The Complete Guide to Necromancers (1995)

What a curious book.

This is The Complete Guide to Necromancers (1995), the seventh in the DMGR series. On its face, it is a dedicated guide to death-obsessed NPC classes (both specialist mages and priests are covered). This in line with a long tradition of NPC classes detailed in Dragon magazine, like anti-paladins, ninja and the very necromancer-like death master, which give the DM tools to build villains who are player-like in their complexity and power. In this respect there aren’t many surprises — all aspects, good and bad, of the necromantic arts are discussed, including societies, artifacts and the various underpinning philosophies. As a universal force, Kurtz rightly works to reposition death magic as neutral, with only a handful of spells being obviously good or evil (he even revives the color coding of folklore — black for evil, white for good, gray for neutral) to reinforce this. There isn’t much envelope pushing here, though. As with just about every other corner of 2E D&D, this book is decidedly tame when compared to the wider field of edgy ‘90s RPGs.

The thing I find most interesting is how much of the book is cobbled together out of material Kurtz previously used for the Al-Qadim boxes Cities of Bone and Ruined Kingdoms (both 1994). The arch-necromancer Kazerabet first appeared in the former and the island kingdom of necromancers, Sahu, originally appeared in a different form in the latter (in a mini-adventure involving a dragon turtle!). Not all of Karl Waller’s illustrations are recycled from Al-Qadim, but many of them are. Art recycling isn’t unusual for TSR, but I can’t think of another time adventure material was remixed in this particular way.

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