Looking for feedback on a necromancer playbook

Hi folks,

After looking at a couple of necromancer playbooks out there on the web, I decided to start making my own. The idea of just being a summoner style character whose summons happen to be dead things is a little boring to my mind. I also hold the firm belief that doing magic in RPGs should be very costly, rare, and painful. Please give me your candid thoughts below to this work in progress. I’m especially interested in hearing thoughts on the Death’s Bargain section. Thanks!

The (much more interesting) Necromancer – a Dungeon World Playbook by Matt Hall

When you made a deal with death for power over life, you are a necromancer.


With a grim smile, you shook the hooded one’s hand…


Wizened beyond your years
Eyes like black embers

Self-serving: You do what’s in your best interest, regardless of the effect it has on others.
Neutral: You maintain the balance of life and death at all costs.
Power seeking: You do anything for more power.


Initial Moves:

Animate Dead
When you call on Death to invigorate the dead, The dead thing is now animate and responds to your commands. Roll 2d6: On 10+, take 3 hold, on 7-9 take 2 hold, on 6- take 1 hold. Discuss with the GM a few possible moves for the dead thing. Spend one hold to command it, or spend all remaining hold to gain life equal to 2x hold spent. Once all hold is spent, the thing returns to death. If you spend all three hold to gain life, the thing turns to dust.

Passage through the Penumbra
Instead of taking a Perilous Journey, you may pass through the Penumbra. The Penumbra is that place between life and death, and traveling through it may allow one skilled and brave enough to do so to bypass obstacles, evade enemies, or shorten the time it takes to travel between two points in the physical realm. Roll 2d6: On 10+ make the passage with no difficulties, on 7-9 make the passage, but choose one of the following, on a 6- choose two:
You get lost in the Penumbra
A danger must be overcome
You bring something unwelcome back with you

Dry Lips
When Discerning Realities by querying the dead, on a 10+ or 7-9, in addition to the normal questions, the necromancer may ask one additional question which only the dead thing would know. It must answer truthfully.

Death’s Bargain

In exchange for power over life and death, you have agreed to (pick one):

Create a foothold for Death in the land of the living
Sacrifice the one you love the most
Bring about a catastrophe that claims thousands of lives
Reset the balance of life and death by killing a person of Death’s choosing
Other – discuss with GM. The deal should be the core driver of your characters’s behavior and could be is equivalent to a campaign level front.

Advanced Moves:

Drain Life
When you wound another, gain life equal to the damage inflicted.

Dead Pieces
When you replace a part of your body with the part from a corpse, choose one:
Death’s eye – can see into the Penumbra without traveling there
Necrotic hand – when you animate the dead……something like a +1 tp the roll or more hold or something…
External ribs – gain 1 armor
Other – discuss and decide with the GM

When you guide a party through the Penumbra in lieu of a Perilous Journey….

Inflict Debility
By your touch, the creature gains one debility, choose one:
Chronic pain — details
Weak limb – details
Fouled mind – details

Something to do with foes being afraid of you, a -1 forward or something, based on a roll.

Channel Life
Transfer life from one character to another or from oneself from another.

Brew Elixir
Poisons…life potions…debility potions…something like that

Dead Pet
When you form a bond with an undead animal of small size, it stays by your side and can follow simple commands. You maintain a mental and spiritual connection with the creature such that you understand its thoughts and feelings.

Death’s Best Friend
When you speak to Death on behalf of another character…

Not sure if there’s a better way to format the above text.

Also, still brainstorming, adding a few more Advanced Moves:

Show Them

Invoke a vision in your foe’s mind causing them to see their own death….something like 1, they run and flee, 2) something else, 3) -1 forward on attacks against you.

Forever beautiful

Your true age is hidden and you require neither sleep nor sustenance.

Death Benefits

When you spend an hour or so in unbroken communion with Death, memorize one destructive wizard spell equal to your level (mirror wizard progression). Cast as wizards do, except that on a 6- take damage = to 2x the spell’s level, in addition to forgetting the spell.

Death Mask:

Appear, for all intents and purposes, dead.

I’m interested, but I’m not sure this is really that costly. I wonder why Animate Dead isn’t more of a bargain: just because Death allows you to animate the dead surely doesn’t mean they’re always so accommodating! Maybe drift the move closer to the Immolator’s Burning Brand? Maybe on a 6- they have to sacrifice some of their living flesh?

I would restrict Dry Lips, too, with a custom set of questions. I think it’s a given that the Necromancer would ask questions that only the dead would know, but the questions for Discern Realities are specifically tuned for drama—they shouldn’t be just establishing facts. Maybe the bargain between the Necromancer and Death isn’t that friendly and interrogating the dead is the Necromancer’s only way to spy on Death. (A good way to let the GM show a grim portent!)

I think this is great for where you’re at in development!