Fixing Necromancy......(A long-held rules pet-peve of mine, and perhaps some of you too?)

I know that out of the vast list of issues reguarding D&D rules, this is probally a relitively small one, but one that has been a personal pet peve of mine since the days of 3.5e. Arcane Necromancers just suck. I know, thats harsh, but it's the truth. Other then the dread necromancer class from 3.5e, every stab at arcane necromancy I have seen has been horridly done and in nine cases out of 10 a cleric can be a better necromancer then a wizard specalized in Necromancy. This was no better displayed then by 3.5e, in which clerics could just laugh and laugh at poor necromancy specalist wizards. Clerics could get more undead then a "necromancer," heal their undead better and get the key animate dead spell many leves before a "necromancer," and get desecrate which the "necromancer" could never get to boot! This has always frustrated me to no end. I mean, a "Necromancer" is specalized in necromancy magic, and it NEVER made any sense why a necromancy specalist was made to have less undead then a cleric and got the animate dead spell a whole spell-level higher then the cleric did. While wizards did try to solve this issue later with the awesome Dread Necromancer class, that class had a botched spell list(Planar binding and no magic circle? Death Ward at two different spell levels...seriously, have you ever heard of proofreading?) and still did not fix the fact necromancy specalist wizards just where not real necromancers next to the cleric(and dread necro itself.)

Fourth edition was not the answer either, though. In fact, 4e botched necromancy for wizards even more then 3.5e did. In 3.5e, necromancy specalists at least had some good non-minion based options to play with, but in 4e, Necromancy as a school for mages was poorly desgined and totally underpowered. Necromancy for wizards went from "some nice things the cleric can take in addition to his awesome options I lack" to "no nice things" and that also disapointed me., So, while this may not be high on most people's priority lists, one of the things I REALLY want to see from 5e is arcane/wizardlynecromancy that is on-par with, not inferior to, the cleric's, EVEN in the area of Minion-based magics.

So, I open the floor up to you all. Did this necromantic discrepency get to you too? Do you, like me, want it fixed in 5e? If so, how? If not, then why should clerics be so much better at necromancy then actual necromancers? This is the *unoffical* thread to discuss any and all issues related to necromancy's mechanical makeup in D&D and what you would/would not like to see in relation to the dark arts of Necromancy in 5e...so have fun.
This is an intentional design decision, although they've done a poor job implementing it in some editions.


Arcane Necromancers are better at killing the living (Finger of Death, Circle of Death, Power Word Kill, and so on, versus Slay Living).

Divine Necromancers are better at raising the dead (Animate Dead versus Animate Dead, Create Undead, Create Greater Undead).


There's nothing wrong with this split.  It's simply the way the mythos of D&D has always worked; undead are a corruption of divine magic, not arcane magic.  4E did a horrible job of necromancy in general (and the fact that necrotic damage is the weakest 4E damage type did not help), so personally, I just ignore it completely in any discussion of necromancy.
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I've never actually cared.

I've only played one Necromancer, ever.  In 3e, I split him Wizard/Cleric ... and he was Lawful Good, so it's not like he was creating undead, anyway.
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That is true, but I still feel arcane should be thrown a bone, espcially since in 3.5e the cleric not only was a better animator, but also could get pretty much any arcane necromancy spell he wanted via domains or the divine magician ACF, meaning whatever advantages the wizard had in the killing stuff department was pretty much a non-point once the divine magician ACF was created. Before that, however, wizards where OK necromancers, but I still feel that arcane should get minion-based stuff too since arcane casters seem to me more likely to be "minion masters" seeing as their less-hardy then most clerics, but yet Necromancy, which is by far the highest body-count yealding type of minionmastery magic, was better for clerics. Wizards where only so-so at minionmastery as clerics could out-necromancy them and druids where far better at the summoning thing...and even with summoning spells, necromancy just is better at providing minions.  So, if they, say, had a way for wizards to get some kind of other mass-minion-making ability other then necromancy, that would be great, but I can't think of much on that front beyond making constructs cheaper and easier to create and competitive with undead in quanity,  which would be pretty broken seeing as constructs > undead, usually.

However, if the lore on wizards vs. clerics at necromancy is going to hold up in 5e, I'd at least like to see another specalized minion-master arcane class along the lines of the dread necromancer, or heck, the dread necromancer itself updated to 5e, since that class was pretty much the ideal fix for the whole "arcane necromancy is not that good" isssue except for it's spell list.(which I usually changed via housrules to fix the glaring issues such as the lack of magic circle for planar binding spells and death ward appearing twice at two different levels.)

What I would REALLY want to see, though, is a prestege class, feat(s) or spell(s) that allow wizards to create monsters alla Dr. Frankenstine. That would be flavorful and awesome, honestly, but could get very VERY broken without some seirous testing and tinkering mechanically. However, it fits with the int-based casting-style of wizards and if animating undead is to be left to clerics, then wizards should perhaps be able to get their mini-armies from making "scientificly" creating abominations and monsters of the living varity?
Those would be called 'golems'.

And I don't think the ability to create 'mini-armies' should be something PCs should be able to do.  Giving one player a horde of creatures to control was a major problem in previous editions; it meant one guy's turn took FOREVER because he had to manipulate all of them.  4e fixed this with the 'one shared pool of actions' rule, which should definitely remain for summons and other sidekicks in 5e.  Giving PCs armies with their own full turns is a balance nightmare and unfair to the rest of the table.
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I played a million necromancers in 3.5, and I did all variations from Pale Master to Dread Necromancer, to True Necromancer, to Cleric. The Dread Necromancer was by far my favorite, but at later levels, the True Necromancer got to be fun also.

Also, the 3.5 Arcane Necromancer lost some juice compared to a Cleric Animator, but he did get...you know, compensatory stuff, like Wish, and Time Stop, you know? It wasn't a total wash.
It also has to do with what you're idea of a Necromancer is, specifically.

If you were to say that a Necromancer is a wizard who raises the dead to be his minions, I'd say you're only partially right.

For me, when I think Necromancer I think of a wizard who might commune with the dead or is just a user the the 'black arts.' Raising dead in the same manner that a Diablo 2 necromancer does isn't really my idea of a Necromancer.
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Pathfinder Necromancer gets the Cleric's Turn/Command Undead and you could push a little further with the Undead Sub-School of necromancy for the Bolster Undead ability.  Alternatively you could put some necromancy twists on the Summoner (Skeletal Summoning Feat plus Undead Eidolon).  They also have a Reanimator Archetype for the Alchemist class which is fun.

Biggest problem with a character based around a horde of minions,is well....   he has a horde of minions.

 unless you fudge things by treating them as a single Swarm creature instead of individual monsters, a Horde takes up a lot of table time. 
It also has to do with what you're idea of a Necromancer is, specifically.

If you were to say that a Necromancer is a wizard who raises the dead to be his minions, I'd say you're only partially right.

For me, when I think Necromancer I think of a wizard who might commune with the dead or is just a user the the 'black arts.' Raising dead in the same manner that a Diablo 2 necromancer does isn't really my idea of a Necromancer.



I also think of a Necromancer as being someone who would be very good at destroying undead (which was what my aforementioned character did).
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I sort of want to eliminate the divine/arcane necromancer division; the difference between an evil high priest necromancer and an evil wizard necromancer in fiction is usually nothing more than flavor text. I'd probably eliminate necromancy completely from divine casters and either make necromancy into its own class or force necromancers to use arcane builds, necromancers should not be casting healing spells.
In 3e arcane necromancy has some of the best spells of the game (lots of SoD and even a couple of "Die, do not Save"). But yeah, he was a worse minion leader than the cleric...

In 4e it was eliminated because: 1) It's not extremely heroic digging up corpses and using them as non-human-shields 2) You have an effective army that fight alongside you, and has its own set of actions. You can easily have to act for 10 or more characters. It's a nightmare for the DM and soul-crushingly boring for other players... In short, bad.
I sort of want to eliminate the divine/arcane necromancer division; the difference between an evil high priest necromancer and an evil wizard necromancer in fiction is usually nothing more than flavor text. I'd probably eliminate necromancy completely from divine casters and either make necromancy into its own class or force necromancers to use arcane builds, necromancers should not be casting healing spells.



Of course they should.  Necromancy is the power of life *and* death.  Healing spells were necromancies in 1 and 2e, and should have remained such, but the 3e designers made the ludicrous 'negative energy = evil' connection.
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Of course they should.  Necromancy is the power of life *and* death.  Healing spells were necromancies in 1 and 2e, and should have remained such, but the 3e designers made the ludicrous 'negative energy = evil' connection.


Huh? Healing was positive energy in 1e, the positive elemental plane healed you by points every round, though if you stayed too long you'd go over your max hit points by some value and explode. Healing spells in 1e were reversible, but you had to memorize them as different spells.
Here's what the OP is missing: In 3.5, the cleric was broken. The wizard was broken. The druid was broken. "This class sucks because it's not better than a CoDzilla" is a statement that applied to 95% of the classes in 3.5, which makes the statement ridiculous.

Despite the typos and a (minor) oversight in the spell list, the Dread Necromancer worked. Heck, in the right (wrong) hands, it could break the game. That it wasn't as strong as a cleric is not a point against it: the cleric shouldn't have even been as strong as the cleric.

But, that said, the Dread Necromancer could easily fall into the bad mechanics that every pre-4e Necromancer exploited: obscene wealth of action economy. That's something that 5e needs to address, and it needs to do so in a style that pre-4e gamers recognize and enjoy. Perhaps keep the HD scaling, but put a greater limit on the number of actual undead a player can control.
Of course they should.  Necromancy is the power of life *and* death.  Healing spells were necromancies in 1 and 2e, and should have remained such, but the 3e designers made the ludicrous 'negative energy = evil' connection.


Huh? Healing was positive energy in 1e, the positive elemental plane healed you by points every round, though if you stayed too long you'd go over your max hit points by some value and explode. Healing spells in 1e were reversible, but you had to memorize them as different spells.



Which doesn't change the fact that Cure X Wounds spells were all necromancies.
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Of course they should.  Necromancy is the power of life *and* death.  Healing spells were necromancies in 1 and 2e, and should have remained such, but the 3e designers made the ludicrous 'negative energy = evil' connection.


Huh? Healing was positive energy in 1e, the positive elemental plane healed you by points every round, though if you stayed too long you'd go over your max hit points by some value and explode. Healing spells in 1e were reversible, but you had to memorize them as different spells.


He's half right. Healing was positive energy, but both positive and negative energy fell under necromancy, and neither was inherently good or evil (and some undead, like mummies, tapped into the positive plane despite being evil) until 3e decided to change that.
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But, that said, the Dread Necromancer could easily fall into the bad mechanics that every pre-4e Necromancer exploited: obscene wealth of action economy. That's something that 5e needs to address, and it needs to do so in a style that pre-4e gamers recognize and enjoy. Perhaps keep the HD scaling, but put a greater limit on the number of actual undead a player can control.


You could also have it such that large numbers of undead/summons/whatever, are treated under "swarm"/"mob" rules, so they get only one attack per turn, that deals more damage the more there are, and they all stick together, simply because you can't direct them all individually.

Nothing as cool as the Complete Book of Necromancers 

 


Lots of great spells and a ton of substance that is edition transferable.   There is also some great advice on how to a DM should handle necromancer PCs.  

I do agree that necromancy should be a school in 5e .   I did however read that keywords like necrotic will not be in 5e, so I'm not really sure how necromancy will work at all.    

I think the big problem my had with necromancers is that they were a class that was typically reserved for NPCs.    A good aligned party wouldn't typically get along with one in the party.   Spells like animate dead, enervation, vampiric touch, and magic jar won't make the LG paladin feel all that comfortable.    


I do agree that necromancy should be a school in 5e .   I did however read that keywords like necrotic will not be in 5e, so I'm not really sure how necromancy will work at all.  


Based on the various blogs, damage types are likely to be in 5e, so there will probably be some sort of necromantic damage type, though IMO the term 'necrotic' always sucked.
I agree with the OP, arcane necromancy should be on par as divine necromancy when it comes to creating the undead. Arcane necromancers are more archetypal than their divine cousins in literature and movies anyways. 
Those would be called 'golems'.

And I don't think the ability to create 'mini-armies' should be something PCs should be able to do.  Giving one player a horde of creatures to control was a major problem in previous editions; it meant one guy's turn took FOREVER because he had to manipulate all of them.  4e fixed this with the 'one shared pool of actions' rule, which should definitely remain for summons and other sidekicks in 5e.  Giving PCs armies with their own full turns is a balance nightmare and unfair to the rest of the table.



I can see that ... I am looking at a Warlord/Fighter with hoards of minion soldiers and seeing how that same thing could go for them... or a Druid animating an entire forest (a huge ritual)... or a Ranger Warlord invoking kings magic to induce honor bound dead to come to his aid.... and thinking maybe these epic occurances are out of scope.   

There were folk that considered that to be one desireable form of high level play - though I cant say as I ever saw it.
 
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Those would be called 'golems'.

And I don't think the ability to create 'mini-armies' should be something PCs should be able to do.  Giving one player a horde of creatures to control was a major problem in previous editions; it meant one guy's turn took FOREVER because he had to manipulate all of them.  4e fixed this with the 'one shared pool of actions' rule, which should definitely remain for summons and other sidekicks in 5e.  Giving PCs armies with their own full turns is a balance nightmare and unfair to the rest of the table.



I can see that ... I am looking at a Warlord/Fighter with hoards of minion soldiers and seeing how that same thing could go for them... or a Druid animating an entire forest (a huge ritual)... or a Ranger Warlord invoking kings magic to induce honor bound dead to come to his aid.... and thinking maybe these epic occurances are out of scope.   

There were folk that considered that to be one desireable form of high level play - though I cant say as I ever saw it.
 



There was mention of the DMG including a leading Armies Module.  That gives you opportunities for the Necromancy calling up the hordes of the dead to protect the kingdom from the Orcish Warband.  So that can be used to handle the Massive Massive horde of minions without taking anything away from the players

The greater problem is the guy who wants 5 skeletal soldiers to walk in front of the party during the dungeon crawl, or my personal favorite the sack of undead chickens
The greater problem is the guy who wants 5 skeletal soldiers to walk in front of the party during the dungeon crawl, or my personal favorite the sack of undead chickens


To be fair, the sack of undead chickens isn't a lot more useful than a bag of rocks, and has some humor value, so I'm not sure of the problem. The five skeleton soldiers should be possible in any game that would also allow you to have henchmen, which probably means animate dead would have to be a ritual that costs money.
The greater problem is the guy who wants 5 skeletal soldiers to walk in front of the party during the dungeon crawl, or my personal favorite the sack of undead chickens


To be fair, the sack of undead chickens isn't a lot more useful than a bag of rocks, and has some humor value, so I'm not sure of the problem. The five skeleton soldiers should be possible in any game that would also allow you to have henchmen, which probably means animate dead would have to be a ritual that costs money.

The Chickens is an old 2E war story.  Somewhere alongthe line they indroduced a 1st level necromancer spell called Animate Undead Animal.  Allowing 1st level would be Necromancers a small collection of 1/2HD undead minions.  Which quickly lead to the bag of undead chickens which would be thrown at a large group of monsters, unleashed and start pecking Kobolds to death.  Then sent shuffling down corridors as walking trap detectors.

Animate Dead as a form of Henchmen recruiting though actually sounds good, Necromantic Master could be a varient of the Leadership feat (or what ever the 5E equivalent would be)  Which of course brings up Henchmen in dungeons and how to keep them from monopolize the game time.
Animate Dead as a form of Henchmen recruiting though actually sounds good, Necromantic Master could be a varient of the Leadership feat (or what ever the 5E equivalent would be)  Which of course brings up Henchmen in dungeons and how to keep them from monopolize the game time.


You need to have a single 'mob of henchmen' that you track, rather than individual henchmen. "This trap blows up 5 skeletons, 23 to go!"
well I hope we keep that division in place because it is after all D&D.    Divine magic should come from a divine power and arcane necromancy should be reserved for the necromancer mage.       I think the division between the necromancer and the death priest is clear enough for me and I don't see a problem with it.     A cleric of a death god would be more focused on what his god wants and would have to answer to him.      The necormancer mage wouldn't be attached at the hip to a god.       

Regardless, both are evil classes and if role played correctly really wouldn't get along with a good party all that well.       If I was a DM of such a PC I would be constantly playing out the dark and evil nature of the class.    Such a character would be hunted and reviled in my campaign and might even find himself slowly becoming corrupted and lost by the art of necromancy.  

Now there are examples of good necromancers in D&D and yes they were focused on healing and fighting undead.   Hold Undead  would be a example of a spell that a good necromancer might have.  

That reminds me in a Ravenloft campaign the practice of black magic is a powers check.   



 



Fourth edition was not the answer either, though. In fact, 4e botched necromancy for wizards even more then 3.5e did. In 3.5e, necromancy specalists at least had some good non-minion based options to play with, but in 4e, Necromancy as a school for mages was poorly desgined and totally underpowered. Necromancy for wizards went from "some nice things the cleric can take in addition to his awesome options I lack" to "no nice things" and that also disapointed me., So, while this may not be high on most people's priority lists, one of the things I REALLY want to see from 5e is arcane/wizardlynecromancy that is on-par with, not inferior to, the cleric's, EVEN in the area of Minion-based magics.



And you know what's the most annoying part about this? Clerics can still make more and better undead servants than Wizards in 4e. Worst of all, the clerics do not waste up their actions commanding their servants, have no limit in the amount of undead they can have at a time, and monsters they raise still have access to all their (at-will) powers and features. The only downside is the monsters' durability (they can't heal, are raised with only 1 HP, and also get -2 to all defenses), so clerics would have to jump through hoops to keep them alive by stocking up on powers that gain temp HP.



Animate Dead as a form of Henchmen recruiting though actually sounds good, Necromantic Master could be a varient of the Leadership feat (or what ever the 5E equivalent would be)  Which of course brings up Henchmen in dungeons and how to keep them from monopolize the game time.



Those were my initial thoughts when I heard that Henchmen would be given more attention this time around. I'm very curious in how they'll turn out


There is nothing wrong with necromancy, just the way in which 3.x handled it.

If you want a better focus just consider all the necromancy spells to be in a single school. The divine/arcane divide is just an atifact of that divide within dnd. Most other magic systems have no such problems. My homebrew that uses word based magic never did for instance.

The only reason there is a limit to control in the first place is that without it you get some guy who wants to be cute and send 4000 zombies after something. This is really part of the don't be a **** rule, or legislating dm fiat. It is artificial and most people realize it.

All it should really require is a focus on the school and perhaps a feat to channel positive or negative energy towards undead to rebuke or turn. (this is another problem inherent in the divide, divine casters have their own divide which makes a whole lot of sense in some ways and none in others)

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