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The Necromancer Handbook

This is a discussion of how to play a necromancer. Not how to make a weird 20th
level build that does something cute, but actually how to play a character inter
ested in the dark arts in real games. There are many ways to build a decent necr
omancer, and unfortunately many more ways to make a necromantically inclined cha
racter that is tragically incapable of contributing to the machinations of their
party. Hopefully, this handbook will help you avoid the pitfalls even as it int
roduces you to the interactions of the bewilderingly large school of necromantic
effects in such a way as to allow them to be used for good. Or at least awesome
We are aware that in many cases the rules as written for necromancers are unclea
r, inadequate, or simply unsatisfactory. This is outside of the scope of this gu
ide, and these problems are tackled in its sister publication the Tome of Necrom
Necromantic Classes:
There are three necromantic base classes of note: the Wizard, the Cleric, and of
course the Dread Necromancer. There are a number of other classes capable of us
ing Necromancy (Sorcerers, for example), but they rarely do it well and often fa
il in surprising ways. Many of the signature Necromancy spells are used very rar
ely (Create Undead is not a spell to be used every day, or even during adventure
s generally
it s a downtime spell) and the vast majority of characters with spells
known are completely unsuited to necromancy in the traditional sense. Spell prepa
ration is definitely the way to go, with the notable exception of the Dread Necr
omancer who has such a large list of spells to spontaneously cast that she might
as well have a spellbook. There are some surprisingly good spells nominally of
the necromancy school on the Druid and Wu Jen lists, but as they are not themati
cally related to what we think of as Necromancy , these spellcasters will be dealt
with elsewhere if at all.
Becoming a Necromancer late in life, by entering a prestige class that provides
spellcasting is nominally an option as well. Unfortunately, the most flavorful c
lasses (such as Blighter and Death Delver) are pretty universally terrible, whil
e the actually effective classes are either so obviously broken (Ur Priest), con
fusing (Chameleon), or both (Beholder Mage) that DMs won t actually let you play t
hem. There are to my knowledge no playable builds that involve these classes. Be
tween the pain of catching up by crawling through low level spellcasting when faci
ng monsters of medium CR, and the tremendous inertia of DMs as regards being for
ced to learn the rules of an entire new spellcasting class, these paths are a no
n-starter in almost all cases.
The Necromancer Wizard
Wizard is a class that is 6 levels long (unless you intend to take the Planar ub
stitution level at 10th, in which case the class is 10 whole levels long). Necro
mancy as a wizard is a surprisingly hard road. The first thing to realize is tha
t you do not have an army of the dead! If you wanted an army of the dead, you d be
a Cleric or a Dread Necromancer. Wizards have bonecrushingly powerful necromanc
y at their disposal, but almost none of it has anything to do with having a sham
bling army of animated corpses following you around. Necromancy from the wizard
perspective is usually about the Soul, and is a deeply powerful school centered
around Fear, Possession, and more recently Cold.
Hilarious note: All the Unearthed Arcana Specialist wizard necromancy trade-ofs
are terrible. Except the Enhanced Undead, which gives an unnamed (and stackable)
+2 hit point per hit die bonus to all the undead you make. You can benefit from
that even if you one-level dip into Wizard.
Clerics are better than Wizards

At its core, the Cleric is a better class than the Wizard. It gets better armor
and weapon proficiencies, better saves, more spells per day, more hit points, th
e ability to ignore ASF, free knowledge of the entire spell-list, and a better B
AB. That's not to say that any particular Wizard is outdone by any particular Cl
eric, there are some very powerful spells on the Wizard list that are not on the
Cleric list. But if a Wizard finds himself casting a spell that's on the Cleric
list, at least for that round he's the big sucker.
So while you can certainly make a serviceable Wizard who happens to focus on Sum
mon Monster, this character is going to be inferior to a Cleric that does the sa
me thing. Even more so because there are domains like "Summoning" that give Cler
ics powers in that field that a Wizard can't duplicate. Such a Wizard character
may be a vital member of whatever team he's on, but the fact is that there's a g
uy in the corner singing everything you can do. Like taking the 7th level of Fig
hter, it may be "good enough" for your game at home, but it's objectively inferi
or to other things and will not be taken seriously as a choice here.
Of course, Wizards are in an even worse position vis a vis the Cleric in the are
na of animating corpses. While command undead is quite competitive with rebuke u
ndead, and Animate Dead apparently works the same whether you are a Wizard or a
Cleric - that's an optical illusion. Clerics get access to Animate Dead early. A
nd they get access to Desecrate at all, which means that all their skeletons hav
e 2 extra hit points a level that the Wizard can't match for some time (remember
to construct an altar to Nerull everywhere you want to make Undead, because it
doubles the Desecrate bonuses and doesn't cost anything). Finally, there are dom
ains that give real bonuses to your necromancy that you can have if you aren't s
tuck shelling out for the worthless Death Domain because you are trying to get i
nto True Necromancer (Boo!).
A real dead animating Cleric can have the Deathbound Domain, which gives her an
additional 50% to the skeleton hit-die cap. That means that a Cleric's army of t
he dead at 5th level is bigger and better than the Wizard's army of the dead at
7th level. And using those spells didn't even take up valuable space in a spellb
ook or anything.
The Necromancer Cleric
Cleric is a class that is potentially as much as 12 levels long, but is actually
quite variable in length. Clerics are the default necromancers from the standpo
int of the Skeleton Army. It is normally required that you forfeit your ability
to heal the party by being a Cleric Necromancer. It s not like you re going to prepa
re a cure spell that s crazy talk! However there are some obscure loopholes you ca
n exploit here. Nothing bad happens to Clerics if they cast spells with an oppos
ed Alignment to their own, it s just that such spells are not normally on their li
st. A Cleric who gets Undead Animating off of their domain lists or similar othe
r sources can jolly well cast those spells even if they are Good. So if you happ
en to be a Lawful Good Cleric of Wee Jas, you channel positive energy but can st
ill animate the dead (because you get all those Death Domain spells).
The Dread Necromancer
The Dread Necromancer is a class that is 8 levels long. Early in its life it is
a melee warrior, and later on it s a passable Undead Leader. You can cast any spel
l on your spell list as a spontaneous effect, which is a unique way to do things
and of course is the most favorable spellcasting mechanic ever. Adding spells t
o your list is easy and fun, the default method is to use Arcane Disciple, which
adds 9 spells to your list each time, but more elaborate methods (such as a Rin
g of Theurgy) exist. All Dread Necromancers, regardless of their ultimate goals,
have Tomb Tainted Soul as their 1st level feat. That s not a recommendation, that s
a simple fact. The ability to heal yourself with your own touch is invaluable,
and in the long run you are going to have the ability to spray negative energy a
ll over everyone within five feet of you, including yourself. If you don t have To

mb Tainted Soul, your negative energy bursts are a suicide bomb, if you do have
it they are instead an vampiric healing attack.
Other Spellcasting Classes
There aren t just 3 spellcasting classes, there are just 3 spellcasting classes th
at are good. Many times a player may be tempted to play one of the many other sp
ellcasting classes that dot the landscape and we can say without the slightest s
hadow of a doubt that under no circumstances should any of them be used. For exa
Don t be an Archivist:
Archivists don't have Domains or Rebuking, and they don't automatically know all
the Cleric spells. So unless something weird happens, they are in all ways infe
rior to a Cleric at Necromancy, or anything else. That weird thing, of course, i
s that as an Archivist you have the ability to have the DM allow you to find pow
erful and unique spells that you can scribe into your book and rock the house wi
th. But these spells aren't under your control. They fall into your lap because
the DM puts them in your lap, and not otherwise.
So there aren't really any Archivist "builds". It's just a "maybe the DM will gi
ve you some cool things to do" class. Like Pun-Pun, the power of any particular
Artificer has nothing whatsoever to do with its own intrinsic abilities, it is e
ntirely based on whatever the DM felt like forking over out of pity because you
couldn't do anything good on your own. And when it comes down to it, Wizards alr
eady have the "The DM can give you additional awesome spells by dumping magical
writings in your lap" power. And they are independently good. So no, we won't gi
ve any examples of Archivist builds, because they aren't independently verifiabl
Don t be a Warlock:
Warlocks get access to an Invocation called The Dead Walk, which has two uses. I
t can either work like normal Animate Dead (that you pay full price for), or it
can act as a special kind of Summon Undead that has a duration of several minute
s and has a material component of one corpse. That's weird, but it's not particu
larly good. If it was backed up with anything else along these lines it might be
worth thinking about, but it isn't. Warlocks get no desecrate, and no special U
ndead leadership. They don't actually have any cool powers at all.
Yathrinshee, the Dark Beauties of Bad Class Features
Like the True Necromancer, this is an arcane/divine combo PrC that is very cool
and we'd totally play it if it wasn't completely crippled. Aside from the class
requiring you to be a totally hot necromancer dark elf chick, it wants you to ha
ve five levels of Cleric of some god you don't care about and three levels of Wi
zard. Then, over the coarse of 10 levels you lose FOUR more caster levels from b
oth your classes. Add in your level adjustment for being a drow, and at 20th lev
el you are...wait for it...NINE levels behind in your cleric spells and ELEVEN l
evels behind in your Wizard casting. You can't even try to mitigate this with Ur
-Priest cheese, since you need to follow this one god to get into this class.
Basically, this class has all the problems of a True Necromancer, but worse, and
better flavor abilities. Their one great ability is the Curse of the Revanancer
, which is awesome, as it lets you kill things with spells and they automaticall
y become zombies under your control. Thats cool, and even very powerful under th
e right circumstances, but how are you even supposed to kill things with your sp
ells at any point in your career?
You are not going to
A lot of people love
class. Even a Mystic
class is a dog with

play a True Necromancer!

the True Necromancer, even though it s a completely crippled
Theurge is better, and that s saying quite a bit because that
fleas. You re 5 real caster levels behind the curve. If you j

ust took Leadership, and then your cohort took Leadership, both of the cohorts w
ould have better casting than you (being 2 levels behind and 4 levels behind res
pectively). You can provide the party better and more powerful Necromancy as a s
ingle classed Fighter that happens to have Leadership than you would if you were
a True Necromancer.
Top Ten Reasons True Necromancers Are Bad
At 14th level, you are five caster levels behind in both classes, so if
the party Fighter took Leadership, and his cohort got Leadership, he d actually be
bringing more Necromancy to the table than you. As a fighter.
You have to take the Death Domain as a Necromancer Cleric, which is a wa
ste of a Domain Slot when you are trying to be good at Necromancy.
In the early levels, you postpone your access to Animate Dead by 4 level
At 8th level a True Necromancer can create, but not control Ghouls. A Cl
eric at that level can control but not create Ghouls. Guess which is better? At
11th level, the True Necromancer gets the ability to control Ghouls, and the Cle
ric gets the ability to create them, so there s no point at which this is advantag
The only unique ability of the True Necromancer class is unimpressive. D
esecrate is a great spell, but it s also a second level spell.
True Necromancers eventually get a bonus to Rebuking
at 17th level they
have a +1 bonus to their Rebuking level. But at 7th level they have a 3 level pe
nalty to their Rebuking level. So at low levels when rebuking is good they can t u
se it, and at high levels when Rebuking doesn t matter they don t care.
True Necromancers are always going to have underwhelming Save DCs. Betwe
en MAD and the fact that they are often forced to use spells that are 3 spell le
vels lower than what the single-classed casters can use, they re going to be out e
nough Save DC that it shows. A lot.
As a True Necromancer you have all the disadvantages of both a Cleric (t
he gods can take away all your spellcasting at any time), and a Wizard (you have
Arcane Spell Failure, preventing you from wearing good armor). Also, your BAB a
nd HPs stink when compared to a Cleric.
Control pools from Animate Dead actually don t accumulate between your two
classes. It right in the spell, if you cast the spell it considers all undead yo
u control from all castings of Animate Dead, not just your Arcane or just your D
ivine castings of the spell. Some people say differently, and some even quote Cu
stServ, but when was the last time you won an argument with your DM using the li
ne "some guy on a board said that CustServ told him....."?
There is almost no synergy between Cleric and Wizard Necromancy. Any syn
ergy you desperately want to find could be replicated by just taking the Apprent
ice feat at first level and having some Use Magic Device. Get yourself a couple
of Wizard Scrolls or something. It s a better buy than setting 5 caster levels on
fire. Smart cookies can even get the right spell effects off monsters for free,
no less.
All About Rebuking
Rebuking is a potentially wonderful, and horribly underused ability that is itse
lf shockingly level dependent. Additions to your Rebuking checks are virtually w
orthless, as you can only command undead that are half your level in Rebuking in
hit dice. Undead have the BAB of a commoner and no Con bonus, so high CR Undead
have many more Hit Dice than their CR. Even if you keep your Rebuking up to ful
l level, the creatures you will be able to control will become increasingly outg
unned by the monsters you meet in your day-to-day adventuring. And if you allow
your Rebuking to fall behind even a tiny bit, you might as well not have the abi
lity at all. The Rebuking handed out by such classes as the Blackguard is useful
only for powering Divine Feats it should not be confused with an actual manner
to control or bolster the Undead.

Rebuking can of course be increased, and rather easily. The key is that the abil
ity itself is as Turn Undead with no provision on level bonuses. So any bonus to T
urn Undead also bolsters Rebuking by default, but the reverse is not also true.
So an Amulet of Turn Undead increases your effective level of Rebuking, but a Ma
rk of Apostasy won t aid Turning in any way. Remember that all bonuses to Turning
(Rebuking) level are unnamed, so they all stack. You can even have multiple copi
es of the same item and they ll still stack. For those of you keeping track at hom
e that means that a character with an Amulet of Turning (+4), a Scepter of the N
etherworld (+3), and a Sacred Shield (+2) can command 5 Hit Die Undead even as a
first level character.
The creatures you can command become relatively weaker when compared to you unle
ss you pull Turning bonus shenanigans, but they also become easier to command in
the first place. By the time you can command a 5 Hit Die undead monster it is a
ctually impossible for you to fail to do so. The turning check itself just isn t t
hat meaningful. Your real enemy of course is Turn Resistance, as every +1 Turn R
esistance means you need to have 2 more whole levels worth of Rebuking to comman
d the creature. Surprisingly, many abilities such as Necromantic Presence actually
make it harder for you to push your undead minions around. Hilariously, when yo
u take over an undead monster when you have this ability, it gains +4 Turn Resis
tance: almost assuredly making it ineligible for you to control it (this always
happens, as Rebuking only has a range of 60 feet, the same as the range of the f
Rebuking isn t something you use on a day-to-day basis. Undead, once controlled, f
ollow you around until you get tired of them or they are destroyed. So if you ca
n spend your Rebuking attempts on things, that would be good.
Rebuking by level and Source:
1 or less: Nothing!
2 Human Skeleton (MM), Ghostly Visage (FF)
4 Wolf Skeleton (MM), Kobold Zombie (MM)
6 Shadow (MM), Murk (LM), Raiment (LM), Tomb Mote (LM)
8 Ghoul (MM), Wight (MM), Troglodyte Zombie (MM), Slay Mate! (LM), Bone Rat Swar
m (LM), Desiccator (LM), Skin Kite (LM), Vasuthant (MM3)
10 Deathlock (LM)
12 Allip (MM), Ghast (MM), Vampire Spawn(MM), Skulking Cyst (LM), Spectral Lyris
t (LM), Voidwraith (LM), Spawn of Kyuss (MM2)
14 Wraith (MM), Brain in a Jar (LM)
16 Mummy (MM), Corpse Rat Swarm (LM), Entomber (LM), Plagueblight (LM), Bhut (FF
18 Bodak (MM), Spectre (MM), Atropal Scion (LM), Crypt Chanter (LM), Quell (LM),
Skirr (LM)
20 Bleakborn (LM), Blood Amniote (LM), Bloodmote Cloud (LM), Cinderspawn (LM), C
rypt Thing (FF)
22 Bonedrinker (MM3)
24 Devourer (MM), Boneclaw (MM3), Ephemeral Swarm (MM3), Grimweird (MM3), Salt M
ummy (MM3), Quth-Maren (FF)
26 Wheep (LM), Crimson Death (MM2)
28 Mohrg (MM), Forsaken Shell (LM)
30 Bone Naga (MM2)
32 Dread Wraith (MM), Visage (LM), Dust Wight (MM3), Plague Spewer (MM3), Abyssa
l Ghoul (FF), Hullathoin (FF)
34 Nightwing (MM), Boneyard (LM), Dream Vestige (LM), Ulgurstasta (FF)
36 Blaspheme (LM), Slaughterwight (LM), Blood Fiend (FF)
38 Entropic Reaper (LM)
40 Hulking Corpse (LM), Drowned (MM3)


Nightwalker (MM), Charnel Hound (MM3)

Deathshrieker (MM3)
Nightcrawler (MM), Jahi (MM2)
Angel of Decay (LM), Banshee (MM2)
Effigy (MM2), Horrific Vasuthant (MM3)
Crawling Head (FF)
Corpse Gatherer (MM2), Deathbringer (MM2)
Grave Crawler (MM2), Ragewind (MM2)
Famine Spirit (MM2), Necronaut (MM3)

Templated undead (with the exception of the very earliest skeletons and zombies)
, such as the Ghost and Vampire, are not listed because they don't exist at a sp
ecific standard hit die. Generic undead, such as the Vampire Spawn, are shown at
the level you can command them. You can generally use Rebuking to smacks them d
own very much earlier if that's important to you. Undead Monsters which themselv
es have Rebuking (and can thus be used in convoluted schemes involving handing s
cepters of the netherworld around) have been underlined.
Rebuking Doesn't Work how you Think it works
You have a "level for the purposes of Rebuking". If you never take any level oth
er than Cleric or Dread Necromancer or prestige class that adds to Rebuking, tha
t level with equal your class level. If you multiclass, that number will be lowe
r. And if you take feats like Improved Turning or magic items like an Amulet of
Turning, you can have a level for these purposes that is higher than your Class
Undead have a "hit dice for the purposes of Rebuking" as well. This is normally
equal to their Hit Dice plus their Turn Resistance. While Positive Energy Levels
exist that will reduce their effective Hit Dice, they are so broken when used o
n living creatures (which is almost every player character) that your DM isn't g
oing to use them. Ever.
If your level for the purposes of Rebuking is twice the hit dice for the purpose
of Rebuking of the undead, and the undead is affected by your Rebuking attempt,
and you have space for it under your control, you control it.
Your turning check does not affect your level for the purposes of Rebuking. It a
ffects the maximum hit dice of the undead that can be affected. If you completel
y bungle your Rebuking check, you can only affect a creature 4 hit dice less tha
n your level. Of course, this means that if you are Rebuking at the 8th level, e
ven getting a negative check result won't stop you from commanding the most powe
rful creature you could command.
Turning Check: The first thing you do is roll a turning check to see how pow
erful an undead creature you can turn. This is a Charisma check (1d20 + your Cha
risma modifier). Table: Turning Undead gives you the Hit Dice of the most powerf
ul undead you can affect, relative to your level. On a given turning attempt, yo
u can turn no undead creature whose Hit Dice exceed the result on this table.
The reason why getting a big roll on you Turning Check doesn't let you command a
more powerful undead creature is that it doesn't add to your level for the purp
oses of Rebuking. It adds to the maximum Hit Dice of an undead creature you can
affect relative to your level. If something does actually add to your level for
the purpose of Rebuking, then of course it would increase the Hit Dice of what y
ou could command.
Stacking Rebuking
If you have more than one class that provides Rebuking, all those levels stack t
ogether. Normally that s not very hard to figure out. If you have 2 levels of Drea

d Necromancer and 2 levels of Cleric, your Rebuking level is 4 (although you hav
e a terrible character and we in no way condone this sort of unmin/maxed build).
It gets more complicated if you get access to weirder classes like Wearer of Pu
rple from Faiths and Pantheons. That class specifically doesn t ad to Rebuking, bu
t it gives you a domain, and if the domain it gives happens to be Scalykind it g
ives its own special Rebukin, which then makes it a Rebuking class
you can now h
ave an argument with your DM over whether or not the class adds to Rebuking. Cus
tServ has come down on both sides of that issue.
Necromancy on a Budget
OK, normally it wants you to pay 25 GP per hit die of undead, and that s more than
a little stiff. I m not even going to pretend that you d be willing to spend 50 GP
for a human Zombie those guys aren t better than 1st level Experts, and those guys
only cost 1 SP a day.
A funny little detail is the fact that you don't even know how much onyx to use:
HD is an abstraction your character is not supposed to know about. The spell Tr
ap the Soul does say that its possible to research someone's HD, so take that fo
r what you will, but it doesn't really say how long it takes to research Bob the
Fire Giant Mook's HD, and frankly you don't care; if you use the incorrect amou
nt, the spell fails and the slot is wasted, but you don't lose anything else. Th
is means your onyx is not used up if you fail in the casting, so if you are not
in a big hurry, you can simply cast the spell over and over (each time adding 25
gp of onyx) until the spell works and you burn up the minimum amount of onyx (i
n a combat or other situation where time or slots might need to be conserved, yo
u can just grab a handful of onyx gems and hope you have enough for the casting)
The really funny thing fact: I m not even sure how you re supposed to get these onyx
gems into the eye sockets or mouths of the creatures you are animating. Onyx is
n t all that valuable, and 50 GP is a whole pound of gold: really a decently high
hit die creature should require the placement of an Onyx bigger than its actual
head inside its eye socket/mouth. That may require uses of Shrink Item if your D
M is actually using material components as written. If you don t want to get invol
ved in that argument, consider raising your army of the dead for cheap or free,
use scrolls or staves with Animate Dead, or do one of the following:
Play through The Sunless Citadel
The Azun-Gund only cost 3 grand. They aren t even hard to make. They make 2 Zombie
s that ll follow you around, and can make Zombies of up to 10 hit dice. Further, t
hat s per party member, you can jolly well pass that whistle around. A party of fo
urth level adventurers can have 8 zombies running around with it at all times.
Be a Pale Master
Pale Masters suffer a little bit from the fact that they kind of blow. They lose
actual caster levels and don t get any abilities at the time. But they quickly ge
t the ability cast animate dead for free, and eventually get to punch people in
the face so hard that they join your army of the dead free of charge (and withou
t limit). With enough patience, you can have an undead army of literally unlimit
ed size free of charge.
Hand People Unholy Arrows
Unholy Arrows are very modestly priced. They cost about 361 GP each. And any Goo
d aligned character takes an actual negative level if they hold it in their hand
. A character can wield however many arrows happen to be in their quiver, so the
y can potentially get a lot of negative levels. Any character with negative leve
ls equal to their hit dice dies and rises as a Wight, and the arrows are not con
sumed in the process. Repeat with Holy, Lawful, or Chaotic arrows as desired.

Fell Animate
Maybe you re supposed to Try to cast Animating fireballs, but that s like a 6th leve
l spell. What you actually do with it is make Animating Acid Splashes that you u
se on enemies that have been dropped and haven t bled to death by the end of comba
t. It s like a death knell only it adds to your zombie army. It s available as your
5th level bonus feat as a Wizard (precisely when it becomes available for use).
Have a Spell-like Ability
Spell-likes default to a single standard action and bypass all components (inclu
ding XP and GP). So if you have Animate as a Spell-like ability you can raise al
l the dead you want. Really. You can get this by a number of feats, special clas
s features, or the old standby of using Planar Binding/Ally on Fiends that happe
n to have Animate Dead as a Spell-like in the first place.
Proper Care and Feeding of Skeletons
Look at the stats of every monster you ever kill. Look at its hit dice first, an
d compare its strength, dexterity, attacks, and natural armor compared to its Hi
t Dice to determine if it is a good skeleton or a bad skeleton. Zombies are usua
lly crap as they only get a single standard action or move action, but they can
fly while skeletons can t. Also note that skeles and zombies keep subtypes except
for alignment and subtypes determining kind (which I assume is race and things lik
e Angel), meaning that you can animate fire giant skeletons and they ll have the f
ire subtype and be immune to fire(and cold, as skeles). Don t forget that things w
ith a bunch of templates are usually just better than anyone else of their HD. M
ostly, you ll want to reanimate the bodies of fast bruisers.
Eventually you will get your grubby mitts on Awaken Undead and then you can star
t considering the abilities of dead bodies. Note that the Spell Compendium versi
on of Awaken Undead gives back feats and skills to your skeles. The problem is t
hat your DM will decide if you pick those feats and skills or he does, since its
not mentioned in the rules, meaning they might have awesome fighter feat chains
that you pick or complete crap like Toughness taken seven times that your DM mi
ght pick for ease of use.
Out of the box, skeletons retain any extraordinary special qualities that improve
its melee or ranged attacks. Now, that s a straight DM call, but it nominally mean
s that things like Ettins keep their hardcore two-weapon fighting. Zombies do as
well, and they keep their flying at the cost of only getting one action a round
; this means that unless you want a dragon to fly you around for transport, you
shouldn t make them.
Coincidently, Wizards get Animate Dead at the same time they get Lesser Planar B
inding, meaning they build a trap room in their lair with loads of magic traps and
a summoning circle, automatically killing anything they summon. Then they anima
te those powerful outsiders and elementals who have a great HD to stats ratio.
The ideal way to fight with skeletons is to keep a small and elite cadre of pimp
skeletons. Boost them with spells, equipment like armor and magic items, and he
al them between battles. Some people like massive undead armies, but that kind o
f thing pisses off DMs and fellow players and is actually not very cost-effectiv
e in a world of area effect spells. Your DM will start busting out ways to clear
swathes of your undead and your pocketbook will suffer, or he ll find ways to neu
tralize the bulk of your army like making your adventure only accessible by flyi
ng or teleport. You are better off with a few really good undead and you bring t
hem back occasionally with Revive Undead and/or upgrade them with the Spellstitc
hed template. With the Uttercold Assault Necromancer build, you can almost be as
sured of never losing an undead except to lucky Save or Dies.
Dragon Undead
Dragons deserve their own paragraph. Normally, they blow because they have high

HD and have a bunch of abilities that don t come with the MM templates; however, i
f your DM uses the Draconomicon, you can get the awesome Skeleton Dragon and Zom
bie Dragon templates. The important thing to note is that these guys don t cap out
at base HD of 20 for skeles and 10 for zombies, meaning you can get very, very
large undead this way, and that s so good that your DM most likely won t let you do
it (even though its possible to create up to four times your caster level of an
undead if you use the errated Deathbound domain and a Desecrate area). It breaks
down like this:
[*]Skeleton dragons lose all their wicked natural armor, get bonus HP equal to t
wice HD, and get the default skeleton natty armor, but they keep Ex Special Atta
cks, and they can t fly. Except for the HD cap removal, this is in all ways worse
than using the old rules for skeletons with an Awaken Undead.
[*]Zombie dragons keep half their natural armor, get bonus HPs equal to twice HD
, keep their breath weapon at half strength, and lose any Cha-based special atta
cks. This is actually kind of awesome, even with the usual zombie single action.
You can potentially choose a really big dragon, animate it, and it will be an a
ctual tank with large armor, HDs, HPs, and with Awaken Undead it will have mass
of skills and feats, effectively becoming an actual vehicle for your party to fl
y around in. As an example, a 10th level Necromancer (with Corpsecrafter, and in
a Desecrate area with altar) can animate an Adult Green dragon (CR 13) that is
Huge with 20 HD, a BAB of +10 with a Str of 27, and an average of 250 hps, thoug
h its AC is only 17, meaning you ll need to give it AC items. Ideally, you want to
animate a Silver Dragon, as the DC on its paralyzing breath is based on its HD,
meaning a 19 HD Young Adult Silver Dragon becomes a Zombie Dragon with a DC of
20 on its breath weapons. Also note that with the Spell Compendium version of Aw
aken Undead cast in maximized form, our Adult Green Dragon is looking at 96 skil
l points with skill maxes of 24 (with dragon skills in-class) and 7 feats.
A Note on the Power and Hit Dice of the Undead
There is no relationship between the hit dice of an undead monster and its relat
ive threat level. Heck, undead creatures aren't even very well priced out for th
eir CR, their Hit Dice appear to have been selected by consulting a dartboard. P
erhaps the worst offender as far as low-CRs is concerned is the Ephemeral Swarm
from the Monster Manual 3. It's a 90 hit point swarm that is incorporeal and doe
s a d6 of Strength Damage every round in an area of effect that always hits and
allows no save. It's CR 5, but is individually capable of killing many high-leve
l parties all by itself. As far as hit dice are concerned, let's just leave it a
t the fact that a Hulking Corpse has more than twice the hit dice of an Atropal
Scion, despite being very much inferior over all.
[size=5]You want the Best you can get[/size]
A second level Cleric could theoretically use Rebuking to command a Paragon Ghos
tly Visage. It would have a Save DC on its paralyzing gaze of 39 and completely
own every monster you ever encounter for many levels to come. It doesn't even ge
t a save, you just make a Turning Check and if you get a result that is capable
of effecting creatures with at least 1 hit die less than your effective turning
level, it's yours! Assuming of course, that you ever ran into one.
The problem is that this is basically Pun-Pun. If the DM happens to arbitrarily
decide to give you power that is completely out of scale with your level, you'll
have power that is completely out of scale with your level. So while there are
all kinds of crazy things that you can control with Rebuking or create with Anim
ate Dead, the fact is that in an actual game these killer combos are simply not
likely to occur. The DM could have you find the Sword of Orcus and the DM could
have you find the corpse of a Pseudonatural Great Wyrm Silver Dragon, but unless
you're 14 the DM is probably not going to do that.
Necromancy therefore, is an ability with very little pre-game min/max capability
. Whether you are controlling undead or creating them yourself, you are throwing

yourself at the DM's mercy. Like how every fighter I've ever seen has eventuall
y taken to using some magic weapon that was found as a trophy, only more so beca
use D&D does not currently support an "available corpses by level" guideline.
However, here are some things to shoot for:
Level 2: A Cleric or Dread Necromancer gets access to Rebuke Undead, allowing he
r to control 1 HD undead. Ideally you'd want a Ghostly Visage, but in reality yo
u're going to make do with humanoid skeletons. Likely you're going to be going u
p against generic Human Warrior skeletons because those are very little work to
put together as a horde monster. They can make quite effective archers at this l
evel and you can control two at a time. You can't replace them, so keep them in
the back.
Level 4: The 2 HD undead just aren't impressive. At level 4, zombies are only a
modest irritant, and any you command with rebuking are best use to shamble ahead
of the party setting off traps.
Level 6: Shadows only have 3 HD. That's the big deal at 6th level, because while
every 6th level party is going to have magic weapons all around (enabling them
to go through Shadows like butter), the fact of the matter is that most CR6 mons
ters don't. Incorporeal creatures can't be hurt except by magic attacks, and hav
ing attacks that "count as magic for the purposes of penetrating DR" doesn't cou
nt. Of the 26 monsters in the Monster Manual that are rated at CR 6, only 8 of t
hem are capable of hurting a Shadow. Against all others, a single Shadow automat
ically wins.
Level 8: Two common monsters come on-line at level 8: the Wight and the Ghoul. I
f you are given the choice, use the Wight as they are better in all ways. Wights
are pretty hard core, and have control over their spawn. If you arranged things
right, you could have a small army of Wights under your control via delegation
of authority. Wights are really common and can be created by killing anything wi
th negative levels.
Level 10: Theoretically, you could turn a Deathlock into your Pokemon at this le
vel, but chances are your DM has never heard of a Deathlock, so you're not liabl
e to meet one. Ever. The Deathlock has detect magic at will and is thus a great
utility monster - but it's a CR 3 and you simply aren't going to be using one fo
r combat at all.
Higher Levels: Rebuking does not keep up with the CRs of the monsters you'll be
facing by itself. If you want to make a name for yourself with Rebuking at highe
r levels, you're going to have to pump it up. A lot. To pick up a CR 11 Devourer
you'll need to crank your Rebuking up to level 24. Which is doable actually. Mo
re likely you're going to end up cranking your Rebuking Level out to 20 and stil
l settling for grabbing a couple of monsters that show up in hordes for your CR.
Command Undead:
Command Undead is a weird effect. It gives no saving throw when used on unintell
igent undead monsters and has a duration that lasts for days. When you get it yo
u'll be able to automatically seize control of the first CR 4 Zombie Minotaur th
at shows up. Zombies are a total waste for creating with Animate Dead because th
ey have a low effectiveness ratio to hit dice. But Command Undead gives you inde
finite control over them as long as they have no Int score, so if you happen to
encounter Zombies they'll make a great HP sponge.
You can get things that are way out of your league. There are unintelligent Epic
Undead out there, and with enough invested in Greater Spell Focus you could the

oretically capture one even at low level. Then you could march them around slaug
htering literally everything that screws with you at even close to your level. P
ractically speaking however, you're just going to grab any unintelligent undead
that comes your way (in fact, if you encounter mindless undead and don't have sl
ots left for Command Undead it behooves you to run away and come nack later once
you've prepared new spells). Zombies of your level have about 20 hit points per
level - which makes them decent enough sponges that they are worth healing betw
een combats.
Creating Undead
The golden spell is animate dead. Spells like Ghoul Gauntlet are pretty much cra
p (it gives you ordinary Ghouls, which are pretty underwhelming, but more import
antly casting it at all reduces the number of Undead you can control - avoid thi
s spell like the plague). Create Undead can be gained at various low levels by v
arious means - none of which are good. Create Undead doesn't do anything useful
until you get to a Caster Level of 15, at which point it can give you a half-way
decent Mummy (and Mummy's can be argued to retain their class levels, making th
is a potent way to bring characters back from the dead if you don't mind the fac
t that they can't gain levels anymore). Create Greater Undead gives out Shadows
as the first thing, so it's all about the world conquering army.
Level 5: Assuming that you have the Deathbound Domain, your Cleric can make up t
o 30 HD at one time. Now, you lose everything you already controlled if you make
more than 20 HD of Undead, but you specifically have control over everything yo
u animate in one go even if it's over the cap. So you could animate the skeleton
s of two Fire Giants at once. Once you outfit them in some very reasonably price
d armor and give them access to some Large Greatswords, these suckers will dish
out more hurt than anyone else in the party (2d8 + 18 damage is no joke). If you
have Corpsecrafter, both Giant Skeletons will have 157 hit points, which makes
them individually competitive with the entire party.
But where are you going to get Fire Giant Skeletons? Certainly not from beating
them in combat, they're CR 10. You're going to try to convince the DM to let you
go graverobbing in the Giant Town or something. And this is pretty much your li
fe with Animate Dead from now on. Even at the lowest level you get it, you'll be
able to very plausibly craft some bruisers that are going to overshadow the par
ty Barbarian in tanking and damage outlay, but access to corpses is probably goi
ng to be very tightly controlled.
Level 11: You have Create Undead. And you know what? You don't care. You have Gh
oul Gauntlet as well, and you just don't care. You can't do jack with Ghouls, an
d a caster level bonus just gets you Ghasts (which also don't matter).
Level 15: You can make Mummies with Create Undead. This is important, because Mu
mmies are hard core. Also, the rules for Mummy Lords are extremely vague, but co
uld be read to allow you to use this spell to bring your friends back to life. Y
ou also get Shadows with Create Greater Undead. That's key, because 3 out 4 of t
he CR 15 monsters in the Fiend Folio are still completely powerless against a si
ngle Shadow.
Level 18: You can now make much larger incorporeal undead, which doesn't really
matter because while Incorporeality is an automatic win against many enemies, ev
en a Spectre can't survive in the environment of CR 18 monsters that can hurt it
. More importantly, you can make a Mohrg. Mohrgs are pathetic losers who are so
weak that you don't even get XP for killing them. However, they turn any monster
s they kill into Zombies under their control with no hit die limit. This means t
hat with patience you can use your Mohrg at home as a complex Deathknell effect
that gives you powerful zombies. Your house Mohrg is a coup de grace machine tha
t makes Zombies for you.

The Importance of being Desecrated

Desecrate is an effect that is of astounding importance to a Necromancer. Any Un
dead created within a desecrated area gains an unnamed bonus to all its Hit Dice
, and the cost of using it is minimal compared to actually making undead in the
first place, so failing to desecrate before making undead is inexcusable. Desecr
ate can also be used to cut off an area from sacred power (whether it is sacred
to a good or evil god even, so the fact that Good clerics can t normally cast this
spell is one of the many reasons that in official D&D: Evil Wins), and even mak
es turning checks more difficult. That includes Rebuking checks, so beware that
your Desecrate aura is going to interfere in you controlling your own undead, so
plan accordingly. Desecrate is not available as a Wizard spell, but its effects
can be replicated by Black Water (from It s Raining Outside) or Lesser Planar Bin
ding (as always, mid-level fiends come to the rescue of the arcane necromancer A
Zovyut can desecrate all day for free if you happen to be an Infernal Bargainer
, and a Maurezhi can just do it).
Unusual Undead Creation
The standard methods of creation are all well and good for the average character
, but what if you insist on thinking outside the box? That s a possibility. Here a
re some undead creation methods you may not have thought of:
Spawning isn t just for controlling one Shadow with your Rebuking and then making
a chain of spawn that will conquer the world beneath an ephemeral boot. Oh, it d
oes do that, but did you know that the control the spawning creature gains over
its progeny is an instantaneous effect that triggers at the time the power is us
ed? That means that you can use shapechange to pick up the Spawn ability of your
favorite high-end undead monster, and make as many minions as you want that wil
l serve you forever, even after your spell has worn off and you go back to being
a halfling in a bathrobe.
Create Undead Warrior:
In Unapproachable East there s a spell called create undead warrior that has no ca
p on how many undead it can create, and which gives you full control over what i
t makes. The undead warriors are kind of disappointing, having no Con and a pena
lty to Int and Cha, the potential of lost feats, and only a modest Strength bonu
s to make up for the pantsing (btw, what you really want to make is Drow Rogue U
ndead Warriors, because that takes best use of their few advantages). Also it co
sts a ridiculously large amount of XP (though no money) to activate the spell. S
o on the face of it, you d never do that right? Well, you re not going to pay that X
P. Rather than playing Thought Bottle cheese, you re going to spellstitch this spe
ll, because it s a 6th level Arcane Necromancy spell. Then you don t pay the XP cost
, and you can make one Undead Warrior every day for the rest of your life to joi
n your army for free with no limit to your control pool. This would initially be
so cheesy that we wouldn t even suggest it, except that it s in the flavor text of
the spell that the leader of the Thayan Necromancer, Szass Tam himself, is alrea
dy doing just that. Weird, huh?
Necrocarnum allows you to make hats that bind to your soul and allow you to make
a Necrocarnum Zombie that is really quite good. You can only have one at a time
, and creating one does a pile of damage to you that can t be healed as long as th
e Zombie is active. That sounds like it would be problematic, but actually it is
n t because you just cast False Life before making a Necrocarnum Zombie and take t
he damage to (temporary) hit points that you couldn t heal anyway. Problem solved.
Like all things Incarnum, if you re willing to spend a very long time reading the
book and then an equally long time explaining to your DM how it works, you can
have a very effective power set with just a small level dip into an Incarnum cla

Interestingly, there is an entire Necrocarnate PrC that supposedly advances your

zombie making. It doesn t. The ability to make Necrocarnum Zombies for less lost
HP is meaningless because as previously noted, noone actually spends HP for Inca
rnum Zombies. If you want a Necrocarnum Zombie, take a level dip and don t look ba
Some Surprisingly Good Undead:
Not all undead are created equal, and when you apply those templates, creatures
will arbitrarily gain and lose all kinds of stuff. For example, a Remorhaz is un
godly vicious for their hit die. The heat is an Ex ability that improves their b
asic attack, so they keep it while a skeleton somehow. It s nasty. Also, don't for
get that any form of Giant Kitty is horribly powerful because pouncing in D&D is
so very very effective.
Generally, it s good to keep in mind what kinds of creature will pull through with
the best advantages. Here are a few:
Hydras make good Zombies.
A zombie loses the ability to make a full attack because it can only make a stan
dard attack or a 3rd edition style partial charge each round. That s fine for a Hy
dra, because they arbitrarily have the ability to attack with every head as a st
andard attack anyway! They don t lose anything by becoming a zombie, and when you
Awaken them, they get back Fast Healing, which is good times.
Outsiders make good Zombies
Zombies gain natural armor on top of their existing natural armor, so Outsiders
made into Zombies go from very hard to hit to crazy-go-nuts hard to hit. Start w
ith a Green Slaad, say, and its AC jacks up to 26. Start with a Marilith and its
AC goes up to 32! Planetars only have 14 Hit Dice... you know where this is goi
ng, right?
This fact neatly puts Zombies into the "damage soaker" category of monster. If y
ou can find T-rex style monsters with single large attacks and great AC, these Z
ombies can be quite competitive with their Skeleton brothers.
If you re going to Awaken something, start with a Hellwasp Swarm Skeleton!
Oddly enough, you can make a swarm into a skeleton. Once you use Awaken Undead,
it gets its EX abilities back, and those are alarming. Fun tactics include...wai
t for it.....MAKING ZOMBIES! Not only are you bypassing the whole "caster level
limit" business by making crazy HD Zombies with each Hellwasp Swarm, but you get
to Dominate Monster as well.
You might even want to Revive Undead your Hellwasp Swarm every time it dies. Los
ing HD is actually good, since you then can eventually animate and control more
Hellwasp Swarms.
Skeletons mostly keep their Movement Forms, and Zombies keep all of them.
That means that a Bulette can still burrow, for example, just as a Scrag can sti
ll swim. That s quite a bit of mobility you can pick up. Run around with a Thoqua
Skeleton and you have a tunnel-maker on a stick, as their burrow specifically ma
kes tunnels.
Skeletons don't get flying unless your DM thinks that they fly "magically". What
this exactly means is beyond me, but it generally means that you can have a fly
ing beholder skeleton but not a flying griffin skeleton. Zombies are all good if
you reach a level high enough to cast Animate Dead and all you want is a cheapo
flying mount.

The Builds
Basic Necromancer (Cleric)
If you just take a bunch of Cleric levels one after another you get a substantia
l pile of necromantic abilities as long as you are at best Neutral. The investme
nt of a fair amount of cash into Rebuking bonuses is quite a deal, as these item
s are generally substantially underpriced. And of course as a Cleric you automat
ically know every Cleric spell ever, which means that you know General of Undeat
h and Undead Lieutenant whether you like it or not. So by high level, you ll have
the ability to raise a horde of the undead that can topple nations on accident.
Making a build out of this is therefore fairly redundant. You can grab some good D
omains like Evil (but you should stay away from the Death Domain unless you re Goo
d, because its power is dumb and it doesn t give you any spells you don t know) or D
eathbound. All of your feats are pretty much not spoken for, so you invest them
in absolutely anything. It can even be crazy hook-up feats that make you good at
Perform. I don t even care. Ultimately it won t be acceptable to take any PrC unles
s it advances spellcasting and Rebuking (few do), but you could accept no BAB ad
vancement at all once you hit 8th level you can replace your BAB with that of a
Fighter of your total level (thanks Divine Power!). Strongly consider using some
Divine Metamagic Persistent cheese, as Rebuking is something that you generally
don t use on a day-to-day basis.
Basic Necromancer (Wizard)
Much of Arcane Necromancy is actually Conjuration. Major Creation, Lesser Planar
binding, and of course, Gate are all in the school of Conjuration even though t
hey are absolutely invaluable to the Arcane Necromancer, meaning that Conjuratio
n will absolutely not be on your banned school list. Evocation, on the other han
d, probably will be (unless you are an Uttercold Assault Necromancer).
The first couple of levels of Necromancy are actually kind of crappy. Shivering
Touch (Lesser) is nice to put into a spell storing weapon, but it s no great shake
s on its own. Being a 1st or 2nd level Necromancy specialist is kind of painful.
The best spell on your list is Cause Fear, a spell that makes people who make t
heir save shaken for a round. But Color Spray and Sleep are the kings of low lev
el offense and everyone knows it. 2nd level spells give more to work with, handi
ng out Blindness and Ghoul touch which are fine and upstanding Save-or-Die spell
s. At 3rd level you get Vampiric Touch and Shivering Touch (which kills Dragons
right dead in one hit, it s quite humorous). At 4th level you finally get Animate
Dead, but you don t care because if you were going that way you d be a Cleric or Dre
ad Necromancer instead. The real charm here is Fear, because that is a cone-shap
ed Save-or-Die that has no hit die cap. At 5th level, you get Magic Jar, and the
n you never need another spell effect ever because you can take your enemies ove
r and use their abilities.
The key here is that you are a master of Save-or-Dies. People who fail their sav
es don t get to act anymore. You want to maximize your Save DCs and Intelligence i
s of course primary. You don t get any class features worth noting except spellcas
ting after 6th level, so you want to PrC out. It doesn t really matter where you g
o with it, take a level of Mindbender, or start climbing up Gondian Techsmith. Y
ou already have the only things you will ever care about (Spell Focus and GSF: N
ecromancy) by the time you hit 6th level.
At high level, you can take Archmage. This allows you to get your spells as spel
l-like abilities. It s tempting to get something like Animate Dead, but you need t
o resist that. Take Major Creation instead. Use it to make cages around people t
hat steal their souls when they die. Then use the souls for item crafting.
The Leader (Dread Necromancer):
Dread Necromancers can t even raise undead until 8th level, but when they get ther
e they get a +2 bonus to hit points on all their undead hit dice that noone else

gets and a higher hit die cap than anyone is comfortable with. They also Rebuke
Undead and can Control Undead as well. From 8th level on, therefore, they are t
he skeleton horde platform. If you don t have to survive those first couple levels
, a Dread Necromancer can invest nothing whatsoever into melee combat and simply
take all their feats and sink them into Corpse Crafting.
Master of Shrouds (Cleric)
What you are supposed to do with Master of Shrouds is to take 6 levels of Cleric
and then hop into Master of Shrouds. Don t do this. The actual prereq is that you
have a Will Save of +5, you can have that at 3rd level if you multiclass. You c
an be a Master of Shrouds at level 4, and while that may not sound impressive, t
he fact that you re getting access to those incorporeal monsters 3 levels early is
a big deal. Everything that a Master of Shrouds conjures is designed to be slig
htly underpowered at the level you re supposed to get it. But 3 levels ago it woul
d have been really handy.
So for your first 2 levels, you ll be a Cleric. You ll take Spell Focus: Conjuring a
nd Augment Summoning, which is just plain setting feats on fire. But you re a cler
ic, you don t really care, because you can heal yourself and wear heavy armor. You r
e only missing 1 BAB on a fighter and your two domains probably give you somethi
ng faintly cool. Then you ll take Hexblade or something similar to boost your base
Will Save. I won t insult you by pretending that this gives you good abilities, b
ut at this point you are surviving as a warrior archetype anyway so it s not a big
deal. At 4th level you hurt, because you re still only casting 1st level spells a
nd your BAB is only +2. There s really nothing good you can say at this point. But
at fifth level you start being able to produce Shadows in large numbers as stan
dard actions. That s completely playable all the way up to 13th level where you ar
e popping Dread Wraiths out and have 5th level spells. It s no good after that of
course, the undead summonings stop scaling and you are a whole spell level behin
d for an increasingly marginalized benefit but there are a lot of games that exi
st in the 5th
13th level range and this is a valid character in those arenas. Be
ckon the Frozen is a nice little feat you pick up at 6th level because being imm
une to cold is nice, but 1d6 cold damage on a shadow as a touch attack is just m
The Tank (Dread Necromancer)
A Dread Necromancer Tank is the party s front line fighter for much of her career.
A combination of bottomless healing, easy access to temporary HPs, and DR/ you wo
n t beat this , she basically soaks damage better than any character in the game.
Uttercold Assault Necromancer (Wizard)
The ultimate goal is to cast spells with the Cold Subtype that do half negative
energy damage, while you and all your undead minions are immune to cold and heal
ed by negative energy damage. Basically, this is done with Energy Substitution[c
old] (a prereq for Lord of the Uttercold) and the feat Lord of the Uttercold. Th
en you put up Walls of Fire(uttercold) and you and all your minions dance around
in them like Homer Simpson at the American Embassy regaining all your hit point
s every round and inflicting real evocation-style damage on your enemies. It s hil
arious. You can burn lots of feats and be a blaster mage at high levels, or take
Beckon the Frozen to get cold-subtyped undead with Summon Undead that you heal
with uttercold, but the essential build is two feats (though you are required to
be undead or take Tomb-tainrted Soul if you want in on the fun).
For people who like numbers, look at your favorite Evocation modified by a reson
able amount of Sudden or Rod-based Metamagic(or even vanilla metamagic). Then im
agine your cold-immune undead like Skeletons or cold-Subbed Zombies like Frost G
iants taking 1/2th of that damage each round as healing. A simple thought exerci
se is the 10th level Wizard with a vanilla Empowered Cold-subbed Fireball: avera
ge damage to your enemies is 15d6 (52.5 points of damage), with a save for half,
and an average of 26 points of healing for every one of your minions. Makes Inf

lict look like crap, right?

Now, lets play this excercise with a real blaster mage: A 12th level Sorcerer wi
th the feats from Races of the Dragon that drop metamagic costs and speed metama
gic and a Rod-Maximised, Twinned Fireball: a flat 120 points of damage with a sa
ve for half and a flat 60 points of healing. Thats not even counting a once per
day Sudden Empower for an extra 10d6 (35 damage, save for half, and an extra 17
points of healing).
Even if you don't want to be a blaster mage or don't want to sling together comp
lex battle plans involving Walls of Fire(uttercold) to heal your minions and hur
t your enemies, the ability to cast a single Wall of Fire after every combat to
heal all your minions and perhaps yourself is an invaluable Necromantic aid.
Level by Level Progressions:
The abstracts on playing the basic necromancers are fine and all, but here s playi
ng them in a bit more detail:
First Level:
This is where you have to make the big decisions in build priorities. If you re in
the FRCS, you have to select a god. Anyone else can just grab some domains and
go. There are a lot of stupid domains, and only a few good ones. The Evil Domain
adds to your Caster Level, and the Deathbound Domain increases the size of your
eventual undead horde by 50%. That s a good start, and may require you to worship
Afflux, depending upon the whim of your DM. You get your starting feat, and you
select a race and skills. Pick some that will eventually lead you to wherever y
ou want to go Prestige Class wise. You have very few options that raise Rebuking
and Casting. You could start investing cross class into Ride to eventually get
into Bone Knight I suppose. You can start in with the Corpse Crafting. It doesn t
do anything right now, but in the long run you need to sink a lot into Corpsecra
fting before you care.
You can t even draw a melee weapon and move with the same action, because you have
a BAB of +0. And as a starting character you can t afford any good armor. So you re
kind of a placeholder character at this point. Carry a shield with some javelin
s on it. Throw javelins at anyone far away. Draw your morningstar and club anyon
e who gets too close. Life is cheap at 1st level, don t sweat it.
Second Level:
There are no choices at this level. You can finally afford to have decent armor
made for you, and you now have a BAB, so you re the Tank. Pure and simple, you ll wa
nder up and hit things with a stick. You ll have to prepare cure spells if you wan
t to heal people, but remember to only cast cures out of combat (during combat y
ou have better things to do).
Third Level:
You select a Feat. This will probably be more corpse crafting. You now have Hold
Person, so for no reason you are a badboy spellcaster now.
Fourth Level:
You ve continued to gain BAB and are kind of hard d core in melee. Also your Save-or
-Dies still matter a lot, so you re just ambiently good at anything you do for no
Fifth Level:
You now have Animate Dead. Your Corpse Crafting suddenly pays off as you can mak
e Undead in Desecrated areas with big bonuses to everything they do.
Sixth Level:

You get another Corpse Crafter Feat. You ll continue to do that until you run out
of minor bonuses to give to your undead.
Seventh Level:
Suddenly you can outfight any Fighter because you have Divine Power. That contin
ues to be true from now on
Dread Necromancer
First Level:
This is where you have to make the big decisions in build priorities. You have t
o choose your skills. One of these skills is going to be Intimidate (more on tha
t later), and if you ever want a prestige class you'll have to start working on
it now (You could do worse than working towards Divine Oracle by taking Knowledg
e: Religion, Wild Mage by taking Spellcraft, or Mind Bender by taking social ski
lls). Otherwise you can get pretty much anything you want. Unless you're human o
r a human with glowing blue eyes, you're only going to have one feat. That feat
is going to be Tomb Tainted Soul, because not having that feat is unacceptable.
Finally, you get to choose a martial weapon - and in all deference to the really
hot Asian necromancer picture, that weapon is under no circumstances going to b
e an axe. You are going to have proficiency with the composite longbow.
Combat at first level for a Dread Necromancer is nasty and brutish, much like it
is for a Rogue. You'll try to keep things at range as much as possible because
you're soft and squishy. When it does come to melee, you're going to dish out bi
g damage. Your Charnel Touch is a touch attack, so it is substantially more like
ly to land than a sword attack from a ranger of your level (they have +1 BAB on
you, but how many creatures have less than a point of armor and natural armor?),
and depending on your DM's reading of the ability - may do more damage. The key
is whether Charnel Touch is an attack action or a standard action, it is heavil
y implied to be an attack action but this is unclear in the text. You can combin
e a Charnel Touch with a touch spell such as Chill Touch (making you do as much
damage in melee as a Rogue's Sneak Attack with a longsword), but your DM may rul
e that you have to spend a round "powering up," so ask before you get into comba
You're still running in there with the crappy light armor you can afford (studde
d leather), and 6 + Con HP, so even your high damage output shouldn't trick you
into getting into melee much. Of course, any combat you survive causes you no da
mage, as you'll just Charnel Touch yourself back to full life during even a minu
te of down time. Touching yourself is a standard action, after all.
Level 2:
There are no choices to make at all once you hit level 2. All of your skills adv
ance, and you don't have any feats or proficiencies to select.
But combat is a whole new world for you, as you now have DR 2/ Bludgeoning and M
agic. By this point you've probably gotten your hands on a masterwork chain shir
t, and you're what passes for a decently resilient melee combatant. Your rebukin
g is now powerful enough to command basic skeletons, and your BAB is still only
a point behind the fighters. So you still dish out the pain like a Rogue, but no
w you're survivable - so run in there and start slapping people.
Level 3:
There is a very large choice at this level: your new feat. The obvious choice is
to just take Arcane Disciple every feat from now until you've exhausted all the
domains of your favorite god. I won't fault you for doing that, but you can als
o get some good effect out of Weapon Finesse (as it modifies touch attacks), and
if you're thinking long term you might want to go for Mounted Combat as you wil
l eventually be able to pull some tricks with undead warbeasts that are alarming

Combat is pretty similar at 3rd level to 2nd, but the monsters are tougher. You
won't have gotten noticeably better at melee (unless you took Weapon Finesse), b
ut you now have the ability to pull a combat muligan - you are within 5 feet of
yourself by definition, so if melee is turning against you a burst of negative e
nergy will heal you and hurt them - that's all good.
Level 4:
Level 4 is where you start being a halfway decent caster, and your big character
choice reflects that. You can dumpster dive throughout the whole of D&D and fin
d any Necromancy spell off the Cleric or Wizard list from any book. Good choices
include Lesser Shivering Touch (which can again be combined with Charnel Touch)
from Frost Burn, and Faerun has a number of nice offerings such as Stone Bones,
Spirit Worm, Death Armor, and Shroud of Undeath can all be pretty useful. The S
pell Compendium is a good place to go shopping, but this is a very personal choi
We're not even going to pretend that your "Mental Bastion" makes a difference, s
o combat is going to be livened up by your increased BAB and your second level s
pells. False Life is key, remember that your DR is applied before you lose tempo
rary hit points, so you're pretty much the tank at this point.
Special Note: Once you attain 4th level, you will continue to accrue new spells
known every 4 levels even if you take a +1 caster level PrC. Gaining new levels
for the purpose of learning new spells is awesome for a Dread Necromancer.
Level 5:
There are no choices at 5th level, but this is where your intimidate finally pay
s off. A character with max ranks of Intimidate usually succeeds at intimidating
things, and anything that gets into melee with you has to make a Will save or b
ecome Shaken (as written, you can jolly well just use the fear aura again and ag
ain, stacking up fear effects until your opponent becomes panicked or makes a Wi
ll Save, but we'll assume for the moment that your DM will limit you to one boog
a-booga a round), and if it works you can spend your action intimidating them, w
hich stacks their Fear up to Frightened, so they lose their action running out o
f melee while you slap them in the back of the head. It's quite an effective "ju
ggle" to use fighting game lingo.
Level 6:
This is a level where you get a feat, and that means that you have a lot of choi
ces again. You could get Leadership, or Skill Focus: Knowledge Religion, or Deat
h Blow (see below), or anything else you need to get into a PrC at level 9.
Combat doesn't change for you much from your new "ability". Scabrous Touch is pr
etty much crap, so it's not important that you have it (though you can combine i
t with your basic attack so it doesn't cost you anything). You can't use it to g
enerate any of the good diseases like Ghoul Fever or Festering Hate unless you h
ave a very generous DM. You're gonna throw in Blinding Sickness unless you want
to try to kill an animal with Mindfire, but don't get your hopes up. Once again,
your life revolves around the spells you just got. With Vampiric Touch and Deat
h Ward, your tanking expertise is way up there.
Special Note: You can cast spells while using a Mithril Breastplate, so by now y
ou should own one and wear it all the time.
Level 7:
You have only one choice at this level: your familiar. There are two good choice
s: Quasit and Ghostly Visage. The Ghostly Visage is the combat choice, because i
t makes you immune to mind affecting effects and uses your level as its Hit Dice
to generate a save DC for a gaze attack that paralyzes your enemies. Quasit is

the less-combat choice because it gives you Commune, unlimited Detect Magic, and
can still hand out quite sizeable amounts of Dex damage and its 1/day fear stac
ks with your fear aura.
Combat has
iliar that
ess as the
the Quasit

changed for you utterly. Your DR has become bigger and you have a fam
accentuates your combat strategy greatly (either making enemies helpl
Ghostly Visage is wont to do, or by adding Dex damage to the pile as

Level 8:
Once again, you are stuck with choices. You select a new spell to go with your s
hiny 4th level spells. Shivering Touch is a dragon killer - 3d6 Dex damage will
drop many enemies. But you're also going to probably want to de-emphasize your m
elee role now that you can make high quality flying mounts. Undead Mastery is hi
gh quality, because it makes your Control Undead ginormous. You also get a secon
d Negative Energy Burst each day, but this is more for emergency healing than it
is for harming enemies.
Level 9:
You now prestige class out, because there are no more good Dread Necromancer abi
lities for a long time.
Level 1:
So your big Wizardly choice is already made. You re specializing in Necromancy! If
you weren t, you probably wouldn t be this far into the Necromancy Handbook, now wo
uld you? You need to pick two banned schools. Since this isn t the Uttercold Assau
lt build, you re going to drop Evocation. You re probably going to drop Enchantment
or Illusion (those schools pretty much do the same thing
completely own creature
s that aren t immune to mind affecting magic). At this, and every later level, you l
l have to select some spells. You also have to select spells every day from your
spell book. You specialize in Save-or-Die spells. An enemy that fails a save vs
. Cause Fear is going to be killed by your party without ever landing another at
tack. And you should accentuate that by taking other spells with a similarly dea
dly motif so you can mix it up. Grease isn t good until you get a few levels, but
Color Spray and Sleep are extremely deadly right now. Whichever one isn t from you
r banned school is the one you ll go with. As a Wizard you don t have anything to ho
rde except Spellcasting, so you have dozens of workable PrCs. And you have a lot
of skill points to burn because the only skill you actually need is Spellcraft.
Pick a PrC (I like Gondian Techsmith) and go for it.
Level 2:
Your combat role hasn t changed at all. But you have 4 1st level spells each day i
nstead of 3, and that makes a big difference.
Level 3:
You now have 2nd level spells to throw around, and that s good times. That gives y
ou a whole new world of whupass. But don t limit yourself to just Necromancy, as y
our Conjuration is also filled with joy and cream. Grease is now important (3 tu
rns of flatfootedness will geek most enemies in melee), and you have access to W
eb or Glitterdust. The obvious thing to do would be to take Greater Spell Focus:
Necromancy, but you could make an argument for taking Spell Focus: Conjuration
as well.
Level 4:
Your tactical role changes in no way. You are still the artillery.
Level 5:
You have 3rd level spells, which means that you can kill Dragons. Remember that
your familiar can deliver Touch Spells, including Shivering and Vampiric touch.

You get a bonus feat, which will probably be Extend Spell or Craft Wondrous Item
, depending entirely upon whether your DM is more likely to allow you to cheese
out the Slay Mate (2 rounds of Shakening when people make their save vs. Fear is
good times), or the Soul Crafting Rules.
Level 6:
You now have a variety of 3rd level spell options. Also you pick up a feat. This
will probably be blown on something that you don t care about at all in order to
get into a PrC. It could be anything. Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil or somethin
g. It doesn t even matter.
Level 7:
Wizard doesn t give you anything at this level except a caster level. No BAB, no S
aves, no class features, nothing. So if you can PrC out here, you should do that
Feats for the Necromantically-Inclined
Now that you d decided that hanging out with the unliving and stealing souls is yo
ur bag, you re stuck with the nitty gritty of details of day-to-day Necromancy. He
re are the feats you ll want to consider, as well a few that fool people, in no or
Corpsecafter: This feat is the bee s knees. Not only are your skeles stronger and
harder to hit, but they get what they need to minimize their one weakness: extra
HPs. The other feats in this line of feats are nice, but this one really stands
out as a must-have for the dedicated Necromancer.
Nimble Bones: This is a nice feat, as its adds a +10 speed and an initiative boo
st to your undead. If you add in that skeletons get Improved Initiative and a De
x bonus, this means you will almost always win initiative with them, basically g
iving you first strike on your enemies.
Destructive Retribution: This is a feat that I m really torn about. In a nutshell,
it makes any undead you create with a Necromancy spell explode into small amoun
ts of negative energy damage when they die (meaning free undead created with spe
ll-likes and Supernatural abilities are right out). While some people have tried
to optimize the heck out of this, it basically means that you are turning all y
our undead into suicide bombers. Frankly, it s a bad idea to allow good undead lik
e giants or hydra to ever explode; you want to keep those guys around. On the fl
ip side, abundant crap undead like kobold skeletons can basically bum-rush singl
e enemies for massive damage, or you do the same thing for massive healing for y
our good undead. Basically, if you are paying for your undead, then don t do it; i
f your undead are free with something like Fell Animate, go crazy and fill up yo
ur unused HD cap on Animate Dead with tiny piatas of negative energy. If you are
undead or Tomb-tainted, they can even be bite-sized snacky treats for free heali
Fell Animate: Alright, some suckers think you take those +3 spell levels and pop
them onto a Fireball and go around raising Zombies during your normal blasting:
that s not true. This feat is one of the easy ways to avoid paying for the onyx t
o create undead and to get your Zombies a little earlier. Pop it onto a damaging
touch attack cantrip and Coup De Grace your enemies and its free undead for you
. An even better situation is to use Divine Metamagic on this feat (two human zo
mbies at first level!).
Lichloved: Despite the icky connotations of this feat, the actual ability
tty useful. It makes unintelligent undead ignore you. Normally, this is a
ility, since you any time you encounter this flavor of undead you want to
ting Command Undead or using Rebuking to control them, and the ability to

is pre
be cas
have t

hem ignore you isn t going to help the party. The real use is that you can keep ro
oms of unintelligent undead in your lair for two uses: shock troops to wear down
invaders, and short-term fodder controlled by your spells/rebuking.
Planar Touchstone(The Shrine of Acererak): Ok, assuming you don t mind doing a sid
equest (and possibly getting XP for it), this is a fine little feat. Basically,
you get all the effects of Lichloved without having to be Evil or have carnal kn
owledge of the undead. On top of that, you get a Suggestion-like ability to cont
rol an undead creature that s usable once a day (5 times total before you have to
go back to the site and French-kiss a statue. I m not even joking).
Planar Touchstone(Catalogues of Enlightenment): Ok, assuming you don t mind doing
a sidequest (and possibly getting XP for it), this is another fine little feat.
It grants the ability of a Domain and with a high Wis you can cast a spell of th
e domain once per day (3 time total before you have to go back and spend days or
weeks doing paperwork). Basically, this a great way to get a domain power for a
n arcane caster, as well as a great way for high Wisdom characters to get access
to spells not normally on their list (like Desecrate, Awaken Undead or Revive U
Necromantic Presence: For a non-Rebuking character, this is a fine way to get +4
Turn Resistance to your nearby undead, an amount large enough that you can real
ly feel it. For a Rebuking character, this is a shot in the foot (see Rebuking s
ection). Overall, it probably not worth the cost, even if you get Necromantic Mi
Necromantic Might: An odd little feat, to be sure. First, you have to have Necro
mantic Presence, so you don t have rebuking. That being said, the feat gives nearb
y undead a +2 enhancement bonus to attack rolls and saves, which means it won t st
ack with any GMW magic weapons you might hand to your giants, but it works great
on your hydras. The save bonus is also nice and it stacks with almost everythin
Deadly Chill: Another of the Corpsecrafter feats, this grant a d6 of cold damage
to a corporeal undead s natural attacks. Is this pretty good? Sure, a lot of your
skeles and zombies will not use weapons. Is it worth a whole feat? Probably not
. Any creature with Cold Resistance 5 will ignore you, and this is an ability no
t used by all your undead. In a game where you get around five feats ever, this
one just doesn t make the cut.
Bolster Resistance: Yet another way to add +4 Turn Resistance to your undead. It
s good, but not crazy good. A bonus vs an ability that won t come up that often is
a waste of a good feat.
Hardened Flesh: This is a flat +2 natural armor bonus for your created undead, w
hich is useless as it doesn t stack with any other natural armor bonus you might g
et (as it doesn t use the increase natural armor by X or enhancement bonus to natural
armor terminology). Unless you can convince your DM to improve this feat, it s a j
oke. Even if you can convince him to turn it into a flat increase, it s a small bo
nus and unless the creature s AC is already crazy high, this isn t worth it.
Profane Vigor: This is a pretty good deal if you haven t found a good way to heal
your undead. Essentially, you burn a Rebuking use to heal all undead of small to
moderate amounts of damage. While it s a joke for combat healing, it does heal en
ough damage that it makes a good way to burn rebuking attempts after a battle (a
ssuming you don t expect to meet any undead the rest of the day).
Stitched Flesh Familiar: This feat is useless unless you are planning on Spellst
itching your familiar, and then its awesome. Use it on a raven and you get to ke
ep the great parts of a Raven(flying, speaking) and lose the dumb parts (+3 bonu

s to Appraise checks). The raven also becomes undead, which most likely makes it
easier to heal.
Tomb-tainted Soul: Since most Necromancers invest in a method to heal their unde
ad with negative energy, this is a way to benefit from that without becoming und
ead yourself (though you lose healing from positive energy). The rest of the fea
ts in this chain are an exercise in burning real feats for extra flavor text. Nu
ff said.
Spell Focus(Evil): A trap, since it doesn t stack with Spell Focus.
Malign Spell Focus: If you re evil, it s a great way to add another +1 DC to a bunch
of your Necromancy spells.
Undead Leadership: Its just like Leadership, but slightly bigger for undead mook
s and much smaller for living mooks. The only thing going for it is that you can
get Leadership as well as this feat.
Lord of the Uttercold: This feat is the basis for the Uttercold Assault Necroman
cer, so if you are a wizard you will take this feat in order to turn your damagi
ng Evocations into healing for your skeles, hurting your enemies and healing you
r skeles with the same action.
Arcane Disciple: For an arcane caster, this is a great way to get access to a fe
w key clerical spells like Desecrate. Don t forget that you need a high Wisdom.
Profane Boost: This feat lets you maximize an Inflict spell for the cost of a Re
buking attempt. I m not sure if it take a standard action to use, so if it does th
en this is an after-battle boost to any Inflict-based healing you might do. If n
ot, then it s a worthwhile combat feat.

Unusual Rules
There's lots of odds and ends in the Necromancer's arsenal, and many of them can
be potential rules headaches. They go here.
What are Souls good for?
As a Necromancer Wizard, you will often end up with the souls of your enemies ly
ing around. While in your possession, the people whose souls you have can t be bro
ught back to life by normal means, but they can be used to get in your stuff in
other ways. Souls, therefore, are basically a liability to keep around the house
, and should be disposed of as quickly as possible. Fortunately, a soul can be d
estroyed by using it as a spell component or item creation component. The benefi
ts are small (you get like 10 bonus XP or a +10 bonus to a spell resistance roll
), but a destroyed soul can t be brought back to life by any means. That s good time
If you want to get souls in your possession, there s the old standby of Magic Jar.
But if you want a little more security in your life there s Major Creation. It ca
n produce special materials, including thinaun (from the Complete Warrior), a me
tal that traps the soul of anyone killed next to it. The metal evaporates after
not very long, but that s plenty of time to destroy the soul utterly casting a Chi
ll Touch that is virtually impossible to resist.
Becoming Undead Yourself
There are a number of Undead templates that can be added to your character, with
variable costs. Some of these templates have a substantial cost now and no cost
in the future. Some templates have a huge cost in the future and no cost in the

future. Which you will want will depend entirely upon how long the game is goin
g to progress. Becoming a Vampire costs no XP and makes you lose nothing at all
but you also gain no XP for doing it and your rate of XP growth goes down and yo
ur ECL is five levels higher. So if you become a vampire, you ll never gain anothe
r level for the entire duration of the campaign
which is no cost at all in a one
-off game. On the flip side, becoming a Necropolitan costs you a level right now
(it can t cause you to lose 2 levels. If you re 2nd level when you use the ritual y
ou die, and if you are 3rd level or higher the 1,000 XP loss isn t enough to make
you lose 2 levels. I don t even know why that rule is in there), but since you re ad
venturing with characters who are higher level than you, you re gaining more XP th
an the rest of the PCs. You ll catch up in a few levels, and then have all the pow
er for nothing.
Liches get all the fun and all the women, but it is up in the air as to whether
you are supposed to pay levels in addition to the massive GP and XP cost. If you
r GM plays it that way, don t be a Lich. Otherwise, do it. A Dread Necromancer loo
ks like they hand out Lichdom for free at 20th level, but the class is only 8 le
vels long so that ability doesn t really exist. The fact that there aren t any good
class features at level 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 completely i
nvalidates the genuine awesome that exists at level 20. You could have had the 1
0th level of a transformative PrC some time ago.
Once you become Undead, it is imperative that you become Spell Stitched. That gi
ves out Spell-like abilities, and can be a convenient way to get free Animate De
ad. You can also go far by making your Raven into an Undead Raven with the Stitc
hed Flesh Familiar feat and then Spellstitching him. Remember to hang a Periapt
of Wisdom on your bird just before the template is applied, as the template only
checks the wisdom of the creature while it is being written, not the rest of th
e time.
Stacking Fear
There are three levels of Fear in the game: Shaken (which provides minor penalti
es), Frightened (which makes people lose all their actions until they leave LOS
of the necromancer), and Panicked (which makes people lose all their actions, mo
ve randomly, and drop their swag for the duration). If you can apply a Shaken ef
fect to someone already affected by Fear, they move up one category of terror.
The Precise Rules about Clerics and Domains
Every so often, a Cleric Domain will give out a spell that you have no business
being able to cast, either because it isn t on the Cleric list at all, or because
it has an alignment subtype that would normally prevent your character from bein
g able to cast it at all. That s OK. As a Cleric you have a class feature to be ab
le to prepare and cast 1 spell per level from your domain lists, which trumps an
y general rules that would keep you from casting it. So you can make Lawful Good
Necromancer Clerics if you want. They won t be very good, because they won t have R
ebuking and such, but if for some reason it s really important to you, it can be d
Ghoul Gauntlet screws you. Badly.
Ghoul Gauntlet reduces your undead control limit. Maybe it s not supposed to, but
that is what it says. Here's the exact quote:
No matter how many ghouls you generate with this spell, however, you can con
trol only 2 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level (this includes undead
from all sources under your control). If you exceed this number, all newly creat
ed creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castin
gs become uncontrolled
Is that a cut-and-paste error? Maybe. But as written, if you have your caster le

vel in Ghouls and you cast Animate Dead to revive your caster level in gnoll ske
letons, all the ghouls go uncontrolled even though you haven't exceeded your ani
mate dead cap. It doesn't say "all castings of this spell" it says "all sources"
. It doesn't say "the newly created creature", it says "all newly created creatu
res" - even though this spell only creates one Ghoul at a time. That means that
there really isn't an argument that can be made that Ghoul Gauntlet doesn't comp
letely screw your control limit that doesn't fall back on "I'm sure that this is
an editing mistake and this spell is supposed to be much better than it is."
And if that's the argument you're making, we can't help you.
Spell Compendium has an undated version of this spell that doesn't mess up your
control pool, but still wants you to fill up your control pool with ghouls. Its
less of a crap spell, but still on the side of crap.
Undead Fortresses:
Ok, so you ve decided to build a base of operations. There s a few things to remembe
r. First, despite what everyone tells you, you are not going to have walls made
out of bone or permanently desecrated hallways or pools of blood or any of that
dramatic and expensive accessory items of out of The Sims, Necromantic Style. Yo
u are going to build it along a few practical lines.
You will have dead-man rooms , which are rooms full of masses of uncontrolled undea
d, and you ll have taken a feat or spell like Lich-loved so that you don t have to w
orry about being eaten when you restock the rooms. Then, when heroes come to bus
t up your tea-party your Hive breaks open and destroys the heroes, and perhaps the
nearest city as well despite the number of turning attempts or Command Undead s
pells they might have.
For your intelligent undead, which are most likely
tone floors and walls so that have space to pop in
deep walls for ghost doors usable by incorporeal
e fact that incorporeal creatures can only move 5'

incorporeal, you ll have deep s

and out as needed, and even 5
guys. (This takes advantage of th
through objects).

If your DM is using the optional rules on how masses of undead creates ambient T
urn Resistance, then you can abuse the Haunting Presence rules by taking a large
number of low-HD skeles and turning them into para-ghosts that mass the area, p
utting enough necromantic mojo into the air to clot the holy artery of any cheek
y bastard with Turning (even you, unfortunately).
That s about it. Add in a few summoning rooms and a hospital ward to inflict dudes
which ghoul fever and/or harvest liquid pain, and you are the Martha Stewart of
the necromantic world.
A fun way for Necromancers to boost DCs
The easiest way to boost DCs is to take Snowcasting the Cold Specialization and
Improved Cold Specialization feats. If you are willing to carry around ice (like
a blue ice lined chest with regular ice), this is a +2 to all your spells for t
hree feats, and your spells are cold subtyped, which is a nice bonus favor for a
n Uttercold Assault Necromancer.
If you are a Wizard, another option opens up. The 10th level Planar Substitution
level of Wizard lets you slap on alignment subtypes onto your spells, and this
adds a +1 to caster level and DCs when you cast spells on creatures with the opp
osed alignment, which upgrades to +2 if the spell naturally has that alignment (
like adding Evil to an Evil spell). This is nice, but the real fun is when you g
et feats like Spell Focus(Evil) or Malign Spell Focus (or both). This adds some
nice DCs to all your spells.
Add these two techniques together, which stack with Spell Focus and Improved Spe

ll Focus, and you can take all your feats and set a little fire and dance around
it and be the master of Save or Dies at 10th level. Other setting specific-feat
s can also add to these numbers.
The Deathbound Domain errata and a Desecrate area
Most people don t even know that the Deatbound domain was seriously changed in the
errata, so it up to tell your DM about the change or not. That being said, some
people are confused as to how the domain works with Desecrate, as the errata on
the Deathbound domain power lets you create up to three times your caster level
in undead per casting(instead of your double your caster level), and Desecrate
allows you to create up to twice your usual limit of 2 HD per caster level of un
dead(instead of your caster level). You are thinking How you they stack, if ever?
The answer is that we go to the rules in animate dead itself. When you cast the
spell, you specifically control every creature you animate with that casting los
ing only creatures from previous castings. This means that you actually can use
you whole 6HD per caster level of animated dead
even though your control limit i
s only 4HD per caster level. This is pretty neat, as it allows a basic Necromanc
er to create undead armies in one go that are larger than what he can make in mu
ltiple steps. You can also make individual undead that are so large that to have
a second undead servitor you d need a Rod of Undead Mastery*.
A note on Undead Creation with a Rod of Undead Mastery
Remember that undead creation is an instant effect that only checks your max HD c
ontrolled when you cast the spell, meaning you can cast the spell with the rod, t
hen put down the rod to go to sleep and you won t have to worry about undead becom
ing uncontrolled. You can pull similar tricks with temporary bonuses to your cas
ter level, such as with Deathknell.
Creating Corpses.
Using the powers of Stone to Flesh and Polymorph any Object you can create bodie
s, the exact item you need to be able to animate or otherwise create undead. Wha
t actually happens at this point is not addressed anywhere. What does it mean th
at you have the corpse of a creature that was never alive in the first place? Is
a statue of a Pit Fiend capable of being made into elaborate undead forms to ge
t its Wish ability back ? Noone knows. This is a realm of the rules that aren t addre
ssed anywhere even a little bit. We wish you the best of luck.
Failing that, a conjuring circle for your Planar Binding spells set in the middl
e of about 12 killer magical traps is generally sufficient to create any kind of
corpse you want. Go crazy.
Black Sand:
Ok, Black Sand is a substance out of Sandstorm that s both a magical location and
an actual substance. Normally, you wander the desert for forty years until you f
ind it, then you cry because it sucks for you and your party. In effect, it is a
n area of sand on the surface of normal sand and it produces magical darkness an
d a d4 in negative energy damage every round.
Not impressed? While it is nice to have a location that provides small amounts o
f healing over time to your undead, the really neat fact is that anyone killed b
y black sand joins the black sand. Since black sand can be temporarily created b
y a clerical spell, your job will be to find a way to get the spell cast on some
normal sand, and then you drag your enemies onto it, thus allowing you the abil
ity to create more black sand. This neatly avoids the problem of finding an init
ial area of black sand.
From this point on, you can carry around a large amount of black sand in a Porta
ble Hole or something, or you can keep it in a Shrink Item form. Toss it at your
enemies in Shrink Item form for its magical darkness properties, or keep it aro
und as perfect healing for your undead after battles (or you, if you are undead

or Tomb-tainted).
Necromantic Ballista are hilarious:
Heroes of Battle has a fun little option for magical seige engines called the Ne
cromantic property. Basically, you hit an area with a seige weapon shot, then it
casts a spell that animates a bunch of uncontrolled zombies/skeles for 10 round
s and they attack the nearest person. For a cost of 3k on the encantment and 2k
for initial enhancement, this is a great item to carrying around in Shrink Item
form. If you are Lichloved, these guys won't even attack you.

1. You mention the spell create undead but don't reference how you go about comm
anding said undead (;))
2. You're still using the amulet of undead turning, a 3.0 relic. Sure phylactery
of undead turning is headband slot instead, but the headband slot sucks compare
d to a free amulet slot.
3. Please make a reference to the distinction between commanding and controlling

Libris Mortis.
I don't know if you intentionally left them out because they are from a 3.0 sour
cebook, but the Bone and Corpse Creatures are great templates that you can add w
ith Create Undead. They are especially good to use on your fallen allies, if the
y don't mind being brought back as undead. They are from the Book of Vile Darkne
Animate Dread Warrior is another great spell I didn't see mentioned anywhere. De
spite its rather high XP cost, it is still worthwhile I think. It gives you the
ability to create a humanoid undead that retains all of its class hit dice and a
bilities, but is automatically under your control. There is also no limit on how
many of these you can create and control, except how much XP you're willing to
spend on it. This spell is from the Unapproachable East book.