Though often mistaken for necromancer-specialist wizards, undead-bloodline sorcerers, or clerics of gods of death and repose, death mages are truthfully closer in function and training to druids. While a druid is servant to and master of the forces of nature — calling upon them for instruction, aid, and power — the death mage is similarly linked to the spirits and powers of the dead. This is an intellectual link rather than a spiritual one, for a death mage has chosen to immerse herself in the trappings of the dead and their graves. The first thing a death mage learns is to listen to the faint echoes left behind by spirits of the dead. While wizards learn spells from dusty tomes, and sorcerers are empowered by their bloodlines, death mages are taught by the shades of the departed.
More than just necromancy, the powers accessed by death mages include many things associated with death including the fog of the graveyard, the dread all living things feel at the decaying remains of their own kind, shadow, the spirit realm, and the decay that sets in when life is gone. These are secrets held by spirits of the departed, which only death mages can hear. The teachers of a death mage are not undead, nor even truly self-aware entities. They are echoes of life, whispers in the darkness the death mage has taught herself to hear and comprehend. Those things surrounded by the dead and dying, or brought about by death, are all whispered by the mindless voices from which a death mage learns.
Thus the attributes of a death mage are more focused than most spellcasters, but not exclusively built around necromancy and undeath. Death mages can cast powerful damaging spells, augment themselves with fetishes built from slain foes, and protect themselves and allies from harm by creating wards with a strong understanding of the line between life and death. Not every death mage hear the same spirits, as each is attuned to those invisible, soundless spirits of the passed that most closely match her own personality. A death mage may hear the spirits of her forebearers, those she has killed, or those linked to a given place. Some death mages even believe they are sent their spirit teachers by fate or the gods, though they know it is a combination of force of will and comprehension of the language of the dead that grant them death mage powers, not divine provenance.
Role: How a death mage operates is strongly influenced by her focus in the study of death, especially what decisions she makes regarding her death pact and pale road class abilities. A death mage who chooses an unbreathing companion as a death pact brings an additional combatant to the group’s aid much as a druid might, while one that focuses on the powers of totems is adaptable to a broad range of situations, and may even augment allies against specific foes. Similarly a death mage that follows the pale road of the reaper mage is able to survive the rigors of melee combat, while one taking the path of the ghoul mage focuses on disabling living foes and drawing power from dead ones.
Hit Die: d8
Starting Wealth: 2d6 × 10 gp (average 70 gp)
The death mage’s class skills are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (planes) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Int).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.
All of the following are class features of the death mage.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A death mage is proficient with all simple weapons, as well as the falchion, flail, kama, net, nunchaku, scimitar, and scythe. Death mages are also proficient with light armor and shields (except tower shields). A death mage can cast death mage spells while wearing light armor and use a shield without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a death mage wearing medium or heavy armor incurs a chance of spell failure if the spell is question has a somatic component. A multiclass death mage still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.
Death Mage Spell List
A death mage casts arcane spells drawn from the death mage spell list. A death mage must choose and prepare his spells ahead of time.
To prepare or cast a spell, the death mage must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a death mage’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the death mage’s Charisma modifier.
A death mage can only cast a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: Death Mage. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Charisma score.
A death mage has a fairly limited spell list, but automatically learns all spells on that list when she is of the level needed to cast them. She must choose and prepare her spells ahead of time by getting 8 hours of rest and spending 1 hour meditating and communing with spirits of the dead. While meditating, the death mage decides which spells to prepare. No one, not even other death mages, can see or hear the spirits a death mage listens to while preparing her spells. Not even true seeing reveals them, as they exist only for the death mage that hears them.
Death mages can prepare a number of cantrips, or 0-level spells, each day, as noted on Table: Death Mage under “Spells per Day.” These spells are cast like any other spell, but they are not expended when cast and may be used again.
Pale Road (Su)
The spirits each death mage can hear all share a set of similar secrets, based on some aspect of death, dying, and the reactions the living have to the dead. The set of secrets known to each is called their pale road, and each death mage must select one pale road at 1st level. Once made, this selection cannot be changed. As the death mage travels down this pale road at the constant instruction of her spirit guides, she masters a special set of powers becoming a lord or lady of one aspect of death.
Corpse mages are the death mages most likely to be mistaken for necromancers, for the spirits they hear all follow the pale road of the undead, each coming from a destroyed undead creature seeking to regain its physical form. At first corpse mages can only command undead creatures as they encounter them, but in time they command armies of loyal, unliving minions.
Dirge of Command (Sp): You may attempt to control undead creatures you encounter. This functions as the command undead spell, except it only functions on undead with no more hit dice than you have death mage levels. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
Army of the Dead (Su): At 8th level, you may have a number of undead minions which are totally loyal to you. Treat this as the Leadership feat, determining your followers and cohorts normally. However, add to all minions and your cohort either the skeleton or zombie template (your choice). Unlike most skeletons and zombies, your minions retain their class hit dice and abilities. Your cohort is a special skeleton or zombie that retains its class hit dice and Intelligence score, and acts as an intelligent undead. If you lose a cohort or minions, they are replaced when you gain a new death mage level. You may also dismiss an existing cohort or minon when you gain a level (destroying them) to select a new cohort or minions.
At 8th level you may replace a cohort or minion with one a level lower than normal that has the bloody or burning skeleton template (still retaining any class hit dice and abilities). If you are at least 10th level, your may replace your cohort or minions with new cohort or minions with the fast zombie or plague zombie templates (still retaining class hit dice and abilities). If you are at least 12th level your cohort may be a skeletal champion 2 levels lower than your normal cohort level. If you are at least 16th level your cohort may be a vampire 3 levels lower than your normal cohort level, though it lacks the ability to create vampire spawn.
Ghoul mages draw power draw from the dead and undead and us it to weaken or paralyze the living.
Eat the Dead (Su): You can gain strength by consuming the recently departed. As a full round action that provokes an attack of opportunity you can eat part of an adjacent creature of the aberration, animal, dragon, fey, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, undead (corporeal only), or vermin type that died no longer than one round per death mage level you possess. This allows you to regain one hit point for every hit die or level possessed by the creature you feast upon (to a minimum of one hit point healed). After using this power, you gain a +1 morale bonus to all attack rolls, saving throws and skill checks for one minute per level. At 10th level, the bonus increases to a +2 bonus. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
Sickening Touch (Su): As a standard action, you can make a target ill by touching it. Using this ability requires a touch attack that forces a living creature to make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ your death mage level + your Charisma modifier). On a failed save, the target is sickened for one round per death mage level. A neutralize poison spell removes the sickened effect. Creatures that are immune to poison are unaffected by this ability. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
Ghast Touch (Su): At 8th level, as a standard action, you can paralyze a target by touching it. This is a touch attack that forces living creatures to make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ your death mage level + your Charisma modifier). On a failed save, the target is paralyzed for one round per death mage level. At the end of each of its turns, the paralyzed target may make another Fortitude save at a –5 penalty to see if its paralysis ends early. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
Tomb mages study the fringes of necromancy that deal with matters other than death and undeath. They are instead masters of the fear and pain the living feel when confronted by or approaching death — side-effects for most necromancers but useful tools when brought to their full power.
Calm of the Grave (Ex): Your deep understanding of pain and fear makes you immune to magical efforts to create these reactions within you. You are immune to any pain or fear effect, as well as the shaken condition.
Terrible Visage (Su): Once per day as a standard action you can give yourself the appearance of a horrifying apparition, your face becoming terrible to behold. You gain a gaze attack, forcing foes that can see you to make a Will save (DC 10 + ½ your death mage level + your Charisma modifier) at the beginning of each of their turns or be shaken for 1 minute. This is a mind-affecting, fear, gaze attack (and foes can avoid it by averting their eyes, as detailed under gaze attacks). A foe that is shaken as a result of this ability becomes immune to it for 24 hours after their shaken condition ends.
Your terrible visage remains active for one round per death mage level, though you may dismiss it as a free action if you wish. A creature already suffering the shaken condition does not become frightened when failing a save against the terrible visage.
Word of Pain (Su): At 8th level, you gain the ability to speak the terrible word of pain. As a standard action you may say this word to a target that is able to hear you, and is within 30 feet. The target must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ your death mage level + your Charisma modifier) or be overcome by wracking pain. The pain is so intense the target cannot think clearly, causing it to be confused for one round per death mage level. The target receives a new Will save at the end of each of its turns, with a successful save ending the effect. You may use the word of pain once per day. You gain an additional use of the word every four levels, to a maximum of four times per day at 20th level.
Reaper mages are opposed to the undead in all ways, and cannot cast any spells or use any fetishes that create or command undead creatures (though they still have access to the various dance macabre spells). Their denial of the powers of death make them heartier than other death mages.
Deny Death (Ex): You gain an additional hit point at each character level. When your hit point total drops below 0, you automatically stabilize. You don’t die from hp loss until you reach a number of negative hp equal to or greater than Constitution score + ½ your class level.
Reap (Su): As a swift action you can empower a melee attack with the certainty of the grave. The attack gains a bonus to hit equal to equal to your Charisma modifier (to a maximum of your class level), and +1d6 damage (+2d6 if the target is an undead). You must declare if an attack is to be empowered prior to making your attack roll. Empowered attacks count as magic for purposes of bypassing DR. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
At 7th level the extra damage from your empowered attack increases to +2d6 (+4d6 if the target is an undead), and it bypasses any DR of an undead target. At 14th level it increases to +3d6 (+6d6 if the target is an undead), and strikes even ethereal and incorporeal undead for full damage.
Protection From Undead (Su): At 8th level as a move action you can create a field antithetical to the powers of necromancy and the undead. The field is centered on you, moves with you, and has a 20-foot radius. While within this field, all creatures gain a deflection bonus to AC and a resistance bonus to saving throws against all attacks and spells from undead creatures and any necromancy spell. These bonuses are equal to your Charisma modifier. This field lasts a number of minutes equal to your death mage level, and you may use it a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.
Shadow mages draw power draw from the shadows and darkness and us it to trick the living and summon shadowy servants.
Shape Shadow (Su): You can manipulate and command shadow as if it was a physical, malleable material. You gain the benefit of persistent prestidigitation, unseen servant, and spectral hand spells as a result of your ability to shape and command shadows.
Shadow Adept (Su): Whenever you cast a shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell from the death mage spell list (including lower and higher-level versions of those spells), you may use it to emulate any cleric, bard or sorcerer/wizard spell from the conjuration or evocation (as appropriate) schools. A typical death mage who casts those spells may only use them to emulate sorcerer/wizard spells, as outlined in the spell descriptions.
Summon Shadow (Su): At 8th level, you gain the ability to summon three shadows to serve you. This acts as a summon monster V spell, except it always summons three shadows, the shadows are of your alignment, and the effect has a duration of one minute per death mage level. You may use this ability once per day at 8th level, twice at 12th level, three times at 16th level and four times per day at 20th level. Beginning at 16th level, you may choose to have the shadows be greater shadows, if you wish.
Voice of the Dead (Su)
At 2nd level, the death mage’s ability to hear and understand spirits of the dead is developed enough to allow her to speak in this tongue as well. As the spirits themselves are mindless, talking to them serves no purpose (though many death mages do so anyway). Death mages may use the language to understand and be understood by undead creatures (all of which know the voice of the dead as a language, even if it is not listed), and to communicate with each other. Additionally, language is no longer a barrier when the death mage uses a speak with dead spell.
Death Bond (Su)
At 3rd level a death mage develops a strong connection to the mystic powers of death and learns to walk a path between the living and the dead. A death mage’s training details the many connections that exist between the living and the dead. While other spellcasters take minor advantage of these ties, death mages learn to forge new connections which create a death bond that may take one of three forms.
The first option is for the death mage to gain an unbreathing companion. This functions as the druid’s animal companion, except the companion is treated as a magical beast and has the unbreathing subtype. The companion is calculated as if the death mage were a druid 2 levels lower than her true class level.
The second option is for the death mage to gain access to either the death or repose cleric domains. When determining the powers and bonus spells granted by this domain, the death mage’s effective cleric level is equal to her death mage level. A death mage that selects this option also receives additional domain spell slots, just as a cleric does. She must prepare a spell from her domain in this slot.
The third option is for the death mage to create a fetish. Fetishes are personal magic items, small objects weighing 2 lbs. decorated with trophies taken from the corpses of fallen opponents. A death mage must be holding her fetish to access its powers. Unless specified otherwise, a fetish power functions constantly as long as the death mage has it in her hand. A fetish has a caster level equal to its creator’s current death mage level.
Each fetish is contains a collection of powers of the death mage’s choosing (see Fetish Powers below). When a death mage first takes this bond, she fills her fetish with two powers, then one additional power every two full levels (5th, 7th, 9th, and so on to a total of 10 fetish powers at 19th level). Unless a power specifies otherwise, you cannot select the same fetish power more than once. The powers granted by a fetish function only for the death mage that created it (though the imbue fetish power allows her to share those powers in a limited fashion).
A fetish’s powers can only be used to target creatures of a type to which the fetish is attuned. Attuning a fetish requires that the death mage attach a small trophy taken from the corpse of a recently killed creature—the fetish will then be attuned to any other creatures of that type. There is no limit to the number of creature types to which a fetish can be attuned other than the death mage be able to secure suitable trophies. In order to get a usable trophy, the death mage must have been within 400 feet of the creature at the time of its death and its CR at the time must have been no lower than 3 below the death mage’s character level.
A fetish may be attuned to the following types of creatures: aberration, animal, construct, dragon, fey, humanoid (each subtype is treated as a separate type for fetish attunement), magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, outsider (air, chaotic, earth, evil, fire, good, lawful, native, and water outsiders are each treated as separate types for a fetish’s attunement), plant, undead and vermin. Adding a trophy to a fetish takes ten minutes of concentration. If a fetish is lost, the death mage must construct a new one, and reattune it by taking new trophies.
Angry Spirits (Sp): You may use angry spirits as a standard action. This functions as the bestow curse spell, but it can only target a creature your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 7th level to select this power.
Death Focus (Su): All creatures your fetish is attuned to suffer a –1 penalty to saving throws against your death mage spells and abilities.
Death Mask (Su): You can create a temporary fetish by painting symbols on your face and body. This takes one minute, and requires pigments and stains the death mage can gather at no cost. The temporary fetish lasts for one hour per class level. During this time, you do not have to hold your fetish to access its powers.
Deadly Blow (Su): You deal an additional 1d6 points of damage with melee attacks made against a target your fetish is attuned to.
Healing Spirits (Su): As a move action you may heal a target your fetish is attuned to, if the target is within close range (25 feet + 5 ft./2 death mage levels). You heal the target for 2d6 points of damage. This healing increases to 3d6 for death mages of 8th level or higher, and to 4d6 for death mages of 16th level or higher. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.
Instrument of Death (Su): You can turn a melee weapon into a fetish (so you are automatically holding your fetish whenever you are holding your weapon).
Imbue Fetish (Su): You can imbue a power from your fetish on an ally. This is a full-round action during which you must touch your ally (leaving a simple death-themed mark, similar to an arcane mark, that remains in place for as long as the target is imbued). Select one power from the following list: death focus, deadly blow, rictus, shielding spirits, silence of the grave, smell of fear, and warding spirits. Your ally gains the benefit of that fetish power for a duration of ten minutes per level of death mage you possess. During this time you do not have access to that power. You may only imbue one ally with a fetish power at a time.
Nightmare Spirits (Su): Once per day, you may afflict a target attuned to your fetish with nightmares. This functions as the nightmare spell, but you are always considered to have secondhand knowledge of the target, and a connection at least as strong as a likeness or picture.
Phantom Haunting (Sp): You may use phantom haunting as a standard action. This functions as the persistent image spell, but it is only perceived by creatures of a single type (selected by you each time you use this power) that your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Phantom Scouts (Su): You gain a +4 bonus to all Perception checks regarding creatures your fetish is attuned to.
Phantom Weapon (Su): You are considered armed whenever making an unarmed attack against a creature your fetish is attuned to. Against such creatures, your unarmed attacks deal 1d8 points of damage (regardless of your size), and have a threat range of 18-20. You may add your Charisma modifier to damage from such attacks, instead of your Strength modifier, if you wish.
Rictus (Su): You gain a +4 bonus to all Intimidate checks made against targets your fetish is attuned to.
Seeking Spirits (Sp): You may use your fetish to locate targets it is attuned to. This functions as the locate creature spell cast at your caster level, but can only be used to locate creatures your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Seeking Spirits, Greater (Sp): Once per day, you may use your fetish as a powerful tool of divination. This functions as the spell discern location, but may only be used to locate creatures your fetish is attuned to. A death mage must be at least 15th level and the fetish must already contain seeking spirits to select this power.
Smell of Fear (Su): You gain the scent ability, but can only use it to detect targets your fetish is attuned to.
Shielding Spirits (Sp): Against any divination or scrying efforts made by creatures your fetish is attuned to, you are treated as if you had a permanent nondetection spell. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Spirits of Allure (Sp): You may use spirits of allure as a standard action. This functions as the charm monster spell, but it can only target a creature your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Spirits of Disease (Sp): You may use spirits of disease as a standard action. This functions as the contagion spell, but it can only target a creature your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Spirits of Freedom (Sp): You may use spirits of freedom as a standard action. This functions as the break enchantment spell, but it can only target a creature your fetish is attuned to. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Spirits of Health (Sp): You may use spirits of health as a standard action. This functions as the heal spell, but it can only target a creature your fetish is attuned to and it does not restore any hit point damage. You may use this ability once per day for every five full death mage levels you possess. A death mage must be at least 9th level to select this power.
Sympathetic Pain (Su): As a standard action you may make a ranged touch attack against a target your fetish is attuned to, if the target is within close range (25 feet + 5 ft./2 death mage levels). To use this power you must have your fetish in one hand, and a melee weapon in the other, and hit the fetish with the weapon (though the fetish suffers no damage). On a successful ranged touch attack, your target is shaken for one round per 2 death mage levels. The target may make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ your death mage level + your Intelligence modifier) to halve the duration of this effect.
Sympathetic Strike (Su): As a standard action you may make a ranged touch attack against a target your fetish is attuned to, if the target is within close range (25 feet + 5 ft./2 death mage levels). To use this power you must have your fetish in one hand, and a melee weapon in the other, and hit the fetish with the weapon (though the fetish suffers no damage). On a successful ranged touch attack, your attack deals 2d6 points of damage, as though it came from a spell with the force descriptor. This damage increases to 3d6 for death mages of 8th level or higher, and to 4d6 for death mages of 16th level or higher. You may use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.
Veil of Ancestors (Sp): You may use a veil of ancestors on yourself as a standard action. This functions as the invisibility spell, but only creatures your fetish is attuned to are unable to see you. You may do this a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier. A death mage must be at least 7th level to select this ability.
Secrets of the Dead (Su)
At 5th level, the number of spirits talking to a death mage, and the secrets they constantly whisper to her, takes a major upswing. As a result, the death mage may add her class level to any Knowledge check regarding a dead or undead person or creature, necromancy, places where people are buried, or ceremonies regarding the dead.
Wisdom of the Grave (Sp)
At 10th level, as a standard action, the death mage may ask a single question of any creature that has been dead for no more than one round. This functions like a speak with dead spell, though the death mage is allowed only a single question.
Deathly Abeyance (Su)
At 15th level, you can hold the spirits of death at bay, preventing yourself or an ally from dying. Once per day, as an immediate reaction, you can grant a creature within 30 feet that has just died a second chance at life. If the target has died as a result of hit point loss, you grant the target a number of temporary hit points equal to your class level plus your Charisma score. If the temporary hit points are enough to prevent the target from being at a negative value greater than its Constitution, the target does not die. The temporary hit points last for 1 minute per death mage level, so to remain among the living your target must seek healing before this time runs up.
If the target died as a result of a failed saving throw, you grant the target an immediate second saving throw. If the die roll of the second saving throw is a 1-10, the target adds +10 to the die roll (resulting in a die roll that musty fall between 11-20). If the second save succeeds, the target does not die, though it suffers any other consequence of the effect. If the second save fails, the target still dies.
If the target died as a result of neither hit point loss or a failed saving throw, the target remains alive for one round per your class level, then dies.
Final Guide (Sp)
At 20th level, a death mage can actually guide the spirit of a slain creature back to its body once a day, restoring the creature to life. This is only possible if the spirit is nearby, and thus this power must be used within a number of rounds equal to your class level since the creature’s death. This functions like the resurrection spell except there is no material component, and the casting time is 1 full round. Once a creature has been restored to life by a death mage’s final guide ability, that creature cannot benefit from that ability again (from any death mage) until is gains an additional class level or hit die.
Instead of receiving an additional skill rank or hit point whenever they gain a level in a Favored Class, some races have the option of choosing from a number of other bonuses, depending upon their Favored Classes. The following options are available to the listed race who have death mages as their Favored Class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time you select the listed Favored Class reward.
When a character selects a class, he must choose to use the standard class features found or those listed in one of the archetypes presented here. Each alternate class feature replaces a specific class feature from its parent class. For example, the elemental fist class feature of the monk of the four winds replaces the stunning fist class feature of the monk. When an archetype includes multiple class features, a character must take all of them—often blocking the character from ever gaining certain familiar class features, but replacing them with equally powerful options. All of the other class features found in the core class and not mentioned among the alternate class features remain unchanged and are acquired normally when the character reaches the appropriate level (unless noted otherwise). A character who takes an alternate class feature does not count as having the class feature that was replaced when meeting any requirements or prerequisites.
A character can take more than one archetype and garner additional alternate class features, but none of the alternate class features can replace or alter the same class feature from the core class as another alternate class feature. For example, a paladin could not be both a hospitaler and an undead scourge since they both modify the smite evil class feature and both replace the aura of justice class feature. A paladin could, however, be both an undead scourge and a warrior of the holy light, since none of their new class features replace the same core class feature.
Archetypes are a quick and easy way to specialize characters of a given class, adding fun and flavorful new abilities to already established adventurers. Characters may take more than one archetype if they meet the requirements.