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isauteikisa
2009-07-22, 11:39 AM
Hey guys. I'm currently DMing my first campaign (3.5, anywhere between 5-7 players depending on work schedules), and I recently put the group in a situation which caused them to all shift one step toward Evil. However, I'm second guessing myself, and I'd like your opinion on what happened and the result before I have to change things around because of their new alignments.

Background: The party has been recruited by the captain of the guard to eliminate the threat of an attack from the Grumesh orc tribe, which is located several days ride north of the home city of this campaign. Our party readily agrees, especially a half-elf ranger whose family was murdered by this very tribe. Upon reaching the area, they found a large encampment surrounded by wooden walls. After killing two patrols and a dire lion belonging to the chief of this tribe (due to an ill-advised use of signal flares that were found on some scouts), the party is now in the situation of having to take out the orcs residing in this encampment.

The situation that caused the shift: The party did not do any real scouting of the encampment, other than determining that there were several cottages with thatched roofs and wooden walls inside the walls of the encampment. Upon noticing this, they planned to burn down the city by shooting makeshift fire arrows and throwing alchemist's fire over the walls onto the roofs of the buildings. They rolled very well (and the sentries stationed on the walls rolled very poorly), and most of the buildings in the encampment caught fire rapidly.

What the party DIDN'T know was that, in addition to the warriors of this tribe, the encampment was home to the women and children of the tribe, that are now trapped in burning cottages with the roofs collapsing on top of them. Several of them have already died due to these collapses, and many others are trapped. This killing and reckless endangerment of innocents was enough, in my opinion to warrant a one-step shift toward Evil for all the party members involved.

My question is: was I too harsh on them? They did run in and burn the encampment down without thinking about potential innocents in there, but these orcs were the target of their mission. One of my primary concerns is that this has caused the party healer (cleric) to move too far from his god's alignment, and has now lost all of his powers. This is going to have dire consequences for the party in the coming encounter, and I'm going to have to shift several things around in the story to accomodate the party's new makeup.


tl:dr - is burning down a 'fort' that contains innocents worth a shift to Evil if you didn't consider the possibility that there were innocents present?

Mr.Moron
2009-07-22, 11:42 AM
I'd say that's the sort of thing that could get you quickly kicked out of "Good" but not really send you all that much closer to "Evil" if you're already "Neutral".

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 11:42 AM
I'd say it was definitly harsh being as they didn't know that the Orcs had non-combatants there. I especially think it was over the top to have the Cleric losing their powers over it due to how useless they are now (if nothing else, I'd ret-con their alignment change so that it doesn't cause needless problems for the party). Incidentally, who was the Cleric's diety?

EDIT: Reading back over it, I'd say that having alignment changes for that sort of thing would be enough to make me quit the campaign due to causing me to think you did it to rail-road the party into "turning" evil, especially since scouting the camp out in too much detail would increase their chances of getting captured or killed.

Serpentine
2009-07-22, 11:48 AM
Hmmm... Well, what do you mean by "one step"? How many "degrees" are there in Good before you hit Neutral, assuming the character starts at the maximum "Good" end?
Was it a matter of stupidity or not thinking, or of being willing to take the risk? That is, did they simply not consider the possibility that there could be innocents there? If so, then that could possibly deserve a small shift towards Neutral, because that's something they should really be considering, but a simple brain fart isn't too dire. If they did consider the possibility that there could be innocents at risk, why did they go ahead? Was it, "they're just orcs, they don't matter"? Or "They killed my tribe's women and children, why shouldn't I kill theirs?!" Or maybe "Don't leave anyone to seek revenge for the death of their menfolk"? Or "we were hired to eliminate the whole tribe, not just the warriors"?
These are all in need of analysis, themselves. I, personally, would consider the first to be quite Evil; the second fairly Evil but forgivable; the third... Neutral, maybe, or slightly Evil, maybe even nearly Good if their aim is to put a halt to the bloodshed there; the fourth... pragmatic, really. Evilish, perhaps. The final one seems more Lawful than Evil to me, though still a touch on the Evil side.

Telonius
2009-07-22, 12:08 PM
I'd say that one incident of unwittingly burninating orc peasants (and their thatched-roof cottages) wouldn't put a character at risk for an alignment shift. As a one-off occurrence, it's a terrible mistake. If it becomes a general pattern of reckless behavior, then a shift is justified. No effect at all for most of the players.

If there's a Paladin or Cleric in the group, then it gets a little more complicated. For either one, it's really up to the DM to determine whether or not that action "grossly" violates the tenets of the deity or Paladin order. I'd say that the reaction of the Cleric or Paladin to the news that innocents were killed would be a good guide to whether or not it's justified. If it's, "Oh well, they were just orcs," then I would rule without hesitation that they fall and must Atone. But if it's, "Oh no, what have we done! Quick, put the fires out!" then I wouldn't make them fall.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 12:10 PM
Putting the fires out would endanger them, though. Also, how would they find out that women and children were being burnt alive? I don't see any reason why any of the Orcs should have been classed as non-combatants anyway due to their culture being so battle orientated that I'd expect most of the tribe members to have learnt how to fight.

Milskidasith
2009-07-22, 12:19 PM
So you are changing them from Good to Neutral and from Neutral to Evil and making the Cleric fall over something that was an accident caused by playing pragmatically? How did you describe the village, also? Even little flavor text can matter; if you said "you see several orcs carrying war-axes walking around," there is no reason to consider innocents; if you said "you see a few orcs, mostly women, carrying food around outside the huts" then it's a lot worse.

But really, in most all situations, a direct shift of alignment is absurd for that mistake. Shifting from Good to Neutral, if they've been good before and had one accident, is going to be enough to piss everybody off. Shifting from Neutral to Evil makes no sense in this situation, because killing orcs is a decidedly neutral act anyway (stopping the bloodshed). Practically every book says that almost no act besides cold blooded murder is enough to instantly shift your alignment, and I don't consider "burning down the village we were hired to destroy" to be cold blooded murder, especially when they had no clue who was there (either due to not giving enough hints during the descriptions you did give, or because of pragmatism on their part; why scout when you are going to kill them all anyway?)

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 12:28 PM
BoED answer- Intentionally dropping fireball on both orc combatants and non-combatants, is an evil act. So, yes, there is such thing as orc noncombatants.

BoVD answer- Recklessly endangering people, leading to their deaths, is evil.
But if you had no reasonable way of knowing they were there, its not reckless endangerment, its accident.

It might fit. the phrase used in the reckless endangerment case was "The paladin isn't exactly a murderer, but they should fall until they make atonement."

So, paladin powers (or exalted feats) should be lost, but alignment shift might be a bit uncalled for.

Milskidasith
2009-07-22, 12:36 PM
The thing is, even then, it says that it is an evil act. It doesn't say that it is an act worthy of an immediate drop in alignment. And they had no way to know, so it isn't even under those examples.

isauteikisa
2009-07-22, 12:40 PM
@Tempest - St. Cuthbert (LG deity, for my game), cleric was LN before and other than this mission had no personal reason to hate the orcs. Also, they had the option of either trying to take the area themselves (with the exception of the dire lion, none of the patrols had presented any difficulty, though they knew the leader was powerful), sneak in and try to take out the leader alone, or the option they chose (burn the place down).

@Milsk - they couldn't see much over the walls of the city. They only tried to observe it at night, from a great distance, and so didn't see anyone other than a few orcs patrolling.

@all - thank you for the responses. I'm going to take this into consideration... as I said, this is my first time DMing, and I misjudged how important the killing of innocents in this context was. I'm probably going to keep most of the shifts from Good to Neutral (as most of the party was tending Neutral during the game anyway), but I'm definitely going to re-eval the cleric situation.

Thanks for helping a n00b out :P

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 12:42 PM
3.5 ed isn't very clear on "acts worthy of an immediate drop" though in DMG it does say "immediate shifts" are rare but not unheard of.

Fiendish Codex 2 lists "Corrupt" (Always Evil) acts including murder, but again, doesn't say if acts can lead to an immediate alignmnet shift.

2nd ed PHB and DMG were much more explicit, stating clearly that "murder the villagers to save the country" leads to immediate shift to Evil alignment.

But this might be closer to involuntary manslaughter.

Serpentine
2009-07-22, 12:42 PM
The thing is, even then, it says that it is an evil act. It doesn't say that it is an act worthy of an immediate drop in alignment. And they had no way to know, so it isn't even under those examples.That would be the crux of my questions. Did they know? Could they have known? Is it something they could or should have considered? 'til we know that, we can't really judge *shrug*

Kroy
2009-07-22, 12:45 PM
Just remember that one evil act isn't enough to switch alignments. Also, keep in mind that alignment is based on knowledge of what your doing. Is killing a bandit evil if it was a paladin in disguise?
Edit: Ninja'ed!

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 12:45 PM
"Burn the building down" has a nasty reputation, even when done to enemy soldiers. Most fiction (historical and otherwise) that I've read portrays it as a bit of "extreme ruthlessness"

Historical novel example
Nigel Tranter's The Wallace- burning the Ayr barracks full of soldiers.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 12:48 PM
Based on the whole tribe apparently being involved in attacks, I'd say St. Cuthbert would say that was fair retribution for the Orc's crimes against everyone else, so I really don't see why the Cleric should have fallen.

EDIT: I missed the alignment change bit. Admittedly, if that's the only thing about St. Cuthbert that changed, I can't see him having a problem with killing the Orcs like that.

Random832
2009-07-22, 12:49 PM
Hmmm... Well, what do you mean by "one step"? How many "degrees" are there in Good before you hit Neutral, assuming the character starts at the maximum "Good" end?

I think "one step" here meant "Good to Neutral" or "Neutral to Evil".


"Don't leave anyone to seek revenge

Way to work in a reference to the comic :smallcool:

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 12:50 PM
Orc children doesn't necessarily "deserve" this retribution- have they ever participated? Are they in a position to complain about their parent's behaviour?

Orcs are extremely patriarchal- the orc woman who becomes a soldier is a rarity.

LN to LE shift automatically causes cleric to lose powers- despite being LN St Cuthbert does not accept LE clerics.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 12:56 PM
The problem with keeping the women and children alive is that there's a good chance that the cycle will just continue, meaning that killing all of them off would probably result in less deaths on both sides overall in the long run. (Taking out the leader and nobody else would just result in another Orc taking over and continuing to raid places.)

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:01 PM
Maybe Core Beliefs: St Cuthbert in Dragon Magazine 358 is more informative than Deities and Demigods.

For example (despite BoED's disapproving stance of forcible conversions)

"Paladins of St Cuthbert work in frontier areas, starting crusades to forcibly convert evil-natured monsters to worship of The Cudgel using a "tough love" approach to save endangered souls."

So, they'd rather convert them than kill them.

Saint Cuthbert sees things mostly in terms of black and white, with only a few narrow shades of gray in the middle, for it's just common sense to realize exceptions exist to every rule. For example, there are laws against thievery, but a man whose family is starving might have to steal food to provide for them. Such a man must be punished, but not to the same extent as someone who steals out of greed or to harm another. If the penalty for stealing food is death, the food-stealing farmer certainly doesn't deserve that and might just get a whipping.

He's harsh, but not insanely so.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:04 PM
The problem with keeping the women and children alive is that there's a good chance that the cycle will just continue, meaning that killing all of them off would probably result in less deaths on both sides overall in the long run. (Taking out the leader and nobody else would just result in another Orc taking over and continuing to raid places.)

Champions of Valor raised the same problem with warlike goblins. The suggested solution was leaving the women and children farming gear, arranging for clerics of appropiate deity to teach and supervise them, since they may be "evil out of starvation or worship of evil gods"

MM IV points out most common exception to "often CE" orcs are CN. Not NE. So a hefty proportion of the orcs can be expected to be nonevil.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 01:07 PM
The Orcs are remorselessly killing people, though. Also, would the party be able to convert them? (Ironically, I'd class using that sort of coersion to get followers as worse then killing them due to my view being that violence should only be used as a last resort if not killing the people who are causing the problems would result in more death and destruction.)

Raphite1
2009-07-22, 01:08 PM
The problem with keeping the women and children alive is that there's a good chance that the cycle will just continue, meaning that killing all of them off would probably result in less deaths on both sides overall in the long run. (Taking out the leader and nobody else would just result in another Orc taking over and continuing to raid places.)

And according to my understanding, that is precisely what an evil act is. An act that is extremely harmful to someone (especially involving elements like killing or betrayal), but is done anyway because it benefits the actor.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:08 PM
if it also involves "killing people who had minimal involvement with the problems" in the case of the orc women and childen, it might be pretty dubious.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 01:11 PM
Regarding the farming point, that is an interresting solution, but I can't help thinking that it would still lead to resentment between the races who are involved, while coming across as sexist due to assuming females are defenceless. If I'm honest, I just ignore listed alignments altogether due to seeing them as resulting in races becoming less realistic. I'd see ending the cycle as beneficial to everyone (going abck to my views on listed alignments, I assume people from generally evil tribes would go somewhere else to avoid getting involved in any evil acts the rest of the tribe perpatrates).

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:13 PM
Its consistant with the way Orcs are portrayed- patriarchal and oppressive. Yes, they do occasionally have female soldiers (or spellcasters) but these are the exception, not the rule.

Races of Faerun and MM IV have the most details on orc society.

The CN members might gravitate away. Or, the society is intermixed, with CN members disliking the raids and not committing atrocities (rape, killing the defenseless), but not fleeing either. Like Zaknefein among the drow.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 01:15 PM
Sadly I don't have access to those books. :smallfrown: If the males were all dead, wouldn't the females just be able to teach themselves how to use weapons, though?

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:17 PM
Possibly- that's why supervision. However they (if represented as orc commoners and experts rather than warriors and barbarians) will be a lot worse at it.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 01:19 PM
I was wondering if retraining could be done. (I think "it makes things less complicated" is another reason why I'm better off ignoring listed alignment looking at this discussion on the topic of alignments.:smalltongue:)

Kylarra
2009-07-22, 01:21 PM
Just remember that Stupid Good (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LawfulStupidChaoticStupid) is rarely a practical thing and that singular incidents that are accidents generally shouldn't cause alignment shifts.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:25 PM
Listed alignment is a handy tool, but should be treated as a guideline. The "often CE" plus "most common exception is CN" bits do help to justify the presence of non-evil orcs.

BoED also points out "evil orc societies" don't necessarily have to be causing active harm, and if they aren't, their alignment alone is not a just cause to go after them.

(probably manifests itself as bad treatment of fellow orcs. Some people might say these evil acts are harm enough to justify attack- some wouldn't).

"Your parents bullied you- so we killed them, and now we're going to kill you, because their bullying made you evil."

Not very convincing.

Fixer
2009-07-22, 01:25 PM
As someone who has studied neutrality to a great degree, I want to throw my two cents in. This problem involves two parts, the act, and the reaction.


Act:
Neutrality revolves primarily around survival. Nothing in the character's actions was concerned with survival. They took a job to, basically, hunt orcs, presumably for money. No goodness or righteousness here.

The Good aligned way to do this would be to attempt parley first, then to focus their efforts on only killing combatants, taking exceptional efforts to avoid unnecessary bloodshed or harm. This is definitely NOT what happened.

The Neutral aligned way to do it would be to find them, hunt the orcs, and do so quickly, safely (for them), and as thoroughly as necessary. The characters weren't hired to wipe the tribe out, just (as the OP put it) "eliminate the threat of attack". Thus, they exceeded their mandate for their own reasons (choosing the quick and easy way).

The Evil aligned way to do it would be to indiscriminately kill everything in the village that moved. This pretty much described what the characters did.

Thus, the act itself was evil. There is no issue here. Intention doesn't matter at all.

Reaction:
As GM, it is your job to tell the players how the world reacts to their character's actions. Alignment is one way the 'universe' judges their characters. Characters can do whatever they want, and the universe alters their alignment accordingly as a method of easy identification.

In order to shift an alignment, there needs to be a pattern of behavior, or an incredible act. This qualifies as neither (as far as you have explained). The players do not have a pattern of behavior that indicates they wanted to kill non-combatants. Neither is this instance an incredible act of evil, such as it would be if they had willingly, knowingly, and with intention murdered an entire village of non-combatants (regardless of race).

With this being an isolated incident, I believe an alignment shift is too drastic. It is a matter for a cleric or paladin to deal with, as they are held to a higher standard of behavior in line with their power, but for most players it is one of those, "Ok, that was a screwup, we don't do that again," moments.

*tosses in his two coppers*

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:27 PM
While Neutral can be survival-focussed (Lizardfolk are perfect example) survival alone doesn't justify evil acts, according to BoVD:

"Sacrificing others to save yourself is an evil act. It's a hard standard, but that's they way it is."

Champions of Ruin does stress "pattern of behaviour" for changes to Evil (regardless of the actual reasons- Evil acts for a Good Cause can still lead to alignment shift). 2nd ed D&D played up the "seriously Evil single act" and both are probably valid ways of handling it.

Fixer
2009-07-22, 01:48 PM
While Neutral can be survival-focussed (Lizardfolk are perfect example) survival alone doesn't justify evil acts, according to BoVD:

"Sacrificing others to save yourself is an evil act. It's a hard standard, but that's they way it is."
I am not sure if you were replying to me or not, but I *did* specify the act itself was evil, and not neutral. Neutral acts are not just acts that aren't good or evil.

If you were not replying to me, feel free to disregard this message.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 01:51 PM
And I agreed with that bit- I was clarifying that "motivated by survival" doesn't always make an act Neutral.

(and not all Neutrals are motivated primarily by survival- there are many motives.)

Fixer
2009-07-22, 01:57 PM
And I agreed with that bit- I was clarifying that "motivated by survival" doesn't always make an act Neutral.

(and not all Neutrals are motivated primarily by survival- there are many motives.)Again, you misunderstood. I was stating that neutral ACTS revolve around survival, not the other way around. That is why I specified them under the acts spoiler. Acts involving survival can be evil or good, but neutral acts PRIMARILY involve survival or basic needs. It is one of those one includes most of the other, but not the other way around things.

Neutral characters can be just as ambitious and varied as characters of any alignment. They just use different methods and ideologies to reach their desired results.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 02:04 PM
Good point.

Though I do allow for the "Would be Good if it wasn't for the ruthlessness- not consistantly ruthless enough to be Evil" category of neutrality. Though that's more alignment- lots of Good acts, more than a few worryingly Evil ones.

There isn't much detail on "Neutral acts" in the rulebooks, though-

Evil (BoVD, BoED, Champions of Ruin, Fiendish Codex 2, Exemplars of Evil)
Good (BoED, Champions of Valor)
Lawful (Fiendish Codex 2)
Chaotic (Exemplars of Evil) (not so much acts, as personality and behaviour)

all these get coverage, but not Neutral.

Fixer
2009-07-22, 02:10 PM
Good point.

Though I do allow for the "Would be Good if it wasn't for the ruthlessness- not consistantly ruthless enough to be Evil" category of neutrality. Though that's more alignment- lots of Good acts, more than a few worryingly Evil ones.

There isn't much detail on "Neutral acts" in the rulebooks, though-

Evil (BoVD, BoED, Champions of Ruin, Fiendish Codex 2, Exemplars of Evil)
Good (BoED, Champions of Valor)
Lawful (Fiendish Codex 2)
Chaotic (Exemplars of Evil) (not so much acts, as personality and behaviour)

all these get coverage, but not Neutral.
Yeah, I wanted to write up a guidebook on Neutrality (see my sig) but they shifted to 4th edition before I could really get started.

A character can be Neutral, and can perform a lifetime of non-Neutral acts. If there is a balance of them, the character would be deemed by the universe as Neutral. If there is an imbalance of them, the universe would shift the person's alignment accordingly.

Once a GM (and the players) get it into their heads that alignment is no more than a sign the universe hangs around your character's neck (or whatever) that says (with the appropriate detect spells), "We, your Universe, have determined that this individual most often behaves in a matter that balances out to (insert alignment here). This rating is subject to change without notice. Past performance does not promise future results. Your mileage may vary." alignment becomes a lot easier to figure out.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 02:14 PM
Afterlife destination can be a different kettle of fish- especially with Fiendish codex 2's rules of a few evil acts outweighing a lifetime of Good ones, if they are sufficiently bad, for determining where you go.

Agreed with that last bit- though "most often" might be closer to:
"the overall trend of your life so far has been toward", since a few serious Evil acts outweigh lifetime of minor Good ones.

Really, there should have been a Book of Perfect Balance sourcebook, since Good, Evil, and Neutrality all have regalia, talismans, and a Book.

Underdark has the Talisman of Neutrality and the Book of Perfect Balance.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 02:23 PM
Why do you see listed alignents as a useful guideline, hamish? I've found that it's more interresting to use any races I want as antagonists, especially since it lets me use "often/usually evil" races as things other then cannon fodder (admittedly, I'm likely to use humans as low level jobbers due to prefering to use them:smalltongue:).

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 02:26 PM
its a place to start for expected personality traits (and societies)- Lawful Evil societies, while not all the same, tend to exhibit the traits listed in Fiendish Codex 2, and so on.

PHB "Alignment is a guideline, not a straitjacket"- so, it might as well be used.

they don't always have to be used as cannon fodder, but if you are having (or trying to have) a peaceful visit to an orc camp, it helps to know where to start describing.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 02:32 PM
Thanks for clarifying. I tend to think that descriptions which ignore alinment are better for culture (eg: I tend to have Gnolls as matriarchal due to them being based off hyenas while having them worshiping strength/destruction/pleasure-type dieties while typically favouring more physical pleasures due to their stats suggesting they are more likely to be into sports then anything too creative or interllectual).

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 02:35 PM
its common for campaign settings to modify the culture (Eberron in particular- with both drow and orcs.)

So "alternate gnoll culture" is well within DM discretion, especially given that in Races of Destiny it suggests "savage but honorable non-evil gnolls" as a plot concept.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-22, 02:40 PM
I tend not to trust WotC with anything culture or alignment based (this website, http://www.goblindefensefund.org/main.html , sums up why, combined with my views that having races of perverted killing maniacs looks ridiculous compared to having creatures as a mix of alignments).

Regarding afterlives, which afterlife do you think the non-combatants would end up in?

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 02:47 PM
If humans "tend toward no alignment, not even Neutral" I see little trouble with the "usually" or "often" alignments having a reasonable proportion of exceptions. Which is what 3.0 and 3.5 tended toward, compared to 2nd ed where "non-evil drow" or "non-evil goblins" were one in a million as portrayed by R. A. Salvatore.

Thankfully (IMO), D&D settings have tended to evlve away from this.

Afterlife- tricky question. Youngest really ought to count as Neutral rather than evil (Outlands), on a "alignment is mostly determined by acts" perspective: which Fiendish Codex 2 stresses- you have to do evil (though not much evil) to go to Baator, just having a nasty personality is not enough.

Orc women? Probably represent a large proportion of the CN's- don't go on raids, but don't really do anything about them. (Limbo or Pandemonium)

Though some of the older orc children and other non-combatants, would be CE without having actually done much (but having done some evil) Still wouldn't make it right to kill them though. (Oddly, Acheron- since despite their CE alignment, Orc deities make their home on this LN plane)

Besides the "CE village with some CNs in it" there is also the option of having villages with non-standard power centres, and a much higher proportion of non-standard alignments- the rare "CN Orc Village" or even "CG orc village"
This particular village probably wouldn't qualify as one of these though.

Races of the Dragon has this with Kobolds.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-22, 03:06 PM
Important Question: Should the PCs have known there would be Innocents in the fort?
If yes, then the act was Not-Good, and quite possibly Evil. As you correctly noted, actions that ignore the welfare of Innocents are Not-Good, and actions that willingly disregard the welfare of Innocents are Evil.

If no, then the act was Neutral. Why? Because the PCs were planning an action that, on a dedicated warcamp, would have eliminated the threat with a minimum of threat to themselves. As is correctly noted, a Good party should have engaged in the sabotage more strategically - destroying the armory or other support buildings.

N.B. "Good" does not mean stupid. If you are doing a covert action designed to cripple an enemy force, there is no reason to "parley" and basically give up your only advantage. In addition to forcing a battle if they refuse, it is quite possibly for subterfuge to disable a military force with a minimum of actual bloodshed - a very Good method.Now, that said - would I shift the PCs to Evil?

Not immediately, particularly if this is early in a campaign and/or with novice players. Instead, I would describe (vividly) the corpses of orc women and children burned to death by their irresponsible attack. If the PCs showed shame or regret, then no shift (if no knowledge); specifically, Good PCs should tried to make some sacrifice to make up for their reckless action and Neutral PCs should feel shame.

I would have given the Good PCs opportunities to "make up" for their actions - perhaps an orc mother and her brood would be discovered wandering & lost that they could give succor to.

In general, only for knowing and blatant actions against an alignment would I perform an Alignment Shift. Here, there is some question whether the PCs knew (or should have known) what they were doing.

Of course, if the PCs showed now reaction to their slaughter, everyone shifts at least one towards Evil - if they glory at a "job well done" they are Evil. Fullstop.

Ridureyu
2009-07-22, 03:12 PM
One thing that people don't seem to realize is that there is a difference between "you accidentally did something bad once" and "you are a complete monster who likes skinning puppies."

How the characters reacted after they found out is more important.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 03:16 PM
Eberron plays this up for Evil alignments, stresses there is a difference between being evil because you commit very minor evil acts and are generally unpleasant, and being deserving of death.

"you did a bad thing once" and "You did a major atrocity once and never repented doing it" are also different- the former shouldn't mean alignment shift (PHB suggests this for dwarf willing to steal occasionally), the latter should.

Ridureyu
2009-07-22, 03:22 PM
"Hey dudes, turned out that evil fortress wasn't an evil fortress, it was an orphanage that 3was magically disguised to look like an evil fortress, so YOU ARE ALL EVIL AND HAD BETTER ACT EVIL OR I'M GIVING OUT XP PENALTIES!"

That's a bad thing.

Telonius
2009-07-22, 03:26 PM
Point taken, but what the OP is talking about sounds more like the first scene of Team America: World Police. Yeah, they got the bad guys, but there's quite a bit of collateral damage that could have been avoided if they had taken a second.

Ridureyu
2009-07-22, 03:39 PM
Is it the kind of campaign that penalizes the party if they take a second to plan or do anything besides rush in and kill?

isauteikisa
2009-07-22, 03:48 PM
Nope. Unless they're out in the open plotting in clear view of the enemy (which has happened a few times), I generally don't harass them as they're plotting and planning.

Ridureyu
2009-07-22, 04:04 PM
Good, good.

SinsI
2009-07-22, 04:07 PM
How is this an evil act? Orcs are "often chaotic evil", that particular tribe had their alignment confirmed - wiping them all out was a good deed.
Don't put modern "humanitarian" thinking into a middle age society - warfare at that time was all about genocide; you kill the tribe and repopulate the land with your people, allowing more of them to survive.

Actually, not killing those orc women and children is an evil act - they wouldn't survive without orc men to defend them and would die anyway - but first they'd do some more harm to the humans.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 04:10 PM
D&D isn't "a middle age society" at least according to BoED- genocide is genocide even if some of the societies of the time thought it OK.

Humanitarianism (orcistarianism?) is par for the course. And even in medieval times there were rules against killing non-combatants (weren't always followed, but they existed, going right back to Viking times).

Which orcs somewhat resemble, except for not typically raiding by sea.

SinsI
2009-07-22, 04:20 PM
D&D isn't "a middle age society" at least according to BoED- genocide is genocide even if some of the societies of the time thought it OK.
Not some, ALL. Such disregard for life is due to high birth rate and only having enough food to support the current population - which should be true for most primitive fantasy tribes.

SinsI
2009-07-22, 04:28 PM
Humanitarianism (orcistarianism?) is par for the course. And even in medieval times there were rules against killing non-combatants (weren't always followed, but they existed, going right back to Viking times).
Which orcs somewhat resemble, except for not typically raiding by sea.
Vikings, like all other pillagers, are a different thing. They extract goods from those they attack, so it was in their interest to keep the sheeps alive and moderately well.

Take a look at ancient chinese warfare, or japanese one to see how things really were - the whole losing party was wiped out, women and children included.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 04:28 PM
and D&D societies aren't usually "primitive tribes" these are the exception, not the rule.

Wiping orcs out to the last woman and child is portrayed as Evil in most D&D sourcebooks.

(even if some ancient cultures were ok with that sort of thing, doesn't mean that its valid in the contect of D&D)

SinsI
2009-07-22, 04:37 PM
and D&D societies aren't usually "primitive tribes" these are the exception, not the rule.

Wiping orcs out to the last woman and child is portrayed as Evil in most D&D sourcebooks.

"Good" prince should be able to kill and eat an "evil" ogre without a change in the alignment - that's the whole reason such system exists.
If you're going to add shades of grey to orcs, you shouldn't use black-and-white alignment system in the first place.

hamishspence
2009-07-22, 04:40 PM
It has never been that black and white (except maybe in Basic D&D, way back). There has (especially in 3.0-3.5) always been things that its not OK to do, even to Evil beings, without "just cause" and "being evil" is not enough.

An ogre killing an eating a human is evil, but a human killing and eating an ogre is OK? Double standard.

BoVD "Even with the most black-and-white system, grey areas will always exist"

The alignment books exist to provide a list of typical evil (and good) acts- and generally, there is no "its not evil if the victim was evil" in them.

TV Tropes had a pretty good outline of Character Alignment in D&D. And one of the things stressed was "Good characters will not contemplate genocide, not even of evil orcs"

Interestingly, Tolkien said similar things, "while orcs are irredeemable (at least by elves and men) they are still "Within the law" they may not be tortured, not even to get valuable info, and if they surrender, that surrender must be accepted."

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-22, 08:20 PM
Alignment is not supposed to be a straitjacket for restricting characters. The PHB actually tells you that. Good characters and Neutral characters can commit Evil acts. So long as she's generally kind to others, a character is still Good. So long as he doesn't commit an excess of Evil acts, a character is still Neutral.

Killing some innocents to protect other innocents is a Neutral act. It has the Good element of protecting innocents and the Evil element of killing innocents. Neutral people are committed to others based on their personal relationships.

This means that the "monsters" raiding your village might be Neutral if they're just doing what they need to survive during a time of famine. It also means that wiping out the Neutral monsters is itself Neutral. If someone has to die, it isn't Evil to make sure that it's not you and people you like.

The main problem with orc alignment is the whole "They're sexist, racist, theocratic, hierarchical... and Chaotic!" dealy. Come on, they rightly decided that that was stupid to say about drow, so why do they say it about orcs?

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-22, 10:54 PM
Killing some innocents to protect other innocents is a Neutral act. It has the Good element of protecting innocents and the Evil element of killing innocents. Neutral people are committed to others based on their personal relationships.
No no no - Alignment isn't additive.


"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.

People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships.
In the OP's situation, we're talking about these thought-processes:

Good: "Ah ha, the orc warcamp that has been raiding the Innocent villagers. Quick, if we set fire to their supplies they will be unable to continue their rampage. If they resist, we must kill them to protect ourselves"
The idea is to protect the Innocents with the least loss of life

Neutral: "Wow, that's a lot of orcs. Hey, if we start a fire in their camp, they'll be distracted enough that we can kill them without them all coming down on us at once."
The idea is to protect themselves - even if their method may risk other lives

Evil "Ha, a perfect opportunity to kill without risk. Start a fire on those thatched-roof cottages - even if it's only women and children, the fires should wreck enough havoc to make our assault that much easier."
The idea is to win quickly, even if it means slaughtering Innocents

The "additive Alignment" idea is, IMHO, what confuses people the most. Alignment is an Ethos, not a tally of your day-to-day activities.

Milskidasith
2009-07-23, 12:24 AM
A lot of people are saying this is a super evil act because intent doesn't matter. That's pretty stupid; intent matters a lot. If my evil PC kills the king because he was in the way of the treasure chambers, but it turns out he tortured people, am I suddenly neutral? If a good PC kills a dragon they saw trying to burn down a village, but it turns out the village was composed entirely of murderers, thieves, and other clearly evil people and the dragon was trying to be good, am I evil? No, intent matters.

AFAIK, they had no reason to know there were Orc noncombatants there, and they knew the orcs had been commiting evil acts. So, while being reckless and a bit harsh with their methods would probably be neutral (though the intent of being good wouldn't be enough to really shift good characters), their lack of knowledge about the women and children wouldn't make it an evil act because of the dead innocents (unless they were happy they killed them).


I also don't see why the DM expects them to have scouted things out. The info we have is that they were told "there is a camp of orcish warriors killing innocent humans. Wipe them out. You have lots of ways to start fires, and the orc encampment is entirely flammable. Do you want to finish the job, or scout out the orcs and put yourself at risk to confirm something said by an NPC who gave you the quest?"

The whole "oh look, despite me basically saying 'burn down the encampment, it's evil and highly flammable' between the lines of my flavor text, there were a bunch of civilians there as well and you were supposed to scout, you are all evil and I'm going to make your cleric worthless" is a **** move. If you had given them reason to believe there were noncombatants, even a single line somewhere, I could see it being a realistic possibility. But all the info I have seems to point to you giving the PCs one incredibly obvious solution and the DM pulling a fast one on them to get them to shift allignment; I'd consider that severe railroading, and I would definitely quit if I was the cleric, and probably quit if I was anybody else who didn't rely on alignment for my class features.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-23, 12:32 AM
Personally, I'd have been using the Good justification in Oracle_Hunter's post if I was in that game. Hammish, what would you say is a 'reasonable amount' of exceptions to listed alignments? I tend to think races tend to be 40% neutral, 30% good and 30% evil.

hamishspence
2009-07-23, 01:08 AM
Works well for humans, for "Usually NE" races it should be lower but still present (something like 75% evil, 20% neutral, 5% good)

and for the combination of "Often X Evil" and "most common exception is some form of Neutral" maybe 60% Evil, 30% neutral, 10% good)

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-23, 01:22 AM
I tend to use that arrangement for pretty much everything barring Outsiders (my rationel is that almost everyone of a race being evil doesn't make sense due to how most of them make a living by raiding other races, which doesn't work for me due to how the evil ones are more likely to get killed, leaving the neutral and good ones to do more productive things (and it means that you've got a perpetual war going on which isn't going to end without one side being wiped out or surrendering and accepting the winner's right to pillage/exist peacefully).

I still don't see any benefit to listing races as being a certain alignment compared to using whatever seems appropriate as antagonists. (It's ironic in 1 game where I'm using a race of anthro-foxes called Vulpines, which I listed as Usually Neutral Good, because I think I've had more evil Vulpines then Good ones due to Vulpines, http://forum.mydndgame.com/index.php/topic,136.0.html , work well as millitant Ashbound Sect members).

hamishspence
2009-07-23, 01:26 AM
Sometimes, but not always. An evil society can be relatively peaceful, turning its evil "inward" on its own citizens, and only raiding rarely.

Also- societies may wax and wane, with an evil empire expanding, ruling with only a few good kingdoms at its periphery, collapsing, the Good kingdoms expanding to fill the vacuum, raiding societies appearing at the edges and nibbling away, and so on ad infinitum.

Reminiscent of real history, only with good and evil labels added.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-23, 01:34 AM
Thinking of less aggressive evil societies, if people are in conflict with each other, how do they survive? (Drow society never made sense to me). Looking at real life, I'd say that almost everyone in Medieval society was neutral due to them being stuck in a position where they couldn't really do anything beyond surviving from day-to-day.

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-23, 01:37 AM
I have rambled about racial alignment tendencies (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5643131#post5643131) before. Rather than repeating all of my thoughts on the subject, I invite those interested to read the linked post. But to summarize the relevant part: If you're running monsters as characters (such that non-demons won't kill you "because they're Chaotic Evil"), they have actual personalities, so (a) you should determine their alignments based on their personalities and (b) that pretty much eliminates the need to indicate the frequencies of alignments in their races.


if people are in conflict with each other, how do they survive?
What, modern society doesn't strike you as both competitive and survivable?


No no no - Alignment isn't additive.
Admittedly, they don't say that Good and Evil cancel each other out, but if they don't then nearly every human is Good and Evil.


In the OP's situation, we're talking about these thought-processes:
What if their thought process is "We want to stop these orcs. Burning down their encampment would accomplish that nicely"?


Alignment is an Ethos, not a tally of your day-to-day activities.
A character's alignment may be an part of her ethos, but the books talk about Good and Evil acts, so obviously acts have alignments too. Besides, alignments are described in terms of behavior.

I see a character's alignment as a summary of what she's likely to do in the future, basically.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 02:05 AM
What if their thought process is "We want to stop these orcs. Burning down their encampment would accomplish that nicely"?
You have to ask more questions - which I asked in my example.

If "burning down their encampment" would threaten innocent women & children, then it is Not-Good. Whether it is Neutral or Evil depends a lot more on their thought process - do they not care about the lives of innocents (Evil) or do they honestly think the risk to innocents is minimal (i.e. they're not setting peasants on fire).

If "burning down their encampment" will kill innocent women & children, then it is Evil.

Obviously if you don't have sufficient information (as in the OP's case) you have to elicit further responses to see what they were thinking. Running to help orc babies get out of a burning building is Good; stopping their arson when they realize the havoc it is wrecking on Innocents is Neutral.

Laughing as the peasants run around screaming is Evil :smalltongue:


I see a character's alignment as a summary of what she's likely to do in the future, basically.
This is absolutely correct.

But you shouldn't push the "actions have alignments" thing too far; the reason the books talk about actions is because you, the DM, cannot actually read your players' minds.
Actions are considered Honest Signals of a character's thought process (and therefore, their current alignment) but the actions themselves are not what sets an alignment. This is why motivations and aims are so very important when determining the "alignment" of an action.

For example: "A man sees a pickpocket steal a purse and captures him."
What is the "alignment" of this action?

It is impossible to say unless you have some chance to understand the motivations behind this action. In general, the DM watches the subsequent actions very carefully to figure out the "alignment" of the initial action.

If the man hauls the pickpocket off to the police, he likely acted out of Lawful motivations - "judge those who fall short of their duties"

If the man decides to find out why the pickpocket did what he did, he is likely Not-Lawful - but he may be LG, and merely interested in how he could best help this pickpocket within the bounds of the Law.

Next we would see what the pickpocket says - and how the character reacts. And so on
Essentially, an Alignment Test is a "totality of the circumstances" sort of deal; few actions are strictly of one alignment - and those that are reflect some extreme of the alignment chart such that anyone doing such an act could only be of one pole. For everything else, you have to reconstruct the character's thought process from his actions - and that requires a lot of information.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-23, 02:15 AM
I was refering to the sort of evil societies which exist in D&D rather then real life, Devils_Advocate (competition in real life isn't a problem but things like people literally back-stabbing people constantly in the same way Drows do would be a problem).

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-23, 02:32 AM
It's a matter of how quickly the drow kill each other off. If on average a drow can expect to live several hundred years before eventually being murdered, then they still live longer than humans, don't they?

So, in short, in the long term, they don't survive, individually, but neither do we.

Stories that deal with drow tend to cover exciting events throughout which murders are frequent. Don't take these as representative of their daily lives.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 02:35 AM
If you're running monsters as characters (such that non-demons won't kill you "because they're Chaotic Evil"), they have actual personalities, so (a) you should determine their alignments based on their personalities and (b) that pretty much eliminates the need to indicate the frequencies of alignments in their races.
You got that backwards.

You should determine their personalities based on their alignments.
Not the sort of "oh, he's LG so he's nice to everyone" sort of deal, but more of a "well, this guy is Chaotic so he 'follows his consciences, resents being told what to do, favors new ideas over tradition, and does what he promises if he feel like it' - what does that mean to him?"

For example:
- Regan (CG) always prefers to hear "their side of the story" before accepting any judgment passed by "legitimate authority."
- Viki (CN) gets furious whenever anyone tries to tell her what to do - violently so, if particularly provoked.
- Zander (CE) is a slacker; he'll only do something he was told to do if sufficiently threatened, and he sure as hell isn't going to take any crap from anyone else while he's carrying out his duty.

Note that these are just sketches of personalities; alignment does not determine the totality of a persona - it just sets some boundaries.

As for societies - rather than trying to figure out percentages of differing alignments, I just construct a society based around the "normal" alignment and go from there.
In a CE society, only the most ruthless will rule - which basically means CE types - and those outside of power are either going to be trying to get in by any means necessary (Evil) or are just trying to survive without getting stomped by the more ambitious (Neutral). Now, in a particularly brutal CE society (i.e. real scarcity of resources) any pure Neutral types are probably going to die off when their CE fellows steal their food for themselves - so here, even the "peasants" are probably going to be ruthless, grasping horrors.

Your military is probably going to be mostly CE - war is a great way to increase your personal power while also allowing you to gain in wealth and prestige. However, a CE military can't be all that organized if it is entirely CE, so there are probably a few NE retainers of the best Warlords who help to organize particularly large warbands; LE types rely far too much on tradition to get ahead - some NE bastard is going to stab him in the back and take his stuff.
If your PCs run across a CE society, then you probably should assume that most people they meet are going to be "well-adjusted" to their society - meaning they'll be CE. Non-Evil societies, of course, tend to not have such brutal "natural selection" so you'll be more likely to find Neutrals of various stripes - though note that LN and CN societies can also have brutal forms of "natural selection" that don't require killing; a LN society may banish all who are insufficiently reverent (Neutrals) while a CN society may be so Social Darwinist that people who can't innovate sufficiently will die off from natural causes.

Now, if you do want to have, say, a CG Drow with two scimitars walking around your standard CE Drow society, you'd better have a good reason why he's still alive :smallamused:

EDIT: I'm quite certain that Drow backstab as frequently as they are depicted. After all, theirs' is a society that "does whatever its greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive them to do;" if a Drow can kill someone to get what he wants (and get away with it) then he will. The stability comes in when there aren't any easy targets - but don't think for a moment that everyone isn't on the lookout for the next "mark" in the meantime.

SinsI
2009-07-23, 05:07 AM
It has never been that black and white (except maybe in Basic D&D, way back). There has (especially in 3.0-3.5) always been things that its not OK to do, even to Evil beings, without "just cause" and "being evil" is not enough.

An ogre killing an eating a human is evil, but a human killing and eating an ogre is OK? Double standard.

BoVD "Even with the most black-and-white system, grey areas will always exist"

The alignment books exist to provide a list of typical evil (and good) acts- and generally, there is no "its not evil if the victim was evil" in them.

TV Tropes had a pretty good outline of Character Alignment in D&D. And one of the things stressed was "Good characters will not contemplate genocide, not even of evil orcs"

Interestingly, Tolkien said similar things, "while orcs are irredeemable (at least by elves and men) they are still "Within the law" they may not be tortured, not even to get valuable info, and if they surrender, that surrender must be accepted."
And from the ogre POV it is a good act to eat humans.
Yes, it is a double standart, because it is from the point of view of PC races that tend to kill orcs/drow/etc. on sight - and expect to be killed in return.

They are monsters, they were made that way - so that your PC can kill them without remorse. Vampire can be benevolent and feed only on criminals - but he's still going to be considered "evil" by his foodstock. Take a look at Redcloak from OOTS - to goblins he is a Chaotic Good character, but to PC races he is completely Evil.

From druid's POV most paladins are extremely evil - they don't care about ants underneath their feet! Do they deserve an automatic fall?

If you want your players to suffer for such genocide - change orcs into a PC race.

P.S. and why are you calling orc women noncombatants? They are as capable (and as willing) warriors as their men - if the PCs want to protect their customers from orc attacks, they have to kill them too. As for infants - killing them with their parents is an act of mercy.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-23, 05:20 AM
That's another reason why I ignore listed alignments, SinsI (I was going to mention the fact that RC's plan has ended up resulting in the deaths of a lot of Goblins, but I don't think a lot of them are exactly his fault due to Xykon being essential as an "ally").

EDIT: I just forgot about the "killing Hobgoblins due to past bit. That would class as evil in my opinion.

Fixer
2009-07-23, 06:54 AM
How is this an evil act? Orcs are "often chaotic evil", that particular tribe had their alignment confirmed - wiping them all out was a good deed.
Don't put modern "humanitarian" thinking into a middle age society - warfare at that time was all about genocide; you kill the tribe and repopulate the land with your people, allowing more of them to survive.

Actually, not killing those orc women and children is an evil act - they wouldn't survive without orc men to defend them and would die anyway - but first they'd do some more harm to the humans.Because it meets one of the criteria of an evil action: Causing of undo suffering (the non-combatants). They might not have meant to do so, but intention is NOT a determinant of the morality of an action (good/evil).


A lot of people are saying this is a super evil act because intent doesn't matter. That's pretty stupid; intent matters a lot. <snip>

AFAIK, they had no reason to know there were Orc noncombatants there, and they knew the orcs had been commiting evil acts. So, while being reckless and a bit harsh with their methods would probably be neutral (though the intent of being good wouldn't be enough to really shift good characters), their lack of knowledge about the women and children wouldn't make it an evil act because of the dead innocents (unless they were happy they killed them). <snip>No one said it was a super-evil act. Please read more carefully.

The OP said the characters were charged with 'stopping the orc attacks', not 'kill all the orcs'. If they had accepted the job of killing all the orcs then this would have been the first evil act (as destruction of lives without need or offer of repentance is an evil act), then that would have made the killing of the orc non-combatants a second evil act.

Also, nowhere in the text did the OP say the orcs had been performing evil acts. You are reading more into the text that what the OP said.

I will agree, however, that a single evil act such as this should not force an alignment shift. It isn't drastic enough.

Random832
2009-07-23, 07:30 AM
but intention is NOT a determinant of the morality of an action

...

:smallconfused:

WUT.

Telonius
2009-07-23, 08:01 AM
...

:smallconfused:

WUT.

Translation: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just because you thought you were doing a good thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was good. Just because you thought you were doing an evil thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was evil.

In the D&D universe, morality is generally what people call "objective." That means, certain acts have been determined by (Wizards of the Coast/the gods/the universe/the DM) to be "evil," and those actions actually are evil regardless of what any individual in the gaming world thinks. Killing noncombatants and children are usually among those evil acts. No matter how much the crazy man thinks that indiscriminately killing innocent orc kids is Good, he's wrong by the laws of the D&D universe. It's never a Good act, by standard rules.

Where things get a little more complicated is when people start bringing in subjective morality - that is, morality based on the individual and the circumstances - to judge whether or not an action was "justified." Killing the orc kids might not be good, but what if that was the only way to stop the BBEG from destroying the multiverse? Would it be Neutral? Should a DM invoke Rule Zero and say that killing one to save all is the correct moral decision, and therefore Good? Or would it still be Evil, regardless? You'll get about a billion answers to that one on the forums. Moral philosophers have been debating it for centuries, and there are a lot of different opinions on the subject.

Random832
2009-07-23, 08:25 AM
Translation: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just because you thought you were doing a good thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was good. Just because you thought you were doing an evil thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was evil.

There is a difference between it not mattering what your reasons for doing something are (what you're saying now) vs whether you actually intended for what happened as a result of your actions to happen (which is what you were responding to). The latter definitely makes a difference, even if you can argue the former doesn't. If civilian deaths were not a forseeable consequence, it cannot be called an evil act for that.

SinsI
2009-07-23, 08:38 AM
:smallbiggrin: If one were to listen to you there are such things as "civilian orcs" and "noncombatant orcs"!
You have gotten political newspeak all over my fantasy RPG!

That being said, killing an evil orc for a neutral character should never push him into an evil zone - unless done withj an additional sadistic flavor.

Lamech
2009-07-23, 08:40 AM
I want to know why a warcamp was so poorly designed as to have a few fires be able to kill everyone inside. How does that happen? Wouldn't it have a traing field or something to hide in? A brick building? Was everything flamable? What was there plan if a wizard fireballed them? Die horribly? If a couple of drunk people knocked over a few torches? I really wouldn't blame this on the PCs as they wouldn't have know there were women and childern in a war camp that was a massive fire hazard.

That said, if the PCs are repeatably careless with life (even orc life) I would switch them to the neutral column. If they knowingly get civillians killed I would mark them down for evil. I don't trust the claims that the survivors would become evil because of your actions. Thats generally a signed you really screwed up on the morality aspect of things.

Fixer
2009-07-23, 10:00 AM
There is a difference between it not mattering what your reasons for doing something are (what you're saying now) vs whether you actually intended for what happened as a result of your actions to happen (which is what you were responding to). The latter definitely makes a difference, even if you can argue the former doesn't. If civilian deaths were not a forseeable consequence, it cannot be called an evil act for that.Actually, yes it can. It qualifies as intentionally deciding (the key factor) to perform an act of destruction (second factor) which resulted in the harming of innocents or those not involved in conflict (third factor). The fact that it was unintentional doesn't matter. This is where guilt comes in. Knowledge that the act was wrong, but rationalizing that it was unintentional and, therefore, "not your fault."

If you cause a rockslide to kill a party of orcs attacking you that ALSO causes an avalanche that destroys a village further down the hill, that still qualifies as an evil act. It was caused by carelessness.

Telonius
2009-07-23, 10:14 AM
There is a difference between it not mattering what your reasons for doing something are (what you're saying now) vs whether you actually intended for what happened as a result of your actions to happen (which is what you were responding to). The latter definitely makes a difference, even if you can argue the former doesn't. If civilian deaths were not a forseeable consequence, it cannot be called an evil act for that.

That's the bit about "subjective morality" I was talking about, and it's pretty much unavoidable to bring in subjective morality to the discussion when we're talking about whether or not it was reasonable for a person to have foreknowledge. But, in some cases - intentional killing of noncombatants and children is among them - by standard D&D rules, intention doesn't matter. They're evil acts, regardless of intent. The wording of the Atonement spell indicates that, even if evil (or good, in the case of an Evil deity) acts were committed unwittingly or unwillingly, there is still a burden that needs to be lifted.

The mechanical aspect of it only applies to Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, though; and those are really the only classes where a single instance of an act would have any mechanical effect. (A few possible exceptions for standard characters: becoming a Lich, committing genocide, or other truly egregious wrongs; a truly noble act of self-sacrifice, redemption, or generosity; a truly extraordinary act of treachery, lawbreaking, or rebellion; or a truly exceptional situation where a character follows the law regardless of the consequences). For all other cases, single acts don't change alignment. Only as a part of the larger pattern do they change anything.

Random832
2009-07-23, 10:37 AM
intentional killing of noncombatants and children is among them

You just said "intentional". As opposed to, you know, accidental or unforseeable.

The rule you have stated is nonsense and I doubt it is actually in any books in that form "Intention doesn't matter so long as it's intentional" - wha?


The wording of the Atonement spell indicates that, even if evil (or good, in the case of an Evil deity) acts were committed unwittingly or unwillingly, there is still a burden that needs to be lifted.

That is for if you are forced into an impossible choice that requires you to commit an evil act knowing the consequences to avoid something worse - or if you're Dominated into doing something evil, or something.

Gnaeus
2009-07-23, 10:56 AM
If actions with unforeseen outcomes could make you evil, without evil intent, then all characters, animals, and monsters with very low Int or Wis would be evil, because they would regularly do stupid things that affected other people negatively.

Genocide in D&D is always depicted as evil? Wrong.
Clangeddin Silverbeard: Dogma: "Attack hill giants whenever possible"
Evil? Nope. Lawful Good.
Shevarash: Dogma: "Redemption and revenge may be achieved only by the utter destruction of the drow"
Evil? Nope.
Arvoreen: Dogma "Put down danger before allowing it a chance to rear its head." Think Arvoreen would be angry at killing orc women and kids?
Lawful Good

While not clearly spelled out what they would do to enemy children, most of the demihuman deities, and some of the human ones, have a decidedly racist bent. Garl Glittergold pulled down the roof of Kurtulmaks great cavern. Think he checked to make sure all the kobolds in it were combatants? More to the point, you think that he would strip a Neutrally aligned worshiper of powers if that worshiper emulated his god and collapsed a cavern on a kobold leader and his tribe? If a paladin of Moradin did anything other than dispose of orc or goblin children in the most expedient way available I think he would be at risk of power loss. What St Cuthbert thinks about it in the game in question is entirely up to the DM of course.

Best answer: Don't set up the scenario. 9 times out of 10, when the monster babies argument comes up, there will be a big argument, people will get mad, no one will have fun. If there is any question about whether the players think their characters actions are against their deity or alignment, warn them before screwing them, or give them a low DC knowledge religion check.

Milskidasith
2009-07-23, 11:31 AM
Actually, yes it can. It qualifies as intentionally deciding (the key factor) to perform an act of destruction (second factor) which resulted in the harming of innocents or those not involved in conflict (third factor). The fact that it was unintentional doesn't matter. This is where guilt comes in. Knowledge that the act was wrong, but rationalizing that it was unintentional and, therefore, "not your fault."

If you cause a rockslide to kill a party of orcs attacking you that ALSO causes an avalanche that destroys a village further down the hill, that still qualifies as an evil act. It was caused by carelessness.

So intentions don't matter, but the act has to be an intentional act of destruction? That's incredibly hypocritical. If they couldn't be considered evil for accidentally destroying the village, why are they evil for accidentally killing women and children? Honestly, I think you are just trying to play devil's advocate. About your earlier line saying nobody said it was "super evil;" people were considering it enough to drop the PCs into evil territory from good, instantly. That would be a pretty evil act, don't you think?

Anyway, the thing is, consequences are not foreseeable. In the rulebooks, it even says that if the consequences are not foreseeable, you are not at fault. With your idea of "everything everybody ever does will count as evil for something eventually, and evil outweighs good" everybody in the universe would be going to the lower planes unless they were seriously lucky that nothing they ever did caused any harm to anybody. Intent has to matter, because the same act can be commited by an evil, neutral, and good PC for totally different reasons; would you say that killing the orcs to laugh at their suffering, get their stuff, or protect innocents are all equal acts?

The DM had told everybody the orcs had been attacking a human settlement, presumably without reason. They were hired to stop the attacks, and given the location of the orcs war camp. They had no reason to know there were women and children there, thus it was an unforseeable consequence. If the players later saw the women and children running around and weren't shocked, I could see it being evil for their lack of concern for sentient life, but if they never knew the orc women and children were burned to death until after the act, when the DM said, "Ok you guys, time to get pissed off, your cleric is worthless and you are all evil," then it's just a bad move on the DM's part.

Your ideas on morality are completely nonsensical and also contradicted by the books; whenever the PCs would be evil, you say that it was an intentional act for extra emphasis, but whenever they do anything that accidentally causes suffering, you say intent doesn't matter. Selective and hypocritical morality is not in any of the rulebooks, and the "intentions don't matter" part is actually countered by the rulebooks saying that unforseeable consequences don't count.

I can just imagine playing with you.

My paladin: I give the beggar a few coins and a loaf of bread.
DM: You fall.
Me: What!?
DM: Through a long chain of events, giving him this food caused him to get beat up by another beggar. Then he got angry, and killed the other beggar. Then, the assassin's guild recruited him, and he commited regicide. Congratulations, you are Chaotic Evil for giving bread to a beggar!

Kylarra
2009-07-23, 11:33 AM
My paladin: I give the beggar a few coins and a loaf of bread.
DM: You fall.
Me: What!?
DM: Through a long chain of events, giving him this food caused him to get beat up by another beggar. Then he got angry, and killed the other beggar. Then, the assassin's guild recruited him, and he commited regicide. Congratulations, you are Chaotic Evil for giving bread to a beggar!
Thank you Kotor 2! :smalltongue:

Well, minus teh regicide.

Telonius
2009-07-23, 11:36 AM
You just said "intentional". As opposed to, you know, accidental or unforseeable.

The rule you have stated is nonsense and I doubt it is actually in any books in that form "Intention doesn't matter so long as it's intentional" - wha?

"Intention," as in, did you mean for the act to be good or evil, lawful or chaotic. "Intentional," as in, was the act done of your own free will, with no domination or magical compulsion involved. No redundancy or nonsense there.



That is for if you are forced into an impossible choice that requires you to commit an evil act knowing the consequences to avoid something worse - or if you're Dominated into doing something evil, or something.

Right - so even if you're Dominated or choosing the lesser of evils when you kill the orc kids, the wording of the spell suggests that there's something that needs to be done in order to set it totally right. The Paladin's Code explicitly states that actions must be taken willfully to cause a fall, so Domination wouldn't be applicable. But they're still on the hook if they choose lesser of two evils. The interpretation is more open for Clerics, whose code of conduct varies by god. Druids arguably have the strictest restriction; their description says that any Druid who teaches a non-Druid the druidic language falls, period, no mitigating circumstances mentioned. So, as written, even if it's by accident the Druid loses his powers and needs to Atone. (How one would teach somebody a language by accident is anybody's guess, but let's just say a Wizard did it).

Random832
2009-07-23, 12:05 PM
"Intention," as in, did you mean for the act to be good or evil, lawful or chaotic. "Intentional," as in, was the act done of your own free will, with no domination or magical compulsion involved. No redundancy or nonsense there.

And you still have not addressed the third meaning - of whether they intended for orc civilians to be put at risk. Without that - without even a reckless disregard - there is not only no intention, there is no such act.

quick_comment
2009-07-23, 12:43 PM
The DM had told everybody the orcs had been attacking a human settlement, presumably without reason. They were hired to stop the attacks, and given the location of the orcs war camp. They had no reason to know there were women and children there, thus it was an unforseeable consequence.
I whole-heartedly agree that intent matters, but I think you're being a bit too easy on the PCs here. It's entirely reasonable for there to be noncombatants in a raiders' camp, and it's entirely reasonable that the ones who were just attacked by the raiders consider their camp a "war camp". By accepting at face value the implication that there are no civilians in the camp, the PCs are treating lives carelessly. That carelessness doesn't fit neatly into D&D's two-dimensional alignment scale, but the closest fit is probably the "evil" trope of the "misguided crusader".

Of course, the above paragraph is assuming that the campaign has already conveyed the idea that "orcs are people too". The tone of the campaign must be considered: if every orc the players have seen up to this point has been an "encounter", and there has been no mention of noncombatants, the players are, on a metagame level, justified in assuming that all the orcs are combatants, so their treating this scene as "business as usual" should not suddenly have severe consequences.

Gnaeus
2009-07-23, 01:04 PM
O.K. Lets look at this from the logical conclusion of the argument.

Orcs and other humanoids are smart. Particularly their leaders and shamans, smart and ruthless.

Orc shaman makes an easy knowledge religion check.
"Hmm. Stupid human gods not allow stupid humans to kill orc babies. Half orc babies die before grow up anyway. We strap one baby to every other warriors back, no more fireball. No more flamestrike. Hehehe."

This is what would happen if burning down orc villages caused alignment shifts to evil.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 01:14 PM
O.K. Lets look at this from the logical conclusion of the argument.

Orcs and other humanoids are smart. Particularly their leaders and shamans, smart and ruthless.

Orc shaman makes an easy knowledge religion check.
"Hmm. Stupid human gods not allow stupid humans to kill orc babies. Half orc babies die before grow up anyway. We strap one baby to every other warriors back, no more fireball. No more flamestrike. Hehehe."

This is what would happen if burning down orc villages caused alignment shifts to evil.
...what?

That's just silly. We've been talking about "causing the deaths of Innocents that could have been easily avoided" not "killing the human shields used in an incredibly Evil fashion to prevent the wholesale slaughter of Innocents otherwise not in danger."

Faced with this situation:

A Good warrior would say "Hold your fireballs as long as possible - every orc we bring down by bowshot will let one more innocent survive."

A Neutral warrior would say "Wow, those Evil bastards. Um, try to not use any more fireballs than necessary, OK?"

An Evil warrior would say "Two-for-one deal? Awesome!" :smallbiggrin:

I've said it before and I'll say it again - actions are not alignments

Random832
2009-07-23, 01:38 PM
...what?

That's just silly.

The whole premise is silly.


We've been talking about "causing the deaths of Innocents that could have been easily avoided"

How could it have been avoided? By the DM giving any hint that there are civilians present, that's how.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 01:41 PM
How could it have been avoided? By the DM giving any hint that there are civilians present, that's how.
Which is why, in my first post, I noted that information as being the linchpin of deciding whether or not an alignment shift is appropriate :smalltongue:

Gnaeus
2009-07-23, 01:43 PM
...what?

That's just silly.



Yes. The entire argument is silly. The existence of genocidal gods demonstrates that the murder of hill giant and drow babies is compatible with good and neutral alignments, respectively. Maybe orcs are somehow different.




Faced with this situation:

A Good warrior would say "Hold your fireballs as long as possible - every orc we bring down by bowshot will let one more innocent survive."

A Neutral warrior would say "Wow, those Evil bastards. Um, try to not use any more fireballs than necessary, OK?"

An Evil warrior would say "Two-for-one deal? Awesome!" :smallbiggrin:

I've said it before and I'll say it again - actions are not alignments

You know what, a Good or Neutral dwarf warrior would say "Two-for-one deal? Awesome!" :smallbiggrin:" also, and they would STILL be good or neutral.

If it actually caused most good characters to fall and lose their divine powers, it would happen. The reason it doesn't happen is that most good and neutral gods don't care enough about it to bind their followers in such an inane fashion.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 02:10 PM
Yes. The entire argument is silly. The existence of genocidal gods demonstrates that the murder of hill giant and drow babies is compatible with good and neutral alignments, respectively. Maybe orcs are somehow different.
No, no it isn't.

Gods that want to kill other races do not destroy the alignment system.

Remember: Blood feuds are not genocide.

These Good gods are not actively wiping out entire nations of orcs nor can I find any source which shows them advocating the elimination of defenseless members of other races. Generally speaking, the gods are speaking more of "kill any [race] warrior before they can kill their favored target, us."

If you can cite some source (TSR or WotC publication) which glorifies the murder of babies as a Good act, I'd be happy to concede the point.

Again, Good is clearly described in the SRD:

Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
Good entities don't advocate pointless killing. Even if you make the argument "orc babies grow up to be orc warriors" a Good entity is not going to go about killing them - "respect for life" after all.

Gnaeus
2009-07-23, 02:57 PM
These Good gods are not actively wiping out entire nations of orcs nor can I find any source which shows them advocating the elimination of defenseless members of other races. Generally speaking, the gods are speaking more of "kill any [race] warrior before they can kill their favored target, us."

If you can cite some source (TSR or WotC publication) which glorifies the murder of babies as a Good act, I'd be happy to concede the point.


I didn't say it was a good act. I said that it is compatible with a Lawful Good alignment. It could be neutral, or even evil, but it isn't so evil that it makes you fall from good.

Clangeddin Silverbeard. Faiths and Pantheons Pg 116-117 "Clangeddin harbors a special kind of hatred towards giants" "Attack hill giants whenever possible and other evil giants whenever necessary." Now, the second part is as you said, kill any (evil giant warrior) before they can kill their favored target. The first part is equally clear. Kill the fracking hill giants. All of them. Not their leaders. Not their warriors. Just kill them.
This behavior does not prevent him from being LAWFUL GOOD.

Shevarash is CN. Not CE. Faiths and Pantheons Pg 131 Her dogma includes "Utter destruction of the Drow". If that isn't clear enough, try"Shevarash sends agents to pursue the dark elves back into the Underdark and hunts them down until all are dead. "

Sorry if it offends your sensibilities, but you can be a genocidal *******, and still be Lawful Good, or Chaotic Neutral. Personally, I suspect that most of the racial and many of the non racial deities either echo these feelings in a slightly less dogmatic fashion, or just couldn't care less about the lives of the children of their hereditary enemies.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-23, 10:56 PM
Sorry if it offends your sensibilities, but you can be a genocidal *******, and still be Lawful Good, or Chaotic Neutral. Personally, I suspect that most of the racial and many of the non racial deities either echo these feelings in a slightly less dogmatic fashion, or just couldn't care less about the lives of the children of their hereditary enemies.
It doesn't so much "offend my sensibilities" as contradict the text we're given.

I can't square "respect life" with "genocide" and I suspect that was not the intent of the writers of Faiths & Pantheons, let alone Gygax & co. In fact, IIRC earlier sourcebooks (pre-WotC) suggested you gave negative XP for killing Innocents - though I don't have any idea what book I saw it in. In any case, I seriously doubt "attack hill giants whenever possible" was intended to mean "bash in the heads of hill giant babies" either in-game or from the author's standpoint.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-24, 12:34 AM
I'd assume it would say to only kill Hill Giants who were threatening innocents if that was the intention. Just thinking about Garl being happy to murder tons of Kobolds using a cave-in; why do Kobolds and Gnomes hate each other exactly? (Admiteedly, I never got why Kobolds were listed as evil due to my stance being that they have every right to defend themselves agsinst stronger creatures using sadistic traps.)

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-24, 12:56 AM
I'd assume it would say to only kill Hill Giants who were threatening innocents if that was the intention. Just thinking about Garl being happy to murder tons of Kobolds using a cave-in; why do Kobolds and Gnomes hate each other exactly? (Admiteedly, I never got why Kobolds were listed as evil due to my stance being that they have every right to defend themselves agsinst stronger creatures using sadistic traps.)
Y'see, I'm thinking the writers of a classic Good vs. Evil gaming system probably wouldn't assume their heroes are thinking about murdering babies and therefore needed to be specifically told not to do that.

But that's just me :smallbiggrin:

As for racial deities - they have eternal blood feuds with other racial deities. Things were done in The Distant Past which have created a permanent enmity that causes the two groups to constantly war with each other.

Note that this is war not "murderin' for murdernin's sake." Particularly in the case of Good Gods, they have restrictions as to how they wage war - they have to act within their alignment.

As for why kobolds are Evil - it is because they act like this:

Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
It just so happens that creatures with this kind of ethos end up making trouble by "hurting, oppressing, and killing others."

To put it another way: kobolds are a "usually Lawful Evil" race that delights in trapmaking and torture. They like to hurt, oppress, and kill others - this usually earns them the enmity of the races that they prey upon, who then send adventures into their warrens to make them stop.

Tempest Fennac
2009-07-24, 01:05 AM
Thanks for clarifying. Considering how weak Kobolds are, I'd say that their traps are completely justified; I'm seen by a lot of people as highly good, but if someone was attacking me, I wouldn't have any issues with severely injuring them (I tend to think WotC have a lot of double standards from both the Goblin Defence Fund's site and Complete Champion suggesting that lumberjacks are evil if it's Gnolls cutting down trees*).


*I'm assuming that if Gnolls were defending their homes from human lumberjacks, it would mean the Gnolls were evil in that scenario as well.

Elfin
2009-07-24, 01:34 AM
Definitely a mistake, I think, especially if the players are new, as it might turn them off the game. All in all, I wouldn't penalize the characters, as they were unaware of their actions.

Fixer
2009-07-24, 06:44 AM
Your ideas on morality are completely nonsensical and also contradicted by the books; whenever the PCs would be evil, you say that it was an intentional act for extra emphasis, but whenever they do anything that accidentally causes suffering, you say intent doesn't matter. Selective and hypocritical morality is not in any of the rulebooks, and the "intentions don't matter" part is actually countered by the rulebooks saying that unforseeable consequences don't count.The intention is to perform the act. Let me explain my previous example a bit more completely:

The characters are on a mountainside. They are attacked by orcs from below. One of the characters is told by the GM that he can cause a rockslide that will kill the orcs below. That GM *ALSO* has a responsibility to tell the player that it is also possible it will cause an avalanche that will destroy a village further down the mountain. The player INTENTIONALLY DECIDES to start the rockslide to kill the orcs. The GM rolls the dice and they turn up that he also destroyed the village, making it an unintentional evil act.

The GM does carry a responsibility to TELL the players what the possible consequences of their actions will be if they continue. Players aren't in possession of all the facts, but their characters would know about possibilities. If they make their decision, knowing the possibilities of danger to innocents, then their act is evil because it puts their own personal safety above that of others.


Now, take that same mountainside battle and the characters decide NOT to start a rockslide but instead just attack the orcs. The orcs, in the result of their dying, start a rockslide anyway and the village is destroyed. In this instance, there is no evil act because the characters didn't intend to start the rockslide. They were made aware of the consequences of their actions and decided to not choose that choice. The fact that it happened anyway was not a direct result of the players' intentional actions. It was the GM deciding things happened a certain way that didn't involve a choice by the players.

Now, again, take that same mountainside battle and the characters are unaware there is a village down the mountain. The characters wouldn't be informed about the possibility of a village being destroyed but they would be informed about the danger of an avalanche. If the characters start the rockslide anyway, and it causes the avalanche, and it causes the village to be destroyed then it is a grey area but ultimately leans towards an evil act because of the intentional decision to the possibility of causing a destructive avalanche.

Gnaeus
2009-07-24, 08:17 AM
Note that this is war not "murderin' for murdernin's sake." Particularly in the case of Good Gods, they have restrictions as to how they wage war - they have to act within their alignment.

Clangeddin's text says he directs his followers to kill giants because he hates them. Shevarash's crusade is motivated by revenge (which in my opinion is why she is CN not CG). Thats pretty close to "murderin' for murdernin's sake."

And yes, even Clangeddin's followers wouldn't stoop to torturing a racial enemy. But that wouldn't mean they would let them live.


To put it another way: kobolds are a "usually Lawful Evil" race that delights in trapmaking and torture. They like to hurt, oppress, and kill others - this usually earns them the enmity of the races that they prey upon, who then send adventures into their warrens to make them stop.

If you were right, every good and neutral aligned nation would have to have huge orphanages to deal with the children of the evil humanoids that their soldiers and adventurers have slain in order for those good nations to survive. Leaving them defenseless in the wilderness is killing them by another name, more slowly. Yes, a few good gods will take in foundlings from evil races. But show me where in the literature you find gnome kingdoms raising large kobold populations from defeated tribes. You won't even find good humans with those attitudes.

hamishspence
2009-07-24, 02:29 PM
Which is why, in Champions of Valor, the Good character suggests teaching the non-combatants (and there are noncombatant members of monster races, and have been, since Basic D&D) farming, rather than "abandoning them"

the good (or at least, strongly good) character's reaction to a bunch of non-combatant orcs (or goblins, or any other "usually evil" monster races), shouldn't be "eh, they'll die of starvation or team up with other raiding bands- exterminate them to the last baby"

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-24, 03:06 PM
You got that backwards.
No, I didn't. I meant what I typed. I don't like the top-down approach to alignment, where alignments are the allowed personality types and you're not allowed to make an otherwise perfectly reasonable character that doesn't fit into one of them.

Maybe I don't want my character to be conformist, pragmatic, nor impulsive. Maybe I want him to be idealistic, with his own principles that he's strongly committed to even though they conflict with society's. But if I have to base my character's personality on an alignment, I'm not allowed to do that, because he's no part of the Law/Neutrality/Chaos false trichotomy that the PHB presents. He doesn't follow authority or tradition, he lacks normal respect for authority but can't be tempted into lying or deceiving others, and he isn't flexible nor adaptable.

Requiring a top-down approach to alignment makes alignment into a straitjacket, which it isn't supposed to be. Even using a top-down approach to alignment most of the time will tend to produce an unrealistic overabundance of certain personality archetypes, since real-life people don't have their personalities based on alignment.

Don't get me wrong; I see the appeal of occasionally basing a character on an archetype (or multiple archetypes), and I realize that the d20 system supports that over bottom-up character design. But D&D provides a lot of options, to the point where the "come up with a character concept first, then use the system to model it" approach is actually pretty viable. So don't be hatin' on it.

I think that I embrace the idea that some game rules are the game world's laws of nature as much as anyone. But verisimilitude requires that there be more to the setting than the rules cover. There's room in D&D for fairly realistic, non-alignment-based societies; and frankly, I think that most non-outsider societies based directly on an alignment would strain my credulity to some degree. Further, there's absolutely no need to give social groups alignments. Only individuals require alignments.


After all, theirs' is a society that "does whatever its greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive them to do;" if a Drow can kill someone to get what he wants (and get away with it) then he will. The stability comes in when there aren't any easy targets - but don't think for a moment that everyone isn't on the lookout for the next "mark" in the meantime.
Drow are Usually Neutral Evil in 3.5, not CE. They rightly decided that their AD&D alignment didn't make sense; they're too restrained and willing to suck up to those in power to be truly Chaotic. And my point was that a drow is rarely an easy target, because she knows damn well how dangerous being an easy target is. So a drow society is stable most of the time, even though the drow spend those periods of stability waiting to pounce. Sure, periods of upheaval are frequent and influential enough that their society is largely defined by them, but there probably isn't one going on right now. Right now, drow are being murdered, but not at a ridiculous rate. If nothing else, obviously they can't murder each other faster than they can reproduce over the long term.

Drow are actually a good example of realistic, bottom-up alignment, I think. Their goddess explicitly demands a certain level of Chaos, and implicitly demands a certain degree of Law: authority, tradition, obedience, all that jazz. Like I said earlier, NE makes more sense than CE for them, and it makes more sense for orcs for pretty much the same reasons.

Strong, ruthless and demanding leaders of any alignment mean that less powerful individuals can't really stay Chaotic and free under them, because defying authority gets them imprisoned, enslaved, or killed.


And from the ogre POV it is a good act to eat humans.
Yes, it is a double standart, because it is from the point of view of PC races that tend to kill orcs/drow/etc. on sight - and expect to be killed in return.

They are monsters, they were made that way - so that your PC can kill them without remorse. Vampire can be benevolent and feed only on criminals - but he's still going to be considered "evil" by his foodstock. Take a look at Redcloak from OOTS - to goblins he is a Chaotic Good character, but to PC races he is completely Evil.

From druid's POV most paladins are extremely evil - they don't care about ants underneath their feet! Do they deserve an automatic fall?

Just because you thought you were doing a good thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was good. Just because you thought you were doing an evil thing, doesn't mean you're correct that it was evil.
Woah, woah, woah. What do you mean when you talk about "thinking that something is good" or "thinking that something is evil"?

Killing innocents is Evil. Protecting innocents is Good.

Suppose a man thinks it just and righteous to kill innocent individuals because they're his people's racial enemy. He thinks that the statement "Killing these individuals is good" is true and that the statement "Killing these individuals is evil" is true. But he realizes that he's killing innocents, and doesn't think he's protecting innocents.

This man knows that what he wants to do is Evil and not Good as Evil and Good are described in the PHB, but he also thinks "What I want to do is good" and "What I want to do is not evil", because he has different definitions of the words "good" and "evil" than the PHB uses.

The main problem is that the alignment terms are poorly chosen. Replace "Good" and Evil" with "Kind" and "Cruel" and things become a lot more clear. Does this man think that what he wants to do is Kind? No, he doesn't.


I can't square "respect life" with "genocide"
How is it fundamentally more difficult than squaring "respect life" with "kill"?

It's a fairly simple concept: Sometimes taking life helps to preserve life, just like sometimes spending money helps you to make money. Isn't it Good to try to maximize the number of survivors?


In any case, I seriously doubt "attack hill giants whenever possible" was intended to mean "bash in the heads of hill giant babies" either in-game or from the author's standpoint.
It entails bashing their heads in if they're right there in front of you and you don't have any other pressing business.

As Gnaeus points out, the text very clearly implies that hill giants are to be killed beyond merely when it's necessary.

Gnaeus
2009-07-24, 04:16 PM
Which is why, in Champions of Valor, the Good character suggests teaching the non-combatants (and there are noncombatant members of monster races, and have been, since Basic D&D) farming, rather than "abandoning them"

Ahh, but the neutral dwarves and humans are in favor of killing the females and young (This is pg 15 by the way). Which only supports that genocide of the women and children of evil races is compatible with neutral alignments. And this example is an example of a single good individual, not specifically addressing the lack of a team of nannies for young goblin prisoners in your typical dwarf war party.


the good (or at least, strongly good) character's reaction to a bunch of non-combatant orcs (or goblins, or any other "usually evil" monster races), shouldn't be "eh, they'll die of starvation or team up with other raiding bands- exterminate them to the last baby"

I agree that taking care of the babies is a good act. My argument is that exterminating them is not an evil one, or at least not evil enough to cause alignment problems in an otherwise good Deity, Kingdom, or Character.

hamishspence
2009-07-24, 04:27 PM
a neutral character can do anything. But when it comes to repeated cold-blooded murder, they might not stay Neutral for long.

racial enmities are a tricky thing. But since BoED, "just killing the baby monsters" is no longer a Neutral act. At least for people using this theme of "doing the right thing, even to monsters."

Most descriptions I've seen of Shevarash refer to the deity as "he"
not that it matters.

And its not clear whether Shevarash, Clanggedin, etc slaughter baby evil humanoids/giants wherever they find them, and encourage their followers to do so- it may be that they might not be quite so brutal.

Shevarash's CN alignment may be the combination of good acts (defending others from drow) and evil acts (killing drow even when its not the right thing to do) though I'd have to see evidence of followers of Shevarash slaughtering followers of Eilistraee, the good drow deity, to confirm this hypothesis.

Not sure about Clangeddin.

The fact that the characters didn't know about the orc women and children (though maybe they should have known) is a significant mitigating factor.

Gnaeus
2009-07-24, 05:24 PM
a neutral character can do anything. But when it comes to repeated cold-blooded murder, they might not stay Neutral for long.

In this case it is the listed behavior for a group of individuals that the authors specifically describe as neutral. Maybe if they make a habit of it they will eventually fall. Or maybe it is just a neutral act.



racial enmities are a tricky thing. But since BoED, "just killing the baby monsters" is no longer a Neutral act. At least for people using this theme of "doing the right thing, even to monsters."

That is a valid argument. I think it is equally valid, however, to argue that writers of different sourcebooks seem to have had different ideas about what exactly constitutes different alignments. Many people don't regard BoED as a valid source, for reasons including:
1. It is 3.0
2. It contains wildly broken material
3. It has views that many people disagree with in its opinions regarding morality, like the acceptance of "Holy Mindrape".


Most descriptions I've seen of Shevarash refer to the deity as "he" not that it matters.

I apologize to him. With elves, how can you tell?


And its not clear whether Shevarash, Clanggedin, etc slaughter baby evil humanoids/giants wherever they find them, and encourage their followers to do so- it may be that they might not be quite so brutal.

And its not clear whether Moradin, Garl Glittergold, etc could care less about the children of their racial enemies. They could be just as willing to let their followers slay them, just less fanatical about the need to do so.

hamishspence
2009-07-24, 05:31 PM
Its 3.5. (DR/evil, rather than DR/+3 or more)

Its not as broken as BoVD, generally.

Its morality principles are echoed in later books. (and Sanctify the Wicked works a bit differently from Mindrape- it can't edit memories, it takes a whole year to work- it removes the creature from play while its working.)

Deities and Demigods points out Good deities can and do commit evil acts- just not often. If Shevarash and Clangeddin murder beings without "just cause" even if only rarely, these are Evil acts. Might not be enough to pull them out of good (because done very very rarely), but still Evil acts.

If followers of them do same things- same applies.

Gnaeus
2009-07-24, 07:07 PM
Its 3.5. (DR/evil, rather than DR/+3 or more)

Its not as broken as BoVD, generally.

Its morality principles are echoed in later books. (and Sanctify the Wicked works a bit differently from Mindrape- it can't edit memories, it takes a whole year to work- it removes the creature from play while its working.)

Deities and Demigods points out Good deities can and do commit evil acts- just not often. If Shevarash and Clangeddin murder beings without "just cause" even if only rarely, these are Evil acts. Might not be enough to pull them out of good (because done very very rarely), but still Evil acts.

If followers of them do same things- same applies.

I'm not going to derail the thread with debate on how authoritative BoED may or may not be. We both know that many games disalow it and consider it a fringe source.

There is a huge difference between occasionally being forced to commit an evil act by circumstances, and making its performance part of your dogma.

But if we are in agreement that killing off the women and children of a humanoid tribe is evil but not evil enough to drop you from lawful good unless you do it often, that was kind of my point to begin with.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-24, 07:14 PM
No, I didn't. I meant what I typed. I don't like the top-down approach to alignment, where alignments are the allowed personality types and you're not allowed to make an otherwise perfectly reasonable character that doesn't fit into one of them.

Maybe I don't want my character to be conformist, pragmatic, nor impulsive. Maybe I want him to be idealistic, with his own principles that he's strongly committed to even though they conflict with society's. But if I have to base my character's personality on an alignment, I'm not allowed to do that, because he's no part of the Law/Neutrality/Chaos false trichotomy that the PHB presents. He doesn't follow authority or tradition, he lacks normal respect for authority but can't be tempted into lying or deceiving others, and he isn't flexible nor adaptable.
So... he's Chaotic?

"Chaos" implies freedom, adaptability, and flexibility. On the downside, chaos can include recklessness, resentment toward legitimate authority, arbitrary actions, and irresponsibility. Those who promote chaotic behavior say that only unfettered personal freedom allows people to express themselves fully and lets society benefit from the potential that its individuals have within them. Note the "implies" and "can" there - every Chaotic character need not be "all of the above."

Alignment is only a straight-jacket if you read them as proscriptive rather than descriptive; that is to say that you view the alignment descriptions demand certain actions rather than merely describing a broad area of personal philosophy.


How is it fundamentally more difficult than squaring "respect life" with "kill"?

It's a fairly simple concept: Sometimes taking life helps to preserve life, just like sometimes spending money helps you to make money. Isn't it Good to try to maximize the number of survivors? Mainly because Genocide implies mass, unwarranted killing.

Genocide: the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.
A war is perpetrated towards a specific end - for Good armies, stopping a threat to the Innocents is usually the end. A genocidal war (or a plain old genocide) has no other end than killing - not an end which "respects life."

In the first case, you kill only when necessary to achieve your goal; if you take enemy prisoners you can't just execute them when convenient.

In the second case, you kill all the time - it is your goal. This is not a Good objective, nor a Good way to wage a war.

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-24, 08:49 PM
So... he's Chaotic?
Well, he's not by-the-book Chaotic. He doesn't generally favor new ideas over tradition, and does what he promises even if he doesn't feel like it.


Alignment is only a straight-jacket if you read them as proscriptive rather than descriptive
How do you base personalities on alignment without treating it as proscriptive?


Mainly because Genocide implies mass, unwarranted killing.
No, only mass. Destroying the fiends would be extremely warranted, for example. It just happens to also be pretty much impossible.


A war is perpetrated towards a specific end - for Good armies, stopping a threat to the Innocents is usually the end. A genocidal war (or a plain old genocide) has no other end than killing - not an end which "respects life."
No, it's possible to try to kill off a people because of the threat you think they represent. In D&D, that might actually be justified in some cases.


if you take enemy prisoners you can't just execute them when convenient.
Killing a prisoner for the threat he represents has the same basic moral justification as killing a non-prisoner for the threat he represents. The only difference is that, in practice, a prisoner is usually hella less of a threat than a dude who's still out there running around. Some prisoners could still represent very dangerous threats, though, which is why some things that the BoED say about the treatment of prisoners are stupid.

Oracle_Hunter
2009-07-24, 10:41 PM
Can you describe how any of that shows "respect for life?"

Respect: (10) To show regard or consideration for.

Now, to be sure, the world of D&D is a violent place and killing will happen. However, a Good person is supposed to show regard or consideration for Life; to not take it easily or without the utmost necessity. Self-defense or defense of Innocents both can result in the taking of Life, but it does not have to; ideally a Good warrior would offer quarter to all with enough sentience to understand it and make sure they were dealt with appropriately.

"Appropriately" depends largely on your L/C orientation - judgment before a court or summary execution. But, in either case you don't kill "just because they're Evil" but rather because they are judged to be too large of a threat to continue to survive.

Genocide, as I've noted before, is wanton killing, no matter how you slice it. To wage war for genocide is never Good; if you decide you must salt the earth of Carthage, it had better be because it is a dire threat to all that is Good and Pure. Demons, of course, being entities of Pure Evil (tm) are to be killed (?) whenever possible, if you are in the business of demon-slaying; they are much like mad dogs in that there is no way to make them "safe" (short of questionable magics from the accursed BoED). Orcs and Hill Giants are another matter entirely - their alignment is a choice, and they can be contained by other means.
In short, I think you're drawing moral equivalencies far too easily. There is a substantial difference between killing someone in the heat of battle because they present a Clear and Present Danger and bashing in the head of a prisoner because they might kill again if they escape.

As for Proscriptive v. Descriptive:

Proscribe: (1) To denounce or condemn (a thing) as dangerous or harmful; prohibit.

Describe: (1) To tell or depict in written or spoken words; give an account of
In your accounts, you seem to focus on the proscriptive elements of alignment - "Chaotic implies flexibility. This means I cannot be inflexible" - rather than the descriptive elements - "I'm inflexible and always tell the truth, but I reject the rules of society in favor of my own. Oh, that's Chaotic."

Alignment is supposed to create broad categories of traits that you can fit over any personality type. Once you've set that alignment, it gives guidance as to what your future actions will be like.

Taking your example (which I'll say is CG since I presume your "idealism" is of the Good variety) we have several defined traits:

- Defies authority
- Refuses to compromise on his principles
- Inflexible and slow to adapt to changing circumstances

but this is hardly the whole of your character. In time, I'm sure you could detail your list of principles and perhaps make a completely contingent characterization - one that defines his feelings for any possible encounter. But to save time, we see he is best described as CG and take a quick peek at what that means:

A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but hes kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.
Not a bad shorthand, no?

See, alignment is (generally) not about telling you what you can't do, but more about giving you, the player, a shorthand to cover a character's personality; it is meant to describe the character's personality, not proscribe what the character can and cannot do.

Of course, there are extremes where alignment is proscriptive (Good people can't randomly slaughter Innocents); but there, it is not really that the alignment is preventing you from doing something - it's just showing you made a poor choice for describing your character with an alignment.
Short form: Alignment is used to describe the character you made, not tell you how your character is supposed to be played. It is also used as a shorthand to let others know how a XY alignment person/city/nation generally acts. If your person/city/nation consistently acts well outside of the bounds of their alignment, then a poor choice was made when choosing that alignment in the first place.

Devils_Advocate
2009-07-25, 05:31 PM
Well, I'll admit that I was dumb enough to confuse "proscriptive" and "prescriptive", but I still think that my point stands as written. I don't see how you can square what you wrote above with "determining personalities based on alignments." Everything you just wrote seems to indicate agreement with me that you should go the other way around, and determine alignment based on personality.

And why would you say that my character is Chaotic for rejecting the rules of society, despite inflexibility and honesty? Couldn't one as easily say that he's Lawful because he tells the truth and keeps his word, despite his rejection of societal conventions?

(1) The Law/Chaos axis does not provide an alignment for someone who follows his own personal code. Or rather, it provides more than one alignment for him: "Chaotic characters follow their consciences", but "A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her."
(2) The Law/Chaos axis is presented as Conformity vs. Independence, Honesty vs. Dishonesty, and Order vs. Impulse. Law is conforming, honest, ordered, and consistent; Chaos is independent, often dishonest, impulsive, and inconsistent; and Neutrality has normal respect for authority and is kinda but not completely honest. The problem is that those traits don't always line up the same way.

So the axis as written does not cover a dirty lying spy who is absolutely loyal to his king, or someone who fights for individual liberty in an organized and consistent way, or plenty of other perfectly reasonable character concepts. You can handwavingly assign these characters Lawful, Chaotic or Neutral alignments based on the alignment restrictions of the classes you want them to have, or just based on whimsy, because Law and Chaos mean several entirely different things. (There's a thread in Media Discussions on Two-face's alignment that's a perfect example of this. Two-face is an excellent illustration of how the Law/Chaos axis as written does not work.)

Alternately, if you want Law and Chaos to have specific meanings in your games, you can pick one of those dichotomies for the axis to cover and discard the rest. This is very reasonable; but remember, the need to patch it illustrates that alignment as written doesn't work.

Can you describe how any of that shows "respect for life?"
Killing all of the fiends to prevent them from repeatedly killing everyone else shows respect for life by, um, preventing the fiends from repeatedly killing everyone else.


a Good person is supposed to show regard or consideration for Life; to not take it easily or without the utmost necessity.
"Utmost necessity"? You only literally have to kill in cases where it's physically impossible not to. But if someone is about to destroy the multiverse and you lack non-lethal means to stop him... you could just choose to let him destroy the multiverse. Besides, how can you know with absolute certainty that non-lethal means won't work? Just because you haven't thought of any yet and the guy is going to destroy the multiverse in six seconds doesn't mean that you won't come up with something in the time remaining if you try. How do you know that you won't?

I don't see how "Deliberately kill people only when necessary" is anything but a call for never deliberately killing. Deliberate killing is never necessary.

An objective morality is necessarily based on absolutes. A non-stupid objective morality is necessarily based on non-stupid absolutes. ("Never rape", for example, is suspiciously specific. Do we really want that as an axiom, meaning that there's no reason that rape is wrong, it just is? That moral rule may be an entirely legitimate conclusion, but it strikes me as a poor choice as a fundamental principle.)

Does killing someone lead to a scenario with a higher expected number of survivors than not killing that person? Then... killing yields the higher number of expected survivors. I'm unclear on how else saving lives could justify killing.


Genocide, as I've noted before, is wanton killing, no matter how you slice it.
No, genocide is "the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group". There's nothing about it that prevents you for doing it to achieve some end other than the genocide itself.

Someone could, say, kill off a bloodline of Always Chaotic Evil black dragons to prevent them from harming that individual's family, with preventing them from harming anyone else being gravy.


There is a substantial difference between killing someone in the heat of battle because they present a Clear and Present Danger and bashing in the head of a prisoner because they might kill again if they escape.
The difference tends to be that the prisoner represents less of a threat. But what if, for example, the prisoner is an evil demigod who might kill tens of thousands of people if he escaped? Mightn't that be sufficient justification for killing him, even if the odds of his escape are very low? The major consideration there would seem to be whether killing him actually makes him less of a threat. Which it might not.