Character Classes


The death master is a minion of Orcus, the lord of the undead. Armed with a powerful combination of divine and arcane magic, the death master is the unquestioned master of necromancy. He gains a series of boons from Orcus that allow him to spread terror and fear across the land. Even some of the mightiest undead creatures see him as a worthy leader. While rare, the magical powers and deadly abilities of death masters allow them to cause far more damage than their numbers would otherwise allow.

To a death master, poisoning a town's well, unleashing a horde of undead monsters against a sleeping village, and butchering innocents in the name of Orcus qualify as adventures. Only black-hearted villains follow this class.

A death master can use a variety of necromantic spells. He masters the ability to create undead sooner than any other caster, and his close relationship with Orcus grants him the ability to command undead. He gains several other boons that allow him to handle undead creatures with greater skill than any other class.

Death masters are always evil. A staggering majority of them are chaotic evil like their master, but a few lean toward neutral evil or lawful evil. These villains might worship other dark deities who grant similar powers or they might serve so effectively as agents of evil that Orcus bestows them with power despite their tendency away from chaos.

Death masters revere Orcus. The prince of the dead grants this class's powers to the most ambitious and sadistic of his cultists. In some cases, a deity, demon lord, or archdevil graces a favored servant with the death master's abilities. Even then, a death master pays at least some respect to Orcus.

Death masters usually arise within the cults of Orcus. They study the sect's blasphemous texts, experiment with the production of undead, and master forbidden secrets. Other death masters are apprentice wizards and neophyte clerics who find necromancy too tempting to resist. These students uncover the principles of necromancy and study them in secret. A demon or undead creature dispatched by Orcus tempts the most promising students with the death master's powers.

Most death masters are humans and half-orcs. Humanity's ambition and often short-sighted outlook leads many to this path. Half-orcs raised among the orcs have the intelligence and cruel curiosity needed to follow the death master's path. Among the gnolls, a small sect of Yeenoghu embraces the death master's abilities.

Death masters usually associate with blackguards, hexblades, mountebanks, rogues, and warlocks. They consider paladins their ultimate enemies, and a death master might travel well out of his way to slay such a champion of good.

The death master's role is simple: He strives to spread undead across the world. In so doing, he increases his own prestige and power and that of his dreaded lord, Orcus.

Alignment: Any evil.

Hit Die: d8.

Class Skills

The death master's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge(arcana) (Int), Knowledge(religion) (Int), Knowledge(the planes) (Int), Profession (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).

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

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table: The Death Master

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Special Spells per Day
0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st +0 +0 +0 +2 Rebuke undead, spells, undead minion 3 1
2nd +1 +0 +0 +3   4 2
3rd +2 +1 +1 +3   4 2 1
4th +3 +1 +1 +4   4 3 2
5th +3 +1 +1 +4 Master of the dead 4 3 2 1
6th +4 +2 +2 +5   4 3 3 2
7th +5 +2 +2 +5   4 4 3 2 1
8th +6/+1 +2 +2 +6   4 4 3 3 2
9th +6/+1 +3 +3 +6   4 4 4 3 2 1
10th +7/+2 +3 +3 +7 Sustenance of the dead 4 4 4 3 3 2
11th +8/+3 +3 +3 +7   4 4 4 4 3 2 1
12th +9/+4 +4 +4 +8   4 4 4 4 3 3 2
13th +9/+4 +4 +4 +8   4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1
14th +10/+5 +4 +4 +9   4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2
15th +11/+6/+1 +5 +5 +9 Aspect of the dead 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1
16th +12/+7/+2 +5 +5 +10   4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2
17th +12/+7/+2 +5 +5 +10   4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1
18th +13/+8/+3 +6 +6 +11   4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2
19th +14/+9/+4 +6 +6 +11   4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3
20th +15/+10/+5 +6 +6 +12 Lichdom 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Class Features

All of the following are class features of the death master.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A death master is proficient with the club, crossbow (light and heavy), dagger, scimitar, scythe, sickle, and staff. Death masters are proficient with light armor but not with shields of any type.

Bonus Language: The death master gains Abyssal as a bonus language. All of his spells, along with most death master tomes and manuals, appear in that tongue.

Rebuke Undead: As an emissary of Orcus, a death master has the power to compel undead to serve him. He channels Orcus's fell energy and uses it to turn the living dead into his pawns. The death master can attempt to rebuke undead a number of times per day equal to 3 + his Charisma modifier. A death master with 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (religion) gains a +2 bonus on rebuking checks against undead.

Spells: The death master's exhaustive study of necromantic magic grants him the ability to use arcane spells. The death master can cast the spells given on the death master spells list. He must choose and prepare his spells ahead of time, as a wizard.

To learn, prepare, or cast a spell, a death master must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell's level. The DC for a saving throw against the death master's spells equals 10 + the spell's level + the death master's Intelligence modifier. The death master receives bonus spells for having a high Intelligence score.

Similar to a wizard, the death master keeps a series of spellbooks in which he scribes the formulas for his spells. He must choose and prepare his spells by getting a good night's sleep and studying his books for 1 hour. While studying, the death master chooses the spells he wants to prepare.

The death master's spells have a special material component that makes them easier to cast in armor. If the death master uses a vial of blood as a material component he can cast the spell without somatic components and thereby ignore the spell failure chance for casting in armor. This blood must come from an intelligent creature (Intelligence 3 or higher) that the death master sacrificed to Orcus. The death master can extract 8 vials from a Medium creature. Double this for each size category above Medium and halve it, to a minimum of 1, for each category below. This extracted blood remains viable for one day, but a gentle repose spell prolongs this time.

Spellbooks: The death master keeps a set of unholy tomes that record the blasphemous, arcane methods for his spells. His spellbooks function in all ways as a wizard's spellbooks, including size, capacity, and cost to add spells.

A death master begins with a spellbook containing all 0-level death master spells plus three 1st-level spells of your choice. For each point of Intelligence bonus the death master has, the spellbook holds one additional spell of your choice. At each new death master level, he gains two new spells of any spell level or levels he can cast (based on his new death master level) for his spellbook. At any time, a death master can also add spells found in other death masters' spellbooks to his own

Undead Minion: A death master gains the services of an undead creature bestowed unto him by Orcus, typically a wolf skeleton or a zombie troglodyte. With your DM's permission you can gain the services of a different skeleton or zombie creature with a total, post-template CR of 1 or lower.

The death master's minion gains new abilities as he gains levels. A minion's abilities depend on the death master's total level in this class. The death master gains this minion from the great undead legions of Orcus. It obeys his commands without fail, and even takes suicidal actions. The minion is as much a spy for Orcus as a servant for the death master. If destroyed, a new minion appears 24 hours later. The death master can also choose to dismiss his minion to gain a new one. In this case, the death master must wait 24 hours for the new minion to appear.

A death master can choose to gain the services of a more powerful undead servitor at higher levels. Subtract the level modifier listed for a minion from the death master's level to determine the abilities and bonuses it gains. For example, an 11th-level death master with a ghast minion grants it benefits as a 2nd-level death master.

Master of the Dead (Su): As a herald of Orcus, the death master is the unquestioned master of the living dead. An undead creature must make a Will save (DC 10 + half the death master's level + his Charisma modifier) in order to attack him in any way. If this save fails, the undead creature cannot take any aggressive action against the death master for 24 hours. If the undead creature succeeds in this save, it can act normally for 24 hours. After this time, it must save again.

While under the effects of this ability, an undead creature cannot take any direct action against the death master, but it could order its minions to attack, cast spells to boost its allies who can attack the death master, and so on.

Undead creatures that lack Intelligence scores automatically fail this save unless another creature controls them, such as a cleric who channels negative energy. In this case, the creature that controls the unintelligent undead makes a save on its behalf.

Sustenance of the Dead (Su): A 10th-level death master gains power from the negative energy that infuses undead creatures. Once per round as a free action the death master can draw energy from a single undead creature he controls. The undead creature must be within 60 feet of the death master. When the death master user this power, he reduces the undead creature to a pile of dust and gains 2 temporary hit points per Hit Die of the undead creature. These temporary hit points fade after 1 hour.

An undead creature with an Intelligence score can make a Will save (DC 10 + half the death master's level + his Charisma modifier) to avoid destruction. If the save succeeds, the death master gains no temporary hit points. The undead creature survives and is no longer under the death master's control. The death master can attempt to rebuke the newly independent creature as normal.

Undead creatures that lack Intelligence scores gain no saving throw against this ability.

Aspect of the Dead (Su): At 15th level, the death master has proven himself as a mighty servant of Orcus. As a reward, the lord of undead grants him several of the defenses and abilities of the living dead. The death master gains darkvision with a range of 60 feet, immunity to all mind-affecting effects, and immunity against poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects.

Lichdom: At 20th level, the death master gains the lich template. Having proved himself as one of Orcus's most treasured followers, the death master attains the mantle of undeath. Even nonhumanoid death masters gain this template, although usually they are ineligible for it. Already undead death masters gain the lich's benefits listed under armor class, special attacks, turn resistance, damage reduction, abilities, and skills. These granted abilities stack with any the undead death master already possessed.


A death master's undead minion is superior to a normal undead creature of its kind and has special powers, as described below.

Death Master Level Bonus HD Str/Dex Bonus Special
1st-4th +0 +0 Turn resistance +4
5th-8th +2 +2 Unholy might
9th-12th +4 +4 Persistent corruption
13th-16th +6 +6 Link of the grave
17th-20th +8 +8 Relentless undead

Undead Minion Basics: Use the base statistics for a creature of the minion's kind, as given in the Monster Manual, but make the following changes.

Bonus Hit Dice: The undead minion gains the listed bonus hit dice. Advance its saving throws, base attack bonus, and so forth as per the Monster Manual. It does not increase in size due to these bonus HD.

Str/Dex Bonus: The minion gains the listed bonus to both its Strength and Dexterity scores.

Special Abilities: As the death master gains levels, his undead minion gains a number of special abilities.

Turn Resistance +4 (Ex): The undead minion gains this turn resistance in addition to any turn resistance it normally gains.

Unholy Might (Su): Once per day as a standard action, the death master can channel unholy energy into his minion to allow it to fight with increased vigor. The death master must touch the minion to imbue it with this power. The minion gains a +4 bonus to Strength and a +2 bonus on all saves for a number of rounds equal to 5 + the death master's Wisdom modifier. If the minion is a zombie, it loses the single actions only drawback for the duration of this ability.

Persistent Corruption (Su): The death master of this level is such a favored apostle of Orcus that the lord of undead returns a destroyed minion to him shortly after its destruction. The death master must only wait 1 hour for a replacement undead minion if his is destroyed. He must still wait 24 hours for a replacement undead minion if he releases his current one.

Link of the Grave (Sp): Once per day as a free action, the death master can cast a shield other spell that links him to his minion with a caster level equal to the death master's class level. This spell has one critical difference from its normal form. Treat the death master as the spell's target and the minion as the caster. Thus, if the death master suffers damage he shares the total with his minion, but not vice versa.

Relentless Undead (Su): The death master's minion gains fast healing 3.


As explained above, a death master of sufficiently high level can select his undead minion from one of the following lists, applying the indicated adjustment to the death master's level (in parentheses) for purposes of determining the companion's characteristics and special abilities.

4th Level
or Higher
(Level -3)
7th Level
or Higher
(Level -6)
10th Level
or Higher
(Level -9)
13th Level
or Higher
(Level -12)
16th Level
or Higher
(Level -15)
Bugbear zombie Chimera skeleton Allip Cloud giant skeleton Spectre
Ghoul Minotaur zombie Ettin skeleton Mummy
Owlbear skeleton Ogre zombie Ghast Wraith
Wyvern zombie Grey render zombie