If they work for a museum...
We have probably all been through the scenario where we must enter a tombe to retrieve a lost artifact of some kind. but how is that different from every day grave robbing?
Ok yes a tomb will be more elaborate than a simple grave or mausoleum. And yes there may be monsters and other badies involved.
What if the heroes grow old, retire, and live out their lives in glory with awards of heroism, and great deeds. Then one by one the party dies. Great monuments are built and the party is entombed in a lavish subterranean comlex, set with traps to prevent theives and treasure hunters. Then centuries later, some goof balls come waltzing in and begin to open up the sarcofogi, molesting the dried corpses of once proud and stoic warriors of justice and light, looking for loot. Would "good" characters allow this?
If they work for a museum...
Refereeing RPGs since 1977
Pittsburgh Gaming Meetup Group Organizer
I've noticed that. Fantasy adventure seems to depends a lot of tomb robbing.
However the "sacredness" of burial places is a cultural thing, not a moral thing. Why would cultures that say, cremate and scatter their dead respect a burial?
As Humans we seem to have a "fear" of the dead virtually built in. There is a sound health reason for that. Rotting bodies carry diseases than can turn you into a rotting body. Death, is contagious.
In a social sense we have developed all sorts of cultural mechanisms to work this into the ritual of living, including the sacredness of the dead.
From a practical standpoint how can the dead hold property? You cannot steal from an inert body, it has no property rights.
So I reject the argument that taking goods from a tomb is not a "good" act. It really seems to depend on the cultural set. Digging up a local grave? A crime. Hauling out Pharaoh Nutocommun and displaying his goods in a museum? Archealolgy.
But yes, getting things out of tombs seem to be a big part of Fantasy adventure.
Tes, at risk of starting yet another "What is the definition of good/evil?" thread, isn't all morality culture-based (or vice versa)?? The western world has clear morals that say that incest and under-age sex are evil - yet there are societies that make it culturally normal for a father to deflower his daughter the night before her wedding... usually at 13-15 years old).
I started a group out with one guy that was playing a Norse-type barbarian, whom I front-loaded with all the cultural norms - including the stricture of never bothering the dead, as their journey was not yet over.
Adventure two or three, they encounter a long-lost tomb of one of his tribesmen from centuries before. The party goes to stock up on some GREAT magic (a couple +1 trinkets), and suddenly his face goes slack as he realized what they were doing. The argument that ensued was worth writing into a novel one day!! Since they were in VERY sorry need of help, they VERY carefully looted the tomb, the guy said MANY prayers (the player was a rabid atheist - so it was a neat scene!), the group went out and kicked bad-guy-butt, and to the dismay of the group, the player insisted that they return all the items they had "borrowed".
I made sure the next time they ran into a shaman from his tribe, that there were some neat visions for the guy, clearly describing how pleased the spirits were with his decision.
The rest of the group was still pissed, though (insert maniacal laugh here!!).
Tomb robbing is of course logical, but you can boil anything down really with logic. Rape murder etc.
Logically rape may only take a few minutes to a few hours out of a life span that lasts for many decades or even a century
Broken bones heal back stronger
All we really need is protein drinks to live
Murder just makes sense as you can't bring back the dead (even if you could it would mean even less as it is only a temporary condition) and there are too many people on earth right now.
Children are useless parasites until they reach maturity, then they smug parasites
Any place that has tombs is going to have laws against grave robbing
Anyone coming from a culture where funeral pyres and cremation would have to be socially, empathetically, and legally dense not to understand that the lands they now travel in have a different view on the station of the dead.
Wow I wonder why this "mona lisa?" is inside this alarmed case with armed guards at its sides sophisticated alarm systems and a rope giving it a wide birth. Morons don't they know it is only some dead guys oil based image of another dead person. Should my picture of my friend toby I took yesterday with my digital camera be here? I don't think so, and it's better quality to. She isn't even good looking. People back then sure were ugly.
Just saying that even though they might not agree with customs they would recognize obvious ones and unless they want to be dicks would most likely follow them like not shaking people's left hands in the middle east At best the person would be considered a boorish foreigner. At worst a criminal
I think "good" people would allow it depending on the need. It depends on the cultural significance of the item being robbed.
ie. If you are trying to rob a digital image some kid took of his buddy, no one will care because the digital image of the buddy is in no way culturally significant.
However, if the thing you are trying to rob is a MAJOR piece of historical artwork that was hundreds of years ahead of it's time, then people might care a bit more.
Of course, that digital image could in some way become much more culturally significant in a hundred years too...
The difference between tomb raiding and grave robbing is that "graves" are regularly visited or guarded, and therefore have more sentimental or cultural value, while "tombs" are probably forgotten and/or distant from civilization.
Would a "good" character allow tomb raiding? First, what's "good?" Second, and closely related, is what does the surrounding culture have to say about it? Maybe it's a common belief that the dead are worthless; they get buried with little more than a goodbye note. Thus there is no incentive for grave-robbing.
-Heinrich smiles. Cynthia smiles. Hermit attacks!
Laws customs, etc. Illegal is not immoral. Slavery was once legal and helping a slave escape was a major crime. Doesthat make helping escaped slaves immoral?
Rights of the dead? Only if they can stand up and demand them. Again the law can say the dead have any sort of right, but asThomas Jefferson said "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
So the law does not define actual harm here. Just the customary treatment of the dead. As the dead cannot demand rights they have none. now, if the dead CAN demand rights that is an entirely different kettle of fish.
However as long as the dead do not demand rights, they can't have them. Custom and law might define what is legal, but you can't morally hurt a dead body or steal from it. Try this one for size.. In 19th century England stealing the body was a misdemeanor, stealing the clothing a felony.
Is there a need to 'liberate' one of the items buried with the dead good guys in order to serve some greater good or stave off disaster? The answer is sure. If its just in pursuit of power, then it may be acceptable if the local authorities (religious, political) were persuaded that the items are doing no good moldering in a tomb and that the party could do great things if they were allowed to retrieve some of the items (but be respectful of the dead). Make it hard on them and say ok, but you cannot destroy or disrupt the remains of the dead in any way. But no, "good" characters would not, as a guideline, raid the tomb of the heroes they grew up listening to stories of.
But most "adventurers" are not good. Its a certain flexible outlook required in order to be in a job where killing things and taking loot is your way of life. Its called pirate, privateer in kinder circles. Good is far from absolute, but in systems that have something like alignment, as a GM, i would consider it a deviation. Its all about the motivations - GM call.
Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.
Depending on the source of moral authority, rights may actually be extended into the afterlife via veneration; filial piety can be a powerful force for ethical behavior. The duty to care for one's ancestors has been interpreted as tending to their remains and possessions, in some cases.
Even in a European context veneration has a form in saints' relics (as well as pre-Christian belief structures; our own calendar's creeping up on one such observation ).
That's not to say looting doesn't happen. Actually, it'll likely happen more when there's financial incentive to do so - Iraq since 2003 points towards this. One culture's relic is another's meal ticket and/or prized museum piece ...
What Lara Croft does in someone's tomb with dead bodies and their posessions, well, is only moral or immoral in the eyes of others.
-Heinrich smiles. Cynthia smiles. Hermit attacks!
Oh and in his high holy day we drag St. Bob out of his tomb and parade his glass coffin full of dead dry bones (nicely dressed up in a new cassock and miter from when we dug him out 20 years ago) around the city in Holy Ecstasy.
we seem to be missing a critical point here, the dead CAN have a say in our RPGs, they CAN get angry and wreak vengeance on the PCs or the local villages. They can rise up as spirits or zombies. They can wail through the night, causing sleepless nights or horror filled dreams. The stench of death can fill the surrounding areas, the fertile soil and turns to dust.
and another thing people don't tend to think aobut is that those roaving animated warrior skeletons may be the honored heroes who have sworn their life and unlife to protecting the great (god) King (fill in the name), who freed his people and his nation from the grip of slavery, war, and the thousand year reign of the vile demonic over lords.
But who really looks into the histories of ancient ruins? The most anyone really wants to know is a) what's in it for us, and b) where is the entrance again?
In other words, someone that would allow an ancestor's tomb to be desecrated or robbed reveals the true nature of that individual and people react to that, rather than punishing the moral failure. (There's also the punishing of moral failure; it's just that the theory of virtue ethics shies away from such "immaterial" things :P It's actually quite compatible with deontology, which is why virtues are often accompanied by the duty to live the virtue. And a right, granted by the duty, to not be violated by lack of virtue. It's almost the ouroboros of ethics )
I believe I did address that.Originally Posted by Me
It comes down to: Grave robbing is seen as bad within our culture. Therefore we tend to project that attitude. However there is nothing particularly moral about that attitude. Hitting some long dead guy over the head and taking his stuff is not in the same moral camp as hitting a live guy over the head and taking his stuff. The law may disagree, but as has been demonstrated the law is an ass, or even immoral.
Therefore, the moral stance on grave robbing is going to depend on the world and the activity level of the dead. It could be anything from sure, take stuff that idiots bury with rotting meat, to how dare you touch our beloved ancient dead.
I cannot see a universal rule here.