Delogren parried frantically as his adversary swung her longsword at his neck in a whistling two-handed blow. Blood trickled down his left leg and across his ribs from a pair of long, shallow cuts, inflicted moments ago by the Imperial agent. Through his breathless fatigue, the Velvet Purse agent reflected that a chain shirt would be a good investment, if he survived the encounter. His once-fine silks were proving all too thin a shield between his flesh and Luvatire's blade . . . and if he made a mistake, between his soul and the fiend.
Panting, the dark bard fumbled under his cloak, and closed his fingers around a twist of paper. With a despairing snarl, Delogren flung a handful of stone dust at his adversary's face, and had the relief of hearing her scream in sudden pain as the alchemical concoction burned the woman's eyes. His own longsword clattered to the floor as he dove for his discarded fiddle and bow, and Luvatire tripped over the fallen body of one of her companions.
Rolling to one knee, Delogren favored the blinded Imperial agent with a feral grin, and sawed maniacally at the strings of his fiddle. Luvatire's companions began to stir, fitfully at first, and then with more vigor as the force of the bard's sullen art infused their dead forms. One of them stood, his chilly fingers closing around the haft of the same battleaxe that he had wielded in life.
Retching, her eyes still reddened from the effects of the phantomdust, Luvatire looked up into the vacant eyes of her late friend, Derven, as he raised his glittering axe.
Folklore and legend speak often of love affairs between bards and wild nature spirits, of musicians whose virtuoso performances seemed touched by the finger of a god. And, too, they offer darker stories—tales of midnight contests in which legendary bards matched soul, song, and skill against demons and devils, tempting fate in search of everlasting fame.
The darkest tales of all enumerate the harrowing biographies of those rare individuals to whom music is more valuable than their own souls. Fireside whispers recall the prodigious talent and tormented eyes of those who bargained their souls away in trade for infernal tutelage. They begin in obscurity, sizzle through life with the brilliance of a flaming arrow, and end in torment, the eternal victims of their own folly. Most of these tormented souls begin their stories as bards, but a few sorcerers and rogues are also drawn to the dark power of the class.
Hit Die: d6
Alignment: Any non-good.
Skills: Knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks, Knowledge (the planes) 4 ranks, Perform (strings) 8 ranks
Feats: Skill Focus (Perform (strings)), Spell Focus (Conjuration).
Spells: Able to cast 2nd-level arcane spells, including a spell from the Conjuration school with the (summoning) descriptor.
Special: The character must make peaceful contact with an evil outsider, and sign a contract in his own blood trading his soul for command of the pinnacle of mortal achievement in the performance of music.
Special: Must own a masterwork stringed instrument.
The fiddler of the damned's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Perform (Cha), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Speak Language (n/a), Spellcraft (Int), Tumble (Dex), and Use Magic Device (Cha). See Chapter 4 in the Player's Handbook for skill descriptions.
Skill Points at Each Level: 6 + Int modifier.
|1||+0||+0||+2||+2||Bardic music, hellish speed, infernal bargain||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|2||+1||+0||+3||+3||Augment Summoning||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|3||+2||+0||+3||+3||Infernal harmonics||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|4||+3||+1||+4||+4||Flashing eyes, floating hair||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|5||+3||+1||+4||+4||Bend the soul||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|6||+4||+1||+5||+5||--||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|7||+5||+2||+5||+5||Death’s fiddle||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|8||+6/+1||+2||+6||+6||--||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|9||+6/+1||+2||+6||+6||Song of the pit||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
|10||+7/+2||+3||+7||+7||Devilish youth||+1 level of existing spellcasting class|
All the following are class features of the hell fiddle prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Fiddlers of the damned gain no new weapon or armor proficiencies.
Spells per Day/Spells Known: Each level, the hell fiddle gains new spells per day as if he had also gained a level in a spellcasting class he belonged to before adding the prestige class. He does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of controlling or rebuking undead, metamagic or item creation feats, hit points beyond those he receives from the prestige class, etc.) besides an increased effective level of spellcasting. If a character belonged to more than one spellcasting class before becoming a hell fiddle, he must decide to which class he adds each new level.
Bardic Music: A hell fiddle’s levels provide daily uses of the bardic music ability as if he had gained a level as a bard, but they do not grant access to new bardic music effects. If the hell fiddle did not already possess levels as a bard, the character can use this class feature only to activate the abilities provided by this class, and does not gain access to any of the bardic music abilities listed in Chapter Three of the Player’s Handbook.
Infernal Bargain: The hell fiddle is bound by a contract with an evil outsider. His soul is no longer his own, and upon its departure from his body at death, it passes directly into the custody of the holder of his contract. As a result, the hell fiddle is no longer eligible to be the target of the raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection spells. A wish or miracle spell can free him of his contract so he can be restored to life, but such an act would certainly enrage of the outsider with whom the hell fiddle made his bargain.
Additionally, a handful of hell fiddles manage to cheat their demonic or devilish masters through other means—by forestalling death with a transition to undeath, for instance. Hell fiddles who beat their dark masters at their own game in this fashion often find themselves forced to a life of stealth and flight to avoid demonic and mundane assassins trying to collect on their employer's investment, and generally die a final death at their hands after a period of time.
Hellish Speed (Ex): The hell fiddle's unholy bargain with dark powers bears its first fruits in a preternatural sharpening of the musician's reflexes as they pertain to the performance with his chosen stringed instrument. He may apply his Dexterity modifier in addition to his Charisma modifier to Perform (strings) checks, and to the DC for saves versus bardic music effects created with a stringed instrument.
Augment Summoning: At 2nd level, the hell fiddle’s association with planes beyond the Prime Material grants him improved facility with summoning allies from the fiendish realms. In effect, he gains the Augment Summoning feat.
Infernal Harmonics (Sp): At 3rd level, continued tutelage from his otherworldly allies develops the hell fiddle's musical prowess so that his music can reach across the planes of existence. By making a Perform (strings) check against a DC of 16, he can cause an effect identical to the summon monster IV spell as if cast by a sorcerer of his character level, except that it requires only a standard action, and he can only call on creatures of a non-good alignment. This ability expends one daily use of his bardic music class ability. The benefits of his Augment Summoning feat apply to creatures summoned using this ability.
Flashing Eyes, Floating Hair (Ex): Continued delving though secrets not meant for mortal eyes begins to take its toll on the character, slightly unhinging his mind. His Wisdom score is reduced by 2 points. In return, the hell fiddle gains a +2 profane bonus to Perform (strings) checks and a +1 profane bonus to Will saves. Furthermore, during performances the hell fiddle exudes an intense otherworldly aura that unsettles members of his audience. While engaged in a performance with the fiddle, the character gains a +2 profane bonus to Intimidate checks. At level 6, this bonus increases to +4, and at level 8 it grows to +6.
Bend the Soul (Sp): At 5th level, the hell fiddle has learned music that mortal ears were never meant to hear. He is capable of wrenching such screeching, dissonant wails from his instrument that all listeners within range must make a Will save (with a DC equal to 14 plus 1 for every 5 points by which his Perform (strings) check exceeds 15), or suffer as if under the effect of confusion for as long as the music is audible to them. There is no upper limit to the number of rounds that the hell fiddle can sustain his demonic performance, save his own endurance. For every round past the third that he continues his performance, he must succeed on a Fortitude save versus the same DC as his victims, or suffer 2d6 points of nonlethal damage from the preternatural demands of such musicianship. This is a sonic, mind-affecting, enchantment (compulsion) effect, and its caster level is equal to the hell fiddle’s character level. Activating this ability expends three daily uses of bardic music.
Death's Fiddle (Su): Through his sullen art, the hell fiddle learns to subvert mortality itself. Once per day, he can cause the recently dead to rise again and fight on his behalf. This ability affects a number of corpses equal to half his class level, rounded down, and only works on corpses that have been dead for up to 1 minute per class. The raised corpses are alive (not undead) for the duration of the effect, and can be healed as normal; they possess all of the abilities they had in life. They rise with half of their normal hit points, and any ability damage they suffered prior to their deaths is healed. Corpses within a 15ft. radius spread from the hell fiddle are affected. The corpses of unwilling creatures are allowed a Will save (DC of 10 + half the hell fiddle’s character level + the hell fiddle's Charisma modifier) to negate the effect. Activity of this sort is intensely draining; after the third round in which he uses this ability, the hell fiddle suffers 1 point of temporary Constitution damage for every round that he continues to perform. While most hell fiddles prefer to use a string performance as the vehicle for this ability, it is possible to create this effect with vocals, a wind instrument, or any other performance technique. When the effect ends, raised corpses fall inert regardless of how many hit points they have left.
Song of the Pit (Sp): As the hell fiddle approaches the nadir of his descent into the grasp of the infernal powers from which he draws his powers, he achieves near-perfect communion with the dark hearts of his masters. Once per day as a full-round action, he can invoke a blasphemy effect, as a cleric of his character level. A hell fiddle is not obliged to perform with a musical instrument in order to invoke this effect, but as with death’s fiddle, most feel more comfortable doing so.
Devilish Youth (Ex): At the pinnacle of his skill, the fiddler of the damned draws a species of dark vitality from his music. He ceases to accrue penalties from natural aging, and becomes immune to magical aging and the temporal stasis spell. Note that he does not actually gain the ability to stave off the coming of death when the allotted span of his life is measured out; extreme old age still results in death.