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A necromancer, known as a headshrinker on the Malatran Plateau,[1] was a specialist wizard of the school of necromancy,[5][6][7][8] though the term was sometimes misapplied by commonfolk to anyone practicing necromancy or casting spells from its school.[9] These wizards harnessed the energy that brought life to everything, draining it from their opponents and using it to wield powerful magic.[5][6][7][8]

Typical! Them necromancer types always find some reason not to do a hard day's work in the fields!
— Farmer Callaway[10]

Culture[]

Humans constituted the overwhelming majority of necromancers.[11] Some viewed them as the only ones capable of mastering necromancy,[11][12][13] whilst others felt these demographics were merely an issue of racial focuses – humans had shorter lifespans than all the demihuman races, thus death from natural causes was of greater concern to them.[14] Necromancers could be found amongst other races though, such as dragons, drow, driders, githyanki, very rarely orcs,[15] and yuan-ti.[16] There were also occasional instances of human-adjacent races taking up the mantle of necromancer, such as the yuan-ti pureblood Semorav[17] and the earth genasi Espera.[18] Amongst the various races of dragons, the ones with the greatest propensity for being necromancers were shadow dragons.[15]

Drow necromancers were usually male, as wizardry was one of the few ways they could advance in the matriarchal udadrow society.[15]

Common personality traits among necromancers included vengefulness,[13] excessive or extreme secretiveness,[8][13] paranoia,[8] being clinical or meticulous, brooding, lack of humor, and stoicness. Though those who befriended necromancers found they were just as capable as any wizard of being thoughtful and loyal allies.[19] But the traits that were vital for any potential necromancer was mental stability and strong self-control[20] or willpower,[19] as frequenting traffic with undead spirits and more powerful Lower Planes creatures could exact a tole on the wizard's mind. If a necromancer was lacking in a strong will, there was a strong possibility of falling prey to madness and insanity.[20][21]

Their manner of dress tended to reflect their outlook on life,[13] with practitioners of "black necromancy" and "white necromancy" dressing in black and white robes respectively,[13][22] though in the latter's case it was mostly done in order to offset the bad reputation of necromancers. Particularly powerful necromancers were known to feature highlights of silver, red, or gold in their robes.[22] Halruaan wizards also bandied together under a particular symbol to represent necromancy. This symbol was that of a raven, perched upon the point of a triangle, which symbolized death and the renewal found in death.[23]

Alignment[]

While not all necromancers were morally corrupt,[6][13] they were more often than not evil instead of good,[8][19] as the corrupting effects of death and undeath preyed on those with even the slightest inclination towards the former. They had little tendency towards either chaos or law. And according to some estimates it was rare to find necromancers that were neutral on matters of morality and ethics,[19] though other estimates put the majority of necromancers as being strictly neutral.[24]

Lairs[]

Necromancer lair

The lair of necromancer Balthazar in the Moonrise Towers.

Whether it as due to their personal worldview, such as seeing little need for the company of the living,[19] or the discrimination they and their chosen school of magic faced,[25][26] necromancers often retreated far out to the lawless fringes of civilization to make their homes and conduct research in peace.[19][25][26] This was especially the case for the archetypal evil necromancers[27] and the insane philosophers.[28] Some took up home within deep caverns or abandoned structures, such as ancient castles and crypts.[19] Others saw fit to newly construct a tower upon the grounds of graveyards, old battlefields, ruined cities and other such places where the raw materials for creating undead could be found in abundance.[25]

Despite the many difficulties they could face living in most of civilization, some necromancers, such as those of the anatomist variety[29] and the most powerful of drow necromancers,[15] chose to live within the confines of large towns or cities. Such individuals usually had jobs, like that of a physician[29] or a teacher in one of drow society's colleges of sorcery,[15] and required an abundant supply of cadavers that would be hard to come by out in the wilderness.[29] Unless necromancy was accepted within society, as was the case with drow,[15] living in civilized society required necromancers to disguise their profession.[26][30] Male drow necromancers would typically flee from the safety of their cities and into the deeper bowels of the Underdark whenever they questioned their role in the matriarchal hierarchy of udadrow society, lest they be transformed into a drider for their insolence.[15]

Following the Spellplague, necromancers often established their labs in places either connected to the Shadowfell, or within the very Shadowfell itself, in order to study that plane's part in undeath.[31]

Reputation & Relationships[]

Necromancers vs harpers

Necromancers – enemies of the Harpers.

One of the great hurdles to being a necromancer was the near-universal social stigma attached to necromancy,[6][26][29] its manipulation of death-related energies,[6] its channeling of spirits of the dead,[26] and the dissection of cadavers.[29] It was considered by many to be an inherently evil school of magic[8][32] or "forbidden art",[8] and in the land of Mulhorand was often considered a violation of Ma'at.[33] Necromancers were consequently viewed by much of the general populace as ominous or nefarious individuals.[6] In many places they were likely to be barred from establishments[26] and face harassment, arrest, imprisonment, or even death.[34] However, necromancers elicited comparatively less distrust and enmity than warlocks.[35]

Some places in the Realms tolerated the presence of necromancers, viewing it as impertinent to exclude necromancy among the other schools of magic. Such places included the city of Ravens Bluff,[36][37] the city of Calimport[38][39] as well as the wider nation of Calimshan during the Shoon Imperium,[40] the necromancer built city of Pholzubbal,[41] the necromancer-ruled island of Sahu,[42] the southern magocratic nation of Halruaa,[23] most drow settlements, the githyanki cities of the Astral Plane,[15] and the eastern magocratic nation of Thay, whom had some of the best necromancers in all of Toril[43] and for a long time was ruled by the necromancer Szass Tam.[44]

Some places even had necromancers on governing bodies where each of the eight schools of magic were represented. These included the Ministry of Art, the magic branch of Ravens Bluff's government,[36][37] the Conclave of Sshamath,[45][46] and Thay's Council of Zulkirs.[47] And some necromancer ruled nations employed these wizards to bolster their armed forces with undead,[48][49] such as Thay[48] and the Shoon Imperium with its Necromancer Corps.[49] However, even in some of these places where their presence was tolerated, necromancers were still viewed with suspicion and looked down upon. Such was the case in Ravens Bluff[36][37] and Halruaa.[23] In the latter, they were the least respected of all specialty wizards,[50] with Halruaans viewing necromancy as dishonorable and one of the weaker disciplines.[23]

Professions that were devoted to the hunting and destruction of undead typically held disdain and enmity towards necromancers, even if they were of the same alignment, and interactions between them often resulted in conflict.[51][52][53] These included such things as deathslayers,[51] doomguides,[54] the eyes of Horus-Re,[55] necrobanes,[52] and undead slayers.[53] And other specialist wizards, such as enchanters and illusionists whose spells typically could not affect the undead, did not get on well with necromancers.[22] And in some cases adventuring companies, bounty hunters, or vigilantes might come after them simply because of selfish desires to obtain magical items and either prestige or a reward from the local prejudiced populace.[26]

On the opposite end of the spectrum were Myrkulyte priests. Their faith expected them to fight for the rights of necromancers in society. They did so be coercing various courtiers, law keepers, and rulers to turn away from harsh treatment of these specialist wizards. And when coercion wouldn't work, the Grinning Anointed would resort to murdering the intolerant individual.[34]

Outside of these two extremes, there were those simply willing to work for necromancers, often in return for coins or magical items. Much like other wizards, they often had need of living henchmen or hirelings for various purposes. Undertaking task such as defending their stronghold, administration, spying, procurement of cadavers if the necromancer lived in civilized society,[56] and graverobbing. Though some necromancers instead opted to create what were known as zombie grave diggers for that particular purpose.[57] In order of commonality, these henchmen were usually fighters, bards or rogues, other necromancers, psionicists, or clerics of death gods. They were almost never serviced by druids, paladins, rangers, or other specialist wizards.[56]

Religion[]

Whereas wizards as a whole in Faerûn were associated with Mystra, Goddess of Magic and manifestation of the Weave,[58] necromancers were particularly associated with the demigod Velsharoon the Lich-Lord,[59][60] though other races that practiced necromancy also had their own gods of undeath that they were associated with.[61][62] For drow necromancers this was the goddess Kiaransalee,[62] whilst dragon necromancers were associated with Null.[61][63]

It was rare, though not unheard of, for necromancers to become members of clergies.[64] The Church of Kiaransalee counted some necromancers among its clergy,[62][65] usually taking on the role of a yathrinshee, cleric-wizard leaders of the secretive church that combined their divine mastery of undeath with arcane necromancy.[65] White necromancers were often members of the clergies of Jergal, Kelemvor, or Chauntea.[30] Among the Mulhorandi pantheon, the churches of Isis and Thoth notably took a hard stance towards these specialist wizards, refusing admittance of any to their respective clergies.[66][67] In terms of monastic orders, some necromancers rounded out the ranks of the Order of the Long Death.[68]

Abilities[]

Out of all the fields of study pursued by those that practiced the necromantic arts, there were four in particular that were most commonly studied – anatomy, necrology, netherworld knowledge, and spirit lore. These respectively covered the study of the human body, study of the undead, study of afterlives, and the study of both divination and contacting powers or spirits.[69]

Necromancers generally couldn't learn illusion or enchantment/charm spells, as they were oppositional schools of magic,[12][70] though there were exceptions among some necromancer archetypes.[71] And even with permissible schools of magic, they experience some initial difficulties in learning spells from them.[70]

They likewise generally couldn't utilize specialized magical items that involved either spells or spell-like effects from the charm and illusion schools, such as eyes of charming and wands of fear.[70] However, necromancers tended to devise their own necromantic items that could achieve effects similar to those of other magical items, albeit with slightly distinct properties.[8] These magical items often used bones as a principal component,[72] with applications of the gemstone morion to strengthen them and ward off necromantic manipulation of the material.[73]

After the Shadow Weave became widespread knowledge around the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR,[74] necromancers learned to tap into for their magic as an alternative to the Weave.[75] In the years following the simultaneous collapse of both in Tarsakh 29, 1385 DR, powerful necromancers managed to develop their own unique methods of harnessing dark energies from the Shadowfell to fuel their spells.[76][77]

Familiars[]

Just like any other specialty wizard, many necromancers had companion creatures known as familiars. These familiars commonly took the form of crows, hyenas, ravens, serpents, vultures, and weasels,[78] as well as deathfangs among yuan-ti necromancers.[16][79]

Beyond animals and beasts, necromancers skilled in conjuration sometimes had extraplanar creatures as familiars. Evil necromancers tended towards most commonly imps and quasits, though sometimes were seen to have different types of fiends, like nightmares or even succubi if they were particularly powerful. Good necromancers might be seen with an archon or lesser deva as a familiar. And the philosopher subtype were sometimes known to recruit familiars from the Elemental Planes, such as aerial servants, invisible stalkers, or even genies.[78]

Fiendish familiars carried certain added risks. Upon their death a necromancer suffered from potentially fatal death magic, thus they were rarely subjected to unnecessary risks. Additionally, they were likely vying for the day their mortal master died in hopes they could collect their soul and present it to their overlords in the Lower Planes.[78]

Necromancer Archetypes[]

Though all necromancers were by their very nature focused on a singular school of magic, they tended to fall into one of a number of pathways that approached necromancy from different angles.[27]

Anatomist[]

Anatomists were necromancers of a scholarly bent, more concerned with the physical sciences then the afterlife or undead creatures. They devoted themselves to the scientific study of bodies and often utilized magic to aid or inform their extensive research on cadavers. They always took up careers that utilized the vast knowledge of anatomy they had accrued over the years, either towards good in the medical field or towards more malevolent ends.[29]

Archetypal Necromancer[]

The archetypal necromancer was the most stereotypical and conventionally known variety of necromancer. These wizards were evil, selfish individuals that worked towards malevolent ends, such as achieving lichdom, and reveled in their creation of undead. Compared to other necromancers they were jacks-of-all-trades, not specializing in any particular aspect of necromancy.[27]

Ghul Lord[]

Unique to the land of Zakhara, ghul lords were necromancers that channeled negative energy. Unlike other necromancers, ghul lords didn’t actually memorize or cast spells, but merely duplicated the effects of those from the necromancy school through their manipulation of negative energy.[80]

Philosopher[]

Philosophers were the theoreticians among necromancers, individuals who took up the study of necromancy simply because of the allure generated by its taboo nature. They were individuals captivated by knowledge that was banned or forbidden, driven by a desire to uncover the hidden mysteries of life. They were the most knowledgeable when it came to netherworld lore and had a higher tendency than other necromancers to be wild talents, but they found it more difficult to learn spells from other schools of magic.[28]

True Necromancer[]

So corrupted by the power of necromancy that they took their evil a step further than archetypal necromancers, true necromancers were those who sought out access to divine magic so they could combine the foulest aspects of both divine and arcane necromancy.[81]

Undead Master[]

Undead masters were necromancers that focused their mastery of the Art towards the act of creating, augmenting, and controlling undead creatures. What made them stand out the most from other necromancers was that their desire for power above all else lead them to learn spells of enchantment/charm, allowing them to dominate the wills of both the living and outsiders.[71]

White Necromancer[]

The least well known[13][30] and least numerous of the subtypes of necromancers,[22] white necromancers were those who embraced the benign and beneficial aspects of the school of necromancy,[22][82] utilizing such spells as Nulathoe's ninemen and Spendelard's chaser.[82] Generally of good alignments,[22][82] they dedicated their mastery of the Art towards the betterment of society.[30] Usually having an interest in the body and curative magic,[13][22] many put their talents to work as healers,[13][30] sometimes restoring missing or damaged limbs or organs,[30] whilst others worked with local churches[13] and used their magic to ensure the dead were properly and permanently interred.[30] One of the reasons for their rarity was that[22] their restorative magic was inferior to the divine healing of clerics,[22][82] as it drew upon the life energy of a volunteer,[82] thus many of those interested in curative magic tended towards priesthoods instead of necromancy.[22] Additionally, due to practitioners of "black necromancy" spreading negative stereotypes regarding all forms of necromancy, white necromancers often had to take on some form of "cover identity" and a job. Some typical jobs included gardener, herbalist, and gravekeeper, and veterinarian. Those within the Church of Kelemvor often acted as temple wardens, burial yard caretakers, and occasionally bodyguards for priests.[30]

Witch[]

Some witches could be classified as necromancers. These "witch necromancers", also known as mediums or spirit channelers, were necromancers that specialized in communication with spirits,[83] fulfilling a role akin to that of diviners.[64] Unlike other necromancers, they were taught their repertoire of spells by spirits of the dead.[83]

Notable Necromancers[]

See also: Category:Necromancers

Organizations[]

Appendix[]

See Also[]

  • Dread necromancer, spellcasters of necromancy that were distinct from these specialist wizards.[101]
  • Pale master, powerful spellcasters of necromancy.[102]

Appearances[]

References[]

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Connections[]

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