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Why is undead considered evil?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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"Because they run on negative energy, which hurts living people."

Weapons hurt people, but they aren't considered evil. Only the people using them to hurt people are considered evil. Same should apply to negative energy.

"They are hurt by positive energy."

And evil humans are hurt by negative energy. Guess that makes undead good. Or you know, positive and negative energy aren't evil or good, because they are fundamental forces of the laws of physics in Pathfinder.

"They are against the laws of nature, which must make it evil."

So a ranger finds a blind wolf pup about to be murdered by the pack for being blind, saves the pup, raises him, teaches him to survive on his own despite being blind, and reintroduces him into the wild, where he passes on his genes that have a higher chance of producing blind wolves. This in turn over a thousand or so years creates a new breed of wolf. This act never would have happened if the laws of nature had run their course. According to this argument, the ranger is evil. But in actuality, he would be deemed good. So being against the laws of nature does not make you evil.

"You're disrespecting the corpse by animating it."

Pretty sure that Lich gave full consent to himself to be turned into a Lich. Yet all Liches are evil. And pretty sure that you don't own your body when you die. Social stigma does not make something evil. For instance, trying to advance science in anyway a thousand years ago would have you murdered by the church for being a "sinner" in medieval times. Doesn't change the fact that that isn't even close to accurate. Also, being disrespectful isn't evil, it's chaotic. Get you're alignments straight people.

Somebody please fill me in on what is Paizo's logic here in making all undead evil.


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Honestly, developer fiat. They want undead to be Evil, thus they declare it to be so.


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^^^^This.

Any other explanations are really parts of a map to how they got there.


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The CRB defines good as having respect for life, and the dignity of sentient creatures.

It's like the idea that you don't stoop to the level of mutilating a corpse. That specifically is evil.

Negative energy by itself isn't evil, but if is darkness, can corrupt, and is a lack of passion. Manifest in people of corrupts. It's why Good can't channel negative energy and generally avoid it.

Liches embrace the dark energy, misery, and corruption. The energy isn't evil, but it ruins the wielder.

Sometimes undead are trapping the soul.

In Golarion, Good has a specific definition unrelated to the beliefs of society.


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Liches are evil because the ritual they use to turn themselves into liches (called Eternal Apotheosis) requires human sacrifice to work.


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MageHunter wrote:

The CRB defines good as having respect for life, and the dignity of sentient creatures.

It's like the idea that you don't stoop to the level of mutilating a corpse. That specifically is evil.

And what about naturally occurring undead?

Quote:
It's why Good can't channel negative energy and generally avoid it.

They can cast spells that create/use negative energy without a problem though...

Quote:
Sometimes undead are trapping the soul.

Except when you make an undead, it doesn't seem to have any negative effect to outsiders who are the soul that is apparently trapped, and even then you can make undead from people are still alive if they previously had a corpse, without it having any negative effect on that person.

Silver Crusade

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It doesn't have any mechanical effects when you do, because in order to do so they would have to apply mechanics for having a soul, rather than just leaving it to DM/story purposes. I can see them not doing it for a host of reasons.

I do agree that positive/negative energy are unaligned.

Also, naturally occurring Undead?


Rysky wrote:

It doesn't have any mechanical effects when you do, because in order to do so they would have to apply mechanics for having a soul, rather than just leaving it to DM/story purposes. I can see them not doing it for a host of reasons.

I do agree that positive/negative energy are unaligned.

Also, naturally occurring Undead?

The negative energy plane warps souls, but I think from the Lord stand point it overwhelms with darkness and pain, making them evil.


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Tammy warped her own soul.


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Undead are powered by all consuming anti-life. It's not just making corpses move. Animate object certainly ain't evil.

Also, the negative energy plane is about as non-evil as the nuclear bomb. I, personally, am fine with undead being evil. In fact, I prefer it.


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I had this discussion with a GM once with the argument that surely making use of the dead was akin to recycling and therefore a good thing.


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we run with no creature is inherently good or evil but their actions determine what alignment they are


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Tammy regrets nothing.


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Ghosts aren't automatically evil. It does say they can become Chaotic Evil if they linger too long (since only hatred can keep them going that long).

As for the nonintelligent undead, I seem to recall that without someone controlling them they actively hunt down and kill the living. Not for food (they don't need to eat) but as some kind of basic instinct to kill the living. That's one of the definitions of Evil.

Intelligent undead, to the best of my knowledge, start as Evil. As intelligent creatures they can always choose to live differently. Whether they want to is another issue.

Honestly, I think all undead are Evil for the same reason that they're immune to mind-affecting spells. Their minds don't work the same way as ours (and the way they do work is considered Evil). Every one I checked includes "hates the living and murders the @#$% out of their preferred victim". A newborn Wraith will immediately begin killing living creatures "just because". I can't think of any other creatures that work that way. Maybe some outsiders?

Allip wrote:
These unfortunates, known as allips, suffer from the violent and incurable insanity they faced in life and take out their terror, confusion, and rage upon the living. They reach out to those they encounter—possibly in wrath, but also perhaps oblivious to their own insane nature—spreading the psychoses that led to their own untimely deaths.
Banshee wrote:
Maddened by grief, a banshee visits her vengeance on all living creatures—innocent or guilty—with her fearsome touch and deadly wails.
Dullahan wrote:
Sent back from the pits of Hell to sow terror and harvest new souls, dullahans return to the towns or villages they lived in as mortals. While their favored victims are evil men and women (or their living descendants) whose souls are destined for Hell, the dullahans have no qualms about adding innocents to their lists of victims.
Poltergeist wrote:
The poltergeist experiences great trauma over its condition; this trauma twists its psyche to evil and fosters an overall hatred of the living expressed in outbursts of rage.
Shadow wrote:
The shadow is an undead horror, and as such has no goals or outwardly visible motivations other than to sap life and vitality from living beings.
Wraith wrote:
Wraiths are undead creatures born of evil and darkness. They hate light and living things, as they have lost much of their connection to their former lives.

The one undead that I think shouldn't be Evil is the Mummy, as it is created to be a guardian and only kills people who disturb the tomb. It's no more Evil than a city guard. Everything else is either a serial killer or a monster than requires consuming living beings to survive/exist. I know vampires aren't required to kill intelligent creatures but apparently it gives a better high. I think to become a Lich you need to sacrifice people. I think Ghouls need to eat intelligent corpses. I think the rest work similarly. Basically, there's just a big bundle of wanton killing involved with undead. And killing is bad.


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Our explanation for it is that all undead contain at least a fragment of a soul, condemned to suffer for all eternity until the undead is destroyed, trapped and denied its place on the afterlife.
I don't like the «all this creatures are evil» thing so I take as it could be exceptions, but undeath tends to twist and warp even the purest souls into evil.


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Tammy must be destroyed.


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Nonintelligent undead have no instincts but to seek out and attack the living when not being controlled by another source. They are not animals who kill because they are hungry, they are driven by an unthinking antipathy towards living things and kill them in mindless malice. They are evil and can never be anything else. Full stop.

Liches are evil because they performed depraved acts of human sacrifice to transform themselves into immortal skeletal monstrosities, which, y'know, a good person would never contemplate doing in the first place. Anyone that became a lich did some bad stuff to get there. They are evil. They could be something else if they repented later on but this is highly unlikely.


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Rysky wrote:
Also, naturally occurring Undead?

Most undead is created by natural events rather than spellcasters. I mean, there are even undead which are made if someone just dies because when they were hunting they got trapped under a boulder.


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OP, why do you think they shouldn't be inherently evil?


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There's actually support for "all undead contain some of the soul they were before".

True Resurrection wrote:
You can revive someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. This spell can also resurrect elementals or outsiders, but it can’t resurrect constructs or undead creatures.

The spell works on people you don't even have a body for and still fails if they exist as an undead. It even specifies it works on people who were turned into undead as long as they're "killed" first, so clearly some part of them is part of the undead.


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Because most of the game's themes are based on fantasy tropes, and in most media undead are evil if they are intelligent and/or the result of evil/dark/forbidden magic so they are evil in the game. Outside of Casper, and Slimer(from Ghostbusters) you won't find too many(a high percentage of) undead good guys.

That is the same reason why summoning evil outsider is evil even if you use them for a good purpose. Generally when someone calls an outsider the outsidr(demon/devil) outwits the human and makes things a lot works. That is how the "deal with devil" in media is transferred to the game by having devils be the masters of "fine print" contracts.


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Bob Bob Bob wrote:
The spell works on people you don't even have a body for and still fails if they exist as an undead. It even specifies it works on people who were turned into undead as long as they're "killed" first, so clearly some part of them is part of the undead.

Alternatively the spell just goes "Oh look there still walking around, they must be alive". Makes more sense to me than outsider immediately getting shoved into skeleton.


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There are also game balance benefits to the idea that being undead warps your mind to evil - otherwise getting turned into a vampire would be an awesome thing for most adventurers.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
There are also game balance benefits to the idea that being undead warps your mind to evil - otherwise getting turned into a vampire would be an awesome thing for most adventurers.

Except it doesn't do that, since alignment does not determine your personality and actions.


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Not really that great a benefit . . . you can really get burned by that Sunlight Vulnerability . . . .

Now, Lich, on the other hand . . . .


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Bob Bob Bob wrote:
The one undead that I think shouldn't be Evil is the Mummy, as it is created to be a guardian and only kills people who disturb the tomb. It's no more Evil than a city guard.
Mummy wrote:
The majority are at least 10th-level clerics, and are often kings or pharaohs who have called upon dark gods or sinister necromancers to bind their souls to their bodies after death—usually as a means to extend their rule beyond the grave, but at times simply to escape what they fear will be an eternity of torment in their own afterlife.

The Outer Plains are made up of mortal souls, Undead brake this Law of Nature. This is why all Undead are Evil.


Milo v3 wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
There are also game balance benefits to the idea that being undead warps your mind to evil - otherwise getting turned into a vampire would be an awesome thing for most adventurers.
Except it doesn't do that, since alignment does not determine your personality and actions.

The number of GMS who let pcs remain in party after being turned undead is pretty few compared to those who treat it as character death.


The positive/negative planes might be inner planes, so basically neutral forces of nature, the function of anything connected to the negative energy simply is not. The things connected to it can only ever take, not really give or create, and that´s what makes ´em "evil" in the long run.


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Ryan Freire wrote:
The number of GMS who let pcs remain in party after being turned undead is pretty few compared to those who treat it as character death.

That's irrelevant to alignment though.... and if those GMs are making the decision based on alignment then they're incorrect in their assumptions on how alignment works in Pathfinder.


Milo v3 wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
The number of GMS who let pcs remain in party after being turned undead is pretty few compared to those who treat it as character death.
That's irrelevant to alignment though.... and if those GMs are making the decision based on alignment then they're incorrect in their assumptions on how alignment works in Pathfinder.

I think alignment is the least of the potentially campaign wrecking worries where applying undead templates to a pc is concerned.


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Milo v3 wrote:
Alignment does not determine your personality and actions.

To me, alignment describes your outlook. If a Good character becomes Evil, their outlook changes. Before, they were willing to make sacrifices for other people. After, they're willing to hurt and kill innocents for convenience or fun. That's what being evil means.

You can't just pick up an artefact or template that turns you evil and then continue acting exactly the same. That's bad role-playing.


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Aside from alignment issues, being undead means no bodily functions, no hormonal reactions. Your body is dead even if your mind is not. I think that should turn a person's mind more alien. That is a cool thing to roleplay and ignoring it is wasting a good roleplaying opportunity.


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Ryan Freire wrote:
I think alignment is the least of the potentially campaign wrecking worries where applying undead templates to a pc is concerned.

... yes? That's what I said. DMs not having players with undead templates has nothing to do with alignment, so it's irrelevant to the discussion.

Matthew Downie wrote:

To me, alignment describes your outlook. If a Good character becomes Evil, their outlook changes. Before, they were willing to make sacrifices for other people. After, they're willing to hurt and kill innocents for convenience or fun. That's what being evil means.

You can't just pick up an artefact or template that turns you evil and then continue acting exactly the same. That's bad role-playing.

There are some effects which alter your alignment and cause your personality to change, like the Helm of Opposite Alignment. Otherwise, being undead till change your alignment, causing you basically to ping as evil, but alignment remains descriptive not prescriptive and the rules state that the only times creatures have difficultly changing their alignments is creatures that are extraplanar or mindless (so bodak would be an example of an undead where changing your alignment would be difficult).

Silver Crusade

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We're just going to extremely disagree on that, Milo.


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I think the "reason" undead are evil is because, in general, they're motivated by a hatred of life and a hunger for the blood brains, flesh souls or spinal fluids of the living. Even the mindless undead like zombies and skeletons will attack the living if given nothing else to do, at least that's how I'd expect them to act. There's also the way that becoming undead defies the natural order of the universe, the soul cycle if you will, which is generally considered to be wrong.

The real reason for all this is that this is the story the writers chose to tell. Undead = Evil makes things simpler and, as mentioned, prevents PCs from just becoming undead for the stat benefits (which is evil because you can get away with dumping con, the primary evil in Pathfinder) and raising undead as minions (which is an inherently evil act because it slows down combat).

However, if you want to do something different as a GM there's no reason why you can't make exceptions. I'd be interested in a campaign with non-evil undead, but I feel that they should still remain an exception to the norm because otherwise you lose the novelty of them in the first place.


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Uh i'm on the side of the people saying because whoever wrote/designed the campaign said so.

If I was invented elfs and someone asked me why are elf long lived and good with bows I might reply Because that is how I wrote them.

I did think I heard somewhere for some description of it someone saying anytime you bring negative energy into the prime you are adding a little evil to the world which is generally bad. It also seems rare to find an undead that is not feeding off the living in some way.

But mostly the first thing.


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Wait a minute--do you mean to tell me the answer to "why is [the thing people made up] the way it is" is "because they made it up that way"?! And there's no one willing to create an 800 page treatise providing me with a logically consistent AND complete explanation that treats the made up thing as an objective, factual part of the cosmos? And that my objection to it based on my perception of what constitutes complete and consistent logic about made up things does not change the made up thing that people made up?

This game is ruined for me and I have only one viable response.


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Tableflip McRagequit wrote:

Wait a minute--do you mean to tell me the answer to "why is [the thing people made up] the way it is" is "because they made it up that way"?! And there's no one willing to create an 800 page treatise providing me with a logically consistent AND complete explanation that treats the made up thing as an objective, factual part of the cosmos? And that my objection to it based on my perception of what constitutes complete and consistent logic about made up things does not change the made up thing that people made up?

This game is ruined for me and I have only one viable response.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your response is not to quietly and respectably remove yourself from the table.


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I have always carried myself with a certain quiet dignity...


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90s Simpsons Referotron wrote:
I have always carried myself with a certain quiet dignity...

Way to be. Colonel.


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Captain Yesterday Impostor wrote:
Tammy must be destroyed.

Tammy can't be destroyed.


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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Not really that great a benefit . . . you can really get burned by that Sunlight Vulnerability . . . .

Now, Lich, on the other hand . . . .

Yeah... just, you know, be careful how you pronounce that.

*heavy sigh*


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Ah but vampires are better with the ladies/or the gents depending on preference.


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You could go dinner to a Chinese restaurant and ending having to pay for a phylactery as a desert? I'm not sure I could afford it.


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Kileanna wrote:
You could go dinner to a Chinese restaurant and ending having to pay for a phylactery as a desert? I'm not sure I could afford it.

Eh. You lost me on that one, Doc.


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I meant, like Lychee's name. At least here where I live lychees are typically served on Chinese restaurants.


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Kileanna wrote:
I meant, like Lychee's name. At least here where I live lychees are typically served on Chinese restaurants.

Oh I think I missed that post when I responded but now I see it.

Service announcement.
Back to back posting kids it can be dangerous.


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questioning rabbit wrote:
Kileanna wrote:
You could go dinner to a Chinese restaurant and ending having to pay for a phylactery as a desert? I'm not sure I could afford it.
Eh. You lost me on that one, Doc.

F#&*ing Albuquerque!!


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Pharasma doesn't like the undead, and she's the final arbiter of all morality in the Golarion universe. It's pretty much entirely due to her (sometimes unreasonable) prejudice.

That's the in-setting reason anyway. The out-of-game reason is because James Jacobs likes his undead to be near-universally evil.


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Reksew_Trebla wrote:
"Because they run on negative energy, which hurts living people."

Because God says so. Think of it as a law of God, not to be questioned, not to be changed.

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