ESO’s Necromancer Shouldn’t Be a Class, and I Still Kind of Want to Play One

When Elder Scrolls Online announced the new necromancer class, I groaned inwardly. Not because I think it’s problematic from a lore perspective — according to some people it is, but I’m not invested enough to care — but because this game doesn’t need more classes.

A promotional for the necromancer class in Elder Scrolls OnlineThis is a rare position for me to take. I’m generally all in favour of adding as many classes as possible, as often as possible. I love having more options. But because of the way classes work in ESO, adding a new one feels like it’s limiting options as much as expending them.

Most skills in this game are class-agnostic. A class comprises only three skill lines. Rolling a new character just for those few skills feels more like a punishment than an exciting new toy.

What’s more interesting is when they add new skill lines that anyone can use, like the Psijic Order skills added in Summerset (gods awful grind to unlock them notwithstanding). That creates new options for everyone in a way that’s truly exciting.

In fact, not only would I say that ESO doesn’t need to add more classes, I’d go so far as to say they should do away with the current ones. Just open up the class skills to everyone. Right now ESO is straddling the line between a class-based game and a skill-based game, and it’s kind of getting the worst of both worlds.

That said… I kinda still want to play a necromancer in ESO.

Look, I just really like necromancy, okay? It’s one of my favourite archetypes.

Yet another random skeleton in Elder Scrolls OnlineIf I did roll one, I don’t think I’d play it as a necromancer per se. Since all the minions seem weak and disposable, trying to play this class as a full summoner seems like a recipe for disappointment*. However, it does look to have the potential to be a really fun “death knight” style class.

*(Tangent: Does anyone else find it weird that we’re now approaching a point where more than half of ESO’s classes will be pet classes? That’s another thing that makes the addition of the necromancer feel awkward. Its pets have to be weak so as not to step on the toes of the two summoner classes we already have.)

I’m picturing a melee bruiser sort of character who feeds off the life of their enemies. Maybe not a true tank, but a character who can soak up a lot of punishment while also dishing it out. Maybe an Orc. I haven’t played an Orc yet…

But I’m in no rush. In the past, Elsweyr would have been a must-buy for me — it’s possibly the number one area of Tamriel I want to explore, being a Khajiit fan — but I was also really hyped for Summerset, and it turned out to be a pretty big disappointment, so that has dampened my enthusiasm significantly.

Meanwhile I still haven’t touched Morrowind or about half of the base game’s content. Truthfully I haven’t played at all in a few weeks — my interest in ESO is a bit of a low ebb right now.

So the necromancer may tempt me, but it can wait… at least for now.

New article:

In other news, my latest article for MMO Bro tracks five turning points in MMO history.

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Dungeons and Dragons: TSW Homebrew Release

It’s taken me longer than I expected, but I have now cleaned up my notes for homebrew adapting the setting of The Secret World to fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons enough for a public release. Included in this are a core rulebook with everything you need to create characters and play in the setting, a short campaign of four “issues” (adventures), and a bestiary with stats for all the monsters in the campaign.

The Black Pharoah Akhenaten in The Secret WorldYou can download the files from my Google Drive.

Features include:

  • New death mechanics reflecting the immortality of Gaia’s chosen.
  • A sanity mechanic.
  • Racial choices replaced by five playable factions: The Illuminati, the Dragon, the Templars, the Brotherhood of Phoenician Sailors, and the Council of Venice, each with unique perks and abilities.
  • New feats, skills, and backgrounds (I’m especially proud of the Conspiracy Theorist background).
  • New subclasses for all playable classes (some classes are disallowed because I feel they clash with the setting). Some of these are direct adaptations of abilities and builds from the original MMO — leech heal with the Reaper archetype for rangers, or regen like Wolverine as a Predator rogue — while others are entirely new ability sets inspired by the lore of the setting. Pacify your enemies with the Sleepless Lullaby as a College of Binding bard, or follow in the footsteps of Theodore Wicker by choosing the Hellraiser origin for your sorcerer.
  • Rules for driving cars.
  • New and reflavoured items and equipment.

I tried to design this to be equally playable by both hardcore TSW fans and people with no prior experience in the setting (a difficult tightrope to walk). None of my friends played the MMO, and I do want this to be a tool to help introduce more people to the awesomeness of TSW. The core rulebook includes a lore primer to help people who don’t know TSW; however, you can ignore it if you already know the setting.

Some caveats:

  • This is an adaptation of the mechanics of the original version of The Secret World, not Legends. I don’t wish to rehash any debates, but I feel the original TSW was a superior game and a better expression of the setting.
  • The bestiary only includes monsters that were used in the campaign I wrote. If you want to create new stories, you’ll likely have to build your own monsters, or repurpose existing D&D creatures.
  • I fully expect some people to disagree with my interpretations of the setting (I expect my list of what classes are and are not playable to especially controversial). That’s okay. I encourage everyone to tweak things as they see fit. I’ll be surprised if anyone ends up playing this with exactly the rules I wrote.
  • I am not a professional game designer, and this hasn’t been rigorously play-tested. I tried to balance out the most broken stuff (my original draft for Backer warlock was horrifying), but there are still bound to be many balance issues. As much as possible, I tried to err on the side of making players too powerful rather than too weak.
  • More than anything else, I want to stress that I see this as a starting point for adapting D&D to tabletop, not a total conversion. Manage your expectations accordingly.

That’s about all there is to say. If anyone does end up playing using my homebrew, please let me know! I’d love to hear your feedback, and any war stories on how it went.