OSR: Necromancers

Vaguely based on Arnold K's Necromancer, but heavily adapted.

Necromancers are outlawed and outcast wizards. Their profession is a curse; their very name a byword for unholy acts and blasphemous deeds. Yet the necromancers persist on the fringes of society. They provide a relatively safe channel between the living and the dead, and someone will always pay - one way or another - for information only the dead can provide. In Foreign Parts, the necromancer's art is celebrated and sometimes even revered. One of the standard list of charges brought against foreign kings and corrupt leaders is "consulting with necromancers."
Father and Daughter, Alexandre Chaudret

Perk: You can cause creatures you touch to reroll any Fatal Wounds they are trying to remove in a round. You can allow them to reroll failed tests or force them to reroll successful tests. If a creature  successfully removes a Fatal Wound because of the reroll you provided, it permanently loses 1 HP.
This perk is fairly valuable in a crisis, especially if magical healing is not available. It's a very good reason to be nice to the necromancer; if you're dying, they can save you... or make sure you don't recover.
Drawback: You require a ritual ingredient to cast your spells. The ingredient has a negligible cost (2cp) and is not consumed, but water, fire, or isolation could render you unable to cast spells. Roll on the Ritual Ingredient List below.
The drawback to this school could become an issue if the necromancer is searched or otherwise inconvenienced.
1. You can call on the spirit of a recently dead creature by interrogating its body. Provided the creature died before dawn, and it wasn't particularly pious or exceptionally blasphemous, it will answer 3 of your questions. At dawn, the spirit departs. The dead are rarely coherent or helpful. Answers may be cryptic. If the creature had 3 or more HD, everyone present can see and hear the spirit. Otherwise, only you can see it.

2. You can ritually protect a corpse against possession by unwelcome spirits. Alternatively, you can deliberately invite spirits to possess a corpse. The ritual takes 10 minutes. The most dangerous time is between death and dawn; after that, the corpse becomes less appealing to wandering spirits.
3. You can permanently lose 1 HP to add 1 MD to a spell you are casting. You can only lose 1 HP per spell.
Necromancer cantrips are very powerful but, in all 3 instances, potentially dangerous. Some spirits might stick around if they are casually called back to answer questions. Inviting spirits into a corpse is asking for trouble. And fueling your spells with your own HP makes lichdom very tempting.

10, Stepan Alekseev

Spell List

In this setting, spells are creatures. They're spirits that live in a wizard's brain and burst out, doing their duty and then taking a brief vacation. While most wizard schools breed spells specifically, necromancers might keep a cadre of ghosts. Some necromancers cast their own ancestors as spells; some trap escaped ghosts and wield them in a form of holy penance.

Many spells on this list require a bit of GM improvisation. The spells are much less straightforward than a traditional spell list. They are also dangerous to both the caster and their companion. Raise ye not up what ye cannot put down.

1. Raise Spirit
You automatically gain this spell at first level. Roll for your other spell normally.
R: touch T: spirit D: [sum] minutes
After a ritual that takes 10 minutes, you call out to the spirit of a dead person. The spirit can be anyone, from long-dead kings to newly-murdered party members. You do not need the creature's body. This spell can only be cast between sunset and dawn. Roll 1d6 on the table below, modified by the following: 
+1 for each [die] invested in this spell

+1 if the spirit died within a week
+1 if the spirit has unfinished business in Creation
+1 if you know the spirit's true name
+4 if you personally knew the creature before it died 
-1 for each of the creature's original HD

-1 if the spirit was a wizard
-1 if the spirit is angry or irritated with you
-2 if you have only a vague name or description
-4 if the spirit was a necromancer or had significant magical powers in life
Other bonuses and penalties at the GM's discretion. The stronger the soul, the more dangerous the summon. 
Raise Spirit Result
0 or negative: The spirit is raised, but lashes out in anger and annoyance. You take 2d6 damage. If this damage reduces you to zero HP, you are dragged straight to the afterlife (no Save). Alternatively, the spirit casts Fatal Doom (see below) on you.
1. The spirit is raised, but it cannot be put down. If there is a corpse nearby the spirit will possess it. Otherwise, it will act as a disembodied undead of appropriate HD.
2. The wrong spirit is raised. It may be more or less useful than the intended spirit.
3. The spirit is raised, but its answers are mocking and cruel.
4. The spirit is raised and answers your questions truthfully.
5. The spirit is raised and also provides a useful answer to a question you did not ask.
6. The spirit is raised and remains for 1d6 additional minutes.
7 or higher. The spirit is raised, and can be given one command (as per the Command Undead spell below.)
Raise Spirit is the necromancer's signature spell. It's deceptively simple. Want to figure out who built this temple? Call up the temple builder and interrogate them for a few minutes. Want to find out who killed the king? Call up the king and ask him! What could possibly go wrong? Yes, you can use this spell to bypass many obstacles, but the risks are very high. Think of it like an improvised teleport spell. 
2. Explode Corpse
R: 50' T: corpse D: 0

Target corpse explodes, dealing damage in a [dice]x5' radius, Save vs Dexterity for half. The maximum damage dealt is dependent on the creature's size:
Rat: 1
Dog: 1d6
Human: 2d6
Cow: 3d6
Elephant: 6d6
Whale: 8d6
This spell cannot target undead creatures unless you control them.
This is the only direct damage spell available to the necromancer, and it's pretty good. Send zombies shambling towards your enemies and then detonate them. It's no fireball, but it is a nasty surprise, and adventurers are rarely short on corpses.
3. Death Mask
R: touch T: humanoid corpse D: varies
You touch a corpse and the face peels off like a mask. The rest of the corpse shrivels up and flakes into dust. When you (and only you) wear the mask, you will look and sound like the person whose face you're wearing, but only to sentient people (no effect on animals, spirits, or elementals). The mask will rot into uselessness after [sum] days. If [dice] is at least 4, the mask is permanent.
A useful spell at low levels. Half-thief half-necromancer is a decent build. This spell is sure to come in more useful if the necromancer reaches lichdom.
4. Fear
R: 50' T: creatures up to [sum] HD D: 0

Target creatures must Save vs Fear or take a morale check, or flee from you. If you cast this spell with 4 [dice], creatures unused to supernatural occurrences (peasants, domesticated dogs, etc.) must also Save or age 2d10 years.
A good solid crowd control effect, but also a great way to properly intimidate lesser wizards.

5. Rot
R: touch T: creature or object D: 0
Creatures take 2x[dice] damage, Save for half. Creatures also age 2d10 years (no mechanical effect), and may develop grey hair, shakes, and wrinkles. Objects are aged according to how many [dice] are invested. Books sprout into mold, wood becomes soggy, lamps run out of fuel and grow cold, and stone is entirely unaffected. 1 [die]: [sum] days. 2 [dice]: [sum] months. 3 [dice] or more: [sum] years. Undead are healed for [sum]+[dice] HP, or 1 permanent HP is restored (to the former maximum).
The main effect of this spell is the healing portion. Bolstering undead is very useful, especially if the undead is you.
6. Raise Undead
R: 20' T: [dice]x2 HD corpse D: 2 hours
Target is raised as a specific type of undead that is obedient to the caster. The creature is animated by a specially developed spell or an obedient ghost. When the spell’s duration ends, the undead may collapse, and cannot be raised again or used for any further spells.

The type of undead raised depends on the target and the [dice] invested.
1 [die] : 1-2 HD creature : corpse snake, crawling claw, skeleton, zombie
2 [dice] : 1-4 HD creature : wight
3 [dice] : 1-6 HD creature : war spirit, mummy
4 [dice] : 1-8 HD creature : something impressively terrifying

Undead typically have reduced stats compared to their living form. Undead of 5 HD or less are nearly mindless. If you die while undead are under your control, the spell's duration expires, or you try to end the spell, there is a [HD]-in-10 chance the undead remains active. Otherwise, it collapses.
Instead of letting the spell expire, you can keep the [dice] you spent on the spell invested. The spell's duration becomes permanent as long as those [dice] remain invested. Alternatively, if you spend 4 [dice] to raise a 1 or 2 HD creature, the spell's duration becomes permanent and no [dice] need to be invested. Creatures may retain some special abilities they had in life.
Raising zombie servants is great. Stitching corpses together to make new creatures to unleash on your enemies is great. But raise not up what you cannot put down. An obedient mummy servant is fantastic; a rogue mummy servant is very dangerous.
7. Innocent Revenant
R: Touch T: corpse D: 0
A creature of [dice] HD or less that died in the last 3 turns immediately returns as an undead version of itself with full HP. The HD requirement is ignored if the target is well known to you (a fellow PC, for example). This revenant can never gain HP, and loses 1 HP, and 1 point of Int and Wisdom to a minimum of 5, every hour until it reaches 0 HP and disintegrates. This HP loss can be healed by the Rot spell or other effects that heal undead creatures. The revenant is unaware that it ever died, even ignoring obvious signs of death (no heartbeat, cold flesh, gaping wounds). However, if someone else insists on confronting them with evidence of their own death, they fly into a rage, becoming a mindless undead.
A necromancer can "accidentally" kill a friend using their class' Perk, then raise them as an Innocent Revenant, then heal them with Rot or control them with Command Undead.
8. Command Undead
R: 50' T: person D: [dice] hours
Target: 1 undead creature that can hear and understand you.
You shout a single-word command to your target, who must Save or obey. If the command lasts more than a single round, intelligent undead, or undead under the control of another necromancer, get a new Save at the beginning of each of their rounds. You can spend additional [dice] to increase the effects.
+1 MD: Affect +2 targets.
+1 MD: You may increase then length of your command by +2 words.
+1 MD: You may increase the duration between checks by +2 rounds.
A more specific version of command, but note the targets. Undead you control get one Save; after that, no matter their HD, they must obey.
9. Fog
R: 30’ T: self D: [dice] hours
You breath out a bunch of fog, filing an area [dice]x20' in radius. No one can see beyond 10' in the fog. Undead can see through the fog. If you invest 4 [dice], you can instead breath out a layer of thick grey-yellow clouds that block sunlight for the spell's duration, for 3 miles in every direction.
Undead don't do well in sunlight, and a few zombies can become very effective if their opponents can't see them.
10. Death Scythe
R: touch T: corpse D: [dice]x10 min
The corpse disintegrates as you pluck a black scythe from its chest. The scythe deals 1d8+Strength Bonus damage. It deals double damage to creatures of the same type as the corpse used to create the scythe (so a scythe drawn from a troll's body would deal double damage to trolls).
This is a relatively high damage spell, but require the necromancer to wade into melee range.

Emblem Spells

11. Finger of Death
R: 50' T: creature D: 0
Target living creature must Save or die. Creatures with a significant magical nature gain a bonus equal to their HD. Frail mortal creatures may not get a Save. This spell requires 2 [dice] to cast against a creature of 5 HD or less, 3 [dice] for a creature between 6 and 8 HD, and 4 [dice] for creatures with more HD.
There's no bonus for using more [dice] to cast this spell, but it can straight-up kill some creatures instantly. Dragons and other powerful living creatures can shrug this spell off; most mortals can't.
12. Fatal Doom
R: 10' T: creature D: permament
You must invest 4 [dice] to cast this spell, and you also drop to 0 HP. You pronounce a Fatal Doom upon a living creature. The creature must have asked you for advice, in a non-casual capacity. They must have asked you what to do, where to go, how to overcome an enemy, or a glimpse into the future. Instead of calling on a spirit,  you read the future directly. You may describe (in one or two sentences, clear or cryptic) what will happen to the target, and how they will die. The Doom is inevitable and irreversible. The GM may alter details and circumstances, but if you say that the target will be hounded from his home by those he loves and devoured by wolves in the forest, that's how he's going to die - and soon. Nothing else will kill the target until the Fatal Doom has come to pass.
This is one of the most powerful spells a wizard can cast because it allows the caster to directly edit reality and set future events. The necromancer could doom a nation with a single spell. Of course, there's no protection from the consequences of a wrathful leader, especially one who has nothing to lose.
Cathar, Haylcon450
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
2. Take 1d6 damage
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Save vs Fear against the target of your spell. 1d6 rounds. Target is fully healed if undead.
5. 1d6 nearby corpses raise as zombies and attack you for 1d6 rounds.
6. You die. Save vs Intelligence every hour to find your way back to your body.

Doom of the Necromancer
1. You die and spend the next 1d6 days wandering Creation as a disembodied, feeble spirit. Your body will rot after 2 days unless it is preserved in some way: pickling, embalming, freezing, or desiccation. If you inhabit a rotting body, you become undead.
2. You become undead, permanently. If you were already undead, you instead lose 6 HP permanently.
3. By direct decree of the Authority, all corpses in 20 miles rise as zombies and skeletons and attempt to kill you. If you have been particularly notorious, they will be accompanied by 2 Bell Exorcists and a demon. Average: 3d20 skeletons, with 1d6 lieutenants, monsters, and commanders as appropriate. Anyone they kill joins them. They will pursue you to the ends of the earth.

This doom can be avoided by eating the heart of an immortal creature, or journeying into hell and make a bargain to serve the Authority, or becoming a Lich.

Dude, Bogdan Rezunenko
Becoming a Lich
You need to breed and research 8 specific spells. The spells don't do anything alone, but they modify your soul to withstand the terrors of undeath with your mind intact. You are essentially breeding and then grafting spells onto your soul.

Since no active liches will teach you the spells they used, and records of spell development are fragmentary at best, each lich must forge their own path. Some succeed; many fail, and fade away into half-mad shadows or disappear screaming into Hell. Other liches become trapped in living worlds of madness and memory, unable to accept their new form or the the changing times. History is full of Immortal Tyrants; they never quite manage to rule the empires they desire.

Ritual Ingredient List

1. Salt
2. Ash
3. A clay bottle
4. A round blue stone
5. A piece of carved and polished bone
6. A grey metal bell with no clapper
7. A twig with three forks and one dead leaf
8. The front leg of a cat
9. A dried frog in a pouch
10. Powdered teeth


  1. So we've got a blend here of the fantasy "necromancer" than makes undead, and the original divinatory meaning of the word. Nice. I've always preferred the original type of necromancer, and of course you've recently shared with us the tale of the Necromancer of Endor.

    Why does becoming a lich help with HP payments?

    1. Because if you're undead, you can use the Rot spell to restore 1 permanent HP, plus your HP increases massively to begin with.

    2. I believe it's cuz the spell 'rot' lets you regain the HP you've been using to cast spells, if you're undead.

      You kinda want to avoid becoming undead for as long as possible, until you're ready to become a lich...

      Kinda wish there was a way to avoid the second doom, and still trigger the third doom at some point...

  2. The Command Undead spell seems to gimp necromancers a bit. You can raise your own undead, but can't order them around, and then once you cast the spell, it's gone until the next morning. That...hardly seems like the correct interpretation.

    1. Undead you raise are obedient to you (see line 1 of Raise Undead). Command Undead works on undead you didn't raise, or undead you once raised that you tried to put down, failed, and are now roaming around no longer under your control.