Class Feature Friday: Necromancy School (Wizard Arcane School)
Here we go, the big bad of arcane magic, the classic villain school, necromancy. Where do all the undead come from in a dungeon that isn’t the site of some tragic event or negative energy nexus? Now you know.
However, there’s a lot more to necromancy that just animating the dead as servitors, and necromancers are not necessarily evil, even those that do create undead creatures.
Boiled down to its basic essence, necromancy is a school all about manipulating the forces of both life and death. While this does indeed include making corpses move and spirits linger, as well as controlling their behavior, it also includes channeling large amounts of negative energy to debilitate others (some would argue this should include positive energy manipulation too), undermining biological processes to weaken foes, minor alterations to unliving and dead bodies, and even inducing primal fear in others. Necromancy is also the home of most death effects, channeling powerful amounts of negative energy to slay foes in an instant if they fail to resist.
So from an outsider’s view, it’s easy to see why most assume that it is a wholly evil school of magic. However, one must remember that destructive, killing spells can be found in every school, not just necromancy. Furthermore, the evil nature of creating undead varies by culture and setting. Most see it as desecration of the dead, or taking away the will of a sapient being by enslaving them with magic (either by binding the will of sapient undead, or by binding the soul of a person back into their body). There’s also the matter of the souls of the dead having a final reward to go to, that being undead keeps them from.
How your non-evil necromancer reconciles this is their decision. They may never create the undead on principle, only control them to stave off their attack and turn them against any dark master they have. There are indeed white necromancers who devote themselves to destroying the undead and protecting the living from the wicked.
Of course, others choose to embrace the evil, raising up a personal retinue of servitors both mindless and sapient.
In societies that can accept them, necromancers can find work as experts in undead affairs, both hostile and even sometimes friendly. If the local area is accepting of undead, they may very well be taskmasters of an untiring work force, or they might use their power to weaken the living to work in prisons, sapping the strength of rebellious prisoners, (or slaves) without killing them. Regardless, necromancers likely spend much of their time in research, pursuing the mysteries of death and how to utilize them in their magic.
In the Golarion setting, Necromancy is associated with the virtue of temperance, mirroring how the undead have no actual needs, and how one could theoretically sustain themselves purely by manipulating life magics. However, in its corrupted form, it is associated with the sin of gluttony, as the undead are consumed with hungers and desires that do them no good, consuming without benefit.
The first thing necromancers learn is that getting control of the undead is the first step to not dying in their presence and so they learn to channel a pulse of negatively aligned energy, not unlike that of an evil cleric, for the express purpose of either binding the undead to your will, or causing them to flee from your presence. Both versions are good, but have very different utility.
As an additional layer of self-defense, they also learn how to induce fear with a touch, conducting a fearful chill into them that elevates their fear, even increasing it from another stage.
Positive and negative energy are both the purview of necromancers, and they learn to sense it, able to sense the living and the dead with pinpoint accuracy within a short range, very useful when fighting invisible foes, as well as telling who is alive and who isn’t.
Necromancers can fulfill the role of debuffer and damage-dealer pretty easily, with a few random utility spells and control spells thrown in for good measure. If you choose to build with undead creation in mind, you also share the conjurer’s role of being able to provide meat shields at a moment’s notice. However, unless they are very lucky, their minions are likely to be nowhere near as versatile as summoned creatures. Templates for skeletons and zombies will be your best friend for early levels.
Regardless of how good or evil they are, necromancers are not likely to be trusted in most societies, who see them as practitioners of dark magic. Overcoming, or pressing on in spite of, that distrust will be one of the biggest challenges for these mages, be they wizard or arcanist.
Ostensibly, Oparo Mage Academy only teaches white necromancy. However, rumors persist of dark dealings at the school. Some claim that the conjuration students make dark pacts for power, but others believe that secret lessons on the reanimation of the dead occur, either with or without the blessing of the faculty.
With reports of a horrible, undead bat thing terrorizing the city, and the temple district at a loss to find or even explain its nature, the magister has called upon a necromancer to look into it. However, many wonder if this mage the solution to their problem, or the cause of it. Only time will tell, unless a party of investigators hired privately by one of the churches finds out first.
Wearing a ring that, if rumors are to be believed, is bound with lost souls, Earl Nahandir rules over his land with an firm hand. The only visitors he sees are those on business, and he hires no servants, creating his own from the bodies of the condemned. As far as his people can tell, he has never done much harm with his dark magic, but still, it unnerves them seeing corpses arrive to repair the levee, or swarm over bandits and attacking monsters.