Multiclass Character Guide: Necromancer/Cleric

edited September 2015 in 13th Age
A second in a series of posts about multiclassing options in 13th age. Cleric/Necromancer has a narrower range of talent builds available than Commander/Paladin, as neither class gets bonus talents. Spell preferences are much easier to adjust on the fly than talent builds.

A note before proceeding: the Key Stat for Necromancer/Cleric is listed differently in the two different entries in the Key Stat chart on p 107, either Int/Wis for Cleric/Necromancer or Int/Cha for Necromancer/Cleric. Common sense and looking at the spellcasting stat of the cleric class tells us it should be Int/Wis. It is this assumption I am proceeding under in this guide.

I. OVERVIEW

The Cleric is a great class for multiclassing. It provides access to light and heavy armor, solid talents, and a huge variety of quick action spells that support your party. It is a little bit soft offensively without considering its buffs to be part of its DPS, though, and I've seen a (small but notable) number of posts arguing both that you don't need a dedicated healer in 13th Age and that the cleric gives up too much of the stuff you do need in exchange for "overhealing." As weird as it may sound to many players, some of us like being healers - perhaps the little brothers of DMs, invited along only on condition of playing cleric, have just been conditioned this way. I dunno. I can see how the 13th Age cleric would be spiced up by adding something else, though, and my vote is Necromancer, for the following reasons.

First, Necromancer offers even more healing to the Cleric's already powerful healing mastery. Channel Life + adventure feat gives a Necromancer/Cleric 4 heals per battle, which is huge. Death's Call offers a quick action healing for correctly identifying the next creature to fall, again, per battle (for bonus points, at high levels you can nominate a low HP ally before whacking him with Cone of Corruption accidental-like, then heal him back up with the recovery generated by Death's Call, a move called "Death's Wrong Number"). Now, both of those MIGHT have a downside, but what's life without a little risk? Maybe it'll all turn out okay!

Second, there are 3 Necromancer spells (Channel Life, Circle of Death, Cone of Corruption) that potentially damage your allies. They get compensated for this by being quite good at their job (Circle of Death, for example, is typically stronger and hits more targets than Fireball at the cost of lightly hitting allies and triggering late in the fight), but your clerical (and possibly necromantic) healing magic can heal allies of both enemy damage AND your own friendly fire, at once limiting your "overhealing" and unlocking really potent offensive options while limiting their downsides.

Third, a lot of the Cleric's offensive power is tied up in buffing allies attacks, while its core competency is in improving defenses and healing incoming damage. A lot of the Necromancer's power is tied up in creating more allies, which both creates more attackers and more meat shields. These interact synergistically to create new and interesting options that are both effective and highly pleasing to "pet class" enthusiasts. In some ways, Cleric/Necromancer creates a strong parallel to the Druid's Animal Companion talent, in that the combination brings both pets and the means to buff them.

Fourth, even outside of summons Necromancer is significantly blastier than the Cleric, and given that the Cleric's buffs and heals are often quick actions you can typically combine a Necromantic offense with Clerical defense simultaneously.

Fifth, the cleric is one of the few classes that can get by without ever rolling an attack from its class, and in conjunction with Wasting Away this opens up some interesting stat choices - see section III, below.

Sixth and finally, it's tradition! Tradition! Those who cut their teeth on 2nd or 3rd ed D&D are familiar with clerics, not wizards, having the strongest necromantic abilities. But in 13th Age clerics are the heal/buff/melee variety, with nary a 3rd level Animate Dead spell to be found. Fixed!

II. RACIAL CHOICES:

With intelligence or wisdom on offer, you've got human, dwarf, high elf, wood elf, gnome, aasimar, or tiefling as stat-compatible choices.

Human's bonus feat is always welcome, and their improved initiative does heavier duty than usual for necromancers as summons and skeletal minions both go on their master's initiative (especially nice for Blackamber Skeletal Warriors, but that's a late game benefit). Your ability to increase the escalation die can unlock or upgrade some of your spells (Circle of Death, the Last of the Wine, epic Chant of Endings), and your minions when feated (or, in case of summons, assisted via quick action) can add the escalation die to their own rolls. All in all, a great choice, and probably the best generalist choice.

Players looking to compensate for necromantic fragility can consider dwarf for the additional self-heal, but given your lower recovery values from Wasting Away a defensively minded-player might instead grab aasimar for a +2 boost to all defenses until hit. If you use the champion feat for Halo you can use your own heals to both undo incoming damage and restore your defenses, a nice double-dip. Or you can go with high elf for the "distance and intervening meat shields are the only armor I require" argument. Any of these are viable ways to shore up your defenses.

Wood elf has the potential to really unleash a storm of spells, whether the devastation of Circle of Death-> Judgment or a double Channel Life and a Heal all in the same round. Its huge potential benefit is balanced by its unpredictability, and on a poor initiative roll a single Elven Grace success may be roughly equivalent to Quick to Fight, so it's not a no-brainer, but highly worth considering.

Tiefling or gnome don't, in my opinion, offer quite a much as any of the above.

III. STAT CHOICES

The interaction between Wasting Away's low Con requirement, its adventurer feat attack bonus for necromancer spells, and the large number of non-attack cleric spells leaves you a bit more choice for stat builds than is normally available for multiclass characters. The question is, do you want the flexibility to draw on attacks from both classes, or are you willing to only attack as a Necromancer and simply use heals & buffs from Cleric?

It's not a simple choice. Both the Necro attack at-wills have some drawback (no control of target for Chant of Endings, slowness of ongoing damage and potential disruption by opponent using a standard action to break a stack for Death's Gauntlet). One option, then, is to take both a Death's Gauntlet AND Javelin of Faith, giving you a speciality option and a solid-but-vanilla option. Another is simply to take Javelin and save your Necro slots for your amazing dailies. In either case you can shuffle in quality Cleric attacks like Spirits of the Righteous or Sphere of Radiance. Flexibility is worth a lot. This build also allows you to wear heavy armor and either only take non-attack Necromancer spells (summons, forms, Wave of Decay, Death's Call, Feigned Defeat) or switch into heavy armor after you've expended all your Necromancer spells in a day. I wouldn't build a whole character around this concept, but it gives variety and options.

Giving up the above flexibility lets you really spread out your stats. If you select only Cleric spells without an attack roll and run Chant of Endings, this will allow you to run starting post-racial 16/16 or 17/17 Int/Wis with 8 Con. Using the Wasting Away adventure feat, your attack bonus will meet (at 16/16) or exceed (17/17, at levels 4,5,6 and 10) characters with 18/18 in their key stats. This gives you the option for investing in Dex for great initiative and AC (good synergy with Holy One) and/or higher Charisma to open up talent benefits (notably, with Redeemer)

Comments

  • edited September 2015
    IV. TALENT/FEAT COMBOS:

    With Int/Wis as Key Stats and your quick actions often spoken for, you're less interested in Cackling Soliliquist, Deathknell, and Redeemer than your typical Necromancer. You can make room for Redeemer with the 17/17 starting stat line, though. Likewise, the Summoner adventurer feat is of interest to almost any Necro/Cleric as it lets your summons add the escalation die without consuming your quick action.

    Note that I'm constitutionally incapable of skipping Skeletal Minion for Necromancers, so there are no 3 talent combinations listed below without it. If you can still look at yourself in the mirror after skipping the option for a permanent minion, go ahead. I'm sure you'll be very happy.

    Healing Master: Healing Domain +adventure feat, Community Domain +adventure feat. Heal adventurer feat, Channel Life adventurer feat. Ridiculously powerful healing and save granting along with recovery reshuffling gives you as complete a healing package as any party could want.

    Information Broker: Lore Domain, Death Priest, Speak with the Dead spell. Between bonus background points, auto 20's on Knowledge checks, informative seances, and talking with the dead, you've got one of the broadest knowledge bases of any character in the game. Make sure you partner with your GM on this character concept to see if they're eager to have a mouthpiece for information they want the party to have, rather than forcing your GM to choose between denying your character concept or short-circuiting what your GM hoped to be long mysteries. Gumshoe GM's are comfortable with the flow of "giving out information without immediately solving the mystery" and will love having this character around.

    Minion Master: Skeletal Minion + escalation feat, Summoning adventurer feat, any two of Vengeance Domain, Redeemer, or Trickery Domain. Vengeance has nice synergy with your ability to create additional allies that you actually don't mind soaking crits. For more general leader potential consider Trickery Domain (and be sure to refer to your Trickery target as one of your minions, they love that). Or you can run Redeemer and turn your summons into bombs or heals on death.

    Star-Crossed: Love Domain, It's Complicated talent. It's the attraction and repulsion of death that draws icons to you while generating more complications and conflict. Whee! At least you've got more power to dig yourself out of the hole...

    Wizard-Lite: The Dead wizard talent combines particularly well the with 17/17 Int/Wis + Wasting Away option, but this time with either Necro-at will. With adventurer feat you can grab Color Spray, the cyclic nature of which can combine quite well with Death's Gauntlet (if the timing works out right, of course). Shield or Utility Spell are particularly nice choices for your Champion -2 level bonus spell.

    V. SPELL CHOICES

    I'm not going to go into too much detail here on specific spells, as it's so easy to swap in and out spells if you don't like my choices. That said, there are a few things to consider.

    First is "what is my ideal first round?" For me, it's usually a summon and a broad buff. Both of these (potentially) last the entire battle and don't require a to-hit roll to execute, which makes them great choices for dailies while the escalation die is low. In early levels you won't be able to do this every battle, but as early as level 5 with an incremental advance a Necromancer/Cleric can have 3 summons and 4 broad effect spells. Note also that you can only have one summon spell active at a time, so in a perfect world you're running 1/battle (and in a normal 4 battle day, consider Wave of Decay as your 4th opener - like a summon it has no to hit roll to encourage you to wait for the escalation die and with clever targeting it can really add up to a lot of damage over a long battle).

    How you mix summons and buffs up provides a lot of flexibility and fun to this multiclass combo - are you throwing a broad effect Divine Endurance onto your horde of Summon Undead mooks to dramatically increase their survivability, Blessing your melee attackers to improve their accuracy and while also providing a THP cushion to keep your Horror's ongoing damage online longer, or simply tossing Strength of the Gods onto your barbarian, ranger, and wraith for maximum carnage? Up to you.

    Second is keeping a balance of options. As previously discussed, if you're running the lowered key stat + Wasting Away combo, you're not going to be attacking with your cleric spells, instead running only heals and buffs. If that is so, depending on party composition you might want to avoid taking Ghoul Form, which is another in-combat buff for an ally, in favor of more personal damage output, for times when your melee damage dealers are not optimal targets. There's no hard and fast rule here, just considering whether your party needs more single target damage, multi-target damage, control, or buffs. You can do any of these jobs, so experiment with different configurations for effectiveness and preference.

    One specific outgrowth of balance is to consider your "finishers." If your ideal opener is broad buff + summon, your finishers are powers that mechanically don't come online until later in the battle. This can be due to an escalation die requirement or mechanic (ex. Circle of Death, the Last of the Wine) or an enemy hp requirement (Command Undead, Terror, You Know What to Do, Finger of Death, Turn Undead, Judgment). Your lowered caster level means that spells with hp thresholds will be harder for you to activate than the designers intended on odd levels, so take that into account when planning the flow of battle.

    A final aspect of balance is to consider the possibility of a quick action bottleneck. Cleric has a lot of quick action options. Necro adds another 2, Death's Call and Feigned Defeat. You can drop your move for another quick action, but at some point, you might to run out of quick actions while wanting to move. Not a deal breaker, not even necessarily a problem, just something to remember.

    VI. CLOSING WORDS

    As before, the above is not to indicate that this is the only way to play a Cleric/Necromancer, just to show a bit of the potential of this combination. Once you get the hang of the opener / finisher mindset, it helps streamline the flow of play for this potentially complex class combination.

    Still, there are a lot of numbers to juggle. You will want to keep your minion & summon stat references readily at hand, because you're often going to be rolling your attack, your Skeletal Minion attack, your summoned creature attack(s), and potentially another player rolling their recovery before the next person gets to go, and you've got a lot of separate buckets of hit points to keep track of. I suggest that, as a courtesy, you use average damage for your attacks & the other players use average recoveries for your heal spells in order to speed up your turn when using this class combo - let the designers think slightly less of you, your tablemates will thank you for moving things along. Finally, if you're running Chant of Endings and/or Deathknell, ask your GM to inform you of relevant enemy HP data at the beginning of each of your turns and have a plan ready to go based on what you learn.

    Hope you enjoyed the guide. Now get out there and master the forces of light and darkness!
  • thanks, this is a great help in seeing the potential in classes
  • edited September 2015
    Thanks! I got a little more chatty in this one, probably well within TL:DR territory, but I enjoy thinking these things out and I thought I would share the product. I'm also trying to guide newer people into playable combinations - for example, Bard/Necromancer is pretty amazing on paper, but with all the extra necro stats and attacks to keep track of plus flexible attacks and sustain rolls it approaches both information overload and table-time hogging.

    Edits I would make: Under Minion Master, I imply Vengeance only triggers off allies getting critted. It's crit or drop, which is a particularly nice combo with Summon Undead's fragile mooks, although worth remembering it's got a once per turn maximum. It is worth asking your DM how enemy knowledge works before combining Redeemer with Vengeance, as your opponents may not ever wish to target your summons if dropping them hands out 2 attack rerolls and an explosion.

    Deathknell would be the third choice for the dedicated Healing Master character if you were willing to eschew Skeletal Minion.
  • I really need to dig into the system more to understand the nuances of the classes.  But basically, its about action synergy and complementary abilities.  I look forward to more of your class combos and handbook style guides.
  • I would say those two and manageability, yah. I usually try to combine a simpler class with a more complicated one - the former keeps your options below the information saturation point, while the latter makes it interesting. If you play a character that is more complex that you can handle it can really drag down the whole table's experience, and if you're hemming and hawing over what you do, take a 5 minute turn, and the next person to go is a Barbarian who does "attack->go" it can feel like you're hogging table time.

    Also, ignore the 17/17 statline for Dead Wizard. Sometimes I get confused with the "I got Class A's power through Class B, so feats that affect powers from Class B apply to it."
  • edited October 2015
    What races do you recommend for this multi-class combo?  Also, what stat line would you recommend with that race?

    To me, human sounds the best, as the extra feat and initiative boosting is always good.
  • edited October 2015
    I don't have an abstract answer to those questions. For me, it depends on what Talents you're choosing and what party members you're working with. If you've got a couple front-liners plus your Skeletal Minion to keep you safe-ish, you can probably skip the defensive races. That leaves the question of Human vs. Wood Elf, which, for me, is decided by whether or not you're going Dead Wizard. If you do, the potential for x2 Color Spray (I really like Color Spray as a damaging control/support option that melds perfectly with your Cleric/Necromancer supported minions game plan) when an even turn coincides with Elven Grace is pretty tempting, and I'd probably run Str 10 Con 8 Dex 14 Int 18 Wis 18 Cha 8 with Dead Wizard, Skeletal Minion, and Vengeance. Here you don't take a Necro at-will and might not take Wasting Away for a while, typically alternating between Javelin of Faith and Color Spray after your opening summon+buff combo.

    Otherwise, I think Human is your go to, and you have to choose between the above stat line for the balanced character, Str 8 Con 8 Dex 14 Int 17 Wis 17 Cha 14 for a Redeemer, or Str 10 Con 8 Dex 16 Int 17 Wis 17 Cha 8 for an AC specialist. Grab Wasting Away adventure feat with your Human bonus feat.

    You're unlikely to really love all the Cleric's non-attack spells, so I would tend to choose the balanced option if you're not grabbing Redeemer... a +1 to AC is nice but not worth closing down that many options for. Redeemer can be pretty great and is hugely thematic, though, so it depends how much you want it vs. more healing, more information, or simply running Skeletal Minion/Vengeance/Trickery.
  • To be clear: I think dual caster MC's are pretty strong, perhaps to the point of OP. I think MC Clerics make this trend less painful for other party members because they let everyone shine more and fight longer rather than hogging the spotlight, and that's not a bad feel, but I think it's worth saying.
  • Yeah, I'm leaning towards the minion master Redeemer/Vengeance build just because it actually plays into the theme of the setting a bit better.  I was looking for a way to get the Dead Wizard/Color Spray combo but it's too much MAD and I'd hate to give up on the Minion.
  • edited October 2015
    I suppose the last question is "do you want to drop a point of AC and a point of initiative to start with Cha 15?" If you do, Redeemer will be stronger for you between levels 4-6 and at 10. Necros really like extra defense, but you're still coming out ahead of a default Necro with Cleric light armor skills and the option to self-heal.

    Redeemer kinda creates MAD problems all by itself when used in a non-Cha key stat multiclass. It is much more of a no-brainer for a Bard/Necromancer, but the skill floor for handling that combo without annoying your party members on that one is a much higher with all the normal summoner Necro stuff plus additional song sustains and Battle Chant based flexible attacks. Fails the managability test. Plus you've got far fewer quick actions and self-heals to compensate for Necro fragility are much harder to do on a Bard.

    Let me know how it goes, if you would.
  • Here's what I'm going with at level 2:  Not sure about last feat, though, so might be worth it.

    Human, Male



    Str: 8  / -1

    Con: 8  / -1

    Dex: 14 / +2

    Int: 17 / +3

    Wis: 17 / +3

    Cha: 14 / +2




    HP: 23 [(7-1) + (6-1)/2 = 5.5 x 3 = 16.5, round up 17 + 6 = 23]

    AC: 14 (12+2) [light armor]

    PD: 10 (11-1)

    MD: 14 (11+3)

    Init: +2



    Talents

    Minion Master = have an undead minion to protect me since I'm squishy.

    Redeemer = minions explode for +Cha mod damage.

    Domain: Vengeance = allies/minions provide re-rolls to team when critted or dropped.



    Feats

    Human Bonus: Wasting Away Adventure Feat = Add +1 to all Necro spell rolls.

    Level 1: Skeletal Minion Adventure Feat = +Escalation dice to minion's attack rolls.

    Level 2: TBD



    Necro Class Features:

    Arcane Implements - Wand and Staff

    Death's Master - Must spend a relationship point with Lich King

    Ritual Magic



    Cleric Class Features

    Heal - 2/battle - Target can use a recovery to heal.

    Invocation of Vengeance - Daily, add double level to miss damage for yourself and nearby allies

    Ritual Magic



    Necro Spells:

    Level 1 x 4

    1. Channel Life (1/battle)

    2. Chant of Endings (At-Will)

    3. Death's Gauntlet (At-Will)

    4. Summon Undead (Daily)

    Also, any good advice on backgrounds and Icon relationships?
  • Backgrounds and icons... I dunno, I find those hard to separate from character lore and OUT. I'm fond of having some sort of Necroscope or ability to consult with particular body of spirits tied to a Necromancer character for one background, but you've got to define it clearly so it's not everyskill. Redeemer seems like it needs to be mentioned in your OUT... how are you releasing and purifying bound spirits? Some kind of angel trapped in flesh, weighted down by the souls of a thousand damned sinners that you're freeing one by one? Sounds Priestess-y to me. But that's completely up to you.

    It's not an awesome bell or whistle, but you might consider the base Heal adventurer feat. Moving your Heal ability range from "next to" to "nearby" is pretty nice. You've also got to start assembling Summoner adventurer feat, and working towards Champion in both Vengeance and Redeemer.

    Don't forget to pick your cleric spells.
  • Question on the skeletal minion talent, does the minion get a -1 level
    reduction as a result of the multiclassing?  The way I'm reading it, it
    think it could be interpreted either way, but the GM thinks so I.  I
    don't think so.  I assume you don't think it's got a -1 less due to multiclassing if you're recommending it as a must have talent.

    Sorry, I didn't forget the Cleric spells, but they got excluded from the copy/paste.

    Cleric Spells:

    Level 1 x 4

    1. Bless (Daily)

    2. Shield of Faith (Daily)

    3. Cure Wounds (Daily)

    4. Spirit of Righteousness (1/battle)

    Backstory
    Malphurious was once a disciple of the Lich King, trained in the arts of
    Necromancy to help the Lich King expand his empire.  Malphurious was
    forced to kill his family by one of the Lich King's commanders and raise
    them to join their undead army.  Shattered by doing it, Malphurious
    lashed out, killng the offending commander, raising him as a minion, and destroying the undead
    remains of his family.



    Broken and bordering on insanity, Malphurious vowed utter revenge  His
    deeds against the Lich King earned him a considerable enemy, but also
    some new friends.  He was found a small sect of priests and clerics
    aligned with the Priestess and the Gold Wyrm who worshipped a long
    forgotten God called Vengeanthis, who's name was the basis for the word
    vengeance.



    Malphurious joined the ranks of these secret sect and under their
    tutelage and guidance, was able to transform his small necromantic
    powers and build his clerical powers into a balance of good and evil
    that would allow for those who died to comeback to the material world
    and exact revenge for their deaths before having their immortal souls
    released from this world.



    Now a full member of the Sect of Vengeanthis, Malphurious travels the
    world to disrupt and thwart the Lich King's plan.  His hope is that
    through these pursuits he will gain power so that he can attempt to do
    battle to confront this scarred commander and exact his full vengeance.

    Icons
    Lich King - 1 Negative
    Priestess - 1 Positive
    Gold Wyrm - 1 Positive
  • edited October 2015
    Nice! I always like the "multiclass = I used to be omnicompetent and had most of my powers ripped away" angle, and using Redeemer + Vengeance as a thumb in the Lich King's eye is a nice touch. Probably won't have any negative repercussions...

    I don't assume Skeletal Minion is -1 level. Talents are never listed on p 141as something that gets -1 level (when you get bonus talents, yes, not the strength of talents), and in the book where they printed the rules for multiclassing and have a level 1 multiclass listing below level 1 for every class they don't include a level 0/level 1MC for Skeletal Minion. That's persuasive for me.

    The bad news, of course, is that your GM is the one you have to convince. The okay news is I'd probably take it anyway in this build. It's free damage and a free tactical entanglement, you could do much worse for a single talent.
  • I assume Minions and animal companions work the same as sneak attack damage. You get them as your highest possible level. Though I could be wrong.
  • I believe from clarifications that Sneak Attack lags, as it is tied to Rogue level specifically, while Animal Companion goes along with overall character level. Could be wrong, but that's what I saw on Twitter.
  • Yeah, to me, the distinction is whether it is based off PC level and not based off Class level.  To me, the talents are mostly based off of PC level, and thus not subject to the multiclassing penalty in my opinion.  Good news is, the DM agreed with my assessment.
  • Nice. Persuasion for the win!
  • So, just wanted to give an update on the build.  Still at level 2, but we've gone though quite a few encounters now.  The build doesn't do a ton of damage, but from a buff and heal standpoint it is fabulous.  The action economy is great, since cleric abilities are usually quicks, so you can still move and standard action.

    We should be hitting level 3, which doesn't unlock the level 3 powers.  So it will probably be a while until we hit level 4.  But, I will report back.
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