- "Awake O dead, for there can be no rest for ye beneath the earth."
"Let the splintered bones burrow from the grave pall. Let cold fingers grip tomb-worn blades, and unseeing eyes survey the fields of slaughter. For your time has come once more."
"And the dead shall walk."
- —From the Spell of Doom.[9a]
Throughout the Old World, there are those whose lust for power leads them to explore the basest of arcane lore. These are the Necromancers, and they are universally hated and feared, for they have chosen to delve into the secrets of death itself, corrupting the natural process of creation and destruction in order to stay Morr's scythe and control the unliving. They are doubly despised by all sane individuals, for not only do they rebel against nature by manipulating the evil power of Dhar, but they blaspheme against Morr by disturbing the eternal rest of the dead and commanding ghosts to do their bidding.
It is interesting that only Humans seem to follow the path of necromancy. Keenly aware of their own short lifespan, a few depraved people seek immortality through the study of this forbidden lore. Driven by terror of death itself, they seek out proscribed tomes, such as the Liber Mortis or one of the Nine Books of Nagash, spending years perfecting their morbid art through obsessive study and experimentation.
Following the Path of the Damned
Some seek out fellow Necromancers as mentors, not an easy task when these disgusting sorcerers are forced to hide in the shadows for fear of discovery and destruction. Many Necromancers dwell in forgotten places in the wilderness, where their vile experiments will not be disturbed, though some live secretly in cities, emerging at night to rifle the graveyards for corpses; the Priests of Morr are kept busy protecting the sleep of the dead from such degenerates.
Many would-be Necromancers, in their desperation for illicit knowledge, seek out Vampires to teach them the ways of undeath, perhaps travelling to the forsaken province of Sylvania where these dread lords of the night hold sway. But they must trade their freedom for the knowledge they seek, becoming little more than thralls of their blood-sucking masters.
Necromancers are attracted to places where Dark Magic pools, for they can tap into this congealed essence to raise the dead to life and halt their own gradual decay, though it is ironic that in doing so they begin to resemble the very corpses that fascinate them: their pale skin clings to their bones, and their faces become gaunt, with hollow eyes and rictus grins. The stench of the grave follows in their wake.
Necromancy operates on a system of sympathy to its original founder, Nagash. A practitioner who has character traits that Nagash himself possessed, like ambition or hatred, will find it much easier to work Necromancy. Likewise, those who were once priests, but forsake that path for necromancy have a special affinity to the dark art, as do those that kill their relatives, all crimes committed by Nagash in his living days.[11a]
Seeking Dark Magic
- "It creeps out of Sylvania, you know?"
"A path full of death. It withers crops, blackening heaths, emaciating my folk. It is fell magic, sent by Vampires and Liches!"
Dark Magic is attracted to places where the basest of emotions have been scorched into the fabric of reality by terrible suffering: on battlefields ancient hatreds are remembered; in plague pits, horror and fear cloak the ground; in abandoned graveyards, the mourning of forgotten spirits is borne by chill winds.
Those with magical sight can perceive the choking shadows that cling and feed upon the negative energy of these places. It elicits sickening terror in the hearts of the sane, but brings joy to the withered soul of the Necromancer, who can mould this black mass of magical power, and channel it into spells to raise rotting corpses, shambling skeletons, and worse.
The Priests of Morr range across the Old World, their blessings cleansing such areas and dispersing the Dark Magic gathered there, but theirs is a losing battle, for mayhem, disease, and grief despoil the lands with every passing month.
Where the eight Winds of Magic blow free in the air, Dark Magic is heavy, and sinks to the ground, and after many centuries can congeal into a solid malignant mass, which corrupts all it touches like a tumour. This black substance, streaked with lurid green, glows with unearthly energy. It mutates the living and can cause the dead to walk. Known as warpstone, it is a substance much sought after by Necromancers for their experiments. Chunks of warpstone have sometimes been known to fall from the sky – indeed the city of Mordheim, in Ostermark, was destroyed by such a meteor in 1999 IC.
Many Necromancers are content to hide within their secret libraries and laboratories, quietly pursuing their obsession with unlife. Yet a few are possessed with megalomaniac madness, and raise great armies of corpses to destroy the living, hoping to rule the world as eternal masters of death. Throughout the Empire's history, such maniacs have posed a great threat to civilisation, and it is for this reason that the Witch Hunters and the battle wizards of the Colleges of Magic combine their might to eradicate necromancy wherever it lurks.
The Lore of Nagash
The black art of necromancy has a long history that may be traced ultimately to the Elves of Ulthuan. Though the Elves knew of the power of Dhar, undiluted Dark Magic, for years they turned their backs on it and instead studied the safer Winds. Those who finally gave in to temptation were the first of the Druchii, the Dark Elves.[3a]
When Nagash ruled Khemri, three of the Druchii were brought before him as slaves. Through years of torture he slowly teased the secrets of magic out of them and began his experimentation with what was to become necromancy.[3a]
Today's practitioners of the black art use a form of necromancy that has been shaped by other students over the centuries; the work of Vanhel and Kadon, amongst others, supplements the fragmentary translations of Nagash's work that survive. The works of these necromancers may be flawed, be missing passages, or contain traps set by their creators to ensnare the unwary. It is said the complete copy of Vanhel's Liber Mortis held under lock and key by the Sigmarites is capable of devouring the souls of any who read it and once summoned a Daemon made entirely of fingers. Nagash's original form of necromancy still survives, however. It has been maintained by the Vampires, particularly those of the Necrarch line, passed down from master to apprentice over the centuries along with the history of their kind.[3a]
Necromantic magic is concerned with the control and manipulation of dead or Undead creatures. Necromancers can summon and control Undead, provided that they have suitable raw materials to hand - either fresh corpses (such as people killed in combat) or those from a graveyard or similar site of burial (even the place where a great battle or catastrophe occurred will be sufficient). The Necromancer does not have to dig the corpses up; the casting of a Summoning spell (Summon Skeleton Champion, Summon Skeletons, Summon Skeleton Minor Hero, Summon Skeleton Horde, or Summon Skeleton Major Hero) will cause the dead bodies to burst through the ground, ready to serve the Necromancer.[7a]
As an alternative to using any corpses in the immediate vicinity, Necromancers may summon Undead directly from the plane of death. In order to do this, the caster needs to spend some time enchanting a part of a corpse or skeleton (or several parts, if the spell summons more than one Undead). The relevant body parts are given under the ingredients heading of each Summoning spell description.[7a]
List of Known Spells
Note: the following spells have been limited to fluff material only, and the translation thereof.
- Akar'aran - The Dark Riders - At the wizard's command, the ground opens up to reveal a portal through which long-dead knights ride forth to do battle.[6a]
- The Army of Doom Keep - The legendary Elf Mage Anareth could not forever destroy the dread army of Doom Keep, so he sealed it away in a pocket of magic. Alas, this prison could not remain secret forever and, little by little, accursed Necromancers have begun to draw the wight-host into the mortal world once more.[5a]
- Banish Undead - Creates a magical vortex within a large area nearby that sucks energy from the Undead. Skeletons and Zombies are instantly destroyed by this.[2b]
- Blight - Sucks the life out of an area up to one square mile. Plants wither, animals sicken, water becomes poison, and soil turns to dust and ash. Animals instinctively avoid this land, and it will gain a reputation for being haunted. Dhar pools here, allowing its users to cast their spells with greater ease. No crops can be grown unless the ground is first sanctified by a Jade Magister or similar with the Cure Blight spell, which reverses all the effects.[3a]
- Call of Vanhel - Energizes undead under the caster's control, making them absurdly fast.[2b]
- Control Undead - Bends one of the ethereal Undead to the caster's will. The necromancer can target any one creature with both the Ethereal and Undead traits within range, though the target may attempt to resist their command. [2b][3a][3b]
- Corpse Flesh - The necromancer's skin takes on the toughness of mortified flesh for one minute. During that time any would-be fatal wounds become less than threatening.[2b]
- Curse of Years - The caster spits out an ancient curse and his enemies age at an incredible rate, hair turning white and skin shrivelling.[4a]
- Destroy Undead - The caster causes any group of Skeletons, Zombies or Ethereal Undead to crumble to dust or simply vanish.[7b]
- Face of Death - The necromancer makes their face look like a leering skull, the very symbol of death. This causes supernatural fear in any who gaze upon it.[2a]
- Father W'soran's Architect - Using a piece of stone from a Nehekharan building, a map of the tower drawn with the blood of a mason, and the skull of a Stone Troll, a 50-foot tall stone tower rises out of the ground in the place where this ritual is performed. The caster, who must have training to be a stoneworker by trade, determines the internal layout of the tower when he draws the map ingredient.[3c]
- Fountains of Blood - All living creatures within range begin to bleed more freely than before, as if their lifeblood is eager to weep from their bodies. This spell is especially handy for Vampires, the increased blood flow making it easier for them to feed.[3b]
- Gaze of Nagash - Bolts of Dhar fly from the caster's eyes, and what flesh they touch blackens and withers, peeling away completely to reveal bleached white bone beneath.[3b]
- Hand of Death - The caster can wound with a touch, but cannot use weapons for the duration of the spell.[7b]
- Hand of Dust - The caster's touch destroys the flesh of living opponents, causing terrible wounds regardless of armour or natural resilience. Undead are immune to these effects, however. This is a touch spell.[2b]
- Hellish Vigour - Infuses a number of Undead, allowing them to move swiftly, empowered by raw malevolence. In addition, they wield their weapons with greater proficiency.[3b]
- Invigorating Vitae - Drinking the blood of a corpse heals the caster's own wounds. The corpse must be freshly killed (dead less than an hour), or else the spell fails to work.[2b]
- Invocation of Nehek - The caster intones the dread syllables handed down from Nagash himself, breathing unlife into the cadavers strewn across the battlefield.[4a]
- Kandorak - The Harbinger - The greatest practitioners of the dark arts can summon forth the most fearsome champions and creatures of undeath.[6a]
- Khizaar - The Soul Stealer - The wizard tears the souls from his victims' bodies before breathing unlife into their sundered corpses.[6a]
- Legion of the Dead - Using the sword arms of ten dead soldiers, a drum made of bones and Human skin, a fragment of Warpstone the size of a skull, and a barrel of rum, a regiment of the dead rises to fight for you. As many as 30 Skeletons or Zombies may be raised in this way, depending on how many corpses are at hand and their state of decay. These troops do not count towards the usual limit of how many Undead you may control and remain under your command no matter how far away from you they travel. Created Undead remain until destroyed, even if you are slain.[3c][3d]
- Life in Death - This spell may only affect the caster. Its effect lasts for a multiple of one hour. If slain during this time, the Necromancer's spirit is released and may try to inhabit the body of any other living creature for a time. If the caster is successful in possessing a body, the Necromancer may inhabit that body until it is slain or the caster is driven out by magical means. The victim's psyche is not destroyed, but is suppressed by the Necromancer. The spell caster does not gain access to the thoughts, memories, and knowledge of the victim, and if the Necromancer is ever driven out of the body, the victim regains full control.[7c]
- Malediction of Nagash - At the Necromancer's command, his enemies feel the looming shadow of undeath fall across them, sapping their strength and endurance.[5a]
- Morkharn - Breath of Darkness - The wizard draws tendrils of the Wind of Death into a dark fog that restore the undead and fills them with unholy vigour.[6a]
- Rain of Blood - Using the hearts of five followers of Khorne or Shallya or a combination of both, a Griffon’s feather, and a calf born in the last spring in the lands targeted, summon a host of dark clouds that rain blood over an area of five square miles for one hour, which may result in flooding. The blood is ordinary blood of the same species as the hearts used in the casting (the blood will be a mixture of that of different species if hearts from different species were used). This ritual has been used to feed Vampires on the march in wartime and also to dishearten the enemy.[3d]
- Raise the Dead - One skilled in the art of necromancy can awaken mortal remains to reinforce the Undead legions under his control.[4a] The spell always ends at sunrise.[10a]
- Razkhar - The Abyssal Swarm - The wizard binds the bones of predatory creatures with dark magic, causing them to rise from their animal graves.[6a]
- Re-Animate - The necromancer re-animates the dead, creating a number of Skeletons or Zombies. The caster must have fresh corpses for Zombies or aged remains for Skeletons. If the corpse is incomplete—missing a head, arm, or leg, the Skeleton or Zombie's capabilities are limited accordingly.[2b][3b] The spell always ends at sunrise.[10a]
- Rebirth in Blood - Using the hands of a midwife, the last drop of a Human's blood, a Dragon’s tooth, the womb of a cow raised on blood, and the remains of a Vampire, bring a deceased Vampire back to un-life. The ritual can be attempted indefinitely until successful, though in past instances, repeated attempts have consumed years of the caster’s life.[3d][3e]
- Ride Through the Night - The caster's mount, and up to five others, are invigorated by the power of Dhar. From nightfall till sunrise, the mounts may run even if crippled. They also become Ethereal, as do their riders and any coaches they pull. This spell is used by Vampires to catch those who flee from them before sunrise. In the midst of the chase they will ride straight towards their target, uncaring of mortals whose dwellings they gallop through.[3c]
- Ryze - The Grave Call - Drawing forth the dark energies coursing across the land, the caster sends tendrils of power seeping into the ground in search of long-dead bodies to answer his summons.[6a]
- Screaming Skull - In a shrieking voice, the necromancer intones the spell. They summon a giant black skull, apparently burning in a weird purplish-green hue. It launches itself forward, cackling and screaming as it goes. It damages any living creatures in its path, but can pass freely through obstacles or undead.[10b]
- Shadowblood - Burning blood leaps from your hands and ignites a target within 12 yards.[3b]
- Stop Instability - This spell can be cast on any group of Undead or ethereal creatures within 48 yards. The creatures ignore their next occurrence of instability, even if magically induced. Only one such spell may be carried by a group at any one time.[7c]
- Sulekhim - The Hand of Dust - Grasping hold of his foe, the wizard pours forth the decaying power of the ages, desiccating flesh, armour and bone, and reducing his victim to dust in a single heartbeat.[6a]
- Summoning the Ship of the Damned - Using the birth caul of a sailor, a ship that sank with her crew, the hands of a drowned priest of Manann, a ship’s manifest written in blood, and a fist-sized chunk of Warpstone, raise the aforementioned sunken ship from its resting place with a full crew. The ship does not need wind to fill its sails and travels at an even speed no matter the weather. Although the ship remains as decayed as it was on the ocean’s floor, it rots no further. The crew is made up of either Skeletons or Spectres, and there are as many of them as there were crew when the ship sank.[3e]
- Spell of Awakening - As Re-Animate, but creates Wights instead, though the corpses must each be of particular quality.[2b][3c]
- Transformation of the Liche - If a necromancer casts this spell and dies before the next sunrise, then instead of dying he will turn into a Liche. As this transformation is something many necromancers desire, many are known to have cast this spell then deliberately killed themselves.[8f]
- Vanhel's Danse Macabre or Vanhel's Call - The Undead are filled with magical energy that causes them to jerk forwards on the attack with tireless and unnatural speed.[4a][10a]
- Wind of Death - The caster calls forth spectral winds that howl through the ranks of the foe, tearing their souls from their bodies.[4a]
- Withering Wave - With a wave of their hand the caster unleashes devastating necromantic forces that drain the life from their opponents, shrivelling their skin, turning their blood to dust, and shattering their bones.[3c]
- Zone of Life - This spell creates a magical field centered on the caster, lasting up to a multiple of one hour until they move. The caster may forbid any Undead (including Ethereal Undead) from entering the Zone, or from firing missiles or casting magic into the Zone.[7b]
- Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED -- Winds of Magic (pg. 27-28).
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Night's Dark Masters
- 7: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st Edition -- Core Rulebook
- 8: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st Edition -- Realms of Sorcery
- 12 The Prince of Altdorf (Short Story) by Andy Hall