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 playstyle.

Fighter Subclass

An unbound death knight is often the result of a necromancer trying and failing to reanimate and bind a mortal warrior with an 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 a 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 lose 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 their skin becomes pale white. Their 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 a while 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"

Death Knight Features[edit]

Alternative Feature

When you chose this archetype at 3rd level, you replace your Second Wind by the following one:

  • Share My Fate You gain the ability to inflict damage to creatures equal to the total damage you have taken up until that point. You can distribute this damage equally between two hostile creatures. You must make physical contact with your targets, using your hands, and your hands must be uncovered. The target must make a Constitution saving throw to avoid the damage. 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.

Death's Embrace

At 3rd level, you attain a new state of being as a death knight. You are both living and undead, existing in a state of flux between the two. You gain the following benefits:

  • Reaping Strike All your melee attacks are imbued with necrotic energy, dealing extra necrotic damage. You recover a number of hit points equal to the necrotic damage dealt with your melee attacks, up to your maximum of hit points. The starting size of your necrotic damage die is a d4, becoming a d6 at 7th level, and a d8 at 13th level. You throw a number of necrotic damage dices equal to your level.
  • Life Cicle 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. As a living creature you gain immunity to radiant damage, and resistance to necrotic and poison damage. As an undead, you gain immunity to necrotic and poison damage but gain vulnerability to radiant damage and silvered weapons. You suffer a -5 penalty on any Wisdom (Perception) check that relies on taste, touch and smell. You also don't require air, food, water or sleep. You gain immunity to having your soul or life energy drained, and any creature that tries takes damage equal to the bonus necrotic damage dealt by your "Reaping Strike" feature, ignoring damage resistances. You can't astral project, and if you die, you are treated as having your soul drained. When your hit points drops to 0 you instantly die, don't making any saving throws. You can't recover hit points by other ways, like spells, short rests or magical items. Long rest, however, do heal you, but you only recover half of your maximum hit points.
  • Weakened Rise When you die, you can revive yourself with 1 hit point. After reviving, your movement speed is reduced by 10 feet, for 1d4 rounds or 1d4 hours. Once you use this feature, you can't do it again until you complete a long rest.

Necrotic Overflow

At 3rd level, when your own life force starts to fade away or when something tries to suppress it, a Necrotic Overflow occurs. You gain the following abilities:

  • Overflow Damage: You add one die to your "Reaping Strike" feature for each 10 hit points you lose. In addition, every time you are reduced to less than a fourth of your maximum hit points, you cover a random floor area within 5 foot of you with necrotic energy. The size of the floor area is 5-foot wide. The necrotic energy deals 3d6 necrotic damage to anyone in the area and it lasts for 1d6 + 1 turns. If you have Overflow Damage feature active, you ignore half of any necrotic resistance, and deal half necrotic damage against immune creatures. This doesn't apply to constructs.
  • Necrotic Bleed: If you are caught in an antimagic field, you lose 1 hit point when you enter this area, and 1 additional hit point at the beginning of each turn you continues in this area. In addition, every time you take damage in that area, you cover two random 5 foot wide floor areas within 5 foot of you with necrotic energy. This area deals necrotic damage equal to the double of your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus. If you die inside an {{5e|atimagic field}, your body explodes, dealing double your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus to all creatures within 10 feet of you, and spreading necrotic energy in that area. If you die in that manner, you can't be resurrected, except by a wish spell.

Glyph Spells

At 3rd level, the Death Knight learn how to cast Glyph Spells. 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. The DC of your Glyph Spells is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier.

Materials: You can carve your glyph on a medium made of the following 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:You gain three glyphs at 3rd level, and you learn one additional glyph each time you learn a new Death Knight feature.

  • Necrotic Blast: Starting at 3rd level, you can cast this Glyph Spell. You can blast an opponent with necrotic damage, at a range equal to the double of your movement speed, dealing necrotic damage equal to the current necrotic damage bonus from your Reaping Strike + the material modifier. Per example, at 3rd level, the damage would be 3d4 if you cast this Gyph Spell with stone, 1d4 with paper as material and 5d4 with obsidian as the material.
  • Take The Pain Away: At 7th level, you can cast this Glyph Spell using only stone as the material. You target one ally that has taken damage, and you take damage equal to the difference between their current and their maximum number of hit points. The target regain a number of hit points equal to the damage taken.
  • Attract Death: At 11th level, whenever an opponent takes the attack action, you can expend one of your glyphs and redirect the attack to yourself. If the creature has 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.

Death Breath

At 7th level, you can, as a bonus action, use a breath weapon, forming a line 60 feet long from your position, dealing damage equal to your current Reaping Strike damage bonus.

You have one use of this breath weapon. At higher levels, you gain more uses: two at 14th level and three at 20th level. You regain all of your uses after complete a long rest.


Starting at 10th level, you gain the ability to magically revive yourself with half of your hit points when you die, even if your body is disintegrated. This spell closes all mortal wounds and restores any missing body parts.. Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you complete a long rest.

In addition, When you deal necrotic damage to a creature with the regeneration trait, it must make a Constitution saving throw (DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + Charisma your or have it's regeneration negated.

Unyielding Spirit

Starting at 15th level, your Charisma score increase by 2, to a maximum of 20. You also gain the following features:

Rising Vengeance: When a creature kills you, you can revive yourself to with maximum hit points and make a melee attack against the target, if it is within your movement range, with bonus of +10 to the attack roll. However, if the target is outside your movement, you have the following options:

  • Drop your hit points to 1 and lunge at the target, ignoring distance and terrain. On a successful attack, you deal double your current "Reaping Strike" damage bonus. after the attack you become stunned, regardless of whether you hit or miss, until your next turn.
  • Your give all hostile creatures disadvantage on ranged attacks and spell attacks made against you, until the end of your next turn. If you die by other means (self-inflicted damage, damaged by an ally, terrain hazards, etc.) you gain half your movement speed rounded down to your current movement speed until your next turn. Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you complete long rest.
  • Indomitable Will: You can no longer be charmed or frightened. When a creature casts a spell of 7th level or higher that targets you, the caster must make a Charisma saving throw, subtracting from the number rolled your Charisma modifier, 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 20-foot radius. This feature can be used once. After you use it, you can't do it again until you complete a short rest or long 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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