Joined Feb 2004
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by malisteen, Aug 31,2009
Part of the Dread Necromancer's Handbook

Races for Dread Necromancers

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:

  • Spellscales 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' penalty to con also makes them a debatably 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' penalty 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 back story for how your "lesser" aasimar wandered from the path of good.

  • Kobolds are useful 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.


  • Illumians, from Races of Destiny, 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).

  • Bhuka, from Sandstorm, are for a specialized DN build: 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.

Races by Source

  • 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).

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, from Libris Mortis, is the acquired template of choice for most Dread Necromancers. It is an add-on template that turns you undead, gives turn resistance, makes you re roll 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 recommend 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 useful 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, although this is only worth it if your DM rules that the phylactery provided is functional (see the Class Features page).

  • Lich (MM) According to custserv (Incident: 070501-000021, Big Bear), you do NOT become a Lich at 20th level. Going after the template the normal way, with it's heavy adjustment and odd overlap with your class features, won't really work well in most games. If you're DM lets you get all the benefit up front, effectively gaining four levels all at once without gaining any experience, then it can be worth it, so long as you keep in mind that you'll likely never level up again. If, on the other hand, your DM makes you pay the four levels up front, either by losing levels when you acquire the template or by making you burn four levels before applying the benefits, then stay away.

  • 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 Buy-off 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, Low-light 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 buy off 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 Wondrous 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 look here). 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. Also, according to RAW it's possibly that only a Wizard or Sorcerer could apply the affects of this template, and not just any arcane caster. Check with your DM.

  • Phrenic (XPH): The Psi-like abilities 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 buy off 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 (note: LA buy off makes LA +1 to +2 races very viable; see UA for rules on LA Buy off: 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.)

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