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    Default RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Pretty much as it says on the tin. This has kinda been bugging me for years.

    I can see how Evil Guys can be charismatic. I can see how they can be intelligent. Both are typical stables of movies, fiction literature etc.

    But _Wisdom_ as I understand it automatically involves being not-evil. Maybe you can be neutral, as in "not interested in worldly matters" or suchlike. But _Evil_, especially in D&D, involves stuff like being willing to harm or sacrifice innocents for your personal gain. A _wise_ person would be above that. In short, a truly wise person would know not to be evil.

    So... how can there even be Evil Clerics?
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
    Pretty much as it says on the tin. This has kinda been bugging me for years.

    I can see how Evil Guys can be charismatic. I can see how they can be intelligent. Both are typical stables of movies, fiction literature etc.

    But _Wisdom_ as I understand it automatically involves being not-evil. Maybe you can be neutral, as in "not interested in worldly matters" or suchlike. But _Evil_, especially in D&D, involves stuff like being willing to harm or sacrifice innocents for your personal gain. A _wise_ person would be above that. In short, a truly wise person would know not to be evil.

    So... how can there even be Evil Clerics?
    Wisdom refers to level-headedness, prudence, insight, and awareness, all of which work to the purpose of reaching one's goals. An evil person has goals, and they usually don't care about the feelings or safety of others when it comes time to attain those goals. In fact, some people in this world would argue that worrying or consideration towards others just makes things harder whenever you try to do anything.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    My guess is that evil is subjective. Depending on how wise you are you may or may not realize that you're evil and/or view what you're doing as evil. A lot of villains aren't just out there for personal gain, they think they're doing something positive in their own way, and specifically a cleric would believe that furthering the goals of their deity is a good idea, and would be wise from the things they learned in service to them. Not to mention bad guys with common sense, a good villain won't be cartoonishly evil, he'll be evil insofar as he has to, but will normally try not to broadcast it, unless doing so benefits him in some way, and wisdom in D and D normally seems to equate to common sense. I'd say any of those ways allow a wise villain.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    I don't see how wisdom is associated with morality. A character can be perseptive, and have a lot of common-sense, yet still only care for his/herself. Wise=/= Moral.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Evil Intelligence is knowing the precise ritual that will allow you to destroy the peaceful kingdom that banished you.

    Evil Wisdom is understanding that you probably shouldn’t perform said ritual while you’re standing in the estimated blast radius.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Look at wisdom is associated with. Generally, it is associated with understanding whereas intelligence is associated with knowledge type smarts. Understanding as in awareness of your surroundings, (spot/listen,) understanding of people, (including manipulation and things like sense motive,) spiritual connection, (being aware of spiritual ties and ones soul does not mean being good. An evil person can understand the pull of both good and evil dieties.) Also, being able to predict the outcome of an action is associated with wisdom.

    I see no reason why being insightful has to do with being good.
    Last edited by SowZ; 2012-10-23 at 05:32 PM.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    A greek definition of wisdom is what is probably meant by the OP (I assume.)

    That isn't the DnD definition, however.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Like most other terms, D&D Wisdom means something different than traditional definitions. In D&D, Wisdom means observant and insightful. It is perfectly reasonable for someone who is very perceptive and self-aware to still be cruel and unreasonable.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Maybe I'm thinking too modern here. That's basically what the entire post-enlightenment philosophers are about: the message that you should be a good person not for fear of some invisible bogeyman who may send you to hell otherwise, but out of the _understanding_ that this is the right thing; the course of action that benefits everyone the most. And understanding is a key element of Wisdom.

    Also, keep in mind that in D&D, Good and Evil are by no means subjective or a matter of interpretation. People typically worship a deity that fits their personal morality. If a Cleric of a Good deity performs Evil acts under the delusion he is being good, he'll soon learn the error of his ways the hard way.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    No, that is definitely not D&D wisdom. Where did you get that idea?

    In D&D wisdom is pretty much just perception, insight and willpower. Nothing else.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
    Maybe I'm thinking too modern here. That's basically what the entire post-enlightenment philosophers are about: the message that you should be a good person not for fear of some invisible bogeyman who may send you to hell otherwise, but out of the _understanding_ that this is the right thing; the course of action that benefits everyone the most. And understanding is a key element of Wisdom.

    Also, keep in mind that in D&D, Good and Evil are by no means subjective or a matter of interpretation. People typically worship a deity that fits their personal morality. If a Cleric of a Good deity performs Evil acts under the delusion he is being good, he'll soon learn the error of his ways the hard way.
    You can know what actions help everyone the most and not care. You instead decide to do what helps you most. Evil Gods usually get followers because the followers hope to avoid their wrath or be rewarded by them.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
    Maybe I'm thinking too modern here. That's basically what the entire post-enlightenment philosophers are about: the message that you should be a good person not for fear of some invisible bogeyman who may send you to hell otherwise, but out of the _understanding_ that this is the right thing; the course of action that benefits everyone the most. And understanding is a key element of Wisdom.
    In terms of pure mathematical logic, the statements translate to the following:
    • Good people should only be good due to an understanding it's the right thing (ideally, good -> understanding).
    • High wisdom grants understanding (wisdom -> understanding).


    This does not logically imply that wisdom grants goodness. Someone can also be evil and ideally understanding. If we were to flip the original statement to something along the lines of "People that understand the consequences of their actions should always be good (ideally, understanding -> good)", then we can say that ideally, wisdom -> good.

    As it stands now, though, it's perfectly logical for someone to be evil and fully understanding of the consequences of their actions, but still choose to be evil for fun, profit, someone else, or some other reason.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Wisdom also represents instinct, and following your gut, which explains why animals have low int scores but decent or good wis scores.

    IMHO the reason you don't see a lot of wise villains, is because they are the few villains that attempt to do things right (in terms of villainy). I think you could look at any story where the hero lost (excluding wild circumstance. no points for the proverbial "1" coming up.) To use an example, the villain from Casino Royal (newer one). That guy takes the time to set up and mess with Bond at every opportunity, and he nearly kills him, although the plot intervenes.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alabenson View Post
    Evil Intelligence is knowing the precise ritual that will allow you to destroy the peaceful kingdom that banished you.

    Evil Wisdom is understanding that you probably shouldn’t perform said ritual while you’re standing in the estimated blast radius.
    Best explanation I've ever seen of this xD

    Quote Originally Posted by DarkestKnight View Post
    Wisdom also represents instinct, and following your gut, which explains why animals have low int scores but decent or good wis scores.

    IMHO the reason you don't see a lot of wise villains, is because they are the few villains that attempt to do things right (in terms of villainy). I think you could look at any story where the hero lost (excluding wild circumstance. no points for the proverbial "1" coming up.) To use an example, the villain from Casino Royal (newer one). That guy takes the time to set up and mess with Bond at every opportunity, and he nearly kills him, although the plot intervenes.
    If you're a batman fan, look at it this way- The Joker is intelligent, whereas ra's al ghul is wise. (Admittedly, he's also intelligent)
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    I typically justify it as the person having exceptional intuition, perception, levelheadedness, will, etc. but perhaps nevertheless lacking in a truly enlightened view of reality. In the same way that, while charisma can denote physical beauty, a truly ugly person can still have a strong force of personality (see: Lichs, Devils, Mind Flayers, and probably Cthulhu). But yes, that has always bugged me as well, as, at least for human-minded creatures, evil always strikes me as somewhat of a defect in one's thinking (at least for any supporting an evil philosophy, as opposed to, say, the Macbeths of the world). But then again I have a non-subjective view of evil (as in evil not being subjective, not my view not being subjective).
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    I'll just post the game's definition of Wisdom here.

    SRD; Wisdom (Wis)
    Wisdom describes a character’s willpower, common sense, perception, and intuition. While Intelligence represents one’s ability to analyze information, Wisdom represents being in tune with and aware of one’s surroundings. Wisdom is the most important ability for clerics and druids, and it is also important for paladins and rangers. If you want your character to have acute senses, put a high score in Wisdom. Every creature has a Wisdom score.
    This description has nothing to do with morality. What about the real-world use?

    Oxford Dictionary Definition of wise
    adjective
    having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement
    This doesn't have anything to do with morality, either. Evil people can have all these things and still be just as Evil, if not more so. Wise Evil just means you're able to make better decisions to further your dark, horrible goals.

    Tl;Dr: Wisdom has nothing to do with morality. There is no contradiction, so you can rest at ease knowing that there are Wise men of every alignment.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2012-10-23 at 06:49 PM.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    If you're a batman fan, look at it this way- The Joker is intelligent, whereas ra's al ghul is wise. (Admittedly, he's also intelligent)
    It may be more relevant to describe them in terms of which mental stat they are lacking: the Joker is intelligence and charismatic, but not very wise, while R'as al Ghul is intelligent and wise, but not charismatic.

    A simplification, but manages to highlight just how the absence of those two function practically.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    whereas ra's al ghul is wise.
    Never heard the name. ^^
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    It is somewhat difficult to give an example of a Wise Evil person. They tend to be the ones that don't get caught (unless under exceptional circumstances). They know when to split just before the cops show up. They know how to make somebody else be the fall guy. They know who would be an informer. They know when they're being lied to. They know when not to take a job.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
    Pretty much as it says on the tin. This has kinda been bugging me for years.

    I can see how Evil Guys can be charismatic. I can see how they can be intelligent. Both are typical stables of movies, fiction literature etc.

    But _Wisdom_ as I understand it automatically involves being not-evil. Maybe you can be neutral, as in "not interested in worldly matters" or suchlike. But _Evil_, especially in D&D, involves stuff like being willing to harm or sacrifice innocents for your personal gain. A _wise_ person would be above that. In short, a truly wise person would know not to be evil.

    So... how can there even be Evil Clerics?
    Well... I suppose that a good example of Wise Evil could be explained in Watchmen, if you've seen the movie.

    I believe that if Intelligence is the route to the goal, wisdom is the ability to see the goal in the first place.

    A wise evil could be doing the wrong thing for the right cause so to speak, de-throwning an inept king or god because the coming threat is too great.
    Last edited by Asheram; 2012-10-23 at 06:59 PM.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnorman View Post
    It may be more relevant to describe them in terms of which mental stat they are lacking: the Joker is intelligence and charismatic, but not very wise, while R'as al Ghul is intelligent and wise, but not charismatic.

    A simplification, but manages to highlight just how the absence of those two function practically.
    True, but I was just focusing on Wisdom. Hmm....*rewatches Batman trilogy*

    Quote Originally Posted by Firechanter View Post
    Never heard the name. ^^
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Here is an example of a 'wise' but Evil character (in the D&D sense of Evil at least):

    Foraedis Vilya has seen nations rise and fall in his long life as an elf. He has seen ideals supposedly worth dying for be forgotten in the march of time. Over his long life he has learned that nothing persists, that people live and die and generally don't matter. He knows about the afterlife, and he has realized that even in the realms of the good, eventually even the souls of people are ground to dust, merged with the plane, and become nothing. In a very deep way, he is a nihilist when it comes to the world around him. Show him something of true permanence and he will respect it. But everything else is going to be destroyed anyhow, so if he can gain by hastening that destruction he has no compunctions against doing so. Furthermore, it is far easier to destroy than create, and when no creation survives the test of time then one might as well achieve their goals by destroying.

    So, why do I say that this is in particular 'wise'? Well, this is a person who has very matter-of-factly observed the world around him and his relationship with it, and realized that he just doesn't care about all those things people lift up and declare to be important. Rather than be swept along by the beliefs or claims of others, he has found his true core and knows how to act with complete sincerity to himself. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, he found that his true core is only interested in his own comfort and condition, and so he ruthlessly acts along those lines. He isn't overtly psychotic or murderous - that would be stupid - but he has no compunctions about doing things that will harm others, as their suffering too will eventually be erased by the grinding of the world.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    A wise person can also, in theory, be doing the wrong thing for the wrong cause as well.

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    Here's an example. Aya is an elf that has extended her own lifeline, and has now lived for over 400 years. She is a cleric; a woman that is wise beyond all means, is epic level, and is powerful beyond the dreams of even most veteran adventurers. If she wanted to, she could probably blink the sun out of existence with a single snap of her fingers.

    However, with her long life came the slow realization that life is becoming more and more boring. Her god was not strict and did not really demand much out of his followers; Aya tried devoting herself to a cause, such as righteousness or hedonism, but found not only that she was not able to, but that the fanaticism of such causes would often override the uniqueness of an individual and make them irrational devouts. With her lifespan still lasting for a few hundred more years, she doesn't want to transform herself into an empty, irrational shell for a cause - even if that cause is saving orphans and being a "hero".

    But life is so boring! Aya meditated on some of her past adventures; she thought about the times when she and her friends overcame devastating odds with their teamwork, or when their bonding and devotion to a good cause caused them to defeat enemies that statistically, they should have very quickly lost to. She thought about those same enemies - what sort of devotion or cause drove them to the meticulous plans and careful, heart-breaking journeys that they made? A chance debate with a defeated evil overlord made her realize that they were not much different from her - from the heroes: they, too, put their heart and soul into a single devotion. They, too, overcame fierce odds to arrive at the power that they wield; fundamentally, her team and the enemies were both once determinators; they were blind to the enemy's cause just as the enemy is blind to theirs.

    A fundamental conflict within the world, and to take up arms for one cause is to blindside yourself with the other. So, why not just remain neutral in the cause and watch and see what sort of answers they come up with?

    Aya resolved to find people with strong dreams - regardless of what they may be - and basically grant them power; she would teach them the martial abilities that she has learned and impart the disciple with some magical items, and set them into the world with their dreams still strong, but without any additional tenets of philosophy from their instructor. From the shadows, she would watch the things that her disciples would do for her own enjoyment, and use these to better understand what drives human nature and human dreams. If her disciple becomes a patron saint of greatness and overcomes all adversity to bring peace and law to his purview, that's certainly an interesting development. If her disciple becomes a cruel tyrant waving a fist of steel over her sovereign lands, that's certainly interesting as well.

    Outliers are to be crushed, of course. If a disciple would ruin the experiment by seeking to destroy the world or something similar and gets close to actually succeeding with no successful intervention, she would crush the disciple; if a disciple spreads too much good and seems to be very difficult for more disciples to overcome, she will crush him as well. Otherwise, the conflicts and struggles of her disciples becomes a point of major curiosity for the elf, as she sits atop her tower and watches the conflicts that she, indirectly, has engineered.

    Why is this character evil? You can say that her disciples will probably tend towards good just as often as they may tend towards evil, but evil is (according to the SRD) a blatant disregard for human lives and not just a balancing act of good and evil acts. Aya is treating the entire world as a giant playground to entertain her and doesn't really care about the lives of the other people that are affected by her little games. For a lot of us, she could basically be classified as a sociopath playing god; that's pretty textbook evil in D&D terms.

    Why is this character wise? There is a lot to be said about being able to see different sides of the world rather than just the belief that one has grown up with; the character understands the idea of human perspectives, and is willing to acknowledge that others may have beliefs that are just as valid as hers. She has demonstrated great understanding by being able to emphasize with the dreams of others and great experience from her age. She just chooses to see "care for other people" as just another side of the coin when compared to "don't care about other people" rather than subscribe to one or the other as the "one true belief".


    Other good examples of wise, evil characters are Johan Liebert (Monster) or Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) - both are very insightful about human nature, can read people like a book, have excellent foresight, and are extraordinarily future-minded. Both are also evil monsters.
    Last edited by Felyndiira; 2012-10-23 at 07:51 PM.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    It may seem that way when bad people don't notice the needs of those around them, but actually they just don't care, only claim not to notice, or have selective perception.

    The same line of reasoning works in terms of wise levelheadedness and realization of a situation.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Twilightwyrm View Post
    But yes, that has always bugged me as well, as, at least for human-minded creatures, evil always strikes me as somewhat of a defect in one's thinking (at least for any supporting an evil philosophy, as opposed to, say, the Macbeths of the world). But then again I have a non-subjective view of evil (as in evil not being subjective, not my view not being subjective).
    Keep in mind that in D&D, there is an objective morality but neither side is objectively correct: in many real-world religions and philosophies, doing/being good is good and doing/being evil is bad, while in D&D both sides have their supporters and neither is correct because good people are judged by Good standards and evil people by Evil standards.

    Imagine you have two people: someone who's mostly good but doesn't really go out of his way to advance the cause of Good, and a psychopathic mass-murderer and serial killer. In D&D Land, not only is the killer going to be rewarded by an evil god rather than punished by a good one, he's going to be rewarded more by his evil god than the good-ish person will be by a good god, because the killer was following the tenets of the God of Murder wholeheartedly while the good-ish person wasn't really Good enough to get a great reward from a Good god but was too Good to get a great reward from a Neutral god.

    So a wise person of any alignment (at least as far as Wisdom informs alignment and vice versa) is simply one who realizes his or her place in the cosmos and is "in tune with and aware of" the consequences of and motivations for his or her actions. An unwise person of any alignment is one who isn't really mindful of his actions or their motivations and consequences. A low-Wis evil person might do evil things just because, or might try to "redeem" himself to Good when that's really the worst thing you can try (you lose out on your Evil reward and probably can't do enough Good to make up for it), while a high-Wis person is fully conscious of the evilness of his actions and embraces his nature rather than fighting it.
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by dascarletm View Post
    I don't see how wisdom is associated with morality. A character can be perseptive, and have a lot of common-sense, yet still only care for his/herself. Wise=/= Moral.
    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    Tl;Dr: Wisdom has nothing to do with morality. There is no contradiction, so you can rest at ease knowing that there are Wise men of every alignment.
    Approaching wisdom in a Greek (or even modern) sense it has a very strong tie to morality and ethics. Wisdom can be seen as the insight and understanding in the quest for truth. So in one part the original poster does bring up a nice observation that what we may identify as wisdom conflicts with the idea of evil (as our own "wise-men" talk at such lengths of the virtues & such) but there are some possible examples that could be used to present both an evil & wise individual within D&D.

    * An Übermensch type individual may simply see themselves as the next step for humanity. This would be more like Ra's al Ghul from Batman in which he has phenomenal clarity, understanding and insight from his lengthy experiences (which is ultimately one of the hugest parts of attaining wisdom). This individual is evil though because they place too much independence on others to react accordingly to their plans. If they are to flood the world to restore it to a fresh, humble beginning obviously only those who survived had the true strength of character to deserve it (much like the plants that may survive a jungle fire).
    * Pure, utter insanity. You can have a very wise character who simply suffers from insanity. Someone brought up above Hannibal Lecture and he is a great example of this. They have a mental defect and that has become their defining feature (over & beyond their wisdom).
    * Despair and doom as found in an existential crisis as instigated from the trappings of nihilism. You have a very wise character who thinks all life is pain, punishment, nothing or something akin resulting in their motivation to end it. You could very easily have a wise cleric who from seeing so much decay & death from disease wishes to turn everyone in the world into an undead (as to save them from such pain). His plan comes from a hopeful place but ultimately his own hubris in knowing what is better for others than letting them make their own way throughout the world is his downfall. Such a style of character reminds me of the question offered towards Silenus:
    Near the beginning of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche tells the ancient story of King Midas hunting in the forest for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus. At last, after many years, the King manages to capture him and asks what is the best and most desirable thing for man. Silenus maintains a surly silence until, goaded by the King, he bursts out with a contemptuous laugh and says, “Oh, wretched ephemeral race … why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is—to die soon.”
    * Another type of wise & evil type character is one built from foresight of some powerful/terrifying evil coming to ravage the world and as such believes the only way to strengthen & prepare the world's inhabitants is to fling them into a horrid war (to which they will hopefully innovate in technology and train themselves to the horror of war).

    So there are a lot of ways to have an evil but wise character in D&D, you just need to be creative.

    ALSO!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnorman View Post
    It may be more relevant to describe them in terms of which mental stat they are lacking: the Joker is intelligence and charismatic, but not very wise, while R'as al Ghul is intelligent and wise, but not charismatic.

    A simplification, but manages to highlight just how the absence of those two function practically.
    I don't know if I would describe Ra's al Ghul, leader of the League of Shadows and master immortal throughout humanity as not charismatic.

    The guy has got charisma pouring out of him.
    Last edited by Zonugal; 2012-10-23 at 08:38 PM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    in the d&d sense of wisdom, i'd say Tarquin is very wise.

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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zonugal View Post
    Approaching wisdom in a Greek (or even modern) sense it has a very strong tie to morality and ethics.
    So you're intentionally using a different definition of a word than the game provides, then wondering why it doesn't work in the game. This is absurd.


    An example of this kind of absurdity:
    How can a character with properly-formed feet ever be considered Flat Footed? After all, people with good arch development don't suddenly lose their foot shape when surprised. The Flat-Footed condition, as I understand it, in the medical sense, is when your foot arches collapse, and is permanent. D&D treats it as an extremely temporary condition, as a result of surprise, which heals on it's own in six seconds or less, which is clearly wrong by my understanding of the Flat Footed condition.

    So how can people with functional arches be considered Flat Footed, when the two are so obviously contradictory?
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2012-10-23 at 10:01 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor Tippy View Post
    By level 20 though, you aren't capturing a wizard. A character lives to level 20 by being the most ruthless, lucky, capable, and paranoid bastard around. A wizard is throwing around a 30+ Int score and has, entirely in character, planned contingencies for his contingencies. He may well be running around with flat out total immunity to harm, he does not walk outside without an entire bevy of defensive magics around him and enough magic items to buy himself a nation.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: RP: How can anyone be _Wise_ yet _Evil_?

    I thin Conrad from Wag the Dog may also count. He's worldy, perceptive, almost unflappable, and hellbent on allowing his corrupt president to remain in power.
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