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Basic Information

A necromancer is a wizard who practices necromancy enough for other people to notice. This is normally the fantasy version of necromancy that goes above and beyond simple divination and involves much tooling about with the undead and similar nefarious activities. Such a worker may also be called a thanaturge, which is a more accurate (but less common) etymology.

Due to the general cultural perception of necromancy (based on Judeo-Christian religious law and the whole corpse-fiddling thing) a necromancer is almost always chaotic evil - or at the very least deranged. Even in settings where necromancy includes magic that is not directly malevolent (for example where it includes magical surgery and similar effects), there will tend to be something unwholesome about the practitioners - most of whom be mad scientists somewhere on the Mengele-to-cackling-loon continuum.

Common practices will normally start with grave robbing - for corpses rather than grave goods - and proceed to necrophilia, murder and the incontinent release of dangerous undead critters into public places. The magical-medicine types may also add vivisection and other forms of unethical experimentation on a variety of species, ranging from bacteria to humans.

The necromancer is also typically a loner - most of his social circle are traditionally undead, and if he has mooks, they probably will be as well, with the possible exception of a henchfreak or two serving in the role of Igor. If he does associate with normal humans, it will probably be as a depraved aristocrat or on the staff of one of the darker wizarding schools or universities. He may also have be part of a "cult" or other underground organisation. A few, subversive settings may have socially acceptable necromancy, but it will usually turn out to be some sort of theurgy or shamanism associated with ancestor worship.

Motivations for a necromancer will vary - some will be scholars interested in the nature of life and death, others unhinged by bereavement or fear of mortality. Many simply seek power through the blind obedience of undead mooks and/or immortality as a lich. A few, mostly those in poorly plotted pulp works, will simply be in it for teh evulls. Necrophilia is a common co-morbidity for these sort of people. For an after the end setting a necromancer may very well have got into his field as a way to tap the knowledge of the ancients by more direct methods than archaeology. Where "the ancients" look a lot like abusive precursors this can become recursive - essentially learning necromancy to learn necromancy.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A common villain and ripe for subversion.
  • An edgy choice of PC, especially if the GM makes sure that NPCs react appropriately to knowledge of his profession.
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