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In Street Grimoire, Necromancy is listed as one of the 'high arts' (pg 143-144) and we're given a few rituals for it. However, none of them give the ability to raise corpses- an essential part of the necromancer experience! With this in mind;

  • Can a magician use Animate and Mass Animate (sr5 292) to raise corpses? Where do they fall on the object resistance table?
  • Could a magician use the homunculus ritual (sr5 298) to create a zombie servant? Would they be able to sew several corpses together, or even create a 'custom' undead servant by combining corpses of different species?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answers go in answers, regardless of whether they're about etymology, mechanics, or lore. \$\endgroup\$ May 29 '15 at 23:37
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Animating Corpses in Shadowrun

Shadowrun's magic system is theoretically based on mythological depictions and viewpoints of magic rather than the modern fantasy-novel meaning of the word. As such, necromancy dealing with divination and the raising up of the spirits of the dead would come under the term necromancy - although Shadowrun itself often departs from this mode, and to some degree magic is portrayed as mutable by the power of belief.

Regardless, in the current rules you have several options for animating corpses, none of which are related to the Necromancy metamagic from Street Grimoire -

  • Animate and Mass Animate, pp. 292 SR5Core. Completely without detail, and assumes that a corpse is an 'Object'. There is absolutely no detail on what happens if the objects attack, try to perform actions, or anything else.
  • Possession and Inhabitation Spirit Powers from Street Grimoire, pp 197 and 195-196, respectively. Both allow possession of a 'dead or inanimate vessel', which is pretty much what you're after. However, getting them to do anything costs Services, and then they're out of there. Possession is available via any of the traditions (vodou, qabbalism, some others) that specify they are 'Possession Traditions' in their entry. Inhabitation is only available from Free Spirits (that may choose any power), Ally Spirits (that you must construct with the Inhabitation power (just follow the normal rules to make them, it's listed there as an option)), or if you're a Bug Shaman/using the Calling (Bug Spirit) Shadow Ritual (the first option is GM Fiat, the second is mostly Fiat but has some rules).
  • The Shedim, from Street Grimoire pp 93, are evil biblical unknowable death spirits who must appear in dead bodies - preferably freshly killed. The only way to call them would be via the Astral Gateway power or the Calling (Shedim) Shadow Ritual. Either way, the result is explicitly roleplayed/social skilled, and thus involves a significant amount of GM fiat.

From the above, we can conclude that if you want zombies, they are going to have spirits in them, and probably nasty spirits.

If you were homebrewing fantasy necromancy, a necromancy metamagic that allows you to perform a ritual on people (or fresh corpses or something) to conjure up their Astral Form as a Watcher spirit (with force based on how tough they were in life, call it Willpower), which has the Possession ability, and no duration if placed within it's own corpse (or just a corpse, no need to be picky), would probably do the trick. Since the Possession power uses the existing stats of the body, you could put a tough-minded dwarf woman's soul into a troll corpse all stitched up with extra arms or whatever and create a tough Paracritter for the party (or a HTR team) to fight.

Homonculi

Homonculi in function are kinda zombie-like, despite the fact that they're supposed to be more of a Frankenstein's Monster, or Golem. They don't have that 'creepy death spirit' thing, but they're dumb, can't communicate, easily confused, and very strong if high-force. A corpse is going to weigh at the least 50KGs. If it's not rotted. A rotted corpse will lose weight, with a skeleton weighing the least. Skeleton warriors! It's a real thing now!

But you're likely looking at force 4ish for even ineffective zombies. Which is a bunch of drain, and 4 days of time. But... the ritual rules are pretty crap. See, you roll a bunch of whatever and it gets capped at [Force]. But then you roll Forcex2 in opposition to that - so you get like 12 successes, but that gets capped at 4. Then it gets to roll 8 dice against your 4, and reduces your hits by whatever hits it gets (as well as adding to drain). This is important because your Homunculus at Force 4 lasts for 4 days per net hit, and with zero net hits your ritual fails. So you will want to Edge the ritual to break that limit, and get a whole bunch of successes, or your 'zombie' won't last out the week.

Object Resistance of a Corpse

A corpse is a natural object. It is not manufactured in the sense that shadowrun uses the word.

However. If you start stitching it up? It's a low tech manufactured good.

If you add guns and armour and stuff? High tech, 9 dice to resist.

If you add enough random stuff to it that it's like, 2/3rds machine to 1/3rd man, it's probably 'a vehicle or drone', and gets the hardcore 15+ 'highly processed object' resistance.

Note that Possession spirits cannot use cyberware - but Inhabitation spirits in a flesh-form or hybrid-form explicitly are called out as being able to. Whether Homonculi can is completely up in the air.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Basically what I was going to say anyways. Nicely put. \$\endgroup\$ May 29 '15 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ One should always edge rituals and whatnot, as it is, and being a ritual spell you get the teamwork bonus, so it going pear shaped can be less likely with some good chummers or a solid contact. Lovely answer, though! \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    May 30 '15 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for making my PCs' next fight much more interesting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Mar 17 '16 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sidenote: the closest thing to Zombies are Krieger strain infected, aka Ghouls. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 26 '18 at 10:23
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As mentioned by ShadowKras earlier, you aren't looking at the Necromancy spells in the books as actually raising the dead, though you do have a few options if that's the trick you want to pull off.

As you mentioned, trying to summon an inhabiting spirit is one way to go. Though, it'll be kind of hard for you to do that with the person still having a soul in the body, so you have to be sure it's gone. Then, you can go ahead and summon a man spirit or something to inhabit the body.

A homunculus is an option (creating a Frankenstein's monster in that regard), but if you look at the ritual, it's going to cost you a ton of drain. Most adult humanoids are going to be in excess of 60+ kilograms, meaning that a starting out mage isn't going to be doing much animating of that corpse. And, the homunculus isn't going to be bright or good enough to warrant that kind of spell.

And, as ShadowKras mentioned, the kinds of zombies we're dealing with in SR are actually Shedim, vengeful spirits that have something called Quintessence. Basically, it's a magical term meaning that the spirit can only exist in our material world for a small bit of time before fading into nothingness. Shedim (and bug spirits BTW) get around this by finding hosts. Bug spirits were able to convince all of us that we should totally put bugs in us, bro. But the Shedim are more opportunistic. They'll take control of recently dead bodies or even mages that are astrally projecting away from their bodies and aren't paying attention.

Whatever you do, Shadowrun can usually bend the rules enough to make it so. Sometimes, you just have to convince the DM that the lesser of evils today is raising one of those dead gangers with a Man Spirit inside of it to totally wreck some dudes face. Lesser evils, gentlemen. :D

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I just want to complement with a note about what happens when mages start summoning the Shedim: They will eventually lose their bodies. Specially if you got a GM that has read the second edition books and/or earthdawn. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    May 29 '15 at 20:07

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