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TerraNova
2007-04-24, 01:21 AM
With the unfortunate alignment System of D&D. i wanted to receive some input on how evil you see anyone who has that alignment written down.

Me first ;)

It seems to me to be a pretty common notion on this board that anyone evil may be freely murdered, tortured or spit-roasted with beer and prezels, all while increasing the goodness of the participants. I disagree. Any race without clearly stated alignment tendencies should pretty evenly distribute along the good-evil-chaos axis IMHO.

So is about every third person your characters run across worthy of whatever horror you can conjure up? No. Evil starts with petty, selfish and inconsiderate jerks. These people wouldn't kill someone they disagree with any more then your random "kindly shopkeeper" would die trying to sacrifice an unrelated able-bodied person from a fire. Still, in the grand total of things, they come out on the lower-planes side of things.

If you on the other hand require truely vile behaviour to qualify as evil (as quite a few posters have stated), and only become evil after a few episodes of murder and rape, then i ask myself what saintly deeds the half of the average PCs have done before the campaign starts to qualify as good, instead of all being some mushy neutral.

Koga
2007-04-24, 01:26 AM
The best kindof evil is the one that makes players keep you around cause you lift thier spirits. It's bitter-sweet!

For example The Koga's last character brutaly killed this young man who tried to turn The Koga in for a past crime. Then just to send a firm messaged he cooked him up and ate him.

Then out of game The Koga licked his fingers and puton a thick country accent. "AINT TALKIN' NOW ARE YA BOY?!"

melchizedek
2007-04-24, 01:35 AM
I agree with Terra. It seems to me that the alignments, evil and lawful in particular, aren't very well named. Lawful can be a lot more than just a firm belief in the law itself, and evil should include anyone more interested in getting his way than in helping others. The alignment sytem is far too often a distraction from good roleplaying.

Duskwither
2007-04-24, 01:35 AM
Usually in my games, Good and Evil are cosmically defined enough that merely being evil is a crime against existence and warrants smiting. This works out for my group because everyone (save maybe one) is talented enough to look beyond the "kill it 'cause it's evil" shindig. Generally, they look for why someone/thing is evil, take a gander at potential for redemption (or Helm of Opposite Alignment :smallbiggrin: ), then smite.

For someone to 'qualify' as being evil in my campaigns (odd way to say it) their intent would have to be consistantly dark, murderous, vile, etc... Actions play a part in it all too, but I go off of intent to begin with, as that's the most important IMHO. The Paladin doesn't deserve to be skipped down to LN for failing to save a child from a burning building (assuming he failed because of outside circumstances anyhow), nor is it fair for the CE arcanist to inadvertently save said burning building from destruction with an enlarged Cone of Cold and be knocked to CN.

BoVD-esque evil isn't required to be labled as evil in my games, but willingness to murder and the like to advance yourself or for the sheer joy of it should do the trick.

Rob Knotts
2007-04-24, 01:44 AM
I've always found many player-interpretations of good and evil alignments intersting. Generally, they assert that evil characters can kill anybody they want, and good characters can kill any time they can justify it. In games I've run I didn''t reward evil players for routinely threatening, attacking, or otherwise committing offenses against thier comrades in the group; evil can warp friendship, but it doesn't eliminate it. At the same time I didn't reward good characters that wantonly killed intelligent foes because they were convinced they could justify it later; that sort of cynicism undermines any claim that the actions were in line with a good alignment.

When it comes to evil NPCs and monsters, I've always operated from broad pemises: for monsters, evil is about unrestrained destruction, for NPCs, evil is all about unrestrained, amoral power. Those are generalizations that can apply differenty to each monster or NPC depending on thier nature and the situation, but those premises are usually a practical place to start in defining what evils the PCs have to deal with.

Stephen_E
2007-04-24, 01:50 AM
For me Evil alignment covers the whole gamut from Koga's PC to the greedy mean spirited merchant. But then I don't see been of evil alignment as a crime worthy of a death sentance. I don't even see it as a crime!

I am currently playing a NE Hafling Druid. He is the only party member whose rations are increasing, but that's simply because he's practical. We kill something, he turns it into rations if we have time, or freah dinner if not. He's no canniabal. He doesn't eat Halflings or Wolves (his Animal Companion is a Dire Wolve he considers his blood brother) but Orcs, Humans ecetre are fair game, and if a party member dies, well reincarnation only requires a small part of the body, the rest can be turned into rations. In some ways he's amoral rather than immoral. While his sense of humour will cause him to do immoral acts for amusement, he won't do evil things for fun if they involve any great effort on his part. Of course he'll happily do any evil or good deed if there is profit in it for him, or if he's settling a debt (there's a certain NPC who cheated him, who's for the cook pot unless he's crucial to the GMs campaign plot). He's the party's Pointman (best spot), Tracker (DWolf companion), Healer, Buffer and secondary frontline fighter (Dire Wolf Companion), so they give him some leeway even if the other PCs get a bit queasy around him.

Stephen

Lyinginbedmon
2007-04-24, 01:54 AM
In my games, the 'evil' level is more a maturity level of 3 stages:

#1 - Typical evil guy :nale:
#2 - Cliche evil guy :xykon:
#3 - DEAR GODS LET ME DIE NOW!! kinda evil

Most of BBEGs fall into the first or third group, we've had a couple from the second, but the most enduring are the thirds

Dhavaer
2007-04-24, 01:59 AM
I actually disallowed the 'allignment allegiances', because it didn't make sense that you could devote yourself to 'good' or 'chaos'. You could devote yourself to 'humanism' or 'anarchy' but just 'law' doesn't work.

When using the allignment system, I generally have either a very wide view of good and evil (i.e. Pleasant McMakenice and Crabby O'Grouchypants are good and evil respectively) or a very narrow one (Crabby isn't evil, but Lord Toastytot, God of setting babies on fire out of spite, is).

Ulzgoroth
2007-04-24, 02:04 AM
I like something I lifted from Caledonian's sig, for simplicity and focus:

Good: Will act to prevent harm to others even at personal cost.
Evil: Will seek personal benefit even if it causes harm to others.

If either of these represents your general behavior, alignment is clear. If neither, probably neutral. If both...I dunno how you do that, but probably neutral.

Out here IRL, and thus in a realistic or mildly cynical game, I'd expect a sizable portion of commoners to be evil. They don't have to be criminal, to enjoy doing evil, or even not genuinely regret harming others...but when the chips are down they look out for number one (and maybe numbers two through N, for small N) regardless of who else gets hurt.

Note that there's absolutely nothing in the 'good' description about killing people. Killing might be good if and only if it constitutes preventing harm to others at personal risk or cost. Preventing harm to the person you killed too would have been even better...

TerraNova
2007-04-24, 04:25 AM
Hmm, while cartoonish, over the top evil (canibalistic servants of Demogorgon and the like) certainly has its place in D&D, maybe my White Wolf years do show. I think even most evil creatures have limits of what they are willing to do for power (or whatever drives them), these limits just happen to be out of the bounds acceptable to other alignments

The argument of an evil alignment itself being a crime worthy of death appears pretty weak to me, since there is no indication whatsoever why it is so.

Ulzgoroth has pretty much mirrored my own views on the subject. I don't see Alignments as "Slay-Gauges", or even as straightjackets. The Paladin may have a bad day, slap the renitent guardsmen who cites some obscure regulation, and still solidly remain both a Paladin and Lawful Good. Similarly, the Neutral Evil visir (is there any other kind? :smallwink: ) may genuinely love his daughter (in anentirely uncreepy way), and be extremely distraught when she comes to harm over his actions - but realize too late that he choose himself when he was forced to choose between his own wellbeing and hers.

Tengu
2007-04-24, 04:33 AM
Evil does not mind actively harming others to accomplish its goal. Possessing an alignment other than neutral also requires you to have committed actions with the intent of helping/harming others, not only having a certain personality. I'd consider school bullies and greedy merchants neutral, maybe with evil tendencies.

Not that I use alignment in my non-DND game anyway.

TerraNova
2007-04-24, 04:41 AM
Hmm, Tengu, given your argument it would be impossible to be evil when constantly supervised and gently corrected once you put a step on the path - no matter how much you try and how vile your imagination.

I would chalk it up as personality first, actions second - but they do play into things as well.

Tengu
2007-04-24, 05:04 AM
What you intend to do is what matters, not what you do. If you wanted to kill a grandma, but turned out saving her from a heart attack instead, you're still evil.

Saph
2007-04-24, 05:34 AM
It seems to me to be a pretty common notion on this board that anyone evil may be freely murdered, tortured or spit-roasted with beer and prezels, all while increasing the goodness of the participants.

What on earth are you talking about? I don't think there's a single person here who believes that. If anything, people go to the opposite extreme - haven't you seen the number of people who play evil campaigns? For heaven's sake. If you want to say something about alignment, just say it. You don't need to come up with an over-the-top straw man to try and make your own opinions look better by comparison.


So is about every third person your characters run across worthy of whatever horror you can conjure up? No. Evil starts with petty, selfish and inconsiderate jerks. These people wouldn't kill someone they disagree with any more then your random "kindly shopkeeper" would die trying to sacrifice an unrelated able-bodied person from a fire. Still, in the grand total of things, they come out on the lower-planes side of things.

Yes, that describes it pretty well. Which is why you're not supposed to go around randomly killing everyone who detects as evil - there's a wide scale between 'selfish evil' and 'demon/devil evil'. But no-one's advocating the 'SLAUGHTER THEM ALL!' approach in the first place!

- Saph

TerraNova
2007-04-24, 06:15 AM
What on earth are you talking about? I don't think there's a single person here who believes that. If anything, people go to the opposite extreme - haven't you seen the number of people who play evil campaigns? For heaven's sake. If you want to say something about alignment, just say it. You don't need to come up with an over-the-top straw man to try and make your own opinions look better by comparison.


Several posters in the Greyguard thread held notions which i summed up in this way. If you disagree with this "Evil = Fair Game" mentality, great. I don't agree to it either. If you agree with it, please state your reasoning. Accusing me of manipulating the discussion strikes me as a bit unfair, though.

That being said, i have come under the impression that many evil campaigns are the aforementioned Canibalistic Thralls of Demogorgon, which may be cathartic, and fun once in a while - but it'll usually remain cartoonish. Maybe it is because many players (me included) tend to play paragons of their respective philosophy, but going to such extremes softens the blows quite a bit.

Possibly, this extreme portrayal is because extremes are more easily discarded as unrealistic and hence less disturbing than more "close to home" situations. Compare the situation with comic books. Superman may save the world twice a day (at least, in some silver age publications), but it means very little - you are much more involved if Spiderman struggles, but ultimately fails to save people dear to him.

Please, forgive my short tangent into comics, and don't turn this into a comic book flamewar, i merely wished to illustrate :smallsmile:

Saph
2007-04-24, 07:51 AM
Several posters in the Greyguard thread held notions which i summed up in this way. If you disagree with this "Evil = Fair Game" mentality, great. I don't agree to it either. If you agree with it, please state your reasoning. Accusing me of manipulating the discussion strikes me as a bit unfair, though.

The Grey Guard thread was started by someone who specifically hated the Grey Guard idea. I got bored with the thread and stopped reading around page 10, but as I remember, most of the posters disliked the idea of a torturing paladin, too. Only a handful of people favoured it. So I really don't know how you got from there to "It seems to me to be a pretty common notion on this board that anyone evil may be freely murdered, tortured . . . all while increasing the goodness of the participants". You might not be trying to manipulate the discussion, but that's still a huge exaggeration. If you check out the paladin threads, you'll find that most of the posters here very strongly disagree with the 'Good = Mass Murder' approach.

Like I said, it's fine if you want to discuss what does and doesn't count as evil, but try to avoid making these kind of blanket statements.

- Saph

The Gilded Duke
2007-04-24, 08:37 AM
I've only ever had two truly evil npcs in my campaign. The rest of the villians are usually only amoral or ambitious.

A Paladin/Blackguard of the Silver Flame who began to beleive in his own version of the Silver Flame heresies. He thought that the greater devine could be accessed not only through self sacrifice... but any sacrifice. The sacrifice of beings closer to the greater devine (newer races) made a more potent connection. He would collect changelings and try and sacrifice them to hear the voice of god... he heard a voice at least.

The Broken One, one of the civilians that was injured when the glass tower fell in sharn. He beleived (partially correct) that the glass tower, and many of the problems in his district were caused by Delkyr extra-planer meddling. One of the meddling was an extreme rate of birth of Delkyr Half Broods. Most of the Delkyr Half Broods were kept at a local orphanage. He saught to use the glass shards that were everywhere to kill the extraplanar invadors. He shoved glass shards into his hands, giving himself claws. He would hide in the shadows and try and lure the children away, before rending them apart.

He was protecting his world.

To actually be considered good... really good, I think is equally as hard, and equally rare. I have two consistantly good npcs, and two good players (although one is easily confused).

Of NPC's... The Gilded Duke and Father Justin. Father Justin is a chaotic good cleric of the lawful good church of the silver flame. He recognizes the corruption in his church, but instead of trying to crusade against it, he figures out what channels and alternate methods work to get people as much help as they need. His chapel.. a few restored rooms in a ruined cathedral spends more money on soup then candlesticks.

The Gilded Duke is a chaotic good Medusa vigilante. He doesn't fight against lesser criminals, but instead murderers and slavers in the Sharn Underworld. Before he takes off his mask, he warns them to flee or surrender. He is also a low level cleric of Freedom.

Of Pcs there is Clea, a fighter who grew up in the poor parts of Sharn, she beleives that for the poor, theft is justified, and that the rich commit as much or more injustice then the criminal poor do. She became a Cleric of the Silver Flame after working to destroy the Blackguard earlier mentioned.

Hotpie is a goblin barbarian chef that really wants to help people. He doesn't always know the best way to do it, but he tries. At one point he was eating a rich meal in front of a group of beggers. When he finally noticed that they were resentful and hungry, he gave it all to them, and then baught them more. In talking to the beggers he convinced a few lifelong racists that goblins weren't that bad.

Caledonian
2007-04-24, 08:58 AM
It's worth noting that in the D&D alignment system, 'Good' and 'Evil' are far more specific and limited than 'Law' and 'Chaos'.

Jade_Tarem
2007-04-24, 09:04 AM
Hmm, Tengu, given your argument it would be impossible to be evil when constantly supervised and gently corrected once you put a step on the path - no matter how much you try and how vile your imagination.

I would chalk it up as personality first, actions second - but they do play into things as well.

Well, by the default mechanics, it really is impossible to be evil by thinking bad thoughts. The thing is, and as Saph said, so very few people on these boards keep the basic alignment system exactly as it is. Some scrap it entirely and don't bother replacing it - and that's fine because the alignment system is superfluous in the face of a DM who can make good value and personality judgments. Most others use another system or modify the existing one.

The problem with the alignment system - with any alignment system - is that good, evil, law, chaos, and all things in between are vaguely-defined human constructs, many of which stem from religion and a societal consensus on what's good and bad. The catch occurs when you have two people who disagree on a point of conduct - or where someone really is "evil" in that they aren't scanning right and wrong correctly or think that they're above such things - like Belkar, they're out to serve the greater them.

As to the Grey Guard thing... I think if you search for the thread and read it through again, that most people in support of the class were not advocating a trigger-happy, torture-prone, I-can-get-away-with-this-because-he's-evil paladin. Generally all cases brought up of where it might - might - have been necessary to use something so extreme were serious cost-benefit analysis problems such as "would you beat up a helpless evil guy to get the information that might save the world" questions. And even then, the majority of the people still didn't like that idea and were firmly against the Grey Guard in general - advocating simply a grittier paladin, if you like that sort of game.

The alignment system can work for you if you make it, though. I use it for NPC's as a general idea of how they're supposed to respond, roleplay-wise, to situations. I don't let it cloister an NPC into a certain set of responses - if the plot dictates that Commander Maranis has started making personal sacrifices to help others, then her alignment changes from LN to LG over time - but that's just a marker, a reminder - not a trap. You can do the same thing for PC's or not, as you choose.

Rrr... I had more to say, but I have to go. Hope this helps.

-Jade

Diggorian
2007-04-24, 11:22 AM
Evil covers a continuum of character from the greedy farmer who lies on his competitors to corner the apple market to fiendish lords that value only the lives of those that directly benefit him and works to enslave all life to maximize their power.

A vague line is crossed between being self-interested (neutral) and harmfully selfish (evil). This line is judged much the way we might determine the difference between pornography and art, you kinda of know it when ya see it.

Degree of Evil is judged by the ratio between personal hurt and amount of harmful reaction. A slow barmaid [low hurt] gets no tip [low harm]: mean, but forgivable. An underling disagrees with you, [some hurt] you kill the underling [high harm]: evil. Gnomes are silly little clods [annoyance]; you kill all gnomes elder to baby, destroy their homelands, murder any that harbor them, destroy things or texts made by or mentioning them, and cut the tongue out of any who speak of them [genocidal harm]: paragon evil.

Some do think it's fine do to whatever they whim to evil folk as acts of goodness, but they're wrong -- and I wouldnt judge them to be common at least on these forums. Folks like this forget that goodness respects life, even evil. Still, causing discomfort to an evil one to save many innocents can serve good, although distasteful to the heroes. An inverse to the above evil ratio where personal hurt is compared to help given.

Lord Tataraus
2007-04-24, 11:26 AM
Ah yes, the good 'ol alignment question. Personally, I don't use the alignment system. I say screw it and move on. If anything effects certain aligments of the players or an NPC, I look at their most recent act and say the spell sees you as "evil" and takes effect. And neither I nor the players play paladins (except for a Grey Guard)

Morrandir
2007-04-24, 11:47 AM
Good: Puts others above self
Evil: Puts self above others
Lawful: Will only act if it is justified
Chaotic: Will act because he feels like it

Lyinginbedmon
2007-04-24, 12:05 PM
Evil in my games is more subjective than a definite. A person can slaughter an entire village, be the village good or evil, and might not come out either.

For example, let's take one of a trio of BBEGs presently ruining my PC's lives, Alabaster Bronislav. He's a high-level Monk/Ex-Paladin-gone-Blackguard/Wizard/Archmage. His main trait is his manipulation of undead for grand schemes, such as the subversion of a group of country leaders to take over as Lord and master, and creating his own religion to produce loyal followers that spread like a plague. Seems pretty evil, no?

Well, his behaviour is evil, his motives are something else. See, Alabaster isn't trying to take over the world for any big scheme, he's not after the power, the wealth, the fame, or anything. He's doing it because he was around before the Great War, which decimated the planet 440 years ago (Lich), and he knows what it was like before, and knows that things have gone downhill since it. The world is nothing like it was before, everything is more basic and more, pardon the pun, medieval. He wants to take over the world because, in his mind, it's the only way he can truly make it better.

So, alignment would rule that his actions make him evil, hence his loss of Paladinhood, but psychology would rule him good if misguided, or possessing of warped logic. A lot of my best villains are driven like this, morals and mentality driving them one way whilst society bids them not to.

Draz74
2007-04-24, 01:40 PM
I actually disallowed the 'allignment allegiances', because it didn't make sense that you could devote yourself to 'good' or 'chaos'. You could devote yourself to 'humanism' or 'anarchy' but just 'law' doesn't work.

When using the allignment system, I generally have either a very wide view of good and evil (i.e. Pleasant McMakenice and Crabby O'Grouchypants are good and evil respectively) or a very narrow one (Crabby isn't evil, but Lord Toastytot, God of setting babies on fire out of spite, is).

Yeah, I think either of these extremes is fine.

The first isn't very realistic, but it's consistent with itself, and it can be fun to imagine a world so black & white. Plus it's interesting sometimes to have moral ambiguity where the players have to deal with the fact that they're not actually justified in killing Crabby, even though he's "evil."

The second is also morally ambiguous, but that's because the vast majority of people you meet (including Pleasant and Crabby) register as "neutral" to your spells. This type of game can also be fun because, when you do actually meet someone "evil," you feel totally justified in crusading against them.

Just don't try to walk the middle ground between these two alignment views ... that's when the alignment system breaks down.

DreamOfTheRood
2007-04-24, 01:56 PM
The evil in my campaign is institutional. The people that control the setting have taken over the city by replacing the old religion with a false one - one that relied on the summoning and control of the devil himself to spread the city with dark, arcane powers. Their goal is to create their own god, and they have streamlined the city into this goal.

They took over the university, allowing only programs whose careers could immediately contribute to the creation of this artificial god. They have enacted new, unjust laws where all criminals are treated equally - imprisonment without trial (and far, far worse.) Their Department of Moral Affairs is mostly just a front to grab anyone off the streets they want.

In order to control a city of increasing hostilities, they enacted a horrible program: in trying to create a force of undead military police under their control, they inadvertently created a large vampire population. These vampires were then corralled into one section of the city and a wall built to keep them trapped - with the living population of that district still inside.

That's not to forget the roving mage-gangs or the chaotic neutral minor god that calls the city her home. The place is a mess and is quite due for a good, old smiting.

I'm running a campaign in this setting through email. If you'd like, I can show you around. DreamOfTheRood@gmail.com

Driderman
2007-04-24, 02:33 PM
Ah yes, the good old evil versus good debate. Always good for a laugh, and on some not-so-polite forums, a flamewar or two :D
Personally, I've always been a big fan of moral ambiguity, where being of evil alignment isn't necessarily smiting-reason in itself. Villains are (almost) always most fun when they're not complete caricatures, although the occasional Chaotic Evil cannibal hafling does have its own charm, of a sort.
Once, me and three friends played an evil party in the Scarred Lands setting. We were three Lawful Evil and a Neutral evil: Me, the dashing privateer and slaver commisioned by the crown of Calastia (Lawful Evil kingdom), the dwarven cleric traitor to his race and cleric of Chardun (Lawful Evil god, main deity of Calastia), the knight in shining armour who was a member of the kings personal order of knights and of course, the cannibalistic halfling.
Now with all of the group being evil, you'd think these guys would be out
killing paladins and sacrificing virgins and whatnot, but our campaign revolved around us being sent to the New World and sorting out a colony of Calastia that had gotten out of hand, rampant dissent and corruption. Of course, the dwarf did smite an unbeliever or two during the story arc, but mainly we worked to root out corruption, establish law and order, repair the infrastructure of the colony and even allied ourself with a knights order of a Neutral Good deity to work together to drive out the Titanspawn (all sorts of nasty evil critters). We even killed an evil-aligned dragon.
Now despite the fact that these fellows probably did a lot of good for the community, there was never any question of their alignment but despite that they were (mostly) likeable fellows. I remember one particular scene where me and the knight had what we were sure was to be our last stand, surrounded by enemies. Both of us would probably have stood a good chance of making it out alive if we'd sacrificed the other, but we were brothers in battle so we had our epic lines of honor and courage and whatnot and marched into the fray, side by side.

*Ahem* I realise I'm ranting... So well, main point: Alignments are only fun when there's also a moral greyzone of sorts where you can start to doubt your actions and the intentions of others despite their good deeds.
Oh yeah, and when those horrible detect alignment spells and special abilities are out of the picture

Caledonian
2007-04-24, 05:29 PM
The problem with the alignment system - with any alignment system - is that good, evil, law, chaos, and all things in between are vaguely-defined human constructs, many of which stem from religion and a societal consensus on what's good and bad.

No. You are not understanding the alignment system.

The concepts are defined quite adequately, well-enough so that it is a simple task to determine which of the alignments best describe any given action.

The important catch is that the system does not define Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos to be right or wrong. Good and bad, in the sense of 'desirable and worthy', are not the same as Good and Evil.


The catch occurs when you have two people who disagree on a point of conduct - or where someone really is "evil" in that they aren't scanning right and wrong correctly

No. D&D Evil is not making incorrect moral choices. It's making moral choices of a particular type, which may or may not be incorrect.

Deme
2007-04-24, 05:45 PM
I'll generally create a character who usually qualifies for multiple alignments to various degrees, depending on where you're drawing the alignment from. I think that's the most important question about the alignment system, the one that's really hard to define.

For example, a lot of my characters recently end up having a 'hot' alignment and a 'cold' alignment, though usually I'll put down the 'hot' alignment...I guess what I mean by that is...well...

I'm defining a 'cold' alignment as where on the aligment axis the character stands on a day-to-day life, filled with their normal sorts of activities. That might mean the neutral commoner who never goes and talks to his neighbors, or even cares about them.

a "hot" alignment is where the character is on a much more "do-or-die" level. Where is the character when the chips are down, really? our "cold neutral" commoner might rush into the burning house of his neighbors to save their children when it comes down to the wire. Or that same "cold neutral" commoner might go, and when he's really desperate, kidnap those same children and hold them for ransom or something. In the latter example, he might be good -- or would he still be neutral? It depends on where you draw your ideas. ((option 3 is, of course, that he'd be indifferent when their house was on fire, and tries to make sure HIS house doesn't catch on fire, or at least that he moves his stuff out. Then he's neutral all the way through.))

Talya
2007-04-24, 06:03 PM
95% of people you will ever meet will be some form of neutral. Probably true neutral. They are selfish, they appreciate "good" and "law," but only insofar as it benefits them. They treat those they care about well, they may willingly inconvenience themselves a tiny bit to help others, but in the end, they aren't heroes. (95% of statistics I also make up on the spot, btw.)

Let's leave the law/chaos axis alone, as people will just get confused.

Good is a narrow thing, being good requires placing the wellbeing of others at least equal to, perhaps higher than, yourself. Including complete strangers. Being good means being altruistic, at sacrifice to yourself. Being Good means having a profound respect for sentient life, and believing in the potential of all to make something good of themselves, being able to turn their course around and achieve redemption no matter how evil. Good is a narrow path (narrower at the lawful end than at the chaotic one, but narrow either way.) No one person is good all the time, alignments represent general tendencies. The average neutral person does good and evil all the time. Even most good people slip up and act in an somewhat evil fashion occasionally, and neutral acts are the most common even for good people. (Eating, is, itself, a neutral act. Neutral acts by their nature don't influence your allignment, unless they are ACTIVELY neutral, attempting to restore a balance. Only good and evil acts demonstrate some appreciable effect on your allignment.)

Evil, now... Evil is a very very wide path. Not all evil characters are psychopathic murderers, megalomaniacal tyrants, or sadistic fiends. The variations in evil are almost infinite. For instance, the anti-hero is at his core evil...they work toward altruistic ends, but are willing to perform terrible acts to get there, believing the end justifies the means. They may show many or most of the attitudes associated with good characters, but they are not good. You may even find yourself rooting for him, admiring him, as he is unfettered by the morality that more noble heroes suffer from and is free to act however he deems most effective, but he is still evil. Similarly, a evil character may be entirely selfless and humble, but dedicated to a goddess of disease or destruction and sacrificing everything to bring about her will.

Evil is almost entirely corrupting. It takes only a small amount of evil in one's attitudes to horribly corrupt a holy hero of the most noble nature. Evil is like a poison. A glass of water is healthy. But just because the glass is 99% water, and 1% arsenic, does not make it good for you. You cannot balance out intentional and unrepentant evil by doing more good. An unrepentant murderer cannot justify their acts and make themselves good by donating everything they have to an orphanage. Good cannot cover over evil, but evil can stain good beyond recognition.

Jade_Tarem
2007-04-24, 06:07 PM
No. You are not understanding the alignment system.

As everything on this thread is an opinion, the truth is that I understand the alignment system quite well and stated what I thought of it, and you disagree. There's a difference between that and being wrong.


The concepts are defined quite adequately

The important catch is that the system does not define Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos to be right or wrong.

So, the concepts are defined adequately, except when they're not?


Good and bad, in the sense of 'desirable and worthy', are not the same as Good and Evil.

Nor are they in real life. What's your point?


No. D&D Evil is not making incorrect moral choices. It's making moral choices of a particular type, which may or may not be incorrect.

I don't even know where to begin, here. If characters exist in an absolute vacuum where they have no ties to any society or faith, then yes, this could be true. However, typically (so all the nitpickers don't have to come on and say "Uh-uh - look at the drow/mindflayers/splatbook race37!") governments are formed for the greater good and people are raised accordingly. Certain values - certain decisions, are made with the idea that there is a right one and a wrong one. Kicking puppies out of raw spite may be the "correct" evil choice, but that makes it correctly evil, and that's bad and wrong in the setting that it's viewed in.

And none of this has to do with my original point, which was simply that the infinite complexity of human mindset and morality is at times difficult to contain within 9 categories.

Edit: Wow, Talya. How do you get up in the morning?

Talya
2007-04-24, 06:13 PM
Edit: Wow, Talya. How do you get up in the morning?

D&D alignment is a system of absolute morality, which works great for a game.

There's no such thing in real life. Besides, I'm comfortable being neutral. ;)

Saph
2007-04-24, 06:22 PM
Edit: Wow, Talya. How do you get up in the morning?

Same way I do, I expect. I agree with her 90%. :)

Nice post, by the way, Talya. I've always thought that's a good way to look at it - most humans are neutral.

- Saph

Ulzgoroth
2007-04-24, 06:31 PM
The 4 alignment features are defined...at least if you take the Caledonian clarification...but don't necessarily carry moral weight. They're there to let you fit any character into one of 9 boxes in order to determine their interaction with alignment-based spells and effects.

A key question, though...how exactly do you know a personal benefit when you see it? Where is the split between harming someone for profit (evil), and doing something because principles demand it (lawful)?


And none of this has to do with my original point, which was simply that the infinite complexity of human mindset and morality is at times difficult to contain within 9 categories.
It's downright impossible to contain the complexity. That isn't really the point. You can project the vastly more complex space of character minds onto the 2-d good/law plane. This doesn't tell you all that much about the various mindsets crammed into each partition of that plane, but it does divide them up.

Caelestion
2007-04-24, 06:37 PM
I consider myself basically a good person. I have various Direct Debits to charities, I occasionally do volunteering and I'm a generally friendly and approachable person. I doubt that I'm Lawful Good, although I know for certain that I am Lawful *g*

Tengu
2007-04-24, 06:41 PM
http://www.cruisegazing.com/RPG_Motivational/slides/alignment2.jpg

By the way, I dislike people who revel in neutrality almost as much as people who revel in evil. While a small dose of egoism is an important part of leading a succesful life, cynism and selfishness are not.

Driderman
2007-04-24, 06:41 PM
95% of people you will ever meet will be some form of neutral. Probably true neutral. They are selfish, they appreciate "good" and "law," but only insofar as it benefits them. They treat those they care about well, they may willingly inconvenience themselves a tiny bit to help others, but in the end, they aren't heroes. (95% of statistics I also make up on the spot, btw.)

Let's leave the law/chaos axis alone, as people will just get confused.

Good is a narrow thing, being good requires placing the wellbeing of others at least equal to, perhaps higher than, yourself. Including complete strangers. Being good means being altruistic, at sacrifice to yourself. Being Good means having a profound respect for sentient life, and believing in the potential of all to make something good of themselves, being able to turn their course around and achieve redemption no matter how evil. Good is a narrow path (narrower at the lawful end than at the chaotic one, but narrow either way.) No one person is good all the time, alignments represent general tendencies. The average neutral person does good and evil all the time. Even most good people slip up and act in an somewhat evil fashion occasionally, and neutral acts are the most common even for good people. (Eating, is, itself, a neutral act. Neutral acts by their nature don't influence your allignment, unless they are ACTIVELY neutral, attempting to restore a balance. Only good and evil acts demonstrate some appreciable effect on your allignment.)

Evil, now... Evil is a very very wide path. Not all evil characters are psychopathic murderers, megalomaniacal tyrants, or sadistic fiends. The variations in evil are almost infinite. For instance, the anti-hero is at his core evil...they work toward altruistic ends, but are willing to perform terrible acts to get there, believing the end justifies the means. They may show many or most of the attitudes associated with good characters, but they are not good. You may even find yourself rooting for him, admiring him, as he is unfettered by the morality that more noble heroes suffer from and is free to act however he deems most effective, but he is still evil. Similarly, a evil character may be entirely selfless and humble, but dedicated to a goddess of disease or destruction and sacrificing everything to bring about her will.

Evil is almost entirely corrupting. It takes only a small amount of evil in one's attitudes to horribly corrupt a holy hero of the most noble nature. Evil is like a poison. A glass of water is healthy. But just because the glass is 99% water, and 1% arsenic, does not make it good for you. You cannot balance out intentional and unrepentant evil by doing more good. An unrepentant murderer cannot justify their acts and make themselves good by donating everything they have to an orphanage. Good cannot cover over evil, but evil can stain good beyond recognition.


I do believe the common expression is 'quoted for truth'

Innis Cabal
2007-04-24, 06:43 PM
When i do evil, i make sure that the PC's hate them. Wanton slaughter and mind games are just the tip of the iceburg.

Talya
2007-04-24, 06:43 PM
I consider myself basically a good person. I have various Direct Debits to charities, I occasionally do volunteering and I'm a generally friendly and approachable person. I doubt that I'm Lawful Good, although I know for certain that I am Lawful *g*

Oh, I have some good tendencies, but I have no delusions about goodness. My priorities are my two kids. No force in heaven or hell would stop me from trying to do what's best for them, regardless of the cost or who got stepped on along the way. But other than that very feral biological imperative (Bears would understand, unless the lasers interfered with his instincts), I probably lean toward the good side of neutral.

As for law vs. chaos, I am probably neutral there, too. I recognize the use of law in building a stable and prosperous society, and certainly appreciate the results, but I feel no compulsion to follow law merely because it's law. I have no personal code of ethics or the like, I just do what seems best in any given situation. I'd say neutral with chaotic tendencies.

Annarrkkii
2007-04-24, 06:43 PM
Amen Talya. Well said. Neutral, in my games, is HUGE. There are bank robbers in jail I'd classify as neutral. Perhaps neutral "with chaotic tendencies." Maybe Chaotic Neutral.

Tengu
2007-04-24, 06:53 PM
In my opinion, "95% of all people are true neutral" is bogus. You do not have to be a murderer to be evil, you do not have to be a saint to be good. What other people call "neutral with X tendencies" is "neutral X" in my book.

Caelestion
2007-04-24, 07:01 PM
Well, on the seventeen-tier system as shown by the Great Wheel, I'm Arcadian: Lawful-Good/Neutral. I doubt that many people would be solidly Concordant (True Neutral).

Ulzgoroth
2007-04-24, 07:02 PM
But what about neutral with both X and Y tendencies, eh?

Also, if you squeeze TN so tightly, NX and XN get squeezed too, and everyone winds up in one of the corner pockets.

Talya
2007-04-24, 07:05 PM
Well, on the seventeen-tier system as shown by the Great Wheel, I'm Arcadian: Lawful-Good/Neutral. I doubt that many people would be solidly Concordant (True Neutral).



My google-fu fails me. What 17 tier great wheel?

Xaros
2007-04-24, 07:17 PM
But what about neutral with both X and Y tendencies, eh?

Also, if you squeeze TN so tightly, NX and XN get squeezed too, and everyone winds up in one of the corner pockets.

I don't know. I've always considered "True Neutral" to be a special case where one is attempting to actively maintain the balance in one's environment. I can see somebody being completely apathetic being neutral on both axes. Maybe an argument could be advanced for an axis measuring intensity or commitment to one's principles? In that case, two people who are of a similar alignment might have very different attachments to their beliefs.

Alternately, one could picture the alignment map as a dartboard. True neutral would be at the bullseye, corresponding with a limited area for neutrality, but as one moved from the center, the "neutral" area would expand, so long as it was paired with a non-neutral alignment. So lawful neutral would encompass a greater area for "neutral" than true neutral - after all, law would be considered more important than either good or evil, allowing for greater variation.

Caelestion
2007-04-24, 07:17 PM
The Great Wheel of the Outer Planes, running from Mount Celestia to the Abyss and back.

The Outlands (Concordant Opposition) isn't squashed. As far as you can tell, with over 100 infinities all packed together, the Outlands is far by the biggest.

Cobra
2007-04-24, 07:38 PM
Too answer the OP:

To be evil you have to be morally reprehensible. That being a definition of the word after all.

Being a jerk, or inconsiderate, or even greedy doesn't make one evil. Thus the population isn't divided into roughly even thirds.

Duke Malagigi
2007-04-24, 07:51 PM
Evil should range from passive aggressive jerks (like Bernard Black from Black Books) to utterly ruthless and vile sociopath (the Zodiac Killer, Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard (http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/weird/doctors/11.html) and Joseph Stalin). Those who register as lightly evil are worthy of a slap in the face, temporary loss of their toys and a three-hour detention. Those who register as vile deserve a swift, deadly and fatal smiting.

Talya
2007-04-24, 08:03 PM
The Great Wheel of the Outer Planes, running from Mount Celestia to the Abyss and back.

The Outlands (Concordant Opposition) isn't squashed. As far as you can tell, with over 100 infinities all packed together, the Outlands is far by the biggest.


Bah. I thought you were referring to some nice online "quiz."

The fact that there are infinite demons does not change that most humans are neutral. Humans represent a small portion of the beings in the multiverse... (as a percentage, ANY species with a finite population represents an infinitessimally small fraction of the population, actually. Demons are infinite!)

Ulzgoroth
2007-04-24, 08:16 PM
I don't know. I've always considered "True Neutral" to be a special case where one is attempting to actively maintain the balance in one's environment. I can see somebody being completely apathetic being neutral on both axes.
While the provided text tends to hit people's expectations and splatter, the PHB clearly states that both the uncommitted and the advocates of balance are found under True Neutral, even if they have obviously different views on the whole thing.

It seems to me that advocating universal balance actually requires a Lawful perspective...anything less than the extremely Lawful wouldn't be thinking in such sweeping terms.

Talya
2007-04-24, 08:20 PM
It seems to me that advocating universal balance actually requires a Lawful perspective...anything less than the extremely Lawful wouldn't be thinking in such sweeping terms.

Very interesting, and hard to counter. I would think that pushing for chaos when law gained the upper hand would be chaotic enough to undo that lawful dedication to the balance. Good and Evil Druids everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief before they wildshape and kick your ass for suggesting that.

Jorkens
2007-04-24, 08:30 PM
*Ahem* I realise I'm ranting... So well, main point: Alignments are only fun when there's also a moral greyzone of sorts where you can start to doubt your actions and the intentions of others despite their good deeds.
Oh yeah, and when those horrible detect alignment spells and special abilities are out of the picture
Half an idea for an alternate version of the good / evil axis that might be less controversial, if not any more useful. It's more of a thought experiment (ie random waffling) than a suggestion, but I'd be interested in what people think.

1) Replace 'good' and 'evil' with 'altruistic' and 'selfish'. This gives you a basic idea of whether a character is likely to go out and battle dragons for the good of the poor villagers or whether they're more likely to use the attacking dragon as cover while they sneak away without paying their bills.
2) If you and your players want to think about morals in more depth, have them rate how much importance they place on certain values relative to their greater goals as defined by their basic 'alignment'. For instance, how much importance do they place on loyalty to friends, sanctity of life, the rule of law, maybe obedience to their religion. So maybe a character is basically out for what they can get and willing to steal from anyone, but doesn't like killing people. Someone else might be working for the greater good and have no intrinsic moral objection to slitting the odd throat if it saves innocent life, but they try to work within the rules if possible. And so on.
3) Religions, rather than interacting with good and evil directly, each have certain lists of things that are 'holy' and 'unholy' to them. So most traditional 'good' religions would consider charity, altruism and valuing the sanctity of life good, along with maybe some other stuff (so a warlike 'good' god might consider soldiers holy) and consider selfish people, the undead and so forth unholy. Religiously based spells and abilities then replace 'good' and 'evil' with 'holy' and 'unholy.'

Talya
2007-04-24, 09:01 PM
Note that in D&D's alignment system, evil deities consider evil, profane (vs. sacred), and unholy (vs. holy) to be desirable qualities.

Caledonian
2007-04-24, 10:08 PM
D&D alignment is a system of absolute morality, which works great for a game.

No, it's a system of absolute alignment. Morality is an entirely different concept.

Caledonian
2007-04-24, 10:13 PM
Being a jerk, or inconsiderate, or even greedy doesn't make one evil. Thus the population isn't divided into roughly even thirds.

Actually, yes it does: it makes you D&D Evil.

And the population IS divided into roughly even thirds on the Good-Evil scale. In real life as well as D&D.

Talya
2007-04-24, 10:28 PM
Actually, yes it does: it makes you D&D Evil.

And the population IS divided into roughly even thirds on the Good-Evil scale. In real life as well as D&D.

Greed is not evil in D&D. Greed is a neutral trait that a good character can easily possess. It's what you do to satisfy the greed that endangers a good alignment.

Being a jerk is not evil. Being inconsiderate is not evil. Heck, half the devout and pious paladins in existence are inconsiderate jerks...

Diggorian
2007-04-24, 11:58 PM
Greed is not evil in D&D. Greed is a neutral trait that a good character can easily possess. It's what you do to satisfy the greed that endangers a good alignment.

Amen. Most published adventure hooks start out with, "the desperate stranger offers you 100gp, plus any items you find on the mission.":smallbiggrin:

Koga
2007-04-25, 12:04 AM
True evil does not let it's presence be known. It exploits the arrogance of lawful good to stay ahead, the gullability of neutral good to have a pawn, the unrealiability of chaotic good to divert attention, and the moral relativsm of the neutrals to.. well just not make a ruckus!

True evil never knows failure.

Only setbacks....

Raum
2007-04-25, 12:45 AM
It seems to me to be a pretty common notion on this board that anyone evil may be freely murdered, tortured or spit-roasted with beer and prezels, all while increasing the goodness of the participants. I disagree. Any race without clearly stated alignment tendencies should pretty evenly distribute along the good-evil-chaos axis IMHO.
<snip>
If you on the other hand require truely vile behaviour to qualify as evil (as quite a few posters have stated), and only become evil after a few episodes of murder and rape, then i ask myself what saintly deeds the half of the average PCs have done before the campaign starts to qualify as good, instead of all being some mushy neutral.Eh, first, vile != evil. Looking through history, or even current events, there are a plethora of examples showing vile actions done by those with good intentions. Even murder isn't a sure sign of evil, there are justifications for killing...even extra-judicial killing (i.e. murder).

Evil can be a subtle, insidious thing you don't recognize until it's too late. It doesn't have to be blatant. In fact the subtle evils are generally harder to avoid or fight than the blatant ones. The worst are those which twist and corrupt things generally considered good into new and harmful patterns.

D&D oversimplifies evil. Worse, it allows some vile acts to be called good. Genocide? All good as long as the race you're slaughtering is "evil"... Or so the arguments go at least.

Just as selflessness is considered good, evil is harming another intentionally even when there isn't any personal gain. Simply harming another for personal gain can be (not always, but can be) simply neutral. If it were a zero sum world, it would probably always be neutral.

Considering the default D&D worlds, most inhabitants should be neutral just as Talya points out. Out of sheer laziness if no other reason.

Duke Malagigi
2007-04-25, 01:06 AM
In my opinion believing that what you are doing is good or is for the greater good does not prevent you or your evil actions from being evil. Just because you believe your self to be good doesn't mean you are good. In fact much of the truly vile evil in this world was committed by people who thought they were doing the right thing. These were people who thought of themselves as good moral people. To me, one of the most common hallmarks of a true villian is self-righteousness, an unwillingness to believe that they can do evil towards others. He or she, refuses contemplate that they could ever be wrong in their belifes about other people and will rationalize causing harm to others with out sound evidence of guilt or danger. This, is what Hubris/Pride means.

TerraNova
2007-04-25, 01:19 AM
I tend to place the "Good" and "Evil" cutoffs much much closer to the center than Talya states. Otherwise, both Good and Evil become so exceedingly rare as to be oddities - and probably any race deserves a "almost always true neutral" entry.

While i follow the argument for little "good" people at least to some extend, however, the "Evil is a wide open road" seems to contradict this. If all it takes is one major character flaw to be booked as evil, you'd probably have to content with 90% of the world being evil. However, if you look at published NPCs, this is simply not the case. If someone is generally a decent person, he's probably LG or NG. If he has a rogueish streak to him, CG. People who don't overly care are some flavor of neutral, and people who mostly look out for number one are generally booked as evil.

TheOOB
2007-04-25, 01:37 AM
I my games an 'evil' person is anyone willing to harm an innocent (that is someone with whom you have no personal relationship that to your knowledge has done nothing wrong) to reach their goals.

That said, you don't have to be extreamly evil to be an evil alignent, heck the hero I played in my last campaign was lawful evil for all intents and purposes. He wanted to save the world just as much as the next guy, he just wasn't above using dubious methods to save said world (the enchantment school is fun).

That said I have used some pretty darn evil villans in my time. Once the PCs had managed to steal a box containing a powerful artifact that the villan was weak agienst (the villan was otherwise near immortal), but the problum was it was locked in a box that the PCs couldn't open. The villan, knowing it was to risky to outright fight the PCs, crafted a potent magical disease that he used to infect the people of any town the PCs stayed at. After thousands of people had died, the PCs acually mad a deal with the villan to give the villan the weapon, so long as the villan stopped killed the people the PCs where around.

Not only did this villan commit mass murder(which is evil), he made the players question their own morality. On the one hand they could take the box into town to see if someone there could open it so they could end the villans reign of terror, but on the other the town would likely be destroyed as a result of their actions. How do you make that choice?

Caledonian
2007-04-25, 05:38 AM
Greed is not evil in D&D. Greed is a neutral trait that a good character can easily possess.

First off: Good characters can still have Evil desires, and even do Evil things on occasion.

Secondly: Greed very easily leads into Evil. There are very, very few actions or desires that are necessarily Evil, just as there are few that are necessarily Good.


Being a jerk is not evil. But it can be Evil.

Driderman
2007-04-25, 06:02 AM
I tend to place the "Good" and "Evil" cutoffs much much closer to the center than Talya states. Otherwise, both Good and Evil become so exceedingly rare as to be oddities - and probably any race deserves a "almost always true neutral" entry.

While i follow the argument for little "good" people at least to some extend, however, the "Evil is a wide open road" seems to contradict this. If all it takes is one major character flaw to be booked as evil, you'd probably have to content with 90% of the world being evil. However, if you look at published NPCs, this is simply not the case. If someone is generally a decent person, he's probably LG or NG. If he has a rogueish streak to him, CG. People who don't overly care are some flavor of neutral, and people who mostly look out for number one are generally booked as evil.

Of course, I'm pretty sure WOTC hadn't planned any sort of alignment demographic statistic when they published all those books...

Talya
2007-04-25, 07:01 AM
D&D oversimplifies evil. Worse, it allows some vile acts to be called good. Genocide? All good as long as the race you're slaughtering is "evil"... Or so the arguments go at least.


Good post, except for this part. BoED and BoVD get into this a fair bit... killing evil just because it's evil is, itself, an evil act. There are reasons to kill that can be considered neutral or good, but alignment of the target isn't one of them.

Most "evil" races are murdering innocents, threatening villages, or generally attack you when you go up to parlay with them, so it renders the question irrelevant, as at that point you're free to slaughter. But if surrender is offered and quarter is asked, you always grant it.

Raum
2007-04-25, 07:52 AM
Good post, except for this part. BoED and BoVD get into this a fair bit... killing evil just because it's evil is, itself, an evil act. There are reasons to kill that can be considered neutral or good, but alignment of the target isn't one of them.Yes, hence the last sentence you quoted, "...so the arguments go...." Genocide was meant as an extreme example. D&D's morality is absolute, you are one of nine alignments, and while your actions may not always match your alignment they may also be categorized into one of the nine. In an absolute system there's not much room for gray...


Most "evil" races are murdering innocents, threatening villages, or generally attack you when you go up to parlay with them, so it renders the question irrelevant, as at that point you're free to slaughter. But if surrender is offered and quarter is asked, you always grant it.First, why is evil being equated to murderous and dishonorable banditry? It can be far more subtle and insidious. But even when it is murderous banditry it shouldn't be a blanket justification for similar reprisal acts. That's exactly the facet of D&D morality I was highlighting with the genocide example of vile acts being considered good.

Caledonian
2007-04-25, 08:00 AM
YD&D's morality is absolute, you are one of nine alignments

No, alignment is absolute. Morality is a totally different concept.

Raum
2007-04-25, 08:09 AM
No, alignment is absolute. Morality is a totally different concept.Within the context of the game rules? I'm not interested in discussing real world ethical or moral issues here. In D&D morality is specifically and finitely defined. There are nine moral codes.

Caledonian
2007-04-25, 08:28 AM
In D&D morality is specifically and finitely defined. There are nine moral codes.

No, alignment is specifically defined. There are nine alignments.

You keep using those words as if they were interchangeable. They're not. Alignment is not equivalent to morality, nor can one term be substituted for the other.

Talya
2007-04-25, 08:36 AM
No, alignment is specifically defined. There are nine alignments.

You keep using those words as if they were interchangeable. They're not. Alignment is not equivalent to morality, nor can one term be substituted for the other.


Morality = the distinction between good and evil, and ethics (Chaos/law axis.) They are the same thing in D&D. In real life, there's no such thing as Alignment, and morality is relative. There is no relative morality in D&D.

Tengu
2007-04-25, 08:46 AM
Actually, you can objectively measure if a deed was good or evil even in real life, no matter what's the cultural background of the subject. It only requires effort, wisdom, and analyzing each case seperately instead of a set number of rules.

Caledonian
2007-04-25, 08:48 AM
Morality = the distinction between good and evil,

No, morality is the socially-acquired distinction between right and wrong.


They are the same thing in D&D. No, they're not.

This accounts for the endless repetition of these threads - people just don't use the D&D terms properly and never bother to correct their errors.

Talya
2007-04-25, 09:14 AM
No, morality is the socially-acquired distinction between right and wrong.

Right and wrong = Good and evil.

In real life, all such distinctions are "socially-acquired." We make them up.

D&D has no such distinctions, "socially-acquired" distinctions are irrelevant, as there is absolute morality...real distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil. Relative-morality doesn't exist. It doesn't matter what you believe is right or wrong, because those things are set in stone whether you believe them or not.

Mellchia
2007-04-25, 09:18 AM
Something to consider about morality (not sure if I'm violating the rules here by posting this...kinda grey):

"Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior." (Taken from d20Srd.org - OGL).

Morality is nothing more than the ability to discern what actions are good or bad. Continually pursuing "bad" choices yields someone to be evil.

Furthermore, certain aspects (Greed, lust, etc.) are just really personality quirks, flaws if you will. Good dragons are greedy. Heck, all dragons are greedy and love shinies. A knight can be virtuous, but be intent on destroying the world.

A more recent example is a game where alignment is not typical, but there is a sense of good/evil. I was running a Star Wars campaign set in the Rebellion Era. A rebel NPC/contact was fighting the Empire because he lost his loved one. In order to defeat the Empire's forces, he managed to get a virus that targets the genetics of storm troopers (from the clones) and was bent on destroying EVERYONE with that gene type.

An Imperial NPC (Darkside user) slaughters his opponents, but believes that unification is necessary, the Republic outdated, and that the Emperor is not mortal. Only after unification has been reached can the galaxy truly achieve its apex of civilization - not under the Republic but under the direction of a single figure with one voice. He shows compassion to friends and is willing to help those same friends. He believes in forgiveness but will kill upon orders or if he views the person to be a dire threat to his notion of what the Emperor is trying to achieve.

Both are evil, because they show no remorse in their actions. In some ways, both believe the end justifies the means. Neither of them are good, because they are consciously taking actions that hurt/kill/maim/destroy the wellbeing of others. But my PC's had to decide which one they are siding with.

Talya
2007-04-25, 09:35 AM
Something to consider about morality (not sure if I'm violating the rules here by posting this...kinda grey):

"Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior." (Taken from d20Srd.org - OGL).

Morality is nothing more than the ability to discern what actions are good or bad. Continually pursuing "bad" choices yields someone to be evil.


Sortof. Animals are not murdering. An animal killing a human for food is no different than a human killing an animal for food. for that matter, without an intelligence of at least 3, you are not sentient. Your alignment can no more be evil than nature itself can be evil for natural distasters. The results are still "evil," but not the force committing the actions. So, yes, you need a sentient intelligence to be good or evil. The rock that crushes your skull is not evil. It's a rock.

Mellchia
2007-04-25, 09:46 AM
Correct, I was in no-way implying that animals are not murdering, but using it as an example that you need morality in order to determine good/evil.

It's like that saying - "Guns don't kill people - I do."

Cheers,

Dervag
2007-04-25, 09:46 AM
Within the context of the game rules? I'm not interested in discussing real world ethical or moral issues here. In D&D morality is specifically and finitely defined. There are nine moral codes.The catch is that the code that you act on can be a combination of those nine absolute codes. You can have some rules that are Lawful Good, some rules that are Lawful Neutral, and some rules that are Neutral Good, all in your personal ethics. Or you can even adhere to one of multiple possible codes that fall within the same alignment.

There are only nine alignments, but there are way more than nine ways for people to think and behave. For example, the ethical theories of Kant and of Confucius are both Lawful Neutral, but they're totally different and they prescribe different courses of action. A Kantian Lawful Neutral will not behave the same as a Confucian Lawful Neutral, but both are still Lawful Neutral if they're anything at all.

Therefore, we can apply the same thing to evil characters. Some Chaotic Evil people will betray flags of truce and massacre prisoners, because they're psychopathic when it comes to the people they're fighting. But others will not, either because they find breaking the laws of war distasteful or because they're afraid that you'll do the same thing to their prisoners.

There are many ways to act that are all consistent with the same alignment. This is especially true of the Evil alignments, because the Evil alignments have a strong dose of "do what thou wilt" built into them.

As I see it, all actions possible in the D&D universe can be placed somewhere on a huge graph that maps the goodness and lawfulness (or lack thereof). Each action is a point on the graph. There are two lines to separate the three categories in each alignment, like the lines on a tic-tac-toe grid. You can be anywhere in the boxes defined by the lines and still have the appropriate alignment, which means that your personal inclinations can wobble very widely without changing your alignment. For example, a paladin who falls because they're too self-righteous to consider the possibility that they are mistaken may still be Lawful Good.

Of course, if you're already close to the boundary of the alignment, then you can plausibly slip over with one or two actions, but that's going to be a rare case.

Knight_Of_Twilight
2007-04-25, 09:51 AM
We had one campaign where we totally revoked the idea that paladin's can't adventure with someone evil. The reason? One of my Paladin's best friends was a NE spellthief.

The spellthief in question was a kind of selfish, and a jerk, and a very "Me and my own" kind of guy. Basically, he was good to himself and his friends, everyone else can go die for all he cared. My Paladin and him fought alongside each other, saved each other's butts, and even had him "steal" one of my Smite Evil chances for the day, so he could really lay some damage on a half-fiend cleric of Hextor we were fighting. All this, while he would come up red on my "detect evil" sonar.

Why? Well, its not like he was a rampaging murder or megalomaniac- he was just a selfish, self-serving gnome. Why would my Paladin detain or worse, kill someone, whose evil acts consisted of being an occasional coward and kind of a jerk? Espicially if that person has only helped him in the past? Sure, my Paladin might have yelled if such actions put the party or other people's lives in danger, but hey, we all did.

I think the OP makes a good point. There are degrees of Good and Evil, just as there are degrees of Order and Chaos. And to add, just being a bad person doesn't mean its ok to kill them. The same Paladin I mentioned befire offered mercy to all opponents he faced, save mindless ones. His reasoning? If angels can go bad, then by proxy, anyone can go good, right?

I will defend the alignment system though, since if applied properly, its just a little extra fleshing out of a character.

(Edit: It did turn out that the Spellthief was doing some not-so-nice things behind the parties' back, but it wouldn't have been fair of my character to know this. )

Green Bean
2007-04-25, 10:08 AM
The tricky part of deciding alignment is that you have to strike a careful balance between the result of an action and the intent of an action. If you judge purely by intent, you get a 'paladin burning down the full orphanage for the greater good' scenario. If you judge purely by the effect an action has, you get a 'the villagers lied to you, the orcs aren't evil, but the whole party is, now' scenario. The arguments arise because everyone draws the line between intent and effect in a slightly different place. Personally, I pick a personality for my characters and play that. If a particular action changes my alignment, then I accept that, but I keep playing the character in the way I believe it should be played.

Amphimir Míriel
2007-04-25, 11:30 AM
I cant help thinking of the questions and arguments that were solved in my gaming group when we switched to an 9x9 (rather than 3x3) alignment matrix (see link in my signature).

Now both player and DM are clear on the nuances of a given character's morality from the start... Alignment changes (when necessary) are also a lot more fluid and less dramatic.

Diggorian
2007-04-25, 12:04 PM
The arguments arise because everyone draws the line between intent and effect in a slightly different place. Personally, I pick a personality for my characters and play that. If a particular action changes my alignment, then I accept that, but I keep playing the character in the way I believe it should be played.

I agree. In my first post (#20) to this thread I say something similar regarding the vague line of alignment cutoff. I play my characters similar to how you describe, but our games uses Allegiances (so instead of Lawful Neutral I value personal excellance, honor, and defense in that order). Allegiance is from D20 Modern, but I think "Priority" would be a better name.

Like Amphimir I'm trying a new Alignment alternative I call Nature (http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=833720), not to be confused with White Wolf's mechanic. Instead of expanding on the existing Alignment categories, which I find a bit overly complex, I aim to abstractly model personality with Vices that tempt a character and Virtues to live up to.

darkzucchini
2007-04-25, 01:34 PM
An animal killing a human for food is no different than a human killing an animal for food. for that matter, without an intelligence of at least 3, you are not sentient. Your alignment can no more be evil than nature itself can be evil for natural distasters. The results are still "evil," but not the force committing the actions.

Well I think you mean rational rather then sentient. Sentient just means that the being can feel or sense anything. Animals that can feel pain, fear, hunger, happiness are all sentient beings but, agreeing with you, they can not be held responsible for their actions like a rational being. This could also carry over somewhat into rational beings. The strong but stupid giant who crushes people to death when try to show his affection through hugs shouldn't be considered evil.


We had one campaign where we totally revoked the idea that paladin's can't adventure with someone evil. The reason? One of my Paladin's best friends was a NE spellthief.

I totally agree with you. In my campaigns, a paladin can work with an evil character so long as it is for a good cause, so long as the paladin is able to keep the evil character from commiting major evil actions, and as long as the paladin continually tries to redeem the evil character.

As for alignments in my games, I like to use the alignment system from Monte Cook's the Book of Hallowed Might. In that system, neutrality is left out of the picture and Good, Evil, Lawful, and Chaotic are each on a 9 point sliding scale, with 1 being the least extreme, actually counting as neutral, (Evil 1 is finding joy in the suffering of some people, but not actually acting to harm people yourself) and 9 being the most extreem ( Evil 9 being haitng life and goodness and doing everything within your power to destroy them). While not perfect, I think that this system does a fairly good job at painting a picture of many shades of gray rather than just of black and white.

Ravyn
2007-04-25, 01:45 PM
The word you both want is sapient.

My evil tends to vary--I'm actually not too good at truly beyond redemption, but I like to think I do creepy pretty well and have near-mastered evil-by-apathy. Strong emphasis on evil-by-intent rather than evil-by-action, particularly since the best evil, in my opinion, is the wolf among sheep approach.

And around me, paladins tend to quietly shuck the "can't associate with evil" either. They just have to be actively trying to bring the misguided souls back to the light.

lin_fusan
2007-04-25, 01:45 PM
D&D alignment is standardized and objective.

But once I tried to apply this to PC behavior that the headaches started coming. 'Cause morality and sometimes ethics are relative. One person's idea of right and wrong ethics and morality are different than another's. 'Cause people aren't standardized and objective.

White Wolf's Storyteller system once had a Humanity trait, which was a lot like alignment. There was a 10-tier trait with examples of the level of Humanity, from killing innocents, killing non-innocents, etc etc. But that caused some arguments (in my experience) too.

I use the D&D alignment system to describe extremes, like archons, demons (tanar'ri for Planescapers), and devils (baatezu), for example. In most other cases I ignore it.

In fact, I encourage my players to pick True Neutral, so that I don't have to argue over whether they are Lawful, Good, Evil, or Chaotic. Because the D&D game uses alignment as a game trait, True Neutral fits well for people who don't want to deal with alignment as a roleplaying trait.

TheOOB
2007-04-25, 07:03 PM
With the way alignment is set up in D&D, a player shouldn't pick their alignment, it should be assigned to them.

Alignment in D&D is static, objective, and universal. Someone who makes sacrifices to help others is good, someone who harms others for person gain is evil. Someone who values the universal and established is lawful, someone who values the spontanious and local is chaotic. A person doesn't choose to be good or be evil, they simply are. You can say your a good guy all you want, but when that holy smite hits you and you take damage, you know that you are not good.

Unless you are a paladin, determining what alignment a specific action is is pointless. Alignment is a measure of what your character usually does. A good person can commit evil acts and still be good, so long as the majority of the time they perform good acts, and likewise an evil person can perform evil acts so long as they generally speaking are evil.

Anyways, it should be noted that Alignment does not equal right and wrong. The concepts of right and wrong are subjective and murky. For example, lets say you are faced with a situation where by killing one innocent you may save 10 other innocents lives. Is killing the innocent right or wrong? It is neither because no action is inheriently right or wrong, right and wrong are opinions. A paladin would probally say it's wrong, because killing an innocent for whatever reason is an unsufferably wrong act. Another person, on the other hand, may say it's the right thing to do as the lives of the many take precedence over the lives of the few. This is definatly a strong moral debate, but the fact is it should be handled with role playing, and not two words written on your character sheet.

Just remember, alignment is almost never up to debate, good and evil is simply a measure of how much you are affected by spells like holy smite and unholy blight, and is not up the discussion. Right and wrong, however, is up to debate, but unless your a paladin or some such non-sense there are no rules or penalties associated with it, so it should be handled with role-play.

Saph
2007-04-25, 07:18 PM
I've never found that the D&D alignment system causes any problems. Now and again I have to shift a player's alignment, but it's never caused any arguments, and quite often the player agrees (he's found he'd rather play that alignment anyway).

You have to remember that alignment is an x- and y- axis, not a series of boxes. Someone can be Neutral Good, mildly Neutral Good, strongly Neutral Good, and anything in between. The D&D system just divides it into nine alignments because it's a lot easier to remember "Neutral Good" than "+1.5 on the Law-Chaos axis, +8.0 on the Evil-Good axis". There are lots of characters who are in the gray area between one alignment and another (maybe between three or even four alignments at once).

In these cases you can make a reasonable argument for the alignment being several different things. I find the easiest way to solve this is just to leave it up to the player. Over time, the character's personality will settle down, and it'll be easier to decide which alignment describes him best.

- Saph

Caledonian
2007-04-26, 08:25 AM
Alignment in D&D is static, Wrong.
objective, Correct.
and universal. Yes.

A person doesn't choose to be good or be evil, they simply are. Wrong.

Rock Roller
2007-04-26, 08:40 AM
What you intend to do is what matters, not what you do. If you wanted to kill a grandma, but turned out saving her from a heart attack instead, you're still evil.

I agree completely: good/evil is about intention.

I'm currently working on writing up a brief little paper for my players and whoever else wants to look at it about my take on the alignments in D&D. When I get it done, it will be posted on my website. The long and short of it is this: the moral (Good/Evil) axis generally informs your motives, while the ethical (law/chaos) usually describes your methods.

Good characters want to help others, even at cost to themselves. Morally Neutral characters generally just want to get by as best they can. Evil characters have to be so devoted to themselves that they will be willing to hurt others directly to get ahead. Lawful suggests that you believe in coercive measures (law, mind control, slavery) to accomplish these ends and value collective action over individual free will. Chaotic means that you refuse to use any such measures to achieve your goals. It also means that lying, manipulating, or otherwise tricking people into making the decisions you want may be fine, so long as you don't rob them of any such choice.

I need to work a little more on the chaos side of things, but I refute the view that chaotic neutral is "evil lite."

Over all, I think there's a bell curve and that most people in a given world would be neutral. They aren't going to help people to the point of self sacrifice, and they aren't going to be willing to actively harm people. They generally want some measure of order, but they want to be able to do as the wish also. They either don't examine their motives and methods that closely, or they simply just want to do whatever they can to get by, and philosophy is a luxury of the well to do. However, the truly rare people in my view are those who believe in neutrality as a philosophical goal.

Rock Roller
2007-04-26, 08:56 AM
I will defend the alignment system though, since if applied properly, its just a little extra fleshing out of a character.


The only problem with that is that it has a mechanical effect in D&D. Holy smite, word of chaos and other spells have varying effect depending on whether or not your character is good, evil, lawful or chaotic. I have trouble a "role-playing aid" that can turn around and bite me if I disagree with the GM on what lawful means. Similarly, it has a mechanical effect for paladins, monks, clerics, druids, bards and barbarians. That's 6 of the 11 core classes that have alignment restrictions, for whom there is a mechanical effect for something that should just flesh out my character.

Iudex Fatarum
2007-04-29, 12:25 AM
I have had some issues with this, I personaly take the idea that evil is truly evil and not just bad, your average mugger might not even be evil. I have had BBEGs that kidnap children and then kill them ransoming body parts back to the parents so that they could eventualy raise her or to bury her. If the parents don't pay he bribed the cook to let him cook dinner so he can serve her body parts to her parents. In the worlds I DM everyone is neutral wiht perhaps a Chaotic or Lawful leaning but normaly neutral. certainly some cities or towns are evil or good but by and large neutral. Good people are those who fight and heal and protect all even evil. If there is no way of taking them in then they might kill someone.

Stephen_E
2007-04-29, 06:52 AM
To those who keep saying that Good intent If the old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

The saying has a strong point. Just because you intended well doesn't stop your actions been evil. Good and Evil are a mixture of Intent, Actions and Response to result. Placing it all on the intent is the lazy, easy option. "I intended well so it doesn't matter that I destroyed a city of innocent people. I thought there was a big bad dude there, so my intent was good so really I was good". It's the "Ends justifies the means" arguement. "I intend good so I can do anything I like and be good".

Stephen

Driderman
2007-04-29, 12:36 PM
To those who keep saying that Good intent If the old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

The saying has a strong point. Just because you intended well doesn't stop your actions been evil. Good and Evil are a mixture of Intent, Actions and Response to result. Placing it all on the intent is the lazy, easy option. "I intended well so it doesn't matter that I destroyed a city of innocent people. I thought there was a big bad dude there, so my intent was good so really I was good". It's the "Ends justifies the means" arguement. "I intend good so I can do anything I like and be good".

Stephen

Too true. I'm sure certain communist and fascist leaders during the 20th century meant well even though their reforms and ideals resulted in the deaths of millions...

Iudex Fatarum
2007-04-29, 02:20 PM
Characers that belive in ends justify means I take as chaotic and if they disagree then lawful. sometimes this doesn't work quite right but still. they way I decide if ends justify means is true then what about the person who is a vilan just so the world will ally against him.

PlatinumJester
2007-04-29, 03:28 PM
The best evil is the type that tricks people into doing things that they think will benefit them but in fact benefit you more such as making them destroy a church of Nerull so they get the reward but also recieve a bounty on their heads so that you can capture them ,take their rewards and then cash in the bounty.

Tengu
2007-04-29, 04:48 PM
To those who keep saying that Good intent If the old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

The saying has a strong point. Just because you intended well doesn't stop your actions been evil. Good and Evil are a mixture of Intent, Actions and Response to result. Placing it all on the intent is the lazy, easy option. "I intended well so it doesn't matter that I destroyed a city of innocent people. I thought there was a big bad dude there, so my intent was good so really I was good". It's the "Ends justifies the means" arguement. "I intend good so I can do anything I like and be good".

Stephen
Except that, in your example, killing the bid bad dude is the intended result of your action. And what matters is what you intend to do, now what will be the intended result of what you do. You intended (and fulfilled the intention) to destroy a city full of innocent people, so your action is evil. If your intention was to kill only the evil guy, and destroyed the city only because, for example, you've pushed the "blow the whole city up" button instead of the "shoot the cannon that's pointing at the BBEG" button by mistake, your action wouldn't make you more evil.

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-29, 04:50 PM
My evil is a horrible and unseen menace. I'll talk to my DM ahead of time to convince him to "hide" my alignment from the other players as to make the big late-game reveal that much more shocking. I'll then meet up with the DM before/after the other players arrive/leave in order to get some solo adventures in where I do most of my dirty work and scheming. At least one DM had to use fiat against me to prevent a TPK when I pretty much made an unsurvivable trap and subsequently overthrew the campaign's villain to seat myself as the BBEG.

Now when I play games with the people that have seen this happen before, they get paranoid every time I'm alone with the DM.

Driderman
2007-04-29, 05:03 PM
My evil is a horrible and unseen menace. I'll talk to my DM ahead of time to convince him to "hide" my alignment from the other players as to make the big late-game reveal that much more shocking. I'll then meet up with the DM before/after the other players arrive/leave in order to get some solo adventures in where I do most of my dirty work and scheming. At least one DM had to use fiat against me to prevent a TPK when I pretty much made an unsurvivable trap and subsequently overthrew the campaign's villain to seat myself as the BBEG.

Now when I play games with the people that have seen this happen before, they get paranoid every time I'm alone with the DM.

Sounds familiar... But of course, I once made a Nosferatu Elder character for Vampire:The Masquerade with Necromancy and Thaumaturgy disciplines in addition to his standard ones and the character concept: Powergamer
:smallbiggrin:

Tengu
2007-04-29, 05:09 PM
My evil is a horrible and unseen menace. I'll talk to my DM ahead of time to convince him to "hide" my alignment from the other players as to make the big late-game reveal that much more shocking. I'll then meet up with the DM before/after the other players arrive/leave in order to get some solo adventures in where I do most of my dirty work and scheming. At least one DM had to use fiat against me to prevent a TPK when I pretty much made an unsurvivable trap and subsequently overthrew the campaign's villain to seat myself as the BBEG.

Now when I play games with the people that have seen this happen before, they get paranoid every time I'm alone with the DM.
Sorry to say this, but I really hate people like that - unless everyone agrees to it before, the players should work together, not against each other. It screws up the fun for everyone bar the evil guy more often than not.

Stephen_E
2007-04-29, 05:43 PM
Except that, in your example, killing the bid bad dude is the intended result of your action. And what matters is what you intend to do, now what will be the intended result of what you do. You intended (and fulfilled the intention) to destroy a city full of innocent people, so your action is evil. If your intention was to kill only the evil guy, and destroyed the city only because, for example, you've pushed the "blow the whole city up" button instead of the "shoot the cannon that's pointing at the BBEG" button by mistake, your action wouldn't make you more evil.

OK. I give you two ways this could happen.

1) You fired off your weapon/spell that would seek out the BBEG wherever he is and suck him and all nearby envioriment into a void of death. Afterall BBEGs are surrounded by evil minions, Yes? Now either you get the BBEG but he's in a city of innocent people and you kill all them as well, or he'd made someone else registrar as him, so you took out the decoy AND a city of innocent people. Either way your intent was good, but you've done evil (well actually I know there are people who'd say if you got the BBEG it was worth the city of innocent people so it's a "Good" action/result, but that's why many people consider the "Good intent", "Greater Good", "Ends justifies the means" approaches lead to evil).

You knew the BBEG was in a city of innocent people (at least you had waht you thought was good info that he was). He's pretty tough and you suspect protected against individual targeted spells so you decide for the greater good you'll spare more lives in the long run using your death void weapon and getting the BBEG, even though it gets most of the city as well. Whether he's there or not I'd maintain you've done an evil act. By the intent criteria you can claim you did good. Unfortunately I'm aware that there are posters who'd maintain that if you got the BBEG it WAS a good act, and even some you consider even the failed attempt at the BBEG "Good" or at the minimum "Not-Evil", but to me that eptomises the problem with this approach. Eventually you can end up justifying almost anything as "Good".

You cruicified a man you knew was innocent! Yes, but everyone thought he was guilty and if I let him off I'd be encouraging crime, since they's think guilty people can get away with it. Good intent.

Sure I crucified another innocent person, but no one had committed any crimes recently, and if I don't punish someone people will think criminals are getting away with crimes and start committing crimes. By killing one person I'm stopping much more crime. Good intent again.

In fact life is suffering (Good intent = "Good" doesn't require you know what the hell you're talking about) so why don't I be a good person and kill everyone and put them out of their suffering. I'm intending good so it's a "Good act". Right?

Stephen

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-04-29, 06:31 PM
My style of evil does put off some players, but I have trouble playing any evil guy that isn't either a megalomaniac or has very loose morales, as I hate being the other kinds. This is why I stick mainly to the good alignment instead.

Tengu
2007-04-30, 05:45 AM
OK. I give you two ways this could happen.

1) You fired off your weapon/spell that would seek out the BBEG wherever he is and suck him and all nearby envioriment into a void of death. Afterall BBEGs are surrounded by evil minions, Yes? Now either you get the BBEG but he's in a city of innocent people and you kill all them as well, or he'd made someone else registrar as him, so you took out the decoy AND a city of innocent people. Either way your intent was good, but you've done evil (well actually I know there are people who'd say if you got the BBEG it was worth the city of innocent people so it's a "Good" action/result, but that's why many people consider the "Good intent", "Greater Good", "Ends justifies the means" approaches lead to evil).

You knew the BBEG was in a city of innocent people (at least you had waht you thought was good info that he was). He's pretty tough and you suspect protected against individual targeted spells so you decide for the greater good you'll spare more lives in the long run using your death void weapon and getting the BBEG, even though it gets most of the city as well. Whether he's there or not I'd maintain you've done an evil act. By the intent criteria you can claim you did good. Unfortunately I'm aware that there are posters who'd maintain that if you got the BBEG it WAS a good act, and even some you consider even the failed attempt at the BBEG "Good" or at the minimum "Not-Evil", but to me that eptomises the problem with this approach. Eventually you can end up justifying almost anything as "Good".

You cruicified a man you knew was innocent! Yes, but everyone thought he was guilty and if I let him off I'd be encouraging crime, since they's think guilty people can get away with it. Good intent.

Sure I crucified another innocent person, but no one had committed any crimes recently, and if I don't punish someone people will think criminals are getting away with crimes and start committing crimes. By killing one person I'm stopping much more crime. Good intent again.

In fact life is suffering (Good intent = "Good" doesn't require you know what the hell you're talking about) so why don't I be a good person and kill everyone and put them out of their suffering. I'm intending good so it's a "Good act". Right?

Stephen
Your examples are actions with intended good results, but with evil intended actions. This is how actions look for me:

-intended result ("I will ascend to godhood!")
-intended action ("in order to do this, I'll sacrifice a lot of people in a ritual")
-action ("the ritual has failed and the sacrifices didn't die")
-result ("it angered an ancient evil Lovercraftian diety which now is awaken")

The bolded part is the one that measures wether the deed was good, evil, etc.


My style of evil does put off some players, but I have trouble playing any evil guy that isn't either a megalomaniac or has very loose morales, as I hate being the other kinds. This is why I stick mainly to the good alignment instead.
Guess that's understandable. I personally never played an evil character, though I've seen them in action.

Knight_Of_Twilight
2007-04-30, 06:14 AM
The only problem with that is that it has a mechanical effect in D&D. Holy smite, word of chaos and other spells have varying effect depending on whether or not your character is good, evil, lawful or chaotic. I have trouble a "role-playing aid" that can turn around and bite me if I disagree with the GM on what lawful means. Similarly, it has a mechanical effect for paladins, monks, clerics, druids, bards and barbarians. That's 6 of the 11 core classes that have alignment restrictions, for whom there is a mechanical effect for something that should just flesh out my character.

I disagree- most if not all of the characters that have alignment restrictions have a good reason for it. Certain classes call for certain kinds of people, and I really can't see where you take issue with that.

Stephen_E
2007-04-30, 06:27 AM
Your examples are actions with intended good results, but with evil intended actions. This is how actions look for me:

-intended result ("I will ascend to godhood!")
-intended action ("in order to do this, I'll sacrifice a lot of people in a ritual")
-action ("the ritual has failed and the sacrifices didn't die")
-result ("it angered an ancient evil Lovercraftian diety which now is awaken")

The bolded part is the one that measures wether the deed was good, evil, etc.


I understand. When you say the intent determines whether it's good or evil, you mean the intent of the action. i.e. If "X" fumbles when attacking a villian, and kills an onnocent child instead, the intent of the sword blow was not to hit the child, but was to hit a villian. A Good act.
You strike a evil demon about to attack someone (Good act). After the blow you find out that it was an illusion cast on a small child (evil result). Still a Good act.
On the otherhand if a innocent child is about to be placed on a evil altar and sacrificed to summon a massively powerful demon, and you stike the child to kill it before it can be placed on the altar, the intent of your sword blow is to kill the onnocent child, Evil, despite the result be intended is good.

OK. The confusion was in the language used. Confused by a common tongue. :smallbiggrin:

Stephen

Tengu
2007-04-30, 11:34 AM
Indeed. Guess that due to not having English as my primary language, the point I try to make gets muddled a bit sometimes.

Stephen_E
2007-04-30, 05:13 PM
Indeed. Guess that due to not having English as my primary language, the point I try to make gets muddled a bit sometimes.

Don't you beleive it. Your english comes across as fine. English has a near infinite capacity to be "muddled" regardless of how good the speakers/writers. If anything, outside of slang/coloqalisms, people like me who only have english tend to have poorer english skills than a person who has english to a good+ level as a second language IME.

Stephen

Jorkens
2007-04-30, 09:56 PM
You knew the BBEG was in a city of innocent people (at least you had waht you thought was good info that he was). He's pretty tough and you suspect protected against individual targeted spells so you decide for the greater good you'll spare more lives in the long run using your death void weapon and getting the BBEG, even though it gets most of the city as well. Whether he's there or not I'd maintain you've done an evil act. By the intent criteria you can claim you did good. Unfortunately I'm aware that there are posters who'd maintain that if you got the BBEG it WAS a good act, and even some you consider even the failed attempt at the BBEG "Good" or at the minimum "Not-Evil", but to me that eptomises the problem with this approach. Eventually you can end up justifying almost anything as "Good".

You cruicified a man you knew was innocent! Yes, but everyone thought he was guilty and if I let him off I'd be encouraging crime, since they's think guilty people can get away with it. Good intent.

Sure I crucified another innocent person, but no one had committed any crimes recently, and if I don't punish someone people will think criminals are getting away with crimes and start committing crimes. By killing one person I'm stopping much more crime. Good intent again.

In fact life is suffering (Good intent = "Good" doesn't require you know what the hell you're talking about) so why don't I be a good person and kill everyone and put them out of their suffering. I'm intending good so it's a "Good act". Right?

The trouble with that particular 'slippery slope' argument is that as soon as you admit that under certain circumstances it is a good act to impose your will on someone else (and certainly to kill someone), you're already on that slippery slope - you've already decided that in that case the ends (not letting the BBEG destroy the world) justify the means (killing the BBEG). Not many people would claim that this is an evil act (although arguably it could be neutral if your motivation in saving the world was to save your own skin) but it's still employing the same sort of reasoning as your examples of obviously evil things.

The point is that "the end justifies the means" isn't a principle that you have to believe is either always true or never true (ie either it's alright to do anything you like so long as it has at least some good effect or it's never alright to harm anyone no matter how much suffering it prevents) but a judgement that you make about a specific case - ie that under these circumstances it's alright to do something which in itself would be considered evil because it brings about a greater good. As I see it, different characters can make that judgement differently in different cases and still be considered Good, but in some cases - probably those where the amount of suffering that your means cause is greater than the amount of suffering the you prevent - it definitely becomes evil. And possibly insane.

By the way, I'd consider the original example to be an evil act, unless it was the only way to stop the BBEG causing even greater destruction.

Karsh
2007-05-01, 08:19 AM
My evil characters are almost always smart evil people. The planning, scheming kind of evil. I dislike Chaotic Evil because it backs you into a corner as far as your roleplaying options, so I go for more of a Neutral Evil. Always looking out for Number One, but not unwilling to do whatever it takes, including committing ostensibly "good" acts.

To my evil characters, everything is a means to an end. They aren't above torture, murder, and committing all sorts of atrocities -- I love playing evil outsiders, so... -- but they don't do it for no reason. The reason might be very shaky, but you'll never see an evil character of mine walking through a crowded street killing people left and right. Typically I make evil characters that have items that hide their alignment and all sorts of protections against other people discerning that they are, in fact, evil.

I think it's the most conducive to party play, and as long they're careful, even a party Paladin wouldn't realize a need to object to their presence in the party.

Stephen_E
2007-05-02, 12:32 AM
The trouble with that particular 'slippery slope' argument is that as soon as you admit that under certain circumstances it is a good act to impose your will on someone else (and certainly to kill someone), you're already on that slippery slope - you've already decided that in that case the ends (not letting the BBEG destroy the world) justify the means (killing the BBEG). Not many people would claim that this is an evil act (although arguably it could be neutral if your motivation in saving the world was to save your own skin) but it's still employing the same sort of reasoning as your examples of obviously evil things.


You kill the BBEG for trying to destroy the world.
So no "Ends justifies the means". I'd also note that "killing" isn't oer se "Evil".

Basically "Ends justifies the Mmeans" requires you to be doing something you beleive is wrong, but claimning it's right in this circunstance, because your intended "End" is so specially good/important (how "specially good/important" varies person-to-person). In the example you posit, if you consider it an intrinsically bad act to impose your will on someone you'd be right. You'd then be limited to stopping the BBEG with blocking/resistive actions. When he tries and gets the stuff he needs you block him. If he tries and kills someone you protect them. If he tries and kills you, you could kill him since you're defending yourself from a direct action against you, but only if you can't defend yourself without killing him. Killing the BBEG would indeed be evil (note in DnD imposing your will on someone isn't an intrinsically "Evil" action. At most you could claim that it is "non-chaotic, and frankly I wouldn't even go that far. I'd limit it to saying extreme Chaotics would consider it a wrong act).

Stephen

Tor the Fallen
2007-05-02, 01:03 AM
What if an evil character somehow set up a really evil plan, magically turned himself good and wiped his own memory, then tried to foil his former self's evil plan, but unknowingly fulfilled the evil plan because of the false clues the evil character left behind, thus his good intentions causing evil through previous evil intent?

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-05-02, 01:06 AM
The DM's head would have exploded long before then. Do you understand? The universe would cease to exist if that ever happened.

Tor the Fallen
2007-05-02, 01:08 AM
Wow, that's ironic, as the plan turns out to be much more evil than intended.

Viscount Einstrauss
2007-05-02, 01:11 AM
...touché.