View Full Version : Is it Evil?

2009-08-28, 10:01 PM
In our last game, one of our players got into a scuffle. He had stumbled upon a cache of treasure which "belonged" to three other men. As he was pulling it up, Tuco and Blondie showed up. At this point, the player was thinking about fighting it out. Until Angel Eyes showed up. So now the player bugs out and hides behind some tombstones while the three familiar faces duke it out (gave one to each player, except the player who was hiding, and let them at it).

Angel Eyes goes down, and Tuco manages to knock out Blondie with subdual damage. At this point, the player springs from his place of cover and kills Tuco. The treasure is his!

He then turns to Blondie's unconcious body and performs a coup de grace.

The character has no knowledge of the circumstances, alignment, and motivations of any of these men, beyond that they were looking for this treasure cache which he had just dug up, but were willing to kill to prevent the character from getting it (though would have let the character walk away if he didn't take it).

Was the slaying of unconcious blondie an evil act?

The player in question is Lawful Neutral. Was it in line with his alignment?

In the game, I chose to brush past the incident instead of bog down the game in debate, as I think the subject is open to interpritation. The only reason it really matters is due to a Paladin being in the party.

2009-08-28, 10:08 PM
Since the killing was done out of greed...ya, it was probably evil. Definatly selfish. CN style at least.

2009-08-28, 10:14 PM
It's an evil act.

2009-08-28, 10:15 PM
Killing Tuco to steal the treasue was morally gray, leaning towards the dark side. Ethically, from what you've presented, it certainly wasn't lawful.

The coup de grace was evil and chaotic.

2009-08-28, 10:20 PM
if you're only talking about the killing of "blondie" then i would say yes, "blondie" was KOed and the killer had no knowlegde of "blondie's" motives.
in my book it's evil, but it's also the kinda thing my friend paul would do so i can't help but try and justify it. plus my paladin killed a lawful good dragon without knowing it's motives/alignment so i can sympathise.

2009-08-28, 10:24 PM
Not sure about evil, but it sure doesn't sound lawful. I don't know if this kind of behavior is common with him, but if it is, you might be looking at a shift to just straight-up neutral: the self-centered, opportunistic, greedy version of neutral.

2009-08-28, 10:25 PM
Just looting their treasure? Yeah - plain old chaotic.

But actually going on to murder the remaining living 'owner' of the treasure? Pragmatic, yes (keeps Blondie from coming after you later), but still stooping to murder and a clear step towards evil. Could be argued either way - not necessarily Chaotic, but clear evil.

2009-08-28, 10:26 PM
Quite evil and non-lawful in my view. Firstly, as people pointed out, killing someone out of greed (whether they be evil or otherwise) is just evil. If he had a rightful claim (apart from "I found it") to the treasures then it may have been a protective measure to remove Tuco from the picture all right.

Killing of a helpless individual (Blondie) is definitely evil as all unjustified killings go, while that and 'ambushing' the trio doesn't exactly spell an honourable deed.

I probably won't change the character's alignment though. It's just a one-off event that may or may not show the character's transgression from one alignment to another. A few more deeds like that would put him in NE scale, I believe.

Edit: After all, characters do make occassional lapse in judgement and make mistakes. That doesn't make one truly evil unless one means it to be so.

2009-08-28, 10:28 PM
I'm still wondering how he killed Tuco? The man is amazing.

But yeah, both murders are evil. He had no right to the money, had no knowledge of whose right it would be. One of the characters took the time to only knock out the other showing some moral leanings, and the other was no danger to him.

Pretty evil, also chaotic.

2009-08-28, 10:29 PM
There are two actions to keep in mind. Entering the fight, and the execution-style murder.

Jumping into the middle of a lethal fight to protect your worldly interests and life with lethal force is not particularly evil. You can't penalize him for being violent with them, since the only information he has is that the others are willing to kill for the treasure. The fact they would have let him go should not figure into the morality. On the same note, killing strangers for the money without deeper knowledge is not neutral. So that is a moderate amount of unpleasant action. Not enough to change his alignment from LN alone. Inform the player that choices like that will eventually change him towards Neutral Evil.

The CdG...a very contentious action. Sometimes it is a player not knowing he has other options, like taking prisoners or letting them go. Sometimes it is a player treating the encounter like a video game, where death is the only way to finish it successfully. Sometimes it is a player trying to cover loose ends so he doesn't get screwed later by DM cruelty. Check with the player about why he did such an extreme action. If the character did it because it was the efficient solution without regret, that may be worth an immediate shift to LE. If there was confusion about the moral implications and necessity of the act, either allow it to retconned into a nonlethal blow to keep her down for longer, or give the character a chance to make amends to maintain his alignment.

Oh, and btw, you can't act out of alignment. Your character determines your alignment. The player is never wrong in playing his own character. The information on the sheet is just sometimes out of date, and changes to follow the actions of the character. Pet peeve there.

2009-08-28, 10:53 PM
in a way you can act out of you're alignment, if you're a lawful good paladin and you walk into a village and slaughter a dozen innocent people then you act out of alignment.

2009-08-28, 10:55 PM
No, if you do that your character was never LG to begin with; or he's schizophrenic.

2009-08-28, 10:58 PM
I guess if a good character commits an act of evil (semi-evil or otherwise) against his/her best inhibitions, then I'd presonally reduce the cost of Atonement spell to represent his/her continued faith in goodness being rewarded. That way the player wouldn't feel so restricted in doing what the situation requires and still play a stuck-up paladin if he so wishes.

After all, goodness does not automatically guarantee one from having weaknesses that their enemies would love to exploit.


No, if you do that your character was never LG to begin with; or he's schizophrenic.

Eberron's templars of Silver Flame did it during the Great Purge. While trying to wipe out the entire population of lycanthropes, their zeal led them to slaughter more than a few dozen innocent shifters (humanoids with lycanthropic descent that breed true) for the 'holy cause'.

Being innocent does not always seem to mean harmless. Like Grawp from Harry Potter :)

2009-08-28, 11:52 PM
The coup de grace was evil and chaotic.

I completely agree here. Cold blooded murder without having any idea who the person is is the definition of chaotic evil. Killing Tuco was either neutral evil or chaotic evil depending on the exact reason he did it. I haven't looked it up, but I'm guessing the alignment change isn't as bad as it used to be. (Forced change netted you a 1 level loss)

Either way he's comitted 1 grossly evil act even if he can somehow justify killing Tuco. That of course leaves you with the what happens when the paladin finds out. I would expect the paladin to attack him outright or get the local police force to take care of him depending on how he feels justice needs to be handled. Otherwise he needs a really good reason not to fall instantly.

2009-08-28, 11:59 PM
Keep in mind that none of this is something I'd consider "heinous evil" that should drastically shift his alignment as a one-time deal. Keep record of it in case it becomes a trend definitely, but one thing we often forget about "evil acts" is that not everyone is a paladin and thus "one evil act doesn't make you evil".

2009-08-29, 12:03 AM
To those that say its not Lawful:


Lawful describes order, forethought and such. Killing someone that would potentially be your enemy later is not a chaotic act.

If it was just some random guy he found, sure, but this is someone that he has reason to believe would come back later and challenge him for his treasure, and thus eliminated a future enemy.

Could he have also decided to not kill him, because he felt that the information he could gain from him regarding the circumstances surrounding this treasure is more valuable then the threat he posed? Sure.

Being lawful is far more about motivations and thought processes then actions. You can easily lead a rebellion in a lawful fashion, for instance. You can do it in a chaotic (and generally less effective) fashion too, and that just makes the point here.

The point that could be made in favor of it being chaotic is that they didn't know that much about the situation, so the act was a bit shortsighted and foolish, but his in-character motivations matter a lot here. A failure to see every side is not a valuable trait for a Lawful character, but it doesn't make them automatically chaotic ethier.

For those that say its evil:

It is a selfish act that shows a disregard for life or thought for the harm it may cause in the big picture.

On the other hand, it was not done with the desire to cause additional harm to others, but to eliminate a threat in a ruthless fashion so more wealth could be aquired.

I'd say its pretty evil-leaning; but I wouldn't talk to the character about an alignment change over this one thing. Wait to see if a pattern emerges.

2009-08-29, 12:23 AM
Let's put it this way: it's something I would have done. :smallamused:

2009-08-29, 12:37 AM
If murdering people you just met because they have what you want is lawful sign me up. Just because you found something doesn't make it yours, especially when the evidence points to the fact that the other people knew it was there before you found it.

2009-08-29, 12:48 AM
If murdering people you just met because they have what you want is lawful sign me up. Just because you found something doesn't make it yours, especially when the evidence points to the fact that the other people knew it was there before you found it.

I once had a LE cleric of Zarus that was the most brutal, methodical, unstoppable avatar of death that you would be shocked.

She was in fact so lawful and fanatical that she believed that the law of her god must be realized at all costs. That all non-human races must be purged, and that all humans that could not be converted were her enemies, and needed to be purged as well.

(insert 40k quote here)


You could have a LE bandit king that spent most of his activities leading highly-organized raids and well-planned raids to plunder nearby settlements.

You could easily have a LE assassin that is paid to meticulously plot out and then stealthily murder various targets. Perhaps he has his own code of conduct, and will only 'strike' targets that are awake or some such.

You could have a group of cultists that incite riots in order to provide a distraction while they bring their devil master into the realm, who then overthrows the local power and rules the city with an iron fist. The loyal cultists may be rewarded with positions of authority as lieutenants or other underlings, or eliminated as a loose end if the devil sees them as a possible threat or future challenge to his power.

Lawful has nothing at all to do with being nice; it has to do with logic and planning.

2009-08-29, 01:28 AM
To those that say its not Lawful:


Lawful describes order, forethought and such. Killing someone that would potentially be your enemy later is not a chaotic act.

If it was just some random guy he found, sure...

The whole point is that the people he killed were random people that he found where they had buried treasure. He then proceded to kill the random people, one of which was helpless to get the treasure. Per your definition, he did kill random people for their treasure. There is no known history of him ever meeting them before so from what has been told, it's definitely a set of random murders. If you think random murders because you want their treasure and they might hunt you down later to get it back is lawful that's your right, but I'll never agree with you on it.

2009-08-29, 09:38 AM
The whole point is that the people he killed were random people that he found where they had buried treasure.
They weren't random at all. They declared they were there to take the treasure, and showed they were willing to kill others for it. These weren't passerby's. These were the competition. Ruthlessness =! chaotic.

Foryn Gilnith
2009-08-29, 10:12 AM
This is not chaotic. Not necessarily lawful, but people have cited enough mitigating factors that an already Lawful Neutral character is at no risk of having ethical alignment swayed by this.

This is also a quite evil act. Not killing-the-younglings evil, where it is undeniable proof that this is LE and not LN. This can be either minor, moderate, or major evil depending on whether you downplay or exaggerate it (killing people and taking their stuff. Adventuring right there.) IMO, if he didn't have a past history of evil, I'd just mark this down as potentially part of a trend; but if he has been morally questionable before this violent incident would be a nice capstone to make him detect on evil scans.

2009-08-29, 11:09 AM
I would have to ask the character about his thinking process. If it was simply "I'll kill him", then yeah I'd go with evil. But remember, these people met up and began killing each other for this treasure.

If I was in his shoes, I might do the same, but not out of greed or some such, simply out of self-presurvation, what's to stop the surviving thug getting up and comming after the person he saw at the place before?

2009-08-29, 11:13 AM
Let's put it this way: what if these guys who were 'murdered' were hobgoblins or orcs, is it still evil to kill them and take their stuff? That's common adventuring, right there. If we call that evil, there would probably be very few paladins who'd stay paladins while adventuring, as putting down possible threats at a future time is just methodical in keeping perceived threats down. Now, you could have some people after you for revenge but that's part of the adventuring life style, too.

Them's my 2 coppers. Take as you will.

2009-08-29, 11:19 AM
According to BoED- it is- you need more evidence of someone's being a future threat than "They are orcs"

Adventuring may be "kill everything that isn't one of the player races, and take its stuff" in some games, but that doesn't mean such adventurers should be portrayed by the DM as doing non-evil acts.

2009-08-29, 11:25 AM
Why were these men fighting over this treasure? I think you should have the treasure turn out to be cursed. Even if it's not evil it'll generally teach the player a lesson, i.e. killing people for money is bad, m'kay?

2009-08-29, 11:26 AM
Why were these men fighting over this treasure? I think you should have the treasure turn out to be cursed. Even if it's not evil it'll generally teach the player a lesson, i.e. killing people for money is bad, m'kay?

Suddenly all of their loot turns out to be cursed. :smallfrown:

2009-08-29, 11:28 AM
Yes, I'd definitely call that evil. Taking down Tuco I'm okay with, but finishing off the helpless guy is evil. That said it may also have been the smart move. I don't think it's worth an alignment shift by itself, but as others have said, if it becomes a trend you've got an evil character on your hands and the paladin has some thinking to do.

2009-08-29, 11:32 AM
The Rudyard Kipling Jungle Book story "The King's Ankus" handled "cursed treasure" quite well- not a real curse, but simply the fact that the treasure is so valuable it inspires insane greed in anyone who sees it.

Tiki Snakes
2009-08-29, 03:06 PM
Unaligned. ;)

I'd say that it was a perfectly reasonable course of action for a non-fluffy 'LN' character to take. It was not merciful, or just, but it was pretty pragmatic.
Of course, it's worth considering the thought process behind the action, just not imo enough that it'd mean you should take any further action on the matter.

My personal assumption, (Ie, if I was playing a character who took that action, why would he have done so?) is that it's simply a matter of eliminating a threat. One less killer stalking your shadow for whatever reason he had. Nothing personal. Sure, if we'd have met in more social surroundings, perhaps we'd have been good buddies. it's just the way of the world. It'd have been done quietly, quickly, essentially painlessly and with no relish.

Now, if he offed Blondie and spent the next ten minutes dancing over his corpse proclaiming how awesome he was for having killed Eastwood, or spent a while disfiguring the corpse before making his gettaway, there's some clues that maybe LN isn't quite spot on anymore, but I'm guessing that's not the case, personally.

Incidentally, what the hell system are you playing this in? I'd love to hear a little more about the game, because the concept is pretty amusing. :)

2009-08-29, 03:11 PM
I just think its sweet that you ended up using my good,bad,'nugly suggestion for the treasure scene. :smile:

+1 for Chaotic Awesome!

2009-08-29, 03:45 PM
The coup de grace was evil and chaotic.


Blondie could have been faking. I know if I ever get into a fight with murderous cutthroats, I won't stop until the clip is empty.

Incidentally, police are trained to use the same tactics. That's why you'll occasionally see reports of "Police shoot man 47 times". When a police officer decides to shoot a target, he must do with the intent of using lethal force, and as if he is the only officer firing. Contrary to popular belief, agencies do not train their officers to "shoot to disable". That's what the tazer, mace, and baton are for. If there are 5 officers, each with 15 round magazines, they can easily unload 75 rounds in a matter of seconds at a target.

If you attack someone with lethal force, be expected to get the same in return.

2009-08-29, 05:53 PM
wait, what?

Killing things and taking this stuff is what adventurers do. If Tuco, Blondie, and Angel eyes were all, say, orcs, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Chaotic neutral at worst.

A Paladin doing that would be on shaky ground, and he should throw a hissy fit if he witnessed it, but in and of itself it's not grounds for an alignment change.

2009-08-29, 06:49 PM
The coup de grace was CE. In my game he'd now be TN, and on the verge of falling into CE.

2009-08-29, 06:53 PM
It all depends on the thought process. If he thought "Eh, what's another corpse?" Then it's evil. If he thought "You know, guys killing each other over this treasure means if I take it, then they'd try to kill me... better safe than sorry."

The first act (fighting over treasure) might be a little stupid, but if he knew he could win and did it for the treasure, it's pragmatic and neutral. If he was just killing to protect himself, then the other act is also neutral. Both acts kind of teeter around evil, but they aren't explicitly so.

2009-08-29, 06:54 PM
wait, what?

Killing things and taking this stuff is what adventurers do. If Tuco, Blondie, and Angel eyes were all, say, orcs, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Chaotic neutral at worst.

A Paladin doing that would be on shaky ground, and he should throw a hissy fit if he witnessed it, but in and of itself it's not grounds for an alignment change.

Unless it was in Eberron and the orc were Gatekeepers. It's like killing Men in Black.

Foryn Gilnith
2009-08-29, 06:59 PM
What about a Coup de Grace specifically is chaotic? It's most of what's pushing this action sequence into the moral black area; but I have no idea how a CdG would be chaotic enough to instantly turn a LN character one step chaotic.

2009-08-29, 07:42 PM
This thread, once again, shows that while TSR did a fairly good job with having one axis called Good/Evil in the game, it did an abysmal job naming the other axis Law/Chaos. :smallsigh:

For the umpteeenth time: Law Does Not Necessarily Equal "Law of the Land". And Chaos Does Not Necessarily Equal Always Being Random.

Otherwise one could never have LE mobsters. :smalltongue: Or even a LE person who broke the law.

Now, was this act evil? On first blush, I'd say: Probably. Moreso for the "why" than the actual deed. Someone up thread mentioned that in (standard) DnD, people go around killing things for a living. And while there are plenty of homegames (and some sourcebooks ftm) that take a more discerning look at the whole "kick the door in" style of adventuring, the main default is: Killing isn't inherently evil in DnD.

Once we accept that notion (and I realize that quite a few people won't accept that) then we have to look at the "who" and the "why". Why did he kill this person? Who was this person? What was the context? And what were the real (even if subconscious) motivations of the PC in question? All of these matter potentially. Even the basic Quest involved matters.

Was this just random loot sitting around? Or was it Important Plot Stuff? Was it wanted by a lot of people? Was it necessary for a church somewhere? Did the PC have good reason to believe that ne'er-do-wells were after it?

In short:

Intent Matters (and I mean "real" intent, not the intent that self-deluded characters that are in denial tell themselves :smallwink:)
Context Matters
Actions Matter

Which matter more? Well, depends. :smallwink:

Summoning a demon and letting it loose on the world is almost always going to be evil, no matter the intent. It would have to be a very strange set of circumstances to push that act to neutral. OOTH, actions aren't always supreme either. After all, committing good acts to knowingly further a very evil plot ain't good in my book. If the only reason you helped the little old lady across the street is so you could get into her house and rob and kill her... Guess what? That initial act was also evil even though on its surface it looked "good".

Back to the example at hand. Since it appears that this person CdGed someone simply because they wanted to make sure that he wouldn't take the loot, then that looks evil to me. However there could be mitigating circumstances in the campaign that we don't know about. And thus I am hesitant to call it Flat Out Evil.

As for Law/Chaos.... Meh. Seems slightly chaotic. But mostly for the suddenness and capricious of it. But even the occasional Chaotic act won't turn a Lawful person into a Chaotic one. It just shows that alignments aren't straightjackets.

I tend to think that some people think that alignments are running scorecards of a persons actions in life. And while that is certainly a defensible position, I tend to take the Planescape view of things that say that alignments are a personal philosophical outlook on life. That is a LG person will generally and instinctually act in a certain way most of the time while a CN person would act differently.

Or at least have different reasons. :smallwink:

So what about Alignment Shifts? My attitude toward them is that they represent one of two things:

A) You never really were the old alignment you though you were. If you constantly make "exceptions" to your "rules", sooner or later you really have "new rules". Whether one wants to admit it or not. :smallwink:

B) You have a new outlook on life, and this reflects the shift in alignment. TV Tropes is rife with these tropes, so I won't bother to link them all. But the classic is: I Grew Up (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids). In other words while you once acted in a certain way, you now act in a different one. And once you have established that this is how you really view the world, that's when your alignment shifts.

Without going into that debate again, I would say that a certain memorable paladin from OotS is the classic example of the second. Said Unnamed Paladin had, IMO, been teetering on the edge of the N/G line for a long long time. And when SUP actually did You Know What, it showed that SUP really wasn't LG anymore, but (at "best") LN.

This, BTW, is how "one act" can change alignment. It's the classic Straw That Broke The Camels Back. So if the PC in question had been doing quite a lot of things mentioned in the Original Post, then, yeah, I'd say there was a distinct possibility for an alignment shift. That wouldn't be an Alignment Yoyo, but instead, someone actually cementing the fact that they are just not a nice person.


Finally, as for the whole "the paladin should whack the party member in question" argument.... Yeah. :smallsigh:

Rich destroyed that whole argument FAR better than I ever could. (http://www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k6efFP.html) I suggest that everyone who hasn't read that article do so. Immediately. :smalltongue:

Lycan 01
2009-08-29, 08:12 PM
I say its evil. Killing an unarmed man, be he evil or good, is not right. There were other options. He could have asked about restraining the man. He could have stolen his weapons. He could have just taken the loot before he woke up, even! The fact that he killed a defenseless person who may or may not have even been an opponent is automatically not good in my book. The fact that he did it for loot that wasn't even his, and actually belonged to the one or both of the guys he killed, is evil. If I were the DM, and one of my players pulled something like that, I'd change their alignment for it. No arguements from anybody could change my mind... Heck, if you want to make sure the player's alignment changed, you could say Blondie needed the loot to help a nun buy food for the orphanage she ran. But now all the kids are gonna starve because of that players selfish actions. Badda bing, badda boom, welcome to the deep end of the alignment pool. :smallbiggrin:

Foryn Gilnith
2009-08-29, 08:20 PM
The cache did not belong to the others. It "belonged" to them. They showed up and started getting violent after he pulled the thing up. And then they violently squabbled amongst themselves. That's a big sign, in my book, that something is quite suspicious about their claim of ownership. I agree that killing a man about whom you know little (intentions, right to the cache, potential maliciousness, etc) is evil; but there are mitigating factors to look at in this scenario,