1st Level Necromancer?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I'm gonna be doing a 1 on 1 campaign with a friend of mine to introduce her to Pathfinder, and she's mentioned wanting to play as a Necromancer.

I have had 0 experience with any sort of undead controlling character, off the top of my head I know Necromancy is a school you can focus in as a Wizard, and that there's the Gravewalker Witch Archetype.

Anyone got any more suggestions? Feat suggestions are also appreciated.

Scarab Sages

The Necroccultist Occultist is one of the few "necromancer" characters out there that can actually make undead minions starting at 1st level (Necromancer Wizards and Negative-Channeling Clerics can potentially control undead from the start, but not make), as well as being fun and different in a number of ways.

There's also the Dirgesinger Bard - more limited in its necromantic powers, but still worth mentioning - and the Reanimator Alchemist, which I'm afraid is a bit more of a challenge, and could probably withstand a bit of revision (not that that stopped me from playing one myself).

Finally, of course, there's Spiritualists, who are ALL effectively "necromancers."


Undead master cleric archetype has an undead minion from level 1. This archetype is often viewed as 'weak', but for a 1 on 1 does that matter? Bones mystery oracle is an option as well. Depending on what specifically is desired a Knight of the Sepulchre antipaladin is an interesting option.


There's the Undead Master archetype from Horror Adventurers.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There are a lot of options so it's hard to cover them all comprehensively. The question of which class works best really depends on what level we're looking at, and at 1st level this leaves relatively few options. In that respect, Necromancer Wizard and Gravewalker Witch are fairly safe choices since they have a means of taking control of undead at the 1st level. However, the Command Undead spell is available to most arcane necromancers so after around 5th level this is no longer an ability unique to them and any Wizard, Sorcerer, or Arcanist can do it with little effort.

The thing I like best about undead is that you don't really need class features. The spells work just fine without anything to bolster them, and this allows you to just tack undead minions on any caster build. Heck, since you don't need to cast them very often even a Wizard who opposes Necromancy can still get some undead minions if they like. So what you're really looking for here are abilities to get you over the low-level hump, because later on you'll be fine no matter what archetype you take.

There are two archetypes called Undead Master that have been mentioned here and I feel they need to be addressed. The Cleric Undead Master is bad. You get one undead minion, it is extremely weak so it does almost immediately in battle, and it takes an 8 hour long ritual to replace. This might be excusable, but the downsides of this archetype are horrendous. Don't touch it; regular Clerics without an archetype already do the job really well and there's no reason to trade off half your class features for stuff this bad. The Undead Master Wizard archetype is kinda weird, but it gets the ability to cast the Animate Dead spell earlier than a regular Wizard can. This makes it really convenient for low-level Necromancers. However, it really doesn't do much at higher levels and becomes pretty useless later on. Given that you're starting at 1st level it might be a good idea for you, but do keep in mind it's a short-term gain for long-term pain sort of deal.

Finally, I'd like to talk about the Create Undead and Greater Create Undead spells. These will only come up much later in your career, but they deserve special mention, because they are terrible. The minions they create are much weaker than the ones created by Animate Dead (a lower level spell) and they are more rebellious and can turn against their creator in a way that skeletons and zombies cannot.


Dasrak wrote:
Finally, I'd like to talk about the Create Undead and Greater Create Undead spells. These will only come up much later in your career, but they deserve special mention, because they are terrible. The minions they create are much weaker than the ones created by Animate Dead (a lower level spell) and they are more rebellious and can turn against their creator in a way that skeletons and zombies cannot.

While the necroccultist is probably the best option in terms of being an effective, focused necromancer (rather than having to decide to forgo using many other options you still have access to), I'm be wary of recommending an occultist to a new player unless you have a good grasp of it yourself. It can take a while to wrap your head around. Especially if they're using pfsrd the layout for the occultist is...not great.

Although as you say, not relevant for a long time, I do want to defend Create Undead. Following Undead Revisited the list of things you can create with it includes Juju Zombies and Skeletal Champions. Those retain class levels, making it an incredibly powerful option although one you have to be careful with because of the aforementioned risk of rebellion.
Greater Create Undead is, far as I know, still awful.


Oh forgot to mention - Charnel Soldiers is a pretty cool feat, especially once you get animate dead and have multiple minions that can work with each other, although if you're more combat focused it can be okay with just you and a minion.
Outflank and Precise Strike are classic of course.
Target of Opportunity can trigger a bunch of extra attacks with a group of bow-wielding skeletons
Coordinated Charge is a long wait and since they can only get one probably not worth it due to prerequisites unless you have living party members who like teamwork, but sending the entire pack into a charge can be powerful
Lookout can be pretty useful, skeletons coming with Improved Initiative for free.

Also remember that bloody skeletons and fast zombies can both be created through Animate Dead, and although they count as double to create, they only take up the regular amount of your control pool. Find some beatstick monster and bring it back with crazy regenerative abilities.


If you're open to third-party content, Spheres of Power makes it easy to build a necromancer character (and it's generally easier to learn than the normal Vancian system). Given the flexibility of its classes, your friend might end up having more fun if you go this route.


I'd say anything that has/creates/summons additional creatures is probably not an ideal introductory class. Also remember that creating undead is Evil.
That said, I agree that Occultist (with or without the Necroccultist archetype) is probably a good way to go about a new necromancer and be able to create minions right from 1st level.


GM Rednal wrote:
If you're open to third-party content, Spheres of Power makes it easy to build a necromancer character (and it's generally easier to learn than the normal Vancian system). Given the flexibility of its classes, your friend might end up having more fun if you go this route.

I think the point of introducing someone to the game is to get them familiar with how the game works rather than using an entirely different ruleset.


Yeah, but some people use different rulesets in their game. It's one thing if people are going to play in PFS - there are specific rules for that - but otherwise, it depends entirely on what kind of content they want to use in their games. Some like 3PP, some don't. Either way works, really - what matters is what they find fun.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Aldrakan wrote:
Although as you say, not relevant for a long time, I do want to defend Create Undead. Following Undead Revisited the list of things you can create with it includes Juju Zombies and Skeletal Champions.

If you can create Skeleton Champions or Juju Zombies with create undead, then that could be very useful indeed.

Bloodrealm wrote:
Also remember that creating undead is Evil

I realize a lot of people run it that way, but that's not actually a rule.

There is an optional rule in Horror Adventures that causes your alignment to shift if you cast too many spells with an alignment descriptor, but there's a rather massive loophole in those rules that allows anyone with spellcasting abilities to change their alignment to anything they want. As a result, few people actually run those rules.


Dasrak wrote:
Aldrakan wrote:
Although as you say, not relevant for a long time, I do want to defend Create Undead. Following Undead Revisited the list of things you can create with it includes Juju Zombies and Skeletal Champions.
If you can create Skeleton Champions or Juju Zombies with create undead, then that could be very useful indeed.

The problem is getting them to work for you or with you afterward, especially if you cleave to Golarion fluff.

Dasrak wrote:
Bloodrealm wrote:
Also remember that creating undead is Evil

I realize a lot of people run it that way, but that's not actually a rule.

There is an optional rule in Horror Adventures that causes your alignment to shift if you cast too many spells with an alignment descriptor, but there's a rather massive loophole in those rules that allows anyone with spellcasting abilities to change their alignment to anything they want. As a result, few people actually run those rules.

It matters for Good-aligned Clerics, since the spells all have the [Evil] subtype.

How or if one wants to justify the [Evil] tag depends upon your particular homegame, and has had perennially unsatisfying answers from official sourcebooks.

Heck, AFAIK, no published sourcebook, even amongst third-party ones, has ever successfully grappled with it. The closest to come to that was Frank and K's Tome of Necromancy that they put out online through forum posts.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Coidzor wrote:
It matters for Good-aligned Clerics, since the spells all have the [Evil] subtype.

Agreed, but from the sounds of it the player is more looking at arcane necromancers. For a Cleric, yes you'd need to be non-good to do much of anything with regards to having undead minions (although Oracles are under no such restriction).

Coidzor wrote:
Heck, AFAIK, no published sourcebook, even amongst third-party ones, has ever successfully grappled with it.

The fundamental problem is that alignment encompasses both a moral framework as well as representing a fundamental cosmic force. In most cases these two things are forcibly kept in sync with each other. Angels represent a cosmic force of good and always act good, Demons are the opposite, Paladins fall if they commit evil acts, Clerics cannot cast spells opposing their alignment, etc. However, any time the moral and cosmic factors of alignment are allowed to diverge (the most common case being a good wizard casting animate dead) this creates a conflict between the two different aspects of alignment.

Ultimately, I feel that there is only really two good solutions: abandon alignment as a cosmic force and focus entirely on morality, or abandon alignment as a moral compass and focus entirely on its role as a primal cosmic force. Trying to cut down the middle just results in alignment failing in both respects (take, for instance, the Horror Adventure loophole). I think a lot of people just don't want to address this problem, and handwave away the inconsistencies - and that's not necessary a bad thing if that's the sort of game you want to play. But for the game system itself, it does create a fundamental point of weakness.

Scarab Sages

Bloodrealm wrote:
Also remember that creating undead is Evil.

So they say, but:

A) In Pathfinder Society, it's permissible (albeit not as cost-effective than in most non-Society games), and

B) In a home game, it doesn't matter because such things are entirely the purview of the DM and the resident metaphysics of its campaign world.


Basic options are Wizard(Necromancy Specialist), Sorcerer(Undead Bloodline), Cleric, Summoner(Undead seeming Eidolon), Witch. From Ultimate Magic the Feat Skeleton Summons may be of use for Summon I & III spells. Each class can be it's own Necromancer, but it's dependent on what type of character is desired with that theme, is there certain gear like armor or weapon that's comes to mind or just a general look, like flowing robes? Could also mix in Anti-Paladin, Hell Knight, or Black Guard later on, just keep in mind their related requirements.


Tieflings are good.

There is a weird table of alternate abilities in place of the SLA. I am fairly sure it is supposed to be a feat and then a dice roll to pick one out of 100... but you can fudge this for fun.

Anyway, the ability is.... more flavorful than anything. It allows the tiefling to caste animate dead 1/day. It only produces a single skeleton per caste, and you can only make 1 HD skeletons. Since this is an SLA, you can skip past the usual material component costs for making undead.

While you are limited in how much you can make at once... you still use the usual animate dead rules for figuring out how many HD of undead you can control in total (4 times caster level, which is character level since this is a racial SLA; so at level 1, they can get 4 minions).

So your player can make some minions early on. They end up being fairly weak after the first few levels... but it still bides you over until you would get proper undead options from your class (assuming something like cleric). Even if they are weak, they can be used to flank or use tower shields.

In all honestly, after level 1, I would just think of this as a way to get a disposable and favorful flank buddy 1/day.


This is an excellent guide for using undead minions.


Coidzor wrote:
How or if one wants to justify the [Evil] tag depends upon your particular homegame, and has had perennially unsatisfying answers from official sourcebooks.

The black mask studios comic book Kim & Kim treats necromancy as a branch of the legal system. When we need to know who dear old aunt Besty wanted her gold necklace to go to, you hire a necromancer to ask her. Did the suspect commit the murder? Lets ask the victim!


White necromancy with a minor in pre-law...I LIKE IT!

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / 1st Level Necromancer? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.