Friday, April 1, 2016

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, No Evil Shall Escape My Sight

In my first Murphy's Rules post I brought up one unfortunate feature of 3e: Creatures take a -1 penalty to checks to spot something for every 10 feet of distance between them and the target, so a 120 million penalty to checks puts the moon out of sight of even the most skilled observers, let alone the sun or stars.

Not so in Pathfinder. Of course, it's still a task beyond even level 20 characters, but things get a little different once mythic rules come into play.

Mythic rules are kind of sort of Paizo's answers to the Epic rules of 3e and earlier editions which were there to solve the problem of what your band of adventurers has gained enough power that they can murder everything under the heavens, chiefly by providing them with enough power to murder everything within the heavens (as well as a host of possible targets). But while epic rules in D&D are designed as something you enter into after you've gone through the first 20 levels of play, Pathfinder's mythic rules are something that can be slotted in at any point in the campaign, existing under their own rules that provide various boosts to your capabilities that stack on top of the things provided by your class and the like. So you can have level 20 mythic characters, or level 1 ones, who will be stronger than an equally-leveled non-mythic character (well, in theory).

Mythic creatures all have a number called its ranging from 1 to 10 (which is called the "mythic tier" for characters and "mythic rank" for monsters), which provides certain benefits such as feats, ability scores and common features for characters (monsters have different rules). Both possess mythic power, a wellspring of supernatural ability spent on anything from boosting your d20 rolls as part of the universal "surge" feature to activating various special abilities. Each mythic character chooses one of six "mythic paths" and gains a starting ability plus a path ability for each mythic tier, which can be chosen from the path or from a pool of common abilities. Mythic paths each focus on different things: Archmage is all about arcane magic, Champion is all about beating faces, Guardian is about being tough and defending allies, Hierophant is about divine magic, Marshal is about leading allies and Trickster is about being sneaky. You're not obligated to take any particular path, but some will probably be more useful to your character than others.

With the basics covered, let's meet Elrond Hubble the (half-)elven astronomer. Since an early age Elrond has been intrigued by that strange blue blur overhead that brightens and darkens as the hours pass. Always seeking, Elrond possesses an elf's keen senses, and is eagle-eyed even by those standards to the point where Elrond can read a book from fifty feet away. Elrond refines his eyesight further with divine ability that emulates birds of prey, and focuses on this skill through training and items, but it's of no use. No matter how hard Elrond tries, he can't see anything more than a few hundred feet away.

But one day Elrond encounters a strange meteorite and is exposed to its unusual energy. His body flooded with power, he turns his face to the heavens and for a brief moment... he can see! Now, what happened was that when Elrond was exposed to the power of the space rock, he ascended and gained his first mythic tier (a not entirely uncommon occurrence in the Pathfinder setting, at least three or four deities owe their starts to a magic rock). At 1st tier Elrond gains his basic features, a mythic path (Trickster, since we're trying to be a skill monkey), a path ability (he'll choose Unwavering Skill to be able to take 10 on all skill checks that are class skills, letting him steady his gaze), and a mythic feat slot, which he spends on the mythic version of the Eagle Eyes feat. Now, the Eagle Eyes feat normally lets you ignore the distance penalty to Perception up to -5 (the first 50 ft) and the mythic version lets you ignore up to -10 (the first 100 ft). But if you spend a point of mythic power as a swift action then for the next round the feat will eliminate all penalties to Perception due to distance. -120 million penalty to notice the moon? Gone. Distance to the sun? He might as well be standing on it. Neighboring stars? Sure. Hell, nothing can stop him from staring a few hundred septillion feet out to take a close look at the figurative or perhaps literal edge of the universe itself (or at least past its event horizon).... well, nothing save for having enough random solid junk in the way.

This raises (and perhaps answers) a lot of cosmological questions that Elrond is probably ill-equipped to answer, all of which will soon be forgotten because Elrond's all-seeing gaze only lasts for a single round (about six seconds). Sure, he can spend a point of mythic power as a swift action on his next turn to do it again for another round, but mythic power is a daily resource and a mythic character only has 3 + 2x tier points of mythic power per day. You can spend a feat and up to three path ability slots to get more points, but even at tier 10 you'll only have 31 points per day. Even going all-out and investing in paths and abilities that provide mythic power substitutes will only take you up to 40 uses per day, a mere four minutes of star-gazing. You can recharge your pool of mythic power by slamming down some ambrosia but it's an expensive habit at 10k a dose (or 5k if you''ve got someone who can make it for you). At tier 10 all paths gain the ability to regain mythic power at the rate of one per hour in addition to the full refill they get once per day, but that's still not enough to feed Elrond's need for stars in his life.

Of course, each mythic path has a unique special ability gained at tier 10 that represents being at the height of your power and ability and being able to smack around lesser beings. In the case of the trickster, the Supreme Trickster feature grants Elrond the ability is to treat all non-mythic creatures as flat-footed against any attack he makes against them, even if they're normally immune to being caught flat-footed. For an astronomer that's more of a novelty than anything. Additionally once per round Elrond can regain a point of mythic power whenever he rolls a natural 20 on an opposed skill check against a mythic foe . This ability is probably the most worthlessly marginal tier 10 ability in the game. Not only does it only kick in one in twenty attempts, but the number of opposed skills in the game can be counted on one hand (Perception vs. Disguise, Sleight of Hand and Stealth, Sense Motive vs. Bluff, and Linguistics vs... Linguistics), and rolling a natural 20 doesn't matter if there wasn't a mythic foe around to see you do it. This is highly unlikely to come up all that much. If it were "mythic creature" instead of "mythic foe" then you'd at least be able to top off by playing peek-a-boo with your mythic allies for a few minutes in hopes of randomly rolling 20s, but that still wouldn't be fast enough for Elrond's purposes.

Compare the Trickster to the Champion, whose Legendary Champion ability lets you reroll attacks against non-mythic enemies and lets you regain a point of mythic power once per round whenever you roll a natural 20 on an attack roll, regardless of the foe. It's not difficult for a combat-oriented character to be able to make a half-dozen attacks per round or more with the right fighting style or attack-generators (such as Attacks of Opportunity), each one with a 1 in 20 chance of generating a point of mythic power. At this point you might say to yourself, "well, even if other paths have better ways to generate mythic power, I still need to be a trickster in order to use the trickster's skill-boosting path abilities." Good news though: You really don't.

The secret lies in the mythic feat called Dual Path, which does something really helpful: it lets you select one other mythic path, get the level 1 feature of that path and then whenever you would normally choose path abilities you could choose them from either path. Since it's a tier 1 feat and you get a feat slot at tier 1 then you can take it as your first feat to let you use the framework of your first path to house the abilities of your second, so you could have a Champion who dual paths into Trickster and then takes nothing but Trickster abilities but still winds up with the much nicer "Legendary Champion" ability. You don't even need to go that far, since most paths have enough interesting and versatile abilities that you won't mind mixing and matching to create the ultimate combination. Taking Dual Path as your first or second mythic feat is almost never a bad idea. Unfortunately, Champion is not going to work that well for Elrond since even if he does manage to find something he can shake a sword at while stargazing it doesn't return mythic power fast enough or reliably enough to meet his needs. But we have other options.

We return now to Elrond Hubble, and finding him floating in space above the planet of Golarion. This isn't really as bad as it looks because with the right equipment he doesn't need air, or food or water and is immune to the vacuum of space. Thanks to his mythic abilities he doesn't require sleep, and won't ever die of old age either, giving him all the time in the world to study the wonders of space while a permanent telepathic bond links him up to the folks back on the ground. His eyewear has been enhanced to pierce storms and atmospheric conditions, and with the right mythic abilities he can even pierce illusions as well as invisibility and the ethereal but seeing clearly in the dark can prove to be a problem.

Normally in Pathfinder the ability to see in the dark tends to cut off at certain distances- many races can only see up to 60 feet in magical darkness, but some like the deep-dwelling drow can see up to 120 feet in pitch blackness. Magical items that offer darkvision tend to also offer it in 60 foot distances or increments, but that's not really helpful at our scale. Fortunately, there's a really easy solution: the rod of shadows grants the magical ability to see perfectly in any sort of darkness, including magical darkness (the more complicated solution involves using mythic eldritch heritage and the robe of arcane heritage to worm your way into level 20 sorcerer abilities which you should otherwise not have access to). No distance limitations here. Elrond Hubble can see through anything at any distance that isn't a solid object (or maybe magical gas) and can do so for as long as he can keep his eyes open. Which is going to be a while, since he's also been permanently paralyzed.

Maybe he had his Dexterity drained to 0 or maybe it was a lovetap from a lich, but the point is that our astronomer here can't move a muscle on his own, though he's still able to take mental actions such as telepathy, activating his mythic eagle eye, and making Perception checks. You might think that an immobile Elrond would have to start worrying about facing and field of vision, but don't worry, we've got that covered. Now, course correction might be a bit of a problem if we don't want him to be whacked by any space debris or something, so we've taken the liberty of giving him a dozen or so tiny flying constructs immune to the rigors of space to help him in any way necessary. Such as one of them attempting to tear his throat out every chance it gets.

See, Elrond's path is the guardian, whose True Defender ability halves damage from non-mythic sources and also once per round lets him regain a point of mythic power whenever an enemy scores a critical hit against him. Since he's paralyzed, he's helpless and thus vulnerable to the coup de grace maneuver, which is an automatic hit and critical hit at that since he can't do anything to dodge it. Of course, a coup de grace still requires the victim to make a Fortitude save at a DC of 15 + damage dealt, and even if Elrond's Fortitude bonus is greater than the DC, rolling a natural 1 on the save still means that he automatically fails, which is a bit of a downer when the penalty for failing that save is instant death. Fortunately, Elrond's Guardian abilities also grant him epic damage reduction which the construct is unable to pierce, and when damage reduction completely negates damage then it also negates most of the other special effects that depend on damage, including the need to make a Fortitude save. So under the incessant onslaught of 0 damage critical hits from the murder-bot Elrond Hubble can keep his Mythic Eagle Eye feat going indefinitely, allowing him to gaze eternally into the endless void of space and telepathically send information to the folks back home. Fortunately, a combination of high level and significant resources invested in boosting Perception through boosting his Wisdom score have given Elrond Hubble a formidable Will save, to better endure the mental rigors and revelations of his work.

One really obvious revelation encountered in this sort of thing is that you're not alone. True, it's not a huge secret that the neighboring planets are all inhabited, even if the inhabitants might be undead and/or permanently on fire but even once you get away from the local solar system or planets around other stars you're still going to find random things floating around in the cold dark infinite void, many of which can be filed under the "Horrors Man Was Never Meant To Know" category. Scholars tend to refer to this collection of aberrations as the Dark Tapestry, and its alien powers tend to involve ruin, madness and other bad things. Fortunately these dark dealers of devastation don't deign to discern our designated dwelling... But as we all know, When You Gaze Long Into The Abyss, The Abyss Also Gazes Into You (And Takes A -120 Trillion Penalty To Its Perception Checks In The Process). Still, accidents happen and occasionally you find yourself up to your navel in Things That Go Squish In The Night.

Most aberrations are no match for a mythic hero, but should things go absolutely pear-shaped you might find yourself having to deal with the biggest powers in the Dark Tapestry. The Outer Gods are probably beyond anything mortals have to offer and rarely make their presence directly felt, but their greatest servants are the Great Old Ones, who possess strength that rivals that of demigods and demon lords.

This is the mightiest of their heralds, whose coming is generally seen as a sign that things have gone horribly wrong and are about to get worse.

You might have heard of him.

Good News: He's usually imprisoned in his tomb within the sunken city of R'lyeh, slumbering away in stasis thanks to the power of the Elder Sign.

Bad News: Occasionally the stars align, R'lyeh rises, the doors open and he walks once more.

Good News: R'lyeh is on a planet countless lightyears away (it's literally on Earth. The local year is somewhere around 1918 and there's an adventure path module where you go to Earth at that time and stuff Rasputin back into his grave)

Bad News: He's also capable of spaceflight and can reach your world in 2d6 days (or possibly more). Because that is a thing this game needed.

Now we could panic, hug our loved ones and prepare ourselves for the end of days, but with Elrond watching the stars we've got at least a two day warning period before the squid hits the planet. So let's get some friends together and get ready to hold the line.

Meet Aegis. Aegis is a half-elven paladin who is also a mythic tier 10 champion. Aegis is specifically a Divine Hunter, a paladin subtype that favors bows. Aegis likes bows, Aegis has a nice bow. It starts as a +5 composite longbow with the aberration bane property to increase its bonuses even further against aberrations like the Big C, while the phase-locking prevents our squishy friend from using any sort of teleportation or plane-shifting magic to close the gap or escape, the endless ammunition property does exactly what is says on the label, and the adaptive property lets us add any strength bonus we may have to the damage of arrows fired from the bow. Again, pretty nice.

Interesting fact about Aegis: One of Aegis' ancestors was an orc. It was probably on the human side since humans will romance anything, but you never know with magic. By tapping into that eldritch heritage, Aegis gains some of that orcish power. By getting the mythic feat, Aegis gains all the bloodline powers of an orc blood sorcerer of a level equal to Aegis's level (20) minus two, so 18 normally. By donning a robe of arcane heritage, Aegis' effective sorcerer level is increased by 4, giving Aegis the bloodline power of a 22nd level sorcerer (or a 24th level sorcerer for the first ability thanks to the mythic feat). There are some nice things in there, and Aegis is pretty happy about her heritage because Aegis is optimistic like that, to the point where morale bonuses linger for an additional 1d4 rounds after they'd normally stop because Aegis doesn't let things like the rules get her down.

Aegis has some friends. There's Elrond Hubble, of course, since we couldn't do this without him. There's also Old One Eye, a level 20 mythic Ranger who is a champion with a dual path into Marshal. Old One Eye really, really hates aberrations ("damn varmits killed my pa") and has devoted everything to learning how to destroy them. There's also Levity, a bard who may or may not be mythic (but is at least level 17) and Dr. J, a high-level non-mythic alchemist. No one knows why Dr. J is here. Maybe he's a cohort or something.

The A-Team may be assembled, but there's one minor problem: only Elrond Hubble can see what's coming. The rest of them are affected by the paltry limits of mortal sight. There are spells that let you share sensory information, but those are usually limited to things like a wizard and a familiar. Now, Elrond could explain that their guest is currently fifty thousand light-years out and slightly to the left or even provide a more exact position by taking a level of Gunslinger to access the gunner squire archetype, but that might not be enough for our purposes. So Doctor J pulls out three vials and offers a solution.

Aegis, seeing no problem with this, immediately chugs one down and has an out-of-body experience. As an alchemist, Dr. J can prepare various extracts containing arcane spells and with the infusion ability they can be used by other non-alchemist characters, allowing for a useful bypass to access some caster spells that would otherwise need a custom magic item to use. The spell in question is Marionette Possession, which lets the caster shoot their soul out and into the body of a willing (or unconscious...) creature nearby. In our case, it really doesn't matter where Aegis goes, so we'll just park her in Old One Eye's body for the moment. Elrond Hubble (either freed of paralysis or maybe just hooked up to an IV) then consumes another vial of Marionette Possession and jumps into the now vacant body of Aegis. Not to be outdone, Aegis drinks a vial of Marionette Possession while in Old One Eye's body and thus comes into possession of her own body while Elrond Hubble's soul is still in it.

So... what was the point of all this? Well, possessing a target lets you use the target's physical abilities and your own mental abilities, but the target still can use its own senses and both souls can share information telepathically. We want Aegis' body with Elrond's senses, so by shuffling her out of her own body we can let Elrond take temporary ownership of the body, and then be pushed back down into the radar role when Aegis returns. Since they're both half-elves they both have the same Keen Senses trait, allowing Elrond's supreme vision to function normally even in Aegis' body (his gear has also been transferred over) in a really convoluted plot to allow two characters to share exact information. But again... why?

A brief primer on ranged combat: All ranged weapons have what is called a range increment, and when you make an attack against a distant target you take a cumulative -2 penalty to attack rolls for each ranged increment past the first, but that penalty can be reduced to a -1 penalty per increment with the far shot feat. Ranged increments tend to be in the 50 to 100-odd foot range for missile weapons such as bows and crossbows or the 10 to 30 foot range for thrown weapons and those increments can be increased by doing things like doubling them with the distance property. Mythic heroes can take the mythic version of the far shot feat which lets them spend a point of mythic power as a swift action to ignore all ranged increment penalties for one turn, but there's still a maximum range cap of ten ranged increments on missile weapons and five ranged increments for thrown weapons. Fortunately for us, the mythic champion has the an ability that not only multiplies your ranged increments by five but also removes the increment cap.

It's well and good to be able to shoot at an unlimited range, but you probably need to be able to see where you're aiming since being off by even a fraction of a degree means being off-target by billions of miles. Aegis could have the same mythic eagle eye set-up that Elrond has, but that comes with a problem since both eagle eye and far shot require you to spend a swift action to activate them, both last only one round, and you only get one swift action per round, which is an even bigger bottleneck for mythic characters than usual since so many of their abilities are swift action abilities that also compete with their regular swift action abilities. If the DM won't let you use a really big grid for accurate coordinates then you need some way to keep both in action. By getting her soul out of her body, Aegis lets Elrond possess it and treat it as his own, letting her jump back in on top of him so she can have all the physical benefits of her body and her own swift action while also letting him spend a swift action of his own to use his enhanced senses (all of which he can use through her body since both are half elves with the Keen Senses feature and she has identical copies of all of his magic items) and share it with her. It's a wonky way to get around the swift action block that normally limits sight/range- the alternative involves finding a really good spotter.

For a little while Aegis is going to be the target of some boring spells that boost her attack and damage rolls. Aegis taps into her orcish heritage to grow in size, becoming bigger and stronger, and drinks a potion of gravity bow to make her arrows hit as though they were from an even bigger bow. She activates her Divine Bond ability and boosts the power of her bow even further, giving it the aximoatic and holy properties to boost its damage against chaotic and evil opponents, plus the seeking ability offered through her Divine Hunter feature, which lets her shots ignore miss chances other than the 1d20 attack roll (she could also add the distance property, but that's not really needed at the moment). Levity the bard fires up Inspire Courage and casts haste at some point. Old One Eye spends a point of mythic power as a free action to activate endless hatred and really hate aberrations (boosting the bonus even further), and then activates the Marshal's mythic bond ability to share that entire bonus with Aegis and the rest of the group for the next couple of rounds.

Finally, Aegis does two things: First she spends a swift action to activate Smite Evil, allowing her to choose one evil target in sight, adding her Charisma modifier to her attack rolls against the target and her AC against the target's attacks, plus add her paladin level to damage rolls against the target and then spends a standard action to use her orc bloodline's touch of rage ability, letting her add half of her effective sorcerer level as a morale bonus to her attack rolls and damage rolls (and will saves) for one round. Since it's a standard action it would normally be harder to attack, but her optimism trait lets morale bonuses linger for the next 1d4 rounds (and even if she didn't have it we could always have a different mythic character such as the under-used Levity use it on her, or have her spend a point of mythic power to get an extra standard action for the round and then use it).

Next round, it's showtime.

First Aegis spends a point of mythic power as a minor action to activate Mythic Far Shot and ignore the range increment penalty. Then she activates deadly aim to take a -6 penalty to hit in exchange for a +12 damage bonus (+18 with the mythic feat). Then she shoots. With her enlarged arrows dealing 3d6 base damage plus her various strength bonuses (+6 inherent from her bloodline, +6 from her belt, +6 from bloodline size boost power), even an average strength of 12 can be turned into a mighty strength score of 30. So how much damage does she do?

3d6 base + 10 strength +18 deadly aim + 20 smite evil + 5 enhancement (+2 bane) +3 luck +2 sacred +12 morale +4 competence +12 favored enemy +2d6 bane +2d6 holy +2d6 axiomatic= 119 average damage per shot (96 minimum)

100+ damage per shot is no chump change, and the big thing about bows is that it's not too hard to simply spam arrows at your enemies. As a level 20 paladin she already has four attacks, and taking the precision ability three times means all her attacks are at full accuracy. Archers can take the rapid shot and manyshot feats to fire two more arrows per round, with the mythic versions adding two more arrows on top of that, plus another attack from the haste spell for a total of nine shots per round.

Accuracy-wise most of her damage bonuses also provide a similar bonus to accuracy, pushing her into the mid-50s to hit against a target number of AC 49, so only a natural 1 can save her prey. But with a mythic champion... not even that. Our target's non-Euclidean nature means that all attacks against him have a 50% miss chance, but the seeking property on her bow completely negates that. Her attacks bypass his damage reduction thanks to smite evil (and also being made of stuff that bypass his DR), and they also shut down his healing ability on contact. So he eats nine arrows and dies immediately, the only point in rolling a d20 is to see if you can roll critical hits and kill him even faster. Of course, he'll resurrect himself 2d6 rounds later and stagger around in a cloud of fog wondering what in the name of himself just happened, but that just means he eats another nine arrows which will stuff him back into R'lyeh until the next time he wakes up.

End Result? You can noscope the Big C from the other end of the galaxy. In fact, you can serve up calamari fritters from the other end of the universe, provided there aren't a bunch of stars and planets blocking your way. If there are, well... there are ways around that one too.

With all the MP flying around you might worry about sustainability. Elrond Hubble can keep things going indefinitely through 0 dmg critical hits but only when paralyzed. Fortunately, the Guardian is only the second easiest method of generating MP. The true power is in the hierophant, which only requires that you take 20 points of damage in a round, which adventurers do all the time. Since it doesn't require a particular source self-inflicted injuries are perfectly fine. Self-flagellate or better yet self-immolate: a wall of fire does 2d6 + caster level points of damage to any creature passing through it (or sitting in it), making it easy to get a fairly predictable amount of damage per round. You're still shedding HP each round, but there's nothing stopping you from fixing that. Healing 30+ points of damage a round will keep you ahead of the curve, and a tier 10 hierophant gets maximum healing from any source, almost as if they wanted this to happen. Two of the hierophant's starting abilities let them spend a point of MP to cast one of their spells, so a mass cure or mass heal spell can undo five to twelve rounds of damage for one round's worth of MP generation, provided you're fine with keeping an active eye on people.

Now, you might argue that an intergalactic arrow barrage is kind of not really in the spirit of things and you'd be totally right- Lovecraftian problems deserve Lovecraftian solutions.

The basic change is that Aegis is going to ditch all the archery feats and then she's gonna devote all her resources to getting ripped. An 18 base is the highest you can start with, then add a +2 racial bonus and the +6 inherent bonus from orcish ancestry, then put every ability bonus you get from 20 levels (5 points) and 10 mythic tiers (10 points) into strength and then the best magical strength-boosting belt money can buy. But it's not enough.

Levity is switched over from a bard to a skald, a bardic variant with the ability to let allies rage like a barbarian, granting a +6 morale bonus to strength at higher levels, but it's still not enough. Our friendly neighborhood alchemist offers up an alchemical grand mutagen to boost her strength even farther. Unfortunately if a non-alchemist drinks an alchemist's mutagen, the character gains no benefit other than an upset stomach, but all we have to do to avoid that is have Aegis take one level of Alchemist instead of one of her paladin levels because this is in no way a bad idea (it helps that the 20th level of paladin has some actual detriments to it). With the right paladin spell, Aegis can draw on sacred celestial strength for a few minutes to boost her abilities again, but even that's not enough.

In Pathfinder, the best way to get huge is to actually get Huge. Turning into other, bigger things usually grants a size bonus to your strength score. Now, we could use another alchemical infusion to turn into a huge monstrous humanoid, but we can do better than that. A druid's wild shape ability lets it turn into an increasing variety of animals, plants, and even elementals, including Huge ones at higher levels. The powerful shape feat makes you an especially bulky version of your chosen form, while the mythic version makes you even bigger, so you can turn into a Gargantuan earth elemental instead of just a Huge one for an impressive +16 to strength. This becomes even more relevant when you realize that a mythic druid can share this ability through the pack wild shape ability. While it may divide the duration, a druid can use it for hours at most levels and at-will at 20th level, thus letting the entire party wander around as burly balls of earth.

Putting this all together and Aegis is surprisingly ripped.

18 base + 2 racial + 6 inherent + 10 mythic + 5 level + 6 enhancement + 6 morale + 8 alchemical + 4 sacred + 16 size = 81

So, what does that mean? Well, it's a +35 bonus to things that depend on strength like certain attack and damage rolls, including the damage rolls of thrown weapons. Now, thrown weapons are still the loser cousins of the ranged weapon family, and can't get nearly the amount of projectiles in the air as arrows can. But there's more than one way to win by volume. By taking the mighty hurler ability three times, Aegis can chuck objects up to her size. Of course, such objects would be unwieldy as hell unless she takes the two-handed thrower feat to let her throw them as normal.

So how big would they be?

Carrying capacity is based on a table that provides a given amount for basic strength scores and then doubles every five points above that (which is 4x for every 10 points). As a stock medium humanoid with 81 strength, Aegis can lift 153*4^6 lbs of stuff as a light load, which is 300 tons ("short tons" of the 2,000 lbs variety as opposed to the 2,240 lb "long ton") and change, and can lift triple that as a light load. But since she's in the form of a Gargantuan earth elemental, her carrying capacity is 8x that of a human, putting her at around 2,500 tons as a light load. But we're not done here. Muleback cords add 8 to your strength for the purpose of carrying capacity while a heavyload belt triples it, and as a mythic character Aegis can take the Display of Strength universal ability to boost her strength by 20 for the purpose of carrying capacity and boost it further with the mule's strength ability, which boosts your carrying strength by 5 each time you take it. Even without Mule's Strength, that puts her at an effective strength of 109 and thus a capacity of over 366,000 tons. If our druid friend spends another point of MP, Aegis can also gain the benefits of the regular Powerful Shape feat, counting as a colossal creature for the purpose of lifting and size-based attacks, doubling her capacity again to over 732,000 tons, while taking Mule's Strength just once would boost it to 1.46 million tons

With that kind of strength she'll have no problems using the weapon group that's had the best track record against the Great Old Ones:


This is the Seawise Giant (among other names), a supertanker longer than the Empire State Building is tall and at 724,000 tons fully laden is the heaviest ship mankind has ever made. With Mule's Strength Aegis could dual-wield it. By activating her Bonded Weapon ability she can turn it into a +5 seeking supertanker, with her hurling vengeance ability granting it the throwing and returning property. So how much damage does it do?

Back in 3e, the Hulking Hurler calculated damage by doing up to 5d6 for the first 400 lbs of an object's weight, plus 1d6 per 200 lbs after that (so about 10d6 per ton), which would require Aegis to roll around 7.24 million d6s for damage, enough to kill our target and thirty thousand of his closest friends. Unfortunately, that rule doesn't exist in Pathfinder for obvious reasons.

The universal rules for throwing rocks (or other big large things) put it at twice the slam damage for a creature of its size, or about 4d8 total for a colossal creature. But Aegis can throw an object two size categories larger than a normal hurler of her size, which upscales it to 8d8. Sadly, this is the same number no matter if we're throwing two hundred tons or two hundred thousand tons. Adding it to many of our old bonuses and the 1.5x strength bonus from two-handed thrower gives us:

8d8 (36 average) +52 strength +19 smite evil + 5 enhancement + 11 morale + 18 deadly aim + 3 luck +2 sacred +12 favored enemy = 158 average

A little better than our average damage per arrow, even if we don't benefit from things like the Bane, Holy, and Axiomatic properties that Aegis could put on her old bow. Now, we could spend an MP using hurling vengeance to teleport it back into our hands with every attack, allowing us to make a full attack and take advantage of things like haste and mythic rapid shot, but boomeranging a supertanker across the galaxy five to seven times a round just doesn't have quite the right style to it. I want to settle this decisively with one big attack.

A single big attack is rare in Pathfinder outside of some lance charges because no matter how hard you can swing your weapon you're still better off making that same attack four or more times a round as part of a full attack, which has the side effect of reducing mobility since most combatants would rather stand in one place and keep swinging rather than forfeit most of their damage by moving their speed (unless they have the ability to move and full attack in the same turn with pounce). In an effort to fix this, Paizo created the Vital Strike chain of feats, culminating in Greater Vital Strike, which let you make a bigger attack as a standard action. Vital Strike multiplies your damage, but only the weapon's damage dice and not any of the other dice or modifiers. For most characters three feats for a couple of extra dice of damage is a pretty lousy trade unless you're only making one attack per round that uses a bucket of dice to begin with, such as a T-Rex's solitary bite attack.

Since we're making a single attack with a bunch of dice it also works for our purposes. Throwing Greater Vital Strike onto our supertanker attack gets us up to 32d8 plus the previous modifiers, giving us another 108 average damage and pushing it to 266 with one attack. Still not enough. Even at maximum damage it's not enough.

But while Vital Strike only multiplies your damage dice, but Mythic Vital Strike multiplies everything that would be multiplied on a critical hit, including our large strength bonus and other static modifiers. It still doesn't multiply extra dice from things like the holy or axiomatic properties, which is why I didn't bother with acquiring them for our +5 seeking supertanker.

With Mythic Vital Strike our we quadruple our original damage, putting us at 632 damage on average... which is still not enough. Another 40 to 60 points of static modifiers multiplied through Mythic Vital Strike would be enough to seal the deal, but I've used up most of my big ones and I don't really want to nickle and dime my way through the SRD. Now, Aegis could just spend a point of MP to bring her supertanker back to her hand and another MP to activate amazing initiative, granting her a bonus standard action she can use to repeat the attack for maximum overkill, but it's still making two big attacks when I only want to make one. A critical hit would do double damage, or triple with Mythic Improved Critical (supertanker), but relying on random chance just isn't my thing. We want a silver bullet.

And we have one. The named bullet spell works with bullets, arrows, and even thrown weapons like our +5 seeking supertanker, and it's on the spell lists of both Elrond Hubble and Old One Eye. Now using it properly does require that we beat our target's spell resistance (a formidable 41) to affect it, but we're mythic, we have various feats and items to let us bypass it effortlessly. Effect? A successful attack (which we can automatically make) does some extra damage we don't care about and becomes an automatic critical threat which we can effortlessly confirm into a triple damage critical hit. Vital Strike isn't multiplied by a critical hit, but they do add together, so our Vital Strike (+300% damage) adds to our 3x critical (+200%) damage for a total of 6x (+500%) our base damage, taking us from 158 damage to 948 damage (968 after the spell's bonus damage), deep-sixing our target with room to spare.

When the Sleeper of R'lyeh wakes then the end will be nigh, because Aegis sees all and we have a boat with his name on it.

Toot toot motherfucker

Vaults & Vampires II: Both Blood And Elbows Come In Drops

So the rules for playing a vampire are a nonstarter in 2e, horrendously overpriced in 3e, and are vague and unfavorably compared to an opium addiction in Pathfinder... so, what about 4e?

Monsters and PCs don't use the same rules in 4e, so slapping on a template doesn't really work the same way it did in 3e. There was a vampire template in the DMG, but for NPC monsters rather than player characters, and even rules for new undead types and abilities in the undead supplement Open Grave weren't intended for player use at all. One of the first vampire-esque options was published in the online Dragon Magazine 371 and were republished in Dragon Magazine Annual 2009 (which is a bit of deceptive naming since the book didn't sell well enough for any later versions of Dragon Magazine Annual). These were the rules for the dhampyr (half-vampires) and were designed by one of the people who worked on Open Grave. As the author explained in DMA 2009, the intent was for the dhampyr option to be open to any character, so rather than make it a single race he designed it in the form of a feat you took to represent your vampiric heritage in system loosely based off of 4e's multiclass system.

Unlike in 3e where multiclassing means you're replacing one class level with another, 4e multiclassing involves spending a feat that grants you a bonus skill and limited-use ability from the new class, which is pretty nice, but what's better is that you also count as that class for the purpose of qualifying for things like magic items, feats, or paragon paths.  Paragon Paths are like 3e's Prestige Classes where you get extra options, but unlike 3e they supplement your abilities from level 11 to 20 instead of replacing them. Access to a good chunk of options for a class is pretty nice, and almost any character concept can be spiced up with a multiclass feat. The only real downside is that most characters only have one multiclass slot so they have to pick and choose their favorites.

Being a Dhmpyr means that you just spend a feat, get an ability and also qualify for other dhampyr feats and paragon paths (it doesn't consume your multiclass slot unlike true multiclassing). This means that just about any class/race combination can get in touch with their inner vampire. So, what do you actually get? Well, you count as a vampire for the purpose of effects, you get a bonus to checks to recognize dhampyrs and undead and you also get an encounter power that lets you chomp on dudes to spend a healing surge.

Backing up a little, let's flesh out some terms here. Encounter powers are somewhat of an extension of some of the experimenting that was done in the 3.5e Tome of Battle and other books that were released towards the end of the edition. Essentially, while spells and the like served as the bulk of a party's options and power for the day back in earlier editions, a conscious effort was made to give everyone special abilities the could trigger in a fight, be they magical or made from some combination of effort and circumstance. Encounter powers were a midway point between your workhorse at-will powers (which tended to come with more abilities than a simple attack with a sword or crossbow; more class-appropriate too) and the "big guns" of your daily powers. Since you regained all your encounter powers during a short rest (about five minutes) while your daily powers were only regained after an extended rest (around six hours), encounter powers meant that you always had something nice and class appropriate that you could bust out in every fight without worrying about squirreling it away in case you needed it later.

Healing surges are a representation of your character's inner well of resolve and endurance that keeps them going far beyond what ordinary people can endure. Each class has a certain base number of healing surges ranging from about 6 for the squishiest to around 9 for the tougher classes, and that number is further modified by your Constitution modifier and various feats and features. Whenever you spend a healing surge you restore a certain amount of HP equal to your healing surge value, which starts at 1/4th your maximum HP (rounded down) but can be modified further by various abilities. During a short rest you can expend any number of healing surges and recover your surge value from each as you tend your wounds or push through lesser injuries or whatever in a process that's somewhere between the reserve points rules from Unearthed Arcana and the "everyone sits and passes around the Cure Light Wounds wand" routine from 3e. While this means that characters have an extra 150% or more HP floating around, it's far harder to access in the middle of a fight. The only native way for all characters to regain HP during a fight is to use their Second Wind ability for that heroic change of pace, but for most characters that will only restore one surge worth of HP and takes up their standard action so they aren't attacking for a turn (though it does provide a defensive bonus similar to using Total Defense for that turn). If you're getting smashed by monsters than your second wind won't cut it, and you'll have to rely on powers from that let you spend a healing surge to keep you from taking a dirt nap, which usually come from clerics and other healer/leader-types. At 1/2 HP you're considered Bloodied, which usually is a sign that you need healing, though there are various abilities out there that have additional effects whenever you or your target are bloodied as part of the idea that Shit Just Got Real, whether it be giving you a boost to defend yourself at a critical moment or finish off a severely wounded enemy. Your surge pool only gets restored after an extended rest, so constant beatings will slowly deplete it as will draining effects from enemy monsters (such as wights) and environmental hazards, plus some character abilities cost surges to either use or improve them, so running low on surges is usually a good sign that you need to pack it in for the day.

The dhampyr's blood drain power thus would be a decent way to provide some offensive healing in a fight if it weren't for a issues: one is that the damage is kind of garbage for an ability that takes most of your turn to use, and the other is that it only works on targets you have grabbed. Grabbed is a special status effect that's delivered by some powers in a simplification of the previously labyrinthine grappling rules, most commonly in the form of the Grab ability which any character can use. The problem with this is that not only does making a grab attack as a standard action usually mean that you're forgoing most of your turn just to hold an enemy still, but the attack uses your Strength bonus (which makes it worthless for those who dump that score) and even more importantly has a problem where it doesn't benefit from things things like the accuracy bonuses of your magic weapons or your specialization bonuses so it suffers a huge drop-off in accuracy and effectiveness as you level. There are classes who have powers that will grab the target as part of the attack, but that is a small portion of the classes and in most cases only one or two powers that grab, which really limits your options. Admittedly there's a feat you can take at 11th level that lets you use Blood Drain on anything granting Combat Advantage (a much easier status effect to acquire that represents any sort of quick advantage in the fight ranging from flanking to distractions to the enemy being stunned or something), but that's still another feat you have to pay and 10 levels you have to spend without being able to use your sweet vampire ability.

Among the 4e classes there is one exception to the rule that grab attacks are either rare or weak: the brawler fighter. The class gets a free bonus to the Grab attack to help patch the accuracy gap and more importantly gets a bunch of powers that grab the target including one at-will attack that's as accurate and damaging as their basic weapon attacks (and can even be used off-turn as an opportunity action to snag enemies who are trying to sneak by). As an added bonus, the basic Grab attack is normally limited to grabbing targets no more than one size category larger than you are, while grabs inflicted by classes such as the fighter... aren't.

Even better, as a defender a dhampyr brawler fighter qualifies for the Bloodknight paragon path, which not only lets you recharge Blood Drain when you defeat foes and use it as a free action attack when you grab your enemies, but also comes with some nice powers including a really nice one that grants you a free attack each round to really pile on the pain.

End result is that if you want to get the most out of being a half-vampire warrior you should look less like this:

And more like this:

(given how the Bloodknight mechanics combine with a certain pair of feats favored by the brawler fighter, a successful Blood Drain will usually end up suplexing your opponents and pinning them to the ground)

But hey, maybe for some weird reason wrestling half-vampires just isn't your cup of blood and you want something with a little more style. What's out there?

Well, in 2011 WotC put out Heroes of Shadow, a book dedicated to heroes who draw on the darker aspects of the world and its magic. Among those options were the Vryloka, a race of humans whose ancestors made a pact with the mysterious Red Witch that gave them unnatural vitality and turned them into living vampires who draw strength from their fallen foes.

The same book also reprinted the Revenant race from Dragon 376, undead who rise from their graves to fulfill some fate. Revenants are their own race, and while they also count as their previous race for the purpose of meeting prerequisites, for some reason that doesn't include things such as size categories, so a halfling that comes back as a revenant will suddenly be six feet tall. Revenants have their own unique gimmick in that they're the only race in the game that remains conscious when at 0 HP or lower. While there are some penalties involved and they still die if they fail three death saves (a 1d20 roll made at the end of your turn when dying, 9 or lower is a failure, 10 to 19 is holding ground, 20 means you can spend a healing surge and regain consciousness) or if they reach a negative HP value of 50% of their total HP or worse, there are enough bonuses and ways to get around the penalties that revenants are among the toughest characters in the game to actually kill. Also, there's nothing stopping you from being a Revenant Vryloka and thus be 150% undead.

The third race in the book was the Shade, a race of humans who have let shadow magic essentially claim their souls in exchange for mastery over shadow. Average racial features with the exception of the fact that all shade characters have one healing surge fewer than normal. Racial penalties were nonexistent in 4e before this book, and while the Vryloka also had a racial penalty (a -2 penalty to healing surge value when they're blooded (reduced to below 1/2 HP)), it was negligible at higher levels while the Shade's penalty was something you were always going to feel and the rest of the race wasn't anything worth writing home about compared to just being a drow or something.

Should that not be enough to slake your thirst, Heroes of Shadow also introduced the Vampire class, with the idea behind it being that a class was a much better way to present a wide array of vampiric abilities that can be used every round in a fight and could fit a variety of races, while the vryloka was better if you wanted a fighter or cleric with some mild vampire flavor. They point out that you could be a vryloka vampire and thus be 150% vampire, but you could also be a revenant vryloka vampire and thus be 250% undead. Sadly you can't really be a dhampyr revenant vryloka vampire to be 200% vampire and 300% undead because the Vampiric Heritage feat requires you to be a living creature in order to take it (though if your DM waives that restriction, go wild).

Perhaps the biggest idea behind the vampire is how it works with healing surges. Normally a character will have somewhere around 6 to 12 surges depending on how durable the class and character is, but there are some extremes. If you decide to make the worst decisions possible and play a Wizard (6 + Con modifier surges) with 8 Constitution (-1 modifier) and using the Shade race (-1 surges), you'd have 4 surges. Even though that's a minimum of about 100% of your HP in reserve, this is still a bad idea because you're liable to lose around a surge every fight or so unless you're awesome at completely avoiding all lucky blows from your opponent; while a few good hits from your enemies in a fight will empty your reserves in a hurry. Alternatively, if you were a member of one of the toughest classes, boosted your Constitution (or other durability score) at every opportunity and took every surge count booster you qualified for you could easily end up with a surge count in the high 20s to low 30s, meaning you could lose 100% of your HP every fight and still have some left over when the squishiest members start feeling the burn.

In comparison, the vampire's surge count is 2. Not 2 + Con modifier, just 2. Lower than what you could get even if you tried your best to fail, the vampire is the least durable class by surge count alone. The class comes with regeneration through its Enduring Soul feature, but the regeneration only functions when you're bloodied (and thus turns off when you're above half HP) and isn't enough to outheal a sustained beating at any level. Assuming you survive the fight, your regeneration will get you back up to half HP, but spending your only two healing surges to go the rest of the distance will leave you drained for the day. This would be unfeasible if not for the vampire's Blood is Life class feature, which among other things lets a willing and adjacent ally lose a surge once during a short rest to allow you to regain your Bloodied value in HP.

When combined with your regeneration this lets you top off after a battle pretty easily, and also serves as one of the most cost-effective forms of surge-based healing in the game. Not only do you get 1/2 your HP back from a resource that normally restores 1/4 of it but you can take that surge from anyone in the party who's willing to give it to you, letting you feed off of people who have surges to spare and ensuring that no party member is being depleted of surges faster than the others (which would force the party to stop and rest rather than endanger that member). Amusingly enough, one of the best classes for a vampire to feed off of is the paladin since they have the highest base surge count in the game (10 + Con modifier) and a tendency to pick up things that boost that number even farther partly to support their Lay on Hands ability (which lets them spend a surge to allow another character to regain HP without spending a surge). All you have to do is explain to that warrior of light that the best way for their selfless sacrifice to alleviate the most suffering is if it's poured down your undead throat.

If there are no willing donors in the neighborhood, it's time to consider the unwilling ones. Among the tools in the beginner vampire's arsenal is the blood drinker encounter power, which is a power that the vampire can trigger upon successfully hitting a target with an at-will melee vampire power, which will deal extra damage and give the vampire a free healing surge, allowing you to keep up with the attrition. Even better, thanks to Blood is Life, if you end a short rest with more healing surges than your normal maximum, you lose any additional healing surges above your maximum and regain all of your lost HP instead. This means that your surge total isn't as important as it is for other classes, and the only thing that matters is being able to end the fight at (N+1)/N surges.

This isn't risk-free though- as a vampire your abilities are melee to short-ranged only, so you're rarely more than a walk away from someone who can smack you one, and if you get hit hard enough that the only thing standing between you and unconsciousness is a healing power then you're going to spend have to spend a surge and lose your surplus. Since that one healing power is unlikely to recover all the HP you lost to get in so critical of a state and your regeneration tops at 1/2 your maximum HP, you're going to need to top off using an ally's surge rather than deplete your own surge pool and thus set yourself even farther back from the N+1 fullheal. This also makes you extremely vulnerable to effects from enemy attacks or environmental checks that drain healing surges; while you're immune to some effects just by being undead, the fact that you favor Dexterity and Charisma as stats mean that you have no real defense against things that target Fortitude or require Endurance checks. Several of your powers also allow you to lose a surge to boost their effects, meaning that those parts of the power are largely nonviable for a while unless you can go through a fight with no damages and surges to spare. You do gain another use of blood drinker at 7th level (and 11th with the Vampire Noble paragon path), and starting at level 9 you have daily powers that can also generate a surge, so you can start generating two or more surges at later levels to help you make up your deficit and get back to the fullheal faster. But for the first six levels you're essentially living paycheck to paycheck where you're only one or two bad hits or failed Endurance checks away from losing one too many surges and thus being forced to ask your allies if they'll spot you a cup of blood for the next fight (you'll pay it back, promise!).

It's certainly an interesting method of modeling the vampire's hunger when compared to the saving throws of 3e or Pathfinder. At no point are you required to roll, nor is control of your character ever taken from you; all the game does is let you decide how and when to feed after reminding you that you are oddly frail and everything around you is magically delicious. Of course, the flip side to this is that while vampires in the other games fed maybe once a day to a once every couple of weeks, a 4e vampire can chow down a dozen times or more during an adventuring day. Furthermore, neither Blood is Life nor blood drinker restrict you to feeding on the living, with the flavor text for blood drinker handwaves your sustenance as "the life force of other creatures... whether it consists of blood, ichor or the unseen energy of life itself" so feel free to literally taste the rainbow.

The book takes a similarly player-friendly approach to one of the other classic vampire problems- how to deal with the giant glowing ball of death in the sky. In previous editions vampires exposed to the sun are destroyed entirely in a round or two, but in 4e you take 5 damage per round where you end your turn in direct sunlight. The damage is radiant damage (a damage source used by many effects involving holy magic or powerful light, which leads to jokes about radiant clerics being "laser clerics" and radiant holy weapons being lightsabers), and as a vampire you have Radiant Vulnerability 5, meaning you take 5 extra damage from any source of radiant damage, so it's 10 damage per turn total (which is about as much damage as NPC vampires take in the sunlight), radiant damage also shuts down your regeneration for a round, and if you're reduced to 0 HP or lower by sun damage you're destroyed instantly instead of going into the normal negative HP/bleeding out stage. So a 1st level vampire with 20-some HP will last about three rounds in the sun (about a round or two longer than they would in an earlier edition), but you also gain 5 HP as you level so a higher level vampire might have a minute or two to find shelter. It's not just damage- a vampire PC who ends a turn in direct sunlight is also weakened (save ends), which means that they're afflicted with a condition that causes them to deal half damage until they save against it.

In 4e, a "save ends" effect is a replacement for various long-duration effects, where you roll a 1d20 at the end of your turn and try to get a 10 or higher after applying any bonuses or penalties to successfully end the effect. Theoretically this means that it's much harder for either players or monsters to be locked out of a fight by a negative effect, especially when many characters (especially leaders) have recovery options that make or grant others saving throws outside of the end of their turns and thus potentially allow them to get out of an effect before it can do too much damage. This is especially nice due to the fact that it's a d20 roll against a target of 10, so it's easier to make than it would be when compared to a 3e or PF ability that allows you to try to save against the effect again (which won't help you much if your save could only succeed on a natural 20 anyway).

Between the damage and weakening effect a 4e vampire won't instantly die in the sunlight, but it's not something you want to put up with any longer than necessary. Rather than make your entire party plan their adventurers around the vampire's operating hours and preferred environment, the game only applies the sunlight effects "if you end your turn in direct sunlight and lack a protective covering such as a cloak or other heavy clothing". While the designers suggest that maybe you might draw looks if you're heavily wrapped, it effectively means sunlight is only going to be a problem if the DM or players decide it needs to be one.

So, with the class system allowing the game to dole out vampire abilities at a steady pace, the player-friendly nature of vampire weaknesses making it easier to play in an adventure and the unique surge mechanics offering a new and compelling take on both healing and hunger, you might be tempted to call the vampire a triumph in design.

Then you'd remember which column we're in.

The vampire has a couple of problems. Problem 1 is that most of the class is on rails.

Due to the game having fixed levels for handing out certain iconic abilities such as your mesmerizing gaze or ability to turn into a bat, there are very few levels in which you get to make a decision about your class abilities; only at level 2 and 22 do you get a choice between two powers, everything else is fixed. To be fair there are people out there who would find this a perfectly acceptable situation, forgoing the hassle of sifting and choosing from the vast arrays of abilities possessed by other classes to enjoy the iconic vampire experience provided by a well-designed class.

Problem 2 is that the vampire is not a well-designed class.

As part of the design process for 4e, the original designers reviewed the character classes and attempted to identify the various party roles they occupied. This wasn't a new idea; WotC designers had done a similar process in the 3.5e Player's Handbook II, breaking down the classes into the following roles:

Warrior: Responsible for fighting monsters and stalling them so that your companions can do their thing (Fighter)
Expert: Has lots of skills to fill different roles (Rogue)
Arcane Spellcaster: Have powerful spells to destroy the greatest threat (Wizard)
Divine Spellcaster: Has powerful spells that support the party (Cleric)

These are admittedly kind of vague categories, with some defined by what you do in a fight, others by what you do everywhere else, and others by the kind of magic they have. For 4e the design team eventually narrowed it down to four categories based on how the character functioned in combat.

Defender: Highest defenses and HP, serve as the front line to protect weaker characters (Fighter)
Striker: Deals high damage to single targets, the highest in the game, uses good mobility to go towards or away from the greatest threat (Rogue)
Controller: Able to lock down opponents, wiping out the weakest enemies en masse and disabling strong ones while the rest of the party works (Wizard)
Leader: Heals injuries but also boosts allies to help them destroy the enemy faster (Cleric)

Roles aren't iron-clad; most classes have a secondary role or two (the paladin is a defender with some leader abilities), and later books introduced subclasses of classes who might have a different role (the slayer is a fighter who is a striker instead of a defender). Different classes with the same role (such as paladin and fighter) will play radically differently, and even two characters of the same class can play uniquely (such as a cleric who shoots spells at foes vs. a cleric who helps allies by hitting monsters in the face with a hammer). What roles do is allow designers to have benchmarks and goals for classes to hit (even in different ways) so they can remain viable in various parties. So all leaders need some sort of healing and support ability, while defenders need some form of "stickiness" to keep monsters from wandering off in search of squishier targets.

The 4e vampire is designed as a striker with some secondary control powers, fitting for a manipulative predator. And while it lacks any mind control abilities, the rogue can serve as a decent comparison, since that's also a lightly armored dexterity-based class focused on picking off targets of opportunity and possesses a useful bag of tricky abilities. The problem is that most good strikers have the ability to point themselves at an enemy of their level and decide "this one needs to die right now" and then make good on that statement. The vampire has no real native abilities that let it turn up the volume on an enemy of interest and just go to town. You might be satisfied with this and decide that with all the vampire's utility powers such as the form of a bat you don't need to be a top-of-the-line striker, just one who's good enough to pull your own weight. Well...

As you gain levels you're going to be facing higher-level threats, and monsters have a steady gain in HP as they level. So you need to keep boosting your attack damage every level just to tread water and defeat monsters in the same amount of time. The vampire's biggest striker feature is its Hidden Might ability, which lets you add your Charisma modifier to damage rolls of vampire and vampire paragon path attack powers. As striker features go, getting to add a secondary stat to damage rolls isn't that uncommon, nor is it particular terrible, but how useful it is depends on what powers you have and that's where the vampire falls short. While blood drinker is nice for generating surges, it's only a handful of d10s worth of extra damage per use, which isn't really all that much, and it gets worse when you look at your level 3 feral assault power or its level 17 upgrade; while they technically do more damage than your at-will abilities, both would be considered rather subpar by striker standards and that's after you use the option to lose a healing surge to give the power extra targets or a few extra dice of damage. The daily powers aren't much better, their bat swarm AoE and its upgrades are serviceable at best since they're more about damaging groups than focusing down a dangerous target, and while the mesmeric gaze ability is nice because you get it fairly early on at level 9 and mind control never goes out of style, they get a daily power at level 5 that never gets upgraded again. While the encounter-long boosts it provides to accuracy, damage, and movement are good for characters of any level, it also prevents you from using healing surges to heal for the entire fight; manageable, but if you get clocked hard enough and your party has no surgeless healing available you are basically boned because 4e regeneration doesn't function when you're below 1 HP unless otherwise specified.

For comparison, there's a wizard gimmick build out there that can also add its secondary stat to damage and thus can do similar damage while being able to hit far more targets at once thanks to area attack spells and also enjoys all the power and feat support that comes with being a fucking wizard.

Specifically, this wizard

Your abilities don't offer much, and neither do your powers, making feats and items your last resort for boosting your damage to meet the benchmarks. Unfortunately for you, you're not exactly doing so hot on that front either. Classes have power sources in addition to roles- the rogue and fighter both use the martial power source while bards and wizards use arcane and clerics and paladins use divine. Power source options can be used by anyone whose class (or multiclass) is part of that power source, so fighters and rogues can take advantage of feats that let them get the most out of different weapon groups while bards and wizards can get the ability to quickly cast their spells. There are useful feats and options out there, except the vampire's power source is Shadow and support for that power source as a whole is basically nonexistent outside of Heroes of Shadow (and basically nonexistent inside of it as well). There are no abilities in HoS that are restricted to the shadow power source, partly due to the fact that all the other subclasses introduced in the book draw on both shadow as a power source plus whatever power source their parent class used.

Items aren't much better, because vampire characters tend to forgo weapons and armor in favor of their supernatural agility and abilities; thus vampire characters use magical implements to focus and enhance the magic that animates them. Magic implements are the caster version of magic weapons- they make your numbers go up so you can face higher level foes and hopefully have enough cool properties that it's as exciting to get a good magic staff as it is to find a nice sword of frost. You might find it weird to have your vampire using abilities with the help of a magic stick, but staves and wands are not vampire implements (the game does allow you to use your powers with any implement you're proficient with, so with the right feats you can use your powers through a magic staff or even a magic tome if you decide you really need a copy of Dracula to help you focus your powers). The implements of the vampire class are of the more subtle (and hands-free) variety: holy symbols and ki focuses, which may serve as symbols of the powers that created you and a focus for your reverence or vengeance, or the symbols you turn to to remind yourself of what you are and what you lost. Whatever your flavor piece may be, come crunch time you'll discover that there aren't a whole lot of stand-out ki focuses on account of them being a relative latecomer to the game (debuting in the PHB3) and not receiving a whole lot of support, and while there are some great holy symbols out there, most of them are designed for people with a decidedly less murder-y set of class features and won't really help you put enemies in the ground. Except for one.

The Sun Disk of Pelor (holy symbol for the 4e god of the sun) converts all damage dealt using the symbol into radiant damage (the aforementioned holy/light damage source). This is nice because radiant damage is one of the best types of damage in the game. It's one of the least commonly resisted damage types (mostly just angels who resist it, and if you're fighting angels something has gone horribly wrong), and it's also the most common vulnerability in the game since it's the vulnerability of choice for most undead, including you. While the Sun Disk is turned on, your hands will be glowing with awesome undead-shattering power, though it won't hurt you unless an enemy uses an ability that makes you attack yourself. The vampire also has an at-will mesmeric gaze ability that deals psychic damage and draws enemies closer; with the Sun Disk converting that damage into radiant damage it means you now have some form of magnetic lasers eyes.

The strength of radiant damage isn't that it's uncommonly resisted and good for destroying common undead enemies (or its amusing interactions with your undead abilities), it's that radiant damage is staggeringly easy to boost, especially if you're a divine character. Divine worshipers of solar deities can take the Power of the Sun feat to hand out radiant vulnerability to any enemy in the game at-will with certain powers, or the Solar Enemy feat to increase that vulnerability for a short time. If your divine character worships the Forgotten Realms sun god Amaunator (or you can convince your DM that the local sun deity is an acceptable equivalent) you qualify for the Morninglord paragon path, which grants the ability to inflict Radiant Vulnerability 10 for a turn to any target you hit with a radiant power. This is an extremely nice ability; Radiant Vulnerability 10 is even worse than your own vampire radiant vulnerability and it is very easy for characters to do radiant damage. Most divine characters can have one or more at-will radiant powers right out of the gate, but even a fighter can pick up a weapon that will convert damage into radiant damage just as the Sun Disk does- the Sunblade is the earliest option for sword users, followed by the Crusader's Weapon for hammer and mace users, but any weapon user can pick up an excellent Radiant Weapon by the time the Morninglord Paragon Path takes off. This is the cornerstone of a party optimization gimmick nicknamed "the Radiant Mafia" and it gets even more ridiculous when you start adding on options that boost the vulnerability or your damage against targets who are vulnerable to radiant damage, as well as when you can attack multiple times per round and trigger the vulnerability with every attack. It says something about the vampire's choices that its strongest option for damage out-of-the-box is to shack up with a party devoted to everything that will destroy you. But hey, with the right divine multiclass feat even you could be a Morninglord and devote yourself to handing out its fiery doom. Praise the Sun! All hail the Burning Hate!

The Vampire Noble is the paragon path actually designed for the vampire, granting the vampire a third use of blood drinker and thus the ability to generate three surges per encounter. The rest of the features depend on which thematic bloodline you choose to embrace. The Beguiler bloodline is supposed to be a manipulative social predator, while the Stalker bloodline is about being more of a bestial hunter. Of the two the Stalker is the inferior one since its features include a bonus to Nature checks (a skill you don't have that relies on an ability score you don't use) and its big gun daily power is a wolf transformation that provides mediocre bonuses in exchange for preventing you from using any of your other abilities until you change back, and you don't even make any attacks during the standard action you use to start this crummy transformation. The Beguiler's bonuses all involve skills that you have and want, and all of its powers can be used with the rest of your abilities to provide some crowd-control options for corralling or evading enemies.

One feature they both share is that at level 16 you no longer take damage from being in the sunlight thanks to some form of supernatural strength (Beguilers cloak their presence while the Stalkers draw upon their connection to nature). Your radiant vulnerability remains, and ending your turn in the sunlight still weakens you, but both paths allow you to add your Charisma bonus to saves against the weakening effect of the sun. Your Charisma bonus will be around +5 or more at this point, so with other bonuses such as a +2 bonus from a feat and a +2 bonus from the right magic item you can have a +9 or higher bonus to saves and thus succeed at getting a 10 or higher even on a natural 1, assuming no penalties from your enemies. Since end of turn effects can be applied in any particular order the player chooses, you can end your turn in sunlight, become weakened (save ends) and then immediately make your end-of-turn save against it and thus be under the effect for a mere fraction of a second to ensure you are never more than mildly inconvenienced by the sun.

Should that not be enough for you, multiclass into paladin. At 11th level Paladins qualify for the Hero's Poise feat, which grants a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier to the saves of allies within 5 squares until the start of your next turn every time you successfully make a saving throw. This is a great feat with a great bonus, and it plays well with other great abilities that let you save at the start of your turn in addition to the end, since not only will you have two chances to save, but you'll also have a chance to end the effect before it interferes with your turn. For a Vampire Noble Paladin you can successfully make a saving throw every single round and thus provide a tactical boost to your allies that can make them borderline immune to "(save ends)" effects provided you parade around in the sunlight in all your incandescent splendor.

This is the skin of a killer, Bella... it provides +5 to saving throws

With Dragon 401, WotC introduced multiclass and hybrid rules for the classes introduced in Heroes of Shadow (among other books), which included multiclass and hybrid rules for the vampire. Hybrid rules were introduced in the PHB 3 and function more like 2e multiclassing rather than 3e multiclassing- a hybrid of a certain level counts as being that level in two classes, but you only get a fraction of the class features from each class. While 4e multiclassing is a dash of spice that can't really hurt you, hybrids range from characters whose features are too mutually opposed to unholy terrors whose reduced features complement each other superbly. The vampire falls into the former category since so many of the vampire's features that don't work well with other classes, such as the vampire's two total healing surges and their striker feature that only boosts the damage of vampire powers.

The Vampirism multiclass feat stands as one of the more unusual ones since it essentially gives you three of the vampire's class features- Blood is Life, Enduring Soul and most of Child of Night (everything except Darkvision and some minor damage resistance, but that's not a big loss). This still manages to be less than a great deal because it also sets your surge count to 2 regardless of what your normal class would offer you, and unlike a level 1 vampire you don't even have any uses of blood drinker for surge generation, meaning your entire strategy for healing becomes "drink surges from your allies after battle". Unless you rarely take damage you're going to need to spend some more feats to shore up your surge problem (don't be a level 1 multiclass vampire, you don't have the feats for it). One possible feat is Blood Thirst, which lets you trade one of your encounter attack powers for a use of the blood drinker encounter power. Amusingly, the playtest version of this feat forgot that blood-drinker requires a vampire at-will power to use, which made it useless to most characters, but the final version lets you use it with any melee at-will power, thus making it actually viable. Of course, if you only have one use of blood drinker then you're still as vulnerable to things going south unexpectedly as a 1st level vampire, so you need to get more surges.

The other set of feats introduced by the article were feats that offered benefits based on your other power sources. Each feat provided a different thematic ability, and more importantly granted you a healing surge once per encounter when you hit with an encounter attack power of that particular power source. Usually, you only qualify for one power source feat since you only have one multiclass slot (as someone who multiclassed vampire or a vampire who multiclassed another class), but hybrids can access two different power sources and there are a few classes out there who qualify as two sources (usually martial and something else). The exception to this is the bard, whose Multiclass Versatility feature lets them break the rules and have as many multiclass feats (and thus power sources) as they want. There are six feats (Arcane/Divine/Martial/Monastic/Primal/Psionic Vampire), but the trick is getting enough different encounter powers to trigger all six options, especially since Monastic vampire is limited to monks and psionic power points work differently than regular encounter powers. That said, the bard has a native series of powers that count as both arcane and primal encounter attack powers (letting them double dip), and can pick up one more encounter attack power through multiclassing and one more through theme.

Themes are like paragon paths in that they're another source of options that mostly supplement your character options instead of replacing them (though some also offer alternate powers you can choose to take or leave instead of your class powers), only this time they take place during the first 10 levels (with Paragon Paths at levels 11-20 and Epic Destinies at levels 21-30). They're largely without any prerequisites (except for a few that might require you to be a particular race, class, or power source) so they can be added onto any existing character and represent things your character picked up by being a knight or explorer or noble or something. Some themes offer various encounter attack powers that have power sources and thus can be used to activate the vampire feats, so it's not a bad idea for a low-level vampire to multiclass, pick up a Vampire feat, and then use a theme to potentially generate one more surge per fight and survive until you get your second use of blood drinker at level 7. If you miss the attack you're out of luck because that encounter power is expended, but the benefits offered by the feats can still be worth it. Divine Vampire removes your Radiant Vulnerability and prevents you from taking damage in the sunlight while Martial Vampire provides a free bonus healing surge once per encounter when you're first bloodied- perfect for letting a healer patch you up without sabotaging your surge storage.

A vampire with Noble Vampire and one of the multiclass Vampire feats can thus generate up to four surges per fight, while a bard might be able to generate even more thanks to multiclassing shenanigans, but at that point you've got enough surges to power your abilities, take a few unlucky hits and still heal up to full after the fight. If you really want to make an impression, then why not figure out a way to share your snacks with the rest of the class? The easiest option is the Shared Healing feat, which lets you or an ally foot the surge bill for a healing power and thus lets others draw on your bank of free surges, but it requires an epic cleric (or someone who multiclassed cleric) and is thus a little out of reach for most of the game. For your more lower-level needs there's always the Comrade's Succor ritual, which lets you and other party participants donate one or more surges to another person participating in the ritual. This is really nice to help with pacing when a party member gets too low on surge, but it does cost a surge just to use the ritual and cuts into your bloody gains. What's an easier solution?

The Artificer is an arcane leader class introduced in the Eberron Player's Guide, a sort of magical researcher and tinkerer who uses arcane magic to power all sorts of wondrous devices. Unlike other leaders, the artificer has the ability to create healing infusions that provide healing and other effects without requiring the target to spend a healing surge; a healing infusion is replenished when an ally expends a healing surge during a short rest. Since a vampire only needs one extra healing surge, any past that can be donated to the artificer's infusion reserves as part of an aggressively mandatory blood drive. Better hope your vampire is a universal donor.

With enough surge generation abilities a vampire can take a system designed to slowly deplete over the day and turn it into a system that regenerates every battle, effectively destroying healing surges as a pacing mechanism. Of course, even with a blood drive you probably can't take care of all of the damage your party will suffer, so you'll probably end up stopping for an extended rest eventually, even if it's only to refresh your daily powers. You may be able to feed the party several surges per fight, but if you're packing it in after four to six fights then how valuable are your surge-gathering skills compared to simply investing in being a defender with a hilariously high amount of surges per day who can use the same options to share with the party and refresh those surges each time you stop for a rest? If you really want to show what you can do, you have to do something that even the character with the highest surge count in the game can't do: never take an extended rest.

There are a few classes out there which can be built without daily powers and with healing surges as their only pacing mechanism for the day, though most have one or more complications that won't play nice with vampire mechanics such as not having any use for the Charisma score that powers your regeneration, or not having any encounter powers with a level that can be swapped for blood drinker or encounter powers that hit to trigger feats such as Martial Vampire (especially those whose encounter powers are boosts that trigger on an at-will hit, which don't count for those purposes). Even if you can't build a good vampire out of a class without daily powers, you can still decide that your daily powers are a small price to pay in exchange for absolute power.

The Eager Hero's Tattoo grants you temporary hit points after each short rest equal to 5 + the number of healing surges you've spent since your last extended rest (with higher level versions eventually offering 10 + 2x and 15 + 3x surges spent). This is a nice enough item on a beefy defender, because temporary hit points function as a sort of shield that gets depleted by damage first before it can reduce your normal HP, and since it scales by your surges spent it will protect you from more damage each fight and thus allow you to stretch your surge reserves out through more fights than you normally could. While running out of surges will still stop a normal defender for the day, the amount of surges a vampire can use between extended rests can keep growing as long as you decide to keep going, and at its extreme means you can have more THP than HP and thus require enemies to damage you enough to kill you several times over before they can even scratch you.

Should that not be enough for you there's also stuff you can do with milestones, which are a fixed event that players hit every two fights. Normally not a lot of things happen at a milestone outside of everyone getting an action point (which lets you take an extra action during an encounter, which is very nice), but there are some classes that get extra uses of abilities at a milestone and there are also some items that provide bonuses after a milestone. Meliorating Armor is a magic item which improves its enhancement bonus by +1 per milestone you reach, while there are rings that offer a similar property for your other defenses (specifically the Rings of Agile Thought/Enduring Earth/Unfettered Motion, which boost Will/Fortitude/Reflex, respectively), and the Imperishable Destiny feat lets humans (and half- or revenant humans) get a +1 to saves, skills and ability checks per milestone. These properties are balanced around the idea that an average party may see perhaps four milestones between extended rests if they're particularly badass, but this blows the math out of the water and ensures that 10 milestones will make you basically untouchable by level-appropriate challenges. Of course, none of this boosts your offense, so you can't get too cocky or you'll fight foes who are just as unhittable, and none of this boosts your allies either so enemies can go chew on squishier targets... unless you're also the defender.

The vampire is a creature of extremes, and the 4e vampire moreso. A normal vampire doomed to a squishy start and slow slide into obsolescence with nothing more than a novel healing minigame to pass away the time, while an abnormal vampire is the embodiment of everything it hates and if you're an insomniac revenant paladin vampire who inspires allies with your incandescence and gives blood freely then you'll only die when the DM bludgeons you with the Monster Manual.

Stay thirsty, my friends