Vampire Lifestyle

I observed the recent “controversy” online about the release of the new Heroes of Shadow book. Players and DMs were discussing how the design choices in the book affected the ongoing debate regarding 4th Edition and Essentials. While I recognize the opinions on both sides, the entire debate is completely foreign to me. As a DM and player, there does not appear to be a good reason to fret over the multiple additions layered into 4th Edition.

Now you too can become "lost in the shadows."

Here is how my brain works, “It’s a hardcover book that has the same cover design and shape of every other non-Essentials 4e book out there. Well, it must be suited to 4e then. Great more options for people who feel they need them.” I’m simple, what can I say! I realize there are important questions that can be asked about some of the mechanical design issues with the new player options, but I believe those questions can be asked without it somehow turning into an Edition War.

For instance, the new Vampire Class is quite fascinating to me because it is a Class and not a Race. I have always equated Class with occupation since picking up 4e, and certainly would not conceptualize Vampie as an occupation. When I first learned that Vampire would be a Class instead of a Race, I was confused. Do you work as a Vampire? No, you are a Vampire. You don’t work as a Dragonborn, you are a Dragonborn. Why would they create Vampires as a class and not a race?

Wizards of the Coast posted their decision-making process for making Vampires a class instead of a race, and their reasoning is logical. They wanted the Vampire-ness to bleed through (pun somewhat intended) the entire gaming experience for the player/PC. Nothing in their reasoning makes me feel that 4e is “over” or “abandoned” in any way. But it did take me some time to wrap my head around the Class versus Race issue. But I think I came to a good conclusion that may help to mediate some of the 4e versus Essentials debate.

The Class category should be relabeled or reconsidered as Lifestyle. When looking through a few of the powers that have been posted, Vampire Lifestyle makes more sense than Vampire Class. You could also make the same substitution for all other classes. Cleric and Fighter are Classes/jobs, but it’s also a Lifestyle choice. Your Lifestyle influences most of the actions that you take in 4e; it’s your “calling” in the world. 

I typically think of your “calling” as something that is freely chosen. But perhaps you are pushed into a Lifestyle rather than choosing it? From a roleplaying standpoint, maybe you don’t really want to be a Fighter, but your parents (or party members because they wanted a Defender!) needed you to be a Fighter. You can become more flexible over time by multiclassing (multi-lifestyling?) to stake out your own path. Well, the same could be true for a Vampire – unless you are Bella Swan, you didn’t choose to be a Vampire (really, a Twilight reference?!), but now you are saddled with that Lifestyle. 

The mental leap from Class to Lifestyle works for me. It really shuts down a lot of the criticisms and worries I have heard about the new book and potential new “direction” of 4th Edition. Since picking up some 4th Edition books in 2009, I have played 4e exclusively with three groups – two as a player and one as a DM. I thoroughly enjoy the game, and look forward to continue playing it for years to come. I did not buy any of the Essential products at first because I had no interest in adding another set of options to our games. 4th Edition already has so many character-creation options, and none of us felt the need to deviate. I did pick up the Monster Vault, which is sweet, but to be honest, I’m not sure if that is considered Essentials or “4e.”

Perhaps this says something about me, but I play three or four times per month, follow a bunch of DMs and other people “in the know” online, and started my own D&D blog . . . and I still don’t really understand the 4e versus Essentials debate or where the lines are even drawn officially by Wizards of the Coast. In addition to my desire to remain blissfully ignorant of such issues, it tells me that I don’t care about the debate.

In a somewhat related note, I recently had a conversation with someone who said they should no longer sell the original Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide because they were irrelevant. I disagree, you could be completely oblivious to the updates to the game and still have a blast playing with the characters and rules listed in those books. As players and DMs, we get to make the game our own. The release of new books and design options does not need to change what we do in our home games.

Take what you like from the new stuff, and ignore the rest if it doesn’t fit into your system.

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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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11 Responses to Vampire Lifestyle

  1. I don’t think you need to relabel ‘Class’ as ‘Lifestyle’ at all. The problem is that we gamers have always, subconciously I think, translated ‘Class’ as ‘Job’. But if you look at what the actual dictionary definition of ‘class’ is:

    a number of persons or things regarded as forming a group by reason of common attributes, characteristics, qualities, or traits; kind; sort: a class of objects used in daily living.

    It makes perfect sense for PC Vampires to be a class.

    Though, just as I’ve written that, ‘race’ could also be considered a ‘class’ to some degree, but only if you really wanted to emphasize the ‘elfiness’ or ‘dwarviness’ as opposed to the race being a second pillar to a PC. I’m not exactly sure how that would work though. Perhaps that’s more appropriate to what we consider ‘monster’ PCs. You could do the same for a Mind Flayer PC, or a Dragon PC.

  2. boccobsblog says:

    Running them as a class allows players to use them early in the campaign without having them outshining the standard classes. I agree it is a bit confusing, but I was used to the idea from 3.0 and 3.5 when they did the same with Savage Species and Libris Mortis.

    Is the content in the book any good?

    • The Id DM says:

      I have not seen the book yet, so I cannot detail the quality of the content. Other than the design issues discussed in the article and elsewhere online, the reviews seem to be positive (I think).

  3. TheSheDM says:

    Id, I think you have really hit the nail on the head here. I’m only saying this because it really struck a cord with me that someone else feels so similarly about it as I do. Other than one post on my blog, I’ve also remained silent on the Essentials vs. 4e debates because I feel like it shouldn’t be a debate at all. As much as I’ve tried to understand and analyze the things that people *say* about Essentials vs. 4e I find I’m just not interested in the debate.

    Great job of explaining the Vampire Class in a different way for everyone that still thinks of Class can only ever equal “That thing you do all day”. When I learned it was a class, I immediately thought of monster levels and Level Adjustment back in 3e. Clearly bringing back LA wasn’t the answer so the class structure suddenly made a lot of sense. I am definitely looking forward to playing the Vampire class for myself.

  4. Brian R. James says:

    Everything you describe as a “lifestyle” could have been implemented as a 4th-Edition Theme, a construct that was introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide and will also be present in the forthcoming Neverwinter Campaign Guide. There was no need to muddy the waters by making a Vampire a class, when a Theme is a far more elegant solution.

  5. jim says:

    Could I play a vampire cleric of Pelor? Seems like an interesting character full of angst!
    GW

  6. The Id DM says:

    Thank you for all of the responses.

    Brian, I have not explored the Dark Sun setting yet and am unfamiliar with how the themes functions. How do they define “Theme?” I have seen that term used as well to apply to a character to make them feel different. I just spent the last hour in Character Builder and the number of options already available is pretty staggering. I’d like to see the full write-up and power description of the Vampire before speaking more about it. But I will certainly check out the Dark Sun Campaign Guide the next time I’m in the bookstore to see what Themes are all about.

    Jim, I don’t think you can be a Vampire Cleric since they are both classes, but they have another vampire-like race that you could use for a cleric. You want to abandon your human form?? I can arrange that. ;-)

    I reviewed the original Player’s Handbook and it states on Page 50, “Your class is the primary definition of what your character can do int he extraordinary magical landscape of the Dungeons & Dragons world. A class is more than a profession; it is your character’s calling. You class choice shapes every action you take as you adventure across a spell-tangled, monster-ridden, battle-torn fantasy world.”

    I swear I didn’t read that before using the term “calling” in my post above.

  7. AJ says:

    Long ago in a RPG far far away… the classes were, Fighter, Cleric, Magic User, Thief, Dwarf, and Elf…. This is only a new concept for post first edition players. People need to get over themselves and just play.

  8. Morgoth says:

    Somehow I think the ID is sugesting I have no class!!!! hmmmmm these cryptic messages will be decyphered and used against him in an arena of FIRE!!!!

  9. Sageheart says:

    I’ve never thought of Class as being the character’s occupation, but as a larger set of skills they’ve developed as a result of their occupation or lifestyle. A lot of times its easiest to tie that into a direct occupation, but that isn’t necessarily what has to determine what someone’s class is.

    Going back to the fighter example mentioned, the fighter’s martial abilites don’t necessarily have to define the character’s occupation or lifestyle. Perhaps the character was a farmer whose quiet, hard-working life made him big and strong, and in the course of working his farm and defending it from poachers, wild animals, and what have you he developed a set of skills that align with the fighter class (ie. holding a wolves attention so it doesn’t attack livestock and such).

    Being a fighter isn’t the character’s occupation or even his lifestyle (heck all he wants is a nice quiet life with a good woman and a loyal dog), its just the set of skills he has learned or otherwise developed in the course of that occupation/lifestyle. Then some big nasty and his army of dread comes along and burns down his nice farm and this poor guy is suddenly thrust into a life of adventurer and must use (and enhance) the fighter skills he learned as a farmer to achieve his goal of justice/revenge/finding his lost dog.

    I think its the same thing with a vampire. It doesn’t define your occupation (“I am Vlad, Professional Vampire. Here’s my card! I do parties and ‘bat’ mitzvahs! AH AH AH!”) or your lifestyle. In fact I can easily see the “newly converted vampire fighting against his killer urges” trope as a fairly common good-aligned character choice, in which case the vampires abilites most definately don’t define his lifestyle. The vampires abilites are just a set of skills that he has developed as a result of his condition which, in the “good vamp” scenario, the vampire uses only in self-defense and out of desperation.

    • The Id DM says:

      Sageheart, I think you touched on something important is that it allows the player with a new option for interesting roleplaying ideas. You mentioned the reluctant fighter, and there could be a “reluctant vampire.” There are numerous “good vamp” angles where that PC could fit into the core D&D world or a party of adventurers.

      I don’t think it’s any more strange that a party consisting of other “monsterous” creatures like Tiefling, Dragonborn, Drow, Half-Orc, etc. I think the “Vampire” label just makes people think of “classic horror,” which is limiting.

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