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Necromancy from Old Site - info dump pending formatting

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:57 pm
by Stam
(from here)

Necromancy & Undeath in the Realms

Attendant with our discussion on Alignment (located here) are logical questions about undeath, as well as negative energy in general. Different games have different takes on these concepts, which is understandable considering that not even the books can come with with a coherent explanation of how to treat them (all undead are evil, including the non-intelligent ones, but don't get the Evil subtype...while channeling negative energy is supposedly evil, but not all of those spells--such as enervation--gain the Evil descriptor...).

The way a game treats these concepts can have a very strong impact on its tone and theme, and so the DMs have decided to make it clear to everyone exactly what undead and negative energy mean in our game. (Hint: We take a somewhat more black-and-white view than the Realms at large, which is rather lassiez-faire in places, but much less so than a setting such as, say, Ravenloft. Also note that these themes borrow heavily from the wonderful writeup produced by Frank and K at The Gaming Den--I'm big on giving credit where it's due.)

Negative Energy and Undead: Negative Energy, in this game, is Evil in its purest raw form, without any sort of bias for law, chaos, or an opinion of any sort--enough so that Evil is capitalized and repeated for effect. Mechanically and in terms of roleplay, this means several things:

Negative Energy Spells: Spells that use negative energy are explicitly designed to release pure Evil into the world for the purpose of killing other creatures. In roleplay terms, such spells generally cause much more excruciating pain than is technically appropriate for the damage they deal, and/or severe emotional trauma. Further, regular use of such spells is taxing on one's soul, and anyone who isn't evil will probably begin to find themselves facing new dark urges that become harder and harder to resist. Mechanically, the only change is that all spells that use negative energy now have the [Evil] descriptor (this includes enervation, death knell, and every spell with the [Death] descriptor, among others).
Deathwatch: This spell, however, actually loses the [Evil] descriptor, because the fact that it has such a descriptor in the first place seems to be little more than a typo.
Undead: All undead now have the Evil subtype. Mechanically, this means that the natural weapons of any undead overcome damage reduction as evil-aligned weapons. In roleplay terms, good-aligned undead are now as rare as good-aligned demons, devils, etc.--as in nearly non-existent, and even those who overcome evil in favor of simple neutrality will always feel the darker sides of their natures urging them on...
Non-Sentient Undead: The biggest change to undead affects skeletons, zombies, and other undead with no Int score. Rather than inert constructs awaiting their creator's orders, these creatures are vicious, mindless killers on chains, actively seeking out the nearest source of life and dashing open its skull unless explicitly ordered not to. They are truly evil, like their ghoul, wight, and wraith bretheren (just without the ability to reason), and act accordingly at all times. Regardless of their low CR and inability to use tactics, these creatures are horrific monstrosities that should strike fear in any living creature's heart, as they are wholly dedicated to snuffing out all life they come across.
Vampires: These two undead types are actually affected in the opposite way you might expect, as they tend to retain more of their personalities from life than nearly any other type of undead. In the case of a creature that was good in life, this means that the unfortunate gets to wage an (invariably!) losing war against the dark, horrific desires she cannot control--a war that usually ends in insanity, suicide, eternal torture by her bemused master, and/or a total loss of everything that made the vampire human (all the while knowing what was lost...a fact which tends to make these last sorts the vilest of the lot). A Good vampire is truly one of the greatest tragedies in existence.
Ghosts: These are the exception that proves the rule, so to speak. Not necessarily animated by any sort of negative energy, or by having any sort of evil in their hearts, ghosts are merely spirits who fail to pass on to whatever reward awaits them in order to complete an unfinished task. As such, though they are quite dangerous, they neither have the Evil subtype nor are mandated to be evil-aligned. Many are, but it's very much dependent on the specific person. (This also applies to Spectral Mages.)
Revenants: While their goals of vengeance are understandable, as every one of these creatures starts as a victim, once created a revenant lives only to kill, surviving on pure hatred and vengeance. They are invariably Lawful Evil, twisted mockeries of their human forms capable of unspeakable cruelties against those who wronged them...or anyone who stands in their way.
The Negative Energy Plane: This plane is now strongly Evil-aligned, in addition to its other planar traits, as the realm is the purest embodiment of evil in existence (even moreso than the Abyss or the Nine Hells). That's the only change that needs to be made to this plane.
Trafficking With the Undead: There is a sharp division between good and evil necromancers, and few are exactly neutral (most of those who are soon find themselves on a slippery slope towards evil). Good necromancers almost never specialize in the school, trafficking with the dead only insofar as it allows them to divine information or actually destroy the undead (which rather limits the number of spells from the school they are willing to use), while evil necromancers feel no such constraints. Many necromancers have rather a stigma attached, though good necromancers learn early on how to deal with it and convey what they are with a minimum of fuss (and many evil necromancers simply conceal it until necessary, usually disguising themselves as illusionists or conjurers).