[FONT="Comic Sans MS"]Treantmonk's Guide to Wizard Spells: God's Tools - Part 4: Necromancy[/FONT]
In this thread I will break down necromancy spells spell by spell - which are underrated, which are overrated (All IMO - this isn't Gospel - only the Gospel according to Treantmonk)
More threads will come - detailing spells from the various schools of magic. However, there is no timeline (nor will I likely continue once 4E hits the shelves)
To the readers: If there's a spell you think I should look at - post it and I'll include it in my guide - though be pre-warned - I do not guarantee I will hold the same opinion as you.
Sources: I use PHB, PHB II, Complete Series, and SpC (these are both the books I own, as well as those allowed in the campaigns in which I play) - so all the spells listed are from those sources. (these guides are not completely unselfish - I reference them periodically with my own characters)
There are lots of gems in various other sources - but I've found there are lots of good spells to round out your spellbook in the sources used. By all means, if you would like to highlight a spell from another source - post it in a reply (along with the source and the specs) for the readers to reference.
Kinds of Spells: This is how I break down the types of spells...
BC: Battlefield Control. This is the spells that involve impeding movement of your opponents - aiding movement of your allies, or in any other way treating the world as your own personal chessboard.
Debuff: Debuffing is anything you cast on an enemy to impede his ability mechanically. Lowering of attributes, Blinding, Sickening, or scaring the living crap out of. Debuffing - as the name would indicate - also includes removing any buffs your enemy might have.
Buff: Buffing is improving the abilities of your allies mechanically. Whether it be through giving them extra attacks, better AC, or merely providing them a flanker. The nice thing about buffs is they likely won't involve saving throws.
Blast: A Blast is a spell that does HP damage to your opponent. Blasts are a pretty basic part of any Wizard's toolbelt - but IMO make a poor central focus to any Wizard. My suggestion is to cast Blast spells when you have nothing really useful to do.
Utility: These are those spells that have uses that aren't necessarily related to combat. Often utility spells can be useful in combat - but more circumstantially.
Save or Die: These spells give you a saving throw - or you're dead (or effectively dead). Personally, I don't like these spells - since they tend to target Fort - and are higher level then spells which can give you the win without avoiding the fun. You are usually better with a debuff if you like this style of spell.
Multiple Threat: A spell that covers more than one of the above at a time is a multiple threat spell. For example - a spell that does damage as well as impede the enemies movement would be a double threat (BC + Blast), while a spell that does damage, impedes the movement of the enemy, gives them mechanical penalties, and gives your allies bonuses would be a Quadruple threat (BC + Blast + Debuff + Buff). By the way - if you know of a Quadruple threat spell - let me know!!!
[b]Rating the spells:[/b]
After breaking down the spells, I will self-righteously give them either the Treantmonk stamp of approval - or the stamp of the foot, oversimplifying the use of each.
: This spell's a Turkey. Not worth having in your spellbook at all.
:thumbsdow : Not all bad, but not good enough for me to recommend
* : Run of the mill. It's OK, but nothing special
: The spell is solid. I recommend it
: This spell is highly recommended
:evillaugh : YES!!!!!
[FONT="Comic Sans MS"]Part 4: Necromancy[/FONT]
Necromancy is a school I usually drop with a specialist wizard, and my suggestion has always been that necromancy is a good choice to drop, and it is also a good choice for specialization depending on the style of wizard you are playing.
Necromancy is best known for debuffs, usually delivered through touch or rays, and either have no save or target Fort. After going through the spells, this generalization isn't bad when it comes to accuracy. Necromancy is not limited to these things, but most spells do seem to fall in those categories.
I've always figured if you decide to make a debuffer who focuses on Rays you should go with a necromancer, pick up split ray, and go to town. Certainly that strategy isn't a bad one, though I was able to find a few gems that worked in different ways than the standard Ray debuff. Certainly the non-necromancer who keeps the necromancy school has some options.
So with no further ado – these are: Necromancy Spells you should consider for your wizard, and those you should pretend don't exist:
Ray of Enfeeblement (PHB): (Debuff)::evillaugh No save debuff that provides a Str penalty of 1d6 +1 (per 2 levels) up to 1d6+5. The ranged touch can be challenging at low levels, but this spell levels beautifully, so you still want to be using it at mid level.
Cause Fear (PHB): (Debuff): Have opponent frightened for 1d4 rounds if they fail a will save or shaken for a round if they do. Doesn’t level well (up to 5 HD max) but a decent effect at low levels.
Backbiter (SpC): (Double threat: Blast/Debuff):* Have next attack of BBEG hit himself for full damage. 2 problems with this spell are: 1) Will save negates, 2) Duration is 1 round/level but the spell is discharged after 1 attack. Still, this spell is worthwhile to target a target with poor will save and huge attack or AC.
Death’s Call (CM): (Double threat: Blast/Debuff):* Spell bursts 10 feet around caster doing 1 point of damage/level (max 5) and fatiguing those who fail a Fort save. The 10 foot range is a problem (have to get close), the spell has enhanced effect for swarms. Personally, if I’ve got enemies or swarms in melee with me – fatiguing is not enough, however, at least the fatigue has no duration – which is good at 1st level. Spirit Worm (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow This spell does up to 5 points of Con damage (1 damage per round per level up to 5), but the limitations are pretty severe. First, it is a touch spell, secondly, it allows a Fort save every round – the spell ends if any of those saves are successful. So in order to do 5 Con damage – the creature requires 5 missed Fort saves in a row. It won’t happen, you’ll be very lucky to get 2.
Reaving Aura (CM): (Blast)::thumbsdow Swift action spell that does 1 point of damage to creatures between -1 and -8 HP, and kills those at -9. Way to circumstantial for me though.
Chill Touch (PHB): (Double threat Blast/Debuff): Touch spell that does mediocre damage and potentially one point of str loss. Even the one use per level doesn’t save this spell.
False Life (PHB): (Self Buff): A 1 hr/level self buff that provides temporary HP equal to 1d10 + 1/CL (max +10). This a a good deal that will remain a good deal for many levels.
Ray of Weakness (SpC): (Debuff): Ray that gives untyped -2 penalty to attacks at speed is reduced by 10 feet with no save. Solid debuff. Note that this spell does not state a minimum speed, which means if you cast it on something that has a speed of 10 or less (perhaps reduced by other means) then they do not move at all.
Stolen Breath (SpC): (Debuff): Sickens an enemy with no save for 1 minute. They can use a full round action removing the condition. Very solid debuff, and superior to Ray of Sickness in pretty much every way.
Scare (PHB): (Debuff): The next level of Cause Fear. Scare can effect multiple foes up to 6HD. This is a considerable powerup from Cause Fear making this a strong spell. It will level decently for a few levels then trail off due to the HD maximum.
Curse of Impending Blades (SpC): (Debuff): Target takes -2 to AC, which isn’t that impressive – however, the draw of this spell is that there is no to hit roll, no save, long duration, and medium range. To be used on the super tough BBEG.
Escalating Enfeeblement (CM): (Debuff): acts as Ray of Enfeeblement, except if cast at someone who is fatigued, exhausted, or already suffering a penalty, damage or drain to a physical ability – in which case it does 1d10+1/CL (max +5). Necromancers have many ways to fatigue/exhaust/drain abilities – however – the wording of this spell suggests to me that it would stack with other ability penalties to Str, at least RAI. However, by RAW it won’t. I like regular Ray of Enfeeblement for the level better I think.
Spectral Hand (PHB): (Utility):* Spectral Hand will deliver touch spells at range for an entire combat (even long ones), but not multiples. The ability to deliver touch spells at range is very good, but this spell will take you out of the combat for the first round (unless you have preparation time) which is a significant drawback. This spell will deliver spells of up to 4th level only, reducing the viability of quickened Spectral Hands at high level.
Desiccating Bubble (SpC): (Blast):* Much like flaming sphere – except does 2d4 instead of 2d6. However, one nice thing is that the damage isn’t energy damage so will bypass energy resistances. Blindness/Deafness (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Blindness or deafness (deafness???) effect if target fails a Fort save. Other than duration – this spell is a joke compared to Glitterdust which targets an area, targets a weaker save, and defeats invisibility as well.
Ghoul Touch (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow This debuff provides a Fort save (lousy) and requires a touch to deliver (lousy), one advantage is the sickened effect that can actually debuff multiple foes, but that only occurs if the original Fort save misses.
Command Undead (PHB): (Save or lose)::thumbsdow The difference between Command undead and Charm Person are this: Command undead is more circumstantial and is a higher level spell.
Shroud of Undeath (SpC): (Utility)::thumbsdow Make yourself appear undead to other undead so they won’t attack you (ho hum). Cure spells do damage and inflict heals you (potentially useful circumstantially). This spell just doesn’t scream useful to me.
Ghoul Glyph (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Sepia’s snake sigil for necromancers. As with sepia’s – the effect is incredibly circumstantial.
Wracking Touch (SpC): (Blast)::thumbsdow Lousy damage from a touch attack. A Necromancer gets little from this spell. However, for Rogues, this spell automatically applies sneak attack damage. My next UMD rogue is definitely getting a Wracking Touch wand.
Bonefiddle (SpC): (Double threat: Blast/Debuff)::thumbsdow Target takes 3d6 sonic damage per round and a -20 to Move Silently checks. Lasts up to 1 round/level (Concentration). Again, a successful Fort save (which is granted every round) ends the spell. 3d6 blast that is completely negated by a Fort save is unimpressive – even with Sonic damage.
Death Armor (SpC): (Blast): Yawn. Standard action, 1 round/level spell that does lousy damage to those who strike you in melee with non reach weapons. Terrible.
Ray of Sickness (SpC): (Debuff): Ray spell that sickens target for 1 round/level. Sickening is not enough of an effect to be worth the ranged touch. Compare to Stolen breath – this spell requires a to hit roll, and lasts a shorter duration, and has a shorter range. Yuck!
Life Bolt (SpC): (Blast): Blast spell that does moderate damage to undead – nothing to anyone else – oh except for you, you take nonlethal damage (1 to 5 points based on CL). Horrible, horrible spell. Extremely circumstantial – and when that circumstance arises – it’s OK at best.
Spawn Screen (SpC): (Utility): Should the subject of this spell perish over the duration by the hands of spawn creating undead (like a wraith), you don’t rise as spawn – you’re just dead. Hooray!
Ray of Exhaustion (PHB): (Debuff)::evillaugh Make a ranged touch attack, and if your opponent fails their Fort save they become exhausted (nasty condition including -6 to Str and Dex and ½ movement), if they make their save they are still fatigued (semi-nasty condition including -2 to str and dex, no running or charging). If you hit someone who made their first save with a second ray they will be exhausted with no save. This spell also sets up an opponent for Escalating Enfeeblement. I’m a fan of spells that hurt you even when you make your saving throw (and mettle is pretty uncommon).
Curse of Impeding Blades, Mass (SpC): (Debuff): Take the decent Curse of Impending Blades and have it affect enemies in a fireball sized burst. You need to be facing multiple high AC enemies for this spell to be worthwhile – but in that case, it will be awesomeness. Halt Undead (PHB): (Debuff): Like Hold Person for undead except that it will affect up to 3 undead with one casting and unintelligent undead receive no saving throw. Definitely a solid spell in any campaign where undead are moderately common.
Undead Torch (SpC): (Buff): 1 undead/level does 2d6 extra damage to living targets for 1 round/level. If the undead creature is destroyed – living creatures moving through that space take 2d6 damage for the duration as well. I’m not a big fan of animate dead necromancers – but this is a pretty solid buff for a bunch of fodder.
Skull Watch (SpC): (Utility):* A permanent Alarm spell. I question whether the Skull can be moved or not. If it can, this could be a very useful single-cast utility spell. If not, then I would stick with Alarm.
Vampiric Touch (PHB): (Double threat Blast/Self Buff):* Touch your enemy and they take damage (1d6/2 CL, max 10d6) and you receive temporary HP equal to the damage for 1 hour. There is no save, but the damage isn’t very good and it must be delivered by touch. Unless you have Sneak Attack or some other method to significantly improve the damage – I don’t really see the point.
Disrupt Undead, Greater (SpC): (Blast):* Take a cantrip and make it do a bit more damage and you have Disrupt Undead, Greater. Undead take 1d8/level (max 10d8) from a Ray. The damage is decent for a 3rd level blast, but it is circumstantial.
Healing Touch (SpC): (Buff):* Heal up to 1d6/2 CL with a touch. The drawback is you take ½ that damage yourself. Leave healing to the Cleric, Druid or Bard...really. Junglerazer (SpC): (Blast):* 1d10/level (max 10) damage to Fey, Vermin, Plants and Animals in 120’ line. Like Greater Disrupt Undead, the blast damage is solid for the level, but the targets are circumstantial.
Mind Poison (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Touch spell does 1d10 Wis damage now and another 1d10 in one minute. Here’s the large drawbacks: It’s a touch spell, victim gets a Fort save for each to negate. If you are using a 3rd level debuff that targets Fort, it better affect several targets to play the odds (ie stinking cloud). The DC is 10+Ability mod+1/2 CL. This will likely result in a similar DC to other 3rd level spells when you get this spell – but it will level with you. However, when you target fort on a single target, you are playing with fire. This spell will burn you.
Spider Poison (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Like Mind poison except targets Str (and only does 1d6 damage). DC works in the same way. This spell should be avoided for the same reason.
Prickling torment (CM): (Debuff): Sucks. Target makes Fort save or suffers a mediocre debuff (technically blast too, but I hesitate to give such crap the title “dual threat”. Terrible.
Enervation (PHB): (Debuff)::evillaugh A highly touted spell that is likely worth its reputation. Hit the opponent with a Ranged touch and they take 1d4 negative levels with no save. Negative levels give you minuses on pretty much everything, including saving throws. Keep in mind that a single hit with this spell is a mild (if wide ranging) debuff, not a total enemy destroyer. Sometimes the way this spell is described it is easy to forget that a strong opponent hit with this spell is still tough - just less so. However, the effects are wide reaching which adds versatility to to debuff, and also, the effects stack, making this a strong Split Ray candidate.
Fear (PHB): (Debuff): The next step up from Scare – this time a Cone of 30ft is targeted (which is a significant step down from Scare), and there is no HD limit. Like the other fear spells, this spell is solid.
Burning Blood (SpC): (Double threat Blast/Debuff): Target a single creature, for 1 round/level they make a Fort save. Any round in which they fail their Fort save they take 1d8 fire and acid damage, and they can only take a move action. Making your save doesn’t end the spell. I love spells that keep screwing your enemies for rounds after the spell is cast. If making your save once ended this spell – it would ruin it. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Animate Dead (PHB): (Utility):* Create Zombies and Skeletons. Zombies and Skeletons pretty much suck, but they can block squares in front of you. They however are pretty squishy for the 25gp/HD price you pay to create them. If you go down this route, be prepared to replace destroyed undead very regularly.
Finger of agony (CM): (Double threat Blast/Debuff)::thumbsdow For 3 rounds the creature takes 3d6 damage and is nauseated. On a successful Fort save the damage is halved and the condition reduced to sickened. Not a terrible spell, but probably too high a level for the effect.
Horrid Sickness (CM): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Multiple targets are nauseated if they fail their Fort save for 1 round/level. After the first round, a second save can reduce the effect to sickened (move action for a chance at a save – you do get a move when nauseated). More precise than Stinking Cloud with a somewhat lessened effect. This should probably be an equal level to the aforementioned.
Bestow Curse (PHB): (Debuff): Touch spell that targets Will or you take a sizeable penalty to any number of things chosen by the caster. The “Will Negates”, and “Creature Touched” parts are a big problem.
Contagion (PHB): (Debuff): Make a touch attack and the opponent fails a Fort save (notice two problems with the previous sentence? Me too.) and the opponent is struck with a disease of the casters choice which will cause some mild attribute damage. The disease carries on should you actually cast this on someone you don’t intend to kill in the short term.
Touch of Years (CM): (Debuff): Basically another form of Contagion – requiring a failed Fort save and a successful Touch attack. The ability drain is a bit higher than Contagion, but the same lousy parameters apply (touch, fort save negates). Yuck.
Seed of Undeath (CM): (Utility): Ho Hum. A limited way to increase the HD limit of controlled undead (by your HD), but more difficult to set up (must be cast on target as a full round spell before their death). If you are huge into raising undead, this is a no-brainer even if not overly potent. For everyone else – this is inferior to Animate Dead in every way (including a 1 day/level duration).
Spiritwall (SpC): (Triple threat Blast/BC/Debuff)::evillaugh Cast a dome around your enemies and have them make a will save or flee for 1d4 rounds (through the wall) – then they will take 1d10 damage and Fort save or take a negative level. The wall cannot be seen through – provides cover, and blocks line of effect. You can also have the dome around yourself (and allies) and have the affect focused outwards – or you can just make a wall and have the affect focused out the side of your choice. Versatile, triple threat, oh yeah...
Magic Jar (PHB): (Umm...save or die?)::evillaugh Cast this spell and put your soul into a gem, then as a full round action, possess one of your foes (Will save negates) and have him attack his buddies. Then when your host dies, do it again, and again – you get the picture. One possible scenario is you cast the spell early – have your familiar sneak the gem into the middle of a horde of baddies and slaughter them all without them understanding what is happening. Yes – this is a good spell.
Channelled Lifetheft (CM): (Double Threat Blast/Debuff)::evillaugh I like the “Channelled” spells, and this one is particularly nice. The highlights are this: As a swift action you can fatigue a foe in Close range, as well as grant yourself 5 temporary HP with no save. As a Full Round action you can exhaust the foe, do 5d4 damage, and grant yourself temporary HP equal to 10 + damage dealt. Ranged debuffs with no save or to hit roll are wonderful, especially if you add versatility of casting time.
Night’s Caress (SpC): (Dual threat Debuff/Blast): A touch spell that targets Fort (ouch). Does 1d6 damage per level (max 15d6) regardless of save. If save is failed, they also take 1d6+2 Con damage (which is huge if they fail). The damage being resistant to the save gives you a decent consolation prize when your target makes their save. However, if they fail once – chances are good that they will fail if you followup with another the following round since their Con was damaged previously. I’m not a touch spell fan – but if you are – this is one of the best.
Touch of Vecna (CM): (Triple threat: Blast/Debuff/Save or die)::thumbsdow If target makes their Fort save they take 1d8+1 per CL (max +10) damage (sucks) and is shaken for 1 round (sucks), if they fail their save they are paralyzed permanently (basically dead). So a touch save or die, that deals a minor debuff and blast on a failed save. Not worth it overall.
Wrack (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Simple save or lose that targets Fort. Unfortunately, since it targets Fort it likely won’t work. If it does though, the opponent is really screwed, prone, blinded and helpless for 1 round/level + 3d10 minutes.
Symbol of Pain (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Due to the casting times and that they are triggered spells, the symbol spells are all circumstantial. It also allows a save to negate at has a 1,000gp material component. Except in the rare circumstance where this spell is passable, normally it isn’t worth it.
Waves of Fatigue (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Fatigue everything in a 30’ cone with no save. Yes, this spell is level 5, yes, Ray of Exhaustion is level 3 and fatigues your foe if they save and exhausts them if they don’t. Except now you potentially affect multiple targets but have no chance of exhausting your foes. Not worth it, even with no save.
Graymantle (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Prevent target from healing or recovering ability damage for the duration of the spell (1 round/level) unless it makes a Fort save. When it makes it’s Fort save you wasted your spell slot and your round.
Cryptwarden’s Grasp (CM): (Debuff):thumbsdow Grant your foe mummy rot on a successful touch attack and failed Fort save. Yawn...another spell that requires touch and provides a strong save to negate.
Miasma of Entropy (SpC): (Utility): Rot a bunch of wood. Yeah, whoopee! Like shatter limited to destroying useless crap. The spell description indicates a Fort save for “half”, what ½ of “rotting” would be is not named in the spell description. Who cares? Lousy spell.
Blight (PHB): (Blast): Kill a plant or do moderate damage to a plant creature with a touch attack. Total garbage for the level.
Death Throes (SpC): (WTF????): Don’t know what to call this spell – maybe a dual threat self debuff/blast? If you die, you explode doing 1d8/level damage in a 30’ radius. You cannot be raised or resurrected, but lets face it, your party wouldn’t want to resurrect you after you screw them with this. Likely they’ll dance on your grave (if they are alive to do so). This spell makes garbage seem like gourmet fare. I would go so far as to say this spell might be the worst in the game of any school of any level. Not worth a cantrip.
Opalescent Glare (SpC): (Debuff)(Not rated since I'm convinced I'm missing something) I’m clearly reading this wrong or it’s been errated. Let me know! (Otherwise it is so broken you should never use it) The way I read this is that you give yourself a permanent (apparently) gaze attack that kills evil creatures of 5hd or less (fear for 2d10 if they make a will save). Non-evil creatures and evil creatures of more than 5HD make a Will save or suffer the fear effect. The range is 60 feet. If this is a single round thing it is an OK spell anyways.
Contagion, Mass (SpC): (Debuff): Take the two crippling features of Contagion and remove one (touch attack) and keep the other (Targets Fort) but make it cover multiple opponents. This spell is now worthwhile as a combat debuff since with multiple targets – some Fort saves will be missed.
Fleshshiver (SpC): (double threat Debuff/Blast): In the first round the target makes a Fort save or is stunned for the round. If their HD is equal or less than your CL they are stunned with no save (nice). On the following round they make a second Fort save (regardless of first round save result) and if they fail they take 1d6/level (max 15d6) damage and are nauseated for 1d4+2 rounds. Targeting Fort is weak – but the target must make 2 saves which redeems this spell nicely. Solid debuff.
Ray of Entropy (SpC): (Debuff): On a successful ranged touch, your opponent takes a -4 penalty to Str, Dex and Con for the duration of the spell. For the record, a Maximized, Empowered Ray of enfeeblement would be the same level and cause a -14 penalty to Str. However, this spell could be followed up by an escalating enfeeblement which might be a decent option if you like Rays.
Incorporeal Nova (SpC): (Save or die):* Save or die that targets Will. Affects 1d4/CL (max 20 HD) worth of creatures which must be incorporeal or gaseous. This spell is highly circumstantial – but could be useful with several weaker incorporeal creatures.
Spectral Touch (SpC): (Double threat Debuff/Self buff):* For 1 round/level you can make a touch attack, which, if successful, grants you 5 temporary HD, and causes the target (if they fail a Fort save) a negative level. Not nearly enough to warrant touch attacks. However – if you cast this and use it on helpless prisoners (you are such a jerk) then you could potentially gain 5 x CL in temporary HP for an hour.
Imperious Glare (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow 1 creature/level (no which more than 30’ apart) make Will saves or cower for 1 round/level. This spell requires you have a frightful presence ability (you can set it up with Aura of Terror spell). The requirement reduces this spell from very strong to slightly weak. (2 6th level spells to set up one effect).
Aura of terror (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Cast on yourself (standard action), grants a 30’ radius emanation centered on you. Whenever you charge or attack (charge or attack? WTF???) Creatures with HD equal or less than your CL make a Will save or are shaken. This spell is total garbage unless used to set up Imperious Glare, in which case it is only slightly subpar.
Create Undead (PHB): (Utility)::thumbsdow Slightly improved Animate Dead spell for double the material cost. Honestly, by the level you can cast this spell I question the usefulness of a ghoul...
Eyebite (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow For 1 round/3 CL you can use this spell to debuff an enemy in close range (you will probably sicken them) but they get a Fort save to negate. The multiple uses is a nice feature, but the debuff isn’t all that impressive and the Fort save to negate is a killer.
Symbol of fear (PHB): (Utility)::thumbsdow See symbol of pain above.
Undeath to death (PHB): (Save or die)::thumbsdow Circle of death for undead. Basically the same spell, but more circumstantial.
Revive Undead (SpC): (Utility)::thumbsdow Basically Raise Dead for undead –with all the same drawbacks and limitations. Unless you have party members that are undead – this is not worth it.
Circle of death (PHB): (Save or die)::thumbsdow Kill 1d4 hd/CL of creatures (Max HD 8) in a 40’ radius burst. Creatures get a Fort save to negate and lowest HD creatures are affected first. This can be used to thin a large crowd of lesser enemies – but in most battles will be less than impressive. Oh yeah, 500gp per casting.
Ghoul Gauntlet (SpC): (Save or die) : Touch save or die that targets Fort – yuck. Furthermore – the dying process is gradual, so the target can fight on in the meantime (they take 3d6 damage/round until dead). After they die – you get a ghoul.
Waves of Exhaustion (PHB): (Debuff)::evillaugh Like cone of fatigue except the creatures are exhausted (nice increase) and the cone is 60’ long (very nice). So nasty debuff over large area with no save. Yep, this is nice.
Avasculate (SpC): (Dual threat: Blast/Debuff): You must make a ranged touch attack, and if it hits, the opponent is reduced to ½ its current HP with no save (not big on blasts – but that’s very good), and it makes a Fort save or is stunned for a round (yawn). One of the better blast spells around.
Evil Glare (SpC): (Debuff): Nice. For 1 round/level you get an effect that paralyzes a target for 1d8 rounds (on a failed Will save). Assuming you are a 13th level caster – that’s 13 spell effects for the price of one. The big restriction is that you can’t target the same creature twice – so only use this in big battles.
Kiss of the Vampire (SpC): (Self buff) * Basically you turn yourself into a vampire for 1 round/level. You get DR 10/magic, enervation (touch), vampiric touch (touch), charm person and gaseous form. As undead you can be turned, heal from negative energy – etc. For a Gish build this might be OK – but touch attacks make me nervous. It’s unclear whether the abilities granted would work with Spectral Hand – if so, you get an enervation spell 1 round for the duration, which is pretty decent.
Control Undead (PHB): (Save or die...basically):* Mass Dominate Person for undead but with a crappy duration. Once again, this is circumstantial (undead only), but against multiple undead foes this should end the fight if you have a good DC.
Necrotic Curse (CM): (Utility):* Turns positive energy into negative energy in a 20 ft radius emanation for 1 hr/level. This could be devastating to anyone healing injured comrades in the area, but remains quite circumstantial. Nevertheless, at super-high levels, when heal spells are thrown around like candy, this could be devastating to an unsuspecting opponent. I recommend one of the skill tricks that will prevent spellcraft rolls to know what you cast.
Barghest’s Feast (SpC): (Utility)::thumbsdow Prevent resurrection of a corpse by destroying it utterly – for 5000gp! Hugely circumstantial, though lower level than imprisonment I suppose (though easier to circumvent). Finger of Death (PHB): (Save or die)::thumbsdow The most basic save or die possible. Opponent in close range makes a Fort save, if they succeed, they take minor damage, if they fail, they die. If you like save or dies, this is the staple. For me, save or die is not my thing.
Symbol of Weakness (PHB)::thumbsdow See symbol of pain above.
Arrow of Bone (SpC): (Save or Die)::thumbsdow So you cast this on a projectile or thrown weapon which then gets a +4 enhancement bonus for one attack (yawn), costs 50gp material component (I hate those, even though 50gp isn’t much for the level), and creates a save (Fort) or die if it hits. The only advantage of this spell that I can see is with a 1 hr/level duration, you can have other party members launch these while you cast other spells in combat.
Energy Ebb (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Supposedly a one-up on Enervation, but what a disappointment. Hit the target with a Ray and they gain one negative level. On followup rounds (one per level) the target makes a Fort save or takes another negative level. One successful Fort save ends the effect. So basically, expect one or maybe 2 negative levels from this spell.
Sword of Darkness (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow I have the same problem with this that I have with Sword of Deception (see evocation guide). The Base to hit is your CL (no attribute bonuses, or any other to hit bonuses) and you have to make a hit against the opponents full AC (you can’t even flank) so expect to miss – fairly consistently. If you could hit consistently – this spell would be pretty good – however – instead it blows.
Retributive Enervation (CM): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Like Abjuration all over again. A basically defensive spell that is a self buff only, standard action casting, and one round/level. Skip it.
Seed of Undeath, Greater (CM): (Utility): Ugh! I question the “greater” designation of this spell that requires a 5000gp material component to make it an area spell rather than targeted. Really not worth it, even for someone concentrating on Undead horde creations.
Avascular Mass (SpC): (Triple threat Blast/Debuff/BC): Basically this spell is avasculate (see level 7 spells) with a quickened/heightened web attached. You strike the original target and a web of writhing blood vessels (cool visual) attach to opposing points and entangle those within (like a web). The secondary effect lasts one round per level. Is attaching what is in effect a 2nd level spell to a 7th level spell make it worth it as an 8th level spell? I would say circumstantially yes, though many creatures will have freedom of movement or teleportation options by this level.
Blackfire (SpC): (Debuff): Hit opponent with Ray and they Make Fort save every round or lose 1d3 Con and are nauseated. If they make their save they are only sickened that round. Those adjacent to victim make Ref saves or the spell effect spreads to them. It is the spreading feature that makes this spell decent.
Horrid Wilting (PHB): (Blast): As I’ve made clear before, I’m not big on single threat blasts (as this is), but as far as single threat blasts go – this is the best you can get. Nearly limitless foes can be struck, it maxes at 20d6, it won’t hit your allies, and it strikes long range, and isn’t energy damage. Basically it’s everything you could want from a single threat blast (except perhaps low level!). Fort save for half will likely be made by many, but at least mettle is rare.
Veil of Undeath (SpC): (Self Buff): Give yourself the various immunities of the undead for 10 min/level. Immunity to mind affecting spells is child’s play by this level, but immunity to level drain, ability drain, paralysis, fatigue, exhaustion, death from massive damage, critical hits, stunning, death effects – it adds up. A decent self buff even for the level.
Clone (PHB): (Utility):* Resurrection for Wizards. Needs to be prepared ahead of time, otherwise it works alot like resurrection (including the negative level) except it’s a bit cheaper (and a higher level spell). Does not hold a candle to Greater Resurrection. There may be some circumstantial advantages to the way the spell works (for example, it gets you out of harms way right away) as well as some disadvantages.
Create Greater Undead (PHB): (Utility):* As the other create undead spells except now you have a variety of incorporeal creatures available. For utility purposes, such a creature could be handy, though most won’t be much use in combat at this point.
Symbol of death (PHB)::thumbsdow see the other symbol spells.
Heart of Stone (SpC): (Buff)::thumbsdow Buff yourself for a year with a minor DR and resistances (nothing earth shattering here) – costs 500 xp and 5000 gp. The bonuses are too small to be worth much, they will be easily overshadowed by other self buffs despite the impressive duration on this.
Greater Bestow Curse (SpC): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Like Bestow Curse except the penalties are greater. The things that actually needed improved with Bestow Curse (Touch attack, Will negates) are not. Why this is a level 8 spell is beyond me.
Skeletal Guard (SpC): (Utility): Could be called Animate Dead, Mass. You make lots of human warrior skeletons with one standard action. Wow, and at this level (15th and up) human warrior skeletons are SO impressive too! Your enemies will shudder, “Don’t sick the skeletons on me...please!!!!”
Wail of the Banshee (PHB): (Save or die):* Creatures in a 40 foot radius spread (max 1 per level) make a Fort save or die. Save or die isn’t my thing, but mass save or die I'll say is worth 9th level designation.
Enervating Breath (SpC): (Debuff):* Basically a double strength enervation attached to your breath weapon. Of course you need a breath weapon for this to be of any use to you, if you have one, it is just better than energy drain due to the mass effect.
Soul Bind (PHB): (Utility)::thumbsdow Like imprisonment for Necromancy except the subject must already be dead. This spell basically prevents resurrection – which may be completely useless or a godsend depending on your DM’s style. In the majority of my campaigns, it would tend towards the useless end of the spectrum.
Astral Projection (PHB): (Utility)::thumbsdow Basically this is a Plane shift spell except that: a) the travel is not instantaneous, and b) if you die you return to your own body – fit as a fiddle. This spell has been 9th level right since 1E, and since 1E I’ve been unable to reason why it remains a 9th level spell. Seems underpowered to me for the level.
Energy Drain (PHB): (Debuff)::thumbsdow Like enervation except it does 2d4 negative levels (rather than 1d4) and the effect lasts longer (which likely will never come into play). Keep in mind a split ray enervation would be only level 6, that makes this spell a total turkey. When we reach 9th level spells – the standard is much higher than this.
Plague of Undead (SpC): (Utility): Mass animate dead except the zombies or skeletons have maximum HP for their HD, yes, I said zombies and skeletons – with a 9th level spell. Basically, you will raise a creature that will be CR 8 if you are lucky. Greater Planar Binding can get you a Pit Fiend by the way, and it’s level 8.
Final Thoughts: Yep, necromancy is good at debuffing. Yep, not many BC's or Buffs there (though there are some - even some good ones). I find that necromancy swells around the middle (Check out level 5 - Three spells of YES!) - but is sparce at the ends (not a single necromancy 9th level spell I think is great, and at first level, Ray of enfeeblement is the only spell worth getting excited over).
I'm just not sure I would specialize in necromancy now except as a flavor thing. Very narrow field - and not alot of spells (I pretty much included every necromancy spell in this guide) - and lots of turkeys.
If you are going with Unseen Seer or Arcane trickster (Glass cannon) this is definitely a school to keep though.
- Escalating Enfeeblement : can (should) be paired with any spell that entangles (Web, Entangle... - entangled gives a Dex penalty !), or with Ray of Clumsiness (Transmutation, SC). Most people will know that, but just in case : Str penalty is useful to make big hitters less dangerous ; it can also cripple low Strength humanoids (arcanists...) if it makes them exceed their max load (no Dex to AC, can't fly, 5' speed...).
Like Ray of Enfeeblement & of Clumsiness, it's a very nice spell to Empower since the fixed term is also mutliplied by 1.5. That said, I agree it's not necessarily better than RoE.
- Stolen Breath and Spiritwall are nice - I hadn't noticed them.
- I personally find Channeled Lifetheft weak for a 5th level spell.
- To be fair, Death Throes is more for overdramatic (stupid) BBEGs...