17
$\begingroup$

Take your typical Necromancer- able to raise/control/talk to corpses, summon/bind ghosts, wither an organism- things that revolve around 'death' as a theme, as opposed to manipulating life/death energy or just a specialisation of magic. Assuming that they don't have access to human corpses, what could the modern necromancer do to make money? What niche markets exist that a necromancer could fill?

For the purposes of the answer, assume a ghost's memories fade over time, there is a generic, cave-like underworld where ghosts without 'anchors' get sucked to and necromancers can access and that necromancy is legal- but messing with a human corpse is still highly illegal. Necromancers are born as such and there is no way to 'create' a necromancer. While resurrection is impossible, they can bind a ghost into a human corpse- but this takes a lot of bureaucracy, weekly hour-long 'repairs' and generally only lasts about a year. The setting is 2015 with our tech levels.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How is it possible for necromancy to be legal when messing with corpses is not? Surely necromancers, by definition, mess with corpses? $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode May 25 '15 at 14:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode You've never played an rpg then. ;) Necromancers are those adept at magic of life and death. Raising corpses is perhaps the most well-known of their abilities, but it goes way beyond that. $\endgroup$ – Neil May 25 '15 at 14:36
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You should start by reading the early Anita Blake vampire hunter series by Laurell K Hamilton. The main character is a necromancer and uses her abilities to make a living. And world building is really Hamilton s strongest skill, so she makes a good reference. The mechanics (ie messing with corpses) is different, but that should not change the fundamental economics. Few of the books also deal with other necromancers, doing other things. If nothing else you'll learn that a real necromancer is scary enough to scare even monsters like vampires and werewolves. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 25 '15 at 18:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Neil -- indeed; much of this question depends on just how broad your definition of "necromancy" is. By the AD&D 2e RAW (p. 253 PHB), Cure Light Wounds is classed as Necromancy -- which means that just about every cleric of every alignment you'll ever run into in a 2e campaign uses necromancy in some way, shape, or form. $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 25 '15 at 20:33
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ To support & expand on the comment made by @Shalvenay , please expound on the bounds of what a necromancer is capable of & what a necromancer is NOT capable of in your world (unless your world actually is AD&D, then answering that comment will give us enough information). Also is it illegal to 'mess with' any corpse or only human corpses? Is resurrection possible in your world? Is this a necromancy ability & is it legal?? $\endgroup$ – MER May 25 '15 at 23:55
27
$\begingroup$

There are all sorts of "services" that such a necromancer could provide. It depends really entirely on what they can do, and if they can bind ghosts to do their will, there is really quite a lot that can be done.

  1. Summon ghost to pass information to and from the underworld. Maybe a murder took place, and they need to find out who it was. Find a necromancer! Only uncle Joe knew where the treasure was buried? Find a necromancer! Sentimental wife just wants to talk to her husband who has passed away? Find a necromancer! This alone would be enough to keep a necromancer well-fed.
  2. Spying. Yes, seriously. It may not seem mystic and in fact, it may seem downright absurd, but why not? Ask a ghost to eavesdrop in a nearby castle.. find out how many soldiers they have, with what frequency they change shifts, do they get drunk often? Etc. Want to find out if your lover is cheating on you? Get a ghost to tag him.
  3. Can ghosts haunt objects/places? If so, you can be hired to send a ghost to haunt these objects/places. It would be an excellent way to keep people away from something you possess. Similarly, a necromancer could presumably dispell the haunting of an object/place, which would be an equally valuable skill to have.
  4. Create plagues. It would be an excellent weapon against an enemy castle. Hurl a couple vials containing these plagues and wipe out the castle without ever having set foot inside. Needless to say, if such a thing were possible, there would be a lot of plagues about, so presumably if a necromancer creates them, a necromancer can also create cures fairly easily, so this doubles as an antidote to plague manufacturer.
  5. Expertise. Is the woman a witch or not? Necromancers would be considered the experts on this subject (despite being albeit a bit hypocritical to allow a necromancer but disallow a witch). A necromancer may honestly not even know how to tell, but this doesn't mean the people think that way, meaning a necromancer can still exploit these services in exchange for money.
  6. Raise armies. No, they don't have access to corpses, but this doesn't mean that someone of power wouldn't try to befriend a necromancer in order to expand his armies. Usually laws are meant to keep the people in order, but kings and queens are above that order, so long as such things are kept somewhat discrete from the general public, and you had better believe that if a king or queen had a way of doubling his or her armies that he or she would do so. In that regard, having a necromancer, even one that has access to corpses, could be very useful, so long as his practices are kept from prying eyes and the general public.

Hope that answers your question.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Actually, a necromancer would be even MORE important on the battle field, raising the fallen soldiers. Basically, if you don't have a necromancer you're toast. Battles become largely a matter if "who can raise undead the fastest." $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky May 26 '15 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky You're right, of course. Any advantage in the battlefield, especially one as great as that would be used by any relatively smart kingdom. You'd probably see more than one in all likelihood. $\endgroup$ – Neil May 26 '15 at 7:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky : or "who can permanently off all enemy necromancers the fastest"... $\endgroup$ – mikołak May 26 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @mikołak true, at that point the specific mechanics become a big factor. Do necromantic liches raise and command undead? Etc... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky May 26 '15 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ I do not how, but it appears that I downvoted your answer without meaning to (perhaps I was distracted and clicked the wrong place). If you make some minor edit, I will retract the downvote. Sorry for the inconvenience. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 May 26 '15 at 18:32
11
$\begingroup$

While Necromancers may not be allowed to mess with human corpses, they can work with animals and plants - and with live humans. Therefore:

  • Healing humans: A necromancer controls the energies of life, and may thus be able to perform feats of healing unavailable to the common herbalist. Reattach an arm? Stop gangrene? Anesthetize a patient before an operation, and then speed up healing? Easy, and possibly well-paying work. There may even be a corpse or two whose disappearance nobody will notice.

  • Reviving animals: Your pet died? No problem, the Necromancer will bring back your dearest companion. The horse/oxen requires too much maintenance? An undead beast may smell a bit worse, but will do its job just as well (that is not only useful for farmers, but of course also for armies).

  • Killing plants and insects: Getting rid of all the weed in the king's gardens may not be what the bright-eyed novice dreamed of when entering the necro-academy, but it does pay the bills. Destroying growth on large patches of land makes clearing more land for the ever-expanding kingdom a lot easier (though somewhat dangerous, because you shouldn't kill the microorganisms). Killing insects can require similar high levels of skill: While killing mosquitoes, or eliminating bed bugs may carry little risk of overdoing it, removing fleas from a pet means being really careful, otherwise you may have to throw in a revive for free.

  • Killing everything: Instead of the hard task of killing only some organisms but not others, the ability of the necromancer to purge life completely is highly regarded in the food industry: All you need is a airtight container for the food, and sha-zam it will not spoil for a long time, and suddenly, you can think about exporting milk from the vast necromancer-created pastures throughout the known world. Similarly, healers appreciate thoroughly sterilized equipment, and goods in warehouses keep a lot longer if there is no threat from mold and rats.

In conclusion, while the fancy necromancers get to speak with the dead, solve crimes, and get featured in the news, there is plenty of mundane, but well-paying work for the aspiring necromancer.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Note that the land-clearing bit requires an extraordinarily fine-tuned bit of work. If the process gets out of hand you kill all the microorganisms and such in the soil, leaving a sterile, unusable blighted area which will take years to recover. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 25 '15 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast: That's why you go train for several years at necro-academy :) $\endgroup$ – Jonas May 26 '15 at 6:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast: Thanks for bringing up sterilization, though. That is an excellent application of necromancy. $\endgroup$ – Jonas May 26 '15 at 6:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's important to develop a model of just what the necromancer is doing - how magic works. One possibility is that living organisms concentrate a ubiquitous "life force", and that the necromancer sucks all the life force out of a volume or creature, leaving everything inside dead. In this case you can't use him to sterilize a medium such as grape juice to provide control of unwanted bacteria, since introduced yeast strains will not be able to grow - there is no life force to sustain them. Think about how you want magic to work, and be careful of unintended consequences. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 26 '15 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast: yet another good point. I have assumed that each living organism generates a life force that can be manipulated, and sucking out the life force leaves the creatures dead but the nonliving grape juice unaltered. Where does the life force come from? That's the divine spark that creates the miracle of life. $\endgroup$ – Jonas May 27 '15 at 6:55
3
$\begingroup$

Though technically covered by @Neil, but not explicitly mentioned: the easy answer is (private) detective/ coroner. The ability to communicate with corpses and or ghosts simplifies many police activities, mostly solving murders by getting a witness statement from the victim. The other necromancy could be useful for self-defense and subduing suspects by/without killing them.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good, but wouldn't work when the victim us taken out by surprise. It certainly helps to narrow the field, though... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky May 26 '15 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac True, and technically the victim could also just lie to protect a loved one or incriminate a rival/enemy. $\endgroup$ – Ewout Willems May 27 '15 at 14:21
1
$\begingroup$

As it is a lot of cheap labor (in terms of pay and sacrificability) it could be used in the army to mine dangerous, but lucrative material, and work with some that in the procedure would be too dangerous to living humans.

Then he could sell those materials so cheap that it could end up in a monopoly, giving him great power near a nation/kingdom.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.