Dev Blog: Sienna the Necromancer - Gameplay: Creating Combat

Hello there, my name is Karl and I’m one of the designers on the v2 team. My task is to follow up our glorious leader’s post on general necromancer production with some insight into some of the challenges and decisions we made on the gameplay level.

Creating a career starts with a fantasy plucked from the Warhammer universe that we want to translate into our game. Usually the fantasy gives you a hunch about what tools the career possesses, how it is going to play and what role it will fill. The Necromancer deviated slightly from this. We knew that she was going to summon skeletons and throw death magic around. How exactly she was going to play and what role she would fill was a bit more of a uncertainty as player minions as a concept was completely new.

Raised skeletons in Warhammer lore are not known to be the most kill-y unit. They serve as a vanguard to keep their master and their more important units safe. A replenishable undying frontline. We drew inspiration from this and decided that this is what Sienna’s skeletons should achieve at a base level. A sorcerer summoning their own frontline.

To keep this post to a reasonable length I won’t go into detail about every iteration that the skeletons and AI versus AI fighting went through. Every aspect about the skeletons saw intense iteration, aspects such as summoning, formation, combat, health and duration to mention a few. The skeletons bounced between being her career skill and passive multiple times but finally landed as the career skill at the center of the necromancer kit. 6 summonable Skeletons that engage enemies near Sienna.

Process of tweaking aggro and leash range of skeletons when Sienna is not actively fighting.

As the skeletons grew into proper minions assisting Sienna in combat we could start to consider questions that a lot of summoner classes in games have to answer to. How are the minions tied into the second to second gameplay? Summoner control has two extremes with each their own audiences. One side being the micro intensive extensive control over the available minions, high skill floor and satisfying skill ceiling with a lot of expression. The other side is the more passive way where the summoner does little to impact the actual behavior of the summons but rather supports them with things like debuffs and control, letting their servants do the work for them. We wanted to place the Necromancer somewhere in between, allowing for some level of control to gain more from your skeletons without making it a barrier of entry to the career.

Without any player input the skeletons will stay near Sienna, attack nearby enemies and soak up enemy threats. To give players control (and tying in the skeletons in the second to second gameplay), we created three commands: attack, defend and release, granting players the ability to issue targets, reposition and even sacrifice their skeletal servants.

The nature of being a spell caster with 6 extra bodies around to soak enemy attention gave way to her two main roles. A backline spell caster using her personal frontline as a buffer while dispensing death and a control focused summoner utilizing the great threat soaking potential of minions to grant the party breathing room. This we felt slotted into the Sienna career lineup.

To reduce vision blocking when controlling a lot of skeletons only 4 are forced to move in formation in front of Sienna.

Regarding her weapons, one side was already solved. The Scythe, a staple to necromancers in any rpg and Sienna’s first proper two handed weapon. Great weapons with great cleaves are nothing new to Vermintide and Sienna was missing out on the fun.

The Soulstealer Staff required a bit more pondering. Here the challenge was to find gameplay in the form of spells that were different from her other staves but still befitted the Warhammer lore of necromancy. The staff saw many iterations and we decided on the flavorfully on point soul drain which is slow but tackles even the biggest of brutes. Building on the theme of control we also gave the staff a haunting curse allowing the necromancer to keep multiple elites under control as they are brought low by her Necromantic magics and servants.

Trying out the soulstealer staff with the “Cursed Blood” talent.

To go along with her weapons and calcium crew, Sienna’s main passive Malediction of Nagash causes her Necromantic magics to increase the damage the enemy suffers from her. The intent behind this passive is to transform Sienna’s damage over time effects into a way to enable other parts of her kit whilst also tying in the fantasy of necromantic magics draining enemy vigor.

Which brings us the Necromancer’s talent tree. The main purpose of the Vermintide talent trees is of course offering different ways to play the career within its allotted gameplay space, but also to extend the career into more specialized versions of the power fantasy. The challenge then is to provide the players relevant options for specialized playstyles that slots appropriately into the lore. The identities we selected that would serve as guidelines were summoner, caster and melee.

The summoner works with their undying servants and their talents affect skeleton numbers, strength and how often they can be summoned. Suggested talents for a summoner build.

  • Vanhel’s Danse Macabre: Sienna gains 12% attack speed when 4 or more Skeletons are raised.

  • Spirit Leech: Killing an elite enemy restores 15% cooldown.

  • Army of the Dead: Raise Dead now causes Skeletons to remain for 20 seconds before decaying.

The caster sees their skeletons as shambling batteries of magic to be used as sacrificial pawns in their flurry of magical spells, their talents affect ranged power, overcharge management and damage over time effects. Suggested talents for a caster build.

  • Death Ascendent: Casting spells grants 5% increased Ranged Power for 6 seconds. Max Stacks 5.

  • Lost Souls: Venting 20% Overcharge unleashes a soul that steals health from a nearby enemy, restoring 2 temporary health.

  • Barrow Blades: Skeletons now carry two cursed blades. When raised, and when attacking, they ignite enemies, causing damage over time.

The melee fantasy is for necromancers who prefer to utilize their instruments of death at close range, their talents affect melee prowess, control and survivability. Suggested melee build talents.

  • Reaping: Critical strikes have Unlimited Cleave and 25% increased Power.

  • Soul Harvest: The Malediction of Nagash rips the soul from targets that die. Harvesting 8 souls causes the next attack to be a guaranteed Critical Hit.

  • The Curse of Undeath: Casting Raise Dead reduces damage inflicted on Sienna by 80% for the next 3 hits.

While the goal is to create talents that enhance the tools and feeling of a specialized build, the aim is to create talents that don’t pigeon-hole players too much and are useful on their own to allow for tinkering and mix-and-matching.

So whether it is halting the enemy advance with shambling walls of bone, shriveling the enemies life essence or swinging big scythes around we hope that you will enjoy bringing death to the enemy in one way or another and we look forward to your response on the necromancer. As we pick up on our efforts to balance and evolve the game, we will keep a close eye on the numbers as the necromancer and her bad to the bone crew of restless dead enter the fray.


Hm, there are a few talents which I would have to see in action to evaluate them better. Just reading some of this stuff seems quite … powerful like:

Does this stack when raising deads multiple times? Does it have a timer? Or will this be another talent like Ranger’s Bomb Talent that will be spammed into the void at the beginning just so he can stack 5 free bomb throws. Also 80 % damage reduction is the highest value in the whole game, I think?

What is considered casting a spell? LMB? RMB? It seems rather easy to stack and means she could easily have a near permanent 25 % ranged damage bonus.

Mostly curious on the conditions. The first weeks her powerlevel will be discussed to death anyway.

Other than that, it was an interesting post. Also, interesting to see that you try to give some insight on the different core builds you foresee for the career.

“Everything’s better than flames!” I really love Sofia :joy:

What’s the duration for the skeletons (and the basic cooldown): 20 sec with a talent seems really underwhelming

When will it be available on the steam page? Will it have the same price point as the others and include a cosmetic bundle?

What’s the reward for staying true to Warhammer Fantasy lore and killing anyone using this career?

They get to kill the rest of the U5 and then raise their corpse to fight.

But yeah, still annoyed about it

Infinite! They last until death, or until Sienna casts Raise Dead again. What the Army of the Dead talent does is make it so that your already existing skeletons don’t immediately disappear when you re-cast Raise Dead, and instead linger on for 20 extra seconds.

Yep! Same as previous DLC careers.


This is great to know

Are the skeletons smart enough to rescue Sienna from assassins, leeches, and pack masters?

Also is the scythe unique to the Necromancer? Or can Unchained take it and it becomes a flaming scythe?

This is easily my most anticipated career alongside Engineer Bardin so I look forward to it!!!

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Probably a ticket to our support desk and a penalty for griefing depending how often you do it. :person_shrugging: True Necromancers raise the dead, not help it along.


The Scythe can be used by the other careers. The Staff not. I think this can also be clicked in the launcher.

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Oh man, those teal flames look so nice! I’m starting to see why this career took so long to get right. It looks like there are a lot of details that would have to be accounted for when having skeletons in the game not to mention the obvious strain to the relationship of the U5 of having a Necromancer on the team.

It certainly will be interesting to see how things play out with Sofia, and I’m still holding out hope for a DLC with an undead enemy faction and/or more chaos faction enemies and more new Skaven enemies.

A part of me feels glad that this is the final character DLC, so that now the focus could shift to other things like new weapon packs, balance patches, and new enemies, maps, and missions, but I wouldn’t turn down new careers.


Poor Witch Hunters being banned for doing their job.

That will be sweet.

I really hope they will get proper flame effects on the non-necromancer careers

Very cool solution! I’m very much here for the undead army fantasy, this is an elegant way to get that without it getting out of control. Although saying that…will it do what I hope it will do when combined with a concentration potion? :skull: :skull: :skull:

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If you want to make a wave of skeletons, I bet somebody will make a mod that does that just for the fun of it.