I don't recall ever hearing about dwarven, elven or halfling vampires in D&D.

Is the vampirism curse something that is only human specific?

I'm planning to introduce dwarven vampire lord to my PCs (cause no one expects a dwarf to be a vampire, even if he's a butler in a ruined castle in the middle of grim village) and the main reason for him to be a dwarf is...well no one associates this race with vampires (at least in my comprehension). Is it "legal" for these other races to be affected by the curse?

I'd like to know if there are any cases of such vampirism in the D&D and how is this explained by the lore. Could a dwarven NPC vampire be logically explained or is it in conflict with general knowledge?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk Sep 14 at 16:13
up vote 20 down vote accepted

No polymorphism for the vampire is detailed in 5E

The entry for vampire in the Monster Manual p 295 doesn't really differentiate on what the creature's previous race was. This system assumes that, short of DM fiat, humanoids can become vampires however their race immediately becomes undead and the stats are the same as that listed in the MM. Some DMs such as myself view Vampirism as a mode of possession, as portrayed in Order of the Stick and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", which means it really doesn't make any difference what your race was.

AD&D 2nd Edition

Now in certain settings there was some polymorphism introduced. Most notably in the old Ravenloft setting. In the Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix (1991) from 2E.

In this source was detailed variations on the abilities of the standard races if they were afflicted with vampirism.

Elves: Couldn't go out at night and could wander around in the day time. Teleported through plants. What amounts to a gaze to paralyze. Their touch withered and killed plants. Unaffected by Holy Water but could be burned by contact with diciduous plant sap.

Dwarves: Could essentially Earth Glide which made them particularly scary and difficult to find their lair. Instead of a stake you had to use a natural stalagmite or stalactite. Could not cross a lines of powdered metal. Could change to a burrowing animal instead of bat and wolf.

Gnomes: Could not turn away from a jewel. Could only be hit with metal. Could not shapechange. Had a spectral form rather than gaseous. Gaze attack to inflict Tasha's Laughter effect.

Halfling: Repelled by pipe smoke. Rain was deadly. Shapechanged to woodland creatures and could control them (beavers, squirrels etc.). Create food and drink (lures prey).

Just as examples of the differences they highlighted. This gave them flavor.

Another great source are the Van Richten's guides from the 2nd Edition Ravenloft setting written by the fictious NPC Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, these have great flavor details on how to use vampires as well as salient abilities, which are powers that vampires get as they age and gain more power. 2E is pretty compatible with 5E as far as the rules are concerned and the flavor text is universal. I still use these old books when doing more horror driven stories where the primary antagonist is a Vampire, Werewolf or even a Golem in some cases.

Dungeons and Dragons 3.X

Templates from 3.XE also allowed for differentiation. I do miss the templates from that system, gave a great many options even if some of them were down right silly. The template for vampire didn't really change with the race it was applied to however, it simply added the abilities of vampire to the existing creature, in my 2E example the abilities of the vampire changed based on what was being possessed or afflicted (take your pick on how you define vampirism).

Real World differences

There are differences in how a vampire is viewed in the real world as well. If we throw out sparkly, emo, stalker vampires from popular culture we have a number to choose from:

There are two versions in Asia to my knowledge. One is invisible all the time or to just some people and the one from the Philippines is called the Aswang in Tagolog and Wakwak in Bisayan. The latter amounts to a shapechanger, human by day and at night flies on wings with a long tongue.

Then of course there is the original popularization from Bram Stoker.

  • 1
    There are even kender vampires in Ravenloft. – ZwiQ Sep 15 at 12:04
  • Wow, those AD&D rules are awesome and silly. – mattdm Sep 15 at 13:41

In D&D 3.5e,

“Vampire” is an acquired template that can be added to any humanoid or monstrous humanoid creature (referred to hereafter as the base creature).

(Vampire template monster entry, Monster Manual)

and

Medium Humanoid (Dwarf)

(Dwarf monster entry, Monster Manual)

So since vampire can apply to any humanoid creature, and dwarves are humanoid creatures, dwarf vampires are entirely possible in that edition.

  • Thank you very much. It seems that there are no limitations then. Maybe they were just not as common in RPG sessions I've played :) – LordMarkus Sep 14 at 13:27
  • 4
    @LordMarkus it might just be the law of averages. Humans are usually the most numerous significant species in D&D settings so it would make sense that any vampire you did encounter would most likely be a human. – Carcer Sep 14 at 13:37

Yes, non-human fantasy races can be vampires. Indeed there are plenty of such examples in the D&D lore.

For getting an idea about how a dwarf vampire is conceived in the Forgotten Realms setting, you can have a look at the novels by Salvatore, where we find the character Thibbledorf Pwent.

Jander Sunstar is a gold elf vampire who starts in the Forgotten Realms setting and later gets pulled into Ravenloft. Another elf vampire is Bodhi from the Baldur's Gate series of computer games and novel.

Dorina T'sarran is a drow vampire in service of Kiaransalee, drow goddess of vengeance and undeath. She is described in the 3e module City of the Spider Queen. The same module also details Jhorganni, a drider vampire.

Even examples of giants as vampires exist. For example, 3e Dragonlance adventure Price of Courage documents Shai-Horef, a frost giant savage vampire ranger and Honnerstig, an ogre mage vampire cleric. The same product also mentions a half-elf vampire named Oblessa.

There are plenty of dwarven vampires in Order of the Stick... I've used vampire elves in my own games. There's nothing requiring any specific race in the monster manual either.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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