Most of the time I like to create a character that is all my own; someone unique to me that can reflect a specific story I want to tell. But sometimes I see a character in fiction or history and go "I want to play them!" Such is the case with one very tall vampire in particular.
With the release of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, this is the perfect time to dive in and try to duplicate one of the most highly anticipated characters of video gaming: Resident Evil: Village's Lady Dimitrescu!
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Resident Evil: Village.
Ever since early images and trailers dropped for this game, Lady Dimitrescu has captivated audiences, even those that would otherwise have never given a Resident Evil game a second look. My two cents on why? She's not just a vampire (or at least RE's version of a vampire), but giant. Standing at an impressive 9'6" tall, she defies what we usually expect of vampires in pop culture. But how to play this larger than life character?
Let's start by defining the core experience that we see from Lady D in the game. What is she? How does she fight? How does she act? What are her magical abilities, if any? And then we can try to match those up with as many mechanics from D&D 5e as we can.
Working in reverse order because this will touch on one of the most obvious and most difficult elements of her gameplay (seriously last chance to avoid spoilers): what are her magical abilities, if any? Well, turning into a massive tentacle-y dragon is certainly magical, and makes for an incredible reveal in her final confrontation with the protagonist Ethan Winters. But until that point it's hard to say anything she was doing was particularly magical. Her daughters could turn into clouds of bugs, but not her. She could grow a massive claw from her hand, but that's not too incredible. Certainly nothing I would say requires the ability to cast spells. She could regenerate rapidly in the lore, but we never really saw that in action aside from her supernatural resilience.
Unfortunately turning into a dragon is most certainly a magical thing that very few PC abilities can match. The true polymorph and shape change spells could do it, but both are 9th level spells. Considering you'd be leveling her by casting spells and otherwise behaving in ways that just don't match up with the bulk of her gameplay, this doesn't seem like a viable aspect to try and capture in a PC build. Perhaps an especially gracious DM will grant you the ability to transform when you would take lethal damage? But aside from homebrew, it's just not happening if we want her to align with the 90% Lady D experience.
So what is that experience? Well let's get back to those questions and answer them based on the non-draconic aspects of Lady D's gameplay:
What is she? Well she's tall, that's for certain. She also owns a castle and goes by "Lady Dimitrescu, of House Dimitrescu", so clearly a noble. And based on her affinity for human flesh and her family's secret wine recipe (Sanguis Viriginis, or "Maiden's Blood"), we can say that she is as close to a vampire as the Resident Evil lore will get.
How does she fight? If you've played or watched the game you know there are two core moves in Lady D's repertoire: grabbing people by the neck and lifting them from the ground (preferably while monologuing); and slashing enemies to ribbons with her massive claw that grows from her otherwise normal hand. She's strong, likes to grapple, shrugs off bullets like nothing, and likes to deal damage with a single massive unarmed strike.
How does she act? She definitely likes to talk. Her argument with the other lords is the first time we see her, and while things don't go her way she never forgets her allegiances or acts out of turn. She also doesn't rush after Ethan, content to gracefully runway-stomp after the frightened attacker until she can get him in her clutches. Definitely not going to dump Charisma with this badass.
Given these answers, I arrived at the following build: a Noble Goliath-Dhampir Rune Knight Fighter with the Unarmed Fighting Style! Let's break that build down and see how it hits each of the things we outlined above.
Strength 16 (14+2 from Lineage)
Constitution 16 (15+1 from Lineage)
The Noble Background. This one's pretty simple. She's a noble, so lets give her that nobility. This will give us proficiency in History and Persuasion, both skills that the leader of a noble house would value.
Goliath-Dhampir. The new Lineages in Van Richten's Guide are based on the idea that your character has a birth-race, but then something happens to transform you into one of the gothic lineages: dhampir, hexblood, or reborn. The Goliath part is really only doing one thing for us: giving us an appropriately tall starting size! After that it's all about the Dhampir bonuses, which give us a bite attack that allows us to regenerate health or give us bonuses to an ability check (we'll use that later) among other things. For our ability score increases, I put +2 into Strength and +1 into Constitution to make her suitably strong and tanky, just like she is in the game (assuming a point-buy array, that gives us a 16 in both stats at level 1). It also gives us two starting skills: stealth for those rare moments when we want to surprise someone opening a door; and intimidation... cuz duh!
Rune Knight Fighter. Even starting off as a goliath doesn't quite get us to that epic 9'6" stature, but with the Giant's Might feature at level 3 we can certainly get there at least a couple times a day. And the Great Stature feature at level 10 can push us the rest of the way so we are *always* the biggest lady in the room. Giant's Might also gives us advantage on strength checks and an extra d6 damage on one attack per turn. This means we'll be able to live up to the grapple + big hit combo of Lady D!
Unarmed Fighting Style. Rather than spend levels going monk, this fighting style from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything allows us to mirror her method of attack in game. You can deal d4 damage at the start of your turn while grappling (like when she pounds Ethan quite literally through the floor) and without a shield we'll deal a d8 on unarmed strikes. It's technically bludgeoning damage, but considering physical damage is pretty much always treated the same, you could easily flavor this as the slashing damage of her massive claw.
Let's put it all together and try out a Level 5 Lady D:
You see your prey and roll initiative, rushing in and using your bonus action to turn truly massive. Towering over them, you use the Attack action and with your first attack initiate a grapple. With proficiency in Athletics from fighter and advantage on strength checks from Giant's Might, this should be an easy win. Now they are grappled; monologue a bit before you run them through with an unarmed strike for 1d8+1d6+4 damage (assuming level 4 ASI got us 18 Strength).
Fast forward to next turn and you start off dealing 1d4 damage for free. Then let's say this little whelp managed to hurt you a bit despite the punishment you're dishing out. Now you can go in for the bite and, using your Giant's Might damage, deal 1d4+1d6+3 piercing damage to them while healing yourself for the same! Still hurt? Bonus action Second Wind - no one besmirches House Dimitrescu!
One synergy I really like in this build is that you can also use the bite to amplify a grapple check. You can bite first and choose the other empowerment option, adding the damage done to your next check against them. Now when you grapple them you'll get to add your solid Athletics bonus, an additional bonus equal to the damage you dealt, AND you'll have advantage on the check with Giant's Might.
An inescapable, undeniable powerhouse of tall vampiric might. You are Lady Dimitrescu!
Note: Another solid build would be to tap into that angry side and go Path of the Beast Barbarian, which gives you some claws as well as the insane resilience of rage. And you'll still have advantage on strength checks to grapple while raging. I preferred going fighter because it let me really crank up the size factor with Rune Knight, and also felt more like the cold, cruel, calculating noblewoman that enjoys a nice glass of red wine as she plots the murder of her victims.
How would you build Lady D?! Hit us up on Twitter or reply in the comments!