Controlling vast armies of the undead, a dread emperor (or dread empress) is a master of necromancy. Rather than focusing on life force and its manipulation, however, a dread emperor has focused on the creation of its twisted mockery. Beyond the simple reanimation of the undead, a skilled dread emperor creates a true plague of undeath. Every creature his or her undead slay soon joins his forces and even those merely injured may find themselves turning in a matter of hours. Combining this plague with a mastery of strategy that dwarves most mortal tactitians, entire nations have been known to fall before dread emperors in mere weeks.
To qualify to become a dread emperor, a character must meet all of the following criteria.
Knowledge (Religion) or Knowledge (Arcana) 23 ranks
The ability to cast spells up to 7th-level, including at least four necromancy spells.
Subtract the level adjustment of any template granting you the undead type from the number of ranks in a knowledge skill you require to enter this class.
Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Intimidate, Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Religion), Profession, Ride, Spellcraft.
Skill Points at Each Level:
2 + Int Modifier
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Special||Spells|
|Overwhelming Swarm -1, Unending Legion||--|
|Dark Tactician 1/encounter||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|Emperorís Plague 1d6||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|Undying Avatar (1)||--|
|Overwhelming Swarm -2||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|Dark Tactician 2/encounter||--|
|Bonus Feat||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|Emperorís Plague 2d6||--|
|Undying Avatar (2)||+1 level of existing spellcasting class |
The following are class features of the Dread Emperor
Even without the Epic Spellcaster feat, a dread emperor can still develop and cast epic spells using the afflict, animate dead, armor, dispel, fortify, reflect, slay, and/or summon seeds. For the purpose of developing epic spells with these seeds (and only these seeds), costs in gold pieces and experience points are halved.
Your levels in dread emperor stack with levels in one class that grants you the rebuke undead class feature for the purpose of rebuking undead. If you possess levels in more than one such class, choose one to advance as you take your first class level in dread emperor.
Unending Legions (Su):
Dread emperors are best known for armies of the dead large enough to overwhelm entire nations and worlds. A dread emperor no longer counts undead with HD equal to or lower than his class level towards his limit of controlled undead. Any creature slain by an undead controlled by a dread emperor revives 1d4 rounds later as a zombie or skeleton as appropriate (unless its HD are too high to allow for this) under the control of the dread emperor. Lastly, a dread emperor can use animate dead
and revive undead
(libris mortis) at will as spell-like abilities with a caster level equal to his or her class level + 20.
Overwhelming Swarm (Ex):
Though the undead that a dread emperor controls may individually be too weak to overcome foes, a dread emperor knows perfectly well how to batter the defenses of more powerful enemies by continually swarming them. Starting at 1st level, for every ten attacks made against a creature by undead controlled by a dread emperor (whether the attack succeeds or not), the target takes a stacking -1 penalty to its AC, Damage Reduction (if any), Fast Healing (if any), and regeneration (if any). None of these values can be reduced below 0. This penalty remains until the target has gone for an entire hour without being attacked by undead controlled by the dread emperor. At 6th level and every 5 levels afterwards, this penalty increases by -1.
Dark Tactician (Ex):
As a ruler of a grand army, few know more about strategy than a dread emperor. Starting at 2nd level, a dread emperor can spend a full-round action to either heal any number of controlled undead within his or her line of sight up to full hit points. Alternatively, he or she can grant them a +10 bonus to attack rolls, Saving Throws, and AC for 1 round. As a final option, the dread emperor can grant these undead a full round of actions to take immediately and may control how mindless undead affected spend this action. The dread emperor can use an ability from this list once per encounter at 2nd level and one additional time per encounter at 7th level and every 5 levels afterwards. A Dread Emperor can never target him or herself with this ability.
Spells per Day/Spells Known:
At each even dread emperor level, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if he or she had also gained a level in a spellcasting class to which he or she belonged before adding the prestige class level. If already an epic spellcaster, the character gains only the benefit noted under the Spells entry for that epic class. He or she does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If the character had more than one spellcasting class before becoming a dread emperor, the player must decide to which class to add the new level for the purpose of determining spells per day.
At 3rd level and every 5 levels afterwards, a dread emperor can select a single bonus feat from the following list: Atropalís Aura*, Commandeer Undead*, Debilitating Swarm*, Desecration Aura*, Debilitating Touch*, Divine Spell Knowledge*, Dread Spellscribe*, Epic Undead Leadership*, Eternal Horde*, Extended Lifespan, Great Charisma, Great Intelligence, Great Wisdom, Improved Legions*, Improved Spell Capacity, Legendary Commander, Life from the Lifeless*, Link Senses*, Master of Necromancy*, Multispell, Negative Energy Burst, Quick Transformation*, Selective Spell*, Spell Knowledge, Superior Legions*, Threatening Presence*, Undead Mastery, Vile Entity*, Zone of Animation
Emperorís Plague (Su):
Debilitating Touch [Epic]
Your touch is filled with necromantic energies.
Prerequisites: Unending Legions
Benefits: You gain a melee touch attack that deals 10d8 points of negative energy damage to the living (healing undead instead). Whenever you make a successful touch attack in this way, you may cast a non-epic necromancy spell with a range of touch as part of the same action, provoking no attacks of opportunity in the process.
Deep Corruption [Epic]
Your necromancy pierces through the most staunch of defenses.
Prerequisites: Dark Tactician 2/encounter
Benefits: All non-epic death spells you cast become piercing. Furthermore, non-epic necromancy spells you cast that bestow curses, trap souls, bestow disease, or work through poison also become piercing.
Threatening Presence [Epic]
Others are often terrified by your presence on the battlefield.
Prerequisites: Epic Skill Focus (Intimidate)
Benefit: enemies within 10 feet of you are shaken (no save). This is a fear effect.
Whenever you make a successful attack, the target of the attack must make a Will save (DC 10 + your class level) or become frightened for 1d4 rounds. This is a piercing fear effect.
Debilitating Swarm [Epic]
Given enough time, your undead horde can tire and wear out any opponent.
Prerequisites: Overwhelming Swarm -2
Benefits: Your overwhelming swarm class feature also affects attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws.
Life from the Lifeless[Epic]
You can draw life force from your undying minions to preserve your own existence.
Prerequisites: Dark Tactician 5/encounter
Benefits: Whenever you would be damaged, you may transfer some or all of that damage to any number of undead you control within a 1-mile radius. You may not transfer more damage to an undead in this way than would be necessary to slay it.
Eternal Horde [Epic]
Your undead never stay down for too long before rising once more.
Prerequisites: Dark Tactician 4/encounter
Benefits: Each night at midnight (or its rough equivalent), all undead you control on the same plane of existence as yourself that have perished within the past 24 hours are instantly restored to existence and to full health so long as you possess positive hit points. Effects that would prevent undead such as lichís or ghosts from returning back to life function normally against this ability.
The undead you control are far more effective than most.
Prerequisites: Improved Legions
Benefits: You can animate zombies and skeletons that would possess more than 20 HD. In all other ways, they function normally as undead.
Improved Legions [Epic]
Prerequisites: Unending Legions
Benefits: Undead that you animate through your spells and class features gain maximum hit points per hit dice and are affected as if by an awaken undead effect, except that they remain completely under your control.
Epic Undead Leadership [Epic]
You control great
Prerequisites: Undead Leadership
Benefits: This functions as the epic leadership feat except as noted under the description of the undead leadership feat.
Special: This feat can be used in place of Epic Leadership to meet the prerequisites of the legendary commander feat.
Dread Spellscribe [Epic]
Prerequisites: Dark Tactician 3/encounter
Benefits: With 24 hours of work and 1,000 gp of materials, you can apply the spellstitched template to any undead under your control with one major exception. Whenever a creature casts a spell-like ability granted to them in this way, you lose a spell slot or random spell prepared of the same spell level. If you have none left, that spell-like ability fails to function.
Link Senses [Epic]
You can link your senses with those of the undead you have created
Prerequisites: Dark Tactician 1/encounter
Benefits: As a swift action, you can link your senses with a single undead you control on the same plane of existence for 1 round. You may use your own skills to observe the scene and can telepathically control the undead during this round but are limited to the senses of the undead.
You release an aura of malign energies that empower the undead.
Prerequisites: Unending Legions
Benefits: You gain an aura out to 20 feet that imitates the effects of a desecrate spell. For all purposes, you count as a shrine to an evil deity and thus double the effects of the spell.
Atropalís Aura [Epic]
You release dark energies that harm the living and heal the undead.
Prerequisites: Desecration Aura
Benefits: You possess an aura out to 10 feet that grants all other living creatures one negative level for as long as they remain (this negative level never results in level loss) and that grants yourself and all undead within range fast healing 8. You may suppress or resume this aura as a standard action.
Special: You may select this feat multiple times. Its effects stack (though the area of the aura does not increase).
Quick Transformation [Epic]
The plague you release can quickly turn others into undead.
Prerequisites: Emperorís Plague 2d6
Benefits: Any creature who fails three consecutive saving throws against emperorís plague inflicted by an undead under your control transforms into an undead under your control.
You can permenently steal the free will of a pre-existing undead.
Prerequisites: Undying Avatar (2)
Benefits: As a standard action, you can force an undead within 100 feet to make a Will save (DC 20 + Dread Emperor class level + Cha modifier) or fall under your control, counting normally towards your maximum hd of controlled undead.
Vile Entity [Epic, Vile]
Your very essence is filled with dark power that you express with every spell.
Prerequisites: Five or more vile feats
Benefits: All damage that you deal with your spells or attacks is treated as vile damage.
Divine Spell Knowledge [Epic]
Your access to spells is larger than that of most divine casters.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast spells of the maximum normal spell level of a divine spellcasting class.
Benefits: You learn two new divine spells of any level up to the maximum level you can cast. This feat does not grant any additional spell slots.
special: You can select this feat multiple times.
Master of Necromancy [Epic]
You gain mastery over the forces of death.
Prerequisites: Ability to cast at least 2 7th-, 2 8th-, and 1 9th-level Necromancy spell
Benefits: All undead you create with necromancy spells are automatically under your control (counting towards your normal maximum) and your necromancy spells bypass any immunities granted by the undead type or by death ward effects. Once per encounter, you can reanimate any number of dead creatures within 100 feet of yourself as skeletons or zombies (depending on the state of the bodies) with a total HD of up to your caster level. These undead only lasts until the end of the encounter before falling apart.
Selective Spell [Epic, Metamagic]
You can prevent your spells from harming your allies.
Benefits: This feat can only be applied to spells that create areas. When casting a spell modified by this metamagic effect, you may select any number of targets within its area. Only the chosen creatures are affected by the spell. A selective spell uses up a spell slot six levels higher than the spellís actual level.
Starting at 4th level, all corporeal undead under the control of a dread emperor pass on a disease with their natural attacks known as emperorís plague. The disease has a Fortitude save of 20 + Class level + Int modifier, has an incubation period of 1 hour, and deals 1d6 points of constitution damage with each failed save, plus 1d6 points of constitution damage at 9th level and every 5 levels afterwards. Unlike most diseases, creatures must make additional saving throws against emperorís plague every hour instead of every day and the disease and ability damage it deals can only be healed within a consecrated
area. The disease is not naturally removed through any number of successful saving throws and can only be healed magically within the area of a consecrate
effect. Any creature who dies of emperorís plague awakens 1d4 hours later as a zombie or skeleton as appropriate (unless its HD are too high to allow for this) under the control of the dread emperor unless the body is dismembered or destroyed. This class features is a piercing effect.
Undying Avatar (Ex):
At 5th level, a dread emperor can spend 24 hours molding dead flesh into a perfect likeness of themselves. This avatar acts as a zombie of the dread emperorís race with 20 HD, though it looks exactly like the dread emperor (DC 30 spot check to realize its identity). Each undying avatar, though mindless, has its senses directly linked to that of the dread emperor at all times and can be controlled through the dread emperorís thoughts at all time (even across planes of existence). A dread emperor can even cast his or her non-epic spells through an undying avatar, though doing so requires that the avatar spend actions casting the spell as normal. A dread emperor can only have one undying avatar at any given time at 5th level, plus one every 5 levels afterwards.
Notes and Explanation:
For our second BBEG class in a row, we have a class intended to serve as the progenitor for the zombie plague of a survival horror game. Like the Harbinger of endings, this class remains more or less playable for PCs as well but runs into some problems. For this class, however, the problems youíd run into are the mechanical holdups associated with having large numbers of troops whose attacks actually matter. So long as you get into this class well aware of the logistics it involves, however, things shouldnít break down too badly.
If the massive numbers of undead still bother your or would conflict with a campaign, however, worry not. Gaiyamato has created another version of this class right here
which, though a bit less powerful, fits into more games.