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I'm working on a concept for a true neutral elven shaman of bones, obsessed with the study of death and undeath.

Animate Dead is a necromancy spell with the Evil descriptor, will using that spell cause my shaman to become Neutral Evil instead of just Neutral?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related \$\endgroup\$ – Luris May 28 '18 at 7:09
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Yes, it is an evil act - depending on what rule sources you use

The Core rules

In the core rulebook - copied directly from the 3.5 SRD - the rule on descriptors like [Evil] is:

Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves, but they govern how the spell interacts with other spells, with special abilities, with unusual creatures, with alignment, and so on.

In other words, with these rules, [Evil] spells just mean that they interact in specific ways with certain abilities (detect evil, a cleric's spellcasting restriction). Casting an evil spell may also be an evil act, and often is - but it isn't so automatically according to the core rules.

Animate dead is a bit of a grey area, and would depend a lot on the metaphycics of your game - I.E. "Ask your GM". Even in the most forgiving interpretation, it would raise questions about the desecration of remains.

Further rule clarifications

However, the game designers are of the opinion that casting an [Evil] spell is also an evil act. See for example this quite here:

Spells with the Evil descriptor are evil; that's why they have that descriptor. Same goes for Good or Lawful or Chaotic.

Furthermore, from what I can find this has been confirmed in later published rulebooks (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures), although I cannot confirm that as I do not have that book. (A second-source quote is found here, halfway in the "Descriptor" section).

It seems, then, that the designer intent (in Pathfinder) is that [Evil]-spells are, indeed, Evil acts, and depending on where you source your rules from, it might or might not be RAW.

An evil act does not make you evil

Characters should not be fully defined by one alignment - people can and do perform acts outside of their normal moral, for whatever reasons. Performing multiple evil acts will likely push your character towards being evil, but an "the ends justify the means"-mindset could very much keep you neutral.

Problems with the [Evil] being Evil interpretation

Most [Evil] spells are, in fact, always evil acts - creating permanent, intelligent undead (such as with create undead) can't really be justified away. For many others, however, it makes much less sense - casting Magic Circle against Evil (a [Good] spell) to trap a demon you summoned should hardly be considered a good act. However, a blanket application of the rules would make it so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just want to Add to Danny's excellent answer: Per the rules, yes, casting an [Evil] spell is an evil act. But your character is also constantly using deadly force to achieve his means (he's an adventurer). One could say that branding a sword can be an evil act too... So, roleplay-wise, depending on how you want to use your [Evil] spell, I wouldn't consider it an evil act. \$\endgroup\$ – Helwar May 28 '18 at 8:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can confirm Horror Adventures' stance on the quantifiable nature of evil in this answer. (And, really, by that book's standards, your stance may be too soft on the ends-may-justify-the-means thing where actual, verifiable, the-rules-say-it's-evil evil acts are concerned!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 28 '18 at 8:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ "to trap a demon you summoned should hardly be considered a good act." - I don't find this example convincing. It is a good thing not to let demon roam free. Summoning it was probably more evil than trapping it is good, but trapped demon is, overall, less evil than free one. I'll try to find a better example. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 28 '18 at 12:16

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