Note: The following was inspired by the 3.5 D&D description of vampire clerics, that ignores any deity they might have had in life and replaces it with a fixed selection of domains, and attempts to explain it. It also draws upon the standard cosmology of D&D 3.x and earlier, with its Negative Energy Plane, and the special connection that vampires have with that plane; however, if utilizing this material in a setting with a different cosmology, a different plane might be substituted whenever the Negative Energy Plane is mentioned, for example, the Shadowfell. Otherwise, this write-up is meant to be both setting- and system-agnostic.

The Blasphemous Rites of Vampire Clerics

When a mortal becomes a vampire, their soul is transformed into a spirit of negative energy, devoid of the divine spark that empowers most mortal souls, and allows them to be clerics. For most vampires, the only consequence of this is that, when they are eventually destroyed, their spirit will be absorbed into the Negative Energy Plane rather than migrate into the Outer Planar realms where most dead mortals spend their afterlife; however, the consequences for clerics are rather more drastic. The replacement of their divinely-infused soul with a poor negative-energy substitute sunders the link between a cleric and their deity, making it impossible for them to receive their normal divine powers and spells.

In order to remedy this situation and restore the vampiric clericís abilities, the vampire must cast aside their former clerical religion and instead embrace the Blasphemous Rites. Created by a cleric of a god of death that was among the first vampires, the Blasphemous Rites are dedicated to the Darkness, a mysterious entity housed in the Negative Energy Plane (some theorize that it is the very embodiment of this plane), and which is at the heart of what makes vampires what they are. Indeed, according to some legends, the very origin of vampires lies in a pact that the first of their number made with the Darkness, out of jealousy of the godsí immortality, forsaking them in exchange for eternal unlife.

The first step that a vampiric cleric must take is to forever renounce their allegiance to all of the gods, and reaffirm their pact with the Darkness. While this pact is implicitly in effect for all vampires, by their very nature, it must be strengthened for the Blasphemous Rites to be effective. This, however, is not the end of the clericís relationship to their former deity; far from it. After all, the core conceit of the Blasphemous Rites is to steal a deityís power and channel it through the Darkness; therefore, the link between the cleric and their former patron must remain present.

Each deity has their own version of the Blasphemous Rites, a subversion of the deityís normal rituals and liturgy that is designed to send their divine energy to the Darkness. It is a common misconception that Blasphemous Rites are no more than pure desecration, defiling a godís sacred symbols and words purely for the sake of wickedness, but they are actually much more subtle and involved than that. What must drive them is not a lack of faith, nor a false faith, but rather a twisted, spiteful, covetous, but still true faith in the deity. The holy symbols used in the Blasphemous Rites are the same as those of the original faith, not quite desecrated, but marked with ancient, profane glyphs that bind them to the Darkness; similarly, the rituals and prayers utilized are not mere profanations of the original ones, but rather careful rewordings that establish a dishonest, predatory covenant with the deity and subject their divine power to the Darkness. It must be noted that the Blasphemous Rites may be adapted to any deity, of any alignment or portfolio.

With all the effort and caution that must be employed in the Blasphemous Rites, one might wonder why vampire clerics donít simply revere the Darkness as they would a common deity, and receive their powers the normal way. While the clerics themselves have no definitive answer to this question, there are a number of ideas that attempt to explain it. For one, there is the fact that the Darkness is not quite a deity, or at least not one like the others; it does not respond directly to prayers, pleas, or any attempts at contacting it, indicating that it would probably not be amenable to the sort of relationship that normally begets clerics, and might in fact not even be a sentient entity at all, but rather something more like a force of nature. In a similar vein, it is theorized that the Darkness does not have the capacity to confer clerical powers, due to its lacking a divine nature, and must steal these powers from other parties. As mentioned before, the unusual nature of the vampireís soul might also preclude them from forming a normal, healthy clerical relationship. And finally, on a more philosophical note, some would say that envy and covet are at the very core of a vampireís nature; they exist because mortals envied the godsí immortality, and they subsist by coveting and stealing the life essence of mortals, so it is only natural for vampire clerics to function by dishonestly stealing the power of the gods they envy.