The target line just says 'one creature', but the spell text says you sense and attack a 'life force'. Do undead creatures have an undead 'life force' to sense and attack? I'd lean towards 'no', purely based on how lifesense functions, but that's tangential evidence at best.
Even if undead creatures do have a life force to sense and attack, do they have a 'soul' to transfer to the gem? Does the undead creature's intelligence or lack thereof make a difference in whether it has a 'soul'?
Again, though, the spell's target line simply reads 'one creature' and not 'one living creature', or 'one creature with a soul', or 'one creature with a life force', so perhaps the rest should just be considered flavor text?
In the past I've always allowed magic jar to affect undead targets, but given recent discussion of the Gravewalker witch's possession ability, I've been picking over magic jar's text, and now I'm not sure that ruling is correct.
I'm not sure that I agree magic jar cannot target mindless undead. It targets 'life forces', not 'souls'. If a skeleton doesn't qualify, it would be by virtue of being undead, in which event intelligent undead would likewise be untargetable. However, I've never seen anything in the rules to imply that undead don't have a 'life force', and have always assumed that they do - just one of negative energy instead of positive - and as such they could still be targeted by magic jar in the same way that creatures with 'life sense' can sense living and undead creatures, but not constructs. May be worth a separate thread.
The possession does seem like it means to be able to target intelligent undead minions of the witch, though, and that again implies that bonethrall wants to reference command undead and not Command Undead, as otherwise a witch can never really have an intelligent undead minion, since command undead merely grants charm person like influence over intelligent undead, and I know no context in which a mere charm effect would be enough to consider a creature your 'minion'. Heck, with most DMs I've played against, charm isn't even enough to get a hostile minion to stop attacking the caster's allies, let alone get it to fight for the caster against its former friends.
The original source clearly references the spell and not the feat by the formatting... but the bonethrall ability, as well as the gravewalker's other abilities, all make much more sense if one assumes bonethrall was supposed to reference the feat, instead. That's how I already run it in my own games, and I would not play a gravewalker in another game with the ability as printed.
Everything about bonethrall, from the saves to the hit die limit to the level its acquired to the gravewalker's 'aura of desecration' bonus to the DC of 'channeled negative energy' effects to the kind of control the grave walker's flavor text seems to imply it grants to the the kind of creatures it seems to imply it grants it over to the Gravewalker's access to the spell command undead anyway (and without hit die caps or other restrictions) screams that bonethrall was meant to mimic 'Command Undead', not 'command undead'.
Admittedly a greater concern for the archetype is the seeming lack of any means of replacing a lost or destroyed spell poppet, unless I missed an faq somewhere. Though their spellbook substitute may be less vulnerable to random attacks then that of a normal witch, the lack of any means of replacing it means the character is basically one sunder attempt away from the garbage bin at any time, barring friendly DM interpretation allowing the poppet to be replaced as a normal witch can replace a lost familiar.
It's a pretty neat archetype otherwise, but really needs those two fixes to function properly.
While theoretically such games can be interesting, let me be frank.
I have never seen issues of racism or sexism handled well in a D&D game.
Not in any of the campaign settings I've read, not in any of the fantasy societies or races described, not in any of the several games I've played in that included such themes.
At least one game and gaming group I have walked out of because they were blatantly using 'realism' as an excuse to play out their personal prejudices at the table. It was disgusting.
Are you a straight white dude? Have you had to deal with these kinds of issues in your every day life? Have you been pulled over by a cop for 'driving while hispanic'? Have you been disowned by your family and religion because of your sexuality? Have you ever expressed an opinion, only to have your points ignored in favor of a discussion of whether or not the listeners would have sex with you?
If you don't personally have any experience on the receiving end of discrimination, how are you going to depict it 'realistically' at your table? And if you do, why would you want to? This is D&D, where the women are as strong as the men, and magic and dragons are real. If you're looking for realism, you're in the wrong game, anyway.
In short, why would a woman put up with whistles and cat calls, and their implied threat of sexual aggression, on the walk to your D&D game only to have to deal with the same thing played out in character? And we wonder why there's such a gender imbalance in the player base of our little hobby.
So yeah, while initially I didn't care one way or the other about this issue, and I'm sure it's possible that these issues could be handled well, repeated negative experiences have brought me to the point where I just don't want to see it anymore at all.
You can be a necromancer as a PC, but it's best to be discrete.
This is pretty much how I ran my 3.5 games. There was a strong (and generally justified) prejudice against 'the dark arts', and laws forbidding its use.
'Dark Arts' always included All Necromancy Spells, Illusion spells of the shadow subschool, Enchantment spells of the charm subschool, and Conjuration spells that summoned or called evil outsiders. However, because the laws were generally written by those who were not magic users, they were frequently imprecise, and players were well advised to avoid public use of any illusion, conjuration, or enchantment spells, and any area effect spells that might cause collateral harm. In general, any spellcaster accused of committing any crime with the aid of magic could count on an additional 'dark arts' charge, consigning them to a mage's prison if not outright execution.
Partly to compensate for the added restrictions, I allowed bluff or spellcraft checks, opposed by the observers sense motive or spellcraft, to disguise the nature of a spell.
In one game, the laws in some nations against the Dark Arts were simultaneously particularly harsh and particularly vague, and in this case such laws were promoted by a number of regal advisers and arcane experts who were in fact spies planted by a powerful necromancer. This necromancer promoted such laws in order to drive magic users underground, and into the waiting arms of his hidden academy - simultaneously boosting the ranks of his organization and stealing promising candidates from rival legitimate institutions that had rejected him long ago.
AAAHAARAGH!! FORUM ATE MY POST AGAIN! I F%#ING HATE THIS FORUM!
Long post short:
10% of starting gold and GP value of treasure earned per level is a good starting value for BHtB, though I'd give it a cap of a maximum GP donation per level of about the cost of a 8th level item (away from my books atm, don't have set number to suggest)
While PCs are in the limelight in general, when your PC's family members are the focus of a rescue adventure, your PC is in the limelight above and beyond the other characters, which isn't exactly a drawback in many players' minds.
While you may feel the DM who attacks family members is railroading the players (I just call it a good adventure hook, if not overused), FT as written does the reverse. It railroads the DM, requiring them to attack the players family, even if it doesn't make sense for the campaign, because that is the stated balance for the bonus feat the player gets.
BHtB already includes the drawback from FT as an unstated default. If you have family that you're taking care of, then you have family that you care for ant that can be threatened. FT is unnecessary, or if both are allowed FT is objectively superior and BHtB would never be used.
All together, I strongly recommend rolling the two flaws together into a single flaw that incorporates a mechanical drawback balanced by a mechanical benefit (paying gold to support the family vs. a bonus feat) and a fluff drawback balanced by a fluff benefit (risk of danger to family members vs. the opportunity for your background to become the focal point of an adventure).
Don't be cruel, be up front about it. Make sure he knows the drawbacks, and the changes to the undead type from 3.5. Also make sure that he knows he'll be at a disadvantage around enemy clerics and necromancers, who may have various ways of controlling or destroying him. He will want to go out of his way to disguise his undead nature and take any other possible precautions if he expects to come across such enemies.
Necropolitan & story ideas for becoming undead
Necropolitan has been mentioned several times, and if you're the type of Pathfinder DM who's open to converting stuff from 3e, the source book for the template, Libris Mortis, is a pretty useful book - basically it's a mix of 'undead monster' book and 'complete necromancer'. It dovetails nicely with some of the material from Heroes of Horror, although you should be aware that the taint rules from the latter are horribly borked and should never be used, especially in games that allow for undead PCs.
Necropolitan is attractive because of the minimal benefits and as such minimal cost. It's the undead type and +2 turn resistance (in pathfinder channel resistance). That's it. Nothing fancy, no bonus feats or special powers. The type is probably worth +1 LA, the template for necropolitan instead causes the player to lose a level permanently when the template is gained, as well as pay a GP fee of about 3,000 gold, iirc.
The template is applied in a process known to other Necropolitans. Basically, they are a group of undead that live in their own city, and living humanoids can apply for citizenship, which comes with the ritual that makes them a Necropolitan. The application process involves paying the fee, but it's also a great opportunity for an adventure hook. Perhaps the player would require a city leader to speak for him, and he might have to do a quest for someone to earn their favor (such a quest might also provide the gold necessary).
To be honest, even if you go with a different template, this is still a decent adventure hook, as well as an explanation for how the character becomes undead in the first place. Basically it would require a city trending towards lawful evil, with a commoner population of relatively oppressed living humanoids who strive to earn their 'citizenship', ruled over by an upper class of assorted non-spawning, non-hungry undead, situated apart from the civilized world (perhaps on the Plane of Shadow, or the Negative Energy Plane). Perhaps the undeath granted by the citizenship is sustained by the magical forces of the city itself, or some artifact therein, and as such the character might later be called upon to protect the city from its enemies, lest the magical force that keeps him animated be jeopardized.
Mechanics for applying undead type or template to existing characters
Regardless of what template you use, the mechanical process of applying it should be similar. Decide on the LA it should have (lowball if you're not sure, LA is a hideous penalty), check how many racial hit dice it involves, and when the PC becomes undead have him immediately lose levels equal to the racial HD and LA he gains in the process. His XP, gear, and effective level all thus stay the same, and the lost levels are explained as a casualty of the soul-wrenching transformation. Then you don't have to worry about applying level penalties later, nor do you have to worry about the character suddenly being out of scale with the rest of the party. De-leveling before applying the template can be a hassle, but it's still easier in the end, and this method has the advantage of the character becoming undead immediately, which may fit better then slower methods, story-wise
Hombrew Transformative Prestige Classes as an alternative method
If you don't want to deal with de-leveling or level adjustment, another option is custom designing a transformative prestige class that, over the course of a few levels, subs in the benefits of undeath in place of class features the PC might otherwise be gaining. This is in general a more balanced way to do things, and is the only way to make things like the lich template work for full casters, but it's slower and also more work on your part, and it might not make story sense for a PC to slowly become undead, rather then have it happen all at once.
A five level PrC is probably sufficient to impart most of the benefits of the Skeletal Champion template. Racial hit dice, of course, would be dropped - that's a large part of the point of doing it this way. The ability score boosts can probably also be dropped as excessive and unnecessary for a PC, and the natural claw attacks can probably also be dropped for simplicity's sake. I'd do as follows:
Prereqs: Know Religion 4 ranks; BaB+6; past exposure to necromantic magic or negative energy
d8 HD, full Bab, and Prefered Saves same as those of undead monsters. Know: Religion as a class feat.
Once the character is undead, you might want to recommend some investment in disguise, and possibly bluff as well, to make travel in mortal lands easier - as well as mitigate the aforementioned risk of enemy clerics or necromancers taking control of the character. A hat of disguise conveniently falling in his lap in the next dungeon can help smooth things over.
fleshing out your PC's background usually means highlighting NPCs who are your character's loved ones...which is usually just asking for the GM to use them to screw with your character.
The 'disadvantage' you see here is one of role-playing, not mechanics. As such it should be balanced out by role playing advantages, not mechanical advantages. Trying to balance a mechanical benefit with a fluff drawback, or vice versa, never works out very well.
As such, your 'family ties' flaw simply doesn't work. As pointed out - when those family members are threatened, your character gets to be in the limelight - an advantage in and of itself. Further, any quests you undertake to protect them will still give you the normal rewards for undertaking them. They become an adventure hook, which isn't really a liability at all from a game play perspective.
'Bringing Home the Bacon', on the other hand, has some potential, since it balances your mechanical benefit with a notable mechanical drawback. However, I'm not sure how balanced it is. 10% of the characters funds, forever, may be too high a price for a feat in pathfinder. Still, this one could be worked out. Also, this flaw has the same implied drawback as 'family ties', since by default the character has family members that they care fore that could be threatened.
So I'd recommend you drop the first, and focus your attention on trying to find a proper balance for the second.
Benchak the Nightstalker wrote:
That said, I don't think having undead pick your produce is too big a deal. After all, purify food and drink is a 0-level spell, just hire an adept to process all your imports and exports and you shouldn't have any problems.
Seriously, the idea that skeletons can't harvest fruit due to the risk of spreading disease is ridiculous in light of Purify Food and Drink's existence. Any society that has mid level casters with nothing better to do with their time then make undead farmers certainly can spare a few low level casters to clean the food before shipping it.
On topic, most undead in core pathfinder are evil, yes. Undeath itself is a 'bad thing' and deliberately creating undead is also a 'bad thing'. All that said, neutral characters can and do sometimes do 'bad things' for neutral or even good reasons, and there's no reason that a PC party couldn't accept a necromancer in their ranks, provided they don't have any paladins in their ranks.
It does, of course, depend on the party. A given party might object to using poisons, while another might find it no more inherently objectionable then other means of slaying monsters. One party might kill monstrous humanoids on sight, while another insists that attempts at peaceful resolutions should be sought. One party might prefer stealthy actions, while another finds such methods cowardly.
True, necromancy will be more objectionable more of the time, even in a setting where undead aren't inherently evil and thus neither is creating them. Even so, it's a player, party, DM, and campaign style issue.
Oh, ok, that makes more sense. Though, in response, I would then say that any nation wealthy enough in magical and monetary resources to expend 3rd to 4th level spell slots and 25gp per hd on terrible farmers* can probably afford to pass their exports through a station with low level adepts spamming 'purify food & drink' for a living. Frankly, such is probably a good idea anyway. Corpses may be known to carry diseases, but so is the dung used to fertilize the crops even in non-undead lands.
* skeletons and zombies in pathfinder would make terrible farmers. With a 10 wisdom and no skill ranks, they're rolling flat d20's on their profession: farmer checks, and where other professions like miner or builder or guard might benefit from workers capable of carrying on without food or rest indefinitely, farming is still limited by how fast the produce grows, so while I don't believe plagues are a necessary result of undead farmers**, it still doesn't sound like an efficient business practice.
** Unless we're talking about Plague Zombies, but a nation that uses plague zombies to grow their food has no right to complain when their food is riddled with zombie plague.
ARGH! FORUM ATE MY POST!
Anyway, long story short:
1) Classes all have reasons to take them to 20: good for fun, doesn't really do much for balance. Linear fighter, quadratic wizard still in full effect.
2) Conversion is similar to converting 3.0 material to 3.5 - which is to say it's doable, but a bit more of a hassle then people are letting on. It's going to take a bit of work to convert something like factotum to PF, and your version will likely look somewhat different then someone else's.
3) Combat maneuvers are fun and streamlined, but become progressively more underwhelming as levels advance (they become harder or impossible to do depending on the enemy, and their impact is progressively less significant when they do work).
4) Encounter design is streamlined. Though not quite as 'plug and play' as 4e is, it's still a bit easier to manage then 3.5.
5) There's still a 'sweet spot', and it's in near about the same range as it was in 3.5 - somewhere in the 4 to 14 area.
6) Chrismas tree effect is only marginally mitigated. In general, it's still there.
Overall it's a fun game. If you liked 3.5 core, then you'll like Pathfinder, because it's basically a slightly better version of the same. If you liked 3.5's expansion material (I myself am of the opinion that the design work from Wizards gradually improved over the course of the edition), then you'll like Pathfinder provided you find a group willing to convert your preferred material over.
I myself find a number of 3.5's expansion classes - warlock, dread necromancer, beguiler, warblade, and so on - much more enjoyable to play then 3.5's core classes. While PF's versions of the core classes are an improvement over the 3.5 versions overall, that still hasn't changed my feelings that the core casters are a bit fiddly and overpowered, while the core non-casters a bit lacking in game play variety from round to round and just plain wow factor. So while I'll happily play Pathfinder, my participation depends on the group & DM's willingness to convert some 3.5 material over.
Matthew Morris wrote:
And for no good reason excpet the 'rules say so'
That, and it's a classic fantasy staple that undead creatures are inherently evil and the magic creating them is likewise. It's not the only way of doing things, just a high fantasy tradition that is the default in Pathfinder. If in your game an animated skeleton is no different then any other animated object, then Animate Dead should be house ruled to no longer have the [evil] subtype, yes.
Still going... nothing stops this argument. I could say how this is very campaign specific, and in some worlds Animate Dead probably wouldn't be evil, and if the DM was running such a world they'd change it. But that's been said a million times....
I could also point out that the issue of players sneaking into graveyards to dig up grandma is a total straw man, since humanoids, as a rule, make terrible skeletons and zombies, and what the necromancer is going to want to animate is that marauding ogre or dragon that his party just slew. While the villagers may still riot if they find out about it, nobody's going to be coming after PCs on blood vendettas over reanimated family members. Of course, this has also been said a million times...
Instead I'll say this: What's wrong with necromancy being evil? The whole reason I like it as a player is that it is a dark and forbidden road, and I like to role play the wizard who is in over his head, learning dark secrets no mortal should know, channeling dark magics only barely within his control, using his knowledge as much as he can for good in an attempt to justify his obsessions to himself.
That's a fun character, and it can work just fine in anything but the most lawful good of parties - so long as there's no paladin about. The neutral character who uses evil methods to achieve good ends is a common enough hero whether magical or otherwise.
Yes, this means accepting that the character will have to hide what he is from NPCs, and even from his own party members before they come to know and rely upon him, but that's part of the fun of this character type. Playing a necromancer in a regular campaign is the same type of fun you get from playing an arcanist in Dark Sun.
All that said, it can be disruptive, shouldn't be done if there's a paladin in the party, and is something you should go over with the DM and other players out of character before the game starts.
For me, making necromancy neutral, or even good, would undo a lot of the charm of playing a necromancer in the first place. It's for this reason that I always hated the 'deathless'. I mean, they're so pointless - there are already creatures animated by positive energy. They're called everybody who isn't undead. And why did Eberron of all settings need 'good' undead? Part of the premise of Eberron is that any creature can be any alignment - the default monster manual alignments aren't locked in stone. If they wanted good liches and death knights for the Aerenal elves, they could have just said so. Even Forgotten Realms has good elven liches.
Further, alignment doesn't necessarily indicate whether you're a "good guy" or a "bad guy" - just look at the Halfling in OotS. This goes doubly for Eberron, and explicitly so. As an example, The King of Kharnath is an *spoiler alert* evil vampire. Evil in the sense that he'll advance his nation in any way he can, not balking at assassination, dark magic, or outright war, even enjoying those things. But he still fights against the evil Emerald Claw, and still is protective of his people. All together, despite his alignment, he's more likely to be a patron of the PCs then the Big Bad of a given Eberron campaign.
A vote of dissent, here:
Are you going to be the party's only divine caster? Are you going to be playing from level one?
If the answer to both of these questions is no, then go for the battle oracle. It'll serve as a fun and functional party tank.
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, however I would strongly consider the Cleric over the Oracle. If the answer to both of these questions is yes, even more so.
If you are the only divine caster, then you'll be expected to provide between battle healing until the party has access to a wand of cure light wounds, and after that you'll still be expected to provide situational fixes - break enchantments, stone to fleshes, lesser and greater restorations - all those really situational spells that every module assumes every party has access to because every prepared divine caster does have access to them by default. Sadly, because those spells are so situational, Oracles really really don't want to spend spells known slots on them. And your bonus spells per day won't mean anything early on when you're burning them to provide less efficient healing then a cleric gets for free via channel energy.
And spontaneous casting? Well the freedom you get doesn't help you too much as a battle caster - you'll already know more or less what buffs you'll want to cast, so you could have prepared them anyway. And your highest level spell slots frequently only have one spell known to choose from, so it's not like you really have all that much freedom, anyway.
What does help you is the extra spells per day, but even that isn't as good as it looks, since the cleric gets an extra spell of each spell level from their domain And they gain access to higher spell levels earlier. So in the end, you'll have one spell more then the cleric of lower spell levels, while you'll be about tied for your highest spell level, and at half of all levels the cleric will have access to 2-3 spells per day of a spell level higher then you even have access too. So you have more lower level spells per day, but the cleric has more higher level spells per day, and I'll leave you to guess which is usually the better deal. Adding insult to injury, clerics gain access to domain spells as soon as they can cast spells of that level, while oracles don't gain focus spells until a level after they've gained access to that spell. Which means oracles don't get their 3rd level focus spell until clerics have already gained their 4th level domain spell.
For the first few levels, the spellcasting isn't even close between a cleric and oracle. They know all their spells, you know hardly any. They're casting level 2 spells, and more spells total per day, when you're still stuck with level one spells. They get to spend all their spells on battle cleric things and still use channel energy to heal, while you have to burn your spell slots on healing.
And at those levels, domain powers are almost as good as your focus abilities (and if you were any focus other then battle they'd be just better).
Oracle eventually pays off - somewhere in the level 7 to 13 range - when your curse benefits start to outweigh the penalties and your focus powers finally start getting noticeably better then equivalent domain powers, and you finally have enough spells known that spontaneous casting means anything at all, and some of the more decent buffs start to become available, and charged items become cheap enough that your party doesn't need between rounds healing. If you're the only divine caster, though, you're still going to suffer from needing to spend precious spells known slots on situational 'fix it' spells that can spell doom for a party that doesn't have access to them.
But until then, the cleric is just much, much better due to their overwhelmingly superior casting abilities and their secondary class features that provide relevant benefits much earlier then the secondary class features of oracles.
Right now they're cool, but not exactly strong, especially at higher levels. At least, not with a 'normal' build - ie, monster built for dealing HP damage with summoner in support. Going with a weapon-wielding humanoid eidolon helps some. I'm not sure if there's some other style of playing or building the character that gets more power out of them - they're new and gimmicky, so it wouldn't shock me if there's some out-of-the-box possibilities that haven't been nerfed - mostly due to the developers not realizing they were there.
Also, they aren't in their final version yet. They could still be improved, or even further nerfed, in their final version.
Regardless, Summoners aren't exactly bad, and I'm certainly having fun playing one, so if you like their style then just go with it and have fun.
Alright. This is not actually a society game, it just uses society character creation rules, from what I understand.
Carving out a kingdom from the wilderness is exactly the kind of thing that a necromancer loves to do. A couple quick notes:
1) I'm assuming that other expendable items - wand & staff charges, potions, provisions, and so forth stay the same during the breaks, with items used presumably replaced by more of the same during these long downtime periods. If that is the case, I see no reason why undead would work any differently. This probably shouldn't be a problem, but, again, check with your DM to make sure.
2) This seems like exactly the kind of campaign that would allow the Leadership feat. If your DM allows it, then take it. I'm not recommending abusing it do the degree of the sample Adramelech character on the previous page, but as a necromancer you can get a ton of utility out of a negen cleric cohort, even if you never actually take it with you on adventures. Followers can just be whatever's most needed at the time.
3) Consider the Sorcerer. The bloodline abilities aren't as useful as the wizard specialist abilities, imo, but the much higher charisma can do a lot for you in this kind of campaign. A higher leadership score is worth mentioning in and of itself. Not that a wizard is less useful in this setting, mind, it's just something worth considering.
4) You'll have to establish a culture in your new kingdom that makes undead acceptable. A clerical cohort can help here as a religious leader. You can go the amoral rout, encouraging your people to think of dead bodies as empty husks abandoned by their former tenants, with no harm done in using them. Or you can go for a more ab-moral or alt-moral route, where undead creatures represent a triumph over death.
In any event, you're probably going to suffer penalties attracting new citizens if you make open use of undead. It will help if you restrict the undead use to monsters, rather then corpses of your citizens, but this may not be strictly necessary.
Try looking for Eberron books, and reading the fluff for the Kingdom of Kharnath. That's the mentality you're going for. A Lawful Neutral society accepting of the undead, with strong feelings of patriotism and loyalty. Those settlers built a kingdom from nothing, won it from monsters with their own sweat and blood, and you helped them do it. How dare any outsider question the means used? That kind of thing. It is essential to have central cultural leaders (again, see cleric cohort), and to be extra nice to and protective of your people if you want this idea to be at all believable to your DM.
Build ideas - starting build as with my suggestion for 1st level wizard, Roderick Pale in a previous post in this thread. For feats, focus on survivability (feats that increase your CMD, improve your HP, or make concentration checks more easily) and spellcasting (spell focus, spell penetration, and metamagic feats are all choice here). Since you're building a community from nothing, you may also place greater then normal value on Crafting skills and feats, as they may be your only access to particular items.
For spells, Treantmonk's wizard guide has good advice, although you're going to put higher value on Command Undead and Animate Dead then he does, simply because of the nature of your build. Early levels are rough for a necromancer, due to a lack of really good low level spells, but it gets better. In particular, look to Fear, Magic Jar, Circle of Death, at higher levels. Also look at summoning spells, particularly Summon Monster III and higher. Since you're going to be looking at mass combat, you'll also want to be sure to pick up strong area buffs like Haste and area control spells like Black Tentacles. Also be sure to look for spells that your undead are immune to, as Damien mentioned above. You may even consider grabbing a couple forbidden school spells, such as the Wall of X evocation spells. For out of combat purposes, you may want to pick up Charm Person as well, even if you chose enchantment as a forbidden school.
Collect impressive corpses. And by impressive I mean: multiple Hit Dice, high raw Strength & Dexterity, powerful or plentiful natural attacks, reach, larger size, useful movement modes such as fly or burrow, and elemental subtypes. Use these creatures to create your undead once you have access to Animate Dead, being sure to only create fast zombies or bloody skeletons. Control excess creatures with Command Undead. Only create undead within the area of an unholy altar and the effect of Desecrate spell - again a cleric cohort or ally will be useful here.
Keep an eye out for the Pathfinder 'Advanced Players Guide' coming out some time in the next few months. I don't know what all it includes, other then a few new classes, but it might include some new sorc/wiz spells, and you'll want to check them out. Particularly for good low level necromancy spells.
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Okay, that's at least two votes for new powers for the SGG base classes. We will definitely look at that idea.
Personal requests for additional features, if this idea ever becomes a reality:
1) More fetish powers, including more powerful fetish powers restricted to higher levels. More fetish powers that interact with the Death Mage's spellcasting abilities.
2) An alternate version of the corpse mage's 'army of the dead' feature for campaigns that don't allow leadership.
3) A few additional spells on the spell list. A couple of the spell levels look a little thin. Spells buffing undead or unbreathing creatures would be cool.
I can't think of many good ideas for alternate death bonds. An actual undead companion would be cool, but would probably overlap too much with the unbreathing companion and the corpse mage's undead cohort.
Maybe an internal death bond, to contrast with the other, external options, that would manifest as the slow accumulation of various undead resistances and immunities as the character levels?
Freddy Honeycutt wrote:
man who catch fly with chopsticks can accomplish anything.
That's cool if I'm playing the paladin. What I hate most is that I also have to go through this process, with both the DM and and paladin's player, even when I'm not playing the paladin, because the paladin's code punishes them for associating with others who violate their code as well.
If no suggestions for optional rules to drop it, then at least some longer discussion of it would be helpful. People say that alignment isn't a straight jacket, but it is for classes that are required to be lawful, or chaotic, or whatever.
At one point the current rules say you should generally let the player play their alignment as they want, that you should talk to them before imposing a change, and that individual acts shouldn't change alignments on their own, but in another line you imply that even 'momentary lapses in personality' can cause an alignment shift, and that a 5th level spell could be required to fix it.
The alignments are nebulous enough that they mean something different to every person, and yet several classes rely on them or are required to abide by one or the other. Bitter arguments are inevitable, and have become the most memorable and defining feature of this particular iconic part of the game.
read the current code.
Thank you for calling my attention to the current code. The changes are an improvement, but still not nearly clear enough.
And since 'act with honor' is still very poorly defined, whatever weird interpretations of honor the DM or the paladin's player may choose to apply aren't 'additions'. There's way too much regular adventuring that could easily fall into forbidden territory with the code being as nebulous as it remains.
There's also the problem with the nebulous alignment rules to begin with. What is a chaotic act? How many chaotic acts does it take for a paladin to no longer be lawful good? Is it one? Is it three? Is there such a thing as a 'neutral act'? Does a paladin who commits too many neutral acts change alignment and stop being a paladin? Paladins are still likely to get into trouble when they find the DM's answers to these questions are different then theirs.
The rules are very nebulous here, at one point saying the DM should generally let players play their alignment as they wish, and should talk to players before changing anything arbitrarily, but on the other hand the rules also imply that an character's alignment can change from even a 'momentary lapse in personality', and requires a 5th level spell to repair - something few characters have easy access to before 9th level.
And the paladin still can't associate with others who violate his code unless he has regular access to that 5th level spell. So from 1st to 8th level, the rest of the party is still expected to live up to the paladin's code, or the paladin can lose his class features and be forbidden from leveling up in the paladin class for the crime of hanging out with the sorcerer who cast too many deceitful illusions or the alchemist who applied some poison to his crossbow bolts.
On that note, May I add that a small release with new class features for all the SGG classes would be pretty nice
I would buy it if it included additional fetish powers. If some of the extra options for other SGG classes looked cool, it might also prompt me to buy the PDF's for those classes as well.
Also, if you ever expand on this class in another product (say, including it in a larger campaign source book or the like), more fetish abilities would be cool. Right now there just aren't all that many fetish abilities to choose from when compared to how many the Death Mage accumulates over the course of their career.
And while some of these abilities are exciting, others are a bit less so. The process of adding creatures to your fetish seems more interesting then many of the abilities you actually gain by doing so.
I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with King Maker, so you'll have to be patient with me, here.
How many 'breaks' in the action are there? Is it two or three over the course of the campaign, or is it every couple levels?
Do you stay the same levels during these breaks, or do you level up off-screen?
Do players lose and re-purchase their equipment while this is going on, or do they come back with the same number of cure potions, the same number of charges in their invisibility wands, and the same amount of trail rations in their haversacks?
If the DM does want you to lose undead between adventures, ask him if you can at least get the expensive material components you used to make them back. If the answer is no, it's not a game breaker. We can still work with it. You won't even notice the difference until 7th level, probably. But it still affects the long term plans, how many undead you may choose to make, and what undead you make when you do. For instance, fast zombies become better compared to bloody skeletons if you're going to lose the undead anyway at the end of each dungeon.
Again, I'm not familiar with 'King Maker', so a few quick general questions, with the reasons you would like to know. We're not trying to trick or hide anything from the DM, where just trying to make sure your character can contribute to the party's success without disrupting the story.
1) Mostly urban based or mostly dungeon based? Obviously if you're in the city most of the time, having a few skeletons follow you around is going to be a problem.
2) Mostly monsters to fight, or mostly humanoid npcs with class levels? Monsters make much better skeletons and zombies, since class levels are lost when the template is applied.
3) Will you be fighting against undead enemies during the course of the campaign? If so, will you be doing so rarely, occasionally, or frequently? You're DM should be aware that you have access to a second level spell that can instantly dominate mindless undead without a save, or that can charm intelligent undead that fail their save, and that either effect lasts for days. Your DM should be careful about including powerful mindless undead as enemies in the campaign because of this.
4) What are the other characters playing. In particular, will you have druids, paladins, or clerics of gods with particular grudges against the undead in your party? Druids frequently, but not always, view undead as abominations against nature (some of them view undead as embodiments of the natural principles of death, and thus have no problem with them, but these are less frequent). Paladins and Sun Clerics... there's even less ambiguity there. You can play a necromancer who never animates or uses the undead, but it's a lot less fun, so if your party includes such characters you may want to just consider another character concept before you become any more invested.
Perhaps the problem lies not in the 'many' DM's interpretations, but rather on your playstyle, so perhaps Paladin is just not the class for you.
But that's just it. I don't play paladins. But the paladin's code doesn't just apply to himself! Here's some examples of rulings I've seen in person or positions I've seen defended in this or other threads:
1) The paladin will never ambush an enemy. Suddenly standard party tactics and stealth are out the window. I'd hate to play a rogue, ranger, or illusionist with a paladin in the party if the DM or the Paladin thought this.
2) The paladin will only ever fight one on one - it's dishonorable to flank enemies. I played a rogue in a game where the either the DM or the Paladin's player, I forget which, decided this. It's not fun to play a character who's combat effectiveness relies on flanking when the best, and sometimes only, flanking partner refuses to participate.
3) The paladin will always be honest in everything, and will never participate in a lie. Try playing an illusionist in a party with this guy.
4) The paladin cannot allow the crime of grave robbing - any treasure found in ancient crypts or burial places must be left there. No, this wasn't compensated by additional treasure in other forms - it was part of the cost of being able to call on the paladin's awesome powers.
5) The paladin cannot associate with anyone who commits evil acts. This isn't even a matter of bananas interpretations of the codes, this is one of the only actual explicit clauses in it. Note that it doesn't say they can't associate with evil people, rather it says they can't associate with people who commit evil acts. Acts such as casting [evil] spells. So much for the fiend bloodline sorcerer, an otherwise cool PC concept which I'm just not allowed to play if there's a paladin in the party.
If the paladin's code, and the stupid restrictions that overzealous DMs put in it, only applied to the paladin, then I'd be happy with the 'don't play a paladin' line. But they don't. Not only can DM's bully paladin players with these rules, but they can also bully the rest of the party with them indirectly. And I've seen more then one Paladin player use their code to manipulate and bully the rest of the party as well, getting some sort of power trip from it.
Guidelines on removing alignment would be appreciated from me as well.
In my experience, the only thing iconic about D&D's alignment system is how silly it is, and the many arguments and bullying that come from it. DMs bullying paladins, paladins bullying the rest of their party, hundred page arguments with flaming and bile and hatred over what this or that alignment means and how and when and whether a DM should step in to forcibly change a PC's alignment...
Yeah. The only things iconic about alignment are negative.
There was another version of the summoner between the initial pdf and the final playtest. In the second version the SLAs had the normal casting times and durations, and were further restricted to having only one active at a time. There were also some slight nerfs to the eidolon, specifically forbidding them from wearing armor.
The final playtest version reinstated standard actions and duration in minutes to the SLAs, although it kept the 'only one casting active at a time' restriction. Instead there were heavy nerfs to the eidolon (in particular fewer hit dice and a cap on natural attacks), and to the spell list (no more access to any spells at all at a lower spell level then wizards - which is pretty harsh for a caster with bard progression).
B) for a PC, the benefits of the lich template are generally not worth the caster progression loss inherent in the template's level adjustment. At least, from a mechanics/optimization route.
Actually, nix this. With the way level adjustment currently works in pathfinder, a lich is only going to lose a single level of caster progression (instead of the 4 that you lost in 3.5), and the lich benefits are totally worth it, imo.
That said, most DMs aren't going to let you become a lich, due to alignment and PC balance appropriateness concerns.
If your DM is inclined to allow it, be sure to stock up on some disguise ability, whether through skills or spells. You'll probably need both, frankly, and fortunately you're cha will be ok. You'll need it to hide your undead nature from npcs.
Anyway, add the Lich template to the list of things I'd like to know whether your DM allows you access to before giving more specific build advice.
Mack - is the character starting at level 16, or are you planning on playing up to that point? Also, do you own any of the following 3.5 products, and if so, is your DM willing to convert any material from them:
- Libris Mortis
Also, would your DM be willing to allow material from the following 3rd party Pathfinder products:
- The Genius Guide to the Death Mage
If your DM is open to such items, then take a look at the following classes before finalizing your choice for wizard:
Dread Necromancer (Heroes of Horror) - spontaneous casting from entire highly themed spell list, cha based arcane caster, ability to fully heal all your undead for free between combats, damage reduction and undead immunities. Fluffy, fun, and easy - they're largely self contained, it's hard to build one wrong, even if they aren't as strong as an optimized wizard or sorcerer (not necessarily a bad thing, balance wise). Easy to convert to Pathfinder.
Death Master (3.5ed Dragon Compendium) - Int based prepared casting from a spellbook with a themed spell list. Undead servant similar to animal companion right from first level, access to Animate Dead as a second level spell at 3rd level.
Death Mage (genius guide to the Death Mage): cha based prepared caster with themed spell list and abilities, including options for control of a skeletal champion at 12th level or a vampire at 16th level, with all the chain control army madness that the latter implies. Very cool class, it's grown on me as I've looked more at it. 3rd party pathfinder material so your DM wouldn't have to adjust skills and the like, but just as banned as all the 3.5 stuff in a core only game.
Wizard Specialist Variant (Unearthed Arcana): you don't even have to buy this one: It's in the 3.5 SRD. The other necromancy variants aren't all that hot, imo. I mean, the stronger undead one's kind of nice, but if your DM lets you take the Corpse Crafter feat from Libris Mortis that's the same effect for much, much lower cost. But anyway, the skeletal minion one's pretty neat, if only for the ability to have an undead servant right from level 1. It's not really better then the arcane bond ability it would be replacing, but it's not all that much worse, either, so long as you buy your extra buddy some decent gear as you level, and can really help you play to your theme at low levels.
If your DM allows this, You might talk to her about letting you use a burning skeleton by treating your wizard level as 1 lower, or a bloody skeleton by treating your wizard level as 2 lower, or something like that. Or she might just let you use a bloody or burning skeleton right from the start, since skeletons were a little better in 3.5 to begin with (d12 HD instead of D8, and all).
Other then that, Libris Mortis has the Corpse Crafter feats, the Pale Master PrC, and the Necropolitan template that you might want to take a look at. The Draconomicon has the skeleton dragon and zombie dragon templates. Complete Arcane has the spell-stitched template. The Spell Compendium has a number of useful spells, particularly Awaken Undead, Revive Undead, and Plague of Undead.
What I recommend would depend in no small part on whether or not you had access to the above options.
And yeah, are you starting at 16th level, or playing up to 16th level? And if its the latter, what level are you starting at? For a high level build it makes a huge difference whether you had to be playable all along the way or not.
So to claify, as Malisteen brought up, any cohort you make with the Corpse Mage's ability will lose all of its class hit dice once the Skeleton or Zombie template is applied (as part of the template's actions). This means the cohort would have the minimum 1 hit die possible after the transformation until you got the Skeletal Champion or Vampire templates. Was there meant to be an exception to this built into the ability, or was this intentional?
Well, don't I feel silly. I had an improper understanding of the Skeletal Champion template (I had originally thought it was a specific creature, and not a template, and certainly not a template that maintained class levels), and somehow entirely missed the fact that Corpse Mages can eventually pick up a vampire cohort via the ability.
So it's not a non-ability, it's just an ability that doesn't 'turn on' until 12th level, at which point it becomes every bit as broken as regular leadership. And then the ability becomes even more broken then regular leadership at 16th level, due to chain control spawning issues.
Now I have some new comments. Chain control spawning has been more or less done away with in Pathfinder by the changes to rebuke undead. The command undead feat allows a new save every day for intelligent undead, so any spawning undead you control with it will eventually break free by rolling a nat 20, causing your entire army to turn against you. Likewise the Command Undead spell allows saves, and as such your army will again eventually go uncontrolled. Since you can't rely on your means of control for the first creature, the entire army will eventually turn on you, making the whole concept fall apart - and rightly so, imo. Good job, pathfinder guys.
The 'army of the dead' power for the corpse mage re-introduces totally unlimited chain controlled spawn armies by granting A 16th level Death Mage a loyal vampire cohort. This is probably not a good move, frankly.
As a possible change, 3.5 had the 'undead leadership' feat, which specified that any spawn created by your cohort or followers had to fit within your followers limit. Otherwise they could not be created in the first place. Ie, if your leadership score permits you to have one 5th level follower and no 6th level followers, your vampire cohort could make a spawn of a 5th level human, so long as you had an open 5th level follower slot, and the vampire's own personal HD pool for spawn had room for it. The vampire could not, however, make a spawn from a 6th level human, because you don't have any room for a follower of that level. The same restriction would apply to any spawn you controlled as followers.
You might want to consider such a restriction for any future revision of this class.
You also might want to consider adding that your intelligent cohort maintains class levels, even before you gain access to the skeletal champion option. Otherwise this ability really is pretty non-functional until 12th level, as by 8th level skeletons and zombies of the PC races, even bloody skeletons or fast zombies, really aren't worth the effort of keeping track of in an adventuring environment. That's fine for followers - contributing to adventures really isn't their thing, anyway - but it does kind of defeat the point of a cohort.
You also might consider changing this ti be burning skeletons or plague zombies at 8th level, and bloody skeletons or fast zombies at 10th level. Because plague zombies suck eggs due to the limited action things, while bloody skeletons are every bit as good if not better then fast zombies in many cases due to their resilience and self healing. That gives both skeletal and zombie options at both of those levels, so the corpse mage has roughly equivalent options for either visual style, while also being a somewhat more accurate reflection of the usefullness of the plague zombie and bloody skeleton templates, in that, again bloody skeleton > plague zombie, especially when controlled by PCs.
You also still might consider a completely different ability altogether, as Leadership is horribly broken and has been outright banned in almost every campaign ever. Once the Death Mage gains access to the skeletal champion cohort, this ability is every bit as totally broken as regular leadership.
I suppose in campaigns that don't allow leadership, players could simply pick a different Pale Road, but as it stands, the Corpse Mage pale road just doesn't have any abilities at all after first level in most campaigns due to the generally unbalanced nature of Leadership. There are fewer campaigns that allow leadership then there are that ban it, and that is a serious usability dent in what would probably otherwise be the most popular Pale Road.
Let me end by saying something nice, since I spent a whole post harping on one of my few complaints again. The Corspe Mage's first level ability - the spell like command undead several times a day, is cool, balanced, and fluffy. I love that you added a HD cap to it, making it much more balanced then the original spell it's based on. That HD cap also makes it so the ability doesn't completely overshadow the spell itself - Death Mage's with the ability still might have reason to memorize the actual spell on occassion.
I also love that you didn't just give them the cleric's channel negative energy ability, or the the command undead feat that clerics can take, or that wizards can pick up via specialization. It's nice to see something different.
So great job with that one!
From the PRD:
A 'vampire spawn' is identical to a wight except as above. A wight has a create spawn ability that causes humanoids killed by its level drain ability to rise as wights themselves. The vampire spawn description mentions no changes to this ability.
Does a 'vampire spawn' also have a 'create spawn' ability? If so, does it create vampires, vampire spawn, or wights?
Thanks again for responding to my comments!
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Fair enough, though stopping the ability from stacking with itself is probably sufficient, I'm not sure you need to prevent it from stacking with any other fear-causing that might be going on.
In your defense, sticking such a significant aspect of those conditions in the glossary, instead of in the description of the conditions themselves, was a mistake on the part of the Pathfinder rulebook folks.
Re: unbreathing. Again, giving them a more definite place in a future product would still do a lot to alleviate my complaints about them here. I would need a reason to be excited about having access to unbreathing creatures, rather then just disappointed that the designers had refused to let me use actual undead creatures. At the moment, the danse macabre spells are just less thematic version of the 3.5 summon undead spells, and the Unbreathing animal companion feels like a thematically watered down version of the Unearthed arcana specialist mage undead companion, or Dragon Compendium's Death Master undead companion.
In most campaigns I've played in, the 'elemental type equivalents for planes of death or darkness' is a monster role that undead creatures already fill. If you just wanted undeadish creatures that weren't strictly evil, stipulating that undead made or summoned by the Death Mage match the death mage's alignment would have worked. You already did that for shadows summoned by the Shadow Mage ability, after all
Note that I'm not asking for or suggesting that anything about that be changed now. Unbreathing creatures work fine. They just don't hit the theme of the rest of the class as well as... well... the rest of the class does to me. But I'm harping, and again I really don't mean to. They aren't bad in any way. There's nothing wrong with them.
I suppose if people wanted something other then totems then that's that. Even druids don't need to have animal companions, these days. I don't know. To me, there's a clear winner fluff wise, although, mechanically, it's very hard to argue with +1 spell per day per spell level
You're never going to please all the people, all of the time. And I'm particularly difficult to please when it comes to necromancy - even my beloved Dread Necromancer has a fair bit of room for improvement, in my not so humble opinion. I mean, no class needs more HD of undead than Animate Dead already grants, that undead mastery ability is just begging to bog games down. And did they really intend negen burst to harm the user? but that's getting off topic.
I would certainly give the Death Mage a shot, if given the opportunity. Sadly, the only Pathfinder game I'm in right now is a Society game, so no 3rd party content allowed. :(
The Roy wrote:
Since you're already a necromancer, would you consider becoming a lich? I would suggest getting the Craft Wonderous Item feat. Any template needs permission with the DM though.
A) If you're making a new character, this isn't something you'll have to worry about for a long, long time, due to the caster level pre-req of even becoming a lich.
B) for a PC, the benefits of the lich template are generally not worth the caster progression loss inherent in the template's level adjustment. At least, from a mechanics/optimization route.
C) Liches are cool. If you're DM lets you become one, consider it, anyway.
Side note: I was being overly (and frankly, inaccurately) harsh to the Death Mage when I said it would require more reworking then a 3.5 class. The options I have problems with are actually pretty limited and can be avoided by just taking other options. The fluff is nice. It's 3rd party, but if your DM allows such things it's certainly worth a look. There are some design choices I still question... But then again, there are design choices about the core classes that I also find questionable, so that's neither here nor there.
Warning, incoming text wall. Sorry. If it's any consolation, I wouldn't have written so much if I didn't like the class overall. :P
And before I start, thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments. That was totally cool of you. :)
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
I'm very pleased to hear you approve of the pdf. Thanks! I also see you only ended up with 4 actual game issues with the product (other than your thoughts on Knowledge (religion) which I already addressed on being handled by Secrets of the Dead in the previosu thread). For a 3pp being told a product is harder to convert than a previous edition of the game is a little disconcerting, being told there are 4 specific things a customer feels are a bit off is very different.
I apologize - I was both unfair and unclear in my prior criticism. unfair in that I had not read the entirety of the rules and the few bits I read were the ones I had issues with. Unclear in that I was not referring to 3.5 classes in general, but rather to the Dread Necromancer in particular - the similarly themed and popular class from 3.5 which requires very little updating to be Pathfinder-playable when compared to most other 3.5 classes. Fix the skills, replace the rebuke mechanics with the PF version, and you're good to go. You could update some of the spells, too... or not. There's enough still in core that the class still works. Anyway,
(The copy editing points are appreciated, and we'll look at them for our next revision, but obviously they don't make the class unuseable in a game so I won't take any more time on them here.)
No problem, I only mentioned them because I was going through the PDF line by line while I was posting.
For Army of the Dead, I think you're making the ability too complex in an effort to get more out of it.
So... it creates an obnoxiously large number of ineffectual 1hd humanoid skeletons and zombies? Because Leadership normally only lets you make cohorts and followers with normal races and classes.... In that case, the ability may 'work', but is an awful lot of book keeping for little to no adventuring function. A character with normal leadership, in a campaign where the DM allows leadership at all, at least has an adventuring-worthy cohort. This ability gives you a 1hd skeleton or 2hd zombie cohort, and your leadership score for cohorts means nothing, since regardless of how many levels the cohort had before applying the skeleton or zombie template, they still are reduced back to their 0 racial hit dice. This is all the book keeping and clutter of leadership without any of the functionality, unless the DM goes out of his way to house rule you some non-standard cohorts and followers.
In general, this ability seems to be a lot more hassle and book keeping then It's worth. It could have been something simpler - say reduced animate dead component costs, or a slightly improved hit die pool, or even the ability to make undead you create match your own alignment... Anyway, it seems like there are a lot of similarly themed abilities that would have been more game-play functional then a couple hundred 1-2 HD undead following the character around, including on very special 1-2HD undead creature with an int score. Such abilities would also be less work and take less space to write out.
However, it is not an inherent property of shaken than a shaken target that is shaken again is frightened.
From the PRD Glossary - I don't have access to my PDF at the moment, but it is in there too, and if you'd like I can look up the page later: "Becoming Even More Fearful: Fear effects are cumulative. A shaken character who is made shaken again becomes frightened, and a shaken character who is made frightened becomes panicked instead. A frightened character who is made shaken or frightened becomes panicked instead."
It is incredibly unclear whether the same fear-causing effect is cumulative with itself, since it isn't a 'penalty' nor is it 'stacking' by the definitions that govern such, and this has already caused some long debates over intimidate and other similar abilities. If you don't intend for this ability to be cumulative with itself, you should probably directly stipulate that (or re-write the immunity clause slightly) if you ever update the PDF in the future.
If you don't intend for the ability to be cumulative with other fear effects, then you definitely need to stipulate that because as the rules currently stand that wouldn't even be in question.
Summon shadow was also playtested. The playtest experience suggested it's not unbalancing. I see your point, and it might be a good idea to add it, as a general rule, for summoned creatures.
If anything, precedent supports the ability as it currently is, since the Darkness cleric domain grants the same ability, more or less, and doesn't stipulate anything about spawning. I still think it's something worth considering changing, and worth thinking about for future mechanics that allow the summoning of any creature with the ability to create spawn. It's much more game play friendly if you remove the spawning bit.
Since shadows are only CR 3 (and thus can be encountered by 3rd level parties), and a 3rd level necromancer can control one for days with command undead, it's not as if we are introducing the newest or lowest-level way a party could reasonable end up with a shadow.
Yes, but the DM can always opt not to use shadows, or wights, or wraiths, if they know the PCs possess the ability to control them.
And I was commenting less on the balance level, and less about fear of chain command spawning armies (since the current 'Command Undead' abilities, either feat or spell, are really unreliable means of controlling such), and more on the annoyance value level of summoning monsters to help in a fight, and being left with more monsters that you then have to fight afterwords as a result. Or worse, being left with more monsters that might just phase through the floor and head off to attack innocents. Like I said, it's not game-play friendly, and seems inclined to cause situations where the rest of the PC's party are yelling at them whenever they use what was supposed to be a cool and fun ability.
Then again, that may just be a traumatized and ostracized and finally outright booted from the party old Master of Shrouds speaking.
stuff about granting fetish powers
It seemed fairly clear to me what was intended, but I could see it causing questions, or giving rules-lawyers argument fodder, which is why I mentioned it at all. I only nit-pick because I care. ;)
While you didn't seem to think it was a balance or playability issue, you also asked about healing spirits being Wisdom based. This is intentional. Not all a class' abilities may be driven by the same ability
I know, I only mention it because as, from what I could remember, it was the only wisdom based ability of the class, which seemed a little odd. That, and in prior posts someone brought up some abilities that had been int based, and that you said were unintentional left-overs from prior drafts and subsequently changed. I just wanted to bring it up in case this were another example of the same thing, since I could easily imagine this class having been wisdom-based in a previous draft.
While I'm on the subject - this isn't really a complaint, I'm just curious. Why Charisma? I mean, sure, there's plenty of justificaation. There are charisma based iconic necromancy abilities, including channel negative energy and giving orders to intelligent undead under the effect of Command Undead. I'm not saying that it's a weird choice or anything.
That said, I have to wonder what led you to rule out Wisdom? The character casts spells like a divine caster (prep spells from entire list), is directly compared to the druid in one of the more awesome bits of the fluff (side note, I love the idea of these guys as rivals and compliments to druidic orders, drawing power from death as druids draw power from life), and most specifically the Death Mage both learns and prepares spells from listening to the spirits of the dead - a process that seems to lend itself thematically to wisdom-based casting.
On a similar note, I wonder if you considered divine magic instead of arcane. Sure, there's good reason to make them arcane, their spell list and overall party role seems more arcane then divine. Again, I don't intend this as disagreement, criticism, or arguing. I'm just curious. Drawing magic by communing with external spirits seems to fit a divine concept, as does, again, that druidic comparison that I love so much (note that I may be hanging myself up on a single line far too much - mostly due to just loving the idea). Their BAB and proficiencies are more consistent with divine casters as well. That, and, most necromancy-specific base classes I can think of are arcane, and the Death Mage seems like it could have been an opportunity to go a different route.
It's not like arcane or cha-based casting don't fit this class perfectly well. They do. I was just curious to hear the designers' take on it is all.
Unbreathing creatures. This is going to be a bit of a complaint. I don't know the development process that this subtype went through, but the end result seems a little too watered down to me, thematically. The creatures aren't undead or even dead. They aren't shadowy or spirit-like, either. They're name is silly too, since they totally do have to breath, they can just hold their breath a while, which comes of as a silly and pointless. They're basically just regular ol'e animal companions/summoned nature's allies, but with some cold resistance and can't heal well for some reason.
I'm really not sure where they're supposed to fit into the game universe, either.
I do kind of wish you had just bit the bullet and used a list of undead creatures, rather then slapping a subtype of questionable theme onto existing abilities. Other then they're physical description, there's really very little to set these guys apart, and certainly not so much that they really needed extra mechanics. You could have gotten the same results buy just giving the normal animal companion and summon natures ally options and just stipulating that the creatures summoned look decayed and undead.
If you have another product or supplement with other unbreathing creatures, then maybe that would give them more of a place, more of a reason to me, and I'd drop my complaint. If you don't have such yet, you might consider it in some future monster book (assuming you do those, I'm not fully familiar with your line yet). If, on the other hand, the unbreathing type was just a throwaway mechanic for the Death Mage only, then I have to say I'm a little let down by it.
That said, I only harp on the unbreathing type, and specifically it's meh-ish fluff and lack of place, because the rest of the fluff for this class is so good.
Learning lore and magic from the spirits of the dead? Awesome. Comparison to druids? Awesome - though this totally could have been expanded upon. Different aspects of death, and different character 'builds' (to borrow a 4e term) that result? Awesome. Fetishes as a focus of power, that can affect more creature types as you affix the remains of more creatures to it? Double plus awesome.
Seriously, The flavor of that blows the flavor of the other abilities you could choose instead right out of the water. I mean, an emo, hard to heal animal companion that isn't undead but totally dresses like one? Class features ripped from a Cleric? Sure, they work, mechanically, and I guess options are good and all, but I myself can't help but wish you had dropped the other bits and just used the space to further expand on the cool, original, totem bit.
Of course, an actual undead companion might have earned my attention more then the unbreathing thing, but whatevs. If I really want an on-theme animal companion I'll just Animate one, myself. But not before ripping off a bit o' the corpse to add to my fetish. Did I mention I love that mechanic, yet? Anyway...
I haven't had time to really digest the spell list, but at first glance I'm pretty happy with that, too. I'd complain that the Danse Macabre spell line wastes a great spell name on an unnecessary and flavorless 'unbreathing' rehash of the Summon Nature's Ally spells, but if I did that would probably be harping on the unbreathing thing to an unnecessary degree. I don't hate the unbreathing subtype. It just left me flat, where the rest of the fluff and most of the mechanics in this PDF were great. It's a by comparison, thing.
I certainly don't dislike them as much as 'deathless' positive energy undead from 3.5. Now those were lame and unnecessary. Whoo.
Paladins don't fall for minor infractions, neutral acts, or even evil acts.
Here I of course mean they don't fall for chaotic acts. They very much do fall for evil acts.
But many DM's interpret way too many acts as evil, basically forbidding adventuring outright, and in doing so totally negating the premise of an adventure game.
Generally not a problem, so long as you don't bring them back to town with you.
Avoid humanoids, though. They generally have little in the way of natural attacks, racial hit dice, or raw stats, which are what you're looking for in animated dead. What you want are giants, outsiders, magical beasts, dragons, that sort of thing, particularly those with powerful natural attacks, plentiful hit die, and high strength and dex scores. Reach is nice too. Also, anything with an elemental subtype, particularly fire, as the dead you create will retain the associated elemental immunity.
Which way you go should really depend on (a) what you want your primary focus to be (scourging enemies with your magic or commanding undead legions); and (b) what your fellow PCs and DM will let you get away with.
I disagree. The more I look at it, the more I've come to believe that Wizard and even Sorcerer in pathfinder are better lords of the undead legions then clerics are. They may not get Animate Dead as soon, but the Command Undead spell is simply far superior to the 'command undead' feat when it comes to controlling more undead. Yes, the cleric can heal their undead, but if that's your concern then you can restrict yourself to self healing 'Bloody Skeletons'.
The problem I have with clerical necromancers in Pathfinder is that they just give up too much as a cleric. Channel positive energy is a better ability then turn undead was, and Channel negative energy isn't as much of an improvement, while costing more feats just to be usable - feats that a cleric really wants to be spending on other things (like armor proficiencies, and combat casting, and so on).
If you channel positive energy instead, then you lose access to the 'command undead' feat, and since you don't have the spell either you're basically giving up most adventuring use of the Create Undead spells, as limited as such might be.
Basically, while both neg.en. clerics and necro.spec. wizards can be good characters, and can be good at using undead, negen clerics simply aren't as good at their job of being a cleric as a necrospec wizard is at their job of being a wizard.
The question isn't so much balance as it is whether or not the classes have something fun to contribute to most situations across most levels. For me, that tends to be the case between maybe levels 3 and 10.
Some will claim the sweet spot is slightly different, but generally levels 1 and 2 can be iffy - it's real easy for some classes to run out of abilities and be left with nothing productive to do, and HP are so low that a lucky critical can easily spell doom for a PC. On the other hand, past level 10 or 12 things start skewing too far. Utility spells can do too much, and standard adventures either assume access to them or are completely negated by them. Likewise, combats are full of giant flying monsters with buckets of hit points and DR too much/you-won't-pass-this that frequently shrug off the best efforts of melee classes.
Not that it can't work, but it does become more finicky and things have to be much more tailored to the individual group, ime.
Other then that, there are some general balance issues - the druid still tends to do too much, with offensive magic, healing magic, an animal companion that is almost as good as a full melee class at low levels, and the ability to turn into stealty, tough, or flying creatures while still casting spells. Honestly, you could have given them bard casting and they'd still be competitive.
As long as your players aren't too competitive with each other, that can still be worked around.
Ugh, I hate paladins and their nebulous, restrictive, self-contradictory code.
Most D&D settings don't have kingdoms with the resources to hold prisoners for long terms. For evil druids and the like, they may not even have the capability to do so.
Paladins are not only allowed, but explicitly required to punish those who harm innocents. If they come across a bandit camp or orc warband that have been murdering travelers, they are not only allowed but required to stop them, and killing them is the most effective, efficient, and possibly even appropriate means of doing so.
Paladins don't fall for minor infractions, neutral acts, or even evil acts. Going against one of their many nebulous tennants in order to uphold another is a minor infraction not worthy of falling. Performing the occasional neutral act or even the occasional chaotic ace in favor of the greater good does not cause a paladin to fall. They might not feel great about it, but they won't lose their class features, either.
So that thieving criminal helped you save the village? Well, it's a chaotic act to let them go afterwords to thank them, rather then force them to face punishment for their prior acts, but it's certainly not an evil act. No fall.
So the Paladins group took the ogres by surprise before the monsters knew they were there? Well, maybe it's not the most honorable act, but those ogres probably weren't going to agree to a challenge to single combat, and certainly weren't going to let the captive villagers survive once they realized they were under attack. No fall.
So the paladin's group has captured one of the death cultists who have been sacrificing children to their demonic masters? Certainly any information they can get out of the captive about their temple's defenses will help them stop this vile sect. And when they've learned what they can, the paladin is well within his rights, and indeed is quite probably duty bound, to see justice done on the wretched minion. A good act? No. But not an evil act, by any stretch, and explicitly within the paladin's mandate to punish those guilty of harming innocents. No fall.
So they come across a village where one of the houses is afflicted by the plague, and the paladin burns it down to save the rest of the village? Yeah, here's a fall. Why? That paladin has a class feature to heal that disease, and could easily have done so instead. DM made the disease immune to magic healing to try and force the paladin into an ethical dilemma? Then no fall. Because there's no paladin. Because I walked out on the game.
D&D is a game for adventurers. Any DM who is going to use the Paladin code to punish players for adventuring should have just banned the class from the start.
But even when a DM isn't punishing the paladin with unnecessarily harsh and arbitrary rulings, the paladins code is still too harsh, due to the line forbidding the paladin from associating with those who perform evil acts. Any good-aligned adventuring group that doesn't include a paladin can accept a neutral aligned member who performs the occasional evil act in the pursuit of good ends, such as the fiendish bloodline sorcerer who occasionally casts 'summon monster' spells to summon fiends, giving the spell the [evil] subtype, and making casting it an evil act in many games.
The paladin, on the other hand, is forbidden from associating with such a character. Oh, they might be allowed to so so in the short term to achieve a specific goal, but in the long term, from adventure to adventure, a paladin is simply forbidden from being in the same group as such a character.
I can accept internal restrictions, but since the paladin code starts putting restrictions on what the other party members are allowed to do, or even what character concepts they're allowed to play, it crosses a line with me. When I run games, I re-write the paladin code because of this. If I'm player, I simply won't play in a game that includes one. The tyranny of a Paladin player over the other players creates no more enjoyable a game play environment then the tyranny of a DM over a Paladin.
So I'm trying to decide between cleric and wizard, tough choice to me, tell me what you think.
I mention cleric above. A necromantic cleric generally wants to go with channel negative energy in order to access the command undead feat. This has a cascading negative effect on the cleric's build.
Because he channels negative energy, he can't use that ability to heal allies. To perform his basic role as a cleric, he must thus expend spell slots to do so (at least, until you can afford a wand of Cure Light Wounds).
Because he can't spontaneously cast cure spells, this means actually spending memorized slots on them, which is generally not the best way to go if you have other options.
Because you need to expend feats on your channel energy ability - at the very least the command undead feat and the feat that lets you exclude your allies from the burst effect, you're going to have fewer combat feats then a regular cleric, making you generally less buff in melee.
The character can still be good, and if you want to play a cleric go for it. Alternatively, you can forgo the 'command undead' feat and simply play a positive energy cleric who happens to memorize some necromancy spells and make some undead once in a while. Just be aware that a necromantic cleric gives up more as a cleric then a necromantic wizard gives up as a wizard, and getting early access to Animate Dead doesn't compensate for that, imo.
Sample first level cleric build, maxing out channel negative energy
Stats: 20 point buy
This character is something of a short range blaster, wading into combat and blasting out his channel negative. Against 1hd undead foes, he attempts to turn them against each other one at a time with the command undead feat. He memorizes cure spells in his first level slots to fix up the party some between combats, and will have to continue to do so until he can pick up a wand of cure light wounds, and finally start spending his spell slots on something else.
Later on, you'll be able to animate some undead, drop a darkness spell on combat, and wade in with your darkness domain ability to see anyway. Feat-wise you'll look to defensive options - heavy armor proficiency, toughness, etc. You might also look into feats that let you capitalize on your intimidate skill and stack it up on top of some of your fear spells.
Note that I am less familiar with clerics, and somebody else can probably recommend something that will work better.
Alright, let me start by saying I love the fluff, and I love the art. It's a very nice PDF, and I approve.
That said, there are some mechanical problems - things that don't really seem to work, that need a bit of rewriting or tightening up. These are things that don't work as written, or don't seem to work as intended. I'm not bringing up anything of questionable theme or balance, here, I'll save that for a later post, though I guess I'll mention copy-editing issue that jump out at me here as well.
1) Page 4, Army of the Dead (Corpse Mage level 8 ability): What kinds of skeletons or zombies can you control? Leadership grants control of a certain number of followers of particular levels, but skeletons and zombies cannot have levels. Do you use their hit dice instead? If so, do you go by the original creature's hit dice, or the resulting undead's hit dice - since zombies get extra hit dice for their size? Can a follower be any skeleton or zombie with that number of hit dice? There seems like a pretty big gap between the skeleton of a dire wolf and the skeleton of an advanced, half dragon pyrohydra, even though they both have the same hit dice. The cohort has an intelligence score, but what is it? Is it 5? Is it 10? Do you roll for it? If the cohort is intelligent, can it have class levels?
Simply put, this ability is insufficiently explained to be usable in an actual game. Leadership works off of levels, and skeletons and zombies are templates. They simply do not work together without further explanation.
2) Page 5 Terrible Visage (Tomb Mage Power): "A foe that is shaken as a result of this ability becomes immune to it for 24 hours after their shaken condition ends." This seems to be intended to prevent the Death Mage from affecting the same creature more then once with this ability, but if that is the case it doesn't work as intended. After the target fails the save they are shaken. On the next round, they are still shaken, so they aren't immune to the ability yet, so they can be affected again, bringing them up to frightened for one minute.
A one minute duration frighten state is pretty much fight over. Even if they pass the second save, they're still shaken, so they still aren't immune, so they still need to save on the next round or jump to frightened.
Depending on how you read fear affects as working, a frightened target may still be shaken. The affect hasn't ended, it's just been superseded, in which event they still aren't immune to the ability, so another failed save will push them up to panicked for 1 minute.
Now this is a strong ability as written, and if you intend it to be that strong, so be it. If, however, you intended to prevent this ability from stacking on itself to push targets up to frightened or even panicked, then you'll want to change the wording to read 'a creature that fails their save against this ability cannot be affected by it again for 24 hours' or something closer to that, rather then having the immunity kick in only after the effect wears off.
3) Page 6 Summon Shadow (Shadow Mage ability): This should probably have a note that the shadows summoned do not create spawn from creatures they kill, in order to avoid a lot of hassle and to be consistent with other summoned creatures being unable to summon additional creatures themselves.
4) Page 7, not a mechanics issue, but a minor copy editing one: "Fetishes are personal magic items, small objects weighting 2 lbs. decorated with trophies taken from the corpses of fallen opponents. A fetish is a small object weighing about 2 lbs." - You can delete the italicized sentence, since you just said that.
5) Page 7, another petty copy-editing complaint, but the second paragraph in the middle column is way too long, you totally need a paragraph break or two in there to make it more readable. As a side note, the attunement process described in this paragraph is awesome and makes me want to play a Death Mage all on its own.
6) Page 7, 'healing spirits'. The uses of this ability are based on Wisdom, while almost all other Death Mage abilities are based on Charisma. Is this intentional?
7) Page 7-8, 'Imbue Fetish'. You do not specify that the fetish power granted needs to be one that your fetish actually has, only that you cannot use the same power while it was granted. As written, it not only allows you but encourages you to grant a power you don't actually have.
Eh, that's the extent of things I would consider 'problems', and its a pretty short list, shorter then I feared it would be after my first glance through. I'll post again later with some comments on fluff and flavor aspects. Things like 'fetishes = awesome, Unbreathing creatures = WTF?, why Cha-based, when Wis-based seems so much more fitting?' and such.
As for the Know: religion issue, there really is no reason for this class not to have it. That's the skill for knowledge of death gods, afterlives, funeral practices, and undead creatures. Know:Religion is this class. It's certainly more on theme then Know: Geography or Know: the Planes.
A cleric's thunder isn't in this fluff skill, it's in their spells, channeling (good job resisting the temptation to give negative channeling to death mages), and domains. Giving Death Mage's the ability to take death or repose domains does more to steal thunder from clerics then not giving them the Know:Religion skill would, a skill already shared with paladins, monks, wizards, bards, oracles, and undead bloodline sorcerers.
So i guess what i really am asking is which would be a better choice both fluff wise and character wise?
I'm going to make some basic assumptions. Please correct me if either of these are wrong.
1) This character will be involved in the usual brand of adventuring - join up with party, meet adventure hook, go to trap-filled dungeon, fight monsters grouped in encounter-sized chunks, get quest reward, repeat. If you're game has s different structure, such as 'gather and lead a rag-tag army to achieve independence from a tyranical ' or 'unravel urban mystery while navigating the subtle but none the less deadly political dangers of high society'
2) This Character will be adventuring with a party of mostly grey morality. Maybe they don't care quite as much about good vs. evil so long as they get paid. Or maybe they don't care about the methods as much so long as the ends achieved are worthy. In any event, the kind of party that won't have a problem with you doing necomancy-type things every once in a while, particularly at higher levels.
3) Your party doesn't have any gaping deficiencies. If you're playing with two barbarians, a bard, and a cleric, then you're much better off bringing a wizard. If you're playing with a bow-using fighter, a sorcerer, a monk, and a rogue, then you're probably going to contribute more as a Cleric. Both Clerics and Wizards can make good necromancers, so if your party has a glaring deficiency in arcane or divine magic, that should influence your choice.
So, all those things being stipulated, I would recommend a specialist wizard. Necromancy-leaning clerics will want to tend towards negative energy, for theme and for the Command Undead feat. However, doing so will cause them to give up a lot of their healing (because they can't channel to heal their living allies), spell casting (because they'll be forced to memorize cure spells), and fighting ability (because they'll have to burn a couple feats making their channel energy usable that could otherwise have gone into combat feats). Such a character can still be good and fun to play, and if you're party needs some divine casting then by all means go for it, but it's just enough of a self imposed handicap that if everything else is equal I'd choose wizard instead.
Necromancy-leaning sorcerers (and this also applies to oracles) can be fun, but many necromancy spells are situational or downtime spells, and sorcerers don't like burning spells known on such things. Plus the necromancy themed bloodline (and oracle focus as well) isn't all that great. Note that in a military campaign, or a campaign that allows the Leadership feat, these classes are much better, thanks to their high Charisma scores.
So, of the first party classes, that leaves wizards and witches. As I mentioned above, I'm far too intimidated by the ridiculously steep penalties for the loss of a familiar to be willing to recommend witches to anybody for any reason at this time, but if the penalties are reduced or done away with in the final printing of the AdvPG, or if the familiar is made considerably more durable, then it's certainly a class worth looking into.
For advice on crafting and playing wizards, I strongly recommend checking out Treantmonk's wizard guide. I think it was linked above (for some reason some of the above links have arbitrary spaces inserted into them, take the spaces out when you copy a link into your address bar).
For a necromancer in particular, though, there are a couple things worth noting. 1) You'll want a higher cha then other wizards, to take advantage of the 'command undead' feat. 2) You'll want to be sure to pick up Command Undead and Animate Dead when you get the chance.
Sample 1st level Wizard (specialist Necromancer)
Roderick Pale is young for a graduate of the Grey Academy, the first and foremost wizarding school of the land. This is in no small part to his primary choice of study. While all branches of magic are represented in the academy, necromancy attracts the fewest students. Due to the cultural taboos and imposed restrictios, the school of necromancy gains the least funding, the least attention, and has the fewest instructors.
Roderick was, in fact, the only student of his class to choose Necromancy as his primary course of study, and as such his lessons were conducted almost as the apprenticeships of a hedge mage, just him and his instructor, alone for hours poring over those few spellbooks and scraps of literature not outright banned by edict of the king. There Roderick learned his love of knowledge, and cultivated a deep seated belief that there is no evil in learning, though evil things could be done with it. Could not an evoker burn down an orphanage? Could not a Diviner invade the privacy of men, or undermine the safety of a nation through spying? Could not a conjurer open gates to deadly extraplanar realms? Does closing your eyes to an attacking ogre prevent it from smashing you to pieces?
Because of the one-on one nature of his teaching, and because of the artificially limited nature of the curriculum, Roderick graduated early, at which point he set out for a life of adventuring. If the known books of necromancy were forbidden to him, then he would seek out unknown books in lost and forgotten tombs. He would rediscover old lore, craft new spells, earn his fortune, and found his own school of wizardry, an academy that would advance knowledge for it's own sake, away from the close-minded superstitions of mortal society.
And so he did. In time, the school he founded would come to be known as the Bleak Academy, and in generations to come it would shape the destiny of the world through the graduates it produced.
Stats- 20 point buy
Specialist School: Necromancy
Forbidden Schools: Enchantment & Evocation
Arcane Bond: Raven Familiar (eventually to be traded for an Imp or Quasit)
Skills, 1 rank each:
Spellbook, level 0 spells
Spellbook, level 1 spells
Equipment: standard adventurer's kit, spellbook, light crossbow, dagger, spell component pouch, alchemist fire.
Tactics: first level is ugly for wizards. If you see a cluster of enemies that look like they're vulnerable to mind-affecting spells, bust out a color spray. If you see a cluster of enemies that look like 1HD undead, bust out your channeled 'Command Undead' feat - one of them will probably fail the save and join your side. Otherwise, avoid melee like the plague and keep shooting your crossbow at unengaged enemies.
Note that all the level 0 and level 1 necromancy spells are just bad. You won't have any decent spells in your school until you get second level spells, including Blindness (a decent single target save or lose), False Life (a long lasting personal HP buff), and Command Undead (a situational spell, but extremely powerful if you encounter mindless undead). Just grin and bare it. Color Spray's still hot potatoes, so that should help you through.
I do have some more specific comments & feedback on the Death Mage, mostly positive but some negative, but it would probably take the thread a bit off topic. Do you already have a specific comments thread on this or another forum for the Death Mage? If not I'll start one on the 'compatible products' board after I get off of work this afternoon.
The Death Mage has some neat ideas, and is pretty cool overall, but there are some problems with it, even on my first glance through. In particular, Knowledge: Religion - the primary skill for knowledge of the after life, dieties of death, and undead creatures, is not on their skill list.
Again, this is a cool idea for a class, I love the fluff. If I were running a game and a player wanted to play one of these, I'd let them, and help work out the bugs in the class.
But still, mechanically, this doesn't feel quite finished, and doesn't feel like all of the options and mechanics included were played in an actual game before printing. I get the feeling I'd have to do less work to convert a 3.5 class like the Dread Necromancer or Dragon Compendium's Death Master to Pathfinder rules then I would have to do to make the Death Mage work in a game. Now, it might still be worth that effort - the Death Mage has some unique ideas and fluff to it, but there you go.