How Would You Build And Play A Necromancer


Recently I was asked by my DM if I would like to try playing in an evil campaign (we're starting from level 6). Sure why not, this means I can finally play a necromancer I think to myself. However upon looking at the spell options and different paths of play I get a bit stumped. Not everyone has made their characters but I do know that one guy is playing an oath of conquest paladin, and that is giving me just enough information to brew some ideas.

Spell selections
I'm not too sure, so I just went with my usual wizard suite but this time with some more necromancy
Cantrips) Prestidigitation, Minor Illusion, Toll the Dead, and Chill Touch.
1st) Detect Magic, Identify, Comprehend Languages, Mage Armor, Shield, Sleep, Find Familiar, and 1 extra one I couldn't decide on. I don't think there are any really good options though, so its a filler (I'm thinking ray of sickness, but I'm also considering grease)
2nd) Misty Step, Mirror, Image, Flaming Sphere, and Ray of Enfeeblement.
3rd) Animate Dead (because necromancer), Counterspell, Thunder Step, Haste, Fireball, and Leomund's Tiny Hut (we were allowed to start with an uncommon magic item and I decided to take a scroll and scribe it into my spellbook)

The way I see it, I could blow all of my level 3 slots and get a quite good investment. A combination of 6 body blockers and damage dealers seems pretty good to me. Considering every zed is an extra 28 HP I just put in front of myself, or maybe moved into a flanking position for some of my other buddies (doubt it with 20 speed, but a man can dream), or maybe since they aren't too good at hitting things they take the help action and try to give other party members an extra edge/soak up some hits. At the very least they can run up and use the help action/act as sticky ADS for the enemies. They could be particularly sticky since the paladin's aura would be giving them a bonus to their undead fortitude save as well. In any case if you don't want to be touched just make a squad of 168 HP (that each have a pretty good chance to keep going past their mileage) and send them with the paladin. I guarantee the enemy fighters will have a great time trying to stab their way to you.

On the other hand every skeleton is a ranged fighter with a bit better hit and damage bonus, and they can allow for more melee dudes to join the fray while they pincushion the enemy with a respectable 1d6+5 damage each. If all of them are skeletons you have the potential to 6d6+30 damage in 1 round. Realistically however the average is somewhere between 2 and 3 hits worth of damage, but that's still a nice piece of hurt when it's happening turn after turn. The question is "are they worth the extra damage even though they're so fragile". They have weakness to bludgeoning, they have less HP, and but it the tradeoff worth it for the marginal increase in hit chance and damage at range. Maybe the 1 point differences make an astounding increase... I dunno

Both of these get obliterated by AOE but I'm definitely taking more of a liking to the zombie side of things since the aforementioned synergy with the paladin, and the fact that they could probably stand up to the punishment a considerable bit better than spooky scary skeletons. Also since I've got proficiency in herbalism kits, I could potentially embalm them which would make it so much easier on the party. No stink, no rot, I could cover them with cloaks and masks if we need to go into the city, all around a pretty good deal. I don't see that as very budget friendly though, so if we need to go into a city we'll probably either let them loose, off them, or stuff them in a bag of holding for future feral use.

don't worry, If I decide to do this we have a system ready to go that will keep my horde from becoming an inconvenient hold up during combat. It's a variant of the mob rules, but I honestly can't tell the difference)

Alternatively I could be responsible and keep 2 slots open for counterspells, or heck maybe cast haste on a buddy. Buffs start getting a bit better around this time as well, and so does battlefield control. I suppose one thing that can be said is that minions are a form of battlefield control and I can kind of get that, but It's not the same as dropping a sleet storm and watching an entire section of map get marked as a nope zone. I've always been a fan of the support class and buffing allies while controlling the enemy boardstate, but I kind of want to give the whole undead army thing a shot.

Potential Changes- (most of which involve being in cities and not being able to have a horde)
I'll probably cut flaming sphere for something else since my bonus action will probably be spent controlling the horde, but I think it would be a pretty useful bonus action ability for when I dont have my horde. I'm not super sure about thunder step, not only because I'm thinking about sacking all of my spell slots for undead, but also because of how versatile it may or may not be when I didn't have the horde (It's misty step with an upside and it can get a buddy out of jail with you, maybe even a melee one if you decide to run up and save them---- but we have misty step for this exact reason). Since I'm leaning towards zombies I think I could swap haste with slow since it is an incredible mass debuff/control spell that does so much for a horde based man like myself.

I dunno, rate my build, tell me if I'm wrong, and give your own suggestions.


Are you set on wizard? Other than the 6th level feature, which if you're leaning into the army of thralls thing is pretty helpful, the School of Necromancy subclass just doesn't do that much for me. You can see from your spell list that it's kind of hard to put together a spellbook for a wizard that has a lot of things that have a necromancer flavor and also doesn't suck. (Yours definitely doesn't suck -- it's a good spell list -- but it doesn't really scream "necromancer".)

Here's a spell list for a 6th level Death Cleric that, IMO, has a better flavor for the concept. You sacrifice the size and power of your thrall army that the Undead Thralls feature gives you, so if that's the absolute centerpiece of your build maybe stop reading now, but you get some nice benefits in return: free twinning of toll the dead when there are adjacent enemies, ignore resistance (though not immunity) to necrotic damage, a double damage inflict wounds twice per short rest, and access to spells like Wailing Shroud of Actual Ghosts (aka, spirit guardians), Floating Scythe (spiritual weapon), speak with dead, revivify, ... I'd maybe even put Bane and Command in the category of necromantish, neither of which wizards get.

Toll the Dead
Chill Touch
Spooky Glow (Light)

*False Life
*Ray of Sickness
Inflict Wounds

*Ray of Enfeeblement
Spiritual Weapon

*Animate Dead
*Vampiric Touch(c)
Bestow Curse(c)
Speak With Dead
Spirit Guardians(c)

*domain spells

Maybe even take Ritual Caster (Wizard) for Summon Edgelord Raven (Find Familiar) and Command Poltergeist (Unseen Servant) to bring back some of the minionry you lose by not having as many zombies.