[WIP] Archetype Guide : Undead Hoard Necromancer

As the title says. While “Necromancer” can mean many things to many people, this build is very specificly about doing one thing and doing it well; raising a hoard of permanent undead minions (via the animation boon) and controlling as many of them as possible in combat. As a result, if you are looking for a healer-necromancer who has sway over life and death, or a high damage “warlock” more focused on entropic blast damage and bane attacks/curses, this distinctly not your Necromancer. However, if you want to be controlling shambling hoards of the dead, and depending on your build doing it right from 1st level? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This build is very much “all-in” on the animation boon and charm/dominate banes, and as a result you don’t have quite the diversity of “casting” other mage characters. However, despite that, you are more versatile than you may seem, as your naturally high influence makes you a potent party face when combind with the deception and persuasion skills (which hint hint, we’re going to take and increase as we level). Likewise, all the stacks of multi-target attack specalist you take to control a hoard of undead also help you with banes beyond dominate; so while your raw entropy blast damage will be low, you will be pretty good at casting all those sick debuff and crowd control banes you get from entropy and influence in large areas, making you a solid AOE debuffer and crowd controller in addition to having a hoard of permanent minions.

So, now, lets get started with the build. As you may have guessed, your main stats are Entropy and Influence. Thus, when building your character, you should aim to always max these at the first chance you get, as they are your bread and butter. In fact, due to to your all-in focus on these two stats, you actually have two ways you can build this character, depending on what you want to do.

The first, as you can guess, is to use Attribute Substitution II to use your entropy score as your influence score. You can’t technically do this the oppsite way, but from a flavor standpoint, entropy subbing for influence just makes more sense for a necromancer character (your either using dark magic/necromantic hexes to influence minds, or calling upon evil spirits/the dead to influence others and bind undead to your control, in a sort of voodoo kind of way.). This has the advantage of letting you have your other stats be higher, so you can either boost your survivability with things like agility, fortitude or will, or take more out of combat skills such as higher learning and logic to go along with your face skills.

However, I DO NOT recommend picking up another extraordinary attribute that is if you go down the Attribute Substitution road. While you will have the points to take Creation and make that sweet “master of life and death” the cold hard truth is you will not have the feat space to be paticularly “sweet” at boon invocation. The hoard master is immensely feat intensive; pretty much all of your feats are spoken for, and even then you will always be hurting for more feats. Since none of the feats you must take do anything to help boon invocation, you will generally be bad at it since you just don’t have the feats to be good at it. If you want to be a boon master who is also good at undead pets, your better off focusing on the Summon Creature boon and fluffing them as spirits or undead you have temporarily rise from the ground.

Thus, if you MUST take another extraordinary attribute, it should be one that can make use of the feats your mandated to take by your build, which means one that is more focused on banes than boons. Out of all the “bane-focused” attributes, you will already will have the two best ones maxed at all times (Entropy and Influence, the latter being covered by your Entropy) there are few left that are really worth picking. Out of the ones you can pick up, Alteration, Energy, Prescience or Movement are likely the best pics.

While the only new bane you get is Polymorphed, Polymorph is extremely powerful. Likewise, while you only ever be rolling your raw alteration to invoke boons, the boons you can invoke are so disgustingly good that taking alteration may be something you wish to consider. While you will never be good enough at boons to invoke them on your entire party or invoke more than one at a time, having a high raw alteration with no feat investment is enough to use a single boon “selfishly” to increase your own defenses or shape-shift into something with utility. (Or keep a single boon up on an ally, though this is best left to the party boon specialist)

Energy, meanwhile, has the benefit of giving you two new banes instead of one (forced move and knockdown), and also diversifies your damage types should you face up against something thats unaffected by entropic attacks and influence attacks, such as robots or golems, or undead immune to entropy attacks. While far worse for out of combat utility, it does provide some nice in-combat utility. However, this is largely the worst of the three extraordinaries you can have as your “secondary” on the attribute sub Necromancer, though if you want to play the “uttercold assult necromancer” or “Necro-warlock” type character who weilds hellfire alongside their necromantic powers, this is still quite viable.

Movement is largely the same as energy in that you get the same two banes. However, instead of having elemental attack options you instead get a lot of useful boons if you want to have more boons to use selfishly. Again, as with alteration you won’t be particularly good at using these boons to support allies, however having a raw high movement IS enough to use them for yourself, and movement has some of the most powerful defensive boons in the game, such as flight and teleportation. If you want to up your suitability, this or alteration are likely your best pics, depending on which set of boons you would prefer to use selfishly.

Finally, we get Prescience. Out of all the extraordinaries you can make your secondary focus as an attribute sub Necromancer, this is arguably your best choice. While it contributes little to combat, it gives you a TON of out of combat versatility, as well as two banes you can’t get anywhere else. These two banes also happen to play really nicely with Heightened Invocation, which just so happens to be a feat we take all levels of. While it won’t be steller at low levels, as you grow in power scrying multiple people at once (thanks to multi-target attack specialist) with bonuses from heightened invocation can be absolutely silly in terms of investigation. Likewise, since your likely the party face, or at the least a backup face, having access to mind dredge and being able to use it on multible people at once can also be extremely valuable to you. As with alteration you also get some nice utility boons you can use selfishly, so if thats your thing this is a solid pic. In paticular Tongues (your the face, so may as well be able to speak the language of the native tribe members you want to chat with) and Seeing (Hint hint, use this on your undead) are extremely useful for you, while Reading is REALLY flavorful, especially if you self-impose a fluff limit by choosing only use it in areas where somebody died. While this will contribute little to combat, it will do wonders for your out of combat. It also has the bonus of filling in for computer hacking if you want to go the mad scientist route instead of the magic user route with your fluff.

The second version of this build, conversely, forgoes Attribute Substiution to instead spend all its starting feats on Boon Access (Animation). This has two benefits. The first is obvious; you can use your main build gimmick (domination of animation minions for perma-undead pets) right from level 1. However, this also has the downside that you will need to grab both Influence and entropy seperatly. However, it also has another positive in that, well, you don’t need to take attribute substitution. As stated before, Attribute Substitution is a very table-dependent, and subjective, feat. While some GMs will be cool with letting you sub entropy for influence, others may not, or may do so but with restrictions like “you can only use your influence powers on undead.” If your GM happened to be either of these, then the boon access build is just better, as you maintain the versatility of having both attributes maxed with no enemy type restrictions, while also getting to do your thing right at level 1. Even if your GM is cool with a full, no-strings-attached substitution, you may still considering going this route anyway simply because being able to do your gimmick right from level 1 is pretty awesome.

With all this in mind, I will now take you through the build itself. Due to this thread being a WIP, I will not have all the crunch finished when I post this. While I have it all in my head, it will take a while to for me to translate it to sheets, so watch this thread as I update it regularly with the higher levels of this build. As of now, I will only be covering the 1st level build for this character as well as a general overview of the feats you will want to take as you level. The exact order, as well as “flex feats” and attribute boosts will be covered later as I post higher levels of this build’s progression. That being said, lets get down do it.

When deciding attributes, the BIGGEST thing to consider is your character’s…well…character. While Entropy and Influence will be mandatory no matter what, your other attributes are largely up for you to determine and should reflect your character’s RP concept. The level 1 builds presented here are working under the assumption you want to make full use of your Influence skill by being the party face and that your Necromancer is of the magical varity. If you want to make a Necromancer with a more scientific flavor, I suggest dumping persuasion for logic and either keeping deception (to get away scott-free when being caught doing mad scientist and pose as a totally normal researcher), or ditching
all the social skills to also grab a 2 in whatever other stat you want if you want to be the uncharismatic geeky mad scientist. (note this also works with more bookish mages who are uncharismatic as well) Likewise, if you want to be a “Mad Doctor/Biologist” type, you can easily swap the 3 prescience for 3 alteration on the Attribute Sub build, if you want to be able to do all kinds of grafting and mutating. Likewise, Prescience can be fluffed as your general computer research and hacking skills, if your going down the mad scientist/non-magic route for your character but want to keep the skillset Prescience offers you.

Regardless of whether a mage or a scientist, and whether or not you want to face it up, I suggest for fluff reasons to use Presence over Will as your main resolve and HP booster stat. For one, Necromancers never really where the kind to be able to take blows, so having a lower toughness fits, but more importantly regardless of how charismatic/uncharismatic necromancers are, regardless of origin they always command people’s attention. Whether manipulative or stark raving mad and unconcerned with what others think of them, Necromancers and Mad Scientists alike always have larger than life personalities that command the scenes they appear in, which is nicely modded by presence, even if your going with the mad-scientist/mage who cares not what others think of them. (though there is noting wrong with taking will over presence, this is just my personal opinion,) So without further adue, here are the 1st level builds:

1st Level Necromancer (Attribute Substitution)

Attributes

Fortitude 1 (1)
Learning 3 (6)
Deception 2 (3)
Persuasion 2 (3)
Presence (3)
Entropy 5 (15)
Influence 5 (Feat)
Prescience 3 (6)

Feats

Attribute Substitution (Entropy > Influence) II
Ferocious Minions I

1st Level Necromancer (Boon Access)"

Attributes:

Learning 2 (3)
Deception 2 (3)
Persuasion 2 (3)
Presence 3 (6)
Entropy 4 (10)
Influence 5 (15)

Feats

Boon Access VI (Entropy: Animation)

General Leveling Adivce and How to play the Build.

While the full builds for higher levels will come later, I can give some general leveling advice for the Necromancer. For starters, your going to want to max Entropy and Influence at every level you get, as soon as you possibly can. These two attributes are your bread and butter and are the entire focus of what you do, so you always want them as high as you can get them. After that, if your also serving as the party face you will want to make Deception and Persuasion your next prorities, along with Presence to get more HP and further cement your role as the party charismatic. If your going for a less social roll, you will instead want to focus harder on Learning, Logic and Presence, to let you truly be a knowledge-monkey, if you so choose.

As far as your feats go, they are almost entirely spoken for by the focus of your build and leave you with little room for “flex feats.” The feats you absolutely will want are all three levels of Ferocious Minions and Heightened Invocation, Bane Focus (Dominate), Potent Bane (Dominate) and as many instances of Multi-Target Attack Specialist that you can cram onto your character sheet. Everlasting Charm can also be a life-saver for when things go south and your pets actually resist your Dominate boon, though if you are ok with the risk of potentially losing your pets if they break free the previously mentioned feats take a much higher priority than this one and you should grab them before you grab this. The reason you absolutely need these feats are simple; the minions you make with Animation are not under your control when you make them. While they are charmed, and charm is not enough to actually command them in combat.

To actually make them viable in combat you will need to use the Dominated Bane on them and keep them under your control, so making sure you can dominate as many undead as you can at once and keeping them dominated is your top priority when it comes to feats. This is why you take both Boon Focus and Potent Boon in Dominate, the former acts as a discounted multi-target attack specialist, getting you the benefits of 2 stacks of multi-target attack specialist (aka the ability to dominate 2 undead at once without suffering disadvantage) for 1 less feat point, and the latter helps keep your undead firmly under your command. As a result, these two feats are your TOP priority. Heightened Invocation II and Ferocious Minions III are also critical; the latter buffing your pets and the former letting you get a potentially infinite-sized combat-viable hoard via making the domination bane permanent on your undead. After you take all these numerous feats, if your lucky enough to have any spare points Bane Focus (Death) can be a nice capstone for you, as with all your stacks of multi-target attack specialist this can make you pretty darn good at just outright killing enemies in an aoe. Likewise, I HIGHLY recomend taking Area Manipulation; being able to keep allies out of your AOE bane attacks is an ABSOLUTE STEAL at the bargain bin price of 1 feat point, and should likely be squeezed into your build somewhere.

That being said, the Necromancer is a very tactical build; you are super-squishy by desgine, and as a result you will have to play to your main strength, which is minions. If your going attribute sub, you will have to rely on either the Summon Creature boon or enemy creatures you dominate until you get entropy 6, though regardless of whether or not your starting with animation you should always look to have at least one pet under your sway when hostilities break out. Despite your rather large ammount of pets, you are not a damage dealer for the party; your pets will generally do less damage than a PC who build their character to maximize their damage potential. While some GMs may let you use animation to get things with feats, do not bank on this; instead play to the main strength of your pet hoard…which is not damage…but crowd control. Thing is, regardless of how much damage your pets deal, their main strength is that they are extra bodies on the battlefield. Every attacl an enemy makes at one of your undead is one thats not headed for a party member; in effect, this is making that enemy waste their turn, as your undead are 100% disposable. Each swing, blast or bane that heads the way of your undead is effectively nullifying that enemy for that turn, making your minion hoard a very potent crowd control and damage mitigation tool.

Additionally, your Influence and entropy attributes provide you with some very potent debuff and crowd control banes, and since you will eventually have multiple instances of multi-target attack specialist, you will be very good at inflicting these banes as AOEs. As a result. All your debuffs and stun/crowd control effects, combined with your pets eating attacks that could be going towards you or your friends, make you a sort of twisted inversion of a boon-focused healer. Instead of healing damage dealt to the party and raising their effectiveness, you “heal” them by preventing damage and “buff” them by weaking their enemies. Likewise, if you need to keep an ally alive in a pinch, you certainly can; you have enough Learning and Presence to reliably use the Heal boon, albeit not that well, but don’t discount the fact that you can keep an ally alive and in the fight in a pinch.

[more to come/WIP]

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Read some of it (tired and in airport, so waiting to get home and rest to really read it) but a few things :

  1. Towards the middle you typed boon focus and potent boon, but you meant bane for dominate.

  2. is recommend breaking your post up with headers to make it easier to read and consume.

# header1
## header2

Etc, just need the space after the pound sign.

I’d recommend Summon Creature as the focus of an Attack preventing Necromancer as you described it towards the end, both because of the increased disposability and the absence of commanding issues.

Of course this limits the number of minions you can have, so I understand wanting to go with permanent minions (that can also run your coffee-themed dungeon).

Time is an issue however, because your minions won’t be too strong (though stronger than mere Summons), are essentially used as cannon fodder and you can only create one per day, even less if you’re in a travelling group and later on want to permanently Dominate each of them.
For this, the obvious solution is Boon Focus II (Animation), which, though costly, drastically increases the speed of minion creation.

An interesting approach to controlling your minions could also be using an Extraordinary Item I designed, in this case using a lower PL Dominated:


This obviously requires Craft Extraordinary Item (note that it requires you to be the crafter intentionally), but Heightened Invocation could be dropped instead. A nice side effect is the increased versatility you get from it.

This might seem to go against my previous time concern because crafting one such crystal takes longer than permanently Dominating a minion, but consider this:
With an Animation build, you’re going for the long game. If one of your permanently Dominated minions dies, that is a lot of lost time you cannot recover (unless your GM allows you to resurrect it via another Animation with the Bane intact, but don’t count on it). If you’ve stuck one of the crystals into its chest, you can likely recover it.

This also empowers the GM somewhat as they can craft interesting story elements and balance the game by occasionally shattering a crystal from an Attack or stopping them from working in an area. I argue that is a good thing, as it makes the story interesting and increases the chance to be allowed by the GM.

Addendum:
Additionally, the Crystal of Control is accessible sooner than Heightened Invocation III. In fact, at WL2 for Cursed (Dominated 5) (or maybe WL3 if the GM deems it powerful enough to increase its WL), it’s accessible as soon as you take Craft Extraordinary Item.

EDIT:
I remembered Heightened Invocation wrong, which needs 5 days to permanently Dominate a minion. Crafting a Crystal of Control for a minion at WL2 requires only 4 days and is therefore the better way all together.

I’ts a bit of thread necromancy, but I wanted to share the necromancer I build as an NPC during my campaign
It was a level 5 necromancer (12xp).
most important, entropy 7 with the rest being flavour.
feats:
extraordinary focus (3)
ferocious minions II (4)
Boon focus II (9)
multi target attack secialist (2)

I could summon 3 zombies as a focus action (becomes action) with no (dis)advantage and then 2 zombies as a minor action with 1 advantage. If succesfull you have 5 zombies up in 1 turn. (I had them being bolsters by students so I had even more zombies).
The zombies then proceeded to use the defend action every time someone attacked the necromancer. Next turn would be summoning more zombies and the old ones attacking. If a lot of zombies survived you can invoke banes with your entropy (such as incapacitate).
The nearly unlimted meat shields were a real big problem for my PCs and they managed by a breath of hair to defeat the necromancers. And 5, attribute 5 attacks with advantage 2 can be really painfull :smiley:
However the battle took forever to complete with so many minions constantly getting in the way. So take that in account with many enemies/minions

If you wanted to build this from the ground up I would suggest starting with getting boon focus 3 as fast as possible. and then go for ferocious minion or extra-ordianary focus. I even considerd taking atribute subsitution: entropy -> fortitude (unholy consitution) for a lot of extra defense/hit points

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This is absolutely necroposting… but I’ll allow it because it’s a helpful addition and an appropriate topic to bring a thread back from the dead with :unamused:

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If I do like that build, but summoned creatures do have their weaknesses; mainly lack of permanency. The fluff of necromancers is that they create permanent minions as oppose to summoning temporary ones. The build you presented, while strong, more represents what I would view as a demonologist/demon summoner or spirit/ghost summoner, as oppose to the traditional necromancer who digs up corpses and turns them into permanent zombies. Thats just me, though, and the build works fine. Currently, I’ve been experenting with the Gem of Command suggestion from Vrenshrrg and its been a ton of fun. The build I have dreamed up looks like this at 5th Level:

Attributes

Learning 2
Deception 3
Persuasion 3
Presence 2
Entropy 7
Influence 7

Feats:

1st: Boon Access VI (Entropy: Animation) (traded for Boon Focus (Animation) I & II at 3rd)
2nd: Craft Extraordinary Item I
3rd: Unending Charm
4th: Ferocious Minions I
5th: Attribute Substitution I (Entropy->Fortitude), Ferocious Minions II

Lore-wise she is a spoiled noble brat who’s early experimentation with necromancy left her forever a child physically and mentally despite the years she has been alive. She is manipulative and cunning, but also grossly immature and childish. Mechanically, she has the ageless and upper class perks to represent her background and ageless nature, and was purposely designed to be super-squishy to represent the fact she has the body of a child.

In combat she acts mainly as a pet master, using a hoard of permanent undead controlled with Gems of Control that are buffed by Ferocious Minions II. If she needs to mount a direct offense herself, her high entropy and influence let her debuff and crowd control enemies, or even deal direct damage in the case of entropy, though she will be nowhere near as strong at those things as a dedicated debuffer or dedicated blaster. Out of combat she has passable social skills that she can turn from passable to face-worthy with judicious use of her high Influence skill, meaning she acts mainly as a talker, manipulator and speaker for her teammates when needed.