Situation: A character playing a lawful good (Oath of Devotion) paladin found a wondrous item called "Night caller". (This item is a whistle that allows you to cast "Animate dead" at night and call forth a skeleton or zombie.) The paladin wished to keep the item, but some in the group, felt that this is an evil item because it raises the undead.

Question: So by the rules, is raising the dead an evil act or does it depend on what you do with the undead? (excluding cursed items)


The rules say creating undead is not good, though they don't directly call it evil

The rules don't directly say that creating undead is evil... but they do say that it's definitely not good, and only evil people would do it often. From the description of the Necromancy school in the general spellcasting rules, emphasis mine:

Necromancy spells manipulate the energies of life and death. Such spells can grant an extra reserve of life force, drain the life energy from another creature, create the undead, or even bring the dead back to life.

Creating the undead through the use of necromancy spells such as animate dead is not a good act, and only evil casters use such spells frequently.

Though such spells are not explicitly described as evil, they're implicitly and obviously not good for your karma. Fortunately, 5e Paladins do not have alignment restrictions, and unless the action taken directly violates one of the tenets of their oath, they are not at risk of falling. Further analysis of the morality of such actions gets subjective extremely quickly and is outside the scope of the stack.


The first level ability of a Paladin is Divine Sense.

Divine Sense The presence of strong evil registers on your senses like a noxious odor, and powerful good rings like heavenly music in your ears. As an action, you can open your awareness to detect such forces. Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you that is not behind total cover. You know the type (celestial, fiend, or undead) of any being whose presence you sense, but not its identity...

So by Divine Sense undead are either strong evil or powerful good. To narrow it down more we can look at the Oath of Devotion’s Turn Unholy

Turn the Unholy. As an action, you present your holy symbol and speak a prayer censuring fiends and undead, using your Channel Divinity. Each fiend or undead that can see or hear you within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.

Turn Unholy doesn’t allow the Paladin to differentiate or choose which undead or fiends are effected. So Turn Unholy states all fiends and undead are unholy.

From those two abilities of the Paladin it appears that at least an Oath of Devotion Paladin would see all undead as Unholy and Strong Evil.

But it is up to your DM, as he will be the god judging your actions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have always disliked the term "Unholy" in a context with ambiguity. You have to keep in mind that it is written in from the point of view that the heroes/players are (typically) inherently "good". Any religion can view another religion as "Unholy" or "Blasphemous" in their practices and it is not limited to good versus evil but could also hold true in a lawful versus chaotic view point. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth May 17 '19 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed but it may give insight to the classes ideals \$\endgroup\$ – Alk May 18 '19 at 3:02

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