D&D 5E New D&D WotC survey! On classes.

log in or register to remove this ad


I feel I don't really agree with your vision of necromancer. To me it seems completely absurd to suggest that they would not be full casters.
Butting in. I think you could easily justify a necromancer as a half-caster if they had sufficient magical abilities to compensate. For instance, if they get their zombie-making or dead-talking as class abilities instead of spells. In this case, their spells would represent the bulk of their non-necromantic magic.

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
I feel the same way. It looks like a psion, feels like a psion, and casts like a psion (even moreso if you use the Spell Points rule in the DMG). The only thing it's missing is a silent P in the name...and that's apparently a deal-breaker for lots of folks.

One of my favorites:
View attachment 142933
it is a mere sorcerer the blood inheritor of talent, not someone who does what I need it to, and besides will and charisma are two very different things it is easy for you to swallow as you never care either way hence it slides right down your throat whilst I choke on it.

what is that book about as not even my parent's collection has it?
Butting in. I think you could easily justify a necromancer as a half-caster if they had sufficient magical abilities to compensate. For instance, if they get their zombie-making or dead-talking as class abilities instead of spells. In this case, their spells would represent the bulk of their non-necromantic magic.
you could but is it a good idea?

why have none considered my question what is it we mean by necromancer? as if we know that we know what it has to be built to?


Limit Break Dancing
A necromancer sorcerer, eh? I think I can pull that off.

First, you're going to need some good necromancy-flavored ingredients: you can't bake a chocolate cake without chocolate, after all. So let's start with some necro-spiced Race and Background options.
Race: I think that Humans are the creepiest option (ever walked into a convenience store after midnight? spent any time at all on Tinder or eHarmony? babysat a six-year old?). I suppose that Drow or Tiefling would also work, since they are the token EdgeLords of the game (and most necromancers are also edgelords). A talented player could really go to town with a Kenku's mimicry ability and creep out everyone at the table, and a Tabaxi could have some really cool "black cat" superstition vibes. But I'm gonna stick with my first choice, Human.
Subrace: The variant human would be the better option here, for the added feat (and another opportunity for added spooky flavoring). The baseline human is still a good choice, but my mind's made up. So let's pick two spooky Skill proficiencies (I dunno, Religion for all of those funerary rituals, and Stealth for all that skulking around in the dark.) And we need a good spooky feat, something that evokes images of dark rituals and dark magic and dark clothing...I'm torn between Ritual Caster and Magic Initiate. Let's pencil in Magic Initiate for now, but reserve the right to change our minds.
Background: I like to use the Custom background option. Let's start with a spooky, creepy name for it: Gravedigger. Yeah, that's the stuff. That's a theme that we can build on! Earth and death and bodies and graveyards and bodysnatchers and why didn't WotC include this in the PHB in the first place?

Now, let's pick "any two skills," and remember, we're aiming for the ones that a creepy gravedigger would need. Let's go with Athletics (for all that shovel-work) and Medicine (he's probably a bit too familiar with anatomy, know what I mean?)

Next, we pick "a total of two tool proficiencies or languages." This guy is probably really handy with Taxidermy Tools (because taxidermy is creepy as hell), and let's pick the Shovel because well, gravedigger. A shovel is a tool, after all, and you never know when you might need to be proficient with a shovel. Like when you're swinging one at a zombie's head.

Next up: we choose a Feature from any of the other Backgrounds. I like the Researcher feature of the Sage (good mad-scientist vibes, a gravedigger who likes to steal corpses and experiment on them), and I like the Shelter of the Faithful feature of the Acolyte (for the necromancer who lives on the church grounds, tending the graves and pretending to be a faithful member of the parish.) Let's go with Acolyte.

Finally, we adjust our starting equipment. Obviously, a gravedigger would need to be able to dig at night, so let's start him off with a Shovel, a Pickaxe, and a Lantern. He's a member of the parish, too, so let's give him a Holy Symbol, some vestments, a set of common clothes, and a creepy trinket...maybe a cremation urn full of soil.
Class: the point of this challenge is to make a necro-Sorcerer, so we're going with Sorcerer. But which subclass?
Subclass: The Draconic option is the best one, if you don't mind re-skinning it. Start with White dragon, then replace all instances of the word "Dragon" with "Undead" in the descriptions...Draconic Undead Ancestor, Draconic Undead Resistance, Draconic Undead Presence, the flavor text ("Your innate magic comes from draconic undead magic that was mingled with your blood or that of your ancestors. Most often, sorcerers with this origin trace their descent back to a mighty sorcerer of ancient times who made a bargain with a dragon lich or might even have a dragon vampire parent. Some of these bloodlines are well-established in the world..."), and so on.

But I don't want to work that hard, so I'm going with Shadow Magic, from Xanathar's. It's got all of the spooky graveyard vibes you need, and a couple of pretty good buffs.

Okay, we've gathered and measured our ingredients. Now let's preheat the oven to 6th level, and start cooking!

Ability Scores: Rolling stats with the 4d6 method, because that's the way you are supposed to do it, all other methods are optional rules and we don't use them at my table. But whatever, to each their own. However you acquire those stats, I'd arrange them in the following order:

Charisma > Dexterity > Strength or Wisdom > Wisdom or Strength > Constitution > Intelligence

Obviously we want the highest in Charisma and the second-highest in either Wisdom or Dexterity, because that's what the Internet tells me is "teh most aswesome LOL!!!1." The Internet also tells me that Strength and Intelligence are "useless" for "every character oh my god why doesn't WotC fix them," but a weak-muscled gravedigger doesn't make sense to me. So I'd tank Intelligence, not Strength.
Armor: None. This is what Mage Armor, Shield, and Armor of Agathys are for, yes?
Weapons: Mister Graves (I've decided his name is Mister Graves) is proficient with daggers, darts, slings, quartertaffs, and light crossbows. None of these scream "necromancer" to me, except maybe the quarterstaff or the dagger, so I guess they'll have to do. A generous DM might allow Mister Graves to wield his shovel as a weapon, and since he's proficient with shovels he wouldn't have to deal with it being an improvised weapon. It would be up to the DM, and it might not fly (I'd probably make it a two-handed, heavy weapon that deals bludgeoning or slashing damage, but that's just one DM's opinion), so best not to count on it for your build. That said: Mister Graves will definitely be keeping his eyes peeled for a Mattock of the Titans...
Tools: None, which is B.S. But alas, rules are rules. We have to stick with what we've got from our background.
Saves: Constitution and Charisma. Pretty good for a necromancer theme, yes?
Skills: Choose two from the list; Mister Graves will go with Arcana and Intimidation because dArK rItUaLs and sPoOkY ViBeS.
Magic Initiate feat: About that feat at 1st level? We went with Magic Initiate, so it gives us access to 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell. There are lots of good choices depending on the style of character you want to run, and I think that Mister Graves here would go with the warlock's spell list: I choose Toll the Dead and Chill Touch for the cantrips, and Armor of Agathys for the 1st level spell.
My 6th level necromancer knows 5 cantrips. He also knows 7 spells, and up to 2 of them can be 3rd level. And sure, we want the spooky...but we also want the useful. So to that end, we want a good mix of offense, defense, and utility.
Defense: we already have Armor of Agathys from the Magic Initiate feat, and you never want to turn down Mage Armor and Shield.​
Offense: we already have Toll the Dead and Chill Touch cantrips from the Magic Initiate feat. So let's add Green-Flame Blade for melee attacks, and pick up Enemies Abound for messin' with peoples' minds. Erupting Earth fits the "gravedigger" vibe too, so let's throw it on the list. And obviously, Magic Missile.​
Utility: Message can be played up really creepy, making people hear voices and stuff, and Mage Hand is good for making candles float around empty rooms and such. Prestidigitation is my go-to for minor effects, too, so let's put that on the list. Misty Step is the best for getting out of tight spots (like open graves). Darkness is a quick and easy debuff, and we get it free from the Shadow Magic subclass. And Maximilian's Earthen Grasp is a good multi-purpose spell that can grapple, block, attack, etc., and it fits the "gravedigger" vibe (but I almost gave him Shadow Blade, which he would obviously reskin to be a hand-shovel instead of a sword.)​

Cantrips: Chill TouchB, Green-Flame Blade, Mage Hand, Message, Prestidigitation, Toll the DeadB
Level 1: Armor of AgathysB, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Shield
Level 2: DarknessB, Maximilian's Earthen Grasp, Misty Step
Level 3: Enemies Abound, Erupting Earth
Eyes of the Dark: Mister Graves has Darkvision 120', and learns the Darkness spell for free. And best of all, he can cast it by spending 2 Sorcery Points instead of a spell slot...and if he does, he can see through the darkness normally. This is a big deal.

Strength of the Grave: Mister Graves is harder to kill than most; he's allowed a Charisma save to avoid dropping to 0 hit points most of the time (radiant damage and critical hits excepted).

Hound of Ill Omen: I like the idea of a gravedigger being able to summon a snarling, terrifying dire wolf. All the better if you describe it as having a gaunt, skeletal body and glowing red eyes. You know, to fit the theme.
Metamagic: it really doesn't matter which metamagic abilities Mister Graves decides to go with, since his 6 Sorcery Points will be used to cast his Darkness spell every time he rolls for initiative. But just in case, let's grab Quickened Spell and Twinned Spell, to get a little extra mileage out of that Toll the Dead.
Remember that Ritual Caster feat I was salivating over? Let's grab it at 4th level. The Sorcerer doesn't get to cast Ritual spells like some of the other spellcasters do, so this will help fill in that gap and add another layer of versatility. How, you ask? Well this will give us access to two, 1st level spells with the Ritual tag, sure, but the real benefit here is that it will let us scribe ritual spell scrolls, to pad out our necromancer's spell library.

So! Mister Graves picks Find Familiar and Identify off of the Wizard's spell list, and then starts shopping at every bookstore and scribe shop in town for the rest of his natural life. He casts the Find Familiar spell, and summons himself an appropriately spooky animal with it (I'm thinking a screech owl, a black cat, or a raven.) He names it Mort.
Equipment: A gravedigger needs a good shovel and a good lantern, and this one in particular needs a good taxidermy kit and a laboratory. A crossbow would be wasted on him, and probably most of the other starting equpment...he should probably spend his money on more important things like ritual scrolls, poisons, alchemical preparations, and magical items. And I'd pick up an iron hand-bell for him for his Toll the Dead cantrip, and start thinking of pithy one-liners he could use at the table..."for whom my bell tolls," etc.

Oh, and you'll need a character sketch, like maybe one of these.



There. One necromancer, with only levels of sorcerer.

"But he can't create undead!" you might say. And I would reply, "I know, right? He's completely unique!" And then you might then say "But a necromancer has to be able to create undead to be considered a necromancer," and I'd say something like "in Diablo II maybe, but that's not a D&D rule and you know it," and then we'd start quarreling about expectations. And all the while, Mister Graves would be out behind the churchyard, digging our graves.
Last edited:


Arcadian Knight
Butting in. I think you could easily justify a necromancer as a half-caster if they had sufficient magical abilities to compensate. For instance, if they get their zombie-making or dead-talking as class abilities instead of spells. In this case, their spells would represent the bulk of their non-necromantic magic.
Similarly I think of zombie making as normally a ritual exercise... not exactly active spell casting you do as much mid battle.


you could but is it a good idea?
Is it a bad one? I mean, take a look at rangers and paladins. They are both flavorful and both generally rely more on their class/archetype abilities than on spells. If you want the necromancer to actually focus on necromancy, then more of their necromantic abilities should be class abilities.

why have none considered my question what is it we mean by necromancer? as if we know that we know what it has to be built to?
General D&D usage: person who creates and controls undead.

Other common usage: person who controls the energy of life and death.

Actual meaning: person who speaks to the dead as a form of divination.

Any other definitions? If it's a class, specifically a class for 5e, then you can build the basic chassis and have each of these three types as archetypes.


If ones argument for a Necromancer being a full caster (or anything really) is "tradition" usually coined in the terms of that's how D&D has always done it, you are on a sinking ship. Past methods do not necessitate future methods and past methods are not always the best methods by virtue of being past methods. The Necromancer has enough theme and design room to make a full class, it has enough player and DM attraction to be worth the effort so I believe a separate and not necessarily a full caster Necromancer being something worth investigating.

To expand upon the above I believe "Tradition" all too often is used as argument for things existing as they are, existing at all or not existing. This stagnation can be harmful to the game. Please keep in mind I am not advocating change for change sake but if "Tradition" is the main defence and their are better ways let's feast on Hamburgers with sacred cow.
Last edited:


He Mage
It also feels that the themes and processes for spell traditions are repeatedly broken for the sake of creating loopholes in earlier iterations of the game - e.g., a conjuration/transmutation spell that is effectively an evocation attack spell that the Conjurer/Transmuter can cast, etc. - and these oddities have been preserved mostly for the sake of tradition than consistentcy. Not to mention the bizarre refusal by WotC to make healing a type of Necromancy.
Yeah, the inconsistencies of the schools causes future mechanics that depend on them to convolute as well.

It seems to me the most effective way to organize spells is thematically. When players create character concepts and DMs create worlds, themes are the most salient consideration.

Many mage concepts do well to focus on two themes simultaneously, such as making cantrips and the highest spells available cohere to these two themes.

Re healing. Having organized every official spell for my own use, I find it most useful to treat healing as its own spell theme.

The "purpose" of healing is Abjuration, being part of protective defensive magic, generally. Abjuration is a decent keyword tag, even when organizing by theme.

The purposes look something like the following:

Offense / Defense (Abjuration)
Mobility / Barrier
Stealth / Detection
Object / Summon

About eight spell purposes. But spell themes are something different. A spell of a specific theme can fulfill any of the above purposes.

Healing works most elegantly as its own theme. There are different methods of healing: positive energy, shapeshifting, and morale. Each of these is a different theme: planar, body, and mind. While I treat the life energy of healing as its own theme, it pairs well with any of these three themes.

I see necromancy as a theme that focuses on death and undeath. I dont see it as relating to life (healing) per se. That said, a mage that focused on both life and death for the two main themes, could choose healing and necromancy for the central concepts.
Last edited:


He Mage
The Artificer class is awesome for a "New Age" crystal psionic, that treats the crystals as an external psionic technology. (It would merge with the UA "iphone" Artificer, if I recall correctly, the Archivist. They synthesize well, with the crystal magic being more fantasyflavor, and the iphone being a better conceptual mechanic.)

The Artificer also makes a great Necromancer. Each subclass has a kind of construct. The Artificer Necromancer would have an undead as the construct. A subclass can modify or replace base fearures, if necessary, to make the undeath technology feel more necromantic.

Conceptually, a Sorcerer is a character whose body has become transformed by magic. The "blood" in the veins is the source of the magic. The Sorcerer wields the magic by bodily instinct. I can see a Sorcerer being an undead, maybe even the vampire as a class can be a Sorcerer subclass. But this embodiment of undeath is less about controling other undeads.

Remove ads