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The Necromancy wizard's Grim Harvest feature allows the necromancer to heal themselves an amount of HP equal to 3 times the level of the necromancy spell used to kill a creature, once per turn.

Instantaneous spells would just heal once per casting. Spells with a longer duration could kill one creature per turn for many turns for repeated healing.

Assuming at least one creature dies each turn, what is the maximum amount of healing a necromancer can get from the Grim Harvest feature from a single casting of a necromancy spell?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Infinity is a large number. Has anyone considered using the long duration of the Hex spell as part of the Grim Harvest calculation? \$\endgroup\$ – Adenine2k Apr 10 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be an interesting separate question to determine if/how hex would trigger Grim Harvest. If you deal 10 points of damage from eldritch blast and 1 point of damage from hex to a 3 HP enemy, did you kill it with hex? Even if it works, though, hex can only kill 14 400 enemies, which can't compete with the power of owls! \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Apr 10 at 16:21
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Necromancy spell: upcast, extended vampiric touch: 540

Ok, breaking the problem down we care about three things: how many turns a spell can deal damage to a seperate creature, the level the spell is when cast, and whether the spell is a necromancy spell. The last is only a bonus of 50% and we'll asume we have a character with 9th level slots so the spell level isn't a problem either. So now we're looking for a spell which can deal damage to a seperate creature with the longest duration.

Enter vampiric touch, which lets us make one attack per turn for a minute. We can take a few levels in sorcerer for Extended Spell, letting us up that to 2. Assuming a creature dies on each attack makes Grim Harvest restore: $$20\times9\times3=540$$

Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound: 172 800

While not a necromancy spell so we only regain 2 times spell level each turn, it has a duration of 8 hours, which when we use Extended spell gives us a whopping 9600 turns. Assuming a limitless supply of hostile goons and no misses, Grim Harvest regains us: $$9600\times9\times2=172\,800$$

Do note that we can upcast the spell to 9th level by using a 9th level slot even though the spell gains no benefit from it (other than regaining us more life).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Do kills with Shadow Blade trigger Grim Harvest; Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound may not be a valid spell. Might be worth including a less ambiguous spell as a third option (Call Lightning is the longest lasting spell that does damage per-turn and does not rely on an indirect agent to deal damage that I can find.) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcosa Apr 9 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it not technically possible to use a tenth level spell slot with a multiclass into Cleric or Paladin using the Book of Exalted Deeds? (source) I may have missed something though, perhaps From Harvest only applies to Wizard spells. I think perhaps Action Surge could be used with vampiric touch as well? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 10 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 10th level castings are possible, but there are simply no cleric or paladin spells of the appropiate type and duration to be significant for this feature. I'm not sure how Action surge would help as Grim Harvest is per turn, not per time/attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 10 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I'm surprised if Death and Grave cleric do not get vampiric touch, though for Grim Harvest would Action Surge not allow you to take the Ready action for another use? Welp... apparently vampiric touch is only on your own turn, so there goes the Action Surge avenue \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 10 at 0:55
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Shadow of moil provides at least 48 million HP

First, a closer look at Grim Harvest:

Once per turn when you kill one or more creatures with a spell of 1st level or higher, you regain hit points [...]

On each creature's turn, you have a chance to regain HP with Grim Harvest (including your own). The trick will be dealing damage on each enemy's turn. For that, we turn to the 4th-level necromancy spell shadow of moil (XGtE, p. 164):

whenever a creature within 10 feet of you hits you with an attack, the shadows lash out at that creature, dealing it 2d8 necrotic damage.

Assuming (as your question states) that one creature dies each turn, shadow of moil will provide infinite HP. There is no limit to the number of turns per round. You'll need to multiclass warlock (or bard), since shadow of moil is warlock-only.

Non-infinite creatures

Even a non-infinite amount of creatures will provide a very large amount of HP. I'll use quicklings (XGtE, p. 187), since they're really fast. I'll also assume that every attack hits, and every quickling is one-shotted by shadow of moil, which means that we don't have to worry about moving them after they attack. (Body disposal is left as an exercise for the reader.)

In order for shadow of moil to trigger, a quickling needs to attack from 10 feet or closer with its ranged/melee dagger attack. With a speed of 120 feet, a quickling will need to start within 130 feet of you to get into range.

Let's assume we're playing on a grid, which turns the circle of quickling attackers into a square. That square is 53 grid squares (265 feet) on a side, totalling 2 808 squares, if we leave out the one you're standing in. Since quicklings are tiny, four can fit in one square, meaning that 11 232 quicklings are able to attack in the first round.

Necromancer 7 / Bard 10 / Sorcerer 3 gets you Grim Harvest, shadow of moil, and Extended Spell. You upcast shadow of moil to 9th level (and apply Extended Spell), granting you 27 HP from each quickling, for a total of 303 264 HP in the first round. More quicklings will have no trouble keeping up the pace (by following their ill-fated brethren towards you), giving you a total of 6 065 280 HP in 2 minutes.

That's just using the ground. Next, you can fill the skies above you with owls. An owl needs to start within 60 feet of you to be able to attack, which leaves a 27 x 27 x 13.5 grid square area above you where owls may start. (The 0.5 comes from the half-square above the heads of the quicklings on the ground.) Owls are tiny and can fly, so 8 of them fit in each square. A total of 78 732 owls can attack in the first round. After 2 minutes, the horde of owls and quicklings combine to grant you 48 580 560 HP.

Prismatic wall (an abjuration spell) pushes that...further

If you're willing to use spells from any school, long duration damage spells are the way to go. (Thanks to Someone_Evil in the comments!)

A creature takes (a lot of) damage just from touching a prismatic wall, so creatures can now just Dash into it. There's nothing preventing the wall from floating in midair, so we'll use the 90 foot by 30 foot version high in the sky. Surrounded by owls, naturally.

Owls can reach the wall from 120 feet away in any direction, which gives us 66 x 54 x 48 grid squares of owls. Total owls: 1 368 576. We'll skip to the punch line here: 4 926 873 600 HP in 20 minutes.


Returning to reality

Alright, we've had our fun, but what about practical uses? Here are some good wizard spells for damage outside of your turn (the fact that none of these are necromancy spells is disappointing):

  • Evard's black tentacles [4] - mix of damage and control; save for no damage, though.
  • Sickening radiance [4] - nice large area; save for no damage, though.
  • Wall of fire [4] - easy to place (without interfering with allies).
  • Dawn [5] - big area, decent damage, and you can reposition it.
  • Maddening darkness [8] - massive area.
  • Prismatic wall [9] - big area, big damage, doesn't interfere with allies, non-concentration, blinds foes, and doesn't care about antimagic field. What a fantastic spell!

Any clerics looking to take 2 levels of wizard should strongly consider necromancy. Spirit guardians is practically begging to be used with Grim Harvest, and it's already a great spell that doesn't interfere with allies.

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    \$\begingroup\$ note: wish is not a necromancy spell, and it is only duplicating shadow of moil's effect, not its school, so that will be marginally less effective. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 10 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Note that whether wish casts the spell you choose and what class it casts it as if it casts it are not settled or agreed upon matters. We have I believe four questions on things like that \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 10 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Good point, though there is some disagreement. Since you can also get it through multiclassing, I've edited out wish duping. \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Apr 10 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't any spell that deals damage on a creatures turn work by this same token? Say wall of fire. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 10 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I've added prismatic wall and (as expected) it's pretty ridiculous. \$\endgroup\$ – Red Orca Apr 10 at 14:42

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