Dungeons & Dragons has kind of a weird idea of death — or at least, one that’s varied throughout the various editions. I’ll admit that I know more about third edition (3.x), particularly the revised third edition, than any of the editions that have come before or after. The designers’ approach to death, the afterlife, magic, and the interaction between the three has … changed over the years.

As I understand it, necromancy in second edition was equal opportunity. It had no specific evil connotations, and in fact, as the school of magic related to vitality and life energy, contained all of the healing spells, which means that when you Priest of the Good Religion healed you Devout Paladin of Goodness Righteousness, he used magic from the necromancy college.

Third edition changed this when suddenly all undead and necromancy became evil. I don’t know if it was the influence of Magic: the Gathering, but necromancy underwent a dramatic shift. Healing was ham-handedly attached to the Conjuration school, possibly under the pretense that the user “conjured” positive energy to promote healing (which would actually make more sense under Evocation), and necromancy became the dark nasty school of dark nastiness.

I don’t know if they were trying to discourage people from choosing necromancy spells for the characters, but they sure as hell did a bad job. Necromancy is either the Number One or Number Two school to choose for your specialty in D&D 3.x, depending on whether you fall in the Conjuration or Necromancy camp. They happen to be the schools of demon-summoning and zombie-making, respectively. There are so many things wrong with the spell system in third edition, I’m seriously going to have to make a list. >_<