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Design & Development
Stephen Schubert

Heroes of Shadow provides a number of options for playing characters with a slightly darker tone. One new sort of option, something we really haven’t done since Savage Species, is the vampire.

Why is Vampire a Class, Not a Race?

In Heroes of Shadow, we took a different approach to portraying a vampire character. In the D&D game, so much of a character’s identity is expressed by the powers that character can use. We wanted to provide a way that players could create a character that both captures the aspects of the iconic vampire, and feels like a vampire every round.

The class framework allowed for a power structure that gave the player something iconically vampiric to do every round. It also allowed us, through class mechanics, to illustrate the hunger for blood that drives vampires.

We think the result is a compelling class that provides a number of interesting new character combos, with halfling, shifter or elven vampires, in addition to the Strahd-like human vampire. Of course, plenty of fans also want to play vampire wizards, or vampire clerics of Pelor, or other such characters—and really that’s what the vryloka are for, to provide vampires as a race. (Of course, this also means that someone could conceivably be a vryloka vampire, but if it works, use it!)

What’s Up with the Healing and Healing Surges?

Traditionally (or at least in popular culture), vampires are presented as constantly hungering for blood, fighting off the temptation to drink up every time they meet a living, breathing, bleeding person. During the vampire’s design, we wanted to try to emulate this thirst in mechanics so that it was more than just a thematic nod but actually something the player must keep track of and describe in game.

The vampire starts with just 2 healing surges each day. He doesn’t get any bonus surges from his Constitution modifier, he just gets 2. This, of course, drastically increases his fragility, but we countered some of this by also giving the vampire regeneration (like many Monster Manual vampires). At the end of a fight, the vampire should be able to at least get back to half his hit points simply through regeneration. If he happens to have any extra healing surges, he can heal all the way up.

Extra healing surges? Yep. We let the vampire gain healing surges through the use of blood drinker; every time he uses it, he gains another healing surge, and can eventually use the power up to three times per encounter. We also made the power a triggered action, contingent on a hit with an at-will power (sort of like the fighter’s power strike), so he can’t inadvertently waste it by missing with his encounter power.

Blood Drinker
Vampire Attack
When your attack strikes true, you sweep past your foe’s defenses to consume the essence of its life.
No Action Personal
Trigger: You hit an enemy with a vampire melee at-will attack power.
Target: The triggering enemy
Effect: The target takes 1d10 extra damage from the triggering attack, and you gain a healing surge.
Level 17: 2d10 extra damage.
Level 27: 3d10 extra damage.

Of course, we know there are some players out there who are good enough to never take damage, right? So we let these extra healing surges do a little more than simply heal. The vampire can also use his healing surges as currency, to boost his other encounter attack power as well as some utilities.

And for those of you that know you’ll never have excess healing surges (something about being a lightly armored striker with high initiative), you can still fill up during a short rest, though doing so is a drain on party resources. You’ll just need a willing donor to give you one of his or her own healing surges, and you’ll be in tip-top shape. Not only is the mechanic very flavorful, it also keeps the vampire’s player from wanting to halt an adventuring day (night?) simply because he had an unlucky encounter.

Vampire Abilities

The vampire class powers really hit the iconic, Hammer Horror-style bloodsucker. You get the mesmerizing gaze attacks, the blood drinking, and the dramatic entrance powers (swarm of shadow, form of the bat), as well as gaseous form and regeneration. The class is intentionally narrow, as we wanted to emphasize these specific traits, though this also means that until paragon tier there’s not much choice along the way.

Swarm of Shadows
Vampire Attack 1
Your body becomes a swarm of batlike shadows that let you harry your enemies, then fade from sight.
DailyImplement, Shadow, Teleportation
Standard Action Close blast 3
Target: Each enemy in the blast
Attack: Dexterity vs. Fortitude
Hit: 3d6 + Dexterity modifier damage, and ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
Effect: You teleport to a square in the blast and are invisible until the end of your next turn.

Form of the Bat
Vampire Utility 6
Your body becomes a cloud of pure shadow that shrinks and coalesces into the form of a fluttering bat.
EncounterPolymorph, Shadow
Standard Action Personal
Effect: You assume the form of a Tiny bat. While you are in this form, you have a speed of 2 and a fly speed of 8, and you cannot make attacks or hold or carry any object. Your equipment becomes part of this form. You use a move action to return to your normal form.

Once you hit paragon tier, we provide two directions to go, either as the charismatic beguiler, or succumbing to your baser needs and becoming a stalker.

Death in Sunlight?

Vampires in D&D and in most popular culture have some disadvantage in direct sunlight; in most descriptions, sunlight is outright fatal. We didn’t want to cheat the system or make player character vampires just be all glittery in sunlight, so we kept the danger. It’s not instantly fatal—you’ll take a bit of radiant damage every round (which you’re vulnerable to, of course), and if you happen to lose all your hit points, then you’re instantly destroyed. So it pays to be cautious.

At the same time, we recognize that it’s a little too harsh to prohibit outdoor daytime adventuring, so we also provided an easy work-around. If a vampire character is bundled up enough, then he can avoid the dangers of sunlight. It should certainly still raise some eyebrows when you roll into town on a hot summer’s day all covered in cloaks and shadows. But most of those eyebrows are just attached to food, anyway, right?

Class-ic Vampire

I’m pretty stoked about how the vampire class turned out. The framework is solid, and I think we hit all the high notes of the iconic Count. I’m looking forward to hearing about peoples’ experiences playing vampire characters, and see if there are other places we need to take the class, or if there are any other classic monsters you think could use the same treatment. I know werewolf has been mentioned here and there, but what else might work in this format? Let us know.

Stephen Schubert
Stephen Schubert is a game developer for Wizards of the Coast, and is the Development Manager for RPGs and the Dungeons & Dragons game. He has provided development and design work for many 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons products, including the Monster Manual and Player’s Handbook series, and Gamma World.
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