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    RangerGuy

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    Default Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Recently I realized that in my campaigns I use a lot both fiendish codexes - the one for Hell and the one for the Abyss, and players often end up chasing quests somewhere within those realms. In fact I use it so much that the hellish planes are more like secondary material planes than a real otherworlds for my campaign. This, of course has its merits, but it also has it cons.

    I like to use the trope for the abyssal and hellish politics where players are either pawns or, to continue with the chess metaphor - lets say, officers and queens in the machinations of different lords. The problem is that now I feel the lords somehow less powerful and devaluated. The mystery around them is broken, they are almost all of them portrayed as active players, actually pursuing agendas. Of course they are still ruthless and hideous looking and powerful and can tear the flesh off your bones with a blink of an eye. Using them in this way makes political games, which are fun - with which one to ally, whom to help, whose plans to ruin, how to escape his/her revenge? But I started to think that maybe passive lords of Hell are better. Ones, who, even if they want to, are not in a shape to pursue any agenda.

    If we take Divine Comedy as an example - Lucifer is stuck in a middle of a frozen lake and even if he wants to (and he surely does even if only to escape) he is just not capable to exit it and start establishing cults. He is also suffering, together with all the sinners around him, maybe even more than them. I think I would like to try this approach for a while. To make the big evils in the universe depersonalized and more mysterious and also stuck within their realms and suffering in there, without engaging in any active machinations. This will make politics be moved from the central theme, but maybe it will make for a more mysterious game.

    So which one do you think is better? To have, lets say Pazuzu as an active flying vulture-like predator, or to make him a cloud of flying insects constantly burning within a hot cloud of sand and unable to escape it?

    TL;DR: What kind of Lords of the Hellish planes do you prefer - active and personalized or depersonalized and mysterious?

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I'm the guy who said that Game of Thrones would have been better if everything outside of Westeros was just omitted as anything more than minor characters and themes. No white walkers, no Daenerys, no dragons. Focus on the power struggle and its consequences, and so avoid the sensation of deus ex machina, however telegraphed from the beginning.
    So it won't come as a surprise that I'd find the ineffable lords more to my taste than the others.

    But I don't think you can go back. Once you've defeated your first dragon, dragons are no longer as majestic as they once were, even if you were level 8 at the time, but level 3 now. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. Once you've vied with the lords of Hell, they are permanently diminished in your mind. All the more reason to make them less active, of course.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I like to see the Hells and the Abyss as opposites in certain aspects.

    Short-term, the Hells are less dangerous, while the Abyss is far more of an immediate danger whenever you visit.

    But long-term, the Hells are the ones that sink their hooks into the players and end up having consequences down the line, while the Abyss tends to lose interest the moment they lose sight of you.

    It then makes it sort of a gamble of how much time the players have left before they are trapped by the machinations of Hell versus the immediate dangers presented by the Abyss being extremely difficult, but easy enough to evade.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I prefer the second option (unknowable, not directly active) when I want the Hells and/or the Abyss in my campaign at all. To have the lords scheming with comprehensible plots tends to reduce the lower planes to something that can be conquered or overcome. It's not one thing to say that it's an infinite plane with infinite devils, but if you can match into Dis and defeat Dispater that feels like unconvincing window dressing.

    Speaking generally, I prefer the planes to be inherently hostile to mortals. You can, say, execute a commando raid into a specific part of Hell to rescue a stolen soul, but the sense that you're on a timer where the chance of success or escape drops drastically with any setback is important. That applies equally to the Elemental Planes and the Upper Planes, too: I prefer to give a sense of 'mortals Do Not Belong Here' for all of them. Making the Lords of Hell active in a sense comprhensible to the PCs undermines that almost every time.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    The correct answer to this is the dicefreak's Gates of Hell. The game statistics are rather ridiculous, but the fluff is top-notch. The whole thing sidesteps the issue really well. The lords are variously active or inactive, but they are so far beyond mortals that the distinction doesn't matter. You just hope against hope that they are never active in a way that notices you.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I like my Lords of Hell like I like my women, standing over my crying form with a whip in one hand and a contract in the other.

    In all seriousness, familiarity is the enemy of horror. The more the Lords appear in your game and the more understandable they are the more they'll seem like dudes, so actual appearances should be rare and the parts of their plans the players have learnt should require logic to make sense of (if a mortal can make sense of them at all). Also not all of the Lords will be cunning manipulators or politicians, there will still be the share of brutes and academics among them. The lords can be active, but the less their actions influence the PCs the better.
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Given that over 90% of my characters would list "god slayer" as a career goal, I think it's obvious which side I'd take in this discussion.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I like 'em distant, at least until the PCs are so powerful that they have a chance to beat one in a fair fight. When the PCs are legitimate threats, then the arch-fiends might start taking them seriously.

    So the PCs might see a Prince of Hell, but they wouldn't interact directly with one -- they'd meet subordinates (catspaws / handlers / cut-outs).

    Old fiends are paranoid -- that's in part how they got to be old -- so this isn't just disdain. It's also a healthy dose of self-preservation.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lapak View Post
    I prefer the second option (unknowable, not directly active) when I want the Hells and/or the Abyss in my campaign at all. To have the lords scheming with comprehensible plots tends to reduce the lower planes to something that can be conquered or overcome. It's not one thing to say that it's an infinite plane with infinite devils, but if you can match into Dis and defeat Dispater that feels like unconvincing window dressing.

    Speaking generally, I prefer the planes to be inherently hostile to mortals. You can, say, execute a commando raid into a specific part of Hell to rescue a stolen soul, but the sense that you're on a timer where the chance of success or escape drops drastically with any setback is important. That applies equally to the Elemental Planes and the Upper Planes, too: I prefer to give a sense of 'mortals Do Not Belong Here' for all of them. Making the Lords of Hell active in a sense comprhensible to the PCs undermines that almost every time.
    Yes, I fully understand this. Problem is, if I use this approach, then a lot of setting fluff from the Fiendish Codexes is unusable.

    Besides there is one big flaw with the incomprehensible logic behind elder things motivation when running a game. The players tend to overthink and try to find a pattern and they usually succeed, because otherwise it wouldn't be a game about them. If you want the logic to be incomprehensible you should either make the fiends appear only once, perhaps just "stirring in their slumber", and do something totally unexpected or make them do unexpected and illogical things all the time. If you use the latter though, you risk deteriorating into comedy really fast. This is the same problem as with the incomprehensible real form that no mortal can withstand, only bigger - "DM: This fiend is so gruesome and illogical it just denies reality, its form makes you mad.; Player: Ok, i understand, but describe it, please. For sure I see a glimpse before getting mad, don't I? After all I am not mere mortal, I am the protagonist."

    So the solution seems to be, if you don't want the fiends to seem like just stronger and more hideous characters of Game of Thrones, to not include them at all?
    Last edited by Couatl; 2018-10-23 at 02:46 AM.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    I like my evil approachable and enticing. What reason would mortal creatures have otherwise to approach devils and their ilk? the devils need souls to generate power for their - well - power plays. Usually no one is insane enough to worship the dark ones, so they are not divine but eldritch or arcane in nature.

    They won't present themselves as master torturers or even particularly evil, but rather generous. We had a LE fallen angel (factually a devil for the setting) that helped our (CN/CG) group out with loads of items. She was responsible for most of our character's wealth. In return she just wanted us to kill and torture the people that corrupted her into this devilish form. No contract needed. My character (the only non good one as well as a Tiefling himself) would have eventually been suckered into being her pet if nothing major (a friend's death or worse) was caused by the devil.

    In fact my character would like to play the devil as much as they try to play him. And I like it that way. No enigmatic visions that the clerics get. No arcane riddles like the wizard knows. But dealings with actually helpful creatures that prey on your soul.

    I don't need devils as the LE version of deities.
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I don't need devils as the LE version of deities.
    I just want to be sure I understand completely: I took this to be a question about the Lords of Hell, not the average devils. Does your view apply to the top people as well?
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Couatl View Post
    So the solution seems to be, if you don't want the fiends to seem like just stronger and more hideous characters of Game of Thrones, to not include them at all?
    I think you can go against conventional wisdom here if you'd like, but there's a few ways to do it to make it feel right and avoid the "just another villain on the list".

    Make them friendly towards the PC's, simply by virtue of the PC's being too insignificant for them to take seriously, make them a larger problem than the campaign that can't be dealt with right now (similar to Elan's dad in the OOTS comic) and don't make the demons or devils the focus of the campaign, but rather pieces that use the players in a big chess game. Make it clear that they are helping the players out of self-interest, but also because it benefits both parties. Don't make them overextend themselves, they should help, but not at a significant cost to their own resources. Keep in mind that their own men are expendable on behalf of there always being more and they also serve as rivals to the leaders of the layers.

    Make them paranoid, but not to the point of suspecting the PCs of duplicity. If they work for a rival, they know. And they are ready for it. Do not use the PC's for dealing with internal politics between the layers. Asmodeus should not rely on PC's to deal with Mephistopheles in the 8th layer. At least not unless they actively serve these masters of the layers and are tied to them in an unbreakable fashion. In which case, don't be afraid to kick their butt around a bit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hymer View Post
    I just want to be sure I understand completely: I took this to be a question about the Lords of Hell, not the average devils. Does your view apply to the top people as well?
    Yes, though they USUALLY send their agents. I can see an archdevil visiting his 10th level or so champion, just to strike another deal. They have be closer to their subjects because their "rewards systems" are better but their "employee loyalty" tends to not be as strong.

    Unless it is enforced by a good contract. But by then the devil has won anyway, my point being that good agents usually are not stupid - or fervant - enough to get into binding contracts.
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    HalflingRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    DnD wise
    I see the Abyss as something between battle royale and Gungame. The Lords are just the baddest mofos who can afford a little more leniancy with others thanks to overwhelming power.

    The Hells are the most orderly and insufferable workplace there is. A lord is a caricature of the nastiest boss ever.

    In DnD, it's a bad move to define your character by alignment, characterization should come first, but when it comes to the outer planes, the alignment defines the characterization.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I like my evil approachable and enticing. What reason would mortal creatures have otherwise to approach devils and their ilk? the devils need souls to generate power for their - well - power plays. Usually no one is insane enough to worship the dark ones, so they are not divine but eldritch or arcane in nature.

    They won't present themselves as master torturers or even particularly evil, but rather generous. We had a LE fallen angel (factually a devil for the setting) that helped our (CN/CG) group out with loads of items. She was responsible for most of our character's wealth. In return she just wanted us to kill and torture the people that corrupted her into this devilish form. No contract needed. My character (the only non good one as well as a Tiefling himself) would have eventually been suckered into being her pet if nothing major (a friend's death or worse) was caused by the devil.

    In fact my character would like to play the devil as much as they try to play him. And I like it that way. No enigmatic visions that the clerics get. No arcane riddles like the wizard knows. But dealings with actually helpful creatures that prey on your soul.

    I don't need devils as the LE version of deities.
    I agree wholeheartedly with Sporeegg. Let the gods be distant and ineffable. Let the demons gnash their teeth and destroy all of creation. The devils? They're here to be your friend. Help you out in a jam, or show you how things ought to be better- for you; but mostly for them.

    Unless the party ends up interacting with one of the Blood War crowd of devils like Gelugons or Barbazu (and even then...), I have them act perfectly friendly and amicable with the party. But that's typically through Falxugons, Erinyes and imps. If I ever wrote an adventure, or the party was foolish ambitious enough, that features interactions with the archfiends, I'd definitely have them act civil enough, maybe even friendly in some cases, to the party. The Fiendesh Codex even gives you a good outline of their various personalities, and they seem personable. For evil incarnations of unbending order.

    Some more than, others, of course, but let's take Bel for example.

    The dude is fighting at the front of the Blood War. He needs powerful magic and manpower, as his forces are outnumbered 20 to 1, and they get by through superior tactics and organization. It pays to treat the mortals carrying enough magic items and magical power to power a small kingdom with civility- maybe you can use them for something? Specialists for a strike on an important demonic position? Send them to collect an artifact from a ruin because you can't spare the men? Etc. And really, by the end of the day, if they're good at doing work for you, maybe you can keep them on. In Bel's Roleplaying entry it even suggests that he gives mortals honest hearings in good faith if they offer to help him, and while he might not gun for corrupting mortals- he's so darn orderly and evil, that it's likely to happen anyway if they just keep hanging around the infernal strategist.

    So there's a guy willing to give the players a fair shake, and at least in my experience, doing a solid for the players, even as minor as being important and hearing them out, or being friendly with them and congratulating them after a job well done- that will get them to think the devils aren't so bad. That's the key.

    I shoehorn devils in as minor players whenever it's reasonable. But especially when the heroes need a helping hand. Because a friend is always there when he's needed most.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    As a rule, I tend to roll my eyes at anything sentient being portrayed as far beyond mortal comprehension. Gods, demons, aliens, you name it. It's sometimes done well when the being is portrayed as being less of an agent actively meddling in the mortal realm and more of a sentient natural disaster who happens to be in the same area. So that's one option—Lovecraftian horror who doesn't care about mortals, but they're in the way of whatever it's trying to do.

    Of course, that's not suitable for all plots. Sometimes you want the heroes to struggle against the inevitable, or try to survive against a foe that can't be fought, or even try to invent or implement the metaphorical equivalent of geoengineering, but sometimes you just want a bad guy you can punch. In that case, I'd recommend one of the scheming types. Think of them as the evil businessmen from kid's cartoons, but on a cosmic scale. They have secret plans for their own enrichment or empowerment, but don't have the clout as the gods, so they have to wheel and deal their way into what they want.

    If you want to go The Inferno, you can do that, too. Keep in mind that you need to establish a dang good reason why they're there, or they're going to come off as sympathetic. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; I'd like to see more stories which point out that torture for eternity is a disproportionate punishment for basically anything. But if the prisoner is a villain, you need to establish why the players should find said prisoner as despicable as Dante found Satan. And while you're at it, figure out how he's the Big Bad when he's imprisoned.

    TL;DR: Figure out what kind of villain you want your demon lord to be and run with it. The middle option is probably the most generally-applicable, but the others can work, too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I like my evil approachable and enticing. What reason would mortal creatures have otherwise to approach devils and their ilk? the devils need souls to generate power for their - well - power plays. Usually no one is insane enough to worship the dark ones, so they are not divine but eldritch or arcane in nature.

    They won't present themselves as master torturers or even particularly evil, but rather generous. We had a LE fallen angel (factually a devil for the setting) that helped our (CN/CG) group out with loads of items. She was responsible for most of our character's wealth. In return she just wanted us to kill and torture the people that corrupted her into this devilish form. No contract needed. My character (the only non good one as well as a Tiefling himself) would have eventually been suckered into being her pet if nothing major (a friend's death or worse) was caused by the devil.

    In fact my character would like to play the devil as much as they try to play him. And I like it that way. No enigmatic visions that the clerics get. No arcane riddles like the wizard knows. But dealings with actually helpful creatures that prey on your soul.

    I don't need devils as the LE version of deities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greymane View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly with Sporeegg. Let the gods be distant and ineffable. Let the demons gnash their teeth and destroy all of creation. The devils? They're here to be your friend. Help you out in a jam, or show you how things ought to be better- for you; but mostly for them.

    Unless the party ends up interacting with one of the Blood War crowd of devils like Gelugons or Barbazu (and even then...), I have them act perfectly friendly and amicable with the party. But that's typically through Falxugons, Erinyes and imps. If I ever wrote an adventure, or the party was foolish ambitious enough, that features interactions with the archfiends, I'd definitely have them act civil enough, maybe even friendly in some cases, to the party. The Fiendesh Codex even gives you a good outline of their various personalities, and they seem personable. For evil incarnations of unbending order.

    Some more than, others, of course, but let's take Bel for example.

    The dude is fighting at the front of the Blood War. He needs powerful magic and manpower, as his forces are outnumbered 20 to 1, and they get by through superior tactics and organization. It pays to treat the mortals carrying enough magic items and magical power to power a small kingdom with civility- maybe you can use them for something? Specialists for a strike on an important demonic position? Send them to collect an artifact from a ruin because you can't spare the men? Etc. And really, by the end of the day, if they're good at doing work for you, maybe you can keep them on. In Bel's Roleplaying entry it even suggests that he gives mortals honest hearings in good faith if they offer to help him, and while he might not gun for corrupting mortals- he's so darn orderly and evil, that it's likely to happen anyway if they just keep hanging around the infernal strategist.

    So there's a guy willing to give the players a fair shake, and at least in my experience, doing a solid for the players, even as minor as being important and hearing them out, or being friendly with them and congratulating them after a job well done- that will get them to think the devils aren't so bad. That's the key.

    I shoehorn devils in as minor players whenever it's reasonable. But especially when the heroes need a helping hand. Because a friend is always there when he's needed most.

    THIS.

    Devils aren't scary because they can tear your arms off - any other great ape can do that to a human. They're terrifying and interesting because they're just so human. They have the same sort of desires we have, they've got a complex society based around a lot of rules that don't immediately make sense, and they understand mortals intimately. People are fully aware that they are going to corrupt them at the first opportunity, and get taken in all the time because they're so empathetic that they cause damnation with straight truth and honesty.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greymane View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly with Sporeegg. Let the gods be distant and ineffable. Let the demons gnash their teeth and destroy all of creation. The devils? They're here to be your friend. Help you out in a jam, or show you how things ought to be better- for you; but mostly for them.

    So there's a guy willing to give the players a fair shake, and at least in my experience, doing a solid for the players, even as minor as being important and hearing them out, or being friendly with them and congratulating them after a job well done- that will get them to think the devils aren't so bad. That's the key.

    I shoehorn devils in as minor players whenever it's reasonable. But especially when the heroes need a helping hand. Because a friend is always there when he's needed most.
    Unless CG is just as equally into humans as LE, I don't really like the (good) gods are distant/useless whilst devils are so nice and personal .
    I feel it's a popular, edgy and such, but I don't think it really fits society to have LG gods be distant while LE's are playing best friend. Society gravitates towards Lawful in general, so it doesn't make sense that LE and LG would have such different stances/ways of dealing with people. LG and LE both have lawful in the sense of 'Vengence is the normal response to a wrong... but the rest of society won't aprove of that' so a more sneaky 'devil approach' could be used by good or evil, but on the otherhand a lot of arguably 'evil' things are the regular law in society, be it planed obsolescence, purposefully misleading dietary guidance, certain kinds of discrimination or lobbying... and with stuff like this, why would a LE outsider need to show up when a LG one doesn't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    Unless CG is just as equally into humans as LE, I don't really like the (good) gods are distant/useless whilst devils are so nice and personal .
    I feel it's a popular, edgy and such, but I don't think it really fits society to have LG gods be distant while LE's are playing best friend. Society gravitates towards Lawful in general, so it doesn't make sense that LE and LG would have such different stances/ways of dealing with people. LG and LE both have lawful in the sense of 'Vengence is the normal response to a wrong... but the rest of society won't aprove of that' so a more sneaky 'devil approach' could be used by good or evil, but on the otherhand a lot of arguably 'evil' things are the regular law in society, be it planed obsolescence, purposefully misleading dietary guidance, certain kinds of discrimination or lobbying... and with stuff like this, why would a LE outsider need to show up when a LG one doesn't.
    Hmmm... Let me take a crack at this one. It's the question of when parents should intercede, vs let children solve their problems. Because showing up makes you dependent, whereas solving your own problems helps your growth.

    I feel Lawful Evil would be happy with a weak populous, too dependent on the government / powers that be / whatever to be willing to risk rocking the boat over some minor ethical squabble. Whereas Lawful Good would want an empowered populous, willing to rock the boat and make large societal changes (say, free the slaves "because it's the right thing do"), trusting society to rebound stronger for their moral choices.

    Could this be a plausible reason for such a difference in approach?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-10-27 at 05:35 AM.

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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    Unless CG is just as equally into humans as LE, I don't really like the (good) gods are distant/useless whilst devils are so nice and personal .
    I feel it's a popular, edgy and such, but I don't think it really fits society to have LG gods be distant while LE's are playing best friend. Society gravitates towards Lawful in general, so it doesn't make sense that LE and LG would have such different stances/ways of dealing with people. LG and LE both have lawful in the sense of 'Vengence is the normal response to a wrong... but the rest of society won't aprove of that' so a more sneaky 'devil approach' could be used by good or evil, but on the otherhand a lot of arguably 'evil' things are the regular law in society, be it planed obsolescence, purposefully misleading dietary guidance, certain kinds of discrimination or lobbying... and with stuff like this, why would a LE outsider need to show up when a LG one doesn't.
    I don't think vengeance as a normal approach is what you mean but I get it. You mean "justice" in any form. But while LG tries to use the system to protect the weak, LE tries to use the system to protect the strong. LN tries to be as correct as humanly possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hmmm... Let me take a crack at this one. It's the question of when parents should intercede, vs let children solve their problems. Because showing up makes you dependent, whereas solving your own problems helps your growth.

    I feel Lawful Evil would be happy with a weak populous, too dependent on the government / powers that be / whatever to be willing to risk rocking the boat over some minor ethical squabble. Whereas Lawful Good would want an empowered populous, willing to rock the boat and make large societal changes (say, free the slaves "because it's the right thing do"), trusting society to rebound stronger for their moral choices.

    Could this be a plausible reason for such a difference in approach?
    I feel like LG wants a balance between the rights and power of the many, and the mandate of the few. A benevolent king that hears his people's pleas but ultimatively still decides on his own is still deeply lawful good. Good because his reign is fair, and good and just, and lawful because the people (have to) accept him as the sole deciding factor on his kingdom's politics.

    Lawful evil in that regard is ruthless and selfish and evil, and lawful because the dictator appointed himself ruler by playing by the book and more often than not, rewriting said book to his whims after he became ruler.

    Politics in motion often cannot be displayed in the static alignment grid and games that use alignment have started with NWN or KOTOR to use alignment as basically a karma point system. LG and LE and somesuch can be applied to your character, but a LE ex-Cleric that fell from LN (with a LG god) because he thought his government is too weak to rule over the chaotic country is completely different to a NE slaver, that came into the possession of a larger influence and has now to play by the book and became LE.

    Said with (largely badly worded) mathematical expressions: The result is not independant of the way it has been achieved. Alignment is shorthand for the CURRENT status but not goals or the immediate future or past.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sporeegg View Post
    I don't think vengeance as a normal approach is what you mean but I get it. You mean "justice" in any form. But while LG tries to use the system to protect the weak, LE tries to use the system to protect the strong. LN tries to be as correct as humanly possible.
    Hmm. In my games, LN means valuing the whole more than the parts -- keeping the peace, even at the expense of the pieces.

    LE means using the system to cause undue suffering. It's not just about protecting the strong, it's about using the system to harm everyone you don't personally care about (which might just be yourself).

    LG might value tradition, but the primary concern is helping everyone. It's a peace kept for the pieces. It's a rising tide that actually does lift all boats. LG might protect the strong, if protecting the strong is compatible with protecting everyone -- for example, a level 1 Warrior foot-soldier jumping in front of a disintegrate ray to protect a silver dragon ally, that's protecting the strong but it's not even slightly Evil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    Unless CG is just as equally into humans as LE, I don't really like the (good) gods are distant/useless whilst devils are so nice and personal .
    I feel it's a popular, edgy and such...
    It's not popular because it's "edgy," it's popular because having benevolent gods ready and willing to swoop in and solve mortal problems tends to short-circuit most stories. You need to explain why the gods aren't fixing every little problem, and it's hard to do that without them coming off as either cold and distant or just plain jerks.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hmmm... Let me take a crack at this one. It's the question of when parents should intercede, vs let children solve their problems.
    Problem: Either the gods see each of their followers as "their child," at which point most conflict is snuffed out because just about any conflict with significant stakes would be a good time to intercede; or the gods see entire cultures as "their child," at which point they go back to being aloof and distant from the individuals within those cultures.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    LE means using the system to cause undue suffering. It's not just about protecting the strong, it's about using the system to harm everyone you don't personally care about (which might just be yourself).
    I don't like limiting Evil to "do harm for harm's sake". It's certainly Evil, but it's not a very plausible kind of evil. That's part of why I like digging into the motivations behind fiends, and often end up making them the victims of higher powers. (It's not that much of a stretch; the primary source material is little more than a big perspective shift away from treating demons and the Devil like victims of an all-powerful bully.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    Problem: Either the gods see each of their followers as "their child," at which point most conflict is snuffed out because just about any conflict with significant stakes would be a good time to intercede; or the gods see entire cultures as "their child," at which point they go back to being aloof and distant from the individuals within those cultures.
    I mean, I suppose that perspective could give an answer then: evil gods view individuals as their children, good gods view cultures as their children.

    Not that I agree with this, mind you, but it would produce those results.

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I don't like limiting Evil to "do harm for harm's sake". It's certainly Evil, but it's not a very plausible kind of evil. That's part of why I like digging into the motivations behind fiends, and often end up making them the victims of higher powers. (It's not that much of a stretch; the primary source material is little more than a big perspective shift away from treating demons and the Devil like victims of an all-powerful bully.)
    Um, I'm confused. Enjoying causing suffering is a very real thing. Bullying because you're bullied is a thing, that you even bring up. So, what, exactly, is it that you want to disconnect between "evil" and "enjoying suffering"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Um, I'm confused. Enjoying causing suffering is a very real thing. Bullying because you're bullied is a thing, that you even bring up. So, what, exactly, is it that you want to disconnect between "evil" and "enjoying suffering"?
    Well, because there isn't a necessary causal flow from "evil" to "enjoys suffering." That's only one specific type of evil, and probably the least interesting from a narrative perspective to boot. It doesn't have any roots in any larger goals or greater plans. And, as a result, for most people there's no real way to understand the villain's motivations, because most of us aren't utterly deranged.

    More interesting, and more common in the real-world analogues from which we draw, is evil that has ends beyond causing suffering. We still object to it--perhaps too many suffer for too little, perhaps the villain is indifferent to the suffering of certain groups, perhaps laudable aims are sustained in a way that requires suffering--but all of this is more easily comprehensible. We've all had to make hard choices and we all have circles of people that we care about more than others, so we can make a closer approach to understanding the motives of the villain for whom suffering is not the aim and motive.

    And when the story has a villain of this latter type, many more options open up. It becomes much more plausible for this villain to be at the head of, or actually be, an organization. The villain can turn out not actually to be evil (or at least not that evil), or can be an acceptable temporary ally against some other threat. And, of course, there's the redemption arc, which just doesn't really work all that well with the sadist.

    In short, when evil doesn't make its end goal suffering, it tends to be narratively both more engaging and more flexible, as well as more plausible. At least I think that's what GWG was going for.
    Last edited by Tajerio; 2018-10-28 at 12:27 AM.

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    Got it in one, Tajero.
    I'm the GWG from Bay12 and a bunch of other places.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    Well, because there isn't a necessary causal flow from "evil" to "enjoys suffering." That's only one specific type of evil, and probably the least interesting from a narrative perspective to boot. It doesn't have any roots in any larger goals or greater plans. And, as a result, for most people there's no real way to understand the villain's motivations, because most of us aren't utterly deranged.
    (...)
    In short, when evil doesn't make its end goal suffering, it tends to be narratively both more engaging and more flexible, as well as more plausible. At least I think that's what GWG was going for.
    1 - The necessary causal arrow is between evil behavior -> evil alignment.

    2 - Evil which fails to perform sufficiently evil behavior is not evil, so you can go ahead and do all those lovely Neutral things and be "narratively engaging and flexible" -- but you can't also be evil, not unless you do evil.


    But sure, you can pick a different evil behavior. Using law to cause undue suffering is my go-to for LE because that's what Hell is like in a large segment of literary representations, including strange Hells like the one from Exalted.

    You just can't be evil without ever behaving in any evil way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Um, I'm confused. Enjoying causing suffering is a very real thing. Bullying because you're bullied is a thing, that you even bring up. So, what, exactly, is it that you want to disconnect between "evil" and "enjoying suffering"?
    Evil need not enjoy causing the suffering of others. Merely be indifferent to it in the pursuit of something else.

    Even on the petty scale, it's more common for people to bully because they enjoy the feeling of power over another rather than directly enjoying the suffering of the other.

    On the grand scale of the cosmological Evil, it can translate into Lords of Hell causing suffering in the Prime Material as a result of internal strife between themselves. By increasing Evil in the world, tempting others into behaviours which will increase suffering, they advance themselves in Hell. They don't really care what happens to the mortals, mortals are temporary anyway, but they do care about their own prestige and position among the Lords, including pre-empting and thwarting each other (so an LE inquisition might be causing untold suffering due to the whisperings of one evil in order to thwart the actions of another. The witches really are there, and they really are up to no good.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    Well, because there isn't a necessary causal flow from "evil" to "enjoys suffering." That's only one specific type of evil, and probably the least interesting from a narrative perspective to boot. It doesn't have any roots in any larger goals or greater plans.
    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    Got it in one, Tajero.
    Hmmm... I suppose that the nature of evil is germane to the thread, so I'll poke at it.

    IMO, "good" and "evil" can (often) perform the same acts, but for different reasons. Good can kill. Evil can kill. Neutral can kill. But it's why they kill, it's the answer to "what's my motivation?" that determines whether an act - and whether an actor - is good or evil.

    A desire to cause suffering is (sadly) not some strange anomaly in human behavior. It is, in fact, present in more or less everyone. Most every child will bite, or hit, or pull the wings off flies, or otherwise exhibit enjoying some form of harmful behavior. Most every bully exemplifies a desire to cause harm. Most teens will launch needlessly vicious verbal attacks, even on friends and family, for no other purpose than to cause harm.

    Or, as Sirius Black said, "We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are."

    Anyone can want to take over the world. Anyone can have larger goals. This is not a sign of the direction one's moral compass points. The question is, why do they want to take over the world? What are they really trying to accomplish? (I mean, I suppose you could try to argue the opposite, that every politician who is in charge of a country is inherently Evil, because there is no reason to have such power except to be Evil, but... we're not going there, right? We believe that one can want to control a massive political body, like a country or a world or an outer plane or a religion, and not be Evil, can do so for fundamentally Good reasons, right?)

    I prefer evil that, when you dig down to its fundamental psychological underpinnings, the answer to "why" is "because it will hurt people" - especially if that's "people that I don't like".

    I prefer good that, when you dig down to its fundamental psychological underpinnings, the answer to "why" is "because it will help people" - even if that's "people that I don't like".

    That's the way I like my Lords of Hell - and my Celestial beings.

    So... let me see if I can make heads or tails of how y'all like your Lords of Hell.

    ...

    Yeah, no, I really can't. I can make what I have to assume are straw men of your positions: you want "evil", including the Lords of Hell, to simply mean "narrative purpose is to be the 'villian'", and say nothing of their moral compass. Or that you want caricatures of Evil, who just randomly "do evil stuff" with no motivation. But I assume that neither of those is even close to your actual positions. So, can you explain to me what you're really trying to say?

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Evil need not enjoy causing the suffering of others. Merely be indifferent to it in the pursuit of something else.

    Even on the petty scale, it's more common for people to bully because they enjoy the feeling of power over another rather than directly enjoying the suffering of the other.
    ... This might be beyond my Psychology training. So let's start really basic. Please explain how enjoying the feeling of power from bullying others meaningfully differs from enjoying the suffering of others.

    Because there are those who bully others when necessary, and clearly enjoy it as much as drinking raw sewage. And there are others who clearly get a thrill out of the act. And those who are so inured to it, that they bully without really feeling the suffering at all. So, from a practical sense, from where I'm standing, enjoying bullying seems, to me, to be identical to enjoying the suffering of others.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    On the grand scale of the cosmological Evil, it can translate into Lords of Hell causing suffering in the Prime Material as a result of internal strife between themselves. By increasing Evil in the world, tempting others into behaviours which will increase suffering, they advance themselves in Hell. They don't really care what happens to the mortals, mortals are temporary anyway, but they do care about their own prestige and position among the Lords, including pre-empting and thwarting each other (so an LE inquisition might be causing untold suffering due to the whisperings of one evil in order to thwart the actions of another. The witches really are there, and they really are up to no good.)
    I mean, sure, the suffering you are feeling may well be incidental to a particular Evil (or even Good) agent. One cannot measure the moral compass of a being by whether or not it has made you suffer. So how is the fact that the Lords of Evil may not even be aware that you exist in any way relevant?

    The idea that they just care about the amount of Evil in the world is intriguing. It gives them a fairly alien mindset, like the war between "good" and evil" is just a battle between "green" and "purple", which somehow matters to them for some ineffable reason that is just inherent to their very being. It makes a harsh divide between beings of matter, beings of free will (ie, the PCs), and those of spirit (the Outsiders).

    I don't think I'd do this in any game where that central conflict - either between Green and Purple, or between Natives and Outsiders - wasn't intended to be the focus of the campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    1 - The necessary causal arrow is between evil behavior -> evil alignment.

    2 - Evil which fails to perform sufficiently evil behavior is not evil, so you can go ahead and do all those lovely Neutral things and be "narratively engaging and flexible" -- but you can't also be evil, not unless you do evil.


    But sure, you can pick a different evil behavior. Using law to cause undue suffering is my go-to for LE because that's what Hell is like in a large segment of literary representations, including strange Hells like the one from Exalted.

    You just can't be evil without ever behaving in any evil way.
    I have to disagree. Actions are inherently neutral - it is those acted upon who (somewhat arbitrarily) label the actions "good" or "evil". And I prefer to view it as the "why" that determines whether an action is "colored" "good" or "evil". Saving someone's life because "it's the right thing to do" has a different feel than saving them because "you want to be the one to kill them", "this death doesn't involve them / their family suffering enough", or "this death won't profit you as much as their survival".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hmmm... I suppose that the nature of evil is germane to the thread, so I'll poke at it.

    IMO, "good" and "evil" can (often) perform the same acts, but for different reasons. Good can kill. Evil can kill. Neutral can kill. But it's why they kill, it's the answer to "what's my motivation?" that determines whether an act - and whether an actor - is good or evil.

    (...)

    I prefer evil that, when you dig down to its fundamental psychological underpinnings, the answer to "why" is "because it will hurt people" - especially if that's "people that I don't like".

    I prefer good that, when you dig down to its fundamental psychological underpinnings, the answer to "why" is "because it will help people" - even if that's "people that I don't like".

    That's the way I like my Lords of Hell - and my Celestial beings.

    So... let me see if I can make heads or tails of how y'all like your Lords of Hell.

    ...

    Yeah, no, I really can't. I can make what I have to assume are straw men of your positions: you want "evil", including the Lords of Hell, to simply mean "narrative purpose is to be the 'villian'", and say nothing of their moral compass. Or that you want caricatures of Evil, who just randomly "do evil stuff" with no motivation. But I assume that neither of those is even close to your actual positions. So, can you explain to me what you're really trying to say?
    The short answer, for my part, is that I don't like the Lords of Hell. They do fit your definitions above--motive alone determines morality, and the evil motive of preference is "to cause pain and suffering"--but because they fit those definitions, they've got no fundamental nuance or ambiguity to them. And I'm not very fond of telling stories in which the villain is unquestionably and unrelievedly evil. That, in turn, is because I strongly disagree with both of your definitions. I think they represent only a kind of evil, and miss out on the vast majority of phenomena that could be deservedly described as evil. And I like my stories, even when everything else in and around them is fantasy, to be grounded on how I understand people to be in our world.

    If I did use the Lords of Hell, though, I'd play them straight. But I'd probably keep them in the background, and let some more readily comprehensible villain take center stage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couatl View Post
    TL;DR: What kind of Lords of the Hellish planes do you prefer - active and personalized or depersonalized and mysterious?
    I wouldn't pull too much from Christian hell, it exist in a universe where the good side won and is supreme and could more less just be a metaphor for God ignoring you.

    Now D&D Hell, Lawful orderly soul collection for greater power and discipline make for great antagonists. They have a plan and the heroes can stop it even if they couldn't kill the ruler. Things like the Abyss are harder to deal with because the rulers are rulers by sheer might so they can't be toppled or really more than inconvenienced by anything short of killing them.

    Though the D&D Abyss makes for great high level Sword and Sorcery setting where each plane is treated like it's own city state. If you mess with one part of D&D Hell, all of D&D Hell knows about it and probably cares. D&D Abyssal Lords would sooner kill each other as kill you, so the party is free to go nuts!

    Want to behave like CE characters, but still be the Good Guys? Visit the abyss and channel your inner smite happy paladin.

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