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I am new to D&D and will be starting with a group of other beginners in a few days. We got ourselves 5e and will have a four-character group: a rogue GMPC, a barbarian, a paladin and a wizard (or druid) in the group. That last undecided wizard-maybe-druid is me.

So far as I can see, the bonuses I get from the magic schools of the wizard (not concerning endgame) don't seem to outweigh the usefulness of the druid's healing possibilities, so I'm leaning toward a Land Druid as my character. I would really miss the necromancy spells the wizard can learn though, so I asked the GM if I could add those to the druid spell list. He said yes, but as we are all beginners, I fear that might be too powerful or mess up the game somehow. In particular, the spells we are looking at adding are raise dead, animate dead, finger of death, circle of death and power word: kill.

Concerning flavor, a druid deals with nature — of which death is a fundamental part — and as he can heal and revive, I figure he should also be able to control what is long lost as well.

Would adding necromancy spells to the druid's spell list be overpowered, or am I overthinking this too much?

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Adding necromancy spells isn't overpowered in and of itself. If I were you or your DM, I'd write a new terrain type for Land druids or perhaps even make entirely new paradigm for the class.

Considering that you are inexperienced, however, I think the easiest thing and the one for the least potential to break your game is to make a new circle for Land druids (like mountain, desert, forest, etc). I wouldn't necessarily tie it to terrain-themed spells like the other circles are, but since the system is already in place and somewhat proven to work, it will serve your purposes if you just build a new bonus spell list for the "Death" circle.

Druids do get a few death spells on their class spell list: Contagion and Antilife Shell, which is a pretty decent start, especially Contagion. Blight is also in there somewhere.

Hopefully between those and the ones you'll get from your circle, that will be enough necromancy for you. I don't presume to know what kind of character concept you're going for, but if I were the DM I would make sure you can't take undead summons spells, because that's a perversion and abuse of nature. Just my two cents.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest "Chthon (χθών)" for the Land name. It means "earth" but with associations with the earth of the grave, of the earth being the final resting place of the dead, and such. Chthonic is a really cool, evocative adjective if you know what it means, and it fits this character to a T. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 11 '14 at 15:23
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Balance

So firstly, you need to understand that you're effectively stealing a class feature. Wizards get the least class features of any class, because their access to a wide variety of spells makes up for it.

With that said, balance-wise, this is not going to be an issue. Necromancy spells come in 3 broad categories: Offensive, resurrection, and minions. The offensive spells don't do anything that you can't do anyway, so no problems there.

The resurrection spells are incredibly powerful, but it doesn't matter. In most campaigns, a dead character will either be resurrected or replaced in short order, so this is effectively just making it easier for the GM.

The minion spells are interesting, because rolling around with a horde of zombies is quite powerful - for a Necromancer. For you, it's going to be pretty weak. Your undead minions won't have the increased health and damage of the Necromancer's, and you'll have half as many as a Necromancer does anyway.

Flavour

Flavour-wise, this is an issue. For a start, making undead is evil. See here for an explanation. So if you want zombies, you're committing yourself to playing an evil character. Of course, this isn't that hard to work with, especially since the GM is clearly on your side here.

The next point is a bit trickier - Druids are followers of nature. And in nature, when you die, that's it. The resurrection-style spells are definitely not the sort of thing Druids are a fan of. The undead, on the other hand, are basically a perversion of everything Druids hold dear. They're a mockery of life.

So with that said, you're clearly looking at playing an evil Druid. Almost an anti-druid. Which sounds really cool! And the DMG (pages 96 and 97) includes evil villain classes. One is the evil Death cleric, which is already pretty close to what you're after, and the other is the oathbreaker, or antipaladin, which is effectively an archetype of a class that is the opposite of the class. So there's precedent for an anti-druid.

Mechanics

You're looking at playing a Circle of the Land druid, which is good, because you can create a custom Circle to give you the spells you want without changing the core Druid at all. And you can call it something cool like Circle of the Grave, or Circle of the Tomb! Cleric domain spells work exactly the same as Druid circle spells, except that Cleric domains include 1st-level domain spells. So one option would be to take the Death domain spells directly, excluding the 1st-level ones. This would give you:

3rd level: blindness/deafness, ray of enfeeblement

5th level: animate dead, vampiric touch

7th level: blight, death ward

9th level: antilife shell, cloudkill

Alternatively, you can make your own. Pick 2 death-related spells at each spell level from 2nd to 5th and you're good to go! So it might look like this (I've tried to pick out some of the better spells):

3rd level: blindness/deafness, ray of enfeeblement

5th level: animate dead, revivify

7th level: blight, death ward

9th level: antilife shell, raise dead

As far as the higher level spells you want are concerned (finger of death, circle of death, power word kill), you might just have to ask your GM to add them to the Druid spell list for you. It shouldn't make a huge difference, but it is worth pointing out that these are extremely powerful offensive spells, which is something Druids don't normally get a lot of, particularly single-target spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Although I like your overall statements and your attempt to give an actual spell list for a Circle of Land path, I do believe there is a very strong precedent for a non-evil druid that animates the dead. The "when you die, that's it" line is a bit off. Most druids are reincarnationists. They do believe in an afterlife, which is simply being born again, thus the soul is still a part of the path. That's a justification for animation of the remaining shell among some druids. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Dec 11 '14 at 22:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ What precedent are you referring to? Real life druids or DnD ones? \$\endgroup\$ – Jason K Dec 12 '14 at 14:13

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