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​Necromancy and how it should feel like in 3e

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  • ​Necromancy and how it should feel like in 3e

    So I have been coming up with Lunar characters and necromancy crossed my mind a few times. Since it is a few years out I was trying to make some work around (soul-steel artifacts mostly) but then I thought a bit more and I had a question I asked myself.

    What role should necromancy play? Which is to say that with the new more versatile sorcery system what does necromancy add other than spells but ghosty? Looking back at second edition I am honestly not all that impressed. Don’t get me wrong, zombie & ghost armies are fun, and the death aesthetic is pretty great. However why don’t just include more of those themes in the current sorcery system instead of having extra charms & initiations? If it isn’t going to be different, why even have a difference?

    So I bring it to you all. What thematic & mechanical difference would you like to see explored by necromancy to make it different from sorcery to really stand out as a different type of mystical art?

  • #2
    One thing we know that doesn't work is necromancy being reverse sorcery. Or even necromancy being sorcery-but-better-at-murder-and-stuff.


    However, it can be useful to examine a thing by comparing it to that which is similar and determine the differences. For instance, I would have necromancy use the exact same spell structure as sorcery. Initiations, shape sorcery actions, occult as the main ability etc. If necromancy is to have an equivalent of sorcerous workings I would make it strictly such that it would not greatly overlap the abilities of sorcerous workings. This becomes difficult because sorcerous workings can do... basically anything? And we can't exactly give necromancy the things that are explicitly not possible with sorcery such as resurection, or time travel.

    Obviously necromancy must deal with death and the concepts therein. However, this is not necessarily as restrictive as it seems. Life is to death as two sides of a coin. Everything dies (saving the Yozi, normally) and so everything is linked to death.

    My thought is that necromancy plays directly on the connection of all life with death. It is less about changing that which is or creating wonders from whole cloth and more about connecting with and controlling that which is already there. In small ways this might replicate the effects of sorcerous spells. While a Sorcerous spell might summon a swarm of butterflies made of shards of stone from thin air to rain down upon their foes, and necromantic spell might instead slice into their very life-force cutting down the same number of foes like wheat.Or perhaps a necromantic spell might enhance the bacteria we all carry in ours guts to such an extent that it can devour people from within. Or perhaps it can simply allow a person to go beyond their limits, a spell boosting attributes for a scene(such as boosting a person's strength to the next level for feats of strength), and enacting a heavy toll later.

    You could use your connection with death and life to find an oasis in a desert or to summon a ghost to your side.

    To me, this would leave room for both the vicious cruelty of deathlords from previous editions but also allow more latitude for them and others. The liminals are supposed to use necromancy, and the lunars are as good at it as the Solars are.

    This would also allow something like the great contagion to be the result of an abyssal-circle necromantic working properly pulled off.


    Check out my homebrew exalt: The Fabulists - Chosen of the Raksha here

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    • #3
      I think that while sorcery-but-better-at-murder-and-stuff shouldn't be necromancy's defining trait, it should still be a part of it's identity.

      Like, shuffling around what you can accomplish at different levels. It helps to distinguish the two. We just need that to act as a foundation for something bigger.

      I have no idea what that something would be though.

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      • #4
        I was actually surprised to see necromancy being refered to as its own distinct thing. It was kind of up in the air for a while on if it really had that much more going on than a sorcerous initiation.

        Then we saw the Wanasaan Exorcists with sorcery they'd gained from putting themselves on the verge of death with a few merits that I'm probably going to steal for ghost blooded characters and I thought "oh this is basically what Necromancy is now?" apparently I was wrong and have no idea what to expect now.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Lioness View Post
          I was actually surprised to see necromancy being refered to as its own distinct thing. It was kind of up in the air for a while on if it really had that much more going on than a sorcerous initiation.
          Honestly, that would be better. Obviously the writing team might do something unprecedented, but I for one would be happier with just...

          Spooky initiation, some spooky and iconic spells, boom. Necromancer.

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          • #6
            Well, it's abyssals innit? You just give them solar circle sorcery and they lose one of their big defining traits. It'd suck to limit their options for shaping rituals.

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            • #7
              I think Ekorren's Necromancy Homebrew was a good take on Necromancer, obv not complete but I hope now that he is a freelance writer for them that they can take some inspiration from it.

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              • #8
                I had suggested back when 3e first came out that Necromancy might just be a Sorcerous Initiation, but I'm pretty sure that I was 'word of god' told that I was wrong. Of course back then there were different gods.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                  Well, it's abyssals innit? You just give them solar circle sorcery and they lose one of their big defining traits. It'd suck to limit their options for shaping rituals.
                  So don't limit their options. Instead, give them Occult Charms to empower deathly spells, like the ones the Dragon-Blooded get to enhance elemental ones, and native Charms that empower ghostly servants and synergize with hordes of the undead.

                  As Hark points out, this is all academic anyway.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                    Well, it's abyssals innit? You just give them solar circle sorcery and they lose one of their big defining traits. It'd suck to limit their options for shaping rituals.
                    I feel that Abyssals were hurt by Necromancy last edition. Neph really pushed dark fate on them with the justification that basically any splat could become a necromancer and lord over the dead.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by armyofwhispers View Post
                      However, it can be useful to examine a thing by comparing it to that which is similar and determine the differences.
                      I wanted to expand a bit on these excellent suggestions with my own thoughts about how to distinguish sorcery and necromancy without necromancy being "like sorcery, but deathier".

                      I'd define sorcery as the magic of transformation, change, transcending the limits of Creation, strangeness from outside, transcending natural cycles, and creation ex nihilo. Sorcery, fundamentally, is weird and different - every instance of it is, in some way, a violation of Creation's "natural law" (although in many cases, it's exploiting a "higher natural law", the meta-rules laid down in the formation of Creation that the Primordials used to accomplish various things easily). This is one reason sorcerers have the reputation they do - even if they're being nice and polite and helpful, people can still sense that they're violating the rules as they are. Note, I don't mean this as a morally bad thing - sorcerers are weird, sure, but there's no moral weight to the rules of Creation as they stand. If you're breaking them for a good reason, that's good, while if you uphold the rules for a bad reason, that's bad.

                      Necromancy, on the other hand, is the magic of stasis, preservation of the status quo, the cycle of life and death, and reinforcing the laws of Creation. Necromancy is of Creation and the Underworld in a way that sorcery just isn't. It relies on the existing laws of nature to accomplish more of its effects. It also calls upon the Old Laws, the apparent laws of the dead and the Underworld that some dead things champion. Necromancers tend to have negative reputations as much as sorcerers do, but the source is different. A necromantic spell doesn't feel fundamentally weird or wrong the way a sorcerous one does, but it does remind everyone who sees it that death is part of the natural cycle, and that everyone needs to face it.


                      For spells and workings, I'd say that mostly, sorcery and necromancy can accomplish a lot of the same things, but the side effects and look and feel will be different. Sorcery, for example, tends towards effects that are weird in and off themselves. If a sorcery spell heals you, it'll do it, but the flesh that grows to close your wounds might resemble a demon or provoke dysphoria as your mind rejects it as "yours". Necromancy, on the other hand, tends to have consequences related to the natural cycles and rules of the world. A necromantic healing spell might strip years of life from your maximum age, for instance, or cause the wounds to move to someone else rather than totally healing them, or simply force you to eat and sleep as much as you would if you healed the wounds "naturally". In workings, this will mostly manifest as special effects, particularly in low-finesse ones where the ST sets the nature of the working. This also changes the style of Means used for things like exotic components and sorcerous infrastructure.

                      Some effects, however, should be different between sorcery and necromancy. For spells, necromancy shouldn't be able to summon demons, I think, while sorcery shouldn't get ghosts. Or, at least, going the 2e route, each should get the other's summoning effect at a higher circle. For elementals, I think I'd allow necromancers to summon and bind them, but only to task-bind them to something that matches their nature, reinforcing the "follow the rules" element. I also like the idea of necromancy being better at targeting groups with codified identities than sorcery is. Sorcery can blast an area with fire, no problem, but it takes necromancy to target "all members of the Blood Hawk gang who have taken its initiation rites in Nexus".

                      For workings, I'd say that necromancy can't really create new species or add significant mutations representing entirely new traits to someone. On the other hand, I'd be more lenient in allowing mutations that represent enhancing already-existing traits, or preserving a creature's life or existence (I'd probably let it add Exalted Healing more easily than sorcery, for instance). I'd also suggest adding an addition Means an option for necromantic working: "Upholding an Old Law". This would involve making sure the working was explicitly tied to one of the Old Laws of the Underworld, and would impose punishments on anyone (definitely including the necromancer!) who broke the Law while benefiting from the working. If no appropriate Old Law had already been defined, you could always declare a fact to define one, with an appropriate Lore background, and the difficulty depending on the circle of the working you wanted to support - difficulty 5 for a Terrestrial, 7 for Celestial, and 9 for Solar (obviously, change the names to the appropriate necromantic ones, this is just to set the levels).

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                      • #12
                        I generally like Ekorren's Necromancy homebrew... with the noted exception that I prefer to ignore most-to-all of the drawback bits, like how unspent necromantic motes deal bashing damage at the end of the scene and several spells' control effects have adverse elements. I really don't want necromancy to be "sorcery, but not as good and also considerably more limited", and those drawbacks feel fairly conducive to the thing I don't want.

                        The idea of some degree of sorcery-necromancy overlap spellwise is one I'm pretty content with---Blood Lash feels like it should be available to necromancers as well.

                        EDIT: Wait, Ekorren's a freelancer now? Neat!


                        Abyssals: Whom Death Has Called, a PEACH-as-heck attempt to make an Abyssal 3E holdover.

                        Where I try to make Artifacts. When I finish them I'll probably post them in the Artifact Workshop thread so people can help me hammer them into shape.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Beans View Post
                          EDIT: Wait, Ekorren's a freelancer now? Neat!
                          *dances*

                          I would love it if I got to write for necromancy in the future, but I can tell for certain that the devs are awesome and suggesting that they should take inspiration from my homebrew would be cutting them short. I can't wait to see what they'll come up with, and I can't wait to write for it whatever it turns out to be.


                          Creator of Machineborn | Freelancer for Exalted |
                          Youtube Channel | @ekorrenhj on Twitter

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                          • #14
                            OOOh lots of good responses! Does anybody have a link to Ekorren's necromancy?

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                            • #15
                              He took it down when he became a freelancer IIRC.


                              Onyx Path Forum Moderator
                              Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

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