Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet at the Morgue


The City Police Department faces a number of magical threats, but it has also managed to turn the arcane to its advantage. It has pioneered the use of forensic thaumaturgy in solving crimes. Perhaps the most essential of these applied magical arts is forensic necromancy.

The unsavory reputation of necromancers led the police to only use them as occasional consultants in the early days. As the obvious utility of the arts became more apparent the department decided to recruit and develop necromantic practitioners.

Forensic necromancers prefer to begin their work at the crime scene. Fresh bodies are easier to work with than ones that have been autopsied or moved to a more sterile location. Speak with the Dead is the most common spell utilized--its often the only spell many practitioners use day to day. Gentle Repose is also useful in preserving bodies for various sorts of evaluation back at the morgue.

It is true that the reputation of necromancers is at least partially earned. Long term exposure to negative energies can lead to a sort of cancer of the soul. First, the afflict develop a morbid fascination and seek out every opportunity to be around the dead or dying. Experimentation with illicit necromantic rituals and spells soon follows.  From that point, escalation to various perversions and depraved criminality is regrettably common.

Police necromancers undergo psychological evaluation to watch for any signs of developing deviancy, but this doesn’t stop them from experiencing some prejudice from their fellow officers based on the popular view of their art.

15 comments:

The Happy Whisk said...

Nicely written, Trey.

The Angry Lurker said...

It would clear up crimes quicker, Grissom would have loved it.

Tim Shorts said...

What kind of techniques do the better criminals use to cover their tracks then? I'm guessing they must have some horrible way to scramble the soul. Great write up. Made me think of if I was on the other side of it what would need to be done to hush even the spirits.

iNews said...

Nice post, thank you!

Alexander "Ka-Blog!" Osias said...

Also, criminals would attack unseen so that the spirits spoken to would just say "I dunno -- it was a surprise!"

Harald said...

The question of how open magics would affect society is one I've been entertaining for a while. Especially the part about necromancy. I really like the idea of the City's law enforcement having a Crime Scene Necromancy (CSN) unit.

As for criminals, I'd think having the skill of being able to properly disappear a body would make you a valued addition to any criminal network. "We need a cleaner, and fast, before the corpse-talkers get here." I wonder if removing the heart and brain of a dead body would make Speak with dead impossible...

Trey said...

@Whisk & @iNews - Thanks!

@Angry Lurker - He already uses magic, apparently. :) But yeah, this would make it quicker.

@Tim, @Harald, @Alexander - I think there are probably a lot of responses criminals have, and a lot of reasons why it doesn't make the City as crime free as one might think. A lot of times the victim was either taken by surprise or their soul may be so traumatized that information gained isn't immediately useful, or not useful at all. Also, there necromantic unit isn't very large, so it isn't brought to bear on every single crime.

Like Harald says, criminals will often just do things to ensure the body isn't found. Too much damage to the corpse (like removal of the jaw) ensures it either can't speak or can't be understood (as per the spell). Also, there are magical means to hasten the degradation of the astral tethering of the soul to the body so that it can't be called back--or even to destroy the soul altogether.

Even when information is gained, convictions only come in court. While necromantic information is admissable, it's not hard (given their reputation) for good defense attorneys to cast doubt on their credibility as expert witnesses. Also, the departed is fair game for character assassination by defense, as well.

Needles said...

Reminds me of the movie D.O.A. from 1950. A necromancer revives a man who has 24 hours to find the man who poisoned him. The revenant from the Fiend Folio comes to mind here. Perhaps the cops have had to take down a few of their own who have spent to much time in the morgue. Nice stuff Tray. Next on Law & Necromancy Special Victim Unit!

christian said...

Years ago, Mongoose Publishing wrote a d20 sourcebook for Necromancers. In it there was a great bit of fiction that showed the downward spiral of a young necromancer as she became increasingly alienated from the living. It was well-written and reminds me a bit of your "cancer of the soul."

When you go to press with your supplement, be sure to contact me so that I can run some free ads for you in my zine.

Porky said...

That's good thinking, and there's more in the comments. I also like how you develop the repercussions of the contact. It could get very noir.

Trey said...

Thanks Christian. I was actually gonna work up an ad for your 'zine (for a future issue probably) this weekend. :)

@Needles - I can totally see the film now--a murdered cop comes back as a revenant and teams up with a youth'll necromancer to catch the guys that killed him.

Harald said...

I've been thinking about gruesome murders and necromancy all day, thanks to you ;) One thing I've been contemplating is the repercussions this would have on murderers, especially the intentional ones. Minority Report has been another thing that's been appearing in my mind as well -- there you see the effects of precognition. I'm sure there'd be some effects of necromancy as well.

My thinking is that if you actually set out to ghost someone, you'd know that unless you defile the corpse, or at least thoroughly traumatise the victim (this is by far the most risky approach) your odds of getting away with it is slim. I'd think that premeditated murder would be even more gruesome in the City than in our own world for this very reason. It's not enough to simply kill someone, you'd have to make sure the corpse would be incapable of fingering you for the murder.

Trey said...

@Porky - Thanks. Yes, I suspect things could get very noir indeed.

@Harald - Glad I could help. ;) I think you're right. Premediated murder would tend to look like Pre-Code horror comics--axes, acid, and furnaces would be the order of the day. Of course, assassin would prefer distance kills with magic or ninja-like anonymity.

JimShelley said...

These sound like perfect skills for a certain Professor I know!

Pierce said...

Thumbs up for LA Noire! It would be really cool to have a party of players running a special investigation task force in The City.

Also I saw this video and it reminded my of your Reds.(slightly NSFW, the lyrics are censored but pretty intense.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixw_bLVUL34