View Full Version : Help me create a parable.

2016-10-19, 04:03 PM
The last session, one of the players, a sorcerer, tortured a Tiefling to get information.

Another player, a cleric of Sarenrae (NG deity), did not quite appreciate that act.

The cleric of Sarenrae wants to go to their quest giver, a LG cleric of Iomedae, to complain about his behavior.

The party has a wild range of alignments, ranging from CN to CG through TN.

Iomedae has determined these guys, alignments notwithstanding, are the ones which, willingly or not, unwittingly or not, are destined to bring about peace in All The World (TM).

But to do that, they must work together. And this means conflict over what's OK and what's not OK. Conflict inside the party can be fun, but even barring murderhobos, can lead to party destruction.

So, when the two guys go complaining to the boss, I'd like him to tell a parable about Iomedae, whose meaning should roughly be "We all have a place in the world: even evil can bring about good. You must all work together for this to happen."

What could be a good idea? I was thinking of borrowing (SPOILER ALERT, i guess?) Sméagol's death from LOTR. Without him, abject as he was, the ring would have never fell into the fires of Mount Doom.

Any ideas? How would you write such a parable, or, if you like the Sméagol parallel, how would you transpose it in a parable set in the pre-ascension period (when she was just a paladino) of a LG deity?

Kol Korran
2016-10-21, 11:21 AM
I won't talk about the parable at the moment,but a few comments:
1. You're basically siding with the tiefling here, accepting torture, and speaking as Iomedae to deliver the point. I... really, really don't think that's what Iomedae stands for. She really doesn't accept evil in the world, and fought her whole life, and after her ascension against it.

2. Even if she does accept a place for evil in the world, torture really doesn't seem to be part of it, especially since there may have been other methods. Are you sure you wish to condone torture? Because that's the message you may be sending.

3. Party cohesion problems, and different views should be addressed OOC, between players and GM- If you want inter party conflict, but avoid it destorying the party, this can be done, but not through the game, but rather with a talk amongst the players- What will be acceptable, what not, what could be tolerated, what should be encouraged, and what lines should not be crossed. Don't send your goddess to teach them (This feels VERY heavy handed, siding with one philosophy, and a player/ character may not agree, in which case they get in odds with the goddess), and it won't stop their problems surfacing next time.

4. Smeagol's fall? I beg to differ- If he had a part, it was leading Frodo and Sam through the secret ways over the swamp and into Mordor. Smeagol wrenching the ring from Frodo is an example of the ring turning on itself- Once it finally got another carrier under it's control, the former one could not let it go. And it's such a happenstance, which had nothing really to do with him being evil, but rather with his possessiveness of the ring. I'd suggest a different parable, if you still insist.

2016-10-21, 11:56 AM
The party has a wild range of alignments, ranging from CN to CG through TN.

I forget which version of good or even neutral it is that allows torture. Last I checked, that's usually one of the defining characteristics of evil.

The question is if this is a player issue or a character issue. Some people just don't want to play in games where torturing/etc. are part of the game. If it's a *player* issue, you need to deal with it on that level.

2016-10-21, 12:35 PM
Smeagol's fall? I beg to differ- If he had a part, it was leading Frodo and Sam through the secret ways over the swamp and into Mordor. Smeagol wrenching the ring from Frodo is an example of the ring turning on itself- Once it finally got another carrier under it's control, the former one could not let it go. And it's such a happenstance, which had nothing really to do with him being evil, but rather with his possessiveness of the ring. I'd suggest a different parable, if you still insist.

Don't forget Sam's act of mercy just before this, often forgotten because this (to me) pivotal moment is left out of those movies. On the slopes of Mount Doom, Sam has a final chance to kill Gollum after Frodo seems to have escaped Gollum's desperate assault. 'Oft evil will shall evil mar', but in order for this to happen, the basic decency of three Hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo and Sam) must spare Gollum, so his overpowering desire to possess the Ring brings about its downfall.

2016-10-21, 02:19 PM
The whole LG accepting evil is a bit odd to me too. Anyways, how about a parable talking about pine cones needing fire to seed a new forest?

Lord Joeltion
2016-10-21, 02:57 PM
The issue with said parable, would be when it is reduced to "Good ends, justify despicable means". Which in turn is more problematic than anything and probably doesn't solve anything at all.

Can I suggest a different angle your priest can take on the topic? Why not teaching them about "United we prevail" and "tolerance above all" instead?

A parable about how everything in nature fits a role, has a place and needs to *work as a team* despite differences; seems more fitting, and could deliver a subtle message for the characters to find a compromise themselves, instead of pushing them to a forced solution.

Something like "Lions need Antelopes, Antelopes need the weak to die; and if they turn against each other without looking at the Grand Scheme or Nature, only Vultures will survive". Or something along that idea.

2016-10-21, 05:17 PM
I think the problem you're running into is that there isn't really a "good" argument for torture. The closest you're going to get is something like:
"When the forces of good are stretched thin, we can't afford to scrutinize our allies too carefully. Lesser of two evils and all that."

Which is pretty unsatisfying, but there you go.

The ideal place to fix this was in char-gen, where perhaps a torture-happy character should not have been in the same party as all these good-aligned types. But at this point that's going to take OOC agreement to fix.

Personally, if you want to handle this IC, I think you should just have Iomedae give the actual reason - there's a prophecy, we know not everyone here is good people, but deal with it. And remember that the onus is on the Sorcerer to "deal with it" as much as the other characters. If they want to step in and stop him from torturing someone next time, that's reasonable and should be accepted. It's not PVP any more than the Sorcerer's action was PVP.

2016-10-21, 09:05 PM
I like it....just go with the parable of "if we kill everyone then there will be peace and no one left to do evil."

2016-10-21, 10:15 PM
Something along the lines of Mufasa's lesson to Simba should work. We kill the antelope. When we die, our bodies feed the grass. The antelope eat the grass. The circle continues and everyone has their place in the circle. You and your friends are curves on a circle, planks that make up a whole ship. Together, the flood of evil in this world is kept out, but if one of you slips, if just one of you strays from the group, then evil will overwhelm you. Which would you rather have? A little water in the boat or a deluge that drowns us all?

2016-10-22, 03:23 AM
I'm not sure that torturing people is part of the circle of life. :smalltongue:

But seriously, that metaphor gets a bit creepy when you apply it to people. It's the "natural order" (and necessary) for "the weak" to be culled? That, well ... that sounds more like something a priest of Asmodeus would say.

2016-10-22, 08:11 AM
I accept your qualms with this, and actually share them quite a bit (apart from the sarcasm, which is omnipresent in a forum in which the rules prohibit flaming, as "the next best thing", but still is quite unwarranted, especially if you do not know how long the DM has been DMing and/or how familiar he is with the alignment system). I thank deeply all of you which gave this an honest - although consisting of criticism - answer.

That said, I've already resolved the issue, following -without knowing it, by the way, since this is the first time I read this thread which I had lost hope for answers in - joeltion's helpful suggestion.

You probably want more context to understand fully the issue, since without context some reactions of rejection are justifiable.

The cleric of Sarenrae found the mangled body - still barely alive of the Tiefling. Obviously, he wanted to free him from the situation, and meant to bring him outside in the open world - which would have caused the death of all party members, as interested parties investigated their private lives and found out they were the unlikely rebels which kept putting the metaphorical sticks in the samely metaphorical wheels of the government. The Chaotic Neutral sorcerer - which, may I add, tends quite a bit to evil some times, but I want to make him Fall at an appropriately dramatic time - did torture the Tiefling, as he had important information integral to the plans of the rebels, and by the way had hurt badly the defenseless sister of the sorcerer, and then used Charm spells to try to get an out from detention. This last act, done at the expense of the OTHER sister of the Chaotic Neutral sorcerer, brought him over the limit, and made him snap.

I won't be arguing here if Chaotic Neutral might, under those circumstances, utilize torture. This is not to become another post in which to argue about alignment. I'll continue the story, as the cleric says, to the sorcerer's face, he'll free the Tiefling, no matter what. The sorcerer, to avoid what is a concrete threat to his (and others') lives, ends then and there the Tiefling's life. The cleric is, needless to say, not happy.

This brings us to the current time. I have, Out of Game, the issue of a party dismemberment to avoid. The sorcerer's player has made it clear that, since rebellion is a highly dangerous affair and his character is just in it for the money, if the Boss goes about it too roughly, he'll just call him an irredeemable idealist who's going to get killed and leave the party, bringing with him another player, which is connected to him by background.

On the other hand, it IS expected for him to receive a thrashing, what with Iomedae being a good deity.

This brings me to the unfortunate situation of choosing between essentially forcing two players to reroll for simply playing their characters or force the hand on NPC alignments. I choose, with great distress I might add, the second option, for reasons which may be contested but are -I believe- understandable.

I concoct several options - a Cleric of Iomedae won't accept this that easily. How should I go about it?

The characters are an odd bunch, with alignments very varied - but they are destined to bring about a better place. This WON'T happen in a split second. It is highly probable that they will do many acts which Iomedae would NOT agree to in the meantime. The best I can think is "they are an odd bunch, but there IS someone good in there. Iomedae's plan is this: they'll be able to keep in check the other party members' evil acts." Of course there is a varying degree of failure probability - as a Tiefling's gruesome torture and death testify - but we do not penalize people for going about things inefficiently, or for screwing up, do we?

I should add, that in my setting, gods are NOT able to see what's to come clearly. Iomedae simply knows if they cooperate, odd bunch though they are, they have a high probability of bringing about a spoilery positive change. She did NOT know if or how things would go wrong in the middle.

The best discourse I can think for the boss to do is "You must work together. All of you together might bring about a good change. I do not condone torture, nor murder. I cannot meddle too much, or I risk interfering with your destiny. Cleric, you were chosen to be his caretaker. You failed. Sorcerer, I do not like your nature. I hope you'll become something better, but in the meantime, I just hope he'll get to block your baser instincts, and you'll do what Cleric's too rigid to do (read as chaotic acts, not evil ones like torture is)." I want to say this in an appropriately dramatic way, so I think about a parable.

The parable I want to concoct says, roughly, and more precisely than first post, "Unwittingly, unwillingly, even evil characters can bring about good. Not when they do evil, but just interacting with the world itself, in a world so complex as ours, who knows what their acts will actually do". I still do not like it. Torture is an evil act. At the moment, no other ideas pop. Plus, I do not notice it at the time, but this does not convey the measure of the Boss' displeasure at torture I want to convey.

Not willing to write a post two stories long, as I did now, I write a sintetic post on this forum. On hindsight, that was too little context. It was my mistake. I still do not appreciate the sarcastic answers. I commend, instead, those who gave me serious answers, even if they disagreed with me.

In the end I ended up modifying a bit the scene, not inserting a parable but using a speech about "standing united, resisting to our baser needs, everybody has a place in the world, do not be 'the party police', sometime not entirely legal acts are needed if we are to rebel against an evil tiranny, but keep in check evil actions". This conveys more the "don't do it again" feeling, without bashing too much the sorcerer so as not to make him snap.

To give the last bit of context, we USUALLY get the master to create characters for the players to create a cohesive party just to avoid these situations (plus, this makes easier for the master to insert personal quests in the game). This time I decided to give them agency, go, create your characters, you can do them of all alignments apart from Evil. If you DO want evil, check it out before with me. This will help you build an emotional connection to the characters, I hope.

I overestimate my ability to keep the characters cohesive. No matter, errors happen. Players must not pay for this. Swallowing the foul morsel, I proceed to apply the plan that makes most sense apart from just surrendering and rerolling characters.

Could have been handled better? Most assuredly...

Hoping no more sarcasm wells up, which I quite ABHOR as simply veiled aggression, in some ways more despicable than outright one:

Since the issue is already addressed, for the time being, the question now becomes "What errors did I do? What would you have done differently? Assuming you were as stupid as me and got in the same situation, what would you do?"

Thanks to all of you for reading.

Oh, I forgot about Sméagol.

What I meant is Sméagol in that moment is doing an evil act (trying to get the ring for himself attacking another sentient being to take it), and this destroys evil itself. I agree this is happenstance, but, well, this does not in my book diminish the evilness of attacking someone to get something.

The meaning I meant to take from this situation and apply to the campaign, even if is not quite what Tolkien meant judging from your answers, is "even evil people might destroy evil".

Your objections are, with this clarification about what I meant, for all other purposes correct. The defendant stands down, and thanks you for your answer, which was helpful and, although consisting in criticism, polite and helpful criticism.