Alternate Class - Soulreaper

by Michael Mearls, Dragon #312

In most cultures, the living honor the dead. But while others grieve for the fallen and honor their memory, the dark magi see them as convenient tools awaiting exploitation.

The dark magi lurk at the edges of society, carrying out their abhorrent work where the prying eyes of others cannot see them. These foul wizards, and those desperate or foolish enough to work with them, must generally cultivate their trade on their own. No arcane academies (at least none that are easily found) offer coursework in such depraved magic. Occasionally a young aspirant to this path can find a mentor, but most study alone. For this reason, numerous specialties have developed that center around the dark acts of animating and controlling the dead.

The dark magi character classes are variants of the wizard. Each focuses on a different aspect of the necromantic arts.

Most necromancers care little for the living, regarding them at best as potential sources of new undead servitors and at worst as inconvenient meddlers. The soul reaper takes a radically different approach. Rather than use her magic to expand the power of death, she crafts spells to breach the barrier between the living and the dead. By peering into the cosmic ether, the soul reaper can snatch a creature's spirit in the split second that it hovers between the material world and the afterlife.

By collecting souls in this manner and using obscene rituals to torment and enslave them, the soul reaper can expand her arcane power and conquer her enemies more easily. For this reason, she is perhaps the most feared of the dark magi. A fleshcrafter may kill one or more victims to produce a new servant, but the creature so formed is only an animated physical shell - the life forces of the victims themselves pass on to the afterlife. Other necromancers traffic with evil spirits and mindless undead, but only the soul reaper routinely denies her victims their final reward. Trapped within her service, suspended between life and death, they endure a terrible, lonely existence in which they cater to the whims of a power-hungry wizard. When a diabolical fiend must permanently remove an opponent, he calls upon a soul reaper to trap his foe's spirit. Even a cleric's power to raise the dead fails to function on a soul trapped within a ruby that a soul reaper has tossed into the sea.

Class Skills

The soul reaper's class skills are Concentration, Craft, Knowledge (all skills taken individually), Profession, and Spellcraft.

Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) x 4.

Skill Points at each additional level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the Soulreaper.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Like most arcane spellcasters, a dark magus receives only minimal training with weapons and none with armor. He is proficient with the club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff, but not with any type of armor or shield. Armor of any type interferes with a dark magus's movements, which can cause spells with somatic components to fail.

Spells: A dark magus casts arcane spells, which are drawn from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. He must choose and prepare his spells ahead of time, like a wizard. To learn, prepare, or cast a spell, a dark magus must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a dark magus's spell is 10 + the spell level + the dark magus's Intelligence modifier.

Like a wizard, a dark magus can cast only a certain number of arcane spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on the table for his class (see below). In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Intelligence score.

All dark magi function as necromancer specialist wizards for the purpose of spellcasting. They must specialize in necromancy and choose prohibited schools as per the standard rules for specialist wizards.

Spellbooks: A dark magus must record his spells in thick books. Each morning, he pores over these tomes to prepare his spells for use later in the day. The dark magus can prepare read magic from memory, but all other spells must appear in his spellbooks before he can prepare them. A dark magus gains all 0-level wizard spells (except for those from prohibited schools) at 1st level. In addition, he gains three 1st-level spells and an additional number equal to his Intelligence bonus. Thereafter, each time the dark magus achieves a new level, he gains two new spells of any level or levels that his new level allows him to cast.

Spell Mastery: Like a wizard, a dark magus may select the Spell Mastery feat.

Inquisitor of the Grave (Sp): At 1st level, the soul reaper learns to force information from the recently departed soul of a fresh corpse. Once per day, the soul reaper can use speak with dead as a spell-like ability, duplicating the effects of the speak with dead spell. The soul reaper must follow all the guidelines and restrictions associated with casting that spell.

Spiritual Vassal: The soul reaper can compel obedience from a host of spirits that she has seized through a foul ceremony and combined into a single spiritual vassal. This ghostly apparition has little effect on the physical world, but besides acting as a familiar, it grants the reaper some of the knowledge the souls used to create it held in life.

A soul reaper dominates and controls the spirits that make up the vassal through a vile ritual that requires 100 gp worth of materials (primarily blood and bone taken from outsiders) and a humanoid creature slain via a ritual sacrifice. After killing her victim, the soul reaper can open a magical link to the afterlife, compel a number of minor spirits to enter the material world, and force them into her service. These spirits combine to form a single entity known as a spiritual vassal that obeys the soul reaper's every command - primarily because it faces terrible repercussions if it refuses to do so. As a free action, a soul reaper can induce wracking agony in her vassal, causing it to howl in pain. The pain immobilizes the vassal (no save) until the reaper wills the effect to end (also a free action). This pitiable creature might moan for an end to its horrid existence even as it moves to oppose the soul reaper's foes.

While the spiritual vassal serves the soul reaper, it is as loyal and trustworthy as a standard wizard's familiar. If it is destroyed, the soul reaper suffers the same drawbacks as a wizard does if her familiar is slain. The spiritual vassal gains all the abilities indicated on the Spiritual Vassal Special Abilities table, based on its master's level. Many of these are the standard abilities of a familiar, but a few are unique to the spiritual vassal. The spiritual vassal also gains all the abilities described under "Familiar Basics".

Spiritual vassals are rarely encountered without a master. The statistics provided here, for an unbonded vassal, should only actually be used if the vassal's master is slain and it manages to survive. Unbonded vassals constantly whimper and softly moan of their despair, begging any creatures they encounter to end their miserable existence and send the souls trapped in their bodies back to the afterlife.

Spiritual Vassal (unbonded): CR -; Tiny undead; HD 1/2d12; hp 2; Init +1; Spd 10 ft., fly 30 ft. (perfect); AC 14, touch 13, flat-footed 13, BAB +0; Grp -8; Atk +1 melee (1-1, slam); Full Atk +1 melee (1-1, slam); SA -; SQ undead traits; AL N; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +3; Str 8, Dex 12, Con -, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10.

A spiritual vassal looks like a small sphere of pale, glowing light. Those unfamiliar with soul reapers and their servants might mistake one for a will-o'-wisp. When in combat or forced to perform some other unpleasant task, spiritual vassals moan in inarticulate whispers of their pain and misery. Up close, shadowy faces - the spirits of the unfortunate souls bound into the vassal - occasionally appear and fade on the surface of the orb.

Ancestral Knowledge (Sp): The spiritual vassal can draw on its memories from life to provide the reaper with advice, skills, and abilities on a temporary basis. Starting at 5th level, the soul reaper can access her spiritual vassal's memories, gaining one of the abilities described below (reaper's choice) once per day. She gains one additional selection per day at 9th level, another at 13th level, and a fourth at 17th level. The soul reaper may mix and match the abilities as desired within her usage allotment. For example, a 17th-level soul reaper could use the memories of past lives ability four times, or memories of past lives twice and talents of the elders twice, or any combination of the three abilities that adds up to four uses. The reaper's spiritual vassal must be able to communicate with her for this ability to function.
Memories of Past Lives: Drawing on her spiritual vassal's memories, the soul reaper gains a +5 competence bonus on checks made with a skill of her choice. This bonus lasts for 1 minute.
Speech of the Ancients: The soul reaper gains the ability to speak and read a language of her choice for 1 minute.
Talents of the Elders: The soul reaper gains temporary access to a feat of her choice for which she meets the prerequisites. She can use the feat for 1 minute.

Bind Spirit (Su): At 5th level, the soul reaper may attempt to capture the spirit of a dying creature in a gem or crystal worth at least 500 gp. This entrapment requires a standard action, and the soul reaper must ready her action to use it at the moment her victim reaches -10 hit points or is destroyed. The victim may attempt a Will save (DC 15 + the soul reaper's Intelligence modifier) to resist the binding. On a failed save, the victim's spirit is trapped in the gem, where it must remain for 1 day per level the soul reaper possesses in this class, or until the gem is broken or destroyed. As long as the soul is in the gem, the victim cannot be restored to life in any manner. The victim's soul cannot be communicated with or contacted in any way, with the exception of the soul reaper abilities described below.

The soul reaper can choose to use any one of the following benefits once per day while the soul is within the gem.

Whether or not the reaper actually uses one of these options, the soul is automatically released at the end of the ability's duration. If the gem or crystal is destroyed, the soul is freed immediately.

Bonus Feat: At 10th level, the soul reaper gains a bonus feat. She may choose any metamagic, item creation, or necromantic feat for which she meets the prerequisites. She gains another such bonus feat at 20th level.

Spawn Undead Servitor: At 15th level, the soul reaper gains the dreaded ability to force a soul captured via her bind spirit ability to inhabit the body of a skeleton or zombie. By completing a ritual that costs 500 gp per Hit Die of the skeleton or zombie, the reaper can permanently grant it the trapped soul's base attack bonus (if higher than its current one), skill ranks, weapon proficiencies, armor proficiencies, and feats. In addition, the undead creature gains the victim's Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. Other abilities, such as class abilities, special attacks, and special qualities, cannot be transferred in this manner.

This process creates a corrupted, twisted version of the original soul with the soul reaper's alignment in the undead creature. Once the ritual is complete, the trapped soul used in the ritual is freed and moves on to the afterlife normally. The reaper gains no special control over undead creatures created in this way unless she already commands them. For purposes of turning or rebuking undead, an undead servitor counts as 1 1/2 times its actual Hit Dice. Its challenge rating equals its base CR plus 1/4 of the CR of the bound spirit used in the ritual.

SoulreaperHit Die: d4
CLBABFortRefWillSpecialSpells per Day
1st+0+0+0+2Inquisitor of the grave, spiritual vassal31--------
5th+2+1+1+4Bind spirit4321------
10th+5+3+3+7Bonus feat444332----
15th+7/+2+5+5+9Spawn undead servant444444321-
20th+10/+5+6+6+12Bonus feat4444444444
*The number of spells per day listed for each level does not include the character's bonus necromancy spell at each level for specializing in the necromancy school.
Spiritual Vassal Special Abilities
Master Class LevelNatural ArmorInt Adj.Special
1-2+110Alertness*, empathic link*, improved evasion*, share spells
3-4+211Deliver touch spells*
5-6+312Ancestral knowledge (1/day), speak with master*
9-10+514Ancestral knowledge (2/day)
11-12+615Spell resistance*
13-14+716Ancestral knowledge (3/day), scry on familiar*
17-18+918Ancestral knowledge (4/day)-
*This trait is identical to the standard familiar ability of the same name, as given in Familiars.
Spiritual vassals begin with a +1 natural armor bonus. The number noted here is an improvement to the vassal's existing natural armor

Source: Dragon #312

Alternate Character Classes
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