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New Paths #7: The Expanded White Necromancer (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 7 ratings)

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Most necromancers are foul, twisted individuals obsessed with corruption and death. But a few embrace the knowledge that true necromancy involves tapping the powers of life as well as death. These enlightened few are known as white necromancers.

New Paths 7: The Expanded White Necromancer gives you everything you need to play a necromancer whose understanding of the mysterious connection between life and death makes you a potent healer as well as a powerful spellcaster.

Designer Marc Radle has greatly expanded the white necromancer class from Kobold Quarterly #19 to include:

  • 6 new spells including dance of the dead and wall of bones
  • Necrotic Healer and Grave-Bound archetypes
  • 2 new necromantic feats
  • Rules for undead companions that bind you to a loyal ghost, mummy, vampire, skeleton, shadow or zombie

Hey, just because you summon ghosts and travel with a helpful vampire, it doesn’t make you a bad guy! Get The Expanded White Necromancer and wield the powers of death to bring justice and healing to the world.

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Product Reviews (7)
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Average product rating:

***** (based on 7 ratings)

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New Review Over at drivethrustuff.com

*****

New Review of the White Necromancer by Timothy B. over on drivethrustuff.com

Quote:
"I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in playing a very different twist on necromancers than the typical D&D/Pathfinder villains."

Read the entire review:
HERE


Genuinely creepy support for genuinely heroic necromancers

*****

Long story short: This product is great and you should probably buy it.

Long story long: The matter of non-evil undead and necromancy has been a source for plenty of debate, but no matter which side of that argument one may fall on it's undeniable that supporting material for such themes has been sorely lacking since Third Edition began.

The White Necromancer remedied that problem in a big way when it debuted in Kobold Quarterly, and this expansion of the class essentially seals its status as the place to go for unambiguously heroic necromancers. There's no automatic assumption of evil in undead or necromancy here; the matter of "how" and "why" are put forth as the deciding factor.

These necromancers aren't your stereotypical villains nor are they forced to be questionable anti-heroes, though there is room for the latter. Rather than focusing on enslaving and defiling the dead, the white necromancer is focused on working with or even for the dead. The class is more about those who help lost souls find peace or treat with the dead for aid than seeking power over them and the living.

This alternate approach is built right into their mechanics, where raising undead aid is as much a matter of diplomacy as magic. And this doesn't grant a white necromancer complete control over such undead, as they are fully free-willed beings that must be treated with respect. Coupled with their ability to make non-evil undead through this manner, the white necromancer's approach can add a lot to a setting and a campaign as demonstrated in the short introduction featuring a necromancer seeking the aid a long dead hero against his evil living descendant.

Not only does this readily enable all sorts of non-evil undead NPCs to fulfill different roles throughout a setting, from truly noble necropolis guardians to spectral family guardians, but it also gives GMs a cool way to communicate the history and lore of their setting.

And for those that may be worried that this makes white necromancers out to be all rainbows and sunshine, don't worry. While you certainly could play one that way, there's plenty of dark and macabre flavor built into the class abilities and spell list, from the various new bone-centric spells to the Grasp of the Dead ability. This product certainly delivers on the Dark Is Not Evil trope.

The two new archetypes really expand the character possibilities for the class as well. The Necrotic Healer offers perhaps one of the most heroic and self-sacrificing examples of the "healer" role ever, taking the standard White Necromancer's self-sacrificing healing abilities and running full tilt with them to make characters that take on the wounds and ailments of others. It's a potent and potentially high-risk approach to healing.

The Grave-Bound archetype gains an undead companion at 5th level, choosing between six general types(ghost, mummy, shadow, skeleton, vampire, or zombie). Each type is rebalanced according to the white necromancer's level with their own distinct progressions as they advance. The exact nature of the necromancer and companion's relationship is left undefined, lending itself to a wide variety of possibilities, from the wayward scholar trying to solve her spouse's murder alongside that spouse to the noble who inherited his ancestor's mummy bodyguard to the ghost whisperer who accumulates the regrets of the restless dead into a shadowy mass that she's working to put to rest or even just someone who's childhood pet's loyalty keeps him at his master's side beyond death.

There is a lot to play with here. And fans of Jakandor or Eberron's Undying Court that have been left hungering for that sort of macabre and alien flavor without having to wrestle with current default assumptions will likely feel right at home with this product's approach to necromancy.

The Expanded White Necromancer tackles some themes that many have been longing for for quite some time and that have gone untouched for far too long. And it pulls it off perfectly.


Not dread - nor deadly. But still serviceable. :)

*****

Visually this looks really really good! Beautiful art and layout. Author and graphic designer, Kobold Press stalwart Marc Radle does not disappoint, gathering fantastic art and piecing together a gem of graphic design and layout.

Thematically, I love parts of the concept, others I could take or leave.

Mechanically I wonder if the WN is actually a bit weak, and Design-wise, I feel there are some conceptual missteps. These may of course be my own biases as an affirmed undead fan with definite ideas of my own.

* For me, the d6 HD/ ½ BAB, simple weapons and no armor crimps him, for while I do understand the arcane spell failure problem, I'm not sure the spell list gives him the punch he needs, either as support or buffer. Though I'm not a caster-expert so maybe I'm missing something. :) There are some new cool spells that up the ante a little – not only falvorwise but mechanically – bone shard and bone swarm stand out here.

I don't see his other abilities making up the shortfall or particularly synergising. More on this later.

SO the WN is a spontaneous caster that gets eshew materials at 1st level as well as some problems casting spells with the evil descriptor - Pet Peeve alert…. I’m not a fan of the anti-evil or even “white” necromancy. I think people get all caught up about undeath as some taboogeyman. Undead involves a mechanical apparatus (the body/bones/rotting flesh/spirit) that is given motive force. There is no need to clutter it with “alignment”. Sheesh. So the difficulty the WN has in casting “evil” spells just annoys me and I would houserule this into oblivion. Happily it disappears at 4th level.

* Rebuke Death at 1st level heals those below 0 hp. Nice idea. I’d possibly rename it though as “rebuke” is more aggressive than this ability feels – I would have preferred Cheat Death or similar. A minor niggle and not a design flaw by any means.

* There is a dead level at 2nd level. No I’m not talking about a new awesome White Necromancer power where you are dead and win the game. A dead, blank, no power gained level. Sure, you do get an extra 1st level spell per day and an additional cantrip known, but really? A dead level. I see Clerics and Wizards have dead levels all over the place, and this guy is in the same bracket (1/2 BAB, Full caster) but still. As you will see later, I have ideas for this dead level…and its similarly dead pals at 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 19th level. I could go on but there are only 20 levels. :)

* Power over Undead appears at 3rd level. Yep that’s right, an undead themed holy necromancer can’t Turn undead until 3rd level. Hmm. The saving grace is that this tweak to channeling is really quite cool. There are some restrictions against feats that alter the channel that actually keep the channeling on theme, and another interesting touch - “all undead are potentially affected, even those under (the WN’s) control”. There’s an added 20th level capstone power for this too.

* White Necromancy appears at 4th level, essentially removing the problems with casting “evil” spells and making summoned undead neutral instead of evil. Some nice stuff here about no actual concrete control of undead, use of Diplomacy, respecting the undead and releasing them once their service or task is completed really adds luster to the concept.
Personally I find this ability and it’s placement very problematic. I feel the whole class is built around this concept, and the pragmatism of creating undead and not having truck with petty alignment issues should appear at 1st level, not 3 levels later…

* Life bond at 5th level allows the WN to form a bond with another living creature within 90ft and allows the WN to sacrifice 5 hp in order to give the bonded creature 5 hp if it is below 0 hp. Necrotic Transfer at 7th level allows the WN to sacrifice 10 + Con score + WN level to a creature touched. I’m hoping this is supposed to be Con modifier, otherwise that is a lot of hit points!!! I’m also a bit mystified why it’s 90 ft, and not 30 or 60…

I really worry about the usability of both of these considering the low HD of the WN, and compounded by his lack of defense (mage armor spell notwithstanding...) he shouldn’t be giving away ANY hp. Perhaps the aforementioned 2nd level dead level/power suite could aid with this - like temporary hps from a white-necrotic buff of some kind? I just don’t think the WN has enough hp to be handing them out.

* Some nice, thematic abilities follow – Voice of the Grave (7th level) gives speak with dead; Life Sight (9th level) confers life/undeath detection, but only to 10 ft (?); Grasp of the Dead (11th level) creates the iconic clutching bony arms from below; Ghost Walk (13th level) provides incorporeality; Death Warded (15th level) protects against death spell and death effects, even where not normally allowed a save and Protective Aura (17th level) turns this into an aura that also provides living creatures with immunity to energy drain and effects causing negative levels...

So...

I'd like to have seen some cool white-necrotic power at the currently dead-2nd level, perhaps even the beginnings of a suite and/or pool - (that should also avoid those pesky 1st level dippers!) and bolster his capabilities – as indicated there are plenty of other dead levels and if you move the 4th level eponymous White Necromancy stuff to 1st level you get a even level progression from 2 to 18 and then a capstone. Or, keep the dead levels but give the WN d8 HD like a Cleric or, more likely, the Inquisitor.

Also perhaps move the Turn undead to 2nd level - seeing as it isn't as versatile as Clerics, who get it at 1st level - I see it as iconic for this guy - heck I'd move it to 1st level personally.

* While he can command undead with the spell at 4th level, the WN can’t create any until he gets animate dead at 8th level. Regardless of the parity with other casters, I personally feel this is too late. Again, the dead levels could help here…

* There are a bunch of new feats and spells, followed by two archetypes.

* The Grave bound archetype is particularly cool. I played a cleric back in 1e who had two wraiths as companions, though he was initially LG eventually he was as evil as they come. I've always liked the trope of the undead servitor/minion, and author Marc Radle adds some nice plot-hooks options to just what (or who) the servitor is to the Grave-Bound.
There are two problems with the archetype: One, I think the addition of an undead servitor is eorth WAAAAY more than the Life Bond ability it replaces which I see as not very useful, and two, I’m sad the Grave-Bound doesn’t get an undead servitor until 5th level - I would have liked to see this as a Ranger analog getting it at 4th level…I guess this is an at-level swap, but still. If there had been abilities at the dead levels this would have been a perfect swap – as it is the undead servitor gets abilities at those already dead 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th levels.

Another Pet Peeve, there is no Wight undead servitor option – the options provided make a certain kind of sense, Vampires, Skeletons, Ghosts, Mummies and Zombies – the more genteel or passive types... No slavering Ghouls or feral Wights. I see this as a missed opportunity to redefine some undead tropes and make some cultured ghouls or stealthy wights….

Final Thoughts/In Conclusion:
Look, this is still a five star review, but I feel the need to say that I think this could have been so much more. Maybe I’m stuck on Lew Pulsipher’s plate armor wearing, Chaos-Knight informing Necromancer class for 1e from White Dwarf magazine back in the day, or maybe I’m just an undead fanboy who didn’t quite get what he wanted with a “White” Necromancer. I guess the whole point of the exercise is to make an alignment distinction, rather than expand upon a Wizard’s Necromancer school. But if the stated aim is not to make a Wizard alternate or archetype, give the WN more hp and some freaking armor!!! Even some light armor casting would go a long way to making some memorable fashion!!! Same again with the simple weapons – why do the dark necromancers and fouldark priests get all the fun and dread weapons – at least give the WN some kind of useful martial weapon. I know, I know, this guy is an undead diplomat….

This is obviously a cherished class by many from the annals of KQ’s own “back in the day” and as such this Expanded PDF may have been constrained from departing from that version. I would still like to have seen the dead levels worked into a suite of some kind, the necromancy embraced from 1st level and a few of the other abilities synergizing with better hit points. Also, if there were a suite for the dead levels (or even individual powers) the archetype swaps might make more sense...

Still, it seems that the class has functioned very well up until this expansion, so I’m likely opining a bit much. This is onto a fly-by-night approach to a concept, the archetypes, feats and spells round it out.

I’ll end by saying: Excellent work from Marc Radle, this really adds to his collection of well received, critically acclaimed works like the Shaman, Battle Scion and Spell-less Ranger.


The Lighter Side of Necromancy

*****

Ah, the necromancer. Favored villain of so many games, be he either the big bad or just a mook-making-machine. And usually stuck with that role until now.

The Expanded White Necromancer gives us an expansion of a character class that appeared in the now sadly-gone Kobold Quarterly, making this rather necromantic in itself. It is basically a necromancer who can work with the good guys. He has decent yet limited healing powers and can even protect against death attacks. And oh yes, he can make neutral and maybe even good undead as well. Of course he doesn't make undead slaves, he treats his undead with dignity and respect -- but still, here you have a heroic PC class that can send undead into battle. Now that is different!

We also get a pair of archetypes. The Grave Bound White Necromancer gets some undead resistances, but the main thing this one gets is their very own undead companion. You can choose anything from sentient zombies and skeletons to ghosts and vampires for your unbreathing ally. This idea in and of itself makes this PDF a joy to me. I love murderous and evil undead, but this idea works great.

Next is the Necrotic Healer, an arcane healer with some potent abilities centered around taking injuries and disabilities from others and giving them to yourself. I like the way this one works, as it feels a lot like healers from a great many works of fantasy who can aid others at personal cost.

The PDF also gives you several new spells with a nice necromantic twist, as well as some new feats that can be used by any spellcaster to control and deal with the undead.

A novel take on a classic fantasy character and it has a class I'd love to either use or see used in a game I'm in someday. Five stars!


An RPG Resource Review

*****

Nasty fellers, necromancers, aren't they? Disturbing the dead, surrounded by decaying undead...

... OR ARE THEY?

Some of those who practise the magicks we know as necromancy are decent upstanding members of the community using their knowledge and skills to the benefit of their fellow sentients both living and dead, and potent indeed their powers. Here, should you wish to play a nice necromancer, is everything that you need to know. Studying the cyclic nature of life and death and respecting those who have passed on to the other side, their powers include some healing as well as the ability to control undead and, at higher levels, create them in a manner that honours the dead raised rather that the abusive practices of your common-or-garden evil necromancer.

They are provided with their own spell lists (given here, along with some newly-designed spells) and can cast any spell they know at will, being restricted solely by a limit of number of spells per level that they can cast per day. There are a couple of new feats and an archtype (Grave Bound) which allows the white necromancer to have an undead companion - various ones are possible including ghosts, mummies and even vampires. A second archtype is the Necrotic Healer, who heals by taking others' pain into themselves in order to heal it.

Some intriguing possibilities here... and just watch the other players' faces when you announce that your new character is a necromancer!


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