Adventure Hooks: Necromancy

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 16, 2014

a-to-z-2014-nNecromancers are known for their power over the dead and undead. In D&D, Wizards who specialize in necromancy often have evil in their heart and an overwhelming desire for power at all costs – especially the power over life and death. Necromancers are often corrupted by the dark magic they seek to control making them the epitome of evil and perfect villains for any campaign.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “N” is for necromancy as we share adventure hooks that deal with those who practice the dark arts and have an affinity for the undead.

Where you have necromancy you will usually find undead creatures. Necromancers with powers to control undead will often create undead armies. These forces range from thralls of mindless zombies and skeletons to more powerful and intelligent undead like vampires. The greater the necromancer’s desire for power the stronger his undead allies.

However, some who practice necromancy do so because of a fascination with the birth-life-death relationship. These rare few study necromancy for knowledge and not power. These necromancers don’t abuse their power by dealing with undead; rather they seek to learn more about why life is so precious and fragile.

Regardless of what kind of necromancy your NPCs practice, PCs have learned that where there’s necromancy there are usually undead monster that they need to destroy. Use this single mind focus when introducing necromancers into your next campaign.

Adventure Hooks: Necromancy

1. I Dream of Undead

A town is plagued by undead who rise from the grave each night and wander the streets terrorizing the locals. The undead seem aimless and disorganized, but they keep coming each and every night.

[A local Wizard recently learned a necromantic spell for raising minor undead creatures. It’s plaguing his nightmares and he’s inadvertently casting it in his sleep. When he awakens he has no memory or knowledge of his actions. In fact, it’s likely the PCs enlist his aid to stop the monsters.]

2. The Girl With the Power

A pregnant mother is attacked and killed by an undead creature’s energy drain. The mother dies but the child is saved and miraculously survives unharmed. Years latter when the town is attacked by zombies the little girl discovers that she has power over undead creatures. When she commands them to stop they obey. As word spreads people begin to show up asking about the girl. Some want to use her power others want to destroy her.

3. Ah, Rats!

A town is plagued by rats. No matter what the townsfolk do they cannot be rid of the vermin. Certain buildings have become so badly overrun by the rats that they have been abandoned. Perhaps the PCs can find a way to flush the rats out of the buildings and make them inhabitable again.

[The rats are in fact already dead. A necromancer has raised them as undead servants and keeps sending more and more rats into strategically important buildings. Once the buildings are abandoned he goes in and takes what he needs.]

4. The Necromancer’s Curse

One or more of the PCs falls victim to a Necromancer’s curse. When the sun is not shining on the PC others see them as undead. Cursed creatures do not see others affected by the curse as undead. The PCs might have been cursed during a direct confrontation with the Necromancer, it might be because the party is in possession of a cursed item, or it might be because they triggered a trap. The curse’s delivery method is up to the DM.

5. Not Quite Dorian Gray

The PCs continually battle a villainous Necromancer. No matter how much damage they inflict the Necromancer never dies. Despite their initial belief that he had to be undead they find evidence that confirms he’s absolutely alive.

[The Necromancer can transfer half of all damage he sustains to others. He keeps slaves chained up in his basement and sends them his damage. When they die he raises them as undead servants or shock troops for his undead army. It’s win-win from his point of view.]

6. Not Quite the Punisher

A band of warrior Orcs (or Gnolls, or Goblins, or Kobolds, etc.) have been very successful in their raids of late. This has not gone unnoticed by the local villagers. Witnesses say the raiders all had large white skulls painted on their chests.

[The white skull painting is part of a necromantic ritual that provides the raiders with temporary protection from death, allowing them to keep fighting even when they are mortally wounded.]

7. The Tower of Death

For years a powerful Wizard studied necromancy in the confines of his tower. An unexpected side effect of practicing the dark arts in one place for so long is that magical healing no longer works inside the tower. Spells fail and potions are as effective as well water. Although healing magic won’t heal as expected, it can be powered by positive energy. If a healthy donor is willing, they can transfer their own life essence (hit points) to the recipient of healing magic. This allows spells and potions to function normally but any hit points regained are transferred from the donor. Essentially new hit points cannot be created but current hit points can be transferred.

8. The Eyes Have It

One night three strangers arrive in town looking for lodging. They keep to themselves and don’t interact with many people. The next day they leave but stories spread about their red eyes. A few nights later two more strangers pass through and they too are said to have red eyes. The locals fear that some undead creature or creatures are feasting upon weary travelers passing this way.

[A strange fog that rolls over a graveyard has a minor necromantic effect on those passing through the mist – their eyes turn red and they gain darkvision temporarily. The effects only last for 24 hours and poses no danger.]

9. The Scarred Warrior

While relaxing in the tavern the PCs meet a warrior literally covered in scars – some fresher than others. If questioned he tells great stories of his heroics in battle defeating overwhelming odds. Each scar seems to have an unbelievable story to explain its origin.

[The warrior actually dabbles in necromancy. He recently discovered a way to enchant his weapons with life force of his own blood. By willingly cutting himself before battle his weapons become charged with necrotic energy – something he’s not proud of and won’t share willingly. His stories are not as grand as he makes them out to be, but he is a competent fighter who will answer a call to arms.]

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1 Tarkabarka April 16, 2014 at 3:38 pm

One of the most popular RPG characters in Hungary is a half-elf necromancer who is both a good guy and a terrible diva. Because of him, there are a lot of players all the time that want to play necromancers 🙂
Great hooks as usual!

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary – Tales of colors
MopDog – The crazy thing about Hungarians…

2 Mat April 18, 2014 at 10:01 am

Thank you, good article.

3 The Other Josh April 19, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Long time reader, first time commenter, and I thought this piece was the high point so far in what has been a series of outstandingly good posts. I really enjoy your work!

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