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GreatWyrmGold
2015-11-20, 07:22 PM
In The Lord of the Rings, orcs, goblins, and the like were made (or transformed or whatever—the details don't matter here) by Sauron for his evil purposes. Hence, they tended to be evil. Many fantasy authors and the like have included various sapient races with an innate tendency towards evil—orcs and goblins, ogres and trolls, drow and duergar, giants and kobolds. Few have questioned why—the Evil Emperor needs servants, and here you go. Most people ignore the issue, some subvert it, but only a handful ever try to come up with a reason why these races might act so evilly.

Yesterday, I made a comment which unintentionally explained the behavior of D&D kobolds.


Perhaps Chief Kurkulmak of one of the largest dragon-independent tribes encountered gnomes, which lead to his death and the enmity between gnomes and that tribe of kobolds—but gnomes and their allies didn't realize that it was only that one tribe of kobolds, leading to that tribe being at war with the gnomes and the others convinced that the furry surface races were irredeemable xenophobes.
The above isn't entirely clear, so let me explain it a bit more clearly.
According to Races of the Dragon, the first kobolds were created by dragons, to serve those specific dragons. When those dragons die, what happens? Perhaps the kobolds sometimes flee into the Underdark; sometimes, they would meet other such kobolds, founding kobold tribes. Some would grow large.
Kurtulmak might have been the chief of one of these great tribes, who encountered a band of gnomes on an expedition to the surface. As primitive tribes without common languages tend to do, they fought, which lead to a number of deaths—including Kurtulmak. The gnomes thought the kobolds were weird evil monsters, and the kobolds didn't help by trying to avenge their fallen chief (and the chiefs who fell avenging former evils). The gnomes brought their allies and drove the kobolds back into the depths; all involved remembered the evil, murderous lizard-men.
From then on, whenever a kobold tribe encountered a surface race—elves, dwarves, humans, or especially gnomes—they found themselves preemptively attacked. Eventually, the kobolds started to lay traps to defend themselves and pre-preemptively attack the furry races. Thus, the kobolds as a race engage in "evil" behavior for perfectly understandable reasons.


I'm curious if anyone else has or would like to write similar, interesting explanations for why a given typically evil race (of any setting or genre) is "evil".

Steampunkette
2015-11-20, 09:07 PM
In many D&D settings, like Forgotten Realms, evil is a palpable, tangible, active force in the universe. Evil Deities and Planes actively seek to corrupt other entities. Many creatures are, by their very nature, irredeemably evil in such settings. Demons, for example, or Devils. These beings aren't tormented people with their moral compasses twisted or turned by the events of their lives. They're just straight up evil because evil runs through them.

And, of course, you have beings on the mortal planes who are similarly evil by nature. Red Dragons, for example, are almost always Evil because they have that seed of evil within them from birth. But some few manage to shuck their wicked ways and redeem themselves, or uproot the sapling of evil within themselves before it grows too strong.

Other beings, generally mortals, in such settings tend to be evil because of situational issues. Bad experiences and circumstances lead them to making choices of immorality. However there are evil beings, evil spells, and evil realities which can corrupt them, directly or indirectly. Being near to creatures and places of pure evil can quite literally taint them...

Other settings, like Eberron, tend to downplay the actively evil forces in the universe and rely more on individual morality and circumstance to handle such things as good and evil. And often create a universe with a higher population of grey zones and questions that can often be uncomfortable, but rewarding, to ask...

It's really all about whether the setting's designer favors Nature over Nurture or designs some measure of blending the two.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-20, 09:11 PM
From then on, whenever a kobold tribe encountered a surface race—elves, dwarves, humans, or especially gnomes—they found themselves preemptively attacked. Eventually, the kobolds started to lay traps to defend themselves and pre-preemptively attack the furry races. Thus, the kobolds as a race engage in "evil" behavior for perfectly understandable reasons.


I love Tolkien but one problem with playing in his world is the simplistic view of Good vs Evil. All orcs are evil by their nature. All elves are good by their nature. But could an Orc choose to be good or an Elf choose to be Evil in Middle Earth? Not if JRR was writing the story. An Elf could be corrupted by Sauron, Morgoth, or the ring but couldn't choose to be evil.

So, to get into philosophy, can you have morality without free choice? Are you truly evil if you never chose to be evil? Tolkien's Middle Earth is a fantasy not just because is has hobbits, orcs, magic, etc, but also because of its' simplistic, dualism based morality.

D&D is also based on Howard's Conan the Cimmerian. By many measures, Conan is evil and power hungry but he is the hero of the stories. Martin's "Game of Thrones" series is also full of moral ambiguity. Is Jaime Lannister a hero or a villain? Hard to say...

This is why I think the alignment system in D&D has always been the most dumb part of the game. At best, alignment is a role playing crutch; at worst, it is a role playing strait jacket. Players should base their actions on the PCs motivations, not any nebulous definition of good or evil, law or chaos.

Back to your question:

Are a tribe of kobolds setting traps any different morally than humans placing murder holes in a gatehouse? No.
Are a tribe of kobolds raiding nearby settlements any different than a Lord hiring a group of adventurers to raid a kobold dungeon? No.
Is a Dragon considered evil by a human town it raids? Yes. Does the Dragon consider itself evil? No.
Is a Wolf considered evil by the rabbit it eats? Yes. Does the Wolf consider itself evil? No.

I would argue that the Kobolds you've described are not evil.

goto124
2015-11-20, 09:34 PM
I find that the 'ability to choose what to do to' (aka free choice) clashes with the Tolkien or DnD style of morality where Evil and Good are literal forces. It's weird.

Red Fel
2015-11-20, 10:39 PM
I'm curious if anyone else has or would like to write similar, interesting explanations for why a given typically evil race (of any setting or genre) is "evil".

Evil races are Evil because lazy writing is lazy, because poor storytelling is poor, and/or because convenient labels are convenient.

Sometimes, Evil races are Evil because we needed something Evil to put in here, and this thing's green and has scales and it's ugly and it's just Evil, okay, alright? Sometimes, you just need a simple way to point out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. These guys look like European legends, and these guys look like something that got dry and crusty under the front porch after a week, so it's pretty obvious which ones are the simple choice for a convenient Evil tag. Sometimes, you're just playing a hack'n'slash adventure, no frills or fuss or story, nothing wrong with that, and you need to be able to point to something the PCs can kill without raising any annoying implications.

The bottom line is that the alignment system is obnoxious. I love telling people how to play Evil - I've written a guide to it (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?448542-Compliance-Will-Be-Rewarded-A-Guide-to-Lawful-Evil) - but alignment is nuanced because people are nuanced. Even in black-and-white, objective morality settings like D&D, you get Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin (http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/fc/20050824a), a being forged from pure cosmic Chaotic Evil who has voluntarily embraced the path of Lawful Good because of the power of twue wuv. The idea of "what makes a thing Evil" assumes that (1) you're prepared to take a gross oversimplification of the motivations of any thinking creature, and (2) said creature is completely incapable of exercising its free will beyond deciding which puppy it's going to eat.

I love Evil. I'm a fan of Evil. And I'll talk your ear off about it if you let me. But asking what makes an entire species Evil makes some assumptions which are just so inherently counterintuitive, so utterly baffling to any rational mind, that I'm not prepared to go down that road with any degree of seriousness.

It's crazy talk, man, crazy talk.

GreatWyrmGold
2015-11-20, 11:22 PM
In many D&D settings, like Forgotten Realms, evil is a palpable, tangible, active force in the universe. Evil Deities and Planes actively seek to corrupt other entities. Many creatures are, by their very nature, irredeemably evil in such settings. Demons, for example, or Devils. These beings aren't tormented people with their moral compasses twisted or turned by the events of their lives. They're just straight up evil because evil runs through them.

Evil races are Evil because lazy writing is lazy, because poor storytelling is poor, and/or because convenient labels are convenient.
Well...yes, I'll grant that. But that's an awfully boring answer. I'm confident that potential interesting answers exist.


Back to your question:

...

I would argue that the Kobolds you've described are not evil.
From my post:

Thus, the kobolds as a race engage in "evil" behavior for perfectly understandable reasons.
The quotation marks indicated that the "evil" was not the objective Evil so many fantasy works use, but rather an understandable series of actions that look much the same as Evil from without.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-21, 12:04 AM
The basic reason is D&D needs bad guys to oppose and fight the players, of course. D&D is a combat game, and you can't have combat without a foe. So, D&D takes the easy way: the people over there are evil and you may kill them with no worries.

Now the more modern view is every single individual is special and unique and you can never, ever judge a group or race to be anything negative. So if a character in D&D encounters say an orc, they would have to, somehow, subject that orc to rigorous tests and standards to determine if that individual orc is good or evil. And if a group of orcs is encountered, then they each must under go the tests. Though you'd still have the impossible relative problem of what is good or evil. And soon your spinning off in to not playing D&D.

Also D&D has official cosmic definitions of good and evil, unlike the real world. X is evil and Y is good. Period. So if a race dose X, it is evil. And unlike reality, you can't go on forever and say whatever a race does is not evil just because they would say they are not evil.

Also, D&D does not go by the real world obsession of ''evil is wrong''. Evil is seen as ''wrong'' as everyone pretends everyone must always be ''good''. But D&D accepts that ''good'' and ''evil'' are simply both choices and neither is better or worse then each other.

So a race in D&D chooses to be good or evil from the lists of what is good and what is evil. But most of the world in D&D is not ''pretending to be good''. So evil does not have the huge negativity attached to it. Some races are evil and some are good......and that is the way the world works.

OldTrees1
2015-11-21, 12:19 AM
Being good has a cost and being evil usually comes with free gifts. These costs/gifts can vary based on circumstances(biology, society, geography, ...). Scarcity can result in a mild tendency in rational beings.

As an example:
Orcs are not evil, but Orcs tend to be evil since those that slaughter/pillage live longer than those that peaceful reside in the desolate wastelands that the Orc tribes have been pushed into. Thus a tendency for a randomly selected living Orc to be evil.

Another example(made up race):
The ruks have been magically altered to have a terrible hunger for meat. Between meals their hunger pangs grow in severity to eventually rival torture after a few short hours. This strongly encourages them to constantly feed (usually by eating farming villiages but some make due with small cities).

Hawkstar
2015-11-21, 01:32 AM
I say the reasons Evil Races are Evil varies from race to race, just like the experience of Undeath varies from Undead to Undead.

"Classic" Kobolds (Not Dragon) are Evil because they are the manifestations of the fears of miners and other underground workers. They are not truly sapient or sentient, and their intelligence is a reflection of their prey. They're like Fey, but without the special immunities.

3rd Edition+'s Dragon Kobolds are evil because of the circumstances of their lives - as others have pointed out, the world really is out to get them, so their going to get it first. And their reproductive strategy and morality surrounding it is strongly at odds with Human reproductive strategy and morality. And their enmity with gnomes is a cycle of revenge and grudge neither race can let go (Both races are equally bad when it comes to this particular conflict - which the Gnomes started as a 'practical joke'. It's how Gnomes interact with non-kobolds and each other that keeps them from being labeled as Evil too). The Ant and the Grasshopper went to war, and the Grasshopper's performances and FREEDOM! made him more friends than the ant's industry and 'dirty commie' culture.

Normal goblins are the malevolence of children. Hobbes' Goblins (Hobgoblins) seem to be the most mature human, but really are as Thomas Hobbes describes humans to be. Bugbears are six-year-olds who shave.

Orcs are the result of Gruumsh playing Age of Wonders or Warcraft or something similar, with a "Conquer the world with my special race" as his goal, and his orcs really are just living, advanced RTS units.

Fantasy is driven by symbolism and themes, not logic and rationality (Though those can be themes or symbols).

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 03:34 AM
1) They are literally made of evil, a physical form given to negative aspects of the world. Any good they do is accidental or made of selfish motives.

2) They are born with instincts and traits which drive them towards, and cause them to gain pleasure from, violent, sadistic, destructive and selfish acts.

3) The consequences of their environment drive them insane and into conflict with the world.

"Free will" is immaterial to all of these. Freedom is never unlimited and choices of all beings are constrained by cause and effect. A creature who can only choose between different evils has free will. It's a spectrum, not an on/off switch.

Aotrs Commander
2015-11-21, 03:53 AM
My last major campaign world, the majority of the (currently written up) Evil races (orcs/hobgoblins/goblins/kobolds/gagana) were literally genetically engineered (though the Dark Lird didn't call it that), along with genetically modified humans and Elves and a few Dwarves, and one of the things he bred in was a pre-disposition to Evil. (And subserviance, hense a believable reason why Charisma penalties were slightly more common; along with Intelligence, wich was why Int boosts were slightly more common...!)

One the flip side, one of the OTHER Evil races (of the ones he controlled, and the only one he hasnt tampred with) were automatically Evil through dint of being essentially emotionless (i.e. like, Vulcans, except rather than suppressing their emotions, they geniuninely didn't have any). Which meant, of course, compassion was Not A Thing they had leading to the majority of them being Evil through Neutral by default and it being genetically and racially impossible for them to be Good, since they literally had niether brains nor minds nor even souls (being a naturally evolved species) for it. (Because a little bit of alien in your fantasy never hurts, either.)

And the Cusith, but they were Fey disease carriers and the Fey were essentially Small-Gods style, by the belief of primitive people, so were naturally made malevolent.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 04:39 AM
In many D&D settings, like Forgotten Realms, evil is a palpable, tangible, active force in the universe.

Except that this is totally just an informed attribute (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute) in those settings. There is no in-world evidence of it being true, and a fair deal of evidence that suggests that it is not true. It is, quite simply, bad writing.

The narrator can tell me it's evil all they want. I am not going to believe the narrator unless they show me, and they simply don't.

Same thing with, say, Vulcans in Star Trek (since someone else mentioned the race). They can say the Vulcans are logical all they want, but they're obviously not (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawVulcan).

NovenFromTheSun
2015-11-21, 04:52 AM
Originally a lot of folklore creatures were embodiments of natural forces before our conception of "nature" got all flowery and sunshiny.

goto124
2015-11-21, 05:30 AM
The narrator can tell me it's evil all they want. I am not going to believe the narrator unless they show me, and they simply don't.

How does one show Evil to be a literal force?

EccentricCircle
2015-11-21, 05:38 AM
Because history is written by the victors,
And they didn't win.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 05:54 AM
How does one show Evil to be a literal force?

The same way that you would show anything else to be a literal force.

Necroticplague
2015-11-21, 06:23 AM
Because writing is hard, giving your enemies reasons make them sympathetic, and the writers of such often wanted to avoid the gameworld become a grey-on-grey morality like real life. Since real world morality comes from rational actors making decisions, having morality be unlike real life requires non-rational actors, i.e, people who's actions make no sense rationally. Logically, even selfish jarkwads realize that cooperating with others helps them in the long-run.


Side-note, this has always made warhammer 40k completely baffling to me, given that it possesses both black-on-black morality and arbitrarily 'they're evil because' races.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 07:04 AM
I do not feel it is useful to speculate on what the authors intended, especially without pointing to any primary sources.

The writers can speak for themselves. And when they did, they often said things that wildly clash with what I often see people say the writers wanted, intended, thought, or meant.

For example, Gary Gygax actually talked about what he felt the alignments meant and what it meant to be Lawful Good (or other alignments). His statements talked about why he thought it was okay for Lawful Good characters to execute enemies who had laid down their arms, saying that an "old adage" on the subject applied. Said old adage was a particularly bloody-historied phrase coined to justify the genocide of native populations, specifically the wholesale slaughter of civilian women and children... I'd rather not repeat it here. He also said that it was totally okay for Lawful Good characters to summarily execute people who had ceased to be Evil and had since become Lawful Good, so that they "could go on to their reward before they could backslide." He also talked about how Chaotic Good characters would enslave others in order to correct their ways.

For example:


The non-combatants in a humanoid group might be judged as worthy of death by a LG opponent force and executed or taken as prisoners to be converted to the correct way of thinking and behaving. ... A CG force might enslave them so as to correct their ways

My own position is somewhat similar to The Giant's, such as it is expressed in posts like the following:

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=12718550&postcount=120

Murk
2015-11-21, 07:25 AM
Also important is that Evil creatures might not have the free choice to be evil (because "they are all evil") but those who define what is evil do (say, cosmic forces, or Gods).
It's very easy to be Evil if someone else defines what Evil is.

Say, the gods who defined Good and Evil are herbivores. It wouldn't be weird if they classified all carnivores as evil. After all, these creatures eat others. You can have much free will as you want, but this carnivore will have to eat, and thus, be evil.

Entire races being evil makes plenty of sense if natural or logical behaviour for them is deemed evil by The Forces that Be. There is no other reason for murder, plundering, etc. to be evil than the fact that someone/thing with autority made it so.


Of course, evil characters with actual motivation and choice for being evil are preferable in a narrative context, but it is not impossible for an entire race to be evil without any choice in it.
If The Upper God deems pooping evil, we as humans have a problem, after all.

goto124
2015-11-21, 08:04 AM
Which would make Evil closer to Chaotic, and Good closer to Lawful. Something that people don't seem to like?

I also wonder how to get, say, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good that way.

nedz
2015-11-21, 08:40 AM
I am not going to give examples because: Forum Rules; but IRL historical organisations which are generally regarded as evil functioned only because the individuals involved believed that they were behaving correctly.

So, to take an analogy, Evil races are Evil because the activities their culture regards as correct as generally regarded as evil by every one else, or more precisely by the Cosmos.

So: the Orcs believe that rape and pillage is correct because of their culture. A few individuals may rebel against this, but it's still the cultural norm for their race.

Well this is the nurture side of the debate but doesn't cover races which are evil by their nature. These tend to be outsiders so different rules obviously apply. The creatures whom are evil by their nature, but not outsiders, are monsters rather than races.

AceOfFools
2015-11-21, 08:52 AM
The basic reason is D&D needs bad guys to oppose and fight the players, of course. D&D is a combat game, and you can't have combat without a foe. So, D&D takes the easy way: the people over there are evil and you may kill them with no worries.


To expand on this, one of the sources of inspiration for DnD is European Chivalrous Romance (although neither as obvious or as direct as Tolkien or Vance) in which the crusader going forth to battle against the infadel is both good and right.

Having evil races worshiping activatly evil gods allows you to play that fantasy without the moral problems using more nuanced, realistic peoples would.

It's about making the orcs and such human shaped monsters you can slaughter without guilt.

Modern variants of the game double down on this line of thinking. The Pathfinder bestiary entries for the monsterous races leave very little room for "enlightened" members of the race. DnD 5e straight up states that Gruumsh whispers in the subconscious mind of all orcs to push them towards evil.

To the topic at hand:
My favorite justification for this was suggested on this forum: People aren't born members of the monster races such as kobolds, they become then after becoming evil themselves.

E.g. there are no evil elf because any elf that goes that becomes evil aligned transforms into an ork. Serial killers of any race transform into bugbears.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 08:59 AM
I am not going to give examples because: Forum Rules; but IRL historical organisations which are generally regarded as evil functioned only because the individuals involved believed that they were behaving correctly.

So, to take an analogy, Evil races are Evil because the activities their culture regards as correct as generally regarded as evil by every one else, or more precisely by the Cosmos.

So: the Orcs believe that rape and pillage is correct because of their culture. A few individuals may rebel against this, but it's still the cultural norm for their race.

Well this is the nurture side of the debate but doesn't cover races which are evil by their nature. These tend to be outsiders so different rules obviously apply. The creatures whom are evil by their nature, but not outsiders, are monsters rather than races.

The game isn't labeling cultures as evil, though. It's labeling races as evil.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 09:08 AM
Monsters being former people is a classic. My own favorite is Hollows from Bleach, based on mythological Hungry Ghosts (Preta). They actually fit all three of the reasons for evil I listed: they are born from the corrosion of hapless human souls who can't move on on their own (3) who are turned into monsters symbolizing negative emotions (1) governed by bestial instinct (2). They are human misfortune manifest yet at the same time completely inhuman, pitiable and utterly evil at the same time.

nedz
2015-11-21, 09:11 AM
The game isn't labeling cultures as evil, though. It's labeling races as evil.

But that leads inexorably to the Nature v Nurture debate. Nurture means cultures.

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 09:39 AM
The same way that you would show anything else to be a literal force.

So by, say, having Planes that are actively both morally and tangibly evil, which damage or drive good characters and creatures insane?

By having spells POWERED BY EVIL literally destroy things?

By having spells and abilities that actively target things that are objectively evil while leaving neutral and good things alone, showing a clear binaristic Yes/No effect based on something being evil or not evil?

By the literal presence of demons and powerful evils corrupting beings toward evil over extended periods of time, just by existing in their proximity regardless of moral intent?

All of these things are a part of D&D and all of them show Evil as an objective force of reality which has a direct effect on the things around it. You could argue that Evil alignment is merely a common denominator to all of these completely separate events, but the literal Word of God (IE the developers and the words of the deities of the world) will tell you that you're wrong.

Yeah. They do pull the informed attribute BS a lot. But this isn't a movie you're watching: It's a ruleset for a game that is giving you the concrete rules of reality, not playing out a heist story in the Forgotten Realms for your stationary viewing benefit.

And one of those rules is that Evil, as we understand it, is an objective and literal force and function of reality. They also TELL you that a sword is sharp and don't show that to you in any meaningful way. How can we honestly know all swords aren't actually hafted weapons with dull flat broad heads in this game, after all?

Because the game tells us that. And it shows us their objective, in-system function, is a set amount of dice rolled for Slashing or Piercing damage.

What the game does when it defines alignment, and evil specifically, is exactly that: It's telling you what evil is in the same way it describes a sword's shape and edge.

With ALL of that said, you're always free to discard objective evil and go straight up subjective. And have your paladins functionally Smiting Evil based on which country they're in and their personal perspectives on what makes a person good or evil. It's not how the game was -designed- to work, but whatever floats your boat. 5e kind of made that move, after all, with Smite becoming a non-aligned strike.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-21, 10:15 AM
Deep in the cave, Magluk played with her two young orclings. She thanked Gnuumsh every day for blessing her with two strong, young orcs. Drok was 5 and Krollic was 7. In a few years, they would join their father in hunting for food for the tribe but for now, they were all hers.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite childhood orc game "Cockroach Ball". Krollic grunted "Cheater".

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok turned to run down, deeper into the hill to safety. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her kitchen knife and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness were the bodies of her two beloved orclings being looted by the humans.



***********************

Who are the evil ones in this encounter?

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 10:16 AM
Good and Evil being objective forces doesn't really stop people from jumping through philosophical hoops to claim they're not real. I mean, look around you, is there any shortage of people who live in complete ignorance or even denial of really existing things?

Put enough ranks in Knowledge (religion) and Bluff and Diplomacy and you really can convince someone that Black is really White, and Moon is just the Sun at night. In Planescape, that might actually become true if you get enough people on your side.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 10:26 AM
So by, say, having Planes that are actively both morally and tangibly evil, which damage or drive good characters and creatures insane?

By having spells POWERED BY EVIL literally destroy things?

By having spells and abilities that actively target things that are objectively evil while leaving neutral and good things alone, showing a clear binaristic Yes/No effect based on something being evil or not evil?

By the literal presence of demons and powerful evils corrupting beings toward evil over extended periods of time, just by existing in their proximity regardless of moral intent?

All of these things are a part of D&D and all of them show Evil as an objective force of reality which has a direct effect on the things around it. You could argue that Evil alignment is merely a common denominator to all of these completely separate events, but the literal Word of God (IE the developers and the words of the deities of the world) will tell you that you're wrong.

Yeah. They do pull the informed attribute BS a lot. But this isn't a movie you're watching: It's a ruleset for a game that is giving you the concrete rules of reality, not playing out a heist story in the Forgotten Realms for your stationary viewing benefit.

And one of those rules is that Evil, as we understand it, is an objective and literal force and function of reality. They also TELL you that a sword is sharp and don't show that to you in any meaningful way. How can we honestly know all swords aren't actually hafted weapons with dull flat broad heads in this game, after all?

Because the game tells us that. And it shows us their objective, in-system function, is a set amount of dice rolled for Slashing or Piercing damage.

What the game does when it defines alignment, and evil specifically, is exactly that: It's telling you what evil is in the same way it describes a sword's shape and edge.

With ALL of that said, you're always free to discard objective evil and go straight up subjective. And have your paladins functionally Smiting Evil based on which country they're in and their personal perspectives on what makes a person good or evil. It's not how the game was -designed- to work, but whatever floats your boat. 5e kind of made that move, after all, with Smite becoming a non-aligned strike.

I think you're missing my point. Evil and Good are things that a force has been labelled, and clearly the forces labelled Good and Evil exist in-world. The thing is, I could just as easily have named the electromagnetic force "Good," and that force would totally exist, but that wouldn't mean that it actually was moral rightness.

To understand what those forces actually represent, we can't just look at their names. We have to look at what they do in-world. Then, we can see if the force named Evil actually has a direct 1:1 correlation with evil, the word as defined in the dictionary.

I'm just gonna copy-paste an older post I made on the subject:



So, as one may have noticed from my fluff writeups, I tend to like to work things out from an in-world perspective. I don't clearly state what god thinks so much as what people in the world think about god. After all, even if the gods are real, it's not like everyone's met them (unless you have a setting like Terry Pratchett's Discworld where the gods will come and mess up your lawn if you don't acknowledge them). So, with alignment, I don't want to just say what it is as an omniscient narrator; I want to take a look at how the in-world understanding of Sacred, Profane, Axiomatic, and Anarchic forces came about.

One thing that bothers me about alignment is that in some settings, it gives some people the fallacious idea that since alignment is an objective, physical thing and can be measured, morality is therefore easily measured by detect alignment spells. They miss the very large leap of faith there and mistake it for logic. They confuse the test for the event. (https://xkcd.com/1132/) (For those who don't get the linked joke, the Frequentist is failing horribly at math in a way that is non-obvious to a layman, but very obvious to anyone who understands Bayes Theorem)

Why is this idea faulty? Well, let's think through it. In a hypothetical fantasy world, you have force A and anti-A, B and anti-B, creating two axes. These forces can be found in pretty much all animate things. You have developed a test for the presence of force A/anti-A/B/anti-B in creatures, and observe that creatures with different force readings tend to correlate with different personality types or behaviors or whatever (but also that some things that don't have any personalities at all register alignments, too). Remember that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and certainly not equivalence. Also note that nothing in this hypothetical process is unique to a fantasy world: We have fairly reliable tests for various physical traits which correlate to behaviors and personality types in real life, too... as well as people jumping to wrong conclusions about what we can infer from said tests.

So, maybe you decide to name these forces... Good and Evil, Law and Chaos. At some point, somebody in-world had to name the forces. But is that person right to name those forces Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos? Even if the gods said it, I'm not aware of any D&D setting where gods are immune to being wrong. Even if the gods created said forces, builders can have incorrect beliefs about the things they build (like a programmer declaring that their software is bug-free), or even just lie. The titles of the forces are necessarily a cultural affectation. There is no logical reason to assume that Good = good, and as such all of the inferences about morality based on that assumption are logically unsound.

The meaning and function of the forces can only be derived from empirical evidence, and empirical evidence gives us some conflicting data that falsifies several popular hypotheses. For instance, data about mindless creatures getting aligned pings would falsify the notion that alignment is determined only by the nature of a creature's personality, because those creatures do not have personalities and therefore some factor independent of that must be to blame for the reading. All too often, alignment is merely an Informed Attribute (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute), where the audience is asked to simply accept the author's judgment rather than actually see for themselves a person's nature.

This is further aggravated by the fact that the books occasionally like to pretend that they're offering coherent, objective standards by which you can evaluate what a Good, Lawful, Chaotic, or Evil act/person/whatever is. In truth, the explanations given tend to be vague and often contradictory (for example, I remember the same act being given as an example of why someone is Chaotic and as an example of why someone is Lawful... in the same book). The material is sufficiently vague that you can argue for almost any act being almost any alignment while quoting references straight from the books, which is why you get threads asking questions like "what alignment is this?" returning several different alignments as answers (sometimes all 9!).

So, there can be various theories in-world about what exactly alignments are and what they mean. Some which would fit this world (which each may or may not be appropriate for your own world into which you might want to transplant any of my deities) would be:

Theory 1) Do the gods even have alignments? Have you met them? I haven't met them. When did you get to cast Detect Evil on Pelor? I think you'd burn up before you got in range, so the Burning Hate theory can neither be confirmed or denied. And in my games, I use the Eberron rule for alignment restrictions (e.g. clerics do not have to be within one step of their deity).

Theory 2) Corellon and Moradin decide who's Good, and that Chaos means "more like Corellon" and Law means "more like Moradin." Some may even theorize that there was a third setting on that axis for Gruumsh before he got kicked out. Anyways, this of course means that folks like Gruumsh and Lolth get hit with the Evil tags. In fact, this theory is consistent with all of the original canon alignments for every deity included in this pantheon.

Theory 3) Alignments correlate to energy that is present in all animate things. All animate things have Sacred, Profane, Axiomatic, and/or Anarchic energy flowing through them, in some balance or other. These factors aren't morality or personality itself, but they correlate to morality, like taking a polygraph test or reading humors or hormone tests. So, you can fairly reasonably associate certain personality traits with certain readings, but the test with 9 outputs simply isn't nuanced enough to give you the really complete picture you'd need for complex moral judgments.

Theory 4) Theory 2 or 3, plus the notion that the winners get to write history... and thus name the alignments. What's that? Your race pings one way, and your enemy race pings the other way? Well, guess which side you're gonna name Good?

Theory 5) Alignments actually directly relate to moral absolutes and give you a perfectly accurate read of a person's moral character. This may be a popular theory amongst the general populace, but it falls apart under the scrutiny of academics. For instance, one might question how a Zombie can be Evil if it has literally no capability for decisionmaking. If it does not make moral decisions, how can it be immoral?

Theory 6) Alignments usually mean one thing, but are sometimes obfuscated by divine meddling, or some other external source. Proponents of Theory 6 would happily point out the way that even a mere mortal can use spells like Undetectable Alignment to thwart the Detect Alignment test. This defense might be used by philosophers defending Theory 5. For instance, they might say that Pelor declared that all the zombies are Evil, and marked them as such with his great magical powers, but that humans are still judged perfectly in terms of their actions.

Theory 7) Alignments represent a divine accounting of your deeds, independent of intent or personality. So, mindless undead are Evil for all of the reasons that Pelor says that they're harmful for the world. They might not be making any decisions to do those things, but they're causing the environmental damage anyways.

That's just a sampling of possible explanations and interpretations that in-world philosophers—and cultures—could be fighting over.

TheCountAlucard
2015-11-21, 11:07 AM
-snip-You know what's really evil? Linking to TVTropes with no warnings! :smallwink:

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 11:11 AM
You know what's really evil? Linking to TVTropes with no warnings! :smallwink:

http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/Smileys/default/evillaugh.gif

Florian
2015-11-21, 12:02 PM
Oh my, always the same missconceptions.

Basic D&D uses absolut moral/ethic truths instead of circumstanrional ones. It's not the action/comsequence that matters, its the intention.

Now please do differentiate between regular evil and [evil].

An "evil" race, meaning "mostly or always evil" in the stats block has a society that propagates things as being "good, in the sense of being accepted as possitive for that race and/or society" that simply fall onto the evil alignment camp.
Orcs are the typical example for this, as rheir natural rendency is to rape, kill and destroy. If left on their own, they will create a society that incorporates those urges.
That doesn't mean that an individual Orc can't change to fit into another society.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-21, 01:09 PM
Oh my, always the same missconceptions.

Basic D&D uses absolut moral/ethic truths instead of circumstanrional ones. It's not the action/comsequence that matters, its the intention.

Now please do differentiate between regular evil and [evil].

An "evil" race, meaning "mostly or always evil" in the stats block has a society that propagates things as being "good, in the sense of being accepted as possitive for that race and/or society" that simply fall onto the evil alignment camp.
Orcs are the typical example for this, as rheir natural rendency is to rape, kill and destroy. If left on their own, they will create a society that incorporates those urges.
That doesn't mean that an individual Orc can't change to fit into another society.

But why does any Role playing game NEED an alignment system with actual manifestations of good and evil? D&D has it because its largely based on Tolkien's Middle Earth where good and evil is an easily definable thing. If my campaign doesn't have some struggle involving a dark force trying to destroy the world, is it less fun?

D&D is also based Robert Howard's Conan the Cimmerian stories. There are evil individuals but everything else lies in a grey zone, including Conan himself. Conan's actions are usually based on self interest not because of any vague ethos.

Look at Greek Mythology. The Greek Gods struggled against one another but there was no Good God or Evil God. Even Hades was just fulfilling a function within the Cosmos. The God's often aided or punished the mortal heroes of those myths not out of allegiance to some arbitrary concept of alignment but because of whim or mood.

I find in most games I play or GM, alignment often gets ignored because its not fun and actually impedes role playing. A characters motivation is much more interesting than a poorly designed alignment system. For example: A Paladin who vows to defend his people is much more fun to play than a paladin who vows to be good and lawful.

By the way, spellcheck is a wonderful thing.

FatR
2015-11-21, 01:12 PM
I love Tolkien but one problem with playing in his world is the simplistic view of Good vs Evil. All orcs are evil by their nature. All elves are good by their nature. But could an Orc choose to be good or an Elf choose to be Evil in Middle Earth? Not if JRR was writing the story. An Elf could be corrupted by Sauron, Morgoth, or the ring but couldn't choose to be evil.

Feanor would like to have a word with you. Certain elves from LotR are rather morally dubious too.


So, to get into philosophy, can you have morality without free choice? Are you truly evil if you never chose to be evil?

From all practical intents and purposes this discussion is about as meaningful as discussing whether we really are just meatbots typing meaningless strings of non-symbols because chemical reactions randomly fired that way.

It may be that in your setting free will really does not exist (particularly if it has stuff like accurate prophecies or is explicitly materialistic - both, for that matter, apply to many or even most iterations of DnDverse). It may be that it exists due to a quantum-like paradox that mortals cannot fully comprehend. But when being tortured for lulz by an evil creature, or healed by a good one, you probably do not care. Practicality dictates the common sense assumption that creatures who are really, really devoted to hurting you, everyone you know and your whole civilization, should be marked as evil, and those intent on helping as good.


But why does any Role playing game NEED an alignment system with actual manifestations of good and evil? D&D has it because its largely based on Tolkien's Middle Earth where good and evil is an easily definable thing.

D&D is not remotely based on Middle Earth (Moorcock's nihilistic Eternal Champion verse had the defining impact on DnD cosmology), and if you think that good and evil are easily defineable things in Middle Earth, you've not paid attention to the most basic plot points of the Tolkien's books.


Except that this is totally just an informed attribute (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute) in those settings. There is no in-world evidence of it being true, and a fair deal of evidence that suggests that it is not true.

So, when Bane or Takhisis appears before you in person and proudly proclaims itself to be the Supreme Evil Ruler of All Evil - and do note they sometimes style themselves just like that, because in DnDverse evil is not actually associated with cosmological weakness, however wrong that might feel to you and however philosophically unsound this is - this does not count as evidence? Also note, both appear before mortals a good deal, and Bane is also known for sending visions to thousands of people at once.


The narrator can tell me it's evil all they want. I am not going to believe the narrator unless they show me, and they simply don't.

Soooo, trying to screw over the world for your personal benefit (for which both of above-mentioned personalities are quite notorious for) does not count as "showing"?

JoeJ
2015-11-21, 01:18 PM
But why does any Role playing game NEED an alignment system with actual manifestations of good and evil? D&D has it because its largely based on Tolkien's Middle Earth where good and evil is an easily definable thing. If my campaign doesn't have some struggle involving a dark force trying to destroy the world, is it less fun?

D&D is also based Robert Howard's Conan the Cimmerian stories. There are evil individuals but everything else lies in a grey zone, including Conan himself. Conan's actions are usually based on self interest not because of any vague ethos.

Look at Greek Mythology. The Greek Gods struggled against one another but there was no Good God or Evil God. Even Hades was just fulfilling a function within the Cosmos. The God's often aided or punished the mortal heroes of those myths not out of allegiance to some arbitrary concept of alignment but because of whim or mood.

I find in most games I play or GM, alignment often gets ignored because its not fun and actually impedes role playing. A characters motivation is much more interesting than a poorly designed alignment system. For example: A Paladin who vows to defend his people is much more fun to play than a paladin who vows to be good and lawful.

By the way, spellcheck is a wonderful thing.

D&D is also partly based on Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone stories where Law and Chaos were objectively defined by powerful supernatural beings. Good and Evil were added a bit later to try and get away from the Chaos = Evil idea. But there was still, in AD&D, a feeling that Lawful Good was the "goodest" of the goods, and a slightly lower sense that Chaotic Evil was the "evilist" of the evils. (Despite the official designation of Neutral Good and Neutral Evil as, respectively, "true" good and evil.)

FatR
2015-11-21, 01:48 PM
GreatWyrmGold, if you want an answer not framed in the terms of the rather pointless (given that it goes in the same circles for the last 30 years) alignment debate, you have the following options:

(1)Unfortunate circumstances of history made evil races evil. This answer might be productive from gameplay standpoint, because what history has done, PCs can undo. There is only the slight problem of this approach seeming "realistic" because it is rather mundane. But the real world does not work like that.

(2)Evil races have feeding needs or reproductive cycle that is fundamentally harmful to humans and anything human-like. You don't discuss theoretical problems of morality with vampires or mind flayers, you smite them, because otherwise you'll be food. And if a mind flayer or vampire turns good by chance, he'll be morally obligated to oppose his own kind.

(3)Evil races are hardwired externally by some malicious being. Every orc has a downloaded program made by the Dark Lord instead of a soul inside of his head. Bug-faced monsters are just extensions of the queen.

(4)Evil races are hardwired internally. Perhaps they instinctively fear and loathe everyone who is not like them. Perhaps they cannot comprehend empathy and compassion.

(5)There is an objectively existing force of moral corruption in the world, and evil races are by nature closely attuned it, so they are constantly filled with hate and destructive urges.

(6)An evil race is not strictly a race, but a result of metaphysical selection that eliminates anyone non-evil. Fiends of the Lower Planes have to be malevolent to start with, before they are placed in an environment that encourages malevolence. Or perhaps elves spontaneously turn into drow if they become truly, irredeemably evil.

Mix and match to your taste.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-21, 02:20 PM
Feanor would like to have a word with you. Certain elves from LotR are rather morally dubious too.

Please name a morally dubious elf in Lord of the Rings.

And Feanor perfectly makes my point about Tolkien. No one in Tolkien's world chooses to be evil. Feanor is corrupted by Melkor. Boromir is corrupted by the ring. Saruman and Denethor are corrupted by Sauron when they look through a Palantiri.


D&D is not remotely based on Middle Earth

Really? So i guess the legal issues D&D had back in the 70s where they had to change "hobbit" to "halfling" and "Balrog" to "Balor" were baseless.

Read the original rule books. There were 4 playable races: human, elf, dwarf, and hobbit. The descriptions for elf, dwarf, and hobbit were paraphrased from Tolkien.

D&D is based on works by a lot of authors including Howard, Zelzany, Lovecraft, Vance, and Tolkien. I remember an interview with Gygax where he said that the strongest influences on the original Fantasy Chainmail war game were Howard and Tolkien.

Florian
2015-11-21, 02:34 PM
@Napoleon_in_rag:

It has already been said, but Moorcooks Law/Chaos axis was a very early part of the game that only later was expanded to included good and evil.

But that is actually quite uninteresting.

What it is, is a tool to help people who understand it play along and keep playing together in a certain direction without discussions breaking the game.

Naturally, for that to work, everybody has to habe the same understanding of it.

The Conan example is the key to that. Depending on your upbringing and cultural background, one can interpret his actions as either good or evil.
You don't want to have this kind of diskussions at your table, this has to be aboided by stating clear guideslines on what good and evil means and stick to them.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 02:49 PM
Napoleon in rag: if Feanor doesn't count as morally dubious, discussing Silmarillion or Middle-Earth with you is largely pointless.

And uh, about that "being corrupted" thing... yes, everyone evil is corrupted by Morgoth. He's the Devil who introduced evil into the setting. But the nature of that corruption is temptation. If good creatures had no free will, they could not be tempted!

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 02:56 PM
Soooo, trying to screw over the world for your personal benefit (for which both of above-mentioned personalities are quite notorious for) does not count as "showing"?

Nah, because not all the Evil characters I see in the canon act like that. Nor do all the Good characters I see avoid acting like that.

"Bane is Evil and evil, so Evil = evil" is not a logically sound argument. If I was to believe that Evil = evil and Good = good, I would have to see it consistently demonstrated that all Evil characters are more evil than all Good characters, and that Good people are actually consistently morally superior to Evil or Neutral characters. I do not see this demonstrated in either Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk.

Edit: To clarify further... I believe that Bane is a jerk. I do not believe that the fact that Bane is a jerk means that, say, Corellon Larethian is not a jerk just because he is rated Good.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-21, 02:59 PM
@Napoleon_in_rag:

The Conan example is the key to that. Depending on your upbringing and cultural background, one can interpret his actions as either good or evil.
You don't want to have this kind of diskussions at your table, this has to be aboided by stating clear guideslines on what good and evil means and stick to them.

This whole debate is based on the fact that it is pretty much impossible to state a clear guideline on what good and evil means.

My point with Conan is that you don't need alignment to have a fun game and to roleplay. A player who understands his characters motivations roleplays better than one who adheres to some nebulous version of good v evil, law v chaos.

Many RPGs don't have an alignment system. I personally believe D&D runs better without one. You avoid a lot of questions like whether it is possible to have a "good" kobold.

And, again, spellcheck is a wonderful thing.

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 03:00 PM
Ludic: We can call the Electromagnetic Field Evil and watch it's effect, sure. Or we could call Swords Axes to the same effect.

The force that is labeled Evil in D&D is called Evil because it simply -is- Evil. A pure manifestation of that concept as a quantifiable energy or mass within the game's universe. That's according to the Developers, Writers, and the in-canon Deities.

You can spend weeks trying to decipher it and finding different labels you can use, but a Longsword and a Battleaxe both still do 1d8 damage (1d10 if you use both hands).

Though it's comforting to know that in the simplistic alignment system of Dungeons and Dragons, everyone lives in a universe with actual free will, without the pesky philosophical issues of a deterministic interpretation of reality.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 03:03 PM
Ludic: We can call the Electromagnetic Field Evil and watch it's effect, sure. Or we could call Swords Axes to the same effect.

Well then, do that. Go look at the effects of the alignment mechanics. Call them force A, B, C, and D. Let's pretend we're in the Greyhawk setting and we're some guy investigating the nature of these forces. Then come back and tell me how you determined that they are actually equivalent to morality by basically any independent definition of the term, using only sources of information accessible to an in-world character (e.g. not "the designer told me so"). And no, "god said so" is not strong evidence, it's just an appeal to authority.


The force that is labeled Evil in D&D is called Evil because it simply -is- Evil. A pure manifestation of that concept as a quantifiable energy or mass within the game's universe. That's according to the Developers, Writers, and the in-canon Deities. But not the worlds written by those developers or writers. I totally see Good characters being at least as bad as Evil characters in Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk all the time.

If it's just the designers telling me it's so because they said so, it's an Informed Attribute.

If the Chaotic Good people are enslaving women and children and the Lawful Good people are summarily executing them, and the Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil people are doing the same thing (all of these are examples straight from Gygax), what is leading me to believe that the thing that makes a person ping as "Good" or "Evil" is their moral character? If I'm from a culture that never heard the names of these forces before, what empirical evidence would lead me to name those forces Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos?

Mr.Sandman
2015-11-21, 03:12 PM
On the original purpose, writing cool explanations for why 'evil' races act evil, I present my most recent take on Orcs.

Orcs in this setting are an odd mix of merciless killing machines and a cannon fodder race. Their core belief is that the stronger the person, the stronger the resulting Outsider, and the gods need Outsiders of all types to fight darkness from outside existence type stuff. It is for this reason that they go around killing as many strong things as they can, hoping to get strong and die themselves. These Orcs often refuse to kill the young or weak, in the hopes that they will get stronger. A Princess Bride style 'you killed my father, prepare to die' speech is considered one of the greatest honours they can receive, as it means they succeeded in making another stronger, and so they will often be as frightening as they can. As they don't tell anyone else this all other races see them as evil, kill happy, monsters.

Florian
2015-11-21, 03:16 PM
This whole debate is based on the fact that it is pretty much impossible to state a clear guideline on what good and evil means.

My point with Conan is that you don't need alignment to have a fun game and to roleplay. A player who understands his characters motivations roleplays better than one who adheres to some nebulous version of good v evil, law v chaos.

Many RPGs don't have an alignment system. I personally believe D&D runs better without one. You avoid a lot of questions like whether it is possible to have a "good" kobold.

And, again, spellcheck is a wonderful thing.

I agree, spellcheck is a wonderful thing. Mine is switched to my native language, so some things will slip by me, no matter how hard I try. (And there is that annoying tendency to correct "have" to "habe")

As for the rest, let me say that I don't disagree, but I'm very careful about things that happen in the game and may translate to be "a thing" at the table itself, something I don't want to happen.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 03:37 PM
Deep in the cave, Magluk played with her two young orclings. She thanked Gnuumsh every day for blessing her with two strong, young orcs. Drok was 5 and Krollic was 7. In a few years, they would join their father in hunting for food for the tribe but for now, they were all hers.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite childhood orc game "Cockroach Ball". Krollic grunted "Cheater".

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok turned to run down, deeper into the hill to safety. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her kitchen knife and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness were the bodies of her two beloved orclings being looted by the humans.



***********************

Who are the evil ones in this encounter?

Good post! This is precisely the kind of question people should be asking, and yet all too often point to racial alignments as an excuse to not think about them.

FatR
2015-11-21, 04:00 PM
Please name a morally dubious elf in Lord of the Rings.

All Lorien elves (utter isolationism with the strict rules on killing interlopers - understandable and pragmatic, but hardly benevolent, plus ****ting on dwarves for what was their greatest tragedy), the bunch of elves Frodo and company encounter in Shire (running away to save their hides at the time when Sauron was clearly ready to overrun the world). One of the big points of LotR is that different peoples who have very little love and often very little understanding of each other can unite against an existential threat in the world's darkest hour.


And Feanor perfectly makes my point about Tolkien.

No he doesn't.


No one in Tolkien's world chooses to be evil. Feanor is corrupted by Melkor. Boromir is corrupted by the ring. Saruman and Denethor are corrupted by Sauron when they look through a Palantiri.

"Devil made me do it!" is not a valid argument in our world, and neither it is in the Middle Earth, particularly for creatures who saw personally that the devil is not the highest power in existence. Neither of the four persons above faced a temptation beyond their willpower (only Frodo did, and that took months of corruption followed by weeks of nearly non-stop mind rape). All chose to succumb by listening to petty and selfish aspects of their natures. Again, maybe you should pay some attention to the text.



Really? So i guess the legal issues D&D had back in the 70s where they had to change "hobbit" to "halfling" and "Balrog" to "Balor" were baseless.
Read the original rule books. There were 4 playable races: human, elf, dwarf, and hobbit. The descriptions for elf, dwarf, and hobbit were paraphrased from Tolkien.

Too bad that none of those, from balors to halflings had anynothing to do with Tolkien beyond appearance and names easily recognizable by fantasy fans. Any similarities went only skin-deep.


This whole debate is based on the fact that it is pretty much impossible to state a clear guideline on what good and evil means.


Which is not the fact, but your opinion.


Nah, because not all the Evil characters I see in the canon act like that.

That might just have something to do with the fact that not all of them are mighty deities.


Nor do all the Good characters I see avoid acting like that.

Please provide examples of a Good character proclaiming himself to be the All-Powerful Lord of Evil and repeatedly trying to screw over the world, or I don't know, even just using his son as fuel for his own resurrection.


"Bane is Evil and evil, so Evil = evil" is not a logically sound argument.

(1)It is when Bane is the paragon of Evil, the reference point and role model used by evil (or at least Lawful Evil) creatures across the world, religiously worshipped in the most literal sense of the word by many of them.

(2)However, that was not the argument I made. Which was: when the creatures who by their very position are guaranteed to have a good grasp on the metaphysics of the world, appear in person (or maybe you go to visit them in their realm, which you can if you're badass enough) and proclaim that Evil exists and they are its avatars, what reason to not believe their words do you exactly have, again? "Lalala, I'm not listening"?


If I was to believe that Evil = evil and Good = good, I would have to see it consistently demonstrated that all Evil characters are more evil than all Good characters, and that Good people are actually consistently morally superior to Evil or Neutral characters. I do not see this demonstrated in either Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk.

I cannot speak for Greyhawk, because I'm not very familiar with the setting, but if we talk about Forgotten Realms, the problem is solely with your sight. Evil societies in FR consistently exhibit such practices as slavery, bloody sacrifice (the only major god of Evil in FR who doesn't absolutely demand sacrifice of sapient beings before you can even claim to be a worshipper is Talos), absence of law beyond subjugation of the weak by the strong, belief of racial surpemacy, oh, and good old military aggression. And usually all of those (unlike Neutral societies which at worst have the last two, and Good societies which have none). Add the routine habit of eating other sapients for savage humanoids. If you do not believe that this point at the moral inferiority of Evil societies, well, the problem is with you, not with the setting. And yes that points exactly to consistent moral superiority of Good people over evil ones, because individuals can be outliers, for whatever reason, but shape of societies is to a large extent determined by nothing else than consistent tendencies associated with one aligment or another.

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 04:03 PM
Clearly, Ludic, I'm not getting my point across. Allow me to try one last time.

Out of the Abyss catalogs how being in the presence of Demons and their possessions, which radiate Energy C (Evil), infects you with a madness that subverts your alignment in favor of murdering your friends or any nearby children or stealing or whatever the given madness demands of you. Raise a child near a hellmouth and the game has, in previous editions, described the warping effects of the manifested evil on mortals and how it literally makes them evil.

Morality is not equivalent to Energies A through D. It is the manifested result of their impacts on the world. The ripples left in the water by the rock. At least according to the game's rules. Sure it's simplistic writing based on the tropes of good and evil... But it goes back a LOT farther than Tolkien. Look to any story from history in which there are simply evil people: Nature over Nurture is the basis.

And yes. Of course the adventurer in Napoleon's little morality play is evil in the scenario. He murdered a child. I don't think anyone in the thread is arguing that all orcs are born completely irredeemably evil and the only appropriate solution is the final one. If they are then they are clearly at least a Goebbels and possibly a full Hitler.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-21, 04:14 PM
Good post! This is precisely the kind of question people should be asking, and yet all too often point to racial alignments as an excuse to not think about them.

To be clear, I am not saying that players should find out whether any given Orc is "Good" or "Evil" before killing them.

I am saying remove alignment from the game. Then, your players go after the Orcs because they threaten a trade route or because they have been raiding nearby farms. Not because the Monster Manual says they are an Evil Race and your characters, as the good guys, must kill them. Its simpler and makes for better roleplaying.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 04:17 PM
I cannot speak for Greyhawk, because I'm not very familiar with the setting, but if we talk about Forgotten Realms, the problem is solely with your sight. Evil societies in FR consistently exhibit such practices as slavery, bloody sacrifice (the only major god of Evil in FR who doesn't strictly demand sacrifice of sapient beings before you can even claim to be a worshipper is Talos), absence of law beyond subjugation of the weak by the strong, belief in racial surpemacy, oh, and good old military aggression. And usually all of those (unlike Neutral societies which at worst have the last two, and Good societies which have none). Add the routine habit of eating other sapients for savage humanoids. If you do not believe that this point at the moral inferiority of Evil societies, well, the problem is with you, not with the setting. And yes that points exactly to consistent moral superiority of Good people over evil ones, because individuals can be outliers, for whatever reason, but shape of societies is to a large extent determined by nothing else than consistent tendencies associated with one aligment or another.

I on the other hand am more familiar with Greyhawk, less so with Forgotten Realms. I must admit I am mostly judging Forgotten Realms by extension (e.g. Corellon Larethian is also in Forgotten Realms, for instance, and I assumed he was similar). Corellon Larethian is totally a jerk every time I see him do basically anything. He treats his own subjects cruelly, and on a whim will subject even his most loyal servant to a fate worse than death for eternity (banishing the soul from heaven and earth). He conspires with other deities to keep "humans and other monstrous races" from becoming "too strong." He's always telling people to kill all the orcs and drow and goblins. He promotes an annual holiday that is punctuated with a night of bloody slaughter.

One of the big things for me, though, is that I keep seeing adjectives and adverbs used to establish the bad guy rather than actual actions. For example, if a goblin uses guerrilla tactics, they're cowardly and scheming and malevolent. If an elf uses guerrilla tactics, they're quick and cunning and cautious. If the elves go and wipe out the orcs, it's only right; after all they're orcs and it's just assumed that they will hurt elves in the future (as if the orcs don't have the same expectation from the elves). If the orcs try to get their homeland back (commonly stated as an orcish motivation in Greyhawk), they're the bad guys and, according to Gygax, you can totally slaughter or enslave their women and children and be Lawful Good or Chaotic Good. The second I see a guy exterminating or enslaving a whole population like that, I really have to wonder why they're the good guys. Maybe that's just me.

I mean, there also was a lot of cartoonishly awful Evil flying around too. Slavery, torture, blood sacrifice, all that. But it's not like the good guys weren't going around torturing, slaughtering, or enslaving women and children too. Or slaughtering people for religious reasons, either (Agelong. Seriously how do you have that as a cultural practice and still act surprised that the orcs hate you?).

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 04:21 PM
I don't entirely disagree with that, Napoleon... but why bother?

Good and Evil as objective forces and alignments in a game don't make for worse roleplaying. If your players are on a pogrom of murdering all the Orcs in the world -because- they're Orcs then you're dealing with a completely different problem and you should definitely talk to those players... (And definitely find out if they intend to annex Poland before electing them to public office.)

No game I've been in, or seen, in my 20+ years of gaming have involved any variation of the phrase "Oh, no. It's okay to kill all of the (insert evil race here) because the monster manual says they're evil!"

It's all about the context of what's going on in the game that makes the player's decisions.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 04:30 PM
To be clear, I am not saying that players should find out whether any given Orc is "Good" or "Evil" before killing them.

I am saying remove alignment from the game. Then, your players go after the Orcs because they threaten a trade route or because they have been raiding nearby farms. Not because the Monster Manual says they are an Evil Race and your characters, as the good guys, must kill them. Its simpler and makes for better roleplaying.

Yeah, I follow you.

If you ask me, even if alignment isn't wholly removed, it should at the very least be removed from racial entries in the Monster Manual. There is seriously no reason for it to be there. I feel like almost anyplace else is a better place to define alignments for cultures, characters, etc than sticking "Always Evil" at the tail end of a Monster Manual entry.


Out of the Abyss catalogs how being in the presence of Demons and their possessions, which radiate Energy C (Evil), infects you with a madness that subverts your alignment in favor of murdering your friends or any nearby children or stealing or whatever the given madness demands of you. Raise a child near a hellmouth and the game has, in previous editions, described the warping effects of the manifested evil on mortals and how it literally makes them evil.

I'm not familiar with 5e stuff. Anyways, I'll just admit I don't know too much about FR and leave it at that. I stand by my point for Greyhawk, though.


But it goes back a LOT farther than Tolkien.

What the heck does Tolkien have to do with me thinking that Greyhawk's take on alignment is inconsistent?


And yes. Of course the adventurer in Napoleon's little morality play is evil in the scenario. He murdered a child. I don't think anyone in the thread is arguing that all orcs are born completely irredeemably evil and the only appropriate solution is the final one.

I didn't say that anyone in the thread said that. I said that Gary Gygax (not someone in this thread) explicitly said that you could murder or enslave enemy noncombatants (even if they were Good-aligned!) as a Lawful Good or Chaotic Good character.

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 04:49 PM
Yes. Gary Gygax said that.

One guy, trying to write up a foundation of a game system said that.

Some 40 years ago.

If you don't like Greyhawk (God knows I don't) don't play Greyhawk. Play FR or Dark Sun or Eberron or Ravenloft or literally any other setting.

Or play Greyhawk as written by different writers who don't agree with what Gygax said 40 years ago. Gosh knows 3e's Greyhawk wouldn't accept what Gygax wrote. The Book of Exalted Deeds confirms as much.

Are you seriously railing against all aspects of the idea of evil and good being actual forces in the universe because you dislike how Gygax ran his games? Good lord, Man. You have literally hundreds of options that don't follow Gygax's idea which all utilize the Nature vs Nurture moral forces ideology.

Go play some of the other ones.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 04:51 PM
Are you seriously railing against all aspects of the idea of evil and good being actual forces in the universe because you dislike how Gygax ran his games? That is not even close to what I am saying, no. I actually happen to be entirely cool with the idea of evil and good being actual forces in the universe. I just feel like just about everything I've read about alignment in D&D sounds like nonsense. That includes the Book of Exalted Deeds and all of the Forgotten Realms material I've read (which does not include Out of the Abyss or anything after 3e, so I can't comment on that).


Go play some of the other ones.

I do...? :smallconfused:

I pretty much only play Eberron and homebrew nowadays.

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 05:03 PM
You've been arguing with me about how Evil as a force doesn't work because of a lack of empirical evidence and making semantic arguments... To what end?

If you LIKE evil being an objective force in the world, why were you arguing that it wasn't?

I'm just so confused right now it's not even funny.

Anyway. Yeah. Of course there's a bunch of cross-writing and nonsense in alignment. You're reading the writing of hundreds of different writers weighing in with their idea of what alignment is over the course of 4 decades. There's going to be a lot of situations where the ideas get mixed up and contradict each other.

Because it's a huge number of different people's various opinions.

The foundational idea, however, is kind of cool. And I honestly wish that's how our world worked: With objective good and evil.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 05:08 PM
Invoking flaws of D&D alignment to argue how alignment should be removed from RPGs is bloody hilarious considering human tendencies to categorize and stereotype.

Reality check: good and evil are real concepts with life and meaning outside a game sub-system. You will have players sorting game characters into "good guys" and "bad guys", and you will have players fighting NPCs for no reason other than "because they're the bad guys!" This expectation is built into most common genres of game content, even.

Alignment just makes it explicit which guys some NPCs are supposed to be and serves as shorthand for the GM for how to play them. Ditching alignment mostly just means having to use more words for the same result.

Florian
2015-11-21, 05:09 PM
Yes. Gary Gygax said that.

One guy, trying to write up a foundation of a game system said that.

Some 40 years ago.

If you don't like Greyhawk (God knows I don't) don't play Greyhawk. Play FR or Dark Sun or Eberron or Ravenloft or literally any other setting.

Or play Greyhawk as written by different writers who don't agree with what Gygax said 40 years ago. Gosh knows 3e's Greyhawk wouldn't accept what Gygax wrote. The Book of Exalted Deeds confirms as much.

Are you seriously railing against all aspects of the idea of evil and good being actual forces in the universe because you dislike how Gygax ran his games? Good lord, Man. You have literally hundreds of options that don't follow Gygax's idea which all utilize the Nature vs Nurture moral forces ideology.

Go play some of the other ones.

You know what is funny? The alignment system written by Gygax and inspired by Moorcock and Tolkien can be very very unpleasant to us "modern" people. It can confront us with things we don't want to think about.

Even more funny, at least for me, is the ending of LotR in this regard, as the Hobbits learned all that and simply want to go back home, forgetting what they learned about it.

Not saying that I see it as an important or integral part of the game to handle that stuff, just implying that these things are part of the core problems most people have with the alignment system as it is.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 05:09 PM
You've been arguing with me about how Evil as a force doesn't work because of a lack of empirical evidence and making semantic arguments... To what end?

If you LIKE evil being an objective force in the world, why were you arguing that it wasn't?

I'm just so confused right now it's not even funny.

Anyway. Yeah. Of course there's a bunch of cross-writing and nonsense in alignment. You're reading the writing of hundreds of different writers weighing in with their idea of what alignment is over the course of 4 decades. There's going to be a lot of situations where the ideas get mixed up and contradict each other.

Because it's a huge number of different people's various opinions.

The foundational idea, however, is kind of cool. And I honestly wish that's how our world worked: With objective good and evil.

I don't actually understand why you're arguing with me, since you've already agreed with my actual point.



Morality is not equivalent to Energies A through D. It is the manifested result of their impacts on the world. The ripples left in the water by the rock. At least according to the game's rules. Sure it's simplistic writing based on the tropes of good and evil... But it goes back a LOT farther than Tolkien. Look to any story from history in which there are simply evil people: Nature over Nurture is the basis.

So, Good != good and Evil != evil. The energies are not equivalent to the morality. That's all I'm saying, and you appear to have agreed with me on that, but it appears that at some point there has been a miscommunication. =\

The fact that there's a substance or force that drives you crazy doesn't make it the same thing as evil, any more than taint is the same thing as evil in Legend of the Five Rings.

I don't think that "morality is objective in D&D" is a problem because I don't believe in moral relativism in real life, either.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-21, 05:15 PM
But why does any Role playing game NEED an alignment system with actual manifestations of good and evil? D&D has it because its largely based on Tolkien's Middle Earth where good and evil is an easily definable thing. If my campaign doesn't have some struggle involving a dark force trying to destroy the world, is it less fun?

Yes, a game world needs a ''foe''. I guess you could bend all over backward and say your foe is not a dark evil foe, but they are....




Look at Greek Mythology. The Greek Gods struggled against one another but there was no Good God or Evil God. Even Hades was just fulfilling a function within the Cosmos. The God's often aided or punished the mortal heroes of those myths not out of allegiance to some arbitrary concept of alignment but because of whim or mood.

Guess it depends on what your interpretation of each one of the gods is after several thousand years. Saying that they are all ''just gods that do whatever they want'' is too easy. A lot of Greek gods do fall around being neutral, but not all of them Hecate, Aries and Hades can sure be seen as evil. And Greek Mythology is also full of evil monsters that were worshiped too.

LudicSavant
2015-11-21, 05:42 PM
Alright lemme see if I can clear this up.


You've been arguing with me about how Evil as a force doesn't work

This is not what I was saying. I am totally cool with Evil as a corrupting, physical, tangible, measurable force, like Taint or what-have-you. What I disagree with is the idea that said force and immorality are logically equivalent concepts (which is how an awful lot of posts seem to put it, emphasizing words like "literally" and so forth).


clearly the forces labelled Good and Evil exist in-world.


I'm just so confused right now it's not even funny. I feel there has been a miscommunication (perhaps on my end as well). My point was simply this:


Morality is not equivalent to Energies A through D.

Does this help with the confusion?

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-21, 06:00 PM
You know what is funny? The alignment system written by Gygax and inspired by Moorcock and Tolkien can be very very unpleasant to us "modern" people. It can confront us with things we don't want to think about.

Reality check: any system of morals that happens to not be your system of morals can feel unpleasant and confront you with things you don't want to think about, or never would've thought about otherwise. It's such a trivial and inevitable phenomenom, I fail to see what's funny about it.

There's an RPG where players assume roles of followers of Paul the Apostle. Just as well there's an RPG where players assume roles of Nazi soldiers during World War 2. Those games obviously have a slightly different views on the nature of evil, with obvious potential for offense if people can't check their real-life baggage on the door before sitting down to play.

YossarianLives
2015-11-21, 06:03 PM
I'll just drop my two cents off in this thread.

First, I should say that I've never played in an official setting. It's just not the way my group does things. This may effect my judgement on this matter.

Admittedly my group plays hack and slash combat heavy games, or at least they do when I'm not DMing, unfortunately it's a bit difficult to play in my own game so I've never been able to experience anything else but hack and slash campaigns. But the thing is, I never kill people in RPGs because they're an Orc or a Goblin. I kill people because they're evil. I don't know what's so hard about this! When there's some joker going about murdering innocents or sacrificing children I'll try to stop them. It's as simple as that. No need to implement fantasy-racism.

It's also generally good idea to try to take almost everyone alive. Even the worst villains don't deserve death in most cases.

And even if they are evil I find the excessive murder of sapients disturbing so as a DM I use undead and constructs in favor of evil humanoids.

Once again, I don't see why attacking people because of their deeds rather than their race is so hard.

Ninja Bear
2015-11-21, 07:58 PM
I'll just drop my two cents off in this thread.

First, I should say that I've never played in an official setting. It's just not the way my group does things. This may effect my judgement on this matter.

Admittedly my group plays hack and slash combat heavy games, or at least they do when I'm not DMing, unfortunately it's a bit difficult to play in my own game so I've never been able to experience anything else but hack and slash campaigns. But the thing is, I never kill people in RPGs because they're an Orc or a Goblin. I kill people because they're evil. I don't know what's so hard about this! When there's some joker going about murdering innocents or sacrificing children I'll try to stop them. It's as simple as that. No need to implement fantasy-racism.

It's also generally good idea to try to take almost everyone alive. Even the worst villains don't deserve death in most cases.

And even if they are evil I find the excessive murder of sapients disturbing so as a DM I use undead and constructs in favor of evil humanoids.

Once again, I don't see why attacking people because of their deeds rather than their race is so hard.

Lots of people enjoy the tactical wargaming aspects of RPGs. They enjoy making custom characters and putting them through a bunch of combat trials and interesting tactical puzzles. These people don't want a bunch of lengthy hand-wringing about how the enemy team is only the enemy team by circumstance, any more than they want a football game to be preceded by a lengthy discussion about how the world would be a better place if the Broncos and Patriots could just learn to share the football and live in harmony; to them, that misses the entire point of the exercise. This is fine, and those people are welcome at the table. We'll call these people Group A.

Lots of other people prefer RPGs to be an improv session. They enjoy making interesting characters and interacting with other interesting characters, and find the combat aspects of the game horribly dull and something to be avoided whenever possible. To them, an encounter with one member of a street gang who is being mean to people because of his long-suppressed daddy issues is much more entertaining than an encounter with twenty members of that street gang in an interesting tactical environment, like a roof with slippery shingles or a crowded marketplace. This is also fine, and those people are welcome at the table. We'll call these people Group B.

Other people might have other motivations, or some mix thereof. This is also fine, and those people are welcome at the table. But in order to keep all possible groups happy at all possible tables, there needs to be a good mix of enemies DMs can pull out of their toolkit that will be suited to what their particular group wants. The Monster Manual aims to provide that toolkit by giving them lots of different monsters to choose from.

So, for group A, you might want enemies that are powerful and tactically adept, who never retreat or surrender and who will make decisions without an ounce of self-preservation, and who are all fixedly and identifiably on the Bad Guy team. You can put Group A up against orcs, who are even explained in-setting as "basically Gruumsh's RTS units," or another of the "always evil" monster races that's built along similar lines. This signals to the group that their preferred method of handling the baddies, "kill them until the encounter is done," is in fact the right one. Undead and constructs can work for this, but have different enough in-game mechanics that it isn't a good idea to do this all the time (unless you hate your rogue players).

For group B, you might want enemies that think identically to the PCs and which merely have different motivations than your group for the moment, so that your PCs can talk them around without fighting most of the time. You can signal that to your group by making your enemies be from one of the many "real people" races.

Group C might want enemies that they can play off against one another. You can use one of the backstabby races like the drow.

Group D might want enemies that think differently from them, but which are still sympathetic and can be reasoned with if you know what they value and what motivates them. For them, you have races like the kobolds.

And, I'm sure, there's a group E and a group F and a group G. All of them might want different things and in each case there might be a different tool (or monster) for the job. None of the tools are really any better or worse than the other; they're just different. It's also perfectly fine to switch around specific monster races into different "groups" if you want to; the most important rule is rule zero, after all, and many of the monster races are iconic enough that every group might want to have them in their game regardless of how things are set up in the Monster Manual. But you should understand why some people might want to do things differently, other than "fantasy-racism."

GreatWyrmGold
2015-11-21, 09:05 PM
I'm not sure if I should try and direct the thread towards what I originally intended the purpose to be or just watch.


Also, D&D does not go by the real world obsession of ''evil is wrong''...D&D accepts that ''good'' and ''evil'' are simply both choices and neither is better or worse then each other.
I've never seen anything suggesting this. Evil and evil beings are universally considered to be vile in every D&D supplement and setting which bothers to mention it. Do you have a source?


Another example(made up race):
The ruks have been magically altered to have a terrible hunger for meat. Between meals their hunger pangs grow in severity to eventually rival torture after a few short hours. This strongly encourages them to constantly feed (usually by eating farming villiages but some make due with small cities).
Humans and humanoids are terrible sources of meat—too bony, too well-armed.


Fantasy is driven by symbolism and themes, not logic and rationality (Though those can be themes or symbols).
I wouldn't make any absolute statements about something as broad as fantasy. Fantasy is not inherently less logical or more symbolic than other genres of fiction.


Because history is written by the victors,
And they didn't win.
Alone, this implies that the victors and losers act more or less the same. This is obviously not the case in the case of most "evil" races.


Good and Evil being objective forces doesn't really stop people from jumping through philosophical hoops to claim they're not real. I mean, look around you, is there any shortage of people who live in complete ignorance or even denial of really existing things?
But on the other side of the coin, there is no shortage of people who believe in the existence of things which blatantly do not exist. I think we can all agree that...Germanic pagans are an example of this. Such individuals are particularly omnipresent in pre-Englightenment cultures, and I don't see the fingerprints of the Scientific Method in most D&D settings.
How do you know that evil spells are actually powered by Evil, and not evil deities or entropy or something, or tainted by association with evil creatures (which is suggested by Summon Monster # changing subtypes if used to summon a demon instead of an elemental, despite being the same spell)? How do you know that creatures a paladin detects as evil are radiating some elemental evil, and not simply the side effects of evil deities or their servants checking on their well-being? How do you know that demons, elder evils, and such are corrupting the land around them due to being Evil and not, say, due to being highly magical, or powerful enough to enforce their malevolent subconscious on the world at large?
LudicSavant covered this point pretty well, but I feel I brought up a few points he happened to not cover.



This whole debate is based on the fact that it is pretty much impossible to state a clear guideline on what good and evil means.Which is not the fact, but your opinion.
No, I'd say it's a fact. Countless philosophers through the ages have tried to define good through the ages, with no answer standing up to scrutiny (and few acceptable even at a glance). If millions of our greatest, most educated minds working on the backs of each other for thousands of years can't find such guidelines, how could it be possible for philosophical laymen like us (or most fantasy writers) to do so?


Invoking flaws of D&D alignment to argue how alignment should be removed from RPGs is bloody hilarious considering human tendencies to categorize and stereotype.
Reality check: good and evil are real concepts with life and meaning outside a game sub-system. You will have players sorting game characters into "good guys" and "bad guys", and you will have players fighting NPCs for no reason other than "because they're the bad guys!" This expectation is built into most common genres of game content, even.
Alignment just makes it explicit which guys some NPCs are supposed to be and serves as shorthand for the GM for how to play them. Ditching alignment mostly just means having to use more words for the same result.
The idea that a mechanical alignment system is required for or otherwise seriously affects players' (and GMs') tendencies to categorize characters into Good and Evil is "bloody hilarious," considering that 90% of games lack any alignment system (as do 99% of other media), and yet players (and fans of other media) still categorize characters with reckless abandon.

Alignment as it exists in D&D doesn't help much as a guideline for playing characters. Elan, Drizzt, and Robin Hood are all CG; what do they have in common? What about Tasslehoff Burrfoot and Han Solo, both examples of either CN or CG depending on your mood and interpretation? Sauron, Khan, and Lex Luthor are all probably LE, but they are massively different characters. True Neutral is the worst of all—it can mean not making any moral choices, making moral choices but not with any reliable tendencies, actively trying to avoid any great moral "side" from achieving dominance over any other, or simply being too non-sapient (or differently sapient) to make choices using anything which resembles a human sense of right and wrong.
Alignment in D&D tells you a thing about your character, but it is rarely the central thing about him and almost never the only thing. In fact, it's almost never a specific thing. It's a box the game constrains you with, forcing characters to correspond to Evil or Good or Chaotic or Lawful. It works for a campaign which is supposed to include objective morality, but anywhere else, it works as well as scavenging works in the utopian city of Colombia.
The alignment system is a tool, but let's not pretend it's useful for something it isn't.


I've decided to find interesting examples of what I originally intended and point them out, but spoiler them for the benefit of anyone who doesn't care what my original intent was.


To the topic at hand:
My favorite justification for this was suggested on this forum: People aren't born members of the monster races such as kobolds, they become then after becoming evil themselves.

E.g. there are no evil elf because any elf that goes that becomes evil aligned transforms into an ork. Serial killers of any race transform into bugbears.
This is an excellent answer, probably the most interesting one thus far. It also brings up some questions. What happens if the orc becomes good again? What about the children of bugbears—are they bugbears as well, and do they have a chance to turn back?


On the original purpose, writing cool explanations for why 'evil' races act evil, I present my most recent take on Orcs.

Orcs in this setting are an odd mix of merciless killing machines and a cannon fodder race. Their core belief is that the stronger the person, the stronger the resulting Outsider, and the gods need Outsiders of all types to fight darkness from outside existence type stuff. It is for this reason that they go around killing as many strong things as they can, hoping to get strong and die themselves. These Orcs often refuse to kill the young or weak, in the hopes that they will get stronger. A Princess Bride style 'you killed my father, prepare to die' speech is considered one of the greatest honours they can receive, as it means they succeeded in making another stronger, and so they will often be as frightening as they can. As they don't tell anyone else this all other races see them as evil, kill happy, monsters.
I like this, especially because it gives a chance for the players to look at their logic...recognize something familiar...and realize that they, in their quest for XP, loot, and power, are not so different from these orcs. Most interesting answer thus far, sorry earlier idea by AceOfFools.

goto124
2015-11-21, 09:12 PM
Is there a purpose to objective morality other than 'character morality guidelines' or 'Red vs Blue so that we know who to shoot without thinking too hard'?

Steampunkette
2015-11-21, 09:57 PM
Feeling of direct responsibility/accomplishment with gravitas on destroying something actually evil, roleplaying concessions based on characters shifting alignments, the corruptive/redemptive forces of evil and good as direct manifestations, the connection to old world storytelling, the ability to play with expectations by subverting standard expectations of alignment...

There's definitely options.

nedz
2015-11-21, 10:00 PM
I'm not sure if I should try and direct the thread towards what I originally intended the purpose to be or just watch.

This thread has actually been quite restrained for an alignment debate. They are notorious for derailing into the sands of disagreement about a whole host of the issues with the whole subject.

FatR
2015-11-22, 12:33 AM
No, I'd say it's a fact. Countless philosophers through the ages have tried to define good through the ages, with no answer standing up to scrutiny (and few acceptable even at a glance).

That's also an opinion.

Which happens to be glaringly incorrect. Because societies exist, like, at all. A society cannot arise without a commonly accepted definition of good, and will fail, after moving for some time by inertia, if no definition can be commonly accepted any longer. Without such definiton there's simply no common frame of reference that allows people to interact with any degree of mutual trust. And if you cannot trust people farther than you throw them, any social structure extends only as far as your immediate personal reach. What you mistaking for "no answer standing up to scrutiny" (whose scrutiny, pray tell?) is the fact that definitions of good created throughout the ages disagree in less important details.

Upon seeing these disagreements, one can be tempted to fail into the trap of believing that morality is subjective. It is a trap because it logically leads to what on ASoIaF discussion forums was appropriately dubbed "Ramsaycentrism". If you are not familiar with George Martin's books, Ramsay Bolton is a sadistic serial killer who also happens to be a fairly successful (so far) warlord. See, if morality is subjective, then, by definition, Ramsay's opinion on what is moral and what is not cannot be any less valid than that of any of his victims. In fact, it is more valid, because they are dead, and he is at large. And the only real objection that systems proclaiming subjective morality raise - or can ever raise in good faith - against disregarding morality is "You'll get caught and punished by your fellow people!" Which clearly is not working in this particular case.

So if you want to assume that morality exists at all (why you are posting here if you do not believe so and therefore think that "good" and "evil" are just two meaningless four-character strings?), simple logic tells you that morality must be objective. If morality is objective then principles by which we determine good can be defined, and existing morality systems scrutinized to see which of them better matches those principles, and what improvements can be proposed. Even those who proclaim to reject objective morality rarely fail to apply the same procedure in practice, perhaps because "do what you can get away with" is simply not a very appealing platform. You can notice a couple of such people in this very thread, dramatically asking us whether massacring a human family (which they for some reason call "orcs") is a good act or not, even as they oppose mere attempts to claim that good and evil can be meaningfully defined.

And well, once you accept that morality is a subject to scrutiny according to objective standards, you have to accept that people, societies and even species can fail those standards and therefore be called Evil. Of course that does not prevent you from objecting that evil societies in DnD are written poorly - they usually are. This just might have something to do with the inherent contradiction between the fact that anything we can reasonably call evil is poisonous to the society and will kill it entirely or break it down to the simplest tribal units if overdosed, and the fact that DnD needs to constantly present us with a wide range of foes, therefore these foes cannot self-destruct too much.

veti
2015-11-22, 03:37 AM
But when being tortured for lulz by an evil creature, or healed by a good one, you probably do not care. Practicality dictates the common sense assumption that creatures who are really, really devoted to hurting you, everyone you know and your whole civilization, should be marked as evil, and those intent on helping as good.

Rem, as the Romans used to say, acu tetigisti.

All alignment is subjective. There are enemies and there are friends. Our friends are, obviously, not the same group as our enemies' friends (although there may be some overlap, and that's a story in itself). Our enemies are evil from our point of view, and we are evil from theirs, and there really is no particular reason to speculate about whose reasoning or classification is logically sounder - it simply doesn't matter. The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can all move on.

Mind flayers are evil because they dominate, torment and eat sentient beings. But from their point of view, they don't do anything that we humans don't do to pigs. And pigs are highly intelligent animals by any standard. If mind flayers are as much more intelligent than we are, as we are above pigs, then who are we to call them "evil" before we've embraced vegetarianism ourselves?

The only coherent answer is: they're killing and eating us. Who frickin' cares what gods they worship or why, they've got to be stopped by whatever means we can do it. If that means butchering every last mothers' son of them, then hand me the cleaver.

That's how I see D&D. We are where we are, and there are things that, here and now, need to be done. Somewhere there are philosophers and researchers, very likely living in literal ivory towers, who can speculate deeply about how it all came about and who the 'real' bad guys are here, but we don't have that luxury: we're at the sharp end, and if we don't act - now - it's us and ours who will be paying the price. And if one of those philosophers wants to come down here and join us - well, you know how in SF-horror films there's always the one scientist who wants to communicate with The Thing? We'll try to see they get a decent burial.

Florian
2015-11-22, 04:21 AM
Both statements are true: All alignment is subjective as well as all alignment is objective. Both views can coexist because they don't need to touch until they're tested, then objective trumps subjective. Unlike the real world, D&D type of games actually have the means to test objective alignments and therefore the truth. Now how an individual accepts the result, again, varies and is subjective.

So, for example, looking at Orc society from an objective POV, they clearly fall into the CE corner of the alignment grid, because their society is based on, values and activelly promotes everything that is CE, like individual might over society, personal power by any means, demon worship, and so on.

Ask an Orc, he'll gell you all is good as it is, that's the way it should be and he's proud of it. Cast detect evil on him and show him the resilt and he'll simply find his world view validated.

FatR
2015-11-22, 04:22 AM
Rem, as the Romans used to say, acu tetigisti.

All alignment is subjective.

My statement you answered to was related merely to the fact that discussions whether we can call evil evil if it is forced or destined to be evil are merely thought exercises that have no practical value when evil is attempting to kill you. Free will may be an illusion in our world, but police and courts hardly should take that into consideration when pursuing and judging criminals.


Mind flayers are evil because they dominate, torment and eat sentient beings. But from their point of view, they don't do anything that we humans don't do to pigs.

This is, however, wrong.

The difference between "fellow sapient being" and "animal" is not subjective. Does it have potentiality (the "potentiality" part is important, so that we do not relegate children and stupid people to animals) to communicate with you on the same level of undestanding (given that this is DnD let's add another clause: without a massive external remaking of its nature)? If yes, fellow sapient. If not, animal.

Pigs obviously cannot communicate with humans and undestand human culture. Not if you cast Awaken on them or something, fundamentally changing their nature and capabilities. Humans can fairly easily communicate with mind flayers (even if you discard all non-telepathy for the purpose of communications) and understand mind flayer culture. So, the situations are not remotely alike.

You can make a case that a truly ultraintellegent creature would be in its right to treat humans just like humans treat animals, with the same justification. But there are no such creatures in DnD. Primarily because it is generally hard to imagine something that is truly beyond us, and it is downright impossible to write a set of guidelines for running it in an RPG beyond "PCs lose by fiat". In settings featuring such creatures, like the Zones of Thoughts verse, mere mortals just have to live with the fact that there are creatures fundamentally better than them.

Cazero
2015-11-22, 05:12 AM
The difference between "fellow sapient being" and "animal" is not subjective. Does it have potentiality (the "potentiality" part is important, so that we do not relegate children and stupid people to animals) to communicate with you on the same level of undestanding (given that this is DnD let's add another clause: without a massive external remaking of its nature)? If yes, fellow sapient. If not, animal.

But you just defined potentiality of communication with a massive subjective bias that allows illithids to treat people like cattle. Non-telepathic entities can't glimpse the entire personnality of another as part of communication. They can't express or read emotions at a resonating level where communicating them is enough to ensure others will feel them too. You need to be a telepath for that. We're not fellow sapient for illithids because we lack a single arbitrary communication medium so potent that they consider it mandatory to be sapient.

And if you want a disturbing application with real life, the single arbitrary communication medium animals lack is human language.

LudicSavant
2015-11-22, 05:16 AM
The difference between "fellow sapient being" and "animal" is not subjective.


You can make a case that a truly ultraintellegent creature would be in its right to treat humans just like humans treat animals, with the same justification.

These statements seem inconsistent.


So, for example, looking at Orc society from an objective POV, they clearly fall into the CE corner of the alignment grid, because their society is based on, values and activelly promotes everything that is CE, like individual might over society, personal power by any means, demon worship, and so on.

Orcs were officially Lawful Evil before 3e. People on forums were saying they were obviously, objectively Lawful Evil because of their behavior/culture/etc to justify this label. Then orcs became officially Chaotic Evil after 3e, and people on forums started saying they were obviously, objectively Chaotic Evil because of their behavior/culture/etc to justify this new label.


Ask an Orc, he'll gell you all is good as it is, that's the way it should be and he's proud of it. Cast detect evil on him and show him the resilt and he'll simply find his world view validated.

Thought experiment: What if the orc, and indeed every demon, etc etc, said that Good was Evil, and Evil was Good? The orc believes that his principles are just. The orc casts Detect Evil on you and looks at the result and finds his world view validated.

Florian
2015-11-22, 06:58 AM
@LudicSavant:

Note that this is just my personal opinion: As far as I can tell, people seem to have trouble grasping the Law/Chaos axis because they get that mixed up with the Good/Evil axis. There seems to be a trend to be only able to grasp a 5-step linear progression, depending on how one feels in regard to L/C. (Meaning that there's a progression from Best > Good > Neutral > Worse > Worst with interchangeable C or L on the end points, so either CG or LG is best, with correponding LE or CE being worst).

Now the changes you mention, especially Orcs and Drow, they showcase that inability to get a grasp on C/L very well.
L is not the pure basis of a society, C is not the pure absence of society. That would only serve to showcase the extreme ends of that special axis. In their most common and (for us) useful form, it's about the emphasis on the individual or the group first and what is deemed to be more important.

goto124
2015-11-22, 07:06 AM
Wouldn't it have to be a god or set of gods that dictate alignment?

Florian
2015-11-22, 07:45 AM
Wouldn't it have to be a god or set of gods that dictate alignment?

No.

Gods or pantheons can simply be used to showcase alignment, but they can't enforce it, as that would be a pointless exercise.

LudicSavant
2015-11-22, 07:48 AM
@LudicSavant:

Note that this is just my personal opinion: As far as I can tell, people seem to have trouble grasping the Law/Chaos axis because they get that mixed up with the Good/Evil axis. There seems to be a trend to be only able to grasp a 5-step linear progression, depending on how one feels in regard to L/C. (Meaning that there's a progression from Best > Good > Neutral > Worse > Worst with interchangeable C or L on the end points, so either CG or LG is best, with correponding LE or CE being worst).

Now the changes you mention, especially Orcs and Drow, they showcase that inability to get a grasp on C/L very well. (Edit incoming)

I think it's just the psychological tendency for people to retroactively assign justifications for their beliefs.

What changed in the orc situation to make people change their opinion of how the orc's behavior could "obviously, objectively" be evaluated? The label.

See Choice-Supportive Bias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choice-supportive_bias) and Confirmation Bias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

Florian
2015-11-22, 08:30 AM
Wouldn't it have to be a god or set of gods that dictate alignment?


I think it's just the psychological tendency for people to retroactively assign justifications for their beliefs.

What changed in the orc situation to make people change their opinion of how the orc's behavior could "obviously, objectively" be evaluated? The label.

See Choice-Supportive Bias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choice-supportive_bias) and Confirmation Bias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

Good points and good food for thought. But ultimatelly, that touches on subjective alignment and only showcases how self-justification works.

To put it into perspective, if I was starving right now, that would showcase my thought process when I decide to steal some food to keep me alive.

Now, to circle back to the OP, take those justifications away and see where we land.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 10:27 AM
I'm not sure if I should try and direct the thread towards what I originally intended the purpose to be or just watch.


Let me try to get it back about what an evil race means for the game. I will talk about my "morality play" where a party of adventurers kill some orc children.

Deep in the cave, Magluk played with her two young orclings. She thanked Gnuumsh every day for blessing her with two strong, young orcs. Drok was 5 and Krollic was 7. In a few years, they would join their father in hunting for food for the tribe but for now, they were all hers.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite childhood orc game "Cockroach Ball". Krollic grunted "Cheater".

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok turned to run down, deeper into the hill to safety. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her kitchen knife and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness were the bodies of her two beloved orclings being looted by the humans.

Let's pretend you are the GM. And that the human wearing mail is a Paladin. A Lawful Good, prays 7 times a day, gives the gp he earns to charity, kind of Paladin. What do you do?

Scenario #1 All Orcs are Evil

I would do nothing. That Paladin prevented a a small Evil being from becoming a large Evil being. Move on with the game.


Scenario #2 Most Orcs are Evil, some Orcs are Good

Now you have a problem because your LG Paladin just killed a child who could have become a good Orc. Many religions (at least the Judeo-Christian ones) believe that children are innocent until they become adults. They also believe that the sins of the father should not be visited on the son. So your LG Paladin just committed a pretty heinous evil act.

What do you do? I argue that you would have to do the same thing as if the Paladin killed a human or elf child.


So my answer to the question "Why are Evil races Evil?" is because it makes the game simpler and easier to play. You get to avoid deep discussions about the nature of morality and ethics and just play the game. Pretty much, it gives your party something to kill without regret.

And again, my own personal stance on alignment is to get rid of it. D&D is perfectly playable without it.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-22, 11:24 AM
I've never seen anything suggesting this. Evil and evil beings are universally considered to be vile in every D&D supplement and setting which bothers to mention it. Do you have a source?

The books and game rules are written by people with a very strong bias and spin on things. So, naturally by default the writers would say evil is vile. From their point of view good is positive and right and evil is negative and wrong. And furthermore, the writers want to avoid the bad press of the past that labeled D&D an evil game and worse.

So when a good bias writer says something about evil, it will be negative. It after all takes a very rare person to admit that each view point has merit.

Default D&D uses the Great Wheel Cosmology, where each alignment is give a separate and equal place. Each published setting has plenty of evil places where evil people live, yet they are not called out as wrong or vile.



Looking at Orc society from an objective POV, they clearly fall into the CE corner of the alignment grid, because their society is based on, values and activelly promotes everything that is CE, like individual might over society, personal power by any means, demon worship, and so on.

Ask an Orc, he'll gell you all is good as it is, that's the way it should be and he's proud of it. Cast detect evil on him and show him the resilt and he'll simply find his world view validated.

Alignment is only subjective to mortals, cosmic alignment is objective. If a person does and evil or good act, then they do. They are free to say they did ''whatever'', but that does not change the truth. What a person says or thinks is meaningless.



Thought experiment: What if the orc, and indeed every demon, etc etc, said that Good was Evil, and Evil was Good? The orc believes that his principles are just. The orc casts Detect Evil on you and looks at the result and finds his world view validated.

And orc or demon might say they are good, but only from the point of view that what they do is right. Everyone will say that the way they live and act and think is the right way. This does not change the cosmic view of things, however.

Remember that the idea that ''good'' is the only ''right way'' is wrong. That is the modern bias view creeping in, that everyone must say they are ''good''.

Florian
2015-11-22, 11:29 AM
@Darth Ultron:

Sure. That's why I said that those are two different but related topics that lead to separate conclusions. People constantly get them mixed up, though.

@Napoleon_in_Rags:

Nicely played for cheap emotional effects, but actually unrelated to alignment, especially objective alignment.

LudicSavant
2015-11-22, 12:01 PM
This does not change the cosmic view of things, however. And that cosmic view, in your estimation, is?

The constraints of the thought experiment are that the rampaging murderous orc pings Good on the hypothetical detect alignment test, and the charitable human pings Evil.

The spell is telling him that he's detecting an Evil aura from the kind-hearted human and that he's detecting a Good aura from himself.

If subjected to the spell called Blasphemy, it harms himself. If subjected to the spell called Holy Word, it harms the human.

If the human goes and hangs out with demons in Forgotten Realms using the Out of the Abyss rules Steampunkette mentioned, his alignment shifts further to Good and his behavior becomes more similar to the orc's. And vice versa if there is a celestial equivalent.

Given this, the rampaging murderous orc concludes that he is "obviously, objectively moral."

Nothing about the way the universe works has changed. I have merely reversed the names. Absolutely all of the rules and in-world physics are the same; people simply call spells and alignments by different names.

The challenge is for you to identify why the orc's reasoning is wrong (using only information available to in-world characters, e.g. no metagaming), and, by extension, why similar reasoning is equally fallacious when the names are not switched. (There is an answer; it's a common logical error. No, the error has nothing to do with objective vs subjective)

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 12:52 PM
@Napoleon_in_Rags:

Nicely played for cheap emotional effects, but actually unrelated to alignment, especially objective alignment.

Its completely related to the discussion started by the OP. "Why are Evil Races Evil?" Because it give something for the PCs to slaughter without regret.

Objective Alignment - What a silly concept. You might as well be debating the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

If you sit 4 people down and ask them for a definition of what "Good" is, you get 4 different answers and vociferous debate because everyone's morality is based things like their culture, their religious views, and their upbringing. This thread pretty much proves that.

Perhaps I am wrong, though. Perhaps you, Florian, have a satisfactory definition of objective alignment that won't be picked apart by the other people who post on this thread. I doubt it.

But at the end of the day, I don't care about objective alignment. As a GM, what I care about is alignment in an RPG.

At the micro level, I view it as unnecessary and a hindrance because a player and a GM will have different definitions of what being "good" or "evil" means. I am more interested in what a character's motivation and background is and how that player role plays it than him following my personal moral code.

At the macro level, I think a cosmology based on alignment is also unnecessary. What happens when you have two "good" gods with a slightly different definition of G v E or L v C? Especially in a world like Forgotten Realms where they might be in competition for followers? Can 2 "good" gods fight each other? Again, I think the game becomes more interesting if you remove alignment and replace it with each God's personal motivation. Why does a particular Demon plot and scheme? Instead of the simplistic answer "because he is evil", perhaps he does it to move up the hierarchy of his particular level of hell. Perhaps he gets a power boost for every mortal he tortures. Perhaps he has a personal grudge against a god and takes it out on the god's mortal followers.

And this is nothing new. In Greek mythology, none of the Gods are truly good or truly evil. Often they intervene in the lives of mortals for no more reason than a whim. And that mythology is as deep or deeper than that of any fantasy writer.

JoeJ
2015-11-22, 01:01 PM
Objective Alignment - What a silly concept. You might as well be debating the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

If you sit 4 people down and ask them for a definition of what "Good" is, you get 4 different answers and vociferous debate because everyone's morality is based things like their culture, their religious views, and their upbringing. This thread pretty much proves that.

That's a non-sequitur. Good and evil can objectively exist regardless of whether or not everybody - or anybody - knows what they are.

LudicSavant
2015-11-22, 01:15 PM
One of the things that makes these conversations so incredibly frustrating is variable question fallacies. (http://lesswrong.com/lw/oc/variable_question_fallacies/)

A lot of supposedly "deep" questions can be resolved simply by getting over this fallacy. For instance, "if a tree falls in the forest and nobody's around to hear it, does it make a sound?" There are two general camps, one which will answer yes and one which will answer no, even though both camps tend to actually have the same worldview.

One common camp answers yes because they read the question as "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's around to hear it, does it make a sonic vibration" to which the answer would generally be agreed by both camps to be "yes."

The other common camp answers no because they read the question as "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's around to hear it, does it create an auditory experience" to which the answer would generally be agreed by both camps to be "no."

Both camps generally believe that the tree makes a sonic vibration and does not create an auditory experience, and yet they're disagreeing with each other. Why? Because they're answering different questions, while thinking that they're answering the same question.

This applies to a lot of things, like "what's the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?" as was so famously parodied in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The answer is relatively simple, the trouble is that people can't seem to agree on the question.


Good and evil can objectively exist regardless of whether or not everybody - or anybody - knows what they are.

I agree with this. For example, if we define moral action as, say, actions which serve the general well-being of conscious creatures, then one should totally expect that to exist independently of anyone's knowledge of the subject just as surely as what constitutes "effective maintenance of electronic appliances" exists indpendently of anyone's knowledge of the subject.

The fact that the definitions are fuzzy isn't even a big issue. For example, "healthy" is fuzzily defined, and yet we don't have too much trouble basing medical science around the concept of maintaining a person's health.

The fact that medicine has to adapt to diverse contexts (different people with different conditions or blood types or genetics or what-have-you, different standards of "health" as expected lifespans increase, etc) doesn't make people get caught up with objections that "hey, medical science is subjective!"

Florian
2015-11-22, 02:00 PM
@Napoleon_in_Rags:

Ok, first, let's start by dropping those stupid labels as they're culturally based and therefore meaningless in a conversation between strangers.

There're two axis with the extreme end points having clear set but in the extremes mutually exclusive core values. Society/Stability - Both/Neither - Individuality/Change and Creation/Preservation - Both/Neither - Destruction/Domination.
We could expand on the list of core values, but that would again start to go deeper in culturally inflected stuff.
These are core values. Not rules, not actions, not commandments and they don't include stuff like "eating humans, yes or no?". That is the very simple basis of objective alignments. You adopt a set of core values for yourself, maybe rejecting the opposite set of core values? You fall into that camp when you act on your core values then.

So on that level, the "how and why" is pretty much unimportant and the exact details (remember, cultural inflection) do not matter. Core values.have been chosen and the sides are pretty much clear.
(For example, eating humans is nothing that is part of anything so far. It just is)

So if you stick to this, it can be a tool to prevent disagreement at the table over individual actions, as actions in and of themselves have no inherent value.

So, for example, as there're "evil" societies/races, the call to action for a paladin should be clear: "redeem them if you can, destroy them if you must".
You can have your baby orc dilemma on the individual level of the paladin, but that doesn't concern the objective alignment behind his code.

That also touches on your other examples, as paladins can got to war with each other and call down angels to help them, there's nothing wrong with it, as they are not part of the same side, onto the same camp, team or club or anything.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 02:18 PM
Good and evil can objectively exist regardless of whether or not everybody - or anybody - knows what they are.

Exactly my point. You can't prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster (except for a few grainy photos). I can't disprove that it exists somewhere deep in the loch, or did exist once and now is gone. So why debate it?

Even if there is an objective alignment (and please provide a definition if you have one), each individual will have a subjective interpretation of it.

So to get back to the game....

In an RPG, any concept of alignment is based on that of the GM OR is set by a sourcebook and interpreted by the GM. Either way, the GM's subjective view of alignment determines how the game is played and this causes issues when a player has a different view or interpretation.

Even in a game with alignment, a characters motivations and background are more important for roleplaying than alignment.

So I say throw it out. Its not needed. Many RPGs don't have an alignment system and are perfectly fun to play.

Mark Hall
2015-11-22, 02:40 PM
Who are the evil ones in this encounter?

The orcs. Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid.

Your version includes a lot of humanization... you make the orc woman into a loving mother, and the conflict between the cubs something that could happen in any human household. In short, you didn't write orcs. You wrote greenskin humans and invited people to empathize with them, and blamed the human.

Let's rewrite the tale, shall we? How it might look if you had evil orcs, not greenskin humans?


***********************

Deep in the cave, Magluk watched her whelps at play. She had two, strong, orcs, and she had done her duty in Luthic's name to bring forth more orcs in the world; Krollic was the son of the old chief, Drok the son of the new, born after the old chief lost his fight for leadership. Soon, their strength would let them ravage the lands of elf, dwarf, and man, and she would be exalted for bringing such strength to the tribe.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite war game, "Cockroach Ball." Krollic, the older of the two, grunted "Cheater" and flew at his brother; he would teach him respect; as he punched the younger orc in the face, Magluk watched. Drok would survive, or he would not; if he did, it would make him stronger, and teach him to cheat better. If he did not, then he should not live.

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise, his hands still about his brother's throat, when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok struggled from under his brother's corpse, scrabbling for his club; he was no fool, he would run and fight again. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her gutting knife, still dirty with the blood of last night's halfling, and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness was the humans tossing in the corpses of her tribe, killed in the raid on the human village the night before.


***********************
Who's the evil ones in this story? Much of it remains the same; we've cast the orcish actions in less favorable light. She's not a loving mother watching her beloved orclings; she's proudly bred these cubs by whoever was strongest, because strength would let the tribe hurt more people. The childhood fight between the Drok and Krollic is now a fight between two evil people... one who did cheat, his older brother who will enjoy beating him, and their mother who isn't terribly concerned with which one lives. Your story stripped the human actions of context... they just broke in on an idyllic scene and slaughtered women and children who had done nothing wrong. But why were the humans there? Because the orcs had attacked THEIR village the night before. They killed two orc cubs, yes, but ones who were willfully violent. It wasn't a simple "kitchen knife" that Mugluk grabbed, and she didn't just gut rabbits and chickens with it... halfling meat is tender and well-marbled.

It's easy to write a story that casts the orcs sympathetically. But are they orcs if you deny that they're the spawn of a god of Conquest? The Gruumsh that Mugluk thanks believes "that the strong are meant to rule and the weak are meant to be crushed, their flesh rended and their blood spilled, their bodies killed or enslaved, because purging the world of weakness is what is best for all. Slavery is usually only a brief reprieve before death. Runts and cripples are more than just a burden on society, but a sign of Gruumsh's disfavor, marked by their weakness for elimination. That which does not kill an orc only makes them stronger." (qv (http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Gruumsh)) The Luthic I have her worship? She's not a loving mother, but "embodies the orcish feminine ideal, subordinate to male orcs but still protecting the cohesion of orcish society." (qv (http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Luthic))

You also remove context from the human actions. They show up and slaughter, for no reason whatsoever, then loot the corpses of children. But given Gruumsh's dogma, whose scenario is more likely? That the orcs were living peaceful, rustic, lives, with mild childhood squabbles and a father off hunting, or a society where an older brother casually beats the younger, possibly to death, while the mother looks on, uninterested, because she wants one of them to grow up strong and kill more humans?

Morty
2015-11-22, 02:42 PM
Evil races are Evil because lazy writing is lazy, because poor storytelling is poor, and/or because convenient labels are convenient.

Sometimes, Evil races are Evil because we needed something Evil to put in here, and this thing's green and has scales and it's ugly and it's just Evil, okay, alright? Sometimes, you just need a simple way to point out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. These guys look like European legends, and these guys look like something that got dry and crusty under the front porch after a week, so it's pretty obvious which ones are the simple choice for a convenient Evil tag. Sometimes, you're just playing a hack'n'slash adventure, no frills or fuss or story, nothing wrong with that, and you need to be able to point to something the PCs can kill without raising any annoying implications.

The bottom line is that the alignment system is obnoxious. I love telling people how to play Evil - I've written a guide to it (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?448542-Compliance-Will-Be-Rewarded-A-Guide-to-Lawful-Evil) - but alignment is nuanced because people are nuanced. Even in black-and-white, objective morality settings like D&D, you get Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin (http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/fc/20050824a), a being forged from pure cosmic Chaotic Evil who has voluntarily embraced the path of Lawful Good because of the power of twue wuv. The idea of "what makes a thing Evil" assumes that (1) you're prepared to take a gross oversimplification of the motivations of any thinking creature, and (2) said creature is completely incapable of exercising its free will beyond deciding which puppy it's going to eat.

I love Evil. I'm a fan of Evil. And I'll talk your ear off about it if you let me. But asking what makes an entire species Evil makes some assumptions which are just so inherently counterintuitive, so utterly baffling to any rational mind, that I'm not prepared to go down that road with any degree of seriousness.

It's crazy talk, man, crazy talk.

Well, this here poster beat me to what I was about to say. It's OoC convenience. Nothing more. One that isn't worth the logical contortions people go through to maintain it.

Ceaon
2015-11-22, 02:48 PM
The orcs. Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid. (...) In short, you didn't write orcs. You wrote greenskin humans and invited people to empathize with them, and blamed the human.

You're making a lot of sense, Mark, you really are. The thing is, some people are uncomfortable with the need for a race (multiple races, really) of evil beings. It is a built-in rationalization, a simplification with icky implications, and it may be a bad reflection of reality.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-22, 02:50 PM
Napoleon in rag: I'm not sure you even know what you're asking.

Creating a version of D&D where Good == good and Evil == evil is trivial. Pick basically any moderately self-consistent moral philosophy, say "this? This is how this fictional universe works" and apply it consistently during the game.

If a player still tries to argue how Good =! good or brings in real-world baggage to argue how your definition is not objectice, they're morons. They could as well be arguing the fighter's sword is not objective because it's not an actual sword, but a figment of imagination existing in the heads of a bunch of humans who all picture it differently. It's trivially true, but also completely besides the point of what the word "objective" means within a simulation.

Nothing requires a GM to solve real-life morality in order to use objective Alignment, because even when D&D Good == D&D good, absolutely nothing requires for D&D good == real-life good.

Nevermind that even if someone did post perfectly sound objective definition of real-life morality, it would not stop you from disagreeing with it.

Morty
2015-11-22, 02:50 PM
It's not really a choice between a "greenskinned human" and "not a greenskinned human". It's a choice between a greenskinned human who was programmed by a deity to be an unthinking force of destruction, and one that wasn't.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 03:25 PM
There're two axis with the extreme end points having clear set but in the extremes mutually exclusive core values. Society/Stability - Both/Neither - Individuality/Change and Creation/Preservation - Both/Neither - Destruction/Domination.
We could expand on the list of core values, but that would again start to go deeper in culturally inflected stuff.
These are core values. Not rules, not actions, not commandments and they don't include stuff like "eating humans, yes or no?". That is the very simple basis of objective alignments. You adopt a set of core values for yourself, maybe rejecting the opposite set of core values? You fall into that camp when you act on your core values then.



But there is still nothing objective about this.

Even these 4 (or 8?) core values you've chosen are based on culture, background, and beliefs. Your can choose Honor vs Deceit, Truth vs Falsehood, Love vs Hate, Energy vs Entropy, Atheism vs Theism, Hope vs Despair, Knowledge vs Ignorance, Light vs Dark, Ying vs Yang, Heat vs Cold, or, like in D&D, Law vs Chaos and Good vs Evil. Doesn't matter. This doesn't change the fact that your and my understanding of each core value is different, based on our individual world views.

This concept of mutually exclusive pairs of competing core values is, itself, a "cultural inflection", probably coming from a Christian based worldview of God vs Satan. Not all religions have a Devil.

That's why I say get rid of it, at least as a mandatory game concept enforced by the GM. Or to put it another way that you might better understand:

Let each player choose their own core values to follow

Treat them like they are adults, not 10 year old students in a Sunday school. Let them choose any core value they want, not ones limited to some arbitrary x and y axis. These values might have nothing to do with the traditional alignments in D&D. A character might value love to the point of selfishness, value honor even when the truth hurts innocents, value acquisition of knowledge over any concept of good and evil, value wealth as a means of security for her family. In every case you get a more interesting character than one who is just aligned with a "Chaotic Good" world view.

YossarianLives
2015-11-22, 03:26 PM
I really think this whole discussion comes down to a matter of personal choice. Some people like a world with always-evil monsters races. Some people like a world where alignment is independent of race.

Both are completely valid.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 03:49 PM
The orcs. Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid.



That depends on what game you are playing. Or even what edition or what game world in D&D.

But I think you missed the point of my whole post. Remember that the OP is asking about whether Kobolds can be good. Let me quote the end of the post.




Let's pretend you are the GM. And that the human wearing mail is a Paladin. A Lawful Good, prays 7 times a day, gives the gp he earns to charity, kind of Paladin. What do you do?

Scenario #1 All Orcs are Evil

I would do nothing. That Paladin prevented a a small Evil being from becoming a large Evil being. Move on with the game.


Scenario #2 Most Orcs are Evil, some Orcs are Good

Now you have a problem because your LG Paladin just killed a child who could have become a good Orc. Many religions (at least the Judeo-Christian ones) believe that children are innocent until they become adults. They also believe that the sins of the father should not be visited on the son. So your LG Paladin just committed a pretty heinous evil act.

What do you do? I argue that you would have to do the same thing as if the Paladin killed a human or elf child.


Problems like this are why I think alignment is unnecessary for a fun game and often just gets in the way.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 04:11 PM
Pick basically any moderately self-consistent moral philosophy, say "this? This is how this fictional universe works" and apply it consistently during the game.

But why do you need to impose a moral philosophy on a game at all? Unless, as a GM, you like being a Catholic School nun with a ruler in your hand. Which might be fun for you but not your players.

Have you ever played an RPG without alignments? Was it so horrible?

Get rid of alignment. Let the players decide what their characters moral code is (or lack there of). Don't limit it to one of 9 categories.


Nevermind that even if someone did post perfectly sound objective definition of real-life morality, it would not stop you from disagreeing with it.

If someone is able to post a perfectly sound objective definition of real life morality, one without cultural bias, I would be amazed. That person should probably go and start a religion or something.

JoeJ
2015-11-22, 04:27 PM
If someone is able to post a perfectly sound objective definition of real life morality, one without cultural bias, I would be amazed. That person should probably go and start a religion or something.

But how do you identify cultural bias? If there is an objective morality then it's possible, and I would even say likely, that some cultural values match that morality more closely than others. The fact that I come from a society where torturing kittens is viewed as wrong does not by itself imply that torturing kittens can't be objectively an evil act.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-22, 04:27 PM
But why do you need to impose a moral philosophy on a game at all?

Because it might be the whole point of the game to explore that moral framework, or the framework might be necessary to emulate a given setting.

For example, you can't convincingly play in Middle-Earth without understanding and applying the Catholic mindset underlying it, you can't play Vampire like it was meant to if you abandon the themes of humanity versus bestiality, and you can't do Moorcockian fantasy without Law or Chaos.


Have you ever played an RPG without alignments? Was it so horrible?

Argumentum ad hominem, but to entertain your question, yes and no.

They're the wrong questions, though. The one you should've asked is "have you ever played a game where the Alignment system improved the game?"

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 05:31 PM
Because it might be the whole point of the game to explore that moral framework, or the framework might be necessary to emulate a given setting.

For example, you can't convincingly play in Middle-Earth without understanding and applying the Catholic mindset underlying it, you can't play Vampire like it was meant to if you abandon the themes of humanity versus bestiality, and you can't do Moorcockian fantasy without Law or Chaos.

I do not think my question was clear. Let me restate.

Why does a GM need to impose an interpretation of a moral philosophy on the players? Why not let the players decide for themselves on what moral philosophy their character follows and how to interpret it? And not limit it to the Law-Chaos-Good-Evil framework? This is where I was going with the Catholic Nun thing, you interpret "good" her way or you get hit with a ruler.

I have not played the game in years but I remember Vampire being like this. I wouldn't describe "human vs beast" as an alignment system. I remember that any actual moral choices the player made were based on traits he or she chose. The game encouraged players to make up their own traits and not stick to list in the book. (I am not sure they were called traits. Its been about 15 years).

And I when I play an RPG, I am not "exploring a moral framework". That sounds too boring.



The one you should've asked is "have you ever played a game where the Alignment system improved the game?"

When I am GMing or playing, I find that alignment is usually ignored. In my experience, better role playing happens when its based on a characters motivations or background.

Florian
2015-11-22, 05:53 PM
Huh? Who cares about the GM? If exploring things like alignment, morality or foreign moral codes is going to be an integral and important part of the game, there should be rules to support this and provide a fallback point in case of diskussion, as so gm fiat doesn't come into it.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-22, 06:10 PM
You might as well ask "why does the GM need to impose any interpretation of the rules on players?"

Because he's the GM, duh. Interpreting and imposing them is his job.

You're failing to follow your own advice to its logical conclusion:

GM is a player.

GM plays all the NPCs.

Therefore, if players should be allowed to choose which moral philosophies to follow, the GM can choose which philosophies the NPCs follow. And he can map those philosophies on a grid and rate how player characters relate to them if he bloody well likes.

Coincidentally, this is exactly how the two-axis alignment system was meant to work in AD&D. It's how Vampire's and Cyberpunk's humanity subsystems work too, so yes, those things are Alignment systems. As is d20 Conan's corruption system, LotR RPG's corruption system, Exalted's virtues (etc.)

You can switch the traits these systems measure around as much you like or give the players an option to do that - they're Alignment systems nonetheless.

You ask, why do it? Again: because exploring the framework is the point, or because emulating the setting requires the framework to be in place.

If you find exploration boring or don't want to play in those settings, that's on you.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-22, 08:01 PM
Because he's the GM, duh.


A much better example of Argumentum ad hominem than anything I have said.



Interpreting and imposing them is his job.

You're failing to follow your own advice to its logical conclusion:

GM is a player.

GM plays all the NPCs.


A GM can play a NPC any way he wants. And again, if he chooses a better motivation for a NPCs actions than because he is "Lawful Neutral", the role playing will be better.

But we have a word for when a GM starts treating a Player like a NPC. Its called railroading.

Steampunkette
2015-11-22, 08:20 PM
Your argument is still begging the question while deflecting the points Frozen is bringing up.

Good and Evil are active forces in many worlds, with direct physical manifestations and magic directly manipulating them. When playing in those worlds the universe itself is designed around an objective reality. You can discard that, if you want, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing to retain it.

A Girdle of Opposite Alignment, for example, on someone with a Subjective Morality really can't have much effect, after all, since you'd have to catalog every aspect of that person's morality and then reverse them all, which could take days or weeks of philosophical arguments to accomplish.

Is there anything wrong with discarding alignments? No.

Is there anything wrong with keeping alignments? No.

It's all about how you play.

Though I will note that the alignment system is not a freaking railroad. If you don't want to be a Chaotic Good character then start roleplaying following your Subjective Morality and watch the DM shift your alignment relative to the Objective Morality of the world to apply appropriate effects.

Mark Hall
2015-11-22, 09:46 PM
You're making a lot of sense, Mark, you really are. The thing is, some people are uncomfortable with the need for a race (multiple races, really) of evil beings. It is a built-in rationalization, a simplification with icky implications, and it may be a bad reflection of reality.

Oh, it'd hella problematic, on many levels, not the least of which is the tendency to expy real-life cultures into fantasy ones. I don't think it's a bad reflection of reality... it is a different reality. One where orcs, or kobolds, or what have you are actually the spawn of evil deities because evil deities are real and can affect the world. Demons and devils and all of that are real and true in D&D (and most variants thereof), and it's not unreasonable for some races to be naturally evil, even if they can possibly choose not to be... much, for example, it is possible for elves, dwarves, and gnomes to be naturally good, even though rare aberrations are evil.

In D&D, Good and Evil are objective forces... but outside of D&D, they're defined by the players and the GM who is sitting at the table. If the GM considers slavery to be an irredeemable evil, then the universe that the characters exist in also considers it to be an irredeemable evil. It is not necessary for someone to define an objective, universal, morality... because the only place it applies is within the game.

Steampunkette
2015-11-22, 09:50 PM
Mark Hall: Winning all of the time.

He's got Tiger Blood, ya'll.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-22, 10:04 PM
And that cosmic view, in your estimation, is?

The constraints of the thought experiment are that the rampaging murderous orc pings Good on the hypothetical detect alignment test, and the charitable human pings Evil.

The spell is telling him that he's detecting an Evil aura from the kind-hearted human and that he's detecting a Good aura from himself.

If subjected to the spell called Blasphemy, it harms himself. If subjected to the spell called Holy Word, it harms the human.

There are only two views:

1.Anything is anything that you want anything to be anything, but only for you. This view is a bit pointless as anything can be anything, anything, anything, anything.......

2.There is Cosmic Good and Evil. Someone/thing sets down the Cosmic rules and says what is Good and Evil. Lowly mortals have no say in it. If they do X they are evil and if they do Y they are good. They can say anything they want, but the cosmos is the one that says they are good or evil.

If your one on the anything side, then there really is not much point in your talking about good or evil as anything is anything and anything. And it's pointless to just randomly talk about anything in circles. And, sure, you can say this view is ''real life'', but whatever.



If you sit 4 people down and ask them for a definition of what "Good" is, you get 4 different answers and vociferous debate because everyone's morality is based things like their culture, their religious views, and their upbringing. This thread pretty much proves that.

This is exactly why the game has Cosmic Alignment, so people don't just sit around forever and discuss deep moral issues and things....and not play the game.

Steampunkette
2015-11-22, 10:14 PM
Darth Ultron: Rocking it hard!

Raimun
2015-11-23, 12:03 AM
It says so in the Monster Manual. The Monster Manual is the ultimate arbiter of morality in D&D and that's the end of the story.

Edit: Umm, hasn't this topic been discussed here already? 'Tis not an exactly rare topic.

goto124
2015-11-23, 01:01 AM
Has any debate on alignment ever come to an actual conclusion...?

NovenFromTheSun
2015-11-23, 01:55 AM
I wonder if the word "evil" is actually a distraction from the real topic, or at least a point where each side is actually talking about different things.

If a tornado could be stoped by shooting or stabbing it, than I wouldn't judge anyone for shooting one. It has nothing to do with the tornado being evil. Of course, this is different because we're talking about living organisms, and relatively intelligent one's as well.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-23, 02:19 AM
No, the word "evil" is not besides the point. You need to have some definition of evil to answer the title question.

However, as noted, the word has life and meaning outside D&D. One does not need to know nor argue D&D idiosyncracies to answer the question, and several system-independent answers were already given.

Also, in moral philosophy, a hurricane would be called evil - natural evil, in contrast to human evil. Animals, too, are considered a natural evil for the most part.

Inhuman, transhuman and superhuman evils tend to lie outside the scope of mainstream philosophy, at least the secular ones.

NovenFromTheSun
2015-11-23, 02:35 AM
By "this conversation" I meant the series of threads that have been made about evil races and such, not just this one. My statement didn't really convey that, so my fault.



Also, in moral philosophy, a hurricane would be called evil - natural evil, in contrast to human evil. Animals, too, are considered a natural evil for the most part.

That's true, but natural evil is a far less common meaning than moral evil. That helps me put words to what I was thinking though; these threads have basically been about whether it's appropriate for writers and designers to put a face on natural evil for characters and players to punch (and be punched by, of course). I think it is, but that's a personal preference and I see how it can be mishandled.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-23, 03:45 AM
Arguing it's not okay to antropomorphize natural evils is a bit silly, considering that's natural behaviour of humans and pretty much the underlying principle of majority of evil races RPGs have ripped off from myth and folklore.

The typical complaint that comes up with is "it's racist!", to which my own reply is "oh, cry me a river". I'm okay with the existence of an RPG where players play Nazis and there's an actual Jewish conspiracy going on. Typical portrayals of fantastic evil don't even begin to approach that level of political incorrectness. Getting riled up by them is often on the level of arguing "dragons create unfortunate stereotypes of crocodiles!"

Florian
2015-11-23, 04:06 AM
By "this conversation" I meant the series of threads that have been made about evil races and such, not just this one. My statement didn't really convey that, so my fault.



That's true, but natural evil is a far less common meaning than moral evil. That helps me put words to what I was thinking though; these threads have basically been about whether it's appropriate for writers and designers to put a face on natural evil for characters and players to punch (and be punched by, of course). I think it is, but that's a personal preference and I see how it can be mishandled.

I think that is mostly based on our very human tendency to rationalize things to fit our POV and the constant need to seek answers on why things are what they are.

So first, creatures will get humanized (we do that with animals, too) and then we expect them to react the same way we do, trying to learn to understand them this way.

Accepting that things either are what they are or a fundamentally different from us and so beyond our understanding can be hard then.

Edit: Most settings realy stress out that humans are the adaptable race and therefore successful. Stick a human being with other human beings and some kind of society will develop along the lines on who is present and active.
Now, races with certain inbuilt dispositions will have a high tendency to form societies that match these dispositions, as that is according to their nature.
So, it's nature vs. nurture again, with the human POV being that nurture should win out.

Edit 2: Then there're some very important difgerences to consider.
- Supernatural beats Natural on any count.
- Evolution is a dubious thing at best and mostly proven to be false in a fantasy setting.
- "Created by a god to be in his image" is true for most setting
- Biological functions are also to be considered a dubious thing.

Take Golarion as an example:
- Orcs are the literal spawn of Rovagug.
- Elves who stray too hard into the "deep end" have a tendency to spontanelly transform into drow.

veti
2015-11-23, 05:48 AM
Creating a version of D&D where Good == good and Evil == evil is trivial. Pick basically any moderately self-consistent moral philosophy, say "this? This is how this fictional universe works" and apply it consistently during the game.

If the moral philosophy is only moderately self-consistent, it can't really be applied consistently. Sooner or later you'll hit an edge case, and then you can pretend, but your players will notice. And the challenge of devising even a "moderately" self-consistent moral philosophy is one that has defeated many of the brightest minds of all time. Gygax did it reasonably well, but only by abandoning any pretense that "good" was any kind of moral position. In his later years, he abandoned "alignment" entirely from his games.


If a player still tries to argue how Good =! good or brings in real-world baggage to argue how your definition is not objectice, they're morons. They could as well be arguing the fighter's sword is not objective because it's not an actual sword, but a figment of imagination existing in the heads of a bunch of humans who all picture it differently. It's trivially true, but also completely besides the point of what the word "objective" means within a simulation.

Nothing requires a GM to solve real-life morality in order to use objective Alignment, because even when D&D Good == D&D good, absolutely nothing requires for D&D good == real-life good.

A player doesn't have to be a moron to question your definition of "good", and rapidly force you to defend ever more implausible positions. And sure, you can stick to your guns - but only if you don't mind having your definition of "good" stretched to encompass things that you would find abhorrent. But it's all in the game, no harm done, right?

That player isn't a moron, s/he is merely trying to understand the ground rules of the world you've given them to work in. If you choose to use a word like "good", which carries a heck of a lot of real-world baggage, to describe your in-game moral framework, then you have no-one but yourself to blame when players start to open that baggage.

goto124
2015-11-23, 06:06 AM
How did we come to a vague consensus on what 'morality' is IRL? Might be mildly helpful?

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 06:20 AM
I wonder if the word "evil" is actually a distraction from the real topic, or at least a point where each side is actually talking about different things.

Yeah, hence my mention of variable question fallacies (http://lesswrong.com/lw/oc/variable_question_fallacies/) making these conversations so frustrating.


There are only two views

No, there aren't. What you're doing right here is called a False Dilemma. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma) There are many more views than the "it's just your opinion" version of moral relativism and "god said so" (which is really just another form of the same thing, except instead of the deciding opinion being "you" it's someone else, often some hypothetical "god" whose opinion is supposed to matter more than anyone else's for unspecified reasons). Some of these alternative options have already been expressed in this thread. Much of the field of secular ethics and moral philosophy embodies other options.

Here is a small sampling of other options: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_ethics


1.Anything is anything that you want anything to be anything, but only for you. This view is a bit pointless as anything can be anything, anything, anything, anything.......

Yes, that view is indeed pointless.



2.There is Cosmic Good and Evil. Someone/thing sets down the Cosmic rules and says what is Good and Evil.

That's nothing more than an appeal to authority. Heck, you don't even establish who the authority is, or why they're an authority.

So, let's say Divine Joe sets down the alignment system. That does not actually provide a rational reason to believe that he is right in his judgments of right and wrong according to any independent definition of the term morality. The opinion of Divine Joe is no more or less absolute than the opinion of anyone else.

So, both option 1 and 2 are pointless. Fortunately, the field of ethics offers far more than only two options.



If your one on the anything side

I am not on the "anything side." I occupy a position you have failed to consider, in which moral principles can be determined independently of a given individual's opinion (whether a mortal's, or a hypothetical god's).


If someone is able to post a perfectly sound objective definition of real life morality, one without cultural bias, I would be amazed. That person should probably go and start a religion or something.

Many people believe that one can scientifically determine moral values independent of cultural bias, and there are already scientific studies that address the subject of ethics.

As an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTKf5cCm-9g

As for a definition, the good ones usually relate to optimizing the general well-being of conscious creatures. Similar to the definition of "healthy" used in medical science. While the definition of "healthy" is of course fuzzy, the fact that medicine has to adapt to diverse contexts (different people, different standards of "health" as expected lifespans increase, etc) doesn't make people get caught up with objections that "hey, medical science is subjective!"

This can be considered objective, just as one can consider "optimizing the maintenance of electronic appliances" to be objective.

As another example, Terry Pratchett advocated for secular black and white morality, and this comes through in his writing:


“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats.

“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.

“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”

“Nope.”

“Pardon?”

“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that—”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes—”

“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”

FatR
2015-11-23, 06:31 AM
But why do you need to impose a moral philosophy on a game at all?

First, the very moment you come up with an in-game reason, any reason at all, for PCs not to immediately betray and backstab each other the second it looks like there is an advantage to be had in doing so (so pure pragmatism no longer dictates to cooperate), you're imposing a moral philosophy on the game.

And you know, not everyone wants to play a Shadowrun-style treachery-fest. Oh, sure, you can substitude an out-of-game ban on inter-player conflict for in-game morality. But then you're just imposing a RL moral philosophy by roundabout means. So, imposing a moral philosophy on a game helps to play a game without it ending in tears and real-life conflicts.

Second, without a defined moral philosophy any discussions or reflections on PCs' decisions are only meaningful insofar as they are related to matters of success and failure. Take your own example of massacring a family of humans whom you for some reason called "orcs". You cannot at the same time say

Let the players decide what their characters moral code is (or lack there of).
and ask

Who are the evil ones in this encounter?

Well, you obviously can, because you did. You just cannot boast a consistent position on morals while doing so. You have no grounds, no foundation upon which base objections to childkilling, because well, the party has clearly decided that its moral code (or lack thereof) makes it good, so what right do you have to say otherwise? On the other hand, imposing a moral philosophy on a game helps to filter such character behaviors - which you, as it seems, believe to be distasteful - or at least to warn you when they can be expected. So there is another clear benefit.

By the way you have mentioned Conan upthread as your example of an unethical character who apparently does not require a moral codex to portray

There are evil individuals but everything else lies in a grey zone, including Conan himself. Conan's actions are usually based on self interest not because of any vague ethos.

And that is nonsense. While I cannot be arsed to read all the fanfiction, in almost every single story by Robert E. Howard Conan behaves based on a strict ethos, often at a significant cost to himself. His character-establishing actions in The Phoenix on the Sword are sticking with his responsibilities as a king even though he loathes them, and repeatedly trying to spare his mortal foe because that man is genuinely deluded and is a genius poet. Granted, Conan has a very simple ethos - be grateful, be generous, be honest with others and himself, be responsible for your words and actions, don't be cowardly, don't be indecisive, don't be cruel for the sake of cruelty - but he certainly does have one, and follows it to the detriment of his self-interest. If we take only what he does on page - which, after all, is what relevant as a model for adventures - Conan is pretty much a straight hero, if a ruthless one. He constantly spills blood and sweat for the sake of people he barely knows, and challenges tyrants and otherworldy abominations because he feels that he should, not because he plans to get something for himself from it. Thus his ethos constantly defines the stories and conflicts in which he participates.

And here we have a third reason to have a moral philosophy(ies) in an RPG - to seamlessly provide for a greater spectrum of conflicts than "a bunch of thugs tries to get rich or just to survive".


If someone is able to post a perfectly sound objective definition of real life morality, one without cultural bias, I would be amazed.

Mentioning balderdash like "cultural bias" indicates that you're rejecting the whole concept of objective morality out of hand, and merely seeking to score a rhetorical point.

The Fury
2015-11-23, 06:51 AM
Has any debate on alignment ever come to an actual conclusion...?

Around the gaming table, yes. On an internet message board, no.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-23, 07:27 AM
@Veti: Incompleteness theorem says hi.

I have no problem using a moral system for a game that would lead to abhorrent results in real life, for the same reason I have no problem modeling completely different melee weapons with a roll of d20 and d8.

The player is not a moron for trying to understand the rules - they's a moron because they's arguing against them when accepting them is part of the buy-in. Their digression is pointless, even when what they say is true, because they're not telling the GM anything they don't already know.

Every game, every simulation, every thought experiment, every hobby asks you to leave some baggage of your other life at the door. When a GM invokes this or that moral system as supplement for a game, it's a permission to open that bag, not also all the other bags that happen to include similar things.

---

@LudicSavant:

As a short commentary on your and Darth_ultron's discussion, argument from authority is not a fallacy in a game with a GM when the GM actually has the authority. Divine command theory is a perfectly workable basis when the GM has the right to play God/gods.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 07:36 AM
As a short commentary on your and Darth_ultron's discussion, argument from authority is not a fallacy in a game with a GM when the GM actually has the authority. Divine command theory is a perfectly workable basis when the GM has the right to play God/gods.

I disagree, but I don't feel the point is worth pursuing because Darth_Ultron's idea that there are only 2 options is a false dilemma, so it's a moot point. Here's a big list of alternative options: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_ethics

Also a note: I have added a bit more detail to my response to Darth_Ultron while others were replying.

Florian
2015-11-23, 07:37 AM
@veti:

Careful there. We talk about consensus on what is what. You're only a "moron" if you agree at a thing being that thing for consensus and change your opinion later on because it gets unconfortable at a point. That'll nostly happen if some things will get uncomfortable or hit too close to home.

@goto124/The Fury:

Actually, yes, there're some very good examples for this. Look at Kants categorical imperative for a fitting example of what the core value of "Good" is all about.

Now the crux with that is, outside of tools like being trained in classical philosophy and logics, we simply lack the means to prove that to be right or wrong.

The actual beauty of a D&D setting is simply to having the right tools to get validation on this.

And yes, I mentioned that earlier, people will find it hard to cope when what they thought as "good" will not be "Good" as they thought it might be.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-23, 07:46 AM
@LudicSavant: I don't disagree on Darth_Ultron's position being a false dilemma; I agree that there are other options.

I am confused why you'd disagree of divine command theory working when the GM is allowed to play God, though.

Florian
2015-11-23, 07:53 AM
@LudicSavant: I don't disagree on Darth_Ultron's position being a false dilemma; I agree that there are other options.

I am confused why you'd disagree of divine command theory working when the GM is allowed to play God, though.

The divine command theory in and of itself is fine, no problem there.
It starts getting fuzzy if the gm itself is not clear and knowledgeable about where its morality comes from and what it is based on. Cultural bias again, and so on.

To be clear on that: I would shy away from that mode when playing under a gm that is not part of my culture, unless my specified goal was challenging my personal bias on morality.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 08:19 AM
@LudicSavant: I don't disagree on Darth_Ultron's position being a false dilemma; I agree that there are other options.

I am confused why you'd disagree of divine command theory working when the GM is allowed to play God, though.

Okay, let me see if I can articulate this...

An author can make something be true in their world simply by writing it, yes? The author says "this character is 5 feet tall" and so they are. In this sense the DM can say "the character is 5 feet tall because I said so" and it would be silly to object to that. However, it is possible for an author to contradict themselves.

It goes back to the issue of Informed Attributes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute). An author may tell you that a character is an unparalleled genius, but if all we ever see is the character being foolish, the audience may validly conclude that the character is not actually smart, and that the author has given them false information. While an author has authority in defining the events in their worlds, an author can be challenged when analyzing their own works. It is entirely valid to disagree with the author if they say "Han shooting first would make him an unsympathetic villain" or "Matt used the best of all possible plans."

Also, (as I mentioned earlier), an author can create contradictions in their work. One of the simplest examples would be them simply mis-remembering a detail. If I as an author say "Character X is 4 feet tall" when I had previously said that they were 5 feet tall, it creates a contradiction. If the contradiction is called out to me as a writer, I would have to resolve the contradiction: I either say that I was wrong about his height (whoops, I misremembered and my writing was inconsistent!), or that it is not actually a contradiction: his height somehow changed between last time I said it and now.

On the other hand, if the author were to claim that the character was simultaneously 4 feet and 5 feet tall, it creates dissonance and makes it so that the audience doesn't actually know what the shape of the in-world character is. It represents a failure of description.

Also, even if Divine Joe is completely real and totally did write all the rules of the fantasy world, why would one have to agree with his opinions? If I'm a programmer programming a videogame myself, I have created all of the rules by which that world operates. I could then declare to the world "This world is bug-free!" Would it then be wrong to call me out on that if there was, in fact, a bug discovered? No.

Quite simply, the fact that I can define all the rules by which the world operates does not mean that I am incapable of making false statements about them. A creator can have mistaken beliefs about their own creation.

Florian
2015-11-23, 08:44 AM
@LudicSavant:

Now you're actually evading it. If "Deus Vult" is true for a setting, it is true and stays true even if it changes. Alas, that's what happening if you put one subjective alignment in place as an objective alignment.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 08:48 AM
If "Deus Vult" is true for a setting, it is true

You basically just said "If X = True, then X = True." That's just a tautology. It also doesn't address my contention at all.

My contention is that saying X = True does not necessarily mean that it is true, even if the author says it. A DM might claim Deus Vult is true in their world, but provide unconvincing evidence of this claim. This is similar to if a programmer claimed that their program was bug-free, but the program provides evidence of bugs. Or similar to a writer claiming that their character is undeniably charming, even though they fail to charm anyone.

Again, see Informed Attributes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InformedAttribute

goto124
2015-11-23, 08:48 AM
If I as an author say "Character X is 4 feet tall" when I had previously said that they were 5 feet tall, it creates a contradiction. If the contradiction is called out to me as a writer, I would have to resolve the contradiction: I either say that I was wrong about his height (whoops, I misremembered and my writing was inconsistent!), or that it is not actually a contradiction: his height somehow changed between last time I said it and now.

Or that it's not a contradiction due to reasons such as "that's just another character's opinion that Character X is 4 feet tall, judging by eye can be a bit off" or somesuch.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 08:53 AM
Or that it's not a contradiction due to reasons such as "that's just another character's opinion that Character X is 4 feet tall, judging by eye can be a bit off" or somesuch.

Right. There are a lot of ways it can be resolved.

Florian
2015-11-23, 08:56 AM
You basically just said "If X = True, then X = True." That's just a tautology. It also doesn't address my contention at all.

My contention is that saying X = True does not necessarily mean that it is true, even if the author says it. A DM might claim Deus Vult is true in their world, but provide unconvincing evidence of this claim. This is similar to if a programmer claimed that their program was bug-free, but the program provides evidence of bugs. Or similar to a writer claiming that their character is undeniably charming, even though they fail to charm anyone.

Nah. What you're getting at is, if X = true, it must be a constant of the setting, something that can be counted and relied on.
That would lead to if X =/= true, then Y.

What I refute here, is things being constant and that's the only way of staying true.

Edit: To be clear, "Deus Vult" is okay as long Dio Mio communicates what he wants and don't punish you for when you did do what he wanted last week.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 09:05 AM
Nah. What you're getting at is, if X = true, it must be a constant of the setting

No, that is not what I'm getting at.

What I am getting at is that it is possible for a creator to make a false statement about their own creation, and therefore that a creator saying "because I said so" is not always sufficient evidence on its own. If I program a virtual world, and then proclaim that my world is bug free, and a bug is discovered, then I have made a false statement about my own creation.

This need not be constant. For example, I might say "Bug X does not exist." Then, I might be shown evidence that it does exist, demonstrating that I was wrong to say that. Then, I might fix the bug. The statement "Bug X does not exist" would then be true.

What I am getting at is that an appeal to authority is still inadequate evidence even if the authority is the person who created all of the rules by which the world operates (e.g. the programmer, the author, whatever).

Florian
2015-11-23, 09:17 AM
No, that is not what I'm getting at.

What I am getting at is that it is possible for a creator to make a false statement about their own creation, and therefore that a creator saying "because I said so" is not always sufficient evidence on its own. If I program a virtual world, and then proclaim that my world is bug free, and a bug is discovered, then I have made a false statement about my own creation.

This need not be constant. For example, I might say "Bug X does not exist." Then, I might be shown evidence that it does exist, demonstrating that I was wrong to say that. Then, I might fix the bug. The statement "Bug X does not exist" would then be true.

Thank you for the edit. Not I get what you were aiming for. (Will answer after an edit of my own, gotta fix my lunch now)

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 09:18 AM
Thank you for the edit. Not I get what you were aiming for. (Will answer after an edit of my own, gotta fix my lunch now)

Glad I could clear that up :smallsmile:

ThinkMinty
2015-11-23, 09:45 AM
I tend to assume evil works kinda like abuse; it's a cycle. See, nothing starts out evil, things are essentially good. No one from the littlest Kobold to the biggest, baddest demon you could find. At some point, they break bad. An evil upbringing is designed to bring that about at some point along the way.

I'll use a hypothetical Succubus as an example, and we'll call her Maraschino for the sake of having a noun, as I like to think succubi name their daughters after food for some reason.

Maraschino, like all larva, started out with a clean slate. However, her mother, Jellybean, was a cruel and heartless lady. Whenever Maraschino would do something nice, like give food to stray hellhound puppies, or make her mother little drawings for the refrigerator, she'd be punished. Jellybean didn't want her daughter to grow up to be some sentimental, weak little fool who got herself knocked up at fourteen and left to fend for herself like she was.

Jellybean would kick those stray pups to death in front of Mara, or pick apart her childish drawings for every flaw before ripping them up and eating them right in front of poor Mara. Jellybean would always pick apart her daughter's appearance, making fun of her for her stubby chubby thighs or her puffy cheeks, pinching her and putting her down whenever she looked happy. Jellybean sometimes amused herself by burning her daughter with cigarettes, since she'd scream so high she sounded like a little bird rather than people. Jellybean did always make sure to dress her daughter well, mostly to make herself look good when she dragged Mara around all over creation.

Jellybean would withhold affection more often than not, only showing Maraschino affection whenever her child couldn't take it anymore and wouldn't stop crying, or when she wanted something from Maraschino. "Go sweet-talk that that pervert out of their soul, honeybunch; they actually like fat little piglets like you, Mara.", or leaving a note with some variation of "I took your allowance out for some fun, but with some of it I bought you that book about the unicorns you wanted. I've probably spent the rest on booze n' man-whores by now, I'll be back whenever."

It didn't get any better once Jellybean started stealing Maraschino's boyfriends just because she could; it wasn't even that hard. Mara would throw temper tantrums about it, but Jellybean would give Maraschino lectures about not getting pregnant and ending up with a fat little disappointment like her.

Over the first baker's dozen years or so of Maraschino's life, she slowly, inch by inch, ounce by ounce, stopped caring about anyone but herself, her priorities built around seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Any love she had for her mother, Jellybean, turned into resentment, fear, body issues, and a lot of anger. Maraschino got fed up and left home when her mother's latest sugar-daddy kept making creepy advances towards her. Soon enough after a couple rough months and tricking two Paladins into beating eachother to death in competition for her affection, she ended up temptin' mortals into ruin, taking their stuff, and enjoying making them squirm, fail, and hurt, just like her mother before her. She was a lot better with temptation than her mother ever was, partially thanks to her wide hips and sweet, syrupy voice that gave mortals the most dangerous gift; permission.
Then again, some of this is me bringing my own optimism into it. Maraschino started out a sweet little potato, but her mother's constant malevolence and inconstant rewardings turned Mara into a selfish, soul-swipin' jerkass.

Florian
2015-11-23, 09:56 AM
@LudicServant:

Ok, just to clear that up as I really want to understand your position.
You use the "Bug" analogue to differentiate between a "solid" and a "flux" state.
The "solid" state implies "So it is created, so it is right, it is finished".
The "flux" state implies "I have created it with a certain intention, the intention has not been reached, so I keep changing it until the intention is reached"
Do I understand you right there?

@ThinkMinty:

Actually no, you're falling back on "nature vs. nurture" on this one.
A, if not the, reason objective alignment comes up in this kind of diskussions, is that creatures with an [Alignment] tag are beyond what we consider to be free will and nurture doesn't influence their nature anymore. Their whole existance is based on and congruent with their tag.

Edit: Just a random thought on that, but I do so hate the "Fallen Angel" thing, as it simply showcases that the designers can't be bothered to go beyond their religious upbringing and didn't understand the whole thing in the first place. Same hold true for "Redeemed Demons".

ThinkMinty
2015-11-23, 10:36 AM
@ThinkMinty:

Actually no, you're falling back on "nature vs. nurture" on this one.
A, if not the, reason objective alignment comes up in this kind of diskussions, is that creatures with an [Alignment] tag are beyond what we consider to be free will and nurture doesn't influence their nature anymore. Their whole existance is based on and congruent with their tag.

Free will is enough of a factor in my thinking that I always wedge nurture in to explain at least part of it. Plus since some of them do turn it around, how much of that's inherent?

Now, I could be projecting my free will as a human onto everything else. That's entirely possible. At the same time, some of those always-evil ones turn it around, so it ain't all in the blood. It can't be at that point.


Just a random thought on that, but I do so hate the "Fallen Angel" thing, as it simply showcases that the designers can't be bothered to go beyond their religious upbringing and didn't understand the whole thing in the first place. Same hold true for "Redeemed Demons".

Fallen angels are kinda...tired. I tend to prefer my messed-up angels broken to fallen, because the broken one's a tragedy, but the fallen one is just a cosmic *******.

Ascending demons are nifty though, as the Heel-to-Face thing on a cosmic level is inspirational to the umpteenth degree.

Florian
2015-11-23, 11:16 AM
@ThinkMinty:

Free Will is nothing more than a metaphor. You don't have it, it doesn't exist.

If you will, it is your ability to chose between compliance and condemnation for having done something/living your life a certain way.

Now, for an alignment system to be done right an free of a certain mainstream religions influence, it must be an established fact that all adherents to a certaon alignment will be rewarded after death.
I.e. die LG and be reborn an Angel, die CE and be reborn a Demon.

Now, the so called "free will" is your intellectual ability to chose between being praised or damned in a binary alignment system. Now that is not what we are talking about here, ain't it?

ThinkMinty
2015-11-23, 11:31 AM
@ThinkMinty:

Free Will is nothing more than a metaphor. You don't have it, it doesn't exist.

If you will, it is your ability to chose between compliance and condemnation for having done something/living your life a certain way.

Now, for an alignment system to be done right an free of a certain mainstream religions influence, it must be an established fact that all adherents to a certaon alignment will be rewarded after death.
I.e. die LG and be reborn an Angel, die CE and be reborn a Demon.

Now, the so called "free will" is your intellectual ability to chose between being praised or damned in a binary alignment system. Now that is not what we are talking about here, ain't it?

You...misconstrued where I was coming from on that, probably. It's more the part where choices exist and are made by the people who make them, rather than the universe being some pre-recorded set of events being played out by various bits of plasma and meat. I'm not nor have I ever been religious, that certain one you're implying, or otherwise.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 11:35 AM
Free will

Free Will

It may be better to explain what you mean by free will (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will); it's an incredibly loaded term that's associated with a wide variety of philosophical positions. Like this silliness:


Free will is sometimes understood to mean origination, the power to break the causal chain of events, so that one's choice is uncaused by any previous event, external or internal.[1]

If you just mean agency (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_%28philosophy%29), it may be better to just use the word agency.

Florian
2015-11-23, 12:40 PM
@ThinkMinty:

I really hate talking about culturally preloaded conceptions. It's bad when I use my mother tongue for it, it's worse when I have to use a foreign language for it.

"Free Will" = You can chose sides and you can make an informed decision about that.
Mostly, that the choice between being rewarded or punished, and the details are left to cultural-based inflection. That's what I meant with being influenced by actual world religion, as "Heaven" or "Hell" are coupled with said reward or punishment.

Now if we talk about objectiv alignment, there can't be any form of punishment, as that would move one alignment to be superior to the other.

What you said is. so far as I inderstood it, that beings should be able to see one side as being superior and strife to get there, maybe even being nurtured to get there, besides their base nature.

@LudicSavant:

*Opens a bottle of beer*

It's "only" a loaded term if you're not on clear acceptance of your own choices and actions, or if you need outside validation of said actions to soothe your conscience.

wumpus
2015-11-23, 01:27 PM
Normal goblins are the malevolence of children. Hobbes' Goblins (Hobgoblins) seem to be the most mature human, but really are as Thomas Hobbes describes humans to be. Bugbears are six-year-olds who shave.

Oddly enough, the biggest difference between dogs and wolves are that dogs are essentially puppy-wolves. Puppies don't tear out each others throats to be alpha-puppy, wolves will. This is important when you break your arm or something and Fido simply waits to be fed (or Fluffy establishes himself as dominant over his peoples. Poor dog training *usually* isn't fatal, at least for the owner).

Five pages in, and Mark Hall has established why it is "good" to smite evil races created by evil gods to propagate evil. I think we should note that in OOTS [non-comic commentary, the actual webcomic [I need to read the non-web books] is *much* more ambiguous], the Giant has pointed out that it is clearly evil to kill evil races created by "good" gods that exist for the purposes of being "little bags of xp". No "racial crimes" allowed, each "evil race" member has to be judged on his own. My take on the difference would be the source of souls: a "kill on sight" orc would presumably have a soul created in the Abyss, while a "judge first" orc would have a soul from the same source as human souls. In D&D 3.x, knowing the difference could be a religious skill check at least as high as needed in the OOTS to know the same about vampires. Note that is rarely in the interest of churches to correct this type of thing, and I highly doubt that the raid on Redcloak's village wasn't approved of by the church of the 12 gods.

Another question this whole discussion hasn't answered is: if "evil races" exist and were defined as such by the gods, what are humans? In AD&D [1e], humanity was defined as lawful neutral, but can be led easier to lawful good. There certainly isn't any expectation to diminish the existence of human villains, and such are vastly more common than good orcs. Elves, dwarves, and halflings (1e halflings were hobbits, less sure about modern ones) get to be listed as "good" in the monster manual. What happened to humans? It isn't free will. Elves and dwarves have free will, but are still good. Note that in OOTS the souls of the (too young to have a separate alignment) offspring go to the "rewards" of the parents. You could claim that they receive a soul from the outer plane that parent is presently assigned to (or possibly just has written on the character sheet), but this doesn't explain the widespread nature of humans.

My opinion is that if you don't like fairy-tale objective morality in your games, just junk it. Alignments have been in D&D for 40 years and still don't work to everyone's approval. Ideally playing another game would work best, followed by simply ripping out the alignment system of D&D. I've heard at least one replacement that included the concept of "taint", where evil was something that infected people/creatures/things more or less like "force of evil" as a chemical waste. I like worldbuilding, but at some point you have to break out the dice and play the game. Do you create a magic system that avoids the issues of the tippyverse? "Fixing" alignment is somewhat easier than creating a perfect philosophical treatise on the nature of good and evil (you get to rebuild the world to match the philosophy, but I suspect that most will have to change the nature of man (probably not a bad idea. Replacing "real" humans with "tropes" humans will at least lets you remove any real-world evil you don't want in your game. Just expect players to call you on it).

Mark Hall
2015-11-23, 01:59 PM
Let's switch this up a little bit.

Why are good races good? I think it gets glossed over a bit in the discussion that, while kobolds in 3.x are "usually LE", elves are "Usually CG"... meaning you have about as much chance of encountering a LE elf as you do a CG kobold, all other things being equal. While answers vary on this (see my aforementioned "literal spawn of deities"), I think the reason people tend to argue less with the rarity of a LE elf is because elves are a base PC race, and are thus presented more as "people" than "monsters".

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 03:09 PM
(see my aforementioned "literal spawn of deities")

Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid.

If I had a nickel for every fantasy story where a villain created a creature for the express purpose of fulfilling some nefarious end (sometimes from their own evil blood), and then their spawn totally ended up changing sides and being the good guys, or otherwise not doing what their creator intended, I'd have a lot of nickels.

Let's take, say, Fullmetal Alchemist. Father seriously made his sins personified. That's right, he literally takes the seven deadly sins, separates them from his personality, and gives them humanoid form. One of them is greed personified, becomes a self-sacrificing hero who saves the day at the end (he was just greedier for something besides his own life!). Many of them are sympathetic in some form or other.

There are tons of examples of characters who are made out of the body of evil villains, with evil intentions, that... are the good guys. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a tvtropes page for that, even.

Florian
2015-11-23, 03:17 PM
@wumpus:

Tread carefully there, as that may lead is into very unpleasant areas we don't want to talk about, least of all here on this forum.

Steampunkette
2015-11-23, 03:26 PM
That's partially true, Mark. But there's a baser assumption within Elves and other Good aligned races.

They are the Default. And everything that is NOT good is aberration.

We like to think of people as naturally and inherently good, with those people who are not good being strange. When we hear someone we don't know was violent we describe their actions in the form of mental illnesses or try to find the source of the discordance in their life that caused them to break from the norm and act in a manner that isn't socially acceptable.

In reality this is an important mental exercise because it will allow us to manifest change in our society to prevent other people in a similar situation from undergoing the same problems and breaking from the norm.

But that pattern recognition, analysis, and repair function that makes our society work is damn hard to shut off. And so we look to even fictitious characters and ask how we can fix them. Within a game world this usually results in characters seeking out diplomatic solutions during issues between different races.

The idea that it could simply be their nature is often abhorrent and viewed as a cheap cop out to a greater storytelling opportunity, describing the evil character's life, society, and circumstances in a level of detail that allows the players to find the Fault. The Cause of the Orc's evil alignment so that the Orcs as a race can be "Fixed" in some way. Redeemed and brought "Back" to the default of Goodness.

All of these things are especially true in Western Societies, where philosophy and psychology are skewed to certain biases. We have, for the most part, discarded that people simply "Are" good or evil and decided that everyone is "Like Use" except those whose circumstances demand they be different.

I've said it through the thread, and in others. Nature versus Nurture is the heart of the argument, and how many people dislike nature as the answer.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 04:00 PM
I've said it through the thread, and in others. Nature versus Nurture is the heart of the argument, and how many people dislike nature as the answer.

For me at least, that's not the issue at all. I am okay with pointing to nature as an explanation for a creature's actions. I mean, it's a fantasy creature, you can make its nature be whatever you can imagine.

My issue is that the writing tends to be bad, and that the logic is often bad, too. My issue is this:

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=12718471&postcount=108

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=12718550&postcount=120

Generally speaking, when we talk about kobolds and goblins and the like, we're not talking about alien beings with no redeeming qualities. At least, I don't know of any published D&D stories like that. The type is called humanoids, and with good reason.

Mark mentioned presentation:


I think the reason people tend to argue less with the rarity of a LE elf is because elves are a base PC race, and are thus presented more as "people" than "monsters".

I think this issue of presentation ought to be discussed.

I've been taught that one of the easiest way of identifying historical bias is by looking at adverbs. For example...

neutral: "Digorius explained the offer"
bias for: "Digorius calmly explained the offer"
bias against: "Digorius mockingly explained the offer"

I see an awful lot of switching up of adverbs or adjectives in the descriptions of races. The drow "brutally" carved their homes from the rock. That sort of thing.

If a goblin uses guerilla tactics, I will hear a description of why this means that they are cowardly, scheming, and malevolent. If an elf uses guerilla tactics, I will hear a description of why this means that they are quick, clever, wise, and cautious.

When I actually see the specific actions of specific orcs and goblins described in published D&D material, orcs and goblins tend to act like green-skinned humans in all of the sources I've encountered. Many of them are cruel green-skinned humans, but green-skinned humans nonetheless. Maybe there are exceptions; it's not like I've read the entirety of D&D's content. But I have not seen them. Feel free to point them out to me!

These orcs and goblins seem more psychologically similar to humans than the "Other Humans" of the "Other Earth" from Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker... by far the least alien of the many species described in that book, and held up as an example in Star Maker of being so similar to humans it barely made any difference (hence being referred to as the "Other Humans" and their world as the "Other Earth").

But let's talk about another aspect of presentation, too. Always Evil in these Monster Manual entries. These entries are simply misleading. Why? Well, one need look no further than the Monster Manual itself, which clarifies:


Always: ... It is possible for individuals
to change alignment, but such individuals are either unique
or rare exceptions.

And, sure enough, this proves to be true in settings like, say, Forgotten Realms. Drizz't is Good-aligned. I'm told he meets a goblin which is Good-aligned in the books, too. So, the term "Always Evil" or "Always Good" is fundamentally misleading. It's not "Always" if there are exceptions!

veti
2015-11-23, 04:04 PM
Let's switch this up a little bit.

Why are good races good?

In the case of "good" races, I think it's fairly clearly a "nature/nurture" thing. When the MM describes elves as CG, it's talking about "elf society as a whole", rather than about individual elves (who, as spelled out very clearly elsewhere in the rules, can be and frequently are any other alignment you care to name). It's the same "elf society" that has a thing about trees, and favours longbows and longswords. Likewise, there's nothing within the rules to prevent an elf character from specialising in mace, dagger and crossbow, but when you encounter a random community of elves, chances are most of them will have longbows and longswords.

Personally, I read its take on "evil" humanoids the same way. When it describes orcs as LE, I take that as referring to orcish society. And so on.

More interesting, to me, are those races with some actual biological reason to have a particular - outlook on life. Like mind flayers.

Florian
2015-11-23, 04:11 PM
@LudicSavant:

In the end, it is about people tending to rationalize things. Using certain verbal descriptions is just a cheap means to forestall any discussion on that.
Also, and that is an important part, it helps keeping out any discussion about things that we humans do.

Mark Hall
2015-11-23, 05:51 PM
If I had a nickel for every fantasy story where a villain created a creature for the express purpose of fulfilling some nefarious end (sometimes from their own evil blood), and then their spawn totally ended up changing sides and being the good guys, or otherwise not doing what their creator intended, I'd have a lot of nickels.

Which is where 3.x's qualifiers come in. A kobold (or orc, or elf) is going to have the listed alignment between 51%-99.9% of the time.... ranging from "most likely" to "just this side of unheard of". Exceptions are likely to fan out from there... so an elf is Usually CG, but NG or CN are going to be more common than LG, CE, or N, and those will be more common than NE or LN, and those will be more common than LE.

Are good orcs possible? Sure. Approximately as possible as evil elves or chaotic dwarves.

As for "Always evil" being misleading, I waffle on that. It's one of those "terms of art" in D&D... "Always" in the context of alignment doesn't mean "100% without any possible variation"... it means "Variation is so rare as to be statistically insignificant." One in ten thousand red dragons is CN or NE instead of CE. One in a million might be N or CG or LE. The difference between "Always" in an alignment sense and "Always" in a denotative sense is slight, but D&D is littered with such things... Strength including stamina, Wisdom measuring perception, "dwarf" referring to fantasy dwarves and not humans with a disorder, usw.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 06:41 PM
Deep in the cave, Magluk played with her two young orclings. She thanked Gnuumsh every day for blessing her with two strong, young orcs. Drok was 5 and Krollic was 7. In a few years, they would join their father in hunting for food for the tribe but for now, they were all hers.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite childhood orc game "Cockroach Ball". Krollic grunted "Cheater".

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok turned to run down, deeper into the hill to safety. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her kitchen knife and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness were the bodies of her two beloved orclings being looted by the humans.



***********************

Who are the evil ones in this encounter?

The orcs. Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid.



Are good orcs possible? Sure.

If all orcs are literally the blood of an evil god made humanoid, and good orcs are possible, then it is possible to be good despite being literally the blood of an evil god made humanoid.

Therefore, the fact that they are the blood of an evil god made humanoid is insufficient evidence to conclude that the orcs are the evil ones in the story.

The argument is invalid, in the strict formal sense used in sentential logic. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Mark Hall
2015-11-23, 06:59 PM
If all orcs are literally the blood of an evil god made humanoid, and good orcs are possible, then it is possible to be good despite being literally the blood of an evil god made humanoid.

Therefore, the fact that they are the blood of an evil god made humanoid is insufficient evidence to conclude that the orcs are the evil ones in the story.

The argument is invalid, in the strict formal sense used in sentential logic. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Yes, it is possible. I have never claimed it was impossible. However, orcs are "Often Chaotic Evil" (surprised me; they're less CE than elves are CG), in 3.x parlance. Them being the spawn of a CE god is not sufficient evidence, in and of itself, but that was not the only statement made. I pointed out that the mother, for all her love for her cubs, worshiped an evil deity. Her family is one that hunts, and her species is one that is sapiophagic... their hunting may well be halfling, not deer.

It still remains valid to say that orcs are most likely to be evil, and your picking ignores the other critiques of the "who is evil" scenario... namely, the prejudicial language that makes the orcs look good, while a minimal rewrite (adding motivations to the humans, expanding on what a conflict between two orclings would look like, and bringing the thoughts of the mother in line with someone who actually worshiped Gruumsh) muddied this from a "good orcs and evil humans" to "evil orcs and good humans".

The argument is only invalid if you assume "orcs are the blood of an evil god made humanoid" equals "orcs are Always Evil", which is not an assumption I made. I assumed the orcs were the evil ones... and odds are, I'm right, because even if they're not CE, they may well be NE.

Florian
2015-11-23, 07:03 PM
@Mark Hall:

You know the change to CE is based on Orcs focusing on individual might, power and subjugating others to their personal will?

goto124
2015-11-23, 07:26 PM
That's focusing on the Law/Chaos axis, when we're talking about the Evil/Good axis.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 08:11 PM
Yes, it is possible. I have never claimed it was impossible. However, orcs are "Often Chaotic Evil" (surprised me; they're less CE than elves are CG), in 3.x parlance. Them being the spawn of a CE god is not sufficient evidence, in and of itself, but that was not the only statement made. I pointed out that the mother, for all her love for her cubs, worshiped an evil deity. Her family is one that hunts, and her species is one that is sapiophagic... their hunting may well be halfling, not deer.

It still remains valid to say that orcs are most likely to be evil, and your picking ignores the other critiques of the "who is evil" scenario... namely, the prejudicial language that makes the orcs look good, while a minimal rewrite (adding motivations to the humans, expanding on what a conflict between two orclings would look like, and bringing the thoughts of the mother in line with someone who actually worshiped Gruumsh) muddied this from a "good orcs and evil humans" to "evil orcs and good humans".

The argument is only invalid if you assume "orcs are the blood of an evil god made humanoid" equals "orcs are Always Evil", which is not an assumption I made. I assumed the orcs were the evil ones... and odds are, I'm right, because even if they're not CE, they may well be NE.

Okay, so you're saying that your argument is inductive rather than deductive, and that you're trying to determine what is probably true.

The problem with that is that your argument is not only formally invalid, but also non-cogent.

First, orcs are Often Chaotic Evil. This is defined in the Monster Manual as


Often: The creature tends toward the given alignment, either by nature or nurture, but not strongly. A plurality (40–50%) of individuals
have the given alignment, but exceptions are common.

Just to get a ballpark figure: Let's say 40-50% of orcs are Chaotic Evil. Now, we don't actually know the distribution of non-Chaotic-Evil alignments, so we can only take ballpark estimates. For that purpose, I'll assume that all deviations are spread evenly amongst the alignment spectrum, and I'll assume you will agree that the non-Evil ones should not be summarily executed. There are 8 other alignments, and 6 are non-Evil.Therefore, 37.5-45% of orcs are non-Evil. That's a sizable chunk! This alone means that deciding that the orcs are Evil is little better than flipping a coin.

Second, Chaotic Evil does not necessarily mean that someone is worthy of the death penalty. You'd have to somehow work out a probability for that too. After all, the definition itself tells us that not all Chaotic Evil characters have ever committed an Evil act. We also know that there are Evil creatures that are not even capable of making independent decisions! So there's some ambiguity as to what being Chaotic Evil even means and whether it's right to determine to kill them. Even if we make the probability that a Chaotic Evil character deserves death very high, like 90%, that's already enough to make the "not evil enough to kill" portion from point 1 go over 50%! But even if we ignore this point, the third one tips it in a big way.

Third, and this one is actually the most important one of all: local context, individual observations, and direct evidence is much more important than general demographic averages. This is an incredibly important point, and has made the difference in fights like "Should we appropriate different resources in our schools to different demographics of children since they have higher IQs, on average?"

When we talk about things like morality or IQ, the wrong argument may seem intuitive... but if we instead switch to something where the differences are very visibly obvious, like height, it should become intuitive why the argument is flawed.

Let's say you've got two NBA superstars. One is Chinese, one is African American. Which is likely to be taller? If you don't consider the local context and go by general population demographics, you'll get the wrong answer. A person who considered the local context would be able to induce the right answer. After all, the NBA is going to filter the people it recruits.

But it gets even worse if you add observational information. If we actually get to see the two players, we see one is Muggsy Bogues (who is tiny by NBA standards, 5'3" of awesome) and the other is Yao Ming (who is visible from outer space and also awesome). One should be able to intuit that it would be irrational to conclude, after meeting Muggsy and Yao, that Muggsy was likely to be taller than Yao on the basis of a general demographic. It should also be intuitive that it would be silly to object that both are "rare." It doesn't matter how rare they are when answering the question "which is taller."

Now, we have a local context in Napoleon's story. The local context is of a home of a person who raises multiple children being invaded. We have direct observational information from the story, as well, which portrays a relationship which shows no signs of being unhealthy.

This is incredibly more important than general demographic information, but if I am generous and only assume that it will make a difference 20% of the time, that still means that the majority of cases means that it's bad to kill the orcs.

Fourth, there's the issue of weight of outcomes of the decision. There's a concept in morality that is often stated in terms like "it's better to let 1000 criminals go free than to kill one innocent man." The concept takes many different shapes and forms, but in general the idea is that the risk of killing an innocent generally has more weight than the reward of killing the guilty. This alone would generally make something as small as a 25% chance of a false positive cause for major concern with an ethical system that could produce a false positive so frequently.

Fifth, we can factor in the demographic probability that the humans are Evil! If humans are equally likely to be any alignment, there's a 33% chance that they're Evil. That means that in many possible cases, the humans are orcs are both Evil and we can't judge who's better or worse by their alignment, and the only evidence we have in those cases are that the humans are the armed invaders. That can chop off 33% of the cases for the base demographic of the orcs being Evil, which is already enough to put the orc side over 50%.

In short, it's not even probable that the orcs are the bad guys in that scenario.

Even if I am only considering ballpark demographic averages and ignoring the story (save the "humans are armed aggressors" tiebreaker if they're both Evil aligned), general conceptions of consequential weight, or anything else... the math works out to...

33% of cases that the orcs are Evil, the humans are also Evil. The orcs are Evil 55%-62.5% of the time based on the ballparked demographic average. So, 33% of that is 18.15%-20.625%. 18.15%-20.625% + 37.5%-45% = 55.65%-65.625% in the orc's favor. And, again, that's without considering the more impactful factors like local context, direct observational evidence, or weight of consequences.

Mark Hall
2015-11-23, 09:02 PM
Ludic, the fact of the matter is, you're arguing very hard, but you still wind up against the fact that most orcs are evil, even by your numbers. These particular orcs are also worshiping a CE deity (actively giving thanks as the author of their blessings), meaning they are either CE, CN, or NE, greatly increasing the odds that they, themselves, are evil. That fact alone shifts their demographics severely towards evil.

The 3.5 DMG doesn't directly address Alignment demographics, but I think the tables on racial demographics on page 139 can be illustrative. Counting "Isolated" as equivalent to "Always", "Mixed" as equivalent to "Usually", and "Integrated" as equivalent to "Often", we can reinterpret this as:

Always CE
96% Chaotic Evil
2% NE (1-step)
1% CN (1-step)
1% Everything else

Usually CE
79% CE
9% NE (1-step)
5% CN (1-step)
3% TN (2-Step)
2% LE (2-step)
1% CG (2-step)
1% LN, NG, or LG

Often CE
37% CE
20% NE (1-step)
18% CN (1-step)
10% TN (2-Step)
7% LE (2-Step)
5% CG (2-Step)
3% LN, NG, or LG

At any point in there, you can switch numbers between equivalent steps; it doesn't change much if you switch the values of any two 1 step alignments, or any two 2 step alignments. If we assume these values are true, though, it means that, upon encountering an orc, they are 60-64% likely to be evil. That's "most" with a significant margin of error. When you limit it to the population of Gruumsh-worshiping Orcs (closer to a "Usually" distribution, though more likely an "Always"), you go with 85-90% evil.

Does this justify slaying on sight? No. But it doesn't do that because of the nature of good, not because the numbers break down. For all the accusations of "murderhobos", I find that PCs are often directed at orcs because of something the orcs have done, not because they wander around, looking for orcs to slay.

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 09:16 PM
These particular orcs are also worshiping a CE deity (actively giving thanks as the author of their blessings), meaning they are either CE, CN, or NE, greatly increasing the odds that they, themselves, are evil.

That fact alone shifts their demographics severely towards evil.

You only have to be within one step of your deity if you're a Cleric (even that rule only applies in certain settings). For everyone else, it runs the gamut.

Good guys worshiping Evil deities isn't even uncommon in many cultures; sometimes even if they think the deities are Evil. You don't need to think God is a nice guy to Fear him and pay him respect.

Poseidon is a jerk, you thank him for not killing you with a storm. You also thank him for getting a nice haul of fish, even if you still think he's a jerk.

If Gruumsh does me a solid, you bet I'm going to thank him. You give positive reinforcement for the behavior you want, even if it's to a "bad" person. That's how we made wolves into dogs and everything.


The 3.5 DMG doesn't directly address Alignment demographics, but I think the tables on racial demographics on page 139 can be illustrative. Counting "Isolated" as equivalent to "Always", "Mixed" as equivalent to "Usually", and "Integrated" as equivalent to "Often", we can reinterpret this as

I find those assumptions to be a non-sequitur, but I'll run with it anyways because the numbers still don't work out for your argument being cogent even following those assumptions.



Often CE
37% CE
20% NE (1-step)
18% CN (1-step)
10% TN (2-Step)
7% LE (2-Step)
5% CG (2-Step)
3% LN, NG, or LG

Mark, you just said that 37%+20%+7% are Evil. That's only 64% Evil. 33% of that time, the Humans are also going to be Evil if humans have an equal chance of all alignments, and in that case we can only go by the local context (humans are the armed, invading aggressors attacking apparent noncombatants, etc etc). So, that means there are only 42.66% of cases where the orcs are Evil and the humans are not, and that's if you're ignoring all of the other factors I listed (which are often considered more important factors in probability, ethics, and statistics).

Try running all of those factors through Bayes Theorem and seeing what you get. I can pretty much guarantee you that just about any way you twist it, your argument still comes out as non-cogent.

Edit:
Not that I need to list even more factors, but just for the sake of completeness, here's a couple more.

A sixth factor that could be considered would be the possibility that not all of the orcs are the same alignment, you'd then have to assess the probability that any of the group is non-Evil (because I think we can at least agree that you're in the wrong if you murder noncombatant women and children if they're non-Evil, even if it's only one). According to your own numbers >1/3rd of orcs are non-Evil. There are three orcs in the cave. If we follow the demographic distribution pattern you just suggested we still end up with a statistical probability that at least 1 orc is non-evil.

A seventh factor that could be considered would be the fact that they're immature children of a race that produces individuals who are not Evil-aligned more than 1 in 3 times, according to your own numbers. Also, there is more than one child. It's also mentioned in the canon that they both can and commonly do change alignment.

Your whole argument seems to be that he "wrote" the orcs wrong by making them non-Evil... when your own numbers tell us that we should expect at least 1 in 3 orcs in the world to be non-Evil. 1 in 3! That's... that's a huge percentage. If there are a billion orcs in the world, we should expect to find 333,333,333 non-Evil orcs. That's more than adequate for many entire countries of loving mothers and innocent children.

Even if we only count the Good-aligned orcs according to the alignment distribution demographic formula you just made up yourself in your last post, a whopping 10% of orcs are Good-aligned. That's 100 million Good-aligned orcs for every billion.

And yet, you find Napoleon's suggestion that there's a single family of Good orcs improbable? Why? How?

Hawkstar
2015-11-23, 09:56 PM
Deep in the cave, Magluk played with her two young orclings. She thanked Gnuumsh every day for blessing her with two strong, young orcs. Drok was 5 and Krollic was 7. In a few years, they would join their father in hunting for food for the tribe but for now, they were all hers.

Drok slammed his small club down, killing the insect and winning this round of his favorite childhood orc game "Cockroach Ball". Krollic grunted "Cheater".

Crash!!!!! The door to the chamber flew open and a large human dressed in mail strode into the room toward Krollic. Krollic's mouth was still hanging open in surprise when the human's axe smashed into the orcling's head.

Drok turned to run down, deeper into the hill to safety. Another human, dressed in robes, slipped through the door. A bolt of fire shot from this human's hand and struck Drok in the back. Drok's body fell lifeless to the floor.

Snarling, Mugluk grabbed her kitchen knife and hurled herself at the intruders. But more humans with bows had arrived and feathered her with arrows.

The last thing Mugluk saw before losing consciousness were the bodies of her two beloved orclings being looted by the humans.



***********************

Who are the evil ones in this encounter?Well, considering that "Hunting for Food" to Orcs means "Raiding and pillaging villages, taking their supplies and possibly bodies of the people within"... The Orcs are still the evil ones. The mother brought more Evil into the world through giving birth to Orcs, and the Orclings will grow up to be raiders (And their mother is proud of raising them to be such). Also - The orclings wantonly slay life they consider beneath them for nothing more than their own amusement.
The type is called humanoids, and with good reason.That reason is "They have no special rules saying what does or doesn't work against them - no inherent special immunities or qualities, and they have equipment and tactics that mirror humans and demihumans". It's more a game rule thing than anything else.

It implies nothing about their moral natures.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-23, 09:59 PM
No, there aren't. What you're doing right here is called a False Dilemma. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma) There are many more views than the "it's just your opinion" version of moral relativism and "god said so" (which is really just another form of the same thing, except instead of the deciding opinion being "you" it's someone else, often some hypothetical "god" whose opinion is supposed to matter more than anyone else's for unspecified reasons). Some of these alternative options have already been expressed in this thread. Much of the field of secular ethics and moral philosophy embodies other options.



Yes, but the flaw is your talking about reality. OK, sigh, in reality you say is right and true and everything can be anything and anything can be a special snowflake and you and me and everyone else in the world has thier own very special and unique and valid point of view on everything and we could all go on and on and on about it all until the end of time.......that is reality.

And then there is fiction. Now, fiction is not reality. And then there is the game. And for a game to be fun, it needs to be simple and straightforward to play. And that brings us to RPGs like D&D, were your going to pretend to kill.

And here is where you just get the two choices to pick from: say that X is evil and ok to kill and move on and play the game or have an endless debate and not play the game.




That's nothing more than an appeal to authority. Heck, you don't even establish who the authority is, or why they're an authority.
So, both option 1 and 2 are pointless. Fortunately, the field of ethics offers far more than only two options.


This is again stuck in reality.



I am not on the "anything side." I occupy a position you have failed to consider, in which moral principles can be determined independently of a given individual's opinion (whether a mortal's, or a hypothetical god's).


My positions are reality(everything you and every other human being has said form the dawn of time) and fantasy.



Many people believe that one can scientifically determine moral values independent of cultural bias, and there are already scientific studies that address the subject of ethics.


And back to reality again.





Generally speaking, when we talk about kobolds and goblins and the like, we're not talking about alien beings with no redeeming qualities. At least, I don't know of any published D&D stories like that. The type is called humanoids, and with good reason.

You have never seen a D&D ''story'' where kobolds and goblins are evil? Are you just talking about rule books?



When I actually see the specific actions of specific orcs and goblins described in published D&D material, orcs and goblins tend to act like green-skinned humans in all of the sources I've encountered. Many of them are cruel green-skinned humans, but green-skinned humans nonetheless. Maybe there are exceptions; it's not like I've read the entirety of D&D's content. But I have not seen them. Feel free to point them out to me!

I'm not sure it is accurate to say ''orcs act like humans'' unless your going to define how a human acts. How alien does a race need to be for you to say ''they don't act human''?

LudicSavant
2015-11-23, 10:29 PM
You have never seen a D&D ''story'' where kobolds and goblins are evil? Are you just talking about rule books?

That's not what I said. I said I never saw a D&D story where any race of humanoids were not, for the most part, forehead aliens. Humans in funny suits. I also said I never saw a D&D story where they had no redeeming qualities.

They could feel pain. They could care about things. They could value their own life. They had self-awareness (could recognize themselves in a mirror and everything!). They had the potential to do things that had a positive impact for others. They were social creatures. They could learn. They could pass on culture between generations. They could feel loss when another of their kind died. They could feel anger, sadness, happiness. They could laugh. That's very human.

The differences, on the other hand, are typically unrelated to psychology. They're green. They see in the dark. That sort of thing. In fact, I would often find it conspicuous that their psychologies did not seem to change much according to some physical traits that I thought would have influenced their psychologies and cultures. But alas, they still acted like humans in funny suits in the stories. None had psychologies outside of the bounds of the breadth of human cultures I had been exposed to by just reading books on anthropology in my spare time. Indeed, they didn't even come close to spanning the variety of human cultural differences. Often they would be directly based off a real human culture, with modern human cultural ideas thrown in.

I've experienced stories that had alien creatures where it was difficult to find redeeming qualities. None of them, however, were humanoids in published D&D material (novels, supplements, whatever). In general I find that genuinely alien aliens are rare in media. I often see sci-fi movies where the aliens from other planets are more similar to modern American culture than actual Americans from movies made 60 years ago!

If you can suggest to me published D&D material that presents humanoids that are not basically forehead aliens, please point me to it!


I'm not sure it is accurate to say ''orcs act like humans'' unless your going to define how a human acts. How alien does a race need to be for you to say ''they don't act human''?

The absolute lowest possible bar I would set would be that they should at the very least be alien enough that I, and almost anyone else (or at least a good chance from some random joe on the street), could quickly and accurately discern a major difference between their psychology and the psychology of a human whose mind had been transported into their body and been raised by their culture from birth.

So, if I or anyone else can't tell a difference between a Chaotic Evil 8 intelligence / 8 wisdom / 8 charisma human who has been transported into an orc's body and raised by orc culture and an orc, it fails the test.

GreatWyrmGold
2015-11-24, 12:42 AM
Which happens to be glaringly incorrect. Because societies exist, like, at all. A society cannot arise without a commonly accepted definition of good, and will fail, after moving for some time by inertia, if no definition can be commonly accepted any longer.
I'd like to pause you for a moment to point out the difference between agreeing what is good and why it is good, as well as the difference between local and universal agreement.
A stone-age Polynesian tribe, a medieval Italian duchy, and a modern European democracy would all agree that murder is bad, but they would have different ideas of why. The tribe might say murder is wrong because it hurts the tribe, the duchy might say that God forbids it, and the democracy would probably appeal to some abstract moral principle. This isn't just an academic question—each justification has different implications. The tribal version would be fine with killing people from hostile tribes, since that helps the tribe. The medieval version would be fine with killing homosexuals, because God says so. The modern version wouldn't be fine either of these, though self-defense would be fine. And more importantly, just because the three societies disagree with each other doesn't mean they disagree with other members of their society.
Stability does not depend on agreeing on the why, just the what—though disagreeing on the "why" can easily lead to "what" differences, aside from providing convenient lines for conflict to form along. And stability most certainly does not require outsiders to agree with the insiders! All your argument proves is that local agreements can be made on what is wrong; my point referred to universal agreement on why it is wrong.


Upon seeing these disagreements, one can be tempted to fail into the trap of believing that morality is subjective. It is a trap because it logically leads to what on ASoIaF discussion forums was appropriately dubbed "Ramsaycentrism"...
Slippery slope fallacy.
"If you believe there is no objective morality, then you can't argue that horrible people are horrible." That's absurd. I use my subjective morality to determine that Ramsay is a bastard (well...I suppose I could use my objective knowledge of Westerosi bloodlines to figure that out, but you know what I mean), and if anyone non-ironically argues that Ramsay is actually a decent person, I can determine that they are probably bastards, too. (I mean, Gregor Clegane bastards, not Jon Snow bastards.)
All subjective morality means is that you don't think there's an outside source of morality. I fail to see why this implies we shouldn't care about what disagrees with our internal sources of morality. My internal source tells me that murder is bad, like I imagine yours and Rich Burlew's and Barack Obama's do. It also tells us that it is acceptable to punish people who murder, and that a society is good, and so on.


So if you want to assume that morality exists at all (why you are posting here if you do not believe so and therefore think that "good" and "evil" are just two meaningless four-character strings?), simple logic tells you that morality must be objective.
You're making some pretty big logical jumps here. You're assuming your conclusion—that if morality exists, it can only be objective. To you, the idea of morality coming from an inner moral compass is identical to having no morals at all. I disagree, strongly. The very idea that non-objective morality somehow doesn't count is absurd.
You might argue that everyone following their own moral compasses leads to a situation indistinguishable from no one having morality, but this is wrong on two points. First, people with no morals act very differently than people with internal morals. Truly amoral people act however they please; people with internal morals act according to their morals, even when this conflicts with their desires or needs. This would lead to people acting in completely incomprehensible manners (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlueAndOrangeMorality) if it wasn't for my absolutely vital second point—internal morals are NOT random! Morality comes from internal moral compasses, but those compasses are shaped by the compasses of everyone around us, especially those close to us or who shaped us growing up.

More or less everyone in any one society will agree on what is moral, leading to an illusion of objective morality guiding all of them. But consider—if there is objective morality, why do different societies come to different, universally-agreed-on definitions of what is good and what is evil? Ancient and even near-modern societies did things which would horrify modern people, and I have no doubt that every one of those societies would find something they considered equally abominable in our society.


If morality is objective then principles by which we determine good can be defined, and existing morality systems scrutinized to see which of them better matches those principles, and what improvements can be proposed. Even those who proclaim to reject objective morality rarely fail to apply the same procedure in practice, perhaps because "do what you can get away with" is simply not a very appealing platform.
I'm sorry, what? Did you just say that everyone who rejects the existence of objective morality also asserts that there is no morality, period?


That's a non-sequitur. Good and evil can objectively exist regardless of whether or not everybody - or anybody - knows what they are.
If four people insist that on four different and mutually exclusive definitions of the objective good, at least three are deriving their morality from something other than objective morality.


There are only two views:
1.Anything is anything that you want anything to be anything, but only for you. This view is a bit pointless as anything can be anything, anything, anything, anything.......
2.There is Cosmic Good and Evil. Someone/thing sets down the Cosmic rules and says what is Good and Evil. Lowly mortals have no say in it. If they do X they are evil and if they do Y they are good. They can say anything they want, but the cosmos is the one that says they are good or evil.
This is academically true, in the same way that "reality is deterministic," "there is no free will," and "you can't prove anything but mathematical theorems" are. In other words—while technically true, they are useless truths, and there are technically-false things which allow us to more accurately describe the world.


It is theoretically possible that there is some objective source of morality. This does not mean that I would consider it the source of correct morality, any more than I would think the Superhappies from Three Worlds Collide are. Why? Because the implications unsettle me. Now, this sounds like argumentuma ad consequentium, and maybe it is, but I don't feel bad in saying that a moral system which I find distasteful, which forces me to condemn people I don't feel comfortable condemning, is a bad (even incorrect!) moral system.

For the same of the argument, let's say that God comes to Earth, sends our religious leaders to their rooms without supper for fighting, and gives us a Great Big Book of Morality. If anyone has a moral question, they can look up the answer in the GBBM.

What's the problem? Well, the first case comes from the fact that different times and places have massively different morals, which means that nearly everyone (if not actually everyone) is wrong about something—and most people in history have been wildly wrong! It gets worse with edge cases—everyone agrees that it's generally wrong to steal, but we're divided on if it's okay to steal bread from a dumpster to feed your children, and on just how much that scenario needs to be adjusted to make it acceptable/unacceptable (if we find it unacceptable/acceptable to begin with). I consider it morally wrong to condemn so many people just for the sake of having one consistent book of morals.
From a utilitarian standpoint, there are additional problems. The primary one is that asserting one set of morality as THE set of morality spoken of in the GBBM gives an objective point of discrimination. Let's say that God, being the Abrahamic one, has written the GBBM to resemble Western values more than those of China, Japan, Native America, etc. Bam—the exploitation of these people and the destruction of their culture has been objectively justified by the fact that they can't be allowed to freely practice their objectively immoral culture.
Not to mention that the GBBM is either going to be inflexible and wrong in edge cases or so unbelievably arcane and complex that it couldn't be easily used when it was needed—both of which I consider to be bad for a moral system.

I don't claim that everyone will agree with the prior three points—in fact, I imagine that there are more than a few people who would find they had no inherent problem with an objective morality system (as long it didn't wildly diverge from their personal beliefs on morality). However, I don't think an objective morality can be a correct objective morality if you get a significant portion of the population who thinks it's immoral for one reason or another.




The books and game rules are written by people with a very strong bias and spin on things. So, naturally by default the writers would say evil is vile.
Wait...so D&D, which only exists as a creation of the writers, has a different opinion than not only the authors who designed the game, but also the books that define the game? Are you also going to say that my morals are different than those of my moral compass? I'm going to assume that what you actually said is not what you meant.


Default D&D uses the Great Wheel Cosmology, where each alignment is give a separate and equal place.
Which doesn't actually say anything about their moral status. I mean, the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology were given equal and separate places, but the Norse would not have considered being associated with Niflheim or Jotunheim as good as being associated with Asgard.


Each published setting has plenty of evil places where evil people live, yet they are not called out as wrong or vile.
What do you mean by "they"? Because I can't think of a clearly evil person who isn't equally-clearly wrong and vile.


[QUOTE=LudicSavant;20105588]These statements seem inconsistent.
Only if you assume that the ultraintelligent being and a mere mortal are mutually "fellow sapient beings". The context should make it clear that this is not the case.


Orcs were officially Lawful Evil before 3e. People on forums were saying they were obviously, objectively Lawful Evil because of their behavior/culture/etc to justify this label. Then orcs became officially Chaotic Evil after 3e, and people on forums started saying they were obviously, objectively Chaotic Evil because of their behavior/culture/etc to justify this new label.
Interesting, but irrelevant to his point.


There seems to be a trend to be only able to grasp a 5-step linear progression, depending on how one feels in regard to L/C. (Meaning that there's a progression from Best > Good > Neutral > Worse > Worst with interchangeable C or L on the end points, so either CG or LG is best, with correponding LE or CE being worst).
Why hello there, 4th edition.


Remember that the idea that ''good'' is the only ''right way'' is wrong. That is the modern bias view creeping in, that everyone must say they are ''good''.
But isn't what a race believes is right to do, by definition, what they consider "good" to be?


Let's rewrite the tale, shall we? How it might look if you had evil orcs, not greenskin humans?
QUESTION! What makes your definition of what an orc is inherently more orky than mapoleon's?


-snip-
These are some excellent answers, just excellent. It's such a shame that they don't apply to the questions Ceaon was trying to ask.
(Or, in case anyone cares, to the question I originally intended to ask.)


This is exactly why the game has Cosmic Alignment, so people don't just sit around forever and discuss deep moral issues and things....and not play the game.
When did we start playing a game of D&D? I thought we were talking about alignment, sapient races, etc, in games.


I wonder if the word "evil" is actually a distraction from the real topic, or at least a point where each side is actually talking about different things.
Of course. This is an alignment debate.
Well, it is now. It didn't start as one...and changed, possibly because the word "evil" lead to the people talking about different things.


...[T]hese threads have basically been about whether it's appropriate for writers and designers to put a face on natural evil for characters and players to punch (and be punched by, of course). I think it is, but that's a personal preference and I see how it can be mishandled.
My opinion? If handled badly, it has all sorts of unfortunate implications, which can have nasty consequences (https://youtu.be/UP4_bMhZ4gA?t=5m31s). (They're talking about video games, but the same principle applies equally strongly in RPGs, and to a lesser extent in all media.) Even handled well, it usually comes off as nothing more than a cliche the work would be better without. I'm sure you could make a great fantasy epic exploring the nature and consequences of inherently evil beings, but I haven't seen any.


How did we come to a vague consensus on what 'morality' is IRL? Might be mildly helpful?
By said vague consensuses never going into the edge cases and gray areas.
The problem is, game mechanics need to encompass everything, because trying to get the players to stick to what the game developers intended is like herding air molecules. With a net.


As a short commentary on your and Darth_ultron's discussion, argument from authority is not a fallacy in a game with a GM when the GM actually has the authority. Divine command theory is a perfectly workable basis when the GM has the right to play God/gods.
Workable, but not inherently satisfying. Deriving morality from "the GM said the gods say X" usually suffers from the same root problem as deus ex machina—it's nothing more than the author saying "X is true" and leaving it at that. GMs can justify morality beyond that, but if they do they aren't relying on argument from authority, which means it doesn't help your case.
It also gets a bit tricky to explain why these gods all agree on what Good and Evil are. Divine conflict is a fascinating topic, so it's a shame that black-and-white morality shifts it from a fascinating game of thrones to a dull cold war. (There's a reason there aren't any bestselling novel series or top television shows about modern politics—medieval squabbling is much more interesting than modern tendencies to go along with the needs of the party/nation.)


Let's switch this up a little bit.

Why are good races good? I think it gets glossed over a bit in the discussion that, while kobolds in 3.x are "usually LE", elves are "Usually CG"... meaning you have about as much chance of encountering a LE elf as you do a CG kobold, all other things being equal. While answers vary on this (see my aforementioned "literal spawn of deities"), I think the reason people tend to argue less with the rarity of a LE elf is because elves are a base PC race, and are thus presented more as "people" than "monsters".
I'm not sure that's such an interesting topic. We have plenty of knowledge about why a race might usually try to live up to our moral standards and sometimes have members that turn to darkness—strip away the drama and fantasy and you're left with humanity.
I originally asked this question because people often don't think about why other races, which are (depending on the world) not different than humans on a fundamental psychological level, nevertheless engage in villainous or antagonistic behavior more often than the "good" races.


All of these things are especially true in Western Societies, where philosophy and psychology are skewed to certain biases. We have, for the most part, discarded that people simply "Are" good or evil and decided that everyone is "Like Use" except those whose circumstances demand they be different.

I've said it through the thread, and in others. Nature versus Nurture is the heart of the argument, and how many people dislike nature as the answer.
Isn't it annoying when science gets in the way of racism?
I'm just saying...that "bias" is supported by data.

JoeJ
2015-11-24, 01:01 AM
If four people insist that on four different and mutually exclusive definitions of the objective good, at least three are deriving their morality from something other than objective morality.

Most likely all four are, at least partially. Which in no way proves that objective morality does not exist. Something does not have to be known by humans to be real.


For the same of the argument, let's say that God comes to Earth, sends our religious leaders to their rooms without supper for fighting, and gives us a Great Big Book of Morality. If anyone has a moral question, they can look up the answer in the GBBM.

What's the problem? Well, the first case comes from the fact that different times and places have massively different morals, which means that nearly everyone (if not actually everyone) is wrong about something—and most people in history have been wildly wrong! It gets worse with edge cases—everyone agrees that it's generally wrong to steal, but we're divided on if it's okay to steal bread from a dumpster to feed your children, and on just how much that scenario needs to be adjusted to make it acceptable/unacceptable (if we find it unacceptable/acceptable to begin with). I consider it morally wrong to condemn so many people just for the sake of having one consistent book of morals.
From a utilitarian standpoint, there are additional problems. The primary one is that asserting one set of morality as THE set of morality spoken of in the GBBM gives an objective point of discrimination. Let's say that God, being the Abrahamic one, has written the GBBM to resemble Western values more than those of China, Japan, Native America, etc. Bam—the exploitation of these people and the destruction of their culture has been objectively justified by the fact that they can't be allowed to freely practice their objectively immoral culture.
Not to mention that the GBBM is either going to be inflexible and wrong in edge cases or so unbelievably arcane and complex that it couldn't be easily used when it was needed—both of which I consider to be bad for a moral system.

Which are good reasons why the "Triple-A" God of Western philosophy (All-knowing, All-powerful, All-good) might choose not to reveal the GBBM to a species that doesn't (or doesn't yet) have the mental sophistication to apply, or even comprehend it. Perhaps in the present state of humanity, the GBBM would inevitably be misunderstood, and end up doing more harm than good.

However, getting back to the point of this thread, inherently and objectively evil races exist if the DM says that they do. The DM may not be all-knowing or all-good, but they are all-powerful. The only real question is whether or not the DM's portrayal of those races matches the statements about them, which is a function largely of consistency in world building.

veti
2015-11-24, 02:11 AM
Most likely all four are, at least partially. Which in no way proves that objective morality does not exist. Something does not have to be known by humans to be real.

No, it doesn't prove that such a thing doesn't exist. It doesn't technically prove anything. But it does strongly suggest that the idea of "objective morality" is an unhelpful, and probably dangerous, chimera - something that will distract and prevent us from making real progress, the more attention we pay to it - and should, for the good of all, be treated to all intents and purposes as if it doesn't exist.


However, getting back to the point of this thread, inherently and objectively evil races exist if the DM says that they do. The DM may not be all-knowing or all-good, but they are all-powerful. The only real question is whether or not the DM's portrayal of those races matches the statements about them, which is a function largely of consistency in world building.

Inherently, maybe. Objectively? Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that the DM pulls off the nigh-impossible stunt of coherently defining such a thing as "objective evil". Then if a race invariably acts in accordance with that evil, they're not free-willed (or sapient, or whatever other flexibly-defined term you're using) - they are basically robots, and can be destroyed with no more compunction than one might switch off a computer or unplug a toaster.

And then you run into another - contortion of the rules. Because animals, you'll recall, are Always Neutral, on the grounds that they're "not governed by a human sense of morality". If that's a get-out-of-sin-free card for scorpions and tigers and sharks, why shouldn't it also apply to orcs? If they truly can't help themselves, then they're no more "evil" than a rattlesnake or a piranha.

The most common answer I've seen to this, in the past, are that animals don't have the mental capacity to understand why what they're doing is harmful. But the "evil race", as described by your DM, also doesn't have that capacity. The only difference, in this scenario, between the orc and the scorpion is that the orc pings as Evil when a paladin squints at him. And so we're back to Evil as a purely informed attribute, with no actual moral weight.

Steampunkette
2015-11-24, 02:19 AM
Actually, Great Wyrm, the biases I was referring to weren't scientific, but sociological.

Specifically the sort of biases that exist, and have existed, against people of certain sexualities or gender identities, which only now are we coming to honestly accept as inborn identifiers rather than mental illnesses to be cured and prepared for.

Such things are, so far as we can tell without massively unethical testing, innate.

JoeJ
2015-11-24, 03:10 AM
No, it doesn't prove that such a thing doesn't exist. It doesn't technically prove anything. But it does strongly suggest that the idea of "objective morality" is an unhelpful, and probably dangerous, chimera - something that will distract and prevent us from making real progress, the more attention we pay to it - and should, for the good of all, be treated to all intents and purposes as if it doesn't exist.

Only if you assume that something which is currently unknown must always remain so.


Inherently, maybe. Objectively? Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that the DM pulls off the nigh-impossible stunt of coherently defining such a thing as "objective evil". Then if a race invariably acts in accordance with that evil, they're not free-willed (or sapient, or whatever other flexibly-defined term you're using) - they are basically robots, and can be destroyed with no more compunction than one might switch off a computer or unplug a toaster.

That's a non-sequitur. Even if no member of the race ever chooses good, that says nothing about whether they can choose good. It is not certain that only things which actually occur could possibly have occurred.


And then you run into another - contortion of the rules. Because animals, you'll recall, are Always Neutral, on the grounds that they're "not governed by a human sense of morality". If that's a get-out-of-sin-free card for scorpions and tigers and sharks, why shouldn't it also apply to orcs? If they truly can't help themselves, then they're no more "evil" than a rattlesnake or a piranha.

The most common answer I've seen to this, in the past, are that animals don't have the mental capacity to understand why what they're doing is harmful. But the "evil race", as described by your DM, also doesn't have that capacity. The only difference, in this scenario, between the orc and the scorpion is that the orc pings as Evil when a paladin squints at him. And so we're back to Evil as a purely informed attribute, with no actual moral weight.

Animals in 5e aren't neutral, they're unaligned; they don't make moral decisions at all. Evil species do make moral choices; they make the wrong ones.

You're making a mistake by assuming that moral freedom is an all-or-nothing affair. Compulsions can exist that are less than absolute, and a race can be inherently evil yet still have some freedom. Think of them not as robots, but as addicts. They know that what they are doing is wrong, but they are very powerfully drawn to do it anyway. Addicted to causing pain from the moment of birth, they grow up in a society where every single person they interact with has the same addiction. They can resist it, but how many will? Will they be able to beat it entirely on their own? If not, from whom can they get help? Those that don't beat the addiction, which is very nearly everyone, make excuses to rationalize the harm they're doing. They convince themselves that Gruumsh knows what's best, or that the weak are defective and deserve to die, or that they have to hurt others to keep from being hurt. But whatever reasons they tell themselves, the truth is just that they're addicted to evil.

Florian
2015-11-24, 03:20 AM
Differentiating between "Killing" and "murder" is a very odd thing and the basis for a lot of ongoing RL debates. Mostly, it is classed as being "murder" when it donne upon us, something we frankly don't want to happen.
Now killing, we're pretty fine with that and damn good at it. We even institutionalized and mechanized that.
Now if we do classify something as commiting murder, we go out of our way to hunt it down and exterminate it with extreme prejudice.

Luckily for us, we don't share this planet with other sentient races so we don't have to do a reality check on our moral basis in this case.

So, if Trolls would exist and they would see us humans as a fine food source and we couldn't talk them out of it, us both being sentient species and all that, we would go out there and exterminate them, and noone would give a thought about their young or family life. Period.

The basis for "evil" races in a fantasy world nearly always is that their very existence means harm in one way or another to the other sentient species that exist in such a setting and they don't change away from their natural behaviour.

An good counter example to that would be Al-Qadim and the requirement to understand and accept the common morale given by the Loregiver. All species who do that are welcome in polite society and equaly protected by common laws, those who won't or by their very nature can't accept that, are enemies to be killed.

@veti:

That's the difference between having no alignment and having an alignment tag. In both cases, it's only nature, never nurture that gouverns the actions of the creature.
But frankly, animals simply lack the ability to self-reflect on their actions, while, say, a Angel is able to do that, but can't change his behaviour nonetheless.

@GreatWyrmGold:

I rather suppose that a Great Book would be rather unpleasant for most of us because it would show that we were either right or wrong on things, but even more so, things we did think are important are not, not at all.

goto124
2015-11-24, 04:05 AM
Animals in 5e aren't neutral, they're unaligned; they don't make moral decisions at all. Evil species do make moral choices; they make the wrong ones.

I wonder what 2e, 3.5e, and 4e said about that... was I misremembering about Neutral animals or even Evil creatures that don't actually make moral decisions?

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-24, 04:07 AM
@LudicSavant: ah yes, I understand what you're getting at. You're not wrong. Your just arguing besides the point just like the person saying a fighter's sword is not objective.

In your typical tabletop game majority of all attributes are informed attributes. The only reason to believe they are as they are is because the GM says there are so. If the GM screws up and contradicts himself, he still has authority to fix that contradiction, up to and including retroactively stating there was never a contradiction, and that will be actual fact from an in-universe viewpoint.

Steampunkette
2015-11-24, 04:18 AM
I wasn't saying swords weren't swords objectively. I was drawing analogous parallels between the argument that informed attributes are a problem.

Swords in D&D are swords because we say they are. Nothing can "show" us that they are swords in the same way that no one can "show" evil as a manifest force. All we can do is inform and describe.

Barring scientific discovery of manifest evil in the real world.

goto124
2015-11-24, 05:08 AM
Self-contradiction in the case of swords could be:

Player: I cut the rope with my sword!
GM: It... erm... doesn't work.
Player: Wait, what? Why?
GM: Because... erm... the sword isn't sharp!
Player: Wha- but, swords are- supposed to be- sharp! I just sliced a pirate with my sword!

Could've been a better example, but the general idea is there.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-24, 06:07 AM
@Steampunkette: I wasn't referring to you, I was referring to a hypothetical player in my earlier example. ("The fighter's sword is not objective because it's a subjective figment of imagination residing inside the heads of multiple people who all picture it differently.") Your actual argument is pretty much identical to mine.

@Goto124: yes. I'm not arguing the GM can't contradict themself. I'm arguing that once established as existing in the gameworld, arguing the sword is not objective is pointless, even when the GM flubs.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 06:08 AM
Self-contradiction in the case of swords could be:

Player: I cut the rope with my sword!
GM: It... erm... doesn't work.
Player: Wait, what? Why?
GM: Because... erm... the sword isn't sharp!
Player: Wha- but, swords are- supposed to be- sharp! I just sliced a pirate with my sword!

Could've been a better example, but the general idea is there.

Lessee if I can give an even better example.

Show supports tell: "This sword is incredibly sharp." "You find that the sword slices cleanly through a silk cloth dropped on it, exerting no force." "Your swing passes through the rope with no resistance, your arm doesn't even feel slowed."

Show does not match tell: "This sword is incredibly sharp." "The sword cannot cut through the hempen rope." "You have to saw at the cloth in order to separate it, and it comes apart ragged at the edges."

Show trumps tell in writing, so if you are asked "how sharp was the sword" the better answer isn't "incredibly sharp, because the DM said so." It's "Not sharp enough to cut through a hemp rope or slice cleanly through a cloth with effort, because the DM said so."

To use another example:

Show does not match tell: "This is the deadliest technique in the world!" "It's Quivering Palm."

If you are asked who has the deadlier technique, your Monk or the Wizard throwing out mass DC40 death effects, the correct answer is that the Wizard has a deadlier technique than the Monk, even though the DM claimed that Quivering Palm was the deadliest.

This goes back to the question FrozenFeet asked me (e.g. why appeal to authority is still considered a weak argument even from a DM/author/programmer/etc who controls the rules by which the world operates).


In your typical tabletop game majority of all attributes are informed attributes.

Even if I go and play with a group of poor writers who do not embrace "Show don't tell," I will be given constant feedback from the world in the form of action arbitration and in-world events.

Can I climb that wall? Well, I can try it in-world and find out.
Is that creature hostile? Well, I mean, it's making attack rolls at me.


If the GM screws up and contradicts himself, he still has authority to fix that contradiction, up to and including retroactively stating there was never a contradiction, and that will be actual fact from an in-universe viewpoint. You seem to be saying that as if I didn't say the same thing myself.

The fact that the GM/writer/etc can fix it doesn't mean that they have fixed it. Having the potential to do a thing is not the same as having done a thing.

Me saying that they should fix the contradiction is the whole point!

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-24, 07:32 AM
And just because a GM can make a mistake, doesn't mean they have. In order for appeal to authority to be undermined, you need proof the authority has flubbed up. Your argument against appeal to authority is just as weak, and for the same reason.

Florian
2015-11-24, 07:49 AM
@LudicSavant:

The way I read your posts, it all comes down that you only accept your POV and personal experience as the only base for things to be worked on. What you consider to be "good" should be "Good" and so on. Whenever this isn't the case, its a bug that has to be fixed.

JellyPooga
2015-11-24, 08:10 AM
3rd Edition+'s Dragon Kobolds are evil. And their enmity with gnomes is a cycle of revenge and grudge neither race can let go (Both races are equally bad when it comes to this particular conflict - which the Gnomes started as a 'practical joke').

This always bugged me a little. The Gnomes claim that it was all supposed to be a practical joke, but...how is collapsing an entire underground city and destroying the center of a civilisation supposed to be a joke?!? That's like ram-raiding a creche in a dump-truck and saying to the distraught mothers "I thought it'd be funny. My bad." Whichever way you look at it, it was a douche move on the part of the Mr.Glittergold.

If the story is true (and neither side claims it is not, to the best of my knowledge), then how are the Gnomes in any way the good guys? Sure, they're both guilty of carrying the grudge, but if everyone agrees that the Gnomes started it then shouldn't the other races in the world be holding them accountable for the atrocities?

Poor misunderstood Kobolds...

Taelas
2015-11-24, 08:34 AM
Good post! This is precisely the kind of question people should be asking, and yet all too often point to racial alignments as an excuse to not think about them.

Why? It is a patently constructed scenario. We all know who are good and who are evil, because the piece is specifically written to showcase it. But it is not an interesting question, because I don't see anyone actually behaving in this manner. Moreover, why should we, assuming the humans are PCs, put them into such a situation?

You shouldn't be checking people's preconceptions in a roleplaying game (unless throwing morality curveballs at your players is something that they enjoy). If you find you don't like the way your group handles these things, then maybe you shouldn't be playing with them.

Hawkstar
2015-11-24, 09:08 AM
Just to get a ballpark figure: Let's say 40-50% of orcs are Chaotic Evil. Now, we don't actually know the distribution of non-Chaotic-Evil alignments, so we can only take ballpark estimates. For that purpose, I'll assume that all deviations are spread evenly amongst the alignment spectrum,That is a terrible, terrible assumption. A better one would be to have each step away be an order of magnitude less than CE.


@LudicSavant:

The way I read your posts, it all comes down that you only accept your POV and personal experience as the only base for things to be worked on. What you consider to be "good" should be "Good" and so on. Whenever this isn't the case, its a bug that has to be fixed.

His subjective Good is the Objective Good of his games, but not others'. Objective Good is nothing more than Subjective Good of an outside force (Such as players over a game) onto a world, and sometimes given Force behind it (Allowing Justice to Triumph in the end for no other reason than because it is Justice and Right.)


These aren't supposed to be 'interesting stories'. They're supposed to be 'fun games'. The game isn't generally about exploring the nature of free will between species. Using always-evil races allow the focus to move away from them, and instead focus on the tactical and strategic challenges of the heroes who need to face them, the Non-monstrous people threatened by them, and to allow combat to break out without having people's moral codes get tied in a knot trying to justify the mass-murder of fellow humans. I know, personally, "Eh... they're bad people who've done "X" terrible thing" doesn't sit right with me, because real people do everything they do for a reason, and most feel that what they're doing is the right or necessary thing to do, and actually killing people over such things only makes things worse. I will and have stopped games over this sort of thing. Unless I'm playing a seemingly-soulless Lawful Neutral Mechanical Enforcer of Civil Order from a tyrannical

Ironically, I do like having races that would be labeled "Evil" by the humanocentric morality of D&D* be explored, especially Illithids, and I made a custom race for a PbP game that got canceled (Grr...!) that is the creation of a demon lord, and ruthlessly kills any of its own members that don't go for the culture it adopted (Which itself is based on the mass-destruction and consumption of its own fertile eggs)... because they were created to be a starving, all-consuming, explosively-overpopulating scourge on the world and decided to say "No" to that future. Except the ones who decided not to say "No, we won't genophage ourselves", try to live with humanlike respect for their lives and future offspring and families... and would be rapidly overpopulating and consuming the world around them trying to keep themselves alive and feed their overly-large families and preventing any other races from thriving if they weren't being killed off en-mass by the former group of that race. Oh yeah... and that former group also regularly engages in 'ethnic cleansing' because if they don't keep a close eye on their rapid evolution, they literally start spawning ravenous monsters.


*(To the point that I run it that humans were made as a hack to exploit the cosmic alignment system by Zarus, who disowned his creation so they wouldn't have their potential bound by blind loyalty to a creator the way Dwarves, Halflings, Goblins, Orcs, and Elves are (Especially Orcs and Dwarves), who then became Pelor to protect them and Erythnul to motivate them (Yes, they're all the same guy! Didn't the 'Face surrounded by thematic frills' theme to their holy symbol tip anyone else off?)... and may actually also be Olidamara, because who the heck else could wear so many masks and be such a colossal troll, and Obad-Hai, administrator of the world and reason he's not been banned for hacking the system.)

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 09:18 AM
Workable, but not inherently satisfying. Deriving morality from "the GM said the gods say X" usually suffers from the same root problem as deus ex machina—it's nothing more than the author saying "X is true" and leaving it at that. GMs can justify morality beyond that, but if they do they aren't relying on argument from authority, which means it doesn't help your case.

Completely agree. This is precisely what I was trying to get across with the "show don't tell" line of discussion.


It also gets a bit tricky to explain why these gods all agree on what Good and Evil are. Divine conflict is a fascinating topic, so it's a shame that black-and-white morality shifts it from a fascinating game of thrones to a dull cold war.

Oh, so much this! There's so much potential there.


This always bugged me a little. The Gnomes claim that it was all supposed to be a practical joke, but...how is collapsing an entire underground city and destroying the center of a civilisation supposed to be a joke?!? That's like ram-raiding a creche in a dump-truck and saying to the distraught mothers "I thought it'd be funny. My bad." Whichever way you look at it, it was a douche move on the part of the Mr.Glittergold.

If the story is true (and neither side claims it is not, to the best of my knowledge), then how are the Gnomes in any way the good guys? Sure, they're both guilty of carrying the grudge, but if everyone agrees that the Gnomes started it then shouldn't the other races in the world be holding them accountable for the atrocities?

Poor misunderstood Kobolds...

Yeah. I had much the same thoughts.

It's also said that Garl Glittergold conspires with Corellon Larethian, Moradin, and Yondalla to keep the "human and other monstrous pantheons from getting too strong too fast."

We also get a bit about how the gods are determining which races get to live where at the start of creation, and how the game is set up in such a way so that Gruumsh doesn't get any land for his people, and the other gods laugh at him and make quips about how his people will be homeless and unable to survive.


That is a terrible, terrible assumption. A better one would be to have each step away be an order of magnitude less than CE.

Okay. Let's work with the "additional steps of deviation are less likely" assumption, then. Did you see the post where I ran the numbers on that, too? Because I totally already did that.

See post #156: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=20112243&postcount=156

If I go by Mark's revised assumption where additional steps away from CE are much less likely, the result is similar.


@LudicSavant:

The way I read your posts, it all comes down that you only accept your POV and personal experience as the only base for things to be worked on. What you consider to be "good" should be "Good" and so on. Whenever this isn't the case, its a bug that has to be fixed.

My actual position disagrees with all of the positions you just attributed to me. I would appreciate it if you would quote the text you are addressing instead of saying "@LudicSavant" and describing my supposed position for me, please and thank you.


Why? It is a patently constructed scenario. We all know who are good and who are evil, because the piece is specifically written to showcase it. But it is not an interesting question, because I don't see anyone actually behaving in this manner. Moreover, why should we, assuming the humans are PCs, put them into such a situation?

I agree insofar as it should not be an interesting question, but it becomes an important point because of posts like Mark's, where he argues that the scenario is "written wrong" and that Napoleon "didn't write orcs" because there were three orcs who weren't actively engaged in being Evil in the story. That's it. Three orcs that weren't actively engaged in being Evil.

This, given that Mark's own estimations (not mine!) suggest that more than 1 in 3 orcs are non-Evil, and 1 in 10 are Good. This suggests millions of Good orcs running around, and yet he complains that a scenario in which a single orc family does not appear to be entirely dysfunctional is problematic to him.

Why?

There's nothing in Napoleon's story that contradicts the data we have. We know that non-Evil orcs are common, according to the Monster Manual. We know that humans sometimes invade places and kill noncombatants. The scenario is entirely plausible. We should expect, given the statistical propensity of non-Evil orcs, that if human raiders were going around looting and pillaging (a behavior humans regularly engage in), that at some point human raiders would invade the home of non-Evil orcs.

Why, then, is the story considered objectionable? Mark's re-write version of the story is fine too, and you can totally have that scenario happen in your game too, but why was Napoleon's version not also considered appropriate?

In short, it's a good post because it raises questions like:


QUESTION! What makes your definition of what an orc is inherently more orky than mapoleon's?

Mark Hall
2015-11-24, 10:48 AM
Good guys worshiping Evil deities isn't even uncommon in many cultures; sometimes even if they think the deities are Evil. You don't need to think God is a nice guy to Fear him and pay him respect.

The statement wasn't one of "fear and respect". It was one of actively thanking for blessing



I find those assumptions to be a non-sequitur, but I'll run with it anyways because the numbers still don't work out for your argument being cogent even following those assumptions.

They're better founded than you're assumptions, which painted all alignments other than the "Usually" as being equally likely; a LG orc is not as likely as a NE orc.




Your whole argument seems to be that he "wrote" the orcs wrong by making them non-Evil... when your own numbers tell us that we should expect at least 1 in 3 orcs in the world to be non-Evil.

I maintain that he wrote the orcs prejudicially.



And yet, you find Napoleon's suggestion that there's a single family of Good orcs improbable? Why? How?

Less likely than evil, not improbable. After all, I remember the Ondonti.



QUESTION! What makes your definition of what an orc is inherently more orky than mapoleon's?

Partially because mine is in line with the material related to orcs in several editions of the MM; in a real sense, the LE/CE difference between AD&D and WD&D is irrelevant to this argument.

I think stating that "orcs frequently act like humans" is a mistake. Orcs act like orcs. Their behaviors are understandable by humans on one some level, but so are the actions of dogs or horses and, yes, even cats. Their motivations are not necessarily entirely human motivations, and their ability to choose good, evil, law or chaos is not necessarily without biases... which goes back to "Often Chaotic Evil" and "Spawn of an evil deity" being large factors in orcish alignment.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 10:52 AM
They're better founded than you're assumptions, which painted all alignments other than the "Usually" as being equally likely; a LG orc is not as likely as a NE orc.

Seriously, the difference between your assumption and mine was that mine resulted in 37.5% non-Evil and yours resulted in 36% non-Evil.

It doesn't change the end result of the calculation in any meaningful way. Acting as if it does is a red herring.

Mark Hall
2015-11-24, 10:56 AM
Seriously, the difference between your assumption and mine was that mine resulted in 37.5% non-Evil and yours resulted in 36% non-Evil.

It doesn't change the end result of the calculation in any meaningful way. Acting as if it does is a red herring.

It does change the base assumptions that go into that calculation; just because the result is the same doesn't mean the math was done correctly.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 10:59 AM
It does change the base assumptions that go into that calculation

And I already redid the calculation using your base assumptions. Why are you ignoring the calculation that used your base assumptions?

goto124
2015-11-24, 11:02 AM
Why are we doing maths again?

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 11:06 AM
Why are we doing maths again?

Probability theory and formal logic. I do not believe that Mark's conclusion necessarily follows from his own premises. At the very least, the issue is much less clear cut than he makes it out to be. In his original post, he said



Who are the evil ones in this encounter?
The orcs. Because orcs are literally the blood of an evil god, made humanoid.

Not "they're likely to be the evil ones in the encounter" just "they are the evil ones in the encounter."

That position seems to have been clarified to be "The orcs are more likely to be the evil ones in the encounter." He then gave various figures about how many orcs he estimates are of each given alignment, which was a ballpark figure which was not drawn from any canon source (which came out to 64% evil, 36% non-evil).

However, even when we accept that figure, the reasoning is still oversimplified. Remember, there are lies, true lies, and statistics. This isn't because statistics actually lie, mind, it's because it's easy to draw wrong conclusions from oversimplified application of statistics (to the point where even very smart people regularly get these questions wrong. A majority of doctors fail computationally simple probability problems relevant to their field. (See studies such as http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/692627, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/692627, http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~coulson/203/GG_How_1995.pdf))

For instance, the orcs may not all be the same alignment. More than 1 in 3 orcs (according to Mark Hall's numbers) are non-Evil. There are 3 orcs in the room, you'd have to factor in the probability of each of their alignments. You'd also have to factor in the probability of the humans also being Evil to determine the probability that both sides are Evil at which point you'd have to have some sort of criteria to resolve ties. These factors alone can make the "Orcs are the Evil ones in this story" result dip below 50%, depending on how they're resolved.

And that's before we consider local context, consequential weight, the fact that Evil may not be equal to evil, or anything else.

Even if I ignore all that, forget everything I know about probability theory, decision theory, and statistics, and take the most simplified interpretation (64% evil, 36% nonevil, no other considerations), that's... a pretty poor heuristic. Considering absolutely nothing else, more than 1 in 3 answers will be wrong. Yeah, 64% is more probable than 36%, but by so little that jumping to the conclusion that the orcs are evil in the story based on that demographic is incredibly hasty and unwarranted unless you're in a situation where you absolutely must make a snap decision with type 1 reasoning shortcuts and can't gather any other information.

Steampunkette
2015-11-24, 11:48 AM
Formal Logic colliding with power fantasy and reality functions about as well as Spock Logic does on Star Trek.

It looks great on paper but it's often wrong.

And it doesn't help when more than half the people in a discussion aren't following formal rules of debate because they understand that formal rules in an informal discussion just result in frustration all around.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 11:51 AM
Formal Logic colliding with power fantasy and reality functions about as well as Spock Logic does on Star Trek.

It looks great on paper but it's often wrong.

Spock Logic isn't logic at all. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawVulcan) It's often wrong because it bears no resemblance to actual rationality. Here's an explanation of how Spock Logic differs from actual logic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgNZ9aTEwc


And it doesn't help when more than half the people in a discussion aren't following formal rules of debate because they understand that formal rules in an informal discussion just result in frustration all around.

Rules like modus ponens or the law of identity aren't formal rules in the sense of a moderated debate. They're formal rules in the sense that I can use the formal rules of arithmetic to conclude that 2+2=4.

They function in any context.

Steampunkette
2015-11-24, 12:28 PM
Yes. Spock logic sounds great when Nimoy spouts it, but 30 seconds of looking at it makes you realize it doesn't work in the real world.

Much like formal logic running headfirst into suspension of disbelief facepalms because you are actively ignoring logic in order to enjoy a fantasy world that follows different rules from reality.

Evidence. This is the 7th page of the thousandth? Twenty thousandth? Whoever has the accurate number get bqck to me. Pointlessly spiraling alignment argument in the history of D&D.

Real logic would say opinions on alignment are like buttholes. Everyone has them, they all stink, and no one wants theirs to be repeatedly prodded by people they've never met.

Okay... not NO one...

But I think it's time to let the current alignment threads die. Maybe write up a fresh thesis that encapsulates you ideas and see who pokes, rather than deal with 7 pages of miscommunication.

Mark Hall
2015-11-24, 12:38 PM
Somewhat aside, but I have a hypothesis on why Orcs are Often, while kobolds and goblinoids are Usually...

Outbreeding.

All are mortal constructs of a deity. Orcs, however, have significant out-breeding with other species, including babboons, humans, ogres, and so on (Tellene has orc/hobgoblin crossbreeds; FR has orcs who are crossbred with demons). These outbreeds will then sometimes return to the orcish stock, so while goblinoids remain a relatively closed bloodline (of evil), orcs include a lot of other stuff. Half orc raised among orcs who then goes on to breed more young by orcs is going to dillute the Gruumsh a bit.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 01:24 PM
Much like formal logic running headfirst into suspension of disbelief facepalms because you are actively ignoring logic in order to enjoy a fantasy world that follows different rules from reality. I still think that this is a bit off-base. Concepts like verisimilitude are based at least in part in logical consistency, for instance.

But I don't think I'm interested in arguing the point, as it's tangential and I think the next part of your post has a point:


Evidence. This is the 7th page of the thousandth? Twenty thousandth? Whoever has the accurate number get bqck to me. Pointlessly spiraling alignment argument in the history of D&D.

Real logic would say opinions on alignment are like buttholes. Everyone has them, they all stink, and no one wants theirs to be repeatedly prodded by people they've never met.

Okay... not NO one...

But I think it's time to let the current alignment threads die. Maybe write up a fresh thesis that encapsulates you ideas and see who pokes, rather than deal with 7 pages of miscommunication.

You may have a point there. This does indeed seem like it has spiraled off into miscommunication too muddled to resolve.

Maybe one more try at getting things back on track, going back to GreatWyrmGold's original topic:



I'm curious if anyone else has or would like to write similar, interesting explanations for why a given typically evil race (of any setting or genre) is "evil".


Well, it is now. It didn't start as one...and changed, possibly because the word "evil" lead to the people talking about different things.

Hmmm, maybe we could resolve this? Get rid of the variable-question problem and focus back on your intended query.

When you put "evil" in quotes in the OP, would it be accurate to say that you want interesting explanations for why a typically evil race comes into conflict with others or pursues otherwise hostile goals? Framing the question in non-alignment terms may be beneficial.

In that case, there's a lot that can be said about that. For example, one poster mentioned Garl Glittergold's prank which involved destroying a kobold city as a joke!

Here's another one for the orcs, which is straight from the Greyhawk canon:


In the beginning all the gods met and drew lots for the parts of the world in which their representative races would dwell. The human gods drew the lot that allowed humans to dwell where they pleased, in any environment. The elven gods drew the green forests, the dwarven deities drew the high mountains, the gnomish gods the rocky, sunlit hills, and the halfling gods picked the lot that gave them the fields and meadows. Then the assembled gods turned to the orcish gods and laughed loud and long. "All the lots are taken!" they said tauntingly. "Where will your people dwell, One-Eye? There is no place left!"

There was silence upon the world then, as Gruumsh One-Eye lifted his great iron spear and stretched it over the world. The shaft blotted the sun over a great part of the lands as he spoke: "No! You Lie! You have rigged the drawing of the lots, hoping to cheat me and my followers. But One-Eye never sleeps. One-Eye sees all. There is a place for orcs to dwell…here!," he bellowed, and his spear pierced the mountains, opening a mighty rift and chasms. "And here!," and the spearhead split the hills and made them shake and covered them in dust. "And here!," and the black spear gouged the meadows and made them bare.

"There!" roared He-Who-Watches triumphantly, and his voice carried to the ends of the world. "There is where the orcs shall dwell! There they will survive, and multiply, and grow stronger, and a day will come when they cover the world, and they will slay all of your collective peoples! Orcs shall inherit the world you sought to cheat me of!"

If this accounting is true, that seems like quite a provocation for the orcs. I mean, if the game is set up so that there are X-1 lots, X deities, and Gruumsh draws lots last (so that they can all laugh at him that no lots are left), then yeah, the game is rigged so that Gruumsh won't get any land. And the other gods are being jerks by laughing at him and going "haha, your people will be homeless."

For the orcs in this context, their quest for territory and conquest is because they feel they need it to survive, because the other races took all of the good land.

Another interesting idea to consider for why the "evil" races could be seen as evil... lifespans. According to Pathfinder, a goblin becomes an adult in 12 years and dies of old age by 40-60. An elf dies of old age at 350-700 years! From google's definition: "In general we think of a generation being about 25 years - from the birth of a parent to the birth of a child. We also generally accept that the length of a generation in earlier periods of history was closer to 20 years when humans mated younger and life expectancies were shorter." If we make that directly proportional for a goblin, (human adult = 15, goblin adult = 12, human adult in earlier periods of history is 1 1/3x 15, 1.33*12=16), that means that an elf that dies of age at 550 (halfway between 350 and 750) lives for over 34 goblin generations!

If the goblin settlement has a war with the elf settlement every 2 generations, that means an elf expects to go through some 17 wars in their lifetime with the goblins, while the goblin might expect peace with the elves for their entire lives. The difference in timescale is huge. From the elven perspective, the goblins are making constant war on the elves. From the goblin perspective, they can't even understand this elf whose kid brother died 100 years ago and wants revenge. Those were some other goblins, long ago. It would be like if Japan suddenly wanted revenge for World War II.

Just... think about the implications of that for a bit, see if anything sparks.


Somewhat aside, but I have a hypothesis on why Orcs are Often, while kobolds and goblinoids are Usually...

Outbreeding.

All are mortal constructs of a deity. Orcs, however, have significant out-breeding with other species, including babboons, humans, ogres, and so on (Tellene has orc/hobgoblin crossbreeds; FR has orcs who are crossbred with demons). These outbreeds will then sometimes return to the orcish stock, so while goblinoids remain a relatively closed bloodline (of evil), orcs include a lot of other stuff. Half orc raised among orcs who then goes on to breed more young by orcs is going to dillute the Gruumsh a bit.

Interesting theory. What's the source for the baboons?

Florian
2015-11-24, 01:34 PM
[/COLOR]But I think it's time to let the current alignment threads die. Maybe write up a fresh thesis that encapsulates you ideas and see who pokes, rather than deal with 7 pages of miscommunication.

You know, if I was drunk enough, I would consider doing just that. Maybe I should start a patreon to sponsor me a bottle of Jack and two six-packs of fine ale a day, we could talk about that. ;)

@LudicSavant:

I mostly write on my smartphone during transit, so there are technical limitations that I do not care to learn to circumvent. So mostly, I will just amswer to something or someone starting with an @ and be done with it.

Mark Hall
2015-11-24, 02:22 PM
Interesting theory. What's the source for the baboons?

Losel (http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Losel) are babboon/orc hybrids mentioned in Greyhawk; bred by Iuz and the Scarlett Brotherhood, they're mentioned in a number of sources. Orcs breed with pretty much anything, whereas goblinoids tend to be more discriminating (and bugbears in Hackmaster requiring the heart of a human or demihuman child to be consumed before the females are fertile).

JoeJ
2015-11-24, 04:15 PM
I wonder what 2e, 3.5e, and 4e said about that... was I misremembering about Neutral animals or even Evil creatures that don't actually make moral decisions?

You were remembering correctly. From Basic D&D up through 3.5e, animals are Neutral. What they are in 4e I don't know; I never played that edition. In 5e they are Unaligned, which IMO is a big improvement, since it separates Neutral creatures who are capable of making moral distinctions from creatures that are not.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-24, 04:40 PM
That's not what I said. I said I never saw a D&D story where any race of humanoids were not, for the most part, forehead aliens. Humans in funny suits. I also said I never saw a D&D story where they had no redeeming qualities.

The might be with you as your simply applying everything to ''being human''. If no matter what anyone of any race does your saying they ''act human''. So I guess the question is: what would a race need to do for you to say they are not human?



I've experienced stories that had alien creatures where it was difficult to find redeeming qualities. None of them, however, were humanoids in published D&D material (novels, supplements, whatever). In general I find that genuinely alien aliens are rare in media. I often see sci-fi movies where the aliens from other planets are more similar to modern American culture than actual Americans from movies made 60 years ago!

The two big flaws are that the writers and readers/viewers are humans. A lot of writers are stuck making any alien ''just like humans'' as that is all they can think of. And a lot of readers/viewers have the wish to be entertained by things that are human.




Wait...so D&D, which only exists as a creation of the writers, has a different opinion than not only the authors who designed the game, but also the books that define the game? Are you also going to say that my morals are different than those of my moral compass? I'm going to assume that what you actually said is not what you meant.

I'm not sure what you said. And I have no idea what your compass might point too.




Which doesn't actually say anything about their moral status.

It says they are all equal.

What do you mean by "they"? Because I can't think of a clearly evil person who isn't equally-clearly wrong and vile.[/QUOTE]

Are you asking for an example of an evil D&D character that is not wrong and vile? Well, wrong is making a judgment, and you can't really ''say'' anyone is wrong, so that is out. And vile is a bit subjective.

JoeJ
2015-11-24, 05:58 PM
The two big flaws are that the writers and readers/viewers are humans. A lot of writers are stuck making any alien ''just like humans'' as that is all they can think of. And a lot of readers/viewers have the wish to be entertained by things that are human.ually-clearly wrong and vile.

A lot of writers, and readers, greatly underestimate the range of cultural variation among humans. There are quite a few societies in the real world that appear more "alien" to Western eyes than the majority of supposedly alien races I've seen in either fantasy or science fiction. And there are even some writers whose "alien" societies appear more like modern America than either 18th century America or modern Japan do.

LudicSavant
2015-11-24, 08:22 PM
what would a race need to do for you to say they are not human?

For starters, I shouldn't be able to get on a boat and easily find a culture more distinct from modern America than the supposedly alien fantasy race.


A lot of writers, and readers, greatly underestimate the range of cultural variation among humans. There are quite a few societies in the real world that appear more "alien" to Western eyes than the majority of supposedly alien races I've seen in either fantasy or science fiction. And there are even some writers whose "alien" societies appear more like modern America than either 18th century America or modern Japan do.

This!

goto124
2015-11-25, 12:26 AM
A lot of writers, and readers, greatly underestimate the range of cultural variation among humans. There are quite a few societies in the real world that appear more "alien" to Western eyes than the majority of supposedly alien races I've seen in either fantasy or science fiction. And there are even some writers whose "alien" societies appear more like modern America than either 18th century America or modern Japan do.

It's why I've been fairly alright with hatted races. Pretty much anything has been shown in the human race at least once.

Also, I think someone answered my question of "Is there a purpose to objective morality other than 'character morality guidelines' or 'Red vs Blue so that we know who to shoot without thinking too hard'?" earlier on in this thread, but it's been buried and I can't find it. Something about exploring morality? But wouldn't it be made harder by 'objective morality', since the GM says what's right and what's wrong instead of actually allowing 'exploration'?

Florian
2015-11-25, 12:37 AM
It's why I've been fairly alright with hatted races. Pretty much anything has been shown in the human race at least once.

Also, I think someone answered my question of "Is there a purpose to objective morality other than 'character morality guidelines' or 'Red vs Blue so that we know who to shoot without thinking too hard'?" earlier on in this thread, but it's been buried and I can't find it. Something about exploring morality? But wouldn't it be made harder by 'objective morality', since the GM says what's right and what's wrong instead of actually allowing 'exploration'?

The games that go deeper into exploring morality also integrate that more tightly into the rules themselves and leave the GM out of it as an arbiter, as he can't be neutral on this.

goto124
2015-11-25, 12:49 AM
I presume that means writing out an entire 'morality' system in the book, including what values make up one side and what makes up the other side? A Virtue/Vice system?

Should there even be a morality system? How about, say, two cultures who have essentially opposite views on morality, and the players can choose who to side with, who to trick, etc?

Does having a 'morality' system necessarily mean everyone on one side has to be punished in some fashion, and everyone on the other side gets goodies?

Florian
2015-11-25, 01:29 AM
I presume that means writing out an entire 'morality' system in the book, including what values make up one side and what makes up the other side? A Virtue/Vice system?

Should there even be a morality system? How about, say, two cultures who have essentially opposite views on morality, and the players can choose who to side with, who to trick, etc?

Does having a 'morality' system necessarily mean everyone on one side has to be punished in some fashion, and everyone on the other side gets goodies?

It all depends on what exactly is going to be explored and how the exploration is approached.
It is also important to understand that most of that is about you, the player, not about the character or the game world, they are only means to an end.

There are some systems with different emphasis on that stuff, but what they do have in common is that you as the player are not in total control of your character, as your choices have been tracked and the character itself tends to act and react (in a basic way of course) in a given situation the way his accumulated experience led him to, and that is what you have to explore than

(Example: If you have had your character react with fear and hatred towards a certain person, this will be noted (Like having the trait "Fears and Hates Person A +1d6") and in further encounters, this can come up again und you will have to deal with it)

Edit: Just for the fun of it. let's use Judge Dredd as an example. If the system you use is doing its job, then driving this character deeper and deeper into "I am the Law" territory will reward you, but the choices you have made on the way there will stop you from going through with some things, like wanting him to show compassion, as that will be impossible.

Afterthought: Objective Morality or Cosmic Truths and stuff like that are important here, because they themselves are not the object of the game themselves, it is how you, the player, and it, the character, will react to them.

goto124
2015-11-25, 01:42 AM
you as the player are not in total control of your character

... I hope that's not the only way.

veti
2015-11-25, 03:21 AM
Only if you assume that something which is currently unknown must always remain so.

Nonsense, I'm making no such assumption. You're the one who's assuming (1) that many people are convinced that their present state of knowledge is "correct", (2) they're all wrong, and (3) there will come a time when the knowledge really will be correct and you'll magically be able to tell when that is. To me, that seems like such a vast, optimistic and completely baseless assumption that any argument based on it should be laughed out of court.


That's a non-sequitur. Even if no member of the race ever chooses good, that says nothing about whether they can choose good. It is not certain that only things which actually occur could possibly have occurred.

What do you mean by "possibly"? Are we talking about the quantum mechanical level of "possibility" that makes it entirely "possible" to walk through a brick wall, or teleport an entire living person to the surface of Mars? If "no member of a race ever chooses good", that right there is pretty strong evidence that in fact they can't choose good, no matter what your personal internal theory says.


Animals in 5e aren't neutral, they're unaligned; they don't make moral decisions at all. Evil species do make moral choices; they make the wrong ones.

You're making a mistake by assuming that moral freedom is an all-or-nothing affair. Compulsions can exist that are less than absolute, and a race can be inherently evil yet still have some freedom. Think of them not as robots, but as addicts. They know that what they are doing is wrong, but they are very powerfully drawn to do it anyway. Addicted to causing pain from the moment of birth, they grow up in a society where every single person they interact with has the same addiction. They can resist it, but how many will? Will they be able to beat it entirely on their own? If not, from whom can they get help? Those that don't beat the addiction, which is very nearly everyone, make excuses to rationalize the harm they're doing. They convince themselves that Gruumsh knows what's best, or that the weak are defective and deserve to die, or that they have to hurt others to keep from being hurt. But whatever reasons they tell themselves, the truth is just that they're addicted to evil.

You have a very strange idea of what constitutes "making a moral decision". If the orc is as you describe, then how exactly would they ever know that what they are doing is "wrong"? How would they even understand the concept of "wrong"? And if they're "addicted to causing pain" as you describe, it implies that to stop them from acting as they do is to cause them pain. Who is to weigh the pain they cause against the pain they themselves would suffer if they stopped causing it? They're not deluding themselves, in your description - they literally do have "to hurt others to keep from being hurt".

Cazero
2015-11-25, 05:37 AM
The games that go deeper into exploring morality also integrate that more tightly into the rules themselves and leave the GM out of it as an arbiter, as he can't be neutral on this.

While it might sound good on paper, such solution will never work. Assuming it is possible to create an exhaustive list of every possible combinations of morality factors, it would not be usable as game material because it would be too damn huge. With a simplified list, there will be borderline, contradictory and/or ambiguous morality cases requiring arbitration. That arbitration will have to be provided by the GM.

You can argue than giving the GM power over morality is not optimal, but the only alternative is a player comission, and that means stopping the game for an half-hour debate every time the party enter a grey morality zone. This can happen even when the GM is in charge, so it's more a counterpower than a default position. The GM already arbitrates everything else, so I don't see how giving him one more responsability creates any flaw in the game.

If the GM then abuse that responsibility to make your group's life miserable, the problem is with the GM, not the system.

Florian
2015-11-25, 06:17 AM
@Goto124:

There's no blanket answer to this. We could expand that topic, if you want to go deeper into aspects of this.

@Cazero:

I think you're too much into regular rpgs, that's why you come to this conclusion.
Stuff like this works a bit different, as your characters inherent values simply are his relevant stats and the usual stuff is not as relevant as it typicalle uses to be.

So, just from the top of my head, using the whole Golarion/Runelords thingie as an example, jo mostly ditch your usual attributes and class, but the 7 virtues of rulership and the 7 deadly sins become the new stuff you have to handle now.
I.e. your Str score is irrelevant, but now you have Lust 14/+2.

@veti:

Why the agressive tone?
What he is gettong on about is, that if we actually had the necessary tools to ask the right questions and we would gain a knowledgeable answer from something in authority, we simply would know and denying the truth gained that way is being deluded.

If you will, that is seeing morality as the same fundamental force as gravity.
And please, don't tell me that you argue wirh gravity.

goto124
2015-11-25, 06:57 AM
So, just from the top of my head, using the whole Golarion/Runelords thingie as an example, jo mostly ditch your usual attributes and class, but the 7 virtues of rulership and the 7 deadly sins become the new stuff you have to handle now.
I.e. your Str score is irrelevant, but now you have Lust 14/+2.

Hmm, I think I see another beef I personally have with objective alignment.

Clerics maintaining one step within their gods' alignment, Paladins having to be Lawful Good whatever it means... I'm not the kind of player who likes RP to be connected to the mechanics. With this system, the values & vices of the characters directly relate to their stats. As you pointed out, it's not exactly a standard RPG.

Would an alignment (or Values & Vices) system be helpful for, say, a Tolkien-style 'people are naturally good but are tempted into evil' morality... thing?

Cazero
2015-11-25, 07:22 AM
I think you're too much into regular rpgs, that's why you come to this conclusion.
Stuff like this works a bit different, as your characters inherent values simply are his relevant stats and the usual stuff is not as relevant as it typicalle uses to be.

So, just from the top of my head, using the whole Golarion/Runelords thingie as an example, jo mostly ditch your usual attributes and class, but the 7 virtues of rulership and the 7 deadly sins become the new stuff you have to handle now.
I.e. your Str score is irrelevant, but now you have Lust 14/+2.

My conclusion comes from logical analysis. Morality is a subject too complex to be handled with an user manual. Supporting that stance : innumerable philosophical debate still unable to provide a logically flawless definition of morality that could serve as a basis for that user manual. With that level of complexity, if a controversy must be resolved it can only be done through arbitration.

On the deadly sins :
Do you have a table that tells you how much you can eat before being guilty of gluttony?
Do you have a table that tells you wether someone is guilty of sloth or wisely waiting for more data before acting?
Do you have a table that tells you exactly how far you can push someone before he snaps into a wrathful fury?
Do you have a table that tells you how many fetishes a high-lust character is required to have?
Do you have a table that tells you how a prideful character overlooks or denies his own flaws?
If you answered no to any of those question, you need GM arbitration on morality.
There is also the disturbing implications of linking sins defined as morally wrong to gamestats. Don't you use those gamestats for good? Doesn't it create grey areas? How much wrath does it take to turn a benevolent attempt to save landslide victims into a mortal sin that sends you straight to hell?
Putting morality at the core of the game mechanics doesn't make morality easier to understand at all. It's still a complicated mess where only arbitration can tell the Right from the Wrong.

If you really want to explore morality in your game, don't put it in the mechanics in any way, shape or form, and keep the truth about the nature/existence/rules of Objective Morality out of reach of the characters. Have every single statement about morality be an IC opinion. This way philosophical debate are just as valid OOC than IC, and exploring morality can be a premise of the game.

Hawkstar
2015-11-25, 08:44 AM
This way philosophical debate are just as valid OOC than IC, and exploring morality can be a premise of the game.That's all well and good... but how long will we have to follow this derailment of the plot before we can go back to trying to save the town of Littletown from the Raiding Orcs that have cut off its supply lines and are threatening to overwhelm it within a few seasons?


That said... this discussion did remind me of another race I've made that could be considered "Always/Usually Evil"... and very similar to orcs in a lot of ways. They are created by a vain Sorceress-Queen, whom they collectively and overwhelmingly love and worship for giving them the gift of life (Up to and including 'returning' that gift, as it may be), and serve unconditionally. There are very, very few who don't have that sense of loyalty... which is overwhelmingly considered a blasphemy and significant crime in the theocratic autocracy. Sure, you could try championing individualism and "Right to Life/Self-determination"... but that would go over about as well as trying to champion pederasty in modern western culture. The God-empress that created them made them to be pretty much her servants to do whatever she wanted... From fueling blood-sacrifices to grant her eternal life, to building wonders to her vanity, to conquering parts of the world to spread her empire, and to letting her live out every one of her other deviant fantasies. Servitude is a BIG value in the culture - crimes and blasphemies result in either enslavement (of military, labor, or pleasure-based natures), or execution (With the life-force captured in a gem that can revive and restore other members of the created life) - "If they can't enjoy their life

Of course, there's a bit of a twist. A largely Good-aligned kingdom decided to kill the God-Empress - partially motivated by a desire to try and free her creation from her will, but also to stop her from using her shiny, impractically-armored and gaudily armed armies (I did mention she used her race to live out deviant fantasies. Platemail bikinis for everyone! Or nothing at all. Even the males. Especially the males.) to try to conquer more lands. Of course... doing so required using very very bad, black, evil magic capable of severing her soul from the souls of her creation. When the king managed to succeed with the assassnination... everything got worse. Instead of liberation or obliteration, a shadow of the wound appeared on every member of her creation, and it killed only those who refused to seek vengeance upon the nation that did this. It quickly became known that, had it been a single stray assassin who had done such a thing, the race would have sought their vengeance against that one individual, then moved on with its existence. But, since it was at the order of a King who had the faith and backing of an entire nation, the vengeance was demanded upon the entire kingdom - As the armies said to the peasants they cut down on their bloody crusade: "Yours may not have been the hand that dealt the blow that fell our queen, nor the head that willed it... but you are the blood that fueled it, and as long as you continue to fuel the Throne, it is your blood that shall flow." Suddenly, they were like orcs.

Unfortunately for them... they didn't manage to destroy the kingdom's identity quickly, and the conflict raged on, making peace outright impossible due to the blood of innocents spilled on both sides (By the hordes of the created race for the humans, and by the cursed wound that craved for insatiable vengeance on the created race). The curse didn't take long to be seen as the true enemy... but I have yet to decide how it plays out, though I have several ideas (Obliteration of the created race would work. Annihilation of the identity of the offending kingdom would work, even if it has a new kingdom built upon its ruins. Or the God-Empress herself forgiving the Kingdom for her death - but her creation can't forgive them on her behalf. There might be another way to move on, though. Not sure what it would be. One of the ideas is them moving from trying to avenge the death of their queen, to just mourning her death and celebrating the life she did have, and all she had given them.)

LudicSavant
2015-11-25, 08:49 AM
What he is gettong on about is, that if we actually had the necessary tools to ask the right questions and we would gain a knowledgeable answer from something in authority, we simply would know and denying the truth gained that way is being deluded.

If you will, that is seeing morality as the same fundamental force as gravity.

Getting an answer from an authority is not even close to equivalent to gravity. Humanity did not establish its understanding of gravity by asking an authority to explain it to us.

In fact, rejecting authority is at the very heart of the scientific method. Nullius in verba: On the word of no one.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-25, 08:58 AM
That's all well and good... but how long will we have to follow this derailment of the plot before...?

You're missing the point slightly. In a game where moral exploration is the point, it's, well, the point. It's not derailment.

I disagree on the idea that no alignment system should be implemented in a game of moral exploration; or rather, my opinion is that if you want an exploration of a specific moral system, an alignment system addressing that is helpful.


Getting an answer from an authority is not even close to equivalent to gravity. Humanity did not establish its understanding of gravity by asking an authority to explain it to us.

Humanity as some abstract whole didn't ask.

I'd wager majority of invidual humans did.

---

As a sidenote, GreatWyrmGold outlined a hilariously ironic reason for evil races being evil: they're too afraid of judging people to establish a framework where evil could be identified and punished.

goto124
2015-11-25, 09:00 AM
It sounds as if that orc-like race doesn't exactly have free will, maybe to the point of mind-control, and is pretty much why they're entirely evil.

LudicSavant
2015-11-25, 09:07 AM
Humanity as some abstract whole didn't ask.

I'd wager majority of invidual humans did.

Okay, let's take an individual human.

A scientist meets with the Author of the Universe. She says "This is the true nature of Good." The scientist says "Oh really? What's your evidence?" She says "Well, I said so." The scientist says "You expect that to pass peer review?"

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-25, 09:07 AM
I still consider the discussion of free will to be something of a red herring.

Your typical human can't spontanously decide to fly or see the infrared spectrum; does that mean humans lack free will?

If not, then why does evil races being unable to choose good mean they lack free will, supposing they are still capable of choosing between different neutral and evil acts?

EDIT: LudicSavant: sure, sure.

Now suppose it's any of the millions of non-scientists or people who've never thought deeply of philosophy.

goto124
2015-11-25, 09:23 AM
Your typical human can't spontanously decide to fly or see the infrared spectrum; does that mean humans lack free will?

If not, then why does evil races being unable to choose good mean they lack free will, supposing they are still capable of choosing between different neutral and evil acts?

So they lack the ability to choose good because they lack some sort of system to do such a thing?

Admittingly, they seem to lack a certain amount of will. Free will (or sapience) isn't necessarily a binary thing, it could be a spectrum the way Good/Neutral/Evil is.

But that's quite an idea there. Despite their ability to choose between evil and neutral acts (and decide which one is the best), they literally cannot decide to do good because they don't have the required system (compassion or somesuch) that powers doing good. The only good they can do is stuff they did because it fulfils their objectives or satisfies them in some fashion, not because it was a good act.

It can be hard to imagine it, it's rather alien. Good thing the evil race isn't human.

Steampunkette
2015-11-25, 10:02 AM
If a scientist walked up to the confirmed ultimate authority on everything and got "because that is how I made it" that would be the scientific reason. Peer review be damned. Scientific inquiry be damned. That would be beyond any theory or evidence backing up a theory. Any theory on how things work or why in all human knowledge.

It would be bone hard fact of reality as described by reality itself to scientists.

There wouldn't be a need for evidence to back up the absolute authority declaring the truth.

That doesn't mean it would be the end of the discussion. There would be a lot of implications on how it affects things, questions to ascertain its full reach, how it works from start to finish, and so forth.

But if the person who created everything tells you they created it because that is how they wanted it to be it prempts further scientific inquiry into how that thing came to be.

Hawkstar
2015-11-25, 10:11 AM
It sounds as if that orc-like race doesn't exactly have free will, maybe to the point of mind-control, and is pretty much why they're entirely evil.
Prior to the death of their sorceress-queen, they had full Free Will, because you can't get individual works of art without it. But after the death? Yeah, they end up without free will due to the "If we try to be free we die" curse... and a lot of them, as the war goes on and they tear down the culture they had (Some lamenting the loss of all they had of their creator. Others not caring about it anymore, since that creator was dead and could no longer appreciate them) and start committing more atrocities (This war is not ordered by their creator, though it avenges her, and they do not enjoy spreading misery for the sake of spreading misery), the tone shifted from "Avenge our creator's death!" to "If we don't, we all die!"


But prior to that death, and after either a resurrection/true apotheosis of their creator or destruction of the kingdom, they have free will again. The devotion to their creator is hard-coded into them... but what they do with it is up to the individual.
Okay, let's take an individual human.

A scientist meets with the Author of the Universe. She says "This is the true nature of Good." The scientist says "Oh really? What's your evidence?" She says "Well, I said so." The scientist says "You expect that to pass peer review?"

Morality is not within the purview of science, given that it is nothing more than opinion. Science is amoral, and deals in facts.

If anything, it gets in the way of science. The world needs to know what effect Thresher Maw venom/acid has on human physiology so we can develop countermeasures against it, synthesize it for weapons, or even just see how it works, but whenever we try to study it, some bastard named Toombs or Shepard comes along and busts up our labs.

Florian
2015-11-25, 10:26 AM
@Steampunkette:

We can even simplify this a bit more: If we could ask reality directly about certain things, we would have no need for science and scientific research, especially not theories, beyond thinking about meaningful questions and finding a way to write down the answers.
(If I could as a Quark what that is all about, it'd lead me to obtain Quantum Knowledge)

LudicSavant
2015-11-25, 10:37 AM
sure, sure.

Now suppose it's any of the millions of non-scientists or people who've never thought deeply of philosophy.

Okay.

A man, who is one of millions of non-scientists who has never thought deeply about philosophy, meets with the Author of the Universe.

She says "This is the true nature of Good."

The man says "Oh really? Why should I believe that?"

She says "Well, because I said so."

The man says "How do I know you're not lying or mistaken?"

She says "Well, I made the universe."

He says "What's that have to do with my question?"

Florian
2015-11-25, 10:47 AM
@LudicSavant:

You know, when I finish work in about an hour and go home, I'll grab me a random guy in the metro and ram my finger into his eye. Then I'll have a philosophical debate with him whether my finger is real or not and that he is not fealing pain but bliss, and he actually should be the one to prove that his perception of reality is the right one, not what I say it is.

You know, you can take platos cave too far.

But again, you don't argue with gravity, do you?

wumpus
2015-11-25, 11:26 AM
If a scientist walked up to the confirmed ultimate authority on everything and got "because that is how I made it" that would be the scientific reason. Peer review be damned. Scientific inquiry be damned. That would be beyond any theory or evidence backing up a theory. Any theory on how things work or why in all human knowledge.


This assumes that fallible scientists are capable of determining the "Authority of Everything". Consider one obvious world that has an "Authority of Everything".

Paladins of the 12 gods: "Oh gods, what shall we do with the goblinoids".
12 Gods: "Slay them at will, for they are evil and we created them as little bags of xp." (Not Redcloak's village, the gods presumably got the message long before this).
[Paladins go massacre goblin village, and many fall.]
Giant: "..."

In the stickverse, while the NPCs and PCs are fully aware of the gods, and are equally aware that the gods "created everything", but the "Ultimate Authority of Everything" is still the Giant. There is no indication that even the gods are aware of him (I'd love to know the DC of knowledge check: DM) and less that he communicates with them (Rich has drawn a few stick-Giants, but I don't think any showed up in the stickverse).

YossarianLives
2015-11-25, 11:50 AM
Dammit. This thread is ridiculous. I've now been convinced to drop alignment completely.

Grinner
2015-11-25, 12:13 PM
If a scientist walked up to the confirmed ultimate authority on everything and got "because that is how I made it" that would be the scientific reason. Peer review be damned. Scientific inquiry be damned. That would be beyond any theory or evidence backing up a theory. Any theory on how things work or why in all human knowledge.

That's a rather myopic perspective, though. Science tends to be concerned with how things work, and so existential questions tend to be at the edge of scientific inquiry's grasp.

When we ask why something exists, I think we tend to mean "What purpose does it serve?". The scientist in your example might gain knowledge of how something exists, but the question of how something exists and the question why something exists are two different, if intertwined, questions. The first is concerned with only the things which the phenomenon interacts locally, and the second is concerned with the bigger picture.

For the purposes of this thread, I think the question is better stated as "What purpose does the existence of innately and objectively evil races serve?". If you wish to address the topic more broadly, you could also ask "What is the purpose of Evil?".

The answer naturally depends on the setting.


Dammit. This thread is ridiculous. I've now been convinced to drop alignment completely.

Have alignment threads ever been anything but ridiculous? :smallwink:

Cazero
2015-11-25, 12:45 PM
@LudicSavant:

You know, when I finish work in about an hour and go home, I'll grab me a random guy in the metro and ram my finger into his eye. Then I'll have a philosophical debate with him whether my finger is real or not and that he is not fealing pain but bliss, and he actually should be the one to prove that his perception of reality is the right one, not what I say it is.

You know, you can take platos cave too far.

But again, you don't argue with gravity, do you?

Putting the objectivity of reality and perception in doubt has absolutely nothing to do with the concern LudicSavant raised.
In case you missed it, that concern is how the hell does the 'legitimate authority on morality' prove that she truly is legitimate?

'Because I said so' is an appeal to authority and has no value without proof that the authority is legitimate. 'Because I built it this way' would be a proof, but morality being an abstract concept, you now have to prove that it was built. 'Look, here are the blueprints of morality' would be awesome, but you know, abstract concept, so the first thing that jumps to the mind is 'can you prove that those blueprints match this concept?' And to answer that question, we have to retro-engineer morality itself, a task that is enough to get every single answer about it and removes the need for an authority.

Florian
2015-11-25, 01:16 PM
@Cazero:

To clear this up a bit: I know how scientific method works and why we follow certain procedures. It also is the only tool we have so far.
I think what you didn't get is the constant mentioning of the options we could have if we found other tools that could potentially lead us to other results.
Therefore the gravity reference. If we could directly ask gravity why it is what and how it is and it would answer back that our assumptions on it are wrong (planetary rotation then havong nothing to do with it, besides being scientifically proven). it simply is that way because it was created that way and, hey, we don't you talk to my creator... And so on.
That would pose the question on the validity of our scientific methods a bit, I'd guess.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-25, 03:05 PM
@LudicSavant:

It's endearing you think a layman would be that critical before God, when they're not typically that critical before other laymen.

Appeal to authority is such a common argument because humans are pack animals, and to pack animals deferring to other members is natural - especially when the other member is perceived as a leader or an expert in the issue at hand.

To add to this, people are not naturally inclined towards analytical thinking. We rely mostly on intuition, the more the less time we have.

And when it comes to scientific theories, even analytical thinking isn't enough. You need specific knowledge and empirical evidence to verify them. Doing the legwork is hard, and it gets harder the deeper you get.

Most people never actually do that work in order to comprehend (f.ex.) gravity in a scientific manner; they believe gravity works this way or that, because someone who claimed to have done the work told them so.

In real life, "I'm the scientist/doctor/psychologist/electrician/game master/drill sergeant here, you're not" is enough to shut up majority of people, because it fits the expected social context they live in. They have a good reason to expect the other person knows what they're talking about better than they do - in fact, as laymen they probably can't even reliably evaluate if what is said is wrong.

And God? Have you spent a token thought on what coming face-to-face with actual supernatural being would do to a person's cognition? We have a word for it: Awe. Thankfully, non-divine things such as nuclear explosions and natural disasters can trigger that emotion too, so we know how people act under it, and ooh, guess what? People don't think rationally when they're awed.

I base the above notions on studies discussed in "Thinking: fast and slow", "And man creates gods: religion explained", "How to control a mind" etc..

If there's anything to take away from the above as pertains to this thread's title question, it's this: evil races are evil because they are stupid. They are more inclined to just take everything their leaders tell them at face value rather than engage them in a debate. :smalltongue:

LudicSavant
2015-11-25, 03:13 PM
If we could directly ask gravity why it is what and how it is and it would answer back that our assumptions on it are wrong (planetary rotation then havong nothing to do with it, besides being scientifically proven). it simply is that way because it was created that way and, hey, we don't you talk to my creator... And so on.
That would pose the question on the validity of our scientific methods a bit, I'd guess.

We can directly ask chimps we taught sign language about the nature of chimps. This has somehow not called into question the validity of our scientific methods. Or even told us all that much about the biology of chimps.


Appeal to authority is such a common argument because

What exactly is your point here?

The conversation is about whether or not people should believe an Appeal to Authority, not whether or not some would believe it.

If anything, the factors mentioned in your post support the argument I was making: That accepting the word of Florian's authority as Absolute Cosmic Truth In Capital Letters would not be rational.

Frozen_Feet
2015-11-25, 03:46 PM
It's not irrelevant to the point I made of humanity in the abstract versus invidual humans. It's also not irrelevant because again, the appeal typically makes sense in the social context it's made in. The game master is the authority for a game; absent of evidence of GM screwing up, it works just fine.

BayardSPSR
2015-11-25, 05:13 PM
Dammit. This thread is ridiculous. I've now been convinced to drop alignment completely.

Congratulations!


The conversation is about whether or not people should believe an Appeal to Authority, not whether or not some would believe it.

If anything, the factors mentioned in your post support the argument I was making: That accepting the word of Florian's authority as Absolute Cosmic Truth In Capital Letters would not be rational.

If someone I knew to be a scientist told me that something was generally accepted as fact in their field, I would be strongly inclined to accept that as fact as well, without having read the research in question. I don't see how accepting an acknowledged authority in their field of expertise would be irrational, especially in (for example) a situation where I have neither the time nor the resources to do the research myself before making an action or decision.


It's not irrelevant to the point I made of humanity in the abstract versus invidual humans. It's also not irrelevant because again, the appeal typically makes sense in the social context it's made in. The game master is the authority for a game; absent of evidence of GM screwing up, it works just fine.

One of the difficulties with applying that to D&D in particular is that it has widely published, widely known rules that make specific claims about what is "good," "evil," and so on. This means that a GM inviting players to game of D&D (absent any qualifiers, and as opposed to other RPGs, either more obscure or without alignment systems) is implicitly pledging that "good" and "evil" will be treated as the players understand the written rules to describe them. It's certainly possible that you could have a group where everyone at the table happens to understand alignment the same way, or close enough to the same way that no one ever notices their differences in interpretation - but in cases where that doesn't happen, someone's screwing up.

Personally, I think the person screwing up is the one who decided to use alignment as something other than a team identifier, but I have a habit of disparaging D&D tropes for fun, so don't cite me on it.

LudicSavant
2015-11-25, 05:22 PM
Congratulations!

*Throw confetti* :smallbiggrin:


If someone I knew to be a scientist told me that something was generally accepted as fact in their field, I would be strongly inclined to accept that as fact as well, without having read the research in question. I don't see how accepting an acknowledged authority in their field of expertise would be irrational You're correct, it would not be irrational. That's called a legitimate appeal to authority, and it is rational.

However, it would be irrational to then say that, because you heard it from an authority, other evidence should be dismissed, and that the authority's word is an Absolute Cosmic Truth in Capital Letters (which is what the poster I was replying to did).

Rationality demands that one does not simply assign their beliefs into the categories "100% proven true forever" and "100% proven false forever." Instead, it's more like a matrix of probabilities assigned varying degrees of confidence, which is updated each time new evidence is introduced. This is why the scientific method is all about continuously gathering evidence and revising beliefs.

If a legitimate authority supports a position, that is a legitimate reason to assign a somewhat higher degree of confidence to the probability that that position is true. It is not a legitimate reason to assign 100% confidence to that position and start using words like absolute, objective, cosmic, and truth in capital letters. That passes from "legitimate appeal to authority" into dogmatism.

Moreover, one has to actually establish themselves as a legitimate authority. To be a legitimate authority in this context, your area of proven expertise must be be in the exact field being discussed. Wumpus provided a fine example of how narrow "specific field" really is: The gods of the OotS-verse created the universe, and yet are still not authorities on the subject of morality in the OotS-verse. Cazero mentioned how difficult it would be to prove that the authority is legitimate.

Thus, the flaws with the argument I was addressing are at least twofold:

1) The authority cannot lend 100% confidence to a belief by their testimony alone (since even legitimate authorities can be wrong or lie).
2) The authority must provide sufficient evidence that it is a legitimate authority on the specific field being discussed.

BayardSPSR
2015-11-25, 05:33 PM
Okay, this opens up a different front: does it or should it make a difference if the orc is "Eternally Cosmically Evil," or just "evil according to the GM and I'm not going to have a chance to demonstrate otherwise before it comes within stabbing range?"

Not that I'm endorsing the use of inherently evil sapient beings in RPGs; I'm just trying to question why we need an answer beyond "it was convenient to the author/GM/dev, and has unfortunate implications."

goto124
2015-11-25, 11:02 PM
To quibble on the 12 Gods example: wasn't it the 12 Gods themselves who caused the paladins to fall? Heck I'm fairly sure they're the only ones to do that. It's like this:

Worker: Hey, may I do Thing X?
Boss: Why yes, you may, go ahead!
*Worker does Thing X*
Boss: Worker, you're fired.
Worker: What? You said I could do Thing X!

It would've been more reasonable if the fired worker... I mean fallen paladin had done something else worthy of falling, such as torturing the goblins or otherwise being excessively cruel to them. Even then, the boss... I mean the 12 Gods explicitly said the goblins are little bags of XP created for people to stab... what was up with the authority anyway?

JoeJ
2015-11-26, 01:32 AM
Nonsense, I'm making no such assumption. You're the one who's assuming (1) that many people are convinced that their present state of knowledge is "correct", (2) they're all wrong, and (3) there will come a time when the knowledge really will be correct and you'll magically be able to tell when that is. To me, that seems like such a vast, optimistic and completely baseless assumption that any argument based on it should be laughed out of court.

Can you point out where I made any of those assumptions? Because that doesn't sound like anything I remember ever writing.


What do you mean by "possibly"? Are we talking about the quantum mechanical level of "possibility" that makes it entirely "possible" to walk through a brick wall, or teleport an entire living person to the surface of Mars? If "no member of a race ever chooses good", that right there is pretty strong evidence that in fact they can't choose good, no matter what your personal internal theory says.

What you call "evidence" is not evidence of anything. All that's happened is that you have determined A Priori that they don't have free will. As far as free will goes, absolutely nothing about their behavior can ever be evidence one way or the other. An automaton can be programmed to do some good, no good, or all good, just like a free being can choose any of those.


You have a very strange idea of what constitutes "making a moral decision". If the orc is as you describe, then how exactly would they ever know that what they are doing is "wrong"? How would they even understand the concept of "wrong"?

The same way everybody else understands it, obviously.


And if they're "addicted to causing pain" as you describe, it implies that to stop them from acting as they do is to cause them pain. Who is to weigh the pain they cause against the pain they themselves would suffer if they stopped causing it? They're not deluding themselves, in your description - they literally do have "to hurt others to keep from being hurt".

Which does not excuse doing evil. You don't get to hurt innocent people for your own benefit, no matter how badly you want to. A good monster will do whatever they need to do to quit, even if that means having to leave the dungeon to seek help, or living alone and far away from any potential victims. A neutral monster will find arguably acceptable targets, such as serious criminals, or masochists who volunteer to be hurt. A evil monster will hurt whomever they can get.

Florian
2015-11-26, 03:27 AM
@LudicSavant:

Hm, I really want to understand your point of view there and why you keep insisting so hard on it. From reading your answers, I keep having the feeling that you fixate on the Authority being some kind of god in the christian sense, something we attribute personality, aims and goals with.

To give an interesting example, L5R has Kami, elemental gods that literally are the building blocks of the universe. Things and people are not made by the Kami, they consist of the Kami. There is no difference between, say, atoms and Kami.
Now physics work the way they do because that is the way the Kami normally do things, their very nature.
Now, Kami are not "Tripple A"-gods. They lack reason, personality, aims, goals and I guess my dog is brighter than them. They still are the all powerful building blocks of creation.

Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the Kami, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, them check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong.

LudicSavant
2015-11-26, 09:50 AM
@LudicSavant

I would consider it a courtesy if you would use the forum's quote function instead of going "@LudicSavant" followed by constructing a straw man of my position. Otherwise it's really difficult for me to know what point you're actually replying to.


To give an interesting example, L5R has Kami, elemental gods that literally are the building blocks of the universe. Things and people are not made by the Kami, they consist of the Kami. There is no difference between, say, atoms and Kami.
Now physics work the way they do because that is the way the Kami normally do things, their very nature.
Now, Kami are not "Tripple A"-gods. They lack reason, personality, aims, goals and I guess my dog is brighter than them. They still are the all powerful building blocks of creation.

Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the Kami, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, them check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong.

This is not an interesting example, because this has already been addressed.

It's a rehashing of your "talking gravity" example, and is wrong for the same reasons which have already been mentioned.

Talking atoms are not necessarily any more of an absolute authority on talking atoms than sign-language-using chimps are an absolute authority on chimps, or computer programs capable of holding a conversation with a human are absolute authorities on computer programs.

Our scientific method for studying chimpanzees has not been supplanted by "Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the chimps, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, then check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong."

Nor has our scientific method for studying computers been supplanted by "Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the computers, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, then check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong."

Why? Because being a thing is not the same as being an absolute authority on that thing. In fact, it is entirely possible for a thing capable of conversation with a human to know nothing at all about itself.

Your conclusions simply do not follow from your premises.

wumpus
2015-11-26, 10:24 AM
If there's anything to take away from the above as pertains to this thread's title question, it's this: evil races are evil because they are stupid. They are more inclined to just take everything their leaders tell them at face value rather than engage them in a debate. :smalltongue:

Except that there are plenty of people who commit "wrong" action (evil or not) that they are reasonably aware that such will backfire on them. V's actions are entirely believable of a highly intelligent being. Presumably you need a reasonably high intelligence (to foresee the consequences of your actions*) and reasonably high wisdom to be good. I suspect that a decent charisma (know thyself, or apropos to the current comic** as an empathy score) wouldn't hurt either.

* note that in plenty of morality systems, especially those used in D&D this is completely irrelevant to the morality (actions are good or evil regardless of consequences) but might be used to gain understanding of why to choose good over evil.

** 1013 "a little empathy" was current when this post was written

Nerd-o-rama
2015-11-26, 10:47 AM
Leaping into this thread late and attempting to direct it away from religion, I always assumed that, other than demons and other literal embodiments of alignment, "Evil" races are "Evil" culturally - they have a society that operates based specifically on harming and taking from others. Orcs have a raiding-based society, goblinoids have a society based entirely on conquest and enslavement, drow have...that whole formalized backstabbing thing, etc.

I also, however, assume that this arises as a result of world conditions rather than some innate "evilness trait". Orc society is based on murder and pillage because that's what they see as the most effective way to get the resources they need (which are disproportionately owned by the less numerous but more organized "civilized" species). Goblinoids rely on slave labor and an oppressive caste system because of thousands of generations of ingrained cultural superiority and their greedy god told them to. Things like that. All things that could be changed, or could have done differently at some point in history, but simply didn't in the majority of RPG settings.

Hawkstar
2015-11-26, 12:16 PM
I would consider it a courtesy if you would use the forum's quote function instead of going "@LudicSavant" followed by constructing a straw man of my position. Otherwise it's really difficult for me to know what point you're actually replying to.



This is not an interesting example, because this has already been addressed.

It's a rehashing of your "talking gravity" example, and is wrong for the same reasons which have already been mentioned.

Talking atoms are not necessarily any more of an absolute authority on talking atoms than sign-language-using chimps are an absolute authority on chimps, or computer programs capable of holding a conversation with a human are absolute authorities on computer programs.

Our scientific method for studying chimpanzees has not been supplanted by "Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the chimps, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, then check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong."

Nor has our scientific method for studying computers been supplanted by "Scientific method in this setting always starts by simply asking the computers, then doing tests to check whether you have understood the answer or if it was incomprehensible to a human, then check again to test if your initial question in itself was wrong."

Why? Because being a thing is not the same as being an absolute authority on that thing. In fact, it is entirely possible for a thing capable of conversation with a human to know nothing at all about itself.

Your conclusions simply do not follow from your premises.

This is all irrelevant (On both sides of the argument), because "Morality" isn't something that can be studied like a particle or a wave. "Objective Morality" is nothing more than one person's subjective morality enforced on a world to simplify it and enforce Cultural Supremacy as a part of escapist fantasy (Because who doesn't want the world to operate in the way they think is right?), and given Cosmic backing in the form of a 'Suitable afterlife', and magic effects. However, "Good" and "Evil" do not and cannot equal "Right" and "Wrong" outside of the Cosmic Authority (Who's say so IS say so - not in a scientific sense, but a legal/authoritative one), because "Right" and "Wrong" are subjective judgement calls that vary from individual to individual. (As evidenced by all the arguments between the places of Mercy and Vengeance in Justice).

LudicSavant
2015-11-26, 01:24 PM
This is all irrelevant (On both sides of the argument), because "Morality" isn't something that can be studied like a particle or a wave. Actually, we have entire fields of research on the subject. For example: http://edge.org/event/the-new-science-of-morality

Here's a neuroscientist giving a talk aimed at laymen, explaining science's potential to address moral questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTKf5cCm-9g


"Objective Morality" is nothing more than one person's subjective morality enforced on a world to simplify it and enforce Cultural Supremacy as a part of escapist fantasy (Because who doesn't want the world to operate in the way they think is right?), and given Cosmic backing in the form of a 'Suitable afterlife', and magic effects. However, "Good" and "Evil" do not and cannot equal "Right" and "Wrong" outside of the Cosmic Authority (Who's say so IS say so - not in a scientific sense, but a legal/authoritative one), because "Right" and "Wrong" are subjective judgement calls that vary from individual to individual. (As evidenced by all the arguments between the places of Mercy and Vengeance in Justice).

The idea that the only two choices are "Divine Command Theory" and "it's just your opinion, man" ignores the majority of the field of the ethics, scientific or otherwise. Here is a small sampling of other choices: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_ethics

It's a false dilemma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma), pure and simple.

Florian
2015-11-26, 01:36 PM
@Hawkstar:

Well, that's the thing, though. We're talking about pure fantasy here and the underlying world building process of it. Therefore, we can always opt to explore what it means if something, even if that something is a pure abstract, is moved to be an actual force, physics or law in said setting.
For example, Neil Gaiman did a very good job of that in Sandman, with the seven Endless ("Why do people dream?" - "Because I exist").
So if we work on the basis that yes, there is a capital G Good in there and it is a force that we can interact with (and that propably interacts with us), we can diskuss what that force existing means, even without going indepth enough to talk about what it in essence should be. And no, that is worlds away from talking about Divine Command, as that would imply some inderlying reasons for it being what it is.

@LudicSavant:
Sorry, can't be done. I mostly write on a tablet using the mobile skin of this forum, simple quotes or even multiquotes are very hard to pull of with that.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-26, 09:03 PM
The idea that the only two choices are "Divine Command Theory" and "it's just your opinion, man" ignores the majority of the field of the ethics, scientific or otherwise. Here is a small sampling of other choices: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_ethics


You do only get two choices for a cosmos: 1)Someone/thing/force sets the rules that everyone in the cosmos must live by with no choice or say in the matter or 2) Everything else you mentioned. But you can't have both.

Ceaon
2015-11-27, 07:16 AM
Leaping into this thread late and attempting to direct it away from religion, I always assumed that, other than demons and other literal embodiments of alignment, "Evil" races are "Evil" culturally - they have a society that operates based specifically on harming and taking from others. Orcs have a raiding-based society, goblinoids have a society based entirely on conquest and enslavement, drow have...that whole formalized backstabbing thing, etc.

I also, however, assume that this arises as a result of world conditions rather than some innate "evilness trait". Orc society is based on murder and pillage because that's what they see as the most effective way to get the resources they need (which are disproportionately owned by the less numerous but more organized "civilized" species). Goblinoids rely on slave labor and an oppressive caste system because of thousands of generations of ingrained cultural superiority and their greedy god told them to. Things like that. All things that could be changed, or could have done differently at some point in history, but simply didn't in the majority of RPG settings.

Thank you, you verbalized something I kinda-somewhat thought myself, but couldn't put into words.

hamishspence
2015-11-27, 07:22 AM
Leaping into this thread late and attempting to direct it away from religion, I always assumed that, other than demons and other literal embodiments of alignment, "Evil" races are "Evil" culturally - they have a society that operates based specifically on harming and taking from others. Orcs have a raiding-based society, goblinoids have a society based entirely on conquest and enslavement, drow have...that whole formalized backstabbing thing, etc.

I also, however, assume that this arises as a result of world conditions rather than some innate "evilness trait". Orc society is based on murder and pillage because that's what they see as the most effective way to get the resources they need (which are disproportionately owned by the less numerous but more organized "civilized" species). Goblinoids rely on slave labor and an oppressive caste system because of thousands of generations of ingrained cultural superiority and their greedy god told them to. Things like that. All things that could be changed, or could have done differently at some point in history, but simply didn't in the majority of RPG settings.

The 3.5 PHB does say that, even for "Usually X alignment", culture plays a part - both Kobolds and Beholders are Usually Lawful Evil - but for kobolds, it has much more to do with upbringing, than for beholders.

Florian
2015-11-27, 07:44 AM
@hamishpence:

Does it? Why, actually?
Kobolds hatch from eggs. They don't have any love for mother and father. And so on. Why should Kobolds be any more alien then Beholders?

hamishspence
2015-11-27, 12:23 PM
It doesn't say why alignment is much more "inborn" for beholders. But beholders (going by Lords of Madness) are much more solitary normally - not raising young beholders - which always fend for themselves at birth. Beholder communities exist - but I think that has something to do with the powers of the rare Hive Mother beholders.

GrayDeath
2015-11-27, 02:30 PM
Aside from all the discussion of objective Morality (raning from deep to hilarious) wh dont we return to the actual Question:

Why are Evil Races (TM, defined as Evil, sayd to be by a VAST Majority of everybody/thing/God you ask about them, assume for a moment that they were labelled thusly in complete accordance with any and all definitioms anybody may wish to apply, and be done with it) Evil?


In D&D I can see 3 Reasons for it:

1.: The God(s) made them that way. The simplest and most complete Solution (barring stragglers and the occasional "Redeemer hero" they all Evil are because they are effectively mortal Variants of various Outsiders).
Not very deep? Sure, shallow as a puddle. But for the occasional "Evil Race (TM) more than enough.
Also the only variant where I would count A WHOLE Race as fully and completely "biological/metaphysical Evil" no matter their Culture.


2.: They Simply find being Evil to be the easiest way to achieve their Goals (be they survival, a "good" Life, Rulership or whatever). Say "Evil Rationalists", I dare you! ^^

Lets assume they are stronger and faster than their "competing Races": Simplest solution is Violence.
Lets say they are Mentally powerful and dont want to work: Simplest solution: Dominate others to do your work.
Lets say they can fly/teleport/whatever, they are simply more powerful. Period.
This variant already includes Society as a reinforcement to their tendencies (and the emerging morality will in time force even "less evil" people to at elast pretend to follow their "nature" unless they themselves want to be taken advantage of (still some to many MIGHT aim to be "good" although they probably would need "outside Info" to even consider it a "bad" thing doing what they do).

and lastly

3.: Its their Culture. For whatever reason their society focuses on "Evil" Actions as "right/useful/prper/etc". and they have probably been doing it for ages, and their whole society is builkt around it.
Note that in this case there is a HUGE possibility for beings of that race/Culture to NOT be Evil but merely pretending to be/accomodate the Regime (think Nazi Gemrany, for the most obvious if luckily rather shortlived realworld example).


Sp yeah, thats why evil Races are EVIL. ;)


Now dont get me wrong, the discussions are fun to read, but ultimately the realm of Philosphers with a lot more time, wisdom, and skill to come to a conclusion than I ahve, and I expect most people here to not be that much better suited to the task than I would be. :)

GreatWyrmGold
2015-12-02, 01:10 PM
Most likely all four are, at least partially. Which in no way proves that objective morality does not exist. Something does not have to be known by humans to be real.
If everyone thinks that a system of objective morality is incorrect, is it really describing what can be meaningfully described as moral? I mean, morality isn't exactly gravity.


Which are good reasons why the "Triple-A" God of Western philosophy (All-knowing, All-powerful, All-good) might choose not to reveal the GBBM to a species that doesn't (or doesn't yet) have the mental sophistication to apply, or even comprehend it. Perhaps in the present state of humanity, the GBBM would inevitably be misunderstood, and end up doing more harm than good.
The scenario I described does not require the GBBM to be misunderstood, or misunderstandable. It only requires that some moral systems be undeniably right, and some be undeniably wrong. That alone leads to consequences which lead me to condemn the very idea of objective morality.


I think stating that "orcs frequently act like humans" is a mistake. Orcs act like orcs. Their behaviors are understandable by humans on one some level, but so are the actions of dogs or horses and, yes, even cats. Their motivations are not necessarily entirely human motivations, and their ability to choose good, evil, law or chaos is not necessarily without biases... which goes back to "Often Chaotic Evil" and "Spawn of an evil deity" being large factors in orcish alignment.
Orcs are humanoid, animals are not.
In more concrete terms, elves and dwarves are more or less exactly as similar to humans as orcs and goblins are. No real argument exists supporting the idea that the PC races are more human-like than evil humanoids (well, except the reptilian ones, but that argument is blatantly cladist). It gets worse when you remember that high (and most other) elves are in the PC-race category, while drow are in the evil-humanoid category. Drow and high elves should have more in common than gnomes/halflings/humans and high elves...yet here we are.
In fact, considering that dwarves (LG) and elves (CG) are two steps away from the mean human alignment (TN), while goblins (NE) are only one, there's an argument that goblin psychology is more like humans' than that of dwarves or elves. It's a weak argument, yes, but its weakness reveals the problems inherent with classifying species by alignment.


If a scientist walked up to the confirmed ultimate authority on everything and got "because that is how I made it" that would be the scientific reason. Peer review be damned. Scientific inquiry be damned. That would be beyond any theory or evidence backing up a theory. Any theory on how things work or why in all human knowledge.
It would be bone hard fact of reality as described by reality itself to scientists.
There wouldn't be a need for evidence to back up the absolute authority declaring the truth.
That doesn't mean it would be the end of the discussion. There would be a lot of implications on how it affects things, questions to ascertain its full reach, how it works from start to finish, and so forth.
But if the person who created everything tells you they created it because that is how they wanted it to be it prempts further scientific inquiry into how that thing came to be.
Very interesting...but how would you prove that they were such an authority? And then we start running into all the problems of objective morality and if it's really morality or just something labeled as such.



It's why I've been fairly alright with hatted races. Pretty much anything has been shown in the human race at least once.
True, but hatted races tend to be living caricatures of their cultures. Not to mention one-dimensional.



Hmmm, maybe we could resolve this? Get rid of the variable-question problem and focus back on your intended query.
When you put "evil" in quotes in the OP, would it be accurate to say that you want interesting explanations for why a typically evil race comes into conflict with others or pursues otherwise hostile goals? Framing the question in non-alignment terms may be beneficial.
Indeed. I was going for a relatively simple OP, assuming that people would recognize "evil" in quotes as meaning "behavior typically associated with races labeled as evil". But you know what happens when we assume...
What would be a better term? "Antagonistic races," maybe?


Here's another one for the orcs, which is straight from the Greyhawk canon...
If this accounting is true, that seems like quite a provocation for the orcs. I mean, if the game is set up so that there are X-1 lots, X deities, and Gruumsh draws lots last (so that they can all laugh at him that no lots are left), then yeah, the game is rigged so that Gruumsh won't get any land. And the other gods are being jerks by laughing at him and going "haha, your people will be homeless."
For the orcs in this context, their quest for territory and conquest is because they feel they need it to survive, because the other races took all of the good land.
Indeed.
It's remarkable how all the good races' gods turn into jerks in supplements for evil races.


Another interesting idea to consider for why the "evil" races could be seen as evil... lifespans.
...
If the goblin settlement has a war with the elf settlement every 2 generations, that means an elf expects to go through some 17 wars in their lifetime with the goblins, while the goblin might expect peace with the elves for their entire lives. The difference in timescale is huge. From the elven perspective, the goblins are making constant war on the elves. From the goblin perspective, they can't even understand this elf whose kid brother died 100 years ago and wants revenge. Those were some other goblins, long ago. It would be like if Japan suddenly wanted revenge for World War II.
Ooh, I like this one.


That said... this discussion did remind me of another race I've made that could be considered "Always/Usually Evil"...
...TL;DR: "Good" kingdom kills their "god," supernatural theocracy out for revenge? A bit heavy on phlebotinum reliance for my personal tastes, but still quite interesting.


If there's anything to take away from the above as pertains to this thread's title question, it's this: evil races are evil because they are stupid. They are more inclined to just take everything their leaders tell them at face value rather than engage them in a debate. :smalltongue:
An interesting concept, but it sounds more like what a paladin would say to justify killing free-willed beings than the truth.
Maybe I'm overanalyzing this, but there are many who would say that that's what I do.


Leaping into this thread late and attempting to direct it away from religion, I always assumed that, other than demons and other literal embodiments of alignment, "Evil" races are "Evil" culturally - they have a society that operates based specifically on harming and taking from others. Orcs have a raiding-based society, goblinoids have a society based entirely on conquest and enslavement, drow have...that whole formalized backstabbing thing, etc.
I also, however, assume that this arises as a result of world conditions rather than some innate "evilness trait". Orc society is based on murder and pillage because that's what they see as the most effective way to get the resources they need (which are disproportionately owned by the less numerous but more organized "civilized" species). Goblinoids rely on slave labor and an oppressive caste system because of thousands of generations of ingrained cultural superiority and their greedy god told them to. Things like that. All things that could be changed, or could have done differently at some point in history, but simply didn't in the majority of RPG settings.
This is a solid base for explaining "evil" races.

veti
2015-12-02, 03:36 PM
Can you point out where I made any of those assumptions? Because that doesn't sound like anything I remember ever writing.

OK, I'm sorry for putting words into your keyboard. Let me rephrase my position.

The posited scenario was: there are four people who are all convinced that they know what "objective morality" is. Your contribution was "most likely they're all wrong, but that doesn't prove there is no such thing".

My response to that is "no, it doesn't - but it does prove that we can't, with any confidence, identify it even if we did see it, and even if we become convinced that we have identified it - it's 'most likely' (in your own words) that we're mistaken".

From this, it follows that treating "objective morality" as valid object or field of study is the very epitome of a fool's errand. You're looking for something that you won't know when you see it, but what you do know is (1) that many people do find something that they become convinced is it, therefore it's quite likely you'll do the same, and (2) when you do, you'll "most likely" be wrong.

You know that the most probable outcome is self-delusion, and yet you're actively working towards it. How does that make sense?


What you call "evidence" is not evidence of anything. All that's happened is that you have determined A Priori that they don't have free will. As far as free will goes, absolutely nothing about their behavior can ever be evidence one way or the other. An automaton can be programmed to do some good, no good, or all good, just like a free being can choose any of those.

What I call evidence is what any scientist would call evidence. If you show me a d20, my initial assumption will be that it can roll any number from 1 to 20. If you then roll it ten thousand times and don't get a single result above 10 - I'm not going to cling to that assumption, because that track record? That's evidence. "That d20", I'm going to assert, "can't roll a 15, and here's the record to prove it. If you can prove otherwise I'll reconsider, but if your argument is no more than 'it's a d20, of course it can roll a 15', that's not proof."


The same way everybody else understands it, obviously.

"Everyone else" understands "wrong" - well, they all understand it differently from each other, for a start (this very thread demonstrates that) - but more specifically, it's something they learn from their parents, their upbringing, their peers. If they're never told that hurting people falls into the bucket of things called "wrong", how are they supposed to know?


Which does not excuse doing evil. You don't get to hurt innocent people for your own benefit, no matter how badly you want to. A good monster will do whatever they need to do to quit, even if that means having to leave the dungeon to seek help, or living alone and far away from any potential victims. A neutral monster will find arguably acceptable targets, such as serious criminals, or masochists who volunteer to be hurt. A evil monster will hurt whomever they can get.

So it's not acceptable to harm people... but it is acceptable, or more, to force orcs to inflict terrible pain on themselves? Again, I think your understanding of "wrong" is deeply flawed.

Cazero
2015-12-02, 04:13 PM
The posited scenario was: there are four people who are all convinced that they know what "objective morality" is. Your contribution was "most likely they're all wrong, but that doesn't prove there is no such thing".

My response to that is "no, it doesn't - but it does prove that we can't, with any confidence, identify it even if we did see it, and even if we become convinced that we have identified it - it's 'most likely' (in your own words) that we're mistaken".

From this, it follows that treating "objective morality" as valid object or field of study is the very epitome of a fool's errand. You're looking for something that you won't know when you see it, but what you do know is (1) that many people do find something that they become convinced is it, therefore it's quite likely you'll do the same, and (2) when you do, you'll "most likely" be wrong.

You know that the most probable outcome is self-delusion, and yet you're actively working towards it. How does that make sense?

Play this awesome game. (http://socratesjones.com/game.html) The ending will explain it to you.
How can you be sure your objective definition of morality is truly objective and perfect if you stopped trying to improve it?
Trying to define morality objectively might be impossible, as such thing might not exist. And it doesn't matter to the field of study because any attempted definition, regardless how flawed, is an improvement of our understanding, and the value of morality makes any improvement worthwhile.

GreatWyrmGold
2015-12-02, 08:53 PM
Play this awesome game. (http://socratesjones.com/game.html)
It is an awesome game. My only complaint is that it's sometimes hard to figure out which buttons will bring up the counter-argument you thought of, but even with that it's an enjoyable introduction to philosophical concepts.

Milo v3
2015-12-02, 11:33 PM
@hamishpence:

Does it? Why, actually?
Kobolds hatch from eggs. They don't have any love for mother and father. And so on. Why should Kobolds be any more alien then Beholders?

Well, beholders are aberrations so they are alien to begin with, and they innately hate all other beholders above anything else in existance because they are effectively mockeries of true perfection. While kobolds simply have no love for their mother and father because they don't have the concept, instead loving their tribe as they are raised communally. If you read Races of the Dragon, kobolds actually have a lot of space to be completely good society wise if gnomes and other races stopped hunting them down (forcing their culture to focus on violent prevention of external threats) and chromatic dragons stopped leading them (since they'll do whatever a true dragon wishes, seeing it as their place in the world). The kobolds are much less likely to be chaotic though, they put far too much focus on giving up your own wants for the good of your tribe.

Frozen_Feet
2015-12-03, 09:32 AM
@GreatWyrmGold: I'm not sure you captured the right quote from me, but it's not *the* truth - just a truth.

And it borders on trivially true, because for nearly any moral system you could name, there are people acting against it mostly 'cause they're "just following orders". :smalltongue:

GreatWyrmGold
2015-12-03, 10:29 AM
@GreatWyrmGold: I'm not sure you captured the right quote from me, but it's not *the* truth - just a truth.
And it's a "truth" which is kinda boring and (again) sounds more like what a paladin would say to justify killing free-willed beings than what would be the truth. In other words, a lie Miko makes up to justify killing the goblins who have other, more complicated reasons for being "evil".

Frozen_Feet
2015-12-03, 10:37 AM
Of course it's boring. Trivially true things frequently are - that's why "trivial" has such dull connotations.

It amuses me to no end that you jumö from there to a paladin killing goblins, though. :smalltongue: