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  1. - Top - End - #91
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    But evilness was never the issue here; the schism is about the basic characterization of Redcloak as "evil but for a good cause." It's the "good cause" part that doesn't add up, for me.
    You're free to think that improving the lot of goblins in the OotS world is NOT a good cause, if that fits with your preconception that goblins are deservedly given the Evil tag and don't deserve a fair shake.

    But don't try to tell me this comic is worse because it's not simplistic enough.

  2. - Top - End - #92
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Still not quite right; the argument is that the comic sometimes treats alignment in a by-the-book fashion and sometimes throws it out the window entirely. The comic wants to have things both ways. See original post.
    Okay, now we've maybe got grounds for a discussion. Where exactly does the book treat alignment in a simplistic fashion in a way that would significantly differ from a more nuanced treatment? That is, how can you tell it is a case where Rich abandoned a more complex view of alignment?

  3. - Top - End - #93
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by FujinAkari View Post
    But they weren't crusades, they were surgical strikes.
    Insupportable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Burlew
    Azure City was a nation dedicated to all that was good and holy...but in many ways failed to live up to its ideals.

    ...

    Most damning, though, is a decades long history of paladins exterminating entire villages of goblins and other humanoids at the behest of their gods.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fujin Akari
    Four times (at most) Paladins went to a specific four villages, killed the Goblin Priest who was trying to unmake reality, and then withdrew.
    Really, really insupportable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Really? We're going to dispute the evilness of D&D goblins here?
    Yes, of course. Anyone who's read the Monster Manual knows that goblins are "all evil" like elves are "all good" or halflings are "all neutral"--and yet, this thread isn't about Vaarsuvius or Belkar.
    For that matter, even the evilness of OOTS goblins isn't up in the air.
    Yes, it is.
    Well, if monsters are really evil, in the D&D sense of being profoundly sadistic and wicked in literally inhuman ways...
    You can claim that that's in D&D as many times as you like, but it won't make it reality.
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    "You are what you do. Choose again, and change." --Miles Vorkosigan

    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  4. - Top - End - #94
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    No one stops to wonder about the morality of Gretel pushing the witch into her own oven, nor to wonder whether all witches are evil, and what do we make of a world full of only-evil witches, and why isn't anyone standing up for witch rights?
    Actually, I've read several fairy tale expansions of Hansel and Gretel that do JUST THAT.

    And at any rate, Gretel isn't shoving the witch into an oven so she can take her stuff. She's got a pretty good case for self-defense there.

    I know you're living in this little bubble where the only stories that exist are the ones that reinforce your preexisting worldview, but please - don't assume that those are ACTUALLY the only stories that exist.

  5. - Top - End - #95
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    So I tried going back over the thread to see if I could possibly make sense of what Nerd_Paladin was saying, and this is where I lost patience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Well, if you'll pardon me, it ain't what they do, it's why they do it. The Mongols had their motivations. Monsters in D&D often have no motivation at all. When they do, it's usually an evil one; because they want treasure, or food, or territory, or to please an evil god.
    None of the bolded is an evil motive; most people desire wealth, food, and land, even in D&Dverse. So now that we've established an Evil race can have non-Evil motives, what exactly is your objection to Redcloak having a non-Evil motive? What is your objection to the idea that goblins ended up Evil as a result of being made the world's butt monkey by the gods? What is your objection to the idea that an Evil character can be sympathetic at the same time? In short, why do you think alignment is so simplistic? Because it ain't.

    (Of course, if it makes you feel better, you can interpret SoD as just Redcloak being motivated by the desire to please The Dark One, an evil god, which makes Redcloak Evil Without Redeeming Features, which makes his alignment fit in your neat little box.)
    Last edited by Math_Mage; 2012-02-14 at 06:11 AM.

  6. - Top - End - #96
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    But it's not a D&D world; a D&D world doesn't have tribes of plucky goblins who mind their own business until accosted.
    Why can't D&D worlds have such tribes? There is nothing in the 3.5 D&D rules that prohibits such a tribe. Goblins are listed as usually neutral evil, meaning over half are neutral evil. A tribe of a few hundred true neutral goblins in a world with thousands of goblins doesn't even come close to breaking the nature of goblinkind as presented in D&D.

  7. - Top - End - #97
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Conuly View Post
    Actually, I've read several fairy tale expansions of Hansel and Gretel that do JUST THAT.

    And at any rate, Gretel isn't shoving the witch into an oven so she can take her stuff. She's got a pretty good case for self-defense there.
    As do the heroes in most D&D campaigns. In spite of this, the idea that PCs kill monsters "just because" persists.

    I know you're living in this little bubble where the only stories that exist are the ones that reinforce your preexisting worldview, but please - don't assume that those are ACTUALLY the only stories that exist.
    Cute. Of course, I never said that. What I did say was that one need not sit around and debate the morality of monsters and villains in order for the story to matter. People ask me, why not do those things, to which I responded, because a great many stories never bother. Why is that relevant? For one thing, because those less-complex stories are not the worse for not delving into that material (and are often the better), and, more pertinently, because many of those stories are the source material for fantasy gaming.

  8. - Top - End - #98
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    As do the heroes in most D&D campaigns. In spite of this, the idea that PCs kill monsters "just because" persists.
    You've done an excellent job of demonstrating why that idea persists. No matter how many times people point out to you that it's not supported in the D&D books, you ignore them doing so and continue to insist that it is, and you're not alone.
    Last edited by Kish; 2012-02-14 at 06:23 AM.
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    "You are what you do. Choose again, and change." --Miles Vorkosigan

    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  9. - Top - End - #99
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    The idea that PCs kill monsters "just because" persists because people like you say "Well, they're goblins, they must have done SOMETHING, or else they wouldn't be labeled Usually Neutral Evil in the sourcebooks," and hack away. That's pretty much the definition of killing them "just because".

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Cute. Of course, I never said that. What I did say was that one need not sit around and debate the morality of monsters and villains in order for the story to matter. People ask me, why not do those things, to which I responded, because a great many stories never bother. Why is that relevant? For one thing, because those less-complex stories are not the worse for not delving into that material (and are often the better), and, more pertinently, because many of those stories are the source material for fantasy gaming.
    You're seriously mislaying the burden of proof here.

    YOU came in and said that making the moral issues in OotS complex was a flaw in the story. Therefore, YOU are obligated to show that this is, in fact, the case. WE are under no obligation to show that OotS NEEDS to do ANYTHING.

    Why not talk about complex moral issues? Hint: "Well, many other good stories don't do it" is NOT a sufficient answer. It's a cop-out. Even supposing you are correct in that statement (and you are), that does not serve to show that OotS is worse off for doing it.
    Last edited by Math_Mage; 2012-02-14 at 06:18 AM.

  10. - Top - End - #100
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Math_Mage View Post

    None of the bolded is an evil motive; most people desire wealth, food, and land, even in D&Dverse.
    Of course not; in this example we presuppose that these are the motivations for evil acts. Ie, not really "good" or sympathetic ones.

    If you want to figure out what I'm arguing, by the by, go back to the original post. It's all there.

    So now that we've established an Evil race can have non-Evil motives, what exactly is your objection to Redcloak having a non-Evil motive?
    As frequently stated, it's that I disagree with the characterization of his motive as non-evil. Or, more specifically, I think that the way in which it's non-evil cheats the established tropes and conventions that the comic is about. See original comment for more on that.

    What is your objection to the idea that goblins ended up Evil as a result of being made the world's butt monkey by the gods?
    Several things; the silliness of it, the circuitousness of it ("Goblins are evil because they were made to be evil." Well, thanks for clearing that up...), the inapplicability as satire (again I have to wonder why anyone gives a crap about whether it's fair to depict monsters are evil in fantasy games), and the fact that, if the divine ramifications are carried through to their conclusion, it ends up being a muddled, unanswerable question about free will.

    What is your objection to the idea that an Evil character can be sympathetic at the same time?
    In itself? None. I just don't buy it this time around. See original post.

    In short, why do you think alignment is so simplistic? Because it ain't.
    If alignment wasn't supposed to simplify things, it wouldn't exist. We already have a complex way of defining morality; real world ethics.

    (Of course, if it makes you feel better, you can interpret SoD as just Redcloak being motivated by the desire to please The Dark One, an evil god, which makes Redcloak Evil Without Redeeming Features, which makes his alignment fit in your neat little box.)
    I'm not sure Redcloak has all that many redeeming features even by the comic's standards. But as you will.

  11. - Top - End - #101
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Math_Mage View Post
    The idea that PCs kill monsters "just because" persists because people like you say "Well, they're goblins, they must have done SOMETHING, or else they wouldn't be labeled Usually Neutral Evil in the sourcebooks," and hack away. That's pretty much the definition of killing them "just because".
    I didn't say that. Rather, if you go back, I roundly reject the idea that that's how the game works, and indeed, I suggest that people thinking of stories in terms of alignment is what pretty much broke alignment in the first place. See previous comments.

    YOU came in and said that making the moral issues in OotS complex was a flaw in the story. Therefore, YOU are obligated to show that this is, in fact, the case. WE are under no obligation to show that OotS NEEDS to do ANYTHING.
    Actually what I said was that the way that it did it was flawed and fundamentally unsound, and that to me this suggested an effort to shoehorn the idea in out of a sense of obligation and not because it actually worked in the context of the story. Be that as it may, if you want me to show you why I think that, go back and see the original post. That was the argument.

    Why not talk about complex moral issues? Hint: "Well, many other good stories don't do it" is NOT a sufficient answer. It's a cop-out. Even supposing you are correct in that statement (and you are), that does not serve to show that OotS is worse off for doing it.
    No, it does not. For that, see the original post. Rather, those comments were in response to the earlier assertion that we are SUPPOSED to sit down and examine the D&D alignment system in morally complex ways. I suggested that we are not, and as evidence I pointed out the many stories that form the basis for fantasy gaming lore that don't give two figs about such things.

  12. - Top - End - #102
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    From my reading the Comic treats alignment as a good short hand general description of a characters motivations and thought process and has done so almost exclusively since it became a story based comic. It never has, and has never tried to, treat alignment as a strict rule for how you act.

    In short this comic has always taken the viewpoint that alignment is a DESCRIPTIVE attribute, and not a PRESCRIPTIVE one. The alignment you claim is your own description about what you try to be. The alignment you are called is other characters description about what you are. That has been a consistent part of the comic since it moved into deeper territory and away from simple jokes. The OP seems to be focusing on the idea that in DnD alignment is prescriptive and that as such it is black and white. However in my reading since very early on we have seen characters with more nuance than that. For instance Hilgya was a more nuanced look at an evil character (Loki is an evil God AFAIK, and so a Cleric would need to match that surely) than a simple binary alignment system you seem to think it is would allow.

    It seems that for a long time the aim of the comic regarding alignment has been to question whether or not the system works as a simple black and white attribute. True evil is shown to exist. Sorry, I mean "evil for the sake of evil" is shown to exist. Xykon is proof of that. Evil for selfish goals has been seen and explored (Hello Tarquin). Evil for petty reasons has been clearly demonstrated (Hi Nale). And Evil for deluded good reasons has been explored (that is Redcloak and Miko).

    It seems to me that the examination of the moral question IS a central part of the OoTS and has been so for hundreds of strips, all the way back into the 70s. Since Miko we have been exploring the alignment system in depth, whether it works or fails, with the conclusion that it can work, but not as often played.

    So that the question of morality has been a central part of the comic is almost beyond doubt. I would cite examples from the comic but it seems unnecessary. However the question seems to be, does it work in Redcloaks case? Now using just the in comic material, that he is evil is never a question. Nor does SoD alter this view. His plan is not a good plan, and was never considered such in SoD either. But he has an understandable motive, and that is the key. The trick to creating a 3D, sympathetic villain, is to create an understandable motive for their actions. We need to look at what they do and say "yeah, I get why he does that. I might not, but then again I know why he does". SoD gave that to Redcloak, and it has been hinted at repeatedly in the comic. Of course just pure understanding is not enough. We can understand why Tarquin acts as he does for instance (fame, fortune and everything that goes with it). But he is not sympathetic as the goal is not one we could embrace.

    Redcloak? We can have sympathy for the goal as well as understanding his reasons. The goal is, and has been, to get a better situation for Goblins in the world. To remake the universe so that they are not simple XP fodder, but are more than that. To allow them the same choice for their purpose in life as the other races. In DnD terms, to allow them to become PC's and not just antagonists. This is a sympathetic goal. We may question the value of it being done for an Evil race, but I would add a religious analogy (bear with me, no preaching here). It is claimed in some religions that Demons a pure evil. Evil. No bones about it Evil. And the same is said of many people. And yet Redemption is allowed for any and all who wish for it, and strive for it. If a Demon tries to become an Angel, and succeeds, the angels rejoice.

    Really though I have a fundamental issue with the OP arguement. I don't get it. To me there are no places where we see the failure of Redcloak as a character. I really don't. I think we see clearly that he has understandable motives, sympathetic goals (the betterment of his race........hardly evil or selfish) and acts evilly in trying to accomplish this. Where is the failure? This is not snark, I genuinely want to know what the percieved failure is.
    If I cared about this, I would probably do something about it.

  13. - Top - End - #103
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Because his characterization cheats, in my opinion; it's founded in a sympathetic back story that, in D&D terms, is not that sympathetic. Sometimes the comic wants to employ the tropes and conventions of D&D to various effects, but then when it wants to create gravitas in a way that is inconvenient in light of those tropes, it ignores them, or projects things onto them that simply aren't part of that material. Except of course that people often want to MAKE it part of that material and then argue a point from that position, which accounts for much of the preceding pages.
    Last edited by Nerd_Paladin; 2012-02-14 at 06:32 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #104
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    As do the heroes in most D&D campaigns. In spite of this, the idea that PCs kill monsters "just because" persists.
    Actually a lot of players do seem to run this way, even if it's not the campaign writer's intent.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Of course, I never said that. What I did say was that one need not sit around and debate the morality of monsters and villains in order for the story to matter. People ask me, why not do those things, to which I responded, because a great many stories never bother. Why is that relevant? For one thing, because those less-complex stories are not the worse for not delving into that material (and are often the better), and, more pertinently, because many of those stories are the source material for fantasy gaming.
    Because a bunch of people don't do something is never a good reason not to it. It might be proof you don't NEED to do it, but it doesn't conclusively prove it a bad idea. In fact it's pretty irrelevant and your attempt to justify it with "source material" falls flat. It doesn't matter what the original sources are or even if they made it work without debating morality. You seem to have confused "you don't need to do X" with "doing X is bad" when the two are quite different concepts.

    Similarly, it's not the same to say "the gods are inept" and "the god's treatment of goblins is unfair". Because, among other things, the goblins do work as XP sources for adventurers and their combination of natural urges and environment (in whatever combination, how much of each doesn't matter) mean a significant percent do evil so the plan works. It might not work as well as envisioned, but it's not an inept failure.

    EDIT: Ah, I see I've been beaten to the punch on one of these. Still your original post was also unconvincing so it's fairly accurate. Mostly because you seem to be under the impression a lot of stuff doesn't happen in D&D that's present in a number of the pieces of source material, that you have the one true vision of what all the various writers for the game intended (because surely they all had a completely united and cohesive plan), and that "wanting more for your people" is unsympathetic just because the people don't really deserve it.
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2012-02-14 at 06:38 AM.

  15. - Top - End - #105
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    It's hard to say whether goblins are all pure evil, but Redcloak is himself undeniably evil.

    Whether he has a just cause or not, this is a severe case of the ends not justifying the means. He wants to turn a god killing abomination that could theoretically undo all of creation in 27 minutes into a form of weapon to leverage even distribution of land for the monstrous races.

    He has been shown laughing at the possibility of those of his own kind dying for a cause. He chose possibly the most evil way of disposing of Tsukiko. The guy has access to 9th level spells that target fortitude saves and instead turns her loved ones against her.

    There has never been any doubt in my mind as to whether or not Redcloak is anything but pure evil. His actions, methods, and plans are nothing but deplorable. The fact that the author is able to convey this in a humorous manner is a testament to his writing.
    Last edited by ZerglingOne; 2012-02-14 at 06:39 AM.
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  16. - Top - End - #106
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    I never said that. The gods make bad decisions, clearly. What I'm skeptical about is the suggestion that the gods are inept; that they would exercise their divine power to create one type of creature but somehow screw it up and create something that doesn't match the concept.
    Exactly what is the distinction between "makes poor decisions" and "ineptitude" when your "poor decisions" accidentally and without your awareness create a nigh-unstoppable being of pure chaos and destruction that kills a quarter of you and can't fully be gotten rid of, only trapped? There are clearly things they are not capable of doing. They are not omniscient, omnipotent nor omnibenevolent.

    They weren't paying attention when creating the humanoids. They didn't make them balanced, and they immediately screwed up by making too many. They were there to get killed, and that's about all the thought that went into their creation. It's not even stated they actually tried to make sure each and every one of them were born evil, so -- why in the world would you expect that to perfectly line up with "always chaotic evil, period"?
    Last edited by B. Dandelion; 2012-02-14 at 06:39 AM.

  17. - Top - End - #107
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by ShikomeKidoMi View Post
    Actually a lot of players do seem to run this way, even if it's not the campaign writer's intent.
    Well, then that's their mistake. But only theirs.

    Because a bunch of people don't do something is never a good reason not to it. It might be proof you don't NEED to do it, but it doesn't conclusively prove it a bad idea. In fact it's pretty irrelevant and your attempt to justify it with "source material" falls flat. It doesn't matter what the original sources are or even if they made it work without debating morality. You seem to have confused "you don't need to do X" with "doing X is bad" when the two are quite different concepts.
    Well, I think it's pretty clear that the game doesn't work as well if you "do X." Isn't that the argument that the comic makes, that "doing X" reveals that the game rules and mechanics do not make strict sense? D&D works very well as a game that operates around straightforward ideas about heroism and villainy. Otherwise, it tends to operate like..."The Order of the Stick." Further, the very existence and artificiality of the alignment system is a clear indicator that you shouldn't be overthinking this to the degree that people insist on doing.

    Similarly, it's not the same to say "the gods are inept" and "the god's treatment of goblins is unfair". Because, among other things, the goblins do work as XP sources for adventurers and their combination of natural urges and environment (in whatever combination, how much of each doesn't matter) mean a significant percent do evil so the plan works. It might not work as well as envisioned, but it's not an inept failure.
    No, but trying to create a race of evil beings and somehow bollocksing it to the point of turning out some communities of peaceful wasteland-dwellers minding their own business feels a bit inept. Unless of course they're an evil menace after all, but in that case Redcloak's tragic backstory is only tragic if you happen to have a soft spot for evil menaces.

  18. - Top - End - #108
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Two, D&D is a world of black and white morality, in most cases. Even the concept of shades of grey was codified in neutrality, really an idea that's just as simple and straightforward (albeit annoyingly hard to actually implement) as good and evil. Trying to apply your real world morals to it (often resulting i the self-inflicted discomfort you're feeling) is like trying to determine the morality of a lion eating a gazelle; they're just not compatible.
    The primary purpose of Redcloak's characterization is to specifically prove that this point is completely and utterly wrong. That D&D cannot and should not begin and end at black-and-white, and indeed already doesn't, if everyone would just learn to look at things a little more complexly.

    Obviously, I still have work to do on that point.

    Further, your definition of "what the comic is about" is also wrong. You seem to think it should be about me regurgitating an accurate portrayal of how the game should ideally be played. Nothing could be further from my mind. The comic is criticizing not how the game is intended to be played, but how the game is actually played and has been for 35+ years. And how it is actually played 9 times out of 10 is that goblins are slaughtered because they are goblins, and the book says that goblins are Evil so it's OK. If you've never played in a game with people like that, then congratulations! You've had an exceptionally lucky D&D career, and that whole portion of the comic's subtext is Not For You. But there are plenty of people who maybe have never given it a second thought. Just because you've already learned some of the lessons of a work of fiction does not mean that there's no point to including them.

    Now, if you want to rail on me because the first time Redcloak walked on screen, I didn't know everything I would later write in Start of Darkness, go right ahead. It would be a grossly unfair criticism being that it's common knowledge that I started this comic strip with no idea that it was going to last more than a dozen strips, but at least it would be an accurate one instead of one built entirely on one's own personal biases about the D&D game and how I'm not reading your mind so that I might live up to them.

    Oh, and I will continue to veer back and forth from obeying D&D conventions to ignoring them when and as I see fit, so if that's going to bug you, you should probably stop reading now. Because I simply do not care about the level of consistency that you seem to find important.
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  19. - Top - End - #109
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Then that's not really being evil at all; well, it might be evil in the dictionary sense of the word, but not in the capital-E, D&D alignment sense. At that point the story has moved beyond those simple concepts...except that those concepts are still present in the comic, and indeed are an important part of it. The goblins have an Evil (not just "evil") alignment, a self-acknowledged one, and the Paladins all have Good alignments (even Miko! Well, for the most part). And yet their behavior does not really reflect this at all. If the characters have been typecast by the gods, then the gods did a lousy job.
    And that's exactly the point. The gods did do a lousy job. In OotS, we see gods who are not all-knowing, perfect beings at all. They're no better than ordinary people, except for the whole having phenomenal divine powers. They created the world, but they didn't do a particularly good job of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    The "slaughter" of goblins in D&D is not indiscriminate (unless your DM is a jerk, I guess). As I said, I've never played a D&D game where the villains were just minding their own business before getting run down by crusading heroes. No published adventure has ever depicted that, to my knowledge.
    The problem, and the root of Redcloak's character arc in OotS, is the notion that goblins must inherently be "the villains" simply by virtue of being goblins. Just because they're not a PC race doesn't require all members of their race to be villains. You don't have to care about that idea or give it any thought. Run your D&D campaigns in whatever manner you find most enjoyable. But it's an idea that's central to the story of OotS, whether you like it or not.

  20. - Top - End - #110
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Of course not; in this example we presuppose that these are the motivations for evil acts. Ie, not really "good" or sympathetic ones.
    Actually, you say in that post that when evil characters have a motive, it's usually evil. Then you provide those example motives. It's kind of a stretch for you to backtrack now and say "of course those motives aren't evil", because you already said they were.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    As frequently stated, it's that I disagree with the characterization of his motive as non-evil. Or, more specifically, I think that the way in which it's non-evil cheats the established tropes and conventions that the comic is about. See original comment for more on that.
    If you can't handle OotS subverting tropes, you might want to read something else.

    There's nothing inherently story-breaking about Redcloak wanting to blackmail the gods into giving goblins a better start where they aren't forced into the role of 'evil butt-monkey XP fodder'. Of course that's cheating--otherwise it wouldn't be blackmail. But the STORY isn't cheating anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Several things; the silliness of it, the circuitousness of it ("Goblins are evil because they were made to be evil." Well, thanks for clearing that up...), the inapplicability as satire (again I have to wonder why anyone gives a crap about whether it's fair to depict monsters are evil in fantasy games), and the fact that, if the divine ramifications are carried through to their conclusion, it ends up being a muddled, unanswerable question about free will.
    You deliberately reduce the story of how goblins ended up evil by cutting everything out so you can pretend it's circular. Then you ignore the goblins' viewpoint in order to pretend nobody should care that goblins didn't get a fair shake. Then you add a messy divine argument to the end in order to obscure the fundamental mistakes in reasoning you made in the first two points.

    Yeah, okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    If alignment wasn't supposed to simplify things, it wouldn't exist. We already have a complex way of defining morality; real world ethics.
    Alignments are the end of an ever-growing story, not the entire story. You haven't actually argued anything, merely presented a false dichotomy: "Real-world complexities exist --> Alignment must exist in contrast with real-world complexities --> Alignment is simplistic." That's baloney.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    I'm not sure Redcloak has all that many redeeming features even by the comic's standards. But as you will.
    Great, now you get to point to the place where I said RC had many redeeming features. Or you get to admit you're manufacturing false argument out of violent agreement.

    EDIT: Ninja'd by The Man himself. Well, I sincerely hope we're done here.
    Last edited by Math_Mage; 2012-02-14 at 06:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Obviously, I still have work to do on that point.
    I have to say that if you're considering some people on the Internet Not Getting It to mean you have more work to do, you should stop writing a webcomic and start working on a mind-control ray.
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    "You are what you do. Choose again, and change." --Miles Vorkosigan

    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Well, I think it's pretty clear that the game doesn't work as well if you "do X." Isn't that the argument that the comic makes, that "doing X" reveals that the game rules and mechanics do not make strict sense? D&D works very well as a game that operates around straightforward ideas about heroism and villainy. Otherwise, it tends to operate like..."The Order of the Stick." Further, the very existence and artificiality of the alignment system is a clear indicator that you shouldn't be overthinking this to the degree that people insist on doing.
    Nope, that's the argument you insist the comic makes. But you're the one projecting that, as well. The alignment system actually seems to work, in that people who are evil tend to be doing nasty things and good guys aren't. The places it breaks downs are the people in the comic's assumptions about what it means and their attempts to over generalize it. And, talking to you, apparently yours as well. For one thing you don't seem to understand the difference between the "usually" and "always" alignment descriptions, given your constant assertions about there not being any peaceful goblins in "real" D&D.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    No, but trying to create a race of evil beings and somehow bollocksing it to the point of turning out some communities of peaceful wasteland-dwellers minding their own business feels a bit inept. Unless of course they're an evil menace after all, but in that case Redcloak's tragic backstory is only tragic if you happen to have a soft spot for evil menaces.
    Nope. As long as enough of them are evil, the plan succeeds most of the time. You're still basically arguing no shade of grey between "100 percent success" and "failure". Plus, it's tragic from Redcloak's perspective, which is enough to give him depth as a character. It doesn't really matter if his family were horrible people, they were his family and he loved them, so of course he's upset.

    EDIT: Ninja'd again. Must type faster. At least the author and I seem to be in agreement that the problem isn't necessarily the system, it's the people (players or characters).
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2012-02-14 at 06:54 AM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Well, I see a couple of things to address here, and due to the already very fragmented nature of this debate, I will not bother quoting specific arguments made (if you feel I am putting words in your mouth at any particular point, just say so).

    One of the things that jumped out at me was your comment that if the Gods intended for the Goblins (and others) of the world to be wholly evil, than they would be capable of doing so and would have done so, thus eliminating any argument (in fact, you appear to actually make the assertion that they did intend to and were successful). The response is twofold, the first is more trivial, but worth noting: The Gods in OotS are not perfect at enacting their intentions, as evidenced by Thor and the creation of the Snarl. The second is a perhaps deeper argument into whether it is possible for an entire race to be evil.

    Generally, evil actions are actions that lack empathy: Murder, theft, indifference, etc. Thus, a truly evil being would lack any empathy (this isn't quite true, but holds for this argument). This idea works well with the OotSverse, as Xykon, the Lich who doesn't care a whit for anyone but himself, is the BBEG. However, a society composed entirely of truly evil beings wouldn't survive (care for young, provision of food, and infighting all being major issues), there has to be some bond of common empathy for a society to form. As Goblins in OotS have been shown to create these societies, it can be concluded that not all goblins are completely evil (validated by particular characters). Indeed, Rich has shown highly peaceful and isolationist goblin communities, communities that show no evil tendencies in isolation.

    If the analysis stopped there, one might conclude that Goblins are good creatures and thus have been royally shafted. However, even if on an individual or community level Goblins are good creatures, on an interspecies level, they show evil tendencies. Raiding parties, invasions, slavery, and general xenophobia towards other races are all hallmarks of an evil society (and by the way, I suspect that these traits will be highlighted under Jirix's rule). One can argue that they have no choice, but it is incredibly difficult to imagine that violence is the only recourse of action for centuries. Compare this to the "alignment rich" races, which have societies that often live in peace with each other and form alliances or trade. In this light, Goblinkind can be considered evil even if the individual Goblin might not be considered evil. To take a real world analogy (and to invoke the wrath of Godwin's Law), Nazi Germany can be considered an evil state, even though not all Germans were evil. Does that mean that the Allies would be wrong to fight and eventually invade Germany? No. Does that mean they would be wrong to carpet bomb German Cities? Debatable, but it was mutual and also of some military importance. Does that mean the Allies would be right to indiscriminately everyone in a German village because they believed a high ranking Nazi official was hiding there? Probably.

    I think that DnD does a good job of only putting players in situations were Goblinkind's natural tendency for destructive acts (ie. How the God's made them evil) leads to clear action. It doesn't matter if that schmuck you just killed had two daughters and was a single parent because we was defending the cleric trying to raise the Dread Blagobeast. However, just because Goblins are Evil doesn't mean they can't be justified. Turn the tables around. You are now a Goblin, you now care more for your brother goblins more than some caravan guards. They need to eat, so you do what you can to put bread on the table. is what you are doing evil? Maybe in an abstract sense, but you are doing what is right for your people. In this case, what is good and what is right are different, because good is immutable (a very DnD concept) while right entirely depends on what your goals are. If you want to protect your society and your friends and your children, you can justify some very evil acts. Make no mistake, the Goblins are in it for themselves, but for them that isn't wrong because they never see the impact of their evil side. The Goblin's evil is directed at outsiders, not within. Thus Redcloak is a Goblin Hero and a World Villain.

    Finally, the reason the reader cares about this is because Rich went through such lengths to show the empathy within Goblinkind that we can relate to. We don't see the piles of human corpses, the farmers butchered in their beds, fields aflame. We see what a Goblin sees, and so we put ourselves in his shoes and understand we would choose a similar path in their stead. The people who want Redcloak to achieve is goal (without any of the messy destruction The Plan could entail) want the Human side of Goblins to be rewarded, not the Goblin part. Rich has very carefully constructed the story to make it easy to separate the two, but I suspect by the end the lines will be blurred again and the wisdom of an equal goblin race will be questioned again.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    too-zealous crusades against goblinkind
    That is wrong. The Sapphire Guard's crusades were against threats to the Gate they were guarding. They believed, correctly, that the wearer of the Crimson Mantle was such a threat so they did attack goblins, but goblinkind was not their target. Redcloak probably believes that goblinkind was their target, but he is mistaken. It is an understandable mistake.

    goblins are sometimes innocent victims
    Goblins are describe by the rules of D&D as "Usually neutral evil". So it is quite consistent with that for them to sometimes be innocent victims.

    It only works and makes sense if "The Order of the Stick" is not a comic about D&D.
    I disagree.

    So either "The Order of the Stick" is about the black and white, binary world of tabletop gaming (and how strange and silly that is), in which case Redcloak does not make sense as a character, or else it's about a more nuanced, complex world that doesn't at all resemble tabletop gaming,
    Whilst the D&D world has room for black and white morality it has never been binary. There has always been neutral and room for variations within the alignment categories. The normal D&D world is a complex, nuanced one.

    The author has made no error. The problem is your narrow view of D&D. It is possible to play it as black and white, but that is not normal in my experience (starting in 1978). It is certainly possible to play it in a more nuanced way that is entirely compatible with the story.

    Redcloak is an excellent example of a Lawful Evil character. Concern with getting justice is a Lawful trait. Restricting that to his own kind and being willing to do anything to achieve it are an Evil ones.

  25. - Top - End - #115
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by pjackson View Post
    That is wrong.
    No, it's not. Again:
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Burlew
    Azure City was a nation dedicated to all that was good and holy...but in many ways failed to live up to its ideals.

    ...

    Most damning, though, is a decades long history of paladins exterminating entire villages of goblins and other humanoids at the behest of their gods.
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    "You are what you do. Choose again, and change." --Miles Vorkosigan

    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Because his characterization cheats, in my opinion; it's founded in a sympathetic back story that, in D&D terms, is not that sympathetic.
    Unless, of course, some goblins are nonevil. And as it happens, by D&D rules, some goblins are nonevil.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by RSLee View Post
    But it doesn't work. That's the point. There are too many shades of grey in the world and morality is much more complicated than the D&D mechanics imply.
    The D&D alignment system handles shades of grey perfectly well.
    The alignment box are just groupings for the purposes of determining how certain magics work.
    The do not determine behaviour which can be just as complex as the player's and DM's want it to be.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Because his characterization cheats, in my opinion; it's founded in a sympathetic back story that, in D&D terms, is not that sympathetic. Sometimes the comic wants to employ the tropes and conventions of D&D to various effects, but then when it wants to create gravitas in a way that is inconvenient in light of those tropes, it ignores them, or projects things onto them that simply aren't part of that material. Except of course that people often want to MAKE it part of that material and then argue a point from that position, which accounts for much of the preceding pages.
    What Material? DnD is a system of game mechanics and rules that are used to simulate a story, whilst making it fun to play as well. There are various setting with in built cultural/moral boundaries laid out for the races. But thats is all it is. And alignment is really included as a roleplaying mechanic, not a gameplay one. And is descriptive. O sure, some character class restrictions exists and some races are described as "typicall xyz" but that is it. If I play I set out a character first, history, background etc, then choose class and alignment based on that. Roleplay comes first for me.

    But I am not at all clear about what DnD conventions Redcloak violates. That is my point. Your contention seems to be that trying to get a better cosmic deal for an evil race is not sympathetic. I cannot agree if that is the case. In many literary cases this is treated as a sympathetic goal. The idea that because person x is of "evil race 37" they can be killed for xp is not one considered good in most fiction. Hell the entire Vampire genre looks at and addresses the issue, with sympathetic Vampires and hatred of them considered wrong. And this is for a race that kills humans almost casually in order to live and is more clearly inherently bad than DnD goblins are.

    But anyway, even if the Goblin race is Evil by design, a part of Redcloak's mission is to change that. He says "we are Evil cos the God's said so. I wanna change that NOW". Sympathetic goal to me.

    And very early on the Giant stated clearly that "the needs of the story trumps the needs of DnD game mechanics". Or words to that effect. It has been that way since time immemorial to the comic. If you dislike this.......well, that it was the comic has always been. I can understand that, but it seems odd to complain to me in the case of Redcloak.


    Anyways, as an aside, Roy and Durkon. Miko and Hinko. O'Chul and Thanth. All 6 characters are lawful good. All 6 have very different characterisations. All explore how Lawful Good need not mean the simple views people sometimes ascribe to it. Miko in particular deconstructs one common view of what Lawful Good means. But is Miko thus a failure as a characterisation og Lawful Good?
    If I cared about this, I would probably do something about it.

  29. - Top - End - #119
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    The primary purpose of Redcloak's characterization is to specifically prove that this point is completely and utterly wrong. That D&D cannot and should not begin and end at black-and-white, and indeed already doesn't, if everyone would just learn to look at things a little more complexly.

    Obviously, I still have work to do on that point.
    Well, I guess that's where we have a fundamental disagreement (I imagine you wont' lose any sleep on that point); I think D&D works very well on the level of simple morality, but I think greater complexity tends to just sort of screw the whole thing up and I'm not sure the system was designed to handle that. More complex stories lend themselves better to other formats. That's how I see it, anyway.

    Further, your definition of "what the comic is about" is also wrong. You seem to think it should be about me regurgitating an accurate portrayal of how the game should ideally be played. Nothing could be further from my mind. The comic is criticizing not how the game is intended to be played, but how the game is actually played and has been for 35+ years. And how it is actually played 9 times out of 10 is that goblins are slaughtered because they are goblins, and the book says that goblins are Evil so it's OK. If you've never played in a game with people like that, then congratulations! You've had an exceptionally lucky D&D career, and that whole portion of the comic's subtext is Not For You. But there are plenty of people who maybe have never given it a second thought. Just because you've already learned some of the lessons of a work of fiction does not mean that there's no point to including them.
    Fair enough. I honestly didn't think it was a point that needed this much illustration, but then, I have been wrong in the past (no, really, it's true).

    Now, if you want to rail on me because the first time Redcloak walked on screen, I didn't know everything I would later write in Start of Darkness, go right ahead. It would be a grossly unfair criticism being that it's common knowledge that I started this comic strip with no idea that it was going to last more than a dozen strips, but at least it would be an accurate one instead of one built entirely on one's own personal biases about the D&D game and how I'm not reading your mind so that I might live up to them.
    Two things come to mind:

    1. I'm aware that the character and comic became something very different from their origins and that that's going to create some natural friction, and in fact I said so. If that wasn't clear enough, and if that colored the commentary in a way that made it seem unfair, then I apologize.

    2. Of course I don't expect a writer to cater to my opinions. But I still have them.

    Oh, and I will continue to veer back and forth from obeying D&D conventions to ignoring them when and as I see fit, so if that's going to bug you, you should probably stop reading now. Because I simply do not care about the level of consistency that you seem to find important.
    I appreciate you taking the time to give some insight on how you feel about the subject. I honestly think greater consistency would benefit the story...but of course, I'm not writing it. And the flaws in the story (or what I see as the flaws, at least) haven't detracted from the remarkable achievements of the overall narrative, or from the success that you've worked so hard for.
    Last edited by Nerd_Paladin; 2012-02-14 at 07:05 AM.

  30. - Top - End - #120
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Sorry, I missed this in my earlier post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    the inapplicability as satire (again I have to wonder why anyone gives a crap about whether it's fair to depict monsters are evil in fantasy games),
    I CARE. I care, and every goddamn person in the world should care, because it's objectification of a sentient being. It doesn't matter that the sentient being in question is a fictional species, it's saying that it's OK for people who look funny to be labeled as Evil by default, because hey, like 60% of them do Evil things sometimes! That is racism. It is a short hop to real-world racism once we decide it is acceptable to make blanket negative statements about entire races of people.

    Our fiction reflects who we are as a civilization, and it disgusts me that so many people think it's acceptable to label creatures with only cosmetic differences from us as inherently Evil. I may like the alignment system overall, but that is its ugliest implication, and one that I think needs to be eliminated from the game. I will ALWAYS write against that idea until it has been eradicated from the lexicon of fantasy literature. If they called me up and asked me to help them work on 5th Edition, I would stamp it out from the very game itself. It is abhorrent to me in every way.

    So, complaining that I am failing to uphold it is the best compliment you could give me.
    Rich Burlew



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