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View Full Version : D&D 3.x Class Death Knight Base Class (3.5e)



Ryunosuke
2014-11-04, 02:57 AM
So I am working on a campaign that will feature a lot of undead and I do mean a lot. Such that I am working on creating a good amount of variety in encounters still other than just changing up each particular undead used along with the casters involved in their creation. A lot of this adventure will focus around the cults of Nerull (best god imo) and while looking up general builds and stuff for Dread Necromancers and the like I came across a few Death Knight threads. In one of them (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?110745-Making-a-Deathknight-(3-5-D-amp-D)), there was a suggestion of using a reflavored Dragon Shaman class for a player wanting to play a death knight character so I decided to create an 'official' version of said rework with proper skills and abilities reflecting the narrow focus of undead generals and the like.

The class will more often than not be used by NPCs as undead commanders or cohorts to PCs that love the unliving and such. Note that some things seem stronger than a Dragon Shaman equivalent for two reasons: a) this class is restricted more so overall with being undead based (which has many counters and undead are fairly weak outright without large numbers or a good deal of buffs) and b) Dragon Shamans are rather underpowered to start with. But without further ado, here's my little take on the melee version of a Dread Necromancer. Side note: level 7 appears dead at first glance but it grants the 6th aura known as well as access to the lv 3 spell from their Death Domain, which is Animate Undead, thus making it a turning point level despite how it seems on the chart.


Death Knight

Hit Die: d8

Starting Age: Moderate

Starting Gold: 6d4 x 10gp

Skill Points: 2 + Intelligence Modifier (x4 at 1st level)

Class Skills: Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (Religion), Listen, Profession, Ride, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Death Knights gain proficiency in all Simple and Martial Weapons as well as all Shields (except Tower Shields).

Profane Aura: All Death Knights generate a dark malicious aura that can produce several different effects to aid themselves or their undead in battle or even hinder their opponents.

Projecting an aura is a swift action, and you can only project one profane aura at a time. An aura remains in effect until you use a free action to dismiss it or you activate another aura in its place. You can have a profane aura active continually; thus, an aura can be in effect at the start of an encounter even before you take your first turn.

Unless otherwise noted, your profane aura affects all allies within 20 feet (including yourself) regardless of line of effect. Your aura is dismissed if you become unconscious or are slain, but otherwise it remains in effect even if you are incapable of acting. The radius of this aura is improved to 40 feet around yourself at level 8, and again to 80 feet at level 16.

The bonus granted by your aura begins at +1 and increases to +2 at 5th level, +3 at 10th level, +4 at 15th level, and +5 at 20th level. As a 1st-level death knight, you know how to project three auras chosen from the list below. At every odd- numbered level after that, you learn one additional profane aura of your choice, until all seven auras are known at 9th level. Each time you activate a profane aura, you can choose from any of the auras that you know. All bonuses provided by this aura counts as a profane boost for the purpose of stacking with other effects.

Cold Resistance: Resistance to cold equal to 5 your aura bonus.

Doubt: penalty on all attack rolls made against you or your allies equal to your aura bonus.

Negative Energy Shield: Any creature striking you or your ally with a natural attack or a nonreach melee weapon is dealt 2 points of negative energy damage for each point of your aura bonus.

Power: Bonus on melee damage rolls equal to your aura bonus. This extra damage is negative energy based.

Speed: Bonus on initiative checks equal to your aura bonus, and an additional 5 ft of movement per point of bonus.

Vigor: Fast healing 1 for each point of your aura bonus, but only affects characters at or below one-half their full normal hit points.

Weakness: Penalty to all damage rolls against you or your allies equal to your aura bonus.

Rebuke/Command Undead: At 2nd level, you gain the ability to rebuke and command the undead as an evil cleric of your class level.

Death Domain: At 3rd level, you are granted access to the Death domain and gain the related ability and spells associated with it. You may cast each spell once per day each using your class level as your caster level, provided your charisma score is at least 10 +spell level, and all save DCs will be calculated from your charisma modifier. You gain access to each spell level as a cleric of equal level would.

Negative Energy Blast: At 4th level, you gain the ability to unleash a blast of pure negative energy, usually in the form of a deathly cold blue flame like effect that deals 2d6 points of negative energy damage, plus an extra 1d6 points of damage for every two additional class levels (3d6 at
6th level, 4d6 at 8th level, and so forth). A successful Reflex save halves the damage dealt; the save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 your death knight level + your Cha modifier. Because this energy must be recharged in between uses, you must wait 1d4 rounds before you can use it again. However, you are permitted to take Metabreath feats to augment the effects of your Negative Energy Blast, substituting your charisma score for the constitution score requirements. At 4th level, the blast will be a 15 ft cone, increasing to 30 ft at 12th level, and once again to 60 ft at 20th level.

Tomb-Tainted Soul: At 4th level, you gain the benefits of the feat Tomb-Tainted Soul for free, even if you do not meet the prerequisites. This chagnes it so that you are healed by negative energy and damaged by positive energy instead.

Enhanced Bolster Undead: At 6th level, you gain better control over your ability to bolster the undead around you or under your command. Whenever you use a rebuke/command undead attempt to bolster undead creatures (including yourself if applicable), the effect will last for one minute per class level instead of only one minute as normal.

At 11th level, your bolster undead power increases greatly. From this point on, any undead bolstered by you will now add your charisma modifier as a profane bonus to their attack and damage rolls for the duration of the effect.

At 17th level, all undead you bolster will also gain your charisma modifier as a profane bonus to their saving throws and armor class for the duration of the effect.

Deathly Chill: At 9th level, you become immune to all cold based damage as well as any negative effects derived thereof, such as being frozen in place, slowed by cold based effects, etc.

Double Profane Aura: At 13th level, you now gain the ability to maintain two of your profane auras simultaneously, thus providing the benefits of both to yourself and your allies. Changing one or both of them is a single swift action and otherwise follow the regular rules for your profane aura.

Undead transformation: At 16th level, your body begins the drastic shift from living to unlife. Initially, you become immune to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects as well as all mind-affecting effects such as charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects (you may willingly gain positive morale bonuses however). You are not subject to death from massive damage at this point but you can still be raised as per the normal means for one that is still alive.

At 19th level, your transformation becomes complete, officially gaining the undead type. You lose your constitution score (using charisma for concentration checks) and your hit die becomes d12s, requiring you to reroll for hit points. You are also no longer subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Immune to damage to its physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution), as well as to fatigue and exhaustion effects. you gain immunity to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless). Lastly, you are not affected by Raise Dead and Reincarnate spells or abilities. Resurrection and True Resurrection can still bring you back from destruction, as can the spell Revive Undead.



Level
BAB
Fort
Ref
Will
Abilities
Auras Known


1st
+1
+2
+0
+2
Profane Aura +1
3


2nd
+2
+3
+0
+3
Rebuke/Command Undead
3


3rd
+3
+3
+1
+3
Death Domain
4


4th
+4
+4
+1
+4
Negative Energy Blast 2d6 (15 ft cone), Tome-Tainted Soul
4


5th
+5
+4
+1
+4
Profane Aura +2
5


6th
+6/+1
+5
+2
+5
Negative Energy Blast 3d6, Enhanced Bolster Undead
5


7th
+6/+2
+5
+2
+5
---
6


8th
+8/+3
+6
+2
+6
Negative Energy Blast 8d6
6


9th
+9/+4
+6
+3
+6
Deadly Chill
7


10th
+10/+5
+7
+3
+7
Negative Energy Blast 5d6, Profane Aura +3
7


11th
+11/+6/+1
+7
+3
+7
Enhanced Bolster Undead
7


12th
+12/+7/+2
+8
+4
+8
Negative Energy Blast 6d6 (30 ft cone)
7


13th
+13/+7/+3
+8
+4
+8
Double Profane Aura
7


14th
+14/+9/+4
+9
+4
+9
Negative Energy Blast 7d6
7


15th
+15/+10/+5
+9
+5
+9
Profane Aura +4
7


16th
+16/+11/+6/+1
+10
+5
+10
Negative Energy Blast 8d6, Undead Transformation (Partial)
7


17th
+17/+12/+7/+2
+10
+5
+10
Enhanced Bolster Undead
7


18th
+18/+13/+8/+3
+11
+6
+11
Negative Energy Blast 9d6
7


19th
+19/+14/+9/+4
+11
+6
+11
Undead Transformation (Complete)
7


20th
+20/+15/+10/+5
+12
+6
+12
Negative Energy Blast 10d6 (60 ft cone), Profane Aura +5
7

GoblinGilmartin
2014-11-04, 08:21 AM
Personally, I have to ask, what is the point of it? "Death Knight" is already a monster/template depending on what version you're playing. why do you need monster class for it?

Ryunosuke
2014-11-04, 11:32 AM
I never liked any of the versions of the monster they had even since the original AD&D Fiend Folio for one as it wasn't a properly undead warrior themed creature(random fireball and stuff like what?). Second I don't see it as a monster nor do I want a mere template. I wanted the martial equivalent to Dread Necromancer that was a commander of undead that could be a sentient being, with powers and abilities suiting the theme. Think like in World of Warcraft. Death Knight is a class. A warrior connected to negative energy with a power to create and bolster the undead in battle. That's what I was going for.

GoblinGilmartin
2014-11-04, 04:39 PM
I never liked any of the versions of the monster they had even since the original AD&D Fiend Folio for one as it wasn't a properly undead warrior themed creature(random fireball and stuff like what?). Second I don't see it as a monster nor do I want a mere template. I wanted the martial equivalent to Dread Necromancer that was a commander of undead that could be a sentient being, with powers and abilities suiting the theme. Think like in World of Warcraft. Death Knight is a class. A warrior connected to negative energy with a power to create and bolster the undead in battle. That's what I was going for.

Dude, Fireballs are iconic! They're the best part! And I wouldn't call them random. They can do it because they're powerful, they're undead, and they're more than likely angry.

Ryunosuke
2014-11-04, 06:37 PM
Dude, Fireballs are iconic! They're the best part! And I wouldn't call them random. They can do it because they're powerful, they're undead, and they're more than likely angry.

Fireballs make no sense being in an undead armor, especially when several undead have a weakness to it. You're missing the point of the class itself. Almost any class that has to deal with the undead (not counting destroying them) is a caster class. Clerics, Favored Soul, Wizard, Sorcerer, Dread Necromancer and just about every prestige class thereof. The only thing I've found otherwise was a Bone Knight class that was nice but lackluster and still had a spellcasting base for its use. Like I said, I'm trying to create an undead general not an undead master. The concept is that where most Necromancer types gain a plethora of magic at their disposal (and we all know magic is op compared to non magic users) in addition to undead creation and command, the Death Knight gains martial prowess, the strength to battle for himself and even power up the army he leads when they are near him, even provide some spaced out negative energy as a nuke and heal effect for their minions.

Nine times out of ten, if a player decides to be a leader of undead, they will end up doing the same thing: spellcasting in one way or another. Every proper necromancer or Nerull cultist spends a great deal of time perfecting a personal strongest undead or general type creature they use as a trump card or the like but they barely do much for 'leading' and they certainly aren't going to actually improve the effectiveness of their army. Here comes the Death Knight. Still thematically linked to the theme, tough on their own and actually more effective for their hit dice than most undead and they can keep getting stronger, not to mention they can use their auras to boost their forces and the like, creating an effective general, second in command or whatever and even adding a little more uniqueness to an army of the dead and even any encounter featuring a Death Knight in battle.

Ryunosuke
2014-11-06, 05:53 PM
Ok so considering the class has a bunch of views and nobody else has commented anything I take it that nobody saw any problems with the balance of the class itself or...?

Garryl
2014-11-06, 06:39 PM
It's a Dragon Shaman with an undead theme instead. You have added a few things on top, but it's still not terribly strong or anything and it doesn't fix the Dragon Shaman's flaws. So there's not that much to say that hasn't been said already about the Dragon Shaman.

A note about your note. You mention that level 7 is not a dead level due to access to Animate Dead, but that's a 3rd level spell on the Death domain, so the Death Knight gets access to it at level 5 (as per Cleric), no?

The feat is "Tomb-Tainted Soul", not "Tome". Any reason you have a class feature that does effectively the same thing instead of just giving it as a bonus feat (ignoring prerequisites)?

Auras, like those of the Dragon Shaman, are rather meh. As always, the first +1 with Vigor is useful for free healing, but none of them are strong enough to build a class around.

Negative Energy Blast is very weak, just like the Dragon Shaman breath weapon. The range is on the small side and the damage is very low (1d6/2 levels).

Edit: In case you're curious or want some inspiration, here's my take (http://www.minmaxboards.com/index.php?topic=13687) on the Dragon Shaman (http://www.minmaxboards.com/index.php?topic=13687.0;msg=236209).

Inevitability
2014-11-07, 03:00 AM
Afraid I don't have anything to say on the class, but I was curious; is your username a Touhou reference? Ryunosuke sounds an awful lot like Rinnosuke.

Ryunosuke
2014-11-07, 09:30 PM
Yes I mostly wanted to make sure that it wasn't too strong in any particular areas, in particular the Undead Bolstering enhancements, but I do understand what you mean on still having many similar flaws to the Dragon Shaman. I do however note that as the blast is Negative Energy instead of an elemental damage, there is no creature other than an undead that will ever not take damage from it, a slight advantage over the shamans in damage output. Though the 1d6/2 levels was relatively standard for an effectively unlimited ability save for a slight cd between uses. As for range, it's the same as the Dragon Shaman's rate of growth.

As for the level 7 note, I admit that I was a little off about Animate Dead since I was running through some Dread Necromancer abilities (still wondering why they get that as a lv 4 spell) but they do still get the new aura learned and the lv 4 spell for the Death Domain at least.

As for Tomb-Tainted Soul, I apologize for spelling and it's basically the feat for free but I wanted to write out the effect for anyone not familiar with it's effects.

I will admit the auras are not especially outstanding on their own, but I was nervous about upping the growth rate to +1/4 levels and I even contemplated +2 to start with (trashed that) but mostly because typically a Death Knight will have many followers, or at least some select strong minions so these boosts, especially when couples with the Enhanced Bolster tend to make the encounter much tougher but I will admit that I'm not a professional on the power of such a boost when compared to the average party at those levels.

note: I did take a quick look through your dragon shaman and its quite an interesting take, with far better healing and i think the way you incorporated boosting options to auras with that energy was very creative. Also like the capstone ability, though I am a little biased since I am a huge dragon fan and thus I have an unconditional love for Dragon Shamans despite their weaknesses.

Second note: The question on my username is a no. I do love Touhou very much, however 'Ryunosuke' is just my general internet alias I have chosen derived from the Japanese name, meaning 'Dragon Herald'

Ryunosuke
2014-11-10, 05:14 PM
Bump?
Any other thoughts on the class?
Should it be buffed?
Should something else be changed?
As a huge necromancy fan some more feedback would be sweet >:

Demidos
2014-11-13, 12:53 AM
As has been mentioned before, Tomb has a "b" at the end (Just in case you forgot).

The class is not particularly strong -- For reference, a Necropolitian (for undead) warlock (for Eldritch blast) with a feat (to get the Draconic Auras) and a cleric dip (for rebuking) has everything this class has, plus invocations.

Basically, Necropolitan Cleric 1/Warlock 19 > power than this class.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, depending for what you were shooting for.
That would place this class at a mid-range in Tier 4. Its fair at a number of areas. I'd say it falls behind a straight dragon shaman for a regular campaign, but in an undead heavy campaign it could match or slightly outperform it's peer. The undead buffing abilites are quite nice if you are fairly certain in having a steady stream of undead meat shields to use.

In answer to your argument that all undead leaders turn to spellcasting? It's because a "general" class (at least without the power of PLOT or other NPCs) needs a way to generate troops.

In summary I'd say its fair as it stands, but its combat is a bit repetitive (Activate aura, use blast...move, I guess? Rebuke if there's undead), and its a bit low on the power scale. I'd toss in a couple other actions you could use your actions for (e.g. a "Clutch of Death" Save or be paralyzed/immobilized/nauseated/whatever for a round by the "power of the grave" or by ghosts in the area called by the death knight, or "Soul Channel" where the general can give up his move action to grant the minions in range (or a number of minions equal to a key ability score or whatever) an extra move action each.) All the fluff and abilities and power scale is obviously very mutable, but I think it makes my point about the need for options other than (move, attack/rebuke).

As a closing note, (just since you mentioned you loved necromancy), I thought i'd link (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?266947-The-Necromantic-Codex-Necromancy-Base-Classes-Items-Spells-and-more!-PEACH)you to a friend's necromancy homebrew compendium. It has several classes similar to this one, so you might find inspiration, or it might just be fun. Enjoy!

Ryunosuke
2014-11-13, 04:33 PM
Now that I think about it, I honestly forgot about how Warlocks can use Eldritch Blast with no cool down at all compared to the Negative Energy Blast or the Dragon Shaman's breath, though I guess single target is the drawback to that. I also was not aware that there is a feat that can give you the Draconic Aura class feature.

As for troop generation, that's why I allowed them access to the Death Domain, mostly for the Animate Dead, and Create Undead spells, as well as the all important Desecrate for any proper undead animation. I will also admit that I tried not to add a whole lot more from the Dragon Shaman base under the false impression that a Dragon Shaman to lv 20 was a decent and well balanced for use class. Though I do like Garryl's Dragon Shaman variance and it's far better in terms of aura and party bolstering effects.

I did look a little through your link and I'm a bit mixed in opinion since it's a lot of decent undead abilities, but it's also Inarnum based, something I'm rather loath to use in a game due to soul melds taking up magic item spaces. It's a flavorful mechanic I give them that much, but unless it's a low magic campaign where you aren't getting something in every slot normally, I'd not likely use them myself, save maybe for some interesting NPCs and the like.

I also have contemplated making a Martial Maneuver variance for the Death Knight as well, likely using Iron Heart and Diamond mind, coupled with a few homebrewed Martial Styles I found a while back. One was the ice version of Desert Wind with ice effects produced and the other was a necromantic blade style with a couple attacks that animate the slain like the spell Animate Dead would. This would certainly fix the 'limited combat options' problem as well. I'll have to see if I can find them again though.

In the mean time though, I'll get to tweaking this one for now some, possibly a channel ability to pure their Necromantic energy into their blade swings and the like. I did contemplate them being able to make a special 'bonded' undead or something like they can choose any undead they control or are perhaps granted control from another animator and then it would gain bonuses based on his level, like adding more HD and such so that they don't need to constantly look for a new minion every level or two.

note: also I finally edited the Tomb-Tainted Soul thing xD;

Garryl
2014-11-13, 06:04 PM
If you want some ideas for a martial adept Death Knight, I have one of those, too (http://www.minmaxboards.com/index.php?topic=5840.0) (albeit more of an undead warrior than an undead general).

Ryunosuke
2014-11-13, 08:00 PM
ok gona say this now, i haven't slept lately and for some reason I read the word 'incanter' as 'incarnum' and made a silly assumption. I'm stupid. xD;;

Also, gonna check out that death knight now. The two martial styles I was thinking of were Unquiet Twilight, and Placid Lake if anyone recalls them.