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One of my players is planning to play as a Dread Necromancer Necropolitan. Necropolitan is a template that can be added to players (and other humanoid creatures) described in Libris Mortis.

Necropolitans are humanoids who renounce life and embrace undeath in a special ritual called the Ritual of Crucimigration (see below). A necropolitan’s skin is dry, withered, and powdery. Its eyes are as pale as driven snow, and as lifeless. It continues to dress in the fashion it preferred while living. Necropolitans are considered citizens of the little-known city of Nocturnus, but if their nature is revealed elsewhere, they are feared and hunted like common monsters

The ritual to become a Necropolitan is as follows:

The first part of the ritual requires the placement of the petitioner on a standing pole. Cursed nails are used to affix the petitioner, and then the pole is lifted into place. The resultant excruciating pain that shoots like molten metal through the petitioner’s fingers and up the arms is not what finally ends the petitioner’s mortal life, however, since death usually comes from asphyxiation and heart failure. As petitioners feel death’s chill enter their bodies, many have second thoughts, but it is far too late to go back—the cursed nails and chanting of the ritual ensures that the Crucimigration is completed.

The ceremony lasts for 24 hours—the usual time it takes for the petitioner to perish. During this period, two or three zombie servitors keep up a chant initiated by the ritual leader when the petitioner is first placed into position. Upon hearing the petitioner’s last breath, the ritual leader calls forth the names of evil powers and gods to forge a link with the Negative Energy Plane, and then impales the petitioner. Dying, the petitioner is reborn as a necropolitan, dead but animate.

Now, while doing research for a nice build, my player found the following on the GitP forum:

Say your character was made into a Necropolitan by an 8th+ level Dread Necromancer (HoH) with the Corpsecrafter line of feats (LM) in an area of Desecration with an evil altar present. This will get you the following permanent benefits:

+2 HP per level, +2 Profane bonus on attack rolls and saving throws, Desecrate plus evil altar.

+2 HP per level, +4 Enhancement bonus to Strength and Dexterity, Dread Necromancer's Undead Mastery class feature.

+2 HP per level, +4 Enhancement bonus to Strength (redundant), Corpsecrafter feat.

+4 Turn Resistance, Bolster Resistance feat from the Corpsecrafter line.

+1d6 Cold damage with all your natural weapons, Deathly Chill feat from the Corpsecrafter line.

+2 Natural armor, Hardened Flesh feat from the Corpsecrafter line.

+4 Initiative, +10 ft. land speed, Nimble Bones feat from the Corpsecrafter line.

Yes, being made into an undead by someone who's specialized in it results in some amazing, unfair bonuses. I didn't bother including Destruction Retribution, and Deathly Chill is probably situational at best, but otherwise it's definitely worth writing into your backstory and costs you nothing.

The thing is, a few of the feats needed to 'enhance' a necropolitan only go in affect when an Undead is raised with a spell. In this case, the undead is raised with a ritual. I figured that in that ritual, the same energies are used that are also used with the spells, but my (very honest) player pointed out that this is not necesarily the case. So I ask, would the aforementioned benefits that are applied to created/raised undead also count for a Necropolitan made by a Dread Necromancer with the feats/skills/etc. listed above?

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Corpsecrafter et al. each apply to “undead you raise or create with any necromancy spell.” The Ritual of Crucimigration does not involve any spellcasting, only cursed nails, chanting, and the invocation of “evil powers and gods.” It is these things, rather than the ritual leader him- or herself, that result in the creation of the necropolitan. The ritual leader is just ensuring the proper timing of everything. Therefore, the feats that the ritual leader does or does not have do not apply, and again, since no spell was cast, Corpsecraft et al. wouldn’t anyway.

This was likely written this way specifically to avoid players easily getting substantial benefits at no cost to themselves.

On the other hand, desecrate does not have any such provisions. This implies that a necropolitan could gain the +1 or +2 HP/HD that desecrate offers to every “undead creature created within or summoned into such an area.” However, there is no indication that this is a permanent bonus: it is an effect of the spell. Once the spell expires, or the necropolitan leaves the area, the benefit is lost.

Necropolitan is a fairly high-power template. The benefits of the undead type are considerable. The costs are fairly considerable as well, but it is well worth considering for many characters, and dread necromancers benefit particularly well from it. That’s all fine, but piling extra bonuses on top, such as Corpsecrafter or desecrate, that cost you nothing, as they are aspects of whoever performs the ritual, that pushes the template beyond what I would consider acceptable. If I allowed a player to use these, I’d feel the need to offer ways to empower the other characters as well.

Which, of course, can be done and can be quite fun, but it’s definitely not an automatic part of necropolitan.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would +1 again for "If I allowed a player to use these, I’d feel the need to offer ways to empower the other characters as well" - great approach! \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 23 '17 at 21:04
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Congratulate the player on his research then say No

From a take-no-prisoners, rules-as-written, draw-no-lines-between-crunch-and-fluff standpoint, the Ritual of Crucimigration (Libris Mortis 115) really does say the character ends up "dead but animate," and, in truth, many effects that you list are applicable to animated dead. The difficulty comes in explaining to the player that this is likely just description.

Now, I can't be certain because I don't think Collins and Cordell have addressed this point head on, but I'm almost positive that the closing phrase is merely a rhetorical flourish—fluff not crunch—that really wasn't intended to be hard-and-fast rules text. Prior to that phrase, no mention is made of spells as mandatory to the Ritual. So while a DM could treat that phrase as rules text, I guess, this DM wouldn't, especially since parsing that phrase that way means reading dead but animate as animated dead.

Ignoring that pregnant phrase leaves us with a Ritual of Crucimigration that involves no spells. That means the feats Corpsecrafter (Libris Mortis 25) et al. don't (didn't?) affect the character, and neither do (did?) the necromantic feats from Dragon #312 (also because the character's not a skeleton or a zombie).

A DM can also exclude the bonuses from the spell desecrate [necro] (PH 218), the dread necromancer's special ability enhanced undead (Heroes of Horror 87), and the variant necromancer's extraordinary ability enhanced undead because each apply to undead that are animated or created (with this last special ability explaining that created means "such as with animate dead, create undead, or create greater undead") (Unearthed Arcana 63).

This latter point might leave the DM in the uncomfortable and perhaps slightly hypocritical position of interpreting one batch of text as not rules (the Ritual description) and another batch of text as rules (the word created in, for example, the description of the spell desecrate). Such is the peril of being DM; be prepared to contain multitudes.

Also, the DM controls who performs the Ritual

It might be useful to keep in mind that who conducts the Ritual of Crucimigration isn't up to the character (or the player) but the DM. The character must take his necropolitanism where he can get it, and if that means the character wasn't—or, because of the campaign, couldn't have been—created (or animated or raised or brought back or whatever) by a dread necromancer 8/necromancer 1 with a 2 flaws and every possible undead-enhancing feat while in the area of a desecrate spell that had a permanent alter to a dark god, then he just won't be, and the whole issue's moot.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, are you implying that there is no way to create undead other than casting the specified spells? Because that would, in my opinion, seem rather ridiculous, as the ritual in question would be an argument against this statement. \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean Sep 7 '15 at 18:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joninean Some undead are reborn (like a necropolitan), some rise (like the wight or vampire spawn), and others come about in other ways. However, most of the time, created refers to using the spells create undead et al. to make undead rather than other ways of generating them. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 7 '15 at 18:57

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