General Prestige Class : Cave Stalker

by Eric Cagle, Dragon #292

Most dwarven strongholds are made up of numerous tunnels, warrens, and cave systems, some of which have been ignored or forgotten by their owners. Monstrous creatures and humanoids, like orcs, goblins, and ogres expand like fungus in these cold, dark areas, using them as staging grounds to attack the heart of dwarven communities. To prevent this from happening, certain dwarves are trained from an early age to navigate the long-forgotten tunnels and make preemptive strikes against their enemies. These stealthy warriors are known as cave stalkers.

Cave stalkers specialize in hunting down and eliminating creatures in the dark, twisting caves around dwarven communities. They use stealth, ambush, and deception to single out foes and remove them one by one. A typical strategy is to track down the enemy, then meld into stone close to their location. The cave stalker then waits for her enemy to pass by, leaping out from behind to attack when the target least expects it. A cave stalker also uses her finely tuned stonecunning ability to find the best areas to create pits, cave-ins, and rockslides, often eliminating the enemy without drawing her axe. If a cave stalker is outnumbered, she retreats into the darkness, hiding until she can pick off individual targets.

Because they spend so much time in the stark wilderness of caves and caverns, cave stalkers are slightly ostracized by the rest of the clan. The typical dwarf shudders at the thought of leaving behind her clan, traditions, and forge, so the rootless existence of the cave stalker seems like a social aberration. Still, there is great honor to be found in protecting the clan from attack, so they are given some respect. None of this concerns the cave stalker, who cares little for what others think; she finds purpose in what she does every time she brings down another one of her enemies. She prefers to work alone, but also knows that cooperation with others has its advantages.

Rangers are the most likely individuals to become cave stalkers, and druids, rogues, and fighters are also common.

Feral tribes of barbaric dwarves sometimes produce cave stalkers, who hunt down their foes in silence and then explode into a terrible frenzy once they ambush their prey. Clerics of Moradin are sometimes drawn to this class, eliminating enemies with single-minded zeal. Sorcerers, wizards, monks, and bards, which are rare in dwarven society, almost never become cave stalkers.


To qualify to become a Cave Stalker, a character must fulfill all the following criteria:

Class Skills

The cave stalker's class skills are Climb, Concentration, Craft (trapmaking), Hide, Knowledge (natural), Listen, Profession, Spot, Survival, Swim, and Use Rope.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the cave stalker prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Cave stalkers are proficient with simple weapons and with light and medium armor, but they gain no new proficiency with shields.

Spells Per Day: At 1st, 3rd, and 5th level, the cave stalker gains new spells per day as if she had also gained a level in a spellcasting class she belonged to before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of controlling or rebuking undead, metamagic or item creation feats, and so on). This essentially means that she adds the level of cave stalker to the level of some other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day and caster level accordingly.

Improved Stonecunning (Ex): At 1st level, the cave stalker increases her racial stonecunning ability from +2 to +4 on checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction, unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. This bonus, like the normal dwarven racial bonus, applies to Search checks made to detect stonework traps. In addition, the range at which the cave stalker has a chance to automatically detect unusual stonework increases from 10 feet to 20 feet.

Sneak Attack: If a cave stalker can catch an opponent when she is unable to defend herself effectively from her attack, she can strike a vital spot for extra damage. Any time the cave stalker's target would be denied her Dexterity bonus to AC (whether she actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), the cave stalker's attack deals +1d6 points of damage. This extra damage increases to +2d6 at 5th level. Should the cave stalker score a critical hit with a sneak attack, this extra damage is not multiplied.

It takes precision and penetration to hit a vital spot, so ranged attacks can only count as sneak attacks if the target is 30 feet away or less.

With a sap or an unarmed strike, the cave stalker can make a sneak attack that deals subdual damage instead of normal damage. She cannot use a weapon that deals normal damage to deal subdual damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual -4 penalty, because she must make optimal use of her weapon in order to execute the sneak attack.

A cave stalker can only sneak attack living creatures with discernible anatomies - undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Additionally, any creature immune to critical hits is similarly immune to sneak attacks. The cave stalker must also be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach a vital spot. The cave stalker cannot sneak attack while striking at a creature with concealment or by striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are beyond reach.

If a cave stalker gets a sneak attack bonus from another source (such as rogue levels), the bonuses to damage stack.

Meld Into Stone (Sp): A cave stalker can cast meld into stone as a cleric equal to her cave stalker class level. Starting at 3rd level, the cave stalker can use this ability once per day, plus one additional time per day per point of Wisdom bonus.

Enhanced Darkvision (Ex): Cave Stalkers spend most of their lives in the darkest caverns they can find. As a cave stalker's skills improve, her almost mystical understanding of the deep caverns sharpens her inborn darkvision, allowing her to see farther than other members of her race. Once a cave stalker achieves fourth level, her darkvision range increases by 20 feet.

This bonus stacks with other natural or extraordinary abilities that improve darkvision, but it does nothing to improve magically granted darkvision.

Any condition that causes the character to lose her normal darkvision also causes the enhanced darkvision to fail.

Cave StalkerHit Die: d8
CLBABFortRefWillSpecialSpells per Day
1st+0+0+2+0Improved stonecunning+1 level of existing class
2nd+1+0+3+0Meld into stone-
3rd+2+1+3+1Sneak attack +1d6+1 level of existing class
4th+3+1+4+1Enhanced darkvision-
5th+4+1+4+1Sneak attack +2d6+1 level of existing class

Dwarven Druids & Rangers

The dwarven mind has difficulty sensing nature as anything more than a resource to be used for the benefit of the clan. With the exception of stone, metals, and ores, nature is viewed with the same suspicion reserved for outsiders.

Occasionally, a dwarf develops a deep appreciation for the forces of nature, bonding with the earth and seeking out the deepest and wildest caverns. As the dwarf ages, she spends more and more time deep underground, trying to escape the incessant noise of the forge or the endless picking of the mines. Such dwarves sometimes claim that they can hear the stone scream as it is mined, and they try to explain to their kin about the damage they are causing. This does not sit well with other dwarves, who believe that the riches of the earth are a gift from Moradin, freely harvested by anyone who works hard to take it from the rock.

Dwarven druids and rangers usually choose animal companions common to underground regions, such as giant lizards, badgers, and dire bats.

Dwarven druids are usually found in one of two roles. The most common is the loner who flees the safety and tradition of the clan to wander the dark mazes of caves deep under the surface. She watches the subtle cycles of the underground seasons and learns the habits of the bizarre creatures that live there. Unlike surface druids, a dwarf drawn to nature rarely bothers with spells that affect wood, plants, and to a lesser extent, fire. She is well versed in the lore of stone, ore, and earth. The second type of dwarf druid is the clan wiseman. She might belong to a clan that has not turned its back on nature (or has fallen into barbarism), a clan that finds her insight into the natural world to be extremely important. Dwarven rangers are typically troubleshooters for the clan, seeking out and eliminating enemies before they become powerful enough to threaten the community. Some rangers act as scouts, escorts, and couriers, navigating caves and long-disused tunnels with ease. A few such scouts receive special training, allowing them to move quickly and quietly through the caverns they patrol. Like the rare dwarf druids, these warriors spend more and more time alone in the deep caves as they age. Known as cave stalkers, these unique individuals roam extensive cavern networks and often serve as the first line of defense for a dwarven stronghold.

Source: Dragon #292

General Prestige Classes