Hello everybody once again! We've had an adventure, a mini-setting, items, feats, alternate rules - What more can one wish for? Well, although Halloween is over, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer - what better time can there be to start a campaign with a rather dark twist? And can one get the fodder for that for free? Turns out one can!
That's why, in todays installment of "Start a Campaign for Free", we're going to take a look at one of the classics of fantasy/horror-staples, the vampire PC - and yes, there is a nice little book for exactly that!
This pdf is 90 p ages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement,1 page table of contents, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 83 pages of content.
First of all, let me get something straight: I’m a sucker for vampires. (I know, bad pun…) I love everything about them: From well-written novels to movies to some RPGs to the psychological and sociological theories explaining their prevalence in our cultures, I love them. Unfortunately, a direct consequence of this love is a very specific opinion on what a vampire should be and, more importantly, a very specific idea of what a vampire should NOT be. To cut a long rant short, in my humble opinion, both mainstream D&D and Pathfinder are DOING IT WRONG. I have a very specific idea, possibly influenced by Vampire: The Masquerade (great reading material, although I dislike the system) of rather “European” vampires, not the John-Carpenter-die-by-the-hundreds-kind and so have rigorously enforced a separation between spawns (the latter) and true vampires (with bloodlines, x abilities and frightening foes) and thus did not expect too much from this book.
The aim of Liber Vampyr is, in a nutshell, to make vampires potential player characters.
The pdf kicks off with a comprehensive 2-page introduction to the topic as well as the basic concepts of the vampires, as well as advice for the D_M. One note on the chapters: Each chapter starts with a single page containing a chapter header and artwork. These pages are not included in the number of pages in brackets.
Chapter 1 (17 pages) details three new classes for the so-called revenants, the term used to distinguish the vampires from this book from the standard. The first class is called Revenant Warrior, is a heavy user of vampiric powers and a fighter character. The class has: d10, good BAB, good fort-save, 2+Int skills per level. The second one is the jack-of-all-trades/moderate vampiric powers user/monk, the Revenant Ascetic. The class has: d8, medium BAB, all good saves and 4+Int skills per level as well as a bunch of monk abilities. The third class is the spellcaster of the bunch, the Revenant Mage. The class has d6, bad BAB, good will-save and 2+Int skills per level. The class is a spontaneous CHA-based caster, however, the maximum level of spells he can cast depends on his Int-score. The Revenant Mage is the worst of the three classes, as he can use blood to add metamagic effects to his spells and his capstone ability is rather lame. The chapter also features 2 sidebars, one on causes of vampirism, compiling some myths and the second one about alignment. Unfortunately, this hits another pet-peeve of mine: Good vampires? No way. Neutral ones, okay, but I’ll be damned if a good vampire ever sets his damn sparkling foot in any of my campaigns. Sorry. Rant-mode off. The chapter goes on with useful and nice pieces of advice on playing a revenant, how the interact with fellow PCs, the world, religion, etc. The chapter concludes with two sample revenants, both low-level. Another pet-peeve of mine: Vampires should not be low-level wimps - that's just the problem with vampire PCs I guess.
Chapter 2: Supplemental rules (9 pages) starts off with new appliances of the disguise spell and tables for lore about cruomancy (the vampiric blood powers and magic used by the Revenants) as well as a table on vampire myths. After that, we get 21 new feats for revenants, most are dependant and expand upon blood powers. The chapter closes with so-called a new condition for undead creatures, the so-called Necrosis, a detrimental effect due to being separated from negative energy.
Chapter 3: Prestige Classes (16 pages) features e.g. the Blood Cultist, a mortal that gains bonuses from feeding their vampire master – great for potential roleplaying and,a s all PrCs in this chapter, supplied with extensive information on how to play the class, how to interact with the other PCs and so on. That being said, I think that “Cultist” might be a misnomer here, the class is rather a not-yet-vampiric bride or groom.It sets out what it seeks to do, though. Vampire Disciples are perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the book: Mortals who seek to become vampires via rituals, they follow a set of rituals (portrayed in a separate pdf that is also free and can be downloaded here) that are both flavorful and cool – the journey to vampiric immortality might make for a very compelling series of adventures, ideed. The final class in this chapter is the Vampire Hunter, a foe of the bloodsucking hordes. I did like the class, although I preferred the great fluff of the Vampire Disciples.
Chapter 4: Cruomancy (17 pages): This chapter contains the unique main-innovation of the book, lvl 1-7 blood powers for vampires. The powers, although not spells themselves, are formatted in the true and tried way and this easy to read. We get 44 powers to choose from – although they are not evenly spread for the different levels: There are e.g. only 4 lvl.2 powers, but 8 lvl.3 powers. From supernatural athletics, to mental enslavement, lethal bites, frightening and even lethal visages and animal-related powers, you get what you’d expect from the staple of vampiric abilities.
Chapter 5: Magic (3 pages): This chapter contains 2 pages of new spells and 1 page of new magic items. The spells are quite cool and can be utilized to craft stories around them – e.g. Mirror Travel and Curse of the Great Plague. The 3 magic items are not as cool as the spells, but also have some nice ideas.
Chapter 6: Vampires (14 pages): All of the creatures are presented as complex, modular creatures. The Culled Ones are semi-vampires that are presented as a race/template. The Feral Vampire is a creature defined by its hunger. It’s a cool creature. The Nachzehrer-creature comes with 4 sets of abilities, depending on the number of days the creature couldn’t feed. The Nosferatu is a twisted creature reminiscent of the classic movie of the same name or the Vampire: The Masquerade-clan, but with a plague-twist. Psychic Vampires, so-called Leannashe, get some psionic powers, which I do like, albeit there are as of yet no official PFRPG-psionic rules.
However, I think they could have used a bit more love or in-depth information. After that, we finally get the defining template of the book, the Revenant. Revenant characters get several weaknesses (Mirrors, Garlic, Running Water, Unsettling Aura, Unmistakable Appearance, Sunlight, Stakes) and as a subtype of undead, they don’t get the game-breaking abilities of undead creatures. However, this also means that Revenant NPCs won’t be as strong – a concession to them being intended as playable creatures. The weaknesses, as far as I can tell, serve as a nice way to balance the blood powers and the template can be considered to work.
The book itself features a nice, but not too printer-friendly parchment-like background, easy to read fonts and the editing is good. Although I spotted some minor glitches like double spaces and one minor typo, they did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The artwork/photos of hot goth chicks seem to be public domain and were a nice touch, as was the additional file containing the rituals for one of the PrCs. Indeed, the fluff, while not always great, sometimes has its moments of greatness and some of the ideas contained herein will find their way into my games. I have to admit one more thing: I’d rather chop off my hand than let players start the game as vampires in any game that is not especially made with this assumption. I’d consider players becoming vampires at high levels when they have devoted much of their levels to the cause, as in the PrC, though. Be sure to check out the 3-page DM-file Steps of the Sanguine Path for this file, too.
That being said, for me personally, due to all the quirky opinions I have about the subject matter and all the books I have so far amassed on the topic, this is a 3.5-Rudii file. For all the people who want some additional vampire-oomph for their PF-game and for everyone who wants to play a vampire, this is a must-have and 5 Rudii, especially due to the fact that it’s FREE. Indeed, I’d suggest to everybody out there to at least give this file a good look – You’ll get at least some good ideas out of this one and can scavenge some nice parts. My final verdict will lie in between with 4 Rudii.
You know what people do in horror movies? Yeah, they use tools to their advantage and in unorthodox ways. The Necromancers also have a nice little file for that:
This little 3-page file contains 1 page of SRD and 2 pages of interesting rules: Ever wanted to distract an opponent with a shuriken? Breathe underwater with a blowgun? Or would you like to see an addition to the crafting rules that helps you determine e.g. the price of an adamantine item or a glamered item? Be sure to check this one out! It’s short but sweet and, of course, free.My only gripe with it is that it is too short – if it was longer, I’d give it 5 Rudii and I’d love to see the idea expanded to a full book and pay for it. Being short but sweet, I’ll give it 4 Rudii.
And finally, for those of you who are rather inclined to the Lovecraftian side of horror, gibber not angrily, for I have a nice little monster book for you:Creatures Codex Volume I: Monsters of Twilight
The first publication by Demiurge Press is a nifty 10 page pdf, full-color monster book: 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD. That leaves us with 7 pages of monsters.
-Dweller in Darkness (Mi-Go) CR 2 – Nice take on the Mi-Go, although I prefer the KQ-version from the phantom fungus article, if only because I like my Lovecraftian critters stronger than CR 2. Other than that – Nice work!
After that, we get 1 page with a beautiful artwork of the next creature, the CR 8 Mi-Go Guardian as well as stats for two iconic Mi-Go devices, the mist projector and the brain canister. The stats of the Guardian take up another page – I like the take on it.
Then, we get the CR 4 Fetch with a corresponding artwork. This creature felt rather uninspired when compared to the rest, albeit the note on fetch-shields was a nice touch.
After that, we a creepy picture as well as the statblock of the CR3-Knocker – creepy, cool and has a nice little special ability.
The CR6-Nightgaunt that follows up is another nice addition to one’s bestiary, albeit it somehow lacks a certain je-ne-sais-quoi of alienness in its abilities.
The final creature is the CR4-Twilight Unicon, probably the least favorite creature I have read in this book, as the evil unicorn has been done numerous times and I was missing a paragraph on what to do with e.g. the horn of the creature.
It’s very hard to beat free stuff, especially if it is presented in such a professional way. The artwork by Heather Frazier is beautiful and especially the Knockers and the Mi-Go-Guardian are awesome pieces. The presentation, formatting and editing of the little book are great and I look forward to seeing follow-ups. For now, I’ll settle with 4.5 Rudii, rounded down, mainly because I was really missing some unique signature abilities on the monster’s side…apart from the Mi-Go-Guardian, that is. I love it. Congratulations to Nick Herold – I’m hoping to see more horror/gritty books for PFRPG soon.
All right, that's it for now from me, as always, I thank you for reading my ramblings, good gaming to you and yours,