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D&D 5E "classic" Necromancers - does it still "work"?

The two best none Necromancy spells for Necromancer is Seeming and True Polymorph. True Polymorph is turning into a Lich, Death Knight, Mummy Lord, etc... on easy mode and can be used to create undead servants you don't normally have access too and Seeming allows you to disguise your undead horde when visiting villages and cities in none evil (or at least very weird) places.

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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The traditional way of doing minions aka busting action economy by fielding a lot of weak-ish minions is still valid...but the main complaint that comes with it is also still valid: it does slow the game to a crawl.

The new summon spells are more easy to use at the table, but are not as cool, IMHO.
What can I say? I love the Diablo necromancers!
I think the solution to that, and there needs to be one because controlling a swarm is both mechanically and thematically as a character concept, is to make all the creatures you control force a save from creatures within 5ft of them, resolved all at once, at the end of the controller's turn. For ranged minions you target specific creatures or an area, but it's still a save.

Got 6 skeleton archers? Rad! They go at the end of your turn, moving before or after their action as you wish, and force either 6 creatures or all creatures in an area save vs a damage value calculated via simple addition scaling by the number and CR of creatures in your horde, against your save dc.

Epic druid with 28 fey spirits in the form of wolves? They fill a huge space and everything in it has to save vs XYZ damage and falling prone.

Basically controlling your minions is the same as having a magic item that lets you cast a moderately complex spell at the end of each of your turns. Powerful, but not annoying to adjudicate.


So the way to play a necromancer in 5e used to be to use animate dead to animate skeleton archers. A level 6 necromancer could, after a few days, have 4 skeletons per 3rd level slot sacrificed to this strategy, skeletons that had a bit more hp and hit harder than normal skeletons.

Now this is reasonably potent*, but you have to deal with the fact that there are social consequences, you need bodies, it takes 2 days (4 if you aren't a necromancer wizard) to rebuild your squad... so I don't think it's used frequently in play.
(* is it? I haven't seen it in play myself so I don't actually know.)

This was straight out of the box from the PHB, and it made the necromancer the main "minions" choice, with druids being the other one.

But Xanathar and Tasha's have introduced a lot of summoning spells, that are accessible by many full-caster classes. There is even a summon undead spell, so you don't have to bother with the whole getting bodies thing... so I was wondering... is the "old way" of doing it with animate dead still worth it, or has that method effectively been replaced by these new summoning spells? (a bit like the Tasha's version of the beastmaster ranger has effectively displaced the PHB version).
I don't really think the other spells compete with this and it is completely viable.

Summon undead lasts for 24 hours and is not concentration, it also has a minute cast so you can't use it in the middle of combat. Finally it is not concentration while the others are, so you can have your skeletons and get other undead through the other spells.

Also you don't need corpses for skeletons, just a pile of bones, which you can find a lot of places.

I would love a minions-controller calls, but too many creatures in a tabletop causes the fight to become slower. And DM can use monsters designed specifically to be swarn-destroyers.

A PC class who summons loads of expendable minions has always been a logistical pain in the tabletop game. I'm in favour of necromancers being NPCs, for purely practical reasons.

The one strong pet approach seems the most viable way to make a PC summoning class.

One way to speed up combat with multiple undead minions is to combine them into larger Swarm-type monster stat blocks. This requires a bit of homebrew ingenuity, but can significantly reduce the number of rolls needed to represent the minions' interactions.


I’m not sure. I do know that have seen my fair share of players in D&D 3e, Pathfinder, and 5e who have come in expecting a necromancer that makes them feel like necros in their favorite fantasy games (e.g., Diablo, Guild Wars, Elder Scrolls, etc.) and were utterly disappointed by D&D’s necromancers. I’m not sure if the infinite horde of minions that require managing via Animate Dead and the like is the best way forward.

If there is a problem with finding bodies, then why not just tie necromancers more concretely to the Shadowfell and have their summons or magical spells come from there?

One way to speed up combat with multiple undead minions is to combine them into larger Swarm-type monster stat blocks. This requires a bit of homebrew ingenuity, but can significantly reduce the number of rolls needed to represent the minions' interactions.
In Pathfinder it is a monster subtype, the troop. If 5th Ed will have a "module" of wargames then the troop will be added because it is easy to be understood and simple.


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