This Was A Great Idea On Paper

2007 August 29
by Vanir

Have you ever had a great idea for a character only to find that four sessions into the campaign that it just wasn’t working out? There is a difference between good characters and good player characters.

Lionel Pureheart, Master of the Gentle Necromantic Arts

A couple years ago, I got the great idea that I wanted to play a Lawful Good-aligned necromancer. He’d let people talk to dead relatives, make a zombie mule for Grandma so she could keep the farm going, and help evil people atone for their sins after they died by fighting for truth and justice (as zombies).

It was an interesting take on the eeeeevil Necromancer stereotype, I thought it was funny, and it offered me a lot of chances to roleplay because I figured people would be a combination of grateful and horrified at the acts of kindness Lionel would perform. Hell, I even tried to talk our DM into letting me make “positive energy undead” that weren’t evil or bloodthirsty in the slightest!

The Problem Is…..

I made a really stupid decision in the name of Roleplaying. I decided that I would have him specialize in the magic school Necromancy and chose Evocation and Transmutation as my restricted schools. I would like to take this moment to caution all would-be mages that cutting these schools out of your diet will basically turn your wizard into an arcane punching bag for all practical purposes. No magic missile, no light, no fireball, no acid arrow….. not a whole lot of attack spells unless you’re some kind of kung-fu master with vampiric touch. This is especially not good when just about anything he does will cause somebody to get scared and summon the city guard.

Part of it was also that our DM at the time had some very strong beliefs about necromancers and how people would treat them — with intense fear and disgust — even if they were being nice. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of what he thought, the fact of the matter is I was in his world and I decided to be a Gentle Necromancy Evangelist and pass out flyers to the villagers whether he liked it or not. Maybe not the brighest idea, in restrospect.

So How Do I Fix This?

  • Do some research.

    We eventually found this obscure spell called “Chill Blood” in some 3rd party expansion about necromancers. It allowed poor Lionel to go from somebody who couldn’t attack, to someone who was doing more damage than both our fighters put together, and stunning the bad guy in the process. We think the spell was probably a bit unbalanced (15d4 from a 2nd level spell at 11th level?), but it at least got me back in the game.


    Remember when we talked about working with your DM on your backstory? This would have helped prevent a lot of problems. Even if I didn’t talk him into getting my way, it would have at least let me know what I was in for so that I didn’t get as far into the campaign as I did before feeling helpless, necromantically persecuted, and generally frustrated.
  • Get under the hood and fix it.

    Chapter 8 of WoTC’s Player’s Handbook 2 is all about “Character Rebuilding”, and has rules on how to exhange feats, skills, and lots of other stuff — so you may be able to atone for some of the mistakes you made in the beginning.

  • Don’t forget that you have to do other things besides roleplaying.

    Lionel would have made a great character in a novel or a comic, but as a PC he just didn’t cut it. You have challenges to face and monsters to defeat, and sometimes the best roleplaying in the world isn’t going to get you out of it. Remember you have to actually USE this character, and keep him (and the party) alive!

    I feel in some respects that this is the player equivalent of being a Dungeon Novelist. These sort of characters have their place — and it probably isn’t in your D&D game!

All this said, don’t be afraid to step out of the box. It is better to have gone out of the box and created a monster, than not to have stepped out of the box at all. Just don’t be afraid to tame the beast if it’s not fun to ride it anymore.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Kanati permalink
    August 29, 2007

    I’ll have you know you were warned repeatedly about your evil necromancy. And how people would react to it. I also don’t know ANY fantasy world that goes “oh hey! lets gather the kids together and go down to the local NECROMANCER!!!”

    You were into the ELFudge again and nothing we could do would deter you from your chosen path. So we eventually had to find you a necromancer book. Which turned you into something less than the Mister Magoo of magic and more like some Schwartneggian magical behemoth.


  2. Vanir permalink
    August 29, 2007

    I could swear I just wrote an article advocating working with your DM, which I didn’t do very well in this case. VANIR LEARN!

    That being said, people SHOULD gather up the kids and head to the local necromancer’s. He has ice cream served in the skulls of the damned!

  3. Phil permalink
    August 30, 2007

    I found that Specialist Wizards can make the most, hmmm, shall we say, ineffective characters.

    You are right, the character concept is cool on paper. I would even go as far as use such a Necromancer as a low-level ‘villain’ in that being feared and loathed by most the PC’s would be hired to deal with him only to meet up with a well meaning, but socially inept good-necromancer.

    And depending on how the characters deal with him, he either grows into an ally or go completely Carrie on the game world and ultimately become the worst Lich-lord the world as ever known….

    Hmmmm…. I think I need to open my DM wiki and take some more notes on this…

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