Death Disciple (3.5e Prestige Class)

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Death Disciple[edit]

Flesh fails and magic succumbs. Stone and metals wear... but with each dead, even of your own. My numbers rise from the ancient powers of death.
—Darz'goul, Journal of the Damned

The Disciple of Death, rises at first through a complex ritual to become a sentient undead if not already. They then can begin their studies and training to gain mastery over the forces of unlife, demanding all flesh, bone, and spirit answer their call.

Becoming a Death Disciple[edit]

A character will usually follow this class to further their knowledge and understanding of the afterlife and their mastery of the grave, even so far as to become complete masters themselves, rising to the status of a Lich. Furthermore, rumors exist of those who have so long studied and perfected the arts of undeath that they have become Demi-liches in their ancient years.

Entry Requirements
Alignment: Any non-lawful or evil.
Base Attack Bonus: +5
Race: Any
Skills: 13 Ranks in Knowledge Arcana
Feats: Eschew Materials, Greater Spell Focus (Necromancy)
Spellcasting: Access to 5th Level Arcane Spells or Higher
Level: You are required to be level 10 first for this class.
Special: You must have had a close encounter with death (such as with an undead creature or near death experience), and you must have a burial site of some form in which to research and further your necromantic studies.
Table: The Death Disciple

Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special Spellcasting
Fort Ref Will
1st +0 +0 +0 +2 The Transformation, Command Undead -
2nd +1 +0 +0 +3 Aura of Dark Dominion +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
3rd +1 +1 +1 +3 -
4th +2 +1 +1 +4 Undead Familiar +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
5th +2 +1 +1 +4 -
6th +3 +2 +2 +5 Death's Empowerment +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
7th +3 +2 +2 +5 -
8th +4 +2 +2 +6 Dominate Undead +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
9th +4 +3 +3 +6 -
10th +5 +3 +3 +7 Ascension +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class

Class Skills (2 + Int modifier per level)
Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (Arcana) (Int), Profession (Wis), Search (Int), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha).

Table: The Epic Death Disciple
Level Special
11th Greater Undead Familiar, +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
13th +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class
15th Completed Ascension, +1 Level of existing arcane spellcasting class

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the Death Disciple.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A Death Disciple gains no proficiency with any weapon or armor. They do retain previous proficiency.

Spells Per Day/ Spells Known: When a new Death Disciple level is gained, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if he had also gained a level in whatever arcane spellcasting class in which he could cast 5th-level spells before he added the prestige class level. He does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If a character had more than one arcane spellcasting class in which he could cast 5th-level spells before he became a Death Disciple, he must decide to which class he adds each level of Death Disciple for the purpose of determining spells per day.

The Transformation: Upon taking your first level as a Death Disciple, you go through a complex ritual that you have devised yourself and performed within a burial grounds. This process takes three days to complete, but at the end, you have become undead yourself and are one step closer to total mastery of undeath. You gain the following Features and Traits:

  • Hit Dice: Youre hit dice remain the same (d8).
  • Base Attack Bonus: Your BAB remains the same.
  • Skill Points: Your skill points remain the same.
  • Constitution Score: Despire being undead, you retain your constitution score. When you are reduced to 0 or lower hit points, you automatically stabilize, but are considered incapacitated until you return to 1 HP.
  • Darkvision: You gain Darkvision out to 60 feet.
  • Immunities: You gain immunities to charm and illusion effects, but all other effects still apply. You also become immune to sleep, poison, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects. You still are able to be hit by critical strikes, but you are immune to non-lethal damage, ability drain, damage to physical ability scores, fatigue, and exhaustion.
  • Fortitude Saves: You are still required to roll fortitude saves, despite being undead.
  • Concentration Checks: Because you still possess a constitution score, you apply your constitution modifier for concentration checks instead of charisma, despite being undead.
  • Massive Damage: You are still at risk from massive damage, despite being undead.
  • Raise Dead/Reincarnate: You are not affected by Raise Dead and Reincarnate. Resurrection and True Resurrection can still affect you, but the caster must pass a Caster Level Check equal to 10+Your total character level+Your Constitution Score. Doing so successfully strips you of all levels in this class and all benefits from it.
  • Proficiency: You retain all proficiency from previous classes such as armor and weapons.
  • Vitals: As an Undead, you do not Eat, Breath, or Sleep.

Command Undead (Su): A number of times per day equal to your Intelligence modifier and half your Death Disciple class levels, you may attempt to control an undead who has an intelligence score less then your own. The only requirement to affect the target with this is they must be able to be targeted by you (IE, not obstructed, concealed, ect;). The undead in question rolls a will save (regardless of being immune to charm effects). If the undead have no intelligence, you automatically succeed. The DC of the save is equal to 10 + You Death Disciple class levels + Intelligence modifier. You may only have a total number of undead under your control equal to your Intelligence modifier or less, and their total number of hit die may not exceed your own, regardless of how many you have. You may control the undead for 1 hour per Death Disciple level you possess, to a maximum of 6 hours.

Aura of Dark Dominion (Ex): Your very existence in this world sends a chill down the metaphorical (and sometimes literal) spines of all whom you do not specifically consider a friend, your unholy presence giving your a very threatening feel. Those subject to this aura must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + Con Modifier + Death Disciple Levels). If the target fails, they are shaken. If they fail by 5 or more, they are frightened. If they fail by 10 or more, they are panicked. Those that succeed at this are immune to the effects of the aura from you specifically for 24 hours.

Undead Familiar: As a Death Disciple, you obtain a familiar after many hours of long research and careful experiments based upon your findings and theories on controlling undead. Doing so takes 24 hours and uses up magical materials that cost 100 gp. This familiar is a simple mindless undead, but can obey most commands (assuming they are not too complex), and deliver short verbal messages (assuming they have the parts to speak). The undead serves as a companion and servant.

The Death Disciple chooses the kind of familiar he gets. As the Death Disciple advances in level, his familiar also increases in power.

If the familiar dies or is dismissed by the Death Disciple, the Death Disciple must attempt a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw. Failure means he loses 200 experience points per Death Disciple level; success reduces the loss to one-half that amount. However, a Death Disciple’s experience point total can never go below 0 as the result of a familiar’s demise or dismissal. A slain or dismissed familiar cannot be replaced for a year and day. A slain familiar can be raised from the dead just as a character can be, and it does not lose a level or a Constitution point when this happy event occurs.

Because of the nature of this class, any familiar you previously had is lost, weather it be a matter of being dismissed, it running away, or you using it as a part of your new familiar. Either way, your new familiar is selected from any list you previously had access to and you apply either Zombie or Skeleton template to it. This familiar also shares the same progression it would have from the previous class.

Death's Empowerment (Su): You draw forth the residual consciousness and life force of a creature and use it to fuel your own dark abilities. Upon activating this ability, you touch a living creature (roll a touch attack if needed) that has 0 or fewer hit points, and that creature must roll a Will saving throw (DC 10 + Death Disciple class levels + Intelligence Modifier). If the subject fails its saving throw, it dies, and you gain 1d8 temporary hit points and a +2 bonus to Intelligence. Additionally, your effective caster level goes up by +1, improving spell effects dependent on caster level. (This increase in effective caster level does not grant you access to more spells.) These effects last for 10 minutes per HD of the subject creature, and are cumulative to a maximum of three times.

Dominate Undead (Su): This ability functions exactly the same as the Command Undead ability above, including uses per day. The new feature however is now you may use it successfully against creatures who have a higher intelligence then you. Additionally, undead creatures who have a lower intelligence modifier then you, and who fail by 10 or more on their saving throw, can take the place and fully function as your familiar. Replacing your current familiar with this new undead takes a 24 hour ritual to complete and 100 gold pieces worth of materials. The old familiar is abandoned or incorporated into this new undead familiar.

Ascension: At tenth level, you acquire the Lich Template. The cost of the Phylactery is free, but the creation takes one week, and after it is created, you complete the ritual with self sacrifice and reappear 1d10 days later as a fully fledged Lich. Follow all rules in applying the Lich Template, overriding any class features as necessary.

Epic Level Class Features[edit]

Greater Undead Familiar (Su): For the same cost as creating a new familiar, you may create any of the following undead to act as your familiar, however you may only have one familiar at a time as normal. Each of the following undead give you a unique feature having to do with what the creature is. For any of the following, when making the creature always use human as the base creature and level it as a familiar accordingly. For any statistics left out from the Familiar and Epic Familiar leveling chart (such as Base Attack Bonus, Base Saves, etc;), use the Fighter Class. They otherwise maintain their respective abilities based on their creature, and any that create additional creatures (such as from Create Spawn abilities) are limited to two under their control at any time. Any abilities you gain that require a difficulty check (such as Ghoul Fever) have a DC equal to 10 + your Death Disciple Class levels + your intelligence modifier, but otherwise remain unchanged.

While this ritual is Supernatural in nature, the undead created themselves act as normal undead would of their respective typing.

Greater Undead Familiars
Undead Acquired Bonus
Ghast Able to Inflict Ghoul Fever 2/Day
Ghost Gain Charisma Modifier or Intelligence Modifier to AC (whichever is higher).
Lacedon Able to Inflict Ghoul Fever 2/Day
Mummy Able to Inflict Mummy Rot 1/Week
Shadow Gain the Shadow's ability to Create Spawn, to a maximum of two under your control at any time.
Skeleton Gain Improved Initiative as a Bonus Feat and gain Immunity to Cold.
Vampire Gain the Vampire's Spider Climb ability or Gaseous Form ability.
Wight Gain the Wight's Ability Drain.
Wraith (Dread) Gain the Dread Wraith's Lifesense ability.
Zombie Gain Toughness as a Bonus Feat for every Toughness Feat the Zombie has, to a maximum of 10.

Completed Ascension: To achieve this final level of Death Disciple you must first be level 30 and maintain all previous levels of Death Disciple. If you are able to do so, then at this level you may apply the Demilich template, bypassing the 21 levels in Wizard, Sorcerer, or Cleric in the process, and completing your mastery over death. While the first Soul Shard you need to make is free, all seven others afterwords (and any others you make) require your own materials and experience points to create.

Epic Death Disciple Bonus Feat List: Augmented Alchemy, Automatic Quicken Spell, Automatic Silent Spell, Automatic Still Spell, Combat Casting, Craft Epic Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Epic Rod, Craft Epic Staff, Craft Epic Wondrous Item, Efficient Item Creation, Enhance Spell, Epic Spell Focus, Epic Spell Penetration, Epic Spellcasting, Familiar Spell, Forge Epic Ring, Ignore Material Components, Improved Combat Casting, Improved Heighten Spell, Improved Metamagic, Improved Spell Capacity, Intensify Spell, Multispell, Permanent Emanation, Scribe Epic Scroll, Spell Focus, Spell Knowledge, Spell Mastery, Spell Penetration, Spell Stowaway, Spell Opportunity, Spontaneous Spell, Tenacious Magic.

Ex-Death Disciple[edit]

The only way a Death Disciple becomes an "Ex-Death Disciple" is if they are successfully resurrected as described in their first level ability, "The Transformation". This is an existing weakness that lasts through out their entire leveling process. Upon being returned to life, the Death Disciple loses all benefits, abilities, feats, and levels gained from this class, setting them back at a lower level if necessary.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Death Disciple[edit]

Combat: A Death Disciple does its best supporting and fighting from the back line using devistating death magic, raising the dead to further fight for them and wear away at enemies that they could otherwise fall to until they have weakened. After their death, the Death Disciple may often choose to raise them as their own familiar if they deem them strong enough.

Advancement: While there isn't typically many who multi-class and study outside of death, the Archmage prestige class provides nice synergy in their spells, while a Blackguard or Evil Cleric may provide useful boosts here and there for their undead familiars. Lastly, rogues have some nice simple early level bonuses such as evasion that this class otherwise misses out on and the ability to spot traps and a nice bundle of skill points early on.

Resources: This class brings to the table a vast amount of knowledge, especially in regards to death, as well as the ultimate utility of spells and magic.

Death Disciples in the World[edit]

The flow of blood...unending. The chill of the grave... unyielding. The dark and unholy energies at work... alluring. All are to be claimed by death one day.

Death Disciples are typically locked away in their keeps under crypts or in dungeons performing their dark experiments to further their knowledge. It is not uncommon for them to draw other dark forces nearby with their blasphemous research, ranging from power hungry demons seeking the strength of their willful souls, to other undead lords who see their rising as a potential threat to their domain. In addition, the undead decay they may cause of chaos that may ensue as the dead begin walking once more. These are all factors that point to the Death Disciple, their supreme power appearing as a cult, but is just the power of one. The Death Disciple falls in a similar niche to that of a necromancer, mastering the dark ways to obtain power, even at the expense of nearby villages they have called home, all to achieve their goals.

NPC Reactions: Most, if not all, will react to the Death Disciple as one of the darkest varieties of sorcerer or mage to ever exist, shunning them and hating them, even driving them out, yet in some cases for the weaker villages or if the Death Disciple has progressed greatly, falling subject to them.

Death Disciple Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (Arcana) or Knowledge (Religion) can research Death Disciples to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Death Disciple Lore
DC Result
21 An obscure variety of necromancer, these select few study to become the ultimate masters of death, some even vying to go so far as become a god of death themselves.
26 The stronger they grow, the more absolute their power, and their grasp of unlife. Some have been known to resurrect armies to do their bidding.
31 In truth, they come very close to becoming gods of death themselves, attaining the status and dark rank of Lich themselves.
36 After they have attained the status of a Lich, it is possible to proceed farther in their path. Continued faith and loyalty to death rewards the very few into eventual Demiliches, not to far from being a God of Death. Their magic stems from dark and ancient forces.

Death Disciples in the Game[edit]

This class fits most well as a ranged support in a group with magic as its main tool and undead minions to do all the heavy lifting such as fighting up close. From an NPC perspective the Death Disciple can serve as one of the most challenging if not deadly main antagonist. A difficult class to master or fully complete, but the rewards are well worth it. As a DM, this type of NPC as a main villain is recommended for the slightly more gifted players or people who have just achieved "veteran player" status and beyond.

Adaptation: If undead do not fit your play style well, you can always take the time and convert the abilities and aspects of this class to fit demons, devils, or extra-planar beings. While fairly limiting in its varieties, it works best as an evil type class.

Further, for settings with specific types of magic, this class has its roots deeply set in ancient and primal magic, being the most ancient form of necromancy. This is shown in its relative simplicity, but long time mastery.

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