Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Draugr's Bastard (An Unexpected Dhampir)

There's a story about what happened, that night on the Black Reef. Harmund Darkhair's ship fetched up against the rocks, but he wouldn't die. He survived the frigid storm, and ate the bodies of his dead men, trying to gather his strength. He wanted to see his wife one last time, and to tell her he loved her. Once winter had let go, she took a small boat out to the broken ship, searching for her husband. She found him there, and they had one, last night together. The next day, she left the ship alone... or nearly so.

Her son was born, and the lad was queer. He was strong, and fierce, just like his father had been. But his milk teeth were sharp enough to draw blood, and he was prone to rages. They say his eyes shone red in the darkness, and that the smell of death lingered on his skin. His strength grew, and he was stronger than most men by the time he was old enough to grow hair on his face. In time, he was driven from the town, and forced to live in the wild lands of the Broken Hills. Though there are beasts and bandits aplenty in those hills, none dare venture into them after darkness without a tithe to give. For if you move in the lands of the Draugr's Bastard, he will demand payment. And if you lack the gold, he will gladly take value in your blood.

The hills have teeth. Walk shy of them, if you would avoid being bitten.

An Unexpected Dhampir

When someone tells you they're playing a dhampir swashbuckler, you probably picture something like Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of The Night. While that's one option, a lot of us get stuck imagining all vampires as Vlad Dracula, and all dhampir as being in the same vein... so to speak.

Not so with the draugr's bastard. We already have a different look, since he comes from strong, northern stock. So he's big through the shoulders, with thick, dark hair, and likely dresses for the weather in a fur cloak and heavy leathers. He is still pale, as one would expect with his heritage, but he's also fearsome and barbaric. A man from outside civilization, as surely as he is outside the normal cycle of life and death.

Then we get into his mechanics. Because while dhampir get bonuses to charisma and dexterity, it's important to remember that all sorts of things can be one-handed piercing weapons. Such as a bastard sword, if you take Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword), Weapon Focus (Bastard Sword), and Slashing Grace. When you have that combination, you can swing around that heavy blade faster, and with greater precision, than one might expect. And if you throw in feats like Power Attack, watching you fight is almost like watching a predator unleashed onto the battlefield.

Cold, and ruthless, as the snows he lives among.
While the legend of his birth might be true, or it might just be a wild tale that's gotten out of control, the man himself is clearly otherworldly. And whether he'll choose to stay in the northlands near folk who hate and fear him, or whether he'll seek out opportunities elsewhere, depends on the player behind the character. Of course, if he grows in skill and power, he could easily become more than a local legend to the hill folk. The people who leave him offerings, and who call on him when reavers threaten their lands, or when it looks like war will spill over into their holdings.

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That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a game master.

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  1. This sounds like a pretty powerful build outright. What classes or archetypes, swashbuckler aside, would you recommend?

    1. It's entirely up to what you want to do with the character. A Sanguine sorcerer benefits from the charisma bump, and can be played off as inheriting powerful magic from their undead parent. A bloodrager with the undead bloodline would have much the same effect, though would be more capable in front line damage output. The sky's the limit, really.