AEXIII's Death Knight (3.5e Prestige Class)
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|“||Death is what defines Life, and Life in turn defines Death. Each is meaningless without the other. It is this truth that I have come here to teach you. Think of me, not as your murderer, but the one who brought purpose to your Life.||”|
|—Baed Tulon, Human Death Knight|
Death Knights are those that believe it is not man's place to interfere with the workings of Death. Life and Death must be held in balance, one that only the god's have right to interfere with. As such, they hunt down those that upset that seek to cheat death, or to cause wanton destruction. The wizard who brews an elixir to extend his lifespan and those that purchase it from him, the orc warlord who seeks to ravage all he sees, the warlock who gains immortality through demonic pacts, all these are the Death Knights' quarry. Death Knights are of two opinions when it comes to the Undead. The first is that the undead are necessary for the balance, but must be kept in check. While these Death Knights will not necessarily kill an undead on sight, should their numbers or power grow too great the will see to their culling personally. However, should the undead begin to dwindle in number or potency, they will also create and set some loose to even things out. The others often seek to swell the hordes of the undead, believing that by being neither alive nor dead they are the truest expression of the balance. These Death Knights often become Liches or Vampires or some other form of undead.
Becoming a Death Knight
Arcane Death Knights are nearly always some sort of martial/caster hybrid. Divine Death Knights have less of a need for multiclassing but occasionally do. Paladins who become Death Knights lose their abilities as per the ex-paladin rules. Characters who take this class often do so to help round out their abilities somewhat. Though a bit more focused towards combat, this class is still fairly well rounded. Strength and Constitution are important to the Death Knight, as they often find themselves wading into the thick of battle. Also important is the ability that relates to whatever spellcasting class qualifies them for this class.
|Base Attack Bonus:||+5.|
|Skills:||Knowledge (Arcana) 8 ranks, Knowledge (Religion) 6 ranks.|
|Feats:||Weapon Focus, Spell Focus: Necromancy (see special).|
|Spellcasting:||Specialized in Necromancy (see special).|
|Domains:||Death (see special).|
|Special:||Must have defeated a foe without resorting to magic, to qualify for this class the character must have one or more of the following (only one is required): Access to the Death domain, Spell Focus: Necromancy, or specialized in Necromancy, must have died.|
|1st||+1||+2||+0||+2||Stillness of Death (Ex), Dark Familiar||+1 level of existing arcane or divine spellcasting class.|
|2nd||+2||+3||+0||+3||Spectral Strike 1/day, Energy Substitution: Cold|
|3rd||+3||+3||+1||+3||+1 level of existing arcane or divine spellcasting class.|
|4th||+4||+4||+1||+4||Spectral Strike 2/day, Agent of Death (Ex)|
|5th||+5||+4||+1||+4||Horseman of Death (Sp)||+1 level of existing arcane or divine spellcasting class.|
|7th||+7||+5||+2||+5||+1 level of existing arcane or divine spellcasting class.|
|8th||+8||+6||+2||+6||Spectral Strike 3/day, Energy Admixture: Cold|
|9th||+9||+6||+3||+6||+1 level of existing arcane or divine spellcasting class.|
|10th||+10||+7||+3||+7||Pallor of Death (Ex)|
Class Skills (2 + Int modifier per level)
All of the following are class features of the Death Knight.
Stillness of Death (Ex): The Death Knight no longer needs to perform the somatic component of any Necromancy or Cold spell that he casts. He can also use the bones of creatures he has killed to apply this ability to certain other spells (a creature is considered killed by the Death Knight if he either delivered the final blow or did at least half of the damage). To do so, the bone must come from a creature with a CR that is 4 or higher than the spell’s level, or it must have been able to cast the spell or use it as a spell-like ability, or bones from multiple creatures are combined during a ritual which drains 50xp and 100gp of materials per bone. The bones are then attuned to that spell, and may be used to cast the spell without somatic components. The Death Knight can only have a number of these bones equal to half his class level rounded down. These bones can be worn around the neck, wrists, waist, or head and count as a magic item for that slot unless the Death Knight carves special runes into them which drain 100xp each. At 1st level this ability applies to spells level 0-3. At 4th level spell levels 4th-6th are included and 7th-9th level spells fall under this ability's purview when the Death Knight reaches 7th level in this class
Spectral Strike: The Death Knight can make an attack a Spectral Strike. A Spectral Strike is treated as an attack made by an incorporeal creature.
Energy Substitution: Cold At 2nd level the Death Knight gains the Energy Substitution: Cold feat Whether or not he meets the prerequisites. If the Death Knight already has this feat, they instead may select a different metamagic feat or a feat from the list of bonus Fighter feats. The Death Knight must meet any prerequisites for the selected feat.
Dark Familiar: Upon reaching 3rd level the Death Knight may obtain a new familiar (or gains one if he did not already have a familiar). If he has a familiar and does not wish to replace it, he may instead perform a 24 hour ritual to 'charge' his familiar. In either case, the Death Knight's familiar undergoes two changes. First, it is now healed by Negative Energy, and harmed by Positive Energy, secondly it gains the Cold subtype.
Agent of Death (Ex): The Death Knight gains a +2 to Strength. He also becomes immune to fear. He may now also use detect undead as an at will spell-like ability. The Death Knight may also choose to drop a prepared spell to spontaneously cast a spell in the Necromancy school as a cleric can with cure or inflict spells, this requires a move action. This can only be done with spells one level lower than the highest the Death Knight can cast, meta-magic can only be applied to these spells if the dropped spell was prepared in such a manner, a spell cast this way cannot be cast into a Runeblade. Spontaneous casters are instead allowed to add 1 known spell to each spell level they can cast so long as it is a Necromancy spell. Each time they gain a new level of spells the same applies.
Runeblade: The Death Knight may ensorcell a weapon for which he has the Weapon Focus feat with a number of spells whose combined level is equal to or less than his class level. These spells may either be released upon a successful strike, or cast from the weapon as though it were a wand. 0 Level spells cannot be cast into a Runeblade. Spells whose effect cannot be fully discharged in one strike (such as a touch spell with multiple charges i.e Chill Touch) can be activated on the Runeblade. However, until the spell is depleted or dispelled, the Runeblade cannot be used to cast or deliver any other spells. Only the Death Knight may use spells contained in the Runeblade.
Horseman of Death (Sp): The Death Knight performs a special ritual which summons a Cauchemar Nightmare, binding it to within 25ft of the Death Knight for 10 minutes. If he defeats the creature he can immediately turn it into a skeleton per the Animate Dead spell even if he does not know the spell or is out of spells for the day. The Nightmare’s alignment changes to match that of its Death Knight master, and it gains all the same abilities as a Paladin mount. Treat levels in this class as paladin levels for this purpose. From that point on, the Skeletal Nightmare serves the Death Lord the same as a Paladin mount except for the following: the mount can be summoned from its home (which is now the Negative Energy Plane) as a full round action any number of times per day. However, the mount may only be at the Death Knights service for 2 hours per level each day. These hours need not be consecutive. The Nightmare loses its Etherealness, can no longer fly, its Smoke ability instead involves frigid fog that freezes and strangles the life out of victims, and its fiery hooves become icy. If the Death Knight fails to kill the Nightmare he may attempt the ritual again at any time, however each subsequent attempt costs materials worth 300gp and 300xp. The Death Knight can receive assistance in defeating the mount. Most do not, however, as it is difficult to convince most people that summoning and attempting to slay a demon horse so it can be made undead and ridden is a good idea… (Obtaining a mount through this ability bars the Death Knight from obtaining or having one via levels in Paladin.)
Energy Admixture: Cold At 8th level the Death Knight automatically gains the Energy Admixture: Cold feat. If the Death Knight already has this feat, they instead may select a different metamagic feat or a feat from the list of bonus Fighter feats. The Death Knight must meet any prerequisites for the selected feat.
Pallor of Death (Ex):The Death Knight grows pale as he becomes more in tune with death. He is now immune to cold damage and gains a +2 bonus on saves vs poison, disease, sleep, paralysis, stunning, death effects, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain and his life span is doubled. He may also use deathwatch as an at-will spell like ability. Though not truly undead, a Death Knight’s presence can be detected via detect undead should he fail a Will save. If the Death Knight has obtained a mount via the Horseman of Death ability, his level for determining its special abilities is now equal to his Death Knight level plus his effective caster level in the spellcasting class which qualified him for this prestige class.
Spellcasting: At each odd level you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in a spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one spellcasting class before becoming a Death Knight, you must add these levels to the class which qualified you for this prestige class.
A Death Knight who becomes chaotic cannot gain new levels as a Death Knight and loses all Death Knight class abilities until he no longer has a chaotic alignment. A Death Knight who becomes undead cannot gain new levels as a Death Knight, but retains all Death Knight class abilities.
Playing a Death Knight
Combat: Death Knights in combat are usually focused on damaging enemies with both spell and weapon as well as debuffing them. They also usually have a few undead under their control and use them and any special abilities they may have to keep the battle in their favor. If another member of the party has undead under their control, the Death Knight my occasionally use his skill with Necromancy to buff or heal them.
Advancement: Death Knights often choose to advance their spellcasting class in order to gain access to better spells, higher caster level, and other benefits. More martial Death Knights may choose to pursue the Fighter class to improve their combat abilities. Many also become Eldritch Knights, finding the balance that class offers to be appealing. The most dedicated Death Knights, often seek to advance their power by taking the Death Lord prestige class.
Resources: Death Knights, for the most part, have little contact with each other. The presence of a single Death Knight can often cause the local populace to become anxious, and they learned long ago that gathering together often caused more problems than it was worth. Death Knights who do meet each other are usually friendly, often waxing philosophical on their role in the universe and trading stories. Occasionally, when one Death Knight perceives a great threat to the balance, he may ask other Death Knights for assistance. This is usually only done as a last resort, however, as most will simply gather other adventurers to their side rather than seeking out other Death Knights and thereby causing the locals to panic.
Death Knights in the World
|“||Someone once asked me why a person who will live as long as me would be so obsessed with Death. The question amused me greatly, so I decided to reply by asking one of my own. 'Why are people, who will be dead for the rest of eternity, so obsessed with life?' He didn't seem to find my question as amusing.||”|
|—Eliadree Velendul, High Elf Death Knight|
Death Knights tend to be wanderers, traveling lands both peaceful and war torn, ensuring that the balance between Life and Death is preserved. They are often found in crypts and graveyards, or at the sites of great battles and massacres, ensuring that any undead that rise in the area are kept in check. Any site where large numbers have died attracts their attention, as do any cities or towns with particularly powerful (or numerous) clerics, as these individuals often upset the balance by healing or resurrecting those meant to die. They are also commonly found in lands where death has begun to run unnaturally rampant, whether through marauding creatures, conquering warlords, tyrannical leaders, or unnatural plagues. A very small number of Death Knights take up residence in cities that have grown accustomed to and even welcome their presence. Occurrences such as this are exceedingly rare, however.
NPC Reactions: Most NPC's do not understand Death Knights, and in their ignorance fear them. The often cold, detached demeanor of the Death Knight puts many NPC's ill at ease. Entire cities may become tense and uncomfortable when word comes that a Death Knight has arrived. These reactions often go away once the populace begin to realize that the Death Knight is not there to murder them in their sleep.
Death Knight Lore
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (religion) can research Death Knights to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.
|11||Death Knights are Necromantic warriors often called "Death's Paladins".|
|16||Death Knights display an affinity for Cold, and older Death Knights become as pale as a corpse.|
|21||Death Knights are not necessarily evil, but rather devoted to a balance of Life and Death.|
|26||Characters who get this result may learn about specific Death Knights.|
Death Knights in the Game
Death Knights often live on the fringes of society. Most mortals fear them for their closeness with Death, and reject them outright, sometimes forming mobs to run them off. Their fears are not necessarily unfounded. Death Knights are Death's arbiters. They often find themselves at odds with clerics who refuse to let people die when their time comes. During plagues they will often find ways to distract, or possibly even kill healers so that the populace may die they way they are intended. However, Death Knights are not simply murderers. They preserve life when it is meant to be preserved, protecting defenseless towns from marauding orcs, culling rampaging undead, and helping stop the spread of unnatural disease.
Adaptation: Death Knights are fairly easy to adapt into a game world. Their powers come from a close connection with Death, but they are not necessarily chosen by Death (or a god, or the Negative Energy Plane or whatever). The philosophy the follow is not a handed down dictation, but rather what drove them to seek this class in the first place. They could be the commanders of undead legions, servants of a powerful lich, or a reclusive order made to preserve the balance who only appear when needed.
Sample Encounter: Artcurus Morsen had worked as a mercenary for years after a sudden financial loss had forced his family to end his apprenticeship with the local wizard. Instead, his father tutored him in the ways of the warrior, and over the next few years he would fight in wars and skirmishes across numerous kingdoms. During his tenure he saw many good men die, most of which were promptly resurrected by his merc' company's cleric. Somehow though, something always seemed a bit...wrong about it. The men were never quite themselves when they came back, and the thought that death was far from permanent had made many of them cocky as all hell. It was during a contract to kill a Necromancer who's minions had been raiding the nearby village that his mind was made up. One of the wizard's larger minions had taken him down. It was an honorable death, but the clerics magics pulled at him, and the light and warmth of life was too much to resist. When his lungs again gasped for air and life returned to his body, he knew what had just happened was unnatural. His mind made up, he waited until the battle ended and stashed away the Necromancer's spellbook. That night, he stole away into the darkness to study the dark tomb. The magics within the book twisted his mind, seeping evil into his thoughts. Now, a decade later, he has returned to the kingdom, intent on hunting down those clerics who believe they control life and death, and showing that HE is the true master of the dead.