“Blood is life, and for me to know life everlasting, I must know the blood that flows within your veins.”
—Janilya Hornblade the Fearless, disciple of Vol
Every Seeker is fascinated by the twin mysteries of death and divinity. Not every believer seeks in the same ways, however. Some engage in exhaustive academic research, looking to uncover secrets hidden in long-forgotten lore. Others conduct experiments on both the living and the dead, hoping to discover a means to unite the two. Then there are those who seek to rip the secrets of life and death from the very souls of the living. These few Seekers are known as thieves of life. Like other Seekers, they long to understand the interplay between blood, death, and divinity; unlike their compatriots, they seek to harness personal power from that understanding, to startling and often gruesome effect. When the prize is immortality, there is precious little a thief of life will not do to grasp it.
BECOMING A THIEF OF LIFE
Almost all thieves of life begin as common rogues with an uncommon thirst for knowledge and experience, often leading them to multiclass. Some of the most accomplished thieves of life are rogue/clerics, although more martial-minded thieves of life might be rogue/barbarians or rogue/rangers. Nearly every ability score is useful to a thief of life: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are vital to her martial success; Dexterity and Intelligence
to her skills; Wisdom and Charisma both influence a thief’s standing within her cult, as well as a number of her skills and abilities.
Skills: Heal 4 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks.
Special: Any nongood alignment, humanoid or monstrous humanoid, must be a member of the Blood of Vol, sneak attack +2d6.
As you advance in the thief of life class, you combine some familiar rogue talents with a host of strange new abilities. Many of your abilities apply only to living creatures, which limits your capabilities against constructs and undead, though you are resistant to many special attacks favored by undead.
THE THIEF OF LIFE
HIT DIE: D6
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+0||+2||+2||+0 Lifesense (5 ft.)|
|2nd||+1||+3||+3||+0||Sneak attack +1d6|
|3rd||+2||+3||+3||+1||Lifesense (10 ft.)|
|5th||+3||+4||+4||+1||Immunity to fear, lifesense (15 ft.)|
|6th||+4||+5||+5||+2||Sneak attack +2d6|
|7th||+5||+5||+5||+2||Immunity to energy drain, lifesense (20 ft.)|
|9th||+6||+6||+6||+3||Immunity to death effects, lifesense (25 ft.)|
|10th||+7||+7||+7||+3||Sneak attack +3d6, steal immortality|
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level): Balance, Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Gather Information, Heal, Hide, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Move Silently, Open Lock, Profession, Search, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spot, Tumble, Use Magic Device, Use Rope.
Lifesense (Ex): You first learn how to recognize the ebb and flow of life energy. You can sense the location ofliving creatures within 5 feet (as if you had blindsense), and can also determine the condition of creatures near death within this range (as if you were using the deathwatch spell).
At each odd-numbered level, the range of this ability expands by 5 feet.
Sneak Attack (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, you deal extra damage when you are flanking an opponent or at any time when the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus. This extra damage applies to ranged attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. See the rogue class feature, PH 50). The amount of extra damage dealt is 1d6 at 2nd level, and it increases by 1d6 for every four thief of life levels thereafter (at 6th and 10th).
Borrow Vigor (Su): Once you reach 4th level, you can keep a portion of the life-force of fallen foes for yourself. Anytime you reduce a living creature to –1 or fewer hp with a sneak attack, you gain temporary hit points equal to the creature’s HD. These hit points last for a maximum of 1 hour, and multiple quantities of temporary hit points gained from this ability do not stack. If you have an essentia pool, you also gain 1 temporary essentia point, which you can immediately invest in any essentia receptacle (even incarnum feats).
This essentia lasts for 1 hour; multiple uses of this ability do not stack. (See Magic of Incarnum for rules on using essentia.)
Immunity to Fear (Ex): By 5th level, your repeated exposure to death itself renders you incapable of feeling the emotion that so terrifies lesser mortals. You gain immunity to fear effects.
Immunity to Energy Drain (Ex): At 7th level, you gain immunity to energy drain effects.
Steal Vitality (Su): Starting at 8th level, you can steal the life energy of a dying creature to use as your own. Whenever you reduce a living creature to –10 or fewer hit points with a sneak attack, you draw all remaining vitality from its body as the creature’s soul departs. The body shrivels swiftly to a husk, every drop of blood within drying up in an instant.
You gain immunity to fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep effects for a number of hours equal to the creature’s HD. Multiple uses of this ability do not stack (use only the longer duration).
Immunity to Death Effects (Ex): At 9th level, you gain immunity to death effects.
Steal Immortality (Su): At 10th level, you can take advantage of a dying creature to (briefly) cheat death itself. This is the pinnacle of achievement for a disciple of Vol. Whenever you reduce a living creature to –10 or fewer hit points with a sneak attack, in addition to stealing its life energy (see Steal Vitality, above) you devour a small portion of its soul. The slain creature’s HD must equal or exceed your own for this power to take effect. This has no further ill effect on the slain creature, but you become effectively immortal for the next year: Your body does not age (delaying the onset of ability score penalties due to age, but not mental ability score improvements), and you need not eat or sleep (though rest might still be required to regain spells and similar abilities).
If you have an essentia pool, you also gain temporary essentia points equal to one-half the slain creature’s HD, which you can immediately invest in any essentia receptacle (even incarnum feats). This essentia lasts for 1 hour; multiple uses of this ability do not stack. (See Magic of Incarnum for rules on using essentia.)
Unlike with the steal vitality feature, any creature slain by this attack cannot be brought back to life except by means of a miracle, true resurrection, wish, or similar magic. Furthermore, you become instantly aware of any creature slain by you in this way returning to life (though you don’t necessarily know where the resurrection occurs).
PLAYING A THIEF OF LIFE
You might or might not be devoted to (or even aware of) the lich-queen Vol, but you are undoubtedly committed to stealing the secret of life everlasting for yourself. You have trained and studied for this opportunity, and you let nothing stand in your way. You might have goals outside this, and even beyond those of the Blood of Vol, but enlightened self-interest is the order of the day for a thief of life. Other people fit into one of two broad categories: fellows driven to seek immortality or pawns to further your own pursuit of it.
You are a dangerous foe in combat, especially with surprise on your side. Even at low levels, you have a potent sneak attack, and since many thief of life class features play off the sneak attack, it is your most effective combat tool. Your lifesense ability allows you to fight more effectively in the dark, so maneuvering melees into such situations can play to your strengths. Regardless of the lighting conditions, getting yourself into flanking position is a combat must.
At higher levels, you become increasingly able to resist harmful effects wielded by your enemies, from fear and energy drain to sleep and even death effects. At the culmination of your path, you gain the ability to extend your life essentially indefinitely—as long as a supply of helpless prey exists.
The thief of life is a demanding career path. It requires knowledge and skills outside the ordinary for the common rogue, and some hopefuls lack the patience to realize their dreams. Thankfully, you do not seek alone. The largest collection of thieves of life on Eberron forms a cabal known as the Cult of Life, a subsect of the Blood of Vol. The euphemistic name deflects fear and suspicion from the cult’s morally questionable activities. In the darkened halls of cult gatherings, master thieves of life train, educate, and test new Seekers.
You can pursue whatever avenues of study work best for you, but the Cult of Life values breadth of experience. A neophyte thief of life with something new or different to offer receives more favor from cult superiors than less interesting peers. Once you are able to arrest your own aging process, you become a mentor to neophyte thieves and take your place among the elite of the Cult of Life.
Few below this exalted rank are inducted into the true nature of the Blood of Vol. When your path culminates in the transformation to undead, you enter the true inner circle of the Cult of Life, answering to none but Vol herself.
As an active member of the Cult of Life, you can expect to receive aid from your colleagues—on occasion. As with a proper thieves’ guild, individual members are only as valuable as the risk they pose to the group, and should you get yourself into more trouble than you are worth, the cult has no qualms about cutting you loose.
The largest concentration of cult activity is in the Aundairian capital of Fairhaven. This outfit is led by one of the Cult of Life’s founding members, a man by the name of Torven d’Medani (LE male human rogue 5/monk 3/thief of life 10), formerly of House Medani. Thieves of life in Fairhaven who follow d’Medani’s edicts to the letter benefit from his considerable power and influence.
THIEVES OF LIFE IN THE WORLD
“These thieves are but rumor, to the best of my knowledge. They had better be… .”
—Bedesto the Gauntlet, dwarf paladin of Dol Dorn
Some of Vol’s greatest servitors are thieves of life. Many have insinuated themselves into positions of power and authority across Khorvaire, either at her direct request or by way of their superiors in the Cult of Life or the Order of the Emerald Claw. Above all, thieves of life are careful to avoid implicating themselves in their superiors’ activities—they would sooner take the fall for something unrelated than relinquish the secret of their fellowship. As a result, most leave false clues implicating other figures or groups.
Because their mandate is secret, few cult members achieve name recognition (at least not for being thieves of life). Within the Cult of Life, however, some figures have reached near-legendary status and serve as inspirations to those still advancing. In addition to Torven d’Medani, perhaps the most renowned thief of life ever to exist, the infamous include Sle’en the Ageless, a changeling prodigy raised from birth within the cult; Tzora the Black, an elf assassin famed for her betrayal of and subsequent flight from Aerenal; and the half-orc chieftain Janilya Hornblade, an outcast who returned to her clan not only as conqueror, but as the prophet who would eventually convert the entire clan to the Blood of Vol.
Most thieves of life are not aware of the true extent and goals of their organization. At the lowest level are those who find their own way onto this path. Such individuals typically serve neither goals nor interests beyond their own, and are typically neutral evil in alignment. Those thieves who are materially involved with active cults of Vol can be of any alignment (though lawful evil is common where the cult operates openly). They might or might not be aware of the religion’s overarching connections, depending on their value to and involvement with the Crimson Covenant. The most powerful thieves of life knowingly serve Vol, the Covenant, and their interests.
This includes almost everyone of 7th level or higher who is a member of the Cult of Life. Once a thief reaches this level of ability, she is bestowed the added title “dauntless” and is typically inducted into some truths of the Cult’s activities by her local superior. On reaching 10th level of the class, she achieves the exalted rank of “ageless.” For example, the head of cult affairs in Fairhaven is known as Torven the Ageless.
Many folk are familiar with the Blood of Vol, but few know of the thieves of life. Specific reactions depend on the individual cultist, many of whom specialize in dissembling or otherwise putting strangers at ease. An NPC who is aware of the cultist’s ties to the Blood of Vol reacts according to the prevailing attitude toward the sect. Worshipers of the Silver Flame, for example, would consider them part of a misguided and illegal religion, whether or not they have any specific knowledge about that individual cultist. Those who glimpse the thief of life’s class abilities in action are likely to react with extreme fear, distrust, or both.
THIEF OF LIFE LORE
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (religion) or bardic knowledge can research thieves of life to learn more about them. When a character makes a successful skill check or bardic knowledge check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 10: A particular type of roguish operative combines special powers with a focus on stealth. The name thief of life is whispered in the dark.
DC 15: Forming a subcult of the Blood of Vol, thieves of life are both feared and renowned for their ability to bolster their own health by stealing life energy from their victims.
DC 20: The most powerful thieves of life can enter a state of quasi-immortality by consuming the souls of those they kill.
THIEVES OF LIFE IN THE GAME
Most of the time, player characters will never know they have encountered a thief of life. Such characters are in the business of charade—so adept at masquerading as ordinary rogues that they are usually mistaken for them. Should a PC suffer the effects of a thief’s steal vitality ability, however, or in the event that the PCs go up against a thief of sufficiently advanced level, the differences soon become apparent. Even so, all but the most learned of characters will still be at a loss to articulate what it is they have experienced.
Playing a thief of life is a roleplaying challenge. They are not necessarily evil, but they are bent on the pursuit of immortality, and their methods clearly bring them into conflict with certain character classes. Their combat effectiveness is undeniable, though, and the class offers many of the same attractions as does the rogue, with added benefits at the highest levels. Among parties of neutral or at least pragmatic characters, they make interesting PCs. The challenge lies in maintaining moral neutrality while progressing in the class.
The overall gestalt of the thief of life clearly links the class to the Blood of Vol in the Eberron setting, but it could be found in any campaign where rogues or the gods of death are influential. Adapting the class to other settings requires little more than changing some specific entry requirements.
One thief of life makes a terrifi c villain; a group of them is quite a challenge. Death is a fundamental principle of nature. If evil beings fi nd a way sidestep that eventuality— often by murdering and sacrificing sentient beings—heroic characters must step in to oppose them.
EL 10: Janilya was unpopular among the Hornblade Clan from an early age due to her mixed blood. Furthermore, she refused to condemn her human mother, who left her in the Hornblades’ care rather than risk the shame of raising her in a conservative human community. Janilya was eventually ostracized from the clan for her outspoken views, particularly her contempt for the gods. Her desire for self-determination soon landed her in a cult of Vol, which inducted her into its ways. After amassing substantial money and power, she returned to her former clan, murdered the chieftain before the assembled elders, and took control.
JANILYA HORNBLADE, THE FEARLESS (RAGING) CR 10
Female half-orc rogue 3/barbarian 2/thief of life 5
NE Medium humanoid (orc)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., lifesense 15 ft.; Listen +7, Spot +7
Languages Common, Orc
AC 14, touch 11, fl at-footed 11; Dodge, Mobility, uncanny dodge (+3 Dex, +3 armor, –2 rage)
hp 91 (10 HD)
Saves: Fort +13, Ref +10 (+11 against traps), Will +6
Speed 40 ft. (8 squares); Spring Attack
Attacks: Melee +1 greatsword of wounding +13/+8 (2d6+8/19-20 plus 1 Con against living creatures)
Ranged longbow +10/+5 (1d8/×3)
Base Atk +7; Grapple +12
Atk Options borrow vigor, rage 1/day (8 rounds), sneak attack +3d6
Combat Gear potion of cure moderate wounds
Abilities Str 20, Dex 16, Con 21, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
SQ trap sense +1, trapfinding
Feats Dodge, feat:Iron Will, Mobility, Spring Attack
Skills Balance +6, Disable Device +6, Disguise +6, Heal +6, Hide +9, Jump +11, Knowledge (arcana) +4, Knowledge (religion) +4, Listen +7, Move Silently +9, Open Lock +7, Ride +5, Spot +7, Survival +5, Tumble +9
Possessions masterwork studded leather armor, longbow, +1 greatsword of wounding, amulet of health +2, gloves of Dexterity +2
When not raging, Janilya has the following changed statistics:
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13; Dodge, Mobility, uncanny dodge
hp 71 (10 HD)
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +10 (+11 against traps), Will +4
Attacks: Melee +1 greatsword of wounding +11/+7 (2d6+5 plus 1 Con against living creatures)
Base Atk +7; Grp +10
Abilities Str 14, Dex 16, Con 17, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
Skills Jump +9