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Thread: Necromancy rework
- Join Date
- Dec 2017
Now we all know that GMs don't like letting players have undead. As a necromancer enthusiast i have had to deal with half compromises and patronizing "oh, no, i'm not running an evil campaign, take something else" or "well, alright, you'll be burning your 3rd level spell slot all game... But you can do that if that's what you want. You only get 2 though." And that's just not good enough, ladies and gentleman. It's not even close to good enough. If a player wants to command an army of undead it's an entire adventure in itself! And it opens new interesting tactics for you GMs! You could have a necromancer have an entire RTS mechanic as his allies clash with another army: while the fighter, cleric and rogue push forward into the opposing army, the wizard on his undead wyvern mount directs the un-breathing army, holding the line and directing detachments to flank, the other army loosing a cavalry against the flankers, measure and countermeasure raising the stakes!
Anyway, my plea for your consideration over, these spells are suitable for D&D 5e, pathfinder 1e, or D&D 3.5:
Create undead (rework):
Necromancy 1 Sor/Wiz/Cleric
Components: Vocal, Somatic, Material
Casting time: 1 round [60 seconds]
Material costs: a pinch [1 oz] of bone powder, pinch of grave soil, a drop of blood, a dead body(s) appropriate for the undead you're attempting to raise
The created undead are under your control until their destruction, dismissal, or until you exceed the number of undead you can control. They follow your commands to the best of their abilities and may be instructed to follow, guard an area, destroy a target, or move an object. You may control a number of undead equal to your spellcasting ability modifier multiplied by your caster level, until you reach 20th level when you may control any number of undead outside of direct combat. If you create more undead than you can control, the GM decides which of your horde are released from your control, unless you attempt to specifically release a specific undead (arcana check DC= the released creature's CR + 10). You may control up to 4 undead in direct combat, with this limit also counting towards constructs, undead or summoned NPC allies conjured or created by other spells or abilities. If a player commands more than 2 undead they control in direct combat, they cannot cast a spell that turn.The following levels describe how many undead of a given type you may raise with a single spell slot of the given type
Level 1 - up to 4 evil eyes (custom monster), crawling hands, skeletons and/or zombies
Level 3 - up to 2 ghouls and/or ghasts, or up to 6 skeletons, zombies and/or evil eyes
Level 4 - up to 2 mummies or mohrgs, up to 4 ghouls or ghasts, or up to 8 skeletons/zombies
Level 5 - 2 mummy lords, 4 mummies or mohrgs, up to 4 ghouls or ghasts, or up to 8 skeletons/zombies
Level 6 - 2 shadows/wraiths, 2 mummy lords, 2 wights, 4 mummies or mohrgs, 8 ghouls or ghasts, 10 skeletons or zombies
Level 8 - a devourer, 2 spectres, 4 shadows/wraiths, 4 mummy lords, 8 mummies/mohrgs, or up to 4 graveknights.
Level 9 - add 2 to the highest total of a given undead type mentioned above and raise that many; these undead gain a number of HD equal to your spellcasting ability modifier.
3rd level necromancy (wizard, cleric)
Somatic, material components: 2 or more dead bodies sewn together, necrogen (a mixture of effluvia [liquid corpse juice], lead powder and bog water or water that contained rotting biomatter)
@10th caster level created skaabs gain an additional 2 HD and +4 to ONE bas stat (upping the respective limits)
@15th caster level the created skaab gains 4HD and +8 to distribute among the base scores
@20th caster level the created skaab gains 6 HD and +10 among attributes, and the player may control as many skaabs OUT OF COMBAT as they wish, in direct combat still only 4 can be managed without feats.
A skaab is a composite undead stitched together from disparate parts and is animated by necromancy and the vile substance called necrogen, which replaces half the masse's original blood. Skaabs come in innumerable forms, limited only by the deranged imaginations that bind them together (and the laws of physics and anatomy). A skaab's stats, attacks, senses, move speed and CR are determined by it's components and grafted weapons. They possess no true intelligence (usually) but understand how to use weapons or grafted parts. Each part carries with it a statistic from it's original owner;
The torso defines the base CON and Hit Dice. Adding more torsos grant their CON bonuses to the base CON and their HD to the HD pool. Thus it's important to make the base torso that of a hardy creature. Additional torsos can be added so long as their bonuses do not exceed more than half the base torso's CON score, or they become limp and useless, adding nothing. If the base torso has natural armor bonuses or natural armor, you may add those, but adding manufactured armor will overrule any natural armor.
Heads determine the senses, intelligence, and number of attacks available to the skaab. The main head is the one connected to the primary torso or torso bundle where a head would attach naturally, and determines the base INT score. The base head adds all the attacks and senses it had in life, and each additional head adds 1 attack and 1 sense it possessed in life, as well any natural bite attacks it had in life. A skaab cannot have more heads than half the base head's INT, and cannot have more than 6 attacks. This Int limit may be tracked seperately for hydra heads, but still cannot give a skaab more than 6 attacks.
Arms determine the base strength and kinds of attacks available to the skaab, such as held weapons, claws, tentacles, etc. One pair is designated by the caster as the base pair of arms and that pair determines the base STR score, and each additional set adds their strength modifier to the base score, up to a max STR of 24. Past that, additional limbs just add attack types available or arms available to manipulate or hold objects. Forelimbs from quadrapedal creatures may be used as arms but cannot hold weapons if they dont possess hands or tentacles or have such appendages added to them, or have weapons grafted directly over their end.
*A note: arms add forms of attacks, not additional attacks. If an arm or pair of arms wield a weapon, they can use that weapon to attack, but may not attack more times than the number of attacks allotted by the skaab's heads.
Legs determine the base DEX score and land move speed. As with arms the skaab's creator determines a base pair of legs that contribute the base DEX and move speed, with additional sets adding their DEX bonuses to that score and half their original move speeds to the total, not exceeding the base DEX+1/2 base DEX. However, legs must be spaced so as not to interfere with each other's movement, and must be appropriately sized to move the skaab. A giant torso cannot move with a single pair of normal person's legs, but could move with 11 pairs of such legs arranged along it's underside like a centipede's, though sturdier legs would be better suited to the job and such an arrangement would reduce the whole creature's move speed.
Other: Tails, wings, fins, flukes, flippers, tentacles, eye stalks, weapons and armor grafted to the frame of the skaab all add their logical bonuses or attack types. Most of these are move speeds, but some may add extra senses are new attack options like projectiles or beams/rays. This could also be mouths and eyes added on. A weapon grafted to a limb adds that weapon's attack type to the skaab's available repertoire of attacks.
The logic of a skaab: while the above describes the basic mechanical rules, create skaab relies partially on role play logic and the reality of anatomy. A ghoul stitcher (person who creates skaabs) can't just attach a limb willy-nilly and expect it to function. Each limb needs proper anchoring, musculature, ligaments and integration into the whole. The necrogen does much of the fine work of connecting nerves, tendon, muscle and veins/arteries, but bone work must be done to give limbs base joints. The work involved in creating a skaab worthy of the name can take days. When cast above 3rd level extra limbs will form rudimentary, cancerous looking joints and connections that are weaker than natural or "sculpted" work. Cast At 6th level, so long as dead bone, flesh, tendon and organ material that's been doused with necrogen is present, the skaab will automatically consume it to form "natural" joints and connections. Ideally, anything more complex than a zombie with 6 arms, 6 legs, and 3 heads should be drawn out to show how the character assembles the creature. If it looks like a disjointed mess on paper, it probably wont function in play. A simple diagram is all that's necesarry, a player or GM need not have an art degree, just a sketch that gets the basic concept and execution across.
A variant of this allows the limbs to simply create their own joints, but it's still suggested that the player still draw what they intend the thing to look like.
A player may only control a number of skaabs equal to their spellcasting mod multiplied by their proficiency, and may control no more than 4 in direct combat. At level 20 the player may control as many skaabs outside of combat as they want. The in-combat limit also counts any other undead, constructs, conjured creatures or summoned allies under the player's control. If a player commands more than 2 skaabs they control in direct combat, they cannot cast a spell that that turn.
- Join Date
- Dec 2017
The conveyor belt and other concerns
Now, many of you may have noticed a flaw or ten with this. First off, if the player controls 12 undead out of combat and 4 in combat, what are the other undead doing, just standing around? Well, yes! The undead have no real drive so long as they aren't intelligent (INT less than 8) and if they have their own wills (such as wights) they may be reticent to engage in combat just because. The intelligent undead also may be apt to wander and kill living things their caster has not forbidden them from. All undead created this way may be called mentally to their master's side, but they still have to shamble back over. After an undead is slain, the player may call a fresh undead soldier into the fray, but managing undead in combat and calling some from out of combat is complex and mentally taxing, and should take an action. Have your players choose between movement or an attack, or a bonus action; that action is sacrificed to bring the desired undead into combat. The actual commanding of undead doesn't take any actions, but the mental effort can be too much to allow a player to cast spells supporting their undead if they order more than 2 undead. After all, they are coordinating multiple mindless hulks.
Outside of combat refers to the player's character, not the undead. So, a wizard with a couple dozen zombies and skeletons that stands outside of a skirmish, perhaps atop an instant fortress, is considered "out of combat", and thus can control and direct their undead horde in it's whole. This is because they can focus their mind entirely on managing their troops, without concern for their personal well being, moving around, casting spells to support them, or any of the other threats and concerns a character in the front lines need worry about. If they use a spell to interact with the enemy, are being shot at, or have something else distracting them, the undead may get confused.
The undead can also be instructed to function a certain way without the player's direct commands. If a player tells a wight to lead a contingent of zombies to a spot and attack anyone other than that player and his allies who get near, that's just what the wight will do.
Skaabs, while they possess the intelligence to comprehend complex instructions, lack any sort of personal drive to do anything that hasn't been explicitly told to them. If a player tells a skaab to "gaurd this area" the skaab may not actually attack them, but simply turn away intruders. The player need to explicitly tell it to attack and kill anyone who enters the area, unless they run away, and that the skaab may not attack the player or their allies, and so on. A player may cast "awaken" on the skaab which pulls a soul into it and gives it will and drive, but that should carry with it a plethora of problems, such as what the skaab thinks about it's existence and how it should act.
- Join Date
- Oct 2017
Re: Necromancy rework
I'm sorry your DM's have been such a chore to deal with. I think this is an over correction.
Spoiler: Management Strategy
As consideration for my tables, I have 3x5 cards with the skeleton stats and I hand them out so each player has a minion or 2 that attacks what they attack, I encourage them to dress them up or make personalities however they want. I use average damage for any groups.
I never run with more than 8 Skeletons total. At a 11 I add 3 ghouls, no more. When I get to level 14 I create a Wight, permanently control it with my 14 feature and keep the 3 ghouls. The wight ranges with the skeletons, the Ghouls swarm a single target and AoO. In a smaller party or if Skeletons die, I hand the ghouls out too.
If the Wight has zombies they do the same thing the ghouls do but grappling instead. I've had consistent success convincing DM's that my Wight's leave peacefully if I use the domination feature on another undead (I've gotten a Beholder Zombie once).
For my part, I stay present, plan actions before my turn, usually roll anything I need to (colored coded dice so the DM knows what's what) and queue up the dice so when my turn comes I just list off actions and #s with a few verbal flourishes.
When a creature is really powerful and my minions would be rolling to crit, I don't bother, I place them around to make movement challenging so the creep has to waste attacks clearing them. They might attempt grapples even if the target is huge (enough zombies might Encumber a creature and that's not nothing).
Out of combat, they're trap finders and Help granters for searches, climbs, jumps, etc. I've never had a player complain to me or a DM about the time my turn takes. That said, I've been playing for nearly 40 years, I champion the social contract and have a fairly solid grasp of the rules as a whole.
For a player new to the game, I'd recommend they stick to Summon Undead which is amazing under the right circumstances. The Wretched/Rotting option actually makes Ray of Sickness okay.
I have a Warlock that just started using Summon Undead after cutting the head off a fallen foe, stripping the skull and just pasting 300 GP to it so it looks like a Dia De Los Muertos sugar skull. When he casts, the decapitated body "Kool-Aid Man's" into the scene to start attacking. I can't wait to pick it up with an actual Necromancer.