Previous   Next   Contents   Cover   Vampires

I was highly impressed by our neighbor when he stopped by for his first visit. He was a very well-spoken chap, exceedingly polite, and almost over-formal for simple folk such as we. For example, when I responded to his knock on our front door, the gentleman simply stood on the doorstep and conversed, even though I stood back and opened the door to allow him to enter. When I asked why he preferred to talk outside, he responded that his upbringing had indoctrinated him with the belief that one should never enter another's home unless one is specifically and formally invited. So charmed was I by this olden-style formality that I immediately bade him enter...

- From the journal of Vidimus Tansim

Vampire Weaknesses

My discussion of those few salient abilities that are a hindrance to the vampire seems a natural bridge to the subject at hand: that of their general weaknesses. Do not take too much heart from this chapter! Vampires are among the most powerful of the undead, possessing great strength and numerous seeming magical abilities. Coupled with this is their inhuman tenacity and their undying hunger. Taking all into account, vampires should surely be masters of all they survey, destroying civilization and life as they see fit.

It is very fortunate for (demi)humanity that vampires have a number of weaknesses that can be exploited. Again, those who would hunt vampires should be cautioned. These creatures are of great might and terrible cunning. To confront one is literally to stare death in the face. Not only must the hunter overcome the monsters' strengths, but also must he master his own weaknesses; almost surely the vampire will discover and capitalize upon them.

Some of the most common vampiric vulnerabilities are holy symbols, blessed accoutrements, sanctified places, mirrors, garlic, and running water.

One thing that the potential vampire hunter should remember is that not all vampires are affected by the same things. The discussions below relate to "typical" vampires - which, of course, is an oxymoron; no vampire is "typical". In practice, there is no guarantee that any individual vampire will suffer from any of the above "standard" weaknesses.

This holds particularly true with respect to uniquely powerful vampires, or the heads or progenitors of vampires lines. (A "vampire line" is defined as "all those 'subsidiary' vampires created by the same progenitor vampire, or by vampires who were created by the progenitor, etc". A progenitor is a vampire whose creator has been destroyed, or one who was not created by another vampire, but came into being by some other method.) These creatures tend to be unusual and will commonly possesses strengths and weaknesses altogether different from the "standard" vampire.

This same is true for the original set of vampires created personally by a head of a vampire line. These creatures are referred to as the first brood and comprise the progenitor's strongest and best "children". Typically, a first brood will be approximately five-to-ten vampires in size. The first brood will exhibit many of the same qualities as their progenitor but modified in form. For example, if the head of a vampire line were able to shapechange into the form of a fly, his first brood might be able to summon and command swarms of flies. As another example, if the progenitor were held at bay by anyone reading from a holy book, the sound of such readings might cause physical harm to members of the monster's first brood.

To repeat, any mortal who comes into contact with the head of a vampire line, or other such uniquely powerful creature, should exercise the greatest of caution. Such an encounter may require many months of painstaking research as the hunter attempts to glean some hint as to the vampire's unique weaknesses.

Keeping a Vampire at Bay

Althea kept the mirror between us and the blood-sucking fiend, as we instructed. At first the vampire circled, glaring at us in hatred, seemingly unable to approach the silvered glass which Althea kept always before its eyes. But then suddenly a huge bat swept down from the night sky, claws reaching for Althea's eyes. In her attempt to protect herself, she let the mirror fall, and it shattered on the stony ground. And in that instant, the vampire was among us, and the screaming began.

- From the journal of Donal Pembrooke

Ideally, any vampire encountered should be destroyed, because such evil is corruption in the heart of the land. This, however, is beyond the abilities of most mortals, and the primary goal becomes one of survival. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that might allow mortals to hold a vampire at bay, or even drive it away.

Good Holy Symbols

There is no consensus among experts as to exactly why the holy symbols of good aligned faiths hove such an effect on vampires. No one can argue with the fact that this effect exists, however. The majority of philosophers believe that the symbol itself is not significant; it is the faith of the person holding the symbol that is important. The precepts of any good-aligned faith will classify the vampire as a blasphemer against the gods and against nature. Thus, any pious follower of such a faith will view a vampire with righteous outrage. According to these philosophers, it is this righteous abhorrence, of which the holy item is just a symbol, that so affects a vampire. It should be noted that a holy symbol need not be a traditional one, such as a cross or star, to have power over a vampire. Any symbol of a deity dedicated to the precepts of Goodness will serve the purpose. Again, what seems to be more important than the actual condition or shape of the symbol is the faith and belief of the person presenting it. If the person's faith in his or her god is weak, then the symbol's power over the living dead is also weak. Therefore, good-aligned holy symbols can be used, to limited effect, by laypersons (that is, people who are not priests) or by priests of insufficient experience to truly turn a vampire. This is usually referred to as "presentment", to distinguish it from true turning. Presentment is discussed below.

To be effective, a presented holy symbol must be from a Good aligned religion, and must be presented boldly by a character who is actually faithful to that religion. The DM should adjudicate this according to previous role-playing. "Sudden converts" to a faith to which they normally just give lip service will find themselves "vampire fodder".

The character then makes a Cha check on 4d6, modified by +1 for every age category of the vampire above Old. This means that a character trying to hold an Eminent at bay must make a Cha check with +3 added to the dice roll. If the dice roll is equal to or less than the character's Charisma the vampire is held at bay for 2d4 melee rounds. If the DM wishes, some of the modifiers below may be applied;

Table 4: Modifiers for Turning Vampires

Situation    Modifier
Priest has major spell access to the Sun Sphere +2
Priest has minor spell access to the Sun Sphere +1
Priest is using a makeshift holy symbol -1
Priest is using a blessed or finely-crafted holy symbol +1
This specific vampire has previously caused the priest to fall a horror or fear check (Ravenloft only) -2
Priest is any Neutral -1
Priest's player role-plays the turning/controlling attempt in an exemplary manner +1

In order for a holy symbol to qualify as finely crafted, it must be made of some precious metal or a material that is sacred to the priest's religion. For example, a priest of the goddess Mielikki (from the FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign setting) would probably use a symbol made of finely-wrought wood, preferably still living, rather than of gold or platinum. In any event, the symbol must be constructed by a priest of at least 7th level, and takes a minimum of one week to prepare. If the symbol is a precious metal, it must be of at least 1,000 gold pieces in value. If it is of some other material, it must be of the finest quality possible. For example, the wooden holy symbol would have to be made of some rare and particularly sacred tree and would be difficult to find. A makeshift holy symbol, in contrast, would be something that was hastily put together.

The role-playing modifier has been included in the interest of colorful game play. This is an optional modifier that allows the DM to reward players who really get into character for example, if the player stands up at the gaming table and declaims something like, "Profane Creature of Darkness, in the name of Torm I expel you from the domain of the living". If the DM is running a game that is not heavily role-play oriented, this modifier can be excluded.

A number of other modifiers may be applied to the die roll, depending on the personal power of the vampire in question, the priest's faith and willpower at the moment of turning, any prior and unsuccessful conflicts between the priest and a vampire, and a number of other factors. DMs should feel free to add other modifiers that make sense in their campaigns.

Because the lands of Ravenloft are a physical manifestation of evil incarnate, the effects of sanctified land and structures are diluted as compared to those in other locales. Normally, when in Ravenloft, undead are turned according to the Turning Undead table presented in campaign setting. If the vampire is on sanctified ground, however, the standard Turning Undead table from the Player's Handbook is used (making it easier for priests to turn the monsters).

Sanctified places also give the following modifiers to related functions (in or out of Ravenloft):

presentment of holy symbol: + 2 on Cha check
vampire touching/manipulating holy item: -2 on saving throw
vampire passing portal warded by blessed item: -1 on saving throw

In addition, when the vampire is in a sanctified place, it can't inflict the -2 penalty on turning subservient creature.

Players and DMs should bear in mind that keeping a vampire at bay does not negate its ability to attack the person presenting a holy symbol. The creature could hurl objects, attempt to gaze-charm the character with the symbol, summon minions to deal with the offender, or a host of other actions. A successful presentment simply means the vampire cannot approach within 5' of the holy symbol. (If the vampire is somehow forced to come within five feet of the character, the effect of the presentment ends.) Note that a vampire could attack with a long polearm, such as a spear.

If a Good-aligned holy symbol is within a vampire's field of vision, it suffers a +1 penalty to its initiative for as long as it can see the item. A vampire seeing a Good-aligned holy symbol will normally show some sign of distaste or hatred hissing and spitting in anger, flinching away as if in pain, etc. unless it successfully saves vs. spells. A successful saving throw means the creature has suppressed its natural reaction. If it successfully saves, the creature can view the item without effect from then on.

Vampires find it very difficult to touch, move, destroy, or otherwise manipulate Good-aligned holy symbols; even covering the item or removing it from view requires a great effort of will. To touch or otherwise manipulate a holy symbol, the vampire must successfully save vs. spells. This save is separate from the roll to see if it can suppress its visible reaction. A successful save means the monster can touch the item this time. Any subsequent attempt to touch or manipulate the item requires another save.

Note that vampires gain a bonus to both the above saving throws as they progress in age. The monster receives a bonus of +1 for every age category past Fledgling. Thus, a Mature vampire gains a +1 bonus, while a Patriarch receives a bonus of +6!

Evil Holy Symbols

As with other undead, vampires are sometimes subject to control by priests of evil-aligned faiths. Just as a good-aligned priest can use a holy symbol in an attempt to turn or banish a vampire, so can an evil-aligned priest use his symbol in an attempt to control the vampire. In both cases, the priest's faith and willpower are key issues, and the outcome is never certain.

With lesser undead, should the evil priest establish control, that control is virtually complete. Not so with a vampire; a controlled vampire retains its own free will, and acts in much the same way as a mortal might when threatened with physical pain. It will obey the letter, but not necessarily the spirit, of any orders it is given, and will always try to pervert the controlling priest's intent so as to break the control. Only if the priest's and the vampire's desires run in perfect parallels will the monster truly and wholeheartedly cooperate. In the vast majority of cases, the vampire will use its cunning and considerable powers to reverse the situation, likely without the priest's awareness, so that the slave will become the master....

There is no equivalent of presentment with evil-aligned holy symbols. A vampire is totally unaffected by an evil symbol presented by a layperson or by a priest of insufficient experience.

When an Evil priest tries to control a vampire, use the appropriate Turning Undead table. A success on this table means that the priest has established control over the vampire. As with good priests turning vampires, the optional rule of percent spell failure can be applied to evil priests attempting to dominate a vampire.

Turning Versus Presentment

In addition to priestly turning as discussed above, many vampires are also subject to the presentment of a good aligned holy symbol by a layperson or by a priest of insufficient experience to actually turn the creature. It should be noted that presentment of a holy symbol will never drive a vampire away: it will only keep it at bay temporarily.

As with actual turning, presentment depends almost exclusively on the faith and the force of personality of the person presenting the symbol. Even the slightest wavering of faith or dip in confidence can allow the vampire to ignore the effects of a holy symbol. A presented holy symbol in the hands of the most virtuous and pious believer will force a vampire to remain at least five feet away from the character holding the symbol.

Whether or not the item is actually being used in a turning or presentment attempt, vampires hate the sight of good-aligned holy symbols. This hatred usually manifests itself in an unwillingness to look at or touch the symbol, or to flinch away from it. A masquerading vampire must exercise much self-control to suppress this natural reaction. Vampires seem distracted and apparently have difficulty concentrating when a good-aligned holy symbol is within their field of vision.

Blessed Accountrements

In addition to holy symbols, there are a number of other religious items that can be used to exert control over the majority of vampires. Although they are usually not as effective as holy symbols, they can be used in a pinch.

These items, collectively called blessed accoutrements, vary in nature and form, depending on the religion or mythos from which they come. Regardless of the mythos, however, to be effective, blessed accoutrements must be associated with a faith that reveres a good-aligned deity. These items must have been blessed by a priest of that religion. (Note that an item that is not directly associated with the faith, but has nevertheless been blessed, does not qualify as a blessed accoutrement.) Blessed accoutrements can never be used to turn a vampire; only to keep it at bay. Although a priest's bless spell normally has a temporary duration of approximately six minutes, a blessed holy item remains blessed only for the purposes of holding a vampire at bay or warding a portal until something befalls the item that would desecrate it. (Events that would qualify as desecration vary from faith to faith, although there are certain actions that would always fill the bill, all of which are too unpleasant to discuss here.)

Some examples of blessed accoutrements are holy waters, holy water, prayer beads, blessed books or tomes, and robes or clothing.

Blessed accoutrements can occasionally be used as weapons uniquely able to mark and harm vampires. This will be discussed in the next chapter, "Destroying a Vampire", under the heading "Stigmata".

The procedure for holding a vampire at bay using a blessed accoutrement is the same as that for using a holy symbol. Use the table for Turning Undead in the DMG (or, when playing in the RAVENLOFT campaign setting, table from campaign setting), but with a +2 penalty to reflect the lesser power of a blessed accoutrement. The dice roll is further modified by +1 for every age category of the vampire above Old. If the dice roll is successful, the vampire is held at bay for 2d4 melee rounds at a distance of five feet. If the DM wishes, some of the modifiers from the Modifiers for Turning Vampires list above may be applied.

Another common use for blessed accoutrements is to keep a vampire from entering a certain place. These evil creatures have great trouble passing through a portal that is adorned or protected by blessed accoutrements. A portal so protected will keep a vampire from entering for 2d4 rounds. After that time, the creature must make a saving throw vs. spells in order to enter. This saving throw is modified by a bonus of +1 for every age category of the vampire beyond Fledgling.

Below is a list of typical accoutrements that are frequently blessed. Keep in mind that these are examples, and the collective list of accoutrements would be as varied as the number of existing religions. Two die-roll modifiers are included with each item. The first is applied to the Cha check die roll when someone tries to use an accoutrement to hold a vampire at bay; the second is applied to the vampire's saving throw roll when it attempts to pass through a portal warded by a blessed accoutrement:

holy water (+2/-2)
holy water (+3/-3)
prayer beads (0/0)
blessed book or tome (+1/-1)
robes or clothing (-1/+1)

Additonal Protection

There are three additional items that are useful for keeping vampires at bay. Once again, one must realize that not all vampires will be subject to these items.

The state of undeath offers many powers and abilities denied to mortals. The connection with the Negative Material Plane also causes vast changes in a mortal turned into a vampire. Despite these issues, however, there is one vital fact that can always be used against a vampire: at one time it was a mortal.

It is this fact that likely explains a vampire's negative reaction to mirrors. If a mirror is presented boldly and with conviction to a vampire, the monster will recoil from it. Exactly why is this? It appears that vampires often resent their undead stale, and yearn for the warmth of humanity and feeling of being alive. Mirrors, because they do not reflect the image of vampires, remind the creatures in a most painful manner of their undead state.

Garlic also has a strong effect on vampires. The reasons for this are unclear, but some innate quality in the plant causes vampires to cower from it. Some sages believe the reason is simply that vampires find the odor extremely offensive - so offensive, in fact, that a vampire will never approach any significant quantity of garlic, but I find this explanation much too simplistic. Perhaps vampires find garlic to be toxic to their necrological processes, as wolvesbane (actually aconite) is to werewolves. In any case, garlic can be used as a partial protection against the monsters.

Many legends tell of vampires being kept at bay by running water, and conclude that running water somehow has some warding power over vampires as does garlic and mirrors. As far as I can tell, these tales are probably true with regard to the base events, but totally wrong in their conclusions. It is true that all but the most powerful vampires - generally speaking, Eminents and Patriarchs are quickly destroyed if they are immersed in running water. Vampires are, of course, aware of this vulnerability, and hence will avoid running water if there is a chance they can be immersed in it. This means that vampires will be particularly wary of bridges, stepping stones, ferries, and other means of crossing running water. (After all, bridges can collapse, ferries can sink, etc.) If the benefit is great enough, vampires will risk such means of crossing running water, but will always do whatever it takes to minimize the risk. If circumstances allow, however, the fiends will shapechange to bat form and fly across a river. Thus it can be seen that an aversion to crossing running water is not a strict prohibition, but merely a rational choice.

There is one exception: a vampire in gaseous form is strictly prohibited from crossing a body of running water that is more than three feet wide.

Myths and legends tell of other items or situations that can drive away vampires or keep them at bay. Among these are wood ash, dove feathers, and the singing of a small child. It is not known if these items are truly effective against vampires. I believe that these tales actually describe idiosyncratic weaknesses of certain individual vampires, which should not and cannot be generalized to all of the foul race.

A character can also use a mirror to keep a vampire at bay. In much the same way as a holy symbol, except the Cha check is made with a +1 penalty. A successful roll means that the vampire is kept at bay for 2d4 rounds at a range of 5', but only if the mirror is directly between the character holding it and the vampire, so that the vampire can see its reflection (or lack thereof). The vampire can, avoid the effects by "flanking" the character with the mirror, by shattering the mirror in some manner, or by forcing the character to drop the mirror. As with other means of keeping a vampire at bay, modifiers from the Modifiers for Turning Vampires table can be used.

Sanctified Places

Although the realization caused my gorge to rise, I suddenly perceived the only way I might escape the fiend that pursued me. There was one fresh grave in the graveyard, one that had been closed this afternoon. In desperation, I cleared away the fresh earth, exposing the coffin. I could hear the unnaturally fast footsteps of the vampire as I climbed into the coffin with its cold occupant and closed the lid. Of course I was unable to re-cover the coffin with dirt, but I preyed - more fervently than I had ever prayed before - that it would make no difference.

- From the journal of Zylara Windermere

There are certain structures and locales that can strongly influence or prohibit vampires. These structures and locales can best be described as sanctified places. As a general rule, these locations are rare.

In order for a building, structure, or area to be considered a sanctified place and to hold power over a vampire, it must be one of two specific types of establishment.

The first type of safe house from the vampire is one that is expressly owned. The location must be owned by an individual or strongly defined group. If the location is inhabited, it must be inhabited by the owner or by a member of the owning group. The following are examples of locations that meet this criterion:

a house, owned by the residents
a monastery, owned by the order of priests that dwells within it
a graveyard, owned by the priestly order that oversees it

The following locations would not qualify:

an inn, because the residents staying in the various rooms do not own them
a public area, such as a village green
a town's public graveyard, because the area would generally be "owned" by an elected (and hence ephemeral) town council
a trading coaster's warehouse, because the building is owned by a "corporation", which is a legal fiction

Churches, temples, and the like, even when, officially owned and operated by amorphous groups such as a town council, qualify because they are symbolically owned by the deity to which the buildings are dedicated.

The second type of place that is off-limits to a vampire is one that is in some way hallowed.

In the case of personal homes, they are the retreat or sanctuary of the owner, and are inherently hallowed. Churches and temples are obviously hallowed by their nature. Note that, in this case, the word "hallowed" does not necessarily mean religious or holy; rather, it means "respected" or "venerated". The following list of structures/areas gives a general idea of what might be considered hallowed ground. As with holy symbols, the types of hallowed ground vary with different cultures and religions:

house or home
holy burial sites
hallowed hunting grounds

In general, even the most powerful priest is unable to sanctify a location that does not have some tradition of sanctity or veneration associated with it. Thus, even a high priest could not buy the title to an abandoned estate - actually the lair of a vampire - and then somehow sanctify it, just to aggravate the vampire if nothing else. Unless the estate had some tradition of sanctity attached to it, the priest would have to establish the building as a temple, attract a body of other priests and a congregation, hold services, etc. Then and only then might the building be considered sanctified. (And if you think the vampire in the catacombs would sit still for that, then you would not last very long in the lands of mist....)


Homes, that is, houses or other spaces where individuals or families have their permanent residence, enforce their own restrictions on a vampire. Homes are not actually sanctified places (except in the most unusual of cases) and so give priests or laypersons no benefits when turning or holding at bay vampires and other undead. They do, however, give those within a unique protection against vampires.

In short, a vampire is completely unable to enter a home unless invited by a resident; the creature is simply unable to physically enter the residence. There are a few important notes that apply. First of all, to qualify as a "resident" of a home, a person must have been invited to live there indefinitely. This can be the actual home owner, the spouse, a relative of the owner, a live-in servant, etc. A guest of the owner does not qualify as a resident. Second, the invitation must be overt, stated in words. An implied invitation, such as an open door, is not sufficient. A single invitation to enter a home will allow the vampire to enter that home but once, immediately after the invitation is extended. The sole exception is if the invitation is offered by the "man of the house" - the oldest member of the household. If it is the "man of the house" who formally offers the invitation to a vampire, the creature is thereafter always free to enter that home without further invitation. Third, just because a vampire is unable to actually enter a house, those within are not totally protected from the creature's wrath. A vampire has a number of options open to it. For example, it could attempt to charm someone inside the house, or otherwise convince them to officially invite the creature to enter. It could summon minions, who would not be forbidden to enter the house. Alternatively, it could burn the house to the ground or otherwise force its potential victims to leave the structure. In short, fleeing to one's home to escape a vampire offers temporary protection at best.

In the lands of mist there are a number of exceptions to the above remarks. Strahd Von Zarovich is the absolute ruler of Barovia and thereby owns all properties contained in it. This mighty vampire lord can enter any building or structure that he wishes, simply because he "owns" them all.


Many experts find the statement hard to believe, but it seems that the majority of vampires, the "lords of the undead", are unable to physically open the grave, crypt or other final resting place of another who was interred according to the precepts of the religion the person followed in life. (They can obviously open their own resting place with impunity.) Although surprising on the surface, when viewed symbolically, this makes perfect sense. An interment site is, in one manner of speaking, the only property owned by its inhabitant, for eternity. And, assuming the deceased was interred with the formality and ritual associated with his or her faith while alive, the interment site is thus sanctified, at least to a degree. For these reasons, a "typical" vampire is unable to enter, break open or otherwise physically disturb an interment site without the express permission of the "inhabitant" (who, obviously, is unable to give it).

This does not prevent a vampire from magically animating the inhabitant of a grave, however, and then having the animated corpse break out of the interment site. The restriction also does not apply to unfortunates who were interred without benefit of clerical rites and rituals: bodies buried in a mass grave, criminals who were excommunicated before or after death, etc.

Causing Damage with Holy Symbols and Holy Water

In order to damage the vampire with a holy symbol, the presenter must make a successful Cha check on 1d20 and then touch some part of the vampire's skin with the symbol. Generally, this requires a successful hit vs. AC 4, although this can change, depending on the circumstances. If the Cha check and the attack roll are both successful, the vampire sustains 2d6 points of damage and is kept at bay for 2d4 rounds.

The character wielding the holy symbol must be of Good or Neutral alignment. Vampires suffer no damage from a holy symbol wielded by an Evil character. Below are some optional modifiers to the Cha roll:

Character is CN, N or LN: +4
Character is CG or NG: +3
Character is LG, but does not worship the deity to whom the holy symbol is dedicated:+2
Character is a priest who worships the deity to whom the holy symbol is dedicated: -2

Damage inflicted by a thrown vial of holy water, or by any other contact with holy water, is 1d6+1 hit points. In addition to taking damage, a vampire will be kept at bay for 2d4 rounds after any direct hit from holy water.

Previous   Next   Up

Hosted by uCoz