Desert Crusader

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Desert Crusader Substitution Levels

"They flew to us upon the backs of griffons, their trumpets lifting the city from despair, the insignia of Pelor blazing proudly upon their armor under the desert sun. One by one, they charged against the invading dragons, golden lances piercing through blue scales wherever we looked. We cheered at their coming, and we cheered at their glory, for our city was saved." - Jameline Zari, citizen of Shalak.

Within the Great Desert, conflict has gone on for centuries now between the crusaders of various faiths vying for supremacy. It was through experience that these warriors understood the need for mobility in engagements within those open spaces and upon those bare dunes. Through a combination of training and divine gift, these crusaders have learned to call upon the aid of divinely-bestowed mounts to bear them to battle, by earth or sky.

Hit Die: d10.


To take a desert crusader substitution level, a character must be of a desert race (new races presented in Sandstorm also qualify) about to take his 1st, 2nd, or 6th level of crusader.

Class Skills

Desert crusader substitution levels grant the same class skills as the standard crusader class. A desert crusader who follows the Path of Sky gains Tumble as a class skill, while losing Balance as one.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier (or four times this number as a beginning character).

Class Features

Desert Crusader Substitution Levels
LevelBABFortRefWillSpecialManeuvers KnownManeuvers ReadiedStances Known
1st+1+2+0+0By Earth or Sky, Devoted Companion55(2)1
2nd+2+3+0+0Aegis of Wind55(2)2
6th+6/+1+5+2+2Onslaught of Fire 1/day75(2)2

All the following are features of the desert warblade's racial substitution levels:

By Earth or Sky: Upon taking the 1st level desert crusader substitution level, the crusader must choose to follow the Path of Earth or Path of Sky. This choice will affect both the types of maneuvers he can learn and the types of devoted companions that will be available at higher levels.

A crusader that follows the Path of Sky studies the forces of wind and sun, gaining access to maneuvers from the Desert Wind discipline. In exchange, such a crusader may never learn maneuvers from the Stone Dragon discipline via the crusader class (he may still learn them through other means such as multiclassing or feats). Tumble permanently becomes a crusader class skill for him, while Balance no longer is a class skill.

A crusader that follows the Path of Earth instead studies the immobility of earth and sand, keeping the Stone Dragon discipline but forgoing those of the Desert Wind. Through his mounted training, he learns to be able to use Stone Dragon maneuvers and stances even when he himself is not touching the ground, as long as his mount is. Additionally, if he is in a Stone Dragon stance while on his mount, the stance does not end if his mount moves, even if it normally would, as long as he himself does not leave his mount.

Devoted Companion (Ex): A crusader who takes the 1st level desert crusader substitution level gains the service of a special steed to carry him into battle. The devoted companion is completely typical for its kind except as noted below. As a crusader advances in class level, the mount’s power increases as shown on the table. If a crusader releases his mount from service or his companion perishes, he may gain a new one by fasting and praying for 24 uninterrupted hours. This feature replaces all instances of the Furious Counterstrike and Steely Resolve class features of the standard crusader class.

A crusader of class level 4 or higher or higher may select from alternative lists of mounts. Should he select a devoted companion from one of these alternative lists, the creature gains abilities as if the character’s class level were lower than it actually is. Subtract the value indicated in the appropriate list header from the character’s class level and compare the result with the class level entry on the table to determine the devoted companion’s powers. (If this adjustment would reduce the crusader’s effective class level to 0 or lower, he can’t have that creature as a devoted companion until he gains more class levels.)

Aegis of Wind (Su): When a crusader who takes the 2nd level desert crusader substitution level moves at least 10 feet from his original location in one round, he gains a bonus to dodge AC equal to his Charisma modifier. This benefit lasts until the start of his next turn, and only takes effect if he is wearing light or no armor. This replaces the Indomitable Soul class feature of the standard crusader class.

Onslaught of Fire (Su): A crusader who takes the 6th level desert crusader substitution level learns to unleash his inner fury and burning rage into a torrential series of strikes. Once per day, as a free action, he may add his Charisma modifier to his next melee attack this turn. If that attack hits, he may immediately make another melee attack at the same target with the same attack bonus and damage modifiers, but with all damage converted to fire damage. This replaces the Smite class feature of the standard crusader class. At 18th level, a crusader who took the 6th level desert crusader substitution level learns to use Onslaught of Fire an additional time per day, though he may not use it more than once per round.

The Desert Crusader's Devoted Companion

A desert crusader's devoted companion is superior to a normal mount of its kind and has special powers, as described below. The powers and HD of the devoted companion is based on the desert crusader's class level. If the devoted companion is an animal, it counts as a magical beast instead. The devoted companion always has the same alignment as the desert crusader.

Devoted Companion Progression
Class LevelBonus HDNatural ArmorStrengthIntelligenceSpecial
1 - 2+0+0+0+6Empathic Link, Improved Evasion, Sublime Mount, Share Stance and Boosts, Share Saving Throws
3 - 5+2+2+1+7Improved Speed
6 - 8+4+4+2+8One Mind
9 - 11+6+6+3+9Devoted Ideal
12 - 14+8+8+4+10One Body
15 - 17+10+10+5+11Improved Mettle
18 - 20+12+12+6+12One Soul

Bonus HD: Extra Hit Dice based on creature type, each of which gains a Constitution modifier, as normal. Extra Hit Dice improve the mount’s base attack and base save bonuses, with progressions based on creature type. Creatures originally of the animal type still gain HD appropriate to the animal type, regardless of being considered magical beasts. The mount gains additional skill points or feats for bonus HD as normal for advancing a monster’s Hit Dice.

Natural Armor: The number on the table is an improvement to the mount’s existing natural armor bonus.

Strength: Add this figure to the mount's Strength score.

Intelligence: Set the mount's Intelligence score to this value unless its Intelligence is naturally higher.

Empathic Link (Su): The desert crusader has an empathic link with his mount out to a distance of up to 1 mile. The crusader cannot see through the mount’s eyes, but they can communicate empathically. Note that even intelligent mounts see the world differently from humans, so misunderstandings are always possible. Because of this empathic link, the crusader has the same connection to an item or place that his mount does, just as with a master and his familiar.

Improved Evasion (Ex): When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, a mount takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and half damage if the saving throw fails.

Sublime Mount (Ex): The desert crusader's mount is trained to fight alongside martial adepts, allowing the crusader to use maneuvers more easily while on the saddle. If the mount charges an enemy, the crusader may initiate a standard action strike in place of a regular attack at the end of the charge, gaining the usual benefits and penalties of charging on a mount. This also allows initiating a standard action strike between movements when performing a Ride-By Attack.

In addition, while mounted upon his companion, the crusader may initiate full-round strikes that allow for a charge attack, causing his mount to charge instead. Any movement changes from the maneuver carry over to the mount (such as the flight from Searing Charge, the unrestricted movement of Bounding Assault, or the ability to ignore attacks of opportunity from Battle Leader's Charge), and both the crusader and his mount gain the bonuses and penalties from charging (if any). However, only the crusader gains the effects from the strike unrelated to movement (such as the damage bonus from Searing Charge or the damage reduction from Doom Charge; maneuvers that normally affect allies, like War Master's Charge, still do).

Share Stance and Boosts: While the desert crusader is within 5 ft of his mount, he may have his mount gain the abilities of the stance that he is utilizing. The stance must be on the following list to be shared this way:

Shared Stances
Desert WindDevoted SpiritDiamond MindIron HeartSetting SunShadow HandStone DragonTiger ClawWhite Raven
Flame's BlessingMartial SpiritStance of ClarityPunishing StanceStep of the WindChild of ShadowStonefoot StanceBlood in the WaterPress the Advantage
Holocaust CloakThicket of BladesPearl of Black DoubtAbsolute SteelGiant Killing StyleAssassin's StanceCrushing Weight of the MountainHunter's Sense
Fiery AssaultImmortal FortitudeHearing the AirDancing Blade FormShifting DefensesDance of the SpiderRoots of the MountainLeaping Dragon Stance
Rising Phoenix Supreme Blade ParryGhostly DefenseStep of the Dancing MothGiant's StanceWolverine Stance
Balance on the SkyStrength of StoneWolf Pack Tactics

In addition, while they are within 5 ft of each other, the crusader may choose to use various boosts, counters, and untyped maneuvers on his mount instead of himself. Some maneuvers are marked with a *, which means that both you and your mount are affected at the same time. The maneuvers must come from the following list to be shared this way:

Shared Maneuvers
Desert WindDevoted SpiritDiamond MindIron HeartSetting SunShadow HandStone DragonTiger ClawWhite Raven
Burning Blade Quicksilver MotionWall of BladesCounter ChargeCloak of Deception*Boulder RollSudden Leap
Wind Stride Diamond DefenseIron Heart SurgeBaffling DefenseShadow Jaunt* Dancing Mongoose
Zephyr Dance Lightning RecoveryMirrored PursuitShadow Stride* Raging Mongoose
Searing Blade Iron Heart FocusStalking ShadowShadow Blink*
Leaping Flame* Iron Heart EnduranceScorpion ParryOne With Shadow*
Inferno Blade Manticore ParryFool's Strike

Share Saving Throws: For each of its saving throws, the mount uses its own base save bonus or the crusader’s, whichever is higher. The mount applies its own ability modifiers to saves, and it doesn’t share any other bonuses on saves that the master might have.

Improved Speed (Ex): The mount's speed increases by 10 feet.

One Mind (Su): The crusader's connection with his mount deepens. From now on, the two of them can communicate telepathically any time as long as they are on the same plane, and the crusader can see and hear through the senses of his mount as a standard action. In addition, while the two of them are near each other, their tenacity and resolve are combined, granting both the crusader and his mount a +4 bonus to saves against compulsion and fear effects while they are within 30 ft of each other.

Devoted Ideal (Ex): The crusader's mount becomes a paragon of his highest ideals. If the crusader is evil, the mount gains the Fiendish template. If the crusader is good, the mount gains the Celestial template. If the crusader is lawful, the mount gains the Axiomatic template (Planar Handbook). If the crusader is chaotic, the mount gains the Anarchic template (Planar Handbook). Only one of these templates may be gained at a time, and if more than one is applicable, then the crusader chooses which one his mount has the first time this ability becomes available. If he would later gain a different devoted companion, he may choose a different template to grant to that companion.

One Body (Su): The crusader and his mount become bonded by ties of loyalty and camaraderie, each willing to give up his own life to save the other. Whenever the crusader and his mount are within 30 ft of each other and either one would take hit point damage, the other may willingly choose to give up their own hit points equal to up to half of the total damage dealt, reducing the original damage by the same amount. This willing hit point loss does not count as taking damage and cannot be reduced due to damage reduction or energy resistances.

In addition, if the crusader willingly gives up hit points for his mount this way, he gains a bonus to attack and damage against the one who originally dealt the damage based on the hit points the crusader lost. This bonus lasts for 1 minute. Likewise, if the mount willingly gives up hit points for the crusader, it gains the same bonus against the originator of the damage based on the amount the mount lost, lasting for 1 minute.

One Body
HP LostBonus
1 - 9+1
10 - 14+2
15 - 19+3
20 - 24+4
25 - 29+5

Improved Mettle (Ex): When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Fortitude or Will saving throw for half or partial effect, a mount suffers no effect if it makes a successful saving throw and half or partial effect if the saving throw fails.

One Soul (Su): The crusader's soul and that of his mount's are inextricably linked, entwining their fighting spirits into a deadly force. They fight together perfectly, their spirits renewed at the sight of each other such that neither can die while the other lives. As long as the crusader is within 30 ft of his mount, neither the crusader nor his mount can die of hit point loss unless both of them have hit points below -9. If only one of them has hit points below -9, he remains alive for as long as the two of them remain within 30 ft of each other, and the other one does not go below -9 hit points.

If a creature has less than 0 HP, he still falls unconscious unless he has the Diehard feat or something similar. In addition, effects that would kill a creature regardless of hit point damage (such as Death effects, massive damage, Constitution damage, or negative levels) would still kill a crusader or his mount even if the two of them are within 30 ft of each other. This ability only prevents death by hit point loss.

Devoted Companion Choices

The standard list of devoted companions consists of Camel, Heavy Horse, Riding Dog, and War Pony. A new desert crusader starting play must select his devoted companion from this list. As he gains class level, new options for devoted companions open up.

An alternative devoted companion may be selected as long as the crusader is of an appropriate level. In addition, certain devoted companion choices have indicators next to their names which bestow further requirements upon the crusader. A creature marked with [Air] may only be selected by a desert crusader who has selected the Path of Sky, while a creature marked with [Earth] may only be selected by one who has selected the Path of Earth. A creature with an alignment by its name such as [Chaotic], [Lawful], [Good], or [Evil] requires a crusader with an alignment that does not oppose the creature's indicated alignments on any axis.

Most creatures listed here are found in the SRD. Creatures marked with * are found in Sandstorm.

Alternative Devoted Companions List:

4th Level or Higher (Class Level -3)
Ashworm* [Earth]
Camel, War*
Dire Bat [Air]
Dust Twister* [Air]
Hippogriff [Air]
Warhorse, Heavy
Worg [Earth] [Evil]
7th Level or Higher (Class Level -6)
Camelopardel* [Earth][Good]
Dire Wolf [Earth]
Eagle, Giant [Air] [Good]
Griffon [Air]
Hellhound [Earth] [Evil]
Owl, Giant [Air] [Good]
Pegasus [Air] [Chaotic] [Good]
Rhinoceros [Earth]
Unicorn [Earth] [Chaotic] [Good]
10th Level or Higher (Class Level -9)
Dire Lion [Earth]
Nightmare [Air] [Evil]
Red Dragon, Very Young [Air] [Chaotic] [Evil]
Winter Wolf [Earth] [Evil]
Wyvern [Air]
13th Level or Higher (Class Level -12)
Chimera [Air] [Chaotic] [Evil]
Dragonne [Air]
Elephant [Earth]
Gold Dragon, Very Young [Air] [Lawful] [Good]
Nessian Warhound [Earth] [Evil]
16th Level or Higher (Class Level -15)
Arrowhawk, Elder [Air]
Black Dragon, Young Adult [Air] [Chaotic] [Evil]
Blue Dragon, Juvenile [Earth] [Lawful] [Evil]
Dunewinder* [Earth]
Gold Dragon, Young [Air] [Lawful] [Good]
Sand Dragon, Young Adult* [Earth] [Chaotic]
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