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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Except, a non-evil PC absolutely can. Nothing stops them from doing so, and the text in question indicates no consequences if they do.

"Nothing" prevents a PC from casting animate dead. (Well, perhaps their party members eventually physically bind them and turn them over to the church.) However, while a PC "can" repeatedly cast animate dead, doing so shifts there alignment to evil. That is the direct consequence of "only evil casters use such spells frequently". Can a non-evil PC cast animate dead frequently? They cannot. But not in the sense that they are literally prevented from casting the spell. Rather, they cannot remain as non-evil PCs while doing so. If they cast animate dead repeatedly, their alignment either changes to evil, or was already evil.

Consider: A responsible person with limited financial means will not spend their family's rent at the horse races. Now, nothing except their own sense of responsibility actually prevents their taking the action. However, undeniably, if they do so they aren't being responsible and they would lose the "responsible" description.

This is in general. We aren't considering unusual circumstances, for example, being forced at gunpoint. Which brings up an important consideration: Knowledge and intent. Does the caster know they are raising the dead? Are they doing it of their own will, or are they being forced to do, say, to avoid their family being tortured and killed? My sense is that the "frequently" is meant to indicate a casualness to the casting, which works against any defense of lack of knowledge or of intent -- "I didn't know that disturbing the burial grounds would cause dead to rise". Casual is, for example, having standard practice when exploring a dungeon to summon a zombie and have it walk just ahead to trigger traps.


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Staff member


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The rules are incapable of running a game of D&D. All games are house ruled. None are RAW. If you try to run a game of D&D without arbitration, you utterly fail. I don't mean because a person has to speak, I mean because huge chunks of rules necessary to run the game without filling in the gaps yourself simply don't exist.
I don’t disagree.


Morkus from Orkus
Simply no, you cannot "prove rule wrong". That's nonsensical. You can break a rule though. If "X won't do Y" is the rule, then if you declare that your X does Y you're breaking the rules. That's it. That's the RAW. Stupid? Sure. Hard to understand? Not really.
The druid thing isn't a mechanical game rule. It's an in game taboo that they voluntarily abide by, which means that one can voluntarily violate the taboo.


Morkus from Orkus
They're not following the rule "druids won't wear metal armour."
There is no such rule. There is only an in-game taboo. The sage advice talking about it is very careful to only refer to it as a taboo that is part of the class story(in-game only thing). And then explicitly states that druids do not lack the ability to wear metal armor(not a rule), but CHOOSE not to wear it. Then it likens it to being a vegetarian. I've seen vegetarians eat meat when very hungry and have no other options available. They don't like to do it, and usually choose to honor their taboo, but there is no rule against them eating meat on occasion.


The secret, as always, was to stop pretending to care about alignment.
The secret is of course to let those that like or care about alignment to keep caring about alignment…

…and for those that don’t like or care about to stop trying to tell them why they shouldn’t at every opportunity.

The question was about the workings of a borderline alignment issue. If you don’t believe alignment should even exist you’re probably not answering the question in good faith.

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