It is wrong to call them death knights. Sure, they (or more often, their lords) employ necromancy extensively in the service of their city. But this is a necessity in the gravelands, where no trees grow and no metal can be found. Death is their native process; corpses are their native currency.
The knights protect their houses and their king. They also protect the skeleton trains, which pull the wheeled houses back and forth across the desert, always heading for the next corpse impact.
The skeleton trains are most susceptible to raiding, since each one is a visible string of valuable undead pulling on harnesses. Most of the skeletons are humanoid, equine, or some hybrid of the two (assembled out of necessity and frugality).
Each death knight has a first name, a last name, 2 defining features, a squire, a distinctive steed, and an agenda.
1 - Vichorus
2 - Pascious
3 - Kelmoran
4 - Rhuzius
5 - Lictus
6 - Lavenish
7 - Dorn
8 - Galunzea
9 - Medria
10 - Kevahl
11 - Gestahli
12 - Dravok
1 - pan Ect
2 - pan Mantagruel
3 - pan Volgrun
4 - pan Sectar Untat
5 - pan Ankhri
6 - pan Mool
7 - pan Evangelus
8 - pan Sepak
9 - pan Ark
10 - pan Iniquis
11 - pan Dhruzj
12 - pan Dross
Notable Feature (2 rolls)
- Venomous rat skeletons nest in visible rib cage like lorikeets, leering.
- Crow heads braided into beard + hair. Sing dirges during battle.
- Thin black smoke rises up from open wounds.
- Tattoos squirm across bald pate like a snake orgy.
- Dragging a coffin, or coffin strapped to back. (50% chance of each.)
- Many layers of teeth. Revolve in mouth like garbage disposal. Voice unsurprisingly also like garbage disposal.
- Insects (especially moths) constantly landing on neck, ears and whispering secrets from distant lands.
- Second set of arms attached at armpits or at elbows. (50% chance of each.)
- Fused with mount. (See below.) 50% chance of gross obesity.
- Visibly held together by set of animated armor. 33% that they are just a manicured head wearing make up, embedded in the chest of a bone-and-iron golem-thing.
- Black iron spikes pierce ragged eye sockets. Margins filled with lead, spilling onto cheeks like tears.
- Accompanied by undead harem and assistants (perservatives, needlework, perfume, lubricants)
- Floats six inches above the ground. No shadow. 50% chance of being a vampire.
- Bestial, hirsute, and guttural. Runs on all fours. Wears a monocle.
- Has two heads, stacked like a totem pole. Top head can cast spells as a wizard of equal level but will refuse to attack a cleric due to religious beliefs regarding salvation.
- Wolves (or ape-hounds) howl in the distance whenever his/her name is mentioned.
- Impossibly old. Food spoils in his/her presence, blades tarnish. Dust trickles from the corner of mouth when speaking.
- Crucified lambs on pauldrons.
- Weapon is sheathed through body. (Usually a longsword sheathed in the shoulder, with the tip buried somewhere in the intestines.)
- Angelic beauty. Golden wings affixed to armor. Ghastly white halo burns behind head. Voice like a hurricane.
Squire (1 roll)
- Emaciated squad of orphan children, the offspring of those slain by their master. Loyal as fuck.
- Elven courtesan, surprisingly strong and beautiful, filled with venomous worms that strengthen her even as they spy on her. Not loyal, but pragmatic.
- Ogre ghoul.
- An intelligent, undead horse. 50% to have arms grafted to its head, beneath the ears.
- Nine eunuchs that live inside a 5'x5' reliquary like it was a clown car.
- Dyspeptic lizardman.
- Fallen ex-paladin, brain destroyed by disease and necromancy. Cannot speak except to mutter name of beloved, who does not know his fate.
- Cheerful, evil bard.
- Cheerful, good bard with strange morality. Finds everything amusing.
- Drowned man.
- Robed figure. Hidden beauty. Enchanted to love his/her knight. Aware of love enchantment. Disgusted by enchantment but still painfully, unceasingly devoted to knight.
- Zombie prince.
Steed (roll until it's weird as fuck*)
*alternatively, roll until it's more impressive than the last steed you just rolled up. After all, it's all about outdoing the last guy.
The steeds of the knights were all "originally" horses. But so much aftermarket modifications have been attached that its hardly a useful designation. The knights compete to have the most powerful, disgusting, bizarre steed. It is both art and intimidation. Like retrofitting that '69 mustang to run on human blood.
Each one has a starting weight of ~500 lbs. Then flip a coin until you get a tails. Double the steeds weight for each head.
- Centipede horse. 2d6+6 horses decapititated (except for lead horse) and sewn together in series. Capable of rearing up ~30' and crashing down for double damage.
- Grafted head. Roll 1d6: 1 crocodile, 2 human, 3 headless except for lance holder, 4 flamingo, 5 wolf, 6 cluster of horse heads.
- Acidic blood. Steam rises from its hollow flanks. Trembles with liquid anxiety.
- Distended belly. Pregnant with swarm of horselings. Will disgorge if threatened. (5 HD swarm.)
- Insectile apparatus infest and enhance the limbs. Faster on sand. Builds hives. Never sleeps. Lusts for a queen that doesn't exist, and never has.
- Ghost carrier. Filled with souls who have been promised safe passage to afterlife.
- Light bringer. Either enormous and covered with lanterns or sheds ghastly illumination. (50% chance of each.)
- Pharyngeal jaws. Poisonous bite.
- Overgrown with bone. Spurs jut from shoulders, heels. Intensely painful. 50% chance of being completely made.
- Former human, grown into new and monstrous shape by Allechris of Marchane. Mind as innocent as a child.
- Can run at 3x speed. Legs have burnt off. Now runs through the air atop charred stumps. Painful. Steed is insanely homicidal, but kept in check by nursery rhymes.
- COVERED IN SPIKES.
- Sings dirges constantly. Eyes weep black ichor that restores HP when drank but bestows mild, transient curses.
- Breath attack like a slaughterhouse cesspool. Bone shards and rotted filth. 30' cones. Will also disgorge a miniature, undead horse every week which will follow (but not fight) until it disintegrates. If steed is killed, miniature undead horses will devour it.
- Never a horse to begin with. Roll d4: 1 elephant, 2 rhino, 3 crocodile, 4 lion.
- Winged. Intelligent eyes.
- Boneless. Capable of both galloping and slithering. Growls with inchoate mutters. Cruel enough to attack bystanders--it enjoys cracking open their legs and sucking the sweet marrow from their bones.
- Screaming human faces embedded on flanks.
- Huge and pustulent. Weepings sores bleed black milk to feed the troops. Embedded armor plates infected near edges.
- Crystalline intelligence. Speaks with the voice of a multitude. Vanishes during the daytime.
- Destroy all beauty / become the most beautiful of all.
- Destroy all truth / dictate the truth.
- Find an awesome spouse.
- Quit this fucked up life and become an adventurer.
- Turn Kel Dravonis into a war machine; bring war to the whole world.
- Kill the king of Kel Dravonis. Leave this fucking place. Own an orchard.
- Wealth, immortality, and power.
- The destruction of another death knight.
- The pierce the veil of death. To know the world beyond. To re-live the life before birth.
- More minions, because this death knight is secretly a vampire.
- To retire from service and care for beloved pet. (The king of Kel Dravonis has never ever allowed one of his knights to retire from service.)