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This article is about the current version of DF.

Necromancers Ñ are immortal beings blessed with the secrets of life and death. These night creatures are magic-users who raise legions of undead and seclude themselves in towers.

The Origin of Necromancers[edit]

Art by ChrisCold.

Necromancers initially begin as normal historical figures who are mortal, can speak and can learn and are also part of an entity. In unmodded games these are dwarves, humans and civilized animal people. At one point in its life, one of these creatures may suddenly become "obsessed with his/her/its own mortality" and seek to become immortal. Shortly afterwards, it will begin (if it does not do so already) worshiping a deity (or a creature with the [SUPERNATURAL] tag) who has a DEATH sphere. Once the deity/supernatural creature becomes an object of ardent worship to the figure, it will award the worshiper with an artifact slab containing the secrets of life and death. The worshiper will then claim the slab and learn its secrets, thus becoming a necromancer. This original necromancer may then take up an apprentice (another creature seeking immortality), who will obtain the knowledge of its master. A necromancer can take more than one apprentice.


Having mastered the secrets of life and death, necromancers have reached their goal of immortality, in that they do not age. They also don't need to eat or drink, and they do not require sleep as they never get tired or exhausted. However, they do need to breathe, unlike vampires. Necromancers are still fertile, and at least in fortress mode, female dwarf necromancers can give birth. They have the power to animate corpses of organic creatures, as well as any body parts which have a [GRASP] token or are attached to body parts which do. Corpses must be within the necromancer's line of sight - about 15 tiles - to be animated. Necromancers do this by gesturing; raising of the dead is reported in the combat log:

[Necromancer] gestures!
[Corpse] shudders and begins to move!

Once a dead being is animated, it will become enslaved to the necromancer, regardless of previous allegiances. Unless the necromancer attacks their new undead minions, they will remain companions.

During world generation, necromancers who have a sufficient following may use their undead minions to build dark towers, a task that requires at least 50 followers; younger necromancers may take over towns or camps instead. The building of a tower is carried out by the original necromancer of a group (the one who was given the slab) as apprentices join the group after the tower is built. Therefore each necromancy group has one tower.

Since the secrets of life and death are generated with a [MUNDANE_RECORDING_POSSIBLE] tag, necromancers will often write numerous books during world generation. Some of these books concern the secrets of life and death, so that anyone who reads them will become a necromancer. Like the slab, all books, even those that do not contain secrets, are considered artifacts (Edit: Codices and scrolls list) and as such can be viewed in the artifacts list in legends mode. Books containing the secrets of life and death will include any of the following words in their title: Annihilation, Bereavement, Death, Demise, Departure, Doom, Dying, Eternal Rest, Expiration, Extinction, Mortality, Immortality, Loss, Oblivion, Parting, Ruin, Ruination, Sleep, the Afterlife, the End, the Grave.

Alone, necromancers do not pose much of a threat, but their undead servitors are hostile to all life and will be reanimated each time they are struck down until the necromancer themself is dealt with. Because of this, direct combat against undead whilst they are in view of a necromancer is generally ineffective.

It is possible to ensure that a world is generated devoid of necromancers by setting the Number of Secret Types to 0 in advanced world generation. To the contrary, creating a world with a high number of secret types will increase the probability of there being multiple necromancers in the world. Since necromancers in unmodded games are usually humans or dwarves, having a large amount of neutral plains and/or mountains will further increase this probability, as it means that these civilizations will have more space to expand, and thus the amount of historical figures eligible for necromancy will increase.

Fortress mode[edit]


The dead walk. Hide while you still can!

Necromancers can lay siege to your fortress at any stage, including before the first migrant wave, but only if their tower or town is within 20 tiles of your fortress. As such, picking a location within such a distance of a tower is regarded as a sure way to have an extra helping of fun, and can be checked with tab during world gen. Note that if no tower is present during embark, no necromancers will ever arrive, except if you attack them. The sieges are structured much like normal sieges, except that the numbers tend to be much larger and much more disorganized, consisting not of individual squads but of masses of zombies coming from every side. The necromancer (or necromancers, if they have an apprentice) may or may not arrive with their siege; if they do, and are captured or killed, you can expect to see no more activity from that particular tower. Undead are hostile to everything that breathes as well as to enemy necromancer hordes, meaning that other sieges or ambushes (or, indeed, caravans) that happen to arrive when a necromancer siege is milling about will always result in a battle.

The easiest way to deal with a zombie siege is through the application of particle physics to grind them into nothingness. Anything that obliterates any trace of the zombie will prevent raising; a drop into magma or semi-molten rock or encasing in obsidian are more creative alternatives. The jury is still out on whether slashing weapons are better or worse against necromancer sieges; although they tend to separate zombies into many parts, these parts can all be raised, leaving the question of whether the whole zombie or an arm here and a leg there are more dangerous. The undead that they will bring will be sapient creatures, but if you killed some elephants in a combat exercise and they happen upon them, the danger is magnified.

If you have a vampire and haven't walled them in yet, you can draft them and take a leisurely walk through town, as undead will ignore them (unless attacked), and the necromancer is easy, valid game for a clobbering, if you can find them.

Necromancers that are idle during a siege will occasionally start campfires.


Necromancers can arrive under cover, alone, in ambushes, and raise the dead without being seen. This is much more difficult, as you cannot see the necromancers in question, only their products. Potential necromancer ambushes can be dealt with by internalizing all corpse/remains stockpiles behind heavily trafficked areas, and posting sentries if possible.


Necromancers can be made useful by applying them in training schemes. Necromancers trapped in a room with line of sight to, say, the contents of the corpse stockpile, can be used to generate an infinite amount of hostile creatures to fight; when you get tired of the sport (or your dwarves start getting beat up), simply block their line of sight with a bridge and put down the remaining enemies, and your military can walk out of training with more experience.

Capturing necromancers is simple: build a tunnel near them, link floodgates or bridges within so that it can be sealed off, and then poke a hole into the surface. Assuming the necromancer was the nearest creature to where you opened the tunnel, they'll be the first one in, and you can then seal off the tunnel and trap them inside. It's difficult to get them in there alone, without a few zombies following them, but it shouldn't matter. Cage traps will work too; However, caged necromancers do not appear to revive stuff. You must put them on a restraint afterwards if you want them to be able to.

They can also be weaponized. Replace the militia training room with a room full of goblins, and fun will result. Upright spike traps can "kill" the corpses after each use so that the resulting goblinite can be gathered and the trap reused. Given enough time and enough bodies, such a trap can even best the circus.

Much like vampires, necromancers may seize control of a civilization and become its king/queen. In that case, the dwarf in question must be isolated from any corpses, as they may be friendly, but the zombies they tend to create will be of the dwarven-arm-ripping variety. They should be either isolated from the dead with a burrow, or applied to training/killing. Either way, they are very fun.

Necromancers may occasionally arrive with their slab in hand. As of version 0.42, it is possible to add necromantic texts as part of your library, allowing you to turn your dwarves into necromancers once they read them. Dwarven necromancers no longer age, need to eat, or sleep, but they will also no longer need to drink, which can slow them down tremendously for it to be worth it. They may also raise the occasional corpse, which will attack non-necromancers, while this might not sound like a big deal if you already have a fort full of necromancer dwarves, the real fun comes when diplomats, trade caravans, and outpost liaisons show up and if you have the dead walking among your populace.

Another way of getting necromantic reading material into your library is to "liberate" it in adventure mode, then drop the book off at a retired fortress. This will then be able to be picked up by your dwarves to read at their leisure.

As of version 0.44, it is possible to use the world map to send military squads to raid necromancer towers for the reading material contained in them.

Adventurer Mode[edit]

In adventurer mode, necromancers are most commonly found in towers I, but can very rarely be found in towns and camps, due to reasons explained earlier in this article. Towers will contain all the necromancers that are part of the necromancer group to whom the tower belongs, as well as a horde of undead. Towers require abundant human populations (low savagery, large tracts of neutral land) and a high number of secrets to be generated in world generation. Elves or goblins cannot become necromancers through normal means as their immortality means they cannot become obsessed with their own mortality. They can still learn the secrets of life and death, however.

It is possible to become a necromancer yourself in adventurer mode by reading the slab or one of the books containing the secrets of life and death. Both will be found on the tables scattered around the tower, often amongst a pile of other, less useful books.

So, becoming an immortal being who doesn't need to worry about petty things like eating, drinking and sleeping and can also raise and control an undead army merely requires you to read some slab or book. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it isn't. The tower is stuffed with undead monstrosities who would probably like nothing better than to tear your poor adventurer to shreds. If that isn't bad enough, the necromancers to whom the slab and books belong will raise their servants each time you strike them down, if they can see the corpses.

So, what can we do to get at those secrets? Well, there are 3 main methods:

  • 1. Storm the tower

This is probably the most obvious solution, and is also the most likely to get inexperienced adventurers killed. Once you have become powerful enough, attack the tower head-on, preferably bringing with you an army of meatshields soldiers (who will likely get themselves killed, but will provide a distraction for you). It is advisable for you to lure the undead out of the tower first, away from the necromancers' gaze. This will make dealing with them far easier, and will give you a lot more space to dodge (or run if things get bad). If a necromancer is in the midst of the horde, try to move around so that the necromancer is exposed, then go in for the kill. Proceed until everyone (excluding yourself) is dead. Alternatively, just run into the tower and begin hitting everything like a madman. Eventually, either you or all of the tower's occupants will be dead. Then just take the slab/book and do what you will with it.

  • 2. Sneaking

Since sneaking in the current version basically makes you invisible, sneaking into the tower with a high enough skill and throwing stuff will allow you to kill everyone with minimal damage done to yourself. There is, however, the risk of being spotted, in which case you are advised to run away as quickly as you can. Alternatively, you could try to sneak around the tower and steal the slab/book without killing anything, but, because of the high density of enemies in a tower, it is extremely likely that you will be spotted, swarmed and killed.

  • 3. Being a Night Creature

Visiting the tower as a night creature to whom undead are friendly, such as a vampire, husk/thrall or, of course, a necromancer is by far the easiest way to obtain the slab/a book. Seriously. The undead are [OPPOSED_TO_LIFE], but these night creatures are [NOT_LIVING], so they will ignore you completely. Since undead will not attack necromancers, making a mad dash for the slab/book is also a viable option, but you will risk being killed/severely wounded before you get the chance to become a necromancer. If you are already one of these night creatures, you can just skip gleefully past the undead, read the slab/book and get out. You may also want to have a chat with the necromancers, who are actually quite friendly once you get to know them. In fact, night creatures who are shunned by society will often still be accepted by necromancers, who you can even ask for quests! That is, of course, unless you are an enemy of their group, in which case they will attempt to kill you.

  • 4. Fire. A lot of fire.

The undead hordes will not cross small fires. The aspiring adventurer can outrun undead, leading them away from the tower, then run for the entrance. If there are more undead inside, run away. Repeat this until the undead have emptied from the tower, outrunning them and herding them. Run to the tower entrance and light fires around it, sealing them out. Take your time, enjoy the books, maybe mess with a necromancer. When you're ready to leave, scale the wall or jump over the fire. Bonus points: completely enclose the undead in a fire circle they cannot escape from. Side note: while running from undead, igniting the grass in clever places will slow them down even further.

  • 5. Vampire recruit

Another strategy, which may not always be available but can work well, is recruiting a vampire. Undead creatures and vampires won't bother each other, but the vampire will attack any hostile necromancers present. Once the necromancers are all dead, you will be left with the far simpler task of killing the undead without having to worry about any of the corpses reanimating.

Playing as a necromancer[edit]

As a necromancer, you:

  • don't need to eat or drink, so you don't need to worry about running out of food/water and can get rid of the extra weight such objects produce.
  • don't need to sleep, and can't get tired or exhausted, so you'll never again feel the negative effects of these statuses.
  • are immortal, as necromancers do not age. This will ensure that your adventurer will not die of old age if your world goes on until its natural [MAXAGE] is reached (such as if you retire an adventurer and play fortress mode for a while).
  • can reanimate corpses to create undead companions. This can be done as many times as you want, with a small time limit between each reanimation, and only requires a corpse/body part.

Becoming a necromancer also freezes your attributes so that they cannot rust or be increased. Therefore, it might be wise to raise your attributes to a high level before becoming a necromancer. (However, this does not seem to be happening in the current version, probably due to a bug, or it's a design choice. Because let's be honest, just because you're a necromancer doesn't mean you can't learn new things, right?)

Reanimating dead creatures[edit]

1.Open the actions menu by pressing x.
2.Press p or scroll to "acquired power".
3.Select ( Enter) "Animate corpse".
4.Now move the cursor onto the corpse(s) you wish to animate, press the letter that they are represented by on the items screen (such as a) and press Enter. Note that you can animate more than one corpse at a time, and that you can also animate corpses that are in your inventory.

It is worth noting that you can only raise corpses with intact heads. That is, if the creature's head explodes into gore, collapses into gore, or otherwise is pulped via damage to the head or torso, then that corpse cannot be raised. It is still possible, however, to raise a corpse that has had its head completely severed.

Besides acting as reusable and easily replenishable soldiers, undead hold potential usage as training dummies for weapons and wrestling and can be used to build for you, including animated body parts. A crafty adventurer may cut the limbs of their undead slaves, and reanimate them, counting as an additional companion, and reducing build time. However, while a necromancer can still be friendly to mortals, its minions will attack everything living in sight.

For combat, because raised dead lose all their skills as well as the ability to learn, only the attributes and size of the creature at the time of their death are important.


MOD This page includes mods. The content is not part of normal DF as released. Changing game files can sometimes cause unexpected results, and should always be done with care and caution.

It is entirely possible to create your own unique secret class, with powers ranging from material emission (fireballs, firebreath, syndrome-inducing materials) to turning corpses into enthralled creatures, such as giant lions. This can be accomplished by creating an "interaction_secretnamehere" raw file with the appropriate tokens.

It is also possible to improve the number of necromancers and therefore, towers, by permitting more races to have necromancers. This can be done by adding mortality to races that are not mortal (Elves, Goblins) with the MAXAGE token, or by adding intelligence to other creature tokens.

It should be noted that having the ability to pray seems to add more original necromancers (that have discovered the secret by worshiping). It could be done by giving religion to races that don't have it. (like Goblins). (see some digging on these subjects here: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=161352.0, http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=154533.0, http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=161352.0) It also seems that having a DEATH sphere in the religion of the race vastly improves the ability to discover the secret of life and death.

Example: Modded goblin race with:


in entity_default and:[MAXAGE:200:250] in creature_standard, will generate a lot of tower-building necromancers.

Making this for all races with massive population amounts in your world will ensure that towers and therefore, undead, are present in large numbers for more FUN.