Written by Eric Fazekas
This article was originally published in & Magazine Issue 2 in August 2012.
I enjoy Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, and while reading them I realized these vampires are much more interesting and powerful than the ones in old-school D&D. In the books there are three vampire courts: Red, White, and Black (and a mysterious once referenced Jade).
The Red Court vampires resemble a sort of bat demon disguised as a human. They are scary in that someone you know who is human and doesn't radiate magic might suddenly turn into a giant monstrosity.
The White Court vampires are closer to being a race of succubae, feeding off others' emotions and life forces. They derive their power from an internal symbiote, referred to as a demon, which must be fed on the life force of others. They are some of the deadliest monsters to player characters because they aren't easily labeled monsters— just gorgeous humans with no claws, no fangs, no sense of evil. What could go wrong?
The Black Court vampires are similar to Bram Stoker's, with the added potential for spell casting. The most dangerous part about them is their intelligence. Due to their weaknesses (sunlight, garlic, etc.) being exposed to most of the general public, they prefer to run in packs and evaluate potential victims' strength before they attack, ensuring victory will be theirs.
I like these strains of vampires because they aren't singularly dangerous to high-level parties, but in groups, especially with an intelligent leader, they can prove a deadly and dangerous foe. Also, their powers are a great alternative to level draining, which as a player I find a monstrous concept (no saving throw!).
|Damage||1d4/1d4/1d6 (HD 3-5), 1d6/1d6/1d8 (HD 6-8), 2d4/2d4/2d6 (HD 9-10)|
|Special Attacks||see below|
|Special Defenses||see below|
Red Court vampires do not seem to be the terrorizing monsters the knowledgeable accuse them of being. After all, they look like gorgeous humans, with perfect bodies, beautiful eyes, and an entirely charming presence. It's no wonder that they can charm people just by looking into their eyes (successful save negates).
Red Court vampires can generate "flesh masks," a shell of apparently living flesh, to disguise their body into any shape and size, and they usually take the form of beautiful humans. However, underneath this lie is a repulsive monster that hardly resembles a human at all. They are around five and a half feet tall and have black, greasy, flabby skin. Their arms end in long, clawed hands, and their knees bend backwards like a chicken's. In this form instead of charming a victim, they cause fear that roots a victim to its spot (save versus paralyzation to negate). They have also been compared to spiders because they can climb walls and run along ceilings as if they were continually benefitting from Spider Climb.
Sunlight harms red vampires, causing 2d8 points of damage per round, while Continual Light or similar magic causes 2d4 points of damage per round. Generally they are active at night and take shelter in buildings without windows or deep underground. During the day, they rest, and at night they prowl cities, looking for easy victims to take back to their lairs and feast upon their blood.
In combat, red vampires attack with two claws and a bite. If all three attacks hit, they latch onto the victim and drain blood at a rate of 2d6 points of damage per round (2d8 if HD is greater than 7) until either the victim or the vampire dies. Their bite is doubly dangerous because Red Court vampires' saliva produces euphoria in the victim and can Charm the victim (successful save negates).
Usually the victim is killed by the feeding. However, they can drain the victim to 0 hit points and infect the victim with their venom (takes one round after opponent reaches 0 hit points), and at the next dawn the victim will become a half vampire of 3 HD. When a human becomes a half vampire, they gain strength, speed, and agility nearly equal to that of a Red Court vampire(typically +4 beyond human normal). They also gain a bloodlust, feeling the constant need to drain a nearby human. Once they kill they become a full-fledged Red Court vampire. Often the vampire that turned a victim will place a helpless sacrifice near the half vampire so that it will quickly become another full vampire.
Due to competition and rivalry between vampire clans and within a clan, victims are usually eaten unless they have significant power to bring to the clan, such as magical ability. Transformed classed characters retain their non-divine class abilities even in undeath.
Red Court vampires are magically strong. One needs silver weapons (half damage) or magical weapons (full damage) in order to hurt them. Holy symbols will keep them at bay for 1d3 rounds but will not harm them or turn them.
Red vampire hunting parties are typically comprised of 2d4 members of 3 to 5 hit dice. There will usually be a leader of 6 HD and AC 2. The vampires' lair will have 5d6 members and a chief of 7 HD and AC 1. If the vampires number more than 50, the head vampire will have 8 HD and AC 0, and will be attended by several (1d3) chiefs. It is very likely that the head will be a magic-user of at least 5th level, and the chiefs may be magic-users of at least 3rd level. Larger clans (which are rare due to rivalry between members) are run by vampires of 9 or 10 HD whose hardened skin and greater speed give them an AC of -2. These will be magic-users of 7th level or higher.
Red vampire clans are independent of each other and will not work together unless there is a great threat or need, though after the defeat of the threat they will likely backstab each other.
|Damage||2d4 (2d6 if HD>6) or by weapon type|
|Special Attacks||drain emotion, see below|
|Special Defenses||hit only by silver or magical weapons|
|Intelligence||above average-super genius|
Usually White Court vampires can pass as normal humans and are able to blend in perfectly with them. They are exceptionally beautiful (Charisma 16 to 20) and have extremely pale, white skin. Sunlight doesn't harm them nor cause them discomfort; likewise holy symbols or holy water have no effect. They have no fangs, the typical trademark of a vampire. The only distinguishing feature is that their blood is a lighter color, rather than a dark red.
Unlike other vampires who can be created by being drained of life force by another vampire, white vampires are not so easily created. They are normally born from the union of two white vampires or a white vampire and a human. However, mortals can also be converted into white vampires, though this process is unknown.
What makes white vampires dangerous is their inner symbiote. "Demon" is a better term for the symbiote, as it makes them stronger and controls them to a certain extent. The demon gives the white vampire extraordinary strength, speed, and dangerous powers with mortal emotions. But it comes at a cost. They must feed on the life force of others to satiate the demon; otherwise it consumes their life force, eventually killing them.
White vampires are very few: Three main clans have been identified by sages. Unlike red vampires, which feast on blood, white vampires feed on a victim's emotions. One known clan feeds off of intimacy and can attempt to charm at will. Another derives its life force from victims' fears and can likewise Cause Fear as per the spell. The last feeds from others' despair, and can Cause Hopelessness as per the spell. These powers can be used at will and, in the case of stronger specimens, can function on all mortals within 10'. There are also rumors of other less well known clans that feed off of other emotions.
White vampires do not willingly enter combat. Not that they are weak; rather they are crafty and much prefer to trick others into fighting for them instead of risking their own lives. If forced into combat, they will attempt to cause emotion within the attacker (see above) and will fight with skill. They prefer to use weapons, magical if they have them, and are incredibly strong (+3 on strength) and can strike for great amounts of damage. Given the opportunity they cause charm/fear/hopelessness and feed upon a victim, draining 1d4 hp per round. They may "snack" on a victim or may drain them to death. Once victims have been affected they willingly allow themselves to be fed upon. In some cases the victims become addicted to being fed upon and will allow feeding at any time.
Their defenses are just as great: One needs silver (half damage) or magical (full damage) weapons in order to harm them. In addition, when their demon is fully fed they regenerate 3 hit points per round and can fully regenerate their hit points once a day, though it takes 3 rounds to do so. White vampires are immune to all poisons and paralyzation. They are not immune to their own emotional attack form and in some cases will prey upon each other, although it is believed this is done as a form of dominance or punishment.
Their best defense is their tight family bonds. Although there are rivalries and power grabs within a clan, they defend their clan's power, and some care for one another. If one white vampire has been injured and flees, the rest of the clan will protect it and will seek revenge.
A white vampire's lair is very opulent and is quite spacious, looking like a rich person's mansion, with many guards (usually mortals) and located in a large tract of land near rich mortals in order to not stand out.
Subtle manipulation is an art form of white vampires. If there is a person or group that they believe that they can mold to their own ends, they will not hesitate to try to make a treaty or trade favors to accomplish their purposes. They prefer to stay in the guise of a human and appeal to the morality of a group. For example, a male white vampire might claim to a group that his wife and kids were abducted by a group of giants (who were conveniently in the way of the clan's expansion). He offers to pay the group to take them out.
Naturally born white vampires are normal humans during childhood and puberty. As they reach maturity the symbiote inside them exerts its influence, causing them to feed on their first victim. This initial feeding always kills the victim and transforms him or her into an adult White Court vampire of 3 HD. Within a decade they gain a hit die, and in another decade a second and their natural AC reduces to 3. A decade after that they gain yet another HD. After that they will gain a HD and a point of AC roughly every 50 years. They can afford to be patient, being immortal creatures and ones not used to much overt action. The leader of each clan is old enough and experienced enough to be 9 HD and AC 0, and the King of all the clans is ancient and tough, having 10 HD and an AC of -1.
|Damage||2d8 or by weapon type|
|Special Attacks||spells, fear, sucking blood, surprise 5 in 6|
|Special Defenses||hit by magical weapons only|
|Intelligence||average to super genius|
Black Court vampires are the stereotypical undead that comes to mind when one thinks vampire. They appear as humanoids whose flesh is decayed and/or dried, more closely resembling a skeleton than anything else. Older ones who have lost their flesh will be mistaken for skeletons if it weren't for their milky white eyes and a few remaining organs—the brain and the heart.
They have the weaknesses that the standard vampire has: sunlight, which kills new black vampires (5-6 HD) in 1 round and harms most others for 2d8 damage per round. The most ancient and powerful black vampires (11-12 HD) can withstand broad daylight with little inconvenience. Holy water does 2d6 hp damage per vial that splashes upon the vampire. Running water will kill the vampire if the monster is immersed in the water for 3 rounds. Garlic deals 1d4 damage to a black vampire. If a black vampire is struck through the heart with wood or decapitated, it dies. Otherwise, they can be harmed only by +1 weapons or higher, while +2 weapons will be needed to harm black vampires of 9 HD or greater.
Due to the fact that most people believe that holy symbols, garlic, and wooden stakes kill vampires, and most think there is only one type of vampire, the numbers of black vampires have declined, while the population of red and white vampires, which aren't harmed by such weapons, has increased. The black vampires that remain are usually either the oldest and strongest, or the newest ones that have recently been created.
In combat, black vampires seek to attack from behind with total surprise. If that is not possible, they send their minions (controlled mortals or weaker black vampires) into direct combat while waiting for a better opportunity. Five percent are spell-casters (65% magic-user, 15% cleric, 10% illusionist, 10% druid). Their spell-casting level is the same as their hit dice.
The process by which Black Court vampires produce new vampires is unknown; all that is known is that it involves killing the prospective vampire. Newly formed black vampires are stronger than the other courts, having 5 HD.
In combat they prefer to bite (2d8 hp damage) and on subsequent rounds automatically drain blood at 2d8 hp per round.
Black vampires' lairs are inside of buildings, underground, or in any dark place where the sun will not shine. They are usually found in poor districts as the food supply is plentiful and the ability to strike back is less. They can function during daylight hours but will not risk exposure to sunlight.
All references have been made to vampires in the form of humans, and humans being turned into vampires. However, sages report that any demi-human or humanoid race can be turned, although this is less common.
Author's Note: This article is not authorized by Jim Butcher, the author of The Dresden Files. The terms "Dresden Files", "Red Court", "White Court", and "Black Court" are the intellectual property of Mr. Butcher and publication of this article is not intended to infringe upon his rights. As per instructions on his web site, this article is published under the Common Core License.
Mr. Butcher's Dresden Files web site is http://www.jim-butcher.com/books/Dresden and the Creative Commons License site is http://creativecommons.org/
Copyright 2013 Eric Fazekas