Necromancy and legality


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Scarab Sages

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Hail! I am an aspiring necromancer traveling through Varisia. We have made somewhat of a name for ourselves in Sandpoint as arcane researchers and problem solvers, specializing in matters of the undead. I would prefer to practice my craft openly to show the townsfolk that neromancy can be used to aid the living, but wish not to violate local law. Any and all undead in my thrall are animated from slain monsters, summoned from my Robe of Bones, or temporarily summoned via spells. Any dangerous undead captured in the field are destroyed before they can slip control. Is it possible to keep a few undead pets in my retinue (perhaps with a special writ from the mayoy/governor) or is this actually against local law?


I'm not very familiar with the actual setting info for Pathfinder, but I did a quick google search and looked on the wiki pages for Varisia. Couldn't find anything about the legality of undead. My best advice is to ask your DM.


Ask your DM about it.

In-character, ask your local sheriff, mayor, or law enforcement official.

Don't be surprised if many communities don't want undead wandering around, however. The thing is, while of course one can use various sorts of undead or golems to do useful labor, that's not really their issue with it: their issue is more likely to be that the dead belong at rest, underground (or burned, or whatever), rather than being disturbed, disinterred, and dragged around.

So saying "see, they can do work for you" is likely to come across like "hey, I'm showing you how you can make money by being evil". Which may not be quite as convincing a message as you hoped for.


I've researched and turned up little about local laws and customs, except for the view of Pharasmites of course! I know that Geb, Ustalav, and Osirion have necromantic traditions, but I am currently far from these lands...

As I said, the only dead I animate (and keep) are monsters. I know well better than to create a thrall of someone's dead relation! My current undead roster consists of two skeletal warhorses (pulling our wagon)and the reanimate remains of my dog (soon to be a necrocraft) all of which are my own property, not people under most legal definitions.

The animate dead are my own helpers, but I use my necromantic prowess to put down rogue undead threats (haunts, ghouls, etc.) Does anyone have legal citation anywhere?


I would say more often then not you are really not going to be able to practice your craft openly. With the exception of Geb, and possible places not ruled over by anyone such as the shackles, most people will be very uncomforable around you and will ethier outright avoid you or want you dead. Now this doesnt mean you cant be a necromancery it just means your going to have to hide what you do.

You can also be a white necromancer but that means you are not raiseing the dead.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
trokll wrote:

I would say more often then not you are really not going to be able to practice your craft openly. With the exception of Geb, and possible places not ruled over by anyone such as the shackles, most people will be very uncomforable around you and will ethier outright avoid you or want you dead. Now this doesnt mean you cant be a necromancery it just means your going to have to hide what you do.

You can also be a white necromancer but that means you are not raiseing the dead.

You seem to have missed all those folks claiming that they can be white necromancers and raise legions of undead as long as they are "respecting" them. What they're blithely ignoring of course, is the Golarion canon that undead ARE evil unless some extraordinary exception is the case.


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White necromances are though are the ones that dont raise the dead. Specifically because undead are evil. What they can do though is use a lot of necromancy spells such as turn undead and finger of death


As I see it...

I'm not sure that people would be much more comfortable with monster skeletons running around than they would be with skeletons of their relatives running around. The fundamental issue is that the dead ought to be disposed of -- either honored with burial (or other appropriate disposal) or safely disposed of so they don't come back and assault the living. There's a major "ick" factor that discussions of efficiency just aren't going to address, and that's before we get into issues like "how do we know those undead won't break free and kill us all in our sleep, Mr. Necromancer?" (As a modern equivalent, at the very bare minimum you're trying to convince people that your experimental fluorine-powered trucks driven by illegal immigrant "reformed" gang members should be allowed to operate in town -- that's probably the emotional base reaction you should be expecting.)

I don't say it's impossible, but I repeat that you need to talk to your GM about this, and (in-character) to the local law enforcement officials. Convincing people on this board isn't going to get you anywhere with those goals. In Golarion canon, there are areas with notable use of undead, such as the zombie slave fields of Geb, but I might point out that Geb is not exactly held up as a shining example of a wonderful place to live either.

(I played a necromancer wizard/bloatmage, but most of his schtick was debuffing enemies; he'd occasionally command undead just long enough to make them tear other undead apart, then destroy themselves.)


While I find your character super-cool, I think the average person who sees an undead is rather likely to barf, or run screaming.

Necromancy is an art rarely practiced out in the open, by either good or evil casters- Unless you're in a region where it's part of the culture, which is a weird thing to think about..."Grandma's been dead since I was a child, but she still makes me supper."


Or it could be like Nevarra from Dragon Age. The damn near worship death.


Since Varisia is a, "land," and not a unified, governed, "nation," reactions are going to vary on the local customs, laws and culture.

Now, all DM's vary, but if he/she is trying find a locale in Varisia where they can "fudge" some necromancy-tolerant place, it may be Korvosa.

But even THAT may go sideways on you. The city is firmly Lawful Evil, is all about order, and the leaders will abide no challenge to their hold on the city or threat to the status-quo they currently enjoy.


As mentioned earlier, effectively, the local law is relayed by the GM. I can imagine a very very edge case where you ICly convince the law enforcement of the area that you're OK (but I'd avoid Charm spells for that), but most 'civilised' (or at least 'normal' to us folk) regions will have some sharp opinions about undead, whether or not they're humanoid.


I also researched for rules for the legality of necromancy in the lands of Golarion. At last I've found some rules in the Undead Slayer's Handbook. It is supposed that "Necromancy is taboo in most societies and cultures."

Rules for laws regarding the sale and use of necromantic paraphernalia as well as the sort of reaction in different types of settlements are described. "Add the settlement’s Crime, Corruption, and Lore modifiers to calculate its Attitude Toward Undead result. The higher Attitude Toward Undead result, the more likely the settlement is to indulge in and allow necromantic practices." There's a table for punishments for obvious displays of necromancy as well as dealing and possession of onyx gems. Necromancy may be capital, felony, misdemeanor, or legal, depending on the attitude toward undead.


trokll wrote:
White necromances are though are the ones that dont raise the dead. Specifically because undead are evil. What they can do though is use a lot of necromancy spells such as turn undead and finger of death

Well, yes and no. Of course, only one of these 2 is cannon in the Golarion campaign setting, but then, only the other variety of the 2 would actually apply to the matter at hand (keeping undead pets in the company of the living wouldn't be an issue to a necromancer who eschewed and opposed undead).


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If you want a place that's accepting of undead, the go-to nation is Geb.

Of course if you yourself are still breathing, then there might be problems.


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I love that this thread was the recipient of necromancy.

Anyway, dot!


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Tossing something new into the mix - there is always Kaer Maga, where almost ANYTHING goes. It's in Varisia.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Have a look at the RotRL campaign. Without getting into spoiler territory, there *is* a necromancer near Sandpoint, but he only practices his necromantic arts in secret, and has a cover story.

This would suggest that it's not socially acceptable to publicly practice necromancy, at least in terms of having anything dead walking around. Non-create-dead-themed spells of the necromancy type might be accepted (especially since most common folk can't tell the difference) but undead horses, dogs, squirrels or anything else formerly alive would probably meet with public obloquy.

Still, it would be fun to see this character try to run his con on Sheriff Hemlock and co.


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mardaddy wrote:
Tossing something new into the mix - there is always Kaer Maga, where almost ANYTHING goes. It's in Varisia.

Yes undead are accepted in kaer maga. Then again so are trolls being carried through the street.


One of the most common mistakes I hear from DMs is their vision of "Necromancy isn't evil it's misunderstood." Back in 3.5 Book of Vile Darkness it emphasized that creating undead is an evil action. Another one of the most common mistakes I see with DMs is that they think character alignment depends on morality rather than polarity. Doesn't matter if you're a good person at heart, every time you animate a corpse your soul is further tainted by evil and you're polarized towards the negative energy plane. So I would imagine in most places it's illegal or at least taboo. I really like that detail about black onyx being confiscated in some cities, it would make a cool city event where adventurers are unknowingly trying to sell necromancy materials and it ends up being a clue to a local necromancer. I would also like to say that the spell animate dead is drastically OP, and if the spell is not taboo or illegal, there is no excuse for any wizard not to have a zombie dragon or 5.


Revengeancer wrote:
One of the most common mistakes I hear from DMs is their vision of "Necromancy isn't evil it's misunderstood." Back in 3.5 Book of Vile Darkness it emphasized that creating undead is an evil action. Another one of the most common mistakes I see with DMs is that they think character alignment depends on morality rather than polarity.

Book of Vile Darkness isn't even vaguely relevant to this conversation. It isn't even the correct system.

And it's not really a "mistake" the DM is making if they're the one choosing to run necromancy or alignment that way. DMs can run these things however they like. I know for a fact a lot of DMs on these very boards (myself included) run neither necromancy nor alignment the way you're insisting is correct.

Setting canon is one thing, DM and group preference is quite another.


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I think you are often going to find this a hard sell.

While it is theoretically possible to use 'acceptable corpses' (horses represent a key example, as they can be regarded as tools at times), and even build a society around the use of undead for labor... in private practice, it can be tough.

The key problem is the mechanics of 'controlling undead' and 'uncontrolled undead'. Even if people trust you personally to not have bad intentions (a stretch, but ok), you face the problem where people have to worry about what happens if you get more undead than your control pool.

Basically, it is all fun and games until little timmy gets his face bitten off by the rottweiler skeleton. Undead outside of your control pool (and possibly your direct supervision; I am a bit hazy on the rules there) tend towards their instinctual responses.

This means that you have a lot of problems. First, you are unable to give undead to others as tool in order to lower their fear of the undead- because once you drop that skeleton, it will likely kill someone (which proves their fears correct).

You need to realize that the use of necromancy is much like the use of nuclear power- it can be useful... but it can go very bad if you are not careful.

This is less of a problem in high magic or necromantic cultures. If you have other necromancers around, they can control things (literally) before they become a big problem. And in mage colleges, there are plenty of people that have the power to just destroy the problem, and there are enough people going around doing other dangerous things (like making deals with outsiders).


TheBlackPlague wrote:
Revengeancer wrote:
One of the most common mistakes I hear from DMs is their vision of "Necromancy isn't evil it's misunderstood." Back in 3.5 Book of Vile Darkness it emphasized that creating undead is an evil action. Another one of the most common mistakes I see with DMs is that they think character alignment depends on morality rather than polarity.

Book of Vile Darkness isn't even vaguely relevant to this conversation. It isn't even the correct system.

And it's not really a "mistake" the DM is making if they're the one choosing to run necromancy or alignment that way. DMs can run these things however they like. I know for a fact a lot of DMs on these very boards (myself included) run neither necromancy nor alignment the way you're insisting is correct.

Setting canon is one thing, DM and group preference is quite another.

If you're using all the books of Pathfinder, it becomes quite obvious that alignment is an indication of polarity rather than morality. This is why the outer planes exist as they do, the cosmic extremes of each polarity. A few of the Pathfinder books have guides for point values earned by good and evil actions that can shift your polarity along the axis, and Pathfinder is a continuation of the lore from Forgotten Realms. I was citing book of Vile Darkness as being the first and most true explanation of why it's inherently evil. The spell has the evil descriptor so as per the rules you are committing an evil action by casting the spell unless you cast an atonement spell immediately after. DMs are allowed to make up whatever homebrew they want, but if you read about the nature of heaven, you'll understand why a person's individual morals are only somewhat relevant to the polarity of their soul, and it was really their actions during mortal life that mattered.


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TheBlackPlague wrote:
Revengeancer wrote:
One of the most common mistakes I hear from DMs is their vision of "Necromancy isn't evil it's misunderstood." Back in 3.5 Book of Vile Darkness it emphasized that creating undead is an evil action. Another one of the most common mistakes I see with DMs is that they think character alignment depends on morality rather than polarity.

Book of Vile Darkness isn't even vaguely relevant to this conversation. It isn't even the correct system.

And it's not really a "mistake" the DM is making if they're the one choosing to run necromancy or alignment that way. DMs can run these things however they like. I know for a fact a lot of DMs on these very boards (myself included) run neither necromancy nor alignment the way you're insisting is correct.

Setting canon is one thing, DM and group preference is quite another.

This.

Plus, alignment is absurdly butt-stupid as a concept anyway.


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Revengeancer wrote:


If you're using all the books of Pathfinder, it becomes quite obvious that alignment is an indication of polarity rather than morality. This is why the outer planes exist as they do, the cosmic extremes of each polarity. A few of the Pathfinder books have guides for point values earned by good and evil actions that can shift your polarity along the axis, and Pathfinder is a continuation of the lore from Forgotten Realms. I was citing book of Vile Darkness as being the first and most true explanation of why it's inherently evil. The spell has the evil descriptor so as per the rules you are committing an evil action by casting the spell unless you cast an atonement spell immediately after. DMs are allowed to make up whatever homebrew they want, but if you read about the nature of heaven, you'll understand why a person's individual morals are only somewhat relevant to the polarity of their soul, and it was really their actions during mortal life that mattered.

1. Pathfinder is completely unrelated to Forgotten Realms.

2. Heaven is as imaginary as every other alternate plane of existence, and as such, operates according to the campaign setting's dictates, so the 'nature' of it is likely different in every single game world, and probably in every single game.
3. There's a reason the BoVD is often called 'Monte's Mistake'.


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Why let others know you have Undead with you.

Make your Undead blend in with Apperance of Life

Make your Undead look like creatures others don’t want to be around with Sculpt Corpse.

Pre decompose your Undead so they don’t smell, so it’s easier to disguise with Decompose Corpse.

Keep your Undead where bystanders can’t see them with a Portable Hole.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

As I said nearly a year ago, folks in a small, rural mostly good community are not going to be indifferent to undead, even if it's only horses, dogs and rabbits.

Let's suppose that you managed to use your insanely high diplomacy and bluff scores to convince people that your evil minions are in fact being used for the public good. And make no mistake, undead of any flavor are considered "evil minions". Maybe you can get the city authorities to turn a blind eye, and keep the rumor mill and public rumblings to a minimum, with the right skill checks and role playing. Maybe.

Even then, people are going to be profoundly ill-at-ease anytime they see you, and even more, any time they see your undead carthorses. Not to mention the smell. And the dragging intestines.

Clandestine actions are far more likely to be met with success than overt, public acknowledgement or your evil practices in raising the dead, even if they are ostensibly done for a good cause. I mean, just look at...

Spoiler:
Caizarlu, who goes to great lengths to hide his "experiments" from prying eyes.

One thing is certain: you're not going to find any material authorizing or giving you an easy out for practicing your heinous rituals.

Note that I don't personally find your quest to make undead palatable to the masses to be anything unsettling. Much to the contrary, I think it would be a great roleplaying opportunity. But any DM worth his salt is going to make life difficult for you in this questionable enterprise.

So go ahead and try to convince people that undead horses, dogs and monsters are simply tools used by the Just and Righteous to bring safety and prosperity to the masses. Nevertheless, don't be surprised when some niggling obstreperous townsperson writes a letter to his wife's brother's second cousin, inviting a few paladins or inquisitors from a nearby metropolis to check up on your nocturnal activities. <g>


This thread was talking about the Golarion campaign setting. Earth exists in the Golarion campaign setting, as do all planes throughout the multiverse. Learn to wizard.


I do understand that the RAW states that certain spells are evil (descriptor), however, animating a body only effects a piece of meat. Much like animated objects. Enchantment spells deprive living sentient creatures of their freewill. This has always seemed like a much greater act of evil than walking a meat puppet around.

Grand Lodge

In Golarion animating a body uses part of the soul as of the settings Creative Director actually. The setting is an integral part of this question.


Revengeancer wrote:
This thread was talking about the Golarion campaign setting. Earth exists in the Golarion campaign setting, as do all planes throughout the multiverse. Learn to wizard.

Since Earth is in the Tommy Westphallverse, I eagerly await the St. Elsewhere-themed Adventure Path.


Greetings fellow wizard! While I do not share your creative spark with Necromancy...dead bodies give me the willies... Local laws that govern over magic are fairly limited. I don't believe you'll find many hard fact laws, instead human communities tend to be rather overly emotional in responses to things they do not comprehend. (Which is rather similar to my surface cousins reacting to well...me I suppose)

As a Creation focused wizard I've been a big hit with local population of the island I am on. Creating a proper pier, fixing them with stone buildings over night in some cases. Feeding the poor with magic. Perhaps using your undead creations to protect the town you are near might work, if they have a bandit problem. Otherwise I do not see them being very welcoming of the dead moving and able to attack them.

Shadow Lodge

Dr Styx wrote:

Why let others know you have Undead with you.

Make your Undead blend in with Apperance of Life

Components V, S, M (one Tiny or larger living creature)

Duration 10 minutes/level (D)

Gonna be sacrificing a lot of rats to keep that spell active for long.


Weirdo wrote:
Dr Styx wrote:

Why let others know you have Undead with you.

Make your Undead blend in with Apperance of Life

Components V, S, M (one Tiny or larger living creature)

Duration 10 minutes/level (D)

Gonna be sacrificing a lot of rats to keep that spell active for long.

On the up side you’ll have plenty of dead rats/skeletons to play with and animate.

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