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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2 thoughts on “Vampiric Classifications 2: Types”

  1. Vampires! Classic monsters (gotta stick to my guns with monsters ’cause media today would have you believe otherwise) with awesome weaknesses. Personally I always used Vampire: the Masquerade for my take on vampires in games like DnD/Pathfinder, though other ones like RIFTs had a good take on it too.

    If you look in the Libris Mortis (the Book of Terrible Latin, that is), you’ll find that there’s a Master Vampire prestige class that lends itself well to the hive mind/Alien Intelligence sort of vampires that come out of RIFTs Mexico. There are a couple as well for ghouls and mummies and whatnot that, if you take out the race/undead requirements lend themselves nicely to being special abilities for specific monsters.

    My party never expected that the half-dragon chimera they were fighting would also have the benefits of being a Tomb Guardian, gaining strength whenever it was in its designated locale. Granted, you could always do this without the crunch, but I like to draw inspiration from a lot of sources.

    In the vein of Halloween brevity though, have you considered vampiric animals? Of the more notable sorts for inspiration for me were Vampire Finches, Oxpeckers, Lampreys and Mosquitoes.. But there was always a book that amused me as a kid.

    It involved a vampiric rabbit named… Bunnicula! It would suck the ‘blood’ out of vegetables, leaving them pale and if I remember right, tasteless. That could make for an interesting adventure, a farmer asks the PCs to check out what’s happening to his fields and there’s a master vampire Bunnicula and its coven of (gorgeous) lady rabbit slaves!

    1. The weaknesses of the Vampire are what really define them. Ostensibly a creature which is weak against sunlight or who doesn’t like mirrors would seem weak to us. Those are minor, every day things which we view as trivial. And yet the fact that the vampire is harmed by such trivial things somehow makes them even more otherworldly and terrifying.

      Bunnicula was a badass. Vampiric animals are a fun idea.

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