Death Knight (3.5e Class)

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Death Knight[edit]

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[edit]

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

Abilities: Like most combat-oriented classes, Death Knights depend heavily on Strength and Constitution. Charisma is vital to the Death Knight's abilities.

Alignment: Any non-good

Starting Gold: 6d4 x 10gp (150gp)

Table: The Death Knight
Hit Die: d10
Level Base
Attack Bonus
1st +1 +2 +0 +0 Profane Aura (1)
2nd +2 +3 +0 +0 Detect Undead
3rd +3 +3 +1 +1 Netherblast 1d6
4th +4 +4 +1 +1 Bonus Feat, Rebuke Undead
5th +5 +4 +1 +1 Profane Aura (2), Shadow Meld 1/day, Death thralls
6th +6/+1 +5 +2 +2 Blessing of Death, Netherblast 2d6
7th +7/+2 +5 +2 +2 Speak with Dead
8th +8/+3 +6 +2 +2 Bonus Feat
9th +9/+4 +6 +3 +3 Netherblast 3d6
10th +10/+5 +7 +3 +3 Profane Aura (3), Shadowmeld 2/day
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +3 +3
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +4 +4 Bonus Feat, Netherblast 4d6
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +4 +4 Honorbound
14th +14/+9/+5 +9 +4 +4
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +5 +5 Netherblast 4d6, Profane Aura (4), Shadowmeld 3/day
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +5 +5 Bonus Feat
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +5
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +6 Netherblast 5d6
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +6
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +6 +6 Revenant, Profane Aura (5), Shadowmeld 4/day

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level; ×4 at 1st level)
Climb (Str),Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomancy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str),Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) (Int), Knowledge (Religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), and Spot (Wis).

Class Features[edit]

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.

Profane Aura (Sp): At Level 1 you learn how to project a single Profane Aura. At level 5, 10, 15 and 20, learn a new Aura. Starting at 1st level a Death Knight can keep his aura active for a number of rounds per day equal to 4 + her Charisma modifier, theese rounds do not need to be consecutive. At each level after 1st, she can gain 2 additional rounds. The Death Knight's aura is an emanation centered on you with a distance equivalent to close range (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels). The Profane Aura can be activated or changed with a standard action and can be deactivated with a free action. At 10th level you can activate 2 different Profane Auras at the same time but doing so cosumes your dayly rounds twice as fast.

The total number of rounds of active aura per day is renewed after resting for 8 hours, although these hours do not need to be consecutive.

Death Knight Profane Auras
Name Description Ability Granted
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 the class level divide by 4 rounded down (minimum 1).
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, This damage can be nagated with a Fortitude saving throw. Undead creatures instead heal 1d4 hit points per round for every 5 class levels (minimum 0d4). The damage healed cannot exeed the maximum hit points of the creatures The DC to resist this damage is 10 + half the Death Knight's level + you Charisma modifier.
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 class level divided by 5 rounded down, 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 + half the Death Knight's level + your Charisma modifier ) or become shaken, for as long as the Profane Aura is active and the affected target is inside the emanation. Those who resist the will save are protected from the effects of Terrorize. Once per round when a Death Knight strikes a foe who successfully resisted, the target of the strike must succeed the same Will saving throw or be affected by Terrorize.

Opponents who are immune to fear effects are 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 1d8 + half your class level rounded down points of negative energy damage when they deal damage to you or your allies. This damage can be halved with a successful Fortitude saving throw ( DC = 10 + half the Death Knight's level + your Charisma modifier ). This effect can only be applied once per round per enemy. You cannoto learn this Profane Aura at 1st level.
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 1 for every 5 class levels (minimum 1). This damage reduction does not stack with other forms of damage reduction.
Etherfloat You are carried aloft by an ethereal wind that only seems to affect you. You float 2 inch per class level 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 the class level divide by 4 rounded down. This damage is negative energy damage and heals undead creatures.

Detect Undead (Sp): At 2nd level, you gain the power to detect undead equal to 1 + your Charisma modifier ( minimum 1 ) per day, as the spell.

Netherblast (Su): At 3rd level, you can project negative energy damage with your hand or your blade.

As a standard action, you can manifest a 25-feet cone of chilling death, dealing 1d6 points negative energy damage. A successfull Reflex saving throw (DC 10 + half the Death Knight's level + your Charisma modifier ) halves the 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. If you are making a full round attack action, the damage is applied only on the first successfull hit. You can use this ability for 3 + your Charisma modifier per day. You deal and additional 1d6 point of negative damage for every three levels beyond 3th ( max 5d6 at 18th level )

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.

Rebuke Undead (Su): At 4th level, you gain power over undead. You can Rebuke undead as an evil cleric of your level -3.

Bonus Feat: At 4th level, a Death Knight gets a bonus combat-oriented feat. The Death Knight gains an additional bonus feat at 8th, 12th and 16th level. These bonus feats must be drawn from the feats noted as fighter bonus feats. A Death Knight must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums. These bonus feats are in addition to the feat that a character of any class gets from advancing levels.

Shadow Meld (Su): At 5th level, once per day a Death Knight can teleport from one shadow to another. Using this ability is a standard action and the range that a Death Knight can travel from one shadow to another must be within close range (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels). You gain additional uses of this ability every five levels beyond 5th ( max 4/day at level 20th ).

Death Thralls (Sp): At 5th level you can turn corpses into undead skeletons or zombies that obey your spoken command. The undead remain animated until they are destoyed. A destroyed skeleton or zombie can't be animated again. Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can't create more HD of undead equal to your class level. The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this ability, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per class level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous usage become uncontrolled. You choose which creatures are released. Undead you control through the other means do not count toward this limit. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier - 1 ( minimum 1 ). To use this ability you must spend a full round action and onyx gems worth at least 25gp per Hit Dice of the creature you are trying to animate, the gems are consumed during the process. You can guess the total Hit Dice of a creature with a successfull DC 15 Heal check. The GM may increase or decrease the DC according the creature being reanimated or the situation.

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.

Blessing of Death (Sp): At 6th level, you can now cahnnel Netherblast onto yourself and absorb its unholy energy. As a standard action by expending one use of Netherblas you can heal yourself by the same amount damage it would have done to a single enemy.

Speak With Dead (Sp): At 7th level, you gain uses per day of Speak With Dead as a spell like ability equal to 1 + your Charisma modifier (minimum 1)

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 1 + your Charisma modifier ( minimum 1 ), once this time period ends the effects of the damage you sustained 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. Once per week if you have more than 0 hit points when this effect ends, you are brought back to life with your current hit points and no negative levels.

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

Ex-Death Knights[edit]

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[edit]

Table: The Epic Death Knight

Hit Die: d8

Level Special
21st Bonus Feat
23rd Bonus Feat
25th Bonus Feat
27th Bonus Feat
29th Bonus Feat

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[edit]

Weapons: .

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor

Feat: .

Bonus Feats: .

Gear: .

Gold: .

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Death Knight[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

DC Result
5 .
10 .
15 .
20 .

Death Knights in the Game[edit]

Adaptation: .

Sample Encounter: .

EL : .

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