Taker of the Damned
"Some might say I am wicked... but are those who would take from the wicked truly be called wicked themselves? I'm not to be so lightly dismissed as another twisted hellion..." -Serrik Daark
Serrik Daark, taker of the damned
The Nine Hells of Baator are a place where the wicked and vile are tortured for eternity after their final moments on the Material Plane. Most accept this as an inevitability, letting the unclean soul spend all of time under the iron and the knife. There are some who instead sitting and watching, witness their evil and exploit it for their own power. The Takers of the Damned are masters of exploiting wicked souls to draw power into themselves at their expense. Most takers of the damned are incarnates with the dead souls of devils or the like attached to their soul to grant them power, and a very rare few are lawful evil totemists, who find their totem animals to be tied closely to the Nine Hells.
Alignment: Lawful evil or neutral evil
Skills: Concentration 4 ranks, Knowledge (the planes) 8 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks
Feats: Disciple of Darkness, Soulsight
Meldshaping: Must be able to bind soulmelds to your crown, hands and feet. Meldshaper level 5th.
Special: Must have witnessed a character or creature of lawful evil alignment die during an act of evil.
Class Skills: Bluff, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (the planes), Profession, Sense Motive, Spellcraft and Spot
Skill-points per level: 2+Int modifier
1st|+0|+2|+0|+2|Witness damnation, bend alignment|+1 level of meldshaping class
2nd|+1|+3|+0|+3|Crown of the damned|+1 level of meldshaping class
3rd|+1|+3|+1|+3|--|+1 level of meldshaping class
4th|+2|+4|+1|+4|Impure legions|+1 level of meldshaping class
5th|+2|+4|+1|+4|Harvest the impure|+1 level of meldshaping class
6th|+3|+5|+2|+5|Infernal talons|+1 level of meldshaping class
7th|+3|+5|+2|+5|Moral discourse|+1 level of meldshaping class
8th|+4|+6|+2|+6|--|+1 level of meldshaping class
9th|+4|+6|+3|+6|Legion belt|+1 level of meldshaping class
10th|+5|+7|+3|+7|Open the maw of hell|+1 level of meldshaping class
Weapon and armor proficiencies: Takers of the damned gain no additional weapon or armor proficiencies.
Meldshaping: At each level, a taker of the damned increases their meldshaper level, the number of soulmelds they can shape, the number and kinds of chakra binds they can create, and their essentia pool as if they had gained a level in the meldshaping class to which they belonged to prior to gaining the taker of the damned level. They do not, however gain any other abilities of that class. If they had more than one meldshaping class before becoming a taker of the damned, they must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining their essentia pool, meldshaper level, and the number of soulmelds and chakra binds available.
Witness Damnation (Su): You have looked into Hell itself and have seen the damned tortured for all eternity in the blink of an eye, but where others might cower in fear, you draw power from it. Whenever you witness an act of evil committed by anyone of lawful evil or neutral evil alignment, you use them as a portal to Hell by which you draw pure soul energy. You gain a bonus point of essentia for as long as you have line of sight of the evil creature or as many rounds as equal to your Wis score, whichever is shorter. Additionally, when you witness them commit the act you see directly into their afterlife in the Nine Hells, and if using that in an act of intimidation, it grants you a bonus to the check equal to half your meldshaper level.
At 5th level, the bonus essentia granted by this class feature grows to 2, and again at 9th level to 3.
Bend Alignment (Ex): As a taker of the damned, your leniencies are that of the Nine Hells or a similar lawful evil extraplanar location. You are no longer required to have a neutral evil alignment if your class leashes you down to only one alignment(such as the Incarnate), and you are not penalized for having a lawful evil alignment. If your alignment becomes anything other than lawful evil or neutral evil, you face all the same penalties.
Crown of the Damned (Su): At 2nd level, you gain a unique soulmeld that lets you make yourself out to be a false infernal duke of sorts. The statistic for this soulmeld are as follows;
Crown of the Damned
Descriptors: Lawful, Evil
Classes: Taker of the Damned
Saving Throw: None
A crown of red and black iron shapes itself about your head, made of steel spikes and thorns that draw none of your blood. When it finishes shaping, your overall features become more imposing and diabolical.
This soulmeld grants you false infernal power, allowing you to become like unto those who dwell in the depths of Hell. While this soulmeld is bound to you, you gain the fiendish template and all of it's benefits and gain a +4 bonus to Bluff, Disguise and Intimidate checks.
Essentia: By investing 3 points of essentia into this soulmeld, your form becomes more devilish and evil and you instead take the half-fiend template instead of the fiendish template. The bonus to Bluff, Disguise and Intimidate checks increases to +6.
Impure Legions (Ex): You gain a small amount of command over the damned legions. This class feature resembles the Leadership feat with two differences. The first is that your effective leadership score is equal to your meldshaper level plus an amount of essentia invested into this class feature at the beginning of the day. The second is that each of your underlings is a tormented soul of Hell brought unto you by sheer power alone. These creatures are just like the normal legions granted by the Leadership feat except they have the Lawful, Evil and Extraplanar subtypes. Additionally, your cohort must be a lawful evil outsider of some sort, anything from a tiefling to a true devil.
Harvest the Impure (Su): You gain a powerful ability to harvest the very soul energy from the cracks in souls left by their own evil. At 5th level and beyond, If you witness a lawful evil or neutral evil character die, you may as an immediate action harvest their soul. When you do, a small glowing red orb(emitting the light of a candle) appears in your hand. This orb contains an amount of essentia equal to the creature's HD plus it's Con modifier. Once this essentia is used for any reason, it is forever expended, that portion of their soul being transported to Hell. You can only have an amount of these orbs equal to one quarter of your meldshaper level plus your Wis modifier. Any more simply dissipate into a red mist.
Additionally, you may take a swift action to harvest on of the souls granted to you by the impure legions class feature. The essentia ball grants the same essentia as any other creature would, based on it's HD and Con modifier.
Infernal Talons (Su): At 6th level, you gain another unique soulmeld that allows you to burn their very souls with hellfire. The statistics for this soulmeld are as follows;
Descriptors: Lawful, Evil
Classes: Taker of the Damned
Saving Throw: None
You focus soul energy into black-red iron gauntlets around your hands that look like the terrible claws of a devil. You hold your hands up and fire white hot hellfire at your foe, whose very spirit is wasted away.
These gauntlets allow you to use scorching ray as a standard action, with a caster level equal to your meldshaper level. The damage dealt by this spell is half fire and half pure profane energy(nameless damage). For every ray that hits an opponent, the target suffers 1 Cha damage.
Essentia: For every point of essentia you invest in this soulmeld, you gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls for the rays.
Moral Discourse(Sp): You are a creature of evil, and you are capable of bending the situation to your own will. You may use morality undone as a spell-like ability once per round as a standard action. Once used, it cannot be used again for another 1d6 minutes.
Legion Belt (Su): You gain a third and final unique soulmeld of this class, the legion belt. This belt allows you to move your unholy armies at your own will with a thought. The statistics for this soulmeld are as follows;
Descriptors: Lawful, Evil
Classes: Taker of the Damned
Saving Throw: None
A black and red chain forms tightly around your waist and lower stomach and spikes grow from it, but do not pierce your skin or bleed you. With a thought your entire unholy legion stands before you, ready for battle.
As a full-round action, while wearing this soulmeld you are able to summon the entirety of the legions of your impure legions class feature, including your cohort. This spell otherwise works just as the greater teleport spell, but works only on your legions, and only allows them to teleport to your location. If you wish to teleport them into a space they cannot all fit within, you summon as many as can fit in the designated location.
Essentia: By investing 2 essentia into this soulmeld, you may use it as a standard action instead of a full-round action, and if you invest 3 essentia you may use it as a move action.
Open the Maw of Hell(Sp): You gain the last step of power over the damned that stand in your way. As a standard action, you may rip open a small vacuum attached right to the heart of the Nine Hells surrounding a person or creature of lawful evil or neutral evil alignment. They may make a Fort save(DC 10+1/2 your meldshaper level+invested essentia) to resist the effect, but if they fail they are trapped in one of the many torture rooms of the Nine Hells for one minute, before appearing again before them.
When they return they are considered shaken and are forced to take 10d8 points of fire damage, plus another 1d8 damage equal to the amount of essentia invested in this power. This ability does not work on lawful evil or neutral evil outsiders.
PLAYING A TAKER OF THE DAMNED
Takers of the damned are hard to pinpoint into one single specialty, like most meldshapers, but they do have a knack for leading their own hellish armies into battle and undoing those who are hellbound. The class works particularly well in evil campaigns where the party faces many lawful or neutral evil enemies.
Combat: As mentioned before, takers of the damned are hard to fit into one category, but they do well with their armies. With their infernal talons soulmeld, they become rather good at dealing damage to foes from afar, and degrading their social and some arcane powers(depending on who they might be). They may not have a very high HD, but meldshapers of all sorts tend to have high Con scores, so being in melee combat isn't completely out of the question, though once this class attains impure legions, they should be perfectly comfortable standing at the back of their unholy masses.
Advancement: This class does well picking up soulmelds and magic items that boost allies or lower the saves and abilities of enemies instead of strait damage. Wish high enough boosts for their armies, they can let a swath of destruction happen while barely raising a finger.
Resources: This class draws primarily of the new mechanic of Incarnum as found in the book Magic of Incarnum. Other options characters of this class might do well to look into would be books such as The Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells and the Book of Vile Darkness, both of which holds many options for characters associated with devils and their ilk.
TAKERS OF THE DAMNED IN THE WORLD
"It just isn't natural, they spot you doing something like embezzlin' or even just takin' an old ladies' purse an' they... they burn the spirit right out o' ya..." -Tavrin Callas, a somewhat shaken thief
There are two types of takers of the damned in the world, the first of which lends themselves purely to the shadows, hiding behind disguises and pretending to be noblemen or priests or any average city patron. The second type, and the type most infamous and well known are the dark generals. These dark generals sit atop thrones of black iron and bone, commanding their legions and destroying all those who would get in their way with their vast armies of tortured, hellish souls. Many who challenge these warmasters are rarely ever seen again.
Daily Life: The daily life of a taker of the damned are from incredibly average to utterly profane, but rarely anything in between. The lives of the takers are usually either that of a hidden noble, acting out his role as a worthless leg of a million legged creature known as the nobility. The others stand as nobles aswell, but instead of a tubby bureaucrat, they are the dark kings and warlords over armies of damned souls and unholy minions.
Notables: It is said that the original user of this twisted incarnum was a devil-worshiping incarnate named Lazarus Sorkid. Sorkid lived as the leader of a small town of incarnates, in the disguise of a benevolent leader, but by night making sacrifices to his diabolical master. At one point he searched the darkness of Hell and brought forth into his soul a crown. This black iron crown was his key to his mastery of the new life as a Taker of the Damned.
He had no choice but to thank the Pit itself for his gift and did an act that will forever be a stain on the history of mankind. He summoned all the townspeople to a gathering in the middle of town's square, where he had stealthily placed a large pentagram, which they had all unwittingly gathered in the center of. Standing hidden in plain sight beside him was a Pit Fiend in polymorphed shape, and once Sorkid had the attention of the crowd he uttered a single phrase in Infernal, not any whom this day even know, and the pit-fiend slaughtered the lot of them without prejudice.
Organizations: There are little to no organizations that have takers of the damned as exclusive members. Most takers become part of devil cults, or churches of lawful evil gods, most notably Hextor and a rare few flocking to Nerull or Vecna for infernal soul magic.
Most NPC's look upon this class as a blight upon them, and will usually either stand against them or flee in fear, depending on how powerful they feel in comparison to the taker. Devils and worshipers of evil gods(with the exception of demon-worshipers) will most usually smile upon the soul-taking villain as one of their own and if it is to their benefit, will likely grant them favors.
TAKERS OF THE DAMNED IN THE GAME
Members of this profane class do best as commanders or generalists in parties, depending on the variables of incarnum to work out what their specialties will be. If the party members are a part of a full-scale battle, a taker may be a blessing, as their army of the damned will obey him almost without complaint(with the exception of moaning in agony almost constantly).
Adaptation: This class can be fitted to be of all evil alignments, sending the or receiving the damned of Gehenna, the Abyss or any other evil-aligned plane, where lawful might be replaced by chaos or in the case of neutral evil, both chaos and lawful.
Encounters: Takers of the Damned make excellent BBEG's, perhaps sitting on a twisted throne of black iron at the top of an infernal tower waiting for a group of adventurers to fall into his trap and be destroyed, or just hiding under their nose, pretending to be a wealthy merchant paying the PC's to do tasks for him, little to their knowledge that these things will lead to their own utter ruin at the benfit of the taker.
EL 15: Serrik Daark has been tampering with the infernal aspects of incarnum for many years. At a young age his parents allowed him to witness as they sacrificed a paladin to their dark god Hextor. He found sick pleasure watching the paladin scream and grew to follow in his parent's footsteps as a worshiper of the god of tyranny. At the age of 19 he wandered through his neighborhood finding each member of the infernal church and slit their throats one by one, as an utterly profane act in the name of Hextor. These damned souls now serve as his moaning, agonized legions, whom he enjoys lording over so greatly.
More to come.