Last session a long-known NPC just showed up in our hotel room, bitten and level-drained from 5 to ~2, asking our party for sanctuary from a vampire. We do not wish to face a vampire but will if it makes a nuisance of itself. We want nothing to do with this vampire and would prefer to avoid it. Our drained NPC 'ally' may be a charmed agent of the vampire, or maybe not - we've made no assumptions.
We already loaded up on holy water and wooden stakes, just in case. Also we immediately traveled overland 10 miles, with our drained ally, in an unpredictable direction. This is a well balanced 6th level party. PCs include an enormous low-will Rage Monster, a positive-channeling martial Cleric, An Arcanist, a martial Warpriest, and a Psychic. The party contains no good-aligned PCs, and mostly neutrals. What other plans and preparations might we reasonably make?
Already done: Cleric switched around spells to prepare Communal Protection from Evil and Align Weapon. Warpriest also prepared Communal Protection from Evil. This because the PCs know the worst danger from vampires is their domination. The best Knowledge(Religion) roll to know about vampires was a 23. We guess it's a spell-casting master vampire, with servants, but we don't know. It's probably already noticed our existence. I suspect GM will play it as a long-running off-stage villain.
Besides these rudimentary steps, what else might reasonably cautious PCs do to prepare for possibly being stalked by a master vampire? What can we do to protect our resting place?
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While procuring these may be difficult given the circumstances, see if you can get a hold of either of the following:
Bottled Sunlight. 200 GP alchemical splash weapon that makes natural sunlight for 1 round upon breaking.
Garlic Tablets. Four hours of requiring a DC 25 will save to be approached by a vampire.
Garlic can potentially ward a place, holy symbols can make them back off, but if you're thinking it's going to come down to face-to-face confrontation, and want an easy kill for an affordable price, get yourself a couple of these. Unless of course you have crap knowledge (religion) and don't want to metagame, in which case don't.
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Have a trusted character with a good charisma use Dominate on everyone with a command along the lines of, "Act as you would normally". Then if a character is dominated by the vampire, it falls into opposed charisma checks. It's another layer in case you don't have protection from evil up when you need it.
Detect magic should tell you if the npc still has a lingering dominate effect. If that is the case, it's in your best interests to remove that effect with dispel magic - preferably without alerting the npc that you have discovered the secret. You may want to wait until they're asleep to get the jump on them and knock them unconscious/pin and tie them up first.
Another option - more defensive - would be to set up a way to breathe underwater. (bottle of air, air tablets, whatever) and then camp in or around a moving body of water. Travel via boat if possible. Running water is especially dangerous for a vampire and may convince them to leave you alone.
Never, ever separate. Gotta use the loo? Too bad. A vampire is powerful alone, but may be accompanied by many vampire spawn.
Finally, and this is a bit mercenary, ask yourself how much you really care about your level drained ally. If the vampire wants him for a specific reason, find that reason out, then if the vampire comes calling just offer him up like a slab of beef. He who lives and runs away and all that.
An angry vampire can elude you indefinitely while dominating people all night long and sending them after your party.
Don't engage unless you absolutely have to or until you're powerful enough that you're no longer concerned.
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We do not wish to face a vampire but will if it makes a nuisance of itself....
Let's talk about vampires, shall we?
1) Holy symbols, mirrors, garlic (in any form), and short-duration protection spells are worthless precautions against Dominate, and Dominating either the barbarian (or the arcanist or psychic, whose will-saves are probably not much better at 6th if they're human) is a far worse immediate threat to the party than anyone being bitten, as it can quickly result in the deaths of several PCs, followed by eventual TPK. A vampire's Dominate is as bad as the spell from a 12th-level caster, and you're a 6th-level party. Assuming a generic Bestiary 1 (2009) vampire, it's a CR9 creature whose Dominate has a DC of 22. "Hey, did you know that onion bulbs work even better than garlic bulbs? You should replace those inferior vegetables while you're on watch. Put the garlic bulbs in the stew; they're delicious! Oh, and please place the cleric's holy symbol on that stump over there where I can Mage Hand it more easily." --Or, it just slums for fun with a Bluff score of +27. (What's your 6th-level character's Sense Motive bonus? Are you rocking +12, if you put any points into it at all as a class skill? I'm guessing half the characters at the table wouldn't beat its Bluff by rolling a 20 while it rolls a 1.)
2) Are your 6th-level PCs ready to face a sorcerer with Greater Invisibility and DR 10/magic and silver? (Note: weapon blanches are good for only their first hit.) --Does everyone in your 6th-level party have a magic silver weapon? I'll bet they don't, and Silversheen requires action-economy to apply and only lasts an hour with each application. It would be really annoying plowing through wheelbarrows of money slathering that stuff on over and over again while an intelligent undead merely toyed around with you. A vampire can easily kill several members of an unprepared low-level party just with ordinary weapon attacks after first ganking the arcane caster (i.e., the one who'd cast See Invisibility), who is coincidentally probably the PC with the least hitpoints. "Hey, vampires don't get a manufactured weapon attack!", I hear some complaining. Well, they don't at the moment the cellophane wrapper is peeled off, but then they have an Int of 14, a Bluff of +27, and all the time in the world to get to know everyone in town. When the swordmaster has the prince's blingy pokey stick ready, they'll know.
3) Smartly-run, a vampire has little reason to not be in gaseous form most of the time, and spend all the time it needs (and, since it's immortal, it has infinite time) to learn every single advantage and weakness of every single person who might oppose it (which is, essentially, everyone in the region). Glacial patience is it ally. If it takes six months of Dominate attempts, why wouldn't it do that? Everybody rolls a 1 sooner or later. Once established, the Dominate link is telepathic with a duration of a day per level of the vampire, so, over a week. If I were a vampire, the first thing I'd do is Dominate an authority in the region, such as a police captain invested with the capacity to enter people's houses on official business, so that he may then officially "invite" in me. Keeping that boy on permanent retainer seems like a good idea. On a more ad-hoc basis, let's bamboozle somebody with the keys to the doors of the inn where the PCs are staying -- that commoner NPC will totally ace a series of will-saves in the 20s to keep me from entering, right?
4) There is no spell or affordable (to low-level parties) wondrous item in this game that will alert you to the presence of undead on a permanent basis, and Detect Undead has a pathetically short duration. All a vampire has to do is skulk around unnoticed while continually subjecting itself to will-saves versus mirrors, holy symbols, garlic, etc, until it finally succeeds and is no longer affected by that particular defensive object for the one round it takes to do a nasty.
5) For these reasons, vampires inflicted upon low-level parties are railroad jobs. Well, do you want to get on that train at 6th level? "We do not wish to face a vampire" sounds like a "No!" to me. On the bright side, it looks like your party still has choice as to whether or not it's going to go on a coffin-hunt while braving a storm of will-saves.
6) Speaking of which, there is no RAW requirement that a vampire have only one "coffin home", that a coffin be fixed to a location, or that it like a stereotypical coffin at all rather than merely being any container capable of holding a medium-sized humanoid folded into a pretzel. (Just let your mind wander with the potentialities of that.)
Option: get off this vampire railroad by booking passage on the first ship to leave port for overseas. A party of low-level, non-good PCs should have little compelling reason for getting on the bad side of a powerful, intelligent adversary before being well and truly prepared to oppose them. Dump the level-drained NPC off at some local goody-two-shoe temple, and then hit the docks. There's plenty of loot and adventure to be had elsewhere in the world while righteous dudes with holy swords are cleaning out the undead infestation here.
~ ~ ~
A vampire is not a "nuisance" to a 6th-level party; they are a nuisance to it. They're one of the most underrated monsters in the game, and even more so than dragons due to regeneration and weaponized social abilities. Your low-level group survives solely due to GM restraint in unleashing their full capabilities.
Firstly, do something about your Barbarian's Will Save. If the Barb gets dominated, he'll put your whole group in the hospital, if not the grave.
Secondly, see if you can create a "Claymore Mine of Wooden Stakes dipped in holy water and garlic" using Gunpowder (or some type of alchemical explosion) and some type of "shape-charge". As soon as that vampire shows his face, engage in friendly banter and allow him to monologue if he wishes, then let him have it.
After that, make sure you're all wearing garlic wreaths (or brandishing holy chrisms).
Everyone should have a vial or three of holy water; as soon as the Vampire shows up, pour it on your weapons, or use it as a splash weapon.
Wands of Dispel Magic and Hold Person: you're going to have to worry about Dominate all day (so Hold Person on your ally), and get rid of the magic he might cast as well. Dispel that crap, and use Readied Actions to Counterspell anything he might cast.
If anyone has some sort of Wind spell that can blow away Gaseous form, make sure they prepare that at least twice, or maybe thrice, just in case.
If you have any Telekinesis or Bull Rush in your group, attempt to fight the Vampire near Fire or Running Water, and use your creativity from there.
If at all possible, RUN. GTFO. Leave that town. If that's not possible, you need to find where his coffin is and act accordingly.
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And the best way to run? Get running water beneath you. A sea's worth, or an ocean. Take passage on a ship is what I'm suggesting.
Sadly, contrary to the common tropes* concerning them, Pathfinder vampires are not affected by running water beneath them, only by being immersed in it. They can cross those bridges, get on those ships, and even plow straight through a moving stream for up to three rounds in corporeal form if they needed to. They're not even repelled by running water, as they are by garlic; they just take damage from it. Well, that's what Fast Healing 5 is for: topping off the tank while you're on the hunt.
If gaseous form isn't up to the task on a windy day, and *if* (note: speculative, as it's not clear in the Bestiary entry) their Shape Change is subject to Beast Shape II's duration limitations, a vampire can be in dire bat form for at least seventy minutes. If it "hustles" (double-moves) at 120' a round, it can easily reach an island 15 miles offshore.
(*Pathfinder vampires don't need to sleep in their coffin either; spending time in it only appears to be necessary if they're ever knocked to 0hp. In other words, they're a 24/7 PIYA when they want you as a target.)
Prot Evil is going to be the best way to protect yourselves from the domination. For the cleric, I'd get a rod of reach that is always a move action away since prot evil is a touch spell. I'd even get a potion of prot evil for the barbarian just in case. Don't want to leave it up to initiative in deciding if your TPK machine gets dominated or not.
If y'all are trying to "nope" out of there, I'd do as others have said and leave that NPC at a holy temple of "this is y'all's problem now."
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Since you achieved a pretty good knowledge religion role for your party, and you are doing what you know to do, that is what you should do.
If you want to go meta-game on that subject, that depends a lot on the GM and the nature of the game. If you have an adversarial GM then it really doesn't matter, if he wants to screw you over with a vampire he will, regardless of what you choose to do. If you have a decent GM, then your appropriate in character preparations will lead to appropriate and fun adventures.
I will say though that even a GM is usually the second can lose their cool and turn into the first if the players continually run away from the adventures they have spent a lot of effort preparing. I'd advise you to try and meet the GM halfway if he is at all decent.
Unless you left out a lot, you seem to be ignoring the NPCs knowledge. Does the NPC know the vampire, does he know why he is being targeted? Getting what he knows seems important whether you want to investigate it or avoid it. And even if the NPC is charmed and lies to you, information is still information.
It is also worth noting that this vampire could easily be a CR4 vampire spawn that your party could defeat without any real effort.
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Thanks for the terrific input! Great stuff! Our GM is terrific and has my complete confidence. We don't want to ruin his intricate plans, but we also want nothing at all to do with vampires. It has to do with character motivations. We don't like the inhabitants of the land we're currently in (snooty elves! Think they're better than everyone else!), or the people we're working for (wealthy noble snooty elves who can go &^%*&^% themselves). We have absolutely no interest in protecting them from a vampire menace.
At least half the PCs would likely choose to permanently take ship to another land and never return, rather than deal with a clever powerful local vampire, which is what this seems to be.
Those who already know and understand what Slim Jim said are the ones who may want to immediately flee. Those players who have not already played/GMd that sort of vampire don't yet know they ought to flee. I'd place Slim Jim's analysis at a 25 roll on Knowledge (Religion). We got a 23, so we're not quite as frightened as we should be, but we're close.
I may drop a link to this thread to the other players.
Few quick thoughts I haven't seen mentioned.
Be the owner of whatever residence you are staying in whether it's an apartment, house, boat or covered wagon. He can't come in unless invited by someone with the authority to do so. ((Assuming you have that knowledge))
Consecrate is a 2nd level spell with a standard action cast time and will make it harder for the vampire and any other undead to resist channeling effects by 3 at minimum.
Hide from Animals might be used to give him away while under change shape. If the creature sees the individual it's no normal animal even if the animal normally uses blindsight, tremorsense etc.. Only problem there is afaik none of you can cast it so an item, potion or scroll would be needed.
Hide from Undead might also prove useful to anyone not directly attacking the vampire or against any undead minions they have. Or help get in the first blow should you know they are around.