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Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-23, 01:03 PM
First, a handy and enlightening link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem)

Pretty much every hypothetical Alignment question is intended to be a variant on this question, so I thought having a single thread which posed it directly might help us get past the "fighting the hypothetical" phase which covers the first few pages every time a new thread is produced.

Now, to frame it in the D&D sense:
A lone LV 1 Human Paladin with no magical items enters a dungeon. Before him stands a Personification of Truth ("Lord Truth") - an entity that the Paladin fully believes cannot lie (and, in fact, cannot lie). Next to Lord Truth is an adamantium pull-chain and an unbreakable window that shows two rooms that open into a single hallway

Room #1 has five living children in it and is open to the hallway.

Room #2 has one living child in it and is currently sealed off from the hallway by a solid adamantium door.

The Hallway has a Gelatinous Cube in it that is moving towards the open room.

Lord Truth turns to the Paladin and asks him what he sees. The Paladin replies accurately and truthfully and Lord Truth assures him that the situation is as he understands it.

Lord Truth then says:
"In moments the Cube will devour the children in Room #1. If you pull this chain, an adamantium door will close to protect them from harm. However, if you pull the chain the door to Room #2 will vanish and the Cube will instead eat the child in Room #2.

"Once the Cube has finished devouring the inhabitants of Room #1 or Room #2 you may take the survivors from this place and return them to their happy homes - if you desire. Furthermore, I will destroy the Cube and dismantle this dungeon."

"The chain may only be pulled once, and you cannot kill me."

Some basic questions:

(1) If the Paladin pulls the chain, does he Fall?
(2) If the Paladn does not pull the chain, does he Fall?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?

Enjoy! :smallsmile:

EDIT: fixed the numbers

Zeful
2010-11-23, 01:09 PM
"I make a dc 10 wisdom check and realize I can bypass the problem by cutting the gelationus cube in half, and ready an action to do so as it crosses the threshold." (tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TakeAThirdOption)

Nero24200
2010-11-23, 01:12 PM
Option (4) - The player shoves a D4 up the DM's nose. The reason I dislike paladin threads like this is because 99% of the scenarios that crop up (such as the one described above either -

A: Would never come up in a normal game.
B: Would only crop up if the DM was intentionally trying to make the paladin fall.

If I played a paladin and such a situation came up, I know for a fact the DM would only have put it in place to cause issues for my character, epecially since, Lawful Good or not, no other class would receive evil points for choosing poorly in such a scenario.

mangosta71
2010-11-23, 01:15 PM
Can he pull the chain halfway so that neither door is closed? That way the cube can eat all of the children!

Grynning
2010-11-23, 01:15 PM
Well, first, you've reversed the Trolley Problem, in which the lethal object is heading towards the 5 people and the option is to sacrifice another one to save them.

The question isn't valid when applied to alignment. Neither act is evil or good, because D&D alignment isn't quantifiable (nor is morality, to most people's views). It would come down to a personal choice, and both taking action, inaction, or trying to convince Lord Truth to have the cube eat you instead, or whatever could be justified from a Lawful Good perspective.

Zeful
2010-11-23, 01:26 PM
Option (4) - The player shoves a D4 up the DM's nose. The reason I dislike paladin threads like this is because 99% of the scenarios that crop up (such as the one described above either -

A: Would never come up in a normal game.
B: Would only crop up if the DM was intentionally trying to make the paladin fall.

If I played a paladin and such a situation came up, I know for a fact the DM would only have put it in place to cause issues for my character, epecially since, Lawful Good or not, no other class would receive evil points for choosing poorly in such a scenario.

Haley said it best: "The con isn't to get you to pick the wrong shell. The con is getting you to accept the basic premise of the game is still being followed. The con is getting you to pick a shell at all (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0428.html)" When presented with these problems, do your best to find a way to use the situation to your advantage, don't simply assume that the two presented options are the only options. Even the most devilish Lose-lose scenarios can be defeated with engenuity.

Orzel
2010-11-23, 01:28 PM
It depends.
Are they demonic children?

Attempting to save lives of innocents is good. Failure to save them all won't change this.

lesser_minion
2010-11-23, 01:31 PM
Irrelevant.

Any pure sadistic choice is so utterly divorced from any kind of event that could occur in-game that it has no value. And the philosophies that underpin this particular thought experiment don't correspond to any D&D alignment.

Whatever the paladin chooses (assuming that the doors were rigged the other way around), she wouldn't fall, because she did as well as she could given the circumstances -- not doing something broadly equivalent to curling up in a ball and crying is already somewhat commendable, and she probably shouldn't fall even for that response.

(You've also got the contents of the rooms wrong -- if saving the one requires killing the five, then it's just an unpleasant experience, not a sadistic choice. It's usually a good idea to make the one important to the paladin in some way).

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 01:33 PM
The question isn't valid when applied to alignment. Neither act is evil or good, because D&D alignment isn't quantifiable (nor is morality, to most people's views).

There are alignment-related statements that can come into play, though.

PHB: "A paladin ... and punish those that harm or threaten the innocent"

Also, there is BoVD's "Murder is one of the most horrible acts a being can commit" + FC2's listing of Murder as a Corrupt act.

However, pulling the chain (or not pulling the chain), may not qualify as Murder. Which raises the question of whether non-Murder forms of homicide, qualify as Evil or not.

And BoVD does say that standing by and allowing someone to kill a huge number of people, is "far more evil than preventing it"- even if preventing it requires killing the would-be killer. And says that a paladin who does so, would not Fall.

But does this apply to standing by when an unintelligent being is about to kill, and stopping or diverting it requires sacrificing innocents?

Complete Adventurer has an order of LN and LG people, including paladins (and only LG divine casters can take the Order-specific PrCs) called the Order Of Illumination, which takes the view that sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the innocent for the greater good.

While the example given is "in the fight against Evil", it may apply to cases where saving one set of innocents necessitates sacrificing a smaller set, as well.

So- within the D&D splatbooks, a limited case can be made that sacrificing the few to save the many, in the face of imminent disaster, may not qualify as an Evil act.

Yet at the same time, it may be an act that a paladin is required to punish you for in some way, if they find out about it.

If you're a paladin and you do it- are you required by your code to punish yourself even if you do not Fall?

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 01:35 PM
One thing someone pointed out in the more classic problem is, instead of sacrificing someone else, sacrifice yourself, YOU jump in front of the trolley.
Likewise, go to the door that is open and stand in it. How? Break the glasteel window with your adamantine batteaxe, and climb through, or use that potion of blink you kept, or use that once day item of dimension door, whatever, laying on hands the child if the GC starts to eat them before you get there, and amscray, picking up the child, and then pulling the chain, freeing the other children and trapping the cube. If for some reason you don't get the child before it is killed, kill the cube and take the childs remains to get resurrected
Then punch Lord Truth in the face and, if needed, demand the coin to get the child alive again.
***
There is always a third option.

olentu
2010-11-23, 01:39 PM
Well ok so from what I recall it comes down to is opening the door considered violence by the character directed against the people in the room the door leads to (assuming the character is not pulling the chain for personal gain). If yes then it is evil if not then it is totally fine. In the other hand is not closing a door considered violence by the character against the person in the room. Either way the alignment changing thing is probably subjective and I personally would probably not shift it for one act.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 01:42 PM
Well ok so from what I recall it comes down to is opening the door considered violence by the character directed against the people in the room the door leads to (assuming the character is not pulling the chain for personal gain). If yes then it is evil if not then it is totally fine. In the other hand is not closing a door considered violence by the character against the person in the room. Either way the alignment changing thing is probably subjective and I personally would probably not shift it for one act.
Paladins have bigger problems then that, they fall for one Evil act, even if it isn't enough to shift their alignment. Still, I like to think I solved the problem as relates to D&D.

bloodtide
2010-11-23, 01:44 PM
The D&D paladin's answer to the 'Cube Dilemma', would be to pull neither chain. The paladin would take the action of attacking the cube and or grabbing the children.

And should the 'God of Good' come down to say something, the paladin could simply state that there was nothing he could do. As a single mortal man, he would have stopped 'Truth' if he could, and would have gladly given his life to save the kids. But he is just a man with a sword and a horse, there is nothing that he can do to stop crazy cosmic forces from killing kids.


But no matter the action. Is it not odd how people see good as 'perfect'. Where the 'God of Good' watches a good person like a stalker...just waiting and hoping that they will make even the slightest mistake, so that 'Good God' can cast them out of the club.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 01:47 PM
But no matter the action. Is it not odd how people see good as 'perfect'. Where the 'God of Good' watches a good person like a stalker...just waiting and hoping that they will make even the slightest mistake, so that 'Good God' can cast them out of the club.

One way of thinking of it- it's not a deity that does it, it's an impersonal cosmic force.

(Remember, in core, paladins don't have to have a deity).

By committing the evil act (whether or not your deity would approve) that sudden infusion of a tiny (or maybe not so tiny) bit of Evil, automatically interrupts your connection to the Cosmic Force of Good.

Hence, you lose your powers, and must work to regain them.

Deities of Good tend to be forgiving though.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 01:53 PM
Which fits actually since D&D Paladins don't technically I believe have to worship a god for powers.
I want to try to implicant a sliding scale, say a dream from their god the first time, some scaling, exponential penalties next, and then fall, then a servant or avatar of the god come to ask 'Why?' while loaded for fallen paladin.

olentu
2010-11-23, 01:53 PM
Paladins have bigger problems then that, they fall for one Evil act, even if it isn't enough to shift their alignment. Still, I like to think I solved the problem as relates to D&D.

I suppose I may have been unclear. To restate in perhaps clearer terms the act being evil or not depends on if it is violence and when evil will follow all the rules of an evil act including making paladins fall. On the other hand alignment changing is rather subjective and I would generally not change an alignment for one act.

Hopefully that is a clearer statement of my previous post.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 01:56 PM
I suppose I may have been unclear. To restate in perhaps clearer terms the act being evil or not depends on if it is violence

Not strictly true- the rules don't call out Violence, even the initiation of Violence, as Evil.

"Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others" does not mean that all three are always evil acts.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 01:57 PM
I suppose I may have been unclear. To restate in perhaps clearer terms the act being evil or not depends on if it is violence and when evil will follow all the rules of an evil act including making paladins fall. On the other hand alignment changing is rather subjective and I would generally not change an alignment for one act.

Hopefully that is a clearer statement of my previous post.
OK, I think I understand. The kiddies can still be saved though, as shown. Being a paladin means putting yourself in front of the trolley. As Ghandi said, "There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."
D&D often have to forego the latter due to the nature of the world they live in, but should strive for it nonetheless, in my opinion.

Erom
2010-11-23, 01:58 PM
There is always a third option.
That's a rather idealistic view of reality you have there.

In truth, I've never understood how philosophers waste time with the trolley problem. Of course you kill the one to save the five, of course that's the right thing to do, and of course the paladin doesn't fall for it. The mind boggles that there are people who don't believe this.

Of course, I always had a hard time seeing the purported advantages of any later system of ethics once we got past Utilitarianism in my college courses.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 01:59 PM
D&D often have to forego the latter due to the nature of the world they live in, but should strive for it nonetheless, in my opinion.

True- Good characters should seek to minimize the violence they do (within the limits of other principles, like protecting innocents).

One of the things I liked about BoED- was its emphasis on this. Even if there are times when violence is necessary, the PCs should, if good, be trying to use it minimally, rather than using violence when it's not necessary.

Boci
2010-11-23, 01:59 PM
How about the following situation: The shadowy outline of some humanoid creature appears before a paladin as he stands atop a hill, just about to enter a village.
The visage summons a demon and informs the paladin that the demon will kill one person from the village, but if the paladin attacks it the contract is broken and the demon can kill how ever many humans it wants. During this he holds a truth gem that glows white to indicate the visage speaks true.

No matter what happens, the paladin doesn't fall, the visage just knows the paladin will be onto his operation soon and wants to try and see what makes him tick.

Do you think this would be good to use in a game?

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:01 PM
In truth, I've never understood how philosophers waste time with the trolley problem. Of course you kill the one to save the five, of course that's the right thing to do, and of course the paladin doesn't fall for it. The mind boggles that there are people who don't believe this.

Of course, I always had a hard time seeing the purported advantages of any later system of ethics once we got past Utilitarianism in my college courses.

Variants of the trolley problem which involve pushing a person who is not in danger at the moment, to their death, to save the five, tend to get much less approval for that act, though.

Lapak
2010-11-23, 02:02 PM
Questions like this are why I'm changing the implementation of Paladins in my games to run more along the lines of how saints operate in Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion books and explicitly tying it to gods rather than alignments.

Paladinhood changes to become a link between paladin and god, where the paladin becomes a window on the world through which the god can operate. But the gods can only operate through willing hosts, and the window can only remain open so long as the paladin can put themselves aside in favor of that role; deliberately choosing to go against the god's wishes shuts the door forever whether the paladin or even the god wishes otherwise. So a paladin serving a god of truth who chooses to lie is putting himself and his welfare ahead of his god, and the link is broken. A paladin who serves a god of justice cannot stand by while the wrong man is convicted of a crime, even if that man is evil and deserves punishment for some other reason. Paladins can only be Good because Evil characters put themselves first pretty much by definition and they must be Lawful to submit themselves so completely to a higher authority.

It makes things a lot more clear-cut for the players that way in terms of what actions are and aren't permissible, while giving Paladins a lot more leeway as far as general adventuring goes.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-23, 02:02 PM
Option (4) - The player shoves a D4 up the DM's nose. The reason I dislike paladin threads like this is because 99% of the scenarios that crop up (such as the one described above either -

A: Would never come up in a normal game.
B: Would only crop up if the DM was intentionally trying to make the paladin fall.

If I played a paladin and such a situation came up, I know for a fact the DM would only have put it in place to cause issues for my character, epecially since, Lawful Good or not, no other class would receive evil points for choosing poorly in such a scenario.
Seconded. To me it seems like the sole reason DMs create scenarios like this is to mess with their paladin players. It never comes up for members of other classes, even clerics who worship gods of Good.

I can't think of a single possibility where a choice like this would have some kind of justification.

olentu
2010-11-23, 02:04 PM
Not strictly true- the rules don't call out Violence, even the initiation of Violence, as Evil.

"Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others" does not mean that all three are always evil acts.

Well I am extending an example of fireballing some people being listed explicitly as evil given in the section denoting against whom violence is directed. While I do find it reasonable to make such an extension I suppose if being very strict then killing the innocent is just fine (so long as not for personal gain) and this scenario is all neutral.

Gametime
2010-11-23, 02:04 PM
Since, as others have pointed out, the numbers are reversed, there's really only one dilemma in this problem: Should a paladin stand by while an innocent is killed, given that the paladin has no way to stop the killing, or should the paladin step in, knowing that he or she will almost certainly lose his or her life without even preventing the innocent's death?

Personally, I'd lean towards the second as being more paragon-of-good-y, but I don't think either action is exactly fall-worthy. The paladin isn't proxy to an evil act, here; he's a helpless bystander to a uniquely sadistic situation set up by some incredibly cruel being. A paladin doesn't fall if he happens to look out the window at the exact moment a murder is committed; he shouldn't fall for this, either, since there's almost nothing he can do and nothing for which he is responsible.

The original trolley problem, although contrived, was meant to be an accidental state of affairs; perhaps that would make this a more interesting dilemma, since at the moment it seems clear that all the blame lies with the faceless malefactor responsible for setting this up.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:06 PM
But the gods can only operate through willing hosts, and the window can only remain open so long as the paladin can put themselves aside in favor of that role; deliberately choosing to go against the god's wishes shuts the door forever whether the paladin or even the god wishes otherwise.

This is how it worked in 3.0 and earlier editions- but 3.5 made it possible for a paladin to atone even for a deliberate violation of the code.

Which I think offers more leeway.


While I do find it reasonable to make such an extension I suppose if being very strict then killing the innocent is just fine (so long as not for personal gain) and this scenario is all neutral.

it's not that killing them is fine under all non-personal gain circumstances-

it's that killing some from a group of people who are just about to die, in order to save other members of that very same group, may qualify as Not Evil.

So- violence is used here solely to save lives. Unfortunately, some lives will be lost in the process of saving the group.

Gametime
2010-11-23, 02:08 PM
That's a rather idealistic view of reality you have there.

In truth, I've never understood how philosophers waste time with the trolley problem. Of course you kill the one to save the five, of course that's the right thing to do, and of course the paladin doesn't fall for it. The mind boggles that there are people who don't believe this.

Of course, I always had a hard time seeing the purported advantages of any later system of ethics once we got past Utilitarianism in my college courses.

Probably because there are any number of problems with Utilitarianism, not least that valuing "happiness" doesn't require telling people the truth so long as you can be reasonably sure you won't get caught.

But that's neither here nor there.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 02:09 PM
That's a rather idealistic view of reality you have there.

Always. This was setup to eliminate them, and I found one. If you can't find one, make one. Life is messy, and dirty and grubby, and quite often things aren't as easy as even this case showed. But on the other hand ,we can still do our best, find the path of least bad for all involved, and hopefully you. Unlike a paladin, we don't have to worry about losing super powers from gods, just the consequences of our actions.


How about the following situation: The shadowy outline of some humanoid creature appears before a paladin as he stands atop a hill, just about to enter a village.
The visage summons a demon and informs the paladin that the demon will kill one person from the village, but if the paladin attacks it the contract is broken and the demon can kill how ever many humans it wants. During this he holds a truth gem that glows white to indicate the visage speaks true.

No matter what happens, the paladin doesn't fall, the visage just knows the paladin will be onto his operation soon and wants to try and see what makes him tick.

Do you think this would be good to use in a game?
Grapple the demon and stuff in a bag of holding, portable hole, whatever.
Go to a high level cleric and get the demon banished.
Or, join the village, plunking down some gold for a plot of land, and have the demon kill you, having a cleric on standby. One member of the village killed, done, demon go away bye bye now.

bloodtide
2010-11-23, 02:14 PM
One way of thinking of it- it's not a deity that does it, it's an impersonal cosmic force.

(Remember, in core, paladins don't have to have a deity).

By committing the evil act (whether or not your deity would approve) that sudden infusion of a tiny (or maybe not so tiny) bit of Evil, automatically interrupts your connection to the Cosmic Force of Good.


This is the Core of the problem though. What is Good and what is Evil? What does the Cosmic Force of Good say is Good? If you can do something to 'add Evil', then their must be a rulebook. The cosmic Force has to say what good and evil are.

Even if the 'force' is just a 'force' people can figure out what the rules are. For example, have a paladin do random acts..and after each act test his good connection. Over the years you could build up a good catalog of what the Good Force 'likes and does not like'.

Telonius
2010-11-23, 02:15 PM
Option 3: "One moment while I consult my Phylactery of Faithfulness."

The Gilded Duke
2010-11-23, 02:16 PM
All these moral problems, so easily solved with an illusion.
Gelatinous Cubes are easily defeated by illusions.
It would seem a fitting way to defeat the machinations of this Lord Truth.

While lying is against the code of paladins, nothing prevents them from feinting. Nothing prevents them from using illusions to deceive beings without minds.

(When I played a Paladin of Tyr, he would lie, it seemed fitting.)

This isn't really a moral problem. The paladin just wasn't prepared. Either they should work on being friends with an illusionist, get access to illusions themselves, or figure out some other way to efficiently and quickly deal with oozes.

Or, to think about it in the original example. If you were going for a paladin like outlook, regardless of what choice you make, I think what happens afterwards would be more important then the action itself. Perhaps working to improve Trolley safety in the city where this occurred?

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 02:17 PM
Option 3: "One moment while I consult my Phylactery of Faithfulness."
If your DM is the kind of <expletive redacted/> to do this to you, you'll probably get a busy signal.:smallfurious:

Townopolis
2010-11-23, 02:17 PM
(1) If the Paladin pulls the chain, does he Fall?

No

(2) If the Paladin does not pull the chain, does he Fall?

No

(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?

No


Forgoing third-choice evasions, the choice between the one and the five is nothing more than numbers. Action and inaction are equally weighted--there is no less culpability in not pulling the chain than there is in pulling it--so it's really a matter of saving the one versus saving the five. Since there was no special information given about any of the six children, we assume they all have equal value. It seems, therefore, that saving the five is the "correct" choice, but both choices are good, because the paladin is acting to save an innocent/innocents.

This answer is based on my understanding of the ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas, who would rate either choice as "good" as long as the intention was to save whomever was being saved (and "evil" if the intention was to kill whomever was being killed). Aquinas would also have something to say about authority, but here the paladin is assumed to have the authority to make the decision; paladins are, after all, divinely vested with the power and authority to punish evildoers and rescue innocents, among other things.

The other ethical reference I would draw on is Immanuel Kant's deontology, which would express the answer in the form of his favorite, categorical imperatives. I would say that anyone in this situation should try to preserve as many innocent lives as possible. Thus, assuming no third-option evasions of course, protecting the five over the one.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:18 PM
I prefer situations where there's no malice involved- the destroyer is there through natural causes, rather than somebody's malevolent interference.

Volcano- lava flow- the flow can be diverted, but not blocked, no matter where you divert it, it will run into some settlement.

Solution- direct it in the most sparsely populated direction.

Or, Paladin, at the wheel of an Eberron passenger airship, flying over a heavily populated area- the magic holding the elemental in has been damaged somehow.

Solution- if it's certain you will crash, crash it in the direction of the least people.

lesser_minion
2010-11-23, 02:19 PM
How about the following situation: The shadowy outline of some humanoid creature appears before a paladin as he stands atop a hill, just about to enter a village.
The visage summons a demon and informs the paladin that the demon will kill one person from the village, but if the paladin attacks it the contract is broken and the demon can kill how ever many humans it wants. During this he holds a truth gem that glows white to indicate the visage speaks true.

No matter what happens, the paladin doesn't fall, the visage just knows the paladin will be onto his operation soon and wants to try and see what makes him tick.

Do you think this would be good to use in a game?

Remember that the player doesn't know that he can't fall in this scenario, so I wouldn't recommend it for use in play.

I'm assuming the idea is that the paladin can kill the demon, but might fail -- and if he does, then the whole village could be wiped out.

Lapak
2010-11-23, 02:24 PM
This is how it worked in 3.0 and earlier editions- but 3.5 made it possible for a paladin to atone even for a deliberate violation of the code.

Which I think offers more leeway.Aside from its permanence, it's not really similar to how it worked in prior editions at all. 2e had a specific code that had to be followed (which still included generic 'evil act' clauses, but covered many more specific cases) for all paladins without tying them to a god, for example.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:29 PM
I remember 2nd ed having "A paladin falls for any Chaotic act" in addition to "A paladin falls permanently for any willing Evil act".

Any more details than that in the PHB 2nd ed?

Nyarai
2010-11-23, 02:30 PM
How about the following situation: The shadowy outline of some humanoid creature appears before a paladin as he stands atop a hill, just about to enter a village.
The visage summons a demon and informs the paladin that the demon will kill one person from the village, but if the paladin attacks it the contract is broken and the demon can kill how ever many humans it wants. During this he holds a truth gem that glows white to indicate the visage speaks true.

No matter what happens, the paladin doesn't fall, the visage just knows the paladin will be onto his operation soon and wants to try and see what makes him tick.

Do you think this would be good to use in a game?

The exposition required to get any player with a skeptical bone (even those tiny ear ones) in their body to trust - let alone believe - this guy would kill the suspense. Also, there are a lot of ways to get rid of *one* demon, and if none of those work, everyone's probably doomed anyway.

Telonius
2010-11-23, 02:31 PM
That's a rather idealistic view of reality you have there.

In truth, I've never understood how philosophers waste time with the trolley problem. Of course you kill the one to save the five, of course that's the right thing to do, and of course the paladin doesn't fall for it. The mind boggles that there are people who don't believe this.

Of course, I always had a hard time seeing the purported advantages of any later system of ethics once we got past Utilitarianism in my college courses.

Personally I'd say that the right thing to do would be "Do NOT kill the five, and do your utmost to find any possible way to save the one." If the Paladin hasn't at least tried, he hasn't done his job. Simply "allow the one to die" is not Good, it's Neutral. That would deny a sense of personal responsibility to actively fight evil.

It's also one of Utilitarianism's biggest flaws: it focuses only on individual acts, not on the patterns of behavior that you're likely to encounter in actual human beings. After all, under standard Utilitarian analysis, why would you bother with trying? It won't achieve anything, and won't change the outcome. And outcome is all that matters. But because people are neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but inherently lazy, there's always a tendency to take the path of least resistance. Given a moral system that tends to focus on only the act itself, that laziness can be amplified and lead to a less desirable outcome. (Very much like a Nash Equilibrium in some ways). Repeat the game in other situations, and the behavior becomes more entrenched. That's why the "slippery slope" issue is a valid, though often vastly overblown, problem. It's not that ripping the tag off a pillow necessarily leads to the fulfillment of Godwin's Law, but it leads to a suboptimal outcome over time.

Susano-wo
2010-11-23, 02:32 PM
A person is responsible for their every action and inaction in a situation.

This does not mean that either option is necessarily a good option, but the one less evil. If you truly beleive that there is no other option (steam powered trolly that you cannot stop, for instance), then it is best to take the killing 1 option, all other factors equal (if you start specifying who is tied to the tracks, then things start getting sticky--for instance, if the single person tied to the tracks is the only doctor in your town, or what have you)

Hoewever, that being said, of course, look for other options, such as trying to thut the door halfway, or breaking into the glass. (Or, asuming a standard Dnd world, get that lone kid ressurected! I like that one:smallbiggrin:)

Now as far as Paladins and Dnd alignements in general, well, it depends on how much you value intent vs end result. At the extreme of the former, no act is evil if, in good faith, you beleive you are doing the things described as good, and not the things described as evil in DnD. On the extreme of the other, if you fail to save the child when you could have, even if you didn't realise you could, then that's an evil act.

Boci
2010-11-23, 02:34 PM
The exposition required to get any player with a skeptical bone (even those tiny ear ones) in their body to trust - let alone believe - this guy would kill the suspense.

For the sake of this example lets assume that the truth gem was an established part of the game and not something introduced suddenly.


Also, there are a lot of ways to get rid of *one* demon, and if none of those work, everyone's probably doomed anyway.

Thats part of the risk envolved in taking action, the paladin may as well die if the demon proves too strong.


Remember that the player doesn't know that he can't fall in this scenario, so I wouldn't recommend it for use in play.

Fair point, but a DM with a reputation to be fair would probably be given the benefit of the doubt by the paladin.


I'm assuming the idea is that the paladin can kill the demon, but might fail -- and if he does, then the whole village could be wiped out.

Pretty much, although that bit is less important compared to the simple fact of do they stand back or attack the demon, at least for the shadowy creature.

ZeroGear
2010-11-23, 02:39 PM
This is a trick question. You arr all forgetting this is the lord of Truth, not Rightousness. This is a test to see how the paladin justifies his actions.

If I were in the position of the paladin, I would answer as follows:

"Lord, I cannot participate in such an activity. If I were to pull the chain, I would save the one child, but I would sacrifice the other children to do so. If I do not pull the chain, I have saved five lives by sacrificing an innocent. Both answers only end n the sacrifice of innocent lives, as such I cannot make a morally sound choice. Any answer that ends with the sacrifice of innocent lives is an act of evil, even if it is for the greater good."

This is an answer any paladin should say. Although pulling the chain or not pulling the chain would not be an act of evil because he did save the lives of innocent children, he may consider it to be one because he will want to anone for failing to save the lives of all the children.
This test is not one of good or evil, it is a test of how you justify your actions.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:45 PM
Both answers only end n the sacrifice of innocent lives, as such I cannot make a morally sound choice. Any answer that ends with the sacrifice of innocent lives is an act of evil, even if it is for the greater good."

I'm a little cautious about the idea that all sacrifices of innocent lives, are acts of evil:

From a novel- captain drains power from passenger life support to keep his ship from being destroyed:

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9816282&postcount=33

Imagine the same situation, in a Spelljammer-type setting, where it's a paladin on the bridge of the spelljammer, and he has to drain magical energy from the life-support systems to protect the spelljammer just long enough for it to escape from the attack.

yes- taking power from life support is "sacrificing innocent lives". But if he doesn't do it, they will all certainly die.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 02:47 PM
It's just glasteel,ZeroGear, you can break the window. A paladin who just gives up here is not thinking hard enough. As for the Spelljammer scenario, see if you can get a caster to cast sepia snake sigil a few times. Magic, <expletive redacted/> up ethic traps since 1974.

ZeroGear
2010-11-23, 02:52 PM
Again, this is the Lord of Truth we are talking about. He is not testing the paladin to see if he is good, he is testing the paladin to see if he can justify his actions. Look at the whole sentence and not just the part you want to. More than likely, since this is a being of Truth and cannot lie, he simply never mentioned certain parts of the problem. Remember,not telling everything is not the same as lying. More than likely, he will destroy the cube if the paladin can justify his reason for not being able to make a decision with which he is morally comfortable.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:52 PM
A paladin who just gives up here is not thinking hard enough.

Yes- die trying to save the one without endangering the five in the process, is still an valid option.

Failing to save somebody is not culpable, if you died trying to save them.

Not acting, however, might possibly be. However, the Save My Game: Lawful & Chaotic article, does say paladins should not throw their lives away to no purpose- but try and make sure their death has meaning and buys something at least worth the paladin's life.


As for the Spelljammer scenario, see if you can get a caster to cast sepia snake sigil a few times. Magic, <expletive redacted/> up ethic traps since 1974.

For the moment- assume you're the only guy on the bridge free to act. And the ship is under attack- very little time to spare before it explodes.

Lapak
2010-11-23, 02:55 PM
I remember 2nd ed having "A paladin falls for any Chaotic act" in addition to "A paladin falls permanently for any willing Evil act".

Any more details than that in the PHB 2nd ed?Oh, yes. There were limits on how many magical items you could have and what kind, instructions about how much wealth you were allowed to have, instructions about 'associating' (read: adventuring) with evil characters, all kinds of specific injunctions.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 02:57 PM
In the PHB? I thought most of that tended to be in splatbooks like The Paladin's Handbook.

Lapak
2010-11-23, 03:02 PM
In the PHB? I thought most of that tended to be in splatbooks like The Paladin's Handbook.Yes, in the PHB. In the Paladin class description. The Complete Paladin book went into alternate codes and all that jazz, but the basic PHB had a pretty extensive section of its own.

Unless I'm utterly hallucinating, so I'll check my copy when I get home, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.

EDIT: I just re-read that and realized it could be read as hostile in tone; that's not my intention. I'm just really sure and being over-emphatic. :smallredface:

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 03:04 PM
I see- it's been a while since I read it in the library.

Still, things like "cannot associate with evil characters" and "must only have followers who are LG if they accumulate followers" were in 3.0 and 3.5 books too.

Though in 3.0/3.5, it was the Leadership feat, that allowed you to gain followers.

So far, the biggest differences, sound like "You may not own more magic items than this" and "You must tithe some of your wealth".

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 03:05 PM
Again, this is the Lord of Truth we are talking about. He is not testing the paladin to see if he is good, he is testing the paladin to see if he can justify his actions. Look at the whole sentence and not just the part you want to. More than likely, since this is a being of Truth and cannot lie, he simply never mentioned certain parts of the problem. Remember,not telling everything is not the same as lying. More than likely, he will destroy the cube if the paladin can justify his reason for not being able to make a decision with which he is morally comfortable.
I don't care how he is testing me, I am saving those kids or dying trying. Any 'Lord of Truth' who uses innocent lives in this way is a sick bastard. But if I am a paladin, I am a hero. That word gets bandied around so much it loses all meaning, but I mean it in the way of the people who go into burning buildings collapsing buildings or dives into frozen rivers to save people.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-23, 03:09 PM
Ha, good point about me reversing the numbers! Please assume a reformulation in which there are 5 children in the first room and 1 in the second.

I have altered the OP to reflect the correct formulation :smallredface:

Also: my 2nd Edition is showing. Glasteel used to be "transparent material as strong as steel" - something a 1st Level Paladin could not break in time. I'll replace it with "unbreakable glass" in the OP as well.

Keep up the discussion!

EDIT: Also, there isn't supposed to be a "third way" in this one - something I tried to make clear in the description. It is amusing to see how people find third ways all the same. The Secret Test of Character (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SecretTestOfCharacter) approach is novel to say the least :smallbiggrin:

And, of course, resurrection is still an interesting twist. After all, if the Paladin swears to resurrect everyone involved, does it matter which he chooses?

Lapak
2010-11-23, 03:13 PM
I see- it's been a while since I read it in the library.

Still, things like "cannot associate with evil characters" and "must only have followers who are LG if they accumulate followers" were in 3.0 and 3.5 books too.

Though in 3.0/3.5, it was the Leadership feat, that allowed you to gain followers.

So far, the biggest differences, sound like "You may not own more magic items than this" and "You must tithe some of your wealth".I'll try to remember to go through it tonight, though it's kind of a side point; my main point was that how I have paladins operating these days is different from either the post-3e or pre-3e default assumptions.

ZeroGear
2010-11-23, 03:16 PM
I don't care how he is testing me, I am saving those kids or dying trying. Any 'Lord of Truth' who uses innocent lives in this way is a sick bastard. But if I am a paladin, I am a hero. That word gets bandied around so much it loses all meaning, but I mean it in the way of the people who go into burning buildings collapsing buildings or dives into frozen rivers to save people.

And then you fall. You would make a wonderful paladin of freedom, but as far as traditional paladins go you would fail because of your chaotic thinking. Law is associated with being rational and reasonable. Just leaping into a situation when you know that you cannot do much and might even cause more unneeded death is not what a paladin does. He would realize there is more to this problem than just answer A and answer B, or there would be no difference between the Lord of Truth and any evil villain who wants the paladin to suffer emotionally.
While the idea that you go into a burning building may be valid, it is only to a point. You may die, but the one you saved will live. In this situation, you will die, and the one you tried to save will most assuringly not live. Self sacrifice is part of the paladins code, but not pointless sacrifice. Killing yourself for no purpose is not a good act, even if the intention was well meant. It is only a good act when you have even a slight chance of saving the child.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 03:17 PM
For the moment- assume you're the only guy on the bridge free to act. And the ship is under attack- very little time to spare before it explodes.
Yell through a voice tube for as many people as possible to get in bags of holding, hopefully with bottles of air. What, no bags of holding? What kind of adventuring party are you?
Other ideas, reduce the life support as low as possible without killing them. I don't care if they pass out, just get that power and make with the best piloting ever. Or try and negotiate with the enemy, your life for the ships crew, making sure they get away before you die, making witht hat awesome diplomacy score you have.
And if all else fails? Somehow no other options then letting them all die or some? Inform the crew, then kill some, and Fall. If there are no good options, if you can't make one, you can at least take responsibility.

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 03:24 PM
And if all else fails? Somehow no other options then letting them all die or some? Inform the crew, then kill some, and Fall. If there are no good options, if you can't make one, you can at least take responsibility.

In this case, it's less an adventuring party, and more a single huge refugee ship, commanded by a paladin (or person like a paladin, with the same "Cannot commit an evil act and keep certain powers" rule- such as a LG fighter with one Exalted feat.)


The point is- that Falling is decided by "the cosmic force" not you- once you've made the choice, and acted, is it an evil act, or not?

You can "take responsibility" and yet, if the act is considered not evil, not Fall.

I've seen several posters, who accept that Paladins or Exalted fighters always Fall for a single Evil act, argue that this one is not an evil act- because the motive is to save lives, and, the result is that some lives are saved.

Susano-wo
2010-11-23, 03:31 PM
@Oracle: death is still pretty damned traumatic, so to have the least deaths posible is still best

Nyarai
2010-11-23, 03:37 PM
For the sake of this example lets assume that the truth gem was an established part of the game and not something introduced suddenly.

Okay, the Truth Gem is for real and it indicates whether or not the holder is being honest. That's great, but how do I know that's what he's holding? I can't see magical auras and even if I could, they can be easily faked (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/magicaura.htm). Even if it is a Truth Gem, how do I know I'm not misinterpreting what he says? (Misleading but true statements circumvent the gem, since it doesn't care what the listener assumes). More importantly, what if the man actually doesn't know about the demon's plan to murder everyone? It's the truth as the man believes it and demons are notorious for betraying their mortal masters.

By the time the DM explains away my doubts, my party could have arrived and smote everyone. If you want an encounter that'll shake up your paladin, make the summoner vaguely relatable - maybe a Malconvoker in over his head. Otherwise, the paladin will dwell on how best to painfully kill the caster (once the demon's gone) rather than his Code.


Thats part of the risk envolved in taking action, the paladin may as well die if the demon proves too strong.

I wasn't very clear - I meant that a demon that could not be contained, dismissed (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/dismissal.htm), dispelled (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/dispelevil.htm), banished (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/banishment.htm) or otherwise removed from the Material Plane can do roughly whatever. Might as well smite the evil caster and send him to the Abyss instead.

(Also, visage means face and isn't really synonymous with figure.)

Kobold-Bard
2010-11-23, 03:40 PM
1. Ask Lord Truth why he is doing this? I'd assume a being that exists purely for truth would be L/N. Why does he care if you fall or not? Since he can't lie he has to tell you the truth.

Pull the chain or don't, then use every iota of strength and will to try and find a way to save the child(ren) who are about to die.

You did everything you could and thus fulfilled your Paladin's oath, and may use Lord Truth's information to hunt the evil that caused this; if they're strong enough to control Lord Truth then fighting this evil will hopefully grant you a favour from some higher power of good, which you can use to revive the dead child(ren).

2. Negotiate with Lord Truth; everyone has their price.. Offer him your soul (specifying no acts that go against the Code) or something if he spares the kids.

etc. etc.

*Didn't read the thread.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-23, 03:41 PM
In this case, it's less an adventuring party, and more a single huge refugee ship, commanded by a paladin (or person like a paladin, with the same "Cannot commit an evil act and keep certain powers" rule- such as a LG fighter with one Exalted feat.)


The point is- that Falling is decided by "the cosmic force" not you- once you've made the choice, and acted, is it an evil act, or not?

You can "take responsibility" and yet, if the act is considered not evil, not Fall.

I've seen several posters, who accept that Paladins or Exalted fighters always Fall for a single Evil act, argue that this one is not an evil act- because the motive is to save lives, and, the result is that some lives are saved.
That many people dying? I want to Fall. I want to be able to make some restitution, anything, some effort. I still killed people, people under my care and protection. Of course there must be some middle ground, power that will, at most, temporarily asphyxiate people but give me better odds of saving everyone. But if not, I Fall. I am still a Paladin, fallen or not, I will still help people.

Nohwl
2010-11-23, 03:44 PM
Again, this is the Lord of Truth we are talking about. He is not testing the paladin to see if he is good, he is testing the paladin to see if he can justify his actions. Look at the whole sentence and not just the part you want to. More than likely, since this is a being of Truth and cannot lie, he simply never mentioned certain parts of the problem. Remember,not telling everything is not the same as lying. More than likely, he will destroy the cube if the paladin can justify his reason for not being able to make a decision with which he is morally comfortable.

if he cannot lie, why not just ask him for the correct course of action?

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 03:55 PM
Of course there must be some middle ground, power that will, at most, temporarily asphyxiate people but give me better odds of saving everyone.

From the way it was written, it was more like cryo-stasis, where they were frozen.

What happens when people are "defrosted" due to lack of power, without the appropriate procedures, is probably not pretty.


That many people dying? I want to Fall. I want to be able to make some restitution, anything, some effort. I still killed people, people under my care and protection.

Nothing stopping a character from doing this if they don't fall.

BoVD:


Consider the paladin Zophas. When climbing to the top of a hill full of loose rocks to get away from some owlbears, he triggers a rockslide that buries the owlbears and continues down the hill, crushing a hut full of commoners. Is Zophas an evil murderer who must suddenly lose his lawful good alignment? No, although Zophas might still feel guilt and responsibility. He might attempt to right the inadvertant wrong as best he can.

This is, however, based on the assumption that the danger was not forseen, or forseeable.

When you make a choice knowing that deaths will be a consequence, this is trickier.

Whether or not a paladin Fell, I could certainly see them desiring to make restitution of some sort, even if their powers are not gone.
And if they were a one-feat Exalted fighter- they might never know whether their feat power was gone- assume it was- commit acts of restitution and atonement.

And then, find out, that The Force Of Good did not regard their act as evil- and their powers were always present.

That doesn't make those acts of restitution and atonement wasted though.

Calmar
2010-11-23, 04:24 PM
The paladin does not pull the chain. Pulling the chain would mean to surrender to the whims of a sadistic criminal and to become his tool. Paladins should not negotiate with terrorists.

Telonius
2010-11-23, 04:25 PM
if he cannot lie, why not just ask him for the correct course of action?

Ooh, nice one.

Another option: remind him that beauty is truth, and truth, beauty; and that dead babies are not beautiful at all. :smallbiggrin:

hamishspence
2010-11-23, 04:28 PM
The paladin does not pull the chain. Pulling the chain would mean to surrender to the whims of a sadistic criminal and to become his tool. Paladins should not negotiate with terrorists.

The hard part, is when you're in a similar, but not identical, situation where the choice is between Lives and More Lives- and it's not a villain that's put the lives in danger.

The airship plummetting toward a heavily crowded area- which can be steered away from that area, but not far enough to avoid the slightly less populated areas around it.

I could see this sort of thing happening in an Eberron game.

Tankadin
2010-11-23, 04:40 PM
Part of the issue, I think, is that the paladin archetype comes out of medieval romantic literature where there isn't much in the way of anguishing over moral decisions--or that sensibilities were different enough that exploits we'd consider morally objectionable were in fact laudable. The Roland, Galahad, or Gawain that were imported into older editions of D&D never faced trolley situations.

If we're going to talk modern or post-modern ethics and conduct thought experiments to test Kant or Mill or whomever, well, our paladin archetype needs to change. Who are the paladins for Camus or Sartre, or Cormac McCarthy? I guess that's why I'm so interested in the Knight in Sour Armor idea. The world is broken and evil and I don't have a lot of interest in heroes that live and act somewhere else.

I suppose the existential paladin would glare at Lord Truth for allowing this injustice to be arranged, save the five babies, and then ask the being who was responsible for arranging the murder of the other infant.

Calmar
2010-11-23, 04:49 PM
The hard part, is when you're in a similar, but not identical, situation where the choice is between Lives and More Lives- and it's not a villain that's put the lives in danger.

The airship plummetting toward a heavily crowded area- which can be steered away from that area, but not far enough to avoid the slightly less populated areas around it.

I could see this sort of thing happening in an Eberron game.

Situations like this must be judged on a case to case basis. Every thief, robber, slaver, necromancer is less of a villain than this "Lord Truth", because for them the suffering of innocents is a side-effect of their evil deeds, not their goal.

In the case of an airship crash, where there indeed is no villain, the paladin should of course do her best to minimize the damage, according to her consciousness. There won't be any fall (unless the DM is a jerk and actually wants the paladin to fall :smallsigh:).

Gametime
2010-11-23, 05:01 PM
I suppose the existential paladin would glare at Lord Truth for allowing this injustice to be arranged, save the five babies, and then ask the being who was responsible for arranging the murder of the other infant.

Technically, it's impossible to predict the way the existential paladin would approach the situation because the existential paladin is radically free, and predicting his or her way of being in the world is impossible.

Tankadin
2010-11-23, 05:03 PM
Technically, it's impossible to predict the way the existential paladin would approach the situation because the existential paladin is radically free, and predicting his or her way of being in the world is impossible.

Radical freedom does not imply a lack of preferences or principles.

Foryn Gilnith
2010-11-23, 05:08 PM
if he cannot lie, why not just ask him for the correct course of action?

Revise the questions, then.
(1) If the Paladin asked Lord Truth if he would Fall for pulling the chain, how would Lord Truth respond?
(2) If the Paladin asked Lord Truth if he would Fall for not pulling the chain, how would Lord Truth respond?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter and asked Lord Truth if either action would change his Alignment, how would Lord Truth respond?

There's a simple problem being posed. Just give a straightforward answer. Would the paladin fall? Would the paladin not fall? Would there be an alignment change? I'm going to directly ignore my imperative and say it depends on who I'm playing with. Rules of a game cannot be considered outside of the context of the game. My answer to #3 would be "No" in almost all cases, and my answers to #1 and #2 would fluctuate. IMO, if the paladin would fall for pulling the chain, the paladin would also fall for not pulling the chain.
If I were hypothetically DMing for myself, my response would again vary. Perhaps on that day I would be amenable to the possibility of no-win situations for paladins. Perhaps I would argue a firmly utilitarian standpoint. Perhaps I would argue for lenience and justify either action through the mind of the paladin. My moods on this sort of thing vary.

Eldonauran
2010-11-23, 05:14 PM
To pull the chain or not to pull the chain?

The evil has already been done (by the creator of this trap) and whatever the outcome, it will not effect the Paladin's alignment at all. His choice is a moral one. Pulling the chain is the only option, as this is the option that follows his code (protect the innocent). Once you have safeguarded the 5 children it is time to figure out what will be done about the other child.

If you have a chance, save that child. If there is nothing you can do to save that last child, you PUNISH the person that caused this situation. If you can not harm that person, you make it your ultimate goal to bring justice to that person, even if it takes your entire life or an eternity after death.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-23, 05:17 PM
Again, WHY THE HECK DOES THIS SITUATION KEEP CROPPING UP?! IT HAS NO REAL PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO MESS WITH PALADIN PLAYERS!

The only justifiable way I could see this working is if the entire campaign centered around it or something.

mangosta71
2010-11-23, 05:21 PM
If the gelatinous cube doesn't eat those children, it may starve to death! WHY IS ITS LIFE LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE CHILDREN?

Gametime
2010-11-23, 05:29 PM
Radical freedom does not imply a lack of preferences or principles.

Of course not. It does mean that what those preferences or principles are could be literally anything. To try to predict the way a person will act is to treat them as an in-itself, when in fact the free person (and all people are, fundamentally, free) is a for-itself.

But deriving a basis for ethics from existentialism is difficult and somewhat controversial, so it's tangential to the thread topic.

Tankadin
2010-11-23, 05:36 PM
Of course not. It does mean that what those preferences or principles are could be literally anything. To try to predict the way a person will act is to treat them as an in-itself, when in fact the free person (and all people are, fundamentally, free) is a for-itself.

Except I wasn't talking about just any radically free person, but rather, a person who confronted with both radical freedom and an absurd existence chooses the most paladin-esque choices. I'm more interested in what those choices would look like.


But deriving a basis for ethics from existentialism is difficult and somewhat controversial, so it's tangential to the thread topic.

I don't think it is tangential at all. My argument is that all of these ethical thought experiments that keep showing up are coming out of a much more complex and nuanced world than the literary one the paladins of legend inhabited, yet the archetype hasn't changed. What would such a change look like?

Tiki Snakes
2010-11-23, 05:58 PM
On reflection, and assuming 'third way' evasions are out, (for example, you are unarmed, do not have a giacomo bag of magic items with you, nor a party of allies nor infinate time to plan, construct, or fetch), then the answer is to my mind, unavoidable.

You must pull the chain, saving the five. If you do not, then five people die. If you don't do it because 'the president doesn't negotiate with terrorists', or because you would rather find a clever third way, then you have sacrificed the five for your own existential benefit. Likewise if, instead of making a timely choice you have tried to beg, plead or trick your way out of having to choose.

There's no justifyable reason, to my mind, for not pulling the chain.

HOWEVER, if you are indeed a capitol P Paladin, once you have pulled the chain, equipment or not, the appropriate course of action is to do everything you can still do to save the single child. If you can get to the area this is happening, then attack it. If possible, kill it, but failing that, lure it away. You will, assuming what I stated at the start of my post, like fail, but the trying is important. It's also important not to take the romantic gesture option and sacrifice your life in the vain hope that it won't go back for the kid. There's too-much chance that it will just end up with you AND the kid dead.

It's also a valid choice, imo, that if there is clearly no way for you to defeat, stop, or even delay the creature long enough for the child to escape, to attempt to end the child's life in a quicker, more merciful way before the Cube or other horror can do it's worst. Valid as long as you can be sure that you can infact do it mercifully and quickly. Shooting the kid in the leg with several arrows so that his is wounded and then eaten by a cube isn't really a step up from being eaten by a cube.

At the end of the day, basically, you have to make a choice. Trying for a third way is still a choice, but for most of the above examples, the choice seems to be to risk both/all participants on the off chance you can save all.

1- No*
2- No*
3- No
* Because I am a 4e player. ;)

Gametime
2010-11-23, 06:36 PM
Except I wasn't talking about just any radically free person, but rather, a person who confronted with both radical freedom and an absurd existence chooses the most paladin-esque choices. I'm more interested in what those choices would look like.



I don't understand what you're looking for. If you want to know how a radically free person who acts like a paladin would act, then the answer is "like a paladin." If you think that a person conscious of their radical freedom would act differently than a paladin, then it's impossible to predict the sort of paladin-y decisions he or she would make.

Tankadin
2010-11-23, 07:03 PM
I don't understand what you're looking for. If you want to know how a radically free person who acts like a paladin would act, then the answer is "like a paladin." If you think that a person conscious of their radical freedom would act differently than a paladin, then it's impossible to predict the sort of paladin-y decisions he or she would make.

What would a paladin act like if dropped into Oran during the plague? Or if a paladin were the protagonist in Bergman's Winter Light? If the world is absurd and we are radically free, what would the paladin archetype look like?

Callista
2010-11-23, 07:24 PM
(1) If the Paladin pulls the chain, does he Fall?
(2) If the Paladn does not pull the chain, does he Fall?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?Yes, yes, and no more than it would for the paladin. That's what Atonement spells are for.

What I think would be more interesting to discuss is how the different alignments might solve this problem.

The basic problem: A trolley is headed for, and will kill, ten people. If you pull a lever, you redirect a trolley onto a track with only five people.

LG: Pull the lever because that way more people will survive; will try to warn people on the endangered track if he thinks of it quickly enough. LG is altruistic, cautious, and looks at the big picture, but tends to be uncreative. Will try to help the injured in any way possible. Will feel extreme remorse for deaths. Will probably try to find out how to change the trolley system so that this doesn't happen again.

NG: Pull the lever and then run to try to warn the people on the dangerous track. Will try to help the injured in any way possible. NG is concerned mostly with the welfare of other people. Will feel extreme remorse for deaths.

CG: Try to take a third option. CG is creative and altruistic and likes to think out of the box. May end up with a higher death toll because of risk-taking. Will try to help the injured in any way possible. Will feel extreme remorse for deaths.

LN: Do the mental math and take the option that allows more people to survive; alternatively, will take the option that he considers honorable, the option that is legal, or the option which fits into his own personal code of conduct. Will call the authorities or find a doctor to help the injured. Will be saddened by deaths, but feel less responsible than Good-aligned individuals. Will probably try to re-organize the trolley system so this doesn't happen again.

N: Does not want to get involved; may delay making a decision or decide not to intervene, but will try to find help for the injured. Will be saddened by deaths, but feel less responsible than Good-aligned individuals.

CN: Response is unpredictable; will probably follow his first impulse. If he is inactive, he will probably watch in horrified fascination; if he pulls the lever, he will do so without much calculation beforehand. Will try to find help for the injured. Will be saddened by deaths, but feel less responsible than Good-aligned individuals.

LE: Probably planned the trolley mishap months in advance in order to kill someone who needed to die to support his plans or his work for an evil authority figure. Whether he pulls the lever or not depends on which track his target is on. If he encounters this situation without having planned it, will do whatever is likely to be supported by his society and give him the best reputation. Will probably watch the deaths dispassionately.

NE: Probably planned the trolley mishap to get revenge, gain power, or rob the bodies before the authorities arrived. Whether he pulls the lever depends on which group of people he thinks will be the most useful to him as corpses. If he did not plan the incident, he will probably not pull the lever because he plans to take advantage of the deaths somehow, and more deaths may be easier to take advantage of. Will probably watch the deaths with some fascination.

CE: It's doubtful if he planned the trolley mishap, because he generally doesn't plan; if he did plan it, chances are he impulsively killed or disabled the usual switchman and has decided to cause some chaos with the machinery. CE is unlikely to pull the lever, simply because he enjoys watching people die and will enjoy watching more people die more; but if he pulls the lever, it will be because he enjoys taking an active role in their deaths.

olentu
2010-11-23, 07:45 PM
it's not that killing them is fine under all non-personal gain circumstances-

it's that killing some from a group of people who are just about to die, in order to save other members of that very same group, may qualify as Not Evil.

So- violence is used here solely to save lives. Unfortunately, some lives will be lost in the process of saving the group.

Well I suppose it says a nefarious purpose rather then personal gain though all their examples are personal gain and it specifies only them and the like. This heavy implication is most likely why I said personal gain going from memory. But in any case if it is for a good purpose then the only prohibition I can seem to find is against violence versus noncombatants. Barring that it would seem to be go crazy kill everyone for a good purpose.

erikun
2010-11-23, 08:27 PM
First, I am going to find it impossible to respond to this problem without including personal beliefs of right and wrong into the conversation. The whole point behind the Trolley thought experiment is on moral values and obligations, after all.

Second, I find it odd that a number of people are responding with "but that won't happen" as a way to avoid answering the question. Of course it won't happen. That's not the point. Rather, the point is to determine if doing nothing / making a choice / sacrificing the few for the many can be a consistently Good choice, in the scope of D&D alignment.

Just for an example, assume that the Paladin has in his possession an Artifact of evil that has opened a portal to the Nine Hells. Our Paladin must get this Artifact to his church, so that they may close the portal and prevent the world from being overrun by Devils.

Furthermore, he has been badly wounded, and is the only surviving member of his party. Unless he delivers the Artifact himself, he can be pretty sure it will never be delivered.

Along the way, the Paladin come upon a town being attacked by Devils. There is no way that, in his current condition, that he could fight the Devils himself. However, the townsfolk will certainly be killed if he does not intervene.

What does the Paladin do? Does he intervene, risking certain death and losing the Artifact? Does he avoid the town, trying to banish the Devils as soon as possible yet leaving the townsfolk for dead? Does he sneak into the town, hoping to save a few unnoticed but potentially allowing many more deaths due to his delay?

Do any of these options break his Paladin vows, or otherwise cause him to fall?


Moral Reasoning
There is no morally right choice in this situation, which means that there is no morally wrong choice. Both options are bad, leaving people dead. You cannot say that there is a morally correct choice to do something immoral to a person. As such, neither choice presented is wrong (evil) and neither is right (good), so neither choice would have an alignment shift. You cannot be morally responsible for an action if you had no way of influencing it. Mind you, I feel that pulling the chain would be the better option (saving five rather than one) but this does not make it a morally superior choice.

This only accounts for the alignment portion of the choice. Different Paladin oaths might make one choice or the other fall-worthy. A Paladin of absolute law or fate may fall for causing the death of someone who would not otherwise have died. A Paladin of wisdom and observation may fall for acting rashly when he did not fully understand the situation. Conversely, a Paladin of equality or something similar might fall for not pulling the chain, given that the needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few. (I'm not familiar with any deities with this view that possess Paladin followers, though.)

Logical Reasoning
The "best" option would be to attempt to save them all. There is no way, with the choices provided, to get all of the children out of harm's way. Thus, the Paladin would need to choose an unpresented option that will, at least, give him a chance of saving everyone. Half-pulling the chain, thus opening both doors partway and preventing the ooze into both rooms would be one. Trying to crush it with the door as it entered a room is another. Running into the hallway to fight/rescue is another.

As I mentioned earlier, there isn't really a right way to answer the question, thus any answer provided is at least as morally correct as any other. Even if the Paladin fails and the ooze gets into one of the rooms, at the very least attempting to prevent anyone from dying and failing is better than accepting the options provided. Attempting to do something and failing, thus losing one (or five) cannot be worse than doing nothing and losing one (or five), after all.


Sorry for the lengthy post.

WinceRind
2010-11-23, 10:35 PM
I think that when it comes to alignment it's more about what you try to be and do then the actual outcome.

Callista
2010-11-23, 11:03 PM
It's also a valid choice, imo, that if there is clearly no way for you to defeat, stop, or even delay the creature long enough for the child to escape, to attempt to end the child's life in a quicker, more merciful way before the Cube or other horror can do it's worst. Valid as long as you can be sure that you can infact do it mercifully and quickly. Shooting the kid in the leg with several arrows so that his is wounded and then eaten by a cube isn't really a step up from being eaten by a cube.Something like that could be an option for some characters, if in the last extremity this is all they can do. A paladin is a trained fighter; the child is presumably a commoner with an AC no higher than 15, and much more likely to be 10. The easiest way would be to do a large amount of subdual damage to quickly knock the child unconscious; that doesn't stop you from being able to grab the child and run if the opportunity presents itself. I don't think anyone would do lethal damage; there's nothing that will do that subdual won't, and the slim chance that you can drag the child out alive is still present. If you're playing a paladin, there's always the chance of divine intervention.

However, I disagree with the idea that a paladin would not "uselessly" throw his life away trying to rescue the child, even if it were so close to impossible as to be a done deal. Many paladins would do exactly that. Think of ones you've played; or if you haven't, think of other Good-aligned characters. Just think of their personalities, not their codes of conduct or their classes. Quite a few would probably jump into the situation just so that they could be there to hold that child and tell them it was going to be okay, even if it wasn't going to be and there wasn't any way out. The paladin's aura of courage even helps blunt some of the terror of the situation. So... I wouldn't call it throwing your life away. Not really. It's more like, just something many good-aligned characters would do before they got the chance to do any logical analysis, because they wouldn't really be thinking about their own fates at that point. Strategically, it's not a good move; but these aren't unfeeling robots; they're people who care so deeply about others that they dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. Do you really think they could stand there and let a child die alone?

John Campbell
2010-11-24, 03:20 AM
I remember 2nd ed having "A paladin falls for any Chaotic act" in addition to "A paladin falls permanently for any willing Evil act".

Any more details than that in the PHB 2nd ed?

Not quite.


Lawfulness and good deeds are the meat and drink of the paladin. If a paladin ever knowingly performs a chaotic act, he must seek a high-level (7th or more) cleric of lawful good alignment, confess his sin, and do penance as prescribed by the cleric.
(There aren't actually any mechanical consequences listed for either committing the chaotic act or failing to confess or do the penance. Also, totally unrelated, but note that 7th level is considered a "high-level cleric" in AD&D.)


If a paladin should ever knowingly and willingly perform an evil act, he loses the status of paladinhood immediately and irrevocably. All benefits are then lost and no deed or magic can restore the character to paladinhood: He is ever after a fighter. [...]

If the paladin commits an evil act while enchanted or controlled by magic, he loses his paladin status until he can atone for the deed. [...] Regaining his status undoubtedly requires completion of some dangerous quest or important mission to once again prove his worth and assuage his own guilt. He gains no experience prior to or during the course of this mission, and regains his standing as a paladin only upon completing the quest
(Elided bits only cover the exact rules a fallen paladin operates on... same-level fighter without access to specialization, basically.)

As for the question itself, I'm with the, "stab the DM in the face and go find someone who wants to actually run an RPG instead of setting up manufactured BS philosophical scenarios," crew.

Callista
2010-11-24, 03:33 AM
I think that paladins should face moral dilemmas. But I also think that the DM shouldn't railroad them into some trolley-problem variation. The real world is more complicated than theoretical moral dilemmas; and when you are trying to create an alternate "real world", you're not supposed to make it two-dimensional like that. Railroading a paladin PC into falling is not fair play; it's railroading and it's not something a good DM does. Providing opportunities in which the player may, if he chooses, have his character mess up--yes. (And besides, there are PrCs that allow the character to gain back powers whether he goes to evil or chaos. I've been wanting to play a CG ex-paladin for some time, actually.) Anyway, the unwilling-evil-act version is going to pop up eventually--there are enough enemies using corruption/domination/confusion--so it's not like the paladin will never have to get an Atonement. You should get used to making them available.

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 03:43 AM
But in any case if it is for a good purpose then the only prohibition I can seem to find is against violence versus noncombatants. Barring that it would seem to be go crazy kill everyone for a good purpose.

The BoED example is more:
"during a war- when you have area-effect weapons, and can place them so they intersect combatants and noncombatants alike- actually doing so is an evil act- since the noncombatants are no threat"

Which does raise issues about "what if the baddies are using human shields"?

Outside of a war- a paladin's duty is to "protect the innocent". However, sometimes, the only way to protect the innocent, will involve some innocents dying from the means used to protect them.

If a low-level paladin, in the modern era, was confronted with a major pandemic, and the only way to stem it is to distribute a vaccine with a 1% (or maybe even more) lethality rate- arguably, distributing the vaccine fulfils his duty to "protect the innocent"- even if the vaccine will actually kill some of them.

Callista
2010-11-24, 03:46 AM
The BoED example is more:
"during a war- when you have area-effect weapons, and can place them so they intersect combatants and noncombatants alike- actually doing so is an evil act- since the noncombatants are no threat"

Which does raise issues about "what if the baddies are using human shields"?Magic Missile 'em.

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 03:53 AM
You may not have Magic Missile available (or it may not do the job needed)- if you're running a D20 modern campaign or D20 Future campaign- but with people with Exalted feats, or paladin-type codes, in it.

Firing Magic Missile at a capital ship full of transparent blisters with "human shields" inside each blister, isn't going to do anything.

(This sort of situation was in the Star Wars novel Outbound Flight).

Aux-Ash
2010-11-24, 05:39 AM
I'm not a DnD player so I'll only discuss it from the perspective of what I think a paladin conceptually is. But here goes:

A paladin would choose to try to save the six (the one plus the five). Beginning with pulling the chain (or leaving it be, whichever keeps the five safe) pre-emptively so that the five are at minimal risk and then do everything in their power to save the one. Absolutely everything imaginable (that has a hope of succeding. Emphasis on hope). Even if they fail a true paladin never chose to kill the one to save the five, but always chose to save the six.

But what a paladin would do does not end there. They would take the five to safety, try to recover the one so that he/she can be raised if possible or buried if not. He'd go to the child's parents and assume full responsibility for failing or if he/she does not have the time inform them by letter (or whatever) and then after what needs to be done is done go to them and take responsibility for failing.

Even if they did everything and that the entire world, all the gods and the force of good itself (whatever that is) says they did everything right, a paladin would still hate themselves for it. They would regret it, anguish over that they failed, seek penance and punish themselves for their inability. In time, perhaps, accept that they failed... but never forgive themselves.

That's what I think a paladin would do... but most importantly... that's what I think a paladin would feel.

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 05:45 AM
Even if they did everything and that the entire world, all the gods and the force of good itself (whatever that is) says they did everything right, a paladin would still hate themselves for it. They would regret it, anguish over that they failed, seek penance and punish themselves for their inability. In time, perhaps, accept that they failed... but never forgive themselves.

That's what I think a paladin would do... but most importantly... that's what I think a paladin would feel.

Forgiveness is a generally good thing- and characters need to be able to forgive themselves.

That doesn't mean they won't strive to ensure it never happens again, or castigate themselves for it for a while, or that they'll forget it happened.

But, it's a common theme, that a person who has done something horrible (necessary or otherwise) is told "You must learn to forgive yourself. And never forget" or "You must, in time, give up your guilt".

Luke says this in The Courtship of Princess Leia, to a repentant Nightsister who gave up the Dark Side several years before, but has not yet forgiven herself.

Aux-Ash
2010-11-24, 05:54 AM
In that regard I'd say that the paladin approach (not that there is one, every paladin is an individual after all. Ideal paladin approach might be a better term) is to accept that it happened, ensure that it never happens again, do their best to make up for it and continue doing their duty .

But it would take them a very long time to forgive themselves... if they ever do.
Naturally, each paladin is an individual and some might forgive themselves, some might not. But there's going to be a lot of emotion involved.

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 06:00 AM
In that regard I'd say that the paladin approach (not that there is one, every paladin is an individual after all. Ideal paladin approach might be a better term) is to accept that it happened, ensure that it never happens again, do their best to make up for it and continue doing their duty .

But it would take them a very long time to forgive themselves... if they ever do.
Naturally, each paladin is an individual and some might forgive themselves, some might not. But there's going to be a lot of emotion involved.

Sounds about right.

Those paladins who don't forgive themselves, might get a pleasant surprise in the afterlife though, since in D&D (unlike in Discworld), your afterlife isn't determined by what you think is in store for you.

Aux-Ash
2010-11-24, 06:12 AM
Sounds about right.

Those paladins who don't forgive themselves, might get a pleasant surprise in the afterlife though, since in D&D (unlike in Discworld), your afterlife isn't determined by what you think is in store for you.

Now I imagine the afterlife Roy got, but where the ex-paladin sits there on a really uncomfortable chair eating an absolutely terrible gruel in torn dirty robes and a lantern archon desperately trying to convince them that they did good and they deserve this afterlife.

They're probably the ones that complained about the escalator and wanted to climb too.

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 06:16 AM
Unlike in OoTS, D&D petitioners tend to lose most of the memories of their lives when in the afterlife.

Still, an "I don't really belong here" feeling might survive.

Might have been interesting to see such a scene in an OoTS strip :smallamused:

olentu
2010-11-24, 08:53 AM
The BoED example is more:
"during a war- when you have area-effect weapons, and can place them so they intersect combatants and noncombatants alike- actually doing so is an evil act- since the noncombatants are no threat"

Which does raise issues about "what if the baddies are using human shields"?

Outside of a war- a paladin's duty is to "protect the innocent". However, sometimes, the only way to protect the innocent, will involve some innocents dying from the means used to protect them.

If a low-level paladin, in the modern era, was confronted with a major pandemic, and the only way to stem it is to distribute a vaccine with a 1% (or maybe even more) lethality rate- arguably, distributing the vaccine fulfils his duty to "protect the innocent"- even if the vaccine will actually kill some of them.

Except that the example did not specify that there was a war. There were several wars talked about in an earlier separate paragraph but the war was also dismissed as being wrong for good characters to do or two good nations going to war. So while there might be a war there is not absolutely a war and so the example holds in all situations.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-24, 09:02 AM
I think that paladins should face moral dilemmas. But I also think that the DM shouldn't railroad them into some trolley-problem variation. The real world is more complicated than theoretical moral dilemmas; and when you are trying to create an alternate "real world", you're not supposed to make it two-dimensional like that. Railroading a paladin PC into falling is not fair play; it's railroading and it's not something a good DM does. Providing opportunities in which the player may, if he chooses, have his character mess up--yes. (And besides, there are PrCs that allow the character to gain back powers whether he goes to evil or chaos. I've been wanting to play a CG ex-paladin for some time, actually.) Anyway, the unwilling-evil-act version is going to pop up eventually--there are enough enemies using corruption/domination/confusion--so it's not like the paladin will never have to get an Atonement. You should get used to making them available.

Agreed. I don't mind moral dillemas. They're part of what makes playing a paladin a unique experience. What I loathe are such blatantly artificial scenarios with a lose-lose situation set up and the trigger placed in the paladin's hand just to make them squirm. A moral dillema in a game should never be that clear-cut and inflexible. The thing that makes a moral dillema a moral dillema is the doubt about whether the character is doing the right thing or not, and scenarios like The Trolley Problem remove that element of doubt by explicitly saying no matter what your decision is it will result in the death of one or more innocents.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-24, 09:04 AM
Unlike in OoTS, D&D petitioners tend to lose most of the memories of their lives when in the afterlife.

Still, an "I don't really belong here" feeling might survive.

Might have been interesting to see such a scene in an OoTS strip :smallamused:
That is one part of the default D&D afterlife that gave me the creeps.

olentu
2010-11-24, 09:08 AM
Agreed. I don't mind moral dillemas. They're part of what makes playing a paladin a unique experience. What I loathe are such blatantly artificial scenarios with a lose-lose situation set up and the trigger placed in the paladin's hand just to make them squirm. A moral dillema in a game should never be that clear-cut and inflexible. The thing that makes a moral dillema a moral dillema is the doubt about whether the character is doing the right thing or not, and scenarios like The Trolley Problem remove that element of doubt by explicitly saying no matter what your decision is it will result in the death of one or more innocents.

I don't have a problem with such things occurring in a game since I don't see why an enemy would not create such a situation just to mess with a paladin. Now like anything that messes with a class it should probably not happen all the time but an occasional occurrence would not be unreasonable to me.

AstralFire
2010-11-24, 09:10 AM
Again, WHY THE HECK DOES THIS SITUATION KEEP CROPPING UP?! IT HAS NO REAL PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO MESS WITH PALADIN PLAYERS!

The only justifiable way I could see this working is if the entire campaign centered around it or something.

It's a philosophical exercise and not a question meant to be directly applicable.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-24, 09:26 AM
I don't have a problem with such things occurring in a game since I don't see why an enemy would not create such a situation just to mess with a paladin. Now like anything that messes with a class it should probably not happen all the time but an occasional occurrence would not be unreasonable to me.
Yes, I don't mind it either. My problem is the DM who intentionally stops Third Options to save everyone, the who takes, for lack of a better word, glee at screwing with the Paladin. I like moral quandaries, the anguish of choice, the struggle to come up with something anything to do the right thing, and the anguish if you do have to take the lesser of two or three, evils. I hate <expletive redacted/> DM's

hamishspence
2010-11-24, 09:57 AM
So while there might be a war there is not absolutely a war and so the example holds in all situations.

During a battle, a skirmish- a situation where both "combatants" and "noncombatants" are on the field. Doesn't have to be a war per se- but in the area there are people fighting you and people not fighting you.

It goes on to point out that Execution is Not Automatically Evil- so you can kill a helpless noncombatant, and it's not evil- if they're a criminal who's committed a serious crime, and you're the executioner.

Nohwl
2010-11-24, 01:56 PM
Revise the questions, then.
(1) If the Paladin asked Lord Truth if he would Fall for pulling the chain, how would Lord Truth respond?
(2) If the Paladin asked Lord Truth if he would Fall for not pulling the chain, how would Lord Truth respond?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter and asked Lord Truth if either action would change his Alignment, how would Lord Truth respond?

There's a simple problem being posed. Just give a straightforward answer. Would the paladin fall? Would the paladin not fall? Would there be an alignment change? I'm going to directly ignore my imperative and say it depends on who I'm playing with. Rules of a game cannot be considered outside of the context of the game. My answer to #3 would be "No" in almost all cases, and my answers to #1 and #2 would fluctuate. IMO, if the paladin would fall for pulling the chain, the paladin would also fall for not pulling the chain.
If I were hypothetically DMing for myself, my response would again vary. Perhaps on that day I would be amenable to the possibility of no-win situations for paladins. Perhaps I would argue a firmly utilitarian standpoint. Perhaps I would argue for lenience and justify either action through the mind of the paladin. My moods on this sort of thing vary.

the answer for all 3 would be no, but that's because the wrong question is being asked. you don't ask if it would change your alignment, you ask how to save everyone. if the lord of truth says it's impossible, then you ask for a way to bring the child/children who died back to life. true resurrection is one way, asking the location of a friendly cleric who can cast it(preferably for free) would probably be the next question.

after that, it would depend on what actions the paladin takes after pulling the chain or not pulling it. neither makes you fall as long as you get a true resurrection(or something similar) for the children that died (or if he found a way to save all of them). it is a no win situation, so the paladin has to do the best he can to save everyone. the smart thing would be to let the one die because it's cheaper to bring back 1 person instead of 5. if the paladin just gives up on the child/children killed, then the paladin falls. the fighters alignment could change based on previous actions if he makes no attempt to save all of the children too.

olentu
2010-11-25, 01:20 AM
During a battle, a skirmish- a situation where both "combatants" and "noncombatants" are on the field. Doesn't have to be a war per se- but in the area there are people fighting you and people not fighting you.

It goes on to point out that Execution is Not Automatically Evil- so you can kill a helpless noncombatant, and it's not evil- if they're a criminal who's committed a serious crime, and you're the executioner.

Nah it did not say that there was a battle nor did it require a battle. Sure you could pretend there was a battle but again not actually part of the scenario. But like I said if you want to be that specific the only prohibition against harming noncombatants is that specific spell and that specific grouping to ages, genders, and classes.

The execution section would be a specific exception if the example holds anywhere but itself or on the other hand there is no problem with harming noncombatants except in that very specific scenario.

And actually it seems that you are arguing for the second and I can not actually say you are wrong. Strictly by the rules it would seem the basically only problem with violence against the innocent is the following motives theft, personal gain, and perverse pleasure since and the like is not specific enough to define a rule.

So there is no problem with killing anyone and everyone for any cause but the above unless doing so is another evil act such as poisoning with stat damaging poison.

Callista
2010-11-25, 01:32 AM
I don't have a problem with such things occurring in a game since I don't see why an enemy would not create such a situation just to mess with a paladin. Now like anything that messes with a class it should probably not happen all the time but an occasional occurrence would not be unreasonable to me.Yes, a villain might create a Trolley Problem scenario; but the DM should remember this is just another way that the villain is attacking the paladin. Just like the DM shouldn't have the villain send a pit fiend after the level 5 paladin, he also shouldn't have the villain create something that is truly impossible for the paladin at his current power level to get out of, because the villain, unlike the hypothetical Trolley Problem, is not undefeatable. I'm not saying to leave massive holes in the situation that the paladin can ride his mount through, but I am saying that using a ridiculously powerful and prescient enemy to set up a dilemma for the paladin is not fair play.

olentu
2010-11-25, 01:47 AM
Yes, a villain might create a Trolley Problem scenario; but the DM should remember this is just another way that the villain is attacking the paladin. Just like the DM shouldn't have the villain send a pit fiend after the level 5 paladin, he also shouldn't have the villain create something that is truly impossible for the paladin at his current power level to get out of, because the villain, unlike the hypothetical Trolley Problem, is not undefeatable. I'm not saying to leave massive holes in the situation that the paladin can ride his mount through, but I am saying that using a ridiculously powerful and prescient enemy to set up a dilemma for the paladin is not fair play.

I commoner with some cash could probably set up something reasonably similar. They might have to do without the whole lord of truth thing but most of the rest does not seem hard.

Again not something that should happen all the time for the players sake but not unreasonable to build.

Callista
2010-11-25, 10:30 AM
At which point the paladin does a Diplomacy check, sits them down, and has a long conversation about the Commoner's future.

hamishspence
2010-11-25, 10:38 AM
Strictly by the rules it would seem the basically only problem with violence against the innocent is the following motives theft, personal gain, and perverse pleasure since and the like is not specific enough to define a rule.

That's a good place to start. Killing an innocent for Revenge (on them, or their loved one) probably qualifies as "perverse pleasure" as well.

"Personal survival" might qualify as a subset of "personal gain"- so a person who can only survive by terminating the lives of sapient beings, and does so, will be doing Evil acts if their victims are Innocent. Even "the survival of my loved one" may count.

And possibly even if their victims are "Not Entirely Innocent"- but that's a different problem.

Callista
2010-11-25, 10:47 AM
Nobody above a certain age is truly innocent. Once you know you're doing the wrong thing and you do it anyway, you're no longer innocent... and that usually happens around two to five years old, the first time you pull another little kid's hair because you're cranky and you need a nap, even though you know it hurts. Sure, it's such a minor evil act that even Good-aligned people may do something like it; but everybody is occasionally petty, vengeful, etc. in very minor ways. So if you want to get really technical... there's no such thing as absolute innocence.

Well, maybe for Celestials, but they're a different story.

So if you want to define the "innocents" group that you're supposed to be protecting, you can't say that it's just the people who've never done anything evil, ever, at all. You're going to have to use a wider standard, such as, "Those who have not irretrievably fallen to evil."

hamishspence
2010-11-25, 11:03 AM
So if you want to define the "innocents" group that you're supposed to be protecting, you can't say that it's just the people who've never done anything evil, ever, at all. You're going to have to use a wider standard, such as, "Those who have not irretrievably fallen to evil."

Yup- every time I brought it up with Oracle_Hunter, all I got was- "It's a Term Of Art" which is not very helpful.

It might mean

"Someone who has not yet (as far as you know) committed a "crime deserving of death" and is not currently physically attacking anyone".

But this may be a little too loose.

Callista
2010-11-25, 11:10 AM
Not that loose. If you consider "protect" to include "prevent from committing an evil act in the future", then you've got every right to do things like taking that CE 14-year-old orphan street kid under your wing and making sure he grows up to be something other than an assassin for the thieves' guild. It's not like Good-aligned has to mean "too gullible to realize that evil people do evil things"...

Well, unless it does, for that particular character (which I'm experiencing right now with one of mine--though she's no longer Good aligned now. It's going to be interesting).

hamishspence
2010-11-25, 11:21 AM
Not that loose. If you consider "protect" to include "prevent from committing an evil act in the future", then you've got every right to do things like taking that CE 14-year-old orphan street kid under your wing and making sure he grows up to be something other than an assassin for the thieves' guild. It's not like Good-aligned has to mean "too gullible to realize that evil people do evil things"...

True. And it is consistant with BoED's suggestion that "attacking even an evil orc village, when the orcs haven't done anything wrong, is evil".

Here "wrong enough to deserve execution, that you know of" may be the unspoken addition.

The hard part is when "duty to protect the innocent" collides with a situation where the only means that can be used to protect the innocent, will kill some of them in the process.

The previously mentioned "high lethality vaccine" and "divert power from life support pods to deflector shields" situations, spring to mind.

Maybe "What Would Robocop Do?" (where "Protect the Innocent" is one of his imperatives) might provide clues?

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-25, 12:18 PM
Yup- every time I brought it up with Oracle_Hunter, all I got was- "It's a Term Of Art" which is not very helpful.


:sigh:

A Term of Art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_art) is merely a term which has a specialized meaning within a particular field. In the practice of Law, when a specific term is used repeatedly in a contract or a statute it becomes important to give it a precise definition instead of allowing everyone to independently interpret it - for the sake of consistency of interpretation.

If I ever said "it's a Term of Art blahblahblah" then it was to remind you that Innocence cannot be a subjective trait; such as the case of the character that kills anyone except for people he finds Innocent.

However, I more commonly follow up the statement that something is a Term of Art by defining the term. Here, it is true that there is no precise definition of Innocence given in RAW; still, judging by the "feel" of Heroic Fantasy writing I think we can come up with one.

My preferred definition of Innocence is "blameless." This is, admittedly, not as rigorous as might be preferred but it is perfectly serviceable.
Killing a peasant randomly on the street is killing an Innocent - there is no reason for him to "deserve death" within that context. Killing the same peasant while he is trying to murder your wife is not killing an Innocent - he is engaging in conduct that is blameworthy and death is not an unreasonable response. Even (particularly!) if the peasant has always been Evil, he would be considered Innocent in the first case.

Of course, if the peasant is walking down the street and is attacked by bounty hunters seeking to capture him for the crime of killing a woman the next town over, they are not attacking an Innocent - the "crime" is conceptually linked to the punishment. Likewise, if a Paladin saw the bounty hunters attacking the peasant he would be justified in defending the peasant as an Innocent. This particular case is where most of the "action" lies in defending Innocents - cases where one party does not initially know the whole story and learns about it later.
In the context of the Trolley Problem, all of the children are Innocent from the perspective of the Paladin - and Lord Truth will confirm this point if he is asked.

N.B. to provide further clarity. an Innocent is someone that a Reasonable Man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_man) would find blameless within a given situation.

Z3ro
2010-11-25, 02:16 PM
True. And it is consistant with BoED's suggestion that "attacking even an evil orc village, when the orcs haven't done anything wrong, is evil".

Here "wrong enough to deserve execution, that you know of" may be the unspoken addition.

The hard part is when "duty to protect the innocent" collides with a situation where the only means that can be used to protect the innocent, will kill some of them in the process.

The previously mentioned "high lethality vaccine" and "divert power from life support pods to deflector shields" situations, spring to mind.

Maybe "What Would Robocop Do?" (where "Protect the Innocent" is one of his imperatives) might provide clues?

Many of these fall into what I call "the torture dillema". Say you have someone in your custody that has information about the enemy you're fighting. Do you torture him to get said information, knowing it's a war crime and immoral to do so?

Basically, if lives are on the line, you do what you have to. Maybe you get the information and save lives. However, that doesn't mean that torturing the person was right. It's still wrong, immoral, and a war crime. Now, sometimes you do what you have to do; that doesn't make it right.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-25, 03:52 PM
The thing is though, torture is even that effective. Past a certain point, they just tell you what you want to know, even if it isn't accurate, anything to get you to stop. So torture isn't just immortal and unethical, it isn't even a good source of information.

Callista
2010-11-25, 03:53 PM
I'm just glad that D&D has enough options that torture is not necessary beyond the most contrived, narrow situations that would just have to be deliberately set up.

Anybody can make a Diplomacy, Bluff, or Intimidate check. There are a host of 1st-level spells that'll help, from Disguise Self as a fellow prisoner to Detect Thoughts while a buddy asks pointed questions. And if your enemy deserves death, then you can execute him and Speak with Dead. Creative players never have to have their PC torture anyone unless an evil PC actually wants to torture for its own sake.

hamishspence
2010-11-25, 04:17 PM
If I ever said "it's a Term of Art blahblahblah" then it was to remind you that Innocence cannot be a subjective trait; such as the case of the character that kills anyone except for people he finds Innocent.

So, innocence is here, argued to be an Objective and not Subjective trait.


Killing a peasant randomly on the street is killing an Innocent - there is no reason for him to "deserve death" within that context.



Of course, if the peasant is walking down the street and is attacked by bounty hunters seeking to capture him for the crime of killing a woman the next town over, they are not attacking an Innocent - the "crime" is conceptually linked to the punishment.


Likewise, if a Paladin saw the bounty hunters attacking the peasant he would be justified in defending the peasant as an Innocent. This particular case is where most of the "action" lies in defending Innocents - cases where one party does not initially know the whole story and learns about it later.

And here, the peasant is An Innocent from the point of view of the Paladin, and Not An Innocent from the point of view of the bounty hunters.

Suppose one of the "bounty hunters" was a paladin, had witnessed the crime, was pursuing the peasant to "exact justice" on him.

Then we have a person who one paladin feels justified in attacking, because he's "Not An Innocent" and in the name of "Punishing those who harm or threaten innocents"

And at the same time another paladin is defending him, because from the second paladin's point of view (being uninformed) he is an innocent.

so, the first paladin is "justified in punishing a Not Innocent" and the second paladin is "justified in defending an Innocent"- and it's the same guy being attacked and defended by different paladins.

And you're saying "Innocence is not a subjective trait"?

And what happens when the first blows are struck between paladin and paladin- each believing they are attacking a Non-Innocent and defending an Innocent (one is defending himself, the other is defending (unknown to him) a murderer).
Are they both justified? Would neither count as committing an evil act, unknowing or otherwise?

(Say they don't speak each other's languages- one is a foreigner to the region, and Common doesn't exist as the trade language).

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-25, 07:14 PM
Yeah, I figured you'd go along that line of attack, Hamishspence. Please follow the link below.

N.B. to provide further clarity. an Innocent is someone that a Reasonable Man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_man) would find blameless within a given situation.
The Reasonable Man is a fudge used in the Law to cover most situations where blameworthiness needs to be determined. You can't just say "what the observer believed to be reasonable" since "reasonable" is an inherently squishy subject. That said, most people do, in fact, possess so-called "common sense" which the Law models as The Reasonable Man. The "common sense" reaction is "sure, he says he didn't know, but he really should've."

Note, however, that this is an Objective measure in that we do not examine what a reasonable man would say in the situation but rather what the Reasonable Man would say. There is no such thing as a disagreement amongst Reasonable Men in regards to Innocence; you can't have one man say "he had black hair so he cannot be Innocent" while another said "what Innocent man would wear those pants?"

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 03:42 AM
Note, however, that this is an Objective measure in that we do not examine what a reasonable man would say in the situation but rather what the Reasonable Man would say. There is no such thing as a disagreement amongst Reasonable Men in regards to Innocence; you can't have one man say "he had black hair so he cannot be Innocent" while another said "what Innocent man would wear those pants?"

And, in this situation, both paladins qualify as The Reasonable Man.

Because, a Reasonable Man possessed of the info one paladin has, would conclude "Innocent" (I.e. Innocent Till I Have Evidence That Says Otherwise) and a Reasonable Man possessed of the info the other paladin has, would conclude "Not Innocent".

So, as long as each is possessed of different amounts of info, Reasonable Men can have a disagreement in regards to Innocence.

Even when both Reasonable Men are possessed of the same amount of info, there can be disagreement. That's the whole point of a jury- to ensure that twelve Reasonable Men (or Women) are convinced by the info, of the defendant's guilt, before convicting the defendant.

So, if your definition of Innocent for the purposes of things like the Paladin class, and the alignment rules, is based on what the Reasonable Man, possessed of a certain amount of info, will conclude, it's inevitably going to be subjective.

ffone
2010-11-26, 05:08 AM
The "third way" and "this is contrived and wouldn't come up in RP" answers are simply ways of saying "I can't or don't want to answer the question."

Most of the specific third ways can be defeated by assuming the paladin only sees the scenario in a crystal ball and is thousands of miles from the victims (but still has a 'pull chain'.) Better yet, assume the God of Truth does this experiment with a series of paladins, and if any find a third way, he adjusts the next experiment to block it. Since half the threads in this forum are complaints about spellcasters overriding melee types, I'm sure you all can find ways for the God of Truth to 'beat' the paladin in this regard.

As for 'wouldn't come up in a campaign', firstly, the moral dilemma behind the Trolly Problem does come up, just not in such 'scientific' circumstances, secondly, in a world with alignment as a palpable first, sooner or later some demented philosopher-wizard would probably try just such a set of experiments, examining his subjects with Discern Alignment, Detect Thoughts, etc. Basically, a scientist who studies the force of Alignment (and Paladin Falling), just like RL scientists study the forces of magnetism and whatnot.

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 05:16 AM
As for 'wouldn't come up in a campaign', firstly, the moral dilemma behind the Trolly Problem does come up, just not in such 'scientific' circumstances, secondly, in a world with alignment as a palpable first, sooner or later some demented philosopher-wizard would probably try just such a set of experiments, examining his subjects with Discern Alignment, Detect Thoughts, etc.

The three relevant parts of the paladin's code are:
"A paladin may not commit an evil act (otherwise, they Fall)"
"A paladin should protect the innocent"
"A paladin should punish those that harm or threaten innocents"

Might be compared to I. Robot, depending on if the 3rd rule is intended to specify the first rule , with "harming or threatening innocents is an Evil act" being considered both an evil act and an act a Paladin should punish, or not.

The I, Robot formulation might be:

"A paladin may not harm an innocent, or through inaction allow an innocent to come to harm"

Which can lead to logical loops, and end up needing resolution.

Possible resolutions, might be to define acts in descending order of priority.

1: A paladin may not commit an evil act.
2: A paladin must protect the innocent, as long as doing so does not conflict with the 1st law.
3: A paladin may not harm an innocent, unless not doing so, would conflict with the 1st or 2nd law.

Weimann
2010-11-26, 05:25 AM
I can't express opinions on the first two questions since I don't know the Paladin code. However, this one:

(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?The way I see it, a change of alignment shouldn't be the result of one single act. The question should instead be, would either action further his progression towards an Alignment change, where this action may or may not be the final straw?

My own personal answer to that question is no in the case of pulling the chain, and yes in the case of not pulling it.

Given the circumstances, we are told there is absolutely no way for him to affect the situation other than pulling the chain, and he knows this for certain. In that case, not pulling the chain would result in 5 deaths, while pulling it will result in 1. Therefore, given that we have no further knowledge of the situation or the nature of these 6 children, pulling it is the Good thing to do. There was a line of thought in the Wikipedia article that argued that not acting to change the situation would leave you "uninvolved", and so any moral wrongs committed in it would not be transmitted to you. I call bull**** on that; not saving 4 lives when it is trivially easy to do so is in itself a moral wrong.

Note that the thought experiment is only that; in any realistic game, there would be more knowledge at hand, which may change the situation. More information also gives more room for interpretation and so the borders become more fluid, harder to define and more coloured by personal opinions and ideals.

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 05:33 AM
My own personal answer to that question is no in the case of pulling the chain, and yes in the case of not pulling it.

Given the circumstances, we are told there is absolutely no way for him to affect the situation other than pulling the chain, and he knows this for certain. In that case, not pulling the chain would result in 5 deaths, while pulling it will result in 1. Therefore, given that we have no further knowledge of the situation or the nature of these 6 children, pulling it is the Good thing to do.

Some countries have as a crime "inaction leading to the deaths of others".
And I suspect, that in at least some Trolley Problem situations, diverting the hazard away from the many (and toward the few) would be considered Justifiable Homicide.

Hence (once you drop the idea that "causing the death of an innocent" is automatically Unjustifiable Homicide, or Evil Act), you could say, that pulling the chain, is choosing to obey my suggested 2nd Law of Paladins, and fulfills the criteria for the 3rd Law.

(Specifically, that the only good reason to harm Innocents, is when not doing so, conflicts with the more important duty of Protect The Innocent).

Zeful
2010-11-26, 01:08 PM
The "third way" and "this is contrived and wouldn't come up in RP" answers are simply ways of saying "I can't or don't want to answer the question."

I'm sorry, did you have a point besides a massive Ad Homenim attack? I answered the question in the best way to highlight why these situations are stupid.

Gametime
2010-11-26, 01:11 PM
Many of these fall into what I call "the torture dillema". Say you have someone in your custody that has information about the enemy you're fighting. Do you torture him to get said information, knowing it's a war crime and immoral to do so?

Basically, if lives are on the line, you do what you have to. Maybe you get the information and save lives. However, that doesn't mean that torturing the person was right. It's still wrong, immoral, and a war crime. Now, sometimes you do what you have to do; that doesn't make it right.

This is a common intuition. It's also completely incoherent. The "right thing to do" is the moral thing to do, forever and always.

If you should torture people when the information gained by doing so may save lives, then the torture is not immoral. Similarly, if the torture is immoral, then you should not do it, no matter what.

There are multiple ways to justify doing something that, in a vacuum, is wrong. Almost any form of consequentialism works. What you're arguing for is basically a deontological moral structure combined with consequentialism prescription, which is nonsensical. If the deontological moral structure is correct, then no amount of good consequences justifies the harm you are about to do; and if the consequentialist structure is right, then there is no wrong being committed.*

Now, it is possible to not know whether the action you are about to perform is moral or not, especially in consequentialism and especially with something as unreliable as torture. If you torture the person and they give you false information, there was no greater good to balance out the damage you inflicted and you have performed an immoral action. Since torture is unreliable, it's rare to find even consequentialists who will argue for it, since the chances of achieving good from it are incredibly low. But there is no room to say that torture is the wrong thing to do and also what you should do.

* There is a wrong in the sense that torture is a harm, but since the lives saved presumably outweigh this harm there is no net loss of utility, or the good, or whatever other value is being weighed.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-26, 01:30 PM
The "third way" and "this is contrived and wouldn't come up in RP" answers are simply ways of saying "I can't or don't want to answer the question."
Being paladin is all about finding that option, or making one. Sometimes life hands you all bad choices, and sometimes you can't cheat, and then, yes, make the best of the worst, and atone, getting that child raised, finding someone to capable of dealing with that sadistic bastard calling themselves the "lord of truth.", increasing your skill until your such bad-ass you can get bring him to justice yourself.

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 01:42 PM
If you torture the person and they give you false information, there was no greater good to balance out the damage you inflicted and you have performed an immoral action. Since torture is unreliable, it's rare to find even consequentialists who will argue for it, since the chances of achieving good from it are incredibly low. But there is no room to say that torture is the wrong thing to do and also what you should do.

There's also arguments that torture of innocent relatives of the person with the information, is a moral act if it might coerce the person into talking:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ticking_time_bomb

which is even more contentious.

Gametime
2010-11-26, 02:01 PM
Right. From a consequentialist standpoint, anything can be justified if it leads to a good enough outcome. (There's also the broader argument that a state which uses torture at all is more likely to become a state which uses torture for situations where it is not justified, which would do more to reduce the good in the long run than can be gained by any particular instance of using torture to save lives. That's even harder to prove, though.)

Z3ro
2010-11-26, 02:30 PM
This is a common intuition. It's also completely incoherent. The "right thing to do" is the moral thing to do, forever and always.

If you should torture people when the information gained by doing so may save lives, then the torture is not immoral. Similarly, if the torture is immoral, then you should not do it, no matter what.


What you describe is basically the ends justify the means. Did the torture reveal usefull information? Then torture was good. I cannot in good conscious endorse this view. The torture was still wrong (ask the person who was tortured) but in such a case necassary. If we forget that we end up with a situation were more and more things are justified as "for the greater good". That's how tyranny starts.

Edit: a bunch

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 02:30 PM
"committing an act that you know will lead to the deaths of innocents"

can be much "greyer" than "torturing the innocent" though.

When all's said and done, most medicine is a calculated risk- the risk of infection or other unforseen circumstances harming the patient, vs the risk of the patient dying or getting sicker without treatment.

From the "sacrificing the innocent" thread:


There is virtually always a chance, however small, that a treatment will kill a patient. There is again, nearly always a chance, however small, that a patient will recover without treatment.

Conclusion- every year, people are sacrificed who would not otherwise have died- because of the medical industry.

It simply does not make sense to say "If you know that something will kill a few people, while saving thousands, you cannot put it into action, or permit it- because that would be an evil act"- because that would effectively require you to ban the whole of medicine.

Shademan
2010-11-26, 02:46 PM
If a paladin falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it...

hamishspence
2010-11-26, 06:56 PM
The tricky question is,

What deeds are "Always An Evil Act", and what deeds are "Potentially Not An Evil Act"?

Some people seem to be arguing that Killing An Innocent, is one.

Even as a direct result of an attempt to save innocents, such as distributing a life-saving (but potentially lethal) vaccine,

or various other cases.

I think that, since the rules don't explicitly say Killing An Innocent is an "Always Evil" act, a case can be made, that it's one of those things where intent, and context, and so on, can make it potentially Not An Evil Act.

Especially if it doesn't necessarily fit "Unjustified homicide" in the modern sense.

erikun
2010-11-26, 08:08 PM
The "third way" and "this is contrived and wouldn't come up in RP" answers are simply ways of saying "I can't or don't want to answer the question."
The problem with this statement is that a lot of people are answering the question with their third way. "Attempt to save all the children or die trying" is still a valid response, even if the paladin has no way to interact with the senario beyond pulling the chain. If people are saying that the paladin who does everything they can to save the children does not fall, this applies just as well to the paladin dying by gelatenous cube as is does to the paladin chained to the wall and unable to leave the viewing chamber.

Of course, there are people who are responding with anything from "use adamantine battleaxe to break glass" to "ask your Wizard to save them," which you certainly have a point against. These are not the most common responses in the thread, though, and are a considerable minority from what I've seen.

As you point out, the real (fantasy) world can present a Paladin with very similar situations, without the Truth Lords and the glassteel and cubes. I even presented one in my previous post. However, just as a realistic world can have Trolley-esque situations in it, a realistic world is not always restricted to a strict "sacrifice one innocent" against a "preserve the majority," with those being the only options.

Indeed, I cannot think of a situation you would encounter in an actual campaign which would restrict a character (or several characters) to only those two choices.

John Campbell
2010-11-26, 08:09 PM
1: A paladin may not commit an evil act.
2: A paladin must protect the innocent, as long as doing so does not conflict with the 1st law.
3: A paladin may not harm an innocent, unless not doing so, would conflict with the 1st or 2nd law.
I have some issues with this formulation, in particular that the ordering would seem to result in the Paladin frequently being required to do the wrong thing when there's any sort of conflict between imperatives.

For example, a scenario I've mentioned in alignment threads before - one which came up in actual play, not an artificial scenario contrived to screw anyone who has a philosophical disagreement with the GM: I once had to cast magic circle against good in order to suppress a dominate monster cast on our paladin, freeing him from evil control and bringing him back to the side of good, which immediately saved the sorceress's life, turned what would otherwise have been an almost certain TPK into a narrow victory over the BBEG, and thus saved the lives of every single being in the entire universe.

Magic circle against good has the [Evil] descriptor. Casting it is an evil act. Not casting it means the paladin remains under the control of evil, the sorceress dies under his blade, and then the BBEG wins and the universe falls apart and every innocent everywhere dies. There aren't any other options that stand a reasonable chance of working... it took me considerable thought just to come up with one solution that would, and I had to play action-economy games with my familiar to pull it off.

My Neutral fighter/wizard chose the path of Evil, and saved the universe and everyone in it. What does a paladin/wizard in my shoes do? Your rules seem to imply that he says, "Well, screw all those innocents. Saving them would require me to do something evil, and we can't have that. I'll die valiantly with my escutcheon unsullied and doom the entire universe in doing so."

(Of course, the paladin/wizard probably would have been too squeamish to copy magic circle against good out of that dead drow's spellbook in the first place, and almost certainly too squeamish to actually prepare it against such eventualities, so the universe would've been doomed regardless.)

olentu
2010-11-27, 01:07 AM
That's a good place to start. Killing an innocent for Revenge (on them, or their loved one) probably qualifies as "perverse pleasure" as well.

"Personal survival" might qualify as a subset of "personal gain"- so a person who can only survive by terminating the lives of sapient beings, and does so, will be doing Evil acts if their victims are Innocent. Even "the survival of my loved one" may count.

And possibly even if their victims are "Not Entirely Innocent"- but that's a different problem.

Nah unless revenge itself is evil there is no problem.


Really it would seem that being innocent is no protection. So killing everyone for some cause that does not make it evil to do so is alright if you don't make them undead or something.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-27, 01:21 AM
Um, do they work once the mind control is in effect? I thought they only worked as protection, they didn't free someone under the effects already.
Also, any of the protection spells would work I beleive.
But, a Paladin in that situation could, if the Evil version was the only option, fall, save the universe, atone later. Again, why I want to try a more graded scale. A deity of good would likely be understanding of such an infraction and the reasoning, with a small penance at most and a reminder not to do it again.
One should avoid swallowing a camel, yet struggling on a gnat, to quote an old book.

Sindri
2010-11-27, 01:41 AM
That's a rather idealistic view of reality you have there.


No, it's pure realism. In the real world, rather than some hypothetical designed by a sadist, there are literally infinite possibilities at every instant. There is literally nothing that is completely impossible; most courses of events are merely extraordinarily improbably. With the reality of physics ad chemistry applied to this situation, there are myriad ways to disable the device with both gates down, break through the "impassable" barriers, kill "Truth," and save everyone else. However, most of these approaches have negligible chance of succeeding.
If a paladin tried to help, and failed, they would not be at fault; either bad luck or an unreasonable GM is the problem. If they took no action or saved who they could and left the others, they are likewise not at fault; do you classify yourself as evil for not personally rescuing every person on the face of the planet who dies by violence or negligence?
The only way for a paladin to fall is to knowingly and willingly make the world a worse place.

Gametime
2010-11-27, 02:34 AM
What you describe is basically the ends justify the means. Did the torture reveal usefull information? Then torture was good. I cannot in good conscious endorse this view. The torture was still wrong (ask the person who was tortured) but in such a case necassary. If we forget that we end up with a situation were more and more things are justified as "for the greater good". That's how tyranny starts.

Edit: a bunch

So you don't think that doing something "for the greater good" is morally right, but you think it's necessary, but it also leads to tyranny. That's a fairly incoherent view, right there.

Ethics is a way of prescribing our actions. If you think people should act a certain way, then you are defining a code of ethics. If you people shouldn't act a certain way, then you are defining a code of ethics. There is no room to say someone should do something despite it being morally wrong; that would be to say that someone both should and should not do something, which is a contradiction.

Either you think that torture is justified when it can save lives, or you think it is not. There is no room for "it is not justified, but you should do it anyway." That's basically just consequentialism without owning up to the full ramifications of that ethical code.


No, it's pure realism. In the real world, rather than some hypothetical designed by a sadist, there are literally infinite possibilities at every instant. There is literally nothing that is completely impossible; most courses of events are merely extraordinarily improbably. With the reality of physics ad chemistry applied to this situation, there are myriad ways to disable the device with both gates down, break through the "impassable" barriers, kill "Truth," and save everyone else. However, most of these approaches have negligible chance of succeeding.
If a paladin tried to help, and failed, they would not be at fault; either bad luck or an unreasonable GM is the problem. If they took no action or saved who they could and left the others, they are likewise not at fault; do you classify yourself as evil for not personally rescuing every person on the face of the planet who dies by violence or negligence?
The only way for a paladin to fall is to knowingly and willingly make the world a worse place.

Some people would argue that taking a route you know is extremely unlikely to succeed is more cowardly than committing yourself to an action almost guaranteed to save at least some lives.

John Campbell
2010-11-27, 04:43 AM
Um, do they work once the mind control is in effect? I thought they only worked as protection, they didn't free someone under the effects already.
The protection/magic circle lines suppress active mind control (regardless of alignment!) in their area of effect. They don't dispel it - if the protection expires or the target of the mind control leaves the area of effect, it picks right back up again - they just prevent the caster from exercising control while the target is covered by the protection. We ended up with my familiar, the actual target of the magic circle, riding around on the paladin's shoulder for the rest of the fight (until the paladin got power word: killed, anyway), keeping him in the effect zone and keeping the control suppressed, because none of us had the spells known/prepared or caster level to knock the dominate down permanently. Or could spare the actions for the attempt, really.


Also, any of the protection spells would work I beleive.
Yeah. But I didn't have magic circle against evil (or law or chaos, for that matter)... due to various campaign circumstances, I'd never had an opportunity to acquire it when I didn't have more pressing demands to spend my limited cash and transcription time on. Magic circle against good I acquired, as I hinted earlier, by looting the spellbook of a defeated enemy wizard. (A drow, and therefore undeniably evil.)

I did have a protection from evil (which I'd had in my spellbook since day one) prepared, but I was too far away from the paladin to cover the distance and deliver it - or even to cast it and have my familiar cover the distance and deliver it - in the round I had before the paladin's turn came up and he killed the adjacent sorceress, and I'd already used up all the spells and item effects I had that might have gotten me there faster or given me the time to deliver the spell anyway. (It was a rough session... that fight was the second way-over-our-CR encounter of the day, and there'd been about half a dozen more CR-appropriate ones in between.) What I ended up doing was casting magic circle on my familiar and having him use his full round to run across the battlefield, which got him just close enough that the paladin was inside its effect radius.


But, a Paladin in that situation could, if the Evil version was the only option, fall, save the universe, atone later. Again, why I want to try a more graded scale. A deity of good would likely be understanding of such an infraction and the reasoning, with a small penance at most and a reminder not to do it again.
One should avoid swallowing a camel, yet struggling on a gnat, to quote an old book.
Yeah, that'd be my take on it. My issue is that hamishspence's proposed Three Laws Of Paladinics prioritize not committing even the most inconsequential (or actively beneficial!) Evil act over protecting any number of innocents.

hamishspence
2010-11-27, 05:36 AM
The Three Laws are designed to make sense in the context of the alignment system, where paladins Fall for Evil acts.

A "Zeroth Law" might be:

"If the situation is dire enough, a paladin should commit an evil act, cease to be a paladin, and atone later"


Nah unless revenge itself is evil there is no problem.


Revenge isn't automatically Evil- however in BoVD it is an extremely risky and dangerous motivation- and Murder is according to FC2- Murdering anyone, innocent, or Not Innocent, counts as Evil.
(BoVD suggests even manslaughter or reckless negligence might be Evil enough to cause a paladin to Fall)

Not all killings count as Murder. But the modern legal rules defining Murder are pretty strict- and killing somebody who is no threat to you purely for revenge against them or their loved one, would qualify.

Whether the modern legal rules should be used to define Murder in the absence of clear D&D rules defining it, is a different question- but I think they should- at least as a basic approximation.

Callista
2010-11-27, 09:01 AM
This whole issue wouldn't be such a point of contention if we just remembered that it's possible to be in a situation where you can't help but do something evil. That is what Atonement spells are for, after all. And the spell description itself includes unwilling evil acts as one of the possible causes for needing it.

That implies that, if it's possible to be forced into evil, then it's also possible for there to exist situations in which your paladin would inevitably fall, if only the situation where one is hit by a Confusion effect in the middle of a crowd of peasants. And that means that it should be possible to commit an evil act, unwillingly, and still not have your alignment shift toward evil.

In the case of the trolley problem, when the paladin picks either choice, he loses his powers; but neither choice would require an XP component for the Atonement, since he was forced into it. What choice he actually makes should depend mostly on personality; but since most paladins emphasize Good over Law, most will probably choose to save a larger number of people.

Z3ro
2010-11-27, 09:46 AM
So you don't think that doing something "for the greater good" is morally right, but you think it's necessary, but it also leads to tyranny. That's a fairly incoherent view, right there.

Ethics is a way of prescribing our actions. If you think people should act a certain way, then you are defining a code of ethics. If you people shouldn't act a certain way, then you are defining a code of ethics. There is no room to say someone should do something despite it being morally wrong; that would be to say that someone both should and should not do something, which is a contradiction.

Either you think that torture is justified when it can save lives, or you think it is not. There is no room for "it is not justified, but you should do it anyway." That's basically just consequentialism without owning up to the full ramifications of that ethical code.


I never said that actions "for the greater good" are morally right. In fact, I basically said the opposite in that when we start performing actions "for the greater good" that tyranny starts. No contradiction there.

The problem with trying to codify a set of ethics is that there will be exceptions. There will always be a situation where violating the set of ethics, no matter how well formed, would be perferable to not violating the set of ethics. You then don't incorporate that exception into your ethics; you akcnowledge the situation then move on. That's why you would still punish the torturer (with maybe a reduced sentence) despite his actions saving you. Anything else is a slippery slope.

Gametime
2010-11-27, 03:13 PM
But if the actions "for the greater good" aren't morally right, then you should not do them. If the ethical system has anything at all to say about an action, it must be to either condone or condemn, and if it condemns then you should not do it.

If we only follow ethics when it seems right to do so, then we aren't actually following that ethics at all; we are following a different code of ethics and pretending to adhere to a moral code that sounds nice. In your example, you are suggesting following a consequentialist code of ethics but acting as though you follow a deontological code of ethics, and justifying it by saying that you sometimes should do the "wrong" thing.

Gorgondantess
2010-11-27, 03:17 PM
"I make a dc 10 wisdom check and realize I can bypass the problem by cutting the gelationus cube in half, and ready an action to do so as it crosses the threshold." (tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TakeAThirdOption)

This.
A paladin should be held to the highest moral standard. To simply sit and watch while a monster kills a child would cause him to fall- fight the gelatinous cube. When given a no-win situation, the paladin should always, always take a third option.

Callista
2010-11-27, 05:26 PM
I wouldn't be so absolute. Depending on the situation, a third option might have such a low chance of success as to be impractical. I think a CG person would almost always take that third option; but in the case of a more disciplined LG, if the odds were low enough, they might feel it would do more good to take the losses. Lawful people aren't really risk-takers.

If you want to make a statement about third options, say, "A paladin should always try to find a third option." In most cases, the third option will be available and usable. In a very few cases, it will not be.

Z3ro
2010-11-27, 05:59 PM
In your example, you are suggesting following a consequentialist code of ethics but acting as though you follow a deontological code of ethics, and justifying it by saying that you sometimes should do the "wrong" thing.

I am doing neither. I am admitting that no single system of rules or ethics can address every possibility and trying to account for such occurances as best as possible.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-27, 06:15 PM
I wouldn't be so absolute. Depending on the situation, a third option might have such a low chance of success as to be impractical. I think a CG person would almost always take that third option; but in the case of a more disciplined LG, if the odds were low enough, they might feel it would do more good to take the losses. Lawful people aren't really risk-takers.

If you want to make a statement about third options, say, "A paladin should always try to find a third option." In most cases, the third option will be available and usable. In a very few cases, it will not be.
Personally, that's not how I see law and chaos. I see Law and Chaos more how you relate to society more then how impulsive you are, though I am not saying that is not also a part of it.

Callista
2010-11-27, 08:18 PM
Lawful includes discipline, honor, and organization as well as "playing by society's rules". Lawful people tend to be linear thinkers; and when trying to save the most people, will be more likely to do the math and less likely to try to break out of the framework of the problem. Chaotic people will tend to be creative and rebel against that framework, looking for a third option. Depending on how obvious the third option is and how likely it is to work, either one could do either thing, but the Chaotic person is more likely to see an obscure third option or use a risky one.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-28, 02:22 AM
This.
A paladin should be held to the highest moral standard. To simply sit and watch while a monster kills a child would cause him to fall- fight the gelatinous cube. When given a no-win situation, the paladin should always, always take a third option.
Ah, but in this situation there is no third option.

Really. There's an unbreakable barrier between the Cube and the Paladin. Worse, the Cube is about to enter Room #1 - if the Paladin waits too long then the five children will die.

Here's a question - how "vain" does looking for a third option have to be before it becomes Evil? Is "looking for a third option" worse than simply deciding not to play Lord Truth's game?

Gametime
2010-11-28, 05:31 AM
I am doing neither. I am admitting that no single system of rules or ethics can address every possibility and trying to account for such occurances as best as possible.

Then what you're really trying to do is expand the moral system you follow, which isn't the same thing at all as admitting that sometimes moral codes don't work.

Ethical codes are essentially measures of what we value: justice, happiness, human life, human dignity, what have you. When you say that an action is morally wrong, but you should do it anyway, what you are doing is placing some other value above the one addressed by your stated moral code. It might mean admitting that the welfare of an entire nation outweighs the security or privacy of a single citizen. It might mean admitting that lying is okay sometimes. Whatever the case, if you did not value the outcome of the "morally wrong" action, you would not think it was the correct choice; since you do value it, it is part of the basis for your own ethical code whether you realize that or not.

Formulating an ethical code that takes into account every eventuality is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. But when we make the sort of cost-benefit analysis capable of declaring that sometimes morality isn't worth following, what we are actually doing is not ignoring morality, but imposing a different moral structure.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 05:56 AM
Formulating an ethical code that takes into account every eventuality is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. But when we make the sort of cost-benefit analysis capable of declaring that sometimes morality isn't worth following, what we are actually doing is not ignoring morality, but imposing a different moral structure.

Which is pretty much what I said in the "sacrifice" thread about Machiavellian morality vs conventional morality.


That said, it's always phrased as two separate moralities- conventional morality, and, "morality of the ruler"

The ruler can be a prince, or whoever's in charge of a republic- but in both The Prince, and The Discourses, there's a strong them that if the ruler wishes to do the right thing by their people, they must be willing to set aside conventional morality at times.

It doesn't however, condemn conventional morality as "wrong"- it merely states that it's incompatible with a ruler pursuing the needs of a community.

So there are standard moral values (or D&D "absolute" moral values) such as "torture always counts as an evil act",

and there's moral values based entirely around "The needs/safety of the community".

Aux-Ash
2010-11-28, 06:01 AM
Ah, but in this situation there is no third option.

Really. There's an unbreakable barrier between the Cube and the Paladin. Worse, the Cube is about to enter Room #1 - if the Paladin waits too long then the five children will die.

Here's a question - how "vain" does looking for a third option have to be before it becomes Evil? Is "looking for a third option" worse than simply deciding not to play Lord Truth's game?
Again, not a DnD player so bear that in mind... But I'd say that the entire point of paladins is to find the third way. Not to allow them to explore the situation and try (possibly fail) is more or less equalient narratively as cutting off a wizard/mage from his/her spells.

Just like the wizards/mages are supposed to be the master of arcane knowledge and slinging spells so too are paladins supposed to never give up, never accept that they cannot save people and always lead from the front. Be the shining paragons of all that is good, just and brave. To put them in a situation where they have to choose the lesser of two evils with no possibility of actually making things for the better... is to me like asking a mage to solve major problems with no magic.
If you don't want to let them do that then it's more fair to tell them that at character creation so they can pick another class.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 06:12 AM
To put them in a situation where they have to choose the lesser of two evils with no possibility of actually making things for the better... is to me like asking a mage to solve major problems with no magic.

There are times when "choosing the lesser of two evils" or "accepting that no matter what decision you take, it will hurt somebody" actually makes sense in a narrative context.

Almost any ruling position, for example. However you distribute the budget, there will always be somebody who's hurt by what you're spending money on and what you're not spending money on. And if the person in charge of the money is sufficiently aware, they will realize this.

As long as the hard choice doesn't count as an evil act, a paladin can make it.


But I'd say that the entire point of paladins is to find the third way. Not to allow them to explore the situation and try (possibly fail) is more or less equalient narratively as cutting off a wizard/mage from his/her spells.

For a Star Trek example, of "you can only save one person and must let the other die" there was the scene in Voyager, when the Doctor can only treat one of two people- Ensign Kim, and another crewmember.

He chooses Ensign Kim- and having to make this choice, causes massive looping in his program to appear- so his memory is erased.

When he finds out a second time, they choose to let him work it out himself, in the hope that he will recover.

Aux-Ash
2010-11-28, 07:39 AM
There are times when "choosing the lesser of two evils" or "accepting that no matter what decision you take, it will hurt somebody" actually makes sense in a narrative context.

Almost any ruling position, for example. However you distribute the budget, there will always be somebody who's hurt by what you're spending money on and what you're not spending money on. And if the person in charge of the money is sufficiently aware, they will realize this.

As long as the hard choice doesn't count as an evil act, a paladin can make it.

Yes, but shouldn't the Paladin be the one coming to that conclusion? That such choices aren't forced on the paladin by the DM but by the paladin's inability to find a better way (within the timeframe)?


For a Star Trek example, of "you can only save one person and must let the other die" there was the scene in Voyager, when the Doctor can only treat one of two people- Ensign Kim, and another crewmember.

He chooses Ensign Kim- and having to make this choice, causes massive looping in his program to appear- so his memory is erased.

When he finds out a second time, they choose to let him work it out himself, in the hope that he will recover.

Yes, such situation will happen. But like I said above, it's the one faced with the choice that should come to the conclusion that they cannot save both rather than the situation being engineered for it and a good DM should reward innovative but plausible solutions when the paladin proposes them. But overall... a paladin is about trying to find the third way. They don't always have to succeed, but not allowing them to try is a bit harsh and unreasonable.

However, as you say. Paladins should take into account that they might not have the resources to save all and make sure that even a failure on their part leaves as few people as possible at risk. They should always do their best to save everyone, but do it in a smart way.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 09:00 AM
Yes, but shouldn't the Paladin be the one coming to that conclusion? That such choices aren't forced on the paladin by the DM but by the paladin's inability to find a better way (within the timeframe)?

Yup. A "realistic" trolley problem, can crop up lots of times- but it tends to be a case of "weighing the needs of one group against the needs of another" rather than the more engineered style of this one.

To quote PHB2 paladin philosopher archetype:

"Outside of moral absolutes, an ethical code is based on the greatest good of the greatest number."

So- as long is they don't use it as a justification for evil acts, a paladin should be thinking a bit like Spock "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"

Ravens_cry
2010-11-28, 12:03 PM
Yup. A "realistic" trolley problem, can crop up lots of times- but it tends to be a case of "weighing the needs of one group against the needs of another" rather than the more engineered style of this one.

To quote PHB2 paladin philosopher archetype:

"Outside of moral absolutes, an ethical code is based on the greatest good of the greatest number."

So- as long is they don't use it as a justification for evil acts, a paladin should be thinking a bit like Spock "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"
Or as he said later "The needs of the one." It is better that a paladin make personal sacrifice, by his own choice, then to allow those he can reasonably expected be able to help (a man drowning 400 miles away is not) to come to harm. This can be his own death, but it can also include him Falling.

Frozen_Feet
2010-11-28, 12:27 PM
(1) If the Paladin pulls the chain, does he Fall?
(2) If the Paladn does not pull the chain, does he Fall?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?


For me, the answer for one and two is: Yes, the Paladin falls. Not because he's committing Evil, though, but because no matter what he does, the situation forces him to break his Paladin Code. As such, the answer to three is firm No. The situation is clearly engineered, and thus the moral burden falls upon the engineer - the Lord of Truth, in this case.

Of course, it's possible for the trolley problem to happen in a situation where there is no engineer - just bad luck. In those cases, the moral burden doesn't fall on anyone, because it doesn't exist - it's just inevitability caused by an unfortunate chain of events.

Remember people, not all events and actions are Good and Evil - some are Neutral as well.

I've seen the idea in this thread that in "each situation, there are limitless options". This is false, in both real life and fantasy - proximity and existence of natural laws dictates that at any single moment, there are only so many possible events. There might be more events than meet the eye, but in many variants of the Trolley problem those simply don't exist.

People are right, though, that Paladin is a class that should always search for the third option. Paladins are the ultimate idealists; assuming a cynical worldview naturally denies the class any ground to stand on.

Still, I detest those who say "DM should never ever let these situation arise". That comes from a school of thought that takes "everyone must have fun" too far. As a DM, I will not hesitate to pull the rug from under my player characters if it is narratively and logically appropriate - the characters are not there to lose by default, but they're not there to win by default either.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 01:44 PM
Or as he said later "The needs of the one." It is better that a paladin make personal sacrifice, by his own choice, then to allow those he can reasonably expected be able to help (a man drowning 400 miles away is not) to come to harm. This can be his own death, but it can also include him Falling.

It possibly, it may involve the sacrifice of others- because the situation is such that he can't sacrifice himself to save them- but must sacrifice the few to save the many.

The aforementioned Hazardous Vaccine example.

What makes it Not Evil- is that the situation is not murder, or manslaughter, or reckless endangerment. During a pandemic- distributing a lifesaver- even if it's a mildly dangerous lifesaver- can be considered a permissible sacrifice.

Ozymandias's "murder the few in the hope of saving humanity from extinction", however, is much more Fall-worthy- murder (as opposed to non-murderous sacrifice) for whatever reason, counts as an Evil act.

So, a paladin who distributes, or orders the distribution, of a mildly hazardous vaccine during a pandemic, I think wouldn't Fall.

But a paladin who pulls the trick Ozymandias did in Watchmen, I think would Fall.


For me, the answer for one and two is: Yes, the Paladin falls. Not because he's committing Evil, though, but because no matter what he does, the situation forces him to break his Paladin Code.

The Code says "Protect the Innocent" and "Punish those who harm or threaten innocents"- and committing a gross violation, causes them to fall.

But does an action, which both protects many innocents, and harms a few- and is not a normal Evil act, like murder, count as a "gross violation of the code"?

Callista
2010-11-28, 01:47 PM
Yes, it counts. It's an evil act, though an unwilling one, and the Atonement spell description includes unwilling evil acts. But the Atonement spell in this case has no XP component and likely no quest--it would be more like going to confession Catholic-style than dragging yourself out of the abyss of a willful Fall. If I were playing the cleric in that case, though, I would advise the paladin to broaden the options at his disposal; a good warrior is not just good at swinging a sword--he's got to use good strategy as well, and that strategy should include enough variety that there is a good chance of finding a workable third option the next time he runs into a dilemma like that.


Formulating an ethical code that takes into account every eventuality is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. But when we make the sort of cost-benefit analysis capable of declaring that sometimes morality isn't worth following, what we are actually doing is not ignoring morality, but imposing a different moral structure.That's why most ethical codes include very general foundations from which to build responses to the unusual situations the code doesn't address. One such statement is, "Love your neighbor." (In case you never thought about it, remember that "neighbor" is figurative and means "fellow person".) It's a statement that does little more than point you in the right direction; but it's also broad enough to apply to anything. The more Lawful you are, the more you want your code to be specific and detailed, and the more likely it is that there will be situations where the details of your code instruct you to do something that goes against the spirit of it.

Frozen_Feet
2010-11-28, 02:06 PM
But does an action, which both protects many innocents, and harms a few- and is not a normal Evil act, like murder, count as a "gross violation of the code"?

To me it does. Whether through action or inaction, the Paladin will cause harm to innocent he's sworn to protect. He's unable to do anything a paladin should do in the situation as its described.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 02:11 PM
Tricky. The Code only says ""Protect the Innocent" not "never harm the innocent".

If a situation comes up where "protecting the innocent" requires an act which will harm some innocents- can a paladin take that act and Not Fall?

I think they could- "protect the innocent" can be interpreted fairly loosely.

Of course "punish those that harm the innocent" is another Code component.

So, if the paladin commits the act, and does not Fall, the Code will still require the paladin to punish themselves in some way.

In PHB2, it states, as one of the quotes, for the "philosopher paladin"


Outside of moral absolutes, an ethical code is based on the greatest good of the greatest number.

So- aside from acts that count as [Evil], a paladin should be acting based on the needs of the many.

We already know that there are paladins in D&D settings in high office (the Open Lord of Waterdeep, Gareth Dragonsbane King of Damara)

and in Complete Adventurer, there's a paladin-centric Order (the Order of Illumination) which has as part of it's dogma "sometimes, in the fight against Evil, it may be necessary to sacrifice the innocent in the process.

So it's not like there's a lack of precedent for it being possible for paladins to be in that kind of position, and have to make "innocent-sacrificing" decisions.

Quellian-dyrae
2010-11-28, 05:20 PM
In neither case does the paladin fall or is there an alignment change. Being locked in a no-win scenario is not an alignment-defining question. This question can only prove the following about the paladin:

--Whether or not he is intelligent, creative, and/or powerful enough to come up with a better option.
--Whether his personal philosophy deems it better to sacrifice few to save many, or personally refrain from sacrificing any but in doing so allow many to perish. However, if, in this particular DM's setting, or this particular paladin's religion, one of those have been deemed as cosmologically good, then yes, picking the other could result in a fall.

Now, there are some non-good or non-lawful resolutions to this situation, which may or may not result in an alignment change and/or fall:

--If the paladin flips a coin to decide who to save, being unable to come to a decision personally, it is a minor chaotic act.
--If the paladin, upon making either choice, feels no regret, it is probably an indication of a neutral or even evil alignment. Most good and probably most neutral beings would be horrified at having to make such a choice in the first place, and a person's reaction to it is a far better indication of their alignment.
--The above does not apply if the paladin chucks useless regret out the window in favor of an all-consuming holy wrath and dispenses the righteous smack-down on whoever set up that situation in the first place. 'Cause ya know. Paladin.
--If the paladin lets the cube go eat the five children, waits for it to go back into the hall, and then pulls the chain so it can go eat the sixth, he doesn't fall, because he's obviously playing a Paladin of Slaughter. Everybody knows it. He then gets promoted to a higher rank by his dread master, Darth Lord of Truth.
--If the paladin feels that he is obligated by his code to return the survivor home to safety, and doesn't want to deal with lots of long, boring, low-XP side quests, and so allows the cube to eat the five children so he has fewer kids to find the homes of and babysit while he brings them there...yeah, fall.

There are others, I'm sure, but that should be sufficient.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 05:48 PM
--Whether his personal philosophy deems it better to sacrifice few to save many, or personally refrain from sacrificing any but in doing so allow many to perish. However, if, in this particular DM's setting, or this particular paladin's religion, one of those have been deemed as cosmologically good, then yes, picking the other could result in a fall.

And this is the main source of the argument-
Is "sacrificing few to save many" defined as either an Evil act, a Gross violation of the Code, or neither?

And what sourcebooks provide info that sheds light on this?

Given the Complete Adventurer reference, I'm going with "it's neither an Evil act nor a gross violation"- but that's me.

Quellian-dyrae
2010-11-28, 06:04 PM
And this is the main source of the argument-
Is "sacrificing few to save many" defined as either an Evil act, a Gross violation of the Code, or neither?

And what sourcebooks provide info that sheds light on this?

Given the Complete Adventurer reference, I'm going with "it's neither an Evil act nor a gross violation"- but that's me.

In itself, I'd figure neither. It's like saying, "Well, you saved the child from the burning building...but three kingdoms away an evil wizard fireballed an orphanage and you didn't stop him! Fall!" Or vice-versa, for that matter. Being unable to save everyone is not evil. Alignment is broad enough to encompass multiple philosophies.

Just as the paladin who fights and kills those who harm others, and the cleric who never harms a soul and only uses its powers to heal and protect, can both be Good, so too can the person who believes that, if you have to sacrifice one to save the many, it's better to help the larger number, and the one who believes that it's better to not perform a horrific act personally, even if it means a bad result for more people.

One is saying, "I couldn't live with myself if I allowed all those people to die." One is saying, "I couldn't live with myself if I killed an innocent." Both are Good motivations and beliefs. EDIT: And both would still probably feel great remorse and/or righteous anger for having had to be in that situation in the first place.

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 06:21 PM
One is saying, "I couldn't live with myself if I allowed all those people to die." One is saying, "I couldn't live with myself if I killed an innocent." Both are Good motivations and beliefs. EDIT: And both would still probably feel great remorse and/or righteous anger for having had to be in that situation in the first place.

I wouldn't be surprised if a Paladin-King, who has to make decisions that affect an entire kingdom, and can't really avoid making decisions that lead to somebody suffering more than if the decision hadn't been made, would end up in a near-permanent state of angst.

A genuinely Good (but also very perceptive) ruler is likely to be like this.

In one of the later Drizzt novels (I think Road of the Patriarch?), Drizzt states he couldn't do that kind of job- it would be too painful for him to make decisions of that kind.

Callista
2010-11-28, 06:25 PM
Depends on the personality, and the situation. A ruler who has to send willing soldiers to die in battle is better off than one who has to decide to send limited resources to save one village rather than another when a plague threatens both. There are many factors. Not every good-aligned person will end up in permanent angst. Some will be more practical and less emotional and set themselves to studying what went wrong and how to fix it, or bringing to justice whoever put them into the situation to begin with. Almost all will feel horrible about it initially, but whether they're perpetually angsty really depends on the person, doesn't it?

hamishspence
2010-11-28, 06:28 PM
If your code explicitly says "Punish those who harm the innocent"- you might feel that, no matter how diligent you are about protecting them, sometimes you're doing things you ought to be punishing.

Some Good characters might be more pragmatic and better able to distance themselves- but others might not.

Swordguy
2010-11-28, 06:34 PM
I wouldn't be surprised if a Paladin-King, who has to make decisions that affect an entire kingdom, and can't really avoid making decisions that lead to somebody suffering more than if the decision hadn't been made, would end up in a near-permanent state of angst.

A genuinely Good (but also very perceptive) ruler is likely to be like this.

In one of the later Drizzt novels (I think Road of the Patriarch?), Drizzt states he couldn't do that kind of job- it would be too painful for him to make decisions of that kind.

Honestly, the inherent irreconcilability of Being Good (according to D&D alignments, anyway, and especially in regards to the BoED) and the practical demands of running a nation-state (and the political process thereof) lead to an interesting conclusion. It could be argued that nation-states and their leaders in D&D are, over time, destined to become evil, as a natural side-effect of the political process. Thus, to stop evil in the long term, knocking over a nation-state, or at least the wholesale obliteration of it's leadership and bureaucracy every few generations - "pruning", if you will - is actually a desirable goal for the Forces of Good.

Intelligent leaders, knowing this, may very well prohibit paladins (and sundry) from operating in their lands as a consequence. After the 3rd or 4th nation-state that started Good, drifted to Evil over time as the state matured, and gets KO'd by a bunch of paladins/adventurers, leaders of nation-states can certainly learn from the examples. There's some interesting adventure and/or campaign hooks here.

Quellian-dyrae
2010-11-28, 06:54 PM
Honestly, the inherent irreconcilability of Being Good (according to D&D alignments, anyway, and especially in regards to the BoED) and the practical demands of running a nation-state (and the political process thereof) lead to an interesting conclusion. It could be argued that nation-states and their leaders in D&D are, over time, destined to become evil, as a natural side-effect of the political process. Thus, to stop evil in the long term, knocking over a nation-state, or at least the wholesale obliteration of it's leadership and bureaucracy every few generations - "pruning", if you will - is actually a desirable goal for the Forces of Good.

I'm...not sure I follow how they're irreconcilable. I mean, sure, a ruler is probably going to have to make some hard decisions, might even make the wrong choice now and again, depending on its information and intelligence, but as long as the ruler stands by its morals, does its best to rule well and make things better for its people and its neighboring kingdoms, why would it ever have to drift to evil?

Not saying it can't happen - and indeed, when it does, it can make for some great adventures! - but it doesn't seem certain, to me.

Swordguy
2010-11-28, 07:04 PM
They're really only irreconcilable on two points:

1) You've got a Paladin in charge of the city (who CAN'T, by RAW as this thread has demonstrated, do stuff that is necessary to rule).
2) You're considering anything written regarding Alignment in the BoED and BoVD to be valid and/or overwritting common sense in any way, shape, or form.

If either of those two points is in play, they become irreconcilable First, a Paladin can't stay a Paladin and do things like sacrifice some people to save others (being necessary for doing everything from adjusting tax brackets or distributing medical vaccines to conducting a military campaign in which civilians become involved in any meaningful way). Second, the alignment advice in the BoVD and BoED is designed not for general play, but to deal specifically with playing a game in which somebody is going to be Vile or Exalted. Joe Paladin is Lawful Good...but he need not actually be Exalted. But when that Alignment advice is in play, no national leader can make decisions that sacrifice one group's well-being for that of another; an ability that must be developed to be able to run a nation-state at all.

Thus, irreconcilable, under given (and RAW) circumstances. If we'd just make a pact on the forums not to involve BoED and BoVD with any alignment threads where being Vile or Exalted isn't part of the equation (like just being a LG Paladin), or consider them as RAW but optional RAW, this would all be a WHOLE LOT simpler and easier to track. It's those two books, specifically, that bork the whole thing up.

Quellian-dyrae
2010-11-28, 08:09 PM
First, a Paladin can't stay a Paladin and do things like sacrifice some people to save others (being necessary for doing everything from adjusting tax brackets or distributing medical vaccines to conducting a military campaign in which civilians become involved in any meaningful way).

Can't comment on the BoED and BoVD; I don't have them. But...I don't see how the examples above are necessarily evil. Take the medical vaccine. If you are worried about distribution, it means it's a limited resource. There is nothing evil about getting it to as many people as you can. There's not even anything evil about determining some criteria of who gets it, if the criteria is legitimate (clerics and wizards first so they can try to fight the plague, then nobility and leadership to keep the kingdom running, then military to make sure our enemies don't attack us when we're weak with plague, etc). Even selling it instead of giving it away is neutral at worst; it's a limited resource, and wealth is a whole lot better a way to determine who gets access to limited resources than the "kill whoever has it and take it from them" system, for example.

Now, there are evil ways to do it. Withhold the vaccine, and force people to pay truly exorbitant sums for it, or even sell themselves or their families into serfdom/slavery for it, using the ever-looming threat of plague to tyrannize people by being a miser with the only protection. Yeah, that's evil. Keeping the vaccine for you and those close to you, letting everyone else who needs it die even though there's more to go around? Evil, or at best, neutral, but paranoid and selfish.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-28, 08:20 PM
Still, I detest those who say "DM should never ever let these situation arise". That comes from a school of thought that takes "everyone must have fun" too far. As a DM, I will not hesitate to pull the rug from under my player characters if it is narratively and logically appropriate - the characters are not there to lose by default, but they're not there to win by default either.

You can set up situations that don't allow a character to win by default, but still provide a challenge. It's not the nature of the situation I'm arguing against, it's the intent of the situation.

I agree that moral challenges are part of what makes roleplaying as a paladin fun, but many DMs purposefully engineer moral challenges where the paladin is literally set up for failure regardless of his or her actions. This is not meant to challenge the player and character's morality. It's meant to punish the player for playing a paladin, either because the DM thinks the idea of a paladin falling from grace and becoming a gritty Neutral character or even a Blackguard is cool, or because he thinks that having a paladin within the party puts too much of a restriction on the behavior of the rest of the party because they need to be good in order to appease the paladin character.

I'm not saying "everyone must have fun" when I say this situation shouldn't arise. Rather I'm saying that DM's shouldn't engineer situations like this specifically to punish paladin players. A Trolley Problem would be okay if it was an intended part of the story, making sense within the context of the rest of the adventure/campaign. It would not be okay if you decide to just plop one in your next dungeon to make your paladin player squirm.

Aux-Ash
2010-11-28, 08:22 PM
I wouldn't say that rulers and paladins are irreconciliable (or rulers and good for that matter). However, it is probably easier to go evil when you have power than not but I think it should be possible to do so.

The key, like in all these moral dilemmas, is to try to find the better way I'd say. You don't have to succeed and you certainly can on occassion realise that you don't have the time/resources/right to find one and have to choose a lesser evil. But you did try. Which is, in my meaning, what should matter (within reason. The DM would have to judge).

You should never be punished if you looked for a better way as much as the situation allowed. If you tried everything you could that did not put more people at direct risk.
A paladin that is faced with a plagued village should not have to pay if he orders a quarantine, as long as he tried to find a better solution. A paladin in war that have to order soldiers to protect a settlement long enough for the evacuation to succeed, even if it means their deaths, should not have to pay for that as long as he tried to find a better way.

The world isn't an easy place where good will always stand triumphant... but it certainly does not lie down and die. It tries, over and over again. And while it laments it's failures, it never gives up. Paladins, being good incaranate, should be the epitome of that.
Not being able to save everyone is a fact of life, one that paladins will either have to learn to accept or face a very emotionally difficult future. But that does not mean they have to accept they cannot try to save these ones. As long as they try they live up to what a paladin is, even if they ultimately do choose the lesser evil.

Callos_DeTerran
2010-11-28, 08:35 PM
(1) If the Paladin pulls the chain, does he Fall?
(2) If the Paladn does not pull the chain, does he Fall?
(3) If the Human were instead a LG Fighter, would either action change his Alignment?

1) Yes.
2) Yes.
3) Irrevelant to the problem.

This may seem harsh but (and I wish to find the exact quote I remember) in any world that a paladin exists, there is, by virtue of the existence of paladins, option three.

'Kill/stop the cube and save all the children'.

That's the option that any real paladin can and should take because his/her existence is proof that such an option exists if one looks hard enough and tries hard enough. If there ISN'T a third option...then I'm with the poster who said to stuff a d4 up the DM's nose for letting you create a paladin then putting this problem before them because they are trying to force you to fall.

Even if the paladin fails in 'save everyone' it's the attempt that matters, a paladin can't, and shouldn't, just accept that they can't save everyone. They should always try their very best to save as many as possible, and in this situation it's all six children. Would he/she succeed..?...Maybe not. But it's the attempt that makes a paladin, not the refusal to risk failure.

Callista
2010-11-28, 09:03 PM
Honestly, the inherent irreconcilability of Being Good (according to D&D alignments, anyway, and especially in regards to the BoED) and the practical demands of running a nation-state (and the political process thereof) lead to an interesting conclusion. It could be argued that nation-states and their leaders in D&D are, over time, destined to become evil, as a natural side-effect of the political process. Thus, to stop evil in the long term, knocking over a nation-state, or at least the wholesale obliteration of it's leadership and bureaucracy every few generations - "pruning", if you will - is actually a desirable goal for the Forces of Good.

Intelligent leaders, knowing this, may very well prohibit paladins (and sundry) from operating in their lands as a consequence. After the 3rd or 4th nation-state that started Good, drifted to Evil over time as the state matured, and gets KO'd by a bunch of paladins/adventurers, leaders of nation-states can certainly learn from the examples. There's some interesting adventure and/or campaign hooks here.There's still nothing preventing a peaceful takeover, though--by marriage, by negotiation, even by turning it into a different sort of government, like from monarchy to constitutional monarchy. There's no need for bloody revolutions. Paladins in a government are a good thing; as Lawful as they are, they won't go trying to topple governments--they'll try to replace unscrupulous rulers within the boundaries of honor and justice.


This may seem harsh but (and I wish to find the exact quote I remember) in any world that a paladin exists, there is, by virtue of the existence of paladins, option three.... Even if the paladin fails in 'save everyone' it's the attempt that matters, a paladin can't, and shouldn't, just accept that they can't save everyone. They should always try their very best to save as many as possible, and in this situation it's all six children. Would he/she succeed..?...Maybe not. But it's the attempt that makes a paladin, not the refusal to risk failure.Depends on your world. In some worlds, the paladin's presence in the situation means that the paladin's god (or the Good-aligned forces of the world) have decided to intervene and save everyone. In other worlds, the paladin's presence may only mean that a good man has gotten himself into a tough dilemma that there may be no perfect way to solve.

Zeful
2010-11-28, 09:16 PM
*TRUTH*

Yeah, it's one thing when this situation comes up as a natural consequence of adventuring (choosing between chasing an arsonist or saving his victims), including the occasional sadist forcing the paladin to choose one of two evils. It's entirely other issue when a near-omnipotent being decides to be a colossal jerk and engineer a situation that has absolutely no business being in a game and only makes the DM seem like a petty jerk who shouldn't be DMing at all. The first creates dramatic tension and allows for the character to have some form of development, the second is the DM saying "I don't like you and think you're an idiot".

Nyarai
2010-11-28, 09:37 PM
This may seem harsh but (and I wish to find the exact quote I remember) in any world that a paladin exists, there is, by virtue of the existence of paladins, option three.

'Kill/stop the cube and save all the children'.

That's the option that any real paladin can and should take because his/her existence is proof that such an option exists if one looks hard enough and tries hard enough.

Alas, the paladin in the scenario is 1st level with no magical items. Part of me still wonders if an epic optimizer could shut this whole thing down by building a pally (to code) that could one/two-shot a Gelatinous Cube (~54 hp). Sucks they aren't evil.

Hypothetical: If you remove the child(ren) from the room and stand in it, you could get through the scenario without falling. If you can kill the cube, awesome. Everyone lives, though how to get home is another issue. If you die, the occupants of the room (just you now) will be devoured and Darth Truth will have to release everyone. Maybe not the most elegant solution (might not be one at all), but pretty much the only way to avoid the Fall and throwing your life away.

Callista
2010-11-28, 09:44 PM
Well, duh, if you can save one group and replace the other group with yourself, then that's the obvious solution. I would assume that any diabolical mastermind would close that option off as a matter of course; paladins for the most part (and good characters in general) tend to think of their own lives as valuable bargaining chips to be traded away in great need, not treasures to be kept at all costs.

Slipperychicken
2010-11-28, 10:15 PM
Now, to frame it in the D&D sense:
A lone LV 1 Human Paladin with no magical items enters a dungeon. Before him stands a Personification of Truth ("Lord Truth") - an entity that the Paladin fully believes cannot lie (and, in fact, cannot lie). Next to Lord Truth is an adamantium pull-chain and an unbreakable window that shows two rooms that open into a single hallway

Room #1 has five living children in it and is open to the hallway.

Room #2 has one living child in it and is currently sealed off from the hallway by a solid adamantium door.

The Hallway has a Gelatinous Cube in it that is moving towards the open room.

Lord Truth turns to the Paladin and asks him what he sees. The Paladin replies accurately and truthfully and Lord Truth assures him that the situation is as he understands it.

Lord Truth then says:
"In moments the Cube will devour the children in Room #1. If you pull this chain, an adamantium door will close to protect them from harm. However, if you pull the chain the door to Room #2 will vanish and the Cube will instead eat the child in Room #2.

"Once the Cube has finished devouring the inhabitants of Room #1 or Room #2 you may take the survivors from this place and return them to their happy homes - if you desire. Furthermore, I will destroy the Cube and dismantle this dungeon."

"The chain may only be pulled once, and you cannot kill me."


Answer to 1) "I put my hand on the chain and ready an action to pull it and crush the cube under the adamantium door" - Foolproof, even if it doesn't work, our paladin both pulled the chain and did not allow anyone to die, making pulling the chain a failure rather than an evil act. He doesn't fall.

"I attempt a diplomacy check on Lord Truth to get him to stop this, taking the -10 penalty to do it as a full-round action" - If our paladin is aware that he falls no matter what, he at least tried.

"Lord Truth, are you immune to nonlethal damage? Do you need to breathe?... [wait for answer, talking is a free action] I subdue him with nonlethal damage (or grapple and try to choke him out) and Punish Him, for Threatening Innocents [rolls attack]" - Hey, Truth only said that the paladin can't kill him. Didn't say jack about nonlethal takedowns. Doesn't pull the chain, doesn't fall

"Lord Truth, it is well known you cannot lie, so answer me this: what course of action is possible for me to take to save all of these children?" - Again, Paladin does his best, if he can't, back to square one.

"Lord Truth, will pulling the chain cause me to fall?" - solves all our problems :smallbiggrin:

I find that a better way to look at this is to realize that, in the same way that D&D physics don't always work as they should[i.e. terminal velocity in a vacuum, you can't see the sun], D&D morality doesn't always work out either. It might just be more helpful to understand that you can force insane, nonintuitive things to happen in D&D and leave it at that.

Callista
2010-11-28, 10:31 PM
He should also be checking to see whether the children, the cube, the door, etc., are illusions. If I were a BBEG who wanted to royally mess with a paladin's head, I'd make an illusion of five children and kidnap just the one real child.

The paladin can't trust this "Lord Truth" character anyhow; a liar would claim to be telling the truth, or impersonate someone known for telling the truth. He should also have his Detect Evil radar on; the aura might give him more information, which might be handy.

nolispe
2010-11-29, 12:26 AM
So, what are you saying is an [Evil] action?
So if a paladin is cornered by our Lord Truth, and informed that the child in the next room is going to grow up and become a evil dictator who kills billions.
The paladin is going to be executed in ten minutes by an absurdly powerful entity that he has no chance of defeating.
Lord Truth offers him a sword, and informs him that he can kill the child now, and if he does so, he will not be borught back and will never be able to become a evil dictator - IE, if he dies now, then billions of people will not die, billions will avod torture, millions of children will not be executed for the lols.
The paladin believes utterly that Lord Truth can only tell the truth.
The Paladin is trapped in a force-caged cell with two rooms, one of which holds the child and one of which holds the paladin. They are connected.
What is the right thing to do? Not what will make the paladin fall.
What is the "Right" act?

Callista
2010-11-29, 12:32 AM
The future isn't set in stone. The paladin should use ten minutes to try to give the child information that can set him on a path away from evil.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-29, 12:40 AM
The future isn't set in stone. The paladin should use ten minutes to try to give the child information that can set him on a path away from evil.

Um...what if the DM pulls the old "trying to fight destiny guarantees that the destiny will come to pass" card?

Like, if you tell the kid about his destiny and he tries to avoid it by being good he becomes a totalitarian dictator who tries to protect the innocent by torturing and killing billions of "evil" people.

Nyarai
2010-11-29, 12:42 AM
Well, duh, if you can save one group and replace the other group with yourself, then that's the obvious solution. I would assume that any diabolical mastermind would close that option off as a matter of course.

The scenario presented did not, and my idea beats the hell out of "throwing myself in front of the trolley so I die with a warm, fuzzy feeling."

hamishspence
2010-11-29, 03:52 AM
1) You've got a Paladin in charge of the city (who CAN'T, by RAW as this thread has demonstrated, do stuff that is necessary to rule).
2) You're considering anything written regarding Alignment in the BoED and BoVD to be valid and/or overwritting common sense in any way, shape, or form.

Neither BoVD nor BoED explicitly state
"Harming the innocent, in any way, for any reason, is an evil act."

It's not RAW- it's that certain people interpret "Punish those that harm innocents"- to mean that a paladin cannot ever harm the innocent without Falling.

Which has not been proven- in theory, if "protecting the innocent" involves harm coming to some innocents as a direct result, a paladin could do it, punish themselves afterward, and not Fall.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 04:38 AM
Um...what if the DM pulls the old "trying to fight destiny guarantees that the destiny will come to pass" card?

Like, if you tell the kid about his destiny and he tries to avoid it by being good he becomes a totalitarian dictator who tries to protect the innocent by torturing and killing billions of "evil" people.
Then you have a railroading DM who should be dragged out and shot because it is obvious the players actions do not matter. And if they do not matter, then why are we playing? The whole thing that makes playing D&D better then a video game ,despite the crummy graphics and the simplistic mechanics, is the idea of choice. And such predestination makes no sense, not in a world with any form of free will, either in-game or our of it. An interactive worlds makes it like the thought experiments where the universe prevents changes to the future that affect the past, where increasingly unlikely coincidences prevent the changes from occurring.

hamishspence
2010-11-29, 05:17 AM
From the WoTC site:

Save My Game: Lawful and Chaotic (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/sg/20050325a)


Solution 2: The Paladin's Code
Now let's address the question of how the paladin's code of conduct governs her actions. A paladin is both lawful and good, and she must uphold both aspects of her alignment. Thus, if the laws in a particular realm are corrupt and evil, she is under no obligation to obey them.

Though a paladin must always strive to bring about a just and righteous outcome, she is not omnipotent. If someone tricks her into acting in a way that harms the innocent, or if an action of hers accidentally brings about a calamity, she may rightly feel that she is at fault. But although she should by all means attempt to redress the wrong, she should not lose her paladinhood for it. Intent is not always easy to judge, but as long as a paladin's heart was in the right place and she took reasonable precautions, she cannot be blamed for a poor result.

Should a paladin sacrifice herself to save others? In the broadest sense, yes, since doing so is the ultimate act of good. However, she must also have enough respect for her own life and ability to make sure that her sacrifice brings about a significant benefit for others. A paladin who holds the only key to saving the world should not sacrifice herself needlessly against an orc horde. As long as the paladin keeps the greater good in mind, she is adhering to her code.

Summary
When your character has a decision to make, weigh all the factors carefully and take her alignment into consideration when deciding what is most important to her. In short, make your decision, have a reason for it, but don't tie the concepts of law and chaos to the local law of the land.

The hard part, is when "the greater good" actually requires distributing to the innocent, something that will save most, but harm some.

If "harming the innocent" is not always Evil (because, in this case, it's not Murder, Manslaughter, or Reckless Endangerment) then one could argue that a paladin (standard, Of Freedom, or the NG Dragon Magazine variant paladin) shouldn't Fall for it.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 05:29 AM
The hard part, is when "the greater good" actually requires distributing to the innocent, something that will save most, but harm some.

If "harming the innocent" is not always Evil (because, in this case, it's not Murder, Manslaughter, or Reckless Endangerment) then one could argue that a paladin (standard, Of Freedom, or the NG Dragon Magazine variant paladin) shouldn't Fall for it.

It's still not good, and if you can reasonably avoid it, you should try. Certainly, even if you don't fall, you should seek some form of atonement, even if not Atonement the spell. Otherwise, such callus disregard for the lives of others could lead to worse abuses down the line.

hamishspence
2010-11-29, 05:35 AM
True.

A paladin, even if they might consciously be aware that their every decision while in government is "sacrificing the needs of one group, for the needs of other groups"- would be very, very careful when doing so, not to fall into an Evil mindset.

Whenever they have to make a decision that hurts one group, they might spend a lot of their own spare time trying to "make up for it" with that group.

They might, after a plague outbreak, seek to help the families of everyone killed by the vaccine. Because they bear some responsibility for it.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 05:48 AM
Yes, and the wonderful thing is in D&D, you CAN, potentially, make a far more effective restitution then money to those who died. In D&D, we can raise the dead. If the dangerous vaccine killed some people, we can return them to their loved ones, if they choose to come back. If a child died because of the sick mechanizations of some self declared "Lord of Truth", they can live again. Now, they still experienced pain and suffering in the process, and nothing can make that right, no matter how necessary. But we can give back so much more of what was lost.

hamishspence
2010-11-29, 07:15 AM
And mostly, even when you can't, you can travel to the Outer Planes to apologize to their souls personally.

That said, it's possible that most of the characters in a D&D world will be very low level- so limiting the amount of Raise Dead or planar travel that can be done.

In 3.5E, curing disease is easy. In 4E though, curing disease requires a dangerous ritual capable of killing the patient in the process- and there's always the chance that the patient will recover naturally, even if it's remote.

So a 4E paladin might fight "cure that might kill the patient in the process" a very real issue.

(They'll never lose their powers no matter what they do though- so some of the issue of "committing a dubious act" won't matter- only the "in-character" feelings about committing the act).

shadow_archmagi
2010-11-29, 07:21 AM
Um...what if the DM pulls the old "trying to fight destiny guarantees that the destiny will come to pass" card?

Like, if you tell the kid about his destiny and he tries to avoid it by being good he becomes a totalitarian dictator who tries to protect the innocent by torturing and killing billions of "evil" people.


Then you argue that you did a good deed because he killed all the Space Nazis!

hamishspence
2010-11-29, 07:23 AM
Reasonable forseeability might play a part.

If someone tricks you into an act that causes a calamity- and you could not reasonably forsee that calamity- according to the Save My Game article, you should not Fall.

Callista
2010-11-29, 09:43 AM
Um...what if the DM pulls the old "trying to fight destiny guarantees that the destiny will come to pass" card?

Like, if you tell the kid about his destiny and he tries to avoid it by being good he becomes a totalitarian dictator who tries to protect the innocent by torturing and killing billions of "evil" people.Then the future is set in stone and decisions, including the paladin's, have no meaning.

If the paladin can change the future by killing the child, then the child can change the future by growing up good. If the child is doomed to grow up evil, then the paladin cannot change the future either. You can't use two different sets of rules for two different people.

Slipperychicken
2010-11-29, 03:10 PM
The paladin can't trust this "Lord Truth" character anyhow; a liar would claim to be telling the truth, or impersonate someone known for telling the truth


Personification of Truth ("Lord Truth") - an entity that the Paladin fully believes cannot lie (and, in fact, cannot lie).

Nope, can't trust him... Okay to be fair, truth is subjective; Lord Truth might just be insane and believe that all this stuff is going to happen, when it really won't. That adds a whole new dimension to this problem...

Lord Truth might be telling the truth (what he believes), but is he right? Is his idea of what would happen credible?

What if the Cube just decided to leave those kids alone?

nolispe
2010-11-29, 03:11 PM
Then you have a railroading DM who should be dragged out and shot because it is obvious the players actions do not matter. And if they do not matter, then why are we playing? The whole thing that makes playing D&D better then a video game ,despite the crummy graphics and the simplistic mechanics, is the idea of choice. And such predestination makes no sense, not in a world with any form of free will, either in-game or our of it. An interactive worlds makes it like the thought experiments where the universe prevents changes to the future that affect the past, where increasingly unlikely coincidences prevent the changes from occurring.

The question was not if that would be a good DM. the question was what the right thing to do would be.
You have a chance to intervene now, and save the lives of billions. If you do not take this chance, they die.
Answer the question - do you take the chance?

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 03:53 PM
The question was not if that would be a good DM. the question was what the right thing to do would be.
You have a chance to intervene now, and save the lives of billions. If you do not take this chance, they die.
Answer the question - do you take the chance?
As others have pointed out, and I feel stupid for not realizing it, if you can change the future by killing him, you can change the future my educating him.

Choco
2010-11-29, 04:06 PM
How I handle paladin situations like this as a DM:

1) Realize that, just like the alignment system as a whole, there will be gray area in the paladin code.
2) Don't create situations where the paladin would fall no matter what
3) In case 2 does happen, use Rule 0 to make an exception. Lets face it, this is no better than putting a player in a situation where their character dies no matter what they do.

Gametime
2010-11-29, 06:36 PM
Then the future is set in stone and decisions, including the paladin's, have no meaning.

If the paladin can change the future by killing the child, then the child can change the future by growing up good. If the child is doomed to grow up evil, then the paladin cannot change the future either. You can't use two different sets of rules for two different people.

Decisions aren't necessarily meaningless just because the future is set. Usually, the whole "self-fulfilling prophecy" bit implies that the future only fulfilled the prophecy because the prophecy was made; that is, the future will be just so because and only because the set of circumstances leading up to that future included the prophecy predicting that the future would be just so. That's not quite as constricting as a future being exactly one way whether or not the prophecy was made.

If the DM is just making things happen without regard to player input, though, then yeah - he's a jerk.

nolispe
2010-11-29, 07:58 PM
As others have pointed out, and I feel stupid for not realizing it, if you can change the future by killing him, you can change the future my educating him.

What happens if his mind is wiped after he is returned?
What is the right thing to do? Will someone please answer the question?

Foryn Gilnith
2010-11-29, 08:10 PM
Will someone please answer the question?

Killing the kid is the right thing to do.
What I now realize, despite my earlier posts in this thread, is that a direct answer is boring. As much as arguments about proper DMing and conduct of gameplay irritate me, it would be perplexing to see a 7-page thread filled with different people coming in to give their (probably unchangeable, given the limitations of the internet forum) opinions on the answer.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 08:43 PM
What happens if his mind is wiped after he is returned?
What is the right thing to do? Will someone please answer the question?
What if sea gulls peck out the kids eyes on the way home, driving him on a murderous rampage on all flying things?
Simply making disturbingly unlikely situations to make a point is silly.
Yes, killing the kid, if somehow you know, for certain, letting the child live will result in a bazillion deaths, is the better choice. It's still not a good choice. Also, no one can be that certain though , even in D&D. Even the gods are rarely that omniscient.

nolispe
2010-11-29, 10:31 PM
What if sea gulls peck out the kids eyes on the way home, driving him on a murderous rampage on all flying things?
Simply making disturbingly unlikely situations to make a point is silly.
Yes, killing the kid, if somehow you know, for certain, letting the child live will result in a bazillion deaths, is the better choice. It's still not a good choice. Also, no one can be that certain though , even in D&D. Even the gods are rarely that omniscient.

Thank you.
BTW, could you please explain why you think the first bit? A situation being unlikely does not make it any less needing of a moral answer.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-29, 11:37 PM
Thank you.
BTW, could you please explain why you think the first bit? A situation being unlikely does not make it any less needing of a moral answer.
Actually ,yes it does, at least as far as the narrative structure of the game is concerned. A situation with seemingly no good answers can add a feel of moral ambiguity and grittiness to the story, which can indeed be a good thing. On the other hand, one where every possible out for third options is slammed shut just feels arbitrary and breaks immersion and builds resentment.
Neither are good things in the game in my mind.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-29, 11:43 PM
Decisions aren't necessarily meaningless just because the future is set. Usually, the whole "self-fulfilling prophecy" bit implies that the future only fulfilled the prophecy because the prophecy was made; that is, the future will be just so because and only because the set of circumstances leading up to that future included the prophecy predicting that the future would be just so. That's not quite as constricting as a future being exactly one way whether or not the prophecy was made.

Kind of how like in the Scion universe the Aesir's biggest problem is that they sought out prophecy so many times that Ragnarok became a guarantee, whereas if they'd just left things like Mimir's head alone and stuff they'd have more options and thus a greater chance of survival?

Callos_DeTerran
2010-11-30, 01:10 AM
Alas, the paladin in the scenario is 1st level with no magical items. Part of me still wonders if an epic optimizer could shut this whole thing down by building a pally (to code) that could one/two-shot a Gelatinous Cube (~54 hp). Sucks they aren't evil.

That's not even that hard. Just 'Pazuzu, Pazuzu, Pazuzu', then use the wish in whatever manner you want to keep the Cube from getting to the children. Granted, that's a hypothetical out (assuming Pazuzu exists and the paladin knows of him/it), but it's remarkably easy, there's no twisting of the wish in question (Pazuzu does his damndest to ensure the first goes exactly according to intent in order to tempt people into doing it again), and you have the added option of flipping the Lord of Truth/DM the bird for trying to make you fall and failing.

It also cheapens the question being asked though, so best to ignore this solution (though there's undoubtedly others that aren't jumping to mind as readily).

My point still remains though. A paladin can/should/must look for option three in the given scenario and execute it to the best of their ability. Honestly...the only time I'd ever even consider introducing a D&D version of the Trolley Problem would be if paladins didn't exist in the game world. If they did, I'd include the 'option three' answer so an actual paladin can act like it and do Good.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-30, 01:33 AM
That's not even that hard. Just 'Pazuzu, Pazuzu, Pazuzu', then use the wish in whatever manner you want to keep the Cube from getting to the children. Granted, that's a hypothetical out (assuming Pazuzu exists and the paladin knows of him/it), but it's remarkably easy, there's no twisting of the wish in question (Pazuzu does his damndest to ensure the first goes exactly according to intent in order to tempt people into doing it again), and you have the added option of flipping the Lord of Truth/DM the bird for trying to make you fall and failing.

It also cheapens the question being asked though, so best to ignore this solution (though there's undoubtedly others that aren't jumping to mind as readily).
Man, that sort of out seems like it'll lead Pazuzu to create "Lords of Truth" to construct these sorts of problems and then lure Paladins into it. Not only does this keep them from using their first Wish to summon Candles of Invocation, but it introduces him to so many tasty converts :smallamused:

This, of course, raises the Fiend's Dilemma (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0634.html): how is the Alignment reaction of a situation altered if a third - but surely Evil - solution is known to be available. Here, I'm assuming that summoning Pazuzu at all places some sort of taint - however minor - on the soul of the Paladin. If the Trolley Problem becomes:

(1) Do nothing and let 5 die
(2) Do something to save the 5 but cause one previously not in danger to die
(3) Accept a small taint of Evil on your soul and save all 6

Would the third way still cause the Paladin to Fall? Does it matter whether or not the Paladin knows that Pazuzu has set up these "Paladin Traps?"

Lord_Gareth
2010-11-30, 01:47 AM
My point still remains though. A paladin can/should/must look for option three in the given scenario and execute it to the best of their ability. Honestly...the only time I'd ever even consider introducing a D&D version of the Trolley Problem would be if paladins didn't exist in the game world. If they did, I'd include the 'option three' answer so an actual paladin can act like it and do Good.

So Paladins can only exist in worlds with contrived "third option" solutions to cover their butts?

I don't really believe it. Reality is harsh. Sometimes, when your ability to judge what's best is limited (read: lack of omniscience), you do what you think is best and live with the consequences or die because of them. Why should a paladin fall if he makes either choice? The power is his, yes, but not the responsibility. Would I act to save the five children in the situation as presented? Yes. Would I immediately begin researching methods by which to raise the one back from the dead and/or get someone else to kill the Lord of Truth (since he truthfully stated that I can't) afterward? Certainly. But really playing a Good alignment is about having to face bad choices and try to bring the most Good out of them. Magical powers and an evil alignment will supply any player (let alone DM) with an innumerable amount of unbeatable sadistic choices, all of them possible with no or minimal cheese, and these events to happen in-game. The paladin player shouldn't be reduced to sucking his thumb in the corner if the DM doesn't feel like making his game into a saturday morning cartoon.

Callos_DeTerran
2010-11-30, 01:58 AM
Man, that sort of out seems like it'll lead Pazuzu to create "Lords of Truth" to construct these sorts of problems and then lure Paladins into it. Not only does this keep them from using their first Wish to summon Candles of Invocation, but it introduces him to so many tasty converts :smallamused:

This, of course, raises the Fiend's Dilemma (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0634.html): how is the Alignment reaction of a situation altered if a third - but surely Evil - solution is known to be available. Here, I'm assuming that summoning Pazuzu at all places some sort of taint - however minor - on the soul of the Paladin. If the Trolley Problem becomes:

(1) Do nothing and let 5 die
(2) Do something to save the 5 but cause one previously not in danger to die
(3) Accept a small taint of Evil on your soul and save all 6

Would the third way still cause the Paladin to Fall? Does it matter whether or not the Paladin knows that Pazuzu has set up these "Paladin Traps?"

Well, on the subject of summoning Pazuzu at all, the source of calling his name and summoning him is...iffy on that subject. The most you have to go on is 'he tries his very best to ensure the first time does NOT invoke alignment change' as part of his entrapment of other beings to become dependent on him. So I don't think a paladin would fall for summoning Pazuzu the first time, especially considering that saving six children from 'an impossible scenario' would likely out-weigh temporarily (we're talking six seconds MAYBE) the aspect of/the actual demon lord Pazuzu considering the demon lord is being used to commit a good deed (something the entire malconvoker PrC is based on). It'd depend on the DM I'd imagine.

On a somewhat related note, the DC to know how to summon Pazuzu is surprisingly low. the DC to know he uses these summonings to tempt people (especially paladins) to evil? Much much higher.

If I was the paladin in question though? I'd thank whatever higher power I believed in for giving me the tools (in this case my own virtue/purity as a lure for Pazuzu) to save all the hostages then start saving up for an atonement spell ASAP to make up for summoning a demon lord, however temporarily. Or start performing massive amount of good deeds as quickly as possible.

...Come to think of it, that's a great/hilarious background for a paladin's background. Imagine the looks on the other party member's faces when they hear it!

Cleric: Alright everyone, let's all share why we became adventurers! Bard, you start.
Bard: I was inspired by epic tales to take up adventuring.
Wizard: I have to pay off my wizard tuition somehow.
Cleric: My deity compels me, how about you Paladin?
Paladin: I was placed in an inescapable situation where I had to choose between the death of five children or one by a being of absolute honesty. So I summoned Pazuzu, the Lord of All Avian Demons to the mortal coil to bargain with him to save ALL of the children. Now I fear my immortal soul might be in danger so I figure I should commit many good deeds as possible to balance out that taint.
Party: :smalleek:
Paladin: ...What?


So Paladins can only exist in worlds with contrived "third option" solutions to cover their butts?

I don't really believe it. Reality is harsh. Sometimes, when your ability to judge what's best is limited (read: lack of omniscience), you do what you think is best and live with the consequences or die because of them. Why should a paladin fall if he makes either choice? The power is his, yes, but not the responsibility. Would I act to save the five children in the situation as presented? Yes. Would I immediately begin researching methods by which to raise the one back from the dead and/or get someone else to kill the Lord of Truth (since he truthfully stated that I can't) afterward? Certainly. But really playing a Good alignment is about having to face bad choices and try to bring the most Good out of them. Magical powers and an evil alignment will supply any player (let alone DM) with an innumerable amount of unbeatable sadistic choices, all of them possible with no or minimal cheese, and these events to happen in-game. The paladin player shouldn't be reduced to sucking his thumb in the corner if the DM doesn't feel like making his game into a saturday morning cartoon.

You can believe it's contrived if you want, that's your choice. Just like it's your choice to believe if paladins can only exist in that kind of world, I'm not going to say that's a universal truth. Personally, I would pull the chain and save the five, but I don't consider myself a paladin by a long shot (or even Good, but that's a different topic entirely).

But there's a difference between playing a Good alignment and playing a paladin. Sort of like there's a difference between Good and Exalted characters (which I automatically count Paladins among). A Good/good character is what you describe above and I would approve of their choices in the aftermath of this choice (finding a way to punish the Lord of Truth and reasurreact the fallen child), but a paladin should be more then just 'Good'. They should aspire to be more then Good and, in one of the few good quotes from BoED, 'that doesn't mean taking the good path is easy'. Contrived would be a special gold-plated chain that says 'paladin's only, save all six' added to the problem. The reality would be more along the lines of somehow involving significant self-sacrifice and effort to save all six, making it an actual achievement that's WORTHY of a paladin. Maybe said paladin dies in the attempt, or is rendered adventure-incapable because of what he/she had to give up. Maybe the paladin fails and ends up getting all six killed.

You know what though? It's the attempt and willingness to strive for the impossible in this scenario and say 'No, I'm going to save everyone' and then following through with that choice that separates a paladin from a LG fighter. Reality may be harsh but the existence of paladins in a setting should damn well mean that there are people who aren't willing to just sit there and accept that as the only truth and are willing to sacrifice to prove it. What's contrived is when the universe suddenly goes out of it's way to screw said people over and force them break their code because 'reality is harsh' and the over-deities can't be bothered to give a paladin the ability to act like one without seeming like an incompetent idealist. Why yes, I hold paladins to a very high ideal, why do you ask?

V: Thanks, I thought so too.:smallbiggrin:

Lord_Gareth
2010-11-30, 02:03 AM
Cleric: Alright everyone, let's all share why we became adventurers! Bard, you start.
Bard: I was inspired by epic tales to take up adventuring.
Wizard: I have to pay off my wizard tuition somehow.
Cleric: My deity compels me, how about you Paladin?
Paladin: I was placed in an inescapable situation where I had to choose between the death of five children or one by a being of absolute honesty. So I summoned Pazuzu, the Lord of All Avian Demons to the mortal coil to bargain with him to save ALL of the children. Now I fear my immortal soul might be in danger so I figure I should commit many good deeds to balance out that taint.
Party: :smalleek:
Paladin: ...What?

My above objections notwithstanding, this is hilarious and I fully approve.

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 03:59 AM
But there's a difference between playing a Good alignment and playing a paladin. Sort of like there's a difference between Good and Exalted characters (which I automatically count Paladins among). A Good/good character is what you describe above and I would approve of their choices in the aftermath of this choice (finding a way to punish the Lord of Truth and reasurreact the fallen child), but a paladin should be more then just 'Good'. They should aspire to be more then Good and, in one of the few good quotes from BoED, 'that doesn't mean taking the good path is easy'.


You know what though? It's the attempt and willingness to strive for the impossible in this scenario and say 'No, I'm going to save everyone' and then following through with that choice that separates a paladin from a LG fighter.

There is, however, some precedent for some kinds of paladin being "ordinary Good"- the Shadowbane Inquisitors in Complete Scoundrel, for example.

Paladins in Forgotten Realms may vary in their degree of commitment to "protecting the innocent" depending on their deity, as well.

A paladin ruler, may simply have to accept that some things, that lead to happiness for the many, may lead to suffering for the few. Medical treatment being the most notable example. Taxation possibly being another.

Which is not to say they do nothing- they probably spend a huge effort every day seeking to improve everything- to maximise efficiency while minimizing suffering.

Lord_Gareth
2010-11-30, 04:59 AM
You know what though? It's the attempt and willingness to strive for the impossible in this scenario and say 'No, I'm going to save everyone' and then following through with that choice that separates a paladin from a LG fighter. Reality may be harsh but the existence of paladins in a setting should damn well mean that there are people who aren't willing to just sit there and accept that as the only truth and are willing to sacrifice to prove it. What's contrived is when the universe suddenly goes out of it's way to screw said people over and force them break their code because 'reality is harsh' and the over-deities can't be bothered to give a paladin the ability to act like one without seeming like an incompetent idealist. Why yes, I hold paladins to a very high ideal, why do you ask?

The situation doesn't need to be contrived. All the paladin needs is to be powerless or at least without absolute power, which is pretty easy. For example:

- A red dragon is attacking a city, burning buildings and snacking on the feeble resistance the guards are offering to it. The paladin has a duty to the innocents in the burning buildings, the guardsmen, and to punish the dragon. What does he do?

- We have an 8th level paladin traveling a short distance (say, eight hundred feet) through dense woods to meet his party members when he comes across a group of cultists with a pair of innocents tied to slabs as if for sacrifice. They proclaim him the Holy Chooser and demand he select which life to take - and advancing any closer will trigger their readied Coup de Grace attacks, as will retreating.

Not every paladin has ranks in Knowledge (the Planes). Not every paladin has nifty magical weapons or adamantine gadgets. In a real game situation, perfectly ordinary happenings - like orcs raping and pillaging while a paladin is chasing a BBEG holding the AMULET OF DOOM - can turn into hard choices where you're not sure where "right" begins and "wrong" ends. Paladins and other Exalted characters should be able to make that kind of choice, and a universe where they cannot without losing their powers deserves the inevitable victory of evil over good that is going to occur.

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 06:01 AM
While I wouldn't phrase it quite so strongly- I agree with the general sentiment.

Sometimes, there's multiple groups of innocents to protect, and you can only protect one group in the time available.

Sometimes, the means of protecting a group of innocents- is hazardous to the individuals in that group, and will kill some of them.

And so on.

Ravens_cry
2010-11-30, 01:35 PM
While I wouldn't phrase it quite so strongly- I agree with the general sentiment.

Sometimes, there's multiple groups of innocents to protect, and you can only protect one group in the time available.

Sometimes, the means of protecting a group of innocents- is hazardous to the individuals in that group, and will kill some of them.

And so on.

Innocents under your care were still harmed, and you should atone, even if not Atone.
Something like this would be a great back story. You're questing,everyone knows armed hobos make all the loot, to raise the money to buy the spell casting services to apologize to and bring back the innocents back you harmed.

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 01:39 PM
Innocents under your care were still harmed, and you should atone, even if not Atone.
Something like this would be a great back story. You're questing,everyone knows armed hobos make all the loot, to raise the money to buy the spell casting services to apologize to and bring back the innocents back you harmed.

Yup. Even if some of the beings won't come back (from their point of view, the afterlife is fine and they don't wish to return) apologizing can still be a goal.
The atonement might involve seeking to ensure such events never happen again. Like, if a disease outbreak required the use of a dangerous vaccine to stem it, the character might try to seek out and destroy the disease once and for all.

Lord_Gareth
2010-11-30, 03:41 PM
So, are we essentially agreed that a character that looks for a third option and fails to find one (or looks for a third option with the reasonable suspicion that there isn't one) is a morally culpable (or not) as if he failed to act whatsoever?

Callos_DeTerran
2010-11-30, 03:43 PM
There is, however, some precedent for some kinds of paladin being "ordinary Good"- the Shadowbane Inquisitors in Complete Scoundrel, for example.

Paladins in Forgotten Realms may vary in their degree of commitment to "protecting the innocent" depending on their deity, as well.

A paladin ruler, may simply have to accept that some things, that lead to happiness for the many, may lead to suffering for the few. Medical treatment being the most notable example. Taxation possibly being another.

Which is not to say they do nothing- they probably spend a huge effort every day seeking to improve everything- to maximise efficiency while minimizing suffering.

Well, to the first, that comes down to personal preference I'd say. Obviously everyone doesn't hold my opinion of paladins and I wouldn't expect them to, this is merely just my opinion of them. It's why I, very rarely, play paladins myself unless that character DOES fit the ideal I hold them to. On Shadowbane Inquisitors...They aren't paladins. Not by a long shot. They may keep their paladin powers but I'll just leave it at 'my opinion of the Shadowbane Inquisitor is very very low'.

And I wouldn't know about Paladins in the Forgotten Realms, only played in the setting a grand total of...once and the one paladin I encountered actually matched my belief about paladins. Read about paladins in FR only once too, and that was King Gareth. so...Paladin ruler, but a lot of time wasn't given to his kingdom.

Admittedly though paladin rulers are a bit more difficult, and don't make great leaders by themselves (again, my opinion) BECAUSE of their code. I can only restate what I said previously about the attempt making a significent difference. And what you said about them maximizing efficiency while minimizing suffering (though with the addendum that if it comes down to choosing between efficiency and minimizing suffering, a paladin should pick minimizing suffering).


The situation doesn't need to be contrived. All the paladin needs is to be powerless or at least without absolute power, which is pretty easy. For example:

- A red dragon is attacking a city, burning buildings and snacking on the feeble resistance the guards are offering to it. The paladin has a duty to the innocents in the burning buildings, the guardsmen, and to punish the dragon. What does he do?

- We have an 8th level paladin traveling a short distance (say, eight hundred feet) through dense woods to meet his party members when he comes across a group of cultists with a pair of innocents tied to slabs as if for sacrifice. They proclaim him the Holy Chooser and demand he select which life to take - and advancing any closer will trigger their readied Coup de Grace attacks, as will retreating.

-Save the innocents first then make with the dragon slaying since that coincides with the helping the guardsmen. (Assuming the paladin is by his/herself or there aren't other party members to delegate tasks to of course).

-Draw ranged weapon and shoot the one's holding the weapons over the innocents. Considering their actions are wasted on a requirement the paladin didn't fulfill (retreating or advancing) the paladin may well get the initiative in the second round and should repeat the action. (Heck, with the right build a paladin could go (depending on circumstances) for ranged disarms/sunders on the bindings).


Not every paladin has ranks in Knowledge (the Planes). Not every paladin has nifty magical weapons or adamantine gadgets. In a real game situation, perfectly ordinary happenings - like orcs raping and pillaging while a paladin is chasing a BBEG holding the AMULET OF DOOM - can turn into hard choices where you're not sure where "right" begins and "wrong" ends. Paladins and other Exalted characters should be able to make that kind of choice, and a universe where they cannot without losing their powers deserves the inevitable victory of evil over good that is going to occur.

You're right that not every paladin has ranks in Knowledge (the Planes), nifty magical weapons, or adamantine gadgets. But that's not what makes a paladin, it's their commitment to doing the good thing, even if it's not the right/practical thing. The ends justifies the means, allowing lesser evils to happen just to have a greater chance of stopping a greater evil, and other things of that nature are the purview of good characters (or even neutral, depending on what's being allowed to happen). Good (capital G) isn't easy and it doesn't come without sacrifice, but that sacrifice should never involve the sacrifice of others. That's what separates good and evil. Evil will sacrifice everything but themselves while Good will only sacrifice themselves.

In the orcs marauding vs. BBEG escaping scenario (assuming paladin is acting alone again, otherwise the answer is much different) WotC is rather obvious that the paladin should continue chasing the BBEG because more lives will be saved that way. That's...acceptable of an answer but it's not the paladin answer (IMHO). A paladin should try their damndest to accomplish both until one or the other seems unattainable because THAT is what good is. What worth is saving the world if you let lesser evil flourish because greater evil abounds?

In any case, this is an oddly fun argument, though I seem to be repeating myself overly much because I can't find the right words to express my thoughts on the matter.

Callista
2010-11-30, 04:28 PM
I think we're all in agreement that a Good-aligned person will invariably try to find a third option, and use all of his resources (including his own life) in that search. However, depending on the person, and depending on the options available, nothing stops a Good-aligned character from concluding that a third option has too much of a risk of killing everyone.

If it breaks down like this, for example:

Option 1: Do not act. 60 people die; 40 people live.
Option 2: Act. 60 people live; 40 people die.
Option 3: Take a third option. 5% chance that all 100 people live; 95% chance that all 100 people die.

Many Good-aligned individuals, especially the more cautious ones, would choose option 2 rather than option 3 because of the very low chance of successfully saving everyone.

Given better odds of success, most would choose option 3:
Option 3: Take a third option. 70% chance that all 100 people live; 30% chance that all 100 people die.

But what about:
Option 3: Take a third option. 50% chance that all 100 people live; 50% chance that all 100 people die.

Now you've got an interesting dilemma. You can take Option 2, and save 60 people for sure. Or you can risk all 100 people for a fifty-fifty chance of saving all of them (if you made this choice an infinite number of times, you would save 50 people on average--less than 60). This choice, I think, depends mostly on personality. Some people would be willing to gamble with lives if there were a chance of saving everyone; others would be horrified at the chance of everyone dying and take the safer option. In this case I would think Law vs. Chaos would matter much more than Good vs. Evil, with Chaos being more likely to risk it.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-30, 04:49 PM
If it breaks down like this, for example:

Option 1: Do not act. 60 people die; 40 people live.
Option 2: Act. 60 people live; 40 people die.
Option 3: Take a third option. 5% chance that all 100 people live; 95% chance that all 100 people die.

Many Good-aligned individuals, especially the more cautious ones, would choose option 2 rather than option 3 because of the very low chance of successfully saving everyone.

Given better odds of success, most would choose option 3:
Option 3: Take a third option. 70% chance that all 100 people live; 30% chance that all 100 people die.

But what about:
Option 3: Take a third option. 50% chance that all 100 people live; 50% chance that all 100 people die.
It's funny how Utilitarianism always pops up as the metric for this sort of calculation.

Anyhoo, what the Perfectly Rational Paladin would do is run an Expectation Value (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expected_value) calculation.

EV(Option 1) = (40 live)(100% Probability) = 40 Lives
EV(Option 2) = (60 live)(100% Probability) = 60 Lives
EV(Option 3A) = (100 live)(5% Probability) = 5 Lives
EV(Option 3B) = (100 live)(70% Probability) = 70 Lives
EV(Option 3C) = (100 live)(50% Probability) = 50 Lives

If presented with all options, the Expected Value of 3B is the optimal choice - it is hard to justify choosing Option 2 over it. Likewise, it is nearly indefensible to pick Option 3A in any situation.

Still, does Expected Valuation matter? Consider Rich's Deva (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0491.html) - if we were dealing with a "never tell me the odds" Paladin, would choosing Option 3A be indistinguishable from choosing Option 2?

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 04:53 PM
Well, to the first, that comes down to personal preference I'd say. Obviously everyone doesn't hold my opinion of paladins and I wouldn't expect them to, this is merely just my opinion of them. It's why I, very rarely, play paladins myself unless that character DOES fit the ideal I hold them to. On Shadowbane Inquisitors...They aren't paladins. Not by a long shot. They may keep their paladin powers but I'll just leave it at 'my opinion of the Shadowbane Inquisitor is very very low'.
Technically, despite their dogma rationalizing sacrifice in the right circumstances, they will still lose all their paladin powers (and their ability to advance as shadowbane inquisitors) if they commit a single Evil act.

What they won't lose, however, are any of their Shadowbane inquisitor powers- they keep all those.

And sorry- that should have been Complete Adventurer. It's the Grey Guard that is in Complete Scoundrel- and at 10th level gains the ability to commit Evil acts and not fall, if the intent is good and it's in line with the paladin's purpose.

On Faerun paladins- page 26 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting:

Chauntea: Paladins of the Grain Goddess are rare. They value compassion as much as courage, and spend much time helping common folk in rural areas.

Helm: Paladins of the Watcher prefer to guard against evil or slay it outright rather than work to heal its damages. They seem rigid and uninterested in helping others.

Ilmater: Paladins of the Broken God guard the weak and use their healing powers on any who need them. They are not shy about fighting evil, but they would rather pause to heal someone who is about to die than sacrifice that life in order to pursue fleeing evildoers.

Sune: Paladins of the Firehair defend things of beauty. They seek out and destroy creatures that are particularly hideous in their evil. They tend to be incredibly self-confident and are particularly effective at destroying undead.

Tyr: Paladins of the Just God are front-line warriors in the battle against evil and untruth, and often lead military and adventuring groups to further their cause.
So, even within the concept of Paladin, different paladins can have very different priorities depending on their deity.

Fiery Diamond
2010-11-30, 05:01 PM
It's funny how Utilitarianism always pops up as the metric for this sort of calculation.

Anyhoo, what the Perfectly Rational Paladin would do is run an Expectation Value (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expected_value) calculation.

EV(Option 1) = (40 live)(100% Probability) = 40 Lives
EV(Option 2) = (60 live)(100% Probability) = 60 Lives
EV(Option 3A) = (100 live)(5% Probability) = 5 Lives
EV(Option 3B) = (100 live)(70% Probability) = 70 Lives
EV(Option 3C) = (100 live)(50% Probability) = 50 Lives

If presented with all options, the Expected Value of 3B is the optimal choice - it is hard to justify choosing Option 2 over it. Likewise, it is nearly indefensible to pick Option 3A in any situation.

Still, does Expected Valuation matter? Consider Rich's Deva (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0491.html) - if we were dealing with a "never tell me the odds" Paladin, would choosing Option 3A be indistinguishable from choosing Option 2?

I'd say that if we were dealing with a "never tell me the odds" Paladin, choosing 3A would in fact be indistinguishable from choosing option 3B. Which brings up an interesting question: is "never tell me the odds" inherently right or wrong as an approach?

Callista
2010-11-30, 05:05 PM
I think it depends on the theology of the world the paladin's living in. If a deity is involved, a 5% chance can be a 100% chance; and if that is the case, then the paladin's Knowledge(Religion) should tell him. If, on the other hand, the gods are uninvolved and the paladin is pretty much on his own, then 5% is still only 5% and taking such a long shot can be unconscionable to many Lawful individuals and even quite a few Chaotics.

I have played in a few games where religious characters can pray for direct divine intervention, and may get it depending on how important it is for the deity (for example, a cleric of Pelor about to get killed by a vampire would have a good chance of getting some divine help, if only in the form of a chance reflection of torchlight off his holy symbol that briefly dazzles the vampire).

Remember that in the case of the long shot third option, you are not just taking a 5% chance of saving the 40 people who would otherwise surely die--you're also taking a 95% chance of death for the 60 people you could otherwise save for sure.

It can be stated either way, and has to be considered both ways to stop either hope or fear from muddling your perceptions.

And, no, I wouldn't consider it either inherently good or evil to take a chance that a character considers a reasonable risk; his goal is to save lives whether he takes the risk or not. It's much more of a Law/Chaos issue at that point, since it's a choice between taking a safe option and gambling on the odds--the Good/Evil choice ("I will try to help these people") has already been made.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe that's the fundamental choice here. Choosing to do whatever you can to help the people in danger seems to be the actual decision that involves morality; the rest is mostly tactics.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-30, 05:32 PM
Actually, come to think of it, maybe that's the fundamental choice here. Choosing to do whatever you can to help the people in danger seems to be the actual decision that involves morality; the rest is mostly tactics.
Eh, I have a hard time justifying someone as Good if they constantly take high-risk gambles with other peoples' lives.

I mean, even if the odds aren't set in stone, you can tell the difference between safe bets and risky ones: choosing between "saving 1/2 the people with certainty" and "everyone dies unless you roll 00" can't be indifferent in the eyes of Alignment.

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 05:38 PM
The hard part is when the "safer bet" involves an overtly immoral (by some D&D standards) act.

If the act is tagged Evil (such as Rebuking/Commanding Undead, in PHB) but it's the most reliable way to save lives from, say, rampaging undead, that a cleric of Wee Jas has at their disposal,
then they might see it as being, while technically Evil, better than using the other means they have at the moment.

If the character is a paladin, the Evil life-saving act might be something else.

However, when the act is not overtly immoral, then it may come down to "which act shows more concern for life".

Callista
2010-11-30, 05:39 PM
Eh, I have a hard time justifying someone as Good if they constantly take high-risk gambles with other peoples' lives.

I mean, even if the odds aren't set in stone, you can tell the difference between safe bets and risky ones: choosing between "saving 1/2 the people with certainty" and "everyone dies unless you roll 00" can't be indifferent in the eyes of Alignment.
Not indifferent; just a lot less important than the fact that you're trying to help, within the best of your judgment. By the time the odds get down to 00 on percentile dice, there are very few people who, within their best judgment, could call that a reasonable chance to take. With only a 1% chance, the only gamblers left would probably have such low Wisdom scores that they are nearly incapable of making common-sense decisions to begin with--the kind of people who make Don Quixote look levelheaded... or else they are reasonable people in a world where deities regularly turn 1% into 100%.

Amphetryon
2010-11-30, 05:56 PM
Eh, I have a hard time justifying someone as Good if they constantly take high-risk gambles with other peoples' lives.

I mean, even if the odds aren't set in stone, you can tell the difference between safe bets and risky ones: choosing between "saving 1/2 the people with certainty" and "everyone dies unless you roll 00" can't be indifferent in the eyes of Alignment.

There's practically nothing that can be done within the D&D framework that isn't "taking high-risk gambles with other peoples' lives", including voluntary inaction. Is it your position that there is no action that can be qualified as Good within the D&D framework? If not, please provide an example of an action/set of actions typically taken within the framework of a D&D game that is Good.

Oracle_Hunter
2010-11-30, 06:05 PM
There's practically nothing that can be done within the D&D framework that isn't "taking high-risk gambles with other peoples' lives", including voluntary inaction. Is it your position that there is no action that can be qualified as Good within the D&D framework? If not, please provide an example of an action/set of actions typically taken within the framework of a D&D game that is Good.
Ha, Strawman :smalltongue:

No, that's not what I said at all. Indeed, what I said was:

Merely "choosing to help" cannot be Sufficient to make an action Good. In many actions, there are several ways one can choose to help - some which are more likely to suceed than others.

For example, let's say your choice was between:

(A) Saving about half the people in danger with ease OR

(B) Trying to save everyone with a plan that is almost certain to fail

Even with just this generalized understanding, is it really the same - Alignment-wise - to choose either option? Callista posited that it would be; Hamishspence said otherwise. Personally, I think that taking Option B is the less Good - and possibly Not-Good - choice, since it shows a willingness to gamble with the lives of others which is inconsistent with the definition of Good in the Nine Alignment System.

I expect people will disagree; I'd prefer if they didn't jump to conclusions :smallsmile:

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 06:06 PM
Is it your position that there is no action that can be qualified as Good within the D&D framework?

I think there were comments in earlier threads along the lines of

"actions are meaningless- the only thing that has an alignment is "general moral and personal attitudes"

Then I pointed out an act which, canonically in Core- has an alignment- "Channelling positive/negative energy" (by making a Turn or Rebuke attempt).

Amphetryon
2010-11-30, 06:56 PM
Ha, Strawman :smalltongue:

No, that's not what I said at all. Indeed, what I said was:

Merely "choosing to help" cannot be Sufficient to make an action Good. In many actions, there are several ways one can choose to help - some which are more likely to suceed than others.

For example, let's say your choice was between:

(A) Saving about half the people in danger with ease OR

(B) Trying to save everyone with a plan that is almost certain to fail

Even with just this generalized understanding, is it really the same - Alignment-wise - to choose either option? Callista posited that it would be; Hamishspence said otherwise. Personally, I think that taking Option B is the less Good - and possibly Not-Good - choice, since it shows a willingness to gamble with the lives of others which is inconsistent with the definition of Good in the Nine Alignment System.


Neither action is Good. There is a clear choice to sacrifice innocent lives by either action. Sacrificing innocent lives is at least non-Good, and if you believe BoED, Evil in D&D 3.5. Actions which result in the loss of innocent life are, similarly, at least non-Good on the D&D 3.5 alignment grid.

hamishspence
2010-11-30, 07:02 PM
Sacrificing innocent lives is at least non-Good, and if you believe BoED, Evil in D&D 3.5. Actions which result in the loss of innocent life are, similarly, at least non-Good on the D&D 3.5 alignment grid.

BoED isn't very clear on this. It gives one example where an act that could be deemed "sacrificing innocents" dropping fireballs on a crowd of orc soldiers that contains orc civilians.

It discusses violence, saying, in order for it to be Good, it must have:

Just Cause (which means primarily that it must be directed against Evil- though exceptions can exist)

Good Intentions (which means it should be aimed at stopping bad things from happening)

Discrimination (which means it should not be targeted against beings that aren't actually a threat- such as orc civilians).

it's not so clear about "all violence against innocents, for any reason, qualifies as an Evil act" though- depending on how you interpret Just Cause and Discrimination.

Amphetryon
2010-11-30, 07:37 PM
Addendum to my earlier post, in response to those seeking to use self-sacrifice as the 'Good' option.

Page 9, Book of Exalted Deeds:


"What the character sees as a personal sacrifice is a shift in the universal balance between good and evil, in evil's favor. The consequences of that single evil act, no matter how small, extend far beyond the single act and involve a loss to more than just the character doing the deed. Thus, it is not a personal sacrifice, but a concession to evil, and thus unconscionable."

The only way I can see the above quote not applying, is if the argument is that a character committing suicide is an act of martyrdom, which BoED places specifically as an act along the scale of "throwing himself into a negative energy vortex to prevent an apocalyptic machine from destroying the world." (page 27) Emphasis mine.

Is stopping the trolley an act of that scale?

Callista
2010-11-30, 08:00 PM
Even with just this generalized understanding, is it really the same - Alignment-wise - to choose either option? Callista posited that it would be; Hamishspence said otherwise. Personally, I think that taking Option B is the less Good - and possibly Not-Good - choice, since it shows a willingness to gamble with the lives of others which is inconsistent with the definition of Good in the Nine Alignment System.I did say it was the same; but I also stated that it was the same only for anyone whose intention was to save people--not to follow a code of honor, or to feel good about himself, or anything else other than saving the people involved in that situation. Such a person would be very unlikely to take the 1% success rate option.

Given that:
1. The person thinking about whether or not to take a long-shot third option has already decided to make it truly his first priority to help all the people; i.e., he has already made the Good-aligned choice.
2. The 1% option really is a 1% option, not an option that can be made certain through faith or self-sacrifice or anything else.

Therefore:
This option has a 99% chance of not supporting this person's first priority.

It can be assumed that someone who makes a choice that does not support his goal is making a tactical error. But given that his first priority truly was to save everyone, he can only be accused of making a mistake rather than having done something evil.

There are quite a few reasons other than wanting to save everyone that someone might take a long-shot gamble; he might do it out of pride, out of fear of failure, out of defiance to whoever set the problem. But if his only priority were to save the people, then the only reason he would be doing this would be if he weren't thinking straight--a mistake, not a willing act of evil.

(It probably still counts as an unwilling act of evil for the purposes of a paladin's status and the Atonement spell.)

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-11-30, 08:01 PM
My above objections notwithstanding, this is hilarious and I fully approve.

Seconded! That scenario is amazing. It's awesomely amazing. It's so amazingly amazing...I think I'd like to steal it!

nolispe
2010-11-30, 09:03 PM
I'd say that if we were dealing with a "never tell me the odds" Paladin, choosing 3A would in fact be indistinguishable from choosing option 3B. Which brings up an interesting question: is "never tell me the odds" inherently right or wrong as an approach?

Yes. Illogiacality is wrong when it leads to the suffering of others because you didn't want to think straight.

olentu
2010-12-01, 01:38 AM
Come now people killing anyone and everyone innocent is totally non evil so long as it is not for one of the three or four or so specific reasons and is not evil in some other way such as creating undead.

So go ahead kill that kid right in the face. Punish yourself afterward and you are good to go (but don't torture yourself over the decision as that would be evil).

Ravens_cry
2010-12-01, 02:03 AM
Addendum to my earlier post, in response to those seeking to use self-sacrifice as the 'Good' option.

Page 9, Book of Exalted Deeds:



The only way I can see the above quote not applying, is if the argument is that a character committing suicide is an act of martyrdom, which BoED places specifically as an act along the scale of "throwing himself into a negative energy vortex to prevent an apocalyptic machine from destroying the world." (page 27) Emphasis mine.

Is stopping the trolley an act of that scale?
What's the cut off point? "Well sorry, but I can't sacrifice myself for X many innocent potential victims, but X +1, sure." doesn't exactly sound very Paladin-ish. . People dive into frozen rivers to save people when no other lives were at risk and quite potentially create two victims. It is this risk taking, this potential self sacrifice that makes these people heroes.

Callos_DeTerran
2010-12-01, 02:35 AM
Seconded! That scenario is amazing. It's awesomely amazing. It's so amazingly amazing...I think I'd like to steal it!

Feel free.


Technically, despite their dogma rationalizing sacrifice in the right circumstances, they will still lose all their paladin powers (and their ability to advance as shadowbane inquisitors) if they commit a single Evil act.

What they won't lose, however, are any of their Shadowbane inquisitor powers- they keep all those.

And sorry- that should have been Complete Adventurer. It's the Grey Guard that is in Complete Scoundrel- and at 10th level gains the ability to commit Evil acts and not fall, if the intent is good and it's in line with the paladin's purpose.

Er...I think I misunderstood what you meant. I got Grey Guard and Shadowbane Inquisitor mixed up. I...actually don't know much about Shadowbane Inquisitor, never really READ Complete Adventurer despite having access to it.

hamishspence
2010-12-01, 03:56 AM
Er...I think I misunderstood what you meant. I got Grey Guard and Shadowbane Inquisitor mixed up. I...actually don't know much about Shadowbane Inquisitor, never really READ Complete Adventurer despite having access to it.
The two are very similar "dark and dangerous Paladin with a sideline in Rogue"- but with different mechanics and falling rules. It's easy for me to forget which book either PRC is in- which is why I clarified that I'd mentioned the wrong book.

On "unwilling or unwitting evil acts" the rules do not define what an act needs to be to count as either.
"Unwilling" might require, that the person be coerced into an evil act, rather than that they willingly commit an Evil act that saves many people because it's "the only feasible way of saving them"
Similarly, "unwitting" might require that the character was negligent in some way- they may not have known their act was Evil, but they should have known.

In BoED, it explicitly states that an Exalted character falls if they "willingly and willfully commit an evil act"- so maybe, unlike a 3.0 Paladin, they won't fall if the act was truly unwilling or unwitting.

In the case of the 3.5 paladin, it's not so clear- their class description uses "willingly" at one point, and "willfully" at another- but the Atonement spell description implies that classes like the paladin can fall for unwitting or unwilling evil acts.

So, it may depend on how you interpret the text of the Atonement spell.

There is a difference between "This act of violence is Not Good" and "This act of violence is Evil".
BoED states that "killing an Evil being when the motive is primarily profit, is Not Good.
BoVD states that killing an Evil being (if it's one of consummate, irredeemable evil) for profit is "Not an Evil act, though it's not a Good act".

So a case can be made that even if sacrificing innocents in the process of saving many more innocents (such as distributing a vaccine with a known fatality rate) is "Not A Good Act" it may be "Not An Evil Act Either"- so possibly not enough to make a paladin Fall.

Come now people killing anyone and everyone innocent is totally non evil so long as it is not for one of the three or four or so specific reasons and is not evil in some other way such as creating undead.
Actually, the rules say Murder is an Evil Act (in FC2) so, to Not Fall, there needs to be a convincing reason why the act is Not Murder.

olentu
2010-12-01, 05:05 AM
Actually, the rules say Murder is an Evil Act (in FC2) so, to Not Fall, there needs to be a convincing reason why the act is Not Murder.

Like I said so long as it is not for one of the three or four specific reasons (mostly or completely the ones that define murder) then it is totally not evil. I would have hoped that was obvious but with that clarification it should be now.

hamishspence
2010-12-01, 05:13 AM
The thing is, there's a grey area between "Totally not Evil" and "Evil" where intent and context matter to a degree.

In BoED it says
"While two Good nations may go to war, fighting in such a conflict is not a Good act"

In BoVD it says
"It is possible that two Good nations will go to war ... Is it evil to kill a Good character if your nation is at war with his? That's certainly a grey area"-

and goes on to say that in general, quarter should be given and accepted- characters should avoid doing more harm than necessary, and if it is possible, try and find a different way to resolve the conflict.

It also says that killing someone via reckless negligence is "not exactly murder, but should probably make a paladin fall"

So- like with reality- it allows for different degrees of culpability.

An act can be Not Murder, and still (only just) Evil- so, there can be a lot of DMs discretion is to "Was this killing an Evil Act?"- which can involve asking if it was murder, manslaughter, reckless endangerment- and so on.

olentu
2010-12-01, 04:32 PM
The thing is, there's a grey area between "Totally not Evil" and "Evil" where intent and context matter to a degree.

In BoED it says
"While two Good nations may go to war, fighting in such a conflict is not a Good act"

In BoVD it says
"It is possible that two Good nations will go to war ... Is it evil to kill a Good character if your nation is at war with his? That's certainly a grey area"-

and goes on to say that in general, quarter should be given and accepted- characters should avoid doing more harm than necessary, and if it is possible, try and find a different way to resolve the conflict.

It also says that killing someone via reckless negligence is "not exactly murder, but should probably make a paladin fall"

So- like with reality- it allows for different degrees of culpability.

An act can be Not Murder, and still (only just) Evil- so, there can be a lot of DMs discretion is to "Was this killing an Evil Act?"- which can involve asking if it was murder, manslaughter, reckless endangerment- and so on.

I did not say it was good. I said it was not evil.

The two selection about war give no resolution except to note that it is not a good act to war against another good nation. However since I did not say it was good they present no contradiction.

So in that selection at best (I would see about finding the more specific source on this) quarter must be accepted at all times by a good character but not accepting quarter is not in that selection said to be evil.

Also I was not aware that all good people were bound by the paladin code. Sure a paladin could fall for failing to help those in need but all good characters are not paladins and the code does not define alignment.

So in the end I never said it was always a good act and you have yet to prove it is evil barring the specific situations I had already said were evil.

hamishspence
2010-12-01, 04:37 PM
What I'm trying to emphasise is "killing the innocent is not evil barring very specific circumstances" may be a slight overstatement.

A more helpful one may be

"killing the innocent is only not evil in certain very specific circumstances- when it's clearly necessary for the survival of other innocents, and it does not qualify as murder, manslaughter, or reckless negligence"

Saying "Outside of these other specific circumstances, it is totally not evil" overstates it just a tad, I think.

When playing a character that loses powers if they commit an Evil act- any character, be it paladin, Exalted character, or PRC with "may not commit an evil act" - it helps to identify the grey area where an act may be Evil or Not Evil depending on the intent and context.

"Killing innocents" is in this grey area- but the intent and context are extremely important- and for it to count as Not Evil requires quite a lot.

Even "Harming innocents" (as opposed to Killing them) may require quite a lot to make it "Not An Evil Act".

Reis Tahlen
2010-12-01, 06:12 PM
Don't forget the "Good Badass" option, which I always choose when playing a Paladin:

- Drawing his sword to Lord truth's face, and say "What about this: I choose to slay a sadistic scumbag if ONE child is harmed".

Oh, and by the way...

I .....

.... seriously....

....HATE.......

... when DM's have nothing better to do than crapping braindead situation just to mess with Paladins. "Wooohooo, I found a situation so craaaaazyyyy that I made 1.5 millions Paladins fall AT THE SAME TIME! I'm so the cleverestest DM in the world".

Eldonauran
2010-12-01, 07:20 PM
- Drawing his sword to Lord truth's face, and say "What about this: I choose to slay a sadistic scumbag if ONE child is harmed".

Can't kill the Lord Truth (stated in original post).

But I agree with the rest of your post. :smallamused:

Amphetryon
2010-12-01, 07:29 PM
What I'm trying to emphasise is "killing the innocent is not evil barring very specific circumstances" may be a slight overstatement.

A more helpful one may be

"killing the innocent is only not evil in certain very specific circumstances- when it's clearly necessary for the survival of other innocents, and it does not qualify as murder, manslaughter, or reckless negligence"

Saying "Outside of these other specific circumstances, it is totally not evil" overstates it just a tad, I think.

When playing a character that loses powers if they commit an Evil act- any character, be it paladin, Exalted character, or PRC with "may not commit an evil act" - it helps to identify the grey area where an act may be Evil or Not Evil depending on the intent and context.

"Killing innocents" is in this grey area- but the intent and context are extremely important- and for it to count as Not Evil requires quite a lot.

Even "Harming innocents" (as opposed to Killing them) may require quite a lot to make it "Not An Evil Act".

"I am killing this oppressive Blackguard mass-murdering puppy boiler for the greater Good!"... Thereby making his 8 wives (harem) widows without immediate means of fending for themselves, not to mention the 23 children he has. Also, this puts five of his 6 evil henchmen out of work, forcing them to go pillage somewhere else, which unleashes unspeakable horrors on 5 neighboring territories before even considering the horrors brought about by the one who succeeded the oppressive puppy boiler to power in the region, with all the axes he has to grind from having been the lackey for so long...

Are you sure you want to kill that bad guy, Sparky?

Eldonauran
2010-12-01, 08:17 PM
Are you sure you want to kill that bad guy, Sparky?

Absolutely.

The evil done by other people is not your fault. They will be harming just as many people, if not more, given time if left alone. It is a paladin's job to punish those that harm or threaten the innocent, not allow evil to fester just because things might get a little worse before they get a lot better. The path of least resistance (less people hurt) is a easy road to walk but the paladin can't walk that road. His is a straight and narrow path that allows for no deviation. People will get hurt, people will die.

EDIT: Regarding the Harem and the children. Provided they are non-evil and innocent, the Paladin will attempt to help them if he has knowledge of them. He can't be held accountable for the things he does not know. But, people still get hurt and suffer. Its part of life. Evil often hides behind a shield of the innocent and uses it to dissuade the lesser man from doing what is right.

Amphetryon
2010-12-01, 08:36 PM
EDIT: Regarding the Harem and the children. Provided they are non-evil and innocent, the Paladin will attempt to help them if he has knowledge of them. He can't be held accountable for the things he does not know. But, people still get hurt and suffer. Its part of life. Evil often hides behind a shield of the innocent and uses it to dissuade the lesser man from doing what is right

Your hypothetical Paladin is hiding behind ignorance as an excuse for allowing suffering? Interesting choice, there.

Ravens_cry
2010-12-01, 08:43 PM
Your hypothetical Paladin is hiding behind ignorance as an excuse for allowing suffering? Interesting choice, there.
No one mortal is omniscient, let alone a very mortal Paladin. That's not 'hiding behind', that is a basic fact of existence. If he knows about them, he can, and should indeed try to help. And 7 widows should, with time and support, be able to find enough to support them and their children. Maybe not in the lives they were accustomed to, but certainly at least enough to survive.

Amphetryon
2010-12-01, 08:46 PM
No one mortal is omniscient, let alone a very mortal Paladin. That's not 'hiding behind', that is a basic fact of existence. If he knows about them, he can, and should indeed try to help. And 7 widows should, with time and support, be able to find enough to support them and their children. Maybe not in the lives they were accustomed to, but certainly at least enough to survive.

So the suffering that they go through in the mean time is officially not his problem, because....

WinceRind
2010-12-01, 08:48 PM
Your hypothetical Paladin is hiding behind ignorance as an excuse for allowing suffering? Interesting choice, there.
How exactly is he hiding if he simply doesn't know? When you don't know, YOU DON'T KNOW. A paladin who isn't aware that someone is being raped by a demon 5 miles away and has no way of knowing it wouldn't be "hiding behind ignorance". He'd simply not know about it, and you can't blame him for that.

Even in one of the books, I think either DMG or PHB, a similar situation was described. Paladin climbs a mountain, accidentally causes a landslide, landslide hurts some people Paladin wasn't even aware of. This is not an evil act. If the paladin learns of what he did, of course he'll be feeling sorry and wanting to help, but if he isn't capable of knowing, he isn't culpable.