If you have been reading Creature College guides and articles, you probably have noticed that I enjoy playing as a necromancer quite a bit! Both as a player and a DM, this is a fantastic build to enjoy yourself. To share this pleasure – and power – I have decided to write a best necromancer build guide for Pathfinder. I have played Pathfinder for the better half of a decade and enjoy this class the most.
In this guide on Pathfinder necromancers, you will learn all the basics, like the best feats, classes, and spells. Of course, I will also share some tips and tricks you might want to use as a player or a DM in Pathfinder while you are using or to fight a necromancer build.
What is a necromancer?
Unlike what many players and DMs think, necromancers are not aligned with evil but can be any possible alignment. They are not evil mages who manipulate the Undead to carry out their evil plans but can also be a force of good.
Necromancers often have diverse backgrounds and motifs to become one. However, most that wield necrotic powers have started walking the path after losing a loved one and being unable to accept death as a final stage.
Generally speaking, these mages are intelligent and possess excellent arcane knowledge. Furthermore, because they have spent years mastering the arcane arts, they possess great magical powers but can be considered rather frail physically.
Why should you (not) play as one?
Not convinced yet about starting a necromancer build in Pathfinder? There are a few advantages and disadvantages to playing one, which I will list here. Keep in mind that a couple of these are pretty subjective, and some might consider these neutral or even a disadvantage.
Command multiple creatures: playing just one character in such a vast world can be tedious. However, when you control the Undead, you can manipulate various Undead to carry out your bidding.
Powerful magic: Pathfinder and potent magic go hand in hand. Some of the most OP and fun spells are in the school of necromancy. You don’t just raise the dead but also deal consequential necrotic damage to your opponents.
Lots of fun to play: Necromancers are a ton of fun to play with. You can command armies and strike fear into the hearts of your opponents with potent necrotic damage. You can choose from a wide range of classes, playing styles, and a good amount of spells.
Glass build: when you read this necromancer build for Pathfinder, you will notice that necromancers’ main weakness is that their defense is not optimal. As a result, you will have to stay behind your summoned Undead or allies to ensure you survive the battle.
Need for materials: to raise the dead, you will need dead bodies and corpses. Many other spells in the necromancy school also require expensive materials and many coins.
Best Pathfinder Necromancer Classes
It is hard to decide between the classes in the top three. The Oracle class is considered the best class for a necromancer in Pathfinder for most players. This class has access to the correct stats and spells, makes a slightly more potent necromancer at the starting levels than any other class, and scales well.
Oracle Necromancers are also quite fun to play and not as outplayed as wizards and clerics, so you might be able to surprise your DM in a couple of ways using the Oracle class.
The classic class for a necromancer build in Pathfinder is the Wizard. They get access to many spells, have the proper stat distribution, and are generally powerful necromancers. However, they are a bit slower in becoming potent as they get access to lesser Undead at the third level and not the second.
The main benefit of becoming a wizard necromancer is the number of options you have in terms of powerful spells you can learn as a pathfinder wizard. You can learn a ton of necromancy spells but also other useful ones.
Clerics also make an excellent class for necromancers in Pathfinder. This class gets access first to Lesser Animate Dead (lvl 3) and Animate Dead (lvl 5). They also have the ability to use inflict wounds and help buff the party.
Clerics are only in third place since they are missing one of the most crucial spells for necromancers: the Command Undead spell. However, even without Command Undead, they are pretty solid and great when you play the early levels. Make sure you also check out our best cleric feat guide if you pick this class.
The Gravewalker archetype Witch is a lovely class to be a non-stereotypical necromancer in Pathfinder. This archetype is the only Witch archetype that gets access to both the animate dead spells and has the ability to channel for Command Undead Feat. The only downsides are that you can not use the desecrate spell easily, and the first few levels are rigid and slow.
If you are a Shaman class character, you need the Lore Spirit to get access to the Command Undead spell and other useful wizard spells. In addition, you get access to lesser animate Undead at level 3, similarly to the Cleric, and also Command Undead at an early level. However, like the Gravewalker witch, your necromancer build will not have to be desecrated when you pick this class.
Best Necromancer feats in Pathfinder
The Command Undead spell is a pretty obvious feat on your necromancer build in Pathfinder. The feat allows you to command undead creatures more efficiently and turn them into your servants.
As a standard action, you can use one of your uses of channel negative energy to enslave the Undead within 30 feet. Undead receive a Will save to negate the effect. This feat does require you to have the Channel Negative energy class feature. However, that should not be a problem for a necromancer.
One of the most frustrating things about having a necromancer built is when you fail to turn them into your servants. Well, this feat is a great way to stop this from happening. When you cast animated dead or use command undead, you get a virtual 4 levels higher to determine the Hit Dice. Another effect is that the duration doubles when you cast Command Undead.
Thanks to this feat, you can turn your mindless Undead into a coherent unit that fights together instead of mindlessly storming enemies as a horde. In addition, when you create Undead, they gain one teamwork feat you know as a bonus feat, though they gain its benefits only when cooperating with you or with other Undead that you have created.
The big downside to this is that intelligent Undead does not get any benefit from having the Charnel Soldiers feat.
Craft Wondrous Item
One of my favorite feats for a necromancer build in Pathfinder – and other classes relying on summoning – is the Craft Wondrous Item feat. Thanks to this feat, you can make various wondrous items. Crafting an excellent item takes one day for each 1,000 gp in its price. To create a wondrous item, you must use up raw materials costing half its base price.
You can use this wondrous item to either make money for your summoning or arm your Undead with wondrous items to buff their stats and damage output.
Extend spell is one of the best Metamagic feats you can pick as a necromancer in Pathfinder. When you have this feat, the spells you extend last two times as long as they usually do. So, in other words, your Undead stick around a lot longer than usual.
Spell Focus Necromancy
If you are looking for buff spells in Pathfinder that make your necromancy more potent, this is the one! This feat does not just come in handy when resurrecting the dead but also when casting necromancy spells that deal direct damage to your target. Furthermore, the feat is simple to understand: Add +1 to the Difficulty Class for all saving throws against spells from the necromancy school of magic.
Best pathfinder necromancer spells
We aren’t discussing all the spells you should have as a necromancer build in Pathfinder, but just the essentials. These few spells are what I would advise you have as a minimum on your build. Keep in mind that some of these depend on the class you pick.
Animate dead is your bread and butter as a necromancer. No matter your level, having the power to raise corpses into skeletons and zombies that do your bidding is extremely useful. You need an onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per hit Die of Undead.
The Skeletons and Zombies can not be reanimated once they have fallen in battle. However, since you can use bones, you can easily stack these in your bag of holding or wagon for later use.
Here is another staple of the necromancer build: Command Undead, not to be confused with the feat of the same name. You choose an undead creature, and then you get control over it. You must remember that intelligent creatures can resist you as they have a saving throw.
However, the advantage of commanding smart Undead is that you can give them more complex orders. You can not communicate with them telepathically, so your commands need to be audible to the target.
When you use the Desecrate spell, you imbue an area with negative energy. For every charisma check within the area against the turn undead spell, there is a -3 penalty, and undead creatures get a +1 profane bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws!
In other words, you get a straight-up buff for your minions. If that is not enough, anyone who casts animate dead can double the amount of Undead. So you go from 2 HD per caster level to 4 HD. If you rely on undead minions, this spell must be in your arsenal as a necromancer in Pathfinder.
Another must-have spell for your necromancer build in Pathfinder is Raise Dead. This conjuration restores life to a deceased creature. A raised creature has several hit points equal to its current HD. AIn addition, any scores lowered to 0 are raised to 1. You can raise a creature that has been dead for no longer than 1 day per caster level. In addition, the subject’s soul must be free and willing to return.
A more complex spell to understand and use is Planar Binding. However, Planar Binding is a great spell to have in your arsenal. There are quite a few uses, and you can use it on outsiders to animate their corpses. Here are a couple of useful binding variants to make yourself familiar with.
Lesser Planar Binding
- Sarcovalt – Casts Lesser Animate Dead 3/day.
- Half-Fiend Minotaur – The Biggest thing you can call with lesser. The good idea is to kill it and make a fast zombie out of it by using Haste.
- Lilin – Can cast Animate Dead 3/day at CL 9. The downside is the Charisma score. So if you are unlucky, you won’t be able to turn it into an ally.
- Glabrezu – This guy is huge and extremely strong when used right. When you manage to kill it, you will get a potent undead for you to use.
Greater Planar Binding
- Daemon, Thanadaemon – Animate Dead 3/day at CL 15 and a bit easier to bind than a Lilin due to the lower CHA score.
Temporary Resurrection is a fantastic spell if you also have the Contingency spell. You can set a contingency that the temporary Resurrection activates when you die. We have written an article on best uses for contingency in 5e, which also applies to Pathfinder. So if you choose to use that combo, read that article to get the most out of it.
Pathfinder Necromancer must-have items
There are a few items that will come in very handy during your battles and travels. You don’t need to have all of these to have a strong necromancer build, and not all of these are on the list. Getting a few will help you!
Bag of holding
If you have a necromancer build that relies on summoning Undead, there is no way around this item. Depending on the bag type, you can bring contents anywhere from 30 cubic feet up to 250 cubic feet. Contents in the case of a necromancer are skeletons and corpses. In addition, this item will give you access to a large supply of useful minions.
Cloak of Resistance
Mages often have the downside of being pretty weak when getting hit or fighting on the front lines. In case your minions are defeated, or you are ambushed, you want to be able to survive a few hits. The Cloak of Resistance is a great item to get a +1 to +5 resistance bonus on your saving throws for Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.
Headband of Intelligence
The headband of (vast) Intelligence allows you to up one associated skill. This item is a must-have for all wizards and oracles who want to give themself a quick and easy buff. However, the regular headband of Intelligence does not stack above 19 INT when you wear it, so keep that in mind.
Make sure you also check the list of best items for a wizard in Pathfinder if you need some more inspiration and guidance.
Robe of Bones
The robe of bones is a great item to have when you are playing as a necromancer. Not just is it useful to get a few bones at a very low cost, but the main advantage lies in the role-playing aspect. If you are a Necromancer in Pathfinder, you want to at least have this robe of bones for a playing session or two.
Ring of wizardry II
As a magic caster, the Ring of Wizardry II is a fantastic item to have at your fingertips (pun intended). The ring of wizardry doubles 2nd-level spells and is a potent magical item to strengthen your undead army and give you more options during the fight. However, this item costs 40 000 gold pieces, so you might want to save up quite a bit before considering getting this ring for your necromancer build.
For Necromancer Builds, one of the best mundane items to get in Pathfinder is the (heavy) wagon. This vehicle is great for transporting goods over a large territory. While most adventurers use it for loot and goods, you can use it for bones and corpses. A heavy wagon is ten by 20 by 5 feet and only costs 100 gp. The cargo is up to 4000 lbs. So that is a ton of Undead!
Great Undead to summon in Pathfinder
If you want to make a necromancer Build in Pathfinder, you are probably looking forward to summoning strong Undead to do your bidding. Knowing which Undead are useful when is pretty convenient. Here is a list of Undead you should keep in mind if you play as a necromancer in Pathfinder.
The elite Undead is those creatures you save for when you are in a pinch or trying to win the battle. Unfortunately, these are often pretty expensive to cast, and the requirements are often high.
- Necrocraft: These gigantic monsters are extremely potent but expensive to make. You will need a lot of corpses and money to summon these. This is the one if you don’t know what to do with your bad and useless corpses.
- Bloody Skeleton: You can animate bloody skeletons at the cost of twice the HD. These are great tanks and will give your enemies quite the headache.
- Frostfallen: These Undead have a ton of buffs, like being able to fly and deal cold damage while having a huge HP stat. If your opponent does not have fire spells, they will have a lot of trouble dealing with them.
Utility and labor undead
- Zombies: zombies are pretty bad in almost every situation. However, they have the strength and ability to do manual labor. This allows you to make some passive gold by having them collect materials and do other jobs.
- Isitoq: these are a fantastic – and heavily underrated – undead ally at your disposal. They are little flying eyes that allow you to see what they see. They have pretty high requirements like flying, levitating, Clairvoyance, or Locating objects. Next, they are also intelligent, which means they might resist and won’t follow your commands.
- Skeletons: this will be the cannon fodder you send out to soak up damage and annoy your opponents. You can cast these by just using your Lesser Animate Dead spell.
- Fast Zombie: If you have Haste, you can make fast zombies. These are great for large Undead that you have as a spare corpse. They are stronger than skeletons but less potent than the elite Undead on this list.
Best army undead
If planning large-scale battles, you might want to invest in some of these Undead, as they make great soldiers. Also, you should consider a couple of Undead if you are a DM building an undead skeleton army with your necromancer.
- Burning Skeleton: These skeletons are great for making the first move with your army. Their aura deals passive damage, and they die when defeated. These creatures are a numbers game, the more, the better. These cost Double HD.
- Multiplying Skeleton: Another monster I enjoy using as a DM is a multiplying Skeleton. When killed, these break into two more skeletons with ½ HD as the former version. When you can get your hands on a colossal skeleton, you can get a ton of use out of these as their numbers quickly grow.
- Plague Zombie: If you have the contagion spell, you can create zombies and infect targets with Zombie Rot. When these die, they become a plague zombie too. You can pair these up with your exploding skeletons or substitute them for these plague zombies. They are great to have when you are fighting numerous weaker opponents.
Overall tips and tricks
One of the most important things to remember as a necromancer in Pathfinder – and any other build for that matter – is to ensure you survive your battles. When an opponent is too strong, don’t just go into battle hoping for the best. Instead, find allies, become stronger, and then come back.
Necromancers should be aware that the Undead are an extremely versatile resource. Their main purpose is to fight and soak up damage, but they can do much more. They can follow orders, scout, and even do menial tasks like mining, chopping, and gathering wood.
As a Pathfinder necromancer build, you should use interesting wizard items like the Handy Haversack. Also, ensure that you always have some corpses and bodies in reserve if you lose your undead army to a strong AoE spell or something else.
Finally, the point of this Pathfinder necromancer build is to make sure that you have fun. So don’t break your head about getting the best possible items and spells. You don’t always need the top or strongest possible options; just get the ones that will make the game the most fun.
Necromancer Build FAQs
Is there a necromancer class in Pathfinder?
There isn’t an official necromancy class in Pathfinder, but you can build one by making smart picks concerning your class, feats, and spells. For example, you should take the Wizard or Oracle Class and pick feats like the skeleton summoner feat. This way, you can build one yourself.
Are necromancers any good in Pathfinder?
Necromancer builds in Pathfinder are strong but not the most powerful build you can make. They are strong but have some obvious weaknesses – their ability to tank hits – makes it a great build for experienced players who want to enjoy a tough campaign and a good fight.
Are there any good necromancer NPCs in Pathfinder?
There are a couple of creatures in Pathfinder that are good necromancer NPCs. The two best ones are the Necromancer Cultist and the Undead Creator. They are very versatile and fun to use as a Dungeon Master. As a player, you should at least be familiar with these two if you are suspecting your DM to throw a necromancer your way!