Erastil and emergency cannibalism


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


In the last AP mod we played, we needed to find food for a group of people in danger of starving. You might know which one this is, but I don’t want to mention it because it’s a spoiler (and could affect PC purchases). At one point, my Erastil-worshiping Warpriest thought it would be a good idea to use already-dead bodies as food for the community. There were differing opinions about whether this is something Erastil would agree with. The GM decided that it wasn’t, so that was that. However, since the mod is over, I wonder what other people’s opinions are.

Real-world religions have indicated that emergency cannibalism is OK. In 1972, a rugby team that crashed in the Andes (you know, from the movie “Alive”) and survived by eating the ones that died. The Catholic Church justified it by saying if they didn’t, it would be considered suicide, which is a worse sin than cannibalism. Islam is a bit more direct in stating emergency cannibalism is OK.

Erastil is known as a very practical god. And he seems to think that turning people into food is OK in certain circumstances. Gods and Magic and Inner Sea Gods states “His anger is reserved for followers who betray his principles, and he usually punishes them by changing them into something more useful to their community, such as a pig or fruit tree.” On the other hand, he is also very traditional. And while emergency cannibalism may not be evil, it isn’t exactly lawful.

Anyone have an opinion?


Why do you say it is unlawful? Nontraditional, in many places, sure. It is an act taken out of desparation for the collective good of the group. Collective good of the group. Sounds lawful when you phrase it that way. Heck, if everyone is starving it would be lawful to pick the least likely to survive and kill them to eat them, needs of the many before needs of the few.


Java Man wrote:
Why do you say it is unlawful?

I am assuming that most areas in Golarian have rules against cannibalism, no matter the intent.

Grand Lodge

I have a feeling that Erastil would be not cool with cannibalism and at best, indifferent. Though, in Pathfinder don't cannibals become Ghouls?


MadGnome wrote:
Java Man wrote:
Why do you say it is unlawful?
I am assuming that most areas in Golarian have rules against cannibalism, no matter the intent.

Even places that have rules -- even in the real world -- often have generalized and unstated exceptions to the rules.

In English Common Law (and by extension, in all the Anglo-American systems with which I'm familiar), for example, there is a general "Defense of Necessity". In the words of the page cited, this defense "permits a person to act in a criminal manner when an emergency situation, not of the person's own creation compels the person to act in a criminal manner to avoid greater harm from occurring."

Similarly, acting under duress is usually a defense to criminal charges.

I can't imagine any deity of law that actually cared about cannibalism not having a suitable escape clause to preserve the life of innocents.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

In general, Erastil would of course be against cannibalism based on both good and lawful grounds (it isn't really good for community cohesion if you look at you neighbors as lunch.)

AS others have mentioned though, in an emergency he would likely regard it as justified.

It would have to be a real emergency. Frying up the girl scout trying to sell you cookies because your pizza took longer than 30 minutes to arrive wouldn't count. In your specific example, I would expect that all other possibilities would have been exhausted and death (not just beginning to take penalties) to be imminent.

It also wouldn't be impossible for negative consequences to occur even if Erastil would forgive the sin. Becoming sick, or even having some of the flesh eaters become ghouls are distinct possibilities.


The "argument from necessity" presumes that the preservation of mortal life on the Material Plane is the greatest possible good. In a cosmos where there are actual gods and an actual afterlife, it is a little harder to argue that "doing whatever is necessary to stay alive" constitutes a "get out of Lecter free" card...

...it's entirely possible that Old Deadeye could look very, very askance at eating sentient flesh. Better to die and join him in the Great Rural Hamlet In The Sky than sully your lips with soylent flesh.


quibblemuch wrote:
The "argument from necessity" presumes that the preservation of mortal life on the Material Plane is the greatest possible good.

No, it rather explicitly doesn't. Neither the Catholic, Jewish, nor Islamic faiths consider the preservation of mortal life to be the greatest possible good, but all have some form of the defense of necessity encoded into their religious law.

It is merely necessary that a) preservation of mortal life is a good [which, in Pathfinder, holds by the literal definition of "good"], and b) that the criminal act contemplated is a lesser harm than allowing a (more or less needless) death.

It's not a "get out of Lecter" free card; you need to be preventing a greater harm.


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

So long as you're not killing people to eat them, I think it would be grudgingly accepted.

Silver Crusade

1) I'd say they would already have to be dead. No killing them to eat them.
2) It's often not Erastil that you're gonna have to worry about, it's Wendigos and your own guilt.
3) There are illnesses that can be gained from eating the flesh of your own kind.
4) Now here's a question, is cannibalism eating the flesh of your own kind, humanoids or other sentient beings even if they don't even look vaguely humanoid?


Cole Deschain wrote:
So long as you're not killing people to eat them, I think it would be grudgingly accepted.

Again, if the real world is an informative analogy, I don't think any jurisdiction in the USA has laws against cannibalism per se. There are laws against desecration of corpses (which would apply), but that's explicitly a lesser offense (carrying a lesser punishment) even than manslaughter.

For example, I think it's a maximum of 4 years for corpse desecration in New York, compared to 15 for manslaughter.


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Real world laws aside, the mythological consequences for cannibalism, like becoming a Wendigo or a ghoul don't tend to have "necessity" clauses - in fact necessity is usually the reason.

In a fantasy world where such consequences are possible, that would be a reason for even stronger religious rules against such things, even in extremis - the chance of becoming a monster is an even greater harm than starving.


Emergency Cannibalism probably won't always incur excommunication, assuming you don't experiment with recipes, enjoying the experience would be a bad thing. Enjoying cannibalism would almost guarantee conversion to ghoul-oid of the hour. Getting purified might well involve sacrificing your life for your soul.


MadGnome wrote:
In the last AP mod we played, we needed to find food for a group of people in danger of starving. You might know which one this is, but I don’t want to mention it because it’s a spoiler (and could affect PC purchases). At one point, my Erastil-worshiping Warpriest thought it would be a good idea to use already-dead bodies as food for the community. There were differing opinions about whether this is something Erastil would agree with. The GM decided that it wasn’t, so that was that. However, since the mod is over, I wonder what other people’s opinions are.

So how many people died?


Really, I think the biggest problem he would have with it is that you would turn into a wendigo, and ended up hanging around the place eating people/turning them into cannibals, than any real moral qualms. I mean, yeah most of the the time cannibalism is considered a bad thing, but it is far worse when you turn into a CR 17 evil outsider by doing it.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'd say that if it was a dire enough emergency, and you didn't enjoy the experience, Erastil would likely accept it, although he wouldn't like it. Maybe get an atonement spell just to be on the safe side.

Silver Crusade

thejeff wrote:

Real world laws aside, the mythological consequences for cannibalism, like becoming a Wendigo or a ghoul don't tend to have "necessity" clauses - in fact necessity is usually the reason.

In a fantasy world where such consequences are possible, that would be a reason for even stronger religious rules against such things, even in extremis - the chance of becoming a monster is an even greater harm than starving.

Now using your fallen allies corpses as BAIT to catch something you CAN eat without turning into a monster circumvents this problem.


In a fantasy setting? No good god would be okay with this. Too high a chance to become a Ghoul or Wendigo or something far worse than starving to death.


A Druid of mine ate/processed fallen enemies with Serial-Killer dedication, but he accepted the Neutral Evil alignment that came bundled with, and I didn't have the heart to try and pass it off as LN to maintain class requirements. Attempting to justify it may be a moot point; the issues I encountered was it bothers peoples' comfort zones of ethics to be exposed to that kind of RP on the tabletop. It bothered my DM and other Players, no matter how many times I tried to have them prove the last time they saw a Poop-Revenant, or never having to worry about starving while "Adventuring."

The look on that Paladin's face when that rival tomb-robber Velrian Hypaxes from Mummy's Wrath came back after us was so perfect when I grumbled out "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda..."

That campaign saw me excommunicated by Pharasma (all I did was ensure NO ONE escaped the Natural Order!) and "accidentally" aligned with Zyphus.

I had fun running it in multiple campaigns/APs, but I knew I bothered friends, so Grim the "Non-Cannibal" Menhir Savant(he insists he NEVER ate another Gnome/Aasimar)had to get retired, roleplayed as sliding off the deep end and becoming a bigger threat than the enemies presented.


The survivors of the Donner party sought Atonement.
This is why ghouls and wendigos will be making "the pitch" before the adventure ends.

Still waiting on official confirmation.

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