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View Full Version : Can a society of Devil Worshipers be anything other than Evil?



ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 12:49 AM
Ok, allow me to set up some hypothetical game context here:
Let's take away the idea of alignment in terms of law, chaos, good, and evil, simultaneously removing most spells that function on that descriptor. Now let's say that Paladins are able to use their smite abilities against the undead and all extra-lunar beings, and their detect ability allows them to sense ill intent against them or those they are protecting.
Now imagine that there was a culture that regularly deals with devils all the time, making bargains and using them as witnesses for deals and possibly as judges. Additionally, some devils make up military units according to their contracts, helping bolster the forces of the city.
Would such a society still be considered "evil"?
I mean, the people there worship High-ranking Devil lords, willingly make offerings to them, summon and make deals with devils out of their own free will, many of which don't demand their soul as payment.
The society has laws, enforces order, treats people according to the letter of the law, and doesn't go out to raid people for blood sacrifices. Sure, criminals are handed over to the Devils because they broke the law, though many lesser crimes tend to result in milder punishments such as forced labor or beatings, but executions are only reserved for the worst offenders.
The way I see it, if you strip away the pretext of "good and evil", devils are little more than efficient negotiators, brokers, and lawyers. Sure they'll usually negotiate deals in their favor, but everything is in the fine print of the contract if you take the time to read the whole thing.
Would such a society really be considered "evil"?

Particle_Man
2019-09-02, 01:12 AM
I am not sure what Devils without evil actually are. They don't want to torture souls for all eternity? They are not made of pure evil? They don't plot against the Gods? They don't hate all beauty, freedom, and joy?
What are they, then? More importantly, what do they do? If one replaced the word "Devil" with "Guardians" would there be any traits distinguishing them as particularly evil in thought, word or deed?

What would worshipping them mean? Treating them as gods? Temple services? Prayers? Or just making asymmetrical pseudo-feudal deals with them like you might with a tribe of giants?

What would worshippers do as part of their worship? Any actions that would be recognized as evil by the person in the street?

Tvtyrant
2019-09-02, 01:56 AM
Ok, allow me to set up some hypothetical game context here:
Let's take away the idea of alignment in terms of law, chaos, good, and evil, simultaneously removing most spells that function on that descriptor. Now let's say that Paladins are able to use their smite abilities against the undead and all extra-lunar beings, and their detect ability allows them to sense ill intent against them or those they are protecting.
Now imagine that there was a culture that regularly deals with devils all the time, making bargains and using them as witnesses for deals and possibly as judges. Additionally, some devils make up military units according to their contracts, helping bolster the forces of the city.
Would such a society still be considered "evil"?
I mean, the people there worship High-ranking Devil lords, willingly make offerings to them, summon and make deals with devils out of their own free will, many of which don't demand their soul as payment.
The society has laws, enforces order, treats people according to the letter of the law, and doesn't go out to raid people for blood sacrifices. Sure, criminals are handed over to the Devils because they broke the law, though many lesser crimes tend to result in milder punishments such as forced labor or beatings, but executions are only reserved for the worst offenders.
The way I see it, if you strip away the pretext of "good and evil", devils are little more than efficient negotiators, brokers, and lawyers. Sure they'll usually negotiate deals in their favor, but everything is in the fine print of the contract if you take the time to read the whole thing.
Would such a society really be considered "evil"?

What are you paying the Devils to get them to do this? Devils don't need gold or jewels, they can just make those with magic. They want souls, so either you have a society where people sacrifice their eternal lives to make society better during this one or they have to capture people to offer them up.

Mastikator
2019-09-02, 02:20 AM
Depends entirely on these "deals", if you're sacrificing unwilling people to them then yes, that is pretty damn evil. If you're selling your own soul then no you're not evil, just really dumb.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-02, 02:34 AM
Do the people need to be evil? Possibly not. Will the devils try and make them evil? He'll yes. Will the society as a whole be evil? Probably.

The devils in this scenario have a lot of power, particularly when it comes to how the nation handles two of its greatest capacities for evil, punishment and war. In effect the devils have a hand in all legitimate violence of the state. Guy defaults on a loan? In a contract written by or administered by a devil slavery is the least if his worries.

Remember it is possible for a system to throw up results that the people in it don't intend. To avoid getting the thread locked lets avoid politics and look at medicine, which for centuries may well have killed more than it saved. And devils are very good at distorting systems to their advantage, that's what LE is.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 02:56 AM
I am not sure what Devils without evil actually are. They don't want to torture souls for all eternity? They are not made of pure evil? They don't plot against the Gods? They don't hate all beauty, freedom, and joy?
What are they, then? More importantly, what do they do? If one replaced the word "Devil" with "Guardians" would there be any traits distinguishing them as particularly evil in thought, word or deed?

What would worshipping them mean? Treating them as gods? Temple services? Prayers? Or just making asymmetrical pseudo-feudal deals with them like you might with a tribe of giants?

What would worshippers do as part of their worship? Any actions that would be recognized as evil by the person in the street?

To answer the first portion of your post: I didn't say they don't plot against the gods, and they do indeed have their own machinations. However, I'm afraid you're making some false assumptions about devils:
1) They don't hate beauty, freedom, and joy. I'm pretty sure they just see those as valuable "currency" or "commodities" they can use to either control their underlings and loyal mortals with, or display their power. Hating those is the purview of demons.
2) In this context, they would be extraplanar beings with common traits that are more powerful than a base mortal.
3) That is the scenario I'm setting up. By their nature, they are still scheming deal makers that will follow the letter f their deals, even if they give themselves loopholes to gain a bigger advantage. Basically, they will still behave as you'd expect, I'm just peeling away the idea that they are "evil for evil's sake". Ruthless and cunning, yes; plotting and scheming, definitely; but evil is just too broad of a term.

For the second part, they would be worshipped as beings above mortals. Think if it as the Demon Lord being the local "deity" and the ones below that as equivalent to his heralds, with worship decreasing as the devils get lower in rank, with imps being equivalent to advisors or muses.

For the third part, I'd imagine offering bowls of blood, self-flagellation, the cutting of a participant to bleed him, and similar rituals could seem a bit off-putting to the average passer-by.


What are you paying the Devils to get them to do this? Devils don't need gold or jewels, they can just make those with magic. They want souls, so either you have a society where people sacrifice their eternal lives to make society better during this one or they have to capture people to offer them up.

Ah... that isn't quite right. I've checked my sources, and devils don't create gold or jewels. According to the Fiendish Codex, devils actually do need platinum, gold, silver, copper, and jewels. From what I've read, there is a central "bank" that keeps track of all their wealth, and many devils use their personal stores of wealth to "buy" souls from mortals they make contracts with. Plus, they also use that wealth to buy luxury items and slaves that they use to either display their own wealth to mortals (often for intimidation so they can broker better deals) or as a different form of payment for services or souls. Also, remember that Devils are schemers, and sometimes they barter for "favors" they use to further their own schemes.


Depends entirely on these "deals", if you're sacrificing unwilling people to them then yes, that is pretty damn evil. If you're selling your own soul then no you're not evil, just really dumb.

No sacrificing people against their own will unless they broke the law by murdering someone or committed high treason. Devils are civilized beings after all, and there has to be an order to these things.

Bohandas
2019-09-02, 03:06 AM
It depends on if the devils have been doing their job, and furthermore which of their jobs they've been doing.

The most likely situation for a devil influenced society not being evil is if it's somewhere somehow strategically important for fighting the Blood War against the demons. In which case the devils may be there more to fight demons than to win souls for the dark side, and is consistent with them bolstering the guard and with them not demanding frequent public executions or being involved with organized crime or otherwise causing trouble. It's also consistent with the society not necessarily being evil.

If they're helping out for normal payment with no ulterior motive it's also consistent with the society being good, but no longer consistent with the devils being devils. That would be a better fit for formians or maybe even the mercanes/arcanes.

Standard D&D devils should be encouraging the government to do strongly lawful evil acts while optimally simultaneously soliciting buy-in from the public on said acts, failing that they should be encouraging the public to individually take up weakly to moderately lawful evil professions such as ranching or better yet factory farming, and failing that they should be doing strongly lawful evil acts themselves such as running a murder for hire syndicate with a strict honor code or a murder cult with an excessive amount of ritual.

Lord Raziere
2019-09-02, 03:09 AM
Depends on how much the devils are willing to change their methods in response to increasing amounts of evidence that Good methods makes them more money in the long run.

Anymage
2019-09-02, 03:17 AM
Untrammeled capitalism like that does tend to encourage evil, on two levels. Reading 19th and early 20th century history can give plenty of examples, and going into specifics would risk falling afoul of board rules. In short, though; a (social) darwinist system where getting ahead means clawing your way to the top of the heap will tend to promote right bastards who prioritize getting ahead more than anything else. And simplistic analyses overlook the fact that continuing to exist isn't free. A grossly unfair employment contract may be signed simply because the alternative is starving to death.

Also remember that in the sort of systems that devils would tend to create, manipulating the economy and/or the laws is considered standard operating procedure. If your employer decides to start paying you in corporate scrip (that's only good in the corporate store, where your employer gets to set the prices on everything), and if striking is declared illegal with police coming in to break up strikes, that's the exact sort of setting that a devilishly good negotiator would want to create.

Kaptin Keen
2019-09-02, 03:35 AM
Would such a society really be considered "evil"?

Yes.

And this is just to get above 10 characters.

ShikomeKidoMi
2019-09-02, 03:55 AM
Probably the best you could hope for would be a halfway split between Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil, I don't think you could even achieve 'mostly Lawful Neutral' if you let devils have too much influence. If nothing else, because even when they aren't trying to corrupt people, systems based around what devils think are good ideas will inherently tend towards evil, via giving superiors too much abusable power over their subordinates and viewing that as a perk to reward climbing in rank, if nothing else.

Mastikator
2019-09-02, 04:05 AM
No sacrificing people against their own will unless they broke the law by murdering someone or committed high treason. Devils are civilized beings after all, and there has to be an order to these things.

Still evil. The devils will have an incentive to seduce, trick, force or frame people of crimes that warrant sacrifice and if the society go along with it then they are collaborating with the devils corruption of their own people. Most likely it will be those that are most vulnerable (easy marks to force, trick or frame) or those that are critical of the regime and their deal with the devils (high "treason"), AKA people most likely to do good. That's Evil with a capital E.

The most likely scenario is that the devils will work to promote the people who are most willing to go along with whatever the devils want, which is to sacrifice as many people as possible and further their own reach to do more harm. The best of society will be stamped out, the worst will see society eventually crumble and be swallowed by hell. The devils will in time have killed every single person in this society and replaced them with devils. The society will be an outpost of hell for them to spread their plague.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-02, 04:28 AM
1) They don't hate beauty, freedom, and joy. I'm pretty sure they just see those as valuable "currency" or "commodities" they can use to either control their underlings and loyal mortals with, or display their power. Hating those is the purview of demons.
2) In this context, they would be extraplanar beings with common traits that are more powerful than a base mortal.
3) That is the scenario I'm setting up. By their nature, they are still scheming deal makers that will follow the letter f their deals, even if they give themselves loopholes to gain a bigger advantage. Basically, they will still behave as you'd expect, I'm just peeling away the idea that they are "evil for evil's sake". Ruthless and cunning, yes; plotting and scheming, definitely; but evil is just too broad of a term.

You are half-way there. Evil for Evil's sake isn't Devils. Evil for Power's sake, that's more like it. Everyone acts according to their own interests. This is where real-world examples would be handy, but ah well. What do the Devils want from this system? Maximum souls. How do they get that? Well how about engineering a situation where the evidence required to convict for murder or high treason, and thus get a sacrifice, are eroded? Limit appeals. Discovery? What's the point of that? Why assume they are innocent, why not place the burden or proof on them? What's wrong with hearsay evidence? If you want to keep the murder rate down surely you have to make sacrifice a mandatory punishment, no mitigating circumstances. And wouldn't it be easier if the criminals just confessed, prevent messy and awkward scenes in court that detract from the dignity and the trust it inspires? Surely torture is justifiable to get at the truth. Maybe pleading guilty lets you get sedated first, to encourage people to confess to crimes they did do etc, etc. You end up with a system that is designed to force people, typically the poor, weak and ill-educated, onto that slab.

Themrys
2019-09-02, 05:31 AM
Sacrificing (other people's) souls is evil. No matter what the person has done. It's evil. Like rape, torture, etc.. Some things just can't be justified, ever. If there IS a life after death, and everyone gets it ... except those whose souls are used as fuel for utopia ... that's evil.

And that's not even taking into consideration that there's always a percentage of mistakes. People get wrongly convicted. It happens. In D&D world, a person who is wrongly beheaded can still go on to a nice afterlife. But if their soul is taken ... then not.

So no, Devil Worshippers in D&D can't be anything but evil, I don't think.


In real life, sure, devil worshippers who are just in it for the aesthetic could be good.

C.S. Lewis had a society that worshipped an actual, really existing demon in the Chronicles of Narnia, and the people from that culture could still go to heaven if they did good, even if they did it all in the name of their demon god (who didn't really interfere all that much in their lives, it has to be noted - no human sacrifice going on that I recall). That's all possible.

But with devils who demand that you sacrifice souls to them? And you actually DO this? Nah.

Just take out the devils for a moment and look at what actually HAPPENS.

The problem isn't with the devil worshipping as such, but with what it makes people do. And if criminals are used to generate profits because you can hand them over to the devils ... then there's an incentive to increase the number of criminals. And that will happen, one way or the other.

jjordan
2019-09-02, 08:52 AM
Ok, allow me to set up some hypothetical game context here:
Let's take away the idea of alignment in terms of law, chaos, good, and evil, simultaneously removing most spells that function on that descriptor. Now let's say that Paladins are able to use their smite abilities against the undead and all extra-lunar beings, and their detect ability allows them to sense ill intent against them or those they are protecting.
Now imagine that there was a culture that regularly deals with devils all the time, making bargains and using them as witnesses for deals and possibly as judges. Additionally, some devils make up military units according to their contracts, helping bolster the forces of the city.
Would such a society still be considered "evil"?
I mean, the people there worship High-ranking Devil lords, willingly make offerings to them, summon and make deals with devils out of their own free will, many of which don't demand their soul as payment.
The society has laws, enforces order, treats people according to the letter of the law, and doesn't go out to raid people for blood sacrifices. Sure, criminals are handed over to the Devils because they broke the law, though many lesser crimes tend to result in milder punishments such as forced labor or beatings, but executions are only reserved for the worst offenders.
The way I see it, if you strip away the pretext of "good and evil", devils are little more than efficient negotiators, brokers, and lawyers. Sure they'll usually negotiate deals in their favor, but everything is in the fine print of the contract if you take the time to read the whole thing.
Would such a society really be considered "evil"?

I would say yes. Making an action legal doesn't make it moral. I say that as someone with a significant lawful evil kingdom in my setting.

Church of Discipline -
The Church is lawful evil and worships a devil. The goal of the church is to bring the world under the influence of the demonic thread in which the devil resides and, eventually, to merge with it (aka create paradise). The church is open about this viewpoint and does not advocate violence or coercion. The church promises help to adherents and encourages adherents to help others. The behavior of the church is rather cult-like in the nearly total lack of privacy among members. Mind-reading is commonly used in ceremonies and counseling sessions. This is explained as helping members better understand each other and, thereby, being better able to help. Members of the church are free to leave and some do. They are also welcomed back if they choose to return. Long-time members start to display physical signs of continued exposure to infernal power: rougher, semi-bestial features, small horns, fingernails becoming thicker and claw like, a yellow tint to their eyes, a red tint to their skin, darkening hair, pointed teeth, and so on. These changes are permanent and are passed on to their children who can be born with tails and even digitigrade legs and cloven feet. Some members are able to bear direct contact with infernal power (usually when in a trance state or dreaming). These communicators form the priesthood of the church. Some few of these are able to actually mingle with devils and are usually chosen to help create semi-infernal crossbreeds. Those with actual infernal blood are very strong magic-users and held in high regard by members of the church. The most powerful among them are typically confined to sacred spaces within their temples, unable to venture outside of these specially-prepared areas without experiencing varying degrees of pain (their infernal nature being alien to the nature of the world). The church and its members are very lawful and very hierarchical. This makes them, in many respects, model citizens/subjects. They frown on lying, for example, and punish it when it is discovered. This does not mean they are above omitting to tell all the truth on a subject, however, and their contract lawyers are the best in the world. The church isnít big on forgiveness, but they are enthusiastic supporters of atonement. The church is very much anti-chaos and acts to bring order and oppose, or destroy, bringers of chaos. They particularly abhor demons. The church is big on outreach programs to help the less fortunate (they never give aid, they offer aid in exchange for services). They run a wide network of orphanages (usually populated with the children of those in debt-indenture). These are fairly grim institutions which teach the children reading, writing, math, history, and religion. The orphanages teach each child a trade, usually moving them to areas in which they show a talent, and place them with guilds under apprenticeships. They also identify those with academic talent and move them to an academic track aimed at producing priests, bureaucrats, and professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers). The church encourages large families, is opposed to birth control, and strongly encourages gender roles (and forms of dress) that limit women to tasks which they are able to perform while pregnant and/or child-rearing. The devil (Xoris) the church serves is a deep, dark purple and those spawned and influenced by him vary in shade from the dark purple down to a light pink in varying shades of red. Curling rams horns are most common. Hair color doesnít seem to be affected. Eyes are typically yellow. Xoris is vain and his followers dress neatly and take care with their personal appearance. Members of the church have true names which they only share with family members. They use chosen/use names for everyday business. Itís impolite to directly ask someoneís name, even their chosen name, and may be seen as sinister by some. You provide your use name and wait for others to provide theirs. Members refer to themselves as disciples. The Inquisition is the branch of the Church specifically tasked with combating chaos. They are the Clerics of the Church as opposed to the Priests. Some Priests are Counselors. Counselors are mind-readers and work with members of the Church to help them overcome their doubts and deal with issues that are vexing them. They really are dedicated to helping their members, functioning as de facto mind-police is just a side-effect.

Motivation:
-The Church is taking the long, patient, view. They are seeking peaceful expansion through genuine converts and population expansion. They are willing to accept short-term constraints on expansion in the belief that this will further their long-term efforts.
-The Church has been stepping up their efforts to combat chaos with direct action.
-They continue to act patiently to shape cultural values and secular laws to reflect their beliefs and desired end state - a world unified under the laws and rule of Xoris; order.
-Use peaceful means to increase their influence in Das Eisenreich and bring about a functional merger of the two states.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 08:59 AM
I kinda think there is a fallacy here that I'd really like to take a closer look at:

The nature of devils.
From my understanding of what devils are in D&D mythology is that they are outside entities that act against the gods out of their own self-interest and desire for power. They are schemers, manipulators, and deal-makers that will give a mortal what they want if it helps their own goals.

What are their goals?
To understand that, one has to look at how devils perceive the world: as something to own. It's my understanding that devils define the world differently than mortals or celestials do. To them, beauty is prowess that shows superiority, love is ownership and domination, freedom is peace of mind that they won't be attacked in their sleep or supplanted by their subordinates. The entire driving force of a devil is its own ambition, which is to be top dog. It's just that sometimes less savory methods are needed to achieve results, and devils are willing to do what it takes.

What started this?
Rebellion. I've looked over some of the materials on the cosmology of D&D, and I've noticed that unlike devils, Celestials have a fixed rank. This is a second defining trait of devils that not a lot of other extraplanar beings share: "social" mobility, and I think this is what started the entire war against the gods in the first place. Unlike devils, Angels seem to have set ranks that do to change throughout their existence, if you are a Lantern Archon you'll always be one. Similarly, law-only beings have a set place in their society as nothing more than a 'cog' in a gigantic machine, such as a formian worker always being a worker. Devils are the only ones that seem to have a social structure that even remotely resembles human society where the lowliest imp can somehow claw their way up to become a chain devil.

How do they achieve their goals?
Deals. One of the biggest defining traits of devils is their willingness to barter. And while souls are one of the main things they wish for, it's not the only thing. Like in real life, deals can involve anything from service to gold and jewel to one's own mortality, all the devil cares about is that the pact furthers its own ambition. For example, an imp may accept a payment of gold and silver that it can pay to its superior, who can then use those funds to purchase slaves for its own deals, which in turn can be traded for the souls of nobles.
However, it's also possible that a devil will sell its services to a mortal or a "favor", which can be anything from collecting a treasure it can trade to someone else, to undermining an expedition sponsored by its rival, to even letting the devil sire a half-fiend child with the practitioner's daughter or wife so that it may gain a bigger foothold in the region. Most importantly, however, devils want souls of mortals that are loyal to them. According to some of the resource books, devils aren't made out of planar material in the same sense that demons are. Instead, they actually start as mortal souls that have been deprived of all their divine energy. As such, sous are needed as a way of bolstering the Infernal ranks, and the little divine energy that can be extracted from a soul helps to fuel the power of the Devils at the top. It's all a way to gain more power and claim everything they desire.

The Big Fallacy.
All that being said, it is worth considering that devils would theoretically gain more power from mortal worship than the extraction process. Therefore, while devils would definitely wish to establish a form of worship that allows them to "harvest" divine energy more efficiently than just rendering souls. It would befit high-ranking devils like Mephistopheles to use his "favors" and set himself up as a deity to not only gain the benefit of prayers, but to also show is superiority, dominance, and spit in the faces of the gods he hates.
The other fallacy I see is that I don't think devils would actively encourage unfair laws. First, it goes against the idea that devils wish to attract as many willing pawns as they can, so while some laws in such a society would obligate people to bring in devils for legal settlements, it's doubtful that you'd get very far if every single person in the society was a criminal. After all, why kill the murderer now if you can make him work for you first, then claim his soul after he's taken out that pesky priest that's spreading gospel for the gods? Few things are more enticing to mortals than the chance to get away with murder, and few pawns are as useful as those without moral qualms.
The other thing is supply. While you could theoretically set laws that mandated sacrifices all the time, that kind of society is not sustainable in the long term. Devils are exceedingly economical, and would consider setting up a long term investment a much better use of their time than squeezing a village for a "quick buck". After all, why take the soul of one peasant if you could get a steady supply of willing and loyal pawns over several generations? Instead of sacrificing the "poor farmer that killed in self defense", let him work off his conviction, but do so while making sure he own you for getting a lesser sentence. Plus that daughter of his would make a fine mother for a strong self-breed. Though you would still have to make examples out of repeat offenders. We can't let some bad apples ruin the whole crop now can we? Gotta keep people in line somehow, right?
This is probably one of the biggest oversights that many people assume about devils: they are all about results in the long term. When one really stops to think about it, devils are incredibly selfish beings, but not needlessly cruel ones. It's just that cruelty does help get results if used properly. And I'd say that there is a very good chance that they would make sure any society they controlled would be healthy enough to sustain itself for a good long while for best results.

Taking all this into account, would a society that worships devils still default to evil? All they're doing is just following contracts and deals.

Edit:
@jjordan
See, that doesn't exactly sound "evil" to me. Selfish, sure. Restrictive, definitely. But "evil"? I'm not so sure about that.
I guess it could be considered evil in the same way that a military state is, but taking a step back and looking at it objectively, it's actually doing more good than harm, even if it is using social pressure as a form of control.
Now granted, it's not a place I'd personally ever want to live in, but it doesn't sound like that kingdom is going around and encouraging its citizens to murder each other.

Anymage
2019-09-02, 09:14 AM
All I can do here is mention Oliver Twist and The Jungle, and maybe let other people bring up other works inspired by similarly nasty times/places in real life.

You're right that devils would prefer to make Baator on earth than they would be to just sacrifice people unsustainably. It would still be a deeply oppressive place to live, and one where getting ahead required exploiting others. So while not everybody there would happen to be LE, it would still be the most strongly supported outlook and the one most effective for gathering power.

False God
2019-09-02, 09:16 AM
Now imagine that there was a culture that regularly deals with devils all the time, making bargains and using them as witnesses for deals and possibly as judges. Additionally, some devils make up military units according to their contracts, helping bolster the forces of the city.
Would such a society still be considered "evil"?
My take on it has always been evil is about what you do. Not what you are. A devil can become a champion of good just as much as an angel can fall into the Pit and all shades in-between.

So if a bunch of "evil" creatures are running a civilization that ultimately does very little evil, or next to no evil or even quite a bit of good, the civilization isn't who's running it, it's what it does. An evil civilization can be run by good people (though that's much harder and usually requires negligence or incompetence, which may be "evil" in it's own right), and a good society can be run by "evil".


I mean, the people there worship High-ranking Devil lords, willingly make offerings to them, summon and make deals with devils out of their own free will, many of which don't demand their soul as payment.
Souls are so passť. Just ask Spiderman. Functionally, people make "deals" with good beings all the time. "Complete this epic quest for me", "be a fervent follower", "worship me above all others", "do great things in my name", "save this being and you shall be rewarded". They just tend to be payment up front, powers later, while "evil" deals offer power now, and payment later.


The society has laws, enforces order, treats people according to the letter of the law, and doesn't go out to raid people for blood sacrifices. Sure, criminals are handed over to the Devils because they broke the law, though many lesser crimes tend to result in milder punishments such as forced labor or beatings, but executions are only reserved for the worst offenders.
Again, I'd say a society's alignment is based on what it does, not who's in charge.


The way I see it, if you strip away the pretext of "good and evil", devils are little more than efficient negotiators, brokers, and lawyers. Sure they'll usually negotiate deals in their favor, but everything is in the fine print of the contract if you take the time to read the whole thing.
Would such a society really be considered "evil"?
I don't see why it would.

But then I enjoy injecting this kind of conundrum into my settings. I find that a lot of people don't enjoy playing through it, which is understandable. But I find the world much more interesting when things aren't clearly cut and dry.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-02, 09:41 AM
I think you have a higher and more positive view of this than most of us. What you are describing here is, well its capitalism. With human capital. To address a few of your points more directly:


The Big Fallacy.
All that being said, it is worth considering that devils would theoretically gain more power from mortal worship than the extraction process.
Sure, but a lifetime of intermittend devotion is a long term investment, sacrifices are short term and, as a side note, help bolster the devotion of those that remain.


The other fallacy I see is that I don't think devils would actively encourage unfair laws.Pyramid schemes, which are all too alive and even common in some wealthy developed nations today, are built on people signing up to a system that cannot give them what they want. People are bad judges of what to sign on for and debt and hope are wonderful tools for keeping you hooked until bled totally dry.


The other thing is supply. While you could theoretically set laws that mandated sacrifices all the timeThe Aztecs lasted more than 200 years. Your own underclass and criminals are just as easy, if not easier, to collect than enemy warriors.


Taking all this into account, would a society that worships devils still default to evil?Yes.
All they're doing is just following contracts and deals. That would, overtly or not, openly or not, be tailored to enforce a system of tyranny and privilege and ultimately fuel the power of HELL. You give evil people what they want, knowing that they are evil, and you are assisting evil. That alone is not enough to make YOU evil and sometimes working with people who are evil can bring about good, but that is in rare and extreme cases. But a system built out of that and nothing else WILL be an evil system.

There is a reason that "A deal with the devil" is not considered a positive thing to be doing!

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 10:38 AM
If you don't mind me giving some counter points to your observations:



Sure, but a lifetime of intermittend devotion is a long term investment, sacrifices are short term and, as a side note, help bolster the devotion of those that remain.

Who said it was intermittent? Daily prayer of thousands on a weekly basis adds up far faster than a couple hundred souls yearly. Plus, prayer is renewable, souls are one-use only.



Pyramid schemes, which are all too alive and even common in some wealthy developed nations today, are built on people signing up to a system that cannot give them what they want. People are bad judges of what to sign on for and debt and hope are wonderful tools for keeping you hooked until bled totally dry.

Yes, you are correct. It is worth pointing out, however, that a significant number of corporations that do this take massive losses in order to make one individual (or a specific group) profit. This works because you don't care that the company you are collecting from will collapse under this. It's not as viable to do in a culture you want to keep around for millennia. Also, pyramid schemes typically only focus on monetary gains, and don't account for alternative forms of payment.



The Aztecs lasted more than 200 years. Your own underclass and criminals are just as easy, if not easier, to collect than enemy warriors.

And you're hitting on exactly why they have lasted that long. Sacrifices were from other tribes, not their own. You can't sustain a system like this if criminals are being killed quicker than the population can reproduce, plus child rearing takes a few years at least.



Yes. That would, overtly or not, openly or not, be tailored to enforce a system of tyranny and privilege and ultimately fuel the power of HELL. You give evil people what they want, knowing that they are evil, and you are assisting evil. That alone is not enough to make YOU evil and sometimes working with people who are evil can bring about good, but that is in rare and extreme cases. But a system built out of that and nothing else WILL be an evil system.

There is a reason that "A deal with the devil" is not considered a positive thing to be doing!

Take away the default labeling that "hell is evil" and I as you "how is that different than any other nation in the world"?
Yes, it's a bit stricter than what we are used to, though I've read accounts of some very rigid societies in the US.
In short, "It's evil because hell is evil" is not a valid argument here.
Plus, I'm pretty sure that "A deal with the devil" is not considered positive is because the devil usually gets the better deal.

To be clear, I'm not an advocating societies like this. I like the rights that I have. I'm just exploring ideas for societies in game worlds.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-02, 11:09 AM
If you don't mind me giving some counter points to your observations:Be a hypocrite if I did.


Who said it was intermittent? Daily prayer of thousands on a weekly basis adds up far faster than a couple hundred souls yearly. Plus, prayer is renewable, souls are one-use only.Firstly, people's faith wavers. They go through more or less devout periods. Secondly, how do you know, I'd like to see your soul power speadsheet? And if they are because you say they are, then all you are showing is that you can prove anything if you define your terms correctly.


Yes, you are correct. It is worth pointing out, however, that a significant number of corporations that do this take massive losses in order to make one individual (or a specific group) profit. This works because you don't care that the company you are collecting from will collapse under this. It's not as viable to do in a culture you want to keep around for millennia. Also, pyramid schemes typically only focus on monetary gains, and don't account for alternative forms of payment.And why do you assume that this is a counter-point? The Arch-Fiends are a small group (9, and I doubt all of them are getting a slice of this). A whole nation is a large group.


And you're hitting on exactly why they have lasted that long. Sacrifices were from other tribes, not their own. You can't sustain a system like this if criminals are being killed quicker than the population can reproduce, plus child rearing takes a few years at least.Not the best example, I admit, but then again the Aztecs where far more, aha, enthusiastic than most civilisations. And they did use a fair number of criminals and disobedient slaves as well as conquests. But now we need to start an argument over pre-industrial birth rates, the practicality of sacrificing the underclass who are likely to die from a lack of resources anyway, the fact that actual divine magic is going to mess over all the numbers... etc etc. If we assume that this state uses sacrifice as its death penalty and use some numbers from wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_Kingdom#Backgroun d) in the 60 years of The Bloody Code (I am choosing the worst example I can as I am working on the assumption Devils want power) in a nation of about 10.5 million (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom) in 1801 there were about 580 death sentences issued a year or about 6 in every 100,000. The sacrifices from even a very aggressive capitol punishment society will not make any real dent in birth rates and, I say again, will usually be drawn from those people already on their way to the grave due to lack of resources, the very people who won't have kids.


Take away the default labeling that "hell is evil" and I as you "how is that different than any other nation in the world"?Can't touch that, IRL politics.


Yes, it's a bit stricter than what we are used to, though I've read accounts of some very rigid societies in the US.Not sure why you brought that up seeing as I am not american...


In short, "It's evil because hell is evil" is not a valid argument here."We want to own the world and we will trade everything from basic human decency to power to get it" is what I am using as my justification to label your Devils evil.


I'm just exploring ideas for societies in game worlds.No, I get it. Recall I am one of the people arguing that there can be non-evil people in such a society, I just think the society itself will skew evil.

Plus, I think we have a problem here. Your argument seems to be "So what if Devils weren't Devils." Devils do not willingly enter bargains where they don't get the better end of the deal. They don't play fair. They don't fail to try and pervert and twist societies that deal with them to evil. Devils play politics to score points for Team Evil. If they don't do that, are they even Devils anymore?

EDIT: Better explanation. Does your premise change if you swap Devil for Modorian? If yes, then your Devils are evil and are going to try and spread that evil, thus making the society evil. If no then your Devils aren't Devils as everyone understand them anymore which is fine, but seems to run counter to your "can a society get in bed with evil without going evil" question.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 11:43 AM
Firstly, people's faith wavers. They go through more or less devout periods. Secondly, how do you know, I'd like to see your soul power speadsheet? And if they are because you say they are, then all you are showing is that you can prove anything if you define your terms correctly.

Ok, let's use some loose arbitrary numbers here.
Let's say that the average person has about 100 faith energy in their body depending on their devoutness.
Assuming that prayer gives a portion of that to the one they are playing to, that's about 5 faith energy per prayer and let's say about 15-25 per weekly mass.
Using your below statistics, let's assume a population of 10.5 million individuals with 580 death sentences. Assuming that at least 85% of the population attended mass every week (and I'm using a relatively high number given the society would encourage this), that's about 178.5 million faith energy being sent to the demon lord per week, for 48 weeks a year, that's about 8568 million faith energy a year. contrast that with rending 580 people per year for 100 energy on average, I think the 58,000 faith energy kinda pales in comparison. Even if only 25% of the population were to worship the demon as a god, that's still 2520 million faith energy. And that's not including regular prayer.
Even if all prayer did was give 1 faith energy, and 10% of the population worshipped him, and each person had 1000 faith energy, 1 million faith energy from worship will still outshine 580,000 from rendering souls.



And why do you assume that this is a counter-point? The Arch-Fiends are a small group (9, and I doubt all of them are getting a slice of this). A whole nation is a large group.

Even if that were the case, I'm pretty sure one devil lord would stand above the rest, and it's doubtful he would take kindly to anyone endangering his schemes.



Not the best example, I admit, but then again the Aztecs where far more, aha, enthusiastic than most civilisations. And they did use a fair number of criminals and disobedient slaves as well as conquests. But now we need to start an argument over pre-industrial birth rates, the practicality of sacrificing the underclass who are likely to die from a lack of resources anyway, the fact that actual divine magic is going to mess over all the numbers... etc etc. If we assume that this state uses sacrifice as its death penalty and use some numbers from wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_Kingdom#Backgroun d) in the 60 years of The Bloody Code (I am choosing the worst example I can as I am working on the assumption Devils want power) in a nation of about 10.5 million (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom) in 1801 there were about 580 death sentences issued a year or about 6 in every 100,000. The sacrifices from even a very aggressive capitol punishment society will not make any real dent in birth rates and, I say again, will usually be drawn from those people already on their way to the grave due to lack of resources, the very people who won't have kids.

Did you also factor in the idea of leaving?
One of the reasons that this worked for the Aztecs is that they actively hunted individuals. Imagine that this city isn't constantly at war, then factor in how many people also die due to illness, starvation, and accidents, etc. Now factor in how many of those people were old, infirm, or too young to work. The numbers would look a bit different, wouldn't they?[/QUOTE]



Not sure why you brought that up seeing as I am not american...

I'm an American. I'm sorry if I made false assumptions.



"We want to own the world and we will trade everything from basic human decency to power to get it" is what I am using as my justification to label your Devils evil.

And I'd have to counter that "you don't have to make the deal if you don't want to. We're not forcing you to sign the contract, and it's your own fault for not reading the whole thing before you put down your signature."
Oddly, for beings known as schemers, devils are pretty honest when it comes to legal-speak. It's just they don't tell you everything, but they don't lie to your face about it.


No, I get it. Recall I am one of the people arguing that there can be non-evil people in such a society, I just think the society itself will skew evil.

And I agree with you to a point. This is kinda why I'm not a big fan of the good-evil labeling convention of D&D. It's great for broad strokes, but it really paints a tone of black and white doesn't it?



Plus, I think we have a problem here. Your argument seems to be "So what if Devils weren't Devils." Devils do not willingly enter bargains where they don't get the better end of the deal. They don't play fair. They don't fail to try and pervert and twist societies that deal with them to evil. Devils play politics to score points for Team Evil. If they don't do that, are they even Devils anymore?

Satinavian
2019-09-02, 11:53 AM
The problem is what the Devils get out of this. They are expert schemers and advocates, so you can assume that all those deals are on average in their favor.

What do they want ? Souls first (providing them is evil). Power second (providing that is not evil per se But giving devils present in your society a lot of power as standard payment is a really supid idea because they will evntually rule that society) Tempting people to do evil stuff third (because they might get souls of lawful evil people even without a contract. And yes, that is oviously evil).

So yes, that society will be evil because all those devil payments add up to that.



You could avoid an evil society if the services of the devils are availabe for other reasons. Maybe they are a payment for a deal in the distant past that the devils are now bound to fullfill. Maybe the devils are not paid at all but forced into servitude with some kind of magic. Maybe there is some other reason. In most of those cases the society could be non-evil.

Particle_Man
2019-09-02, 12:13 PM
I think the dilemma still holds. Either the society is encouraged to do evil or the encouragers are not devils. Even if they are not literally made of evil planar energy, they would not be devils if they didnít do things that we consider to be evil and believe in methods that we consider to be evil to serve ends that we consider to be evil.. They might be genies or formians Or modrons or azer or some other lawful being (heck even archons if I am understanding this correctly) but not devils. Heck they might be cosmic ferenghi. They might have the horns and the red body suits but thatís not enough to merit the title devil in
Most peopleís eyes.

Themrys
2019-09-02, 04:34 PM
And you're hitting on exactly why they have lasted that long. Sacrifices were from other tribes, not their own. You can't sustain a system like this if criminals are being killed quicker than the population can reproduce, plus child rearing takes a few years at least.

Humanity was able to survive cities with horrible hygienic conditions, death sentence and famines on top. Think Victorian Age. It may not have been called human sacrifice, but children sent to work in mines, match factories and as chimney sweeps often died before reaching adulthood.

For the population to remain stable, you only need two surviving children per woman. If you don't care about her health, and evil beings wouldn't, a woman can give birth to ten children. And you don't need many males for that. Introduce polygyny and even if every man only has two wives, you can sacrifice half of your male population without making a dent in the birthrate.

Evil can be very sustainable.

And even without human sacrifice, wouldn't the devils want the people to be evil so that they get their souls upon death?

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-02, 05:17 PM
Ok, let's use some loose arbitrary numbers here.
Let's say that the average person has about 100 faith energy in their body depending on their devoutness.
Assuming that prayer gives a portion of that to the one they are playing to, that's about 5 faith energy per prayer and let's say about 15-25 per weekly mass.
Using your below statistics, let's assume a population of 10.5 million individuals with 580 death sentences. Assuming that at least 85% of the population attended mass every week (and I'm using a relatively high number given the society would encourage this), that's about 178.5 million faith energy being sent to the demon lord per week, for 48 weeks a year, that's about 8568 million faith energy a year. contrast that with rending 580 people per year for 100 energy on average, I think the 58,000 faith energy kinda pales in comparison. Even if only 25% of the population were to worship the demon as a god, that's still 2520 million faith energy. And that's not including regular prayer.
Even if all prayer did was give 1 faith energy, and 10% of the population worshipped him, and each person had 1000 faith energy, 1 million faith energy from worship will still outshine 580,000 from rendering souls.
You are still getting to set all the numbers. What if I said that everyone only generaed 1 faith energy a year but being able to torment a soul and extract divine power that way generated 1,000 an hour. Neither of us know how the quantified metaphysics of a given hypothetical setting work!

And you seem to think that somehow sacrificing people who are already capitol punishment cases will reduce the attendance at mass.

Plus the major reason for sacrifices, at least according to several 3.5 books, is less to gain a soul and more to make the rest of the society doing if culpable and thus more likely to end up in Hell's torture machinery themselves.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 06:39 PM
Humanity was able to survive cities with horrible hygienic conditions, death sentence and famines on top. Think Victorian Age. It may not have been called human sacrifice, but children sent to work in mines, match factories and as chimney sweeps often died before reaching adulthood.

For the population to remain stable, you only need two surviving children per woman. If you don't care about her health, and evil beings wouldn't, a woman can give birth to ten children. And you don't need many males for that. Introduce polygyny and even if every man only has two wives, you can sacrifice half of your male population without making a dent in the birthrate.

Evil can be very sustainable.

And even without human sacrifice, wouldn't the devils want the people to be evil so that they get their souls upon death?

Two things I need to point out here:

1) Under other circumstances, you would be right. However, consider that while it would be "sustainable", it would not be a healthy society. I'm not sure wether or not I was specific in my opening post, but this is a society based on willing devil worship, not forced servitude. Yes, some people are there because they made pacts, but on the whole consider this as a healthy community where people are willing to go to mass, and pray to Mephistopheles for the good business that he provided, and for the prosperity of the city.

2) No, being evil does not automatically make you go to hell. Devils are very particular about the souls they claim, and generally you are still judged by the god or pantheon you worship where you go. Selling your soul to a specific devil will guarantee that you end up there, but general wickedness has a higher chance of sending you to the Abyss.


You are still getting to set all the numbers. What if I said that everyone only generaed 1 faith energy a year but being able to torment a soul and extract divine power that way generated 1,000 an hour. Neither of us know how the quantified metaphysics of a given hypothetical setting work!

And you seem to think that somehow sacrificing people who are already capitol punishment cases will reduce the attendance at mass.

Plus the major reason for sacrifices, at least according to several 3.5 books, is less to gain a soul and more to make the rest of the society doing if culpable and thus more likely to end up in Hell's torture machinery themselves.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there is a bigger advantage to not set overly strict laws than there is to convict unreasonable amounts of people. Mostly because there is a correlation between how many people will attend church and how many people are convicted.
Consider this: if your principal cracked down on every single student he saw chewing gum, and gave each one detention, how many students would willingly attend school?
The factor you're kinda leaving out is that the society actually needs people to work. And if laws are unjustly skewed, how many people would willingly stay in that city?
If you're a noble, sure, you'd stay. If you're obligated by contract, yeah, you'd stay too. If you're not tied to anything, and live in fear of being locked up for any minor offense? Chances are you'd be halfway to the next city first chance you got. That means less people attending church, less people becoming potential criminals in that city, and that means less citizens to replenish the population, and less worker and serfs for the nobility to govern. And that leads to a population decline, and that leads to a dead city. Devils are knitting, not stupid. Even if your numbers are right and they gain more energy form sacrifices than prayer, churches are powerful tools for maintaining a positive image, and how the attendants of that church act affects how well received the faith of the church is.

Also, I'd like to know which book said that about sacrifices. To the extent of my knowledge, a sacrifice is an offering to a greater power, not a shameful act. Even if it was done as a way of capitol punishment, it would be no different than a public execution via stoning or decapitation. Culpability only applies to actual murder, and again, just being evil doesn't guarantee that you'll end up in Hell as opposed to the Abyss or the realm of some other death god.

Tvtyrant
2019-09-02, 07:43 PM
The best way to get people to sell their souls is to convince people something is worth eternal damnation. The best way to do that is to have them default into it.

Loan money out on interest with souls as collateral, make conspicious consumption the center of society, loan tons of money on easy terms and cash in on the greed. People frequently get stuck in the "it can't happen to me" mindset.

For instance I loan at 6%, default is bankrupcy. People default, I offer to refinance at 3% but if you default I get your soul. I keep offering you money at easy terms until you can't make your payments and go under, and since life with devil butlers is so much easier lots of people go along with it.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-02, 08:10 PM
I'm still stuck at the idea that an innocent or even at least good person's soul can be given to devils against that person's will via being the victim of a sacrifice. :smallconfused:

SimonMoon6
2019-09-02, 08:21 PM
I am not sure what Devils without evil actually are.


Ds.

:)

Or... D----s.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 10:25 PM
I'm still stuck at the idea that an innocent or even at least good person's soul can be given to devils against that person's will via being the victim of a sacrifice. :smallconfused:

It can't. Enough with the sacrifice talk, that isn't how devils do things.
Devils will barter, flatter, seduce, and grant you what you desire for a price. They are schemers that will sell you the world if you can afford it. They'll honestly answer any question you may have, but leave out the "less important details in the fine print". They will serve you, give you any information you need, and provide the most luxurious bedroom companions you may wish, but when you are at the end of your life, they will come to collect their due. Sure, they may not always want your soul, after all you an only sell it once. Maybe they'll trade you for some "worthless trinkets", or for a "favor" later on. Maybe they'll ask you to raise an heir for them, or for a night with your lovely daughter, who is to say?
What's wrong? Did you get caught by the law? They can make you a deal. Just do them a little service, and that "accident" that you are in for never happened. Just don't make it a habit, or examples will have to be made.

In short, stop looking at devils as nothing but bloodthirsty sacks of evil that want to see the world burn. Those are demons, they are over there. Please take them out of the house with you, they are dirtying up the carpet.
Devils are more akin to a Theological crime family, kinda like what you'd get if you mixed the supernatural with the mob and thew in a dash of gospel for seasoning.
I can't understand why no one can get that right. Most of the "rituals" in their chapel are mostly for show anyway.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-02, 10:44 PM
It can't. Enough with the sacrifice talk, that isn't how devils do things.


I didn't think that specific thing would work that way, but several posts in the thread sure made it sound like it would.

ngilop
2019-09-02, 10:52 PM
It can't. Enough with the sacrifice talk, that isn't how devils do things.
Devils will barter, flatter, seduce, and grant you what you desire for a price. They are schemers that will sell you the world if you can afford it. They'll honestly answer any question you may have, but leave out the "less important details in the fine print". They will serve you, give you any information you need, and provide the most luxurious bedroom companions you may wish, but when you are at the end of your life, they will come to collect their due. Sure, they may not always want your soul, after all you an only sell it once. Maybe they'll trade you for some "worthless trinkets", or for a "favor" later on. Maybe they'll ask you to raise an heir for them, or for a night with your lovely daughter, who is to say?
What's wrong? Did you get caught by the law? They can make you a deal. Just do them a little service, and that "accident" that you are in for never happened. Just don't make it a habit, or examples will have to be made.

In short, stop looking at devils as nothing but bloodthirsty sacks of evil that want to see the world burn. Those are demons, they are over there. Please take them out of the house with you, they are dirtying up the carpet.
Devils are more akin to a Theological crime family, kinda like what you'd get if you mixed the supernatural with the mob and thew in a dash of gospel for seasoning.
I can't understand why no one can get that right. Most of the "rituals" in their chapel are mostly for show anyway.

Nobody has said that. The only thing that has happened is everytime someone presents any argument for the society would be evil. Your counter is the text equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you"


Contrary to what you are saying Devils are a force of Lawful Evil. And anything that regularly associates with, let alone worships and lives by their very edicts, is likewise going to be lawful evil.


Devils are not some misunderstood paragons of law. They are the very embodiment of Lawful Evil.

Spore
2019-09-02, 11:00 PM
Of course they can. But they should either be too stupid to realize they worship devils or it should be a shadowy organization where you get benefits from benefactors you never interact with. Your job is not to literally sacrifice people or do anything immediately obviously evil. You just bring in new guys.

Think of it as the ultimate lawful evil: Multilevel Marketing!

e: thinking about that analogy, and with the Nine Hells layering, it actually IS MLM/a pyramid scheme...now to start a doomsday cult by selling cheap cosmetics...

Envyus
2019-09-02, 11:05 PM
Devils that successful take control of a nation or city, either by force or by corrupting it's highest officials, are stated to try and turn the area into a Soul Factory. The goal there is to try and make it so that establishment only really works for Lawful Evil people, and makes it utterly horrible for everyone else. This means that people will either come around to the Lawful Evil way of thinking, go and make deals the devils to get out of it, or die so their views no longer influence others. Eventually the ideal is for pretty much everyone to be lawful evil so the devils constantly claim souls from the area when it's people die, and hopefully expand the area over time.

ZeroGear
2019-09-02, 11:11 PM
Nobody has said that. The only thing that has happened is everytime someone presents any argument for the society would be evil. Your counter is the text equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you"


Contrary to what you are saying Devils are a force of Lawful Evil. And anything that regularly associates with, let alone worships and lives by their very edicts, is likewise going to be lawful evil.


Devils are not some misunderstood paragons of law. They are the very embodiment of Lawful Evil.

You're doing the exact same thing right now.
Every time I deconstruct an argument, someone posts a comment like yours saying "they are evil because they are devils", and just expects that to be the end of the story. I cannot accept that. I really don't want to risk getting this thread locked, but you are basing all your arguments on the idea that it's "because they are this race" rather than "this is how most individuals in this race operate as a culture". You are literally saying a society is evil if it has close ties with devils "because they are devils, and devils are evil". Forgive me for saying this, however that is a bigoted answer. I do not say this lightly, and I'm going to be very clear here: when I make my statements about how devils operate, I am basing it on how most of their society is described as operating according to descriptions I've found in the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, Book of Vile Darkness, and the Fiendish Codex. The only change that I've made is that I've set up a scenario where I removed the alignment system from the game, as any world builder or DM is allowed to do.

As such, please consider how you present your arguments. The devils I describe are ruthless, selfish, cunning creatures that are masters at their craft. They are the ultimate lawyers, bureaucrats, loansharks, and mob bosses of the planar system. They are "evil" by virtue of their ruthless efficiency, and use cruelty as a precision tool.
So, I ask again, could a thriving society run by the mob be anything other than "evil", even if the mob happens to be a bunch of devils?

Lord Raziere
2019-09-02, 11:15 PM
As such, please consider how you present your arguments. The devils I describe are ruthless, selfish, cunning creatures that are masters at their craft. They are the ultimate lawyers, bureaucrats, loansharks, and mob bosses of the planar system. They are "evil" by virtue of their ruthless efficiency, and use cruelty as a precision tool.
So, I ask again, could a thriving society run by the mob be anything other than "evil", even if the mob happens to be a bunch of devils?

I will repeat my earlier answer:

Depends on how much the devils are willing to change their methods in response to increasing amounts of evidence that Good methods makes them more money in the long run.

If they change their methods to not be cruel, they can be good, if they don't they won't be. all they require is the right motivation to change.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 12:08 AM
If they change their methods to not be cruel, they can be good, if they don't they won't be. all they require is the right motivation to change.

See, hereís the thing I seem to be missing:
Cruel against whom?

To the citizens?
Why would they be cruel to them in the first place? Imps may be trouble makers, but they still fulfill their role as messengers and Familiars to the letter, even if they report their findings to their infernal masters on the side.
Bearded devils will be responsible guards and protect the posts they were assigned to, as long as the payment for their service is good. And if they happen to be on patrol, itís not their fault they had to get a little rough with the thief that resisted arrest, he was given ample warning.

To the criminals?
Sure, sometimes confessions do take a little convincing, but they were offered deals to reduce the punishment. And the chain devil did warn the repeat offender that the second time would result in a lashing, not his fault the criminal didnít listen.

To the souls they collect?
See, this is where things get complicated. See, Souls that go to hell are marked with social of the devil that has a claim to them, and it is up to that devil to determine how the souls are to be treated. The contract the practitioner signed did mention this, in the fine print.

Overall I get where you are coming from, though as mentioned earlier, Devils are not stupid. I may be wrong on some accounts, however it would be pretty safe to assume that Devils would treat their mortal adherents with respect to some small degree, as they wouldnít be very good at their job if they scared off all their potential ďcustomersĒ.

Tvtyrant
2019-09-03, 12:15 AM
Basically the issue here is that you are defining Devils in a way they aren't used in most settings, then asking if people worshipping/using them can be good. Sure, using your version of Devils the society can be good.

Anymage
2019-09-03, 12:32 AM
Clear up just how embedded the devils are into society. It's one thing if they're just a supernatural crime family that's proven impossible to dislodge. It's another thing entirely if they have the ears of the people writing the laws, or worse are involved in writing the laws themselves.

At one extreme, a city lead by paladins may make a literal deal with devils if a ravening horde of demons are about to descend on the city and devils are the only reinforcements who can get there on time to keep the demons from razing the city and slaughtering all the inhabitants. It'll be soul tarnishing even if the deal only asks for gold and/or magic in payment, but the deal won't intrinsically turn the town into a hellscape.

The more that the devils can maneuver themselves into positions of power, however, the worse things will get. Being clever and cutthroat means that they'll be very good at exploiting whatever opportunities present themselves. Devils tend to be harsh social darwinists, and once in power they'll institute the sort of laws that social darwinists have historically instituted.

"If you didn't like the terms you shouldn't have signed the contract" tends to presuppose that your needs are reasonably met and that there's a functional society going on around you. A horrible employment contract might be signed because you can't afford medicine or even food without it. Devils, even if they weren't acting in the interest of things like the Greater Evil, still wouldn't give a toss about things like child labor laws or a limit to how long the work day could be. Opportunities for exploitation would be rampant. And because exploiting others is one of the best ways to get ahead, such opportunities would quickly be taken.

So basically that. If they're basically just the mafia with some beefy mojo, they won't automatically turn a society evil just by being there. The more that they have actual power, the more they'll use it to form a society that seems right to the mob boss/slick lawyer/robber baron frame of mind. And very few people would call the resulting society Good.

Lord Raziere
2019-09-03, 12:35 AM
See, hereís the thing I seem to be missing:
Cruel against whom?

To the citizens?
Why would they be cruel to them in the first place? Imps may be trouble makers, but they still fulfill their role as messengers and Familiars to the letter, even if they report their findings to their infernal masters on the side.
Bearded devils will be responsible guards and protect the posts they were assigned to, as long as the payment for their service is good. And if they happen to be on patrol, itís not their fault they had to get a little rough with the thief that resisted arrest, he was given ample warning.

To the criminals?
Sure, sometimes confessions do take a little convincing, but they were offered deals to reduce the punishment. And the chain devil did warn the repeat offender that the second time would result in a lashing, not his fault the criminal didnít listen.

To the souls they collect?
See, this is where things get complicated. See, Souls that go to hell are marked with social of the devil that has a claim to them, and it is up to that devil to determine how the souls are to be treated. The contract the practitioner signed did mention this, in the fine print.

Overall I get where you are coming from, though as mentioned earlier, Devils are not stupid. I may be wrong on some accounts, however it would be pretty safe to assume that Devils would treat their mortal adherents with respect to some small degree, as they wouldnít be very good at their job if they scared off all their potential ďcustomersĒ.

Doesn't matter against whom. Nothing exists as a perfect static snapshot forever. Either your changing for the better or the worse, and if your not getting better, your getting worse. Stagnation might as well be decay. Eventually the society either starts abusing their system and gets to the point where the abuse is intolerable and some chaotic good hero(es) steps up to start a revolution to change things for the better, or the devils change in response to complaints about their methods and their profit margins rising when they don't be jerks to refine themselves to the point where they become good. All systems are subject to people eventually finding ways to abuse them eventually.

TheYell
2019-09-03, 12:47 AM
Why use the word "devils" to describe anything that doesn't match the Monster Manual, and BOVD? You could call them "angels" and run into the same "bigotry" of educated gamers choking on your terminology.

You're making up a creature? Give it a new name.

and you said they were cruel


They are "evil" by virtue of their ruthless efficiency, and use cruelty as a precision tool.

So I feel its on YOU to tell US how exactly they're cruel and whom to.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 12:50 AM
Basically the issue here is that you are defining Devils in a way they aren't used in most settings, then asking if people worshipping/using them can be good. Sure, using your version of Devils the society can be good.

Youíre hitting on a very interesting point here, they arenít usually used like this in most settings, and itís kinda a shame because this system is far more interesting that one just being the big boss at the end of the dungeon.
Devil society is very intricate, and itís kinda a shame that no one takes advantage of the politics in hell and how it affects the mortal plane.

The other issue is that most games see things in good-evil terms and thatís the end of it. Even the Book of Exalted Deeds actually paints a scenario where a paladin has to choose between slaying a pair of succumbing and respecting the love they have for each other. Not a lot of settings delve too far into that.


Clear up just how embedded the devils are into society. It's one thing if they're just a supernatural crime family that's proven impossible to dislodge. It's another thing entirely if they have the ears of the people writing the laws, or worse are involved in writing the laws themselves.

At one extreme, a city lead by paladins may make a literal deal with devils if a ravening horde of demons are about to descend on the city and devils are the only reinforcements who can get there on time to keep the demons from razing the city and slaughtering all the inhabitants. It'll be soul tarnishing even if the deal only asks for gold and/or magic in payment, but the deal won't intrinsically turn the town into a hellscape.

The more that the devils can maneuver themselves into positions of power, however, the worse things will get. Being clever and cutthroat means that they'll be very good at exploiting whatever opportunities present themselves. Devils tend to be harsh social darwinists, and once in power they'll institute the sort of laws that social darwinists have historically instituted.

"If you didn't like the terms you shouldn't have signed the contract" tends to presuppose that your needs are reasonably met and that there's a functional society going on around you. A horrible employment contract might be signed because you can't afford medicine or even food without it. Devils, even if they weren't acting in the interest of things like the Greater Evil, still wouldn't give a toss about things like child labor laws or a limit to how long the work day could be. Opportunities for exploitation would be rampant. And because exploiting others is one of the best ways to get ahead, such opportunities would quickly be taken.

So basically that. If they're basically just the mafia with some beefy mojo, they won't automatically turn a society evil just by being there. The more that they have actual power, the more they'll use it to form a society that seems right to the mob boss/slick lawyer/robber baron frame of mind. And very few people would call the resulting society Good.

Fully embedded, like full-on Mephistopheles is the patron god of the city.
And you are right, Devils wouldnít care about child labor laws. But that does make me wonder: if the devils running the city were like the board of directors in a company, would that automatically make the company bad?
The big question I have to ask is how far would Devils reasonably push the city if they wanted to sustain it for several millennia. And would it truly be evil, or just borderline neutral?

Anymage
2019-09-03, 01:22 AM
But that does make me wonder: if the devils running the city were like the board of directors in a company, would that automatically make the company bad?

Would the devils run the sort of company that would flout environmental protection and employee safety rules in the pursuit of profit, limited only by the cases where legal punishments would cost more than they're likely to save? (I think the answer here is a clear yes.) Would such a company he bad? They don't need to dump toxic waste for the evulz like a Captain Planet villain to be evil. Malicious negligence can be nasty enough on its own.


The big question I have to ask is how far would Devils reasonably push the city if they wanted to sustain it for several millennia. And would it truly be evil, or just borderline neutral?

No clue, as the only industrial societies we have any experience with have only lasted centuries at best and have radically changed over that timescale.

Granting the sort of medieval stasis that causes fantasy worlds to not change much culturally or technologically over timescales longer than writing has been around in the real world, however, Dickensian stasis over millennia is at least roughly as plausible.

Silent Wrangler
2019-09-03, 01:54 AM
My point of view: Yes, the society worshipping (in the sense presented here) Devils can be other than evil. The state, with "you're sacrificed to the devils for the good of citizens", is hard to call not evil, but the society is not the state and the state is not the society.
If fairness and compassion are valued among the people, and people try their best to be fair and compassionate, then the society is not evil. How come they are worshipping devils then, one might ask. The possible reasons might be custom and gratitude for being not poor and defended. One perfectly can be grateful to Evil entity and not be Evil himself.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-03, 02:01 AM
It can't. Enough with the sacrifice talk, that isn't how devils do things.

BoVD, Fiendish Codex 2 and others all disagree. In fact Fiendish Codex 2 even states that it is a cornerstone of societies and cults that are run by Devils, both because it creates a steady baseline of souls and because it makes everyone in the ceremony complicit, thus ensuring their eventual damnation. Plus they enjoy making mortals be cruel and violent towards each other.

I still say that, based on your arguments, you don't want Devils, you want horned Modorians. Its like you've asked if you can bring PB and J sandwitches to a picknick, been told no because there are people with peanut allergies there, so you say "Well what if I make PB and J but with ham and cheese." Eating your ham and cheese sandwich does not mean that I can safely eat peanuts! When you remove the deffinational elements it stops being that thing.


I'm still stuck at the idea that an innocent or even at least good person's soul can be given to devils against that person's will via being the victim of a sacrifice. :smallconfused:

Remember that in most DnD settings Asmodeous wrote the rules about what souls go where. Its a loophole (one that other Evil outsiders also benefit from). There is even a spell in Fiendish Codex 2 that allows clerics to Prince Levistus to trap souls in a special museum on his layer if they kill them with the weapon the spell is cast on.

In a meta-narrative sense its to allow PCs to go and rescue the unfairly damned, a precident that goes back at least to Monty Cook's legendary "A Paladin in Hell".

Mastikator
2019-09-03, 03:53 AM
See, hereís the thing I seem to be missing:
Cruel against whom?

To the citizens?
Why would they be cruel to them in the first place? Imps may be trouble makers, but they still fulfill their role as messengers and Familiars to the letter, even if they report their findings to their infernal masters on the side.
Bearded devils will be responsible guards and protect the posts they were assigned to, as long as the payment for their service is good. And if they happen to be on patrol, itís not their fault they had to get a little rough with the thief that resisted arrest, he was given ample warning.

To the criminals?
Sure, sometimes confessions do take a little convincing, but they were offered deals to reduce the punishment. And the chain devil did warn the repeat offender that the second time would result in a lashing, not his fault the criminal didnít listen.

To the souls they collect?
See, this is where things get complicated. See, Souls that go to hell are marked with social of the devil that has a claim to them, and it is up to that devil to determine how the souls are to be treated. The contract the practitioner signed did mention this, in the fine print.

Overall I get where you are coming from, though as mentioned earlier, Devils are not stupid. I may be wrong on some accounts, however it would be pretty safe to assume that Devils would treat their mortal adherents with respect to some small degree, as they wouldnít be very good at their job if they scared off all their potential ďcustomersĒ.
But "criminals" in this case is just citizens either chosen at random or chosen because they're good. In truth they're very unlikely to be actually guilty of any wrongdoing. YES AGAINST INNOCENT CIVILIANS. Turning a functional justice system into a system of oppression and perverting any chance of justice is the wet dream of any devil.

Since you mention "thief resisting arrest" as an example I'll give you an example of how a devil based society would handle it:

Bearded devil sees man walking alone in a dark street in a fancy neighborhood. This is evidence that this man is a thief and is planning on stealing something, "AHA caught red handed".
The bearded devil swoops in to arrest the man on grounds of crimes of conspiracy to break and enter, conspiracy to trespass, conspiracy of larceny.
The man shouts "get off I'm just...".
Raising his voice is resisting arrest, the bearded devil hits him on the head to knock him unconscious.

The man wakes up in a cell, asks where he is and how he got there. The bearded devil informs him he's been arrested for aforementioned crimes and begins interrogating him, the man can offer no exonerating facts nor does he claim to even remember.
The bearded devil decides he needs tougher interrogation techniques and brings in a human who is a specialist at interrogation via torture, he proceeds to torture him, not long after the man says "I confess to everything just please make it stop".

This evidence is taken to court and the man is sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in the iron mines. After 9 years he dies of exposure in the mines.


A gods eye view of these events: The man had been at the pub, he was drunk and was heading home, where he was arrested was just outside his home. He had done nothing wrong. He was completely innocent and it was in fact the arresting police officer (bearded devil), the interrogator (human) and the judge (human) who are guilty of wrongdoing.

This is the kind of lawful evil society you can expect when they make deals with the devils and worship them.

MoiMagnus
2019-09-03, 04:28 AM
We had a campaign where the chancellor of our country made a pact with the devil.

The pact was very simple: give me the strength, the skill, and the life expectancy to rule this country and prevent the invasions from the hobgoblins (which was orchestrated by those same devils, by the way), and in exchange you get the souls of the criminals.

For few decades, everything went pretty good, and the society did not have any problem.

However, during the second big invasion by the hobgoblins, with traitors and sabotage everywhere, following the advice of the devils, all the spies caught where executed (and their souls given to the devils), the government slowly became authoritarian. Then, since a lot of traitor where tiefflins (race with already a lot of discrimination against), he ordered the execution of every tiefflins in the capital (with popular approval of this decision).

This more and more brutal authoritarian government started to instill fear in the nobles and they tried to make a coup (taking her daughter in hostage). In the resolution of the coup, the daughter was killed and send to hell, and full of rage, the chancellor executed all those nobles, and every single person that was a relative of a relative of one of those nobles. All those souls send to the devils, since they were legally executed for "betraying the nation".
Note that on every other point, the country was "well functioning", in particular, the invasion was pushed back.

[And that's when our group of adventurer stormed his fortress, killed him, made a coup, and latter crowned one of our member Queen of the kingdom]

While this is a particular example, that's what I would expect from any society that are influenced by the Devils: it start quite well, but ends up in a brutal authoritarian regime (more on the communist or capitalist side, your choice). And an efficient one, that start an expansionist campaign and send more and more souls to the devils.

The devils being unable to have empathy with humans, the only reason why they would help a society is to obtain as much souls as possible from it. Why stop at peoples who deserve it? Take as much as you can obtain trough agreements with the ruling peoples. Maybe suggest to them a system where everyone has their soul going to hell by default, unless they gain back their soul trough significant gift and action in favor of the government? That will motivate the peoples to work to their death for the freedom of their soul.

Pleh
2019-09-03, 04:46 AM
My two cents.

This seems a pointless question. For one thing, in a hombrew setting, you can define things to be exactly as you want. So in that logic, the answer is that such a society isn't evil if you say it isn't. That's probably not going to be very convincing to people playing your game if in every conceivable way, it appears to be evil. At some point, it won't matter if it's evil or not if it continues to be intolerable either way. It's the same problem some have with allegedly "good" deities who are known to do some otherwise pretty despicable things.

Another thing to consider is that, if devils are partly defined by rebellion against the gods, then the quality and nature of the gods becomes part of the evaluation of devils. If the gods are an all evil pantheon, resisting them isn't so evil. But if you resist with evil methods, then you are just the lesser evil, which never makes you good, just less evil. To quote the subreddit, ESH.

Worth noting is that if the gods are even remotely better than the devils, then it becomes impractical to deal with devils (who are constantly screwing people over to gain the upper hand) instead of just worshipping the gods. Part of the evaluation of pragmatic evil is just exactly how affordable are the less morally bankrupt alternatives?

My recommendation is, don't try to do this. It requires a fair bit more suspension of disbelief than most players are prepared to accept on any given session. If you want morally gray Baator on earth, just use sleazy mortal nobility. It requires a lot less mental gymnastics and fills the same societal structure for an RPG.

Heck, it would probably be a lot more interesting for your players if you blur the lines so you couldn't be sure who was a devil/dealing with devils and who was just a greedy mortal that happened to be successful. Much more room for intrigue.

Yanagi
2019-09-03, 06:03 AM
"Selfishness" at some point becomes evil, as personal wants require more and more of other people to fulfill them. Same thing with "efficiency" when the word simply means "gain." Selfishness can both mean wicked ends...just plain wanted to hurt someone, or control someone, or take something...and wicked means...manipulation, cruelty, gaslighting, threats, pain, harm, death. Part of morality is just the acknowledgment of the worth and dignity of others, such that the things you want or want to do will not always be paramount, that there are things one should do and should not do to others.

If "What am I permitted to do?" is the whole of one's ethos--law-as-written, social position, status, clout, are all seen as leverage to be allowed more license, more permission to pursue selfish things beyond the point where it harms others. I did this, I get to do this to you; I have this authority you are not allowed to stop me; you "agreed" to this and I won't let you change your mind. Built into this worldview is hierarchy...it doesn't matter the criteria, just that (1) those above are permitted more and those below less, (2) those below must suffer the license of those above.

"What is good" is anything that lets you get higher in the hierarchy...but does not break the rules of the hierarchy lest the system--and therefore all personal entitlement bestowed by the system--be invalidated. Once the individual has accepted that premise, it is unthinkable to quit seeking advantage, but also unthinkable to gain advantage by bucking the system. Even those at the very top, who should have the most license and thus be unconstrained, have to commit to "the rules as written" lest it be revealed that their authority is hollow, and must instead constantly punch down at successful ladder-climbers. The result is...crabs in a bucket, pulling each other back in while trying to claw their own way out.

Moral cowardice is what incentivizes the literalism and "we had a contract" behavior:

We had a deal, so I could choose to not do the thing bothers or hurts you, but I'm going to because you agreed and all I need is your technical consent.(I'm not going to stop myself)

I knew this was a horrific scam that would destroy you financially; you didn't and I didn't tell you, but you signed the document and therefore me not telling and reaping a profit from your loss is okay. (I want that money)

I have all the power and you're scared of me but if I yell enough you say 'Yes' so technically I'm in the clear. (I don't care you don't mean it because I get what I want)

Bonds and agreements are defensive structures and camouflage...ways of trying to obtained wanted things, but not reveal that (antisocial) want lest it be thwarted by other people with the same methodologies, but different wants. This phenomena is described in literature, philosophy, and religion long before "Lawful Evil" was chucked o'ertop of a bunch of references.

Every Faustian tale starts with a devil who knows how bad the deal is making the deal, knowing how to provoke the signer to make a hasty choice. It's only in modern fantasy that souls become currency or magic tokens: before it was a damned being seeking to prod another into damnation as a petty victory against the heavens they fell from. Every one of those devils is enacting a supernatural version of that overwhelming selfishness. I can't talk about theology, but it's notable that the sin of "Pride" has been translated from the Greek hubris (arrogance), not the Greek megalopsuchia (magnanimity)-- but the English word pride is used for both concepts. It is specifically overwhelming selfishness, to the point of irrationality. The literary devils that inform the D&D devils, such as Milton's Lucifer, and Faust's Mephistopheles are creatures of hubris. They are defined by their want of more than they have and their hatred of being below others and that their though their feelings are beyond reason.

The famous "better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" line is meant to be read as tragically arrogant, because the underlying premise is that Lucifer should know better, because in the frame of the novel is utterly and immovably true that God is purely Good (moral), purely Right (honest and true), and purely Omnipotent...and thus cannot be reasonably impeached as an authority figure. The insistence "I should be more, have more" is futile and immoral, making his rebellion both sad and insane.

Mephistopheles similarly cannot stand the idea of deference to a higher power, and his "bargains" (across multiple versions of Faust) are parodies of a covenant, mimicking and mocking the divine. The devil knows that he is offering things that are finite, and thus worthless, in exchange for something infinite in value that he, the devil, has no use for. Whether the mark is complicit completely or coaxed into it, the devil knows from the start he's scamming. It's an act of impotent malice, a power play over a tiny mortal because there's nothing he can do versus the heavens. In Faustus he gets his damned soul but it's not worth much, because Mephistophilis's a crab in bucket successfully dragging down another smaller crab...but he does it anyway because solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris. In Faust he technically wins Faust's soul but then loses anyway because "the deal" is less important than divine love, grace, and forgiveness. In Boito's Mefistofele opera he loses Faust, then expresses his contempt for the authority of the divine by trying to interrupt the celestial chorus that heralds Faust's with (aggressive, contemptuous, culturally-Italian) whistling. In all versions, he delights in his small, technically-honest, technically-correct win, but rages and defies the larger and entirely-legitimate (not-Planescape, 100% monotheist) authority that can legitimately override him. He loves the rules to the extent the rules empower him; he loves power unless he's subject to power.

D&D baatezu are messy because they're into a metatextual subjectivist postmodern hydra of a cosmology, but they ultimately are cut from the same mould as their antecedents. Read the most dense Planescape lore about the devils and a notable feature is their brilliance and intrigue when it comes to...undermining one another and little else. The Blood War grinds on, little gains are made and lost...but the Nine Princes have had another roster shuffle. Asmodeus has a reputation as a master plotter and one of the most powerful and fearsome creatures in the cosmos, but the stories about him are about his skill at intriguing his own side: how he pins Mephistopheles' wings, shames Geryon out of his princedom, sets up the Hag Queen to fail. He is the most glorious and large crab in the bucket, and other crabs sing songs of his skills.

Devils are hubris. They rise by hubris until they fall by hubris. Their work is the fostering of hubris--the message that each person's want for "more" is perfectly reasonable and no don't look too close at the cost to yourself or others, just go with the want. When people fall in with devils, individually or collectively, it is because hubris has told them that something they want excuses...but also merits...dealing with devils.

I lay this all out because devils have consistently be defined as evil because they are selfish and seek power for selfish ends to the point of unreason, which makes an argument of "devils are selfish and perceive power without limit as a Good, therefore they aren't evil if alignment does not give them the label evil"...different.

"They are rebels against an order that inhibits them who make other people stick to their rules to the letter, inhibiting them" is a red flag, not a green one. "We can't be blamed for bad outcomes, we're just following the rules...except the for the rules we rebelled against because we didn't like the outcomes" in the opposite side of the same red-not-green flag.

Which is all a preamble to point out that what you're describing is likely evil even if there's no alignment and the lawyers have OK'd all the devils' paperwork. Because the people delivering souls and the devils receiving souls are both operating within a framework of "it's okay, the system lets me get what a want" that ignores the harmful consequences.

...anyways...

In real life we're used talking about the direct, additive version of the profit motive...as much justice as you can buy...but there are possible conflicts between "profit" and "value earned." For-profit prisons and anyone using forced labor have an incentive to keep prison cells full such that it's better that penalties are harsh; authoritarians needing to maintain power have an incentive for "justice" to fall harder on critics than supporters; revanchist groups of any stripe of ideology have already identified one or more a priori "guilty" groups and promised to harm them, such that justice is about the re-enactment of social distinction, one body at a time.

The test of the society's institutional morality is what happens when someone who benefits from the souls-for-benefits scheme falls short and needs more of whatever's being provided...but there's no one up for capital punishment, but there are marginal cases that could be nudged to be capital crimes. A society where authority is permissive about abuse as long as you've got the license...in other words, stuff is legal but not right (moral), is a society where authority figures can argue to change what is legal to address their own wants.

Again, this is what happens in real life with institutions that go rotten. Not every corrupt system is about totally bad faith actors with obvious venal interests nakedly laid out, it's about the accumulating effect of the little permissions people give themselves to make their lives easier. And the realm of justice and franchise, the slow poison of "little permissions" generally works by a series of justifications via culturally-understood hierarchy just being tweaked to be more unkind. "We get to do this, they deserve it" is how systemic cruelty starts. It's why so many moral systems start with the opposite admonition: be forgiving and kind to people, as you would want to be forgiven and receive kindness.

But even if we assume that every single capital case is ruled justly by this society and there's no chance of corruption, whether the penalty is proportionate, and thus just, remains. This gets weird because it's basically a metaphysical argument about a temporal legal body.

Laws for governance are laws for the body politic, applied within a region of control--the state. Even though state laws can be religious or derived from a cultural body of values that are religious...states do not attempt to legislate the nature or disposition of the soul. Metaphysical "justice" is the domain of the natural moral valences of the cosmos--a heart weighed versus Maat, karmic debt--and/or supernatural authorities specifically empowered to make judgements--gods and such--and in most beliefs systems that process is sacred and inviolate. Unless the state court system is also an authoritative religious body articulating a very specific doctrine that the condemned is participating in, then the fate of the soul is not its domain.

Indeed, in states with capital punishment, the process of condemnation and execution often mention both (1) that the soul of condemned will now be judged by a higher law, (2) that penitence is still possible, or that execution itself is a kind of penitence, and thus there is hope for their soul after death. This is done precisely because it is felt that it is not the place of mortals to judge such things. And even ritual authorities who get a bit too arbitrary about declaring the damnation of people they don't like are viewed as indulging hubris.

But this is a society that knows there's an afterlife, and exactly what a soul is, and decided that the soul's eternal disposition is within its jurisdiction, and literally hand over souls to devils...in spite of the fact that there's a natural shift of dead souls to an afterlife that does not punish them. Which is pretty messed up, and raises "who is entitled to hurt whom, forever, and at what point is it not about justice" question, but directed directly at this messed-up society that wants to imprison people it convicted for literal eternity.

In fact, this begs several questions:

One, is any finite crime worthy of infinite punishment...if the "devils," are, in fact, acting a agents of punishment delivery...and what specific infinite punishments are acceptable relative to a given crime?

I can't go into this one too deep without stepping over board rules on religion, but this is one of the most ancient questions in religious skepticism. If a deity or any other being wants to hurt someone forever, at some point you have passed beyond reciprocal justice, and even retributive justice, because nothing finite equals infinity. At some point in infinite cruelty you are inflicting pain for the sake of inflicting pain.

Which ties in with what I said about selfishness above: at some point, the cruelty becomes an-end-unto itself and the harmed the means to that end. Which is hubris and evil.

There's also specific legal implications to this: a material-world legal body has made a ruling over a soul in a manner that grants their law right to detain a criminal without contest, with infinite reach through infinite metaphysical space for all time. They have then transferred that right to a third party in what appears to be a mutually beneficial exchange of services, on the basis of what's being described as a supernatural trade agreement. It might be legal...though I'd wager that there'd be planar beings and sides actually willing to lawyer up and come to court in the real world to contest this crap...but that's just because some has said that the corruption is legal.

This is the problem of intersecting justice and profit. "We can do this because it is legal" does not change the inherent immorality of two parties making chattel of a third with a pre-existing understanding of mutual benefit so firm it's literally a contract. It's self-dealing, baked so deep into a society that it's religion and law.

Best case scenario it's Omelas: you must accept one terrible, wrong thing to live in the society. But more likely having learned to accept one fundamental injustice, the society is now predisposed to shoulder further ones. That's like a seedbed for actively malicious people with big sexy antisocial wants, so people with unreasonable wants are incentivized to rise as high as possible so that they can leverage the the deal with devils that, as described, facilitate unreasonable wants without judgement of anything beyond their own ends.

Two...if the "devils" are not actively administering some kind of punishment to condemned souls, then how is delivery of the souls to "devils" after execution a part of the punishment process?

It's already been established that these are RPG devils who have ulterior motives, not devils in the Dante sense who inherently exist to punish sin, so unless there's a specific contract dictating the terms of administration of eternal punishment with right to independent verification of ongoing, appropriate punishment on a schedule...for forever...the transfer of souls to devils is not a part of "justice" beyond a by-fiat declaration that it is the Thing That Is Done In Capital Cases.

Indeed, if the souls aren't being condemned to anything, but their hand-off is being mandated as part of a sentence, then it's fundamentally an injustice that acceptable under the law because the exchange achieves no specific end of justice. If these souls end up in a standard Nine-Hells planar environment where souls become lemures and then can rise through the hierarchy, for that matter, they may actually be existentially and materially more comfortable (across infinite time)

And if there is no pre-concluded punitive end to handing over souls to devils, then the act is one merely of interstate commerce; specifically, chattel slavery. That the chattel are condemned prisoners under the existing legal system is separate and irrelevant to their function as exchange goods. In which case the government are just slavers and the devils are acquiring slaves in exchange for services.

...and since you've added a bunch of stuff since I started typing...


Bearded devils will be responsible guards and protect the posts they were assigned to, as long as the payment for their service is good. And if they happen to be on patrol, itís not their fault they had to get a little rough with the thief that resisted arrest, he was given ample warning.

The thing is the devil's efficacy relative to the society isn't actually a moral calculation. The general position "he is in functional terms an effective guard" does not impact the specific moral claims about a single instance of using violence, particularly if that violence is being justified not in purely functional terms--a preset standard of discipline or self-defense--but in a vague penumbra of authority.

"Allowed to" is irrelevant to "should."

In a vacuum of formal directive about violence (law), a choice to use violence is a choice, and a choice to use violence to obtain arbitrary compliance for arbitrary non-compliance is an immoral choice. The immorality of violence stems from it inflicting pain, harm, and fear. To justify violence one must argue mitigating circumstances as to why as one would select inflicting pain, harm, and fear to achieve an end. "Because I said I would" is insufficient justification; "because I am a guard" is only a justification if the role "guard" is defined by license to harm at convenience. Either the individual guard or the system that empowered the guard has decided that this person may commit inflict pain, harm, and fear to meet personal...and trivial...ends.

And this example is telling because it is literally the statement--"You acted up, but I warned you you'd get hit"--used by individuals and institutions that abuse their authority with arbitrary violence. This argument is a tiny version of what I started with: "I can do it because of my position, my status: I am permitted."

And here's the thing: that applies to all the supernatural deal-making and intrigue that devils and other beings get up to: they do not have to do it, and that they can pry a "Yes" from a person they are dealing with does not change that they can simply Not Do The Thing.

It is never:

"I have to enforce the harsh terms of the contract I specifically created for you to sign"

it is

"I am permitted to enforce these harsh terms, as I was permitted to create this document with all its carefully chosen words that conceal things I did not want emphasized."

Goethe--and Gounod's--Faust ends with their fictional version of God tearing up Mephistopheles' contract because quibbling, malicious invocations of "the rules" to selectively play the arbiter of power is fundamentally wrong and a literal cosmic misunderstanding of The Point Of Rules. Because rules as means do not justify horrible ends.

...and wait there's more...


So, I ask again, could a thriving society run by the mob be anything other than "evil", even if the mob happens to be a bunch of devils?

See, the answer is that the system of the society is immoral because the mob and mob tactics are specifically carved into how things work at a governmental level, and are designed to further the ends of organized crime...

...is the morality of organized crime tactics to force compliance going be a debate topic? Because if we've hit a place where real-world cases of bad-faith "technically they said yes" is up for debate then I'm out...

The evil system is not evenly distributed to every aspect of society or every individual because no individual is the entire system. But the institutions and individuals that form the main line of facilitation for an organized crime organization are highly complicit. The actual label of immorality is subject to filtering through exceptions--coercion, forced compliance--so it's nuanced. Banality through acculturation..."this is normal, therefore it is okay" would be the normal sentiment, and likely the encouraged sentiment. OCO tactics in communities they dominate include making people complicit, or feel complicit--dirtying them up...and scared of retaliation. Not-seeing stuff becomes a survival strategy, as does not-caring.

This would be true of a devil-worship society. If their mysterious ends are antisocial...cause harm to someone, somewhere...then the society that hands them over souls knowing they are devils with mysterious immoral ends is making an immoral choice. How immoral is then a function of nuanced, unequal distribution, exactly like with mob-run society, with the same mitigating circumstances on an individual level; it's hard to live with state abuse as a normal person and not feel complicit just by being there, not knowing how to fight.

But the specific society you've described so far is a society built on quibbling, malicious invocations of "the rules" to obtain selfish ends as a whole society, but also in your examples, with individual devils getting cover for smaller, personal selfish crap. And you've suggested everybody is explicitly consenting to participate in this crappy system because if they're weren't into it, they'd leave. Also...slavery. And that the society deals with devils, that by description, work in the medium of quibbling malicious invocations of "the rules" to obtain their ends, and thinks of everything including people as property to be owned, and own people, and own souls.

So yeah, it's a pretty evil society.

Yanagi
2019-09-03, 06:39 AM
In summation:

- crab songs
- Don't Do the Thing
- Hellfire District #2874 v. Legalese-talking Cube with Face from Mechanus is an exhilirating read.
- crab songs

Silent Wrangler
2019-09-03, 07:33 AM
If you want devil worshipping society to not be evil, consider putting it into a position of having no better choice.
Let us consider following example: There's a town in remote lands, where townsfolk worship Grblz. They reap his blessings and prosper, but every new moon they must perform a bloody sacrifice. Should they fail to comply, every following night till next new moon Grblz shall come and take an innocent child.
Do townsfolk worship evil entity? Absolutely. Are they evil themselves? Not unless you count complying to ęmurder, or your children shall dieĽ evil.

hamishspence
2019-09-03, 08:04 AM
Do townsfolk worship evil entity? Absolutely. Are they evil themselves? Not unless you count complying to ęmurder, or your children shall dieĽ evil.



Going by Champions of Ruin, "driven to evil to keep a worse evil at bay" is a valid reason for having an Evil alignment, so yes, a person coerced into murder can be evil.

Certainly if they've committed multiple such murders, having an Evil alignment is appropriate.

As to whether people who did not commit the murders, but condone and benefit from them can have an Evil alignment - the teacher in BOVD - "Naive fool character archtype" - would suggest yes. He's evil, because he condones the kidnapping of his students, and accepts bribes to keep silent. But he doesn't do any kidnapping himself.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-03, 08:30 AM
For those who haven't read it, I'd suggest finding a copy of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_Who_Walk_Away_from_Omelas), by LeGuin. The text used to be available online, but it looks like someone decided that monetizing culture was the paramount virtue and issued takedown orders since I last read it.

Seems relevant to this thread.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 08:46 AM
[Snip]

I will give you that you are presenting a very valid case here. There are, though, some things I would point out too.
Devils are very into doing things ďby the bookĒ, and if a mortal can argue that they were wrongfully convicted of the crime, the devil that brought them in not only has to release them, but also runs the risk of being demoted to a lesser type.
There is literally a Balor in Hell with a giant grovel that oversees this. If he finds that the soul is innocent and the devil is fabricating circumstances, he will be forced to act against the devil.
Hell might be evil, but rules do exist and have to be followed.
More to the point, it would be on the side of the pact maker to fully write the law. I agree that that is how the devil would act, however any person brought in would still have to be processed by mortal authority figures. Additionally, inebriation is evidence of the individuals innocents, and even if a confession is extracted under duress, the soul of the thief would not automatically be sent to hell.
While your scenario if fully reasonable, it would by all accounts work against the Devils favor to do so because a) if it happened to often the devils would lose the support of the public and make less deals in the city, and b) souls of the innocents would be lost to other afterlives more often than not, especially if they are brought in before they could be completely corrupted.
This would cause a net loss of souls, and sour future opportunities to get more souls.
What you are describing would defiantly happen, I just donít think it would be as often as you might think.

Mastikator
2019-09-03, 08:54 AM
I will give you that you are presenting a very valid case here. There are, though, some things I would point out too.
Devils are very into doing things ďby the bookĒ, and if a mortal can argue that they were wrongfully convicted of the crime, the devil that brought them in not only has to release them, but also runs the risk of being demoted to a lesser type.
There is literally a Balor in Hell with a giant grovel that oversees this. If he finds that the soul is innocent and the devil is fabricating circumstances, he will be forced to act against the devil.
Hell might be evil, but rules do exist and have to be followed.
More to the point, it would be on the side of the pact maker to fully write the law. I agree that that is how the devil would act, however any person brought in would still have to be processed by mortal authority figures. Additionally, inebriation is evidence of the individuals innocents, and even if a confession is extracted under duress, the soul of the thief would not automatically be sent to hell.
While your scenario if fully reasonable, it would by all accounts work against the Devils favor to do so because a) if it happened to often the devils would lose the support of the public and make less deals in the city, and b) souls of the innocents would be lost to other afterlives more often than not, especially if they are brought in before they could be completely corrupted.
This would cause a net loss of souls, and sour future opportunities to get more souls.
What you are describing would defiantly happen, I just donít think it would be as often as you might think.

In the scenario I described it's not the criminal's soul they're getting, it's the interrogator and the judge. The criminal in question is morally innocent and may well go onto mt celestia. It's everyone else around him who are complicit in his horrible treatment, who grow complacent and accept this as normal who will relax into an evil system. Being a criminal in an evil society is not evidence of wrongdoing. Being successful in an evil society is.
It is everyone who wish to make a better life for themselves who will have to accept horrible evil, anyone who isn't willing to accept it may well be crushed by the system like the criminal I told you about.

Pleh
2019-09-03, 09:10 AM
Being a criminal in an evil society is not evidence of wrongdoing. Being successful in an evil society is.

Nitpicky counterpoint: Batman. Technically a criminal since vigilantism is illegal, but he was immensely successful without profiting by evil actions.

Silent Wrangler
2019-09-03, 09:18 AM
Going by Champions of Ruin, "driven to evil to keep a worse evil at bay" is a valid reason for having an Evil alignment


By that logic, every single person who's ever faced an analogue of trolley problem is Evil. A tad harsh to my taste.
I know the lure of the creative third option, but not everyone has knowledge, foresight and resources to go for it.
Also, I got the feeling that OP is trying to worldbuild a relatable community of devil worshippers, so I'm just offering ideas how to make them relatable.

Mastikator
2019-09-03, 09:30 AM
Nitpicky counterpoint: Batman. Technically a criminal since vigilantism is illegal, but he was immensely successful without profiting by evil actions.

If I wasn't clear enough allow me to re-state my case more clearly.

Crime != evil

Crime correlates with evil in good and neutral societies
Crime correlates less with evil in evil societies
Crime in evil societies is more a matter of privilege rather than behavior, the top dogs are innocent even if proven guilty, the bottom dogs are guilty until proven innocent with little to no chance to prove said innocence.

CombatBunny
2019-09-03, 10:23 AM
I pretty much agree with this:


I think the dilemma still holds. Either the society is encouraged to do evil or the encouragers are not devils. Even if they are not literally made of evil planar energy, they would not be devils if they didnít do things that we consider to be evil and believe in methods that we consider to be evil to serve ends that we consider to be evil.. They might be genies or formians Or modrons or azer or some other lawful being (heck even archons if I am understanding this correctly) but not devils. Heck they might be cosmic ferenghi. They might have the horns and the red body suits but thatís not enough to merit the title devil in
Most peopleís eyes.

I donít know how you visualize devils, but in almost every setting and culture, devils are the personification and manifestation of evil. Thatís why they canít possibly be good or act towards good, their fuel and reason to exist is to spread evil and the moment they decide to do good (or not do evil) they arenít devils anymore, they are something else.

A devil feeds from a particular kind of evilness (or various). For example, a devil that feeds on the suffering from starving, will devote to do acts that inflict this kind of suffering or will look for others to do this for him. Any other thing that doesnít works towards achieving this goal is of no interest for the devil and has no reason to be.

The act of selling oneís soul is just a metaphor, you donít sell your soul by signing a contract, thatís of no use for a devil. Returning to the example of the devil that longs to spread starvation, he will do favors to someone in exchange of that person indulging on starvation or harvesting this feeling through others. A rich man that builds an empire through making his workers poor and hungry, can effectively say that he has sold his soul to get his empire. Thatís why you canít sell your soul without becoming evil, because acts are what matter.

So, in the case of your society, that only could work if the devils are treated like slaves through different means or if they see making deals with the society as a mean to spread their evil and suffering massively, which of course itís hard to occur in a steady society and so the devils would soon feel deceived.

So, in any case, dealing with devils would be like playing roulette, there is no way that any agreement would last, as a mutual benefit agreement implies balance and order, which goes explicitly against the chaotic and evil nature of devils. What you ask is something like, can I do drugs frequently without becoming and addict? Well, you certainly can try.

Psyren
2019-09-03, 10:24 AM
I'm still stuck at the idea that an innocent or even at least good person's soul can be given to devils against that person's will via being the victim of a sacrifice. :smallconfused:

It's exceedingly rare but it can happen. Remember that D&D is designed to be a heroic fantasy world - if the world were completely fair to begin with, there wouldn't be much need for heroism. (Or paladins (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots1032.html), for that matter.)


Nitpicky counterpoint: Batman. Technically a criminal since vigilantism is illegal, but he was immensely successful without profiting by evil actions.

Anyone have that Batman alignment chart?

CombatBunny
2019-09-03, 10:59 AM
Many others have already said this, Iím only trying to summarize (I have read every answer). Devils are not a race, but the personification of evil so, can evil not be evil?

Having said that, itís your world and no one stops you from having vampires that can walk in the sun and glitter. Just, donít try to force your vision of your mythology on us, you donít need our consent and if you have defined that in your fiction devils can be good, then thatís it.

King of Nowhere
2019-09-03, 11:07 AM
I am not sure what Devils without evil actually are. They don't want to torture souls for all eternity? They are not made of pure evil? They don't plot against the Gods? They don't hate all beauty, freedom, and joy?
What are they, then? More importantly, what do they do? If one replaced the word "Devil" with "Guardians" would there be any traits distinguishing them as particularly evil in thought, word or deed?

What would worshipping them mean? Treating them as gods? Temple services? Prayers? Or just making asymmetrical pseudo-feudal deals with them like you might with a tribe of giants?

What would worshippers do as part of their worship? Any actions that would be recognized as evil by the person in the street?

Exactly that. you have to figure out exactly what devils do in your setting. the answer to that determines the answer to your original question.

Personally, I did have in my setting a neutral merchnatile organization employing a couple of devils as law advisors. mostly, they write contracts and negotiate deals. and they are paid in currency.
but that's a much more limited kind of dealing.

hamishspence
2019-09-03, 11:39 AM
By that logic, every single person who's ever faced an analogue of trolley problem is Evil. A tad harsh to my taste.

A person who consistently "resolves trolley problems" the evil way, is Evil.

Lord Raziere
2019-09-03, 12:18 PM
A person who consistently "resolves trolley problems" the evil way, is Evil.

Yes. I would say anyone who consistently choose to pull the lever so only one person dies is at least trying to be good as best they can given the situation, as they minimized the deaths involved. if they somehow figure out how to save all of them, thats just extra credit. lives saved is always good (respect for life), even if its not always the amount you want. (humility)

hamishspence
2019-09-03, 12:44 PM
Having a person "bloodily sacrificed" (which, according to BOVD, generally means the destruction of a soul) is a bit different from "switching a track".

The whole schtick of the Eye of Fear and Flame is coercing people into committing Evil acts. That would be a bit pointless if evil acts couldn't "damn one's soul" or change one's alignment.

Pleh
2019-09-03, 12:48 PM
Anyone have that Batman alignment chart?

I wasn't commenting on Batman's alignment as much as the concept that you can't be successful in an evil society and not be evil.

Anymage
2019-09-03, 12:53 PM
Many others have already said this, Iím only trying to summarize (I have read every answer). Devils are not a race, but the personification of evil so, can evil not be evil?

I do want to half grant OP's point. Instead of asking about the harm devils can do by being literally made out of Lawful Evil and seeing the greater evil as their highest goal, ask what happens when you take beings with the selfishness, nastiness, and pettiness of a proper LE attitude and give them positions of power. Even without things like a soul trade or anything else that comes from them being literal devils, you still get a very nasty place.

Evil DM Mark3
2019-09-03, 12:53 PM
I wasn't commenting on Batman's alignment as much as the concept that you can't be successful in an evil society and not be evil.that's not what they said. They said success in an evil society was EVIDENCE of evil. Not proof.

Psyren
2019-09-03, 01:53 PM
Rather than relitigate the place of the Trolley Problem in D&D alignment discussions, I'm just going to quote what I feel was a very thorough take on the subject courtesy of RedMage125:



The Trolley Problem isn't about Morality or Ethics. It simply gauges the importance of Personal Accountability vis Utilitarianism in the person being asked. Basicaly, how important the weight of a "net save" of 4 lives is, as opposed to the person at the hypothetical lever feeling personally accountable for the death of the guy on the second track.

It's also useless to adjudicate by 3.5e D&D mores. Even using Paladins as an example.

Why is not relevant to D&D? Well,as we all know, a Paladin only falls if they "intentionally commit an evil act". However, the Evil of the deaths of people in the Trolley Problem is on the head of the person who tied all 6 people to the tracks in the first place. The Paladin at the switch has no agency to commit an Evil act. Yes, it could be argued that by throwing the switch, he is "killing" the person on the second track, but that means only that he should NOT throw the switch because he doesn't fall for failing to commit an act. A truly diabolical villain would tie 5 murderers/rapists/child molesters to one track, and a saintly old priest to the other, and not tell the person at the switch. Of course, this has no effect on the Paladin one way or another, because Action and Intent determine the alignment effect of an act, not Consequences (source: BoVD, chp 2, "Intent and Context").

Point is, the Paladin is now in a deathtrap, and someone is going to die. The Paladin did not put these people there, and he has no agency to stop ALL of them from dying. He has not "murdered" anyone. The only question the standard Trolley Problem poses to the Paladin is: "is saving a net 4 lives more important than feeling responsible for the death of one?". And that's where it gets REAL screwy. Because, if the Paladin chooses not to throw the switch, has he placed his value of his own purity over the lives of 4 people? Isn't that selfishness? Contrariwise, if he was willing to risk falling by throwing the lever, because saving 4 lives is more important than him having Paladin powers, isn't that actually a very selfless act? Isn't he actually sacrificing his own power to save them? Like I said, it's all screwy, and moreso, because by the RAW, the Paladin has no agency to actually "murder" anyone in this scenario. 3.5e defines "murder" as "killing a sentient being for selfish or nefarious purposes" (BoVD).

The only good choice a Paladin in this scenario has is to reject the dichotomy. The Paladin can throw himself in front of the trolley, probably dying in the process, using their own armored body to bring the trolley to a stop.

OTOH, there are 2 variants to the Trolley Problem that are relevant to D&D alignment, and to Paladins. The Fat Man and Fat Villain variants.

In the Fat Man variant, the Paladin is on a bridge over the runaway trolley, which is speeding towards 5 people tied to the tracks. Also on the bridge is a grossly obese man. The fat man is a total innocent. If the paladin pushed this innocent fat man off the bridge onto the tracks in front of the trolley, his weight will be sufficient to arrest the momentum of the trolley before it hits the 5 people tied to the tracks. This is "killing an innocent" to save lives. Not the standard Trolley Problem. And it is an Evil act, because this Paladin still should have chosen to sacrifice himself and not killed someone else to avoid that. Saving lives is a Good Act. But Committing an Evil Act to achieve a Good End, even if you succeed, is still, by 3.5e mores, committing an Evil Act, followed by a Good Act.

The Fat Villain variant is very similar to above, but that obese man? He's the one who tied the 5 other people to the tracks, and the querent knows this. While this may still pose some ethical problems IRL, D&D is actually quite simple. A Paladin does not fall for pushing the Fat Villain in front of the Trolley. Much how it is not an evil act in D&D to defend yourself with lethal force when attacked with lethal force. Killing an evil person who is in the process of attempting to murder 5 people by throwing them into their own trap which also saves the 5 intended victims? Not evil. Period.

TL;DR: With the standard Trolley Problem, the evil act would have been committed not by the paladin or other moral actor at the trolley switch, but by whoever engineered the ridiculous scenario in the first place (tying the victims to the tracks, removing the trolley's braking mechanism, etc.) Thus, using the standard trolley problem as a gauge of someone's overall alignment rather than merely their utilitarianism is silly.

CombatBunny
2019-09-03, 02:21 PM
I do want to half grant OP's point. Instead of asking about the harm devils can do by being literally made out of Lawful Evil and seeing the greater evil as their highest goal, ask what happens when you take beings with the selfishness, nastiness, and pettiness of a proper LE attitude and give them positions of power. Even without things like a soul trade or anything else that comes from them being literal devils, you still get a very nasty place.

Yes, maybe in such a case it wouldnít be an evil society but rather one with oppressed people. The problem I see with the OP is that he is removing very fundamental and ingrained concepts present in D&D settings (forces of good-evil and alignment) and then trying to answer a question under those same principles.

If you remove good-evil forces, asking if something is good or evil is no longer relevant, as it becomes a matter of opinion, morality, values and so on.

If you take away the idea of alignment and aligned game mechanics, does an orb of evilness could be considered evil? Even if itís used for good deeds?

This can be a very interesting subject, but we are no longer talking in good-evil terms, as D&D understands them.

patchyman
2019-09-03, 04:27 PM
Yes. I would say anyone who consistently choose to pull the lever so only one person dies is at least trying to be good as best they can given the situation, as they minimized the deaths involved. if they somehow figure out how to save all of them, thats just extra credit. lives saved is always good (respect for life), even if its not always the amount you want. (humility)

Iím not sure I agree. It is a pretty low bar for Good to say ďevery time they had a choice between sacrificing 1 person and sacrificing 5 people, they chose to sacrifice 1 personĒ. In order to qualify for Good in my book (and keep qualifying for Good), I would look at what efforts the person took to find an alternative to sacrificing anyone.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 04:32 PM
@EvilDMMk3
Forgive me for picking apart one of your previous statements (I was at work), however could you tell me exactly where you found the information about devils being able to claim the souls of innocents that were sacrificed in their name?
I know its a strange thing to pick apart, but your comment made me re-read several sections of the Fiendish Codex and BoVD, and did some searches about that. There was no mention of devils being able to claim souls they that didn't turn evil unless they had a contact. In fact, there was a section about devils being unable to claim the souls of those that repented and turned away from the path of evil. Even more to the point, there was specific mention that contracts were considered void if the mortal signed it under duress, including being forced to via torture or being threatened by a third party.
I will concede that I was wrong about evil souls going to Hell unless they were spoken for by a different force, I'll give you that. And I'll also concede that sacrifice is done as an act of cruelty in order to damn the participants. I was wrong about that too.
Still, where was the mention of devils claiming the souls of innocents the were sacrificed?
Sorry for the nitpick, I just want to be clear about this.

Lemmy
2019-09-03, 04:42 PM
The society described by the OP doesn't sound necessarily evil... But the devils don't sound much like devils either.

Additionally, even if the Devils do nothing evil or harmful to said society, one could argue that the very act of dealing with Devils is Evil because even if they don't harm your society, they will surely use whatever they gain from the deal to perpetuate evil somewhere else, to someone else.

Karl Aegis
2019-09-03, 06:30 PM
If the local customs look favorably on worshiping devils or actually being a devil your society would probably be Good or Neutral. Alignment has been about local customs in at least one edition.

Coidzor
2019-09-03, 06:49 PM
I agree with Psyren. A creature who intentionally and consistently creates trolley problems is definitely Evil.

So if this society is worshiping creatures that intentionally create trolley problems, the society is probably the baddies or at least their dupes.

patchyman
2019-09-03, 06:54 PM
In most media (and all D&D media), devils are intelligent, cunning, master deal makers for the purpose of screwing over the other party. Devils are explicitly entering ďHeads I win, tails you loseĒ contracts.

A society where devils are worshipped and a long term deal is in place is by implication one in which the non devil participants are either patsies or accomplices.

Pleh
2019-09-03, 07:10 PM
that's not what they said. They said success in an evil society was EVIDENCE of evil. Not proof.

And I said nothing about proof, so, cheers!

Bohandas
2019-09-03, 08:08 PM
The society described by the OP doesn't sound necessarily evil... But the devils don't sound much like devils either.

This pretty much sums it up

EDIT:

Just had a thought. A non-evil society coulld reasonably be controlled by legitimately evil devils if its purpose was to be a potemkin village

Lord Raziere
2019-09-03, 08:20 PM
Iím not sure I agree. It is a pretty low bar for Good to say ďevery time they had a choice between sacrificing 1 person and sacrificing 5 people, they chose to sacrifice 1 personĒ. In order to qualify for Good in my book (and keep qualifying for Good), I would look at what efforts the person took to find an alternative to sacrificing anyone.

Thats great when you have time to search, but if you don't throw that switch in time, its on you if preventable deaths were not prevented. the trolley problem is an in the moment situation, unless there is some third option we are allowed to add in to stop that trolley entirely in that moment before it hits anyone, your kind of screwed. procrastinating on throwing at switch by looking for alternatives too much and that can be seen as slothful: you dithered too much on that decision and made the situation worse, should we forgive someone for such neglect? if saving 5 people by killing one isn't good enough, what it does say about the person who in their vain attempt to find that alternative, allowed those five people to die?

the only way to be truly good in such a case is to prevent the situation from arising at all by making sure no one is ever tied to the tracks in the first place. and the trolley problem does not posit you having the time to be informed that someone could do that so you can take steps to prevent it. and not everything can be foreseen. is the only being truly capable of being good in your eyes, someone omniscient then? at what point do you forgive someone for not being freaking god?

Coidzor
2019-09-03, 08:37 PM
at what point do you forgive someone for not being freaking god?

Mostly you do the smart thing and don't agree to engage with the trolley problem when someone brings it up to play gotcha with you regardless of what you choose.

Sort of like how the smart thing to do would be to call on ZeroGear to do what they should have done in the first place, and define their terms, etc.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 08:48 PM
I'm legitimately sorry that I keep jumping in here to clarify things, though there is one main assumption that seems to be a running theme here, and I know I've addressed it before:
There are a lot of posts here that seem to justify their views with "it is evil because devils are evil", and I've repeatedly pointed out that that's not really a valid answer.


If it's ok with those reading this, I'd like to refine the definition I'm using for devils in this scenario:
In this scenario, Devils are a race of extra-planar entities from the plane of Hell. Their society is founded on the idea that power is everything, and that souls are power. Therefore, they believe that amassing a vast quantity of souls is the best way to acquire power, closely followed by acquiring riches like gold and silver that can be used as tools to buy souls. They are highly organized, structured, and devious, having mastered methods of manipulation to gain any advantage they can. They are masters at brokering deals, lawyering contracts, and weaving plans that take years to come to fruition, but result in massive payouts.
They are physically more powerful than the average mortal, fully immune to fire and disease, and often possessing magical talent.
Cruel, vicious, and sly, they will whisper honeyed words in your ears if it gets them closer to owning your soul, as long as you "give" it to them of your own free will.

The TL:DR here is that the devils here are pretty much the same as those in the monster manual, but I've stripped away the "they are evil because they are made up of evil stuff" section of them. They are still extra planar creatures from Hell, but they are not "born" evil, they just happen to be part of a society where cruelty and schemes are the norm. (Aka, I've completely removed the labels of Good and Evil from this scenario).
I want to know if it's possible for a city or village run by these beings (having set themselves up as the main religion) would be able to function as a healthy society (aka, a city that we would se as "good" or "neutral")?

TheYell
2019-09-03, 10:58 PM
I think you're missing the bulk of replies who said that deceitful and manipulative bargaining is evil behavior.

You can declare, at your table, that beings of the Plane of Evil are not evil.

You can declare, at your table, that deceitful and manipulative bargaining is not evil either.

Then just take the further step, and declare, at your table, that everybody can worship those beings without being evil.

You apparently want a lot of other people to agree with you, and that one, you'll have to skip.

For me, and a lot of other people, evil beings or even neutral beings, running a government with evil methods, will produce an evil society.

ZeroGear
2019-09-03, 11:23 PM
I think you're missing the bulk of replies who said that deceitful and manipulative bargaining is evil behavior.

You can declare, at your table, that beings of the Plane of Evil are not evil.

You can declare, at your table, that deceitful and manipulative bargaining is not evil either.

Then just take the further step, and declare, at your table, that everybody can worship those beings without being evil.

You apparently want a lot of other people to agree with you, and that one, you'll have to skip.

For me, and a lot of other people, evil beings or even neutral beings, running a government with evil methods, will produce an evil society.

No, I am not.
I am declaring that they could be considered evil due to their actions, not their substance.
What I'm trying to nail down is if the perception of a society is "evil" due to the rulers, or the inhabitants.
So far, I have seen "yes" a lot, and I respect that that is their opinion.
I do not, however, respect the logic that the city is evil "because it is run by devils". Very few of these replies have gone beyond the idea that the beings in charge would want to run a city or kingdom that isn't set up to inflict maximum misery.
Cities like that aren't built to last, and pretty much don't start that way. Please point this out to me if I'm wrong, but here isn't a single post that actually depicted a city where the citizens have seen the devils as a blessing rather than a curse for the city.
I will gladly accept that the answer is "no, it's not possible", if someone would actually point out as to why it would be that way beyond racial stereotype.
It basically boils down to that I want a "why" instead of just a "yes" or "no". I want a "Yes/No because..." that doesn't end with "it is run by devils, and devils are evil because they were made that way".
Essentially, I'm playing Devils Advocate here (no pun intended) because I wanted a discussion about this, not an argument. It's a legitimately fascinating scenario that isn't explored as much because almost every iteration of this ends up being portrayed as a "cesspool of corruption and sin". The concept is getting very stale.

Silent Wrangler
2019-09-03, 11:40 PM
I think this does not matter. I wouldn't use word "healthy", for this would not be a nice place to live no matter whether Devils are Pure Evil©ģ or just a bunch of power hungry swineholes.
As for not evil(evil means unhealthy, but unhealthy does not necessarily mean evil), I am pretty sure this is possible, again no matter Pure Evil©ģ or not.
Worshipping evil things does not automatically make you evil, as well as worshiping good things does not automatically make you good.
There might be a lot of reasons for not evil community to worship evil thing, for example:
- Ignorance (this though would require no obviously evil rituals)
- Custom and traditions (we've switched from people long ago, and pretty sure Old Gods are not pissed at all!)
- Fear and opression (The moment we find the strength to fight back, we're quitting so fast, you'll mistake the sound of it for heavenly thunderbolts!)
- Debt and gratitude (They're bastards, but they're still our saviors, so they'll get their daily prayer. The king is overdoing it, though. Sacrificing death row criminals is too much)
As long as kindness and fairness are generally valued and acted on, I'm sure society can be considered not evil no matter what they worship.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-03, 11:49 PM
Forget "beings made of evil" or "evil as an actual force/energy." IMO it's a silly notion.

Set aside nature vs nuture.

What is the intent and motivation of most devils in your setting? What do they want?

What sorts of action are most devils willing to take? What means to reach their ends?

If the answers to those questions amount to evil, then most devils in your setting are evil, and a society run to suit their ends and means will be evil.

~~~~

As for the trolley problem, you could always get that character who would derail the car out of spite at having been put in that situation...

Envyus
2019-09-04, 12:04 AM
I will give you that you are presenting a very valid case here. There are, though, some things I would point out too.
Devils are very into doing things ďby the bookĒ, and if a mortal can argue that they were wrongfully convicted of the crime, the devil that brought them in not only has to release them, but also runs the risk of being demoted to a lesser type.
There is literally a Balor in Hell with a giant grovel that oversees this. If he finds that the soul is innocent and the devil is fabricating circumstances, he will be forced to act against the devil.
Hell might be evil, but rules do exist and have to be followed.
More to the point, it would be on the side of the pact maker to fully write the law. I agree that that is how the devil would act, however any person brought in would still have to be processed by mortal authority figures. Additionally, inebriation is evidence of the individuals innocents, and even if a confession is extracted under duress, the soul of the thief would not automatically be sent to hell.
While your scenario if fully reasonable, it would by all accounts work against the Devils favor to do so because a) if it happened to often the devils would lose the support of the public and make less deals in the city, and b) souls of the innocents would be lost to other afterlives more often than not, especially if they are brought in before they could be completely corrupted.
This would cause a net loss of souls, and sour future opportunities to get more souls.
What you are describing would defiantly happen, I just donít think it would be as often as you might think.

I think you misinterpreted how the Pit Fiend Judge thing works. The Devil's "book" is ambition matters above all else, do whatever it takes to rise up, while still obeying your orders.

The Infernal Court is innately built to be unfair to non devils. The soul has to know about it and beseech it, in order for there to be a trail at all. The Soul is allowed a lawyer if they have none they can take an appointed devil. (Whose job is basically to make them lose.) If they have a lawyer a message is sent to said lawyer, but the devils are under no obligation to give the lawyer transportation to Hell, or even permission to be in Hell. Lastly only one defense is accepted in hell that the Devil did not hold up it's end of the bargain.

Also inebriation proves nothing in that case. A person can decide to break into a place while drunk. Plus Devils don't care about public support in a place they have control of, they are tyrants, the goal is to make everything as miserable as possible for anyone who does not adopt the proper mindset. The rest will either need to take deals signing their souls away to escape from their misery, or die to serve as a warning.

ZeroGear
2019-09-04, 12:24 AM
I think you misinterpreted how the Pit Fiend Judge thing works. The Devil's "book" is ambition matters above all else, do whatever it takes to rise up, while still obeying your orders.

The Infernal Court is innately built to be unfair to non devils. The soul has to know about it and beseech it, in order for there to be a trail at all. The Soul is allowed a lawyer if they have none they can take an appointed devil. (Whose job is basically to make them lose.) If they have a lawyer a message is sent to said lawyer, but the devils are under no obligation to give the lawyer transportation to Hell, or even permission to be in Hell. Lastly only one defense is accepted in hell that the Devil did not hold up it's end of the bargain.

Also inebriation proves nothing in that case. A person can decide to break into a place while drunk. Plus Devils don't care about public support in a place they have control of, they are tyrants, the goal is to make everything as miserable as possible for anyone who does not adopt the proper mindset. The rest will either need to take deals signing their souls away to escape from their misery, or die to serve as a warning.

Actually, I'm only half right about what I said in the moment you're quoting. I made that post before I went back and re-read sections of the Fiendish Codex.
There is a full subsection about pacts can only be made willingly, and how they are considered void if the signee was under duress i any form, including torture or the involvement of a third party.
So while I was wrong about the inebriation part, and I fully admit this, a devil can't bring you in, torture you, and then get you to sign a confession that gives him access to your soul.
Yeah, it turns out that not even the court of hell will accept a confession made under duress. Who knew?

Envyus
2019-09-04, 12:52 AM
and then get you to sign a confession that gives him access to your soul.?

Correct, but that was never brought up. However there are a lot of ways they can trick people or nearly force them into signing their soul away.

Another thing about devils is that unless a contract is involved they can freely lie.

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 01:21 AM
And one Archdevil - Baalzebul - is so famous for it that his nickname is "Lord of Lies".


Yes. I would say anyone who consistently choose to pull the lever so only one person dies is at least trying to be good as best they can given the situation, as they minimized the deaths involved.

The "Unambigiously evil" solution to trolley problems isn't pulling levers - it's pushing innocent Fat Men, who are not in any danger - who are not on any track, into the paths of trolleys.

Lord Raziere
2019-09-04, 02:00 AM
The "Unambigiously evil" solution to trolley problems isn't pulling levers - it's pushing innocent Fat Men, who are not in any danger - who are not on any track, into the paths of trolleys.

Yeah, the only unambiguously good solution is somehow pushing a big stone wall in front of it instead because if a big fat man can stop it, why not a big stone wall?

course theres the problem: how get stone wall onto track? its a stone wall. might as well pull the lever. unless you can do something to bend the tracks themselves so that they don't lead to anyone? how do without superpowers?

I mean, the other solution might be to somehow cut the rope of the one person then pull the lever so that the trolley goes down that way while the one person goes to safety so you can cut the ropes of the other five at your leisure, but how do you cut the rope of the first guy fast enough? thats the whole vague part of the problem: how much time you have, because without it, you can't make any good judgement of what you can do, lets see how fast are trolleys...? 55 mph.

So assuming the trolley cart is 55 miles away, that gives you about one hour to cut the rope of the one guy. but if its only one mile away, that gives you about a minute. if its within sight enough to be clearly heading towards the five people, you probably have about seconds to react, if they aren't already dead. so given the speeds involved, your operating at snap decision or reflex speeds, there is no deep thought involved in that situation, and you can't be expected to make an informed moral decision with only seconds to spare. so the whole trolley problem is kind of stupid, because the answer all depends on how much time you have until the trolley gets there.

TheYell
2019-09-04, 02:32 AM
The real answer is to insist on a Knowledge (Engineering) roll against a fairly high DC to figure out the operation of a rail system. I mean 999 out of 1000 of us would watch in horror without monkeying with the levers, at all. What are you, Batman?

But if the DM is out to get you, you're done.

Pronounceable
2019-09-04, 02:52 AM
If you refluff DnD's devils so they're no longer axiomatically evil, then worshiping them will also be not axiomatically evil. They're also not going to be DnD devils.

Kaptin Keen
2019-09-04, 03:00 AM
I read a book once - a series, actually. It's decently good, actually, but that's beside the point.

The main thrust of the series was this: Souls = magic = power, and can be traded amongst both mortals and immortals (there's all manner of those), and there's a whole branch of lawyers and bankers dedicated to that trade.

So if we overlook the absense of any devils, it's much like the world the OP describes. Furthermore, mages who accumulate enough soul/power/magic live forever, sustained by their power - but .. their bodies die, essentially making them liches. So ... a lich is not a devil, but again, they're not really human anymore, either.

Now, that world is definitely a shade darker than your average high fantasy world - but it isn't evil, as such. So maybe one might imagine a world where the big movers and shakers become that way by dark means, without the painting the whole world black.

patchyman
2019-09-04, 05:48 AM
the only way to be truly good in such a case is to prevent the situation from arising at all by making sure no one is ever tied to the tracks in the first place. and the trolley problem does not posit you having the time to be informed that someone could do that so you can take steps to prevent it. and not everything can be foreseen. is the only being truly capable of being good in your eyes, someone omniscient then? at what point do you forgive someone for not being freaking god?

The situation described was one in which one person is regularly slaughtered to spare several people. If something is happening regularly, you are a lot closer to the Omelas situation Quertus described.

NNescio
2019-09-04, 05:57 AM
Yeah, the only unambiguously good solution is somehow pushing a big stone wall in front of it instead because if a big fat man can stop it, why not a big stone wall?

course theres the problem: how get stone wall onto track? its a stone wall. might as well pull the lever. unless you can do something to bend the tracks themselves so that they don't lead to anyone? how do without superpowers?

I mean, the other solution might be to somehow cut the rope of the one person then pull the lever so that the trolley goes down that way while the one person goes to safety so you can cut the ropes of the other five at your leisure, but how do you cut the rope of the first guy fast enough? thats the whole vague part of the problem: how much time you have, because without it, you can't make any good judgement of what you can do, lets see how fast are trolleys...? 55 mph.

So assuming the trolley cart is 55 miles away, that gives you about one hour to cut the rope of the one guy. but if its only one mile away, that gives you about a minute. if its within sight enough to be clearly heading towards the five people, you probably have about seconds to react, if they aren't already dead. so given the speeds involved, your operating at snap decision or reflex speeds, there is no deep thought involved in that situation, and you can't be expected to make an informed moral decision with only seconds to spare. so the whole trolley problem is kind of stupid, because the answer all depends on how much time you have until the trolley gets there.

It's a thought experiment. Basically a dilemma used to test an ethical framework. You're supposed to buy-in the default (implied) premises, and not go around trying to find alternative solutions, because that defeats the whole point of the thought experiment. One that becomes increasingly relevant as self-driving cars are brought to fruition.

(To expand on the analogy:
Engineer: Uh, if there's a imminent car crash coming up, what should our self-driving AI prioritize: the safety of the driver, or the safety of other people?
Boss: Who cares? Just design the AI better so it will never come up. Prioritize everyone's safety.
Engineer: But...
Boss: No buts. That choice is stupid.)

Of course, one should try not to be forced into a Trolley Problem situation in the first place, but the crux of the thought experiment is simple ó when faced with a choice where you can intervene to save the lives of other people at the cost of another person's life, which is the moral decision: to intervene or to refrain? Variations of the trolley problem usually change the number of people at risk and/or sacrificed, or the nature of the intervention, both of which can elicit different responses from different ethical frameworks (and/or gut feeling polls).

(Otherwise, it's like saying the Prisoner's Dilemma [another thought experiment used to test game theory strategies] is stupid and the prisoners should just break out themselves instead of taking the deal or staying silent. Or not getting imprisoned in the first place [which, like "not getting into the trolley problem" can be cogent advice in real-life situations but is completely ignoring the premises of the theoretical discussion].)

Silent Wrangler
2019-09-04, 06:07 AM
If we translate my town of Grblz worshippers into a trolley problem, it is likely to look like that:
"Your party arrives at a station near the sea of fire. To the portion of rails over the sea of fire twenty eight children are tied. A trolley is going to reach them within five minutes. You also see a gathering of Fat Men drawing lots to decide who gets pushed on the rails. What do you do?"

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 06:27 AM
A trolley has no alignment or volition. A devil who demands people be sacrificed to it "or else" (and offers the bribe of prosperity to the sacrificers) does.

As such, "sacrificing people to villains" never correlates exactly to any kind of trolley problem.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-04, 06:45 AM
The situation described was one in which one person is regularly slaughtered to spare several people. If something is happening regularly, you are a lot closer to the Omelas situation Quertus described.

Did Quertus mention Omelas too?

Yeah, the "utopia" maintained by the abject suffering of a single innocent child seems quite relevent to this discussion in general.

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 07:20 AM
the crux of the thought experiment is simple ó when faced with a choice where you can intervene to save the lives of other people at the cost of another person's life, which is the moral decision: to intervene or to refrain? Variations of the trolley problem usually change the number of people at risk and/or sacrificed, or the nature of the intervention, both of which can elicit different responses from different ethical frameworks (and/or gut feeling polls).

My preferred way of reframing it is the Airplane Problem:


there is a damaged airplane, it will crash - but you (the air traffic controller) can direct it to land in the spot with the least people.


The trolley problem is exactly the same - except instead of directing a plane, you are directing a train - via tracks, rather than the train itself.


Giving those directions, does not qualify as "murdering" the people you are directing the plane toward. Murder requires more than just killing - an element of malicious intent needs to be involved.

TheYell
2019-09-04, 08:24 AM
You're supposed to buy-in the default (implied) premises, and not go around trying to find alternative solutions, because that defeats the whole point of the thought experiment.

James T. Kirk and I play to win.

Though I bet nonevil devils wouldn't allow for that kind of leeway either, which strikes me as unpleasant, if not evil.

False God
2019-09-04, 08:43 AM
A trolley has no alignment or volition. A devil who demands people be sacrificed to it "or else" (and offers the bribe of prosperity to the sacrificers) does.

As such, "sacrificing people to villains" never correlates exactly to any kind of trolley problem.

That depends entirely on how evil and how specific the devil is with their sacrifices.

We can replace the trolley with a devil, who normally eats 10 children but we also have a fat guy, who's about the size of 10 children. The devil only needs a certain volume of food, and he's willing to make the trade with us. We voluntarily sacrifice the fat guy, or the devil kidnaps the 10 children at random from the town.

The point of "the trolley" is to represent a force beyond your ability to stop. It can be directed to an extent, but it's lost its brakes and it's gonna do something horrible no matter what.

A devil is not that different. It's gonna do something horrible no matter what and you lack the power to stop it completely, so do you willingly do some evil (sacrifice the fat guy) or stand by and let it eat 10 children?

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 08:46 AM
How about the whole town fleeing? If you cannot kill the devil, then that doesn't mean you have to strike a bargain with it.

Possibly the vilest evil anyone can do, is to coerce others into doing evil. And this is exactly what that devil is trying to do.

False God
2019-09-04, 08:52 AM
How about the whole town fleeing? If you cannot kill the devil, then that doesn't mean you have to strike a bargain with it.

Possibly the vilest evil anyone can do, is to coerce others into doing evil. And this is exactly what that devil is trying to do.

Again, per the rules of the game the devil is playing, if you don't willingly feed them Fat Jerry (we're gonna call the fat guy Jerry), the devil will just kidnap 10 children anyway. Not in like, a couple days, like right now.

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 09:16 AM
Doesn't matter. A community's "right to exist" is contingent upon not violating the rights of individuals.

And playing games with devils at all, always ends with the devils winning, and innocents losing, overall. Better to stop them in their tracks by refusing to play.

TheYell
2019-09-04, 09:16 AM
If you can't stop it from doing EITHER killing kids or killing your sacrifice, what stops it from doing BOTH?

So don't pick a side, and leave it morally responsible for its own actions from that point.

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-04, 09:23 AM
Again, per the rules of the game the devil is playing, if you don't willingly feed them Fat Jerry (we're gonna call the fat guy Jerry), the devil will just kidnap 10 children anyway. Not in like, a couple days, like right now.


Doesn't matter. A community's "right to exist" is contingent upon not violating the rights of individuals.

And playing games with devils at all, always ends with the devils winning, and innocents losing, overall. Better to stop them in their tracks by refusing to play.


If you can't stop it from doing EITHER killing kids or killing your sacrifice, what stops it from doing BOTH?

So don't pick a side, and leave it morally responsible for its own actions from that point.


Something about the only winning move... and not playing...

hamishspence
2019-09-04, 09:29 AM
Or alternatively "Sometimes the only valid response to evil is resistance - even if innocents will die if you resist"

Psyren
2019-09-04, 10:37 AM
That depends entirely on how evil and how specific the devil is with their sacrifices.

We can replace the trolley with a devil, who normally eats 10 children but we also have a fat guy, who's about the size of 10 children. The devil only needs a certain volume of food, and he's willing to make the trade with us. We voluntarily sacrifice the fat guy, or the devil kidnaps the 10 children at random from the town.

The point of "the trolley" is to represent a force beyond your ability to stop. It can be directed to an extent, but it's lost its brakes and it's gonna do something horrible no matter what.

A devil is not that different. It's gonna do something horrible no matter what and you lack the power to stop it completely, so do you willingly do some evil (sacrifice the fat guy) or stand by and let it eat 10 children?

Neither - I attack the devil, or I try to escape the town with the fat guy AND the children (and any replacements). Even if I'd fail at both of those, alignment-wise I'm in the clear, because I did the best I could within the limits of my abilities. (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0491.html) Their deaths (and mine) are on the devil's head at that point.


If you can't stop it from doing EITHER killing kids or killing your sacrifice, what stops it from doing BOTH?

So don't pick a side, and leave it morally responsible for its own actions from that point.

This.

TheYell
2019-09-04, 11:45 AM
Neither - I attack the devil, or I try to escape the town with the fat guy AND the children (and any replacements). Even if I'd fail at both of those, alignment-wise I'm in the clear, because I did the best I could within the limits of my abilities. Their deaths (and mine) are on the devil's head at that point.

This is further along than my answer, because it focuses on what you OUGHT to do rather than just avoiding choosing a lesser evil.

"Lesser evil" scenarios involve you renouncing your idealism to accept somebody else's conditions.

ME: I don't want sentients eaten.
DEVIL: I'm more powerful than you, and I'm going to eat somebody. Balance my diet for me.
ME: I don't want sentients eaten.
DEVIL: If you don't find me a nice fat sentient, I'll eat the children.
ME: I don't want sentients eaten.
DEVIL: It's your fault if I eat children!

The proper answer to that is again, I don't want sentients to be eaten. Only you can drop that demand.

Instead of accepting the strictures of a lesser-evil scenario, ask what you want to have as the best conceivable option, and then ask why what you want isn't an option easily available.

And to tie this back to the OP, if you have a stronger being using deceit and intimidation to subvert idealism, that's corrupting. Enabling such beings is a step away from self-determination and moral integrity, and is probably a downward spiral towards evil.

patchyman
2019-09-04, 12:19 PM
The problem is that your premises contradict each other.

Premise 1: Devils


Devils are a race of extra-planar entities from the plane of Hell. Their society is founded on the idea that power is everything, and that souls are power. Therefore, they believe that amassing a vast quantity of souls is the best way to acquire power, closely followed by acquiring riches like gold and silver that can be used as tools to buy souls. They are highly organized, structured, and devious, having mastered methods of manipulation to gain any advantage they can. They are masters at brokering deals, lawyering contracts, and weaving plans that take years to come to fruition, but result in massive payouts.
They are physically more powerful than the average mortal, fully immune to fire and disease, and often possessing magical talent.
Cruel, vicious, and sly, they will whisper honeyed words in your ears if it gets them closer to owning your soul, as long as you "give" it to them of your own free will.


Premise 2: The society



Now imagine that there was a culture that regularly deals with devils all the time, making bargains and using them as witnesses for deals and possibly as judges. Additionally, some devils make up military units according to their contracts, helping bolster the forces of the city.
Would such a society still be considered "evil"?
I mean, the people there worship High-ranking Devil lords, willingly make offerings to them, summon and make deals with devils out of their own free will, many of which don't demand their soul as payment.
The society has laws, enforces order, treats people according to the letter of the law, and doesn't go out to raid people for blood sacrifices. Sure, criminals are handed over to the Devils because they broke the law, though many lesser crimes tend to result in milder punishments such as forced labor or beatings, but executions are only reserved for the worst offenders.


Premise 3: A "Normal" City (added afterwards)


I want to know if it's possible for a city or village run by these beings (having set themselves up as the main religion) would be able to function as a healthy society (aka, a city that we would se as "good" or "neutral")?

Per Premise 1, devils are master negotiators, who are cunning and efficient. Their goals in a negotiation would be (1) maximize the souls they receive; and (2) minimize the time and effort of what they give up for those souls. They are ruthless, so at best, they don't care if you get what you want in the deal, and at worst, if you fail to protect yourself contractually, you deserve everything you get.

Per Premise 2, in the agreement with the city, the devils are giving up quite a bit of time and effort: devils are acting as witnesses, sometimes judges, and make up some of the military force. What are they getting in return? *Some* criminals are handed over to them. Per Premise 3 (well-run city), there isn't a large number of criminals, or souls, for the devils involved.

The agreement as drafted does not make sense. The devils' perspective in any negotiation is "how can I get more out of this deal while offering less". This is inconsistent with a deal in which devils provide substantial services and receive very little in exchange.

Even assuming something like what you described *was* put in place, the devils should be plotting to find a way to get more. Devils are nothing if not *ambitious*.

If I were a devil, I would be tempting people left, right and centre to get them onto the city council, where they would negotiate a *better* deal (as in, better for the devils). Maybe I would bolster an external threat to the city, under the premise that the city would be tempted to renegotiate if it were faced with an existential threat. These are all ruthless tactics. But they contradict Premise 3.

Envyus
2019-09-04, 12:48 PM
Devils are nothing if not *ambitious*.

I would say devils believe more in ambition than power. Their fodder the nupperibos are the ones among them that did not have ambition.

Anymage
2019-09-04, 03:59 PM
I do kinda get OP's point. If the city either self-destructs in short order or else is so horrible that everybody leaves, it isn't worth the time it took to corrupt.

However, other LE cities exist, and don't immediately collapse due to infighting and/or flight. Since such a city would both feel more comfortable for devils and encourage more mortals towards LE modes of thinking (which gives their souls to hell after they die), the devils would do everything in their power to inspire the city that way.

And while it isn't a guarantee that the devils would succeed - there's always some slim chance that the mortals would turn out to be intrinsically good-natured and supportive of each other even in the most trying of circumstances - I consider positive results unlikely at best. I'd think the same thing if the soul trade and the Always Evil nature of fiends were off the table, and the city were "just" wholly controlled by an LE organized crime syndicate.

ZeroGear
2019-09-04, 10:18 PM
If it's ok that I kinda add a bit more of a reasoning behind why I started this thread, I'd first like to thank the past couple of posts for being more clear about why the likelihood of a Devil run city would not turn out "good". I accept that while there is a very slim chance the city might veer into "neutral" territory, almost every time such a city would end up being "evil".

One of the things that has bothered me about much of D&D and Pathfinder is the alignment system. While it is a useful tool for beginners, the system seems to be used more commonly as a set of rules rather than the guidelines they are intended to be. That also extends to the planar entities: Celestials are always "Good", Fiends are always "Evil", Elementals are always "Neutral", etc.
It's always bothered me that there were no real societies built around the concept of worshipping entities other than established gods, and it kinda made sense that Devils could and would set themselves up as divine beings to add to their power, considering the power that churches actually have in fantasy settings.
Sadly, the only real example of a city that allowed fiendish influence was Cheliax, and that one is labeled as "Lawful Evil".
I've seen several stories about cities that were fully run by the Mob, and to a point, Devils are kinda like that in the fantasy setting with a bit of lawyer, broker, and supernatural soul hoarding mixed in. I just kinda wanted to know if anyone thought the possibility of a healthy society of Devil Worshippers could exist, and it seems that the answer is a resounding "no" unless one takes away the need to gain souls over personal power.
Thank you for putting up with my interjections, and I'm sorry about the strife I caused in the process.

Envyus
2019-09-04, 11:26 PM
I do kinda get OP's point. If the city either self-destructs in short order or else is so horrible that everybody leaves, it isn't worth the time it took to corrupt.


Who says anyone is allowed to leave.

Kane0
2019-09-04, 11:51 PM
Arenít these kinds of cities described in the fiendish codex?

Max_Killjoy
2019-09-05, 12:38 AM
Who says anyone is allowed to leave.

They can check out any time they like...

Psyren
2019-09-05, 01:02 AM
It's always bothered me that there were no real societies built around the concept of worshipping entities other than established gods, and it kinda made sense that Devils could and would set themselves up as divine beings to add to their power, considering the power that churches actually have in fantasy settings.

Not quite sure what you mean here as non-gods are worshiped in D&D and Pathfinder settings all the time. There are all manner of cults and other religious setups dedicated to archdevils, archdemons, great old ones/outer gods, archfey, nature spirits, elemental lords, and things that aren't divine entities at all like abstract concepts or philosophies. And in both D&D and Pathfinder, archdevils can even grant spells to their faithful, though in PF Asmodeus is a true deity anyway (and a major one at that.)


Sadly, the only real example of a city that allowed fiendish influence was Cheliax, and that one is labeled as "Lawful Evil".

Part of the problem is that there's a credibility gap. When you call fantasy creatures "devils", especially if that fantasy is D&D, that heavily connotes certain behaviors and motivations; take those away and what you're left with isn't really a devil, even if you're still attempting to call it that.

Yanagi
2019-09-05, 01:38 AM
If it's ok that I kinda add a bit more of a reasoning behind why I started this thread, I'd first like to thank the past couple of posts for being more clear about why the likelihood of a Devil run city would not turn out "good". I accept that while there is a very slim chance the city might veer into "neutral" territory, almost every time such a city would end up being "evil".

One of the things that has bothered me about much of D&D and Pathfinder is the alignment system. While it is a useful tool for beginners, the system seems to be used more commonly as a set of rules rather than the guidelines they are intended to be. That also extends to the planar entities: Celestials are always "Good", Fiends are always "Evil", Elementals are always "Neutral", etc.
It's always bothered me that there were no real societies built around the concept of worshipping entities other than established gods, and it kinda made sense that Devils could and would set themselves up as divine beings to add to their power, considering the power that churches actually have in fantasy settings.
Sadly, the only real example of a city that allowed fiendish influence was Cheliax, and that one is labeled as "Lawful Evil".
I've seen several stories about cities that were fully run by the Mob, and to a point, Devils are kinda like that in the fantasy setting with a bit of lawyer, broker, and supernatural soul hoarding mixed in. I just kinda wanted to know if anyone thought the possibility of a healthy society of Devil Worshippers could exist, and it seems that the answer is a resounding "no" unless one takes away the need to gain souls over personal power.
Thank you for putting up with my interjections, and I'm sorry about the strife I caused in the process.

Organized Crime Organizations (OCOs) are like a parasitic government; they siphon resources from a community and provide a limited array of services that are illegal or unavailable. To do their thing there can't be institutions strong enough to rally to fight the mob, there can't be influential people speaking loudly against the mob, there can't be moral people saying "no" to mob offers.

Ideally there are no legal institutions that are not compromised by the mob itself, but the institutions have to function well enough that the people are able to function (and earn money the mob siphons away) and the mobsters don't have to go out of pocket to keep the infrastructure running. Mobsters have no interest in things breaking down so far it's hard for them to get cash. It also useful if society has layers...wealthy people to sell expensive services to and extort, very poor people to exploit the bodies of, and lots of people in the middle who are constantly leeched for money.

If possible, an OCO wants people that are productive and generally content with their day-to-day...but at any given time some of them are desperate and/or frightened, and thus vulnerable to what the mob demands from them, and everyone else in the society has learned to look away and provide no aid. That last bit is important, bece on a regular basis the OCO, or just a member of the OCO, will do something that destroys someone...take everything they have, hurt or kill them, force them into a criminal act.

Devils are not identical to mobsters, but they are also driven by pursuit of gain and advantage, and their society also includes a friction between collective benefit and individual benefit that makes it unstable.

In folklore and fiction devils are angels that have fallen because of hubris (Pride) or the fruits of hubris (the other deadly sins), not because they are made of evil. Their fall, their infighting, and their pursuit of mortals all tie to that overweening entitlement. Their drives and infighting are of a wider variety than the basic stuff crime lords want, but what is the same is that devils have sort-of agreed to a system of how to collaborate and distribute spoils...but each one believes they should get more of the spoils.

I would propose that devils in that society or a similar one have a similar incentive to the mob to have their subjects live in a functional but never entirely healthy society.

Devils' use of "law" always hinges on a single conceit: if it is agreed to, I am permitted to. A devil never has to take a soul to Hell, they are permitted to. That they should not do it because it is cruel is beside the point, they will not stint themselves. A devil loves the law as long as the law gives the devil leverage. It suits devils' preferred methodology (agreements that have force of law) and ends (whatever impulse they're sating) to operate within a people desensitized to abuse of power so long as it's "legal" and are comfortable with, or just numb to, the letter of the law being gamed to violate the spirit of the law. It also helps if the population are unsympathetic to individuals being exploited in general.

A society where people are not as a whole in desperate need or fear, but have learned to look away from individuals and subgroups that have reached a place of desperation and fear, is a society where devils will always have marks, whether strictly for soul-collecting or for more general exploitation.

Cheliax is a good example of such an unhealthy society--intrigue-rotted aristocracy, cruel legal system, slavery--built to devil specifications. The Nine Hells of Baator is another example, where the major devils vie to control as many lesser devils and petitioners are possible, such that there's constant jockeying.

TheYell
2019-09-05, 02:29 AM
It's always bothered me that there were no real societies built around the concept of worshipping entities other than established gods, and it kinda made sense that Devils could and would set themselves up as divine beings to add to their power, considering the power that churches actually have in fantasy settings.

Thanks for explaining what you wanted out of the system.

Psyren's right, that PF has a lot of religious activity around non-deities.

The Pathfinder SRD on Binding Outsiders says Elementals want power and are neutral entities.

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/variant-magic-rules/binding-outsiders/

The only source for worship of an Elemental Lord I find is the NE Ymeri

https://aonprd.com/MonsterDisplay.aspx?ItemName=Ymeri

So I don't find it outrageous that some society might worship and provide power to an Elemental Lord in return for some extraplanar powers of the sort mentioned for Ymeri. You have that documented source if you require one.

Such a setup might function like you envisioned for the worship of devils, without the intellectual taint of a devil's origin. An elemental is stated to be a neutral entity who craves power.

For in game mechanics you might want to read up on PF Occult Rituals which are described as being methods by which nonmagical characters can participate in generating magical effects. They don't always involve sacrifices.

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/alternative-rule-systems/occult-adventures/occult-rules/occult-rituals

A society built around providing the power of a church to a neutral entity could presumably remain neutral in method and outlook.

patchyman
2019-09-05, 11:09 AM
If it's ok that I kinda add a bit more of a reasoning behind why I started this thread, I'd first like to thank the past couple of posts for being more clear about why the likelihood of a Devil run city would not turn out "good". I accept that while there is a very slim chance the city might veer into "neutral" territory, almost every time such a city would end up being "evil.

The great thing about RPGs is that the answer to many questions is not ďNoĒ, but ďHow?Ē. As I see it, your fundamental premise had three problems.

First, in most cosmologies, devils donít really gain anything from worship. Second, devils have an incentive to turn a city that deals with them into a hellhole (since desperate people are more likely to make individual deals). Third, and conversely, devils DONíT have an incentive NOT to make the place a hellhole, since unlike the mafia the have no loved ones there nor any reason to care about the place.

So change the premises. Suppose there is a crystal under the city that the devil has coopted for its use. The crystal has two effects. First, the devil gets an immediate boost in power based on how many people in the city worship it. Second, the devil gets the soul of everyone who dies in the city.

Now the devil has a reason to encourage people to worship him. He has no reason to tempt the inhabitants, since he gets their souls either way, and he has a reason NOT to make the city worse, as the bigger the city becomes, the more souls he gets.

TheYell
2019-09-05, 11:50 AM
So change the premises. Suppose there is a crystal under the city that the devil has coopted for its use. The crystal has two effects. First, the devil gets an immediate boost in power based on how many people in the city worship it. Second, the devil gets the soul of everyone who dies in the city.


Interesting. Supposing a long time ago a devil crafted a gemstone, and gave out that this gemstone held the imprisoned form of a benign entity. He organizes, through mortals, a church to free the [nonexistent] imprisoned benign entity. (the entry for Ymeri the Elemental Lord says she actually did imprison an Elemental Lord rival in this way).

So the devil is drawing psychic energy from prayers to the crystal, and has worshippers pledging eternal servitude in the afterlife to this benign entity, and draws a form of power from them that way.

You might have a fairly benign religion operating in town from that, especially if the devil-worshippers who knowingly set up a false religion died a thousand years ago, and everybody mortal presently involved is sincere in their belief.

Of course some eternal entities are going to resent such an evil con, and presumably interfere with it, either directly or through mortals.