Character Classes


A specialist wizard who calls himself a necromancer or a cleric with the Death domain has significant power over undead and the forces of negative energy, but a dread necromancer is their true master. A practitioner of vile and forbidden arts, the dread necromancer roots about in graveyards, searching out moldering components for her obscene spells. She calls upon restless, tormented spirits of the dead, seeking their arcane secrets. She might be a consummate villain, or perhaps a tortured hero whose obsession with death leads her along questionable moral paths

Dread necromancers often have some tragic experience in their early lives that marks the beginning of their fascination with death, undeath, and the power of necromancy. She might have been the sole survivor of a terrible massacre, hiding somewhere while she watched her family, friends, and neighbors cut down, or perhaps forced to hide in a pile of corpses in order to escape the soldiers who razed her village. Other dread necromancers experience some supernatural connection to a long-dead civilization or a single notable figure of the ancient past. She might have been haunted since childhood by strange dreams in which she muttered phrases in some forgotten language, waking with the compulsion to investigate dusty ruins in search of arcane lore.

A dread necromancer is similar to other arcane spellcasters such as wizards, sorcerers, bards, or warmages. She does not learn spells as quickly as wizards do, nor have access to such a great variety of spells, but she excels at her primary repertoire - necromantic, evil, and fear-related spells. She is a combat caster, with more resilience than a wizard or sorcerer and a definite emphasis on combat-oriented necromantic spells.

Dread necromancers have much in common with wizards, particularly specialist necromancers. They often join associations of wizards or sorcerers, where such groups exist, in order to acquire more spells. Paladins and clerics of good deities dislike dread necromancers, nor do druids hold any fondness for them. Other character classes are able to work alongside dread necromancers, particularly if their own goals or methods are equally unsavory

Of the standard races, humans are most likely to become dread necromancers. They seem by nature to be more preoccupied with death than longer-lived races, and hence more apt to drift into a necromantic career. Elf dread necromancers, while rare, are not unknown, and a few halforcs inherit a morbid interest in death and gore from both sides of their lineage.

Among other races, dread necromancers are most common among the githyanki and the drow. The githyanki actually hold dread necromancers in high esteem, while drow society shuns them - more because they dare to worship deities other than Lolth than because of any real revulsion toward them and their practices.

Not all dread necromancers are evil, although the best of them could easily be described as evil-tolerant. No dread necromancer can have a good alignment. Performing evil acts is a basic feature of the class, but some dread necromancers manage to balance evil acts with good intentions, remaining solidly neutral (most PC dread necromancers fall into this category).

The gods of good and light do not tolerate dread necromancers among their followers (even good-aligned death gods such as Osiris). Most dread necromancers worship Wee Jas, Vecna, or especially Nerull, while some worship even darker gods, whose names are mentioned only in whispers, or fiendish lords such as Orcus. Other dread necromancers are completely impious, seeking personal power in order to establish themselves as gods, rather than offering worship to any other deity, no matter how foul.

A dread necromancer's participation in combat is a balancing act. She wants to be able to deliver touch attacks, but light armor and her relatively weak (d6) Hit Dice offer only modest protection against enemy attacks. The spectral hand spell is an effective solution that allows her to remain apart from the thick of melee while using her charnel touch (and other spells). Her familiar can also deliver these attacks for her, although it is little less fragile than the dread necromancer herself.

Gaining the ability to cast animate dead is a bit like taking the Leadership feat and acquiring a squadron of followers. Skeletons and zombies can shield a dread necromancer from enemy attacks, open doors and spring traps while she remains at a safe distance, and wait on her hand and foot. Dread necromancers always look for opportunities to animate fallen foes of Large or larger size, since they make even more effective combatants.

As a dread necromancer reaches the higher levels of her class, her charnel touch becomes ever more fearsome and she eventually transforms into an undead creature herself. By this point she has probably acquired magic items that bring her Armor Class to a respectable level and thus might be more willing to wade into the thick of melee with her charnel touch. Of course, by the time she can cast horrid wilting there might be little need for her to enter melee at all.

Alignment: Any nongood.

Hit Die: d6.

Class Skills

The dread necromancer's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Bluff (Cha), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Disguise (Cha), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge(arcana) (Int), Knowledge(religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).

Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) x 4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table: The Dread Necromancer

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Special Spells per Day
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st +0 +0 +0 +2 Charnel touch, rebuke undead 3
2nd +1 +0 +0 +3 Lich body DR 2 4
3rd +1 +1 +1 +3 Negative energy burst 1/day 5
4th +2 +1 +1 +4 Advanced learning, mental bastion +2 6 3
5th +2 +1 +1 +4 Fear aura 6 4
6th +3 +2 +2 +5 Scabrous touch 1/day 6 5 3
7th +3 +2 +2 +5 Lich body DR 4, summon familiar 6 6 4
8th +4 +2 +2 +6 Advanced learning, negative energy burst 2/day, undead mastery 6 6 5 3
9th +4 +3 +3 +6 Negative energy resistance 6 6 6 4
10th +5 +3 +3 +7 Light fortification 25% 6 6 6 5 3
11th +5 +3 +3 +7 Lich body DR 6, scabrous touch 2/day 6 6 6 6 4
12th +6/+1 +4 +4 +8 Advanced learning, enervating touch 6 6 6 6 5 3
13th +6/+1 +4 +4 +8 Negative energy burst 3/day 6 6 6 6 6 4
14th +7/+2 +4 +4 +9 Mental bastion +4 6 6 6 6 6 5 3
15th +7/+2 +5 +5 +9 Lich body DR 8 6 6 6 6 6 6 4
16th +8/+3 +5 +5 +10 Advanced learning, scabrous touch 3/day 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 3
17th +8/+3 +5 +5 +10 Enervating touch, light fortification 50% 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 4
18th +9/+4 +6 +6 +11 Negative energy burst 4/day 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 3
19th +9/+4 +6 +6 +11 Craft wondrous item 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 4
20th +10/+5 +6 +6 +12 Advanced learning, lich transformation 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the dread necromancer.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A dread necromancer is proficient with all simple weapons and with one martial weapon of her choice. Her choice of martial weapon is made when the character takes her first level of dread necromancer and cannot be changed.

Dread necromancers are also proficient with light armor, but not with shields. The somatic components required for dread necromancer spells are simple, so members of this class can cast dread necromancer spells while wearing light armor without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. She still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells derived from other classes. In addition, if a dread necromancer wears medium or heavy armor, or uses a shield, she incurs the same chance of arcane spell failure as any other arcane caster if the spell in question has a somatic component (and most do).

Spellcasting: A dread necromancer casts arcane spells, which are drawn from the dread necromancer's spell list. Like a sorcerer, she can cast any spell she knows without preparing it ahead of time. When a dread necromancer gains access to a new level of spells, she automatically knows all the spells for that level given on the dread necromancer's spell list. Dread necromancers also have the option of adding to their existing spell list through their advanced learning ability as they increase in level (see below).

To cast a spell, a dread necromancer must have a Charisma score of 10 + the spell's level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a dread necromancer's spell is 10 + the spell's level + her Charisma modifier. Like other spellcasters, a dread necromancer can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given in Table: The Dread Necromancer. In addition, she receives bonus spells for a high Charisma score.

Charnel Touch (Su): Negative energy flows through a dread necromancer's body, concentrating in her hands. At will, but no more than once per round, she can make a melee touch attack against a living foe that deals 1d8 points of damage, +1 per four class levels. This touch heals undead creatures, restoring 1 hit point per touch, +1 per four class levels.

A dread necromancer can use the spectral hand spell to deliver this attack from a distance.

Rebuke Undead (Su): A dread necromancer can rebuke or command undead creatures by channeling negative energy through her body. See the cleric class feature.

Lich Body: Starting at 2nd level, a dread necromancer begins her journey into undeath. The first symptom is her body's increased resilience to physical harm, giving her damage reduction. She gains DR 2/bludgeoning and magic. As the dread necromancer increases in level, this DR increases in effectiveness, to DR 4 at 7th level, DR 6 at 11th level, and DR 8 at 15th level.

Negative Energy Burst (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, a dread necromancer gains the ability to emit a burst of negative energy from her body, harming living creatures within 5 feet of her. This burst deals 1d4 points of damage per class level. A successful Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 her class level + Cha modifier) reduces damage by half. Undead creatures within this burst are healed the same amount of hit points as the damage she deals to living creatures. A dread necromancer can use this ability once per day at 3rd level, and one additional time per day for every five levels she attains beyond 3rd (2/day at 8th level, 3/day at 13th level, and 4/day at 18th level).

Advanced Learning (Ex): At 4th level, a dread necromancer can add a new spell to her list, representing the result of personal study and experimentation. The spell must be a cleric or wizard spell of the necromancy school, and of a level no higher than that of the highest-level spell the dread necromancer already knows. Once a new spell is selected, it is added to that dread necromancer's spell list and can be cast just like any other spell she knows. If a spell is both a cleric spell and a wizard spell, use the lower of the two spell levels (when different) to determine what level the spell is for a dread necromancer.

A dread necromancer gains an additional new spell at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level.

Mental Bastion: Starting at 4th level, a dread necromancer gains a +2 bonus on saving throws made to resist sleep, stunning, paralysis, poison, or disease. This bonus increases to +4 at 14th level.

Fear Aura (Su): Beginning at 5th level, a dread necromancer radiates a 5-foot-radius fear aura as a free action. Enemies in the area must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 her class level + her Cha modifier) or become shaken. A creature who successfully saves cannot be affected by that dread necromancer's fear aura for 24 hours.

Scabrous Touch (Su): Starting at 6th level, once per day a dread necromancer can use her charnel touch to inflict disease on a creature she touches. This ability works like the contagion spell, inflicting the disease of her choice immediately, with no incubation period, unless the target makes a successful Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 her class level + her Cha modifier). The DC for subsequent saving throws to resist the effects of the disease depends on the disease inflicted; see Disease for details.

Activating this class feature is a swift action. The effect lasts until the dread necromancer makes a successful charnel touch attack. The spectral hand spell enables a dread necromancer to deliver a scabrous touch attack from a distance.

A dread necromancer can use this ability once per day at 6th level, twice per day at 11th level, and three times per day at 16th level.

Summon Familiar: At 7th level or anytime thereafter, a dread necromancer can obtain a familiar. The familiar she acquires is more powerful than a standard wizard's or sorcerer's familiar, but it is unequivocally evil. The player of a dread necromancer character chooses one of the following creatures: imp (devil), quasit (demon), vargouille, or ghostly visage.

A dread necromancer's familiar gains the usual benefits given familiars, with two exceptions. Its type does not change, and it does not gain the exceptional ability to speak with other creatures of its kind.

A dread necromancer's familiar can use its ability to deliver touch spells such as its master's charnel touch, scabrous touch, or enervating touch attack. The master must use a standard action to imbue the touch attack into her familiar.

Undead Mastery: All undead creatures created by a dread necromancer who has reached 8th level or higher gain a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength and Dexterity and 2 additional hit points per Hit Die.

In addition, when a dread necromancer uses the animate dead spell to create undead, she can control 4 + her Charisma bonus HD worth of undead creatures per class level (rather than the 4 HD per level normally granted by the spell).

Similarly, when a dread necromancer casts the control undead spell, the spell targets up to (2 + her Cha bonus) HD/level of undead creatures, rather than the 2 HD/level normally granted by the spell.

Negative Energy Resistance: Beginning at 9th level, a dread necromancer gains a +4 bonus on saving throws made to resist negative energy effects, including energy drain, some ability drain, and inflict spells.

Light Fortification: Starting at 10th level, a dread necromancer gains 25% resistance to critical hits; this is the equivalent of the light fortification armor special ability. At 17th level, this fortification increases to 50%.

Enervating Touch (Su): When a dread necromancer reaches 12th level, she gains the ability to bestow negative levels when she uses her charnel touch attack. Each day, she can bestow a total number of negative levels equal to one-half her class level, but no more than two negative levels with a single touch. The saving throw to remove the negative levels has a DC of 10 + 1/2 her class level + her Charisma modifier.

Activating this class feature is a swift action. The effect lasts until she makes a successful charnel touch attack. A dread necromancer can use the spectral hand spell to deliver this attack from a distance.

Beginning at 17th level, the number of negative levels a dread necromancer can bestow per day increases to equal her class level.

Craft Wondrous Item: At 19th level, the dread necromancer gains Craft Wondrous Item as a bonus feat. This helps her prepare the phylactery required to become a lich.

Lich Transformation: When a dread necromancer attains 20th level, she undergoes a hideous transformation and becomes a lich. Her type changes to undead, and she gains all the traits of the undead. She no longer has a Constitution score, all her existing Hit Dice become d12s, and she must reroll her hit points. A dread necromancer need not pay experience points or gold to create her phylactery.

A dread necromancer who is not humanoid does not gain this class feature.