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

    Just a short thought snippet that came up tonight in connection to my Pathfinder LN Asmodeus worshipper. Sometimes, people just want strong people in charge to avoid chaos. My character's mantra is the stability of the country and the government over all, if that means worshipping devils then so be it. You always know where you are with devils. There is some kind of safety in Lawful Evil - and a tad bit of Stockholm Syndrome. :)
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    Default Re: Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I have to disagree. Actions are inherently neutral - it is those acted upon who (somewhat arbitrarily) label the actions "good" or "evil".
    Every edition of D&D which I've checked -- 1e, 3.5e, 5e -- seems to disagree with you.

    Actions do have alignments, based on intention and outcome.

    If intention didn't matter, then Atonement for evil actions would not cost differently for unintentional acts.

    If intention were the only thing that mattered, the Atonement for evil actions wouldn't be necessary for unintentional acts.

    Acts can be chaotic or evil; lawful or good. Actions do have alignments, and performing enough actions of a specific alignment is how you take on that alignment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    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.
    I find utility in using them as plot elements -- you know that this guy wants horrible things to happen (to everyone, including you), but he's here right now offering you assistance. It will come at a price. Who will pay that price, and can you come out ahead in spite of his best efforts?

    And then your competition, the former "honorable foe" faction against whom the PCs had been competing, gets supernatural aid from some other evil. Can you afford to go against them alone? Will getting the devil's help be worse than not?

    These can be interesting questions, and in my experience the devils don't need to be morally nuanced to retain this utility.

    PCs doing things which they know are a bad idea seems fairly common in games I've seen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhedyn View Post
    I wouldn't pull too much from Christian hell
    I mean, which version?

    Aside from being a bad idea to discuss real religions, I'd say that there are too many literary variants (even enough variants within the Good Book) that just using that moniker is going to be ambiguous.

    My advice would be to pick a specific fictional literary hell -- Dante's hell, for example -- rather than try to lump all of them under the religion. Plus you won't get post-scrubbed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    ... 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.
    It's the context of the personal relationship between the bully and the victim. If you presented the average bully with a random person to kick in the balls they wouldn't do it just to hurt someone because hurting people makes them feel good (though there are absolutely people who would do that because hurting people does make them feel good).

    The majority of bullies want the social relationship of power, and often to be seen wielding that power.

    (Sadly the most shining example is unavailable due to encroaching on real world politics).
    Last edited by GloatingSwine; 2018-10-29 at 06:07 PM.

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    My preference is that Demon Lords are essentially demi-gods who gain power from being in their home bases, and that connection can be hijacked if they leave. So Demon Lords put forward millenia long plans to get each other to act, because they know if they can force each other to be personally involved they can be killed or usurped.

    Most of their plots involving mortals or hell are really aimed at each other, so you can't do much to bother them.

    Demogorgon might spend centuries constructing an artifact that can open a permanent portal to hell, then have it be "lost" in the prime material plane. It corrupts the world around it, so a group of heroes decide to move it to the Abyss so the devils will lose interest in them. The Blood War opens up on the flank of one of Orcus' richer realms. Orcus has to either allow Bel to ruin a large portion of his powerbase or interfere directly, allowing one of Demogorgon's allies to seize his crappiest layer. Orcus turns around and kills that ally, whose realm then defaults to Demogorgon.

    Basically Demon Lords are interested only in the Game, but they have nearly infinite time to put circuitous gambits into play.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    ... 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.
    One could be satisfied by getting that feeling of power in other ways that don't promote suffering. The other could not. And there are ways to feel powerful that don't involve real people suffering. You can feel powerful by running for student council and winning, for instance; that doesn't harm anyone, but it still empowers you. It just takes more work. But someone who just enjoys others' suffering can't enjoy that without someone suffering, by definition.
    TL;DR: It's a matter of flexibility.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    I find utility in using them as plot elements -- you know that this guy wants horrible things to happen (to everyone, including you), but he's here right now offering you assistance. It will come at a price. Who will pay that price, and can you come out ahead in spite of his best efforts?
    It's true that a flat, boring, 2-dimensional capital-E villain with no particular reason for antagonizing all the good people in the world doesn't automatically doom a story to being terrible. The fact that such villains can exist in a functioning story is not the same as them being not-boring; it just means they don't always distract from the interesting stuff.
    Can you describe a story where having a plain Evil villain like that would be better than giving them at least a little depth?

    My advice would be to pick a specific fictional literary hell -- Dante's hell, for example -- rather than try to lump all of them under the religion. Plus you won't get post-scrubbed.
    Wait, would discussing Dante's Inferno be kosher under current forum rules? It's not an official book of religious canon, but it's definitely a religious book (and not in the allegorical way Narnia is).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    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.
    Can you give examples of what you consider Evil that are not fundamentally grounded in causing harm?

    Killing, as an extreme example, is, like all actions, inherently neutral. Animals kill, and they're neutral. Earthquakes kill, and they're neutral. Most would agree that killing in self defense is at worst neutral, and that killing Evil things, like the devil or Hitler, is Good.

    So what makes an action Evil that is not, at its heart, motivated by hurting others? What forms of evil do you find interesting to explore, and that you believe account for the majority of the evil in the world, that are unaccounted for under my definitions?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Can you give examples of what you consider Evil that are not fundamentally grounded in causing harm?

    Killing, as an extreme example, is, like all actions, inherently neutral. Animals kill, and they're neutral. Earthquakes kill, and they're neutral. Most would agree that killing in self defense is at worst neutral, and that killing Evil things, like the devil or Hitler, is Good.

    So what makes an action Evil that is not, at its heart, motivated by hurting others? What forms of evil do you find interesting to explore, and that you believe account for the majority of the evil in the world, that are unaccounted for under my definitions?
    Sure. Let's say we have a king who has a lavish lifestyle and likes to build palaces, and is consequently in financial straits. But just across the border, the neighboring kingdom has a stretch of silver mines. So the king, after proclaiming the appropriate fig leaves about rights and claims, declares war. Hundreds of people die, hundreds more are injured, but at the end, the king has his silver mines. For me, that's evil, but the motive of harming others is absent.

    Or let's say we have a countess who's got a river running through her lands, but no lake. That's a shame, because she'd really like to have a castle on a lake. So one day she gets a druid to cast a few spells, and now she's got a dam. The river backs up into a lake, and the people who live within its span have to run for it or drown, and either way they've lost their homes. Evil again, but not from the desire to harm others.

    And what about that druid? Well, she was a nixie, and she wanted to make more space for her clan to live without being bothered by humans. The countess's deal seemed like the perfect way to get some more space while being protected from human retaliation. She figured that the humans mostly didn't live that close to the river, and in any case the waters wouldn't rise that fast. So she went ahead and cast the spells. Same deal.

    Generally, people do evil unto others because those others are lower on their scale of caring than those who benefit from the deed. Selfishness, tribalism, and indifference are much more reliable motivators of evil than is a pure desire to do harm, and I've tried to illustrate that without using real-world examples so as not to run afoul of board rules. I'll note also that this understanding allows for the possibility of the same person doing both good and evil while not being essentially either, to which your Sirius Black quotation from earlier alluded. The Lords of Hell don't have that. They can't intentionally do good. And for me, that makes them boring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    I mean, which version?

    Aside from being a bad idea to discuss real religions, I'd say that there are too many literary variants (even enough variants within the Good Book) that just using that moniker is going to be ambiguous.

    My advice would be to pick a specific fictional literary hell -- Dante's hell, for example -- rather than try to lump all of them under the religion. Plus you won't get post-scrubbed.
    Variants come more from vague text than anything else. The exact details aren't important so they are not made clear.

    Dante's inferno is a decent enough fictional depiction, but as an adversary, that Hell is pretty useless. There are no armies or vile forces arraying to destroy/corrupt the Heavens and Earth. You have the subjugated damned and nothing else.

    Now if we wanted to go with a more creative interpretation of Hell being considered hell in comparison to heaven, then that opens up a wide array of options. The central problem though is in every variant of Christian hell, Hell has already lost and is not a significant cosmological force. And I am not talking about just in the D&D 3.5 sense where the 9 Hells and the Abyss just lack deities in a universe stuffed to the brim with deities.

    Typically fantasy that wants to pull more from the Mythology side of Christianity (things like Dante's inferno, Kabbalah, Zohar, Paradise Lost, etc.) will also take steps to establish why the big G isn't solving all problems. He left, he doesn't care, this is part of his plan, etc. Some, especially Japanese fiction (like Shin Megami Tensei), will do things like depowering God and/or making him evil/too-good/smite-happy. The issue is, you have to address it some way. Like how in Boruto, you have to address that Naruto exist and you want to follow a protagonist that isn't anywhere nearly as strong, or in DC you have to justify what Superman is doing when anyone else has a big problem. You have to contrive tension when one-sided unstoppable Good forces exist in a universe. (It's part of why Injustice is such a good comic line, Superman stops being good and thus the whole setting is more interesting).

    Like take a moment to imagine a D&D campaign where Pelor is the only god and the party wants to invade Hell. OK sure, hell has Devil Lords and Pitfiends, but the most powerful entity in the multiverse has your back. How much harder is it to build tension now? Why didn't Pelor destroy the 9 Hells? If he is limited by power, then why haven't the 9 Hells destroyed him?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    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.
    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.
    I like these. I do think Hell has a really good front desk. It's a mob-run pawn shop/payday loan/bail bonds kind of business with marble flooring. For the poor third-level fighter, it's a massively wealthy and powerful institution with the ability to save them from seemingly any tight spot, and for the twentieth-level (evil) wizard, it's an interesting investment opportunity that sometimes comes up with neat unique loot.


    I think demon lords and dukes of hell are supposed to be the more approachable versions of evil deities. Unlike deities, they don't run on a divine, domain-based power source, but on a planar essence-based power source--demons are literally extensions of the Abyss, yugoloths are spawned by Gehanna, devils are... a special case, but closely associated with Hell. They're easy to understand from the perspective of a humanoid in a kingdom, group of tribes, imperial bureaucracy, etcetera--any society with a concept of "this is our land". Deities are somehow associated with--and critically important to--"every journey you take" (Fharlanghn) or "every secret you know" (Vecna) which is a lot less understandable, and a lot more creepy, in my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So what makes an action Evil that is not, at its heart, motivated by hurting others? What forms of evil do you find interesting to explore, and that you believe account for the majority of the evil in the world, that are unaccounted for under my definitions?
    Actions that are indifferent to the suffering of others.

    Causing suffering because you simply don't care enough to prevent it as a consequence of an action that benefits you or people like you.

    Most people aren't motivated by hurting others, but a hell of a lot of people don't care enough not to. And certainly by alignment rules that sort of callous disregard is Evil.
    Last edited by GloatingSwine; 2018-10-30 at 09:44 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    It's true that a flat, boring, 2-dimensional capital-E villain with no particular reason for antagonizing all the good people in the world doesn't automatically doom a story to being terrible. The fact that such villains can exist in a functioning story is not the same as them being not-boring; it just means they don't always distract from the interesting stuff.
    Can you describe a story where having a plain Evil villain like that would be better than giving them at least a little depth?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    I find utility in using them as plot elements -- you know that this guy wants horrible things to happen (to everyone, including you), but he's here right now offering you assistance. It will come at a price. Who will pay that price, and can you come out ahead in spite of his best efforts?

    And then your competition, the former "honorable foe" faction against whom the PCs had been competing, gets supernatural aid from some other evil. Can you afford to go against them alone? Will getting the devil's help be worse than not?

    These can be interesting questions, and in my experience the devils don't need to be morally nuanced to retain this utility.
    ... ah-ha, did you read that last line and somehow miss half the words?

    Moral nuance isn't the only kind of nuance, obviously.

    I can create morally straightforward evil which has non-moral nuances -- and in fact that's what I do.

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    Now this is one hell of a ramble and I understand if you do not read it all. But it gets thd idea out of my head.

    My take on Devils, and the Lords of Hell, is that they focus on the Big Picture, at the expense of the pieces. Evil arises when you treat peopld as things.

    My cosmology starts with a Creation War that is essentially the divide between Law and Chaos. Law in this state is more Creative, versus Chaos simply becaus Chaos is essential Entropy at this stage, and seeks to disperse everything into one ocean of energy. Individual Demons only arisd by being defined by Law.

    In time, Law divides itself between those that hold back Chaos, those that maintain relations with Neutral forces (the Wilds and the Elements, and those that seek to nurture life. These develop into LE, LN, and LG as defined by inhabitants of the Prime Material Plane. Outsiders serve in one form, as definitions of aspects of the multiverse, including these alignmdnt forces.

    So the LE devils see the Blood War as a seige, and see the Prime as a source of resources from which they could potentially use to sally forth from and slay the Abyss, as once they hold the power to define reality (master the other Planes), they would have the power to render the Abyss as impotent.

    But doing so, from the Good side of things means that you lose sight of why the war is fought in the first place. And Neutral powers are too scattered for a concerted effort, even if they cared.

    As for why they couldn't win the war in the beginning? It's because mortal life was created as a means of gaining power through worship and soul generation. All these millenia later, and there actually is enough power available to decisively win the conflict, but now everything is more divided to make such an effort nigh impossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Actions that are indifferent to the suffering of others.
    Actions that are genuinely indifferent to the suffering of others are Neutral. Like hurricanes and earthquakes.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Causing suffering because you simply don't care enough to prevent it as a consequence of an action that benefits you or people like you.
    Sure, dumping toxic waste in the river to increase your profit margins because you can, when you know it will harm others, is Evil. And it doesn't require getting off on harming others. Fair enough. It just requires "harming others" to not have a sufficiently large negative value... unless you count "greed" as having a root cause of "harming others". So, it depends on how deep you go as to whether it's one motive or several.

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Most people aren't motivated by hurting others, but a hell of a lot of people don't care enough not to. And certainly by alignment rules that sort of callous disregard is Evil.
    Is it? Or is it Neutral? I guess it depends on the harm, and the awareness? Murder animals, just because you're hungry? That's neutral, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    Sure. Let's say we have a king who has a lavish lifestyle and likes to build palaces, and is consequently in financial straits. But just across the border, the neighboring kingdom has a stretch of silver mines. So the king, after proclaiming the appropriate fig leaves about rights and claims, declares war. Hundreds of people die, hundreds more are injured, but at the end, the king has his silver mines. For me, that's evil, but the motive of harming others is absent.
    I guess this depends on whether you view his greed as, deep down, being motivated by desiring to harm others. (If everyone has a palace, and he needs a bigger palace, then, yes, I call that desire to be better than others as having the same roots). But, even if you don't go that deep, or if he somehow has greed not motivated by a desire to hurt others, then it's an issue of "harming others" not having a sufficiently negative value - especially if there are demonstrably other ways to accomplish the same goal that he passed up.

    So, to me, we're probably saying the same thing, but in different ways. But, I admit, your way of looking at it is probably better - or, at least, easier for most people, and therefore better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    Or let's say we have a countess who's got a river running through her lands, but no lake. That's a shame, because she'd really like to have a castle on a lake. So one day she gets a druid to cast a few spells, and now she's got a dam. The river backs up into a lake, and the people who live within its span have to run for it or drown, and either way they've lost their homes. Evil again, but not from the desire to harm others.
    So, this is either amazing ignorance, or not placing a sufficiently negative value on harming others.

    ... I guess, like Neutral being willing to kill animals just because they're hungry, if the countess views the peasants as "not people", then she only has a compunction against harming "real people". Much like the PC/NPC distinction seen at many tables.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    And what about that druid? Well, she was a nixie, and she wanted to make more space for her clan to live without being bothered by humans. The countess's deal seemed like the perfect way to get some more space while being protected from human retaliation. She figured that the humans mostly didn't live that close to the river, and in any case the waters wouldn't rise that fast. So she went ahead and cast the spells. Same deal.
    I like your motivations. I'm not certain that they're Evil, though. Imagine a Celestian Beaver building that same dam, completely ignorant of the existence of the the town upstream. Same effect, different reasoning. And a Good creature performing a Neutral act.

    Or a half-Tarrasque Dire Beaver, vaguely aware of the town of humans and the consequences of its actions, but, with its animal intelligence, not caring, and building it anyway. Same effect, different reasoning. A Neutral creature performing a Neutral act.

    I suppose that, Druids casting off Wisdom, a Neutral Druid who was aware of the situation may at least ask the countess if she's aware that the flooding will endanger the homes if not lives of the peasants, but, being a Druid, should probably be fine with culling the weak if the countess acknowledges the fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    Generally, people do evil unto others because those others are lower on their scale of caring than those who benefit from the deed. Selfishness, tribalism, and indifference are much more reliable motivators of evil than is a pure desire to do harm, and I've tried to illustrate that without using real-world examples so as not to run afoul of board rules. I'll note also that this understanding allows for the possibility of the same person doing both good and evil while not being essentially either, to which your Sirius Black quotation from earlier alluded. The Lords of Hell don't have that. They can't intentionally do good. And for me, that makes them boring.
    I... actually have a hard time imagining playing a character who literally can't intentionally do good. To me, that challenge sounds quite interesting!

    As a narrative element... as a player, trying to Death Note them out of existence by forcing them to choose the lesser of two goods sounds quite entertaining, too!

    I'm still working on working my way to your PoV on DMing such a beast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Can you give examples of what you consider Evil that are not fundamentally grounded in causing harm?
    ...
    So what makes an action Evil that is not, at its heart, motivated by hurting others?
    These two statements both seem to indicate what you think Evil is, but they indicate different things. The first suggests that Evil is based around your actions harming people, while the second is based around harming people for the sake of harming people.
    If you believe Evil is consequence-based, ie that it's based on whether your actions hurt more than they help or vise versa, then I agree with you (or close enough that there's no point arguing). But if you believe Evil is intent-based, ie that it's only evil if you hurt people to hurt people, then I'd argue that your definition is far too narrow to incorporate much real-world evil.
    Take the case of Josef Fritzl, which I'd argue is about as close to textbook Evul as you're going to find in the real world. I won't discuss the details here, but I don't think Josef did what he did because he wanted to hurt his daughter and other children/grandchildren; he did it because he didn't care about hurting them. This is an important distinction, though it might sound trivial. Equating not caring about people we hurt to wanting to hurt them is not only ridiculous, it makes us all evil; we all have negative effects on people who we never meet and hence have no reason to care about.
    So what if apathy and malice are distinct? Well, even most standard Evil Villains are driven by apathy as much as malice. No corrupt corporate executive this side of a Captain Planet villain wants to hurt the world just to hurt the world; they just don't care how much they hurt the world if it lets them keep their job and line their pockets. Does this make them not evil? A cultist who drains the resources and health of his flock to keep the church running isn't trying to hurt them, just prioritizing the church over the good of its congregation. Heck, even Hitler was doing his thing more to protect the security and racial purity of the German people than because he wanted to hurt the Jews; at the point where someone can even make an argument that Hitler isn't evil under a given epistemology, you need to re-evaluate your epistemology.

    TL;DR: I can't give examples of evil that aren't grounded in harm, but that's not the same as examples that aren't motivated by doing harm.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Sure, dumping toxic waste in the river to increase your profit margins because you can, when you know it will harm others, is Evil. And it doesn't require getting off on harming others. Fair enough. It just requires "harming others" to not have a sufficiently large negative value... unless you count "greed" as having a root cause of "harming others". So, it depends on how deep you go as to whether it's one motive or several.
    Greed is a bad thing because it harms others, but it is not motivated by a desire to harm others. Your arguments seem to consistently (though, I assume, unintentionally) conflate results with motivation, ie, assume that everything that happens as a result of someone's actions was considered desirable to them.
    But, well, nobody works like that. You would need to be omnipotent (and probably omniscient) to always only get what you wanted out of your actions, with no unwanted side effects. Anyone below that power evel has to accept that sometimes their actions will have consequences they didn't want. Evil is in what consequences you accept, and for what reason.

    I guess this depends on whether you view his greed as, deep down, being motivated by desiring to harm others. (If everyone has a palace, and he needs a bigger palace, then, yes, I call that desire to be better than others as having the same roots).
    How is a desire to be better than others equivalent to a desire to harm others? One involves making yourself better, the other involves making others worse. Life isn't a zero-sum game, the two aren't even close to related.


    I like your motivations. I'm not certain that they're Evil, though. Imagine a Celestian Beaver building that same dam, completely ignorant of the existence of the the town upstream. Same effect, different reasoning. And a Good creature performing a Neutral act.
    1. Just because you define your hypothetical example to be done by a celestial being doesn't let you change the morality of an action. I'm not sure why that matters.
    2. Ignorance is a critical component that you're just kind of handwaving. Intentionally destroying land is, of course, worse than accidentally doing so. (This is, incidentally, one of the points where I disagree with a strictly consequential moral epistemology.)
    In short, this example is completely unlike Tajerio's, and hence needs a much stronger argument to connect it to his.



    Quote Originally Posted by Rhedyn View Post
    Like take a moment to imagine a D&D campaign where Pelor is the only god and the party wants to invade Hell. OK sure, hell has Devil Lords and Pitfiends, but the most powerful entity in the multiverse has your back. How much harder is it to build tension now? Why didn't Pelor destroy the 9 Hells? If he is limited by power, then why haven't the 9 Hells destroyed him?
    Because the Hells are underground, and Pelor only has power where the Sun shines. That's why evil monsters are nocturnal.
    ...I meant that as a joke, but it makes way too much sense.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Why are you quoting me to argue against something I didn't say?
    That's not even close to ... ah-ha, did you read that last line and somehow miss half the words?
    Moral nuance isn't the only kind of nuance, obviously.
    I can create morally straightforward evil which has non-moral nuances -- and in fact that's what I do.
    I didn't miss half the words in the last line. I understand that devils don't need to be morally-nuanced to make them interesting. My question is simple: Are they more interesting due to lacking moral nuance?
    You were talking as if it was a positive quality in a story, rather than one which wasn't always needed. I agree with the latter, but not the former.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I didn't miss half the words in the last line. I understand that devils don't need to be morally-nuanced to make them interesting. My question is simple: Are they more interesting due to lacking moral nuance?
    You were talking as if it was a positive quality in a story, rather than one which wasn't always needed. I agree with the latter, but not the former.
    If the ~only~possible~ opponents were Lords of Hell, then you might have a point about wanting some of them to have ambiguous morality (or whatever). But fortunately, the Lords of Hell are not the only monster at my disposal. I can have blatantly evil pie and eat my morally ambiguous cake, too. Making the Lords of Hell unambiguous doesn't mean that my game will lack ambiguity, which seems to be the mistake you're making.

    So anyway, yes: having some unambiguous evil available as one type of NPC is more useful than having only ambiguous NPCs which can't be easily judged. It allows me to very clearly communicate with players. I don't need to spend extra time telling them that any particular Lord of Hell is a bad person. I don't need to tell them that any deal offered by a Lord of Hell will compromise them morally, nor that it will be intended to have negative consequences.

    Armed with that certainty, they can engage in encounters with such unambiguously immoral NPCs -- making deals with the devils when they suspect the devils would prefer something more negative happen to the PC's enemies, for example. Paying a cost to advance Hell's agenda, because doing so will advance the PC's agenda more (or so the PC hopes).


    Ambiguity can be useful. Clarity can be useful. Having only one or the other is not as useful as having access to both. That seems to be the source of your confusion: you see one antagonist and you assume that it's the only antagonist in the game. The only useless thing in this discussion is that false-binary assumption of yours.

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    @GWG & Co

    So, I've been trying to decide if we're saying the same thing differently, or saying different things. I think that the answer is both, depending on the scenario.

    In short, I consider things like greed, which causes emotional harm in others by engendering jealousy, to still be fundamentally founded in a desire to cause harm. So it's understandable that I see this umbrella of "fundamentally rooted in a desire to cause harm" as larger than most.

    ---

    On an unrelated note, I really like Nifft's statements about "unambiguous evil". I might implement a few of the details differently, but that simple statement encapsulates something fundamentally important about how I prefer my Lords of Hell. Kudos!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Actions that are genuinely indifferent to the suffering of others are Neutral. Like hurricanes and earthquakes.
    Natural processes are in no way comparable to volitonal actions. If someone knows that an action will cause harm but does it anyway because they don't care, and they do that on a consistent basis over a significant period of time, or when the harms are particularly great, then their alignment would be Evil not Neutral.

    Is it? Or is it Neutral? I guess it depends on the harm, and the awareness? Murder animals, just because you're hungry? That's neutral, right?
    Depends how it's done. Do it with reasonable effort to minimise the suffering of the animal, then it is Neutral. Do it without awareness of the harm done to the animal (for instance as another animal) then it is Neutral. Kill animals that you know are capable of suffering and don't make a reasonable effort to minimise that suffering in the kill when you could do so but don't care, the less reputable Outer Planes are on the other line and they've got an offer you might be interested in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    So anyway, yes: having some unambiguous evil available as one type of NPC is more useful than having only ambiguous NPCs which can't be easily judged. It allows me to very clearly communicate with players. I don't need to spend extra time telling them that any particular Lord of Hell is a bad person. I don't need to tell them that any deal offered by a Lord of Hell will compromise them morally, nor that it will be intended to have negative consequences.
    I'd argue that you can have an unambiguous antagonist without having two-dimensional evil-for-evil's-sake. Take Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender; she obviously needs to be stopped, no doubt about it, but she's clearly a victim of the Fire Lord as much as anyone else. You can understand why she's evil in a way you can't with an "I'm just evil" villain, without needing to ask "Do we need to stop this guy?"

    Ambiguity can be useful. Clarity can be useful. Having only one or the other is not as useful as having access to both. That seems to be the source of your confusion: you see one antagonist and you assume that it's the only antagonist in the game. The only useless thing in this discussion is that false-binary assumption of yours.
    I am not assuming that there's only one antagonist in a game. I'm assuming that there's only one antagonist in an...antagonist. I see no reason that replacing a Pure Evul Monster antagonist with a similarly-unambiguous but deeper villain would make the plot worse.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    In short, I consider things like greed, which causes emotional harm in others by engendering jealousy, to still be fundamentally founded in a desire to cause harm. So it's understandable that I see this umbrella of "fundamentally rooted in a desire to cause harm" as larger than most.
    I don't see greed as a desire to induce jealousy in others. I see it as a desire to have stuff, without considering the effects that having that stuff has on other people. Also, when considering said effects on other people, jealousy isn't even on the list; I focus more on things like neglect of friends and family, the tragedy of the commons, fraud, etc. If you can sate your greed without harming others beyond people wanting to be like you, I consider that to be no worse than sating your lust with consensual stuff (which only "harms" other people that want to sleep with your SO).
    The idea that greed is bad because it inspires jealousy is...unusual. I'd like to hear more about it.
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    Ah, thank you very much GreatWyrmGold, you obviously live up to that name with your intelligence and wisdom with that post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I'd argue that you can have an unambiguous antagonist without having two-dimensional evil-for-evil's-sake.
    Since I'm advocating the former, and the latter is just your straw man, I think you're unwillingly agreeing with what I said originally -- except you keep trying to pin that straw man on me, and I'm not going to allow that.


    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    Take Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender; she obviously needs to be stopped, no doubt about it, but she's clearly a victim of the Fire Lord as much as anyone else. You can understand why she's evil in a way you can't with an "I'm just evil" villain, without needing to ask "Do we need to stop this guy?"
    Not sure anyone would pick Azula as a Lord of Hell, but I'm hardly an expert on that series so maybe someone would.

    Why do you think Azula would be considered a Lord of Hell, and how would she be more useful in that role than the usual Lords of Hell?


    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I am not assuming that there's only one antagonist in a game. I'm assuming that there's only one antagonist in an...antagonist. I see no reason that replacing a Pure Evul Monster antagonist with a similarly-unambiguous but deeper villain would make the plot worse.
    Again with the straw man.

    1) Your flashback sob-story doesn't make Asmodeus ~deeper~ just because he's parading around his victimhood while murdering orphans with evil puppies (and I guess your hellhounds also get flashback sob-stories so they're ~deep~ evil murder puppies).

    If Asmodeus wears a flag, he's doing so for evil reasons. If he paints himself as the victim, he's doing so for evil reasons. If you show sympathy, you might be giving team evil an opening. Don't apply mortal morals to a Lord of Hell -- as tempting as it is to anthropomorphize everything, doing so can lead to your ruin. He's good at that. He's had aeons of practice on smarter fools than you.

    He may have reasons for being evil, but they're not mortal reasons since he's not a mortal. Furthermore, turning him into a mortal wouldn't make him more useful -- mortal antagonist already fill that niche.

    So if you want a redeemable antagonist, use a mortal.

    But if you want an implacable evil, a morally immovable rock that is working towards the death of truth and beauty, an inexorable hate that desires the ruination all that is good? That's when you reach for a Lord of Hell.


    2) Lack of ambiguity doesn't make the game shallow, it makes the game possible. I mean seriously, imagine if all antagonists were ambiguous in multiple ways...

    DM: "You see a great wyrm (gold) on a dais."

    Player: "Great! We wave hello and ask diplomatically if we can intrude."

    DM: "Okay, so you're totally surprised by the blow dart."

    Player: "What?"

    DM: "Yeah and it gets sneak attack too. You take 17 damage."

    Player: "Why would a great wyrm (gold) sneak attack us with a blow dart?"

    DM: "Great wyrm (gold) means a small, evil, and stupid humanoid who is good at traps and trickery."

    Player: "That sounds like a kobold. Why would you use a name that has an obvious pre-existing meaning to mean something very different? That's frustratingly misleading."

    DM: "Well if size and morality and type were unambiguous then all villains would be 2D and boring. Isn't this so much ~deeper~ as an encounter, rather than meeting something you would recognize and have useful expectations about already?"

    Player: "Uh, no."

    DM: "Whatever. Roll initiative and gimme a Fort save for the poison."

    == later ==

    DM: "You see a chair."

    Player: "I sit on the chair."

    DM: "Ha ha, the chair was an open pit, you take 20d6 falling damage. Isn't that ~deeper~ than an unambiguous chair?"

    Player: "Screw you, I quit."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Since I'm advocating the former, and the latter is just your straw man, I think you're unwillingly agreeing with what I said originally -- except you keep trying to pin that straw man on me, and I'm not going to allow that.
    This would have landed better if not for your subsequent summoning of a Dire Strawman in your own post.
    Last edited by Tajerio; 2018-10-30 at 05:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    This would have landed better if not for your subsequent summoning of a Dire Strawman in your own post.
    I think you're talking about the dialog at the end -- is that correct?

    That's not a straw man because I'm not accusing GWG of holding the DM's position.

    What I'm doing is using parody to demonstrate why the foundation of GWG's argument is flawed. He argues that ambiguity makes antagonists deeper -- and I show how this foundation is flawed, and thus I show why his argument is bad.

    You'll notice the difference between our arguments -- he says, "You said (thing you didn't say)?" -- while what I say is, "Imagine this absurd place where your argument leads..."

    I mean that should have been spelled out:
    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    2) Lack of ambiguity doesn't make the game shallow, it makes the game possible. I mean seriously, imagine if all antagonists were ambiguous in multiple ways...
    Parody isn't the same as a straw man argument.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    I think you're talking about the dialog at the end -- is that correct?

    That's not a straw man because I'm not accusing GWG of holding the DM's position.

    What I'm doing is using parody to demonstrate why the foundation of GWG's argument is flawed. He argues that ambiguity makes antagonists deeper -- and I show how this foundation is flawed, and thus I show why his argument is bad.

    You'll notice the difference between our arguments -- he says, "You said (thing you didn't say)?" -- while what I say is, "Imagine this absurd place where your argument leads..."

    I mean that should have been spelled out:


    Parody isn't the same as a straw man argument.
    The problem with this is that I don't see where GWG has said that general ambiguity is always better. He's made a targeted argument about the advantages of moral ambiguity in a villain. You have, for the purposes of making your own point, warped that into an argument made for ambiguity of all sorts. That is both a) an illogical and unwarranted extension of the original point and b) something for which no one reasonable is arguing.

    You have then, in further service of this misrepresentation, inserted a mildly diverting dialogue that you claim to be in the nature of a parody. But this can't even maintain the internal consistency of the argument, as it does not in fact depict the consequences of ambiguity lurking around every corner, but features a DM outright lying to his players in violation of the basic norms of the game.

    This fits the very definition of a strawman--intentional misrepresentation of the opponent's argument in order to defeat it--and it has the added bonus of not even staying true to its own course in the attempted reductio ad absurdum. It's a true tour de force of bad faith argumentation.

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    Don't forget the casual sly insult by using the name of the person you're arguing against to describe a "small stupid creature". I don't believe that you did that coincidentally whatsoever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tajerio View Post
    The problem with this is that I don't see where GWG has said that general ambiguity is always better. He's made a targeted argument about the advantages of moral ambiguity in a villain. You have, for the purposes of making your own point, warped that into an argument made for ambiguity of all sorts. That is both a) an illogical and unwarranted extension of the original point and b) something for which no one reasonable is arguing.
    It's right here:
    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I am not assuming that there's only one antagonist in a game. I'm assuming that there's only one antagonist in an...antagonist. I see no reason that replacing a Pure Evul Monster antagonist with a similarly-unambiguous but deeper villain would make the plot worse.
    He's talking about non-moral ambiguity right there (bold text).

    He was also mischaracterizing my position (red text) through parody, which you claim to dislike. That's an actual strawman, since he's pretending that his text represents something of mine. That's actual dishonesty, and it occurs several times.


    Now let's see if you turn your scorn on the kobold-in-wyrm's-clothing who has perpetrated actual bad-faith mischaracterization throughout the thread, and has not even had the good manners to amuse the audience while doing so, or if you're just conveniently cropping up whenever GWG finds himself caught out for some reason other than intellectual rigor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Since I'm advocating the former, and the latter is just your straw man, I think you're unwillingly agreeing with what I said originally -- except you keep trying to pin that straw man on me, and I'm not going to allow that.
    Well, then would you please explain why characterizing your demon lords as "plot elements" and talking about any attempt at explaining their evilness with contempt is supposed to make them sound like anything else?

    Not sure anyone would pick Azula as a Lord of Hell, but I'm hardly an expert on that series so maybe someone would.
    Why do you think Azula would be considered a Lord of Hell, and how would she be more useful in that role than the usual Lords of Hell?
    And you accuse me of making strawmen. I referred to Azula as an unambiguous antagonist, not a Lord of Hell. I thought it would be obvious that her species was about as important to that as her eye color, but perhaps I was mistaken.

    1) Your flashback sob-story doesn't make Asmodeus ~deeper~ just because he's parading around his victimhood while murdering orphans with evil puppies (and I guess your hellhounds also get flashback sob-stories so they're ~deep~ evil murder puppies).
    ...What. The. Frig. You claim I used a strawman? I don't even know where to start with this ****.

    He may have reasons for being evil, but they're not mortal reasons since he's not a mortal. Furthermore, turning him into a mortal wouldn't make him more useful -- mortal antagonist already fill that niche.
    1. What's a "mortal" reason?
    2. What "niche" do lords of hell fill that mortals can't?
    3. If you think Lords of Hell can have reasons for being evil, why are you being so condescending towards me for suggesting that they should?

    So if you want a redeemable antagonist, use a mortal.
    I never said anything about redeemable antagonists, where are you getting this from?

    But if you want an implacable evil, a morally immovable rock that is working towards the death of truth and beauty, an inexorable hate that desires the ruination all that is good? That's when you reach for a Lord of Hell.
    Why would I want that? That's exactly

    2) Lack of ambiguity doesn't make the game shallow, it makes the game possible. I mean seriously, imagine if all antagonists were ambiguous in multiple ways...
    I didn't say "Azula is a great villain because she's ambiguous." I said she's an unambiguous villain. I made it clear that unambiguity was fine. My problem was treating characters like plot elements instead of characters, because that leads to boring, two-dimensional characters.

    -snip-
    ...What the actual ****.
    1. Insulting me. Why is this cool?
    2. Why does a **** DM have anything to do with deeper enemies? What, I mention ambiguity once and you think that means I want DMs who don't explain ****?
    3. Why does me bringing up an example of an unambiguous antagonist make you think I want all antagonists to be ambiguous?


    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    What I'm doing is using parody to demonstrate why the foundation of GWG's argument is flawed. He argues that ambiguity makes antagonists deeper -- and I show how this foundation is flawed, and thus I show why his argument is bad.
    As indicated by:
    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    I'd argue that you can have an unambiguous antagonist without having two-dimensional evil-for-evil's-sake. Take Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender; she obviously needs to be stopped, no doubt about it, but she's clearly a victim of the Fire Lord as much as anyone else. You can understand why she's evil in a way you can't with an "I'm just evil" villain, without needing to ask "Do we need to stop this guy?"
    Wherein I say that unambiguous antagonists are A-OK if done right, and give a concrete example of one which was done right.
    Seriously, did you ignore most of my post and focus on the teeny bits that you could turn into a strawman, you immature brat? And if you disagree with this characterization, explain how this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    DM: "Great wyrm (gold) means a small, evil, and stupid humanoid who is good at traps and trickery."
    is in any way mature. And also explain how any of that is relevant.
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    Ah, thank you very much GreatWyrmGold, you obviously live up to that name with your intelligence and wisdom with that post.
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    I prefer my lords of hell active, but not interactive with the players. The players will certainly know of them and whatever information they choose to release to the masses, but if a PC were a devil worshipper the best they could manage would probably be working for the devil working for the archdevil, or more likely one of their ‘tristed lieutenants’.
    So like 2-3 steps removed, close enough to affect and be affected by but not directly so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    It's right here:

    He's talking about non-moral ambiguity right there (bold text).

    He was also mischaracterizing my position (red text) through parody, which you claim to dislike. That's an actual strawman, since he's pretending that his text represents something of mine. That's actual dishonesty, and it occurs several times.


    Now let's see if you turn your scorn on the kobold-in-wyrm's-clothing who has perpetrated actual bad-faith mischaracterization throughout the thread, and has not even had the good manners to amuse the audience while doing so, or if you're just conveniently cropping up whenever GWG finds himself caught out for some reason other than intellectual rigor.
    You're persisting in misreading that post. It's still a response to an argument about moral ambiguity--specifically, to your assertions about unambiguous evil. He contends that if an antagonist is to be unambiguously evil, it's still better add some interesting complication specifically to that evil, and makes a reference to Azula for a story of complication by origin. There is nothing whatsoever there that justifies the leap you decided to make to ubiquitous ambiguity.

    Having taken a quick minute to review GWG's posts in the thread made prior to yours here, I see only one other instance of which you could legitimately complain besides the one you've mentioned--when he referred to a "flat, boring, 2-dimensional evil villain." That wasn't entirely fair, but you were quick to pull him up on it--aggressively but not unjustifiably--so by the time I read the post things had moved on. Then you pulled him up for the "Pure Evul Monster" line, but this time with a startlingly hypocritical response made in egregious bad faith, which prompted my reply. You'll notice that my original response has no quarrel whatsoever with your identification of a strawman, but only with your subsequent argument.

    I am unsurprised to see that you could make only a token effort to defend your argument. And I am equally unsurprised to see you take refuge in hurling a tu quoque, accusing me of being an alt or having a hidden agenda, and doubling down on your earlier insult of GWG by alluding to it once more at the end. There's no shame in quitting the field, but there certainly is in your choosing to press on with weapons like those.

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    Lords of Hell - how do you prefer them?

    Well, if you asked the "old gods" of one of my WIP settings, they'd give you various answers, ranging from "naked and willing" to "with a nice sauce and a side of wine" to "as far from me as possible if they want to continue existing" to "purple monkey sword fruit."
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-10-31 at 11:55 AM.
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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    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.
    Ah, a man of culture I see!

    In regards to the topic, I prefer stories where the villains are relatable, and demons and devils rarely succeed in fulfilling this because they lack so many things that are intrinsic to other living things. They don't eat, they don't sleep, they don't reproduce, and they are immortal. They don't have any desires beyond "do the evulz!" But worse of all, their twisted moral compass (or complete lack of one) makes them incapable of having any sort of feelings that would be justified.

    Therefore, I prefer when demons and devils are more "noble." For example, the balor isn't destroying the dwarves in the mines because "evulz!" Its doing it because its defending itself, having been asleep for thousands of years only to have a cavern collapse on it due to the mining operations, and right after the dwarves start attacking it on sight. From this balor's perspective, it is completely justified in its anger. That to me is a more interesting villain than "I am evil incarnate and I shall destroy these dwarves for my own amusement" the way so many demons and devils are portrayed.

    Edit: Forgot to add something about the lords themselves... oops!
    So regarding the Lords of Hell, with what I said above taken into account, I prefer them to be semi-active and have goals that aren't "spread evil for the sake of evulz and be more evil than the other lords." I like my lords to have a vision they want to realize, each one different from one another, yet some are similar enough to want to ally with each other, while others are so opposite that they can't stand the sight of one another. They all want to make this vision a reality, and all their works are aimed toward that goal. They also understand the necessity of discretion, and so while they have many plots in motion that are public, their more questionable plots are kept hidden.
    Their visions aren't necessarily evil, but they are a major inconvenience for mortals and gods. One Lord might be hellbent on revenge against the God of Light because said god killed his family long ago. His anger is justified, but the death of the God of Light would be a huge problem for literally everyone in the entire world. For this reason, the forces of "good" oppose this Lord of Hell.
    Last edited by supergoji18; 2018-10-31 at 12:42 PM.

  30. - Top - End - #60
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Beleriphon's Avatar

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    Jan 2006
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    Protecting my Horde (yes, I mean that kind)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jack View Post
    The Hells are the most orderly and insufferable workplace there is. A lord is a caricature of the nastiest boss ever.
    Are you saying Asmodeus is some horrible combination of Catbert and a competent Pointy Haired Boss? Dear gods, what have you done?

    Fun aside, Devils are like Catbert. They are powerful, but its because they have the rules on their side. Demons are like the Pointy Haired Boss: capricious and dangerous because they wield all of the power, but quickly forget or move onto other targets if you stay away long enough.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2018-10-31 at 01:14 PM.

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