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Author Topic: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods  (Read 10756 times)

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Offline manfred

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D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« on: December 15, 2003, 06:13:32 AM »
I have read an article on GameGrene complaining about D&D alignements. And later, while thinking about other ideas I have suddenly seen a way how it COULD work...


Quote
"... let's say a paladin slays the warriors of an evil tribe of goblins guarding an unholy shrine, and then discovers the goblin women and children cowering behind a tapestry. These creatures detect evil (because the Monster Manual says they do!), but are unarmed and helpless."


Let's suppose it really works that way. Even if they could not have done nothing wrong, and they are harmless little beings. How comes that they truly detect Evil, even if they aren't? The spell/ability cannot be wrong, it comes directly from that deity, and it is he/she that makes it work.

So... for some reason it is the deity that marks them Evil. Marks Evil to its servants... so they can kill it without remorse.


This is Dark Fantasy: How can gods be better than their creations? They don't have to be necessarily racists... it may just be they have this LITTLE problem with their god. Or finds some groups against his plans. So these servants of the other god, or other unlucky souls are "free game" for your own followers. Paladins from this point of view are a group of slayers of whatever their deity dislikes. And now call that holy.

So the psychopath paladin that kills everything Evil actually role-plays it right!


So "Evil" and "Good", instead of being absolute alignment-ethical positions, are subjective, alligned with the greater power. The god decides on it, punctum. There are no "Good" gods. There are only those that the society they act in finds comfortable. Everyone is Good, and fights against Evil (according to his/her own deity). Various priests will get different results when detecting Evil. Just wait until that goblin paladin comes to do justice on you...
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Offline nitouken

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D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2003, 02:08:56 PM »
Well, the goblin women and children who detect as evil also are clearly helpless. While moral alignment may be subjective, ethical (Law/Chaos) isn't. Originally, law can be thought to have been Good defined, but obviously it isn't any more. So the Lawful Good paladin is, in fact, required both to slay the goblin women and children (Thanks to the fact that they are evil), and to save them (thanks to the fact that he is lawful). An excellent quandary.
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Offline Strolen

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D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2003, 03:41:28 AM »
I do definatly agree that just because you are of an evil race, goblin and ogre, that you are automatically evil.

I think that stance makes it easier from a rule based game to make the alignment problem more cut and dry, but from a realistic case it, well, isn't.

I considered this. Alignments right now for the DM goblin = evil. You detect evil, see a goblin it is evil. Cut and dry, no worries for the DM, not moral dilemna for the PCs, just kill it.

If you were to take away that cut and dry decision that puts it all on the DM to define who and/or what is evil. No longer is every blahblah evil, they must now know what god the player worships and what creatures that this god believes are evil. The rules just got multiplied times however many gods there are in the game. Just added a huge bit of complexity to the game system.

If you go the direction of evil intentions/actions = evil, then it still puts more decision making on the DM. Are the evil, just selfish? How do I show an alignment check to this person? How do they actually compare to the person casting? If the caster is selfish then do they see themselves as partially evil. Maybe they just have evil thoughts like Minority Report but haven't acted on them yet. How far do you go with that. It will be arbitrary and change depending on the circumstances and on what the DM is thinking.

Goblin = Evil just simplifies everything. But I agree there are still problems with it. (Like I have said in other threads, Palladium at least divides the alignments in a more realistice way).

If the DM is good enough, and willing enough, then you can go the extra mile. But for a good majority that don't have good goblins, it is just the easy way out.

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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2003, 03:58:01 AM »
Can I just say that allignment, the way it is presented in DnD, is one of the reasons I hate the game.  

What is "good" and "bad" is based upon our moral system.  What would be "good" to us, might not be "good" to a 10th century samurai.

We would like to think of an absolute moral system, yet except for some very high thinkers... most moral systems fall very short.

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Offline Ylorea

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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2004, 03:36:13 AM »
In general, like the entire D&D game, allignment is a simplification.

Having said this and following this thought into the extreme, I might add that Moonhunter must hate all game systems, since all of them are simplifications of the real world.

In my personal opinion, allignment as you write it on your charactersheet is a declaration of how you will behave.
In the game however, you can still behave in a fashion that is oposite to your allignment.

Much more important is that most people see allignment as two different variables. One line Good-versus-Evil and one line Chaos-versus-Law. However, if you follow the posting of Strolen, it becomes clear that allignement is not two independent lines, but a two-dimensional array.

If the paladin does a detect allignment, he checks not how does the goblin behave right now, but how should the goblin behave in general.
The thing is: A Paladin should not kill anyone who has a evil intent, but those who enact their evil intent right now.

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Offline young0ne2

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 10:08:46 AM »
In general, like the entire D&D game, alignment is a simplification.

Having said this and following this thought into the extreme, I might add that Moonhunter must hate all game systems, since all of them are simplifications of the real world.

In my personal opinion, alignment as you write it on your charactersheet is a declaration of how you will behave.
In the game however, you can still behave in a fashion that is opposite to your alignment.

This is Extremely important to consider. This is something that i know my players have had very big issues with, and as a DM have had to deal with.

The best description that i can think of comes from the World Of Warcraft RPG book, where it says ( I'm not quoting it because its not in front of me at this moment) that Alignment is a GUIDE to how your character should act and make decisions. With that, your "Human", the most lawful good priest can strike out at a present in rage because they were just pushed too far, just as the most chaotic evil blood thirsty barbarian can take compassion on a child and save their life.

Alignment is just their to give you a baseline idea of how you should act. To those that report to a higher being (Paladins, Clerics, Etc.) i would look at the gods domains and go from their. If you have a god that believes in good and redemption (St. Cuthbert i thinks a good example) Killing the armed evil goblins makes sense, but to kill the woman and child isent. 1 their defenceless and 2, they could be redeemed and start a new "good" life.

Offline valadaar

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 10:28:44 AM »
There are some gems in this conversation.

I'd suggest that the Detect Good/Evil/Law/Chaos spells be replaced with Detect Friend,Detect Foe or perhaps Detect Believer, Detect Heretic,Detect Heathen.  This is in line with Manfreds original post I think and a good way to relativize the spells.

   
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2013, 11:22:12 AM »
I think the Paladin, as written (based on my last exposure to D&D), really only makes sense when worshipping a God that expects its followers to believe in absolutes. The dilemma only matters because the absolute of good vs evil is confronted with the reality of grey areas. It is the kind of dilemma that a good player could really latch onto. If the Paladin kills the helpless then he must deal with his guilt. If he does not, then he must always worry about the evil that he allowed to flourish. That kind of soul-searching guilt should really be a hallmark of such a character/alignment.
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Offline valadaar

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2013, 11:31:46 AM »
Agreed.  His powers also stem from the fact that Good is considered to be difficult, and helps to keep him from being overpowered.
   
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Offline Wulfhere

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Re: D&D Alignments and Cruel Gods
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2013, 11:56:04 AM »
Alignment is best used as a tool, not a straightjacket.  Just like any tool, it works well for some tasks and poorly for others.  I've found alignment very handy as a "quick and dirty" model for "Is this person/creature nice, neutral, or nasty?  Does he play well with others or is he more of a loose cannon?"

The Lamentation of the Flame Princess rules by James Raggi have an interesting twist on alignments:  In his view, most non-supernatural creatures are neutral, with only the most "motivated" possessing notable traits of Good or Evil, Law or Chaos.  Although most of us prefer to identify with Good and Law, these rules question whether we have meaningfully sacrificed to help those around us (other than family and close friends):  We claim to be good, but our actions often suggest neutrality.   We think that we're Lawful, but if asked whether it would be right to inflict individual suffering in the name of community harmony (such as stoning a teenaged girl for committing adultery), we're appalled at the implications.  We value individual rights and freedoms far more than community integrity.

As a side note, in the 3rd Edition and later D20 rules, weak creatures (5 HD and under) seldom radiate detectable evil or good.  Unless intent on true depravity or agents of a supernatural power, their aura just isn't strong enough for a paladin to detect anything.  When he scans a pack of goblin females and their whelps, he doesn't pick up any particular sense of evil.  If one of them is currently hatching plans of particular malevolence or serves as the priestess of some sinister demon-god, they might show a weak aura of malice.  Most will not. 

This may free the paladin from making some ugly choices.
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Offline Murometz

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2013, 12:02:08 PM »
Quote
"... let's say a paladin slays the warriors of an evil tribe of goblins guarding an unholy shrine, and then discovers the goblin women and children cowering behind a tapestry. These creatures detect evil (because the Monster Manual says they do!), but are unarmed and helpless."

I had a similar memorable example of this in game-play a long time ago. A paladin (and the rest of the party) came across a Lamia, writhing in the sands, pregnant, and about to give birth. The conversation then shifted to morality, law, good, right, and wrong. Basically, it led to an hours-long philosophical debate. Years later the episode is still being discussed by my friends. Did the paladin do the right thing? (he slew the Lamia and her new-born "evil monster" brood.)
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2013, 12:25:12 PM »
In more general terms, alignment is one of those things I do not miss about the D&D system (on second thought, the fun times around the table with old groups is the only thing I miss about it.) Having to justify how the actions of my character match my alignment always tweaked me. I put a lot of thought into my characters and I want to play them how I envision them, and that does not always fit into a simple 2-axis alignment system. I ended up standardizing on Chaotic Neutral, where class allowed; no explanation ever required.
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Offline Wulfhere

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2013, 01:29:27 PM »
Having to justify how the actions of my character match my alignment always tweaked me. I put a lot of thought into my characters and I want to play them how I envision them, and that does not always fit into a simple 2-axis alignment system.
I've heard complaints like this a thousand times, but always saw them as a problem with the GM more than the system.  In a game of AD&D, I once had a GM claim that my cleric couldn't convert a group of pirates from their wicked ways because "they wouldn't want to suffer the penalties listed for changing alignment".  Just like that didn't make sense, it doesn't make sense to limit a player character's actions because of his alignment.  Let the character do what he will, then figure out the guy's actual alignment afterward.  If the player claims that his character is Awful Good, but he spends his time burning orphanages, kicking dogs, and ravishing virgins, you just explain that "he's not the alignment he thought he was".  If someone tries to game the system ("Of course Sir Kilzonsite can use that Lawful Good sword:  He's also lawful good."), you hit them with penalties for their inconsistent play.  As long as their wicked behavior isn't used as an excuse for being a jerk, it isn't an issue.
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Offline Dozus

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2013, 01:37:13 PM »
I vaguely recall reading somewhere that some D&D rules called for the GM determining a character's alignment without notifying the player. The player did what he thought his character did, and the GM would determine if it met his alignment or did not, setting penalties and whatnot on their own sheets.

I agree with the idea that poor usage of alignment is mostly the result of bad playing or bad GMing. In the purest forms of RP, the mechanics are "behind the scenes" activities that the game actions reflect - they're not the game itself.
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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2013, 01:45:06 PM »
Having to justify how the actions of my character match my alignment always tweaked me. I put a lot of thought into my characters and I want to play them how I envision them, and that does not always fit into a simple 2-axis alignment system.
I've heard complaints like this a thousand times, but always saw them as a problem with the GM more than the system.

Certainly, but the system gave the DM the stick to beat me with. This is one of the reasons I use systems that better fit how I play. The system must work for many people, since so many use it, it just doesn't work for me.

I vaguely recall reading somewhere that some D&D rules called for the GM determining a character's alignment without notifying the player. The player did what he thought his character did, and the GM would determine if it met his alignment or did not, setting penalties and whatnot on their own sheets.

I agree with the idea that poor usage of alignment is mostly the result of bad playing or bad GMing. In the purest forms of RP, the mechanics are "behind the scenes" activities that the game actions reflect - they're not the game itself.

You're probably right, it's been awhile since I looked at the D&D rules, but I would still have had to argue that my actions fit within my alignment to avoid having it changed on me. And since the intent of the DM was to railroad my actions, it was bound to come up.

Overall, my experience with systems such as D&D has been that more time gets wasted on rules lawyering than gaming, which is one of the reasons I stick with lighter systems.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2013, 01:59:29 PM »
You're probably right, it's been awhile since I looked at the D&D rules, but I would still have had to argue that my actions fit within my alignment to avoid having it changed on me. And since the intent of the DM was to railroad my actions, it was bound to come up.

Overall, my experience with systems such as D&D has been that more time gets wasted on rules lawyering than gaming, which is one of the reasons I stick with lighter systems.
On the first point: you're quite right, poor DMing requires such discussions. It's inevitable that bad implementation of some rules will bring up the suggestion that that real be changed or scrapped.

On the second: I always go back and forth on that. On the one hand, the complex rules of something like Pathfinder provide a lot of opportunities and suggestions that modify the rules in a way that makes sense, even if it is complicated. Some of the tricks and such they come up with are things I never would have thought of for character/class/career ideas. On the other, it can lead to min-maxing, obscure errata referencing, piles of books that are rarely used, etc. - including the treating the rules as iron-clad law, trapping creativity and good game play like a small furry animal. It's a balance, I suppose.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2013, 02:47:38 PM »
On the second: I always go back and forth on that. On the one hand, the complex rules of something like Pathfinder provide a lot of opportunities and suggestions that modify the rules in a way that makes sense, even if it is complicated. Some of the tricks and such they come up with are things I never would have thought of for character/class/career ideas. On the other, it can lead to min-maxing, obscure errata referencing, piles of books that are rarely used, etc. - including the treating the rules as iron-clad law, trapping creativity and good game play like a small furry animal. It's a balance, I suppose.

I have run into the same issues. One of the first cool things about a rules-lite system is that you can do just about anything. Which is followed up by, "where the crap do I start?" My solution has been to go anywhere and everywhere for ideas. Aside from the Citadel, I do buy supplements for other systems (Pathfinder, GURPS, Savage Worlds, etc) and pillage them for all they're worth.

I have to wonder if Savage Worlds experiences the popularity it does because it provides a fairly simple (and internally consistent) rules system AND very creative settings.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2013, 02:55:20 PM »
One of the unexpected advantages of starting in the early days of the hobby was the way that badly-flawed systems and rulebooks taught us "rule interpretation diplomacy", a skill that helps out when playing any game.  We got used to the need to step back and toss the rules once in a while. 

Sometimes GMs and players just have to learn to avoid lengthy debates and get on with their game.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2013, 03:24:10 PM »
Does every DM in here always play everything by the book or? I fail to see the problem here. The gods will tell them that they are evil? But who are the gods if not the DM? I wouldn't allow a detect evil spell even if there was one in 4E(not sure there is one).

4E has simplified this whole alignment system as well and boiled it down to;

Lawful Good - Ye olde stick in the mud
Good - Willing to make great sacrafices for other's benefit
Unaligned - Could go either way as long as it benefits me in the end
Evil - Willing to sacrafice others to get what you want
Chaotic Evil - Psycho murderer

And what alignment the Npcs are, is usually for my eyes only, just to help me roleplay them. When it comes down to the players and their actions, just don't let them go to extremes, and that's it.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2013, 03:55:36 PM »
Does every DM in here always play everything by the book or? I fail to see the problem here. The gods will tell them that they are evil? But who are the gods if not the DM? I wouldn't allow a detect evil spell even if there was one in 4E(not sure there is one).

4E has simplified this whole alignment system as well and boiled it down to;

Lawful Good - Ye olde stick in the mud
Good - Willing to make great sacrafices for other's benefit
Unaligned - Could go either way as long as it benefits me in the end
Evil - Willing to sacrafice others to get what you want
Chaotic Evil - Psycho murderer

And what alignment the Npcs are, is usually for my eyes only, just to help me roleplay them. When it comes down to the players and their actions, just don't let them go to extremes, and that's it.
Not exactly by t he books, but enough to makesure that the players dont do something stupid or OP. I dont play 4E, im a 3.0/3.5 player/DM and this is a common place argument. though their are many steps that can be take to avoid it all.


I agree with the idea that poor usage of alignment is mostly the result of bad playing or bad GMing. In the purest forms of RP, the mechanics are "behind the scenes" activities that the game actions reflect - they're not the game itself.
i agree 150%

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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #21 on: March 20, 2013, 05:19:32 AM »
I remember having a discussion regarding the older alignments, specifically about Lawful Evil. In my view, that stands for someone who superficially follows the laws when it suits them, but would prefer to impose laws on others and therefore see's the importance of having laws. My opponent advocated that it stood for having some sort of personal code, e.g "Don't hurt women and children", or something like it. So, Evil but within limitations.

To which I said, what if the personal code is something to the effect of; "kill everyone you see". If the PC/Npc follows that code in question, can he/she still be considered Lawful Evil? It was really funny, because we both came to the conclusion that, while technically true, he/she wouldn't last that long if trying to follow that kind of code(needing to attack their allies etc).

Acctually my first post(coming to a citadel near you very soon) is going to touch on this subject somewhat(not so much about alignment but humanization). I'll come back with a link later on.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #22 on: March 20, 2013, 07:17:45 AM »
One of the unexpected advantages of starting in the early days of the hobby was the way that badly-flawed systems and rulebooks taught us "rule interpretation diplomacy", a skill that helps out when playing any game.  We got used to the need to step back and toss the rules once in a while. 

Sometimes GMs and players just have to learn to avoid lengthy debates and get on with their game.

The DM for the first campaign I played in in AD&D was very much like that. He was a storyteller first and I thoroughly enjoyed how he ran the game. He paid the barest of lip service to the official rules and had many of his own tweaks to make the game flow the way he wanted it to. To this day, he is the GM I most try to emulate. Unfortunately, a rules-lawyer joined that particular campaign and much time was wasted over how the game was run.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #23 on: March 20, 2013, 07:22:01 AM »
I remember having a discussion regarding the older alignments, specifically about Lawful Evil. In my view, that stands for someone who superficially follows the laws when it suits them, but would prefer to impose laws on others and therefore see's the importance of having laws. My opponent advocated that it stood for having some sort of personal code, e.g "Don't hurt women and children", or something like it. So, Evil but within limitations.

To which I said, what if the personal code is something to the effect of; "kill everyone you see". If the PC/Npc follows that code in question, can he/she still be considered Lawful Evil? It was really funny, because we both came to the conclusion that, while technically true, he/she wouldn't last that long if trying to follow that kind of code(needing to attack their allies etc).

Acctually my first post(coming to a citadel near you very soon) is going to touch on this subject somewhat(not so much about alignment but humanization). I'll come back with a link later on.

IIRC your interpretation is how the rules described LE.

I do think the idea of the personal code would fit, though, because it means that the character sees the personal code as being the true law. However, I would expect the GM to have the final word on any particular instance.
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Re: D&D Alignements and Cruel Gods
« Reply #24 on: March 20, 2013, 07:27:21 AM »
All this talk of alignment makes me wonder: what other alternatives to the old two-axis system are there?

I'm largely system-illiterate, so I know other game systems have their own alignment schemes, but I know not of them. A quick perusal of the Wikipedias suggest things like allegiance, motivation, passions, etc. Palladium (I know that one's popular around here) apparently has seven core alignments.

Is alignment of some sort worth keeping? Or should it be scrapped in favor of something more organic?
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