Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Categories

Dark Dreams of Furiae - a new module for NWN:EE! Buy now
Attention, new and old users! Please read the new rules of conduct for the forums, and we hope you enjoy your stay!

Why is Animate Dead an Evil spell in most D&D editions (specifically 3.5/Pathfinder)?

VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
As title, why does animate dead have the evil descriptor and why does animate object not have it?

I feel as though the magic behind the two is very similar.

As a scholar of necromancy, I can understand create undead having it. You're binding a soul to a body and giving it intelligence. Mindless undead? Just magic moving their limbs.

If anything I'd label it "Chaotic."

Messing with dead bodies is against tradition it seems, hence chaotic.


So, what are your guys thoughts?




CrevsDaaktypo_tilly
«1

Comments

  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 2,072
    Do Animate Dead highjack somebody's soul or use Negative Energy to power it's creation? Because either of those seems like it would be a pretty big step from "make an object move around on it's own" on the morality scale. Animate Object doesn't create a being, or "un-being" so to speak, it just makes stuff mobile.

    I wonder if you could cast Animate Object on a dead body.

    VallmyrCrevsDaak
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    @Dee
    Holy crap
    I love you.

    This is the first post I've read when I discuss the implications of necromancy and whether it's evil or not that actually makes logical sense. Usually I just get, "ANIMATING BODIES AND STUFF IS EVIL SO ANIMATE DEAD IS EVIL" or some other lame answer.

    Also, I can definitely see that.

    I always thought animate dead as putting negative energy into a corpse to cause to move. Never thought of the idea that maybe the negative energy gained a sort of sentience or not.

    Hmmm
    very interesting take on it. Thank you!

    CrevsDaakJuliusBorisovlolien
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    The important piece to remember is what happens when the cleric (or wizard) stops controlling the undead. If the undead stops in its tracks, or collapses because the magic disappears, then the magic is only moving its body rather than giving it agency. If, on the other hand, the undead turns on the caster and attacks them, or goes off and wanders the world (with or without any purpose), then the caster has given the undead creature agency and at least a semblance of control over its existence. In essence, the caster has created life (or conjured it from somewhere else), which then brings up the moral implications of what the caster is doing with that life.

    I've played a fair few necromancers in my day; it's something I like to think about a lot. :)

    VallmyrCrevsDaaklolien
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    Dee said:

    The important piece to remember is what happens when the cleric (or wizard) stops controlling the undead. If the undead stops in its tracks, or collapses because the magic disappears, then the magic is only moving its body rather than giving it agency. If, on the other hand, the undead turns on the caster and attacks them, or goes off and wanders the world (with or without any purpose), then the caster has given the undead creature agency and at least a semblance of control over its existence. In essence, the caster has created life (or conjured it from somewhere else), which then brings up the moral implications of what the caster is doing with that life.

    I've played a fair few necromancers in my day; it's something I like to think about a lot. :)

    I almost exclusively play necromancers in both computer rpgs and in tabletop rpgs so I know the feels :3

    I usually play them as CN, CG, or with the N alignment. I don't play evil Necromancers usually. I get in debates with a lot of people whether necromancy is inherently evil. Usually I can agree with create undead being evil with intelligent undead and all that but mindless undead I'm like ehh. . .

    I suppose the best way to go about it is to just release the undead once I've finished using them if I'm playing a Good or Neutral necromancer.

    CrevsDaak
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    edited March 2015
    btw, why isn't Dominate mind considered evil? XD

    Seems to be taking someone's free will away from them >_>

    CrevsDaakBelgarathMTH
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    I think that's because with Dominate, you're suspending the person's agency temporarily in order to make them do something specific. What you make them do is what turns that into a good, evil, or neutral action.

    Though personally I would be inclined to say that anything above a certain spell level is morally suspect, unless it's being used in a truly dire circumstance. There are some powers that should not be abused, and doing so would put a spellcaster on the road to corruption, whether the spell is Finger of Death or True Resurrection.

    VallmyrCrevsDaaklolienBelgarathMTH
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    Dee said:

    I think that's because with Dominate, you're suspending the person's agency temporarily in order to make them do something specific. What you make them do is what turns that into a good, evil, or neutral action.

    Though personally I would be inclined to say that anything above a certain spell level is morally suspect, unless it's being used in a truly dire circumstance. There are some powers that should not be abused, and doing so would put a spellcaster on the road to corruption, whether the spell is Finger of Death or True Resurrection.

    Your knowledge is unending~!

    Btw, as it seems you're a fellow necromancer player and such, what would you say is the most necromancy necromancer character in Baldur's Gate, a Mage (Necromancer), a Cleric, or a Cleric/Mage?

    Also, I now look up to you as a mentor figure. No one I've met has answered my questions in a manner that made me go, "Oh, yeah. I totally agree with that one-hundred percent!"

    And back to be on subject with my opening post, how do would you say intelligent undead work? Is the necromancer activating the creature's brain, putting it's soul back in its body under the caster's will, or something else entirely?

    I think it might be all of the above, depending on how the caster uses the spell. Not sure though. . .

    CrevsDaaklolien
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    I think that largely depends on the type of undead. The lore for more intelligent undead, for instance, specifically mentions that they follow a similar path to the one they followed in life, but with darker and more primeval ambitions. Skeletons and Zombies are described as "mindless", so they could easily be a fabrication of the spell that created them.

    That being said, 5e somewhat shifts the concept of "mindless undead", so that now even Skeletons and Zombies have Intelligence scores, and they understand the languages they spoke in life even if they can't speak now. This suggests that any undead you create is built as a template on the creature you're creating it from. But this could still mean that the magic is fabricating a soul, rather than coopting the body's original one--just that the soul it creates is based on the creature that first inhabited that body.

    As for who makes the best necromancer, I think that largely depends on what sort of necromancer you're building. If what you want is a character that commands the undead and takes them for their dark patron, then Cleric is the way to go; otherwise, a Mage with the Necromancer kit will certainly feel more like the devoted student of death. Cleric has darker implications for the character's moral compass, Mage is easier to justify with a Lawful Neutral or even Good alignment.

    VallmyrCrevsDaaklolien
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    Dee said:

    I think that largely depends on the type of undead. The lore for more intelligent undead, for instance, specifically mentions that they follow a similar path to the one they followed in life, but with darker and more primeval ambitions. Skeletons and Zombies are described as "mindless", so they could easily be a fabrication of the spell that created them.

    That being said, 5e somewhat shifts the concept of "mindless undead", so that now even Skeletons and Zombies have Intelligence scores, and they understand the languages they spoke in life even if they can't speak now. This suggests that any undead you create is built as a template on the creature you're creating it from. But this could still mean that the magic is fabricating a soul, rather than coopting the body's original one--just that the soul it creates is based on the creature that first inhabited that body.

    As for who makes the best necromancer, I think that largely depends on what sort of necromancer you're building. If what you want is a character that commands the undead and takes them for their dark patron, then Cleric is the way to go; otherwise, a Mage with the Necromancer kit will certainly feel more like the devoted student of death. Cleric has darker implications for the character's moral compass, Mage is easier to justify with a Lawful Neutral or even Good alignment.

    Hopefully in 5e they release some flavorful necromancer books as D&D has in the past (Complete Book of Necromancers, Libris Mortis, Heroes of Horror). I always enjoy reading about undead and how they work and such n_n

    Thanks for answering my questions and such! It's super appreciative.

    CrevsDaak
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    I would say, if you're looking at necromancy in 5e, look at the monster descriptions in the monster manual as well as the School of Necromancy tradition in the Wizard class. Every undead monster offers paragraphs of lore to get your brain moving, and the arcane traditions in 5e do a lot more than just give you a bonus spell slot.

    CrevsDaakGreenWyvern
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    The official 3.x explanation for making Animate Dead (and basicly any Negative Energy based magic) evil is that bringing Negative Energy into the world makes it, elemental balance-wise, a bit more undead. Of course, if Negative Energy is an element similar to Fire or Water, it shouldn't be that way, Alignment energy is supposed to be the purview of the Outer Planes, so even if you ARE making the world more undead/lifeless, its not like Summon Monstering a Fiend, or Calling one. So, I agree it wasn't strictly consistent.

    The Good alternative btw is Deathless, which are animated by Positive Energy.

    CrevsDaak
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    DreadKhan said:

    The official 3.x explanation for making Animate Dead (and basicly any Negative Energy based magic) evil is that bringing Negative Energy into the world makes it, elemental balance-wise, a bit more undead. Of course, if Negative Energy is an element similar to Fire or Water, it shouldn't be that way, Alignment energy is supposed to be the purview of the Outer Planes, so even if you ARE making the world more undead/lifeless, its not like Summon Monstering a Fiend, or Calling one. So, I agree it wasn't strictly consistent.

    The Good alternative btw is Deathless, which are animated by Positive Energy.

    Deathless? That sounds super special awesome. Where might I read more about this?

    CrevsDaak
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    Deathless are described in Eberron, aren't they?

    CrevsDaak
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    Dee said:

    Deathless are described in Eberron, aren't they?

    Yes, Some Elves make tons of Deathless. The Book of Exalted Deeds also hss Desthless.

  • karnor00karnor00 Member Posts: 680
    There are big cultural differences between corpses (which once were alive) and other inanimate objects (here I'm meaning ones which were never alive). Even though from a purely logical perspective, both of them are now just inanimate objects.

    If you start smashing a dead body with a baseball bat then you are likely to be asked some serious questions by the police and, at best, looked at strangely by the community. However if you take a baseball bat to your table and chairs, then people will think it's a bit unusual but won't really care much.

    I'd see it as a similar distinction between animate dead and animate object.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Moral and societal issues aside, Animate Dead is supposed to be accomplished via the use of Negative Planar energy. From this stance alone, the manipulation of that type of energy is (or is supposed to be) evil in and of itself. This isn't science where all energy is essentially alignment neutral, it is quite literally the essence of evil distilled into power, much as the essence of Positive Planar energy is supposed to be Good.

    My necromancer never thinks twice about it. Raising the dead is merely a means to an end, i.e. power. If someone else can die in his place? Great. If they are already dead? I don't have to pay them to do it.

  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438

    Moral and societal issues aside, Animate Dead is supposed to be accomplished via the use of Negative Planar energy. From this stance alone, the manipulation of that type of energy is (or is supposed to be) evil in and of itself. This isn't science where all energy is essentially alignment neutral, it is quite literally the essence of evil distilled into power, much as the essence of Positive Planar energy is supposed to be Good.

    My necromancer never thinks twice about it. Raising the dead is merely a means to an end, i.e. power. If someone else can die in his place? Great. If they are already dead? I don't have to pay them to do it.

    Er. . . the negative energy plane isn't inherently evil though. Otherwise the Inflict Line of spells, and in fact all necromancy (vampiric touch and such) would have the evil descriptor. At least, I think that's how that would work.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    Fifth Edition changed it from "Negative Energy" to "Necrotic", suggesting that it's not an energy with feelings or moral bias, but rather an elemental force that acts a certain way and interacts specifically with undead and living creatures. Positive Energy, similarly, is now represented as Radiant. So a spell could deal either Radiant or Necrotic damage, without being automatically considered evil.

    Of course, radiant damage is typically dealt by good-aligned creatures, and necrotic typically by evil-aligned creatures. But it's a correlative, rather than causative, relationship.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859

    Moral and societal issues aside, Animate Dead is supposed to be accomplished via the use of Negative Planar energy. From this stance alone, the manipulation of that type of energy is (or is supposed to be) evil in and of itself. This isn't science where all energy is essentially alignment neutral, it is quite literally the essence of evil distilled into power, much as the essence of Positive Planar energy is supposed to be Good.

    My necromancer never thinks twice about it. Raising the dead is merely a means to an end, i.e. power. If someone else can die in his place? Great. If they are already dead? I don't have to pay them to do it.

    Well, the Negative Energy Plane isn't in the outer planes, so its not actually capable of True Evil, ie by the system of the game, its supposed to be a building block element like fire, water, etc. I suppose the old setup is that Negative Energy is the Elemental Plane of Death, and Positive is Elemental Life. Life is associated with Good, but it isn't inherently Good.

    How Death qualifies as an Element is even weirder. Sounds like from what Dee is saying 5th really clesred things up better.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    The way it appears to be in 5e is that Radiant energy is elemental light, while Necrotic energy is elemental decay or entropy. Neither is inherently good or evil, but as symbols they are often associated with their corresponding alignments. Angels deal additional Radiant damage, a lot of Necromancy spells deal Necrotic damage, and creatures associated with darkness are vulnerable to radiant while being resistant or immune to necrotic.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Vallmyr said:

    Er. . . the negative energy plane isn't inherently evil though. Otherwise the Inflict Line of spells, and in fact all necromancy (vampiric touch and such) would have the evil descriptor. At least, I think that's how that would work.

    I can't speak to any inconsistencies in the way the rules were written. Vampiric touch, if nothing else, should be evil. You are literally draining the life force of another being and feeding on it. That alone should make it EVIL.

    I don't know where I got my ideas, but they are based on 2E, although I admit that they may have been house rules from my DM. Any subsequent rules updates, I can't speak to because I've only ever played 2E and before in PnP.

  • ArchaosArchaos Member Posts: 1,421
    edited March 2015
    Because...

    1) Undead use Negative Energy to be animated.
    2) Negative Energy is designed to hurt life, like Positive Energy heals life.
    3) Undead by nature of negative energy, want to destroy all life, so they are Evil, not Neutral.
    4) You are desecrating the body of a person, to animate it with negative energy, without it's soul to destroy life.

    That's Evil.

    Also, I'm speaking for 2E, 3E. Don't know about 4E or 5E differences.

    the_spyder
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,438
    Archaos said:

    Because...

    1) Undead use Negative Energy to be animated.
    2) Negative Energy is designed to hurt life, like Positive Energy heals life.
    3) Undead by nature of negative energy, want to destroy all life, so they are Evil, not Neutral.
    4) You are desecrating the body of a person, to animate it with negative energy, without it's soul to destroy life.

    That's Evil.

    Also, I'm speaking for 2E, 3E. Don't know about 4E or 5E differences.

    So if the undead themselves are inherently evil, but the caster uses the spell to save the orphanage, I guess the caster has done a neutral action? Is that how that works?

    Always confused about what happens when you use an evil spell for a good action.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    That my friend is a whole different ball of wax.

    Why did the caster save the orphanage? For personal gain? For reputation? Because they have a personal stake in it? What was the motivation behind the act?

    Also, remember that an alignment is a continuum. Good beings can, on occasion, do evil. Just as Evil beings will occasionally do good, or have good outcomes come out of their actions.

    Alignments are terribly complicated (and overblown in my view).

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    There's a marked difference between a creature's alignment when encountered in the wild, and a creature's alignment when the player creates it. True, the undead in the Monster Manual all have evil alignments--but there's nothing stopping a DM from saying that undead follow the alignments of their masters, and (for example) a Necromancer who follows Wee Jas might be neutral-aligned and have a retinue of neutral-aligned undead servants.

    Once the necromancer stops controlling it, of course, a skeleton or zombie is compelled (according to the Monster Manual description) to kill any living creature it encounters, due to the necromantic magic that created it. But, again, there's absolutely nothing stopping a DM from overriding that paradigm to say that an undead servant created by a good-aligned necromancer with the intent of doing good things might continue to do good things once out of that necromancer's control. A Skeleton NPC, for instance, would likely behave very differently from a bog-standard Skeleton.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    I'd put it to you @Dee, if the being is being controlled and has no free will of their own, does their individual alignment really matter/manifest? Undead created by Animate Dead are automatons. They have no will but that of their maker. They are literally an instrument of their creators and nothing more.

    Beyond that, I agree that a DM can and should have the freedom to effect and change a creature's alignment in whatever manner fulfills his narrative. That is the nature of a DM.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    @the_spyder That's certainly true; but that being the case, a necromancer who creates undead to perform good deeds doesn't become evil by virtue of their use of undead, because in that scenario the undead isn't an evil creation.

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    @Dee - I would submit that it is the act of summoning (again by use of the negative energy) that is the evil act and not what they do with the undead. I would also put it to you that, if the being has any free will at all and it is being subverted by means of control, that in and of itself is not exactly a 'Good' act. If, as you posit, the undead could potentially be good creatures, total domination of the kind clearly exhibited by the spell would not be something that any self respecting paladin might want on their resume, I am thinking.

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    Certainly--although it's sort of in the same vein as Summon Monster. Those creatures are entirely under your control for the duration of the spell.

    Like anything, I think it has more to do with whether or not a caster is abusing their magic. Batman using cell phones to stop the Joker is "wrong", but since he only does it once, it's arguably an acceptable act.

Sign In or Register to comment.