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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Villainous Cookbook: The Memento Necromancer

Howdy, everyone! While talking on the Discord of Many Things, I got an idea from an acquaintance who mentioned starting a blog about min-maxed characters. I should start sharing my own villains on this blog. I hope you'll enjoy this!

Preface

The purpose of the Villainous Cookbook is to provide cool villain ideas for DMs. It usually utilizes homebrew player options sometimes mixed with the official ones, but it bends the rules a little to work better as a whole. This is not to prove to the players that they are weak and you are strong, that's something anyone can do. "Prismatic rocks fall, everyone dies." Since you're the DM, you can do that. But the fact that you can do that doesn't mean that you should. Sometimes, restrictions breed creativity. Other times, it's nice to push the boundary a little to make the villain more interesting.

There is one thing where I'll be loose on the rulings always, and that's the stats. I leave the stats completely up to you. I will tell you what feats I recommend you to pick though. Because let's face it - Ability Score Improvements are not important for the villains, so why bother.

Each of the builds is split into 4 Tiers, to show how the villain grows in power over time. At any moment, the villain should be at least on the same tier as your players if not higher, since you want them to be challenging. Unless noteworthy, I won't mention the specific spells, ability scores, backgrounds, or skills. All that I leave up to you so that the villain is more customized.

One final word of caution - while these builds might seem overpowered, making the homebrews seem overpowered, bear in mind two things.

  1. We're adjusting the rules a little to make the character builds work better. If this demands an in-world explanation, say that this is an exceptional individual who figured out something others don't know, or has special bloodline/destiny.
  2. We're crossing the homebrew streams. And that can oftentimes go wrong. I'm doing my best to use homebrews that I consider balanced and that I would actually allow my players to use in the games.

Alright! Let's get to our first villain!

The Memento Necromancer

After splitting away from his colleagues to go through the dungeon again for more treasures, the adventurer finds himself alone on the way back to the village. His second delve was far from fruitful, those couple coins were not worth it, and now he has to walk through the misty forest on his own. The Sun has set midway through the forest when the adventurer hears a voice in the distance.
"X'harles? Is that you?"
The mighty warrior looks around until he notices a figure standing in the distance. Once his eyes adjust to the distance, he recognizes it. "M-mother?"
"X'harles, why did you abandon us?" Another voice speaks up, this one masculine, from another direction. "The orcs could have been defeated if you helped us."
"What? H-how are you- this can't be..." The warrior stutters as he keeps exchanging glances between both of these figures.
"You have abandoned us. And we will never forgive you that." Adventurer's mother says as he hears shuffles of feet from all around. Zombies emerge from the mist. Too many of them. Each bearing the face and body of either the adventurer's parents.
"No, you've died! I saw it, you died to the warchief's axe! Stay back!"

Soul summoner, by Nghi Vo

Ingredients List



Tier 1

Let's start with our base. Start with picking the faceless race, which is a secret tool we'll get to use later. One level of rogue doesn't get us much besides expertise and sneak attack, but neither warlock nor wizard gets us anything from the multiclassing so that's why we start with it. You can drop the expertises anywhere you want. I would put them into Stealth, and either Perception if you want them to notice players well, or Athletics/Acrobatics if you want them to be good at getting out of the troubles/getting into places. We follow that up with three levels of warlock, picking the Gelatinous Convocation patron, and Pact of the Tome. Now, it's time to bend two rules, both of which are actually presented in Compendium of Forgotten Secrets: Awakening as possibilities. One is using Intelligence as a spellcasting ability, while the other is ignoring the patron prerequisites on the Eldritch Invocations. Former helps us with multiclassing into wizard later, while the latter will help us in getting the signature tome of our necromancer to work.

We'll need two invocations. Catalogue of Experiences from the Gelatinous Convocation patron, and Ledger of the Deceased from the Forbidden Graveyard patron. The combination of all these means that if the necromancer touches a corpse with their tome, the corpse's name gets written into the tome. If a name is written that way in the tome, it counts as if its corpse was always wherever the tome is. Once per day, after one minute of focusing on a name within the tome, the memories from the last 48 hours of its life, as well as memories of the most important moments during the last year of its life, appear within the tome. While we could go for different invocations, such as Agonizing Blast, or Fractured Soul from CoFS:A, our current build has only 3 levels of warlock. If you want to, you could exchange some of the wizard levels for warlock levels to get more invocations, as well as some extra spells.

I would recommend avoiding showing off the necromancer to your players at this point. Have them act in the background, gathering information on the players' pasts and building up their catalog of terrible memories.

Tier 2

This is where our things get a little tricky. We get to earn at least 4 levels of wizard, and then 2 extra levels that can be distributed between wizard and rogue. We'll go with wizard 5 + rogue 1, because it's optimal, and it gives us our desired necromancy.

With one level of rogue, we get the cunning action. Consistent bonus action is always nice to have, especially for someone as squishy as this necromancer. Disengage, Dash, and Hide can be useful more than often.

The five levels of wizard get us the spell animate dead at last, a lot more spell slots, and an ASI. Our dear necromancer can now go on and produce numerous undead every single day. Since the name in the tome doesn't disappear when an undead is produced with our necromancer's pact tome, they could create infinite copies of the same undead's corpse.

So now we have an information gatherer who can conjure some undead, collect memories, and look like anyone. The next tier is where things get even more frightening.

Tier 3

Our dear necromancer will earn the final rogue level and pick the Hundred Faced archetype. Though, we'll change it in a minor way. Instead of its abilities relying on the Wisdom, we'll make them rely on the Intelligence (again, just to make the villain more interesting). This archetype has got an interesting interaction with the Faceless that I like to call "one-man crowd": if you make a copy of yourself, it looks exactly like you do, along with all of your equipment. So, since you're faceless, you can turn into anyone from the past of a corpse inside of your tome, and make a copy of yourself. This copy will from that point on look like the person whose appearance you copied. Its appearance can't really be changed, but that's fine, this is good enough.

From this point on, all of the levels are invested into the wizard. By the time this necromancer reaches level 16, they'll have 3 levels of warlock, 3 levels of rogue, and 10 levels of wizard. With this, they'll be able to cast spells of 5th level, create more powerful enemies, have resistance to necrotic damage and immunity to effects that would reduce their maximum HP. They'll know 2 warlock cantrips and 5 wizard cantrips, know 4 warlock spells and prepare at most 15 wizard spells, and have 2 spell slots of 2nd level that recharge on short rest, along with Arcane Recovery which recharges 10 levels of spells. By now they should be gathering up quite an army, possibly hiding somewhere and drawing more and more undead from their tome.

Tier 4

With the final tier, our necromancer learns spells of 6th and 7th level and learns how to command the undead. Of course, you could just assume the undead they try to control has failed their saving throw while off-screen, so you could go wild with this ability. Some recommendations for the spells to pick would be finger of death and create undead.

Feats

Our necromancer will get to pick 1 feat during Tier 2, 2 feats during Tier 3, and 1 feat during Tier 4. You might want to choose your feats based on the playstyle of your players, as well as personal preference. The list is of course not exhaustive.

  • For increased mobility, you could consider Mobile (PHB), Mark of the Storm Lord (CoFS:A), and Flying Figure (Faceless).
  • For stealth options, consider the Inanimate Shapes (Faceless), Beastly Forms (Faceless), and Skulker (PHB).
  • For improving the magic, you could pick Elemental Adept (PHB), Spell Sniper (PHB), or War Caster (PHB).
  • For improving their durability, you could go with Mage Slayer (PHB), Resilient with the choice being Constitution (PHB), or Tough (PHB).
  • If you want to drive up the paranoia in your players, consider picking up the Face Stealer (Faceless) or Truly Eldritch (Faceless) feat.
  • For universal utility, you could pick Lucky (PHB). Just don't call it "Lucky" in front of the players. Maybe you could flavor it as Legendary Resistance and just use it for saves.

Story Background

When it comes to the potential connections to the players and the reasons for fighting, there are of course lots of options. Here's just a couple of them:
  • One of the player characters holds a magical item that needs to be awakened and the necromancer really wants it.
  • One of the player characters has murdered someone who necromancer cared for deeply.
  • The necromancer's parents have been killed by parent(s) of one or more player characters.
  • The necromancer used to be in a friendly rivalry with one of the player characters back when they were children. However, the rivalry has grown into enmity as the necromancer started to study the dark magic.
While at it, consider also the personality of your necromancer. Not all necromancers have to be serious and monotone. Maybe your necromancer is eccentric, or actually a social person. Maybe 

So excited to bring back life into those old bones. First success, by Tony Sart.

Anyways, that's about it! Thank you for reading, and have a nice day!

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