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View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Oath of the Undying (true death knight/"necromancer" archetype for Paladins)



Giegue
2017-11-14, 08:51 PM
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For most, the walking dead are a sight of revulsion and horror. While society at large considers the undead an affront to the natural order, to some the idea of undeath is alluring. Many of these individuals research undeath, training as wizards to understand it's fundamental nature. However, for others undeath is not something to quantify or study, but live and become. Such twisted souls see undeath as the perfect state of being; to them to become undead is not to subvert the natural order, but to transcend it. To these individuals, undeath represents liberation and power, and as a result they devote themselves wholly to mastering it.

Often called "Bone Knights" or "Grave Tyrants," these dark warriors are the antithesis of what one expects from a traditional Paladin. While they still swear an oath, it is merely a twisted mockery of those taken by other Paladins. The "Oath of the Undying," as these Paladins call it, is little more than a personal vow to serve one's selfish desires, seek power and hold undeath in the highest reguards.

Despite their selfish nature, these Paladins crusade as zealously for their own advancement as others do for law, order or goodness. While others see their selfishness as simple carnal desire, to them to serve one's self and gain immortality is a higher calling. Through their dedication to this goal, they gain the power to raise armies of the dead and even become undead themselves, transforming into true Death Knights at the height of their power.

Oath Tenants

Undeath is Perfection. As beings who transcend life and death, the undead represent true perfection. I will work to obtain the perfection of undeath, and destroy all those who fight against necromancers and the undead.

The Grave Opens to All. The lives of the living are merely journeys to the grave. I will not hesitate to hasten one's journey if it benefits my goals.

Moderation is Death. If the fate of all people is to become a corpse, I will not waste my few, precious moments of life living like one. I will enjoy my time among the living and indulge my every passion and desire...even if others would call it greedy, gluttonous or hedonistic.

To Have Power is to Live. Power and wealth liberate me from worldly concerns, allowing me to live as I please. I will seek power, and do whatever I deem necessary to obtain it.

Respect Thy Weapons. While I serve only myself, I am no fool. I understand my allies are valuable weapons, and will give them the same respect I give my blade. I will not needlessly hurt, abuse or betray my allies, though if forced to choose between my life or theirs, I will gladly choose mine.

Oath Spells

3rd: Cause Fear, Vampiric Drain*
5th: Command Undead*, Healing Spirit
9th: Fear, Vampiric Touch
13th: Death Ward, Shadow of Moil
17th: Dance Macabre, Vampiric Feast*

* (Spells marked with a * are new spells, that can be found here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?575022-Otherworldly-Patron-The-Uttercold-Legion-(V-3)&p=23538330#post23538330).)

Channel Divinity

When you take this Oath at 3rd level, you gain the following Channel Divinity options:

Enslave Undead. As an action, you target one undead you can see within 30ft and invoke your divine authority over it. It must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, it must obey your commands for the next 24 hours, or until you use this Channel Divinity again. Undead who's CR are equal to or greater than your level are immune to this Channel Divinity.

Raise Minion. You channel the dark power of your god to raise a personal undead minion as an action. When you do this, you raise an undead creature from a single corpse you can see within 30ft. The creature you create can be any type of undead (including an incorporeal undead), as long as itís CR doesnít exceed your Paladin level divided by 4. These undead remain reanimated for 1 hour, or until you dismiss them with a bonus action. When an undead you create with this channel divinity dies or is dismissed, it crumbles to dust or discorporates, leaving it unable to be reanimated again if it was corporeal. The undead you create cannot create spawn or other undead.

You can command these undead to move freely (no action required), but to have them take an action of any kind you must command them to do so with a bonus action. You can command any other undead under your control with this same bonus action. These undead always act immediately after your initiative in combat. Regardless of how many times you use this channel divinity, you can only control an amount of undead created with it whoes total combind CRs are less than or equal to 1/2 your Paladin level + your Charisma modifier at any given time.

Taint of the Grave

Unlike other Paladins, your soul burns not with radiant light but corrupting darkness. Starting at 3rd level, your Paladin spells, Divine Smite and Improved Divine Smite features deal Necrotic damage instead of Radiant damage, if they would deal Radiant damage normally. Instead of dealing extra damage against Fiends and Undead, your Divine Smite and Improved Divine Smite features deal that extra damage against Celestials and Fey. If you wish, you can choose to instead apply these changes to your Spellcasting, Divine Smite and Improved Divine Smite features when you gain them at 2nd and 11th level, respectively. However, if you do this, when you select your Oath at 3rd level you must select the Oath of the Undying.

General of Undeath

Starting at 7th level, you become an expert undead reanimator. Undead you create with your Raise Minion channel divinity remain reanimated until you complete a long rest, instead of 1 hour. Upon completing a long rest, you may expend any number of Paladin spell slots to re-assert control over undead created with your Raise Minion channel divinity that would discorporate or crumble to dust, causing them to stay reanimated and under your control until you finish your next long rest. When you do this, the slots you expend must have total combined levels equal to or higher than the total combined CRs of the undead minions you are re-asserting control over by expending them. Additionally, undead you create with your Raise Minion channel divinity and necromancy spells (such as Dance Macabre) gain the following additional benefits:

They increase their hit point maximums by your Paladin level.
They add your proficiency bonus to their weapon damage rolls.
Darkened Soul

At 15th level, you start to undergo your transition into undeath. You gain resistance to Necrotic damage. Additionally, your Paladin spells and features ignore resistance and immunity to necrotic damage.

Death Knight Apotheosis

At 20th level you achieve your much-sought after transcendence, entering into a twilight state between life and undeath. You no longer age, and do not need to eat, sleep or breath to survive. (Though you may still ingest substances, take rests and gain the benefits of both.) You gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from non-magical sources, and immunity to poison damage and the poison condition.

Additionally, with your body primed for transition into undeath, you are now ready to undergo your transformation into a true Death Knight. With your DM's permission, you may complete a dark ritual that allows you to transform into a Death Knight. Your DM determines how exactly this will change your statistics and what the ritual entails, though it typically involves expensive material components and committing at least one horrifically evil act. (Such as sacrificing a celestial or humanoid child.) Your DM may make you undergo a trial or quest to discover the instructions for this ritual, or may make it a reward for you to receive at the end of an important adventure.

While I know the Oathbreaker Paladin exists, I always felt it did a poor job at representing an evil Paladin. As an archetype, it feels like they just crammed every "evil paladin" trope into one archetype, giving it some features that care about undead, some about fiend-summoning, and then some about just generally throwing around darkness, fear, necrotic damage and other "evil" things. While it is still a mechanically viable archetype, I feel it has several flaws at representing some evil paladin tropes, and specifically the undead master/death knight type of character. Thankfully, Wizards threw me a bone and printed a "Oath of Conquest" in Xanathar's, which captures the feel of an old school "paladin of tyranny" or a lawful evil blackguard well. However, when it comes to the Necro-hoardmaster Death Knight, the Oathbreaker still falls flat on its face. It dosen't get the ability to animate anything until late in the game, and when it does it dosen't ever get pets better than skeletons or zombies.

This is largely because of the split focus the archetype has....by trying to be every evil paladin trope in one archetype, it doesn't specialize in any of them. Now, it does do a solid job at letting the Paladin dabble in all flavors of the "dark paladin/blackguard" trope, but the fact its not specialized in any of them means it will only ever be that...a dabbler. This is most apparent it its necromantic abilities, though it shows up in other areas as well. For the reasons I stated above, the Oathbreaker makes just makes a poor "Death Knight," its abilities only let it dabble in undead minion-mastery rather than excel at it.

As a result, I created this archetype to be a true undead hoardmaster/"Death Knight" kind of Paladin. The idea behind this archetype is not that it will be played alongside Oathbreakers, but rather that it, along with the Oath of Conquest and Oath of Ruin (a homebrew CE paladin oath thats pretty awesome, and can link if anybody is interested), will replace the Oathbreaker entirely at my table.

Each of these oaths, under these houserules, would correlate to one of the three evil alignments (LE = Oath of Conquest, NE = Oath of the Undying, CE = Oath of Ruin) and a Paladin who breaks their oath, instead of becomming an oathbreaker, can become any of these three oaths depending on the nature of their fall. However, unlike an Oathbreaker, you don't need to fall to take any of these Oaths....you can dedicate yourself to the path of evil right from level 1 as a Paladin under this system and go right into any of these Oaths at 3rd level.

What this amounts to is taking all three concepts present in the Oathbreaker, and breaking them up into three "evil" oaths that focus on one of them, and therefore do it better than the Oathbreaker can at the cost of not being able to dabble in the others as the Oathbreaker does. The Oathbreaker's fear-mongering and dominating powers are done better by the fear and domination specialist that is the Oath of Conquest Paladin. The darkness and necrotic damage focused aspects of the Oathbreaker are done better by the Oath of Ruin Paladin who likewise specializes in those kind of powers. Finally, my hope with this archetype is that it can do the undead minion aspect better than the Oathbreaker, without being straight up too broken to ever see table time.

However, as the archetype stands, I have no idea how balanced it is.It's very WIP and likely way too Op in some places...so any balance help would be most appreciated!

JNAProductions
2017-11-14, 11:55 PM
Up to 5 Undead, of potentially CR 10 each? No. I'd make the total CR you can control equal to 2 times your Charisma Mod, for a max of 10 CR.

Giegue
2017-11-15, 05:26 AM
Thanks for the suggestion. I edited the OP with your advice, BTW.

Composer99
2017-11-15, 07:37 AM
What with the change to Smite, were you thinking of altering Lay on Hands in a similar manner? Or had you considered and rejected such a change?

Also, unless I'm misreading, as written the undead controlling features allow you to create and control, even from pretty low levels, hefty numbers of low-CR undead. If that's in line with the Necromancer wizard, it might not be an issue, but it could be a concern.

Giegue
2017-11-15, 08:09 AM
It's not really a lot of undead. Your forgetting it can only target 1 corpse per-use, is a Channel Divinity and that the undead only last for 1 hour until 7th level. Paladins only get to use Channel Divinity 1/short or long rest, which means until level 7 you will only ever have one animated undead at any given time since your Undead will not live through your short rest. (A short rest is conveniently 1 hour long.) Thus, until level 7, you will only ever have two minions at max; one you command, and one you animate. You don't get to start building your hoard until one level after a wizard can start building theirs. Even further, DMs have hard control over what undead are available for you to command, so checking the power of that CD option is fairly easy.

As for the changes to lay on hands, I never considered it, but I might, now. Thanks for the suggestion!

Composer99
2017-11-15, 08:55 AM
It's not really a lot of undead. Your forgetting it can only target 1 corpse per-use, is a Channel Divinity and that the undead only last for 1 hour until 7th level. Paladins only get to use Channel Divinity 1/short or long rest, which means until level 7 you will only ever have one animated undead at any given time since your Undead will not live through your short rest. (A short rest is conveniently 1 hour long.) Thus, until level 7, you will only ever have two minions at max; one you command, and one you animate. You don't get to start getting building your hoard until one level after a wizard can start building theirs. Even further, DMs have hard control over what undead are available for you to command, so checking the power of that CD option is fairly easy.



Ah, yes, I did forget that (or, at least, it hadn't sunk in by the time I posted). Thanks!

Giegue
2017-11-18, 04:15 PM
Updated the OP with some changes. Would appreciate another look!