Vampire LA - Help greatly appreciated


3.5/d20/OGL


Unbelievable player frustration -- new character needed?

A human PC Swashbuckler 3/Sorceress 6/Eldritch Knight 6 (character level 15th) was recently drained by a vampire, and rose as one herself. With a vampire LA of +8, the player was given a choice by an understanding DM: play the character as a 23rd level character, or remove 8 class levels and continue as a 15th level character.

Here's where the problem comes in. At epic levels, the vampire was destroyed instantly in every encounter. After a number of such encounters, saved only by her gaseous form ability, the DM advised the player that the character was FAR too weak to adventure that way. Unfortunately, a 7 HD character in a 15th level campaign is even more useless (attack bonus too low to hit anything, special ability DCs so low as to be laughable, no spells that will make a difference as a Swashbuckler 3/Sorceress 4, etc.).

No 15th level groups will allow an ECL 23 character in them, as the XP awards then vanish completely.

What's a gal to do, other than fall on a stake and destroy herself? A LA should balance play, not make it impossible, but I assume the game designers had some reason for setting the vampire's so high, and I'm disinclined to arbitrarily lower it if it's at all defensible (is the idea to completely prvent any vampire PCs?). Any tips or recommendations would be welcome.

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Erik Goldman wrote:

Unbelievable player frustration -- new character needed?

A human PC Swashbuckler 3/Sorceress 6/Eldritch Knight 6 (character level 15th) was recently drained by a vampire, and rose as one herself. With a vampire LA of +8, the player was given a choice by an understanding DM: play the character as a 23rd level character, or remove 8 class levels and continue as a 15th level character.

Here's where the problem comes in. At epic levels, the vampire was destroyed instantly in every encounter. After a number of such encounters, saved only by her gaseous form ability, the DM advised the player that the character was FAR too weak to adventure that way. Unfortunately, a 7 HD character in a 15th level campaign is even more useless (attack bonus too low to hit anything, special ability DCs so low as to be laughable, no spells that will make a difference as a Swashbuckler 3/Sorceress 4, etc.).

No 15th level groups will allow an ECL 23 character in them, as the XP awards then vanish completely.

What's a gal to do, other than fall on a stake and destroy herself? A LA should balance play, not make it impossible, but I assume the game designers had some reason for setting the vampire's so high, and I'm disinclined to arbitrarily lower it if it's at all defensible (is the idea to completely prvent any vampire PCs?). Any tips or recommendations would be welcome.

The problem with LA, ECL and CR is they are not an exact science. If you follow the guidelines too closely, especially at high levels, things get inconsistent. Of course the vamp had her ass wupped at epic levels, 'cuz she doesn't have access to all that high powered stuff like epic feats and spells. She has a ton of firepower for a character below epic level, that's it. Ask yourself, does she totally unbalance the party being a vampire? If not, you've got nothing to worry about. If so, I'd bend the rules a little and give her a few vampire abilities at a time, gaining more as she progresses in levels with the rest of the party. She'll always have a few more powers than everyone else but at least she isn't overwhelming. Once you get to the epic levels, a lot of those vampire abilities become pretty useless. Is she really going to charm that abomination? I doubt it.

Like you said, removing 8 class levels is a bad idea. You're gonna have to tweak some things to allow her to continue to be a vampire but it makes no sense to suddenly lose half her levels. In the end it becomes a judgement call, not a rulebook call. That's why god invented DMs, brother.


Or you could make her a vampire spawn- make her go thru the levels in the Libris Mortis and eventually achieve full blown vampire. Sure she would be under the control of the vampire that killed player x, that is if the vampire is still alive. A vampire can only have as many spawns as her CHA bonus allows- anything embraced after that becomes free willed. This all good lead into a good side story.

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You could use the Savage Progressions article from the WotC website. That way, she'd gain her vampire powers slowly as the curse overcomes her body (like Mina in Dracula). Basically, she takes her next eight levels in the Vampire class.


The first problem I see is that a character has gear equivilent to one 8 levels lower. At 7th level gear is 19,000 gp, at 15th level gear is 200,000 gp, at 23rd level a staggering 1,500,000 gp. Otherwise I see many balances. HD are d12 so that should help unless the character has +3 or or +4 con bonus. The +6 strength bonus helps offset the base attack lose. The bonus to dex(+4) and nat armor (+6) should greatly decrease the chances of being hit as well as a the fast healing and DR.

The biggest problem as mentioned initially is gear. I would suggest lowering ECL by 1/ 2 or 3 levels of gear you are lower. In this case, your 15th level vampire would have ECL of 19 or 20.


I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by your concern over the gear. I understand that there's a big difference in the total character's wealth, but the rest of the post seemed a bit muddled to me. Sorry.

Anyway, the thing to do is to:

A) Remove the character. All vampires become chaotic evil, which is typically bad for PCs. Make the vampire become an NPC villain and the player creates a new character.

B) Bend the rules. Allow her to continue without being chaotic evil. Compare the abilities she will have as a vampire to the rest of the group and then judge its feasibility accordingly. I know such is the case in the Realms, and I think it's standard in 3.5 D&D in general (and certainly the way I run my games), but award XP based on individual level, not total party level. The rest of the 15th level party continues to gain 15th level XP, while the vampire gains XP as a 23rd level character (thus slowing or all out stopping most XP gain for a long time). The result is an immediate gain in relative power the diminishes over time.

C. Make her a half-vampire from Libris Mortis instead. The power boost is so small at 15th level that it should only cost her a level of advancement, maybe two at most. Some DMs might not require any loss in level. The ultimate decision is up to you.

Use option A if maintaining balance is too much of an issue. Use option B if your players will be fine adventuring next to a 15th level vampire. Use option C as a compromise.


Saern wrote:
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by your concern over the gear. I understand that there's a big difference in the total character's wealth, but the rest of the post seemed a bit muddled to me.

Sorry about that let me try to be more clear. The DM tells everyone to make up 15th level character, you ask to be a vampire and end up with 7 class levels+ 8 LA for being a vampire. All characters will have equipment for 15th level characters even though you are a vampire. When a character is turned into a vampire (assuming he is 7th level) a pile of treasure does not just appear for him. Now as a vampire he is considered a ECL of 15 with the equipment of a 7th level character.

As far as including the other information STR, DEX increases, etc. I was trying to show that the "lost levels" do not place you as far behind as you might think because of the other benefits.


Oh, yes, I see. The wealth tables work just fine so long as you've got nice little stereotypical PCs and classed humanoids and such. They fall apart when you mix things up, further proof that they are simply guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

I see what you're saying about the other abilities making up for most of the power gap. That's kind of the whole reason/essence for the level adjustment in the first place. However, most players I know hate the thought of having a high LA, as the basal abilities (base attack, base saves, hit points from HD) are so low that they overshadow almost all benefits that one could gain.


Baramay wrote:
the "lost levels" do not place you as far behind as you might think because of the other benefits.

Alas, the campaign overall is gear-stingy; that's not the problem. Playtesting shows that a 15-class level vampire is absolutely no comparison to a guy with Epic Spellcasting, for example. The lost HD reduce not just total HD and BAB, but also spells, # of attacks, and handy feats like Devastating Critical for those epic fighter-types. Strip them all of gear and she'd still get her undead a$$ handed to her on a plate, not even counting all of her considerable new weaknesses (daylight, for one, or having to sleep in a coffin).

Luz: Your post makes a lot of sense; just because the 3.5E rules are better than 1E doesn't make them perfect!
Vigil: I wish I had looked sooner, before she started using vampire abilities in play--I would certainly have gone that route.
Saern: All of your possibilities seem like very good ones; obviously you've put a lot of thought into this issue (or one like it). It seems like possibility (B) might make everyone happy, especially because the player, I think, may eventually want her restored to humanity (I'm nasty and won't allow anything as simple as the destroy-her-and-hit-the-body-with-a-resurrection-spell cop-out routine).

Seriously, everyone, many thanks for the timely replies and excellent suggestions. I hope I can one day return the favor.


Your situation really sucks (sorry about the bad pun). It must be a pain in the neck (okay I'll stop). Unfortunately you have a problem you can't easily solve. The roleplaying possibilities for playing a vampire are enormous, unfortunately it just creates a major headache as far as game balance and playing the game is concerned (another reason why good roleplaying and good fantasy literature are not entirely complimentary). If she cannot use the level progression rules for vampires supplied in Savage Species because she has already been using all her powers then she is stuffed. You know from the playtesting that it doesn't work, so a change needs to be made. Otherwise the player will get frustrated, the other players will get frustrated, and you will get frustrated. I do wonder what the other 15th-level characters are doing while this is going on? Are they facing CR 23 combatants? Is the cleric in the group (if there is one) accidentally turning her when he/she makes a turn check (he/she doesn't get a choice by the way. If the vampire is within 60 feet she'll be affected as long as he get's enough Hit Dice). How are you dealing with her thirst for blood or vampiric weaknesses? Vampires are evil for a reason. Even cool vampires like Lestat are evil. Good vampires are a plot device used in shows like Buffy to ruin the vampires evil image! A D&D vampire for me is Strahd not Angel. Then of course there is your typical dwelling place. The dragon's lair, evil wizards tower, beholder hive are all personal dwelling places for these monsters, hence the vampire needs permission to enter. What about evil clerics controlling the vampire and turning her against the party (this is all assuming of course the party and she aren't already evil)?

Good luck with this one. Sorry I couldn't be helpful.


Phil L,

No, your post doesn't totally bite (heh, heh). I really appreciate all the input. Well, so far I've already ruled that she needs a coffin-like place to sleep (a broom closet will do in a pinch), and she's allowed a Will save to avoid draining her friends at night (they all think that's kinda cool). No cleric in the original 15th-level party is good enough to turn her (actually, the fighter just started accruing cleric levels in hopes of eventually getting good enough to keep her from doing anything too awful; maybe one day he'll get a true resurrection spell, but not likely with a level of expert and 13 levels of fighter already under his belt). As far as bad guys commanding her... well, let's just say I can't wait for that possibility to come up (evil grin).

I'm going to keep calculating xp for a 15th level party, but reduce her share proportionately as if she were now 23rd level, so in essence she'll adventure as a 15th-level character but get approximately no xp. Between that and all her major weaknesses (everyone is paranoid about vampires after the last one the PCs destroyed), play continues to be interesting and fun.

A silver lining in every cloud (or a sp in every gelatinous cube, if you prefer). Thanks again for the reply!


Oh, yeah... as far as alignment, well, minor NPCs keep getting mysteriously drained; she was originally NG, but ran out of criminals and bad guys very quickly and has been wiping out the homeless population lately. This is causing some anguish and she may end up CE yet. I agree about the Buffy thing, although I always thought Strahd was kind of overrated.

Love your comment on beholder lairs, etc. I'll implement that immediately. Excellent catch!!!


Vampires do run into a few problems. The sunlight issue will be a major problem. With regard to the LA two possibilities occurred to me. One is to not reduce the player's level by 8 or increase ECL to 23 but split the difference: reduce level by 4 and increase ECL to 19 which should keep the player somewhat in line with other players and gaining some xp but not as much. The half vampire is a good idea; also the vampire spawn from Libris Mortis could be useful. Also, the vampire character should play to the strengths of the template: striking opponents with stealth and fading out, wearing them down not getting stuck in a toe to toe fight. With sorceror levels focus on spells that don't allow saving throws or buff her allies and plan attacks in advance to take advantage of the characters capabilities. Think sort of like a rogue and strike enemies then fade away. Just some thoughts.


I am playing /making a 10 ECL vampire ranger. In some of my research i found this page and thought id put in my research.
first off, spellcasters with level adjustment is a bad idea. That makes their highest power spells somthing to laugh at. Whenever you have a high LA character you should allways play a stealth or fighter class. Hence i am creating a ranger.

Now the biggest thing i would point out is the book of savage species.
this book has ecl's and la's for almost anything you could want to play. Vampire is one of them

the savage species guide states that a vampire is a 5 level adjustment. Using every acid test method i can think of this has created a equal match (so long as you arent a spellcaster)

i have created a 10th level ranger with identical stats etc and compared, their abilities go hand in hand. The vampire loses a few perks in return for some cool abilities.

i also had these characters fight each other. needless to say the battle was a draw (use of garlic eventually held them at a standstill(he had no ranged weapon(soon fixed)))
overall 2 things are important from this post
spellcasting vampires suck (sorry, no offense)
and +5 LA as quoted by savage species is a good la for a vampire.


ohgreatdm wrote:

overall 2 things are important from this post: spellcasting vampires suck (sorry, no offense)

and +5 LA as quoted by savage species is a good la for a vampire.

Agreed on both counts. Certainly, the "becoming a vampire" part wasn't planned, in this case; it happened during the course of the campaign and the player decided to run with it anyway. And +5 LA is vastly more reasonable than the 3.5-edition MM +8 (shoot, half-fiends get only +4, and they're much better than vampires as PCs!)

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