The Necromancer – Commune with the Realm of the Dead

The Necromancer is a narrative-driven RPG that I’ve been working on part-time since late 2018. The story focuses on the disturbing experience of getting drawn into necromancy (initially to investigate your father’s suspicious demise).

The video above shows some early footage of the town, graveyard and the interiors of some of the buildings, including the player’s own mansion. The white boxes you see are part of the debugging I was doing while implementing pathfinding, and I decided to leave them in here. For now, we’re keeping the camera angle high, in order to avoid the camera being blocked by world geometry too much as it follows the player character. A common solution to the camera being blocked is to bring it closer, but this wouldn’t work well given the low-poly nature of our 3D models and low-res nature of the textures- so I’ve done it the other way; the camera pushes away from the player character, and when blocked the player is highlighed in red. This is the first ‘full’ RPG I’ve written so making the various code systems has been fun – the inventory, narrative, save/load system, crafting, etc. have all taken some careful design thinking. As you can probably see, the level design has been keeping me busy too!

The game will focus strongly on the social side of interactions with the other characters in the game, as you seek to decipher the arcane pages of a previous necromancer’s spellbook, and then to master its spells and rituals yourself. All of this you will need to do without getting caught and lynched by the townsfolk. Although there will be battles between your undead forces and those of the town, the game focuses even more on the process and mechanisms of magic and ritual – we want the obtaining and using of your powers to feel like they are central parts of the story, and to take some effort, rather than simply being like firearms that you have collected and then fire at will (which is how many games treat magic).

I had been knocking around with the basic idea of the player as a necromancer in a medieval town for a while – I think perhaps with a similar motivation to that behind my 2015/2016 game Goblins & Grottos – i.e. to focus on the player experience as an outsider, a character that is normally the enemy and normally a non-player character. However, I realised its potential as a narrative game when considering a funding application to the EU Creative Media fund. I wrote the draft story and ideas with my wife in 2018, and we were successfully funded in 2019.

Since then, we have been able to get assistance with some aspects of the artwork, and have taken on a *real* writer – Dave McCabe – whose previous games include The Darkside Detective. As Dave has nicely put it: “Unlike most RPGs, this game isn’t a hero’s journey as they rail against an evil lord. It is a person’s descent into madness as they plumb the depths of black magic in their search for revenge, the terrible things it asks of them and the uncomfortable choices they make in their search for power.”

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