Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Death Master

by Ohad Shaham

Necromancers around Mystara have been manipulating the energies of life and death for eons. But none have advanced their arcane knowledge as far as the Death Masters of Glantri. These powerful wizards are the true overlords over the power of souls, both living and undead. Their craft is a mockery of the divine, an abomination to nature and serious threat to the fate of the principalities.

Becoming a Death Master of the First circle

No one stumbles on the road of becoming a Death Master. The members of the craft, under the supervision of the high master, go through great lengths to make sure the craft is invisible to all but worthy students of the Great School of Magic. Members of the craft are initiated by active members. Mistrust is so abundant in the secret craft of Death Mastery that even a noble sponsored by an existing member may have a hard time getting in. Demonstrating an already noteworthy power over necromancy could be essential to convince the senior members. The Craft demands payment from each member that amounts to 250 gp per circle per month. These funds go into spell research at the school, maintaining secret headquarter meeting houses around Glantri, and a cut for the High Master.

Entry Requirements:
Skills: Knowledge (arcana) 8 ranks, Heal 4 ranks
Feats: Spell Focus (necromancy)
Alignment: Non-good
Spells: Able to cast Animate Dead as an arcane spell

Class Features:

Hit Dice: d4
Weapon and Armour: Gains none
Class Skills: Concentration, Heal, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (nobility), Knowledge (the planes), Spellcraft

Lvl BAB Fort Ref Will Special Spells
1 +0 +0 +0 +2 1st Circle, Protection from Undead +1 arcane spellcaster level
2 +1 +0 +0 +3 +1 arcane spellcaster level
3 +1 +1 +1 +3 2nd Circle, control undead +1 arcane spellcaster level
4 +2 +1 +1 +4 Partial Animation +1 arcane spellcaster level
5 +2 +1 +1 +4 3rd Circle, Create Minor Undead, Strength Loss +1 arcane spellcaster level
6 +3 +2 +2 +5 Commune with the Dead +1 arcane spellcaster level
7 +3 +2 +2 +5 4th Circle, Create Major Undead, Charisma Loss +1 arcane spellcaster level
8 +4 +2 +2 +6 +1 arcane spellcaster level
9 +4 +3 +3 +6 +1 arcane spellcaster level
10 +5 +3 +3 +7 5th Circle, Attain Lichdom +1 arcane spellcaster level

Protection from Undead (su): 3 times a day, a Death Master can ward off a number of undead whose hit dice does not exceed the Death Master's class level (as if rebuked by an evil cleric). Lower HD undead are affected first. This is a supernatural ability and cannot be dispelled. The warded undead do not count when figuring the maximum amount affected by Control Undead or other effects.
Control Undead: Upon joining the 2nd circle, a Death Master is able to control more undead than other necromancers. His Death Master levels count as 2 levels in order to find how many undead can be brought under his control using Animate Dead/Control Undead spells or powers. The number of HD created or taken over by each spell attempt does not change. For example, a 5th level wizard/6th level Death Master is treated as a 17th level caster, so the max HD he can control at any given time is 68 (instead of 11x4=44). In this example, when casting Control Undead the amount of HD taken over remains 22.
Partial Animation: The negative energies of a Death Master are so powerful, that at 4th level he can cast Animate Dead even on body parts (such as a destroyed skeleton). A single Medium corpse can give rise to two Small zombie parts (or skeletons, if the body is in really bad shape). A partial creation of zombie/skeleton does not require additional costly material components.
An undead body part has half the HD and speed of a normal zombie or skeleton, can only attack using a slam/claw and has a strength score reduced by 2. These wretched things are usually used as servants, or as last resort after all proper bodies are destroyed.
Strength/Charisma loss: As he delves deeper into the darkest of arts, the Death Master looses some of his vitality. A point of strength is lost once joining the third circle, as the Death Master body is weakened by neglect. Masters of the forth circle lose two points of Charisma, as they associate less and less with mortals.
Create Minor Undead: Upon reaching the third circle, once per night the Death Master may cast a special version of the Create Undead spell. The caster must first research the ceremonies used to create a specific sort of undead. The research takes 1d4 weeks and requires a knowledge (arcana) check (DC=18+1/HD of undead) failure means another 1d4 weeks must be spent before a retry. The kinds of undead created by this spell are not limited to the list appearing in the PHB, but must be corporeal undead with fewer than 10 HD. Undead are always under the creator's control unless the new HD total exceeds the number allowed by the Control Undead ability. In that case the newest undead are not under the Death Master's Control. Vampire spawn can be created by this power but not true vampires.
Commune with the Dead: Starting at 6th level, the Death Master can cast Speak with the Dead once per night, as a spell-like ability. Unlike the divine spell, the caster can also target an undead corpse or spirit, but such a creature is entitled to a will saving through (DC=15+charisma).
Create Major Undead: Once per month, during the full moon, a Death Master can cast a special Create Major Undead. The specific type of undead must be researched as with Create Minor Undead. The undead can be corporeal or incorporeal, but must not have more HD than the caster has character levels. Liches and ghosts can never be created using this ability.
Attain Lichdom: The High Master of Death Magic can choose to become a lich. In order to do so he must first create a phylactery as described in the Monster Manual, then perform month-long ceremonies that use up the ingredients of the phylactery as well as the skull of an imp and pint of venom from a nightcrawler. A knowledge (arcana) check (DC40) is used to determine if the process was successful. A roll of 1 means the Death Master's soul is forever lost to the powers of the abyss, and he becomes a sad form of a true immortal: the Screaming Demon (or a balor Tanar'ri).

Playing a Death Master

A Death Master is probably best played as a villainous NPC in most campaigns, as even non-evil Death Masters are dealing with powers that have no redeeming qualities. Players of a Death Master might enjoy playing the evil mastermind, or they might want to join the deadly and macabre intrigues within the ranks of the Secret Craft.


As a death master, you are not a front-line combatant, unless you are enjoying a fight with lesser opponents. Make sure you send your undead minions first, supporting with powerful necromantic offensives. Undead usually are immune to (or take benefit from) most necromantic spells so you shouldn't worry about hitting your own troops. Don't be adverse against leaving a battle scene. Your minions and spells can work very well from a distance, and of course revenge is a dish better served cold- as cold as the grave.


The first levels of this prestige class do not offer you much in the shape of new powers. However, your power may grow simply because you gain access to unique spells known by the members of the secret craft (some are in the PH, others can be found here). As you advance in levels you gain many powers over the undead. Be wary of clerics and clerical activity, as that is your only weak point. Note that becoming an undead creature may enhance your power as you may gain numerous immunities. Another option is to gain levels of Pale Master (Libris Mortis).


To a Death Master, the greatest resources are his undead servants. These tireless thralls can be more than fodder in combat. They can be used as enforcers, slave labourers and research subjects. Remember however that not all undead are mindless, and most can be very dangerous. While skeletons will be more than happy to be blown up by enemy traps, powerful undead have agendas of their own and might try to brake your control over them. Do not forget to research as many undead creatures as possible. Using the right kind of undead minion can mean the difference between failure and success of a task.

The Secret Craft of Death Mastery in the World
"Death Masters? You must mean Necromancers...They are wizards who are experts in the magic of death. Don't be squeamish; it is a perfectly acceptable form of magic! Nothing's dark about necromancy.... "

The Death Masters are a group of secretive and powerful wizards. What they lack in morals they compensate with a fanatic passion for the darkest arts of magic. The central and most ancient hub of the death masters are the nobles of Boldavia, banded together under the cruel fangs of prince Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany. However smaller groups of powerful necromancers from within and outside the principalities have wrestled their way into the group. Even so the Prince still manages to hold sway over the organisation and its secrets.


The Death Masters operate undercover in Glantri. Even the most modern and liberal thinkers of the capital might shudder in disgust if they ever find out about the methods used by the Death Masters. For the last two centuries the Craft is subtly promoting a concept among the other wizards of the land, that necromantic research is limited to the use of death magic and mindless undead. This concept, called practical necromancy (otherwise known as Necromance Appliqué, or Necrolight; see also: Bertok Garn, by Kit Navarro) is largely sponsored by wizards of all allegiances in the principalities (especially by the d'Ambrevilles and Fleams). Practical necromancy involves protection and control of undead, and animation of mindless undead. However, true Death Mastery involves the creation of horrible undead, manipulation of souls and so on.

NPC reactions

Even a normal wizard who dabbles in death magic might arouse negative reaction from most people. A wizard that has dedicated his life to the foulest forms of necromancy is not going to be well liked. Death Masters disguise themselves as wizards or necromancers that use the lighter side of necromancy, and so may be respected by the other arcaners of Glantri. In the more shadowy settings, the reputation of being a lord of death and the undying can give an advantage at least by intimidation.

Death Master Lore

Characters with Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (nobility) may learn these bits of information about the secret craft of Death Mastery:

DC10: Necromancers are wizards that specialise in the magic of death energies. It's one of the regular disciplines taught at the great school of magic.
DC20: There is a group of powerful wizards called the Death Masters. They can be found in the capitol, but most come from Boldavia and Klantyre.
DC25: Death Masters possess great powers over the undead. They learn spells that can tare souls apart, and create unnamed horrors.
DC30: Some Death Master of the Past and present are undead creatures themselves.

Sample Death Master

[These are the D&D3.5 statistics for Boris for the year AC1019. For more on Boris, check out this link at the GPD website. Other possibilities for his game stats might be: Wiz5/Death Master5/Dread Witch4 (Heroes of Horror).]

Lord Boris Gorevitch-Woszlany: Male Human Wizard 9/Death Master 5
Brother and spokesman for Prince Morphail, Death Master of the Third Circle

Medium Undead; CR 22;
HD 14d12; hp 91;
Init +7; Spd 30 ft/x4;
AC 19 (+3 dex, +6 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 16;
Base Atk/Grapple +7/+10;
Full Atk +10/+5 One-handed (1d6+3+2neg levels;20/x2, Slam);
AL CE; SV Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +11;
Str 16(+3), Dex 16(+3), Con 8(-1), Int 17(+3), Wis 15(+2), Cha 21(+5);
Skills: Bluff¹ +18, Climb¹ +4, Concentration¹ +2, Diplomacy¹ +13, Heal¹ +7, Hide¹ +12, Intimidate¹ +11, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Knowledge (history) +7, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Listen¹ +13, Move Silently¹ +12, Perform (acting) +7, Perform (dance) +6, Perform (Poetry) +6, Profession (Politician) +5, Ride¹ +4, Search¹ +12, Sense Motive¹ +13, Spellcraft +8, Spot¹ +13.
Feats: Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Deceitful, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Negotiator, Persuasive, Spell Focus (Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy), Silent Spell
Spells normally carried (4/5/5/5/4/3/3/2)
0 level: Acid Splash, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Presdigitation
1st level: Protection from Good, Sleep, Shocking Grasp (DC14), Disguise Self, Cause Fear (DC15)
2nd level: Fog Cloud, Detect Thoughts, Hideous Laughter (DC16), Hypnotic Pattern (DC16), Mirror Image
3rd level: Nondetection, Hold Person (DC17), Lightning Bolt (DC16), Major Image (DC17), Slow (DC 16)
4th level: Arcane Eye, Crushing Despair (DC 18), Greater Invisibility, Mass Reduce Person (DC17)
5th level: Mind Fog, Silenced Fear (DC18), Nightmare (DC19)
6th level: Mislead, Shadow Walk, Flesh to Stone (DC19)
7th level: Insanity (DC21), Waves of exhaustion (DC21)