PDA

View Full Version : Mututally Exclusive Alignments?



Cruiser1
2012-05-29, 03:08 PM
Yes, it's another alignment discussion. :smallsmile: As the subject suggests, Good and Evil are best considered mutually exclusive. Instead of good and evil being a single axis with good on one end and evil on the other (meaning one is either Good, Evil, or Neutral in the middle), we should instead have good and evil as separate and independent components (meaning one is either Good, Evil, both, or neither). Note we're still not defining what alignments like "Good" actually mean (which is a separate discussion) although separating it from evil should make the challenge of alignment classification a bit easier.

This allows us to distinguish a bland person who does no good nor evil, from a well meaning person who occasionally lets their dark side get the better of them, from a person seeking balance who intentionally wants neither good nor evil to be dominant in the world (all of which are neutral on the classic good/evil axis). Similarly, this allows us to distinguish a fiend lacking any positive quality who wants to destroy good, from a dictator who honestly seeks to conquer the world in order to make it a better place (both of which are evil, but the latter has some good as well).

In our adjusted system, alignments range from 0 to 3. For example, with respect to good:
0: Doesn't care about doing good. For simplicity numbers are integers, although for extra detail could include decimals, in which case rarely is anybody as low as 0.0, because even the worst people occasionally do some good.
1: Standard level of seeking good, such as a good alignment PC. Once a person's particular component reaches 1, they are considered classic "Good" and ping on Detect Good spells, and are affected by spells that only affect good creatures.
2: Exalted good, such as a Cleric or Paladin of a good deity, or a PC with Exalted feats. This increases the strength of their particular alignment aura.
3: Embodiment of good, such as an Angel or other "Always Good" creature, or a good deity. This gives them an overwhelming alignment aura. For practical purposes alignment can't exceed 3.0.

It's possible to be high in both Good and Evil. An overzealous holy warrior who tortures evil people in the name of good may have Good = 2, however their Evil = 1. The Succubus Paladin (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/fc/20050824a) has Evil = 3, since its species is still an embodiment of evil, however it also has Good = 2 since it's a Paladin. A classic Paladin should fall if ever their Good or Law drop below 1, or if ever their Evil exceeds 1. Accoding to FC2, a dead soul goes to the 9 Hells if Law > 1 and Evil > 1, regardless of how high its Good is. Similarly, the upper planes will only accept souls whose Good > 1 and whose Evil < 1. They say good is not necessarily nice, which is true because as we see here good doesn't necessarily mean the lack of evil. A "nice" person is good without evil, or Good > 1 and Evil < 1.

Similarly, Law and Chaos should be separate components, resulting in four different components (instead of two) to consider for the average character. For example, a priest of a Chaotic deity, who follows a discipline rigorously and has an organized plan to promote freedom or Chaos in the world, has Chaos = 2, but also Law = 1 based on their methods. Roy from OOTS, who achieves lawful goals through chaotic means (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0490.html), isn't neutral but probably has both Law and Chaos > 1 (although since his Law > Chaos and "he's trying", he still goes to the Lawful afterlife).

In addition to Good/Evil/Law/Chaos, the concept of "Balance" and promoting it can be a independent alignment component from the other four. Balance means actively promoting equality between alignment components such as Law and Chaos (like a Druid), which is different from being both Lawful and Chaotic (like that Chaotic priest), and which is different from being neither Lawful nor Chaotic (like the average person). One who explicitly seeks balance has Balance = 1 or more, where the only real restriction on Druids should be they must have Balance > 1. Seeking balance can be a code one follows resulting in Lawful Balance, or one can randomly destroy alignments wherever they see them resulting in Chaotic Evil Balance. A Paladin who wants to destroy all evil and make the Universe good has Good > 1 and Balance = 0. However, one who sees balance as a way to steer people towards good, where evil is necessary to test and strengthen souls, can be Balance > 1 and Good > 1 (and maybe even Evil > 1 too). An overdeity who coordinates the Universe and preserves the wheel of the Outer planes probably has Balance = 3.

In addition to the above, you can have "Destroyer of Good", "Destroyer of Evil", and so on as separate alignments. "Destroyer of Evil" means one dislikes evil and wants to eliminate it, which is different from being Good (and also different from not being Evil). The best Paladins are Good > 1, Evil = 0, and Destroyer of Evil > 1. However a zealot who uses evil methods to fight evil might be Good < 1, Evil = 1, and Destroyer of Evil > 1. Yes, just as it's possible to be Good and Evil at the same time, one can be "Alignment" and "Destroyer of Alignment" at the same time. Hey, sometimes we become what we resist. :smalltongue:

There are actually many potential alignment components one can introduce in a campaign world. These alignment components are similar to faction as seen in MMORPG's, or group affiliations as seen in the 3.5 books, where you can have a 0-3 alignment component for groups. For example, you can have alignment with respect to a particular nation, wizard's school, or holy order. You could even add an alignment component like "Ditzy" (which characters like Roy and Durkon are low in, but Elan and Celia are high in) meaning you really can have "Lawful Silly" or "Chaotic Stupid" as measurable alignments. :smallwink: Ok DM, on my turn I cast "Protection From Stupid". :smallbiggrin:

Sutremaine
2012-05-29, 10:34 PM
Even 36 different alignments aren't enough to put everybody neatly in the boxes.

Certainly it would be useful for a user of Detect Evil to distinguish an apathetic character just south of Neutral from an equally-levelled character who just wants to see the world burn, but I don't think it needs to be codified in-game. Let the DM handle it as they handle the rest of the character's personality.

Yora
2012-05-30, 03:48 AM
At the end of the day, it only matters if Protetion from Evil and Word of Chaos work on a creature or not.

KillianHawkeye
2012-05-30, 04:49 AM
I'm really straining to see how alignment would benefit from being this needlessly complex.

Also, wanting to destroy something has nothing to do with what your own alignment is. I'm not sure why it's being included here.

Cruiser1
2012-05-30, 06:23 PM
Even 36 different alignments aren't enough to put everybody neatly in the boxes.
How are you calculating 36? In the standard system of Good/Neutral/Evil and Law/Neutral/Chaotic, there are 3x3 = 9 different alignments. With the four core alignments separate, each can be on or off independently, resulting in 2x2x2x2 = 16 alignments. Note each additional component doubles the total possible alignments, e.g. adding Balance is another x2 for 32 total.

At the end of the day, it only matters if Protetion from Evil and Word of Chaos work on a creature or not.
Those spells still work as before. Protection from Evil gives a bonus against evil creatures (i.e. creatures who Evil is 1 or more) even if such a creature is also good. Additional alignments like "Balance" would imply spells related to them exist (such as "Word of Balance"). We already have this to an extent. For example, in addition to "Detect Evil" and "Protection from Evil", the 3.5 books feature "Detect Incarnum" and "Protection from Incarnum", where the concept of "having Incarnum" can be considered an alignment.

Also, wanting to destroy something has nothing to do with what your own alignment is.
I claim wanting to destroy something is an alignment like any other. "Alignment" in general is just a personality component, where there are any number of alignments beyond Good/Evil/Law/Chaos (even if the core four are the biggest ones). Having "Evil" alignment is being, doing, or supporting evil. "Destroyer of Evil" is wanting to eliminate evil. One can add spells like "Protection from Destroyer of Evil". Devils guarding the Gates of Hell really shouldn't have "Protection from Good" or other Good repelling spells active. Devils don't mind and actually welcome good people in Hell, as they're ripe to be corrupted. The Devil guardians instead want to have "Detect Destroyer of Evil" and related wards up, to keep out those adventurer types who want to invade Hell (regardless of whether they're Good holy warriors or Evil mercenaries).

TuggyNE
2012-05-30, 06:40 PM
While I can certainly see this approach being used with Law and Chaos, which aren't very effectively differentiated in the standard alignment system, trying it with Good and Evil just ... doesn't really ring true for me. It's not necessarily inaccurate, but it is neither exciting, significantly more descriptive than the alternatives, nor especially compact. Especially once you get into the whole four-point "is X"/"is not X"/"isn't X"/"isn't not X"* bit, with four levels of magnitude each. Oh yeah, and then you add not only Good/Evil/Lawful/Chaotic, but also Balance, Stupid/Ditzy/Foolish, Square**, Funky**, Blue**, Orange**...


*Seriously. Protection from Destroyer of Evil? *headdesk*
** I have not yet seen these crop up in the thread, but felt I'd address them preemptively.



Anyway, I cast protection from kitchen sink.

QuidEst
2012-05-31, 09:09 AM
Sorry, I prefer to box my characters with nine boxes. It's an interesting challenge to figure out where they fall best.

KillianHawkeye
2012-05-31, 05:50 PM
Also, the standard alignment system is already mutually exclusive. What you are describing is the exact opposite of that.

Cruiser1
2012-06-01, 04:59 AM
Seriously. Protection from Destroyer of Evil?
Heh, "Destroyer of Evil" is just an obvious name to make the concept easier to understand. :smalltongue: For a published "Fights Evil" alignment we'd probably want to think up a nice single word for it such as "Crusader", where a spell like "Detect Crusader" finds those who are working against or fighting evil. Similarly, "Fights Good" would be something like "Spoiler".

Also, the standard alignment system is already mutually exclusive. What you are describing is the exact opposite of that.
It depends on what you consider "exclusive". The standard alignment system has good and evil tied to each other (on the same axis), although the amounts of "good" and "evil" are indeed exclusive in that if you're good you can't be evil and vice versa. Independent alignments have good and evil as exclusive components, however the contents of "good" and "evil" are no longer forced to be separate in that the amount of good no longer affects the amount of evil and vice versa. To avoid confusion we can instead call the change "independent alignments".

Sorry, I prefer to box my characters with nine boxes. It's an interesting challenge to figure out where they fall best.
The 16 alignments can actually help one figure out which of the classic nine boxes something falls in. I see the standard 9 alignments as like a .JPEG picture - mostly effective, but a bit lossy. :smallwink: There's a simple "compression algorithm" to convert from my 16 alignments to the core 9: Standard Good/Evil = ("Good" - "Evil"), where Evil is -3 and Good is 3. Or for more detail it's ("Good" + "Crusader" - "Evil" - "Spoiler"). For example, a zealot who fights evil (Crusader = 1), however tortures people to find the BBEG (Evil = 1), but donates most of his loot to charity (Good = 1) has standard alignment (1 + 1 - 1 - 0) = 1, and manages to come out as standard Good.

KillianHawkeye
2012-06-01, 10:50 AM
It depends on what you consider "exclusive". The standard alignment system has good and evil tied to each other (on the same axis), although the amounts of "good" and "evil" are indeed exclusive in that if you're good you can't be evil and vice versa. Independent alignments have good and evil as exclusive components, however the contents of "good" and "evil" are no longer forced to be separate in that the amount of good no longer affects the amount of evil and vice versa. To avoid confusion we can instead call the change "independent alignments".

Mutually exclusive means that you can't be both at once. "Independent" is a much better term.

Sutremaine
2012-06-01, 04:30 PM
How are you calculating 36?
I might have just multiplied the nine standard alignments by four for some reason (it was four in the morning).

What does your system do in case of clerics or paladins who should have >=2 Good based on their class / god and who also should have <2 Good based on their actions?

QuidEst
2012-06-01, 05:08 PM
It seems to mostly be differentiating between "neutral-apathetic" and "neutral-conflicted" (functionally, that's where the new alignments come from), and using a merit/demerit system. If my characters end up with a neutral component, it's generally because they have minor tendencies in both directions.

Shadow Lord
2012-06-01, 05:32 PM
I'd like to address a few things you've said this thread:

First, we have you saying that a succubus will always be evil; in fact, a succubus can not help being evil. That is just strange. Just because a species is extremely commonly evil, that doesn't mean that every one of them is evil. Furthermore, are you going to say that Orcs have a natural inclination to raping and killing for some reason?

Second, in one of your posts you say that a Crusader is a good person. That's just... not true. Look at what the Crusaders did historically; they murdered, raped, pillaged, and generally destroyed peoples' lives. If anything, under your system a Crusader would be a negative.

Finally, any and all alignment systems are inherently flawed in that they are too limited by far to define a human's alignment, let alone any other species.

TheOOB
2012-06-01, 05:47 PM
At the end of the day, it only matters if Protetion from Evil and Word of Chaos work on a creature or not.

Really that's all alignment is, a quality that determines how magic affects(or does not affect) you.

I don't see why things need to be this complex. You can quite easily define good, evil, and neutrality.

A good person is willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know personally.

A neutral person isn't willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know, but they also are not willing to cause significant harm to such a person.

An evil person is willing to cause significant harm to an innocent person whom they do not personally know.

Simple and easy.

Shadow Lord
2012-06-01, 05:51 PM
Really that's all alignment is, a quality that determines how magic affects(or does not affect) you.

I don't see why things need to be this complex. You can quite easily define good, evil, and neutrality.

A good person is willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know personally.

A neutral person isn't willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know, but they also are not willing to cause significant harm to such a person.

An evil person is willing to cause significant harm to an innocent person whom they do not personally know.

Simple and easy.

Most adventurers are evil then, for attacking and killing things without having background on what's going on.

TheOOB
2012-06-01, 08:46 PM
Most adventurers are evil then, for attacking and killing things without having background on what's going on.

Not necessarily. The vast majority of monsters, including the monsterous humanoids, are generally speaking, evil as default. When dealing with an Orc, especially a group of Orcs, the default assumption is that they are evil and do bad things, meaning they have to prove they are different from the rest of their kind.

hamishspence
2012-06-02, 02:07 PM
Really that's all alignment is, a quality that determines how magic affects(or does not affect) you.

I don't see why things need to be this complex. You can quite easily define good, evil, and neutrality.

A good person is willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know personally.

A neutral person isn't willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know, but they also are not willing to cause significant harm to such a person.

An evil person is willing to cause significant harm to an innocent person whom they do not personally know.

Then you get the "sacrificers" who are both compassionate and ruthless- willing to risk their necks to save innocent strangers, but, also willing to murder innocent strangers "For The Greater Good".

Evil and Good?

Cruiser1
2012-06-02, 06:25 PM
First, we have you saying that a succubus will always be evil; in fact, a succubus can not help being evil. That is just strange. Furthermore, are you going to say that Orcs have a natural inclination to raping and killing for some reason?
In D&D 3.5, the Succubus (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/demon.htm#succubus) as well as all fiends have their alignment listed as "always evil", which means they really all are 100% evil (barring the 1 in a million case like the Succubus Paladin). More importantly, the Succubus as well as all fiends have the [Evil] subtype (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/typesSubtypes.htm#evilSubtype), which means they really are embodiments of Evil and always appear that way under Detect Evil spells, even if they're also a Good alignment paladin. Orcs are merely "often evil", perhaps due to their rough culture.

Second, in one of your posts you say that a Crusader is a good person. That's just... not true.
I agree, where I didn't say a "Crusader" is good. I chose to use the word "crusader" to summarize the concept of anyone who fights evil (which may be a Good alignment holy warrior, or an Evil alignment mercenary). This usage of "crusader" has no relation to the actual Crusaders from our history. For example, Miko from OotS has a high "Crusader" alignment since she was always focused on fighting what she perceived to be evil, although she wasn't a very good person. In classic D&D with its 9 alignments, "fighting evil" seems to be synonymous with good, where the more one fights evil, the stronger their "Good" (i.e. "Crusader" concept implies "Good"). However with my extended independent alignments, "fighting evil" is treated separately from "doing good" (i.e. "Crusader" does not imply "Good").

It seems to mostly be differentiating between "neutral-apathetic" and "neutral-conflicted" (functionally, that's where the new alignments come from), and using a merit/demerit system.
Yes, that summarizes it. :smallsmile: Note it not only differentiates between "neutral apathetic" (neither good nor evil) and "neutral conflicted" (both good and evil), but also "neutral supportive" (as in intentionally seeking Balance).

Viktyr Gehrig
2012-06-05, 01:41 AM
If my characters end up with a neutral component, it's generally because they have minor tendencies in both directions.

Whether my characters are Neutral or Evil generally depends on how the DM interprets Blue and Orange-- I don't go for 'conflicted', I'm following moral principles that simply don't correspond to Good and Evil and don't regard them as anything more than elemental forces to be commanded.

So sometimes I'm Neutral because I'm too altruistic and compassionate to be Evil, and sometimes I'm Evil because I am too calculatedly, deliberately cruel to be anything but.

I guess according to the FC2 I'm destined for Baator, but I'm willing to bet they're not looking forward to it.

hamishspence
2012-06-05, 01:45 AM
More importantly, the Succubus as well as all fiends have the [Evil] subtype (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/typesSubtypes.htm#evilSubtype), which means they really are embodiments of Evil and always appear that way under Detect Evil spells, even if they're also a Good alignment paladin.

I tend to think of it as less "embodiment of evil" and more "contains evil energies"- a fiend can lose its evil subtype without dying- though it is traumatic for the fiend.

Specifically, a ritual in Savage Species that allows a creature with an alignment subtype to change the subtype.

Avilan the Grey
2012-06-05, 05:59 AM
I tend to think of it as less "embodiment of evil" and more "contains evil energies"- a fiend can lose its evil subtype without dying- though it is traumatic for the fiend.

Specifically, a ritual in Savage Species that allows a creature with an alignment subtype to change the subtype.

I think it boils down to what is meant with "Embodiment of Evil"; in a way the Succubi (etc) are literally embodiments of evil: Their bodies are made of Evil, at least partly. However that does not neccesarily equal the meaning of the term, as you point out...

As for alignments as such I am a firm believer in "screw them". I have never seen the necessity of them in the first place; after all almost no RPGs have them except for Dungeon & Dragons. I grew up without them, my first contact with them was Baldur's Gate.

As for the topic... I think that if you should have them, the D&D vanilla approach is about as complicated as I can stand them. They do narrow in the Evil end though. The Good end seems very broad in it's definitions and you can fit a large number of archetypes in the slots, and so is the Neutral, but the Evil end is not so.

hamishspence
2012-06-05, 07:51 AM
A case could be made that it's the other way round-

that in D&D Evil is very broad- can encompass the selfish, the selfless but ruthless, and so forth, but all Good characters have the same two major traits- altruism, and an unwillingness to do Evil deeds (sometimes they'll overcome this unwillingness, but it's always there).

QuidEst
2012-06-05, 10:12 PM
Yes, that summarizes it. :smallsmile: Note it not only differentiates between "neutral apathetic" (neither good nor evil) and "neutral conflicted" (both good and evil), but also "neutral supportive" (as in intentionally seeking Balance).

I'm not counting Balance, since it's not part of the 16… plus, I don't think I understand its role well. At any rate, I'm fine with "neutral apathetic" and "neutral conflicted" being the same thing, since that's where I find it's often hard to draw a line for my characters. Is my character who leans towards chaos, but follows laws because it makes things easier conflicted or apathetic? The difference seems less important than the other distinctions.


Whether my characters are Neutral or Evil generally depends on how the DM interprets Blue and Orange-- I don't go for 'conflicted', I'm following moral principles that simply don't correspond to Good and Evil and don't regard them as anything more than elemental forces to be commanded.

My characters never make it far enough out there for Blue and Orange morality. They might not have morality as a high priority, but it's something they understand and typically take into account or purposefully disregard.

TheOOB
2012-06-05, 11:39 PM
Then you get the "sacrificers" who are both compassionate and ruthless- willing to risk their necks to save innocent strangers, but, also willing to murder innocent strangers "For The Greater Good".

Evil and Good?

Evil, evil overrides good. A good person helps innocents, and does not harm them. Note that the occasional evil act does not make one evil, especially for chaotic characters.

NENAD
2012-06-06, 05:15 AM
Alignment has no impact on how people treat you. Its only mechanical effect is to make magic work differently. Literally any other connotations you choose to give to it is dependent entirely on what you and your group want them to mean. If you decide "Good" is murdering innocent villagers for giggles and "Evil" is giving them public education and a flourishing economy, there is nothing in the mechanics to contradict you. So long as you're having fun, that's fine.

hamishspence
2012-06-06, 12:38 PM
Evil, evil overrides good. A good person helps innocents, and does not harm them. Note that the occasional evil act does not make one evil, especially for chaotic characters.

While I tend to agree, I've seen some fierce criticisms of the idea that when there's a pattern of both Evil and Good behaviour (as opposed to occasional cases of either) Evil trumps Good.

There's also the question of the character who only commits evil acts against the "not-innocent" but they're severe acts- the "serial killer with a conscience" type.

Burner28
2012-06-09, 02:25 PM
Yeah, many people would indeed argue that willingness to hurt the innocent is an important part of the Evil alignment.

Mastikator
2012-06-09, 03:41 PM
At the end of the day, it only matters if Protetion from Evil and Word of Chaos work on a creature or not.

This.
Because that is all alignment really ever adds to a game. From a narrative, simulationist, campaign setting creation, character development/backstory/personality perspective it is a net loss. And one should consider if a single combat mechanic is really more important than the internal consistency and verisimilitude of a game.

137ben
2012-06-09, 04:27 PM
Hmmm....now I want to homebrew a class with an alignment prerequisite of good/evil/lawful/chaotic:smallsmile:


This.
Because that is all alignment really ever adds to a game. From a narrative, simulationist, campaign setting creation, character development/backstory/personality perspective it is a net loss. And one should consider if a single combat mechanic is really more important than the internal consistency and verisimilitude of a game.

I've really never bought this argument. I like the roleplaying that comes from an evil NPC trying to convince the PCs why they should allow him to help (or vice versa). Ultimately, though, whether you want alignments in your game is an opinion. I prefer to keep them, and I think this makes them more flexible. If you don't want to have them, then just don't use them.


Even 36 different alignments aren't enough to put everybody neatly in the boxes.
Of course not. But it does better than 9 boxes.
And if we include the varying degrees of each alignment (0-3), then that gives us 4^4=256 "boxes." That still can't fit everything, but it is still better than what we had before:smalltongue:

Mastikator
2012-06-09, 07:53 PM
You don't need alignment to have an evil NPC trying to convince the PCs of his point of view.
In no way does saying that the NPC is 75 points evil and 33 points lawful add to his actual philosophy. If the NPC is justifying killing people by social darwinism "they're weaker than I" then saying that he's on the evil side of the scale does not add anything. However, if you say "he believes this because he has never lost in a fight" or "he is unable to feel compassion" then that adds a lot.

What is so great about putting characters into pre-defined (and vaguely defined) boxes?
If you want to put them in boxes, make up psychological profiles for their culture and background, put them in those boxes. You won't be limited to a number of poorly defined dimensions.

Blackknife
2012-06-13, 10:13 AM
What is being suggested by the OP is interesting but superfluous. The alignment system isn't a straight-jacket to confine players. Good people can and will still do evil things sometimes when they are tempted, I believe the PHB for 3.5 uses Tordek and his love of money as an example. There is room for infinite variation within the given alignments.

By the same token there are some evil people that will do benevolent things once in a while for the people they care about, if they care about anyone. Good/Evil/Law/Chaos in 3.5 D&D are not philosophical concepts, they are universe-defining forces, like fire and cold. The alignment system determines which of those forces a character is most closely aligned with. It is actually much closer to an amoral system than a moral system.

137ben
2012-06-13, 11:17 AM
What is so great about putting characters into pre-defined (and vaguely defined) boxes?
If you want to put them in boxes, make up psychological profiles for their culture and background, put them in those boxes. You won't be limited to a number of poorly defined dimensions.
If they are so poorly defined (which I agree, they are), then what is limiting about them? Being "Good aligned" is so vague that it hardly means anything, and so how does it limit complexity? On the other hand, if someone had a better defined psychological profile, as you suggest, then it would actually dictate how their character behaves, much more so that "chaotic" does. So no thank you, I am not inclined to use precisely defined categories, I'll stick with the vague ones.

Cerlis
2012-06-13, 05:33 PM
2 things i'd like to bring up,without it being aimed at any particular thing.

I think one needs to be careful about the discrepency between Alignment and personality. Whether or not this system would do so, I think alot of Alignment debate comes from trying to define one's personality in the law and moral axis, as opposed to trying to define ones....alignment.
Such a problem requires us to decide what Alignment actually is, as i think that many alignment arguements come from people who have different views of what alignment is trying to convince each other, when all their deffinitions are different.

Simularly i think that the notion of "why would i want to put my character into a box" is but one step away of "why should i have to define my race, or have my race dictate my racial abilitys, or why should i have my class define my abilities". Espessially since its so easy to alter your alignment, all it requires is mental change (maybe not easy on a personal level , but on a story level it is)

Alignment is a tool to help players figure out what their character would do, not a mandate on what their character would do. I.E. "my character does this , and because he does this frequently, he is lawful neutral", Not "my character does this because he is lawful neutral."

hamishspence
2012-06-14, 05:52 AM
Alignment is a tool to help players figure out what their character would do, not a mandate on what their character would do. I.E. "my character does this , and because he does this frequently, he is lawful neutral", Not "my character does this because he is lawful neutral."

This. With the "this" that the character does frequently, being acts which are of a particular alignment (usually defined in the splatbooks).

When the character does acts of opposed alignment, both frequently, it can be trickier- but the DM can choose a solution to resolve it- maybe "evil trumps good" or in some cases "evil and good cancel to produce Neutral"- though I prefer the former unless the Evil acts are fairly mild and always motivated by Good intentions.

Devils_Advocate
2012-06-15, 01:24 PM
Their bodies are made of Evil, at least partly.
As with "made of pure energy (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PureEnergy)", the obvious question here is "What, if anything, does that actually mean?"

Is evilness supposed to somehow actually be a substance here? How would that even work? That's like saying that something is made out of the color red.


evil overrides good.
But per the definitions you gave, someone "willing to take significant risks or make significant sacrifices to help an innocent person whom they do not know personally" and also "willing to cause significant harm to an innocent person whom they do not personally know" is both a good person and an evil person.

Though Good and Evil alignment are normally treated as being opposites of each other, they are often described in such a way that one could quite easily be both at once. (And not just characters, but individual actions: e.g. if Evil is harming innocents and Good is protecting innocents, then protecting some innocents by harming other innocents is both Good and Evil.) This is the central point that the opening post of this thread addresses. And you illustrated it by providing just such a description of Good and Evil!

Are you now acknowledging that defining Good, Evil, and Neutrality is not nearly as simple and easy as you thought it was, and that as a result of this miscalculation on your part you totally screwed up?


"my character does this , and because he does this frequently, he is lawful neutral", Not "my character does this because he is lawful neutral."
According to the D&D 3.5 PHB, alignment represents a creature’s general moral and personal attitudes (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/description.htm#alignment), not its behavior. It even talks a bit about how animals are always Neutral regardless of their behavior.

It seems to be rather less clear on what each individual alignment is than it is on what sort of thing an alignment is.


Now then, here's the thing: In discussions like this, it generally seems to be treated as a weird corner case for a single individual to both routinely behave altruistically and routinely hurt innocents. Which it isn't. It's pretty much the default behavior of real human beings.

Ordinary people will come to the aid of their friends and family even if they don't expect to get any tangible benefit out of it.

On the other hand, humans tend to habitually kill innocent beings because, well, that just kinda comes with being omnivorous. Often this is unnecessary, the whole process leading up to it is inhumane, and all of this is done simply because evil food tastes better (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0511.html).

And more broadly speaking, all sorts of everyday human activities have a bunch of negative externalities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality#Negative) that people tend to just not trouble themselves about too much. Consistently avoiding actively harming others is actually super weird.

And that's not even getting into the subject of well-intentioned coercion. For example, children are de facto chattel in human society. The way that, say, elves treat their offspring is probably rather different. (Nor will elves regard theft, abduction, murder, etc. as more acceptable when done openly by a government. Being in a position of authority just gives you power; it doesn't justify your actions.)

So either most humans are Evil for lacking general compunctions against harming the innocent, or most humans are Neutral for lacking general disregard for the welfare of others. If Neutral is the default alignment that you can only not be by being pretty consistently kind or cruel, then most humans are Neutral. If Evil is the default alignment that you can only not be by acting consistently non-Evil (except for the occasional slip-up), then most humans are Evil.

There's an argument to be made that humans are Lawful Evil as a rule, because we tend to lack general compunctions against harming innocents but also to have ethical principles that we are strongly dedicated to. We're certainly rarely Chaotic or Good, anyhow, unless those are compatible with being Lawful and Evil...

But Evil alignment actually seems to be about a general lack of regard for the welfare of others at best. Most Evil-aligned monsters are worse, mind you! Seriously, check through the 3.5 Monster Manual and notice how mean Evil monsters are described as being, again and again. Intelligent beings that just want to kill you tend to be classified as Neutral!

hamishspence
2012-06-17, 12:57 PM
I suspect that the intent of the designers wasn't that animals and the like be classed as "innocent" with regards to the "Evil implies harming the innocent" concept.

Similarly "normal" parenting practices probably don't qualify as "oppression" in the D&D sense.

As for "negative externalities" these might be rarer in a D&D world than a modern one.

Devils_Advocate
2012-06-25, 09:48 PM
When the character does acts of opposed alignment, both frequently, it can be trickier- but the DM can choose a solution to resolve it- maybe "evil trumps good" or in some cases "evil and good cancel to produce Neutral"- though I prefer the former unless the Evil acts are fairly mild and always motivated by Good intentions.
What characterizes and act as Good or Evil, if not intention? Bear in mind, your answer needs to be compatible with animals being incapable of moral action, unless you want to discard that idea.

Is it Evil to find harm to others equally unacceptable regardless of whether or not you personally cause it? Consider the famous trolley problem, for example.


I suspect that the intent of the designers wasn't that animals and the like be classed as "innocent"
"And the like"? Meaning what, exactly? Creatures incapable of understanding language? Does that make it non-Evil for lizardfolk to eat their own infants when they're running low on food? I'd think that the mitigating factor there would be that they're doing what they need to to survive, if anything.

Look, if you wanna talk designer intent, then bear in mind that there are a few canonically Neutral pretty much undiscriminating predators in the Monster Manual of a variety of 3+ Intelligence scores (e.g. the tarrasque, wyverns, arrowhawks, dragon turtles). There are several more that are violently territorial and/or probably eat people (as this is the implied basis for an encounter between the PCs and the monster). They tend to be magical beasts and aberrations.

You could argue that if you're part of an understood "gentleman's agreement" among a large number of races not to initiate the use of force, then unilaterally violating that agreement indicates that you're Evil (and almost certainly non-Lawful, but one thing at a time). "Innocent" seems like a misleading word at best to reserve for those who don't violate the agreement, though.


"Evil implies harming the innocent"
But what, if any, sort of harming the innocent is always indicative of Evil alignment?

There are several qualifiers to pick from: "knowingly", "deliberately", "maliciously", "routinely", etc. And we can pick more than one, obviously. "Innocent" is itself a vague and dubious qualifier stuck in front of "beings" rather than "harming" in the phrase "harming other beings". Maybe if we appropriately choose our qualifiers to "harming", we'll be better off without it?


Similarly "normal" parenting practices probably don't qualify as "oppression" in the D&D sense.
Nor in any normal sense, but nevertheless, I thought that I'd touch on the pertinent subject of the implications of absolute statements. I remember once reading that under a strict reading of libertarian ethics, one is not permitted to start one fire without first obtaining permission from everyone in the world. Similar considerations apply to many ethical claims. I find that often in ethical or political debates, the participants will appeal to values that they do not in fact hold.

People seem to often come to take the negative connotations of certain words -- e.g. "murder", "theft", "slavery", "racism" -- as definitive. This renders such words considerably more subjective than they might otherwise be. To the extent that "slavery" actually means "treating others as property in a bad way", "Slavery is bad" is vacuous tautology. On the other hand, I imagine that of those few genuinely willing to at least temporarily remove the subjective qualifiers from the definitions of such terms, for the sake of discussion, most would find themselves acknowledging that there are cases in which they feel murder, theft, slavery, and racism to be acceptable.

In some cases there is a more objective narrower definition to consider, e.g. the definitions of "murder" and "theft" that contain the qualifier "illegally" rather than "immorally". But sometimes there isn't. George Orwell famously wrote that "fascism" no longer has any meaning but that it signifies something undesirable.

Unqualified praise for "freedom", for example, is just being fashionable rather than saying anything of substance. The freedom to do something (rather than power to do something) is freedom from retribution, meaning that you don't have it if others are free to punish you. And freedom from something means that others aren't free to inflict it on you, meaning that they aren't free from retribution for doing that. So it's impossible for everyone to be free to do everything and it's also impossible for everyone to be free from everything. Nor is it even desirable. Human societies imprison people: We want some people to lose almost all of their freedom some of the time!

Gosh, that turned into a pretty long tangent.


As for "negative externalities" these might be rarer in a D&D world than a modern one.
But being rarer doesn't mean that they aren't still quite common. For example: A port town receives a shipment of goods from a faraway land. Some of these goods were pillaged from civilians in a war. Several local humans who wouldn't be willing to personally loot someone's house will totally buy these things for conveniently low prices. The fact that these items weren't stolen from their personal neighbors is a big factor here.

Admittedly, most of them might lack the economic understanding necessary to realize that they're encouraging -- functionally, endorsing -- further pillaging in the future. I guess you could argue that humans tend to become Evil as we become better informed and thus aware of the broader consequences of our actions.

I'm gonna go out on a limb a bit and say that banal evil is pretty much a universal feature of human societies. Forcing our will on others is frequently how humans get things done. Sometimes we do it in ways that are arguably justifiable, and sometimes we do it in ways that pretty plainly aren't. For example, in Eberron, elemental spirits are often trapped inside of magic items to power them. Said elemental spirits may get used to this, but people can get used to a lot if you force them to. Doesn't make it ethical, y'know?

hamishspence
2012-06-26, 04:56 PM
I'm gonna go out on a limb a bit and say that banal evil is pretty much a universal feature of human societies. Forcing our will on others is frequently how humans get things done.

Fiendish Codex 2's description of "devil-influenced" societies, where a large proportion of the populace can expect to end up in Baator after death, was pretty "realistic"- deference to authority, severe punishments, strict rules, exemptions for rulers, and so forth.

The term "innocent" may be vague and dubious, but the PHB places it rather high as an alignment determining factor:

"Good creatures protect innocent life. Evil creatures debase and destroy innocent life" and later "Neutral people have compunctions against harming the innocent".

"Alignment is a person's general moral and personal attitudes" and "Actions determine alignment, not statements of intent by players" are both said in D&D books (PHB and DMG). And the PHB tends to define characters in terms of actions- "Good people make personal sacrifices to help others"

A case could be made that the actions are a logical and predictable consequence of the attitudes- that a good person's "personal attitudes" make it inevitable that they will make personal sacrifices to help others- given sufficient time and opportunity.

And that the recommendation in the DMG for the DM to change a character's alignment according to the way they act, is based on the presumption that their general moral and personal attitudes have changed.

Something like

"if he was still evil- he wouldn't be avoiding harming the innocent- I'm changing his alignment to neutral"

or

"He seems to have lost his compunctions against harming the innocent, regardless of how "reluctant" and "remorseful" the player claims the character to be- I'm changing them from Neutral to Evil"


"Innocent" is itself a vague and dubious qualifier stuck in front of "beings" rather than "harming" in the phrase "harming other beings". Maybe if we appropriately choose our qualifiers to "harming", we'll be better off without it?
Personally I prefer a slightly less strong focus on the "innocence" of victims- a sufficiently sadistic character who confines their harm to "villains" and avoids harming anyone who is not a "villain" could still be justified as Evil in the sense of

"routinely, deliberately, for their own personal gratification, committing acts that are described as evil in various splatbooks"

Devils_Advocate
2012-06-28, 08:29 PM
The term "innocent" may be vague and dubious, but the PHB places it rather high as an alignment determining factor
But nothing is specifically called out as determining alignment! We're given descriptions of what Good and Evil characters do, but we're never directly told what it means to be Good or Evil. The alignment-related splatbooks not only refrain from actually defining the alignments, they make things even murkier by painting incoherent pictures of what Good and Evil are.

Working directly from what the books say leads to conclusions like "Protecting some innocents by destroying other innocents is both Good and Evil" and/or "A character who both protects innocents and destroys innocents is both Good and Evil". And you could go along with that; why, I do believe that that is what this thread is about! Fancy that. :smallwink:

Upon investigation, the "Indecisiveness Indicates Neutrality" part of the DMG section on alignment change suggests that a character who routinely acts both Good-aligned and Evil-aligned should be classified as Neutral. So... thanks for pointing me to that section. It's nice to see a passage that both clarifies things and agrees with common sense! :smallsmile:

It seems reasonable to infer that if an individual action is also Neutral if it qualifies as both Good and Evil.

That section also contains some dubious advice, though. Only allowing players to determine their characters' actions, while the DM decides what the PCs' motivations for those actions are? How many DMs even want to do that? Not many good DMs, I should think. Metagaming may be problematic, of course, but that's hardly specific to alignment.

It would be nice if it mentioned how instantaneous voluntary alignment change is one of the things that the atonement spell is for, or how temporarily activating a magic item using a different alignment than a character normally has is properly covered by the Emulate An Alignment function of the Use Magic Device skill. Granted, that's mostly a case of inadequate cross-referencing... but complaining about D&D rulebooks' inadequate cross-referencing strikes me as pretty legitimate criticism.

Parts of the DMG kind of seem to have been written by an old-school player who wasn't filled in on how things work in 3rd Edition (with defined procedures for doing things being preferred over DM or player fiat).


a sufficiently sadistic character who confines their harm to "villains" and avoids harming anyone who is not a "villain" could still be justified as Evil in the sense of

"routinely, deliberately, for their own personal gratification, committing acts that are described as evil in various splatbooks"
Would you then prefer to define "Evil" as meaning "on the Official Big List o' Evil Things", where the Official Big List o' Evil Things is a collection of stuff that has been lumped together in a largely arbitrary and nonsensical fashion?

I would prefer to say e.g. that Evil is cruelty and Good is kindness. Those standards seem to be both in accordance with the PHB's descriptions of Good and Evil alignment and relatively simple and straightforward. Standards that aren't close to that require really twisting the alignment system around, quite frankly!

Here's a little exercise for you all to try: Read through the PHB's description of alignment, replacing "good" with "kind" and "kindness" (as appropriate), "evil" with "cruel" and "cruelty" (as appropriate), "law" with "honor", "lawful" with "honorable", "chaos" with "defiance", and "chaotic" with "defiant". See how much sense this makes.

If you think that this makes a lot of sense, then maybe that's a big clue to what these terms were supposed to mean! They could have used better words, granted, but looking at what the statements about each alignment have in common, it seems pretty clear to me what each one of them is supposed to be, at least in broad terms. Yeesh!

hamishspence
2012-06-29, 05:46 AM
Upon investigation, the "Indecisiveness Indicates Neutrality" part of the DMG section on alignment change suggests that a character who routinely acts both Good-aligned and Evil-aligned should be classified as Neutral. So... thanks for pointing me to that section. It's nice to see a passage that both clarifies things and agrees with common sense! :smallsmile:

Heroes of Horror suggests that a character who routinely does evil deeds but always with good motivations (like a dread necromancer who only animates undead in order to protect people) can be justified as Neutral.

Champions of Ruin points out that while Good and Neutrals can occasionally commit Evil deeds, routinely doing so is generally the mark of an Evil character.

I'd say the "indecisiveness indicates neutrality" only applies at the milder end of the evil act scale- routinely committing major evil acts should result in an evil character, even if they routinely commit Good acts as well.

"Cruelty" is a pretty major feature of Evil acts- but it doesn't necessarily follow that all evil acts have it. Some are a bit more ambiguous.

"Kindness" being associated with Good is pretty basic- but "sacrificial" seems closer to the main principle, going by BoED, which suggests that even kind deeds can be Neutral, if they cost the doer nothing, or if the doer benefits.

bluntpencil
2012-06-29, 05:47 AM
Doesn't Mass Effect do this?

Renegade and Paragon are separate from one another.

hamishspence
2012-06-29, 06:00 AM
Haven't played that.

If a character is an exceedingly cruel racist who regularly commits horrible deeds against the "hated race" (an elf who hates dwarves?) but is also exceeding kind and altrustic toward people not of the hated race, regularly spending a lot of time, and perhaps personal risk, helping them- what are they?

Neutral? Good and Evil? Or Evil for alignment spell purposes, but with a "good trait"?

Devils_Advocate
2012-06-30, 02:54 AM
Heroes of Horror suggests that a character who routinely does evil deeds but always with good motivations (like a dread necromancer who only animates undead in order to protect people) can be justified as Neutral.
Well, that gets into cases where the books make nonsensical statements about particular acts being Evil. Can we agree that such statements are best disregarded, or do you really think that binding a celestial to your will and forcing it to fight for you is Good, while doing the same thing to a fiend is Evil?

The planar binding and magic circle spells get even weirder than the summon monster line here. Trapping a Good or an Evil outsider now involves both a Good and an Evil act, although which part of the process is which changes. Even though both actions are being used together for the same thing in each case.

"Reanimating corpses is Evil" is part of the same big pile of wackiness as "Spells with alignment descriptors are acts of that alignment". (Also: Turning a Good ghost is a Good act! Always!) If you actually go along with stuff this silly, it requires a character interested in actually acting morally to pretty much disregard alignment entirely.

Seriously, is there something I'm missing that places all of this stuff outside the category of things that should be disregarded because they are hella dumb? You know, like Monks not being granted proficiency with unarmed strikes?

Because people seem to keep talking about stuff like this as if it somehow weren't hella dumb, so it seems like maybe there's something I'm missing.


Champions of Ruin points out that while Good and Neutrals can occasionally commit Evil deeds, routinely doing so is generally the mark of an Evil character.
Yeah, and routinely committing Good deeds is generally the mark of a Good character. But there are exceptions.


I'd say the "indecisiveness indicates neutrality" only applies at the milder end of the evil act scale- routinely committing major evil acts should result in an evil character, even if they routinely commit Good acts as well.

"Cruelty" is a pretty major feature of Evil acts- but it doesn't necessarily follow that all evil acts have it. Some are a bit more ambiguous.
What does it mean for something to be Evil, then?


"Kindness" being associated with Good is pretty basic- but "sacrificial" seems closer to the main principle, going by BoED, which suggests that even kind deeds can be Neutral, if they cost the doer nothing, or if the doer benefits.
A willingness to make sacrifices to act in accordance with an alignment indicates a commitment to the principles of that alignment, whichever alignment it is. For Law, it's "Honor before reason", or in extreme cases "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall". For Chaos, it's "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance", or in extreme cases "Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees".

You don't think that being willing to make personal sacrifices to harm innocents is a mitigating factor that makes a character less Evil, do you?

Given the choice between helping others by making a personal sacrifice, or helping others more with no sacrifice on your part, are we to regard the first option as more Good? Because Good is apparently the desire to martyr yourself, such that that is a greater concern than the welfare of others? As above, I ask: How is "It's not Good to help others unless it costs you something" not hella dumb?


Doesn't Mass Effect do this?

Renegade and Paragon are separate from one another.
Exalted, too. A character can have a high or a low score in both of two "opposed" Virtues. (The four "Virtues" are, essentially: empathy, stubbornness, self-restraint, and recklessness. On the whole, the setting is... even less pleasant than one would expect, actually.) The Virtues correspond in a very rough sort of way to the alignments of Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos, interestingly. In fact, it strikes me as a good bit of cross-system analysis to ask to what extent one wants Good to be Compassion and/or Evil to be Conviction... (Also to what extent one wants Law to be Temperance and/or Chaos to be Valor, but hey, one thing at a time.)

I'm going to spoiler this for length:

Compassion is, essentially, empathy: the tendency to reflexively experience the emotions one observes in others. This is a normal human personality trait, stronger in some individuals than in others, and your Compassion rating measures how strong it is in you.

The problem with this human personality trait is that we feel more empathy for those who we directly observe (http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/?c=513). "Out of sight, out of mind." Even if we have very good reason to believe that someone is suffering elsewhere, just imagining it doesn't have nearly the impact on us as witnessing it does. Someone who won't save a drowning child is judged as morally deficient for lacking the normal response to being directly faced with someone in need. But if a normal person sometimes won't do less to help someone more, doesn't that represent an even greater deficiency? A far more worrying one, since it's more common?

Also, it turns out that this is sort of an area where our brains suck at multiplication. As in, our emotional response isn't remotely proportional to the number of individuals affected. "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." And as a result, the amount of charity that we're willing to offer usually isn't proportional either. People generally don't give efficiently (http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/) because they're primarily making themselves feel better, and how good giving makes you feel isn't proportionate to how much it helps.

But wait, it gets worse. Since observing and to a lesser extent thinking about the suffering of others makes high-Compassion individuals feel bad, that provides them with a strong incentive to avoid witnessing or indeed even thinking about others' suffering. And this is not a far-out extrapolation on my part. A canonical Exalted character who has chosen this method of coping with high Compassion is the Hierophant, the high priest of the Unconquered Sun, King of the Gods. Want another example? How about, oh, say, the Unconquered Sun himself?

Conviction is, essentially, tenacity: refusal to give up on something that one has dedicated oneself to. It helps characters to tolerate horrible things when horrible things appear to be necessary for them to achieve their goals. This is a normal human personality trait, stronger in some individuals than in others, and your Conviction rating measures how strong it is in you.

High Conviction helps characters to make decisions when all options are horrific. The Bronze Faction Sidereal Exalted slew the rulers of Creation, knowing that it would result in the destruction of civilization as they knew it, millions of deaths, and untold misery. The Gold Faction deemed it preferable to risk the complete destruction of the world. The Conviction 1 Sidereals presumably reacted to the Great Prophecy by curling up in the fetal position and gently rocking back and forth. Which is not necessarily the best way to respond to a crisis!

If it appears that the greater good requires allowing or even causing the local and short-term suffering of others, Conviction can help a high-Compassion character to cope with that. It allows someone to witness unpleasant things happening to others, feel really bad about that, and just frickin' deal with it.

The problem with this human personality trait is that the more willing you are to do obviously terrible things for very large theoretical gains, the more likely you are wind up very altruistically murdering and torturing loads of people for reasons that are rather dubious. There comes a point where the appropriate thing to do is just give up already, but human beings are frequently terrible at cutting our losses. Conviction feeds on and feeds into the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

Maybe there's even a better way to do what you want to do, but your fanatical devotion to one particular approach is preventing you from seeing that! An aversion to bad things is not a bad personality trait. Bad things are bad! They should generally be avoided! There is such a thing as being too willing to believe that bad stuff is somehow necessary. This is why using "the greater good" as a justification for anything has become a bit of a red flag.

Also, more on interspecies relations:


I suspect that the intent of the designers wasn't that animals and the like be classed as "innocent" with regards to the "Evil implies harming the innocent" concept.
Game designers didn't realize the implications of what they were writing, news at 11! Intent is bunk. (http://catandgirl.com/?p=1317) This is actually notable as a real issue about which a single person will often say contradictory things, and as a case of the sort of doublethink I was talking about before, where professing a value is very different from actually basing your decisions on it. So attributing standard human values to the writers is not necessarily of much help in resolving this issue. The values at work are

(1) Moral rights are not dependent on superficial qualities.
(2) Children deserve special protection.
(3) Humans have special moral rights that nonhuman creatures do not.

Let's look at how these principles interact:

(1 & 2) A human infant is rather unlikely, to put it mildly, to be born fully fluent in a language. For example. On the other hand, a human adult may have mental faculties more typical of a young child. In such a case, we typically say that the adult deserves protections normally reserved for children, for the same reasons.

(1 & 3) There's this sort of modern sci-fi/fantasy notion that if modern humans encounter a species of high intelligence or high similarity to humanity, we'll treat members of that species the same way that we treat human beings. Which is odd because, um, we already have encountered e.g. cetaceans and great apes, so this is well outside the realm of pure speculation. The verdict is in: There is a point at which humans will start to ponder that just maybe they should show you less disregard than they show to most creatures!

Modified humans are more likely be granted and/or retain human rights because we'll still recognize them as human. Heck, the phrase "human rights" is a pretty big giveaway! And typically both the audience and human characters react to sci-fi/fantasy races in the same way because these beings are pretty nearly psychological clones of human beings written by human authors in the same way in which they'd write human characters, with maybe a few tweaks to their mentality. But the adjective "human" won't be applied to them, and it won't be acknowledged that the fact that they and humans can relate to each other is a consequence of them being basically human, nor will it be acknowledged that it's possible for any comparably "advanced" species to have minds that are radically different from ours, typically.

And then the author and the audience can pat themselves on the back and feel good about how humanity has progressed to the point where we're theoretically capable of extending tolerance and friendship beyond our own species. Whereas our reaction to any truly alien mind -- including pretty much any intelligent extraterrestrial we might meet -- is almost certainly going to be more along the lines of "GAH WHAT THE HELL IS THAT" at best.

There's an incipient concept of personhood that extends beyond humans and faux nonhumans, but it's still pretty nascent.

(2 & 3) There doesn't appear to be a potential conflict between these two principles that needs to be resolved. Adding them together, we get "Human children deserve special protection that nonhuman creatures do not". That's pretty straightforward and pretty familiar. Humans tend to be a lot more concerned with the welfare of human children than they are with the welfare of nonhumans.

However, that of course brings us to...

(1 & 2 & 3) Um, exactly what non-superficial quality of human infants makes hurting them worse than hurting nonhuman creatures? "Innocence"? What's that supposed to mean?

If it's a lack of moral agency, then we should extend the same consideration to those nonhuman creatures without moral agency... and shouldn't the rest have rights on par with human adults? If it's that they're harmless, well, lots of nonhumans are pretty darned harmless, too, and yet killing them often seems to be fairly acceptable. If it's that they're helpless... well, first off, "innocent" seems like a poor word for that. And that still doesn't really seem to be the standard at work.

So, if not innocence, is there some other pertinent non-superficial quality? How about the potential to develop into a far more advanced being if given the proper care? That seems pretty significant!

Well, you see, the thing about that is that if there are ways for other creatures to be developed into equally advanced beings, like by hooking them up to crazy cyborg implants or casting the awaken spell on them or whatever, then they have that potential, too. And even if the means aren't available yet, even if they won't be available any time in the foreseeable future... maybe just theoretical potential is enough? If a human baby were in some unalterable way prevented from developing, how much less than a normal baby's would its life be worth? (That is not just a rhetorical question, this seems like it might be a legitimate consideration.)

Could it be that human beings have souls and other animals don't? Um, in theory. It might also be the case that other animals have souls and humans don't! I don't see a lot of support for either theory. And just what is a "soul", anyway? What, if anything, about it gives someone moral rights?

And that's just to do with real life, of course. In D&D, animals have souls. Like, as in, they can totally come back as ghosts?

All things considered, it's really hard to see how standard human human attitudes towards other species could be part of any Good philosophy. Someone might be Good-aligned despite such attitudes, if Good isn't necessarily incompatible with, um... condoning unprovoked violence. This would certainly seem to require fairly narrow or pretty weird standards as to what qualifies as Evil!

Regardless, this sort of thing is compatible with Neutrality. And, yes, this includes hunting intelligent prey. Some special considerations may come into play when dealing with members of your own society, but that's something else again. Gygax once wrote "Druids serve only themselves and nature, they occasionally make human sacrifice, but on the other hand they aid the folk in agriculture and animal husbandry. Druids are, therefore, neutral — although slightly predisposed towards evil actions." Update thy understanding of the alignment system accordingly! :smallsmile:

Let's take the look at the way that humans tend to actually categorize and relate to sentient beings in real life and see how it can be applied to D&D:

A) Humans of my own tribe, community, society, ethnicity, nationality, and/or religion, ESPECIALLY MY FAMILY: "No teamkilling."
B) Unfamiliar humans who are different from me: "I don't trust 'em."
C) Allied species (cats, dogs, elves, dwarves, etc.): "Great guys; usually nicer than humans, though some of them can be really nasty."
D) Competing predators (wolves, bears, goblinoids, orcs, etc.): "When these monsters live near us, it tends to be problematic, to say the least. Sadly, wiping out the local population isn't always a feasible option."
E) Prey species: "Delicious and nutritious!"
F) Creatures of burden (horses, oxen, slaves): "It's certainly convenient to have them working for us."
G) Superior beings (deities, dragons, heroes in the classical sense): "Awe-inspiring. Such power! Such knowledge of a greater world I'll never know! They demand love, hatred, or fear; for how else can one react to someone so terribly grand?"

hamishspence
2012-06-30, 04:27 PM
How is "It's not Good to help others unless it costs you something" not hella dumb?
It's a common feature of certain philosophies. That might be where they got the idea from. Novelists like Rand stressed that these were bad philosophies, admittedly.

PHB emphasises that Neutral people will make personal sacrifices for friends, loved wines- even country- but not for those they don't have a connection to.

Right after "Good people make personal sacrifices to help others".

With the implication that "making personal sacrifices for those you don't have a connection to" is what separates Good from Neutral.


Game designers didn't realize the implications of what they were writing, news at 11! Intent is bunk. (http://catandgirl.com/?p=1317)

Note that the person saying that was refuted halfway through the very next thing she was saying:


"Nothing is in and of itself good or ba-"
"This milk is bad"

So her "intent is bunk" claim might not be valid either. BoVD helpfully points out that in D&D intent does matter- to a degree- though it might not be the be-all and end-all.



What does it mean for something to be Evil, then?

What does it mean for something to be Evil? Possibly- that it involves "unnecessary harm"- that harm doesn't have to involve "inflicting pain for one's own enjoyment'- which is what cruelty basically is.

So "unnecessary personal sacrifices" could in fact qualify as Evil rather than good. The person is, in effect "committing Evil acts against themselves"

Devils_Advocate
2012-07-01, 10:17 AM
It's a common feature of certain philosophies. That might be where they got the idea from. Novelists like Rand stressed that these were bad philosophies, admittedly.
Lots of philosophy is just basically ridiculous.

In one discussion, someone said to me "I think you're being a bit unfair to Kant. He wasn't saying that we shouldn't vacation on a small island because it would be overcrowded if everyone in the world went there." And of course Kant didn't actually say that, but many of his arguments take precisely that form! The sort of "universalizing" he engages in recommends against itself, because consistently using it to decide what to do is quite plainly a horrible idea!

The funny thing is, there are two ways to interpret "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law". In one, "acting according to a maxim" means using a maxim as the basis for one's decisions. In this case, the categorical imperative is a form of rule consequentialism recommended by the Golden Rule and superrationality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superrationality).

The other interpretation is to take "acting according to a maxim" to mean just doing what a maxim says. Which I guess is the more literal interpretation of the phrase. But this renders the categorical imperative completely wacky. For practically any conceivable course of action, one can come up with a rule that recommends that action but would be terrible to universalize. And yet, Kant bases arguments on the wacky version of his own philosophy!

Yet again, I note: People frequently "justify" their positions by appealing to alleged principles that neither they nor anyone sane would consistently use. That Kant does this while condemning it is merely supreme irony. This sort of "compartmentalization" appears to be completely normal.

Rand is another case in point. Once again, the stated core principles of her philosophy can at least be interpreted in a way that makes sense. In practice, um... a significant contingent of her followers seems to think that her personal opinions on everything are all unquestionable products of pure logic, based pretty much entirely on the fact that they were Ayn Rand's opinions. And while my knowledge of her life history is lacking, I'm pretty sure that this state of affairs developed while Rand was alive and that she at the very least didn't discourage this.

A personality cult that uncritically holds a single "individualist" philosopher up as Reason's One True Prophet? Sure, why not? Once you understand how this stuff works, the only extraordinary thing about it is how profoundly ordinary it is.

Look at this forum. There is an outright ban on discussing religion and politics because of... how those discussions tend to go. And the apparent reason that those discussions go that way is that people, as a rule, are pretty nearly incapable of thinking about these things rationally. As you may have gathered, I think that I'm better than most in this area... but then, most everyone seems to think that. And significantly above par is probably still fairly poor here anyway. Humans SUCK at ideology!

With the implication that "making personal sacrifices for those you don't have a connection to" is what separates Good from Neutral.
But Good what and Neutral what? Is it what separates Good acts from Neutral acts, as you seem to be endorsing, or is it what separates Good creatures from Neutral creatures?

It's not unreasonable to say that being Good means being sufficiently dedicated to helping others to be willing to make personal sacrifices in order to do so. And such willingness will generally be revealed, at some point, through personal sacrifices made for others. But being eager to make sacrifices, as an end in itself, is not eagerness to help others. Being eager to make sacrifices for others does sort of combine the two, but, well...

Consider, theoretically, a case where someone has the option to either help others a lot by making a little sacrifice, or else to help others a little by making a big sacrifice. If one takes the position that Good is proportionate purely to sacrifice, then the second option is more Good. Now, first off, that's just silly. But secondly, if your highest personal goal is to be as Good as possible, and you can help more by being less Good... then doesn't that paradoxically turn the less Good option into the bigger sacrifice?

Maybe I'm missing something, but this looks like a case where was more than one possible interpretations of a statement, and you went with a crazy and self-defeating one.

Because humans suck at ideology! :smalltongue:

One could associate with each alignment a "sliding scale" of

6. Has no goals other than acting in accordance with this alignment
5. Prioritizes acting in accordance with this alignment over all other goals
4. Will sometimes sacrifice other goals in order to act in accordance with this alignment and will always act in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
3. Will not sacrifice other goals in order to act in accordance with this alignment, but will always act in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
2. Will sometimes sacrifice other goals in order to act in accordance with this alignment, but still will only sometimes act in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
1. Will sometimes act in accordance with this alignment, but only when it does not interfere with other goals
-1. Will sometimes avoid acting in accordance with this alignment, but only when it does not interfere with other goals
-2. Will sometimes sacrifice other goals in order to avoid acting in accordance with this alignment, but still will only sometimes avoid acting in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
-3. Will not sacrifice other goals in order to avoid acting in accordance with this alignment, but will always avoid acting in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
-4. Will sometimes sacrifice other goals in order to avoid acting in accordance with this alignment and will always avoid acting in accordance with this alignment when it does not interfere with other goals
-5. Prioritizes avoiding acting in accordance with this alignment over all other goals
-6. Has no goals other than avoiding acting in accordance with this alignment

This is far from a perfect ordering, however. A normal Book of Exalted Deeds type being might be described as Good 4 Evil -5, while a really pure one is Good 3 Evil -5, because its only goal other than doing Good is avoiding doing Evil, and it's unwilling to sacrifice that primary goal! But clearly having interests other than doing Good and avoiding doing Evil doesn't make the former being more Good. See, this sort of thing is the problem with directly using sacrifice as a metric!

2 and 1 are compatible with -2 and -1. (I think. Given that I'm having trouble working with these statements and I'm the one who wrote this stuff, the language could probably stand to be simplified a little.) These seem like a fairly Neutral zone.

The most hardcore True Neutral would be Good -4 Evil -4 Lawful -4 Chaotic -4.


Note that the person saying that was refuted halfway through the very next thing she was saying:

So her "intent is bunk" claim might not be valid either. BoVD helpfully points out that in D&D intent does matter- to a degree- though it might not be the be-all and end-all.
Oh, intent definitely matters with respect to alignment! I certainly didn't mean to imply otherwise. My point here was just that artistic / authorial intent isn't embedded in what someone produces, but remains embedded in the creator. You know, Death of the Author and all that? In particular: Someone can say something that he didn't mean to say. A message being unintended doesn't make it nonexistent!

My other point was that authorial intent, taken as a whole, may be inconsistent, in which case it can't always be used to resolve an issue, because sometimes it makes contradictory recommendations. In some cases, this may be because normal human values are inconsistent.


What does it mean for something to be Evil? Possibly- that it involves "unnecessary harm"- that harm doesn't have to involve "inflicting pain for one's own enjoyment'- which is what cruelty basically is.
Um, you could have used better grammar here. At first I thought that you'd changed your mind and agreed with me, but now it looks like maybe you didn't. Did you mean "Possibly, that it involves 'unnecessary harm' (that harm doesn't have to involve 'inflicting pain for one's own enjoyment'), which is what cruelty basically is" or did you mean "Possibly, that it involves 'unnecessary harm'; that harm doesn't have to involve 'inflicting pain for one's own enjoyment', which is what cruelty basically is"?

If you meant the former, then I am glad that we are in agreement. If you mean the latter, then no, a better term for that would be "sadism", and that is not what I meant by "cruelty".

It would probably be good to develop a more specific definition, but what I mean by "cruel" is something along the lines of (and the following are all dictionary definitions) "disposed to inflict pain or suffering", "causing or inflicting pain without pity", or "willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others".

Admittedly, "cruel" is also used as a synonym for "sadistic". But then again, one could look at which creatures are and aren't said to be Evil-aligned and say that Evil alignment goes beyond mere ruthlessness and necessarily includes hurting others for pleasure or as an end in itself. (Those are not precisely the same motivation and this is an important point, but for most purposes the these two motivations are very close to being the same).

Similarly, one might ask whether being "honorable" means being honest, behaving in a fashion that your society deems worthy of respect, or both. Which is a good question. And one could ask the very same question about being "Lawful". (In my opinion: Dishonesty and honesty should be considered to relate to Chaos and Law in the same way that violence and peacefulness relate to Evil and Good. At the very least, lying shouldn't be more consistently aligned than killing! That's just weird.)

I suggested the words that I did as synonyms for the alignment terms because they appear to have at least very nearly the same meanings, including being vague in the same way. I did not select these words haphazardly!

The words that the rules use for the alignments clearly indicate that they are not entirely new concepts, independently invented by the designers of Dungeons & Dragons. The problem is that each of the official alignment terms represents one of those broad concepts that is actually a conflation of several overlapping properties. This raises the question of what we're going to have each of the alignments actually be. The descriptions of the alignments are tools to help us answer that question. In reading those descriptions, I find that each alignment is clarified to be, at least, a conflation of fewer overlapping properties than the name for the alignment indicates. They're still existing concepts, but narrower than their names suggest. There are better, less vague words for these concepts.

I think that "Kind", "Cruel", "Honorable" and "Defiant" are at least better words for the alignments as they're described than the names they're given in the rulebooks. I remain quite open to the possibility that other words might be yet better, however! For while I did not select these words haphazardly, I also did not go through every word in the English language in order to find the best match for each alignment.

Hopefully this clarifies my meaning.

Also: Note that nothing is necessary, in the strictest sense of the word, unless it is literally impossible to avoid it.


So "unnecessary personal sacrifices" could in fact qualify as Evil rather than good. The person is, in effect "committing Evil acts against themselves"
Well, this gets into questions like "What is 'harm'?", "Is 'harm' really even the appropriate word here?", "Is it possible to antagonize oneself?", etc.

(Completely tangentially: I wish that people would use "themself" in cases like these. That's what I find intuitive and it's analogous to how English-speakers now say "yourself" for the singular "you", even though we still say "you are" instead of "you is". Buuuuuut if reflexive pronoun grammar weren't already inconsistent I'd be talking about the merits of "theirself" over "theirselves", so OH WELL, I GUESS. :smalltongue:)