So I decided that today I wanted to debate about magic because that's precisely the kind of thing you do when you want to annoy Mayana. it's the general idea that Necromancy is evil, and I suppose there can be some argument back and forth on that from the lore of universes like D&D where good and evil are physical forces rather than abstract philosophies based on feelings and principles. ("If the goodness/evilness of Necromancy is dependent entirely on the wielder, how come all the monsters it creates are evil alignment!?" and all that kind of shit.) But what I wanted to ask isn't entirely about Necromancy as it works in the Dungeons and Dragons setting (where it would PROBABLY be evil, from a fundamentalist interpretation of the lore) but rather in a general sense. What principles of yours does it violate, if any? Or, what instances of necromancy in the media or your own hypotheticals do you find to be evil? And is there any sort of magic you personally think is evil in all instances?
That blood blending shit from that old hag in Avatar was pretty evil, think thats evil in all instances.
What does she do? I'm not familiar with Avatar.
So there's water bending, right? You move water around and stuff?
Blood bending is the same thing but with blood. Often still inside the person.
Wouldn't that just, y'know, cause heart attacks all the time no matter what you did with it?
I mean, the blood is still flowing. It just flows in a certain direction really fast.
So it either causes heart attacks or makes your arm fall asleep?
I assume your entire body falls asleep when that happens.
It either makes the blood move really fast, or forces it to flow in a certain position .
I suppose making someone's foot fall asleep is one of the greatest evils a person can commit...
I don't know. I feel like you could probably use it to, like, resuscitate someone.
... Is that how it works?
I mean, once the heart stops beating, can you use just the blood to revive a person?
You could at least keep the oxygen happening a little longer. Or at least simulate breathing/heart beating by physically moving the blood and therefore pulling on the muscles.
Still, though, it's outlawed because everyone who uses it is a dick.
Well, the judgement isn't to be passed on the way people use it, it's about whether it's categorically evil to use that magic because it can only be used for negative purposes. I mean, all the other bending abilities have just as much potential to murder and help people, bending blood can also serve a medicinal purpose as well as making people's feet fall asleep.
But, I mean, everyone who's ever bloodbent for a prolonged period of time has gone evil. And it's the evil half to Energybending, being the only other type of bending that can take people's powers away.
Well if you multiclass like the Avatar so that Bloodbending doesn't drive you insane, you should be fine then.
Or keep people from bleeding to death/getting infected. Or grab blood bags from the lab faster than your nurse can.
I think it comes down to morality for most people. For me I would be perfectly fine with most necromancy but only in the most extreme cases. For example you are about to be killed, to protect your loved ones etc. I would like the dead to remain at rest but there are circumstances where I believe it would be acceptable. For example I am going to look at magic the gathering. Zendikar, it was under attack by the eldrazi, (for the non players imagine, a combination of Chaos, tyranids and well zombies.) The defenders chose that they would raise their dead allies if they could not be healed that's how bad the threat was. Magic is something wondrous but something that must be watched. It shouldn't be used to personal gain or to control other humans, building artifacts to sell? why not, but to take over a town is unacceptable. But like all important things it must be judged by a case by case basis.
I put it to you that, in general, Necromancy isn't evil in most cases provided there's permission by the dead to be used in future for certain intents and purposes. I mean obviously using somebody's body without their permission is pretty bad, even if their mind isn't there. It's still rape if you knock them out and do your shit. It also isn't evil if a mind comes back to the body in order to be alive again, since that's something they do to themselves on their own terms. I like to take the Buddhist approach to the Undead, while not all that natural, they, by living, have every right to be there as anyone else and alignment is determined by the morality of the person rather than by the nature of their existence. Assuming they are people and not the will of another person being exerted through like a zombie or skeleton hoard. (In which case they can only be as good or evil as the puppeteer) Nothing inherently wrong about being a lich, but resurrecting an army unbeknownst to the soldiers that left those skeletons behind is exploitative and wrong. Similarly, Mind control is awfully fucked in general, for taking control of people's minds and pretty much their entire existence. I mean, unless they're given permission, but it's still a pretty fucked up concept.
As an aside, as far as the necromancy committed by a protagonist goes, I also don't see how resurrecting the dead of your enemies as an adventurer could be any more evil than, say, killing all those "bad guys" in the first place, unless the soul is tied to the body in which case you are enslaving and torturing them, which adds another layer of cruelty to it rather than just fighting them off and resurrecting them out of necessity.
I think there are two general arguments for the evil of necromancy, once which you already addressed.
The first is the issue of consent. In most if not all cases, someone is raised from the dead without their consent. Consent in this regard is twofold. First, one would have to consent to first being turned undead. Then they'd have to know exactly what that entails and consent to that. There's a big difference between say being turned into a vampire vs say a ghoul. If you want to use strictly traditional necromantic magics, there's still a difference between a zombie, a mummy, and a skeleton especially when vanity is concerned. So if someone were to give their explicit consent to have their body used for any necromantic purposes and whatever actions may follow, then that circumvents that issue of morality.
The second is the issue of natural order. If you believe that there is a natural order or balance that must be delicately maintained, then necromancy is the subversion of that order. That could have unintended consequences that are far more harmless than just animate dead. If a soul is used in the necromantic process or something is used to create sentient life, then there's a risk of destabilizing that order. If the bodies are just animated meat puppets, nothing is immoral about that. The difference here is how many people are unwittingly affected by those actions in a potentially negative manner.
Weeelll, while the second argument does raise some potentially important concerns, I believe it's ultimately fallacious for a few reasons. The first being that interrupting the natural order of things isn't a bad thing. By that measure, creating medicine so that natural diseases don't run rampant and kill us all, creating shelter so that natural events like weather, fire, and tsunamis don't burn, drown, or freeze us, and cooking food so we don't get sick, are all interrupting the innate order of things and are bad things. If Necromancy is evil by that yardstick, you may as well be an Anarcho-primitivist, and in that case why are you even here.
And if you judge morality by how many people may be unwittingly affected, then that becomes equally extreme and fallacious as you try to judge what does and doesn't count as the direct result of your actions and where your accountability ends. You may as well decide not to earn money or buy something from the store today because somebody may need it more than you, or shake your fist at a herd of migrating butterflies because the slight breeze and air gyrations created by their wingflaps could contribute just that much more to a deadly hurricane a year from now.
But I can see where you're coming from from a sheerly environmental standpoint. Like, there are definitely concerns you should have about unleashing a disease on one person or a group of bodies that could spread throughout the world, and that would be a serious problem. And a lot of problems could arise from introducing someone that's immortalised themselves as an undead into an ecosystem, or simply introducing an undead creature into the ecosystem would be potentially harmful to the ecosystem, and that is a genuine concern. But the general consensus seems to be that becoming an immortal undead is prohibitively sucky/expensive/difficult enough that there would be very few of them, and they tend to die violent/sun related deaths often enough that there's usually a certain "Shelf life" for them. That, and it's generally believed that most of the minions and diseases aren't technically "real" or "Independent" life forms, so they exist by the will of their creator and can't necessarily go on without their masters. However, in cases where necromancers can easily create life, death, and things inbetween as permanent beings, that definitely poses some logistical issues.
In my opinion, there's a distinction that needs to be made between a "mystical natural order" vs. simple manipulation of the environment. I assumed that since I'm imagining a world with magical necromancy, that there would be some sort of overarching magical order. I also disagree with your assessment of unnatural. In what way is building a shelter purely unnatural? It's not explicitly a human function to do so. Beavers, birds, termites, and wasps build shelters. Bonobos in captivity have been observed using firewood and matches to create fire to cook food. Most of the medicines we have discovered derive from plant based sources that already have antibiotics and antiseptics. Is it only unnatural when humans do it? Or by your logic are those natural flora and fauna also behaving unnaturally?
The Butterfly effect analogy doesn't hold water with me because inaction is a form of action. I think it's absurd to suggest that every action has the potential to be immoral based on consequences we can't possibly extrapolate. It's about what seems to be a reasonable conclusion. For example if you were to say, break a butterfly free of a spider's web; that could in theory have incredibly profound implications. It could be the spider was running out of energy and that butterfly was it last hope. In freeing it, you doomed the spider to death. That in effect removed its progeny from the gene pool. It could also be that spider contained a genetic mutation that made it's venom toxic to specifically cancer cells. This venom could have been studied and perfected into a reliable and mass producible cure for cancer. In freeing that butterfly, you condemned countless to die at the ravages of cancer. Is that really a consequence ANYONE would reasonably predict? Now let's say I were to decide to get completely staggeringly drunk and drive home in my tank. On the way, I hit a car and kill three people. That's a much different story. There are any number of people who will tell you that getting into a tank and driving it drunk is an awful idea and that a reasonable and predictable consequence is that you'd hit someone and kill them. If you are a con artist preying on parents with sick children selling them placebos in place of real medication, it is reasonable to assume a child might die as a result of a stupid parent believing that some angel came out of nowhere and sold them "medication" at a price though while high, was something they could afford.
That brings me to the mystical natural order especially concerning life and death. In many pieces of literature, messing with that order has catastrophic consequences. Even if one were to ignore all that, the fact is that people wouldn't actually know how far reaching tampering with that could be. It seems reasonable to assume however, that if this order is responsible for the souls and animation of every person alive, that breaking or tampering with it could have some serious consequences. It's purely conjecture, but I feel it's a cautious educated hypothesis based on the sheer number of people and creatures dependent on it.
That's precisely why I tried to draw a distinction between necromancy that "returns life to the dead" vs animation via an electric current or arcane energy that effectively works as a "meat puppet". One case tampers with something for which the consequences are unknown and potentially terrible. The other is essentially creating a marionette of flesh, which while potentially distasteful and grotesque, is not immoral. In the case of raising non-sentient creatures, it's not the act itself that is immoral, it's what you do with those meat puppets.
Yes, inherently, by tampering with the natural forces of nature in away only natural disasters/erosion would, animals would be tampering with the order of nature to survive. Which makes the line even harder to draw, since, as humans are also animals who alter nature around them to survive in the first place, whether it's tampering with nature or just natural to tamper anyway and how you can judge that as good or bad in the first place becomes an increasingly foggy discussion that won't come close to a logical point, since nature in the first place isn't inherently good or bad as we know it.
Aside from the nebulous at best consequences that people have no way of measuring or gauging when there'there's a mystical order present in the setting (if the mystical order "behaves" that way at all) there's not much other than ecological and logistical concerns to things like immortality or undead monsters, souled or unsouled, which can be countered with proper planning or just more magic in some cases.
Even so, when the "mystical order" "pushes back" it's usually more of a karmic force that undoes what the necromancer was doing rather than harming other people, which doesn't make it evil, more like a sort of time limit/drawback system. I'd even argue that something that actively harms the world (Like a Lich causing the landscape around his lair to die with all that death energy or whatever) isn't even that inherently evil, because coal and oil power do about the same thing and also allow for us to make incredible progress in life and technology, much like a necromancer can. That, and there's usually always some way to undo the environmental damage with generic light-based powers anyway.
I'll grant you that in the very specific instance where Necromancy permanently corrupts a place in the world because monsters with souls are a no-no, then yes, there is an element of evil, but there'there's also likely useful loopholes and experiments that a good necromancer can attempt to exploit to negate these problems, provided there are willing souls behind their undead.
I think we're largely in agreement on most issues regarding this and if there is much disagreement, it's in nuance. Morality is nebulous at best, and there are arguably very few actions that are indisputably evil. If necromancers were to exist in the world today, I wouldn't necessarily classify their practice as immoral or evil because I'd have seen no evidence that their "magic" was doing anything more than creating flesh puppets. Even in the case of sentient creatures, it's theoretically possible to animate a creature in a matter that they can independently function of their own will. It was done in Frankenstein. None of that is really immoral.
I disagree at the base level with the idea that manipulating the environment is unnatural. Unless you define nature as purely the earth and environmental phenomena, then I don't really follow that logic. It also stands to reason my definition of nature is inclusive of the flora and fauna. Therefore, using things that are readily available in one's own environment to create something new to gain an advantage isn't unnatural, it's adaptation.
I will also say that if a spell causes environmental damage and that action is what causes the spell to be immoral, undoing the damage doesn't make the spell less immoral. If I shank someone and then a doctor is able to save their life, that doesn't make my crime suddenly moral.
I agree with you in that there may be loopholes that someone could exploit, but I don't know if exploit is the right word. That carries a tone of subversiveness that I don't think is consistent with morality. I think that necromancy would be very situationally evil and there are certainly exceptions that could force a good natured necromancer to do something questionable and still maintain the moral high ground. So a lot of discussion to basically just agree. Good talk.
I am of the opinion that magic much like any weapon is not evil by nature but is a weapon that can be used for evil purposes. Just like how some use religious reasons to do good works like help the poor and feed the hungry but can also use that conviction to commit mass genocides and horrible crimes. Necromancy is not evil by any stretch of the imagination unless you are using it to strap a soul to this earth. Because of the beliefs in most fantasy worlds death isnt the end I don't think corpses are any more "alive" then golems (in the casical sense) and there is no problem with using magic to help them accomplish goals.
At the same time, even if you had moved on beyond death to some extent, how would you, as a person in the afterlife of this fantasy situation, view your body and likeness being taken and used for various purposes without your willingness or permission? What if your gravesite was vandalized and your body used, in the world where the people you know and care about still live, for things you don't have a say in? Wouldn't that still be kind of upsetting and therefore wrong and exploitative to some extent?
I guess I don't view a corpse as me any more in fantasy games or real life. Also if there was some way to perfectly emulate me upon rising a corpse yeah that would be a problem. For entirly different reasons but as a manual labor or to fight I don't really care.
Wait, why would arguing about magic annoy Mayana again?
Besides the usual morality thing, I've often heard the argument that necromancy from a RPG standpoint makes things a bit too easy for the players and creates more of a headache for the DM. Which is why it usually isn't allowed.
Stuff like, why bother having a thief? Just get a zombie to open the chest and take the possible trap damage. Let some skeletons take the lead and possibly fall into the pits ahead. Etc.
Though I'd say an inventive DM should still be able to deal with stuff like that anyway.
Oh, obviously I'm in favor of necromancy. It doesn't have to be used for evil.
You could raise an entire graveyard to work in factories and not risk any of your living population to do the really hazardous stuff. Necromancers could act as foremen. Spouses of the dead could receive "death" wages of their deceased through a death contract the person signs while alive.
The only magic that is most likely to be in the firmly evil camp is summoning demons and devils. Usually making pacts and such with them is going to be a pyrrhic victory at best and (more likely) backfire horribly at worst.
She always seemed bothered whenever I brought up magic after that time I WON Mizal's Island game.
The usual way that Necromancy happens is by making all the stuff where you actually control dead guys prohibitively expensive/late game, but usually it's a complaint that arises from one-offs/games with new parties you don't know that well, since RPGs with wildly different builds and abilities like D&D do have to be designed and set up with everyone's abilities and playstyles in mind. Like, there are certain monk builds that make thieves and rogues and other actual stealth guys irrelevant, and enough fighty people in an ideal situation would make stealth irrelevant, the same way one fighter in a stealthy party becomes irrelevant/obstructive to everyone else in a similarly balanced game.
That makes kind of a sickening sense. Before the civil war and the end of slavery in the US, financial records show that for the more dangerous jobs the south would use Irish men as a way to keep their slaves safe. A slave was a huge investment but you could pay an Irishman 25 cents a day to do dangerous work and have your slave work a bit less backbreaking work for the next 25 years.
It seems counterintuitive for people at first. "Why pay an Irishman when a slave works for free?" Slaves weren't free. The slave owners had to pay their food and upkeep charges. If the slaves got ill the slaveowner paid for it. Not to mention the benefit they provided in free labor, or the opportunity cost of losing them. When you factor all that in, 25 cents a day was a bargain for the slaveowner. Not so much for the Irish.
I did write a story about moral-ish necromancer, and I'd share most of the arguments they had. In the case of the undead remaining sentient and that, it seems to be a fairly amoral action, given on who you resurrect. Using corpses as puppets seems disrespectful, but I feel a greater good argument could be made, so yeah. If disrespecting the dead is required to avoid losing lives in a costly war with enemies, yeah, I'd say necromancy's the way forward.