Necromancer Class ideas

Thoughts and suggestions from 4e discussion groups on the Necromancer Class

If you want to be using undead forces, I still say what you want is a reskinned Invoker from PHB2.

Invokers have plenty of powers where you summon/conjure an angel to fight for you, and as a divine class they have a lot of radiant attacks. If you reskin the class as a Shadow or Arcane powered class, turn the radiant damage to Necrotic, and describe the angles as summoned undead and spirits, you should be able to get something fairly close… Here are some ideas I got from a quick glance over:
Armor of Wrath → Have it do Necrotic Damage instead of Radiant.
Level 0 Avenging Light → Avenging Darkness and change Radiant to Necrotic
Level 0 Grasping Shards → Laughing Skull, instead of a crystal sphere you throw a skull, and explodes into necrotic damage. Still slows targets.
Level 0 Sun Strike → Ray of Unlife, Swap Radiant for Necrotic.
Level 1 (e) Astral Terror → Great just how it is.
Level 1 (e) Blades of Astral Fire → Describe the blades as ghosts.
Level 1 (e) Spear of the Inquisitor → Swap Radiant for Necrotic.
Level 1 (d) Angelic Echlon → Undead Echlon. Swap Radiant for Nectoric, and describe them as undead instead of angels.
Level 1 (d) Summon Angel of Fire → Summon Pyre Ghost
Level 2 (u) Emissary of the Gods → Emissary of Death. Mechanically the same.
Level 2 (u) Wall of Light → Wall of Unlife. Describe it as darkness or shadow energy. Mechanically the same.
Level 3 (e) Sun Hammer → Blood Burst. Swap to Necrotic damage. (It does more damage if bloodied allies are in the area).
Level 5 (d) Blade of Vengence → Describe the ghostly angel as just a ghost.
Level 5 (d) Grasping Chains of the Justiciar → Hands of the Dead. Instead of chains bursting from the ground, It’s arcane infused skeletal or ghostly hands.
Level 5 (d) Icon of Terror → Good to go as is.
Level 5 (d) Face of Death → Instead of a miniature sun, a ghost with a frightful face appears. Swap Radiant for Necrotic.

If you want something more good to go as written (IE: something your DM won’t blink at), then you should take the Dark Pact Warlock from the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide and the undead related rituals from Open Grave. (All of which are online in the Membership area of D&D Compendium).

The Dark Pact warlock is CHA based. When you kill a cursed enemy, you gain a point towards a shadow aura. You can unleash your aura as a blast of Necrotic & Pyschic energy using those points. Many of this pact’s powers are Necrotic and Poison… fitting a necromancer feel.
Gather Necromancey related magic items. Bone armors, shadowfell gloves, etc.
Get the Ritual Caster feat and pickup the undead related Rituals. Undead Servitor is level 6, and will make you feel like a Necromancer even if you can’t use the bugger in combat. Deathly Shroud (Forgotten Realms) will will allow you to pass for undead when dealing with the unintelligent kind. Gravesight will allow seek through the senses of an undead… lettting you use that Servitor of yours as a scout.
Look into getting yourself an undead mount. Adventurer’s vault has a Skeletal Horse as a level 11 brute mount. 17,000 gp.
By 11th level you could have a character that looks a feels like a Necromancer. Undead horse and slave, undead and necrotic themed armor and attacks, etc.


Well, truthfully, the undead minions really do tend to be too weak to do anything other than stand there and soak up damage… or maybe cause a wizard to use up an extra fireball (at least, that’s how it tended to work in 3E).

They were always best handled “off screen”. I just like the feel of a character who, if you make him mad enough, will kill you, skin you, and then animate your skeleton so he can kill your friends with it.

*’conversions’ don’t do so well between editions of D&D. You’re much better off trying to take the concept of what he was, what he did, and then trying to find the best fit. *

Well, that’s close enough. It’s still the same character. He just plays a little different now.

If you’re looking for the type that can raise his own army (or at least his own set of minions) and command them about — I really don’t think that will ever happen in a WotC sourcebook. They’re pretty restrictive on any character gaining more attacks — which is what having minions would generally amount to. So far, having a minion/pet/whatever has required that you use your own actions to have them move/attack/etc. And having a group of minions, and having to move each one with your own actions, and use your actions to have them attack is likely to be very unsatisfying when playing.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind that part of it. I don’t care about getting any extra attacks in. Like I said about 3E, most of the minions were just there to stand there and get blasted anyway.

That said, if I had to give up my actions to move (or attack with) my minion, so long as the attack they got out was roughly equal to an attack I could do, I would be fine with it.

and Blackjaw, both of those options would go very far toward what I’d like to do.

Anybody want to join in on some wild and longwinded speculation on what the 4e necromancer might end up looking like? :D

OK, so we know that while the wizard will have some necromancy-ish abilities, the bulk of this character concept is being split off to become its own class, under the ‘shadow’ power source. While that material is likely a ways off, what do you think the class will be about? Necromancy in 3e had a few key components:

Permanent Minions (animated dead)
Save or Die effects
controlling/buffing undead
Touch Attacks
Level Drain effects
Str or Con damage effects
Fear effects
Sicken effects

However, a 4e necromancer really won’t look like that. For one, save or die, level drain, and ability damage effects are just gone. For two, minions seem to be on a back burner. We’re assuming at this point that some sort of summoner class might eventually appear, but we really can’t be sure of that. Summoned monsters really do seem to go against the core 4e combat principles – particularly the short, simplified rounds. Still minions are pretty essential to the necromancer archetype, so we’ll consider them further down.

What will be the main inspirations for the 4e necromancer? If we look in some of the latter day 3e products (inspirations and testing grounds for other 4e material), I think we find a few key bits:

Dread Necromancer (duh)
Necrocarnum Soulmelds (PrC from Magic of Incarnum)

If we ignore the effects we won’t see in 4e, we get:

-Touch Attacks
-Controlling/Buffing undead
-Fear Auras
-Damaging auras
-Undead-like resistances
-Temporary Hit Points
-Life Draining abilities (inflict HP damage to gain HP or magic power)

These seem likely foundations for the abilities of a 4e necromancer, particularly the touch attacks. I think a 4e necromancer with a damaging touch attack that inflicts negative status effects and heals the necromancer himself, surrounded by an aura inflicting fear effects, seems likely. It also seems in type that the character would get some kind of bonus for enemies damaged or killed within that aura.

Going back to save or dies: the mechanics is gone, but the concept of killing with a spell is still pretty key to the idea of a necromancer, so there may be a way of getting this feel back without the one roll win/lose. The best thing I can think of is a spell that deals a decent chunk of HP damage to a foe if it hits their fort defence, and ‘attacks’ the foe again every round until it misses, at which point the foe has ‘shrugged it off’.

Potentially such a spell might require continued concentration on the part of the necromancer, limiting his actions in subsequent rounds. This could be useful as we’ll be giving him back his minions in a second, and we don’t want his turn to take much longer then that of any other character.

As for minions – Undead are essential to the concept of the necromancer, so some undead minions seem essential. There are a few ways this could be done, but the ones I see as most likely are:

A) a single, somewhat powerful minion – something similar to the minion granted by the necrocarnum circlet ability – with a few options in combat (maybe one special ability in addition to its normal attacks and undead qualities?)

B) multiple weak minions – based on the new non-template skeletons and zombies – with no options – just a single attack and undead qualities. Even though there are multiple minions, these would still be very limited in quantity – I’m thinking no more then maybe 3 or 4 at a time.

I think both might be viable, but there would have to be a cost to it. I think the Necrocarnum Circlet cost of reducing maximum hit points seems likely.

So my idea would allow the necromancer to animate a limited number of skeletons or zombies by sacrificing a portion of his maximum hit points for as long as they exist. Further powers in this ‘ability chain’ would allow the animation of more powerful creatures, or add some abilities on top of the animation a la the corpse crafter feats (ie, they deal cold damage, or have some resistance or other), but at a greater cost of HP.

So what ‘power trees’ do we end up with? I think we’ve got:

Touch Attacks: attacks against reflex – causing HP damage and minor debuff status at will, with more significant debuff or added self healing as per encounter or per day abilities.

Auras: Minor debuffs that work on enemies who get too close. Early on the aura would be limited range and duration, probably with per day limited uses. Later on, the area might be wider, and it might be up all the time. Other powers would allow the necromancer to gain some benefit for living creatures that die in the aura – perhaps a per encounter immediate action to heal HP, or gain temporary HP? If we were going to make the Necromancer a Leader, this aura might also grant buffing effects to allies – most likely based on whatever innate defenses or resistances undead have in 4e. Healing/buffing effects for undead minions might also fall under this category.

Defensive abilities: resistances based on common undead traits, or the traits of liches in particular. Possibly rolled into auras and granted to allies as well if we make the Necromancer a Leader. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to make these freebies as the character advances rather then requiring the character to burn power choices on them.

Healing/buffing for undead: Probably more buffing then healing, but still. Most likely per encounter or per day abilities, and possibly rolled into the auras.

Offensive Spells: These would be per encounter or per day abilities, and would consist primarily of debuffs (slow, weak, sick, etc), or some damage along with a debuff. Potentially at higher levels they could include ‘death spells’ as described above – or possibly even spells that do a percentage of the enemy’s current HP in damage (ala final fantasy gravity spells or heroes of horror avasculate) If we’re making the Necromancer as a Controller these spells may effect multiple enemies at a time. Spells with persistent effects might require concentration actions in subsequent rounds, to make up for the extra actions the character will get from his minions. Spells that ‘charm’ enemy undead would likely be in this category as well.

Minions: Simple creatures (ie, not a lot of abilities or possible actions) that are replaceable, but require the Necromancer to reduce his maximum hit points while they’re around. When they die, his maximum goes back up, but his current HP stays the same. Further abilities in the chain would allow more minions at a time (but still not hordes or armies), more powerful minions, and minions with added effects. One possibility would be an ability that restores current hit points as well as maximum hit points when a minion dies, allowing the necromancer to ‘sacrifice’ minions when in danger.

We end up with a character who Travels with one or two permanent minions and has a noticeably lower HP total then average for his roll/level. He is surrounded by a debuffing aura, casts spells to weaken/sicken/or otherwise negatively effect enemies, takes immediate actions to heal himself whenever something living dies in his aura, and has a touch attack that damages and debuffs enemies that get to close to him, possibly also healing him. He can also heal/protect/buff friendly undead, and control or restrict the actions of enemy undead.

Now, what role would this character fill? It’s true that he ‘leads’ his minions – we could follow that intuitive line of reasoning and make him a ‘leader’. As a leader he would need to be able to heal and buff his PC allies, as well as remove negative effects from them. How would this work? Well, healing seems out of character, but granting temporary hit points seems appropriate and achieves more or less the same result. Granting allies undead like immunities could potentially serve as a buff and remove existing negative effects. Bringing characters back to life could also fit. I’m not sure this is the best way to do things, but it is possible to make the character like this.

As a leader, we’d have increased focus on his auras – primarily using them as a buff rather then a debuff. His ability to heal when enemies die within his aura could be changed to allow him to restore hit points to any ally within his aura when another creature in his aura dies. His offensive spells would be less potent, and would have single targets, and would be supplemented by additional effects to heal or buff allies (granting them temporary HP, undead like resistances, and reinforcing their attacks with ‘dark power’). His touch attack and personal defenses would be more important, since a leader is expected to wade into melee more then a controller. Indeed, his touch attack might replace most of his offensive spellcasting ability. The Max HP cost of his minions would also be slightly lower then if he were a controller.

Since he’s sharing a power source with the Shadowcaster (ie, illusionist/beguiler), this lets that character be either a controller or a striker without too much overlap.

If we build the necromancer as a controller, then his offensive spells would be a bigger focus, hampering, harming, and restricting multiple opponants at a time. His auras would be more debuff focused, and might not come until later levels, and would only be able to heal or grant temporary hit points to himself. The touch attack would mostly be there to punish enemies for getting too close rather then as a primary offensive tool. HP costs of minions potentially might be greater as well, and minions might have slightly more spectacular abilities at higher level (exploding zombies, skeletons wreathed in magical fire, etc). In an attempt to salvage the touch attack, we might allow the controller Necromancer to ‘share’ his touch attack with undead minions within his necromantic aura – tying together multiple aspects of the class.

If we made the Necromancer a controller, that would more or less restrict the shadowcaster to the ‘striker’ roll. Of course, that might fit shadowcasters fairly well anyway.

In the end, either could work, leaders would make better use of the touch attack theme, but would have to find a place for slightly out of character abilities to heal or buff living allies. On the other hand, the controller will fit the classic necromancy debuff better, and can use his minions as living walls to control the battlefield, but doesn’t really get much out of the oh-so-essential touch attack unless we allow him to share it with his minions.

Any one else have any thoughts about what a 4e Necromancer might look like or do? I know this is all wild speculation at this point, but I figured the necromancer deserved a speculation thread of his own. And if the Shadow power source expansion turns out to be a long ways away, Necromancy fans like myself might want to try our hands at a tide-us-over home brew – and getting the core principles and concepts right would be the essential first step.


A quick note on some things you seem to have missed, FF. Summoning & minions aren’t any more ‘gone’ then druids and bards and barbarians are – they just aren’t in the PHB. Death spells (as in, spells that kill instantly) are gone, as in completely removed from 4e with no intent at the present to put them back in later.

While minions almost assuredly will be cut back for the reason you mentioned (and honestly, did characters with hundreds of hit dice of undead servants really fit appropriately in the game?), I think a handful of undead servants (something in the 1 to 3 range) is almost assured simply by the nature of the character concept.

Again, as I mentioned above, I think the ‘Necrocarnum Circlet’ in Magic of Incarnum is a good place to start for 4e animation.

Apart from that, this is among other things a starting point for discussing a potential homebrew Necromancer, since the shadow power source probably won’t be getting crunch material for a while.

In that light, setting aside what we think the designers will do with the concept, what do we as fans think should be done? What is the right number of undead servants? How long should the necromancer’s turn take? How long is too long? How can we trim down the necromancer’s own actions to make up for the actions of her minions, and how does that affect how the necromancer performs the party role we put her in?

Obviously the finer points will have to wait until we have the PHB in our hands, but fleshing out the general concepts – what the necromancer does, how she fights, what role she performs; those are things we can discuss already.


I agree with some of your takes, lowspine & blowfish, but a couple notes: I feel the melee ability of the 4e necromancer, such as it turns out to be, will come in the form of an at will touch attack. Just look at the dread necromancer, or consider how many touch attack spells in 3e were necromancy spells. Look at the necromancy reserve feat – yet another touch attack. It’s possible that there might be a bone thrown to the scythe crowd – maybe an ability to channel the touch attack into melee weapons – but I’d still wager dollars to doughnuts that the primary melee tool will be some form of damaging and debuffing touch attack.

As for necromancers as a leader – I agree that they might go this way. The Dread Necromancer, as an example, has greater melee abilities and innate defenses then your standard wizard, at least at lower levels, which would be more consistant with a leader then a controller.

That said, remember that leader is just a euphamism for healer/buffer/supporter. To be a ‘leader’, the necromancer would have to be able to:

Heal allies
Buff allies
Remove Negative status

And by allies, I mean ‘the other PCs’, not ‘his own undead minions’. His minions are controlled by the same Player, and are basically a part of the same character. Supporting them is not fulfilling this role.

This is part of why I didn’t like the name ‘leader’… but that’s neither here nor there.

The necromancer can be built as a leader, but he’d have to do a few different things.

Buff Allies: This one is pretty easy. Giving the enemies -2 to hit is basically the same as giving your allies +2 to defence. Debuffing enemies can be functionally the same as buffing allies, and the necromancer can fulfill the buffing part of his class in this way. However, some debuffs – sickening the enemies, or poisoning them, or slowing them, are really more controller territory.

Heal Allies: Healing used to be necromancy. It was the power of life and death. In 3e, healing was no longer a necromantic effect, and the closest necromancy got was temporary hit points via effects such as false life. With necromancy focusing on ‘necrotic energy’ drawn from the ‘shadow power source’ in 4e, I think this will continue, and true healing of hit points for living creatures would seem out of place. However, temporary hit points can accomplish more or less the same thing, so healing could be covered that way.

More-over, healing is something a leader should get to do ‘for free’ – without spending extra resources or actions. A leader character should be able to heal allies at least somewhat without using up optional powers for the priviledge and without necessarily burning actions. My suggestion for this, as mentioned above, would be to let the Necromancer grant some amount of temporary hit points to a single ally within a certain range as an immediate action whenever another living creature dies within that same range.

Remove Negative Status: A leader should have some ability to do this – I’m open to suggestions for Necromantic themed options.

Offensively, a leader should have some melee ability. That’s easy for a Necromancer, with touch attacks for offence and a range of potentially in-theme defensive options ranging from bone armor to undead resistances to lich-like damage reduction all already out there and generally accepted.

Ideally, at least some of a leader’s options should be empowering his allies to do more (and again, by allies I mean the other PCs, not his own minions). Ref: the warlord’s ‘feather me yon oaf’. This is theoretically within the realm of possibility – not exactly ‘within theme’, but not strictly against it, either.

Of course, the Necromancer as Leader really is only one option. There are several aspects of the necromancer that fit at least as well in the Controller role, if not more so, and I’m not sure which is the better option at this point. Either way, it’s going to have its toes in both roles – much as the Warlock has a little bit of controller or the Paladin has a little bit of leader. I could easily see the Necromancer as a Leader with a bit of Controller – or vice versa.

In any event, the more I think about it, the more the Necrocarnum abilities and Necrocarnate class from MoI look like a better starting point for a 4e Necromancer then the Dread Necromancer class from HoH. Thoughts?


I like the idea of necromancer-as-leader for one particular reason: necromancers just sound to me like a class that should be able to heal. They spend their days getting flesh that has passed on to get back up and do things. The devs could just continue what they had in 3.x with necromancy getting completely shut out of the “magic of life and death” business and strictly into the “magic of death” business, but personally, I like healing spells being necromancy more. I mean, they actually were necromancy pre-3.×.

As I mentioned in another thread, some optional SFX would be good. If you want your necromancer to be a smidgen less creepy, they heal normally. If you want to play it to the hilt, they don’t bring dead flesh back to life, they bring it back to unlife: in essence, they “reanimate” lost HP as undead flesh. The flesh doesn’t rot away at the patient and is eventually replaced by normal living tissue as the patient actually heals over, but in the meantime, it functions more or less normally. Just more creepy-like.

Necromancer Class ideas

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