Necromancy in Dungeons & Dragons is typically the domain of evil characters, but some good design could lead to a believably heroic necromancer. It can be a bit of a challenge to contextualize necromancy as heroic under normal circumstances due to the magic’s nature. However, almost every ability can be used for good or evil in Dungeons & Dragons.

Necromancy is most commonly associated with raising the dead and other death-related effects. Not only are they the most notable, but the prefix “necro” also brings the thought of death to mind. Necromancy in Dungeons & Dragons has more applications than just raising the dead, though. It also involves channeling negative energy to harm living foes, or debilitate them physically and mentally. Of course, it can also bolster the undead as well, since the effects of positive and negative energy are reversed for them. Some of Dungeons & Dragons‘ most powerful, game-breaking spells are necromancy, making a necromancer a strong choice for a party member.


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A D&D Necromancer’s Powers Can Be Spiritual In Nature

A Circle of Stars D&D druid, wearing an antler-like headpiece and casting magic with a green aura in one hand.

A lot of the time, necromancers, especially villainous ones, have their powers seen as something unnatural and wrong. A prominent reason for this is due to animating remains to create undead allies being seen as disrespectful. Depending on the interpretation of these powers though, necromancy could be an act associated with nature rather than in opposition to it, and it all depends on how it is presented.

One way to approach necromancy in a less sinister light would be for the necromancer in question to be someone who is closely attuned to spirits and nature in some way. They could be similar to one of Dungeons & Dragons‘ powerful monks, living a life of meditation that has given them a close connection to the world of spirits. Rather than twisting nature for its own benefit, their version of necromancy involves them working alongside the forces of life and death.

This sort of necromancer could be flavored as someone who communes with the spirits of the dead, requesting their assistance and even their permission to use their remains. This manner of necromancy would be more like an agreement rather than a spell. As for other necromancy spells, that could be an extension of the character’s connection with the spirits, being so in-tune that they can even afflict the souls of their enemies.

This sort of necromancer may be a more introspective character, highly aware of the balance of nature and the role that they play in it. This approach to necromancy can also open more opportunities for a DnD player to roleplay as they connect with the spirits associated with their powers and the corpses they reanimate. Exploring the character’s own perspective of life and death could also make for interesting material, considering their approach to it.

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A cloaked D&D character using the spirit guardians spell, surrounded by glowing ghosts.

Similar to how a warlock in Dungeons & Dragons gets their powers from their chosen patron, a necromancer could potentially have their magic granted from an outside source. They could use their latent abilities to summon this power, or perhaps their power is wielded entirely by this entity, acting on their command. It would be a way to take the necromancer’s association with the dead to a new level by giving that connection a representative character. It would be an unusual approach to the class, but one that has potential for something interesting.

The necromancer could be accompanied by a spirit associated with the necromancer’s unique Dungeons & Dragons backstory, such as that of an ancestor or a dearly departed friend or relative. Whenever they activate their spells, their power is granted by said spirit, who uses their own ghostly abilities to follow the necromancer’s intentions. They could even summon undead allies as a way to give the spirit a temporary body so that they can function in the physical world for the duration of the summon. The necromancer may even prioritize this function over their other spells for this reason.

In a way, this design for a necromancer would put the player in charge of two characters at once, the necromancer themselves as well as their partner spirit. This dynamic could be further played with depending on the circumstances. For example, the question regarding whether the necromancer has any power at all, or if it all lies in the spirit, which could be an interesting background for a DnD party dynamic. It may be a tall order for many players to attempt in a campaign, but this character dynamic can provide a unique addition to a party.

A D&D Necromancer Could Be Afraid Of Their Own Abilities

Artwork from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, showing a spellcaster standing with a tome open, surrounded by flying fairy-like creatures in a wooded area.

A lot of spells associated with necromancy can be among the scariest in Dungeons & Dragons. From draining life from their enemies with spells like Blight and Sapping Sting to raising corpses to fight alongside them, necromancers can do terrifying things with their signature spells. While they have a natural ability to frighten their enemies, one twist for a necromancer would be one that feared their own abilities.

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They may have unintentionally received their abilities, or they could fear the nature of necromancy itself, as it embodies the deadliest side of Dungeons & Dragons‘ often evil magic. Whatever the case may be, this character would actively be afraid of their own spells, and use magic as little as possible unless absolutely necessary. The player could expand on the source of their fears to flesh the character out further. It could be as simple as them having a fear of the undead, or as complex as the concern that their powers shouldn’t exist in the first place.

While such a character could be played for comedy, the player could pull off an impressive performance by turning their weakness into a strength. Although their powers may mortally terrify them, they still come to grips with them in order to perform their task at hand, especially if that task is for the greater good. Any moment where this character manages to confidently wield their mastery over negative energy can make for a satisfying roleplay moment that could bring excitement to a D&D campaign.

Players can take some innovative ideas to reverse the usual stereotypes of necromancers. Whether they take a vastly different approach to their craft than most, or are frankly confused about their own magic, they can come in as many different varieties as any other class. Necromancers in Dungeons & Dragons can be much more interesting than simply being a mysterious caster that summons zombies.

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