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MeTheGameGuy
2008-04-12, 04:28 AM
Alright. Turn Undead is described as channeling positive energy which scares off the undead. Rebuke Undead channels negative energy, which makes them say "wow!" This is the first weird bit. Shouldn't the undead un-turn, or come closer? :smallconfused:

Second, the Cure spells channel positive energy, which heals living and harms undead. Inflict spells channel negative energy, healing undead and harming living. So, why can't I use Turn Undead to heal my party after a battle (or actually damage undead), or use Rebuke Undead on living enemies to deal damage (or, y'know, heal my undead warriors)? :smallconfused:

Third, why can't I therefore cast Cure Light Wounds to make some undead turn? Or Inflict to rebuke them? :smallconfused:

Confusing. :smallconfused:

Nebo_
2008-04-12, 04:31 AM
Alright. Turn Undead is described as channeling positive energy which scares off the undead. Rebuke Undead channels negative energy, which makes them say "wow!" This is the first weird bit. Shouldn't the undead un-turn, or come closer? :smallconfused:

Second, the Cure spells channel positive energy, which heals living and harms undead. Inflict spells channel negative energy, healing undead and harming living. So, why can't I use Turn Undead to heal my party after a battle (or actually damage undead), or use Rebuke Undead on living enemies to deal damage (or, y'know, heal my undead warriors)? :smallconfused:

Third, why can't I therefore cast Cure Light Wounds to make some undead turn? Or Inflict to rebuke them? :smallconfused:

Confusing. :smallconfused:

The rules just don't work that way. Live with it.

JaxGaret
2008-04-12, 04:32 AM
Turning/Rebuking is a specific utilization of Positive/Negative Energy, as are Healing/Inflict spells.

Negative Energy can be used to do lots of different things: drain life energy (bestow negative levels), damage living things, bolster undead, command undead, etc.

Same goes for Positive Energy.

There are also feats that allow you to use your Turn attempts for other purposes. Off the top of my head, I think that one of them lets you heal people, and one lets you Inflict upon people. I may be wrong about that, and it's too late/early for me to check the books :smallwink:

MeTheGameGuy
2008-04-12, 04:40 AM
Turning/Rebuking is a specific utilization of Positive/Negative Energy, as are Healing/Inflict spells.

Negative Energy can be used to do lots of different things: drain life energy (bestow negative levels), damage living things, bolster undead, command undead, etc.

Same goes for Positive Energy.

There are also feats that allow you to use your Turn attempts for other purposes. Off the top of my head, I think that one of them lets you heal people, and one lets you Inflict upon people. I may be wrong about that, and it's too late/early for me to check the books :smallwink:

Oh. Well, it is a confusing piece of fluff nonetheless. (I mean, why would the fluff say they all work by channelling positive/negative energy, if they all work differently?)

Maybe an interesting idea: a positive/negative energy homebrew ruleset, in which there is only ONE channel of positive/negative energy, which can be used for lots of things?

Jarchh
2008-04-12, 04:47 AM
The main thing you have to remember is that to make life easier, and the rules alot simpler, alot of things in D+D dont work they way they would in real life. D+D is just a game after all, fun is more important then realism.

Patashu
2008-04-12, 05:15 AM
Turn undead just channels positive energy in a different manner to cure foo wounds, that's all.

MeTheGameGuy
2008-04-12, 06:26 AM
The main thing you have to remember is that to make life easier, and the rules alot simpler, alot of things in D+D dont work they way they would in real life. D+D is just a game after all, fun is more important then realism.

In real life, nobody can channel positive/negative energy. :smallwink:

Actually, I think I'll go off and homebrew that positive/negative energy system now...

Bogardan_Mage
2008-04-12, 06:47 AM
In real life, nobody can channel positive/negative energy. :smallwink:
You can channel other types of energy though. It's like asking why your toaster won't do the same thing as your hair dryer, since they both use electricity.

And please, nobody tell me stories of using toasters as hair dryers or vice versa.

MeTheGameGuy
2008-04-12, 07:11 AM
And please, nobody tell me stories of using toasters as hair dryers or vice versa.

Aww... :smallfrown: I love toasting my food with a hair dryer :smallfrown: They DO do the same thing: produce heat.

Of course, I've just realised that it's ridiculous that Inflict spells heal undead, while regular attacks still harm them. Both give "negative" healing... The whole positive/negative thing needs work. Maybe the Heal skill must be used when using regular attacks to "heal" the undead? Then you could use Heal while beating up living creatures to heal them, so maybe not. And how are negative hit points handled? Do undead with 10 hit points "die", because their points are negatives? Or do they die at positive 10, or do they become living at 0, or what?

Theodoxus
2008-04-12, 07:18 AM
Bogardan's on the right track.

Think of Turn Undead as a low wattage burst, much like a florescent light. Lots of scary light, not much heat. Rebuke Undead's the same, only using a different energy type. Cure spells are high wattage zaps, lots of heat, not much light.

I think in the D&D universe, Positive and Negative energy are (here I go and kill catgirls) two more fundamental forces of nature - basically in our universe there are 4 fundamental forces; gravity, weak, strong and electro-magnatism. Positive and Negative energies are either an aspect of one of those - and really, only the strong reactive force could possibly work - with some fairly radical changes, or they are attractive and repulsive aspects of a new energy type that co-exists with the original four.

Now, depending on how metaphysical / spiritual you are in RL, one could assert that the positive and negative energy described in D&D does exist in our universe. We have a lot of names and philosophies that have been studied and codified. More that are allegorical, even apocryphal, but could be seen as such. The chinese art of feng shui; the western concept of demons and angels; the philosophy of karma (not the "My Name is Earl" karma, but the actual idea that the every good action is rewarded and every evil action is punished - eventually) etc. Those are probably the big three that readily spring to mind - and one the surface have very little to do with each other - except they all express a positive and negative energy system. Positive energy that heals, cleanses, chases off evil and a negative energy that hurts, destroys and allows evil to flourish.

IMO, D&D's concept of positive and negative energy, and how they interact with clerics, undead, outer planes denizens and the ways to manipulate the energy are rather elegant. Once you get behind the idea of low power diffused bursts (turn/rebuke undead) that disrupt or empower the energy flow in undead vs high power single target infusions that rejuvenate or destroy living and undead alike, everything falls into place quite nicely.

Fishy
2008-04-12, 07:25 AM
Except for the part where positive energy spells are Conjuration(healing) and negative energy spells are Necromancy, and the party where Negative Energy may or may not be inherently evil, etc, etc.

MeTheGameGuy
2008-04-12, 07:36 AM
Think of Turn Undead as a low wattage burst, much like a florescent light. Lots of scary light, not much heat. Rebuke Undead's the same, only using a different energy type. Cure spells are high wattage zaps, lots of heat, not much light.

Clever. But what about Destroy/Command? That's basically a high wattage Turn/Rebuke Undead attempt. And Command doesn't affect living creatures at all, despite being a big ol' burst of negative energy.

Theodoxus
2008-04-12, 07:37 AM
Aww... :smallfrown: I love toasting my food with a hair dryer :smallfrown: They DO do the same thing: produce heat.

Of course, I've just realised that it's ridiculous that Inflict spells heal undead, while regular attacks still harm them. Both give "negative" healing... The whole positive/negative thing needs work. Maybe the Heal skill must be used when using regular attacks to "heal" the undead? Then you could use Heal while beating up living creatures to heal them, so maybe not. And how are negative hit points handled? Do undead with 10 hit points "die", because their points are negatives? Or do they die at positive 10, or do they become living at 0, or what?

I can't tell if you're being fasetious or not, but I'll assume you're honestly asking a question.

Why hitting an undead creature won't heal them while an inflict does is due to how the energy that animates the undead works. When a corpse is infused with negative energy utilizing whatever ritualistic method you prefer, that energy animates and possesses the corpse. That's why mindless undead can function, follow simple instructions, etc. The energy itself is providing a modicum of intelligence. In essense, the body becomes a shell for the energy host to enact its will upon the physical universe. (Willful undead are another matter, but in terms of the energy thats providing locomotion, that aspect remains the same.)

When you hit any physical object with another, you're going to get a reaction of some sort. Weapons are built to inflict damage on other things while maintaining their own integrity for as long as they can. So, an axe will cut through more than one tree before becoming useless. Hitting a corpse with an axe will do lots of damage to the corpse, not so much to the axe. Likewise, to an undead body. The negative energy is providing animation and some will, it's not a switch that was flipped that turns all damage into healing and all healing into damage.

Why the Inflict spells restore damage to a negative energy system is because they infuse the undead with more energy. That energy is used to make rapid repairs to the body itself. Since the negative energy is animating the thing in the first place, with a sudden supply of excess energy, it can cause the body to regenerate. (Which is no different than how positive energy is used to 'heal' living things. The excess energy infuses the body with rapid regeneration.) Cure spells on an undead (and inflict on the living) short circuit the energy flowing through them. Much like a matter/antimatter reaction, it creates an 'energy/antienergy' (yes, I know there's no such thing, but it's a great visual) reaction. The reaction is harmful to all matter, and the only way to represent that in game is through loss of hit points.


As for the toaster / hair dryer debate, one is far more efficient at making toast, the other more efficient at drying hair. We humans enjoy efficiency... probably to the detriment of the planet.

Bogardan_Mage
2008-04-12, 07:38 AM
Aww... :smallfrown: I love toasting my food with a hair dryer :smallfrown: They DO do the same thing: produce heat.
Yes! They do the same thing and yet they perform completely different tasks! Heat is a type of energy. Do you follow?


Of course, I've just realised that it's ridiculous that Inflict spells heal undead, while regular attacks still harm them. Both give "negative" healing... The whole positive/negative thing needs work.
No, wrong! Damage is damage, not negative energy. It's not that undead are the opposite of the living, it's that they handle energy differently. Negative energy heals them, while positive energy harms them. But healing and harming still do the same thing, irrespective of what causes said healing or harming.

Theodoxus
2008-04-12, 08:11 AM
Except for the part where positive energy spells are Conjuration(healing) and negative energy spells are Necromancy, and the part where Negative Energy may or may not be inherently evil, etc, etc.

I never said WotC were geniuses... I think the comjuration aspect is pretty good - you're pulling the positive energy from somewhere, not just creating it like an evocation would. Necromancy is just conjuration with negative energy. Other than the apparent whole host of people who like the concept of necromancy, I would just as soon get rid of the school and place the spells in appropriate other schools. Then, make any spell that conjured positive energy 'good' and spells that conjured negative energy 'evil.'

But the good and evil I see with positive and negative energy are like the idea of the light and dark side of the force. You could, conceivably, utilize the dark side to help people, to 'do good acts', if you will, but your soul will still be corrupted; you'll find yourself doing more and more things with your dark powers, thinking you're doing them for good, yet always sliding further down the slope until you've fallen completely. Same with the necromancer. Sure, he might have started with getting people to sign their bodies aways to science, then animating them and having the zombies work at cleaning the sewers and hauling out the trash and being on the fire watch. But eventually he'll want to do other things... having skeletons farming, ghouls running the mail service, mummies doing road construction, whatever. The community will run out of jobs for the living to do... and it goes downhill fast.

Manipulation of negative energy should be considered 'evil' because it is immoral, which is the primary definition of evil in the game. Everything can be justified. "I had to kill him your honor, he was raping my wife." or "I created zombies to help out the orphange when Mrs. Goodpaddle died... no one had time for the children!" But we need to talk about it as an absolute. Personal morality shouldn't become a part of D&D - absolute truth is a fundamental part of the world we create. Without it, there's no reason to do anything - the god's are completely fickle. But there needs to be a shift from thinking of cause and effect to accountability.

There's been raging debates about how casting 'animate dead' could be evil if I'm using the skeletons and zombies in a productive, helpful manner. (From rescuing orphans to saving the party from nasty traps to who knows what else people use to justify their desire to have the spell not be labeled 'evil.')
But that thinking is wrong, and patently metagamed. The manipulation of energy that enslaves anything to your will is evil. Think of it from a hypothetical personal level: you're facing off against a wizard - he casts fireball, it engulfs you, it hurts, you're mad - you have burns all over, your hair stinks where it was singed, and your clothes are all dirty and burnt. But, you'll get over it, especially once that pesky wizard is dead. But lets say instead of a fireball, he cast enervation on you. Now, you're down a level - you've suddenly lost a lot of knowledge, a few hit points, perhaps some spells and a feat. That's freaking evil. Pain, hurt, that's forgivable. Devestation of experience, that's just not. Now, when you die, you're kickin' it in some purgatory, waiting to be allowed into your final resting place, when you hear a voice from below, calling you, pleading you to return to your body. You have a choice, kick it for a bit or go down and play some more... But, not instead of a helpful resurrecting cleric, its a bastard who's animating your corpse to find traps in a nearby dungeon. You watch as your body lurches around, commanded by someone who is not you. You watch as you are marched down a hallway, and fall, into a pit trap. Your body twitches as the animation magic fails, your body too broken to hold the negative energy. And you know that will be your body's tomb for all eternity, because no one is going to care about a zombie trap finder. Your last glimpse is of the party skirting the trap as you are pulled into the outer planes...

Subjective morality is what creates these problems. Bring back the absolute truth and you eliminate the questions.

Patashu
2008-04-12, 09:03 AM
Aww... :smallfrown: I love toasting my food with a hair dryer :smallfrown: They DO do the same thing: produce heat.

Of course, I've just realised that it's ridiculous that Inflict spells heal undead, while regular attacks still harm them. Both give "negative" healing... The whole positive/negative thing needs work.

Psst, hitting people isn't negative energy, it's just hitting people.

Mark Hall
2008-04-12, 10:45 AM
D&D has poorly realized metaphysics. I came at this question via "Disrupt Undead".

Eclipse
2008-04-12, 10:53 AM
Think of it more generally this way. In order to cast any spells at all, clerics channel divine energy. This divine energy can be used to cast a shield of faith, a searing light, or a summon monster spell, to name a few very different effects. All with just divine energy. So the same energy is doing very different things. This alone could explain why positive and negative energy, used differently, do different things.

If that doesn't satisfy you, consider that a cure spell is cast using both positive energy and divine energy, and an inflict spell is cast using both divine energy and negative energy, while turn attempts use only positive or negative energy (no divine energy involved). In that case, the divine energy provides the kick necessary to damage or heal a creature using those energy types, while turning attempts, not having this kick, only affect undead and other creatures sensitive to positive and negative energy. In the case of turning undead, the positive energy disrupts the flow of negative energy. In the case of rebuking undead, the negative energy injected by the cleric offers him/her a modicum of control over the undead. This control is enough for him to prevent the undead from attacking typically. If he was powerful enough to destroy this undead as a good cleric, then as an evil cleric he'd be powerful enough to outright command the undead, instead of make it cower/run away.

As for why you can't rebuke/turn with inflict and healing spells, it's because the negative/positive energy is consumed in the spell with the divine energy to heal or damage the undead, so there's none left to turn or rebuke it. The spell is designed for healing or damage, so that's what it does, the same as any other spell designed to do one thing.

This is, of course, one possible interpretation of why it works that way. In the end, the rules are what they are, and it's up to us to explain things within that framework if they aren't explained for us.

PirateMonk
2008-04-12, 11:14 AM
Subjective morality is what creates these problems. Bring back the absolute truth and you eliminate the questions.

But who's absolute truth do you use? The game designers don't seem to be being consistent enough with it. The other possibility is the DM's, but that can get confusing.

NecroRebel
2008-04-12, 11:48 AM
I never said WotC were geniuses... I think the comjuration aspect is pretty good - you're pulling the positive energy from somewhere, not just creating it like an evocation would. Necromancy is just conjuration with negative energy. Other than the apparent whole host of people who like the concept of necromancy, I would just as soon get rid of the school and place the spells in appropriate other schools. Then, make any spell that conjured positive energy 'good' and spells that conjured negative energy 'evil.'

This would be all well and good except for that last sentence. The problem with Conjuration (Healing) spells isn't that positive/negative energy is Necromancy, but rather that Necromancy is positive/negative energy. In other words, it's badly inconsistent to have positive/negative energy spells outside of the Necromancy school as things are now, but if you abolished the Necromancy school altogether, made those formerly-Necromancy spells that gathered information Divination, those that animated or summoned undead creatures Conjuration, and those that summoned energy Evocation, the whole system would be more consistent.

Of course, positive energy would still not be Good and negative energy would still not be Evil; there is absolutely no indication, at all, ever, anywhere, that positive energy is inherently Good and negative energy is inherently Evil. Even the Positive Energy and Negative Energy Planes aren't aligned, so arguing that the Energies are aligned is just silly.

Also, Conjuration (Healing) spells would still be inconsistent. They create or manipulate energy, which fits firmly and absolutely in the Evocation school.


But the good and evil I see with positive and negative energy are like the idea of the light and dark side of the force. You could, conceivably, utilize the dark side to help people, to 'do good acts', if you will, but your soul will still be corrupted; you'll find yourself doing more and more things with your dark powers, thinking you're doing them for good, yet always sliding further down the slope until you've fallen completely. Same with the necromancer. Sure, he might have started with getting people to sign their bodies aways to science, then animating them and having the zombies work at cleaning the sewers and hauling out the trash and being on the fire watch. But eventually he'll want to do other things... having skeletons farming, ghouls running the mail service, mummies doing road construction, whatever. The community will run out of jobs for the living to do... and it goes downhill fast.

Slippery slope fallacy. There's no evidence whatsoever that what you say will happen. There's no reason to think that a person, a Good person, could not make Undead for those menial tasks that they're capable of that none of the living want to do, thus freeing up the living for other, more stimulating tasks and actually creating more jobs. It would require a sociocultural restructuring, but if this sort of thing has been done before the restructuring would have been done before, too.

Then there's also the whole "negative energy isn't Evil" thing, which you're assuming the opposite for.


Manipulation of negative energy should be considered 'evil' because it is immoral, which is the primary definition of evil in the game. Everything can be justified. "I had to kill him your honor, he was raping my wife." or "I created zombies to help out the orphange when Mrs. Goodpaddle died... no one had time for the children!" But we need to talk about it as an absolute. Personal morality shouldn't become a part of D&D - absolute truth is a fundamental part of the world we create. Without it, there's no reason to do anything - the god's are completely fickle. But there needs to be a shift from thinking of cause and effect to accountability.

Manipulation of negative energy isn't immoral RAW. It also isn't 'evil' RAW. Also, 'immoral' and 'evil' are not synonyms in the game. The definition of Evil is "hurting, oppressing, and killing others." Note the lack of the word immoral in that definition.

Hell, if you really wanted to you could construct a social system where "hurting, oppressing, and killing others" is a moral thing. The social system in question would be Evil, but not immoral.

Also, strawman fallacy here. You don't actually address the particular case of negative energy for immorality; you only bring up murder to defend a rape victim and helping orphans... Both of which would be considered moral acts in most societies, and only the former is not unequivicolly Good in the D&D alignment system.


There's been raging debates about how casting 'animate dead' could be evil if I'm using the skeletons and zombies in a productive, helpful manner. (From rescuing orphans to saving the party from nasty traps to who knows what else people use to justify their desire to have the spell not be labeled 'evil.')
But that thinking is wrong, and patently metagamed. The manipulation of energy that enslaves anything to your will is evil. Think of it from a hypothetical personal level: you're facing off against a wizard - he casts fireball, it engulfs you, it hurts, you're mad - you have burns all over, your hair stinks where it was singed, and your clothes are all dirty and burnt. But, you'll get over it, especially once that pesky wizard is dead. But lets say instead of a fireball, he cast enervation on you. Now, you're down a level - you've suddenly lost a lot of knowledge, a few hit points, perhaps some spells and a feat. That's freaking evil. Pain, hurt, that's forgivable. Devestation of experience, that's just not. Now, when you die, you're kickin' it in some purgatory, waiting to be allowed into your final resting place, when you hear a voice from below, calling you, pleading you to return to your body. You have a choice, kick it for a bit or go down and play some more... But, not instead of a helpful resurrecting cleric, its a bastard who's animating your corpse to find traps in a nearby dungeon. You watch as your body lurches around, commanded by someone who is not you. You watch as you are marched down a hallway, and fall, into a pit trap. Your body twitches as the animation magic fails, your body too broken to hold the negative energy. And you know that will be your body's tomb for all eternity, because no one is going to care about a zombie trap finder. Your last glimpse is of the party skirting the trap as you are pulled into the outer planes...

Subjective morality is what creates these problems. Bring back the absolute truth and you eliminate the questions.

First, Dominate Person and similar spells don't have the [Evil] tag, so that means that "the manipulation of energy that enslaves anything to your will" is not evil. There's also no indication that Enervation and similar level-draining powers suck knowledge from you; the word Enervate actually means "to deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken." Also, no [Evil] tag on Enervate or Energy Drain either.

As to your description of the Animate Dead line, there's actually evidence that your idea is flat wrong. I point you to the spell True Ressurection, which says that it brings the soul of the dead back into the body and functions, even on creatures that have been turned into undead. Lesser spells need the full body and have a much smaller timeframe to work with, so the undeadification could be said to destroy parts of the corpse needed for Raise Dead or Reincarnate to function. True Ressurection, though, implies that the soul is still free even when the undead beast is still functional, which is supported by the fact that Animate and similar don't say they call the soul of the deceased back.

Of course, then there's the explicit statement on the subject of ressurection magics that the deceased knows the name and alignment of the one raising them and can choose to refuse to return...

Not to mention that 'improper burials' aren't Good or Evil, particularly when you consider the wide variety of funeral practices in the real world. Also, when you know full well that your self, your soul and spirit, will definately live on after you die means that you're probably not gonna care too much about your body either. It's no less a puppet as an undead creature than it was as a living one; the animating spirit has changed, but nothing else.

Subjective morality doesn't cause these problems you're striving to address. It's the fact that everyone has an absolute moral and ethical system, known as Alignments, that are worked off of... Which of course are contradicted by the other rules such as Animate Dead (not Evil by definition of Evil but are labeled [Evil] which means that either the definition is wrong or the label is) or constantly misinterpreted when looking at other rules such as negative energy spells (not Evil by definition of Evil, but people constantly try to label them such anyway).

hamishspence
2008-04-12, 12:03 PM
Vile Darkness reason for Animate Dead and Create Undead being evil was that it "brings negative energy into the world, making it a darker place"

Could be argued that all the other ones merely manipulate energy, whereas create undead pulls a big chunk of negative energy permanently onto material plane.

All this will be moot in 4th ed, since Worlds and Monsters says the energy planes themselves will be done away with, non-evil undead will exist (no more Deathless) and necromancy magic will not be inherently Evil.

The energies themselves may remain, under the descriptors "necrotic" and "radiant" so, while before light spells and positive energy spells were very different, in 4th ed they may be the same. Prismatic Spray, for example, does radiant damage.

Matthew
2008-04-12, 04:46 PM
Somebody needs to write an article on when and why you should adjust your expectations to conform to D&D instead of trying to adjust D&D to conform to your expectations.

Keld Denar
2008-04-12, 05:09 PM
Somebody needs to write an article on when and why you should adjust your expectations to conform to D&D instead of trying to adjust D&D to conform to your expectations.

Matthew vs Existential Thesis

FIGHT!