A Necromantic Miscellany

The necromancer is both one of my favorite fantasy tropes, and one of the hardest classes to get right. In 2nd Edition, when I began playing, the necromancer specialist wizard was one of the weakest of all the specialists, and the signature spell (animate dead) was 5th level, which meant that any decent necromancer had to be at least 9th level! The Complete Book of Necromancers (DMGR7 “blue book”) is not bad, but in general the archetype has not been very well supported by the TSR editions of D&D. I believe the classification of spells into schools began with AD&D (the 1E PHB has spells categorized by school), but specialists are not given much detail, with the large exception of the illusionist, which is almost a separate class (it has its own spell list separate from that of the magic-user). Dragon #76, from 1983, contains “The Death Master” (page 11), but it is a class intended for NPCs.

So I don’t think it is entirely unwarranted to begin discussion about the necromancer in 2E. The 2E Necromancer requirements are (from Table 22: WIZARD SPECIALIST REQUIREMENTS in the 2E PHB): human, 16 wisdom, opposed to the illusion and enchantment/charm schools.

2E spells in the Necromancy school: cantrip (1st), chill touch (1st), detect undead (1st), spectral hand (2nd), feign death (3rd), hold undead (3rd), vampiric touch (3rd), contagion (4th), enervation (4th), animate dead (5th), magic jar (5th), summon shadow (5th), death spell (6th), reincarnation (6th), control undead (7th), finger of death (7th), clone (8th), energy drain (9th).

That’s not very many.

Part of the problem is that central to my conception of the necromancer is the idea of an undead master, which could potentially result in a character with lots of minions (not a problem for an NPC, but potentially a problem for a PC). Though I understand the reasoning for designing a necromancer class only for antagonists, the optimal necromancer class (for me) is also playable as a PC.
It’s also surprisingly hard to find atmospheric necromancer art, but I’ve included a few links.

3 thoughts on “A Necromantic Miscellany

  1. Louis Clark

    Thanks for linking to my blog and to Josephs product. Also I like this collection of links as well, I plan on coming back and checking them all out today or tomorrow.


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