June 10, 2016

Pale Master

Sorcerous Origin
Comments from the Finger: We are suspiciously lacking in necromancers that are masters of necromancy, and this seeks to rectify that. Bonus points if you play a revenant pale master for maximum undeath synergy.

Pale Master

Pale Masters are terrible to behold. Your powers are necromantic in origin, your flesh is petrified and corrupted. Perhaps you were born under a bad star or in a field of blooming nightshade, or perhaps you were cursed with undeath, but failed to turn completely. Regardless, you are now caught in a horrific limbo; you are a living, sentient mind, trapped inside a rotting corpse.
     Because you are like the dead, they heed your beck and call. Your might grows as the dark curse rises within you, and an undead horde gathers at your side.

Deathsign
Starting at 1st level, you are marked with death. When you would normally take necrotic damage from a spell of 1st level or higher, you instead regain hit points equal to half the necrotic damage dealt (rounded down.)
     Your deathsign also imbues you with necromantic magic. You learn necromancy spells at the sorcerer levels listed. These spells don't count against your total number of spells known.

Pale Master Spells
Sorcerer Level Spell
1stinflict wounds
3rdray of enfeeblement
5thanimate dead
7thblight
9thcontagion
11thcreate undead

Undead Cohort
At 1st level, you have an Undead Cohort, the very beginning of your own undead horde. You can choose a Skeleton Cohort or a Zombie Cohort.
     Your cohort rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. Add your proficiency bonus to your cohort's AC, attack rolls, and damage rolls. Its hit point maximum equals half its normal maximum or four times your sorcerer level, whichever is higher.
     On each of your turns, you can use a bonus action to mentally command your cohort and any other undead creatures under your control, as per the spell animate dead.
     You can surgically repair your cohort when you take a long rest, reanimating the remains if it has died, and restoring it to maximum hit points.

Emissary of Death
Starting at 6th level, whenever you deal damage with a necromancy spell, you can add your Charisma modifier to the damage roll. When you do so, you can spend 1 sorcery point to gain 1d10 temporary hit points.

Spellstitched Cohort
You have improved your cohort by 14th level using a technique called spellstitching. Your cohort learns one necromancy cantrip that it can cast on its turn using your sorcerer level.
     Additionally, your Deathsign extends to your cohort: when your cohort would normally take necrotic damage from a source other than a cantrip, it instead regains hit points equal to the amount of necrotic damage.

Overlord
At 18th level, when you cast the spell animate dead to reassert control over undead, you can expend a number of sorcery points to cast it as if using a spell slot higher one level higher for each point expended.

Sidebar: Cohorts
Though a cohort might have a unique appearance, such as being stitched together with glowing thread, they use normal statistics. A Skeleton Cohort uses the statistics of a skeleton, and a Zombie Cohort uses the statistics of a zombie, each with the changes detailed in the Undead Cohort feature.




Changelog: 6/10/16: Deathsign: Recover HP from necrotic damage only from spells of 1st level or higher.
Deathsign: Bonus spells added
6/13/16: Deathsign: Bonus spells don't count against total spells known.
6/14/16: Deathsign: Recover half the damage dealt
7/18/16: Emissary of Death: Works with cantrips

43 comments:

  1. Yes! Finally, an Undead Origin for Sorcerers :D I really like the well-balanced way you handled the Cohort, the re-implementation of the Spell-stitched template from 3.5e, and especially the Capstone feature (no combat use, but DAMN is that a horde ability! A spell-Slot conserve, too)
    I do, however, have three quick issues:
    The first being: Sorcerers don't get access to Animate Dead. I actually checked the spell list, and the only way to create undead as a Sorcerer is Finger of Death, unfortunately. I feel like Death Sign or Cohort should add Animate and Create Undead to the spell list, otherwise the Capstone is, unfortunately, useless
    Secondly, I like Emissary of Undeath, but I find it weird, considering that the only Sorcerer Necromancy spell below 4th level is Ray of Sickness, whose Poison damage is next to useless in the mid-to-late game. Not sure to how to fix it here, unless it could apply to Chill Touch too, which doesn't seem unbalanced, considering Dragon Sorcerer's bonus damage.
    Which leads to my 3rd point, that Spell-Stitched, while interesting and flavorful, is very lacking in variety: Your Cohort either gets Chill Touch or Spare the Dying, which limits the ability's variety. While it is quite balanced currently, I'd suggest giving the option to infuse your Cohort with a Spell of 1st to 3rd level and enough Sorcery Points to create a slot of that level, giving the Cohort the ability to cast the spell 1/short or long rest (your call on whether or not the Sorcerer can change the spell once it's chosen. I'd say yes from a mechanical standpoint, but no from a flavor perspective. It is stitched into the skin, after all.) Animate Dead would have to be off-limits, obviously, to avoid hordes within hordes.
    All-in-all, even in it's current form, I'd play this Origin in a HEARTBEAT. I even have a Bone Wand to use with it! Great job you guys!

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    1. I could have sworn sorcerers had access to animate dead! I think this calls for an expanded spell list to compensate. This should also help with emissary of death.

      I'm fine with a limited spell selection for the cohort's cantrip, because I intended Spell-Stitched cohorts to primarily use chill touch. I left it open to be future proof, so they have access to new cantrips as they're released.

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    2. Ah, that's fair. For the longest time, I thought that Wizards could cast Silence :P I can see why a ranged attack on a Zombie would be a good idea, thinking about it, so yeah, keeping it open was a good idea while limiting it to the Necromancy ones keeps it balanced.

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  2. It says that this is the start to your own undead horde? but i don't see where it says you get more Coherts? Do they only have one at a time?

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    1. You get only one cohort, but this class is supposed to make liberal use of animate dead (which I thought sorcerers already had, and I'll be giving to them right away.)

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    2. Ahe! Fair enough, cheers for that, It just made me think of the Diablo 2 necromancer when I heard undead horde.

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  3. Yeah, right now this subclass is made utterly useless by the fact that Sorcerers aren't designed to support the raising of the dead from the get-go like Wizards are. They only have 6 spells for the Emissary effect, half of which are 6th level or higher spells, so that works alright but not amazingly.

    I see no reason to restrict the Spellstitched Cohort to only Necromancy cantrips (since Chill Touch is also your only one, as noted before), since opening it up to all schools shouldn't unbalance it (they're still just cantrips) and makes room for more interesting minions for the players to show their creative spark in, perhaps literally.

    As michael todd pointed out, a Pale Master never really "comes online" simply because the Sorcerer spell list is made for blasting, not raising hordes. Adding the Big 2 for Necromancy, Animate and Create Undead, to the spell list without any new modifiers or abilities would immediately make the Pale Master awesome.

    The real problem is that Necromancy is lacking in its two biggest departments, damage and undeath. There are only two spells capable of raising the dead, and they skip straight from Zombies to Ghouls without exploring much design space for non-corporeal undead or even, dare I say it, CR1 undead without TPKing paralysis. As for damage, we've got 10 spells that deal damage, 4 of which are below 5th level, with only one cantrip, a classically Cleric touch spell (InflictW) and Poison damager (RayofPoison) at 1st, none at 2nd, Vampiric Touch at 3rd with less DPS than Inflict to justify the heal, and Miracle Di itself, Blight, a single-target nuke with an irrational hatred of petunias. Necromancy is essentially not built for blasting or raising the dead (partly because it's two undead makers are good at what they do), and pads its spell list more with debuffs and utility from Eyebite to Speak with Dead.

    A Necromancy spell update may be necessary.

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    1. It's funny, I've been thinking along the same lines for a while, as far as the spell update. A lot of the spells in the PHB can be expanded upon and added to to increase the versatility of magic in general. There's still a lot of design space remaining for each of the schools of magic, and I'd love to see an expansion of the spell list, either from here or Wizards. EE exists, granted, but I'm still not satisfied. We need more!

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    2. Another bit requiring some exploration is a bit of demon magic, which seems like it should fall under Conjuration if not for the fact that demon magic is the only thing D&D necromancy is missing from the list of necromancy definitions in history; Speak with Dead covers the original Greek idea, Animate Dead covers the more recent zombification, but we need some Create Fiends or summoning circles up in here to fulfill the medieval European definition.

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    3. I like the demon magic idea, but it's been covered by one of Wizard's unearthed arcana. Look it up, it's very good.
      I also appreciate the sciomancy reference, and I feel like myths are some of the best inspirations for new spells. Transmutation in the style of Irish myth, perhaps? Enchantment with the subtlety of proper Fae? I could go on.

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    4. I like the demon magic idea, but it's been covered by one of Wizard's unearthed arcana. Look it up, it's very good.
      I also appreciate the sciomancy reference, and I feel like myths are some of the best inspirations for new spells. Transmutation in the style of Irish myth, perhaps? Enchantment with the subtlety of proper Fae? I could go on.

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    5. True, I forgot about those. Surprising seeing as I am very much a lover of those old-school "Hammer of Witches" type characters, on both sides of that particular conflict.

      Yes, we still need all of those things. A bit of Irish and Welsh transformation magic, classically Fae contracts, promises, and word games; you could dedicate entire supplements to mimicking mythological magic like strings of fate, magic peaches, and sealing spirits in lamps.

      At the moment I think maybe Victorian era spiritualism and pop mysticism (ouija, seances, grave-robbing, etc.) would be a good source for new Necromancy spells, and some shameless JRPG shadow-blasting to fill up those spell levels and let the Necromancy folks get their murder on with their fancy subclass features proccing off their spellcasting.

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    6. Nothing to contribute other than that I'm listening. Maybe I'll be able to do something with these ideas soon.

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    7. I alwasy loved the idea of bone-themed necromancy spells like the diablo necromancer's bone prison, teeth and bone spear.
      While shadowblasting is fun as well I feel like variety is the spice of life, or somesuch

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  4. might be me misunderstanding the wording and rules in general but won't the deathsign feature make it so you could abuse evocation wizard's overchannel to not only deal massive damage but heal for massive amounts of hp as well, since wording does not explicitly state deathsign as immunity/resistance?

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    1. I would think that's a misunderstanding, as the wording states that only Necrotic Damage from "a spell of 1st level or higher" heals you, while Necrotic Damage from Overchannel is less a spell and more your body crumbling and breaking from the inside out. Though I could see the potential for abuse in that category (which would be both insanely powerful and insanely cool tbh).

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    2. see, that's where i get confused at the wording. it explicitly states that you would heal from "necrotic damage from an EFFECT", i.e. not necessarily a spell.

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    3. edit: or rather "not limited to spells"

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    4. Well, bust my buttons, I didn't even see that lmao. My brain must have glossed over and assumed it mentioned spells. So yeah, other than cantrips, anything heals you as long as it's Necrotic. Hell, succeeding your save against Quivering Palm would actually leave you healthier than before! Seems a tad unbalanced.

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    5. I get the impression that this would be better if I limited it to 1st level and higher spells?

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  5. I would give the Pale master access to any arcane necromancy class spells. Just looking at the sorcerers spell list they have a grand total of 9 spells from the necromancy school. Hell,my hey don't R even get the create or animate undead like the others have commented above.

    All that said I really really like this class. I was just thinking about playing a half ogre necromancer and this solved everything.

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    1. I've given them a selection of necromancy spells to fix this problem. Hope that helps!

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    2. This is a odd question, but you cannot buy weapons or armor for your skeleton or zombie right?

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    3. RAW, I suppose you could, but I don't think it could wear it with proficiently

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    4. Says on the monster manual entry for skeletons that they can wear armor and use weapons, provided they are instructed in their use.

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  6. Do the necromantic spells count against the spells you learn as you level?

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    1. Oh, they don't. I'll update that soon

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  7. Great Class! Sorcerers really do need more class options, and it's a perfect fit considering Wizards already have the Necromancer subclass in 5e.

    Deathsign: I'm a bit concerned that regaining hit points equal to necrotic damage taken might be a bit too much. Maybe equal to half the damage taken might be a bit better? For example, cure wounds only heals about 9 hit points, while inflict wounds deals 16.5, almost twice as much. With spells like blight dealing 8d8 damage, it gets to be a little much.

    Emissary of Death: Any reason this doesn't apply to necromancy cantrips? I don't think it would be unbalancing; after all, the Draconic Sorcerer's and Evocation Wizard's similar features can apply to the much-stronger firebolt cantrip, and the temporary hit points require a sorcery point to activate, so using the ability before combat without casting a leveled spell has very little additional benefit.

    I'm also a bit concerned about the power level of a class that has full spellcasting, an expanded "spells known" list, Cha to damage rolls, a minion that can cast cantrips, and eventually extra zombies/skeletons from animate dead. It might be fine, but it definitely needs playtesting.

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    1. Deathsign: I think you're right about Deathsign working better as half the damage, since this can effectively be dipped into, and it comes packaged with a healing spell, inflict wounds, which is quite substantial.

      Emissary: In my mind, this was so I didn't step on the shoes of potent cantrip casters. It might not be too powerful on its own, but I think it keeps it more mechanically distinct. (Ultimately, I think I can be swayed here; I'm not crazy invested in this decision.)

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  8. As your version of the revenant, is the healing from Deathsign negated by the revenant's Regeneration feature?

    The point of contention is that Regeneration states simply "You cannot regain hit points from spells," while it is unclear whether Deathsign's healing is technically treated as an effect of the spell or the class feature. The use of "instead" in Deathsign's description leads me to think it replaces part of the spell's effect rather than triggering as a separate effect.

    Is my interpretation correct? It would be a pity to restrict the undead necromancer in such a way. It's also somewhat unflavorful.

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    1. Because I've thought a great deal about this combination, I'd absolutely side with this interpretation, both by RAW and by RAI. A pale master revenant is totally something I want to play.

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    2. I think I may have been unclear in what I meant. If the Deathsign effect indeed literally replaces damage with healing, wouldn't the can't-be-healed clause of the Revenant mean Deathsign would not heal them? They would still have the semi-immunity to necrotic, but that would be it.

      This would hurt the Revenant Pale Master, effectively eliminating half the benefit of Deathsign.

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    3. I just reread the revenant feature and it's really cut and dry -- the revenant gains healing from deathsign.

      Under Undead Nature: Your type is Undead, though you may still be targeted by effects which target only humanoids, if such an effect does not specifically exclude undead.

      This terminology includes all conventional healing spells, but doesn't state anything like 'you can't heal hit points from magic' or anything like that.

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  9. As for the capstone, I have one main critique: although the dozens-of-skeletons army is awesome if you can pull it off, it is impractical in most campaigns, especially at that late a level. To get the best value out of that feature, you would need to be able to fit your 60-odd skeletons in the last few battles of the campaign, which is not a certainty and can leave the player dissatisfied if it never comes into play. Create undead assauges this problem by allowing you to "condense" your army into less people in exchange for higher level slots. Perhaps adding Create Undead to the capstone would make it better?

    Rather than having a feature that comes up once or not at all, you can put a few sorcery points into exchanging your four ghouls for two mummies, for example, which is a lot more manageable than sixteen skeletons, while still leaving in the animate dead part of the feature so you have a chance to play the 100-skeleton army if the campaign allows.

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    1. This is a really good point, and it's something I've already given some thought. I tend to be sheepish about giving away 9th level spell slots for any reason whatsoever, so I was worried about allowing create undead with this feature. How much do you think this influences the power of the class?

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    2. I'm not too familiar with Sorcerers, but as for 9th-level slots, there is nothing stopping the current version of this class from casting animate dead using an 8th-level slot and spending a point to get a ninth. The question would be one of comparing the benefits of a 9th-level animate dead with a 9th-level create undead.

      Animate Dead at 9th yields sixteen skeletons. Create Undead at 9th yields two mummies. One skeleton deals an average of 5 piercing per round. One mummy deals an average of 10 bludgeoning and 10 necrotic per round. However, with sixteen skeletons, you're dealing 80 damage per round. With two mummies, you deal 40. Even if the pitfall of skeleton armies, resistance to nonmagical weapons, is in play, the skeletons deal 40 while the mummies deal 30. Additionally, the mummies have to be within melee range of an opponent while the skeletons can sit back with shortbows.

      As for the army's resilience, two mummies have 11 AC each and 58 HP each, so your army has 116 HP. Sixteen skeletons have 13 AC each and 13 HP, for a combined total of 208. The advantage the mummies have is a lower risk posed by AoE attacks and extra resistances (to necrotic and nonmagical weapons), but this is hindered by their lack of range and a fire vulnerability. The survivability contest ends up depending largely on specific circumstances, mostly on whether or not the enemy has AoE damage or fire damage (the mummies won't last long against a balor due to fire damage, and neither army will withstand a red dragon's breath).

      Therefore, the answer to whether a 9th-level animate dead or 9th-level create undead is better is that it depends on the situation, like any other decision a character must make (do I use Action Surge now or later? Should I cast healing word or burning hands?). Neither spell is explicitly better than the other when the same resources are consumed, although I think the scales are in the skeletons' favor (the best defense is a good offense).

      From a balance perspective, I see nothing wrong with adding create undead.

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    3. There is a significant power difference between a 9th level animate dead and a 9th level create undead, in as much as animating 16 skeletons requires quite a lot of corpses, and this might be difficult to maintain in a practical sense. Comparing the total HP and AC of the respective hordes breaks down in practice, since mummies are more likely to be injured and not killed, whereas a skeleton is more likely to be outright slain, making such a horde more difficult to maintain.

      Moreover, I'm super conservative when writing minionmancers in this edition for any reason, but I tend to trust that an army of weaklings is easier to balance than the addition of three or four stronger minions. So, in my opinion, create undead might be significantly stronger than animate dead in practice (though I'm not sure if this is enough for me to worried about it.) I'll mull over it for a bit, and maybe run a trial combat or two.

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  10. This may seem stupid, but is a cohort 6 creatures moving as one like with the romans or a single creature?

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  11. Just a thought but the Emissary of Death is weak as is, mayby modify it so that it works off of any Necro damage done, and let the player select a few spells that they know that can now also deal necro damage?

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  12. Just a thought but the Emissary of Death is weak as is, mayby modify it so that it works off of any Necro damage done, and let the player select a few spells that they know that can now also deal necro damage?

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    1. Yeah, I've been thinking about this feature. I'll drop it to work with cantrips as well.

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