5
\$\begingroup\$

I want a character who feeds on souls, using them or their power for his or her own devices. In particular:

  • The powers of the character should be flavored as being derived from souls

  • The character should have some ability to “harvest” souls, directly improving the above ability

Answers should describe, at the least, the race and class of the character. Any important feats, skills, or items should be included as necessary.

The actual role of the character (melee, spellcaster, whatever) is less important than finding the appropriate fluff. That said, the soul-based power should be the character’s primary power source; someone who primarily casts spells or wields weapons, and oh yeah they also have this soul-thing, are not good answers. Answers that get around that requirement by suggesting that you ignore better abilities are also not good answers.

Material should be from Wizards of the Coast-published 3.5 books, web enhancements, or Dragon or Dungeon magazine. Because the requirements of this question are much more about fluff than mechanics, it is important that the fluff as written involves souls. Any refluffing, or bringing in material from outside the above sources, should be considered challenging the frame and use that meta’s guidelines.

\$\endgroup\$
13
\$\begingroup\$

Feeding on Souls—Necrocarnate

The necrocarnate from Magic of Incarnum uses the fell power of necrocarnum, souls tortured and twisted into his dark raiment. For every creature he slays, he takes their soul, burning up its energy for his own purposes over the course of the day.

Sound awesome? I certainly think so. Unfortunately, the design on necrocarnate is very poor. It’s a prestige class for the incarnate class, and does just about everything worse than the incarnate himself did. You get various class features late, if you get them at all. Most importantly, you run primarily on essentia (soul-stuff), but necrocarnate does not improve the amount essentia you get at all. Instead of gaining essentia for leveling up, like a normal incarnate, you have to kill things to get essentia. And unless you’re being really cheesy (e.g. pouring boiling oil down an anthill and claiming a “kill” for each ant), it mostly means you’re behind. In other words, your soul-eating is pointless because you’d have more power if you just didn’t.

Enter sirpercival’s necrocarnate revamp. Sirpercival is one of the most prolific and well-regarded homebrewers for 3.5 (and also a really cool guy—plus how often do you get to say you’re playing a class written by an astrophysicist?). This takes the necrocarnum concept—all the cool I mentioned above—and replaces the shoddy design with a better one. A much better one; the sirpercival necrocarnate is a lot of fun. So this is homebrew, i.e. not official material, but it’s a remake of existing fluff, just with new mechanics.

Regardless of whether you use the official or homebrew versions of the necrocarnate, the fact that it requires 10 ranks in skills means you need 7 levels prior to entry. Two levels of incarnate or five levels of totemist (each from Magic of Incarnum) are required to meet the meldshaping requirements, and since necrocarnate advances your meldshaping as it is, it’s probably best to enter single-classed as one or the other.

The incarnate is literally alignment incarnate—it allows you to be chaos incarnate, evil incarnate, good incarnate, or law incarnate. Law is probably the best of them, chaos is definitely the worst of them, but the differences are not that large. I’d generally recommend law or evil for a necrocarnate (if using the official necrocarnate, the fact that necrocarnate requires Necrocarnum Acolyte and most of that feat is wasted on evil meldshapers—who can shape necrocarnum soulmelds without it—is a strong reason to favor law). Incarnates are simply broadly competent: they hit hard and reliably in combat, they have many skills and the ability to get large bonuses to them, and so on.

The totemist is a savage mauler, calling upon the spirits of various beasts to empower him. The totemist is very good at getting a ridiculous number of attacks. Totemist might also be a decent exception to the single-classed thing: a single level of barbarian, for Rage and trading fast movement for pounce via the lion spiritual totem option in Complete Champion, is very nice for a totemist, and Cobalt Rage is a solid feat (don’t bother with the totem rager prestige class, though, even though you qualify).

Incarnum in general

By the way, Magic of Incarnum is kind of notorious—the book is really hard to read and understand. Information is kind of spread out all over the place, and very difficult to keep track of. A quick-and-simple run-down:

  • People who use incarnum are known as meldshapers and have a meldshaper level akin to a caster level for a spellcaster.

  • Meldshapers work with soulmelds, which are glowing blue constructs made out of souls. Most meldshapers use available soul-stuff that is spread throughout the universe; necrocarnates steal souls that were previously in use, and twist and torture them into doing what they want.

  • Soulmelds are shaped, and may also be bound. The distinction between a soulmeld that is merely shaped versus one that is bound is very important. Shaped soulmelds give a minor benefit, usually a moderate bonus to a pair of skills; bound soulmelds can give quite potent benefits.

  • All soulmelds are shaped or bound to a chakra, and there is one chakra for each magic item body slot. So just like you can wear an item in your cloak slot, you can shape a soulmeld to your shoulders chakra. No two soulmelds can be shaped to the same chakra.

  • You can shape a soulmeld to any chakra, but to bind it, you must have that chakra open and have a chakra bind available (meldshapers get a certain number of these at a time). Moreover, if the soulmeld is bound, it suppresses any magic item you have in the same slot.

    • Example: you are wearing a cloak of resistance +1, and then bind the kraken mantle to your shoulders. Since you have bound a soulmeld to your shoulders, you cloak of resistance +1 is turned off, and you lose the +1 resistance bonus to all saves until the kraken mantle becomes unbound.

      On the other hand, shaping (but not binding) sphinx claws to your arms chakra does nothing to the gloves of dexterity +2 that you’re wearing.

  • All soulmelds that you have shaped (or shaped and bound) can have essentia invested in them. Essentia is soulstuff; meldshapers get a certain amount of it based on class level, and necrocarnates can get more by killing things.

  • The limit on how much essentia can go in any one soulmeld is based on your character level, and generally ranges from 1 to 4, though meldshapers get class features to expand this somewhat (at high level, with all of the relevant class features, the feat, and the item, you can get the maximum capacity of a soulmeld up to 8).

  • As a swift action, you can completely rearrange where and how much essentia you have in each soulmeld.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s a complicated system to explain and to learn, but it’s actually a rather simple and elegant system to use in practice. I recommend Sinfire Titan’s Incarnum Guide for more useful tips.

Something Else—Thief of Life

The thief of life prestige class from Faiths of Eberron is a strange class for those devoted to the Blood of Vol. While undeniably cool, the 6+Int skill points you get each level might be the most powerful thing the class has. Still, the borrow vigor, steal vitality, and steal immortality class features are thematically appropriate, and borrow vigor and steal immortality can even give you essentia—in what might be the only reference to incarnum outside of Magic of Incarnum in all of 3.5.

I don’t really recommend it, but it is worth mentioning.

Something Literal—Soul Eater

Book of Vile Darkness has the soul eater prestige class. I’m not a big fan of it; it’s definitely powerful, but it leads to a character who basically does the same thing, every time. It’s a powerful thing, but meh.

The soul eater lets you drain energy from targets with a touch—this is represented by giving them a negative level. As you level, you get various bonuses for doing this: bonuses to Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, saving throws and skill checks, and then you get to shapechange into your victim and turn them into a wight under your control.

It’s powerful; probably too powerful. It’s also boring, and as soon as anything shows up with immunity to energy drain (read: all constructs, undead, anyone who can cast death ward, or anyone with a soulfire armor or shield), you get to do nothing.

As a DM, I ban the soul eater because soul eaters are obnoxiously difficult to challenge appropriately—either their target is vulnerable to negative levels, and the soul eater kills them instantly and without really trying, or else the target is immune and the soul eater can’t do anything to them. It makes them boring to play and boring to play with.

Our Soul-eater—Race

As a necrocarnate, an incarnum race—azurin, duskling, rilkan, and skarn—is useful to you for getting that much more essentia. Essentia is really important, and you’ll probably be picking up the Bonus Essentia feat plus some other [Incarnum] feats just to pump it. Getting essentia from your race could mean saving yourself a feat later. The azurin and duskling are far-and-away your best choices.

Azurin are humans with innate incarnum, losing the human bonus skill point for a point of essentia. This is a very good trade, and then you get to keep the human bonus feat. Since a point of essentia is nearly worth a feat to you anyway, this race is like getting two bonus feats.

Dusklings are weird little black-and-blue fey creatures, and they’re very good. Totemists will dislike their Small size somewhat, but for incarnates that’s a good thing. Their other racial features are quite potent.

\$\endgroup\$
-4
\$\begingroup\$

Our 3.5 games frequently feature "classes" formed via specific sets of gear built using the magic item creation system. The magic item creation system is frequently banned because it is incredibly broken, but we allow it sometimes in our more prep-intensive games, and the "class" system seems to at least work better than the system as presented.

An item metaclass is just a set of similarly themed items or item abilities that in some way scale with the character's relationship to whatever is granting access to the items (usually an organization, culture group, or deity). The items do not function in any ways not covered by the magic item creation system and/or the cursed magic items system. Many of the items suffer from the 'dependent' or 'requirement' curses with specific complex triggers, but the meta-class discussed here does not make use of such curses.

The meta-class I think fulfills your requirements, a fairly common antagonistic group in our games, receives its items from the created minions of a chaotic evil Epic Spellcaster.

From my item meta-class notes:

They are called Soul Eaters or Necromancers and they make use of at-will death-knell items to power their foul magics. They are by nature solitary, always needing ever more victims for their quickly-burning fire, but encounter one when he has just feasted upon the life-blood of village and you shall know the true meaning of fear. The most foolish among them fight alone, and are quickly felled by superior numbers, but most travel with the reanimated corpses of their victims, brought back into a foul semblance of life via at-will animate dead. The greatest of their kind travel with vast armies and keep legions of bound slaves with which to feed themselves should a true threat approach. Catch a Dread Necromancer off guard and he is nothing, but face him while he is prepared and you will most surely perish.

Cultist of Set

Porfirio Set was once a mortal man but has since ascended to become the Dark God of Necromancy, Evil, Murder, Wanton destruction, and the Corruption of Souls. His cult is cultivated in secret among the larger cities and towns.

Potential converts are discretely given the items with which they can draw power from death. They are told they can only draw power from the deaths of strangers, but this is a lie. The invisible servants of the Dark God lead them ever down the path to total depravity, and converts find the lure of the power gained through death more and more tempting. Eventually, the servants tell them that the lives of their family hold secret power for those who are worthy, and they are driven to kill off all those related to them by blood or friendship. At this point the neophyte completes their initiation and is granted the second gift of Set, the ability to raise those they slay as slaves bound to their will.

From here the paths of the followers of Set diverge. Some, the most human, form dark cabals with others of their kind, hidden away in the bellies of the great cities. Doomed always to failure and internal betrayal, such cultists rarely make it past 6th level before an internal conflict gets out of hand and ends in a bloodbath with the few survivors parting ways. Others, driven to madness by the degredation of their souls, eventually flee civilization and prey like frenzied animals upon the few souls they encounter in the wilderness. A few try to set themselves up with new lives, blending in with the masses and only killing occasionally. It never lasts long.

The bulk of Set's forces, however, live in hiding on the outskirts of civilization, moving with their undead bodyguards from village to village never settling in one place. They take care not to encroach on each others' territory unless they are sure of their strength because wars of that kind lack much immediate benefit. The wiser of them do not destroy settlements wholesale, for armies, not immigrants, respond to such deeds. Instead they stick to frequent raids and the slaughter of travelers and bandits alike.

The elite, the Dread Necromancers, live this way as well, though they do not kill all the prisoners they claim from their raids, but rather keep a contingent available in case of need. These rare and powerful villains are also more gregarious than the lesser specimens of their kind; they communicate with others of their rank and engage in their own kind of trade and politics. All communications are done through the Third Gift of Set, bestowed upon all of Set's followers who progress to a sufficient level of notice (reach level 6). The Fourth Gift of Set is rarely given, and consists of the ability to summon Set's invisible servant creatures upon request. The Fifth and final Gift is has only ever been given to one mortal at a time, and there have been many times during which Set did not see fit to bestow the gift to any of his followers at all.

Gifts of Set:

  1. Accept Set's offer of help. grants at-will Death Knell
  2. Murder one's Family grants at-will Animate Dead
  3. Reach level 6 grants at-will Speak With Dead, at-will Animal Messenger (raven)
  4. Determined on an individual basis. Generally, amass a 100 man army of undead, reach CL 50, bathe in the blood of two dozen innocents, acquire enough slaves you can support yourself without further raids, and sacrifice someone of royal blood to Set. Grants at-will Planar Ally
  5. Determined on an individual basis. Generally, cause the fall of an major empire, slaughter at least half of its inhabitants, raise an army of at least 10,000 undead, unite at least a third of Set's followers beneath your rule, and set out to conquer the world with reasonable odds of success. Grants at-will Miracle

Obviously many of the details of this description are setting/campaign dependent, but the basic chassis, the soul-abusing magic, is a powerful and viable option in any campaign that allows custom magic items via the relevant DMG section. Death Knell's self-stacking is the backbone of the 'class', but Animate Dead is a close second in terms of importance and thematic impact.

Notes:

  • At-will Animate Dead does not allow a user to exceed the normal number of skeletons/zombies he could otherwise have.

  • This build assumes that multiple Death Knell bonuses from different souls count as different sources. Even though all the bonuses are untyped, if the consumption of multiple souls counts as multiple copies of the same effect only the largest bonus applies.

  • In order to make use of the class to the fullest extent, the cultist should be a spellcaster and also possess Great Cleave and a merciful weapon. A cleric (of Set) is traditional.

  • Even without spellcasting, soul-eaters get +2 Str and +1d8 hp per kill, which rapidly makes them terrifying melee monsters of doom.

  • In our games, this is pretty much an NPC class.

  • Set's minions kill any followers who find out they can use their abilities on animals and such before they slaughter their family. When you change the setting material, if you want Necromancers to be murdering people on a regular basis, you'll need a reason they can't/don't just use a bag of rats instead.

Soul fluff:

You draw forth the ebbing life force of a creature and use it to fuel your own power.

Not affected by raise dead and reincarnate spells or abilities. Resurrection and true resurrection can affect undead creatures. These spells turn undead creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming undead.

Undead are once-living creatures animated by spiritual or supernatural forces

The partially animated body retains the imprint of the soul that once inhabited it, and thus it can speak with all the knowledge that the creature had while alive

etc.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ (a) That paragraph in your lore needs line breaks. (b) Please explain how this magic item class system works, so that we can actually make use of this. (c) Do you have any non-broken examples of this to provide, or guidance on how to produce non-broken results that won't get the system and character banned? Is the thing you provided broken, or does it work well? It's excellent that you've playtested this and shared the results with us, but you've said the system is broken and gets regularly banned, and we generally require playtesting so that we can avoid broken homebrew. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 15 '15 at 23:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener c) This class thing isn't particularly broken, it's the Magic Item Creation system in general that is frequently banned. The specific system implemented here is strictly weaker that is theoretically possible with the Magic Item Creation system, for in-world reasons. I will edit. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 16 '15 at 7:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.