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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Alignment changes [Belkar]

    I think this strip gives Belkar a concrete reason to seek an alignment change. While lots of people have postulated he has been acting less evil... now he has a very good reason to want to officially be neutral - and he knows it may save his life.

    So we have seen one alignment change in Durkula, but I don't think that really counts. I wonder how it will go for Belkar.

    My prediction is that in the near future he is going to see out V's advice with conversation that goes something like, "how do you get to be almost as evil as me but still be neutral? I want to do that."

    To which V's reply might be something that makes certain forum members' heads explode, but otherwise be about regret and trying to create balance...

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    That....

    Had not occurred to me.

    (sound of head implosion)

    My question is whether Belkar would ever be sufficiently self-reflective to see his alignment as a problem to overcome- whether he could ever experience what alcoholics refer to as a "moment of clarity"- or whether he will just continue going through life seeing everything else as an obstacle to his progress, in this case, the side-effect of the magic clasp. My suspicion is the latter.

    And even if he saw the need to become CN instead of CE, his motivation for change being "to avoid a magical side-effect" would not be very convincing to the DM if he were a character in my campaign. A true change has to come from internal motives, not from an external problem.

    So Belkar could have the idea, I suppose (though I'm doubting it). Genuinely pulling off the change is another matter entirely.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    I think this would require Belkar to show a great deal more self-analysis and introspection than he's ever shown. Not to mention that you can't just change alignments on a whim (barring magic items, of course)--for Belkar to come within shouting distance of Neutral he'd have to start actually doing some good, and he'd have to do that for *years* to compensate for his evil life to date. We know he doesn't have years yet to live, so this just isn't going to happen.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    This is a really deep question for something as inherently broken as the D&D alignment system*.

    Alignment has two "in-game" (or in-story for OOTS) effects:
    1. Spell effects (ex. protection from evil, detect evil, know alignment).
    2. Eventual residence of a D&D soul.

    There are three sources of determining D&D alignment:
    1. What is written on the character sheet
    2. How the character is currently acting.
    3. The historical actions over a character's lifetime (the Giant seems to avoid magic exceptions)

    We know that the plane of residence of a D&D soul is determined by the effect of all a character's actions (see Roy and abandonment of Elan). There are also strong hints of characters (particularly paladins) playing to other alignments (Miko is a bad example, but I suspect that the paladin in Roy's party during the Origin of the Stick isn't (haven't read it)). I would go so far as to say that the OOTS-verse appears to work on the presumption that what is written on the character sheet *is* the alignment until the character is judged at death (although with death being less than permenant, this leads to the question of a character returning from resurection with a different alignment). I would stongly recommmend not assuming a character will change alignment (in the sense of what is written on the character sheet and spell effects) without a major event such as death/paladin fall**/"that card in the deck of many things that can begin such a judgement***".

    I'd argue that the likely (reasonably large) set of NPCs that may have the "official" alignment and the current actions out of whack (not due to PC agency) is a great reason to remove alignments from your game (assuming it isn't a murderhobo dungeon crawl). There simply is too much material here for the Giant to even begin to run low.

    * Alignment in D&D presumably started as "red/blue" sides on Dave Anderson's wargame tabletop. Somehow it has morphed not only to sides in a [somewhat optional] vast battle between both good/evil and law/chaos (with nuetrality less than neutral in the battles), but also as a complete pyschological state of a PC/NPC. I understand it is far to iconic to D&D to simply remove, but I really with 5e had included enough options to thoroughly remove it. PS. Don't even ask how silly it was in 1e (barely removed from the wargame): I'll just mention the term "alignment language".

    ** Put me down in the "Miko is still [barely] lawful good but presently residing in Acadia (which contains both LG and LN souls)" camp.

    *** If the deck is in your campaign, you have bigger problems than alighnment.
    Last edited by wumpus; 2014-12-12 at 05:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    More to the point on Belkar, he just doesn't really have the time. We have seen one neutral act and can hardly generalize that somehow Belkar isn't still likely to knife a gnome for his favorite cuisine.

    Could you possibly argue that an antipaladin could somehow fall [rise?] due to this act? I'd argue that it might put the Belkster closer to sight of the neutral side of things, but he still has something like 9000kNazis of evil to work off. What do you think this act did, 2miliMotherTersas of good?

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by wumpus View Post
    More to the point on Belkar, he just doesn't really have the time. We have seen one neutral act and can hardly generalize that somehow Belkar isn't still likely to knife a gnome for his favorite cuisine.

    Could you possibly argue that an antipaladin could somehow fall [rise?] due to this act? I'd argue that it might put the Belkster closer to sight of the neutral side of things, but he still has something like 9000kNazis of evil to work off. What do you think this act did, 2miliMotherTersas of good?
    Thematically I think Rich has been indicating a gradual shift away from evil for Belkar for some time at least coinciding with his bonding of Scruffy. If I were to hazard a guess, the argument would be that in caring (e.g. having empathy) for ANY creature - in this case a cat - other than himself, Belkar started down the path away from evil. For example, in 783-784 Belkar's empathy made him perform a non-evil act by releasing the dinosaur.

    Do you have to "work off" evil acts with good acts to be neutral? I think that depends on how Rich sees the alignment system.

    Is it just a reflection on one's actions? If so than there is no reason that Belkar can't simply decide he is going to be neutral in order to not be harmed by the trinket - because motivation is irrelevant if only actions matter. I think it is more than that. I think Belkar's change was started by his growth of empathy and this strip brought it home to him how being evil is hurting him. I suppose maybe being evil is like being an alcoholic - sometimes they need a reason to change that isn't always the best reason, but it is still a practical reason that gets them to the right place in the end.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    He could be shifting more from chaotic instead of from evil. :\

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Gusion View Post
    If I were to hazard a guess, the argument would be that in caring (e.g. having empathy) for ANY creature - in this case a cat - other than himself, Belkar started down the path away from evil. For example, in 783-784 Belkar's empathy made him perform a non-evil act by releasing the dinosaur.
    I think a bit of context might dissuade you from this notion:

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    Consider the following example: In an old campaign, I had introduced two completely evil villains. Both had plans to conquer the world, and I had let the PCs know that they had known each other a century earlier. When the players discovered that they were working together, they couldn't understand it. "Why help each other?" they asked themselves, "It would make more sense to go it alone."

    "Wait," said one player, "I bet that one is planning on helping the other up to a point, and then turning on him." They all agreed that this must be the reason for their alliance, and even formulated a plan to "warn" the lesser of the two evils about the other's presumed treachery. This was a solution that was arrived at by a fairly logical process, but it was completely and utterly incorrect. What the players had failed to consider was that the two villains were simply friends. They had grown up together, and trusted each other implicitly despite having every logical reason to not trust one another at all. The fact was that the villains were letting their emotional attachment to each other override strict logic; they had made an agreement to share control of the world, and both were intending to follow through. Further, by contacting the "lesser" villain, the PCs had accidentally tipped their hand that they knew the two were working together, allowing the villains to set up an ambush for the players in a future session. By relying on logic and logic alone, the players had gravely miscalculated their foes.

    Source

    I doubt he would then say, "well, Evil is a pretty one-dimensional aspect, and truly caring about someone else is enough to help knock one away from it, or at least realize they don't want to be evil anymore."

    And on a deeper level, I don't think, "well, I do have an item now, so I should probably change who I am so it can be more useful," is a message he would support either. He is always welcome to prove me wrong, of course.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2014-12-12 at 02:34 PM.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Xelbiuj View Post
    He could be shifting more from chaotic instead of from evil. :\
    Why? What's so lawful in his recent behaviour?

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by wumpus View Post
    [Much of thoughtful post snipped]

    * Alignment in D&D presumably started as "red/blue" sides on Dave Anderson's wargame tabletop. Somehow it has morphed not only to sides in a [somewhat optional] vast battle between both good/evil and law/chaos (with nuetrality less than neutral in the battles), but also as a complete pyschological state of a PC/NPC. I understand it is far to iconic to D&D to simply remove...
    In my experience as a DM and as a player since 1st edition (I skipped 4th, though), it has always been easy to eliminate alignment from the game for a few reasons.

    First, the alignment system is not an objective fact of the reality in which all D&D players think, feel, value, interact and live, so we all have a lot of experience in that regard.

    Second, relatively few mechanics depend on alignment, to the extent that, depending on the flavor of a particular campaign, some campaigns may be more or less transparent to the presence of alignment. Caveat: this probably reflects the utterly home-brew campaign worlds of my adult gaming experiences.

    Third, where game mechanics do involve alignment, it is trivially easy to replace with precepts (e.g. paladins are not champions of good but of honesty or compassion, etc.) or conditions (e.g. protection from evil becomes protection from extra-planar, or protection from shapeshifter, and so on).

    There's an RPG Stack Exchange question with answers disagreeing with the premise that alignment is necessary to D&D.

    Of course, this is getting a bit off from OotS, and the question of Belkar shifting alignments. I think that Belkar can shift alignments, and possibly quite rapidly. While we saw his delirium dream while trapped at Sharp-Eyed Pete's, and saw his brief empathy for Ganji and Enor in the Empire of Blood, there is a great deal of his internal process that we are not privy to [Edit: "trivial, too?!?" Ahem: "privy to!"]. I could see a "moment of clarity" for him leading to an externally rapid shift in alignment (my guess would be to CN, perhaps to CG). We know he understands the chaotic side of the spectrum pretty well... he more or less nailed what Kooky Old Guy With the Cat's posthumous motivations were likely to be.
    Last edited by Lexible; 2014-12-12 at 05:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    I think a bit of context might dissuade you from this notion:

    [cut]

    And on a deeper level, I don't think, "well, I do have an item now, so I should probably change who I am so it can be more useful," is a message he would support either. He is always welcome to prove me wrong, of course.
    I agree that evil people can have friends. That's not what was happening in 783-784 though. It wasn't long before that those guys were Belkar's enemy. Belkar was experiencing empathy for relative strangers because he could identify with their situation - that's radically different than having friends from childhood.

    As for the message, I won't guess Rich's personal views on it. I think it is a reasonable one in Belkar's mind to have though especially if that action is seen as the way to save his life against Durkula. It might be coincidence that it is representative of how being evil is actually negative to his situation, something he never really had to deal with before provided he had his lead sheet with him.

    In my view? I dunno man. Sometimes people end up doing good things for less than angelic reasons. Maybe that's all it takes to be Neutral in Rich's view.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Gusion View Post
    I agree that evil people can have friends. That's not what was happening in 783-784 though. It wasn't long before that those guys were Belkar's enemy. Belkar was experiencing empathy for relative strangers because he could identify with their situation - that's radically different than having friends from childhood.

    As for the message, I won't guess Rich's personal views on it. I think it is a reasonable one in Belkar's mind to have though especially if that action is seen as the way to save his life against Durkula. It might be coincidence that it is representative of how being evil is actually negative to his situation, something he never really had to deal with before provided he had his lead sheet with him.

    In my view? I dunno man. Sometimes people end up doing good things for less than angelic reasons. Maybe that's all it takes to be Neutral in Rich's view.
    I can totally understand your argument. I just think, in this case, with Belkar as the focus, that it's not going to happen. Dude just isn't evil because he's predisposed towards it, or likes going against the grain. He didn't even truly understand evil, and he shouldn't be doing it (he has expressed confusion on what is and isn't allowed). In effect, he has no moral barometer, and he still choose to sail straight into the storm because it's more fun. It's a large part of who he is, not just an alignment written on a character sheet. I don't think he'll give up such a substantial part of what makes him Belkar just for the convenience of an item.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2014-12-12 at 03:31 PM.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    I can totally understand your argument. I just think, in this case, with Belkar as the focus, that it's not going to happen. Dude just isn't evil because he's predisposed towards it, or likes going against the grain. He didn't even truly understand evil, and he shouldn't be doing it (he has expressed confusion on what is and isn't allowed). In effect, he has no moral barometer, and he still choose to sail straight into the storm because it's more fun. It's a large part of who he is, not just an alignment written on a character sheet. I don't think he'll give up such a substantial part of what makes him Belkar just for the convenience of an item.
    Which is pretty much what Roy says in 786. :-)

    I agree that he *was* that way, pre-Scruffy, but that's the whole character development theme. And, from Belkar's perspective, is isn't like he can't still torture a kobold every now and again while remaining neutral... he's got V as a moral role model.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Gusion View Post
    Which is pretty much what Roy says in 786. :-)
    Not being one dimensional =/= moving away from evil. He's not one-dimensional anymore, which was why Roy thought the way he did. I think the way i do because i don't think he is going to change his entire personna based on a trinket. Keep in mind, your argument is predicated upon maximizing the usage of his new toy.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Not being one dimensional =/= moving away from evil. He's not one-dimensional anymore, which was why Roy thought the way he did. I think the way i do because i don't think he is going to change his entire personna based on a trinket. Keep in mind, your argument is predicated upon maximizing the usage of his new toy.
    In Belkar's case, there aren't many other dimensions he can expand in that will allow him to remain as evil as he is. Perhaps if he focused on optimization or strategy, he could become more effective in his evil. His present course away from "treating people other than: items of lust, items of hate, and little chunks of xp" will tend to cramp the high levels of evil he was getting (he still can stay at least as evil as Thog).

    As Soon said, redemption isn't for everyone. I doubt Belkar could manage it with a grey elf's lifetime. That said, there isn't any real indication that he wants to be non-evil (although maybe Mr. Scruffy does*). He *does* want the party (or other companions) to want him enough to rez him, but even that looks like it is a stretch with what little time he has left (a few weeks at most).

    * While I assume that Belkar's dream in the Gerard's tomb was a joke (I suspect the Giant has even admitted that he didn't want to draw Belkar's fantasy), it puts a real question as to who is the "animal companion" between the two.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Lexible View Post
    There's an RPG Stack Exchange question with answers disagreeing with the premise that alignment is necessary to D&D.
    My belief that D&D should include alignments has more to do with marketing. I'm pretty sure there was a thread over in the gaming [roleplaying] section about "what is D&D" that included things like rolling d20s to hit, class-based progression, Vancian casting, alignments, etc. I agree that removing alignments would make a better game. Thus why I wanted the option (note that the link seems to either ignore various combat changes by a sudden lack of holy damage). I just think such a game would be "less D&D".

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by wumpus View Post
    While I assume that Belkar's dream in the Gerard's tomb was a joke (I suspect the Giant has even admitted that he didn't want to draw Belkar's fantasy)
    Not quite.

    Quote Originally Posted by wumpus View Post
    My belief that D&D should include alignments has more to do with marketing. I'm pretty sure there was a thread over in the gaming [roleplaying] section about "what is D&D" that included things like rolling d20s to hit, class-based progression, Vancian casting, alignments, etc. I agree that removing alignments would make a better game. Thus why I wanted the option (note that the link seems to either ignore various combat changes by a sudden lack of holy damage). I just think such a game would be "less D&D".
    You might be interested in the Giant's view on the alignment system.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    I think that Belkar has been changing, that much is certain. I would even go so far as to say that he has, from time to time, shown feelings resembling compassion and other similar emotions. I do think that a shift in alignment would take a huge change in outlook on Belkar's behalf, as well as requiring to start doing a lot of good. I would be much more satisfied with Belkar being a very complex, but still Evil, character, because I thin that may be more interesting than redemption.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    This might not mean anything in the long run, but did anyone else notice Belkar not bursting into flames again after getting the clasp back from the gnome? Or perhaps that he didn't seem to be in flames/pain while talking to Scruffy despite still touching the clasp?

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by RatElemental View Post
    This might not mean anything in the long run, but did anyone else notice Belkar not bursting into flames again after getting the clasp back from the gnome? Or perhaps that he didn't seem to be in flames/pain while talking to Scruffy despite still touching the clasp?
    The clasp isn't always on: it is activated. When he is touching it and not being hurt, the clasp is not on.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaxzan Proditor View Post
    I think that Belkar has been changing, that much is certain. I would even go so far as to say that he has, from time to time, shown feelings resembling compassion and other similar emotions. I do think that a shift in alignment would take a huge change in outlook on Belkar's behalf, as well as requiring to start doing a lot of good. I would be much more satisfied with Belkar being a very complex, but still Evil, character, because I thin that may be more interesting than redemption.
    I guess I'm not really sure how much good a neutral character needs to do or how much redemption needs to happen. V has does a considerable amount of evil and while s/he feels bad about some of it, I don't see V trying to balance it out. But by Word of Giant, V is neutral.

    With Belkar's current character development and growth, I see less of a difference between their morality than before - aside from the fact that Belkar never particularly had any desire to not be evil, while V preferred to be neutral because morality was generally unimportant.

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Gusion View Post
    V has does a considerable amount of evil and while s/he feels bad about some of it, I don't see V trying to balance it out. But by Word of Giant, V is neutral.
    The major evil we've seen V do post-dates the Giant's quote about him being definitively neutral, and it's noticeable that a couple of in-comic panels have suggested V is maybe no longer TN: in strip #668, one of the IFCC says "After that stunt with the dragons, I think we have a 50-50 chance of ending up with [V's soul] anyway", and in strip #843 V himself says "The few paltry moments that the trio of fiends shall hold my soul will be but a preview of the eternity that--", indicating he himself thinks he's likely to be going to Hell for Familicide. The latter, to my mind, is the real indicator that V is still trying to be Neutral, though: he is genuinely horrified at what he's done, whereas Belkar would be giving himself a mental high-five for doing something like that!

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    The major evil we've seen V do post-dates the Giant's quote about him being definitively neutral
    Incorrect: the Giant's last statement that V is True Neutral occurred around the time of 801, significantly post-dating Familicide.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Gusion View Post
    I guess I'm not really sure how much good a neutral character needs to do or how much redemption needs to happen. V has does a considerable amount of evil and while s/he feels bad about some of it, I don't see V trying to balance it out. But by Word of Giant, V is neutral.

    With Belkar's current character development and growth, I see less of a difference between their morality than before - aside from the fact that Belkar never particularly had any desire to not be evil, while V preferred to be neutral because morality was generally unimportant.
    I think that Vaarsuvius has been doing many things different since they failed to defeat Xykon and since they learned of the other people they killed. According to Word of Giant, Vaarsuvius's fight with Laurin shows a lot of the ways in which they have changed.

    Also, Belkar has been consistently doing Evil or wishing to do Evil since day one. Vaarsuvius, on the other hand, has a few major blips of Evil, but I do not feel they have been consistently Evil, and they have not become Evil. Belkar has a major uphill struggle, while Vaarsuvius doesn't have quite as large of one.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaxzan Proditor View Post
    Also, Belkar has been consistently doing Evil or wishing to do Evil since day one. Vaarsuvius, on the other hand, has a few major blips of Evil, but I do not feel they have been consistently Evil, and they have not become Evil. Belkar has a major uphill struggle, while Vaarsuvius doesn't have quite as large of one.
    Makes me think a bit of Malhevik from the 3.0 Manual of the Planes - a "chaotic evil wizard dedicated to learning the ways of goodness" who resides in a castle in Celestia thanks to the agreement of the inhabitants. The book goes on to say that "While he's sincerely trying to reform, he's got a long way to go, and still retains many of the instincts and attitudes of his former lifestyle".

    If Belkar were to consciously begin his uphill struggle - state to himself that he desires to change his nature - and make a resolution to do so - he might be like this.
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2014-12-13 at 08:31 AM.
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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    There is also the possibility that Belkar is faking all this character development, based on his conversation with his hallucination of Lord Shojo back when he was still cursed by the mark of justice. I think that would be wonderfully meta if it turns out to be the case.

    Edit: I don't know how I confused Soon with Lord Shojo.
    Last edited by RatElemental; 2014-12-13 at 07:54 PM.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by RatElemental View Post
    There is also the possibility that Belkar is faking all this character development, based on his conversation with his hallucination of Soon back when he was still cursed by the mark of justice. I think that would be wonderfully meta if it turns out to be the case.
    He started out faking it, yes. Not anymore.

    ---

    Look, Belkar's still Chaotic Evil. Just as there are multiple interpretations of Chaotic Good (IE Elan and Haley, and Elan's changes), there are multiple ways to be Chaotic Evil. Nothing Belkar has done suggests he's going to start following the laws of society or that he doesn't like killing and discord anymore. He was riding around on Bloodfeast and ENJOYING slaughtering everything in his way. No, his alignment hasn't changed one bit.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by orrion View Post
    He started out faking it, yes. Not anymore.

    ---

    Look, Belkar's still Chaotic Evil. Just as there are multiple interpretations of Chaotic Good (IE Elan and Haley, and Elan's changes), there are multiple ways to be Chaotic Evil. Nothing Belkar has done suggests he's going to start following the laws of society or that he doesn't like killing and discord anymore. He was riding around on Bloodfeast and ENJOYING slaughtering everything in his way. No, his alignment hasn't changed one bit.
    There was that one time way back before they faced Xykon the first time when V buffed his wisdom so he could heal Elan. Before V dispelled the effect, Belkar resolved to never hurt a living thing again. So presumably if his wisdom were to be increased a little more permanently...

    Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon without outside help.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by RatElemental View Post
    There was that one time way back before they faced Xykon the first time when V buffed his wisdom so he could heal Elan. Before V dispelled the effect, Belkar resolved to never hurt a living thing again. So presumably if his wisdom were to be increased a little more permanently...

    Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon without outside help.
    That was still back when the strip was more a gag-a-day than plot oriented. I'd bet that even if Belkar had his Wisdom increased somehow we wouldn't see anything like that happening again.

    It's like this comic in 8-Bit Theater.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Alignment changes [Belkar]

    Quote Originally Posted by orrion View Post
    That was still back when the strip was more a gag-a-day than plot oriented. I'd bet that even if Belkar had his Wisdom increased somehow we wouldn't see anything like that happening again.

    It's like this comic in 8-Bit Theater.
    Regardless of whether or not this comic was ever a gag-a-day kind of thing, that bit from #58 was still indeed in the oots canon, and if one is to judge anything within a given thing objectively, one must use that thing's own rules.*

    ...

    In my opinion.

    ...

    *edit: reworded for clarity
    Last edited by Jak; 2014-12-14 at 12:48 AM.

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