Death Knight (3.5e Class)
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|“||Life is nothing but a futile spark, struggling against the darkness but ultimately doomed to failure. I represent the darkness that lies at the end of all. So how can you expect to stop me?||”|
|—Baron Lightstalker, devourer of the 13th Soul|
A grim and silent order of knights, Death Knights are conduits of the negative energy plane. Having sworn their lives in the pursuit of death and undead, they wander the lands looking for chances to increase the power of death and the dead. Death Knights are a rare sight, as not many have the devotion and are not attuned enough to the negative energy plane to become death Knights. The first living Death Knight was made in a pact between a powerful lich and a bitter ex-paladin. The ex-paladin swore his life to death and the undead and in return received profane powers from the lich. Death Knights can be found wandering the land solitary or leading a pack of undead. They could be found working as a lieutenant of a powerful lich or necromancer, or even as a warlord intent on conquering. All Death Knights follow the code made by the first Death Knight, and some even add to it. They hold honor in great reverence, saying a man without honor is not worthy to live, and shun those who break agreements. Some embrace undeath and become ghouls, death knights, wights, vampires or swordwraiths.
Making a Death Knight
Death Knights are, depending on their Code, are very humble to the likes of the dead and/or undead and are generally found within the tombs of such beings. Many believe that Death Knights even get stronger after death.
Races: The races most attracted to being Death Knights are humans. With their short lifespan they wonder what lies after death and death knight gives them the ability to be death. Elves and half-elves are also suited to being Death Knights since they are very adept at using blade and magic in battle. Dwarven and Orcish Death Knights are also not unknown, though they are unusual. Orcs generally lack the discipline to become Death Knights and Dwarven Death Knights are shunned by their clan. Halflings and gnomes rarely, if ever become Death Knights. Male drow occasionally become Death Knights, as even female drow have to show some small respect for these dark warriors. Shadar-kai also have a number of deathknights among their ranks, who typically focus entirely on ridding their race of the shadow curse.
Mercenaries devoted strongly enough to a life of war that they carry on in death their endless campaign of destruction may find this class attractive. A Death Knight slain in battle may return as a Sword Wraith if his services were hired under false pretenses or if his exploits were particularly impressive before his life finally ended (at the discretion of the DM).
|“||Evil Bastards them Death Knights. Honorable yes, but evil.||”|
|—Thander Bladepoint, wandering knight|
Alignment: Any non-good
Starting Gold: 6d4 x 10gp (150gp)
|1st||+1||+2||+0||+2||Profanities (1), Speak with Undead,netherblast 1d8,wraithshift||1|
|5th||+5||+4||+1||+4||Netherblast 2d8, Profanities (2), Shadowmeld 1/day, Death thralls||5|
|6th||+6/+1||+5||+2||+5||Blessing of Death,Bonus Feat||6|
|10th||+10/+5||+7||+3||+7||Profanities (3), Shadowmeld 2/day||10|
|15th||+15/+10/+5||+9||+5||+9||Profanities (4), Shadowmeld 3/day||15|
|20th||+20/+15/+10/+5||+12||+6||+12||Netherblast 7d8, Revenant, Profanities (5), Shadowmeld 4/day||20|
Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level; ×4 at 1st level)
All of the following are class features of the Death Knight:
Death Knights are undead
Weapon and Armor proficiencies: A Death Knight is proficient with simple and martial weapons and with light, medium and heavy armor.
Restrictions: You must always follow the code of death knights. If you violate any of these, you lose all special abilities of the class, and you can only attain forgiveness and thus restore your powers by performing a task in repentance. Otherwise you may regain them via an Atonement spell cast by a cleric with the Death or Repose domain.
Profanities (Sp): At Level 1 you learn how to project a single Profane Aura. At level 5, 10, 15 and 20, you can activate an additionnal aura. You start knowing two aura from the table below, and learn one additional aura for each level that you gain. These profanities are continuous and can be switched on or off as a standard action.
You gain a Profanity score, starting at 1, which increases by +1 at every level/death knight lvl. The profanity score affects how powerful the aura's effect is. Profanities effect a 100 ft. circle around yourself, unless stated otherwise.
|Unholy vigor||You gain a sense of power and your body almost moves by itself, The power of negative energy strengthens you.||You and your allies gain a profane bonus to attack rolls equal to your Profanities score|
|Soulflay||A faint purple haze hangs around you, the bane of all living. All living things suffer as the negative energy plane is brought closer this world.||Everyone (including allies and yourself) receive negative energy damage equal to 10% of their maximum health every round at the start of your turn. Allied Undead creatures instead heal that many hit points per round (though they can’t exceed their full normal hit point total from this effect).|
|Gravemist||The area around you is covered in a dark blue mist. The air also becomes colder, the chill of death strengthens the dead.||Allied Undead receive Turn Resistance equal to your Profanities score (x2), except against your own Rebuke attempts.|
|Terrorize||The air around you grows darker, your eyes become glowing red and screaming ghosts wisp around you.||Enemies within the area of your Profanity aura must make a will save (DC=10+Death Knight level+Charisma modifier.) or become shaken, receiving a penalty to their attack rolls equal to your Profanity score. Those who resist the first will save are immune to the effects of Terrorize for the rest of the day. Opponents immune to fear effects are also not subject to this ability.|
|Death Armor||The air grows colder. Your armor starts to give off a faint black light and the earth where you stand becomes barren of life; The Death Armor has come.||Enemies within the aura are dealt 2 points of negative energy damage per point of your Profanities score when they deal damage to you or your allies.|
|Deathwind||The air is in turmoil, the wind beats against your enemies, who are pushed out of balance. You and your allies are unaffected by the raging of the wind.||You and all allies within your aura gain damage reduction 3+1/- per point of your Profanities score|
|Etherfloat||You are carried aloft by an ethereal wind that only seems to affect you.||You float 2 inch per Profanities score above the ground. If there is no ground within that distance you fall slowly as per Feather Fall spell.|
|Soulreaver||Your blows not only cut into flesh and bone but also into your enemies' very soul.||You and your allies gain a bonus to weapon damage rolls equal to your Profanities score. This damage is negative energy damage (+1 per profanity). You and your allies must actually damage your opponent before this bonus is applied.|
Speak With Undead (Su): At 1st level, you gain the ability to speak with the undead, if they are capable of speech. This allows you to converse with the soul animating the body itself.
Netherblast (Su): Once every round, you can project negative energy damage with your hand or your blade.
When activated through your hand, as a standard action, it manifests in a 25-feet cone. Enemies are allowed a Reflex save (DC 10 + your level + your cha score) for half damage.
When used through your blade, as a swift action, the weapon lights up with unholy energy, which is unleashed on the next target you hit. The attack must be made within the same turn.
|“||Your hands glow with the unnatural color of coldfire, you channel this through your blade and release a burst of darkness that seems to eat at the essence of your enemies.||”|
|“||As you lift off unto the air you grow wings of shadowy darkness around you that carry you aloft into the air.||”|
Deathshroud (Su): You are protected from attacks by a host of screaming souls which add your profanity bonus to your AC. This bonus starts at 3rd level.
|“||Icy blue flames surround you, and when you look closely you see faces distorted with agony in the flames. The flames seem to protect you from attacks.||”|
Rebuke Undead (Su): At 4th level, you gain power over undead. You can Rebuke undead as an evil cleric of your level -3.
Shadow Meld (Su): A Death Knight can travel from one shadow to another. Using this ability is a standard action and the range one Death Knight can travel from one shadow to another within 120 feet. A Death Knight can take targets with him through the shadow, along the journey, the target cannot leave the Death Knight's side and is considered helpless unless he/she has reemerged on the other side. Likewise, the Death Knight can not do anything to the target unless they are on the other side.
Death Thralls (Sp): You can Reanimate monsters, players, or npcs with your dark energies. They are completely under your control.
|“||As you slay the enemy, you force its soul from your blade back in its body, reanimating the corpse to serve you as a thrall.||”|
Detect Undead (Sp): At 6th level, you gain the power to detect undead at will, as the spell.
Blessing of Death (Sp): This ability is the same as Netherblast with the following differences. You recover damage equal to the amount of damage dealt by your Netherblast.
|“||Your hands glow with an eerie green glow as you hold it up, it seems to draw in the life energies of those around you, rejuvenating your inner reserves of strength.||”|
Bonus Feat: At 9th level, you gain a bonus feat chosen from the following list: Animal Affinity, Diehard, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Quick Draw, Ride-By Attack, Spirited Charge, Trample, or Weapon Focus (lance). You must still meet any prerequisites for the feat. You gain an additional bonus feat from this list at 12th level, at 16th level, and again at 18th level.
Honorbound: If you die while trying to uphold an oath, agreement or contract and thus making you unable to uphold your agreement, you rise as a Sword Wraith (gaining the template) instantly after being slain. This is permanent, and you can only be brought back to life through a Wish or Miracle.
|“||The bandit lord smirked when he saw the warrior go down.
The princess is ours lads, she'll fetch a high price on the slave market but he faltered in his sentence when he heard a bone-chilling voice Not while I still wield my sword!.
The bandit watched in horror as the knight rose again, grasping his blade, ready to strike down those who opposed him."
Revenant (Su): Once per day, when you are reduced to below -10 hitpoints you can force your soul to keep powering your body, Activating this ability is an immediate action. You can stay active for a number of rounds equal to your charisma bonus(Minimum 1), once this time period ends the effects of your damage continue normally, E.G: If you are still below -10 hp and you had been hit with a disintegrate spell you revert to a pile of ashes.
|“||As you are hit by an attack that should have killed you, you fight on draining your inner reserves of strength to fight on.||”|
Death Knight Code
- The Lawful Doctrine
- The First Allegiance is to Death, not Life. The Death Knight is expected to protect sites where the dead are laid to rest. They must ensure that all slain allies and enemies receive proper rites for their passage to the afterlife. Furthermore, only death itself decides when to take a life, and it is not for mortals to question this decision. Magic that brings the dead back to life is forbidden, and the Death Knight may neither use it himself nor accept the use of it for himself. Only direct divine intervention can bring a Death Knight back to life (Wish or Miracle spell). Only divine mandate should dictate if the Death Knight should live past his/her due time.
- The Second Allegiance is to revere Death, not Undeath. The Undead try to cheat the natural cycle of life, and the Death Knight must use every available means to stop them and restore natural order.
- The Third Allegiance is to Honor for all of Eternity. The third allegiance demands that a Death Knight be honorable. In this, his word is his bond, once sworn he shall uphold it so long as his trust is not broken, even against his convenience. His word is to stand until his own death. Death Knights are expected to repay kindness with kindness and slights with retribution.
- The Neutral Doctrine
- The First Allegiance is to Death, not Life. The Death Knight is expected to treat the spirits of the dead with respect above all else. The actions of the vessel that once held the soul are irrelevant once it has quit the body. Once the soul has left its body, it is expected that the Death Knight be respectful and commend their souls for the afterlife regardless of personal vendetta or mood. Refusal to honor the spirit, or to use magic that traps or otherwise damages the soul to any degree is a slight against Death.
- The Second Allegiance is to Undeath, and its meaning. True undead are the souls returned to their bodies after their natural death. They are sacred by all means, as long as they are willingly bound to their body. Those who force the soul into a body by magic such as Necromancers, are unforgivable wretches. Those who prolong their life to magic such as Liches are also wicked beings, for their soul never returned to the body. Only creatures such as a ghost, walking skeleton, vampire, or zombie, are held in sanctity by the will of Death.
- The Third Allegiance is to Honor, for you are the talon of Death. The Third Allegiance demands that the Death Knight be true to his duty, and stand vigil against those who would profane its meaning. The Death Knight shall adhere to a promise made, even against their convenience. Thus, a promise must be one of importance and trust. Only if the Death Knight's trust is broken is he free of a bond made. Should their soul return to the world after death, whatever promises they are bound to stand eternal.
- The Chaotic Doctrine
- The First Allegiance is to Death, not Life. The First Allegiance demands that the Death Knight show no mercy in combat. He strikes to kill, always. The First Allegiance also demands that the Death Knight take no special care to stave off the death of others. A fallen comrade is considered weak, thus useless to the group and party. Death Knights often will make a point of murdering those who they've "only" incapacitated, though this is not always a rule.
- The Second Allegiance is to Undeath, and its glory. The second allegiance demands that a Death Knight further the cause of undeath. If the undead are rampaging, he is to take command and quell them. The Death Knight is not to oppose the undead without due reason (i.e. the undead being itself is opposing death and undeath, cheating, or otherwise harming the nature of death and undeath).
- The Third Allegiance is to Honor, as it lasts for all of Eternity. The third allegiance demands that a Death Knight be honorable. In this, his word is his bond, once sworn he shall uphold it indefinitely unless his trust is broken. After all, the undead live forever. for this reason, an additional ramification is that many Death Knights contract themselves to limited duration. They are aware of the possibility of rising as undead themselves and being still sworn to their bond. Death Knights also are very keen to exact vengeance for slights against them, or return favors for previous kindnesses. Honor demands it.
If you break an oath, agreement or contract, or grossly violate the Death Knight's code you lose your class abilities, and you may not progress any farther in levels as a Death Knight until you perform a task in repentance for your actions, or an Atonement spell is cast on you.
Epic Death Knights
4+ Int modifier skill points per level.
Bonus Feats: The epic Death Knight gains a bonus feat every odd level after 20th.
Death Knight Starting Package
Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.
Bonus Feats: .
Playing a Death Knight
Religion Death Knights may follow almost any deity they desire but many stay without a religion, with many others choosing to follow the paths of Death itself.
Death Knights and other classes: A Death Knight works best with more lawful classes and those that share his outlook. A Death Knight can get along well with knights, monks, and even paladins in the short term, as long as the Death Knight can somehow conceal his alignment. They respect fighters and barbarians for their power and combat prowess. Death Knights can work with druids, but only those who do not see undead as abominations. Death Knights find bards and some rogues to be lacking in honor, and dislike working with them. Favored companions are also clerics and dread necromancers who share the Death Knight's outlook on things. Wizards and sorcerers who specialize in necromancy find the combat prowess and undead-related abilities of this class helpful.
Combat Death Knights and their ways lead them into the front of most fights, being tanks that do not fear death.
Advancement Many Death Knights may also take the class of fighter for the bonus feats that they are allowed.
Death Knights in the World
Death Knights in their being are generally outsiders, shunned by society for their ways and beliefs. Many Death Knights though look as of normal people and may walk among them in disguise. Death Knights honor though leads them to being hired by people of wealth as long as it does not interfere with their Code.
NPC Reactions Many normal NPCs will not notice a death knight unless he were to use his abilities in front of them, in which case will begin to shun the knight and try and drive him away.
Death Knight Lore
Characters with ranks in can research to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.
Death Knights in the Game
Sample Encounter: .
EL : .