vary your vampires

With the Curse of Strahd D&D adventure released this week, there’s a chance that you might be fighting vampires in your next 5e game. Here’s some literary trivia that suggests a change to the vampire stat block.

I’m reading this vampire novel, Carmilla, by J Sheridan LeFanu. It was written two decades before Dracula, and it features a female vampire who turns not into a bat, like Dracula and the D&D vampire, but a cat.

That got me thinking: maybe we have vampire shape-changing abilities wrong. Maybe we’re taking Dracula’s bat form and assuming it’s universal to vampires — sort of like if Order of the Stick were our only fantasy reference and we assumed all wizards had raven familiars.

Let’s assume that vampires have varied animal forms. (Are there already rules like this in Vampire: the Masquerade?) From now on, for each vampire or vampire family, roll on the following table to determine the form of the vampire’s Shape Change ability and swarm-summoning ability. (To make this list, I looted the animal section of the monster manual, paying particular attention to wizard familiars and nocturnal creatures.)

Roll d20:
1 Bat
2 Blood hawk (naturally, how is this ever NOT a vampire form)
3 Cat
4 Flying snake
5 Frog (how Arnesonian!)
6 Giant centipede
7 Jackal
8 Mastiff
9 Owl
10 Poisonous snake
11 Rat
12 Raven
13 Scorpion
14 Spider
15 Wolf
16-20 roll twice more on this table (this is how the literary Dracula ended up with both a mastiff form and a bat form)

While you’re at it, surprise your players! Roll up a new animal form for Strahd himself. Or just look at the name of the setting and give him a raven.

2 Responses to “vary your vampires”

  1. Gzboni says:

    In WoD1 Vampire, there was a variant rule that Gangrel clan vampires could choose their alternate forms – the only requirements were that both animals had to be carnivores, and one had to be a “fight” form and the other a “flight” form. Non-Gangrel vampires who learned the Gangrel shape-shifting power were stuck with wolf and bat.

  2. 1d30 says:

    The 2E Ravenloft supplemental Van Richten’s monster books had exactly this plus a ton more. Downside: D&D had Masquerade-style megavampires in print which to some minds legitimized them. I ended up never using it in a game for vampires, because the alternate vampires ended up being so far from expected that they were really just different monsters. So I used it more like a monster generator.

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