Valkyrie Class, Tweaked

GreyKnight is starting a campaign set in the world implied by Nethack, using Pathfinder RPG as his base rule set.  Among other things, this requires him to build some new character classes.

He has taken a run at the Valkyrie class and asked for some comments and suggestions.  This post identifies a few changes I would make.

While working on it I felt a huge urge to crank up the death aspects of it, and possibly make it more design.  Shift it from “cold fighter with a bit of death” (which might be reasonably close to the NH source material we’re modeling) to (eventually) “avatar of frost and death” — grant a mix of cold and death powers.  The spell casting looks too good, it should probably be backed off a fair bit — perhaps replace it with a reduced Sorcerer casting progression (where the first two spells of each level must be related to cold and death).  For now though, I’ll stick to tweaks.

The Valkyrie gets a weird mix of abilities from several different core classes because I’m trying to model the feel and play of the Nethack Valkyrie.  Among other things, they get the “Speed Intrinsic” at XL 7.  I have chosen to model this using the flurry of blows ability (as done in the RSRD Monk; I didn’t think the Pathfinder Monk flurry of blows fit as well here).

I may take another run at this later, starting from first principles.

Valkyrie (Base Class)

Class Properties

My changes in italics

  • Alignment: Any
  • Sex: Female only
  • Race: Human or Dwarf
  • Hit Die: d10
  • Base Attack Bonus: Full
  • Saves: Good Fort, Poor Ref, Poor Will
  • Class Skills: Acrobatics, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge (geography, religion, planes), Perception, Ride, Stealth, Survival, Swim
  • Skill Points: 4+mInt
  • Weapon Proficiencies: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons
  • Armor Proficiencies: Light Armors, Medium Armors
  • Shield Proficiencies: Shields, not Tower

The Valkyrie class as presented in Nethack

  • may be any alignment unless a dwarf, in which case they must be Lawful (and I suspect few people play non-dwarven Valkyries, being a dwarf is too useful in the early game… and starting with a longsword and Lawful alignment makes it pretty easy to get Excalibur, a pretty nice artifact weapon).
  • gains Stealth and Speed intrinsics at first and seventh levels, which suggests they may want to avoid the heavier armors in Pathfinder.  Starting with the Stealth intrinsic suggests they should have Stealth as a class skill.
  • Originally has 2+mInt skill points per level, and just can’t do that to anyone.

Class Progression

XL BAB Fort Ref Will Special L1 L2 L3 L4
1 +1 +2 +0 +0 Inner Warmth, Frosty Grasp +1d6
2 +2 +3 +0 +0 Touch the Spirit World
3 +3 +3 +1 +1 Runecrafter
4 +4 +4 +1 +1 Cold Resistance 5 0
5 +5 +4 +1 +1 Glacier Step, Frosty Grasp +2d6 1
6 +6/+1 +5 +2 +2 Elemental Form 1/day (Medium) 1
7 +7/+2 +5 +2 +2 Ride of the Valkyrie (3/day) 1 0
8 +8/+3 +6 +2 +2 Cold Resistance 10 1 1
9 +9/+4 +6 +3 +3 Lend Glacier Step, Frosty Grasp +3d6 2 1
10 +10/+5 +7 +3 +3 Elemental Form 2/day (Large) 2 1 0
11 +11/+6/+1 +7 +3 +3 Ride of the Valkyrie (5/day) 2 1 1
12 +12/+7/+2 +8 +4 +4 Cold Resistance 15 2 2 1
13 +13/+8/+3 +8 +4 +4 Chain Glacier Step, Frosty Grasp +4d6 3 2 1 0
14 +14/+9/+4 +9 +4 +4 Elemental Form 3/day (Huge) 3 2 1 1
15 +15/+10/+5 +9 +5 +5 Ride of the Valkyrie (7/day) 3 2 2 1
16 +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +5 +5 Cold Resistance 20 3 3 2 1
17 +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +6 +6 Frosty Grasp +5d6 4 3 2 1
18 +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +6 Elemental Form 4/day (Elder) 4 3 2 2
19 +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +6 Ride of the Valkyrie (at will) 4 3 3 2
20 +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +7 +7 Hibernal Transcendence 4 4 3 3

Class Abilities

Spell Casting

Beginning at fourth level, a valykrie can cast divine spells from the below list.  She must prepare her spells as runes (individual tokens bearing runic markings and impressed with her will); her number of spells per day is given above.  She also gets bonus spells per day if she has a high Wisdom score.  To cast a spell, the valkyrie must have a Wisdom score of at least (10 + spell level).  The DC for saving throws against her spells is (10 + spell level + Wisdom modifier).

From 1st-3rd level, a valkyrie has no caster level.  Above this, her caster level is equal to her (valkyrie level – 3).

Considering the origin of this class, runes should be a significant element of their spell casting.  There are two approaches:

  • Runes as focus.  When the valkyrie gains access to a new level of spells she prepares a rune for each.  During spell preparation she imbues this rune with the power to be used as a spell later (and each rune may be so imbued more than once).  Casting the spell releases some of the imbued power, but the rune itself is reusable.
  • Runes as material components.  The valkyrie crafts runes during spell preparation, carving or otherwise marking stone, metal, wood, or other hard material, and the runes are consumed during use.

Or mix the two, perhaps.  Most casting is done in the material component way, but it is possible to acquire a focus that allows you to spontaneously cast that rune (and only that rune).  I think I like this one.

Spells Known

All valkyries know the following divine spells, once they have access to the relevant spell level.  The spells chosen are primarily related to cold, with a moderate amount of death-related magic; my changes in bold (since they are already in italics).

  1. cure light wounds, deathwatch, detect undead, freezing hand (cold version of burning hands), magic weapon, produce frost (cold version of produce flame), remove fear, remove sickness
  2. augury, freezing ray (cold version of scorching ray), gentle repose, ice blade (cold version of flame blade)
  3. cure moderate wounds, frost bolt (cold version of lightning bolt), greater magic weapon, phantom steed*, remove disease, sleet stormspeak with dead
  4. cure serious wounds, death ward, ice storm, wall of ice

* the mount created by a valkyrie’s phantom steed ability benefits from her Glacier Step class ability automatically.  She doesn’t have to use Lend Glacier Step or Chain Glacier Step for this to occur.

Inner Warmth (Ex)

A valkyrie is immune to nonlethal damage caused by cold environments.

Frosty Grasp (Su)

A valkyrie’s unarmed and melee weapon attacks do additional cold damage (+1d6 at first level, increasing by 1d6 every four levels).

Touch the Spirit World (Su)

With a touch, you can empower a weapon to affect incorporeal creatures.  The weapon touched deals half damage to incorporeal creatures, or full damage if it is a magic weapon.  This benefit lasts for a number of rounds equal to your Valkyrie level.  You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.


The valkyrie can craft runes.  This has little effect at third level, but when she gets access to spells she may enchant items using her valkyrie spells.  This ability spans several normal item creation feats, but is limited by spells available.

  • Runesticks are single-use items requiring no specific training to activate (usually by breaking) to release magic [treat as potions].
  • Runes are single-use items requiring specific training to activate [treat as scrolls]
  • Weapons and armor may be enchanted as normal.

Cold Resistance (Su)

A valkyrie gains cold resistance 5 at fourth level.  This increases to 10 at eighth level, 15 at twelfth level, and 20 at sixteenth level.

Glacier Step (Ex)

A fifth-level valkyrie can walk, run, climb or otherwise move across ice as if it were normal terrain.

Elemental Form (Su)

At sixth level a valkyrie may wildshape (as a druid) to medium Ice Elemental form for one hour per valkyrie level, once per day.  Use the appropriately-sized Ice Elemental from Bestiary 2.

At tenth level she may take elemental form twice per day and may become a medium or large Ice Elemental.

At fourteenth level she may take elemental form three times per day and may become a medium, large, or huge Ice Elemental.

At eighteenth level she may take elemental form four times per day and may become a medium, large, huge, greater, or elder Ice Elemental.

(Note that Pathfinder elementals have fewer Hit Dice than in the RSRD; in all cases here the elemental form has fewer HD than the valkyrie has class levels.)

Ride of the Valkyrie (Sp)

The valkyrie may at will ride into a swirl of snow and sleet and reappear in another location.  The valkyrie may only do this while mounted and the mount is considered ‘part of the valkyrie’ (included in the effect and does not count toward the maximum number of passengers).  Any mount, including a spell mount such as a phantom steed, is sufficient for her to be able to use this ability.

At seventh level, the valkyrie may use Ride of the Valkyrie up to three times per day and treat as a fly spell.

At eleventh level, the valkyrie may use Ride of the Valkyrie up to five times per day and treat as a overland flight spell.

At fifteenth level, the valkyrie may use Ride of the Valkyrie up to seven times per day and treat as a greater teleport or plane shift spell.

At nineteenth level, the valkyrie may use Ride of the Valkyrie at will and treat as a gate spell.  This is intended for travel use (activating valkyrie goes first, passengers must follow immediately or be left behind).

Until fifteenth level, only other mounted valkyries may be taken along as passengers (the mounts do not count toward the total), but they may bring along as many dead as they can carry.  At fifteenth level the valkyrie may start bringing other living, non-valkyrie passengers (though they must still be mounted).

Lend Glacier Step (Su)

At ninth level, a valkyrie can choose to bestow the benefits of her Glacier Step ability on any single creature with whom she is in contact.  The creature ceases to have the benefits of this effect as soon as it is no longer in contact with the valkyrie.  The ability only functions if the valkyrie is willing to aid the other creature.

Chain Glacier Step (Su)

From thirteenth level, a valkyrie can lend her Glacier Step ability to as many creatures as she has Valkyrie levels.  The creatures must all be either in contact with the valkyrie, or in contact with a creature who is in contact with her, and so on.

Hibernal Transcendence (Ex)

A twentieth-level valkyrie achieves a kind of apotheosis and becomes a creature of snow and frost.  She is forevermore treated as an elemental creature (augmented humanoid) for the purposes of spells and magical effects.  She gains Cold Immunity and may be treated as the Cold subtype when it is beneficial (she does not gain fire vulnerability).

She otherwise retains the traits of her previous type.  Unlike real elementals, the valkyrie can still be brought back from the dead as if she were a member of her previous creature type.


  1. “Flurry of Blows” — pun intended?

    I would:

    Bring back cordials at XL3. It’s not terribly overpowering and I can get some alchemy-related humour out of it. Also I quite like the idea in general, and it gives her some ability to take care of minor bumps and scrapes without bothering the cleric.
    At XL19, grant Ride of the Valkyrie (Sp; at will): A mounted valkyrie can ride into a swirl of snow and sleet, reappearing at another location. This ability functions like teleport (CL = HD-3), affecting the valkyrie, her mount, and equipment carried. Any mount, including a spell mount such as a phantom steed, is sufficient for her to be able to use this ability.

    Of course, she’ll likely have the Orb of Fate by that stage and be able to branchport all over creation, but a little extra teleportation ability never hurt anyone (especially if Rodney nicks the Orb!).

    Not sure if you already asked jmr, but I pointed this out to him: it’s primarily for his use so my main concern is making sure he likes it (or at least doesn’t hate it ;-o). NPC valkyries I can just fiddle however to fit in with whichever version he takes, so not a big deal there.

  2. I like Ride of the Valkyrie quite a bit better than control weather. I’ve expanded on it somewhat.

    I replaced Brew Cordial with ‘Runecrafter’, which allows magic item creation. It’s broader than normal (lets you do, basically, potions, scrolls, and arms and armor) but narrower in that it applies only to valkyrie spells.

    I ditched flurry of blows, it was only there to try to emulate nethack’s Speed intrinsic, and I’ve diverged from there. There’s too much in this class that nethack Just Doesn’t Do (but frankly, nethack doesn’t do enough here that I would satisfied by the straightforward implementation).

    I didn’t consider artifacts at all, because not all valkyries can have the Orb of Fate (there being only one).

    If I were to redo it, I’d probably aim for something of a mix of ranger and paladin (full combat, ranger combat styles, paladin spell casting — paladin’s IMC get domain access for spell selection) so it can be better tweaked for each god.

  3. I am working in parallel on a version tailored to jmr specifically; I think you’re aiming for a “proper” class here that works anywhere. Both have merit, there is no law that says we only have to have one version of the class. :-)

    An idea for runes might be to have them function as one-shot spells which can be activated by anyone; compare psionic tattoos, but a rune can be scribed on an object as well as a person’s skin. You may also say that runes inscribed on a weapon can be made to trigger as part of an attack action, targeting the victim. Armour/shield runes might be triggerable as an immediate action to target an attacker. I had a rune-based prestige class here, but it’s half-finished and there’s not much else interesting there anyway.

  4. I think that about sums up the differences. “Modeling Nethack in D&D” and “making a good D&D class” may be somewhat different.

    The runes working “as one-shot spells which can be activated by anyone” was the ‘runestick’ option (though I suppose it could be done in other forms as well, such as a ‘rechargeable’ tattoo or marked on a weapon or armor. I’d be willing to make that change.

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