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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Well I'm sure if you've played D&D for awhile, you've had a DM say "the magical energy is so powerful it blind/stuns/dazes you!". Which is not, nor has it ever been, an effect of the spell. I've had it happen to my Paladins too with Detect Evil.
3e/3.5/Pathfinder that is RAW for Detect Evil and the other detect alignment spells.

"If you are of good alignment, and the strongest evil aura’s power is overwhelming (see below), and the HD or level of the aura’s source is at least twice your character level, you are stunned for 1 round and the spell ends."

These are also the editions where all undead detect as evil, regardless of actual individual alignment.

Detect Evil​


Level:Clr 1
Components:V, S, DF
Casting Time:1 standard action
Range:60 ft.
Area:Cone-shaped emanation
Duration:Concentration, up to 10 min./ level (D)
Saving Throw:None
Spell Resistance:No

You can sense the presence of evil. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject.

1st Round​

Presence or absence of evil.

2nd Round​

Number of evil auras (creatures, objects, or spells) in the area and the power of the most potent evil aura present.

If you are of good alignment, and the strongest evil aura’s power is overwhelming (see below), and the HD or level of the aura’s source is at least twice your character level, you are stunned for 1 round and the spell ends.

3rd Round​

The power and location of each aura. If an aura is outside your line of sight, then you discern its direction but not its exact location.

Aura Power​

An evil aura’s power depends on the type of evil creature or object that you’re detecting and its HD, caster level, or (in the case of a cleric) class level; see the accompanying table. If an aura falls into more than one strength category, the spell indicates the stronger of the two.

Aura Power

  1. Except for undead and outsiders, which have their own entries on the table.
  2. Some characters who are not clerics may radiate an aura of equivalent power. The class description will indicate whether this applies.
Evil creature1 (HD)
10 or lower​
51 or higher​
Undead (HD)
2 or lower​
21 or higher​
Evil outsider (HD)
1 or lower​
11 or higher​
Cleric of an evil deity2 (class levels)
11 or higher​
Evil magic item or spell (caster level)
2nd or lower​
21st or higher​

Lingering Aura​

An evil aura lingers after its original source dissipates (in the case of a spell) or is destroyed (in the case of a creature or magic item). If detect evil is cast and directed at such a location, the spell indicates an aura strength of dim (even weaker than a faint aura). How long the aura lingers at this dim level depends on its original power:

Original Strength​
Duration of Lingering Aura​
Faint1d6 rounds
Moderate1d6 minutes
Strong1d6×10 minutes
Overwhelming1d6 days

Animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil, and as such this spell does not detect them.

Each round, you can turn to detect evil in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
While you are correct, that is a possibility, to me, at least, I ran into it a lot, and how often should you face an aura generated by something twice your level?

EDIT: also, the trend first started happening to me in 2e, where that wasn't in the spell description. I wonder if WotC added that because so many DM's were doing it anyways?


There is no way to justify animating dead as a good act. I always play it as evil, and off limits for Good aligned creatures. First every druid or nature spirit should be against it, not just good creatures. Corpses are corrupt physically. They bring disease, and they bring pests, so on a practical level there is nothing good about spreading either of those. The principles of necromancy drain life and prevent healing. It promotes suffering, both for those that have died.

I think necromancy is the only magic that is directly evil.

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