Alternate Class - Deathwalker

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.

From the earliest days of her training, the deathwalker works to gain immortality as an undead creature. The first stages of her transformation are simple changes that leave her mostly alive. As her necromantic prowess increases, however, the dark energies she commands slowly kill off her corporeal form, rotting it from the inside out. By the time she reaches 20th level, she has completed her transformation into an undead creature.

The deathwalker invests more time and effort in achieving immortality this way than she would by using other means, but the gradual change allows her to gain control of potent necromantic magic as she undergoes the necessary physical changes. Furthermore, as she grows in power, her capacity to command and control other undead creatures increases. The deathwalker may follow a more arduous road to eternal life than other necromancers, but the end result is immortality plus power - a potent combination indeed.

Deathwalkers crave undeath, and they view necromancy as a useful tool for collecting and commanding utterly obedient undead servants. Many deathwalkers are utterly amoral, seeing living beings in the same light as they do skeletons or zombies. Both categories of beings, living and mindless undead, are little more than tools or objects to be used and manipulated for their own twisted ends. Some deathwalkers are content to remain in their isolated towers and strongholds, but most are too ambitious to rest on their laurels. Their casual disdain for the living leads them to pursue rituals that require the deaths of hundreds of innocents with little concern for the potential repercussions of their actions.

Class Skills

The deathwalker's class skills are Bluff, 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 deathwalker.

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.

Master of the Dead (Sp): At 1st level, the deathwalker gains the ability to bind certain undead creatures to her service, controlling them as though with animate dead. If the deathwalker or any of her allies attack a controlled creature, control is immediately broken for that creature.

Upon confronting a zombie or skeleton, the deathwalker can attempt a Charisma check (DC 15 + the undead's Hit Dice) to command it. She cannot use this method if she or any of her comrades have already attacked the target creature.

A deathwalker can control only as many skeletons and zombies as her level allows, as given on the table below. (Treat undead with less than one Hit Die as 1-HD undead for the purpose of this ability.) If she attempts to gain control of undead in excess of her limit, she must immediately release already controlled zombies and skeletons from her service until the number she has under her control falls to or below her limit. The limit given on the Master of the Dead table is the maximum number of Hit Dice of mindless undead that the deathwalker can control by any means, including animate dead. (That is, casting animate dead does not allow the deathwalker to exceed this limit.) The deathwalker's ability to control undead using master of the dead extends only to skeletons and zombies.

At this point in her development, the deathwalker gains a pale complexion and an unnaturally low body temperature. Her hands are cold to the touch, and her eyes have a glassy look. She takes a -2 penalty on all Fortitude saves to resist negative levels as her life force begins to waver within her physical shell.

Undead Familiar: A deathwalker's familiar is always an undead creature. The deathwalker uses all the standard rules that a wizard would for gaining a familiar, but the creature that arrives immediately becomes undead. Its type changes to undead, and all its Hit Dice become d12s (this does not affect its hit points). Like other undead, it has no Constitution score. It gains darkvision to a range of 60 feet if it did not already have it, and it also gains the standard undead traits, as noted below. Treat the familiar's Hit Dice as equal to its master's for the purpose of turn, rebuke, or bolster attempts. The creature cannot be commanded by anyone save its own master.

Undead Traits: An undead creature is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects or is harmless. It is not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage to its physical ability scores, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or death from massive damage. It cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if it is willing.

Aura of the Grave (Ex): At 5th level, the deathwalker continues her slow descent into an undead state. She no longer needs to sleep, and she gains immunity to sleep effects. She also becomes immune to all diseases. Her nerve endings begin to dull, making her less able to feel pain.

The physical effects of the deathwalker's continuing transformation become more marked at this point. Her skin draws tightly over her body, giving her a hollow, empty look. Any person viewing her may make a Knowledge (arcana) check (DC 25) to determine that she follows the deathwalker's path. Because of her decreased tactile sense, she may absentmindedly skewer her hand with a needle while deep in thought, singe her hand on a hot stove without noticing, or fail to note the flies that land on her eye or buzz in or near her mouth. Slowly but surely, she continues to lose her grip on life.

Shroud of Death (Ex): As the deathwalker's magical prowess increases, her physical body continues to fail. Yet, in many ways, she becomes stronger than ever. As her body dies, her organs rot in place, but the necromantic energies she has learned to harness keep her bodily processes functioning enough to sustain the shred of life remaining in her.

At 10th level, the deathwalker gains a +4 circumstance bonus on saves against poison, paralysis, and mind-affecting effects. Since her organs have largely ceased functioning, there is a 50% chance that extra damage from a critical hit or sneak attack does not affect her. This ability works much like the fortification special armor quality. She no longer needs to eat or drink to stay alive (although she still must breathe). However, the stench of decay that surrounds her imposes a -2 penalty on Charisma, Bluff, and Diplomacy checks against any creatures except undead.

Mastery of Undeath (Su): At 15th level, the deathwalker gains the ability to force obedience and servitude from even the mightiest undead creatures. The raw force of her necromantic magic combined with the slow replacement of her living body with undead flesh make her appear as a commanding, regal figure to the undead. She gains the ability to rebuke or command undead as an evil cleric of her deathwalker level a number of times per day equal to 1 + her Charisma bonus (if any).

She also develops further outward signs of her descent into undeath. Her stomach bloats and may even split open because of the rot within her body, and her teeth turn yellow and fall from her gums.

Mantle of Undeath: At 20th level, the deathwalker finally becomes an undead creature. She loses her Constitution score and any bonus hit points she had previously gained from it, and her Hit Die type becomes d12 (but the deathwalker's hit point total does not change). Her type changes to undead, and she gains the standard undead traits (see above). She does not lose any of the racial traits she previously possessed, and her attack bonuses, save bonuses, and other statistics are not recalculated.

DeathwalkerHit Die: d4
CLBABFortRefWillSpecialSpells per Day
1st+0+0+0+2Master of the dead, undead familiar31--------
5th+2+1+1+4Aura of the grave4321------
10th+5+3+3+7Shroud of death444332----
15th+7/+2+5+5+9Mastery of undeath444444321-
20th+10/+5+6+6+12Mantle of undeath4444444444
*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.

Master of the Dead

Maximum HD
of Undead

Source: Dragon #312

Alternate Character Classes
© 2000-2006 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.