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Socially Acceptable Necromancers?


In my current home game, of the 8 Gods and Goddesses, there is of course a God of Death. Hilt.
Followers and clerics of Hilt are well versed in conversing with, and dealing with the dead. While it is not common practice, and in more rural areas very much taboo, some necromancy of the Animate Dead vein is tolerated.

This is only okay, if the spirit or former owner of the corpse is okay with it, and has entered a pact with the wizard, cleric, or Paladin.

There is even a chapter of Knights that roam the land after word of Necromancers, with the purpose of ensuring all proper documentation and bindings are in order. Abusers or violators that force the will of their undead minions are rooted out and either brought to justice or terminated.

Still. The player with the Necromancer character does have his minion put on a cloak and mask over the plate armor he provided it. Because it is so tall an imposing, most people don't tend to glance at it too long. However, he hasn't gotten his official paper work yet, sooo...


You could have a world where they may be tolerated or more like feared. In the modern world we tend to tolerate things we do not interact with. There are groups that are allowed to operate without being shut down or killed outright like in the middle ages or the old west. A drug cartel rolls into town, you hope 'the law' takes care of it and does not become corrupt. Something more tolerated is a crack-house or a biker gang. It seems that everyone knows what is going on, but they may not be blatantly breaking the law or bothering most people right now. Necromancers would have more fear about them where common folk grab their kids and hide inside over getting a pitchfork.


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DnD Beyond had an article, Wizard 101: School of Evocation which has a necromancer and evoker having an argument, both part of a college of wizardry. They each have amulets in the shape of their school of magic and, although the short exchange takes place on the college grounds, it comes across as something respectable as it is an aspect of magic that wizard's study.

I think this is the way to make necromancers acceptable, have them as part of an established school of wizardry which is somewhat respected by the populace of the surrounding nation. Necromancers still might not be welcomed with open arms but if they are part of this school which is noted for following the various laws of the nation then they might at least be tolerated.


A necromancer doesn't necessarily have to have much to do with the undead. There are plenty of other spells, though quite why Astral travel is a necromantic spell surpasses me. Sure the 6th level ability, Undead Thralls, becomes useless, but perhaps something else could be substituted?


Should have asked first; is this a fantasy campaign or other? Disguising skeletons as cheap branch golems, robots, or mutant followers with radioactive transparent skin may be an option. Wrap zombies in linens so you can say they're leperous or installing wires to look like cyborgs might be a way to go also.


Necromancers are cool. How do you play one without getting drummed out of town by peasants with torches and paladins with pitchforks?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
The superb, award-winning young-adult fantasy series named The Abhorsen Series (or The Old Kingdom series), by Garth Nix, has a great set of Necromancer-like heroes and an entire magic system based around necromancy. Also, I would not be surprised if the inspiration for the Toll the Bells cantrip came from that series.

Edit - and I see CleverNickname beat me to it! Well I second his recommendation.
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I can add a custom title.
I remember in the death gate cycle, in one of the worlds, necromancy was pretty much the only magic used, raising the dead to (I think) perform menial labour. Unfortunately, in this series, raising the dead interferred with the life cycle to the point that less people were being born (I think that's the gist of it anyway, it definitely had long term negative effects on a spiritual level). The necromancers in that world weren't evil in any way and necromancy was an accepted part of life.


It really depends on the campaign and the use of necromancy. For example, one of our last campaigns started in a jungle city, where pack animals were not just impractical, they were dangerous (attracting predators). The city instead used undead for all sorts of manual labor, and necromancers were highly revered.

In a different campaign, we had a gnome necromancer. She was facinated with the cycle of life, growth, death, decay, feeding into new life. She never reached high enough level to create undead, but my understanding was that she didn't plan to. Without obvious signs of evil magic, she just looked like a normal gnome, albeit a dirty one (she spent a lot of time among dead things, but felt little need to bathe).



Use Speak with Dead to ask the corpse if they would be willing to rise up and defend the ancestors of their village, etc. Once you have their permission, clean the corpse into a nice skeleton and Animate Dead. Always retrieve the remains when the skeleton breaks and use Mending to repair them to be animated again.

Remember their names. Treat them with respect. Mourn the loss of the ones who get completely destroyed and can’t be reanimated.

Li Shenron

Necromancers are cool. How do you play one without getting drummed out of town by peasants with torches and paladins with pitchforks?

Comic for illustrative purposes.

A necromancer character based on ancient-world cultures and mythologies such as Egyptian or Greek would be fine. For them, necromancy is mostly about communicating with the dead (ghosts), or even helping the dead reaching their proper afterlife destination.

However, modern mythology around necromancy is pretty much all about zombies and their variants i.e. making the dead come back, in horrible forms, to be your slaves or go wreck havoc on their own, and generally bring doom to the living. This is actually what 90% of the players have in mind when they decide to create a necromancer character.

Movies and videogames have done their best to overwhelm modern culture with monsters, and zombies seem to be among their favourites. So perhaps most people are now sort of "anesthesised" against the image of an undead and think they wouldn't blink if they actually encountered one in real life, they would just hit it with a stick or shoot it with a gun like they do all the time in movies, what's the problem? Maybe someone even daydreams about it, how cool it would be to fight zombies in real life... but I would like to see the look on their faces if it REALLY happened! :D

But seriously, the world is full of people who consider harmless and even beneficial stuff like contraception socially unacceptable because "it messes up with life" or is "against nature", but reanimating a corpse and force it go around killing people is ok?