D&D 5E Why is animate dead considered inherently evil?

I'm having a troublesome time understanding why the animate dead spell is considered evil. When I read the manual it states that the spall imbues the targeted corpse with a foul mimicry of life, implying that the soul is not a sentient being who is trapped in a decaying corpse. Rather, the spell does exactly what its title suggests, it only animates the corps. Now of course one could use the spell to create zombies that would hunt and kill humans, but by that same coin, they could create a labor force that needs no form of sustenance (other than for the spell to be recast of course). There have also been those who have said "the spell is associated with the negative realm which is evil", however when you ask someone why the negative realm is bad that will say "because it is used for necromancy", I'm sure you can see the fallacy in this argument.

However, I must take into account that I have only looked into the DnD magic system since yesterday so there are likely large gaps in my knowledge. PS(Apon further reflection I've decided that the animate dead spell doesn't fall into the school of necromancy, as life is not truly given to the corps, instead I believe this would most likely fall into the school of transmutation.) PPS(I apologize for my sloppy writing, I've decided I'm feeling too lazy to correct it.)
 

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Oofta

Legend
Imagine someone you love dies. It's heart rending and you don't know how you'll go on. You go through the death rituals we've devised over millennia of mourning and laying the body to rest. It helps you move on.

Then you see the corpse of your dearly beloved shambling down the road. For a moment there's a spark of hope that maybe they're still alive only to realize that someone took the last remnants, the last reminder of someone you would do practically anything to get back, is being used without thought or concern. They've turned all of your rituals, your love, into a mockery.

It's that pain that you can cause that is evil. Desecration of the dead in most cultures is considered evil because even though the spirit is gone the person was a spirit and the form, the body.
 

To me the 5e Animate Dead isn't evil because of the "foul mimicry of life" part but because it's a mind control spell where you continually bind the will of the undead or they stop obeying after a day. They don't want to do much and you're overriding their wills to make them.

Historically supernatural evil has been much more explicit than it is in 5e and more of a "football team shirt morality", and the turn undead of good clerics would destroy undead while the evil clerics could command them instead.
 


Well apart from desecrating a corpse, 1e it said the act of animating dead was "not a good one" and good clerics should consider carefully. The spell component included a piece of human flesh. So yeah.
I am fully aware that it is considered "not a good act" but I have a troublesome time understanding why. Also, requiring the use of human flesh doesn't sound like something particularly bad by itself, perhaps dishonestly gaining it is bad, but simply finding the dead body of a random man and animating it doesn't sound evil at all. Now I can understand someone not wanting to see their grandpa's corpse walking around, but such contingencies can be avoided with the following methods: Ask to buy or have the corps donated (you can alternatively find a corps that will clearly not be sought after by relatives), Turn said corps into a skeleton, set out with your new labor force and show the world its implications.
 

payn

Legend
If we’re talking about 5e here, it isn’t “inherently evil.” Some characters would probably consider it evil for any number of reasons, but there are no actual game rules connecting any particular spell to any particular alignment.
Pretty much this. In the past I believe its because you are creating mindless evil beings that just go around killing things unless controlled. That and you are messing with the natural and/or cosmic order and thats simply not good.
 

payn

Legend
I am fully aware that it is considered "not a good act" but I have a troublesome time understanding why. Also, requiring the use of human flesh doesn't sound like something particularly bad by itself, perhaps dishonestly gaining it is bad, but simply finding the dead body of a random man and animating it doesn't sound evil at all. Now I can understand someone not wanting to see their grandpa's corpse walking around, but such contingencies can be avoided with the following methods: Ask to buy or have the corps donated (you can alternatively find a corps that will clearly not be sought after by relatives), Turn said corps into a skeleton, set out with your new labor force and show the world its implications.
I think its because if you lose control of your labor force, the undead go around slaughtering everyone.
 



Because corpses are icky and icky things are evil. The 'killing spree if uncontrolled' was tacked on later in 3.5.

Now why don't you just brutally enslave an elemental spirit into a golem instead like a Good person would?
This is a very interesting point - that golems don't at all have the air/flavor of being unholy because they require the violation/enslavement of some other entity.

If I had to guess, it's because OG golems in cultural mythology, I don't think, worked that way? And that the whole 'elemental spirit' thing was added later to give some plausibility of how golems worked beyond just magic.

Regardless of why, it's definitely glossed over in it's representation/ramifications in the D&D lore.
 


This is a very interesting point - that golems don't at all have the air/flavor of being unholy because they require the violation/enslavement of some other entity.

If I had to guess, it's because OG golems in cultural mythology, I don't think, worked that way? And that the whole 'elemental spirit' thing was added later to give some plausibility of how golems worked beyond just magic.
golems worked on some kind of letter magic by particularly holy rabbis last I heard.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
It was not the case in all editions,. In particular 3e had neutral "mindless" undead like skeletons and zombies, and animating these was not considered inherently evil.

However, 5e decided that negative energy had to be involved, and that negative energy was inherently evil, so by direct implication, all undead, including "mindless" ones are evil and producing them is evil.

This is the RAW answer, but nothing prevents you from using other takes in your setting. However, if your DM tells you that it's so, then it is in his setting and in his games...
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
This is a very interesting point - that golems don't at all have the air/flavor of being unholy because they require the violation/enslavement of some other entity.
D&D has never considered enslavement, or violation of agency to be evil. That's why mind control spells and love potions aren't evil despite being WAY worse than making a meat robot.
 


D&D has never considered enslavement, or violation of agency to be evil. That's why mind control spells and love potions aren't evil despite being WAY worse than making a meat robot.
When i first started playing 3.5 way back in the day, one of my first "I'm the DM moments" was to explain to my group that enchantment magic was seen as equally evil as necromancy by the in-world populace for this exact reason, (and, really, arguably more so in a lot of ways).
 


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