|A typical death knight, as depicted in Monster Manual II (2002).|
|First appearance||Fiend Folio (1981)|
Martial champions of evil, death knights are usually created by demon lords or evil deities. These horrible undead are most commonly raised from the ranks of blackguards, fighters, rangers, and barbarians, but a paladin who falls from grace near the moment of death may also become a death knight. Paladins who become death knights are subject to the same modifications as are presented for the blackguard in Chapter 2 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.
Death knights generally retain most aspects of their personalities after the transformation, and may continue to observe the same code of honor that they held in life (never attacking from behind, for example).
In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (and 3.5), a death knight has an aura of fear that will rout groups of low level enemies, can channel powerful negative energy with a touch, and the ability to project explosions of fire and unholy energy.
Though rare, death knights may be found in any environment, but often choose fortified lairs, such as old castles and towers.
Typical physical characteristics
A death knight's physical form is that of its decayed body. The face is a blackened skull with patches of rotting flesh, with two pinpoints of orange light in the eye sockets. The voice of a death knight is chilling, seeming to echo from deep within. Death knights were powerful people in life and so they often wear expensive or magic clothing and armor. They are quite fond of wearing flowing capes to mark them as figures of importance.
Death knights are always evil.
Though death knights rarely work with their own kind, they often have a variety of undead servants such as skeleton warriors, liches, and banshees. Death knights often ride nightmares into battle.
Notable death knights
The first death knights
The first death knight identified by name in a Dungeons & Dragons product was Saint Kargoth, "King of the Death Knights," who first appeared in Scott Bennie's Dragon article, "Setting Saintly Standards," in 1983. Thirteen of Kargoth's fellow and contemporary Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom joined him in becoming death knights:
- Lord Andromansis of Garasteth.
- Sir Farian of Lirtham (destroyed 209 CY, but soul now powers the deathblade Astrosus).
- Lord Khayven of Rax.
- Lady Lorana Kath of Naelax.
- Sir Luren the Boar of Torquann.
- Sir Maeril of Naelax.
- Sir Minar Syrric of Darmen.
- Lord Monduiz Dephaar.
- Prince Myrhal of Rax.
- Sir Oslan Knarren.
- Sir Rezinar of Haxx.
- Lord Thyrian of Naelax.
- Duke Urkar Grasz of Torquann.
Other death knights
Other named death knights of Oerth include:
- Saint Ferrante, a fallen paladin of Heironeous who is currently held in stasis (Bastion of Faith). Though Bastion of Faith does not specifically refer to the risen Ferrante as a death knight per se, his physical description and statistics are very similar to those for death knights in second edition AD&D (BoF.40, 41).
- "Kas the Bloody-Handed". This death knight serves Vecna. His real name is unknown, but he calls himself, and believes himself to be, the Whispered One's former lieutenant, Kas (Die Vecna Die!).
- Sir Loran of Trollpyre Keep, a former knight of Sunndi and servant of Vecna (Die Vecna Die!).
- Vanthus Vanderboren, a former nobleman of Sasserine and servant of Demogorgon. Vanderboren becomes a death knight late in the Savage Tide adventure path.
Several unnamed death knights also appear in Die Vecna Die! as servants of Vecna.
The death knight was created by Charles Stross for the 1981 Fiend Folio.
- Bennie, Scott. "Setting Saintly Standards." Dragon #79. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
- Bonny, Ed, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Skip Williams, and Steve Winter. Monster Manual II. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
- Holian, Gary. "The Death Knights of Oerth." Dragon' #290. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2001.
- -----. "Demogorgon's Champions: The Death Knights of Oerth, part 2." Dragon #291. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2002.
- Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
- Reynolds, Sean K. "The Lost Temple of Demogorgon." Dungeon #120. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2005.
- Sennert, Matthew. "Ecology of the Death Knight." Dragon #360. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007.
- Sernett, Matthew, David Noonan, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb. Tome of Magic. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
- Stark, Ed. "The Death Knight." Dragon #222. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995.
- Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
- Turnbull, Don, ed. Fiend Folio. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1981.