I just re-watched the Castlevania animated series (which I enjoyed on many levels, yet again), and one of the characters that resonated with me this time was Hector. He is a human “forge-master” who creates undead monsters to fight for Dracula, but his character hook is that he is appalled by suffering. He may be helping Dracula to end the human race, but he doesn’t want it to be any worse than it needs to be. He just wants to be left in peace to play with his undead puppies. The other villains often say Hector is like a child, who needs to be managed and coddled, and lied to.
I really liked the idea of a person who loves animals, and hates suffering, and has a bunch of friendly undead puppies to play with. So in that spirit, I created the following spells for Necromancers in 5e. I think necromancy is underwhelming in that system, it has fewer spells than other magic schools, and the special abilities are very narrow and not terribly thematic.
So here are my new spells for friendly necromancers everywhere who would like to have more ghostly, ghoulish, or skeletal friends:
Pins and Needles. 60 feet, Action, Instantaneous. You point at one creature in range, which must make a Constitution save or else their limbs go numb. You choose either arms or legs. If legs, they fall prone. If arms, they drop everything they are holding.
Command Undead. 60 feet, Action, 1 round. You speak a one-word command (such as Stop, Sit, or Fetch) to an undead creature you can see in range. The target must succeed on a Wisdom save or else follow the command on its next turn. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can affect one additional creature for each slot level above 1st.
Animate Vermin. 5 feet, Action, 1 hour. You touch the ground and 1d6 skeleton rats emerge from the dirt. Each has 1 HP and cannot attack. These undead vermin are friendly to you and obey your commands, and act on your initiative. They know whatever they knew in life, primarily local landmarks and creatures. They can lead you to known locations, fetch objects that weigh no more than a coin or sheet of paper, scout around, generally frighten people, or just scamper and play. After one hour, they crumble into dust and cannot be revived. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can animate 1d6 additional creatures for each slot level above 1st.
Grasping Dead. 60 feet, Action, 1 minute. All targets within 10 feet of a point you choose must make a Dexterity save or else be grappled by skeletal hands that emerge from the ground. These hands deal 2d4 bludgeoning damage. Grappled creatures can repeat the save at the ends of their turns to escape or else they take 2d4 bludgeoning damage again.
Phantom Limb. Self, Bonus, 1 minute, Concentration. A giant ghostly tendril appears around your arm. Its reach is 20 feet. Your phantom limb can only grasp ethereal objects, and can attempt to grapple ethereal creatures using your spellcasting DC. Your phantom limb also grants you resistance to necrotic damage. As a bonus action, you can make a melee spell attack to strike a non-ethereal creature with the phantom limb, which deals 2d6 necrotic damage.
Spiritual Scout. 10 feet, Action, 1 hour. You summon the spirit of a deceased humanoid, which appears as a distorted ghostly figure hovering before you. This undead spirit is friendly to you and obeys your commands, and acts on your initiative. It has 10 HP and cannot attack. It cannot speak, but it can communicate telepathic images of what it sees. The spirit is ethereal, so it cannot interact with physical objects or creatures, but it can pass through solid objects and barriers in any direction at 40 feet per round. After 1 hour, it vanishes back to the plane it came from.
Shrieking Sentinel. 60 feet, Action, 24 hours. You summon a banshee to stand guard over a 20 x 20 foot area. If any creature enters the area, the banshee screams loud enough to be heard 300 feet away and deals 3d10 psychic damage to every creature in its patrol area. Then the sentinel vanishes.
Animate Monster. Touch, Action, 24 hours. You touch the corpse of a beast, plant, fey, or giant with CR 2 or lower and a semblance of life animates it. This undead monster is friendly to you and obeys your commands, and acts on your initiative. It has the same stats it had in life, but with half as many HP. It does not need air or food, and is immune to poison and disease. After 24 hours, it crumbles into dust and cannot be revived.