View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Sorcerer Origin: Pale Master

2017-11-19, 05:01 PM

"The Blackest Night falls from the skies, The darkness grows as all light dies, We crave your hearts and your demise, By my black hand — The dead shall rise!" — Black Hand

Necromancy. Few other magics inspire as much revulsion, dread...and fascination, as this black art. The ability to command the forces of death and animate shambling armies of the dead is a temptation that lures a many depraved individuals, and of them the Pale Master is perhaps the most foul. While Necromancy specialist wizards spend years devoted to the study of undeath, the Pale Master is an individual who seeks a quick and easy route to necromancer power, gaining mastery over the undead comparable to the most learned wizard in one, terrible act of depravity. To be a Pale Master is to become undeath, willingly tainting yourself with necrotic energies so you may bend them to your will. How you assumed this taint is something intimate and personal to you; many aspiring Pale Masters actively seek out undead, locking themselves in desecrated tombs for days on end in the hope that the foul necrotic energies within forever corrupt them. Others may take a more gruesome road, such as pledging themselves to Orcus in a depraved act or evil or consuming the flesh of a particularly powerful or tainted undead.

While most Pale Masters are twisted individuals seeking an easy route to necromantic power, there are an unlucky few who are instead cursed with the powers of a Pale Master. Such an individual could be the child of adventurers, born on one of their many quests into a desecrated or undead infested location. Or perhaps they could be somebody cursed by Orcus, Velsheroon or another deity of Undeath. However, regardless of whether you sought out your powers or where cursed with them, they are fundamentally twisted and corrupting. While you may not be a villain, you constantly struggle against depraved, morbid urges that fester within your psyche. Whether you end up a tortured anti-hero or force of evil depends largely on whether or not you let the taint of your magic consume your mind completely....whether you gain control of your dark magics or let them control you. However, no matter your origin or outlook, you are a living font of necrotic energies and a master reanimator, able to effortlessly channel necrotic power and raise the dead to serve you.

Fundamentals of Necromancy

Due to the twisted origins of your magic, you learn how to wield necromantic spells beyond the scope of traditional sorcerery. Starting at 1st level, when your spellcasting feature lets you select a Sorcerer cantrip or Sorcerer spell known, you can choose that spell from all Necromancy spells of levels to which you have access, or the Sorcerer spell list. Any spells you select this way become Sorcerer spells for you.

Additionally, you gain a basic understanding of undead animation, allowing you to raise simple skeletons to act as your personal servants. As a 10 minute ritual, you can create up to two skeletons from corpses within 30ft. These skeletons have an AC of 10, a Strength score of 8 and 1 HP, and cannot attack or speak. You can only have two such skeletons accompanying you at any time.

Once on each of your turns as a bonus action, you can order these skeletons to move up to 15ft and interact with objects. They can perform simple tasks that a humanoid servant could do, such as fetching things, serving food or pouring wine. These skeletons performs the task to the best of their ability, or until they completes the task, and then wait for their next command. If you give them a command that would cause them to move more than 60ft away from you, they wait at the edge of that 60ft for another command.

Starting at 5th level, you can command these skeletal servants and all other undead under your control with the same bonus action. Starting at 17th level, you can raise 4 of these skeletal servants, and may be accompanied by 4 of them at once.

Tomb-Tainted Soul

Also starting at 1st level, your innate necrotic taint corrupts you physically, making you more like an undead creature. You gain resistance to Necrotic damage and cannot have your hit point maximum reduced. However, when you would be targeted by a healing spell that cannot target undead (such as Cure Wounds), you only receive half the healing you would normally. Additionally, starting at 2nd level you learn to harness this taint to heal yourself and your undead minions with necrotic energy. When you cast a spell that deals necrotic damage, you can spend 1 sorcery point to have it ignore necrotic damage resistance you and any undead under your control have, and heal those same creatures (including you, if applicable) for 1/2 the damage they would be dealt instead of damaging them.


Starting at 6th level, you master the art of undead animation. You gain Animate Dead as a bonus spell known. For you, Animate Dead is a Sorcerer spell, and does not count against your maximum Sorcerer spells known. (as-per the spells known column of the Sorcerer table.) When you cast the spell Animate Dead, it targets 1 additional corpse or bone pile and creates 1 additional skeleton or zombie. (as applicable). Additionally, when you cast a spell that create one or more undead creatures (such as Animate Dead or Create Undead), that spell gains the following additional effects:

The undead this spell creates add your Sorcerer level to their hit point maximums.
The undead this spell creates add an additional d4 to their weapon damage rolls. At 15th level, this increases to an additional d8.
If you spend 2 sorcery points when you cast this spell, the undead it creates add your Charisma modifier to any saving throws they make.
Necrotic Burst

At 14th level, you gain the power to harvest the necrotic energies that animate your undead minons and combined them with your innate magic in violent explosions of negative energy. As a bonus action on your turn, you can spend 1 sorcery point to target an undead creature under your control and make it explode, reducing it to 0 hit points and killing it instantly. When an undead explodes as a result of this feature, all non-undead creatures within 5ft of that undead must make a Constitution save vs. your Sorcerer Spell Save DC. On a failed save they take 9d6 Necrotic damage and gain vulnerability to Necrotic damage for 1 minute. On a successful save they talk half as much damage and gain no vulnerability from this feature. If an undead creature under your control would be lowered to 0 or less hit points, you can use this feature as a reaction instead of a bonus action if you target that undead. Once you use this feature, you cannot do so again until you finish a short or long rest.

Undead Cohort

At 18th level, your mastery of undeath has increased to the point where you can enhance an undead far past its capabilities. When you create undead with a necromancy spell (Such as Animate Dead or Create Undead.), you may choose one of those undead to become your cohort. Your cohort gains the following benefits:

Your cohort gains an amount of additional hit dice (and the resulting increase in hit points and hit point maximum) equal to 1/2 your Sorcerer level.
It gains an ability score increase, as-per the Ability Score Improvement feature (Which means it cannot raise a score higher than 20, as-per that feature) for each instance of Ability Score Improvement you have from the the sorcerer class.
Your cohort uses your proficiency bonus in place of its own on all attack rolls, any saves it's proficient in and when calculating attack and feature save DCs (If applicable).
Your cohort regains all armor, weapon and saving throw proficiencies it had in life.
You may only have one Undead Cohort at any given time. If your current one is destroyed, you may spend 8 hours and 400 gp to apply your cohort benefits to a new undead you create. Your Undead Cohort has its own initiative, but you control what it does on its turn. Unlike other undead created through Necromancy spells, you do not have to reassert control over your cohort.

The following feats where desgined specifically for Pale Masters. The aim of these feats is expanding the versatility and power the Pale Master has with undead minion-mastery and general necromancy, making it the "strongest", but also most specialized/limited/focused necromancer option in the game. Since sorcerers are generally worse casters than wizards and clerics, thes options should hopefully make it excell at necromancy in ways wizards and clerics can't, making it an appealing option as a necromancer despite it's severely limited spells known. It also allows for the old, flavorful Undead Graft feature of the Pale Master class to exist in 5e as an option, but not something all Pale Masters decide to take, as not all those who wield innate Necrotic power would automatically decide to replace one of their limbs with an undead one. So without further hesitation, the feats!

Aura of Desecration

Prerequisites: Pale Master Sorcerer origin, ability to cast Animate Dead as a Sorcerer spell.

Benefits: You learn how to draw upon your own life force to unleash the necrotic energies within you, creating a foul aura that empowers and augments the undead under your control. As an action, you can activate your Aura of Desecration. When you do this, you select any of the Desecration Powers listed below; as long as your Aura of Desecration is active, undead under your control within 30ft gain the benefits of your selected Desecration Powers.

You can dismiss any active Desecration Power, or your entire Aura of Desecration, at any time without using an action of any kind. Your Aura of Desecration demands a sacrifice of life force to maintain; at the start of each of your turns, you must pay the listed hit point cost of each active Desecration power.

Desecration Powers

Aura of Vengence
Hit Point Cost: 2 HP
Benefit: All affected undead may make attacks of opportunity against creatures within touch range when they make a melee weapon attack or melee spell attack against an adjacent creature. (including the affected undead itself, if applicable.)

Aura of Dread
Hit Point Cost: 2 HP
Benefit: All affected undead become more terrifying to your enemies. Any hostile creature that starts its turn or moves within 5ft of an affected undead must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Sorcerer Spell Save DC or become frightened for 1 minute. They may repeat this save at the end of each of their turns. If they succeed on their save, they become immune to this effect for 24 hours. Any creatures that are frightened when this aura ends or is dismissed stop being frightened.

Aura of Bloodlust
Hit Point Cost: 3 HP
Benefit: All affected undead have advantage on their non-spell attack rolls.

Undead Graft

Prerequisites: Pale Master Sorcerer origin, at least 15 levels of Sorcerer.

Benefits: You give into your horrible necrophilic urges and remove one of your arms, replacing it with an undead appendage that can either be a skeletal arm or a zombie arm. When you do this your Strength score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20. Additionally, your undead graft grants you several touch attacks. As an action, you can make a melee spell attack (using your Sorcerer spell attack bonus) with your undead arm. If the attacks hits, you can spend sorcery points to use one of the following special attacks:

Paralyzing Touch. You may spend 2 sorcery points to force your opponent to make a Constitution saving throw vs. your Sorcerer Spell Save DC. On failed save, they are paralyzed for one round, but they can make a saving throw with advantage whenever they are damaged to end this effect on themselves.

Degenerative Touch. You may spend a number of sorcery points up to 5 and deal a d8 of necrotic damage per point spent to a foe. When you do this, they also make a Constitution saving throw vs. your Sorcerer Spell Save DC. If they succeed, they take half the damage they would be dealt. If they fail, they take the full amount of damage and their hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage dealt.

Deathless Master’s Touch. You may spend a number of sorcery points up to 5 and deal a d6 of necrotic damage per point to the target. When you do this, they also make a Constitution saving throw vs. your Sorcerer Spell Save DC. If they succeed, they take half the damage they would be dealt. If you slay a Medium humanoid in this way, they rise 1 round later as a zombie under your control.

While the following spells where created with Pale Masters in mind, they are avalible to members of other classes. Tthese new spells, and what classes receive them, are listed below:


2nd: Command Undead
7th: Control Undead
[Rest WIP]


2nd: Command Undead
7th: Control Undead
[Rest WIP]



New Spells

Command Undead
2nd-level Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30ft
Target: 1 Undead creature within range
Components: V, S
Duration: 4 Hours

You use dark magic to press undead into your service. You target 1 undead creature within range and force it to make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, you have influence over the creature. Intelligent undead (those with 8 or more intelligence) who fail their save treat you as their close friend and ally for the spell's duration. They are friendly towards you and you have advantage on all Charisma checks you make when dealing with them. They will obey your requests and do favors for you as long as they do not involve directly fighting for you or otherwise endangering its (un)life. After the duration of this spell ends, any intelligent undead you influenced with this spell remember that you used magic to command it, and will react accordingly.

If the targeted undead is mindless (has an intelligence under 8), it is instead under your total control for the spell's duration. As an action, you may issue a simple command, such as “stay here”, “go there”, “attack him”, or “guard this area” to any mindless undead you have controlled with this spell. Once given a command, mindless undead will continue that course of action as long as they remain under this spell's effects.

At Higher Levels. For each spell level above first at which you cast this spell, it targets 1 additional undead creature and increases its duration by 3 hours (to a maximum of 24 hours with a 9th level slot.).

Control Undead
7th-level Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30ft
Target: All Undead within range you can see.
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute.

You use dark magic to utterly dominate the undead, turning them into your obedient slaves temporarily. All undead within range who's CRs do not equal or exceed your level must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, for the duration of this spell they are friendly towards you and your allies and are under your total control. You may command these undead to move freely (no action required), but in order for them to take an action must command them with a bonus action. You can use this same bonus action to command any other undead under your control. Undead that are paticularly powerful prove harder to control. Any undead with a CR over 5 that you attempt to control with this spell have advantage on their saving throw against it.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell in a slot of 8th level, its duration increases to 1 hour. When you cast this spell in a 9th level slot, its duration increases to 8 hours.


Note this is meant to be as close a port as possible to the 3.5e Pale Master as I could. However, that being said, in places it is likely way, way, WAY too broken as a result, so I really need help balancing it. Thus, any advice for balancing this would be appreciated!

2017-11-19, 06:36 PM
I'd at least partially fluff the unarmored AC bonus as being due to your arm becoming skeletal and you using it to block incoming blows, given the "no shields" restriction. But I'm weird like that.

No resistance or immunity to necrotic damage or max HP reduction?

out of time to fully read so will return

2017-11-19, 06:44 PM
Alright, I just made some edits to the OP, so if you are reading please refresh and re-read.

2017-11-19, 10:36 PM
Got distracted in the middle of reading by family prompting me to go get dinner lol

Fundamentals of Necromancy: Perfect; not only the ability to choose necromantic spells, but also the ability to get what amounts to skeletons as continuous, visible versions of the unseen servant spell...

Calling a feature Tomb-Tainted Soul makes me half expect something like resist necrotic + immune to max hp reduction + receive only half the normal benefit from magical healing or somesuch, given what the 3.5 feat does. Granted, not really needed, but that is an association from the name. Otherwise, my only other comment on this ability is I can't help but think that the benefits for interacting with undead should be accompanied by disadvantage on persuasion and deception checks with the living, except for those who have a connection with undeath (such as necromancers, shadow or pale master sorcerers, undying warlocks, death clerics, maybe a few others).

Corpsecrafter: Other than a few minor grammatical glitches, good.

Detonate Undead: The size of the damage feels off somehow for the way you can just choose any undead you control without prep or more investment than a class feature ability... as-is I can't help but think that it might be better to either just make it so any undead you control detonate upon their destruction to the tune of their HD in d4's, or make the ability be based on the HD of the undead you're detonating and allow you to invest a spell slot to do more. I dunno, my brain just doesn't want to accept the current version for some reason...

Undead Graft: Paralyzing Touch is good. Touch of Command has a sentence where it looks like you started to change it but didn't quite delete the old version or something, otherwise good. Degenerative Touch is good. Deathless Master's Touch has one concern: is there a limit to how many zombies one can control in this way? If a level 20 Pale Master walks into a highly populated city, could he theoretically get a thousand zombies under his command?

Overall, awesome.

2017-11-20, 08:04 AM
Made some edits along the lines of what you where talking about, but not sure how balanced the current versions of the features are. Any word on their general balance would be most appreciated!

2017-11-20, 12:03 PM
Tomb-Tainted Soul + the Chill Touch cantrip now = infinite healing. Something there needs to change, such as specifying it must be a spell of 1st level or higher, or maybe replacing it with an option to basically surgically repair damaged undead under your control (kinda like how warforged can be repaired) might be better for that.

Destructive Retribution: Definitely better; the only debate now is whether the ease of acquiring poison immunity makes leaving it with no saving throw balanced or not. Might still be a good idea to have save for half damage.

2017-11-20, 01:41 PM
I think you misread tomb-tainted soul; it only works with spells of 1st level or higher cast by you, specifically to prevent infinite chill touch healing and free healing when facing enemy necromancers, warlocks, death clerics etc...

As for destructive retribution, as of now it offers no save because A) poison resistance is extremely common, and necrotic resistence is also fairly common and B) the damage is already pretty low-ish, so adding a save may make it completely inconsequential at the level you get it, since at those levels 4d4 damage is fairly low. (and thats about the most it will ever do, in most cases.) So adding a save on already low-ish damage thats resisted by most enemies your facing at that level seems like it would make the feature too weak, though I'm not sure if its still too strong as-is.

2017-11-20, 01:46 PM
Tomb-tainted soul is kinda weird. You gain resistance to necrotic damage which is then superseded by necrotic damage healing you. This also makes it a very powerful 1st level feature as it offers several things all at once:
1. Complete immunity to a damage type
2. A means of healing which sorcerers dont usually have
3. Aoe safe targeting on all your minions which heals and and attacks enemies all in one spell. Something like circle of death becomes ridiculously broken in this combo.

This is far too much for any one ability, in particular at level 1.

2017-11-20, 01:50 PM
It's only your spells of 1st level or higher that heal you, not enemy spells, though your points are still valid. I may just go back to the old version of the feature that gives you social bonuses vs. undead + a dragon sorc-esc AC bonus, if I can't get this feature to work out while still mantaining the fluff it had in older editions.

2017-11-20, 01:59 PM
Oh ya I completely missed the part about it only being your spells. I still think it is too strong. Maybe make it have a sorcery point cost to heal with your necrotic damage. Then it could work on cantrips as well if you so chose.

2017-11-20, 02:09 PM
Updated Tomb-Tainted soul with the changes you suggested, though I'm not sure if the current sorcery point cost is too low or not. Second thoughts on this would be appreciated!

EDIT: For more Pale Master flavor, I think I finally found a way to make the "Undead Cohort" feature the old Pale Master got work in 5e. However, I'm not sure of the balance of this feature, nor the balance of getting undead graft at 14th level instead of 18th level, so again, any word on balance of both these changes would be appreciated!

EDIT #2: Also added a Pale Master exclusive feat, to give them even more versatility with their minions. Again, not sure on the balance, so help here would be appreciated!

EDIT #3: Brought Destructive retribution back into the main class and made Undead Graft a feat. Not sure if this is the best balance sollution, though, so I'd appreciate any and all advice on this!

2017-11-20, 07:04 PM
I don't see a "of 1st level" in TTS... However, tying to sorcery points fulfills the same premise of making it not infinite so you're good.

The cohort gains HD equal to your level? That might be a bit much... I'd go with half your level in bonus HD myself. No problem with ASI's however, albeit the wording doesn't seem to say it'll gain ASI's that you gain as you level up later, so a slight adjustment there might be good. As for regaining everything it had in life... um... that is a bit much. I'd only give it equipment proficiencies from life, so it can start using better equipment if it used to be a guard or soldier or something.

Aura of Bloodlust: Why only weapon attack rolls? Why not also claws, bites, etc?

I must admit, I do kind of prefer the Undead Graft being an optional feat over a required class feature. Not all sorcerers tainted by undeath will replace their limbs.

2017-11-20, 07:16 PM
The advantage on weapon attacks was just a holdover from the wording of abilities like Undead Thralls and Corpsecrafter. I've changed it, now, to just give advantage to all non-spell attacks, in the odd chance you command something that has spellcasting with your Undead Graft's Touch of Command.

Likewise, I made the suggested changes to the Undead Cohort. Does it look fine, now? Or are the feats still a tad too OP?

2017-11-20, 07:49 PM
Much better.

2017-11-20, 08:56 PM
Cool. After thinking for a bit, I kinda liked the old feature before Destructive Retribution here, just to add a bit more blasting potential with the necrotic vulnerability piece. However, not sure of it's balance. I'd appreciate a word here on that, as well as the fluff change for it. (you said you didn't like the original fluff, so I made it less about the undead exploding and more you sacrificing an undead by harvesting it's animating energy, and then combining it with your sorcery in a necrotic burst....and it now costs a sorcery point to make it fit that fluff better.)

Likewise, is undead graft still too powerful, or all good?

EDIT: Added some new necromancy spells, any comment on their balance would be appreciated!

2017-11-21, 02:08 AM
I'd suggest make Necrotic Burst take a variable number of Sorcery Points, converting all but one of them into d6's plus some base (like 4d6 + up to 5 from SP's), and also add the remaining/current HP of the undead you detonate as a bonus. Stronger undead = has more energy within it, yes?

If you're that worried about the Undead Graft, make it a legendary magic item requiring the ability to cast x number of necromancy spells or somesuch to allow you to attune to it that 18th+ pale masters, necromancers, death clerics, undying warlocks, and maybe a few others know how to create using the arm of a sufficiently powerful undead (part of me wants to make it require the arm of a lich), several thousand gold, and a week or two or more of work.

Another idea is to say that grafting it drains a point of Dexterity or causes disadvantage on any arm/hand-based dexterity checks (try to imagine how mind-screwy it would be for your arm to suddenly lose all sensation - including proprioception - and at the same time become even a half-inch shorter or longer, your hand have 5% different proportions or size, and/or have your elbow shifted a half-inch along the length relative to what you're used to; yeah, it would mess with you) and causes some max HP reduction (from the infusion of necrotic energy into your being, a "penalty" which pale masters and necromancers can ignore) while granting a point of Strength (because undead can overpower itself like a crazy person can, or just because it's innately stronger) unless/until it is removed and the original arm is regenerated at which time you're back to normal.