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Isn't magic that heals wounds, cures disease and brings someone back to life the opposite of D&D's typical definition of Necromancy?

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While the 3.0/3.5 era reassigned curative spells to Conjuration temporarily, in D&D tradition they've always been Necromancy. Necromancy is magic that directly manipulates the energies of life and death - positive energy (cure spells) and negative energy (animation of undead) are like the opposite ends of a magnet - if you're holding the magnet, you control them both.

The 3.x era's reassignment of curative magic to Conjuration could have been done well and been kind of interesting, as it was skinned as "summoning positive energy to inject into the target", but all the requisite other stuff we should have been able to do if positive energy could be conjured was missing - wall of positive energy, summon monster: positive energy elemental, lesser healing orb should all have been spells and weren't. 5e is just setting the needle back where it belongs and restoring Necromancy's original purpose - healing and harming, raising the dead or just animating their remains.

5e Basic Rules

Necromancy spells manipulate the energies of life and death. Such spells can grant an extra reserve of life force, drain the life energy from another creature, create the undead, or even bring the dead back to life. Creating the undead through the use of necromancy spells such as animate dead is not a good act, and only evil casters use such spells frequently.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not necessary, but it could be made clearer that when you say "traditionally" you mean in D&D tradition. The only necromantic spell in D&D according to the historical tradition of necromancy is Speak With Dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman May 21 '15 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, in case you're interested: Necromancy refers specifically to the practice of communicating with the dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman May 21 '15 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably worth mentioning: Originally, cure spells and inflict spells were the same spell, just reversed. So it makes sense they were the same school. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson May 22 '15 at 12:20
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Here's a historical canvas of the term in D&D to see what the "typical" definition of necromancy is.

5e:

Necromancy spells manipulate the energies of life and death. Such spells can grant an extra reserve of life force, drain the life energy from another creature, create the undead, or even bring the dead back to life. Creating the undead through the use of necromancy spells such as animate dead is not a good act, and only evil casters use such spells frequently.

4e:

No necromancy. "Necrotic" energy.

3e:

Necromancy: Spells that manipulate, create, or destroy life or life force. A Necromancy specialist is called a necromancer. To become a necromancer, a wizard must select any other single school as her prohibited school.

2e:

Necromancy is one of the most restrictive of all spell schools. It deals with dead thingor the restoration of life, limbs, or vitality to living creatures. Although a small school, its spells tend to be powerful. Given the risks of the adventuring world, necromantic spells are considered quite useful.

1e:

They don't bother to define "Necromantic." I can hear Gary yell, "Read a book!"

Basic:

No such thing as schools. Necromancy not even mentioned.

OD&D:

"Necromancer" was the name for a 10th level wizard.

So the definition of necromancy using life energy in a positive way is consistent at least with the editions necromantic magic has been a defined in, though it was undefined and used in a general sense in half of the previous editions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, it'd be good if you added a rough overview of what kinds of spells were classified as part of the Necromancy school in editions (at least, for the editions that actually had defined schools of magic). I know 2e classified all cure spells as necromancy, for instance. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 22 '15 at 3:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pretty sure 4e did have necromancy later on. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 22 '15 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe so. After the first corebooks I was out. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 22 '15 at 18:40

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