Blackguard

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A blackguard epitomizes evil. They are nothing short of a mortal fiend, a black knight with the foulest sort of reputation. Many refer to blackguards as anti-paladins due to their completely evil nature. A blackguard is an evil villain of the first order, equivalent in power to the righteous paladin, but devoted to the powers of darkness.

Game Requirements

Base Attack Bonus: +6

Feats: Cleave

Alignment: Any Evil

Skills: Hide 5 ranks

Roleplaying a Blackgaurd

Optional Requirement: The blackguard must have made friendly contact with an evil outsider, summonded either by himself or someone else. This does not necessarily mandate some sort of oath or pact be made.

In addition, the Blackguard class is an acceptable alternative to the Divine Champion PrC for evil alignments; Due to the alignment restrictions for the Champion of Torm.

A blackguard is a mortal who has bargained with an evil outsider in an attempt to increase his own power. This bargain may have been initiated by either party; certain demons and devils have notorious reputations for seducing mortals into corruption. Conversely, the mortal himself may have sought out and even summoned the outsider in order to advance his own dark power. Regardless, negotiating with fiends on such a level is an intensely evil act, to say nothing of wielding the power that results. For this reason, blackguards are always evil themselves, although they may not start out that way.

Negotiating with a fiend does not in itself make one a blackguard; receiving divine power as a result does.


The Deal

Central to the theme of the blackguard is the pact being made. As a blackguard can range anywhere at all along the law/chaos axis, so can the nature of the deal itself, as well as the fiend offering said bargain. Like every deal, both sides expect to get something out of it. Like many deals where fiends are concerned, both sides will not necessarily get what they expect.

The mortal will expect generally one thing: power. Common fiends cannot offer the divine power that a blackguard wields. In almost every case the fiend is acting as a broker for a higher power, such as an evil deity, archdevil or demon lord. The mortal may or may not understand the true nature of that power, depending on his own knowledge and what the fiend chooses to have him believe. Whether he knows it or not, the blackguard is always serving some higher power.

What the fiend expects will vary according to its patron, its nature (alignment), and what it feels the mortal can offer. The mortal’s soul will often be consigned to the fiend’s patron as part of the deal, though this is usually a formality as the nature of the deal will itself almost ensure this (a fact not necessarily made known to the mortal). Typically the blackguard will be expected to serve the fiend’s patron in some mortal capacity. This could be as part of a formal contract, if the patron is an archdevil, or simply in the freelance sowing of chaos and evil, in the case of a demon lord. Deities will likely expect their portfolios to be furthered in some way. The common theme is that the patron must have a compelling reason to grant a portion of its power to this individual, and one soul will not be enough of a reason.

The formality of the deal will also vary according to the alignments involved. Devils love formal contracts, full of loopholes and carefully worded language designed to entrap the other party into giving more than they bargained for. Demons are less predictable and may often just grant the power on a whim, once they have reasonable assurance the individual is likely to further their lord’s goals in some way. However, these are only guidelines. A lot of variation is possible on this point.

Not every deal is a straight-out bargaining session, especially if the mortal is non-evil to begin with. A fiend for example could appear as a trusted friend or advisor, and offer a long, slow seduction with which it slowly undermines the morals of the character, offering the deal only after pointing out that the character’s actions have irrevocably damned him to an evil existence. Devils are more likely to have the patience to pull this off, but some demons (such as succubi) are also well versed in the arts of seduction and corruption.


The Fiend

It is important to remember that the fiend is acting on authority from some higher power, as it has no divine powers to grant on its own (except in the unlikely event that the mortal finds himself negotiating directly with an archfiend or evil deity). However, it is not at all unusual for evil deities and archfiends to delegate this authority to their fiendish servants on the Prime Material Plane.

The nature of the fiend itself should be consistent with the patron it serves. Evil deities will often bargain with archfiends of similar alignment, purchasing minions from their home plane in exchange for souls. These are used as soldiers and servants on the deity’s home plane as well as the Prime Material Plane.

Similarly, the alignment of the blackguard should be similar to that of the fiend and its patron. Cyric is unlikely to grant divine abilities to a lawful character who would potentially oppose his portfolio; nor would Asmodeus wish to aid an agent of chaos on the Prime or any other plane. He may do so in unusual circumstances for a very limited objective, but not to aid the long-term career of someone whose goals oppose his.

In short, the one step rule applies in both cases. Lawful should not deal with chaotic, and vice versa.

It is also worth nothing that, although the blackguard may eventually be granted the power to summon a fiend to his aid, it will not necessarily be the fiend he has originally bargained with, but whatever his patron feels he is worthy of at the time.

A side note on spells: Many blackguard spells have names and descriptions associating them with either infernal or demonic powers. Players should feel free to roleplay those spells as appropriate to their alignment and patron. For example, a lawful evil blackguard could legitimately choose to rename Abyssal Might to Infernal Might, and claim the power comes from the Hells or his deity’s home plane as the case suits.


Being a Blackguard

Once the nature of the deal of the deal is established, the blackguard has a baseline of the expectations that he is expected to operate under. Much will depend on his patron, and his/her/its goals. Very often the blackguard may not even be aware of those goals, but the fiend will either have manipulated the terms of the deal to ensure them, or had enough confidence at the outset that the blackguard will fulfill them without direction.

As far as their mortal servants are concerned, evil deities are primarily concerned with furthering their portfolios. Playing a blackguard in this manner is not all that different than playing a paladin or divine champion, though the blackguard will not be constrained in the same manner as a paladin. Joining the deity’s church is certainly a possibility. Some evil churches in fact have orders specifically for blackguards. Their individual function will in some degree depend on their base class. Fighters may serve as temple guardians, rogues/rangers/monks as assassins or scouts, clerics as specialty priests, and arcane classes as almost anything.

However, even with a patron deity, joining a church is not strictly necessary. As long as the blackguard is somehow furthering the deity’s goals, the deity will most likely continue to grant him his divine power.

Archdevils have many interests on the Prime Material Plane, among them harvesting new souls, corrupting mortals to lawful evil, and countering the influence of demons or good-aligned beings who may thwart their plans for a particular region. Although they will typically have baatezu servants already performing these roles, adding a mortal to the mix can have many benefits. For one thing, a mortal is already native to the plane, and has a home field advantage of sorts. It also does not have to spend any additional energy assuming a native form as most devils do. On the downside, being non-baatezu the mortal likely does not have the same level of fear and obeisance of its archduke another devil would, assuming the mortal is even aware of whom he is working for. For this reason the blackguard would likely be kept under constant scrutiny to ensure he is fulfilling the terms of his contract.

A demon lord’s interest in the Prime will vary by individual from very intense to none at all. Most, however maintain at least a secondary interest in the harvesting of souls and the spread of the chaos of the Abyss onto other planes. Some also have specialized interests in the Prime; Fraz-Urb’luu, for example, is searching for his magic staff, while Obox-ob attempts to draw entire worlds into the Abyss to further his own power. Above all demon lords desire to extend their own powerbases within the Abyss, so any activity that furthers that end (such as disrupting a rival lord’s local cult) will be especially favored.

Bargaining with a yugoloth is another possibility. Being the great mercenaries of the lower planes, a yugoloth will probably only ask for money in exchange for its lord’s power. This would likely be paid on a periodic basis, and increase in cost as the blackguard gained more power (i.e., advanced in class level). The advantages of this sort of arrangement are that it allows total freedom of action for the blackguard, and that any alignment would qualify. The disadvantages are that the cost would likely be quite high. Divine power from the lower planes is fueled by souls, and souls are money. The yugoloth being dealt with would certainly want its share, and a large periodic payment would have to go to its lord to ensure that the divine power keeps flowing.


Losing Your Patron

On occasion, a blackguard’s patron may lose interest in continuing to provide him his divine abilities. This will most often happen as the result of an alignment shift, but there are other possible reasons. A deity may no longer feel the blackguard is upholding his portfolio. An archdevil may feel the terms of the contract have been violated. Demon lords are notoriously fickle and capricious. In addition to the mortal losing his divine power, any of the above scenarios carry with them the possibility of further reprisals by the patron.

However, as long as the blackguard remains evil he is very likely to be able to find a new patron to support him. It may even happen without the blackguard knowing it, particularly if the new alignment is chaotic evil. Often however, the blackguard will need to seek out a new patron who will tolerate his new alignment and behavior.


Blackguards in Society

How others perceive a blackguard depends on several factors. As with all evil PC’s, a blackguard may choose to hide his nature or act openly evil. Hiding his nature will likely involve some discretion with using his abilities around others. Certainly summoning fiends or undead is openly evil, and likely to be frowned upon in most societies. Many blackguard spells are identical to cleric spells, and would not themselves be recognized as evil; others are less subtle, particularly higher-level buff spells such as Investiture spells. While a commoner or even most adventurers would probably not notice the evil nature of his spellcasting, anyone with a decent Spellcraft skill might reasonably do so. As with the use of Detect Alignment spells, you as the player should have the final word on whether you wish your PC’s nature to be revealed by spellcasting alone – except in the case of summoning.

Playing an openly evil blackguard can be more difficult, but has its own rewards. Players should be prepared to have their characters shunned or even outright barred in certain societies, depending on how well evil is tolerated there. If you’re choosing to play an openly evil blackguard with a notorious reputation, don’t expect a warm reception in temples of the Triad.


Variations

Aside from the basic requirements (peaceful contact with an evil outsider, and a divine patron who grants him power) a blackguard has a great deal of flexibility in how he can be portrayed. He may be a holy warrior, an opportunistic dirtbag, a petty tyrant, or an insane lunatic. The one trait that ties blackguards together is a desire for power, and a willingness to draw it from an evil source.

Not all blackguards are born evil. Many are ex-paladins, corrupted by some traumatic event in their lives or having their faith shaken by some deceit or treachery. Sometimes the fiend they encounter will cause or hasten their fall; sometimes the paladin will fall himself, then seek out the fiend later.

Since blackguard is a prestige class, you yourself must decide how to balance the roleplay of your blackguard abilities with that of your base class. In terms of personality, a fighter/blackguard could still be little more than a fighter, albeit an evil one who has added to his abilities by making a deal with a dark power. Alternately he could be a devout disciple of said evil power, and roleplayed accordingly.

Probably the three most important choices to make for your blackguard’s development are base class, alignment and patron. Although a blackguard is not necessarily a cleric, choosing a patron for a blackguard character should be given the same consideration as you would for a cleric. Research into your patron’s goals and desires can only help flesh out the character.

Amia Specific Changes

The Epic Fiend Summon has been Improved to be on par with other Amia Summons. In addition, the Blackgaurd may receive a "Book of Vile Rituals" which changes the creature to an improved version based on the Blackguard's Law-chaos alignment axis.


The Blackguard also receives a variety of abilities, that may be learned from an NPC tutor. These abilities are as follows:

Spell Blackguard Levels Required Wisdom Score Required Description
Corrupt Weapon 1 11 The caster corrupts a melee weapon to strike true against good opponents, granting a +1 enhancement bonus and 2d6 negative energy damage vs. good.
Demon Flesh 1 11 The caster grows the thick, leather flesh of a demon, granting a +1 natural armor bonus to Armor Class for every five caster levels (at least +1, maximum +4).
Aura of Despair 3 - Beginning at 3rd level, the blackguard radiates a malign aura that causes enemies within 10 feet to take a -2 penalty on all saving throws.
Veil of Shadow 3 12 Swirling wisps of darkness obscure the caster's form, granting a 20% concealment bonus.
Darkness 5 12 All creatures within the area of effect are shrouded in a haze of darkness which can only be pierced using Ultravision. The creator of the zone of Darkness is able to see as normal.
Deeper Darkness 6 13 This spell functions like Darkness, though the shadowy illumination lasts 1 turn per caster level.
Abyssal Might 7 13 The caster summons evil energy from the Abyss and is imbued with its might. The caster gains a +2 enhancement bonus to Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity. The caster's spell resistance improves by 2.
Unholy Sword 8 14 This spell transforms the caster's melee weapon into a powerful Unholy Avenger, a specially blessed weapon that, when wielded by a Blackguard, acts as a +5 unholy weapon that dispells on hit.