In a game I am a part of there is a player who considers themself a necromancer. They are fully specced and invested around the spell "Animate Dead". They are very effective and efficient at keeping track of, and controlling their minions, often taking a minute or few for their full turn with 7 fielded minions, each with multiple attacks. The problem is that they are really really powerful. Their control/raise limit is well over what it should be for their level (+9 from a mixture of class abilities and feats/traits that raise CL.) This means they have been able to raise anything that we have come across as at least a bloody skeleton, even adding extra template via use of desecrate. They also pair this with an elevated CL Command undead spell, giving them a large swath of minions to use that are hard to permanently kill.
The setting of the campaign has been the deep darklands, and while we are only level 7, they have given raise to 15HD bloody Firey skeletons. Needless to say, these outperform any martial at the same level.
The party is a small group, with 1 other consistent player who is a Rouge/Arcane trickster, (about as well optimized as they can be with a couple boons to make them stronger) and then a guest player every now and then who is less important and not consistent. As a GM it is getting hard to balance encounters because as the opponents scale up, the party does as well, but the characters do not gain extra capability. No one in the party is upset at the level of power they have, as they generally tend to do different rolls then meat-bag front-line. However they still like to feel useful in combat, and if enemies are too scaled up, they cant hurt them easily.
What are some ways to allow for more balanced encounters? The challenge is providing something that can be a threat to creatures of that capability, while still proving to be a threat to the rest of the party. Im not looking to nerf them unless absolutely necessary. The necromancer has his body hidden inside the skeleton of a large creature, strapped, secured, and hidden, while using shadow projection to command and be safer on the battlefield. AOEs can threaten his body, but its hard to justify direct targeting of his body over the skeleton it resides in, which is also quite mobile. Keep in mind, that the necromancer can raise pretty much anything, so after every encounter, they can potentially get stronger, and can at this point raise (7+5CL x2 = 24 x2 from desecrate = 48) a 24 HD creature as a bloody skeleton, or a 12 HD creature as a bloody flaming (or elemental) skeleton. This is at level 7.
I require as close to a RAW answer as possible for ~Level 5 Wizard(s) to control ~100 skeletons and zombies.
Context: I’m adapting a few classics for older editions to D&D 5e, and running into issues for which I need RAW solutions. I could just hand wave it away but my own DM does that sort of thing and I am very much a proponent of what I call the Goose and Gander argument for players and NPCs: essentially, (with a few exceptions) if the bad guy can do it then so can the players, given enough time and resources. So handwaving the NPCs’ abilities doesn’t work for my campaign.
The AD&D 2e adventure Return to the Keep on the Borderlands has a Necromancer and several large groups of skeletons and zombies, but there is no possible way that the denizens of the temple could maintain control of so many for what they are utilized.
All told there seems to be ~100 skeletons and zombies that are described as being controlled, i.e. they have tasks they are performing when encountered. The module only describes a single caster that would be capable of casting Animate Dead and it is a 5th Level Wizard (Necromancer) there are a handful of lvl 3 Clerics in there as well. This technically would not have worked even in 2nd edition RAW since Animate Dead was 5th level for Wizards. I would however like to have at least a modicum of a better explanation than “Well, that’s what was written in the module.”
Therefore, is there something out of all the books that I am missing that could justify a small, essentially low level temple having so many controlled undead?
Immediate thoughts would be replacing some of them with constructs. Given the nature of the temple Scarecrows are the obvious choice and would be controlled indefinitely. I did see some ideas about converting the Bone Golem from previous editions — the problem with that is it changes the focus from Necromancy to Conjuration (as Scarecrows are bound spirits), which is not really desirable nor as interesting a threat to the good NPC side.
I also thought of scrolls but they are limited and would need to be replenished somehow from a higher level wizard that can make them. This option would require many scrolls, possibly dozens, per day if the existing casters capable of scribing them were to be the ones creating them.
I don’t see a way of doing this without a custom magic item, something akin to the 3.0 whistle from Sunless Citadel.
I am interested in what precisely "moves" the undead body.
I have a player who is a necromancer and insists on always keeping their risen dead “concealed” by use of large cloaks and masks.
Generally, this includes 4 skeletons and 4 zombies. The PC is very certain that if they took the time to scrape every ounce of flesh from the zombie’s bones that they will become odorless. A long while back, I gave this some thought and decided to allow it, lowering the stats of each zombie (primarily their hit dice). As the game has progressed, this PC wishes to now pad the 8 undead minions with some clothing to reduce noise of clattering bones, throw large cloaks on them to hide everything, and furthermore puts masks on each one to hide their faces and claims that no one will notice or care.
So basically, this PC has 8 cloaked “bodyguards” with masks who can’t speak or respond to anyone else, shy of being attacked. The longer this goes on, the more silly it becomes, walking into libraries with an entire host of undead cloaked figures with masks, having them wait in rooms or areas during lengthy social engagements, etc.
This PC is one of those power players who insists on a lot of far fetched theories and ideas that are always requiring me (the DM) to come up with possible scenarios or solutions based on these – while not wanting to say no to everything unless it’s unreasonable to me. I don’t mind this method of disguising undead minions in certain areas of the game, but some of the other players are starting to complain and I’d like to nip this in the bud and find a solution everyone is happy with before it gets too out of hand.
Is there a way to have NPCs react to this or have some kind of checks/saving throws to discourage this kind of behavior?
In this homebrew world, magic is rare and generally frowned upon by most people – as they are ignorant of it and generally fear it. Undead are not a common thing and are typically associated with evil if a populace has even ever encountered such a thing. The fallout from the undead being discovered would be rather large and potentially ruin the reputation the party is trying to build with the region they are in. Suspicious guards and the occasional person may ask them, but perhaps there is a better answer that I’m not thinking of that directly involves this not working due to their undead states or something. I don’t want to flat-out say that the PC can’t do this, but I generally forget about them when the party is in a city or somewhere that, if these were found out, would cause a lot of interesting issues, to say the least.
It’s already mentioned in the 5e monster manual that skeletons uncontrolled will do things they would often do in life.
Independent skeletons temporarily or permanently free of a master’s control sometimes pantomime actions from their past lives, their bones echoing the rote behaviors of their former living selves.
Would a necromancer be able to, more or less, tap into that and perhaps make a skeleton that acts in the way it would have normally in life? And is the same true for other undead?
I know it’d be difficult for the undead in question, as they may not know how they acted in life, but if the way they acted was disclosed to them, could they act in that way? And supposing that the necromancer dies, would they continue to act in such a way with the original order?
My player character was killed off by the DM, my party found pieces of my body in a room.
They’ve taken my head back to the Necromancer we met.
My questions are:
What can a Necromancer do? Is it just resurrection or can they do revive? Or something else?
If I’m resurrected, doesn’t this make me undead? And if so, doesn’t that mean I wouldn’t have a need for Hit Points?
Are there any spells out there that would allow a necromancy school Wizard to specifically raise a Spawn of Kyuss, Or would controlling one only be achievable through turning it?
If a necromancer was to make a deal with like 4 people before a fight that the necromancer could animate them if they die during the fight, and then those same 4 people were to die, would those 4 people be reanimated more friendly than most skeletons/zombies or would they just have the regular aggression?
From what I understand the undead created via animated dead are under my PC’s control indefinitely. So if I had commanded them to kill enemies of mine (insect things that were fighting our group so I commanded them to attack the bugs) would they follow that command after I die, or become uncontrolled and attack my party members too?
I had assumed that they became uncontrolled, and they attacked the party (which teleported away), but after looking while they were figuring out what to do next, I had re-read animated dead to figure out if that was correct.
The other thing that I was curious is do they stay under my control when brought back to life too?
If they do go uncontrolled after death, that would mean any necromancer PC would be a group wipe if they die.
I’ve been looking for an answer to this on the internet and the D&D books.
Minor spoilers to lost mines of phandelver ahead, but nothing important.
A bit of background: I am a first time DM and my players will soon finish the LMOP. I am looking into ideas what to do afterwards. During the adventure they killed Hamun Kost without ever actually talking to him or giving him any chance to talk or run(from my understanding this behaviour is called murderhobo?).
I’d like to have the players feel like their actions have some impact, because so far they were simply nicely following the storyline of the module and it seemed a bit boring because the outcome was so fixed. Now my idea is that Hamun kost wasn’t alone, but had a master nearby who sent him to this location to do some research. Now that he has been killed, his master is understandably angry and goes to investigate. During that he finds Phandalin and the party (now Level 5) as well. He asks around if anyone knew what had happened. He isn’t inheritly evil, but he looks for answers and maybe revenge/justice.
Now I don’t know how my characters will react. Maybe they bluff, maybe they try reasoning. But I want to make the master so strong that they can’t actually simply attack and kill him. That shouldn’t be the solution to everything. I want this master to be a wizard in the school of necromancy. Now I have myself never played a necromancer, so I don’t know how one would fight effectively. I imagine he will not walk into town with a bunch of zombies/skeletons if he plans on asking for information and is not looking for a fight. There is a necromancer NPC in volos guide to monsters, however even though he is CR 9, I am afraid he might loose a head on fight against a party of 5. I assume this because of the action economy as he has no legendary actions. He is also rather squishy with an ac of 12. Feel free to correct me here. The party has a circle of the moon druid, a barbarian and a cleric (turn undead) in meele, as well as a sorcerer and a ranger (all L5).
If the PCs decide to engage him, how would you make this necromancy master fight them if he is smart and plans on winning? I noticed that the one in volos guide to monsters doesn’t have any mobility spells like misty step to stay at distance. Would he first run and come back with a bunch of undead? Do I maybe need a necromancer of higher CR?