past, they can add their wisdom score to both their attack and damage rolls for that round. Use of this ability must be announced prior to the attack roll being made. Psychic strike does not function on any foe which cannot feel fear, such as a foe which is mindless, or a construct.
  • Curse of Horrid Dreams – Anytime a target takes damage from the Greatsword of Horrid Dreams, they must succeed on a will save (DC: 14 + the wielder’s wisdom bonus). This curse has no effect on its own. However, in order for most of the Caster’s Blade abilities to function, the target must already be afflicted with the curse of horrid dreams.


The most obviously unusual feature of The Greatsword of Horrid dreams is its length. The blade is a full two feet longer than most greatswords. Furthermore, it appears to have been made from stained glass, and is even partially transparent near edges. A quick test will reveal, however, that the blade is as strong as adamantium, and as sharp as a razor. While in the Warrior’s Blade state, the entire sword–blade, hilt, crossguard and all–are different shades of blood red which shift and move across the surface of the weapon. It is important to note that despite its obviously magical appearance, the blade emits no light whatsoever.

The Greatsword of Horrid Dreams (Caster’s Blade)
Artifact Greatsword


(Blade)(Damage) 2d6 + 1 (Slashing)(19-20/x2)


At Will – Dream, Cast by whispering the name of the person which you wish to send to, this spell functions as written on page 274 of the PFCRB

1/Day – Nightmare, Cast by opening a small wound on the blade’s edge and whispering the name of the person which you wish to cast the spell upon. The spell functions as written on page 316 of the PFCRB

1/week – Gate, cast by crying out in a booming voice “Ready the path to glory!” This version of the spell can only open portals to the Abyss, which remain open for as long as the caster concentrates on them. Otherwise it functions as the spell found on page 288 of the PFCRB.

3/day – Phantasmal Killer, cast by telling the target “Your very nightmares themselves serve me!”  The spell functions as written on page 319 of the PFCRB.


  • See Cursed – At any time while holding the Greatsword of Horrid Dreams, a caster able to cast 5th level spells or higher can close their eyes, and see the face of each person afflicted by The Curse of Horrid Dreams in turn. The face is shown in real time, but the image includes no audio or background. So it is possible to tell if the victim is alive or dead, awake or asleep, etc. But little more information than that can be determined.
  • Insomnia – By concentrating on anyone afflicted by The Curse of Horrid Dreams for 1 hour, the caster can prevent the victim from sleeping for the next 24. Insomnia can be used to cause severe fatigue in victims, but never death. If the victim would die from lack of sleep, then the magic of the insomnia effect is broken.
  • Dream Invasion – By concentrating on a sleeping victim afflicted by The Curse of Horrid Dreams, the caster can observe that victim’s dreams. The ability of the caster to interpret those dreams depends greatly on how well the caster knows the victim. If they are complete strangers, there is a 30% chance that the caster will be able to determine any relevant information about that person. For acquaintances that chance rises to 50%, for people who are known well such as friends or rivals the chance increases to 60%. For close friends or family members, the chances increase to 70%.
  • Horrid Dreams – By concentrating on a sleeping target, the caster may enter their dreams and torture them from within their own mind. Functionally this ability works like the Phantasmal Killer spell, save that the caster themself is the object of horror, and the spell can be cast from any distance so long as the target is afflicted by The Curse of Horrid Dreams, and is asleep. The victim is entitled to a will save against the caster (at a -2 penalty) to disbelieve the illusion. If they fail, they must succeed on a fortitude save or die from fear. Even if this fortitude save is successful, the victim takes 3d6 damage, as well as losing 1 point of wisdom permanently.


The appearance of the Caster’s Blade is identical to that of the Warrior’s Blade, save that the color changes from shades of red, to shades of purple. The purple coloring of the blade is depicted in the artwork above.

Vampiric Classifications 2: Types

Promotional Photograph of Viktor. A vampire Lord, at best.
Promotional photograph from Underworld 3. An underrated movie, in my most humble opinion.

Last week I posted regarding Vampiric Hierarchy, detailing how the hidden society of vampires interact with one another in my campaign worlds. With that out of the way, I’ll move on to specific vampire types, and a broad generalization about what those types represent. But that’s all which can be offered here: generalizations. A player would be a fool to assume two vampires of the same type will present the same challenge, because the curse of the nosferatu affects each of its victims in a unique way. As the great monster hunter Van Richten wrote, “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.”

Types According to Hierarchical Ranking

Fledgelings are newly created vampires, and the lowest on the vampiric hierarchy. Since vampires gain in power as they progress in age, a fledgelings powers are understandably weak compared to most of their brethren. Their strength and spell-like abilities have not yet come into their full potential. Each fledgeling develops at a different rate, but it is common for the vampire’s physical abilities–great strength and speed, the ability to climb walls as a spider would, resistance to mundane weapons, etc.–to be available immediately upon the vampire’s creation. While the more mystical and subtle of a vampire’s abilities, such as domination or changing shape, often take longer to develop. Conversely, all of a vampire’s weaknesses are in full effect immediately after a fledgelings creation, and in most cases the fledgeling is significantly more vulnerable to them than a more powerful vampire would be. While a vampire Lord, for example, might survive several seconds in sunlight, a vampire fledgeling would be instantly incinerated by it.

Coven Vampire. Though stronger than fledgelings, coven vampires are considered weak because they were unable to rise to the rank of soldier or lord/lady. Most commonly, coven vampires live in groups of 5-30, though larger covens have been known to exist. A coven vampire’s abilities are developed more fully than a fledgeling’s, but coven vampires cannot create spawn. In a game like Pathfinder, coven vampires would not have PC class levels.

Vampires from the D&D 3rd edition Monster Manual. By Wayne ReynoldsSoldiers are most likely the vampires which you find under “V” in your Bestiary, Monster Manual, or what have you. They are fearsome foes with full mastery of all the basic vampire abilities. They can create fledgelings if they so choose, but the creation of fledgelings is often considered a declaration that the Vampire wishes to establish themselves as a Lord or Lady in their own right. Despite the title ‘soldier,’ this rank does not necessarily imply that the vampire fills a combat role. In addition to bodyguards and warriors, soldier vampires can include advisers, diplomats, or even consorts. A fully developed vampire who is in direct service to their Lord or Lady is termed a soldier, regardless of specific occupation.

Lord and Lady vampires are undead aristocracy. They rule over impressive lairs or even castles. Occasionally they will even rule over a populace of the living, keeping their unlife a secret by shrouding themselves behind layers of bureaucracy, or using a trusted majordomo to carry out their edicts. Vampiric Lords and Ladies have grown in power beyond anything which could be called ‘typical.’ It is at this level of power which a vampire’s unique traits truly begin to emerge. Some vampires gain physical prowess in the extreme, becoming far stronger and faster even than their already strong and fast fellows. Others may gain unnatural mystical prowess, allowing them to call upon more powerful versions of their spell like abilities, or even developing new abilities altogether. Still others may actually become resistant to their vampire weaknesses, allowing them to ignore the upheld holy symbol of a cleric, or walk freely across running water. And the older a vampire grows, the more powerful they will inevitably become.

First is a rank which cannot be achieved through a vampire’s growing power. While even a commoner could rise to the level of Vampire Lord if they had enough ambition and talent, the rank of First Lord and First Lady is reserved for those who are a direct descendent of the Highlord or Queen of their bloodline. And while a Lord or Lady’s power may be immense, the power of a first dwarfs it. The purity of the curse which afflicts a vampiric first allows them to evolve at twice the speed of any vampires they or their descendents create.

Highlords and Queens are without peer. Often they are so powerful, that they are immune to typical vampire weaknesses. Even sunlights, while painful and disorienting, cannot destroy without prolonged exposure. These rulers of vampiric bloodlines frequently have unique and devastating powers. For example, The Blind Empress, a vampiric queen, was actually capable of causing a solar eclipse, allowing herself and her vampire warriors to devastate rival bloodlines easily by attacking them during the day. Highlords and Queens also develop physical changes as well. To again use The Blind Empress as an example, she had permanent wings, and skin which cut like a blade.

Anomalous Types

Screenshot from 30 days of Night, Feral Vampire
A feral vampire, as depicted in ’30 Days of Night,’ without question one of the worst films I’ve seen in my entire life. The vampires looked pretty, though.

Feral Vampires are hungry. They have been without any blood for months, or even years, and they have lost their grip on reality. A feral vampire is a beast who pursues blood without a thought for subtlety or personal safety. Mind you, feral vampires will not foolishly destroy themselves, and they maintain enough intelligence to recognize and avoid danger. But they will brazenly attack in plain view of dozens of people, and they are not very good at keeping track of how much time they have remaining until sunrise. The only cure for a feral vampire is to consume massive amounts of blood. The equivalent of about 100-200 people in the space of a week. Any fledgelings created by a feral vampire will be feral themselves, and incurable.

When a vampire goes feral, it draws a great deal of attention to itself. For this reason, feral vampires are typically hunted down and killed by other vampires. The last thing anybody wants is for one vampire to go on a killing spree, and inspire a dozen towns to put bounties on vampire teeth.

Recovered Feral vampires are uncommon, since most are either killed by those they wish to hunt, or by their fellow vampires. However, it does occur, and when it does the effects of their feral period are not kind to the vampire’s appearance. Their face becomes much more sunken, and their teeth and fingers both become much longer, even to the point of being somewhat unwieldy. While most vampires are able to pass for human if the need arises, a feral vampire would be unable to do that without great difficulty. They appear much more like an animated corpse than their fellows, and will always lust for blood more than a typical vampire would. Recovered ferals are generally looked down upon within vampire society.

Rhonin Vampires are a rare breed. Somehow they managed to overcome the powerful magics which prevent a vampire from ever attacking their master. Every time their attention was diverted, or they lost consciousness, they powered through, until they had broken the magic’s hold over them. At this ponit they are already dangerously unbalanced, and the final act of killing their own master drives them fully into maddness. They become completely severed from their bloodline. Normally they are left to their own devices, and their maddness is used as a deterring example to other vampires.

Screenshot from 30 days of Night, Feral Vampire
A recovered feral vampire, as depicted by Radu from the Subspecies films. (Speaking of, have you seen Obscurus Lupa’s reviews of said films? )

Damphyr, or ‘half vampires’ can come about in several ways, none of them common. A pregnant woman who is turned into a fledgeling, for example, will not give birth to a full vampire, since the child was already partially formed prior to her transformation. Likewise, it is sometimes possible for congress between a vampire and a living mortal to result in pregnancy. The child who is born part vampire does not have access to the full range of vampiric abilities, but does have many of the traits of their vampiric parent, though to a lesser degree. Damphyrs are also afflicted by a vampire’s weaknesses, though again, to a lesser degree than their parent. A Damphyr can go out in daylight, for example, but will find the experience both painful and disorienting. If a damphyr refrains from consuming blood, then both their powers, and their weaknesses, will lessen over time, allowing them to live as a normal member of their species. If at any time they do consume blood, though, their powers will return in full force.

Survivor Vampire. After a vampire is nearly destroyed by one of its weaknesses, they occasionally develop an illness which incapacitates them for weeks. This illness is extremely painful and draining, requiring the vampire to feed a great deal more often than normal. When the illness ends, the vampire will find they have become resistant to the harmful agent which caused the illness. For example, a vampire who was nearly destroyed by sunlight would be able to last in sunlight for up to a minute without dying. Or a vampire who was doused in holy water would find they now had greater resistance to holy magics.

Revenant – Spectral vampires. The exact method of their creation is unknown, but it is suspected that they are destroyed vampires who have been reanimated through the most powerful and evil necromatic magics imaginable. Revenants lose the ability to create spawn, as well as any interest in participating in the political machinations of vampire society. They are indiscriminate death-dealers who spread disease and discord wherever they go. In many ways they are like feral vampires. But while ferals are driven by hunger to become beasts without intellect, revenants are driven by hate to become beasts without affection or restraint.

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