Why are undead always evil?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Sovereign Court Contributor

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Franko a wrote:

Wonderfull stuff here...

If zombies and skeletons had even a portion of the souls of the departed in them, i would think that most societies would start cremating the dead.

That, in a nutshell, is why people in South Asian religious traditions cremate their dead and spread their ashes in a river.

So they don't come back as undead. Seriously, many of the undead tropes from India (and there are many) refer to the main reason the ghosts/vampires come back (those are the main tropes) is improper burial.
Complicating things is that certain castes are denied full ritual burial, as are children below a certain age. Hence many undead legends have outcastes and children (known as Masan) as the cause of the haunting.


On ENWorld a few years ago there was a discussion on vampires, and a Croat folklore expert joined discussion and he mentioned the word 'vampire' is derived from the Croat word 'umpyr', meaning 'unburned' referring to corpses that are buried instead of cremated (as done in Croat tradition). In Croat beliefs, unburned corpses are destined to come back as the undead.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mikaze wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Keeping your undead mummy paladin necropolis guards company with good outsider companions and allowing them a sort of dreaming/rest state could help with that as well.
Or better yet, don't turn your Paladins to undead, and let them retire from the job and be replaced by fresh volounteers.

That's not really better if one wants to have stories with non-evil undead in them and isn't beholden to someone else's declaration that undead have to be evil.

And as Tacticslion pointed out, sometimes it will be more practical for the given situation.

** spoiler omitted **

There's a world of difference between wanting to have a story with Non-Evil Undead and wanting Non-Evil Undead to be a norm. You can have the first, even if the standard default is for Undead to be evil. That makes them that much more special and distinct.

I find a world with ONE good Vampire far more believable than a whole world full of them.


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Probably the reason why these arguments over good or evil undead exist is because the fluff at the moment is inadequate to support them.

I could think of tons of things that could result in 100 percent undead are evil, but the fluff and rules as written don't seem to go off in that direction.


Why not have a good demon or devil as well?

Dark Archive

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Franko a wrote:

Wonderfull stuff here...

If zombies and skeletons had even a portion of the souls of the departed in them, i would think that most societies would start cremating the dead.

And not just because of skeletons and zombies! If the *corpse* has some sort of spiritual echo or residue or fragment within it that can be disturbed or 'defiled' or whatever by speak with dead or animate dead, and that disturbance *can make the soul uncomfortable in heaven*, then you'd better believe that everyone would burn their grandmother's body toot suite, to prevent her stay in heaven turning into eternal torment because something disrespectful happened to her body!

'Cause, along a long enough time period, something is *always* gonna happen to 'disrespect' your body, whether it be burrowing insects, or foreigners digging up your ancestors and using them as firewood, or a shift in the local water table leading to the coffin getting all moldly and gross and the body floating in a layer of green slime.

If your stay in heaven *is guaranteed* to eventually turn into endless anguish because of that sort of thing, necromancers or no necromancers, you'd better believe, in a universe where you can dial up the gods and talk to them, that *everybody* would know to burn the bodies of their dead. There might still be undead, but they'd be bodiless and recognized by appearing as swirls of choking ash.

Sure, you could make up some rationale for why this wouldn't happen, such as the gods of good don't bother to tell mortals this, because they *like* all of their worshippers in heaven eventually degenerating into moans of agony as their souls are tormented by bad stuff happening to their bodies back on the mortal plane, but that doesn't sound so much like 'gods of good' as 'cruel sadistic gods,' to me.

Necromancers would be left with the bodies of 'people' that nobody cares about, like hobgoblins and orcs that his adventuring buddies left strewn across the battlefield, or cattle and dogs and stuff.

Or, yanno, outsiders and hydras. The stuff that *real* necromancers animate. Anyone who blows 25 gp. worth of onyx to animate a human commoner 1 with 10's and 11's in all of their stats not only is eligible to be Smite Evil'd, but also to be Smite Stupid'd. (And is probably an evil cleric, too boot, since a necromancer wizard would need an Int 14 to cast animate dead, and would know better than to waste the onyx on a human corpse.)


Set wrote:
Franko a wrote:

Wonderfull stuff here...

If zombies and skeletons had even a portion of the souls of the departed in them, i would think that most societies would start cremating the dead.

And not just because of skeletons and zombies! If the *corpse* has some sort of spiritual echo or residue or fragment within it that can be disturbed or 'defiled' or whatever by speak with dead or animate dead, and that disturbance *can make the soul uncomfortable in heaven*, then you'd better believe that everyone would burn their grandmother's body toot suite, to prevent her stay in heaven turning into eternal torment because something disrespectful happened to her body!

'Cause, along a long enough time period, something is *always* gonna happen to 'disrespect' your body, whether it be burrowing insects, or foreigners digging up your ancestors and using them as firewood, or a shift in the local water table leading to the coffin getting all moldly and gross and the body floating in a layer of green slime.

If your stay in heaven *is guaranteed* to eventually turn into endless anguish because of that sort of thing, necromancers or no necromancers, you'd better believe, in a universe where you can dial up the gods and talk to them, that *everybody* would know to burn the bodies of their dead. There might still be undead, but they'd be bodiless and recognized by appearing as swirls of choking ash.

Sure, you could make up some rationale for why this wouldn't happen, such as the gods of good don't bother to tell mortals this, because they *like* all of their worshippers in heaven eventually degenerating into moans of agony as their souls are tormented by bad stuff happening to their bodies back on the mortal plane, but that doesn't sound so much like 'gods of good' as 'cruel sadistic gods,' to me.

Necromancers would be left with the bodies of 'people' that nobody cares about, like hobgoblins and orcs that his adventuring buddies left strewn across the battlefield, or cattle and dogs and stuff....

LOL

Thanks Set. Love it.

Contributor

Well, a good bit of the burial customs are tied up with the idea of "Judgement Day" where everyone who's been properly buried will come back to life with all their bits intact, whereas this offer is not on the table for those improperly buried, cremated, or mutilated. Basically Judgment Day has a Mass Raise Dead spell going with no expiration date.

Following that logic, a lot of rather interesting things happen. For example, I've read a story--based on Muslim folklore/theology--where a eunuch kept a jar with his missing bits hung on a strap around his neck so that when he died, he could be buried with them and wouldn't have to be a eunuch when Judgement Day rolled around, since the magic depended on everything being there. And then one of the harem girls stole them and used their return to blackmail him.

Follow this logic further and the idea of traditional cemeteries, crypts, vaults, mummification, and so forth all make perfect sense. Even the heavily trap-filled tomb. And necromancers, ghouls, and graverobbers all become more wicked and horrible. A ghoul is not just some undead person eating someone's unwanted old meatsuit, it's eating their chance at being risen from the dead in the perfect world that is to come. You know, the one when Aroden will come back to life too.

Saying that this is theologically incorrect should be cause for raised eyebrows. Before Aroden, it was not known that mortals could ascend to godhood. Before Aroden, it was also unknown that gods could die. Is the chance that gods can be risen from the dead so far outside of the box that you can't imagine it? Look at Arazni--There's a dead demigoddess forcibly brought back against her will as an undead lich.

Following that logic, it's perfectly reasonable to have someone buried in a grave with the hope that the gods might bring them back to life some day.

Heck, you don't even need gods to do that. Wizards and alchemists can pull off that trick too with no gods involved.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

Well, a good bit of the burial customs are tied up with the idea of "Judgement Day" where everyone who's been properly buried will come back to life with all their bits intact, whereas this offer is not on the table for those improperly buried, cremated, or mutilated. Basically Judgment Day has a Mass Raise Dead spell going with no expiration date.

Following that logic, a lot of rather interesting things happen. For example, I've read a story--based on Muslim folklore/theology--where a eunuch kept a jar with his missing bits hung on a strap around his neck so that when he died, he could be buried with them and wouldn't have to be a eunuch when Judgement Day rolled around, since the magic depended on everything being there. And then one of the harem girls stole them and used their return to blackmail him.

Follow this logic further and the idea of traditional cemeteries, crypts, vaults, mummification, and so forth all make perfect sense. Even the heavily trap-filled tomb. And necromancers, ghouls, and graverobbers all become more wicked and horrible. A ghoul is not just some undead person eating someone's unwanted old meatsuit, it's eating their chance at being risen from the dead in the perfect world that is to come. You know, the one when Aroden will come back to life too.

Saying that this is theologically incorrect should be cause for raised eyebrows. Before Aroden, it was not known that mortals could ascend to godhood. Before Aroden, it was also unknown that gods could die. Is the chance that gods can be risen from the dead so far outside of the box that you can't imagine it? Look at Arazni--There's a dead demigoddess forcibly brought back against her will as an undead lich.

Following that logic, it's perfectly reasonable to have someone buried in a grave with the hope that the gods might bring them back to life some day.

Heck, you don't even need gods to do that. Wizards and alchemists can pull off that trick too with no gods involved.

Now what's really, interesting, though it kinda breaks the rules of mass raise dead, is that one of the best ways to protect your body from being dismembered or destroyed is to make it undead or animated, but only attack those who are grave-robbing.

And of course, in the RW, the biological/chemical processes that led to undecayed corpses having the "odour of sanctity" and hence it being evidence of sainthood also led to some corpses being considered potential vampires or undead.
If one believed, moreover, that the afterlife was something that happened after the end of things, then the soul really does reside in the corpse - much like an undead creature - until that point.

Dark Archive

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Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Well, a good bit of the burial customs are tied up with the idea of "Judgement Day" where everyone who's been properly buried will come back to life with all their bits intact, whereas this offer is not on the table for those improperly buried, cremated, or mutilated. Basically Judgment Day has a Mass Raise Dead spell going with no expiration date.

Certainly relevant to our world, but not terribly relevant to Golarion, where zombies do exist, and 'Judgement Day' does not. (At least, I don't recall any of SKR's diety articles mentioning such a thing.)

In Golarion, souls aren't 'trapped in the wormy earth, waiting for the Rapture,' they done gone and left the building, fluttering off to any of a dozen alternate dimensions, so, ultimately, what happens to the synthesist fleshy biosuit they wore to shield their outsidery soul-stuff from the icky material plane doesn't much matter.

Huh. It just occured to me that the 'fragment' of a soul left behind in the body could be potential salvation for someone in a tormentous lower plane, like hell or the abyss. If someone in a heavenly upper plane feels tormented by animate dead being used on his corpse, then someone in anguish in lower plane *should* logically feel a tiny core of contentment and peace that no amount of hell-torture can ever eradicate, so long as his corpse up in Golarion is at rest.

Similarly, a soul that's been devoured by a daemon, or even by Groetus, isn't *totally* destroyed, since it's now canon that the souls in the outer planes aren't the *whole* souls, that a fragment remains behind in the corpse, and can be messed with via animate dead.

That sets precedent for spells *other* than animate dead to be able to 'mess with' that lingering soul fragment, perhaps to even regrow the whole soul from the leftover 'cutting,' even after it's been 'devoured forever.'

That makes places like hell, or soul-devouring creatures like daemons, a lot less grim, knowing that the entire soul can never be captured or destroyed, that there's always going to be a part that's free.

Silver Crusade

LazarX wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Keeping your undead mummy paladin necropolis guards company with good outsider companions and allowing them a sort of dreaming/rest state could help with that as well.
Or better yet, don't turn your Paladins to undead, and let them retire from the job and be replaced by fresh volounteers.

That's not really better if one wants to have stories with non-evil undead in them and isn't beholden to someone else's declaration that undead have to be evil.

And as Tacticslion pointed out, sometimes it will be more practical for the given situation.

** spoiler omitted **

There's a world of difference between wanting to have a story with Non-Evil Undead and wanting Non-Evil Undead to be a norm. You can have the first, even if the standard default is for Undead to be evil. That makes them that much more special and distinct.

I find a world with ONE good Vampire far more believable than a whole world full of them.

I'm not really having a hard time imagining several possibilities for worlds filled with non-evil undead. Worlds that still hold together thematically and logically.

It's all in the nuance.

Silver Crusade

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Shalafi2412 wrote:
Why not have a good demon or devil as well?

We got those too! :D


... actually, my wife is going to play one, soon!

(For fun, I had her roll randomly for one of the three bestiaries, roll a d20 for a basic CR, and then roll randomly in the monsters-by-CR section.)

Contributor

In Golarion, Judgement Day is every day, since there's always the chance that some random cleric, alchemist, or just rogue who figured how to "use magic device" on a stolen staff of life can reboot your existence. Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Yes. And while the common wisdom may be that only kings and princes get brought back, the common wisdom also says that there's a lot cases of mistaken identity. You didn't resurrect the ancient king, you resurrected the sheep farmer's son who was named for him and might be smart enough to lie about his identity. (And depending on how much the ancient king liked playing on the side, there's also the chance that the sheep farmer's son is a descendant.) And the chance that a bored god will decide to reboot a whole bunch of people? Stranger things have been known to happen.


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Mikaze wrote:
Shalafi2412 wrote:
Why not have a good demon or devil as well?
We got those too! :D

Yes, yes you do.

*strikes a few names off of the company holiday gift registry*


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Shalafi2412 wrote:


Why not have a good demon or devil as well?

Outsiders are in a real sense the embodiments of the plane they reside and originate on. Or the plane their souls are consigned to after death. The closest to purely aligned beings you're going to get. I suppose there might be the, very, very odd differently aligned outsider. On another note, if they changed their alignment would they still be demons / devils? I could see them shifting forms into some appropriately aligned outsider. seeing that transformation would be cool. My 2 cp of course.

Silver Crusade

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Tegresin the Laughing Fiend wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Shalafi2412 wrote:
Why not have a good demon or devil as well?
We got those too! :D

Yes, yes you do.

*strikes a few names off of the company holiday gift registry*

Ragathiel probably didn't want your screaming fruitcake anyway. :P


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Mikaze wrote:
Tegresin the Laughing Fiend wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Shalafi2412 wrote:
Why not have a good demon or devil as well?
We got those too! :D

Yes, yes you do.

*strikes a few names off of the company holiday gift registry*

Ragathiel probably didn't want your screaming fruitcake anyway. :P

Wanted it or not, he hasn't been here long enough to qualify for that tier of gift.

*glances at some pages singed onto petitioners, old-school Gehenna style*

No, Ragathiel was only going to get a year subscription to the ochre jelly of the month club. He's waaaaay too young. It takes a few more millions years to get the screaming fruitcake. Those are yummy, let me tell you. Not wriggling, screaming full-on petitioner yummy, or newborn godling sashimi yummy, nascent reality snuffed out or alternate timeline-bettering the state of all-but-never-to-be yummy, but they have a certain quaint charm around the holidays for sure.

Liberty's Edge

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By the way, on the topic of Undead in Golarion, I did have an idea for non-evil Positive Energy-based Undead that are way less wussy than WOTC's version.

You see, the effects of mixing Positive Energy with dead tissue are weird, giving the undead regenerative abilities, but leaving them in an eternal state of rotting and reforming, with skeleton's bones roiling like tumorous waves and zombies with flesh that is evermelting and reforming like candle wax.

They'd also be animated not by shoving their old soul in, but by creating a new "proto-soul" that grows and learns over time. They also have a propensity to mutate due to the weird influences of positive energy, but most "white necromancers" see that as a plus.

And, while I haven't figured out any Positive Energy variants for other intelligent Undead, Liches would be made via the wearer drinking some very specific concoctions of poison and, at the instant the drinker dies, a series of Positive Energy-infused pins they'd previously put into themselves release all their energy, turning him into the skeletal-with-melty-skin Positive Energy Lich. They wouldn't necessarily be Evil, but they would be a little loopy.

The in universe explaination as to why this isn't more common would be that it'd just been invented, and the Positive Energy Lich procedure is way harder than doing it the evil way. What do you folks think of that idea?

Also, in my homebrew setting that I'm slowly working on,, undead aren't inherently evil, though there is an Undead Mafia, because I like weird stuff.


Sounds neat at it's most basic. I'll try to give the HB setting a look at some point, though no promises.

Contributor

It's interesting, but it seems predicated as a workaround for undead always being evil because negative energy makes them evil, begging the question of why positive energy wouldn't make them good.

It seems simpler to me to posit that undead are not inherently evil, but can be crazy or cranky and dangerous to be around, especially if you're alive.

The Exchange

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Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

It's interesting, but it seems predicated as a workaround for undead always being evil because negative energy makes them evil, begging the question of why positive energy wouldn't make them good.

It seems simpler to me to posit that undead are not inherently evil, but can be crazy or cranky and dangerous to be around, especially if you're alive.

I still see no reason that a kill-on-sight-anything-alive golemn is neutral but a zombie is evil, just dumb

Sovereign Court Contributor

I just had a thought (feel free to unpack/disprove it).
Well... how many undead actually have (evil) in their stat block?
Alignment explains roughly how they behave toward sentient life. In other words, negative energy makes one inimical to life (including sentient life) but other living things - beings infused with positive energy to some degree - are as often dangerous to other life as undead are. I mean, dragons are living things. They have CON scores and are in part linked to positive energy. But they aren't necessarily good.
Of course, positive energy is kinda like oxygen - it's dangerous in large enough quantities. And negative energy is kinda like poison (say chlorine); it's perhaps a natural thing in small quantities, even essential, like the processes of decay and natural death, but substantial amounts are very dangerous.
However, I'd argue that the evil "requirement" is probably a rule of thumb. It's not required that the lich be evil, and isn't a immutable characteristic of his nature, but he effectively is because he embodies a large amount of negative energy, and is hence dangerous for life.
Of course, as I've argued elsewhere, from a sentient perspective in a magical world, natural disasters are evil. And dangerous predators. Predatory, callous behaviour is a characteristic of the things that we consider evil or evils.
So... skeletons are evil because they want to hurt you, even though they are essentially mindless robots. But so is that tsunami (in as much as natural phenomena are part of a divine portfolio).
I see that kind of thing when I look at the inconsistency between philosophical and popular interpretations of Tamas (entropy) in Hinduism. It's seen as an objective, necessary part of the world by philosophical discussions, but also is associated in pragmatic theology with death, ritual uncleanness, and monsters. But the characters of PF exist in the pragmatic world, not the philosophical. The destruction of life and the world is not something they see as a morally neutral question.


Andrew R wrote:
I still see no reason that a kill-on-sight-anything-alive golem is neutral but a zombie is evil, just dumb

QFT

Animating a standard (non self-governing/sentient) zombie or skeleton shouldn't even be necromancy - its animate object. Just because the object used to be a person shouldn't change the very nature of the magic involved. Dead = unliving object, end of story.

Once you attach a sentience to something, though, then you have to consider where that consciousness has come from. I would agree that nearly all self-aware undead should be evil (except in the very rare 'DM Special'/author caveat NPCs). You give a vampire a helm of alignment change you could windup with a good vampire, but thats not its natural state - that is an exception to the rule (and there could be many others). It doesn't mean its common; it should be VERY rare because the precise events surrounding that would be unique (but still possible).

I just had an odd thought - why do we automatically think alignment = personality? Maybe thats the mistake we are making. A nice, friendly lich would probably still radiate evil because of the magic reanimating it. In most case alignment does = personality, but if you think of the two as separate things (in the case of undead) then things work out fine.

Because 'smite evil' SHOULD still work on a friendly lich, now that I think about it. It doesn't matter if he is a sweet guy that gives to charity and saves kittens, he is still an abomination in the eyes of nature.

What would be interesting would be to roleplay such a conundrum - the paladin (who knows the lich has been doing 'good deeds') would go to smite him, and it simply does not work (because the paladin himself doesn't truly believe the lich is evil). Then we get a paladin who starts to doubt himself and his beliefs (which is great fodder for all those paladin-hating DMs out there).


... that's a really interesting take on it, MarkusTay.

I'm not sure, however, that I agree with all of your points.

Alignment affects personality, but a given alignment doesn't yield an identical personality each time; similarly with intelligence, wisdom, and charisma (and even strength, constitution, and dexterity). So I more or less agree with you on that.

Making smite evil affect creatures regardless of alignment makes it substantially more likely for bad things to happen to good people by divine caveat, a divine caveat that directly controls whether or not paladins are active or fall. That, to me, seems more likely to push people away from being able to trust the divine, and much more likely to cause paladins to guess "wrong" about who to smite and who not to smite... I see that idea as much more likely to cause fallen paladins 'just because'.

And I entirely agree that there is a difference between being "friendly" and being "good".

Contributor

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If you're going to talk about the nature of evil, consider the plight of the sultan's pet crocodile.

The crocodile has lived in the crocodile pit for many years. The sultan has fed him a steady diet of human and other sentient being's flesh--halflings, dwarves, elves, etc. All of them have been tossed in the crocodile pit.

Then one day the Sultan tossed in a druid, who instead of just doing Speak with Animals to talk with the crocodile, blew and Awaken spell. Now the crocodile is intelligent and can talk. And the druid has informed it that if it eats any more sentient beings, it miraculously become Evil. Before, when it was just a dumb animal, it was Neutral, but now that it's a rational being who can talk, it will become Evil if it continues its wicked sentient-being eating ways. And if it dies being Evil it will then be punished and tormented in Hell.

The crocodile thinks this is patently unfair. It's a crocodile, after all, and it's never learned to hunt, having been raised as a pet and fed a steady diet of halfling servants who spilled the palm wine or otherwise displeased the sultan, and it's not like non-sentient beings are just stumbling into its crocodile pit. And the crocodile then eats the druid, who confused and upset it, and has now probably damned it to Hell too.

Now the question is, is the crocodile now Evil? Was the druid?

And how does this compare to a ghoul who just wants to snack on an already-dead corpse?

Liberty's Edge

Shalafi2412 wrote:
Why not have a good demon or devil as well?

Actually, if a demon or devil turned good in my game, I'd make them instantly become a celestial, since belief defines the planar denizens, and if you're no longer evil, then you'd no longer be a fiend.

You know, there really needs to be a template for that, as well as for the reverse.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

If you're going to talk about the nature of evil, consider the plight of the sultan's pet crocodile.

The crocodile has lived in the crocodile pit for many years. The sultan has fed him a steady diet of human and other sentient being's flesh--halflings, dwarves, elves, etc. All of them have been tossed in the crocodile pit.

Then one day the Sultan tossed in a druid, who instead of just doing Speak with Animals to talk with the crocodile, blew and Awaken spell. Now the crocodile is intelligent and can talk. And the druid has informed it that if it eats any more sentient beings, it miraculously become Evil. Before, when it was just a dumb animal, it was Neutral, but now that it's a rational being who can talk, it will become Evil if it continues its wicked sentient-being eating ways. And if it dies being Evil it will then be punished and tormented in Hell.

The crocodile thinks this is patently unfair. It's a crocodile, after all, and it's never learned to hunt, having been raised as a pet and fed a steady diet of halfling servants who spilled the palm wine or otherwise displeased the sultan, and it's not like non-sentient beings are just stumbling into its crocodile pit. And the crocodile then eats the druid, who confused and upset it, and has now probably damned it to Hell too.

Now the question is, is the crocodile now Evil? Was the druid?

And how does this compare to a ghoul who just wants to snack on an already-dead corpse?

The Wolf of Gubbio was a human-eater and essentially had this experience. But St. Francis made a different bargain with that animal:

"As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?" (from the Little Flowers of St. Francis)

In other words, the saint realised the animal needed to eat, and hunger was its main motivation, and offered an alternative.

So perhaps it was the druid that was being unreasonable. It strikes me that its a sin against nature to inflict such knowledge on that kind of creature. Casting "awaken" makes you pretty responsible for the animal afterwards, like raising a child. Is this druid NE?

Contributor

I dunno...is St. Francis? Because he isn't explaining how he's going to get "the inhabitants of this land" to provide food to the Wolf of Gubbio. If he's going "Medieval peasants of Gubbio, provide as much meat as thy can to this wolf, or verily, he shall eat thy face off"? Or did he found an order of zookeepers who think providing scarce meat to a hungry wolf is a good deal while they subsist on stale zwieback?

Sovereign Court Contributor

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
I dunno...is St. Francis? Because he isn't explaining how he's going to get "the inhabitants of this land" to provide food to the Wolf of Gubbio. If he's going "Medieval peasants of Gubbio, provide as much meat as thy can to this wolf, or verily, he shall eat thy face off"? Or did he found an order of zookeepers who think providing scarce meat to a hungry wolf is a good deal while they subsist on stale zwieback?

He promised the villagers he'd solve their problem if they followed his instructions. There's no indication that they fed him more than they would a village dog.

Then again, St. Francis seemed to feel that animals were imbued with personality and intelligence, and argued that nature and the world was an inherently good and beautiful creation (in contradistinction to the dualists, like the Cathars); the fault for evil and tragedy lay in humanity's sin. Hence evil might exist in the natural world, though all evil derived from the actions of humanity. His interpretation of that in the case of the Wolf of Gubbio was that the wolf was hungry because of the presence of humanity (and the destruction of its natural environment and prey), it seems, and hence its evil was best ameliorated by generosity. He also seems to have believed that while animals could sin, they did so with less blame than humans.

There's an interesting version of this in Ruben Dario's poem Los Motivos del Lobo (English translation). In essence, evil derives from humanity. Animals and natural things become evil or distorted by the impact of humanity. The poem has a darker ending than the original fable.

Contributor

Well, following that sort of logic, no one is particularly evil. The druid may be telling the crocodile incorrect metaphysics and theology, but he may just be misinformed, or at worse he's lying to try to save his life. The crocodile, meanwhile, is not evil because he has to eat--he's a crocodile--and has no other food source other than prisoners condemned by the state. He also has the dual trouble of wanting to please the Sultan--who has been very kind to him--and also not displease the Sultan, as he has seen what punishments befall those who have displeased the Sultan.

As for the Sultan, we might as well be charitable to him while we're at it. He's providing a home and wildlife preserve for a crocodile who might otherwise be turned into boots and purses by poachers, or be eating subjects who had not displeased him, such as washerwomen and fishermen who have business down at the river. And while tossing halflings to the crocodile if they spill the palm wine may seem a bit harsh, it's not like he's shaving their feet or forcing them to wear pointed slippers like everyone else in his kingdom. He's respecting their customs, strange as they are, so it's only right that they respect his. The palm wine may be sacred or costly or there simply may be the force of tradition and this is what Sultans have done since time immemorial. If he turned a blind eye to that, next thing he'd be expected to turn a blind eye to murder, thievery, and the selling of indulgences by priests of dead gods.

Which brings us around to the question of the ghoul and whether corpse-eating is evil or not. The ghoul is hungry, and we've all agreed that hunger is not a sin, so it seems strange and frankly cruel to deny the hunger of a sentient being when you're already fine with corpses being eaten by worms. So if a ghoul is evil, there has to be some other reason than that.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

Well, following that sort of logic, no one is particularly evil. The druid may be telling the crocodile incorrect metaphysics and theology, but he may just be misinformed, or at worse he's lying to try to save his life. The crocodile, meanwhile, is not evil because he has to eat--he's a crocodile--and has no other food source other than prisoners condemned by the state. He also has the dual trouble of wanting to please the Sultan--who has been very kind to him--and also not displease the Sultan, as he has seen what punishments befall those who have displeased the Sultan.

As for the Sultan, we might as well be charitable to him while we're at it. He's providing a home and wildlife preserve for a crocodile who might otherwise be turned into boots and purses by poachers, or be eating subjects who had not displeased him, such as washerwomen and fishermen who have business down at the river. And while tossing halflings to the crocodile if they spill the palm wine may seem a bit harsh, it's not like he's shaving their feet or forcing them to wear pointed slippers like everyone else in his kingdom. He's respecting their customs, strange as they are, so it's only right that they respect his. The palm wine may be sacred or costly or there simply may be the force of tradition and this is what Sultans have done since time immemorial. If he turned a blind eye to that, next thing he'd be expected to turn a blind eye to murder, thievery, and the selling of indulgences by priests of dead gods.

Which brings us around to the question of the ghoul and whether corpse-eating is evil or not. The ghoul is hungry, and we've all agreed that hunger is not a sin, so it seems strange and frankly cruel to deny the hunger of a sentient being when you're already fine with corpses being eaten by worms. So if a ghoul is evil, there has to be some other reason than that.

Perhaps their disrespect for the bodies of the dead... After all, to act good/not be evil, we needn't love someone, we must just (or rather) respect their autonomy and rights. Evil things pretty much by definition don't bother doing that. The ghouls, of course, are disrespecting the customs of the people who inter their dead, rather than the dead (unless their souls are residing in the body, of course).

A good or neutral ghoul has to move to a place where dead bodies aren't invested in emotional meaning. Then they can eat in peace. But deliberately eating the dead when in theory someone cares about it (and probably cares a fair bit, at least historically - disrespect to corpses was a major crime) means you not only don't respect the law, but don't care that that body is someone's child, parent, or relative
When the aghoris eat dead bodies or carry bones in India, that body has already been ritually burned and abandoned by its soul and the family that conducted the funeral.
Neutral or good (non-undead) ghouls are present in Niven's Ringworld (strangely that book came up twice today). They are the official body-disposers of that world. But they're still unclean, culturally.
Lovecraft's ghouls aren't really undead either; they're more neutral. But they are definitely transgressive.


That sounds substantially more lawful/chaotic than good/evil, though.

Dark Archive

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Tacticslion wrote:
That sounds substantially more lawful/chaotic than good/evil, though.

And that is the quandary with Golarion in general. The goddess in charge of all this stuff is *neutral.*

She isn't good. She isn't even lawful.

So, logically, violating her sacred precepts shouldn't be evil *or* chaotic. It might very well be disrespectful, or even tacky,, but since she's non-good and non-lawful, it *shouldn't* be any more evil or chaotic than peeing on an altar to Rovagug, another non-good, non-lawful god.

Which, like animating dead, might be a *terriblenogoodverybad* idea, even if it isn't evil or chaotic...

Urgathoa apparently unleashed horrible *evil* upon the world by breaking a *law* imposed by a goddess who really doesn't much care about law... It's like 'apple + cheese = carburetor?'

Sovereign Court Contributor

Tacticslion wrote:
That sounds substantially more lawful/chaotic than good/evil, though.

A lawful ghoul would probably buy bodies or get a permit. He or she wouldn't necessary care, however, whether someone might or might not appreciate what happened to them... Lawful ghouls would be happy to, say, act as a final punishment for criminal bodies, or attempt to buy bodies by preying on the poor and desperate.

What a good ghoul, ideally, would do, is purchase or receive permission to take the bodies of the dead directly from their families or loved ones, as part of the funerary arrangements. Whether or not such an arrangement is legal is secondary in this case. Alternately, a good ghoul would act in some sacred manner, like the vultures of Tibetan sky burial or Zoroasterian corpse disposal methods. But they would be integrated into the cultural approach they unlive within.

Sovereign Court Contributor

I just had a thought - that Tork's take on the Vetala really suggests a creature - all in all - that cannot remain evil, and undead that grows, like a child, from need and want, to share and sense, and finally, to understanding.

At least that is what my conversations with him entailed. The trick is, I would guess, is that the vetala's core memories are going to derive from its victims. If it lives in a terrible, squalid place, surrounded by suffering, it will feel suffering as well. At any time it could find a memory that is essentially redemptive.

Yet, still, it is "any evil."

Now, the implication in Blood of the Night is that given a critical mass of empathic, loving memories, the Vetala can transcend its means of sustenance...


EDIT I meant to write first: I'm interested in hearing Tork's take on the Vetala, and hearing some definitions about that for digestion. :)

Jeff Erwin wrote:
Tacticslion wrote:
That sounds substantially more lawful/chaotic than good/evil, though.

A lawful ghoul would probably buy bodies or get a permit. He or she wouldn't necessary care, however, whether someone might or might not appreciate what happened to them... Lawful ghouls would be happy to, say, act as a final punishment for criminal bodies, or attempt to buy bodies by preying on the poor and desperate.

What a good ghoul, ideally, would do, is purchase or receive permission to take the bodies of the dead directly from their families or loved ones, as part of the funerary arrangements. Whether or not such an arrangement is legal is secondary in this case. Alternately, a good ghoul would act in some sacred manner, like the vultures of Tibetan sky burial or Zoroasterian corpse disposal methods. But they would be integrated into the cultural approach they unlive within.

... that still sounds more like law/chaos. Lawful does not necessarily mean obeying the laws of the land, but instead having a distinct preference for tradition, general community thinking, (including methodology and ethos instead of morals).

I agree that some lawful ghouls would behave exactly as you describe lawful ghouls behaving. The way you describe good ghouls seems to describe lawful as well. (In either case, they may very well be good or not.)

If a ghoul needs to eat, it literally doesn't harm anyone, and some people get grossed out by it's necessary methodology to not go crazy (thus it is necessary for survival in any long-term sense), that's not evil, that's neutral leaning toward chaotic.

Set, I do disagree with you (for once!) about Pharasma. As a neutral, she might not care about evil directly, but she may make some divine decrees that are good (and thus be evil to break), some that are evil (and thus be good to break), contrary as it seems some that are chaotic (that would be lawful to break), and some that are lawful (that would be chaotic to break). And some that would be neutral... but still could be lawful, neutral, good, evil, or chaotic (or some combination thereof) to break. I can entirely see that. Effectively, from what I can tell, Pharasma isn't good primarily because she lacks empathy in any direct sort of way with the creatures of the universe. She's not a sociopath (she doesn't seek undo evil or suffering to be loosed in the world), but if it happens to be there, it's usually no skin off her back. However there are some things that are a plague that do bring undo suffering (undead being one of 'em, though why is... questionable)... and they might also make her (after)-life a living headache! I think that violating her decree could be evil... and in this case, it seems that it's evil incidentally.

That said, I do agree that, as currently written, either she's a rather weak goddess who can't do her job due to a third level spell (and Team Good, as Mikaze would call them, being royally screwed by default), or a n uncaring jerk who only gave a decree that breaking is evil due to the incidental nature of undead making her job annoying.

Contributor

While I think a good ghoul would certainly want to move somewhere where people weren't emotionally attached to the corpses of friends and relatives, at some point personal survival has to trump emotional attachment. And while it can be argued that ghouls don't need to eat flesh to survive, this seems more like a bizarre rules mechanic than anything that makes logical sense. At very least not feeding the ghoul hunger seems to have a deleterious effect on the ghoul's mental well-being and sanity.

Then again, the same argument can be made for why dragons need gold and jewels. While they don't die without them, they seem to suffer from some obsessive-compulsive disorder about gathering them, and the most sensible thing humans could do to prevent dragon attacks is to move to some different form of currency not backed by gold. Postage stamps or somesuch.

Dark Archive

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
the most sensible thing humans could do to prevent dragon attacks is to move to some different form of currency not backed by gold. Postage stamps or somesuch.

Dragon scales could make for a cruel sort of replacement currency, with added irony.

Shadow Lodge

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Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
the most sensible thing humans could do to prevent dragon attacks is to move to some different form of currency not backed by gold. Postage stamps or somesuch.

I thought I'd heard something about the kingdom appointing a new Postmaster....


I tend to agree (the dragon thing caught me by surprise; well done). Interesting.

I wonder, though could such a compulsion be 'cured' by something like Polymorph any Object? Either on the ghoul or on the dragon.

Incidentally, about Pharasma being weakened... Gentle Repose. No really... what the heck? Oh well, a topic for another time.


Jeff Erwin wrote:


A lawful ghoul would probably buy bodies or get a permit. He or she wouldn't necessary care, however, whether someone might or might not appreciate what happened to them... Lawful ghouls would be happy to, say, act as a final punishment for criminal bodies, or attempt to buy bodies by preying on the poor and desperate.
What a good ghoul, ideally, would do, is purchase or receive permission to take the bodies of the dead directly from their families or loved ones, as part of the funerary arrangements. Whether or not such an arrangement is legal is secondary in this case. Alternately, a good ghoul would act in some sacred manner, like the vultures of Tibetan sky burial or Zoroasterian corpse disposal methods. But they would be integrated into the cultural approach they unlive within.

Having Just seen Monty Ppthon and the Holy Grail for the first time in ages, I'm reminded of the man with the cart, calling out "briung out your dead!" and hauling them away...


I think a lawful ghoul could very well live under the same conditions as the sultan's crocodile. And I could see it being LN. Perhaps even LG, if you are of the opinion, that an executioner may be LG (which I am not*).
The bodies he feeds on are criminals condemned to death. So even if they are still alive when tossed to him it is ok to kill them as that'S his job. And to eat their bodies should be ok under those conditions, too as they would not get a proper burial anyways. And, if ie acts as an executioner, it would have to be local law, to do so, too.

*A Paladin, executing an offender now and then when no hangman is near would not automatically fall but someone making it his sole job to kill people (even condemned criminals) could not be good in my book.

Lantern Lodge

In our own world there are many beliefs about the dead and proper procedures and I disagree with the standard burial practices I am aware of. To me it is illogical to waste the rock to make a headstone, the various materials to make a coffin, and the section of ground that no one is allowed to farm or build on. That fancy box also prevents, or rather severely delays, the natural recycling process of the ground.

My body is hopefully going to do something useful, like organ farming for the sick and/or medical study to teach new doctors, nurses, and the like. Heck, if someone figured out how to reanimate my body, control it remotely, and use it for something dangerous like nuclear cleanup or meltdown prevention, then that would save a bunch of lives as well.

How dastardly evil!

Dark Archive

Nobody will ever be able to disrespect my body the way I've disrespected my body. Trust me. This temple dun been defiled aplenty. I look forward to defiling it some more before it keels over and ejects me from this mortal plane.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Rendrin wrote:

In our own world there are many beliefs about the dead and proper procedures and I disagree with the standard burial practices I am aware of. To me it is illogical to waste the rock to make a headstone, the various materials to make a coffin, and the section of ground that no one is allowed to farm or build on. That fancy box also prevents, or rather severely delays, the natural recycling process of the ground.

My body is hopefully going to do something useful, like organ farming for the sick and/or medical study to teach new doctors, nurses, and the like. Heck, if someone figured out how to reanimate my body, control it remotely, and use it for something dangerous like nuclear cleanup or meltdown prevention, then that would save a bunch of lives as well.

How dastardly evil!

There's a green movement to plant trees in the ashes of the dead, or even atop a grave, as in natural burial grounds in the UK. If it's a fruit tree...


Mmmmmmmm, tasty apple-flavored ghoulishness!

Sovereign Court Contributor

Tacticslion wrote:
Mmmmmmmm, tasty apple-flavored ghoulishness!

Indeed, the "flesh of the apple."

And of course, in medieval theology, there was a connection. The tree of the cross was said to be the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which bore, of course, Adam's apple (though the fruit itself is unspecified in the Bible). The bones of Adam were buried beneath the site of the tree (somehow no longer in heaven, but the symmetry is nice); hence Christ died on the cross directly above the body of the first human. Christ - also - becomes the new fruit-flesh on the tree and hence substitutes his own body as the spiritual meal. His placement on the tree-cross above the bones of Adam also signifies triumph over death.

Here's a visual example.


I look at it this way - good and evil are defined by the culture you are from. D&D alignments are just a reference point (for PC races, NOT for monsters/fiends/etc). That means if the paladin thinks something is not evil (like the lich in my above example), then the magic should not work, because the paladin is filled with 'doubts'. If another paladin stepped up, who had no doubts what-so-ever, then the magic would work. At that point, any paladin with an Int of 9 or better should start questioning his own faith and the nature of good and evil (like I said above, perfect fodder for those paladin-hating DMs).

The knights of the Spanish Inquisition thought they were doing 'good deeds' when they dragged peasants out of their homes in the night and slaughtered them. So did the German 'witch hunters' who went from village to village torturing confessions out of little girls.

Yes, I realize this is just D&D, but D&D is a ROLEPLAY game, and these sorts of issues make for great campaigns. An army of paladins from one country going to war with the paladins from another country - who is 'good'? In the RW, people never really stopped to ask those philosophical questions (often enough).

And since I work it out so that divine magic really comes from within, then it is theoretically possible to have a good priest of Asmodeus who 'smites evil' on paladins, because in his deranged mind THEY are the evil ones. So long as HE truly believes, thats all that matters.

Contributor

Rendrin wrote:

In our own world there are many beliefs about the dead and proper procedures and I disagree with the standard burial practices I am aware of. To me it is illogical to waste the rock to make a headstone, the various materials to make a coffin, and the section of ground that no one is allowed to farm or build on. That fancy box also prevents, or rather severely delays, the natural recycling process of the ground.

My body is hopefully going to do something useful, like organ farming for the sick and/or medical study to teach new doctors, nurses, and the like. Heck, if someone figured out how to reanimate my body, control it remotely, and use it for something dangerous like nuclear cleanup or meltdown prevention, then that would save a bunch of lives as well.

How dastardly evil!

It depends on how the living view graveyards. Properly placed graveyards serve as much-needed greenspace and parkland in a city environment, and in the countryside, the spot chosen is generally the least arable land.

And of course if you put them in the wrong place, you can always move them, as was done in San Francisco. And for that matter, Paris.

Hell, they just found the body of Richard III in a parking lot.

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