Death Knight (3.5e Class)
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A knight dedicated to gods of death, either opposing... or supporting... the forces of undeath. 20 0 Good Good Poor Good Prepared Divine Spellcasting Minor
Not all paladins are shining heroes in silver armor. Some follow gods of death and the afterlife, a job which, while creepy, is not always associated with evil. They can be the lawful good destroyers and purgers of unlife, the uncaring true neutral avatars of death, or mad slaughterers who revel in carnage and raise the dead.
Making a Death Knight
Abilities: As a melee class, Strength and Constitution are very important. Dexterity is usually supplemented by heavy armor. For spellcasting, Charisma provides what they need, while Intelligence is good for skills and Wisdom for saving throws.
Starting Gold: 5d4×10 gp (125 gp).
|Saving Throws||Special||Spells per Day|
|1st||+1||+2||+0||+2||Detect Undead, Oath, Turn/Rebuke Undead||1||—||—||—|
|2nd||+2||+3||+0||+3||Divine Grace, Lay on Hands||2||—||—||—|
|3rd||+3||+3||+1||+3||Half-Dead 1 (disease, fatigue)||3||—||—||—|
|4th||+4||+4||+1||+4||Ghost Shroud +1, Phantom Steed||4||—||—||—|
|5th||+5||+4||+1||+4||Darkvision 60 ft||4||1||—||—|
|6th||+6||+5||+2||+5||Half-Dead 2 (fortification 25%)||5||2||—||—|
|7th||+7||+5||+2||+5||Among the Dead||5||3||—||—|
|8th||+8||+6||+2||+6||Ghost Shroud +2||5||4||—||—|
|9th||+9||+6||+3||+6||Half-Dead 3 (exhaustion, poison)||5||4||1||—|
|12th||+12||+8||+4||+8||Ghost Shroud +3, Half-Dead 4 (fortification 75%)||6||5||4||—|
|14th||+14||+9||+4||+9||Leader of the Dead||6||6||5||2|
|15th||+15||+9||+5||+9||Half-Dead 5 (death, energy drain)||6||6||5||3|
|16th||+16||+10||+5||+10||Ghost Shroud +4||6||6||5||4|
|18th||+18||+11||+6||+11||Half-Dead 6 (fortification 100%)||6||6||6||5|
|20th||+20||+12||+6||+12||Ghost Shroud +5, Undying Legend||6||6||6||5|
Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
All of the following are class features of the Death Knight.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The death knight is proficient in all simple and martial weapons, all armor (light, medium, and heavy), and shields (but not tower shields).
Spells: A death knight gains the ability to cast a number of divine spells, which are drawn from the death knight spell list. A death knight must choose and prepare her spells in advance.
To prepare or cast a spell, a death knight must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a death knight’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the death knight’s Charisma modifier.
Like other spellcasters, a death knight can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: The Death Knight. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Charisma score. The death knight does not have access to any domain spells or granted powers, as a cleric does.
A death knight prepares and casts spells the way a cleric does, though she cannot lose a prepared spell to spontaneously cast a cure spell in its place. A death knight may prepare and cast any spell on the death knight spell list, provided that she can cast spells of that level, but she must choose which spells to prepare during her daily meditation.
1st—backbiterSpC, bane, bone spurs, cause fear, chill touch, corpse puppet, creeping darkness, darkness, death's door, deathwatch, disrupt undead, disturbing visage, doom, dust to dust, erzebet's skull bomb, inflict light wounds, leather seed, lesser animate dead, paranoia haunt, ray of enfeeblement, summon undead ISpC, unseen servant
2nd—animate dead, aura of doom, blight, Blindness/Deafness, blink, command undead, contagion, crushing despair, death ward, deeper darknesss, desecrate, false life, gaseous form, gentle repose, inflict moderate wounds, mage's faithful hound, purify damage, ray of dark sacrifice, ray of exhaustion, scare, speak with dead, spectral hand, spider climb, summon undead IISpC, vampiric touch, vile strike, voodoo doll, withering glare
3rd—bestow curse, bone shape, curse of misfortune, enervation, eyebite, fear, gravehorde, greater dispel magic, inflict serious wounds, magic jar, phantasmal killer, refit limb, remove curse, skeleton self, summon undead IIISpC, vampiric protection, waves of fatigue
4th—antilife shell, degenerate, curse object, freeze mind, inflict critical wounds, inner darkness, lich's touch, soulbinding sword, summon undead IVSpC, symbol of fear, unlucky backlash, vampire skin, waves of exhaustion
Oath: When a death knight first begins taking levels in this class, they must decide which kind of death knight they are: a champion of undeath, a smiter of undead, or perhaps just one who delves deep into the art of necromancy and divination. None of these categories are restricted to a specific alignment, but generally those which purge the undead are good aligned while those who join them are not. You create an oath, not unlike a paladin's code, generally detailing your requirements to promote, destroy, or understand the undead and you gain several abilities as a result. Choose from the selection below.
Lord of Undeath: You exalt the concepts of undeath, and seek immortality. Add the following spells to your spells known list: 1st-curse water, death knell; 2nd-black sandSpC, corpse bomb, ; 3rd-absorb undead, create undead; 4th-circle of death, create greater undead. You also gain a skeleton minion, or if you gain this class feature again your effective level increases by +3.
Purge the Undead: You exist to return the undead back to their eternal rest. Add the following spells to your spells known list: 1st-bless water, hide from undead; 2nd-bury the dead, greater disrupt undeadSpC; 3rd-chain solar bolt, halt undead; 4th-mass death wardSpC, undeath to death. You also gain Favored Enemy (Undead) as a ranger of your level.
Spirit Medium: Your connection to the dead increases your magical potential and divines information from the dead. Add the following spells to your spells known list: 1st-augury, kiden's harassing spirit, mass inflict light wounds, possessed hand; 2nd-divination, helping hand, mass inflict moderate wounds; 3rd-commune, soul contract, mass inflict serious wounds; 4th-harm, mass inflict critical wounds, spectral vanish. You also gain Dynamic Potential as a bonus feat, and gain spell slots for spells obtained through having a high ability score, up to a maximum spell level of ½ your class level (maximum 9th). You do not have any spells higher than 4th, but you may fill these with either extra spells or metamagic augmented spells. You may not fill them with higher level spells from your spells known until you have actual spell slots.
Turn/Rebuke Undead (Su): The death knight can either choose to turn undead, or rebuke undead. This is unrelated to their alignment, though most good aligned death knights turn undead and evil death knights rebuke them. You turn or rebuke like a cleric of your level.
Lay on Hands (Su): The 2nd level death knight gains the lay on hands ability of a paladin of their level if they chose to turn undead earlier. If the death knight chose to rebuke undead, they instead deal negative energy with their lay on hands, which harms living creatures and heals undead ones.
Half-Dead (Ex): At 3rd level, the death knight begins to acquire undead-like traits. They become immune to disease and fatigue. At 6th level, they gain 25% fortification. At 9th level, they become immune to exhaustion and poison. At 12th level, their fortification rises to 75%. At 15th level, they become immune to death effects and energy drain. And lastly, at 18th level, they obtain 100% fortification.
Ghost Shroud (Su): A 4th-level death knight begins to be coated in a wispy outline of skeletal armor or wraith-like smoke. It grants them a +1 deflection bonus to AC, and all of their weapons, armor, and shields are considered ghost touch. At 8th and every four levels beyond, the deflection bonus granted by this ability rises by 1.
Phantom Steed (Sp): At 4th level, a death knight gains the services of a ghostly mount sized for them, equal to that of a phantom steed spell. The mount may be summoned or dismissed at will, but always shares the same hit points and status it had upon leaving. If it is destroyed, it cannot be resummoned for 24 hours and the death knight suffers a −2 penalty on attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws for the duration. Unlike the normal phantom steed spell, this horse gains a deflection bonus equal to ½ your class levels, and hit points equal to half your normal total. It can also be healed with both positive and negative energy.
Darkvision (Ex): The 5th level death knight gains darkvision 60 ft, or increases their pre-existing darkvision by +60 ft.
Among the Dead (Ex): A 7th-level death knight registers as undead to other undead and to detect undead spells, when beneficial. This means mindless uncontrolled undead will not naturally attack the death knight. Undead commanded to attack will still do so, and intelligent undead will be puzzled why you seem undead if you are living.
Death's Door (Sp): As a spell-like ability 1/day, the 10th-level death knight can open up a portal to a Death's Door magical location over the course of 10 minutes. The gateway remains open while she and her allies spend time in the location and no terrain seems to exist beyond the graveyard itself. Regardless if the death knight is visiting the Death's Door via spell-like or by physically arriving there, she receives a 50% discount on all monetary offerings and the cooldown time is reduced to 1 day (and 1 week before an individual can be raised again). In addition, the death knight can skip the challenge of the psychopomp in question by offering 5000 gp for a raise dead, 10000 gp for a resurrection, and 25000 gp for a true resurrection. The effect ends when the death knight walks back through the gate, the challenge ends, or creatures attempt to rest inside of the magical location. On completion, all creatures are shunted back to their original positions.
Eternal Life (Ex): A 11th level death knight is freed of mortal concerns like aging. They become biologically immortal, and no longer receive penalties or benefits from aging. Pre-existing benefits and penalties remain. If the death knight is slain, it only costs half as much as normal to raise or resurrect her.
Ghostly Presence (Sp): Once per day, the 13th-level death knight can cast ethereal jaunt as a spell-like ability. In addition, if the death knight dies, they may spawn as a ghostly shade 1d4 rounds later. This shade, while obviously phantasmal, appears and behaves as they have in life and is capable of movement and speech. It cannot interact nor can it be interacted with, being little more than a major image that can only travel up to 1 mile away from their body (or their place of death if lacking a body). Antimagic fields cause the image to blink out, and dispel magic causes it to vanish for 1d4 rounds. Casting consecrate on the body or place of death destroys the image for good, or until the death knight is raised and slain again.
Leader of the Dead (Ex): The 14th level death knight gains followers as if they had the Leadership feat (but no cohort). All of the followers are undead, with Intelligence 10 if they otherwise would be mindless. For those who have taken an oath to purge the undead, they are instead normal living followers.
Revenant (Su): If a 17th level death knight falls in battle, they may rise 1 round later. They gain the Undead type, but do not change their BAB, saves, skill points, or HD. Their hit points becomes 12 hp/level. They are compelled to continue to defeat the creature or effect which killed them for up to 1 round/level. When the killer is slain, or when the duration ends, they once again collapse dead. This can occur 1/day as a non-action.
Undying Legend: At 20th level, the death knight ascends to a state of half-death, half-living. They may count as a member of their original type or Undead, whichever is beneficial. They heal from both positive and negative energy. If they are undead, they cannot be turned or rebuked. And lastly, they gain regeneration 10 (even if this would be impossible, such as being undead) which is bypassed by positive energy, negative energy, force effects, and ghost touch weapons. If you are undead, you accrue nonlethal damage from your regeneration as normal, bypassing your usual immunities.
Death knights who grossly violate their oaths lose all death knight spells and abilities (including the use of Divine Bond, but not weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies). She may not progress any farther in levels as a death knight. She regains her abilities and advancement potential if she atones for her violations (see the atonement spell description), as appropriate.
Elf Death Knight Starting Package
Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.
Feat: Power Attack.
Gear: Chain Shirt.
Gold: 7 gp.
Playing a Death Knight
Religion: You worship a god of death most likely. But is it a kindly spirit who provides comfort in the afterlife, or a hungry killer who greedily absorbs souls?
Other Classes: You're pretty spooky, but if you can convince them that you aren't actually a dedicated necromancer, they might just see you as a very weird paladin of a very spooky deity.
Combat: You're a melee who wields necromancy, a gish in a can. Charge in with necromantic buffs and turn your enemies into unwitting allies.
Advancement: As this class has a few paladin-like features, paladin-friendly classes may fit the bill. If the necromancy doesn't clash, that is.
Death Knights in the World
|“||Let me tell you the time I saved the orphans with my undead legion.||”|
|—Lord Von Skullcrush, Tibbit Death Knight, Tales from the Crypt|
Daily Life: Maybe it's the skulls and spikes and black armor, but for some reason, people don't seem to like you. If you take it off, you might lead a normal, if spooky, life.
Organizations: While paladins of death gods do gather, their presence is usually shunned and such gatherings are often done in secret.
NPC Reactions: NOPE.
Death Knight Lore
Characters with ranks in 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.
|10||Death knights are a sort of necromancy-flavored paladin for gods of death and undeath. They could be purging undead heroes, or skeleton-leading fiends.|
|15||Death knights begin to take up traits of the dead they work with, and ride phantom horses to their magical graveyards where they commune with death itself.|
|20||Powerful death knights might keep fighting even after they have died, and linger on as spirits one can communicate with.|
|30||Those that reach this level of success can research specific death knights, their locations, motives, oaths, and other details.|
|Article Balance||High +|
|Base Attack Bonus Progression||Good +|
|Class Ability||Prepared Divine Spellcasting +|
|Class Ability Progression||Minor +|
|Fortitude Save Progression||Good +|
|Identifier||3.5e Class +|
|Minimum Level||0 +|
|Reflex Save Progression||Poor +|
|Skill||Climb +, Concentration +, Craft +, Diplomacy +, Disguise +, Heal +, Hide +, Intimidate +, Jump +, Knowledge +, Listen +, Move Silently +, Profession +, Ride +, Search +, Spellcraft +, Spot +, Survival + and Swim +|
|Skill Points||4 +|
|Summary||A knight dedicated to gods of death, either opposing... or supporting... the forces of undeath. +|
|Title||Death Knight +|
|Will Save Progression||Good +|