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Selkie May 12, 2021 17:57

Necromancer: every spellbook reviewed and rated
Into the Shadows

Nether Bolt - it's good for clearing early level animals... in fact, it's about all you'll have. It struggles with kobolds, orcs and doesn't harm the undead. This is a major drawback to the necromancer class. A large kobold is like an end game unique if you bump into one down a dark corridor on dlvl 3 (and you will). I got around this by throwing pebbles to survive. Magic missile is better in almost every respect and I think this spell needs a minor tweak. It should at least do something additional to non-immune monsters (like occasionally stun or slow). By the end game it does 15d4 but you won't ever cast it once you get disenchant reliable.

Side note - it's only playing necromancer that you come to realise just how many monsters are evil.... rogues, who knew?

Sense Invisible - I played a HE so cast it once for the XP.

Create Darkness - Another of the awkward quirks of the necromancer is the need for darkness to be able to cast reliably. It gets less of a problem the deeper you delve as fewer dungeons are lit. I used it occasionally in the early game to maximise SP.

Bat Form - I tried a few games playing as a stealthy rogue like character but it wasn't for me. I think it should be +2 movement speed instead of +3 speed to make it more appealing and actually serve some purpose in the mid/late game.

Read Minds - a decent detection spell that catches most of the scary stuff and predictably misses the things you care about (like vortices). I understand the concept thematically and like the way it reveals some of the dungeon around the character. I think it should also reveal some monster traits too to make it an easier class for beginner gamers. Since you're reading their minds it stands to reason you also learn something about the monster.

Dark Rituals

Tap Unlife - You gain spells quickly as a necromancer and this one couldn't have arrived soon enough. It's literally you're only spell to kill the undead at this stage so it's very welcome. Nice touch in restoring some mana and not costing anything to cast.... A+++ would definitely buy again.

Misama - I hate this spell with a passion. Draining XP, causing confusion and hallucinations (not to mention polymorphing monsters often into even more dangerous monsters) means I never use it. By the end game it's kicking out nearly 150 damage, but even with rconf, rchaos and hold life it's not worth the effort. I think it should deal more damage to make the penalties more acceptable and even if the damage was a dice roll.

Sleep Evil - meh, I think I used it once or twice for tricky mobs but it's mostly useless.

Shadow Shift - phase door is better, teleport self is better. This sits somewhere between the two and is neither fish nor fowl. You can't use it for combat situations to dodge LoS because you end up too far away and you can't use it for escaping because hounds and undead will still be on your scent.

Disenchant - the best necromancer spell? I mean you could certainly make a case for it. It's the first spell that is better than a mage alternative (pound for pound). Deals good damage but its real USP is the ability to reduce the casting chance of spellcasters. This is big, even in the end game. I love this spell so much and so few monsters resist it. Now my monster memory is full of "does not resist disenchantment" which I don't ever recall seeing until playing as a necromancer. The only downside I suppose is it costs a lot of SP so it takes a while before you can cast ten or so reliable bolts of disenchantment. Some uniques get absolutely slaughtered by it - think Eol the Dark Elf, Gorlim etc. Uniques that can cause real headaches for melee classes. The other slight negative is it never beams, but I don't want the moon on a stick.

Fear and Torment

Frighten - who uses a wand of scare monster? If yes then you might like this spell. If no (like most sensible players) then it's another junk spell.

Vampire Strike - first few times I played as a necromancer I didn't understand the potential of this spell. It doesn't deliver massive damage output but that doesn't matter, because if the monster can't inflict more than 50hp of damage to you then you literally can't die. You'll flit about them like a ballet dancer slowly sucking them dry. It also feeds you, so you stop having to worry about food or scrolls of pizza etc. Small possibility of becoming engorged.

Dispel Life - An unreliable hitter - one single dice that could do as little as one hp of damage maxing out at around 150. I did use this a lot. It's great for mobs of weaker monsters that you can't be bothered to chase. Great for mass breeders like lice and fleas.

Dark Spear - I think I'm right in saying this is the necromancer's only beam spell so it has its uses. Mostly I used disenchant, but this isn't far behind in terms of damage output and it's actually cheaper (10sp compared to 12). It obviously doesn't do anything other than hurt, might be nice if it blinded or something.

Warg Form - one of the better transform spells. Getting two extra blows is huge throughout the game. I tended to keep most uniques at arms length but with the right slay and the right situation then this is a good unique assassination spell. There will be a point in a necromancer's life when their melee is better than their spellcasting and warg form is a vital tool in the arsenal. Would recommend to anybody.

Deadly Powers

Banish spirits - In a way it's better than TO, in other ways it's much, much worse. So every monster in LoS is affected, making it great for clearing pits of dragons etc. Also uniques are affected (unlike with typical banish spells) which might be a good thing, but for me it wasn't. When I fight summoners then I use banish to get rid of the minions. With this spell the unique disappears too, which is exactly what I don't want to happen. Also knowing which monsters will disappear isn't always very easy. Is there something in the monster text that will tell you if the monster has a spirit? So it doesn't work on Z's and or v's which is a major blow. These are exactly the monsters I don't want to fight.

Annihilate - A very solid spell and will probably become your unique killer at a certain point in the game. One round of disenchant, three or four annihilates, one more disenchant, phase door and repeat. A classic formula and very profitable. Damage is predictable, which is rare for a necromancer until this point, so you can always do the maths (four times damage players clvl). It's biggest drawback is it doesn't harm undead or non-living monsters and these are usually the sort of monsters you want to kill from a distance.

Grond's Blow - Never touched it. I hate wrecking the dungeon because of some personality disorder, no doubt. I know most players love destruction spells, so I'm assuming this will be popular.

Unleash Chaos - Another junk spell. It causes more problems than it solves. I always want to be prepared for what I'm fighting against. I don't want it polymorphing into something else mid fight.

Fume of Mordor - This is right up there with disenchant as one of the best spells in the game (across any spell casting class). It is basically a free potion of enlightenment. You don't get it until clvl 40 but when you do you can scum for experience potions and rings. Very useful in every regard and no other detection spell comes close, not even for a rogue.

Storm of Darkness - it's basically mana storm but with more unpredictability. You might be putting out 4 damage against Morgorth, you might put out 400. It's a bit risky, but I like a gamble. Has the added bonus of not destroying dungeon loot which mana storm is excellent at doing. Costs 16 SP which isn't too much. I used this a lot once it arrived, although writing this annihilate does seem more responsible play since it's basically right down the middle of SoD in terms of damage output and it's more reliable. The big advantage of SoD is it casts a radius 4 ball.

Corruption of the Spirit

Power Sacrifice - I used this spell a lot in combination with vampire strike. So you gain mana, you lose HP. But then you regain HP by sucking some blood. They work well together but if it's not possible then chugging a few CCW will do the trick. It's less of a faff than draining wands for a mage (which also stuns for a turn or two) so I'll probably give it 1-0 to the necro in this regard.

Crush - I just didn't understand this spell at all. It costs more than annihilate (30 compared to 20 SP) so what's the idea? It does the same damage. Utterly pointless if you ask me and a waste of a valuable page in the final dungeon spell book. I suppose the only benefit is it kills golems, undead, nonliving monsters which annihilate can't.

Vampire Form - again another pointless spell. Vampire strike is more predictable. You lose HP when you transform and you can't case other spells or chug potions. You get a few extra buffs (like hold life) but they're so minor it's not worth the effort.

Curse - I started using this a bit more towards the end. Its a bit unpredictable because it does more damage to more injured monsters but can put out around 5 d150 to very poorly monsters. I think this might be one of the most damaging spells in the game. Of course, the downside is it costs you 100HP which is around 1/8th of your total health towards end game. It's a heavy price to pay... maybe too heavy. But in those moments when you're like: "Why won't you just die?" then this spell serves a purpose.

Command - junk junk junk. Sounds fun. Is less fun than you'd expect. Very unpredictable too. For example, if you are experimenting with a summoner and you use their magic then you can summon a swarm of hostile monsters who aren't joining in the fight on your side, instead they make a beeline for @ who is stood in a dumb stupor and very exposed and susceptible. I'm sure there are some clever tricks with Command that I've not been smart enough to figure out, but so far it's a dud for me. I suppose there's a small novelty value in taking control of a powerful wyrm, but that's all it is - a novelty.


I enjoyed the necromancer class overall. It feels like a much more finesse spellcaster than a mage (and much less powerful). There's no killer app, like the mass banishment spell. I think the only spells you really need are disenchant, vampire strike, warg form, annihilate and fume of Mordor.

There's definitely more melee potential with a necromancer, compared to a mage thanks to warg form and with the right weapon you can be putting out serious damage per turn.

Like a blackguard, the game is more unpredictable because of the single high dice rolls inherent in many of the spells. Even disenchant is two dice, whereas a mage might be rolling eight dice for its equivalent spell (something like frost bolt). I actually really like this feature, but can appreciate many more cautious players won't enjoy the unpredictability.

You resist darkness and nether as a class, so it doesn't make sense to play as a half orc. I played as a HE (like always) and you start the game resisting both light and dark which is cool.

After experimenting and dying a few times I decided to spend all my points on STR and INT and neglected CON. STR is key for carrying spellbooks and staffs and also ammo for a launcher. You seem to gain spells quickly in the early game and are quickly onto the third town book. I then focussed on CON around dlvl30 and started chugging potions of toughness regardless of what stat got nerfed. INT is vital because you want disenchant to be reliable and to be able to cast four or five times. Carrying a *slay animal* weapon and wearing a hat of intelligence is probably the best use of slots in the early/mid game.

The most painful aspect of the game is finding all those lovely randarts with light bonuses. There are sooooo many that you have to disregard (regardless of +3 STR or CON) just because your spell failure rate jumps from 12 per cent to 40 per cent. I think there should be a special necromancer option where there are a few unlight artifacts. It does seem you can get away with +1 light on a weapon or armour without increasing your overall light. I have +1 light on an axe, a ring, armour and a shield and I'm still at 0 light. How does this work?

Just a random question - does a spell like dispel life roll a dice for every monster in LoS or is it a singe dice roll that applies evenly to every monster? For example, you see six trolls and cast dispel life, does it roll six dice or just one?

Nick May 12, 2021 23:06

Thanks, excellent review. The drawbacks you point out are pretty much all intentional - necro is meant to be a tough gig. A few individual things:
  • Annihilate does char. level x 4 damage to a single monster. Crush kills everything in line of sight with less than that many HP, so it's a crowd control spell.
  • Necros can wield anything with +1 light without increasing light radius.
  • Dispel life does one roll and applies that to everything.

archolewa May 13, 2021 00:22

Out of curiosity, what is the intended draw of the Necromancer class? Is it intended to be a challenge class, or is it meant to be a puzzle, and if you can figure out how to play them, then they aren't any harder than any other class, just different?

I know the Blackguard does a similar twisting of the Angband rules, and that makes it very difficult to wrap your head around. However, once you figure it out you're rewarded with the most single target damage of any class. I don't find them any more difficult than Warrior or Paladin, just different.

Reading this review, that doesn't seem like it's necessarily the case for Necromancer? Are they intended to have some sort of unique control over the evil denizens of the dungeons? Because based on this review at least, it looks like the spells that give that "unique control" are duds.

Nick May 13, 2021 03:45

I think the best answer is that it attempts to feel like a Middle Earth necromancer ought to. It has unusual powers, but pretty much all of them have a down-side because it is fundamentally at odds with the natural order. So I guess functionally it might be a challenge class, but it wasn't really developed from a pure gameplay point of view.

Pete Mack May 13, 2021 05:07

That said, damage maxing out at 200HP is pretty harsh. That isn't much better than OoD, at ~171, and that comes with unlimited healing.

Cuboideb May 20, 2021 00:45

I tried miasma for a bit. In thery, once you get rconf and rchaos it could be a good unique killer.

For non-uniques the polymorph effect can be nasty. It could be possible to change chaos so that it polymorphs the monster first and then applies the damage? Every time the monster changes it gets full hp.

Julian May 20, 2021 01:12

Or just roll the damage as a percentage over

Pete Mack May 20, 2021 01:41

That'd be a mistake, otherwise it could be used for free EXP and loot. Damage should be absolute, if this change is made. Fortunately Death Mold is immune, or it'd still be a real exploit

Nick May 31, 2021 01:59

OK, after a few uncomplimentary reviews of Corruption of Spirit in particular, I've got some suggested changes to necro spells:
  • Replace Miasma with Crush in Dark Rituals. At CL10, Crush kills blacklock mages and ironfist priests; at CL22 it's killing baby dragons.
  • Replace Crush in Corruption of Spirit with a Miasma-like spell, but disenchantment instead of chaos.
  • Vampire form's infravision and stealth buffs go from 3 to 5, and it gets +5 speed as well
  • Command gets a better description, so you can see all the things to try up front. I believe there are many good uses for this spell; a couple of examples off the top of my head:
    • Command something, make it drop all its stuff, teleport it away.
    • Kill the Mouth of Sauron by walking a great bile wyrm into a corridor in front of him and breathing.
    • Use an umber hulk or a hasty ent to tunnel.
There will be some changes to mana costs, obviously, too.


wobbly May 31, 2021 10:59

Command suffers from the fact that losing control of @ for multiple turns is potentially suicidal. All for a spell that is unreliable and higly situational. I have good memories of vampire form and power sacrifice is strong. As to the changes, sound good but will have to test.

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