Death dealing — Expanding necromancy in the Fantasy Trip

March 25, 2020 at 6:06 pm

“None can use black magic without straining the soul to the uttermost—and staining it into the bargain. Only a strong man, leather-handed, in whom hate and evil are very powerful, can wield them, and he only for a space.”

― Fritz Leiber, Swords and Deviltry

Grimm Hassel pulled his cloak tight against the chill of the crypt. Water dripped from somewhere and racks of skulls leered at him in the pale glow of his alchemical light. Dust swirled in a shallow niche covered in carved symbols and runes. A vaguely humanoid figure seemingly made from shadow and dust began to realize in the center of the niche.

“You should not have come here”, came a voice from the depths of the shadow.

“Perhaps not”, responded Hassel, “but you have something I need. And I will have it.”

For most of us, death is a sealed passage, that you only get access to once and will never learn what lies beyond. But for others that border is more porous, getting glimpses of the next world and being aware of those who have not completely passed over. Some people are merely sensitive to spirits, but those who seek answers from forbidden sources and wish to command the dead are known as necromancers.

New IQ12 Talent: Spiritualist (2) Those who are knowledgeable and aware of the spirit world are often known as mediums. They can sense the presence of ghosts, wraiths and other spirits before they manifest (like Alert figures can notice an ambush) and can recognize their type on a successful 3/IQ test. If an identified spirit has not attacked anyone in the spiritualist’s group, they can make a Reaction test at +1. If the result is Neutrality or better, the spirit will not harm them unless they violate its trust. With a result of Great Friendliness or more, the spirit may offer information or a single piece of advice. This talent costs the same for both heroes and wizards.

Not all spirits are powerful permanent manifestations. Some are merely the echoes of the recently passed that have not left our world completely. These spirits can sometimes be reached and made to provide information.

New IQ12 Spell: Channel Spirit (1) This spell allows the spirit of the dead to speak through the caster and answer questions. The spirit contacted must have a connection to the wizard — either the physical body or grave, or items that were of great importance to the spirit in life. The GM may adjust the casting difficulty based on the power of the connection. Spirits fade quickly as well, so the casting test is made at -1 for each day the spirit has been dead. If successful, the spirit can speak through the spell caster. It must communicate, but is not compelled to be truthful (although it could be, see below) for 12 rounds.

Spiritualists are often benign (if slightly disreputable) personalities. True necromancers walk a much darker path. The pinnacle of the necromantic arts are the Zombie spell as well as Revive, as a necromancer strives for mastery over life and death. Along the way they gain control over the physical attributes (via Clumsiness, Confusion, and Drain Strength), and some necromancers pose as healers to hide their grave pursuits. Most necromancers scoff at illusions and creation spells as lesser forms of magic.

If a necromancer wishes and the spirit is willing, they may converse and share information. But the spirits are often unwilling to engage with mortals on this level. If not, it might be possible to force the spirit to oblige.

New IQ13 Spell: Compel Spirit (1) When in the presence of an undead spirit, the wizard can try to force it to answer questions even do their budding. The spirit gets an immediate IQ saving test, and if it fails it will answer one question each round the spell is maintained (up to the wizard’s IQ). Alternately, the caster can compel the spirit to act on their command. In this case, the spirit gets a save every round the Compulsion continues. While this spell is commonly used to question ghosts and other incorporeal entities, it can be used to command ghouls, wights, and even vampires, but these creatures tend to turn on the necromancer as soon as the spell is completed.

Most spirits do not wish to remain on this side of the veil. A necromancer can help them pass on to the next world. In most cases this is a benign act, but if a spirit is freed before it can finish a task it was bound to, it will reform in 24 hours.

New IQ16 Spell: Exorcise Spirit (1) This spell breaks the bond that holds a spirit to physical world, allowing them to cross over. Any manifesting spirit like a ghost, wraith, night-gaunt will be instantly banished from this realm. The GM may rule that some extremely powerful spirits like revenants or night-gaunt magi get a saving test form this spell. The ST cost of this casting is 10.

Commonly, spirits of the dead are isolated and bound to specific locations. But some places (like graveyards, battlefields and the legendary kingdom of the ghouls) attract spirits in larger numbers. These places are also known to contain secrets coveted by necromancers. A few have found ways to pass among the dead and even be seen as one of them.

New IQ10 Spell: Death Mask (1) Use of this spell fools the undead into thinking the caster is a spirit as well. Most manifesting spirits will ignore them, and must succeed on a 3d/IQ test to notice the deception even ion they interact with them. Physical undead like ghouls will ignore the subject as well unless roused, while more intelligent entities like vampires will be more suspicious and get an automatic save test. The spell costs 2ST to cast and 1/round to maintain.