Undead feeling emotions / pain in Crown of the Kobold King


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


Hello, I'm the publishing editor for Pathfinder 2e in my country and this is my first post here, so I'm sorry if I'm posting in the wrong place :)

I'm seeking advice on the undead in "Crown of the Kobold King". Unless you're

kinda spoiler:
Zutha or Tar-Baphon

the undead don't generally feel anything physical/emotional. But the numerous descriptions of undead in CotKK suggest otherwise.

Just a pair of examples:
"These undead gleefully shift their attention to the PCs and fight until destroyed."
or
"Agonized Howl [two-actions] (auditory, enchantment, mental, occult). The [whatever creature] howl in pain at their cursed existence."

So are these just simple descriptions/metaphors? Or are undead imitating emotions/feelings that they knew in life? Or is it that

Crown of the Kobold King spoiler:
the Third Seal's energies, that are so connected to Tar-Baphon, are giving some semblance of Tar-Baphon's ability to feel to everything around?

Thank you to everyone who'd help!


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Except for mindless undead, I don't know of any reason undead don't experience emotions. Mindless undead meanwhile operate on twisted instincts so you might colorfully describe them preying upon the living with something resembling twisted glee.


Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Except for mindless undead, I don't know of any reason undead don't experience emotions. Mindless undead meanwhile operate on twisted instincts so you might colorfully describe them preying upon the living with something resembling twisted glee.

Huh. I remember vividly an undead creature from Shattered Star AP not being able to feel any pleasure from murder that it once felt in life. So I guess this was wrong, then.

And based on that they don't feel anything physical, I always supposed they can't feel emotions. Cause they are the same chemical/physical things a body/brain produces.
This was also why I assumed all of them have mind-affecting immunities in 1e. Now that I look at the 2e Bestiary though, there are no mental immunities.

So they feel emotions, but feel nothing physically? Wow this brain-wrecking when I try to imagine it.

Thank you!

Liberty's Edge

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Arina Tikhonova wrote:
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Except for mindless undead, I don't know of any reason undead don't experience emotions. Mindless undead meanwhile operate on twisted instincts so you might colorfully describe them preying upon the living with something resembling twisted glee.

Huh. I remember vividly an undead creature from Shattered Star AP not being able to feel any pleasure from murder that it once felt in life. So I guess this was wrong, then.

And based on that they don't feel anything physical, I always supposed they can't feel emotions. Cause they are the same chemical/physical things a body/brain produces.
This was also why I assumed all of them have mind-affecting immunities in 1e. Now that I look at the 2e Bestiary though, there are no mental immunities.

So they feel emotions, but feel nothing physically? Wow this brain-wrecking when I try to imagine it.

Thank you!

I don't think it is always true that they feel nothing physically either - some undead are described as being constantly tortured by physical sensations, like ghouls always feeling hungry. Some undead can't feel anything physical - incorporeal ones, and you could make an argument for somthing like zombies with their rotting flesh, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule. The creature from the Shattered Star AP might not be wrong - just some undead have very different experiences to others, it's not a universal thing.


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Arina Tikhonova wrote:
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Except for mindless undead, I don't know of any reason undead don't experience emotions. Mindless undead meanwhile operate on twisted instincts so you might colorfully describe them preying upon the living with something resembling twisted glee.

Huh. I remember vividly an undead creature from Shattered Star AP not being able to feel any pleasure from murder that it once felt in life. So I guess this was wrong, then.

And based on that they don't feel anything physical, I always supposed they can't feel emotions. Cause they are the same chemical/physical things a body/brain produces.
This was also why I assumed all of them have mind-affecting immunities in 1e. Now that I look at the 2e Bestiary though, there are no mental immunities.

So they feel emotions, but feel nothing physically? Wow this brain-wrecking when I try to imagine it.

Thank you!

Keep in mind, emotions, instincts, etc. aren't just caused by chemicals in Pathfinder. It's a fantasy setting, where basic instincts and drives are tied to the vital essence- the essence's connection to vital/positive energy is being ripped out and replaced with one to void/negative energy. Life itself is a metaphysical force, brought into the universe through the planar portals in the hearts of stars.

Undead can feel things physically, too. If senses were shut off entirely, skeletons wouldn't be able to see. In Nidal, there's a big theological schism over how much the muted sensations of pain that undead can feel "count" as pain, but there's no argument that undead can't experience something in the vicinity of pain. In Geb, Alkenstar ice wine is popular among undead nobility for tasting more strongly to undead.


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There are also incorporeal undead to consider. They're often described as being filled with emotion, usually something negative such as rage or hatred. The seething spirit is a great example of an undead that basically runs on emotion.

Personally I've always seen the mind-effecting immunity thing in PF1E as having more to do with undead minds being put together differently enough that most enchantment magics don't work on them. That was the same edition that had to distinguish between a charm person and charm monster spell too, after all; enchantment was just a lot more granular.
Getting rid of that makes spells broadly more useful, and has the nice side-effect of making undead PCs and companions less potentially disruptive.

Radiant Oath

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Arina Tikhonova wrote:
I remember vividly an undead creature from Shattered Star AP not being able to feel any pleasure from murder that it once felt in life. So I guess this was wrong, then.

Situations can exist without becoming the default reality. There are living, breathing real-world humans that cease to feel pleasure from things they once enjoyed- that doesn't mean all humans are incapable of feeling emotions.


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

Well, rules-wise, 1E undead were uniformly immune to mind-affecting magic, which has changed in 2E, where only mindless undead retain that immunity.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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magnuskn wrote:
Well, rules-wise, 1E undead were uniformly immune to mind-affecting magic, which has changed in 2E, where only mindless undead retain that immunity.

As I understand it, there's 2 reasons we made this change:

1) We really ramped back on the "blanket immunities to wide ranges of effects" for monsters in the game, because it made them frustrating for folks to fight. Especially in the case of something like undead, which tend to clump together in large numbers in adventures, where having multiple undead encounters in a row can result in awful play experiences for characters who are built to do mind-affecting effects, etc.

2) Because in most stories about undead (with the exception of things like simple zombies... but even then there are exceptions, like Return of the Living Dead III which I just watched for the first time), undead are anything but emotionless. Vampires come to mind immediately, but the mummy movies are about undead who have thoughts and agendas and emotions. And ghosts, of course, are all about emotions. Plus, there's a lot of cases of undead being frightened by things, like religious symbols for vampires. With undead, we can tell all sorts of great and compelling stories about twisted and warped emotions, so it just made no sense that they'd be immune to mind affecting stuff. They do, after all, have minds!


James Jacobs wrote:
We really ramped back on the "blanket immunities to wide ranges of effects" for monsters in the game, because it made them frustrating for folks to fight.

Yes it is much appreciated.

Fire and Mental immunity were far too common in previous editions which made them poor effect types. Now they work fine most of the time.

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