Looking for a FAQ: Negative Energy and Undead


Rules Questions

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

Will negative energy hit point damage, when successfully affecting an undead target, ALWAYS be converted into a heal? Or are the cases where negative energy healing undead ONLY occurring when rules for those effects explicitly say they can? (and, potentially, are consciously chosen to use that option)

For example, if a Lich attacks a Mummy with its melee attack, does the Lich still have the option to not heal the Mummy by his attack and deal hit point damage as normal?

Sczarni

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Is an FAQ really necessary?

Creating a Lich wrote:
A lich's touch attack uses negative energy to deal 1d8 points of damage to living creatures + 1 point of damage per 2 Hit Dice possessed by the lich. As negative energy, this damage can be used to heal undead creatures. A lich can take a full-round action to infuse itself with this energy, healing damage as if it had used its touch attack against itself.

Undead creatures are healed by negative energy just like living creatures are healed by positive energy.

Unless I'm completely misunderstanding your question.

Sovereign Court

"... this can be used to heal undead creatures...."

vs

"... this must be used to heal undead creatures...."

Makes for a hell of a distinction.

The rules for the undead creature type uses the same kind of language. They're not necessarily always healed by negative energy, they "can" be. That perhaps implies a choice on the part of the one wielding negative energy.

Negative energy healing always works on undead, that's a given. But Negative energy DAMAGE? Being converted into healing? I'm not so sure that's a given.

Positive energy damage, for example, isn't automatically converted into healing for the living after all.

So there are potentially awkward interactions, like for example if a Lich wants to melee attack a Mummy without healing it. OR a Dhampir. OR a Death Domain Cleric. Or etc.


The Lich can't use its negative energy attack to hurt the mummy, I'm pretty sure. Just like you can't use Inflict Light Wounds to hurt an undead.


If it is in reference to channel it has its own clause. It hurts the living or heals undead not both.

Sovereign Court

Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
The Lich can't use its negative energy attack to hurt the mummy, I'm pretty sure. Just like you can't use Inflict Light Wounds to hurt an undead.

The (potentially) critical difference between Inflict spells and other negative effects such as the Lich's melee attack is they omit use of the word "can". There is no possibility of not healing undead with an Inflict... a Lich "can" heal undead with its melee attack. Unlike Inflict, a Lich's melee attack rule does not say this is the only outcome. What's really up in the air, I think, is if there is a negative energy damage effect that does not explicitly call out an interaction with the undead at all. Not even a "can heal the undead". I can't think of any such effects, but if there is one (or one published), what grounds is there to treat it any differently at all when applied to an undead?

Mojorat wrote:

If it is in reference to channel it has its own clause. It hurts the living or heals undead not both.

I think the rules about channeling are clear: You first declare your target: Living or Undead. Whether you channel positive or negative energy, it's pretty clear you don't affect what you didn't target. Although it IS possible this phenomenon is responsible for the choice of the word "can" in the undead creature type rules about how they're healed. Maybe the possibility of them not being healed by negative energy is that exact scenario: Negative energy targeting the living. However since the undead is never affected by that effect, there's no need to even address it, technically speaking. So I don't think "can" was used in that instance as a nod to the possibility of undead not being healed by a negative channel.

So, my question is indeed not about Channeled energy. It's basically this:
Does hit point damage from negative energy ALWAYS heal undead instead of damaging them? As mentioned above, use of the word "can" instead of "will always" or "must" makes this questionable.

Grand Lodge

deusvult wrote:
Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
The Lich can't use its negative energy attack to hurt the mummy, I'm pretty sure. Just like you can't use Inflict Light Wounds to hurt an undead.

The (potentially) critical difference between Inflict spells and other negative effects such as the Lich's melee attack is they omit use of the word "can". There is no possibility of not healing undead with an Inflict... a Lich "can" heal undead with its melee attack. Unlike Inflict, a Lich's melee attack rule does not say this is the only outcome. What's really up in the air, I think, is if there is a negative energy damage effect that does not explicitly call out an interaction with the undead at all. Not even a "can heal the undead". I can't think of any such effects, but if there is one (or one published), what grounds is there to treat it any differently at all when applied to an undead?

Mojorat wrote:

If it is in reference to channel it has its own clause. It hurts the living or heals undead not both.

I think the rules about channeling are clear: You first declare your target: Living or Undead. Whether you channel positive or negative energy, it's pretty clear you don't affect what you didn't target. Although it IS possible this phenomenon is responsible for the choice of the word "can" in the undead creature type rules about how they're healed. Maybe the possibility of them not being healed by negative energy is that exact scenario: Negative energy targeting the living. However since the undead is never affected by that effect, there's no need to even address it, technically speaking. So I don't think "can" was used in that instance as a nod to the possibility of undead not being healed by a negative channel.

So, my question is indeed not about Channeled energy. It's basically this:
Does hit point damage from negative energy ALWAYS heal undead instead of damaging them? As mentioned above, use of the word "can" instead of "will always" or "must" makes this questionable.

It might make your point more clear if you pull out specific examples (and cite them) of where it says "can" instead of "will always" instead of just saying that it says it some places.

Silver Crusade

This is not a rules issue, but a language issue. In those instances, "can" means "is able to", and not "may choose to".

Does that clear things up for you?

Sovereign Court

claudekennilol wrote:
It might make your point more clear if you pull out specific examples (and cite them) of where it says "can" instead of "will always" instead of just saying that it says it some places.

Fair enough. Here are the rules I quoted earlier that say "can" and don't say "can".

Undead Creature Trait wrote:
•Cannot heal damage on its own if it has no Intelligence score, although it can be healed. Negative energy (such as an inflict spell) can heal undead creatures. The fast healing special quality works regardless of the creature's Intelligence score.
Lich's Melee Attack wrote:
Damage: A lich's touch attack uses negative energy to deal 1d8 points of damage to living creatures + 1 point of damage per 2 Hit Dice possessed by the lich. As negative energy, this damage can be used to heal undead creatures. A lich can take a full-round action to infuse itself with this energy, healing damage as if it had used its touch attack against itself.
Inflict Light Wound, Mass wrote:
Like other inflict spells, mass inflict light wounds cures undead in its area rather than damaging them. A cleric capable of spontaneously casting inflict spells can also spontaneously cast mass inflict spells.

(other Inflict series spells use similar language)

Definition of the word "Can" wrote:

1. to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to: She can solve the problem easily, I'm sure.

2. to know how to: He can play chess, although he's not particularly good at it.

3. to have the power or means to: A dictator can impose his will on the people.

4. to have the right or qualifications to: He can change whatever he wishes in the script.

5. may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?

So, where Inflict and Channel are unambiguous, other abilities use the word "can" and MAKE it ambiguous as to whether damage is automatically converted.

"Can", when used in places like the broad, general rules for the Undead creature type or the narrow, specific Lich attack, might mean the #3 definition like Bigdaddyjug suggests.

However, the #1 definition is more prominent. The example given in this case is "She can solve the problem..." The use of can in that sentence is not the same thing as saying "She will solve the problem..." Can, most prominently, means the possibility is there as opposed to an inevitability. Most dictionaries would agree with this precedence of definitions.

So, yes this is a language question. But it's also a rules question. Since a Lich, as I've used as an example before, CAN heal undead with its melee attack, it stands to which definition of "can" one uses as to whether the Lich retains an option about healing with its melee attack.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

the undead type also says they Can be healed by negative energy. So the mummy could choose for it to be healed instead of damage by your same logic curve ;)

Lich: "this will harm!"

Mummy: "nope, is heals!"

Lich: "damnit. Disintegrate."

Mummy: "Aaaahhh~~~"

Lich: "THIS will harm."

Sovereign Court

Rathendar wrote:

the undead type also says they Can be healed by negative energy. So the mummy could choose for it to be healed instead of damage by your same logic curve ;)

Lich: "this will harm!"

Mummy: "nope, is heals!"

Lich: "damnit. Disintegrate."

Mummy: "Aaaahhh~~~"

Lich: "THIS will harm."

Interesting point, but mindless things wouldn't have that option.

So, if it pleases, consider the better example as to the question about Negative Energy damage being automatically converted to healing as to whether or not a Lich can damage a Zombie with its melee attack. (Why it doesn't destroy it another way is besides the issue ;) )

Honestly I can see the argument that it's SUPPOSED to, RAI, always heal. But RAW it doesn't say that. And... there is the problem of the logic not working the other way around. Positive energy effects in the form of hit point damage are not automatically converted into healing when affecting living folks, after all.


deusvult wrote:
Rathendar wrote:

the undead type also says they Can be healed by negative energy. So the mummy could choose for it to be healed instead of damage by your same logic curve ;)

Lich: "this will harm!"

Mummy: "nope, is heals!"

Lich: "damnit. Disintegrate."

Mummy: "Aaaahhh~~~"

Lich: "THIS will harm."

Interesting point, but mindless things wouldn't have that option.

So, if it pleases, consider the better example as to the question about Negative Energy damage being automatically converted to healing as to whether or not a Lich can damage a Zombie with its melee attack. (Why it doesn't destroy it another way is besides the issue ;) )

Honestly I can see the argument that it's SUPPOSED to, RAI, always heal. But RAW it doesn't say that. And... there is the problem of the logic not working the other way around. Positive energy effects in the form of hit point damage are not automatically converted into healing when affecting living folks, after all.

Two things:

1. Does it say that somewhere in RAW? I know it's probably RAI, and in general I'd rule that way if I were the DM but. . .
2. This is also why if a player brought this up at a table I was the DM at, I'd probably let it deal damage.

I can't imagine something like this ever coming up though in all honesty (in my group at least).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I am curious now, what positive energy effect deals damage to the living?

(not snarky!)


Holy Water will harm evil outsiders, Blood of the Martyr Spell will cause harm a person who fails their Fort Save. Fire of Judgement says it's fire of positive energy. Bolt of Glory hurts living creatures and being on a Major Positive Energy Dominant plane can kill you if you stay long enough.

EDIT:I had to look all of these up and they are, to my knowledge, the only Positive Energy effects that will harm living things.

Dark Archive

His question is fair. I have an issue regarding negative channeling as I have the ability to target a living creature with a negative channel to deal it damage. Then I have another ability that treats the target as undead for purposes of affects that heal or cause damage based on negative energy.

The channeling requirements for viable targets are met: I harm the living.
The effect is resolved: I deal damage to the living.
The damage dealt is negative energy.
The target, upon receiving the effect (taking negative energy damage) now gets treated as undead for purposes of effects that heal or harm undead based on positive and negative energy.

My argument was that the living target would be healed.
Other arguments point out that channeled negative energy does not heal unless it was designed to.

The combination I have already posted about is the Death Domain power called Death's Kiss and the feat Channel Smite.

After looking over the entries for undead and such, it comes down to what appears to be two things: You can't deal damaging channeled negative energy to an undeas and heal it. Or you can heal it if you can somehow deal damage to undead with a negative energy channel (normally not an option).

Either way it implies that undead are not automatically healed by negative energy damage or that they always heal from it. If they are not automatically healed by it then undead have no special relationship with the stuff. It is entirely dependant on the effect being applied to them as to whether or not it heals them.

If a spell called negative energy bomb were cast and it said only that it dealt 12d6 negative eenergy damage in a 20 foot burst centered on the point of impact to all creatures in the area, will save for half...would undead heal from it? Would they take damage? I didn't see a clause stating that they were immune to negative energy damage (I wasn't looking either).

Normally, I would concurr that a channel of negative energy to harm the living won't heal the undead. But when you harm a living target who at the point of taking the damage gets treated as an undead (so they met the initial channeling conditions of harming the living but now the harming is hitting an undead) what happens now that we have an effectively undead target receiving negative energy damage?

The details really matter here and the issue of can vs does becomes rather important. At this point, without any further information on the alleged relationship between undead and negative energy, it seems like a coin toss. I could see someone arguing that because undead don't have a descriptor stating that they are immune to negative energy, that it is possible to hurt them with the stuff. In the case described above, someone could argue that the living target being treated as undead has no bearing on whether or not it will eat 10d6 negative energy from a powered up channel.

So an FAQ detailing if undead do heal from the stuff or not would be helpful. As it is now, it's ambiguous.

Sovereign Court

Rathendar wrote:

I am curious now, what positive energy effect deals damage to the living?

(not snarky!)

Searing Light is likely another example.

RAW, it doesn't specify the damage as Positive Energy, but it sure sounds like it is. Neither does a Paladin's Lay on Hands (specify that it is Positive Energy) and that got FAQ'd to say that it is indeed positive energy. I'd be willing to bet that since LoH is positive energy, Searing Light is too.

Ditto for Holy weapons. Evil living creatures aren't healed by those weapons, and if they're not effects of positive energy, then I'll eat crow.


Well one could assume that if the target has an affect that treats them as undead for purposes of being healed or harmed that you treat them as an undead. So when you target living things, it skips them. They are treated as undead and an undead wouldn't have been targeted.

Also this helps with your negative bomb example

undead

Quote:

Five Things Almost Everyone Knows About Undead

The following are a few facts that are considered common knowledge among civilized peoples.

4. Undead are healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy.

This to me makes it clear that your bomb would heal them, it's a "well" known fact even. Regardless of how positive energy works. Living things don't have a block that says, "humans are healed by positive energy and harmed by negative energy." Hence they can be harmed by positive. But I feel this is pretty clear that always undead heal from negative.

Sovereign Court

So to sum up my posts there's basically two reasons why it's questionable as to whether undead are always healed by negative energy.

Reason #1: the "can" in the undead creature type rules about they "can be healed by negative energy" might equate to "may" or it might equate to "must". Makes for a notably important distinction.

Reason #2: the flipside of the situation, positive energy and living creatures, does not replicate what negative energy would be argued to do with undead. Living people don't turn positive energy damage into healing, so why should undead turn negative energy damage into healing... at least in the absence of explicit rules such as what's listed under the Inflict spells, of course.


Quote:
Reason #1: the "can" in the undead creature type rules about they "can be healed by negative energy" might equate to "may" or it might equate to "must". Makes for a notably important distinction.

I feel when you read this can in context it becomes clear. it says,

undead Cannot heal damage on its own if it has no Intelligence score, although it can be healed. Negative energy (such as an inflict spell) can heal undead creatures.

This to me means the same as.

Positive energy can't heal undead so those don't work to heal undead, but we just said that they can be healed, so the way to heal them is by using negative energy.

OR to just rearrange the sentence in question.

undead creatures are healed by negative energy(like inflict spells)

Quote:
Reason #2: the flipside of the situation, positive energy and living creatures, does not replicate what negative energy would be argued to do with undead. Living people don't turn positive energy damage into healing, so why should undead turn negative energy damage into healing... at least in the absence of explicit rules such as what's listed under the Inflict spells, of course.

I feel that the undead have a line in the 5 things everyone knows, that says they heal from negative. As far as I'm aware no creature entry says this creature is healed by positive energy. So even though they seem similar to us. I feel that in game rules they run pretty different.

Dark Archive

Holy and unholy items don't use positive or negative energy but pure alignment energy. The spells which create those sorts of weapons are evocation [alignment]. They do not reference living, dead or undead. They affect creatures of opposed alignments and creatures whose very nature is from another moral axis (outsiders). So those kinds of items are an entirely different topic but tangientally related maybe.

At the end of the day the question comes down to:
Do undead heal from negative energy by default or do they require a special condition (spell stating they are healed by the energy)?

Depending on that answer depends on just what happens in most (probably not all) circumstances where an undead is exposed to negative energy (including negative channels not meant to hit undead but which still end up hitting them).

An answer like: Unless otherwise noted, undead are generally always healed by negative energy. Any negative energy effect which deals damage in the form of HP to an undead creature instead heals it an equal amount. Any effect which deals another form of damage to an undead creature instead gives it temporary HP equal to 5 per x value. The same is true for negative levels and undead. Exceptions to these rules are noted in their individual ability descriptions.

That would be nice. Or if it doesn't work that way, if it were stated in a similar format detailing that undead who take negative energy damage actually receive the damage due to not being immune (barring an ability saying otherwise) or that undead who are subject to negative energy damage that does not detail its effects specific to undead are unaffected entirely.


Dark Immortal wrote:

At the end of the day the question comes down to:

Do undead heal from negative energy by default or do they require a special condition (spell stating they are healed by the energy)?

Depending on that answer depends on just what happens in most (probably not all) circumstances where an undead is exposed to negative energy (including negative channels not meant to hit undead but which still end up hitting them).

An answer like: Unless otherwise noted, undead are generally always healed by negative energy. Any negative energy effect which deals damage in the form of HP to an undead creature instead heals it an equal amount. Any effect which deals another form of damage to an undead creature instead gives it temporary HP equal to 5 per x value. The same is true for negative levels and undead. Exceptions to these rules are noted in their individual ability descriptions.

That would be nice. Or if it doesn't work that way, if it were stated in a similar format detailing that undead who take negative energy damage actually receive the damage due to not being immune (barring an ability saying otherwise) or that undead who are subject to negative energy damage that does not detail its effects specific to undead are unaffected entirely.

I'm curious as to why you don't count this bit,

Five Things Almost Everyone Knows About Undead

The following are a few facts that are considered common knowledge among civilized peoples.

1/ Most undead were once living. Knowing details about the phase of existence that preceded a creature's undeath is often invaluable in determining its motives.
2. Holy water damages undead as though it were acid. Distributed by goodly religious orders the world over, holy water is the only line of defense against undead for many commoners.
3. Undead are invariably evil, as are the means to create such beings.
4. Undead are healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy.
5. Undead are immune to numerous magical effects, including mind-affecting effects and abilities that affect a creature's physical constitution.

To me this seems very clear. Undead are healed by negative energy. No ifs, condition, or anything. A general statement as to how negative energy affects them. it heals them.


Probably because it's from the D20PFSRD. They are known to sometimes not have the correct rulings in there. However, I would like to point out Negative Energy Affinity.

PRD wrote:
Negative Energy Affinity (Ex) The creature is alive but is healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy, as if it were an undead creature. Format negative energy affinity; Location Defensive Abilities

This, to me, makes me believe that unless over wise stated, like in Channel Energy, a undead creature will always be healed by Negative Energy.


+1 to what CrystalSpellblade said about negative energy affinity.

Sovereign Court

The Advanced Class guide has a spell that directly applies to the crux of my question:

Advanced Class Guide, Spell "Stricken Heart" wrote:


Stricken Heart Necromancy [death]
This spell covers your hand with a writhing black aura. As part of casting the spell, you can make a melee touch attack that deals 2d6 points of negative energy damage and causes the target to be staggered for one round. If the attack is a critical hit, the target is staggered for 1 minute instead. Creatures immune to precision damage are immune to this staggered effect.

Of critical importance is that this spell, like inflict spells, deals negative energy damage but unlike inflict this damage is without a special rule for the damage being healing instead on undead.

So, if one casts Stricken Heart on an undead, what happens? I'd argue that exactly nothing happens. If the negative energy damage is converted to healing instead.. that's not only adding rules that are not there, that's potentially breaking rules that say the undead are immune to death effects.

So, what happens if the spell is cast on a Dhampir or a Cleric with the Death Domain? They're not immune to death effects, but I still don't see any reason they'd be healed by the negative energy damage*. To say they would be is to insert rules that are not already there.

*= this is the crux. "Negative Energy Damage" is not the same thing as Negative Energy. Instead I am saying the rules say that it is Damage that happens to have the Negative Energy descriptor.

Dark Archive

I hear you and have had arguments to this very same effect regarding channel smite and death's kiss. The kiss says you are treated as undead for the purposes of effects that heal or harm based on negative or positive energy. Channel smite (negative) targets a living creature then creates negative energy on a successful hit. Then death's kiss treats you as an undead who is now having negative energy affecting them- what happens?

Most people seem to be arguing that nothing happens because the energy was designed to harm the living and you're now treated as undead. I imagine that for those same reasons those people would say that your spell does nothing because it was not designed to hurt or heal undead.

I would argue the opposite-it will heal or harm your undead. Undead are not listed as being immune to negative energy damage. So they take the damage or get healed.

If you look at the negative energy affinity ability, though, it points out that undead are normally healed by negative energy and the FAQ not only clarifies this but goes out of its way to point out that intent and the like have no place in the determination of whether or not an undead will or will not be healed or harmed by negative or positive energy. So what this means is that if you deal negative energy damage to undead, they are healed by it. The source, motivess and purposes behind the negative energy are utterly irrelevant. So if you channel smite to harm the living but somehow get the attack redirected to an undead, the undead takes negative energy damage which is a heal effect.

You cast your new fancy ACG spell on an undead target and they are healed and immune to the staggered effect. Though if this is a death effect then they might be immune to the whole thing, although that is a bit awkward. In effect, allowing them healing is more or less the same-nothing bad happens to them.

Sovereign Court

the thread in TL;DR:

Is Negative Energy a force that heals or damages its target based upon whether the target is living or undead?

Or

Is Negative Energy a descriptor for damage and healing, where many (but not all) Negative Energy effects have a reverse effect clause in their rules for when affecting undead?

Seems like the former is what most posters support, based basically upon the undead creature type rule saying they "can be healed by negative energy" actually meaning "will be healed by all forms of negative energy".

Obviously, I disagree, and point out that there is no universal "energy type" rule for Negative Energy so I sincerely question the logic in automatically turning damage in the form of negative energy into healing in the form of negative energy for undead.

Dark Archive

Rathendar wrote:

I am curious now, what positive energy effect deals damage to the living?

(not snarky!)

Alignment Channel and Elemental Channel allow you to harm living outsiders (of the designated alignment subtype or elemental subtype) with positive energy, or even to heal living outsiders with negative energy.

Exposure to the positive energy plane can also harm or kill living creatures.

In 3.5, the Ravid was a monster that harmed living creatures it struck by using positive energy. Just as any medicine, in high enough doses, is toxic, it seems that positive energy can be quite dangerous. (And, given that it encourages life and growth, it would seem an ideal way to cause tumorous growths or deformities, cause infestations and parasites to reproduce out of control in a living host, greatly accelerate the effects of disease, etc.)

Sovereign Court

Set wrote:
Rathendar wrote:

I am curious now, what positive energy effect deals damage to the living?

(not snarky!)

Alignment Channel and Elemental Channel allow you to harm living outsiders (of the designated alignment subtype or elemental subtype) with positive energy, or even to heal living outsiders with negative energy.

Exposure to the positive energy plane can also harm or kill living creatures.

In 3.5, the Ravid was a monster that harmed living creatures it struck by using positive energy. Just as any medicine, in high enough doses, is toxic, it seems that positive energy can be quite dangerous. (And, given that it encourages life and growth, it would seem an ideal way to cause tumorous growths or deformities, cause infestations and parasites to reproduce out of control in a living host, greatly accelerate the effects of disease, etc.)

QFT.

There are also other effects out there that are "RAI" positive energy that damage the living, such as Holy weapon enhancement and the Searing Light spell. Lay on Hands wasn't listed in the CRB as a positive energy effect, and I'd like to think it only became Positive Energy in the FAQ because I pointed out it technically wasn't typed that way, some other Paladin powers like Smite could also be typed as Positive Energy, and they very much don't heal Dragons and Devils and such.

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