Piestar
 member, 979 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 12:19
Using the Dead for Labor?
In my world, undead are considered intrinsically evil in almost every case, and using them for labor would also be an evil act, not because of the labor, but due to the fact that you didn't wipe them out.

Your mileage may vary.
Carakav
 member, 685 posts
 Sure-footed paragon
 of forthright dude.
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 12:19
Using the Dead for Labor?
Generally speaking, people will be averse to their former loved ones bodies being used for menial labor, but I think the actual ethics of a system like you describe depends on the fictional mechanisms that makes the necromancy function.

In DnD/Pathfinder, the creation of undead uses a large amount of negative energy, which results in the undead creatures themselves being inherently, mechanistically evil and opposed to life by default (which is driven by positive energy). The creation evil beings is an inherently evil act, so it follows that necromancy is, by its nature, evil.

So your situation depends on the mechanism of the undead in your fictional world, and how people feel about it on a cultural level.
donsr
 member, 2370 posts
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 12:23
Using the Dead for Labor?
 you'll get tons of answers on this..alot of  folks  trying to 'shock' others with thier take on it.

 for me?..Undead  wouldn't be a good thing. they are diseased, they fall apart, and  they could   turn on thier masters  at the drop of a hat. They would be  considered, 'animals' for the most part, so using them, isn't a bad thing...but  what comes from using them could effect  alot of people, especially  the poor  who could not treat the  sicknesses that would be  spread by them.

 now?... using them to  be shock troops would be great, after they were  spentm your real troops  come out  to  finish off those ebemies who survived, but they would also  have to  watch the mindless creatures   didn't eat them as they waded into battle.
Jewwk of Shuu
 member, 45 posts
 "I cast: Pro: Sandwich"
 GM: "But WHY?!"
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 12:38
Using the Dead for Labo(u)r?
The undead as a source of "cheap" labo(u)r...

a few things to consider:

1) Most cottage industries' fiddly supply chains and non-optimized assemblage spaces make undead labo(u)r less than ideal. E.g., Etsy-like trifles lose much of their charm when bits of ichor from a assembly-zombie come stuck to them.

2) What are the tax benefits/disadvantages of switching from forced labo(u)r to forced undead labo(u)r? Everyone loves a little slavery now and again, just look through the world's history. The record is a little less clear on zombies...but, what societal effects does freeing slaves and replacing them with zombies create? A bunch of out-of-'work' people with nowhere to go? Maybe the freed slaves would resent the Dead for stealing their gig?

3) Isn't undead creation in your world more time-consuming/resource draining/morally reprehensible enough that it would make more sense logistically and ethically to focus on hiring living workers vs. spell-ify-ing up some Q.C. ghouls?

4) Wouldn't dead daylabo(u)rers require some sort of pension fund? What if they report your non-payment of wages to the tax authorities? UNTAXED UNDEAD WORKERS?! No, sir, the local TaxLords don't like it!

Obv being silly to a large degree...:p

This message was last updated by the user at 12:40, Fri 24 Sept.

evileeyore
 member, 538 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 13:32
Using the Dead for Labor?
GreenTongue:
As everyone agrees that slavery is Bad...

Ahhhh...  Okay.  For this conversation, accepted.

quote:
... and they exist as a source of cheap labor...

Arguable.  But also granted (honestly depends on the business whether slave labor is cheaper even over the long run than hired labor, but accepted for this convo).

quote:
... if you attempt to overthrow the institution of slavery buy replacing their cheap labor with undead/zombies....

Ah, Necroslavery.

quote:
...are you "Good" or "Evil"?

Depends.  In this case on how the undead 'work'.  Are they animated by evil spirits that seek to damage the living?  Are they animated purely by magic and the will of the Necromancer?  Is it Divine Miracle?

quote:
What kind of effect does this have on a game world?

Again depends on how the undead work.  If they only act based on the directed will of a mage, then you're replacing the cost of a group of living workers with the cost of a single expensive* controller and it's automaton workers.


* Or as in the case of the Necrarcy of Auracia, a country in a fantasy game I ran... 30ish years ago, the Necromancer was paid about as much as any other skilled worker, some were in high demand, others less so, as necromancing took no training and anyone could do it, so long as they bonded themselves to the Lich God-King of their country and accepted that at 45(ish) their lifeforce would be taken by the Lich to feed itself.  Care of a groiup of zombies, mummies, and skeletons was almost as much as employing a group of living people, so in this world it wasn't about "freeing slaves" or "saving money" it was about replacing people in dangerous jobs (or menial jobs if the necromancer could be induced).   In that world undead were automatons, without an external will directing them, they did nothing.  Animating a corpse was an enchantment that required constant minimal renewal, and in some cases that required more actual work on the necromancer's part than directing the dead automatons.  All people in the country served in the military for two years (unless granted an exception) and then continued to train* the rest of their life (one weekend a month, two weeks a year sort of) and knew that when they died, they'd be raised to serve, either the armies of the Lich King, or the their town militia, or to work the fields, or towards the end of the campaign, the growing factories of the dead...


* Zombies and mummies held onto some of the skills the person had acquired in life, only those such skills as would be pure muscle memory, nothing that required creativity or willful thought.  Skeletons had no skills, and acted crudely only at the direct behest of the necromancer, thus were only fodder in battle, and were more useful to rural necromancers where pure muscle and rote work could be better applied (and towards the end, the factories of the dead).

quote:
Does anyone care what happens to the people that were slaves, as long as they are no longer enslaved?

Probably.  Immediately they will still be (at best) second class citizens, unless there is nothign that distinguishes them from the other castes.  If they were born into slavery they may have no skills beyond the ones now being performed by your undead and will now find themselves disposed and adrift.

This is last, is actually the most important question you've asked.
Zag24
 supporter, 712 posts
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 13:59
Using the Dead for Labor?
It's an interesting question, both morally and economically.  Historically, an economy based on slave labor stagnates.  The people at the top don't see a need to change, and the people at the bottom don't have the power to make a change.  The biggest example is the dark ages in Europe, where everything -- economy, arts, technology, etc. -- stagnated for almost a THOUSAND years.  It took a massive plague to break us out of it.

So let's imagine an economy based on a mindless underclass.  BTW, that's what the "nobility" in the dark ages believed they had.  They didn't really consider the serfs to be human, or, at least, not as human as they were.  We still have a stratified society where the wealthy think that they are "better" than others, but not to the degree that the European ruling class of that time believed it.  They considered themselves as far above the serfs as you consider yourself above the chickens on a chicken farm.  Literally.

Back to the economy:  There's a big question of how long the zombies last.  If you take one dead person, make a zombie, and they only last a few months, then you don't have enough zombies to provide all the labor needed.  If you expect to completely replace slaves with zombies, then let's assume that zombies last indefinitely unless assaulted.  One might imagine that you'd hardly ever have to replace them, but (IMHO) one would be wrong.  You'd get exactly the same behavior from the ruling class that you saw in the 5th to the 14th centuries: nobility organizing wars with slaves for combatants and no real physical risk to them (that is, the nobility).

You would have a warrior class among the lesser humans, who would command squads / platoons / companies / battalions, where the foot soldiers would be zombies.  How would the zombies get replaced?  You'd need an underclass of humans that are zombified when they die, so you need to keep them around long enough to become adult-sized and to reproduce, but you need them powerless enough that they don't rise up.  That's tricky -- possibly you could make them lazy and stupid, like the humans in Wall-E, by catering to their base whims and keeping them illiterate, but I rather doubt that would work.

What would really happen, I suspect, is that the zombies, having been coopted into the vast armies, would no longer be available for farming and the like.  Instead, you'd use the human underclass as, you know, slave labor, to support the war effort.
GreenTongue
 member, 1014 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 14:36
Using the Dead for Labor?
Seems like if they wear out, then you would need to either "covert" the slaves to undead, which is clearly not Good, or have constant war to provide a fresh supply. Constant war could be consider "Good" as you are spreading your culture to the rest of the world.
True, your enemies might not agree but, they are your enemies so, what do you expect from them?

Wouldn't using the undead to fight be counter productive?
Are you gaining more than you are losing doing that if the goal is to generate low cost labor?
evileeyore
 member, 539 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 15:07
Using the Dead for Labor?
Zag24:
You'd need an underclass of humans that are zombified when they die, so you need to keep them around long enough to become adult-sized and to reproduce, but you need them powerless enough that they don't rise up.

Or, empowered.  If selling your dead body to the Lich King's army buys you a better life now, that's not a hard sell unless there is a counter-morale at play, like a religious reason to fear the 'desecration' of your corpse.

In a game I'm in now, zombification is illegal outside the Church, and it is superstitiously* feared that the soul remains linked to the body beyond death, so torments inflicted to the corpse are felt by the soul where ever it resides in the afterlife.  So "life + time served after death" is often a sentence in that world.  Of course slavery is legal and the Church isn't what one would call 'good' from a modern morale standpoint, the Church being the Plutocrats of Hades...


* The church doesn't believe this, and they have their god's word on the matter, but they aren't the only religion and, well, "why else would they whip a dead murder's animated corpse" asks a superstitiously fearful populace.
locojedi
 member, 201 posts
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 15:29
Using the Dead for Labor?
Weiss/Hickman "Death Gate" series, book 3? I think, addresses the dead being raised to labor. Living population dwindles and more dead are needed. Cool idea.
engine
 member, 857 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 16:40
Using the Dead for Labor?
I think it could made to work fine, and even be quite sociable acceptable. Though if the magic exists to do that, I have to wonder why it doesn't exist to cut out the manual labor entirely. It seems like using nanotechnology and AI to form an advanced robot to operate a normal forklift.

The main reason I don't like it, is because in a game setting it would indicate to me that the players aren't bought into the premise of the game. If the GM sets forth that there are slavers that need to be stopped, and there are exciting adventurous ways to do that, but instead the players decide just to run the slavers out of the labor market, that's not fun or funny. That's a waste of the GM's time, and if the players wanted to be clever, they could have cleverly told the GM upfront what kind of challenge they would be interested in facing adventurously.

Cue people responding that they would love it if their players came up with something creative like this.
evileeyore
 member, 540 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 17:00
Using the Dead for Labor?
engine:
Cue people responding that they would love it if their players came up with something creative like this.

Well now... *mumble grumble* ...that's just takin all the fun of it.
Hunter
 member, 1676 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
 Lurker
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 17:32
Re: Using the Dead for Labor?
engine:
I think it could made to work fine, and even be quite sociable acceptable. Though if the magic exists to do that, I have to wonder why it doesn't exist to cut out the manual labor entirely. It seems like using nanotechnology and AI to form an advanced robot to operate a normal forklift.


In a higher technology, or in this case a high magic society; slavery typically is employed as a method of population control rather than economic efficiency.  Others have already touched on this, so I'll echo what someone already pointed out.

In Pathfinder/D&D terms, creation of undead is an inherently evil act.   The "why" doesn't matter.
Mad Mick
 member, 1000 posts
 GURPS beyond measure,
 outlander
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 17:39
Using the Dead for Labor?
One city in GURPS’ Banestorm setting, Abydos, does use the undead for labor and for their army. Its rulers believe raising the dead is the highest sacrament, though their neighbors view them as wicked heretics, and Megalos (one of the military powers in Banestorm) has launched several unsuccessful crusades to destroy Abydos. The central church is the Church of Lazarus, who believe that necromancy is key to understanding eternal life. The city also keeps a few thousand slaves, but most of their work is now done by the undead.
MrKinister
 member, 138 posts
Fri 24 Sep 2021
at 19:02
Using the Dead for... Money?
So... to whom do the wages of the undead's labor belong then? To the one who raised them? Or to the next of kin who would have inherited the deceased's properties and wealth?

If the undead do work, say, farm for a master, and the master then goes ahead and sells part of their crop, that is wealth. If a family then refuses to hand over a deceased's body unless they get a cut of their labor, what would happen?

Does the one who is raising the dead steal the bodies? And if so, are there any laws to prevent the theft of formal labor, as the undead are now recognized as wealth-generating sources? Are there social or legal contracts that families can use to hand over a body in exchange for payment? Service? Something else? Or is this an autocratic government where the bodies are taken without consent? An undead zombie or skeleton could be worth many hectares of worked land a year, and that is certainly a source of wealth, social status, power.

A "Dead Man's Ball" would have a whole new meaning. LOL. =)

And don't forget, once a zombie's flesh falls off, it becomes a skeleton. Those are more durable. =p

Don't forget the economic factor in all of this.
Silverlock
 member, 126 posts
Mon 27 Sep 2021
at 01:00
Using the Dead for... Money?
I read a short story in which an Amish community had zombies get into the barn, eating their oxen and horses, etc.  The Amish harnessed the zombies and had them pull the plows, using their children as "bait'.  I'm not morally for, or against the use of undead as a work force, in fact, I think that half the people I work around might already BE dead, and perhaps I'd better go check my temperature and pulse now.
soulsight
 member, 329 posts
 Reality is 10% perception
 and 90% interpretation.
Mon 27 Sep 2021
at 04:28
Using the Dead for... Money?
Unfortunately, the moral dilemma begins and ends with the undead.
If all humans doing manual labor can be replaced with robots, won't that be virtually the same as this EZA (economic zombie apocalypse)?
In any workforce, a large majority will be engaged in 'zombie tasks', ie. stuff that requires no actual thought. If the jobs that majority would fill aren't available, because their being done by robots, or zombies, or Robot Zombies or even ZOMBIE ROBOTS! That majority will either be 'on the dole' or 'on the lam'. Eventually, you'll have a society where the elite few are the only humans left. My personal favorite take on such a society is The Naked Sun.
But there's no moral ground for or against that sort of society. The only moral question is the use of the dead. So, pop this one in the Soylent Green file and move on.
GreenTongue
 member, 1015 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Mon 27 Sep 2021
at 17:40
Using the Dead for... Money?
One could consider automations / robots to be "undead".
It opens up the topic for sure.
If we leave out the touchy subject as it applies to current modern treads, including extended life times for the rich/elite, what about Gnomish contraptions?

Would Gnomes that make "labor saving" contraptions then be "evil"?
Is it _only_ the undead that is a problem?

Again the goal being to "Free the Slaves", even if they are indentured or wage tethered to their work.

How these now unemployed people then survive is another topic for another thread.
MrKinister
 member, 139 posts
Mon 27 Sep 2021
at 21:29
Re: Using the Dead for... Money?
GreenTongue:
How these now unemployed people then survive is another topic for another thread.

Hence the economics of it all. Notice that in order for farming to be done, land still needs to be had/owned. With free labor, the standard economic model of work for payment breaks down. Taken to it logical extreme: if no one works anymore, no one will have money, so no profit can be made because nothing will be "sold". The distribution of goods and services will have to be based on a premise other than "I work for it, and I sell it based on demand".

What that might be will depend on the ethical, moral, and spiritual structure the people want to adopt.
GreenTongue
 member, 1016 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 17:23
Re: Using the Dead for... Money?
In reply to MrKinister (msg # 19):

I must need more coffee. I don't get the relationship between "With free labor" and "no one works anymore".

To me, free labor makes food cheaper to farm and means that more of it can be purchased or traded for non-farm products.

"Free labor" and "Nobody Works" are different.
I can certainly see where "there is nothing for people to produce" could be good or bad depending if products were distributed based on need or were owned by the producer and sold.

If human nature decides, one person would eventually own everything and only share with those they wanted to, or maybe family.
Plenty of those examples.
Korentin_Black
 member, 574 posts
 I remember when all
 this was just fields...
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 17:27
Re: Using the Dead for... Money?
 The delightful Hawk and Fisher series feature an incident in which zombie scab labour is used to try and break a dock workers strike, leading to dock workers making attack runs on the zombies with salt and other thaumaturgy breaking substances to break the spells animating them and the watch trying to stop them.
 This is seen as fairly normal business for the watch to deal with.

 Meanwhile, a few other settings - notably including planescape - have the 'have some money now for the rights to your body after death for X years' model, often involving whatever death god cult is involved to ensure honest and proper disposal, post-post-mortem.

 Theres also a WFRP fanfiction which gets around the mindlessness problem by using iSkeletons in an Amazon warehouse - they're fitted with simple computers giving verbal orders to guide otherwise mindless undead around to find the right products and deliver them for packaging. This makes the vampire lord in charge of creating them extremely happy.

 But as noted, classic Pathfinder has a cosmology in which the very act of raising the dead inherently draws upon dangerous forces inimical to the living.
MrKinister
 member, 141 posts
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 19:22
Re: Using the Dead for... Money?
GreenTongue:
I must need more coffee. I don't get the relationship between "With free labor" and "no one works anymore".

I understand. The example I am citing is at the extreme far end of such a development, at a point in time where all work is done by automatons and all labor has been set aside for them. We are not likely to get there at any point in our existence because mindless labor is, well... mindless. They cannot make decisions where decisions are needed and hence some people will still be needed to guide and direct.
evileeyore
 member, 552 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 19:40
Using the Dead for Labor?
MrKinister:
GreenTongue:
I must need more coffee. I don't get the relationship between "With free labor" and "no one works anymore".

I understand. The example I am citing is at the extreme far end of such a development...

And still isn't "no one works anymore".  Mindless Labor only replaces mindless labor, it doesn't replace skilled jobs (doctors, lawyers, programmers, etc), creative jobs (artists, songwrites, authors, etc), or jobs that combine the two (artisans, chefs, etc).

It would certainly create a vast disparity between the upper class (owners), the middle class (skilled workers), and lower class (untrainable/unemployable, indigent).

However, unless it was illegal*, there would always be a place for mindless human workers, because they'd be cheaper to pay than the robots would cost to replace them...


* As is currently the case in many places.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:42, Tue 28 Sept.

MrKinister
 member, 142 posts
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 20:36
Using the Dead for Labor?
I see we have different perspectives. Wonderful. So many ideas to go around. =)
GreenTongue
 member, 1017 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 22:17
Using the Dead for Labor?
In reply to evileeyore (msg # 23):

The advantage of "ancient" over modern when skilled jobs are rapidly being replaced by AI.

In a fantasy setting, could a Babbage Analytical Engine be made small enough to replicate some AI do you think?
Gnomes cornering the market on such devices?
Ski-Bird
 subscriber, 182 posts
Tue 28 Sep 2021
at 22:27
Using the Dead for Labor?
Korentin_Black:
The delightful Hawk and Fisher series ...


I loved this series (and the writer's space opera series, Deathstalker, as well).