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View Full Version : The Evil Alignment: Why do people ever use Stupid Evil?



The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 01:47 AM
I guess I don't understand how stupid evil (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LawfulStupidChaoticStupid?from=Main.StupidEvil)got to be popular. However, upon thinking about it, I admit it is harder for me to come up with strong personality examples of smart/wise/sensible examples of evil (LE, NE, and CE). Particularly CE. I mean, if you are all about breaking the rules and being a jerk (to put it lightly), how do you reconcile that with, oh, being successful and staying alive?

To look at it another way, you are the village cobbler and you are NE. The shoemaker, mind you, not a delicious peach dessert. Stealing, killing people, rape, torture, and necromancy simply are not in your best interest. And, frankly, I think all people are motivated selfishly; no one says "You know, it probably would really screw me over, but the principle of killing babies overrides my common interest" (unlike one might put themselves in danger to protect a baby). Worshipping an evil deity is just cliche. I suppose things like cheating on your wife, using shoddy materials to save money, and showing no love or loyalty to anyone when it is inconvenient for you would pretty much be what is within your realistic commoner's NE grasp?

Yes, good character development requires a /why/ to the evil (Again, you don't kill babies because you feel morally obliged, but perhaps because of some grudge or to make a useful potion out of their blood), but I am really interested in the /how/. How does one play a subtle but strongly evil character? How do evil people function in society?

Also, I guess I assume that overall in a fantasy world, the alignments are fairly evenly distributed. Cultures may tend to skew things somewhat, but in most places you will find at least a few good, neutral, and evil people (as well as lawful, neutral, and chaotic ones).

Finally, how does evil impact one's relationship with loved ones? Does NE or CE ensure no love nor close ties with people, or at least ones which will be broken if it is more convenient? Or would it be possible for even a CE person to give up a lot for someone they truly loved?

Just some ponderings. Sorry it did not stay as a perfectly unified discussion topic. :smallsmile:

Zeful
2009-01-15, 01:55 AM
Stupid Evil is easy. You kill things for pleasure to show how EVIL you are. It's hard to play a smart Evil without looking to the rest of the PC neutral (you could still be killing/raping people, but, ideally, only the DM would know), which appears to some to be counter productive to some. You're evil, everyone should know, seems to be the typical attitude toward evil, which leads to Stupid Evil.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 01:57 AM
Stupid Evil is easy. You kill things for pleasure to show how EVIL you are. It's hard to play a smart Evil without looking to the rest of the PC neutral (you could still be killing/raping people, but, ideally, only the DM would know), which appears to some to be counter productive to some. You're evil, everyone should know, seems to be the typical attitude toward evil, which leads to Stupid Evil.

Right... but shouldn't they realistically end up dead pretty quickly? I mean, with law enforcement, nonevil party members, and so forth? The survivability of stupid evil seems like it should be quite low.

trehek
2009-01-15, 02:01 AM
Stupid evil shouldn't mean that such people do evil all the time. Strongly NE and CE people are probably mostly the kind who receive some perverse enjoyment from some form of evil, be it raping, stealing, kicking on the weak, etc.

Most such people become such at some point because something bad happened to them and they snap. They might often seem perfectly normal people most of the time, but sometimes their sociopathic behaviour surfaces and they go do something evil. Many probably get caught and never get to repeat their crimes, but if they don't get caught they will do it again.

Even if some evil people do really sick things, they still might not do it to humans. Someone loves seeing blood? maybe he just buys a pig every now and then and bathes in it's blood. NE and CE are stupid evil much more often than they should.

Most evil people should realise that evil actions are frowned upon by the public, and because of that they do their evil deeds in secret.

Limos
2009-01-15, 02:12 AM
Well first of all a NE character would never start randomly killing babies. Not unless he had a contract, in writing, which has been reviewed by at least three lawyers and a notary, from some dark god, which would get him something in exchange for the lives of those babies.

Whatever it is must be of more value to the NE character than the babies currently were.

Only CE characters do things at random. LE is the Tyrant alignment. You enslave, pillage, and crush beneath your dominion. NE is the ******* alignment, you do the same things the LE guy does, except you don't have to follow the rules when it doesn't suit you.

As a Neutral Evil character in a Lawful Good party (Which might I add contains a Paladin) I do subtle evil, when we split up for the day I meet up with my NPC cohorts and plan my evil tyranny. I "accidentally" kill when we were supposed to capture. I loot everything that isn't nailed down, and if I can pry it up it doesn't count as nailed down. I go back to the town we liberated a few quests back and demand tribute lest I burn down their hovels with my arcane magics of doom. (The rest of the party still is wondering where all my gold keeps coming from).

As long as I don't act Evil Stupid I can get away with anything, I mean who is going to suspect that Ignomious Fench the Human Wizard is also Skrall, the horrific Lizardman who takes our stuff at Wandtip.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 02:16 AM
Well first of all a NE character would never start randomly killing babies. Not unless he had a contract, in writing, which has been reviewed by at least three lawyers and a notary, from some dark god, which would get him something in exchange for the lives of those babies.[QUOTE]

Or unless he was Stupid Evil. :smallwink: I am entirely in agreement that any /sensible/ NE dude would /never/ do such a thing.

[QUOTE=Limos;5643832]As a Neutral Evil character in a Lawful Good party (Which might I add contains a Paladin) I do subtle evil, when we split up for the day I meet up with my NPC cohorts and plan my evil tyranny. I "accidentally" kill when we were supposed to capture. I loot everything that isn't nailed down, and if I can pry it up it doesn't count as nailed down. I go back to the town we liberated a few quests back and demand tribute lest I burn down their hovels with my arcane magics of doom. (The rest of the party still is wondering where all my gold keeps coming from).

As long as I don't act Evil Stupid I can get away with anything, I mean who is going to suspect that Ignomious Fench the Human Wizard is also Skrall, the horrific Lizardman who takes our stuff at Wandtip.

See, that looks like a good example of how an evil character could be played. And evidence why people should be able to be evil, have fun, be successful at being evil, and never need to resort to Stupid Evil! Though I'd be very curious to hear different interpretations of / takes on NE.

The New Bruceski
2009-01-15, 02:34 AM
As another example of an Evil Among Us, Dexter (from the TV show of the same name) seems a solid LE. He's a serial killer who channels his urges by only killing those who "deserve" it. No matter how much he wants to do someone in, he needs to find a way to get them within his rules.

Contrast this with his day job. He's a forensic specialist in blood splatter (enjoys his job so very much). He's a bit odd but keeps a clean appearance. His meticulous detail in his killings means there isn't even a case for him to follow and sabotage.

JellyPooga
2009-01-15, 02:37 AM
On the subject of Evil commoners (like the cobbler), the average commoner isn't. S/he's Neutral most likely or maybe Good, at a push (society depending, assuming we're talking about humans or similar). Evil people tend to stick out in society because they're...well they're evil, much as a Good person does as well. An Evil commoner will likely be driven out of town for breaking the law and become...you'd never guess...an Outlaw. This is pretty much what sets aside Adventurers and NPC's from the common folk...they are either exceptionally good at something or they have an unusual alignment. As mentioned, a NE Cobbler, for example, will likely commit some crime and either be locked up or driven out of town, whereupon he might become a bandit or simply a roving (evil) traveller. Either that or he manages to hide his crimes, becomeing a serial killer or notorious thief or the like, until such time as he's caught. Either way, he's now exceptional and thus worthy of attention in a game (whether he becomes a PC, NPC or just an encounter).

A cobbler that just skimps on materials, cheats on his wife and the like is not neccesarily Evil, per se, he's just an adulterer or cheapskate. If he is actually Evil, he may also do these things, but being Evil requires a little more than a miserly tendancy.

Kalirren
2009-01-15, 02:49 AM
I think you're absolutely right that Stupid Evil has a low survival rate. It has exactly one sustainable place in the raw power heirarchy; at the top. I think that very observation goes a long way towards explaining why it's such a common fantasy trope. For decades the prevailing attitude towards the generation of player characters (from an IC perspective, the decision of which people the narrative was to emphasize) was that they were in some way initially extraordinary, whether by birthright or by circumstance or by fate. Couple this with the old quasi-medieval-Scadinavian/English kind of setting and what you got were groups of characters who were the best butt-kickers of their village.

Between their villages and the other nodes of civilization, there was wilderness, where they could cowboy around all they wanted, as long as they stayed together. If they pissed off a town they would just all move on to the next one. And if they didn't stay together, they would almost certainly fall prey to the dangers of the road. So you had a bunch of players whose characters were -already- in a position to get away with whatever they wanted, except from the rest of the party. The logical consequence is that a Stupid Evil character betrays everyone but the party, which is exactly what I've seen in most viable versions of Stupid Evil.

I would speculate that what you ended up with once you introduced the alignment system to a bunch of players who were already playing this way was that alignment became interpreted in the sense of whether you were playing cowboy or indian, bandit or lawman, Robin Hood or Sheriff. That, I think, was the original way in which the labels "Lawful, Chaotic, Good, Evil" were understood. Most of the gamut of what modern RP'ers would consider civilized interaction, including real IC consequences (and not merely reputation hits) meted out by NPCs was a full bowshot out of that context.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-01-15, 02:50 AM
Stupid Evil is "popular" (at least on teh Internets) because it is easy to do and it serves as a handy safety valve for socially undesirable urges.

Like any fantasy play, you can use RP to act out things you'd like to do but never could. This can be anything from arm wrestling an ogre or absconding through an open window after having deflowered the Baron's daughter. Somewhere in some (perhaps many) people is the desire to be able to dominate all around you; to have total freedom to do anything at all. At an extreme, that is CE, and it is certainly Stupid Evil.

I am not saying that people RP only to act out fantasies. Some people like to try their hand at pretending to be someone different from themselves, just for the challenge. Others like being able to ham it up with their friends. And, of course, many people play just to play. But, the "safety valve" explanation must play a large role in Stupid Evil players, because it is not a "realistic" character, nor one that can survive very long in any setting.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 03:03 AM
On the subject of Evil commoners (like the cobbler), the average commoner isn't. S/he's Neutral most likely or maybe Good, at a push (society depending, assuming we're talking about humans or similar). Evil people tend to stick out in society because they're...well they're evil, much as a Good person does as well. An Evil commoner will likely be driven out of town for breaking the law and become...you'd never guess...an Outlaw. This is pretty much what sets aside Adventurers and NPC's from the common folk...they are either exceptionally good at something or they have an unusual alignment. As mentioned, a NE Cobbler, for example, will likely commit some crime and either be locked up or driven out of town, whereupon he might become a bandit or simply a roving (evil) traveller. Either that or he manages to hide his crimes, becomeing a serial killer or notorious thief or the like, until such time as he's caught. Either way, he's now exceptional and thus worthy of attention in a game (whether he becomes a PC, NPC or just an encounter).

A cobbler that just skimps on materials, cheats on his wife and the like is not neccesarily Evil, per se, he's just an adulterer or cheapskate. If he is actually Evil, he may also do these things, but being Evil requires a little more than a miserly tendancy.

See, I disagree with the notion that evil requires some great horrific act. Selling low quality products to profit at the expense of others and not honoring your commitment to your spouse you think is neutral? If coupled with some good tendencies, of course, but if he isn't caring towards his wife, helping those in need, or another clear good mark, I think that his cheating would place him as NE. This may be a fundamental difference in how we interpret alignment though; I simply do not insist good characters be near saints nor evil characters near monsters. It's more subtle and complex than that.

Also, a lawful evil commoner would probably not break the law (much) and even a NE or CE one who values his position would probably be careful enough not to do so in an obvious way. You seem to be suggesting (correct me if I am wrong) that common people are usually around neutral, and the good or evil ones become adventurers, outcasts, or others of note. To me, that simply doesn't make much sense.

To consider also: What about typically NE societies? How do they hold themselves together? If it was all very straightforward evil as you seem to be emphasizing, they simply would collapse. The more subtle (and perhaps less severe) evil I mention above seems far more realistic for maintaining an evil society.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-01-15, 03:31 AM
To consider also: What about typically NE societies? How do they hold themselves together? If it was all very straightforward evil as you seem to be emphasizing, they simply would collapse. The more subtle (and perhaps less severe) evil I mention above seems far more realistic for maintaining an evil society.

Oh, Evil Societies are easy.

LE - The Infernal Bureaucracy. There are lots of laws, but they are all designed to preserve the power of the powerful. Hierarchy is key, and those lower on the totem pole have to engage in some seriously sneaky dealings to move anywhere.

NE - Catch as Catch Can. Rules exist for your benefit and nobody else's. Like a LE society, the laws exist to preserve power up top, but they aren't as tightly adhered to. People can lie, cheat, and steal so long as the proper authorities are buttered up and they don't get caught. Bribery is rampant, and anyone who's not looking out for #1 is likely to find themselves in very poor straights indeed.

CE - Red of Tooth and Claw. Rules are what the strong say they are. Power shifts abruptly with personal advantage, and if you don't have protection, you're dead.

For the average peasant, these three societies feel very different.

A LE Peasant has a very specific role to follow, and so long as they keep to that role (and do what their lawful superiors tell them to) they are pretty safe. The people up top believe that hierarchy is the only way to preserve their power, so they take a very dim view of people who disrupt it. That said, a real LE Peasant is going to do everything he can within his role to dominate others and curry favor with those who can pull him up through the ranks.

A NE Peasant may have a role, but he knows that his status can shift with the whims of his superiors. The Law may not come down on people who disrupt order, and he knows that the whole society is riddled with little pockets of influence. Again, he'll be dominating his inferiors and currying favor with his superiors, but those two positions can change overnight with a few well placed bribes, so best play it safe.

A CE Peasant has no defined role, but unless he can protect himself either by strength of arms or personal association, he's dead to the next guy who wants his stuff. Rather than trust an organization, he has to personally attach himself to some powerful person who can step in for him if he's being pushed around. Society is barely cohesive, with the most powerful individuals around constantly seeking to become #1 for their own security, if nothing else.

The reason why the default commoner is Neutral is because commoners generally don't have the power to follow their aligned paths. Peasant life is hard enough as it is; it is more important to get the crops in on time than it is to make sure the town's orphans are well cared for. Peasants just don't have the time or energy to spend their times pursuing causes, which is what an alignment is.

And Evil commoners? Well, assuming we have a non-Evil society, anyone caught being Evil is going to face social (and possibly legal) sanctions since nobody likes being taken advantage of. In an Evil Society, it is the norm to be taken advantage of and to take advantage of others; that's why it is tolerated.

Devils_Advocate
2009-01-15, 03:32 AM
Maybe to you Evil alignment means someone is decidedly Evil, instead of especially Evil?

E.g., Jack the Giant-Killed has done great deeds of ambiguous morality, and is arguably way more Evil than Joe the Greedy Cobbler, but also arguably way more Good; it depends on how you weigh a bunch of things. On the other hand, Joe is definitely more harmful to others than an entity of pure indifference and inaction, but not in any glaring way. So Jack is Neutral and Joe is Evil.

I think that others would prefer to call Joe Neutral, and argue about Jack's alignment incessantly.

JellyPooga
2009-01-15, 03:34 AM
See, I disagree with the notion that evil requires some great horrific act. Selling low quality products to profit at the expense of others and not honoring your commitment to your spouse you think is neutral?

Honouring one's commitment to marriage is not really a morality issue...what if his marriage was arranged and neither he nor his wife honour it in any way but "political"? What if his wife...uh... refuses him and he cheats to relieve tension? There's any number of reasons that he cheats that aren't neccesarily worthy of the Evil alignment (Chaotic, maybe, but not neccesarily Evil). The same goes for being miserly...sure a miser could be Evil, but being miserly does not make one Evil. Sure, if you're miserly, cheat on your wife, etc. etc. it might all add up to being Evil, but I think it'd have to take quite a few of these "minor evils" to qualify, especially given that most people would have redeeming features to counteract the "evils".


I simply do not insist good characters be near saints nor evil characters near monsters. It's more subtle and complex than that.

Me neither, but simply being a person in society with a couple of quirks is not sufficient to put you over the boundary into Good or Evil territory. Looking at the flipside of the coin, at Good, a person that occasionaly drops money into a charity box when they have some loose change does not automatically qualify for being Good. Neither does the person that habitually shops at charity shops rather than "high street" and only buys Free Trade stuff. That which defines your alignment is not the little things, but the things that really matter or make a difference. The elderly lady who goes out of her way to cook dinner for her disabled neighbour every day would probably qualify for a Good alignment. She doesn't give to charity or help anyone else particularly. She couldn't be decribed as a Saint because she drinks heavily and is a foul-mouthed drunk, but her daily act of helping someone less fortunate than herself probably makes her Good.


Also, a lawful evil commoner would probably not break the law (much) and even a NE or CE one who values his position would probably be careful enough not to do so in an obvious way.

Ah, you seem to be mistaking "Lawful" with "Obeys the Law" here. A Lawful Evil person might well break the law on a daily basis. Lawful means that the person sticks to a code or set of rules or that they tend to honour the agreements they make. If that code, rules or agreement does not coinincide with the local law, then they will break the law. To reverse the example, a Paladin in a Drow city will likely break many of it's laws within 5 minutes of being there, even though they are supposed to be paragons of Law (and Good, but that's not in question here).


You seem to be suggesting (correct me if I am wrong) that common people are usually around neutral, and the good or evil ones become adventurers, outcasts, or others of note. To me, that simply doesn't make much sense.

That's exactly what I'm suggesting. Most people just want to get on with their lives without anyone hassling them. That's Neutral. Just because I'm a bit selfish, it doesn't make me Evil. Just because I'm kind, doesn't make me Good. If they have some kind of extroverted ideal or behaviour, then they are likely to take a life path that leads them to be worthy of note in some way. Someone CE will likely be a criminal, perhaps a serial killer. Someone NG might join the priesthood.


To consider also: What about typically NE societies? How do they hold themselves together? If it was all very straightforward evil as you seem to be emphasizing, they simply would collapse. The more subtle (and perhaps less severe) evil I mention above seems far more realistic for maintaining an evil society.

Ah...societies that model themselves on a particular alignment are different to those that don't (i.e. are modelled on a Neutral alignment). The typical member of that society will be roughly that alignment. In your example of a NE society, backstabbing (metaphorically and literally) your way up the promotion ladder is not only tolerated but expected. In a NG society, your example of a cheating miserly cobbler would probably not be tolerated, perhaps even condemned or exiled. The thing that makes someone worthy of note in a particular society is how different they are from the norm. A typical town is Neutral, thus Good and Evil people stand out. In a Good society, Neutral people stand out as being untrustworthy at the least and Evil people are simply not tolerated. In an Evil society, Neutrals don't have what it takes to prosper and Good people don't survive long.

Zeful
2009-01-15, 03:36 AM
Right... but shouldn't they realistically end up dead pretty quickly? I mean, with law enforcement, nonevil party members, and so forth? The survivability of stupid evil seems like it should be quite low.Yes stupid people should die pretty quick. Evil, not automatically. Intelligence makes everything better. A Smart Evil character will appear to everyone but his victims as Neutral or even Good.


See, I disagree with the notion that evil requires some great horrific act. Selling low quality products to profit at the expense of others and not honoring your commitment to your spouse you think is neutral? If coupled with some good tendencies, of course, but if he isn't caring towards his wife, helping those in need, or another clear good mark, I think that his cheating would place him as NE. This may be a fundamental difference in how we interpret alignment though; I simply do not insist good characters be near saints nor evil characters near monsters. It's more subtle and complex than that. It doesn't require a great or horrific act to be evil. Someone cheating on their spouse isn't evil by itself. Continuing an affair to deliberately hurt your spouse is evil. Heck, depending on how you go about it, admitting the affair can be an evil act. Overcharging low-quality goods is selfish and amoral, but not evil. Overcharging rent to evict an otherwise decent tenet is evil. Subtlety is a mark of intelligence rather than Alignment. A Smart LG character could not mention his achievements of his to avoid the sin of Pride, consequently allowing his enemies to underestimate him (he bears no titles, claims no great deeds to his name that kind of thing).


Also, a lawful evil commoner would probably not break the law (much) and even a NE or CE one who values his position would probably be careful enough not to do so in an obvious way. You seem to be suggesting (correct me if I am wrong) that common people are usually around neutral, and the good or evil ones become adventurers, outcasts, or others of note. To me, that simply doesn't make much sense. A lawful evil character would twist laws to give him the most gains even if that means hurting others, and would quickly become unliked by most of the community. He would bend laws, not break them (unless necessary).

Roderick_BR
2009-01-15, 03:51 AM
For the same reason people play lawful stupid. It's easier, and fall in stereotypes.
You want a good example of CE? The Joker in the latest Batman movie is a prime example. The guy's BAD. And loves to mess with people's head. And kills at random. Yet, he gives the good guys a run for their money. Batman just finds him because he builds a deus-ex, and the Joker tries to stay around to see the traps he built to blow up, instead of running away. Still, the guy is brilliant.

sonofzeal
2009-01-15, 03:57 AM
Here's three of my characters....

Tankli, LE Dwarf - Tankli's ancestry is impure (some druegar blood - not enough for mechanical change, but still a social stigma), and he was rejected by zenophobic dwarven society for this and for his sadistic tendencies. In return, he has chosen to prove himself more "dwarvish" than those who rejected him... not to win a place for himself, but to spite them. In the mean time, he's a consummate military man and obeys orders to the letter, even if he does enjoy hurting victims more than he ought.

Henry Y'G, NE Lizardfolk - Henry is utterly amoral and merciless, but has a deep sense of etiquette. For example, her meal of preference is humanoid flesh, but she would never knowingly partake in mixed company. Alert and focused, she is driven to succeed and will sell you out if it gets her an edge, but manages to maintain an air of civility and dignity about the whole process. Whatever happens, you can rest assured that it wasn't personal, and that you'd be still welcomed with a cup of tea if you dropped by.

Aunirak, CE Drow - Aunirak's father abused him physically and verbally (comparing him to High Elves), and Aunirak killed him (only partially by accident) while he was still a child. Fleeing to the surface, he retreated into alchohol and bitterness, with only his many neuroses surviving the drunken stupor he keeps himself in. Still, his mind and instincts have been honed through constant aggression and danger, and he has repeatedly shown great tactical insight in improvising assassinations for bounty. He takes especial joy in provoking the victim into attacking, before slaughtering him viciously in "retaliation", thus disguising the nature of the hit. He's hard to like but generally apathetic enough that he's okay to work with... but never underestimate him.

Altima
2009-01-15, 05:12 AM
One could take alignment with two different views: what a person does and the reasoning behind that action.

A good/neutral general may be forced to sacrifice men when a plan fails. This will most likely bother him. An evil counterpart, however, will devise a plan that calls specifically to sacrifice others (such as a platoon of new recruits in order to draw the enemy out of position, or tire them before the veterans charge), and he won't be bothered by it at all--except, maybe, in the resources he's lost.

Likewise, an evil person need not be a selfish prick. Using the aforementioned example, both generals could be working for a lord who is kind and just, and doing his best to protect his people.

Evil can have a cause just as good can. For example, take a (CE) orc tribe chief. He wants to expand his lands, protect his tribe, and generally show people why the average human will fear orcs and why merchants require guards. Said orc chief wants to do something positive for his tribe. The reason, of course, is that the stronger his tribe is, the stronger he is, and the more they loot, the more his individual power can increase (through magic items, better arms and armor, greater number of orcs flocking to his banner, etc). How he does this is by sacking villages, hitting merchant caravans, and killing and capturing every non-tribe member in the region.

Another example is a subversion of the classic scenario: your people are under the heel of an 'evil' empire (usually of another race, ironically). You want to throw their imperial yoke off of your people, and you want your fellows to rise up, rebel, and claim their birthright. Noble, right?

Unfortunately, your people are too paralyzed by fear to do anything about it. In fact, a great many benefit from the stability and even trade brought by the empire. Frustrated by their sheepish mentality, you decide to prod the empire. A few caravans disappear here, a few ships are burned in port there...soon that far off empire is tightening its grasp on the country. People are having to deal with the oppression emotionally instead of intellectually. All those troops cost money, too, so taxes are raised. They need food too. Now things are worse than ever--famine, disease, poverty. Suddenly, rebellion doesn't look too bad, and you become a prime player in it. A leader. You did what had to be done, and when the dust settles, the empire is thrown out, and you're crowned ruler of all the lands, who's going to argue with you?

An evil person usually doesn't view himself as evil. He could see other people as nothing but pawns for him to move, toys for him to entertain, or sheep to lead.

In a party, the evil player is usually the one who lays down the options for the rest of the people. Someone wasting away to a disease? When the evil character mentions killing said companion (to prevent a horrible, painful death--arguably something good), the other 'good' players will realize their options, and what they'll end up doing if they don't figure something out.

Neithan
2009-01-15, 05:41 AM
I guess I don't understand how stupid evil (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LawfulStupidChaoticStupid?from=Main.StupidEvil)got to be popular.
People are stupid.

Narmoth
2009-01-15, 05:47 AM
An evil person usually doesn't view himself as evil. He could see other people as nothing but pawns for him to move, toys for him to entertain, or sheep to lead.

I use alignment this way. This leaves room for character development and change for the npcs, who can be argued with and convinced to change or help, rather than have that good npcs help, evil try to kill you always.

Zen Master
2009-01-15, 08:08 AM
In my book, there really isn't anything like Stupid Evil. There is only insane. A basically 'good' person can be insane, and do evil things.

Evil people are a different thing altogether. Their eyes are open, they just consider themselves justified, or think it's ok for the greater good. For instance, a chaotic evil ruler might think 'Well, those damnable kurds. They are making a nuisance of themselves, again! Don't they know what that will get them in the end? Well, I have some VX gas for them - that'll teach'em.'

And he'd think that was ok. The kurds would learn their lesson, and peace and prosperity for all would entail. Hussah!. Not insane, but clearly evil, and responding with retribution far out of proportion - quite possibly against a random group who only share ethnicity with the offenders in question.

A lawful evil ruler might think to himself 'Hmm - I'll forge an alliance with my neighbors to the east, so I can attack my neighbors to the west without risk of a two-front war. That way, when I'm done in the west, I can then break the treaty in an unexpected surprise attack. World Domination shall be mine. Hussah!'

A neutral evil alignment (to my way of thinking) doesn't work for a ruler, but would suit an assasin or criminal mastermind. Less random than the chaotic, he'd have something of interest to him, that he pursued with deadly singlemindedness and ruthlessness. 'Bah', he might think, 'the underworld of Westgate is run by incompetents and soft, old men. I'll decimate anyone and anything that stands between me, and the establishment of a new underworld order.'

When the criminal mastermind became king of the deep, he'd likely switch to lawful evil. Lawful as in ... very serious about the 'criminal code', and unwilling to break it himself. Mostly. Unless pressured, or well motivated. But he'd foster the image of being trustworthy.

Saph
2009-01-15, 08:29 AM
Don't try to explain Stupid Evil in-character; it's impossible. In a consistent world most Stupid Evil characters would get themselves killed off while teenagers.

Stupid Evil is about the player, not the character, and it comes down to "I'm not gonna do what anyone tells me and I'm not gonna take **** from anyone. I'm the baddest dude on the block and everyone's gotta respect me."

And then when someone doesn't give them what they want, or gets in their way, or tells them what to do, they try and beat them up or kill them. And then they get surprised when after two sessions everyone else in the party hates them and after three sessions they're dead.

A really good example of Stupid Evil in action is Bob and Dave from the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip. They'll kill an entire village because one of the people there insulted them. It gets their characters dead over and over again, but they never learn.

- Saph

Epinephrine
2009-01-15, 08:30 AM
I''m agreeing that the average person in society is evil. From marital infidelity through to lying to get ahead in your job, people are selfish, greedy, lazy, vengeful brats. They'd rather throw their litter on the street than walk with it to a garbage can, they'll try to take revenge on the slightest of insults, and pretty much think about themselves above all else.

Sure, they're not killing random people or committing treason every day, but the small petty acts of greed, corruption and so on really add up. I'd say that on average humanity is neutral with a hint of evil and a tinge of law (just enough to largely have societies work).

Riffington
2009-01-15, 08:57 AM
I am much less pessimistic than Epinephrine: I think most people are neutral with a slight tendency to good rather than evil. If you put out a bunch of bagels with a payment box "on the honor system", most people pay. If you drop your wedding ring at Walmart, you're likely to have someone give it back.

Still: most people do commit evil acts daily. Saying mean things to people in vulnerable positions. Gossip. Hitting your husband. Doing a shoddy job and trying to pass it off as quality work. Most people do commit good acts daily as well. Helping out others in need. Showing love. Standing up for people.

If the evil deeds outweigh the good by enough, you're evil. Some evil people have never done anything worse than malicious gossip. Others have, and some of those for rather stupid reasons. I mean, look how many people have raped children... the majority of those people aren't even pedophiles.

So I don't think "Stupid Evil" is unrealistic at all. The majority of evildoers have really dumb reasons for their misdeeds on Earth - why should it be different in D&D.

JellyPooga
2009-01-15, 09:15 AM
I''m agreeing that the average person in society is evil. From marital infidelity through to lying to get ahead in your job, people are selfish, greedy, lazy, vengeful brats. They'd rather throw their litter on the street than walk with it to a garbage can, they'll try to take revenge on the slightest of insults, and pretty much think about themselves above all else.

Sure, they're not killing random people or committing treason every day, but the small petty acts of greed, corruption and so on really add up. I'd say that on average humanity is neutral with a hint of evil and a tinge of law (just enough to largely have societies work).

But selfish, lazy, greedy and vengeful aren't Evil unless taken to extremes. You really think that littering is an evil act? I'm not saying it's not a rehensible thing to do and just unneccesary when there are so many public facilities for waste disposal, but I wouldn't say it's evil. If a guy was dumping nuclear waste in public places because he just didn't care about the consequences or to intentionally cause harm to the populace...that would be evil. Hell, it doesn't even have to be that extreme; dropping litter of any sort for malicious purpose/intent is evil (e.g. throwing those beer can holders in the sea so that seagulls get trapped and drown). Doing it out of laziness is not.

In real life, as in d&d, most people probably come out as being True Neutral...honestly. How many people do you know that stick to the letter of the law because it's the law, as opposed to the threat of punishment or it just being easier to obey the law than break it? For that matter, how many people do you know that obey the letter of the law at all? Most people commit crimes on a daily basis without even realising it or even despite it being illegal, from jaywalking to littering to watching movies they're classified as underage to watch to taking drugs or underage drinking. This does not make those people Evil, just people. As I mentioned in my last post, likewise just being kind or giving to charity does not make you Good...an Evil person could well be kind as much as a Good person can be a git.

Evil does not require grand schemes or extreme acts like killing people or starting wars. What it does require is intent. Is a driver that kills a man crossing the street Evil because he lost concentration and was daydreaming when he should have been watching the road? No. Is a man Evil for running down a man in the street out of a perverse pleasure in seeing a man die? Obviously.

MickJay
2009-01-15, 09:52 AM
People have certain capacity for being good or evil - someone without power and ability to do much may be evil while doing less evil things than someone who is neutral. If without doing really stupid things I can be evil in 3 or 4 ways and I am in two, then I am more evil than someone who can realistically do 15, but does 3. This is very simplified, of course, but I think the basic idea is visible.

Then there's the "grade" of evilness. Regardless of what I can do, some things are considered more evil than others, and they need to be weighted as well.

I agree with what's been said about "stupid evil" not being able to survive in most realistic circumstances. As far as psychopats go, most of them are definitely not stupid - they know when they are breaking society's rules but are usually clever enough to cover their tracks, and do so far better than others. Stupid evil is just as its name says - breaking the (written or not) rules without thinking of consequences; realistically, this would lead to a very quick elimination from any society. Still, roleplaying (and even considering) such character can be great fun, because of the feeling of being free from any and every restraint. Any society is, ultimately, oppressive, as it tends to limit viable choices and options to only those that are not harmful to others. "Good" people have these rules and standards internalised to an extent that they accept them as their own, and therefore are most likely to follow them. "Neutrals" accept them as reasonable and usually follow them as well. "Evil" are aware of the constraints, but unless they're the "stupid" type, they follow them as long as such course of action is better for them. Lawful/chaotic distinction is mostly about whether the person's internal code is similar to the laws or not (which explains why lawful good tends to be seen as the "bestest good").

"Evil" almost always comes down to "something that goes against interests of society and individuals" (in that order). Take any law, and this idea will be visible in it. Problems may start when someone is powerful enough to make laws that would benefit the lawmaker more than the society as whole, but then again that's why these laws would be seen as evil.

"Evil societies" are something close to an oxymoron for me, since by most standards they shouldn't exist. Society where everyone is backstabbing everyone for promotion will quickly run out of people to backstab (and people to rule). To even barely survive, such society would need to be kept together by fear and would need someone "evil" at the top with strong law enforcement/secret police and such. Corrupted by the system, people would often behave in a more evil manner than they would otherwise, perhaps, but they would be victims as well, and in most cases too weak to change something (since they'd get imprisoned or killed for even trying).

Calling society "evil" just because all the creatures in it are (by arbitrary D&D definition) "evil" serves just the single purpose of letting players kill without feeling (too) guilty about it and letting them stay "good" despite the mass killings and plundering. After all, the creatures are "evil" from the perspective of standard player races, because they tend to raid, kill and plunder settlements of player character races. Which just goes to show how relative this "evil" is and how D&D provides an exquisitely elegant example of a vicious cycle of hatred.

Sorry about the length of this post ;)

Tengu_temp
2009-01-15, 10:25 AM
People like Stupid Evil because they think it's hot and cool, that playing such characters makes them hip, dark and edgy, and that good is boring, stupid and stereotypically boy-scouty. While in reality they couldn't be more wrong, and many boy scouts are pretty cool guys.

Riffington
2009-01-15, 10:54 AM
You really think that littering is an evil act?
Obviously. It's just not very evil.


despite it being illegal, from jaywalking to littering to watching movies they're classified as underage to watch to taking drugs or underage drinking. This does not make those people Evil, just people.

Well, of those, only littering would be slightly evil. The rest are slightly chaotic. Which gets balanced by all the slightly lawful acts those people also do. But if you find someone who refuses to take illegal drugs, waits until they turn 21 to drink, won't jaywalk, etc... they are more likely to be a Lawful person.



As I mentioned in my last post, likewise just being kind or giving to charity does not make you Good...an Evil person could well be kind as much as a Good person can be a git.
Could. But less likely.
I mean, if you make a freethrow, that doesn't make you a good basketball player. A newbie can make one, and Shaq can miss one. Maybe you are a superb player who just sucks at free throws. Still, the good basketball player is more likely to do things like succeed on free throws, attend practice, be tall, run quickly, etc.
Being kind is a good act, and Good people are going to be doing Good acts more often than Evil ones will.



What it does require is intent. Is a driver that kills a man crossing the street Evil because he lost concentration and was daydreaming when he should have been watching the road? No. Is a man Evil for running down a man in the street out of a perverse pleasure in seeing a man die? Obviously.

All true. But negligence and laziness are slightly evil too - a person who continually daydreams while driving is continually committing slightly evil acts. If he's a pilot, that's even more true.

Telonius
2009-01-15, 11:07 AM
Why are people stupid evil?
Generally, they think they can get away with it. This is true of all evil, stupid or otherwise. It may or may not be a good assumption, depending on the situation. If you're leading a pack of raiders through the wilderness and happen upon a peaceful caravan, there really might not be anything anybody could do to stop you if you kill the dudes and take their stuff. If you're in a city and you mug somebody, the cops really might be too busy to notice you. Of course if you go downtown and have a bunch of your rivals killed, you might be stupid evil. Or, you just might be Al Capone, and really can order that sort of thing with impunity.

How do you reconcile stupid evil to staying alive/successful/etc?
Either you kill everything that could be a threat to you, or you die. Smart Evil generally takes advantage of the weak. It's possible for an evil person to prosper in society - if they haven't made the stronger people mad at them. Smart evil people are nice when it benefits them. And even stupid evil might like puppies.

Does NE or CE prevent close ties?
I would say, not necessarily. Imagine what would happen if you stole the girlfriend of a CE crimelord. Evil might be directed at a particular group, too. If you hate all goblins and try to commit genocide against them, that doesn't prevent you from going home to your human wife or husband and having a generally nice home life.


I personally don't think people are inherently good or inherently evil. I think they're inherently lazy. They'll do whatever seems like the easiest path to a reward. (Note "seems like" not "is." Perception and training matter a great deal).

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 11:22 AM
Still: most people do commit evil acts daily. Saying mean things to people in vulnerable positions. Gossip. Hitting your husband. Doing a shoddy job and trying to pass it off as quality work. Most people do commit good acts daily as well. Helping out others in need. Showing love. Standing up for people.

If the evil deeds outweigh the good by enough, you're evil. Some evil people have never done anything worse than malicious gossip. Others have, and some of those for rather stupid reasons. I mean, look how many people have raped children... the majority of those people aren't even pedophiles.

So I don't think "Stupid Evil" is unrealistic at all. The majority of evildoers have really dumb reasons for their misdeeds on Earth - why should it be different in D&D.

I was in agreement with you there until your conclusion that came out of left field. Just because someone's reasons are dumb doesn't mean how they go about it should be.

I must also admit that it kind of bothers me that people seem to think that cheating on one's spouse has no moral implications at all. I entirely understand that different circumstances can mean different things; if you agreed upon an open marriage, if you were married off against your will, or if you were seduced by a succubus, the moral implications are of course different. However, how is betraying someone's trust for your own physical benefit not an evil act? I am not suggesting it is on the same plane as murdering someone, but I do not just throw all of the "only sort of evil" acts into the neutral category. If you are "sort of evil" in many ways over a long period of time without a notable helping of "sort of good", you are evil. Not strongly so, but you are evil.


But selfish, lazy, greedy and vengeful aren't Evil unless taken to extremes. You really think that littering is an evil act? I'm not saying it's not a rehensible thing to do and just unneccesary when there are so many public facilities for waste disposal, but I wouldn't say it's evil. If a guy was dumping nuclear waste in public places because he just didn't care about the consequences or to intentionally cause harm to the populace...that would be evil. Hell, it doesn't even have to be that extreme; dropping litter of any sort for malicious purpose/intent is evil (e.g. throwing those beer can holders in the sea so that seagulls get trapped and drown). Doing it out of laziness is not.

[Snipped]

Evil does not require grand schemes or extreme acts like killing people or starting wars. What it does require is intent. Is a driver that kills a man crossing the street Evil because he lost concentration and was daydreaming when he should have been watching the road? No. Is a man Evil for running down a man in the street out of a perverse pleasure in seeing a man die? Obviously.

I think we are at a fundamental point of disagreement on the "Vices are not evil unless taken to extremes." To me, they are called vices because they are wrong (though I would not put selfishness in there precisely, but that's another story). Those are negative intents. They do not automatically make someone evil, but as you said, evil requires intent. If your motivations are laziness and greed and your intent is to shirk as much as you can while getting as much wealth as you can, if sincerely followed out without any notable amount of good.

I wouldn't say littering is "evil" but if we are talking about a spectrum here, yes, it errs on the evil side. Barely onto the evil side, but it is careless, harmful to the environment, and injuring the aesthetics of shared property. If an act lacks positive intent and its consequences are purely negative (no one benefits from littering, for example), then it is an evil act (though I'm sure there are realistic exceptions due to extenuating circumstances). Quite possibly barely, but it still falls to the side of evil. If most people are neutral, it's because their regular slightly evil acts are balanced out by numerous slightly good acts.

Anyway, I have a lot to do today so I have to cut this response short (Yeah, sad that is my short response, I know).

valadil
2009-01-15, 11:29 AM
Stupid Evil is an outlet. It's not about actual roleplay. I hate to admit it, but my group tried SE way back when. It was something to do after we get bored of being heroes. Again, it was never about roleplay. It was basically a contest to see who could come up with the most gruesome stuff to do.

The thing about the evil alignment is that real people never consider themselves evil. They justify it. It's much more interesting to play a character who believes he is doing things for some false greater good than someone who has a quota of babies to incinerate.

Yakk
2009-01-15, 11:38 AM
Bob, the NE cobbler.

Bob was a small child who got picked on a lot. So he got a knife, and started taking his hate out on small animals. After a bit of practice, he killed the person who annoyed him the most. It was fun, but pretty gross.

There was lots of trouble from that, but Bob didn't get caught. He managed to blame it on a bandit who sneaked into town.

Bob grew up, and got apprenticed to the town cobbler. He managed to convince the daughter of the town cobbler that he was a swell guy, and they got married. Shortly after that, the town cobbler got sick and died. Useful coincidence.

Over time, he proceeded to abuse, beat and control his wife, until she was a shell of a woman, afraid of everything. He was careful to make sure that all of the bruises where not visible, and he cut off his wife's personal contact with others, so he didn't get caught.

He also adopted the daughters of a farmer who died in an accident. The less said about that, the better. One still lives with him, one died in an accident, and one was married off. He also has a natural-born son who is currently 5 years old.

Bob continued to make shoes. He is actually a pretty good shoe maker, and managed to reach Journeyman status with the guild. He has trained a number of apprentices, each of which he enjoys showing the joys of depravity to. These apprentices have settled down in nearby towns, and they occasionally get together when buying raw materials, or for a "fun" night out.

One of his childhood friends runs an inn up the road. He recommends it to reasonably well off travelers who stop by to fix their shoes. The owner of the inn steals from visitors or otherwise cheats from them (Bob isn't sure, and really, he doesn't care), and Bob gets a cut.

Bob is a respected member of the local chamber of commerce. He pays his taxes to the mayor, and/or kickbacks to pay less taxes. His house is well kept. His wife, and one of his adopted daughters, live in his house. The other daughter was married off to one of his apprentices.

That's evil.

Tycho2
2009-01-15, 12:06 PM
I actually love playing stupid characters in general, but as for stupid evil? Well imo the alignment shouldnt really exist in the first place. Stupid and evil dont really go togethor. The less intelligent you are, the less 'responsible' you become for your actions. There are two paths to take: A character which simply blindly follow's their natural instincts and gut feelings, which may or may not result in evil actions, or a character who is trying to be evil but does it in a stupid way. I personally would describe neither character as 'evil', but i guess it doesnt really matter. Its an alignment.

I suppose thats the best explanation why people shy away from it. They arent sure how to rp stupidity WITH evil, because as i say the two things generally contradict each other.

I once played a character which fakes stupidity, to excuse his evil actions. :smallamused:

That.. was fun.

Sergeantbrother
2009-01-15, 12:35 PM
Alignment isn't about intelligence or motivation, its about what you are willing to do to achieve your goals. Chaotic Evil and Lawful Good people often want to same things out of life - money, personal pleasure, friendship, fun, and even to make the world a better place. They both want the same things, but what the CE person is willing to do to get what he wants is what makes him different.

The LG may see a horse that he likes the appearance of and thinks would make a good steed, but he can't afford it. He doesn't steal the horse though, because that would be harmful of the horses rightful owner and because it would violate the social contract of a lawful society. The CE guy wants the horse too, in fact he wants the horse in exactly the same way and for the same reasons as the LG guy. The difference is that the CE guy doesn't care about the harm that would befall the horse's owner or about the laws or social contract or any ides like that. So the CE has no objection to stealing the horse on moral grounds, but if he lives in a town where they hang horse thieves he may well reframe from stealing the horse for practical reasons. The CE guy wants the horse, but he wants to keep his life even more and therefore chooses not to steal the horse.

The fact that somebody accesses the potential risks vs the potential gain of an action has nothing to do with alignment, the somebody CE can access risk and chose caution just as well as anybody can. Its just that when the cost-risk-benefit analysis is being done, the CE only takes into account his own welfare and not that of others nor does any sort of code influence his thinking. A CE character will stab his friend in the back or kill his own mother if its to his benefit - but usually stealing his own friends and family wont be to his benefit but will rather be to his detriment. The CE character likes his friends, he gets enjoyment from their company, they help him to achieve his goals - so the CE evil character doesn't hurt his friends and in fact he protects them because its in his best interest to do so. If at some point in the future it is in the CE character's best interest in torture his friends to death (assuming the rewards outweigh the risks and the potential benefits his friends provide) then he'll likely do that too.

As for the CE evil cobbler, he doesn't need to be secretly killing his competition or beating his wife to be CE, he just has to be willing to. It may be the case that the cobbler's own cowardice prevents him from ever committing any acts of evil or even illegality. Perhaps the cobbler weighs to potential risks vs the potential gains of such actions and decides that not hurting people it what will best serve his interests, and thus we have a CE person who is willing to harm others to achieve his goals but doesn't because harming others is not the best way to achieve his goals.

shadowfox
2009-01-15, 12:53 PM
I could have sworn that Rich Burlew wrote a piece that encouraged me to play LE...

Honestly, I don't think it's just the player's fault; it's also the PHB's. Currently, I love playing evil characters (specifically, only LE; I have issues doing Chaotic and I'm too order-oriented to pull off Neutral). My evil characters aren't out to destroy the world, or for vengence; they're just looking out for themselves.

My first one was actually an NPC; a tiefling, actually. I later expanded on him in another campaign, and I liked how he turned out. He was in the party to further his own goals. Thus, he viewed his fellow party members as tools, because they could accomplish things he could not, and, together, they could accomplish what none of them could do alone. Therefore, if the situation came up where a member had fallen behind, and was in risk of getting swarmed and killed. He would weigh the character's value versus the inherent risks. On the other hand, if all the other party members went back to help the straggler, he wouldn't venture off ahead alone, knowing he'd be at a great disadvantage if caught by himself.

Never did he, though, do something evil for the sake of being evil. He had standards, a code that he lived by. He didn't kill someone for being good, or because they were evil. He didn't kill someone for disrespecting him. If he killed another person, he would not justify it, nor would he mull around on it; although unfortunate, it was necessary, and he would have expected the same done to him.

But his priorities are also different. A paladin, when faced with the choice of saving the innocent villagers from dying and slaying the BBEG off once and for all, would need to save the villagers. If it were my character in this situation, he'd view the possible deaths of the villagers (he'd assume the other party members would try to free them) is not enough to warrant letting the BBEG escape when he's so close to meeting his demise.

The PHB, in my opinion, describes the alignments in black and white. Because of this, many players view characters in the same black and white scheme, failing to see the gray areas. Thus, Paladins are almost always played as LG-aligned dictators who sit on a high horse, and using their moral highground to justify slaying the evil merchant, and who doesn't expect to be subject to the very laws he should be following. Even though my campaigns aren't usually role-play heavy, I do keep an eye on alignments and the character's actions. The one time I had a player with a Paladin as his character, I was upfront: "I'll be lenient, but within reason. I want Lawful Good, not Lawful Stupid. I'll allow you to lie, but only against enemies and known evil... And, for the love of god, don't use Detect Magic and then immediately use Smite Evil on everything that pings; that's the fast route to becoming a fallen paladin." What did he do? Tried to smite the first thing that pinged while he used Detect Evil (which was an airship, but I had to convince him that evil energy had absorbed into it since it was made by devils). He later tried to kill a new convert to the Church of Mephistopheles, who thought that it was a church of good... This same convert also failed to spring up as "evil," but he was one full-round action from killing the innocent man anyway (I convinced him, with much difficulty, to not kill the convert; if he had slit the convert's throat, he would be become a fallen paladin, as well as a very, very angry PC).

Stupid Evil is just people either sticking too close to the book, among other possible reasons... As with any other alignment with an alternate name with "Stupid" in it.

Simply put, it's not just people who are overdoing it for the sake of overdoing it... It's also the absolutes that many a gamer's mindset has been adjusted to.

Tacoma
2009-01-15, 12:54 PM
Sergeantbrother has my opinion.

I can easily think of a smart evil character who doesn't go around killing people with his bare hands: a CEO. Take this example.

The CEO's company makes widgets. The manufacturing process uses ingredients that leave behind waste chemicals. The legal and right thing to do would be to either come up with a new manufacturing process, manufacture something else, reclaim the waste into something useful, or carefully dispose of the waste where nobody can be hurt by it.

These all cost money. Instead, he dumps them in a trench and covers it with dirt. It pollutes the groundwater and sickens the entire town.

Or take the example of a company putting that fake protein markers in their baby formula or heavy metals in their candy. These businessmen are willing to poison their customers, but it doesn't stop there. These customers are their countrymen, and the most vulnerable population therein. The evil of that action is just mind-boggling. It goes way beyond a Paladin falling and gets into alignment-changing territory. The only thing worse would be if they actually went out and stabbed babies, and that would be worse only because it's visceral in imagery. The outcome is the same.

Anyway, point is the evil person not only puts his own good ahead of the good of others (just selfish), he's not only willing to take from others for his own good (chaotic), but there is no point at which his morality would stop him from taking from others. And he's willing to deprive someone else of a vital need to fulfill his meager want.

Severus
2009-01-15, 01:30 PM
CE isn't crazy. It means you don't think there are any rules, and your own self interest is all that matters. You still know that other people think there are rules, they're just wrong. You can go along, play nice, or whatever because you can decide that the cost of breaking rules in particular circumstances are higher than the reward of breaking them.

As for CE leaders, I think Ghengis Khan is a great example. There were rules. They were just HIS rules. He could do whatever he wanted, but people had to obey him. He also knew that if he got too crazy, his followers would desert him.

Just because you are CE doesn't mean you don't understand the consequences of your choices... you just are willing to entertain all choices.

hamishspence
2009-01-15, 01:34 PM
Given that Orc Warlords are considered pretty fair examples of CE, and King Obould is canonically CE in Realms, I'd agree- a Chaotic leader still has to keep some form of discipline.

Lost Demiurge
2009-01-15, 02:06 PM
I've never been impressed by folks trying to be Stupid Evil. All of the ones that I've seen try it have been crappy roleplayers, and usually disruptive to a game.

Smart evil, on the other hand, can be pretty kickass. The TV show "Deadwood" has one of the best evil commoner types that I've ever seen; Al Swearingen. (They soften him up in the 2nd and third seasons, but I feel that the show starts getting worse at that point and tend to stick to the first season.)

Al goes up and down the axis between Neutral and Lawful Evil, but I'd put him solely at Neutral Evil.

He runs a house of ill-repute, where people die in fights or murders on a weekly or nightly basis, he abuses and dominates the women in his house, and he's out for money and control of the town. He sets up bandit raids on the side, making sure to keep his activities a secret, and he's not above having a little girl killed just because she might implicate him in wrongdoing. He'll kill you if you stand in his way and it's the easiest way to remove you from his path. He knows that the strong rule the world, and the weak suffer, and he's fine with that.

But...

He is willing to band together with his former victims when a bigger threat is on the horizon, protect those in his charge from outsiders, show gruff kindness and mercy when no one's looking, share a drink and a laugh with friends (Dan Dority being prime among them), and repay his debts in all affairs. And if you're doing something good for the community, then he'll back you 100%. His secondary goal is to make the town grow, happy and healthy. And if this means he has to close someday, well, that's where the pile of money he's been collecting will let him retire and spend the rest of his days in a mansion stuffed full of women, whiskey, good smoking tobacco, and every comfort he can imagine.

That's the most three-dimensional evil character I can think of, off the top of my head.

hamishspence
2009-01-15, 02:12 PM
He's cited as CN in Complete Scoundrel, but going by your description, CS is over-generous on alignments.

Evil doesn't have to mean "kills everyone who goes near him" It can be, but should be incrediably rare and very atypical of Evil.

Jayabalard
2009-01-15, 02:34 PM
Right... but shouldn't they realistically end up dead pretty quickly? I mean, with law enforcement, nonevil party members, and so forth? The survivability of stupid evil seems like it should be quite low.Why would you think that? People get away with crimes quite regularly, even heinous ones; do some research on how many murders go unsolved each year, and how long some serial killers have gone uncaught.

Zen Monkey
2009-01-15, 02:36 PM
Alot of the misunderstandings about D&D alignment come from people confusing neutrality and evil. A number of players have subjective views of morality (i.e. it's wrong to you, but not wrong to me) and subscribe to some degree of moral relativism. Whether or not this is true in reality, the game world does not work that way. The fact that your character's god of stealing and stabbing endorses such actions does not make them good actions. The god has an alignment (likely CE) which indicates that the gods in that universe are held against a standard rather than the beliefs of some people in the real world which says that a deity creates the standard. In other words, your 'neutral' character who rapes, murders, etc for what he believes to be a good cause is not in fact neutral, but evil. Believing your cause to be just does not make it so. There is an objective standard in the game world, one even measurable by spells and abilities, that judges the actions of a character, even a divine character.

Further, alot of evil doesn't look the way we expect evil to appear. Witnesses to the Nuremburg trials were surprised at how normal some people looked and acted (the 'banality of evil') who had been part of horrible crimes. Your pudgy little weak halfling might have no combat prowess, no spells or even authority, but if he is keeping track of supplies for the evil warlord who kills and robs and terrorizes the land, then he is evil by being a knowing part of this larger machine. If he knows that the supplies coming through are stolen, if his employees loot from the corpses to fill the evil coffers, if he is coming up with ways for his boss to be a more efficient monster, then the argument that he keeps to himself and doesn't bother anyone is a weak case for neutrality. He may not committ the worst of the acts personally, but his actions are helping to make them happen.

hamishspence
2009-01-15, 02:42 PM
BoVD and Champions of Ruin (and Exemplars of Evil) did pretty well at this sort of thing, with a lot of archetypes, some of which would fit. The evil person who lies to himself, co-operating with other, more evil folk.

(I thought the teacher who co-operates with the kidnapping ring in BoVD was a good example of the "Naive fool" archetype.)

ChaosDefender24
2009-01-15, 02:44 PM
Why can people get away with Stupid Evil?

Spectre bombs

Mark Hall
2009-01-15, 02:51 PM
Think of chaotic evil, when not being stupid evil, as being somewhat like a gangster. You don't kill everyone, but you have no qualms about using lethal force to get what you want. You may have something of an internal code, but that code can be transgressed if you're powerful enough.

Of course, you're saying, "What's the difference between CE and PCs, in that case?" In theory, good people would prefer not to kill. They know that it's necessary sometimes, and they will do it, but a CE person will say things like "I have a solution. It starts with 's' and ends with 'litting their throats.'" Killing isn't just a possible result of achieving their goals... it's part of the plan.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 03:26 PM
Some excellent responses since I have last posted. I'll get my main disagreement out of the way first:


Why would you think that? People get away with crimes quite regularly, even heinous ones; do some research on how many murders go unsolved each year, and how long some serial killers have gone uncaught.

I am not saying people cannot get away with doing evil things. I'm saying that people cannot regularly get away with doing evil things stupidly. Stupid Evil isn't just killing people when your party members aren't looking, or occasionally commiting a crime under the nose of the law: It's commiting heinous crimes under extraordinarily obvious and unsubtle circumstances, often in a public place or broad daylight. Serial killers are usually so successful (at killing people, that is) because they are intelligent, subtle, or careful about how they commit crimes. So, I think your "Do some research" comment is rather uncalled for; what you are referring to is just severe evil not stupid evil, which is to what my comment was specifically referring.

Now, on to the others:

I appreciate the input of Severus and hamishspence on CE; I think that is a good way of looking at it.

While Yakk's NE cobbler example is perhaps a bit extreme, I think he has some good points and certainly demonstrates that evil people could get by just fine in a neutral society. Subtlety and deception is the key here.

Sergeantbrother and shadowfox: I agree with both of you. And in-depth nodding to and elaboration on what you've said would get ridiculous length, so I shall just leave it at "Aye, precisely! Excellent perspective."

Tacoma, lovely example. That's just what comes to mind when thinking of modern day subtle evil to me too. Also, an excellent example of how one can commit evil by causing great (though indirect) harm without straight-up murdering, raping, or stealing from someone.

Oh, I'm realizing now, I am skipping a few people along the way in my responses. If that's the case: I apologize and I still enjoyed reading your post. All of these thoughtful posts are fantastic.

While I don't see a lot of people arguing murder or such to be neutral rather than evil, Zen Monkey, I think your point about moral relativism is a good one. I have moral relativism within the game world, but only to an extent. For example, making someone dead is wrong. If you accidentally run over someone, however, that is not going to count as a notably evil act (unless you were seriously negligent). However, a lot of morally questionable things which are commited "for the greater good" may classify as evil even if the intentions or eventual outcome is supposedly good.

Also, when someone wants another bone to pick:
Why is some necromancy, such as raising undead, inherently evil? I have some thoughts on this though I don't feel too strongly as to whether it should or should not be.

Tycho2
2009-01-15, 03:48 PM
I've never been impressed by folks trying to be Stupid Evil. All of the ones that I've seen try it have been crappy roleplayers, and usually disruptive to a game.



Theres nothing wrong with playing stupid characters on the evil side. Theres an art to getting it right, and not all people who do it are crappy roleplayers, i assure you. :smallwink:

Oslecamo
2009-01-15, 04:00 PM
I am not saying people cannot get away with doing evil things. I'm saying that people cannot regularly get away with doing evil things stupidly. Stupid Evil isn't just killing people when your party members aren't looking, or occasionally commiting a crime under the nose of the law: It's commiting heinous crimes under extraordinarily obvious and unsubtle circumstances, often in a public place or broad daylight. Serial killers are usually so successful (at killing people, that is) because they are intelligent, subtle, or careful about how they commit crimes. So, I think your "Do some research" comment is rather uncalled for; what you are referring to is just severe evil not stupid evil, which is to what my comment was specifically referring.


People get away doing stupid evil things all the time. It's just a matter of having enough power on your side to get away with it.

There is a leader in Africa who's literally tearing apart his own country for his own amusement, but he doesn't seem to be going down anytime soon.

Similarly, there's lots of mad leaders in history who've spread all kinds of chaos and suffering along the world, pillaging, raping and burning everything in their path(wich is pretty much stupid and counter productive) and they took years to go down, because they were simply too strong for anyone to easily fall.

Another good example, soldiers on the winning side of a conflict normally commit all kind of atrocities with the local population, even if said behaviors are forbidden by their sider and they have specific orders to be friendly to the population. But they do it anyway. Because they CAN do it right now, and consequences will only come tomorrow, if at any time. It's that simple.

The simplest example of all is people who get addicted to drugs. Those people will go to great lenghts to get more drugs, even if it means slowly killing themselves while losing everything they have and greatly hurting those close to them, not to mention killing other people to get said drugs. If that's not stupid evil I don't know what it is. And it's happening all around you.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 04:36 PM
People get away doing stupid evil things all the time. It's just a matter of having enough power on your side to get away with it.

There is a leader in Africa who's literally tearing apart his own country for his own amusement, but he doesn't seem to be going down anytime soon.

Oh, sure, if you have enough power to get away with it. But unless you are very high level in a typical D&D world, there will be someone out there who can keep you in line. In a society without a strong, stable established rule of law (like many in Africa), it is much easier to get away with horrendous, obvious things because you don't get caught. In a typical D&D kingdom, unless you are the king, a close relative of his, or are one of the highest level adventurers in the land, if you are stupid evil, it will catch up with you. If you are in a generally CE orc village, out in the wilderness, or the king has delcared you his personal favorite, you can act stupid evil. If you are an average level adventurer in a relatively stable, LN society, where you have no special connections to anyone, you should not be getting away with stupid evil without some other damn good reason.

Riffington
2009-01-15, 04:41 PM
I was in agreement with you there until your conclusion that came out of left field. Just because someone's reasons are dumb doesn't mean how they go about it should be.


I suspect we're actually in agreement. To clarify: what I meant was not "hey, being evil is dumb, so evil people should be dumb." It was "Many people on Earth do stupid evil things, so it is realistic to have lots of people in your campaign do stupid evil things."

And lots of evildoers are really quite shortsighted. There are so many people who gossip about others, and then are sad that nobody really trusts them. And I'll never understand how a non-pedophile can think it's a good idea to rape a kid. I mean, even before considering the consequences, there's no way it's better than self-gratification. Rational litterers would prefer to despoil distant areas, but real-life litterers seem to drop their trash right in their own neighborhoods.

KeresM
2009-01-15, 04:56 PM
Smart evil can be fun to play. One of the characters in my group is Lawful Evil, but when it comes right down to it, nobody can actually pinpoint an action on his part that is 'evil'. It all comes down to the motivation.

To an out point of view, he appears lawful good. That enables him to more or less get away with murder because everyone thinks he is such a nice guy.

Oslecamo
2009-01-15, 07:40 PM
If you are an average level adventurer in a relatively stable, LN society, where you have no special connections to anyone, you should not be getting away with stupid evil without some other damn good reason.

And this applies to all kinds of alignment. If you're a LG honorable guy and you end up in sadic cultist city where everybody lies and backstabs everybody, plus there's a general hate of goody two shoes, you're not going to last very long if you're not much stronger than the population.

If you're a LE guy in a chaotic good society where everybody is willing to breack the rules to help each other and gank up in anybody who tries to abuse them, you're not going to last very long, unless you're powerfull enough to force them to submission or death.

MickJay
2009-01-15, 09:11 PM
About necromancy, first thing that comes to my mind is that dead bodies used to belong to someone, and people tend to be very sensitive about what happens with the bodies of their friends and relatives after they die. Maybe just thinking about the desacration that necromancy would involve is enough to label the whole thing as evil.

Another point is that once bodies start decaying, the risk of diseases spreading significantly increases; for that reason rotting corpses were used for biological warfare since ancient times. People instinctively avoid corpses, their sight and stench are two big flashing "go away" signs. Someone who willingly "plays" with dead bodies is not only extremly weird, but also likely to cause an epidemic.

On top of that, in D&D setting there are very few uses for undead that would be "innocent", at best they're used as sentries and guards, but can be used for attacks as well; and since the person making the undead is far from what society accepts as normal, people have all the more reasons to expect something bad from the necromancers.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-15, 09:51 PM
And this applies to all kinds of alignment. If you're a LG honorable guy and you end up in sadic cultist city where everybody lies and backstabs everybody, plus there's a general hate of goody two shoes, you're not going to last very long if you're not much stronger than the population.

If you're a LE guy in a chaotic good society where everybody is willing to breack the rules to help each other and gank up in anybody who tries to abuse them, you're not going to last very long, unless you're powerfull enough to force them to submission or death.

Well, yes, I don't see why I would disagree with that. In those cases, stupid good or stupid lawful would be the issue (Oh, let's go around helping people right under the nose of a bunch of evil people!).

Asbestos
2009-01-15, 09:57 PM
I played an NE Barbarian that was basically the 'bad cop' (except that he was most certainly 'bad' and not just a ruse) that the rest of the party would threaten to 'let off the leash' as it were. He very much enjoyed his job, he also showed no particular love to anyone in the party. Yes, he would move to protect the squishies if they needed it, or would help out in some way were it called for. But he'd always laugh about it and mock the other party members for either being weak or needing his help or wasting his time by having to go and get into trouble. Pretty much the only thing that kept him in the party was that he wanted to get powerful enough to go take over his old tribe and unite his people (as their leader...) and sire a bunch of kids. As everyone in D&D knows, the easiest way to gain power is through adventuring.

His evil wasn't a hindrance on the party, except for the constant battle of wills. He was very headstrong and wanted to do things 'his way' and even when he gave into the will of the party (more than once because of a display of force by other party members) he'd grumble about it all the way. Heck, despite being E, he'd occasionally try and take other party members 'under his wing' trying to convince them to 'assert' themselves more, lest they be walked all over. Imagine an evil big brother, he may be evil... but he's still your bro on some level.

Neek
2009-01-15, 10:52 PM
Oh, Evil Societies are easy.

[spoiler]LE - The Infernal Bureaucracy. There are lots of laws, but they are all designed to preserve the power of the powerful. Hierarchy is key, and those lower on the totem pole have to engage in some seriously sneaky dealings to move anywhere.

Curiously enough, most ancient societies, especially the first kleptocracies that broke the foundations for empires ancient and modern, would have to be considered neutral evil. After the onset of agriculture, people began to stockpile their surplus grain in communal grainaries. After a while, people were appointed to oversee and protect the grainary, to ensure that food doesn't get stolen by animals or people, to ensure that when it's dolled in times of need, it's done correctly.

This person entrusted realized that he can hand this out to people who don't need to farm, creating a class of artisans for architecture and artwork, for public works, et cetera. He then could keep a standing army with this grain, which gave him greater power than his neighbors (afterall, full-time soldiers are better than irregulars). Over-expending the grain supply would not be to the liking of the people, especially if he used greater than 2/3rds of all the grain storage (which defines a kleptocracy). To do this, he has to assume that he has some right over the grain he's entrusted with, and communal consensus wasn't enough. He had to convince the people who gave him their surplus that an army WOULD be in their benefit.

So came about the son of a diety, a kin of god. Order must be preserved lest someone else takes this control. Hierarchy is important, because as long as everyone knows their place, then nothing can go wrong. Other than disease and crime from increasing population density and living next to live stock, the shift from hierarchal society brought about various social behavior (antisocial personality disorder, for instance, only arises in agriculture-bound societies), famines (which don't exist in hunter-gatherer societies) as well, and some other fun stuff. Only an Evil society would want this as SOMETHING good.

We also must assume that hydraulic empires (that is, agricultural empires built on rivers, as in the Chinese, the Egyptians, the fertile crescent empires, Inca, and the pre-Indo-European Indians) are ALL Evil because they require a great amount of hierarchy to keep in line; they're all marked by consistent caste distinctions and imperial oversight on everything, allowing for minimal freedoms. Your primary water source is the river, afterall. Not like you can move away from it. And if the river is a facet of a god revered by the State, it's not like you have much choice to disobey them. Afterall, Egypt lasted 5000 years with no social progression. China itself is still locked in dynastic cycles which are prehistoric in origin. More often them not, conquerers end up assimilated into the existing culture. The Ptolemic dyansty of Egypt might have brought art and architecture from Greece, but they certainly ended Egyptian in identity. It takes a massive shift from an external source to push them (such as being conquered by an empire that places no value on the river-source, the Rainfall Empiress, as happened to Egypt by the Romans when it became a Roman province, followed later by the spread of Islam in the 7th century).

Rainfall empires (those that rose up in Europe, to name one) have the added advantage that if you don't like the existing rules, you can move somewhere else. In places where there's good east-west spread of ecology and environment, there's assumed near uniform rain fall. You can succeed elsewhere, just as much as you can succeed where you stand. As we've seen in history, rainfall empires have moved towards peace and democracy, have tried and tested it, because it is beneficial to them: You can't control the populace if they can go anywhere they like, so you might as well level with them. This leads to social movements (factors found in Aztec, Celtic, Germanic, Greek, Mayan, and Roman societies) Insofar, Hydraulic Empires == Evil, Rainfall Empires == Good.

This assessment does not sit well with me.

The problem then comes up with NE and CE evil societies. Can you label any that exist in the real world? Chaotic Evil societies would definitely be those defined by great turnovers, total and unbridal chaos and pillaging. They would exist in pockets of existing societies, afterall. LA City riots, the Sierra Leone decades long civil war. Because societies that have some substantial agricultural power are not chaotic by any measure. It requires a Lawful, not Chaotic, turn to form them (afterall, hunter-gatherer societies lack coherent laws and rules, but customs that are adhered to for the benefit of survival; customs that cause people to die are abandoned, while those that promote everyone's lives continue on. They are not appealed to every infraction). Hunter-gatherer societies are Neutral, if nothing else. So if hunter-gatherer societies are Neutral, rainfall empires are Good, and hydraulic empires Evil, then there's no room for Chaotic Evil societies--they exhibit as total panic and destruction, when ordinary people turn into criminals. Riots, anarchy in the streets, the temporary power of vacuum. Soldiers with wives and children and an honest job serving their nation turned into rapists and murderers.

This is true in our societies, and I believe should even hold true in D&D. Chaotic Evil is first and foremost the behavior of sociopaths, members of society who display the traits of antisocial behavior disorder. These are people who view society as a webbed structure worth conquering or exploiting, something to be won over or destroyed, and people as objects to be manipulated with any means. With antipathy for another soul and an attachment to nothing, while extremely few and rare in any given societies, those that are the strongest also carry the strongest impact. Hundreds of thousands of Good commoners could donate a gold piece for a cause, but that cause would not have the same impact in society as a rampaging psychopath with an axe (see: Any serial killer of the past century).

And an empire made of Chaotic Evil people would have no structure; afterall, Chaotic Evil characters don't view Laws as something other than a roadblock to be overcome or a tool to manipulate, they fear nor care about ramifications of actions. This is WHY they are Chaotic, and Evil. A CE underling would not be swayed with death threats, punishments of pain or the cliche worse than death, unless they can twist it around later for their benefit. A society with a chain of this would require some order to abuse, which in itself, is self-contradictory. It's the absence of order and morality, chaos at its best and worst. It simply cannot develop as a counterpoint to any society, but as a reaction of a society failing.

This isn't to deconstruct alignment in societies, but rather as a guide to help one understand HOW alignment operates if trying to compare it to existing cultures. Societies themselves exist to promote the welfare of the individual members, to keep the human race alive on this Earth, same as any species would desire.

I'll post more regarding the original post later.

Yakk
2009-01-15, 11:48 PM
Neek, not only do hunter gatherer societies experience famine (all it takes is a drop in food levels below carrying capacity, and there is lots of evidence for starving groups of hunter gatherers), but ...

Naw, it isn't worth it. I'm just saying your claims sound far stronger than they are.

quillbreaker
2009-01-16, 12:11 AM
In real life, where most people are some shade of neutral, everyone has problem solving strategies, ways that they deal with interpersonal problems. You can try to see the other person's point of view, negotiate a compromise, or let the other person have thier way. Or you can avoid the problem. Or you can lie, cheat, con, or steal your way out of a problem.

Evil people generally want the same thing as good people - they just have poor problem solving strategies.

My LE character in another game had his family farm burned when he was in his early teens. Out of this experience he learned that might makes right, and that you only get to keep what you have if you matter to those in power. The virtuous die beside the wicked when the wizard destroys your home from 200 feet.

So his life goals became to prove himself worthy to those in power, reap the benefits of being worthy of that hierarchy, and stab anyone who tries to take it away from him. He wants the same thing that anyone wants - safety, wealth, and yes, friends and associates and the other things. But life has taught him that he can't have these things without essentially taking them from someone else, or by working for someone who does the taking for him. If you told him we could all get along, he would laugh at you.

Dervag
2009-01-16, 12:19 AM
Neek, I don't think your argument is weak, but it isn't 100% ironclad.

For starters, hierarchy doesn't make a society evil in and of itself. I don't really think a caste system does, either. In some vague term the rules of society might be "evil" according to moral philosophy I believe is true, but individuals in the society will have a normal alignment distribution. A member of the warrior caste may be a stalwart champion of justice, a vicious murderer, or a disillusioned veteran who won't stand for butchery but doesn't really believe in anything beyond his swordpoint anymore. Take your pick.

There isn't a lot of evidence that things like antisocial people only exist in agricultural societies, or that "water monopolies" deliberately promote their existence. Since the last ancient-style hydraulic empire was slaughtered, plagued, and converted out of existence almost five hundred years ago, we can't exactly do psychological studies on the cultures of the people involved.

Likewise, there's not very good evidence for riverine agricultural societies being totally stagnant. We don't know enough about ancient Egypt to say that it was as stagnant as you claim. Most of our information comes from funerary rites, which are the least likely thing to change. Moreover, when you compare Egypt to tribal regions, it seems likely that Egypt was a paragon of dynamic behavior. Did society change more in Egypt from 4000 BC to the Roman conquest, or in "rainfall empire" New Guinea?

All kinds of ancient cultures were sometimes stagnant and sometimes not stagnant. It depended more on whether there were outside factors causing change (technology, climate change, invaders) and less on where the water supply came from. Which is not to say there's no correlation, or that your argument is invalid altogether. It's just not the whole picture.

_______


I suspect we're actually in agreement. To clarify: what I meant was not "hey, being evil is dumb, so evil people should be dumb." It was "Many people on Earth do stupid evil things, so it is realistic to have lots of people in your campaign do stupid evil things."Thing is, there's stupid as in "shortsighted." These are the guys who forget Rule #1 of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates: Pillage, then burn. So they wind up burning the loot.

Or they tax the peasants into starvation to fund just one more year of useless, prolonged siege warfare that earns them nothing, because they really like being the rampaging warlord. They may wind up setting off a peasant uprising next year, but who cares?
_______

And then there's stupid as in "psychotic slaughter machine." These are the people who not only don't consistently play by the rules, but seem unable to play by any rules. They'll murder people in the streets for stepping on their shadow, then wonder why the guards chase them out of town. They'll betray anyone, regardless of whether it is to their advantage to do so. It seems like they'll break the rules simply because there are rules, or because the voices in their head told them to, or because of a totally random whim that most people would dismiss as a horrible sort of brain hiccup.

In real life, these people are rare for evolutionary reasons. They can't survive in groups, because they dump all over any social system they find themselves in. Eventually, the group gets sick of it and kills them, neutralizes them (jail time) or chases them into the wilderness. Only mentally ill people act this way in real life.

Neek
2009-01-16, 02:05 AM
Neek, I don't think your argument is weak, but it isn't 100% ironclad.

For starters, hierarchy doesn't make a society evil in and of itself. I don't really think a caste system does, either. In some vague term the rules of society might be "evil" according to moral philosophy I believe is true, but individuals in the society will have a normal alignment distribution. A member of the warrior caste may be a stalwart champion of justice, a vicious murderer, or a disillusioned veteran who won't stand for butchery but doesn't really believe in anything beyond his swordpoint anymore. Take your pick.

I've always viewed the Good-Evil axis in the simplest moral terms: A Good action or statement is one that promotes the welfare of the fellow man versus, at worst, the individual (dying for a cause, for instance, would be the extreme case of Good, while the least martying would be acceptable words of encouragement), while an Evil action or statement is one that promotes the self versus anyone else's welfare. This seems like a good baseline to begin with, but by and large, I will agree with the sentiment that most people are Neutral--as they should be.

I never stated that hierarchy was evil. I was stating that the assumption given of what LE societies would imply that the initial empires would have had to have an Evil bent in order to get started. As one could argue that modern societies are Good, the act of the granary keeper to privatize the labor of his brethren to ensure he no longer labored, to create an army in which to conquer new lands to farm, were Evil casts. However, one could argue that they were Neutral acts: afterall, ensuring your own people survive (inasmuch as one'd care more that his family survives a catastrophe than his neighbor). A further argument, however, could made that the person has no right to remove false competitors by rapid, aggressive expansion (such as the Spanish's toppling of empires for gold, the English progression and the adolescent US's Manifest Destiny versus the French policy of simply trading and marrying into their people as being Evil versus Good).

To the greater extent, most societies are no more neutral than they are amoral, that is, lacking in a moral context. Any society exists for the benefit of its members welfare; by most terms, it will end up being Neutral.


There isn't a lot of evidence that things like antisocial people only exist in agricultural societies, or that "water monopolies" deliberately promote their existence. Since the last ancient-style hydraulic empire was slaughtered, plagued, and converted out of existence almost five hundred years ago, we can't exactly do psychological studies on the cultures of the people involved.

There wouldn't be evidence of antisocial behavior disorder in agricultural societies; this isn't so much that it doesn't exist, I'll grant you that. Psychological disorders are a factor of accepted societal norms, the average temperament of the society, and how far an individual deviates from it. An antisocial person would more likely simply abandon his trappings (the hunter-gatherers that he accompanies) than act out against them. Simply being that when one views another as an object rather than a person, then there's no willingness to help that person or even desire to associate oneself. In a society such as our own currently, it would be hard to escape the trappings. This isn't to say that there has never had a person wantonly and willingly slaughter another out of pleasure, nor that there aren't antisocial people who simply left for the Yukon, Siberia, or Australia to escape society. Just that predominately in hunter-gatherer societies, such behavior removes itself moreso than it does in our own.


Likewise, there's not very good evidence for riverine agricultural societies being totally stagnant. We don't know enough about ancient Egypt to say that it was as stagnant as you claim. Most of our information comes from funerary rites, which are the least likely thing to change. Moreover, when you compare Egypt to tribal regions, it seems likely that Egypt was a paragon of dynamic behavior. Did society change more in Egypt from 4000 BC to the Roman conquest, or in "rainfall empire" New Guinea?

Stagnation is a very broad term. Societies are more likely to change based on population density rather than any other means, same with technology. The greater the rate of information is exchanged between individuals, groups of individuals, nations, et qqd., the greater change will become apparent. It's a simple matter, however, that hydraulic empires are more resilient to change, and that it assimilates its conquerers moreso than the conquerers can assimilate it. Case in point, the dynastic cycle of China. One could argue that Communist China is simply another dynasty, and it will end as did the previous one. The society can still change, and it will accept change. Egypt was spoiled with dynastic rivalries, caste uprising, internal political hemorrhaging; there were pharaohs who instituted monotheism, started religious wars and rivalries. However, architecture only advanced as far as needed to, as did agricultural science, as did more than likely daily customs and laws. The greatest changes came in sweeping foreign invasions. The Greeks started the Ptolemic dynasty, which I believe ended with Cleopatra (who is generally considered Egyptian in identity, even though she is a Hellenistic ruler). At the hands of the Romans, however, is when the Egyptian identity was almost lost.

In smaller societies, it's harder to see these sweeping changes, merely because rate of exchange of information is slower. I would daresay hydraulic or rainfall are almost identical in societal fluidity only on account of population density. It took 3000 years from farming to get started before we saw empires, afterall.


All kinds of ancient cultures were sometimes stagnant and sometimes not stagnant. It depended more on whether there were outside factors causing change (technology, climate change, invaders) and less on where the water supply came from. Which is not to say there's no correlation, or that your argument is invalid altogether. It's just not the whole picture.

Undoubtedly, stagnation is inevitable, especially when there are no innovators to be had. However, stagnation only runs so deep. Even from the late Western Roman Empire to the first Crusade, Europe was advancing rapidly. The Dark Ages has become a misnomer because of idealist Renaissance writers. Though, I do tend to speak in internal factors than external, because invasion was hardly a concern to farmers 9,000 years ago, and climate change was only helping them at the time. Once the ball gets rolling, the game's on.

I wouldn't doubt my correlation is at all invalid, not because I'm so much a friggin' genius, but because I'm referencing mainly Jared Diamond when I say these things (Daniel Quinn's jaded me too much, however). Upon review, however, my statements were a tad too generalized, but true nonetheless.


Neek, not only do hunter gatherer societies experience famine (all it takes is a drop in food levels below carrying capacity, and there is lots of evidence for starving groups of hunter gatherers), but ...

Naw, it isn't worth it. I'm just saying your claims sound far stronger than they are.

What's not worth it? If you need to say something contrary, say it. If you think me a troll, this probably has to be the most well-articulated and ill-conceived trolling to date (there are so much better things to troll for). If you'd rather not waste the board space with this conversation, because it is a detraction from Queenfange's conversation, then I can understand.

I don't doubt my claims aren't presented stronger than they actually are, and I'm willing to listen and interpret counter arguments. But I'll respect your statement of not wanting to pursue this conversation any further than it has to (after I post a wall of text, of course.)

Oracle_Hunter
2009-01-16, 03:11 AM
This isn't to deconstruct alignment in societies, but rather as a guide to help one understand HOW alignment operates if trying to compare it to existing cultures. Societies themselves exist to promote the welfare of the individual members, to keep the human race alive on this Earth, same as any species would desire.

Ah, but CE Societies don't exist in the real world; that is rather the point.

CE is designed to be the most evil of all alignments, the sort of Evil that serves as a counterpoint to the Side of Light (LG). It is cohesive either because of racial traits (goblins or demons) or because it is under the sway of a powerful and outlandishly Evil force that doesn't care one whit for the individual well-being of any of its "members." Think of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings and then turn it up a notch - this is what a CE society looks like.

Your assessment of LE and NE societies are also correct. In "primitive" times, survival was so tenuous that those in power used harsh means to keep themselves fed and safe. In the worst of these societies, humanity was so degraded that slaves and outcastes were used for the mere comfort of the higher ups, and people were slain for sport. In the best of them, the rulers were focused on survival alone, and did not exploit their people more than they had to. "Good" societies could only be formed when people had enough security to think beyond merely living to the next day.

In a way, a NE society is one where there is enough security to allow a certain amount of disorder and waste without causing total collapse.

Remember: just because it never existed doesn't mean you can't imagine how it would be.

JonestheSpy
2009-01-16, 04:18 AM
CE is designed to be the most evil of all alignments, the sort of Evil that serves as a counterpoint to the Side of Light (LG). It is cohesive either because of racial traits (goblins or demons) or because it is under the sway of a powerful and outlandishly Evil force that doesn't care one whit for the individual well-being of any of its "members." Think of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings and then turn it up a notch - this is what a CE society looks like.



Been enjoying this thread, quite a lot - finally had to pipe in here.

OH is totally incorrect in the above comment, I gotta opine. Law is NOT more good than chaos, and chaos is NOT more 'evil' than law. A chaotic good person has equal proclivitiy toward good as a lawful good character, and a lawful evil character is just as evil as a chaotic evil one. The ultimates in good or evil are in fact neutral good and neutral evil - those who don't let any favoritism toward order or disorder sway them.

Obviously, our societal prejudices influence folks like OH and the folks who wrote the rulebooks - order/law is good, disorder/chaos is bad, and by that logic the ultimate paragon of good is the paladin who champions both good and order. But hey - individuality is a chaotic trait - how many of y'all think it's really the highest good to ALWAYS subordinate the individual to society as a whole.

As for Tolkien, I think OH is wayyyyy off base. Sauron is Lawful Evil through and through. He wants order and control, an evil heirarchy headed by himself. Think about it - Sauron's orcs have name AND numbers - no member of the Free People's of Middle Earth is so degraded as to be identified by a number. In 'The Scouring of the Shire", the hobbits are oppressed by endless rules designed specifically to keep them powerless, unhappy, and hungry, mostly in the name of a specious "greater good". Compare that to the state of almost anarchy the hobbits lived in previously, families and peer pressure keeping folks in line with barely anything resembling a government (the Mayor's main duties being the Mail and presiding at feasts).

Interstingly, one of the main inspirations of DnD's Law/Chaos dichotomy, Michael Moorcock of the Elric and Eternal Champion books, has had a pretty big shift in view the last few years. Originally, his works portrayed Chaos as the bad guys and Law as the good guys without much variation, and in fact the first edition of DnD used that same alignment system without including 'Good' and 'Evil' as seperate directions on the alignment compass. But Moorcock realized after awhile that too much Law was as destructive as too much Chaos, and started wrting stories where the forces of Law were the villains, and characters devoted to Chaos were easily identifiable as good. But the the highest good was Balance, when people could live without being dominated by chaos or law.

Dervag
2009-01-16, 05:21 AM
I've always viewed the Good-Evil axis in the simplest moral terms: A Good action or statement is one that promotes the welfare of the fellow man versus, at worst, the individual (dying for a cause, for instance, would be the extreme case of Good, while the least martying would be acceptable words of encouragement), while an Evil action or statement is one that promotes the self versus anyone else's welfare. This seems like a good baseline to begin with, but by and large, I will agree with the sentiment that most people are Neutral--as they should be.Thing is, promoting your own welfare at someone else's expense can't always be evil. Otherwise, society collapses if it gets filled up with Good people just as fast as it does with Evil people, if not faster. To my way of thinking, good should not be more antisocial than evil, so that strikes me as counterintuitive.

I believe that a monarch who has people executed for challenging their power and who forces the general populace to work in their scheme of how the nation ought to run might or might not deserve an Evil alignment. A lot depends on details. If the monarch does not display personal cruelty, is not vindictive, exercises a reasonable amount of mercy where it is deserved, and doesn't have long-range plans that are strongly detrimental to everyone else in the vicinity, I'd say that their actions are consistent with a Neutral alignment.

Not everyone who hurts people is Evil. Especially when you're talking about rulers.
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Case in point, the dynastic cycle of China. One could argue that Communist China is simply another dynasty, and it will end as did the previous one.One could, but only in the broadest possible terms. The Party doesn't govern like the old imperial dynasties, and it doesn't appeal to the old traditions.

I think that if any government arose in China you'd probably find someone saying it was just another dynasty in the endless Mandate of Heaven cycle. The problem is that the Chinese "imperial cycle" concept is really a sort of sociological observation. Or rather, something that bears the same relationship to sociology that alchemy does to chemistry.

What it boils down to is that China is supposedly governed by a powerful empire, which eventually becomes corrupt. It breaks apart into a Period of Warring States, until some powerful state unites the nation under a new dynasty. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One problem is that this cycle applies just as well to most other parts of the world; it isn't unique to China. Most regions alternate between being part of some powerful empire and being part of a collection of politically divided states.

Another is that the actual dynamics of the fall of Chinese dynasties doesn't follow a perfect pattern. Several dynasties rose and fell quickly, like the Qin dynasty (basically its founder plus his two worthless idiot sons who didn't last five years between the pair of them). Others were nominally "empires" but never managed to establish widespread control.

All we are left with is the observation that "China is usually either ruled by a powerful autocracy, or ruled by the leftovers from the breakup of same." Which describes pretty much the entire planet until recently. About the only thing China could have done in the 20th century to clearly break the cycle was to become a republic, and that really wasn't in the cards.
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The society can still change, and it will accept change. Egypt was spoiled with dynastic rivalries, caste uprising, internal political hemorrhaging; there were pharaohs who instituted monotheism, started religious wars and rivalries. However, architecture only advanced as far as needed to, as did agricultural science, as did more than likely daily customs and laws.But is that really unusual by ancient standards? The very fact that the "ancient" period lasted for thousands of years suggests that technological, social, and economic change was slow everywhere. Otherwise the world would have been overrun when some unnaturally progressive bunch broke through to the steam engine-and-telegraph era in 2000 BC or something.
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I wouldn't doubt my correlation is at all invalid, not because I'm so much a friggin' genius, but because I'm referencing mainly Jared Diamond when I say these things (Daniel Quinn's jaded me too much, however). Upon review, however, my statements were a tad too generalized, but true nonetheless.Diamond makes some good points, but they have their limits.

Personally, I think that the ultimate answer to the struggle between the "great man/great event" and "determining social/environmental forces" schools of history is "both." To understand a place like ancient Egypt, you really do have to understand how social and environmental factors made it the way it was.

But to understand why ancient Egypt stopped being ancient Egypt, land of the pharoahs and the pyramids, you have to understand Alexander the Great (among a few other key figures).
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I think that if we looked closely at a place like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, or China, we'd find that our notion that they were in stasis was an illusion imposed by the fact that we know them mostly through their funeral rites and the kind of ritualized boilerplate they put up on monuments.

If archaeologists from five thousand years in the future were digging through our ruins, they might be hard pressed to figure out just how much our society has changed in the past century.

Epinephrine
2009-01-16, 07:25 AM
I am much less pessimistic than Epinephrine: I think most people are neutral with a slight tendency to good rather than evil. If you put out a bunch of bagels with a payment box "on the honor system", most people pay. If you drop your wedding ring at Walmart, you're likely to have someone give it back.


Hence why I said that they tend slightly toward law as well - it is lawful to return lost property, or to pay for the bagel you took.

MickJay
2009-01-16, 08:16 AM
Toynbee argued that changes arise from specific challenges, once the challenges stop, society becomes stagnant until it gets another impulse to change (the challenge can be too great to overcome, then the civilization is destroyed; I'm using "society" as closely related to Toynbee's "civilization" here). Hydraulic empires were a response to challenge of difficult terrain, the response was to collectively build irrigation networks; individuals would not have been able to build them, they needed to cooperate, quasi-state is born. As long as that worked well enough, why should the structure of empire change? If people feel no need for change (and are not forced to change), then it won't happen. There's nothing inherently good or bad about it.

For that matter, I think the major assumption here is that if the particular race is "evil", then its society will be evil as well. I find the idea rather improbable; first, society as whole can't be really "good", "neutral" or "bad", but assuming it can, I would say it would be "neutral" 100% of time. Society exists to help its members survive and prosper, and that's about it. What individuals within said society do, is a different matter. I'll repeat my earlier point: most races are labeled "evil" from the player character races' perspective, because they tend to raid the settlements of PCR and kill its people. As a "response", "preemptive strike" etc, humans, dwarves and whatnot raid settlements of "evil" races. Where's the difference? In this case, "good" and "evil" is just a fluff to justify the atrocities done by "us" and to vilify atrocities done by "them". It's the same type of thinking that early societies had (and it's still often the case) - any enemy is "evil" by definition, we are inherently "good"; this concept just helps people live from day to day and to undertake more drastic measures than it would normally acceptable to ensure survival and security.

Riffington
2009-01-16, 08:49 AM
CE Societies don't exist in the real world

Chad might border one...


Hence why I said that they tend slightly toward law as well - it is lawful to return lost property, or to pay for the bagel you took.

Again, I'm less pessimistic than you. I think if you ask people "why did they return it" or "why did they pay" their response will not be "it's the rule", but rather sympathy.
Heck, look at people who hit others' cars. We all scowl at hit-and-run drivers, though of course there are some. But many (perhaps most, in the case of fender-benders) collude with one another to pay for damages without involving insurance or the police. They are breaking the law, but helping each other out.

woodenbandman
2009-01-16, 08:57 AM
I have this one character, who started out as neutral good, emphasis neutral. He wanted to preserve the balance, because he was a druid, but only if it were the good thing to do. So if some orcs were overfarming, he would go in and show them how to do it right, rather than druid smite (which he did very well on several other occasions). But then I decided that the natureboy act was way boring. So I died, but the Heroes of horror roll table came up "angry." So I took that as meaning slightly more evil. So eventually he shifted to straight neutral then to neutral evil as he became more and more selfish. But then he realized the error of his ways through a convoluted family intervention, and now he's just neutral. though he's had an evil stint, never in the game has he done a truly evil act, really, unless you go by the BoED, in which case he's committed several, but he's also responsible for saving more lives than anyone else in the party.

So my story is there to illustrate that alignment is really just a guideline. I play the character the way the character would act. If his alignment shifts, then so be it, but the character is what he is, and he doesn't change that much, but his alignment does. Some people write down an alignment and then stick to that alignment like sovereign glue, but I've never done that, it's not all that fun.

hamishspence
2009-01-16, 08:59 AM
as I recall,in UK, for minor collisions, you don't need to call police. And when cost of car is less than insurance premium, and neither party is hurt, the party who was hit, after the taking of number and address for both, might simply not bother to make a claim.

But then, each side taking number and address, isn't exactly a hit and run, more a hit and both sides stop take phone numbers, then drive away.

Epinephrine
2009-01-16, 09:05 AM
Again, I'm less pessimistic than you. I think if you ask people "why did they return it" or "why did they pay" their response will not be "it's the rule", but rather sympathy.
Psychology experiments though show that being observed influences honesty, and while a recent wallet drop experiment with hidden cameras had rather nice results, previous experiments in which wallets were scattered across various cities had rates of return as low as ~20%.

The fact that being observed is a big predictor of honesty reveals a tendency to try to scam the system and cheat one another.


Heck, look at people who hit others' cars. We all scowl at hit-and-run drivers, though of course there are some. But many (perhaps most, in the case of fender-benders) collude with one another to pay for damages without involving insurance or the police. They are breaking the law, but helping each other out.

But they are doing so to help themselves out too - they avoid inflating insurance costs and so on by ensuring that the details don't surface - they get to keep a clean driving record. That's not "good", that's just watching out for numero uno.

I'm not saying that we're not also good - I just think that overall there is more bad than good out there, but that we happen also to respond well to laws and threats of punishment.

An example of a game which tests cooperative play was used in an experiment a while ago - putting money into a communal pot helps everyone else's profits, but like the prisoner's dilemma, the system rewards those who can cheat. Testing showed that people quickly stop contributing to maximise their own profit, causing others to respond by also not contributing.

When the experimentor added the ability to use money to punish other players for their actions, the punishment worked. Players trying to cheat find themselves instead punished, and go along with the contributions, with a much better gain of income for everyone involved.

Why is it the case? Well, I'd say that it's the struggle between the tendenies to try for personal gain and the following of rules. People are apt to break laws for personal gain if the chance of punishment is small or the effects of punishment are small - hence why many litter, speed, drink and drive, cheat the tax system, etc. All of these choices are "evil" in a sense - some risk the lives of others needlessly, hiding from taxes denies society its payments for the benefits it pays out, and littering is contempt for the space shared with others. Just because they are petty evils doesn't make them less evil.

Sure we also have good in us - and many people are more good than bad. And many of the bad are more lawful than not. All in all, it means that some people will do good things because they are right, some will do it because it's the law, some will do it because of both, and a much smaller set will reject both principles.

I don't mind being labeled a pessimist, I think it's come from age and my background. When I was half my age I was probably convinced of the goodness of people :)

The Neoclassic
2009-01-16, 10:03 AM
Wow, lots of interesting psychology, history, and such being discussed now. Fascinating, and though those are two fields in which I am interested, I don't have anything all that great to add, though I'd love to see how it keeps playing out.


Evil people generally want the same thing as good people - they just have poor problem solving strategies.

Agreement that evil people usually want the same things as good people (most people of any alignment are motivated by wanting food, shelter, safety, respect, friends, and some nice shiny things). However, I disagree with the second part of your assertation: It's only a poor problem solving strategy if you get caught. If you can cheat your way through school and bully a fellow student out of his lunch money without getting discovered, you are gaining something and losing nothing (except for moral scruples, really). They have immoral problem solving strategies, or ways of doing things which can be labelled "wrong," but not necessarily a poor (as in, ineffective) strategy. While some people here clearly disagree, to me it seems clear that stupid evil you can usually not get away with and smart evil you usually can. Not necessarily, and not always, but as a "more often than not, given no extenuating circumstances," I think it is a spot on generalization.


Chaotic Evil is first and foremost the behavior of sociopaths, members of society who display the traits of antisocial behavior disorder.... Hundreds of thousands of Good commoners could donate a gold piece for a cause, but that cause would not have the same impact in society as a rampaging psychopath with an axe (see: Any serial killer of the past century).

And an empire made of Chaotic Evil people would have no structure; afterall, Chaotic Evil characters don't view Laws as something other than a roadblock to be overcome or a tool to manipulate, they fear nor care about ramifications of actions. This is WHY they are Chaotic, and Evil. A CE underling would not be swayed with death threats, punishments of pain or the cliche worse than death, unless they can twist it around later for their benefit. A society with a chain of this would require some order to abuse, which in itself, is self-contradictory. It's the absence of order and morality, chaos at its best and worst. It simply cannot develop as a counterpoint to any society, but as a reaction of a society failing.

Your whole post was quite interesting, but first of all, I'd like to clear something up that seems to confuse people:


Psychosis is rarely noted among serial killers. The predominant psychiatric diagnosis noted in the group tends toward the psychopathic, meaning they suffer from traits within a specific cluster of dysfunctional personality characteristics. Psychopaths lack empathy and guilt, are egocentric and impulsive, and do not conform to social, moral and legal norms. They may appear to be quite normal and often even charming, a state of adaptation that psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley named the "mask of sanity".

The FBI's Crime Classification Manual places serial killers into three categories: "organized", "disorganized" and "mixed"—offenders who exhibit organized and disorganized characteristics.

Yes, serial killers are almost always CE and psychopathic, but a large portion of them are not raging freaks with bloody axes. Some of them are, but many of them are careful and meticulous in carrying out their crimes. A few are even good enough to get away with it and never get caught (such as the Zodiac Killer). Anyway, the point is: People can be seriously CE and get away with it, and in fact seem to function as OK members of society (until they get discovered).

Back to the other point: CE people "don't care about the ramifications of their actions"?! So... all CE people must therefore be seriously mentally disturbed. If you meant moral or societal ramifications, you are right, but from what else you said, you seem to be far more reaching. OK, so, a serial killer is CE. If they don't care about the ramifications of their actions why are some of them so careful and secretive about killing?! Anyone who is not extraordinarily mentally disturbed cares about the ramifications of their actions. Everyone except the extraordinarily disturbed values their own life. People do things because they are in said person's best interest; people just interpret what their best interest is and how to get their and what restrictions should apply to how differently. So, I'm going to have to say I strongly disagree with your very extreme view of CE which ensures that only the most disturbed could ever end up there.


Ah, but CE Societies don't exist in the real world; that is rather the point.

CE is designed to be the most evil of all alignments, the sort of Evil that serves as a counterpoint to the Side of Light (LG). It is cohesive either because of racial traits (goblins or demons) or because it is under the sway of a powerful and outlandishly Evil force that doesn't care one whit for the individual well-being of any of its "members." Think of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings and then turn it up a notch - this is what a CE society looks like.

So... cultures in the real world where anarchy reigns, children are forced to be soldiers, and women are raped on a regular basis don't count as CE? Yes, they are not functional or civilized societies (by our definition), but they are still societies. Also, again with the CE is the most evil and LG is the most good! I think the next quote pretty much sums up my feelings on that sentiment:


Been enjoying this thread, quite a lot - finally had to pipe in here.

OH is totally incorrect in the above comment, I gotta opine. Law is NOT more good than chaos, and chaos is NOT more 'evil' than law. A chaotic good person has equal proclivitiy toward good as a lawful good character, and a lawful evil character is just as evil as a chaotic evil one. The ultimates in good or evil are in fact neutral good and neutral evil - those who don't let any favoritism toward order or disorder sway them.

Obviously, our societal prejudices influence folks like OH and the folks who wrote the rulebooks - order/law is good, disorder/chaos is bad, and by that logic the ultimate paragon of good is the paladin who champions both good and order. But hey - individuality is a chaotic trait - how many of y'all think it's really the highest good to ALWAYS subordinate the individual to society as a whole.

As for Tolkien, I think OH is wayyyyy off base. Sauron is Lawful Evil through and through.

If CE is so psychotic and suicidally crazy as some of you seem to think, it would probably be less evil than LE. Without any hint of self-preservation, you'll die soon unless you are in a serious position of power (even then, if you don't watch out, you could be back-stabbed), and hence will not live long enough to create as much horror and pain as a LE dude. Though, since I do not subscribe to that view of CE, I'm going to say they are not in general any more or less evil than LE (or NE). I think it is prejudice in writing (a bit) and mostly the fact that it is easier (and ingrained in us) to associate good with order and evil with disorder, even though some disorder is good and too much order is bad.

Not sure how I feel about NG or NE being the strongest in good/evil, but meh.


Thing is, promoting your own welfare at someone else's expense can't always be evil. Otherwise, society collapses if it gets filled up with Good people just as fast as it does with Evil people, if not faster. To my way of thinking, good should not be more antisocial than evil, so that strikes me as counterintuitive.

Promoting your own welfare at someone else's expense can in fact always be evil. I really don't follow your reasoning there, but I would like to point out that you can promote your own welfare without taking away from someone else's. If you are familiar with economics, you will know that, at its most basic level, this is how trade functions. Hey, look: I am good at fishing but you are good at baking. If I give you a fish for some bread, we both benefit. We are both giving up something, but neither of us is benefiting at the other's expense. If you put yourself first and, say, steal a fish from me, that would be benefiting at my expense and that would be evil. Is there an example of a way you could promote your welfare (get stuff) at my expense (me losing stuff without getting any fair return) that would not be wrong? See, the most obvious example is stealing, and I'm fairly certain that stealing is not a morally neutral (and certainly not good) act.

Chrono22
2009-01-16, 10:41 AM
I'll address the parts of the post I have some experience with.


Yes, good character development requires a /why/ to the evil (Again, you don't kill babies because you feel morally obliged, but perhaps because of some grudge or to make a useful potion out of their blood), but I am really interested in the /how/. How does one play a subtle but strongly evil character? How do evil people function in society?
Read the drizzt series. You say that you can't understand how someone can play stupid evil- but let me pose you this juxtaposition. In human society, many people do good things because "it's what a good person would do". Doing good deeds because of the morality of the deed, to an outside party, would seem pointless. But by doing good deeds, it improves your social standing- and if the publicity of your deed is great enough, you could be elevated by it (financially or otherwise). An evil society or individual is motivated by personal or selfish reasons. In an evil society, where wickedness or cruelty are encouraged and respected, evil would be the expectation.


Finally, how does evil impact one's relationship with loved ones? Does NE or CE ensure no love nor close ties with people, or at least ones which will be broken if it is more convenient? Or would it be possible for even a CE person to give up a lot for someone they truly loved?
I'm experimenting with this concept with two different evil aligned characters.
One of them is an anthropomorphic wolf character. He's a loner, with no physical or emotional attachment to society. As of now, he's neutral evil, savage, and utterly selfish. As a survivor, he's interested in keeping or doing anything that will keep him alive. He has a (somewhat justified) hatred of humans. He's recently been joined in his travels by a human paladin. Hopefully, by conversing and working beside a representative of the ideal of good, he can grow to respect and appreciate it. In time, he might even try to emulate it- who knows?
The other character is a chaotic evil binder/warlock. At a cursory glance, she's irredeemable. She converses with beings beyond the veil of reality, and commits acts of unspeakable evil for personal gain. She's actively seeking to complete a quest that would effectively destroy the multiverse (great wheel). But underneath that evil exterior, she's the same lonely little girl. Her life's goal is just a way for her to bring her daddy (in this case an evil demigod of magic expelled from the multiverse) home. I suppose it's a bit repetitive, but she has an in game reason to seek to have a paladin join her party. As a CE character, it might seem she could never get along with a LG one, but it's possible, provided both parties have separate reasons initially.
I'd write more, but I can already tell my exhuastion is interffering with it...
Going to bed...

Neek
2009-01-16, 01:10 PM
Thing is, promoting your own welfare at someone else's expense can't always be evil. Otherwise, society collapses if it gets filled up with Good people just as fast as it does with Evil people, if not faster. To my way of thinking, good should not be more antisocial than evil, so that strikes me as counterintuitive.

There are nuances to the statement I made about Good vs Evil, but this is how I've viewed it, and so far it holds true: Good is altruism, Evil is selfish; in the end, the majority of people are not a paragon of either, people are Neutral by the far and by the large. There can be selfish actions which will benefit the community's welfare, and there are altruistic actions which can be antibeneficial. The main factor is motives, which I purposefully ignored, because it devalues the statement as a whole. I don't mean to state that Evil is not antisocial, nor give that impression. Selfishness is not merely a product of antisocial behavior, but also springs out of anxiety, depression, and whatever. This is a conversation for elsewhere, however.


I believe that a monarch who has people executed for challenging their power and who forces the general populace to work in their scheme of how the nation ought to run might or might not deserve an Evil alignment. A lot depends on details. If the monarch does not display personal cruelty, is not vindictive, exercises a reasonable amount of mercy where it is deserved, and doesn't have long-range plans that are strongly detrimental to everyone else in the vicinity, I'd say that their actions are consistent with a Neutral alignment.

Not everyone who hurts people is Evil. Especially when you're talking about rulers.

I think we've gone too far. My original statement was that by the definition given of LE societies, that the founding States would have to almost be Evil, but this is a counterintuitive statement. I'm not sure if that was already agreed on, or I veered too far from the point.

I'll agree with you, however--Evil doesn't always hurt.


One could, but only in the broadest possible terms. The Party doesn't govern like the old imperial dynasties, and it doesn't appeal to the old traditions.

I'll appeal that my knowledge of Chinese history is a bit weak, but I'll concede to your point. Though I should state, in concession, that China is easier to look at in terms of dynastic cycles because the area has remained broadly isolated, both politically and geographically (Deserts, oceans, and mountains are all great natural boundaries to keep ne'er-do-wells out) for the majority of its history. It's too easy to look at it and say, "See! It hasn't changed!" if you don't realize it happens to less isolated instances.

[quote]But is that really unusual by ancient standards? The very fact that the "ancient" period lasted for thousands of years suggests that technological, social, and economic change was slow everywhere. Otherwise the world would have been overrun when some unnaturally progressive bunch broke through to the steam engine-and-telegraph era in 2000 BC or something.

Increased population density and necessity I would argue are the two primary contributing factors to any growth of a society technologically. However, when a society has no need to further grow, then it won't. This is arguably easier when internal and external factors remain the same, which seems best in ancient times at a hydraulic empire--if the nutrients from the soil is constantly being replenished, then it works quite well. It's only when things go wrong (such as invasion, aggressive cultivating, climate change) do things get developed.

This isn't to say that even the most isolated kingdoms are idyllic, but rather progresses much slower, despite any internal problems (I think this is a problem with my analysis, I neglect even my own studies of Rome, where any decade is extremely active with events. Egypt itself was active, and so was China. The Indus river valley? Active as hell.)


Personally, I think that the ultimate answer to the struggle between the "great man/great event" and "determining social/environmental forces" schools of history is "both." To understand a place like ancient Egypt, you really do have to understand how social and environmental factors made it the way it was.

But to understand why ancient Egypt stopped being ancient Egypt, land of the pharoahs and the pyramids, you have to understand Alexander the Great (among a few other key figures).

The beginning step was Alexander, but even the Ptolemic monarchy became Egyptian in identity. It took a lot of effort to transform Egypt from the ancient mora we know it as, to what it was during the medieval ages.


I think that if we looked closely at a place like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, or China, we'd find that our notion that they were in stasis was an illusion imposed by the fact that we know them mostly through their funeral rites and the kind of ritualized boilerplate they put up on monuments.

Not everything we have about their history, their culture, et al. is funerary rite. We have inscriptions and statements of conquerings, wars, statements that agree with what we find in burial tombs. The majority of it is funeral rites, but in the same tombs that we find those, we also find hints of religion, of rule, and of this person's life--and analysis over a long period of time shows that not a lot has changed, despite however chaotic the times were.

In closing, as I'd rather not muddle this conversation any further with anthropology and history, I'll give a concession: No society is at all stable and ideal, free of worry or events. Nor is any society static, no matter how far the timeline goes.

My initial argument was only to break down that the definition given of LE societies is faulty, because it implies that our founding empires were LE, which leaves me even with a bad taste. I believe I proved that much, and that's the important point (seeing as that's the only part that wasn't challenged--not that being challenged is a bad thing; I'd rather have a counter-argument given, especially one presented well, because it means you're actually reading the post).


Yes, serial killers are almost always CE and psychopathic, but a large portion of them are not raging freaks with bloody axes. Some of them are, but many of them are careful and meticulous in carrying out their crimes. A few are even good enough to get away with it and never get caught (such as the Zodiac Killer). Anyway, the point is: People can be seriously CE and get away with it, and in fact seem to function as OK members of society (until they get discovered).

Serial killers and psychopaths are almost always Chaotic Evil, but Chaotic Evil characters aren't always serial killers and psychopaths. I should have noted that. There are people who have the antisocial behavior disorder, but simply remove themselves from society, which is not an Evil act itself. I was speaking in extremes, as one ought in regards to Stupid Evil :wink:.


Back to the other point: CE people "don't care about the ramifications of their actions"?! So... all CE people must therefore be seriously mentally disturbed. If you meant moral or societal ramifications, you are right, but from what else you said, you seem to be far more reaching. OK, so, a serial killer is CE. If they don't care about the ramifications of their actions why are some of them so careful and secretive about killing?! Anyone who is not extraordinarily mentally disturbed cares about the ramifications of their actions. Everyone except the extraordinarily disturbed values their own life. People do things because they are in said person's best interest; people just interpret what their best interest is and how to get their and what restrictions should apply to how differently. So, I'm going to have to say I strongly disagree with your very extreme view of CE which ensures that only the most disturbed could ever end up there.

Over-generalization and lack of having a caveat on that is my fault, I apologize. It's amazing how well articulated I write even after a good night of drinking wine. Though, to be honest, if you murder someone out of cold blood, you don't care about their self-preservation, their family, or their loved ones, nor to the social customs that tell you not to do it. Doing it repeatedly shows how much antipathy you have for humanity as a whole. Being meticulous and not getting caught is not a matter of caring about your ramifications, but self-preservation. I'll just say the name Ted Bundy, and move on.

A well-to-do sociopath (if you could call one such) is smart enough to know that if he gets caught, he can no longer keep doing what he's doing. This isn't out of respect to laws or customs, but a simple matter of survival. It was too far a stretch for me to say that a Chaotic Evil underling would simply outright defy you (they could), but it's highly unlikely that they would give a modicum of respect, nor present fear when intimidated with threats--they would simply go around those at the first convenience.

Perhaps I spoke too much, but in the nigh-comical presentation of Evil in D&D, especially in respect to Chaotic Evil, I can't imagine a Chaotic Evil as being as anything but a sociopath. There are Chaotic Evil people who aren't sociopaths, and I haven't given them too much attention. A good example is Aaron from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. The moor impregnated the queen, orchestrated the rape of Lavinia, among other subplots of the revenge, and at the moment of his death, gave the statement: "If one good Deed in all my life I did, I do repent it from my very Soule." He wasn't comical in his actions, but rather horrifying, but yet still showed that he was nonetheless human (he still loved his and Queen Tamora's child, afterall).

Aaron, among other literary figures, are oft-ignored good archetypes for Evil. D&D tends to want Skeletor, Cobra Commander, Gargarmel, etc., rather than Aaron or Paradise Lost's Satan.

hamishspence
2009-01-16, 01:19 PM
While I can get behind "selfish motivation makes an act Neutral at best" I might be a little more skeptical about taking it all the way into Evil.

By contrast an altruistic motivation I would not say is "Neutral at worst" it can quite often be Evil. Indeed, as it was once put: "Some of the worst things in the world have been done by people with the best of intentions"

Intent is important, but Well Intentioned Extremists can easily be Evil rather than Neutral if you, as Champions of Ruin does, focus on the acts themselves and how consistantly person behaves that way.

V, in V for Vendetta, skirts along the CE/CN border- good motives, altruistic motives, as well as vengeful ones, but his belief that what he does to Evy is for her own good, doesn't justify the deed.

Piedmon_Sama
2009-01-16, 01:54 PM
When I look at the D&D characters I've drawn up, particularly over the last few years, most of them fall squarely into Neutrality, with a few outright Evil, and just one Good. The (Neutral) Good PC is a Half-Orc Druid who just wants to lead a life as a quiet village priest, blessing and presiding over feasts. He got forced into adventuring when demons attacked his circle's sacred grove.

My point is, Evil is proactive. PCs are proactive. An evil-aligned PC going out and adventuring makes a lot more sense than a Lawful Good guy training for years to swing a sword or shoot fire and then going out and killing some orcs/goblins. Yes, you can make the argument that there's plenty of reasons for good characters for adventuring. But still, sticking a Good alignment on your PC is limiting. They're usually in it to protect someone else, right a wrong, slay a particular villain or whatever. A Neutral (or Evil) PC's motives can be as expansive, as tragic, or as warped, as you like. And it's much easier to justify spinning a globe and throwing a dart at it to explore some new part of the setting with your vaguely mercenary and amoral types. Good people tend to set down roots: they adopt or raise families, protect villages or kingdoms; they're generally tied to some place the way Superman is tied to Metropolis or Batman is tied to Gotham.

I feel free to use my Chaotic Evil Assassin PC in any kind of mission. His motives can vary, from the promise of reward to sheer boredom, whereas with my Druid it'd be harder to explain if it doesn't somehow relate to protecting his grove.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-01-16, 02:58 PM
Points:

(1) Sauron was certain LE, but the Orcs were allowed to be CE. At the very least, nobody was much surprised when an entire tower killed itself fighting over a mithral shirt.

(2) Regardless of whether you believe LG is superior to CG, it is clear what Gygax believed. Remember that the alignment system is not supposed to reflect the real world; it's supposed to reflect the ethos of a fantasy setting.

(3) I would argue that anarchic real world situations are not CE societies. As I pointed out, a CE society is one where the majority of people are also CE. Anarchic societies are merely ones where the rule of law has broken down. As was correctly pointed out initially, in the real world such a society would rapidly break down into many different tribal groups or destroy itself.

pendell
2009-01-16, 04:00 PM
Real life CE societies: Pirate's society. Each one was a democracy with elected officers and a charter. And you better believe most members of society are CE.

It would seem to me that a true CE society would be skewed towards young males. Raising families, after all, requires a certain amount of stability. Young unmarried males without care for children or the future would be the most likely to set up a pirate band which lives by robbing and murdering others.

So perhaps a street gang would fit too.

Imagine a society where other law disintegrating and the street gangs were the only law left. That might also be a CE society.

It's not hard to be evil in modern society. Fictional examples include Scrooge from Christmas Carol or the Defarges from Les Miserables. Scrooge is Lawful evil, because although he breaks no laws he uses them to his own advantage, using every means in his power to increase his own wealth at the expense of other people. He gives other people nothing and has no concern for their welfare. Since his wealth is considerable, he is able to cause much harm and suffering to other people -- although he doesn't care about that at all. All he cares about is his own wealth.

The Defarges are CE. They are also in a lawful society and take every opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Unlike Scrooge, the Defarges have no compunction about breaking the law if it gives them an advantage. They will break into people's houses, rob the dead, provide shoddy and substandard goods, and in all ways increase themselves at the expense of others. To the Defarges , and to the CE in general, there is really only one rule -- "Don't get caught". It is the only rule they truly observe, and that is why they are CE.

Then there's the real-life example of , say, someone who was bullied as a child and conceived a hatred for the entire human race and will do whatever they can to harm another out of sheer misanthrope. This person may be smart enough not to grab a gun and shoot up his school campus. Maybe, instead , he gets a job at the DMV and takes every opportunity he can to inflict misery in all the petty ways a bureaucrat can on the customers and fellow employees. To go just as far as one can go without being fired.

Someone mentioned that no intelligent person would choose stupid evil -- only teenagers. By coincidence, many D&Ders start playing as teenagers. That makes a terrific teaching moment, neh?


Respectfully,

Brian P.

Dervag
2009-01-16, 04:07 PM
(2) Regardless of whether you believe LG is superior to CG, it is clear what Gygax believed. Remember that the alignment system is not supposed to reflect the real world; it's supposed to reflect the ethos of a fantasy setting.Once upon a time, there was no moral alignment, only "chaotic," "neutral," and "lawful." Gygax introduced a 2-axis alignment system after the first release of Old D&D.

It's not clear to me whether that was because he thought Law was always better than Chaos, or because he didn't want to introduce formal moral alignment into the system (thus avoiding anyone who is carrying a Designated Hero/Villain sign).
______


Promoting your own welfare at someone else's expense can in fact always be evil. I really don't follow your reasoning there, but I would like to point out that you can promote your own welfare without taking away from someone else's. If you are familiar with economics, you will know that, at its most basic level, this is how trade functions. Hey, look: I am good at fishing but you are good at baking. If I give you a fish for some bread, we both benefit. We are both giving up something, but neither of us is benefiting at the other's expense.But look at it another way. You buy a book from me for ten dollars. The fact that I was willing to sell you the book in the first place means I think the book is worth less than ten dollars. The fact that you were willing to buy it means you think ten dollars is worth less than the book.

So we both walk away from the transaction convinced that we took a valuable item from the other person in exchange for a less valuable item. In other words, that we profited at their expense.

Here's an example: is it an evil act to buy potions from these idiots (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0135.html)? They are selling potions for less money than it costs to make them, expecting to make up for it in volume of trade. Their shop is doomed and they are fools. Every time they sell a potion, it brings them one step closer to bankruptcy.

Is it an evil act to do business with them?
______

Most business transactions leave someone ahead and someone behind. That isn't evil. It isn't evil for a merchant to haggle and try to get customers to pay him an unreasonably large amount of money. Or for customers to go bargain shopping and try to find someone who will sell them an item for far less than it's worth.

Indeed society would probably collapse if people didn't do stuff like that. Almost everyone performs actions because they expect those actions to gain them something, and they typically think that whatever they give up in exchange for that gain is worth less than the gain is. Is that automatically evil? I doubt it.

At least, that's my view. I think that Evil acts require either extreme ruthlessness ("I don't care whether you live or die horribly" type), or specific ill intent.
______


The beginning step was Alexander, but even the Ptolemic monarchy became Egyptian in identity. It took a lot of effort to transform Egypt from the ancient mora we know it as, to what it was during the medieval ages.Yes. Alexander didn't do the whole thing. But what I'm saying is that unless you know about how much Alexander shook up the Middle East, you won't really be able to explain how it started to happen.

It's not the only example of what I mean, either. There are a lot of cases where one event that could quite easily have happened differently, or the actions of one person, really did make a significant difference in history.
______


Not everything we have about their history, their culture, et al. is funerary rite. We have inscriptions and statements of conquerings, wars, statements that agree with what we find in burial tombs. The majority of it is funeral rites, but in the same tombs that we find those, we also find hints of religion, of rule, and of this person's life--and analysis over a long period of time shows that not a lot has changed, despite however chaotic the times were.I said "the sort of standard boilerplate they put on monuments" for a reason. The language found on monuments doesn't evolve as fast as the underlying culture, because monuments are deliberately formal even if they aren't actively part of a religious ceremony.
_______


My initial argument was only to break down that the definition given of LE societies is faulty, because it implies that our founding empires were LE, which leaves me even with a bad taste. I believe I proved that much, and that's the important point (seeing as that's the only part that wasn't challenged--not that being challenged is a bad thing; I'd rather have a counter-argument given, especially one presented well, because it means you're actually reading the post).A lot depends on just how evil it has to be to do things like call yourself a god and delegate power of life and death over others to cronies. We think of those things as Evil, and maybe by the standard D&D definition they are. Not least because we're the ones who wrote the definition.

But in a polytheistic world, the distinction between a very powerful man and a god gets a bit blurry. An emperor calling himself a demigod doesn't automatically make him a monster. Likewise, if you're trying to run an empire, you need subordinates you can trust. If that means setting up your family as a dynasty empowered to tax the peasants, it does; otherwise you're liable to wind up without an empire. And possibly without a head, given the way that the fall of emperors tends to work.

I think that's important to analyzing the alignment of powerful leaders. Unless they live in a very special kind of society, the alternative to remaining in power is death. Therefore, they may enact a bloody purge of their political enemies or go fight a long war in direct self-defense, just as an individual might bash someone's brains out in self-defense. It's not pretty, it's not Good, but it's not Always Evil.

There are limits, of course, and when a ruler crosses a certain line it's quite reasonable to call them Evil. But I don't think that just being a functional ruler in a hydraulic empire crosses the line.
______


A well-to-do sociopath (if you could call one such) is smart enough to know that if he gets caught, he can no longer keep doing what he's doing. This isn't out of respect to laws or customs, but a simple matter of survival. It was too far a stretch for me to say that a Chaotic Evil underling would simply outright defy you (they could), but it's highly unlikely that they would give a modicum of respect, nor present fear when intimidated with threats--they would simply go around those at the first convenience.Some CE individuals might, but others wouldn't.

hamishspence
2009-01-16, 04:08 PM
I kinda like the rant of the Obstructive Clerk of Mistport in Simon R. Green's Deathstalker:

"I'd quit, if it wasn't for the pension. And the constant chance to screw up people's lives. I see my job as a kind of revenge against an uncaring society. It's either this or planting explosives in public places, and explosives are expensive."

mangosta71
2009-01-16, 04:20 PM
If a society accepts mothers strapping bombs onto 5-year-olds, my assumption is that it's CE. There are real-world societies that do this.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-16, 04:43 PM
If a society accepts mothers strapping bombs onto 5-year-olds, my assumption is that it's CE. There are real-world societies that do this.

Not familiar with the one you are referring to, but I'd agree with that sentiment.



But look at it another way. You buy a book from me for ten dollars. The fact that I was willing to sell you the book in the first place means I think the book is worth less than ten dollars. The fact that you were willing to buy it means you think ten dollars is worth less than the book.

So we both walk away from the transaction convinced that we took a valuable item from the other person in exchange for a less valuable item. In other words, that we profited at their expense.

Here's an example: is it an evil act to buy potions from these idiots (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0135.html)? They are selling potions for less money than it costs to make them, expecting to make up for it in volume of trade. Their shop is doomed and they are fools. Every time they sell a potion, it brings them one step closer to bankruptcy.

Is it an evil act to do business with them?

Most business transactions leave someone ahead and someone behind. That isn't evil. It isn't evil for a merchant to haggle and try to get customers to pay him an unreasonably large amount of money. Or for customers to go bargain shopping and try to find someone who will sell them an item for far less than it's worth.

Indeed society would probably collapse if people didn't do stuff like that. Almost everyone performs actions because they expect those actions to gain them something, and they typically think that whatever they give up in exchange for that gain is worth less than the gain is. Is that automatically evil? I doubt it.

At least, that's my view. I think that Evil acts require either extreme ruthlessness ("I don't care whether you live or die horribly" type), or specific ill intent.


Taking advantage of someone is purposefully screwing them over at your benefit. If I think I have benefited, and you think you have benefited, and there is no strong evidence to the contrary, no one has been taken advantage of. Taking advantage would be selling me food for $100 because I am starving or seducing someone who is not in their right state of mind. Taking advantage of someone requires harming them in some way or treating them unjustly because of a degree of power you have other them. I cannot find a dictionary of phrases online, but if someone can and could link it to me so I can find out if my interpretation of that phrase is correct, please let me know.

Trade is not taking advantage of someone for the reasons stated above, so I do not think it is evil. While in some cases there are winners and losers in trade, generally speaking there are not. If there usually were, people would not trade, because eventually they would see how screwed over they get.

In your example there was not profiting at the other person's expense. Why? I really need that book for my accounting class. You, however, have finished that class and no one else wants to buy it. However, you would very much like a tasty pizza, which you can get for $10. The book has a different value to me than it does to you, which is why we both win. I do not think "Hah, sucker! This book is so valuable and I am screwing him over." Items have a different value to different people because of preferences and what they already have and what they still need. I think "This book has very little use to him, but great use to me. I do not need this $10 that much, but he very much needs it to get a pizza he would like."

Taking advantage of someone or profiting at someone's expense is evil because it harms another or treats them blatantly unfairly. This therefore does not involve mutually beneficial and reasonably fair exchanges.

In that comic example, it would be neutral to buy from them, provided you do it like V does. He tries to explain to them why it is a bad plan (slightly good) but then he willingly buys from them (slightly evil). It's a matter of "If a person willingly enters an unfair (to them) agreement, or initiates such n agreement, is it wrong of me to accept it?" I would say yes, it is evil, but only slightly (particularly if they initiated it). If you do your best to, talk them out of it and then still accept it, it is neutral, since attempting to shed light on how they could get a better deal (even if it would be less awesome for you) is a good act. Examples like this are fun but not very useful, since any shopkeepers such as those would go bankrupt very quickly and hence be quite rare.

hamishspence
2009-01-16, 04:45 PM
Might want to be careful around that topic. want to keep the thread on a steady course.

I'm inclined to the view that A: its a lot easier, in D&D, to be evil, than you think- a Bullyboy can be Evil- doesn't have to be a Complete Monster.

But B: some things you do get cut a certain amount of slack for: as PHB points out, just cos a Merchant's Lawful Good doesn't mean he's not going to try and strike the best bargain possible.

Riffington
2009-01-16, 05:34 PM
Psychology experiments though show that being observed influences honesty, and while a recent wallet drop experiment with hidden cameras had rather nice results, previous experiments in which wallets were scattered across various cities had rates of return as low as ~20%.
Note however, what sets of experimental circumstances promote goodness. Obviously, being observed is one. But the other big one seems to be the extent to which it is clear there is a person being harmed. If you keep personally-identifying information with it, you get great results... the people who find the wallet have a better chance to identify with the person. Interestingly, this reveals both a Good and a Chaotic tendency in people: for strictly Lawful people, that information would be useless.



But they are doing so to help themselves out too - they avoid inflating insurance costs and so on by ensuring that the details don't surface - they get to keep a clean driving record. That's not "good", that's just watching out for numero uno.
That works only in accidents at which both parties were at fault. In many accidents, you have only one party at fault, and only that party will see an increase in insurance premiums. If people were "watching out for numero uno", they would demand a slight premium over the the actual repair cost. ("It costs $200 for the repair, and would mess up your record, plus I'm breaking the law by not reporting it. Give me $220.") Instead, most will either use insurance, or will accept that tiny risk, help the other guy out, and just ask for the actual repair costs.

[side note to hamish: in most US states, you are required by law to report all collisions that cause any damage to either vehicle. This law is not always followed, of course.]



An example of a game which tests


It does not, any more than D&D tests whether the players are serial killers.
People behave differently in games than real life, and there is nothing "good" about transferring money from a researcher to other players.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-16, 05:43 PM
I've come a little late into this, so I don't know where the discussion has ended up, but there's one aspect about evil that bugs me. Evil gods. Why the hell would anyone want to work for them? The whole point of a religion is to provide spiritual comfort and a foundation for building a moral life on. Who in their right mind would embrace the dogma of a sadistic and misandrogynistic deity like Lolth? Or a brutal destroyer like Gruumsh, or a paranoid backstabber like Vecna, the list goes on. I know that many underlings or ambitious people will "worship" an evil deity out of fear, or a lust for power, but that's not the same thing as real worship in my book. In order to truly worship an evil deity, you'd have to believe that the agenda that deity promotes is right. Maybe I'm treating people too optimistically when I say that I imagine most people in their right mind wouldn't consider the agendas or tenets of Lolth, Bane or Tharizdun right in any way. So why do we have cardboard cutout evil priests for villains?

The Neoclassic
2009-01-16, 05:59 PM
I've come a little late into this, so I don't know where the discussion has ended up, but there's one aspect about evil that bugs me. Evil gods. Why the hell would anyone want to work for them? The whole point of a religion is to provide spiritual comfort and a foundation for building a moral life on. Who in their right mind would embrace the dogma of a sadistic and misandrogynistic deity like Lolth? Or a brutal destroyer like Gruumsh, or a paranoid backstabber like Vecna, the list goes on. I know that many underlings or ambitious people will "worship" an evil deity out of fear, or a lust for power, but that's not the same thing as real worship in my book. In order to truly worship an evil deity, you'd have to believe that the agenda that deity promotes is right. Maybe I'm treating people too optimistically when I say that I imagine most people in their right mind wouldn't consider the agendas or tenets of Lolth, Bane or Tharizdun right in any way. So why do we have cardboard cutout evil priests for villains?

Ah, very good point. I think there are a few possible reasons:

Shared interests: Vecna is a god of magic. I like magic. I'm not good nor am I lawful and I find Boccob boring as heck. I'll pick Vecna.
Different view of morality: Yes, Lloth hates men, but so do I! There's nothing wrong with it; you people with your views of good and evil have it all wrong.
Benefit now: I like to steal, and JoeBob, CE god of thieves, approves! I can be accepted in his church even though I do something most people frown upon.
Benefit later: If I serve Hextor well in battle, I will get an army of 3,000 devils to command in the afterlife!

None of these are stellar, nor would all work in all cases. I mean, why do people worship evil gods seems a similar question to why are people evil or why do they willingly work for evil leaders? Of course, this assumes that the evil gods do not (at least as far as mortals know) betray their worshippers in the afterlife, leaving them to suffer in a hellish state for eons.

(Keep in mind this is all a fictional look at the matter, and I am not drawing anything from real world religion or cults here.)

LurkerInPlayground
2009-01-16, 06:22 PM
About necromancy, first thing that comes to my mind is that dead bodies used to belong to someone, and people tend to be very sensitive about what happens with the bodies of their friends and relatives after they die. Maybe just thinking about the desacration that necromancy would involve is enough to label the whole thing as evil.

Another point is that once bodies start decaying, the risk of diseases spreading significantly increases; for that reason rotting corpses were used for biological warfare since ancient times. People instinctively avoid corpses, their sight and stench are two big flashing "go away" signs. Someone who willingly "plays" with dead bodies is not only extremly weird, but also likely to cause an epidemic.

On top of that, in D&D setting there are very few uses for undead that would be "innocent", at best they're used as sentries and guards, but can be used for attacks as well; and since the person making the undead is far from what society accepts as normal, people have all the more reasons to expect something bad from the necromancers.
As stated before, while these reasons might have some merit, they aren't all that compelling. It's obvious that necromancy is evil because it fits into fantasy clichés. It's just stereotypically evil.

A spell named "magic missile" has very few good uses aside from being used as a weapon. Swords are the same. So there's no reason to make an exception for animated bodies.

Likewise, while the remains belonged to somebody, you're also in a setting where that somebody may well be the ogre, human bandit or orc that you just killed and looted.

Maybe it's worse to walk around with human undead? But really then, what's the difference if you've stolen his loot and killed him anyway? At least you're using the whole buffalo, so to speak.

Skeletons likewise don't actually spread disease. Incorporeal undead certainly won't.

And cadavers are only really a problem if you let them rot and sit around major traffic centers for any reasonable length of time. You'd have to explicitly mention and act on the idea that your zombies would spread a plague before it even really entered into alignment considerations in roleplay.

Besides, if you really cared, you could just sun dry the zombies until you get something closer to a jerked mummy.

But then again, walking around town with a band of shuffling corpses in the hopes of spreading a plague isn't usually the best way to go about acts of malice.

LurkerInPlayground
2009-01-16, 06:28 PM
I've come a little late into this, so I don't know where the discussion has ended up, but there's one aspect about evil that bugs me. Evil gods. Why the hell would anyone want to work for them? The whole point of a religion is to provide spiritual comfort and a foundation for building a moral life on. Who in their right mind would embrace the dogma of a sadistic and misandrogynistic deity like Lolth? Or a brutal destroyer like Gruumsh, or a paranoid backstabber like Vecna, the list goes on. I know that many underlings or ambitious people will "worship" an evil deity out of fear, or a lust for power, but that's not the same thing as real worship in my book. In order to truly worship an evil deity, you'd have to believe that the agenda that deity promotes is right. Maybe I'm treating people too optimistically when I say that I imagine most people in their right mind wouldn't consider the agendas or tenets of Lolth, Bane or Tharizdun right in any way. So why do we have cardboard cutout evil priests for villains?
Why do cults of personality exist? Why do the weaker bullies band together with the strongest bully?

Same reason really.

Maxymiuk
2009-01-16, 06:31 PM
Who in their right mind would embrace the dogma of a sadistic and misandrogynistic deity like Lolth? Or a brutal destroyer like Gruumsh, or a paranoid backstabber like Vecna, the list goes on. I know that many underlings or ambitious people will "worship" an evil deity out of fear, or a lust for power, but that's not the same thing as real worship in my book. In order to truly worship an evil deity, you'd have to believe that the agenda that deity promotes is right. Maybe I'm treating people too optimistically when I say that I imagine most people in their right mind wouldn't consider the agendas or tenets of Lolth, Bane or Tharizdun right in any way. So why do we have cardboard cutout evil priests for villains?

There's a few different ways to explain it. Queenfange covered some of them, but I tihnk I can find a few more.

One: It depends on how you define "worship". Because there's the "show up at the temple and chant nonsense while the high priest sacrifices a virgin" bit, and then there's the "live according to the deity's tenents" bit. Actions speak louder than words, particularly in a system ruled by causality (good deeds ==> good alignment, evil deeds ==> evil alignment) the way D&D is. Therefore, if you assume that every act of violence somehow benefits Gruumsh or Bane in the grand scheme of things, then the end result is people who are already inclined to do evil deeds, and simply start calling out "in the name of Bane!" while killing, since it nets them power/money in the church.

Two: Subtle mind control. From the moment that a new member is sworn into the church, the powers that be begin exerting influence over the poor sap - corrupting him, until he honestly begins believing in the deity's cause. Personally, from a GM standpoint I'd consider this method a copout though.

Three: Peer pressure. What most people seek, whether knowingly or not, is validation before the group they're part of. Over the course of human history, this has caused people to do things that ranged from ridiculous (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazing), to mind-bogglingly insane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraponera_clavata#Initiation_rites). It follows that even if your average crooked character joined an evil church simply because the dental plan seemed good, this would become the first step in turning him into a full-fledged worshipper through a series of tests, rituals, and pressuring from his peers. The beauty of that system would be that it'd eventually become self-sustaining. The "old timers" would support the "rites and traditions" if for no other reason, then because "I've had to go through it, and so do they".

The Neoclassic
2009-01-16, 06:31 PM
Maybe it's worse to walk around with human undead? But really then, what's the difference if you've stolen his loot and killed him anyway? At least you're using the whole buffalo, so to speak.

That is hilarious, in part because it actually sort of makes sense.

Epinephrine
2009-01-16, 06:51 PM
That works only in accidents at which both parties were at fault. In many accidents, you have only one party at fault, and only that party will see an increase in insurance premiums. If people were "watching out for numero uno", they would demand a slight premium over the the actual repair cost. ("It costs $200 for the repair, and would mess up your record, plus I'm breaking the law by not reporting it. Give me $220.") Instead, most will either use insurance, or will accept that tiny risk, help the other guy out, and just ask for the actual repair costs.

[side note to hamish: in most US states, you are required by law to report all collisions that cause any damage to either vehicle. This law is not always followed, of course.]

I'd wonder about the claim that "most" do this kind of thing. Just this morning my wife watched someone back into a parked car, survey the damage, and drive off. She (my wife) wrote a note to the owner with the plate/vehicle description, time of day, and our phone number so she could serve as a witness, but this type of thing seems very typical.


It does not, any more than D&D tests whether the players are serial killers. People behave differently in games than real life, and there is nothing "good" about transferring money from a researcher to other players.

I'm enjoying our little discussion, btw. Game theory type games (prisoner's dilemma, for example) are used fairly often to examine cooperation, altruism, reciprocity and so on, as it's easy to modify the payoffs to test various predictions. I do agree that they don't necessarily reflect reality 100%, but they do serve as simple models of behaviour.

Oslecamo
2009-01-16, 07:06 PM
In order to truly worship an evil deity, you'd have to believe that the agenda that deity promotes is right. Maybe I'm treating people too optimistically when I say that I imagine most people in their right mind wouldn't consider the agendas or tenets of Lolth, Bane or Tharizdun right in any way. So why do we have cardboard cutout evil priests for villains?

You're forgeting that those evil gods usually do a lot of evil propaganda.

For example, Lolth priestesses teach that the god of the surface elfs is amighty deceiver who promotes weaknesses and doesn't care when their children get killed by other races.

Vecna followers probably say Pelor is a cruel immolator and so on.

Neek
2009-01-17, 12:06 AM
A great statement to make about Evil gods is that they have existed in human's history, and they were worshiped.

With each epoch (given the enumeration of nahui, four, and titled Suns) the gods grew bored with their creation and destroyed them four times over: With a flood. With a hurricanes and rain storm. With fire raining from the sky. There was another, but that one always alludes me. Our current era, Ollin-nahui, is four-earthquake. The only thing that kept the gods from destroying our era was human sacrifices--a heart given to the sun-god, Tonatiuh, himself so that he may rise in the next morning and give us light. Because if we didn't, he just wouldn't.

The god Xipe Totec (Our lord, the Flayed One, the god of maize and farming) demanded an annual sacrifice. A young person either male or famel, about 15 or 16, was allowed to drink as much as they desire, chew as much of the god-skin (shrooms) as they wanted, and have sex with whoever they wanted--there were no moral inhibitions holding them back, they could break any custom in regards to wanton lust and desire. After 3 days, they would then walk up a staircase to the temple with bone flutes, one for each step, that a note would be played on for each step. At the top, they were stripped, and beheaded at the same time their heart was cut from out the ribcage.

And it gets better.

The body was then taken back and quickly flayed, leaving a husk of skin. The shortest priest would don the skin, and for three days straight (although chewing the god-skin for this time, because no sane person could put up with it for three days) dance in the skin, touching people with the thigh-bones of the sacrifice. If you were touched with the thigh-bone, you'd have a good crop that year.

The entire procession is built around the growth and plentifulness of maize in the late summer, the harvest in the fall, the death in the winter, and the rebirth in the spring. Still Evil as all gets. Without this sign of respect, no crops would grow.

Tlaloc, the rain-god, demanded two children, one boy and one girl, to be drowned so he wouldn't deprive rain, or just flood the world.

An Evil god can strong-arm an entire populace into believing that his caught is right. If it's an attempt to save the world from destruction, or to ensure an entire civilization doesn't starve (because a god has that power, or one that has sufficient strength has such power) can make such a thing possible.

And a god makes it happen not with hallow threats, but by making it happen once.

So yes, I can see WHY people would agree with Vecna or Lolth or Gruumsh, as long as they can hold everything you hold dear by the balls and give them a little twist and a painful tug, then one might suspect they're onto something.

Altima
2009-01-17, 02:46 AM
Can evil people love each other, or even at all?

A most resounding yes. Many 'evil' people throughout history--responsible for mass murder, genocide, butchery, and tax-collecting--have had spouses who they genuinely car about. Even children. Granted, it's not always healthy love--such as the villain's love in Wuthering Heights. In fact, it can simply be comfort and familiarity with each other (such as the two half-demons from Gossamer Plains). Heck, a good mortivation for an evil aligned NPC is retribution because of the death of a loved one. What's worse than a Mama Bear type whose child has been killed? A Mama Bear type who has absolutely no scruples. Think of Creasy from Man On Fire.


Why do people follow evil gods?

Well, there's several reasons. Someone mentioned Lolth so I'll use that as an example. In Lolth controlled drow societies, all mention of any other diety is surpressed, if not outright exterminated. So, in all likelihood, Lolth would be the only god you've heard about. And, of course, if you don't follow her, there are those cults of drow-sacrificing priestesses who'll happily show you your own heart. So Lolth is the only goddess around, and there's very real proof that she's there.

Another reason to follow an evil god: power. Fzoul, from the FRCS, went from worshipping Bane to worshipping Cyric to worshipping Iyatchtu Xvim back to worshipping Bane. He's an opportunist, who changes his faith either to retain his power (when Bane died) or because his god interferred with his personal power (Cyric screwing over the Zhentarim).

The last reason is, well, maybe the person simply 'clicks' with their deity. You're a necromancer. You like dead things. Vecna likes dead things too. You like using arcane magic. Vecna used to be a mage!

In FR, there's some very important incentives to a person finding their deity. One is not ending up in the Wall of the Faithless. The other is not to end up as False and hanging around in the City of the Dead for all eternity. In Planescape, it's a bit more forgiving in that if you die without a god, your soul simply floats to a plane suited to your alignment (Abyss for chaotic evil, for example).


Regarding the axis change for D&D
The addition of the good/evil arc in addition to the law/neutral/chaos is possibly due to movements seeking to bane D&D due to demonic devil worship, or some other crap like that. Heck, the paladin is a direct result of that (Hey, look! Look at this! The most powerful class in the game, and it must be lawful good! And human! Please stop picketing us!).

Dervag
2009-01-17, 04:49 AM
If a society accepts mothers strapping bombs onto 5-year-olds, my assumption is that it's CE. There are real-world societies that do this.Is it chaotic evil, or is it just desperate?


I would say yes, it is evil, but only slightly (particularly if they initiated it). If you do your best to, talk them out of it and then still accept it, it is neutral, since attempting to shed light on how they could get a better deal (even if it would be less awesome for you) is a good act. Examples like this are fun but not very useful, since any shopkeepers such as those would go bankrupt very quickly and hence be quite rare.But it's a useful test case. I'm not breaking any of the rules of society by buying something for far less than I think it's worth, or far less than I'm willing to pay for it. That's socially acceptable behavior, and most people will do it without a qualm. If books are on sale for a dollar each, do you go to the seller and say "I think this book is worth 20 dollars, so I'll pay that much for it"? Do you think it's unethical to take the book for a dollar even though you think it's worth quite a bit more?

Even in the mild case where you'd rather have a book than ten dollars, the fact remains that you think you wound up better off at someone else's expense. You didn't go out of your way to hurt them. You don't mean them any harm. But in your estimation, they now have less valuable goods than they did before you met them.


Note however, what sets of experimental circumstances promote goodness. Obviously, being observed is one. But the other big one seems to be the extent to which it is clear there is a person being harmed. If you keep personally-identifying information with it, you get great results... the people who find the wallet have a better chance to identify with the person. Interestingly, this reveals both a Good and a Chaotic tendency in people: for strictly Lawful people, that information would be useless.Incidentally, if there's no personally identifying information in the wallet, returning it is damned near impossible as a practical matter. People may be willing to pass up fifty dollars if they know it belongs to someone they can reasonably expect it to go back to.


Benefit later: If I serve Hextor well in battle, I will get an army of 3,000 devils to command in the afterlife![/LIST]Compare and contrast to "If I fight bravely in battle, Odin will send his Valkyries to pick me up and carry me away to Valhalla in the afterlife!"

hamishspence
2009-01-17, 05:24 AM
As a Brit, it may be a case of different laws- I don't think the reporting requirement exists in Britain.

MickJay
2009-01-17, 07:49 AM
About necromancy, for me these arguments are sufficient to see why it is considered evil "as is". I don't have a formed opinion on the subject, because I have yet to see someone raising undead IRL. RL necromancy, by original definition, was virtually the same as "speak with dead", and the opinions on the subject were mixed (but it wasn't inherently evil, unless required some sort of desacration).

Evil gods are/were most often worshipped out of fear, hoping for power was less common. Even deities generally considered good could send disasters if they were not respected enough or proper rituals were not observed. Another point is that gods are either seen as good or non-evil, or are exempt from the "good-evil" scale, because they are gods. They can do what they want and no puny mortal can apply his little, imperfect judgement to a superior being, on account of being limited in his knowledge and intellect. Putting convenient labels on alignment in D&D was supposed to make things simpler, I guess, but given the amount of discussion on the subject, the idea failed miserably.

Trade becomes possible if both parties are of opinion that they gain more than they lose. "Fair trade" comes down to subjective opinion, not some arbitrary, objective value scale. Things are worth as much as people are willing to pay for them. A dollar is a printed piece of paper which has value only because people agree it's worth something. Exactly how much it's worth changes constantly, and so does value of everything else. A trade is "non-evil" when both sides come out of it with positive or neutral impression of the deal.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 11:05 AM
But it's a useful test case. I'm not breaking any of the rules of society by buying something for far less than I think it's worth, or far less than I'm willing to pay for it. That's socially acceptable behavior, and most people will do it without a qualm. If books are on sale for a dollar each, do you go to the seller and say "I think this book is worth 20 dollars, so I'll pay that much for it"? Do you think it's unethical to take the book for a dollar even though you think it's worth quite a bit more?

Even in the mild case where you'd rather have a book than ten dollars, the fact remains that you think you wound up better off at someone else's expense. You didn't go out of your way to hurt them. You don't mean them any harm. But in your estimation, they now have less valuable goods than they did before you met them.

I do not say that to book sellers in real life, because most of their books are very expensive, so if it is on sale for a dollar, I know they are very desperate to get rid of it. They think people will not pay any more for it and how much they bought/produced the book for is a sunk cost. They have already paid the $5 per copy for "The Little Engine That Could." here is no way they can get that money back. It is gone. So, should they not sell the books, meriting no profit, or sell the books for $1? Either way, they lost money from this book, but if no one will pay at least $5 for it, that's all that they can do

Also, I'm sorry, but I stated VERY clearly in my last example that I do NOT think they have a less valuable good. I think they have a good which has MORE value to them than it does to me, just like I think what I got has more value to me than it does to them. It is a matter of relative worth. People value variety. If I have only cakes and you have only fish, fish are worth more to me simply because I like variety in my diet and I have no fish. I will not miss a cake; you would enjoy one very much. Likewise, you will not miss the fish you exchange for a cake. The goods have different values to different people. Understanding that is what makes trade work and understanding that explains why trade is NOT taking advantage of people.

If you are going to argue this, please explain why RELATIVE worth is an invalid concept, because that is what my reasoning is based upon. It is a basic economic principle and why your example does not show that trade involves harming the other person.

I am trying very hard here to not get too lengthy or haughty about this. I admit this is difficult for me when it appears to me that you ignored many of the points I brought up last time, including the definition of "taking advantage of", relative worth, and winners/losers in trade. My argument boiled down to "Taking advantage of someone is always evil. Trade is not taking advantage of someone, under usual circumstances because it does not, under usual circumstances, cause harm." The only point I am purposefully neglecting in addressing your comments this time is consumer surplus, because that would require a few paragraphs more of explanation, and frankly I don't see why some people willing to pay more than others because some people like, say, apples better than others, is going to contribute to a discussion on how a person can play a smart or subtle evil character (well, originally that's what this was), or even just morality.

Also, kudos to MickJay who basically summed up most of what I have to say regarding trade. He points out the very important "subjective opinion" aspect of the matter.

Now for something completely different! Yes, it is unoriginal, I fully am aware.

I can only see two reasons for making undead to be evil. First, as someone cited somewhere back there, channeling negative energy is an evil act. I would like to inquire, then, if performing inflict spells is an evil act. Likewise, then channeling cure spells is a good act? That seems a little odd to me, though I fully admit that may be me houseruling / changing the flavor as I'd prefer to see it.

Secondly, respect for the dead. There is this idea in many socieites that the body has some inherent or spiritual value even after they have died. I think a lot of it is a sentimental or emotional thing, perhaps because a dead body is a reminder of death. And then there is the whole dignity thing, though after any awareness has passed, it doesn't seem like the soul would be sticking around to care. (Note this is all assuming typical D&D afterlife circumstances.) So, I'm going to say, this is not a particularly convincing argument given that the soul and hence all that person's dignity and thinking is bouncing around on an Outer Plane somewhere and lacks any connection to its former body.

hamishspence
2009-01-17, 11:21 AM
Casting prepared inflict, cure, energy drain isn't evil or good (no descriptors).

in 2nd ed, Undead were effectively a permanent tap to the Negative Energy plane, and intelligent undead had minds existing on both planes at once, which was why mind-affecting magic didn't work on them

in libris mortis, it speaks of "evil spirits" effectively mindless, which are used for zombie-skeleton animation.

MickJay
2009-01-17, 02:22 PM
Even if the soul is away, seeing a mindless undead can make the observer reflect on the fact that the same thing can happen to them; some people do care what will happen with their bodies after they die. IRL, some people want their bodies buried or cremated without affecting it's integrity, some carry organ donor cards, hoping they'll save someone's life posthumously, it's really subjective.

One more possible reason is that what a necromancer needs is dead people. If he's not satisfied with digging up cemeteries and taking bodies of people (whom you may have known), or scavenging around battlefields, he might start killing just for the raw materials. Even if in some settings necromancy is allowed, it's often heavily restricted to prevent people from abusing it (and to prevent harm to the living). There's a thread about a necromancer's idea of using wights to kill people so he would have more wights for his army. Such threats seem even more real because, again, there are really few reasonable uses for necromancy that would not be evil. Making it obviously "evil" seems a reasonable precaution.

This is not D&D, but some settings make necromancy work by binding the soul back to the dead body and putting it under caster's control - that's pretty evil, I think ;) Still, weren't there any undead in D&D that were made in a similar way? That is, the creature itself isn't really sentient or anything, but the soul still gets trapped somehow and continues to suffer? Or maybe it is sentient, but has to obey necromancer's orders nonetheless?

monty
2009-01-17, 02:44 PM
This is not D&D, but some settings make necromancy work by binding the soul back to the dead body and putting it under caster's control - that's pretty evil, I think ;) Still, weren't there any undead in D&D that were made in a similar way? That is, the creature itself isn't really sentient or anything, but the soul still gets trapped somehow and continues to suffer? Or maybe it is sentient, but has to obey necromancer's orders nonetheless?

So why isn't making constructs evil, then?


The animating force for a golem is a spirit from the Elemental Plane of Earth. The process of creating the golem binds the unwilling spirit to the artificial body and subjects it to the will of the golem’s creator.

hamishspence
2009-01-17, 02:59 PM
In Eberron there's a "Rights for Elementals" group that complains about this sort of thing- ships, trains, weapons, etc.

Maybe it focusses on the undead because of negative energy seepage, which was present in old D&D novels- the zombies caused plants to die if they got too close.

LurkerInPlayground
2009-01-17, 03:19 PM
I think it is prejudice in writing (a bit) and mostly the fact that it is easier (and ingrained in us) to associate good with order and evil with disorder, even though some disorder is good and too much order is bad.
Because I couldn't resist:
http://www.nuklearpower.com/comics/010730.gif

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 03:35 PM
Because I couldn't resist:
http://www.nuklearpower.com/comics/010730.gif

Not only is this amusing, but it pretty much sums up my feelings on it.

MickJay
2009-01-17, 03:39 PM
Making constructs this way (using spirits from other planes or using spirits of those who agree to it) isn't D&D evil, because spirits from other planes are not something that ordinary people care much about. Things are "evil" when they negatively affect people who define "evil", and D&D evil is defined mostly from the perspective of non-"evil", Material Plane races.

I'm pretty sure the inhabitants of elemental planes have strong views about being forcefully bound to constructs :smalltongue: That Eberron example is quite good in this respect.

Riffington
2009-01-17, 03:47 PM
Is it chaotic evil, or is it just desperate?
Desperation may justify theft. Not murder.


the fact remains that you think you wound up better off at someone else's expense.
I agree with MickJay, and with the economist Pareto. In most trades, people both benefit. You are not winding up better off at another's expense, but rather helped each other improve your situations. Wealth is created by trade.



Incidentally, if there's no personally identifying information in the wallet, returning it is damned near impossible
Ok, I could have phrased that better. I mean, if there's simply an address in the wallet, you are less likely to return it than if there's also a picture or any other information that helps you see the owner as a person.



I'm enjoying our little discussion, btw. Game theory type games (prisoner's dilemma, for example) are used fairly often to examine cooperation, altruism, reciprocity and so on, as it's easy to modify the payoffs to test various predictions. I do agree that they don't necessarily reflect reality 100%, but they do serve as simple models of behaviour.
Me too. And I have no problems using them as models for specific situations. But they get overhyped and oversensationalized. They tell us what factors make people more or less likely to cooperate, not whether people do or will. No number of prisoner's dilemma simulations will explain how the Christmas truces in World War I came about...

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 03:59 PM
Making constructs this way (using spirits from other planes or using spirits of those who agree to it) isn't D&D evil, because spirits from other planes are not something that ordinary people care much about. Things are "evil" when they negatively affect people who define "evil", and D&D evil is defined mostly from the perspective of non-"evil", Material Plane races.

I'm pretty sure the inhabitants of elemental planes have strong views about being forcefully bound to constructs :smalltongue: That Eberron example is quite good in this respect.

Actually, that is a very good point (thank you to whomever brought up this construct / elemental spirt issue). Frankly, I now have to decide in my games if either elementals are not conscious/aware (so, like an insect rather than a humanoid), constructs are powered differently, or making constructs is an evil act. Elementals have rather low Int scores generally, but not nearly as low as an insect. I guess I will probably go with them not being cognizant as why binding them is not immoral, as it is simplest and to me, most sensible.

I would like to point out, though, that good and evil are cosmological FORCES in D&D. They define the Outer Planes. Therefore, I don't think it's accurate to say it is defined from the perspective of nonevil mortal races. I mean, that's an interesting way of looking at it, but then all of the spells and gods and the actual quantifiable good/evil-based powers don't make much sense. I guess what I am saying is that the way you phrase it, morality sounds like it is designed relative to the views of these Material Planes creatures whereas in standard D&D it appears to rather be an absolute, definable measure of something. Mind you, I tend to find somewhere in between for my games, and if there's good evidence to demonstrate my typical D&D interpretation on this being wrong, I shall gladly see it.

LurkerInPlayground
2009-01-17, 05:11 PM
A great statement to make about Evil gods is that they have existed in human's history, and they were worshiped.

With each epoch (given the enumeration of nahui, four, and titled Suns) the gods grew bored with their creation and destroyed them four times over: With a flood. With a hurricanes and rain storm. With fire raining from the sky. There was another, but that one always alludes me. Our current era, Ollin-nahui, is four-earthquake. The only thing that kept the gods from destroying our era was human sacrifices--a heart given to the sun-god, Tonatiuh, himself so that he may rise in the next morning and give us light. Because if we didn't, he just wouldn't.

The god Xipe Totec (Our lord, the Flayed One, the god of maize and farming) demanded an annual sacrifice. A young person either male or famel, about 15 or 16, was allowed to drink as much as they desire, chew as much of the god-skin (shrooms) as they wanted, and have sex with whoever they wanted--there were no moral inhibitions holding them back, they could break any custom in regards to wanton lust and desire. After 3 days, they would then walk up a staircase to the temple with bone flutes, one for each step, that a note would be played on for each step. At the top, they were stripped, and beheaded at the same time their heart was cut from out the ribcage.

And it gets better.

The body was then taken back and quickly flayed, leaving a husk of skin. The shortest priest would don the skin, and for three days straight (although chewing the god-skin for this time, because no sane person could put up with it for three days) dance in the skin, touching people with the thigh-bones of the sacrifice. If you were touched with the thigh-bone, you'd have a good crop that year.

The entire procession is built around the growth and plentifulness of maize in the late summer, the harvest in the fall, the death in the winter, and the rebirth in the spring. Still Evil as all gets. Without this sign of respect, no crops would grow.

Tlaloc, the rain-god, demanded two children, one boy and one girl, to be drowned so he wouldn't deprive rain, or just flood the world.

An Evil god can strong-arm an entire populace into believing that his caught is right. If it's an attempt to save the world from destruction, or to ensure an entire civilization doesn't starve (because a god has that power, or one that has sufficient strength has such power) can make such a thing possible.

And a god makes it happen not with hallow threats, but by making it happen once.

So yes, I can see WHY people would agree with Vecna or Lolth or Gruumsh, as long as they can hold everything you hold dear by the balls and give them a little twist and a painful tug, then one might suspect they're onto something.
It doesn't seem accurate to say that there's a higher cause per se. It's just that feudalism is assumed to be the natural order. There is a certain hierarchy to these things.

That is to say, your god is really just a divine lord that must be placated. His moods and tempers are inscrutable and distant, but he's still your better. There is no other system and there's no real way out of paying your share of the tribute, not unless you want death, anarchy and horribleness.

And yes, without making any real-world references to actual religions, this probably applied to the origins of certain popular modern religions as well. The role religion played in the previous "divine mandate" claims is the surest evidence of this fact.

MickJay
2009-01-17, 06:23 PM
I would like to point out, though, that good and evil are cosmological FORCES in D&D. They define the Outer Planes. Therefore, I don't think it's accurate to say it is defined from the perspective of nonevil mortal races.

In-game, of course you're perfectly right, but still, the cosmological forces of D&D were defined by the few guys who came up with D&D, and the way they designed "good" is, in general, pretty much the same as nonevil mortal races (they kinda reshaped) agree it is :smallwink:

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 06:35 PM
In-game, of course you're perfectly right, but still, the cosmological forces of D&D were defined by the few guys who came up with D&D, and the way they designed "good" is, in general, pretty much the same as nonevil mortal races (they kinda reshaped) agree it is :smallwink:

That I entirely do I agree with! Excellent to see we are on the same page. :smallsmile:

Oslecamo
2009-01-17, 07:28 PM
So why isn't making constructs evil, then?

In our world it's "evil" to take other human's lifes, but it isn't "evil" to take other animals or plants lifes.

Let me put it this way: if you created a line of shoes made of human skin, would people buy it, or would they try to put you in jail?

Neek
2009-01-17, 07:37 PM
It doesn't seem accurate to say that there's a higher cause per se. It's just that feudalism is assumed to be the natural order. There is a certain hierarchy to these things.

That is to say, your god is really just a divine lord that must be placated. His moods and tempers are inscrutable and distant, but he's still your better. There is no other system and there's no real way out of paying your share of the tribute, not unless you want death, anarchy and horribleness.

So what you're saying is, a halfling who herds brixashulties and owns no land, lives on no fief, and has no liege, still views Yondalla as his "lord" who protects him from Gruumsh? And that if he fails to uphold his propitiation and praise for Yondalla, she will no longer protect him from the chaos that the other gods aren't going to incite?

Weirdly enough, in no D&D campaign I have ever played in, have gods made an active role in the universe, unless it was a Go for the MacGuffin or Reason-Why-This-Is (such as the Dragonlance period when the gods put a magic sanction on Ansalon.)

They mostly just hand out their power to party members who need to fill a healbot or buffbot slot in the party, without any regards to their gods greater motives. Unless you were evil, in which case it's a plot hook, not a character fluff as to where the Cleric gets his goodies from.

Being that gods are powerful extra-planar creatures, it seems senseless to assume that gods are just there for worship and class abilities, and not a whole lot eles.


And yes, without making any real-world references to actual religions, this probably applied to the origins of certain popular modern religions as well. The role religion played in the previous "divine mandate" claims is the surest evidence of this fact.

D&D assumes polytheism as the standard, and so should be best compared to how polytheists actually worshiped their gods and the reasons why, not as to what religion was concurrent to the setting that D&D is based on. D&D, however, assumes that there's no global mythos, but rather agreeing sects of worship practiced in pockets and that this is held universally true, homogeneous across all planes, cultures, and times--so either the world sprung up in feudalism or perhaps, well, your analysis might be off.

Dervag
2009-01-17, 09:20 PM
If you are going to argue this, please explain why RELATIVE worth is an invalid concept, because that is what my reasoning is based upon. It is a basic economic principle and why your example does not show that trade involves harming the other person.What I'm getting at is based very much on the idea that value is inside my head, I have exchanged an object of worth X to me with an object of worth X+1. How far can this go before I am deliberately cheating the other party?

Where is a line between an honest and morally neutral trade (in which both parties believe that they have profited, but not at another's expense) and a morally Evil trade (in which one or both parties believes they have "profited at another's expense")?

I would argue that in any trade, one or both parties believe themselves to have profited at the other's expense, but that this is fine as long as it isn't taken too far. You have to make a living. Unless you live entirely off of products you make with your own hands, some of what you need to live comes at the expense of other people's wealth and labor. It is reasonable for you to try to reduce the amount of your own wealth and labor you expend in the process of obtaining what you need. As long as you don't take it to the extreme of inflicting serious harm or cruelty on others out of convenience or pleasure, it isn't Evil.
_______


Weirdly enough, in no D&D campaign I have ever played in, have gods made an active role in the universe, unless it was a Go for the MacGuffin or Reason-Why-This-Is (such as the Dragonlance period when the gods put a magic sanction on Ansalon.)

They mostly just hand out their power to party members who need to fill a healbot or buffbot slot in the party, without any regards to their gods greater motives. Unless you were evil, in which case it's a plot hook, not a character fluff as to where the Cleric gets his goodies from.

Being that gods are powerful extra-planar creatures, it seems senseless to assume that gods are just there for worship and class abilities, and not a whole lot eles.Yes. This is a sort of standing plot hole in many D&D campaigns. The gods have many agents involved directly in the world, but are themselves not involved in the world.

To me, it seems more likely that the gods would be involved in long term agendas in the world. They might not directly intervene with large-scale disasters, because that would cheese off the other gods (Zeus will not be happy if Poseidon crushes a temple of Zeus in the process of punishing a city with tidal waves). But they would still be seeking to manipulate events by issuing specific orders to their powerful servants and general orders to their weaker servants.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 09:48 PM
I'm not sure my point came across well. The biggest thing that makes a person follow a religion is that they find spiritual comfort in that religion's doctrine. Who would find comfort in a doctrine that essentially says "You are my tool to do with as I please. I don't give two hoots about you, and when you die I will torture your soul for eternity because I think it's funny" which is pretty much the attitude of every evil deity out there. If that's all I'd get out of devoting my soul, I'd demand a refund.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 10:00 PM
What I'm getting at is based very much on the idea that value is inside my head, I have exchanged an object of worth X to me with an object of worth X+1. How far can this go before I am deliberately cheating the other party?


"Fair trade" comes down to subjective opinion, not some arbitrary, objective value scale.


The book has a different value to me than it does to you, which is why we both win. I do not think "Hah, sucker! This book is so valuable and I am screwing him over." Items have a different value to different people because of preferences and what they already have and what they still need.

What you are getting at is still ABSOLUTE value. Things do not have absolute value. Something might be worth 6 units of usefulness to me, but 20 to you. Value is inside everyone's head, and the point is we place DIFFERENT values on things inside our head. It is based on understanding that we place different values on things.


Where is a line between an honest and morally neutral trade (in which both parties believe that they have profited, but not at another's expense) and a morally Evil trade (in which one or both parties believes they have "profited at another's expense")?

If both parties think they have profited at the other's expense, neither have. The line may be fuzzy (for example, selling very overpriced food to a starving man), but here's the thing: A starving man does not think he is winning. In a fair trade, both parties think they are winning and enter into it willingly. In an unfair trade, one party enters out of desperation and realizes they are "better off", but they are still not winning.


I would argue that in any trade, one or both parties believe themselves to have profited at the other's expense, but that this is fine as long as it isn't taken too far.

I cannot reiterate this enough: No. Since things are worth different amounts to different people, we do not think we are profiting at another person's expense. As I already quoted,


I do not think "Hah, sucker! This book is so valuable and I am screwing him over."

I am going to trade Neek a soda for a candy bar. Are we looking at each other and thinking "I profited at your expense"? No. Each person loses something they valued less to gain something they value more. Expense suggests a net loss. Unless I state that everyone places the same value on things that I do (which I know not to be true, since I hate broccoli and I have friends who adore it), then I comprehend that they can view themselves as a winner and truly be a winner in a trade where I also view myself as and am a winner.


You have to make a living. Unless you live entirely off of products you make with your own hands, some of what you need to live comes at the expense of other people's wealth and labor.


In common usage, an expense or expenditure is an outflow of money.

Expense means loss. Yes, you take things other people have but you give them items which are to them more valuable than what they lost. Therefore, they have not suffered a loss. Again, I do not like diamonds. Neek does. Does this mean I think he is losing something when he buys diamonds from me? No, because I understand that people do not have identical preferences.


It is reasonable for you to try to reduce the amount of your own wealth and labor you expend in the process of obtaining what you need. As long as you don't take it to the extreme of inflicting serious harm or cruelty on others out of convenience or pleasure, it isn't Evil.

Yes, and I am not arguing against that. However, your definitions of "expense" and "taking advantage of" appear to be quite different than mine, or you think that everyone should judge how much another person is benefiting by one's own preferences rather than that person's preferences. If there is a third explanation, please explain. I do not see yet how you have demonstrated that people have different tastes and hence items have relative value. Either I totally missed you acknowledging that, or you are denying it. Or again, some third option I cannot think up.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 10:09 PM
First off, sorry for the double post.


I'm not sure my point came across well. The biggest thing that makes a person follow a religion is that they find spiritual comfort in that religion's doctrine. Who would find comfort in a doctrine that essentially says "You are my tool to do with as I please. I don't give two hoots about you, and when you die I will torture your soul for eternity because I think it's funny" which is pretty much the attitude of every evil deity out there. If that's all I'd get out of devoting my soul, I'd demand a refund.

OK, glad you clarified your point. It is a very valid question.

First off, I'd argue that all mortals are tools of the deities. At least in my campaigns, the evil deities are not all that much more overt about it, or else it is a two-way street. "Hey, I'll help you get some wealth/power if you further my religion/cause." So, they may not actually give two hoots about you, but you think they do, or at least they care enough to give you some free goodies. You're right: If they didn't, it would be hard for them to get worshippers!

Also, I'm not sure they do torture all the souls. I thought they kept the useful ones, or made 'em into demons, or something like that. Anyway, I think that is highly dependent on the cosmology. Again, you're right: If worshippers do know that they are going to suffer for eternity for worshipping said god, the god is going to have recruitment problems.

This is based on my understanding of the matter and how I run evil deities since, again, if it is simply as you state, people would not worship evil gods! Dunno exactly what the official canon D&D stance on the promises of evil gods is, but I doubt many of us follow it anyway.

Neek
2009-01-17, 10:40 PM
The biggest thing that makes a person follow a religion is that they find spiritual comfort in that religion's doctrine.

Whoah, whoah. Could I have a moment of your free time, sir? Yes? Alright.

Polytheism and cults and sects dedicated to a member of a pantheon does not qualify religion, not by the modern sense at least, nor is religion a comfort device. Comedians of our century are fond of reminding us that they are opiates for the masses, but fail to understand what religion really is about: It is an establishment that is meant to enable a sense of meaning to the world around us, which polytheism hardly ever establishes. People don't run to a cultural mythology for comfort, nor do they appeal to an individual god for comfort.

Cultural mythology is just that: a set of myths, stories, and quasi-historical accounts that describe the world, its history, and the elements that occupy the world. Oftentimes, they are used to entertain all the while giving us some idea of the functioning world. I have yet to encounter a mythology that describes our role in relationship to the world, the stars, the gods, or each other. People don't normally ask, "Why are we here?" Because the answer is invariably: "Because you were born. Now stop asking so many damn questions."

No more is the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree part of our cultural mythology than Abraham Lincoln being born in a wood cabin (that he built himself, no less), or the government keeping UFOs a secret, or the whole Bigfoot schpiel. They are stories told to us to entertain, to give us an idea of our world and morals that we require to operate in it, but they neither define us as Americans or people.

Roman mythology did no worse than ours. The Aeneid was a cultural story that was pieced together by Virgil that explained the founding of Rome, however, related to the ancient Greek heroic cycle (The Iliad and the Odyssey, among other stories that were lost), all the while acting as pro-Augustus propaganda. It did help in defining the Roman identity than it did simply echo the existing imperial identity.

And even in the matter of gods, the Romans did not appeal to them for comfort or understanding. The Latin tribe, among nearly all the Italic tribes that had at one time gave Italy its name, were pragmatic animists: Spirits were in the threshold as well as in the hearth. They were innumerable and unnameable (numen and genius). And then there were the higher gods, who had names and identities--and each one, the numina, the genii, and the gods themselves, were appealed and appeased to just get something done. You wanted a war, you sacrifice bulls to Mars and when you won a war, you build him a temple. End of contract. A soldier gained no comfort from the gods, because they played both teams. You simply appealed to him to make it happen, and reward him if he does.

So, to get back to the point: a mythology does not exist for comfort. The pantheon of D&D was not built for comfort. The Aztecs certainly didn't worship Xipe Totec for comfort, but they realized that he controlled the maize growth, and without appeasing him, they would die. That's not comfort, that's a response from fear.

The pantheon of D&D should be viewed as a global culture mythology: These are gods with their own motives, their own desires, their own powers and rewards, each with extensive stories that tell a part of the history of the ageless Earth, heroes who championed for them or defied them; sometimes these accounts would conflict, sometimes not. For the most, however, they're factual because the gods do, in fact, exist, and they do exercise their control over the spheres in which they occupy.

An orc gains no comfort from Gruumsh anymore than a necromancer from Vecna anymore than a halfling from Yondalla. So yeah, if you wanted to run a god who doesn't value your worth, you're free to do so--just don't expect much in return (when you say, "You are my tool to do with as I please. I don't give two hoots about you, and when you die I will torture your soul for eternity because I think is funny" is not only comical in the way D&D wants Evil to be (just read the Book of Vile Darkness), but also untrue: Why would he bestow any measure of power to you if he doesn't care? Because he's Evil, and therefore daffy?

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 10:45 PM
But I thought the main purpose of religion was for spiritual succor and a code of behavior. Religions exist to answer the following questions:


What is the ultimate source and ground of everything? Gods?
Where did the universe come from?
Where is it going?
Where did man come from?
How does man fit into the grand scheme of things?
How shall man behave in a community? In private?
How do we know these things are true?
Is there an afterlife? How do we get there?


Last time I checked, Lolth, Gruumsh, Bane and the rest of the gang offer no answers to those questions.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 11:01 PM
But I thought the main purpose of religion was for spiritual succor and a code of behavior. Religions exist to answer the following questions:


What is the ultimate source and ground of everything? Gods?
Where did the universe come from?
Where is it going?
Where did man come from?
How does man fit into the grand scheme of things?
How shall man behave in a community? In private?
How do we know these things are true?
Is there an afterlife? How do we get there?


Last time I checked, Lolth, Gruumsh, Bane and the rest of the gang offer no answers to those questions.

Yes they do.... I mean, as much as any good deity. I guess, where are you seeing good deities explaining these things? I never saw them explicitly laid out, but it's easy to piece together. Are you saying that there are rulebooks which lay out answers from the good deities but not from the evil ones, or are you saying you don't understand what the answers from the evil gods would be? I mean, I know in FR Campaign Setting, all the gods have a paragraph of dogma, for example, which lays out how one should live. It reflects their alignments of course, but it does answer that question (even if the answer is only "Screw over everyone else so you get all the pie in the world.)

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 11:08 PM
Maybe I'm looking at this from a real-world perspective too much, but I was under the impression that while religion outlines how to life, it's also something you can turn to for comfort. Sort of, knowing that your god or gods will help you when things go bad because created you, they love you and will forgive you when you screw up. D&D deities didn't create people, or the world. Evil deities don't love their followers, and when you fail them they simply choke you telekinetically.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 11:15 PM
Maybe I'm looking at this from a real-world perspective too much, but I was under the impression that while religion outlines how to life, it's also something you can turn to for comfort.

Not to be a jerk, but you keep switching between these two. I answered why it could provide comfort/use, you go to meaning. Then you went back to comfort. :smallwink:


Sort of, knowing that your god or gods will help you when things go bad because created you, they love you and will forgive you when you screw up.

Again, my evil deities do. In D&D, even if they don't love you, they help you out. They have to forgive failures, because no mortal is perfect. Maybe we just have very different views on what our evil deities would be like.


D&D deities didn't create people, or the world. Evil deities don't love their followers, and when you fail them they simply choke you telekinetically.

Why would they do that? If they kill all their worshippers for little screw-ups, who will sacrifice the virgins on Midsummer's Eve? Who will spread the plague across the land? The deities are too busy to do these things themselves! Again, I think you are assuming how evil deities are. Maybe that's true for how you'd create them, and yeah, like that no one would worship them!

I tend to think evil deities do what is in their best interest. Offering worshippers some rewards, using them, providing them with helpful guidelines, and not bothering to whack them every time they make a mistake is in the evil deities' best interests. Hence, at least in my setting, that's how they roll!

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 11:27 PM
Not to be a jerk, but you keep switching between these two. I answered why it could provide comfort/use, you go to meaning. Then you went back to comfort. :smallwink:

I don't really know what I'm talking about. I try to apply everything I've learned in my Religions of the World and Philosophy of Religion classes to the concept of religion in D&D and it just doesn't seem to fit!:smallfurious:


Again, my evil deities do. In D&D, even if they don't love you, they help you out. They have to forgive failures, because no mortal is perfect. Maybe we just have very different views on what our evil deities would be like.

Maybe the trouble I'm having is that I can't comprehend evil more complex than "stupid evil".


Why would they do that? If they kill all their worshippers for little screw-ups, who will sacrifice the virgins on Midsummer's Eve? Who will spread the plague across the land? The deities are too busy to do these things themselves! Again, I think you are assuming how evil deities are. Maybe that's true for how you'd create them, and yeah, like that no one would worship them!

I tend to think evil deities do what is in their best interest. Offering worshippers some rewards, using them, providing them with helpful guidelines, and not bothering to whack them every time they make a mistake is in the evil deities' best interests. Hence, at least in my setting, that's how they roll!

The reason I see things that way is that almost every evil overlord type figure out there kills people who screw up to make an example. Sort of saying "To everyone who's watching this, make sure you don't screw up or you'll end up like this guy!" Darth Vader choked Admiral Ozzel to death for a reason. He choked Captain Needa to death for a reason. The reason was that they screwed up. Hell, Needa even took the time to apologize! You don't kill someone if they say they're sorry!

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 11:36 PM
I don't really know what I'm talking about. I try to apply everything I've learned in my Religions of the World and Philosophy of Religion classes to the concept of religion in D&D and it just doesn't seem to fit!:smallfurious:

Hey, it's OK. Relax. I took classes on religion too and I read up on it (both ancient and modern, pro and anti) in my spare time. But, yeah, the evil deities in D&D are not similar to those we see in real world beliefs.


Maybe the trouble I'm having is that I can't comprehend evil more complex than "stupid evil".

Welcome to the thread? I am very much in favor of smart evil, so that's usually my starting assumption when discussing how evil would act. I find it far more full of versimilitude.


The reason I see things that way is that almost every evil overlord type figure out there kills people who screw up to make an example. Sort of saying "To everyone who's watching this, make sure you don't screw up or you'll end up like this guy!" Darth Vader choked Admiral Ozzel to death for a reason. He choked Captain Needa to death for a reason. The reason was that they screwed up. Hell, Needa even took the time to apologize! You don't kill someone if they say they're sorry!

Well, yeah, they make examples of people. But do those evil overlords kill everyone who makes any mistake? If they did, they wouldn't have an army! Evil deities, same concept. Then again, my deity of the dark elves is actually rather forgiving; his main difference from the good deities is in what he thinks is acceptable to hold society together (guilty until proven innocent, lots of executions, racism, etc.) rather than the way he treats his worshippers.

Neek
2009-01-17, 11:39 PM
I don't really know what I'm talking about. I try to apply everything I've learned in my Religions of the World and Philosophy of Religion classes to the concept of religion in D&D and it just doesn't seem to fit!:smallfurious:

I state the difference between mythology and religion, and you post what religion is. Perhaps that's a starting point?

D&D is based off of polytheism, moreover, a global mythology. Mythology and religion are not the same things. Nowhere in my five+ years studying Latin and Greek have I found mythology answering man's place in the grand scheme, or how to act in public or private. Philosophers concerned themselves with such things, however were never conclusive, nor ever theistic in their descriptions. Poets might have, but without giving props to their Gs in the sky.


Maybe the trouble I'm having is that I can't comprehend evil more complex than "stupid evil".

The reason I see things that way is that almost every evil overlord type figure out there kills people who screw up to make an example. Sort of saying "To everyone who's watching this, make sure you don't screw up or you'll end up like this guy!" Darth Vader choked Admiral Ozzel to death for a reason. He choked Captain Needa to death for a reason. The reason was that they screwed up. Hell, Needa even took the time to apologize! You don't kill someone if they say they're sorry!

Stupid Evil is not the only Evil in existence. Faust's Mephistopheles, Shakespeare's Aaron, Milton's Satan, Harris's Hannibal Lecter. Look at real evil people in existence: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Armin Meiwes, Stalin, Hitler and his Cabinet Folks. None of these men are comically evil. They're just Evil.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 11:42 PM
Hey, it's OK. Relax. I took classes on religion too and I read up on it (both ancient and modern, pro and anti) in my spare time. But, yeah, the evil deities in D&D are not similar to those we see in real world beliefs.

Sorry for getting agitated. It's just that whenever I create a D&D character, it's got some connection to religion, especially since Paladin's pretty much the only class I like playing. So I have a vested interest in how religion is portrayed and I am getting increasingly frustrated that it is not discussed in depth.


Welcome to the thread? I am very much in favor of smart evil, so that's usually my starting assumption when discussing how evil would act. I find it far more full of versimilitude.

I have yet to see a truly good example of "smart evil" in any form of media. I think so far the only concept of evil I really see in the media was the one espoused by some gang in Ruroni Kenshin:

"HAHAHAHAHAHA! WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT!!!"


Well, yeah, they make examples of people. But do those evil overlords kill everyone who makes any mistake? If they did, they wouldn't have an army! Evil deities, same concept. Then again, my deity of the dark elves is actually rather forgiving; his main difference from the good deities is in what he thinks is acceptable to hold society together (guilty until proven innocent, lots of executions, racism, etc.) rather than the way he treats his worshippers.

Then why in media do we always see evil people pulling this "YOU HAVE FAILED ME YOU MUST DIE!!!" crap?! It only leads to making generalizations. And I have never understood Lolth at all.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-17, 11:52 PM
Sorry for getting agitated. It's just that whenever I create a D&D character, it's got some connection to religion, especially since Paladin's pretty much the only class I like playing. So I have a vested interest in how religion is portrayed and I am getting increasingly frustrated that it is not discussed in depth.

Heh, no problem. I know you aren't trying to be impatient or anything. And, well, I guess I've always taken a lot of creative liberties with religion in my characters based, frankly, on what I wish religion was. :smallbiggrin: So, yeah, that's probably why it seems so simple to me.


I have yet to see a truly good example of "smart evil" in any form of media. I think so far the only concept of evil I really see in the media was the one espoused by some gang in Ruroni Kenshin:

"HAHAHAHAHAHA! WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT!!!"

Uh, see the rest of this thread? :smallsmile: Yeah, well, the media is full of lots of ridiculousness. But take, like, Dexter from that popular show. From what I have heard, he is evil and smart. Or Senator Palpatine from Star Wars.


Then why in media do we always see evil people pulling this "YOU HAVE FAILED ME YOU MUST DIE!!!" crap?! It only leads to making generalizations. And I have never understood Lolth at all.

Yeah, well, there's a reason I homebrew my dark elves. :smallannoyed: Anyway, why do we see idiotic teenagers who all end up being friends, or foolish heroes who still save the day, or geeks who are all socially awkward and always want the dumb blonde chick? The media makes a lot of bad generalizations and stereotypes. There are exceptions, of course, but just because the mainstream media doesn't portray it well doesn't mean it isn't possible.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-17, 11:57 PM
Heh, no problem. I know you aren't trying to be impatient or anything. And, well, I guess I've always taken a lot of creative liberties with religion in my characters based, frankly, on what I wish religion was. :smallbiggrin: So, yeah, that's probably why it seems so simple to me.

Maybe I'm just trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.:smallfrown:


Uh, see the rest of this thread? :smallsmile: Yeah, well, the media is full of lots of ridiculousness. But take, like, Dexter from that popular show. From what I have heard, he is evil and smart. Or Senator Palpatine from Star Wars.

What popular show? I don't watch TV. And I thought Palpatine's "smart evil" was supposedly greatly exagerrated. At least that's what I've heard the fans say. :smallconfused:


Yeah, well, there's a reason I homebrew my dark elves. :smallannoyed: Anyway, why do we see idiotic teenagers who all end up being friends, or foolish heroes who still save the day, or geeks who are all socially awkward and always want the dumb blonde chick? The media makes a lot of bad generalizations and stereotypes. There are exceptions, of course, but just because the mainstream media doesn't portray it well doesn't mean it isn't possible.

But it has a terrible effect on gullible and naive people like me, especially if their creative skills are nil.:smallannoyed:

Neek
2009-01-18, 12:01 AM
In addendum to the list of "smart evil" found in media, both present and past.
The demon Azazel from Fallen.
Al Pacino's portrayal of the Devil in the Devil's Advocate.
Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Cthulhu and the Elder God's cult, from various writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
Max Schreck from Shadow of the Vampire.
Magneto, from X-Men.
Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

Honorable mention: The song, When You're Evil, by Voltaire. HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey--though one might argue his actions were in Good intent, he still ended up killing everyone but one person off. I'd rule him Neutral, but he's definitely a "smart evil" type. Scott Evil, because he parodies his father, Dr. Evil (who is inarguably dumb evil).

Feel free to expand this list. *noms his candy bar that he traded his soda for from Queenfage, the admires the diamonds*

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 12:04 AM
In addendum to the list of "smart evil" found in media, both present and past.
The demon Azazel from Fallen.
Al Pacino's portrayal of the Devil in the Devil's Advocate.
Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Cthulhu and the Elder God's cult, from various writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
Max Schreck from Shadow of the Vampire.
Magneto, from X-Men.
Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

Honorable mention: The song, When You're Evil, by Voltaire. HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey--though one might argue his actions were in Good intent, he still ended up killing everyone but one person off. I'd rule him Neutral, but he's definitely a "smart evil" type. Scott Evil, because he parodies his father, Dr. Evil (who is inarguably dumb evil).

Feel free to expand this list.

And I have not seen any of those.:smallannoyed:

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 12:08 AM
And I have not seen any of those.:smallannoyed:

Check some out. Also, the TV show I mentioned is also called "Dexter." Not to be tongue-in-cheek, but I've heard of most of those and I don't watch that many movies or TV shows so I'm curious what media exposure you are referring to with all the lame bad guys. You did mention a show that sounded like an anime, and I admit I know next to nothng about anime.

Oh, by the way: Read "Dracula." Seriously. Amazing book.

huttj509
2009-01-18, 12:12 AM
Stupid evil: I can do whatever I want by killing anyone who gets in my way, and most who don't.

Smart evil: I can do whatever I want, and you just let me, nay, encouraged me to do so.

OR

I can do whatever I want, and you'll never know I did it.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 12:17 AM
Here's a brief sampler of my media awareness:


Ruroni Kenshin (Yes, it's an anime. My brother used to be into anime and talked me into watching it.)
Star Wars
The Lord Of The Rings
CSI in all of its incarnations
Criminal Minds
Legend of Zelda
Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2
Mass Effect
Fallout 3
Order of the Stick
Lots of Disney films
Beowulf (the poem)
Shakespeare
Cats
The Phantom of the Opera
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (the old BBC version)
The Mario series
The works of Roald Dahl
Oliver Twist (the book)
Frankenstein (the book)


And I tried reading Dracula. I barely understood it, so I gave up. The closest thing I've seen to it is a ballet.

snoopy13a
2009-01-18, 12:30 AM
I'd place most criminals in the category of "stupid evil".

For example, think about bank robbery:

"Let's hold up a bank and if everything goes well, we get to spilt about $40,000 between us. However, if things go bad, we'll go to jail for 10 years."

Not even taking morality into account, would robbing a bank seem logical to you? Of course not, as the risk of 10 years or so in prison greatly outweighs the rewards (assuming it is spilt four ways, it wouldn't even be enough to support a person for a year). Only an idiot would risk their freedom for a couple of months worth of money.

Thus, it does make sense for characters to be stupid evil as there are plenty of people caught up in the correctional system that are stupid evil as well. Stupid evil characters simply aren't wise enough to understand the risks versus rewards of their behavior. Ironically, a stupid evil character may even be good roleplaying if the character possess a poor wisdom score.

Avor
2009-01-18, 12:33 AM
I have a bit of a problem with evil, as PC and DM. As player, in any kind of game, I just cannot commit evil, or actions that cuase great suffering. Like even on pc games, I offten can't fallow the evil path, I just can't do it even though I know it's not real. As a DM, I hate evil so much I send too powerful foes against my players.

I end up explaining to the group that I DM better when they use N or G alingments. And as a LG or NG player, party members tend to avoid truely evil characters. Evil PCs only enourage inner party conflict, they either rob and kill each other, or bide their time untill reveil their person agenda to screw everyone and gain power amd controll.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 12:38 AM
Here's a brief sampler of my media awareness:


Ruroni Kenshin (Yes, it's an anime. My brother used to be into anime and talked me into watching it.)
Star Wars
The Lord Of The Rings
CSI in all of its incarnations
Criminal Minds
Legend of Zelda
Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2
Mass Effect
Fallout 3
Order of the Stick
Lots of Disney films
Beowulf (the poem)
Shakespeare
Cats
The Phantom of the Opera
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (the old BBC version)
The Mario series
The works of Roald Dahl
Oliver Twist (the book)
Frankenstein (the book)


And I tried reading Dracula. I barely understood it, so I gave up. The closest thing I've seen to it is a ballet.

First off, I hope you didn't take my comment as trying to be snippy. It was not meant to be so, though this list is helpful.

Star Wars: Palpatine's awesomeness may be overstated but he was still smart evil. "Hey, I want to take over the galaxy. I could either manipulate situations as they arise to gain power while appearing to help others, or I could kill a bunch of people. Hmmm...." He chose the former option. That is smart evil.

I don't play video games much at all, nor do I watch CSI, and I was never a LotR buff so I shall leave those be. A lot of these, actually, are things which I read or paid attention to a long time ago but haven't reviewed lately.

In these, there isn't a theme perhaps of stupid evil, but a very black and white morality, I think. At least, very straightforward opposing sides. Hobbits v. Mordor. Mr Fox v. the mean farmers. Mario v. Bowser. Good is clear, with obvious principles and goals. The evil ones, well, just despicable and disgusting. So, yes, this does rather explain why you have not seen much smart evil.

I'm not saying that all of that is bad media, it just takes a view of morality which I think is simplistic and makes smart (or at least, interesting) evil near impossible. It portrays a very clear and self-defeating evil. I think some people have a similar way of running their D&D campaigns, but this has always struck me as simplistic or, perhaps to put it better, not to my tastes.

I mean, I could whip up an example of what I'd consider a smart evil character with some moral complexity, or an appealing evil deity, but I don't want to beat a dead horse if you'd rather to just agree we view the system in fundamentally different ways. :smallsmile:

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 01:03 AM
I don't think you're being snippy at all, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I do have a tendency to see things in very black and white tendencies. When I mentioned Dahl, I was thinking more specifically of The Witches, where the Grand High Witch kills one of her own witches simply for talking back.

"A stupid vitch who answers back
must burn until her bones are black.
A foolish vitch vithout a brain
must sizzle in ze fiery flame!
A vitch who dares to say I'm wrong
VILL NOT BE VITH US VERY LONG!!!"

Or something along those lines.

Dervag
2009-01-18, 02:12 AM
Yes, and I am not arguing against that. However, your definitions of "expense" and "taking advantage of" appear to be quite different than mine, or you think that everyone should judge how much another person is benefiting by one's own preferences rather than that person's preferences. If there is a third explanation, please explain. I do not see yet how you have demonstrated that people have different tastes and hence items have relative value. Either I totally missed you acknowledging that, or you are denying it. Or again, some third option I cannot think up.[Staggers from my smoldering bunker, waving white flag]I give up.

I still think there are scenarios where one party winds up better off at the expense of another without committing an evil act, but I'm definitely inclined to concede that normal trade isn't one of them.

What about taxation? We can argue, with reason, that it is just for a government to make people pay taxes. But consider the position of a tax collector who works on commission. Are they automatically evil for trying to maximize tax revenues?

[This is a test case. I think I know the answer, but I'm not sure]
______


Whoah, whoah. Could I have a moment of your free time, sir? Yes? Alright.

Polytheism and cults and sects dedicated to a member of a pantheon does not qualify religion, not by the modern sense at least, nor is religion a comfort device. Comedians of our century are fond of reminding us that they are opiates for the masses, but fail to understand what religion really is about: It is an establishment that is meant to enable a sense of meaning to the world around us, which polytheism hardly ever establishes. People don't run to a cultural mythology for comfort, nor do they appeal to an individual god for comfort.

Cultural mythology is just that: a set of myths, stories, and quasi-historical accounts that describe the world, its history, and the elements that occupy the world. Oftentimes, they are used to entertain all the while giving us some idea of the functioning world. I have yet to encounter a mythology that describes our role in relationship to the world, the stars, the gods, or each other. People don't normally ask, "Why are we here?" Because the answer is invariably: "Because you were born. Now stop asking so many damn questions."And yet, we have generations of people finding the serenity to do their duty in the legends of cultural mythology. Consider the role of the Iliad or the Bhagavad Gita in their respective cultures- not today, but in ancient times.

For that matter, we have the general example of Hinduism. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that has spawned many philosophical doctrines, quite a few of which address man's place in relationship to the world. Is this not a counterexample to your argument?
_______


An orc gains no comfort from Gruumsh anymore than a necromancer from Vecna anymore than a halfling from Yondalla.Well, not so sure about Yondalla; comfort is arguably part of her stock in trade, but she's a special case.
_______


I don't think you're being snippy at all, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I do have a tendency to see things in very black and white tendencies. When I mentioned Dahl, I was thinking more specifically of The Witches, where the Grand High Witch kills one of her own witches simply for talking back.

"A stupid vitch who answers back
must burn until her bones are black.
A foolish vitch vithout a brain
must sizzle in ze fiery flame!
A vitch who dares to say I'm wrong
VILL NOT BE VITH US VERY LONG!!!"

Or something along those lines.On the other hand, Dahl wrote children's stories in which people on both sides of the line came to various horrible fates in true children's story fashion. It didn't have to make very much sense.

Villains in children's stories, like heroes in children's stories, are more likely to have simple motivations.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 02:20 AM
What about the characters in The Hobbit? Tolkien ostensibly wrote that like a children's story, a fairy tale. Being turned to stone and killed doesn't sound like a "horrible fate" to me, but then again my definition of a horrible fate involves being sent to the bottom-most pit of the Netherworld being tied up with barbed wire, seared with red-hot poking irons, doused with ice-cold water, cow manure being stuffed down your throat while being anally violated by a hulking demon with a barbed member like a cat's.

Dervag
2009-01-18, 03:49 AM
What about the characters in The Hobbit? Tolkien ostensibly wrote that like a children's story, a fairy tale.Aack, OK, I was overgeneralizing.

Let me put it another way: many (not all) children's stories feature simplified characters and plot logic compared to most (not all) adult stories. Thus, it is not uncommon for a villain in a children's story to behave viciously for no obvious reason other than being vicious. It can happen in adult stories, but for an adult story to be well received, the villain usually has to have a better established motive.

This is especially common in Roald Dahl stories. Dahl painted his characters in bright, broad strokes. Their motivations sometimes, but not always, made sense. In many cases, his story was better because of the illogical acts of the characters. Willy Wonka was not a logical person and his motivations seemed to make no sense, but he was still interesting. From a child's point of view, his fantastic and silly behavior is (somewhat) likely to be funny rather than annoying or confusing.

This is not a 100% thing. Some children's stories use villains with very plausible motives and develop them carefully. But on average, villains from children's stories are more likely to be Stupid Evil in that they will do things that cause the average rational adult to blink and say "Wow. That wasn't very smart. Why would they do that?"

Riffington
2009-01-18, 08:45 AM
I still think there are scenarios where one party winds up better off at the expense of another without committing an evil act, but I'm definitely inclined to concede that normal trade isn't one of them.

What about taxation? We can argue, with reason, that it is just for a government to make people pay taxes.

So this is a great example. There exist some taxes which are non-evil. Most of those will benefit the taxman or sovereign at the expense of the subject.
Likewise, it is not evil (unless taken to extremes, as in the US) to seek recompense for past wrongs. Such recompense will benefit the former victim at the former wrongdoer's expense.


The line may be fuzzy (for example, selling very overpriced food to a starving man)

This is a very complicated situation. If there is only one starving man, it is clearly wrong to take advantage of his need. But if there is a widespread famine, profiteering is not evil. The chance to profiteer during disasters helps convince people to stockpile necessities during fat times. The high prices during disasters help reduce waste, making sure everyone gets what they need. We have a distaste for profiteering because most situations involve only a few desperate people, it it's wrong to profiteer off them. But we (incorrectly) keep that distaste during widespread disasters where it's a good thing.

hamishspence
2009-01-18, 09:02 AM
Pinching food to feed yourself/others can also vary a bit in people's attitudes, depending on the situation.

When the whole group is at the edge of starvation, breaking the rationing rules, even if its for other people's needs, is seen as a major betrayal.

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 11:49 AM
This is a very complicated situation. If there is only one starving man, it is clearly wrong to take advantage of his need. But if there is a widespread famine, profiteering is not evil. The chance to profiteer during disasters helps convince people to stockpile necessities during fat times. The high prices during disasters help reduce waste, making sure everyone gets what they need. We have a distaste for profiteering because most situations involve only a few desperate people, it it's wrong to profiteer off them. But we (incorrectly) keep that distaste during widespread disasters where it's a good thing.

Allow me to jump in here, because this strikes me as a particularly untenable position (which isn't to say you're wrong, just that you haven't convinced me) What you're saying, if I understand you correctly, is that if one person is suffering, it's unethical to take advantage of that fact for your own gain. But if many people are suffering, taking advantage of that fact for your own gain is entirely justified. I understand your case that there are some incidental societal benefits that go along with the profiteering in the second case, but I'm not sure that has any bearing on the morality of the act.

I'm not saying that prices should be artificially kept low during a shortage. During times of hardship, there will be a natural increase in price (supply & demand and all that). What strikes me as odd is that you seem to be advocating for suppliers to further increase prices above what the shortage would demand, benefiting themselves at the expense of others. While you may be correct in saying that this encourages suppliers to have a stockpile available for times of shortage, this doesn't excuse the suppliers from accusations of being Evil (in D&D terms - I'll use the capital letter for alignment questions). What it does do is set up a scenario where an Evil act can have some positive effects. That doesn't have any bearing on whether it's Evil or not - just whether it works.

From another perspective, let's look at the alternative to profiteering - keeping profit margins relatively stable during times of shortage. Prices may still increase, but the supplier isn't taking any special advantage of the situation. "But wait," you say. "If suppliers can't do that, they won't have any incentive to hoard their supplies instead of selling it all at once." Well, for the sake of argument, let's imagine that some suppliers would do so anyway. If no profiteering occurred, consumers would undoubtedly benefit; they would pay lower prices for goods in high demand. The suppliers would still benefit; they would benefit to the same extent they normally benefit from the sale of the goods - presumably an acceptable level of benefit, since they're in the "supplier" business in the first place.

Comparing the scenarios of profiteering and non-profiteering, it becomes clear that profiteering is an Evil act; the suppliers are acting in a way to maximize the benefits to themselves, regardless of the effects on others. In this scenario, the alternative of keeping profit margins stable is most in line with the Neutral outlook. The suppliers still get an acceptable benefit, but not at anybody's expense; the model of mutually beneficial trade is maintained. The Good alternative would be for the suppliers to keep prices artificially low so that consumers didn't suffer from the shortage (I'm not saying that Good must necessarily entail sacrifice, but that's another debate).

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 11:55 AM
I'm not saying that prices should be artificially kept low during a shortage. During times of hardship, there will be a natural increase in price (supply & demand and all that). What strikes me as odd is that you seem to be advocating for suppliers to further increase prices above what the shortage would demand, benefiting themselves at the expense of others.

From another perspective, let's look at the alternative to profiteering - keeping profit margins relatively stable during times of shortage. Prices may still increase, but the supplier isn't taking any special advantage of the situation. The suppliers would still benefit; they would benefit to the same extent they normally benefit from the sale of the goods - presumably an acceptable level of benefit, since they're in the "supplier" business in the first place.

Comparing the scenarios of profiteering and non-profiteering, it becomes clear that profiteering is an Evil act; the suppliers are acting in a way to maximize the benefits to themselves, regardless of the effects on others. In this scenario, the alternative of keeping profit margins stable is most in line with the Neutral outlook. The suppliers still get an acceptable benefit, but not at anybody's expense; the model of mutually beneficial trade is maintained.

The man knows his economics and his alignment system. I snipped a bit in the quote above to emphasize what I found important but, honestly, probably more clearly said than I could have put it!

hamishspence
2009-01-18, 12:10 PM
Now actively selling your stockpile at lower prices than you paid for it, making yourself poorer to maximise the survival and minimise the suffering of others, would, by BoED rules, be a Good act.

Oslecamo
2009-01-18, 12:17 PM
The chance to profiteer during disasters helps convince people to stockpile necessities during fat times. The high prices during disasters help reduce waste, making sure everyone gets what they need. We have a distaste for profiteering because most situations involve only a few desperate people, it it's wrong to profiteer off them. But we (incorrectly) keep that distaste during widespread disasters where it's a good thing.

No. For two reasons:

1-Since disasters allow to make big bucks, there grows an incentive to make those disasters happen from the people who want to profit. Every year thousands of tons of perfectly fine food are destroyed by the manfacturers themselves to prevent the prices from droping too low. Screw starving people, they'll rather burn their goods than selling them cheap. In my country there's a river who's almost empty of fishes thanks to all the milk dumped there by the nearby milking company. Perfectly good milk, wich however isn't profitable to sell because it would make the prices drop.

2-And when the disaster ends, the same guys who made big bucks during that time will brainwash people into not stockpiling necessities during the fat times, and spend everything they have, like you can see happen right now in the US. The banks urged people to buy houses and make loans left and right for years whitout making any kind of backup plans, and eventually the situation comes crashing down. But who pays the bill? The small people who were cheated and betrayed by the banks who're now receiving big bucks from the government for the "great" job they did.

So, of course we have a distaste for profiteering during disasters, because the profiteering guys probably pushed us on said disaster in the first place.

BobVosh
2009-01-18, 12:20 PM
The man knows his economics and his alignment system. I snipped a bit in the quote above to emphasize what I found important but, honestly, probably more clearly said than I could have put it!

I agree.

Spoiled for length on Zoushas media.


Here's a brief sampler of my media awareness:

Ruroni Kenshin (Yes, it's an anime. My brother used to be into anime and talked me into watching it.)Villian a week, not really any SE

Star WarsPalpatine, all that is smart evil. Grand Admiral Toff, and a few others.

The Lord Of The RingsSauron.

CSI in all of its incarnationsAnother Villian A Week thing. Don't know too much about it.

Criminal MindsNever Seen it

Legend of ZeldaWhich...one? I'm going with ocarina of time as it was my favorite. Ganon should have won as he was intelligent about when to strike. Progressivly stronger villians proves he was dumb and got alzheimers or something.

Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2
Mass Effect
Fallout 3Never played.

Order of the StickRed Cloak. Old Blind Pete. The necromancer guy.

Lots of Disney filmsNone come to mind.

Beowulf (the poem)Arguably Grendal's Mother.

ShakespeareAll far too emotional to really have one. Also most characters are more grey than evil.

Cats
The Phantom of the Opera
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (the old BBC version) Coming up with nothing

The Mario series Nope. Never did figure out what that silly dino wanted with the princess anyway.

The works of Roald Dahl No clue

Oliver Twist (the book) More of an evil society than person.

Frankenstein (the book) No real evil guy.

That said I'm impressed you read Beowulf and Frankenstein and found Dracula a tough read.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 12:26 PM
Now actively selling your stockpile at lower prices than you paid for it, making yourself poorer to maximise the survival and minimise the suffering of others, would, by BoED rules, be a Good act.

Well, yeah. No disagreement. The point (not sure if you are arguing it or not) is that profiting does not equal profiteering. Profiting is fine, profiteering is Evil. Profiteering involves jacking up the prices well past what it costs you to purchase/produce, protect, and distribute the goods. Just to throw on some numbers, let's take 3 examples. In all of them, the default situation is that cupcakes are produced at 10 copper pieces and sold at 12 copper pieces. A merchant makes 2 copper per cupcake.

OH NOEZ! Famine time. Lots of cupcake trees have died. Fewer cupcakes are available. Now, the cost to produce a cupcake is 20 silver.

Good merchant:
Keep selling the cupcakes at 12 copper until you go broke. Alternatively, sell them at 20 silver so you make no profit. You can barely survive, but you can keep in business for a while.

Neutral merchant:
Sell cupcakes for 22 or 24 copper. You are still making a profit, enough to live off of, but you are not exploiting the people's hunger.

Evil merchant:
Sell cupcakes for 50 silver. Bwahaha!

This is /way/ over-simplified, and to get into the economics of costs of production, supply/demand, and all that would be long and complicated. But, for a clear way to compare profiting with profiteering would be this:

Good merchant (neither):
He is losing money or just making enough to get buy to help feed the people during the famine.

Neutral merchant (profiting):
His standard of living is the same as it was before the famine, or somewhat close. He may be doing a bit better or a bit worse, but overall he is getting the people what they need while still maintaining a comfortable life for himself. He is still his top priority, but he isn't going to push that to an extreme.

Evil merchant (profiteering):
His standard of living has vastly increased. Due to the shortage of food and few suppliers of it, he's jacked up the price to the highest people can possibly afford to pay. The lives or livelihoods of the starving mean nothing to him as he intends to wring every bit of copper out of their hands.

hamishspence
2009-01-18, 12:33 PM
Point to bad made is, it can be quite hard to be Good in D&D.

Champions of Ruin (faerun but info is very generic) points out that consistantly doing evil acts makes you evil, even if you do good ones as well. No More "Neutral = do Good + Evil"

the profitteer could be doing it all to afford to pay to save a person he loves, or doing lots of good acts as well, but if he's doing evil on a steady basis, he is evil.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 12:36 PM
Point to bad made is, it can be quite hard to be Good in D&D.

Champions of Ruin (faerun but info is very generic) points out that consistantly doing evil acts makes you evil, even if you do good ones as well. No More "Neutral = do Good + Evil"

the profitteer could be doing it all to afford to pay to save a person he loves, or doing lots of good acts as well, but if he's doing evil on a steady basis, he is evil.

Oh, agreed that being good in D&D is not easy. It requires a degree of self-sacrifice. As I haven't read "Champions of Ruin," I'm not going to argue too much on that point, though I usually view somewhere in between (if you do serious evil on a regular basis, you are evil, but little evils balanced with better good and you'll prolly come out neutral). :smallcool: I'm glad you mentioned that though; I'll have to get my hands on that book!

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 12:36 PM
Well, yeah. No disagreement. The point (not sure if you are arguing it or not) is that profiting does not equal profiteering. Profiting is fine, profiteering is Evil. Profiteering involves jacking up the prices well past what it costs you to purchase/produce, protect, and distribute the goods. Just to throw on some numbers, let's take 3 examples. In all of them, the default situation is that cupcakes are produced at 10 copper pieces and sold at 12 copper pieces. A merchant makes 2 copper per cupcake.

OH NOEZ! Famine time. Lots of cupcake trees have died. Fewer cupcakes are available. Now, the cost to produce a cupcake is 20 silver.

Good merchant:
Keep selling the cupcakes at 12 copper until you go broke. Alternatively, sell them at 20 silver so you make no profit. You can barely survive, but you can keep in business for a while.

Neutral merchant:
Sell cupcakes for 22 or 24 copper. You are still making a profit, enough to live off of, but you are not exploiting the people's hunger.

Evil merchant:
Sell cupcakes for 50 silver. Bwahaha!

This is /way/ over-simplified, and to get into the economics of costs of production, supply/demand, and all that would be long and complicated. But, for a clear way to compare profiting with profiteering would be this:

Good merchant (neither):
He is losing money or just making enough to get buy to help feed the people during the famine.

Neutral merchant (profiting):
His standard of living is the same as it was before the famine, or somewhat close. He may be doing a bit better or a bit worse, but overall he is getting the people what they need while still maintaining a comfortable life for himself. He is still his top priority, but he isn't going to push that to an extreme.

Evil merchant (profiteering):
His standard of living has vastly increased. Due to the shortage of food and few suppliers of it, he's jacked up the price to the highest people can possibly afford to pay. The lives or livelihoods of the starving mean nothing to him as he intends to wring every bit of copper out of their hands.

Well put. You could even make a case for the neutral merchant raising his profit margin per cupcake slightly (which I think is what you were getting at with 24 cp); he's going to sell fewer cupcakes, so he has to make a greater profit per cupcake to keep up.

This is basically the argument of the alignment of profiteering that I was trying to get at, but with more interesting examples. Whether profiteering has some other societal benefits, as Riffington claims, isn't really relevant to the alignment of the act.

MickJay
2009-01-18, 12:40 PM
Smart evil characters are quite common in newer books, especially when the morality presented in them is mostly gray-ish. Lukyanienko's cycle (Night Watch, Day Watch and later - theoretically, the Day Watch people are "evil", but none of the sides really plays fair; chief of the Day Watch, Zavulon, is a prime example of "smart evil"). Most of "more evil" characters from Sapkowski's Witcher stories (and the cycle) are quite smart. Protagonist of the Dyachenko couple's "Everything is allowed to the mages" is a rather unpleasant guy, but undeniably smart.

Dr Henry Killinger (with his little murder bag) from the Venture Brothers cartoon - one of the very few smart characters, appears just a few times throughout 3 seasons (plays a major role in one episode). Subtle and smart evil. Again, lots of "gray" areas in the show.

Games: the final antagonist from KOTOR2 is smart evil, same goes for the one in Jade Empire.

From the list, Redcloak from OOTS is definitely smarter than your average evil guy. Now Belkar seems to have started playing smart as well.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 12:41 PM
Whether profiteering has some other societal benefits, as Riffington claims, isn't really relevant to the alignment of the act.

Well, it is... slightly. But I honestly think that good outcomes only excuse evil acts if the good coming out of it is far more notable than the evil commited. If I steal medicine I cannot afford to save my dying wife, yes, stealing the medicine is wrong, but saving a person's life is far more good than taking $100 worth of merchandise from a well-off person is evil. Therefore, I'd say that act is neutral (though it would be better to work for the medicine, and there are a lot of other factors which could tip the situation). But, yeah, also consider intent: When you are profiteering, your intent is to make tons of cash, not to help society. When you are stealing medicine, your intent is to save your wife, not to go buy a new car or screw over the pharmacist.... I hope I didn't just open another can of worms with that example. :smalltongue:

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 12:51 PM
Point to bad made is, it can be quite hard to be Good in D&D.

Champions of Ruin (faerun but info is very generic) points out that consistantly doing evil acts makes you evil, even if you do good ones as well. No More "Neutral = do Good + Evil"

the profitteer could be doing it all to afford to pay to save a person he loves, or doing lots of good acts as well, but if he's doing evil on a steady basis, he is evil.

That's another good topic for debate. While it's probably true that "1 Good act + 1 Evil act /= Neutral", what about "many Good acts + 1 Evil act"? How many is "many", anyway? Does scale matter?

Now, what if the profiteer was giving all his increased profits to charity? So he's selling cupcakes for 50 copper, but he's giving 28 copper to the poor for every cupcake he sells. You might wonder why he's profiteering in the first place if he's just going to give it away, but let's say that only the wealthy buy cupcakes (and at 50 copper, that might be true). In that case, he's trying to enforce what he sees as a more equitable distribution of wealth. Good? Evil? Neutral? Confusing?

A more common (at least to my cynical mind) case would be the profiteer who sells cupcakes for 50 copper, gives 10 copper to the poor, and pockets the other 18 extra copper, all while shouting about what a great guy he is for helping the poor. To my mind, this may actually be more evil than simple profiteering. Sure, he's pocketing a little less money, but he's adding a whole new layer of deception to the process.

Riffington
2009-01-18, 01:01 PM
Allow me to clarify my position.
1: re Oslecamo: Those tiny proportion of profiteers who create disasters are obviously evil. This includes munitions manufacturers who advocate for war to create demand. It would hypothetically include grain stockpilers who try to create famines but it's totally different from your "wasting milk" example. It would also include Soros if he deliberately created a liquidity crisis in order to buy bankrupt companies cheaply. These are extremely rare situations. The milk example you give is exactly the opposite of profiteering: it's a price control designed to prevent disasters.

2: re TheStranger.


During times of hardship, there will be a natural increase in price (supply & demand and all that). What strikes me as odd is that you seem to be advocating for suppliers to further increase prices above what the shortage would demand

I'm confused about what this means. Profiteering is the natural increase in price due to supply and demand. It is not a further increase above that price: that would be unprofitable for the supposed profiteer!
So let us suppose that I run a gas station in Florida. An incoming hurricane convinces people to flee, and many wish to purchase gas from me. I can:
1. Keep my prices at $3/gallon. Everyone will want to fill their tanks, but I don't have enough gasoline for that. So some people will take more gasoline than they need; others may be short. I can give out ration cards to ensure everyone gets 5 gallons, but some people really need 3 and others really need 7. Giving 5 to everyone is suboptimal.
2. Raise prices to $9/gallon. People will have more incentive to take only what they'll need to get out safely. They'll have more incentive to carpool, and reduce their usage. I won't run out as quickly (or at all), and so fewer people die in the hurricane. Furthermore, more people stockpile gasoline in the future.

Similar situation: I run a hardware store, and am considering carrying emergency generators. I can buy them for $500 and sell them for $600, at a rate of 1/month. During hurricanes, I can sell 10 for $2000 if I'm willing. If I plan to charge $2000 during hurricanes, I will carry 10. If I plan to charge $600, I'll only carry 2. Also, those 2 will go to the first 2 people to run to my door, not to the 2 people who really need generators the most.

So, a decision not to profiteer, but instead to keep the old price despite changes in supply and demand is harmful. It means that as the owner of a scarce and important resource, I have decided to give it to the person who shows up first instead of the person who needs it most. A disaster is the time when we most need to ensure goods are efficiently distributed. And only a dynamic free market (i.e. profiteering) ensures that.

Profiting by helping to ensure that goods go where they are most needed is not Evil.

The Glyphstone
2009-01-18, 01:03 PM
I so want a cupcake tree now.

[/offtopic]

MickJay
2009-01-18, 01:08 PM
Medicines are a good example, many of them cost dozens, if not hundreds of times more than their manufacturing costs, but without that the pharmaceutical companies would not be able to research new products or would simply go out of bussiness. Problems start when people can't afford those medicines; some poor countries modify slightly the active component and bypass the patent law, providing their populace with very cheap yet highly effective substitutes. Then people in the West start complaining that they have to pay 100$ for a medicine that a guy in Africa can get for equivalent of 25 cents. It's very difficult to find a solution to this problem that would satisfy both sides, or even find a point at which the "just profit" ends and "profiteering" starts.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 01:10 PM
Profiteering is the natural increase in price due to supply and demand.

Profiting by helping to ensure that goods go where they are most needed is not Evil.



Profiteer: one who makes what is considered an unreasonable profit especially on the sale of essential goods during times of emergency

Emphasis added is mine.



Profit: a valuable return.

Profiteering is not the same as profiting. Profiteering is, as I elaborated previously, making an excessive gain from a bad situation. Where is the excessive/reasonable line? Hard to say, but I think it is clear that there is one at a certain point.

Riffington
2009-01-18, 01:26 PM
Profiteering is not the same as profiting. Profiteering is, as I elaborated previously, making an excessive gain from a bad situation. Where is the excessive/reasonable line? Hard to say, but I think it is clear that there is one at a certain point.

Right, so:
Profiteering: making an "excessive" profit. I'd claim: any time you significantly increase prices in response to emergency demand, when your own costs haven't really changed (usually because you won't be able to replenish stock until the situation has resolved), you are profiteering.
I would further claim that the best price for all concerned in a disaster is "the one where you make maximum profit". Since it's hard for anyone to make more than the maximum profit, if profiteering exists, then it is good. Where the new supply and demand lines intersect is the appropriate price, and it is your maximum profit, so it must be profiteering if anything is.

Now, what is immoral is taking advantage of a monopolist position during a disaster. If you are the only one with gas, and you have 12,000 gallons, then appropriate profiteering is "whatever price sells almost 12,000 gallons". It would be Evil to calculate and charge a higher price that would sell only 9,000 gallons but would net a greater profit.

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 01:36 PM
Allow me to clarify my position.
1: re Oslecamo: Those tiny proportion of profiteers who create disasters are obviously evil. This includes munitions manufacturers who advocate for war to create demand. It would hypothetically include grain stockpilers who try to create famines but it's totally different from your "wasting milk" example. It would also include Soros if he deliberately created a liquidity crisis in order to buy bankrupt companies cheaply. These are extremely rare situations. The milk example you give is exactly the opposite of profiteering: it's a price control designed to prevent disasters.

2: re TheStranger.


I'm confused about what this means. Profiteering is the natural increase in price due to supply and demand. It is not a further increase above that price: that would be unprofitable for the supposed profiteer!
So let us suppose that I run a gas station in Florida. An incoming hurricane convinces people to flee, and many wish to purchase gas from me. I can:
1. Keep my prices at $3/gallon. Everyone will want to fill their tanks, but I don't have enough gasoline for that. So some people will take more gasoline than they need; others may be short. I can give out ration cards to ensure everyone gets 5 gallons, but some people really need 3 and others really need 7. Giving 5 to everyone is suboptimal.
2. Raise prices to $9/gallon. People will have more incentive to take only what they'll need to get out safely. They'll have more incentive to carpool, and reduce their usage. I won't run out as quickly (or at all), and so fewer people die in the hurricane. Furthermore, more people stockpile gasoline in the future.

Similar situation: I run a hardware store, and am considering carrying emergency generators. I can buy them for $500 and sell them for $600, at a rate of 1/month. During hurricanes, I can sell 10 for $2000 if I'm willing. If I plan to charge $2000 during hurricanes, I will carry 10. If I plan to charge $600, I'll only carry 2. Also, those 2 will go to the first 2 people to run to my door, not to the 2 people who really need generators the most.

So, a decision not to profiteer, but instead to keep the old price despite changes in supply and demand is harmful. It means that as the owner of a scarce and important resource, I have decided to give it to the person who shows up first instead of the person who needs it most. A disaster is the time when we most need to ensure goods are efficiently distributed. And only a dynamic free market (i.e. profiteering) ensures that.

Profiting by helping to ensure that goods go where they are most needed is not Evil.

The thing is, neither of those scenarios actually ensures a socially optimal distribution of goods. Ability to pay comes into play too much. Let's say I really, really, need a generator, but I only have $600. Sure, if I was smart, I would have bought one last week, but that's beside the point. If somebody with cash to burn has a lesser, but non-negligible, need for a generator, they'll get one and I won't - how is that socially optimal? This is why we tend to have laws against price-gouging.

You're confusing the issue of ensuring the optimal delivery of goods with the issue of what is ethical on the part of the supplier. Yes, without the option of selling generators for $2000, you might not keep a whole bunch of them on hand. And yes, it would be desirable for a supply of generators to be available in the event of a hurricane. But the need for the generators doesn't justify your charging greatly inflated prices for them - you're still coming out way ahead at the expense of other people.

What you're saying is that there is a need to ensure the availability of goods in times of shortage, and one way of meeting that need is profiteering, so profiteering is justified. That assumes that the benefits of profiteering actually outweigh the costs, which is by no means certain. It also assumes that there is no better way of meeting that need, which is even less certain. Most importantly, it implies that the ends justify the means, which is generally viewed as a bad stance to take in moral arguments. You're not hoarding generators to help your neighbors out when there's a hurricane; you're hoarding them to take advantage of your neighbors in their time of need. I find it very hard to accept that this is not an Evil outlook.

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 01:43 PM
I would further claim that the best price for all concerned in a disaster is "the one where you make maximum profit".

It would seem that this is primarily the best price for the supplier. Those who pay this price may meet a short-term need, but they will suffer for it down the road. Once the disaster is over, the supplier is better off; everybody else is worse off as a result of overpaying for gas, generators, or whatever. Those who couldn't afford the new price, regardless of need, are potentially even worse off.

Yes, there is a need to fairly resolve the issue of who gets a limited good. Yes, free-market economics suggests that the appropriate resolution to this problem is to jack the price up as much as you can. That doesn't mean this is the best resolution, just that it is the one supported by the dominant paradigm in many societies. It may be that a ration system is the fairest way of doing this, despite its drawbacks. It may be that some other system is necessary. But the fact that profiteering resolves a problem does not mean it is morally justified.

Riffington
2009-01-18, 02:11 PM
The thing is, neither of those scenarios actually ensures a socially optimal distribution of goods. Ability to pay comes into play too much.
Not at all true. If rich people are taking more than poor people, they are paying a lot for that privilege. That means that these poor people are being fairly compensated for not having a generator now (or having to cram more people into their cars, or whatever): by getting money, which they previously were low on.
At the same time, these natural price increases mean that money is worth less and less. With sufficiently bad shortages, "ability to pay" is measured in bread rather than dollars.


If somebody with cash to burn has a lesser, but non-negligible, need for a generator, they'll get one and I won't - how is that socially optimal?
You think "whoever shows up at the shop first" is somehow more optimal?
The only way to measure how much people "need" something is by their willingness to pay (with money, flour, whatever). People (rich or poor) will make do without when the price gets high enough. If you don't permit the price to become high enough to deter even the rich from overusing, then there is no assurance that the person with the item is the one who needs it most. Only if prices reach their (sky-high) real levels does this happen.



What you're saying is that there is a need to ensure the availability of goods in times of shortage, and one way of meeting that need is profiteering, so profiteering is justified.

I'm saying it's the best way to meet that need, but not that it's the only thing justifying profiteering.



That assumes that the benefits of profiteering actually outweigh the costs, which is by no means certain. It also assumes that there is no better way of meeting that need, which is even less certain.
Sure. Please come up with a better way, and you'll get a Nobel prize for economics. As of now, exorbitant disaster pricing has time and time again been what ensures that people use only what they need instead of wasting. Rationing is our second best bet, and it works well on a tiny scale, but leads to horrifying waste (and loss of life) on a large scale.



Most importantly, it implies that the ends justify the means, which is generally viewed as a bad stance to take in moral arguments. You're not hoarding generators to help your neighbors out when there's a hurricane; you're hoarding them to take advantage of your neighbors in their time of need. I find it very hard to accept that this is not an Evil outlook.
I am not hoarding generators. I am stockpiling them because I think they will become valuable. The profit motive of "this may become valuable, let's stockpile it while it is plentiful" is neutral. It is of great societal benefit, and should therefore be encouraged, but it is neither Good nor Evil.

TheStranger
2009-01-18, 02:41 PM
Sure. Please come up with a better way, and you'll get a Nobel prize for economics. As of now, exorbitant disaster pricing has time and time again been what ensures that people use only what they need instead of wasting. Rationing is our second best bet, and it works well on a tiny scale, but leads to horrifying waste (and loss of life) on a large scale.

I won't pretend that I'm even remotely qualified to address this problem. However, I'm not convinced that the role of profiteering in solving this problem has any significant bearing on the ethics of the act. An Evil act can have some positive results. The intent and intrinsic nature of the act have more bearing on the ethics than the outcome. That said...


I am not hoarding generators. I am stockpiling them because I think they will become valuable. The profit motive of "this may become valuable, let's stockpile it while it is plentiful" is neutral. It is of great societal benefit, and should therefore be encouraged, but it is neither Good nor Evil.

You know what, you're right. It's entirely possible to make a healthy profit supplying disaster needs in a relatively ethical manner. Based on Queenfange's "unreasonable profit" definition of profiteering, I would say that this may not qualify as profiteering - you've made a reasonable profit by providing people with something they need. The profit you made is offset by the opportunity cost of stockpiling your good instead of doing something else with your cash, and by the risk you took of it not becoming valuable. Gambling on a disaster does seem (intuitively, not logically) like a rather cold-blooded business model, but I suppose it's not inherently unethical.

However, I do maintain that it's possible, by behaving in an unethical manner, to make an obscene profit during disasters. This would be profiteering, and an Evil act.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 02:50 PM
How did this get into a rich/poor sort of debate?


People (rich or poor) will make do without when the price gets high enough.

If you have no bread, people starve. There have been countries where people can no longer afford rice, the primary source of food, and they starve. There isn't always a "getting along fine without it."


If you don't permit the price to become high enough to deter even the rich from overusing, then there is no assurance that the person with the item is the one who needs it most. Only if prices reach their (sky-high) real levels does this happen.

I think what this is getting into is that we are forgetting a big factor: Monopoly. By basic economic theory, in a purely competitive market, neither buyers nor sellers choose the price. However, in situations such as a famine, it is highly unlikely that the market is even somewhat competitive. Usually a few people have access to the vast majority of the food; in an oligopoly, firms (sellers) do have some power over the price. I can dig up the graphs in my economics textbook if you want, but essentially the price best for the monopolist is not the socially optimal price. Unfortunately, this can easily fall into politics, as it's a matter of whether one thinks the invisible hand or capitalism or such things is what is best for society.


I'm saying it's the best way to meet that need, but not that it's the only thing justifying profiteering.

Profiteering is pushing the price above what is socially optimal, not simply making a profit.


As of now, exorbitant disaster pricing has time and time again been what ensures that people use only what they need instead of wasting. Rationing is our second best bet, and it works well on a tiny scale, but leads to horrifying waste (and loss of life) on a large scale.

Is has? Examples? I mean, yes, high prices decrease waste. However, we are not talking about luxuries. We are talking about bread. Is it socially optimal because many people are starving since the price is high enough to "reduce waste"?


The profit motive of "this may become valuable, let's stockpile it while it is plentiful" is neutral. It is of great societal benefit, and should therefore be encouraged, but it is neither Good nor Evil.

No one is arguing that we should not stockpile goods while they are plentiful or that we should waste resources. Also: Societal benefit is not relevent unless it affects good or evil. We are not concerned with the best way to run an economy. We are concerned with what motives, intents, actions, and consequences in the economic sphere are, by the D&D system of alignment, evil.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 04:27 PM
Villian a week, not really any SE
Makoto Shishio? "If you're strong you live and if you're weak you die."

Palpatine, all that is smart evil. Grand Admiral Toff, and a few others.
Darth Vader still choked the crap out of anyone who displeased him.

Sauron.
Sauron also invested all his power in something that was easily destroyed, and didn't even bother to imagine that someone might want to destroy the ring.

Another Villian A Week thing. Don't know too much about it.
There was this one episode where this Nazi guy ran a sleep clinic or something and kidnapped people, chaining them up and dong crude surgery on them to try and make them look Aryan.

Never Seen it
In the season finale, this hoarse old rich guy kidnapped a girl and messed with the team's equipment. He said he was sending the team on a quest to find the girl he was holding prisoner and they had to do exactly as he said. When the team alerted the public against his orders, he snuck into the house of one of the team members and tried to shoot her. I only wish I'd seen the second episode of the finale to see what happened next.

Which...one? I'm going with ocarina of time as it was my favorite. Ganon should have won as he was intelligent about when to strike. Progressivly stronger villians proves he was dumb and got alzheimers or something.
Every Zelda villain makes the mistake of challenging Link to single combat, where he utterly pwns them

Never played.
In Neverwinter Nights 1, you fight against Morag, a lizardfolk empress from prehistoric times who is trying to return to the world and use global warming to make the Frozen North suitable for her reptilian people to take over the world again.

In Neverwinter Nights 2, your overarching enemy is The King of Shadows, a defender of an ancient empire corrupted by dark magic but still dedicated to its original mandate to protect the empire that made it. Said empire is centuries dead, so it spreads shadowy evil throughout the land and makes hordes of undead to rebuild its empire. Then there's Ammon Jerro. He's a warlock who has fought against the King of Shadows and has recently escaped from the Nine Hells to continue his crusade. He believes in doing anything that is neccessary (including killing innocents because of what they might do) and he generally believes he's the only one fighting the King of Shadows. Thus, when you first meet him, he's an enemy, killing the owners of the silver sword shards you both need, and killing his own grand-daughter (your companion and student, Shandra Jerro) in a blind rage when you ruin his sanctuary. After this, he decides to join you, but still maintains the opinion that he's the only one who can truly fight the King of Shadows and is only joining you because you share a common goal.

In Mass Effect, your main enemy is Saren, an alien who hates humans because his brother was killed in a war with them. Then when you meet face to face, you find he's working for the machines that harvested all the life in the galaxy millenia ago and are returning to do it again because he thinks there's no hope and if he works for the he'll be spared, when all they're really going to do is harvest him last.

In Fallout 3, you have The Enclave, which wants to wipe out all mutated life in the Capitol Wasteland (which is effectively everyone and everything, given 200 years of radiation and FEV exposure). They think that they're the only pure humans in the world and want complete genocide.

Red Cloak. Old Blind Pete. The necromancer guy.
Redcloak still sent hobgoblins to their deaths for a petty grudge. Old Blind Pete should have known better than to betray everyone he did. Chronic backstabbing only leads to getting your brains splattered on the floor. What necromancer guy are we talking about? Xykon's pretty stupid evil to me.

None come to mind.
Maleficent, who wants to ruin everyone's lives for no apparent reason. Ursula, who wants to take over the seas and then grows to kaiju size, which in my opinion is just making yourself easier to hit. Jafar, who wants to take over the kingdom and lets the good guy trick him.

Arguably Grendal's Mother.
She also made the mistake of fighting Beowulf in single combat. If you go toe-to-toe with the hero you are going to effing lose!

All far too emotional to really have one. Also most characters are more grey than evil.
What about Don John The Bastard in Much Ado About Nothing? He says early in the play that he's going to be a villain and mess up everyone's lives and reputation just for the hell of it!

Coming up with nothing
Erik kidnaps Christine for his own selfish desires and he kills people who get between him and her.

The White Witch is pretty cruel too, lashing out at anything that displeases her and being annoying by yelling all the time.

Nope. Never did figure out what that silly dino wanted with the princess anyway.
That's what irritates me about Mario in general. There's not enough plot to analyze.

No clue
I just talked about the Grand High Witch. Then there's a large number of adults like Aunts Sponge and Spiker in James and the Giant Peach and Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, as well as Matilda's parents who are odious and despicable people who despise children.

More of an evil society than person.
Bill Sykes? Fagin? Monks?

No real evil guy.
Frankenstien for his cruelty to his creature? The creature himself for the murders he commits?


That said I'm impressed you read Beowulf and Frankenstein and found Dracula a tough read.

I had to read them for college classes (History of the English Language and Romantic British Literature respectively), and I tried to read Dracula in middle school.

hamishspence
2009-01-18, 04:30 PM
the Empress Jadis has a bit of the Omnicidal Maniac about her- wiping out all life on her world except her (and I mean ALL life) just because she'd lost a war (to her own sister, no less) is a bit on the Stupid Evil side.

Riffington
2009-01-18, 06:06 PM
There have been countries where people can no longer afford rice, the primary source of food, and they starve. There isn't always a "getting along fine without it."
Certainly, but the fewest people starve when free markets expand the supply and convince people to consume less. The most people starve when rationing systems fail, with some hoarding food and others starving. ("working" rationing systems fall midway between).




I think what this is getting into is that we are forgetting a big factor: Monopoly.

I did point this out. I think that using a monopolist strategy during a time of crisis is Evil. One has a moral obligation in crisis to set the price of needed goods low enough that nearly all are consumed.



Profiteering is pushing the price above what is socially optimal, not simply making a profit.

Anti-profiteering laws typically forbid much more than this. They forbid charging the free-market disaster price. If you want to claim "hey, those laws have nothing to do with profiteering, and most of what is called profiteering is not", then fine. But what is called profiteering is raising one's prices to levels that would usually be obscene, but which are justified by the huge immediate need.



Is has? Examples? I mean, yes, high prices decrease waste. However, we are not talking about luxuries. We are talking about bread. Is it socially optimal because many people are starving since the price is high enough to "reduce waste"?
It is all the more vital if people are starving. If I am considering eating more than I need, I'll think twice about that last Kit-Kat if someone will pay me a ruby. I'll greedily devour it if I'm just getting $1.

Examples: mass starvation in India in the face of rations.
Huge inefficiencies in Britain during WWII. Stupid gasoline uses in 1970s US. If the prices were higher, and rations were eliminated, people would be less wasteful, and there would be less suffering.



We are not concerned with the best way to run an economy. We are concerned with what motives, intents, actions, and consequences in the economic sphere are, by the D&D system of alignment, evil.

Ok, well aside from the economic argument, there is no reason to claim that offering a good for whatever price a free market will bear is anything other than Neutral. The argument against profiteering is a Utilitarian one; I am showing it is an incorrect Utilitarian one.

Oslecamo
2009-01-18, 06:38 PM
Examples: mass starvation in India in the face of rations.
Huge inefficiencies in Britain during WWII. Stupid gasoline uses in 1970s US. If the prices were higher, and rations were eliminated, people would be less wasteful, and there would be less suffering.


Of course there would. Dead people can't suffer anymore.

Besides, capitalism colapses over itself if people don't waste. If the people aren't buying new stuff you really don't need everyday, 90% of the companies out there go bankrupt.

So, people are actually persuaded to waste. Wich is evil. And profitable. Very profitable.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-18, 06:56 PM
Anti-profiteering laws typically forbid much more than this. They forbid charging the free-market disaster price. If you want to claim "hey, those laws have nothing to do with profiteering, and most of what is called profiteering is not", then fine.

Yeah, I'm going to go with the laws are not defining the same thing as we are discussing here. Real world laws are very different than D&D alignment.


Certainly, but the fewest people starve when free markets expand the supply and convince people to consume less.

Okay, as my economics textbooks are not with me right now and I am more interested the morality for this thread, let's assume that's the case.


Ok, well aside from the economic argument, there is no reason to claim that offering a good for whatever price a free market will bear is anything other than Neutral.


Whether profiteering has some other societal benefits, as Riffington claims, isn't really relevant to the alignment of the act.

I am not 100% sure on the official 3.5 stance on this, but I judge alignment in four aspects: Motive, intent, action, and consequences. The motive and intent in these situations by those who make an obscene amount of money is certainly not helping society. Their desires are to make the maximum amount of money for themselves. This is not necessarily evil, but if it includes a disregard for human lives that may be lost due to pricing of bread or a complete disinterest in suffering that extremely high pricing will cause, that is an evil motive (or rather, lack of a decent motive). Essentially, if your economic model is correct, that still does not show that the motives or intent behind the person arranging things as such is good, evil, or neutral. I recognize that some people ignore motive and intent in determining alignment, for any number of reasons, but for me it is a vital part of the big picture.

Oh- I also did notice that after monopolies were mentioned... You went back to free market. In a true free-market, I am inclined to agree that the results are fairly optimal (except extrernalities, but that's pollution and stuff that isn't really useful here). However, in a famine situation in a D&D world you will get a monopoly:


According to standard economic theory (see analysis above), a monopoly will sell a lower quantity of goods at a higher price than firms would in a purely competitive market. The monopoly will secure monopoly profits by appropriating some or all security of the stop consumer surplus. Since the loss in consumer surplus is higher than the monopolist's gain, this creates deadweight loss, which is inefficient and a form of market failure.

Emphasis added mine. So, yeah, I suspect we are more or less in agreement here, but I just keep assuming a monopoly is the most likely situation and you likewise assume true free market.

Zousha Omenohu: Try rereading Dracula. It is awesome. Shouldn't be confusing this many years later.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-18, 09:42 PM
I'm a bit busy at the moment. I have to read The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queene, Religions of the World, The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Eighth Edition, Volume 2, and a number of other books for classes.:smallredface:

Dervag
2009-01-18, 10:02 PM
It is all the more vital if people are starving. If I am considering eating more than I need, I'll think twice about that last Kit-Kat if someone will pay me a ruby. I'll greedily devour it if I'm just getting $1.On the other hand, people who have no rubies have no hope of obtaining the last Kit-Kat by legal means. This leads to brawls over the last Kit-Kat bar.


Examples: mass starvation in India in the face of rations.
Huge inefficiencies in Britain during WWII. Stupid gasoline uses in 1970s US. If the prices were higher, and rations were eliminated, people would be less wasteful, and there would be less suffering.This is often a chicken-and-egg problem. If there is only enough food to feed 75% of the population, there will be a famine (or mass-scale malnutrition) no matter what you do. The fact that you enacted rationing in an attempt to give everyone 1500 calories a day instead of giving 3/4 of the population 2000 calories a day is not the source of the starvation.

So you have to ask: which came first, the scarcity crisis, or the rationing?

Innis Cabal
2009-01-18, 10:07 PM
Of course there would. Dead people can't suffer anymore.

Besides, capitalism colapses over itself if people don't waste. If the people aren't buying new stuff you really don't need everyday, 90% of the companies out there go bankrupt.

So, people are actually persuaded to waste. Wich is evil. And profitable. Very profitable.

Wut? Thats the most insane thing i've ever heard. Without even getting into the political or economic realm reusing and recycling is good no matter what system of economic control you use.

Shosuro Ishii
2009-01-19, 12:15 AM
However, I do maintain that it's possible, by behaving in an unethical manner, to make an obscene profit during disasters. This would be profiteering, and an Evil act.

How is taking advantage of a situation in a way benefitial to you an 'evil' act. And why is the 'good' alternative to sacrifice your personal gain for that of others?

This has always confused me about the alignment system.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-19, 01:52 AM
How is taking advantage of a situation in a way benefitial to you an 'evil' act. And why is the 'good' alternative to sacrifice your personal gain for that of others?

This has always confused me about the alignment system.

Because there is a difference between "taking advantage of" (wrong) and "benefiting from" (not at all). The former implies purposefully screwing over another for person gain; the second does not purposefully or seriously harm others, and often (in most trade) benefit the other person as well. Likewise, good does not always require sacrificing all personal gain (unless you are playing a very harsh black/white version of the alignment system where the vast majority of people are neutral). It is a nuanced matter, and definitions get confused. Look at my posts above regarding the fairness of trade and profiting vs. profiteering for example.

JonestheSpy
2009-01-19, 03:48 AM
Man, this is the deepest thread I've seen anywhere in quite awhile. A few observations:

I suppose it's inevitable that a serious thread about morality is going to end up discussing economics. And I think that it's a pretty amazing example of real world Smart Evil that so many people are convinced that an economic system that promotes taking advantage of mass suffering for the enrichment of a few individuals is not only good, but the only possible viable system.

And speaking of economics, I think the person who suggested that bank robbers must be overwhelmingly Stupid Evil failed to include many points of view in his analysis. If one is desperately poor with no forseeable prospects of improving that state, then risking ten years in jail that wouldn't be all that worse than time out of jail isn't such a big deal. And there are also people who rob banks to get money for specific purposes that outweigh the risks - a few years ago there was a gang of white supremicists that robbed banks and armored cars to get the money to buy weapons and other supplies they couldn't aford with their days jobs. The risk of loss of freedom was less important than their cause.

Also, I disagree with the very puritanical view promoted by that Book of Ruin thing (haven't read it, myself), saying that committing any evil acts makes you full-on evil without the possibility of good acts balancing them out. I think the fact is that both individuals and societies are capable of engaging in behaviour that includes good and evil acts, and balancing out as neutral in the end. Just look at American history - the birth of modern democracy and the gauruntee of individual freedoms greater than any other nation at the time on one hand, and slavery and genocide of Native Americans on the other.
Can you just label such a society as simply "good" or "evil"? Is a slave owner who treats his slaves in such a way that would horrify us, but is kind, generous, and honorable to others flat out evil?

I think "neutral" certainly includes the ethically ambiguous and morally contradictory.

As a corollary to that, while a society may engage in evil practices and last for quite a long time, I think societies/nations that can be labelled as flat-out, no question evil just don't last very long. They just aren't viable, and end up either self-destructing - like Zimbabwe is at this very moment - or get wiped out by the neighboring societies they mess with: e.g. Nazi Germany. Stalin was Smart Evil enough to keep his system going for the length of his life, but his successor Kruschev had to make huge changes to keep the USSR from destroying itself.

MickJay
2009-01-19, 04:48 AM
Wut? Thats the most insane thing i've ever heard. Without even getting into the political or economic realm reusing and recycling is good no matter what system of economic control you use.

The point is not really about reusing or recycling, it's, among other things, about "sales" and "better offers" where people are encouraged to buy e.g amounts of food they're not likely to eat, and therefore some of it is thrown away (easily perishable foodstuffs), promoting of lifestyle where people are being convinced that they need to get at least one full set of clothing each season (even though the old clothes are still perfectly usable), and the clothes are often purposefully of poor quality so they wouldn't last too long, and so on. If suddenly everyone in the West started buying only what they really need to use (and not what ads and sellers tell them they need), the crisis would be incomparably worse to what's happening now. Many people would end up with some extra money they wouldn't be able to spend (since they wouldn't be buying additional or luxurious goods; capital would be frozen), some companies would go bankrupt, people would become unemployed, and there would be far less money in the national budgets as well. Waste and unnecessary spending (certain services or easily perishable goods) are both great ways of preventing inflation and keeping the economy going. That's one of the reasons why some people view capitalism as immoral and evil. If that's the case, then it's the "smart evil", since most people see it as the best possible system :smallbiggrin:

hamishspence
2009-01-19, 10:23 AM
Champions of Ruin states "repeated, delibarate use of many of these is the mark of an evil character" but also states that "even good characters may be driven toward these"

Slightly controversial example- its like torturing the villain to save lives, in a crisis, once in your whole life, and becoming a professional tortuter and doing it all the time (for similar reasons- to protect innocents).

One the GM might allow the player to get away with as Still Good, or possibly Neutral.

The other- Not many GMs would have as non-evil.

Champions of Ruin takes BoVD and goes further- giving reasons for why a character might be evil, making it more rounded, making "evil heroes" make more sense.

Avilan the Grey
2009-01-19, 11:49 AM
Neek, not only do hunter gatherer societies experience famine (all it takes is a drop in food levels below carrying capacity, and there is lots of evidence for starving groups of hunter gatherers), but ...

Naw, it isn't worth it. I'm just saying your claims sound far stronger than they are.

There are all kinds of data, for all kinds of things...
Seriously, I know this is OT and long ago but:

Depending on where you are in the world it differs (or made a difference): The latest numbers I heard was that here up north, living close to the ice, there was enough food that the average stone-age hunter-gather family during the end of the last ice-age had to work approx 2.5 hours a day to get food and shelter, and the rest could be spent on other activities.

Riffington
2009-01-19, 12:34 PM
The point is not really about reusing or recycling, it's, among other things, about "sales" and "better offers" where people are encouraged to buy e.g amounts of food they're not likely to eat, and therefore some of it is thrown away (easily perishable foodstuffs), promoting of lifestyle where people are being convinced that they need to get at least one full set of clothing each season (even though the old clothes are still perfectly usable), and the clothes are often purposefully of poor quality so they wouldn't last too long, and so on. If suddenly everyone in the West started buying only what they really need to use (and not what ads and sellers tell them they need), the crisis would be incomparably worse to what's happening now. Many people would end up with some extra money they wouldn't be able to spend (since they wouldn't be buying additional or luxurious goods; capital would be frozen), some companies would go bankrupt, people would become unemployed, and there would be far less money in the national budgets as well. Waste and unnecessary spending (certain services or easily perishable goods) are both great ways of preventing inflation and keeping the economy going. That's one of the reasons why some people view capitalism as immoral and evil. If that's the case, then it's the "smart evil", since most people see it as the best possible system :smallbiggrin:

So, I think you ascribe far too much intentionality here.
It is certainly true that many restaurants profit by offering larger portions than a person ought (nutritionally) to eat. But they don't do that via brainwashing. People naturally feel happiest during feasts. Good hosts have offered their guests giant portions since forever - whether they are hunter-gatherers or farmers. People like those giant portions, and restaurants just give people what they want. In short, if you have plenty, and you have freedom, then portions will be large. This is an innate human tendency that leads to waste, not a "capitalist" one. It certainly isn't imposed by some bureaucrat trying to "keep the system going".

An ad can't make you do things you didn't want to do anyway. Note how even in nations which rejected capitalism, restricted freedom of speech, and forbade advertisements, the citizens still liked/like Western goods when they can get them. You may say that people should be kept from those things "for their own good", but it is naive to believe that we won't want them.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-19, 12:44 PM
.
It is certainly true that many restaurants profit by offering larger portions than a person ought (nutritionally) to eat. But they don't do that via brainwashing. People naturally feel happiest during feasts. Good hosts have offered their guests giant portions since forever - whether they are hunter-gatherers or farmers. People like those giant portions, and restaurants just give people what they want. In short, if you have plenty, and you have freedom, then portions will be large. This is an innate human tendency that leads to waste, not a "capitalist" one.

Actually, I need to disagree on this one. First of all, in Europe, they have far smaller serving portions. It is really a cultural thing. Now, the large portions in American restaurants does NOT have anything to do with brainwashing or a sinister agenda. Rather, the costs of maintaining the building, paying the waitstaff, and such are high. The cost of food is comparatively low. Therefore, it makes sense to serve large portions (which only cost a bit more to make than smaller ones) so that people feel like they are getting their money's worth. At least, this is how I've heard it explained (so, no, like the rest of you, I cannot off the top of my head cite that :smallsmile:), but it rather seems the most reasonable explanation. Again, especially since portion sizes at restaurants are smaller in Europe, suggesting this is cultural not just pure innate preferences, and brainwashing, well, sounds too much like a conspiracy theory, heh

MickJay
2009-01-19, 09:14 PM
Recent report shows that the amount of food wasted in United Kingdom alone would be sufficient to feed (at the very least) 20-25 million people (on a constant basis). About 25% of all food products, in most cases still in closed, original packaging, gets thrown away, either directly from supermarkets, or from households (the main reason? Too low prices, people buy food because they can afford it, and then aren't hungry enough, or simply don't have appetite for certain products, and these land in trash). It's debatable to what extent this is a conscious policy to prevent farmers from going bankrupt, and how much of this is out of sheer necessity (or thoughtlessness), but I wouldn't be surprised if similar level of waste was present in majority of highly developed countries.

Avilan the Grey
2009-01-20, 02:03 AM
But is that really unusual by ancient standards? The very fact that the "ancient" period lasted for thousands of years suggests that technological, social, and economic change was slow everywhere. Otherwise the world would have been overrun when some unnaturally progressive bunch broke through to the steam engine-and-telegraph era in 2000 BC or something.

Had to butt in here.

When it comes to progress, and inventions, there are a few things that limits it that I can think of:

1) Many known inventions makes inventing something new easier. This is especially true today, where computers help us design and test things without having to build them first. But this is also true back in them olden days. Certain math skills, like geometry, suddenly opened up new fields of progress.

2) Culture and Law of a society might hamper progress. A strong static culture is not the friend of the inventor.

3) Expanding point 2 above: If we consider not only inventions, but ideas and philosophies we can see that openness in the long run favours progress. Ancient Greece was full of great minds, but little came of it that really favoured progress (not counting the almighty democracy, open for all those 20% of the population that was free, male, greek :smallwink:) other than on a theoretic scale. Same with Alexandria, where the best of Greek and Egyptian culture melted together. But compare this to Rome: The influx of ideas and culture from all the known world, mixed together with not book knowledge and philosphy, but a desire for progress.



Whoah, whoah. Could I have a moment of your free time, sir? Yes? Alright.

Polytheism and cults and sects dedicated to a member of a pantheon does not qualify religion, not by the modern sense at least, nor is religion a comfort device. Comedians of our century are fond of reminding us that they are opiates for the masses, but fail to understand what religion really is about: It is an establishment that is meant to enable a sense of meaning to the world around us, which polytheism hardly ever establishes. People don't run to a cultural mythology for comfort, nor do they appeal to an individual god for comfort.

???
Please elaborate, because I have never heard this before. Since when is Polytheism not a religious belief? You must use a totally different definition of religion than I have ever heard of before.
I am totally confident that a Hindu or Shintoist finds his or her place in the world around us through his or her religion. The same was true for the followers of the Norse or Egyptian gods.


Riffington:
It might be that I am raised in a different society than you (I am not American) but I find your theory extremely flawed.


You think "whoever shows up at the shop first" is somehow more optimal?
The only way to measure how much people "need" something is by their willingness to pay (with money, flour, whatever). People (rich or poor) will make do without when the price gets high enough.

This is so wrong it is not even funny.
It is, obviously, the hardcore capitalist's viewpoint: Poor people die because they are stupid enough not to be rich.
The obvious way to figure out if people need something is to look at them and see what they actually need. I am not a communist, but to argue, effectively, that people freezing to death because they do not have the money to buy a generator, or die in famine because they cannot afford the rice, or die in disease because the medicine is too expensive, is proof that they actually did not need those things, is Evil.

Profiteering is evil. Period. It does not matter if you sell directly to the poor sods in the disaster area, or if you jack up the prices to sell to the government, so that they can distribute for free.
Besides, the mechanism you suggest does not work. Raising the price so that the rich can't by everything does not help in any way or form since the obvious result at the other end of the scale is something you forgot to mention: The poor will not afford to buy anything, or not enough to survive. The end result is that the profiteer will still make tons of money, the rich will live well, and the poor will starve to death not because of lack of food, but because they cannot afford it. Riots will ensure, with death and destruction in it's wake. So your ideas leads to not only Evil, but Chaotic Evil.

Anyway, what I see in this situation on the alignment scale is:

Merchant selling at as high prices as he can (to government or public): Neutral Evil, or Lawful Evil (depending on what society's view of price gauging is)

Merchant selling at normal-ish prices: True Neutral

Merchant selling to lower price: Neutral Good

Merchant selling at normal-ish prices but tries to on his own distribute the goods evenly: Neutral Good

Merchant takes his stock and gives it out for free, trying to help the community: Neutral or Chaotic Good

Merchant selling his goods to the government (without raising the price) and it distributes it: True neutral (most likely he cannot say no, anyway).

JupiterPaladin
2009-01-20, 03:50 AM
Stupid Evil is easiest for those not too much into RPing properly, but the alignment I seem to encounter even more is CHAOTIC STUPID :smallyuk:

MCerberus
2009-01-20, 04:31 AM
Stupid Evil is easiest for those not too much into RPing properly, but the alignment I seem to encounter even more is CHAOTIC STUPID :smallyuk:

I see more chaotic stupid in RP light or really non-serious games. When you throw magic around in a silly environment people start trying to act like cartoon characters. I rarely see chaotic stupid in darker, moodier, or more serious times. However, someone running up to the local leader and smacking him in the face with beef jerky "because I'm chaotic" annoys me to no end.

Chaotic stupid in an inappropriate setting leads to quick death. I'm more tolerant towards Stupid Evil because I make players deal with the consequences of throwing dieing kittens with alchemist's fire at orphans (sadly happened).

Riffington
2009-01-20, 11:01 PM
It is, obviously, the hardcore capitalist's viewpoint: Poor people die because they are stupid enough not to be rich.
This is totally unfair. In "capitalist" nations, poor people may have small houses, but they don't die of poverty. In nations with heavy State control, poor people do die of poverty. Note when countries try "land-reform" or other forms of redistribution of wealth, famine frequently follows. When countries increase economic freedom, the result is more food for everyone.

Perhaps it may be more obvious to me as an American. When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, they each held one share, and all property was owned communally. It was totally 'fair': "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." Naturally, for three years, they starved. They abandoned this system in 1623 out of despair at the waste and thievery it caused; now people could work their own land and keep the food they grew. The harvest in 1623 was so plentiful that the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving. A similar thing happened at Jamestown: after converting to a Capitalist system, people stopped starving. They noted afterwards, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."

And the same has been true in so many other nations... when the government has more control, more people die of hunger.



The obvious way to figure out if people need something is to look at them and see what they actually need. I am not a communist, but to argue, effectively, that people freezing to death because they do not have the money to buy a generator, or die in famine because they cannot afford the rice, or die in disease because the medicine is too expensive, is proof that they actually did not need those things, is Evil.
But this is counterfactual. People die in famines in Communist nations all the time - in Capitalist nations, not so much. People do not freeze to death when they are free to buy a generator: someone is usually eager to sell them one. They freeze when someone stands at the top, deciding who deserves a generator. To say "this person needs to look at them and Decide what they actually need", when we know that the Decider will decide incorrectly (and often corruptly)... that is what is Evil.


Raising the price so that the rich can't by everything
You're confused how it works. The rich choose not to buy much more than they need when it's too expensive. It's not that they can't, it's that they won't want to. More importantly, the higher price means that entrepreneurs bring in more goods, so there are more to go around for everyone.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-20, 11:06 PM
This is totally unfair. In "capitalist" (i.e. free) nations, poor people may have small houses, but they don't die of poverty. In nations with heavy State control, poor people do die of poverty. Note when countries try "land-reform" or other forms of redistribution of wealth, famine frequently follows. When countries increase economic freedom, the result is more food for everyone.

Frankly, this is getting into NOTHING to do with evil. This is only turning into a political discussion. I have plenty to say on this, but I do not want this thread locked because of stuff entirely unrelated to D&D. I know you didn't start it (I don't recall who did), but I really think we ought to get this thread back on track.


Finally, how does evil impact one's relationship with loved ones? Does NE or CE ensure no love nor close ties with people, or at least ones which will be broken if it is more convenient? Or would it be possible for even a CE person to give up a lot for someone they truly loved.

How 'bout this? I think a few people have mentioned it, but I'm still torn on the matter, though I am strongly leaning towards evil people being able to love, have close ties with people, and even make great sacrifices for a certain person they love.

xanaphia
2009-01-20, 11:14 PM
I think that evil people can love, in a perverted kind of way. Think Wayne and Scout from Ben Elton's book Popcorn.

Re political tangent, capitalism wins.

In 40k, Chaos Space Marines know that their gods want them to kill stuff/Slaanesh stuff (new verb, invented by me)/infect stuff. They do it for the favor of their gods.

Riffington
2009-01-20, 11:39 PM
though I am strongly leaning towards evil people being able to love, have close ties with people, and even make great sacrifices for a certain person they love.

They definitely can. Usually evil is a perversion of a good impulse, but that good impulse is there somewhere underneath. And the person may have many uncorrupted good impulses too. Even the person I consider the most evil man of all time cared about his friends (and offered to buy them a gold watch if they'd quit smoking)...

Shosuro Ishii
2009-01-21, 01:34 AM
Anyway, what I see in this situation on the alignment scale is:

Merchant selling at as high prices as he can (to government or public): Neutral Evil, or Lawful Evil (depending on what society's view of price gauging is)

Merchant selling at normal-ish prices: True Neutral

Merchant selling to lower price: Neutral Good

Merchant selling at normal-ish prices but tries to on his own distribute the goods evenly: Neutral Good

Merchant takes his stock and gives it out for free, trying to help the community: Neutral or Chaotic Good

Merchant selling his goods to the government (without raising the price) and it distributes it: True neutral (most likely he cannot say no, anyway).

I could not disagree with this more.

How is that taking the action most directly benefitical to you (and that might indirectly hurts people....If I give a man a fish, and he chokes on it, I didn't kill him) is evil, and the only way to be good is the cut your own throat.

Taking advantage of an unfortunate system isn't evil.

Profiteering is (from a personal standpoint) the smartest course of action, and morally ambigious at worst.

Neek
2009-01-21, 03:28 AM
When it comes to progress, and inventions, there are a few things that limits it that I can think of:

1) Many known inventions makes inventing something new easier. This is especially true today, where computers help us design and test things without having to build them first. But this is also true back in them olden days. Certain math skills, like geometry, suddenly opened up new fields of progress.

2) Culture and Law of a society might hamper progress. A strong static culture is not the friend of the inventor.

3) Expanding point 2 above: If we consider not only inventions, but ideas and philosophies we can see that openness in the long run favours progress. Ancient Greece was full of great minds, but little came of it that really favoured progress (not counting the almighty democracy, open for all those 20% of the population that was free, male, greek :smallwink:) other than on a theoretic scale. Same with Alexandria, where the best of Greek and Egyptian culture melted together. But compare this to Rome: The influx of ideas and culture from all the known world, mixed together with not book knowledge and philosphy, but a desire for progress.

Consider the printing press; the first one used an olive press, a Greek invention, as the main mechanism that pressed ink blocks (made of wood or metal, metal preferred) onto a surface. The block concept itself was very ancient. This invention does not utilize brand new technologies, but old technologies re-innovated. All it takes the right kinds of mind in the right kinds of conditions.

This is meant to back your point up, not challenge it.


Please elaborate, because I have never heard this before. Since when is Polytheism not a religious belief? You must use a totally different definition of religion than I have ever heard of before.
I am totally confident that a Hindu or Shintoist finds his or her place in the world around us through his or her religion. The same was true for the followers of the Norse or Egyptian gods.

I attempted to write a long description about this, but I realized I might be wrong, especially if the racial gods created their people (Yondallah creating the halflings, Gruumsh creating the orcs, etc.) What I have a problem with, however, is that it that people do not run towards religion to comfort. This idea is a very modern concept. People used religion to explain the world, whether it was comforting or or not. (Sacrificing to the Aztec gods, especially to Tlaloc and Xipe Totec, were grudgingly done. Blood was needed to the gods to make the world work, whether they believes were horrified by the acts or not).


Riffington:
It might be that I am raised in a different society than you (I am not American) but I find your theory extremely flawed.

This is so wrong it is not even funny.

It is, obviously, the hardcore capitalist's viewpoint: Poor people die because they are stupid enough not to be rich.

The obvious way to figure out if people need something is to look at them and see what they actually need. I am not a communist, but to argue, effectively, that people freezing to death because they do not have the money to buy a generator, or die in famine because they cannot afford the rice, or die in disease because the medicine is too expensive, is proof that they actually did not need those things, is Evil.

His analysis isn't so highly capitalistic as it is just wrong. It assumes that those who need the most are those who can afford whatever they need. So people in wont of a heater obviously don't need it, like you said, because they aren't willing to spend whatever it takes to get it.

People who are poor are caught in a dilemma: is parting with subsistence for heat a trade-off? They might starve to death if they get heat, or they might starve to death but remain warm. Or is selling a child into slavery (an option for poor people in the ancient times) worth the obviously Evil act (or just wrong)? These are decisions that are hard to make, but by Riffington's statement, if they aren't willing to pay those prices, they obviously don't need it enough.


Profiteering is evil. Period. It does not matter if you sell directly to the poor sods in the disaster area, or if you jack up the prices to sell to the government, so that they can distribute for free.

Profiteering is defined as "The act of making an unreasonable profit not justified by the corresponding assumption of risk, or by doing so unethically," which more or less states that it is an Evil act.


Anyway, what I see in this situation on the alignment scale is:

Merchant selling at as high prices as he can (to government or public): Neutral Evil, or Lawful Evil (depending on what society's view of price gauging is)

A person who profiteers to the public is Neutral Evil. To the government, either Lawful (if in the intent that the cost must be this high, because the State needs it this badly) or Chaotic (if in the intent that the cost must be this high, because they're stupid enough to pay for it.)


Merchant selling at normal-ish prices: True Neutral

It would be a neutral act for a merchant to sell at zero-profit, or to maintain a minor profit over a long period, if it can maintain the same or afford him a better standard of living. But this is over a long period of time, rather than immediately.


Merchant selling to lower price: Neutral Good

But only to the public. When one sells to the State (such as to a local Lord to ensure he can maintain his militia or guards), and the intent is to help the organization that maintains order in the region, then it is also a Lawful act.

The rest I have of nothing of note to say (mind you, I am not disagreeing with you, just expanding on the points presented).


This is totally unfair. In "capitalist" nations, poor people may have small houses, but they don't die of poverty. In nations with heavy State control, poor people do die of poverty. Note when countries try "land-reform" or other forms of redistribution of wealth, famine frequently follows. When countries increase economic freedom, the result is more food for everyone.

This is not a matter of capitalism nor communism, but of aggressive industrialization where the infrastructure cannot support it. People died of starvation, lack of housing, unsafe factory, and others conditions from the early 19th to the early 20th century because of industrialization. Just that when the infrastructure finally caught up and put safeblocks, massive communist states were rising and were attempting to industrialize itself rapidly.

Pinochet was an avid capitalist, and believed in a free market system. And look what Chile was like under his rule. Economic systems are amoral, whether "State ran", "State oversaw," or "State totally ignored" it. It's the people who make the decisions.

As for Land Reform, it saved Ireland from the Potato Famine. These policies can be as good as they can be bad. Famine from communist-run land reforms result from a State that is too busy aggressively industrializing itself. Moreover, the infrastructure cannot support it. If you take a farmer's quite expansive land (in this example), and divide it amongst people, and the process takes longer than a growing season, then famine will occur because there's a season when the farms were not attended to during the switch. Moreover, if there are no reasonable methods of harvesting the crops in a timely fashion, or moving them in a timely fashion, then they rot.

It is unfair to assume that capitalism is inherently wrong. It's even worse to assume that communism is also inherently wrong: Both systems work as long as the infrastructure can support it, and provided that they do not operate unchecked over large areas, else we get problems like monopolies and robber-barons (like in the United States. Was that ever good for anyone?)


Perhaps it may be more obvious to me as an American. When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, they each held one share, and all property was owned communally. It was totally 'fair': "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." Naturally, for three years, they starved. They abandoned this system in 1623 out of despair at the waste and thievery it caused; now people could work their own land and keep the food they grew. The harvest in 1623 was so plentiful that the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving. A similar thing happened at Jamestown: after converting to a Capitalist system, people stopped starving. They noted afterwards, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."

Whoah. The Pilgrims didn't fail because they practiced communism, but because they became sick. About half died within the first five months, the rest were too weak to work the farms as well. During the worst of this, only a few were able to work all the farms. Don't try to turn the parables of the pilgrims and the "first" Thanksgiving into the success story of capitalism. It was being taught how to farm local crops and catch local fish that gave them their success, communal style living be damned. Never had I once heard nor read that the Pilgrims failed because they practiced a lifestyle close to communism, and capitalism is what saved them. They failed because of circumstance, succeeded by learning to live by adapting with the instruction of the natives.

As for Jamestown, all the colonists were simply not geared for the life that was expected from them to succeed: They were middle class people who came to the New World for the hopes of getting rich without much risk, by toppling another Quechua or Nahuatl empire. They failed because they thought they were too good to farm, and were more interested in prospecting gold mines that didn't exist. They succeeded because the powers that be forced them to act in line and tend to their land.

Neither parable should be pandered as examples of social experiments, because anyone who passed US History should be able to tell you the reasons why they failed and why they succeeded.


And the same has been true in so many other nations... when the government has more control, more people die of hunger.

And the Inca empire controlled how many crops every family made, and everyone was fed. Egypt was controlled by the Emperor during Imperial Rome, because it was his land, not the Senate's, and the grain was dolled to the masses in Rome at the Emperor's expense. The Spartans controlled the Helots as slaves, and they were unstoppable. Hell, among fiefs, the serfs were controlled by their lords, and they succeeded well enough to form empires that shaped Europe into the modern world. I'd be careful with your analysis.


But this is counterfactual. People die in famines in Communist nations all the time - in Capitalist nations, not so much. People do not freeze to death when they are free to buy a generator: someone is usually eager to sell them one. They freeze when someone stands at the top, deciding who deserves a generator. To say "this person needs to look at them and Decide what they actually need", when we know that the Decider will decide incorrectly (and often corruptly)... that is what is Evil.

People don't freeze to death in communist nations because the people at top determine who gets them or not. They wait until enough are produced, because they moved everyone out of their homes into apartment buildings that were built too quickly and lacked the comforts of the homes they had before. They wait until the factories can move them to distribution centers, who then fail to act as fast they should to help their fellow people. Rampant corruption and poor infrastructure is what makes this possible--and any nation is accountable for that.


You're confused how it works. The rich choose not to buy much more than they need when it's too expensive. It's not that they can't, it's that they won't want to. More importantly, the higher price means that entrepreneurs bring in more goods, so there are more to go around for everyone.

So the rich don't buy humvees when gas prices skyrocket, when a fuel efficient vehicle will do? The rich don't buy expensive clothing labels when the more plebian will do? Define too expensive, please. Because as far as I recollect, people's idea of how expensive an object is isn't based on absolute values, but relative values, as was stated before. An iPhone or an X-Box 360 is too expensive for most people, but yet they go out of their way to afford one, no matter what sort of debt or what sort of financial loss they get out of it. Just that when you're rich, the risk of a great financial loss from such a purchase is lessened.

More importantly, reasonable prices is what make the economy flourish. Cell phones were rich people toys because they were too expensive for the middle class consumer--it was this way from their inception in the 1970s (though the technologies that built the cell phone were patented after WW2) to the early 00s. It was when production and technology became so advanced, that they could be sold at a reasonable price to the average consumer, and that's when we got color screens, Bluetooth, cameras, MP3 players, etc. added to the product without considerably raising the prices.

The Model T was a success, on Ford's account, because he risked profit by finding a low-cost method of producing the vehicles and paying his employees far better than at other factories. The vehicles were sold at a reasonable price, and that is what took off the market.

If high price was a warrant for entrepreneurs, it wouldn't have taken thirty to fourty years for cell phones to become as popular as they were. The return is greater now that cell phones are cheaper than when they were more expensive.

Riffington
2009-01-21, 09:36 AM
[quote]
So people in wont of a heater obviously don't need it, like you said, because they aren't willing to spend whatever it takes to get it.
And yet, the people who die for want of a heater inevitably live in countries with a very-powerful State.

Or is selling a child into slavery
Obviously that is Evil. Selling yourself into indentured servitude is not.



This is not a matter of capitalism nor communism, but of aggressive industrialization
No. Land reform is not aggressive industrialization. It is taking land from the owners and dividing it up amongst the poor. It very frequently leads to starvation.



Pinochet
He believed in free markets, but not in free people. Accordingly, he managed to reduce unemployment, increase wealth, and reduce hunger. But he also murdered, tortured, and restricted speech. Obviously, the economic good he did could not make up for this evil.



As for Land Reform, it saved Ireland from the Potato Famine.
Irish Land Reforms (in a fairly minor form) took place in 1885 and 1903. The Potato Famine ended in 1852.



Whoah. The Pilgrims didn't fail because they practiced communism, but because they became sick.

Read what Bradford (who would later be governor) wrote at the time:

All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.


Rampant corruption and poor infrastructure is what makes this possible--and any nation is accountable for that.
The more power the State has, the more corruption it has.



So the rich don't buy humvees when gas prices skyrocket, when a fuel efficient vehicle will do? Sales of SUVs dropped 30% during the gas price increase of '08. A further gas price hike would surely drop them further.

It is certainly true (as you point out) that selling many goods at moderate prices to the mass market is more profitable than selling a few goods at huge prices to the rich. No disagreement there.

Avilan the Grey
2009-01-21, 10:05 AM
This is totally unfair. In "capitalist" nations, poor people may have small houses, but they don't die of poverty. In nations with heavy State control, poor people do die of poverty. Note when countries try "land-reform" or other forms of redistribution of wealth, famine frequently follows. When countries increase economic freedom, the result is more food for everyone. (And lots of more stuff)

I don't want this thread to be locked either, but I think you have misunderstood the situation.
My argument is the example I picket up on where you were discussing a disaster area (Plus I still think you have a slightly different definition of a Profiteer than most other people here). Profiteering in a disaster area is totally different (and easier) than for people to make long term profits and deliver goods to whoever buys them.

Profiteering in a disaster area does end badly for most people except the profiteer and those who have managed to assemble wealth despite the disaster, because of the normal (almost) self-regulating systems are not in place. If you are the only one that can provide food, and decide to sell a can of beans for $1000 (or a ruby) each, people will starve because poor people do not have enough money.
(Certain other situations causes the same problem, like the huge differences between rich and poor in pre-revolutionary France: "But why don't they eat cake!" as Paris Hilton Maria Antoinette said).

Again, I just wanted to point this out because it seems we are discussing different scenarios. If you are arguing about the general setup of a country, free trade and a basic capitalist market is good (as long as there are regulating forces to avoid monopol- and oligopol situations).

Avilan the Grey
2009-01-21, 10:16 AM
Consider the printing press; the first one used an olive press, a Greek invention, as the main mechanism that pressed ink blocks (made of wood or metal, metal preferred) onto a surface. The block concept itself was very ancient. This invention does not utilize brand new technologies, but old technologies re-innovated. All it takes the right kinds of mind in the right kinds of conditions.

This is meant to back your point up, not challenge it.


I understood.


I attempted to write a long description about this, but I realized I might be wrong, especially if the racial gods created their people (Yondallah creating the halflings, Gruumsh creating the orcs, etc.) What I have a problem with, however, is that it that people do not run towards religion to comfort. This idea is a very modern concept. People used religion to explain the world, whether it was comforting or or not. (Sacrificing to the Aztec gods, especially to Tlaloc and Xipe Totec, were grudgingly done. Blood was needed to the gods to make the world work, whether they believes were horrified by the acts or not).

I understand what you mean, but I only agree to a point. There is a certain level of comfort in knowing how the world works even if your god is GRIMDARK.


...Or is selling a child into slavery (an option for poor people in the ancient times) worth the obviously Evil act (or just wrong)? These are decisions that are hard to make, but by Riffington's statement, if they aren't willing to pay those prices, they obviously don't need it enough.

The Goths had to sell their children to the Romans for food and to be allowed to cross the river when they moved west to avoid the Huns. This was one of the main reasons they rebelled and managed to sack Rome AFAIK.



It would be a neutral act for a merchant to sell at zero-profit, or to maintain a minor profit over a long period, if it can maintain the same or afford him a better standard of living. But this is over a long period of time, rather than immediately.

I think it depends on the situation. A store owner selling his goods to a reasonable price, and can support himself and his family is not committing any kind of evil act, and personally even in a disaster situation, as long as he does not raise his prices, I can't see him committing one.


But only to the public. When one sells to the State (such as to a local Lord to ensure he can maintain his militia or guards), and the intent is to help the organization that maintains order in the region, then it is also a Lawful act.


You are correct.

Riffington
2009-01-21, 10:38 AM
where you were discussing a disaster area
Ok, let's try to stick to those and avoid big politics crap.
So I'm living a hundred miles from a hurricane, and I have a bunch of food in my warehouse. I even have some employees with horses. I'm contemplating whether it's worth risking the lives of my men in the hurricane to potentially save the lives of people in the area. How do I weigh one risk against another?

My answer is this: if the price of food has doubled in the stricken city, then the shortage is not so severe. It would be wrong to risk my men's lives. If the price of food has skyrocketed, then my men can make a tidy profit. If they think that profit is worth the risk, then I know it's time to let them go help out.



(Plus I still think you have a slightly different definition of a Profiteer than most other people here).

That may be fair. I've been defining it mostly by the Statute 501.160 of the Blue Roof State ("an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justifying the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends"). Perhaps there is a better definition (the definitions that have been provided simply say "unreasonable", "excessive" or "unfair", which of course fail to tell me what a fair or reasonable price during a disaster should be).



If you are the only one that can provide food,
Ok, this is the third time I will say it: it is wrong to abuse a monopoly position in a disaster. I support increases that reflect the intersection of the new supply and demand curves (and which therefore increase the supply of goods), not monopoly pricing.

Kalirren
2009-01-21, 12:12 PM
Ok, this is the third time I will say it: it is wrong to abuse a monopoly position in a disaster. I support increases that reflect the intersection of the new supply and demand curves (and which therefore increase the supply of goods), not monopoly pricing.


I'm just going to step in here and throw you a very important curve ball. We -are- discussing disaster areas, after all, and it's known that a disaster area is by its nature transient. There exists a gross discrepancy between the food suppliers, who really just can't move fast enough to cope with the new situation, and the starving populace both in terms of necessity and in terms of information.

Here comes the curveball. You say you would support increases that reflect the intersection of the new supply and demand curves: I respond that because of the gross discrepancies in information and the inherent instability of market dynamics after such a sudden perturbation of parameters, the supply and demand curves do not in fact exist. By the time the situation has stabilized enough for there to be a stable demand and supply curves, the situation is no longer a disaster area.

Given this, how do you justify anti-profiteering legislation at all, except by some assumption that the equilibrium as it was before the disaster struck is presumed to continue? What if it knocks out some major chunk of infrastructure, and there's a credible argument that the post-disaster equilibrium is going to be much more expensive than the pre-disaster equilibrium?

The reason why I ask that question in particular is that many people would consider profiteering evil. Here's my hypothetical, which I consider fairly reasonable:

Disaster strikes and FEMA is sucking. Joe Shmoe decides to get in on the business of disaster relief. He has access to supplies, but lacks significant amounts of capital. He has a horrible credit rating.

He pulls out the stops on his savings account, which is enough for him to rent a U-haul and go to his local wholesaler, and he trucks enough food and fuel to feed 200 people per day into Disaster Town. Now he has to sell stuff, and he has two choices, among others:

A) He could sell it at the pre-disaster equilibrium price, in which case he would make back what he spent, plus perhaps eough to cover fuel and truck rental, etc. He could do another run, but he wouldn't be able to finance a second person to do the same. Vey few other people are willing to take the business risk, and even when they do, Joe would lose more time and capital commuicating with them than he would gain by organizing their efforts. Joe ends up saving about 1000 people from starving.

B) He could sell it significantly above the pre-disaster equilirium price, in which case he would have enough money to organize a significantly larger relief effort, persuading friends to take time off, etc. Joe ends up saving about 10,000 people from starving, but really rips off the first 1000 people, who have already lost their homes, to do so.

Which, A) or B), is the better option? Which, if either, is profiteering? Which is good, which is evil, if either is more so than the other at this juncture?

If you want my opinion, I would choose option B, which I do think is profiteering, just because more people will survive. They might suffer, but they'll live, and their community will recover better for it. I think that sometimes the right course of action is what people would call evil.

What do -you- think?

The Neoclassic
2009-01-21, 12:53 PM
B) He could sell it significantly above the pre-disaster equilirium price, in which case he would have enough money to organize a significantly larger relief effort, persuading friends to take time off, etc. Joe ends up saving about 10,000 people from starving, but really rips off the first 1000 people, who have already lost their homes, to do so.

Which, A) or B), is the better option? Which, if either, is profiteering? Which is good, which is evil, if either is more so than the other at this juncture?

If you want my opinion, I would choose option B, which I do think is profiteering, just because more people will survive. They might suffer, but they'll live, and their community will recover better for it. I think that sometimes the right course of action is what people would call evil.

What do -you- think?

B is not profiteering if Joe does indeed put his money back into helping people and encouraging friends to come join him. It's closer to a nonprofit, with most profits going back into the business to do good.

What you present is a false dilemma. What if Joe does /not/ have good intentions? What if he takes that money from B but goes to live comfortably off of it until another opportune situation arises? I'm just saying; you've already excluded the possibility of Joe being primarily motivated by what is easiest and most profitable for him alone, so naturally if he wants to help people the choices are likely both going to be good-aligned acts.

Kalirren
2009-01-21, 01:13 PM
Queenfange, I agree with you completely; the example was constructed specifically in order to deconstruct Riffington's stance on supply/demand and his purported moral/ethical distinction between charging equilibrium price and monopoly price in disaster situations. For this purpose, it actually doesn't matter what Joe's intentions are, or how much he actually ends up walking away with at the end of the deal. It actually seems more likely to me that Joe will end up with more money in his pocket if he chooses option B) than option A) anyway, regardless of how many more people he saves. Large-scale operations do tend to make more money.

I readily concede that profiteering, as defined by charging excessive prices, can be done in both non-profit and for-profit contexts. You've illustrated my point. You think that there are situations in which what Riffington calls profiteering is not evil - this to a certain degree upsets Neek and Avilan's assertion that profiteering is inherently evil.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-21, 01:17 PM
Queenfange, I agree with you completely; the example was constructed specifically in order to deconstruct Riffington's stance on supply/demand and his purported moral/ethical distinction between charging equilibrium price and monopoly price in disaster situations. For this purpose, it actually doesn't matter what Joe's intentions are, or how much he actually ends up walking away with at the end of the deal.

I readily concede that profiteering, as defined by charging excessive prices, can be done in both non-profit and for-profit contexts. You've illustrated my point. You think that there are situations in which what Riffington calls profiteering is not evil - this to a certain degree upsets Neek and Avilan's assertion that profiteering is inherently evil.

OK, so it looks like we are mostly on the same page, but we define "profiteering" a little bit differently. Heck, if nothing else, I'm learning that so many words lack very clear, quantifiable, universal definitions. :smalltongue: I'm personally trying not to get involved in the straight up capitalism vs. communism debate. I've taken my intermediate economic theory courses, but I'm still no expert (and I don't want to get into an ugly argument, heh). So, yeah, we seem to understand each other as far as the alignment portion, and that is what matters here! *High-fives*

MickJay
2009-01-21, 01:40 PM
Crisis control - regulating prices in times of crisis is nothing new, this was done relatively often in ancient times as well (Roman state). If done poorly, result was even worse then "wild" capitalism (merchants could simly hold their goods in warehouses; riots were a common result).

As for selling children into slavery, in some circumstances this was the optimal solution for everyone involved (there was slightly more resources to feed the rest of family, and the child itself was more likely to survive the difficult times; not that the decision itself wasn't often extremely difficult to make). Note that in ancient and medieaval times a "slave" could be anything from a mine worker with life expectancy of less than a year, a farm worker, a household servant and the lucky few could rise up to be high ranking officials in ruler's direct service, depending on time and place. Many trained specialists in the Roman Empire (doctors or architects, for example) were slaves and usually better off than many "free" men.

Neek
2009-01-21, 02:08 PM
I will begin by reiterating: Neither option is worse than the other, what makes the difference is the ability of the nations to accept it and exercise it properly in its infrastructure.


No. Land reform is not aggressive industrialization. It is taking land from the owners and dividing it up amongst the poor. It very frequently leads to starvation.

I never said land reform IS aggressive industrialization. You assume it's why famine happens in communist states, not because of a failing infrastructure that cannot collect, store, and distribute crops to the population as a whole. This is coupled that if you remove the farmers from their land and spend a growing season dividing it up and moving the new farmhands over there. You lose a season, with a lost surplus from proper storage of food. Land reform isn't the only cause of their famines.


He believed in free markets, but not in free people. Accordingly, he managed to reduce unemployment, increase wealth, and reduce hunger. But he also murdered, tortured, and restricted speech. Obviously, the economic good he did could not make up for this evil.

It still proves that it's the policies the government makes regarding its people, not the economic model it chooses to follow, that governs a nation's success.


Irish Land Reforms (in a fairly minor form) took place in 1885 and 1903. The Potato Famine ended in 1852.

That was my bad. The famines of the early 1840-1850 led into the issue of land reform, which was thought to alleviate the issue at hand. Which I believe, in this instance, wasn't a bad idea.


Read what Bradford (who would later be governor) wrote at the time:

I did. It's a nice musing of Bradford's, but it doesn't change the fact that the colony's success was hinged on its ability to adapt to the local surroundings, with the help of the natives, nor that its near failure was the result of disease, lack of supplies, and lack of proper shelter.

This attestation is constantly pandered by capitalists to present why communism or socialism is inherently wrong--and it would work did it exist in a vacuum. Whatever Bradford's thoughts to the failure of his communal living is irrelevant, because the colony neither faltered nor succeeded on socialism or capitalism attempt (which wasn't his intent at the time; economic theory was poorly understood at the time. He just tried whatever came best to him and his people. This isn't a reflection of superiority of one system or another--he wasn't testing them--he was only reacting to the desires of the people as a whole, which was already practicing limited forms capitalism).


It is certainly true (as you point out) that selling many goods at moderate prices to the mass market is more profitable than selling a few goods at huge prices to the rich. No disagreement there.

Then we can agree there :smallwink:.


I readily concede that profiteering, as defined by charging excessive prices, can be done in both non-profit and for-profit contexts. You've illustrated my point. You think that there are situations in which what Riffington calls profiteering is not evil - this to a certain degree upsets Neek and Avilan's assertion that profiteering is inherently evil.

I'm not upset by your description, but I'm curious about one thing: if you don't intend on making a profit from profiteering, then does it cease to be profiteering (because the intent of profiteering isn't to generate a maximum inflow of money when the risk is not justified, but to generate the maximum profit when the risk is not justified.) That might be too indepth with semantics, but meh.

Riffington
2009-01-21, 03:08 PM
the supply and demand curves do not in fact exist. By the time the situation has stabilized enough for there to be a stable demand and supply curves, the situation is no longer a disaster area.

They always exist. They may be changing more rapidly than usual, and are certainly not "stable".

Given this, how do you justify anti-profiteering legislation at all,[/quote]
I don't. I think that anti-profiteering legislation hampers our ability to respond to disasters and costs lives.


A) He could sell it at the pre-disaster equilibrium price, in which case he would make back what he spent, plus perhaps eough to cover fuel and truck rental, etc. He could do another run, but he wouldn't be able to finance a second person to do the same. Vey few other people are willing to take the business risk, and even when they do, Joe would lose more time and capital commuicating with them than he would gain by organizing their efforts. Joe ends up saving about 1000 people from starving.

B) He could sell it significantly above the pre-disaster equilirium price, in which case he would have enough money to organize a significantly larger relief effort, persuading friends to take time off, etc. Joe ends up saving about 10,000 people from starving, but really rips off the first 1000 people, who have already lost their homes, to do so.

In contrast to Queenfange, I believe that choice B is profiteering. Once you have made a profit, you can spend it on chocolate, give it to charity, or burn it... doesn't change the fact that selling food at exorbitant prices during a disaster would have been illegal in many places.

However, I don't think that he ripped off the first 1000 people. He helped them out, by selling them food that they really wanted. This was (slightly) Good, even if he spent his profits on booze afterwards. The fact that he rolled the profits into further relief efforts made his Good deed much better.

horseboy
2009-01-21, 04:05 PM
I wouldn't say littering is "evil" but if we are talking about a spectrum here, yes, it errs on the evil side. Barely onto the evil side, but it is careless, harmful to the environment, and injuring the aesthetics of shared property. If an act lacks positive intent and its consequences are purely negative (no one benefits from littering, for example), then it is an evil act (though I'm sure there are realistic exceptions due to extenuating circumstances).
Anyone else getting flash backs to The Punisher's first appearance, where he was shooting at litterbugs.

Why would you think that? People get away with crimes quite regularly, even heinous ones; do some research on how many murders go unsolved each year, and how long some serial killers have gone uncaught.Not to mention those that do get caught but found innocent because "Such good boys couldn't be guilty of that." Even after admitting in court they emptied a shotgun twice into their mother. Who-ray for not dumping Cha.

Secondly, respect for the dead. There is this idea in many socieites that the body has some inherent or spiritual value even after they have died. I think a lot of it is a sentimental or emotional thing, perhaps because a dead body is a reminder of death. And then there is the whole dignity thing, though after any awareness has passed, it doesn't seem like the soul would be sticking around to care. (Note this is all assuming typical D&D afterlife circumstances.) So, I'm going to say, this is not a particularly convincing argument given that the soul and hence all that person's dignity and thinking is bouncing around on an Outer Plane somewhere and lacks any connection to its former body.
Actually it has more to do with the belief that the dead will one day not be dead and will need their bodies. This becomes doubly true in a world where the dead can actually, factually rise for just a few diamonds.

It would seem that this is primarily the best price for the supplier. Those who pay this price may meet a short-term need, but they will suffer for it down the road. Once the disaster is over, the supplier is better off; everybody else is worse off as a result of overpaying for gas, generators, or whatever. Those who couldn't afford the new price, regardless of need, are potentially even worse off.Well, usually the guy that spend $2000 on the generator brings it back, and pays a 10% restocking fee. The poor guy then buys the Open Box generator for $400 so he's ready next time. So in the end the rich guy has his money back (What he values most), the poor guy has something that he prior couldn't afford to by so he's happy and the store netted the same amount of profit. Everybody is happy. Man, I've been in retail too long.


As to the OP's question about why do people play Stupid Evil I believe there's three reasons:

1) The psychological impact of having "Evil" written on character sheet.
2) The Alignment system rewards consistency. If you consistently pet the puppy, you are good. You consistently kick the puppy, you are bad. If you sometimes kick the puppy and sometimes pet the puppy you wind up neutral. Given how detrimental an alignment change can be mechanically to a character, many players stay well within alignment confines out of habit to make sure the DM doesn't bjork their character.
3) Blowing stuff up is fun. It's how Michael Bay stays employed. Bonus RP XP for laughing maniacally while the DM describes the fire consuming the town and everyone running for their insignificant lives.

As to trying to make the alignment rules make any amount of sense, especially in the real world, well, there's no doing that. They're completely nonsensical.

Kalirren
2009-01-21, 06:49 PM
[The supply and demand curves] always exist. They may be changing more rapidly than usual, and are certainly not "stable".

You never really answered my objection, other than to assert your position. I will repeat it more explicitly.

When the price index (not to mention individual commodity prices) is fluctuating with a speed comparable to that of transaction, to pin down the extremely rapid fluctations in the supply and demand curves in situations far from equilibrium would require detailed information about the purchasing and supplying options available to individual agents that are generally unable to coordinate. Such practically godlike knowledge of the situation would obviate the use of the concept of free-market equilibirum anyway.

If you're wondering why I harp this point, I've taken classes from a professor at my university who studies the process of convergence onto competitive equilibrium. I've had the graphs on his posters explained to me. I have to say that the idea that the supply and demand curves exist and are well-behaved (i.e. monotonic, differentiable, etc.) during a process of convergence, such as that of the limited supply flux during a disaster relief operation, seems absolutely ridiculous. That is a process so far from equilibrium and so dependent upon imbalances in ungaugeable variables like information that the wanton application of the results of equilibrium free-market approximations seems both irresponsible and invalid.

I do not find your position tenable. Enlighten me, if you would please.

Riffington
2009-01-21, 08:35 PM
When the price index (not to mention individual commodity prices) is fluctuating with a speed comparable to that of transaction, to pin down the extremely rapid fluctations in the supply and demand curves in situations far from equilibrium would require detailed information about the purchasing and supplying options available to individual agents that are generally unable to coordinate. Such practically godlike knowledge of the situation would obviate the use of the concept of free-market equilibirum anyway.


Hrm, tell me where we break down:
1. The optimum price is the intersection of the supply and demand curves.
2. But the demand curve is shifting insanely rapidly.
3. In situations where the demand curve shifts at a moderate or even fast pace, a free market system is better able to describe the point of intersection than the most brilliant central planner. In situations where the demand curve is essentially-immobile, the central planners do ok.
4. Therefore, it stands to reason that when the demand curve is shifting so rapidly as in a disaster, a central planner would be at his worst.

I'd be interested to see where exactly you disagree. If your professor has empirical data that shows an improvement in central planners' performance when situations are in tremendous flux, I'd be interested in that as well.

Assassin89
2009-01-21, 08:43 PM
In order to stop discussion about basic economics, how would you call throwing other party members down a well and then asking for payment in order for the party member to come back up?

Myou
2009-01-21, 08:57 PM
In order to stop discussion about basic economics, how would you call throwing other party members down a well and then asking for payment in order for the party member to come back up?

I'd call that asking for a knife in the back from the rest of the party.

Shosuro Ishii
2009-01-21, 09:45 PM
In order to stop discussion about basic economics, how would you call throwing other party members down a well and then asking for payment in order for the party member to come back up?

That's arguable evil.

However, if you come across someone in a well, and demand money to rescue him, that isn't evil.

monty
2009-01-21, 10:50 PM
That's arguable evil.

However, if you come across someone in a well, and demand money to rescue him, that isn't evil.

Unless you're Sting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Bart), of course.

Kalirren
2009-01-22, 12:50 PM
I'd be interested to see where exactly you disagree. If your professor has empirical data that shows an improvement in central planners' performance when situations are in tremendous flux, I'd be interested in that as well.

Prof. Plott is an experimental economist at Caltech who studies the process of convergence onto competitive equilibrium, among other things. As far as I know, he seems to take great wonder in the fact that the whole economic system converges onto anything at all. I don't know of any specific experiments that he has done regarding the influence of central planning upon the convergence of the market to equilibrium. It seems to me that he regards the market as the method to solve that horrendous system of interlocked constraints that we call the supply and demand functions.

I do know that most of his experiments are set up such that agents act to maximize -profit-, not to fulfill -need- as is more relevant to our case at hand, so I doubt we will find an applicable study from his previous work. The framework I've outlined below does suggest various testable hypotheses, though.

With that, I proceed to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of your argument:



1. The optimum price is the intersection of the supply and demand curves.

1a. How can you talk about supply and demand "curves", defined as the quantity supplied/demanded as a function of price, if price is not stable from transaction to transaction?

1b. Define "optimum". Even if the supply and demand curves did exist in any meaningful manner, social welfare is not necessarily a function of price in a disaster situation; it is more a function of the efficiency of -distribution-. There is no guarantee that even a stable price would efficiently distribute resources.


2. But the demand curve is shifting insanely rapidly.

2. Actually, while it is more or less useless to talk about a demand curve, the quantity demanded for necessities is fairly constant in a disaster situation. Take food for example. You take the number of affected and displaced people and you multiply by the amount of food an average person consumes. There's your first approximation to a quantity demanded for food: a linear function of a constant population, which works out to a constant function. On the other hand, the price index -is- fluctuating rapidly because supply is presumed by the afflicted population to be much, much less than demand at any given instant. This is an instance where you have a relatively stable demand but a relatively unstable pricing structure; the use of pricing to determine the distribution is thereby inefficient.

Some difficulty in determining the demand starts to arise when you start taking hoarding of supplies into account due to a perceived inconsistency in supply. I actually don't know if this phenomenon in particular has been studied, but this goes back to my original point - to finalize the demand curve, you would need to know how much each individual thinks they need to hoard, which is dependent upon how consistent everyone thinks the supply is, and how much they trust other people not to hoard, etc. The amount of infomation required to determine this is essentially godlike.

However, we do know that the more consistent supply is, the less will be demanded. This, in general, is why responsibility for disaster relief is often delegated to central planning agencies, despite their notorious inefficiency at dealing with pricing in general. We are simply not using pricing to distribute goods. A competent central planning agency will instead be able to do that multiplication problem and figure out the logistics of getting a continuous stream of basic supplies into the area to prevent a disastrous demand surge caused by people feeling the need to hoard supplies. This is something that individual agents will often not be prepared to do.


3. In situations where the demand curve shifts at a moderate or even fast pace, a free market system is better able to describe the point of intersection than the most brilliant central planner. In situations where the demand curve is essentially-immobile, the central planners do ok.

3. This holds when the price is shifting quickly relative to individuals' ability to change their supply and demand functions, but not when any estimate of price is shifting quickly relative to the average time between individual transactions. This is the pricing equivalent of crossing the boundary between classical and quantum phenomena in physics.

An example of a market that constantly ride closes to this boundary is real estate, where the average time between individual transactions is on the order of a day. The very existence of the realty industry is evidence of the gross pricing inefficiency that occurs in such contexts - realtors make a profit by exploiting the pricing inefficiencies caused by their having more information about the market than any individual buyer or seller.


4. Therefore, it stands to reason that when the demand curve is shifting so rapidly as in a disaster, a central planner would be at his worst.

4. Already answered that one. See #2.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-22, 01:43 PM
In order to stop discussion about basic economics, how would you call throwing other party members down a well and then asking for payment in order for the party member to come back up?

I'm going to go with fairly straight-forward evil, unless there is something weird going on (like said party member who was thrown down the well had recently tried to kill you).

mikej
2009-01-22, 01:56 PM
mature players can pull off CE, NE, and LE well. As the DM I allow players that I feel are mature enough to play evil characters to add depth into the game. I do see a lot of things being done ( like chaotic stupid ) because of alignment and such player bringing that up to sneak in that he/she " was " playing by the rules. Its worse if such player is a caster of some kind and spends most the time finding stuff to annoy fellow PCs.

Anti-Hero is the safe bet, they can do good acts but with unsavory methods. tend to have there morals blurred and think there doing the good.

right now I'm currently playing a CE character, if she needs to perform something evil then its done in private. she works with the fellow party members since her goals are united and ruining that will hamper her ultimate goals. when combat arrives she lets loose and shows her cold lust for killing.

hamishspence
2009-01-22, 02:10 PM
it may depend on the setting, but sometimes the antihero can be even less safe to be around than the Heroic Sociopath.

Example: Deathstalker novel setting: Jack Random is more of an antihero- willing to do whatever it takes for his cause- revolution and freedom. when his side wins, but are forced to make shady deals in the process, he goes along with it, until eventually he gets fed up with all the compromising and gets very dangerous- killing off most of the government.

Ruby Journey is a Heroic Sociopath- likes killing, only in it for the loot, total mercenary, but when Jack slughters most of the government, the survivors hire her to deal with him.

The point is, an antihero Well Intentioned Extremist, even if he isn't as cruel as the more traditional Evil character, might get more dangerous to be around.

Reactional#22
2009-01-22, 02:51 PM
See I gets the wonderful people who feel the strange odd urge to be the same person in Dn'D as in real life, meaning of course they're chaotic evil, and then the strange one who it recreating Dritz (sp. something to do with a book that I don't like and that is pronounced that way and has something else to do with having a big sword and no constitution). I have a feeling we might just be incapable of understanding the concept of neutral, or good for that matter.

I prefer CN (Mercy? you want mercy? I'm chaotic neutral!) cause at least it allows room to waver back and forth and you can just pretend you're good all the time. Though since most of us have those devilish thoughts in the back of our heads, that doesn't always work. That's what happens when I let people who don't know what they're doing create their characters. I wanna laugh at them, and then watch them die slow, horribly painful deaths. That's what they get for being CE. And eating my cookies!

~Mokona~

monty
2009-01-22, 03:20 PM
(Mercy? you want mercy? I'm chaotic neutral!)

This is one of the major problems of the alignment system, in my opinion. People think of it as a straitjacket that forces their character to make certain decisions.

The way it should work, your character defines your alignment. Your alignment doesn't define your character. Well, unless you're a paladin, but who cares about them?

hamishspence
2009-01-22, 03:24 PM
Even paladins vary a lot- paladin of Sune, Goddess of Love, will not be quite the same as paladin of Kelemvor, God of Death.

the code determines what they can't do and still remain a paladin. Aside from that, they can do things differently depending on personality.

Riffington
2009-01-22, 05:15 PM
Prof. Plott is an experimental economist at Caltech who studies the process of convergence onto competitive equilibrium, among other things. As far as I know, he seems to take great wonder in the fact that the whole economic system converges onto anything at all. I don't know of any specific experiments that he has done regarding the influence of central planning upon the convergence of the market to equilibrium. It seems to me that he regards the market as the method to solve that horrendous system of interlocked constraints that we call the supply and demand functions.

Cool. Took a quick look at some of his work, he's a smart guy.



1a. How can you talk about supply and demand "curves", defined as the quantity supplied/demanded as a function of price, if price is not stable from transaction to transaction?

1b. Define "optimum". Even if the supply and demand curves did exist in any meaningful manner, social welfare is not necessarily a function of price in a disaster situation; it is more a function of the efficiency of -distribution-. There is no guarantee that even a stable price would efficiently distribute resources.

As near as I can tell, Plott actually agrees with me on 1a/b.



quantity demanded for necessities is fairly constant in a disaster situation.

People have varying levels of food stockpiles prior to any disaster. Do you propose to give equal amounts to everyone regardless of their stockpile size? Go house to house and catalog or seize everyone's canned foods?

Now take an example other than food. Gasoline use varies tremendously. I'd like to fill my tank prior to leaving a hurricane. Unless the attendant stops me or gas is $10/gallon, I will fill up.
And after the hurricane abates, I want a contractor to fix my roof. So does everyone else, so to get enough contractors to move into the state, prices will increase.



The amount of infomation required to determine this is essentially godlike.


In fact, the amount of information required to manufacture a pencil is essentially godlike. This is higher by many orders of magnitude.


This, in general, is why responsibility for disaster relief is often delegated to central planning agencies, despite their notorious inefficiency at dealing with pricing in general.
We do, unfortunately. Central agencies played a much larger role in, say, Katrina than in the 2008 Midwestern floods. The results speak for themselves.
Also see http://www.be.wvu.edu/divecon/econ/sobel/All%20Pubs%20PDF/The%20Political%20Economy%20of%20FEMA%20Disaster%2 0Payments.pdf


3. This holds when the price is shifting quickly relative to individuals' ability to change their supply and demand functions, but not when any estimate of price is shifting quickly relative to the average time between individual transactions.
This is a fair criticism. Unfortunately, the central planners can't deal with this problem any better than individuals can. Actually, if you can solve this problem, I'd like to invest in your hedge fund.

Kalirren
2009-01-22, 07:20 PM
As near as I can tell, Plott actually agrees with me on 1a/b.
How can he possibly agree with you when you haven't actually said anything in response to 1a/b? You can't agree with a null.


People have varying levels of food stockpiles prior to any disaster. Do you propose to give equal amounts to everyone regardless of their stockpile size? Go house to house and catalog or seize everyone's canned foods?

I think that the chief purpose of an central disaster relief agency, succinctly stated, is to provide the logistical support necessary to avert humanitarian disaster and rebuild damaged infrastructure. In the case of food, the situation is really little different from all of the cargo vehicles having simultaneous breakdowns. In either case, the needed response is to get a constant, steady, and large supply into the area to forestall the rise of emergency hoarding demand. Goods can be distributed by rationing, or by filling supermarket shelves; in either case, as long as the total amount of food injected into the disaster area is sufficient, a reasonably stable market can develop, where people who have stored more can sell, or give in return for social capital, etc. The fact that people have different stockpiles is not problematic, and there is absolutely no need to exhaustively catalog what people have. Enough supplies distributed is enough. Not enough is a problem.



Now take an example other than food. Gasoline use varies tremendously. I'd like to fill my tank prior to leaving a hurricane. Unless the attendant stops me or gas is $10/gallon, I will fill up.

I'm afraid I don't understand your point. This still doesn't change the core of the argument; a large central planning agency is just bigger, and more logistically powerful. As such it is better able to respond to the predicted impulse spike in demand in gasoline before the disaster for the exact same reason that it is able to provide a constant stream of supplies in the immediate aftermath of the disaster itself.


And after the hurricane abates, I want a contractor to fix my roof. So does everyone else, so to get enough contractors to move into the state, prices will increase.

I never denied that the equilibrium after the disaster would be different. At that point, we're back to (a new) competitive equilibrium, and profiteering is hard just as it was before the disaster struck. The increase in the price of contracting services is perfectly justifiable.

My question remains: how can an ethical/moral sanction based upon competitive equilibrium ("I support increases that reflect the intersection of the new supply and demand curves, not monopoly pricing") be evaluated during a time in which that equilibrium has been disrupted to the point where it no longer is a good description for the situation at hand, and where great uncertainty in supply characterizes the system? Without good information about supply, how can one distinguish a monopoly price from a non-monopoly price? If you cannot make that distinction, then your moral/ethical division falls apart.



In fact, the amount of information required to manufacture a pencil is essentially godlike. This is higher by many orders of magnitude.

I'm talking about -market- information, not physical information, if that wasn't obvious. I don't think they're comparable, and if you have useful ways of comparing the two, I'd like to hear about it.


We do, unfortunately. Central agencies played a much larger role in, say, Katrina than in the 2008 Midwestern floods. The results speak for themselves.
Also see http://www.be.wvu.edu/divecon/econ/sobel/All%20Pubs%20PDF/The%20Political%20Economy%20of%20FEMA%20Disaster%2 0Payments.pdf

We know that FEMA was both corrupt and mismanaged. The article you linked to goes into depth about exactly how this is. If your argument is that central planning agencies are inevitably corrupt, that's a different issue, which I will have to rebut by pointing out the reasonably quick and effective response of the Chinese Communist government to the earthquake in Sichuan, despite the widespread corruption of the Party.

Arguably the reason why the 2008 disaster response was so much better was that FEMA had already lost its credibility, so more state and local governments took action faster because they knew they couldn't count on FEMA's money. -Someone- had to be responsible for large-scale logistics.


This is a fair criticism. Unfortunately, the central planners can't deal with this problem any better than individuals can. Actually, if you can solve this problem, I'd like to invest in your hedge fund.

I think you've missed my point. Central planners don't even have to be governmental. A realtor is exactly one such, acting as a third party and coordinating the transactions of many buyers and sellers, making a profit off of pricing inefficiencies in exchange for speeding up the total flow of transaction. They just call it taking commissions. I don't run a hedge fund. Go buy stock in a real estate agency.

Riffington
2009-01-22, 08:47 PM
How can he possibly agree with you when you haven't actually said anything in response to 1a/b? You can't agree with a null.
He can (and I suspect does) agree that "The optimum price is the intersection of the supply and demand curves," and likely disagrees with your responses 1a/b. My later points are more controversial, and might make sense.


Enough supplies distributed is enough. Not enough is a problem. Sure, so long as the disaster is small in scale. If the disaster is large in scale, distributing too many supplies to one town means that some other town starves.



I never denied that the equilibrium after the disaster would be different. At that point, we're back to (a new) competitive equilibrium, and profiteering is hard just as it was before the disaster struck. The increase in the price of contracting services is perfectly justifiable.
Yet anti-profiteering laws prohibit such increases. I am glad you agree they are destructive.



Without good information about supply, how can one distinguish a monopoly price from a non-monopoly price?

Two ways:
1. If there is neither monopoly nor collusion, then monopolistic behavior is impossible.
2. If one sells nearly all one's stockpiles of a good, then one did not set a monopolist price. If one's stockpiles remain high, one must look hard at oneself and ask "self, if there were another seller (and we each had half my original amount of goods), would I have lowered my prices much?" Or did I just misjudge the extent of the disaster?


Arguably the reason why the 2008 disaster response was so much better was that FEMA had already lost its credibility, so more state and local governments took action faster because they knew they couldn't count on FEMA's money. -Someone- had to be responsible for large-scale logistics.
I'd claim it's because more individuals took action faster, and faced less government interference.


Go buy stock in a real estate agency.
No thanks :)

Kalirren
2009-01-24, 03:32 AM
He can (and I suspect does) agree that "The optimum price is the intersection of the supply and demand curves," and likely disagrees with your responses 1a/b. My later points are more controversial, and might make sense.(emphases mine)

So what you really mean is that you suspect he agrees with you and likely disagrees with me. For what it's worth, I suspect that he would think your principled, rationalized position to completely miss the point of his experimentally-oriented research. Having actually taken a class from him, I think I'm justified in saying that I know him, his views, and his approach better than you do.

You -still- haven't actually responded to 1a/b, by the way. I'm waiting. I've got things to do over the weekend, but I'll be checking. Perhaps we ought to get a new thread.


If the disaster is large in scale, distributing too many supplies to one town means that some other town starves.
That doesn't really count as distribution, now, does it? If you were in charge of a disaster relief organization and you called that kind of gross misappropriation of resources "distribution", I would have grounds to move for your removal on charges of negligence of your civic duty.



The increase in the price of contracting services is perfectly justifiable.
Yet anti-profiteering laws prohibit such increases. I am glad you agree they are destructive.
Have you forgotten your own definition of profiteering? Specifically, the clause that begins, "unless the seller can justify the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends"? That is what I -meant- by the price increase being justifiable. Prices aren't just going up locally. They're going up nationwide as well (and I say nationwide because that's usually how far a currency extends.) As contractors move in to the disaster area, what's happening elsewhere? Surely you don't -expect- the price to stay constant when the contractors have a practically guaranteed source of revenue from the disaster, which is what you would be arguing if you claimed that anti-profiteering laws prohibited such an increase? No, they have far more negotiating power with their other clients now. Prices will naturally increase, and they will increase over the board.




Without good information about supply, how can one distinguish a monopoly price from a non-monopoly price?
Two ways:
1. If there is neither monopoly nor collusion, then monopolistic behavior is impossible.

In a situation where demand far exceeds supply, any individual supplier is likely to hold more control over the market than any individual buyer. This fact alone would be enough to rationalize an oligopolistic model of the market, which by your supposed moral/ethical standard is still unacceptable because it isn't competitive equilibrium. Are you opposed to profiteering or not?



2. If one sells nearly all one's stockpiles of a good, then one did not set a monopolist price. If one's stockpiles remain high, one must look hard at oneself and ask "self, if there were another seller (and we each had half my original amount of goods), would I have lowered my prices much?" Or did I just misjudge the extent of the disaster?

I know why you say this. In conditions close to competitive equilbrium, where supply and demand are of roughly the same order of magnitude, the only way for a monopolist to maximize his profit is indeed to restrict supply. One can therefore infer that if one's supply is exhausted, one did not sell a monopolist price.

This result does not hold when demand far exceeds supply, as is the case in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In such a case, a monopolist's way to maximize profit involves selling all of the inventory he has at the highest price possible. This criterion is invalid.



I'd claim it's because more individuals took action faster, and faced less government interference.
Well, now it boils down to your plausible explanation against mine, and since neither of us seems willing to look up evidence, I suppose it will stay that way.

Honestly, what sort of a debate do you think we're having here? You quote me out of context to make rhetorical stabs, you don't respond to my points when they compromise your position, and you misapply your own definitions of critical concepts at issue. How can you expect to convince me (or anyone else who happens to be lurking this conversation) of your position?

Riffington
2009-01-24, 08:20 AM
Honestly, what sort of a debate do you think we're having here? You quote me out of context to make rhetorical stabs, you don't respond to my points when they compromise your position, and you misapply your own definitions of critical concepts at issue. How can you expect to convince me (or anyone else who happens to be lurking this conversation) of your position?

I don't do any of those things. We're done here.

The Neoclassic
2009-01-24, 12:37 PM
mature players can pull off CE, NE, and LE well. As the DM I allow players that I feel are mature enough to play evil characters to add depth into the game.

Yup, same here. I entirely agree.


Anti-Hero is the safe bet, they can do good acts but with unsavory methods. tend to have there morals blurred and think there doing the good.

I've yet to have a player play a strong anti-hero, and I'm curious how that would work out.


right now I'm currently playing a CE character, if she needs to perform something evil then its done in private. she works with the fellow party members since her goals are united and ruining that will hamper her ultimate goals. when combat arrives she lets loose and shows her cold lust for killing.

Sounds like a good way to run a nonstupid CE character to me!

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-24, 01:15 PM
We currently have a kobold lycanthrope in our party, and while he's for the most part amiable, he has an irritating tendency to kill things while the party argues. He was apparently Chaotic Neutral until the party (this was before I joined) encountered a pair of baby werewolves, shortly after dispatching their parents. While the party debated killing them or sparing them, the kobold snuck behind the party's back and killed the pups because he thought the arguing was taking too long.

Now recently we ran into the same conundrum, this time with me in the party, and this time with a wounded mother griffin (we did the wounding). Once again, he tried to sneak behind the party's back because he thought the argument was taking too long, only this time we caught him, reprimanded him for taking things into his own hands without consulting the rest of us, and then made sure he had his say in the debate. We eventually tried to negotiate with the griffin, but she naturally went hostile and we had to put her down before handing over her eggs to the local empress.

Now that he's been outed as Chaotic Evil though, we need to deal with him, especially since I'm a paladin. At the moment we're trying to encourage him to limit his evil tendencies and behave himself better, as well as seeking an Atonement spell, to which he is agreeing to do.

Is this Stupid Evil or not? He appears to be sincere about mending his ways, and he made sure to go away from people for his first transformation. Give him a second chance?

Kalirren
2009-01-24, 06:10 PM
Honestly, what sort of a debate do you think we're having here? You quote me out of context to make rhetorical stabs, you don't respond to my points when they compromise your position, and you misapply your own definitions of critical concepts at issue. How can you expect to convince me (or anyone else who happens to be lurking this conversation) of your position?

I don't do any of those things. We're done here.

...Wow, that's hilarious. That comment alone made the effort of the entire debate worth it to me. :smallcool:



Now that he's been outed as Chaotic Evil though, we need to deal with him, especially since I'm a paladin. At the moment we're trying to encourage him to limit his evil tendencies and behave himself better, as well as seeking an Atonement spell, to which he is agreeing to do.

Is this Stupid Evil or not? He appears to be sincere about mending his ways, and he made sure to go away from people for his first transformation. Give him a second chance?

Well...it certainly displays at least some sense of situational judgment on part of both character and player, so even if it -is- rooted in stupid evil, it's at least mitigated by an awareness of context. What I'm guessing is that the player is attempting to address the premise conflict between the characters, which is really completely natural. From what you describe, I can't say that anything out of line has been done.

As for the characters, I'd strongly advise that the paladin try to find a cure for the kobold's lycanthropy. It both removes an excuse for the kobold to act CE and shows a certain willingness to help; of course, how proud -is- the kobold of hs lycanthropy? That might be another source of premise conflict that needs to be addressed.

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-01-24, 06:14 PM
According to previous events related by the DM (I was not with the party when this happened) he refused to take belladonna after the werewolf encounter. I don't know how important the lycanthropy is to the CHARACTER, but I know that the character's PLAYER specifcally wanted to by a lycan. We've talked to him in character and out of character, and he seems to be willing to do whatever is neccesary to keep his lycanthropy and keep the group together, including my paladin.