The thin line between life and death has a lot of mystique. I've always wanted some sort of death-aspected adept in Unknown Armies, and was excited about Thanatomancy - until I got a hold of it, and managed to read what it was about. I'll admit, I was disappointed. So, eventually, I created Necromancy, which is in its alpha stages. It needs a proper playtest.
And so I give you a very different look at magick and the dead.
Necromancy (v0.25a)aka Morticians, Flatliners, Vultures, Kevorkians
Thanatomancers are fools. They think true power comes from taking the lives of others; they think that by ritualizing death, they respect it; they believe they transcend death, but in reality they are enslaved by it. Idiots, one and all.
Necromancers know that the real power of death comes from the boundary itself, that tenuous connection between light and dark, between this world and whatever lies beyond. Crossing the boundary, or even just being close to it, creates the friction that fuels the mortician's spells. The bodies of the dead contain remnants of that potency, and are the perfect conduits for many necromantic urges.
Though nothing prevents necromancers from killing, many of them are weary of it; there's enough death in the world already, and the flatliners are usually on the front lines. They walk the line between life and death, while everyone else crosses over, or tries to run away. The necromancer is apart from that, maybe even above it. "Let others do the killing and the dying," is a common philosophy among the vultures.
Spontaneous necromancers often work with the dead. Coroners, morticians, detectives... these are where the morticians fill their ranks. There is no central organization for kevorkians; they are often loners, absorbed in their work to the detriment of everything else. For obvious reasons, vultures often become demons after they die, which is what generally leads people to wrongly associate the magick of death with evil itself.
Central Paradox: The paradox of necromancy is the eternal tension between life and death. Necromancers find themselves simultaneously in the position of encouraging the boundary and perforating it.
Taboo: Unlike thanatomancers, necromancers can kill indiscriminately, though they cannot get charges from deaths that they cause. His obsessions is about the line between life and death, and the voids beyond; not the process of dying itself. However, whenever the flatliner spends too much time around the living, he loses his connection to the dead. Reflected in game terms, for every day in which the character DOESN'T get at least one charge, or spends at least one charge, he loses a single charge, always the highest one he currently possesses.
Getting a Minor Charge: Morticians get minor charges by being closer to death. Examples include: spending the night in a cemetery or morgue, properly embalming a body from start to finish, performing an autopsy, digging a grave (or digging UP a grave); to be present at the death of an animal. In addition, the necromancer may come closer to death more directly, giving up a week of his life for a charge.
Getting a Significant Charge: Morticians get significant charges by bringing themselves much closer to death. Examples include: performing last rights over someone in the process of dying; listening to a dying man's last words; spending the night buried underground, in a coffin; practicing necrophilia (no more than once per corpse); saying the eulogy at a funeral. More directly, the necromancer can simply give up a year of his life.
Getting a Major Charge: Being declared medically dead, then being brought back to life without the assistance of magic. Giving up a decade of life. Administering assisted suicide on a completely willing victim.
Notes: Whenever a character chooses to age a year at a time, have them maky a Body roll, trying to roll above their new age in years. If they succeed, nothing happens. If they succeed the Body roll but get under the Age roll, they are at -10 to all Body and Speed rolls until the next time they sleep. If they fail the Body roll entirely, they lose Body equal to the tens die and Speed equal to the ones die, permanently. Furthermore, they are are at -10 to all actions until the next time they sleep. A matched failure gives the character some sort of complication (a minor heart attack, a miniature coma, a stroke) with game effects at the GM's discretion. A critical failure is instant death. Aging ten years at once gives this roll a -10 shift. Always remember to keep track of even a week's worth of age!!
Random Magick Domain: The dead, death, the barrier between life and death, spirits.
Necromantic Blast Style: The necromantic blast drains its target of life, slowly but surely killing them.
Sample Minor EffectsNecromimesis
1 minor charge
Through a ritual that takes about sixty seconds, the character (or a willing or unresisting target) is made to enter a state of death, which lasts up to a day, doubled for each additional charge spent; this time is predetermined and cannot be changed. During this time, the body is completely dead to all appearances, though it will not decay and cannot defend itself against damage (autopsies are a bitch). If the target of this spell is a necromancer, he will not lose charges while dead. When the character comes back to life, he immediately must make two rank-10 madness checks, one in Self and one in Unnatural.Grim Struggle
1 minor charge
By spending a minor charge, the necromancer can stay alive past death for a round in combat, or an hour outside of combat (if he enters combat during that hour, he can stay alive for that one round; ambush rounds don't count). Unless the necromancer purposely stops it, this spell automatically goes into effect upon death, and continues siphoning charges until it fails or the charges run out, even converting significant or major charges if necessary.Crawling Hands
1 minor charge
This spell allows the necromancer to animate the severed hands of dead bodies, which will do his bidding. A severed hand has no intelligence - it has a Body of 50 (with a Struggle skill of 25) and a Speed of 85 (with a Dodge skill of 85, which it uses constantly). Similar formula spells may exist for other parts of dead bodies - at least one necromancer has claimed to have replaced a living heart with a dead one.Rebuke
2 minor charge
This spell affects only spirits. When a necromancer rebukes a spirit that is in his presence, he forbids it from doing something for a period of time (days equal to the sum of the two dice, plus one die per extra charge spent). This is a rather painful process for the spirit involved, and generally makes the spirit resentful of the necromancer. For an extra minor charge, the necromancer can command the spirit to DO something instead; this geas lasts the same amount of time.Feast of Crows
2 minor charges
The necromancer eats one or both eyes of a dead individual and witnesses what that person saw in their last few minutes before death, up to and including their death, in real time. If the eyes being eaten are human, this generates a rank-7 Self check; other madness checks might be appropriate depending on the nature of the death experienced by the witness. Both eyes gives a clearer picture; eating only one eye gives an incomplete vision.Withering
2 minor charges
This is the necromantic minor blast. The character drains some life out of the individual, cutting short his lifespan by a number of weeks equal to the sum of the dice (and doing the same amount of damage). The victim is also at a -10 to all Body and Speed rolls for the next few minutes (this is non-cumulative) as his body adapts to the changes.Necromnemonics
3 minor charges
The necromancer eats a part of the individual's brain and gets either a swath of their memories (about a topic or about a time span) or use of one of their non-Soul skills for a day. After that time, the memories or the skill fade (though the memories of remembering the memory, or of using the skill, don't fade). Use of necromnemonics is a rank-10 Self check, for eating the individual's brain and then absorbing a part of their identity.
Sample Significant EffectsZombie
1 significant charge
A zombie is pretty much an animated corpse. One can pretty much build one using the rules for mechanomancer constructs, normally treated as "weird" constructs. They cannot heal naturally, but a necromancer can expend a minor charge to heal the sum of the dice in damage.Necrophagia
1 significant charge
The necromancer consumes a portion of a spirit's life force, and the spirit takes Soul damage equal to the numbers rolled on the dice. The necromancer, in return, gets a number of months added to his life equal to the sum of the dice. This does not work on people.Drain Life
2 significant charges
This is the necromancer's significant blast, which allows him to consume a portion of his target's life energy and revitalize himself. The target takes damage as normal (and ages a number of days equal to the damage caused), and the flatliner heals wound points equal to the sum of the dice (or the total on a matched success). In addition, the target must make a helplessness-3 stress check, and is at -10 to all Body and Speed rolls until he gets a good night sleep.Revenant
2 significant charges
This summons up a demon or other appropriate noncorporeal entity and binds it to a dead body; the demon's fate is now connected to the physical form, and if the form is destroyed, the demon may also be destroyed. The demon may not leave the body without its destruction or some form of magickal intervention, and the body itself does not heal naturally, though neither does it decay as a normal corpse would. The body can be healed with necromantic charges, one minor charge for a number of wound points equal to the sum of the dice.
The necromancer does not automatically control the demon revenant, but can rebuke it using the appropriate spell, or find other means to compel it into the appropriate action, if controlling the demon is the goal. If the spirit manages to depart the body and leaves it intact, the body is thereafter dead to necromantic ministrations.
A variation of this, costing only one significant charge, can be cast upon an individual before he dies. The moment that individual's wound points reach zero, he immediately becomes a lich, without waiting for medical or magical intervention; treat the same as a Revenant, only the body is inhabited by the person who wore it in life, rather than a demon. Necromancers often cast this upon themselves to ensure they will be able to move on to the next life. A lich necromancer can no longer gain charges by giving up a portion of its life.
Sample Major Effects
Raising an individual from the dead to full life, restoring the body in the process (even from nothingness). Sending an individual bodily into the shadowlands (or wherever spirits exist, the spirit world). Granting a single individual immortality (note: this does not stop aging or death from necromantic charges).What you hear
Necromancers have been known to pay a lot of money for someone's last breath before they died, captured properly. Others claim to be able to talk to the dead by reanimating their mouths and their tongue.