The undead are creatures of horror, and sorrow. Unnatural things turned loose upon the world, they hold up a mirror to our own existential dread, and look at us from the grave. While they are typical enemies of most adventuring parties, one of the most dangerous types of undead is the vampire... and for good reason. They are difficult to slay, they are physically powerful, and worse, their very gaze can attack one's will, disarming even the strongest of foes by wrapping a fist around their minds.
While allowing your Pathfinder players to take on the vampire template can be ruinous to both party and game balance, the vampirism corruption can allow them to slowly spiral down that terrible path, while keeping a tenuous grip on their humanity, but acquiring some of the dark power associated with these creatures.
This corruption was one of the key ingredients in my Blood Angels Space Marine Character Conversion, but even if you're not playing one of the sons of Sanguinius, it can still pair quite nicely with a variety of classes. On that note, if you enjoy corruptions as a mechanic, consider checking out the previous entries in this series:
Also, don't forget to check out my full Vocal archive, which has just passed 300 articles (making this number 301)!
A Note on The Vampirism Corruption
Corruptions, introduced in Horror Adventures, provide extra power in exchange for a weakness, and the possibility that you are going to slip further down the track until your character is no longer playable. That inherent risk is part of the price for extra power... but of all the corruptions, vampirism is perhaps the one with the easiest cost to pay.
In short, you need to drink blood. The blood must come from a creature no more than 1 size category smaller than you, sentient, and it must be living at the time of the feeding. If you don't have the fangs manifestation, then the creature must be either helpless, or willing. Every week you need to drink enough blood to deal 1 Constitution damage per manifestation level that you have. The only major risk is that if you drop below 0 hit points, where you might go into a blood frenzy, or if you are prevented from feeding for an extended period of time, as that will require you to gorge yourself.
If you're going to pick a corruption for a long-term character, this is one of the more manageable ones to have.
Class #1: Monk
Most of the abilities of the vampirism corruption are beneficial for martial characters, whether it be the fast healing associated with the unlife abilities, or the deadly attacks like life drain, those who are in the midst of combat will make the best use of these powers. However, the corruption is resisted with a Will save. All of these things point to the monk as an ideal pairing. And if you need to stun or pin a target to feed from it, the monk is quite capable of doing so.
If you want additional flavor, I would even suggest pairing this corruption with something like a Hungry Ghost Monk, or a Scarred Monk to really get the synergy between class and corruption going. Though whether this manifestation is part of a philosophical or martial discipline, or a monk merely fell prey to a vampire early in their life and has been using their philosophical discipline to try to control the corruption while they grow powerful enough to seek vengeance, there are many options to consider!
Class #2: Rogue
Rogues come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and you can use the chassis of this class to build all kinds of different adventurers. However, the abilities of the vampiric corruption are useful to a variety of different rogue builds. Vampiric grace grants the Dodge feat, for example, along with a Stealth bonus, and at higher manifestation levels a free use of spider climb. Alternatively, rogues focusing on being the face of the party might find allure and dreadful charm to be useful abilities. And, of course, combining the natural attack of life drain with sneak attack (particularly when one thought the rogue was unarmed) can be quite a nasty surprise.
Combining this corruption with abilities that stun or knockout a target can be particularly useful for feeding purposes, as well. And since there are a great deal of rogue archetypes that focus on precision attacks, infiltration, or even being a face man, these powers pair nicely with a wide variety of options, should one wish to dig, and refine their skill set.
Class #3: Swashbuckler
Swashbucklers offer a unique combination of skills and abilities that pair remarkably well with the vampirism corruption. Highly dexterous and combat focused, they would gain quite a lot from the ability to activate fast healing on the spur of the moment, as well as keeping a slam attack in reserve (since it is not a secondary weapon, and thus won't be an issue if it's combined with traditional sword attacks). Their heightened Charisma (which is used for their panache pool) is also useful for their abilities to charm individuals. Lastly, their Charmed Life ability can be particularly useful for overcoming the Will saves needed to not go berserk and drain sentient creatures completely dry.
How a swashbuckler gains this corruption might vary. Perhaps it's a dark blessing bestowed on them by a vampiric patron who they swore to serve. They may have been taken prisoner during an attempt to slay a vampire, and this mark has turned them into an outcast among their former brethren. Or it's just a stain they've picked up over one of their adventures that they prefer not to talk about.
Class #4: Barbarian
Barbarians are engines of destruction, and vampirism might be seen as a dark boon among some of them. And though it will pair thematically well with Rage Powers like the Spirit Totem, having a bonus natural attack and additional fast healing can be a serious benefit to front line warriors. However, it is important to counter the flaws this corruption presents, such as through spells like protective penumbra, which will help shrug off the penalties of being exposed to daylight.
The biggest risk a barbarian with this corruption faces is that they are some of the most likely characters to drop below 0 hit points... which is ironic, as they tend to have some of the largest hit point totals in the game. However, this can be controlled for, within reason. They also don't have the greatest of Will saves, which can be an issue should they not be able to feed. This might also explain why they volunteer for dangerous missions, however, as including a "blood price" to be taken from their foes can help ensure their corruption doesn't progress.
Class #5: Shifter
The shifter is a highly underutilized class, particularly since it came out in Ultimate Wilderness toward the end of Pathfinder's first edition run. However, since it already utilizes natural attacks, adding in a slam attack can really expand your repertoire... especially if a critical hit has additional, nasty effects on your target. The ability to increase your stealth, to gain spider climb, and to rapidly heal can all be extremely useful additions to a shifter's package, especially since the abilities from this corruption can be used in any form the character happens to be in.
Just like a druid, a shifter has to keep a neutral box in their alignment somewhere. This is particularly important in the event you fail your Will save, and find your alignment slipping one step closer to evil. However, if you were neutral good, or true neutral, then you'll still have one capital N in your alignment box, ensuring that you don't become an ex-shifter just because of your corruption.
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