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Review of Libri Necromantica by Three Sages Games

Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA?” ~ Frederick (Young Frankenstein, 1974)

Necromancers have long been part of heroic fantasy.  Magicians which have congress with dead spirits, ghosts, and other undead have appeared in many fantasy novels, such as R.E. Howard’s Conan stories to Glen Cook’s Black Company series.  Often these arcane dabblers of undeath are themselves undead, as if the very nature of consorting with such ghastly powers brings about a metamorphosis so that the “master” eventually becomes like the “servant”.
libri necro cover
Dungeons & Dragons has never had a true Necromancer class, although in previous editions it was possible for a Wizard or Sorcerer to specialize in necromantic spells, albeit with some severe deficits to other magic schools.  And of course, in 3.5 edition, there were a variety of Prestige Classes to help mold a Character into a Necromancer, ranging from the True Necromancer (Tome and Blood/Libris Mortis) to the Thrall of Orcus (Book of Vile Darkness)!

But D&D 4E has yet to produce a Necromancer class from “official” sources, as yet – rumor has it that Heroes of Shadow will have a Necromancer –  although there have been a few interesting attempts at home-brew versions popping up around the web.  But for those who do not wish to wait nearly a year to create an undead-consorting arcanist, Three Sages Games has offered up not only Necromancer Player content, but also necromantic lore for use by Dungeon Masters as well in Libri Necromantica!

Libri Necromantica
  • Authors:  David Wainio
  • Publisher: Three Sages Games
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: PDF (22 pages)
  • Retail Cost: $3.95

Libri Necromantica is a Player and Dungeon Master supplement for D&D 4E providing information on creating Necromancer Characters, NPCs, and monsters.  The ebook contains a Necromancer “Half-class” that can be used to create Necromancer Multiclasses and Hybrids (called “Fusions” for GSL reasons), as well as six Paragon Paths to continue a Player-Characters journey into the necromantic arts.  For Dungeon Masters, Libri Necromantica provides substitution powers for monsters, monster templates for creating elites, as well as a few new monsters.

The Production Quality of Libri Necromantica is good, with Player-Character powers, Paragon Paths, and monster templates presented in formats similar to those released in “official” products.  There were a few typos scattered throughout the product, but not so as to mar the general reading and flow of the text.  The sample monsters, however, are presented in the old pre-MM3 stat blocks, but are still quite useful to Dungeon Masters.  The artwork is fair to very good, with some of the rendered art pieces really impressively done, and overall they work well to enhance the product.

The first part of the Libri Necromantica presents the Necromancer “half-class”, including a basic multi-class feat called Student of the Dark Art, and a fusion (hybrid) option.  The Author also provides over forty Necromancer Class Powers which can be used in a multiclass or hybrid Character design.  However, rather than create a single Necromancer Class Feature, the Author created five features, of which one may be chosen by a multiclass/hybrid Character to represent their affinity for the dark arts.  This is a bit atypical from other multiclass and hybrid Class options, and unfortunately is not the only departure from D&D 4E Character Class builds.  The optional class features range from gaining at-will darkvision, to a bonus to Will defense (daily use), to a bonus to the Religion Skill.  These features are not really balanced against each other, which makes some of them clearly more desirable than others.

The Necromancer fusion (hybrid) is described as a Controller, and from the various powers presented in the Libri Necromantica, is similar to a Summoner-Build Wizard, so fits that role nicely.  However, again like the multiple class features, there are some irregularities in the Necromancer powers which do not really fit the role, and might be considered unbalanced when compared to other Character Classes.  For instance, there are a number of potent Leader-style healing powers which can expend healing surges to heal one-self or others, grant temporary hit points, gain regeneration, and even refresh healing surges without using an extended rest.  While these powers certainly fit with the theme of a Necromancer, being both a Controller capable of summoning monsters and creating large area effects/zones, and a Leader capable of healing and temporary hit points bonuses , the overall Class is simply overpowered by any almost any assessment.
vampire bride
Further, some of the added effects on attack powers depart considerably from standard effects such as forces movement (push/pull/slide), dazes, stuns, etc.  For instance, there is an encounter power called Painful Undeath forces an undead target to use its “next two actions must be to move away from you at full speed”.  Another power, Fling Undead, allows the Necromancer to slide an undead up to 20 squares causing up to 1d8 damage per 2 squares it travels before hitting an object or creature – up to 10d8 damage + implement bonus!  While certainly a commendable effort to “think outside the box” in terms of powers, this use of atypical combat effects makes several of the Necromancer’s abilities considerably more potent than anything from “official” sources, and would simply make a Necromancer Multiclass or Hybrid outshine his fellow heroes.

Surprisingly, the Paragon Paths presented in Libri Necromantica were fairly straight-forward and did not seem particularly unbalanced at all.  With a few minor exceptions, the various Paragon Path Powers had typical combat special effects, and were used, overall, to create some pretty cohesive “necromantically”-themed Character options.

  • Danielle’s Deckhand – combines a pirate treasure-hunter and a necromancer.
  • Blackguard – a warrior who acts as a leader of undead into the thick of battle.
  • Guardian of Mortality – a primal themed necromancer, protecting the dead and the living.
  • Lich Apparent – a necromancer on the road to becoming a potent Lich.
  • Shadowfell Dancer – a shadow-based necromancer with an affinity for the Shadowfell.
  • Vampire’s Lover – a necromancer seeking to become a lord among vampires.

The DM Tools section of Libri Necromantica is some very nice work, and has some very useful “crunchy” bits for Dungeon Masters.  The Author includes sets of monster powers based upon some of the Necromancer “Half-Class” Powers, which can be substituted into a stat block to create a nasty new critter.  The Author created full-blown powers in level “blocks” (1st to 3rd, 4th to 6th, etc) to cover all three Tiers of play, making it fairly quick and easy for a DM to substitute a Necromantic power into a monster stat block.  There are also three new and nicely developed Elite templates – the Death Mage (Artillery), the Necromantic Adept (Controller), and the Death Guard (Soldier) – to create those special monster encounters to challenge Player-Characters.  And the ebook closes with four examples of monsters created using the substitution powers and templates, to give Dungeon Masters an idea of how the DM Tools might be used best.

Overall Grade: B+

There is certainly a lot of necromantic content presented in Libri Necromantica, but regretfully, not all of it makes the grade.  The idea of creating a “half-class” for use in designing multiclass and fusion (hybrid) Characters is a nice one, the powers presented were not always within the expected Class Role and had effects which were more typical of 3.5 Class Powers than D&D 4E ones.  As a DM, I would certainly never allow a Necromancer hybrid or multiclass based upon this ebook in any of my campaigns without some serious re-working of the powers to bring them into balance.  On the other hand, the Paragon Paths were noteworthy, and had some intriguing ideas and themes to explore which many Players would undoubtedly enjoy adding to their Characters.  And the DM Tools section had some solid content, with three really nifty new Elite Templates to use.  So even though we will have to wait for Heroes of Shadow to get a balance Necromancer Class, the rest of the Libri Necromantica is still worth a look, and has a modest enough price to make it a reasonable buy.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card

  • Presentation: B+
  • - Design: B+
  • - Illustrations: B
  • Content: B+
  • - Crunch: B-
  • - Fluff: A
  • Value: A-

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

2 Responses to “Review of Libri Necromantica by Three Sages Games”

  1. [...] See the article here: Review of Libri Necromantica by Three Sages Games [...]

  2. Some Guy says:

    Hi there, this was a good article, and I believe that this supplement might actually be expanding on another very good 3rd party book called ‘Forgotten Heroes – Scythe and Shroud’ published by Goodman Games. It might be coincidence, but that book outlines a complete Necromancer class, so if anyone is interested in this, they should look into the book I mentioned. That is all.

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