[D&D] What is the necromancers crime?

#1
In D&D, the people of the world should know (unless the clerics are hushing it up) that when you die your soul goes somewhere else, and your corpse is just a bag of flesh. They may also be aware that the recent and untimely deceased can be brought back to life (raise dead) if the corpse is intact (I expect this occasionally happens to the rich and powerful). They might even be aware of stories of the long dead being brought back to life from a collection of bones (resurrection - up to century in 5e).

So, what is the status of a corpse, and what is a necromancer's crime? Is it theft? Does it make a difference if the body isn't whole when they start (animate dead doesn't need whole bodies)? Has this addressed in any setting materials?
 
#2
Well, it must be terribly distressing for the relatives to see their dear old Mum or beloved husband walking about all rotting and zombified, at some necromancer's beck and call. I imagine cremation becomes very popular as a funeral rite if there are necromancers in the district.

Sherri Tepper's novels Northshore and Southshore (also combined into one volume as The Awakeners), has people resurrected as zombies to do public building works. But never in their own home district. The zombies are always taken to another county. (And being a Sherri Tepper novel, there's a Hideous Secret as to what is really going on with the zombies).
 
#3
Another thought... after my Dad died, it took months before Mum could bear to get rid of any of his stuff: clothes, books, etc. Similarly, she still has a suitcase full of old photos from clearing out Gran's council flat after she died. Mum has no idea who most of the people in the photos are, because many of them would have passed away when she was a toddler. However, they meant a lot to Gran, so Mum hangs onto them.

All the above refers to stuff. Now take that emotional attachment and dial it up to 11 for the actual body of the person you loved. The hands you held, the lips you kissed, the freckles on the nose you thought were cute.
 
#4
Has anyone ever addressed the issue of what happens if you "Raise Dead" someone who died of old age? Do you just get them back for a couple of hours?

And if someone can be ressurected after a century then you're torn. If you cremate someone, then they're safe from animate dead. However, you lose any chance that you might get rich and raise/resurrect them.

Anyway, if Raising from the Dead is normalised as a society doesn't that lead to infantilisation of that society because everyone - even someone who would in a different world be a wise elder - will have their parents around double guessing their actions,

And if it isn't normalised, who gets the decision about who gets Raised and who doesn't? Only the believers of your particular religion, only people who can afford to pay, either, both? It's a can of worms.

What's a Necromancer's crime? Pretty much the same as the producers of Soylent Green or anyone who turns dead bodies into fertiliser or dog food.

(Unless they can get people to sign an appropriate "doner card" which they're alive. Now THERE'S a hook for an adventure.)
 
#6
"Doner" card sounds sinister
"What do you need your body for after you're gone? Nothing. Your spirit's gone, departed to a higher plane. If you sign it over to me I'll give you here, now, today 100 golden coins of the realm to help you and your family, right here today in the real world. And you'll save your family some funeral expenses....."

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
 
#7
"What do you need your body for after you're gone? Nothing. Your spirit's gone, departed to a higher plane. If you sign it over to me I'll give you here, now, today 100 golden coins of the realm to help you and your family, right here today in the real world. And you'll save your family some funeral expenses....."

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
But will this include a contract that dissuades the use of said re-animated corpses for nefarious purposes like conscription into an undead army?
 
#9
But will this include a contract that dissuades the use of said re-animated corpses for nefarious purposes like conscription into an undead army?
This is pretty close to the trigger for my question. We have been playing The Lost Mine of Phandelver, and there's a bit where you go and investigate reports of undead around a location. It turned out to be a Red Wizard (which the other players told me means Evil) who was doing an archaeological dig using zombies, some he brought with him and some raised locally.

Other than the presence of zombies, he honestly didn't seem to be doing anything that could be called wrong, let alone evil. I'm not clear on this because I was away (at Contingency I think) the day the party meet him, and a fight had broken out before the end of the session. Started by my character as an NPC, apparently, but it sounds like the sort of thing I'd do...

So I was wondering if there had been any discussion of how the absolute knowledge of a separate soul that goes somewhere else after death might change how D&D folks view bodies, or collections of bones.

Actually, I don't think there is any requirement that the bodies/bones are of any particular species, or even of the same species...here we go: 'Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid'. So skeletons could theoretically be a mix of bits? What if it was goblin zombies the bloke was using, aren't they Evil anyway?

Did we butcher a poor innocent archaeologist and his automaton assistants?
 
#10
I think the questions or morality in games should be discussed briefly out-of-game, not a philosophical treatise, just briefly to get all Players and DM on the same page.

Personally, I do enjoy the Drow Campaigns in D&D, basically, the in-flightig between Drow noble houses, and that involves some cultural aspects that would be considered evil by most traditional heroic surface dwellers.

Hence, the Players and DM should agree what they will accept at their game table. Would raising zombies be legit if they are employed in normal manual labour common to that region.? Another moral question would be whether this counts as slavery and whether slavery applies to undead or even if it is a common accepted practice for non-zombies.
 

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
#12
Who is inside the rotting husk? Can you bring back the essence of the person and re-animate a ready host body? What quandaries would that bring? Magic Carbon.

You are bringing back a travesty of the corporeal, mocking the life that once lived amongst us? Evil. Burn the necromancer and all its coven with righteous fire.
 
#15
Some varieties of Christian beliefs require a physical body to be resurrected by God at the End Times, when all the faithful go off to eternal paradise. Necromancers are stealing what belongs to God and/or preventing that divinely sanctioned resurrection.

Ditto Ancient Egypt. You need that body in the afterlife. (Even if your brains and internal organs have been taken out and put in canopic jars!)

And you can't commune with the spirits of your ancestors via their bones, if those bones are off doing archaeological excavations in the next county.

Plus the Peasants & Labourers Union will go on a protest march against the use of undead workers - a practice which suppresses wages and causes unemployment.
 
#18
If the meat is magically reanimated, can I even digest it? If it is immune to digestion by bacteria and maggots, surely it is also immune to digestion by mammals like me?
I figured zombies would continue to decompose, hence the constant need for fresh bodies. Otherwise, one night in a graveyard would see a necromancer set for life (err, un-life?). Even cast as a 9th level spell Animate Dead only gives you 13 new zombies. Admittedly the Necromancer Supreme could spend all day casting it to control his undead legion (well, undead century, I make it 128 max at level 20), but that does leave him a bit short on backup plans.

Besides, I like the idea that if a zombie survives long enough, it can level up to skeleton.

(Edit: fixed the numbers.)
 
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#19
Has anyone ever addressed the issue of what happens if you "Raise Dead" someone who died of old age? Do you just get them back for a couple of hours?
I seem to recall that your suggestion was explicitly the case in one of the D&D rulebooks I read a long long time ago. It might have been BECMI D&D. It might have been AD&D 2e.

As for animating corpses being EVIL...well, one can easily invent reasons it's explicitly evil. Or just accept it's distasteful rather than evil as such, and do some interesting world building. As said up thread, it might be a case of people selling their bodies after death...and the real crimes being people opting to, ahem, accelerate the process. Or good old-fashioned body snatching.
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#20
With our modern secular worldview it seems less evil.

But what if, like a Jew or Jehovah's Witness, you believed in whole body ressurection at Judgement Day?
 
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