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I was playing with the idea of my N wizard starting to dabble in animating dead, but there is a conflict because of my LG paladin. I'm in the school of thought that mindless undead such as skeletons and, depending on how they are portrayed, zombies are not by nature evil, but rather traditionally those who summon them are usually evil. But I want to hear others' thoughts and reasons. Thanks!

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Can you specify which game ruleset you're talking about here, is it D&D 3.5? –  ioanwigmore Jun 11 '12 at 0:19
    
its primarily 1st edition. Is there a difference? –  Luke Jun 11 '12 at 0:41
    
I don't know enough about the earlier editions, but it's possible! –  ioanwigmore Jun 11 '12 at 1:01
    
Is it addressed in the later editions? –  Luke Jun 11 '12 at 1:06
    
In some editions, undead of any kind are automatically evil, and summoning them is automatically evil. –  Oblivious Sage Jun 11 '12 at 1:14

4 Answers 4

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I don't think the evil nature of the spell is too much of a problem. It should add conflict to the party for sure - the Paladin should oppose evil acts. Habitual, unrepentant use of evil necromancy may eventually drive a wedge between the characters and split the party.

More immediately, the paladin may feel obligated to seek legal recourse on behalf of the disturbed dead. Desecration of a corpse and slavery may be against the law. The paladin may need to bring the wizard to justice.

Evil necromancy could be lawful. If the paladin is high-enough level, he could just turn undead to destroy anything the wizard tries to animate. "I won't abide evil necromancy, so don't even try!" Assuming doing so isn't considered destruction of property. If the meat shield is busy undermining what the wizard does instead of hacking at enemies with that +5 holy avenger, the bad guys have more chances to hurt the fragile wizard.

The context of the spell could temper the paladin's response. Animating your slain henchmen to haul loot from the dungeon crawl two weeks back to town is not the same as animating the slain donkeys to do the same. Animating dead henchmen before combat to eventually serve as meat shields is not the same as animating slain enemies during combat to win the day and banishing them afterwards.

I don't have AD&D 1st edition rules handy, but the OD&D Rules Cyclopedia says "Lawful clerics must take care to use this spell only for good purpose. Animating the dead is usually a Chaotic act." If lawful clerics can use it for good, paladins should be no different.

Gail Z Martin has a good necromancer in The Summoner and other Chronicles of the Necromancer books. Aragorn uses the dead men of Dunharrow against Sauron's allies in The Return of the King. Other literary examples escape me for the moment.

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If you're playing 1e, then this is completely up to the DM to announce whether the Paladin's God would judge the Paladin for permissiveness or tolerance. Like others here, I would definitely think alot of this has to do with the God of the Paladin. More importantly, and bluntly, it would depend on the player playing the paladin. If that player insists it will be an issue, then it's an issue. That's part of the blessing and curse of the earlier editions. The players act out the character's prejudices, and to what extent they exist.

In my games, the Paladin is usually a paragon, but that doesn't necessarily make them a party millstone. If the paladin is a devout of the God of War, then they're much more likely to accept the raising of enemy dead bodies (Not souls, mind you) for battle. If the paladin serves the God of the Nature, a he**uva lot less tolerant.

Also, WHAT is being animated? Would YOU (and I mean you personally, not another player) think there was evil in the animation of small children? What about if you animated a dead beetle? Isn't dead, dead? What if a pC or NPC animated some orcs? Now, what if they animated the orcs so the Ranger could practice with his bow, and wants a moving target? What if a player character, or NPC, animated their own freshly dead wife, because they couldn't bear to totally seperate? Would a paladin slay them on sight, or shake their head in pity?

I would offer that it's a very fine line for the party to walk, but it can be worked out.

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As Maldrak says; This will depend on the laws of the country/system where your wizard is planning on raising an army of the dead; one way around this is to ensure that the "victims" of your raise dead (and suchlike) spells are willing to be used as such - which isn't likely.

However working within the system and a local mortuary will likely pay dividends; along with the "undead donor card" ("Upon my death I wish to be raised as a minion of the necromantic army") if the mortuary can get an agreement whereby the locals are paid for their corpses and they are then used for "medical experiments" and "necromantic research" then they may even line up to hand over the bodies, depending on the local superstitions.

Alternatively bribe a suitably high level official to change the law (eg "Undead may be used in times of war and national emergency").

Ultimately, however, this will depend on the Paladin as much as the law, their religion will dictate their actions as much as the local laws.

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I guess it depends on the setting, primarily. More specifically, on the ethos of the god of the paladin, which is up to the DM mostly. Alignment and beliefs have, as far as I know, always been highly debated and controversial topics of D&D worlds (let alone our real world :)) - god only knows (but which god?) what really lawful and good and chaotic and evil means. :) Just think of what people are capable of doing in the name of goodness (fully believing in their righteousness) that their adversaries, whom they of course consider evil, see as evil.

So, if in your campaign the god the paladin serves considers raising undead from fallen enemies (like orcs, for example) to protect the faithful okay, then it's okay. Of course, the very same god may severely frown upon disturbing the corpses of its own followers. All in all, I'd say you have to work these details out with your DM - or, in case you're the DM, the heavy lifting is up to you, you'll have to detail and describe the exact views of the deities involved.

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