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Five DND Vampire Adventures

I don't know about you, but I always found the insertion of a gothic vampire adventures into what is and always will be a medieval fantasy setting a bit problematic. I guess that's the former history teacher in me. Also, the standard Strahd/Dracula type vampire is a trifle overdone, I'd humbly submit and so, as we do with this blog, I'm going to attempt to rethink Vampires, see what other directions we can go in, and hopefully some of this might be helpful to you.


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Ok, so if we've decided that we're not going to create Count Von Count, then where do we start? After all, this kind of Vampire has monopolised a significant portion of our imaginations. Well let's strip it back to its basics, a Vampire is a humanoid entity, possibly human once (but for our purposes here, not necessarily) that thrives on the drinking of human blood. It possesses supernatural abilities as a result of this and it is undead (a particularly type of undead, corporeal, conscious, intelligent and as long as it is topped up with blood not rotting away - or not much anyway). Let's see what options that gives us.


The Harbingers

Concept: Harbingers are primal, brutal vampires that embody the raw savagery and visceral horror akin to the vampires from "30 Days of Night". They thrive on human blood, are incredibly strong, and exude an aura of pure terror.

Abilities: Harbingers possess immense physical strength and speed, making them formidable in close combat. They can track their prey by scent over long distances and have an unholy resilience, recovering quickly from non-lethal wounds. Their terrifying presence can cause fear and panic in their victims.

Weaknesses: They are vulnerable to fire and holy magic. Sunlight weakens them significantly but doesn't destroy them outright. They have a primal need for blood and can become uncontrollably feral if deprived for too long.

Appearance: Harbingers have a ghastly, almost feral appearance with pale, mottled skin stretched over lean, powerful muscles. Their eyes are bloodshot and glow with a predatory hunger. Their mouths are filled with sharp, jagged teeth designed to tear flesh.






The Wraithwalkers

Concept: Wraithwalkers are spectral vampires that exist partially out of phase with the material plane. They were once human but have transcended to a state where they can move between the material and ethereal planes, feeding on the life force of their victims.

Abilities: They can become intangible at will, allowing them to pass through solid objects and evade physical attacks. They drain life force through touch, causing rapid aging and weakness in their victims. They can manipulate shadows and darkness to conceal their movements and create illusions.

Weaknesses: Wraithwalkers are susceptible to radiant energy and magic that affects incorporeal beings. They struggle to maintain their form in brightly lit environments and are bound to areas of deep shadow or darkness.

Appearance: When visible, Wraithwalkers appear as translucent, ghostly figures with hollow, glowing eyes. Their bodies seem to flicker and waver, as if not fully solid, and they leave a faint trail of darkness wherever they go.






The Broodmothers

Concept: Broodmothers are grotesque vampires that have mutated beyond human form. They are horrifyingly bloated with the blood they consume and can create thralls from their victims, forming a parasitic brood.

Abilities: Broodmothers can spawn vampiric thralls by injecting their victims with a parasitic venom. They have the ability to control these thralls telepathically. Their immense size and strength make them slow but devastating in combat, and they can absorb damage by transferring it to their thralls.

Weaknesses: They are extremely vulnerable to decapitation and other forms of total bodily destruction. Their reliance on thralls can be turned against them if their control over the thralls is disrupted.

Appearance: Broodmothers are massive, grotesque beings with distended bellies and limbs that bulge with veins filled with stolen blood. Their skin is thick and pallid, and they have multiple, blood-red eyes scattered across their heads and shoulders. They often have long, needle-like appendages used to inject their venom.




Ok, so now we have three deconstructed-reconstructed vampire horrors, let's set the ugly brutes to work and create a series of adventures where they can feature. Below is an outline for a mini campaign. I used to create campaign outlines that were super generic to allow DMs to flavour them as they like, but I want this to be a bit better defined, so it won't be 'Mysteries of the Scary Forest', but feel free to do with it what you wish and edit it in any way you see fit.






D&D Vampire Adventure Series: "The Veil of Shadows"


Setting:

The adventure takes place in the fog-enshrouded region of Black Hollow, a cursed land that sits on the edge of the borderlands, it's a series of long dark valleys and in the lowlands villagers who would ideally live anywhere else if they could look at the Hollow with fear and foreboding. This isolated area is surrounded by dense forests, craggy mountains, and dark marshlands, all blanketed in an almost perpetual mist.


Adventure 1: "Whispers in the Fog"


Setting:

The quaint, mist-shrouded village of Tareland lies nestled at the foot of the Mourning Hills. Recently, a chilling mystery has enveloped this once peaceful place. Each foggy night, some villagers disappear, their last sightings accompanied by eerie whispers drifting through the mist.


Background:

Centuries ago, Tareland was the site of a grand temple dedicated to a forgotten deity of protection. After a cataclysmic betrayal that led to the deity’s desecration, the temple ruins sank beneath the earth, becoming a cursed lair. Now, this forsaken place is home to the Wraithwalkers, spectral vampires bound to the temple’s residual magic.


Motivation:

The Wraithwalkers, once high priests of the temple, were cursed to guard it through eternity. Driven by a compulsion twisted from their original vows to protect, they now seek to expand their guardianship by turning villagers into their own kind, thus ensuring their order's perpetuity. They believe that by converting the living, they are saving them from the inevitability of mortal decay and the betrayal they themselves suffered.


Summary:

The characters arrive in Tareland to investigate the mysterious disappearances. The village is tense and shrouded in fear; fog rolls in thick waves, and the villagers speak in hushed tones about the lost ones, believed to be spirited away by malevolent forces.


Objective:

Uncover the truth behind the disappearances, explore the Wraithwalkers' lair, and put an end to their nocturnal predations.


Challenges:

1. Illusory Fog: The adventurers must navigate through deceptive, supernatural fog that disorients and separates them, crafted by the Wraithwalkers to protect their domain.

2. Spectral Foes: Battle lesser wraiths—villagers recently turned, who retain shreds of their past lives, using their new, tragic existence to lure their former friends and family into the darkness.

3. Lair of Despair: The characters discover the sunken temple, now a tomb-like structure filled with traps and remnants of its sacred past, guarded fiercely by the Wraithwalkers.


Climax:

The party confronts the main Wraithwalker in the heart of the ancient temple. This climactic battle tests their resolve as they face a foe that is not only powerful but believes utterly in the righteousness of its cause. They must navigate through the temple’s cursed grounds, where the Wraithwalker harnesses both the necrotic energy of its undead nature and the sacred, yet corrupted powers of the temple.


Resolution:

Upon defeating the Wraithwalker, the adventurers can lift the curse by either reconsecrating the temple or ensuring its destruction. The village of Tareland may slowly recover, but the scars of those taken and turned will haunt the village for generations.


Villagers’ Knowledge:

The villagers know little of the true nature of the Wraithwalkers. They are aware only of the dread they feel during the night and the loved ones who vanish, possibly forever. Legends passed down through generations speak of guardians turned malevolent, but few connect these tales to their current plight.



Adventure 2: The Blood Harvest


Setting:

Red Acre, a once-thriving farming hamlet, now casts long shadows under the pall of mysterious events. The village is surrounded by fertile lands that recently have become the scene of unexplainable tragedies.


Background:

Nearby lies the Weeping Woods, home to the ruins of a forgotten noble estate that once belonged to a notorious countess banished centuries ago for her vile rituals. Over time, these ruins have faded from memory and into legend.


Motivation:

The Broodmother, an ancient vampire from times long past, awakens every fifty years to feed and rebuild her forces. Her awakening is driven by a cyclic hunger that compels her to replenish her strength and secure her survival for the next half-century. After her feeding frenzy, she retreats to her underground lair beneath the estate, entering a grotesque state of hibernation enveloped in a bloody cocoon.


Summary:

Arriving in Red Acre following unsettling reports that have reached Tareland, the adventurers discover a community haunted by fear. Villagers speak of loved ones who ventured out at night never to return, their drained bodies found at dawn, pale and lifeless.


Objective:

Investigate the cause behind the bloodless corpses, confront the supernatural entity responsible, and halt the cycle of predation threatening Red Acre.


Challenges:

1. Mistrustful Villagers: The fearful and paranoid villagers are initially hostile, believing the newcomers might be harbingers of further misfortune. Winning their trust will require diplomacy and possibly proving their intentions through deeds.

2. Encounters with Thralls: The adventurers must contend with thralls who protect the secret of the Broodmother and patrol the fields at night. These once-villagers are fiercely loyal, guarding the way to their mistress’s estate.

3. Path to the Ruins: Navigating the Weeping Woods proves perilous as the adventurers encounter not only natural hazards but also supernatural defenses designed to deter and mislead.


Climax:

The climax unfolds at the decrepit noble estate, now teeming with thralls. The adventurers confront the Broodmother in the ancient chapel, her lair adorned with remnants of her dark past and recent feedings. Here, they face her in a desperate battle to end her terror.


Resolution:

Defeating the Broodmother breaks her cycle of awakening and allows the thralls to be freed from their vampiric curse. While some grapple with the horrors of their actions, Red Acre begins the slow process of recovery, wary of the dark woods that continue to house secrets of the past.


Villagers’ Knowledge:

The villagers of Red Acre are unaware of the true nature of the threat. They hold fragmented tales of the countess and her dark legacy, often dismissed as mere ghost stories. The older generations know more but keep such knowledge guarded, fearful that speaking too openly might reawaken other dormant evils.



Adventure Outline: "Night of the Broodmother"


Setting:

Deep within the dark expanse of the woods, far beyond the reach of Red Acre’s farmlands, lies a secluded and ancient grove. This part of the forest, shrouded in perpetual twilight, houses the lair of a more formidable and ancient Broodmother, awakened by the death of her sister.


Background:

The Broodmothers are part of an ancient lineage of vampiric entities, bound by blood and dark magic. The death of one Broodmother sends a ripple through their mystical connection, awakening the next in line. The newly awakened Broodmother, more powerful and vengeful than her predecessor, aims to raise an army of thralls to overrun the region and avenge her sister.


Motivation:

Driven by vengeance and the instinctive need to protect her kind, the greater Broodmother seeks to solidify her power by creating a vast army of undead. Her ultimate goal is to not only dominate the woods but also to lay siege to the surrounding human settlements, starting with Red Acre.


Summary:

Following the unsettling events in Red Acre, the adventurers track the source of a new, more ominous threat to a forgotten grove. As they venture deeper into the woods, the environment becomes increasingly hostile, filled with traps and minions of the dark.


Objective:

Uncover the lair of the greater Broodmother, disrupt her plans to amass an undead army, and eliminate her to prevent the region’s fall into darkness.


Challenges:

1. Foreboding Woods: The forest itself resists intrusion with natural and supernatural obstacles, including poisonous plants, bewitched fauna, and misleading paths created by the Broodmother’s magic.

2. Undead Minions: Encounter patrols of newly created vampire thralls and other more formidable undead creatures designed to guard the Broodmother and her lair.

3. Mystical Barriers: Solve complex environmental puzzles that protect the entrance to the Broodmother’s sanctum, requiring both wit and bravery to overcome. Blood briars and cursed trees would both be good examples.


Climax:

The adventurers reach the heart of the grove, where they find the Broodmother’s lair inside an ancient, gnarled tree that houses her throne room. The lair is a horrific sight, filled with the remains of failed thralls and the monstrous spawn she has begun to produce. The final battle is intense, as the Broodmother uses her abilities to control the battlefield, summoning new minions and altering the environment to her advantage.


Resolution:

With the greater Broodmother defeated, her control over the thralls collapses, and her army disintegrates. The forest slowly begins to recover from her dark influence, and Red Acre is saved from imminent destruction. However, the adventurers are left to ponder the deep-rooted darkness that seems ever-present in the Weeping Woods and whether more threats lurk in the shadows.


Villagers’ Knowledge:

The people of Red Acre and the surrounding areas are mostly ignorant of the true nature of the Broodmothers. They understand that a great evil has been averted, but few comprehend the scale of the threat that had been growing in their midst. The local lore will grow richer with tales of the dark forest and the heroes who ventured into its heart to save their homes.


Adventure Outline: "The Siege of Shadowfen"


Setting:

Shadowfen, the most remote and rugged of the borderland settlements, is known for its dense fog and treacherous marshlands. It serves as the last bastion of civilization before the wilderness of the Weeping Woods begins.


Background:

Following the defeat of the greater Broodmother, her lieutenant, a cunning and powerful Harbinger, has taken up the mantle of leadership. Known for his tactical acumen and deceptive nature, the Harbinger seeks to exploit the chaos and extend the dominion of the undead across the Borderlands.


Motivation:

The Harbinger, understanding the strategic disadvantage of assaulting fortified settlements, devises a plan to lure the villagers into the open under the guise of a safe retreat. His true intention is to strike them down in vulnerable terrain, where the defenses of Shadowfen cannot protect them.


Summary:

As the adventurers arrive in Shadowfen, they learn of the Harbinger's impending assault. The settlement, already on edge from recent events, is bracing for a siege that could determine its fate. The Harbinger, using guile and manipulation, attempts to convince the adventurers to evacuate the town, promising safe passage in exchange for their surrender.


Objective:

Strengthen Shadowfen's defenses, uncover and thwart the Harbinger’s deceitful tactics, and lead the defense against the siege to save the town and its inhabitants.


Challenges:

1. Fortification Efforts: Collaborate with the townspeople to fortify Shadowfen, enhancing existing defenses and creating new barricades and traps.

2. Diplomacy and Deception: Engage in negotiations with the Harbinger, discerning his true intentions while dealing with internal dissent and panic among the villagers.

3. Sabotage: Identify and counteract saboteurs within the town who might be swayed or threatened by the Harbinger to undermine the town’s defenses.

4. Nighttime Assault: Manage and survive waves of attacks under the cover of darkness, utilizing strategic placements and limited visibility to the town’s advantage.


Climax:

The climactic battle unfolds as a night-long siege where the Harbinger unleashes his full might, including waves of undead and dark creatures, against the fortified positions of Shadowfen. The adventurers must use all their resources, strategic knowledge, and leadership to repel the assault and confront the Harbinger directly in a decisive showdown.


Resolution:

With the Harbinger defeated and his forces scattered, Shadowfen survives the siege, though not without cost. The town is battered but unbroken, its people more united than ever. The adventurers are hailed as heroes, having saved Shadowfen from certain doom. Yet, the victory is bittersweet, as the threat of what else might emerge from the Weeping Woods lingers in the air.


Villagers’ Knowledge:

The people of Shadowfen are wary warriors, accustomed to the threats of the Borderlands but not to the deceit and scale of vampiric intrigue. Their knowledge of undead tactics is limited, relying heavily on the adventurers for guidance. The experience leaves them more prepared for future threats and more skeptical of outsiders.


This adventure combines elements of military strategy, psychological warfare, and high-stakes combat, providing a complex scenario that tests the adventurers’ bravery, intellect, and moral compass.


Adventure Outline: "The Eclipse of Black Hollow"


Setting:

The campaign culminates in the ominous region of Black Hollow, a land where the shadows run deep and the history is steeped in darkness. Known for its desolate beauty and ancient ruins, Black Hollow sits at the heart of the disturbances that have plagued the surrounding lands.


Background:

Following the successive defeats of the vampiric forces in previous adventures, the true mastermind behind the rising darkness, the original Harbinger, emerges. This ancient being has orchestrated the events leading to this moment, using its lieutenants to weaken the region's defenses and spread fear.


Motivation:

The original Harbinger seeks to use the rare celestial event of an eclipse to unlock an ancient ritual that will plunge the world into eternal night, allowing vampires and other dark creatures to rule unchallenged. This eclipse, occurring once every millennium, provides the perfect cover to complete its dark ritual.


Summary:

As the eclipse approaches, the adventurers must rally the forces of the beleaguered towns and settlements they have aided throughout their journey. Together, they face the daunting task of stopping the Harbinger and its minions before the shadow of the eclipse becomes permanent.


Objective:

Gather allies, disrupt the Harbinger’s preparations for the eclipse, solve the mysteries of Black Hollow, and confront the Harbinger in its ancient stronghold to prevent the eternal night.


Challenges:

1. Uniting the Region: The adventurers must draw upon their relationships formed in previous quests to unite the disparate forces of the region. This includes strategizing with the battle-hardened people of Shadowfen, the newly liberated thralls of Red Acre, and the mysterious protectors from Tareland.

2. Navigating Black Hollow: The eclipse begins to alter reality, warping the landscape and empowering the Harbinger’s minions. The adventurers must navigate this changing terrain, which is filled with traps, dark creatures, and illusions.

3. Deciphering Ancient Lore: Black Hollow holds the key to stopping the eclipse ritual. The adventurers need to solve ancient puzzles and uncover lost artifacts necessary to breach the Harbinger’s castle and disrupt the ritual.


Climax:

The final confrontation occurs in the Harbinger’s gothic castle, perched menacingly atop the highest peak of Black Hollow. As the eclipse reaches totality, the adventurers battle the Harbinger amid a backdrop of cosmic power and shifting shadows. Each lieutenant previously encountered plays a role in this battle, testing the adventurers' growth and teamwork.


Resolution:

With the defeat of the Harbinger, the eclipse gradually recedes, and light returns to the world. The lands begin to heal from the scars of darkness, and the alliances forged during the campaign strengthen. The heroes are celebrated across the region, having not only saved their homes but also prevented a darkness that threatened to engulf the world.


Villagers’ Knowledge and Legacy:

The people of the region, once isolated by fear and suspicion, now share tales of unity and courage. The adventurers leave behind a legacy of bravery and a network of towns and villages better prepared to face any future threats. Monuments are erected, and annual festivals are held to commemorate the Eclipse of Black Hollow and the heroes who stood together against the darkness.


This adventure ties together the threads of the entire campaign, providing a fulfilling conclusion that not only challenges the adventurers with its complexity and scale but also rewards them with a deep sense of accomplishment and lasting impact on the world they fought to save.


Beginner DM's Guide to Creating the Ultimate Vampire Campaign in D&D


Ok so you've got three new vampires and a mini campaign outline based on these horrors. However, you want to write your own campaign, and you might decide that you want to use the vampires that 5e has provided. Here's your how to guide:


Part 1: Understanding Vampires in D&D

Start by familiarizing yourself with the fundamental vampire characteristics as described in the Monster Manual. Here's a quick breakdown:


- Hit Points and Damage: Vampires have significant hit points and are susceptible to radiant damage but resistant to necrotic damage and nonmagical damage from traditional weapons.

- Vampire Weaknesses: These include sunlight hypersensitivity, damage from holy water, and the lethal effects of a piercing weapon like a stake to the heart.

- Abilities and Attacks: Typical vampire abilities include bat form, gaseous form, and mist form, along with powerful bite attacks and slam attacks. They can also charm targets and drain life energy.

- Legendary Actions and Resistances: High-level vampires, like a vampire lord, can take actions that dramatically alter the course of combat, such as legendary resistance to fail a saving throw.


Part 2: Campaign Setup

- Theme and Setting: Decide whether your vampires will rule a gothic city, haunt the misty countryside, or exist on a different plane of existence. This will define the mood and challenges.

- The Start of the Vampire: Introduce the vampire theme slowly, beginning with lower-level threats such as vampire spawn and escalating to more formidable foes like a true vampire or a vampire lord.

- Player Characters (PCs): Encourage your players to create characters that have personal stakes in the vampire story. Perhaps a player character is a vampire hunter, or another has a trusted friend turned into a vampire.


Part 3: Designing Encounters

- Difficulty Levels: Adjust the complexity of encounters based on the party's level. Early on, focus on vampire spawn and the effects of vampire bites, which can reduce a target's hit point maximum.

- Use of Environment: Vampires can climb difficult surfaces and fight in dim light or darkness. Set battles in places where these traits can shine, like crumbling castles or deep forests.

- Legendary and Lair Actions: For high-level play, introduce vampires capable of using legendary actions. These can include summoning swarms of bats, transforming into a misty escape, or unleashing children of the night.


Part 4: Building the World

- Societal Impact: Explore how vampires affect the world around them. Are they hidden overlords or open rulers? How do they interact with the living?

- Allies and Enemies: Introduce factions like other undead creatures, vampiric curse bearers, or even dhampirs (half-vampires). Include enemies like seasoned vampire hunters and religious zealots.

- Plot Hooks: Develop hooks that can involve vampire blood, secret vampiric rituals, or the mysterious vampire's control over a town.


Part 5: Advanced Campaign Elements

- Evolving the Threat: As the PCs grow in power, so should the vampires. Introduce the concept of a master vampire or ancient vampire bloodlines with unique powers.

- Alternative Vampires: Consider unique vampire types like those from Ravenloft or create your own vampire race with special abilities and weaknesses.

- Epic Battles and Campaign Climaxes: Design climax battles that test all the PCs' skills, from combat to strategy, culminating in the challenge to end the vampiric curse or overthrow a vampire lord.


Part 6: Resources and Tools

- D&D Beyond and Naturalcrit: Use tools like D&D Beyond for easy access to stats and Naturalcrit for crafting your custom stat blocks and adventure notes.

- Additional Reading: Dive deeper with the Player's Handbook for rules on combat and character creation, and expand your lore with additional supplements focused on the undead.


Here's an example of a more standard 5e adventure outline


Adventure Outline: "Nightfall over Ravenbrook"


Background

The tranquil village of Ravenbrook has fallen under a mysterious curse. Villagers have been disappearing, only to return days later, devoid of life yet walking among the living. These new vampire spawns threaten the village's existence. As the party arrives, they hear tales of an ancient crypt beneath the old castle, now believed to house the source of this curse.


Adventure Hook

During their stay at Ravenbrook, the party members witness a villager undergoing a horrific transformation into a vampire under the light of the full moon. They are approached by a desperate elder who believes the adventurers are the prophesied saviours who will rid the village of its nightmarish plight.


Key Locations

1. Ravenbrook Village: Small, tight-knit community with people who are suspicious but desperate for help.

2. The Old Castle: Crumbling ruins that overlook the village, rumored to be cursed and the resting place of a powerful vampire lord.

3. Ancient Crypt: Beneath the castle, filled with undead creatures and traps, leading to the lair of the vampire causing the village's suffering.


Key NPCs

1. Elder Matthias: The village leader who guides the party and provides them with historical knowledge of the castle.

2. Sira the Seer: A mysterious figure who provides cryptic clues and magical assistance to the party.

3. Vladimir the Cursed: The vampire lord responsible for the curse, once a noble knight of the realm turned into a monstrous humanoid by dark magic.


Part 1: Arrival and Investigation

- Goal: Gather information about the recent attacks and disappearances.

- Challenges: Persuade wary villagers (ability check), identify the charmed targets among the populace, and trace steps back to the old castle.

- Key Mechanic: Use of insight and investigation checks to uncover clues and navigate through misled information by charmed villagers.


Part 2: Confronting the Curse

- Goal: Enter the old castle and explore it to find the entrance to the ancient crypt.

- Challenges: Overcome traps and undead guards using stealth or combat (attack rolls, melee weapon attack). Navigate the castle's treacherous architecture, requiring dexterity (climbing speed, spider climb for mobility).

- Key Mechanic: Combat scenarios with vampire spawns and environmental challenges that require clever thinking and tactical movement.


Part 3: Descending into Darkness

- Goal: Venture into the crypt to confront and destroy the vampire lord.

- Challenges: Battle with undead creatures that require specific strategies (e.g., radiant damage against vampires, avoiding acid damage from decayed traps).

- Key Mechanic: Strategic combat, including managing resources like health and spell uses (long rest crucial before the final encounter).


Part 4: The Final Confrontation

- Goal: Defeat Vladimir the Cursed in his true form.

- Challenges: Vladimir transforms into a cloud of mist and a swarm of bats (medium cloud of mist, tiny bat forms), regenerating from a central coffin that must be destroyed.

- Key Mechanic: Players must coordinate to destroy the coffin (vampire’s heart) while fighting Vladimir and his minions. Use of bright light sources to create zones where the vampire's power is weakened.


Conclusion

With the vampire lord defeated, the curse lifts from Ravenbrook. Villagers regain their free will, and the party is celebrated as heroes. Elder Matthias and Sira the Seer thank them with rewards that include rare artefacts found within the crypt.


Dungeon Master Tips

- Engage the Senses: Describe the eerie silence of the village under the moon, the chilling howls from the castle, and the musty, oppressive air of the crypt.

- Adjust the Challenge: Depending on the party’s strength, adjust the number and difficulty of enemies to maintain a tense but fair challenge.

- Reward Creativity: Allow players to come up with unique solutions to obstacles and challenges, rewarding them with inspiration points or other benefits.



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