Robes billowing around him, a human stands atop a hill watching legions of undead march towards a city in the dead of night. As the front lines reach the gates an alarm goes off within the city, but it is already too late. The city is surrounded, and there’s no help coming.
With her scythe cutting through the last stalk of wheat, an elf wipes the sweat from her brow and takes a moment to observe the fifty or so skeletons in front of her, all with scythes cutting wheat themselves. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices a ghoul shambling over a nearby hill. With a quick glare from the elf, the ghoul stops and turns around, reporting to her that there is an army following it. The elf takes off running with what wheat she has and the skeletons follow her.
A halfling kneels behind a column at the body of his best friend, a dwarf. Crying, he reaches out to the body and mutters disdainfully. He asks out loud if his friend would lend him his strength so that one of them might be able to live. After a few seconds, the now undead dwarf stands up and charges a nearby goblin, buying the halfling just enough time to get away. He runs back to town just in time to warn them of the coming goblin horde.
Necromancers channel the power of life and death. They may be weak themselves, but they make up for it by surrounding themselves with undead minions that they control as if they were an extension of the necromancer’s own body. Necromancy is not something people undertake lightly, as a false step in the wrong company may cause one to lose their head.
Necromancers exert control over undead creatures as if they were part of the same creature. Unlike hordes of wild undead, the undead controlled by a necromancer act as one unit, often running (or shambling) to each other’s aid when a member of the horde is injured or destroyed.
A Life of Consequences
Necromancers don’t have the best history with people. Though the large majority of necromancers merely want to help people, whether it be in communicating with dead family members or overthrowing tyrannical kings, evil necromancers are by far more well known for the occasional invasion of a peaceful city, which people don’t tend to take kindly to.
A necromancer must always be careful of his company, because while many people will seek to understand his intentions, just as many will ignore them altogether in the assumption he is evil.
Creating a Necromancer
The most important thing to consider when creating a necromancer are the reasons you became a necromancer. Were you driven to the edge when someone you love was killed or did an oppressive government lead to your seeking rebellion? Either way, a necromancer is often misunderstood by those around them. Necromancers must usually hide their abilities to avoid persecution.
You can make a Necromancer quickly by following these suggestions. First, make Charisma your highest ability score, followed by Constitution, and Strength or Dexterity after that if you plan on taking the Reaper Archetype. Second, choose the Sage background.
Multiclassing Requirements: Constitution 13, Charisma 13
Multiclassing Proficiencies: Embalming Tools, Simple Weapons, no armor
As a Necromancer, you gain the following class features.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per Necromancer level
Hit Points at 1st level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per Necromancer level after 1st
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: All simple weapons, scythes
Tools: Embalming tools
Saving Throws: Constitution, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, Deception, History, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
(a) leather armor and two daggers or (b) a light crossbow and 20 bolts
An arcane focus and embalming tools
(a) any simple weapon or (b) a scythe
(a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) a scholar’s pack
At 1st level, you gain the ability to bring wild undead under your control by force. As an action, target an uncontrolled undead with an Intelligence lower than 8 within 30 feet of you. The undead makes a Charisma save DC 8+ your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier, and if it fails it is brought under your control indefinitely, but if it succeeds you cannot use this feature on it again for 24 hours. You may only control undead in this way that do not have a CR greater than your level. When you take over undead in this way, they are considered animated by you, and if you do not already control the undead you take damage equal to 1 per 1/8 CR of undead controlled (minimum 1) and your HP maximum is reduced by an equal amount. This Damage and HP reduction cannot be reduced by any means. Your hit point maximum is restored as the controlled undead die or leave your control, but you are not healed. You may control a maximum number of Undead equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1) times your Necromancer level.
You may control any undead you control as an action on your turn. At 9th level, this changes to a bonus action. If you are not actively controlling your undead, they will attempt to execute your last orders to the best of their ability. You only maintain control of your undead as long as they are within 1 mile of you. If they leave a 1 mile radius, they leave your control and act as normal undead.
Undead you control report to you psychically any creatures or environment that they can see. You innately know the general direction and distance of all controlled undead.
Starting at 1st level, you may use your own life force to animate recently dead corpses. Using your action, you may touch a creature that died in the last minute and raise it as an undead under your control indefinitely. You must spend an hour raising a creature if it has been dead for longer than a minute. Whenever you use this class feature, you take damage equal to 1 per 1/8 CR of undead controlled (minimum 1) and your HP maximum is reduced by an equal amount. This Damage and HP reduction cannot be reduced by any means. Your hit point maximum is restored as the controlled undead die or leave your control, but you are not healed. You may only raise undead in this way that do not have a CR greater than your level, and you are limited to undead with an intelligence lower that 8. At 9th level, you gain the ability to create undead with an intelligence score of 8 or higher, but it must be less than 13. At 18th level, you no longer have restrictions on the kinds of undead you can create based on intelligence score.
At 2nd level, you learn to freely manipulate your own life energy. As an action, you may touch any undead you have animated and deal any amount of damage to it up to its current health, giving you temporary hit points or healing any other undead you can touch that you have animated for an amount equal to the damage dealt. Alternatively, you can use an action to touch any creature and channel your own life force into it. This damages you for any amount up to half your maximum hit points or your current hit points, whichever is lower, that you choose and then heals the target for an equal amount.
At 3rd level choose a Necromantic Aspiration: Caretaker, Reaper, and Summoner, all detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level, and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th level.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
At 5th level, you learn to touch the lives of your foes and steal them for yourself. As an action, you may make a ranged spell attack (proficiency + Charisma modifier) against a living creature within 60 feet. If the attack hits, the target takes 1d8 damage plus your charisma modifier. This damage increases to 2d8 at 11th level, and to 3d8 at 17th level.
Additionally, if the target of the attack dies, you gain temporary hit points equal to half the damage dealt.
Aura of Undeath
Starting at 5th level, you gain an aura of undeath. You may use a bonus action to activate any or all auras you know and you may turn any of them off at any time for free on your turn.
You choose one of the following auras when you gain this feature, and again at 11th and 17th levels. When your Aura of Undeath is turned on you maintain any auras you choose until you dismiss the effect. You may use a bonus action on future turns to activate additional Aura effects, but may dismiss them for free. Your Aura of Undeath has a radius of 30 ft, and affects all undead you control within it. Some Aura effects require you to take damage at the beginning of your turns to maintain them. This cost is noted on each Aura effect.
If an Unholy Aura and a Holy Aura overlap, creatures in the overlapping areas get none of the benefits of either (e.g. Aura of Undeath and a Paladin’s Devotion Aura would cancel out).
Aura of Ferocity
Costs 2 hp/round.
Affected creatures may add your Charisma modifier to their damage rolls with weapon attacks.
Aura of Resilience
Costs 1 hp/round.
Affected creatures may add your Charisma modifier to any saving throws they make.
Aura of Retaliation
Costs 2 hp/round.
Affected creatures may make an attack of opportunity against any creature that attacks them with a melee weapon or melee spell attack.
Aura of Tenacity
Costs 3 hp/round.
Affected creatures take less damage from non magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage equal to your Charisma Modifier.
Aura of Terror
Costs 2 hp/round.
Affected creatures become more menacing. Any enemy creature that starts its turn or moves within 5 feet of an affected creature must make a wisdom saving throw against DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your charisma modifier 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 stop being frightened.
At 7th level, you gain the ability to channel your life force to damage nearby enemies. As an action, you release Dark energy in a 10 ft. radius sphere with yourself as the point of origin. Creatures hit by this burst of dark energy may make a Constitution saving throw DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. On a failure they take 3d8 necrotic damage and are pushed 5 feet away from you. On a successful save, they take half damage and are not pushed. This damage increases to 5d8 at 11th level, and to 7d8 at 17th level. You may use this ability a number of times per long rest equal to your Charisma Modifier.
Starting at 10th level, you gain the ability to sacrifice your controlled undead to restore your life when you would be knocked unconscious. As a reaction to taking damage that would reduce you to 0 hit points, you may sacrifice an undead you control within 30 feet to instead drop to 1 hit point. You may use this feature once per long rest.
At 13th level, the abilities of your Control undead feature extend to intelligent undead and undead controlled by other necromancers. Intelligent undead are harder to control in this way. If the target has an Intelligence of 8 or higher, it has advantage on the saving throw. If it fails the saving throw and has an Intelligence of 12 or higher, it can repeat the saving throw at the end of every hour until it succeeds and breaks free.
If an undead you are trying to control is controlled by someone else, you may instead use your action to initiate a contest against said creature. Both of you roll 1d20 and add your Proficiency bonus and Charisma modifiers. If you win the contest, the undead is brought under your control, but in the event of a tie or if you lose, nothing happens. Once an undead has been contested like this, it cannot be contested again for 1 hour. If the undead has an Intelligence of 8 or higher, it may grant advantage in this contest to either necromancer.
Starting at 15th level, your knowledge of necromancy allows you to understand concepts of spirituality foreign to normal people. First, once per day, you may use your action to see 60 feet into the ethereal plane for 10 minutes.
Additionally, once per day, when touching a dead body, you may begin a 1 hour ritual, during which you may converse freely with the soul that previously inhabited it, provided the soul is willing. If you have a possession of the spirit you are trying to contact, you may also use that to contact them
At 20th level, you gain the ability to choose a single controlled undead as your Death General. This undead can be chosen from any undead you control and gains a number of additional benefits.
Creating a Death General requires performing an 8 hour ritual every day for a week and 5,000 gp worth of materials.
Your General’s HP cost is increased by 20 HP.
Your General’s Hit Points are their normal HP or 100, whichever is higher.
Your General’s Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are replaced with your own, and they add your weapon and armor proficiencies to their own.
Your general has a control radius equal to your own and you may control undead within that radius. Your General can be controlled as long as you exist on the same plane of existence, and he will act to reach you if you are separated in such a way.
When you manifest your Aura of Undeath, Control Undead, or Dark Nova class features, you may do so from your General’s location, but they do not manifest from your own location if you do this.
You may use an action to begin seeing through your General’s senses. This lasts until you end it and causes you to become blind and deaf to anything around your own body.
You innately know the general direction and distance of any undead within the General’s control radius, and if an undead is within both yours and your Generals radius you know it’s exact location.
Any time you would die for any reason. Your General dies instead, and your body is teleported to a safe place chosen by your DM on the same plane of existence, unconscious but stable. Any undead you control leave your influence and become wild.
Alternatively, you may choose to become the Death General yourself. Becoming a Death General requires performing an 8 hour ritual every day for a week, but has no gold cost. When you do this, you gain the following features.
Your Maximum HP is increased by 40, but these hit points can not be used to control undead.
You gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws.
Your Charnel Touch deals an additional 1d8 damage.
The ranges of your Dark Nova and Aura of Undeath are doubled.
Your undead control radius is doubled.
Necromancers share their affinity with undead, but how they treat their undead often varies. A Necromancer that minds their undead carefully is very different from a Necromancer that sits back while his army wages war, and both of these are very different from a Necromancer that fights on the front line with their undead as their leader.
Care for and enhance a small group of undead.
At 3rd level, the damage and max HP cost per CR of animating undead increases by your proficiency bonus. As a result, undead you control may add your proficiency bonus to hit and have bonus HP equal to your necromancer level.
Starting at 6th level, undead you create have AC = 8+ your proficiency bonus + their dexterity modifier.
Starting at 10th level, your animations may maintain a facet of their living consciousness. These undead are capable of making their own decision, and have an intelligence and wisdom no lower than 10.
Starting at 10th level, your Dark Nova feature instead heals undead you control for an amount equal to half the damage they would have taken.
Starting at 14th level, you gain the ability to animate bodies by binding willing spirits to them. You must spend an hour binding the spirit to the body, allowing the spirit to animate it. The ghost maintains the ability to leave the body, ending this effect. The animated body acts as if it were a normal undead, but is controlled by the spirit.
Cut down your enemies with your own unholy powers.
At 3rd level, you gain proficiency in Medium Armor and Martial Weapons.
Starting at 3rd level, your melee weapon attacks deal bonus necrotic damage equal to your charisma modifier (minimum 1) once per turn. When you deal damage with this feature, you are healed for an amount equal to half your bonus damage rounded up (minimum 1).
At 6th level, your Dark Strike deals an additional 1d8 necrotic damage. This increases to 2d8 at 14th level.
Starting at 6th level, you may make an additional attack when you take the attack action.
At 10th level you gain the ability to interweave your weapon attacks and your magic. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you may cast Charnel Touch as a bonus action.
Starting at 14th level, whenever you kill a creature with Dark Strike, you may use your Raise Undead Class Feature on the creature you killed as a bonus action.
Summon massive hordes of undead to crush your enemies.
At 3rd level, the damage and max HP cost per CR of animating undead decreases by your proficiency bonus when creating or controlling undead of a CR less than or equal to half your level (rounded up) or lower.
Starting at 6th level, you no longer require a corpse to create undead, as you can just as easily summon them to a space within 5 feet of you directly from another plane such as the Shadowfell or the Negative Energy plane. This process takes 1 hour.
Starting at 10th level, you gain the ability to control your undead from up to 10 miles away. This increases to 20 miles at 20th level.
At 14th level, you gain the ability to create undead siege engines. These siege creatures function exactly as if they were normal siege equipment, but are considered controlled undead with a CR of 1 per 10 HP they have (so a Mangonel with 100 hp would be considered CR 10, or 75 hp is CR 7). Each siege engine takes 1 hour per CR to create and does not require a crew to operate.
Anybody can become a lich, though it takes extensive arcane knowledge to create a phylactery.
Becoming a Lich
Learn the Rites of Lichdom; arcane sigils of naming, binding, immortality, and dark magic. No mortal knows the Rites, and you must either bargain with an evil god of Death for the knowledge or find the secret writings of a past lich. No lich is likely to help you become a lich for the same reason High Wizards don’t share their best spells: they are afraid of their own knowledge being used against them.
Prepare a Phylactery by writing the Rites of Lichdom on the inside of a container in silver. Your DM may have you make Dexterity or Intelligence (Arcana) checks if you aren’t a proficient scribe.
Drink a Potion of Transformation; made of poison and the blood of a sentient creature.
Die immediately, then rise as a lich as your soul is drawn into the Phylactery.
You gain the following traits upon attaining Lichdom:
Undead Traits: does not require air, food, drink, or sleep
Resistances: cold, lightning, necrotic
Damage Immunities: poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical weapons
Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Truesight out to 120 feet
Legendary Resistance: 3/day
Regeneration: If you have a Phylactery, when you are destroyed you gain a new body within 1d10 days, regaining all hit points and becoming active again. The new body appears within 5 feet of the phylactery.
Feeding Your Phylactery
You must feed your phylactery a soul, imprisoned via a special use of the Imprisonment spell, once a week or you will gradually deteriorate into a demi-lich.
The Imprisonment spell has an additional use, detailed below:
Trap the Soul: The spell captures the soul of a creature that died in the last 24 hours. The target cannot be resurrected by any means short of a True Resurrection spell. This use of Imprisonment has no special material component cost.