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I've been considering creating a good-aligned necromancer, but I'm not sure if it's realistic from a role-playing perspective. Is there anything inherent in necromancy that would require someone to be evil?

I realize it's a lot of playing with dead bodies and not an occupation for the squeamish, but does someone become evil by practicing it?

Could someone be a good Necromancer?

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closed as too broad by doppelgreener, Miniman, GMJoe, Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 25 '14 at 3:40

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Voting to close as too broad: the mechanics of both Necromancy and alignment differ between editions, and in 4th edition, alignment is mechanically a non-issue (but figuring out how to be a Necromancer might be). This is not a particularly practical question for actual play, which ought to at least narrow this down to a specific version. As is, we can cherry pick from editions which support some extent of good Necromancy, and it may be irrelevant to what the author is willing to play. – doppelgreener Nov 24 '14 at 23:27
@doppelgreener Agreed, we have this question for a number of the specific systems already, and the more general question isn't really answerable. – Miniman Nov 25 '14 at 0:09

17 Answers 17

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Definitely. It's easy to think of the I-kill-you-and-use-your-corpse, or the standard graverobber. But what about someone who actually seeks the consent of those bodies? The kingsguard wishes to continue serving even beyond their deaths, the elves wronged by the evil overlord wish to become warriors before they become fertilizer. Remember too that necromancy is about more than having a zoo, death is not an inherently evil thing as it is necessary for survival (think about the tarot card) and undeath is just another state accompanying life and death in Dungeons and Dragons.

As far as the RAW goes with 3.5,

Even if a cleric is neutral, channeling positive energy is a good act and channeling negative energy is evil.

Clerics make it complicated like that, but there are more necromancers than those. Personally if someone wanted to play a good necromancer and try it out, I'd houserule a way around that as I don't see the creation of undead as itself evil and instead what one does with those undead determines, such as the kingsguard.

If this were the case in your game though, you'd have a lot of good/evil spells to rewrite.

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"I don't see the creation of undead as itself evil" Perhaps you don't, but the game's designers make it abundantly clear that they do. Every spell that can make undead is not just described as usually evil, it carries the Evil descriptor. Many of these spells do nothing else but create undead, and the rules on the Evil descriptor make it quite clear that a spell does not get that descriptor for being particularly useful for evil, but strictly only if what the spell does is an inherently evil act. Good necromancer is weak, but possible. Good undead-raiser is not. See mxyzplk's answer below. – Matthew Najmon Nov 1 '13 at 0:59
This doesn't mention the RAW or standard fluff at all, and it should. – user2754 Sep 24 '14 at 4:57
@JackLesnie then edit for clarity. – LitheOhm Nov 20 '14 at 3:05

Of course, depending on your definition of necromancer.

Can you be creating undead as a necromancer and stay good? No, that's an evil descriptor spell. Good clerics can't cast those at all, and good wizards can but like any evil act it'll move them from Good sooner or later.

Can you cast the dozens of other necromancy spells that aren't evil, like Disrupt Undead, Fear, False Life, Blindness/Deafness, etc.? Sure. You will probably find that you can't cast about 30% of the necromancer spell list, but you can cast spells from other schools as well. The locals may not buy your good necromancer routine, but you can sure try.

In earlier editions it was more of a judgement call (the addition of the evil descriptor to the spell makes this black-letter law), but "yes, creating undead is evil" is the commonly understood ruling in all D&D editions.

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First, there is a template for a good necromancer in one of the expanded books. I found this Good Lich template online today. The following is a long explanation I posted for my players about my world specifically. It goes into a lot of details and interprets some of the logic of the books in a way that hopefully helps explain why Necromancers tend toward evil.

Two things to note about this really long post. First, I talk about how necromancy spells cut a piece of the soul of the person and trap it. This is the decision I made for how they work based on my reading of the rules. Second, this is all wrapped around the concept of how D&D interprets undead creatures and spells tagged [Evil].

Finally, before my explanation, I wanted to note that by RAW it is impossible. "A Touch of Evil: A dread necromancer cannot have a good alignment. This could make it difficult to fit the character harmoniously into some groups."

TL;DR Version: Necromancy involves acts of evil, not like lying, but like stabbing babies. Are there good people who have committed acts of evil on that level, yes, but they're rare. Are there good people who would continue to commit acts of evil on that level. Maybe, but it better be well justified.

My really long explanation to my players

Necromancy is an interesting subject in D&D. Notably, we can find that most necromantic spells are defined in the books as [Evil] and yet there are many supplementals that note the possibilities of good liches, or undead guardians sent to protect the innocent.

I won't go over the arguments for both sides, I'll simply explain how things work in my game. For this, however, I will be as detailed in my logic as possible.

As part of being an evil cleric you obtain the ability to "REBUKE" undead. This means you can control them, and tell them to fight for you instead of against you, or simply to go away.

As part of being a good cleric you obtain the ability to "TURN" undead. This means you can cause them great fear, or even destroy them. This is extreme. There isn't a druid ability that is obtained at FIRST level to instantly destroy an animal that has decided to attack the party, even if that creature is a vicious wolf under the control of an evil druid for the purpose of killing the party.

We should compare these abilities to those of the other 2 major casting classes, druids & mages.

Druids have abilities similar to command, built into spells they can use, and their natural ability at 1st level includes the ability to communicate with plants & animals, but not to control them. Druids eventually gain spells to slay living creatures, but so does every other casting class, so these spells are irrelevant of this discussion. Druids never get the ability to call upon the power of being a druid (aside from spells as explained) to instantly kill a creature, even if that creature is attacking them.

Mages never get any such inherent ability, but must rely on spells to control things--even the addition of bloodline abilities for sorcs & school abilities for wizards has not changed this.

Since neither of the other two casting classes obtain a similar ability, and the ability itself is based purely on alignment, I'm forced to assume this ability is changed in this way BECAUSE of the cleric's alignment, and not for any other reason. This means, by my understanding, that the act of DESTROYING undead creatures is a GOOD action. This means (which you'll see in the Morality vs Alignment section) that the act of DESTROYING these creatures is HELPING them or the world in some way.

The deity Sarenrae (Neutral Good) explains that next to fiends and the helplessly evil, undead are among those that must be cut down and killed since no good can ever come from them. All others, she deems that her followers must try to teach and convert them. This is a consistent perspective in D&D and Pathfinder. Undead are perceived as "unnatural" and "abominations" which must be "destroyed". I have yet to see a good deity perceive undead as a positive thing. In fact, I've yet to see a good deity hold a "live & let unlive" attitude toward these creatures.

From this I have deemed that undead are a problem. They may be summoned by a cleric for the purpose of "cleaning the laundry" or "doing the dishes" so that a small part of the world is a better place, but even these acts must somehow be "wrong" in the eyes of good clerics, and so the undead in and of themselves are a bad thing in the world. If destroying an undead is helpful to the world, then the act of creating them must be Evil, so this fits perfectly with the theology expressed in the books and all necromantic spells can stick with the alignments listed in the book. Animate Dead, Create Undead, and Create Greater Undead are all Evil spells, acts which are evil by their very nature.

If that's the case, then how are they evil? The components don't give a big hint. We're not exactly talking about using the blood of babies to animate these creatures. It's simply magic controlling bones which makes them act as though they're still alive, right? Well, that never made sense to me. First of all, if that were the case, why are we limited to holding the form of the creature that originally existed, why not each bone be pointed out like a spikey monster so that it can simply grapple things to kill them. For that matter, if you're controlling each bone in that skeleton, why not use them individually as weapons. Surely that can't be more complex than the act of balancing while walking and swinging a sword (especially for a wizard with no such proficiency).

Furthermore, there's a tagline about undead creation in both D&D and Pathfinder. It goes something like: You can only control so many undead at a time. If you create more undead than you can control, the excess creatures are uncontrolled, but are not destroyed

So the creation of undead is not individual magical control over the bodily structure. Instead, you're bringing the corpse/skeleton to life. You're creating life?!? That can't be. No spellcaster in D&D can create life. There are those that can reanimate the dead such as "Ressurection" "Raise Dead" and "Clone". These spells are of a very high level, and undead can be created at very low levels. The separation means these creatures are, as described in the books "mindless".

As a side note, the mindlessness of undead is a fine point. The undead CREATURES aren't necessarily evil. As explained, they may just be washing dishes. This is a strong reinforcement of my point that it is the ACT of CREATING them that is Evil.

There is another creature in D&D which is more or less "alive" but has no mind of its own. They're called constructs. These "creatures" have been infused with magic and animated. But in D&D constructs, and the creation of them, is not tagged as an inherently Evil act, though it is extremely difficult to do. Interestingly, it's also never mentioned that there's a limit to how many constructs you can control. Since this is the only real difference (other than hitpoints) between the two acts, I must determine that it is THIS, and this ALONE, that is the difference between the Evil act of creating an undead creature, and the Neutral act of creating a construct. After all, both of these qualify as "unnatural" and many constructs could be considered "abominations" (see flesh golem).

But why is control necessary? If these creatures are truly "mindless" what might they do if left to their own free will? With the exception of Ghosts (for obvious reasons), undead creatures are listed as evil. Left uncontrolled they will act like a disease, killing & infecting others as they wish in my world. It's that simple. Undead, uncontrolled, will pursue harm. They will try to hurt people. but you just said they weren't bad creatures I did. I'll get into that in a bit.

If they're actions are evil, and the act of creating them is evil, but THEY aren't inherently evil, then there's something that is missing from the puzzle. In order to disassociate undead from constructs, I have determined that undead have a desire. They may be mindless, but they have a need, a want that must be fulfilled. This seems to fit most definitive lore. Zombies want braaaaaiiiins. Vampires need blood. All undead have a want, and what they want is directly correlated to life. Undead creatures are killing in order to obtain that touch of life that they're missing.

In order to make all of this make sense, there is something you must understand about the manner of the animation/creation spell in my world. The spell, the very act itself is an extremely low level step in the direction of the ultimate in Necromancy spells (yes, look it up) the 9th level spell "Soul Bind". The act of creating an undead creature is evil, because it involves taking a small piece of the SOUL of the creature that originally inhabited the body, and BINDING it to the pieces that are left.

In real life, we have done similar evil acts with corpses. There are cultures that remove the feet of their enemies after they kill them so that they may not walk through the gates of the afterlife. There are cultures who remove the eyes and scalps of their enemies so they are permanently disfigured and may not see what heaven looks like. We have had much experience in real life with defiling corpses, so consider D&D necromancy the magical equivalent. Instead of simply defiling the corpse, it's damaging the soul of the creature.

This fits perfectly into the rest of the D&D lore that I'm seeing. After an undead is destroyed, what's left is not enough to be reanimated. The part of the soul has been removed from this world and can't be dragged back without another corpse to attach it to (e.g. the person was cloned, reincarnated or true ressurected and a new body formed/used). This also explains why it is a GOOD act to destroy the undead. Even if the undead's purpose is solely to do laundry, it's very EXISTENCE is HARMING someone. The act of destroying the undead releases that piece of the soul, thus helping the person in the afterlife, and not harming anything other than smashing a bunch of rotting flesh.

So that about sums it up. I'm following the book here. With the exception of Ghosts (unfinished business), all Undead Creatures are evil, because they commit evil acts trying to seek out a taste of life. The creation of undead is evil because the caster is defiling the soul of the creature being animated. The destruction of undead is good because it is repairing the soul of a creature in the afterlife.

There are caveats here. The "good lich" is the first one I'd like to address. Even the book explains that such a being is "Extremely Rare". Allow me to clarify. The act of becoming a lich (as defined in the books) is an act of GREAT EVIL. To be a GOOD person who has committed "GREAT EVIL" is not necessarily impossible, but the rarity should be obvious. I won't go into ways I perceive this could happen as I wouldn't want to ruin anyone's role play.

Second, is intelligent undead. Because the spell is higher level, it should be obvious that is more powerful than it's lower-level counterparts. When using higher level spells to create intelligent undead, it requires binding of a larger portion of the soul to the corpse. As a result, the creature gains an intelligence. The intelligence is NOT that of the creature that was killed, but simply a general ability to learn and understand as any intelligent creature. Intelligent undead STILL pursue destruction of life when not controlled.

Third, is ghosts. Ghosts that chose to stay behind of their own will may be any alignment. Ghosts created by necromantic spells are evil.

Finally, a word on Liches in general. The act of becoming a lich requires an act of great evil as defined in the books. This is equivalent to drinking the blood of a newborn that the wannabe lich has just slain (actually worse, but I don't want to get too descriptive here). The creation of a phylactery is considered the epitome of necromancy. This fits with all of the above, because it involves not only the mastery of soul binding (the level 9 spell) but the ability to bind one's soul and use a piece of it to animate the lich's corpse, allowing the destruction of the lich's corpse to return that piece of the soul to the rest of itself. Additionally, it works similar to Clone, which is another level 9 spell. I recommend that both of these spells be on a caster's spell list if he/she wishes to pursue lichdom, but I can imagine some of my players may manage to role play their way around this rule.

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I've used a similar argument, though with a slightly different justification. I reason that, since undead are neither alive nor dead, they must be caught eternally at the moment between those two states, forever experiencing the growing cold, the ultimate fear, and the final despair and agony of death without the release that usually follows. In the case of mindless undead, this agony is all they have, and it's why they tend to lash out at the living. In addition, they are fixed in this specific emotional state, meaning that even intelligent undead have a hard time with empathy. – GMJoe Sep 14 '12 at 4:54
Yes, definitely seems like we came to similar conclusions. As I said, the reason I chose soul fragmenting is because Soul Bind is a 9th level Necromancy spell, and it's purpose is to trap a newly dead soul to prevent resurrection, and because it seemed to fit with magically defiling a corpse. – deltree Sep 14 '12 at 11:53
I chose the moment-of-death thing because it allowed me to explain why undead tend not to get on with their unlife and instead fixate on specific goals set at or before their time of death, such as revenge, becoming a really powerful wizard, or what-have-you. It also allows me to explain vampire feeding as being a way of stealing 'life' and temporarily avoiding the fixed emotional state. Co-incidentally, I'm thinking of using both of these explanations in an upcoming Planescape campaign, because having multiple explanations for the nature of the undead would fit the Planescape. – GMJoe Sep 15 '12 at 23:44
Oh, and I should probably mention that there is a spell that can create life, if only temporarily: Polymorph Any Object. – GMJoe Nov 1 '13 at 6:22

One of the most excellent Dragon magazine articles I ever read covers this very issue. The article is Shades of Death by Wade Nudson, appearing in Dragon #298 (August 2002, page 63).

It provides justifications for necromancers of both neutral and good alignments, known as the Gray Path and the White Path, respectively.

Necromancers of the Gray Path consider undead to be merely tools. Knowledge isn't good or evil; only the use of it is so. Lawful neutral necromancers consider it their responsibility to control or destroy the undead they encounter to protect others, while chaotic neutral necromancers think of undead as a guilt-free alternative to human slavery.

Good-aligned necromancers of the White Path treat intelligent undead with respect, and use them for noble ends. They collect knowledge of necromancy to use it against dangerous undead and evil necromancers. Lawful good necromancers may be militaristic crusaders who command a small number of undead cohorts. Chaotic good necromancers consider their undead to be comrades rather than servants, and form tightly-knit teams.

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I once read an article about "white necromancers". It's for Pathfinder, but it could easily be adapted to other editions of D&D. White Necromancers fight against undead using necromancy. They don't use it for summoning undead, but to banish them.

Otherwise, I can't really imagine someone who is stealing corpses from graveyards and animating them to serve him being a good guy.

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I like LitheOhm's answer, and I can think of quite a few ways for a non-evil necromancer to be played. Again, this depends on the setting.

How, you ask? Here's one way: think of the concept of purgatory. In Christianity, this is a temporary state of purification for people who have passed away with minor sins, before they are allowed into heaven. Now project that into your fantasy setting: a believer in a deity has passed away, but was judged not sufficiently worthy to be accepted into his promised afterlife before he has atoned for his transgressions. This involves a period of servitude, as an undead, bound to one of the deity's priests. In effect, the undead are now indentured servants, given to the priest to control. Part of this might be giving their mortal remains to the church to use as menial laborers, used as zombies and skeletons. Some of this might be being sent as incorporeal undead to serve the priests.

Of course, this doesn't really fit in for all religions. A cheerful god of flowers and unicorns probably wouldn't want rotting corpses as servants. But a god of death - which isn't necessarily an evil one, as I remember the 2nd edition Complete Priest's Handbook describing - might have no problem with that.

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The god of death in the Realms (at least, before 4e's changes) is neutral. – SevenSidedDie Sep 12 '12 at 14:44

I hate to be the one to be in the negative here, but I have to disagree with the majority of posters here. For 3.5 system (including FR) necromancy is an evil act. In addition to the "Evil" descriptor on the spells that do this, there is a direct answer to this question. (BTW, characters are unable to cast spells of the opposing alignment whether it's good/evil or law/chaos)

From the Book ov Vile Darkness Pg 8:
Under the "Evil Acts" Section in the Chapter: "The nature of Evil" states:
"Creating them (undead) is one of the most heinous crimes against the world that a character can commit. Even if they are commanded to do something good, undead invariably bring negative energy into the world, which makes it a darker and more evil place."

That said, you can have a Neutral character who does enough good to counter the evil they do by raising undead.

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I believe that it only depends on how do you develop your character background. D&D usually depicts necromancers and undead creatures as being evil, however there are some exceptions. In Forgotten Realms elves can become Baelnorns (good liches). Expanding the idea to non-D&D scenarios, the necromancers of Diablo II are bounded to neutral morality.

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Here's an answer based on a historical Christian context rather than D&D:

The tropes around necromancy and undead found in roleplaying games are based on a mix of folk tales (of vampires, ghosts, etc.) and medival Christian beliefs that saw necromancy as a real sin the Church needed to deal with. Necromancy was a very common accusation in witch trials.

I doubt anyone believes here that people back then were actually commanding skeletal servants, so what were those accusations based on? Very simple: communicating with the dead. Mediums, séances, ouija boards, that kind of thing. People believed that their dead loved ones were alive in the afterworld (after all, the Church told them so!), and wanted to talk to them, and some people thought they could help them do so (or pretended to, in order to make money). The Church saw this desire as human but sinful and damning, yet another way Satan uses our desires to tempt us towards darkness.

So there you have it: A woman whose husband died at sea wants to say good bye and tell him his son born in this absence is healthy. A man wants to reconcile with his father who died when they hadn't been talking for years after an argument. And now you find that you are able to fulfill these wishes. It would make those people very happy and not hurt anyone. That's certainly a Good act.

But there's grey areas all around, and the same magic can be used to do dark, terrible things, and using it at all may... change you, over time.

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Deuteronomy 18:10-11 comes to mind: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer." – Joe Dovahkiin Sep 15 '12 at 13:35

There was a 2nd Edition product, the Complete Book of Necromancers. It was a blue DM option splat book. CBoN divided necromancy into white, gray, and black, and Animate Dead could be used by a necromancer of any color. The book itself had a line about it not being the animation that's evil, it's what you do with them afterward. Skeleton or zombie carrying your luggage? Not evil. Unleashing an undead army on a defenseless town? Evil.

I had a gray necromancer in 2E who started as CN but at some point had an alignment shift to CG. Even classes that would normally object (like druids), are thankful for her use of Animate Dead.

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Presuming that you mean raising an army of undead, the answer is no in most settings. Raising an undead creature is intrinsically does something bad with their body and soul (see discussion at Does an intelligent undead contain a soul). It's something that few would consent to, and then usually unwisely.
However, in the Eberron setting there are positive energy based Deathless which are created from willing subjects. These are essentially good analogs for undead, and their creators are also good.

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Create Undead and Animate Dead both have the Evil descriptor. So by the book, yes, it's evil. But, that's only if the GM is all about the rules. It's like my question about whether drinking blood is evil because the spell Blood Transcription has the Evil descriptor.

If for you, raising a body from the dead (disturbing the peace of its soul) is not as evil as drinking blood to gain a spell, then Necromancy can be perfectly fine. "Ask your GM" is my ultimate answer.

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I don't have the book at hand to quote but there was a 3.5 book which had a very good chapter on necromancy, it boiled down to what your DM, or players included if they take part in shaping the world, decide it is.

The most important question is "Is animating a skeleton more evil then creating a golem" golems are usually fluffed as being animated by elemental beings but for it to be kosher the spirits are "sleeping" not actually aware they're being enslaved to do things.

If your skeleton doesn't use the soul of a living being or that soul isn't harmed your necromancy is no worst than a wizards using a golem.

If your skeleton depends on the soul being in pain as it is bounded to it or creating the skeleton lets in evil energy from some plane of death, a example from the book, then what you're doing is evil.

So sorry but the answer is talk to the DM and try to see if the world can be changed/already allows a good necromancer, as a side note even if skeletons are equivalent to golems most people will still hate you for using the remains of the dead in such a manner.

But a hero/anti hero hated by the very people he's sworn to protect is fun to play take my word for it.

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The core rules of 3.5e DnD define necromancy, the channeling of negative energies for any use, to be an evil act no matter who utilizes those energies. They are especially clear that raising corpses to serve your desires is also completely and unequivocably evil.

This is for the standard setting of DnD 3.5e (and probably 4.0 as well).

This does not mean your game needs to consider such actions to be innately evil.

The wonderfully flexible thing about DnD is that you can alter it to suit your needs and desires. Yes, as written in the text Necromancy is automatically evil, and even casting such a spell would be an evil act, but a house rule a simple as "evil-aligned spells cast by good-aligned clerics do not carry the evil descriptor", or even just 'necromancy spells are not evil' can make Necromancy as innocuous as a Dominate Person spell (and really, why is it okay to command a person to dance to your every whim when they are alive, but when they're a corpse suddenly it's all wrong?)

To answer that hypothetical question in my previous paragraph, there actually is a reason why necromancy is defined as 'always evil' in core. It's not because the act itself is necessarily bad, or used for bad purposes, but becase the alignment system reflects a fight between literal Angels and Demons - Archaeons and...actual demons. Necromancy uses negative energy, which is a demonic energy and thus, a tool of the 'evil' side of this conflict.

Even in core though, there is a way around this problem.

Do it anyway

Channeling negative energy, by core, is an absolutely evil act. This does not mean, however, that a cleric who channels negative energy is doing an evil deed with that energy, and certain flexible Gods might smile upon the irony of using negative energy to perform acts of good.

Some might also strip you of your clerical powers and strike you down with lightning for good measure, but equal parts might not even notice, and if your character can justify the use of evil energies for good causes, it not only keeps them in line with their alignment, it makes them a much more complex and interesting character. You could very easily conceive of a character who uses necrotic energies frequently, for the forces of good, either with a heavy weight on their shoulders knowing what horrors they are doing but struggling to make things right in the world, or gladly embracing their natural talents with necrotic energy for positive reasons, knowing full well that the ultimate good that they do outweighs the evil inherent in using those energies.

If you want necromancy to not be inherently evil, that's as easy as changing the rules so that the spells simply aren't evil. If, however, you want to make a character who uses those energies for good despite their inherent evil energies, then you have a deep, interesting challenge ahead of yourself for constructing such a character, and I wish you luck.

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When you refer to what "the rules" say, you need to pay attention to the "any edition" part of the question. The rules don't actually define this in every edition. – SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '13 at 15:26
@SevenSidedDie Good point, edited for clarity. – Zibbobz Nov 1 '13 at 15:53
If you want to change the rules around to play a "good" necromancer, then you may also want to look into the Deathless from Eberron Campaign Setting: essentially a positive energy-based variant of undead. I don't imagine it would be too unbalancing to have "Create Deathless" variant spells that are technically giving new life to once-dead things rather than just raising the dead in a twisted mockery of life. – Cobalt Mar 11 '14 at 20:43

You can make a good necromancer, but you're going to have to houserule away the Good/Evil descriptors on spells.

As everyone else has pointed out, RAW says healing Good, undead Bad, no ifs ands or buts.

But since you're already planning on going a bit off-script with your necromancer anyway, there's no reason to stick to those. (And personally, I've never understood how an evil cleric healing an evil monster so it can go do more evil is somehow a good act.)

So, here's my suggestion. Houserule away all Good/Evil descriptors, and let the DM decide whether the results make it a good or evil act. (Which is how all non-spellcasters get judged anyway). This can take two forms:

  1. literally remove the descriptors. There are no good spells or evil spells (and you could even take out Law/Chaos as well), which means a bunch of spells don't work right (e.g. ProtEvil/ProtGood), and your DM will have to tapdance around some of the angel/demon descriptions, but that's the shortest route.

  2. Keep the descriptors but redefine them slightly. "Good" spells channel positive energy and "Evil" spells channel negative energy. But what's to say that Mr. Evil healing a monster isn't corrupting that Good spell in the process of channeling it? (And vice versa: your necromancer is redeeming negative energy in the Cause of Fluffy Bunnies). Pretty much, just remove the automatic judgement (and leave that to the DM/other players - keeping in mind that the fighter somehow can murder all sorts of things without being automatically Evil!), and use the descriptors as a roleplaying hook. This is probably the easier answer, since it still allows your Angels/Demons to be Actual Evil (and thus lets all the other spells behave).

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-1: there's more to Necromancy than making undead – Matthew Najmon Apr 10 '14 at 23:18
@MatthewNajmon Though you're right, that's mostly the point of their dilemma. He's trying to figure out if undead summoner/maker can a good character. – Cataru Moore Oct 2 '15 at 22:42

You can absolutely make a good necromancer by the RAW. A lot of the answers are making the assumption that you're talking about raising the dead... but necromancers make exceptional hunters of the undead. In addition to all the necromantic 'raise dead' type spells, there's also a lot of necromantic spells that specifically target hostile undead, or allow you to keep your distance from their nasty touch attacks. I had just such a player in one of my games - they never raised a single undead creature, but rather, they focused entirely on the destruction of the undead, and found necromancy a very useful tool to do so.

But raising dead, except in the realm of positive-energy undead houserules type stuff, is always evil. And the dead that volunteer for being raised as a negative-energy undead... well, this is how you get those nasty evil corrupted 'guardian' spirits that slaughter the bullies who gave their kids noogies.

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The Crimson Pandect contains a custom class for a sect of (mostly) elves called the Kuan Amelatu who are essentially good necromancers. Their focus is on aiding the spirits of the dead, whether that means destroying undead creatures, taking vengeance against murderers and necromancers, or soothing the spirits of those who are unable to move on to their proper afterlife. They have a custom spell list which includes several spells that call on the spirits of those they have previously aided and request their assistance, but none of the standard Raise Dead-type spells.

(Crimson Pandect is written as a Labyrinth Lord supplement for the Red Tide setting, but the rules are easily repurposed for any pre-3e D&D-type system and it includes notes on using them in other settings.)

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