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Dr Berry
10-27-2009, 02:48 PM
One thing that has always irked me about the assassin prestige class is the requirement of an evil alignment. Many players will play an evil character in a good party, just to reap the benefits of this class. What about the neutral assassin, who is out for personal profit, but doesn't necessarily relish in the kill? Or even more interesting, a good assassin, devoted to destroying evil by stealth and subterfuge?

After all, even paladins are allowed to kill people. I don't mean to say a good assassin should have a religious focus, although it could.

For a twist on the assassin, I would consider the following changes:

Alignment: Any lawful (adhering to the assassin's code)
Assassin's Code: -Never kill an innocent
-Breaching the code would violate the assassin's alignment, like a paladin's code of conduct

These are just some initial ideas; any further input would be great!

yukonhorror
10-27-2009, 03:06 PM
you would need to change some of the hard mechanics of the class too. Like the assassin's spells have a definite "dark" feel to them. Something a good character wouldn't use.

Dr.Dead
10-27-2009, 03:17 PM
I think its ok to have a good assassin as long he is a caotic good assassin because the assassin has some evil spells so lawful good would not do.

another good thing is to have a ring or something magical to hide your alignment because good our bad, your going into enemy grounds disguising your self as one of them.

TheYeti1775
10-27-2009, 03:30 PM
Think Leon from the Professional would be the best arguement for a Good/Neutral Assassin type. He worked for money.
He also provides the 'Lawful' aspect of it too. "No Women/No Kids"

It isn't to hard to adjust it D&D terms.
Far as the 'evil' nature spells, change them out to similar 'good' ones.

DMMike
10-28-2009, 02:13 AM
Make sure you have a very good idea of what your DM calls "evil" before you consider it an obstacle to playing assassins. My guess is that an assassin is required to be evil because they have higher regard for money than human life. I'm having a hard time picturing what "neutral" or "good" would mean, if they could be applied to someone whose profession involves regularly ending the lives of others.

As far as paladins being allowed to kill - that probably depends heavily on whom the paladin serves. If the paladin's granted abilities are any indicator - healing hands, remove disease, inspire courage - hurting others really isn't in his repertoire. Sounds more like a helpful guy. Wearing heavy armor is good for defense, and the judicious use of martial weaponry might just be intended for soulless creatures - vermin, undead, demons - and not people.

I say 1) don't use prestige classes, but failing that, 2) take Assassin no matter what your alignment is. Who's gonna tap you on the shoulder and make sure you're following your alignment restriction? The worst thing that could happen is you lose some spellcasting because an evil deity, who was granting you the spells, doesn't think you're being evil enough.

"Just one calorie. Not evil enough."

Dytrrnikl
10-28-2009, 02:46 AM
Maybe I'm old fashioned or just a grognard, while other classes are allowed to kill, the Assassin's whole point of existance is to kill. Paladins kill, but exist to spread and enforce their God's will, as do clerics. Rangers kill, due to being the last true fronstiersman hunting out dangers that would otherwise provide an overwhelming threat to civilized lands. No other class is designed to be a killer, except perhaps the Fighter. However, as the name implies - Fighter, this character is good at fighting, either because he chooses to be for his own ends or for the benefit of others. The assassin is the only class in which killing is the whole point to exist. So, I'd have to say 86 it for a 'good assassin'. At best I could see at best any alignment except good. Good characters kill, but not if they can avoid it.

Sneaksta
10-29-2009, 08:58 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination

As most should be aware, This rundown is fairly accurate. As it states, that the assassin origin was either political in nature, or thru religious beliefs. Not necessarily evil. If you believe in something so much that youare willing to kill or die for that ideal or such, is that evil? Not really. Too hard to tell, and as I am not a god, too hard to judge. Maybe they are just misguided? who knows. Ever watch Dexter? Is he evil? quite possibly. Definitley an assassin, even if he is a dranged serial killer... and he does have a code. Kill only killers. I have played a chaotic good assassin before. I loved it. No women nor children, and i made sure my char investigated the mark and see if he deserved it before accepting the contract.. made for excellent story twists and roleplay opportunities...

DMMike
10-29-2009, 10:29 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination

Too hard to tell, and as I am not a god, too hard to judge.

Referencing Wiki? Obviously not a god. Otherwise you'd reference yourself, or some other credible source.

I'd like to refer the reader to Zoolander. It makes a case for models being the ultimate assassin, and they're obviously too stupid to be evil. Not explicitly good, either. Kind of like animals, which are always neutral.

Sneaksta, you should try DMing if you haven't. It's like a little taste of godhood. :hail::ballchain:

mnemenoi
10-29-2009, 11:31 AM
I think that there has always been something of a mistake in the name here. Assassin is a profession and literally anyone could be one for something specific. A paladin sent to bring in or kill some rogue brother might be an assassin for a time, but the class suggests some codified unity. In that case we have ruthless killers with no qualms about killing others for profit for a career choice. This is very different indeed, skulking in the darker parts of cities taking contracts from whomever can pay. Although they are all unique they do share some commonalities and I think we can all agree that after even a small amount of time would fall irrevocably into such malaise and depravity that they could not be anything other then evil. Anyone of a lesser alignment would not take certain jobs, not be cutthroat enough, or hesitate during their training and become a liability to the organization that needed to be killed. They just knew too much.



I can see exactly what everyone above is referring to as Good/Nuetral, but I think its mixing up a profession with a class. The class in my opinion is more like a small group of professionals that train and compete in a very tight market, not some random fighter or rogue that has taken a few coins to kill bad guys. Just ask yourself if your character ever leaves a city, unless they are hunting anyone? Do you ever turn down contracts? Does your entire life revolve around your profession and reputation/ Would you ever kill to protect either? Are you killing for a reason beyond pay?

http://elvis.rowan.edu/~klassen/gaming/classes/assassins.html (http://elvis.rowan.edu/%7Eklassen/gaming/classes/assassins.html)
(an excellent site detailing some great arguments and history of the character class that likely lead to its current state)

d-_-b
10-29-2009, 02:09 PM
Is it just me, or are you guys/gals missing the obvious? Killing for money is EVIL! You can't rationalize or justify it. To be a good aligned killer for hire is an absurd idea and if a player comes up with such an idea I think the DM should try and work with the player to figure out what he or she really wants to play. I realize that a neutral or undecided character might swing both ways but if the door repeatedly swings to "Killing for Money" the door is stuck at evil. The good(ish) alternative would be a Vigilante. Their motive for killing is a moral rather than a monetary one, though, however misconceived it may or may not be.

For one I think that alignment restrictions on certain prestige classes make perfect sense. Secondly it's important to remember that it is not really a problem for good and evil characters to work together as long as the good character does not violate his moral beliefs and the evil character is able to exploit the arrangement to her benefit.

Sneaksta
10-29-2009, 03:48 PM
As for the Wiki, it is close. I have read accurate historical accounts of the origins of the assassin, as well as the definition.
as⋅sas⋅sin

  /əˈsæshttp://sp.ask.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngɪn/ http://sp.ask.com/dictstatic/g/d/dictionary_questionbutton_default.gif (http://dictionary.reference.com/help/luna/IPA_pron_key.html) Show Spelled Pronunciation [uh-sas-in] http://sp.ask.com/dictstatic/g/d/dictionary_questionbutton_default.gif (http://dictionary.reference.com/help/luna/Spell_pron_key.html) Show IPA
Use assassin in a Sentence (http://ask.reference.com/web?q=Use+assassin+in+a+Sentence&qsrc=2892&o=101993)


See web results for assassin (http://ask.reference.com/web?q=assassin&o=100049)


See images of assassin (http://ask.reference.com/pictures?q=assassin&o=100049)

–noun 1.a murderer, esp. one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons.2.(initial capital letterhttp://sp.ask.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.png) one of an order of Muslim fanatics, active in Persia and Syria from about 1090 to 1272, whose chief object was to assassinate Crusaders.

Origin:
1525–35; < ML assassinī (pl.) < Ar ḥashshāshīn eaters of hashish (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=hashish&db=luna) http://sp.ask.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.png

But also, in and out of game terms, assassin is what someone does and is trained for, yes. If the party is hired to go kill a group of kobolds that have not attacked the town paying, but they might some day, wow, how easy it is to become an assassin..... But it doesn't have to be for money or even personal gain, why people cannot see past that, i don't know. As for that, the US armed Special Forces, Black ops, etc. are tactically and emotionally trained assassins, the only difference is, for political reasons, national safety, the greater good, blah blah. But that is not all they do. It is one facet that may or may not come up ocassionally. Shall we just smack an assassin label on them and call them evil? Hardly. Even with that, I am behind these individuals doing for our country whatever needs to be done. It all comes down to semantics, shemantics..

DMMike
10-30-2009, 02:38 AM
But it doesn't have to be for money or even personal gain,

Didn't the definition you posted say that it has to be for monetary gain, or fanaticism, which could be considered personal gain?

I would say that someone called an "assassin" is either responsible for a particular assassination, or someone whose profession is assassination. Since most US troopers are not single-target, lone-acting specialists, I would hardly call them assassins. Their profession is better considered "unconventional warfare operator" than "assassin." Although some troopers are directly responsible for assassinations, making them "assassins" in that sense. (Anyone remember Iraq's Zarqawi?)

As long as this thread is using different definitions for "assassin," let's try a different approach:

I want to take the Murderer prestige class. Must I be evil for that?

Dytrrnikl
10-30-2009, 04:06 AM
Here's why good and being an assassin is just not something can happen, at least from my perspective:

1.to kill suddenly or secretively, esp. a politically prominent person; murder premeditatedly and treacherously.


This is taken directly from Dictionary.com. Take note of the 4 words after the semicolon - murder premeditatedly and treacherously.

Murder, as defined at Dictionary.com:
1.Law. the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder.

Also:
{verb} to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.


BY the above defination of assassination, murder premeditated, meaning killing with malice afterthought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation.

Treacherously = deceit.

So, an assassin, who performs acts of assassination are setting out to commit deliberated kills or premeditated slaughter through deceit. Hmmm, based on that, my stance stands, or more succinctly, while their may be assassins that are good at what they do - premeditated murder, there is no such thing as a GOOD aligned assassin.

While other classes kill, it is not the basis, the foundation or core of their class.

Sneaksta
10-30-2009, 07:24 AM
Murderer class? Not necessarily evil.. tho we can be talking SERIOUS derangements here. LOL

just kidding. I am totally not down with " Oh I was abused!" or " everything compounded till it was too much, I had a lapse of insanity!" CRAP. Still comes down to free will. The abuser you had not seen in 20 years didn't make you do it, You Chose too.... It's called free will for a reason.

russdm
10-30-2009, 05:03 PM
Being a DM that ran a "no Evil" campaign in 3.5, i allowed a player to have an assasin. He was allowed by me to take the class due to a deal: His char was not evil but had been once. I also allowed him to continue in the class.

I would do the following with teh assassin class:

1) Open it up to all alignments. The assassin class is just made to describe someone who kills someone else. So it could be used for a good character and they could be a vigilante. In fact taht class (vig) is nothing than a good version of the assasin one. I believe that it would be fine to allow individuals to take te class.

2) The Assasin's Code: Make a code not to be broken to remain a member of the class/guild. If it gets broken, people die. Most professional assasins don't let things get personal and they usually have some kind of code about what targets/contracts they won't accept.

In V For Vendetta, V (Hugo Weaving's char i think) kills people and does it in a way an assasin might. He happens to be neutral though, or atleast feels that way to me. Even good at times. That makes me believe you could have good assassins.

If the assassin had a code to follow, you could have them be good aligned. its what i would do as a DM.

cigamnogard
11-02-2009, 06:31 PM
Sorry, assassins are evil. Period.
Political assassination - evil even if done for the 'right' reasons.
Terrorist assassination - nuff said
Let me go through a few assassins:
Thugees - good guys? ... no = evil
Mafia - good guys?........ no = evil
Yakuza - good guys? ..... no = evil
Phoenix Program? good guys?...look at the death count before you even think about answering = evil
Assassins are evil. Period.

wizarddog
11-03-2009, 01:29 AM
A rogue is pretty good at killing people as well. A rogue certainly does more sneak attack damage than an assassin would do (not including poison use). I guess the issue is really the Assassin class has a few cool powers; otherwise we just have them play a rogue.

I would simply ignore the assassin except wizards kept adding more spells to their list. Some only appear as assassin spells so it seems a waste to have them in the book and nobody utilizing them(except maybe the DM ;).

WhiskeyFur
11-09-2009, 06:21 PM
Mixed feelings here. Most of the classes don't have an alignment restriction when it comes to good/neutral/evil, in that it's possible to be any of those three (except for paladin, but even then there's the blackguard)

I think it has to do more with the methods. A mage can be hired to drop a fireball on someone, or firetrap a target's favorite reading book or the door to his home. A fighter can straight up attack and kill someone because he was paid to. Rogues can do the same except sneakier. They all have the TITLE of being an assassin.

Now, a CLASS by the name of assassin is a different story. Their methods are inherently nasty. Poison? Death strike? They are the only class that is SINGLE PURPOSED towards killing someone. Everyone else usually has a secondary duty. Clerics heal, fighters do tactics, rogues can be a dungeon builder's nightmare. Only assassins don't really have a second job in the party, but they do a job that no one else can do as well.

Ever get that urge to say to hell with it, and go after that mastermind directly? That's what the assassin is for.

If one death can save a thousand lives, then so be it. That would be a Good assassin's credo.

d-_-b
11-09-2009, 06:28 PM
If one death can save a thousand lives, then so be it. That would be a Good assassin's credo.

-and by extension if a Paladin were to kill of all the homeless orphans of Waterdeep it would be downright saintly as it would drastically lower the crime rate and hence serve the common good of the city.

WhiskeyFur
11-09-2009, 07:11 PM
That's more like killing a fly with dynamite. Petty crime, petty punishment. Going above and beyond what is reasonable for punishment is pushing it by far.

Killing all the orphans, that paladin would have his ass handed to him by his god.

Killing the ringleader whose abusing them, seeing as said ringleader CAN defend himself, that's something an assassin can do since paladin can't (or shouldn't) fight through all of the orphans to get to him. The assassin just goes around'em all together.

WhiskeyFur
11-10-2009, 10:13 AM
Was thinking of a good anology on that. The paladin would be like the front line fighter, fighting a war that an assassin could prevent (or cause) with one strike.

Now killing off one evil duke to set two kingdoms at each other throats, both of which are evil in nature... that would be sweet. The good guys just sit back and let them waste resources on each other. Kind of like deliberately setting a wild fire so you only get a small fire one year instead of a massive blaze ten years from now.

d-_-b
11-10-2009, 10:44 AM
Whiskeyfur, I get what you're saying:) It would, however, probably not serve the common good to set two evil rulers at each other throats as a lot of innocent people would be adversely affected by the outset of war.

The thing is that any truly good character would try to solve a dispute by other means than war/killing. Turning to an assassin would be an absolutely last resort to evil justified by it serving the common good. Thus in would not be "in" a truly good person to train as an assassin.

WhiskeyFur
11-10-2009, 11:36 AM
Whiskeyfur, I get what you're saying:) It would, however, probably not serve the common good to set two evil rulers at each other throats as a lot of innocent people would be adversely affected by the outset of war.

The thing is that any truly good character would try to solve a dispute by other means than war/killing. Turning to an assassin would be an absolutely last resort to evil justified by it serving the common good. Thus in would not be "in" a truly good person to train as an assassin.

How often do you see 'truly good' PC's these days? Most prefer the blade to the word when it comes to monsters.

A neutral assassin I could see. But requiring them all to be evil? No. A good assassin is a stretch but I would be for the idea that it's allowed with a good enough story.

I would say too that with the ability to change alignments over time, it IS possible to have a good assassin, they just don't start that way but maybe events happen over time that causes them to rethink their path.

Now, whether or not they can continue along that path depends on if they can train themselves. If they can, then there you go. But if they need training from the assassin's guild then that's the end of his killing career.

Still, even an ex-assassin is probably someone I would rather not get mad at me, especially if he's the bartender at my favorite watering hole.

cigamnogard
11-10-2009, 11:39 AM
Has anyone read the Dresdon Files...what everyone may be hinting at is a character also called Blackstaff

d-_-b
11-10-2009, 02:12 PM
I would probably accept an ex-assassin character in my campaign -as a character who had had a change of mind an had become good aligned. I would, however, not allow him/her to progress anymore in the Assassin Prestige Class.

As I stated earlier in this thread to claim neutrality as an assassin is bogus if one knowingly and willingly keeps doing evil deeds. For neutral characters evil actions is still a very last resort.

WhiskeyFur
11-13-2009, 11:14 AM
d-_-b, if it's your game you can call it as you wish. I know in mine, that if the only training available was from the assassin's guild, then one of their own leaves it, that person will be hunted.

Letting them level up on their own might be justification for the constant paranonia of looking over his shoulder, waiting for that dagger to go in between his ribs. I hadn't ran a game like that in a long time and it always depends on what the game world is set up as.

A good assassin going after the lords running takhisis's army in Dragonlance, I have seen. Scary twerp too... He's dedicated his life to eliminating the armies by cutting off the heads. He got a couple of them too, surprisingly.

I believe it really is a case by case decision. The guidelines I would use: Would it be fun for the party if they had an assassin within it? That, only the DM and players can answer, and for one paticular game at a time.

DMMike
11-13-2009, 01:20 PM
Looks like Dr Berry kicked his feet up and watched as the chaos ensued...

This is obviously a good thread for debate, since it boils down to opinion.

What might facilitate the discussion though, is if the discussers posted their definitions of "good" and "evil" at the beginning of their comments. Because without that, you're really just comparing apples to oranges.

Even though I'm done commenting:
"Good": what your deity says is good.
"Evil": what your deity says is evil.
Which implies that you'd better have a specific deity with specific requirements.

d-_-b
11-13-2009, 06:23 PM
"Good": what your deity says is good.
"Evil": what your deity says is evil.
Which implies that you'd better have a specific deity with specific requirements.

Wouldn't a deity classified as "evil" consider his/her ideals to be "good"? (This, of course, does not nullify the quoted statement)

I am not a great believer in the existence of a nominal or objective "good" or "evil" as what a specific individual or culture considers good and evil are based on its own-sometimes idiosyncratic- values and ideals. Dependent upon who you ask what one considers to be good another might consider evil.

In d&d the alignment descriptions circumscribe these ideals, and they are elaborated in the Book of Exalted Deeds. Hence d&d can be said to adhere to a specific perception of what is good and what is evil.

I tend to use this brand of goodness in the campaign I'm running if it includes a character whose powers depend on his or her adherence to an ideal, as is the case with the paladin, as it serves as an excellent guideline to what a paladin is NOT supposed to be doing.

ps. I suspect this might come across to some of you as overly harsh, but my perception of the Paladin class is that it is a little cheesy and thus I do not allow a paladin to step out of line too much before it incurs a penalty.

Dr Berry
11-14-2009, 10:54 AM
Hey thanks for all the feedback; I wanted to create an interesting discussion and that's exactly what we've got!

Sascha
11-14-2009, 02:57 PM
What might facilitate the discussion though, is if the discussers posted their definitions of "good" and "evil" at the beginning of their comments. Because without that, you're really just comparing apples to oranges.
Except, rules-as-written, Good and Evil are already objectively defined. Just not well enough to avoid confusion. (Then again, neither are the other rules, so alignment's not all that special, heh :P) Mechanically, this is how the rules are structured.

There's a bit of a problem when the source of moral authority is at the level of "one's own deity." First, those without deities aren't represented (including some paladins). Second, how do you deal with conflicting ethics, mechanically?


Wouldn't a deity classified as "evil" consider his/her ideals to be "good"? (This, of course, does not nullify the quoted statement)
"Good" meaning "favorable," yes; meaning "morally right," no. It's a hat issue - the 'bad guys' know they're black hats and act accordingly. They revel in being Evil and all that entails.

DMMike
11-14-2009, 04:00 PM
Except, rules-as-written, Good and Evil are already objectively defined. Just not well enough to avoid confusion. (Then again, neither are the other rules, so alignment's not all that special, heh :P) Mechanically, this is how the rules are structured.

There's a bit of a problem when the source of moral authority is at the level of "one's own deity." First, those without deities aren't represented (including some paladins). Second, how do you deal with conflicting ethics, mechanically?

Not well enough to avoid confusion, AND not very objective:

Lawful good "tells the truth, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice."

Is it a good act to tell someone they're butt-ugly? Or to help malicious dictators in need? Or speak out against environmentalists because they're unjustly protecting the planet (from a corporate perspective)?

Chaotic evil "represents the destruction ... of beauty and life ... (and) order ...."

A forest fire - the destruction of beauty and life - is often times essential for the rejuvenation and later growth of that forest. War and armies (moreso) are ordered. Does that make the dismantling of an army chaotic evil (or chaotic good)?

These ambiguities are why it's best to leave Good and Evil to a deity. So to answer your next questions: those without deities probably hold something sacred, and that something is likely to direct their perception of good and evil. And how do mechanics deal with conflicting ethics? Well, that's where you need a definition of Good and Evil. Happy God may say that killing is good, so his paladins are a bunch of murderous fiends. When they cast Smite Evil, you can handle it in one of two ways:

Objective: Ending a life is always evil, always.
The Smite Evil effect then works on anyone who kills or could kill. (This includes good assassins)

Subjective: Happy God says Evil is anyone following an opposing god.
That makes it pretty simple. If the Chosen Deity field for the paladin's enemy says anything other than Happy God, smite evil works on that enemy.

Sascha
11-14-2009, 07:10 PM
Not well enough to avoid confusion, AND not very objective:

3.5 Player's Handbook, p 103: "Good and evil are not philosophical concepts in the D&D game. They are the forces that define the cosmos."

Supports the objective morality argument.

p 104: "'Good' implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.
'Evil' implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master."

Not well defined, but they do acknowledge on the prior page that it's not an all-constraining mechanic, what with free will and all.


Lawful good "tells the truth, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice."

Is it a good act to tell someone they're butt-ugly? Or to help malicious dictators in need? Or speak out against environmentalists because they're unjustly protecting the planet (from a corporate perspective)?'Ugly' truth: Depends on how it's phrased and the relationship between the participants. Largely, Good folk wouldn't mention it. A prohibition against lying does not mean one is a jerk. Avoid lying, but also avoid emotionally harming another.

Malicious dictators: When the two axes conflict, you'll see the stronger of the drives emerge. A paladin, for instance, wouldn't stand for the dictator for one moment and would work against him, using the system whenever and wherever possible. Any deviation would be regrettable, even leading to moments of remorse, but Good usually overrides Law (see: a large portion of human history).

Environmentalists: Speaking out against their methods, perhaps. Encouraging the 'proper channels' be used to get the messages out, certainly. Law isn't, and never has been, synonymous with Good (even back in the oDnD days, when alignment was just Law, Chaos, or Neutrality).


Chaotic evil "represents the destruction ... of beauty and life ... (and) order ...."

A forest fire - the destruction of beauty and life - is often times essential for the rejuvenation and later growth of that forest. War and armies (moreso) are ordered. Does that make the dismantling of an army chaotic evil (or chaotic good)?A forest fire has no free will, thus no moral agency. It's the same as with animals, "lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior." An agent possessing free will, intentionally [I]setting said fire, on the other hand, would be able to be judged on the morality of the action.

War/Armies: A far larger debate, even with clearly-defined, objective sources of morality. Dismantling an army is a chaotic act (in the destruction of established order), but it's independent of the Good/Evil axis; depending on the circumstances, it could be either.


These ambiguities are why it's best to leave Good and Evil to a deity. So to answer your next questions: those without deities probably hold something sacred, and that something is likely to direct their perception of good and evil. And how do mechanics deal with conflicting ethics? Well, that's where you need a definition of Good and Evil.But which definition do you use? 'Cause the mechanics don't support both without issues. Characters have one alignment, and interact with the system based on it, not the perceptions of cultures/deities outside their contexts.

The main problem with Divine Command is that morality is arbitrary. A deity declares, and it is so; tomorrow, it could be the opposite. It also means that without the deity, morality cannot exist. Since the assumed DnD world is polytheistic, and the source of moral authority is the deity, are they all correct? Or is one more correct than the others, and if so, how can we actually know? (Being that any deity would, of course, set it up to where He/She/It is objectively Good and all the rest are judged on that.) It's probably why DnD went with standard, objective, deity-independent models of Good and Evil, based off our own modern, Western industrial notions of morality.

Honestly, DnD isn't all that great for subjective morality mechanics, largely as it wasn't designed with such in mind. You can tweak it (and, by all means, go ahead; I, myself, would strip out alignment altogether), but you're delving into house rule territory.

DMMike
11-14-2009, 11:31 PM
Sacha:
Please enlighten me on when Good has overridden Law in human history. (Debatable, I guess, since Good and Law aren't exactly historical entities) I'm of the opinion that Law has usually trumped over good, evil, and chaos.

Druids would take issue with nature having no moral agency. I could see them arguing that natural law IS good, and that all other things are evil.

If you want a definition of Good and Evil that can accompany their objective nature in the rules, you could start with Positive energy being that which heals, and Negative energy being that which destroys. Then, Good becomes any action or being that directly supports life. Evil is any action or being directly supporting the termination of life.

I like god-defined goodness better, because then there's no debate involved. Something is good or evil because So-and-So god said so. The effect on mechanics is that they become subjective: your sword that does +2d8 to evil creatures does that damage to whomever your deity declares to be evil. What if two gods call opposing forces good? Your Protection from Good spells work against comrades, and Evil against enemies, and the same for the other side.

And yes, in the absence of deities, there would be no morality. And yes, that is possible.

Pushkins
11-15-2009, 03:47 AM
Alignments are somewhat of a crutch. It's like rolling or selecting personalities off some chart. It's just another way of muddling up the process.

Clerics, Druids, ect.... Divine types, should rely more on dogma and sacrilge to determine if they are following the path of their deity.

Smite Evil is almost an oxymoron if you think about it. So, abilities like this come more from vengeful deities and not the rose petal trail walkers of peace

A Good Assassin, Sure if you want to keep the Alignments in play, then why not, of course poison use is not a "goodly" thing to do, of course what is the real repercussion of an assassin losing his way on his alignment, it's not like he's going to lose any divine favor.

So the question of a Good Assassin boils down to role play, which is always a good thing. If an assassin wishes to follow a path of life where he or she tries to do good deeds and make the world a happier place, then I don't see why not, Sure you need to break a few eggs to bake a cake.

This is more of an issue of play style over game mechanics

d-_-b
11-15-2009, 03:05 PM
The notion of good and evil is always culturally situated and as such to be "objective" is an impossibility as we are all cultural agents in a sense. No matter how hard one tries one will always arrive at a subjective assumption of what is objective.

In D&D, however, we can talk about objective definitions of good and evil because it is part of the rules of the game, even if we interpret these rules differently.


Alignments are somewhat of a crutch. It's like rolling or selecting personalities off some chart. It's just another way of muddling up the process.

In this respect I actually think that alignment selection is a boon to the game. By choosing an alignment a player indicates how he or she intends to play the character in question. In a game such as D&D, where good, evil, law and chaos are defined and circumscribed by the rules this is a great help to the GM.

As far as the assassin goes I maintain that a good aligned one is impossible, at the very least in the D&D universe. The methods the assassin prestige class employs are evil in nature.

Sascha
11-15-2009, 09:05 PM
Sacha:
Please enlighten me on when Good has overridden Law in human history. (Debatable, I guess, since Good and Law aren't exactly historical entities) I'm of the opinion that Law has usually trumped over good, evil, and chaos.
Civil rights movements, notably using protests or disobedience. Any intervention into another nation-state's affairs on the grounds of human rights. Pretty much all of rights ethics, really, are based around the idea that the established Order can be morally wrong.


Druids would take issue with nature having no moral agency. I could see them arguing that natural law IS good, and that all other things are evil.
Natural law, which I'm guessing you're using to mean the laws of nature, may be good (read: favorable), but that doesn't mean animals and forces of nature are moral agents. They just are, and cannot be any differently; only humans (sapient species, in the case of fantasy) have the ability to act in any sort of (im-)moral fashion. Druids, being sapient themselves, can construct an ethos around living in harmony with nature, and condemn others for failing to do so, but that doesn't grant *any* agency to non-sapient life or fire/hurricanes/tides/etc.

And, when the Laws of the Universe (ie. game rules) decree animals are incapable of moral agency, it's hard to argue otherwise without flat-out changing the rule. (Of course, I'm all for house rules. The game should be tailored to the individual table, but house rules aren't exactly the issue here.)


If you want a definition of Good and Evil that can accompany their objective nature in the rules, you could start with Positive energy being that which heals, and Negative energy being that which destroys. Then, Good becomes any action or being that directly supports life. Evil is any action or being directly supporting the termination of life.
Which is pretty much exactly what the core rules state. And they're treated as a cross-cultural standard. In other words, an objective source of moral authority.


I like god-defined goodness better, because then there's no debate involved. Something is good or evil because So-and-So god said so. The effect on mechanics is that they become subjective: your sword that does +2d8 to evil creatures does that damage to whomever your deity declares to be evil. What if two gods call opposing forces good? Your Protection from Good spells work against comrades, and Evil against enemies, and the same for the other side.

And yes, in the absence of deities, there would be no morality. And yes, that is possible.
Which is fine, sure, but it's not DnD as written, post-1977. (Though, I'm not sure oDnD *had* Protection from Good and similar spells/effects, given that it had no 'Good' or 'Evil' alignment, but that's also largely irrelevant to the discussion of 3E rules.)


The notion of good and evil is always culturally situated and as such to be "objective" is an impossibility as we are all cultural agents in a sense. No matter how hard one tries one will always arrive at a subjective assumption of what is objective.

In D&D, however, we can talk about objective definitions of good and evil because it is part of the rules of the game, even if we interpret these rules differently.
With regards to the real world, it's not clear that morality is *always* anything, heh. Otherwise it'd be nowhere near the issue it is (and historically has been) ;)


In this respect I actually think that alignment selection is a boon to the game. By choosing an alignment a player indicates how he or she intends to play the character in question. In a game such as D&D, where good, evil, law and chaos are defined and circumscribed by the rules this is a great help to the GM.
Bingo. With the addition that there are mechanics concerning the interaction of these alignments. (I'm beginning to think oDnD had it spot-on, actually, by leaving good and evil out of the rules entirely.)

DMMike
11-15-2009, 11:19 PM
Civil rights movements, notably using protests or disobedience. Any intervention into another nation-state's affairs on the grounds of human rights. Pretty much all of rights ethics, really, are based around the idea that the established Order can be morally wrong.

I'm not sure that civil rights movements are common enough, or successful enough, to justify the assertion that Good usually triumphs over Law. Further, since successful civil rights movements tend to result in a change to the existing order, they're as much a Chaos success as a Good one.

Interventions into state affairs, regardless of the grounds, tend to involve a good amount of assassination and combat. So, not really Good causes, even if they are victories over Law.

Rights ethics - yup, Good. But is what you get actually what you asked for? Look at South Africa. They ended apartheid, but the new, population representative government was so indebted to financial powers, they were a government only in name. Hailed as a triumph of Good, but really just Evil in disguise.

d-_-b
11-16-2009, 03:34 AM
When one states that good overrides law, one needs to keep in mind that laws are in place to further the "common good" -at least it is the intention of it's originators. That is, laws are intended to make society better for all of its members.
Apartheid in South Africa was merely a case where the dominant body passed laws they perceived would better the lives of the people they represented -the white minority. While this was an extreme case culture does work by establishing hegemony. As such culture might be said to be oppressive in it's natural state as it seeks to exact dominance and silence other groups vying for supremacy. We have different ideas of what constitute the common good -or just good- and this lies at the heart of inter-societal conflict.

Sascha
11-16-2009, 01:01 PM
I'm not sure that civil rights movements are common enough, or successful enough, to justify the assertion that Good usually triumphs over Law. Further, since successful civil rights movements tend to result in a change to the existing order, they're as much a Chaos success as a Good one.
Except they establish an Order founded on Good, which was the problem with the previous one. If the Lawful Good course of action would have led to the desired changes, they wouldn't need the disobedience. It's largely a function of deontological forces, which operate tightly with rights ethics - in that a right is meaningless without the corresponding duty to uphold it. And, unless you're Immanuel Kant, duties are not inviolate; it's wholly possible (realistic, even) to have a prima facia duty override a lesser duty, while still being true to both.

(Also, this is somewhat off-topic from the objective nature of DnD's morality mechanics.)


Interventions into state affairs, regardless of the grounds, tend to involve a good amount of assassination and combat. So, not really Good causes, even if they are victories over Law.
See above, for when the intervention is validated; the cause is, indeed, Good, though the means are regrettable.

You're spot on, though, for when the intervention is questionable, or flat-out wrong ; the cause is either missing or clearly not-Good, so action taken is not for the greater good.

The problem is, in our world, there is no universally-agreed on source of moral authority; our conflicts are judged on the analysis of moral truth through multiple lenses. DnD makes no mistake about the nature of their morality (other than the wording, which was, imo, written without a fair understanding of ethics theories).


Rights ethics - yup, Good. But is what you get actually what you asked for? Look at South Africa. They ended apartheid, but the new, population representative government was so indebted to financial powers, they were a government only in name. Hailed as a triumph of Good, but really just Evil in disguise.
It's still a triumph for Good, in that it ended Apartheid. Our own civil rights struggles are the same, in that we're still not all fully equal. However, you can't just erase systemic racism (or sexism, or other discrimination) by changing the law; it takes generations, and careful measures (more laws, enforcement of said laws) to ensure the system treats everyone equally.

That allowing the required time to pass also requires ginormous amounts of money is an artifact of our economic system, not our morality. (Though, there are argumentative links, but I have not the time to go into them, nor are they relevant to a discussion on DnD's source of moral authority.)


When one states that good overrides law, one needs to keep in mind that laws are in place to further the "common good" -at least it is the intention of it's originators. That is, laws are intended to make society better for all of its members.
Apartheid in South Africa was merely a case where the dominant body passed laws they perceived would better the lives of the people they represented -the white minority. While this was an extreme case culture does work by establishing hegemony. As such culture might be said to be oppressive in it's natural state as it seeks to exact dominance and silence other groups vying for supremacy. We have different ideas of what constitute the common good -or just good- and this lies at the heart of inter-societal conflict.
Yes. Our political machine, at its core, doesn't really understand its own forces well enough to ensure they arrive at the desired outcome, and the track record of listening to those which reinforce the worldview tends towards ignoring folk who know what they're talking about, but contradict held beliefs. (Which would still be present in a hypothetical DnD-world analog, but at least they Detect as Lawful and/or Good :P)

tesral
11-18-2009, 01:21 PM
Alignments are somewhat of a crutch. It's like rolling or selecting personalities off some chart. It's just another way of muddling up the process.

Clerics, Druids, ect.... Divine types, should rely more on dogma and sacrilge to determine if they are following the path of their deity.

(http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/alignment.html)Out of the Box; the Conundrum of Alignment (http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/alignment.html)


And the greatest evils are done in the name of the common good. Such arguments that killing the orphans is a good act in the forefront of the proof for this statement.

I personally fail to see where killing for pay is a good act, even if you kill for the "right side". Two "evil" nations fighting? Yea, all the civilians caught in the middle, the conscripted soldiers that don't have a choice in the matter. Locking to the two evil kings in a room with daggers, that I could go for.

I have no assassin class, nor will I. It's a job description I don't have a blacksmith class or a lawyer class either.

d-_-b
11-18-2009, 03:24 PM
Interesting article/blog you link to there... Does it not miss the point that in the D&D rules good and evil are described as objective concepts or "from the outside"?
A person or deity who is described as evil by these rules in all likelyhood does not consider him- or herself to be so, since their actions and ideals are idiosyncratic and entirely justifiable to themselves. From the objective point of view of the game rules, however, he or she is considered to be of a personality type labeled evil.

I, for one, do not think that the alignment system, for example, implies that inciting two evil kingdoms to war is in the nature or interest of a good entity. As a matter of fact I see no problem in the peaceful co-existence of a good and an evil community, such as ones of humans and orcs.

DMMike
11-18-2009, 08:30 PM
Interesting article/blog you link to there... Does it not miss the point that in the D&D rules good and evil are described as objective concepts or "from the outside"?
A person or deity who is described as evil by these rules in all likelyhood does not consider him- or herself to be so, since their actions and ideals are idiosyncratic and entirely justifiable to themselves. From the objective point of view of the game rules, however, he or she is considered to be of a personality type labeled evil.

My problem with objective evil: what does an evil person do when he finds out that he's evil? I mean, there's no chance that he's good - the spell just told him so! Does one quest to become good, lose faith in alignment detecting magic, or just accept that one is doomed to go work for the awful evil gods someday? An awkward situation all around.

By the way, I think Assassin's Creed is delving into the good/evilness of assassins issue. I'd be happy to hear back from someone who's seen the promotional videos.

tesral
11-18-2009, 09:18 PM
Interesting article/blog you link to there... Does it not miss the point that in the D&D rules good and evil are described as objective concepts or "from the outside"?
A person or deity who is described as evil by these rules in all likelyhood does not consider him- or herself to be so, since their actions and ideals are idiosyncratic and entirely justifiable to themselves. From the objective point of view of the game rules, however, he or she is considered to be of a personality type labeled evil.

I, for one, do not think that the alignment system, for example, implies that inciting two evil kingdoms to war is in the nature or interest of a good entity. As a matter of fact I see no problem in the peaceful co-existence of a good and an evil community, such as ones of humans and orcs.

However I don't accept the rules as written. I'm not missing the point at all. I'm disagreeing with it. Also if you accept the rules as written "evil" and "good" cannot coexist. Polar opposites they must be in conflict.

I have no problem changing the rules to suit myself and my game. I seriously have no problem changing rules I see as cartoonish in nature. I want an ethical base more complex than He-man.



My problem with objective evil: what does an evil person do when he finds out that he's evil? I mean, there's no chance that he's good - the spell just told him so! Does one quest to become good, lose faith in alignment detecting magic, or just accept that one is doomed to go work for the awful evil gods someday? An awkward situation all around..

However if you have the idea of objective evil, then you have to look at the idea that evil people know they are evil and are good with that, because that is their alignment. Power Rangers grade stuff here.

Pushkins
11-18-2009, 10:12 PM
I can say there are valid points to both side of this duel of good vs evil against the argument of what is good and what is evil.

For the Game, choosing an alignment does give a directive as to how one would role play that character. However those actions take by the Good or Evil character are merely good or evil based on view point. I guess one could say the "view point" of D&D is a sort of Greek chorus, where those moral issues are viewed through the eyes of players, cause let's face it Evil is personified by Demons and Devils due to the western Judean belief system.

But what of the Paladin that rushes into a village of orc, and slays them? is this not just as heinous as the Blackguard who rushes in to a human village slaying them?

As this discussion either makes us enlightened individuals for seeing through the veil of racism or whatever, or maybe we are all just good role players we find that the rigid alignment system is some what faulty. Just as the world isn't black & white, good or evil, so to do we wish our game to capture.

I for one disagree with a rigid alignment system, except for using it to keep those divine swayed characters true to their cause. And yes even then it is 2 sides of the same coins where Good slays evil and vice versa. the only true tokens of purity are a handful of feats from the Exalted Handbook as vows.

As for keeping alignments I agree they are an excellent tool for rules pertaining to type of characters. As for the Assassin Class itself, no ...no good assassins, the class is specific to evil characters, However that doesn't mean either an alternative class can be found or created that basically results as a similar character that in the end IS an assassin of evil, for the righteous cause of good.

A good Assassin will differ mainly in poison use, but a likely substitute is along the Keen weapon lines for that clean merciful kill, or some other way of inflicting ability damage because the power of good compels you

Sascha
11-19-2009, 12:06 AM
My problem with objective evil: what does an evil person do when he finds out that he's evil? I mean, there's no chance that he's good - the spell just told him so! Does one quest to become good, lose faith in alignment detecting magic, or just accept that one is doomed to go work for the awful evil gods someday? An awkward situation all around.
It's not so much a problem, really; anything with an "Always <x>" has no moral agency, thus can't be anything but what they are. Humanoids tend not to be born Good or Evil, so their actions determine their alignments.

Those that do choose Evil, well, it's pretty much what tesral says here:


However if you have the idea of objective evil, then you have to look at the idea that evil people know they are evil and are good with that, because that is their alignment. Power Rangers grade stuff here.
(Power Rangers? Really? Snidely Whiplash: superior example of a Black Hat, complete with black hat~ Though, I suppose you'd have to wait for your world to invent the steam engine before you can tie damsels to the railroad tracks.)

I disagree, though, that alignment should be a binding force on only specific characters; if all characters require an alignment (as they do), then it should affect all characters equally. That it only has mechanical effect on a fraction of classes (barring alignment-specific magic or 'bane'-type effects) is a bit of a failing of the design, itself. (It's one of the things I think original DnD and 4th Edition got basically correct; largely, that alignment has very little to no impact, rules-wise. But hey, if it works at your table, rock on~)

Pushkins
11-19-2009, 01:44 AM
I disagree, though, that alignment should be a binding force on only specific characters; if all characters require an alignment (as they do), then it should affect all characters equally. That it only has mechanical effect on a fraction of classes (barring alignment-specific magic or 'bane'-type effects) is a bit of a failing of the design, itself. (It's one of the things I think original DnD and 4th Edition got basically correct; largely, that alignment has very little to no impact, rules-wise. But hey, if it works at your table, rock on~)

It's not by my design that the game operates this way, in fact the switching of alignment by any character has effects in play, but it's a matter of game mechanics I make my statement

If a fighter goes from CN to NE this effects him only in role-play, perhaps he may have some chivalrous types of feats that he would lose, but basically that is it

A rogue is affected about the same. Wizards/Sorcerer are also mildly effected where as they may have wished they had other spells to be more effective, but something they did got them to the point of alignment transition.

But Paladins Clerics and that lot are profoundly affected, they lose primary abilities ability to cast spells or use powers, since these powers come from a divine being who would not grant abilities to those who've lost their way.

So in the case of an assassin, He could turn good, but his retained abilities would be only restricted by his role play, that murdering people and poisoning are act of evil. You could not be good and become an assassin, but you could be an assassin and turn good, losing class abilities or not using them because now you have a different alignment


These principals hold true in all but 4E as I have no care to look at it, and can not speak for it

tesral
11-19-2009, 07:16 AM
As for the Assassin Class itself, no ...no good assassins, the class is specific to evil characters, However that doesn't mean either an alternative class can be found or created that basically results as a similar character that in the end IS an assassin of evil, for the righteous cause of good.

Rather more specifically to those that do evil. I carefully steer away from evil and good as objects. Evil and good are actions.

I am also of the opinion that you cannot aid a cause by breaking its principles. You cannot do evil in and accomplish good. Sure you can do evil in the name of good, but I can hold orgies in the name of chastity too. It doesn't increase the chasteness of anything, but I can say it.

Most especially in the realm of principle, one must be careful of actions. If what I see and what I hear differ, I'm going to put more weight into what I see. Actions speak louder than words. Your actions must reflect the principles you speak of, or the principles are in the trash.





But Paladins Clerics and that lot are profoundly affected, they lose primary abilities ability to cast spells or use powers, since these powers come from a divine being who would not grant abilities to those who've lost their way.

Paladins and clerics are given a code of morals and ethics to follow, not a mere alignment. Part of my argument against alignment is the coarseness of the thing,. It gives no detail, no specifics. There is no philosophy embodied in the idea of alignment but at the most crude level. You are trying to paint the Mona Lisa on a three pixel by three pixel grid.

Sascha
11-19-2009, 01:10 PM
These principals hold true in all but 4E as I have no care to look at it, and can not speak for it
Well, all DnD, post-1977 and pre-4E. Before ADnD, Good and Evil weren't alignments; they were (to the system) minor roleplaying choices, thus the principles aren't true for the original DnD.

cigamnogard
11-19-2009, 05:25 PM
You have all raised some good points.
In the current campaign one of the players is evil. An impure-prince if you will - because he is. Now, he has done no evil but he has is evil in his heart. Do I force him to change his alignment because he has comitted no evil acts? Yet, conversley he has done no good deeds either. So, he must be neutral then...Most likely his alignment will rear it's ugly head at a most inopportune time for the party - and I am okay with that as a DM.

tesral
11-20-2009, 06:35 AM
And there is the rub. Alignment is as alignment does some would say and he is not XX until he does XX. Others will say that alignment is intent, and you should change it. I say to Hell with the labels, play the game. Deal wit the social consequences of his actions when they happen.

d-_-b
11-20-2009, 10:43 AM
You have all raised some good points.
In the current campaign one of the players is evil. An impure-prince if you will - because he is. Now, he has done no evil but he has is evil in his heart. Do I force him to change his alignment because he has comitted no evil acts? Yet, conversley he has done no good deeds either. So, he must be neutral then...Most likely his alignment will rear it's ugly head at a most inopportune time for the party - and I am okay with that as a DM.

You should ask: Does he have that certain je ne sais quois that makes him evil? Does he act in his own interest? Is he self centered? Does he give a f... about the feelings and fate of others? Would he kill for personal benefit?, etc. The descriptor "evil" is and abstraction which refers to a certain character type defined by the rules of the game.

If you are familiar with the webcomic OOTS (www.giantitp.com) you know of at least one evil character, namely Belkar Bitterleaf, in a predominately good aligned party. He's a caricature for sure -and damn funny- but he would serve as a good example at this point in the discussion. Is he evil?

cigamnogard
11-26-2009, 07:39 PM
I am familiar and you make an excellent point. And I have allowed him to continue to be "evil".