Good cleric’s tolerance for the undead


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Bill Dunn wrote:
To turn this back to a D&D perspective, I'd say that D&D doesn't remove this factor in deciding right and wrong, but futher adds a complication by providing objective good and evil as well that may or may not be in alignment with cultural mores.

Which was my point in my first reply to this topic. A competent GM should know what the "norms" are in the area this necro is operating. Cheliax? Have at it, here's my mother-in-law's corpse, raise away! Quadira, or some of the Mid-East-themed nations? It's a one-way ticket to the headsman.

And while I'm on it, what do the orc hordes think of THEIR dead being raised against them? Maybe what may have been a loot raid becomes a "kill 'em all, burn it down raid". Just because PCs leave bodies in their wake doesn't mean SOMEONE isn't offended by them being used as zombie minions. The creative GM can introduce these elements into the campaign making it very interesting for that necro. WAY beyond what the cleric thinks.


Just because most religions might accept that the soul is separate from the mortal shell does not mean that it's fair game to do what you want to the body after death.

For instance graverobbing is a considered a crime. Anatomists that hired people to collect bodies for dissection were called 'necromancers' and 'ghouls'. It was considered an act of evil men. Of course some people still did it and we've benefited from their research but from a purely objective standpoint using the body of someone who didn't consent to the act is a violation of the corpse.

To go further actually animating the dead is definitely an evil act. Obviously we have no real world analogue but if a necromancer dug up a corpse from a tomb and animated it with an [evil] spell I'd definitely call that an evil act.

Obviously a corpse has value in a world where they could be animated to do simple labor. In death property of the deceased transfers to family. As such it would be the family's choice to do with the body what they wish according to custom. Most families would choose to bury or burn the corpse.

Within intensely legalistic societies with dubious morality (read Devil worshipers) you probably could justify the concept that a debtor owes even after death and as such a creditor can demand that the corpse be sold or animated so that the dead corpse can continue to pay off his debts.

In such societies destruction of servitor undead is a direct economic harm to the owner of the undead, much like killing someone else's slave would be. As such, civil and/or criminal punishments for destruction of property would ensue.

Some good individuals, read adventurers, would probably continue to do stuff like that but that's really the job of the hero to fight injustice and evil.


Thank you all for the constructive replies.

I am playing the cleric in this situation and the Wizard brought this info to me when he learned the spell (but before he used it).
This is what he said:

Wizard Character wrote:

My Character, as you know, is entirely interested in the pursuit of knowledge. As such, he is a tinkerer of the arcane. He has picked up animate dead. He sees nothing evil about this. The spell, definitely, is evil but it doesn't say you have to BE evil to cast it (actually it specifically is not that). My Character won't view using this as an evil act (though I guess it might be?), he'll see it as another tool in a toolbox, one he isn't very developed in and as any scientist exploring a new genre he will be interested in seeing what it's like.

As such, expect my character to animate the corpse of some things we kill. Some things he might do is try and talk to the dead he animates (I actually have no idea if this works, but my character will still probably try it just to learn about the magic). He will also probably try and use the skeleton/zombie to do simple tasks for him like hold his books, get him a beer, watch the door, etc.

The fighter says he would destroy them if he were in my position and the druid dodesn't seem to care either way.


Why not have positive energy animated undead?
I am thinking of something along the lines of "Bones of the Saint" Or the undead army from Lord of the Rings....

Positive energy could animate
The game mechanics would remain unchanged just the opposite
positive energy heals
negative energy harms
turn or bolster would be reversed

I think that the main distinction would be in role-playing and possibly the description "A bright light engulfs the bleached white bones, of the skeletal warrior in shiny brass armor, the symbol of justice boldly emblazened upon his shield"...

Instead of grave robbing a willing material component is used or bones that have been blessed and preserved to meet the needs of battling evil, this could be a use for all those old paladin bones lying around in temples. The temple even gives the bones to PC's for use or PCs may discover these on there own. Of course there would be chance just casting the spell that the somponents are in range.....


hogarth wrote:
In my campaign, casting Animate Dead ranks somewhat worse than cannibalism and necrophilia in the list of social faux pas. Anyone who did it on a regular basis would be considered crazy (at best) or evil.

A question. What happens when:

You have a 10' deep pit filled with (corpse) skeletons, which you then animate. Give them NO COMMANDS. Now lower some one (living) into said pit now full of animated skeletons.

I think most GMs would offer the result: another corpse in the pit - that's why Animate Dead is an evil spell - the products will MURDER living beings unless specifically told not to. Nearly all negative energy beings yearn or simply exist to do this sort of thing. This sort of thing tends to happen when you release undead under your control (usually to make more undead). Left to their own devices, zombies and skeletons will try to kill anything that lives. Zombies in the Bestiary EXPLICITLY do this.

Now repeat the experiment with a golem. Same results? Probably not - without orders, the golem will just sit there. They only do what they're told to, barring 'something gone awry' as with clay or flesh golems. That's why golems aren't inherently evil.


FallingIcicle wrote:

Honestly, I don't think mindless undead should be considered evil. They should be neutral, if they have any alignment at all. A creature that has no mind can't have any kind of morality. Even if you assume that skeletons and zombies have agressive base instincts, so do most animals. A Druid's animal companion can be every bit as violent and savage as a zombie but it isn't considered evil because of it.

Now, creating things like wraiths and vampires is a different story. A good character would rightly be offended by such an act. But mindless skeletons? Most people would find that kinda creepy, but it's not cause to call the pitchfork-wielding mob IMO.

In any kind of realistic game world even an undead hedgehog should cause the local towns folk to be horrified and go for their pitchforks and torches. As players we tend to forget what the CHARACTERS should see in the undead, and how truly unusual and horrific the act of raiseing them is. It should be viewed as something only the twisted and mentally ill would do..hence the long time view of necromancers as ugly, twisted people that become more socially and physically damaged as time goes on. While that is not a game rule (your necro may have an 18 Cha, and be mayor of the town), the folklore that necromancers are based on has this view, and thats why necromancers are great big baddies.

Not only is raiseing the dead the apex of unnatural, any good and most neutral gods would see it as desecrating the body, even if it was the body of a foe. Only the most callous of neutral gods would grant the spell, because the act is evil by its nature.
Undead are called undead for a reason, not constructs. Constructs are granted an unintelligent spark of elemental life. Even if the undead is mindless, they are still a corruption of nature and life. From a role playing pov..a party of good/neutrals should never be comfortable around undead..even if the players see them as fun trap finding tools.


Helic wrote:
hogarth wrote:
In my campaign, casting Animate Dead ranks somewhat worse than cannibalism and necrophilia in the list of social faux pas. Anyone who did it on a regular basis would be considered crazy (at best) or evil.

[..snip..]

Left to their own devices, zombies and skeletons will try to kill anything that lives. Zombies in the Bestiary EXPLICITLY do this.

Yes, in my game uncontrolled zombies and skeletons will attack anything that comes near.


Even True Resurrection cannot bring back a person unless their undead form has been destroyed. It doesn't specify only certain undead types like ghosts that clearly use the person's spirit.
The only reason I can think of for this is that their soul is being used somehow, even if they have become a skeleton or zombie. Probably something like possession where you can see the things you are being made to do but can't control it.

This explains why the mindless undead still detect as evil and spells to create undead are evil magic.


DireLemming wrote:


Situation:

Good cleric in a part of "mostly" good characters. The mostly-neutral Wizard wants to create a few undead as personal servants and cannon-fodder. If the cleric’s deity doesn't mention undead in its portfolio could that cleric tolerate these little batches of negative energy from a role-playing standpoint?
Does anyone have experience playing in this kind of situation?

I would say it depends greatly on what's going on in the campaign. Are these undead explicitly necessary to defeat a greater evil? Or does this wizard just "feel like" having some undead around?

We had a situation where a character in the group was killed, and the raise attempt got botched, which resulted in the character becoming undead. She was still self-aware, but no longer living. There was a CG cleric and a Hunter-of-the-Dead Paladin in the group, which made for some tension... The cleric was responsible for the raise, so he actually felt terrible about what happened to her, and tried to make up for it. The paladin, however, waited for any possible sign that she might turn evil. He tried to convince the character that she really should let the party destroy her, it would be for the best lol.

But, to answer your question, I would say the cleric is entitled to feel edgy around the wizards minions, but as long as the corpses weren't acquired illegally, and he isn't using them for evil purposes, he shouldn't have a huge problem with it.


While the entire "good vs evil" debate is fascinating, we are missing the prime issue. It's the DM's call, so ask the DM. I've played in worlds where Undead were the greatest sin ever, and I've played in some where you could make Positive Energy Undead which wasn't an evil act. Each time, it was the DM's call.

As for the RAW, I'd really like to see some alternate spells for low level mages instead of turning to Necromancy. Build yourself a wooden framed humanoid and cast the 1st level "Animate Servant/Warrior" would give those that enjoy minions a nice option.

Anyhow, to sum up. Good Vs Evil? Ask the DM.


DireLemming wrote:

Thank you all for the constructive replies.

I am playing the cleric in this situation and the Wizard brought this info to me when he learned the spell (but before he used it).
This is what he said:

Wizard Character wrote:

My Character, as you know, is entirely interested in the pursuit of knowledge. As such, he is a tinkerer of the arcane. He has picked up animate dead. He sees nothing evil about this. The spell, definitely, is evil but it doesn't say you have to BE evil to cast it (actually it specifically is not that). My Character won't view using this as an evil act (though I guess it might be?), he'll see it as another tool in a toolbox, one he isn't very developed in and as any scientist exploring a new genre he will be interested in seeing what it's like.

As such, expect my character to animate the corpse of some things we kill. Some things he might do is try and talk to the dead he animates (I actually have no idea if this works, but my character will still probably try it just to learn about the magic). He will also probably try and use the skeleton/zombie to do simple tasks for him like hold his books, get him a beer, watch the door, etc.

The fighter says he would destroy them if he were in my position and the druid dodesn't seem to care either way.

Two things stand out here..the CHARACTER does not view the act as evil..the DM could run with this, in the "this is just what evil outsider/gods want, and why they love humans..they can rationalize any act".

The other is the druid SHOULD be the horrified one. Undead are about as unnatural as you can get.


Positive energy undead rule!! and are good

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This is a good read on the morality of undeath and negative energy.


A Man In Black wrote:
This is a good read on the morality of undeath and negative energy.

The problem with that article is that it assumes that undead are inherently evil (or not) because negative energy is inherently evil (or not). For instance, it states "Animate Dead: If Negative Energy isn’t Evil, this spell isn’t either." But that doesn't have to be the case; you could certainly have Animate Dead be Evil, but not because it uses negative energy.

EDIT: Changed my wording a bit.


Helic wrote:
hogarth wrote:
In my campaign, casting Animate Dead ranks somewhat worse than cannibalism and necrophilia in the list of social faux pas. Anyone who did it on a regular basis would be considered crazy (at best) or evil.

A question. What happens when:

You have a 10' deep pit filled with (corpse) skeletons, which you then animate. Give them NO COMMANDS. Now lower some one (living) into said pit now full of animated skeletons.

I think most GMs would offer the result: another corpse in the pit - that's why Animate Dead is an evil spell - the products will MURDER living beings unless specifically told not to. Nearly all negative energy beings yearn or simply exist to do this sort of thing. This sort of thing tends to happen when you release undead under your control (usually to make more undead). Left to their own devices, zombies and skeletons will try to kill anything that lives. Zombies in the Bestiary EXPLICITLY do this.

Now repeat the experiment with a golem. Same results? Probably not - without orders, the golem will just sit there. They only do what they're told to, barring 'something gone awry' as with clay or flesh golems. That's why golems aren't inherently evil.

So now we do the same thing with a pit of tigers (wolves, bears, alligators, etc.). Same result, dead person. Pretty much anything with teeth and claws actually, since their primary purpose is to help kill and eat things. So are animals evil, or is it just their nature, like that of the undead? So in this case, creating a skeleton is almost like creating base life, it is just instinctual and would have no alignment.


hogarth wrote:
A Man In Black wrote:
This is a good read on the morality of undeath and negative energy.
The problem with that article is that it assumes that undead are inherently evil (or not) because negative energy is inherently evil (or not). For instance, it states "Animate Dead: If Negative Energy isn’t Evil, this spell isn’t either." But that isn't the case in my campaign; in my game, animating the dead is Evil in the same way that slavery or necrophilia is Evil. (Note that "Evil" is capitalised to indicate that we're not talking about a game with moral relativism here.)

It's also predicated on the 3.5 skeleton being a neutral agent. As the Pathfinder Bestiary clearly indicates skeletons and zombies are evil undead. Furthermore unlike Joe the NE Expert 2 shopkeeper, the 2HD skeleton actually registers as faintly evil on yon detect evil scanner.

Now I have absolutely no problem with a GM ruling that Skeletons and Zombies are neutral and that there are no problems with using them in polite company but they need to realize that we are getting into houserules at this point.

In any organized play event I think it's safe to assume the villagers would react in horror if the 'good' necromancer goes into the village graveyard and starts raising a zombie horde.

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hogarth wrote:
But that isn't the case in my campaign; in my game, animating the dead is Evil in the same way that slavery or necrophilia is Evil. (Note that "Evil" is capitalised to indicate that we're not talking about a game with moral relativism here.)

In your game, people who raise the dead are just creepy jerks. That's Playing With Fire. It's perfectly reasonable for everyone to say, "You know what? I don't want to be set on fire. Let's stomp anyone who plays with fire." But it's also perfectly reasonable for individuals, even Good individuals, to say, "I have good reasons to tolerate this one pyromaniac, so I will put up with it." If someone has slaves and they're ordering them to pull people out of a burning building, you let them do that and then lecture them about slavery. Undeath is in with pedophilia, slavery, necrophilia, etc.: things an orderly society doesn't allow in order to remain orderly.

Contrast this with undead being elemental evil in Creeping Darkness. Under those circumstances, it's very hard to justify not taking immediate action to eradicate undead unless there is an obvious and immediate pressing distraction, and then maybe not even then. If someone unleashes a cancer on the land to save some people from a burning building, it might be the right decision to focus on dealing with the cancer on the land while accepting (and lamenting) the lesser loss of innocents. Creeping Darkness Undeath is in with smallpox, cancer, and demonic invasions: things that must be eradicated or prevented in order for there to be any life at all.

The article draws a distinction between Nobody Likes Necromancers and Undead Are Evil Elementals. Your game, as I understand it, is the former.


A Man In Black wrote:
The article draws a distinction between Nobody Likes Necromancers and Undead Are Evil Elementals. Your game, as I understand it, is the former.

See if you can spot the flaw in this argument:

Pol Pot is powered by eating food. If eating food isn't Evil, then Pol Pot isn't Evil either.


Ughbash wrote:
The casting of create undead is an evil spell, and casting any evil spell is an evil act. Further using those spells regularly will turn a person to evil. As a good cleric I would not condone the creation of evil.

Except... not.

The evil descriptor describes how a spell registers, not its morality. The [Evil] descriptor, in fact, carries no moral weight unto itself. Take a look at the definition of the [Evil] descriptor in the PRD regarding creatures:

"Evil

"This subtype is usually applied to outsiders native to the evil-aligned outer planes. Evil outsiders are also called fiends. Most creatures that have this subtype also have evil alignments; however, if their alignments change, they still retain the subtype. Any effect that depends on alignment affects a creature with this subtype as if the creature has an evil alignment, no matter what its alignment actually is. The creature also suffers effects according to its actual alignment. A creature with the evil subtype overcomes damage reduction as if its natural weapons and any weapons it wields are evil-aligned (see Damage Reduction, page 299)."

'Evil,' with regards to the descriptor, has absolutely nothing to do with morality. It's a description of what a creature is, not who. Evil in this case is a substance with no inherent moral value. Falls-From-Grace is absolutely not an evil person (she's lawful/neutral, in fact). Her physical form is simply made out of physically manifested evil. She'll detect as evil, she'll be smote as evil, but she is not evil.

Old Guy GM wrote:
This is WRONG, totally and completely. Society is exactly what determines right and wrong. Is cannibalism "right"? Not to you and I, but in some ancient (and not-so-ancient) societies, it was the norm, indeed, expected in order to honor the dead. Is it OK to commit suicide while blowing up the infidel? A vast majority of our society would say no, but there are some "societies" (and I use society here to define various groups of varying beliefs) that believe it is a path to matyrdom, and heaven. These types of societies do not believe they are evil, in fact, they are fighting a holy war against evil.

Cannibalism is a spectacular example.

There's absolutely, positively nothing wrong with cannibalism in and of itself. It's a taboo in our society, certainly, but that does not make one who practices cannibalism inherently evil. Simply distasteful in our eyes. Perhaps even evil in our eyes, but that has no bearing in the absolute truth of that individual.

As for suicide bombing? Believe it or not, American society quite condones suicide bombing as heroic and valorous. It's simply of a different flavor. After all, in every naval and sci fi story where you've ever heard the words, "Ramming speed!" the plan amounts to a last-ditch suicide bombing.

That society would speak against it or for it in certain cases has no bearing on its absolute goodness or evilness.

Old Guy GM wrote:
In the period of US expansion, it was perfectly OK and "right" to pack up Native American tribes and ship them off West. (See Trail of Tears, amongst others). Today, we see that as a wrong, even evil, act to commit on a people. Not only does societal views establish what is right and wrong, but that view can change over time, as noted above.

And now, you have the flip side of the coin, where just because a society accepts something, that doesn't necessarily make it right.

That which is wrong is wrong. That which is right is right. It doesn't matter where you go, what culture you're in, or any of that, what is truly good and right and just does not change. That a society doesn't like X will never make X inherently wrong. Which is why "society doesn't like zombies" doesn't make the creation of zombies inherently evil.

Blackerose wrote:
In any kind of realistic game world even an undead hedgehog should cause the local towns folk to be horrified and go for their pitchforks and torches. As players we tend to forget what the CHARACTERS should see in the undead, and how truly unusual and horrific the act of raiseing them is. It should be viewed as something only the twisted and mentally ill would do..hence the long time view of necromancers as ugly, twisted people that become more socially and physically damaged as time goes on. While that is not a game rule (your necro may have an 18 Cha, and be mayor of the town), the folklore that necromancers are based on has this view, and thats why necromancers are great big baddies.

Why?

Why should they be horrified? Why would it be unusual? What makes it so horrific? Why would only a madman think to pour some petrol in a perfectly usable engine?

Blackerose wrote:
Not only is raiseing the dead the apex of unnatural, any good and most neutral gods would see it as desecrating the body, even if it was the body of a foe. Only the most callous of neutral gods would grant the spell, because the act is evil by its nature.

"Unnatural" is the most pathetic of all possible moral arguments. Every human act is unnatural. The clothes you're wearing are unnatural. The computer you're typing at is unnatural. Polyester is unnatural. "Unnatural" carries absolutely zero moral weight.

Ashkecker wrote:

Even True Resurrection cannot bring back a person unless their undead form has been destroyed. It doesn't specify only certain undead types like ghosts that clearly use the person's spirit.

The only reason I can think of for this is that their soul is being used somehow, even if they have become a skeleton or zombie. Probably something like possession where you can see the things you are being made to do but can't control it.

This explains why the mindless undead still detect as evil and spells to create undead are evil magic.

Except... not really. Animate Dead requires a corpse, not a soul. In 3.5, you could generate corpses with Stone to Flesh that never had a soul to begin with and still bring them to unlife as zombies.

In Pathfinder? Kill someone. Lop off their finger, and leave the rest of the body. Cast Resurrection or Reincarnate from said finger. They are alive and well, their body completely healed from the finger outward. Their body is still back wherever you left it. Turn that into a zombie. Now, you have Fred walking right alongside the Fred zombie.

The mechanics really don't support the soul-stealing aspect when a soul isn't required to make a zombie.

vuron wrote:
In any organized play event I think it's safe to assume the villagers would react in horror if the 'good' necromancer goes into the village graveyard and starts raising a zombie horde.

Why are you assuming thievery?


Viletta Vadim wrote:

Cannibalism is a spectacular example.

There's absolutely, positively nothing wrong with cannibalism in and of itself.

In Moral-Relativism-Land, I agree 100%.

But in Absolute-Morality-Land, it's possible that eating shellfish is an Evil act that requires atonement.


hogarth wrote:


In Moral-Relativism-Land, I agree 100%.

But in Absolute-Morality-Land, it's possible that eating shellfish is an Evil act that requires atonement.

Zombies don't kill people. People kill people.

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Viletta Vadim wrote:
And societal norms hold zero bearing on what is and is not right. No matter how wide-spread, no matter how 'normal,' culture is not a factor in what is truly good or evil.

+1. We moral absolutists are a dying breed.

I gotta disagree about the zombies, though. They detect as evil not because they are a categorical "false-positive" exception to detect evil; it's because they are evil.

We could argue ethics on this thread for 1000 years and we'd be no closer to cosmically true ethics than we, the human race, have been for the last 3000 years. Yet the game must be played, and we must have definitions for these things. My first thought was the whole taboo against disrespecting the dead, which is a pretty strong taboo across cultures. My second thought was that negative energy, while not inherently evil, is the essence of death itself. In general, life is preferable to death; therefore in an absolute value sense, life is a good and death is an evil. Animating the dead employs the energies of death and is therefore evil. However, that argument doesn't hold water because even good clerics can use negative energy (inflict spells; however, it is notable that good clerics channel positive energy and evil clerics channel negative energy). Furthermore, that's all too relative to function in a game that features detect evil and holy smite.

Fortunately, the rules are not silent on what constitutes good and evil:

PFSRD wrote:
Good implies. . . respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings.

Animating the remains of sentient beings to shamble around and do your bidding is highly disrespectful to the dignity of those beings, regardless of the fact that they are deceased.

PFSRD wrote:
Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
PFSRD wrote:
When left unattended, zombies tend to mill about in search of living creatures to slaughter and devour.

Zombies kill the living because it is in their nature to do so, despite the fact that they are mindless automatons. They are evil by nature. However:

PFSRD wrote:
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior.

Some have made the argument that because zombies are mindless and lack the capacity for moral reasoning or moral volition, they cannot truly be evil. However, zombies lack the capacity for moral reasoning, but their behavior is distinctly evil. They lack the capacity for morally good action, but retain the capacity for evil action. They do evil because it is their nature to do so. Cars roll; computers compute; zombies eat the brains of the living. The difference is that rolling and computing are not inherently evil acts, whereas eating brains for teh lulz is.

PFSRD wrote:
Alignment: Always neutral evil.

And there it is in black and white. Zombies = evil.

Creating evil creatures would prima facie seem to be an evil act; therefore, the use of animate dead is evil.

Plus, there's a problem that arises if the caster dies. Suddenly, all those mindless zombies become uncontrolled and start looking for brains to eat. It's morally equivalent to starting a fire, then letting it get out of control until it burns down the apartment building next door, killing the little old lady inside.

Moreover:

PFSRD wrote:

Animate Dead

School necromancy [evil]

Now it isn't in the PFSRD, but casting an evil spell would sure seem to be an evil act (previous editions have made this explicit). Clerics can't cast spells with alignment descriptors opposed to their alignments. This is specifically a moral restriction:

PFSRD wrote:

A cleric casts divine spells which are drawn from the cleric spell list. Her alignment, however, may restrict her from casting certain spells opposed to her moral or ethical beliefs; see Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells.

...

A cleric can’t cast spells of an alignment opposed to her own or her deity’s (if she has one).

In summary, zombies are evil because the book says they are, and creating them is also evil. How your good cleric deals with a party full of zombies is going to depend on the strictures of his or her particular religion, and on his or her moral courage.


Charlie Bell wrote:

Wrote total sense

Zombies and Skeletons are NE.

Creating evil is evil.
Good Cleric should take exception and stomp neutralish Wizard.

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hogarth wrote:

See if you can spot the flaw in this argument:

Pol Pot is powered by eating food. If eating food isn't Evil, then Pol Pot isn't Evil either.

Easy. That's a non sequitor that has nothing to do with my post.

My point is only that it's perfectly reasonable to have every single sane living person feel that undead are evil without undead needing to be powered by Elemental Evil. A consequence of this is that because it is a judgement (albeit a universal one among the sane), a breach will be tolerated as a faux pas where necessary as opposed to a clear and present threat. Necromancers of your world are jerks, not Unravelling The Thread Of Reality.

Charlie Bell wrote:
I gotta disagree about the zombies, though. They detect as evil not because they are a categorical "false-positive" exception to detect evil; it's because they are evil.

I'm kind of sad that this thread is still full of "It's PWF!" "No, it's CD!" "No, it's PWF!"


Well animate dead works on corpses, which I presume to be the remnants of now dead creatures, the spell probably should not work if the creature is not dead.

It is also interesting to note that resurrection magic will not work while the creature is undead, not even when you cast it on a severed finger of an otherwise animated undead. It certainly seems like the undead state anchors the soul despite them having no intelligence score.

They might not be better than a common locust in intelligence, but that does not make them the same as a construct.


Charlie Bell wrote:
Animating the remains of sentient beings to shamble around and do your bidding is highly disrespectful to the dignity of those beings, regardless of the fact that they are deceased.

When I die, my body is no longer me. My body becomes an inanimate object. However, to animate the inanimate object that is my body in order to protect my loved ones? That places a respect for living sentient beings over courtesy towards objects, and it is still respectful of my memory.

Again, the raising of the undead is not, itself, inherently evil. It's how the process as a whole is treated, how it's used. There is no disrespect in a society that takes its finest physical specimens upon death and honors them with their body's induction into The Eternal Legion to protect their homes and their families for as long as their body remains. There is no disrespect, and there is plenty of concern for sentient beings.

Charlie Bell wrote:
Plus, there's a problem that arises if the caster dies. Suddenly, all those mindless zombies become uncontrolled and start looking for brains to eat. It's morally equivalent to starting a fire, then letting it get out of control until it burns down the apartment building next door, killing the little old lady inside.

It's morally equivalent to running a nuclear power plant. Yes, there is a risk. However, through sufficient failsafes, the risk can be minimized. Proper storage and management of the undead, combined with large numbers of low-level Clerics controlling small units of undead so that the loss of any one priest is easily compensated for presents lower-than-average risk compared to many other military tactics.

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A Man In Black wrote:
I'm kind of sad that this thread is still full of "It's PWF!" "No, it's CD!" "No, it's PWF!"

I had to scroll up a bit to figure out what your acronyms meant. The point I was trying to make was neither PWF or CD. It was RAW.


A Man In Black wrote:
hogarth wrote:

See if you can spot the flaw in this argument:

Pol Pot is powered by eating food. If eating food isn't Evil, then Pol Pot isn't Evil either.

Easy. That's a non sequitor that has nothing to do with my post.

And yet it relates to the article you quoted.

A Man In Black wrote:
Necromancers of your world are jerks, not Unravelling The Thread Of Reality.

Yes and No. Using the article's terminology, necromancers are both Playing With Fire (since negative energy is not inherently evil, but they're doing something icky with it) and yet it's also true that "undead in particular [are] inherently Evil" as mentioned in The Crawling Darkness. But the article suggests those are mutually exclusive. They're not; undead can be Evil despite the fact that negative energy isn't Evil.


Let me animate this discussion a little bit more:

Create Undead and Greater Undead

So this is the advanced version of this spell, which creates undead cannibals that hunger for living flesh, Corpses supposed to guard the tombs of the honored dead, and a murderous serial killer brought back from hell who creates more undead under his control.

And the greater version? Pure manifestations of negative energy given a soul, a creature that has forgotten its former life and feeds on the life energy of the living, Spirits of the dead brought back from their rest, and, well, this.

I dunno, knowing about the real life background of where the concept of a zombie comes from, I'm pretty sure people would flip out about it. I can go more into it, but it gets somewhat off topic and I'm long winded so I will table it until it becomes more pertinent.


Villeta Vadim wrote:
It's morally equivalent to running a nuclear power plant. Yes, there is a risk. However, through sufficient failsafes, the risk can be minimized. Proper storage and management of the undead, combined with large numbers of low-level Clerics controlling small units of undead so that the loss of any one priest is easily compensated for presents lower-than-average risk compared to many other military tactics.

So that means that casting Harm is morally equivalent to using a tactical nuke?

Think about what happens if a more powerful cleric, who doesn't like you very much, comes in and bolsters the undead, then uses them to wage a campaign across your fair city. Every man that falls he can animate, since he didn't have to use any spells to create them.

The reason why it doesn't work for military reasons is that in the military you don't have to continuously monitor every soldier and give them explicit orders to make sure they don't start killing their own countrymen. You just have to make sure that when sacking a village they don't do other reprehensible things.

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Charlie Bell wrote:
I had to scroll up a bit to figure out what your acronyms meant. The point I was trying to make was neither PWF or CD. It was RAW.

The rules as written can't make up their mind on whether it's Playing With Fire or Creeping Darkness. It's all about which written rules you read.

The RAW support Playing With Fire because skeletons are no more evil than swords. You can do evil things with them, but you can also do good or just boring things with them. They lack the will to do anything properly evil on their own.

The rules also support Creeping Darkness because skeletons are tagged Evil, and the spells that create them are tagged Evil. It's stated (or at least strongly implied) that you're Doing A Bad Thing by making animate skeletons, although it's never really explained why it's a bad thing.

The RAW can't make up their damned mind. Pick one and run with it, there are neat story ideas in both. But you're going to need to ignore some bits of the RAW either way, so stop this dumb "The RAW say I'm right" "No, the RAW say I'm right!" argument because you're both right.

Quote:
Yes and No. Using the article's terminology, necromancers are both Playing With Fire (since negative energy is not inherently evil, but they're doing something icky with it) and yet it's also true that "undead in particular [are] inherently Evil" as mentioned in The Crawling Darkness. But the article suggests those are mutually exclusive. They're not; undead can be Evil despite the fact that negative energy isn't Evil.

So, wait. In your game, are undead an inherent cancer upon the living world, or are they icky automatons made from dead bodies?

Because you can have Inherent Cancer On The Living undead without needing to make all uses of negative energy Creeping Darkness; it's just that nobody really seems to care if Inflict Light Wounds is evil because it sucks.


God, this is reminding me why I hated alignment threads back in the day.

I think people are also using philosophical questions like "Is Morality Absolute?" vs "Is Morality Relative?" as smokescreens. The fact of the matter is that within the artificial world of D&D there is an absolute morality defined within the alignments.

Now the exact strictures of your character's religious and ethical compass might be variable but individual acts can clearly be defined as evil, good, chaotic, lawful or neutral. Further doing one evil thing (unless it's really evil) isn't necessarily enough to force an alignment shift but consciously committing certain acts will be definitely count as evil.

Within the absolute morality of baseline D&D, consorting with fiends, raising the dead, eating corpses is undeniably evil behavior.

Now alignment doesn't mean you have to play a Cleric or Paladin as Lawful Stupid. A Cleric of a Good god is certainly not going to raise the dead and won't condone their use as mindless laborers. If they have the opportunity to return the 'restless dead' to peace without compromising their core mission they are probably going to do so. A cleric of a LN god will avoid raising the dead, and probably not willingly associate with necromancers but will probably tolerate mindless undead as long as they are non-threatening and it's tolerated within the laws of the nation. A evil character will view the undead as tools to get what they want and use the dead accordingly.

This absolutist morality is how we have humanoids that are uniformly evil. A goblin might not be a mustache twirling caricature but the default morality of a goblin (torture is cool, do you mind if I eat your face?, stabbity-stabby-stab) means that it's safe to assume that goblin across from you is a monster that needs slaying. You don't have to wait for him to try to gank you with his goblincleaver before wasting him.

So even though they are marginally intelligent sentient creatures killing them is not an evil act in D&D. Further in a baseline D&D campaign the LG Paladin can cleave through the noncombatant young goblins confident that they are riding the world of a evil plague.

However there is absolutely nothing wrong with assuming that there is no absolute morality in the game. That drow slaver? Within his personal narrative he's absolutely justified in his actions. That Gnoll Barbarian chewing on the corpse of a small child? He was hungry.

Under such a system you just have conflicting and alien moralities. A Mindflayer or Vampire isn't evil, or good he's doing things according to his/her own subjective morality. A Vampire might have no problem draining his victims but would never willingly break a promise.

The problem is that the purely subjective system needs to get rid of any abilities like detect evil that provide an objective viewpoint of morality. They also need to get rid of effects like holy/unholy as holy/unholy would be subjective based upon the dictates of individual faiths.

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vuron wrote:
Within the absolute morality of baseline D&D, consorting with fiends, raising the dead, eating corpses is undeniably evil behavior.

This is your conclusion and you're stating it like it's a premise. >:|

If people keep doing this I vow I will derail this thread with arguments about what is or isn't a deductive fallacy.


A Man In Black wrote:
vuron wrote:
Within the absolute morality of baseline D&D, consorting with fiends, raising the dead, eating corpses is undeniably evil behavior.

This is your conclusion and you're stating it like it's a premise. >:|

If people keep doing this I vow I will derail this thread with arguments about what is or isn't a deductive fallacy.

It is the premise as stated by Monte Cook.

Monte Cook BoVD, pg 5-6 wrote:


There are two recommended ways to deal with the concept
of evil in your campaign: the objective approach and the
relative approach. This second option is a variant approach
and should be used with some caution.
THE OBJECTIVE APPROACH
This is the straightforward approach taken in the D&D
game, and it is the one stressed in this book as well. From
this frame of reference, evil can be judged objectively. The
evil nature of a creature, act, or item isn’t relative to the
person observing it; it just is evil or it isn’t. This clear-cut
definition allows spells such as holy smite to work. Conversely,
an objective definition of evil exists because
the detect evil spell works. Want to know what’s evil?
Don’t study a philosophy book, just watch who gets
hurt when the cleric casts holy smite. Those creatures
are evil. The things they do, generally speaking, are
evil acts. If your character still isn’t certain, he can
summon a celestial creature or cast a commune spell
and simply ask, “Is this evil?” The higher powers are
right there, ready to communicate.
The Player’s Handbook says, “ ‘Evil’ implies hurting,
oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures
simply have no compassion for others and
kill without qualm if doing so is convenient.
Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or
out of duty to some evil deity or master.”
This objective approach to evil works well for
fantasy roleplaying games. Evil is a thing that a
hero can point at and know he must fight. An
objective concept of evil allows players (and
their characters) to avoid most ethical or moral
quandaries, particularly the kinds that can
derail a game session. If you run an adventure
about fighting gnolls, you don’t normally want
the entire session consumed by a philosophical
debate about whether killing gnolls is a good
thing or a bad thing.

THE RELATIVE APPROACH (VARIANT)
A second approach considers evil to be a relative concept
that is wholly dependent on the attitude of the observer.
This is not the approach of most D&D games; rather, it
resembles how many people see the real world. Using this
variant outlook changes a game dramatically—at least as far
as “evil” is concerned. In the relative approach, evil is not
something that your character can point a finger at; it’s relative
to each individual. While it’s possible for a number of
creatures (an entire culture, for example) to have a similar
view on what is good and what is evil, another group might
have a different or even opposite view. Of course, conflicting
views can also occur if your D&D game uses the objective
approach, but in that case, one group can simply prove
that its views are right.
In a world where evil is relative, a deity might put forth
tenets describing what is right and wrong, or good and evil.
But another god might have different, even contradictory
dogma. A paladin of one deity might talk about the evil, godless
heathens across the mountains and eventually go to war
with them. If she does, she may find herself battling paladins
of a different god and a different culture who look
upon the crusading paladin as an evil infidel.
If you decide that this is the approach you want, you have
some game-related decisions to make. For instance, in a
world where evil is relative, how does a detect evil spell work?
When two paladins of opposing views meet on the field of
battle, can they use their smite abilities against each other?
The easiest and best option in this case is to do away with
spells such as detect evil because they have no real meaning.
Take away the good and evil descriptors from spells (so that
any character can cast any of those spells), and disregard any
holy or unholy damage a weapon deals. Having to know or
determine the outlook of a character casting detect evil is
cumbersome and unwieldy, and it leads to confusion and
arguments over who should be affected by the paladin’s holy
sword or the cleric’s holy smite.

So in the words of the primary developer for 3e, objective morality is the assumed norm. He's cool with you using subjective morality but wants you to understand that it's a variant that's got some serious mechanical issues associated with it.

I don't think anyone would argue that individual campaigns can't change the default assumption but it's perfectly accurate to argue that the default D&D morality defines certain acts as evil.


FWIW, the alignment of skeletons in PF AND 3.5 are "always Neutral Evil".

Animate Dead is a spell with the "Evil" descriptor and, RAW, creates ONLY evil beings.

Now I would like nothing more than for skeletons to be neutral. I have plans for labor-intensive agriculture or dangerious factory work to be done by skeletons. I even calculated how many giga-watts 18 skeletons rotating a huge stone cylinder would generate.

BUT, the rules seem to indicate that skeletons are NOT just mindless automatons. They are, in fact, both "mindless" AND "evil". No, I'm not quite sure how. I guess it's magic.

Anyway, to rule differently and say that raising the dead is NOT evil is fine, but you should recognize it is a houserule, not RAW.

As to the OP, good clerics can and may tolerate evil in their presence, as long as their idiom is not opposed (or strictly opposed) to undead. Their not Paladins. If, OTOH, the cleric is Exhalted, then you may have an issue. In any case, it's really up to the cleric themselves to decide, as the rules say nothing on it.

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vuron wrote:
It is the premise as stated by Monte Cook.

...that essay is horrible. Skeletons ping the evildar, so a skeleton who is carrying a bureau is carrying it evilly. I have a sudden sympathy with book-burners. >:|

Look, even that essay points out that there are two perfectly reasonable interpretations of the many conflicting rules about how undead are supposed to work, and that either interpretation means just ignoring, paving over, or rewriting the rules that don't work with it. If you really feel the need to win this fight that your interpretation is the one true one:

Click this.

I was hoping we could agree that both work, and discuss how good people deal with someone who summons undead under both circumstances, instead of getting in a willy-measuring contest over which interpretation is The Only Right Answer.


A Man In Black wrote:
Because you can have Inherent Cancer On The Living undead without needing to make all uses of negative energy Creeping Darkness[.]

You and I may agree on that point, but the article you linked to says:

"Animate Dead: If Negative Energy isn’t Evil, this spell isn’t either. Zombies and Skeletons are the only possible creations of this spell, so the alignment tag is contingent on Negative Energy itself being a moral choice."

Which is just not true, as you point out above; you can have evil undead without having evil Negative Energy.

(And note that not all undead are evil; ghosts, for instance, can have any alignment.)


A Man In Black wrote:
vuron wrote:
It is the premise as stated by Monte Cook.

...that essay is horrible. Skeletons ping the evildar, so a skeleton who is carrying a bureau is carrying it evilly. I have a sudden sympathy with book-burners. >:|

Look, even that essay points out that there are two perfectly reasonable interpretations of the many conflicting rules about how undead are supposed to work, and that either interpretation means just ignoring, paving over, or rewriting the rules that don't work with it. If you really feel the need to win this fight that your interpretation is the one true one:

Click this.

I was hoping we could agree that both work, and discuss how good people deal with someone who summons undead under both circumstances, instead of getting in a willy-measuring contest over which interpretation is The Only Right Answer.

No, this essay just points out one of the base guidelines along which D&D is created and how it works best with the least complications.

You can houserule such things ofcourse, but it will mess up the alignment system and makes the game less heroic, it will need some more advanced DM skills to figure out on your own.

That said I see potential in both types of play, and the first one has my preference. I prefer it because actions have consequences, I like the struggle between good and evil in all it's forms, it is perfectly possible to play an evil necromancer that acts upon the greater good most of the time and can actually be quite a pleasant fellow.

I'd actually enjoy running a campaign where things are less black and white, but I find the alignment system is unsuitable for it. This might require some heavy tinkering with spells and class abilities to pull off in a believable manner.
Alignment will not exist, instead of alignment some creatures might be awarded with an 'evil' (or 'good') subtype, typically reserved for fiends and many undead and few other creatures that is used to typify creatures vulnerable to certain spells and abilities.
Any class, spell, item or ability depending on alignment will have to be reevalued.

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hogarth wrote:
You and I may agree on that point, but the article you linked to says: [stuff]

It's an essay, not a legal document. Replace "negative energy" with "undeath" if you want Playing With Fire negative energy but Creeping Darkness undead. It's perfectly reasonable to have a world where casting Inflict Negative Wounds is no more inherently evil than casting Magic Missile, but even skeletons are a malevolent (if sort of weak) cancer on the living.

The RAW simply fail to make skeletons actually, you know, cancerous or worrying or anything. Right now, they're boney golems with the EVIL flag flipped, which isn't very malevolent. You just need to do something to make skeletons and zombies and suchlike something about them which is actually evil. Giving them the baseline urge to take a bite out of the cat unless specifically ordered otherwise is an easy way to do so.

Quote:
No, this essay just points out one of the base guidelines along which D&D is created and how it works best with the least complications.

"D&D authors" are not a guy, possessed of one opinion. (Even if you narrow it down to 3.0's lead writers, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, and Jonathan Tweet are three people.) These many people who have worked on D&D over the years are possessed of many different ideas about how undead should work.

You can jump up and down and shout houserule, houserule! at either interpretation. I suggest clicking here until the urge passes.


I notice you are rather fond of that link yourself ;)

Either way I am not trying to win, it's just an opinion, I am not saying anything weird if I say D&D has been created with a clearcut view of good and evil, it's how the spells and classes work best.

It's a tradition in D&D to houserule stuff though, I certainly will not encourage anyone to stick to the basic concept if anything suits your group better.

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Remco Sommeling wrote:
Either way I am not trying to win, it's just an opinion, I am not saying anything weird if I say D&D has been created with a clearcut view of good and evil, it's how the spells and classes work best.

Your opinion is wrong, because not only do D&D spells work just fine either way, but also a clearcut view of good and evil does not necessarily mean that mindless undead are automatically evil. You can have a game where the good guys are really good and the evil guys are really evil but having skeletons do the laundry isn't a crime against existence, and the only house rules you need are snipping one word off of a spell and one word off of two stat blocks.


Spacelard wrote:

Zombies and Skeletons are NE.

Creating evil is evil.
Good Cleric should take exception and stomp neutralish Wizard.

Creating evil is evil? Tell that to every mother of a cold-blooded murderer ever.

So, let's say the rare lawful/neutral succubus, Falls-From-Grace, meets the rare true neutral incubus and they get married, settle down, the whole nine yards. Are you saying it would be wrong for them to have children? After all, any children they have would be made of pure evil made manifest.

[Evil] is a substance in D&D. It exists independently from moral evil. Just because something involves the use of [Evil] as a substance doesn't necessarily mean its use is necessarily evil with regards to the alignment system, just as Falls-From-Grace having the [Evil] subtype doesn't make her evil.

Remco Sommeling wrote:
It is also interesting to note that resurrection magic will not work while the creature is undead, not even when you cast it on a severed finger of an otherwise animated undead. It certainly seems like the undead state anchors the soul despite them having no intelligence score.

Wrong sequence. Rez the finger, then zombify the rest of the body. Now what's being anchored?

Madcap Storm King wrote:
Think about what happens if a more powerful cleric, who doesn't like you very much, comes in and bolsters the undead, then uses them to wage a campaign across your fair city. Every man that falls he can animate, since he didn't have to use any spells to create them.

These are practical and tactical concerns, not moral concerns.


A Man In Black wrote:
Remco Sommeling wrote:
Either way I am not trying to win, it's just an opinion, I am not saying anything weird if I say D&D has been created with a clearcut view of good and evil, it's how the spells and classes work best.
Your opinion is wrong, because not only do D&D spells work just fine either way, but also a clearcut view of good and evil does not necessarily mean that mindless undead are automatically evil. You can have a game where the good guys are really good and the evil guys are really evil but having skeletons do the laundry isn't a crime against existence, and the only house rules you need are snipping one word off of a spell and one word off of two stat blocks.

lol well I think your opinion is wrong, but if it makes you feel better I'll let you win :p

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Remco Sommeling wrote:
lol well I think your opinion is wrong, but if it makes you feel better I'll let you win :p

You can think whatever you'd like. In the meantime, there's an accepted process for evaluating conclusions based on accepted premises, and conclusions with flawed premises or flawed reasoning are wrong. "A guy who wrote D&D said [this], so D&D works better with [this]" does not refute "There are many authors who wrote D&D, and they had differing opinions which can be roughly grouped into [this] and [that]; you'll need to resolve the conflicts between these conclusions somehow."


A Man In Black wrote:
vuron wrote:
It is the premise as stated by Monte Cook.

...that essay is horrible. Skeletons ping the evildar, so a skeleton who is carrying a bureau is carrying it evilly. I have a sudden sympathy with book-burners. >:|

Look, even that essay points out that there are two perfectly reasonable interpretations of the many conflicting rules about how undead are supposed to work, and that either interpretation means just ignoring, paving over, or rewriting the rules that don't work with it. If you really feel the need to win this fight that your interpretation is the one true one:

Click this.

I was hoping we could agree that both work, and discuss how good people deal with someone who summons undead under both circumstances, instead of getting in a willy-measuring contest over which interpretation is The Only Right Answer.

Isn't this where I link to a gif of "Internets = Srs Business" :D

Anyway I think all of my posts have been "The default is yadda, yadda, yadda but it's perfectly fine going with a variant". You implied I was talking out of my ass and I felt justified in pulling a "Booyah!"

Now personally I prefer a more nuanced approach to alignment than the default assumption, but I also acknowledge upfront that I'm deviating from the orthodox and committing heresy ;)


Viletta Vadim wrote:


Remco Sommeling wrote:
It is also interesting to note that resurrection magic will not work while the creature is undead, not even when you cast it on a severed finger of an otherwise animated undead. It certainly seems like the undead state anchors the soul despite them having no intelligence score.

Wrong sequence. Rez the finger, then zombify the rest of the body. Now what's being anchored?

I was not refering to your sequence, but it can be debated wether a living creature actually has a corpse, since animate dead requires a corpse.

I'd certainly not allow multiple undead to be made from one creature.

You also mentioned stone to flesh, this spell just doesnt make corpses to animate.


Upon further thought . . . .

If one of the cleric's special abilities is Turn Undead, I'd venture a guess and say the god isn't a fan of the undead.

As for the cleric's reaction, it's kinda up to the player.

If I were the player:
"Hey, Wiz, um, I know you think it's cool and all that you have a pet zombie that fetches you beer, but . . . boy is this uncomfortable . . . see, my deity says I'm supposed to smite the undead, not let them fetch me cookies. Anyways, he sent me this vision, see, and my great religious training in symbolism says that my cure spells won't work on you anymore. Something about 'upsetting the natural order' and 'playing into the hands of Darkness.' So, yeah, there ya go . . . "

DM: "But your cure spells will work fine-"

me: "I'm sorry, DM, last I checked the line that says 'Player' on the character sheet says 'ME.' You get to run every other cleric in the world, hands off mine."

Oh yeah, and . . . :
Given that D&D has alignments, it seems like there is an absolute morality in the game. Slavery is wrong. Cavorting with demons/devils is wrong. Creating the undead so you have a meatbag to bring you a beer and/or acting as your rotting bodyguard is wrong. Now, these things won't necessarily cause an alignment shift. But, upon the absolute scale of Good - Evil, they tend to track Evil. Now, if you want to make the decision that animating a rotting sack of muscle is good, feel free. My cleric won't heal you, my fighter won't defend you, my rogue might sell your spellbook quite by accident {"Looked just like a magic item, it did! You want your share?"}, my paladin . . . well, let's not think about what a paladin would do. My ranger might get you lost in the woods because that gawdawful smell of rotting flesh just creeps him out. My wizard might accidentally ensure you're within the blast radius of a fireball. Nothing personal.

As "Big Darn Heroes," animating the dead to be your playthings is what we fight against, not what we do in our free time.


Remco Sommeling wrote:
You also mentioned stone to flesh, this spell just doesnt make corpses to animate.

I specifically mentioned 3.5, where Stone to Flesh, as an explicitly stated function of the spell, can turn a statue into a corpse. And the material component for Animate Dead is a corpse. You do the math.


In the 'Book Of Exalted Deeds' theres a variant type of undead called "Deathless" that are animated by positive energy I believe, not negative - but a character cant distinguish between one of these and a run of the mill Undead by looking at it.

Dont get me wrong, Good aligned undead are usually intelligent and of course rare (the Elven Liches 'Baelnorns' of Myth Drannor are good examples of this) and there is a template that can be applied to a Liche found in the 'Libra Mortis' that allows the GM to create a good aligned Liche - but the energy fueling the undead is still negative energy and its still harmed by Positive energy effects but it doesnt act or behave in an evil way though it registers as 'Good' not 'Evil' to detect spells.

Not all undead are evil but its without dispute that most undead are by their very natures evil.
Mindles Undead left to their own devices act upon 'impulse' to kill living things, but ignore other undead unless attacked first. I suppose for that reason since they dont have dietry requirements to kill living creatures, its purely to 'extinguish' that life (positive energy) force so that could be argued to be 'Evil' I suppose. Its not natural for dead things to rise and attack the living, though theres no moral component to a mindless undeads actions since it cant think - but it does act on its own to a very limited almost program like extent.
In a nutshell, a Cleric would choose to destroy undead it encounters because of this fact - what if the one controlling the undead was to die?, it'd cause his 'pets' to be uncontrolled and go after the party - thats a risk you dont get with Summoned Monsters and the like.

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