Guild Wars necromancers are associated with the somewhat vague (some more than others) blood, poison, disease, vermin, curse, ice, and shadow elements, while Diablo 2 necromancers are associated with poison, bone, spirit, bone, teeth, bone, plague, disease, bone, bone, blood, curse, golem/homunculus, and fire elements. The Guild Wars Ritualist (which is effectively an Asian-flavored necromancer) is associated with spirit, ashes/remains, lightning, ancestors, life energy, spirituality, and vigor elements.

I look at these three death mages and I see that there are a number of commonalities, and some ways in which they diverge completely in terms of flavor and powers. I’ve talked about where some of these associated elements may have come from, with note to the fire and ice powers, and mentioned that the Ritualist adds lightning into the mix (maybe because lightning is sometimes associated with life energy).

You know what this says to me, though? It says to me that the “death mage” is a versatile beast that really deserves more thought in its implementation. If you’re going to set out to make a death mage for your game, you should be more specific as to what death means in your setting, and what the death mage’s place is. I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the cool stuff associated with death, and it should easily be possible to create a game system that focuses only on different flavors of death mages, much like how, say, White Wolf games specialize on different types of vampires or werewolves.

In future entries in the Death Mage and Symbol of Death series, I’ll look at other kinds of death mages (duh) and how death is handled in other game systems, and I’ll look at death-related magic and powers in TV shows and movies, and stuff that actually requires research beyond refershing my memory with the Guild Wars and Diablo 2 wikis. :P