Feats of Necromancy in Dungeons and Dragons that Are Technically Not a Scam


Dungeons & Dragons is a game with an absurd number of rules. This complexity leaves gaps to be exploited — ways to use effects and functions that go beyond their intended use. In particular, the school of necromancy offers a variety of spells that the rules can circumvent to create confusing cases or strange interactions.

Some of these exploits are more egregious than others. Dungeon masters and players should carefully consider the use of the worst violators. Anything the players can do, the Wizard can do in return; similarly, exploits may not lead to the fun, collaborative storytelling and adventure that Dungeons & Dragons facilitates.

However, players should experiment and find entertainment where they can use it. Some tables will get a lot of fun from such an exploit, while others simply won’t. As always, players should talk to their dungeon master and other players — communication is key.

Dungeons & Dragons Warlocks always get the maximum amount of temporary Health points from False Life

While other classes can handle it, this rather famous trick is really only practical for warlocks — fortunately, the two-level multiclass is popular, powerful, and potentially very interesting. At the second level, warlocks gain access to Creepy Spells, many of which allow them to cast 1st-level spells without spending spell cells or similar resources. One Invocation, Fiendish Vigor, does this for False Life, a simple necromancy spell that gives the caster a small amount of temporary life points. This number is variable, so the False Life mileage may vary, but while randomness may be part of the game, the help of their patrons allows Warlocks to fake the odds in their favor.

The fifth edition of the D&D rules for temporary life points is apparently designed to prevent fraud. If a creature that already has temporary hits should get more, they don’t add up — instead, the creature decides whether to use the amount it had previously or the amount it would get from the new effect. With Fiendish Vigor, a Warlock can cast False Life for free every six seconds and always choose a higher value of temporary life points. Although ineffective in the heat of battle, a few moments right before or after a fight can be a valuable window for a Warlock to strengthen their vitality. This interaction works completely — it may even be the intended use of Fiendish Vigor — so Dungeon Masters should allow their players to use this trick.

In Dungeons & Dragons, you can easily prevent the simulation of death

Pretending to be dead is a strange spell—for an hour, a voluntary target appears dead on any external inspection, magical or otherwise. Aside from the quest strikes outlined by the Dungeon Master, or the occasional clever use by players, this spell is unlikely to appear in a D&D game. However, there is a loophole that can be used to confirm whether a dead body is really dead. D&D rules often distinguish between creatures and objects. Generally speaking, a creature is all living things—at least alive enough to have indicators of characteristics. Then everything else is an object. This difference is usually intuitive, but there are more complex cases. Corpses, for example, would be a gray area if Jeremy Crawford hadn’t confirmed that they are objects, not creatures.

Another key part here is witchcraft. Reality-altering D&D spells appear in almost every session, and in most cases the rules are pretty simple. Most spells determine what they affect, whether it’s a creature, an object, or a caster. However, these rules are not explicitly defined, and the game quickly gets confused. As written, spell descriptions assume there are valid targets when someone tries to cast a spell, but what happens if there aren’t any? Either the spell doesn’t do anything, or it can’t be cast at all. As a result, spells with a strict definition of what they affect can be used to prevent Pretending to be dead. Corpses can be objects, but a creature under the “Pretend to be Dead” effect is still a creature because it is subject to different conditions for the duration of the spell. Try to apply a Polymorph spell that can only affect a creature — a “corpse” and see if it works.

In fact, this interaction is neither funny nor honest, and definitely not the way the rules are supposed to be interpreted. Good dungeon masters will most likely not allow this. This completely bypasses the point of Feigned Death due to the confusing interaction of rules. If the villain uses this trick, it will seem cheap to the players, and if the players use it, they use the knowledge of the meta-game. Come to think of it, in order to try this, someone must have already suspected Faking Death – and if they do, they’re either right or paranoid.

Necromancy with your own hands in Dungeons & Dragons

Without any outside help, only Wizards and Priests can revive the dead, but why shouldn’t Bards and Wizards take part in the fun?


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