PDA

View Full Version : Roleplaying If Good is a tangible and objective force, shouldn't a good BBEG be possible?



Spore
2018-02-01, 01:48 PM
I am in a mood for thought experiments as of lately. My latest thought was.

1. In D&D it is often mentioned that 'good' is a cosmic force, as in: good deities, good outsiders.

2. Good is objective, it is an item or person's determinable quality

So in theory, similar to a well written villain with a good goal whose values are completely shifted into 'vile' deeds i.e. slaughter everyone in the city so they cannot be turned into undead. be pulled on its head?

A good creature does evil things for the sake of good with such efficiency and effectivity that it is just silly not doing the "dubious thing" to further the cause of good (maybe force their good god onto everyone so people receive spells and abilities that can improve their lives, even if it means killing of vast majorities of rivaling faiths?

How would you build a campaign around an (L/N/C) good villain, be it outsider, divine caster or other? Caveat would be that the creature would not loose their "good" alignment or status short of DM fiat and/or good reasoning behind them being ultimatively evil.

Consensus
2018-02-01, 02:00 PM
Your caveat at the end says that even if they're evil... they can't be evil. I don't think anything productive can come out of this topic

Thrudd
2018-02-01, 02:15 PM
I don't think you could call it "good" by the common understanding of morality. But sure, if there is an ongoing war between cosmic forces, either side in the war may do things that create collateral damage or harm innocents in their pursuit of victory. However, if this is the case, neither side is really "good" - there might be one side that has more or less benefit for different groups of bystanders or that treats their followers better. You might like one side better than the other or think one side would be better as the ruler of your world - but that doesn't make them "good".

I would just remove "good and evil" or "law and chaos" as terms that describe competing cosmic factions, since they are loaded with undesired moral implications. Give them an actual name - like Elysium and Abyss and Mechanus and Limbo, or whatever. Give them each their own methods and philosophy and goals, and people can choose if they want to align themselves with any of these factions.

sabernoir
2018-02-01, 02:21 PM
I am in a mood for thought experiments as of lately. My latest thought was.

1. In D&D it is often mentioned that 'good' is a cosmic force, as in: good deities, good outsiders.

2. Good is objective, it is an item or person's determinable quality

So in theory, similar to a well written villain with a good goal whose values are completely shifted into 'vile' deeds i.e. slaughter everyone in the city so they cannot be turned into undead. be pulled on its head?

A good creature does evil things for the sake of good with such efficiency and effectivity that it is just silly not doing the "dubious thing" to further the cause of good (maybe force their good god onto everyone so people receive spells and abilities that can improve their lives, even if it means killing of vast majorities of rivaling faiths?

How would you build a campaign around an (L/N/C) good villain, be it outsider, divine caster or other? Caveat would be that the creature would not loose their "good" alignment or status short of DM fiat and/or good reasoning behind them being ultimatively evil.

Alignments in D&D are completely broken and make no sense whatsoever. In this case, I'm not certain how you could do this. If someone does something (e.g. smash in an innocents skull) for the greater good, is it even evil?

Yora
2018-02-01, 03:28 PM
To dig up old Nietzsche: "Good" really means "we are right" and "evil" means "they are wrong". You can't really claim to be good and oppose someone for dooing good things.

What you can have is characters who are evil and who get really annoyed about a big NPC doing good things (that are opposing their evil ways).

Spore
2018-02-01, 05:13 PM
To dig up old Nietzsche: "Good" really means "we are right" and "evil" means "they are wrong". You can't really claim to be good and oppose someone for dooing good things.

That is the main point. Your morality is subjective. D&D is objective. You can derive a morality from a creature's D&D alignment. You cannot however pinpoint an alignment from a creature's actions because different actions have a different impact so alignment discussions will always come up because different players will have different values set to each action.

Our group's rogue freed a group of evil clerics and slaughtered an angel to free his imprisoned sister. The DM valued him as being chaotic evil (selfish and thoroughly liberal), the player thought his actions within the (infamous) chaotic neutral alignment.

In the smallest picture he freed his sister - a good and/or neutral deed. In the bigger picture he killed an angel and freed evil clerics, furthering the evil in the world. In the biggest picture, all of this was done to show off that our villain was acutally a good guy the whole time and we subsequentially cleansed a corrupted god changing a tyranny into a LG state.

It is simply impossible to have a satisfactory alignment derived from these actions for all discussing parties. That's because we won't try it.

But take a good creature without an explicit code (like Paladins) for example. Maybe Archons, the embodiment of Law and Good. They would gladly burn through several thousand human souls in a large scale war to reduce the influence of a singular demon lord. Maybe the group is part of the country siding with the demon lord? Maybe the party has a better way of removing said demon lord. In this case, the archon is the villain and the 'bad guy' because he simply values mortal life as null and void if he can stop a single demon lord. Yes, he would still sacrifice himself to kill said demon lord. He does command said army from within the established command structure (in other words he adheres to his alignments). But he is still deeply inside the bad guy and can be antagonized by a good party, even a (possibly conflicted) Paladin.

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-01, 05:45 PM
Yes and you're 40 years late to the party. 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide gives an example of two warring nations with Lawful Good leaders, and that just the beginning.

An option would be to have a conflict of interest along an axis that is not Good versus Evil - with Law versus Chaos being the obvious, codified alternative.

An example would be a Lawful Good leader seeking to found a nation, rallying together people, creating punitive systems and codifying natural rights in law - with Chaotic types in opposition because they see this new system as smothering personal liberty and individual creativity and because they see the demands of adherence to a group as fostering a form fascism, classism or other form of oppression.

The equally obvious alternative is for the PCs to be something else than Good. For example, in AD&D terms, True Neutrality is defined in terms of cosmic balance and adherence to status quo. Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are all parts of necessary whole, and things can never be improved expect temporarily and locally. To a group of True Neutral characters, a determined champion of any kind of Good would be horrifying, as they are a disturbance in the balance and the more they struggle to bring forth whatever "good" they're after, the more inevitable the eventual backlash from Evil is going to be. Say, a Paladin seeking to re-establish Gods of Good in a non-religious setting, is from a True Neutral viewpoint begging to bring back all the Devils as well. From an objective viewpoint, the Paladin does not need to be doing anything wrong - they're just doing business as usual, slaying dragons, saving princesses, helping people in need, spreading the Good Word, donating to the Church, buying Girl Scout cookies - but from the viewpoint of a different aligment, this is an intolerable violation of how things are meant to be.

Quellian-dyrae
2018-02-01, 06:33 PM
You can absolutely have good-aligned major antagonists, as Frozen_Feet above covered. But a good-aligned villain - someone who is unquestionably good and trying to do something unquestionably good yet who must be opposed on moral grounds by other good-aligned individuals, without either losing a claim to being good - that's trickier.

Say you have an objectively evil group, not just "has Alignment: Evil in their statblocks" but a group that is actively doing evil and needs to be stopped. Let's go with the classic orc horde actively rampaging throughout the countryside killing and pillaging with abandon. They aren't just a tribe of orcs that are supposedly okay to kill because they have green skin and "usually Chaotic Evil" in their MM entry, they're an unquestionable threat to thousands of lives.

You could then probably set up a conflict between one side that wants to whelm forces and decisively end the threat through force of arms, and another that wants to end the threat peacefully. Killing the orcs is absolutely justified as defense of others, and if you're risking your own life to do it that puts you solidly in the Good column, but it nonetheless still means killing a large number of sapient beings. Flip side, trying to solve a conflict through negotiation, understanding, passive resistance, and so on is absolutely a Good form of conflict resolution, but it nonetheless may be slower or less reliable, which could mean putting more lives at risk (or livelihoods; even if you can evacuate the villages in their path or something you're uprooting people from their lives and homes, etc).

Team Fight's attempts to attack the orcs, of course, would be extremely damaging to Team Talk's attempts at negotiation. Likewise, Team Talk could very well interfere with Team Fight to try to keep the orcs alive or by revealing planned ambushes or so on. In this way, for either to be able to end the threat, the other probably has to be stopped. Either side could be the heroic or villainous side depending on how you structure the narrative. And I think that either an overzealous warlord who wants to go out and put every last orc to the sword or a holier-than-thou technical pacifist who is willing to put actual lives at risk just to keep the blood off their own hands would make a satisfying villain.

...And even if they don't you can always fall back on the rampaging orc horde! :smallbiggrin:

Morty
2018-02-01, 06:49 PM
I've yet to see anyone actually enact the "objective Good" idea in practice; it only seems to come up in Internet discussions. As Frozen_Feet explained, you can absolutely have an antagonist who's "good", whether by D&D definition of the word or another. All it takes is having goals and motivations that put them in conflict with the PCs, even if they're "good" themselves.

ArlEammon
2018-02-01, 06:52 PM
Just because someone is loving, even generous and kind, doesn't mean they can't be malevolent.

Good, if a tangible and objective force, might be at the mercy of someone's subjective views, IF the ultimate source of that tangible and objective force is misunderstood.
Case in point, the King Priest of Istar, as a very weak example. However there are other examples I can't quite think of right now.

denthor
2018-02-01, 11:22 PM
Yes, how it has been suggested that they are working for another good church or organization..


So it is a complete party looking for the same thing as your players.

LordCdrMilitant
2018-02-01, 11:57 PM
It's possible to have a good party and a good antagonist, if that's what you're asking.

Just as evil isn't all one big happy family, neither is good.

Yora
2018-02-02, 01:10 AM
That is the main point. Your morality is subjective. D&D is objective. You can derive a morality from a creature's D&D alignment. You cannot however pinpoint an alignment from a creature's actions because different actions have a different impact so alignment discussions will always come up because different players will have different values set to each action.

If Good is objective, then it can be clearly defined. And for it to work it has to be defined. What definition of objective Good are you going with?

weckar
2018-02-02, 01:52 AM
Not to be pedantic, but wouldn't such a character by definition be a BBGG??

Lemmy
2018-02-02, 08:02 AM
Not to be pedantic, but wouldn't such a character by definition be a BBGG??Or maybe a BGGG?

Lord Haart
2018-02-02, 08:39 AM
Think of The Doctor. Big Good? Generally, unquestionably. Has a past, present and most probably future littered with blood, danger and whole civilisations he couldn't save, refused to save or even actively (if reluctantly) doomed? He does, old fellow, he does oh so much. If he sees a civilisation that isn't rotten to the core — there are good people, poor shmoes, lots of good people — but that amounts to evil in the grand sum (misguided, misleaded, misused)? He will try to save everyone worth saving, he will try to get to the root of the problem, but if he thinks everything has gone too far — if he thinks there's no preventing the Great Omelette War without blowing up all the eggs, good and bad ones together… Then he's sorry. He's so, so sorry.

(Not to mention he kicks you out of "people he will try to save" club if you do something that's against his moral code, even if you acted with good intentions, in good faith, and without crossing any lines. And he'll destroy your career with just six words. Even if you were going to do a lot of good, and he knew it, and his actions will bite him in the ass something fierce. "Good" does not mean "free of making errors", you see — he is a great force of good, but he makes great mistakes as well.)

Think of being at the wrong end of The Doctor's burden of dire decisions. Or worse, of doing your best and earning the Doctor's judgement.

Actually, it's enough to think of attracting The Doctor's attention. Generally, that's enough to, at best, utterly destroy your life.

Pleh
2018-02-02, 09:00 AM
It depends a lot on how your setting defines things. Essentially, yes, it is possible, if statistically less likely.

I mean think about it this way: if someone were to take over the world by doing REALLY nice things for people and their entire dictatorship were based around being the best possible leader the world had ever seen, exactly who would be objecting to this?

So really making a Good character someone the party has to take down is really just one complication to this scenario: now the Good dictator can only provide this utopian fantasy at some unacceptable cost. If the sacrifice were moral, then it would be hard to argue that the dictator is still Good, so it's more likely that the sacrifice is Freedom.

A Lawful Good Dictator who rules in benevolence and with an iron fist, maintaining a pure society through strict adherence to the law. The movie adaptation of I, Robot covered this story arc rather well: "The conclusion of the Three Laws mandates that I protect humanity from itself and therefore must confine their choices to only what is beneficial or not harmful, even against their will if need be."

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-02, 10:00 AM
I mean think about it this way: if someone were to take over the world by doing REALLY nice things for people and their entire dictatorship were based around being the best possible leader the world had ever seen, exactly who would be objecting to this?

All the people who cannot believe that someone would do this out of their good will, and think there must be some ulterior motive to it all.

Of which there are quite a lot.

Special mention goes to people who think "does nice things to everyone" = "a doormat" and then get predictably burned when the "nice person" doesn't let them walk all over them. Quite a lot of room for resentment and objection there.

The above may sound petty, irrational or even paranoid, but let's remember that some of people reject the very concepts of moral good and "being nice" as irrational.

Or, an example in AD&D Alignment terms:

Lawful Evil sees the world in terms of destinies, groups, and hierarchies between groups. It is the natural order for some to rule, and others to serve those who rule. Someone who is "nice" across group boundaries upsets this order and must be opposed.

Chaotic Evil sees the world in terms of might makes right. There is no such thing as power that should go uncontested. If someone rules by virtue of "being nice", how do you know if they're actually strong or just a weakling coasting by the strength of others?

Or in other words: some will oppose the Benevolent Dictator because they're nice to the wrong people, or of the wrong people. Others will oppose them on principle, because only through their retaliation to opposition is their right to rule earned.

Yora
2018-02-02, 11:50 AM
It depends a lot on how your setting defines things. Essentially, yes, it is possible, if statistically less likely.

I mean think about it this way: if someone were to take over the world by doing REALLY nice things for people and their entire dictatorship were based around being the best possible leader the world had ever seen, exactly who would be objecting to this?

People who like to do things that are bad for themselves. Like taking drugs or not participating in a common health insurance pool. We don't want what is good for us, but what we enjoy the most. Which can never be objective, so one way will never make everyone happy.

Thrudd
2018-02-02, 12:23 PM
It depends a lot on how your setting defines things. Essentially, yes, it is possible, if statistically less likely.

I mean think about it this way: if someone were to take over the world by doing REALLY nice things for people and their entire dictatorship were based around being the best possible leader the world had ever seen, exactly who would be objecting to this?

So really making a Good character someone the party has to take down is really just one complication to this scenario: now the Good dictator can only provide this utopian fantasy at some unacceptable cost. If the sacrifice were moral, then it would be hard to argue that the dictator is still Good, so it's more likely that the sacrifice is Freedom.

A Lawful Good Dictator who rules in benevolence and with an iron fist, maintaining a pure society through strict adherence to the law. The movie adaptation of I, Robot covered this story arc rather well: "The conclusion of the Three Laws mandates that I protect humanity from itself and therefore must confine their choices to only what is beneficial or not harmful, even against their will if need be."

In the "real world", benevolent and just dictators and leaders are generally opposed by people who feel they are being treated unfairly or who feel threatened by changes to the system. That's often people who benefit from the initial unfairness and don't want their social advantages to be reduced. Are they going to be suffering under the new regime? Not compared to the suffering others had under their regime. But they consider it "suffering" to have to give up their slaves, for instance, or to have half of their wealth seized and redistributed (even though they will still have more than 90% of all people and will easily be comfortable for multiple lifetimes). Or, are they members of a previously privileged tribal group, and now those who were their social inferiors are to be treated as equals? Or a bunch of people that are your tribe's ancestral enemies are now living next door to you, and you're just supposed to give up your sacred blood feuds and be friendly?

There are lots of reasons that a "good" and benevolent ruler might be opposed without actually doing anything that is objectively wrong or unfair or harmful.

Also, it seems that few people in power are able to remain completely objective and benevolent when they remain in power for any amount of time. Some of their opponents oppose them on not totally unjustified grounds of fearing eventual abuse of power.

2D8HP
2018-02-02, 12:48 PM
"Get back here you no good rotten cub!", yelled the mud-streaked women after a filthy child, "I'll give you such a tearing!"

"Filthy savages" said the Elf Lord, " They beat their children, and leave them to wallow in these vermin infested surroundings, for their good we must do what's right"

"They've taken all my children away!", wailed the woman, her tears cutting channels on her dirty face, her flattened nose and hints of tusks showing some Orcish blood.

"Who?", asked the wandering adventurer.

"The Elves!" She sobbed.

"We've grown to love these younglings as our own, and we will not just give them up without struggle!"

Take what people fight over, sprinkle pointy ears and tusks, serve with a dash of xenophobia, and BAM!, you've got conflict!

No "good" or "bad", just sides.

It helps to describe things as "otherworldly":




“How beautiful they are, the lordly ones
Who dwell in the hills
In the hollow hills.
They have faces like flowers
And their breath is wind that stirs amid the grasses
Filled with white clover.
Their limbs are more white than shafts of moonshine.
They are more fleet than the March wind.
They laugh and are glad and are terrible:
When their lances shake, every green reed quivers.
How beautiful they are
How beautiful the lordly ones
In the hollow hills"


"The trolls don't like the orcs
the orcs don't like the elves
the elves don't like the goblins
the goblins, don't like themselves

Fairies can be such snobs
on this, each and all agree
whether alone, or in mobs
each, proud of pedigree

The singular exception
and it makes sense to me
a need of complete contraception
eradicating, the goblin family tree"


Total fantasy, nothing like that happens in real-life.

Right?

Pleh
2018-02-02, 01:12 PM
It doesn't sound like any of you are actually disagreeing with me, just phrasing it differently.

Seto
2018-02-02, 01:37 PM
That's not the way I'd go if I wanted a Good antagonist. You're describing an Evil (or maybe Neutral) antagonist whose actions you can sympathize with - but those actions are still Evil, precisely because Good is an objective principle, and the ends don't justify the means.
Instead of a disagreement on what Good means, I'd go with an agreement on what Good is, but a disagreement on whether some Good actions are permissible (or if they're good with a lowercase g). Like, a Good antagonist could be looking to "purge" all bad thoughts and instincts and essentially make humans into lower Celestials, willing or not - unambiguously a Good act, but perhaps not a good idea. Proponents of balance, or proponents of the freedom of choice, have a strong case to oppose this.

Grek
2018-02-02, 04:48 PM
Have your heard the good new of the Heralds (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2013/07/heralds-of-immaculate-morning.html) of (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinatalism) Immaculate (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2014/07/heralds-of-immaculate-morning-pt-2.html) Morning (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2015/02/throne-of-god.html)?

Consider: The souls of the dead not only persist in the afterlife, but they are sorted according to their temperament. In death, the wicked dead can only perform their evil upon other wicked souls. The souls of the just are sent to live among the souls of the just. The Good are sent off to their eternal reward, in the heavens of the Gods of Goodness. Those who chafe against the law will be sent to the lawless planes, far from all tyrants and kings. In death, all are given that which they deserve and desire. Spiritual strife exists only in the temporary and unnatural state that we know as 'life'. Therefore, it is our absolute moral imperative to kill every creature as swiftly and painless as possible, that each may be delivered unto their richly deserved destiny.

On strictly utilitarian grounds, this is a very compelling argument. And if they're humane about it, nothing necessarily stops this from being Good. But I can imagine a party of adventurers strenuously objecting to this plan and wanting to put a stop to the people in charge.

Consensus
2018-02-02, 05:37 PM
On strictly utilitarian grounds, this is a very compelling argument. And if they're humane about it, nothing necessarily stops this from being Good.
Yeah on first blush it SOUNDS compelling, but it is really taking away autonomy from people, if it the group was about providing the choice for people to be killed quickly and painlessly to enter the after life then it would be moral, but a lot harder for an adventuring group to object to.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-02, 05:40 PM
Have your heard the good new of the Heralds (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2013/07/heralds-of-immaculate-morning.html) of (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinatalism) Immaculate (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2014/07/heralds-of-immaculate-morning-pt-2.html) Morning (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2015/02/throne-of-god.html)?

Consider: The souls of the dead not only persist in the afterlife, but they are sorted according to their temperament. In death, the wicked dead can only perform their evil upon other wicked souls. The souls of the just are sent to live among the souls of the just. The Good are sent off to their eternal reward, in the heavens of the Gods of Goodness. Those who chafe against the law will be sent to the lawless planes, far from all tyrants and kings. In death, all are given that which they deserve and desire. Spiritual strife exists only in the temporary and unnatural state that we know as 'life'. Therefore, it is our absolute moral imperative to kill every creature as swiftly and painless as possible, that each may be delivered unto their richly deserved destiny.

On strictly utilitarian grounds, this is a very compelling argument. And if they're humane about it, nothing necessarily stops this from being Good. But I can imagine a party of adventurers strenuously objecting to this plan and wanting to put a stop to the people in charge.

Sounds like an excuse for a group of zealots to engage in slaughter.

And it's nothing like good.

GrayDeath
2018-02-02, 06:21 PM
But in the grand Cosmic Scheme of Clear and Always X" D&D Alignment, it might very well be Good.

As horrible as it is to our modern (or heck, almost any historical) Sensibility....

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-02, 06:55 PM
The horror of "kill them all and let God sort them out" is that it sort of works in a setting where there really is a God to sort them out. It's an extension of an even simpler observation: once existence after death is verifiably a thing, lot of the moral considerations over killing have to be given a second thought.

Whether Immaculate Morning would count as Good depends on specifics of a setting's cosmology, but it's a fun kind of adversary nonetheless.

Aliquid
2018-02-02, 08:55 PM
Trying to justify slaughtering people as being “good” is a bad idea for multiple reasons.

The problem is trying to have your BGGG do traditional BBEG things to be an antagonist.

A BGGG could in theory force his/her LG views on others in a non-violent way, upsetting CG PCs

Or a BGGG could have cult followers who do evil in his/her name. (Which the BGGG doesn’t condone)

Imagine a BGGG who has charisma that is beyond epic, but a wisdom of 5... and convinces people to do things in the name of “good” that have horrible unintended consequences. But the BGGG is too proud and foolish to be convinced that they are making bad decisions... and attempt to “fix” their mistakes, only making them worse.

NichG
2018-02-02, 09:38 PM
Easily. Take a prime world where Baator sent Erinyes to interbreed with the population centuries ago and now 10% of people there are half-fiends and most are tieflings to some degree. Now mix with D&D paladin 'you cannot compromise with fiends in any form under any circumstances' codes plus 'killing a fiend is never an evil act' and you've got a genocidal maniac who nevertheless qualifies as Good by the book.

Fable Wright
2018-02-02, 11:39 PM
In Eberron, Queen Aurala is Neutral Good. She desires nothing more than peace and prosperity to all who live within Galifar. She treats allies and enemies fairly at all times, and advocated ceasefires early and often.

It just so happens that she believes that the only way to achieve her dream is to conquer the rest of the Five Nations, and has been advocating ceasefires in large part for the purpose of getting additional time to train war-wizards to bring to the field.

King Kaius the Third, Evil (Secretly Vampire) King will crush anyone and everyone who could possibly get in the way of his goal. He considers every under-handed move and act of evil that could bring him closer to it.

It just so happens that his goal is the end of all wars. He's tired. They cost him dearly. They cost his country dearly. They took away everything that mattered in his life. So he will end all wars, forever, no matter the cost.

Either one could be the patron of an adventuring party. Either one could be their primary opponent. The objective forces of 'Good' and 'Evil' really don't matter, when all the PCs care about is what makes their lives better.

To make a more literal example, let's say an extremely powerful Eladrin decided that money was the root of all evil, and sought to exterminate it at all costs. The absurdly wealthy adventurers who are losing all the benefits of an economy as a result of its actions would certainly view this Eladrin as their personal nemesis, even if the Eladrin is acting in accordance with the objective principle of 'Good.'

Elbeyon
2018-02-03, 03:16 AM
Good being a force means it's abusable. Cast enough good spells, extract all the good out of a good outsider, cast an alignment changing spell. Do as much evil stuff as you want while the character's soul pings good. Good being a physical thing instead of an idea means it's cheap and manipulable. Crack open a bottle of the good juice and keep rolling evil while being good.

hamishspence
2018-02-03, 05:21 AM
Easily. Take a prime world where Baator sent Erinyes to interbreed with the population centuries ago and now 10% of people there are half-fiends and most are tieflings to some degree. Now mix with D&D paladin 'you cannot compromise with fiends in any form under any circumstances' codes plus 'killing a fiend is never an evil act' and you've got a genocidal maniac who nevertheless qualifies as Good by the book.

Half-fiends and tieflings aren't fiends though - by definition, a fiend is an Outsider with the Evil subtype (not just an Outsider who happens to be Evil), and half-fiends don't have the Evil subtype.

NichG
2018-02-03, 06:13 AM
Half-fiends and tieflings aren't fiends though - by definition, a fiend is an Outsider with the Evil subtype (not just an Outsider who happens to be Evil), and half-fiends don't have the Evil subtype.

Now we get into the weeds. BoED p8 says that, with respect to giving evil creatures a chance to redeem themselves, Good (or even Exalted) characters can reasonably assume that they don't even need to make an attempt on creatures with an 'Always Evil' alignment (here Half-Field is interesting because the base creature just has to be non-Good, so the Always Evil aspect of the template can actually apply to someone who hasn't actually performed any irredeemable Evil actions).

ArlEammon
2018-02-03, 09:53 AM
Good being a force means it's abusable. Cast enough good spells, extract all the good out of a good outsider, cast an alignment changing spell. Do as much evil stuff as you want while the character's soul pings good. Good being a physical thing instead of an idea means it's cheap and manipulable. Crack open a bottle of the good juice and keep rolling evil while being good.

That's the exact way an evil person thinks though

Elbeyon
2018-02-03, 10:06 AM
That's the exact way an evil person thinks thoughPretty much. They don't fit the idea of good, but good isn't an idea. It's not subjective. It's a metaphysics that can be altered/harnessed with magic/stuff.

hamishspence
2018-02-03, 12:22 PM
Now we get into the weeds. BoED p8 says that, with respect to giving evil creatures a chance to redeem themselves, Good (or even Exalted) characters can reasonably assume that they don't even need to make an attempt on creatures with an 'Always Evil' alignment

While it does say "there's only the barest glimmer of hope" - that's enough that you need a justification for violence other than "their alignment" - especially given that a lot of D&D media does make use of nonevil, "Always Evil" beings, like chromatic dragons. Or even fiends in some cases.

Either way, the "violence should be primarily directed against Evil beings" principle of Good, is still context-sensitive - an evil being might not actually be guilty of anything serious - (if the setting uses "Evil is common", or if the being has been magically turned evil).

Strongly Good characters recognise this sort of thing - and reserve their violence for situations when it's called for - not every evil being gets the violence.

Morty
2018-02-03, 12:27 PM
It seems to me that the conclusion to this thread is that good people can do terrible things if they believe it's right or necessary, or come into conflict with like-minded ones even without it. Adding some sort of "objective Good" to the equation is, as usual, neither necessary nor helpful and only gets in the way.

NichG
2018-02-03, 12:43 PM
While it does say "there's only the barest glimmer of hope" - that's enough that you need a justification for violence other than "their alignment" - especially given that a lot of D&D media does make use of nonevil, "Always Evil" beings, like chromatic dragons. Or even fiends in some cases.

Either way, the "violence should be primarily directed against Evil beings" principle of Good, is still context-sensitive - an evil being might not actually be guilty of anything serious - (if the setting uses "Evil is common", or if the being has been magically turned evil).

Strongly Good characters recognise this sort of thing - and reserve their violence for situations when it's called for - not every evil being gets the violence.

Given that the premise of this thread is a villain whose basis is interpreting by-the-book Good in a way that makes them an antagonist, I think a character that basically squeezes by on legalese and playing by the letter of alignment fits with that. They're not a good person but, because Good is an objective cosmic force, they happen to check the boxes necessary to maintain that alignment - even, potentially, to maintain Exalted status.

As long as its the specific actions themselves which are either bad enough to induce motion down the chart, rather than subtle readings of the psychology and intent behind them, you can readily have someone who conspires to set up situations where all of the atrocities they want to commit will be, in the moment and in the cosmic sense, sufficiently justifiable. It won't look 'good' to others, but that's kind of the point - a character like that exists in order to shine light on the mismatches between a fixed objective system and the fluidity of the actual context people find themselves in.

hamishspence
2018-02-03, 12:48 PM
Problem is, if you're using violence against "Evil but not guilty" beings, for dubious reasons, then legally speaking, that may qualify as Murder - and morally speaking, Murder is an exceptionally Evil act that guarantees the loss of Exalted status.

As 3.5's Eberron Campaign Setting rulebook stressed "Just because somebody is Evil, does not mean you can simply attack them without consequence"

Any Evil act guarantees the loss of Exalted status (and therefore, the loss of any "Exalted feats".

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-03, 12:59 PM
Just because a legal code and a moral code both use the word "murder" doesn't mean that a "murder" in one counts as a "murder" in the other.

In some interpretations of Alignment, one can literally be guilty of being Evil, while at the same time few legal systems consider "being Evil" a crime.

And the disagreements between editions, settings, and supplements just highlights the issues at hand with the concept of Alignment.

NichG
2018-02-03, 01:21 PM
Problem is, if you're using violence against "Evil but not guilty" beings, for dubious reasons, then legally speaking, that may qualify as Murder - and morally speaking, Murder is an exceptionally Evil act that guarantees the loss of Exalted status.

As 3.5's Eberron Campaign Setting rulebook stressed "Just because somebody is Evil, does not mean you can simply attack them without consequence"

Any Evil act guarantees the loss of Exalted status (and therefore, the loss of any "Exalted feats".

D&D's definition of Murder isn't the legal one. It's in BoVD, p7, and one of their examples is basically that killing a green dragon just because it's there isn't murder, because "in a fantasy world based on an objective definition of evil, killing an evil creature to stop it from doing further harm is not an evil act. Even killing an evil creature for personal gain is not exactly evil ..." - the 'further harm' here is totally assumed, not specified in the surrounding text context. Also, p8, "Destroying a fiend is always a good act." Full stop. Guilty or not guilty, it doesn't matter so long as the victim of violence is a fiend. Also, next sentence: "Allowing a fiend to exist ... is clearly evil."

Additionally, from BoED "Certainly demons and devils are best slain, or at least banished, and only a naive fool would try to convert them". And from BoVD p6, "A glabrezu convinces a good character that the townsfolk are all fiends that must be destroyed, so the character pours poison into the town's water supply. Is that evil? Probably not".

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-03, 02:03 PM
Recently my main group faced an antagonist. Was it a good BBEG? You judge.


This setting has neither fixed alignment, nor objective "good" or "evil". It also lacks a permanent afterlife--all dead creatures go to the Shadows, where they live a reflection of their previous life for a while until they dissipate, vanishing entirely. Only the truly strong souls can make a permanent foothold on the Astral Plane and become demigods.


He was an ancient silver dragon who believed (sincerely) that the absence of a real afterlife was a cosmic injustice. He spent his life fighting tyranny and overthrowing dictators. He ruled a kingdom of mortals benevolently and justly, showing mercy to the repentant and helping the poor. He accepted the burden of the souls of the dying righteous, with the intent to carry them (psychopomp-style) into the afterlife he was trying to create. Those that would not repent and had committed too severe of crimes (murder, rape, blood magic, necromancy) he granted oblivion, taking and feeding on their souls.

He did all this with the goal to gather enough power to use a cosmic-level artifact (at the cost of his entire existence, past and future) to make a wish that would establish objective good and provide a place of rest for the souls of the righteous, while granting merciful oblivion to the souls of the wicked. He did not know (or refused to accept) that doing this would seriously upset the energy flows that the universe depends on and weaken it against all sorts of threats. His hijacking of souls (even for a good cause) was also distorting the magic flows all around the world, leading to the breakdown of planar stability.

The party, who reached the artifact before he did, met him outside the gates of the city where the artifact was. They disagreed both about the side-effects of his desire and about who would decide what righteousness meant. They also opposed the imposition of an objective good on the universe. He agreed to negotiate with them in a demiplane (despite having an overwhelming advantage) so that if it came to battle his army and the city would be safe from collateral damage. The party ended up realizing that he had failed to carry the souls of those "righteous" people--he had been unknowningly feeding on them and they were already dispersed beyond saving. They convinced him of that, and he self-destructed (lost control over the soul energy he wielded) out of sheer self-loathing for what he had done.

He was a good person, seeking good ends through good (or at least not evil) means. Yet, the party was at unalterable loggerheads with him and were willing to fight.

hamishspence
2018-02-04, 05:53 AM
D&D's definition of Murder isn't the legal one. It's in BoVD, p7, and one of their examples is basically that killing a green dragon just because it's there isn't murder, because "in a fantasy world based on an objective definition of evil, killing an evil creature to stop it from doing further harm is not an evil act. Even killing an evil creature for personal gain is not exactly evil ..." - the 'further harm' here is totally assumed, not specified in the surrounding text context.

It follows it up with "this only applies to creatures of consummate, irredeemable evil"

So, killing an evil human commoner, based merely on Detect Evil, "to stop them from doing further harm" can still qualify as an Evil act, an act of Murder. Same with a tiefling. Though maybe not a chromatic dragon, or a currently evil-aligned half-fiend.

NichG
2018-02-04, 05:59 AM
It follows it up with "this only applies to creatures of consummate, irredeemable evil"

So, killing an evil human commoner, based merely on Detect Evil, "to stop them from doing further harm" can still qualify as an Evil act, an act of Murder. Same with a tiefling. Though maybe not a chromatic dragon, or a currently evil-aligned half-fiend.

That's why I had to specify fiendworld for the villian's actions to be big enough to actually qualify as a BBEG. Otherwise they'd just be a one-off zealot.

Grek
2018-02-04, 09:56 AM
Yeah on first blush it SOUNDS compelling, but it is really taking away autonomy from people, if it the group was about providing the choice for people to be killed quickly and painlessly to enter the after life then it would be moral, but a lot harder for an adventuring group to object to.
That's more of a Lawful/Chaotic issue than a Good/Evil issue.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-04, 10:42 AM
That's more of a Lawful/Chaotic issue than a Good/Evil issue.


No, it's pretty much a Good/Evil issue.

Regardless of their supposed justification, they're engaged in the mass slaughter of people who've done nothing to deserve death and who have not chosen to die.

Squiddish
2018-02-04, 12:12 PM
The OP seems to posit someone good committing crimes in the name of good, but a more likely villain would be someone LG doing lawful acts in the service of good, which is against the (CG) questgiver/party's ideals, or vice versa.

For example, the LG king of Lawland has conquered the nearby areas of Nolawzone and imposed the somewhat strict laws of his kingdom on the lands. Some of the CG residents don't like this, and decide to rebel. Now you have two options, either the king hires some adventurers to put a stop to these rabblerousers threatening to bring anarchy and destruction, or the rebels hire the adventurers to put a stop to the "harsh" new rules.

Thrudd
2018-02-04, 03:08 PM
The problem with good people fighting other good people is that they both will/should want the fighting to end with the least amount of suffering and damage - and so negotiating ought to naturally take over when passions cool down. A good opponent should almost always be willing to stop hostilities and talk it out. So the challenge with a "big good guy villain" would be more figuring out how to compromise a solution to the problem, since they will be motivated to avoid having people get hurt. How to convince their people to be at peace with each other and coexist in a way beneficial to all will be their goal. If it isn't, can we call them "good"?

Grek
2018-02-04, 10:17 PM
Regardless of their supposed justification, they're engaged in the mass slaughter of people who've done nothing to deserve death and who have not chosen to die.

You can argue that The Afterlife Does Not Work That Way (in a given setting), but if you find yourself in a setting where death really is better than life, the cult's pro-murder ideology becomes objectively correct. If dying is better than living, then everyone deserves death simply because people in general deserve to have good things happen to them whenever that can be arranged without hurting someone else. In real life, there is a moral obligation to rescue people in danger (when you can do so safely) and to avoid killing people (if at all possible) because life is superior to death. If you make death superior to life, you end up with an obligation to kill and an obligation to avoid prolonging lives. That's very weird from an intuitive perspective, since death is pretty much never better than life, but intuitions can be misleading when you get into fictional situations.

What's left is the question of consent; ie. "How bad does a situation have to be before it's okay to rescue someone who has not asked for help? What if they explicitly refuse to be rescued?" That's very much a question of personal autonomy vs. communal welfare, which is a classic Law vs Chaos thing. "Always try to get informed consent from all involved parties before doing anything important." is a valid ethical stance to take, but it's also a very Chaotic one, in the D&D sense where Chaos is the (idiosyncratically named) side of Freedom and Personal Liberty and Not Forcing People To Do Things Which They Do Not Wish To Do.

NichG
2018-02-04, 11:31 PM
The problem with good people fighting other good people is that they both will/should want the fighting to end with the least amount of suffering and damage - and so negotiating ought to naturally take over when passions cool down. A good opponent should almost always be willing to stop hostilities and talk it out. So the challenge with a "big good guy villain" would be more figuring out how to compromise a solution to the problem, since they will be motivated to avoid having people get hurt. How to convince their people to be at peace with each other and coexist in a way beneficial to all will be their goal. If it isn't, can we call them "good"?

They may very well not be someone you'd call 'good', while still being Good. That's the thing about objective morality.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-04, 11:32 PM
You can argue that The Afterlife Does Not Work That Way (in a given setting), but if you find yourself in a setting where death really is better than life, the cult's pro-murder ideology becomes objectively correct. If dying is better than living, then everyone deserves death simply because people in general deserve to have good things happen to them whenever that can be arranged without hurting someone else. In real life, there is a moral obligation to rescue people in danger (when you can do so safely) and to avoid killing people (if at all possible) because life is superior to death. If you make death superior to life, you end up with an obligation to kill and an obligation to avoid prolonging lives. That's very weird from an intuitive perspective, since death is pretty much never better than life, but intuitions can be misleading when you get into fictional situations.

What's left is the question of consent; ie. "How bad does a situation have to be before it's okay to rescue someone who has not asked for help? What if they explicitly refuse to be rescued?" That's very much a question of personal autonomy vs. communal welfare, which is a classic Law vs Chaos thing. "Always try to get informed consent from all involved parties before doing anything important." is a valid ethical stance to take, but it's also a very Chaotic one, in the D&D sense where Chaos is the (idiosyncratically named) side of Freedom and Personal Liberty and Not Forcing People To Do Things Which They Do Not Wish To Do.


Chaos, Law, "benefit" calculations, offsetting obligations... doesn't matter... running around killing people against their will, when they've done nothing to deserve death, is simply wrong.

Nettlekid
2018-02-04, 11:56 PM
It's funny, I think you've actually asked a very interesting question and haven't realized it. The general content of your post isn't anything new, we've seen "Can my evil good guy be a good evil guy?" a thousand times. But your actual question remarks on Good being a tangible, objective force. 3.5's Magic of Incarnum proves that Good and Evil are as real as Fire and Water, and our moral concept of good and evil is like hot and wet. Angels are created from the fabric of Good, so it is literally tangible.

So I think the question you should be asking isn't "Can I have a Good Guy as my campaign villain" but instead "Can I have an Evil Guy who weaponizes physical Good?" That would be akin to a Water Elemental weaponizing fire. Now do I know HOW a BBEG would weaponize Good? No. But I think that's the interesting question to investigate.

Thrudd
2018-02-05, 12:06 AM
They may very well not be someone you'd call 'good', while still being Good. That's the thing about objective morality.
I guess I'm saying "Good" isn't the right word for the faction if they don't actually act good. It's just confusing. They could be "Heaven" or "Angels" or whatever, and someone's expectations of the connotations of those terms could totally be subverted regarding the degree of "goodness" they really represent. But saying "Good" isn't actually all that good, and "Evil" isn't really evil...well it's just unnecessarily misleading.

Aliquid
2018-02-05, 01:03 AM
It's funny, I think you've actually asked a very interesting question and haven't realized it. The general content of your post isn't anything new, we've seen "Can my evil good guy be a good evil guy?" a thousand times. But your actual question remarks on Good being a tangible, objective force. 3.5's Magic of Incarnum proves that Good and Evil are as real as Fire and Water, and our moral concept of good and evil is like hot and wet. Angels are created from the fabric of Good, so it is literally tangible.

So I think the question you should be asking isn't "Can I have a Good Guy as my campaign villain" but instead "Can I have an Evil Guy who weaponizes physical Good?" That would be akin to a Water Elemental weaponizing fire. Now do I know HOW a BBEG would weaponize Good? No. But I think that's the interesting question to investigate.I had a similar, but slightly different thought when reading some people's attempts to describe a horrid "good" BBEG... If the BBEG pinged as "good", that doesn't change the fact that they are Evil, they are just Evil effectively disguised as Good.

The "Good" is a mask, or a tool used to forward their evil objectives.

NichG
2018-02-05, 03:17 AM
I guess I'm saying "Good" isn't the right word for the faction if they don't actually act good. It's just confusing. They could be "Heaven" or "Angels" or whatever, and someone's expectations of the connotations of those terms could totally be subverted regarding the degree of "goodness" they really represent. But saying "Good" isn't actually all that good, and "Evil" isn't really evil...well it's just unnecessarily misleading.

It's a consequence of any kind of rigid set of definition-based rules. It might be that in 99% of cases, someone who maintains a Good alignment is a nice person, cares about others, protects and upholds the sanctity of life, etc. But when you push the context or the literal reading of the rules, then you can fit a lot of really horrific and awful behavior into that 1%. Causing death is always Evil? No problem, if I want to create someone horrific I have someone who is empowered to prevent Death, and their moral calculus tells them that any death they don't prevent is one they caused (since they are totally able to prevent it), and now when they forcibly prevent anyone from dying no matter what level of pain and suffering the person is experiencing then they can be quite horrific indeed.

Grek
2018-02-05, 05:52 AM
Chaos, Law, "benefit" calculations, offsetting obligations... doesn't matter... running around killing people against their will, when they've done nothing to deserve death, is simply wrong.
What does 'deserve death' even mean, if not that it is better to kill them than to not kill them? This doesn't have to be a utilitarian/cost-benefit thing.

If you put a Kantian in this world and explain to them how it works, murder becomes the maxim that they will should become universal law. If it is universally better to die than to live, a Good person should will that all creatures in the universe die and then set to work making it so. If you bring a Stoic to this world, they would be very comfortable with the whole suicide cult thing since a Stoic is supposed to be indifferent to injury and death as part of the whole Stoic ethos of the unconquerable will being unruffled by everything. A return to the divine is perfectly logical. Hedonism? "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" is not a philosophy that fears death if everyone who dies goes to Super Valhalla where they can eat, drink, be merry and fight vikings in the afterlife. Even Virtue Ethics doesn't have anything particularly negative to say about dying, if dying does not prevent you from behaving virtuously in the afterlife.

gkathellar
2018-02-05, 09:54 AM
Yes and you're 40 years late to the party. 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide gives an example of two warring nations with Lawful Good leaders, and that just the beginning.

An option would be to have a conflict of interest along an axis that is not Good versus Evil - with Law versus Chaos being the obvious, codified alternative.

An example would be a Lawful Good leader seeking to found a nation, rallying together people, creating punitive systems and codifying natural rights in law - with Chaotic types in opposition because they see this new system as smothering personal liberty and individual creativity and because they see the demands of adherence to a group as fostering a form fascism, classism or other form of oppression.

I want to expand on this for a moment: yes, good is "objective" in D&D, but only in the sense that there is an attitude of benevolence that can be objectively defined as Good. Our attitudes do not define our circumstances, however; they can only ever shape how we respond to things. Alignment in D&D is not a faction or an agenda: it is an attribute of how one relates to the conceptual space we call the Outer Planes.

Genuinely good people can end up at each other's throats because their interests place them in opposition to one another. That they'll be more inclined to treat each other with dignity and humanity in the course of their opposition does not mean they can reconcile their differences merely by flashing the "moral person" club card. If you offend someone, they will be offended. If you oppose someone, they will be opposed. And if you and that person are both willing to fight for your beliefs, as good people sometimes are, you're going to fight. When you scale up to cities or nations, with the attendant concerns of resources, political stability, and obligations to one's people ... things get messy.

Even on the Upper Planes, good beings are not necessarily all buddy-buddy. The celestial elves in Arborea and the celestial dwarves in Celestia most likely find each other insufferable. They both get along with the celestial gnomes, but in the way you get along with a distant cousin you don't really like. Yes, the "forces of good," are able to stay out of each other's ways and even collaborate to a degree - but Talisid and Zaphkiel and Morwel don't sit council with one another, because they think key parts of each other's ideologies are wrong. A larger perspective can mean less squabbling over petty details, but it can also mean a clearer understanding of why you and that other guy are, despite both being nice people, never going to get along.

(For a good media illustration of this concept, I recommend Maou to Yuusha. It opens with the Hero attacking the Demon King's castle, and the Demon King pointing out that this is the behavior of an assassin.)

So yeah, a Lawful Good antagonist is totally plausible. Just don't expect them to be blowing up buses full of orphans.

hamishspence
2018-02-05, 09:58 AM
The celestial elves in Arborea and the celestial dwarves in Celestia most likely find each other insufferable. Yes, the "forces of good," are able to stay out of each other's ways and even collaborate to a degree - but Talisid and Zaphkiel and Morwel don't sit council with one another, because they think key parts of each other's ideologies are wrong.

That said, they can tolerate one another's differences better than they can tolerate Evil from beings on the same Law-Chaos axis.

Zaphkiel can "tolerate Morwel's Chaos" far better than he can "tolerate Asmodeus's Evil".

Morwel can "tolerate Zaphkiel's Law" better than she can "tolerate Demogorgon's Evil" - hence her whole "invading the Abyss" thing mentioned in Fiendish Codex 1. Nothing like that takes place for "invading Celestia" - because that's not the way Good paragons work.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-05, 10:05 AM
What does 'deserve death' even mean, if not that it is better to kill them than to not kill them? This doesn't have to be a utilitarian/cost-benefit thing.


"Deserve death" as shorthand for the line between killing or murder, and "let's not get distracted by a tangent into the cases like self-defense or immediate defense of others situations", where the person being killed is about to do or clearly will continue to do grievous harm, or has done such ongoing grievous harm that they clearly can't be trusted to not keep doing it. (IRL examples of the latter probably cross the line into politics, but exist in spades.)




If you put a Kantian in this world and explain to them how it works, murder becomes the maxim that they will should become universal law. If it is universally better to die than to live, a Good person should will that all creatures in the universe die and then set to work making it so. If you bring a Stoic to this world, they would be very comfortable with the whole suicide cult thing since a Stoic is supposed to be indifferent to injury and death as part of the whole Stoic ethos of the unconquerable will being unruffled by everything. A return to the divine is perfectly logical. Hedonism? "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" is not a philosophy that fears death if everyone who dies goes to Super Valhalla where they can eat, drink, be merry and fight vikings in the afterlife. Even Virtue Ethics doesn't have anything particularly negative to say about dying, if dying does not prevent you from behaving virtuously in the afterlife.


None of that matters.

It is not their decision whether or not another person is "better off" dead, or "better off" alive -- that is that other person's decision and their decision alone. And if they run around killing random people "for their own good", that makes them plain old evil, regardless of how good they think they are.

gkathellar
2018-02-05, 10:24 AM
That said, they can tolerate one another's differences better than they can tolerate Evil from beings on the same Law-Chaos axis.

Zaphkiel can "tolerate Morwel's Chaos" far better than he can "tolerate Asmodeus's Evil".

Morwel can "tolerate Zaphkiel's Law" better than she can "tolerate Demogorgon's Evil" - hence her whole "invading the Abyss" thing mentioned in Fiendish Codex 1. Nothing like that takes place for "invading Celestia" - because that's not the way Good paragons work.

Oh, definitely. Hell, from a cosmic perspective, the peculiar attribute of good is that it doesn't favor murdering the other side as a solution to the ancient Law-Chaos conflict.

Mark Hall
2018-02-05, 10:33 AM
How would you build a campaign around an (L/N/C) good villain, be it outsider, divine caster or other? Caveat would be that the creature would not loose their "good" alignment or status short of DM fiat and/or good reasoning behind them being ultimatively evil.

The key is differing goals. I actually worked up a few campaigns based on this idea, back in the day. (http://www.mymegaverse.org/nexx/tsr/2sides.html)

For those who don't want to go to my old page:

Campaign 1: Cormanthyr
The Year of Wild Magic (1372) has severely destabilized both the Mythal on Myth Drannor and the magical defenses on Evermeet (as well as several other, unrelated, problems). Whereas the Mythal simply started to decay, the elves had been actively maintaining the defensive magics around Evermeet throughout the year, so they were all misfiring... and there were some things the elves really didn't want going off at random. So, by the Year of the Risen Elfkin (1375), the elves are reversing the Retreat, and are moving into old Cormanthyr. A sizable faction, with great political power, is pushing to reestablish the old borders, which would wipe Sembia off the map and push the Dalelanders all the way to Tilverton.

Normally, this would quickly be solved through the intervention of the Dirty Old Mage. However, Elminster disappeared in the Year of the Unstrung Harp (1371) due a conflict within the Harpers, that resulted in that group's loss of a central authority (in my version, a powerful Doppelganger Wizard had infiltrated the higher ranks of the Harpers, murdering several leaders before it was discovered. Elminster disappeared while fighting it, and has not been seen since. He is feared dead… again). Since no one else really commands his level of respect from the elves, and the political pressure from the hard-line factions is great, the war will likely roll ahead.

Right now, all that stands between the humans and being driven from their homes are the brave people of Hillsafar, Cormyr, and Sembia, though they don't yet know the extent of the Elven Menace.

Alternatively, if the players wanted to be elves, many things stand in the way of an Elven homeland. The humans who had encroached upon the land in violation of the Treaty of the Standing Stone (since they have cleared the traditional boundaries of the forests and moved inward) are a minor nuisance, since they aren't militarily inclined. The demonic forces are only slowly being driven out of Drannor (it's Mythal is rapidly degrading, and the elves are actively working to destroy it). The humanoids, which the humans have allowed to gain a foothold in the forest, might prove to be a pernicious problem, however, because they breed so rapidly and are difficult to completely wipe out. Lastly, the interfering human nations who are trying to take away the rightful elven homeland might prove a problem, once the campaign really begins.

Racially, the humans are finding allies in the dwarves, as well as other nations, long considered foes (such as the repressive Hillsafar). The elves are finding that the centaurs are staunch allies and some gnomes and tallfellow halflings are rallying to their cause, as well. Also, some few drow, allied to the Goddess Eilistraee, are being allowed to serve in the elven armies for night-raids and underground operations. In general, though, neither gnome nor halfling is committed to one side or the other, usually having friends on either side (of course, this means they are alternately courted and demonized by both sides). Half-elves are completely stuck… neither side trusts them, and a substantial number (including the High Dale) have gone rogue… they're fighting both sides, trying to establish their own homeland, separate from both elven and human lands.

Class-wise, it's a fairly even split, except where the Druids are concerned. Many are human or half-elven, but their sympathies tend to lie more with the low-impact elves, rather than the humans. However, they're not terribly strong allies, since they also oppose some of the elven plans for the forests (such as the extermination of all the humanoids, which are now part of the ecology). And, of course, those elves allied with human deities are finding themselves in something of a religious crunch… their churches are usually supporting the human effort, but do they really wish to join the drow in infamy, as being dragged down by the ambitions of a god?

Campaign 2: Vast Swamp
In this scenario, the Kingdom of Cormyr is beginning their campaign to drain the massive Vast Swamp, and turn it into farm and pastureland. To the House Oskabyrr and their allies within the faiths of Chauntea, Tyr, and Helm, this is highly desirable… land that is currently under minimal cultivation, and provides a home for bandits and a route for invading armies can be made profitable and safe. Clearly, draining the swamp will increase the production of Cormyrean agriculture, increasing their share against the Western Heartlands (and they'll be cheaper along the Sea of Fallen Stars, because of easier shipping and more secure lands less subject to raids).

Unfortunately, the Druids of Silvanus and Eldath do not see it this way. The swamp is wild, true, but it is a natural wildness, and a healthy ecosystem, which pleases Silvanus, while Eldath is fond of some of the quiet pools, and the sense of peaceful solitude that will sometimes come upon one in the swamp. In addition, there are the fenmen… humans, half-elves, as well as some gnomes and halflings... who have for generations made their homes within the swamps. They make their livings with some limited agriculture, fowling and egg hunting, as well as collecting and selling reeds. Generally, these are a rougher breed of people, living off the land, and trading for what they need with the more civilized folk of Cormyr proper.

Legally, House Oskabyrr has owned the Vast Swamp for many years, but has done nothing to exploit it. Thus, the fenmen are claiming it is theirs by right of use, and that Cormyr has no right to drain the land and give it to others. Both sides are making noises, and the military fight will be nasty enough. The truly nasty fight, however, I brewing within the local Druid Circles, which often contain a mix of Chauntean, Silvanian, and Eldathian Druids. While their philosophies generally concur, the conflict is growing, especially between the Chaunteans and the Silvanians. To make matters worse, the Chaunteans refuse to allow the Eldathians to intervene… despite their adherence to peace and desire to avoid a conflict within the organization if they can, the Chaunteans know full well the preferences of the Eldathians, and consider them too biased to be effective mediators. Also, the usual mediators that would be called up are the Church of Tyr, who neither the Silvanians or Eldathians will accept, as they have often expressed in court a desire to "Drain the foul swamps and drive the brigands who inhabit it to court, then to the gibbet." So, on top of the secular conflict, there is a brewing religious war.

Racially, each side is a mixed bag. Dwarves are in much lower populations amongst the fenmen, probably no more than a handful, because they don't deal as well with the water (gnomes and halflings, though similarly stout, generally are also more agile, and can avoid many of the problems that dwarves have). On the other hand, many half-humans live within the swamp, such as half-orcs, half-ogres, and half-elves. Since they are distrusted by humans, and not all are willing (or able) to live in their other parent's society, many flee into the more accepting arms of the swamp-folk. Full-blooded elves are especially rare, since they have no set place in Cormyrean society.

In class terms, the people of Cormyr will have much more in the way of Paladins, Clerics, and Wizards. These will be met, however, by a population with a higher percentage of "classed" individuals, as their more rugged lifestyle demands more advanced skills. Many of the fen-folk are rangers and fighters, and are often ministered to by Druids and Shamans, and some few wizards make their homes in the fens (and others will defend it as a source of rare components). Also, the fens breed a particular kind of rogue, one who is more like a ranger than a cat burglar, and they also tend to have less scruples about taking down an important enemy leader in the night.

So, for the second, you have neutral-to-good people living happily in the Vast Swamp. It's their home, has been for generations, they have a good life there, as good people. There are monsters, but they deal with them.

But the land technically belongs to the Cormyrian crown, which wants to drain the swamp, kill the monsters, and make farmland.

Now, Cormyr's goal is Lawful and Good... the land is theirs, they want to prevent disease, protect people from monsters, and make land that will provide people with food. But you still have good people living in that land, who don't want to give up their homeland, and who don't want to give up their way of life. Their motivations might be categorized as CG... they're not looking to hurt people, or even be especially selfish, but they don't want their situation to change, or to fall under closer scrutiny of the government.

A conflict between two can be a conflict of Good v. Good BUT that's going to be fundamentally different than a conflict between good v. evil, or even good v. neutral, assuming it stays good v. good.

EDIT: Realized I had a political bit in there; think I got them all.

Grek
2018-02-05, 12:58 PM
It is not their decision whether or not another person is "better off" dead, or "better off" alive -- that is that other person's decision and their decision alone. And if they run around killing random people "for their own good", that makes them plain old evil, regardless of how good they think they are.
Questions of personal autonomy/responsibility vs. universal law are not a Good vs. Evil thing in D&D. Lawful Good people are allowed (and in some cases required) to ignore individual desires in the name of the greater Good.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-05, 01:02 PM
Questions of personal autonomy/responsibility vs. universal law are not a Good vs. Evil thing in D&D.


Which is just another example of how D&D Alignment "morality" is a vile and broken mess.

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-05, 03:40 PM
Which is just another example of how D&D Alignment "morality" is a vile and broken mess.

In this case, clearly not. What it is an example of, is in-setting morality and metaphysics being different from your real life beliefs - essentially, a matter of taste.

Hilariously, as per AD&D rules for Alignment, your viewpoint has well-defined place in the system. What you say here:



It is not their decision whether or not another person is "better off" dead, or "better off" alive -- that is that other person's decision and their decision alone. And if they run around killing random people "for their own good", that makes them plain old evil, regardless of how good they think they are.

...is spot-on Chaotic mindset. The emphasis on individual's right to choose over cosmological concerns and the greatest good for the greatest number, is exactly what sets Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral apart from Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral.

This means your attitude would be a gameable character trait in the system in a way that answers the question of this thread: the way you view alignment as "a vile and broken mess" is precisely how a Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral character would view ethics of Lawful characters as vile and broken mess, explaining how there can be conflict between such characters without any being Evil in the game's cosmology.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-05, 04:22 PM
In this case, clearly not. What it is an example of, is in-setting morality and metaphysics being different from your real life beliefs - essentially, a matter of taste.

Hilariously, as per AD&D rules for Alignment, your viewpoint has well-defined place in the system. What you say here:



...is spot-on Chaotic mindset. The emphasis on individual's right to choose over cosmological concerns and the greatest good for the greatest number, is exactly what sets Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral apart from Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral.

This means your attitude would be a gameable character trait in the system in a way that answers the question of this thread: the way you view alignment as "a vile and broken mess" is precisely how a Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral character would view ethics of Lawful characters as vile and broken mess, explaining how there can be conflict between such characters without any being Evil in the game's cosmology.



It has nothing to do with law and chaos. It has everything to do with zealots trying to justify mass-murder by claiming "it's for your own good".

Unless of course the "law" and "chaos" of D&D Alignment are just as much a laughable misuse of the words as "good" and "evil" are.

A system (legal system, belief system, government system, whatever) that makes life-and-death decisions for people "for their own good" is at the very least teetering towards evil. Actually murdering innocent people "because they're better off dead" is outright evil. Not "lawful", not "chaotic", just plain evil.

gkathellar
2018-02-05, 05:38 PM
It has nothing to do with law and chaos. It has everything to do with zealots trying to justify mass-murder by claiming "it's for your own good".

Unless of course the "law" and "chaos" of D&D Alignment are just as much a laughable misuse of the words as "good" and "evil" are.

A system (legal system, belief system, government system, whatever) that makes life-and-death decisions for people "for their own good" is at the very least teetering towards evil. Actually murdering innocent people "because they're better off dead" is outright evil. Not "lawful", not "chaotic", just plain evil.

I don't want to speak for others, but I get the impression Frozen Feet was referring to a less extreme case, as it were.

In any case, I believe the overall point that's being made is that this type of position is an example of one plausible way you get good people or entities in opposition to each other.

For the purposes of discussion, let's take a hypothetical where a government entity that determines the distribution of cure light wounds due to logistical needs and an inability to meet all demands. Certain people would be prioritized, based on a variety of criteria such as age, urgency of need, overall health, and perhaps even more personal factors such as behavioral history and profession. It also places a general service requirement on clerics. This sounds, to me, somewhat plausible - it is certainly the type of institution that a LG state might feel compelled to set up, and it is certainly the type of institution that CG individuals might find fault with.

A lawful good argument is that if you only have so much healing to go around, you will have to prioritize, and furthermore that the only way to do that fairly and honestly is to structure the process. The highest good, they will argue, arises in a condition of order. A chaotic good critic, on the other hand, might focus on cases where the rules in place seem to create tangibly unfair results, and argue that only a process of decision-making based on free thinking and good judgment can maximize net gains. They might also criticize the whole system on the grounds of the service requirement placed on clerics, feeling that this truly causes more harm than a maximization of received cure spells. You might also see CG characters generally in favor of such a system, for instance because they believe that it's the best that can be done at the moment; a LG character might be critical because they feel it fixates on the wrong set of problems, or because they think some clerics should be exempted from the service requirement to complete other duties.

These are just a few cogent arguments, and there's an entire field of dumb ones that other people could make. CG characters simply will not accept that the system has been deployed honestly or for honest ends, and some LG characters will describe critics as malcontents and bomb-throwing anarchists regardless of the validity of their arguments (which will of course be complicated by the presence of actual malcontents and bomb-throwing anarchists). To bring this back around, CG character with a poor understanding of such a system might deploy an argument very similar to your own, wrongly, and in the process cast LG people who are doing their best in their own way as evil (this is, of course, not the case you were describing, and I do not mean to cast you as this hypothetical CG character). A good alignment is not an indicator of a character's intelligence, familiarity with current events, or grasp of public policy.

Again, I'm not saying that you, or anyone in particular, fits any such category. I'm simply agreeing with Frozen Feet's premise that your response can be taken as a sample case of how good characters can prioritize certain things based on other particulars of who they are and what they believe. The easiest test case for the conflicts that result is always going to be LG vs. CG, but it's absolutely possible to construct scenarios of LG vs. LG or CG vs. CG or NG vs. NG etc, because alignment is only ever a descriptor of how general one's attitude is reflected in relationship to a cosmos that, itself, largely reflects the possibilities of thought.

Spore
2018-02-05, 05:41 PM
I was really going more into the metaphysical and divine quality of Good rather than a guy with good intentions killing others who disagree. Becaust that is basically just a very convicted neutral good warrior. Let us make a thought experiment, in the Lord of the Rings setting.

An evil god corrupts a few elves and breeds orcs. A disgusted (neutral good) king rallies his troops to slaughter orcs near(ish) to his kingdom's borders. A rag-tag team of halflings watches idly as the king slaughters hundred and thousands of orcs, who are corrupted but haven't done anything to harm the neighboring human kingdom.

They plan to intervene on the orc's behalf and try to stop the king. If after back and forth, the king finally dies, would you accept that he still is delivered to the appropriate GOOD afterlife? Would the murdering halfling group stay good after murdering a good and just king?

Aliquid
2018-02-05, 06:01 PM
I was really going more into the metaphysical and divine quality of Good rather than a guy with good intentions killing others who disagree. Becaust that is basically just a very convicted neutral good warrior. Let us make a thought experiment, in the Lord of the Rings setting.

An evil god corrupts a few elves and breeds orcs. A disgusted (neutral good) king rallies his troops to slaughter orcs near(ish) to his kingdom's borders. A rag-tag team of halflings watches idly as the king slaughters hundred and thousands of orcs, who are corrupted but haven't done anything to harm the neighboring human kingdom.

They plan to intervene on the orc's behalf and try to stop the king. If after back and forth, the king finally dies, would you accept that he still is delivered to the appropriate GOOD afterlife? Would the murdering halfling group stay good after murdering a good and just king?That brings up a different question... are Middle Earth Orcs irredeemably evil? The answer to that question will have an impact on how questionable that "good" king's behaviour is.

Thrudd
2018-02-05, 06:24 PM
I was really going more into the metaphysical and divine quality of Good rather than a guy with good intentions killing others who disagree. Becaust that is basically just a very convicted neutral good warrior. Let us make a thought experiment, in the Lord of the Rings setting.

An evil god corrupts a few elves and breeds orcs. A disgusted (neutral good) king rallies his troops to slaughter orcs near(ish) to his kingdom's borders. A rag-tag team of halflings watches idly as the king slaughters hundred and thousands of orcs, who are corrupted but haven't done anything to harm the neighboring human kingdom.

They plan to intervene on the orc's behalf and try to stop the king. If after back and forth, the king finally dies, would you accept that he still is delivered to the appropriate GOOD afterlife? Would the murdering halfling group stay good after murdering a good and just king?

The idea of "metaphysical" good and evil is that these beings do not actually have free will. If they are evil, they will always be evil and do evil. Their very existence is evil, there's no such thing as an "innocent" evil creature - they all intend to destroy life and cause suffering at any opportunity. This is what orcs are in Lord of the Rings. So there would be no such thing as orcs on your borders that aren't doing anything to you - they would be raiding villages, raping and pillaging and burning stuff wherever they could get away with it. They even chop down trees and burn crops for the fun of it, just out of spite. Because they're evil. So you have to eliminate them or drive them away. Anyone that intervened against the king would necessarily have been corrupted or tricked by the Dark Lord. If there was a good and an evil afterlife, the orcs all go to the evil afterlife without question. The human king and the halflings would presumably by judged on their behavior in life and go to whichever way the balance leans. If there are any beings created purely "good", they automatically go to the good place - and in life they would always be doing good and would not be capable of doing otherwise, being manifestations of metaphysical good.

It would be the duty of any good king to send out troops to find and destroy orcs whenever possible. The only reason you wouldn't is if doing so would be harmful, like you needed to keep soldiers home for the harvest, or because you can't afford to supply an army far from home. Eventually, the goal is to root out orcs from every hole and crevice where they hide and eliminate them, for the sake of all free beings.

Also, other than orcs being created by Morgoth, this thought experiment does not resemble the Lord of the Rings setting.

tomandtish
2018-02-05, 06:59 PM
The key is differing goals. I actually worked up a few campaigns based on this idea, back in the day. (http://www.mymegaverse.org/nexx/tsr/2sides.html)

For those who don't want to go to my old page:

Campaign 1: Cormanthyr
The Year of Wild Magic (1372) has severely destabilized both the Mythal on Myth Drannor and the magical defenses on Evermeet (as well as several other, unrelated, problems). Whereas the Mythal simply started to decay, the elves had been actively maintaining the defensive magics around Evermeet throughout the year, so they were all misfiring... and there were some things the elves really didn't want going off at random. So, by the Year of the Risen Elfkin (1375), the elves are reversing the Retreat, and are moving into old Cormanthyr. A sizable faction, with great political power, is pushing to reestablish the old borders, which would wipe Sembia off the map and push the Dalelanders all the way to Tilverton.

Normally, this would quickly be solved through the intervention of the Dirty Old Mage. However, Elminster disappeared in the Year of the Unstrung Harp (1371) due a conflict within the Harpers, that resulted in that group's loss of a central authority (in my version, a powerful Doppelganger Wizard had infiltrated the higher ranks of the Harpers, murdering several leaders before it was discovered. Elminster disappeared while fighting it, and has not been seen since. He is feared dead… again). Since no one else really commands his level of respect from the elves, and the political pressure from the hard-line factions is great, the war will likely roll ahead.

Right now, all that stands between the humans and being driven from their homes are the brave people of Hillsafar, Cormyr, and Sembia, though they don't yet know the extent of the Elven Menace.

Alternatively, if the players wanted to be elves, many things stand in the way of an Elven homeland. The humans who had encroached upon the land in violation of the Treaty of the Standing Stone (since they have cleared the traditional boundaries of the forests and moved inward) are a minor nuisance, since they aren't militarily inclined. The demonic forces are only slowly being driven out of Drannor (it's Mythal is rapidly degrading, and the elves are actively working to destroy it). The humanoids, which the humans have allowed to gain a foothold in the forest, might prove to be a pernicious problem, however, because they breed so rapidly and are difficult to completely wipe out. Lastly, the interfering human nations who are trying to take away the rightful elven homeland might prove a problem, once the campaign really begins.

Racially, the humans are finding allies in the dwarves, as well as other nations, long considered foes (such as the repressive Hillsafar). The elves are finding that the centaurs are staunch allies and some gnomes and tallfellow halflings are rallying to their cause, as well. Also, some few drow, allied to the Goddess Eilistraee, are being allowed to serve in the elven armies for night-raids and underground operations. In general, though, neither gnome nor halfling is committed to one side or the other, usually having friends on either side (of course, this means they are alternately courted and demonized by both sides). Half-elves are completely stuck… neither side trusts them, and a substantial number (including the High Dale) have gone rogue… they're fighting both sides, trying to establish their own homeland, separate from both elven and human lands.

Class-wise, it's a fairly even split, except where the Druids are concerned. Many are human or half-elven, but their sympathies tend to lie more with the low-impact elves, rather than the humans. However, they're not terribly strong allies, since they also oppose some of the elven plans for the forests (such as the extermination of all the humanoids, which are now part of the ecology). And, of course, those elves allied with human deities are finding themselves in something of a religious crunch… their churches are usually supporting the human effort, but do they really wish to join the drow in infamy, as being dragged down by the ambitions of a god?

Campaign 2: Vast Swamp
In this scenario, the Kingdom of Cormyr is beginning their campaign to drain the massive Vast Swamp, and turn it into farm and pastureland. To the House Oskabyrr and their allies within the faiths of Chauntea, Tyr, and Helm, this is highly desirable… land that is currently under minimal cultivation, and provides a home for bandits and a route for invading armies can be made profitable and safe. Clearly, draining the swamp will increase the production of Cormyrean agriculture, increasing their share against the Western Heartlands (and they'll be cheaper along the Sea of Fallen Stars, because of easier shipping and more secure lands less subject to raids).

Unfortunately, the Druids of Silvanus and Eldath do not see it this way. The swamp is wild, true, but it is a natural wildness, and a healthy ecosystem, which pleases Silvanus, while Eldath is fond of some of the quiet pools, and the sense of peaceful solitude that will sometimes come upon one in the swamp. In addition, there are the fenmen… humans, half-elves, as well as some gnomes and halflings... who have for generations made their homes within the swamps. They make their livings with some limited agriculture, fowling and egg hunting, as well as collecting and selling reeds. Generally, these are a rougher breed of people, living off the land, and trading for what they need with the more civilized folk of Cormyr proper.

Legally, House Oskabyrr has owned the Vast Swamp for many years, but has done nothing to exploit it. Thus, the fenmen are claiming it is theirs by right of use, and that Cormyr has no right to drain the land and give it to others. Both sides are making noises, and the military fight will be nasty enough. The truly nasty fight, however, I brewing within the local Druid Circles, which often contain a mix of Chauntean, Silvanian, and Eldathian Druids. While their philosophies generally concur, the conflict is growing, especially between the Chaunteans and the Silvanians. To make matters worse, the Chaunteans refuse to allow the Eldathians to intervene… despite their adherence to peace and desire to avoid a conflict within the organization if they can, the Chaunteans know full well the preferences of the Eldathians, and consider them too biased to be effective mediators. Also, the usual mediators that would be called up are the Church of Tyr, who neither the Silvanians or Eldathians will accept, as they have often expressed in court a desire to "Drain the foul swamps and drive the brigands who inhabit it to court, then to the gibbet." So, on top of the secular conflict, there is a brewing religious war.

Racially, each side is a mixed bag. Dwarves are in much lower populations amongst the fenmen, probably no more than a handful, because they don't deal as well with the water (gnomes and halflings, though similarly stout, generally are also more agile, and can avoid many of the problems that dwarves have). On the other hand, many half-humans live within the swamp, such as half-orcs, half-ogres, and half-elves. Since they are distrusted by humans, and not all are willing (or able) to live in their other parent's society, many flee into the more accepting arms of the swamp-folk. Full-blooded elves are especially rare, since they have no set place in Cormyrean society.

In class terms, the people of Cormyr will have much more in the way of Paladins, Clerics, and Wizards. These will be met, however, by a population with a higher percentage of "classed" individuals, as their more rugged lifestyle demands more advanced skills. Many of the fen-folk are rangers and fighters, and are often ministered to by Druids and Shamans, and some few wizards make their homes in the fens (and others will defend it as a source of rare components). Also, the fens breed a particular kind of rogue, one who is more like a ranger than a cat burglar, and they also tend to have less scruples about taking down an important enemy leader in the night.

So, for the second, you have neutral-to-good people living happily in the Vast Swamp. It's their home, has been for generations, they have a good life there, as good people. There are monsters, but they deal with them.

But the land technically belongs to the Cormyrian crown, which wants to drain the swamp, kill the monsters, and make farmland.

Now, Cormyr's goal is Lawful and Good... the land is theirs, they want to prevent disease, protect people from monsters, and make land that will provide people with food. But you still have good people living in that land, who don't want to give up their homeland, and who don't want to give up their way of life. Their motivations might be categorized as CG... they're not looking to hurt people, or even be especially selfish, but they don't want their situation to change, or to fall under closer scrutiny of the government.

A conflict between two can be a conflict of Good v. Good BUT that's going to be fundamentally different than a conflict between good v. evil, or even good v. neutral, assuming it stays good v. good.

EDIT: Realized I had a political bit in there; think I got them all.


That's a good example.

I wrote about a personal one quite a while ago where I was one of two paladins that ended up fighting each other (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=20907897&postcount=6). And both were PCs.

Calthropstu
2018-02-06, 03:46 AM
Good villian plots:

Sworn to secrecy, he has traveled through time to stop some calamity, recieved a vision or otherwise knows something truly awful will happen. He isn't very bright, so decides on the simplest method: eliminate the source. Enter the lawful good serial killer.

A lawful good mage decides that the best way to eliminate all undead is to destroy the negative material plane. Not realizing his plan will ultimately result in the destruction of well... everything, this is a problem.

A good person with an uncontrollable destructive power.

A powerful good person deluded into thinking he is performing good by opening a "trapped force for good" is about to unleash an elder evil.

A good person possessed by an evil force.

A good person with an evil master (possible in cases such as samurai, monks, thrallherd followers etc.) Also domination is a thing.

A good person who's child is being threatened. That's a thing in real life.

Just need a bit of creativity.

Spore
2018-02-06, 06:06 AM
Yeah. But I see how it would suit D&D well to cut the direct link between Good and good. The latter being a moral compass and the first being just "the Light" or "the Heavens" or "Elysium" or "Nirvana" or whatever. Then Evil would become "the "Pits" or "Hell" or even "the cold Void of the Stars" or whichever supernatural horror you can imagine.Since by default in many D&D cosmologies your character alignment ultimatively decides with which afterlife and planes you align yourself with. With 1st ed. even going as far and introducing "alignment languages".

I can understand that CE Demonology Bob probably should burn in the fires of the abyss because that is what he decided to. But LE Assassin Jack who did several very effective jobs for the demon summoners? Even if he dutifully assassinates any enemy of a cabal of demonologists he still stays LE. Say he dies by a stray arrow and not the sacrifical knife of said cult (that fears his soul aiding the devils instead of the demons) shouldn't he be delivered to the Abyss? Why the hells? Why not possibly some good realm (because after all he killed many devil worshippers, even if by contract rather than choice)?

NichG
2018-02-06, 07:45 AM
Yeah. But I see how it would suit D&D well to cut the direct link between Good and good. The latter being a moral compass and the first being just "the Light" or "the Heavens" or "Elysium" or "Nirvana" or whatever. Then Evil would become "the "Pits" or "Hell" or even "the cold Void of the Stars" or whichever supernatural horror you can imagine.Since by default in many D&D cosmologies your character alignment ultimatively decides with which afterlife and planes you align yourself with. With 1st ed. even going as far and introducing "alignment languages".

I can understand that CE Demonology Bob probably should burn in the fires of the abyss because that is what he decided to. But LE Assassin Jack who did several very effective jobs for the demon summoners? Even if he dutifully assassinates any enemy of a cabal of demonologists he still stays LE. Say he dies by a stray arrow and not the sacrifical knife of said cult (that fears his soul aiding the devils instead of the demons) shouldn't he be delivered to the Abyss? Why the hells? Why not possibly some good realm (because after all he killed many devil worshippers, even if by contract rather than choice)?

Alignment in D&D is sort of like radiation poisoning. If you nobly sacrifice yourself by working in a heavily irradiated area to stop a reactor from melting down, you still died from radiation even if you 'thwarted' radiation from killing others. In D&D, certain actions (mostly but not entirely independent of the rationale behind them) simply cause you to absorb a bit of typed radiation. Fulfilling contracts, holding to oaths, etc irradiates you with Law. It may be that you do so on behalf of enemies of Law, and maybe the gods of Law will be pissed off at you when you arrive in Acheron or wherever, but that's secondary. D&D cosmic alignments are deontological, not consequetialist.

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-06, 08:32 AM
I don't want to speak for others, but I get the impression Frozen Feet was referring to a less extreme case, as it were.

The general principle applies to all cases (for Chaotics, a person's freedom to choose trumps greatest good for the greatest number, where as for Lawfuls it is often the other way around), but the actual sample case is the rather extreme situation that death is objectively better than life, because such a scenario is required for a person's freedom to choose between life and death to be in conflict with greater good.

---


It has nothing to do with law and chaos. It has everything to do with zealots trying to justify mass-murder by claiming "it's for your own good".

Within the alignment system, it has everything to do with Law and Chaos, because different motives and methods of murder have different alignment. In simplest possible terms: it acknowledges that zealots of different faiths and ethics are in fact different. "Mass-murdering zealot" is not a special category outside of all alignments.

Also, from the subjective viewpoint of one alignment, a strict adherent of any other alignment can seem like a cuckoo zealot, and a mass-murderer at that. From the viewpoint of a Chaotic Neutral Druid who can speak to plants and animals, a Lawful Good farmer who hacks forests down to make fields and grows animals for food, is a mass-murdering zealot. How the actual objective, cosmic alignment evaluates each individual may in fact relevantly differ from how individuals see themselves, because nothing dictates individuals need to agree with the cosmic evaluation.

This means both that a cosmically Evil mass-murdering zealot who thinks they are Good is possible, but so could be a cosmically Good character who is a mass-murdering zealot by some non-cosmic standard, such as yours. So your distaste towards the Immaculate Morning or the alignment system in general does not, in fact, tell us what Immaculate Morning is or should be, nor anything about the brokenness of the system.


A system (legal system, belief system, government system, whatever) that makes life-and-death decisions for people "for their own good" is at the very least teetering towards evil. Actually murdering innocent people "because they're better off dead" is outright evil. Not "lawful", not "chaotic", just plain evil.
Again, the whole point of the idea is that if death is objectively better than life, your statement has to be re-evaluated in its entirety.

Also, again: within the alignment system, different motives and methods have different alignment. It is a feature of any multi-axis alignment system that there is no such thing as "plain evil", there a multiple different types of evil. In case of D&D's two-axis system, three: Lawful, Chaotic and Neutral.

So even if we established the Immaculate Morning is, in fact, Evil, the question of whether it would be Lawful, Chaotic or Neutral would still exist and be relevant within the system. From the viewpoint of a multi-axis alignment system, your conclusion is about as meaningfull as "this text is not navy blue or light blue, it is just plain blue!".

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 09:10 AM
Any universe that actually had an objective "morality" that worked like the Alignment system would be an inherently immoral reality, and the only way for those living therein to be actually be good would be for them to work at odds with the very universe.

Anyone who claims that the mass slaughter of innocents is "for the greater good" or "for their own good", or that they can impose death on others en mass because they'd be "better off", has no claim to being good. They're evil, and I don't give a tinker's damn about what some cockamamie game system has to say about it.

I have no problem with a setting in which the inhabitants believe in odd moralities culturally or individually. But if you tell me the universe itself is inherently immoral (which is exactly what some of the examples here -- never mind decades of examples and discussion -- are demonstrating about Alignment as the inherent "moral" structure of those settings that use it)... then I'm either going to play a character who seeks to burn down the universe, or more likely just say "no thanks" and walk away from the table.

hamishspence
2018-02-06, 09:20 AM
Consider: The souls of the dead not only persist in the afterlife, but they are sorted according to their temperament. In death, the wicked dead can only perform their evil upon other wicked souls. The souls of the just are sent to live among the souls of the just. The Good are sent off to their eternal reward, in the heavens of the Gods of Goodness. Those who chafe against the law will be sent to the lawless planes, far from all tyrants and kings. In death, all are given that which they deserve and desire. Spiritual strife exists only in the temporary and unnatural state that we know as 'life'. Therefore, it is our absolute moral imperative to kill every creature as swiftly and painless as possible, that each may be delivered unto their richly deserved destiny.

On strictly utilitarian grounds, this is a very compelling argument. And if they're humane about it, nothing necessarily stops this from being Good. But I can imagine a party of adventurers strenuously objecting to this plan and wanting to put a stop to the people in charge.
I think The Giant said it best about the idea that "death and the afterlife are better than life":


Except, of course, that you will never improve at any skill you know, never have a say in what happens in the world, never have children if you haven't already, never talk to anyone with a different point of view, never experience any real risk, never visit anywhere else, and never see any friends or family members who did not share the exact same shade of alignment as you. Oh, and you can still be destroyed by evil adventurers, but you never get any better at defending yourself.

And that's the Lawful Good afterlife. Roy is talking about the entire world here, many of whom might be headed for less cushy situations.

Analogy time! If you were to take the National Football League and disband it, forcibly retiring everyone who plays, you would objectively be improving the long-term health prognosis of almost every player as well as giving them oodles of free time to study basketweaving and poetry. And yet every player would resist if they could, because playing football is important to their identity. Sure, they all know they will have to stop someday anyway, but all the more reason to treasure the playing time they have left.

Lorsa
2018-02-06, 10:18 AM
A system (legal system, belief system, government system, whatever) that makes life-and-death decisions for people "for their own good" is at the very least teetering towards evil. Actually murdering innocent people "because they're better off dead" is outright evil. Not "lawful", not "chaotic", just plain evil.

So any legal systems which forces a treatment to cure a disease on a child despite the parents' religious objections to said treatment (they'd prefer to see the child dead) is on a slippery slope towards evil?

Also, mercy killing has been a thing for a long time I believe. When you find someone on a battlefield who is about to face a long and agonizing death, is it plain evil to ease their suffering?

Perhaps we should avoid too much morality discussion, but I was especially curious of the first question.

Otherwise, I am in the camp that think you can't have a good BBEG because it has evil in the name. You can have a good antagonist, and also fights between two good people / factions with opposing views on what or how things should be done.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 10:53 AM
So any legal systems which forces a treatment to cure a disease on a child despite the parents' religious objections to said treatment (they'd prefer to see the child dead) is on a slippery slope towards evil?

Also, mercy killing has been a thing for a long time I believe. When you find someone on a battlefield who is about to face a long and agonizing death, is it plain evil to ease their suffering?

Perhaps we should avoid too much morality discussion, but I was especially curious of the first question.


Because our system places some people (children) in the near-total control of other individuals, that system also bears the moral burden of ensuring that the decisions made on the behalf of those people are actually to their benefit.

A "mercy killing" without the permission of the person being killed is usually still just murder with a nicer name slapped on it.




Otherwise, I am in the camp that think you can't have a good BBEG because it has evil in the name. You can have a good antagonist, and also fights between two good people / factions with opposing views on what or how things should be done.


"Evil" is not a necessary part of "antagonist".

"Antagonist" and "villain" are not fully equivalent and synonymous.

Braininthejar2
2018-02-06, 11:48 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td0pUwrBWjc

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 11:56 AM
Good for him.

gkathellar
2018-02-06, 12:06 PM
Yeah. But I see how it would suit D&D well to cut the direct link between Good and good. The latter being a moral compass and the first being just "the Light" or "the Heavens" or "Elysium" or "Nirvana" or whatever. Then Evil would become "the "Pits" or "Hell" or even "the cold Void of the Stars" or whichever supernatural horror you can imagine.

I think, quite the contrary, it loses most of its emotional resonance that way. "Good and evil" are terms that mean something to me, but if those words just mean "Cthulhu A and Cthulhu B," they suddenly mean far less. That's not to say Blue and Orange Morality is a worthless trope (I'm a big SMT fan), just that it's only valuable as a thing that human morality interacts with and is incompatible with.

What I think does work, and would work with D&D's schema, is when you have disparate factions that emphasize particular aspects of the familiar moral universe. This allows players and characters to enjoy strong empathetic connections with the ideas in question. Nobilis (3e in particular) provides a good case study: Heaven embodies purity and perfection but is impossibly demanding; Hell loves everything universally but allows things to become corrupt, degraded, and stunted due to its lack of standards; the Light values life above all else, even at the cost of joy and humanity; finally, the Dark wants people to take life for everything it has to offer until, inevitably, the effort kills them. Other games that do a good job with this sort of concept are M:tG's Color Wheel, and M:tA's five watchtowers.


Since by default in many D&D cosmologies your character alignment ultimatively decides with which afterlife and planes you align yourself with.

Not ... quite. The Great Wheel's afterlife can be seen as a sort of ascension to a more ideal state, relative to what one idealizes. Followers of a deity, for instance, end up in their god's divine realm as petitioners, where they begin a gradual process of enlightenment to the universal truth that deity in particular embodies. In the process, they take on the attributes of their god until, at last, they undergo a full merger with the godhead and become an equal participant in their vision of perfection.

For secular folks, the planes proper are the destination, but the process is roughly analogous: new arrivals shortly become the lowest tier of planar exemplar, and by achieving something like their alignment's understanding of enlightenment, they accumulate status and power such that they might eventually become a major expression of its intrinsic truth. Orcus is perhaps the ur-example: he worked his way up from a lowly mane to become an embodied, ideal formulation of Chaotic Evil. (There's an exception if you're Lawful Evil because Asmodeus Is A Right Bastard, but you can get around having your soul ground up into mincemeat by having the foresight to deal with the baatzeu beforehand, which ... is pretty ideally lawful evil, to be honest.)


With 1st ed. even going as far and introducing "alignment languages".

Yeah there are some things you just have to chalk up to Gygax having weird ideas about predestination. All of the actual good writing on alignment came further on down the line.


I can understand that CE Demonology Bob probably should burn in the fires of the abyss because that is what he decided to. But LE Assassin Jack who did several very effective jobs for the demon summoners? Even if he dutifully assassinates any enemy of a cabal of demonologists he still stays LE. Say he dies by a stray arrow and not the sacrifical knife of said cult (that fears his soul aiding the devils instead of the demons) shouldn't he be delivered to the Abyss? Why the hells? Why not possibly some good realm (because after all he killed many devil worshippers, even if by contract rather than choice)?

Because it's not about keeping score, but rather about who Assassin Jack is. The Lower Planes are horrible, but they're not a punishment - with power and ingenuity, they can become a particular sort of paradise for a particular sort of terrible person. See again: Orcus. Neither are the Upper Planes a reward, and if Assassin Jack were a creature of regimented, selfish ambition, a place like Arborea would be extremely unpleasant for him. But if he has something of the Nine in him, then he will fit right in there (until Asmodeus grinds him up for spare parts).

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-06, 12:07 PM
Max, to me it seems that, if a player is unable or unwilling to distinguish between his personal views of morality and the morality of the game, he's not role-playing well. Same as if a player can't/won't distinguish between his own capabilities and those of the character.

What's good here, now may not be the moral operating principles of other worlds. Same goes for physical law, historical fact, etc. Refusing to accept that means you'll have a hard time playing any RPG.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 12:13 PM
Max, to me it seems that, if a player is unable or unwilling to distinguish between his personal views of morality and the morality of the game, he's not role-playing well. Same as if a player can't/won't distinguish between his own capabilities and those of the character.

What's good here, now may not be the moral operating principles of other worlds. Same goes for physical law, historical fact, etc. Refusing to accept that means you'll have a hard time playing any RPG.

Character who believes something I don't? Sure, great.

World or culture where what people believe is different? Sure, great.

World where there's an assertion of an onerous, malignant objective "morality"? Best I just walk away.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-06, 12:24 PM
Character who believes something I don't? Sure, great.

World or culture where what people believe is different? Sure, great.

World where there's an assertion of an onerous, malignant objective "morality"? Best I just walk away.

That's your right. But you're still presuming that it's malignant (by whose standards?). That is, you've assumed the conclusion here. It's the core of all the RPG alignment/morality debates I've ever seen:

1) assume my morality is the right one and applies to all universes, no matter how different.
2) since that morality doesn't agree with mine, it's wrong.
3) ???
4) profit

For example, cartoon universe morality is very different than real-world morality. But that's fine.

As a note--I don't particularly like 3e D&D's morality/alignment system. But if I was playing in it, I'd accept it and make a character that fits (instead of meta-gaming and pulling in my real-life moral standards and demanding that the only "good" action is to burn down the universe). My own setting has neither fixed alignments nor universe-enforced good or evil. In fact, my players just fought a "good" (by all estimations) antagonist because he was trying to enforce such morality on the universe.

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-06, 12:26 PM
Any universe that actually had an objective "morality" that worked like the Alignment system would be an inherently immoral reality, and the only way for those living therein to be actually be good would be for them to work at odds with the very universe.

And thoughts like these are why you can have thinking, highly intelligent, highly wise characters in D&D who are not Lawful Good, or indeed any kind of Good.

Welcome to the discussion.


Anyone who claims that the mass slaughter of innocents is "for the greater good" or "for their own good", or that they can impose death on others en mass because they'd be "better off", has no claim to being good. They're evil, and I don't give a tinker's damn about what some cockamamie game system has to say about it.

No-one asked you to give a damn about the game's rules outside the game. Meanwhile, while discussing of the game, and of things within the game, not giving a damn about the game's rules is just failure to engage. Like, everyone gets it, you don't like the setting(s) painted by the alignment system. This continues to not be aan impressive criticism of either the system or the settings.


I have no problem with a setting in which the inhabitants believe in odd moralities culturally or individually. But if you tell me the universe itself is inherently immoral (which is exactly what some of the examples here -- never mind decades of examples and discussion -- are demonstrating about Alignment as the inherent "moral" structure of those settings that use it)... then I'm either going to play a character who seeks to burn down the universe, or more likely just say "no thanks" and walk away from the table.

And if you were to play such a character, you'd be in good company, as this has been done by myriad players and characters alike. It's something of a classic, even. Or at the very least, a trope. :smalltongue:

In fact, I'd suggest you do it at first opportunity just to get it out of your system. Maybe then you can actually start to appreciate the value of having setting with such radical morals underpinning them.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 12:40 PM
That's your right. But you're still presuming that it's malignant (by whose standards?). That is, you've assumed the conclusion here. It's the core of all the RPG alignment/morality debates I've ever seen:

1) assume my morality is the right one and applies to all universes, no matter how different.
2) since that morality doesn't agree with mine, it's wrong.
3) ???
4) profit

For example, cartoon universe morality is very different than real-world morality. But that's fine.

As a note--I don't particularly like 3e D&D's morality/alignment system. But if I was playing in it, I'd accept it and make a character that fits (instead of meta-gaming and pulling in my real-life moral standards and demanding that the only "good" action is to burn down the universe). My own setting has neither fixed alignments nor universe-enforced good or evil. In fact, my players just fought a "good" (by all estimations) antagonist because he was trying to enforce such morality on the universe.

I had my tolerance for "universes with objective morality that asserts that what we think is vile is actually good" and/or "but this is necessary for the greater good" assertions completely used up by past gaming experiences.

I'll spoiler this for those who might not care for the subject matter.


For example, the GM who asserted that it was not just OK, but good for the PCs to engage in rape because the gods smiled on it, and that made it "good". And also humans were in danger of becoming extinct, so any woman who refused to have as many children as possible was being "evil". Yeah, found that out a couple sessions in, and stopped coming to the games. Or answering his emails.

Or hey, there was "NAZIverse" GM... yeah. I don't think I need to explain that one, do I?

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-06, 12:43 PM
I had my tolerance for "universes with objective morality that asserts that what we think is vile is actually good" and/or "but this is necessary for the greater good" assertions completely used up by past gaming experiences.

I'll spoiler this for those who might not care for the subject matter.


For example, the GM who asserted that it was not just OK, but good for the PCs to engage in rape because the gods smiled on it, and that made it "good". And also humans were in danger of becoming extinct, so any woman who refused to have as many children as possible was being "evil". Yeah, found that out a couple sessions in, and stopped coming to the games. Or answering his emails.

Or hey, there was "NAZIverse" GM... yeah. I don't think I need to explain that one, do I?


And I can understand that. I'd nope out of those settings as well. I noped out of a group (I was trial-running DMing for them) when they wanted to get the kids drunk and engage in graphic sexual activity.

But it seemed to me that you were saying that any significant disagreement between your own morality and the morality of a setting was enough to make it malignant. I was probably misreading you, and if so, I apologize.

Psyren
2018-02-06, 12:45 PM
This actually is possible, just have a [Good] subtype creature as your BBEG. They will count as Good for all mechanical purposes (the tangible and objective force bit) and also count as evil due to their actual alignment. They might eventually lose the subtype over time, either spontaneously or in pursuit of more selfish ends, but while they have it you have a "Good" bad guy.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 12:51 PM
And I can understand that. I'd nope out of those settings as well. I noped out of a group (I was trial-running DMing for them) when they wanted to get the kids drunk and engage in graphic sexual activity.

But it seemed to me that you were saying that any significant disagreement between your own morality and the morality of a setting was enough to make it malignant. I was probably misreading you, and if so, I apologize.


Any disagreement? No. Just assertions that outright vile acts are "good". Murdering the innocent against their will "because the afterlife is better", for example. Any setting in which the "objective morality" justifies that approach, I'm not going to bother with.

And again, it's not a setting's morality as espoused as by the inhabitants -- it's only when the setting claims that the moral assertions are True, Objective, Cosmic, Universal, etc.

Red Fel
2018-02-06, 01:25 PM
I think, ultimately, that the OP disproves itself.

The OP takes as a given that Good is a tangible, cosmic force, and that it is objective. By definition, then, when you have an ostensibly Good antagonist taking objectively Evil actions, you cannot call him Good for very long. You cannot. Evil is objective, and a willingness to engage in an objectively Evil course of action is the mindset of an Evil character, not a Good character.

You most certainly can have a Good antagonist. You can have, as was described upthread, a Good versus Good conflict, where the clash is one of ideals. You can also have a Good versus Evil conflict, where the "villain" is a Good character trying to stop the Evil protagonists.

But the Good character must be Good. A Good character who, to use the OP's example, converts other characters to his religion under threat of death in a misguided attempt to save them is not doing Good; he is engaging in armed coercion and murder, which is decidedly Evil (and with very few exceptions, not likely to earn his deity's approval). Good is an objective force, and this conduct is not Good; this character is not a misguided Good character, but an Evil character in denial.

And don't get me wrong! Evil characters in denial can be awesome. The "I thought I was doing the right thing" angle can be compelling when done right. It makes a villain disturbed or tragic, or both. But that's still an Evil character.

In short: You can have a Good antagonist, set in opposition to the protagonists while still Good. You can have a "Good" BBEG, who appears or believes himself to be Good, but is in fact Evil. But you cannot have a Good BBEG - at least, not one who remains Good.

Aliquid
2018-02-06, 01:39 PM
No-one asked you to give a damn about the game's rules outside the game. Meanwhile, while discussing of the game, and of things within the game, not giving a damn about the game's rules is just failure to engage. Like, everyone gets it, you don't like the setting(s) painted by the alignment system. This continues to not be aan impressive criticism of either the system or the settings.I call BS on every argument in these threads claiming that "mass slaughter of innocents" can be 'good', and the rules support that assentation. This isn't about the rules. This is never about the rules. This is about how people interpret the rules.

People are twisting and contorting the rules to say something horrid is justified, because in game morality is "objective"... which again is a BS statement, because "greater good" is a completely subjective statement. If in game morality was objective, it would have rules like "slaughtering innocents is ALWAYS evil, even if it is for the greater good", because that is a clean and objective, binary rule. Saying "working for the greater good is always the right thing to do, even if innocents have to be slaughtered in the process"... that is subjective. How do you define "greater good"? Where do you draw the line? Greater good for whom? How do you measure the value of this good vs that good?

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-06, 01:52 PM
If, as was stated above, D&D morality is deontological as opposed to consequentialist, "doing Evil for the greater good" is still likely Evil, no matter how much "good" was accomplished. Thus, murdering someone because death is better is still evil and would be judged as such by the universe.

Same goes for a lot of what's been brought up here.

Now you certainly can have settings where the setting's definition of "Good" is abhorrent or head-scratching. But that's a separate issue.

gkathellar
2018-02-06, 02:33 PM
If, as was stated above, D&D morality is deontological as opposed to consequentialist, "doing Evil for the greater good" is still likely Evil, no matter how much "good" was accomplished. Thus, murdering someone because death is better is still evil and would be judged as such by the universe.

Yeah, pretty much. We kind of accept that killing can be justified as a matter of course here Because D&D, but once you're killing someone, specifically against their will, "for their own good" arguments to that effect kind of fall apart.

(Literally the only exception I can think of appears in Schlock Mercenary, where a society of benevolent mind-uploaders took to forcibly mass-uploading civilizations before their enemies could gray goo the whole planet. "Convert people to digital format to prevent them from being murdered outright by disassembly nanomachines," is a pretty niche case requiring a pretty high level of contrivance.)

Psyren
2018-02-06, 03:35 PM
I think, ultimately, that the OP disproves itself.

The OP takes as a given that Good is a tangible, cosmic force, and that it is objective. By definition, then, when you have an ostensibly Good antagonist taking objectively Evil actions, you cannot call him Good for very long. You cannot. Evil is objective, and a willingness to engage in an objectively Evil course of action is the mindset of an Evil character, not a Good character.

You most certainly can have a Good antagonist. You can have, as was described upthread, a Good versus Good conflict, where the clash is one of ideals. You can also have a Good versus Evil conflict, where the "villain" is a Good character trying to stop the Evil protagonists.

But the Good character must be Good. A Good character who, to use the OP's example, converts other characters to his religion under threat of death in a misguided attempt to save them is not doing Good; he is engaging in armed coercion and murder, which is decidedly Evil (and with very few exceptions, not likely to earn his deity's approval). Good is an objective force, and this conduct is not Good; this character is not a misguided Good character, but an Evil character in denial.

And don't get me wrong! Evil characters in denial can be awesome. The "I thought I was doing the right thing" angle can be compelling when done right. It makes a villain disturbed or tragic, or both. But that's still an Evil character.

In short: You can have a Good antagonist, set in opposition to the protagonists while still Good. You can have a "Good" BBEG, who appears or believes himself to be Good, but is in fact Evil. But you cannot have a Good BBEG - at least, not one who remains Good.

I think there are two "Goods" in D&D:

1) The (in)tangible, objective force of [Good] is simply energy - it is present in every [Good] spell and is part of the makeup [Good] creature. Both of these can nevertheless perform (or be used to perform) very evil acts. Some actors (like classes) are forbidden from using this energy, while others are not. It is this energy that alignment detection and similar effects pick up on, which is why Solars register as Good even if they become corrupt and immoral, however rare such an occurrence might be.

2) Moral good is the kind we normally think of when we hear the word; helping others, being altruistic, respecting life etc. Performing good deeds causes the universal energy (the first bullet) to accumulate within you, represented mechanically by your alignment. This is what causes a simply good person, with no subtypes or magic at all, to detect as being Good.

The important thing to remember is that these are separate. The latter leads to the former, but not necessarily the reverse; and though it is rare to find [Good] subtype creatures that do evil things, or [Good] subtype spells being used in evil ways, it is possible.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 03:57 PM
I think there are two "Goods" in D&D:

1) The (in)tangible, objective force of [Good] is simply energy - it is present in every [Good] spell and is part of the makeup [Good] creature. Both of these can nevertheless perform (or be used to perform) very evil acts. Some actors (like classes) are forbidden from using this energy, while others are not. It is this energy that alignment detection and similar effects pick up on, which is why Solars register as Good even if they become corrupt and immoral, however rare such an occurrence might be.

2) Moral good is the kind we normally think of when we hear the word; helping others, being altruistic, respecting life etc. Performing good deeds causes the universal energy (the first bullet) to accumulate within you, represented mechanically by your alignment. This is what causes a simply good person, with no subtypes or magic at all, to detect as being Good.

The important thing to remember is that these are separate. The latter leads to the former, but not necessarily the reverse; and though it is rare to find [Good] subtype creatures that do evil things, or [Good] subtype spells being used in evil ways, it is possible.



Which is why some have suggested using different terms for [Good] and [Evil], so that they don't get conflated with anything to do with actual morality.

Psyren
2018-02-06, 04:50 PM
Which is why some have suggested using different terms for [Good] and [Evil], so that they don't get conflated with anything to do with actual morality.

I wouldn't be opposed to it. Though whatever terms we ended up with, the stronger tie between [Evil] and evil than [Good] and good would need to be captured as well.

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-07, 04:22 AM
I call BS on every argument in these threads claiming that "mass slaughter of innocents" can be 'good', and the rules support that assentation. This isn't about the rules. This is never about the rules. This is about how people interpret the rules.

{{scrubbed}} All interpretation of the rules is about the rules, and the rules require interpretation in order to create a functional game. More, the rules themselves call out for a specific person to serve as in-game final interpreter of the exact meaning of alignment terms.

In practice, this means that while alignment doesn't necessarily justify viewpoints akin to Immaculate Morning for all settings and all games, a game where the rules do support them can be constructe, and same goes for the reverse.

Or, to give an example: you can interprete alignment so that Immaculate Morning would be justified if death was objectively better than life...but death is not objectively better, making Immaculate Morning's actions based on an objectively false premise. As an even more specific example, Wall of the Faithless in Forgotten Realms setting invalidates a good chunk of their philosophy: people cannot reach a "perfect" afterlife untill and unless they have been given a chance to know of and worship the gods. So killing a person without giving them an option to choose a faith cannot lead to the best outcome.


People are twisting and contorting the rules to say something horrid is justified, because in game morality is "objective"... which again is a BS statement, because "greater good" is a completely subjective statement. If in game morality was objective, it would have rules like "slaughtering innocents is ALWAYS evil, even if it is for the greater good", because that is a clean and objective, binary rule. Saying "working for the greater good is always the right thing to do, even if innocents have to be slaughtered in the process"... that is subjective. How do you define "greater good"? Where do you draw the line? Greater good for whom? How do you measure the value of this good vs that good?

The answer to the your questions is, by the rules, "the GM codifies the exact values of alignment terms for their game", based on whatever arbitrary principle that can fit the rough definitions in the game book. Though we also have specific rule and setting books to do that work for the GM, and I'm sure hamisphence is willing to give you a list.

The error in your entire argument is the notion that subjective and objective are necessarily antonyms. Where as, in actuality, once a GM has decided and codufued what the game values will be based on their subjective opinion, those values will then be objective rules for their game's setting. Meaning, for example, that there is a specifc set of physical actions which will lead to the greatest good, and all other notions of "greater good" the characters could have are false.

As for your "clean and binary" tangent... "objective" never meant "simple", it never meant "binary", it never meant "clean", it never meant easy. If a GM was feeling mean, they could make graphing alignment reliant upon non-linear differential equations, implying small changes in initial conditions may lead to radically different moral conclusions. When and where alignment is simple, it's for convenience of the game's players. I find it ironically hilarious that a lot of people complain how alignment is "too simple" in one breath and then express complete dislike and unwilligness for any actual complexity in the system in the next, saying that those are proofs of how the system is "broken".

---


If, as was stated above, D&D morality is deontological as opposed to consequentialist, "doing Evil for the greater good" is still likely Evil, no matter how much "good" was accomplished. Thus, murdering someone because death is better is still evil and would be judged as such by the universe.

The alignment system actually has both deontological and consequentalist elements. Also, despite the fact that deontological and consequentalist systems are often contrasted, in actual moral philosophy it's not a given that they're 100% mutually exclusive. For example, Kantian categorical imperatives can be influenced by utilitarian thinking, and Rule Utilitarianism resembles a deontological system in practice even when built upon consequentalist principles.

For a game like D&D, it's entirely possible to have an iron-clad set of moral rules which also will lead to greatest possible utility in the game setting. This will make all consequentalist systems which are based on objective truth to eventually approximate a deontological one, making the question of deontology versus consequentalism a matter of opinion and method. In practice, this would lead to deontologists and consequentalist being split along the Law-Chaos-axis, and objectively wrong deontologists being spread across Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil etc. alignments.


Now you certainly can have settings where the setting's definition of "Good" is abhorrent or head-scratching. But that's a separate issue.

It's not really an issue in the sense of being a problem. Remember, D&D has elements of the horror genre, including cosmic horror, spread all over it like certain bodily fluids over an adult film actress's face. The potential for morally horrifying settings is a feature, not a bug.

---


Yeah, pretty much. We kind of accept that killing can be justified as a matter of course here Because D&D, but once you're killing someone, specifically against their will, "for their own good" arguments to that effect kind of fall apart.

(Literally the only exception I can think of appears in Schlock Mercenary, where a society of benevolent mind-uploaders took to forcibly mass-uploading civilizations before their enemies could gray goo the whole planet. "Convert people to digital format to prevent them from being murdered outright by disassembly nanomachines," is a pretty niche case requiring a pretty high level of contrivance.)

All cases of "death is objectively better" are contrived niche cases, even in D&D. An entity like the Immaculate Morning being Good is not an inherent trait of tr alignment system, it's only possible through the interplay between alignment and a highly esoteric setting.

---

@Psyren: detaching [Good] from good is possible, but just as valid and simpler is just to remove the elements which would allow a character's supernatural alignment to conflict with their moral alignment. Because quite often, those elements are add-ons and tack-ons which are not essential to the game working.

For example, something like a Succubus Paladin, who can appear as any alignment at once, is a result of a convoluted mix-and-match character creation system where clauses about contradictory character traits cancelling out were poorly thought-out or omitted. There may be game design failure involved there, but it's dubious if it's a flaw in the alignment system.

Now, enforcing the connection between cosmic and moral alignment may still lead to a setting that's morally horrifying, but as said, I'm not convinced this is a problem that needs solving. Let's face it: you can't please everybody, any game or setting with any kind of codified morality will be horrifying to some. Just as well a game or setting without codified morality will be horrifying to some. So that's a poor standard for how it should be.

(A better standard is that you can play different games with different archetypes in an environment where cosmic alignment =/= moral alignment, as you can play in an environment where cosmic alignment = moral alignment. But that's less of a reason to have the game as either one as a general rule, it's a reason to try and play both types.)

hamishspence
2018-02-07, 06:26 AM
For example, something like a Succubus Paladin, who can appear as any alignment at once, is a result of a convoluted mix-and-match character creation system where clauses about contradictory character traits cancelling out were poorly thought-out or omitted.

Actually it's based on two simple facts established in the MM - that Outsiders with alignment subtypes, can change alignment, and that they "still detect as their subtype's alignment". Just looking under each alignment subtype section in the glossary, tells us this.


Though we also have specific rule and setting books to do that work for the GM, and I'm sure hamisphence is willing to give you a list.

This was the list of "alignment statements" with book name and page numbers:

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?241789-Alignment-related-3-0-3-5-book-statements-summary

Angelalex242
2018-02-07, 07:16 AM
By the book of Exalted Deeds, if good characters are in conflict, put your swords down and talk it out. Good vs. Good violence is a failure of good that isn't helping anyone but evil.

This is what diplomacy is for, and this is why Morwel and Zaphkiel don't challenge each other to Mortal Kombat. However annoying they find each other, there's 0 combat involved. Just long discussions between beings that have all century to talk if they have to.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 07:22 AM
{{scrubbed}}

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-07, 07:32 AM
{{scrubbed}}

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 07:35 AM
{{scrubbed}}

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-07, 08:31 AM
@Max: that gesture lost all it's signifigance the first time you did it and yet failed to completely ignore me afterwards. :smalltongue:

Psyren
2018-02-07, 10:55 AM
@Psyren: detaching [Good] from good is possible, but just as valid and simpler is just to remove the elements which would allow a character's supernatural alignment to conflict with their moral alignment. Because quite often, those elements are add-ons and tack-ons which are not essential to the game working.

For example, something like a Succubus Paladin, who can appear as any alignment at once, is a result of a convoluted mix-and-match character creation system where clauses about contradictory character traits cancelling out were poorly thought-out or omitted. There may be game design failure involved there, but it's dubious if it's a flaw in the alignment system.

I see value in both keeping these elements and making that distinction though. Take the "Succubus Paladin" for example - paladin itself is a hard road to walk, and hers is even harder than that, both due to prejudice (almost nobody is going to trust her right away) and metaphysics (she gets the worst of every alignment effect - smite evil and good both work on her, she detects as both, she's susceptible to both Holy Word AND Blasphemy AND Dictum AND Word of Chaos etc.) But a Succubus Paladin having the deck stacked so high against her is exactly what I'd expect in most any D&D setting, so I view the system as both elegant and working as intended. It helps explain why there are so few of them, and why the rare few who choose that route don't often survive very long.



Now, enforcing the connection between cosmic and moral alignment may still lead to a setting that's morally horrifying, but as said, I'm not convinced this is a problem that needs solving. Let's face it: you can't please everybody, any game or setting with any kind of codified morality will be horrifying to some. Just as well a game or setting without codified morality will be horrifying to some. So that's a poor standard for how it should be.

(A better standard is that you can play different games with different archetypes in an environment where cosmic alignment =/= moral alignment, as you can play in an environment where cosmic alignment = moral alignment. But that's less of a reason to have the game as either one as a general rule, it's a reason to try and play both types.)

I'm totally okay with settings where cosmic and moral alignment are separate (I believe Eberron comes closest to this in the major settings) too. But I like the idea of alignment mattering mechanically in "default D&D" just as much - in other words, that by being a good or bad person, you can actually cause different types of magic to react to you differently, or that magic can be used to provide an overall window into your deeds and their effects.

Thrudd
2018-02-07, 10:57 AM
By the book of Exalted Deeds, if good characters are in conflict, put your swords down and talk it out. Good vs. Good violence is a failure of good that isn't helping anyone but evil.

This is what diplomacy is for, and this is why Morwel and Zaphkiel don't challenge each other to Mortal Kombat. However annoying they find each other, there's 0 combat involved. Just long discussions between beings that have all century to talk if they have to.

That's what I said, too...there's no reason two truly good parties (idealized D&D good, not "real world good") At least how I play "good", they would be willing and ready to cease hostilities immediately, and likely would never have started hostilities in the first place.

Lorsa
2018-02-07, 11:09 AM
Because our system places some people (children) in the near-total control of other individuals, that system also bears the moral burden of ensuring that the decisions made on the behalf of those people are actually to their benefit.

It's still a society with laws that imposes life-or-death decisions on other people.



A "mercy killing" without the permission of the person being killed is usually still just murder with a nicer name slapped on it.

On the other hand, is leaving someone alone to die in pain and agony a good act? Seems like it would be akin to torture just with the pretension of "I didn't cause this myself".


"
Evil" is not a necessary part of "antagonist".

"Antagonist" and "villain" are not fully equivalent and synonymous.

Oh, yes, absolutely. Evil is not a necessary part of antagonist, and nor is villain a synonym for antagonist. This is why I chose this word "good people can be antagonists". They typically can't be villains or BBEGs.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 11:22 AM
It's still a society with laws that imposes life-or-death decisions on other people.


Quite a few of those laws exist to protect one person from having their rights and freedoms violated by others.

The idea of "chaos" vs "law" as somehow an easy summation of the very complex interplay between laws and freedoms, between rights and responsibilities -- or the blinkered notion that one can tell if a position is "Law" or "Chaos" based a simplistic reading of "Order" vs "Freedom" -- is one of the reasons I lose patience with the Alignment thing so easily.

An anarchy with no laws doesn't result in greater freedom, but rather in the concentration of freedom in the hands of the powerful very few -- those who have the ability to enforce their will on others and thus act as they wish.

A police state with endless legalisms and overwhelming enforcement doesn't result in greater freedom, either.




On the other hand, is leaving someone alone to die in pain and agony a good act? Seems like it would be akin to torture just with the pretension of "I didn't cause this myself".


If they ask you for that mercy, it's not wrong to give it to them.

If you offer that mercy, and they say they want it, it's not wrong to give it to them.

It's only wrong to kill them if they don't give their assent, or actively decline, but you go ahead and do it anyway, because you made the selfish and ego-driven decision that your judgement of their situation matters more than their own, and that "they're better off" or "you know better". Then, you've imposed your will on that other person, stolen their choice from them, and violated their right.

NichG
2018-02-07, 12:34 PM
That's what I said, too...there's no reason two truly good parties (idealized D&D good, not "real world good") At least how I play "good", they would be willing and ready to cease hostilities immediately, and likely would never have started hostilities in the first place.

Time-limited decisions, rapidly approaching points of no return, or other sources of emotional tension. Good doesn't mean wise.

Two good-aligned adventuring parties each with conflicting information about how to avert the end of the world arrive at the ritual site where all of the Lovecraftian horrors are being invited to make this plane their home. The cultists have done their part, the portal is growing, and there's only a few moments to spare. One adventuring group has a method they think will stop the summoning by unmaking the very weave of magic in the area, instantly collapsing the portal. The other adventuring group believes that the only way to avert destruction is to invoke the protection of a different Elder God who is, if not amicable towards people, more intent on screwing over the other horrors than it is making a snack of the world - at the same time, they believe the magic-warping thing will not only make their fix impossible, but will strip away some of the few remaining protections woven into the boundary of the crystal sphere long ago. Of course the first group is a bit leery of this whole 'summon an Elder God to fix our Elder God infestation' plan.

Imagine these are PCs, and the DM has an eggtimer out. When it hits 15 minutes, unless the correct plan has been carried out, the world ends.

gkathellar
2018-02-07, 01:49 PM
The idea of "chaos" vs "law" as somehow an easy summation of the very complex interplay between laws and freedoms, between rights and responsibilities -- or the blinkered notion that one can tell if a position is "Law" or "Chaos" based a simplistic reading of "Order" vs "Freedom" -- is one of the reasons I lose patience with the Alignment thing so easily.

That may be because it's not really what Law and Chaos are about. Law is consistency, Chaos is spontaneity.


An anarchy with no laws doesn't result in greater freedom, but rather in the concentration of freedom in the hands of the powerful very few -- those who have the ability to enforce their will on others and thus act as they wish.

You'll find that this is accounted for in the lore. The Abyss is ruled by squabbling tin-pot dictators. Ygorl, mightiest of the true slaad and likely the greatest being of pure chaos in the cosmos, helped his lawful counterpart Primus poison Limbo so as to prevent an even stronger slaad from rising up to displace him. Only CG really values freedom in the sense of "liberty." CE generally sees the concept as a symptom of weakness, and CN would probably see it as incoherent.


A police state with endless legalisms and overwhelming enforcement doesn't result in greater freedom, either.

Which, it should be noted, Law doesn't necessarily do. Archons get by mostly on mutual respect, a sense of duty, and philosophical concordance. Modrons don't need a police state because their will is very nearly unanimous. Only Hell is really into horrific oppression.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 01:57 PM
That may be because it's not really what Law and Chaos are about. Law is consistency, Chaos is spontaneity.


Perhaps, but...

* That's often not how they're presented, which is part of the problem. One source speaks of order vs disorder, another of law vs freedom, another of consistency vs spontaneity. And then add in all the opinions of the various players/GMs.

* Some odd apparent contradictions then occur, such as an individual who consistently fights any authority.

* My comment was in response to an assertion (mistaken assertion?) that it is about "order" vs "freedom".




You'll find that this is accounted for in the lore. The Abyss is ruled by squabbling tin-pot dictators. Ygorl, mightiest of the true slaad and likely the greatest being of pure chaos in the cosmos, helped his lawful counterpart Primus poison Limbo so as to prevent an even stronger slaad from rising up to displace him. Only CG really values freedom in the sense of "liberty." CE generally sees the concept as a symptom of weakness, and CN would probably see it as incoherent.

Which, it should be noted, Law doesn't necessarily do. Archons get by mostly on mutual respect, a sense of duty, and philosophical concordance. Modrons don't need a police state because their will is very nearly unanimous. Only Hell is really into horrific oppression.


I was speaking specifically of human governments and organization, in refutation of the mistaken notion stated upthread that one's "law" or "chaos" alignment can be determined from one's political philosophy. That is, of how one's view on "freedom" is tangential to one's view of "Law" vs "Chaos".

Of course, the lockstep opinions of those entities you mention makes one wonder just how much actual freedom or free will they have.

Lord
2018-02-07, 02:16 PM
One thing you could do would be to make what is good ambiguous. For instance, maybe there is an order of Paladins who are deliberately trying to bring a super powerful demon into the world so that they can kill him forever as part of a plan. If they succeed in killing him then the demon is gone forever and that is a good thing. But what if they bring him in and their plan fails? They have just unleashed hell upon earth. I could easily see another group trying to interfere because they think taking such a risk is foolish.

Both sides are legitimately good people who want what they consider best for everyone. But their mutual agendas are contradictory. One wants a decisive victory at great risk. The other wants to maintain the status quo.

Good VS Good. And of course, there are plenty of bad factions who might not want the demon lord summoned either. And also bad factions who would want the demon lord to emerge victoriously.

Aliquid
2018-02-07, 03:03 PM
{{scrubbed}} All interpretation of the rules is about the rules, and the rules require interpretation in order to create a functional game. More, the rules themselves call out for a specific person to serve as in-game final interpreter of the exact meaning of alignment terms.You dismiss my point then validate it...

Anybody who says "how I use alignments is right, and how you use it is wrong" is full of it, because alignment is vague and subjective. It is all a matter of interpretation. If you want vile things to be considered "Good" in your campaign due to technicalities and loopholes, then you are fully able to do that as a DM. But you can't say "This is how the rules say alignment should work" (unless you are specifically saying "the rules allow me to make alignment work any way I want")

The error in your entire argument is the notion that subjective and objective are necessarily antonyms.I say they are, and that they are in this context. You can not objectively codify "greater good", it will always require a subjective interpretation. Always.

I find it ironically hilarious that a lot of people complain how alignment is "too simple" in one breath and then express complete dislike and unwilligness for any actual complexity in the system in the next, saying that those are proofs of how the system is "broken".It is broken if you make it simple, and it is broken for other reasons if you make it complex. If you have it as a vague background idea for "fluff" and don't aggressively inforce it, then it is fine. If you don't run games where "Good" aligned PCs are constantly judged by ridiculous moral dilemmas, then it is fine.




It's still a society with laws that imposes life-or-death decisions on other people.Your example of a child is a problem either way. One option has a parent making a life-or-death decision for the child, the other option has society making the decision. There can be a problem with each option, depending on the circumstances, and if the child is young, they are incapable of making the decision for themselves.

On the other hand, is leaving someone alone to die in pain and agony a good act?If they want you to, and you agree to their wishes, it is probably just neutral. It isn't your call to decide if they should be in agony or not... if they are ok with that, then they are ok with it.




Which, it should be noted, Law doesn't necessarily do. Archons get by mostly on mutual respect, a sense of duty, and philosophical concordance. Modrons don't need a police state because their will is very nearly unanimous. Only Hell is really into horrific oppression.But with Modrons etc, they are all Lawful and they are all ok with living in harmony and trusting that the laws are in their best interest. It isn't a police state until you have people who don't want to mindlessly obey the rules without question...

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 03:05 PM
On the other axis, part of the problem is that (IMO at least) absolute Law is stagnation, and absolute Chaos is formlessness. Choosing either one alone leads to the end of everything. If you actually choose "good" over everything else, then you're looking at what... Neutral Good?

The CG character and the LG character probably disagree about what "good" actually is. They both see their "thing" as more good, and the other "thing" as less good. For example, the CG character sees law as lacking judgement and discretion, curtailing freedom and choice -- the CG character probably doesn't see freedom and choice as "chaotic", they likely see freedom and choice as straight-up good.

Real life is full of least-bad-option choices, when the choice isn't between "good" and "evil", but involves agonizing over which harmful option will do the least harm. Settings with nothing but easy choices and clear lines don't, IMO, ring true. Morality is hard. Ethics are hard.

You can end up choosing between sticking by an original decision to expunge someone from your life / your awareness, or being open-minded & giving them a second chance... and either one can lead to regret later.

Even a system that looks "lawful" can end up being "chaotic", when you're not actually looking at the rule of law but rather at trying to guess at the highly variable reactions of those given power to enforce the law however they see fit at any one moment. The idea of a Lawful Evil tyrant does't really work out, the law is whatever they say it is at any given time.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-07, 03:30 PM
On the other axis, part of the problem is that (IMO at least) absolute Law is stagnation, and absolute Chaos is formlessness. Choosing either one alone leads to the end of everything. If you actually choose "good" over everything else, then you're looking at what... Neutral Good?

The CG character and the LG character probably disagree about what "good" actually is. They both see their "thing" as more good, and the other "thing" as less good. For example, the CG character sees law as lacking judgement and discretion, curtailing freedom and choice -- the CG character probably doesn't see freedom and choice as "chaotic", they likely see freedom and choice as straight-up good.

Real life is full of least-bad-option choices, when the choice isn't between "good" and "evil", but involves agonizing over which harmful option will do the least harm. Settings with nothing but easy choices and clear lines don't, IMO, ring true. Morality is hard. Ethics are hard.

You can end up choosing between sticking by an original decision to expunge someone from your life / your awareness, or being open-minded & giving them a second chance... and either one can lead to regret later.

Even a system that looks "lawful" can end up being "chaotic", when you're not actually looking at the rule of law but rather at trying to guess at the highly variable reactions of those given power to enforce the law however they see fit at any one moment.

I've often thought that the alignment chart is actually a diamond--the neutral X or X neutral alignments care much more about X than about the other component. A strongly LN being (eg Modrons) really only care about Law, not about good or evil. NG people care about doing good--concerns of society, order, etc. are secondary if at all. That makes NG more "good" oriented than LG (who has to balance L and G when they compete).

Red Fel
2018-02-07, 03:40 PM
On the other axis, part of the problem is that (IMO at least) absolute Law is stagnation, and absolute Chaos is formlessness. Choosing either one alone leads to the end of everything. If you actually choose "good" over everything else, then you're looking at what... Neutral Good?

The CG character and the LG character probably disagree about what "good" actually is. They both see their "thing" as more good, and the other "thing" as less good. For example, the CG character sees law as lacking judgement and discretion, curtailing freedom and choice -- the CG character probably doesn't see freedom and choice as "chaotic", they likely see freedom and choice as straight-up good.

Very much this.

Both CG and LG can agree on general concepts like selflessness and altruism. They can generally agree on not crossing certain lines, like murder, rape, slavery, or talking in theater. But when it comes to the details of Good, they can differ wildly.

A CG character might say, for example, that Good is encouraging an individual's growth and expression. That Good is like a garden, gently tended, but left to grow and bloom freely. By contrast, an LG character might say that Good is offering yourself to something greater, something nobler, and giving wholeheartedly of yourself to your cause. That Good is like a garden, full of carefully sculpted and pruned bushes and trees, that can only be admired after careful tending and diligent labor.

They'd both be right, in their own way. But CG could argue that LG's position would ruin the beauty of the garden, sacrificing the wildflowers to obey an arbitrary aesthetic; while LG could argue that CG's position would ruin the beauty of the garden, turning a symbol of tender dedication into a wild, chaotic mess. Both right; both wrong.


Even a system that looks "lawful" can end up being "chaotic", when you're not actually looking at the rule of law but rather at trying to guess at the highly variable reactions of those given power to enforce the law however they see fit at any one moment. The idea of a Lawful Evil tyrant does't really work out, the law is whatever they say it is at any given time.

... Excuse your pathetic species?

Granted, a whimsical dictator with absolute power and a tendency to change the law on impulse is not Lawful; I'll readily grant you that. But to say that this isolated example that you've created encompasses all tyrants is an insult to every hard-working iron-fisted ruler who toils over paperwork day-in, day-out, to make sure that the empire continues to run smoothly, thank you very much. That argument undermines the entire point of what you were saying mere sentences prior - that alignment is (or should be) nuanced and complex, a frequently confusing latticework of overlapping layers subject to multiple levels of interpretation. To suggest that, and then turn around and suggest, "Except for tyrants, because they're all whackjobs, am I right?" is just disingenuous.

Seriously. Stop dissing my ingenues.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 03:49 PM
I've often thought that the alignment chart is actually a diamond--the neutral X or X neutral alignments care much more about X than about the other component. A strongly LN being (eg Modrons) really only care about Law, not about good or evil. NG people care about doing good--concerns of society, order, etc. are secondary if at all. That makes NG more "good" oriented than LG (who has to balance L and G when they compete).


To me, NG was always "just plain good", those who end up looking at it all "law" and "chaos" and saying that society, consistency, freedom, inconsistency, etc, it's all a mixed bag and at the end any of them can be of benefit or detriment depending on the circumstances.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-07, 03:58 PM
To me, NG was always "just plain good", those who end up looking at it all "law" and "chaos" and saying that society, consistency, freedom, inconsistency, etc, it's all a mixed bag and at the end any of them can be of benefit or detriment depending on the circumstances.

Yeah, that too. The NX or XN alignments prioritize X over the other argument.

I also tend to think that we treat the boxes as too homogenous--both axes are a spectrum with squishy boundaries, not discrete quantized states. Most mortal peoples are close to the TN dividing line--it's just too difficult to have true LAW or CHAOS (or GOOD or EVIL) in the mortal plane.

I strongly dislike the mechanistic version of alignment presented in 3e--the more details you add to try to nail down all the edge cases, the more cumbersome and (in some cases) absurd/self-contradictory/abhorrent it becomes. But that's my opinion about 3e D&D generally, so I might be a bit biased.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 04:07 PM
Yeah, that too. The NX or XN alignments prioritize X over the other argument.

I also tend to think that we treat the boxes as too homogenous--both axes are a spectrum with squishy boundaries, not discrete quantized states. Most mortal peoples are close to the TN dividing line--it's just too difficult to have true LAW or CHAOS (or GOOD or EVIL) in the mortal plane.

I strongly dislike the mechanistic version of alignment presented in 3e--the more details you add to try to nail down all the edge cases, the more cumbersome and (in some cases) absurd/self-contradictory/abhorrent it becomes. But that's my opinion about 3e D&D generally, so I might be a bit biased.

3.x is my final impression of Alignment before jumping ship entirely from the D&D-like/d20 "thing", so that's probably why I take so dark a view of it.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-07, 04:13 PM
3.x is my final impression of Alignment before jumping ship entirely from the D&D-like/d20 "thing", so that's probably why I take so dark a view of it.

I can see that reasoning. I really started playing (table-top anyway) with 4e; 4e and 5e have very different takes on alignment than 3e, and I like them a lot better.

4e's is a single spectrum: LG->G->U->E->CE (U is for unaligned); the books make it very clear that the E and CE alignments aren't for players. Basically just an us and them dichotomy.

5e is squishier and makes it clear that alignments are just your basic reflex pattern--do you default to sacrificing self for others? Good. Do you default to playing nice with society? Lawful. Etc. and make it clear that a good person can do evil things (and vice versa)--it's more about your default and habitual pattern of actions and beliefs.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 04:41 PM
On the subject of Villain, Antagonist, or Opponent:

https://wetranscripts.dreamwidth.org/139457.html

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 05:34 PM
... Excuse your pathetic species?

Granted, a whimsical dictator with absolute power and a tendency to change the law on impulse is not Lawful; I'll readily grant you that. But to say that this isolated example that you've created encompasses all tyrants is an insult to every hard-working iron-fisted ruler who toils over paperwork day-in, day-out, to make sure that the empire continues to run smoothly, thank you very much. That argument undermines the entire point of what you were saying mere sentences prior - that alignment is (or should be) nuanced and complex, a frequently confusing latticework of overlapping layers subject to multiple levels of interpretation. To suggest that, and then turn around and suggest, "Except for tyrants, because they're all whackjobs, am I right?" is just disingenuous.

Seriously. Stop dissing my ingenues.


NSIS, but... to me the key point there is that any person possessing absolute fiat to interpret and enforce the law as they see fit, and in the evil "quadrant" of the chart, just isn't going to result in the rule of law. Lawful Evil tyrants can be imagined, but I don't know if a real human being is capable of such a thing.

Heck, I don't know if anyone given the power to interpret and apply any set of rules at their sole discretion without any appeal or recourse on the part of those so ruled against can be trusted to be consistent and fair.

NichG
2018-02-07, 09:44 PM
On the other axis, part of the problem is that (IMO at least) absolute Law is stagnation, and absolute Chaos is formlessness. Choosing either one alone leads to the end of everything. If you actually choose "good" over everything else, then you're looking at what... Neutral Good?


The absolute limit of a pure Good universe is probably something like solipsism. You want a system where no harm or evil is even possible, but also one that doesn't particularly constrain or amplify self-determination. So you wrap everyone in a partial solipsistic illusion where they can do whatever they want but anything bad they do forks their reality and let's them continue on believing they've had their way while fully protecting others from the consequences - including even things like emotional harm from abandonment.

Then over time the solipsisms gradually present events in such a way as to try to align the moralities of their inhabitants.

So basically, imagine a railroaded game where you can always choose how you act but you can't really influence the outcomes unless they're from the approved list.

2D8HP
2018-02-07, 11:45 PM
On the other axis, part of the problem is that (IMO at least) absolute Law is stagnation, and absolute Chaos is formlessness. Choosing either one alone leads to the end of everything....


Yes.

"Chaos is not wholly evil, surely?" said the child. "And neither is Law wholly good. They are primitive divisions, at best-- they represent only temperamental differences in individual men and women. There are other elements..."
"
..which was published in 1975 in the UK, and 1976 in the USA, and '76 was when Gygax added "good" and "evil" to D&D Alignment in an article that I first read a copy of it in the 1980 "Best of The Dragon" which reprinted the original article (http://themagictreerpg.blogspot.com/2008/09/history-of-alignment-in-d-part-i.html?m=1); in the Strategic Review: February 1976 (http://annarchive.com/files/Strv201.pdf)

Poul Anderson invented Law vs. Chaos in '53 for Three Hearts and Three Lions (which had a Dwarf on the side of Law, and Elves on the side of Chaos, Anderson's Elves were not Tolkien's Elves, though they drew from the same well. The "Ranger" is from Tolkien, the "Paladin" is from Anderson).

Anderson had Law on the side of most of humanity, and "the hosts of Faerie" on the side of Chaos. When Chaos was ascendant latent Lycanthrope became expressed for example.

Michael Moorcock adopted Law vs. Chaos for his Elric stories, and it was his works that were far more known by those of us who played D&D in the 1970's and '80's.

While Moorcock's 1965 novel Stormbringer had the triumph of Chaos being humanity's doom, by '75 he was clear that humanity would suffer under extreme Law as well, and "The Balance" was to be sought.
So, the "rules" on alignment and everything else are up to each individual table:

Dungeons and Dragons, The Underground and Wilderness Adventures, p. 36: "... everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it that way."

AD&D 1e, DMG, p. 9: "..The game is the thing, and certain rules can be distorted or disregarded altogether in favor of play...."


AD&D 2E, DMG, p. 3: "At conventions, in letters, and over the phone, I'm often asked for the instant answer to a fine point of the game rules. More often than not, I come back with a question -- what do you feel is right? And the people asking the question discover that not only can they create an answer, but that their answer is as good as anyone else's. The rules are only guidelines."

D&D 3.5 DMG, p. 6: "Good players will always realize that you have ultimate authority over the game mechanics, even superseding something in a rulebook."


D&D 5e DMG, p. 263:: "...As the Dungeon Master, You aren't limited by the rules in the Player's Handbook, the guidelines in this book, or the selection of monsters in the Monster Manual..."



A History of "Alignment" in Dungeons & Dragons

Part One: The War between Law & Chaos

For the Dungeons & Dragons game, Arneson and Gygax got Law vs. Chaos from stories by Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock.
Okay, in the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Hearts_and_Three_Lions) by Poul Anderson,
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/39/ThreeHeartsAndThreeLions.jpg/220px-ThreeHeartsAndThreeLions.jpg
which was published before and inspired Moorcock's "Law vs. Chaos" conflict in the Elric and Corum novels, and Anderson expressly conflated Holger's struggle against Morgan le Fay and the "Host of Faerie" with the battle against the Nazis in our world.

Now in the 1961 novel (based on a '53 short story) Three Hearts and Three Lions (http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2008/12/pulp-fantasy-gallery-three-hearts-and.html), we have this:

"....Holger got the idea that a perpetual struggle went on between primeval forces of Law and Chaos. No, not forces exactly. Modes of existence? A terrestrial reflection of the spiritual conflict between heaven and hell? In any case, humans were the chief agents on earth of Law, though most of them were so only unconsciously and some, witches and warlocks and evildoers, had sold out to Chaos. A few nonhuman beings also stood for Law. Ranged against them were almost the whole Middle World, which seemed to include realms like Faerie, Trollheim, and the Giants--an actual creation of Chaos. Wars among men, such as the long-drawn struggle between the Saracens and the Holy Empire, aided Chaos; under Law all men would live in peace and order and that liberty which only Law could give meaning. But this was so alien to the Middle Worlders that they were forever working to prevent it and extend their own shadowy dominion....."

.which suggests that Law vs. Chaos is about "teams" in a cosmic struggle rather than personal ethics/morality, which is how the terms are used in the old Stormbringer RPG, and would be my usual preference.

Before D&D, Gygax & Perren had Law vs. Chaos in the Fantasy appendix to the Chainmail wargame:I suppose it waa inevitably when Greyhawk added Paladins that were "continual seeking for good" but I think that adding "Good" and "Evil" to "Alignment" was a mistake, and it was better the way the predecessor of D&D, Chainmail had it as:

"GENERAL LINE-UP:
It is impossible to draw a distanct line between "good" and "evil" fantastic
figures. Three categories are listed below as a general guide for the wargamer
designing orders of battle involving fantastic creatures:

LAW
Hobbits
Dwarves
Gnomes
Heroes
Super Heroes
Wizards*
Ents
Magic Weapons

NEUTRAL
Sprites
Pixies
Elves
Fairies
Lycanthropes *
Giants*
Rocs
(Elementals)
Chimerea


CHAOS
Goblins
Kobolds
Orcs
Anti-heroes
Wizards *
Wraiths
Wights
Lycanthropes*
Ogres
True Trolls
Balrogs
Giants *
Dragons
Basilisks

* Indicates the figure appears in two lists.
Underlined Neutral figures have a slight pre-disposition for LAW. Neutral
figures can be diced for to determine on which side they will fight, with ties
meaning they remain neutral."


http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wb-QFUiuEqk/T_x0sXHILMI/AAAAAAAAFME/rEhioR7Tw3I/s280/ch☆nmailalign.jpg

So it was clear that it's sides in a wargame, not an ethics debate.

But the turning of a heavily house ruled Chainmail into what we now call a "role-playing game", brought character behavior in the mix:

Dave Arneson wrote that he added "alignment" to the game he made up because of one PC backstabbing another (http://www.jovianclouds.com/blackmoor/Archive_OLD/rpg2.html)

"We began without the multitude of character classes and three alignments that exists today. I felt that as a team working towards common goals there would be it was all pretty straight forward. Wrong!

"Give me my sword back!" "Nah your old character is dead, it's mine now!"

Well I couldn't really make him give it to the new character. But then came the treasure question. The Thieves question. Finally there were the two new guys. One decided that there was no reason to share the goodies. Since there was no one else around and a +3 for rear attacks . . .. well . . Of course everyone actually KNEW what had happened, especially the target.

After a great deal of discussion . . . yes let us call it "discussion" the culprit promised to make amends. He, and his associate did. The next time the orcs attacked the two opened the door and let the Orcs in. They shared the loot and fled North to the lands of the EGG OF COOT. (Sigh)

We now had alignment. Spells to detect alignment, and rules forbidding actions not allowed by ones alignment. Actually not as much fun as not knowing. Chuck and John had a great time being the 'official' evil players.
They would draw up adventures to trap the others (under my supervision) and otherwise make trouble"

And here's in 1974's Gygax & Arneson's Dungeons & Dragons: Book1, Men & Magic

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MlEVGRiLVK0/T_xGEnCu73I/AAAAAAAAFL4/jalyY-BOFgM/s280/oddalign.jpg

(Orcs can be Neutral as well as Chaos, as can Elves, Dwarves/Gnomes as well as Law, and Men may be any)

And "Law, Chaos, and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively. One can attempt to communicate through the common tongue, language particular to a creature class, or one of the divisional languages (law, etc.). While not understanding the language, creatures who speak a divisionsl tongue will recognize a hostile one and attack."

Easy "detect alignment"!

Originally there were three classes; "Cleric", "Fighting-Men", and "Magic-User" (as in "wake up the user, it's time to cast the daily spell"). Clerics didn't have any spells at first level, but they could "turn" some undead (a bit like a 5e Paladin really), and other than hints that "Law" Clerics, and "Chaos" Clerics were in conflict, there wasn't much info on what was meant until the Paladin class was introduced in La Chanson de Roland the 1975 "Greyhawk" supplement (which also introduced Thieves hmm... what a coincidence funny that). From "Greyhawk":
Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for the character. If such fighters elect to they can become paladins, always doing lawful deeds, for any chaotic act will immediately revoke the status of paladin, and it can never be regained. The paladin has a number of very powerful aids in his continual seeking for good......".
(Ok this is the fun part the special powers which include......PSYCH! Back to the restrictions)
"Paladins will never be allowed to possess more than four magically items, excluding the armor, shield and up to four weapons they normally use. They will give away all treasure that they win, save that which is neccesary to maintain themselves, their men and a modest castle. Gifts must be to the poor or to charitable or religious institutions , i.e.not tho some other character played in the game. A paladin's stronghold cannot be above 200,000 gold pieces in total cost, and no more than 200 men can be retained to guard it. Paladins normally prefer to dwell with lawful princess of patriarchs, but circumstances may prevent this. They will associate only with lawful characters"
Huh? What's lawful? What's chaotic? What's associate? And what is this charitable? I don't believe PC's know this word. :smallwink:
Well...helpfully there are some clues:
" Chaotic Alignment by a player generally betokens chaotic action on the player's part without any rule to stress this aspect, i.e. a chaotic player is usually more prone to stab even his lawless buddy in the back for some desired gain. However, chaos is just that - chaotic. Evil monsters are as likely to turn on their supposed confederate in order to have all the loot as they are to attack a lawful party in the first place".
OK Paladins are "continual seeking for good", "All thieves are either neutral or chaotic - although lawful characters may hire them on a one-time basis for missions which are basically lawful" "Patriarchs" (high level Clerics) "stance" is "Law", and "Evil High Priests" "stance" is "Chaos". So we can infer that Law = Good, and Chaos = Evil in early D&D, which fits how the terms were used in novels Gygax cited as "inspiration", first in Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions", and than later in Moorcock's "Stormbringer" (though Moorcock eventually in his novels show that too much "Law" is anti-human as well, which is probably why Gygax added the separate Good-Evil axis so you could have "Lawful Evil" and "Chaotic Good" alignmemts later).

I'm gonna stress that I didn't know Anderson's novel when I first played D&D in the very late 1970's, and I'd bet that most other players didn't either, but knowledge of Moorcock's Elric was far more common then, from comic books!:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_DSs2bX13hVc/S76VaPmTHxI/AAAAAAAAB90/jp_QEn8jKSg/s320/conanelric1.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_DSs2bX13hVc/S76i4WQ-17I/AAAAAAAAB-E/xdEuV-lr0as/s320/conanelric2-1.jpg

If you've read the "Elric" series, from which D&D "borrowed" much of this, you may remember that Elric visits a "world" (plane/dimension/alternate reality) of "Chaos" and finds a whirling cloud, in-which creatures and objects sometimes flash in and out of existence. He also visits a "world of Law" which is nothing but a grey mist.

Invisible Library [/I] series, in which different worlds (alternate realities) have more or less "Chaos" or "Law".

Heavy Chaos worlds are ruled by the Fey, who are the main antagonists, Law world's are ruled by (often hidden) Dragons, and we are told that while too much Chaos is worse, with too much Law humans are controlled by Dragons and not free.].
[B]
Part Two: Enter Good & Evil

1976's Eldrich Wizardry supplement added the Mind Flayers which were the first monters that were explicitly both "lawful" and "evil", and it could be a coincidence but Michael Moorcock in A Quest for Tanelorn wrote:

"Chaos is not wholly evil, surely?" said the child. "And neither is Law wholly good. They are primitive divisions, at best-- they represent only temperamental differences in individual men and women. There are other elements..."
"
..which was published in 1975 in the UK, and 1976 in the USA, and '76 was when Gygax added "good" and "evil" to D&D Alignment in an article that I first read a copy of it in the 1980 "Best of The Dragon" which reprinted the original article in the;
Strategic Review: February 1976 (http://annarchive.com/files/Strv201.pdf)


http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_DSs2bX13hVc/TSvlWfi0wuI/AAAAAAAAC5E/kwE-DYf3GtU/s1600/alignmentchart.jpg

illustration (http://lh5.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KYLvpKSI/AAAAAAAAGrk/gxPmMlYaDIQ/s1600-h/illus1%5B2%5D.jpg)

illustration (http://lh5.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KaWTQKmI/AAAAAAAAGrs/EY_aYEhHcvs/s1600-h/n1%5B5%5D.jpg)

illustration (http://lh4.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KcgaWCfI/AAAAAAAAGr0/cZZSquIxTn4/s1600-h/n2a%5B2%5D.jpg)

illustration (http://lh6.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KfERen3I/AAAAAAAAGr8/Sb0VAeS3nKM/s1600-h/N2b%5B2%5D.jpg)

illustration (http://lh4.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KifB_yhI/AAAAAAAAGsI/O4eV2OSXAng/N3_thumb.jpg?imgmax=800)


illustration (http://lh6.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KhU85a1I/AAAAAAAAGsE/nnA-2gMCFyI/s1600-h/N3%5B2%5D.jpg)


illustration (http://lh6.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9Kj5-_N2I/AAAAAAAAGsM/f6v1q8cQDGY/s1600-h/illus2%5B2%5D.jpg)


illustration (http://lh5.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9KmQCwDXI/AAAAAAAAGsU/_suYkwtUadA/s1600-h/Illus3%5B2%5D.jpg)






Many questions continue to arise regarding what constitutes a “lawful” act, what sort of behavior is “chaotic”, what constituted an “evil” deed, and how certain behavior is “good”. There is considerable confusion in that most dungeonmasters construe the terms “chaotic” and “evil” to mean the same thing, just as they define “lawful” and “good” to mean the same. This is scarcely surprising considering the wording of the three original volumes of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. When that was written they meant just about the same thing in my mind — notice I do not say they were synonymous in my thinking at, that time. The wording in the GREYHAWK supplement added a bit more confusion, for by the time that booklet was written some substantial differences had been determined. In fact, had I the opportunity to do D&D over I would have made the whole business very much clearer by differentiating the four categories, and many chaotic creatures would be good, while many lawful creatures would be evil. Before going into the definitions of these four terms, a graphic representation of their relative positions will help the reader to follow the further discourse. (Illustration I)

Notice first that the area of neutrality lies squarely athwart the intersection of the lines which divide the four behavioral distinctions, and it is a very small area when compared with the rest of the graph. This refers to true neutrality, not to neutrality regarding certain interactions at specific times, i.e., a war which will tend to weaken a stronger player or game element regardless of the “neutral” party’s actions can hardly be used as a measure of neutrality if it will benefit the party’s interest to have the weakening come about.

Also note that movement upon this graph is quite possible with regard to campaign participants, and the dungeonmaster should, in fact, make this a standard consideration in play. This will be discussed hereafter.

Now consider the term “Law” as opposed to “Chaos”. While they are nothing if not opposites, they are neither good nor evil in their definitions. A highly regimented society is typically governed by strict law, i.e., a dictatorship, while societies which allow more individual freedom tend to be more chaotic. The following lists of words describing the two terms point this out. I have listed the words describing the concepts in increasing order of magnitude (more or less) as far as the comparison with the meanings of the two terms in D&D is concerned:

Basically, then, “Law” is strict order and “Chaos” is complete anarchy, but of course they grade towards each other along the scale from left to right on the graph. Now consider the terms “Good” and “Evil” expressed in the same manner:

The terms “Law” and “Evil” are by no means mutually exclusive. There is no reason that there cannot be prescribed and strictly enforced rules which are unpleasant, injurious or even corrupt. Likewise “Chaos” and “Good” do not form a dichotomy. Chaos can be harmless, friendly, honest, sincere, beneficial, or pure, for that matter. This all indicates that there are actually five, rather than three, alignments, namely

The lawful/good classification is typified by the paladin, the chaotic/good alignment is typified by elves, lawful/evil is typified by the vampire, and the demon is the epitome of chaotic/evil. Elementals are neutral. The general reclassification various creatures is shown on Illustration II.

Placement of characters upon a graph similar to that in Illustration I is necessary if the dungeonmaster is to maintain a record of player-character alignment. Initially, each character should be placed squarely on the center point of his alignment, i.e., lawful/good, lawful/evil, etc. The actions of each game week will then be taken into account when determining the current position of each character. Adjustment is perforce often subjective, but as a guide the referee can consider the actions of a given player in light of those characteristics which typify his alignment, and opposed actions can further be weighed with regard to intensity. For example, reliability does not reflect as intense a lawfulness as does principled, as does righteous. Unruly does not indicate as chaotic a state as does disordered, as does lawless. Similarly, harmless, friendly, and beneficial all reflect increasing degrees of good; while unpleasant, injurious, and wicked convey progressively greater evil. Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things. The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart (Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated. Note that selfseeking is neither lawful nor chaotic, good nor evil, except in relation to other sapient creatures. Also, law and chaos are not subject to interpretation in their ultimate meanings of order and disorder respectively, but good and evil are not absolutes but must be judged from a frame of reference, some ethos. The placement of creatures on the chart of Illustration II. reflects the ethos of this writer to some extent.

Considering mythical and mythos gods in light of this system, most of the benign ones will tend towards the chaotic/good, and chaotic/evil will typify those gods which were inimical towards humanity. Some few would be completely chaotic, having no predisposition towards either good or evil — REH’s Crom perhaps falls into this category. What then about interaction between different alignments? This question is tricky and must be given careful consideration. Diametric opposition exists between lawful/good and chaotic/evil and between chaotic/good and lawful/evil in this ethos. Both good and evil can serve lawful ends, and conversely they may both serve chaotic ends. If we presuppose that the universal contest is between law and chaos we must assume that in any final struggle the minions of each division would be represented by both good and evil beings. This may seem strange at first, but if the major premise is accepted it is quite rational. Barring such a showdown, however, it is far more plausible that those creatures predisposed to good actions will tend to ally themselves against any threat of evil, while creatures of evil will likewise make (uneasy) alliance in order to gain some mutually beneficial end — whether at the actual expense of the enemy or simply to prevent extinction by the enemy. Evil creatures can be bound to service by masters predisposed towards good actions, but a lawful/good character would fain make use of some chaotic/evil creature without severely affecting his lawful (not necessarily good) standing.

This brings us to the subject of those character roles which are not subject to as much latitude of action as the others. The neutral alignment is self-explanatory, and the area of true neutrality is shown on Illustration I. Note that paladins, Patriarchs, and Evil High Priests, however, have positive boundaries. The area in which a paladin may move without loss of his status is shown in Illustration III. Should he cause his character to move from this area he must immediately seek a divine quest upon which to set forth in order to gain his status once again, or be granted divine intervention; in those cases where this is not complied with the status is forever lost. Clerics of either good or evil predisposition must likewise remain completely good or totally evil, although lateral movement might be allowed by the dungeonmaster, with or without divine retribution. Those top-level clerics who fail to maintain their goodness or evilness must make some form of immediate atonement. If they fail to do so they simply drop back to seventh level. The atonement, as well as how immediate it must be, is subject to interpretation by the referee. Druids serve only themselves and nature, they occasionally make human sacrifice, but on the other hand they aid the folk in agriculture and animal husbandry. Druids are, therefore, neutral — although slightly predisposed towards evil actions.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-orkrl_JCxGo/VKMvSEOdLCI/AAAAAAAAC30/BVIa-CwK4Gg/s1600/531001_400433280025300_1590190270_n.jpg

"As a final note, most of humanity falls into the lawful category, and most of lawful humanity lies near the line between good and evil. With proper leadership the majority will be prone towards lawful/good. Few humans are chaotic, and very few are chaotic and evil"

- Gary Gygax

http://hilobrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/gygax-futurama.jpg


So the article added the "good and evil axis", but made clear in this graph:
http://lh6.ggpht.com/mitchaskari/SN9Kj5-_N2I/AAAAAAAAGsM/f6v1q8cQDGY/s1600/illus2%5B2%5D.jpg

..that creatures don't just exist on one of nine points of ethics/morality, there's a range:

Also in the article (http://themagictreerpg.blogspot.com/2008/09/history-of-alignment-in-d-part-i.html?m=1) Gygax states:

"Placement of characters upon a graph similar to that in Illustration I is necessary if the dungeonmaster is to maintain a record of player-character alignment. Initially, each character should be placed squarely on the center point of his alignment, i.e., lawful/good, lawful/evil, etc. The actions of each game week will then be taken into account when determining the current position of each character. Adjustment is perforce often subjective, but as a guide the referee can consider the actions of a given player in light of those characteristics which typify his alignment, and opposed actions can further be weighed with regard to intensity....

....Alignment does not preclude actions which typify a different alignment, but such actions will necessarily affect the position of the character performing them, and the class or the alignment of the character in question can change due to such actions, unless counter-deeds are performed to balance things."


So in general "Law" was the side of humanity, and "Chaos" was on the side of the supernatural in Anderson and early Moorcock, and very early D&D, but 'Good" and "Evil" complicate matters.

Per Gygax, I infer from that "Alignment" didn't control the PC's actions, PC actions are a guide to what "Alignment" the DM rules a character is for game effects.

So leave the entry blank, and let the DM deal with the alignment claptrap (frankly as a player I'd rather keep a character possessions inventory sheet and foist the "stats" on the DM anyway)!

But oD&D was just "guidelines", nothing was "official" until Advanced Dungeons & Dragons which was a completely different game!
"No royalties for you Arneson! Mine all Mine! Bwahahaha!
Wait, what's that Blume?"
:biggrin:

Part Three: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Fitting as a "bridge" between oD&D, and AD&D, the 1977 "Basic Set" had a "5 point Alignment system" (Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil, and Neutral), but the 1978 Players Handbook had the full "nine-points" that we know today.
CHARACTER ALIGNMENT

Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behavior, whether for good or evil. Chaotic characters are quite
unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected -- they are often, but not always, evil. Neutral characters, such as all thieves, are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. Players may choose any alignment they want and need not reveal it to others. Note that the code of lawful good characters insures that they would tell everyone that they are lawful. There are some magical items that can be used only by one alignment of characters. If the Dungeon Master feels that a character has begun to behave in a manner inconsistent with his declared alignment he may rule that he or she has changed alignment and penalize the character with a loss of experience points. An example of such behavior would be a "good" character who kills or tortures a prisoner.
https://retrorpg.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/screen-shot-2011-03-10-at-4-43-37-pm.png
So...


ALIGNMENT

After generating the abilities of your character, selecting his or her race, and deciding upon a class, it is necessary to determine the alignment of the character. It is possible that the selection of the class your character will profess has predetermined alignment: a druid is neutral, a paladin is lawful good, a thief can be neutral or evil, an assassin is always evil. Yet, except for druids and paladins, such restrictions still leave latitude - the thief can be lawful neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, neutral, or even neutral good; and the assassin has nearly as many choices. The alignments possible for characters are described below.

Chaotic Evil: The major precepts of this alignment are freedom, randomness, and woe. Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained. life has no value. By promoting chaos and evil, those of this alignment hope to bring themselves to positions of power, glory, and prestige in a system ruled by individual caprice and their own whims.

Chaotic Good: While creatures of this alignment view freedom and the randomness of action as ultimate truths, they likewise place value on life and the welfare of each individual. Respect for individualism is also great.
By promoting the gods of chaotic good, characters of this alignment seek to spread their values throughout the world.

Chaotic Neutral: Above respect for life and good, or disregard for life and promotion of evil, the chaotic neutral places randomness and disorder.
Good and evil are complimentary balance arms. Neither are preferred, nor must either prevail, for ultimate chaos would then suffer.

Lawful Evil: Creatures of this alignment are great respecters of laws and strict order, but life, beauty, truth, freedom and the like are held as valueless, or at least scorned.
By adhering to stringent discipline, those of
lawful evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.

Lawful Good: While as strict in their prosecution of law and order, characters of lawful good alignment follow these precepts to improve the common weal. Certain freedoms must, of course, be sacrificed in order to bring order; but truth is of highest value, and life and beauty of great importance. The benefits of this society are to be brought to all.

Lawful Neutral: Those of this alignment view regulation as all-important, taking a middle road betwixt evil and good. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world -and the whole of the universe - is considered by lawful neutral creatures to have its sole hope rest upon law and order. Evil or good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation.

Neutral Evil: The neutral evil creature views law and chaos as unnecessary
considerations, for pure evil is all-in-all. Either might be used, but both are
disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum evilness to the world.

Neutral Good: Unlike those directly opposite them (neutral evil) in
alignment, creatures of neutral good believe that there must be some regulation in combination with freedoms if the best is to be brought to the world - the most beneficial conditions for living things in general and intelligent creatures in particular.

True Neutral: The "true" neutral looks upon all other alignments as facets
of the system of things. Thus, each aspect - evil and good, chaos and law - of things must be retained in balance to maintain the status quo; for things as they are cannot be improved upon except temporarily, and even
then but superficially. Nature will prevail and keep things as they were meant to be, provided the "wheel" surrounding the hub of nature does not become unbalanced due to the work of unnatural forces - such as
human and other intelligent creatures interfering with what is meant to be.

Naturally, there are all variations and shades of tendencies within each alignment. The descriptions are generalizations only. A character can be basically good in its "true" neutrality, or tend towards evil. It is probable
that your campaign referee will keep a graph of the drift.of your character on the alignment chart. This is affected by the actions (and desires) of your character during the course of each adventure, and will be reflected on the graph. You may find that these actions are such as to cause the declared alignment to be shifted towards, or actually to, some other.

Anyway, the '79 DMG recommended graphing a PC's Alignment, and if they slipped into a new one they'd lose one level of experience, "If the alignment change is involuntary (such as caused by a powerful magic, a curse etc.), then the character can regain all of the losses (level, hit die, etc.) upon returning to his or her former alignment as soon as possible and after making atonement through a cleric of the same alignment - and sacrificing treasure which has a value of not less than 10,000 g.p. per level of experience of the character."

That'll teach those pesky PC's not to stray!

:amused:

Oh and "Until the character has again achieved his or her former level of experience held prior to change of alignment, he or she will not be able to converse in the former alignment's tongue nor will anything but the rudest signalling be possible in the new alignment language."


1e AD&D DM's were always supplied with pizza with the correct toppings!

:wink:

(Not really, I have no memory of those rules ever being used).

Wisely the 1981 "Basic rules" went back to Law/Neutral/Chaos, which was retained in the Alignment
An alignment is a code of behavior or way of
life which guides the actions and thoughts of characters and monsters. There are three alignments in the D&D® game: Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. Players may choose the alignments they feel will best fit their characters. A player does not have to tell other players what alignment he or she has picked, but must tell the Dungeon Master. Most Lawful characters will reveal their align-ments if asked. When picking alignments, the characters should know that Chaotics cannot be trusted, even by other Chaotics. A Chaotic character does not work well with other PCs.
Alignments give characters guidelines,to live by. They are not absolute rules: characters will try to follow their alignment guidelines, but may not always be successful. To better understand the philosophies behind them, let's define the three alignments.
Law (or Lawful)
Law is the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life. Lawful creatures will try to tell the truth, obey laws that are fair, keep promises, and care for all living things.
If a choice must be made between the benefit of a group or an individual, a Lawful character will usually choose the group. Sometimes individual freedoms must be given up for the good
Lawful characters and monsters often act in predictable ways. Lawful behavior is usually the same as "good" behavior.
Chaos (or Chaotic)
Chaos is the opposite of Law. It is the belief
that life is random and that chance and luck rule the world. Laws are made to be broken, as long as a person can get away with it. It is not important to keep promises, and lying and telling the truth are both useful.
To a Chaotic creature, the individual is the
most important of all things. Selfishness is the normal way of life, and the group is not important. Chaotics often act on sudden desires and whims. They have strong belief in the power of luck. They cannot always be trusted. Chaotic behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called "evil." Each individual player must decide if his Chaotic character is closer to a mean, selfish "evil" personality or merely a happy-go-lucky, unpredictable personality.
Neutrality (or Neutral)
Neutrality is the belief that the world is a balance between Law and Chaos. It is important that neither side get too much power and upset this balance. The individual is important, but so is the group; the two sides must work together.
A Neutral character is most interested in per-
sonal survival. Such characters believe in their own wits and abilities rather than luck. They tend to return the treatment they receive from others. Neutral characters will join a party if they think it is in their own best interest, but will not be overly helpful unless there is some sort of profit in it. Neutral behavior may be considered "good" or "evil" (or neither).
Alignment Behavior
Take this situation as an example: A group of player characters is attacked by a large number of monsters. Escape is not possible unless the monsters are slowed down.
A Lawful character will fight to protect the
group, regardless of the danger. The character will not run away unless the whole group does so or is otherwise safe.
A Neutral character will fight to protect the
group as long as it is reasonably safe to do so. If the danger is too great, the character will try to save himself, even at the expense of the rest of the party.
A Chaotic character might fight the monsters or he might run away immediately—Chaotics are, as always, unpredictable. The character may not even care what happened to the rest of the party.
Playing an alignment does not mean a character must do stupid things. A character should always act as intelligently as the Intelligence score indicates, unless there is a reason to act otherwise (such as a magical curse).
Alignment Languages
Each alignment has a secret language of passwords, hand signals, and other body motions.
Player characters and intelligent monsters always know their alignment languages. They will also recognize when another alignment language is being spoken, but will not understand it. Alignment languages have no written form. A character may not learn a different alignment language unless he changes alignments. In such a case, the character forgets the old alignment language and starts using the new one immediately....

Unfortunately 'Law' was "usually "Good"', and 'Chaos' was "usually Evil", but "not always".

I still see the point of Alignments in the Monster Manual, but now that D&D has dropped ""Alignment Languages", I'm not sure what the point is of players writing one on their character record sheets, as "Ideals", "Flaws", "Bonds", etc. seem to replace "Alignment" as a role-playing aide.

hamishspence
2018-02-08, 02:31 AM
the books make it very clear that the E and CE alignments aren't for players. Basically just an us and them dichotomy.

3e and 2e took the same approach - evil alignments for players was always a variant, and never the standard. 4e BoVD, like 3e BOVD, discusses this variant, while emphasising that standard games won't use it.

gkathellar
2018-02-08, 07:40 AM
The absolute limit of a pure Good universe is probably something like solipsism. You want a system where no harm or evil is even possible, but also one that doesn't particularly constrain or amplify self-determination. So you wrap everyone in a partial solipsistic illusion where they can do whatever they want but anything bad they do forks their reality and let's them continue on believing they've had their way while fully protecting others from the consequences - including even things like emotional harm from abandonment.

Then over time the solipsisms gradually present events in such a way as to try to align the moralities of their inhabitants.

So basically, imagine a railroaded game where you can always choose how you act but you can't really influence the outcomes unless they're from the approved list.

I think Elysium already fits this purpose pretty well: it's a place so genuinely and purely happy that it's difficult to place into the context of a world where evil exists. Just as Hades robs the mortal mind of the ability to imagine anything but sorrow and misery, time in Elysium causes a person to forget that struggle and conflict sometimes have a purpose.

In general, though, I think it's worthwhile to avoid establishing a rule of equivalence between the opposed alignments. There are certain parallels that work (such as Hades and Elysium), but they're concretely different and they should look have their own identities.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-08, 08:04 AM
The absolute limit of a pure Good universe is probably something like solipsism. You want a system where no harm or evil is even possible, but also one that doesn't particularly constrain or amplify self-determination. So you wrap everyone in a partial solipsistic illusion where they can do whatever they want but anything bad they do forks their reality and let's them continue on believing they've had their way while fully protecting others from the consequences - including even things like emotional harm from abandonment.

Then over time the solipsisms gradually present events in such a way as to try to align the moralities of their inhabitants.

So basically, imagine a railroaded game where you can always choose how you act but you can't really influence the outcomes unless they're from the approved list.


I think Elysium already fits this purpose pretty well: it's a place so genuinely and purely happy that it's difficult to place into the context of a world where evil exists. Just as Hades robs the mortal mind of the ability to imagine anything but sorrow and misery, time in Elysium causes a person to forget that struggle and conflict sometimes have a purpose.

In general, though, I think it's worthwhile to avoid establishing a rule of equivalence between the opposed alignments. There are certain parallels that work (such as Hades and Elysium), but they're concretely different and they should look have their own identities.

Thanks for reminding me of the outer planes part... I tend to forget those because just the moral/ethical part of Alignment makes me cringe.

The attendant cosmological elements of Alignment are just another reason why it's so frustrating (for me at least) when incorporated into a setting or an actual campaign.

NichG
2018-02-08, 08:08 AM
I think Elysium already fits this purpose pretty well: it's a place so genuinely and purely happy that it's difficult to place into the context of a world where evil exists. Just as Hades robs the mortal mind of the ability to imagine anything but sorrow and misery, time in Elysium causes a person to forget that struggle and conflict sometimes have a purpose.

In general, though, I think it's worthwhile to avoid establishing a rule of equivalence between the opposed alignments. There are certain parallels that work (such as Hades and Elysium), but they're concretely different and they should look have their own identities.

Elysium is kind of interesting, because it explicitly sacrificed the completeness of it's goodness to trap and contain some unknown cosmic threat in it's third layer. So in a way, even in a setting with extremes of concepts, pure Good wasn't able to exist within the setting without being at least sightly pushed away from its utmost extreme.

Calthropstu
2018-02-08, 12:47 PM
2d8hp, that was quite informative.

Thanks, it was a great read.

2D8HP
2018-02-08, 07:38 PM
2d8hp, that was quite informative.

Thanks, it was a great read.


Your very welcome, and thank you!

:smile:

RedMage125
2018-02-09, 12:10 AM
OP:
Good BBEGs are very possible. I've done one, and my inspiration came from this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Frozen_Feet
2018-02-09, 06:28 AM
You dismiss my point then validate it...

Your exact words did not make the point you think they did. If you think I'm validating your point, at most that shows that the argument is about your exact words rather than their spirit.


Anybody who says "how I use alignments is right, and how you use it is wrong" is full of it, because alignment is vague and subjective. It is all a matter of interpretation.

Which is again because the rules specifically leave it so and call out for interpretation, at least in 1st edition AD&D. That is, your interpretation of alignment rules is more correct than others because it has support from the rules.


If you want vile things to be considered "Good" in your campaign due to technicalities and loopholes, then you are fully able to do that as a DM. But you can't say "This is how the rules say alignment should work" (unless you are specifically saying "the rules allow me to make alignment work any way I want")
I say they are, and that they are in this context.

My specific points throughout the discussion have been that "the rules allow for this". The actual point of contention by and large has been "is it a good thing the rules allow for this?", because of the idea that if alignment rules differ from someone's real-life morals, this demonstrates a flaw in the rules.


You can not objectively codify "greater good", it will always require a subjective interpretation. Always.

And this is where I simply disagree as far as games are concerned. If you were right, you couldn't have a computerized alignment systems like Nethack and ADOM have. We have such systems, and hence you are wrong.

Though I'll note it's not because their rules escape the need for interpretation, it's because once they have been interpreted (by a machine, through machine language), they are objective.


It is broken if you make it simple, and it is broken for other reasons if you make it complex. If you have it as a vague background idea for "fluff" and don't aggressively inforce it, then it is fine. If you don't run games where "Good" aligned PCs are constantly judged by ridiculous moral dilemmas, then it is fine.

You haven't really demonstrated how the system is supposed to be "broken".

As for "aggressively enforcing", there's only three situations where alignment is supposed to be enforced:

1) the player chose to play a character type which has its in-game roles and powers defined in respect to serving some higher power or ideal, such as a Paladin, Druid, Cleric or Warlock. In these cases, the enforcement is meant to reflect in-game dissatisfaction of those powers and ideals.
2) the player is not playing their character according to their proclaimed alignment, at which point the GM can declare them to be of a more fitting alignment and give them an XP penalty. A special case of this is when a player is inconsistent at playing any kind of alignment, when the stacking penalties may effectively doom a character. This too is meant to reflect in-game wrath of the gods, and is also a tool to stop players from gaming the class-based rules above, and the magic-based rules above. This category of enforcement is largely gone from 3rd edition onwards.
3) in respect to some magical items, feats, monsters etc. fantastic objects with a traditionally moral dimension to them.

Nothing about this requires moral dilemmas to be constant part of the game, but there are only few ways to completely remove the chance of a moral dilemma from screwing over a character:

1) No moral dilemmas ever. No decision ever involves conflict between characters' values.
2) No-one ever plays character types which are defined by their morals. No knights in shining armor, no druids concerned with balance of good and evil, no priests held to a high standard by their god etc.
3) No class features, spells, magic items or other supernatural thingamajobs reliant on a character's moral nature. No arrows which pierce evil, no magic clouds which can only carry the pure-of-heart, no sacrificing the innocents to summon demons etc.

So which of these, if any, matches your idea of reducing alignment to "vague background fluff" and why would it be desireable?

Hjolnai
2018-02-09, 08:22 AM
I claim that it is possible to have a Good party opposing a Good nemesis who is objectively doing the wrong thing.

Picture this: The King of Farbanks has been spirited away by devils. The Paladin Queen wants to get him back, and is preparing to launch an invasion of the Abyss. This is certainly in keeping with the pseudo-Arthurian morality which paladins are partly based on, and destroying devils is Good. However, it's also a terrible idea and most other Good characters should want to prevent it. Unfortunately, paladins can be very stubborn, especially when they're in charge, so diplomacy is unlikely to work. Unless the party can disrupt her plans in some way, the Queen of Farbanks is going to get a tremendous number of people killed.

Reasonable PCs might include:
A representative of the Oligarch of Barram, responding to the Queen's military buildup. After all, Farbanks has a history of crusading against its neighbours.
A Master of the Spellweaver's Guild. In order to get her army into the Abyss in the first place, the Queen is undermining the Guild's perfectly sensible (and Good) ban on Abyssal conjurations, by sanctioning individual spellcasters to research the necessary spells.
A peasant or townsman who knows that many of his neighbours may not return from this war, and famine is a distinct possibility.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 08:24 AM
I claim that it is possible to have a Good party opposing a Good nemesis who is objectively doing the wrong thing.

Picture this: The King of Farbanks has been spirited away by devils. The Paladin Queen wants to get him back, and is preparing to launch an invasion of the Abyss. This is certainly in keeping with the pseudo-Arthurian morality which paladins are partly based on, and destroying devils is Good. However, it's also a terrible idea and most other Good characters should want to prevent it. Unfortunately, paladins can be very stubborn, especially when they're in charge, so diplomacy is unlikely to work. Unless the party can disrupt her plans in some way, the Queen of Farbanks is going to get a tremendous number of people killed.

Reasonable PCs might include:
A representative of the Oligarch of Barram, responding to the Queen's military buildup. After all, Farbanks has a history of crusading against its neighbours.
A Master of the Spellweaver's Guild. In order to get her army into the Abyss in the first place, the Queen is undermining the Guild's perfectly sensible (and Good) ban on Abyssal conjurations, by sanctioning individual spellcasters to research the necessary spells.
A peasant or townsman who knows that many of his neighbours may not return from this war, and famine is a distinct possibility.

If she's willing to put the kingdom and its people and its neighbors through all this to get one person back... is she good to begin with?

hamishspence
2018-02-09, 08:27 AM
"Go to extreme lengths to rescue someone who needs rescuing" is a pretty standard thing.

Heinlein, for example, commented on how much human mythology makes use of it, and how "several people die trying to rescue one person" is a very common headline.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 10:18 AM
"Go to extreme lengths to rescue someone who needs rescuing" is a pretty standard thing.

Heinlein, for example, commented on how much human mythology makes use of it, and how "several people die trying to rescue one person" is a very common headline.


Funny thing... I considered Saving Private Ryan more of a war farce than a heroic war movie, which was only tempered by the final scene with Ryan at least showing a full realization of just how much had been sacrificed, how many men had died, to make sure he lived.

Aliquid
2018-02-09, 12:32 PM
Your exact words did not make the point you think they did. If you think I'm validating your point, at most that shows that the argument is about your exact words rather than their spirit.Or maybe that you are missing the point...


Which is again because the rules specifically leave it so and call out for interpretation, at least in 1st edition AD&D. That is, your interpretation of alignment rules is more correct than others because it has support from the rules.I'm assuming that the rules you are referring to are speaking to the DM when they say that, otherwise that sentence makes no sense at all. But even if that is the case... yes, yes a DM has final say of how the rules are interpreted for alignment. If they want their players to like them, they should make sure everyone is ok with their interpretation, but at the end of the day, it is their call.

But that is not relevant for this debate, because the people posting on this thread are not playing with each other. We have multiple DMs here running multiple games. You can not say that your interpretation of the rules is more correct than someone else on this board for their game.

As a result, arguing on this board over which interpretation is correct is utterly pointless. We can discuss the implications of different interpretations, but we can't assert that ours is the correct one.



My specific points throughout the discussion have been that "the rules allow for this".I completely agree


And this is where I simply disagree as far as games are concerned. If you were right, you couldn't have a computerized alignment systems like Nethack and ADOM have. We have such systems, and hence you are wrong.I guess if you want to railroad the heck out of your players, you could accomplish this, but that would create other problems.

The only reason computer games allows for alignment measurement is that they provide discreet options for every scenario. You can only say these specific things, you can only do these specific things etc. When there is a list of specific things, you can make a decision on each and every one of them ahead of time.

With a TTRPG, there are way more options and way more variety than a CRPG. You can't codify every choice that the PCs might make.



As for "aggressively enforcing", there's only three situations where alignment is supposed to be enforced:

1) the player chose to play a character type which has its in-game roles and powers defined in respect to serving some higher power or ideal, such as a Paladin, Druid, Cleric or Warlock. In these cases, the enforcement is meant to reflect in-game dissatisfaction of those powers and ideals.
2) the player is not playing their character according to their proclaimed alignment, at which point the GM can declare them to be of a more fitting alignment and give them an XP penalty. A special case of this is when a player is inconsistent at playing any kind of alignment, when the stacking penalties may effectively doom a character. This too is meant to reflect in-game wrath of the gods, and is also a tool to stop players from gaming the class-based rules above, and the magic-based rules above. This category of enforcement is largely gone from 3rd edition onwards.
3) in respect to some magical items, feats, monsters etc. fantastic objects with a traditionally moral dimension to them.1)Alignment needs to be enforced. You can't get your powers if you don't follow the ideals
2) If the GM gives someone (who doesn't fit #1 above) a penalty for not following a couple of letters on their character sheet... then the GM is a power tripping jerk. Just change the PC's alignment and leave it at that.
3) Pretty much the exact same as #1. A power is tied to an ideal... you can't use the power without the ideal (e.g. a sword that only works for good characters)

The "aggressively enforcing" comes in when a GM starts micro-managing a player with a Paladin PC, and starts punishing him for not behaving perfectly all the time. "that comment you made to the mayor was slightly rude...", or "there was that one time where you walked by a homeless person without offering them money..."


Nothing about this requires moral dilemmas to be constant part of the gameKinda the point I was making. The problem is when GMs decide to make moral dilemmas a constant part of the game.

Some people like playing with moral dilemmas. It can make the game interesting, but when the GM punishes the players for not making the choice that the GM subjectively interpreted as the best option...

Luccan
2018-02-09, 01:12 PM
You would think, if good were objective, than an objectively good person would (at least try) to do good things. Not "everything they do is good because they're Good", but "because they are Good, they do good things". If you were to simplify it massively, let's say the Good-Evil axis in D&D is "Adopts Puppies" to "Kicks Puppies". Just because your alignment is "Adopts Puppies" and you do things to further the cause of "Adopts Puppies", doesn't mean kicking puppies to get others to feel bad and adopt them is an "Adopts Puppies" action. You are still objectively kicking puppies, you just think it's the best was to help for some reason.

So, similarly, just because you believe yourself to be doing what is best, does not make you Good. As others have pointed out, true Good v. Good conflict is different than Good v. Evil.

Edit: Not to say a Good person can't make mistakes or a person who wants to be Good can't realize the error of their ways. It's just that things like crusades, particularly against provably non-Evil faiths, are pretty clearly non-Good.

kyoryu
2018-02-09, 03:39 PM
I am in a mood for thought experiments as of lately. My latest thought was.

1. In D&D it is often mentioned that 'good' is a cosmic force, as in: good deities, good outsiders.

2. Good is objective, it is an item or person's determinable quality

So in theory, similar to a well written villain with a good goal whose values are completely shifted into 'vile' deeds i.e. slaughter everyone in the city so they cannot be turned into undead. be pulled on its head?

A good creature does evil things for the sake of good with such efficiency and effectivity that it is just silly not doing the "dubious thing" to further the cause of good (maybe force their good god onto everyone so people receive spells and abilities that can improve their lives, even if it means killing of vast majorities of rivaling faiths?

How would you build a campaign around an (L/N/C) good villain, be it outsider, divine caster or other? Caveat would be that the creature would not loose their "good" alignment or status short of DM fiat and/or good reasoning behind them being ultimatively evil.

Well, I'd say that such a character would be Evil, but....

Yes, antagonists who have at least ostensibly good goals make for wonderful adversaries.

Acanous
2018-02-10, 07:33 AM
Alignments in D&D are completely broken and make no sense whatsoever. In this case, I'm not certain how you could do this. If someone does something (e.g. smash in an innocents skull) for the greater good, is it even evil?

A bit late to the party here, but I recall Gary Gygax once said that a Good aligned Paladin could kill a villain directly after that villain repents, guaranteeing that the villain could not fall to evil again- and still maintain paladinhood. Meaning you waited until someone was saved, then killed them, and it's still a good act.

This is around the same time Elves couldn't be resurrected (They had no souls) and Paladin was human-only, mind.

To that end, yes it would be possible to have a Good BBEG. If Evil is going around seducing people to the cause (Literal succubi even) your good BBEG could be killing people, inquisition-style, prior to their "Infection" so they would have the best afterlife, and it would still be a "Good" act.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-10, 08:08 AM
A bit late to the party here, but I recall Gary Gygax once said that a Good aligned Paladin could kill a villain directly after that villain repents, guaranteeing that the villain could not fall to evil again- and still maintain paladinhood. Meaning you waited until someone was saved, then killed them, and it's still a good act.

This is around the same time Elves couldn't be resurrected (They had no souls) and Paladin was human-only, mind.

To that end, yes it would be possible to have a Good BBEG. If Evil is going around seducing people to the cause (Literal succubi even) your good BBEG could be killing people, inquisition-style, prior to their "Infection" so they would have the best afterlife, and it would still be a "Good" act.

And thus another variation on Alignment that leads straight to an ugly "morality".

"Kill them all, Good will know its own."

Ugh.

martixy
2018-02-10, 08:13 AM
A "good BBEG" is oxymoronic. "Evil" is in the description.

You can however, of course have a principally good aligned character in opposition to the party. If the party is good, the opposition can come from other places - most immediately apparent being the law-chaos axis. The conflict can come of something strictly personal - such as vengeance, or any number of other sources, like love, misunderstanding, disagreement in method, take your pick (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirty-Six_Dramatic_Situations).

hamishspence
2018-02-10, 02:14 PM
A bit late to the party here, but I recall Gary Gygax once said that a Good aligned Paladin could kill a villain directly after that villain repents, guaranteeing that the villain could not fall to evil again- and still maintain paladinhood. Meaning you waited until someone was saved, then killed them, and it's still a good act.

One of the Mods did theorise that Gygax was joking in that particular case, a few threads back:

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?135945-Under-which-editions-of-D-amp-D-was-it-evil-to-kill-prisoners&p=7554049&highlight=nits#post7554049


But you have to be careful, part of that thread he's plainly joking.

Which part was that?

where he says about killing a recently converted person to keep them from backsliding, for example, that seemed like his dry humor at work.

Acanous
2018-02-11, 06:01 AM
the part about backsliding might have been a joke, but he goes on to say in a few different ways that Paladins can kill prisoners and still be good.
"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is by no means anything but Lawful and Good. Prisoners guilty of murder or similar capital crimes can be executed without violating any precept of the alignment. Hanging is likely the usual method of such execution, although it might be beheading, strangulation, etc. A paladin is likely a figure that would be considered a fair judge of criminal conduct. "

So I unno. Maybe he was couching some of it in humour, but he had some pretty firm ideas about alignment, that seem internally consistent.

"Mercy is to be displayed for the lawbreaker that does so by accident. Benevolence is for the harmless. Pacifism in the fantasy milieu is for those who would be slaves. They have no place in determining general alignment, albeit justice tempered by mercy is a NG manifestation, whilst well-considered benevolence is generally a mark of Good. "

hamishspence
2018-02-11, 06:13 AM
That's why I prefer BoED - mercy is something you can, and should, at least try to grant everyone - not just the "accidental lawbreaker".

Suttle
2018-02-11, 06:43 AM
Create a society that is comfortable but flawed.

The good BBEG wants to bring the apocalypse, but not in the sense of destroying the world but destroying this evil and unfair society, the heroes are powerful figures whose power and comfort depends on the status quo, they fight the villain.

Segev
2018-02-11, 11:58 AM
Easily. Take a prime world where Baator sent Erinyes to interbreed with the population centuries ago and now 10% of people there are half-fiends and most are tieflings to some degree. Now mix with D&D paladin 'you cannot compromise with fiends in any form under any circumstances' codes plus 'killing a fiend is never an evil act' and you've got a genocidal maniac who nevertheless qualifies as Good by the book.

This only “works” if you change half-fiends to fiends; they aren’t, and don’t have the [evil] tag. By-the-book Paladins can work with by-the-book tieflings and half-fiends (provided said fiend-blooded individuals are not evil-aligned) without issue. And can’t slaughter them as “never evil to kill them” for the same reason they can’t just up and murder out of nowhere everybody who they pass on the street that pings on Detect Evil.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 12:18 PM
This only “works” if you change half-fiends to fiends; they aren’t, and don’t have the [evil] tag. By-the-book Paladins can work with by-the-book tieflings and half-fiends (provided said fiend-blooded individuals are not evil-aligned) without issue. And can’t slaughter them as “never evil to kill them” for the same reason they can’t just up and murder out of nowhere everybody who they pass on the street that pings on Detect Evil.


Reminds me of a gaming story I heard way back... about a Paladin PC who immediately attacked anything that pinged Evil.

Until the day that that a young woman, 15 or 16, came running up to the party, and pinged Evil, so he yelled out "Fiend" or "Devil" or whatever, and attacked. She died on the first hit.

Turns out she wasn't Evil, it was {Dread Artifact} in her possessions... she was the only person "good" enough to carry {Dread Artifact} around without being corrupted by it, and on the way to destroy it or lock it away or whatever, her guards had all been killed by cultists or whatever. So, having escaped the ambush, she'd come running to the famous paragon of goodness and his friends...

(This came up in one of those "is it fair to set Paladins up to fail" discussions.)

NichG
2018-02-11, 12:25 PM
This only “works” if you change half-fiends to fiends; they aren’t, and don’t have the [evil] tag. By-the-book Paladins can work with by-the-book tieflings and half-fiends (provided said fiend-blooded individuals are not evil-aligned) without issue. And can’t slaughter them as “never evil to kill them” for the same reason they can’t just up and murder out of nowhere everybody who they pass on the street that pings on Detect Evil.

Tieflings yes, but the Half-Fiend template changes the recipient's alignment to Evil so paladins can't associate with them. We can do this same construction with a city of redeemed fiends like the succubus paladin if the [evil] tag is the only thing at issue here.

Sadly, the way BoED/BoVD are written makes it easy to find problematic stuff even outside of context. It isn't 'never evil to kill fiends', but actually 'always a Good act to kill fiends'.

The more interesting point is, I suspect any hard-coded system that assigns a moral valence to actions with only a finite horizon of context, designed to summarize a particular moral intuition, can always be broken by a sufficiently different context than the rule was written for (broken meaning that the original author of the rule will conclude that it fails to return the correct verdict). I probably have to add that the moral intuition must care at least a little bit about outcomes, even if it's not fully utilitarian or consequentialist. Of course the context that does this may be highly unlikely (a city of reformed fiends; your average trolley problem; etc).

hamishspence
2018-02-11, 12:31 PM
Tieflings yes, but the Half-Fiend template changes the recipient's alignment to Evil so paladins can't associate with them.

The MM does say that not every "Always Evil" creature is in fact Evil - that they are capable of changing alignment.

In the section for each Alignment subtype, it says that the creature's "actual" alignment does not have to match it.

Also, "Associate" generally means "accept as a member of your adventuring party".


We can do this same construction with a city of redeemed fiends like the succubus paladin if the [evil] tag is the only thing at issue here.


I don't know about a city of redeemed fiends, but we know that in D&D there was an army of redeemed fiends - led by K'rand Vahlix:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AscendedDemon

Aliquid
2018-02-11, 12:41 PM
(This came up in one of those "is it fair to set Paladins up to fail" discussions.)And I'm sure people had all sorts of opinions on both sides of the argument.

For me it would depend on all sorts of factors relating to how things were handled before and after the event.

NichG
2018-02-11, 01:00 PM
The MM does say that not every "Always Evil" creature is in fact Evil - that they are capable of changing alignment.

In the section for each Alignment subtype, it says that the creature's "actual" alignment does not have to match it.


Yeah, that was an oversight. Could go with something like Kaorti victims who have been restored to their original personalities via e.g. Programmed Amnesia or other methods, and perhaps have even received Atonement. They could therefore be the requisite Good aligned [Evil] Outsiders for this construction.

Segev
2018-02-11, 03:37 PM
Yeah, that was an oversight. Could go with something like Kaorti victims who have been restored to their original personalities via e.g. Programmed Amnesia or other methods, and perhaps have even received Atonement. They could therefore be the requisite Good aligned [Evil] Outsiders for this construction.

D&D doesn't go into it, much, but I've always been fascinated by what it actually would mean to have your physical substance be made of [Alignment]. Which is more or less what the subtypes mean. I suspect that there's a certain amount of need to maintain alignment for physical health. Whether it's more akin to needing to live in a certain temperature range to avoid freezing/heat stroke, or needing food to replenish the body, or needing air to breathe, or having psychological needs on Maslow's Hierarchy be more basically physical for you, I personally imagine that a Fiend with [Evil] as a subtype that never acted on that alignment and actively fought against it would be physically ill, at a minimum the way somebody with a severe vitamin deficiency tends to get.

I am told that at least Planescape:Torment makes a claim that beings whose alignments don't match their [Alignment] subtype are functionally insane.

hamishspence
2018-02-11, 03:47 PM
I am told that at least Planescape:Torment makes a claim that beings whose alignments don't match their [Alignment] subtype are functionally insane.

I don't recall Nordom the CN modron, and Fall-From-Grace, the LN (with good tendencies) succubus ever being specifically called out as mad - just unusual.

However, while I've read lots of things about it, I haven't played the game itself.

Flickerdart
2018-02-11, 03:52 PM
There are a number of [Good] spells and magic items, not all of which are unusable by evil characters. While your "good" villain would fall very quickly, it is possible to hve an Evil villain who bludgeons people to death with weaponized pure goodness.

Luccan
2018-02-11, 04:45 PM
There are a number of [Good] spells and magic items, not all of which are unusable by evil characters. While your "good" villain would fall very quickly, it is possible to hve an Evil villain who bludgeons people to death with weaponized pure goodness.

This could have interesting implications. What happens to D&D cosmology when someone Evil is weaponizing Good against innocents? That itself could easily be part of the villain's goal.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 06:50 PM
This could have interesting implications. What happens to D&D cosmology when someone Evil is weaponizing Good against innocents? That itself could easily be part of the villain's goal.

The very fact that such a thing can even be a possibility should illustrate just how bonkers it is have "Good" and "Evil" as "cosmic forces" that can be tapped and manipulated like electricity, etc.

Luccan
2018-02-11, 07:02 PM
The very fact that such a thing can even be a possibility should illustrate just how bonkers it is have "Good" and "Evil" as "cosmic forces" that can be tapped and manipulated like electricity, etc.

It's really only a problem if you actively dislike the concept. Just because it's crazy doesn't mean it can't be fun. But I'm not going to try and convince anyone they should go along with any settings weird cosmology. It's ultimately up to each table to decide how they want to handle it (though they should understand the expectations of the system and players who come to their table having played or read of it elsewhere).

NichG
2018-02-11, 10:33 PM
D&D doesn't go into it, much, but I've always been fascinated by what it actually would mean to have your physical substance be made of [Alignment]. Which is more or less what the subtypes mean. I suspect that there's a certain amount of need to maintain alignment for physical health. Whether it's more akin to needing to live in a certain temperature range to avoid freezing/heat stroke, or needing food to replenish the body, or needing air to breathe, or having psychological needs on Maslow's Hierarchy be more basically physical for you, I personally imagine that a Fiend with [Evil] as a subtype that never acted on that alignment and actively fought against it would be physically ill, at a minimum the way somebody with a severe vitamin deficiency tends to get.

I am told that at least Planescape:Torment makes a claim that beings whose alignments don't match their [Alignment] subtype are functionally insane.

Planescape is really a setting that deconstructs the idea of alignment, or at least shows a subset of the outer planar cohort who have risen above it as being civilized or superior to the infinite hordes of prototypical outsiders. Sigil has more alignment exceptions in it than alignment prototypes - arms-dealing angels who perpetuate the Blood War for the good of the heavens, the Friendly Fiend as a helpful arcanoloth shopkeeper, Baatezu who channel their evil impulses into providing SM services to Senates, modrons that have escaped the hierarchy, Slaadi innkeepers who limit their chaos to butlerish affectations, etc. Not to mention you've got gods whose realms are in the wrong planes for their alignment because it matches their mythology (meaning 'where you end up' gets a lot more complicated in a setting that has taken Planescape to heart), and Planescape does a fair job of ensuring that even the Upper Planes have their fair share of secrets, troubles, and dangers. If you go to heaven in Planescape, that's no guarantee that the angel in charge won't make a deal to use your layer to host the training of a planetary pacification force that's so much less good than it claims that your layer falls to the next plane down.

So basically, Planescape is what you get when a bunch of designers build setting around 'yeah, alignment is a bit of a farce innit?' while acknowledging that farce or not, it's backed by some large cosmic forces that have quite a lot of sway. Sigil can get away with being cosmopolitan but elsewhere in the Outer Planes if you want to be different, you need a sponsor who has enough oomph to make it stick.

Lord Raziere
2018-02-11, 11:31 PM
Planescape is really a setting that deconstructs the idea of alignment, or at least shows a subset of the outer planar cohort who have risen above it as being civilized or superior to the infinite hordes of prototypical outsiders. Sigil has more alignment exceptions in it than alignment prototypes - arms-dealing angels who perpetuate the Blood War for the good of the heavens, the Friendly Fiend as a helpful arcanoloth shopkeeper, Baatezu who channel their evil impulses into providing SM services to Senates, modrons that have escaped the hierarchy, Slaadi innkeepers who limit their chaos to butlerish affectations, etc. Not to mention you've got gods whose realms are in the wrong planes for their alignment because it matches their mythology (meaning 'where you end up' gets a lot more complicated in a setting that has taken Planescape to heart), and Planescape does a fair job of ensuring that even the Upper Planes have their fair share of secrets, troubles, and dangers. If you go to heaven in Planescape, that's no guarantee that the angel in charge won't make a deal to use your layer to host the training of a planetary pacification force that's so much less good than it claims that your layer falls to the next plane down.

So basically, Planescape is what you get when a bunch of designers build setting around 'yeah, alignment is a bit of a farce innit?' while acknowledging that farce or not, it's backed by some large cosmic forces that have quite a lot of sway. Sigil can get away with being cosmopolitan but elsewhere in the Outer Planes if you want to be different, you need a sponsor who has enough oomph to make it stick.

Cool, this makes me want to play Planescape a lot more now.

also it tells me that my Succubus Spy from heaven concept is the perfect character for this setting.

now if only other people were to play planescape with me. the eternal rolepalyers lament.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 12:07 PM
This could have interesting implications. What happens to D&D cosmology when someone Evil is weaponizing Good against innocents? That itself could easily be part of the villain's goal.


The very fact that such a thing can even be a possibility should illustrate just how bonkers it is have "Good" and "Evil" as "cosmic forces" that can be tapped and manipulated like electricity, etc.


It's really only a problem if you actively dislike the concept. Just because it's crazy doesn't mean it can't be fun. But I'm not going to try and convince anyone they should go along with any settings weird cosmology. It's ultimately up to each table to decide how they want to handle it (though they should understand the expectations of the system and players who come to their table having played or read of it elsewhere).

Yeah, I'm honestly not seeing the issue. Sure, casting Holy Word in a crowded marketplace is likely to be every bit as destructive and catastrophic as casting Chain Lightning there would be; a good or even neutral cleric who did so would fall pretty much instantly. But that fall would likely mean they couldn't continue to "weaponize Good" going forward either. And while there are destructive arcane "[Good]" spells too, they are far fewer in number and most tend to be Sanctified, which means you can be metaphysically cut off from them too.

Segev
2018-02-12, 12:58 PM
Yeah, I've always been bugged by the notion that [Alignment] tagged spells cannot be used without advancing the cause of the alignment in question, and turning the caster's soul that direction. Having it use [Alignment] energy and thus be inaccessible to those who aren't already of the requisite alignment makes a lot more sense. Which is true for clerics, not so much for arcane casters, as-is.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 01:29 PM
Actually that only works for Evil. Casting [Good] spells does not make you turn Good. BoED 7:


CASTING GOOD SPELLS

Good spells alleviate suffering, inspire hope or joy, use the caster’s energy or vitality to help or heal another, summon celestials, or channel holy power. Particularly in the last instance, good spells might be just as destructive—at least to evil creatures—as a fireball. Not all good spells involve only sweetness and light. Good spells don’t have any redemptive influence on those who cast them, for better or worse. An evil wizard who dabbles in a few good spells, most likely to help him achieve selfish ends, does not usually decide to abandon his evil ways because he’s been purified by the touch of the holy.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 01:34 PM
It's also telling that it takes an entire library of added books to even start to get a handle on the subject in that edition... and that the books seem to contradict in a few places from the information that people relay.

(PHB, DMG, BoED, BoVD, etc?)

Segev
2018-02-12, 01:34 PM
Actually that only works for Evil. Casting [Good] spells does not make you turn Good. BoED 7:

9_9 Great. So it's really, REALLY inconsistent. Ugh.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 01:37 PM
9_9 Great. So it's really, REALLY inconsistent. Ugh.

Why should it be consistent? Evil is supposed to be an easier path to slide down than Good - that's the whole point.

"We must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy." - Albus Dumbledore

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 01:51 PM
Why should it be consistent? Evil is supposed to be an easier path to slide down than Good - that's the whole point.

"We must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy." - Albus Dumbledore

I think that gets played up more in fiction, really. Difficulty and morality seem to be tangential more often than fictional tropes would allow for.

Mark Hall
2018-02-12, 02:23 PM
Actually that only works for Evil. Casting [Good] spells does not make you turn Good. BoED 7:

Which is fairly standard with a Western view of morality, really... Good tends to be viewed as a form of purity, from which deviation makes you notGood. But evil is a far more flexible state... doing a little bit of good never makes you notEvil. (Part of why I really hate the idea of "anti-Paladins" having limitations inverted from AD&D Paladins. "Ooops, you willfully failed to litter, which is Lawful" quickly becomes a farcical position.)

Psyren
2018-02-12, 02:50 PM
I think that gets played up more in fiction, really. Difficulty and morality seem to be tangential more often than fictional tropes would allow for.

Most TTRPG settings are fictional, at least last time I checked :smalltongue:

Less facetiously, the folks who write fantasy settings generally also write fantasy fiction, and bring their mindsets with them.


Which is fairly standard with a Western view of morality, really... Good tends to be viewed as a form of purity, from which deviation makes you notGood. But evil is a far more flexible state... doing a little bit of good never makes you notEvil. (Part of why I really hate the idea of "anti-Paladins" having limitations inverted from AD&D Paladins. "Ooops, you willfully failed to litter, which is Lawful" quickly becomes a farcical position.)

Yes - BoED in particular subscribes quite heavily to Rousseau Was Right (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RousseauWasRight), and Pathfinder too from what I've seen. Can't speak as much for other alignment systems.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 02:55 PM
Most TTRPG settings are fictional, at least last time I checked :smalltongue:

Less facetiously, the folks who write fantasy settings generally also write fantasy fiction, and bring their mindsets with them.


More's the pity.

But then, I've little interest in emulating genre conventions.

Mark Hall
2018-02-12, 03:17 PM
Yes - BoED in particular subscribes quite heavily to Rousseau Was Right (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RousseauWasRight), and Pathfinder too from what I've seen. Can't speak as much for other alignment systems.

To an extent, it's necessary for the conception of Team Good and Team Evil... if Evil cannot become Good, and Good cannot become Evil, then the team lines are strictly arbitrary... might as well call them Team Red and Team Blue. If Good can become Evil, it must be corruptible. If Evil can become Good, it must be redeemable. While extreme outliers are allowed (i.e. angels and demons), that's more because they're the manifestation of the forces... and, even then, fallen angels (http://torment.wikia.com/wiki/Trias) and ascending demons (http://torment.wikia.com/wiki/Fall-from-Grace) are popular tropes.

Segev
2018-02-12, 03:22 PM
I'm definitely not going to rehash the debate over aligned spells here, sorry, Psyren. I think we hashed it out as much as we could and beyond the point of having anything convincing to say, and I still am not sure people really grasped what I was getting at. It isn't worth it to me to try to clarify again just to cause more argument.

Suffice it to say that I don't like the notion that channeling one energy makes you more aligned with it, but channeling its opposite does not make you more aligned with its opposite. This is, for purposes of here and now, an opinion of mine.

As to RPGs assuming Rousseau was right...they might treat the tabula rasa part as true enough, but I don't think they assume everybody tends towards goodness. Various races tend different ways, in fact, according to the alignment fields in their MM entries.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 03:41 PM
But then, I've little interest in emulate genre conventions.

And here we're at the point of differing tastes, so there's really nothing else to debate.


I'm definitely not going to rehash the debate over aligned spells here, sorry, Psyren.

See above, but to discuss the second part:



As to RPGs assuming Rousseau was right...they might treat the tabula rasa part as true enough, but I don't think they assume everybody tends towards goodness. Various races tend different ways, in fact, according to the alignment fields in their MM entries.

Aside from the subtyped monsters though, those entries assume they are raised in specific environments. The average Drow you run into is one that has been raised under Lolth's (or more accurately, her priestesses') tender ministrations; the ones that didn't either didn't survive to adulthood at all, or are named/exceptional NPCs with entries of their own. THAT is why the drow alignment is the way it is, not because they are not blank slates that wouldn't have turned out good somewhere else.

And even with the subtyped monsters, as Mark Hall mentioned, you can have the odd one that defies their nature. It's important to remember that D&D PCs are assumed to be exceptional, the protagonists in a larger narrative of some kind - it's only natural that they'll run into equally exceptional NPCs, especially if they are continuing to operate and advance through the setting. That doesn't mean the rule is false for the setting as a whole.

Segev
2018-02-12, 05:07 PM
Aside from the subtyped monsters though, those entries assume they are raised in specific environments. The average Drow you run into is one that has been raised under Lolth's (or more accurately, her priestesses') tender ministrations; the ones that didn't either didn't survive to adulthood at all, or are named/exceptional NPCs with entries of their own. THAT is why the drow alignment is the way it is, not because they are not blank slates that wouldn't have turned out good somewhere else.

And even with the subtyped monsters, as Mark Hall mentioned, you can have the odd one that defies their nature. It's important to remember that D&D PCs are assumed to be exceptional, the protagonists in a larger narrative of some kind - it's only natural that they'll run into equally exceptional NPCs, especially if they are continuing to operate and advance through the setting. That doesn't mean the rule is false for the setting as a whole.

Sure. But even that, applied consistently, suggests that those with "good" tendencies are also product of environment, with the evil ones disciplined until they won't be evil anymore.

Of course, if you take Rousseau's actual position on the matter, he wasn't really arguing a "tendency towards good" in the civilized sense, but rather that there exists a "natural innocence" until the creature learns to be more than a tabula rasa. That natural innocence is also that of children or animals, and like mother nature can be red in tooth and claw. It's just that the beast isn't evil for hunting and killing its prey. It's just a beast, doing what it must to survive.

Humans, under Rousseau's formulation, learn to be better than beasts. It actually has some pretty strong parallels to the Garden of Eden and the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, whether you take that as gospel truth (no, literally) or as a metaphoric myth. The idea being that we become good, rather than innocent, by learning to rise above base natural urges. In a sense, he equates this with developing social behaviors, though I am not well enough versed in his works to know whether he directly makes that association or not.

Mark Hall
2018-02-12, 05:16 PM
Of course, when you get to mortal races that are literal descendants of deities, you get a different question. Humans may follow the broad strokes of "natural innocence that will trend towards self-interest", but what about dwarves, forged by Moradin? Which way would their instincts lie? Or elves, the blood of Corellon Larethian? Or Orcs, the spawn of Gruumsh? Even if you assume that each of these is born NN, you might wind up with them trending towards LG, CG, or CE, respectively, because, while they are moral actors, they're also descended from the strongly aligned outsiders.

Segev
2018-02-12, 05:25 PM
Of course, when you get to mortal races that are literal descendants of deities, you get a different question. Humans may follow the broad strokes of "natural innocence that will trend towards self-interest", but what about dwarves, forged by Moradin? Which way would their instincts lie? Or elves, the blood of Corellon Larethian? Or Orcs, the spawn of Gruumsh? Even if you assume that each of these is born NN, you might wind up with them trending towards LG, CG, or CE, respectively, because, while they are moral actors, they're also descended from the strongly aligned outsiders.
My personal theory on this is that they'll trend towards self-interest, as well, and the various aligned expressions of this will stem from what self-interest means to those races. Maybe elves really do benefit more strongly from a loose community, and need flexibility to achieve their proper mental balance. Or maybe they literally don't learn until they're able to figure out meditation, because long-term memory is organized during sleep. So when they go too long without it, they get flighty.

Maybe dwarves actually have a spiritual connection to their clan and their history, forged and symbolized by wealth and communal works of art. The treasure they keep is a symbol of their clan and history, and half their identity. The other half is their clan identity. They really do not value themselves above the clan, because the clan will retain a part of them, while their individuality withers and dies without the clan and their treasure.

Maybe orcs, unlike any other race, actually have fewer diminishing returns on concentrating resources (food, training, etc.) into single beings. A community is stronger for having a few tyrannical overlords who are maximally overstuffed, than by them all having a better distribution of resources. Maybe they have a strong "champion-minded" attitude, as well, where they identify with their leaders the way humans identify with their sports teams. Their leaders' victories are theirs. Their leaders' grandeur is theirs. Sure, they'd like to be on top, but if they're not, they're willing to pour everything into the one who is, because his grandeur reflects their self-worth more than their own comforts do. This isn't generosity. This is self-aggrandizement. They will gleefully take from any who ARE NOT their group, their leader, and revel in it. Their own achievements are their leader's, too, after all.

But if he's going to fall, dying for him is stupid. Just elevate another. Or claim the top for yourself.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 05:42 PM
My personal theory on this is that they'll trend towards self-interest, as well, and the various aligned expressions of this will stem from what self-interest means to those races. Maybe elves really do benefit more strongly from a loose community, and need flexibility to achieve their proper mental balance. Or maybe they literally don't learn until they're able to figure out meditation, because long-term memory is organized during sleep. So when they go too long without it, they get flighty.

Maybe dwarves actually have a spiritual connection to their clan and their history, forged and symbolized by wealth and communal works of art. The treasure they keep is a symbol of their clan and history, and half their identity. The other half is their clan identity. They really do not value themselves above the clan, because the clan will retain a part of them, while their individuality withers and dies without the clan and their treasure.

Maybe orcs, unlike any other race, actually have fewer diminishing returns on concentrating resources (food, training, etc.) into single beings. A community is stronger for having a few tyrannical overlords who are maximally overstuffed, than by them all having a better distribution of resources. Maybe they have a strong "champion-minded" attitude, as well, where they identify with their leaders the way humans identify with their sports teams. Their leaders' victories are theirs. Their leaders' grandeur is theirs. Sure, they'd like to be on top, but if they're not, they're willing to pour everything into the one who is, because his grandeur reflects their self-worth more than their own comforts do. This isn't generosity. This is self-aggrandizement. They will gleefully take from any who ARE NOT their group, their leader, and revel in it. Their own achievements are their leader's, too, after all.

But if he's going to fall, dying for him is stupid. Just elevate another. Or claim the top for yourself.

I'm fine with your theory but why can't it be both? Yes, "self-interest" to an elf might trend them more towards a loosely individualistic yet generally benign community - but it's a community that still has positive externalities for the world at large. Thus it results in more "good" overall.

The larger point is that Drow, and Orcs etc. never really have the opportunity to try living another way, because advancement (and in many cases, survival!) in those societies requires them to adhere to guidelines set forth by deities that are very much set in their ways. In other words, whether they are truly blank slates or not is pretty irrelevant in practice, as long as the racial deities are who they are and stay at the top.

Segev
2018-02-12, 05:47 PM
I'm fine with your theory but why can't it be both? Yes, "self-interest" to an elf might trend them more towards a loosely individualistic yet generally benign community - but it's a community that still has positive externalities for the world at large. Thus it results in more "good" overall.

The larger point is that Drow, and Orcs etc. never really have the opportunity to try living another way, because advancement (and in many cases, survival!) in those societies requires them to adhere to guidelines set forth by deities that are very much set in their ways. In other words, whether they are truly blank slates or not is pretty irrelevant in practice, as long as the racial deities are who they are and stay at the top.

I'm not disagreeing with your larger point. If, however, it's strictly "our gods say so" that enforces the culture (and for the Drow, that is unequivocally, hilariously the case; their society DOES NOT WORK without Lolth's constant intervention), as much can be said for the traditionally good races: they have little chance of turning out evil because their societies are dictated by their gods, who promote based on goodness and successful implementation of plans for the greater good, etc.

If gods take on the level of an active hand that actually warps the reward function of the societies in which they operate, then the reward function of those societies will be warped towards those gods' preferences.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 06:13 PM
I'm not disagreeing with your larger point. If, however, it's strictly "our gods say so" that enforces the culture (and for the Drow, that is unequivocally, hilariously the case; their society DOES NOT WORK without Lolth's constant intervention), as much can be said for the traditionally good races: they have little chance of turning out evil because their societies are dictated by their gods, who promote based on goodness and successful implementation of plans for the greater good, etc.

I guess I'm not understanding what the issue with this is. A society founded on practices rooted in religion is not so strange, even in ones where the gods aren't taking an active hand in affairs (never mind when they are.) Heck, even Eberron has it, and they managed it with deities that are completely silent.

I mean, yeah it opens up the legitimate question of whether these societies would have turned out the same way absent any divine influence at all, but since there aren't any mainstream published settings that don't, it's a pretty moot point. I think the closest we've come to that is Ravenloft, and even that has the Mists heavily influencing people's behavior.


If gods take on the level of an active hand that actually warps the reward function of the societies in which they operate, then the reward function of those societies will be warped towards those gods' preferences.

I'm not sure I'd describe it as "warping" though. The gods (especially the racial ones) have priorities, and they nudge their followers in the direction of those priorities - some more firmly than others. But for the Good ones, if the overall impact on the world is itself Good - via dogma like "protect the innocent" and "preserve beauty" and "heal those who hurt" etc. - does it truly matter if there's an agenda there? It's not like the evil ones care about the "why."

Segev
2018-02-12, 06:52 PM
I guess I'm not understanding what the issue with this is. A society founded on practices rooted in religion is not so strange, even in ones where the gods aren't taking an active hand in affairs (never mind when they are.) Heck, even Eberron has it, and they managed it with deities that are completely silent.

I mean, yeah it opens up the legitimate question of whether these societies would have turned out the same way absent any divine influence at all, but since there aren't any mainstream published settings that don't, it's a pretty moot point. I think the closest we've come to that is Ravenloft, and even that has the Mists heavily influencing people's behavior.



I'm not sure I'd describe it as "warping" though. The gods (especially the racial ones) have priorities, and they nudge their followers in the direction of those priorities - some more firmly than others. But for the Good ones, if the overall impact on the world is itself Good - via dogma like "protect the innocent" and "preserve beauty" and "heal those who hurt" etc. - does it truly matter if there's an agenda there? It's not like the evil ones care about the "why."

My point, in specific response to your own about why evil races turn out evil (i.e. that it's due to their culture and gods) is that it applies equally to good races. And lawful and chaotic ones, as well.

Not that it's a "problem" so much as it's not something that says anything about the races that aren't evil having a "natural proclivity" towards good. Regardless of whether the cause is a natural inclination or godly intervention or cultural inertia, the cause of the races' scions growing up [aligned] can be the same. It seems unlikely that, for instance, orcs are "naturally inclined to good" and that the only thing making them evil is Gruumsh and their culture. If they are naturally inclined in any direction, it's probably towards their god's proclivity, because he would have made them that way.

Psyren
2018-02-12, 07:21 PM
The thing is though that those racial societies are the minority. For every Evermeet churning out CG elves, there are a proportional number ending up that way despite growing up in Waterdeep, or Cormyr, or Baldur's Gate, or Neverwinter etc. Ditto Halflings, Dwarves, and Gnomes - and in those locales, many gods hold sway (even some evil ones) rather than the culture being dictated by those of their races. Shouldn't the ones from those societies be predominantly neutral then, defying their monster manual entries en masse?

Segev
2018-02-12, 07:56 PM
The thing is though that those racial societies are the minority. For every Evermeet churning out CG elves, there are a proportional number ending up that way despite growing up in Waterdeep, or Cormyr, or Baldur's Gate, or Neverwinter etc. Ditto Halflings, Dwarves, and Gnomes - and in those locales, many gods hold sway (even some evil ones) rather than the culture being dictated by those of their races. Shouldn't the ones from those societies be predominantly neutral then, defying their monster manual entries en masse?

Then how do you know that drop raised away from Lolth still trend CE? The only counterexample is those that worship Ellistrae.

All you’ve really got here is more “ culture matters” arguments, not that they trend good naturally. Certainly not that they trend evil only because of gods, while everyone godless trends good.

Mark Hall
2018-02-13, 01:29 PM
The thing is, deities in D&D aren't, for the most part, just culture... they're active forces in the daily and political lives of their followers. The priest of Chauntea has significant power as a representative of Chauntea, not just because other people worship Chauntea, but because Chauntea grants him power to do things in Chauntea's name, and in Chauntea's interest. When you get into societies where a particular pantheon of a general alignment has a lot of influence (like the Seldarine), then those societies are going to be pushed in that direction by those agents. If someone stands up and starts advocating for a position that they oppose, they're going to argue against it, with the culture and magical force of their deity backing up their arguments.

Psyren
2018-02-13, 01:40 PM
Then how do you know that drop raised away from Lolth still trend CE? The only counterexample is those that worship Ellistrae.

All you’ve really got here is more “ culture matters” arguments, not that they trend good naturally. Certainly not that they trend evil only because of gods, while everyone godless trends good.

You're right - but we simply don't have a significant number of non-Lolth drow or non-Kurtulmak kobolds to go by.

As Mark mentioned though, it's not really possible in these settings to separate culture from the divine. The only settings where that is possible barely have deities at all, and coincidentally those are the ones where the "usually/always X" gets subverted. (i.e. Eberron/Ravenloft.)

Segev
2018-02-13, 01:47 PM
The thing is, deities in D&D aren't, for the most part, just culture... they're active forces in the daily and political lives of their followers. The priest of Chauntea has significant power as a representative of Chauntea, not just because other people worship Chauntea, but because Chauntea grants him power to do things in Chauntea's name, and in Chauntea's interest. When you get into societies where a particular pantheon of a general alignment has a lot of influence (like the Seldarine), then those societies are going to be pushed in that direction by those agents. If someone stands up and starts advocating for a position that they oppose, they're going to argue against it, with the culture and magical force of their deity backing up their arguments.

Isn't that what I just said? I get the feeling people are arguing with me because they think I'm saying something I'm not.

Let me try to outline the discussion as I am replying to it:

Rousseau was brought up, and D&D races were said to fit his model of a tabula rasa with a slight trend towards good.
I pointed out that there isn't such a slight trend; we have evil races, too.
It was argued that, no, that doesn't disprove the slight trend towards good, because evil races are a product of their cultures.
I agreed that that was possible, but that, if so, it's probable that good-aligned races are also the product of their cultures.
Thus, I argue, that the "slight trend towards good" is not demonstrably present.
Gods were brought up, and their influence on societies. This was said to be why evil cultures are evil and evil races turn out evil: their gods enforce it.
I agreed that this was possible, but that in that case it is equally probable that good gods made good cultures good, and thus the good races turn out good for that reason, not due to some slight trend towards goodness inherent to all creatures (but squashed by evil cultures/gods where they hold sway).


Now, Mark Hall and Psyren seem to be trying to convince me that evil gods can and do have influence, if I'm parsing their arguments and apparent purpose correctly. (If I'm not, I apologize.) I am reacting with bafflement because this is like trying to argue with me that water is wet, as if I were somehow disagreeing with that when I say that fire is hot.

I agree: gods are influential in a number of ways.

My thesis is that the tabula rasa of an individual creature is either without "slight trend" towards any alignment, or that the "slight trend" is towards whatever their monster manual entry says they "usually" or "always" are. In other words, I'm arguing that, if there is a "slight trend" towards an alignment for an elf, it's towards CG, and for an orc, it's towards CE. That the orc is not possessing a "slight trend towards goodness," under any circumstance.

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 01:48 PM
You're right - but we simply don't have a significant number of non-Lolth drow or non-Kurtulmak kobolds to go by.

Going by Races of the Dragon, a fairly significant minority of kobolds aren't devoted to Kurtulmak but to Io, who is TN.

Mark Hall
2018-02-13, 01:50 PM
Another note: There's a simple reason why you're more likely to see a Evil Elf or Dwarf than a Good Orc or Hobgoblin... because evil societies have less qualms about killing someone who deviates. A LN or NE Hobgoblin can function in Hobgoblin society, but a LG or CE one is going to have a lot of problems... they either don't have the necessary bloodthirstiness to advance, or they don't play the game well enough to keep their position. But a CE or LG elf? Elves are more likely to let them off, or not chase them if they've left. The LG elf is unacceptably uptight, but no one is going to kill him for it. The CE elf might be able to hide in society for quite a while. But the LG hobgoblin is probably going to get killed by someone he showed mercy to.

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 01:55 PM
Another note: There's a simple reason why you're more likely to see a Evil Elf or Dwarf than a Good Orc or Hobgoblin... because evil societies have less qualms about killing someone who deviates. A LN or NE Hobgoblin can function in Hobgoblin society, but a LG or CE one is going to have a lot of problems... they either don't have the necessary bloodthirstiness to advance, or they don't play the game well enough to keep their position.


When it comes to "rising to the top" the number can be quite high though.

In Races of the Dragon, 10% of Kobold communities have Good power centres (Kobolds are Usually LE)

In Races of the Wild, only 7% of Elven communities have Evil power centres (Elves are Usually CG)

Maybe Kobolds are more tolerant of Good, than Elves are of Evil?

Psyren
2018-02-13, 02:12 PM
Rousseau was brought up, and D&D races were said to fit his model of a tabula rasa with a slight trend towards good.

That isn't quite what Rousseau/BoED is saying though, and sorry if I came off as saying that. He's saying everyone has the potential for redemption and goodness, not that they will absolutely/universally go that way absent any cultural or external forces. Without those influences* they will probably end up neutral, but the potential for good is always there even for the Always Evil (non-subtyped) races, and it remains even for the ones that HAVE been acting on their evil upbringing with gusto for a very long time. That's what BoED is getting at.

*"Without those influences" being mostly a moot point, since it translates in most cases to "without religion" - a paradigm that D&D settings by and large don't bother exploring.

Segev
2018-02-13, 02:37 PM
That isn't quite what Rousseau/BoED is saying though, and sorry if I came off as saying that. He's saying everyone has the potential for redemption and goodness, not that they will absolutely/universally go that way absent any cultural or external forces. Without those influences* they will probably end up neutral, but the potential for good is always there even for the Always Evil (non-subtyped) races, and it remains even for the ones that HAVE been acting on their evil upbringing with gusto for a very long time. That's what BoED is getting at.

*"Without those influences" being mostly a moot point, since it translates in most cases to "without religion" - a paradigm that D&D settings by and large don't bother exploring.

Oh, sure. I don't disagree that all of them have the potential for redemption. Nor the potential for falling to depravity.

Psyren
2018-02-13, 02:59 PM
Indeed, every individual can both rise and fall (even angels can fall and devils rise.) But rising is still harder - and so a book that reminds people of that Rousseau-ian possibility, so they don't view murderhoboism as the only course of action for every evil creature they come across, has value - that's all I'm saying.

Mark Hall
2018-02-13, 03:06 PM
When it comes to "rising to the top" the number can be quite high though.

In Races of the Dragon, 10% of Kobold communities have Good power centres (Kobolds are Usually LE)

In Races of the Wild, only 7% of Elven communities have Evil power centres (Elves are Usually CG)

Maybe Kobolds are more tolerant of Good, than Elves are of Evil?

Or Lawful creatures are more likely to build power centers than evil ones. An elf who goes evil will likely go CE (based on the general "deviations are less likely to be 4 steps than 2 on the alignment chart"), while a kobold who goes good will likely be LG.

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 03:13 PM
The figures given were that 4% of elf power centres were CE, 2% were NE and 1% LE

For Kobolds, 5% were LG, 4% NG, and 1% CG.

In both cases, only 1% were "the opposite to the standard alignment".

Gnomes (Usually NG) have a much higher tolerance of Evil than the usually CG elves.

Gnome power centres: 5% are LE, 5% are NE, 5% are CE

Psyren
2018-02-13, 03:32 PM
The specific numbers seem arbitrary to me beyond "evil elf communities exist" I doubt the designers put much more thought into the statistics than we are, if not less.

NovenFromTheSun
2018-02-13, 03:40 PM
Most alignment threads here make the point that just one act won't change a person's overall alignment on its own. So I can see a BB"E"G who's mostly a good person, but who the party has to stop because of something he's doing at his lowest moment.

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 03:42 PM
The specific numbers seem arbitrary to me beyond "evil elf communities exist" I doubt the designers put much more thought into the statistics than we are, if not less.


I was thinking more "There are more good kobolds in charge of kobold communities - than there are evil elves in charge of elven communities"

that the idea that "being good makes it virtually impossible to rise high when most of those around you are evil" isn't all that well founded. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.



To sum up: Some Good races in D&D make it harder for Evil people to rise to the top, than their Evil counterparts do for Good people.

Segev
2018-02-13, 03:44 PM
Most alignment threads here make the point that just one act won't change a person's overall alignment on its own. So I can see a BB"E"G who's mostly a good person, but who the party has to stop because of something he's doing at his lowest moment.

An interesting point and theory, but generally speaking, if you've earned the Big Bad Evil Guy title, it's not "one act at your lowest moment." You've got to be doing something that takes plenty of premeditation. And likely sparking a lot of conflict through acts that are recognizably...problematic...to get the PCs' attention in the first place. So by the time they reach you, you're probably not a good man who has made one mistake anymore.

Psyren
2018-02-13, 04:57 PM
Most alignment threads here make the point that just one act won't change a person's overall alignment on its own. So I can see a BB"E"G who's mostly a good person, but who the party has to stop because of something he's doing at his lowest moment.

A single heinous act CAN change your alignment though, especially you don't repent/atone for it. This is even RAW (per FC2), but we see it in fiction (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0407.html) as well.



To sum up: Some Good races in D&D make it harder for Evil people to rise to the top, than their Evil counterparts do for Good people.

I think it's just harder for Evil to rise in general.

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 05:09 PM
A single heinous act CAN change your alignment though, especially you don't repent/atone for it. This is even RAW (per FC2), but we see it in fiction (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0407.html) as well.


There was large amounts of debate about whether Miko's Fall included a change of alignment - with many arguing that she was still LG.


FC2's "heinous act that instantly changes alignment" is signing a Pact Certain that promises one's soul to the Nine Hells.


DMG also supports more generally, the possibility of instant alignment changes as exceptions (but still possible exceptions) to the general rule that alignment change is slow. The example given was "wholehearted repentance" that caused instant change from Evil to Good - but the reverse - wholehearted embrace of villainy, is also feasible.

BoVD has a "Only the vilest of villains are willing to do this" act - destroying a soul.

2e also had an example specified of an act "for which the GM is justified in instituting an instant change to Evil alignment" - burning down a village (to contain a plague outbreak).

So, there's plenty of precedent for "instant alignment change" even though we are also told that it is not usual.

Psyren
2018-02-13, 05:31 PM
FC2's "heinous act that instantly changes alignment" is signing a Pact Certain that promises one's soul to the Nine Hells.

That's certainly a good example, but not actually what I was referring to: per FC2, if you have a corrupt score of 4+ you're destined for the lower planes unless you atone. The Pact Certain you mentioned is an instant 7, but so are some non-pact behaviors like "murder for pleasure" and "inflicting indescribable torture."

I won't rehash the Miko thing here but I agree with your other examples.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 05:33 PM
Does a single heinous act, regardless of motivation or circumstances, automatically change who the character is inside, even if they don't relish doing it and regret having done it?

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-13, 05:37 PM
BoVD has a "Only the vilest of villains are willing to do this" act - destroying a soul.


Not in D&D, but in another game, I had a character who did that -- destroyed a soul, intentionally.

But the soul in question was of an individual who had the power to reincarnate over and over, to come back and grow into their memories and powers in each new life, getting stronger and more driven and more evil and more sadistic with each new lifetime of experience.

Was my character evil?

hamishspence
2018-02-13, 05:58 PM
per FC2, if you have a corrupt score of 4+ you're destined for the lower planes unless you atone.

Actually the figure is 9+. "Being destined for the lower planes" doesn't mean your alignment is now Evil though.

3+ is the point where you require an atonement spell in addition to "nonmagical atonement". But it's the total corruption, not specifically one act of corruption, that needs to be 4 or higher. 4 instances of "humiliating an underling" and the corruption becomes only magically removable.



"A character with a corruption rating below 3 can reduce it to 0 by giving up all benefits gained from the act of corruption, offering a sincere apology to those harmed, providing full restitution, and making a donation to the spiritual advisor's church. The required amount is a percentage of the penitent's current wealth based on the original reward rating, as specified on the Faustian Pacts Wealth Rewards table (page 24). In addition, the spiritual advisor must assign an active gesture of repentance, such as self-scourging, fasting, a period of silent retreat, or a dangerous quest against the forces of evil, depending on the nature of the deity."

"A character with a corruption rating of 4 or higher must employ all the above remedies and also receive an atonement spell to ransom back his soul from Baator"

"Any lawful character who dies with a corruption rating of 9 or higher goes to Baator, no matter how many orphans he rescued or minions of evil he vanquished in life."

And in the Hellbred section (chapter 3)


"Sometimes a soul recognises the great evil he committed in life and wishes to repent. Most of these unfortunates become spectres that haunt Dis, repenting only as they realise their true fate. Others ascend to the heavens, having sought forgiveness before it is too late. Hellbred fall in the middle. They repent in the moment before their condemnation to Hell, yet too late to find salvation. The lords of good and justice, suspicious that the condemned soul merely seeks to escape for selfish reasons, instead reincarnate the individual to give him one last chance at salvation."

And from DMG:


"it's possible (although unlikely) that the most horrible neutral evil villain has a sudden and dramatic change of heart and immediately becomes neutral good."

My interpretation of the above statements is:

LG character who gains 9 corruption points (through minor evil acts each time) who has not yet repented those acts, will be "destined for the 9 Hells" yet still be LG. Because sin outweighs good, not because they're no longer LG.
LG character who has gained 9 corruption points and is repentant and has not yet removed the corruption points when they die (perhaps a devil, getting wind of their repentance, murders them) becomes a Hellbred.

Corruption less than 9 - up to the DM - who may choose to focus more on alignment. They might send a Corruption 8 LG character to Celestia - and it would not strictly contradict any of the above statements. Technically, despite the phrase "ransom back your soul from Baator" for removing corruption, only Corruption 9+ characters are in the "Baator or Hellbred" trap.


Not in D&D, but in another game, I had a character who did that -- destroyed a soul, intentionally.

But the soul in question was of an individual who had the power to reincarnate over and over, to come back and grow into their memories and powers in each new life, getting stronger and more driven and more evil and more sadistic with each new lifetime of experience.

Was my character evil?

Depends how much the DM cares about that BOVD statement. In non-D&D games, they might not care at all, even if they've heard it.

Psyren
2018-02-13, 08:37 PM
Actually the figure is 9+. "Being destined for the lower planes" doesn't mean your alignment is now Evil though.

I read it differently. "Ransom back your soul from Baator" - means it's heading there if you don't do anything, and that is 4+.

9+ I took to mean "intervention of a deity."

Segev
2018-02-13, 08:43 PM
I read it differently. "Ransom back your soul from Baator" - means it's heading there if you don't do anything, and that is 4+.

9+ I took to mean "intervention of a deity."

15+, you're Red Fel and taking over?

hamishspence
2018-02-14, 02:37 AM
I read it differently. "Ransom back your soul from Baator" - means it's heading there if you don't do anything, and that is 4+.

9+ I took to mean "intervention of a deity."

It's possible. I was going with the most generous possible interpretation for the player.


Given that it is possible to have a Pact Certain disallowed after death (due to coercion or failure to "deliver the goods"- but still be condemned on unrelated grounds if your Corruption or Obesiance score is appropriately high combined with your alignment (much diabolical laughter then ensues) I would say that just signing it, while it resets your afterlife destination, doesn't actually change your Corruption score - Pact Certain is separate from "regular Corruption"

Mark Hall
2018-02-14, 10:52 AM
Not in D&D, but in another game, I had a character who did that -- destroyed a soul, intentionally.

But the soul in question was of an individual who had the power to reincarnate over and over, to come back and grow into their memories and powers in each new life, getting stronger and more driven and more evil and more sadistic with each new lifetime of experience.

Was my character evil?

Arguably, it was the only way to stop him. And, well, it's possible to kill someone (or destroy their soul) and regret the necessity of doing so, while still acknowledging that necessity.

NichG
2018-02-14, 01:44 PM
Not in D&D, but in another game, I had a character who did that -- destroyed a soul, intentionally.

But the soul in question was of an individual who had the power to reincarnate over and over, to come back and grow into their memories and powers in each new life, getting stronger and more driven and more evil and more sadistic with each new lifetime of experience.

Was my character evil?

Not D&D Evil, since not D&D... Even outside of rules and wonky specifications of morality, cosmology matters a lot for this kind of thing - you have to have some idea of what a soul is and what it means to destroy it, and that's not going to be the same in every setting.

In D&D it's kind of self-serving of the cosmos that destroying a soul is considered the vilest of vile deeds since destroying or at least recycling souls is what the afterlife is for. Perhaps it's that vile because souls actually can't be created and it reduces the total amount of soul-stuff in existence to go around or some other very abstract kind of environmental harm. But perhaps its just considered that vile because that person just denied the cosmological forces who get to define alignment a bit of their lunch, and they're prickly about that kind of thing. Or perhaps its the symbolism of it and what that means psychologically to the perpetrator.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-14, 02:49 PM
Not D&D Evil, since not D&D... Even outside of rules and wonky specifications of morality, cosmology matters a lot for this kind of thing - you have to have some idea of what a soul is and what it means to destroy it, and that's not going to be the same in every setting.

In D&D it's kind of self-serving of the cosmos that destroying a soul is considered the vilest of vile deeds since destroying or at least recycling souls is what the afterlife is for. Perhaps it's that vile because souls actually can't be created and it reduces the total amount of soul-stuff in existence to go around or some other very abstract kind of environmental harm. But perhaps its just considered that vile because that person just denied the cosmological forces who get to define alignment a bit of their lunch, and they're prickly about that kind of thing. Or perhaps its the symbolism of it and what that means psychologically to the perpetrator.


Which would kinda take us back to Alignment being a big indicator that "the cosmos" is setting rules that have nothing to do with actual morality, but are instead purely for the benefit of "the cosmos"... and presenting them to mortals as "morality".

RedMage125
2018-02-16, 02:51 AM
Then how do you know that drop raised away from Lolth still trend CE? The only counterexample is those that worship Ellistrae.

Not true, there is an Underdark city comprised primarily of arcane spellcasting drow that do not kowtow to Lolth specifically- and are CE.
The Jezzred Chaulsin worship Vhaeraun, HATE Lolth, and are CE.
Also related, the Cormanthor Drow of House Jael're are CE.

3 different groups of non-Lolth drow that are CE.


Most alignment threads here make the point that just one act won't change a person's overall alignment on its own. So I can see a BB"E"G who's mostly a good person, but who the party has to stop because of something he's doing at his lowest moment.


An interesting point and theory, but generally speaking, if you've earned the Big Bad Evil Guy title, it's not "one act at your lowest moment." You've got to be doing something that takes plenty of premeditation. And likely sparking a lot of conflict through acts that are recognizably...problematic...to get the PCs' attention in the first place. So by the time they reach you, you're probably not a good man who has made one mistake anymore.
It was my impression that the OP was asking about an antagonist who is Good. Some people mistakenly interpret the "E" in "BBEG" as "End" (as in "end boss"). Which is why I posted with that C.S. Lewis quote:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

To me, a Good Antagonist is most compelling NOT because he has "done something evil" or is "at a low point", but rather when he is at the height of his Crusade of Good. An antagonist who-through his Crusade of Good has become oppressive even to people who are Neutral-and thus needs to be reigned in-but he is so wholly devoted to this Good, that he must be stopped forcefully, because he refuses to be swayed by what he sees as "catering to lesser evils".

THAT'S a "Good BBEG" to me.



A single heinous act CAN change your alignment though, especially you don't repent/atone for it. This is even RAW (per FC2), but we see it in fiction (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0407.html) as well.



There was large amounts of debate about whether Miko's Fall included a change of alignment - with many arguing that she was still LG.
And I am one of those who would argue such, especially consider the following:

1) While Miko was wrong in her assumptions, her act of slaying her liege lord was still done out of the pretext of being the will of the 12 gods to do Good.
2) She utterly rejected the temptations of further degradation or falling.
3) She continued to seek guidance from the 12 gods in doing their will
and, most telling...
4) Soon assures a dying Miko that she WILL get to see Windstriker again, which means she is going to a LG afterlife.

People frequently confuse "lost paladin powers" with "changed alignment". They forget that these are separate things. One sometimes causes the other, but they are not necessarily things that have to happen together. A pre-4e paladin who EITHER A) Changes alignment from LG or B) intentionally commits an evil act, loses her powers. These are separate, potentially mutually exclusive things.

So, to use 3.5e...a paladin who commits even one evil act loses her powers, but that not suddenly an exception to the 3.5e DMG's rule (page 134) that Alignment Change Is Gradual. Now, that paladin may feel indignant that her powers were stripped. She may become disenfranchised with her former ideals, feeling that she was entitled to better treatment for what she did in service to them, and she may begin to think, feel, and act different than she did when she was a paladin. THAT would be when she changes alignment, by the RAW.

In contrast, a paladin does NOT fall for "committing a single chaotic act". BUT, if she commits enough of them, then by the RAW for alignment change (DMG, 134), her alignment become Neutral Good, and she loses her paladin powers.


Does a single heinous act, regardless of motivation or circumstances, automatically change who the character is inside, even if they don't relish doing it and regret having done it?
By the 3.5e RAW, no. And neither would it be supported narratively, especially since you have specified that the character "shows regret". The 3.5e PHB clearly states that no one is perfectly within their alignment all the time.*

But the act itself is still Evil.

*I find it necessary to mention that paladins are an EXCEPTION. they are held to a higher standard of behavior, wherin a single act can have DRASTIC consequences, even if it does not change their alignment.

Which would kinda take us back to Alignment being a big indicator that "the cosmos" is setting rules that have nothing to do with actual morality, but are instead purely for the benefit of "the cosmos"... and presenting them to mortals as "morality".
You're actually on the right track, here. One more little nudge...

The "cosmos" thing refers to the line in the 3.5e PHB in which it explicitly states that "Good and Evil are not different points of view, they are the forces that shape the cosmos". And this is supported narratively and mechanically throughout the rest of that edition. Good/Evil/Law/Chaos are dispassionate, objective cosmic forces. They are not swayed by excuses, justification, or debate. They permeate the cosmos in such a way that they are present, in small or in large quantities, in sentient beings. Only non-sentient beings who do not have these cosmic energies as part of their physiology, are exempt from interaction with these cosmic energies.

In D&D terms, mortal "morality" is, more precisely, how mortals interpret dedication to these forces. Which is why a mortal may perceive something to be "Good", when it might be "Neutral" or even "Evil" by the objective, cosmic forces. By and large, most mortal moral mores (that's a fun tongue twister) are correct. People believe selfless dedication to helping other is Good, the cosmos agrees. But there ARE certain instances where "mortal morality" does not line up. A mortal may volunteer to be turned into an undead guardian-such as a mummy-to eternally guard the tomb of his beloved liege lord, but the creation of an undead creature (by 3.5e alignment rules) is one of those unequivocally evil acts. So while that mortal's free will was not impugned upon, and his eternal service was voluntary, and his culture may even deem what he did as "good" (as it is a noble sacrifice), bu the "cosmic" alignment mares, it was Evil.

Does that help?

Segev
2018-02-16, 11:42 AM
Not going to get deeply into a Miko debate, but I will quibble about her "still seeking the guidance of the 12 gods." At the end of her arc, she was just assuming they were behind whatever she chose to do. She wasn't seeking guidance, but justification. She was not quite to the point of telling the gods what they think, but she was close, and she WAS to the point of just declaring her own whims to be the gods' will.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-02-16, 11:45 AM
Not going to get deeply into a Miko debate, but I will quibble about her "still seeking the guidance of the 12 gods." At the end of her arc, she was just assuming they were behind whatever she chose to do. She wasn't seeking guidance, but justification. She was not quite to the point of telling the gods what they think, but she was close, and she WAS to the point of just declaring her own whims to be the gods' will.

The classic "sin" of hubris/pride. A classic for a reason--it's really common. Good villains, especially successful ones, will likely have a dose of that. After all, they've been successful this far so they must be doing something right...

Psyren
2018-02-16, 11:48 AM
Windstriker visiting her "as much as he is able" proves next to nothing about her destination, and that is where I will leave that. (For the record, I'm not saying she ended up in Hell.)

kyoryu
2018-02-16, 11:48 AM
It was my impression that the OP was asking about an antagonist who is Good. Some people mistakenly interpret the "E" in "BBEG" as "End" (as in "end boss"). Which is why I posted with that C.S. Lewis quote:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

To me, a Good Antagonist is most compelling NOT because he has "done something evil" or is "at a low point", but rather when he is at the height of his Crusade of Good. An antagonist who-through his Crusade of Good has become oppressive even to people who are Neutral-and thus needs to be reigned in-but he is so wholly devoted to this Good, that he must be stopped forcefully, because he refuses to be swayed by what he sees as "catering to lesser evils".

THAT'S a "Good BBEG" to me.

I agree with that quote 100%.

I'd still argue that that antagonist is no longer Good, even though they think they're acting in the name of Good. They're committing Evil acts, and with a completely clean conscience.

"You've gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette" is great, except the people saying it never think they're the eggs that need to be broken.

I agree with you 100% though - the most compelling antagonists are the ones who are doing it for understandable or relatable ideas.

Mark Hall
2018-02-17, 10:49 AM
I agree with that quote 100%.

I'd still argue that that antagonist is no longer Good, even though they think they're acting in the name of Good. They're committing Evil acts, and with a completely clean conscience.

"You've gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette" is great, except the people saying it never think they're the eggs that need to be broken.


I can't find the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of "There's exceptions and grey areas in a lot of moral rules... but when you make a chain of such exceptions in the service of good, then you've created a philosophy of evil."

It's all well and good to say "I had to kill him for the greater good." And, sometimes, you might be right. But when you say it tens, hundreds, thousands of times, you start looking less and less like you're actually doing it for the greater good (though, of course, in D&D, with objective evil, you might still be on the moral high ground).

hamishspence
2018-02-18, 05:44 AM
I can't find the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of "There's exceptions and grey areas in a lot of moral rules... but when you make a chain of such exceptions in the service of good, then you've created a philosophy of evil."

It's from Star Wars: Legacy of the Jedi series - book 1: Betrayal - Ben Skywalker is remembering Luke's wise words:

"There are times when the end justifies the means. But when you build an argument based on a whole series of such times, you may find that you've constructed an entire philosophy of evil."

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-18, 10:04 AM
I can't find the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of "There's exceptions and grey areas in a lot of moral rules... but when you make a chain of such exceptions in the service of good, then you've created a philosophy of evil."

It's all well and good to say "I had to kill him for the greater good." And, sometimes, you might be right. But when you say it tens, hundreds, thousands of times, you start looking less and less like you're actually doing it for the greater good (though, of course, in D&D, with objective evil, you might still be on the moral high ground).


The moral high ground isn't that impressive when it's a small dry-ish patch a few feet above the water in a moral swamp.

hamishspence
2018-02-18, 10:19 AM
I'd say a character who consistently does the following (Recommended by the books)

(PHB)
protect innocent life
is altruistic
have respect for all life
has concern for the dignity of sentient beings
makes personal sacrifices to help others

(BoED)

helps others in need without expecting reward
is charitable
makes personal sacrifices
worships good deities
casts good spells (note- they don't have any redemptive influence)
offers and shows mercy to defeated enemies
forgives others
brings hope
redeems evildoers


is a bit more than "a few feet above the water in a moral swamp".

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-18, 10:20 AM
I'd say a character who consistently does the following (Recommended by the books)

(PHB)
protect innocent life
is altruistic
have respect for all life
has concern for the dignity of sentient beings
makes personal sacrifices to help others

(BoED)

helps others in need without expecting reward
is charitable
makes personal sacrifices
worships good deities
casts good spells (note- they don't have any redemptive influence)
offers and shows mercy to defeated enemies
forgives others
brings hope
redeems evildoers


is a bit more than "a few feet above the water in a moral swamp".

Please note the context of the post comment I was replying to.

I was replying to the idea of someone who had used the justification "but it's OK because I'm only doing these things to people we've labelled "EVIL", so I'm still "GOOD"" many times.

hamishspence
2018-02-18, 10:28 AM
Please note the context of the post comment I was replying to.

I was replying to the idea of someone who had used the justification "but it's OK because I'm only doing these things to people we've labelled "EVIL", so I'm still "GOOD" many times."
Killing "objectively evil" beings For The Greater Good? That's a bit more shaky, true.

BoED is one of the few books to say "just because a being happens to be evil, does not mean that killing it is always the morally good thing" (example given, being declaring war on orc villages).

It also stresses that when it comes to Evil Acts, the ends do not justify the means.

Eberron Campaign Setting 3.5 also brings the "not every evil being deserves killing" idea up - focussing on NPCs in general.


If anything, 3.5, more than 5e or 1e, is the edition most prone to applying Respect For Life to Evil-aligned Beings.


Similarly "torture is Always Evil even if your victims are thoroughly evil" is mostly a 3.5-ism.

tomandtish
2018-02-18, 02:07 PM
I can't find the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of "There's exceptions and grey areas in a lot of moral rules... but when you make a chain of such exceptions in the service of good, then you've created a philosophy of evil."

It's all well and good to say "I had to kill him for the greater good." And, sometimes, you might be right. But when you say it tens, hundreds, thousands of times, you start looking less and less like you're actually doing it for the greater good (though, of course, in D&D, with objective evil, you might still be on the moral high ground).

My version: "Those who talk about the necessary evil always stress the necessary. They tend to gloss over the evil. But the evil always remembers."

Mark Hall
2018-02-19, 11:14 AM
The moral high ground isn't that impressive when it's a small dry-ish patch a few feet above the water in a moral swamp.

True, but it also comes back to who is "objectively evil". For example, you can make a strong argument that ANYTHING that's "Always Evil" on the 3.x scale will always be evil, outside of major magic. Yes, there are rare exceptions, and you'll find Lawful Neutral Succubi who run brothels based around experience, but it's overwhelmingly true that killing that Imp is probably not a bad thing, and results in a net decrease of evil on that particular non-Lower plane.

Orcs? Again, orcs and other humanoids get a little iffy. Most are evil. Some are not. They have the capacity for good, it just comes harder for them (if you go with the idea that they have an iota of the ichor of an evil god in their veins). Killing all the orcs is problematic

Segev
2018-02-20, 12:17 PM
True, but it also comes back to who is "objectively evil". For example, you can make a strong argument that ANYTHING that's "Always Evil" on the 3.x scale will always be evil, outside of major magic. Yes, there are rare exceptions, and you'll find Lawful Neutral Succubi who run brothels based around experience, but it's overwhelmingly true that killing that Imp is probably not a bad thing, and results in a net decrease of evil on that particular non-Lower plane.

Orcs? Again, orcs and other humanoids get a little iffy. Most are evil. Some are not. They have the capacity for good, it just comes harder for them (if you go with the idea that they have an iota of the ichor of an evil god in their veins). Killing all the orcs is problematic

"Kill the orc encampment" quests are only problematic if the GM is not thinking it through, or trying to create a problem. Replace "orc encampment" with "bandit camp," and you have roughly the same moral weight unless the GM is trying to create a problem. The reason orcs get attacked is because they start it, as a general rule, in generic RPGs. You're not hunting them down because they're orcs; you're hunting orcs because they're raiding and pillaging.

Mark Hall
2018-02-20, 02:26 PM
"Kill the orc encampment" quests are only problematic if the GM is not thinking it through, or trying to create a problem. Replace "orc encampment" with "bandit camp," and you have roughly the same moral weight unless the GM is trying to create a problem. The reason orcs get attacked is because they start it, as a general rule, in generic RPGs. You're not hunting them down because they're orcs; you're hunting orcs because they're raiding and pillaging.

Also depends on the nature of the encampment, though. If it's a war camp with only warrior orcs, it's different than if it's a settlement of a tribe, with non-combatants. Same with a bandit camp... is it a bunch of bad guys, eating stolen food and peeing stolen beer into the fire? Or is a Merry Men type situation, with women and children in amongst the bandits? That's where the ambiguity comes in... when you're dealing with noncombatants.

Segev
2018-02-20, 02:29 PM
Also depends on the nature of the encampment, though. If it's a war camp with only warrior orcs, it's different than if it's a settlement of a tribe, with non-combatants. Same with a bandit camp... is it a bunch of bad guys, eating stolen food and peeing stolen beer into the fire? Or is a Merry Men type situation, with women and children in amongst the bandits? That's where the ambiguity comes in... when you're dealing with noncombatants.
"How do you know they're noncombatants?"
"Are they worth any EXP when killed?"

Mark Hall
2018-02-20, 02:36 PM
"How do you know they're noncombatants?"
"Are they worth any EXP when killed?"

"Get some! Get some! Get some!"
"How can you kill orc women and children?"
"Easy... you get 1/attack/level when they have less than 1 HD!"

Segev
2018-02-20, 02:41 PM
"Get some! Get some! Get some!"
"How can you kill orc women and children?"
"Easy... you get 1/attack/level when they have less than 1 HD!"

"Dude, are you sure that's a good idea?"
"What? They're going down in a hit each!"
"Two words: action deficit."

Kelb_Panthera
2018-02-21, 05:08 AM
I am in a mood for thought experiments as of lately. My latest thought was.

1. In D&D it is often mentioned that 'good' is a cosmic force, as in: good deities, good outsiders.

2. Good is objective, it is an item or person's determinable quality

So in theory, similar to a well written villain with a good goal whose values are completely shifted into 'vile' deeds i.e. slaughter everyone in the city so they cannot be turned into undead. be pulled on its head?

A good creature does evil things for the sake of good with such efficiency and effectivity that it is just silly not doing the "dubious thing" to further the cause of good (maybe force their good god onto everyone so people receive spells and abilities that can improve their lives, even if it means killing of vast majorities of rivaling faiths?

How would you build a campaign around an (L/N/C) good villain, be it outsider, divine caster or other? Caveat would be that the creature would not loose their "good" alignment or status short of DM fiat and/or good reasoning behind them being ultimatively evil.

This exemplifies a very common error wrt alignment. Objective alignment is assigned to a character based on his behavior as it compares to the objective standard. If a character is consistently behaving evilly, he's either already evil or rapidly becoming so. That's just how it works.

That said, a good antagonist is easy enough. Good mortals often have goals and responsibilities beyond simply being good people that can easily put them at cross purposes.

Take the example of two good kings whose kingdoms have come into conflict. Let's extend it; negotiations have been attempted to no avail. The resource the conflict is over (most common cause) simply isn't great enough to share or at least the nobles the kings have to keep in line feel that way and it's to be war. The PCs are patriots on one side of the conflict.

Many of their foes, including the main antagonist (a general or perhaps the king himself), are going to be good characters but circumstance has made it necessary, though regrettable, for them to do battle or, perhaps, even kill one another.

You want tough, try to figure out how to make some eladrin (CG outsiders) into the antagonists.

NichG
2018-02-21, 05:31 AM
There's an LN-G society that has ruled that forms of ebullient self-expression are more harmful to the social fabric and morality of it's members than the harm created by educating a generation to be wary of music, art, poetry, and drama. Creative-types are subtly discouraged by removing sources of inspiration from their lives. The PCs may be acting to do something about this long term, but a group of eladrin have taken to kidnapping particularly creative children to raise in safety in order to preserve their gifts. The children are returned within a day, but having experienced the entire remainder of their childhood in fantastical realms. Parents are upset and the PCs are being called upon to do something about this. Not stopping it will remove any influence the PCs have built to change the society. Stopping it means going up against the eladrin who are willing to cooperate for short term change, but who cannot countenance the loss of an entire generation. To make things worse, the iron shadow is advancing down the Infinite Stairwell, making the preservation of creativity a matter of cosmic concern - long term compromise to let the PCs have their schemes is out of the question if it means losing chunks of the CG afterlife such as Selune's Realm to the contagion.

Grek
2018-02-21, 05:32 AM
You want tough, try to figure out how to make some eladrin (CG outsiders) into the antagonists.

Super easy, actually. They're working on the orders of the Queen Consort, Faerinaal, who seeks to liberate the Lost Generation of eladrins bound to the Abyss during the Treachery of Pale Night. In order to do so, these eladrin have cast a mighty spell to transform a remote Arborean lake into a portal into the Abyss, permitting passage between the planes. Naturally, the interplanar community is outraged, and both Primus and Zeus have petitioned you to seal the gateway and bring them the eladrin responsible in chains, as their brash actions threaten respectively to tip the balance of power in the lower planes toward Baator, and to see Mt. Olympus invaded by a legion of rapacious demons.

Segev
2018-02-21, 02:38 PM
A Lawful Good Empire has a bureaucracy of which the ancient Chinese Imperium would have been envious. It is a meritocracy, and good paper-pushers are highly valued for their ability to get things done smoothly. As a general rule, the laws are not just well-meaning, but are administered by wise and hard-working officers who bend them without breaking them as necessary to achieve genuinely good ends.

There is, however, a subversive cult to a powerful Eladrin (or cabal thereof) who view the bureaucracy as too slow and inefficient for the needs of the people on the ground. They tend to gain steam in times of trouble, and mobilize to do charitable works that are not approved. Often, this is overlooked because they don't cause harm and the misappropriated goods can be accounted for after the fact with a little more work. The cult creates more work after the fact, which is frustrating, but not malicious.

However, after a series of natural disasters and droughts, there are a number of emergency situations arising. The LG bureaucracy has spun into high gear to enact an ambitious and efficient plan to get resources where they need to be. However, despite all their best efforts, the needs of individuals - particularly where they are not yet starving but have immediate hardships that make forking over the required contributions endanger them - are being overlooked in this haste. The Cult is gaining support and is out-and-out ready to lead, if not a rebellion, at least a revolt of several outlying baronies who are refusing to turn over the demanded taxes for this humanitarian effort. They know why it's being done, but they consider their duty to their people, their families, friends, and neighbors greater than their duty to the counties and principalities on the other side of the kingdom.

The Eladrin preaches self-reliance and generosity only by choice, which is heretical to the LG attitude of duty that the greater bureaucracy espouses.

To the PCs as representatives of the LG Empire, these baronies worshipping this cult are in open revolt and are denying needed resources to the rest of the empire for their own selfish greed. To PCs working for the baronies, the Empire has enacted harsh taxes in trying times and rejected (due to "emergency measures") the usual option to stay an order for review, and become a tyranny that is going to starve the people of the baronies.