Campaign: The Eight Arms and the Shadow Invasion
I feel like every third PC can be described as “exceptionally handsome, but impulsive and foolhardy”. I might as well describe somebody who has that exact phrase on his wiki page.
Sammael was that celestial necromancer I reference now and again in my posts. He was an aasimar oracle of bones, so not only was he part-angel he was also the party’s healer. His philosophy on necromancy could be summarized as “What? It’s magic like any other magic. It’s not like anybody was using those corpses.” He dutifully failed to notice the judgmental stares of people around him, the souls of those he had wronged literally haunting him, and being constantly told he had the faint smell of death on him. It’s not that he disagreed with everybody’s assessment of him (though he did), it’s that his low Wisdom never let him associate “everybody dislikes me” with “I might have forcibly exhumed their parents”. That’s how stats inform fun characters.
Sammael had an menagerie, another one of those things about D&D everybody hates because they saw somebody do it once or heard about it from a friend of a friend. It included:
- FedEx, the zombie dragon who was too dumb for much besides ferrying packages from one end of the city to another. He never saw combat mostly because he could barely fit through the door of the room where he stayed.
- The Versatile Animated Skeletal Haulers, six orc barbarian skeletons. Sammael actually went out of his way to find, kill, and animate orc barbarians for their alarming Strength scores. They also never saw combat and were mostly used to carry gear, though they did wear red leather dusters and carry guns just in case.
- Boni Bologna the Skeletoni Oni, a skeleton with natural flight and fast healing who flew far above battle and harassed enemies with a longbow. He did participate in the campaign’s few outdoor battles on the Material Plane.
- A grey render zombie whose name is lost to time. Sammael could summon this one at will but rarely did after the conversation described here
Take a drink.
The running theme here is “the menagerie didn’t participate in combat much”, and that’s what made them great. They were story tools to show how deep into necromancy Sammael was, but they didn’t detract from the rest of the party’s importance or screen time. This is how a good, workable menagerie is. Its members show up, perform some task, and leave. They don’t hang around and suck up table time or destroy the action economy, which are the reasons summoners get as much hate as they do. A summoner is an entirely valid concept (I’ve run for four, one of whom is later in the month, and played another) and none of them have monopolized our time. It’s like anything else: as long as you have a reasonable person with some grasp of the rules running them, they’re no problem.
When last we saw Sammael he was going on a solo adventure with two strange men he’d just met to find a magical artifact that may or may not have existed. He won’t be back for the next campaign with his fellow party members, but I’m sure he’s not dead. Pretty sure.