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We are beginning a Curse of Strahd Campaign and one of my players wants to make a Skeleton Necromancer. Since there's no official Skeleton Race, I created this from the Monster Manual entry on Skeletons, while also throwing in some extra abilities from other creatures and my own crazed ramblings in an attempt to make up for the common vulnerability.

Skeletons

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Size. Skeletons match the height, but are half the weight of humans. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Thanks to your undead nature, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Body Construction. Because of your relentless undead fortitude your body is capable of detatching and reattaching limbs. After a long rest you can choose one of the following abilities:

  • Detach Hand. Your dominant hand falls to the ground and becomes a Crawling Claw Monster Manual pg. 44. You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it. The hand can't activate magical items, or carry more than 10 pounds. If the hand moves more than 60ft from you or is reduced to 0 hit-points, the hand becomes inert and cannot move and must be reattached to your body. While your hand is detached in this way, you cannot use two-handed weapons, any attacks your body makes are made at disadvantage and you have disadvantage on casting spells that require a somatic component.

  • Detach Head. Your head begins to hover off your body and float independently, your head gains a fly speed equal to your movement speed. Your body can still move and acts under your command but is considered Blinded and cannot speak until the head returns. The head in incapable of moving out of line of sight from your body and can only cast spells that only require a verbal component.

  • Detach Arm. Your non-dominant arm falls off and becomes inert, you or any creature can pick up the arm and use it as a bludgeoning weapon, the arm has the same statistics as a Club, any damage the arm takes while it is detached in this manner is automatically healed when the limb returns. While your arm is detached in this way, you cannot use two-handed weapons and you have disadvantage on spells that require a somatic component.

  • Attach Extra Bones. The necromantic energy that holds your body together becomes briefly more powerful. If you find a corpse, inert skeleton or kill a humanoid creature you can spend an action to magically summon the dead creature's bones to overlap your own body. You double your weight, gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution score and a bonus to AC equal to half your proficiency bonus rounded down.

All abilities last for up to 1 minute at which point the limb will take the most direct path back to the body or the extra bones will fall inert to the ground, but you can end it early by reattaching said limb or dropping the bones (which does not require an action). Once you use your chosen ability, you cannot use it again until to take a short or long rest. You can choose an additional ability per day at levels 5, 10, 15 and 20, this could be a different ability or the same ability for an additional time each day.

False Appearance. While you remain motionless, you are indistinguishable from a pile of bones.

Necrotic Constitution. You have resistance to necrotic damage, and you have immunity to poison damage, the exhaustion condition and the poisoned condition. You also have vulnerability to bludgeoning damage.

Undead Nature. You skirt the line between life and death, you count as both humanoid and undead when it comes to spell effects and abilities. You can’t and don't need to eat, drink, or breathe.

Languages. You can speak, read and write common and one other language of your choice.

The vulnerability was actually requested by the player so I'd like to keep that if possible, the other abilities such as Body Construction, False appearance and the other elements of Necrotic Constitution where added as a way to make up for the vulnerability to a very common damage type.

If I need to be more specific about "Balanced"

  • Do the other abilities make up for Vulnerability to Bludgeoning damage or have I gone over/under board?
  • Do the Body Construction abilities make sense or should they be reworded or removed?
  • A very notable disability of the skeleton is its inability to talk, should I include this as an ability (which would also mean they are incapable of casting verbal spells)?
  • And most importantly, does playing as a skeleton (or any undead creature) in Curse of Strahd specifically, have any inherent unfair advantages/disadvantages?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since they are undead and humanoid are they unaffected by many healing spells unlike the Warforged race? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 28 '19 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ "While they’re formed from stone and steel, warforged are living humanoids. Resting, healing magic, and the Medicine skill all provide the same benefits to warforged that they do to other humanoids." since they work for warforged, I imagine they could work for skeletons too. \$\endgroup\$ – Youjay Oct 28 '19 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha, just wasn't sure how you wanted it to work as it wasn't stated \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 28 '19 at 3:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some copy editing: In the Detach Hand section: "inherit"->"inert". In Detach Head: "in incapable"->"is incapable". In Detach Arm: "manor"->"manner". In False Appearance: "you remains"->"you remain". Undead Nature: "skert"->"skirt" and "ability's"->"abilities". \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Oct 28 '19 at 4:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ " you have disadvantage on casting spells that require a somatic component." - You mean cantrips that require an attack role? \$\endgroup\$ – Sum of e D pi Oct 29 '19 at 6:31
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Not totally broken

The easiest way to determine if this is any good is usually to compare to other races - so lets go item by item

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Dexterity score increases by 1.

+2/+1 is in line with many existing races:

  • Elf: +2 DEX / +1 [INT/WIS/CHR]
  • Halfling: +2 DEX / +1 [CHR/CON]
  • Dragonborn: +2 STR / +1 CHR

This seems to follow the baseline stats of many D&D races.


Size. Skeletons match the height, but are half the weight of humans. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

These are fairly standard, although it is worth noting that some races such as Dwarf/Halfling which have relatively strong features are limited down to 25ft base movement. If you decide that the race is perhaps a little strong this is somewhere I would consider adjusting it slightly.


Darkvision. Thanks to your undead nature, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

This is quite standard, but it's also worth noting that not all races have access to this. Aarakocra, Human, and Dragonborn do not (although many do). If we determine this race to be quite strong I would consider removing this small feature, to encourage the character to take the light cantrip or carry a torch.


Body Construction. Because of your relentless undead fortitude your body is capable of detatching and reattaching limbs. After a long rest you can choose one of the following abilities:

  • Detach Hand.
  • Detach Head.
  • Detach Arm.
  • Attach Extra Bones.

These seem thematically cool, and mostly not too strong. the Detach spells seem mostly like interesting cantrip-level spells as far as I can tell, and add flavour to the character.

Attach Extra Bones Seems more powerful however, and could be quite the boon to certain character types. Gaining AC is generally a powerful effect, many characters carry a shield for +2AC and this means they lose the use of one hand for combat. Dual wielding or using a Duelist style can add +1AC for certain character types which is decent in many cases. For higher level characters this can mean gaining more than the benefit of a shield for free. For a monk character type specifically (who cannot use a shield) this power could be very broken.

I would likely advise removing the AC component of this spell, or making one (or more) of the following changes as a bigger down side related to the bonus:

  • Half movement speed
  • Disadvantage on stealth checks
  • Disadvantage on dexterity saves

False Appearance. While you remain motionless, you are indistinguishable from a pile of bones.

Pretty cool, if your PC gets a chance to use this it will be pretty fun.


Necrotic Constitution. You have resistance to necrotic damage, and you have immunity to poison damage, the exhaustion condition and the poisoned condition. You also have vulnerability to bludgeoning damage.

Having a resistance is usually quite strong but not unheard of. Dragonborn, Dwarves, and Tieflings all have resistances to one element.

Immunity is very strong mechanically, although poison is not the most common damage type from enemies.

Vulnerability is however quite a large risk factor and may help balance out the strengths here. Thematically you may want to consider also including the radiant damage type as another nerf for this character. I might suggest something like this:

You also have vulnerability to radiant damage, and whenever you receive bludgeoning damage you receive an additional 1d8 bludgeoning damage.


Undead Nature. You skirt the line between life and death, you count as both humanoid and undead when it comes to spell effects and abilities. You can’t and don't need to eat, drink, or breathe.

Also quite strong. In a survival situation not needing to eat could be big, however this depends on your DM and how they handle survival.

The main problem here is not needing to breathe - this means that your PC can go underwater indefinitely, and may be immune to the effects of certain gas effects or spells. This could also be totally useless depending on what kinds of challenges the party faces, so it's situational - but in those certain situations it is very strong.


Languages. You can speak, read and write common and one other language of your choice.

Seems quite standard for many races.


Summary

Overall everything here is either in-line with other races, or slightly stronger, or situationally stronger. As the dungeon master, it's up to you to decide what you are happy with. My suggestion would be to make a few nerfs, but I don't think the character is totally broken and I think you could run with it.

My Suggestion:

Definitely do something about Attach Extra Bones, I think the additional AC is over the line and is probably the only thing that really is too much.

Probably choose at least two (possibly more) nerfs to take some of the advantage to disadvantage:

  • Lower the base movement to 25ft
  • Remove nightvision
  • Give disadvantage on stealth checks (skeleton feet probably make a similar noise to walking in high heels)
  • Remove some immunity/resistance, or increase vulnerability/extra damage
  • Require the PC to breathe
  • Lower the ability score increase by 1
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Attach Extra Bones takes an action, and lasts 1 minute. Very far from overpowered, considering most fights are shorter than 4 rounds \$\endgroup\$ – András Nov 1 '19 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Considering that an average DnD day has 1-3 fights (depending on your campaign), and at some point have multiple casts per day, here are my problems with it.: Sometimes players can activate an ability before combat for free, in these scenarios a race that could have 2 free AC is very powerful. A class ability would be different. Imagine a spell that gave +2ac for a minute with no concentration (and so combos with mage armor for example) I would rate it as a 2nd level spell. A free 2nd level spell (and maybe multiple times a day) is too strong for a Race, when compared to other races. \$\endgroup\$ – Max Colledge Nov 4 '19 at 11:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would be free, if you could start it as a free action. But less than 10% of the fights I took part in provided the possibility to pre-cast a spell, so this is like a 2nd level spell once per day (or less). Nothing else is outstanding about this race, so looking at the big picture, I would say it is mediocre at best. \$\endgroup\$ – András Nov 5 '19 at 10:37

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