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While running the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign, two of my players were arguing about what they should do about a vampire NPC.

  1. Try to change the vampire's alignment and turn him into a non-evil NPC, because he was formerly a Neutral Good cleric who helped the party - (the favored choice of the Neutral Good Druid).

  2. Attack him ASAP due to his well-known attitude of being Chaotic Evil - (the favored choice of the Lawful Good Paladin).

Which of these two actions is a better choice for a Good-aligned character?

They finally decided which course of action to take, but I would like to know, as a DM, which of them was closer to what being "Good" means.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

“Always” alignment does not actually mean always

Always: The creature is born with the indicated alignment. The creature may have a hereditary predisposition to the alignment or come from a plane that predetermines it. It is possible for individuals to change alignment, but such individuals are either unique or rare exceptions.

Note that creatures with acquired templates do not experience “birth,” so the first line does not apply. Becoming a vampire “always” changes one’s alignment, but in rare cases (perhaps as in the case of your NPC), that can be subverted.

And even in the cases of Evil vampires, they can be reformed. There’s even an explicit spell for doing that (santify the wicked from Book of Exalted Deeds), though I strongly encourage you to completely ignore it as it’s very poorly designed (like most of that book), and has some extremely unfortunate implications (if you ignore the fact that the books says it’s good, and read it, it sounds like a pretty awful, evil thing to do to a person).

Thus, yes, you can have a non-Evil vampire. Redeeming Evil creatures is not just a Good act, it is the quintessential Good act.

That said, no character is ever required to always act for the maximum Good; it is not an Evil act to choose to not perform a possible Good action.

That said, assault and murder are pretty much definitively Evil...

Evil Alignment is consistently not an acceptable reason to attack someone

Attacking someone without specific cause is assault, which is Evil and in most jurisdictions illegal. Continuing that assault until the target dies is murder, which is definitely Evil and illegal most everywhere.

A paladin who attacks someone purely on the basis of pinging for detect evil should, under the rules, fall on the spot, for willingly commiting an Evil act.1

This is described in multiple rulebooks. It’s one of the few things about alignment that actually is somewhat consistent.

Alignment is not a detailed or consistent system

Alignment is described in different ways in different books, and the definitions are vague, ambiguous, and conflicting. The system is a historical artifact of D&D’s roots: it is designed for a simplistic, hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, where the players are Good because they are the players, the goblins, orcs, and vampires are Evil because they’re the enemies, and no one ever thinks too hard about that. Unfortunately, D&D has evolved but alignment hasn’t evolved with it; though people play far more serious and varied games than a straight dungeon crawl, alignment is still the same nine boxes. Don’t expect much from it; I actually strongly encourage you to ignore it. Outside of those simple dungeon crawls, it causes more headaches and arguments than it will ever be worth.

1 I cannot more strongly recommend against the actual falling rules, however. Instead of stripping the paladin of class features (boring, interrupts the story, punishes the player), I strongly recommend switching the character to the appropriate alternate alignment variant paladin, so he keeps his powers they just become “dark” (or chaotic if that’s the way he falls).

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Great answer, and I second everything here. But at the risk of being pedantic, assault is causing the fear of an attack. A successful (defined as connecting, not necessarily winning the fight) attack is a battery, at least in most jurisdictions. –  TimothyAWiseman Feb 20 at 23:31
    
@TimothyAWiseman Huh, I did not know that. –  KRyan Feb 20 at 23:36

The Paladin's Correct...

Destroy the vampire.

Seriously.

But not for the arguments he's presented. The PCs should destroy the vampire because the vampire's continued existence prevents bringing back from the dead the now-undead, formerly-NG cleric. Spells that return creatures from the dead are prevented from bringing back the dead while the subject creature is undead. Once the vampire is destroyed, the PCs can use raise dead [conj] (PH 268), reincarnate [trans] (PH 270), resurrection [conj] (PH 272), true resurrection [conj] (PH 296), or another method to bring back their cleric friend as a NG cleric; the DM determines if the spells miracle [evoc] (PH 254) and wish [univ] (PH 302) bypass this restriction on bringing the dead back to life when a creature's transformed into an undead.

So, yeah, the paladin's absolutely correct. If the undestroyed vampire's using the cleric's form to commit evil, he should kill the bloodsucker... and take the destroyed vampire's remains to someone who can bring back the cleric from the dead.

...Unless the Druid's Correct

It's possible, as KRyan and AceCalhoon noted, that because of some quirk of the universe, the vampire isn't CE like vampires always are (at least, according to the vampire's alignment entry... which, as has been mentioned, doesn't actually means what it says). If that's the case, determine that with the spells detect alignment [div] (PH 219-20), and if the vampire's good try to open diplomatic channels.

The Vampire May Want to Atone
It's also possible that the vampire is sincerely struggling against its nature and honestly wants to change but lacks the means and opportunity to do so. That happens. Rarely. And it's usually a ruse. But, nonetheless, if the PCs believe the vampire's trying to be good and failing because its spirit is too weak to make the change or it's overwhelmed by evils already committed or whatever--and the paladin can be convinced that a good vampire is a greater force for good than a good cleric whose been returned from the dead and that the evils the vampire will commit were this strategm to fail are worth risk--the PCs should try to capture the vampire and cast on it the spell atonement [abjur] (PH 201-2) with the purpose of redemption. This will make clear the vampire's intentions.

(The decanter of endless water (DMG 254) (9,000 gp; 2 lbs.) is ideal for capturing a vampire.)

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Actually, at least according to the undead type description in the srd, the resurrection and true resurrection spells "turn undead creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming undead". I see nothing in the vampire template that would contradict that. –  EnvisionAndDevelop May 27 at 20:02
    
@EnvisionAndDevelop The PH is is the primary source for spells, so while contradicted by the Monster Manual, resurrection and true resurrection still take precedence. Interesting find, though. –  Hey I Can Chan May 27 at 21:11

They should destroy the vampire, but not for reasons of alignment:

  • Vampirism is a curse. The curse is generally bestowed against the victim's will (there may be singular exceptions, but most people do not choose to become a vampire).
  • While vampirism appears to be a gift at first glance due to "living" forever and gaining strength over time, in reality vampires gradually lose what constitutes their lives and identities.
  • Even though a vampire turns towards chaotic evil during its existence, this is not a deliberate decision, but caused by the loss of its identity. The victim is therefore not truly evil (not unless the individuum was already evil before).
  • The curse not only prevents the character from being raised, but also prevents the character's soul from finding rest.

Destroying a vampire must therefore be considered a good deed. It is an act of mercy, breaking the curse and freeing the vampire's soul. For good-aligned characters, this is almost compelling.

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This looks to be the age old question of:

"My character claims to be good, yet he's killing bandits left and right."

In Dungeons and Dragons, alignment is defined in a rather flat black and white fashion, where you are either good, evil or "that guy who can't make up his mind". This can lead to situations where people feel "they are doing the wrong thing", simply because "there is a 'more good/more evil' action.

This isn't how things work and you have to look at it.

Is redeeming an evil vampire into a good vampire a 'better' solution than killing him? Yes, if it could be managed, it would be the right way to go. But taking into account that even if you were to redeem him he would still have to face justice, he's most likely going to be doomed to die either way.

Yes, it would be a lot better for the world if we were able to convert every bandit, brigand and would-be assassin into a templar of the just cause, but it simply doesn't work that way. You would have to spend years educating people just so you can leave and be confident that you won't end up regretting it.

This goes doubly-so for creatures that have a known tendency to be evil. Are you really going to spend twenty years trying to slowly shift the drow away from evil? Or are you just going to slam them into cuffs and get it over with?

In the long run, the quickest solution is going to result in more time to help people who actually deserve it.

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I voted to close the question as "primarily opinion-based", and your answer demonstrates pretty well why: this answer is very much founded on "the good of the many outweigh the good of the few", which is an argument aligned with lawful good principles. An argument from chaotic good principles, meanwhile, results in exactly the opposite conclusion. So, the question of which is better is inherently a matter of opinion. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 20 at 22:47

A vampires/vampire spawn's alignment matches that of their sire, who is typically chaotic evil. If the sire is killed or has to release them due to having too many bound servants, (this applies to any undead that creates spawn) they can attempt one will save at 20+1 per week that they had been a spawn to attempt to regain their old alignment, but if fails, their current alignment has become their new one and has to be changed gradually over-time as normal.

A vampire still bound to it's sire though, has no will of it's own and only lives to support it's master's goals and ideals, usually possessing a twisted mockery of the original personality.

It's extremely common for most spawn creatures, upon being freed, to have come to like what they've become or believe that they've been tainted so far that they are beyond redemption and grudgingly accept their new lot, though a small number do try to cope with their condition and reclaim their old lives, while fighting against their new needs as a vampire. Most though can only really go as far as becoming neutral, since parasitically feeding off other is never a good action, but generally prefer to keep their feedings to the bare minimum or only feed on evil-doers. (thankfully, feeding only causes 2 temporary Con damage, and won't result in negative levels, so it's rarely fatal, but does greatly inconvenience they one they've fed upon).


3.0 Savage Species book, when discussing characters who were turned into undead spawn and freed and rules for playing them.

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-1: Uh, do you have any references for any part of this? I'm looking at the "vampire" entry in the 3.5 Monster Manual, and I see no mention of any of this. It simply says that making them a vampire switches their alignment to "evil (any)" (not necessarily chaotic). No mention anywhere of the alignment of the vampire that turned them, nor of any weekly attempts at saving throws. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 20 at 8:38
    
As far as I can tell, this doesn't attempt to answer the question of which the characters should do. –  SevenSidedDie Aug 13 at 7:09

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