Death Knight, Variant (5e Subclass)

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Death Knight[edit]

This content deviates from 5e standards; Its use could dramatically alter campaigns, take extreme care. DesignDisclaimer.png
Caution - Here there be monsters!
This content intends to provide a different experience, or goes beyond the scope of the anticipated subjects and situations, than the 5e rules were intended to handle. Some portions of the content below may not be what you expect from traditional game content. When implementing this content, DMs and Players should read over all the information carefully, and consider the following specific notes of interest:
The Unbound Death Knight is a Fighter subclass made for a more reckless play style.

Fighter Subclass

An unbound Death Knight is often the result of a necromancer trying and failing to reanimate and bind a mortal warrior with exceptionally strong will. Or in some rarer instances the result of a secret ritual known only to a very few. These Death Knights aren't bound to another being or to an oath they made, but are free. Those who become Death Knights enter into an unique state of being, they are both living and undead constantly shifting between the two. When they are living, they experience the world like any other living creature. But when they are undead they loose their sense of smell and taste, all colors they see are a bit faded and gray and their bodies become numb, they can sense when, for example they hold something, they only sense that they are holding it, not its texture nor the strength that they are using. When it comes to the baser needs like food, water and sleep as undead they don't need them, but if they stay in their undead form for too long, when they become living again they will suffer from starvation, dehydration and exhaustion. They can't die from old age, but anything else can kill them including neglecting their needs, but this form of immortality has its drawbacks, because most Death Knights slowly go insane as the centuries pile on. As far as appearance goes, when living they have their standard appearance but when undead: The skin becomes pale white. The hair, if it's a lighter color when living, becomes pure white or, if it's a darker color when living, it becomes pitch black. The sclera either becomes bloodshot or pitch black and the iris either becomes a mixture of their current eye color and red or they become heterochromatic with one being red. An interesting part of the existence of a Death Knight is that his word is binding, if a Death Knight gives his word that he will do something, he will do it even if it's the death of him several times over. This includes the chaotic Death Knights but they rarely if ever give their word or they do in such a way as to be able to do it their own way or weasel out of it. They can't be of any neutral alignment. That is because it requires a more polarized alignment to become your own being and not someone else's puppet.

Examples include:

  • Lawful Good: These are most often people with an unwavering conviction for justice, believing that it's their duty to uphold what is right alive or dead. There are those, however, that resent their fate seeing it as a curse from the Gods. These people are often those that led a good life following the law in hopes of a nice afterlife. They are often antisocial and keep to themselves, but will act when innocent people are threatened. Their resentment can grow into hatred and they can become lawful evil.
    • "Alive or dead it's my duty to do what is right"
    • "What did I do, that the Gods have punished me. Maybe if I do enough good this curse will be lifted"
  • Lawful Evil: These Death Knights often lose their memories and become an instrument of death with one goal - to kill all that is living. They are pragmatic and don't take any joy in people's suffering, if they have a choice between killing someone or causing them suffering 10/10 times they will choose to kill.
    • "I don't care what you say, you are alive, and it is my duty to kill all that lives"
    • "The Gods have cursed and forsaken me, now all will know death"
  • Chaotic Good: Most often people with an insatiable lust for life. They are very sociable and altruistic caring little for themselves and material possessions. But they are often prideful and reckless, charging ahead without thinking and having a hard time asking for help. Their main objective is to make people happy, to forget their worries and live to the fullest even if it's for one day. They indulge in carnal pleasures, overindulgence can lead to them becoming chaotic evil.
    • "Who cares what happens to me, I certainly don't!"
    • "Live life to its fullest my friend, for I have seen and know what is death"
  • Chaotic Evil: Driven by a fierce desire to experience any and all carnal pleasures, the more taboo the better. They also care very little for material possessions, not because they are altruistic but because they can't bring them any carnal pleasures. A chaotic evil Death Knight might throw a large bag of gold to beggars in order to incite a riot. They revel in causing suffering and watching as hope drains from the eyes of their victims. Most of them claim that when a Death Knight is closest to death that is when they get a rush like no other, so some of them constantly chase it fighting and killing anything that moves.
    • "It's been awhile since I was stabbed through the heart. AHHH, WHAT A RUSH!"
    • "You want to know why I tortured them, why I killed them, why I desecrated their corpses? Simple, it felt good! Just like it's gonna feel good when I bathe in your blood"

Necrotic Overflow

Necrotic Overflow occurs when your own life force starts to fade away or when something tries to suppress it. You gain the following abilities:

  • Overflow Damage: For every 10 points of HP you have lost add 1 additional dice to your "Reaping Strike" ability. At max HP you don't gain this bonus. If your HP is below 25% then 1 random adjacent tile gets covered in necrotic energy dealing 3d6 necrotic damage, it remains 1d6 + 1 turns, this occurs every turn you are below 25% HP. If you have "Overflow Damage" active you ignore 50% of your target's necrotic resistance/immunity, this doesn't apply to constructs.
  • Death Breath: A breath weapon whit a reach of 60 feet. in a straight line, dealing damage equal to your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus. It can be used as a bonus action. At level 7 it can be used once before needing to complete a long rest, at level 14 twice before needing to complete a long rest and at level 20 three times before needing to complete a long rest. This ability is unaffected by anti-magic fields.
  • Necrotic Bleed: If you are caught in an anti-magic field you start to take 1 damage per round and every round two adjacent tiles to you or to ones covered with necrotic energy get covered in a thick necrotic fog dealing double your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus. If you die inside an anti-magic field you can't be resurrected except by a wish spell. If you die in an anti magic field you explode in a 4x4 area dealing double your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus, as well as spreading necrotic energy to adjacent tiles.

Death's Embrace

At level 3 you can choose the path of a Death Knight. You attain a new state of being, you are both living and undead, existing in a state of flux between the two. As a living creature you gain immunity to holy spells, you gain 50% resistance to necrotic and poison damage. As an undead you gain immunity to necrotic and poison damage but take x2 damage from radiant damage, holy spells and silver weapons, you suffer a -5 on any Perception check that relies on taste, touch and smell, you also don't require air, food, water or sleep. To determine whether you are living or undead for a certain interaction or effect, roll a d6: On a roll of 1 or 6 you are treated as living and on a roll of 2, 3, 4 or 5 you are treated as undead. You gain immunity to having your soul/life energy drained, any creature that tries, takes your "Reaping Strike" necrotic damage bonus as damage, ignoring damage resistances. You can't astral project and if you die, you are treated as having your soul drained. When your HP drops to 0 you die, you don't make any saving throws. Your "Second Wind" ability is replaced by "Share My Fate". You gain "Reaping Strike" and "Weakened Rise" ability as well as the ability to cast "Glyph Spells".

  • Reaping Strike All your melee attacks are imbued with necrotic energy, dealing even greater damage to your opponents. You also regain HP equal to the necrotic damage you deal with your melee attacks, it can't exceed your max HP. You can't regain HP by other ways; healing spells, potions or other magics. Long rests however do heal you, but only at half the normal rate. For every level you have, you gain +1 dice of necrotic damage. You start with a d4, at level 7 you're dice become d6, and at level 13 d8. This ability doesn't apply to constructs. e.g. If you're at level 4 you get a 4d4 necrotic damage bonus to melee attacks. at level 1 - 1d4, lv8 - 8d6, at level 11 - 11d6, at level 15 - 15d8 etc.
  • Share My Fate You gain the ability to inflict damage to one opponent equal to the total damage you have taken up until that point, including being resurrected and healed, or half that damage, distributed equally, to two opponents. You must make physical contact with the target(s) with your hand(s), the hand(s) you are using must not be covered by anything, the target makes a Constitution saving throw. After it is used or you have taken a short or long rest the damage resets to 0. You can use this ability once before needing to rest, you regain it after a short or long rest. e.g. If you've taken 10 points of damage total you can either inflict 10 points of damage to a single opponent or 5 damage each to two opponents. If you have taken a total of 500 damage, you can deal it as damage to your opponent, but if they make their saving throw, your ability still gets reset.
  • Weakened Rise Once per day if you die, regardless of how or the state of your corpse, you can revive yourself with 1 HP. Your movement speed is temporarily reduced by 10 feet (1d4 rounds or 1d4 hours).

Glyph Spells

As a Death Knight you can only cast "Glyph Spells", they use your Charisma stat for casting. Glyph Spells require a physical medium to be cast and depending on the material of the medium they either get a bonus or a penalty. To craft a spell glyph you need to paint, carve or chisel the glyph you want to cast onto the medium you are using. The medium is consumed after casting.

  • Materials: Paper -2 level, wood -1 level, stone +-0, iron, steel, gold or any other common metal +1 level, obsidian and rare metals +2 level, and bones from a powerful magic creature (unicorns, liches, dragons etc.) +3 level.
  • Number of glyphs: At level 3 you get 3 glyphs and you gain 1 additional glyph for every martial archetype feature in "Death Knight".
  • Necrotic Blast: Starting at level 3 you can cast this spell. At a range of double your movement speed blast an opponent with necrotic damage equal to the current necrotic damage bonus from "Reaping Strike" + the material modifier. e.g. At level 3 you cast the spell with stone as the material the damage would be 3d4, if the material is paper 1d4 and if the material is obsidian 5d4.
  • Take The Pain Away: At level 7 you can cast this spell using only stone as the material. You target one ally that has taken damage, you take damage equal to the difference between their current HP and their max HP and they gain HP equal to the damage you took. This spell can kill the caster.
  • Attract Death: At level 11 whenever an opponent makes an attack: melee, ranged or magic you can expend one of your glyphs and redirect the attack to yourself, if it is cast on a creature with multiple attacks you become the target of all of them. The material determines whether you take more damage or less. Paper - take double damage, wood - stunned for a round, common metals - get a retaliation attack, obsidian and rare metals - stun the opponent for a round and magic bones - take half damage.


Starting at level 10 you gain the ability "Rise" allowing you to revive yourself to half HP when you die, even if your body is disintegrated, dismembered or turned into goo, your body reconstitutes itself , the only exception being dying in an anti-magic field. This ability can be used once before needing to complete a long rest. You also gain the ability:

  • Necrotic Rot: When you deal necrotic damage to a creature with regeneration, it must make a Constitution saving throw or have it's regeneration negated.

Unyielding Spirit

Starting at level 15 you gain +2 to Charisma, max 20. You also gain the following abilities:

  • Rising Vengeance: When an enemy kills you, you can revive yourself to full HP and make a melee attack against the target if it is within your movement range gaining a +10 to hit. If however the target is outside your movement range you can do one of two things 1) drop your HP to 1 and lunge at the target ignoring distance and terrain, if you hit, you deal double your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus, you are stunned, regardless of whether you hit or miss, until your next turn and enemies get advantage on attacks against you. 2) your enemies gain disadvantage on all ranged and spell attacks made against you, until your next turn. If you die by other means - self inflicted, damaged by an ally, terrain hazards etc. you gain half your movement speed rounded down to your current movement speed until your next turn. You can use this ability once before needing to complete a long rest.
  • Indominable Will: You can no longer be charmed, frightened or mind controlled. When a creature casts a level 7 or higher spell that targets you, the caster must make a Charisma saving throw, with a minus of your current Charisma bonus, or the spell will fail and the caster will be stunned for 1 round.
  • Necrotic Infusion: Spend one action to gain the effects of "Necrotic Bleed" without the permanent death, and the range of your death explosion increases to 6x6. This ability can be used once before needing to complete a short rest.


At level 18 you unlock the true power of a Death Knight gaining two powerful abilities:

  • Death's Gift: If your AC is less than 16, you add half of your maximum HP, rounded down, to your maximum HP, and use that as your new HP. You also gain the ability to force yourself to be treated as living for a certain ability once per day, you lose this bonus if your AC becomes 16 or higher. If your AC is greater than, or equal to 16, you gain 5 additional glyphs, and when you kill an enemy with a ranged necrotic attack, reanimate it as an equivalent undead under your control for 2d6 + 2 rounds. You also gain the ability to force yourself to be treated as undead for a certain ability once per day, you lose this ability if your AC falls below 16.
  • Deathbringer: A powerful chain attack ability with effects based on your current form - living or undead. You gain these effects regardless of your state: critical hits instantly kill the target, for every target killed you gain one action that can only be used to move and attack, if you make more than two attacks on the same target the chain ends, if you use a bonus action except "Death Breath" the chain ends, if you cast a glyph the chain ends and if you miss the chain ends, the chain doesn't end if you die and resurrect yourself. On a roll of 1 you can make both you and your target take double your current attacks max damage. When the chain ends you become incapacitated for 1d6 + 1 rounds. If "Necrotic Infusion" hasn't been activated, automatically activate it, without spending an action. If you're undead - you also deal criticals on a roll of 19 and the range of your death explosion increases to 8x8. If you are living you also score critical on a roll of 16, 17, 18 and 19, but you take damage equal to the necrotic damage you inflicted to your target, apply the self damage after "Reaping Strike's" healing effect, on a critical strike you take your full current necrotic damage bonus as damage, this effect can kill you. Also apply your necrotic resistance on damage taken.

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