This idea originally started out as a question about how to make clerics more interesting, then became more involved as time went on. The idea is to make necromancy something that's not evil. It seems that in every fantasy rpg necromancy is something that's inherently evil. This is understandable if we go with the premise that a necromancer causes death or gains power through causing death.
What if a necromancer was something different? Here are some ideas that I've fleshed out. This is still very nebulous, but I'd actually like to develop this into an actual class, I'm just not sure for what system yet. (The system will be difficult for me to choose since I tend to be very system agnostic and would like this blog to be system/setting neutral)
--investigates death. This could be anything from raising the spirits of the dead to answer questions or simply "reading" the bones of the dead person to see their last moments of life
--solve family disputes. The kids are arguing over who gets to keep what from the estate because Grandpa Bob didn't leave a will? Call in a Necromancer to raise Uncle Bob's spirit and ask some questions.
--my thinking is that a necromantic investigator would really be a sub-class of necromancy. This would be all that they do, with no other necromantic powers except communicating with the dead. Can they communicate or speak with ghosts or other types of spirits, or is this a gift that has to be focused? If it's the latter how is it limited? Through training/lack of talent? Magical item that grants the power?
--what kind of laws are there that prevent a necromantic investigator from going into private practice? Are there any?
--I could see them becoming quite valuable as a part of society. If a murderer will always be found out will that decrease the level of violent crime, or will that simply cause violent people to hide the evidence more thoroughly?
--How much of a person's remains would there need to be in order for anything to be learned? Maybe that changes based on a necromancer's skill level?
--I could see a necromantic investigator developing an "affinity" for other violent crimes as well. A skilled necromancer might be able to sense when someone was beaten or raped or something else?
--If a necromantic investigator has that much contact with death, and can presumably lay the dead back down again, can that power to lay the dead down be used on the living? In other words, could they cast a death curse if needed?
--how much power do the necromantic investigators have? Are they the sole arbitrators of death cases, so that the rich and powerful are not immune? If so how are they kept in check so that they don't abuse the power?
Of course the uniform is important.
--since it's necromancy it has to be black. Black boots with silver trim. Black pants with silver belt. White shirt with blood red trim. Black cloak, with the inside being deep, dark red (almost maroon). The necromancer symbol in dark red stamped on the sides of the boots, woven into the hip at the pants, used as a belt buckle for the belt, sewn in read thread on the right breast of the shirt, and used as clasp for the cloak (with red stitching on the back of the cloak with a large symbol).
--the symbol of the necromantic class is a scale with a skull resting on one of the balances and a pile of bones on the other.
In a society where necromancy was used for investigation I could see some other things being affected as well.
--a cleric who practices necromancy as a way to "help" or "guide" a restless soul to their final destination.
--In this case I could see the necromancer needing some sort of "payment" from the dead soul. Maybe a
future favor or piece of information. A necromancer who's been at it for awhile could become incredibly
--a cleric who practices necromancy to help bring closure to the living. Maybe a loved one didn't get to say goodbye and the cleric is there to provide that opportunity
--a necromantic battle cleric who's there to ease the death of those mortally wounded.
--maybe in such a society raising the undead to perform menial labor is seen as the morally right thing to do. After all, why should the living be forced to build that great monument when the dead don't care?
--I could also see such a society allowing anyone with the cash and proper permits to be able to "hire" undead to do the low level tasks that the rest of society doesn't want to do. Of course the relatives of the undead must be contacted and permission given/bought, but that can sometimes be hard to do . . .
I guess it's not so nebulous after all. However I still have no thoughts about what kind of spells/powers are available at the various levels, or if I even want to do it that way.