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    DruidGuy

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    Default Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Malack the cleric of Nergal, the lion-headed god of death and destruction.
    "You know, neither gods of death nor their clerics are necessarily evil. That's a common misconception. If anything, Neutrality suits them better."

    It seems that Malack would consider himself (and his deity) as Neutral on the Good-Evil axis. But is that necessarily true? He might be outright lying, but it's also possible that he's slightly delusional, and actually believes this of himself.

    I'm reminded of Miko, who had convinced herself that her actions had to be Good, despite the gods themselves intervening to signal otherwise.

    Malack blatantly overlooks that Nergal has destruction in his portfolio as well, which would be an even harder thing to rationalize as Neutral.

    I noticed this little detail on the DnD site: "A cleric’s alignment must be within one step of his deity’s (that is, it may be one step away on either the lawful-chaotic axis or the good-evil axis, but not both). A cleric may not be neutral unless his deity’s alignment is also neutral."
    The first part I knew, the second part is probably added to the latest edition of D&D. So, it might not bear any relevance to the comic, since the story is only loosely based on 3.5 edition. The rule isn't really clear about whether the Neutral aspect can be disregarded completely if a deity has either 1 of the 2 forms of Neutrality. For example: If Nergal were in fact Neutral Evil, would Malack be allowed to be True Neutral as a result?

    Anyway, this isn't just about rules nitpicking. What I'm wondering is: Could Malack be deluding himself as to the Evil nature of his actions over all these years? Tarquin was his party leader, and a very charismatic diplomat. T almost had me convinced the actions he took in his dictatorship-swindle-scheme actually saves lives and amounts to a greater good. Can you imagine if that person talks to you on a daily basis? It's quite possible that Malack has a conscience which objects to a great many things (like creating undead despite being cleric for a god of death), but that he is convinced of the [Goodness? Neutrality? Lawfulness?]... let's say 'morality' of his actions.

    I can picture this scene where after his death, Nergal tells Malack: "You weren't trying hard enough. You are not fit to serve at my side."
    It would be a very bad end, because without serving his deity, a regular Evil afterlife would await him instead...
    My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. - Thomas Paine

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    I do believe that line means that a cleric cannot be True Neutral unless they worship a TN deity. You can still be NG if you're worshipping a LG or CG god, for example.

    I'm guessing that Nergal is LN or LE, and Malack is LN.
    LGBTitP

    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    I just want to say that if this isn't the weirdest line of argument I've seen this thread take yet, it's not for lack of trying.

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    I agree that, compared to Tarquin, Malack doesn't seem all that evil. But you have to remember that he is one of the high-ups in an evil empire, and privy to (and part of) Tarquin's self-serving, evil plans.

    IIRC, somewhere in the rules it talks about Lawful Evil characters having codes of things they won't do; i.e. they might not go out of the way to slaughter innocents, but will do it if that's what's necessary to further their goals. To me, Malack fits this description.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    I doubt very much that Malack does not know his own alignment. He is part of a group dedicated to the brutal subjugation of the continent, and therefore he is probably Lawful Evil; his lines to Durkon remind me a great deal of Tarquin's lines to Amun-Zora. Malack strongly implied that he and his god are Something Neutral; Tarquin strongly implied that he was sending troops to help the Free City of Doom.
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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: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Sorator View Post
    I'm guessing that Nergal is LN or LE, and Malack is LN.
    I'd guess the opposite - leaning strongly towards LE for Malack, with only the fact that he hasn't done anything actively evil arguing against it.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Remember that he was about to feed Elan to a dragon. Plus, his "very special diet" has always felt incredibly sketchy.

    I mean, "clerics of Death gods are not necessarily evil?" Methinks the priest doth protest too much.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    I agree with Malack's argument that the Neutral alignment suits death gods better than the Evil alignment. Death is a part of life, better accepted than feared.

    I just note that while he makes it, he avoids stating outright what alignment his specific death god is, or what alignment he is.
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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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    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Despite his association with Tarquin and the Empire of Blood, I still think it's at least possible Malack is Lawful Neutral. The fact that we don't yet know, and he's portrayed as at least much less given to violence or ruthlessness (except where his murdered kids are concerned, and that hardly makes him evil), is probably to keep up from guessing how he's going to react to Durkon in their impending duel. Will he let Durkon go out of a sense of friendship? Will his loyalty to Tarquin win out? Will he take some third path? Since we don't know if he's evil or neutral, it's hard to say. I do think if he is evil, it's an evil of passivity, that is, for tolerating Tarquin's misdeeds, rather than anything he does in particular. Wherever he falls, I suspect he agrees with Tarquin that order is preferable to chaos, and moral concerns are trivial in the face of that.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    That line Malack gives about his and his god's alignment is a typical politician answer. It says nothing at all, but makes everyone think he said exactly what they always wanted to hear.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    his lines to Durkon remind me a great deal of Tarquin's lines to Amun-Zora. Malack strongly implied that he and his god are Something Neutral; Tarquin strongly implied that he was sending troops to help the Free City of Doom.
    I never thought of that.
    that would mean he meant Neutrality in the Lawful-Chaotic axis, while the sentence before that deliberately misleads us to think he was talking about the Good-Evil axis. Very shrewd indeed.
    My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. - Thomas Paine

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Personally, I am very convinced that Malack is Lawful Neutral. My reasons:

    1. He only displays anger, hatred and desire to harm when Nale (or somebody who looks exactly like Nale, not knowing about twins) is concerned. Which is completely justified in my book, because Nale murdered/killed three his children. That alone would make anybody upset and wanting revenge.

    2. He seems to be a pretty naive person. He didn't figure that the Order is working together, he took seriously Haley's Minnesota anecdote. Heck, even Durkon bluffed him. Of course, that all could be just a very cunning facade - but then we shouldn't trust anything any antagonist ever says.

    3. Tarquin has two layers of cover story to his real motivations. One is explained here, the other here.
    Malack may be well working under the impression that the second one is valid. Remember, he doesn't participate on those displays of power like the parade or gladitorial games. And such displays are token of LE characters, like Tarquin. If Malack stays most of the time in his chapel, burning offerings, drinking tea and minding his own business, he probably doesn't even know about Tarquin's other deeds, like burning slaves. To LN, building a strong government that would prevent warfare is something worthy to support, even if the advisors have to rule through puppet emperors for the sake of safety.

    4. I wonder what other countries in the desert, those not ruled by Tarquin, look like. From their names I don't get the feeling they are much (if any) better that the Empires. So slavery, gladiators and bounty hunting is likely common on the entire continent. That well explains why Malack doesn't object them - it has always been a part of the environment.

    5. Death and Destruction are both pretty much Neutral things from Nature's point of view - both harm that which exists to make place for something new to come.

    6. And finally, one meta-argument. The Giant implied Malack's allignment is going to be a plot point in the future. So it makes only sense if he doesn't state his alligment directly - that's why his speech and dinner habits are ambiguous. It's not because he is a veteran liar and wants to mislead the characters (and the readers).

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Mabe the destruction is more of a "change" thing?

    Like the necessity of destruction to facilitate change? The god could be completely neutral. And probably chaotic. If anything The god could be CN. And So could Malack.

    But I still see Malack as evil as he isn't DOING anything. He sees so much suffering around him, and he doesn't lift a finger with all his power to convince Taquin to make life better for these peasants, instead of just stabilizing the area.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Lawful Neutral is not Lawful Good, which seems to be giving people fits. It is entirely within Lawful Neutral to not care whether other people are starving. Lawful Neutral cares about social order, not whether people's lives could be improved, so I think it is entirely fitting within his alignment to try to be a stabilizing government force even through deceptive and what some might consider evil means

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    It is entirely within Lawful Neutral to not care whether other people are starving.
    That's not what the Player's Handbook says.
    "cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life...plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion," does describe one of the Lawful alignments there. It's not Lawful Neutral.
    Last edited by Kish; 2012-09-05 at 10:27 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.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    That's not what the Player's Handbook says.
    "cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life...plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion," does describe one of the Lawful alignments there. It's not Lawful Neutral.
    OK but Lawful Neutral:

    A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.

    Read literally, if the law says that 20% of the population must starve to death every year, the lawful neutral character may support that because it's the law (they may also fight to change the law, but they don't become evil for failing to break it). Nowhere in the description does it say lawful neutral characters have any compassion for others outside the bounds of whatever code they are following.

    All we know is that Malack considers a strong long lasting government more important than starving peasants (who would be starving anyway) which is entirely keeping with the alignment from what I can tell

    If you consider how a lawful neutral outsider acts, they certainly don't (typically) act with compassion
    Last edited by Kornaki; 2012-09-05 at 10:41 AM.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    Nowhere in the description does it say lawful neutral characters have any compassion for others outside the bounds of whatever code they are following.
    If your description of Lawful Neutral is functionally identical to "a Lawful Evil character who doesn't act like a cackling cartoon villain," you've gone wrong somewhere.
    All we know is that Malack considers a strong long lasting government
    You mean, constant wars leading to his adventuring group having more power over the continent?
    If you consider how a lawful neutral outsider acts, they certainly don't (typically) act with compassion
    If you consider how any outsider acts, they typically don't act sane by mortal standards. What's your point? The Player's Handbook says that "Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior"; should that be used as an argument that a human who practices random murder and cannibalism is True Neutral, not Chaotic Evil? No. Humanoids are humanoids, not animals, and not Inevitables either.
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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: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Malack's words to Durkon are couched as a generalisation. As Kish points out, he never actually says what his or his deity's alignments are. So even if you think he's being truthful, that still doesn't tell us squat about his alignment.

    I think there's a reason why he only hints, and doesn't actually state his alignment: because, like Tarquin, he would consider "outright lying" to be chaotic.

    The question that leaves open is: why does he care about Durkon's opinion? Why go to the trouble of misleading some random dwarf cleric of a distant pantheon?

    I think the answer to that is: again like Tarquin, he's a politician, and he knows a potentially useful connection when he sees one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by warrl View Post
    "They didn't change the alignment system, they just augmented its inherent weaknesses and limitations with a few gaping holes."
    "Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed." - G K Chesterton


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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    That's not what the Player's Handbook says.
    "cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life...plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion," does describe one of the Lawful alignments there. It's not Lawful Neutral.
    Keep reading that description -

    Quote Originally Posted by Player's Handbook
    Ember, a monk who follows her discipline without being swayed either by the demands of those in need or by the temptations of evil, is lawful neutral.
    I'm with Kornaki here - it is entirely within the purview of the Lawful Neutral alignment (or any alignment Neutral on the Good-Evil axis, really) to be cognizant of suffering and simply not care about it. A LN character certainly can care if people are starving, but they by no means have to, at least not all the time. If they themselves directly caused people to starve, then they'd be Evil, no question. But simple indifference to the suffering of others? Neutral can do that.

    To the point of the thread, though, I suspect that if Malack isn't Evil already, he's trending strongly in that direction.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    I think his alignment is Menacing Gracious

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Malack always struck me as LN. He doesn't actively go out of his way to hurt anyone (other than Nale who is LE and killed his kids--how justified that is is another matter--and the one time he mistakes Elan for Nale) and while he doesn't pay much attention to the suffering around him, that seems to be more the result of not wanting to hurt his friendship with Tarquin than anything else (indeed, does he have any real friends other than his old party before the OOTS comes? He doesn't seem to be too social). And I'd point out his surroundings: if he's the cleric of a god of death, it would make sense that the gladiator stuff and war stuff isn't as big a deal as it would be to others.

    And I totally agree with his argument that an ideal "god of death" would be LN, though that doesn't require Nergal or Malack to be LN.

    I do think he doesn't think of himself as evil (based on the way he talks about Nale), but then again, neither does Tarq.

    I don't think we can really be sure though.
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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Now I'm all confused.
    Malack is likely Lawful Neutral, supporting Tarquin's leadership because it brings order.
    Nergal is a god of death and destruction. Even if that's not Evil, the concept of change through destruction is still anything but Lawful. If Tarquin's larger scheme results in more order and stability, Malack may in fact be hurting his own god's cause. There are less deaths now, and less chaos.

    This is all based on the claim Tarquin made that their leadership reduces needless deaths from wars. If it isn't true, then there's no problem.

    Alignment wise, Nergal seems increasingly likely to be a Chaotic deity, while his cleric Malack displays textbook Lawful behaviour. I can't help but notice the similarity between Malack(Lawful)+Nergal(Chaotic) and Durkon(Lawful)+Thor(Chaotic). It's two steps on the alignment axis, which doesn't go by DnD rules. That's probably why they both get along well; they might both be struggling with similar morality issues inside their faith. Perhaps this is an artefact of the traditional personality stereotyping of clerics as Lawful characters.
    Last edited by coineineagh; 2012-09-05 at 08:00 PM.
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by coineineagh View Post
    Nergal is a god of death and destruction. Even if that's not Evil, the concept of change through destruction is still anything but Lawful.
    A deity can specialize in precisely targeted and/or systematic destruction, and be a lawful deity of destruction. The only domains that have an inherent alignment are the alignment domains; for everything else, it's all in how you use it.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by theNater View Post
    A deity can specialize in precisely targeted and/or systematic destruction, and be a lawful deity of destruction. The only domains that have an inherent alignment are the alignment domains; for everything else, it's all in how you use it.
    Exactly. A god of death that is not inherently evil definitely strikes me as LN. And Malack really acts like V does, but more Lawful-y.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    I just want to say that if this isn't the weirdest line of argument I've seen this thread take yet, it's not for lack of trying.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by RiOrius View Post
    Plus, his "very special diet" has always felt incredibly sketchy.
    Now that I look at this again, it confuses me. The most likely explanation for Malack's "special diet" is that it has to do with his health, exactly as he says. But if there's some other reason, considering just what everyone ate at the state dinner would seem to point to it as evidence for Malack not being evil.
    Last edited by ti'esar; 2012-09-06 at 09:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    Now that I look at this again, it confuses me. The most likely explanation for Malack's "special diet" is that it has to do with his health, exactly as he says. But if there's some other reason, considering just what everyone ate at the state dinner would seem to point to it as evidence for Malack not being evil.
    Not dining in company is a classic vampiric tell. If Malack isn't eating because he's a vampire, that would tend to point towards him being evil. We really can't conclude anything from the dinner, as there are perfectly valid good, neutral, and evil reasons for Malack to skip it.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Oh, right, the "Malack is a vampire" thing. I'd rather hoped we were past that by now.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    Oh, right, the "Malack is a vampire" thing. I'd rather hoped we were past that by now.
    I'm not saying Malack is a vampire, simply that skipping the meal -by itself- just as easily indicates evil as it does good, and so should probably not be used as an indicator of Malack's alignment until we have confirmation on the reasons behind it.

    On the whole vampire issue, skipping meals combined with albinism is such a classic pair of tells I figure it's going to amount to something, even if it just ends up as a slightly more sophisticated version of the Lizgreaper joke.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Call me a sap, but I think Malack was intentionally vague about his and his deity's alignment because he *likes* Durkon (I mean, as a friend. Not romantically). There probably aren't a lot of lawful clerics of around Malack's level in that part of the world. The few who are there are likely political powers of one sort or another, high priests of another religion, counselors to other kings, etc. Meaning that Malack has to be careful around them because, given the way Tarquin does business, he's probably butted heads with them already or there's an excellent chance he'll butt head with them in the future.

    The list of lawful, high level clerics with whom Malack can relax, have some tea and discuss comparative theology with is likely vanishingly small. Durkon fits that bill perfectly. He's lawful and the right power level (roughly speaking), Durkon is blowing through town and they both know there's a good chance he'll never be back (making the possibility of conflict down the road slim) and he's the adviser to the son of Tarquin's whom everyone doesn't hate, making it extra-unlikely they'd end up in conflict (they do, of course, which Elan could have told them was inevitable. But rationally, it seemed like a safe bet).

    So, long story short, I think Malack is delighted to have Durkon around and figures why spoil a potentially nice friendly relationship if he doesn't even have to lie to do it?
    Last edited by Crusher; 2012-09-07 at 09:55 AM.
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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Crusher View Post
    So, long story short, I think Malack is delighted to have Durkon around and figures why spoil a potentially nice friendly relationship if he doesn't even have to lie to do it?
    Exactly.

    The fact that Malack feels no need to be wear viciousness on his sleeve for a random polite stranger wandering through town is not meaningful evidence of non-Evilness. If I had to bet, I would definitely put my money on LE, but, yes, it is quite possible Malack is LN.

    The fact that politeness and some flavor of honesty confuses so many readers is surely one of the big reasons the Giant is playing with us here.

    Edit: I would add to your list of why Malack might take a liking to Durkon: as a non-human to non-human who have both spent so much time being the outsider in human dominated lands. They are perennial outsiders who find they have a surprising number of things in common, in spite of many obvious differences.
    Last edited by Snails; 2012-09-07 at 07:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Yet another thread about Malack's alignment..

    Quote Originally Posted by Snails View Post
    Edit: I would add to your list of why Malack might take a liking to Durkon: as a non-human to non-human who have both spent so much time being the outsider in human dominated lands. They are perennial outsiders who find they have a surprising number of things in common, in spite of many obvious differences.
    We saw a lot of lizardfolk in Bleedingham, as well as that desert port town where the OotS started their search. I think Tarquin also spoke of consolidating "human and lizardfolk territory" as opposed to the elven lands in the north.
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