Supplement Review: Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer (PFRPG) from Zombie Sky Press

In Fall 2011, I backed a project from Scott Gable and Zombie Sky Press called Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer and I kind of forgot about it… Then back in October 2012, I received an early copy (attached to a backer e-mail) of the supplement to take a look at before the final book was released around Halloween. I took a look and filed it away to review when I had an opportunity.

Guess what? I had an opportunity!

Mysteries of the Dead Side: The Sacred Necromancer - Zombie Sky PressMysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer introduces some intriguing options for your Pathfinder and D20/3.5e campaigns. The 19 page PDF (18 pages of content) was written by Gable (contributing editor to Kobold Quarterly), Will McCardell, and Matthew Pauze specifically to bring some necromantic flavor to traditional campaigns. And I have to say they did that quite well. As a 4e player, I wish they did it for 4e, but hey… I can’t have everything. :)

So what does it include? Six different types of necromancer “callings”, from the Dr. Frankenstein-style chirurgeon to the strange psychopomp and scary revenant. And it doesn’t stop there, which I’ll get into in a minute. I’ll talk about three of the callings I liked the most.

My first favorite has to be the chirurgeon. There’s just something inherently creepy about a character who can assemble undead from parts, modify living creatures, and even build a monster. It’s sort of a combination of Dark Harvest (from Iain Lowson and Cubicle 7) with more traditional fantasy elements.

Next we have the “Psychopomp” who deals with spirits in a more constructive way than the exorcist calling that also appears in the book. These characters can sense spirits, direct spirits to empower characters in various ways, and even cause dread in the living by letting them glimpse “The Other Side…” If that wasn’t enough, they also gain the ability to reform their body somewhere else after death just like they were resurrected.

And lastly there’s the revenant. The revenant reminds me of Solomon Grundy, a strange zombie-like villain from DC Comics, but crossed with some of the ideas of The Crow. I wouldn’t want to mess with it in a dark alley. Basically your character becomes undead, but alive, and gain some interesting powers such as “Turn Living” (works just like you think it does) and a much more intimate knowledge of other undead critters.

If you like the callings, you’ll really like the twisted “fields” you can take at higher levels. Imagine if you could bind yourself to another being with nothing but a drop of its blood (see the “Eater of the Dead” field) so you know if that being is within 100 feet of you. And if it’s beyond 100 ft, you can scry for a number of rounds to find it… Or maybe you would rather experiment on yourself and gain wings or a tentacle to really drive your enemies bonkers. That’s the “Self-Experimentation” field that also allows things like gaining a natural armor-like skin, improving stats, or adjusting your eyesight to detect magic (or poison or undead).

Also included in the book is a list of all the necromantic spells from PFRPG books from cantrips (0-level) to 9th level, some new feats, and a template for a “Fox-Blooded” character. Of all the parts of this short PDF, that was the one that I grokked the least. The book includes a NPC (“Ren”) who is the “iconic sacred necromancer” and a fox-blooded female human rogue. She has a fox tail and is much like the kitsune. I was left scratching my head as to why they included the template to make your own fox-blooded creatures, but hey… It was something unique to this book as far as I could tell.

The book is laid out in landscape mode, so 8 1/2″ high and 11″ wide (as opposed to the traditional 8 1/2″ wide and 11″ tall page) with three columns. There’s not a ton of art, but what there is from Crystal Frasier and Cory Trego-Erdner is awesome (three pieces plus the cover) and there are a few sections with boxed-text for additional detail (like “Just What Has a Soul?” which offers hints on how to discuss that question in your campaign). I found a few typos, but suspect that they were remedied before the book went live on Halloween.

But honestly I thought Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer offered quite a few intriguing concepts to add to your Pathfinder or D20/3.5e game. You could really play a dark campaign with some of the options here or even port some of the ideas from Dark Harvest into your fantasy campaign wholesale. If I was running a PFRPG campaign, I might be tempted to drop in a chirurgeon or revenant just to freak out a player or two. :)

Interested in learning more about Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer or Zombie Sky Press, check out…

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