Spells Without Levels: Necromancy

These spells were inspired by phantasmal forces, animate dead, death spell, magic jar, and reincarnation. See spells without levels for more information about this project.


A number of wicked poltergeists equal to the sorcerer’s level are summoned to haunt a place, person, or group of people (there is a 50% chance the haunting persists after the spell ends, and the sorcerer only retains influence while the spell is active). While alone the poltergeists will do their best to harass and torment their chosen targets, or all living creatures other than the sorcerer if no specific victim was indicated. Though the poltergeists cannot talk and are insubstantial, the sorcerer can direct them to laugh insanely, become visible as ghostly menaces with varying forms, howl discordantly, and cause telekinetic mischief (including the hurling of heavy or sharp objects that may cause real damage, though the referee should decide exactly what the poltergeists do).


Command or animate a number of HD worth of undead up to the sorcerer’s level (undead HD must match HD as they were in life), which is also the maximum HD worth of undead that a sorcerer may control at once (a saving throw applies for previously existing undead, and if the undead are under the control of another entity, that entity’s saving throw should be used). The newly risen dead are wide eyed, hopeful, eager to serve, and often overenthusiastic, if not particularly creative, in carrying out directives. When the spell ends, the undead minions 1) turn on the sorcerer in anger, 2) become catatonic, 3) collapse into mundane corpses, 4) dissolve into superheated ash or toxic slime, 5) travel to the land of the dead by opening a gate (which remains), or 6) become permanent minions (though they still count against the maximum number of controllable undead).

Death Ray

Kill one creature of HD less than or equal to the sorcerer’s level (if cast against targets above this HD threshold, the spell is not expended). A saving throw applies, though even if successful the target takes two dice of damage. There is a possibility that any creature slain by this spell will rise, either immediately or in the future, dedicated in undeath to vengeance against the sorcerer (chance again as per the creature’s save versus magic).

Soul Transfer

The sorcerer’s soul is placed in a talisman such as a pendant or article of clothing, leaving the original body behind in stasis. While in the talisman, the sorcerer’s consciousness remains active and aware of events nearby, and may possess any body that comes in contact with the talisman, though a save is permitted if the possession is resisted. If this new body is slain while occupied by the sorcerer’s soul, a saving throw is required for the sorcerer’s soul to return to the talisman and avoid becoming trapped in the spirit world.


Prepared canopic jars and paraphernalia must be available, and a freshly slain person’s organs harvested during the casting of this spell. Using the properly prepared remains, a ritual of three days and three nights may then be performed that slowly gathers a new body around the soul still contained in the brains and viscera. This new body should be determined using random encounter tables.

Edit: renamed the slay spell death ray.

Redon - Cauldron of the Sorceress (source)

Redon – Cauldron of the Sorceress (source)


9 thoughts on “Spells Without Levels: Necromancy

  1. Jack Swallow

    I love Transmigration. It really captures the weird feel that pulling a soul from the dead should. Though I wouldn’t love to use it in Qelong – “You’ve been reincarnated as… A stinking cloud!”

      1. Brendan Post author


        Thanks, I like that one too. Structurally, I also think about it as a way to unlock other, strange PC types (I think I might have read about that idea over at the Hill Cantons blog).

  2. George Cassie (@castlin)

    It feels like Soul Transfer would be a good place to use a sigil.

    Also this is a bit of a different take, but what if Poltergeist always summoned a mass of spirits, and the level-dependent aspect was your chance to make them obey you? Maybe they wouldn’t turn on you right out if you fail though.

    1. Brendan Post author


      My first version of Soul Transfer actually did use a sigil, but I rewrote it for whatever reason. I think you’re probably right though, it does seem to fit thematically, though the transfer is inherently restricted by the sorcerer having only one soul. It still would serve a role though, as a clue.

      Your thoughts on Poltergeist would be an interesting variation. Though I love chaos magic myself, I am hesitant to design a spell that does not have at least some guaranteed benefit as an initial lure to casting.

      And I quite like the idea of sorcerers leaving hauntings behind them wherever they go.

      1. Brendan Post author


        I admit that I can’t tell if your comment here is expressing approval or something else!

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