Prestige Classes


“Only the desert has a fascination: to ride alone—in the sun of the forever unpossessed country—away from man. That is a great temptation.”

—Nebkhas, an ashworm dragoon

Some of the sand-hardened folk who have lived in the desert for millennia have come to appreciate the qualities of the ashworm. The skill of training ashworms as mounts has become popular, but you have been able to form a bond with a single ashworm so strong that the ashworm serves almost as an extension of your will. You, and talented riders like you, are known as ashworm dragoons.

As an ashworm dragoon, you ride across the vast desert sands (and sometimes beneath or beyond). You choose your own path, whether that involves defending your people, taking service with a patron, or striking out in search of adventure.


Most ashworm dragoons are fighters, though some barbarians and rangers, and even a few rogues, might take a few levels in this class. The required Mounted Combat and Ride-By attack feats, as well as ranks in Ride and Handle Animal, are important to capitalize on the class’s abilities and show devotion to the path.


The aptitude, strength, and form of the ashworm, both in its ability to swim below earth and sand, as well as its lethal sting in conflict, are noble and even beautiful. The bond you form with your mount is in part dependent on this appreciation. The bond also relies upon the trust your ashworm mount places in you—it depends on you to provide adequate food, shelter, and care, and to use your skills to protect it in combat. In return, you trust your mount to bear you without complaint, to stand brave when danger threatens, and to fight with a fury that matches your own when conflict inevitably descends.

The life of the ashworm dragoon is that of a wanderer. As a result, you must often leave the desert sands behind from time to time. An ashworm, confident in its rider, will bear you equally well across packed earth, stone, or even cobbled city streets.

When you travel away from the heat and sands, you must perforce deal with those who have never seen an ashworm, let alone a dragoon. It is your burden to accept the gaping looks, the comments (some unkind), and other related behavior of the creatures you meet with dignified calm. Your dignity goes to show the narrow-minded how noble the ashworm can be.

While a common mount, no matter how well trained, still requires a touch of the whip, your ashworm needs only a subtle hint to know your desire. So, too, can you recognize the signs and postures of your ashworm, which lets you know when it is hungry, tired, or has a particular interest in some bit of the environment. Letting the ashworm have its head from time to time is as important as expecting its complete loyalty in desperate situations.


You are an accomplished warrior in your own right, but with your ashworm mount, you are an even more potent force. Merely riding your mount against nonmounted foes grants you a +1 attack bonus on all your melee attack rolls from higher ground (see page 157 of the Player’s Handbook for details on mounted combat), a boon that cannot be overlooked. Of course, you must keep your mount safe from reprisal attacks. To that end, it should always be in the front of your mind to use your Mounted Combat feat. This becomes all the easier when you reach 4th level and gain the relentless shield ability, and you can attempt to negate every attack against your mount, instead of just one attack per round.

At 3rd level, your bond with your ashworm mount becomes so refined that through clever use of the reins and positioning of your mount, the ashworm can make attacks boosted by your own base attack bonus. Energized by the heat of battle, the ashworm produces even more potent poison for these particular attacks.

At 6th level, you can use the sand rider ability to sneak up behind enemies, position yourself for a charge, and otherwise use terrain to your advantage.

Consider wielding a lance—a charging ashworm can cause even the strongest foe to tremble, especially if you’ve taken the Spirited Charge feat and reached 8th level, when you gain the spirited worm class feature.


You fight from the exotic saddle of your ashworm. To this end, use the feats you gain every four levels, as well as the bonus feats offered by the dragoon class, to enhance your mounted fighting ability. Getting the Trample and Spirited Charge feats are good ways to leverage the abilities offered by the class, though of course you could just rely on getting them by way of the stamp into the sand and spirited worm class features, and use feat slots to build on another fighting strategy.

Socially, ashworm dragoons are considered somewhat akin to knights among desert people—they wander and take up quests, doing good (or evil), and otherwise engage in high adventure. Often, these adventures lead away from the desert, especially if you team up with a group of likeminded wanderers who hail from greener lands.


The obedient ashworm class feature assures that you will always be able to obtain a mount. However, your best bet for procuring custom harness and tack, barding, and other particulars associated with the ashworm is from the roving communities of desert people most strongly associated with ashworms: the painted elves. The painted elves can provide you with this equipment at the prices you would expect to pay for a horse’s accoutrements in a temperate region (roughly 60 gp).


Ashworm dragoons hail from the hot sands of desert regions, but many end up venturing far from where they first learned the art of husbanding an ashworm. Without the ashworm herders, an ashworm dragoon would lack someone to teach him his skills.


Several nomadic tribes, not all of them of the same race (but including some human tribes and several painted elf tribes), follow great herds of ashworms across the desert. While some desert nomads rely on raiding or hunting to survive, these “pastoralists” rely on the ashworm to meet all their needs. Ashworm herders follow the creatures’ seasonal migration patterns, which can vary from year to year. The timing and destinations of migrations are determined primarily by the needs of the herd for water and food. These nomadic societies do not create permanent settlements, but live in tents or other easily constructed dwellings year round. Herding nomads are self-sufficient in procuring most other necessities.

Ashworms are rarely killed for family use alone. Fresh meat is distributed throughout the community. The tribes usually do not have the capability of adequately preserving meat, making this practice the most efficient use of the animals. Not only does this tradition ensure that no spoilage takes place but also sets up numerous obligations to reciprocate within the community, promoting cooperation and solidarity. The slaughter of an ashworm has become a ritual occasion to feed both the deities and the people.

Ashworm herders have distinct personality traits: They tend to be cooperative with each other and aggressive toward outsiders. They make important decisions quickly and act on them independently. Most important, they have a profound attachment to their animals.

An ashworm herder leader is someone who can direct the movements of the herd and decide on an optimum strategy for using scarce resources without having to consult others. The leader aggressively defends the herd by expanding territory at the expense of other tribes.

Members of herder tribes often acquire prestige and power by being brave and successful in raids, as well as by accumulating large ashworm herds. As a result, there is often a great gap in status between a young man or woman and an elder of the herding tribe.

Unless bonding comes naturally, those interested in learning how to become an ashworm dragoon must travel awhile with a particular herding tribe to learn the secrets of ashworm bonding from a nomad elder.

NPC Reactions

Depending on the season, ashworm herders are either eagerly sought (during the trading season), or feared and fled from (during the raiding season). However, ashworm dragoons stay separate from any one nomadic community more often than not, and popular accounts ascribe ashworm dragoons as following personal codes of knightlike honor.

Because of the stories of personal bravery and supposed honor, those with troubles in need of resolution sometimes seek out ashworm dragoons. While not every dragoon follows a personal code of chivalry, most are happy to accept dangerous tasks in return for suitable recompense.


Characters with Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), or Gather Information can research the ashworm dragoons to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs when a higher result is rolled.

DC 10: Anyone can buy ashworms that are broken to the saddle, though they are somewhat skittish and their temperament suffers when their poisonous stinger is clipped.

DC 15: Some very skilled individuals learn how to ride wild ashworms with exceptional skill. These ashworm dragoons ride a better breed of ashworm, and do not fear their own mount’s sting.

DC 20: Those who seek to train as an ashworm dragoon must seek an elder of one of the nomadic herding tribes—an elder of the tribe is usually predisposed to train those who first offer a significant gift.

DC 30: The master ashworm dragoon can ride an ashworm below the sand without harm, and even through solid earth.

PCs trying to establish contact with an ashworm dragoon (for whatever reason) are best served by first finding one of the large tribes that herd ashworms. Someone in the tribe will have the skills of a dragoon, or know where dragoons can be found.


Questing dragoons can spread forth from the desert, and are potentially found in all arid and temperate environments.

This prestige class is for those who like an honest, stand-up fight, and it is most suited to fighters. While the keeping and stabling of a mount might seem onerous to some, the benefits of a mount should not be dismissed lightly. Moreover, because an ashworm can climb even sheer walls, no dragoon should worry about bringing an ashworm into a dungeon environment because of potential obstacles.


The ashworm dragoon should fit into any campaign with little or no customization.

Hit Die: d10.


To qualify to become a ashworm dragoon, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus: +5. Skills: Handle Animal 4 ranks, Ride 8 ranks. Feats: Mounted Combat, Ride-By Attack. Special: Must have ridden an ashworm.
Class Skills

The ashworm dragoon 's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spot (Wis).

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table: The Ashworm Dragoon

Level Base
Attack Bonus
1st +1 +2 +0 +0 Ashworm mount, saddle bonus
2nd +2 +3 +0 +0 Bonus feat
3rd +3 +3 +1 +1 Heightened sting
4th +4 +4 +1 +1 Relentless shield
5th +5 +4 +1 +1 Stamp into the sand
6th +6 +5 +2 +2 Sand rider
7th +7 +5 +2 +2 Full mounted attack
8th +8 +6 +2 +2 Spirited worm
9th +9 +6 +3 +3 Bonus feat
10th +10 +7 +3 +3 Earth rider
Class Features

All of the following are class features of the ashworm dragoon prestige class.

Ashworm Mount (Ex): You have the service of a loyal ashworm that serves you as a mount. Unlike the ashworms sold as regular mounts, this ashworm’s poison stinger is not clipped. Moreover, it never tries to submerge when it reaches open sand, as ashworms sold as mounts do. Finally, your ashworm serves readily as a combat steed. To ride your mount, you need special tack, harness, and an exotic saddle, all of which costs 70 gp.

Your ashworm is so loyal to you that it bears you without complaint on the surface of the sand, as well as on other surfaces found in nonwaste regions, for months or even years at a time.

Your ashworm is more powerful than a typical representative of its species, and it grows stronger as you gain ashworm dragoon levels. See the table below for details.

Dragoon Level Bonus HD Natural Armor Adj. Str Adj.
1st–2nd +2 +4 +1
3rd–4th +4 +6 +2
5th–6th +6 +8 +3
7th–8th +8 +10 +4
9th–10th +10 +12 +5

If your ashworm mount is slain, you can obtain a new mount after a day of searching in any appropriate waste area.

Saddle Bonus (Ex): You gain a competence bonus equal to your class level on all Handle Animal and Ride checks associated with your ashworm while you are mounted.

Bonus Feat: At 2nd and 9th level, you can choose a bonus feat from the fighter bonus feats given in the Player’s Handbook.

Heightened Sting (Ex): Wild ashworms, and ashworms chosen as mounts by dragoon characters, have a poisonous stinger (normal saddle-broken ashworms sold as mounts have their stinger clipped for the rider’s safety). At 3rd level and higher, you can induce your mount to make a heightened sting attack in conjunction with your regular attacks that round. When making a heightened sting attack, the ashworm’s attack roll modifier is equal to your base attack bonus + the ashworm’s Str modifier. On a successful hit, the victim’s Fortitude save DC to resist the poison is 10 + 1/2 your character level + the ashworm’s Con modifier. This is a special attack, and it can be made only once per round, and a total number of times per day equal to your class level.

In rounds when you choose not to make a heightened sting attack, the ashworm can make a normal sting at its regular attack bonus, and the DC to resist the poison is determined normally.

Relentless Shield (Ex): At 4th level and higher, you can make a Ride check after any attack that successfully strikes your ashworm mount, in an attempt to negate the hit on your ashworm. Normally, the Mounted Combat feat allows you to make this attempt only once per round. See the Mounted Combat feat, page 98 of the Player’s Handbook, for details. In addition, you gain a +2 bonus on Ride checks made to negate an opponent’s attack roll. This ability does not extend to any other type of mount.

Stamp into the Sand (Ex): At 5th level, you gain Trample as a bonus feat. Instead of using a hoof, the ashworm makes one sting attack against the knockeddown target.

If you already have the Trample feat (or gain it later), you gain an extra benefit: When mounted on your ashworm, a foe you have knocked down using Trample is so thoroughly flattened that rising from a prone position requires a full-round action instead of a move action.

Sand Rider (Su): Upon reaching 6th level, you have formed such a close bond with your mount that you are able to stay with the ashworm when it travels beneath the sand. During these trips, you have learned the trick of tightening your harness, just so, while at the same time guiding your sandswimming mount in an expert manner that allows you to cling to the ashworm’s back without being swept off, and without fear of suffocation. This ability does not allow you to remain attached when the ashworm burrows through solid earth (but see the earth rider class feature, below), and you can travel in this manner for 1 minute per class level at a time before you and your mount must surface for air.

Full Mounted Attack (Ex): Beginning at 7th level, you can make a full attack when your mount moves more than 5 feet but no farther than its speed as a single move action. You cannot combine this full attack with a charge action.

Spirited Worm (Ex): You gain Spirited Charge as a bonus feat at 8th level.

If you already have Spirited Charge (or gain it later), you gain an extra benefit: When mounted on your ashworm and using the charge action, you deal an extra 1d6 points of damage (or 2d6 with a lance). This ability does not extend to any other type of mount.

Earth Rider (Su): At 10th level, your bond with your mount is so close that you are able to stay with the ashworm even when it travels beneath packed earth. During these trips, you have learned the trick of quickly adjusting your harness, while at the same time guiding your burrowing mount in an expert manner that allows you to cling to the ashworm’s back without being swept off, and without fear of suffocation. You can travel in this manner for 1 minute per class level at a time before you and your mount must surface for air. An ashworm cannot burrow through solid rock. If it is forced to stop burrowing (such as if it is slain) while you are on its back, you are subject to the normal hazards of being buried alive.