Dread Commando Prestige Class
"Get in, do the job, get out. If they're lucky, they won't know I'm there. If not, they'll wish I wasn't." -- Gregor Antus, of the 1st Scouting Regiment
Dread commandos are the elite scouts and strike force of a well-trained mercenary band. They combine stealth with protection, quickly moving through the battlefield even while heavily armored, and they are deadly when they catch an opponent unawares. Dread commandos are called upon when a mission requires an excursion deep into enemy territory and conflict is inevitable.
Becoming a Dread Commando
Most dread commandos begin their adventuring careers as rangers or rogues, since those classes have the requisite class skills. Barbarians and fighters make good dread commandos, though they typically multiclass as rangers or rogues to gain the requisite stealth. Monks also function well in this class, so long as they are willing to give up improvement in many of their key class features. The scout and ninja classes (from Complete Adventurer) also find the path of the dread commando to their liking.
Dexterity is a key ability score, since the dread commando relies on agility for many of his class skills (as well as his Armor Class). A dread commando who finds himself frequently in melee combat wants high Strength and Constitution scores, while one who prefers skilled and subtle incursion favors a high Intelligence and/or Wisdom score.
Base Attack Bonus: +5.
Skills: Hide 6 ranks, Move Silently 6 ranks.
Feats: Dodge, Mobility.
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level): Climb, Craft, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (geography), Listen, Move Silently, Open Lock, Profession, Search, Spot, Swim, Use Rope.
As he advances in level, a dread commando gains abilities that steadily increase his effectiveness against unsuspecting foes, while at the same time increasing his maneuverability while armored. He becomes an even more capable infiltrator or member of a shock troop as he advances in level.
Sudden Strike (Ex): If you can catch an opponent when she is unable to defend herself effectively from your attack, you can strike a vital spot for extra damage. Whenever your target is denied her Dexterity bonus to AC against your attack (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus to Armor Class or not), you deal an extra 1d6 points of damage with your attack. The extra damage increases to 2d6 at 3rd level and to 3d6 at 5th level.
Ranged attacks count as sudden strikes only if the target is within 30 feet; you can't strike with deadly accuracy from beyond this range.
You can only use sudden strike against living creatures with discernible anatomies -- undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Any creature that is immune to extra damage from critical hits is not vulnerable to sudden strike damage. You must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. You cannot make a sudden strike while striking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are out of reach.
You can't use sudden strike to deliver nonlethal damage. Weapons capable of dealing only nonlethal damage don't deal extra damage when used as part of a sudden strike.
The extra damage from the sudden strike ability stacks with extra damage from a sneak attack whenever both would apply to the same target.
Team Initiative Bonus (Ex): You are skilled at keeping a team organized and ready for danger. All allies within 30 feet who can see you (including yourself) gain a competence bonus on initiative checks equal to your class level.
Armored Ease (Ex): You learn to adapt your movements to the restrictive nature of armor. Beginning at 2nd level, you reduce the armor check penalty of any armor with which you are proficient by 2 (to a minimum of 0). At 4th level, this reduction increases to 4 points (to a minimum of 0).
Stealthy Movement (Ex): You learn to remain quiet and hidden even while mobile. Beginning at 4th level, you take no penalty on Hide or Move Silently checks while moving at up to your normal speed, and you take only a -10 penalty on Hide and Move Silently checks when running or charging (instead of the usual -20).
Playing a Dread Commando
Your mission is clear. You have to reach your objective as quickly as possible, perform your task, and get out alive. You take on rescue missions, demolition missions, raids, scouting, or anything else that lets you do your work. Let the rank and file slog it out on the front lines while you scale the castle wall and set fire to the enemy's artillery. The best missions for you are those that put you behind enemy lines.
A few dread commandos work alone, but most operate in teams consisting of other commandos. Away from the hierarchy of an army, a dread commando might journey with a typical adventuring party, since the goals and methods of such groups fit the class's mindset. Dread commandos are a bit more independent-minded than a typical soldier, but you still report to, and receive your missions from, a ranking officer. Such missions typically have a simple goal, and how you accomplish it is left for you to determine.