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A player wanted to build a necromancer in 4E, but as far as I know there isn't a way to do it. Is there a way to model a necromancer in 4E?

By Necromancer I basically mean "somebody who raises undead, drains life and inflicts debilitating effects".

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Yes and naively.

Heroes of Shadow introduces the Necromancy (working with lifeforce) and Nethermancy (working with shadowstuff) schools of magic for the Wizard (Mage)DDI. Mage is a class that has been introduced in Heroes of the Fallen Lands manual from D&D Essentials.

The Mage class is an alternate class for the Wizard (the original Player's Handbook 1 Wizard has been dubbed Arcanist) which specializes in one primary and one secondary school of magic, gaining spells and benefits tied to those schools.

Most Necromancy spells work with necrotic energies and undeads. The Necromancers' repertoire is full of signature spells such as Disrupt UndeadDDI (an at-will utility that lowers undead's necrotic resistance), Ray of EnfeeblementDDI (already present in the PHB1, but now has the Necromancy keyword), Animate DeadDDI (summons an undead from a corpse), and Circle of DeathDDI (many nasty effects in an Area Burst 2) just to name a few. Many others (33 in total) fill in all the tiers of play.

Note that Necromancy is simply a new keyword applied to some Wizard spells. This means that any Wizard (Arcanist, Mage, Witch, Bladesinger, Sha'ir, Hybrid or Multiclass) may select necromantic powers to be written on her spellbook. Mage class is not the only option, but it is the more straightforward.

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No, not really. Refluffing is easy. Zombie footsoldiers are impossible.

Old Necromancy is easy.

In a trivial sense, it absolutely possible to create a "death-themed" character. You can even do stuff with speaking with the dead, especially with the Dusk Oracle PP:

Oracle's Insight (11th level): You can ask the corpse of any intelligent creature a single question and receive an answer. The corpse knows what the creature knew in life and what has occurred near the area where its body fell. The corpse answers truthfully, though sometimes cryptically.

Not to meantion the speak with dead ritual.

Herbret West, Reanimator is not possible

However, I suspect this question is trying to do a 3.5 style "zombie horde" necromancer. You can certainly get somewhat close to it by refluffing powers. The "Fey Beast Tamer" gives you a creature under your control that you can certainly refluff to be an undead of your choice, going so far as to "animate" the corpses of your enemies (the stats are still your creature, but the outward appearance changes).

Your powers could compel a cloud of wraiths and spirits around you to wreak their vengeance on the living, using whatever style you feel like.

What is fundamentally impossible, however, is violating the 4e action economy. You cannot have self-directed minions doing more damage then you could otherwise do. While it would be quite possible to do some math and get some zed that you call from the ground doing equivalent damage to your at-wills, that's just a numbers game.

My recommendation is to theme a whole party around this and refluff as appropriate, even changing damage types as necessary. (Given that necrotic is considered a sub-optimal and oft-resisted type, it should be perfectly normal to refluff towards necrotic)

My take on a necromancer

Step 1: find the right class features to support the mechanics of the undead. Stipulated that violating the action economy is impossible, we can certainly make it look as if we have.

Key class features

  • Fey beast tamer: "Rise... my minions." Costs you some surges, but gets you your own skelly/zombie minion in every fight. Having it occupy the space of the raised creature seems a simple enough benefit. Only trade here is to note that the aura will only work on medium creatures or smaller. Don't even try to explain that in game.
  • Cloistered Priest background. We just don't mention which order you were cloistered... with.
  • Dusk Oracle PP: An otherwise uninspiring PP, but very flavourful.

    • Competing with this is the level 20 enigmatic mage PP that gives you 5 minions, but considering that they're minions, dusk oracle just works better.
  • Protector: druids get much better summons, which are trivially refluffable to a "animating corpses" theme for a "necromancer." The other thing is that the class feature "nature's growth" is so easily viewed as a growth of skeletal arms from the soil. It's that last bit that really sells the class to me over mage. While the shaman has a better "stuff originating from summoned spirit" vibe, the powers aren't particularly impressive.

    • Key powers:
      • Magic Stones: Instead of stones from your hand, they are tiny bones from corpses animated around the battlefield. If someone has fallen in an enemy's space, the corpse itself reaches out, otherwise, bones fly everywhere. No mechanical changes, but the image is drastically different.
      • Fire hawk: What's that? There's a spirit waiting over your head waiting to pounce? That seems quite necromantic to me.
      • Summon natural ally: It's your only daily (but you can cast it multiple times.) And it is yet another "corpse" that you animate to shamble around the battlefield.
        • The "grizzly bear" is an excellent zombie that attacks on its own and the pack wolf makes an excellent skeleton. While the giant cobra of the other circle is also excellent, the grab mechanics of the bear are just too accurate.
        • The fact that the summons end at the encounter is a bit of a problem, if it really matters to you, have them shambling along in the background, decomposing gently? They could be the source of your bones and whatnot. In subsequent encounters, have them stick by you and explode bits of them into enemies as per "magic stones." And just rule that an attack against them is an attack against you for HP damage (and have AoEs only just target one).
      • The various encounter powers chosen below are all "wind" based. that's trivally reflufable to "ghost/spirit"
      • There's no really good level 6 utility, so you might as well take a buff that suits your party or a skill utility.
      • Charm beast is so delightfully reflavourable to possession of the unholy spirit it's not even funny. You conjure a ghost to inhabit an enemy? What's more necromantic than that?
      • Feywild sojurn: s/Feywild/Shadowfell/ Hey look, now you're taking refuge in a place of unholy power while your summons are gnawing on stuff Win... win?
  • Feats
    • Wild talent master: I've used this before to simulate the fey helping a really confused bugbear named Don Quixote. Having the spirits/undead doing the same thing works here. Slightly reduced in need by the cantrips of the protector, but still very serviceable.
    • Standard math-fix feats. Can't really get around this.
    • Spirit Talker: Hey look, we've got another creature on the field.
  • Items
    • Earthfall totem or staff of ruin
    • Cloak of the desert: refluff to screaming ghosts. Yay concealment.

Build

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Necromancer, level 12
Human, Protector, Dusk Oracle
Druid Circle: Circle of Shelter
Fey Beast Tamer Starting Feature: Fey Beast Tamer Companion (Young Owlbear)
Human Power Selection: Heroic Effort
Background: Cloistered Priest (Cloistered Priest Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 9, Con 14, Dex 18, Int 11, Wis 22, Cha 11.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 8, Con 13, Dex 15, Int 10, Wis 17, Cha 10.


AC: 26 Fort: 25 Reflex: 27 Will: 29
HP: 81 Surges: 9 Surge Value: 20

TRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +11, Nature +17, Perception +17, Religion +14, Insight +17

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +9, Bluff +6, Diplomacy +6, Dungeoneering +12, Endurance +9, Heal +12, History +6, Intimidate +8, Stealth +9, Streetwise +6, Thievery +9, Athletics +4

FEATS
Human: Superior Implement Training (Accurate totem)
Level 1: Totem Expertise
Level 2: Wild Talent Master
Level 4: Implement Focus (Totem)
Level 6: Improved Defenses
Level 8: Spirit Talker
Level 10: Mending Spirit
Level 11: Ritual Caster
Level 12: Sudden Call

POWERS
Primal Attunement: Call the Spirits
Primal Attunement: Air Spirit
Primal Attunement: Senses of the Wild
Protector at-will 1: Fire Hawk
Protector at-will 1: Magic Stones
Spirit Talker: Spirit's Prey
Wild Talent Master: Sensing Eye
Wild Talent Master: Far Hearing
Wild Talent Master: Mental Tools
Protector encounter 1: Wall of Smoke
Protector utility 2: Warding Wind
Protector encounter 3: Wind Wall
Protector utility 6: Camouflage Cloak
Protector encounter 7: Charm Beast
Protector utility 10: Feywild Sojourn

ITEMS
Earthfall Accurate totem +3, Magic Earthhide Armor +3, Cloak of the Desert +3, Prison of Salzacas
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======
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You have to be a level 9 wizard, but you can raise one undead creature. At level 20 you can raise 5 (i found all of this out because of @Erikburigo's answer). I don't know if this'll work for what we've got in mind, but I'm going to show it to my player. I'll also show him your answer Brian. Thank you. –  DForck42 Mar 5 '12 at 18:47
    
Note that Animate Dead doesn't persist the animation past the end of encounter. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 5 '12 at 20:41
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