Suppose that in the Dark Sun setting, I have a good-aligned cleric who follows the ideals of one of the elements (fire, water, earth, air) and has chosen to channel positive energy.

My question can be split in two points:

  1. Is there any rule that forbids said cleric creating undead by casting miracles cleric spells such as Animate Dead? I don't think that the cleric's deity forbids him to do so since he doesn't have a deity, but I'm not sure.
  2. Is there anything in the Dark Sun setting that prevents the cleric from creating undead?

Also, how are undead seen in the world of Dark Sun?

Any pointers to source material are welcome.

The GM ruling in my group is that such a cleric cannot create undead like that because it runs contrary to the ideals of the elemental clerics, but I'm highly interested your answers.

Edit: I misused the term 'miracle'. I didn't mean the spell 'Miracle' I meant cleric spells in general; my bad. Updated the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since this is a question about a setting with multiple official versions, information about the version of Athas your group is running becomes necessary. Are you working exclusively from the Paizo's Dark Sun articles, or are other source materials being used as well? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 9:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ In that case, the second part of your question is nearly impossible to answer; the versions of Athas are so different, in one of them divine magic is allowable at all only by GM sanction! \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Good point. I'm not sure on which source material our GM bases the campaign since we've not started playing yet. I'll have to ask him. Are there big differences in the versions of Athas regarding point 2 of my question? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm mostly unfamiliar with versions of Athas beyond the 4e edition, so I couldn't say. But I can say this: your first question is a rules question, and your second is a setting question. You'll get better answers if you remove the Athas-specific second part and turn it into a new question of its own. (And maybe ask your GM what his sources are, so you can include that in the question.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I think the rules question is related enough to the setting that they shouldn't be split. To know whether, mechanically, the elemental powers forbid casting [Evil] spells, you need to know whether they have an alignment etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 20:54

3 Answers 3


The 2nd edition Dark Sun supplement "Earth, Air, Fire and Water" describes the duties and role of elemental clerics in a bit more detail. It mentions the following when discussing the turn undead ability:

Because the undead, by their very nature, lie outside of the natural dominion of the cycle of life and death, the elementals consider them to be abominations ... Evil clerics may control undead as usual, but should eventually return them to the ground in order to fulfill their agreements with the elemental planes.

So I would say a good elemental cleric should certainly not be creating them!

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Agreements with the elemental planes"... So clerics don't have "gods," but they still have supernatural beings that they need to keep in the good graces of. I think that corrects the unspoken assumptions that this question is based on. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie There are no unspoken assumptions. It is a fact that there are no gods on Athas. What I was not sure about what restrictions following the elements imposes on a character. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ViktorSeifert The question assumes that clerics have no-one they're accountable to for their power, therefore no-one to care about things like raising undead. That's apparently untrue. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ViktorSeifert The implication of the sourcebook is that clerics are not powered by the abstract concepts of their elements, but rather are given power by a variety of powerful elemental beings that inhabit those planes. However, unlike traditional clerics, they don't have relationships with specific beings or even know their names. Very key to the idea of the Dark Sun elemental cleric is that they make a Pact with these beings that they have to abide. You should hunt down the sourcebook if you want to know more. \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:36

Independently of the setting, from a strict rules POV, the spell has the [evil] descriptor.
This means that while you may be able to cast it if it's available to you, it is considered a really evil act to do so (as found in the Alignment rules here). As usual, the GM's word is law as to what that means for you and your character's alignment, but the rules are here nevertheless.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In some fiction, undead have been "good". Sort of. There was one where a group of good clerics and some order of knights voluntarily become undead guardians when they died, to protect this really valuable artifact thing. I don't remember any more than that though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zan Lynx
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ZanLynx in some fiction, not in this fiction. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 23:48

I agree with Nigralbus' answer, but I would also, as a DM, take the following opinion: The creation of an undead creation is inherently an evil act. Undead are the antithesis of the positive energy your cleric will channel, being creatures of negative energy. Further, by it's very nature, the good alignment in general cherishes life. Again, undead creatures are taking what has, or had, life and twisting it into its inherent opposite. That is a clear definition of an evil act.

From a strictly rules standpoint, I would rule that you cannot bypass the evil nature of creating an undead by casting a miracle spell. The miracle spell clearly states that you "duplicate any cleric spell of 8th level or lower". This would include duplicating every aspect of that spell, including it's evil descriptor, in this case. I would also rule that no diety or power of good is going to answer your miracle spell request to create an undead creature because, again, the creation of undead is an evil act.

The way I would play it as your DM is that an evil power or god would probably answer your miracle request, but it would require a price from you of some sort. A very high price, probably to be required of you at a time that is very inopportune for you and your party. Perhaps it would be something such as sacrificing a party member in the middle of a difficult combat. I'd probably wait weeks or months, maybe even years in a long campaign, before collecting that debt.

As a secondary consideration, I also agree with your DM's ruling on undead being contrary to the ideals of an elemental cleric. I would probably recommend that you focus on summoning elemental creatures rather than creating undead, for those situations that you had envisioned making use of an undead creature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking along the same lines. I wasn't sure wether negative energy is part of the natural circle of life and death. From your answer I see that it is not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 12:38

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