New Dread Necromancer Handbook

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Dread Necromancer Handbook

Table of Contents



  • Credits and Details
  • General Info
    • Pros and Cons
    • Party Role
    • Alignment

  • Skills
  • Races
  • Some notes on Taint
  • Class Features
  • Spells
    • General Advice
    • Specific Spell Advice
    • Advanced Knowledge Suggestions
    • Eclectic Learning
    • Spell Stiched Spell Suggestions

  • Feats
    • General
    • Dragon
    • Reserve
    • Corpsecrafting
    • Expanding Spell lists
    • Divine
    • Metamagic
    • Monstrous Feats
    • Item Creation

  • Early Career
  • Prestige Classes
    • Full Casting Classes
    • Less than Full Casting Classes
    • Half Casting Classes
    • No Casting Classes

  • Equipment by Level
  • Builds
  • Tricks and Combos
  • Role-Playing Suggestions
  • Good Undead to Create


Credits and Details



The Dread Necromancer is a very flavorful class from Heroes of Horror that hasn't been new for some time. However, I didn't see a handbook for the class, just K's Necromancy Handbook, which is very, very good, but I decided to write this after playing a couple of these through a lot of levels as a focused handbook for this class.

I’d like to try something a bit different to the standard Handbooks: this one has a new profile attached to it. Anyone who wants to edit it can; please feel free to add data, and if you want, add your own comments. This is so other people can maintain it in the event of a large absence of time; I thought this was a better idea than complete rewrites every year. If you are about to edit something, please post it first, though, and give it a day: this is just so the community can process it, and make sure its RAW legit.

Anyone can delete another’s work; please don’t w/o their permission. Please be constructive. I have the text saved, in case someone wants to be a jerk; I’d recommend you save any contributions as well, or post them w/ your profile before adding to the main posts.

Username: dreadnecrohandbook
Password: davenport



Original typing and many updates by jameswilliamogle, w/ many props to K’s original and revised Necromancy Handbooks, and to Surreal and Tweedledope for the formatting ideas (so its their fault too, lol!). Lots of help from a ton of folks in the community, in formatting, ideas, and everything. I've tried to put credit where credit is due, next to the individual contributions, but feel free to post if I've missed something.



General Info



Pros
  • Spontaneous casting similiar to Warmage or Beguiler means TONS of spells per day.
  • Cha synergy between casting, class abilities, and Rebuke Undead: its essentially a one-stat class.
  • Touch spells make lowerered BAB not as big of an issue.
  • Self healing is very feasible w/ minimum investments.
  • Awesome undead creation abilities.
  • Light armor and a single martial weapon proficiency.
  • TONS of flavor.


Cons
  • Worst BAB available.
  • Extremely focused spell list: very few generally useful utility spells.
  • Only one good save, and normally in a dump stat for the class.
  • Low skill points per level, and Int is an otherwise unimportant stat.
  • Only d6 HP / level makes them relatively fragile.
  • Your spell list makes party and NPCs extremely suspicious of your abilities: guard your secret well unless the majority are evil.


Party Roles
Inspired in large part by K’s handbook.
  • Lower levels: great second-tier melee characters, using touch spells while wearing light armor and getting DR with self-healing.
  • Mid levels: starts to get some ok crowd control spells, and summons start becoming more viable. Woe to any DM that pits a bunch of mindless undead against you.
  • Upper levels: Straight up lethal spells combined with an army of undead usually ends encounters really quickly and efficiently. You might be able to solo a bit at the upper end, though I wouldn’t recommend it (mainly b/c its not fun).

Only play a Dread Necromancer when:
  • Your melee basis for the party is covered*. A DN can make a decent second tier warrior, but low BAB and low HP make it a generally poor choice.
  • Your healing basis for the party is covered. Unless your whole party takes Tomb-tainted Soul, you won't be healing anyone.
  • Your trapfinding basis for the party is covered.**
  • There's another dedicated arcanist in the party.*** This isn't as significant as the first 2.

* If you are starting at at least 4th(2nd/3rd with NaeHoon Illumian), and in a primarily evil party, you might be able to ignore this if you simply gain control of suitably meaty undead: talk to your DM about evil clerics, and paying them to animate a creature that you can subsequently command or rebuke. Ogre Zombies are a great low-level option (via Command Undead). Remember to equip them to the best of your ability.

**You could theoretically get past traps by summoning creatures / animating bodies to run in front of you, and having detect magic and dispell magic for many traps, but you'll still have to deal with resetting mechanical traps.

***You don't have the utility nor ability to cover all the important spellcasting aspects (any other arcane class, like beguiler or warmage, is enough to cover all the basics). If you had significantly high Int, you could get over this problem (you need Spellcraft, Kn:Arcana to be maxed, and cross-classing UMD will help out a lot too).


A note on Alignment

Dread Necromancers cannot be good, but there doesn't appear to be any consequence if you are good. Thus, a DN might be able to turn good after character creation. Playing a good DN would severely hamstring the class: you could still cast [Death] spells, but you can pretty much forget any [Evil] spells, such as Animate Dead and Create Undead. These are staple abilities of the class, and you don't want to lose them.



Attributes



Cha is the most important stat you have. All your class abilities, including spellcasting, are set off of it. Keep this as high as possible: a 16 is the lowest I'd go, and then only if you are playing in a 28 or less point buy.

Dex is important, too: you have light armor, but many of your spells are ranged touch spells, putting you dangerously close to the action, so don't ignore this - a 14 is ok, a 16 is better; you might consider Weapon Finesse for your touch spells if this is high enough.

Con is kind of debatable, imo: if you can start out as a Necropolitan, ignore it, but otherwise put the minimum you need to get by until you can become a necropolitan (unless you want to melee early on).

Str shouldn't be lower than 10, simply so you can land your touch spells in the early career, and wear light armor w/o problems. Even as a melee DN, you still can get a lot of utility out of a low strength and focusing on touch spells like Chill Touch and Ghoul Touch.

Int is dependent on how many skills you want to take. You won't need more than 3 or 4 points per level, so a 12-14 (lower with human) should be ok. You only have Decipher Script and some Knowledge skills for Int: Decipher Script isn't critical for your class (unless you pick up Corrupt Arcana), and Knowledge is better handled by a Wizard.

Wis may be a dump stat. You don't have any wisdom-based skills or abilities and you have a good will save that only gets better with level and templates (or becomes unnecessary). However, if you want to take the Arcane Disciple feat you will want at least a 13 in it, so that with a +6 item you can cast all of the domain spells (see Feats below).



Skills



You need to max out only Concentration and Intimidate, and Intimidate is only so-so as far as importance: Concentration is obvious, but Intimidate lets you simply get w/in 5' of someone w/ your Fear Aura and demoralize them to make them frightened.

5 ranks in Knowledge: Religion gives a nice synergy bonus to turning.

If you have another arcanist in the party, try to convince them to take care of the spellcraft checks, but this is the best next skill to put ranks in. If you take the Corrupt Arcana feat, you need to hit a DC 24 by the time you get 9th level spells to prepare all the spells possible: you can take 10 on it, and aid another works on it, too. You also need to get a spellbook w/ the spells, and hit a DC 29 to initially decipher it (also can take 10 and aid another on it - hire some spellcasters to aid on the cheap). You'd have to hit a DC 20 and 25, respectively, if you took Arcane Disciple: Spell Domain and planned on using/abusing Anyspell (not RAW legal using the most recent printing).

Disguise is good to max out if you went Necro, and for when / if you become a lich, and can be used to disguise your huge undead. Add for flavor.

Bluff lets you get away with animating undead in town. Add for flavor.

Decipher Script you can ignore. Even under the best situations, its up to your DM how important the skill is. (I had thought this was how one deciphered others magical writings, but after looking into it I was mistaken.)

Bluff is a maybe; there's a few skill tricks that are keyed off this skill. I'd put the minimum ranks in to get these, if you are so inclined.


Cross-class Skills
Use Magic Device is just awesome on a Cha based caster; you have a limited spell list, and this greatly diversifies you. You could easily have around a +20 skill check, around 15th, with only a couple of ranks, +Cha items, and +Cha check items (Circlet of Persuasion, for example), or a custom +UMD item. Its even that much better if you plan on going into a Rogue/Caster PrC like Arcane Trickster, Daggerspell Mage, or Unseen Seer (see the Prestige Class section below).

Ride is one of those skills that you may want to invest a minimum in to hit certain DC's. You'll never have to beat a DC >29 (wearing normal Breastplate w/ Battlecaster, riding a bipedal creature), but realistically the toughest DC you'll need to hit is a 16 (mithril Breastplate, undead creature good for riding, only needing to get cover). You should have a decent base Ride check w/ only a few ranks invested. An entire build could be made focusing on just riding undead creatures, which could be very interesting if you pick up the Lance as your Martial Weapon Proficiency.

Diplomacy, Gather Information: Both are better served by dedicated skill monkeys. You could, with the right undead, make an entire spy network. There's a few suggestions in the undead and combo sections below. Basically, you Awaken Rogueish undead, and use a combination of Magic Jar, a Hat of Disguise, a Disguise Kit, and your (maxed) Disguise skill while taking 10 to give the undead a base of 30+ Disguise, as another race. It works best if you can use Create Undead to make some Ghasts or Ghouls, or create undead spawn through your Summon Undead spells (followed by rebuking to control), as they all have moderately good Cha, Int, and Wis scores (and Mummys can be argued to keep class levels, as well, see "Undead to Create" below). Its a tricky, and generally a high level option, but its better to rely on this than invest a lot of skill points in these, imo.



Skill Tricks
Complete Scoundrel introduced a lot of neat options w/ skills, but only a handful will really help you out. You can get a single Trick for 1000 gp via the Trickery Trinket, which takes no slots, but you can only benefit from one at a time (also CS).

Never Outnumbered is particularly useful, as you could effect all the creatures that made their save against the Fear spell and/or aura pretty easily. It would be my first choice for tricks.

Second Impression can help a blown disguise. Great low-level, but you won't be using it at high level against anyone other than other PCs if you kept Disguise maxed.

Assume Quirk isn't that useful, imo: you generally are just trying to appear as a "generic" creature, not a specific one; obviously its useful if thats not true and you are making a spying DN of some sort. I'd probably take this third, but its kind of campaign / ability specific.

False Theurgy is awesome (most NPCs don't care for Necromancy). It would be second choice for tricks.

Collector of Stories is decent; its better on Wizards, but most of the time gives a flat +5 to all your knowledge checks for a 2 skill investment. It would probably be tied for my third choice for tricks.

Swift Concentration seems great, right? Except that you only have Summon Swarm as a duration concentration spell, and you can't get this trick until 9th level, when you won't be using it. Maybe useful if you use UMD wands of Illusion, but it isn't that useful to everyone. I don't think its worth it.

Maneuver tricks are all great for Gish-types, but you won't get enough ranks to invest in these in most builds. Gish's will want the Nimble Charge trick, in particular.



Races



Races with Bonus Feats:

Strongheart Halflings are great, even for a melee Dread Necromancer. Strongheart Halflings are a forgotten realms specific sub-race of halflings found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. With Strongheart Halflings, you get +1 AC, +1 to hit, nice stealth bonuses, but most importantly, you get an extra feat.

Humans are nice, too, particularly if you need more skills per level b/c you don't have another arcanist in the party. The feat rocks.

Races with a Bonus to Charisma:

Spellscale are pretty good choices, too. They are not a campaign specific race, and can be found in Races of the Dragon. The have +2 Cha, which is great, and -2 Con, which makes them a good candidate for Necropolitan (see below). The free metamagics are nice, too, although I think they should scale a little better with HD. You also qualify for Dragon Feats (see below), some of which are kind of nice. Spellscales' penatly to con also makes them a debately a good candidate to become a dragonborn of bahamut.

Star Elves are pretty good choices, as well. They are a forgotten realms specific sub-race of elves found in the book, Unapproachable East. They have +2 Cha, which is great, and -2 Con, which makes them a good candidate for Necropolitan (see below). Star elves also have elven bonuses to spot, listen, and search, as well as the ability to detect secret doors. The power to make weapons ghost-touch as a special ability doesn't hurt either. Star Elves' penatly to con also makes them a debatedly good candidate to become a dragonborn of bahamut.

"Lesser" Aasimar are pretty sick dread necromancers. The "lesser" aasimar variant can be found in Races of Faerun, but can easily be ported to a non-faerun campaign setting because aasimars are found in the monster manual and are therefore not campaign specific. A "lesser" aasimar are the same as regular aasimar, except they are Humanoid (planetouched), instead of Outsider (good), and their LA +0. This leaves their ability score adjustments at a whopping +2 Cha +2 Wis. To put it gently, "lesser" aasimar are definitely on the high end in terms of power for LA +0 creatures. Since Dread Necromancer are required to be non-good, this also creates a cool backstory for how your "lesser" aasimar wandered from the path of good.

Kobolds are useful for qualifying for Dragonwrought (see the feat section) and for some claw attacks at low level (see the RoDragon Web Enhancement). You get +2 AC, and +1 to hit, which helps. With Slight Build, you might be able to hollow out a large zombies chest cavity and put a little seat in there, driving it around. Its also lots of fun. A dragonwrought kobold gains bonuses for aging, but not penalties. So a venerable dragonwrought kobold would have the following stats: -4 str +2 dex -2 con +3 int +3 wis +3 con. Good luck convincing your dm to allow you to play that ;). The downside is that since you are now a Dragon, you no longer can become a Necropolitan.

Hellbred from the Fiendish Codex II gives you the option to focus on either body or spirit when you create your character; focusing on spirit gives you +2 Cha and -2 Con, and also gives you darkvision that scales as you level. You also gain the ability to see in darkness, including deeper darkness and telepathy out to 100 feet at higher levels. Other minor bonuses of note include a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate checks, and Devil's Favor as a bonus feat, giving you a +2 bonus to a single attack, save or check roll once per day per devil-touched feat you have. But on the downside, if you're killed before you can transform yourself into an undead form, you can't be brought back to life unless it's by anything less than resurrection or stronger.

Other:

Illumians make surprisingly decent Dread Necromancers because they can get an ability similar to Divine Metamagic that's usable 2/day. It uses one less turn attempt than Divine Metamagic and can be used with arcane spells (Which Divine Metamagic no longer allows due to its errata).

Player's Handbook Races: Halflings, Half-Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Half-Elves aren't really the best choices for a Dread Necromancer. You don't want any Cha penalty, you already get a martial weapon, you don't need / want diplomacy, can't really search to find traps, and you have only Phantasmal Killer as an illusion spell. If you have to play one of these, Star Elf for bonus to Charisma (Unapproachable East - see above), or Strongheart Halflings for their bonus feat (Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting - see above), or Desert Half-orc or dwarf (UA), or Forest Gnome (MM) for extra stealth. As mentioned earlier, humans are still great choice for dread necromancers; the others make good undead to awaken, as they'll get all their racial abilities (searching, for example w/ dwarves while underground).

Eberron Campaign Setting Races: Changelings, Kalashtar, Shifters, Warforged don't make the best Dread Necromancers from a power gaming stand-point. According to a recent Ask Wizards, Warforged are able to become undead. The downside to playing a Dread Necromancer Warforged is you have to deal w/ a Cha penalty, and if you become undead your Con bonus won't matter at all. On the upside, this could be a really fun RP choice ("What does life mean, anyway? That skeleton over there has been traveling with me for weeks, and he's a good companion!"). A shifter could make for an interesting gish, but they unfortunately have a penalty to Charisma. Kalshstar are more aimed toward psionic classes and don't synergize well with Dread Necromancer. A changeling is probably the best choice overall from the four eberron races. A changeling's deceptive nature and bonuses to social skills could be useful for a Dread Necromancer because they synergize with the dread necromancer's high charisma. Unfortunately there are many races out there that are over-all better choices than changelings (see above).

Bhuka (Sandstorm): A very specialized DN: you are going for the Walker in the Waste PrC if you are using this race. They're small, and have the extra +2 Dex and and +1 to hit due to this. They're also more interesting than the typical Strongheart Halfling.



Templates and Add-ons



The best templates turn you into an undead early on w/ little costs. You run the risk of your DM hating you when you do this though, as power creep is definitely a problem. You'll know when an either a Cleric of Pelor with maxed out Kn:Religion and Skill Focus: Kn: Religion recognizes you, and destroys you w/ a greater turning, or when you start encountering Evil Clerics that are just slightly higher than double your level.

Necropolitan (LM) is an add-on template that turns you undead, gives turn resistance, makes you reroll all you HD as d12's. It costs 3000 gp and a single level's worth of XP. The earliest you could do it (due to XP) is 3rd. I recomend taking out a loan, at as high as 30% interest if you have to, just to do it at 3rd. If you start higher than 3rd level, do this before creation. If you start at 1st level, then take Tomb-tainted Soul, but for your sake I hope the DM using retraining so you can turn that into something usefull after switching to Necropolitan. Its much better than TTSoul, as you get undead immunities as well, instead of just being healed by negative energy. At 19th level, you need to pay for a True Resurrection before leveling to 20th to get advantage out of Lich Transformation (and it is definitely worth it).

Lich (MM) According to custserv [Incident: 070501-000021](Big Bear), you do NOT become a Lich at 20th level. If you went and became a Necropolitan, then you need to pay for a True Resurection after you have enough XP to become 20th. Its worth it at that level though.

Dragonborn of Bahamut from Races of the Dragon make arguably good dread necromancers because they often act to balance out many of the race’s natural frailness. Dragonborn of Bahamut is more of a template than an actual race. If a creature chooses to become a Dragonborn of Bahamut, it does not gain any level adjustment, instead they lose all abilities associated with their old race including bonus feats; they keep ability modifiers as well as some other abilities. In return they get some abilities (like flight, dark/low-light vision and blindsense, or a breath weapon), including +2 Constitution -2 Dexterity ability modifier. These ability modifiers stack with the old ability modifiers. Dragonborns are better for those who don't plan on seeing 20th level of Dread Necromancer because by then con won't matter anymore. You also qualify for Dragon Feats (see below), some of which are kind of nice. (note: see sidebar on p. 15: you'd be sacrificing a lot of abilities to play this race w/o losing the abilities. In short: you have to RP your DN as good.)

Draconic (RoDr): Only if LA Buyoff rules are used (see the SRD or UA). +2 Cha, Str, Con, 2 claw attacks (usable as secondary attacks), stackable +1 natural armor, Intimidate bonus, Lowlight and darkvision, and Dragonblood Subtype. Its a great template to add on, and for +1 LA its a steal, but only if you'll be able to reduce that later (a fine strategy, I found, was to wait until you have enough XP at 2nd level to both buyoff the level before hitting 3rd and paying the Necropolitan costs; this will keep your and your allies XP up before you level, and minimizes the immediate costs).

Spellstiched (CArc): Its an expensive template add-on to undead (1000 gp, and usually 9500 xp), but its a great way to gain a lot of spell-like abilities for things that you'd normally not have access too, and avoid material components (including XP costs). Its so expensive, in fact, that I'd bet money that the designers intended it to cost 500 xp per Wis bonus, or Wis over 10 (talk to your DM). The creator needs to have Craft Wonderous Items, which means that at lower level you are better off hiring someone to do this to you (a standard cost of 5 gp / xp would price it at 48500, but lookhere). According to the RAW, there's no LA, just +1 CR... but expect at least a +1 LA to be applied by your DM. There's some suggestions about good spells to apply in the Spells section below.

Phrenic (XPH): The Psi-like abilites granted by this template really help a few of the shortcomings of the DN. You'll get Teleport, Dominate Person, Power Resistance (which = SR in most games), and a bunch of offensive and defensive abilities, and +4 Cha, among other stat bonuses, all for +2 LA. Awesome template in a LA buyoff game.

Curst (MC: Monsters of Faerun, PGtF Web): This is a tough template to justify. +3 LA, and you only get undead abilities, +3 Natural Armor, SR, Turn/Rebuke immunity, and cold/fire immunity. You also become almost impossible to kill, even when taken to 0 HP. Also, you lose any previous spellcasting you had, meaning you better start as a Curst. If you are going for a +3 LA character already, you might as well start out as a Lich.


Other Races and Templates: There are many other races to choose from. As a general rule of thumb, ones with LA 0 are best. Here is a master list of races that have LA +0: Master Race List. (note: LA buyoff makes LA +1 to +2 races very viable; see UA for rules on LA Buyoff: La +1 catches up to the parties level between 3rd and 4th, a +2 catches up to the party's ECL between 12th and 13th.)


Taint



If you become a Necropolitan, you become undead, which means you automatically have a taint score of 1/2 Cha score (not bonus) + 1 (HoH 62). If this increases your taint to moderate corruption, you get a bonus feat (HoH p67). If it increases again to severe corruption, you get another. For free. If you dumped Wisdom, its quite easy to automatically gain both bonus feats when you go Necropolitan (gaining both bonus feats only require a Cha of 10, due to your - Con score, or 22 if you have an 8 Wis and DM rules you can't have Taint due to your Con score).

You also never suffer any negative effects for taint, either, as an undead, so never have to worry about your Taint being too high. Some DMs might be jerks and want to gain control of your character, ala "insane", but if thats the case you need to switch groups. There's only a few symptoms w/ positive side effects, though. You roll these randomly, so just hope you get lucky:

Skin Seeps (+2 Escape Artist), Bones Thicken (+2 Str), Paralyzed Face (+1 Bluff), Skin Thickens (+1 Natural Armor), Lich Eyes (darkvision), Wrigglers (+2 Intimidate), Bestial (+2 Ride, Handle Animal, Wild Empathy), Prophetic (10% of weekly predictions are right), and Hubristic (Divine Healing has no effect on you - only negative when its cure wounds, etc, so remove disease, cause wounds have full effects).

There's some argument over whether an Undead can gain taint from any other method than increasing his Cha, however, but this isn't an issue unless you take the Tainted Scholar PrC, which prefers high Taint.

Also, its poorly worded, but it appears that falling below the thresholds only "renders that [corrupt] feat inoperative", but doesn't remove it. Thus, a trick one might do in a power game would be to swing back and forth between moderate and severe taint, gaining new bonus feats each time. Sure, you can't use the [corrupt] feats when you are low, but when you go back to severe you gain use of all of them. This is broken. A DM might argue that the wording "reaches [mod or sev] taint" only implies when the original threshold is achieved, but this is a very poor argument on the basis of logic (but makes perfect sense on the basis of balance).

It doesn't say you remove the taint if you become living afterwards: If you plan on becoming a Lich later, you better reduce your taint score before being returned to life, pre-lich, or else you'll end up under DM control if you aren't careful. The easiest way I can see to do this is to remove all your +Cha items, then take a lot of Cha damage (Bestow Curse, and/or Ego Whip are the easiest methods I can see to do this). A static Taint score for undead, based only on Cha and not taint, actually helps you out here.

Playing with taint as an undead may be a little powerful for many campaigns: if it isn't a horror based campaign, its quite easy just to ignore the taint rules.

Class Features



Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: You get light armor w/ no ASF, meaning you'll want mithril breastplate ASAP, w/o costing you too much. You get all simple weapons, and a single martial proficiency. The most common choice is the Longbow, but any reach weapon can be great too. Lance works for mounted builds, and is great w/o any investment into the mounted feats, and the Guisarm can make trip attacks, too, and being reach you don't have to worry about being tripped back, just about being disarmed. Don't pick the mighty 2H Sword: you shouldn't rely on your weapons as the way to do damage, but rather your spells and class abilities to disable opponents (the lance is an exception to that, being capable of really getting a lot of multipliers on a charge really easily).

I also like the Throwing Axe: you threaten, you have ranged options, and its finessable. One of the last weapons I used was a +1 Spellstoring Throwing Axe (which generally was under a Brilliant Energy Aura from a Wizard), and I must say it was pretty awesome: Spellstoring only cares about the spell level, not the spell slot, so you can put in funky metamagic combinations. I don't know if its RAW, but a Chained Ray of Exhaustion fits in just as well as a spell that takes a 3rd level slot, and I believe will hit every one as a normal Chained spell (Spellstoring doesn't change its range, nor does "Chain" change it away from a "targeted spell", after all).

Charnel Touch: Useful at the lowest levels for damage, but will be used for healing yourself and your undead between battles after that.

Rebuke Undead: Turning isn't that bad of a strategy at low levels, but starts to suck exponentially with level. K's handbook has the best advice on it. It's really stupid, but you just gain Rebuke Undead "as a Cleric, see p 33 of PHB", which in turn refers to p 159 of the PHB. Its all worded to work off your Cleric level, of which you have none. RAW, a Dread Necro has no ability to Rebuke anything. Had they just said "as a cleric of their class level", it would work. No DM would play it that way, and expect an errata sometime (see custserv id 061221-000241).

Lich Body: the best thing a Melee DN has going for it. DR 2 at 2nd is pretty awesome, but as usual, the DR doesn't scale well.

Negative Energy Burst: As mentioned by K in his handbook, its primarily a quick heal ability.

Fear Aura: This ability is soooo freaking good. You'll have a ton of fear effects that leave them shaken, that combined w/ this you can frighten everyone. Combine this w/ Intimidate's demoralize opponent and you become a one person per round frighten machine.

Advanced Learning: Its good, but hard to find a lot of spells that aren't essentially duplicates of what your spell list already provides.

Mental Bastion: You'll either become a Necropolitan early on or a Lich much later, but the bonus on saves is great until then.

Scaberous Touch: By the time you get this, you don't want to be using it, unless you still are focusing on Charnel Touch, which is losing power by this point. Its more for flavor than power. You could buff w/ Spectral Hand, activate this ability, cast a touch spell, and deliver a Charnel Touch all w/ one attack, though.

Undead Mastery: This ability is AWESOME! Hordes and Hordes of skeletons on your side. Unfortunately, its keyed off your class level, so if you PrC out after 8th, you'll not get full benefit out of it, but it probably is worth it (even having 4 times your HD in undead is usually more than enough as a PC): You'll have (8 X Cha) + (4 X HD), which should be enough.

Light Fortification: See Mental Bastion above. If a rogue actually had Grave Strike, and you were a Necro, this would still apply RAW, which is pretty nice.

Evervating Touch: This is a powerful ability, particularly when combined with a wicked touch spell (like Harm, for example).

Craft Wonderous Item: Considering your limited spell list, you probably don't want to take a lot of item creation feats. Getting one for free isn't bad, though.

Lich Transformation: According to Wizards Custserv [Incident: 070501-000021], you do not gain the Lich template with this ability . You do gain the undead template and have lich like class abilities. Clarification is needed concerning the phylactery. RAW gives a useless phylactery but the class description implies that you would gain the phylactery ability. If you are already undead, there seems to be no reason to take this level as you only are gaining the 9th level spell and the ability to make a useless wonderous item for free.

Familiar
Familiar choice is really important, as they're much more powerful than your standard choices.
Familiar

At 7th, the DN gets the equivalent of Improved Familiar for free, but RAW it doesn’t have to match your alignment at all. You may want to wait a few levels to get the Stiched-flesh Familiar feat (see feat section below). There’s 2 choices which really stand out: Quasit and Ghostly Visage. Realize that since these are familiars, there special ability saves will increase at 10+1/2 your level + stat, which is slow, but just a little less rapidly than your spells and class abilities, generally. (Note: the Monster Manual listing for Imp and Quasit has been errata'd from the SRD version; the MM versions allow up to any two polymorph forms, and is very, very powerful: if your game uses only the books, then I suggest you take one of these two familiars.)

Ghostly Visage (K pointed out this one): Gives some great immunities, if you haven’t gone Necro yet, and if you want to melee it has some nice uses. Paralyzing gaze affects everyone w/in 30' every round, which is awesome.

Quasit: These guys have detect magic at will, invisibility, and can polymorph into a Wolf, improving both your sneakiness and your stealth. A great way to really confuse your allies is to max out Disguise and have your familiar always in Wolf form. They’ll never figure out what you’re playing! They should ALWAYS have Detect Magic and Invisibility up and running. Between you having Detect Undead up when its appropriate and the familiar doing its thing, you should have a pretty good thing going. The poison DC scales somewhat, but is a weak effect.

Imp: A close second, IMO, to the Quasit. They have a Boar form instead of a Wolf. Although it has a better Con, it lacks the movement, and RAW, you won’t get any extra HP from the higher Con. They get both poison and Suggestion that scales ok: this might make it better than the Quasit if you plan on doing a lot of subterfuge.

Vargouille: The Paralyzing Kiss can be used to take out a massive population pretty quickly, but you won’t be getting control over them. The fact that your familiar can’t even talk to them really prevents anything useful happening from it. The Shriek effect is of too low of a DC to be really useful, and doesn't scale well (having Con based abilities and undead really sucks).

Deliver Touch spells: The most useful ability for this class. If you pick a Quasit who’s in Wolf form, you can send him to target creatures 40’ away. Don’t forget they have 3 HD, which allows you to pick 2 feats for them (I went w/ Light Armor Proficiency, and put Mithril Breastplate Barding on mine as soon as I could afford it – he’s always a wolf).

Share Spells: You don’t have many buffs, so you probably won’t be using this too much. You might be able to pick up some interesting effects if you are a Necro, though: For example, Vile Death can add the Fiendish template to yourself, so share with your familiar and you have a fiendish Quasit, then dismiss the spell on yourself so you don’t have to deal w/ LA issues.





Spells

Some General Advice



Almost all Necromancy and Conjuration spells (Conjurations through Summon Undead). Spell Focus Necromancy is great throughout all levels.

Your spell saves are the two best in the game: most are Fortitude, and quite a few are Will. Your Fort saves are debuffs and straight-up killers when you get to good enough level, and Will saves are either inflict spells or fear effects. Between the two, you can target the weakest saves of everything short of Monks and Dragons. You'll go a long way to being effective simply by knowing your spells well, and recognizing what spells will work against what enemies (if it looks like it has low con, hit it w/ a fort save spell; if it looks like its meaty, hit it w/ a will save spell, or hit either w/ no save spells, of course).

You have limited crowd control spells. You have three big spells for it: Black Tentacles (which is great against low Str types), Fear (great against the meat), and Acid Fog (Solid Fog + acid damage). Early on you can use Cause Fear and Ghoul Touch, both of which kind of suck. Summon Undead 5 can get you a Mummy, that has a mediocre fear aura that could be useful for meaty types (summon Vampire Spawn for the squishies).

You have several specialty anti-undead spells: you need to control all undead you see. Rebuking isn't that effective, since you can only control undead less than half your level in HD (you'll never fight those weaklings unless you're looking for them); use Command, Control Undead instead.

You are a master of creating undead, both through Summon Undead spells at low levels to Animate Dead and the Create Undead line of spells. Know your summons well: ghasts may be horrible creatures to create, but they aren't bad to summon. As far as animating, an extremely effective strategy is to animate the biggest, strongest thing you kill and have them lead the party. It can get expensive, due to onyx costs, if you want to make an army, but with a totally maxed out Cha and the best controlling items you'll be controlling at most 680 HD of creatures at 20th, which will only cost 17000 gp if zombies or skeletons, or up to 34000 if they're all made into greater undead, representing only about 10% of your wealth.

You have a ton of spells per day. You could cast every round and probably never run out after the first 3 levels or so. Do this.

Advanced Learning it appears still gets advanced if you take a prestige class that advanced spellcasting. I don't believe this is what the designers intended, but RAW it seems to work.


Specific spell mentions



Chill Touch: This is a good spell until you get 2nd level spells. You get one use per level up to 5th, and its not limited to once per round. That might be hard to abuse at the levels where its good, but if you have natural attacks as well (for example, from being a Kobold), then you can add the effects to those attacks.

Spectral Hand: a ton of your spells and effects are range: touch. If you have a buff round, this is your buff. You can also use all your charnel touch abilities through this spell, stacking some pretty decent results at high level.

Animate Dead: When you get this, you have a spectrum to pick from. At one end you can animate the biggest, baddest monsters you encounter, making a veritable brute squad to soak up damage like no other, and at the other end you're animating tons of weak skeletons and equiping them with ranged weapons. Either way, if you rely on this a lot, the other PCs will start to fade in importance. What I recomend is that you animate fewer big bruisers, and give them standing orders to follow the other PCs commands unless you override them, divided equally among the other PCs. This will help to prevent the glory-vacuum that killing every single creature singlehandedly would bring you, and makes it more akin to creating items for the party. This is a great spell to add to a Spellstiched undead. About half of K's handbook covers this spell in detail, so I'll just direct you there.

Fear: This spell is freaking great. Use it at the start of every combat, and it'll make your entire career easier. Even if they make the save, they're still shaken, so you can use your remaining move action to run up to them to say "hi" with your fear aura and make them save again, or run away.

Acid Fog: Acid Fog reduces movement to 5' as Solid Fog, no save. This is the bread and butter winner for crowd control in tight quarters. Its saved me on several occasions.

Cloudkill, Circle of Death, Phantasmal Killer: All are pretty weak by the time you acquire them. Unless you find yourself fighting a lot of underpowered monsters, you won't be relying on these. PK allows two saves, making it only effective against rogues and such. If you want to go the way of super-villain, though, nothing is more fitting than casting Cloudkill from the outskirts of a village on a windless night and watching slowly kill everything in its path (10' / round, and 1 min / level, for 100' X 40' of death is sick).

Greater Harm (HoH): Why, oh why did they make this do d12 damage per level instead of a flat 10 damage per level as harm does? Weak, to the point it might be a typo.

Planar Binding, Lesser Planar Binding: The geniuses forgot to add Magic Circles to the spell list. You have to cast those spells, too. Expect some sort of errata or official statement about this one (see custserv ref ref no. 061220-000104). Your DM might allow Unhallow's Magic Circle effect to count, but that doesn't work RAW. Also, you don't have Dimensional Anchor, either, making some choices simply not work (a Leonal or Ghaele is a good core choice).

Geas/Quest: This spell is lame, but a useful combo might be to cast it on a formerly disabled creature (say, from Shivering Touch). Then capture in a cage and start your spell. Most popular use: bring me black onyx!

Magic Jar: A ridiculously powerful spell. Keep in mind that it is not a [mind] spell, so you can Mind Jar your own undead, stuffing your body in a portable hole, bag, or somesuch, and have your familiar carry the gem focus, while invisible and flying. If your target makes its Will save, it'll automatically make any further saves (but not Spell Resistance), so the best strategy is to either command your own undead to fail it, or debuff the opponent with multiple Allips to reduce the Wis score to 0 and / or crushing despair. Its a great high level strategy for when you start encountering creatures w/ HD greater than you can turn into skeletons and zombies. I like using this spell for practical jokes, too.

Create Undead: Libris Mortis p111-112 shows the mummified template as keeping all class abilities, skills, etc. and was clearly intended to replace the Mummy (p 112 keeps talking about Mummys and Mummification, not the Mummified Creature template, for example). If you DM reads it the same way, start killing powerful crafting wizards to start making tons of equipment free of charge, Rogues for uber-trap awareness, Clerics for obvious reasons, and other types to fill out your undead party. They also appear, RAW, to retain the ability to keep gaining levels.

Desecrate: You'll have a tough time getting this spell on your spell list, unless you pick Arcane Disciple: Evil or Undeath domain. A relatively cheap item gives the HP bonus of a Desecrate w/ an alter, though. Get the Deadwalker's ring from CM for 4k gp. The bonus from Turn Resistance is situational, at best. At high level a Darkskull gets you the full Desecrate effect.

Several of the spells on the spell list are better NPC spells than PC spells, obviously, but be creative and post more!



Some Advanced Knowledge suggestions
(PHB + SpC to this point only)



You get to choose 5 spells to add to your spell list: a 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 9th that must be necromancy spells from the cleric or wizard lists. The selections are permanent, so you should be thinking long-term with them. Here's my suggestions that worked for me:

L2: Lesser Shivering Touch (Frostburn) (from K): d6 Dex damage is great, but it isn't a great choice due to the next spell.

L2: Kelgore's Grave Mist (PHB2): One of the earliest no save AoE damage necro spells. I didn't pick it, simply b/c I didn't check all my books, but this spell is pretty awesome for its level (d6 cold damage per round = meet my skeleton buddies, + fatigue, awesome range, decent duration).

L2: Rigor Mortis (HoH): Very powerful paralyzation spell; it could be considered the lowest level save-or-die. It affects anything with Wis>0 or Wis=0 too. (Which is most everything that moves, and isn't immune to paralyzation)

L3: Shivering Touch (Frostburn) (from K): The dragon killer. 3d6 Dex damage w/ no save is nothing to sneeze at. No other spell can do this on the list.

L3: Speak with Dead Excellent for RP, useless for combat.

L4: Evil Glare (Planar HB): Will save, paralyzes opponents, once per round for a while, and RAW, it doesn't appear to take an action to use on rounds afterwards. Not a horrid choice, but not as good as Shivering Touch, imo.

L4: Negative Energy Aura (Planar HB): 10' radius, 2 points of negative energy damage, no save, no SR, and some duration. Not bad.

L5: Wall of Souls (SpC): A weaker choice, but at this level the necro spells start duplicating a lot of what you can already do. The fear effect is very powerful.

L5: Necrotic Skull Bomb (Champions of Ruin): Fireball that does negative level damage. Good Fort AoE, and better than Cloudkill (the main other AoE Fort at this level).

L5: Ghoul Gauntlet (SpC): This spell isn't as bad as it used to be, but RAW, you still lose the extra undead you'd gain from Undead Mastery and your Cha bonus. If you can get your DM to rule that the HD limit should be your normal limit, then its a decent spell.

L5: Touch of Vecna (CM): Potential permanent paralysis. Neat, but you probably have enough fort save stuff by now.

L5: Opalacent Glare (Planar HB): Fear on crack. Kills evil < 5 HD (which won't be useful). Saves and SR applies, still.

L6: Revive Undead (SpC): If you are a Necropolitan or lich, use this, and craft contingent spell. You can now rez yourself. In theory, you can use this to bring yourself back as a lich, even if your phylactery is destroyed. Also nice to bring back your favorite minions... especially one you spent a ton on spell stiching. (thx, bonsai) This is a better candidate to give to a Spell-stiched Undead in the event of your death.

L6: Aura of Terror (SpC): Seems to be a great boost to the fear aura, increasing the radius, DC, and effect. Great for Melee DN's. It only affects creatures of lower HD than yourself, though, making it a little weaker, and it doesn't improve your fear aura, RAW. EDIT: According to this query, it actually just increases your fear radius, which is awesome! (thx, proto)

L6: Blackwater Taint (Stormwrack): This grants you Desecrate, gives d6/2 level damage, a negative level, and heals undead by the same in a 20' radius for 1 round/level, but you have to cast it in water. (from Iry)

L7: Avasculate (SpC, LM): automaticly halves a living creatures hp. The bigger the creature, the more potent it becomes. No saves for that effect either. Also stuns a round if they save. (thx, bonsai) (jwo note: Don't forget you have Harm on the list, which does 1/2 damage on a successful save, and is Will instead; remember, you don't want to duplicate too many effects already on the list.)

L7: Awaken Undead (SpC): Its an AoE, so crowd as many undead into a tight fit as you can - this makes it a good candidate for Widen Spell (rent a metamagic wand from the local mage guild). You still retain control, but they regain all their armor proficiencies and such (but not levels). The XP cost is minor compared to the stunts you might be able to pull w/ this.

L7: Pact of Return (HoH): Its an auto-ressurect. Simple as that. I prefer Spellstiched Revive Undead for this function, but this is good, too.

L8: Bestow Curse, Greater (SpC): Reducing an ability to 1 is about as good as it gets for debuffs. Add some ability damage to that and you've broken them. Few other spells on the list can duplicate these effects; there is some overlap with
Shivering Touch if you pick that, though. This is definitely better for DM’s than DN’s, but it still looks very useful to me.

L8: Touch of the Graveborn (CM): 1 touch attack per 3 levels that does 10d6 damage per touch, and not limited to once per round??? AND ability damage if they currently have a negative level? AND Undead are affected by Control Undead????Uhm, wow. That's 5 attacks total w/ 2 attacks per round (unless you have a natural attack, too) by the time you get this (or, 20d6 per round, almost guaranteed). Couple w/ Spectral Hand. No save on the primary damage effect.

L8: Bodak's Glare (Planar HB): Only way to guarantee you'll get a Bodak, which is a pretty decent undead, and a very cheap method of getting an army (via command undead and rebuking). Considering the lack of many really useful L8 spells, this may be a great choice.

L9: Astral Projction: The 9th level spell shouldn't duplicate any other choices. I think having at least one transportation spell on the list is important. The spell is also a one-component cloning machine: there's nothing that says you can't return to the material plane without ending the spell, thus you get a corporeal body made out of the material plane and a lifeless body that you need to defend. If the active body dies, you return to the first. You could repeat ad nauseum, but expect a couple of books being thrown at you across the gaming table.


If you can take Eclectic Learning...



Another possible option is talking with your DM and seeing they will allow you to use the Eclectic Learning optional class feature for Warmages (PHB II, page 67). If you go this route, you'll be able to choose spells from any school of magic, but at 1 level lower than the highest level you can cast (meaning your choice of a 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th level non-necromancy spell depending on when you take it). The beauty part of this feature is that you can make the choice between advanced learning or eclectic learning on a level-by-level basis, allowing you to adapt on the fly.

If your DM allows you to go this route, then it's well worth taking Brilliant Aura as a 7th level spell at 16th level. It's useful for you in two ways: if cast on your undead servants, all their weapons (including natural weapons) become brilliant energy weapons, allowing them to ignore armor. But the real beauty of this spell is that if you cast it on an opponent, and they fail their will save, all the weapons they carry will become brilliant energy weapons for 1 round/level, rendering them useless against your minions.


Spellstiched Spell Selections



You can get up to 6th level spells, that must be Necromancy, Conjuration, and Evocation. Its slightly unclear, but it seems the save DC's are based on Wis, which is normally a dump stat. Pick a suitably hearty undead you control, or your familiar, and get to work. You need Craft Wonderous Items to do it, but using the XP transfer supplement (PHB2 Web Enhancement), you could probably pay an arcanist to do it. Its so expensive to create spellstiched, that I'd bet money that the designers intended it to cost 500 xp per point of Wis bonus instead. The most they'll be able to use these abilities is 3/day, and you have to decide which abilities can be used how often, splitting up uses. Also, you'll only have 2/level, and 1 6th level spell available, so choose wisely.

Obvious choices include any spells with XP or expensive material component costs, and spells not on your spell list.

L1: Unseen Servant, Floating Disk: Both great utility spells that you may want.

L1: Grease: Despite the low saves, the 1/2 movement might be useful.

L1: Blood Wind (SpC): Since the target of the spell stiched will likely be a ghoul or ghast, using their natural weapons at range is great. Using the right choice of undead could make this really, really powerful.

L2: Glitterdust: A great team benefit spell.

L2: Command Undead: No save for non-intelligent undead = awesome. This spell could make subsquads for dealing w/ strategic and/or massive battles. Its also a great way to have backup buddies.

L2: Scorching Ray: Meh, despite the power of this spell, it just isn't that great w/o metamagics and high CL.

L2: Create Magic Tatoo: Some really nice effects can be generated from this, but make sure to buy the undead some MW tools so they can make the craft check by taking 10.

L3: Sleet Storm: Again, no saves = great. This spell is like grease on steroids, though.

L3: Undead Lietenant (SpC): This could be useful if you anticipate a massive battle coming up.

L4: Animate Dead: Great for generating massive hordes of weak zombies, but not as effective as making them yourself.

L4: Solid Fog: A solid choice (all puns intended). No save = good.

L4: Orb of any (SpC): No save ranged touch spells are good direct damage spells.

L5: Teleport: Yes, you want this.

L5: Symbol of Pain: Normally very expensive to use, this makes the spell much more usable. Have them cast it on a banner that you have on a standard being carried by your undead, w/ your allies being immune. Even w/ the low save, this is a great choice.

L5: Major Creation: The number of uses makes this worthwhile.

L5: Magic Jar: This is mainly to protect your investment. You give the undead this ability, then have him Mind Jar a Warhorse, and keep the body in a well defended container that it carries around with it. I'm not sure how the interactions work when you don't need a focus, though... I believe RAW, that you end up being destroyed the minute its cast. Easily assumed that you could use a gem.

L5: Call Zelakut (SpC): Avoid the XP cost, and call tons to do whatever you want.

L6: Revive Undead (SpC): No need for Craft Contingent Spell, you just have an undead use this when you drop. Best reason to Spellstich an Undead, imo.

L6: Create Undead: Its not a great spell, but keeping your material costs down is a good idea.

L6: Acid Fog: See Solid Fog above. You have this spell on your spell list, though, so I don't think its worth taking.

L6: Animate Dread Warrior (UE): XP costs that you can avoid if you spell-stich this one. Not limited by the normal HD limit of your undead. K pointed this one out in his handbook.

L6: Blackwater Taint (Stormwrack): See in the Advanced Learning section above. Wicked powerful, if you get rid of the XP cost. (from Iry)

Feats



Your main abilities are making undead and using negative energy spells, and your feat choices should reflect this. Libris Mortis is a VERY important sourcebook for DN's, and you should definitely have access to it if you want to make an effective Dread Necro. You have the ability to get bonus feats just for being undead (see Taint, above).



General Feats



Tomb-tainted Soul (LM): This is the standard 1st level DN choice, and for good reason: healing oneself for free with Charnel touch will be invaluable throughout your career (and Harm later is wicked good). If you are starting at or above 3rd level, spend the 3k gp and XP to become a Necropolitan. Even if you start with the feat, you may want to become a Necro anyways, simply to get immunity to some of the fear effects (I hope your DM allows retraining or psychic reformation). *****+ (it IS the feat you take as a 1st level DN)

Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration (PHB): You'll start wanting these starting around 9th level or so. You don't have access to Assay Resistance or anything like that, so the feats are the next best thing. By the time you'll take these, you'll have access to Black Tentacles and Insect Plague, which could render foes fairly immobile while the meaties hit it. If you invest in UMD, and get some +Cha items (Cloak of Charisma, Circlet of Persuasion), then you might be able to get around it w/ an Assay Resistance wand. If you have several items that increase caster level you might be able to avoid these, but all of your targeted spells allow Spell resistance. More important than spell focus at higher levels. ****

Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy (PHB): Great feat, affecting the majority of your spells. You may want it eventually, but it isn't critical to get early on. If you focus more on rays and spells without saves you can use your few feats elsewhere (enervate, black tentacles, etc). ****

Leadership and/or Undead Leadership (DMG/LM): Potentially the most broken feats in the game. Many players avoid this simply due to the extra bookkeeping you have to do in order to have an extra character, but if you are playing a DN, you already are dealing w/ a lot of extra minions, so it isn't quite as bad a choice from that aspect. Excellent for Evil Masterminds and you can take both feats! Regular leadership works better as an initial feat if you’re planning on getting both. Get a crusader/warblade with charging stances/maneuvers as a cohort if you’re planning on having melee minions traveling with you at all times. ****

Daunting Presence (LM): Great feat for those who like stacking fear effects. Long duration. Make sure you do this before they encounter your aura, because the feat won’t escalate past shaken. No HD limit unlike Frightful Presence. ***

Frightful Presence (Drac) (not Awaken Frightful Presence): A 30' fear aura that only affects enemies when you charge or attack, and its as powerful as your special abilities' DC's. Only affects enemies w/ equal or less HD, but its very good, particularly at the lowest levels when your melee abilities aren't too far behind the warrior's. (Iry brought this to my attention) ***

Shadow Magic (PGtF): Great spell for an easy +1 to most of your spells' DC's (only 2 transmutations on your spell list), and qualifies you for Shadow Adept. Not worth it, otherwise. ***

Extraordinary Spell Aim (CAdv): Pretty useful to keep your party from being affected by your own spells. I liked taking it a lot, but it isn't a critical feat. If you are playing as an undead creature and your allies have tomb-tainted soul you may not need to worry about being hit by your own spells. ***

Lifebond (LM): Pick your familiar, and you'll have +2 to all your saves and +4 turn resistance (you have to be undead and your familiar cannot be). You can also change the bond if the first creature dies. Considering your weak saves its not a bad option at all but I think its more of a filler feat than anything else, unless your DM uses enemy clerics against you. ***

Mastery of Day and Night (PGtEb p125): Allows you to maximize your inflict spells for free. This is a good low-level option for healing undead and/or yourself. It requires Maximize spell, which isn't a great feat at low level (and at higher level, you have harm). ***

Versatile Spellcaster (RotD): Turn your low level spell slots into higher level spells. Good for any spontaneous caster. ***

Necromantic Presence (LM): Good if you encounter a lot of enemy clerics with turning/rebuking. Despite what K's Necromancer Guide says, the benefit of this feat does negatively not affect HD control limits for rebuking as the benefit is granted after the turn attempt and turn resistance only applies during the attempt, not after. ***

Necromantic Might (LM): Decent feat if you’ve already got Necromantic presence. Good for army controllers, not as good as Corpsecrafter, but affects undead you control with rebuke or command undead. **

Improved Turn Resistance (LM): This isn’t a bad feat for the Necropolitans if the DM is throwing a bunch of Clerics against you. Its kind of hard to fit in, though, and it isn’t likely you will ever be controlled (unless your DM hates you). Take Lifebond instead (or both if your DM truly despises you, but you may want to find a new group at that point). **

Stiched Flesh Familiar (LM):
This feat is useless unless you are planning on Spellstitching your familiar, and then its awesome. Use it on a raven and you get to keep the great parts of a Raven(flying, speaking) and lose the dumb parts (+3 bonus to Appraise checks). The raven also becomes undead, which most likely makes it easier to heal.

Obviously, you aren't using it on a raven. K also pointed out that Spellstiching only checks Wis when you apply it, so borrow a pendant of wisdom for a day. Also, put animate dead on the list of spells they can cast, and you've circumvented the cost of animate dead yet again. Awaken Undead is another great choice. I don't rank this so high simply b/c you could pick a tiny (or smaller) undead minion, and do the same thing (keeping him safe until you need the ability). Spell-stiching is expensive enough w/o spending a feat as well (see the templates section for more info on Spellstiching, and the spell section for good spell choices). **

Battlecaster (CArc): Good feat for melee builds. At the most it is a +3 armor bonus to AC (Mithril Full-plate is +8, Mithril Breastplate is +5). **

Mounted Combat, Ride-By-Attack, Spirited Charge (PHB): You don't have Ride on your class skill list, but still, you should have decent Dex, and riding undead is one of the easiest ways to get around the lack of transportation spells on your spell list. Make sure you can get the minimum Ride modifier so that you can use your mount as cover as a free action whenever you can (get a custom item if your DM allows it). Good for very specific builds. **

Master of Undeath (CM): DN's get more HD of controlled undead than anyone else. You don't need this feat in the long-run. However, if you combine this w/ Illumian Naenhoon and Fell Animate, you can get more undead earlier than any other character. * normally, **** in specific builds for low-level campaigns.

Master of Necromacy (PGtEb): When you kill something w/ a [death] spell, it rises as a ghost your next turn for CL rounds under your control. It only has in-class skill prereqs and makes a decent filler feat. You can take it as early as 9th, but your first offensive [death] spell, Death Knell, isn't usually very effective at working well. Slay Living at 5th is better at doing it (the best targets are Cha based casters). As far as I know, this is the only way to get a ghost besides rebuking w/ this class (ghosts are very useful). You can only have 1 at a time and it doesn't gain the bonuses from Undead Mastery et al. Mileage may vary with certain builds/concepts. **

Weapon Finesse (PHB): This is a nice alternative for delivering touch spells and the Charnel Touch abilities rather than always having Spectral Hand up, but its ultimately a wasted feat in later levels. I took it w/ one of my DN's, and retrained it as soon as I was able. *



Dragon Feats



You have to be Dragonblood or Dragon to take these. They are not very useful, but Dragonwrought, while cheesy, can grant you several benefits.

Practical Metamagic (RotD): Great effect for some seriously metamagic dependent DN’s. Reducing Empower to a 1 level adjustment is pretty good for spells like enervate, but there aren’t many direct damage spells on your spell list. Fell Frighten may make it worthwhile. Great with Chain Spell. ***

Dragonwrought (RotD): If you must play a Kobold, this feat, as has been pointed out in a lot of threads, is awesome for casters. You play a Venerable Dragonwrought Kobold and get +3 to all your mental stats. Considering how important save DC’s are for the DN, this may make it worthwhile just to play a Kobold (and its funny: you could play Master Blaster and ride around on your undead ogres starting at very low level). You can't become a Necropolitan or a Lich if you take this feat. Make sure your DM allows PCs to be "older than dirt" for their race. ***

Accelerate Metamagic (RotD): Almost exactly like Rapid Metamagic (above). **

Dragon Wings (RotD): A great feat for gliding and jumping, and an opening feat for gaining flight without spells. Unfortunately, you don't need to be jumping most of the time and there's little point to gliding (get a zombie with wings). Basis for true flight combined with the next feat. *

Improved Dragon Wings (RotD): You can fly decently, but not as good as wings of flying. If you're somehow undead and can retain your dragonblood subtype you can ignore the fatigue drawback (which is only a problem before 12th level). If you've come this far with the draconic aspect, you may as well get the flight, but again a flying zombie or flying skeleton (eg: nightmare) is typically as good or better. **



Reserve Feats



I couldn't find too many good Reserve Feats that would help out a DN too much, which is a pity. Here's some that looked sort of interesting to me:

Sickening Grasp (CM): Again, stacking multiple touch spells with negative effects is really cool. By 6th level, you probably should be focusing on non-melee options, though. **

Acidic Splatter (CM): You have acid fog, and not too many direct damage effects. The fact that this allows you to have a default attack with no save may make it ok. I was almost tempted to try it out. *

Summon Elemental (CM): It won't improve much, but a small elemental is kind of neat. You'll have plenty of pets, already, though. Probably not worth a feat slot. *



Corpsecrafting



Corpsecrafting is a major function of the class. You need to decide if you'll be an overt necromancer during character creation, but if you are, then you need to take at least Corpsecrafter; the others are just extra gravy, really. These are all in LM.

Corpsecrafter (LM): This will not stack with Undead Mastery, except for the 2 HP/HD, for 4 extra HP/HD total (effectively +8 Con). The other Corpsecrafting feats are nice, but you have to get this feat first. A generous DM might allow Undead Mastery to count as the prereq for these, and this feat isn't horrible if you know the campaign will end before getting full use of Undead Mastery. (this was changed after paulung pointed this out) ****

Destruction Retribution (LM): If you want to melee, this feat is fun. If not, well, you aren't going to be next to the undead when they pop so much, and you could always animate hordes of suicide bomber kobold/cat skeletons that your blasting buddy sends fireballs into. Early on with early fell animate tricks you can get zombie cat bombs pretty easily. ***

Nimble Bones (LM): This is a nice effect to stack w/ Undead Mastery, for +6 to Initiative, but make sure to give standing orders to your mindless undead to attack ahead of time, or all that bonus may not mean squat. Bonus speed is always good, making this better for a mounted necro. **

Deadly Chill (LM): More damage from undead is great, but generally not worth 2 feats, plus, as K pointed out, cold energy resistance 5 ruins it. Obviously this is beneficial on creatures with many attacks, such as zombie hydras. Not usually worth a feat slot. **

Bolster Resistance (LM): This feat grants the same benefit as Necromantic Presence (above), but only to created undead and it doesn’t have a range on it. I’d only take it if you were planning on getting all of the corpsecrafter feats for flavor purposes and I would still recommend Necromantic Presence first. *

Hardened Flesh (LM): Increase your beasties’ natural armor slightly. As good as giving them all leather armor, but stacks with armor. Considering the cheapness of armor vs the cost of a feat, this is a truly poor choice except for flavor reasons. *

Conclusions: Corpsecrafter is worth taking, and probably Destructive Retribution and (maybe) Nimble Bones, but you better be focused on animation if you do this. Hardened Flesh (+2 Natural Armor) is sub-optimal and you’d be better taking Necromantic Presence over Bolster Resistance.


Feats for additional spells known



A major flaw with the DN is its extremely limited spell list. These all help with that but make sure you read every spell that is added before blindly taking these feats: you may not be getting that much out of it. Of these three, Corrupt Arcana is definitely the most powerful, but none of these are really important to making a great DN.

Arcane Disciple (CDiv): Nine more spells added to your spell list, but you need to have a decent Wis to be able to use them all or have a decent save. Suggested Domains: Competition (buffs galore), Craft (wall of stone, forcecage), Envy (wish), Evil (descrate, magic circle), Luck (miracle), Mysticism (buffs, better than Competition mostly), Necromancy (??), Portal (teleport, dimensional anchor, gate, etherealness) , Spell (disjunction, limited wish, antimagic field, anyspell, you don’t have domain slots for anyspell so ask your DM before taking it), Time (haste, freedom of movement, contingency, time stop and foresight as an 8th level spell), Travel ( fly, teleport, greater teleport, astral projection, Portal domain may be better). Other domains may be better for certain concepts, but remember to try pick domains with little/no spells with saves, so that you can avoid multi-attribute dependency. You need your wisdom to be 19 to get full benefit of this feat, so an initial wisdom of 13 with a +6 item will cover you if you aren’t concerned with the saves. ****

Corrupt Arcana (HoH, but need BoVD): It seems this feat was intended to allow the BoVD corrupt spells, some of which are really, really powerful (Evil Weather, for example). This feat is great to use if you are a Necropolitan (undead are immune to ability damage and drain). You could do it as a non-undead with Tomb-tainted Soul if you had Harm available, just harm yourself after the duration has expired. This adds 23 spells that you prepare ahead of time, some of which add a good amount of versatility. You need to pay a Wizard to write a spellbook of them, and then you cast read magic on them, then you need a decent Spellcraft check to prepare the spells. ** if living to **** if dead.

Mother Cyst (LM): Nine spells added to your spell list, that all need a touch attack and a 2nd level spell to even start. Meh. The effects aren't great. If you are that desperate for more spells per level, then you probably should be playing another class. Some people like this one, though, very flavorful. ***


Divine Feats



Turning itself becomes tougher to do as you increase in level, simply due to the stupid "you don't know what CR means" problem that polymorph and wildshape also suffer from. These feats give you something else to do with those turning attempts, but I don't think they're particularly great. DNs that want to focus on melee beyond 3rd level should take a serious look into these.

Profane Lifeleech (LM): Another great low-level feat, but weaker past 4th or so. ***

Quicken Turning (CD): A decent feat if you find yourself encountering a lot of undead. You turn first, then command / control those that are left. ***

Divine Vigor (CW): A better general feat, but you'll be able to heal through your spells so not worth it. Stacks with itself for cumulative bonus to speed and hit points. Speed bonus stacks with enhancement items. It would be better to take arcane disciple (Competition/Mysticism) to get buffed up, but this is a use for unneeded turn attempts. **

Divine Might (CW): A melee DN could get some utility out of this. I don't like the idea, though. *

Divine Metamagic (CD): Pre-errata, this feat would be really useful. Post-errata, this feat no longer works on Arcane spells (no official stars vs *** non-official on a metamagic build)


Metamagic Feats



I love Metamagic on all my casters. I've also played DN's w/ many of the ones below that I've ranked. Its whats worked for me; your experience may vary. There's a lot of threads dedicated to metamagics (here, and here, for example), but these are a few choices that I looked into (and took).

Maximize Spell (PHB): Maximized Enervations and Shivering Touches are awesome^2. Thats all there is too it. The problem here is that you don't have a ton of variable-effect spells. About as useful as Chain Spell, overall. ****

Chain Spell (CArc): Its expensive, but there's little more satisfation then chaining a bunch of weak fort save monsters with chained ray of enfeeblements. I love it, but its not considered a very efficient feat; still, the number of no-save spells on the list make it more attractive. edit: There's some debate about whether or not Reach Spell makes it able to be used on your touch spells w/ Chain spell. I call shenanigens on the debate, personally: if its ranged and has a single target, then it should be chainable. ****

Empower Spell (PHB): Empower is almost always better than maximize on inflict spells. ****

Practical Metamagic (RotD): An excellent feat for maximize, empower, and chain, decent on a few others. ***

Fell Animate (LM): Good feat to pick to get around the pesky animate dead spell. The best use is to use it with Chill Touch: then you go around poking creatures that are down until they rise from the grave. Still, I don't think its as significant as when other casters use it. (If your DM allows divine metamagic on arcane spells get this for zombies at low levels.). ***

Fell Frighten (LM): This spell is an exception to the other Fell spells. If you use it in conjunction with your fear aura, you can usually get your enemies to the frightened state automatically with low-level spells. If you can take a beating (as in, you're a Necro), then cast it on Chill Touch and run around haphazardly getting w/in 5' of enemies for a few rounds in a row and watch them run away. ***

Heighten Spell (PHB): I love this spell on spontaneous casters, just to boost DC’s. It isn’t overly good, though. ***

Metamagic Spell Trigger (CM): Useful to just about any caster. Lets you compensate for your very limited spell list. Patience will net you the same effect this feat gives. ***

Rapid Metamagic: (CM) I love metamagic feats, so I naturally think this is great. You need 2 metamagics to make it worthwhile, I think. ***

Residual Magic: (CM) This is a great feat. Take it on all spontaneous casters, I say (among others). I think you need 2 metamagics to make it worthwhile. ***

Smiting Spell (PHB2): Apply a touch spell to a weapon, then attack w/ that weapon w/in 1 minute. The effect of the spell is applied to the target. Slay Living, Ghoul Touch, Harm, etc. Use w/ alchemical weapons if you don't go for a full-ranged attack build. Also only a +1 level adjustment. *** (its about as good as reach spell, I think)

Reach Spell (CDiv): You have Spectral Hand on your spell list. Only useful to turn a touch spell into a viable chain spell candidate (or, in an emergency, to slap out a touch spell when you don't have time to cast spectral hand). I took it, but you probably shouldn't. **

Fell Drain, Fell Weaken (LM): Its a lot of duplicated effects to your spell list, and you actually need to damage the creature for it to work. Not really that necessary for a DN. **


Monstrous feats



If you’re playing as an undead creature you open up a few feats to which a living dread necromancer with tomb-tainted soul does not have access. Some of these are good.

Death Master (LM): Score a crit and scare your foe. Good on melee builds that have high-crit weapons. If they’re in your aura and already shaken when you score a crit they’re automatically frightened. No HD limit! No save! ***

Eviscerator (LM): For the truly fear-inspiring melee Dread Necro, this is better than death master and still has no save. Feat intensive, but better results than Frightful Presence. Also if you have multiple attacks and crit on all of them in one round everyone in 30' is very scared of you with no save. No HD limit! No save! **

Lifesense (LM): Free daylight from living creatures and nothing alive can hide from you! You know when invisible living creatures are around because they light up the area, you can see light shining from behind that wall because there is a living creature there. **


Item Creation feats



You have a limited spell list, so crafting probably won’t be very useful to you. You get Craft Wonderous Item at 19th, which is nice, and you probably wouldn’t have taken it otherwise (simply due to your limited list). Spell trigger items feel better than the others (Craft Wand, Staff, Scribe Scroll), but I have yet to take any of these. You could just have the feat and get another caster to produce the spell, but its party specific, and most players like to be more self-sufficient anyways, and if you were going to use this strategy then generic wizard crafting advice applies. There is one noteworthy exception, though.

Craft Contingent Spell (CAr): This feat is great since you don't have Contingent Spell. I like putting in Mind Jar for when I get reduced to less than 1/4th my HP, but Harm works, too, and a contingent command undead anytime you encounter another undead is neat, as well. Arcane Disciple (Time) can grant contingency as well as many other good spells. ****

The Early Life of a Dread Necromancer



Although melee is an odd path for a spontaneous arcane caster, the Dread Necro does it quite well for the earliest levels. Afterwards, you should start thinking about enhancing your spellcasting, and boosting your undead. The feat section has some advice about this, as does the builds section below.
Level by Level Breakdown by K
Dread Necromancer
First Level:
This is where you have to make the big decisions in build priorities. You have to choose your skills. One of these skills is going to be Intimidate (more on that later), and if you ever want a prestige class you'll have to start working on it now (You could do worse than working towards Divine Oracle by taking Knowledge: Religion, Wild Mage by taking Spellcraft, or Mind Bender by taking social skills). Otherwise you can get pretty much anything you want. Unless you're human or a human with glowing blue eyes, you're only going to have one feat. That feat is going to be Tomb Tainted Soul, because not having that feat is unacceptable. Finally, you get to choose a martial weapon - and in all deference to the really hot Asian necromancer picture, that weapon is under no circumstances going to be an axe. You are going to have proficiency with the composite longbow.

Combat at first level for a Dread Necromancer is nasty and brutish, much like it is for a Rogue. You'll try to keep things at range as much as possible because you're soft and squishy. When it does come to melee, you're going to dish out big damage. Your Charnel Touch is a touch attack, so it is substantially more likely to land than a sword attack from a ranger of your level (they have +1 BAB on you, but how many creatures have less than a point of armor and natural armor?), and depending on your DM's reading of the ability - may do more damage. The key is whether Charnel Touch is an attack action or a standard action, it is heavily implied to be an attack action but this is unclear in the text. You can combine a Charnel Touch with a touch spell such as Chill Touch (making you do as much damage in melee as a Rogue's Sneak Attack with a longsword), but your DM may rule that you have to spend a round "powering up," so ask before you get into combat.

You're still running in there with the crappy light armor you can afford (studded leather), and 6 + Con HP, so even your high damage output shouldn't trick you into getting into melee much. Of course, any combat you survive causes you no damage, as you'll just Charnel Touch yourself back to full life during even a minute of down time. Touching yourself is a standard action, after all.

Level 2:
There are no choices to make at all once you hit level 2. All of your skills advance, and you don't have any feats or proficiencies to select.

But combat is a whole new world for you, as you now have DR 2/ Bludgeoning and Magic. By this point you've probably gotten your hands on a masterwork chain shirt, and you're what passes for a decently resilient melee combatant. Your rebuking is now powerful enough to command basic skeletons, and your BAB is still only a point behind the fighters. So you still dish out the pain like a Rogue, but now you're survivable - so run in there and start slapping people.

Level 3:
There is a very large choice at this level: your new feat. The obvious choice is to just take Arcane Disciple every feat from now until you've exhausted all the domains of your favorite god. I won't fault you for doing that, but you can also get some good effect out of Weapon Finesse (as it modifies touch attacks), and if you're thinking long term you might want to go for Mounted Combat as you will eventually be able to pull some tricks with undead warbeasts that are alarming.

Combat is pretty similar at 3rd level to 2nd, but the monsters are tougher. You won't have gotten noticeably better at melee (unless you took Weapon Finesse), but you now have the ability to pull a combat muligan - you are within 5 feet of yourself by definition, so if melee is turning against you a burst of negative energy will heal you and hurt them - that's all good.

Level 4:
Level 4 is where you start being a halfway decent caster, and your big character choice reflects that. You can dumpster dive throughout the whole of D&D and find any Necromancy spell off the Cleric or Wizard list from any book. Good choices include Lesser Shivering Touch (which can again be combined with Charnel Touch) from Frost Burn, and Faerun has a number of nice offerings such as Stone Bones, Spirit Worm, Death Armor, and Shroud of Undeath can all be pretty useful. The Spell Compendium is a good place to go shopping, but this is a very personal choice.

We're not even going to pretend that your "Mental Bastion" makes a difference, so combat is going to be livened up by your increased BAB and your second level spells. False Life is key, remember that your DR is applied before you lose temporary hit points, so you're pretty much the tank at this point.

Special Note: Once you attain 4th level, you will continue to accrue new spells known every 4 levels even if you take a +1 caster level PrC. Gaining new levels for the purpose of learning new spells is awesome for a Dread Necromancer.

Level 5:
There are no choices at 5th level, but this is where your intimidate finally pays off. A character with max ranks of Intimidate usually succeeds at intimidating things, and anything that gets into melee with you has to make a Will save or become Shaken (as written, you can jolly well just use the fear aura again and again, stacking up fear effects until your opponent becomes panicked or makes a Will Save, but we'll assume for the moment that your DM will limit you to one booga-booga a round), and if it works you can spend your action intimidating them, which stacks their Fear up to Frightened, so they lose their action running out of melee while you slap them in the back of the head. It's quite an effective "juggle" to use fighting game lingo.

Level 6:
This is a level where you get a feat, and that means that you have a lot of choices again. You could get Leadership, or Skill Focus: Knowledge Religion, or Death Blow (see below), or anything else you need to get into a PrC at level 9.

Combat doesn't change for you much from your new "ability". Scabrous Touch is pretty much crap, so it's not important that you have it (though you can combine it with your basic attack so it doesn't cost you anything). You can't use it to generate any of the good diseases like Ghoul Fever or Festering Hate unless you have a very generous DM. You're gonna throw in Blinding Sickness unless you want to try to kill an animal with Mindfire, but don't get your hopes up. Once again, your life revolves around the spells you just got. With Vampiric Touch and Death Ward, your tanking expertise is way up there.

Special Note: You can cast spells while using a Mithril Breastplate, so by now you should own one and wear it all the time.

Level 7:
You have only one choice at this level: your familiar. There are two good choices: Quasit and Ghostly Visage. The Ghostly Visage is the combat choice, because it makes you immune to mind affecting effects and uses your level as its Hit Dice to generate a save DC for a gaze attack that paralyzes your enemies. Quasit is the less-combat choice because it gives you Commune, unlimited Detect Magic, and can still hand out quite sizeable amounts of Dex damage and its 1/day fear stacks with your fear aura.

Combat has changed for you utterly. Your DR has become bigger and you have a familiar that accentuates your combat strategy greatly (either making enemies helpless as the Ghostly Visage is wont to do, or by adding Dex damage to the pile as the Quasit can).

Level 8:
Once again, you are stuck with choices. You select a new spell to go with your shiny 4th level spells. Shivering Touch is a dragon killer - 3d6 Dex damage will drop many enemies. But you're also going to probably want to de-emphasize your melee role now that you can make high quality flying mounts. Undead Mastery is high quality, because it makes your Control Undead ginormous. You also get a second Negative Energy Burst each day, but this is more for emergency healing than it is for harming enemies.

Level 9:
You now prestige class out, because there are no more good Dread Necromancer abilities for a long time.

Although I disagree that they absolutely need to PrC out at 9th, its all great advice.




Prestige Classes



You don’t want to stay in the Dread Necromancer class? Why? Perhaps you want to add cheese to it, maybe you want to be able to melee a bit better, maybe you want to cast divine spells too (why?), maybe you want to really confuse your allies by taking a few levels of Druid. Who knows, but Dread Necro can be taken all the way to 20th w/o hamstringing yourself; the extra abilities aren’t bad, and Lich Transformation is cool.

Good Drop Points



1st: You got rebuke undead. Combine w/ a level of Cleric for both Turn and Rebuke, if you’re Neutral (this is a Caelic idea).

2nd: You get DR 2, which is great, +1 BAB, and better saves.

6th: Fear Aura is king for melee, plus Vampiric Touch.

8th: (K’s dropout choice): You are an undead army monster, get the equivalent of Corpsecrafter plus, animate, dispel, fear, and black tentacles.

Other levels: you are reaching the point of diminishing returns past 8th, but that’s not necessarily a reason to drop out of the class on its own.



Good Prestige Classes to get into



Any full-casting prestige class is a good option. Greater than 1/2 casting progression but less than full should be considered only if its a really useful PrC. 1/2 Progressions should only be considered if the BAB is substantial. No casting PrC's should be ignored unless they're full BAB and have LOTS of cool abilities. This is just for power; if you have an interesting concept, then by all means go for it! As usual, Incanatrix is a really good PrC to take w/ lots of power, but more exotic (and, imo, more flavorful) PrCs could round out a character as well.



Full-casting PrC



Tainted Scholar (HoH): Do your DM a favor, and don't play w/ this class unless the whole campaign is already broken. You'll get increasingly powerful DC's on your spells without any negative side effect if you're a Necro. Just don't be tempted this far to take it.

Incanatrix (PGtF): Give up Transmutation (you have 2 spells from this school). Always powerful, and the extra metamagic feats could be used to get things like Twin and a few of the Fell feats, to get Twinned Enervations and such. Be aware that the errata has changed sudden metamagic such that you can't boost it past a level that you couldn't cast.

Shadow Adept (PGtF): Usually used for Shadowcraft Mages, all the benefits of the first 2 levels apply to Necromancy as well. It's an excellent PrC for dipping, but full progression give a Shield effect, Shadow Walk (remember, you have NO transportation spells as is), and Shadow Double which is awesome. It's tempting to take this PrC to termination.

Eldritch Theurge (CM): If you want to advance a Warlock / DN, this is the way to do it, and the DD from the Warlock is a nice addition to the DN. See the builds section for an excellent example from Bill Bisco.

Arcane Trickster (DMG): Its a weak class, but it does advance Sneak Attack. Typically used to finish out Arcane / Rogue / Daggerspell Shaper builds before Unseen Seer was printed.

Unseen Seer (CM): A two level class: you can't afford to reduce your caster level for all but two spells on your list.

Ultimate Magus (CM): DN is an excellent entry into this class. Combine with Master Specialist for full effect. I personally don't like the class, though: its kind of flavorless, if powerful. You won't be getting the Undead Mastery ability if you are optimizing for this PrC.

Abjurant Champion (CM): Undetectable Alignment qualifies you for this PrC, with which you'll gain no benefits other than raw BAB unless you take a single level of another arcane class, and apply the 5th level ability to it. Not a strong choice, IMO.

Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil (CArc): Dispel Magic as a 4th level spell gets you in as early as 9th. This is a great PrC that basically says you don't die. You have to take 3 feats that are pretty useless to the DN to get into it, though. I personally don't think its worth it, simply b/c you could spend those extra levels animating an extra 4 X Cha HD of creatures to stand between you and your enemies, but if you're in a really deadly campaign with lots and lots of spellcasting, go for it.

Wearer or Purple (FR:FaP): 10 level, full casting PrC. You gain some item crafting feats, some bonuses to your ride skill, a domain, energy resistances, and the ultimate ability lets you rebuke dragons and dracoliches. I believe it has D6 hp too. (sounds great, thx bonsai!)

Anima Mage (ToM): The Binder/Arcane dual progression class. Can be entered into with a single level dip into binder, and the improved Binding feat. This will net you some nice binder progression, with minimal caster loss. Even better, once you can make a pact with Tenebrous, your binder levels will stack with your Dread Necromancer levels for the purpose of rebuking. See the builds section for some ideas on this one.

Archmage (DMG): You'll probably have SF: Necromancy, so really its a 2 feat, and tough skll prereq prc. Arcane Reach will save you a round of buffing w/ Spectral Hand, and Mastery of Shaping is good as well. The others kind of suck. If Arcane Fire didn't require such a high level slot, it would be good, too.

Lord of the Dead: Full casting, undead and undead leadership requirements, gives animate dead as a [sp], and unholy aura at 5th level. Its only 5 levels long, too, making it a great PrC to finish out with.

Spellwarp Sniper: You have a ton of ray spells to add to this classes repetoire, but the most powerful ability (that to transform the spell into a save:none) won't apply: there are absolutely NO ref save spells on your spell list. Still, there may be some benefit to taking this in a roguish/DN mix.



Greater than 1/2 Casting PrC



Fiend-Blooded (HoH): The last level loses you one spellcasting level, and the benefits, although nice, aren't necessary. You get new spells that give some much needed diversity. 8 levels nets pretty good results. Its a little hard to qualify, though. paolung pointed this one out.

Pale Master (LM): You lose a caster level at the start, and gain Animate Dead for free once per day. Undead Cohort later for free. Its not particularly powerful, but really, really flavorful. There's a lot of love for this PrC. If you can hold out long enough, the Rod of the Dead at 75k gp grants Animate Dead at no further cost, though. I find the PrC of questionable merit, after Echo pointed this item out.

Dread Witch (HoH): A lost caster level at the start, but better DC's for your fear effects. Also, you get an extra aura as a fear effect that is pretty good. Probably not worth the lost caster level, though.

Recaster (RoEb): A really good 5 level class that grants similar abilities to Incanatrix. Really good, if you don't mind the caster level loss.

Renegade Mastermaker (MoEb): The idea of a Dr. Frankenstein that operates on himself as well as others, I must admit, is really cool. Ask Wizards recently said that its possible to make an Undead Warforged, so make your pick and try it out. You lose 2 caster levels, though, which isn't cool at all.

Daggerspell Mage (CAdv): Better than Arcane Trickster, if a bit feat intense. You can get in as early as 5th level. Gives Rogues an excellent way to deal w/ undead.

Nightmare Spinner (CM): I haven't looked in depth into this class, but it looks promising. The second level special ability is wasted, but the 3rd and 5th level effects look cool. Definitely for those DN's that are stacking fear effects as fast as possible.

Sand Shaper (Sandstorm): This grants you a ton of spells to your caster list at the cost of 1 level. A few levels of full casting can be had w/ some interesting abilities, but you don't want to lose all 3 caster levels by completing it.

Walker in the Waste (Sandstorm): You lose 2 caster levels, but gain the Dry Lich template for free at 10th, which is superior to a normal Lich, and a bunch of nice class abilities (including another stackable touch attack). You need the Heat Endurance feat (Sandstorm), the Southern Magician feat (RoF), and although there are enough necro spells to hit the spellcasting prereq using Expanded Knowledge, Arcane Disciple is the less intensive way to go. There has been debate about Southern Magician being able to qualify one for divine casting PrC's, but the requirements for WiW doesn't require the source to be divine, just the spell to be divine, so it appears to work, RAW.

Uncanny Trickster (CS): Lose 1 level of casting, but gain everything else, better BAB, 3 free tricks, and an extra use / encounter of 3 different tricks in 3 levels. It isn't a bad way to round out a build, and delaying Lichdom isn't a horrible idea if you know your group is going to last past 20th.

Magical Trickster (CS): Lose 1 level, get 2 free tricks, 1 free metamagic, at 3rd a "sudden metamagic" ability for metamagics w/ 4 or less spell level adjustment 1/day, and start being able to blow spells for extra uses of tricks. This is great for hidden/secret DN's, but the level loss sucks.


1/2 casting PrC



Scion of Tem-Et-Nu (Sandstorm): 1/2 casting, full BAB, temporary HP ability, and fast healing (sometimes) makes this a good gish PrC candidate. The prereq's are tough, though: Diplomacy 8 ranks is killer.

There's only a handful of these; I'll have to enter them later.



No casting PrC


You want to avoid these classes like the plague. There is one PrC, pointed out to me through PM, that is very flavorful.

Horned Harbinger (Faith and Pantheons): Fairly easy entry requirements, the ability to create undead as Sp abilities (animate dead, create, and greater create undead), Horns (WTF?) and the eventual ability to control 10 HD / level of undead (also some bonus feats and other abilities along the way, and it advances turning). Its 3.0 and only 3/4 BAB, though, but I can imagine a BBEG taking it to 10th. A PC might take it for a weird undead gish for a few levels (I can envision a Paladin of Tyranny going for the Animate Dead Sp, for example, after a few levels of DN for the touch and DR). The Animate Dead Sp comes at 2nd, so there's not much reason to do this over a Pale Master, imo.



Epic



There is no Epic progression currently for the DN, which is one of the best reasons to PrC out of it into an Epic-progressive PrC (Incanatrix, for example). If we bug Wizards about it enough, though…

The Rod of Excellent Magic is a great way to get around the XP cost of Awaken Undead and such.

Consider the Rainbow Servant PrC in epic: you'll get access to a bunch of domain spells, and even at the cost of caster levels, taking Practiced Spellcaster overcomes that drawback and won't cost you spell access, either. Some posters have argued that the 10th level ability would add all cleric spells to your spell list, but I'm not so sure ("access too" isn't the same as "adds to the spell list", and the section on what happens to classes that gain domains actually implies that they still have to learn them... meaning you'll never gain any spells from it). Talk w/ your DM about it before you commit 10 levels (argue that it isn't that powerful for 30th level casters or something).

A more sure PrC would be to take a Divine Crusader, or Ur-Priest, or anything that has its own spell list (or has epic progression).

Spell Knowledge, RAW, can get you spells like Wish and Gate. Both are nice additions.

If you are starting at high level, worship Vecna, and get the Vecna book relic from Complete Divine, as well as the feat True Believer to use it: you'll lose 2 Con but gain 2 CL every time you read it. Since you'll have null Con after becoming a Lich, its useful to get advanced CL (considering the DN has no epic advancement, this might be considered balanced, even). (RandomWizard pointed this out in another thread.)

Equipment by Level



Obviously, this is not an absolute list. Pick and choose your equipment to best suit your campaign and style. Format is level, total gold value, then equipment, and you would have everything from the lower levels as well.

Check out this link, posted by Phoenix, for some really good equipment that isn't listed below (cheap rings that grant desecrate, auras, and some other stuff thats all good). A wand of Giralon's Blessing can help a high level DN hold multiple Rods, if needed. There's also a trick with PAO in the combo section, but its cheesey. Also, there's this awesome Rite:
Bloodtouched Rite (PGtEb, p. 23)
A useful thing for a DN I found would possibly be taking the Bloodtouched Rite in the player's guide to eberron if you are in an Eberron campaign... permanent 2 points of constitution loss... but bonus hp = to charisma, +2 profane bonus against poison, stunning, disease, death effects, and energy drain, and a +1 effective cleric level if capable of rebuking undead. -trickydevl666

The bonus HP to Cha is absolutely awesome. This is the main reason that people try to play Walker in the Wastes; now you can buy a few levels of it. There's no reason that you couldn't do this, then become a Necropolitan. See this post:http://boards1.wizards.com/showpost.php?p=11260737&postcount=196.

A few other items from Tome of Battle
In particular, the lesser Diamond Mind Crown in the back of the book: there's 3 counters that allow you to replace a concentration check w/ each of the 3 saves 1/encounter. The crown also only costs 1500 gp, meaning that if your DM allows custom items, they'll only be 3000 gp slotless. The Fort save booster is the most important, w/ the Will being next in importance, if you are undead already. You have to meet the level prereq's for these: they go up to 3rd level, which means you can use all 3 at 10th.

**Note** Wand of Magic Circle Against (?) and Wand of Dimensional Anchor will add 2 spells that the spell list seems to be lacking when it comes to planar binding.

2nd: 900, Masterwork Ranged Weapon, Chain Shirt, Disguise Kit, Hammer & Crowbar, Healer's Kit, 3 flasks acid, backpack, Potion of Invisibility, 120 gp, optional: riding horse or dog w/ Military Saddle.

(remember, you probably want to pay to become a Necropolitan at 3rd: 3000 gp gone)

4th: 5400, +1 Chain Shirt, Hat of Disguise, Vest of Resistance +1, Silversheen, 470 gp.

6th: 13000, Mithril Breastplate +1, +1 Weapon, Novice Ring of the Diamond Mind(1500gp)[Mind over Body] (ToB), -80 gp.

8th: 27000, Handy Haversack, Deadwalker's Ring (CM), +2 Cha Cloak, 2500 gp worth of Black Opal, you'll need a safehouse in which to store undead (est. 2000 gp), Large and Small masterwork simple weapons for meaty undead to use (they don't retain armor prof's, though), 920 gp.

10th: 49000, Rod of Undead Mastery (LM), Vest of Resistance +2, Headband of Concsious Effort, 4000 gp

12th: 88000, Scepter of the Netherworld (LM), Rod of Defiance (LM), Philactery of Undead Turning, Horizon Goggles, 3000 gp. If you invested in UMD, start considering a Wand of Assay Resistance (CArc), or Polymorph as well.

14th: 150000, Banner of the Unliving (HoB), +6 Cha Cloak, Ring of Protection +2, Circlet of Persuasion, 500 gp

16th: 260000, Darkskull, +5 Vest of Resistance, Mithril Breastplate +4, Amulet of Natural Armor +2 (leave your Pendant of Undead turning off until needed), 2000 gp

18th: 440000, Ring of Protection +5, Winged Boots, Rod of Defiance (LM, thx JaronK), Rod of the Dead (Thx, Echo) 36000 gp

20th: 760000, +5 Cha Tome, Amulet of Natural Armor +5, 161500 gp

contributers: jameswilliamogle, K (indirectly through the handbook), cyberpunks, Echo_That_Pains



Equipment for your Undead



Zombies and skeletons keep all the weapon proficiencies they had in life, but not the armor or shield proficiencies. There's a few different routes to equip your minions. Instead of writing out all the equipment for every combination, here's some general strategies instead.

Phalanx: Animate about 1/5th of your undead as zombies, the rest as skeletons. You equip the zombies with tower shields, and studded leather, and shortspears. You arm all your skeletons with slings and javelins. The zombies stay on the perimeter of the skeletons, using the full defense option (granting those behind them concealment). The skeletons fire ranged weapons out the phalanx. The skeletons could also be armed w/ longspears. The strategy is particularly effective in indoor environments.

Skeleton Tripper: Once you start animating large or larger sized creatures, you could equip them w/ spiked chains. Sure, they probably won't have EWP: Spiked Chain, but they'll only need to make touch attacks to start the trip. Size modifiers and strength modifiers will really keep them tripping.

Zombie Melee w/ Skeleton Archers: Zombies have DR 5/Bludgeoning and Slashing, so shortbows will only do, at most, 1 point of damage. If you have more undead than you know what to do with, send the zombies forward in waves as the skeletons fire arrows into them when they engage in melee. Even w/o precise shot, you are greatly favoring your odds.

Army strategy: When you get enough undead that you can make multiple divisions, you should look into Awakening some. Typically, you should keep track of every humanoid creature you (or your party) kill up to 8th level, going back to animate the toughest opponents (they'll have the most feats). Awaken them, and then you can have them lead the mindless undead in phalanxes and such. You should equip these soldiers in Scale Mail, at least, as its the cheapest you can get for the AC.

need help w/ this one...

Builds

Build Format
Here's the Format I'd like to follow:
Name of Build or blank
Author of Build
Class(s) and level(s) on one line
Race and template on next line
blank space
Feats by level
1 feat, feat(b for bonus)
3... etc.
blank space
quick summary of what makes it cool.

Secret Dread Necromancer
by jameswilliamogle
Dread Necromancer 20
Necropolitan Strongheart Halfling (no reason not to be Human, except the +1 AC and to hit is really nice early on)

1 Spell-Focus: Necromancy, GSF: Necromancy
3 Weapon Finnesse
6 Heighten Spell
9 Chain Spell
12 Spell Penetration
15 Extraordinary Spell Aim
18 Greater Spell Penetration

This was the DN that I first started playing. I had higher than necessary Int, and used Disguise to confuse the heck out of my party, which was a lot of fun. Chained Ray of Enfeeblements are simply awesome. Extraordinary Spell-Aim was extremely useful for helping out melee types. The Quasit familiar really kicked butt in Wolf form, and was also a lot of fun. I only did the minimum animating with this character; I wasn't trying to make the DM's job harder, nor make my turns longer, but I would animate, then have the undead bury themselves all over the country, just in case an emergency army was needed (I played this character as Lawful Neutral). This character was a lot of fun to play, and its why I fell in love with the class initially. You noticed I didn't take any Corpsecrafting feats: this was strictly for RP reasons, as I didn't utilize any undead minions at all until the upper levels, and liked my party not knowing who I was.


A few rough outlines from Bill Bisco:
Dread Necromancer 9/ Ur-Priest 2/ mystic Theurge 8/ Dread Necro 10 (I'm assuming into epic)
You get 9th level divine, 9th level arcane, Undead Mastery, and full 20th level rebuking. BAB sucks, but, hey, you wouldn't be playing a Dread Necro if that was a major concern, is it?

Dread Necro 2/ Binder 1/ Anima mage 10/ Dread Necro 3-9
11th level Binding, 9th level arcane. Some great synergistic effects if you pick some divine feats w/ Tenebrous. Also allows you to avoid going Necro, w/ Acerak (I believe thats correct...). You also can get free Persistants too (although there isn't too much to persist that's really worth it...).

Dread Necro 8/ Warlock 3/ Eldritch Theurge 9
8th level casting, 12th level warlock abilities gets you Greater Invocations. I'm not too sure which Invocations synergize that well w/ DN as a base class, but the ability to apply spells like harm and/or slay living to your invocations makes ET really, really hot.
thanks, Bill!


Power Necro
Dread Necro 8 / Shadow Adept 2 / Incanatrix 10
Necropolitan Human

1 Iron Will, Corpscrafter (b)
3 Weapon Finesse
6 Shadow Magic
9 Chain Spell, Tenacious Magic (b), Insidious Magic (b), Pernicious Magic (b)
11 Fell Frighten (b)
12 Spell Focus: Necromancy
14 Fell Drain (b)
15 Extraordinary Spell Aim
17 Twin Spell (b)
18 GSF: Necromancy
20 Fell Animate (b)

+4 to all Necro DC's, +4 to beat SR, and all the other great Incanatrix abilities, and gain all the cool DN abilities. Someone could probably do better on the feat selections, but this was just freeform.

a simple build
by AprenticeWizard
dread necromancer 8/sand shaper 10/dread necromancer +2

1 - improved initiative, tomb tainted soul
3 - empower spell
6 - touchstone
9 - rapid metamagic
12 - quicken spell
15 - twin spell
18 - fortify spell

You add a ton of spells to your spell list w/ Sand Shaper. This seems to be the main benefit.

Walker in the Waste DN
Roshomon (edited to make it RAW legal by jwo)

DN 8 (1-8)/ Shadow Adept 2 (13-14) / Walker In The Waste 10 (9-12, 15-20)

Human 1 Corpsecrafter
Level 1 Heat Endurance
Level 3 Arcane Disciple (Thirst)
Level 6 Southern Magician
Level 9 Shadow Magic
Level 12 (any metamagic)
Level 15 (free)
Level 18 (free)

You get additional Desicating Touch attack, the better Dry Lich template, salt mummys, sand golems, better spell penetration ability, and a few other cool abilities. The downside is that you lose 2 caster levels, and spent a ton of feats making it all legal.


Melee-specialized DN
by Roshomon

Fighter 1 / DN 8 / Abjurant Champ 5 / Eldritch Knight 6

Abjurant Champion advances spellcasting and has full BAB, but the abilities aren't really great for a DN (lack of abjurations, except dispels). You do get +16 BAB by 20th, and only lose 2 caster levels, though. I'd personally consider a spellcasting full BAB melee class instead of Fighter, though (Duskblade, Paladin of Slaughter, etc) just to increase your wand-use options.


Iconic Illumian Dread Necromancer
by Prototype00

LN Illumian Dread Necromancer 20

Sigil: Naenhoon (Allows you to use turn attempts in place of spell levels for the purpose of metamagic twice/day)

Feats:
DN1: Tomb Tainted Soul
Dn3: Maximize Spell
DN6: Corpsecrafter
DN9: Rapid Metamagic
DN12: Chain Spell
DN15: Residual Magic
DN18: Heighten Spell
DN19: Craft Wondrous Item

Abuses the 2 / day free metamagics from Naenhoon to get lots of nice combinations, like Chain Enervates and Finger of Deaths. At low level, taking Fell Animate will get you undead almost faster than any other combination (there is a Dragon mag Wizard alternate that can get it at 1st; these get undead at 2nd).


insert your build here :D!


Tricks and Combos


There was a cute idea in the DMG2 with a sample necromancer: keep your minions in a portable hole. The undead don't need to breathe, so you can keep as many in there as you can fit, and then hoist 'em out when you go into combat (if you should need to while you're in town).

Deadwalker's Ring + Undead Mastery + Corpsecrafter + Rod of Undead Mastery: Control (8 + 2 x Cha) X HD worth of undead via Animate Dead, they all have +6 HP / HD, +4 Str, +4 Dex. Ultimate control combination. More Corpsecrafting feats give that much more power. You could easily have over 700 HD of undead under your control by 20th level.

Awaken Undead + Dwarf, Elf, Kobold, et al.: A nice solution to low-skill parties. They regain all their feats and racial abilities, meaning the Elf gets an auto-search ability, the Dwarf can use Trapfinding as a Rogue with stone-set traps, and the Kobold can make traps like mad. There's lots of other races w/ lots of cool feats and abilities, and if you take out a crafting NPC wizard or artificer, you just hit the jackpot. Its debatable on whether they'd gain skills retroactively based on their HD (it proabably was intended, but the wording is unclear). SpC greatly nerfed this spell from LM, as it used to include all Extraordinary Abilities instead of just Racial.

Destructive Retribution + hordes of low HD undead: This is an oldie but a goodie. Use the minimum HD creature available (rats have 1/4 HD), and have them swarm your enemies. You then send in an AoE spell (or your buddy blaster arcanist does the same) to get d6 negative damage in a 10' radius for each creature that blows up, stacking massive amounts of negative energy damage. If you're Necro, you might as well go into the center of it, just to get all that in healing. At 8th level, using 1/4 HD creatures and a 18 Cha, thats up to 128d6 damage (at an onyx cost of 25 gp per 2d6). My advice: don't cheese the campaign; don't go below 1 HD creatures w/ this ability.

Magic Jar + Quasit Familiar: You put the focus on the familiar, cast the spell, then he goes invisible, flys through the dungeon, and when he sees enemies or when you sense lifeforce other than your familiar, you keep trying to switch until you get control. Then you either run through the dungeon as the baddie w/ the Quasit staying behind you, invisible, or wait there and attack the other bad guys. The more stealth the quasit has, the better. You could also simply gain control of one of your own undead, turning you into a veritable tank (up to +6 HP per HD, w/ items and feats, +4 Str, +4 Dex, who needs divine power?) after commanding it to fail its Will save (use your Disguise skill and a Hat of Disguise to make yourself look alive, if it would screw w/ the party). Remember, Magic Jar is NOT a [Mind] spell, and will work on most anything.

Riding undead: Although they're generally not that great to make, zombies retain all their movement speeds when animated. You can't get planar travel through one (as far as I know), but you can get really fast land (via skeleton), and decent fly, burrow, and swim speeds out of them. Depending on what level you are, you'll only have access to a limited type of creature at any given time, and its DM controlled. Also, for creatures not usually suitable for riding, you'll have a -5 penalty on your ride check (and since ride is cross-class, this could be a big deterrant). Here's some picks (S for skeleton, Z for zombie):
note: I did not check the HD of these creatures (zombies can't have >10 HD, skeletons >20), so there's likely some ineligable creatures on the upper end (dracoliches can have more HD, see the Draconomicon for details).
Low level: Warhorse S, Ape S, any Young Z dragons (if small), Gargoyle Z, Griffin Z, Rhino S, Medium Xorn Z
Mid level: Adult Dragon Z, Elder Arrowhawk Z, Triceratops S, Water Naga Z, Giant Octopus or Squid Z, Elder Xorn Z, Yrthak Z, Nightmare S, Bulette
High level: Cauchemer Nightmare Z, Bigger Dragon Z, Angel and Demon Z, the Tarasque Z :P

Shrink Item or Bags of Holding + dead creatures + Animate Dead: Perfect for that DN on the go, simply shrink the unanimated corpses of big creatures or store them in extradimensional spaces until you actually need them. Animate Dead is only a standard action to cast, so simply pull out the creature you need, and animate when needed. If you get a Portable Hole, you can store the more utilitarian creatures you animate for convenience (also a good place to put a Spellstiched creature for safekeeping).

Summon Monster 4-5 [Allip] + Magic Jar: Allips do d4 Wis damage every hit, and Mind Jar is a Will save. A very useful tactic, I found, to take advantage of large meaty creatures is to summon multiple Allips via Summon Undead 5 (for 2 rounds or so) followed by Magic Jar after the creature is reduced to 0 Wis. You can get some really, really powerful creatures this way (I would've gained control of a Guargantuan Fanged Dragon, 27 HD monster, if I would've communicated my intentions to the coup-de-gras machine Power Attacking Fighter before casting MJar, at only 11th level, although it would take a while to beat the creatures SR; it was supposed to be a deux ex machina situation, but I said screw it and went all out - we took out 2 of them this way).

Magic Jar + Undead minion = +6 HP/HD to +infinite HP/HD: Use Magic Jar on one of your minions. Your body is "lifeless". This means you can animate your own corpse (assuming Lifeless = Dead, for all practical purpopses), and if you have a deadwalker's ring and corpsecrafting feats you just gave your body and extra 6 HP/HD and +4 Str/Dex. Its unnamed, so cancel the spell: you keep your body w/ the extra HP, Str/Dex. Do it again: you get another 6 HP/HD. And again. Its stupid. The only problem is that you can't apply the zombie/skeleton template on an undead creature, so you need a way to become "living" again, either by resurrection or some-such (Thought Bottle comes to mind). If you have the other corpsecrafting feats, apply those attributes as well: the bonuses only check when the undead is created, not after. Best reason NOT to be a Necropolitan at the start.

Illumian Naenhoon (RoD) + Fell Animate (LM): This is almost certainly not a useful trick for high-level play, but it lets you start getting zombie minions starting at level 2 (or 3, if you'd rather have Tomb-Tainted) - it's essentially the Divine Metamagic trick with a lower buy-in. For players in low-level games who absolutely must have minions (and I have a feeling that in a siege-type game they will be invaluable) this is a viable trick. You need a 16 Cha to pull it off, but thats very viable in an all Cha caster (from BenSan: a great idea)

Beckon the Frozen + Mass Frostburn (Frostburn): Great way to heal your summoned undead and hammer a number of enemies at the same time. Great for the Cleric who wants to play an Uttercold Assault style, and good for the Dread Necromancer who can pick this as a spell known. (from Iry, but its older than that, I think)

Master of Necromancy + Master of Undeath (PGtEb, CM): Get a ghost when you use a [death] spell to kill something (via MoN), and designate it as the MoU creature. You need to turn it to control it, but its the only guaranteed way to get control of a ghost, and you can get a lot of them, potentially. Some DM's might nerf it so that both ghosts only last for CL rounds then vanishes (which nerfs the combo completely), or that the second ghost formed by MoU only is friendly for only CL rounds, then is unfriendly (which is ok, since you can control it then): talk to your DM ahead of time. (pointed out by Iry, but requires lots of DM interpretation)

Polymorph Any Object + Corpses + Animate or Create Undead: PAO a corpse of a kobold to a corpse of a ancient red wyrm. Animate Dead (using the Draconomicon rules for the Zombie Dragons) to turn it into a Zombie (no HD limit anymore). PAO might be able to add templates onto creatures, as well. Easiest way to get your customized zombie army on, but also pretty cheesey.

need more suggestions




Role-playing Tips
or how to convince the guards your stinky friend
really just needs a bath



You are eventually going to have to face a social interaction with characters that don't like the movie Reanimator, so you should be prepared to deal w/ them.

You don't have to animate that many creatures. Sure, you have the ability to do it, but do you really need all that extra headache? I played a DN that had only a handful of undead under his control at any given time.

You have Disguise and Bluff on your class list. There's few things funnier than convincing the guards that the 8' cloaked smelly guy next to you is a Monk that took a Vow of Silence. Alternatively, Disguise your Undead to be another race. Weirdly, you get a +10 on your disguise check when using Disguise Self, which doesn't go away when the spell ends, and there doesn't appear to be a duration on the Disguise skill itself, so in short, you can get a Hat of Disguise, a bunch of Disguise kits, take 10, and permanantly make your undead appear like living creatures (the only hitch is that the Hat of Disguise has to be activated by the undead creature). There is a high-level way to get around this: use Magic Jar on your own undead after commanding it to fail its Will save, then use the HoD yourself. You could easily rack up a nice 20's-30's Disguise check this way.

Speaking of Disguises, why not pretend to be a Druid? Seriously, get the Quasit Familiar, and have all the Disguise gear suggested above, and make yourself look like an inocuous Druid with a Wolf animal companion. I did this w/ my first DN, and had a blast confusing the hell out of all the other PCs (I guess the secret is out, now).

With the same DN, I also would sneak out at night (not needing sleep from being a Necropolitan), and animate the largest creatures we fought the day before, and animate them. I'd command them to bury themselves and wait for me. I'd do this all over the countryside, all the time, and never hit my animation limit. I was playing Lawful Neutral, and was generating an emergency army that I could put to defense if necessary (for the right price, that is). The DM decided that was in line with my alignment.

Master Blaster from Mad Max was one part giant man and one part mini-man: the little guy gave all the orders while riding up top, and the big guy obeyed. The PHB even has rules for riding non-quadrupedal creatures such as humanoids. You could take it one step further, if you are small enough: ride INSIDE the undead creatures. K had some great advice about getting flying zombies, burrowing zombies, and others, too, as they all retain their movement modes.

Water campaign? No big deal: use the Blackwater Taint combo at high level, and ransom the Queen's Navy or else they suffer a MINIMUM of 6 Fiendish Skeleton Krakens tearing their boats apart. At low level, become a Necropolitan as soon as possible: you are immune to fatigue and exhaustion, so you can swim as long as you want (also, not needing to breathe is quite handy). Zombie Dolphins can give you a hand, too.

Do you find yourself in a town with little to no corpses to animate, and little job prospects? Use the disguise skill (possibly w/ a Hat of Disguise combined w/ Magic Jar) to disguise your undead humanoids: they don't have to look perfect, just good enough to pass as living. Now, rent out your buddies as caravan guards! Give them the simple commands "follow [these people's] commands for seven days, then return to this spot regardless of what they've said". It would work better with awakened undead, but any should do. If you are in an evil aligned area, you could probably get away with turning it into a full-blown industry!

suggestions welcome!

Undead to Create



K had some good ideas in his handbook, but at the request of many, here's some more ideas.
(to be organized after a decent list is developed)

Skeletons are generally better than Zombies, unless you intend to use them as front-line fighters or as special transports through unusual terrain. I won't debate about Mummys keeping their class levels; needless to say, if they do, its worthwhile to turn just about every NPC you encounter w/ class levels into one (see LM for the "Mummified Creature" template for some RAW support for level retention).

Centaur Zombies: They still get double damage from charging w/ a lance (notice the ability isn't listed as a special quality, or anything, so it doesn't go away), and at 50' movement its still worth it. (whitishknight idea.)

Goblin, Kobold, Gnome, Halfling Skeletons: Skeletons make great ranged weapon fighters, and given the +1 to hit due to size they really can do a lot of good. They also retain Special Qualities of the base creature, assuming it improves its attack (ie, Halfling Skeletons get +2 to hit w/ thrown weapons).

Bulette, Thoqua Zombies: They retain their burrow speed, and could be hollowed out for an underground transport. The same could be applied to a lot of creatures.

Dragon, Pegasus, Wyvern Zombies: They retain their fly speed. See the bulette, above. K wrote a bunch about them; refer to his handbook.

Heavy Warhorse Skeletons: The main advantage is that they never tire. Its a good low-level option, and Heavy Warhorses shouldn't be too hard to find.

Shadows, Wights, Vampire Spawn: They can create others of the same type by various means under their control. Usually too high of a level for Create Undead to be useful, instead plan on summoning one of these creatures via Summon Undead and rebuking the spawn it creates for later use. Plan on using a move action to give non-standing commands when in combat. Easiest way to make an army. The Shadow is arguably the best of these: d6 Str damage on a touch attack can easily take down the mightiest warriors after just a few rounds.

Giant Stag Beetle Zombie: Has to be a zombie... but +10 natural armor w/ an additional +3 for size makes a veritable tank! You could add normal armor on top of that, too, if you wanted to get fancy. (whitishknight proposed using this along w/ a bunch of small goblin skeletons on top to make for a powerful combination.)

Hydras: All heads attack as a standard action, still. Totally awesome.

Dragon Zombies or Skeletons: They don't have a HD limit on the size of dragon you can animate, according to the Draconomicon. They also are different than normal skeletons and zombies, besides that: they don't retain ANY feats that help there attacks, unlike normal skeletons and zombies. Make sure you show the Drac to your DM, and they agree w/ you, if you plan on using them.

zombie or skeleton fleshraker dinosaurs from MM3. On a first turn charge they get full attack + poison + rake + trip + grapple + pin. and they're 4hd. (from whitish knight; note that the skeleton version won't have as many HD, but might retain the ability to full attack; you may have to awaken it to get pounce back)

dire tortoise from sandstorm might make a good artillery platform. it's special ability is it always gets a surprise round. will probably have to awaken it to get that ability though. 14hd means it'll have to be a skeleton though (and lose all that NA...), oh well. (from whitishknight)

Deathshead (ToM): Created by the Create Undead spell of CL 15-17 on a drowned giant. While that may be difficult to pull off, the rewards are well worth it. Its a small grappler, which sucks, but it has a +10 racial bonus. It also has Dominate Monster as the spell at CL 10 if it does manage to grapple at DC 19. That's 10 days of dominance. A great method to diversify your army; you should give standing orders to your intelligent undead to drown all giants they come across, and bring back you the corpses.

Mummies (LM): You might be able to convince your DM that the Create Undead spell to make Mummies should apply the Mummified Creature template to the creature, instead of turning it into the basic, dumb mummy in the MM (check out the wording of the "Mummy Character" section on the template for some evidence that this is what was intended). If so, every NPC will keep all its class abilities, feats, etc, and get a template making it better in melee, and be under your control. If you encounter an artificer, warlock > 12 w/ crafting feats, or a crafting wizard, woe be to your DM, as you just hit the jackpot for avoiding taking the crafting feats.

Allips and Shadows via Summon Undead: Each do ability damage, with no save, on a touch attack. If you face meaty bad guys, summoning 2 Allips is better than 1 Shadow, but if you face smart bad guys (most aberrations, for example), then 1 Shadow would be better. Also, you can summon a shadow and have it drain an innocent to 0 Str, then command the second shadow through Rebuking, which can get you a Shadow army pretty darn fast. Incorporealness also means that they aren't going to pop any time soon, and with Corpsecrafter, the Deadwalker's Ring, and Undead Mastery, they should have around 45-55 HP each. Vampire Spawn and Wights both can spawn undead for you to control, but both require regular melee attacks, so aren't as generally useful. Best location for your incorporeal spawn army: right below the ground you walk on.

Anything (PHB): Polymorph Any Object can turn anything you kill into anything else. Get your customizable undead army on.
Left to do:
start scouring the earth for builds.
put in a section on decent undead to work towards.
put in a section on riding undead.
Equipment i like for the DN:

Deadwalker's Ring[CM] (+2hp/hd)(replaces desecrate) 4000gp
Scepter of the Netherworld(Libris Mortis) 9000gp
Rod of Undead Mastery(Libris Mortis) 10000gp
Banner of the Unliving +2 Turn Resistance(HoB) 12000gp
Darkskull[DMG] (Unhallow) 60000gp
Wand of Divine Interdiction[SPC] Cleric 2
Looks like a good start. Personaly, I've never been a fan of extensive sblocks (and embedded ones for that matter) as I find it detracting and harder to search for things overall. But some folks like them, so different strokes for different folks.
Looks like a good start. Personaly, I've never been a fan of extensive sblocks (and embedded ones for that matter) as I find it detracting and harder to search for things overall. But some folks like them, so different strokes for different folks.

Thanks; I really liked the sblocks in NIN's handbook: it seems to differentiate the various sections very well. I'll probably finish this into next week, but I hope it becomes a living compilation.
jameswilliamogle
Geas/Quest: Cast it on your own undead

It won't work... undead are immune to mind-affecting effects.

Corpsecrafter: This will not stack with Undead Mastery.

The Str bonus won't, the +2 hp per hit die will though, making it potentially good if you use the other feats in the chain...
It won't work... undead are immune to mind-affecting effects.

fixed and edited. need to read the whole spell next time...
Good post-keep it up

A few questions/points:

Why don't people like Scabrous Touch? Since when is instant ability damage (with no SR allowed!) a bad thing?!?

A powerful PrC that I've seen and that keeps (or even adds more) flavor with the DN is Fiend-Blooded from the same book... You'll have to take Able Learner or obtain Knowledge: Planes somehow to get it at a decent level, but the abilities seem to be pretty compatible (and you get another "Advanced Learning" type ability!)


Regarding item creation, keep in mind that more than likely in any given group, you're not the only caster... and other casters can cast spells for item creation... and barring that, you can always pay to have a spell cast for creation. Therefore your own spell list doesn't really limit you at all in regards to item creation...

Regarding metamagic feats, what do people think of Black Lore of Moil?

Also, what are some recommendations (by level) for Advanced Learning? I know Necrotic Skull Bomb rocks, and there are a few other ones that I think are decent... any suggestions?
As far as PrCing with Dread Necro there's

Dread Necromancer 9/ Ur-Priest 2/ mystic Theurge 8/ Dread Necro 10
Dread Necro 2/ Binder 1/ Anima mage 10/ Dread Necro 3-9
Dread Necro 8/ Warlock 3/ Eldritch Theurge 9

A section on Roleplaying Tricks might be useful too. It seems that some Dms have problems with Undead walking around in town. One useful idea might be to make custom monk's robes for all your undead. Another idea that a player of mine came up with was to use a Clown Suit for all of your undead (several layers preferably) complete with a Clown mask so that they can still see.

A Dread Necromancer should always keep the option of Fell Drain open so that they can create Wights, perhaps even turn themselves into one. Use Command Undead on the Wights.
thx, all great suggestions. keep em coming; i'll be able to work on this more freely all through the weekend and and next week.
As far as PrCing with Dread Necro there's

A section on Roleplaying Tricks might be useful too. It seems that some Dms have problems with Undead walking around in town.

I find that the main minion often needs a ring of invisibility. (The other ring should be friend shielding, IMO)

Also, for your feats section: Arcane Disciple[Deathbound], for the Revive Undead(for your favorites) and Awaken Undead(for your REAL favorites)
Good post-keep it up Also, what are some recommendations (by level) for Advanced Learning? I know Necrotic Skull Bomb rocks, and there are a few other ones that I think are decent... any suggestions?

Thanks; I meant to put in a section on AKnow suggestions; I simply forgot to paste it in. Its there now. I'll have to reread Nec Skull Bomb... edit: where the heck is it???

everything up to this point has been placed somewhere.
I'll have to reread Nec Skull Bomb... edit: where the heck is it???

It's in FR: Champions of Ruin, pg. 32

Basically 20 ft radius of d4 negative levels on everyone in radius... kinda "necromantic fireball" (shorter range)

There are a few good spells and feats in there...
The problem with that spell is that it also has "Fort Negates" so it really destroys the usefulness of the spell
Dread Necro 2nd/(Cloistered) Cleric 1/ Master of shrouds...2+

Nice little starter, granted you lose 2 caster levels to DN, but gain a caster level in cleric. but you do get 2 domains and your rebuke undead is still maxed. (and you get extra rebuking) But the real benefit is yoou get to summon(shadows) @ 5th level!

Now a 5th level PC will have a magic weapon, but how many creatures that you come across have? so the shadow can go to town....
Blech, you know...I hate to be such a pessimist but, it really draws from the fact that this is a very well oriented and written handbook that you have everything in so many sblocks.

I'm kind of partial but, take a look at my Planar Shepherd Handbook thread (in my siggy of course) for a "guide" on what I feel is the standardized handbook. It's just easier to read and, the "find" function works whereas in a handbook with sblocks, you really have to work hard for some stuff.

Otherwise, this is a great handbook!!!

-=TD=-
ok, fair enough (second comment as such)... how do i delineate spaces and such, as you have? (not too familiar w/ html or anything, but i think i can do it...)
A section on Roleplaying Tricks might be useful too. It seems that some Dms have problems with Undead walking around in town. One useful idea might be to make custom monk's robes for all your undead. Another idea that a player of mine came up with was to use a Clown Suit for all of your undead (several layers preferably) complete with a Clown mask so that they can still see.

There was a cute idea in the DMG2 with a sample necromancer: keep your minions in a portable hole. The undead don't need to breathe, so you can keep as many in there as you can fit, and then hoist 'em out when you go into combat (if you should need to while you're in town).

Another possibility that might be worth looking into would be the necromancer specialist variants in Unearthed Arcana (I'm thinking the one that lets you trade your familiar for a skeletal minion), or the "Death Master" class from the Dragon Compendium. Might be some helpful synergies there.
Not familiar w/ the dragon compendium at all... is there a link, or a link to a source where i could purchase?
ok, fair enough (second comment as such)... how do i delineate spaces and such, as you have? (not too familiar w/ html or anything, but i think i can do it...)

I find most of that formatting stuff a little daunting as I have little experience with web design/html/etc, but it's not *too* bad if you experiment a little bit. Find any thread that has lots of fancy formatting, then click on the "quote" button in the relevant post. That will show you all the coding that went into it.
Which book is Dread Necromancer in?
Neceros' Character Sheets
Many sheets for many systems.
Which book is Dread Necromancer in?

Heroes of Horror.



i always found taking ranks in UMD to be good, sure its cross class but it runs off charisma, and can help with the lack of versitility issues...
Which book is Dread Necromancer in?

Heroes of Horror.

EDIT: Bah, beaten already. It's too early here for me to function well...
a simple build :
dread necromancer 8/sand shaper 10/dread necromancer +2

1 - improved initiative, tomb tainted soul
3 - empower spell
6 - touchstone
9 - rapid metamagic
12 - quicken spell
15 - twin spell
18 - fortify spell
The problem with that spell is that it also has "Fort Negates" so it really destroys the usefulness of the spell

That's when you cast it on a bunch of enemy spellcasters who (typcially) don't have stellar fort saves and watch them cry when they lose entire levels of spells...

Also, another good reason to have SF & GSF: Necro as feats...

More than likely, they won't ALL make their saves ;)
I think its still a great spell

edit: the reformatting is going to be a daunting challenge; I think I'm going to first flesh out as many sections as I can, then work on making it prettier. If anyone has any suggestions to go about doing that, I'm all ears.
Ray of Weakness (Advanced Learning) + Acid Fog: Acid Fog reduces movement to 5' as Solid Fog, and Ray of Weakness gives a blanket -10 to movement. You could keep an opponent immobilized for a long time, taking damage the whole way. Neither spell allows a save.

Doesn't quite work that way. Any character can always move 5 ft no matter how slowed their movement rate is so long as they are not specifically paralyzed. 5 ft is the minimum that a movement rate can be reduced to.

See the D&D FAQ in the section asking about the grease spell. (Pg. 58 as of the 2006-11-26 revision):

Could a person use a full-round action to move 5 feet through difficult terrain as a way to get out of the area of a grease spell without making a Balance check?
No. This action (described on page 144 and page 149 of the Player's Handbook) simply represents the fact that no matter how diffcult the terrain is (or how slow your movement as become), you can still move 5 feet each round.

In particular, the note on minimum movement on page 149 of the PHB is the key note here.
Necropolitan is mensioned multiple times. Is this a race, prc, or feat? Where is it and how do I "Pay gold and exp" to turn into one.

It seems one can do Necropolitan or Tomb Tainted Soul.
Necropolitan is mensioned multiple times. Is this a race, prc, or feat? Where is it and how do I "Pay gold and exp" to turn into one.

It seems one can do Necropolitan or Tomb Tainted Soul.

Libris Mortis template, page 114.
It makes you a +0 LA no frills Undead creature, great deal fo Dread Necro.

Tomb Tainted Soul does precisely nothing for undead, so yes.
Thanks TC.

I read up on it, and apparently the best time to do the Necropolitan ritual is at third level. This will cost you 3000 exp and 3000 GP.
Fixed the spell section w.r.t. acid fog + row. I didn't check the SRD, but I trust you.

Added a races section, including the necro and some lich commentary. does anyone else have some good ideas for feats?
If you're willing to take 3 useless feats (maybe a 4th for Arcane Disc., but I don't remember if the DN list has enough Abjuration spells), a DN qualifies for Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil at 10th I believe.

Does anyone else find it kind of weird that the DN gets Dispel Magic as a 4th level spell, normally 3rd level, but has Greater Dispel as a 5th level spell, normally 6th? Was errata ever released?
If you're willing to take 3 useless feats (maybe a 4th for Arcane Disc., but I don't remember if the DN list has enough Abjuration spells), a DN qualifies for Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil at 9th I believe.

Does anyone else find it kind of weird that the DN gets Dispel Magic as a 4th level spell, normally 3rd level, but has Greater Dispel as a 5th level spell, normally 6th? Was errata ever released?

I'll add Iot7V in a bit. I'm pretty sure they're working on an errata.
The Dread Necromancer has Planar Binding on its class list, which requires a magic circle spell, which is not on his class list. How is he supposed to cast the spell? Was this an oversight?


Hi there James,

Thanks for the great feedback! While the rules are silent and there is no errata regarding this issue, we’ve passed this along to the good folks that make the games and hopefully we’ll see some errata covering this situation soon. Until then, it is up to your Dungeon Master to determine how he/she wants to handle this particular situation in their campaign.



Take Care and Good Gaming!

Great handbook so far. Here is a few more suggestions.

PrC's

Wearer or Purple (FR:FaP): 10 level, full casting PrC. You gain some item crafting feats, some bonuses to your ride skill, a domain, energy resistances, and the ultimate ability lets you rebuke dragons and dracoliches. I believe it has D6 hp too.

Anima Mage (ToM): The Binder/Arcane dual progression class. Can be entered into with a single level dip into binder, and the improved Binding feat. This will net you some nice binder progression, with minimal caster loss. Even better, once you can make a pact with Tenebrous, your binder levels will stack with your Dread Necromancer levels for the purpose of rebuking.

Spells

Ghoul Gauntlet (LM): Make a touch attack, and if they fail their saves, they take damage every round till they die, and become a ghoul under your control. Flavor wise this is tops, but also it is one of the few spells that let you automaticly command intelligent undead.

Avasculate (LM): automaticly halve a living creatures hp. The bigger the creature, the more potent it becomes. No saves for that effect either.

Revive Undead (LM): If you are a Necropolitan or lich, use this, and craft contingent spell. You can now rez yourself. In theory, you can use this to bring yourself back as a lich, even if your phylactery is destroyed. Also nice to bring back your favorite minions... especially one you spent a ton on spell stiching.
Great suggestions!... except for ghoul gauntlet. That spell, RAW, reduces the total number of creatures you'll be able to control. K's necromancy thread had a big section about this.