Death Knight (3.5e Prestige Class)

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Design Note: This content is for use with Races of War (3.5e Sourcebook)

Death Knight

There is no horror you have seen that can prepare you for what I am about to reveal.

Those who take up the black sword of the Death Knights in the name of powerful evil gods are not all undead. They aren't even all evil, since sometimes evil gods simply curse warriors in order to screw with them. But a lot of them are evil and undead, and that gives the Death Knight his classic image.

Becoming a Death Knight

Some warriors do indeed pursue the path of the Death Knight, seeking the power that comes with undeath. Others are not so lucky; should a goodly warrior draw the ire of an evil god, the god may indeed curse him with undeath. The unwilling Death Knight will then have to deal with their own unholy powers, which by their own existence may make the warrior lose standing with the goodly people he serves.

Entry Requirements
Base Attack Bonus: +6
Skills: Knowledge (Religion) 4
Special: Must have proficiency with all martial weapons
Special: Must have had nonviolent contact with a fiend
Table: The Death Knight

Hit Die: d12

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +0 +0 +2 Sword of Death, Life and Death
2nd +2 +0 +0 +3 Army of the Dead
3rd +3 +1 +1 +3 Sphere (Bone)
4th +4 +1 +1 +4 Bonus Feat
5th +5 +1 +1 +4 Sphere (Fire)

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level)
The Death Knight's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Spot (Wis) and Swim (Str).

Class Features

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

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: The Death Knight gains no new proficiency with armor or weapons.

Sword of Death (Su): A Death Knight can transform his blade into a black instrument of destruction. His melee attacks inflict 2d6 of unholy damage against living creatures.

Life and Death: A Death Knight can transform himself into a Vampire, Ghoul, Revenant|Revenant, or Swordwraith if he chooses either upon becoming a Death Knight or at some later date. Rules for being these undead creatures are found in the Tome of Necromancy. In addition, a Death Knight may qualify for and use Necromantic Feats using his base attack bonus instead of a caster level.

Army of the Dead (Su): At 2nd level, a Death Knight may raise undead as per animate dead or create undead with a caster level equal to his hit dice.

Spheres: At 3rd level, a Death Knight gains the Sphere of Bone. At 5th level, he gains the Sphere of Fire.

Bonus Feat: At 4th level, the Death Knight gains a [Combat] or [Fiend] feat he meets the prerequisites for.

Campaign Information

A Death Knight naturally makes a good antagonist for an adventure or even a campaign. But, unusually, one can also make a great tortured hero in the event of being an unwilling Death Knight. The DM might even ignore the Skill requirement and work with the player for this.

Playing a Death Knight

Combat: A Death Knight can expect to be in melee, but his spell-like abilities gained from their Spheres add some versatility to his options. If one has the stomach for it, he can animate corpses and build himself a useful group of undead minions to have in combat. The Sphere of Fire also gives him the ability to, in a word, burninate, often with extreme prejudice. However, all of the spell-like abilities granted by their spheres are only useable once a day (unless the Death Knight takes a Fiend class and picks up the Spheres again).

Advancement: A Death Knight would do well to maintain their Good BAB progression. Since they now qualify to take Necromantic Feats, it would be useful for one to do so (because those minions sure are handy). They may also branch into a Fiendish class of some sort to also gain more Fiend abilities--particularly Spheres. Non-evil Death Knights will probably go into a martial class, possibly the same one they were before they became a Death Knight.

Death Knights in the World

I am a reasoning undead. That is to say, my mind is a roiling mass of black envy and shrieking hatred. I would dearly love to be able to claim that violent, tearing carnage does not come naturally to me. Instead, I'm finding it hard to stop myself from dismembering your mortal coil and glorying in spilling the blood-warmth I will never again know as I send you screaming for mercy into the uncaring void. Don't make it harder.
—Gaeran Losenger, Lord Loss, undead human Death Knight.

Whether they are the ruthless generals of undead armies or afflicted heroes who strive to have the curse broken, Death Knights are, first and foremost, individuals. Death Knights as a whole have no formal organization, but it's possible for some to work together--particularly those who have military ambitions. Of course, the evil army-building Death Knights are the ones who get remembered, and the popular perception of a Death Knight is an evil warlord leading his undead hordes across the land.

NPC Reactions: Most people fear the undead. They fear those who can command them even moreso. That being said, it all comes down to the Death Knight himself. It is very possible for one to earn respect and tolerance if he's didn't seek his position and continually shows that he is, well, not a bad guy.

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.

Knowledge (Religion)
DC Result
11 Death Knights are warriors with powers over death. They can raise corpses and are naturally suited to lead groups of undead.
16 Death knights gain more magic as they get stronger. Their powers seem to be over undeath and fire.
21 Not all Death Knights are evil. Some are actually noble people who have run afoul of evil deities.

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