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The Genius Guide to the Death Mage (PFRPG) PDF

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The death mage is a new core class designed for use with the Pathfinder RPG. It is an arcane spellcasting class that focuses on powers drawn from the dead, dying, and undead. Death mages are not just specialist wizards or variant sorcerers, but an entirely new kind of arcane spellcaster with different types of powers and a unique spell list. A death mage is designed to allow characters to draw deeply on the iconic forces of death, spirit and shadow, without requiring them be evil or focus on undead (though both are options).

Though often mistaken for necromancer-specialist wizards, undead-bloodline sorcerers, or clerics of gods of death and repose, death mages are truthfully closer in function and training to druids. While a druid is servant to and master of the forces of nature—calling upon them for instruction, aid, and power—the death mage is similarly linked to the spirits and powers of the dead. This is an intellectual link rather than a spiritual one, for a death mage has chosen to immerse herself in the trappings of the dead and their graves. The first thing a death mage learns is to listen to the faint echoes left behind by spirits of the dead. While wizards learn spells from dusty tomes, and sorcerers are empowered by their bloodlines, death mages are taught by the shades of the departed.

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Product Discussion (76)
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Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Marc Radle wrote:

Thanks Owen! This class sounds like something I need to let my son take a look at!

By the way ...

** spoiler omitted **

Reply sent!


Bloody hell! I just went through my list of SGG classes for an upcoming game, and I realized this is the only one I don't have yet!!! And it's only 3 bux, but even that's iffy today (I'm on a Mt. Dew rationing plan...Do I Dew, or not? Gads....this is tough).

Edit: Panic averted. I had it in my queue from who knows when and forgot to actually download it. Whew!

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

OK, was building a Death Mage NPC for a game and I noticed something about their higher level spell lists - they don't have Power Word: Stun or Power Word: Kill, just PW: Blind. Bit of an oversight, right...? Or conscious design choice (that honestly would make no sense to me, especially PW Kill. I mean... Death Mage, Power Word Kill, kind of an automatic fit, I'd think.)

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Kvantum wrote:
OK, was building a Death Mage NPC for a game and I noticed something about their higher level spell lists - they don't have Power Word: Stun or Power Word: Kill, just PW: Blind. Bit of an oversight, right...? Or conscious design choice (that honestly would make no sense to me, especially PW Kill. I mean... Death Mage, Power Word Kill, kind of an automatic fit, I'd think.)

You can certainly add it if you wish. The problem is that the death mage is designed not not be as good as direct damage spells as the wizard, and PW: Kill is already a wiz 9, so there's no way to allow it but as a harder-to-get spell. PW: Blind is more of a control spell, which falls more solidly in the DM's purview.

So it was a game-balance question, based on some playtesting, rather than a theme question, as the spell obviously matches the DM's theme.


I noticed an omission. The spell list lists the spell "Spectral Eye", with an asterisk indicating the spell is detailed later in the guide, but it's not there.


The following comment was made on another forum:

A Random User wrote:
Phantom Weapon should probably add that you deal lethal damage and the saves for the fetish powers are missing. Other than that, incredible!

Are there any errata or changes the SGG folks would like to make in response?

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Caedwyr wrote:

The following comment was made on another forum:

A Random User wrote:
Phantom Weapon should probably add that you deal lethal damage and the saves for the fetish powers are missing. Other than that, incredible!
Are there any errata or changes the SGG folks would like to make in response?

I'm not sure what he means by "Phantom weapon."

Most fetishes don't have saves. Nightmare spirits does, but it specifies it functions like the nightmare spell, which includes its save. There are a few others that specify they work as spells. Sympathetic Pain has the Fort save outlined in the description.

Can you send a link to the forum, because the objections just don't make sense to me.


D20PFRSRD in the user reviews section at the bottom.

By phantom weapon, I believe they are talking about the Phantom Weapon (Su) fetish

"Phantom Weapon wrote:
Phantom Weapon (Su): You are considered armed whenever making an unarmed attack against a creature your fetish is attuned to. Against such creatures, your unarmed attacks deal 1d8 points of damage (regardless of your size), and have a threat range of 18-20. You may add your Charisma modifier to damage from such attacks, instead of your Strength modifier, if you wish.


For general interest and feedback purposes, I'm posting a number of the comments on this class over at d20pfsrd.com. This seems to be a pretty popular class based on comments over there.

Comment 1 wrote:
I think I'm in love
Comment 2 wrote:
Wow. Truely a masterpiece. A necromancer with no alignment restriction. Amazing.
Comment 3 wrote:
Phantom Weapon should probably add that you deal lethal damage and the saves for the fetish powers are missing. Other than that, incredible!
Comment 4 wrote:
Phantom weapon specifies you are considered armed, and armed weapons deal lethal damage unless noted otherwise. And most fetishes don't have saves, those that do seem to list how they are calculated. Do you see one missing?
Comment 5 wrote:
Well, the ones that give you Bestow Curse, Nightmare, Persistent Image, Charm Monster and Contagion should have a saving throw, but I don't see one. Should it be the same as the spell, or calculated as 10 + 1/2 level + charisma (or intelligence, as Sympathetic Pain) modifier?
Comment 6 wrote:
Wisdom of the Grave looks pretty sub-par compared to everything else. Aside from that, great class.
Comment 7 wrote:
I can see wisdom of the grave being used to dramatic effect, as the enemy dies around you. An evil death mage might repeatedly whisper "Where are the women and children hiding?". "what traps have been set in our way?" "Where is the treasure?". As an antagonist, that would be scary.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Healing Spirits, Sympathetic Strike, and Veil of Ancestors all have their uses per day based off of Wisdom, and Sympathetic Pain is based on Intelligence. It seems like most of the class abilities are based off of Charisma. These were balance concerns, right?

Although it is weird that despite the rest of the class being Cha based, there are more Wisdom based Fetishes than Cha based one.

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Cheapy wrote:
Healing Spirits, Sympathetic Strike, and Veil of Ancestors all have their uses per day based off of Wisdom, and Sympathetic Pain is based on Intelligence. It seems like most of the class abilities are based off of Charisma. These were balance concerns, right?

Yes.

Cheapy wrote:
Although it is weird that despite the rest of the class being Cha based, there are more Wisdom based Fetishes than Cha based one.

Well, sure. Fetishes are just one option for the class, though. Paladin's spells are based on Wisdom, even though its a Strength/Charisma class otherwise. The more you let a class focus on just one ability score, the more it can get an easy power boost.


Sizik wrote:
I noticed an omission. The spell list lists the spell "Spectral Eye", with an asterisk indicating the spell is detailed later in the guide, but it's not there.

Just wanted to follow up on this question as well as I was looking through the class today.

Spectral Eye should be...? Documented or remove from the list of spells.

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Spectral Eye made it into the Genius Guide to the Death Knight, and will be included in the death mage update when we get to that. Here is is, for anyone who lacks that book and doesn't want to wait.

Spectral Eye
School: necromancy; Level: antipaladin 1, death
mage 1, oracle 2, sorcerer/wizard 2, witch 1
Casting Time: 1 round
Components: V, S
Range: short (25 ft. +5 ft./2 levels)
Effect: one spectral eye
Duration: 1 min./level (D)
Saving Throw: none; Spell Resistance: no
A ghostly eye formed from your life force materializes and moves as you desire, allowing you to observe your surroundings from a different point of view. On casting the spell you lose 1d4 hit points that return when the spell ends (even if it is dispelled), but not if the eye is destroyed. (The hit points can be healed as normal.)
For as long as the spell lasts, you can see through the spectral eye as if you were standing at its location. You can make Perception checks at -4 to see something in line of sight of the eye but not in line of sight to you, and gain a +4 bonus to Perception checks made within line of sight of both you and the eye. The eye has any natural vision enhancements you have (such as low-light vision for elves), but gains no benefit from enhanced vision granted by spells or items. Each round, as a swift action, you can choose a location within range for the eye to see from. If the eye goes beyond the spell’s range or goes out of your sight, it returns to you and hovers.
The eye is incorporeal and thus cannot be harmed by normal weapons. It as improved evasion (half damage on a failed Reflex save and no damage on a successful save), your save bonuses, and an AC of 20 (+8 size, +2 natural armor). Your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (whichever is better) also applies to the eye’s AC as if it were the eye’s Dexterity modifier. The eye has 1 to 4 hit points, the same number that you lost in creating it.


Don't have the Death Knight class. Thanks for posting Owen. Greatly appreciated!


Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Cheapy wrote:
Healing Spirits, Sympathetic Strike, and Veil of Ancestors all have their uses per day based off of Wisdom, and Sympathetic Pain is based on Intelligence. It seems like most of the class abilities are based off of Charisma. These were balance concerns, right?

Yes.

Cheapy wrote:
Although it is weird that despite the rest of the class being Cha based, there are more Wisdom based Fetishes than Cha based one.
Well, sure. Fetishes are just one option for the class, though. Paladin's spells are based on Wisdom, even though its a Strength/Charisma class otherwise. The more you let a class focus on just one ability score, the more it can get an easy power boost.

Actually, paladin spells are based on charisma.

I have a question about the Army of the Dead ability of the corpse mage pale road. At 12th level you can have a skeletal champion cohort 2 levels lower than normal. The skeletal champion adds 2 racial undead HD to his class HD. If the skeletal champion is a 10th antipaladin with two undead HD, does it count as a 12th level cohort or a 14th level cohort?

Paizo Employee Contributor; Developer, Super Genius Games

Amaranthine Witch wrote:
Actually, paladin spells are based on charisma.

Yes. If I'd made that mistake more recently than a year ago, I could fix it. Sadly having seven versions of related game rules in my head means when I am writing off-the-cuff on a messagebaord I sometimes don't check my references and make a mistake like this.

Feel free to replace that reference to channeling being based on Cha despite clerics being Wis-based spellcasters. :)

Amaranthine Witch wrote:
I have a question about the Army of the Dead ability of the corpse mage pale road. At 12th level you can have a skeletal champion cohort 2 levels lower than normal. The skeletal champion adds 2 racial undead HD to his class HD. If the skeletal champion is a 10th antipaladin with two undead HD, does it count as a 12th level cohort or a 14th level cohort?

It counts as a 14th level cohort (or rather you have to be able to have a 14th level cohort in order to take a 12 HD skeletal champion antipaladin). This is one of those cases where "hit dice" and "level" are synonymous.


Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:


Yes. If I'd made that mistake more recently than a year ago, I could fix it. Sadly having seven versions of related game rules in my head means when I am writing off-the-cuff on a messagebaord I sometimes don't check my references and make a mistake like this.

Just out of curiosity, seven rule sets? And I'm guessing:

1) Pathfinder
2) 3.5
3) 3.0
4) Modern
5) Cthulhu
6) 4E
7) ?

Paizo Employee Contributor; Developer, Super Genius Games

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Sethvir wrote:
Just out of curiosity, seven rule sets? And I'm guessing:

Off the top of my head:

1. 3.0
2. 3.5
3. 4.0
4. Star Wars RCR
5. Star Wars Saga
6. d20 Modern
7. Pathfinder

Of course I also have EverQuest d20, Wheel of Time RPG, Star War d20, Black Company RPG, and Gamma World d20 rattling around in my head.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Were there any balance issues found with allowing the fetish' Instrument of Death being a ranged weapon? Or was the melee only requirement to tie it closer to the scythe imagery?

Paizo Employee Contributor; Developer, Super Genius Games

No balance issues, but yeah my theme for the ability was to use a sickle/scythe as a fetish. Of course the death mage isn't proficient with many ranged weapons. Even so, if someone had a really cool idea for a crossbow fetish I don't think it would hurt anything.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Huh, you read my mind with what I had wanted.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ok, few more questions.

Sympathetic Pain wrote:

To use this power you must have your

fetish in one hand, and a melee weapon in the
other, and hit the fetish with the weapon (though
the fetish suffers no damage)

How would that work with the Instrument of Death fetish power? Would you just need to use your weapon? Is Sympathetic Pain meant to have uses per day? It's the ranged touch attack that makes an enemy shaken.

If the Death Mage did have a ranged fetish weapon (crossbow with shrunken heads hanging from it? Awesome) and the conductive property, what would you say is the order in which the effects apply? Shaken first, then damage? Damage first, then shaken? GM's call? This is for a case where order actually matters.

This class is letting me actualize a character concept that I was sure I'd need to cut some serious corners on. But those fears have since gone away, and it's all about the details now. Thanks!

Paizo Employee Contributor; Developer, Super Genius Games

Cheapy wrote:

Ok, few more questions.

Sympathetic Pain wrote:

To use this power you must have your

fetish in one hand, and a melee weapon in the
other, and hit the fetish with the weapon (though
the fetish suffers no damage)
How would that work with the Instrument of Death fetish power? Would you just need to use your weapon?

No, you's still need to hit your fetish with a different melee weapon. this is the classic stabbing-a-voodoo-doll trick, and you must have both hands free to do it.

Cheapy wrote:
Is Sympathetic Pain meant to have uses per day? It's the ranged touch attack that makes an enemy shaken.

No, but once a target saves they are supposed to be immune for 24 hours.

Cheapy wrote:

If the Death Mage did have a ranged fetish weapon (crossbow with shrunken heads hanging from it? Awesome) and the conductive property, what would you say is the order in which the effects apply? Shaken first, then damage? Damage first, then shaken? GM's call? This is for a case where order actually matters.

This class is letting me actualize a character concept that I was sure I'd need to cut some serious corners on. But those fears have since gone away, and it's all about the details now. Thanks!

I'd always apply weapon damage first, since if the weapon didn't hit nothing else happens. But it's a GM all.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Got it, thanks!

Andoran

Has the death mage ever been updated with the new spells released, like from the APG, etc? I mean I'm looking at it on d20pfsrd.com and it has spectral eye listed as a spell (which makes me think it has been updated) but it doesn't have undead anatomy, which seems a ringer for the class.

I know you don't update the d20pfsrd entry, but that is what got me wondering.


No, we have not done an updated spell list. Which is, of course, one of the drawbacks of writing 3pp classes with unique spell lists. That is why we added the section on how to decide for yourself what additional spells to add to the Death mage's list. (And I agree undead anatomy is a shoe-in.)

At this point I expect I'll wait for the Advanced Class Guide to come out, then look at a revision with all the new options to pick from.

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