How should HD work with a Vampire template split across levels?

I have made a level 1 bard with the vampire template, and our DM has broken down the template so that I can get the full +8 level adjustment (and vampiric abilities) by the time I reach 9th level. Currently I am at level 2 of the vampire template breakdown but my DM says that I do not receive hit dice for advancing the vampire template.

My question is, do I receive the additional 2d12 hitdice for the template being at level 2 or do I only acquire the 1d12 for my initial level of bard? My main concern is that I will be playing a ninth level character (1 lvl of bard with the total +8 adjustment for the vampire template) but I will only have 12 hit points gained in the inital level of bard.

We play standard 3.5 set in the Forgotten Realms.

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I'll leave it to someone else to type up a full answer with references, but basically yes, the only hitpoints you'll have until you hit level 10 will be HP you get from 1 level of bard. Basically, templates are a level adjustment, and LA and hit dice are not the same thing. It's usually a very bad idea for a player character to take anything that gives them a level adjustment of +4 or greater (and even +2 or +3 is rarely worth it), because it 1) leaves them with much less HP, as you noticed, and 2) delays their access to high level class abilities (especially spells). – Oblivious Sage May 26 '13 at 6:10
Have you (and your DM) considered using the official vampire template class? – OpaCitiZen May 26 '13 at 6:22
I'd suggest seeking a homebrew version, because the official template class is...well, wretched is being a bit polite about it. – Lord_Gareth May 26 '13 at 14:00
@ObliviousSage I can think of exactly one LA +2 template that is worth it (Saint), and only a handful of LA +1 templates (Mineral Warrior, Feral, Lolth-touched). LA +3 and +4 are right-out, and LA +8, yeah, is basically impossible. It's instructive to see how much lower the CR adjustments are. – KRyan May 26 '13 at 16:04

As Oblivious Sage pointed out in the comments, according to the official rules, no, you do not get any extra HD for getting a template. When you gain the template:

Hit Dice: Increase all current and future Hit Dice to d12s.

However, you do not gain any extra hit die. What you are doing here is acquiring the template bit by bit, but since there is nothing in the template to give you HD, you dont get any.

There is a reason why base creatures usually need at least 5 HD.

However, let us think beyond the mechanical ruleplaying. I am pretty sure your DM knows that a level 9 character with 12 hp would be unplayable. If so, why does he still say that you don't gain any extra HP after lvl 1? Either, he is the type of gamer to love rules above all, or, he doesn't really want you to play a vampire in his game. There is also the possibility that the DM simply trusts WotC to know their product, and to have chosen LAs fairly (Thanks, KRyan). Or, the DM is running a story-centric or social game where fighting ability balance is not important (credits to SSD). Either way, ask him about it, metagame.

If it's because your fighting ability balance doesn't matter, then you are set to go, knowing that you will only get 12 hp. If he doesnt want you playing vampires in his game, that is his call, and you will need to respect that. If he is okay with you playing one combatly, then you need to work together to make it playable, probably with a homebrew solution. Gaining d12 every level would be over the top, making it annoying to other players, however some HD progression is needed. One possibility would be to lenghten the process of acquiring vampire template by adding your class levels (and therefore gaining HD) in between your template levels. However, I am not sure of your intentions and the playability of such a build, so that might not be the what you are looking for. The other possibility is just houseruling HD progression into the template, but make sure its either not every level/not d12, and in any case, this will and should lenghten the process of acquiring the whole template.

That is why, and once again credits to Oblivious Sage, it is usually a bad idea to take Templates with high LA. I would like to point out that it may not be such a bad idea to use different PC creatures, since those usually already start with some HD. However, I do understand that your desire to play a vampire is not a quest for powergaming opportunity, so just talk to your DM and try to make your character playable.

If you took a bard level every second level, alternating between vampire levels and class levels, at 9 level you would have 5d12 hp, that is average 38 (+your con modifier x5), and you would have 5 vampire levels to go. A 9 lvl bard has an average of 34 hp, which would make you pretty balanced. That way, at ECL 16, you would be a fully vampiric lvl 8 bard, with roughly appropriate hp, and a wide array of abilities at your disposal.

Hope this helps.

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You overlook the possibility that the DM simply trusts WotC to know their product, and to have chosen LAs fairly. WotC certainly gave the impression that this was the case, even though it may seem obvious to us that they didn't. – KRyan May 26 '13 at 15:54
Thanks, I will edit that in. – kravaros May 26 '13 at 15:56
Cool, now this is a very good answer. +1 – KRyan May 26 '13 at 16:03
Another possibility: the DM is running a story-centric or social game where fighting ability balance is not important. (About the only kind of game where this kind of character would work well.) – SevenSidedDie May 26 '13 at 18:35
It did not seem so from his question, as he was worried about his hp, I thought it must've mattered in his capaign. I'll edit it in, however. – kravaros May 26 '13 at 19:24

A Template Class

Officially, this kind of “breakdown,” as you call it, is known as a “template class,” a concept pioneered in Savage Species. The idea is that you gain the powers of the template over the course of several levels, rather than all at once, to allow you to play lower-level monstrous characters. While a pretty simple idea (and massively better than the default ECL system), Savage Species itself is one of the most notorious books published for 3.x, and the random additional template classes that Wizards posted on their website from time to time often received even less oversight.

So:

We don’t have the details aside from the fact that you are, in fact, gaining Level Adjustment rather than HD. Your DM is correct that LA does not grant HD, so this is 8 levels in a row where you do not gain HD, base attack bonus, saves, or skills. This is a very serious problem. Even if he’s trying, your DM is going to have a hard time keeping you alive while you face opponents appropriate for your (and your comrades’) effective level.

I do not recommend that you do this. The vampire template was badly over-LA’d to begin with (like almost everything that has a positive LA; Wizards did not think players should choose monstrous races and so they chose LAs to discourage players from choosing them and to punish those that did), and depending on how this “breakdown” works, it could leave you even worse off than someone starting at ECL 9th with 1 HD. For example, the official template class certainly does that...

The Official Template Class

The official template class, posted online here, is problematic on a number of points. One, you lose your Constitution score slowly, over the course of a number of levels. This is awful because you do not get the d12 HD and immunity to Fortitude-targeting effects that form the “upsides” of being “Con –” until 7th level.

And once again, even more importantly, is the issue of LA +8 and how that’s not really viable. Potentially even worse since you have drastically-reduced Constitution. You basically gain almost all of the disadvantages first, and don’t gain the corresponding advantages. This probably is going to lead only to your destruction.

I cannot overstate how much I do not recommend this.

Oslecamo’s Template Class

Oslecamo, a member of a number of D&D message boards, has made an enormous project of creating an incredible number of monster and template classes. His vampire can be found here; note that it is in an entire subforum devoted to this project. His work is rather well-regarded, and I rather like his execution of the vampire. It has all of the classical weaknesses, all of the (excellent) Undead traits, and a number of Blood Powers that function off the Blood Charges that the vampire gains by drinking victims. Notably, every night the vampire needs a number of Blood Charges equal to his HD just to feed his hunger, so high-level vampires are strongly encouraged to maintain a stock of sycophants or followers who will allow him to drink their blood.

What I like most, though, is that the class is only 2 levels long. It’s built much more like a Prestige Class than as a template, and I think it dramatically improves it. It doesn’t have the myriad numerical bonuses associated with the official vampire template, but instead you get to be a normal character who is also a vampire.

This is much better design for a number of reasons, not least because templates’ ability score bonuses are often inappropriate. Level Adjustment plus too-high ability score bonuses makes the character too-good at some things (ability checks, save DCs) and too-weak at other things (its own saves, skill ranks, base attack bonus, and protections against things like sleep), which I personally have found to be very detrimental to the game.

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A good answer, +1 – kravaros May 26 '13 at 16:01