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DnD 5e - The Dhampir Lineage Handbook

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

Vampires have captured imaginations worldwide for well over a century, but their horrifying powers, their severe limitations, and their evil nature make them a difficult addition to a party of adventurers. Enter the Dhampir: a descendent of a vampire, carrying much of the flavor of a vampire but with fewer inconveniences and more flexibility in personality.

Mechanically, the Dhampir has some cool stuff going for it. You don't need to breath or use light or walk on floors (or even walls, once you reach level 3). But the Dhampir's signature trait is their bite, which carries a lot of complexity on its own (see below, under Vampiric Bite).

What is a Lineage?

A lineage replaces your race's traits and sometimes adds some new flavor to your character. You can choose any race (or a combination of races or something more outlandish) and apply a lineage to it, allowing you to combine the "flavor" of your race(s) and the flavor and mechanics of your lineage. Mechanically, characters of a lineage uses the same "racial traits" regardless of how you describe your characters lineage, and you usually replace all traits provided by your race (though some lineages get the Ancestral Legacy feature) if you choose to select one in addition to your lineage.

All lineages provide the choice of a single +2 ability score increase and a single +1 increase or three separate +1 increases (the Custom Lineage is an exception, and cannot choose the three +1 increases as far as I can tell). Players are free to allocate these increases as they see fit, allowing lineages to function in a wide variety of classes, and allowing the lineage's other traits to come to the forefront where normally your ability score increases would heavily influence your viable class options. This flexibility in Ability Score Increases is available to every race if you're using the Customizing Your Origin Optional Rule, but it's the default for lineages.

As I understand things, lineages cannot take feats which require a specific race, even if you describe yourself as originally a member of that race. Jeremy Crawford clarified that the Custom Lineage is taken instead of a race, so you're not a specific race to qualify for race-specific feats. It's not totally clear yet, but I believe the intent is that other lineages follow the same rule.

Ancestral Legacy

Introduced in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Ancestral Legacy is a trait shared between several lineages, allowing you to introduce some physical traits of your race (namely unusualy movement speeds) or omit those traits and get two skills instead. This allows you to use base races like the Aarakocra to get a flying speed or the Triton to get a swim speed and not feel weird about being a dhampir aarakocra who can't fly.

As written, this decision point is only available if you adopt the lineage after character creation (such as if your character becomes a hexblood during play). This means that RAW you can't create a 1st-level aarakocra dhampir with the ability to fly, but if you created a regular aarakocra and then immediately became a dhampir you could choose to keep your flight speed. It's not clear if this is intentional, but I think it's a really pointless restriction.

Unfortunately, this doesn't include things like the ability to breath underwater, so some lineages struggle to function underwater regardless of your original race.

Vampiric Bite

The Dhampir's bite uses Constitution for attack and damage (you explicitly use Constitution by default unless you have some other feature which allows you to do otherwise, such as Martial Arts or Hex Warrior, so using Strength is actually impossible), and is treated as a simple weapon so it gets some benefits which most natural weapons (like the tabaxi's claws) don't. Using Consitution instead of Strength or Dexterity means that martial classes can build around Constitution almost entirely, allowing you to be exceptionally durable without sacrificing much offensively (though the bite's d4 damage die will lag behind most weapons, so there is a small cost).

There is currently some confusion around whether or not you can change the ability score used to attack with Vampiric Bite. By default, you use Constitution to attack with it, and attacking with Strength is not an option. Things get confusing when you introduce class features like the Battle Smith Artificer's Battle Ready, the Monk's Martial Arts, and the Hexblade Warlock's Hex Warrior. The DnDBeyond Support Thread for Van Richten's Guide specifies that Martial Arts does not allow you to use Vampiric Bite with Dexterity, and that assertion seems to be rased on the bit of text in Martial Arts that specifies that you use Dexterity "instead of Strength". If we apply that same logic elsewhere, Battle Ready and Hex Warrior would not qualify because they both use the phrase "instead of Strength or Dexterity". I'm not certain how authoritative DnDBeyond is on rules questions like this, and I'm still waiting for an answer from Jeremy Crawford. If this ruling sticks it's going to address some specific abuse cases, but I strongly doubt that WotC wrote the "instead of Strength or Dexterity" as anything except a way to clarify how those features work. As always, discuss rules questions with your DM to see how they want to handle things.

Because Vampiric Bite is treated as a simple weapon, you can enhance your bite with spells which target weapons like Magic Weapon and you can use effects like Divine Smite which require an attack with a weapon. However, since it's also a natural weapon, it works with Eldritch Claw Tattoo, and since we don't have a better way to make natural weapons and unarmed strikes deal magic damage outside of class features you'll likely need an Eldritch Claw Tattoo if you want to keep your bite effective as you gain levels.

Similarly frustrating: since your bite doesn't have a monetary value and can't be held in your hand (putting your hands in/on/around your mouth doesn't count), it doesn't qualify for spells like Booming Blade

Vampiric Bite also provides easy access to Advantage when you're short on hit points, so a clever player will look for ways to raise their hit point maximum (hint: take the Tough feat and max out Constitution), then hang out at just below half hit points. This is a risk-reward calculation similar to the Barbarian's Reckless Attack, so be sure that your AC is good and try to get temporary hit points and/or damage resistance if you can. Feats like Inspiring Leader are a great option if you already have Tough, but your allies may also be able to provide temporary hit points from spells like Heroism.

The final portion of Vampiric Bite allows you to empower yourself when you bite most creatures. Conveniently this doesn't need to be done in combat, and unless you're desperate that's usually a terrible time to do it. Both the healing and the bonus to attacks/checks equal the amount of piecing damage that you deal with the bite, so you want to get as much damage as possible. Effects which add additional damage of the same type like Hunter's Mark (Sneak Attack would be good but Vampiric Bite doesn't qualify since it doesn't have the Light or Finesse traits) are great, and if you can you should absolutely try to use Vampiric Bite with a critical hit.

Your best bet is to use Vampiric Bite on unconscious or paralyzed creatures because attacking them will guarantee a critical hit. If you need easy access to targets, carry around a bag of rats. Knock one unconscious, then eat it for hp or a bonus to your next attack/check. If you know that you're about to go into combat, this is a great way to get a massive bonus to initiative (2d4+5 with 20 Con, a critical hit, and no other damage boosts). Eat a rat, then have someone ask you about world history or something. It's so good that it feels like cheating.

For additional damage boosts to Vampiric Bite, look for effects which add extra damage of the same type. Rage, Hunter's Mark, the Piercer feat, the spell Magic Weapon, the damage bonus from Eldritch Claw Tattoo, and many other effects effects work, and each bit of extra damage means more value from the "empower" option. Extra dice are multiplied on critical hits, too, which is especially exciting.

Note to DMs: I don't think WotC intended for players to do this. High-level barbarians getting bonuses in excess of +20 on checks definitely doesn't seem intentional. A bonus of 1d4+5 to attacks/checks up to 6 times per day is already really good, and that's probably as far was WotC saw this going (maybe 2d4 on a critical hit). As a quick fix, I recommend limiting the use of the bonus to attacks/checks to within 1 round of using Vampiric Bite. That prevents some of the simpler abuse cases (initiative, social situations, knowledge checks, etc.), but still allows it to be used in combat and rewards players for looking for damage boosts. If you're still worried about the big numbers, limit the bonus to 1d4+Con, which is still a considerable bonus well in excess of Guidance, Bless, and similar buffs.

Classes

This section assumes that you're not using the option "Customizing Your Origin" rules presented in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.

Artificer

The Artificer makes a lot of the Dhampir's traits redundant. You can use Infusions to deal with breathing, to see in the dark, to walk on walls (or fly, preferably), and to use something other than Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage. The Dhampir may enable you to skip over some options for Infusions and spells, but the Artificer can often handle those challenges better so your racial traits will feel redundant and will gradually become obsolete as you gain levels.

The Artificer does have a unique ability to make the Dhampir's Vampiric Bite magical, allowing you to overcome resistance to non-magic weapon damage types without relying on options like the spell Magic Weapon or on specific items like the Eldritch Claw Tattoo. Ideally, a Dhampir relying on Vampiric Bite wants an artificer in the party, but actually playing an artificer isn't necessarily the only way to make that happen.

The Battle Smith's Battle Ready feature may offer the ability to bite using your Intelligence instead of Constitution, but we're still waiting on clarification on the subject. I've discussed this issue further above.

Barbarian

With the biggest hit die available, Rage, and Unarmored Defense, the Barbarian is a great way to explore Vampiric Bite. However, Rage's damage bonus doesn't apply to Vampiric Bite because you must use Strength to attack in order to get the damage bonus, and Vampiric Bite specifies that you use Constitution for attack and damage. It's not a "may" like the Finesse trait or similar effects, so you're stuck attacking with Constitution.

If you're fine with giving up the bonus damage from Rage, you can dump Strength, ignore Reckless Attack, and go for 20 Dexterity, 20 Constitution, and a shield to get 22 AC while otherwise totally unequipped, then run around and less than half hp comfortably hiding behind the damage resistance from Rage and that massive pile of AC and hit points while chewing on people. The Piercer feat works well since it can provide either a Strength increase or a Dexterity increase, allowing it to fit into your build without cutting into your ability scores. Just keep in mind that your relatively poor damage output compared to other barbarians raises the "tank falacy", so you should pick a subclass which focuses healily on offense so that you're a meaningful offensive threat rather a mildly annoying bag of hit points with small teeth.

At high levels, Brutal Critical multiplies the damage dice from Vampiric Bite, so a raging 20th-level Barbarian with 24 Constitution can deal 5d4+5 bite damage on a critical hit, averaging to 17.5. That's a decent chunk of healing, but adding that much to an attack or ability check trivializes most checks regardless of your other ability scores or proficiencies. Throw on the Piercer feat, and you get another d4 and can reroll one of the dice, nudging that average roll even higher to an average of slightly more than 20.

Bard

For caster bards, the ability to walk on walls and ceilings is a great way to stay out of reach of enemies without spending expensive spell slots on flight. For martial bards, Vampiric Bite is a great option because you don't need to split focus between Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma at the same time. College of Valor is a better fit than College of Swords thanks to medium armor and shields. Since bards are highly skilled, Vampiric Bite is a great way to further buff your skills on top of Expertise, Enhance Ability, and whatever other shenanigans you can manage.

Cleric

For caster clerics, the ability to walk on walls and ceilings is a great way to stay out of reach of enemies without spending expensive spell slots on flight. Vampiric Bite may be an option and it works with Divine Strikes, but it's not good enough to make using weapon attacks more effective than an unmodified cantrip, so it's minimally useful. Your best bet is to save it for empowering you ability checks or spell .

The War Domain's version of Divine Strike adds additional d8's of damage of the same type as the weapon with which you attack. That conveniently applies to Vampiric Bite, allowing you to use Divine Strike to improve the "empower" option.

Druid

The Dhampir is a great fit for Circle of Spores thanks to Vampiric Bite. Vampiric Bite provides a go-to weapon option, addresses the MAD issue (Circle of Spores normally needs Dex/Con/Wis), provides a way to heal yourself in a pinch, and if you can wait to activate Symbiotic Entity until you're below half hit points you have consistent Advantage. Your damage output may lag behind Polearm Master builds, but it may be worth the reduce complexity.

Circle of the Moon is complicated since the Dhampir's traits likely go away while in Wild Shape. There's some room for argument that Vampiric Bite would function while using a form with a bite attack, but it's not totally clear and Jeremy Crawford's answers on the subject are... complicated. Stuff like the Dragonborn's breath weapon and resistance are allowed because they don't specify anatomy and the breath weapon only requires exhalation, but the Tortle's AC doesn't apply because the shell specifies anatomy. Vampiric Bite specifies that you have a "fanged bite", which sounds a whole lot like specific anatomy to me, so Vampiric Bite wouldn't apply. You might generously interpret that any "fanged bite" would do, so poisonous snakes and potentially vampire bats would qualify, but I think that's a stretch. If you want to turn into a vampiric wolf or something, discuss it with your DM and maybe you can work something out.

Fighter

Grab full plate and a shield, max out Constitution, and take the Tough and Piercer feats. Lots of AC, high max hp so you're safer at less than half health, and Piercer makes your attacks more threatening. Unfortunately, Piercer's ability score increase may be difficult to use effectively.

Sadly, Vampiric Bite doesn't seem to qualify for Fighting Style (Dueling), so look for other Fighting Style options. Defense and Grappling are both good choices, and Interception and Protection work if you want to share your durability. You'll still face issues with the Tank Falacy, so look for a subclass which is primarily offensive or which has a taunt mechanic (Cavalier) to force enemies to focus on you.

If you want to fight at range, the ability to walk on walls/ceilings without the aid of spells or magic items is a great asset, and you can relegate Vampiric Bite to empowering attacks and ability checks.

Monk

Note: The advice below hinges upon the idea that you can choose to use Dexterity with Vampiric Bite. While I believe that RAI would allow you to do so, it's not perfectly clear if that's actually the design intent. I've discussed this issue further above.

Vampiric Bite qualifies as a monk weapon. If that doesn't excite you, you either don't like dhampirs, don't like monks, or I need to explain some more. Vampiric Bite's biggest problem (and it's not even that big) is the d4 damage die. Typically the Dhampir must make the Vampiric Bite attack using Constitution, but thanks to Martial Arts you can now attack with your choice of Dexterity or Constitution.

You can build your monk just as you normally would (Dex/Wis and Con when you can), and as your martial arts die improves you'll be able to get more about of the "empower" portion of Vampiric Bite, healing yourself or boosting an attack/check with increasing large dice. A critical hit for a high-level dhampir monk could roll 2d10+5 damage, either healing you or boosting your next attack/check by that much. That's an average roll of 16, and adding that bonus to an ability check trivializes it regardless of your proficiency or ability scores. If you can fit the Piercer feat into your build (easier since it provides a +1 Dex increase), rerolling the relatively large damage die once per turn is decent, and the additional die on critical hits can be extremely effective.

Fighting while below half hit points to get Advantage with your bites is absolutely possible for dhampir monks, but with d8 hit dice it's a scary prospect. If you can, try to find temporary hit points somewhere once you're below half hp, or look for other ways to mitigate or avoid damage if you can find them. You might even multiclass into barbarian so that you can use the Barbarian's version of Unarmored Defense instead of the Monk's and dump Wisdom to focus on being crazy and biting people.

Paladin

Divine Smite requires an attack with a weapon, and since Vampiric Bite is treated as a simple weapon it qualifies. However, the bonus radiant damage from Divine Smite won't add to the value of the "empower" option because it's not piercing damage.

Vampiric Bite allows you to build around Constitution and Charisma, significantly addressing the Paladin's MAD issues. Max out Constitution and consider the Tough feat. Lay on Hands offers a great way to shoot back up to just below half hit points, so hanging out at low hp to get Advantage is safer than it is for most characters. You do still face the same Fighting Style challenges as the Fighter, unfortunately.

Ranger

If you build for melee, you'll reduce the ranger's MAD issues somewhat, though you'll still want the Dexterity to fill out medium armor and you won't be as durable as a barbarian, fighter, or paladin. Hunter's Mark provides extra damage with your bite, making you more effective offensively and offering more value from the "empower" option, allowing you to heal yourself and boost your attacks/checks more than most other characters. I recommend going for medium armor with a shield, focus on Constitution and Wisdom, and cast Pass Without Trace or use Vampiric Bite to empower yourself when you need to be stealthy so that you can offset Disadvantage to Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

If you want to fight at range, the ability to walk on walls/ceilings without the aid of spells or magic items is a great asset, and you can relegate Vampiric Bite to empowering attacks and ability checks.

Rogue

Vampiric Bite doesn't qualify for Sneak Attack, which is disappointing because I'm sure there are legions of players hoping to play an edgy dhampir rogue. Darkvision and the ability to climb walls and ceilings solves a lot of problems which often require magic, and Vampiric Bite can still be used to empower attacks and ability checks, so there is still some value here, though you almost certainly won't use Vampiric Bite in combat.

Sorcerer

The ability to walk on walls/ceilings makes flight less crucial, but at that point a race with flight is significantly more effective or you can cast Spider Climb. Vampiric Bite doesn't help much, either.

Warlock

Warlock invocations have a lot of overlap with the Dhampir, and most warlocks have no business making use of Vampiric Bite, so there's little that the Dhampir brings to the Warlock which is totally new. The ability to walk on walls and ceilings reduces your reliance on limited spell slots to fly or levitate, and Vampiric Bite offers an improvement to you overall durability (though a low hit point maximum and poor AC are still problems).

Note: The advice below hinges upon the idea that you can choose to use Charisma with Vampiric Bite thanks to Hex Warrior. While I believe that RAI would allow you to do so, it's not perfectly clear if that's actually the design intent. I've discussed this issue further above

Hexblades, as always, are a uniquely appealing option. Hex Warrior works with the Dhampir's Vampiric Bite, so you can use Charisma to bite people. Otherwise there's not much that's unique here. More martial classes will be able to make better use of Vampiric Bite, and since Vampiric Bite doesn't work with Booming Blade you're denied a go-to offensive option. Options like Thirsting Blade all still work, but that trades away the savings on invocations gained from the Dhampir.

Wizard

The ability to walk on walls/ceilings makes flight less crucial, but at that point a race with flight is significantly more effective or you can cast Spider Climb. Vampiric Bite doesn't help much, either.

Bladesingers might consider using Vampiric Bite in place of a weapon, but be very cautious about doing so because building around Con/Int will mean neglecting Dexterity which will then reduce your AC. Wizards don't get enough hit points (even with high Constitution) to make that a safe choice. It might work, but be very cautious.

Dhampir Feats

Dhampirs have no race-exclusive feats, but the feats below may be appealing for dhampir characters.

PiercerTCoE

Abusing the critical hit portion of Vampiric Bite is a great way to make the Dhampir's Vampiric Bite effective. Piercer adds an additional damage die on critical hits, providing a significant bonus there. You also get an increase to either Strength or Dexterity, making it easy to fit Piercer into your build for many martial characters.

ToughPHB

Staying below half of your hit point maximum is scary. Tough adds some additional padding to make that more manageable. Raising your Constitution to 20 is more important, especially if you're using Constitution to attack, but Tough is a great option after that point.