Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: Expediency and Expendability

This essay is about why labeling necromancers as inherently evil aligned is dumb. To summarize, since True Resurrection works whether or not the target’s original body has been turned into an undead, animating an undead clearly does not affect the target’s soul at all (also, in D&D souls are definitely real, so we don’t need to worry about that argument at all). In most editions of the game, mindless undead like skeletons and zombies are completely unable to act without the command of a necromancer. They’re given an evil alignment, but this doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all because they take no actions whatsoever of their own volition.

5e was released in the same year as this book, but since I can’t find an exact release date for Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy, I don’t know if the Monster Manual was out when this book was published, let alone when Expediency and Expendability was written. 5e’s version of skeletons will, if not under the control of a necromancer, attempt to kill any living thing that gets within a few dozen feet of them, which makes them rather a lot more dangerous to animate than they were in previous editions, but a necromancer can still animate a bunch of skeletons, have them run a mine, and if something goes wrong and they lose control of the skeletons, no one actually gets hurt, the mine just shuts down. That’s way safer than running a regular old mine.

Basically, the only reason why raising the dead is evil in D&D is because the evil necromancer is a trope and also corpses are spooky and unsettling. There’s not really any basis for the act itself, as presented by the D&D rule books, to be inherently wrong under any major moral philosophy. It’s just lazy writing.

I haven’t mentioned anything about essay authors Ashley Brown and Matthew Jones because the only thing I can find about either of them is that this doesn’t fit the description of Ashley at the back of the book, where she is referred to as a professor of sociology, not geomicrobiology. Ashley Brown is “based in” the sociology department of the University of Manchester according to the contributors section, but it doesn’t say anything about whether she’s a professor or a student or if she lives in the air ducts or what.

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