As Paul mentioned in his last post, I played the new Vampire class last weekend. It is a fun class with a lot of flavor and some very nice mechanics. But don’t take my word for it; read below to see the PROPS and SLOPS of the Vampire class in the Heroic Tier:
(Note: Though I am ashamed of myself for utilizing the PROPS and SLOPS system of ratings, I make no apologies!)
- 2 Healing Surges!: If nothing else, giving the Vampire 2 healing surges is a ballsy move and should be commended on principle alone. However, it also opens up some fun options for cool mechanics, like a power that gives healing surges during battle and other powers that give extra benefits if you spend a healing surge. Plus, it is nice to have a class that actually makes you consider the Durable feat.
- At-Will Powers: These are great. Both thematic and mechanically interesting. Thematically, you’ve got your entrancing gaze type of deal, your blood (or other dark energy) sucking, and your brute force vampire strength. Mechanically, you’ve got a good mix of ranged and melee attacks, three powers that each target a different defense, a power that can be used as a melee basic attack, and a good mix of effects. Also, the Charisma power gets a bonus to hit to make up for the fact that it’s probably a secondary stat. Smart! Solid stuff!
- Child of Night: A lot of fun stuff, including some nice undead benefits. I like that vampires can survive in daylight by wearing heavy robes and clothing; a nice compromise that is much better than having to spend 50% of the time hiding in the sewers. Sometimes I love the priorities of D&D. Immortality, something that other heroes in D&D might spend their entire adventuring careers trying to obtain, the Vampire basically gets at level 1 (can be killed but doesn’t age)! Of course, mechanically this virtually doesn’t matter since most campaigns only span a year or two, if that. Good times.
- Blood if Life: Another fun thematic power. Being able to regain your bloodied value in hit points for someone else’s healing surge is fun, and I really enjoyed going into all the blood drinking details (I don’t buy into the generic “life force” draining crap).
- Enduring Soul: Another thematic and mechanically powerful ability. Regeneration is super fun, and this was one of the abilities that convinced me to go for an even split between charisma and dexterity (was it a mistake? Perhaps!).
- Blood Drinker: A solid essentials power. Easy to use and gets you an extra healing surge every encounter. You get an extra one by level 7, which means TWO healing surges an encounter! HURRAY!
- Swarm of Shaodows: For a daily that doesn’t have an encounter long effect (often the best ones, in my opinion), Swarm of Shadows has A LOT of bang for its buck. A ton of damage in a blast 3 means you’re probably hitting at least one person, and as an effect you get a free teleport and turn invisible. I popped an Action Point to use this along with Vampire Slam and Blood Drinker and just looked like a total badass, killing 3 enemies, teleporting, turning invisible, and then dealing a powerful blow that knocked the head guy into a flaming pyre. The DM was like “Rory always makes awesome builds”, but in this case I was playing a straight forward cookie cutter vampire who happened to have an awesome daily and some other nice powers.
- Feral Assault + Strength of Blood: I’ll just pipe in to say that I really like the mechanic of using healing surges to pump these up. It’s fun on a thematic level (burning through your life-force!), and it either presents some fun mechanical choices OR it just gets me excited about having kind of badass powers to play around with.
- Unfettered Hunger: Another awesome daily. +2 to hit, +4 damage, shift half my speed for the rest of the encounter and all I have to do is give up my ability to spend healing surges to regain hit points? WHERE DO I SIGN? I think this might legitimately be an interesting choice regarding when best to use this, as I am SURE the DM is going to target the vampire with wild abandon once they pop this power. Good stuff.
- Night Crawler: Yay, I don’t feel so bad about not having taken athletics with this solid ability that gives me a climb speed. Also, having a climb speed is generally pretty fun.
- Domineering Gaze: So beautiful! Almost worth playing a Vampire for this power alone. A save ends dominate is awesome enough, but the fact that this isn’t expended if you miss with it really pushes this over the top as a pretty delightful power.
- Form of the Bat + Gaseous Form: Both of these seem pretty solid for utility movement powers, or if you find yourself in a jam and need to escape as quickly as possible. Also, just another example of delightful theme crammed into this class.
- Hidden Might: I am not super impressed by the damage bonus that Vampires get. Applying your charisma bonus to damage means a +3 or +4 damage bonus at level 1, and if it’s +4 that’s probably at the expense of an extra damage you could have had by having a Dexterity of 20. A phb 1 brutal rogue could get that kind of bonus and then have +2d6 (and with a feat, +2d8) on top of that. Other strikers are kind of in the same boat, but many quickly find ways to make up for lost damage. Rangers, Barbarians, and even Avengers have feats and abilities to help them really dish out the damage, but the Vampire kind of lags noticeably behind. Even other essentials classes, like Slayers and the Thief can outclass the Vampire with damage bonuses, if they choose to (and I suspect they often will!).
- Cloth Armor: It is kind of striking (lol) that the Vampire might sometimes be behind even the Wizard in Armor Class! After all, the wizard has nothing barring them from taking Leather Armor Proficiency, and this is quite often an excellent move on their part. Also, the wizard is nearly always going to want to go for a 20 Intelligence, where as the Vampire is sometimes going to go 18 Dex and 18 Charisma, which puts the wizard in the lead! Rogues can zoom ahead even more by picking up shield proficiencies (and sometimes hide). So, while it is thematically cool that the Vampire wears cloth armor, it does strike me that they are towards the bottom of the pack AC wise, which is always a little dangerous for a primarily melee combatant. EDIT: Neonchameleon pointed out that Vampires, like any cloth armor wearer, can take unarmored defense. This puts Vampires in a very respectable range for AC, just a little behind most defenders.
- Utility Powers: Ouch, the “new class” syndrome of the Vampire really hits home with the level 2 utility powers. I’ve got nothing in principle against skill bonuses, but compared to other utility powers, these ones definitely fall behind when it comes to sheer combat potential. The phb1 Cleric could give a +2 AC bonus to everyone for an entire encounter. A bonus to bluff and combat advantage for one round just doesn’t have that same oomph. Also, while I do like the level 6 and 10 utility powers, in terms of power they are a bit lacking, leaving the Vampire with less combat potential when compared to other classes.
- Feats: Dude, I think someone forgot the Vampire feats! Maybe this is like a new strategy, where the idea is that a class shouldn’t have a set of must-take feats to make them awesome. I can kind of get behind that. But then I think about those must take feats, and it makes me sad. Rogues get a +2 to damage from backstabber! Barbarians get a damage bonus when they are raging! It seems every class has a long list of mediocre to awesome class feats to choose from, and they really make the class noticeably more powerful. That these feats are missing from the Vampire is a real weakness, one that I suspect will be rectified with future releases and Dragon Magazine articles.