”Those who do not value life do not deserve it. Your life will serve me now, as I possess the power and the will to wield it as you never did.”
- Ganta Grunn, known as Deadman of the Dawn
The Deadmen began as a remote cult of spellcasters, worshippers of Death and Life, and famous for their blood rituals. Initially, they were little more than a nuisance, keeping largely to themselves, as cults are wont to do, but as the decades passed, and more and more membered joined their caste, the power of blood began to rear its head among them.
First to come were the Blood Magi, magical men who scarred their bodies in pursuit of power. It is said their blood was as potent as any potion brewed by a skilled alchemist, and those at the peak of power treated all blood as their own - for the better or worse to those around them.
Such potent blood magics inevitably attracted the attention of vampires. This powerful union is what lead to the Great Purge that ended the cult once and for all, but not before the Deadmen had appeared. Dark knights modelled after their vampire progenitors, wielding weapons tempered with blood of their enemies and clad in magic and darkness were more feared than even their Blood Magus predecessors, and in the end were the only group to survive the cult’s purging. As the years progressed, an offshoot group, led by Ganta and Shiro - known as the Dawn and Dusk - reinvigorated the Deadmen as a group dedicated to the power inherent in life, though the dark past of the Hematyc Cult lives on, hidden in the shadows.
BECOMING A DEADMAN
Deadmen are a rare caste, requiring prowess in both martial and arcane disciplines. Beyond this, the initiation rites are somewhat varied, but a demonstration of their reverence for blood is universally required.
Base Attack Bonus:
Must partake in a “baptism” ritual requiring the removal of blood from a living humanoid creature through a method that deals 1 point of Constitution burn. This ritual varies from sect to sect. Some require the blood to come from the aspiring Deadman himself, some require the ritual sacrifice of another person.
The Deadman's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb, Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Jump, Knowledge, Ride, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Swim
Skills Points at Each Level:
4 + Int
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|Branch of Sin|
|Quicken the Blood|
|Enlivened Vitae, Clad in Blood|
|Branch of Sin (Enhanced), Sanguine Warlord (Speed)|
|Bathed in Blood|
|Branch of Sin (Quickened), Sanguine Warlord (Flight)|
|Branch of Sin (Vampiric), Sanguine Warlord (Burst)|
The Deadman is, at his core, a wielder of steel and magic, and that can never be separated from him. Even as he refines his newfound lifeblood, his old skills are not forsaken. Levels of Deadman stack with levels of Duskblade for the purposes of determining access to Arcane Channeling abilities as well as spells known and spells per day.
The drawing of blood for other uses is a practice that goes back hundreds of years, but the Hematyc Cult, under the leadership of their vampire guides, developed a method both beautiful and horrible, as it required a strong connection between the practitioner and the blood being drawn. Whenever the Deadman takes or deals damage to a blooded creature equal to or greater than his Constitution score, he can, as a Swift action, encapture the blood in a coherent sphere known as a Vitae.
Vitae orbit around the Deadman like Ioun stones, and a number of his abilities utilize them. The Deadman can have a number of Vitae active equal to his Int modifier active at a given time, and any additional Vitae created past that point fall to the ground as mere blood. The Deadman cannot create Vitae from stored blood - the act of drawing itself is key to their creation. As a Swift action, once per turn, the Deadman can consume a Vitae to regain health equal to his Con modifier.
Branch of Sin (Su):
One of the Deadman’s most signature abilities, the Branch of Sin is a borrowed name granted to their unique capabilities by those crusading against them. Rather than rebel against the title, they embraced it, and given its inherently creative nature, most Deadmen adopt a “signature” Branch of Sin that is useful and meaningful to them.
A Deadman can create small items, such as tools or weapons, from blood. You need merely touch any blood - your own included, or a Vitae (though it is consumed in the process) - and draw forth the desired item, shaped from ensorceled blood. It cannot posess moving or flexible parts, so you could not create a crossbow, rope, flail, or cabinet. You can create nearly any other weapon, simple tool, or small item, however.
The Deadman can create one item weighing a number of pounds up to his character level or two items whose combined weight does not exceed that limit. Creating a Branch of Sin is a standard action. If the item leaves your possession, it fades into useless, dried blood in 1d4 rounds. Otherwise, it lasts for 1 hour per class level. Branch of Sin is available a number of times per day equal to your class level. Items created by Branch of Sin cannot be employed as material components or foci in spellcasting. If you want to create an item that mimics a specific item you have seen, you must succeed on a DC 20 Craft check of the appropriate sort (weaponsmithing, for instance.)
At 5th level, you can enhance your creations. You can imbue a Branch of Sin weapon or shield with an enhancement bonus equal to your class level minus 5. For instance, if you are a 9th level Deadman, you can create a +4 Longsword. If you create two enhanced items at one time, you must divide the total enhancement bonus between them - eg, at 7th level, the Deadman could create two +1 daggers.
To succeed at this enhanced crafting, you must make an appropriate Craft check for each item (usually weapon or armor smithing) against a DC of 20 + the desired enhancement bonus. If you fail, the item is nonmagical. You can only have one enhanced shadow-crafted item (or two, if they were created concurrently) at a time. If you create new enhanced items, the old ones immediately become nonmagical. Attempting to create enhanced items is a full-round action.
At 7th level, you can quicken your crafting. You need only a standard action to create enhanced items and only a swift action to create nonmagical ones.
At 9th level, you can apply the Vampiric property (MiC) to any weapon you create through Branch of Sin (if you create two weapons at once, only one can be Vampiric.)
Quicken the Blood:
Blood, for many creatures, is life. Without it, they simply waste away. Deadmen know it is more than some vital fluid, however, it is the very vessel of life for these creatures. In capturing their Vitae, Deadmen seal that life energy within the blood they are stealing, saving it for a greater purpose. Life energy is quite powerful, and when converted to raw, arcane energy, very useful to the Deadman. By consuming a Vitae as a Swift action, the Deadman can cast any spell he knows.
This does not use one of his spells per day, but otherwise functions identically to casting the spell normally, including the ability to use his Arcane Channeling ability.
As the Deadman grows in skill and power, his ability to trap life energy within the blood he steals grows. When he consumes a Vitae to restore hit points, he gains double his Constitution score in health points.
Clad in Blood (Su):
While the swirling orbs of blood were a sight to be feared in the days of the Hematyc Cult’s greatest strength, veterans of the battles against them had learned to fear Deadmen with no visible Vitae - because those Deadmen were wearing the blood.
In a ritual that takes 5 minutes of uninterrupted concentration, a Deadman can infuse a piece of armor or a weapon with one of his Vitae. This does not consume the Vitae, but it instead remains active, unavailable for use in other abilities.
An item so infused gains a weapon/armor ability of the Deadman’s choice with a bonus of up to half his class level. This lasts as long as the Vitae is committed to the piece of equipment.
The Deadman is something more than mortal. The very blood within his veins is a source of incredible power when molded into the form of a Vitae. At the peak of their power, they can drive their body to impossible feats.
At level 5, the Deadman can consume the life energy within a Vitae to drive himself to incredible acts of speed and finesse. By consuming a Vitae as a swift action, the Deadman can take another Move action.
At level 7, the Deadman can channel a Vitae’s energy through his body as more ordinary spellcasters do, to bring himself to his enemies wherever they may be. By consuming a Vitae as a standard action, the Deadman can cast Fly
, as the spell targeted on himself.
At 9th level, adrenaline can’t hope to match the sheer boost of energy and power consuming a single Vitae grants the Deadman. As a swift action the Deadman can consume any number of Vitae - if he does, he can make that many more additional attacks at his highest BAB during a full attack action.
Bathed in Blood:
A Deadman is most at home in the thick of combat, his weapon thrashing and spells coursing through his body. While he certainly can’t capture all of the life he sets free in his frenzy into as useful a form as the Vitae, the more powerful a Deadman becomes, the more of it he can save.
When the Deadman does damage to a blooded creature in melee range, he draws upon the fleeting life force contained in the spraying blood and gains health equal to his class level.
While the Blood Magi were the true masters of the ability to pass great distances through living blood, the Deadmen, as their successors, are not unfamiliar with the ability, though their mastery is notably lesser.
The Deadman gains the supernatural ability to transport himself via the blood of living creatures. Once per encounter, as a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity, he can seamlessly enter any blooded creature whose size equals or exceeds his own and pass to another blooded creature within 50’. The entry and destination creatures need not be familiar to the Deadman. The Deadman cannot use himself as the entry creature. If an intended entry creature is unwilling, he must make a successful melee touch attack to enter (a missed touch attack does not consume the use of the ability for the encounter.) When exiting a creature, a Deadman designates an adjacent square in which to appear. Entering and exiting a creature is painless unless the Deadman wishes otherwise (see below.)
If he desires, the Deadman can attempt to make a bloody exit from the destination creature. He bursts forth explosively from the creature’s body, dealing 8d10 points of damage unless the creature makes a Fortitude save (DC 10 + class level + Con modifier) for half damage. WHen he makes a bloody exit, a Deadman must succeed on a DC 15 Fort save or be stunned for 1 round from the shock of the travel.
Hematyc Detonation (Su):
The level all Deadmen strive to. The pinnacle of their power. Deadmen become horrifying red streaks on the battlefield, their entire bodies gleaming with the crimson sheen of the blood empowering them. The more they kill, the longer they can fight, and putting one down for good is a nearly impossible venture, especially those who have learned their caste’s ultimate technique.
As an immediate action once per day, the Deadman can effectively detonate his own body, exploding in a shower of blood, negating any effects targeting him at the time. This sudden spray of power-laced blood does 8d10 damage in a radius of 25’ (Reflex save for half, DC 10 + class level + Con mod). At the beginning of his next turn, the Deadman has the option to reform his body anywhere in a 25’ radius from his initial position. If he delays his reforming for more than 5 rounds, however, the blood showered over the area dries up too much to be used to reform, and the Deadman is considered dead, leaving no corpse behind. This ability consumes all of the Deadman’s Vitae.
PLAYING A DEADMAN
You are a brutal force, using the blood of your enemies to draw yet more blood from them. Some Deadmen may prefer to use their own blood, but wherever you draw it from, the front lines are where you belong, weapons and armor flashing crimson.
Combat will be a balancing act of how to use your swift actions every round. Vitae can be a very powerful tool for saving your resources, but unless you are creating new ones, you will run out very quickly, especially if you already have some committed to your equipment. Beyond that, standing between the big mean beasts and your frailer companions and dishing out as much damage as you can is your shining strength.
As with many Duskblades, finding ways to add spells to your repertoire without sacrificing your combat ability is a very powerful method of advancement. Or you can forsake your combat or spellcasting entirely to focus on one or the other.
If the Deadman hailed from a group or cult, obviously they will be a powerful resource. Beyond that, the resources available to most wizards and knights make sense, with a possibility of darker, shadier groups being available.
DEADMEN IN THE WORLD
"Why do they call themselves Deadmen? I can't say for sure, but if you ask me, they call themselves that because it's exactly what they are. They are mortals courting death, wielding death, wearing death.
They'll tell you otherwise, but don't believe them for a second. Killing is all they know, they depend on it. Need it. They're nothing without death."
Deadmen were introduced to the world as the knights of the Hematyc Cult, brutal, efficient killing machines that bathed in blood and only grew more powerful the more blood they shed.
To put it lightly, they generally aren't well-received.
Deadmen are dedicated to combat, and often grow to know little else. Many try to maintain gentler hobbies to maintain their humanity, but it is very easy to let that slip away.
Ganta and Shiro formed a group of Deadmen after the time of the Hematyc Cult and did their best to maintain their abilities while being a more positive force in the world. They presented themselves as knight-martyrs, shedding their own blood to get the power necessary to protect the downtrodden, but unfortunately their good intentions served to bring the Deadman to the public eye, and those with less noble intentions for their power
The Hematyc Cult was a death-worshipping cult of blood-obsessed fanatics. The Foundation began by Shino and Ganta was a training center dedicated to a sacrificial form of knighthood. Organizations of Deadmen range from extreme to extreme, but they are rarely welcomed by the world at large.
Deadmen are typically knights wearing armor covered in blood and wielding weapons no less crimson-stained. At the very least, they are seen as brutal - like any other heavily armed person might be when wandering through town soaked in blood. Those who remember the days of the Hematyc Cult will distrust them entirely, but those days are long past.
DEADMEN IN THE GAME
The Deadman takes the Duskblade and gives it a number of options to make itself more sustainable and less reliant on loot they find or buy in the world. How much this affects your campaign will vary.
Setting with a low prevalence of magical items may find the higher levels of Deadman very powerful, as it gives fairly easy access to powerful magical equipment for that player. Adjusting the crafting capabilities one direction or another may be key in these cases.