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This article is about an older version of DF.
One of the worst ways to deal with grief.
Art by ChrisCold.

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]

Necromancers initially begin as normal historical figures who are mortal, can speak, learn and are also part of an entity; in unmodded games these are dwarves, humans and civilized animal people. At some 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 reward the worshipper with an artifact slab containing the secrets of life and death, which is then swiftly claimed by the recipient for diligent learning, thus becoming a necromancer. This original necromancer may then take as apprentice one or more fellow immortality-seekers, who will obtain the knowledge of their master.


Having mastered the secrets of life and death, necromancers have reached their goal of immortality, in that they do not age, need to eat, drink, or require sleep, as they never get tired or exhausted. However, they do need to breathe, unlike vampires. Necromancers are still fertile, and in fortress mode, female dwarf necromancers can give birth. Their [ANXIETY_PROPENSITY] is raised by 50, while their [TRUST] is lowered by 50, and some necromancer secrets add [LIKES_FIGHTING].

The defining characteristic of necromancers is that they know the secrets of life and death, which gives them extra powers. However, not all secrets are created equal - different secrets will yield different powers.


Each secret gives a combination of magical abilities, which come in the form of interaction tokens. These abilities may vary widely in type and power level, but will always include the ability to raise corpses and intelligent undead. Depending on their spheres (which stem from the spheres of the original deity that granted those secrets) secrets may also grant the ability to summon nightmares, bogeymen, and also the ability to "ghoulify" a living creature (in effect, giving it a syndrome that turns it into a thrall, much like evil clouds). In addition, the intelligent undead will also be granted powers of their own, which may range from raising blisters to rotting nerves, to even being able to raise the dead themselves. The number of secrets, and which advanced powers they can convey, can be set in advanced world generation.

A single necromancer can learn multiple strains of necromancy by reading different sources. Ambitious necromancers tend to create more towers of the same strain via proxy, so you might find your world populated by a single strain. Usually it’s easier when you know which tower houses what kind of undead, or when you go after the source slabs via legends mode. Recovery is also easier when you have a sneaky squad of artifact raiders in fort mode.

Raise corpse/intelligent undead[edit]

Necromancers always have the power to animate corpses of organic creatures, which can include heads or any body parts which have a [GRASP] token or are attached to body parts which do (skin, and hair). 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 and [OPPOSED_TO_LIFE], regardless of previous allegiances. Unless the necromancer attacks their new undead minions, they will remain companions in Adventure mode. If you are a necromancer and attack one of your undead companions, all of them will turn neutral. Animated corpses are also neutral toward creatures that are [NON_LIVING]. Necromancers will also, occasionally, revive corpses as intelligent undead – in this case, the revived creature will retain most of its personality and existing loyalties. The name "undead" never quite appears as such in the game – instead, a procedurally-generated name like "lost butcher" or "risen zombie" is used. These undead have special powers but won't be enslaved or [OPPOSED_TO_LIFE]. In fortress mode, this means that intelligent undead raised by necromancer citizens of your fortress will stay citizens, if they were such when they died. It also means putting necromancers in military squads very risky, as they might accidentally revive your enemies with fun new powers. In adventure mode, if you attempt to raise someone you killed as an intelligent undead, they will remember you attacked and killed them, and will be hostile to you.

Summon nightmares/bogeymen[edit]

Secrets aligned with the nightmare sphere will grant the ability to summon nightmares or bogeymen at a random location near the target to haunt it. In-game, necromancers with this ability will "call upon the night" to do so. These summons are large and freakish, but last a short amount of time. Nightmares are neutral toward creatures with [NO_FEAR].


Certain necromancers may also turn living creatures into infected ghouls. The victims will be said to have "been infected with a contagious ghoulish condition". In adventure mode, you cannot make ghouls even if the announcement after reading a secret-containing book says you learned the power. Ghouls are opposed to life and attack/infect all living creatures who aren’t ghouls through bites. They still retain their sentience and can still bleed to death, but they maintain their gear and abilities, are immune to drowning, do not tire, and have extravision.

In world generation[edit]

Secrets of life and death.

In world generation, necromancers may raise suspicions from their fellow citizens due to not aging, which can lead them to be expelled. This does not apply to necromancers living in goblin and elven civilizations since both goblins and elves are already immortal. Upon being expelled, the necromancer may form a grudge against the civilization and turn to villainy, and they will generally take refuge in a site of their own.

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. Necromancers will also raise a few intelligent undead as lieutenants. 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.

Necromancers can make zombies build their tower up a bit to increase the site's zombie cap. If the necromancer is at their zombie cap, they can still raise more zombies, but they are added to a wilderness population instead. The wilderness population can still be used for invasions, but they are also able to roam on to player forts in the region and also encounter adventurers.

Necromancers may conduct experiments on civilians and their livestock, turning them into night creatures known as experiments. Eventually, these experiments may leave the necromancer that made them and join other civilizations. In older worlds, many civilizations will likely have significant populations of escaped experiments. In adventure mode, it is not currently possible to create necromancer experiments.

Necromancers can also turn intelligent creatures into infected ghouls. The ghouls can then be found around necromancer towers, but it is not currently possible to turn a creature into a ghoul in adventure mode.

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 concern the secrets of life and death (blessed, or mayhap, cursed) so that anyone who reads them will become a necromancer. Like the slab, all (first-edition, not copies) books, even those that do not contain secrets, are considered artifacts, and as such can be viewed in the "Codices and scrolls" 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. (Note: "the End" can also turn up in mundane titles as well, typically as part of the phrase "after the end")

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.

Necromancer towers spread death-aligned evil regions around them. Destroying the tower and killing the necromancers in it (e.g. through a raid to raze the site) will reverse the evil-spreading.

Necromancer towers seem to be treated as a type of criminal government[Verify] and as such function similarly to a regular civilization. Necromancers from opposing entities will attack each other, but amusingly, their undead armies will be neutral to everyone. Due to their ability to amass large armies quickly, necromancers are currently one of the most powerful geopolitical forces in the game, often declaring war on and destroying even powerful goblin civilizations in older worlds.

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 that distance of such 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 necromancer sieges will ever arrive (they may still show up as migrants and/or visitors), 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 the former has an apprentice) may or may not arrive with the 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. They may also send small squads or armies of experiments to attack you, sometimes stealthily acompanying their minions.

The easiest way to deal with a zombie siege is through the application of particle physics to grind the zombies 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 is more dangerous. The undead that the necromancer(s) will bring will be sapient creatures, but if you killed some elephants in a combat exercise and a necromancer happens 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, has one arrived, is an easy, valid game for a clobbering.

Necromancers that are idle during a siege used to 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 the necromancer, 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 will be the first one in, and you can then seal off the tunnel and trap them inside. It's difficult to get the necromancer in there alone, without a few zombies following, but it shouldn't matter. Cage traps will work too; however, caged necromancers do not appear to revive stuff. You must put necromancers 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, necromancers are very fun.

Necromancers may occasionally arrive with their slab in hand. It is possible to add necromantic texts as part of your library, allowing you to turn your dwarves into necromancers once they read them. It is also possible to use the world map to send military squads to raid necromancer towers for the reading material contained in 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 often 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. Also, be wary of sending necromancers out in melee, as intelligent undead invaders may remain hostile to your necromancers, who are ceaseless in bashing their heads in before killing them again in an endless, FPS-killing cycle.

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.

A necromancer may raise the dead when threatened, which is fun when your battlefield is full of previously hostile sentients. This is why you should almost always manually control the necromancer in fortress mode.

Visitors or immigrants[edit]

Necromancers may also casually arrive as visitors or immigrants in your fortress. When visiting, they won't attack you or attempt to raise any corpse they see – they came to relax, and just happen to know the secrets of life and death (the visitors are normally, though not necessarily always, schemeing something). They will, however, use their powers in combat (for instance, if they enlist as mercenaries in your squads), but not necessarily mindless corpse-raising – they may revive one of your dwarves that just died as an intelligent undead, who is loyal to your fortress and has extra powers. Necromancer immigrants can be put to work like any other immigrant dwarf - this may be bad for your meat supply when they practice their craft on the corpses produced by your hunters, however.

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 (bestowed by a death god) as their immortality means they cannot become obsessed with their own mortality. They can still learn the secrets of life and death by reading them, 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 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[Verify], and due to the fact that lighting barely exists yet, 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 fellow 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. Be advised that you cannot become a necromancer as an experiment.

  • 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.

  • 6. Leapfrog

jumping is an often overlooked but fairly powerful combat tool, especially against large hordes of very stupid zombies. Huge numbers have no impact of how effective jumping is, and zombies don't really try all that hard to get out of your way. It's fairly easy to just leap through entire hordes of zombies until you get to the tower proper, at which point you can just dash up some stairs and wait a bit for the zombies to forget you. The actual sentient inhabitants of the tower are strangely hospitable (even to the living) and don't seem to mind you that much, although some experiments seem to turn aggressive if you try talking to them. Once you've found the secret the zombies have probably forgotten about you and will ignore you now that you're also a night creature, and any that still remember you can be dispatched easily without causing any more trouble.

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 physical attributes so that they cannot rust or be increased. Therefore, it might be wise to raise them to a high level before becoming a necromancer. (However, this does not seem to be happening in the current version, including 0.47.05, 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 or grasping body parts (hands). That is, if the creature's head and hands 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. The arms and head of a single individual can also be raised as different zombies, granted they are separated properly to begin with.

Besides acting as reusable and easily-replenishable soldiers, undead hold potential usage as training dummies for weapons and wrestling skills and can be used to build for you, including animated body parts. A crafty adventurer may cut the limbs off 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.

As in fortress mode, necromancer companions and NPCs will automatically raise the dead when in the heat of battle. To counter this in adventure combat, mangle a sentient being using a blunt weapon so they can never be raised, or butcher them once and mangle the raised skin. Butchering doesn’t take time, so it doesn’t hurt to immediately butcher someone you killed.

Alternatively, you can destroy someone’s soul by raising a corpse as a non-intelligent undead. This rewrites their faction and soul traits, and any subsequent resurrection will raise them as a soulless creature loyal to you. This is very useful when you are in mass combat.

Be warned that raising a corpse in front of a lot of people who are already in combat will cause a lag spike.

Object testing arena[edit]

Necromancy can be assigned to any creature by simply changing the "effect" of the spawned creature to "necromancer" by pressing u. As expected, necromancers will reanimate dead creatures and severed body parts, though, depending on which team the player has set for the spawned necromancer and that of any creature that died that said necromancer chose to resurrect, strange behaviors can occur.

For example, a necromancer revives the body parts of a dead, dismembered dwarf in an effort to aid itself in fighting, but because the dwarf was on the "independent" team (or just a different one from the necromancer), the body parts just end up attacking the necromancer that raised them. So said necromancer may end up killing what it resurrected, only to keep resurrecting what it just killed to fight it again, which can happen over and over in an endless loop - all due to the clashing of how the arena handles teams/sides and the necromancer's natural AI in raising the dead to help itself.


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 and Goblins) with the [MAXAGE] token, or by adding intelligence to other creature tokens. Even having the ability to pray seems to add yet more original necromancers (that have discovered the secret by worshiping). This 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). 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.

Doing 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.