View Full Version : The Death Knight (Base Class

Realms of Chaos
2010-04-22, 08:11 AM
The Death Knight

While there are already more homebrewed and third-party "martial necromancers" than you can shake a stick at, I decided to try making one of my own to see how it worked.
I used the basic format for another base class that I saw on these boards awhile ago (Kellus' Corsair) and warped it into the most simplistic base class that I have ever created... ever. :smalleek:
I'm not so sure on the balance of this thing but here we go.

Hit Dice d12
Alignment: Any nongood
Class Skills: Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Use Magic Device (Cha)
Skill Points at 1st level: (2 + Int modifier) x 4
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier

{table=head]Level|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Special|1st|2nd|3rd|4th|5th

+2|Felling Blow (1d6), Necrotic Surge 1/day|-|-|-|-|-

+3|Armor of Death I|-|-|-|-|-

+3|Felling Blow (2d6), Undead Legion +2|-|-|-|-|-

+4|Beacon of Death I|1|-|-|-|-

+4|Felling Blow (3d6), Necrotic Surge 2/day|1|-|-|-|-

+5|Armor of Death II|2|-|-|-|-

+5|Felling Blow (4d6), Undead Legion +4|2|1|-|-|-

+6|Beacon of Death II|2|1|-|-|-

+6|Felling Blow (5d6), Necrotic Surge 3/day|3|2|-|-|-

+7|Armor of Death III|3|2|1|-|-

+7|Felling Blow (6d6), Undead Legion +6|3|2|1|-|-

+8|Beacon of Death III|4|3|2|-|-

+8|Felling Blow (7d6), Necrotic Surge 4/day|4|3|2|1|-

+9|Armor of Death IV|4|3|2|1|-

+9|Felling Blow (8d6), Undead Legion +8|5|4|3|2|-

+10|Beacon of Death IV|5|4|3|2|1

+10|Felling Blow (9d6), Necrotic Surge 5/day|5|4|3|2|1

+11|Armor of Death V|6|5|4|3|2

+11|Felling Blow (10d6), Undead Legion +10|6|5|4|3|2

+12|Beacon of Death V, Endless Legion|6|5|4|3|2 [/table]


Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: A Death Knight gains proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and with all armor and shields (including tower shields).

Felling Blow (Su): Whenever you make a successful attack roll against a creature, roll the indicated dice. If the targetís current hit points are equal to or less than the result, the target is instantly slain. This ability is a death effect. As a standard action, you can grant this benefit to all allied undead within 30 feet for 1 round.

Fluff and Notes:
Fluff: the dark energies coursing through the death knight's body are anathema to all life. Any blow from a death knight's attack or even from one of their minions can utterly snuff out a creature's life force.
Notes: I thought that the death knight should have some manner of offense other than hordes of undead and full BAB. In the end, this is what I came up with. Also, take note that touch attacks do activate this ability at the moment.

Necrotic Surge (Su): As a swift action, you may embrace a surge of negative energy, warping your very body. You gain the undead type but donít recalculate your base attack bonus, saving throws, or skill points. Furthermore, you and all allied undead within 5 feet/level gain turn resistance equal to your Charisma modifier and temporary hit points equal to twice your class level.
As a swift action, you may end a necrotic surge prematurely to reanimate a touched creature slain as long as 1 round/level ago. The creatureís remains must be mostly intact and be applicable with the zombie or skeleton template. The resulting undead may not possess more HD than your class level and you may only control up to 4 HD in undead per class level. You select which template is applied.
A necrotic surge lasts for a number of rounds equal to 5 + your Charisma modifier. You may enter a necrotic surge once per day at 1st level and one additional time per day every 4 levels afterwards (5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th).

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: By embracing the negative energy within you, you become one with undeath, empowering both yourself and undead allies with the sudden burst of negative energy. By passing this energy onto another, you can reanimate the dead as your minion.
Notes: Well, this is what I'm most worried about. Even though I made this ability, I don't know what to make of it. It grants darkvision and some immunities for a short time (situationally useful), gives you some temporary hit points (often useful), and lets you animate the dead (quite useful). This ability is a bunch of stuff generally not gained at level 1 but I still can't quite see it as overpowered.

Armor of Death (Su): Starting at 2nd level, you and all allied undead within 10 feet gain a +1 bonus to your Natural AC and gain Damage Reduction 1/-. Furthermore, once per encounter, you may redirect half of all damage from any one source to an undead that you control within range. Undead ignore nonlethal damage from this source but damage reduction and energy reisstance do not apply to such damage.
At 6th level and every 4 levels afterwards (10th, 14th, and 18th), increase the value of the natural armor and damage reduction by +1. In addition, the range increases by 10 feet and you may redirect damage one additional time per encounter.

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: The power of undeath has strengthened your flesh and your resolve (as well as that of your minions), making you an indomitable opponent. In dire straits, you can even share your injuries with your own minions.
Notes: This ability should be pretty straightforward. It's a nice bonus but it doesn't seem too overpowered. Should I switch the damage-shunting effect to be a daily ability rather than being per encounter?

Undead Legion: Starting at 3rd level, you begin attracting undead as if through the Undead Leadership feat. You do not attract a cohort in this way. You may only attract unintelligent undead as your followers in this way. You gain a +2 bonus to your leadership score and all undead that you control (through this ability or other sources) gain a +2 bonus to their Strength and Dexterity scores. These followers do not stack with any granted by Undead Leadership.
At 7th level and every 4 levels afterwards (11th, 15th, and 19th), you gain a +2 bonus to your leadership score and you grant all undead you control a further +2 bonus to their Strength and Dexterity.

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: Your body has become a genuine beacon of negative energy, drawing undead into your service wherever you go. Through intense conditioning, you manage to keep your minions at peak physical condition.
Notes:Another ability that I don't know about. Having zombie/skeleton minions generally isn't that powerful without hydra madness but you are getting both this and necrotic surge before clerics even get animate dead. In case you can't tell, I created this class to be the master of undeath. As for the stat bonuses, I want to make it clear that you never count as one of your own controlled undead (either due to free will or a command undead spell cast on yourself) but I'm not quite sure how to say this.

Beacon of Death(Su): Starting at 4th level, you become a veritable beacon of negative energy. All other living creatures within 5 feet of you take 1d4 points of damage at the start of each round. All undead and others who are healed by negative energy within 5 feet of you, however, gain fast healing 2. You benefit from this fast healing while in a necrotic surge. The damage is halted by a death ward or similar effect. This ability can be suppressed or restarted as a move action.
At 8th level and every 4 levels afterwards (12th, 16th, and 20th), increase the damage by 1d4 and the fast healing by 2. Furthermore, increase the range of this ability by 5 feet at each such level.

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: Eventually, negative energy starts to leak from your body in waves, corruptng the bodies of the living while restoring that of the undead.
Notes: So you gain another offensive tool (if a minor one) and grant (or even gain) Fast Healing 10 by 20th level. Much like the rest of this class, I don't know about the power level.

Spellcasting: Starting at 4th level, you gain the ability to cast a small number of divine spells, which are drawn from the death knight spell list. You cast your spells spontaneously and have access to all spells on your spell list.
To cast a spell, you must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against your spells is 10 + the spell level + your Charisma modifier.
Like other spellcasters, you can only cast a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Your base allotment is given on the table above. In addition, you receive bonus spells per day if you have a high Charisma score.
Until 4th level, you possess no caster level. Starting at 4th level, your caster level equals your class level-3.

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: Calling upon the souls of those you have slain, you can manifest magical effects in the world around you.
Notes: Just some spontaneous casting. Not that useful but it helps and some of the spells have some degree of tactical application.

Endless Legion (Su): Starting at 20th level, you are no longer limited to 4 HD of controlled undead per class level. You may control any number of unintelligent creatures animated via your necrotic surge class feature.

Fluff and Notes
Fluff: Having achieved the peak of your strength, the size of your undead legion is all but unmatched in the annals of history.
Notes: Well, it seemed like a pretty simple capstone when I was brainstorming ideas and so down it was jotted. No real clue as to its power.

Death Knight Spell List

1st level: Blade of Blood, Chill Touch, Curse Water, Deathwatch, Detect Undead, Hide from Undead, Summon Undead I

2nd level: Command Undead, Desecrate, Disguise Undead, Ghoul Touch, Protection from Positive Energy, Stone Bones, Summon Undead II

3rd level: Animate Dead, Summon Undead III, Undead Lieutenant, Undead Torch, Vampiric Touch

4th level: Bleakness, Enervation, Iron Bones, Life Ward, Summon Undead IV

5th level: Door of Decay, Slay Living, Summon Undead V, Unhallow

Final Notes: I basically wrote this class up in the last two hours, in a very sleep-deprived state (when I do some of my best and some of my worst thinking). I didn't really put much thought into what was written and I only hope that this thing turned out halfway-decent.
As always, thanks for any help that you can render upon me.

2010-04-22, 02:13 PM

Felling Blow: this is a powerful ability, akin to having Power Word: Kill on every attack, if slightly weaker. I'd suggest making it a Standard action to use rather than just a tag-along. At higher levels, speed bump minions are going to be meaningless to this guy and at higher levels, a full attack = auto-dead badguy.

The other option is a save.

Necrotic Surge: Er...the first three parts, undeadness, turn resistance and temporary hp are fine. The animation bit is shaky.

The ability allows you to animate anything with up to twice your level. That means that at level 2, you're able to have an 8HD ogre zombie as your bodyguard. And that's off a one level dip, was i so inclined because it says 'level' rather than "class level" which i presume you meant.

Sure, your zombie minion is only going to have a BAB twice your own with mahoosive strength and fast healing from being next to you...wait, what?

Overall, I think i'd have fewer objections to it if the corpse was limited to "your class level." It might also be nice to dictate the either the Knight must have slain the target or make it so that there is more to it than nodding at the target, though that is entirely flavour-orientated and a few mumbled words like an anti-last-rites thing is always tasty.

Armour of Death: First off, a complaint about formatting. Please [and this is not just you, Bhu does this too], when you have upgraded versions of an ability in a table, include numbers with them, either as Arabic or Roman numerals like Wizards liked to do. It makes is soooo much easier to actually build a character when you can just look how many things apply.

The ability is handy and not insanely powerful. I rather like the ability to shunt damage to a minion. What happens if you were struck with something that the undead is immune to? Does the undead in quesion just not take the damage?

The multiple uses per encounter thing means that there's a good reason to kill your minions, which is always a good thing. Blasters to the fore!

Undead Legion: Not sure what to make of this one...You get a load of undead, a silly number really, though you're not really guaranteed any. It does lead to a certain amount of "necromancer syndrome," the On-Record habit that caused TSR to pointedly discourage DMs to allow players to play them [Zombie, walk down that corridor to spring the trap! Zombie, open that door!].

The Buffed undead are handy. The Followers doubling seems excessive.

The mitigating factor in all this is that the undead are Mindless. I'm not sure how this actually plays out because most DMs have different ideas but by RAW, they'd just stand around once their orders become obsolete. I suppose this balances things and leads to the character not using their hoard when wandering around. Does one of their spells allow them to call their undead from hiding or just put out a summons for them? If not, that would be a useful ability.

Spells: I have a low oppinion of spells in general so i'll be brief. Tightly flavoured list with a nice progression. If I didn't dislike the spells aspect of Paladins, i'd be tempted to use this in a fix...

Beacon of Death: Powerful little ability and it makes it worth not ending your Necrotic Surge. I'd be tempted to tie it directly to the surge because it's potent, very potent, in an unoptimised or character driven game.

Won't break the game, but combined with everything else, i reckon this makes the class solidly more potent than the Dread Necromancer until Finger of Death rolls around and even then, considering Felling Blow...

Endless Legion: It's a capstone and a reasonably solid one at that. Again, i'd reduce the surge power because having a PC with a theoretically, if not practically, unlimited supply of 80HD zombies seems...yeah.

Conclusions: I like the idea, mechanically, there's a lot of instant death and rather large numbers going on. I'd recommend making Felling Blow less make or break, undoubling Undead Legion's followers [there's a feat that does that if they want it] and reducing the HD limit of Necrotic Surge's animate ability to either Class Level or Class Level + Cha, at most. The latter would be silly at low levels though.

2010-04-22, 02:26 PM
I enjoy the class, however I would restrict it to NPC.

Realms of Chaos
2010-04-22, 03:23 PM
Mulletman Alive: If you read carefully, you'd see that I wrote how "The resulting undead may not possess more HD than twice your level". I'm not limiting the HD of the creature you target but of the undead you create.

Even so, you seem to have a pount about limiting it to the class level. I'll also stop the doubling of followers, add numerals to armor of death, and tap beacon of death into necrotic surges.

Thanks alot

Edit: wait a moment. Could you remind me what's wrong with felling blow/beacon of death again. The former is a power word death that requires an attack roll and is less than half as effective. It's like a +35 bonus to damage that only applies if it's enough to kill a target, hardly broken by 20th level (and not too much of a stretch to give undead minions). It's just a mook killer/finisher.
The latter is just a healer for your undead and an aura of damage (5d4 by level 20), making it another mook killer/helper. Should I perhaps alter it so that the fast healing only works while a creature is under half health?

2010-04-22, 05:33 PM
Would have sworn that said "cadaver" rather than "create." I had a headache but the post was so interesting...

Could we also have numerals on the Undead Legion marks too please? Show how many stat bonuses i'm applying.

Felling Blow seems silly probably because it's constant and takes no effort on the user's part. Every hit has this courier effect that can easily kill you if you've taken a couple of hits already. It's not ridiculous at high levels, no, infact in itself, it makes in combat healing actually worthwhile and encourages tactics.

Then I look at that next line and realise that every one of the skeletons and zombies within 30ft gain the same ability. This class just begs to enter big battles but considering the limits of believability and the resulting ap on soldier level, this guy's bodyguards are going to be literal death machines, not to mention the tedium of that many dice or death attacks...

Is there a way of maximising this effect? If there is, it suddenly seems ever more powerful...

The Beacon power, i would not question if it were limited to 5ft range throughout, was short lived [i.e. the Surge connection] or this class didn't lend itself to directly to mass combat. As it is, nothing below about 5HD can get near a high level Death Knight without dying. By near, i mean within thrown weapon range in most cases.

Would a flat 2 negative energy damage be too little [equal to the amount the undead take]? Or a save, possibly? Then again, i wouldn't be batting an eyelid if this were a monster, so i don't suppose it matters any.

Primal Fury
2010-04-22, 05:38 PM
So... a theoretically infinite number of super strong zombies? Good show. :smallbiggrin:

2010-04-22, 06:05 PM
First of all.

Don't give the poor guy a 1/2 class caster level. There are a few offensive spells in that list (some realy nice ones), the poor man should be capable of reliably using them.

On the spell subject. No Darkness, Deeper Darkness or Damning Darkness? That is preposterous!

2010-04-22, 06:42 PM
This is an awesome idea (yay undead!) but I agree that the spellcasting is not that great.

Eternal Drifter
2010-04-22, 06:54 PM
Interesting idea... but there is already a Death Knight monster templete in Monster Manual 2, in the appendix. You might wish to look there, if possible, for ideas.

2010-04-22, 07:03 PM
Actually, the death knight from dragonlance campaign setting is better than the one in MM2.

Realms of Chaos
2010-04-23, 02:01 AM
Okay, I've made some changes.

First, I've added numerals to beacon of death and bonuses to undead legion in the table.
Next, I altered Felling Blow so that it takes a standard action to pass the benefits on to your undead minions (for a single round).
Lastly, I altered the caster level to class level -3 instead of 1/2 class level.

Mulletmanalive: Ah, I see what the problem is, now.
The thing is, by the time a character reaches level 20, no number of 1st level soldiers (or even 5th level soldiers) could possibly provide you with XP. They become too weak to provide a challenge to you and they can only hope to kill you through a near-endless war of attrition or through the 1/8000 3 natural 20s in a row (or by being spellcasters :smalltongue:).
That said, I see no problem with making a class that can kill entire armies (or even entire planes) of level 1 soldiers by the time you reach level 20. To fight against you, an army needs something that approaches your level of power (the type of thing you should be fighting anyways).
In short, this is probably a mere difference of opinion.

Primal Fury: To be fair, your undead only get the Str and Dex boosts by default. Getting the fast healing, natural armor, damage reduction, temporary hit points, turning resistance, and kill effect all require being near you. And some hypothetical benefits even require spells on top of that...

Draken: I didn't add the darkness effects as they didn't seem particularly relevant (and I was sticking to a very tight theme) but you can add them with little trouble when you play this class.

Eternal Drifter/demidracolich: I was aware of the templates when I made this class but this class just seemed to scream "death knight" (the original name was the far less catchy "dreadlord" :smallyuk:). My idea to give the death knight undead leadership actually came from the MMII ability to recruit undead (although I limited to unintelligent minions).

Lix Lorn
2010-04-23, 03:50 AM
Just gonna say it looks good! Anything I know enough to say has already been said.

2010-04-23, 08:28 PM
Anyway I didn`t mean that you should change the name or anything. I was just suggesting a source from which you can base some abilities off of. Seeing, as you have already done that, I have no more to say.