Why are undead always evil?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Shadow Lodge

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MarkusTay wrote:
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.

Which if that's how your game/your setting work, great, but that's not the default assumption of the game as written (with the exception of, I believe, Eberron). In fact, the standard definition of divine magic is quite the opposite, and Good and Evil (and Order and Chaos) defined and extant parts of the game world, and are not subject to the perceptions of cultural or personal moralities as to whether or not alignment-based abilities, spells, etc. function. As written, divine magic comes from the deities themselves, not from "within" the character in question, and is dependent on their goodwill to remain functional (with the exception alone of Oracles). Goodwill usually gleaned by pursuing their desires, obeying their dogma, and opposing/defeating their enemies.

For me personally, that's one of the things I LIKE about D&D/Pathfinder. I LIKE the lack of moral relativism. I LIKE that Good and Evil are strictly defined and can be proven so. It's a nice, welcome change from the murky morality of the world we live in.

Anyway.

If Smite Evil works, the thing is evil, or its composed of evil energies regardless of its personal alignment (hence the [Evil] subtype on fiends, etc.).

If it doesn't fit those two categories, regardless of what the Paladin believes is true or not, Smite Evil fails - they get their bonus to attack from it, but the bonus damage fails to manifest.

I can't get to Order of the Stick from work, but the strip where Miko smites Roy then gets confused why the smite failed is a perfect example.


Orthos is almost entirely correct with one minor point a bit off:

Orthos wrote:
As written, divine magic comes from the deities themselves, not from "within" the character in question, and is dependent on their goodwill to remain functional (with the exception alone of Oracles).

Technically it all comes from 'somewhere else' (even for Oracles), and the divine casting character themselves could tick off/get cut off by the divine (symbolized by the codes, restrictions, etc for most classes), but only clerics need to choose a patron.

A little strange, but yeah.

Otherwise, I heart the entire post and agree. :)


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"Devil's Advocate" wrote:
Not to mention a Good leading a small army of undead saints against the Evil Cleric's equal army of undead just seems really dang epic to me.

You mean like this? Order of the Stick

For the rest, in my campaign mindless undead are neutral aligned, lacking the brains to have an alignment.
And they ARE mindless, just as a computer is mindless despite being able to do some really complicated things. There's a program that can look at pictures and identify the animals the scientist using the program is interested in, and give a beep (or other signal) when it sees such an animal. It won't beep for rocks, plants, or even other animals (unless they really look pretty similar), and yet it is small and simple enough to run on a cell phone.
In a similar way, I see skeletons etc as being able to use weapons or follow spoken instructions because they have been magically programmed to do so.
Currently (in my campaign) their ability to detect life is blocked by a wall, but not by a bedsheet, though this may chance as I kinda like the idea of huddling under a blanket actually *working*.

Ghouls, ghasts and the like are intelligent, but generally are evil because their mind is not functioning properly: that's not Uncle Jack, that's just his body, and while the brain functions, the soul is gone, although random memories popping up *might* make it act in unexpected ways like hesitating before attacking somebody the real Uncle Jack knew in life.
Uncle Jack meanwhile is happily spending his time in the afterlife.

Truly INTELLIGENT undead such as vampires and liches can and do have any alignment, though they do tend towards evil, or at least towards being utterly indifferent to what mortals would considder important.
This has a lot to do with people acting in the way (they think) they are expected to, as seen in psychological experiments where the subjects are told that it's OK to do a certain thing that normally would be somewhat or even extremely NOT ok.
Nevertheless, just as some people will refuse to obey a direct order if they considder it bad, some undead will refuse to "act the part", and maintain their original alignment.

All this of course being my own home brewn campaign which you can ignore at will :)

PS: WHAT was the name of those good-aligned liches that WotC brought out at some point? I think they were in the Spelljammer supplement?

Dark Archive

Maya Deva wrote:
PS: WHAT was the name of those good-aligned liches that WotC brought out at some point? I think they were in the Spelljammer supplement?

I think there were two, Archliches, which could be good, and Baelnorn, who were always good. IIRC, they were Forgotten Realms critters.

Having 'good undead' or stuff like Eberron's deathless, seemed as wrong-headed to me as having always evil undead.

It's just a creamy layer of absurdity on top of an already absurd cake.

Although I suppose they serve as an object lesson in the 'logical' consequences of such a muddled base conception. Develop from a silly inconsistent logically-flawed premise, get increasingly silly inconsistent logically-flawed results.


I actually found it quite nifty. The only hesitation I had came from the fact that "it's totally okay because positive energy, but negative energy is still evil".

IF one accepts, however, that there are inherently aligned (or nearly universally inherently aligned) undead due to negative energy, then it must follow that the opposite is true. In which case I saw it as a balancing act, and proving that mortal life actually did mean a balance between positive and negative energy to exist properly. It was due to Eberron having deathless that I liked it, in part because it opened the door to having "non-evil undead creatures"; sure, it wasn't perfect, but it was a thing that helped.

(There is also a really strange imbalance, in my opinion, between the ethereal and shadow - the way they are often juxtaposed seems to indicate that they are kind of on the 'opposite' sides of material reality, yet both harbor undead... but I think that's more a problem with presentation than intent).


Archlich is the one I was thinking of, thanks.
Bealnorn seem to be basically the same, except for their function in soceity, which I agree is kinda weird. I can see a good-aligned individual having the urgent desire to stay in the world beyond death, but a whole group of them? Meh.

Dark Archive

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Tacticslion wrote:
I actually found it quite nifty. The only hesitation I had came from the fact that "it's totally okay because positive energy, but negative energy is still evil".

That's pretty much my beef, right there. Negative energy isn't evil, and so negative-energy-empowered creatures being made evil by it makes no real sense. Having non-good positive energy make 'good undead' is similarly nonsense.


Having played too many editions and running them all together in my mind I tend to think of negative energy as being anti-life more than just evil with positive energy being pro-life. Hence beings animated by negative energy are hostile to all life (and therefore evil). It's easier that way. The odd non-evil undead simply hasn't let it get to him yet or has resisted the effects of it. So, mindless undead / negative energy = evil (anti-life) automatically and most intelligent undead will eventually become "evil". There is a short period when their alignment shifts with some hanging on to their humanity longer and resisting the change. It covers all the bases. Ymmv.

Liberty's Edge

R_Chance wrote:
Having played too many editions and running them all together in my mind I tend to think of negative energy as being anti-life more than just evil with positive energy being pro-life. Hence beings animated by negative energy are hostile to all life (and therefore evil). It's easier that way. The odd non-evil undead simply hasn't let it get to him yet or has resisted the effects of it. So, mindless undead / negative energy = evil (anti-life) automatically and most intelligent undead will eventually become "evil". There is a short period when their alignment shifts with some hanging on to their humanity longer and resisting the change. It covers all the bases. Ymmv.

I don't think of Negative Energy so much as Anti-life, as I do Death energy. And death can mean a lot of different things...

Assistant Software Developer

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Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
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.

Trouble is most humans are also a bit crazy for shiny things.

Contributor

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Ross Byers wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
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.
Trouble is most humans are also a bit crazy for shiny things.

True, but with the exception of Richie Rich, we don't have swimming pools filled with diamonds to use as a ball plunge either.

Hmm, now that would be an interesting story, Smaug versus Richie Rich.

Assistant Software Developer

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Oh. That's easy. The one who can breathe fire.

That's how you get Casper.

Silver Crusade

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Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
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.
Trouble is most humans are also a bit crazy for shiny things.

True, but with the exception of Richie Rich, we don't have swimming pools filled with diamonds to use as a ball plunge either.

What about ducks?

Sovereign Court Contributor

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Mikaze wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
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.
Trouble is most humans are also a bit crazy for shiny things.

True, but with the exception of Richie Rich, we don't have swimming pools filled with diamonds to use as a ball plunge either.

What about ducks?

Well, they made it into RuneQuest. But not PF, yet. Personally, I'm more of a Daffy fan. I'm thinking +2 DEX -2 WIS +2 CHA, personally, with a racial bonuses to Swim, Small size, and possibly other racial abilities. They have to be at least as good as a tengu.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I think it's been brought up a bit earlier but I feel it kind of deserves repeating that it really does depend on your setting and what you are trying to do. I think in golarion they just don't want to set a precedent where we have a the vast majority of our necromancer's and undead running around with altruistic intentions yet somehow striving against the big bad oppressive undead force like we sometimes see with drow and other evil but playable races in other settings.

That being said having specific options that are rare and have some other limiting options would be nice that give people these options yet keep them from being too easy and obvious so that every player doesn't take them which seems to be the big worry. Another thing that would be good is some more detail or built in story as to why animating dead creates evil which would allow gm's, players, and writers to build answers that are a work around.

Good ways to show that off might be in some in game history of the spell like describing it as the stepping stone to say raise dead that clerics originally tried to use negative energy or as someones failed attempt to create a spell that required less skill to conjure then raise dead and ended up with animate dead. With that in mind you could end up with necromancers who are fans of animate dead but want to try to find a way to remove the evil from the mechanism and still get working undead.

I know in my home games the big explanation as to why undead created through animate dead is not because of the negative energy component but because of the evil descriptor which means that the raw, unadulterated evil stuff of the multiverse is used as a key agent to make that body rise that way. In my mind that use of evil perverts the revival process and leaves you with something evil and distorted from whatever it started as.


Andrew R wrote:
This makes me miss Living Arcanis, where you could have a lawful good undead cleric of the god of death takes his rotting legions to wage holy war on the chaotic evil worshippers of a goddess of life for harming innocent unliving......

Who said that campaign ended, they have their own rule set (super flexiable class-less system...skill based mind you) but they are still around and have over 20 adventures for the new campaign.....


Um, I finally checked back on this thread. I didn't mean to insult anybody, I promise. It was meant to be a mostly humorous PSA-like thing in which I talked about always-evil undead... I'm really sorry to anybody I offended. ...yeah. I didn't know I was going so neck-deep in deep philosophy when I made this thread.

Good day to all y'all!


I dunno. It seemed like a fun thread to me. :)


Okay so here's my go, this is just a stab at the question, not anything I'm married to: so criticise away.

What if creating undead, like summoning demons, is evil because the creatures created are always essentially evil. Or rather assume an uncontrolled "mindless" undead, rather than acting like a shut off robot is instead a profane thing that shudders and blasphemes and eats or desacrates people with the evil shred of hateful psuedo-life it has. Sentient undead fare little better, their every impulse turning them toward the sick and depraved?

Or to put it another way, rather than try to make necromancy not evil by having boring undead that act like the broomstick guys in Fantasia, why not play up the evil to the hilt, so that while a skeleton will obey your commands due to a weak will and magical control--an uncontrolled one is a nasty beast with an empty ribcage full of blasphemy and corruption...

That way you can make the flavor text fit and undead become genuinely scary and awful. Like being able to order around Samara from the Ring...

Liberty's Edge

My theory is the following :

AFAIK, spells using negative energy are not Evil in and of themselves (Inflict Wounds does not have the Evil descriptor), nor are spells involved in reanimating/desecrating a body (for example when building a Bone or Flesh Golem).

It is the mix of both (using negative energy to reanimate a dead body) which is apparently always Evil.

Maybe because it is a profound desecration of the negative energy (rather than of the dead bodies involved) to use it to bring a semblance of life to dead things.

Which would explain why the native denizens of the Negative Energy plane delight in destroying undead.

Silver Crusade

White Necromancers from Kobold Quarterly might play with that concept a bit, as they eventually master and overcome whatever problem is inherent in using vanilla undead-makin' spells.


Undead are evil because the role they play in most campaigns calls for them being evil, and the European mythology a lot of AD&D drew on viewed undead as evil.

My understanding of European folklore is that there were different kinds of undead, and not all were inherently evil. The "Walking Dead" were people who died and stayed in this world, going about their normal business. The "Hungry Dead" were evil because they killed the living. It seems the mainstream Euro-American folklore views supernatural mythology as either good or evil, and undead fall into the evil category. This might be a result of Christianity, some missionaries to the New World taught that Christianity is the only good and any other supernatural beliefs are bad.

I've played around with walking dead, who stay in this world after dying for a time and then their souls pass on to the afterlife, and grey necromancers who have an incantation to create walking dead. This world also has naturally occuring undead that are not always evil, while created undead are almost always evil. Undead either have no souls, or if they have souls those souls do not pass on to the afterlife.


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ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
It seems the mainstream Euro-American folklore views supernatural mythology as either good or evil, and undead fall into the evil category. This might be a result of Christianity

Its a very, very old European tradition that undead are unnatural and evil. The ancient pagan Greeks and Romans had undead creatures like vengeful ghosts and cannibalistic vampires which were always malevolent and predatory. Pagan prophets could even drive them away with the holy symbol of the demi-god Heracles. Christianity later absorbed this idea.

Having good undead feels odd because the dead are supposed to stay dead. Only evil or vengeful souls should cling to life (simply because Hell is to be feared), the good should simply pass on to a happy afterlife and not defy the natural order of things.


Jeven wrote:
ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
It seems the mainstream Euro-American folklore views supernatural mythology as either good or evil, and undead fall into the evil category. This might be a result of Christianity

Its a very, very old European tradition that undead are unnatural and evil. The ancient pagan Greeks and Romans had undead creatures like vengeful ghosts and cannibalistic vampires which were always malevolent and predatory. Pagan prophets could even drive them away with the holy symbol of the demi-god Heracles. Christianity later absorbed this idea.

Having good undead feels odd because the dead are supposed to stay dead. Only evil or vengeful souls should cling to life (simply because Hell is to be feared), the good should simply pass on to a happy afterlife and not defy the natural order of things.

Sounds like a very good explanation to me.


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My take is that zombies should be true neutral. They are "animals" or "golems". They do what the instinct dictate. Without feeling.
Intelligent undeads are most likely evil. But not necessarily.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Umbranus wrote:
Jeven wrote:
ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
It seems the mainstream Euro-American folklore views supernatural mythology as either good or evil, and undead fall into the evil category. This might be a result of Christianity

Its a very, very old European tradition that undead are unnatural and evil. The ancient pagan Greeks and Romans had undead creatures like vengeful ghosts and cannibalistic vampires which were always malevolent and predatory. Pagan prophets could even drive them away with the holy symbol of the demi-god Heracles. Christianity later absorbed this idea.

Having good undead feels odd because the dead are supposed to stay dead. Only evil or vengeful souls should cling to life (simply because Hell is to be feared), the good should simply pass on to a happy afterlife and not defy the natural order of things.

Sounds like a very good explanation to me.

Um, what about the Lares? Many are ascended heroes, worshipped as a sort of good ghost. Also, my impression is that most people ended up in Hades, not Elysium.

The other trouble with that explanation is that one of the most likely reasons, in myth and folklore, for a spirit staying around or animated its corpse is because of a lack of proper burial or cremation rites. This is the cause of almost all South Asian undead, and the basis of most Eastern European undead legends. The person involved could have been very holy and pure, but the lack of these rituals means they are doomed to become unhappy and vengeful spirits. Thus goodness in life is irrelevant - the punishment of being visited by an evil spirit comes from the community's failure to the dead.
In Chinese legend, the malevolence of the undead is because the humane part of the spirit does manage to get to heaven while the hungry ghost, powered by its hind-brain-type remnant of the rest of the spirit is not capable of empathy or conscientious thought. But the hungry part of the spirit can be mollified and curbed with ritual offerings by family members or appeals to Guanyin. In other words, good and evil are in everyone, and the evil aspect remains on earth or in the Underworld; it's not the undead being's fault that it's cruel and selfish.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Well, about time this subject came up again. *kicks up his feet*

Simply enough, undead aren't always evil, but most often are. It's just the way necromancy works in Golarion.

Silver Crusade

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I admit, I used to prefer the 2e ethic towards this stuff.

Your basic zombie or skeleton was essentially meat, with very little in the way of an active malice or desire to cause harm. The animating energies in the thing were almost entirely motive. 3e even initially had this with its neutrally aligned skeletons and zombies.

This probably didn't sit well though when the cleric sidled up with his holy smite and the zombies kinda...well, didn't care. It probably didn't feel right from a design perspective.

2e though also had the idea of necromancy not being intriniscally evil. Their DMG Complete Book of Necromancers actually made the point that /all healing spells/ were necromantic as they dealt with moving energy into dead or damaged tissues, or changing the flow of life-energy. I still don't quite know why 3e (and pathfinder) opted to turn them into conjuration(healing).

My personal theory though is the undead isn't the person. Turning someone into a vampire is a tricky issue, but in general that person's 'dead.' Sort of ties back to the earlier statement about soul-mind-body. The mind might be there, but the soul is kind of trapped. The vampire is the person, but in a philosophical-zombie way not in a 'real' way.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tacticslion wrote:

Yeah, it's... odd to say the least (and rather unpopular). There was a bit of a furor about it, in fact (and I admit it makes Pharasma seem... less spectacular, which was a pretty large problem).

Pharasma is not omnipotent, she can be gotten around, and even bypassed. That's why she needs her inquisitors, even those that aren't in her service by choice.

In a season 4 scenario there is an encounter in which if a PC falls victim to the featured monster, he is sacrificed and his soul is sent straight to a certain deity's realm despite what the character's alignment would be, bypassing Pharasma's judgement.

The only way to bring back such a character is through a raise dead spell specifically cast by a cleric of said deity.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Spook205 wrote:

2e though also had the idea of necromancy not being intriniscally evil. Their DMG Complete Book of Necromancers actually made the point that /all healing spells/ were necromantic as they dealt with moving energy into dead or damaged tissues, or changing the flow of life-energy. I still don't quite know why 3e (and pathfinder) opted to turn them into conjuration(healing)

Presumably because healing with the energies of death did not make sense to them. (it was rather wonky to me as well at the time).

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rubius wrote:

My take is that zombies should be true neutral. They are "animals" or "golems". They do what the instinct dictate. Without feeling.

Intelligent undeads are most likely evil. But not necessarily.

The problem is that undead are life without life, they are created with an emptiness that can't be sated because they lack a vital spark. Their unending and unnatural hunger are pretty much an antheisis to the positive forces that drive living beings. And while positive energy by itself is not good, it has Good associations because of it's role in creation and the powers that are linked to it. Undead are generally evil because of their opposite placement.

Zombies left to themselves, will drift towards any living being they sense and essentially go zombie apocalypse on him if not given any direction to the contrary.

Shadow Lodge

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LazarX wrote:
Spook205 wrote:

2e though also had the idea of necromancy not being intriniscally evil. Their DMG Complete Book of Necromancers actually made the point that /all healing spells/ were necromantic as they dealt with moving energy into dead or damaged tissues, or changing the flow of life-energy. I still don't quite know why 3e (and pathfinder) opted to turn them into conjuration(healing)

Presumably because healing with the energies of death did not make sense to them. (it was rather wonky to me as well at the time).

Except Necromancy *isn't* just death... or at least wasn't until 3E. It's life and death.

Silver Crusade

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LazarX wrote:
Spook205 wrote:

2e though also had the idea of necromancy not being intriniscally evil. Their DMG Complete Book of Necromancers actually made the point that /all healing spells/ were necromantic as they dealt with moving energy into dead or damaged tissues, or changing the flow of life-energy. I still don't quite know why 3e (and pathfinder) opted to turn them into conjuration(healing)

Presumably because healing with the energies of death did not make sense to them. (it was rather wonky to me as well at the time).

Well I think its because necromancy in 2e was less 'energies of death' and more 'life energy movement specialist.'

You see bits of this even in PF, with stuff like gentle repose. Its essentially putting a stopper in the intrinisc entropic powers of the negative to preserve samples or bodies.

Essentially the idea was the School of Necromancy dealt with manipulating life and death, not just death. Frankly, I found this system more consistent.

Also, they had mummies who were positively charged, at least in Ravenloft, to explain their turning resistance (given that turning in 2e was generally actually getting your god to shout at them or alternately as one player put it 'My Symbol's MADE OF GOOOOOOOOLD! ISN'T IT AWESOME!').

The Complete Book of NEcromancers actually had White, Grey and Black Necromancers spelled out, and actually tried to explain what formed 'black necromancy.' They pointed out the logical argument that players might object to say..a 'minor' necromantic spell being treated as evil when devestating things like chain lightnign weren't.

The rationale in general were (I probably forgot some details, its been a while since I read it)
1.) Harming a being's immortal essence (enervate, energy drain).
2.) Containing a spirit or interfering with the correct transition to the afterlife (stuff like trap the soul or body swapping).
3.) Causing unnecessary suffering and pain (horrid wilting, wither).

White Necromancers apparently specialized in healing, preservative and protective spells.

Animate Dead was specifically a grey spell, as it animated 'meat' and essentially could be used to make porters for your pallaquin as much soldiers for your army.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I see I may need to pick up some of the old 2E books. Sounds like they had some sensible lore compared to 3E.


Spook205 wrote:
Animate Dead was specifically a grey spell, as it animated 'meat' and essentially could be used to make porters for your pallaquin as much soldiers for your army.

Doesn't the spell employ some sort of evil spirit (from the negative energy plane) to animate the corpse, just as golems are animated with a neutral spirit from the plane of earth?

Both are still mindless but the zombie is tainted.

Shadow Lodge

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Not that I've ever seen.

And as mentioned several times in this thread prior, binding a neutral elemental spirit to a golem seems a lot more Evil to most of us here than pumping a dead sack of meat full of negative energy and puppetting it around.

Silver Crusade

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Jeven wrote:
Spook205 wrote:
Animate Dead was specifically a grey spell, as it animated 'meat' and essentially could be used to make porters for your pallaquin as much soldiers for your army.

Doesn't the spell employ some sort of evil spirit (from the negative energy plane) to animate the corpse, just as golems are animated with a neutral spirit from the plane of earth?

Both are still mindless but the zombie is tainted.

If my memory of 2e is correct (and again haven't played it in a while or given a scrupulous reading of sourcebooks), animate dead was mostly a not-nice spell but not one intrinsically evil (that was create undead).

Animate dead just put magic into the body to make it move. One of the 2e Necromantic spells was even something like 'skeleton dance,' and all it did was make skeletons dance and caper. While the idea of like some negative energy spirit being forced to macarana for some giggling necromancer has comedic potential, it was basically just using some infusion of 'the energies of life and death' to move the thing around.

Create Undead was where you got into making sentient undead, and they typically had lets say..unpleasant outlooks on things. But 2e drew a line between a necrophidius (now considered a construct) and say a wraith.

Currently in Pathfinder and 3e, the undead are suffused with negative energy as their principle motive force. Previously it was magic empowering them, or souls, or something more vague. Clerics were effective against mummies not because of positive energy (mummies were supposedly positively empowered, their religious beliefs giving them 'a second life.' Source: Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead) but because Tyr didn't appreciate Mummies messing with his clerics.

Rebuking/Commanding Undead was less 'Loki opens a channel to the negative plane for me to show you how much...negative...energy I can....show off...and you like that right?' and more 'LOKI COMMANDS YOUR DEAD PUNK ASS USING POWERS EVEN I CANNOT COMPREHEND! KNEEL!"

Pathfinder went with animating negative energy, which raises the terrifying belief that the negative energy plane itself is awash in unholy sentience and hungers Rovugug style for a universe of utter stillness, blackness and emptiness. The Positive however is no better. Its indifferent at best. In 2e the place would /fry/ you with vitality.


Spook205 wrote:
Pathfinder went with animating negative energy, which raises the terrifying belief that the negative energy plane itself is awash in unholy sentience and hungers Rovugug style for a universe of utter stillness, blackness and emptiness. The Positive however is no better. Its indifferent at best. In 2e the place would /fry/ you with vitality.

I really like your description, its rich in flavor and ties in better with the original voodoo folklore of the zombie.

One just animated by regular magic reduces it to a taxidermist's magical puppet which is a bit dull.

Liberty's Edge

Well, I actually thought 4e's take on undeath was pretty neat at justifying both evil and non-evil undead.

You see, in 4e, the soul has two parts, the Animus (Which makes the body go) and the soul (Which contains the personality, memories, ect. of the person).

When a person dies, their soul leaves the body, but the animus stays and rots, and it's the animus that necromancers use to make their creations. And while they aren't necessarily evil, they are very, very feral and dangerous to control. Though, ironically, a lot of the 4e "Make Undead" spells seem less nasty than the other necromancy spells there, which usually amount to "Soul Rape For Massive Damage".

And Liches aren't evil because they are undead, but rather because a lot of spellcasters cheat and pledge their souls to Orcus to make the transformation to Lich far easier. The Archlich is simply differentiated by not cheating and doing it themselves.

Just another reason why I love the lore of 4e.


3.X (and PF) versions of the negative and positive energy planes are similar, in that both are generally uncaring, neutral forces.

Bonus points of awkward for 3.X/PF: the inflict spells are necromancy, while the cure spells are conjuration. Why? Mostly, from what I can tell, "Ew, necromancy."

This serves to skew things even more in favor of conjuration as the single most powerful spell-school (comparable to transmutation). But that's another argument altogether and off-topic, although related on this particular matter.

I don't generally have a problem with 3.X/PF idea of using life/positive energy and death/negative energy. But the skewing of the spell schools has never actually sat "right" with me. And while much was fixed in the 3.0 -> 3.5 turnover (to the point where many spells began making more sense), the necromancy/conjuration divide was, if anything, made more awkward (a trend that's continued throughout 3.X-based systems).

And, as Set's pointed out before, it's kind of strange to say that undead are evil because they need to feed off of positive energy living things to 'survive'... considering that's exactly what positive energy beings do (whether we're carnivores or not - plants, and microorganisms die all the time for our pleasure).

Feeds into a set of related thoughts I've been having lately about "once semi-independent hard-metal constructs (i.e. robots) can and do automatically repair themselves, if an infrastructure is created that they can do this automatically, does that mean that they've effectively transitioned into collectively becoming a non-carbon-based life form?" with the idea being that such an infrastructure performs all the basic actions and fucntions of carbon-based life-forms (in a non-traditional way, granted), with the primary difference that the "brain" or "thinking parts" are in the small bits (cells) instead of in a central area that controls them (although this, too, may change, in time). It would effectively be it's own sort of ecology that no longer cares about carbon-based elements. It's the kind of thing that Abellon is based on, though I've been posing it to myself in a "real-world" (ish) scenario. But again, that's kind of off-topic.

In Golarion, the clearest idea I can come up with for why creating undead is evil? "Pharasma says so." I still find it dubious, but that, at least, has some merit.

Reference getting around Pharasma: I'm not saying that Golarion's gods should be omnipotent... by any means. It just seems rather spectacular that one of her primary decrees is "no undead", and a really low-level spell undoes that. Especially considering that it's implied that those low-level spells destroy angels, demons, and devils (no matter how powerful); undo godly ascensions; and completely contravene Pharasma on what amounts to her own turf.

I don't mind if she just doesn't like undead and they exist, but to literally go, "M'kay, you've made the Divine Decree, the soul is judged, and sent on, and, in the intervening years has become a pit fiend." and a mortal goes, "Oh, look, a body, let me make a skeletal servant." and the pit fiend goes "Poof! Hey, I'm a skeleton and I suck!" is... weak, at best (also, incidentally, it makes for the best way to get rid of pit fiends).

Or how a 3rd level spell (gentle repose) can actually force her - a greater goddess - to delay judgement. When added to the other 3rd level spells (animate dead) can reverse a judgement that even, wish, miracle, or true resurrection, has little to no hope of reversing... that's where it gets really, really skeevy in my opinion.

Certainly explains why Animate Dead is evil, but at the cost of an otherwise interesting goddess being able to do anything other than make the (after-) life a kind of miserable, awful organization that's run exceedingly poorly, and casts aspersions on the power of gods at all.

Liberty's Edge

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Spook205 wrote:


White Necromancers apparently specialized in healing, preservative and protective spells.

They do indeed!

Silver Crusade

Heh, I need to look into Kobold Quarterly one day.

And for the 'we eat meat' so its equal thing well..

You kill an animal, it technically lacks a soul (given PF cosmology) and its inert meat, you then cook it, season it, put it on a sandwich and chow. You eat, you get full, you go watch Punch and Judy.

A wraith sticks its hand into you and tears a part of your intrinsic being away and tosses it down the hole in its being thats insatiable, while also ripping a similar hole in you where it tore the piece out. It doesn't get full. It doesn't die if it doesn't eat. Eating does it no good at all. It does a hell of a lot of bad to you, and in most cases it makes more of itself, more directionless hungerers.

This fits with the older idea of the undead being really, really, freaking hungry and missing out on life. Greek myth has the scent of blood attracting them because its something. The buddhists had pretas who were always ravenous with no satiation. Ghouls, spectres, mohrgs, vampires, they're all compelled to go and feast.

Consumptive undead aren't a natural predator. No matter how many sparkly vampires try to act like they're cattle barons, they're not. They're exponential 'destruction of all life' bombs waiting to go off.

This again scarilly ties into the earlier theory I had that the negative is some sort of Sithis like sentience that just wants things to be quiet again. All those undead eventually deplete the living, and then they just /sit/ with nothing to do.

Thats kind of how Nightshades operate too, frighteningly enough.


LazarX wrote:
Rubius wrote:

My take is that zombies should be true neutral. They are "animals" or "golems". They do what the instinct dictate. Without feeling.

Intelligent undeads are most likely evil. But not necessarily.

The problem is that undead are life without life, they are created with an emptiness that can't be sated because they lack a vital spark. Their unending and unnatural hunger are pretty much an antheisis to the positive forces that drive living beings. And while positive energy by itself is not good, it has Good associations because of it's role in creation and the powers that are linked to it. Undead are generally evil because of their opposite placement.

Zombies left to themselves, will drift towards any living being they sense and essentially go zombie apocalypse on him if not given any direction to the contrary.

Yes, but who said life was good? Zombies and undead are not alive, yes. But you know who is alive? Demon Lords, Fallen Angels, Murderers, Psychopaths.

If a Necromancer in a town where the religion do not see bringing dead corpse as a sacrilege but as a honor,(as they can serve the town even after death) would that be evil?
Zombies building towns, defending them from animals and other dangers.
You could have White Necromancers allowing people to get in peace with the death by bringing back ghosts.


Regarding the Pharasma stuff, there seem to be two kinds of gods: Interventionists (someone is violating my divine decree! They must be stopped!) and Scorekeepers (someone may think they're getting away with so much, but one of these days I'm gonna' get my hands on you, and you'll find out the weight of what you've done...and if someone whisks you away again, well there's always next time.)

Pharasma strikes me as a Scorekeeper.


Rubius wrote:
If a Necromancer in a town where the religion do not see bringing dead corpse as a sacrilege but as a honor,(as they can serve the town even after death) would that be evil?

Its a slippery slope on the path to evil. When you have a society delve into necromancy people could easily make this sort of crazy argument:-

Zombie workers don't require food or shelter and work and fight for free. Therefore dead unskilled laborers and common soldiers are more valuable than living ones. And as heaven and souls are real, it makes sense to murder all the unskilled people and turn their bodies into zombies. This is not evil, because the good souls go to heaven and live happily ever after, while zombie bodies make efficient workers and defenders benefiting everyone else.


I'm not sure why comparing what the undead do to the deeds of MORTAL life invalidates the "undead is evil" thing for so many people. There's a reason why the Prime Material Plain, the home of MORTAL life and the natural order, is in the center of the inner plane cosmology.

Positive energy creates.
Negative energy destroys.

Undead that are not under control revert to their Negative energy drive, to destroy any positive energy even if it's just a spark (mortal life). Anything that exists solely to destroy life and/or existence is evil (unless we want to start a thread on how Rovagug is just a misunderstood elder god that was punished for being grumpy about a splinter in his tentacle).

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Destruction is not evil. It is a necessary part of life.


I personally have always been of the thought that the undead's alignment is determined by the creator's intent initially.

If they're randomly occurring or unattended then it is their own actions (which are usually driven by instinct) I would agrue they're decidedly NE and not CE. There is a motive if a terribly unsophisticated one.

However, I think undead under the tight reigns of their creator for a specific purpose could be at the very least be LN or TN. Now the morality of the creator/controller is determined first by perception, second by actual intent/actions, and lastly by the GM.


Death is necessary, not destruction.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

So what happens when you run out of space to build on?

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