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Let’s talk about necromancy. What’s the role of the necromancer in an adventuring party? And are practitioners of this school really evil? I am out here in the workshop, and I feel like having a gamer discussion. …I played a lot of 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D, and so it has definitely impacted a lot of my thinking about the game. So, let’s take a look at what the 2nd editionAD&D PHB says about necromancy so that we can compare it to 5th edition necromancy later. But before you start you need to choose fantastic and funny steam names if you want to live stream the game on youtube

“Necromancy is one of the most restrictive of all spell schools. It deals with dead things or the restoration of life, limbs, or vitality to living creatures. Although a small school, its spells tend to be powerful. Given the risks of the adventuring world, necromantic spells are considered quite useful.” And, in a related vein, let’s see what it says about the priestly sphere of necromancy: “Necromantic spells restore to a creature some element of life force that has been totally destroyed. It might be life, a limb, or experience level. Those spells in reverse are powerfully destructive and are used only by extremely evil priests. Deities of life and death are more most likely to act in the sphere.” You can choose lots of necromancer names to play this video games

There is clearly an emphasis on the restoration of life in both the wizardly school and the priestly sphere. I am a big believer in the idea that opposites are studied in the same discipline. So, the AD&D tradition of reversing spells fits with that well. If necromancers study death, then it also follows they study life, so this idea of a necromancer as – potentially – as a much of life-giver as a death-giver resonated with me. It is the same spells that give life that take it away, only reversed. I am considering playing a necromancer in5th edition, and so I approached the character with that mindset. I was surprised to see things have changed. 

Here is what the 5th edition Player’s Handbook has to say about necromancy: “The School of Necromancy explores the cosmic forces of life, death, and undeath. As you focus your studies on their tradition, you learn to manipulate the energy that animated all living things. As you progress, you learn to sap the lifeforce from a creature as you as your magic destroys its body-transforming that vital energy into magical power you can manipulate.” The element about the restoration of life is missing. There appears to have been a deliberate shift toward the more destructive and deathly elements of the school of necromancy. 

The study of death’s opposite, life, appears to have been taken away from the necromancer. Let’s look at spells. Inflict Wounds is a first-level necromancy spell, but not on the wizard’s spell list. It is a cleric spell. It is not even a spell the necromancers can take. Cure Wounds is a separate spell, not the reverse of Inflict Wounds, and the Cure spell is not even within the school of necromancy. It is an evocation spell and I would never have thought to include a cure spell in evocation. But, nonetheless, there it is. These changes have also come with a value judgment on the death aspect of necromancy.

 Without the association with life, let’s see what the 5th edition PHB says on the subject of good and evil, “Most people see necromancers as menacing, or even villainous, due to the close association with death. Not all necromancers are evil, but the forces they manipulate are considered taboo by many societies.” So, it does say that they are not all evil, and in that way, it leaves the door open for player character necromancers. But, it seems to imply that a lot of them are, at least in the context of a D&D game–where, remember, good and evil are rather objective and have mechanical effects–what necromancers do is basically consider evil. Also read- badass necromancer names

Player character necromancers potential excluded. If you include the study of life under necromancy,as AD&D did, it seems much harder to categorize the necromancers as generally evil. They could be the life-giving–or healing–wizards, and as 2nd ed says, potentially extremely valuable to an adventuring party. If they are the ones who can reattach severed limbs, a lot of people might think they are really fantastic. Now, I do understand – on a metagame level- the idea of niche protection, especially in a class-based game like D&D. So, on the meta-game level, maybe having the”healing” wizard is a bad thing. 

All that gets passed to the cleric and the necromancer can focus on just creating undead and other more traditional things you might do in a black robe. I guess that means that if I am going to create a necromancer character who studies both life and death in 5th edition I am going to have to come up with a new way to represent the character concept. I definitely think of this character as an arcane wizard type, but maybe a level in cleric is required to access the spells and abilities that are associated with life. 

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