Hmm... I don't want to tell you how to run your game, but I don't see how relative points of view and a subjective approach is really accurate. As I eluded to earlier, by that definition a serial killer who worships the god of murder could have a good alignment, because his religion approves of murdering anyone you can... Even a lot of serial killers acknowledge that they are evil, and if they are set free they will do evil again... Or, you can have sociopaths, who will steal and cheat or kill anyone and don't see it as wrong because other people "don't really matter", its all about themself.
There's a lot of actions that pretty much the entire world frowns upon, regardless of the culture, stealing, murder, rape.. to name the obvious ones... These actions are recognized as evil, regardless of culture, so you can't really say it depends on religion, because evil or demonic religions may approve of it.
I see the detect good spell having the same issue. I don't think its meant to be transformed into a detect "friends" spell. I think its meant to give you an idea of the number of people with "good" alignment in the area. Good aligned people may use it to find help when they're in trouble, evil people may use it to find their enemies and who to target next for murder...
This is why I disagree with connecting "good" individually with people's religion for game purposes... because you won't always have consistency about what constitutes "good" among players... and you're inviting rules lawyering for alignment issues.
Also, what if the person's character is agnostic? Does that mean he can only have neutral alignment? Or does that automatically give him good or evil??
My recommendation is give vague guidelines about what constitutes good neutral and evil, regardless of religion or culture... that way alignment is standardized, and as the GM you maintain control of judgement about alignment. The system can't be abused because a system hasn't been clearly defined. As the GM you maintain control of interpreting players' actions.
Those are my ideas if characters need to declare alignment... personally, I think its better to not even bother writing that down, and let the character's actions speak for their alignment. I'm not familier with D&D, but maybe the system needs alignment defined... so that spells like "detect good" will work right.
I'm glad I mainly play GURPS and starwars... defining alignment is too much of a pain...
You have hit upon the essence of what I tend to view as Good. I only add a few things:
Love is good. Just because your a good person, does not mean that you have to be passive. I dare you to threaten the child of a loving mother. And her killing that threat is not evil; But her plotting to slowly torture the person behind the threat before killing them would be evil.
Hate is Evil. More then just Power without Control it's “Concern for self over all others” to quote Harry Dresden.
Justification does not change the fact that your Character preforms and Evil act. It's the fact that they must face that choice, and accept the consequences for having done it.
To me, the best Characters are those that still retain some measure of both Good and Evil within them:
Where their very existence can damn or redeem them.
I'll revisit this thread, and perhaps post a few more comments as I can get the time to read through it.
Underestimate No One.
Stealing, murder, and rape, are only evil in context. Don't forget to realize the context in which you're viewing them (lawful, modern society). Stealing is viewed as good by the poor, murder is viewed as good by soldiers, and rape is viewed as good by conquerors subduing heathens.
Detect good, if it acted the way you suggest, Holocron, would lead to a lot of unhappy clerics if they cast it in the middle of a religious war. Most combatants in such a case are out to kill, which is objectively evil (but not subjectively). But trust me, both sides think they're fighting for good.
The Good consistency is this: who's on my side, and who's not? That's really what it boils down to from a subjective angle.
The agnostic character doesn't have to worry about Detect Evil (Good), because it's a cleric spell (in D&D). You're not going to be a cleric without getting divine magic from a divine entity. If there is an agnostic one, it'll probably have an opinion on what's Good and what's Evil.
Ahh ok, I see... so the serial killer would only have good alignment from HIS religion's point of view. So on HIS character sheet, he would have good alignment, but from other people's points of view who don't approve of his killing, he would be evil...
I dunno... this may be something we'll have to agree to disagree about... if you've seen some interviews of serial killer rapists, you may notice that several of them admit that what they did was evil. They know its wrong, and admit that if they were released from prison, they would do it again. So then, even from these guys own points of view, they are admittedly evil.
Hmm, wow, and I thought my method of giving guidelines with grey areas was confusing...
I can see what you're saying about context, but I still disagree. Individual points of view may in some cases change a person's attitude about just HOW wrong a wrong action is, but in my opinion doesn't change the fact that its still wrong.
In the stealing example, I don't think poor people or even thieves see stealing as "good". Because thieves still feel like its evil when people steal from them, and poor people may feel guilty about stealing, even though they know its the only option they see for survival. The situation forces them to do something against their morals, but doesn't make it a good action, and doesn't clear their conscience.
I can tell you straight up that NO true soldier views murder as good. But, I guess this relies on the attitude that murder is a specific subcatagory of killing. If you kill a wolf that was about to eat your neighbor's daughter, its not murder. If you kill the serial killer rapist that was about to behead a decent guy, its not murder, it was a necessary death to save other people's lives. Subjectivity has nothing to do with making it good or evil.
Any conquerer who knowingly uses rape as a tool for his conquest, by definition can't have good alignment. Really, who would dispute this?
Personally I don't really care if a bunch of clerics became unhappy if they realized that some of their friends were actually evil, and some of their enemies were actually good. Then they would see the truth; that there's good and evil on both sides! And plus, what good cleric goes to war?! These guys should be promoting peace!
If all it boils down to is "who's on my side, and who's not?", then I ask possibly for a second time, wouldn't that give EVERYONE good alignment?? At least from their own point of view, everyone could have "good" written down. I don't really see "good" anywhere in your descriptions, I just see evil with something nice like religion as an excuse to justify it.
Like I said though, I don't want to tell you how to run your game, so you should do what works for you, and I'm certainly going to run mine in a way thats consistent with the point of view that my players and I share. I could never run alignment, or issues of morality subjectively as you describe, but I don't expect everyone to agree with me either.
The point about the conquering army doing the raping isn't necessarily to call rape a good act, but just to introduce the idea that it's not universally evil. I'm pretty sure that in prior millenia, armies commonly raped, pillaged, and took for slaves anyone on the losing side. This knowledge didn't cause soldiers to abandon their armies in droves because they were doing evil things. It was actually considered a reward. Think about it.
As far as everyone having a good alignment, maybe Einstein can help us here. Say you're on a chariot, approaching the speed of light. A stationary centurion, say at the end of the furlong, has a wrist-mounted sundial. When you pass his position, and announce immediately, "I'm Good!" he will notice, after some simple calculations, that your sundial seemed to be stopped as you passed by. Stopping time is witchcraft, and he would thus determine you to be evil, instead of good.
Really though, once Good becomes relative, there's no point in putting it on a character sheet. Objectively good things in the game can be related to the deities and religions that are popularly viewed as Good, but they shouldn't be considered as having a Good-Evil alignment. Because it's all relative. Wouldn't it be nice for your paladin to be able to regulate on evil doers without having to cast Detect Evil on them first, just to be sure?
Your arguments make sense if you agree with relativistic "us vs them" mentality. Wouldn't you agree though that "true good" would be someone who first tries to negotiate with his enemies for peace before declairing them evil and killing them??
I still disagree, I think rape IS universally evil. I don't see a way to justify it no matter who's doing it to who. Just because the society accepted it as normal doesn't make it good, or even not evil... Look at the mid east before mohammad came along, or china before confucious. It was complete chaos and everyone knew it was full of evil, it was considered the norm, but people still thought it sucked. Confucious and mohammad introduced a motivation to act morally, and lawfully (not saying those are necessarily the same).
I do agree that annotating alignment on your character sheet is pointless, because you should play how you want, not how the rules say you should to keep your alignment.
And NO, I don't think it would be nice for a paladin to be able to freely kill without seeing if they're actually evil first. They should feel free to do it if they want, but if they're trying to do the right thing they should see if the person they're about to attack is actually a bad person or just an innocent caught in the crossfire... Things like that are why the military has rules of engagement... Personally, I think players should have to make tough moral decisions, if they're trying to claim that they're good... but we don't have to agree, I'm fine with you maintaining your point of view.
The sheer amount of verbiage in this thread just reinforces my point about alignment.
One: The Alignment system has been debated to death. The books can clarify and explain until the damn bovines are dust, never mind come home, it changes not in the least the fact that people will argue the meaning those nine little phrases, and argue and ARGUE. In part I drop alignment because it unhinges those expectations. By not using the loaded phrases to describe anything, I remove them from contention, and hopefully open people to looking at my game as it is, not with the baggage they bring to it.
1 - You're a good sport.
2 - There might be a reason for middle-eastern and Chinese societies to want you to think that they were complete chaos and full of evil prior to their enlightened souls coming along. Do you recall what American settlers were told about native Americans in order to justify their pacification?
3 - Note that I said paladins "regulate," not "freely kill." The point was that evil is relative, and not something awaiting confirmation from a spell.
I think there is "relativistic good" and "absolute good" just as their is "relativistic evil" and "aboslute evil", but that's philosophy.
Alignment is much more a constriction to D&D than an inspiration. It stems from the human desire to label and categorize for ease of reference.
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
And I thought that the debates over "Evil" were charged with emotional feedback.
I know that in RL USA History, all of the people involved did a lot of really bad things, and justified it in the name of The Greater Good.
(Note: The Pilgrims were perhaps the only group that did their best to be Good, and worked with the Native American Tribes that they found.
The Colonists of the late 1600s and early 1700s did some very evil things.
There were Native American Tribes that were just as bad.
And then there was the Wild West, which is what I focus on below.)
It is still my opinion that their actions were Evil; regardless of whether or not they were justified, or even legal.
But we Humans are emotional creatures, and once we get worked up, we can overreact to any given situation.
Only a few Tribes and Settlers were willing to try and work things out, but Politicians would then come in and behave exactly like the nice Settlers, but screw the Tribes over. And the Settlers were not able to do anything about it, because everyone else backed the Politicians.
And then there came the big Manifest Destiny movement across the Wild West, where the (white) poor tried to become rich as quickly as they could by creating a large enough Homestead. Most ended up working for the Railroads or Mines.
Next up, Cattle verses Buffalo. The Cattle industry has always been big.
But they require a lot of space to feed them. That space had to come from somewhere, and look - where the Buffalo roam is perfect for cattle.
Also, everyone knew that a lot of Native American Tribes depended on hunting the Buffalo to survive, and to the Buffalo were delaired a "pest" and everyone was encourage (and even rewarded) for killing them.
There are pictures of mounds of buffalo bones piled as high as a Barn's roof top. The sight of them still causes me sadness, and I can only imagine how a Native American person feels about it.
And then came the Gold Rush right on the heels of the Civil War and everyone tried to get rich quick - and the Government, as well as big business and their rich owners, got richer.
And then Oil. Black Gold.
Natural Resources could no longer be shared - and things got really nasty.
Several Native American Tribes got just as nasty as the Army and White Settlers, in killing each other. The desecration and defiling of the land offended them to no end. Soon, neither side was willing to really try and work things out where both sides would win.
And that's still not touching on the issues of Slavery, and not just of African Americans, but also of the Irish, the Chinese, and even those Whites that were too poor to be anything else.
Indentured Servitude, including to "The Company Store": Share Cropping: and Sweat Shops. All a form of Slavery.
How is the working of someone to litteral death: with no hope of freedom, or ever achieving anything of lasting value - not Evil ?
Anyone recall Company "Spanking Rooms"? - and what they were for?
Poor families would actually hire their children - boys and girls (some as young as the age of six) to the company [usually a factory] in order to try and make ends meet. But, the company would impose the same standards upon these children that they did adults, while paying them less then the adults made.
And when any child failed to meet those standards, the child was sent (or taken by their supervisor) to the Spanking Room. I won't go into all the details, but I will say that there was more then just spankings that happened in those rooms.
- How is this not Evil? Sure, it was allowed by the Law at the time - and it was "good' for the company and it's owner(s), but that does not make the actions themselves Good.
It is to prevent these kind of things from happening again that many current American Labor Laws were put in place.
I note that no one responded at all to my "Good is Love" posting.
And keep in mind that Love does not always have anything to do with sex.
Sex without Love is just Lust. Love of a parent to a child; Love of a Sibling; Love of a friend; and Love between a Man and a Woman, even when they are seperated by miles. All are forms of Love.
I'm leaving the Seven Deadly Sins out of this debate, for the sake of avoiding the causing of even more sidetracking: since they are "religion" based.
So without religion to give us a guide, what can we look at for a reference as an example of "Fundamental" Good and Evil?
And without going to any extreme measure?
Humm - How about those things that all Religions agree on?
The Golden Rule can be found in every major Religion - though the exact wording might be different. Even those Religions that reject it, still acknowledge it.
While I cannot expect anyone to agree with me, I still say that Good and Evil are outside of the Character's personal perspective.
Therefore it falls upon the DM to clearly define what is "Fundmentally" Good and Evil in their Games.
Justifying an action to one's self (or even to others) does not make that action Good.
Harvesting your crop is neither Good nor Evil - it is only survival.
Taking another person's crop is theft, and is Evil. Sure, your actions for survival may cause the crop owner to forgive you, but that does not change the fact that stealing their crop was Evil.
The Good thing for that 'thief' to have done, would have been to go to the crop's owner and offer to do work in exchange for enough to live on.
In another site, I have had to argue that just because someone is not perfectly Good - does not mean that they are forced to change their Alignment, or to be Defrocked in the case of Clerics and Paladins.
A single act should not cause an Alignment change, unless it is extreme.
Anican Skywalker's (CG) (free spirited) defiance of the Jedi Laws did not make him Evil. After all, the Jedi are supposed to be proactive Paladins, not passive Monks.
Anican gave too much of himself to those he cared about: he Loved them with all his heart, and it was this - as well as his Hubris - that caused Anican's fall to the Dark Side. It was Anican 's Love and caring for his Mother, and his fear that he would lose her, and never see her again that Yoda sensed when Anican was first introduced to the Jedi Council.
Anican giving into rage and hate and killing all the Sand People when his mother died was Evil. But even this did not immediately cause an Alignment Change, because Anican still did everything else to oppose Evil where he found it.
Palapine used Anican 's love of Padme against him, to tempt Anican into joining Palpatine against the Jedi. Anican 's oath that made him a Sith caused not just a shift to Evil - because Anican accepted that he was going to do anything, no matter how wrong, to get what he wanted - but changed the normally Chaotic Good Anican Skywalker into the Lawful Evil Darth Vader.
But, Vader could not truly rid himself of those feelings, and it was his Love of his son, Luke, that redeemed Anican back to the Light Side.
For those of you that actually read all this, I thank you.
I tend to get carried away when explaining things.
All of the above is my Opinion - only.
I'm a Human that is a Vulcan/Romulan hybred: I'm very logical, and yet passionate.
I also have the tendencies of a Gnome - always on the move, and tinkering with things.
Last edited by DragonDM; 10-01-2008 at 03:10 PM. Reason: minor details
Underestimate No One.
Love is notoriously poorly defined (or just badly abused), so that's why I won't touch Good is Love with a 10 foot pole.
You can look to your in-game god or religion for a reference on Goodness. That's a simple solution, but is effectively saying "good is what the DM says it is."
The Golden Rule is a pretty good standard, but starts to crumble when used by selfish people or people lacking empathy. Take this thought:
"I would have others forgive me when I bend rules and accumulate wealth and exploit their resources, so I'll do the same for them."
Doesn't quite result in Goodness, does it? You could rephrase the Golden Rule, and it would closely resemble my latest, most controversial description of Goodness:
"There are certain things of which I approve, and I would have others do these things to me. Thusly and therefore, I should do the things of which I approve to others."
Selfish and otherwise bad people will twist the rules to mean what they want to justify themselves. That does not mean the rules don't work. More rules don't fix it.
And my point is being constantly proven.