Why are undead always evil?


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Silly question, isn't it? We all know zombies as being under the command of a diabolical lich or who knows what kind of despicable necromancer, but I still wish to push my point and ask; why are undead always evil?

My hypothesis is simple; not all zombies, skeletons, vampires what-have-you are necessarily evil. Surely just because one deals with negative energy doesn't mean that you're suddenly very much into the idea of causing pain or eating flesh. What about necromancers that simply want a zombie butler named Jeffrey? What of them? The simple cleric who wants to know more about the lines between life, death, and unlife/undeath (depending on whether you're a optimist or not).

Let us begin with the causes for the opinion that undead are truly, irredeemably evil. Imagine this situation; an uncontrolled zombie is strolling around a Varisian road for reasons unimportant. He encounters a delicious-looking mortal. What will that zombie do? Hunt down and kill the food, of course! But then again, isn't that what all animals do? It's simply striving to survive in a world where food is vital. Now, before I dig myself any deeper into your unenlightened idea of villainous undead, let me alter that hypothetical situation we just had. A necromancer and his undead pet/cohort/friend are walking down the same road, when they encounter a similarly delicious mortal, very similar to the same one we just subjected to natural selection. The necromancer has full, complete, unquestionable control over this undead "abomination". Now, whether or not the NECROMANCER says "Jeffrey, eat that human." is what's important. In our situation, let's assume we merely had an awkward spot of eye-contact or what-have-you. No harm done! Both Necromancer, Jeffrey, and our innocent bypasser remain unharmed. "Result", as they say.

Now, onto the perhaps more pressing matter. Now we've shown that zombies are merely True Neutral, as opposed to Neutral Evil, let's move onto the alignment aspects of the Necromancer himself. Dealing with dead bodies is always a touchy subject. Defilement of corpses! Deshmilement of smorpses, I say! Ask yourself this; when you die, do you want to stop being useful? I thought not. Now your soul's moved on to the afterlife of your choosing (determined by your alignment which is determined by a very judgemental extradimensional force, by the way), your body doesn't really mean much, unless you're chosen to be resurrected by a necromancer (I shall move how necromancy and resurrection are the same later)! What an honour it is to be chosen by a practitioner of "dark arts" to be used once more to help others. I remember reading in one of my books that "Dealing with negative energy is guaranteed to turn you evil". Well, what a load of ignorant puss! It's merely the fact that some people have used undead for unspeakable evil in the past that has caused this entirely incorrect notion.

Vampires are incorrectly known to be universally evil, but has anyone ever asked why? Why? You. You and your ignorant claims cause them to be "evil". People don't CHOOSE to become vampires; the vampires choose them, if you would believe those notions. Vampires are mostly immortal undead that recoil at sunlight, garlic, mirrors and holy symbols; but you probably knew that. Now, they have a disadvantage in that they must drink the blood of mortals to survive. Now, no-one really wants to go into that kind of embrace with pointy fangs, do they? Thus, vampires have to hunt for their sustenance, which often leads with bad results for vampire and mortal alike. One, the mortal often dies, as the vampire has to take every last drop in order to survive until the next feeding, and the vampire earns negative karma for killing a probably-innocent man. If mortals would just simply bleed a little for those struck by the curse of vampirism and call upon a cleric to heal the wounds, we wouldn't have these problems. Tsk tsk, living beings.

Now, let us move onto liches. Ah, liches; how they embrace undeath and its many wonders. But still, people consider them evil just because they're undead. How rude. What if I told you that liches have the capacity for kindness, and they just wanted to continue to do good for all eternity, using undeath as a means to escape true death? How presumptuous to simply presume one's intentions are always to cause death, despair and ruin to innocent folk such as you and I? If I could create a sighing sound-effect using the simply medium of text, I would. But I can't, so we shall move on.

Lastly, we need to discuss the hypocrisy around necromancy. I've seen countless tales of clerics resurrecting heroes and the fallen, and they're worshipped like saints! Peh! Necromancy is *exactly* the same as resurrection. In fact, I'm surprised I'm the first to bring this up. Firstly, let's look at the similarities. One brings the dead back to life, the other brings dead back to unlife. The latter is better, as it lets the dead spirit rest in its (hopefully) wonderful afterlife. The other rudely brings back the laid dead from its luxurious paradise back to a world prejudiced against something as simple as a controlled and monitored zombie. "Oh, joy of joys! Jeffrey's back from the dead! It's a miracle!". Wonderful, right? Well, let's change one variable; HOW he was resurrected. "Iomedae above, help us! Jeffrey's back from the dead! It's a disaster!". Just because some people aren't perfect at returning the dead from the slumber instantly makes them evil. Maybe you're the bad guys after all. I just want to help people... I just wanted to help the innocent man back onto his feet...

you're probably wondering why i'm making this pointless argument, considering the negative stigma our kind faces. i'm a lich. i wanted to help people who were down, so i did what i had to do. i couldn't resurrect him. i'm so sorry. i nEedeD tIME to stuDy... UndEath waS tHe onlY opTiOn... I wAs cast Out, just fOr neeDing time...

ANYWAY. Like... like I was saying... trust the living dead. You already do it enough with your "resurrecting". Hypocrites.


My own personal take is that most of them are 'souless' - the obvious exception being ghosts (who are malevolent because they are 'stuck').

I have a HB system where everyone starts with a soul at 100% (and has this until the age of adulthood - I choose 13 for humans). Once they become adults, people are responsible for their own actions, and they begin to 'use up' their soul energy. This works in tandem with my HB alignment system, which is number-based along two axis.

People literally 'slip' down a slippery slope into evil and/or chaos. For every % point you lose on your soul, you lose two points on the alignment chart (along the good/evil axis). 0% = true neutral, and -100% means you are now completely 'souless' and devoid of empathy. This is where (most) undead sit in my game/rules. It is also possible to 'repair' soul damage (by doing good deeds).

Note: You are born at 100% 'good' (unless you've got a tainted bloodline), but you are born at zero in regards to law/chaos. The good/evil axis represents 'nature', whereas the law/chaos axis represents 'nurture'.

In order for an undead to be 'good', it has to either get its soul back, or 'grow a new one'. The latter method is what happens in the case of redeemed fiends (an EXTREMELY rare event). Note that although liches have their soul (in a phylactory), it is that separation from it (however close in proximity) that makes them 'souless'. My assumption here is that the closer a lich keeps it's soul to its physical form, the more inclined to 'good' (or, at least, neutral) it will be.

And unless the creature derives sustenance from the living (as many do), it is fully capable of being more neutrally-inclined without a soul (it is amoral, so unless it has something to gain, their is no reason for cruelty). This mostly applies to liches, but it could apply to other intelligent, corporeal undead.

Another Note: A person's soul is visible in it's reflection... that's why vampires don't have reflections.

Disclaimer: The above is ALL HOMEBREW, based on 30+ years of running RPGs and my own feelings on the subject, and nothing at all canon to the PF/Golarion setting.


Max-Out, though in a humorous mien, you've stumbled into something that... well, it's a big point of contention among certain elements here in the boards.

First, I'm of the camp that all undead aren't created evil (and don't have to become so).

Second, Golarion canon, all undead are evil unless proven otherwise (basically limiting it to ghosts... and even then "most of them become chaotic evil over time") and non-evil undead are - apparently - inimical to the setting. This comes from James Jacobs the creator and Creative Director of the setting. So, that's about as official as it gets. That said, James has also clarified that he's not about to prevent people from playing how they want in home games.

Here's a thread with lots of ideas on how to handle or incoporate them in home games (using Golarion as a base setting).

Here's James' statement on the matter.

James Jacobs wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote wrote:
Uh just to point out fairly certain James Jacobs said somewhere else that the Juju Oracle's ability to create none evil undead was an oversight (much like that asmodiun paladin incident)
If that's the case, and I really hope it isn't, please consider this thread to be for those that want to run with the Juju oracle as originally written. Just want to head off yet another "no you can't do that" derail before it happens. :)

It was an oversight. In the same way the mention of "Paladins of Asmodeus" in the Asmodeus article was an oversight.

Doesn't mean you can't change things in your world, but with the exception of some ghosts, you probably won't be seeing Paizo ever publish non-evil undead, or non-evil spells or methods to control and create undead. Except when something slips through the cracks, as in the case of the Juju Oracle, unfortunately.

In-canon, in order to justify such a state, by RAW the rites and rituals for the spells that create undead (including liches with their phylacteries) are evil. As the non-evil goddess of death despises undead, it's kind of a universal law that those who rebuke her decrees are performing (over-all) an evil act... possibly even calling on Urgathoa herself (the first undead ever, and an evil goddess of undead and gluttony), thus explaining the evil descriptor. Second, it's either implied or outright stated in Undead Revisited (I don't have that book, so I don't know for sure) that animating a dead zombie or skeleton actually does call back the soul and uses that to imbue a body (unless you're a Juju Oracle).


In Golarion, Zombies have souls? Really?

Wow... that's a very different take. In fact, I would think Ju-ju zombies should be the only ones that could (possibly) have a soul. How strange.


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).

I've not seen that statement redacted (or if I have, I've forgotten) so... that looks like it is what it is.

And I guess it's not technically so much 'zombies have souls', but rather it's more like the zombies' former-soul has been taken from its final reward, chopping into unrecognizably animate-y bits that are, themselves, highly processed, then filled with negative energy, and shoved back into the dead body. Which, yeah, I could see definitively having the [Evil] tag. It also makes Pharasma much less inspiring when a 4th level spell can completely contravene her decrees on the ultimate fate of souls, but then again you could just adjust your notions about what a 4th level spell really is (given our own world, lack of magic aside, seems to function for many purposes as 5th/6th character level and below, and it would require an 8th character level to gain access to 4th level spells).


Hi Max-Out, one thing to consider is that IMO if you would like to start a constructive conversation with other people you should refrain from making posts that insult all of the readers.

Now for a few of the points you make, some of which I agree with and others I don't.

Zombies and many other undead do not eat for survival, they'll never starve "to death".

Use of dead bodies, well I guess it's no worse than being an organ donor. Then again idealy it should be with the consent of the deceased. I can agree with you that dealing with negitive energy shouldn't automaticly make one evil since for example neutral clerics can channel negative energy and even good clerics can cast many spells that use negative energy like the whole inflict wounds spell line.

Vampires, I seem to remember a several stories where the "good" vampire either abstains from blood (but is made weaker for doing so) or drinks animal blood (but is usually weaker that other vampires fo doing so). In the bestiary vampires are said to "feed on the blood of the living", from that it doesn't require them to feed off of intelligeng creatures.

Liches: I think good liches could make for interesting stories. I would actually recomend that you look into the Eberon campaign setting, where there's a whole elven nation that has good necromancy. In this setting they use a different form of necromancy that uses positive energy. It would be a twist to see channel energy actuall heal their undead. Good cleric "back foul beast (channel energy)". Undead "OK ... thanks".

As a final note a creature cannot be raised from the dead without their consent.

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There's a low-level module set in Varisia in which the heroes find a Neutral ghoul.


There was a mini-setting called Jakandor that featured 'good' necromancers. The premise was pretty interesting. It was released during the time when WotC was taking-over TSR, and the last installment (#4) was never released, but anyone wanting a some great ideas about necromancy used in non-evil ways should look for the three books that did come out. Basically, it was considered 'public service' to be reanimated after death (the dead were used for the manual labor jobs).

As for zombies and skeletons not being evil - I am with you there. In my own games I don't consider such spells necromancy; they are the equivalent of an 'animate object' spell (because if you created a fake skeleton you could animate that with an animate object spell, which means the difference is kinda stupid). I do use necromantic versions - those are the superior (and capable of some self-direction) models.

I think evil should go by intent. If you are from a culture that has no problem with using the dead, then its not an evil act. If you are from one that believes in respecting (and leaving alone) the dead, then reanimation IS an evil act. We are starting to get into the 'grey area' on what actually constitutes evil (which is a lot more B&W in D&D then it is RL).


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If you want your vampires to sparkle, have at it. But please stop trying to convince the rest of us, that it should be considered normal.


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... and Missing-The-Point within eight posts. Yep. The forums are right on time. :)

Personally, I like the mindless undead being totally useful and neutral. I also love the Juju oracle. And I'm even all down for the concept of having non-evil intelligent undead other than ghosts! Again, that other thread has some amazing ideas.


Tacticslion wrote:


... and Missing-The-Point within eight posts. Yep. The forums are right on time. :)

Personally, I like the mindless undead being totally useful and neutral. I also love the Juju oracle. And I'm even all down for the concept of having non-evil intelligent undead other than ghosts! Again, that other thread has some amazing ideas.

I'd say this thread qualifies for undead. And it's evil :)

*edit* I hesitate to say it, but arguing it again is a waste of time. It's been argued dozens of times already. You could just cut and paste the replies into this thread and get it over with. The RAW is the RAW. Anything else is homebrew. Go to the homebrew section, post ideas, rework the undead. Make it useful for those who want it. How would being "non-evil" effect the various types of undead, their abilities, their behavior? What powers should non-evil undead have instead of the more blatantly evil RAW abilities? Should there be new types of non-evil undead? Should certain types of undead have set alignments while others don't? Should some (i.e. mindless undead) be unaligned? This type of thing could be useful.

The Exchange

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......


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R_Chance wrote:
Tacticslion wrote:


... and Missing-The-Point within eight posts. Yep. The forums are right on time. :)

Personally, I like the mindless undead being totally useful and neutral. I also love the Juju oracle. And I'm even all down for the concept of having non-evil intelligent undead other than ghosts! Again, that other thread has some amazing ideas.

I'd say this thread qualifies for undead. And it's evil :)

*edit* I hesitate to say it, but arguing it again is a waste of time. It's been argued dozens of times already. You could just cut and paste the replies into this thread and get it over with. The RAW is the RAW. Anything else is homebrew. Go to the homebrew section, post ideas, rework the undead. Make it useful for those who want it. How would "non-evil" effect the various types of undead, their abilities, their behavior? What powers should non-evil undead have instead of the more blatantly evil RAW abilities? Should there be new types of non-evil undead? Should certain types of undead have set alignments while others don't? This type of thing could be useful.

To the former, yeah this topic is pretty necro-fu, but people've got to learn - not everyone's seen all the threads.

To the latter, that's why I linked the other thread.


Tacticslion wrote:


R_Chance wrote:


Tacticslion wrote:


... and Missing-The-Point within eight posts. Yep. The forums are right on time. :)

Personally, I like the mindless undead being totally useful and neutral. I also love the Juju oracle. And I'm even all down for the concept of having non-evil intelligent undead other than ghosts! Again, that other thread has some amazing ideas.

I'd say this thread qualifies for undead. And it's evil :)

*edit* I hesitate to say it, but arguing it again is a waste of time. It's been argued dozens of times already. You could just cut and paste the replies into this thread and get it over with. The RAW is the RAW. Anything else is homebrew. Go to the homebrew section, post ideas, rework the undead. Make it useful for those who want it. How would "non-evil" effect the various types of undead, their abilities, their behavior? What powers should non-evil undead have instead of the more blatantly evil RAW abilities? Should there be new types of non-evil undead? Should certain types of undead have set alignments while others don't? This type of thing could be useful.

To the former, yeah this topic is pretty necro-fu, but people've got to learn - not everyone's seen all the threads.

To the latter, that's why I linked the other thread.

I noticed. The original post was joking about the undead nature of this thread. The edit was an afterthought that should have been addressed to the OP. Sorry about that.


No worries! :)


Wouldn't being neutral mean a Paladin can't smite them? That'd suck for them.


... why?

If the creature isn't evil, why would a paladin want to smite it?


personally, i like my undead evil. there is just something that seems really lame about an "i'm not evil, i'm just misunderstood" walking corpse. the undead are something to fear in my campaigns, even lesser ones can be disturbing if used well. just my opinion.


That works if you want it to. For (at least somewhat) sentient 'always evil'/creepy undead, the Fatal Frame series of games gives a great look.

Two of the major complaints/arguments boil down to: a) "Without sentience how can there be an alignment?" and b) "How can a sentient free-willed creature be auto-aligned outside of being made of an alignment?" (and there are some that question that even then; a question that makes sense for other reasons).

Shadow Lodge

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Tacticslion wrote:
It also makes Pharasma much less inspiring when a 4th level spell can completely contravene her decrees on the ultimate fate of souls

Also, oddly enough, none of the resurrection/reincarnation sells can do this, even though they are all higher than 4th level.


Exactly the point.


Tacticslion wrote:
b) "How can a sentient free-willed creature be auto-aligned outside of being made of an alignment?" (and there are some that question that even then; a question that makes sense for other reasons).

One way around that, at least for undead that are compelled to feed on the blood and flesh of sapients, is that over time the animal urge proves irresistible, and they become basically thralls to their basic instincts.

Only those with the greatest amount of willpower are able to hold off those urges for any appreciable amount of time, before turning evil.

Shadow Lodge

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Not all Undead have urges to kill and again not all undead require a special "Bbbrraaaiiinnnsss. . ." diet.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
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......

I'm not sure which Arcanis you were playing, but most of those who came back as undead, such as a certain Coryani general whose undead legion continues to harass the Ellori of Suramar to this day still qualify as evil. Those undead that were Good, stood out because they were singular exceptions to the rule. Such as the vampire Paladin who was in thrall to an evil spellcaster and once he'd helped you defeat her after being liberated, deliberately exposed himself to the sun.

You also forget one very basic thing about animating people as undead in that setting, even as zombies. Doing so kept them from Belisarda's Cauldron or Paradise, condemning their spirits to wander the world aimlesly, the kind of fate you'd perpetuate on your worst enemy.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:
There's a low-level module set in Varisia in which the heroes find a Neutral ghoul.

I think you're being a bit disingenuous, considering that she doesn't stay that way. (assuming you're thinking of the same Pathfinder scenario I am.) The problem is ghouls have an inherent need to feed on the living. Those recently turned can suppress that need for awhile, but eventually without exception, that need destroys their remaining humanity, and they turn fully into the Bestiary mode.

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I'm thinking of the module set in Kaer Maga, and so far as we can tell, she stays that way indefinitely. (Are you thinking of First Steps II? Not in Varisia, my friend.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:
I'm thinking of the module set in Kaer Maga, and so far as we can tell, she stays that way indefinitely. (Are you thinking of First Steps II? Not in Varisia, my friend.)

Yes it's First Steps the one I'm thinking of. Also we're likely seeing some differences in opinion among the Paizo authors themselves..not all of which are in the same boat in the more tertiary areas of the setting.

Dark Archive

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The vast majority of undead have no dietary requirements to consume or devour the living at all, and of the two that most commonly do, ghouls, who can survive on corpses that have been dead for *centuries*, and vampires, who can drink blood from living donors without killing them, *both* can subsist off of animals (the same as those 'always evil' humans! O wait.).

The vast majority of living folk have to killmurderdeath living things on a daily basis and tear them apart in the roiling corrosive entropy juices and destructive barely-tamed micro-organisms in their guts to eke out another day of life. (E. Coli is particularly vicious if it gets out, being just as willing to eat *our* flesh as the flesh we cram down our gobs...)

Without standing orders to kill things, an infinite number of skeletons working the fields or toting bales or digging a canal are going to be responsible for less death than a human infant eating his mashed peas.

Undead creatures are animated by mindless non-evil negative energy, which is *bizarrely* efficient at keeping them trucking without having to eat or kill stuff to keep it's motor running.

Living creatures are filled with mindless non-good positive energy, which requires them to start killing stuff soon after birth and never stop oiling their crank with the blood (and sap) of other creatures on a daily basis for the rest of their mortal lives.

If your incorporeal spirit / soul ever leaves your body, your rotting body, should it do anything other than rot, is evil. Your soul as well, should it not immediately self-deport to another plane of existence, also is evil. Shoving these two evil things back together, say by a ressurection spell, turns you back to your original alignment, which may even be lawful good!

Two very very wrongs can indeed make a right!

And if your soul is separated from the total cover provided by your flesh and bone body, and lingers around on the material plane, and positive energy can get 'line of effect' on your soul, regardless of alignment, it will shred and annhilate your soul, because positive energy *hates* souls. (Particularly those uppity souls who don't skeedaddle for the outer planes when their protective meatsuit tears open and they leak out.)

Negative energy, on the other hand, will heal and restore your discorporate soul, because negative energy is cool like that. In addition to being *vastly* better at allowing people to function without bathing in the continual deaths and destruction of other creatures to maintain their fragile existence, negative energy is also less likely to destroy someone's soul.

On the other hand, if going by the 'zombies and skeletons tear souls out of heaven / hell' theory, bear in mind that it's a 3rd level spell for a cleric or a 4th level spell for a wizard, and it allows one to animate *ANY* corpse, even one whose soul have been sold to Asmodeus, eaten by a Daemon, or gone on to become a powerful outsider, or even *a god.* The spell has no 'chance of failure,' unlike ressurection, so if you can find the remains of the highest level evil priest of a rival faith, you can rip him straight out of his infernal afterlife, possibly utterly destroying a powerful devil (if he had been promoted to such, after a lifetime of wickedness) and weakening the forces of evil. Every soul ripped out of hell is a plus in the column of heaven, after all, and it's unstoppable, even by Pharasma herself. Just animate 'em, and then bury them, so that they can never be a threat to anyone.

And if some god died and then ascended, like Hercules, from a mortal state to a divine one, and you can go on some epic quest to locate his mortal remains, you can cast a 3rd level spell and destroy a god, tearing his outsider soul asunder and imprisoning it in his moldy old bones, which will have a NE alignment, 1 HD and an Int score of 0.

It's quite possibly the bleakest of grimdark scenarios (and perhaps the slightest bit absurd), for a 3rd or 4th level animate dead to be better at soul trapping than the 8th and 9th level soul bind and trap the soul spells, but that's the way they want it, and as long as we're strapped to this nuclear missile, we might as well take off our cowboy hats and whoop it up on the way down.

Grand Lodge

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Set wrote:

The vast majority of undead have no dietary requirements to consume or devour the living at all, and of the two that most commonly do, ghouls, who can survive on corpses that have been dead for *centuries*, and vampires, who can drink blood from living donors without killing them, *both* can subsist off of animals (the same as those 'always evil' humans! O wait.).

I think you're thinking White Wolf Storyteller, which this isn't. In Golarion Vampires generally invariably kill their donors, and the undead pursue the living to fill a hunger and need which as nothing to do with nutrition. They have a hollowness within themselves where life force used to reside and are always drawn to try to fill that gap in the only way they can do so even if it's only for a momentary release. We're talking a mystical theme, which only nods to science when it's convenient to do so.

Dark Archive

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LazarX wrote:
Set wrote:
The vast majority of undead have no dietary requirements to consume or devour the living at all, and of the two that most commonly do, ghouls, who can survive on corpses that have been dead for *centuries*, and vampires, who can drink blood from living donors without killing them, *both* can subsist off of animals (the same as those 'always evil' humans! O wait.).
I think you're thinking White Wolf Storyteller, which this isn't.

WW 'ghouls' were humans who drank some vampire blood and worked for them.

I'm pretty sure I know the difference.

Mechanically, in D&D/PF, ghouls and vampires do not *have* to kill people to survive. (Barring some non-OGL and non-core stuff in Libris Mortis.) Living creatures (other than outsiders) *do* have to eat other living creatures to survive.

There's a big difference between 'I don't like the rules, because they disagree with my made-up flavor' and 'Set is confused as to which game he is talking about.'

Heck, when I did play Vampire, we had house rules to *make it harder* for vampires to feed without killing, since, per the vampire rules, a vampire could drain a 'blood point' from a person, or cow, or rat, and it would heal that 1 damage over the course of the day, so that a single vampire could subsist off of a pet chihuahua *forever.*

PF is the same, only it's a single Con point, which *also* recovers in a single day, instead of a 'blood point / health level.'

I *prefer* vampires and ghouls to have to work a little harder at that, and for animate dead not to be able to unmake angels or break devil-soul-pacts or regurgitate souls right out of daemons bellies, and for things without Int scores, utterly incapable of malice or wicked intent, infused with non-evil energy, to mysteriously have alignment scores.

A mindless 'evil' is as philosophically meaningless as a 'mindless' good. Without intent, without volition, without action, it's not merely absurd, but it invalidates the entire concept of alignment, and if one is going to mock the concept by allowing a chunk of unthinking unfeeling matter to have an alignment, it's probably best to just throw the whole concept out.

That unthinking corpse is 'evil?' It's never done anything evil, it's never *wanted* to do anything evil, it can't plot or scheme or hate, it just sits there until commanded to do something. Might as well call it an electrician or a cosmonaut or Martha Stewart, as long as the words don't actually mean anything, or require it to know anything about wiring, or have gone into space, or be able to make a fancy tablecloth out of old socks.

Grand Lodge

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Set wrote:

Mechanically, in D&D/PF, ghouls and vampires do not *have* to kill people to survive. (Barring some non-OGL and non-core stuff in Libris Mortis.) Living creatures (other than outsiders) *do* have to eat other living creatures to survive.

That's only because mechanics for the most part, really don't address the day to day needs for monsters, just what they do in the rounds you engage them in combat.

The Blood of the Night supplement however does go into details on The Hunger, and that Vampires generally do either kill their prey to satisfy it, or live with that gnawing need constantly pressing on them.


Set wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Set wrote:

I *prefer* vampires and ghouls to have to work a little harder at that, and for animate dead not to be able to unmake angels or break devil-soul-pacts or regurgitate souls right out of daemons bellies, and for things without Int scores, utterly incapable of malice or wicked intent, infused with non-evil energy, to mysteriously have alignment scores.

A mindless 'evil' is as philosophically meaningless as a 'mindless' good. Without intent, without volition, without action, it's not merely absurd, but it invalidates the entire concept of...

I believe that the animate dead spell does not bring the soul back to the skeleton or zombie that it creates. I would imagine that if it did the resulting undead creature would not be mindless. I would imagine that the only undead that have souls are intelligent undead, so if you want a skeleton with a soul, you'd probably have to go with a skeletal champion.

Finally mindless gods? Azathoth says hi, or maybe more like al;ijutaln vioj in your general direction.

Grand Lodge

Um, I can't help but feel that the perversion of life factor is being over looked here. There is no getting around undead being unnatural and that is a big part of what makes them antithetical to life.

To answer the original question, most undead are evil because they have an evil origin. Ghouls were cannibles in life. Wraiths were people that died full of hate.

I don't mind throwing in the ocassional neutral or good undead. I just don't like seeing it over done. Especially with vampires.


... or ghouls were perfectly good people who died of ghoul fever.
... or wraiths were perfectly good people who died of wraiths.

Also, please define "unnatural". I'm curious what does and does not constitute, especially as Golarion's entire ecosystem exists only because some lawful neutral space mushrooms decided they like sentience.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Tacticslion wrote:

... or ghouls were perfectly good people who died of ghoul fever.

... or wraiths were perfectly good people who died of wraiths.

Also, please define "unnatural". I'm curious what does and does not constitute, especially as Golarion's entire ecosystem exists only because some lawful neutral space mushrooms decided they like sentience.

Natural as defined by terms within the ecosystem itself. How that ecosystem came to be is irrelevant.

P.S. the entry states them as the origin of ALIEN ecosystems, not Golarion's.


So what you're saying is that all wizards, all creatures from other planets, and all things period are unnatural until they've been there for at least one generation (thus establishing an ecosystem)?

Would that mean that any form of evolution (which seems to have occurred on Golarion) is unnatural? Dwarves (who, if their legends are correct came from the rock by the gods)? Elves (who are aliens)?

If said creatures are natural, that would, then, include second-generation ghouls, as they would be natural under your definition: they're intrinsic to the ecosystem in question and can arise 'spontaneously' from within the system.

Unless, you know, you're defining anything that is magic as 'unnatural', which, as the rules indicate, certainly doesn't equate to 'evil' (which was what justicar347 indicated).

Do you mean not druidic? Because druids had to be invented somewhere by someone, which makes them (effectively) 'synthetic' (whether or not they are truly 'man' made is irrelevant)... so they'd have to have been introduced to the ecosystem at some point in the past and only later equalized to it (being unnatural at first).

Unless, of course, you mean only things that can rot and die are natural... but that also includes undead.

Unless you exclude things that can only die by 'natural' causes (which is a vague enough term that it would include undead, but for the purposes of this conversation let's say it doesn't and use that to mean they only die by 'violence'), in which case the gods are highly unnatural, including the gods of nature.

EDIT: Incidentally, druids can desecrate or unhallow a place (making undead stronger) and undead can be druids. Aberrations (generally considered the 'king' of unnatural things) can also be druids for that matter.


Is it absolutely certain that mindless undead are inhabited by the souls of their former selves?

My opinion on Undeath has always been that it is unnatural and in some way defies the the physical (and metaphysical) laws of the universe. Much like Aberations, which are also almost always evil.

I've never viewed zombies or skeletons as a wholly evil abomination on the world. Neither would I say they lack sentience, they are at some level self aware. The process that creates them summons some form of Animus, that at it's core is not a benign being. If that animus is a being that, for whatever reason, is not supposed to exist on the mortal plane, it is at some level Evil.

Now Vampires are a whole different thing. They are self aware, self identified as their former, living, selves. In some way they are simply in a different state of being. But they subsist on the living in a parasitic fashion and they are not a component of the natural world. They have hunger; not the "I could go for a sandwich" hunger, but the "I'm fixated on THAT particular girl, I HAVE to tear out her throat" kinda hunger.
There's a place for touchy feely vampires. My rpg table is generally not that place. There IS a Lawful Neutral Vampire in Kaer Maga. There is also a LN ghoul, but she's an Alchemical creation, not a necromantic one, so kindof a special case to start with.

Liches; Liches are always evil. They are always evil because you have to do some seriously messed up stuff to become a lich. Now you could hand wave all the messed up stuff a lich needs to do to become an effectively immortal high level god wizard. In doing so you now need a reason why the world is not overflowing with kooky undead wizards, since wizards deal with weird unsavory stuff their whole careers so a couple of centuries as a lich doesn't seem that bad, unless it requires you to do some really heinous things to get there.
I prefer evil Liches. Preferably evil and mentally unhinged. No one is ever gonna change me on that.

I can see a place for no evil undead. But it should be rare. More importantly, Good and Evil are not philosophical concepts in Pathfinder, they are actual mechanics. If the mechanics say that evil=inimical to the Material Plane then the state of being that is Undeath, is evil. The actual intentions and motivations of individual undead are irrelevant, their existence is an evil act. That's their lot in (in)life.


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Laz,

That entry wrote:
The elder things prefer to colonize planets devoid of sentient life, for among their great sciences is the art of creating new organisms. The elder things often engage in war against other societies for dominance of such ripe planets—their histories are filled with accounts of such wars against mi-go, star-spawn of Cthulhu, or as in the case of the world of Golarion, the aboleths. In this instance, the aboleths won the war, yet not so decisively so as to prevent small colonies of elder things from establishing footholds here and there in remote corners of the world.

So, you know, sentient life on Golarion is heavily implied to come from Elder Things... which, when looking at it this way, indicates that they didn't start the entire ecosystem, which, you know, means sentient life isn't a 'natural' part of the ecosystem. So... humanity (and all sentience) is unnatural.

EDIT:

zagnabbit wrote:
I can see a place for no evil undead. But it should be rare. More importantly, Good and Evil are not philosophical concepts in Pathfinder, they are actual mechanics. If the mechanics say that evil=inimical to the Material Plane then the state of being that is Undeath, is evil. The actual intentions and motivations of individual undead are irrelevant, their existence is an evil act. That's their lot in (in)life.

But the mechanics do not make that claim. That's... kind of the odd thing about the 'undead are always evil' schtick.

Let it not be said that I'm against Mr. Jacobs' control over published Golarion. I'm not. I fully support his right (as the setting's creator, no less) to dictate how things go in published Golarion. Moreover, James Jacobs seems to be a great guy! However, I'm also not pleased with his insistence that things that are published be redacted (like the incredibly cool Juju oracle's Spirit Vessels) or his insistence that Pathfinder Core rules follow the setting-specific rules.

I want my Inner Sea World Guide to tell me directly that it requires a god to be a cleric (it doesn't, though Golarion is supposed to require this by JJ). I also want my Core rule book to say that [in some settings] a cleric can choose to worship an ideal instead of a god.

Similarly, I'm all about options for Campaign Settings to set themselves apart from Generic/Core. That's what makes a Campaign Setting a Campaign Setting. Requiring Setting rules in Core, though... it tends to stifle creativity and prohibits GMs from feeling free to do their own thing. That is what I'm against.

Incidentally, I'm not entirely on board with many who argue the alignment things on all sides. I've argued for inherent alignments with sentience and why that doesn't negate free will. I've argued the plausibility of an alignment without sentience (though I'm not sure I've done so on this board). I don't see a problem with having creatures have an alignment regardless of their intelligence (because mindless creatures, as deemed 'mindless' in PF, really aren't, for one). But the rules are kind of all over the place and contradict themselves, and they have weird mechanical glitches as a result for some sort of strange 'balance' that doesn't actually work out like intended.

Also, there are really nifty campaign concepts that can come from non-evil undead (just as there are some really nifty campaign concepts that can come from all-evil undead).

I'm all for freedom of creativity.


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Also;
It seems silly to argue ecosystems, and natural and unnatural when the campaign world is impossible by all of our understanding of ecology, physics, biology and genetics. The game worlds we play in do not make sense from a scientific perspective.
They never will.


... which is pretty much my point!

The problem is that, within the setting, there are such arguments being made already (by druids). So it gets kind of murky.

Shadow Lodge

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ChaiGuy wrote:
Finally mindless gods? Azathoth says hi, or maybe more like al;ijutaln vioj in your general direction.

And he's not evil.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Set wrote:

On the other hand, if going by the 'zombies and skeletons tear souls out of heaven / hell' theory, bear in mind that it's a 3rd level spell for a cleric or a 4th level spell for a wizard, and it allows one to animate *ANY* corpse, even one whose soul have been sold to Asmodeus, eaten by a Daemon, or gone on to become a powerful outsider, or even *a god.* The spell has no 'chance of failure,' unlike ressurection, so if you can find the remains of the highest level evil priest of a rival faith, you can rip him straight out of his infernal afterlife, possibly utterly destroying a powerful devil (if he had been promoted to such, after a lifetime of wickedness) and weakening the forces of evil. Every soul ripped out of hell is a plus in the column of heaven, after all, and it's unstoppable, even by Pharasma herself. Just animate 'em, and then bury them, so that they can never be a threat to anyone.

And if some god died and then ascended, like Hercules, from a mortal state to a divine one, and you can go on some epic quest to locate his mortal remains, you can cast a 3rd level spell and destroy a god, tearing his outsider soul asunder and imprisoning it in his moldy old bones, which will have a NE alignment, 1 HD and an Int score of 0.

The last is a straw example because face it...animating the corpse of a demigod is not something that's going to come up as a routine issue. Those cases are so singular that that's a topic best left to individual GM's to work with.

As far as the former. Animating zombies requries a fairly fresh corpse. Also Pharasma does not judge a soul until it actually arrives there which is an indeterminate amount of time which could be anywhere from minutes to millennia. And those that she's judged are going to be the cases where the spell fails. In Arcanis the "sunrise" rule applies, just as it does for resurrection.

Undead more primitive than zombies are essentially animated by the essence of evil itself. Remember a core assumption is that Evil IS a tangible force.

Contributor

In my own games, I like more complexity, or perhaps not complexity, but more ambiguity in the answer for 'is undeath evil or not?'. In old Great Wheel-based D&D, the answer was usually, but never always, and it was not anything intrinsic to the state of undeath itself or to negative energy.

In Golarion, as explained by James and others, it's a bit different, because of some specific things. It's not just undeath is evil because, but because of things in the setting itself. Negative energy might not in and of itself be evil, but when it interacts with mortal souls to create an undead state, it seems to be so with the slender exception of ghosts.

Mind you, I like the occasional oddball non-evil undead (who always have a very good and specific reason for being a different alignment, rather than being oddball for oddballs sake), but I suspect my oddballs like the non-evil lich Xegarius Malakar might eventually get a new alignment should they get explored in print again. And I'm ok with that, since the way the setting handles and explains undeath has evolved and been explained in a bit more detail since I first got to work on some of its planar bits.

Silver Crusade

Todd Stewart wrote:
In my own games, I like more complexity, or perhaps not complexity, but more ambiguity in the answer for 'is undeath evil or not?'. In old Great Wheel-based D&D, the answer was usually, but never always, and it was not anything intrinsic to the state of undeath itself or to negative energy.

This is my preference. It enables more stories rather than shutting them out.


Kthulhu wrote:
ChaiGuy wrote:
Finally mindless gods? Azathoth says hi, or maybe more like al;ijutaln vioj in your general direction.
And he's not evil.

Actually that I included that because I misintertpreted this from Set "A mindless 'evil' is as philosophically meaningless as a 'mindless' good."

I for some reason thought that Set was saying that mindles gods did not exist. But that's not what he was talking about, I just read it wrong, realy wrong actually.

Contributor

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Part of the trouble with undeath and evil is that if they're not, there's the question of what is.

Take ghouls and ghasts, for example. They're spawned by a ghastly fever which they now transmit, and have an all-consuming hunger, but have also built amazing underground cities which they live in. They have humans brought in as food or raised as livestock, but they don't just gobble them all up immediately--or at least the ghouls don't. The ghasts are kicked out of their cities and treated as abominations, which is rather darkly amusing when you think about it.

So then there questions of how evil is your average civilized ghoul compared to, say, your average Cheliaxian devil-worshiper. If ghouls can resist eating humans, then they can resist eating humans. It may be like walking around giant walking talking gingerbread men, but you can't talk with a gingerbread man once you've eaten him. Or at least you hope not.

Now, the easy thing with the Cheliaxian devil worshiper is they suddenly have a moral epiphany and realize that halflings are people too and are thinking creatures in their own right and have better things to do with their lives than polish your boots or be sacrificed to Asmodeus. So if the devil-worshiper can have this epiphany, can the ghoul?

I'd say yes, though this would likely end with the ghoul taking his or her unlife, since while immortality is nice, existence as a continually starving undead plague vector is not terribly attractive compared to transcending to some other plane and getting a immortal body that's free from hunger.

Shadow Lodge

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Azathoth is really just a HUGE music fan. If you divert his attention away from the music he's listening to (a really cool mix of drums and flutes), he gets angry and destroys your star system. I can relate.


The idea that animate dead forces the soul back into the body is an odd one.

I'm dead and I'm chillin in the LG heaven. Some evil guy tries to rez me and I'm all "yeah, right"- so then he orders his lower level minion to animate dead my corpse and I get sucked back to earth as a zombie.

So, like, you could clear out all the good planes just by animating everyone's corpse. Various powerful petitioners who had worked their way up to angels or whatever would suddenly be zapped away.

Boo. Corpses are soul-less meat- animating them is evil enough without soul sucking because disrespecting grandma's body because you need a foot soldier is a reasonable taboo across most cultures. I'm houseruling the snot out of that soul sucking then- if I need to do so.


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I'm not actually claiming that ghouls aren't, by-and-large, evil. But it seems strange to say that, as sentient creatures, all ghouls are always evil.

Immortality is nice... and it's extremely useful for civilized society. Ghouls do have a hunger for flesh... specifically the flesh of the already dead. Have a question for the founding fathers? Why not ask one? The potential uses for such things is... astounding, really. Also worth noting is the "overpopulated dead" problem. At times in the past, there are graveyards and areas that simply become too full, and it becomes a health hazard for the living. In those cases, ghouls suddenly become very, very useful as they eliminate the source of the spreading disease.

Are they evil for spreading disease with a bite? Then why not komodo dragons?

Are they evil for spreading a disease that transforms the target into something else, potentially against their will? Good to know that Baleful Polymorph and Polymorph Any Object are [Evil] spells, then.

Now there are arguments to be had, here, but really the reason they're evil is mostly because of "Ew!". Which can make sense in certain settings. But in others, they might not want to be for all sorts of story reasons and ideas.

Going into the sentience debate, why isn't a pure predator like a great hunting cat (which, despite being non-sentient can reason, think, learn, etc) evil? All it does to survive is hunt and kill (and often play with before or after killing!) creatures of similar intelligence as themselves. Would a sentient creature doing something similar to a non-sentient creature be considered wrong by sentient creatures? (Yes, and that's because it's considered 'sociopathic behavior' - lacking any sort of empathy.) Why should it be different for a "non-sentient" creature? What if that cat is Awakened? Does it automatically become evil as a result of its natural instincts?

If, on the other hand, it is different for non-sentient creatures... shouldn't it be evenly applied across the board?

Why is a Permanent Animated Object always neutral, but Animate Dead (whether skeleton or zombie) evil? Is it because the former "costs more" or could be undone with a simple spell (dispel magic)? Or is it because the former is a higher level? I suppose that could make sense, except we don't restrict Light because Continual Flame or Daylight exists, nor do we restrict Beast Shape or similar spells because Polymorph any Object exists, which kind of undercuts the moral of "fast power = evil". On top of that, undead have a metric ton of things that specifically undo them from cure spells to channeling energy to cantrips.

My point isn't that all undead should be good or even neutral in the books. The default assumption that cannibalistic undead are evil works and generates a lot of neat stories. But saying "you can't stray from this formula or urdoinitrong" doesn't feel genuine to me. Having too bizarre, unexplained exceptions to the rules makes you wonder why there are rules to begin with.

As an example, a juju oracle's Spirit Vessels ability is, frankly, one of the coolest things I've seen, filled with all sorts of implications and interesting flavor... and it gets slapped down effectively "just because". That's really grating.

And a Juju Spirit Vessel Ghoul would actually make plenty of sense to kill itself later (or be helped to be destroyed later) because, in all likelihood, it was raised for a specific purpose which is hopefully finished.

If using an undead labor force (like the relatively clean and easily cleanable skeletons) is evil because it defiles the body, what about organ transplants? What about Animate Objects cast on the corpses? What about Polymorph any Object on a corpse to make it into a living or even undead creatures? What about making an undead, and then Polymorph any Object on them to turn them into the living? Or using Polymorph any Object on an undead to turn them into a celestial creature? (Undead, by the way, are not immune to polymorph any object, because it works on objects.) Would using Reincarnate to continue living effectively forever be evil? After all, you have to die first, and it just seems unnatural (despite being druidic magic). Nothing else lives like that naturally.

There's just too many holes, exceptions, questions, and odd elements to the whole thing.

That and also using a 3rd level spell to negate the power of a greater goddess is kind of irksome... especially when higher level spells cannot do so for no discernible reason. (There may be a reason, but as we're not given one, it's a really annoying thing that makes Pharasma look sloppy and ineffectual at her job.)

EDIT:

Sloanzilla wrote:
So, like, you could clear out all the good planes just by animating everyone's corpse. Various powerful petitioners who had worked their way up to angels or whatever would suddenly be zapped away.

Exactly why this whole thing is... odd, at best.

Set, Mikaze, either of you guys have that book so you could look it up?

EDIT 2:
Found it online:

Classic Horrors Revisited, pg 56 (Walking Dead section) wrote:

Facets of Fear

As plague ravages a town and the bodies of loved ones, friends, and neighbors pile up in the streets, what could be more natural than the fear of those corpses somehow coming to life, rising from the dead to claim you as one of their own? Death is the great unknown, the one thing all people fear, and the concept of returning from such a state turns the hearts of men and women to ice.
In areas devastated by pestilence and disease, the dead can sometimes outnumber the survivors, leading to the fear that the walking dead will overrun the living in a “zombie apocalypse.” And as more people fall victim to the terrifying plague, the number of walking dead continues to increase. Civilization is a fragile thing, and in the face of such an unprecedented, unstoppable threat, can society truly hold itself together? Or is it doomed to fall beneath the claws and teeth of the dearly departed?
The fear of the walking dead is also the fear of becoming one of them—a mindless slave under the control of someone else. A person transformed into a zombie loses his freedom, his individuality, his conscience, and some might say his very soul. And not even death can save you from such a fate, because your final reward—a peaceful death and a heavenly afterlife—is also taken from you. Becoming a member of the walking dead means nothing less than a horrific, unending life without hope of rest.

EDIT 3 (because blarg sick, and hit the wrong button): the bolded part is one of the points of controversy. Taken at face value (and it's not written "in character" like the box above it), undeath denies any hope of an afterlife, regardless of what happens. The "some might say his very soul" in the previous sentence indicates some leeway here, however.

Dark Archive

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justicar347 wrote:
Um, I can't help but feel that the perversion of life factor is being over looked here. There is no getting around undead being unnatural and that is a big part of what makes them antithetical to life.

The thing is, 'life' itself is an unnatural perversion in the D&D/PF cosmology.

Souls come from another dimension and ride around in meatsuits for awhile and then return to another dimension when the meatsuits fail *and if they don't, it's considered unnatural*, which only hammers down quite specifically that these souls are not supposed to exist in this material world.

Life exists because of positive energy, *from another dimension,* and is no more or less 'natural' than undead, sustained by negative energy, *also from another dimension.*

Either, it's *all* 'natural,' life sustained by alien uncaring non-aligned mindless energy from another universe entirely, or undead sustained by alien uncaring non-aligned mindless energy from another universe entirely, or it's *all* 'unnatural.'

There's no cherry picking your favorite flavor of unnatural existence that is antithetical to the material plane. It's either positive unnatural or negative unnatural.

The only thing 'natural' to the material plane of the D&D/PF cosmology is inorganic stuff like rock, water and air (and only 'normal' rock, water and air, that has no origin in the Elemental Planes thereof!), and I would suspect that, living or undead, rock, water and air is getting pretty darn sick of us tromping about...

So, in short, either positive, negative, elemental, arcane, etc. energies are *all* 'natural' to Golarion, or they are *all* 'unnatural' to the setting. You can't play favorites and decide that just one of them is somehow 'more unnatural' than the others because you don't like it.

If undead are an 'abomination' because they are animated by energies from another dimension, then so are elementals, and angels, and *all living creatures.*

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