Coming up with original themes was the difficult part of Death Knight fourth specs. They already specialize in their three main themes: Blood, Frost, Unholy. Each of those specs are also tied to their runes, and adding a fourth set of runes just didn't seem right. This is when I realized a fourth rune already technically exists: Death Runes. But...Death Death Knights? It needed some work.
Eventually becoming a skeleton came to mind, which lead to the defining theme for this idea. Which was followed by Bone Storm. Which was then followed by Lagmancers. The hard part quickly became the easy part.
After settling on a theme, the next hurdle was determining the role. In truth, this spec could go any way, whether it's Melee DPS, Melee Tanking, or Ranged DPS. The last one was Soreyna's idea, and I initially balked at it. After settling on the majority of the fourth spec ideas though, I realized Spell Plate was still heavily underutilized (Warriors were an even more remote possibility), and many of the fourth spec ideas were melee focused due to my goal of spreading Tanking specs. Marginilizing ranged specs was a concern, and Death Knights are already part-spell casters.
After mulling it over, a Ranged Spell DPS Death Knight using Spell Plate didn't seem too odd. Spirit could be converted to Hit via some sort of "Consume Spirits" talent. Specific abilities like Icy Touch and diseases could be changed to scale from both Attack Power and Spell Power.
The only weird part I can think of is that most/all generic Spell Plate is designed to look like Paladin gear - an odd fit for a lord of death. On the other hand, there's generic DPS/Tank Plate that uses Death Knight tier art, which some Paladins end up wearing, so...maybe it's okay? And if Skeletal Death Knights are always in "Skeleton Form" then there's no question you're playing a Death Knight and not some depressed Paladin.
Limiting the use of ranged abilities by Blood, Frost, and Unholy Death Knights is important. They should have to get in melee range to mess somebody up. One method for reducing the use of baseline ranged Skeletal abilities - without making them completely unusable - is to have these abilities rely heavily on Death Runes, a rare resource for existing specs. The trick then becomes making more Death Runes available for Skeletal Death Knights.
This could be a mechanic tied to the "Skeleton Form", which wouldn't be a baseline ability. My thought was to have one of each rune type permanently become Death Runes while transformed into a skeleton, with additional talents proccing the remaining runes into Death Runes. The Skeletal Death Knight's iconic resource would then be more plentiful for regular use, and other Death Knights could still use baseline Skeletal abilities, albeit infrequently.
Finally, a list of some rough ideas for Skeletal Death Knight abilities. I'm not too hung up on the specifics for most of these abilities, like names, spec-only vs. baseline, type of buff/debuff, etc.
- Skeletal Form: I figure this would be the inherent ability you get when deciding to become a Skeletal Death Knight, since it pretty much defines the spec. Visually it would use the Northrendskeleton model, which is more detailed than the standard skeleton model, and also displays the character's Main Hand, Off Hand, Shoulders, Back, Hands (just the wrist part), and some Feet (most are buggy right now); no current transformation abilities still display player armor.
- Summon Skeleton: This could be a baseline ability costing Death Runes, with Skeletal talents increasing the number that can be simultaneously active. These would be classified as guardian pets instead of combat pets, so they could be summoned while a Ghoul is active. Whether you can summon melee skeletons or caster skeletons (or both) is up in the air.
- Bone Storm: Giving unique NPC abilities to players always intrigues me, especially with iconic/meme abilities like Lord Marrowgar's Bone Storm. This one made more sense when I was exploring Melee DPS/Tank ideas, but I'm not sure how it would translate into a caster ability without being a copy of Hellfire or Starfall.
- Rise: Similar to Spirit of Redemption, except the Death Knight could move around and use all of his abilities for it's short duration. Like the Shaman's Reincarnation ability, this would have a cooldown and you would choose when to activate it. I'm worried about homogenization with this though, so it should probably be a Skeletal talent or dropped altogether.
- Slough: Some sort of ability that turns enemies into skeletons for a short duration. The visual would only work on humanoids since most potential enemies don't have skeleton model alternatives, and some don't even have skin. What the spell actually does I'm not interested in - it could be anything, really.
- Grabbing Hands: Army of Darkness, right? Some sort of ability that causes skeleton hands to rise from the ground and grab at the target or targets. Could be a debuff or DoT, single target or AoE.
- Bone Spear, Bone Spike: The names need some work, but these could be the standard attacks for Skeletal Death Knights, in addition to existing DK spells like Frost Touch and diseases. Bone Spear might be borrowing too much from D2 Necromancers (you can already summon skeletons), and Bone Spike might be the same with Lord Marrowgar.
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