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View Full Version : What does Necromancy mean to you?



Closet_Skeleton
2007-05-08, 03:57 PM
1. All magic that effects life and death. This one makes no sense what so ever to me. It's only half 'necro' and not at all 'mancy'.

2. What the original greek is supposed to mean, eg divination using the dead. Necromancy should be limited to contacting the afterlife and creating undead.

3. All kind of evil magic in general. The term Necromancy is too divorced from the original meaning and "negro" as in latin for black is a legitimate folk etymology for Necromancy.

4. One could argue that the only true necromancer in DnD is the Binder in Tomb of Magic. He deals with spirits from beyond (you can easily change the fluff to make them ancestor spirits) and uses them to cast magic. From this point of view Necromancy is not a category of spells but a manner of performing spells.

5. Magic that is powered by the souls of the dead. A more death related definition but completely ignoring divination. But hey, there's already a divination school.

Dhavaer
2007-05-08, 03:59 PM
Magical biology.

Closet_Skeleton
2007-05-08, 04:00 PM
Grr... I'm sure that when I posted this thread I knew exactly how to add a poll.

Mordokai
2007-05-08, 04:03 PM
Is this supposed to be funny or something?

Anyway, to me necromancy means something I'll never know how to perform, but would like to know that a whole lot. But if you're looking for a real life comparison, then I really have no idea.

Closet_Skeleton
2007-05-08, 04:10 PM
Is this supposed to be funny or something?

Anyway, to me necromancy means something I'll never know how to perform, but would like to know that a whole lot. But if you're looking for a real life comparison, then I really have no idea.

If I was looking for real life I would have posted in friendly banter.

I meant what do you think roleplaying games should describe as necromancy and if you think any uses of the word are misuses.

I suppose the title is meant to be slightly humerous but the title is just to grab attention. I just didn't put in text into the first post at first because I wanted to get the poll done.

Anyway, annoyingly it seems that they've changed the board rules so that you can only add polls before you post the thread. I'm sure you didn't use to have to but I'm probably wrong.

DaMullet
2007-05-08, 04:11 PM
Necromancy is, to me, the magic school dealing with life force, and by association, healing.

If it has to do with anything coming to life, ceasing to be alive, or becoming less dead, purely because the caster said so, that's Necromancy.

brian c
2007-05-08, 04:19 PM
Is this supposed to be funny or something?

Anyway, to me necromancy means something I'll never know how to perform, but would like to know that a whole lot. But if you're looking for a real life comparison, then I really have no idea.

Huh? I'm pretty sure he's just thinking about games...


Anyway, I see Necromancy as magic with life force. In terms of the D&D spell list, my definition doesn't make sense for Fear-causing spells, or with healing spells, but I still like my concept.

Darth Mario
2007-05-08, 04:20 PM
In the games I run, Necromancy refers to any spell affecting life or death, like your first option. Healing, rezes, death spells (with the exception of Phantasmal Killer), and undead creation spells. I keep the "necromancy" school and don't reassign any spells, but all of the above abilities are referred to as necromancy, and is therefore in general more accepted in my campaign worlds.

DaMullet
2007-05-08, 04:21 PM
Anyway, I see Necromancy as magic with life force. In terms of the D&D spell list, my definition doesn't make sense for Fear-causing spells, or with healing spells, but I still like my concept.
Your definition makes perfect sense with healing spells. When you heal someone, you return or fortify their life force. It fits fine. Fear effects don't make any sense at all.

Dhavaer
2007-05-08, 04:21 PM
Anyway, I see Necromancy as magic with life force. In terms of the D&D spell list, my definition doesn't make sense for Fear-causing spells, or with healing spells, but I still like my concept.

Buh-wha? Wouldn't healing spells be more or less the definition of spells dealing with life force?

mikeejimbo
2007-05-08, 04:22 PM
My RPG group makes fun of me for being adamant that Necromancy could include healing if you take it to be magic with the life force.

But, as Closet_Skeleton said, if you take it for face value, "Necro" for dead and "mancy" for divination with, then Necromancy should indeed only involve contacting the afterlife and speaking with dead. Not even raising undead, because that's not divination.

Mr Croup
2007-05-08, 04:26 PM
I'd say option number two, with the addition of wardings and protections against spirits and undead.

DaMullet
2007-05-08, 04:27 PM
The trouble with that is, it buggers off an entire school already reserved for Divination. It's best to leave it as it is, I think.

Jewish_Joke
2007-05-08, 04:30 PM
I hate the 3ed magic schools, I really really do.

Anyway, necromancy is life and death magic in my book, original definition aside... it is a fantasy game, after all.

Closet_Skeleton
2007-05-08, 04:30 PM
My RPG group makes fun of me for being adamant that Necromancy could include healing if you take it to be magic with the life force.

If Necromancy is the magic of life force then it would involve healing but if cooking was the science of numbers it would involve equations. The world is full of enough words that have become distant from their original definitions or even don't make etymological sense at all. I can get annoyed when people misuse the term Necromancy but I'm not being relevent or useful.


But, as Closet_Skeleton said, if you take it for face value, "Necro" for dead and "mancy" for divination with, then Necromancy should indeed only involve contacting the afterlife and speaking with dead. Not even raising undead, because that's not divination.

If you define necromancy as divining by summoning deceased spirits then creating undead could be seen as necromancy since you're summoning a spirit into a corpse. You're not learning anything but you can see that they're a similar sort of thing.

Necromancy could be fear affects, but only if you're inducing fear by summoning a ghost. I have nothing against necromancy being scary or inducing fear, it's just that making fear spell = necromancy that seems wrong since most should be illusions.

Saph
2007-05-08, 04:30 PM
Death magic. Spells that kill people, spells that half-kill people, spells that reanimate them as undead, and spells that channel energy that's inimical to life in general.

That's what it usually means in the fantasy genre, and it works for me.

- Saph

Jasdoif
2007-05-08, 04:51 PM
Way back when cure spells were classed as "necromancy" I could really see the intent being the first option. Maybe the name doesn't make sense, if it's supposed to mean "divining through the dead", but then maybe "-mancy" is being used as a general suffix for "magic" in general. Besides, we're talking about a magic system where Darkness doesn't cause darkness, what's this "sense" supposed to be?

Don't know why they changed cure spells...except of course, we're pretty much in the state of Conjuration supremacy these days. Need to heal somebody? Conjuration. Need to move anywhere? Conjuration. Need to create an object? Conjuration. Need to call a creature from most anywhere to do something you can't or won't do yourself? Conjuration. Need an evocation spell that doesn't allow SR? Conjuration.

But I digress. Necromancy is a nice catch-all term for magic that deals with life, death and undeath. If only because the "divining through the dead" definition is too niche for the term to be generally usable in a game. Not too sure about the fear spells....

skyclad
2007-05-08, 05:04 PM
To Raise and control the dead. I've always seen a necromancer as someone who sits around in a dungeon with tons of undead minions but I guess that fits clerics better.

goat
2007-05-08, 05:12 PM
I forget what it was, but I remember reading something that used necromancy as the term for any magic powered BY death. Either small animal sacrifice, or larger scale death and destruction.

I suppose in D&D you could have "finesse" Necromancy, with a wizard killing a small animal and using their life essence (Bag of tricks FTW), and brutal necromancy, with a front line fighter gaining skills and tricks based on the amount of people they've already killed. When they work together, you can get more powerful effects and... stuff.

Accersitus
2007-05-08, 05:13 PM
To me necromancy is the magic that studies all the aspects of death.

-The spells that deal damage, ability damage, and simmilar effects:
mimics the events leading to death.
-Fear effects: because fear often boils down to fear of death
or serious bodily harm.
-Instant kill effects: because it is the essence of Death
-Raising the dead, spirits: Controlling what is left after death

The two first categories use knowledge about what causes death,
the third category uses the moment of death itself, and
the last category is about the aftermath of Death

Fax Celestis
2007-05-08, 05:15 PM
Option 1, for me, but the school itself shouldn't be called "Necromancy" at all.

Cyborg Pirate
2007-05-08, 05:17 PM
1. All magic that effects life and death. This one makes no sense what so ever to me. It's only half 'necro' and not at all 'mancy'.

Necromancy in the middle ages was one of the important things learned by christian priests. I litterally meant "enchanting the dead" to them, and, if I understand my texts correctly, it dealt with both life and death.

So I subscribe to view #1 itself, as it is the most authentic form to me (considering that much dnd is pseudo-medieval)

Dhavaer
2007-05-08, 05:44 PM
Option 1, for me, but the school itself shouldn't be called "Necromancy" at all.

I've considered having the most frequently used name of the spell be 'vivimancy' and 'necromancy' being seen as a perversion of vivimancy.

Fax Celestis
2007-05-08, 06:47 PM
The -mancy suffix, however, marks it as divination-style magics. Perhaps "Viviturgy" or "Thaumaturgy" would be more appropriate.

SpiderBrigade
2007-05-08, 06:52 PM
Ya, Dhavaer, that's one of those common fantasy-genre pet peeves. Assuming that you can make a new school of magic by taking some greek word and adding "mancy" to the end, somehow thinking that "mancy" means "magic."

Erfworld for instance makes fun of this by having everything be "-mancy"

Dhavaer
2007-05-08, 07:06 PM
Meh. I like 'mancy. And 'mancer. It has a good, magical ring to it.

Raum
2007-05-08, 07:32 PM
I tend to prefer option 5: Necromancy is any magic using life energy as the power source.

But I do tend to prefer darker mythologies.

As for the etymology of "necromancy," spoken languages are constantly changing and growing. Many different cultures have adopted the term and applied it to their local myths. As Jorge Luis Borges points out, "It is often forgotten that [dictionaries] are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature."

brian c
2007-05-08, 07:39 PM
Buh-wha? Wouldn't healing spells be more or less the definition of spells dealing with life force?

What I meant was that my definition clashed with the D&D rules at thoe points. Healing in D&D is conjuration, I would call it Necromancy.

TheOOB
2007-05-08, 07:50 PM
I run necromancy as any magic that uses, affects, or interacts with the (un)life force of a creature and/or negative/positive energy.

Yes that means all healing spells in my campaign are necromancy, and necromancy, as well as positive/negative energy, are neither inheriently good or evil.

How necromancy and necromancers are viewed is another matter.

Raum
2007-05-08, 08:25 PM
What I meant was that my definition clashed with the D&D rules at thoe points. Healing in D&D is conjuration, I would call it Necromancy.I suspect WotC was trying to avoid the "evil" connotations of necromancy when they changed healing spells from necromancy to conjuration.

Darth Mario
2007-05-08, 08:45 PM
I suspect WotC was trying to avoid the "evil" connotations of necromancy when they changed healing spells from necromancy to conjuration.

Probably. I wonder about their choice of conjuration though. Mabye I don't understand the D&D magic system that well (I play Psions) but abjuration (protection, right?) or transmutation (change?) seem to me like they'd make more sense.

DM

Yvian
2007-05-08, 08:49 PM
[QUOTE=Closet_Skeleton;2555630]1
3. All kind of evil magic in general. The term Necromancy is too divorced from the original meaning and "negro" as in latin for black is a legitimate folk etymology for Necromancy.
QUOTE]

I would vote for 3 - with reservations. To me, we start out with the orginal meaing, which was summing dead spirts. In the middle ages things tended to get dived into two - good/evil, light/dark, etc. Necromancy would fall on the evil side of things. Then I would expand that to inculde all "corpse" magic. It is all about death, decay, and darkness. Not birth, healing, or light.

Can they steal life force? Yes. Can it create life force? no. It is about burning down the tree and rooting in the ashs - not planting and watering a tree.

FdL
2007-05-08, 08:51 PM
I consider necromancy to be all magic and practices that involve controlling or commanding powers of death and unlife, including negative energy and any other effect that directly involves stripping the life force from a living creature or artificially animating a dead creature with (negative) energy.

From another perspective, it's a corruption of the order of life, and it's evil beyond anything else, without any doubt.

TheOOB
2007-05-08, 09:33 PM
I suspect WotC was trying to avoid the "evil" connotations of necromancy when they changed healing spells from necromancy to conjuration.

Ironically, taking healing away from necromancy makes it feel more evil.

It's not that theres no way healing couldn't be conjuration, it's theoretically possible for conjuration to create healthy flesh in place of damaged flesh, but the problum is that the cure spells don't work like that, they channel positive energy into the target which kicks natural healing into overdrive.

Because of this, healing spells should either be Evocation(because evocation deals with channeling energy), or Necromancy(because necromancy deals with life and death.)

brian c
2007-05-08, 09:47 PM
I suspect WotC was trying to avoid the "evil" connotations of necromancy when they changed healing spells from necromancy to conjuration.

That only reinforces that "necromancy is evil" stereotype. Bah. Anyway, the way D&D necromancy works is with negative energy, which apparently is scary.

Raum
2007-05-08, 10:22 PM
Don't expect me to defend the decision! I thought it unnecessary at the time and still do.

As for what school healing "could" belong to, I suspect a case can be made for any school. It simply requires modifying how healing works appropriately. Even divination could be healing...if healing is an instinct for seeing / becoming the ideal or original "self".

It's a shortcoming of the school system. As written they seem to be methods rather than results or power sources.

Hyrael
2007-05-08, 10:35 PM
Magical biology.

No, thats certain transmutations that warp/alter/affect living tissue and a few divinations that should allow you to see very small things. Plus certain necromancy effects.

Dhavaer
2007-05-08, 10:39 PM
No, thats certain transmutations that warp/alter/affect living tissue and a few divinations that should allow you to see very small things. Plus certain necromancy effects.

I meant that necromancy is the branch of magic that applies to living things (and dead things) instead of energy or inorganic matter.

Thexare Blademoon
2007-05-08, 11:53 PM
Spells that need to be placed into other schools, namely Evocation and Conjuration.

Edit: Well, that's more of a "what is necromancy to you", but close enough.

TheOOB
2007-05-09, 12:26 AM
Well, the only real purpose of schools is so that specialist wizards get a mechanical theam, and necromancy is debuffs/death/damage/undead apparently.

Morrandir
2007-05-09, 12:55 AM
Necromancy is best defined as magic that deals with death: the prevention or acceleration of it.

To me, anyway.

d12
2007-05-09, 12:57 AM
Me and Necromancy are just good friends..it's nothing like that, honest.

Anyway... :smalltongue:

I typically think of Necromancy as spells and effects that directly affect the life force, in either a constructive or destructive fashion. So I guess option 1. The few fantasy settings I've been exposed to pretty flagrantly ignore the real-world definition of necromancy, so I guess I just stopped noticing. I think of necromancers as magic-users who opt for a very direct, visceral method of handling the forces that power living and undead creatures. They don't bother throwing fire around to kill people; they just rip their souls right the hell out, or otherwise just sap the life out of their target.

I also regard them as being most able to re-attach a soul to its body (or a new body if need be), re-grow/re-attach limbs, heal injury, and the like since they would be the most knowledgeable of how the life force functions. So I guess I would also fall into the healing-magic-as-necromancy camp. I also just don't really 'get' why wizards/sorcerers are not allowed to use healing magic. Sure, Cleric Bandaid McHealbot can pretty readily alter his prepared spells to heal his comrades' wounds, and that's nice and handy, but why can't the guy who takes special interest in how life force works and uses said knowledge to directly drain the life out of creatures do things that reverse damage? The principles can't be that different.

Of course, I've only really ever played 3.5 and don't really know or care about many of the sacred cows of D&D's mythos, but coming from my perspective of knowing the game almost exclusively as it is known now, it just seems like they really half-assed a lot of things involving healing (Conjuration? Is there an elemental plane of hit points or arms or levels that you're summoning all this stuff from?), Necromancy (negative energy to make things "live"? no problem..positive energy? whoa, that's a whole other can of worms), and spell school/descriptor assignment in general (how is Cause Fear not enchantment? Deathwatch is [Evil]? Are you stoned?).

And now that I think of it, the whole positive/negative energy thing is kinda screwy too. The way that I read things it almost sounds like they really, really wanted to make positive energy = good and negative energy = evil but decided to just dance around it for some reason instead of just coming out and saying it. I might be reading things into the positive/negative energy thing that aren't actually there, but that's just how it seems to me.

Closet_Skeleton
2007-05-09, 07:59 AM
I consider necromancy to be all magic and practices that involve controlling or commanding powers of death and unlife, including negative energy and any other effect that directly involves stripping the life force from a living creature or artificially animating a dead creature with (negative) energy.

From another perspective, it's a corruption of the order of life, and it's evil beyond anything else, without any doubt.

So is ancestor worship evil? I'm in the animating dead does more than just create automotons camp but do you think that it would be immoral to allow people to donate their body willingly to necromancy?

Is undergoing eternal spiritual torment in order to protect your decendents evil?

DnD's spell school system is already too screwed up.

Healing is abjuration because abjuration is manipulating energy. If you created a tank that healed anyone who went inside then shouldn't that tank be created by the same kind of magic that makes force fields?

Healing is transmutation because cells are made of physical compounds. If you were damaged and are now healed then you're changed and transmutation is the school of change.

Healing is conjuration because you're summoning positive energy.

Healing is evocation because evocation is the same thing as conjuration but with more words involved.

Healing is enchantment because the mind has control over the body and healing is a bodily process.

Healing isn't illusion because you want it to be real.

FdL
2007-05-09, 11:05 PM
The spell scholls are arbitrary and probably not that well thought out. In any case, I'd try to stick with the given classification and use that as a point to try to discern the authors logic to Healing/Necromancy.

In respect to evil and necromancy, yes, I would consider ANY instance in which Necromancy is used to be evil. Because anything you do with necromancy and dead energy entails the empowerment of an energy, a view of the world, a "side of things" that is unmistakeably evil. It's actually the axiomatic physical representation of evil.

So my take is that anything you do with it is evil, leaving motives aside, as in D&D these moral dilemmas are usually left out because it's mostly a heroic-styled world which tends to black & white and rough classifications more than to openness and ambiguity. This is reflected both in the fluff and in the hard rules, mind you, and for me the reason why you can't be a good necromancer is the same as to why you can't be a good assasin.

Duke Malagigi
2007-05-10, 12:51 PM
1. All magic that effects life and death. This one makes no sense what so ever to me. It's only half 'necro' and not at all 'mancy'.

2. What the original greek is supposed to mean, eg divination using the dead. Necromancy should be limited to contacting the afterlife and creating undead.

3. All kind of evil magic in general. The term Necromancy is too divorced from the original meaning and "negro" as in latin for black is a legitimate folk etymology for Necromancy.

4. One could argue that the only true necromancer in DnD is the Binder in Tomb of Magic. He deals with spirits from beyond (you can easily change the fluff to make them ancestor spirits) and uses them to cast magic. From this point of view Necromancy is not a category of spells but a manner of performing spells.

5. Magic that is powered by the souls of the dead. A more death related definition but completely ignoring divination. But hey, there's already a divination school.

Iíll have a little of everything but option three. Necromancy included healing up until 3rd edition, which was removed by Wizards of the Coast to make necromancy look more evil. Also positive and negative energy are both true neutral. In fact in 1st edition, Osiris, the Lawful Good Egyptian god of the after life was a being of negative energy because he lacked any and all biological functions, but could still move, hear, talk, see and feel. Therefore by 1st edition standards Osiris was undead and therefore powered by negative energy yet still Lawful Good. If positive energy was used to revive Osiris according to 1st edition (and my opinion) he have been resurrected, not animated as a "deathless".

Sornas
2007-05-10, 01:17 PM
What I would like it to be, and the way I set it up in my games, is that necromancy is any magic that deals with life force, and isn't nessicarily evil, though most people (NPCs) would see it as such. I'm one of those that thinks healing should still be Necromancy, creating undead isn't evil, etc.

The way WOTC has it set up, in my opinion, is any magic that deals directly with negative energy, and isn't very consistant on if it is evil or not.

Nero24200
2007-05-10, 01:54 PM
I would define it as any magic which favours undead and not living beings
e.g inflict spells - hurt if used on living creatures, heal undead
Animate Dead - Gives birth to undead creatures

Though my definition somtimes changes on my setting, this is the one I use for my current homebrew setting in which I favour simplicity (eg, there is a god of good, evil, law and chaos, and you simply follow in an aligment if one or more favours you) In other settings I've defined it as spells which create or revive dead tissue though for evil intent (meaning some cure spells can be considered necromancy if healing evil beings) though my first definition is the best of all mine I beleive.

LordLocke
2007-05-10, 03:09 PM
I SUMMON HP!

All spell category jokes aside, Necromancy in D&D is different then I've always thought it to be, since D&D Necromancy has more to do with 'dark' and 'negative' magic like fear effects and causing death then 'classic' necromancy (Speaking with and animating the dead). It's like they lumped together all the classic 'bad guy' spells, threw them in one group, and slapped the label on to make it easy for the good guy casters to make them their barred school when specializing. Even the ones that should REALLY be in other schools (Fear, anyone? The whole spell screams Enchantment... but because it's hard to be a good guy who makes everyone into a gibbering mess of terror, panic, and soiled underpants, it gets shoved into Necromancy)

Healing in Necromancy never made sense by classic terms, but being basically a school about channeling negative energy, the opposite made more sense then 'conjuring' up a handful of HP. Transmutation always felt like the most natural set for it, why Wizards dodged putting it there I'll never know for sure.

Turcano
2007-05-10, 08:20 PM
I have to go with Definition #1; necromancy is the "manipulat the power of death, unlife, and the life force." This includes:

Death effects
Channeling negative energy, including [I]inflict X wounds, enervation and energy drain
Channeling positive energy, including healing magic (I don't care what 3rd Edition says; that was a stupid change) and undeath to death
Ability damage
Non-enchantment/illusion fear effects
Animation and creation of undead (although necromancy as a whole isn't evil, this particular subset still is as far as I'm concerned)

I would see no inherent problems with good-aligned necromancers as long as they avoid the undead-creation stuff.