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Its more like an insanity than a drug addiction. In the vast majority of cases, the undead gain no benefit from consuming flesh. They just want to.
And the reason for that is because it makes for a more horrific monster. Because people are afraid of things that want to eat them. Because it makes them seem more evil. Because it makes for a better story. And at the end of the day, the story matters the most.
Because eating people despite the fact that they don’t really need to makes them more evil. If something needs to eat to survive that is not really evil. If you don’t need to eat and still eat sentient beings that is a lot more evil than doing so to survive.
If a vampire needs to feed on human blood or die you can at least have some sympathy for them. If they don’t need to feed on human blood, but do any ways that removes any sympathy for them.
For a simple reason? Its horrific. The idea that a shambling body wants nothing more to feast on something it used to be... the idea of it should create terror.
Additionally this game has a host of undead. All of them have a reason to come back. The Drowned, the wronged, the oath bound, the war bringers...
Some like zombies and what not simply have the reason to consume. To fill a hole left empty by the void of undeath.
Ghouls have it as a central concept of their undead nature. If you trust the background description of the demon lord Kabriri, then they are a form of undead that were created with the first act of cannibalism. And I would not find it unusual for the "last survivors" of a donner party to turn into ghouls when they die. Vampires likely have similar issues.
But in general? Like for mindless zombies? Then the simplest guess is the vestiges of their living instincts are mixing with their undead instincts.
As undead, there is an inborn hatred for the living, and as a result mindless undead attack the living. Additionally, their stomachs are empty, and normally, that would lead to a desire to eat- this would normally be something that could be ignored (like the desire for warmth)... but it can be conveniently combined with their "kill all living" instead, so they can transfer that instinct over and confuse the two.
|Mark Seifter Designer|
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They have the hunger because they are deeply wrong. They are beings created with energy that should only destroy. They are powered by the void. The all-consuming emptiness. They consume because they must.
This is very accurate, let's drill into it more, thinking about the essences behind magic. One of the four essences that make up the multiverse in Pathfinder is called vital essence, or life. Constructs don't have it, but living creatures do, via positive energy. In the natural order, negative energy breaks things apart, the yin and yang of vital essence. But vital essence is not just alive or dead, it's the essence that presides over one more thing, faith and instinct, the part of you that isn't rational thought or normal emotional responses (governed by mental essence, which is the flipside to vital just like material and spiritual essences are to each other). So what happens when the energy of destruction is perverted into creation? Well it can work, creating an undead. But the instinct you're imbued with is different, which often leads to dark urges shifting your alignment even if you were good in life (or even giving instincts to kill and destroy life to even mindless undead). Depending on the form, however, the lack of vital essence can have other side effects for the undead form, especially one that attempts to hold onto all of mental, material, and spiritual essences, like a corporeal undead with a mind. Many of them have urges and cravings to consume some aspect from mortals to sustain themselves. Something like meat or blood with ties to vital and material essences for ghouls and vampires, energy drain tugging at the spiritual for others, especially incorporeal udnead.
But vital essence is not just alive or dead, it's the essence that presides over one more thing, faith and instinct, the part of you that isn't rational thought or normal emotional responses (governed by mental essence, which is the flipside to vital just like material and spiritual essences are to each other).
This made me ponder whether Vital magic is good match to Confusion ...or some other instinctive level magic (Heroism?)
Also, most undead were created based on the manner in which a creature lived or died. A gluttonous person or a person who preyed (or possibly fed) on others, was punished by returning to (un)life as a ghoul or other creature that preyed on humans (elves, dwarves, etc.)
Yes, ghouls can create spawn from victims, who might not have committed such atrocities like the 'original' monster, but that's just the curse (though it isn't usually treated as a curse in Pathfinder), just like vampires can create spawn from those who didn't commit the original act that spawned the first vampire.
It's like asking why revenants have to be so hateful all the time. Can't they just learn to love and forgive their murderer? No. That's what spawned them. They wouldn't be a revenant otherwise.