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Samoja1
2021-07-20, 06:01 PM
I have read several arguments on this from other sources but they all take a different tack. They either talk about prejudice or nature vs nurture sort of thing, but my argument is from a different angle. Inherently evil races should not exist because inherently good races don't exist. None of the traditionally "good" races can be considered good in modern view of fantasy. Even the elves, the long time poster boys for everything goodly, have long since evolved out of it.

So if "good" races are complex enough to produce people, and even whole groups, up to and including nations, of every alllignment, then why would the "evil" races have to be so one dimensional?

The whole thing makes the world seem overly grimdark. Bad guys are really bad but the good guys are bad too. I would have no issue having evil races in a Tolkienesque black and white morallity world, if they are balanced out by the innately good races, but if you are going so far as to make the traditionally good races more complex by giving them shades of grey then it feels amiss to not do so with traditionally evil races.

OldTrees1
2021-07-20, 07:04 PM
Agreed, although really is limited in addressing "inherently xyz" species where xyz is mutable rather than fixed.

Left handed individuals can choose to become right handed or ambidextrous. If left-handedness is not an inherent trait, then maybe right-handedness is not an inherent trait either.

Mastikator
2021-07-20, 11:30 PM
Yeah but what if it's supposed to be an overly grimdark world? I think you have to start with the design intent for the world building before you decide that specific aspects are wrong for it.

Do evil aligned races make sense for WH40K? Yes. For Eberron? Yes. For Forgotten Realms? Yes. For modern fantasy? No. For cyberpunk? No. For space opera? Yes.

Anymage
2021-07-20, 11:33 PM
You have two big problems here.

First, the fact that there is no satisfying slam dunk answer to moral philosophy. Dwarves can perfect paragons of morality according to a particular ethical school of thought, but that's likely to create situations that look alien and unsatisfying to your average reader. Evil, meanwhile, comes in many forms that the vast majority of people agree are evil. Slavers and serial killers are not the same, but there's pretty wide consensus that they're both really nasty.

Second, while I agree with you insofar as humanoid races are concerned (although this is a very well trodden argument so don't expect a conclusion any time soon), nonhumans throw it all out the window. A mind flayer views your average humanoid very similarly to how we view cattle. Skeletons and zombies have a deep seated loathing of the living built into their animating force, to the point where it's unusual for them to not attack on sight. A demon is the concepts of chaos and evil distilled into physical form. You do have problems that angels and metallic dragons can't express pure goodness the same way some of these races can express badness (see my above point), but a fantasy game often does have acceptable moral targets. Even if certain classes of "acceptable targets", usually those that look and act rather similar to humans, are a contentious topic among many players.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-21, 01:57 AM
This is a silly argument. Some other author somewhere couldn't keep their angels good, therefore I shouldn't have evil demons?

Look. Those not-so-good angels and not-so-bad demons exist because people decided to take known tropes out for a ride and put their own spins on them. They exist because those people disagreed on there being "shoulds" and "ough tos" on how to use narrative devices. It's compeletely illogical to derive the title statement from their actions.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 02:08 AM
You have two big problems here.

First, the fact that there is no satisfying slam dunk answer to moral philosophy. Dwarves can perfect paragons of morality according to a particular ethical school of thought, but that's likely to create situations that look alien and unsatisfying to your average reader. Evil, meanwhile, comes in many forms that the vast majority of people agree are evil. Slavers and serial killers are not the same, but there's pretty wide consensus that they're both really nasty.

Second, while I agree with you insofar as humanoid races are concerned (although this is a very well trodden argument so don't expect a conclusion any time soon), nonhumans throw it all out the window. A mind flayer views your average humanoid very similarly to how we view cattle. Skeletons and zombies have a deep seated loathing of the living built into their animating force, to the point where it's unusual for them to not attack on sight. A demon is the concepts of chaos and evil distilled into physical form. You do have problems that angels and metallic dragons can't express pure goodness the same way some of these races can express badness (see my above point), but a fantasy game often does have acceptable moral targets. Even if certain classes of "acceptable targets", usually those that look and act rather similar to humans, are a contentious topic among many players.

Because there are no vegans among us who think that killing cows is wrong? Even among people with completely alien moral code there will be dissenters, especially for races that have some kind of social group.

I will give you skeletons and zombies since they are barely alive and are more like automatons made from organic parts, but that's it, even Demons should have the ability, however small, of redeeming themselves. Apart from being logical i think that such a setting is far more interesting from a narrative standpoint too.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 02:12 AM
This is a silly argument. Some other author somewhere couldn't keep their angels good, therefore I shouldn't have evil demons?

Look. Those not-so-good angels and not-so-bad demons exist because people decided to take known tropes out for a ride and put their own spins on them. They exist because those people disagreed on there being "shoulds" and "ough tos" on how to use narrative devices. It's compeletely illogical to derive the title statement from their actions.

As stated, if you are going to keep your setting purely black and white then i have no issues with you having inherently evil races. But if your setting has no inherently good races, which most fantasy settings today don't, then you should not have any inherently evil ones either.

Alcore
2021-07-21, 06:56 AM
I do evil aligned races in my settings but they must still have shades of gray. If they can not be anything less than evil then (logically to me) they can no longer comprehend good. For demons this is fine as demons will grow and spawn without any nurturing. For orcs? They simply wouldn't be able to continue as a species. There is nothing wrong with inherently evil races and if you want good races i must turn your attention to Aasimar; an inherently good race.


There are, also, numerous race creators available. I recommend Pathfinder's as, even though poorly implemented, is one of the best I've found.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-21, 07:11 AM
That "should" still does not follow from anything. There isn't any real problem in having inherent evil in absence of inherent good, nor in having inherent good in absence of inherent evil for that matter.

hamishspence
2021-07-21, 07:49 AM
if you want good races i must turn your attention to Aasimar; an inherently good race.


They're more "biased toward good" than "inherently good". There are plenty of Evil and Neutral aasimar out there, and they do not "ping as good" with a Detect Good spell.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 08:16 AM
That "should" still does not follow from anything. There isn't any real problem in having inherent evil in absence of inherent good, nor in having inherent good in absence of inherent evil for that matter.

Ok, let me amend that. There should not be any inherently evil races in any good setting, unless you are intentionally going for the grimdark vibe. In essence if humans, elves and dwarves can be of any allignment then the same should be true of Orcs, Goblinoids, minotaurs and all the rest. There is really no reason why some tribe of orcs somewhere could not figure out they are better off trading with a nearby human settlements rather then raiding them unless some outside force is keeping them evil trough magical means, but then why do evil gods get that ability and not good ones?

No race could survive if they can't cooperate with each other, and once you have that concept extending it to others is not such a huge stretch. While sure, some races may thrend towards one end or the other it should never be all encompassing.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-21, 08:28 AM
That "should" still does not follow from anything. There isn't any real problem in having inherent evil in absence of inherent good, nor in having inherent good in absence of inherent evil for that matter. Yes.

Ok, let me amend that. There should not be any inherently evil races in any good setting Sahuagin. An inherently evil race. There is nothing wrong with their existence in any setting.

No race could survive if they can't cooperate with each other
Evil doesn't mean stupid.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 08:34 AM
Yes.
Sahuagin. An inherently evil race. There is nothing wrong with their existence in any setting.

Evil doesn't mean stupid.

No i disagree. If a group of beings actively takes a course of action that is detrimental to them in both short run and long run then that is indeed stupid. Raiding other nations, sometimes, and going to war, sometimes, does not make for an evil race, it just makes for normal race, humans have been doing that since forever. Doing so all the times, even when you have nothing to gain and everything to loose by doing so, that's what makes a race inherently evil, and stupid.

ngilop
2021-07-21, 08:51 AM
No i disagree. If a group of beings actively takes a course of action that is detrimental to them in both short run and long run then that is indeed stupid. Raiding other nations, sometimes, and going to war, sometimes, does not make for an evil race, it just makes for normal race, humans have been doing that since forever. Doing so all the times, even when you have nothing to gain and everything to loose by doing so, that's what makes a race inherently evil, and stupid.

point the first: humans are evil.

point the second: SO, just ignore all the redeemed evil in D&D and other fantasy as well as it it doesn't exist then state your argument as " fallen good exists, but redeemed evil does not. therefore evil aligned races are doing it wrong" seem a very legit stance....

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-21, 08:54 AM
Doing so all the times, even when you have nothing to gain and everything to loose by doing so, that's what makes a race inherently evil, and stupid. I don't get where you arrive at "doing it all the time" for the sahuagin (as the example race). They are usually, when encountered outside of the lair, pack predators in humanoid form. If we look at the lore on them from their initiation into the game's fabric (Blackmoor, IIRC, I'll check) where they overlap with other species / folk / races (merfolk, humans, sea elves, etc) they attempt to assert dominance. What they don't do is negotiate, which is what most other folk often do.
But as a group, they work together for their tribe/clans mutual benefit.
Not stupid, also evil. (There does seem, though, to be an eternal state of war/conflict between sea elves and sahuagin, a war that never ends ... does that make the sea elves stupid?)
FWIW, Sahuagin as introduced ... I get a pretty strong Lovecraftian vibe from their introduction to the game, not sure what the original sources were that informed this monster.
THE SAHUAGIN (Devil-Men of (he Deep):
A constant threat to man, beast and fish are the voracious SAHUAGIN whose only friends seem to be the equally voracious and predatory Giant Sharks. Although of an intelligence equal to the elves in many respects, the Sahuagin have taken and perverted virtually every aspect of civilization to support their sadistic cannibalistic culture.
In the eons past there was a great flooding of the land (although history does not agree when this occurred and it may have happened twice) when the ice caps were melted during a great struggle of the gods to control the planet. When the water rose some of these gods took care that representative portions of all life were preserved and returned when the waters fell and the land became fruitful again. Others sought to change the nature of life so it could adapt to the new
face of the world and at the same time preserve its intelligence. On the one hand it is said that the sea elves and the mermen were created by the Great Gods of Neutrality and Law while the Gods of Chaos bent their will to create the Sahuagin. In every aspect the Evil ones sought to make the Sahuagin into the most evil of the evil and many agree that they succeeded in making a race that fit that bill. Many individual horrors both on the land and sea may be in themselves worse than the Sahuagin but no where will there be found a comparable race that as a whole retains the worst possible qualities. {snip} The lair will be completely water filled since these creatures cannot breath air or fresh water at all.
{snip lair and democraphic crunch}

These creatures of evil are usually armed with the trident and the net the former having a deadly poison on its tip and the latter having hundreds of small hooks set into its fabric. The Sahuagin have become very adept at the use of both these weapons and these weapons also suit their temperament and regular habits. As an example the small hooks in the net hinder escape while inflicting great pain on the live victims and when torn from the flesh have the usual accompanying sharks driven into a frenzy from which they may attack the helplessly snared victims. The tridents provide the ability to pin and probe the victims while not inflicting any mortal wounds (when the tips are unpoisoned) and allowing the Sahuagin to remain at a safe distance. Victims are usually brought to the nearest habitation (although only the ones with over 1,000 in population would have confinement cells for air breathing types) where they are either promptly eaten or penned in with some other predator to provide entertainment. The most common entertainment is to set the sharks on the victim giving him only a small knife to defend himself. There are dozens of variations on the particular theme. Once captured there is very little possibility of escape and the sadistic nature of the captors has often allowed prisoners to think that they escaped only to be set upon by the sharks and guards when freedom (seemingly; is close at hand.
The culture of these creatures allows that there is only one King and he has only nine Princes with lesser positions being held as the situation and population demands. These leaders are always subject to challenge by any other member of the race to their position of leadership. The leaders are usually quite strong and several are reported to be mutations with four arms (this occurs in 1% of the population as a whole) and the fact that the Sahuagin never cease to grow throughout their lives (much like reptiles) so that the leaders are also usually the older members of the species as well. Unsuccessful challengers are always killed and any cripples that occur in these fights are also disposed of. with especially unpopular types being tortured to death. The disposal of the victims takes place at an after the challenge party where they are eaten by the other members of the group or community. This is also done with sickly members and others thought to be unfit to be a part of the community. The females are expected to bear their share of the fighting and are. visually at least, no different than the other members of the species. A fantastical, evil race for a fantastical world.

Red Fel
2021-07-21, 09:08 AM
Okay, jumping in here.

Fact is, I don't disagree with the premise. I disagree with specific points, but the underlying premise - you don't need to have all-Evil races - and some of the corollaries - if you have no all-Good races you don't need all-Evil races - make sense to me. As does the general principle of "If it's your world, build it the way you want."

And as I have often said, the very idea of arbitrary alignment is broken in a lot of dumb ways.

That said, I will take issue with a specific assumption you made. To wit: Evil races are stupid and self-destructive. Observe.


No i disagree. If a group of beings actively takes a course of action that is detrimental to them in both short run and long run then that is indeed stupid. Raiding other nations, sometimes, and going to war, sometimes, does not make for an evil race, it just makes for normal race, humans have been doing that since forever. Doing so all the times, even when you have nothing to gain and everything to loose by doing so, that's what makes a race inherently evil, and stupid.

That's what makes a race inherently stupid, yes. But it is not a requirement for a race that is inherently Evil. Nowhere in any description of Evil I have read does it include the phrase "must go to war and raid other nations at all times even when there is nothing to gain and everything to lose in doing so."

Evil means supreme selfishness. It means putting Number 1 at the expense of Number 2, and taking pleasure in it. But it does not mean stupid. It does not mean "incapable of seeing the results of our actions." It does not mean "incapable of playing nicely with others when it benefits us."

Imagine a kingdom ruled by a tyrant. The despot creates perfect order and lawfulness in his kingdom. He does so though cruel and despotic laws that disproportionately punish even the most minor slights. He promotes the health, physical and mental, of his subjects, through a rigorous course of academic and physical education. He does so by creating schools where children are taught to revere him as a god-king, and through mandatory service in his Legion of Death Knights. He goes on conquests, yes. To avenge wrongdoing against his people, to seize valuable trade routes or resources. But never for funsies - that's a waste of resources. He does not mindlessly pursue global domination at any cost - he already has a sprawling kingdom with citizens who worship and fear him, ample wealth and power. What more does he need?

That is Evil.

Now, picture an organization. Rigidly hierarchical, each level serving that above it. Each member serving the organization's good. They do so through espionage, torture, theft and assassination. They are organized and Evil. They are not, however, stupid. They don't decide to plan an assassination because "I mean, it's been days since I bathed in the blood of the innocent, you know?" They don't fight among themselves, because that weakens the organization. They are structured. They are ruthless. And they are coldly logical.

That is Evil.

Now, yes. The concept of an entire race of creatures who are intrinsically Evil is a bit far-fetched. But if you put that in your setting, it does not follow that they must also be self-destructively stupid. It doesn't work that way unless you want it to.

Or, to put it succinctly:


Evil doesn't mean stupid.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 09:08 AM
point the first: humans are evil.

point the second: SO, just ignore all the redeemed evil in D&D and other fantasy as well as it it doesn't exist then state your argument as " fallen good exists, but redeemed evil does not. therefore evil aligned races are doing it wrong" seem a very legit stance....

There really is vanishingly few of the latter, even where there is it's usually the fallen human or elf, rather rarely if ever will you see an orc or a goblin switch sides, and a good illithid or chromatic dragon is practically unheard of.

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 09:19 AM
Okay, jumping in here.

Fact is, I don't disagree with the premise. I disagree with specific points, but the underlying premise - you don't need to have all-Evil races - and some of the corollaries - if you have no all-Good races you don't need all-Evil races - make sense to me. As does the general principle of "If it's your world, build it the way you want."

And as I have often said, the very idea of arbitrary alignment is broken in a lot of dumb ways.

That said, I will take issue with a specific assumption you made. To wit: Evil races are stupid and self-destructive. Observe.



That's what makes a race inherently stupid, yes. But it is not a requirement for a race that is inherently Evil. Nowhere in any description of Evil I have read does it include the phrase "must go to war and raid other nations at all times even when there is nothing to gain and everything to lose in doing so."

Evil means supreme selfishness. It means putting Number 1 at the expense of Number 2, and taking pleasure in it. But it does not mean stupid. It does not mean "incapable of seeing the results of our actions." It does not mean "incapable of playing nicely with others when it benefits us."

Imagine a kingdom ruled by a tyrant. The despot creates perfect order and lawfulness in his kingdom. He does so though cruel and despotic laws that disproportionately punish even the most minor slights. He promotes the health, physical and mental, of his subjects, through a rigorous course of academic and physical education. He does so by creating schools where children are taught to revere him as a god-king, and through mandatory service in his Legion of Death Knights. He goes on conquests, yes. To avenge wrongdoing against his people, to seize valuable trade routes or resources. But never for funsies - that's a waste of resources. He does not mindlessly pursue global domination at any cost - he already has a sprawling kingdom with citizens who worship and fear him, ample wealth and power. What more does he need?

That is Evil.

Now, picture an organization. Rigidly hierarchical, each level serving that above it. Each member serving the organization's good. They do so through espionage, torture, theft and assassination. They are organized and Evil. They are not, however, stupid. They don't decide to plan an assassination because "I mean, it's been days since I bathed in the blood of the innocent, you know?" They don't fight among themselves, because that weakens the organization. They are structured. They are ruthless. And they are coldly logical.

That is Evil.

Now, yes. The concept of an entire race of creatures who are intrinsically Evil is a bit far-fetched. But if you put that in your setting, it does not follow that they must also be self-destructively stupid. It doesn't work that way unless you want it to.

Or, to put it succinctly:

{scrubbed}

You can't create a prosperous society trough fear, it just does not work, people will be scared to take any initiative without consulting you first and no man, no matter how brilliant, can keep tabs on everyone and everything.

So no, i would disagree. Any evil regime, no matter what form it takes, is inherently self destructive. If you do everything logically to get the best out of your kingdom it becomes almost indistinguishable from what we call good. Any undue meddling can only cause damage.

Xervous
2021-07-21, 09:24 AM
There really is vanishingly few of the latter, even where there is it's usually the fallen human or elf, rather rarely if ever will you see an orc or a goblin switch sides, and a good illithid or chromatic dragon is practically unheard of.

By definition of it being the exception itís not going to be approaching the norm, no? What sources are you sampling to get these perceptions?

Samoja1
2021-07-21, 09:29 AM
By definition of it being the exception itís not going to be approaching the norm, no? What sources are you sampling to get these perceptions?
I am saying it's disproportionately rare when compared to how often the good races go evil. Imho having factions of every race with different allignments is most interesting and balanced portrayal. Some races may lean towards one or the other which would be reflected by the size of the factions but they should still exist.

Batcathat
2021-07-21, 09:30 AM
Personally, I find the notion of alignment and objective morality in general rather absurd. However, if a setting does have people who are objectively evil (or objectively good) I suppose there's nothing stopping it from applying to entire races. It seems unlikely that any species of similar intelligence and sentience as humans would be confined to a specific type of personality, but that's admittedly not based on much in the way of facts.

InvisibleBison
2021-07-21, 09:31 AM
even Demons should have the ability, however small, of redeeming themselves. Apart from being logical i think that such a setting is far more interesting from a narrative standpoint too.

I don't think it's logical for demons to be able to stop being evil, at least in a typical D&D setting. In such settings, demons are literally made out of evil, and it doesn't make any more sense for such a demon to stop being evil than it does for a fire elemental to stop being fire.

GoodbyeSoberDay
2021-07-21, 09:35 AM
Since this is based on alignment, which is D&D-centric, I'll respond in a D&D-centric way.

First off, pretty sure the OP isn't talking about extraplanar races; otherwise, the obvious response is "Angels are always good." I think we're in agreement that angels and devils and such can be always [appropriate alignment], since they're importantly different from the mortal races.

So then the OP is saying there should be no "always evil" mortal races who hang out primarily on the material plane. The thing is, for the most part, that's already true (at least where I checked, 3.5). Most of the evil-type races, at least in 3.5, are "usually" evil, which leaves plenty of room for good goblins and orcs and such. Even creatures of horror such as Mind Flayers are only "usually" evil. There are exceptions for creatures who scream "I am evil" such as Ghouls, but that seems fine.

The one big exception in 3.5 is dragons. They shouldn't be "always" any alignment; that is just an excuse to let adventurers color-code whether they can indiscriminately murder an intelligent creature and take its stuff - or even skin it to make armor, ew. I agree we should rid ourselves of that nonsense.

Perhaps the issue is with alignment tendencies, rather than absolutes. I can see it being problematic, but it is part of the inspiration for the genre (thinking of Tolkien here). There are protagonist races and antagonist races. Protagonist races tend to have some good and some bad actors, hence being alignment-agnostic. Antagonist races tend to be evil - perhaps with some exceptions. You don't have to run it that way, but it is coherent.

Personally, I prefer to remove mechanical alignment altogether for the mortal races and only keep it for the extraplanar stuff and certain explicitly magical things like Paladins, Clerics, Incarnates, and so on. But I've also played plenty of games with alignments-as-is where it worked, more or less, as long as we didn't navel gaze too much.

Xervous
2021-07-21, 09:39 AM
I am saying it's disproportionately rare when compared to how often the good races go evil. Imho having factions of every race with different allignments is most interesting and balanced portrayal. Some races may lean towards one or the other which would be reflected by the size of the factions but they should still exist.

In this same light is it peculiar to note that demons and devils vastly outnumber the various good aligned outsiders? Are you taking into consideration how being good is the hard option while being evil is the easier option? Your assumption that the evil/good flip flop should be observable in equal helpings is unfounded.

hamishspence
2021-07-21, 09:46 AM
I don't think it's logical for demons to be able to stop being evil, at least in a typical D&D setting. In such settings, demons are literally made out of evil, and it doesn't make any more sense for such a demon to stop being evil than it does for a fire elemental to stop being fire.

That's something of an oversimplification, at least in 3.5. It's less that they're made completely of evil, and more that they're made partially of the stuff of the Evil-aligned Lower Planes that they hail from. The MM glossary, for each subtype, including [Evil], states that it's possible for a "subtype" creature to change alignment to one not matching the subtype - and that if they do, they will still be treated as "subtype" alignment for certain rules mechanics purposes.

So a nonevil demon will still detect as evil, and will still be vulnerable to Smite Evil, regardless of their actual alignment.

jjordan
2021-07-21, 09:53 AM
I have read several arguments on this from other sources but they all take a different tack. They either talk about prejudice or nature vs nurture sort of thing, but my argument is from a different angle. Inherently evil races should not exist because inherently good races don't exist. None of the traditionally "good" races can be considered good in modern view of fantasy. Even the elves, the long time poster boys for everything goodly, have long since evolved out of it.

So if "good" races are complex enough to produce people, and even whole groups, up to and including nations, of every alllignment, then why would the "evil" races have to be so one dimensional?

The whole thing makes the world seem overly grimdark. Bad guys are really bad but the good guys are bad too. I would have no issue having evil races in a Tolkienesque black and white morallity world, if they are balanced out by the innately good races, but if you are going so far as to make the traditionally good races more complex by giving them shades of grey then it feels amiss to not do so with traditionally evil races.
Depends. I see your point and I tend to agree with it from a philosophical point of view. From the point of view of a game players tend to prefer obvious stereotypes. See an orc, kill the orc. No muss, no fuss, no guilt.

Lord Raziere
2021-07-21, 09:56 AM
Depends. I see your point and I tend to agree with it from a philosophical point of view. From the point of view of a game players tend to prefer obvious stereotypes. See an orc, kill the orc. No muss, no fuss, no guilt.

Weird. Thats a lot of extra hoops to feel no guilt over things that don't exist.

Composer99
2021-07-21, 10:18 AM
If you don't want evil-aligned peoples in your imaginary elfgames, don't have them. Simple as that. Other people might want them in their games, so they will.

Psyren
2021-07-21, 11:48 AM
This could start brushing up against philosophy and the nature of evil if we're not careful, but I for one do see a value in the "force of nature" style of evil where it's not only reasonable but prudent to judge a book by its cover. Yes, it's theoretically possible for good mindflayers or good vampires to exist, but for the vast majority of people in a D&D setting who will encounter one, assuming the opposite until proven otherwise is just sensible. And then you get into races that are literally composed of evil energy like demons and devils, where being good will actually change their physical makeup over time, giving you more reason to pre-emptively distrust the ones that haven't.

Where I can align with the OP is for humanoid and monstrous humanoid races that are commonly listed as "usually evil"; Orcs, goblinoids, lizardfolk etc. These are the ones that authors tend to code (wittingly or unwittingly) using elements from various indigenous historical and even contemporary cultures outside their own. For these, I would be more inclined to delist them from a monster manual in favor of treating them the way humans are - focusing on their actions as the means of judging them rather than their race. So instead of entries for just Orc or Drow or Hobgoblin, we have Hobgoblin Slaver or Drow Assassin or Orc Bandit, and then any alignment tag tied to those is a function of their chosen profession rather than their species.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-21, 12:20 PM
Now, picture an organization. Rigidly hierarchical, each level serving that above it. Each member serving the organization's good. They do so through espionage, torture, theft and assassination. They are organized and Evil. They are not, however, stupid. They don't decide to plan an assassination because "I mean, it's been days since I bathed in the blood of the innocent, you know?" They don't fight among themselves, because that weakens the organization. They are structured. They are ruthless. And they are coldly logical.

That is Evil. I think you provided a 90% fit to the Scarlet Brotherhood in Greyhawk with that description. :smallsmile: IIRC, the original organization was headed by a high level lawful evil monk

RandomPeasant
2021-07-21, 12:39 PM
Weird. Thats a lot of extra hoops to feel no guilt over things that don't exist.

I've never really understood how explicitly bring up the question "are we the baddies" was supposed to reduce feelings of guilt. If you want to just have fun killing monsters, do that. Adding explicit morality into the equation is going to raise more questions than it answers until you've done a great deal of work resolving moral dilemmas.

Forum Explorer
2021-07-21, 12:51 PM
You are describing Stalin's USSR right there. And we all know how that ended. Little known fact, Stalin died because nobody dared disobey his order that he was not to be disturbed. He was dying for two full hours in his bedroom because his guards were too terrified to enter and check on him.

You can't create a prosperous society trough fear, it just does not work, people will be scared to take any initiative without consulting you first and no man, no matter how brilliant, can keep tabs on everyone and everything.

So no, i would disagree. Any evil regime, no matter what form it takes, is inherently self destructive. If you do everything logically to get the best out of your kingdom it becomes almost indistinguishable from what we call good. Any undue meddling can only cause damage.

You're more describing the problems with a dictatorship than an evil regime here. Once the guy with all the power dies there's a bunch of instability. That remains the case if you had a good ruler. Their death can and often will throw their country into chaos.

Anyways, I disagree that you can't make a prosperous country through evil. All you have to do is set up the conditions for success to be, well evil. Take slavery as an example. Pretty much always evil. But if you are in a society that promotes slavery, it would be difficult, and maybe impossible to get ahead in that society without enslaving people.

And this being fantasy, you can apply a similar logic to other evil acts. Like summoning demons/devils, or creating undead.

Willie the Duck
2021-07-21, 01:12 PM
You are describing Stalin's USSR right there. And we all know how that ended. Little known fact, Stalin died because nobody dared disobey his order that he was not to be disturbed. He was dying for two full hours in his bedroom because his guards were too terrified to enter and check on him.
Just an FYI and super-side-point: that's one of the least little-known of facts ever. You can't swing a dead cat in a content-aggregator site without another vapid article about little known facts that doesn't include. it.

Overall, I think I see the premise, and don't hate it excepting all the absolutes ("can't," "shouldn't," etc.). If you don't like the traditional fantasy setup of mostly good races who can be evil and inherently evil bad races, by all means play something else, but that a game world shouldn't be (or is lesser for it) because it does not fit this alternate model does not flow from the arguments made.

RedMage125
2021-07-21, 03:41 PM
So if "good" races are complex enough to produce people, and even whole groups, up to and including nations, of every alllignment, then why would the "evil" races have to be so one dimensional?


One answer is that it depends on the edition. In 5e, a lot of the "evil races" don't actually have the same level of free will that other races do. Their creator deities made them that way. Which doesn't mean "there are no non-evil orcs/goblins/whatever", it means "non-evil orcs/goblins/etc are MUCH less common than deviations from the norm of other races". So while it's an accurate statement to say "dwarves are usually Lawful Good", you're still talking about maybe a little less than half or so of the population. Dwarves have free will, and there are plenty that vary from this, but the largest percentage of aligned dwarves are Lawful Good. Compare to Orcs who, in 5e, LITERALLY have the voice of Gruumsh whispering in their heads. That kind of compulsion from a deity is difficult to resist. Even half-orcs feel it to some extent, although it is diluted. So, among orcs, the percentage of orcs who are NOT Chaotic Evil is much smaller. Even an orc taken at birth and raised among humans may end up succumbing to that. it isn't entirely cultural.

And some people have issues with this because they can't conceive of a humanoid who isn't able to think for themselves and break free of the constraints of their society like humans can do in the real world. That, or they somehow are mistaking fantasy races for parallels of real-world peoples. Most of which arguments are incorrect. Save the Vistani. The changes WotC made to the Vistani were absolutely overdue as they were absolutely an analogue of a real-world people, and portrayed in an unflattering light that was chock full of bad racial stereotypes.


Because there are no vegans among us who think that killing cows is wrong? Even among people with completely alien moral code there will be dissenters, especially for races that have some kind of social group.
Alien code or not, mind flayers, when present in D&D, are subject to the laws of that reality. And in the default worlds of D&D, Good/Evil/Law/Chaos are objective, dispassionate forces that shape the cosmos and to which even gods are beholden. So a mind flayer may not think anything more of killing people than I do of killing a rooster, but murdering a sentient being for selfish or nefarious purposes is defined as "Evil". A mind flayer CAN subsist on animal brains, but their physiology is wired so that sentient, intelligent brains taste better. They're also feeding on the knowledge and sometimes even the fear of their victims. So yes, while in a default D&D cosmology's reality, what mind flayers to -while merely survival for them- is Evil.



I will give you skeletons and zombies since they are barely alive and are more like automatons made from organic parts, but that's it, even Demons should have the ability, however small, of redeeming themselves. Apart from being logical i think that such a setting is far more interesting from a narrative standpoint too.
Fiends are a special case. For them, evil isn't about "values, mindset and behavior", so much as it is intrinsic to their nature. in 3.x, fiends are literally made of evil. Their souls and bodies are one unit, not separate, and they are made up of solid evil energies. Energies which return to their home plane and form a new fiend if they are killed.

In most editions, fiends CAN, occasionally redeem themselves. In 3.5e the "always x alignment" tag meant that more than 99% of said creatures were that alignment. Exceptions being very rare. And a Demon who became Lawful Good, for example, would still radiate Evil on a detection spell because the energies that make up their body are LITERALLY Chaos and Evil. The oft-vaunted Succubus Paladin is still an outsider with Chaotic, Evil, and Tanar'ri subtypes. So she would actually take damage from all 4 variations of Holy Smite, for example. And when killed, her energies would return to the Abyss and a new succubus would form (probably a CE one). HOWEVER, if she went through the rituals in Savage Species to remove those subtypes (narratively, purging the evil from her body), she would no longer register as Evil and such. And, presumably, if she also added the templates for Good, then when she died, a new 8-HD celestial would be formed.

Now that's 3.5e, in 5e, their solution is much simpler. Fiends are Evil because Evil is in the nature of a fiend. If a fiend ceases to be evil, it ceases to be a fiend. So a Redeemed Demon, would actually physically change and become a celestial of some kind. Graz'zt used to be a devil and when he became chaotic became a demon. Zariel used to be an angel. But when she fell and became Evil she became a Devil.


Do note that NONE of this precludes non-evil orcs or even the uncommon instance of a non-evil fiend. And that's following RAW and core assumptions. it actually makes those exceptions even more compelling, because they, in many instances, are struggling against their very natures.

Faily
2021-07-21, 04:29 PM
I've never really understood how explicitly bring up the question "are we the baddies" was supposed to reduce feelings of guilt. If you want to just have fun killing monsters, do that. Adding explicit morality into the equation is going to raise more questions than it answers until you've done a great deal of work resolving moral dilemmas.

So much this.

People wanted to make a game where you can go out to defeat the baddies and be a hero, and if that's what you want to play and have fun with, go do that. Don't be bothered by people on the internet crying about moral dilemmas in Dungeons & Dragons.

I also don't have a problem with accepting that in the world of D&D (and its offshoots like Pathfinder and such) there are actual cosmic forces that decide Good/Evil/Law/Chaos. It's just the way it is, now let me roll some dice and have some fun.


This isn't to say I don't enjoy games with more complex morality and that kind of stuff too, but sometimes you just want things to be simple and less complicated than the real world is.

Lord Raziere
2021-07-21, 05:32 PM
I've never really understood how explicitly bring up the question "are we the baddies" was supposed to reduce feelings of guilt. If you want to just have fun killing monsters, do that. Adding explicit morality into the equation is going to raise more questions than it answers until you've done a great deal of work resolving moral dilemmas.

I know right?

By including a moral system you kind of invite the question. You make it a focus, you draw attention to it the first place. Sure the discussion can still happen without it. but it happens a lot less with settings that actually show the heroes being moral rather than a system telling us they're moral for doing things that aren't. its a showing vs. telling thing. Alignment is just telling people whats moral. and good storytelling is all about SHOWING your moral fibre through acts that are actually good. thats why DnD heroes aren't considered actually good by many people, but just chaotic neutral murderhobos because none of the morality is shown its just a cosmos that declares what we're actually being shown to be good for no reason. it produces a dissonance. especially since the current alignment system is tacked on to what was before what it is now. It used to just be Order and Chaos, basically, and be about whether your more structured or more about freedom which could lead to a lot of conflicts on its own without any questions about good and evil being brought up and being in a comfortable grey area where you might be bad, but the other side might be bad to, so who really cares y'know? Do what you believe is right.

me I'm fond of playing monstrous races just because I like them and don't really care for any morality being attached to them. still would like to just go around being a badass hero killing things without guilt or angst. I personally agree that evil races shouldn't exist. dragon attacks a town out of nowhere, roll a 1d10 to determine its color- the scales don't matter, because they're a jerk no matter how shiny they are. a bunch of raiders attack a village go back to their cave base, roll to see what race they are, its human, don't care, they're raiders. you don't like it well go kill them for doing that. screw those guys. I feel like an excluded middle because I don't associate with no evil races with complex morality or anything. morality can still be simple without it, and morality can be even more complex with them. the connection between the two everyone is making is something I don't get.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-21, 07:11 PM
my simple reasoning:

a RACE can't be Evil, but a CULTURE can be.

If a member of a traditionally "Evil" race like say Drow or Orc were to be raised in an evil Drow or Orc culture, then there is a high likelihood that said Drow/Orc may also grow up to be evil! Does that mean they are GUARANTEED to be evil? Nope! There's still a chance that they could be neutral or even good. Just like how humans can be nutral or evil in even a good-aligned kingdom, circumstance or nature could cause our example Drow/Orc to grow up neutral or good, but still living within the evil culture. and that's okay! There could be entire swathes of the population that are neutral or good and it all still works!

IF however you were to take that SAME Drow/Orc at birth and bring them to a more good aligned culture, be it human, elven, or even good-aligned Drow or Orc, then there is a high likelihood that said Drow/Orc may also grow up to be good! Does that mean they are GUARANTEED to be good? Nope! There's still a chance that they could be neutral or even evil.



A Race is just multiple piles of Bones Blood and Brains that all share a genetic and phenotype similarity with one another that desire to reproduce, expand, and keep living. you can say the exact same thing about wolves, turtles, cats, mice, ants, flies, birds, fish, and many other things.

the only thing that makes intelligent races "Good" or "Evil" is their intelligence and the morals or lack thereof that come with it. Even if there is some genetic bias like Orcs being more violent or Drow being more prone to cutting schemes and poisons, that doesn't inherently make them evil. that just makes them driven by their genetics like any other creature.

False God
2021-07-21, 08:06 PM
There's something missing from this, at least in some fantasy games and settings. Malign deific influence.

For example, D&D 5e Orcs and even half-Orcs have an evil god influencing them from birth. Can they somehow turn out good anyway? Yes. Will living in a culture than generally results in good people help? Sure. Are they less likely on average to turn out good even in a culture that results in higher than average good creatures? Yes.
But Lolth and the like don't influence every single member of the species 24/7. They do a lot of their influencing indirectly, though the culture and leaders of the Orcs/Drow/etc... Removed from that culture, religion, and leadership, the only influence Lolth (or any other) would have would be directly. She would have to know Drow A is no longer in Drow society, and make an overt effort to communicate with them directly.

Any god can speak to any creature at any time. Corellion can have a word with "Drow A" as much as Lolth can, heck, so can any god! Assuming there is any reason at all for them to do so.


Jumping to books, in Brandon Sanderson has an entire race of creatures that by nature open themselves to the power of what is effectively a malign god, and in doing so their personality and nature change.
[Preface: I am not familiar with this guy or his books or this species, so this is an honest question] But do they open themselves to this malign god because their culture tells them to "open yourself to the Dark One" in school, in church, and just around every day, or is it because they are biologically designed to have an innate connection to the Dark One?

When we start talking about biological design to malign influence, or even simply "built to do evil things" it begs the question of free will, and thus, if they can actually be evil at all. A stick isn't evil, even if you beat someone to death with it. In this comparison, the "evil race" isn't the one beating someone to death, they're the stick. A tool being used by an evil god to do evil things.

Sure, everyone may say they're evil and their ability to think and function certainly looks like consciousness, but if their only true capacity for decisions is between "Evil Act A" and "Evil Act B", with a complete inability to choose "Good Act C" due to deific design, they're not truly evil, they're sock puppets.


---------
So as not to double post., OT:

I mostly dislike "All X are Y." because it's lazy writing. Simplifications like these are fine on the small scale. It's fine for shallow stories in small environments where you're not expected to look beyond whatever is right in front of your face. "All members of the evil secret government agency are evil." yeah sure. "All members of the crazy cult are crazy." Yeah sure. "All the orcs on the mountain want to kill all the humans in the valley." Okay, can buy.

But like all simplifications, these things start to fall apart the more you introduce complexity. "Well the Bad Mountain Orcs. are members of the Bad Orc Nation, which consists of the 17 Bad Orc Tribes, all of which are bad." Uh...okay. "They have a robust bad culture that has existed in badness for thousands of years, developing may bad traditions and following bad gods." Uh...really? "And not one single orc has ever disagreed or separated themselves from this badness." Wait, seriously?

17 tribes? Millennia of existence? Robust culture? Multiple gods? And they're all identically evil?

Even if we don't have Orcs IRL, when reading this sort of material, people look at their surroundings to help contextualize things. And they can plainly see that there are lots of "tribes" of people, who've been around for a long time, and if there's anything they have in common, its that they can barely breathe without disagreeing with each other.

So to present a fictional species as wholly "one thing", but then given them a variety of human-like aspects, is simply jarring. Because a supposedly complex, developed, robust civilization is underpinned by the lazy writing of "all of them are evil".

Mechalich
2021-07-21, 09:58 PM
A Race is just multiple piles of Bones Blood and Brains that all share a genetic and phenotype similarity with one another that desire to reproduce, expand, and keep living. you can say the exact same thing about wolves, turtles, cats, mice, ants, flies, birds, fish, and many other things.

the only thing that makes intelligent races "Good" or "Evil" is their intelligence and the morals or lack thereof that come with it. Even if there is some genetic bias like Orcs being more violent or Drow being more prone to cutting schemes and poisons, that doesn't inherently make them evil. that just makes them driven by their genetics like any other creature.

The thing is that different species will have different psychologies, possibly radically so. For example, you could have a species that is comprised entirely of persons who are - evaluated from the human perspective - psychopaths (and in fact this seems to be the design model for several of the 'evil' humanoid types in D&D). This interacts with the idea of universal morality in funny ways, because the 'normal' species and the species of psychopaths have to operate within the same universal moral framework. Insofar as the traits of psychopathy are associated with the concept of 'evil' in the fictional universe - and this association tends to be extremely strong - you end up with a species that is greatly predisposed to being 'evil' and in fact non-evil representatives of said species might well be considered mentally ill by the standards of said species in the same way that severe psychopathy is considered a mental illness among humans.

Universal morality generally struggles with variation in psychology (D&D has long been an example of this, placing 'lunatics and madmen' in the chaotic Neutral box for years), because insofar as mindset determines morality it greats a 'good mind' versus 'bad mind' scenario. Since different species will obviously differ in psychology (and if they don't you shouldn't be using them at all because then what's the point?), some of them will be predisposed to certain sections of the morality pie chart more than others.

This hits D&D really hard because it doesn't just have a handful of different sapient species with variant psychologies (and the various cultures that grow out from such psychologies) it has hundreds, including non-humanoids, beings with bizarre physiologies, immortal beings, and even more. The idea that a sapient 20 ft long tentacle-bearing vaguely piscine creature capable of inflicting a gruesome metamorphosis on other beings it encounters and projecting images into their minds at will (an Aboleth, literally the 1st entry in the monster manual) should operate according to the same moral structure as Homo sapiens is a really hard sell.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-21, 10:30 PM
The thing is that different species will have different psychologies, possibly radically so. For example, you could have a species that is comprised entirely of persons who are - evaluated from the human perspective - psychopaths (and in fact this seems to be the design model for several of the 'evil' humanoid types in D&D). This interacts with the idea of universal morality in funny ways, because the 'normal' species and the species of psychopaths have to operate within the same universal moral framework. Insofar as the traits of psychopathy are associated with the concept of 'evil' in the fictional universe - and this association tends to be extremely strong - you end up with a species that is greatly predisposed to being 'evil' and in fact non-evil representatives of said species might well be considered mentally ill by the standards of said species in the same way that severe psychopathy is considered a mental illness among humans.

For this i'd point to the various examples of animals living with other animals. If you take in a wolf pup and raise it like a dog around other dogs, then while it will likely be more aggressive and potentually dangerous, it's general personality or attitude would probably be closer to that of Dogs rather then Wolves. There's a cat out there that walks like a horse because it was the only cat raised in a barn full of horses, Cats themselves only Meow because they live with humans, wild cats communicate with noises humans can't hear.

so yes, you might have a person who is biologically built to be what humans would describe as a psychopath, but if raised in a human society, they would still be fully capable of living normal lives, morso if their particular needs are adjusted for, such as people understanding that this person needs their privacy respected. Likewise, the individual would likely learn from growing up around humans how to at the very least feign social norms and control any violent urges. Psychopaths and Sociopaths are completely capable of living normal lives, someone you know could be one and you might never know it.

A good example would be to look at people on the Autistic spectrum. Many of them inherently have trouble making eye contact with people, finding it uncomfortable, rude, aggressive, or just unnecessary. As they grow though, many learn that eye contact is expected when communicating with people, and either consciously or subconsciously, end up forcing themselves to make eye contact when speaking to people.




This hits D&D really hard because it doesn't just have a handful of different sapient species with variant psychologies (and the various cultures that grow out from such psychologies) it has hundreds, including non-humanoids, beings with bizarre physiologies, immortal beings, and even more. The idea that a sapient 20 ft long tentacle-bearing vaguely piscine creature capable of inflicting a gruesome metamorphosis on other beings it encounters and projecting images into their minds at will (an Aboleth, literally the 1st entry in the monster manual) should operate according to the same moral structure as Homo sapiens is a really hard sell.

okay, TO BE FAIR! i was more talking about spesifically civilized and humanoid races. Your Orcs, Drow, Kobolds, Goblins, Bugbears, Minotaur, etc.


Elder beings from beyond the stars and entities created from the evil souls of evil people were admittedly, not on my example list, sorry.

Chauncymancer
2021-07-21, 10:36 PM
My object level problem with always evil creatures is that I don't actually understand how they have cultures at all.
Like, I want you to go back to the very beginning here: We've either got Orkam and Orkeve, or we've got a half-dozen proto-orks. They don't have a society, so they have no societal pressure to maintain families. They don't have to worry about playing complex status games, because they only have like four neighbors.
Given the complete lack of empathy that an intrinsically Evil being would have, why doesn't this story end with "They had several children and, finding their crying annoying, abandoned them to die of exposure. Eighty years later the orks had gone extinct. The End."

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-21, 10:41 PM
best i can guess is "The desire for survival is powerful, and ultimately begets the desire for society"


Sor Orkam and Orkeve might be the first orcs, but that just means they make up the rules. Biologically they still want their species to survive, so they don't actively kill any of their children. But they might do things like beating the weak out, abandoning those who can't fend for themselves, or encouraging regular competitions of strength. That doesn't mean they're not cooperating to put food on the table, a roof over their head, and water in their bowls.

awa
2021-07-21, 10:56 PM
My object level problem with always evil creatures is that I don't actually understand how they have cultures at all.
Like, I want you to go back to the very beginning here: We've either got Orkam and Orkeve, or we've got a half-dozen proto-orks. They don't have a society, so they have no societal pressure to maintain families. They don't have to worry about playing complex status games, because they only have like four neighbors.
Given the complete lack of empathy that an intrinsically Evil being would have, why doesn't this story end with "They had several children and, finding their crying annoying, abandoned them to die of exposure. Eighty years later the orks had gone extinct. The End."

your making a common mistake of assuming an evil person must be equally evil to all people. Lets look at cats for a second, a humanoid who did the things a cat does (torture and kill smaller weaker beings for no purpose beyond their own amusement) would be evil, and yet mommy cats love their kittens. Cats love killing things and yet cats rarely kill each.

A virtue could even be the source of their evil they love their family so much that they will do ANYTHING to protect it. Oh its winter and every one is hungry well then I think we should march over to our neighbors kill them and feed them to our children our child suffer matters more than our neighbors lives. Oh this other community might someday pose a potential threat to ours we should preemptively destroy them because even a small risk to our children is worth more than their entire lives. Think how many parents wouldn't hesitate to kill a snake if they saw it near their child. the mere threat that the snake might harm their child is more important than the snakes life.

Evil and good do not have equal weight, you eat one baby and then suddenly that's all any one can talk about.

False God
2021-07-21, 11:03 PM
your making a common mistake of assuming an evil person must be equally evil to all people. Lets look at cats for a second, a humanoid who did the things a cat does (torture and kill smaller weaker beings for no purpose beyond their own amusement) would be evil, and yet mommy cats love their kittens. Cats love killing things and yet cats rarely kill each.

A virtue could even be the source of their evil they love their family so much that they will do ANYTHING to protect it. Oh its winter and every one is hungry well then I think we should march over to our neighbors kill them and feed them to our children our child suffer matters more than our neighbors lives. Oh this other community might someday pose a potential threat to ours we should preemptively destroy them because even a small risk to our children is worth more than their entire lives. Think how many parents wouldn't hesitate to kill a snake if they saw it near their child. the mere threat that the snake might harm their child is more important than the snakes life.

Evil and good do not have equal weight, you eat one baby and then suddenly that's all any one can talk about.

Okay, but now we're talking about relative evil, not objective evil. If orcs are kind and loving and socially-oriented, just not towards anything that isn't an orc, then they're not wholly evil. And quite frankly, outsiders could see that too. Said outsider might always be on the receiving end of a pointy stick, but they could still see that orcs love their children, respect their spouses, and create great philosophy...just not with any non-orc.

These orcs aren't evil, they just have some weird biological rage trigger that happens whenever they smell a non-orc humanoid. Or whatever.

OldTrees1
2021-07-21, 11:15 PM
Team Bad guy being a created or corrupted race is a staple of fantasy. And horror. And a couple of other genres. And it's a useful GM tool. There's nothing wrong with it, and the majority of players immediately get it. There's also nothing wrong with not wanting to use it and making all of your Team Bad Guys and Team Good Guys up from all races equally. Or whatever works for you,

Agreed. Despite not wanting them myself, I know they are a useful tool. Although you can do it easily by having them choosing to be evil OR not having them be moral agents rather than having them be evil.


Clearly this is a problematic viewpoint, that ignores the feelings and past persecution of left hand folks everywhere.

This was funny.


There's something missing from this, at least in some fantasy games and settings. Malign deific influence.

Most moral systems would blame the moral agent for their actions. So if a malevolent deity chose to do some evil, then the deity is evil. If their mind slave followed the mind control commands of the malevolent deity, then the deity is evil. If the mortal has the moral agency to be responsible for their own moral choices, then they have a choice to do evil or to not do evil.

So malign deific influence is already accounted for. The Malevolent deity has a bunch of amoral mind slaves. This becomes even more clear if you realize malign deific influence can be sudden or temporary. Maybe the deity mentally enslaves the PCs. Are the PCs evil while they have no moral agency? No, the malevolent deity is evil.


Or possibly a spontaneously arise from spores, with the biggest baddest and most brutal generating the most spores for the next generation.

Hehe. Need more dakka!

Vahnavoi
2021-07-21, 11:38 PM
Ok, let me amend that. There should not be any inherently evil races in any good setting, unless you are intentionally going for the grimdark vibe. In essence if humans, elves and dwarves can be of any allignment then the same should be true of Orcs, Goblinoids, minotaurs and all the rest.

Why? There is no metatextual reason for this to follow. I can do inherently evil beings without a whole setting being grimdark, in fact I can do inherently good beings in a grimdark setting. Some creatures being morally varied does not necessitate all creatures being morally varied. It does not create any kind of imperative for them to be more varied.

---


There is really no reason why some tribe of orcs somewhere could not figure out they are better off trading with a nearby human settlements rather then raiding them unless some outside force is keeping them evil trough magical means, but then why do evil gods get that ability and not good ones?

No race could survive if they can't cooperate with each other, and once you have that concept extending it to others is not such a huge stretch. While sure, some races may thrend towards one end or the other it should never be all encompassing.


My object level problem with always evil creatures is that I don't actually understand how they have cultures at all.
Like, I want you to go back to the very beginning here: We've either got Orkam and Orkeve, or we've got a half-dozen proto-orks. They don't have a society, so they have no societal pressure to maintain families. They don't have to worry about playing complex status games, because they only have like four neighbors.
Given the complete lack of empathy that an intrinsically Evil being would have, why doesn't this story end with "They had several children and, finding their crying annoying, abandoned them to die of exposure. Eighty years later the orks had gone extinct. The End."

These are your failure of imagination more than anything. And in case of orcs, failure to read the rules.

A short history lesson: in 1st Edition AD&D, orcs were Lawful Evil. Lawful is defined as placing groups over individuality. Orcs were extreme xenophobes, hating everyone who were not orcs... but they could co-operate with other orcs just fine. They could also be coerced into co-operating with non-orcs by force, because orcs don't want orcs as a group to die. So if a dark lord could threaten survival of orcs, they would rather run towards a softer target, like poorly defended human farmland.

In Tolkien's Middle-Earth, orcs were not natural creations at all, they were abducted and corrupted from good creatures by Morgoth. Now, Tolkien himself didn't nail down the exact origin of orcs, precisely because the notion of inherently evil creatures clashed with his own notions of free will and ideas of evil being unable to create - technically, orcs in Arda are redeemable, their redemption is just beyond human means. (Yes, this mean we were an inch away from having good orcs in the codifying work of modern orcs.)

Other works since then have mucked about with thr concept of orcs, to the point that there is no true unified concept of an orc anymore - and the same can be said of pretty much every other popular fantasy creature. They are empty symbols, shapes people instill with whatever meaning they want. The map is the territory; what matters for plausibility of any such creature is how they are portrayed in a specific work, not how they are portrayed in other works. Sure, some D&D settings have poorly thought-out always-chaotic-evil orcs, or other such thing that makes no damn sense - so what? An author used a trope poorly. Maybe you can't understand or imagine how it could be used well. Doesn't matter - it creates no imperative on how that trope should be used.

Mechalich
2021-07-21, 11:42 PM
For this i'd point to the various examples of animals living with other animals. If you take in a wolf pup and raise it like a dog around other dogs, then while it will likely be more aggressive and potentually dangerous, it's general personality or attitude would probably be closer to that of Dogs rather then Wolves. There's a cat out there that walks like a horse because it was the only cat raised in a barn full of horses, Cats themselves only Meow because they live with humans, wild cats communicate with noises humans can't hear.

so yes, you might have a person who is biologically built to be what humans would describe as a psychopath, but if raised in a human society, they would still be fully capable of living normal lives, morso if their particular needs are adjusted for, such as people understanding that this person needs their privacy respected. Likewise, the individual would likely learn from growing up around humans how to at the very least feign social norms and control any violent urges. Psychopaths and Sociopaths are completely capable of living normal lives, someone you know could be one and you might never know it.

A good example would be to look at people on the Autistic spectrum. Many of them inherently have trouble making eye contact with people, finding it uncomfortable, rude, aggressive, or just unnecessary. As they grow though, many learn that eye contact is expected when communicating with people, and either consciously or subconsciously, end up forcing themselves to make eye contact when speaking to people.

Well, yes, there's clearly a nurture component too, but that doesn't in any way invalidate the existence of a nature component. If we have Species A with a standard predisposition for dark triad psychological traits and Species B with a 10x higher predisposition for the same traits (a bit extreme, but by no means impossible) and we have 1000 children from each species raised by members of Species C and then score them accordingly to a culturally blind morality scale when they hit middle age there will be two different distributions. Both will probably range from saintly to abominable, but the distribution curve of Species B will probably be heavily 'evil-shifted' compared to that of species A.

So really it's a question of just how far you have to push the psychological variation to produce an 'evil-aligned' species in terms of a universal moral system, which really depends more on how you define evil than anything else. Depending on how you do this an 'evil' species may need to be cartoonishly over-the-top to the point of verisimilitude breaking self-destructiveness (fantasy authors tend to be bad at math and I've seen many fantasy species and cultures that are violent to a degree far beyond sustainability). However, it's certainly possible to create a species that is considerably more 'evil' than Homo sapiens, and at the same time one that is less 'evil' due to being less aggressive, more cooperative, etc. Such species have a long history of getting brutally abused by humans in science fiction, to the point that there's a whole set of theories about how the meanest shall inherit the galaxy (and a corollary that humans should avoid trying to find alien civilizations for precisely this reason).

Vahnavoi
2021-07-21, 11:53 PM
Or, to paraphrase, there's a long and honorable tradition of works where humans are inherently evil. :smallamused:

Bohandas
2021-07-21, 11:55 PM
The problem isn't with evil races, it's with the fact that the books generally tell rather than show, and when they do show they often show something that looks more cultural than like an intrinsic leaning. The problem is also with the fact that the cutoff for evil doesn't seem consistent; lizardfolk are consistently depicted as maneating killers yet somehow are neutral.

A bigger problem is with people not reading the alignment entries properly. More often than not the entries people take exception with say "often evil" or "usually evil", NOT "always evil". Unlike "always evil", "often evil" and "usually evil" are consistent with it being a cultural thing and don't really require the further explanation a lot of people demand.

The biggest problem however is the game's incorrect usage of the word "race" to mean "species". None of this would be an issue if they didn't use a politically charged word incorrectly.


Well, yes, there's clearly a nurture component too, but that doesn't in any way invalidate the existence of a nature component. If we have Species A with a standard predisposition for dark triad psychological traits and Species B with a 10x higher predisposition for the same traits (a bit extreme, but by no means impossible) and we have 1000 children from each species raised by members of Species C and then score them accordingly to a culturally blind morality scale when they hit middle age there will be two different distributions. Both will probably range from saintly to abominable, but the distribution curve of Species B will probably be heavily 'evil-shifted' compared to that of species A.

I really like this explanation and I like that you've covered some angles that I didn't get to

LudicSavant
2021-07-22, 12:08 AM
The problem isn't with evil races, it's with the fact that the books generally tell rather than show, and when they do show they often show something that looks more cultural than like an intrinsic leaning.

https://forums.giantitp.com/images/sand/icons/icon_thumbsup.png This is basically it, right here.

The 'evil' races in D&D never act like they're actual beings of inherent racial good or evil. Even the fiends and celestials. You seriously cannot turn a corner in the lore without bumping into a gaggle of redeemed devils or fallen angels. It's not even just a "once or twice" thing. They're bloody all over the place.

So when in those same settings where those things are well-established canon people suddenly start saying "hey that entire species is inherently evil and you should kill their babies on sight" it tends to raise some eyebrows, because people know that members of that species include characters like, say, Falls-From-Grace.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-22, 12:11 AM
The terms used aren't politically charged by themselves, they've become politically charged due to relentless equivocation. The use of word "race" in D&D comes from old-timey saying such as "the race of men", codified for modern fantasy by Tolkien. Taking issue with it is equivalent to complaining about using "men" to refer to all humans. That is, the complaint is based on not even using the same language - the characters may be the same and the vocalization may be the same, but the meaning was and is different. It's thinking like a censor bot, which won't let you call Richard **** or rooster a ****, or which pointlessly censors transliterations of many common Japenese words and phrases which happen to have "****-" as part of them.

Mechalich
2021-07-22, 12:37 AM
The terms used aren't politically charged by themselves, they've become politically charged due to relentless equivocation. The use of word "race" in D&D comes from old-timey saying such as "the race of men", codified for modern fantasy by Tolkien. Taking issue with it is equivalent to complaining about using "men" to refer to all humans. That is, the complaint is based on not even using the same language - the characters may be the same and the vocalization may be the same, but the meaning was and is different. It's thinking like a censor bot, which won't let you call Richard **** or rooster a ****, or which pointlessly censors transliterations of many common Japenese words and phrases which happen to have "****-" as part of them.

Thing is, using "race" in the way Tolkien did was old-timey even in the mid-1970s and it's incredibly outdated now. D&D should have changed the labeling to species long ago, at least as early as 3e. It's not like they aren't capable of doing so in other properties, characters in WotC licensed Star Wars have Species and Class rather than Race and Class.


The 'evil' races in D&D never act like they're actual beings of inherent racial good or evil. Even the fiends and celestials. You seriously cannot turn a corner in the lore without bumping into a gaggle of redeemed devils or fallen angels. It's not even just a "once or twice" thing. They're bloody all over the place.

So when in those same settings where those things are well-established canon people suddenly start saying "hey that entire species is inherently evil and you should kill their babies on sight" it tends to raise some eyebrows, because people know that members of that species include characters like, say, Falls-From-Grace.

Writing interesting stories in homogenous environments skewed to moral extremes is extremely difficult to do well. Stories in which absolutely everyone is evil degenerate into endless backstabbing between a group of totally unsympathetic monsters while stories in which everyone is a moral paragon are bland and boring. This is why every evil society story has at least one decent character to serve as an audience proxy and why every team of world-saving heroes includes at least one jerkface antihero or edgy rival (and this character is often far more compelling than the protagonist).

Consequently most 'always evil' groups are actually rather uninteresting and mostly serve as cannon fodder antagonists. The Trollocs from Wheel of Time, for example, which are just reskinned Orcs anyway, are living bioweapons and inherently tainted by the Dark One's touch. There aren't any redeemed Trollocs in the story, but at the same time there are barely any speaking Trollocs, they're just something for the good guys to smash. The minute some evil group becomes interesting enough to write a story about it, it almost inevitably acquires some measure of nuance. A well-known example is Boba Fett: he appears in the original Star Wars films entirely as a heartless mercenary thug, and yet because he had one of the coolest character designs in the history of cinema he became the progenitor of countless stories and spawned an entire fictional culture based on explaining who he was and where he came from.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-22, 12:44 AM
Weird. Thats a lot of extra hoops to feel no guilt over things that don't exist.

Ah, but they do - in a person's mind. That's at the core of this whole discussion, really. The activity of roleplaying asks you to imagine a human-like creature. Humans - real humans, the players engaged in the activity - tend to be averse to killing other humans. So if they accurately imagine another human, they will feel guilty of imaginary violence - just like they might feel guilty of imaginary violence towards a real person. So to avert that, the image has to be inaccurate or distorted in some way: you must imagine an enemy, not a human.

It's not an extra hoop - it's part of the process.

You can reach the same end result of dehumanizing your imagined human, by actively reminding yourself that it's not real. But that's not a hoop less. You still need to imagine the creature and the reason why killing it is okay.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-22, 12:56 AM
Thing is, using "race" in the way Tolkien did was old-timey even in the mid-1970s and it's incredibly outdated now. D&D should have changed the labeling to species long ago, at least as early as 3e. It's not like they aren't capable of doing so in other properties, characters in WotC licensed Star Wars have Species and Class rather than Race and Class.

Tolkien was a linguist, he was using old-fashioned language quite deliberately to invoke the feel of an ancient era of myth, and the same justification can be extended to fantasy at large. The iconic setting ideas of D&D are pre-modern, hence it has both intentional and unintentional elements of a period piece, including archaic use of language.

That WotC is perfectly capable of using different language for sci-fi games is part of the same deal. They use species, because it fits in the temporal framework of the setting being modeled.

Can there be legitimate reasons to adjust terminology for clarity? Yes. Appealing to people who think like censor bots isn't. Semantic confusion isn't a force of nature that is immune to human action, you can just tell people engaged in equivocation that they're doing just that.

Batcathat
2021-07-22, 01:10 AM
Ah, but they do - in a person's mind. That's at the core of this whole discussion, really. The activity of roleplaying asks you to imagine a human-like creature. Humans - real humans, the players engaged in the activity - tend to be averse to killing other humans. So if they accurately imagine another human, they will feel guilty of imaginary violence - just like they might feel guilty of imaginary violence towards a real person. So to avert that, the image has to be inaccurate or distorted in some way: you must imagine an enemy, not a human.

It's not an extra hoop - it's part of the process.

You can reach the same end result of dehumanizing your imagined human, by actively reminding yourself that it's not real. But that's not a hoop less. You still need to imagine the creature and the reason why killing it is okay.

If that's a necessary process, what about all the games where players kill dozens of humans (or close enough copies)? Are they inherently less immersive because players have to keep reminding themselves that they aren't killing real people?

Now, I'm not saying (literally) dehumanizing an enemy can't make it easier to kill them, it's certainly happened enough in real life. But I've never met a player who seems more troubled about killing a group of human bandits than a group of orc bandits.

Batcathat
2021-07-22, 01:21 AM
Make one of them 16 years old who begs for their life and that'll probably change.

Of course, they might do the same for a 12 year old Orc that did the same.

Sure, I agree that humanizing (or dehumanizing) through behavior is probably more efficient than doing it through species. Overhearing a pair of guards planning their weekend or bitching about their boss probably makes it at least a little harder to kill them, whether orc or human.

Theoboldi
2021-07-22, 02:02 AM
Sure, I agree that humanizing (or dehumanizing) through behavior is probably more efficient than doing it through species. Overhearing a pair of guards planning their weekend or bitching about their boss probably makes it at least a little harder to kill them, whether orc or human.

Conversely, if those same guards are known bandits who target the weak and innocent, it will be easier for the players to kill them. Not so much because it dehumanizes them, but because it provides the players with a position of moral security and superiority from which their (fictional) actions feel justified.

I think that this is a distinction that is worth making there, between the dehumanization of imagined enemies and the providing of moral backing. They each ease the less enjoyable parts of the fantasy of heroic violence, albeit in subtly different ways. The former targets a more visceral opposition to killing other humans, while the latter obviously revolves around the moral concerns.

Lord Raziere
2021-07-22, 02:14 AM
Conversely, if those same guards are known bandits who target the weak and innocent, it will be easier for the players to kill them. Not so much because it dehumanizes them, but because it provides the players with a position of moral security and superiority from which their (fictional) actions feel justified.

I think that this is a distinction that is worth making there, between the dehumanization of imagined enemies and the providing of moral backing. They each ease the less enjoyable parts of the fantasy of heroic violence, albeit in subtly different ways. The former targets a more visceral opposition to killing other humans, while the latter obviously revolves around the moral concerns.

Or just have the conversation happen to be about how they beat their wife/slaves/kids at home and their preferred methods of doing so. just because they're guards doesn't mean they have a functional home life.

if the players start questioning why they keep running into these kind of people, maybe ask them back why a GM has to do this constantly so they don't feel guilty.

Theoboldi
2021-07-22, 02:52 AM
Or just have the conversation happen to be about how they beat their wife/slaves/kids at home and their preferred methods of doing so. just because they're guards doesn't mean they have a functional home life.

if the players start questioning why they keep running into these kind of people, maybe ask them back why a GM has to do this constantly so they don't feel guilty.

I don't know what you are trying to say here, Raziere. That people who have a harder time dissociating the negative aspects of their fantasy of personal power and violence should not be allowed to explore that fantasy at all in a safe context?

Besides, you are not at all engaging with the split I just pointed out as important. The bandits beating their wives does nothing to dehumanize them. In fact, it just brings to mind actual human suffering, which may be just as painful for some people as the idea of creating a dehumanized group of villains.

Lord Raziere
2021-07-22, 03:15 AM
I don't know what you are trying to say here, Raziere. That people who have a harder time dissociating the negative aspects of their fantasy of personal power and violence should not be allowed to explore that fantasy at all in a safe context?

Besides, you are not at all engaging with the split I just pointed out as important. The bandits beating their wives does nothing to dehumanize them. In fact, it just brings to mind actual human suffering, which may be just as painful for some people as the idea of creating a dehumanized group of villains.

I was simply demonstrating how human guards can be portrayed in a way that makes them villains without dehumanizing them to make a player be fine with killing them. If thats the case your making, this isn't a problem that can be solved, what your talking about is picking your poison:

DnD Always Evil Races: themes of colonialism, tribal stereotypes, imperialism, and dehumanizing entire cultures

Always grey Morality: someone you kill will inevitably be innocent, a good person or not deserve it just because they're on the other side.

Star Wars morality: "but the Stormtroopers might have families at home!"

Cyberpunk: "But all those people at the corporations are just office workers trying to feed their families"

and so on and so forth. there is no objective "safe context" just preferences and disagreements. what is safe for one isn't for someone else, so your attempt at safety for all is doomed to failure. Me, I know what I want. I want to play monstrous races. I don't want to deal with your "struggling against inner nature" nonsense that is nonsense to me. and what I want is what I value over what you claim always evil races does. I'm not going to change my preferences for someone else's personal problems from some out of game reasons. Roleplaying is not by itself, therapy. There is no reason to change them. Furthermore every time a "safe space" is mentioned it involves more discussion about this stuff than not. More invitation for the questions to come in by trying to stop them, just like alignment.

Glorthindel
2021-07-22, 06:52 AM
I sorta get what the OP is saying, in that there is a clear disparity between "good" and "evil" races.

Good races are depicted as being much more flexibly-evil (to the point that really, Humans should be a neutral race), even to the point of having "always-evil" subraces (Drow, Duergar, Derro, Svirfneblin, Fallen Aasimar, etc), whereas evil races have less of that. I get that some races have specific bars to being so flexible (Gruumsh whispering in Orcs heads and such stuff), and ultimately, in a game where the default idea is good characters killing evil monsters, there is an obvious impetus to create evil-aligned versions of good races, so they are available for a smiting, while their isn't much point in making good-aligned versions of evil races (how many people have actually ever used a Baelnorn in a game? I imagine the number is vanishingly small, such that it just constitutes wasted Monster Manual space the few times they have bothered to publish it).

Perhaps all it needs is a few lines in the monster manual entries to indicate such things do exist in larger numbers than it would seem, and perhaps there is value in an "good" Orc subrace who no longer hears Gruumsh's voice, or a "metallic/gem Kobold" or "exhalted Tiefling" (not saying Tieflings are always-evil here, but if there are fallen Aasimar with dark-themed abilities, why not Tieflings with holy-themed ones?) to offset the Drow and Duergar.

Willie the Duck
2021-07-22, 07:11 AM
I sorta get what the OP is saying, in that there is a clear disparity between "good" and "evil" races.

Good races are depicted as being much more flexibly-evil (to the point that really, Humans should be a neutral race), even to the point of having "always-evil" subraces (Drow, Duergar, Derro, Svirfneblin, Fallen Aasimar, etc), whereas evil races have less of that.

Oh, I think we all get the premise. For me, I just don't think there's a 'should' about there being symmetry.

Theoboldi
2021-07-22, 07:54 AM
I was simply demonstrating how human guards can be portrayed in a way that makes them villains without dehumanizing them to make a player be fine with killing them. If thats the case your making, this isn't a problem that can be solved, what your talking about is picking your poison:

DnD Always Evil Races: themes of colonialism, tribal stereotypes, imperialism, and dehumanizing entire cultures

Always grey Morality: someone you kill will inevitably be innocent, a good person or not deserve it just because they're on the other side.

Star Wars morality: "but the Stormtroopers might have families at home!"

Cyberpunk: "But all those people at the corporations are just office workers trying to feed their families"

and so on and so forth. there is no objective "safe context" just preferences and disagreements. what is safe for one isn't for someone else, so your attempt at safety for all is doomed to failure. Me, I know what I want. I want to play monstrous races. I don't want to deal with your "struggling against inner nature" nonsense that is nonsense to me. and what I want is what I value over what you claim always evil races does. I'm not going to change my preferences for someone else's personal problems from some out of game reasons. Roleplaying is not by itself, therapy. There is no reason to change them. Furthermore every time a "safe space" is mentioned it involves more discussion about this stuff than not. More invitation for the questions to come in by trying to stop them, just like alignment.

What in the world are you talking about? When did I tell you that evil races should be about 'struggling against their inner nature'? All I did was point out that there is no one way forward where everyone is going to be happy with the same game and same tropes, and there are all sorts of things people might be more or less comfortable with. Apparently you agree with that as well, from what you're saying?

Go and play monstrous races! Hell, go and play in a world where there's nothing monstrous about them at all except for their appearance. That is perfectly valid. Why would you think I don't believe that?

Also, when I say 'safe context' I mean a fantasy context where nobody actually is hurt by violence that is being fantasized about. It doesn't mean an internet 'safe space' that tries to be a closed community. Don't assume what I mean from the beliefs you've seen other people have.
Of course I don't believe roleplaying is therapy. It's a game. And like many games, it lets you do something you would not want to do in real life because it is dangerous or immoral (or straight-up impossible), in an enviroment where there is no actual harm from it. Just like how GTA lets you go on a crazy rampage without hurting actual people. Or how Street Fighter lets you win a martial arts tournament without getting beat up. It's got nothing to do with therapy.

Lord Raziere
2021-07-22, 08:14 AM
What in the world are you talking about? When did I tell you that evil races should be about 'struggling against their inner nature'? All I did was point out that there is no one way forward where everyone is going to be happy with the same game and same tropes, and there are all sorts of things people might be more or less comfortable with. Apparently you agree with that as well, from what you're saying?

Go and play monstrous races! Hell, go and play in a world where there's nothing monstrous about them at all except for their appearance. That is perfectly valid. Why would you think I don't believe that?

Also, when I say 'safe context' I mean a fantasy context where nobody actually is hurt by violence that is being fantasized about. It doesn't mean an internet 'safe space' that tries to be a closed community. Don't assume what I mean from the beliefs you've seen other people have.
Of course I don't believe roleplaying is therapy. It's a game. And like many games, it lets you do something you would not want to do in real life because it is dangerous or immoral (or straight-up impossible), in an enviroment where there is no actual harm from it. Just like how GTA lets you go on a crazy rampage without hurting actual people. Or how Street Fighter lets you win a martial arts tournament without getting beat up. It's got nothing to do with therapy.

I agree for the sake of the conversation.

I find it odd that you take it so personally that you think it all refers to you just because its mentioned. It doesn't. I just say what I think, as it is an open thread. my thoughts are on the topic, not the people within it.

Your further assuming that I know what an internet safe space is. I didn't know that existed until you said it. I was just speaking out against the vague concept in general in relation to people using the "real life sucks in a vague general sense, I must have evil races in my elfgames in order to escape" justification that I find more baffling each time I hear it.

Yes and I find strange that the immoral action is limited to a designated few races when fantasy has been extending that immoral action to all races for some time now. It is arbitrary and care not for any justifications for it. All those games you used as examples let you do that to nonexistent humans there is no arbitrary morality or guilt just because they're not an orc, that some DnD players insist on the distinction is weird.

Edit: Well, that escalated quickly. I feel as if I miscommunicated somewhere and I apologize for doing so. I am not however going to post again in this thread, for I feel may screw things up more if I do.

Theoboldi
2021-07-22, 08:32 AM
I agree for the sake of the conversation.

I find it odd that you take it so personally that you think it all refers to you just because its mentioned. It doesn't. I just say what I think, as it is an open thread. my thoughts are on the topic, not the people within it.

Your further assuming that I know what an internet safe space is. I didn't know that existed until you said it. I was just speaking out against the vague concept in general in relation to people using the "oh woe is me, real life sucks in a vague general sense, I must have evil races in my elfgames in order to escape" justification that I find more contemptable each time I hear it.

Yes and I find strange that the immoral action is limited to a designated few races when fantasy has been extending that immoral action to all races for some time now. It is arbitrary and care not for any justifications for it. All those games you used as examples let you do that to nonexistent humans there is no arbitrary morality or guilt just because they're not an orc, that some DnD players insist on the distinction is weird.

You know, if you really didn't mean me in particular, or didn't mean to call anyone out, you'd stop trying to constantly imply that something is wrong with the people you are talking about. Seriously, you were the one who just mentioned 'safe spaces' by name, and now you're trying to tell me you had no idea what those were? You reply directly to me and argue against what I said as a launching point for your own rant, and then act like it's somehow strange that I think you're trying to argue with me?

Hell, you make snide insinuations about D&D players who use evil races automatically having them be tribal, or enjoy colonialist fantasies, and then call them contemptible, but then also say that you are talking just about the topic in general? And not any of the people who have argued for evil fantasy races in this thread whatsoever?

Either you are deliberately trying to rile me up, or you are so tone deaf that you have no idea what you are saying. I am done with your cowardly and manipulative way of arguing. Whatever your motivation, you clearly do not actually engage with what others say, nor do you care in any way to understand them. I'm done.

jjordan
2021-07-22, 09:18 AM
<SNIP> humanizing (or dehumanizing) through behavior <SNIP>
And there we go. Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad. Which is a very broad brush (e.g. elves) and not intended as a criticism of your comment, Batcathat. I'm just observing that there seems to be a preference for simplicity in RPGs, where the villains are easily identified and not identifiable with. In a fantasy TTRPG that can mean orcs, trolls, zombies. In a modern TTRPG the villains are established by uniforms and voluntary association with a group with clearly evil designs. That makes decision making simple.

As a DM I tend to prefer bad guys that have actual motivations because it allows me to easily improvise members of the group and I stay consistent. So I tend to assign them motivations. In my experience players dislike that. Bad guys are bad because they're bad is about as deep as players want to go. If they're faced with a situation where both sides are motivated by understandable and reasonable goals but are competing for a limited resource which will not stretch to serving both groups then decisions become complicated and have consequences that players sometimes find distasteful.

So while I agree with OPs basic premise (while allowing for things like demons, zombies, and other things that are inherently expressions of a malign force) I think it's ignoring the more important question of what is fun for the players.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of TTRPG games that eschew the solutions through violence model and embrace the shades of grey roleplay. None of these are anywhere near as popular as D&D, however, and there are at least as many mini-games out there that eschew the social and exploration aspects and lean whole-heartedly into the solutions through violence model. So, once again, it's going to come down to what the participants want and everyone having an adult conversation to make that determination and plot a path forward.

Batcathat
2021-07-22, 09:27 AM
And there we go. Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad. Which is a very broad brush (e.g. elves) and not intended as a criticism of your comment, Batcathat. I'm just observing that there seems to be a preference for simplicity in RPGs, where the villains are easily identified and not identifiable with. In a fantasy TTRPG that can mean orcs, trolls, zombies. In a modern TTRPG the villains are established by uniforms and voluntary association with a group with clearly evil designs. That makes decision making simple.

I'm not really sure what you're commenting about what I said. That the term "humanizing" is human-centric?


As a DM I tend to prefer bad guys that have actual motivations because it allows me to easily improvise members of the group and I stay consistent. So I tend to assign them motivations. In my experience players dislike that. Bad guys are bad because they're bad is about as deep as players want to go. If they're faced with a situation where both sides are motivated by understandable and reasonable goals but are competing for a limited resource which will not stretch to serving both groups then decisions become complicated and have consequences that players sometimes find distasteful.

Speaking of painting with a broad brush. While I of course can't speak for your experience, in mine players tend to be rather divided on this. Some indeed don't want anything beyond a classic white/black hat division but very many absolutely do and some don't really seem to care either way.

Willie the Duck
2021-07-22, 10:27 AM
I'm not really sure what you're commenting about what I said. That the term "humanizing" is human-centric?
Yeah, that seems to be a non-point. Our language is based around the assumption that there's only one sentient species. Not sure what that proves. Also:


And there we go. Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad.
I kinda disagree that this is what was suggested. The rest of the quote was "is probably more efficient than doing it through species. Overhearing a pair of guards planning their weekend or bitching about their boss probably makes it at least a little harder to kill them, whether orc or human" That's not talking about assigning a status of good or bad, but of giving them depth (neutrally). It's harder to kill a thing that one recognizes as having thought-processes, was my takeaway from the statement.

Anyways,

As a DM I tend to prefer bad guys that have actual motivations because it allows me to easily improvise members of the group and I stay consistent. So I tend to assign them motivations. In my experience players dislike that. Bad guys are bad because they're bad is about as deep as players want to go. If they're faced with a situation where both sides are motivated by understandable and reasonable goals but are competing for a limited resource which will not stretch to serving both groups then decisions become complicated and have consequences that players sometimes find distasteful.

So while I agree with OPs basic premise (while allowing for things like demons, zombies, and other things that are inherently expressions of a malign force) I think it's ignoring the more important question of what is fun for the players.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of TTRPG games that eschew the solutions through violence model and embrace the shades of grey roleplay. None of these are anywhere near as popular as D&D, however, and there are at least as many mini-games out there that eschew the social and exploration aspects and lean whole-heartedly into the solutions through violence model. So, once again, it's going to come down to what the participants want and everyone having an adult conversation to make that determination and plot a path forward.
This seems to be conflating shades of grey in terms of characters being good and bad with a predominantly violence-as-solution compared to exploration-and-social game models, whereas I think those are really two distinct and separate factors. You can have a social and exploration aspect-centric game in a world with black/white-hatted creature roles or violence-as-solution games in a world with shades-of-grey creatures (wherein the primary decision points often circle around 'is this grey so dark we invoke our violence solution?').

Jason
2021-07-22, 10:34 AM
Before the thread gets closed, the OP is flawed in that there are good races in D&D, it's just that humans and demi-human are not among them.
"Always good" races in 3E include Archons, Couatls, Metallic Dragons, Celestials, Eladrins, Genies, Guardinals, Lillends, Pseudodragons, Phoenixes, Pixies, Sprites, Sphinxes, Werebears, and Unicorns.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-22, 10:59 AM
There's something missing from this, at least in some fantasy games and settings. Malign deific influence. The devil made me do it. (Geraldine Jones, as played by Flip Wilson)

Jumping to books, in Brandon Sanderson has an entire race of creatures that by nature open themselves to the power of what is effectively a malign god, and in doing so their personality and nature change. Which book series was this: Mistborn?

Or possibly a spontaneously arise from spores, with the biggest baddest and most brutal generating the most spores for the next generation. We are back to orcs and zerglings being the same thing ... Warcraft/Starcraft commentary.

Why? There is no metatextual reason for this to follow. I can do inherently evil beings without a whole setting being grimdark, in fact I can do inherently good beings in a grimdark setting. Some creatures being morally varied does not necessitate all creatures being morally varied. It does not create any kind of imperative for them to be more varied. That was eloquent.

These are your failure of imagination more than anything. And in case of orcs, failure to read the rules.

"hey that entire species is inherently evil and you should kill their babies on sight" Who actually does this? I see this strawman trotted out with mind numbing regularity.

You seem to be dragging video game/crpg attrition based victory conditions into an RPG context. I mean, in Warcraft I, there were some sessions killing all of the enemy was required to complete the mission. (Kill all the orcs if you were the humans, kill all the humans if you were the orcs). Same was true in Warcraft II. Same true in various Starcraft missions.
In other missions, building certain things or reaching a place on time, kill what's in your way, was the model.

Psyren
2021-07-22, 11:06 AM
Haven't played the old-school Warcraft games, but the condition in Starcraft and Warcraft 3 is usually "destroy all their buildings" which are explicitly military installations - not so much "kill all the orcs."

As for the term "humanizing" - yeah it's human-centric, but "make more sympathetic" is a bit clunky so I'm okay with it.

Batcathat
2021-07-22, 11:10 AM
Haven't played the old-school Warcraft games, but the condition in Starcraft and Warcraft 3 is usually "destroy all their buildings" which are explicitly military installations - not so much "kill all the orcs."

It's been a long time since I played Warcraft II, but I think the buildings to get more units (the equivalent of supply depots etc in Starcraft) were like farms or something like that, so I suppose those would've technically been civilian buildings. Still, I don't remember seeing adorable orc babies running around so I don't think it was meant to be seen as a war of extinction.

OldTrees1
2021-07-22, 11:10 AM
Before the thread gets closed, the OP is flawed in that there are good races in D&D, it's just that humans and demi-human are not among them.
"Always good" races in 3E include Archons, Couatls, Metallic Dragons, Celestials, Eladrins, Genies, Guardinals, Lillends, Pseudodragons, Phoenixes, Pixies, Sprites, Sphinxes, Werebears, and Unicorns.

There are no inherently good species in 3E. 3E explicitly calls out "always ___" does not mean always. There can be chaotic evil Archons just like Falls from Grace is no longer an evil demon.


And there we go. Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad. Which is a very broad brush (e.g. elves) and not intended as a criticism of your comment, Batcathat. I'm just observing that there seems to be a preference for simplicity in RPGs, where the villains are easily identified and not identifiable with. In a fantasy TTRPG that can mean orcs, trolls, zombies. In a modern TTRPG the villains are established by uniforms and voluntary association with a group with clearly evil designs. That makes decision making simple.

I believe that was linguistic short hand rather than precise usage of the term. For example it is shorter to say "dehumanizing/humanizing" despite not meaning it in a human centric manner than it is to say "Changing the presentation or facts about morally relevant details that impact the judgement about whether the entity qualifies for moral consideration or moral personhood."

Although yes you are right that some media / RPGs take the tactic of "I don't understand or identify with the entity, therefore it is easier for me to judge them as not qualifying for moral consideration or moral personhood".

Personally I prefer to focus on the actions of the entity rather than change the judgement of their moral consideration / personhood. This is where stormtrooper uniforms or bandit actions come in to identify the enemy.

Psyren
2021-07-22, 11:12 AM
It's been a long time since I played Warcraft II, but I think the buildings to get more units (the equivalent of supply depots etc in Starcraft) were like farms or something like that, so I suppose those would've technically been civilian buildings. Still, I don't remember seeing adorable orc babies running around so I don't think it was meant to be seen as a war of extinction.

You're not wrong, but I would see farms and pigpens inside of a military base being a bit of a grey area.

Slipjig
2021-07-22, 11:24 AM
It's probably more appropriate to say that the dominant cultures of certain races are Evil in a given world. For example, in the classic Drow as imagined by RA Salvatore, the dominant Drow culture clearly checks pretty much all the boxes for Evil, so most of the people raised in that culture end up Evil. However, we also see several examples of Drow who choose to be otherwise. You can have the opposite with traditionally Good races: there are bad seeds even in the best society.

{Scrubbed}

Outsiders are a little trickier, depending on your conception of what they are. If your cosmology is that fiends are the essence of Evil in bodily form, the idea of redemption makes no sense (or, at a minimum, would mean that they stop being fiends and transform into something else). But if fiends are simply another free-willed race that is native to a plane generally aligned with Evil, then allowing deviance from that norm absolutely makes sense.

Xervous
2021-07-22, 11:24 AM
Which book series was this: Mistborn?


Stormlight Archives

Spren are sorta like spirits. The Singers bond with different kinds of Spren to acquire a corresponding form. Bonding with any Spren alters their state of mind accordingly, with there being things like Workform, Warform, Mateform and so forth. Then you introduce Spren corrupted by the malevolent god Odium. These give more powerful forms but bring a singer under Odiumís influence. At the most extreme there are Odium linked Spren that are the spirits of his ancient servants who completely hijack the Singerís body. And yeah, Odium wants to break everyone elseís toys and take over the universe.

Mastikator
2021-07-22, 12:16 PM
But isn't this whole "Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad." stuff a defense mechanism though? It's nothing to do with story telling or world building. We like to believe that bad things are done by bad people. I would certainly never commit atrocities, that's something bad people do. Bad people are in a separate category from good people like me, who only do good things.

It has nothing to do with philosophy or anything, just a pure defense mechanism against the ever creeping notion that I might do really bad things and might be really bad.

OldTrees1
2021-07-22, 12:29 PM
But isn't this whole "Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad." stuff a defense mechanism though? It's nothing to do with story telling or world building. We like to believe that bad things are done by bad people. I would certainly never commit atrocities, that's something bad people do. Bad people are in a separate category from good people like me, who only do good things.

It has nothing to do with philosophy or anything, just a pure defense mechanism against the ever creeping notion that I might do really bad things and might be really bad.

Which post was this a reply to? I need context to help me parse the second paragraph.

There are several factors that contribute to the cognitive bias. The "fear the unknown" defense mechanism for example.

However we can recognize and overcome that cognitive bias. That is why is pointed out humanizing/dehumanizing was being used as a sloppy linguistic shorthand for "Changing the presentation or facts about morally relevant details that impact the judgement about whether the entity qualifies for moral consideration or moral personhood". Providing that broader context moves it past the first iteration of the cognitive bias.

Psyren
2021-07-22, 12:41 PM
But isn't this whole "Humans = Good. Non-Humans = Bad." stuff a defense mechanism though? It's nothing to do with story telling or world building. We like to believe that bad things are done by bad people. I would certainly never commit atrocities, that's something bad people do. Bad people are in a separate category from good people like me, who only do good things.

It has nothing to do with philosophy or anything, just a pure defense mechanism against the ever creeping notion that I might do really bad things and might be really bad.

That assumes it's always a conscious choice by the author/designer. Very often, problematic or unfortunate implications from a setting arise entirely by accident.

The designer for example might simply make all the pretty and sophisticated elves good and all the ugly tribal orcs evil because that's how Tolkien did it, and they're trying to pay homage to Tolkien. Their thought process might never go deeper than that. But those kinds of tropes should be examined because "oops, I was just trying to be like Tolkien" is not a free pass to abandon one's responsibility of thinking about these things.

Bohandas
2021-07-22, 12:59 PM
But Lolth and the like don't influence every single member of the species 24/7. They do a lot of their influencing indirectly, though the culture and leaders of the Orcs/Drow/etc...

Lolth's a bad example because she's not a creator deity.

Gruumsh, on the other hand, influences every every member of the orc species 24/7 by virtue of having designed them. His control of orc behavior is as absolute as the iRobot corporation's control of Roomba behavior. Or at least it was in the beginning, presumably evolutionary divergence may have occurred since then, although how much depends on the timescale of the setting

Bohandas
2021-07-22, 02:29 PM
I was simply demonstrating how human guards can be portrayed in a way that makes them villains without dehumanizing them to make a player be fine with killing them.

Herein we see one of the fundamental mistakes. An important difference between human guards, and orcs and goblins or what have you, is that the human guards are human, whereas the orcs and goblins were never human in the first place and aren't supposed to be. We have no more reason to assume that they should think or act like humans than we do to assume that a wolf should think or act like a jaguar.


That assumes it's always a conscious choice by the author/designer. Very often, problematic or unfortunate implications from a setting arise entirely by accident.

The designer for example might simply make all the pretty and sophisticated elves good and all the ugly tribal orcs evil because that's how Tolkien did it, and they're trying to pay homage to Tolkien. Their thought process might never go deeper than that. But those kinds of tropes should be examined because "oops, I was just trying to be like Tolkien" is not a free pass to abandon one's responsibility of thinking about these things.

How can the author mean something that they don't mean? If it was done purely to copy Tolkien and for no other reason than reading it as a racial allegory or anything else of that nature is ipso facto incorrect.

It's not fair to criticize an author for some random readers' headcanons.

False God
2021-07-22, 02:36 PM
Lolth's a bad example because she's not a creator deity.

Gruumsh, on the other hand, influences every every member of the orc species 24/7 by virtue of having designed them. His control of orc behavior is as absolute as the iRobot corporation's control of Roomba behavior. Or at least it was in the beginning, presumably evolutionary divergence may have occurred since then, although how much depends on the timescale of the setting

Okay, but we can apply this to Moradin or Corellion too. They, like Grummush, designed their species to be good at certain things and to enjoy certain things. But my point was more that, after the design and implementation phase, all the gods pretty much slacked off on oversight. Outside of the culture and religion and societies that developed around these initial desires and enjoyments, there wasn't any enforcement of these desires. So we got dwarves that didn't like caves so much and elves that didn't like trees so much and orcs that were less violent....except someone kept marking "CE" on all those orc stat-blocks for some reason.

And that reason was, going back to my original argument, basically laziness. The game needed baddies and it was easier to say "players can be anything" and "these are the baddies".

Frankly, I'd be half tempted to make the "in universe" reason for all those Orcs still be CE or XE or whatever, is simply godly bureaucracy. The pencil pushers upstairs at some point got overwhelmed with the sheer number of humans, dwarves, and elves in the world and weren't able to keep rubber-stamping them with the appropriate alignment. However, since all these races pretty much kept slaughtering orcs, thus keeping their numbers down, so the paperwork was much simpler.

Orcs are "XE" because godly government. The freedom to be whatever you want, as an Orc, is not limited by your choices or by some grand machination, but by the most unstoppable, oppressive, unrelenting force in the universe: good bookeeping.

Bohandas
2021-07-22, 02:43 PM
Wait. Are elves no longer marked as CG in fifth edition?

Alcore
2021-07-22, 03:15 PM
It's been a long time since I played Warcraft II, but I think the buildings to get more units (the equivalent of supply depots etc in Starcraft) were like farms or something like that, so I suppose those would've technically been civilian buildings. Still, I don't remember seeing adorable orc babies running around so I don't think it was meant to be seen as a war of extinction.

Technically it is military infrastructure used to supply and feed troops. Warcraft 3 did have villages and towns of civilian use that you often couldnít touch.


In Warcraft 2, if you found it, it was military with but a rare few missions.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-22, 03:49 PM
Wait. Are elves no longer marked as CG in fifth edition?
1. They are not in the Monster Manual, but there is an extended exposition on elves in Mord's that hardly answers that particular question. :smallyuk:
2. I need to dig up the PHB descriptive text, but the basic rules do have this.

Chaotic good (CG) creatures act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect. Copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns are chaotic good. In my brother's world, the high elf wizard in our party is about 80% murder hobo; if he's chaotic good I'll be surprised.

OldTrees1
2021-07-22, 04:17 PM
Wait. Are elves no longer marked as CG in fifth edition?

D&D Elves were never inherently good. They might have had good tendencies, but D&D Elves were moral agents and had the capacity to choose to do good, or evil.

The OP is saying, if you have no inherently good species, then it makes sense to have no inherently evil species.

Jason
2021-07-22, 05:22 PM
D&D Elves were never inherently good. They might have had good tendencies, but D&D Elves were moral agents and had the capacity to choose to do good, or evil.

The OP is saying, if you have no inherently good species, then it makes sense to have no inherently evil species.

And D&D does have inherently good species, where every member is born with a good alignment. Where the OP goes wrong is in thinking humans or demihumans are "good" races. That's okay though, because the orcs, goblins etc. aren't inherently evil either.

Samoja1
2021-07-22, 05:37 PM
I think a lot of people are forgetting that just because not all individuals of a certain group are evil does not mean you can't have them as acceptable targets. In fact i would say it makes those who still do evil things more of an acceptable targets. If there are groups of orcs or kobolds that chose to forgo evil and just live in peace then that means other individuals of that group had an alternative. If they still chose to do evil then that's their choice, and the consequences are justified.

I would also like to draw your attention to one of the best examples i know of this idea, Parthurnaax from Skyrim. One could argue whether Dragons in TES are evil alligned, but in any case by his very existence Parthurnaax proves it's possible for a dragon not to give in to their oppressive tendencies, and in so doing elevates the story.

NovenFromTheSun
2021-07-22, 06:32 PM
When we start talking about biological design to malign influence, or even simply "built to do evil things" it begs the question of free will, and thus, if they can actually be evil at all. A stick isn't evil, even if you beat someone to death with it. In this comparison, the "evil race" isn't the one beating someone to death, they're the stick. A tool being used by an evil god to do evil things.


And personally I think someone could make an awesome campaign centered on that question. I think itís more open than you give it credit for; I remember a documentary on prisons where one of the interviewed people was a prisoner who did not want to be released because he knew heíd kill more people if he was. Was this person evil? I donít know, but seeing it always stuck with me.

False God
2021-07-22, 07:36 PM
And personally I think someone could make an awesome campaign centered on that question. I think itís more open than you give it credit for; I remember a documentary on prisons where one of the interviewed people was a prisoner who did not want to be released because he knew heíd kill more people if he was. Was this person evil? I donít know, but seeing it always stuck with me.

Sure, it's just finding people who are interested in a game that revolves around asking sticky questions, rather than sticking swords in stuff.

OldTrees1
2021-07-22, 07:55 PM
And D&D does have inherently good species, where every member is born with a good alignment. Where the OP goes wrong is in thinking humans or demihumans are "good" races. That's okay though, because the orcs, goblins etc. aren't inherently evil either.

Inherently XYZ would imply more than being born XYZ. I was born left handed. I am now left handed, ambidextrous, or right handed depending on the task. I am not inherently left handed. So in every D&D edition where angels can fall, I don't know of any inherently good species.

Demihumans like halflings, dwarves, and elves are usually written as having good tendencies. This is part of the reason why they are stereotyped as "the goodly races" (whether or not you agree with pop culture). However the OP notices they are not stereotyped as inherently good. Oddly enough "the evil demihumans" are often stereotyped as inherently evil.

You are right that D&D does not have "the evil demihumans" as inherently evil. Oddly 5E lore seems to muddle that detail (see 5E Orc in MM vs MTOF). However that did make me comment about the limitations of the opening post.


And personally I think someone could make an awesome campaign centered on that question. I think itís more open than you give it credit for; I remember a documentary on prisons where one of the interviewed people was a prisoner who did not want to be released because he knew heíd kill more people if he was. Was this person evil? I donít know, but seeing it always stuck with me.

That sounds interesting. There are a few ways that campaign could go. You could have it focus on one state of being, or the creator could have multiple different experiments. Maybe this one is explicitly mind controlled. Another one is influenced with an ever escalating pressure. A third keeps having their memory edited. Etc.

Bohandas
2021-07-22, 08:07 PM
D&D Elves were never inherently good. They might have had good tendencies, but D&D Elves were moral agents and had the capacity to choose to do good, or evil.

The OP is saying, if you have no inherently good species, then it makes sense to have no inherently evil species.

Who said the same didn't apply to orcs? I've got the 3.5e monster manual here and it lists elves as "Usually Chaotic Good" and orcs as "Often Chaotic Evil" so from an official RAW standpoint elves are more inherently good than orcs are inherently evil

OldTrees1
2021-07-22, 08:30 PM
Who said the same didn't apply to orcs? I've got the 3.5e monster manual here and it lists elves as "Usually Chaotic Good" and orcs as "Often Chaotic Evil" so from an official RAW standpoint elves are more inherently good than orcs are inherently evil

I don't disagree. 3E D&D has no species that are inherently XYZ alignment. The details are in the back of the monster manual, but I appreciate that section well.

So if the OP argues "If there are no inherently good species, there should be no inherently evil species", then I think D&D 3E passes the OP's requirement. This made me wonder if the OP was speaking more generically rather than brand or edition specific.

vasilidor
2021-07-22, 10:13 PM
A note on evil deity influences. If they reward evil practices and punish good practices then you can totally get an evil society via evil gods. magic mind rape need not be used. Just teaching them to hate certain groups can be enough.
this is actually, in part, how real world evil gets propagated through real world societies.

yes I know real world evil is often more complex than that, but that is a part of it.

Duff
2021-07-22, 10:46 PM
This is an edited quote to sumarise OPs current position...


There should be no evil alligned races.
except

if you are going to keep your setting purely black and white then i have no issues with you having inherently evil races.
or

unless you are intentionally going for the grimdark vibe.

So, perhaps, "In a morally nuanced setting, there's no place for Always Evil races."
But I don't even agree with that


You are describing Stalin's USSR right there.
While it didn't last forever, Stalin's USSR did survive a couple of crisis which could easily have ended it. Sure, Stalin might have survived that night if his guards weren't too scared, but that didn't bring about the fall of his nation. If Stalin had an heir who was willing and able to do things the same, it would have continued.
IE, North Korea. There's limits to how much a real world government can (or should, or will within the forum rules) be used as a proxy for an evil race. But I think there's a case to argue that a government apperatus like the Kims could endure with a sentiant species that are in fact all evil

Also, this

In this same light is it peculiar to note that demons and devils vastly outnumber the various good aligned outsiders? Are you taking into consideration how being good is the hard option while being evil is the easier option? Your assumption that the evil/good flip flop should be observable in equal helpings is unfounded.


And this talks to a pet hate of mine for most Tolkien-derived fantasy settings.

a RACE can't be Evil, but a CULTURE can be.
Most of the races other than human have distinct cultures. There's a Dwarvish language shared by all dwarves, for example, But no human one. So if other humanoid races have this level of monoculture across comunities, I'm inclined to say evil can be a part of a species' culture



Okay, but now we're talking about relative evil, not objective evil. If orcs are kind and loving and socially-oriented, just not towards anything that isn't an orc, then they're not wholly evil. And quite frankly, outsiders could see that too. Said outsider might always be on the receiving end of a pointy stick, but they could still see that orcs love their children, respect their spouses, and create great philosophy...just not with any non-orc.

These orcs aren't evil, they just have some weird biological rage trigger that happens whenever they smell a non-orc humanoid. Or whatever.
Always evil doesn't have to mean completely evil though. "Always willing to kill and eat other sentient species when hungry" can, in a setting with absolute morality, mean they are always evil if eating sentient species is evil. And D&D has generally had absolute morality, which is why a paladin can fall and still think they're doing what the 12 gods have commanded them to.


Thing is, using "race" in the way Tolkien did was old-timey even in the mid-1970s and it's incredibly outdated now. D&D should have changed the labeling to species long ago, at least as early as 3e. It's not like they aren't capable of doing so in other properties, characters in WotC licensed Star Wars have Species and Class rather than Race and Class.

Agreed. "Race" brings baggage it doesn't need to the conversation




Writing interesting stories in homogenous environments skewed to moral extremes is extremely difficult to do well. Stories in which absolutely everyone is evil degenerate into endless backstabbing between a group of totally unsympathetic monsters while stories in which everyone is a moral paragon are bland and boring. This is why every evil society story has at least one decent character to serve as an audience proxy and why every team of world-saving heroes includes at least one jerkface antihero or edgy rival (and this character is often far more compelling than the protagonist).

Consequently most 'always evil' groups are actually rather uninteresting and mostly serve as cannon fodder antagonists. The Trollocs from Wheel of Time, for example, which are just reskinned Orcs anyway, are living bioweapons and inherently tainted by the Dark One's touch. There aren't any redeemed Trollocs in the story, but at the same time there are barely any speaking Trollocs, they're just something for the good guys to smash. The minute some evil group becomes interesting enough to write a story about it, it almost inevitably acquires some measure of nuance. A well-known example is Boba Fett: he appears in the original Star Wars films entirely as a heartless mercenary thug, and yet because he had one of the coolest character designs in the history of cinema he became the progenitor of countless stories and spawned an entire fictional culture based on explaining who he was and where he came from.

Sort of true, but not actually addressing the question. There's nothing to say a fantasy setting can't have trollocs which are all inherantly evil as well as orcs who can have different alignments/ethical philosophies/moral codes.
As to "sort of" - I'd say it's harder to have good stories within the extremes of good and evil. But possible. I'd suggest Game of Thrones has some good stories about interactions where I'd call all the characters evil. Even stories which are about the conflict between extremes good and extreme evil are more limited. But they can definitely be interesting. Lots of examples in real world mythology/religion if you care to look. Stay within forum rules and don't quote specifics. I'd suggest lord of the rings (Boromir and his dad aside) would count.

Bohandas
2021-07-22, 11:39 PM
Most of the races other than human have distinct cultures. There's a Dwarvish language shared by all dwarves, for example, But no human one. So if other humanoid races have this level of monoculture across comunities, I'm inclined to say evil can be a part of a species' culture

AND a tendency to a particular kind of culture can be inherent to a species. It's my headcanon that they ARE different dwarven cultures, they just all live underground, do a lot of metal and stonework, and drink a lot as a result of their being able to see in the dark, having an instinctive understanding of stone and metal, and being resistant to poison.

Similarly, the orcs could tend to evil due to lacking the lifespan and intelligence to develop and maintain a society that doesn't need to rely on the sorts of awful things that happened in every major society in the bronze age and earlier

EDIT:
Or societies could even be hardcoded, like in Warhammer 40000's orks, who grow from spores and when seeded on different worlds without any parental care or instruction they all instinctively build the same society speaking the same language and building the same spaceships and hovertanks

Mechalich
2021-07-23, 04:10 AM
AND a tendency to a particular kind of culture can be inherent to a species. It's my headcanon that they ARE different dwarven cultures, they just all live underground, do a lot of metal and stonework, and drink a lot as a result of their being able to see in the dark, having an instinctive understanding of stone and metal, and being resistant to poison.

There are cultural commonalities found between all or nearly all human cultures (and the exceptions tend to be confined to highly unusual environments), so it does indeed make sense that there would be commonalities between nearly all the cultures of some other sapient species, they'd just be different commonalities. There's even some limited evidence regarding this sort of thing from comparisons between Neanderthal culture and contemporary Human culture, though the data is admittedly highly speculative.

It is worth noting that in a fantasy world with large numbers of different species the among of intraspecies cultural variation is going to drop, because each species is going to have a favored niche and, at least prior to the development of agriculture, they're going to dominate their niche and struggle mightily to have any presence in niches better suited to other species unless there is geographic isolation. For example, if dwarves are better adapted to an alpine lifestyle than humans, there simply won't be any humans in alpine environments unless you have a continent without dwarves or something. Of course this leads to the question of why one fantasy species doesn't brutally exterminate all of the other species it sees as competitors once it secures a societal/technological/magical advantage. It's a fairly rare setting that's willing to follow the obvious path and say 'oh but they do' (Dark Sun, as usual the most realistic of D&D settings, is one such).

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 05:34 AM
Of course this leads to the question of why one fantasy species doesn't brutally exterminate all of the other species it sees as competitors once it secures a societal/technological/magical advantage.

If, as you propose, sapient creatures speciate based on dominating their ecological niche, why would they see each other as competitors? To give contrast from natural world, ants war against other ants (and termites) - but only those ants which happen to be of similar size and eating the same food. Small ants and big ants co-exist comfortably because they are not each other's direct competitors.

Approached from a different angle, the advantage required to carry out complete, intentional genocide is vast. The simplest explanation tends to be that neither side is capable of exterminating the other. The second simplest is that the other side is trying hard, but you're working to stop them - that's what the fight against forces of evil genuinely is in many settings. :smalltongue:

Samoja1
2021-07-23, 06:51 AM
If, as you propose, sapient creatures speciate based on dominating their ecological niche, why would they see each other as competitors? To give contrast from natural world, ants war against other ants (and termites) - but only those ants which happen to be of similar size and eating the same food. Small ants and big ants co-exist comfortably because they are not each other's direct competitors.

Approached from a different angle, the advantage required to carry out complete, intentional genocide is vast. The simplest explanation tends to be that neither side is capable of exterminating the other. The second simplest is that the other side is trying hard, but you're working to stop them - that's what the fight against forces of evil genuinely is in many settings. :smalltongue:

There could be some tension between men and elves. Elves tend to be fond of the forest while men tend to be fond of cutting forests down. I don't think anyone would bother the dwarves because nobody wants to live in a mine shaft their whole life, so dwarves are useful to the economy because they mine ores nobody else would bother with. Most other creatures live in remote and hostile locations which is probably why they survived this long.

Forum Explorer
2021-07-23, 07:19 AM
{Scrub the post, scrub the quote}

Outsiders are a little trickier, depending on your conception of what they are. If your cosmology is that fiends are the essence of Evil in bodily form, the idea of redemption makes no sense (or, at a minimum, would mean that they stop being fiends and transform into something else). But if fiends are simply another free-willed race that is native to a plane generally aligned with Evil, then allowing deviance from that norm absolutely makes sense.

{Scrubbed}

I like the idea that if Angels can fall, than Devils can rise.

Willie the Duck
2021-07-23, 07:28 AM
I think a lot of people are forgetting that just because not all individuals of a certain group are evil does not mean you can't have them as acceptable targets.
I don't see that in what people are saying, can you point out an example or two?

Alcore
2021-07-23, 07:32 AM
{Scrub the post, scrub the quote}

I like the idea that if Angels can fall, than Devils can rise.

{Scrubbed}

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 07:50 AM
There could be some tension between men and elves. Elves tend to be fond of the forest while men tend to be fond of cutting forests down.

Could be? Is. That conflict is part of Tolkien's work, (in several different ways even), it's part of folklores of many different peoples and has been repeated in fantasy a huge number of times.


---

{Scrubbed}

Xervous
2021-07-23, 08:01 AM
{Scrubbed} Thereís no sense in debating whether or not people are perceiving the parallels or not, given that such perception is a personal act of pattern recognition. Itís just a question of whether or not objections are actionable, who is allowed to define the rules of discourse, and what percentage of a group is required to blacklist a subject.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-23, 08:12 AM
Most of the races other than human have distinct cultures. There's a Dwarvish language shared by all dwarves, for example, But no human one. So if other humanoid races have this level of monoculture across comunities, I'm inclined to say evil can be a part of a species' culture
Nice point. (FWIW, Tolkien had the various kinds of goblin and orc groups speak different languages as the excuse that Frodo and Sam could understand the rough common that orcs used to communicate across group lines in their Mordor Adventure).

Agreed. "Race" brings baggage it doesn't need to the conversation Thanks for putting that in there. As to Boromir: was he misguided with good intentions? (Love of country, love of his city, love for his people). He fell into evil, it seems to me, as his story arc wound up in FoTR(book) due to the sin of pride. (Seven deadly sins and all that). That was his weak spot that the ring's 'aura' / malign influence exploited. I think it is the same weak spot that ensnared all nine mortal kings who accepted Sauron's gift rings. (Heck, I'll take that a step further, and suggest that Isildur's own pride was used against him by the ring from the moment he took possession of it ... but we are getting waaaaaaaay off topic)

There are cultural commonalities found between all or nearly all human cultures (and the exceptions tend to be confined to highly unusual environments), so it does indeed make sense that there would be commonalities between nearly all the cultures of some other sapient species, they'd just be different commonalities. {snip} ..., they're going to dominate their niche and struggle mightily to have any presence in niches better suited to other species unless there is geographic isolation.

For example, if dwarves are better adapted to an alpine lifestyle than humans, there simply won't be any humans in alpine environments unless you have a continent without dwarves or something. Of course this leads to the question of why one fantasy species doesn't brutally exterminate all of the other species it sees as competitors once it secures a societal/technological/magical advantage.
Philosophy can mitigate such things, though.

It's a fairly rare setting that's willing to follow the obvious path and say 'oh but they do' (Dark Sun, as usual the most realistic of D&D settings, is one such). One more reason that 5e needs Dark Sun. :smallsmile:

Jason
2021-07-23, 09:14 AM
Inherently XYZ would imply more than being born XYZ. I was born left handed. I am now left handed, ambidextrous, or right handed depending on the task. I am not inherently left handed. So in every D&D edition where angels can fall, I don't know of any inherently good species.
I'm not sure I agree. I am also a lefty, and as far as I can tell I was born that way. That seems "inherent" to me. The fact that I can use my right hand for tasks most right-handed people would have trouble using their left for is largely a matter of necessity. My "inherent tendency" is still to use my left whenever possible, but I have trained myself to sometimes use my right hand when it is inconvenient or impossible to use my left.

I don't consider myself right-handed when I'm using a pair of scissors with my right hand. I'm a lefty who has learned to adapt through practice.

truemane
2021-07-23, 09:25 AM
Metamagic Mod: everyone please take a very wide left turn away from real-world political parallels and stick to the explicitly fictional.

Rydiro
2021-07-23, 10:59 AM
What about illithid who need to eat sentient creatures to survive?

Willie the Duck
2021-07-23, 11:53 AM
What about illithid who need to eat sentient creatures to survive?

What specifically about them? Applying them to the OP's premise (again, with which I do not agree, as I don't see the need for symmetry in this and no one has yet presented a specific reason why it should be), they are rather one-dimensional (the must-eat-brains part, at least) and sorta grimdark. So I don't know what they do one way or another.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 12:08 PM
Illithids don't just need to eat brains to survive. They are supremacists who consider all non-illithids to be inferior. Your suffering makes your brains tastier to them. Hence, they consider it their right to enslave and torture you for their own benefit.

The horror they evoke is that of someone treating us badly in the same way we sometimes treat cattle badly. For something Gygax came up in the 70s based on a Lovecraft illustration he liked, they've been pretty succesful.

Xervous
2021-07-23, 12:17 PM
Illithids don't just need to eat brains to survive. They are supremacists who consider all non-illithids to be inferior. Your suffering makes your brains tastier to them. Hence, they consider it their right to enslave and torture you for their own benefit.

The horror they evoke is that of someone treating us badly in the same way we sometimes treat cattle badly. For something Gygax came up in the 70s based on a Lovecraft illustration he liked, they've been pretty succesful.

One could say he predicted the future, social media and all that. Subsisting off brains, suffering brains being more valuable...

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 12:44 PM
One could say he predicted the future, social media and all that. Subsisting off brains, suffering brains being more valuable...

{Scrubbed}

Anymage
2021-07-23, 12:51 PM
What specifically about them? Applying them to the OP's premise (again, with which I do not agree, as I don't see the need for symmetry in this and no one has yet presented a specific reason why it should be), they are rather one-dimensional (the must-eat-brains part, at least) and sorta grimdark. So I don't know what they do one way or another.

If illithids have free will, a nonevil illithid vegan who seeks other ways to gain sustenance and who treats other sentient life with respect is possible. I don't think anybody is saying that illithid vegans are impossible or that it would be right to attack one who's known to be nonevil just because it's an illithid, so I guess there's a point there. Illithids are still dangerous enough and overwhelmingly-likely-to-be-evil enough to treat an unknown one as an existential threat, to the point where few people would fault you for ambushing one to avoid letting it get off a mind blast just because there's a vanishingly small chance that it's a vegan.

I will say pursuant to OP's original point that I dislike how traditionally "good" races have the full run of free will, while traditionally "evil" races have pure evil baked into their constitutions by their creator deities. That's a specific 5eism that's easy to ignore. And there are plenty of other ways to come at the same place (creator deities predispose their creations to certain attitudes/outlooks that they consider optimal, plus influencing societies) while still allowing choice. It's symmetrical in that it allows generally humanoid things to have options, while not getting in the way of the idea that enemies are enemies because they do bad things and consequently heroic violence is justified.

OldTrees1
2021-07-23, 01:00 PM
I'm not sure I agree. I am also a lefty, and as far as I can tell I was born that way. That seems "inherent" to me. The fact that I can use my right hand for tasks most right-handed people would have trouble using their left for is largely a matter of necessity. My "inherent tendency" is still to use my left whenever possible, but I have trained myself to sometimes use my right hand when it is inconvenient or impossible to use my left.

I don't consider myself right-handed when I'm using a pair of scissors with my right hand. I'm a lefty who has learned to adapt through practice.

Maybe you adapted less than I did. I no longer have an inherent tendency to use my left hand whenever possible. For specific tasks I have a tendency to use a specific hand (which hand is task dependent). However in general I have no inherent tendency. That is why I used it as an analogy.

However if the analogy is getting in the way, we can skip it. I was bringing it up to point out that to be inherently XYZ then XYZ needs to be a permanent essential characteristic. If the characteristic is not permanent (see fallen angels) then it is not inherent.

So despite D&D having some species that are born as alignment XYZ, I still don't know of a D&D species that is inherently good.



If illithids have free will, a nonevil illithid vegan who seeks other ways to gain sustenance and who treats other sentient life with respect is possible. I don't think anybody is saying that illithid vegans are impossible or that it would be right to attack one who's known to be nonevil just because it's an illithid, so I guess there's a point there. Illithids are still dangerous enough and overwhelmingly-likely-to-be-evil enough to treat an unknown one as an existential threat, to the point where few people would fault you for ambushing one to avoid letting it get off a mind blast just because there's a vanishingly small chance that it's a vegan.

Ignoring ways for D&D creatures to skip needing to eat at all, Illithids can live off of rothe brains instead of intelligent life. Even with that possibility the friendly exceptions are very rare. There is a colony of a friendly subspecies in the north and there was a famous friendly illithid long ago.

Also yes, it is reasonable to treat a potential existential threat like an existential threat.

Oh and to connect with your other point about 5Eisms. In 5E the Illithid species enslavement by the Elder Brain species is more oppressive than before. IIRC there is passive mind control rather than just social control.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-23, 01:18 PM
Oh and to connect with your other point about 5Eisms. In 5E the Illithid species enslavement by the Elder Brain species is more oppressive than before. IIRC there is passive mind control rather than just social control. They totally stole that from the Zerg Overmind and the Cerebrates! :smallyuk:

Jason
2021-07-23, 01:29 PM
However if the analogy is getting in the way, we can skip it. I was bringing it up to point out that to be inherently XYZ then XYZ needs to be a permanent essential characteristic. If the characteristic is not permanent (see fallen angels) then it is not inherent.

So despite D&D having some species that are born as alignment XYZ, I still don't know of a D&D species that is inherently good.
If "absolutely permanent and unchangeable" is your criteria for "inherent" then no creature in D&D has an "inherent" alignment. Or any other "inherent" characteristic, for that matter, since there are in-game methods to change any of them.

OldTrees1
2021-07-23, 01:32 PM
If "absolutely permanent and unchangeable" is your criteria for "inherent" then no creature in D&D has an "inherent" alignment. Or any other "inherent" characteristic, for that matter, since there are in-game methods to change any of them.

Deja Vu. I already replied to this comment here:


I don't disagree. 3E D&D has no species that are inherently XYZ alignment. The details are in the back of the monster manual, but I appreciate that section well.

So if the OP argues "If there are no inherently good species, there should be no inherently evil species", then I think D&D 3E passes the OP's requirement. This made me wonder if the OP was speaking more generically rather than brand or edition specific.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 01:47 PM
I understand OldTrees1's point but the analogy is a total miss. Handedness is a genetic quality arising from bodily asymmetry present in all humans, it starts developing before you are even born. It is one of the best examples of an inherent trait in real humans. Through a lot of effort, a left-handed person might acquire some degree of ambidexterity, but even that potential is genetically limited, and, most importantly, apparent learned ambidexterity does not change your genes and your bodily asymmetry. The factors that determined your handedness are permanent part of you from cradle to grave.

OldTrees1
2021-07-23, 01:53 PM
I understand OldTrees1's point but the analogy is a total miss. Handedness is a genetic quality arising from bodily asymmetry present in all humans, it starts developing before you are even born. It is one of the best examples of an inherent trait in real humans. Through a lot of effort, a left-handed person might acquire some degree of ambidexterity, but even that potential is genetically limited, and, most importantly, apparent learned ambidexterity does not change your genes and your bodily asymmetry. The factors that determined your handedness are permanent part of you from cradle to grave.

I will drop the analogy then. I am glad you can see the point despite my poor analogy.

Sharur
2021-07-23, 02:17 PM
As stated, if you are going to keep your setting purely black and white then i have no issues with you having inherently evil races. But if your setting has no inherently good races, which most fantasy settings today don't, then you should not have any inherently evil ones either.

I guess we have different views of good and evil (and for that matter, morally neutral, as well) then.

For my games (simplified), a "good act" is one that, in total, helps those outside your "in group", while a "good person" is one who will regularly and by default do "good acts" when presented with the opportunity, even to their detriment; it could be said that for such a person doing an "evil act" is "in character". E.g. Superman stops to help.

Likewise, an "evil act" is one that hurts, in total, hurts others, and an "evil person" will regularly and by default do "good acts" when presented with the opportunity; they relish and enjoy evil acts, while hurting someone is "in character" for such a person, e.g. Darth Vader taking out his frustration by choking people when upset.

A morally neutral act is one that doesn't significantly affect others, while a morally neutral person breaks the pattern; they don't default to good or evil actions, as instead their actions are guided by another leader, be it a defined code or random whimsey.

The upshot of this is that you can very easily have a "unbalanced" moral distribution, "evil races" but not "good races"; Being good isn't necessarily an advantage to survival.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 02:22 PM
A more useful analogy (not necessarily better, since fantasy doesn't follow modern science), is language.

The overall ability to speak is genetic, to the point we can pinpoint individual genes playing an important part (FOXP2 being the most famous). But no specific language is. What languages you learn is decided by what languages you are exposed to growing up. Sufficient lack of exposure can even lead to no language being learned at all.

The older you get, the harder it is to learn new languages. There appear to be specific windows for rapid learning of languages during early childhood, with the process being different for adult humans.

This creates a situation where the language you speak clearly isn't inherent, but you can't freely choose it either. The first language you learn isn't quite predestination, but you will pick it up by circumstance of birth and childhood and it has potential to influence rest of your life as strongly as any inherent trait. Unlearning a language is, if not quite impossible, at least hard enough that for it to happen in an adult requires severe brain trauma. Consciously choosing to never use your first language after adopting another is not unheard of, but also very difficult.

Now imagine your first language is something like Black Speech of Mordor - invented by an evil being, for the sake of controlling others. Or some other fantastic concept of language, where just the uttering of certain words invokes some higher power.

How are you going to escape that?

How could anyone escape that?

It's not simply a question of free will. Saying you're free to change your language is like saying you have freedom to cut out your tongue. It's true, but not in a convenient and appealing way that'd make someone say "you're right, why didn't I ever think of that?" and turn their life around on a dime.

Psyren
2021-07-23, 03:35 PM
How can the author mean something that they don't mean? If it was done purely to copy Tolkien and for no other reason than reading it as a racial allegory or anything else of that nature is ipso facto incorrect.

It's not fair to criticize an author for some random readers' headcanons.

It is absolutely fair to criticize someone for something they didn't intend, if that thing is still harmful. You don't have to intend to cause harm in order to be harmful. That is exactly what the recent decisions by WotC and Paizo, to de-emphasize absolute or even predominant racial morality (among the intelligent humanoids anyway), are meant to address.

Jason
2021-07-23, 04:19 PM
Deja Vu. I already replied to this comment here:

Well congratulations, you have demonstrated there are no inherent alignments in D&D, but only by using a very strict definition of "inherent" which is probably not the same as that intended by the OP.

Also, you have made me rather self-conscious about which hand I am using for any particular action.

OldTrees1
2021-07-23, 04:41 PM
Well congratulations, you have demonstrated there are no inherent alignments in D&D, but only by using a very strict definition of "inherent" which is probably not the same as that intended by the OP.

Also, you have made me rather self-conscious about which hand I am using for any particular action.

I am sorry you feel that way. I believe I am using "inherent" in the common usage and I believe it is comparable to the usage the OP is using. You could ask the OP for a clarification. Although I doubt they share your "inherent only means the initial starting condition" usage.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-23, 04:50 PM
@Psyren: for your argument to hold, the harm would have to be proven, not just purported. But in vast majority of cases, what ends up proven is merely genealogy of ideas, not effect - the equivalent of complaining about giving kids rubber swords because rubber swords are based on real swords and real swords were used to kill people.

Bohandas
2021-07-23, 11:31 PM
It is absolutely fair to criticize someone for something they didn't intend, if that thing is still harmful. You don't have to intend to cause harm in order to be harmful.

You do, however, have to cause harm. Nobody is going to join a hate group because of orcs.

EDIT:
Also, I would like to reiterate my earlier point that the OP's argument is a strawman given that none of the humanoid races are marked "Always Evil". I couldn't even find any monstrous humanoid or giant examples of this.

EDIT:
Also, I submit that changing the setting to a more realistic and historical depiction of medieval (or earlier) times would be sufficient to push humans into "often evil" (or possibly even "usually evil") territory.

Anymage
2021-07-24, 01:07 AM
Also, I would like to reiterate my earlier point that the OP's argument is a strawman given that none of the humanoid races are marked "Always Evil". I couldn't even find any monstrous humanoid or giant examples of this.

I do think the original argument had a sliver of value, regarding the 5eism that good races have complete moral freedom while evil races have evil imprinted onto them by their evil gods. That's trivially easy to fix by just saying that all gods imprint their chosen virtues on their chosen races; grace and wisdom for elves, cleverness and curiosity for gnomes, ferocity and power for orcs, rigid discipline for hobgoblins, etc. So there's a flaw, but it could be fixed by replacing one sidebar in one edition with some different text so it isn't too great in scope.


You do, however, have to cause harm. Nobody is going to join a hate group because of orcs.

I doubt that anybody has joined anti-trans groups or attacked any trans people based on Rich making a joke about a kerfluffle about the silhouette of female dragonborn. This comic (https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0676.html) did leave some people feeling hurt, and Rich made a point to steer well clear of any trans related topics in the future. Sometimes you don't need literal physical harm to respect that a topic might be sensitive.

However, I want to come at the orc issue from a different perspective. Let's ignore the fact that tales treating orcs as humanoid vermin sound uncomfortably close to real world racists describing other real world races as humanoid vermin. Let's instead look at how kobolds were a kind of boring low level mook race back in the TSR days, with only maybe a reputation as trapsmiths differentiating them from every other low level mook race out there. 3e, in tying them to dragons, gave them interesting lore that's likely going to be part of their identity for a good, long time to come.

Orcs have been the default mook race for a while now. Letting them explore different options can maybe help expand their lore into something more interesting while someone else takes up the default mook flag for an edition or so.

Bohandas
2021-07-24, 02:15 AM
This comic (https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0676.html) did leave some people feeling hurt, and Rich made a point to steer well clear of any trans related topics in the future.

People are really reaching if they're reading that as a trans-related comic.

Either that or they're really ignorant and either don't know how reptiles work or have never seen a drawing of a lizardwoman with breasts.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-24, 02:58 AM
Orcs have been the default mook race for a while now. Letting them explore different options can maybe help expand their lore into something more interesting while someone else takes up the default mook flag for an edition or so.

Orcs have been reimagined a dozen times just for D&D, and hundreds of times for fantasy in general. The "default evil mook" interpretation has persisted because it has been the actual popular and memorable version.

Mastikator
2021-07-24, 03:26 AM
Orcs have been the default mook race for a while now. Letting them explore different options can maybe help expand their lore into something more interesting while someone else takes up the default mook flag for an edition or so.

Eberron has already succeeded at this task. What I like about Eberron is that there is no default mook, sometimes it's humans, sometimes bugbears, sometimes orcs, sometimes elves, the dragon's color coding does not always apply. They all get a turn to be the bad guys and the good guys.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-24, 10:10 AM
For my games (simplified), a "good act" {snip} Likewise, an "evil act" {snip} This gamist approach to moral topics is a part of the problem that D&D has had ever since E.G.G. wrote in a rule that any Paladin who committed even one 'evil act' loses paladinhood. (While oddly, in the DMG for the same edition, he wrote a passage about the possibility of atonement...and even though the original rule in Greyhawk was "chaotic act" the two map closely enough for the purpose of this discussion). Interesting, isn't it?
The originator of this gamist concept, which was a way to force PCs via rule, PCs with neat extra powers, to not be, nor associate with, murderous PCs and NPCs, ended up back pedalling a bit in the DMG. (And yes, the problem of "two sets of rules, one in the PHB and extra/secret/only the DM knows rules in the DMG wasn't helping!)

The entire "that's an evil act {originally that's a chaotic act}" construction is a clumsy, gamist feature and has been since its introduction. It was introduced as a clumsy means of balancing out the significant power increase that being a Paladin offered. (our own GiTP Grod the Giant has a neat saying about "don't balance things by making them annoying to have" and I think that's good game design advice going forward).

Vahanavoi's point on the other issue - that the secondary world races (elfves, gnolls, orcs, dwarves) have an explicit, unique relationship with their creator deities, whereas humans **do not** - only reinforces the point that structurally, the D&D cosmology (that has grown in fits and bounds since the started dragging deities into the game (Gods, Demigods, Heroes, Supplement IV, Original D&D)) has become internally inconsistent each time it has strayed from the 'the world is humanocentric' baseline. (I will give props to Baker for his Eberron world building efforts, and to the Dark Sun authors for exploring beyond the edges of that model, I found Dragonlance to be a lesser attempt).

Aside: 13th Age, on the other hand, has a pretty neat relationship map of the "powers" to the "PCs" but I've not had a chance to play a full campaign of that so I won't comment further.

Using the terms "good" and "evil" in this gamist style creates some confusion since the 'normal language' that people use outside of the game applies those value judgments in a different way; if it becomes a key word, or a piece of an if/then statement of game code, each of those terms loses some of its natural meaning.

Being good isn't necessarily an advantage to survival. That's not quite true - to a great extent, in real life it is an advantage. Just societies that are mutually helpful (good, taking care of others) tend to thrive. In fiction, they generally do so until something/someone Evil interferes with that society's relatively stable operation. That conflict right there is the basis for a great many plots in the genre that informs the D&D aspect of the RPG hobby. (Paranoia, for example, is built on a much different, dystopian genre model).

Also, I would like to reiterate my earlier point that the OP's argument is a strawman given that none of the humanoid races are marked "Always Evil". Nor are any marked as 'kill on sight' although I have noticed that the Sea Elves and Sahuagin seem to be, lore wise, in a constant state of warfare under the sea. They may have, internal to their cultures and norms, something like that as a life assumption, but I am not sure I can point to lore on that.

I couldn't even find any monstrous humanoid or giant examples of this. Which makes some of these discussion about how the game is played, and what players bring to their games, rather than the limited thing known as rules text.

The distinction made (and in 5e they spell this out pretty clearly, but the AD&D 1e MM did something similar) is that humans can be of each and every alignment. They are all over the map. This makes sense if you take the E.G.G. argument that D&D has to be humano-centric since players are human, and that the humano-centric approach is the most logical approach to an illogical game. (Me paraphrasing his exposition on this in the AD&D 1e DMG).

When the game isn't as humano-centric, and you have great nations and populations of other species that, because players are human, get anthropomorphized as a matter of course (so yeah, E.G.G. had a point) you get a muddying of the split between the primary world and the secondary world.

As initially envisioned, the elf, the dwarf, the orc, the shape changer (Beorn for example, or the vampire), the ent, the dragon, the mind flayer, are secondary world creatures. (I am using the primary/secondary world terms as Tolkien uses them in his essay/speech on Faerie Stories). Good Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Dystopian, SF, etc) connects the reader with primary world elements that are familiar and adds some Secondary world features ... the balance point is very hard to get right.

Also, I submit that changing the setting to a more realistic and historical depiction of medieval (or earlier) times would be sufficient to push humans into "often evil" (or possibly even "usually evil") territory. That's taking us off topic, but it's also where I prefer "law" versus "chaos" for the game. Beyond that, I think you are being a bit uncharitable, and anachronistic, in your characterization of medieval humans. I'll offer that in their "nasty, brutish, and short" existences most of them did the best they could and were loyal to their families and communities. (Hobbes' had a pretty negative attitude). Nigel Warburton, in A Little History of Philosophy (https://yalebooksblog.co.uk/2013/04/05/thomas-hobbes-solitary-poor-nasty-brutish-and-short/), introduces Hobbesí main ideas:
"He thought that at heart we all are, and that it is only the rule of law and the threat of punishment that keep us in check."

Bohandas
2021-07-24, 10:24 AM
but I think you are being a bit uncharitable, and anachronistic, in your characterization of medieval humans. I'll offer that in their "nasty, brutish, and short" existences most of them did the best they could and were loyal to their families and communities.

And were racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic, religiously intolerant, often abusive to animals, and willingly complicit with slavery, child labor, and draconian laws even if they'd been on the short end of these last three themselves

EDIT:
And thank you for linking to Hobbes. Before I read that link I had completely forgotten to include draconian punishments as one of the vices of past eras.

EDIT:
I also like the line "In a world of scarce resources, particularly if you were struggling to find food and water to survive, it could actually be rational to kill other people before they killed you" because it brings up the point that scarce resources not only made things like slavery, serfdom, child labor, and working animals till they drop then sending them to the knacker as a grim reward for their loyalty intrinsic to that level of technological development but also, as the article mentions, made draconian punishments necessary. Those societies didn't have the means to imprison more than a handful of people securely, and they didn't have the means to produce food and goods through non-exploitative methods. Like the Drow, their society was sustained entirely through the power of evil, and without the power of evil (and in the absence of something to replace it, such as technology) their society would collapse.

EDIT:
Tangent on this. A time will come in the future when meat is no longer eaten, and it won't be because of animal rights activists, it will be because of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods

Vahnavoi
2021-07-24, 10:50 AM
Missed this earlier:


If that's a necessary process, what about all the games where players kill dozens of humans (or close enough copies)? Are they inherently less immersive because players have to keep reminding themselves that they aren't killing real people?

Someone somewhere may argue they are inherently less immersive. For the sake of discussion, lets assume they are.

What about it?

Seriously. What about it? Vast majority of people are perfectly happy playing games that are less than 100% immersive. My own game enjoyment definitely isn't ruined by knowing I'm not killing real people.


Now, I'm not saying (literally) dehumanizing an enemy can't make it easier to kill them, it's certainly happened enough in real life. But I've never met a player who seems more troubled about killing a group of human bandits than a group of orc bandits.

You speak as if "bandit" isn't already a dehumanizing concept in this context. Few players cry after fictional bandits of any kind, because they tend to be nasty, brutish, kind of dim and often ugly to boot. They aren't humans, they are enemies.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-24, 05:11 PM
That's pointless pedantry in this context.

Ninja Bear
2021-07-24, 05:46 PM
One point that I do not think was mentioned is that electing to place your story in the fantasy genre is a deliberate choice that heavily filters what it is useful to have appear in that story.

Fantasy elements are, tautologically, fantastic. They're outside of the wheelhouse of your readers or players, and make your setting elements and characters less relatable by design. If the fantasy elements are not driving the story, if they don't need to be there -- then why are they there? It is a longstanding principle of story-writing that every element in a story should be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed; this applies to genre as well. A conventional story, no matter whether this is a bodice-ripper or a legal drama or what-have-you, is almost always better told conventionally, without the excess fantasy baggage.

To the extent that fantasy elements are adding anything to a story, they should be necessary, and should lead the story, or the setting, to substantially different places than it otherwise would have been led to without the fantasy element. If we add magic that does a certain thing to a society, how does society change in response to that magic being available? If some characters face an "outside context problem," how do they handle it? And so on and so forth.

These may certainly be moral questions as well as more physical ones ("how does economics handle transmutation magic?"), and "how do our moral axioms handle an unfamiliar scenario -- do we really agree/disagree as much as we think we do?" is an extremely common question in fantasy and sci-fi writing, and one of its main virtues. "Do robots have souls?" is an interesting question because of the lack of artificially intelligent robots, and "what are the ethics of vampirism?" is an interesting question because of the lack of vampires -- people are testing their preconceived notions, not just going off of what they think of the vampire convenience store clerk down the way.

This means that "shades of gray" almost always have absolutely no place in a fantasy story. Telling a wholly conventional story that is wrapped up in conventional moral issues on which it is already accepted that there can be disagreement, and then incidentally adding orcs, could almost certainly have been done better by omitting the orcs. (At best, the orcs are superfluous or are a crutch of some kind, where "it's fantasy, it's not supposed to be realistic" is an excuse for inconsistently-written characters or settings; at worst, the story is a bizarre bait-and-switch where the author has used the fantasy framing to sneak a letter-to-the-editor through security, essentially acting like a Central Park flasher with male anatomy swapped out for talk radio hot takes.) Moral issues that are peripheral to the fantasy story should be black and white if they are not in focus, or if they are not intended to be in focus. They do not need to distract from the parts that are important to the story. Moral issues that are not peripheral should be "blue and orange," instead; they should be fundamentally rooted in the fantasy setting and answerable only by accepting its core assumptions, and at least some questions we might ask in a more conventional setting should have dramatically different answers. Otherwise, the fantasy is not doing any work.

Some people in the thread have brought up observations like "having an Always Evil race means that they have a serious constraint on their free will" -- well, yes, that's the point! If a race is compelled to do evil regardless of its utility, what does that entail? This is interesting because it does not exist, and raises questions like "does trying to 'redeem' it amount to mutilation?" (This goes double for concepts like alignments and "objective evil" existing at all.) Similarly, physical questions like "what if: geocentrism rather than heliocentrism" are interesting based on that premise, again because this is not how reality works. If orcs can be swapped out for an ethnicity, they should just be the ethnicity, and if any of the philosophical questions that are inherent to a fantasy setting match the chapter-end problems in an intro to philosophy textbook, the game session should be canceled for a book club.

OldTrees1
2021-07-24, 06:05 PM
Some people in the thread have brought up observations like "having an Always Evil race means that they have a serious constraint on their free will" -- well, yes, that's the point! If a race is compelled to do evil regardless of its utility, what does that entail? This is interesting because it does not exist, and raises questions like "does trying to 'redeem' it amount to mutilation?" (This goes double for concepts like alignments and "objective evil" existing at all.)

The full observation is "Having an Always Evil species means they have a serious constraint on their free will, to such an extent that they can't be moral agents and thus can't be Evil." This full observation considers the "interesting thing that does not exist" and realizes the initial change has a cascading change. You still have the interesting questions, but they are a bit more interesting that first expected.

So you now have a species of unaligned non moral agents that are compelled to harm (the kind of harm that would be considered immoral if done by a moral agent). What is the nature of the compulsion? Does trying to remove that restraint amount to mutilation? Is it moral to convert a non moral agent into a moral agent? Are there non moral agents whose wants/desires have moral weight? If so, for their own sake or indirectly?

meandean
2021-07-24, 06:10 PM
Telling a wholly conventional story that is wrapped up in conventional moral issues on which it is already accepted that there can be disagreement, and then incidentally adding orcs, could almost certainly have been done better by omitting the orcs.Well, no, because it's more fun with orcs.

Would X-Men be better if it was about legislators trying to get anti-bias bills through Congress?

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-24, 06:25 PM
okay honest question because I'm admittedly kind of confused, and this just came to mind.

What exactly is the problem with Always-evil races?:smallconfused: Like, what is actually wrong here?

are you worried about evil babies or something? Because you can always just... not have evil babies...

maybe it's just the headache, but I'm not sure i understand what the problem is here.

OldTrees1
2021-07-24, 06:43 PM
okay honest question because I'm admittedly kind of confused, and this just came to mind.

What exactly is the problem with Always-evil races?:smallconfused: Like, what is actually wrong here?

are you worried about evil babies or something? Because you can always just... not have evil babies...

maybe it's just the headache, but I'm not sure i understand what the problem is here.

For me the problem is: An entity being labeled immoral for something where they have no moral agency.

PS:
This is why I greatly appreciate the back of the 3E Monster Manual explaining D&D has no always-evil species.

Ninja Bear
2021-07-24, 06:55 PM
The full observation is "Having an Always Evil species means they have a serious constraint on their free will, to such an extent that they can't be moral agents and thus can't be Evil." This full observation considers the "interesting thing that does not exist" and realizes the initial change has a cascading change. You still have the interesting questions, but they are a bit more interesting that first expected.

So you now have a species of unaligned non moral agents that are compelled to harm (the kind of harm that would be considered immoral if done by a moral agent). What is the nature of the compulsion? Does trying to remove that restraint amount to mutilation? Is it moral to convert a non moral agent into a moral agent? Are there non moral agents whose wants/desires have moral weight? If so, for their own sake or indirectly?

Exactly! That's worth at least a book in a way that "yet more humans with even pointier ears" really is not.


Well, no, because it's more fun with orcs.

Would X-Men be better if it was about legislators trying to get anti-bias bills through Congress?

I'd want to see that at least.

The X-Men actually never worked particularly well as a metaphor for whatever social movement was going on at the time, or at least I never thought so, because most of the assumptions that historically went into "an anti-bias bill is the best solution for this" specifically don't apply to them. For example, maybe your anti-bias bill imposes an elevator or ramp mandate on private businesses as the "least restrictive means" of accommodating the disabled, since in the past we debated this extensively and found that plenty of people would be able to use these same facilities and it wouldn't really constrain operations of the business (you could load through the same ramp and so forth). But how does the "least restrictive means" test start applying when you have a guy who is eight feet tall and weighs as much as the building, or who only breathes methane? Can you ban the guy who shoots lightning blasts out of his eardrums from school grounds under GFSZA or is this an IDEA act violation? Is it even permissible to impose costs on members of the public at all based on their presumed bias if mind reading is a thing, and you can tell who is actually biased? (Maybe we just have Charles Xavier get warrants from FISA court?)

That goes along with what I'm saying, though -- to the extent that the X-Men interacting with the fantasy-US political system is at all interesting, it really needs to be "the X-Men" doing it, with the story then addressing the questions that are unique to fantasy superheroes. C-Span would not be made more watchable with a spandex and black leather dress code.

OldTrees1
2021-07-24, 07:20 PM
Exactly! That's worth at least a book in a way that "yet more humans with even pointier ears" really is not.

Philosophers have investigated some of these questions in their papers. Keywords related to the topic are:
A: Moral Agent, Moral Agency, Moral Personhood
B: Moral Status, Moral Standing, Moral Considerability

This paper could be a starting point (It was the first reputable article I found on google. So please read it critically.)
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/grounds-moral-status/

However I don't think the field has fully explored the question space.

Bohandas
2021-07-24, 11:19 PM
What exactly is the problem with Always-evil races?:smallconfused: Like, what is actually wrong here?

are you worried about evil babies or something? Because you can always just... not have evil babies...

Especially since that's the default anyway because I'm pretty sure alignmemt-determining karmas can only be gained through actions. The only way a baby could have a non-neutral alignment is if it was either something like a chromatic dragon that hatches out already torturing animals and praying to the dark gods, or if it was a reincarnation of someone evil, and that kind of reincarnation, while it exists in the great wheel cosmology, is explicitly non-standard (I forget the exact refrence for this last part; I *think* it was from On Hallowed Ground)


I'd want to see that at least.

The X-Men actually never worked particularly well as a metaphor for whatever social movement was going on at the time, or at least I never thought so, because most of the assumptions that historically went into "an anti-bias bill is the best solution for this" specifically don't apply to them. For example, maybe your anti-bias bill imposes an elevator or ramp mandate on private businesses as the "least restrictive means" of accommodating the disabled, since in the past we debated this extensively and found that plenty of people would be able to use these same facilities and it wouldn't really constrain operations of the business (you could load through the same ramp and so forth). But how does the "least restrictive means" test start applying when you have a guy who is eight feet tall and weighs as much as the building, or who only breathes methane? Can you ban the guy who shoots lightning blasts out of his eardrums from school grounds under GFSZA or is this an IDEA act violation? Is it even permissible to impose costs on members of the public at all based on their presumed bias if mind reading is a thing, and you can tell who is actually biased? (Maybe we just have Charles Xavier get warrants from FISA court?)

That goes along with what I'm saying, though -- to the extent that the X-Men interacting with the fantasy-US political system is at all interesting, it really needs to be "the X-Men" doing it, with the story then addressing the questions that are unique to fantasy superheroes. C-Span would not be made more watchable with a spandex and black leather dress code.

Hear! Hear!

And tangential to this (and I realize that they haven't actually done any of the X-Men movies yet due to IP shenanigans, but hear me out) I feel that one of the greatest successes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been that they've been able to, not necessarily to eliminate but to at least stem the tide of the undercurrent of banality and mediocrity that always underlaid the earlier marvel movies. All the other marvel movies, no matter what epic thing was going on upfront, were always really about these banal everyday problems; the X-Men face discrimination, Peter Parker is coming of age, the Ben Grimm is treated poorly because he looks different, Wolverine has PTSD. And they didn't take it far enough that it becomes funny like DC did in Teen Titans Go, just far enough that it becomes humdrum and mundane. When someone has a normal person problem in the MCU they superhero it up; Starlord's abusive father qualifies as a mass-murderer just from the things he's done to his children, Bruce Banner has PTSD but it only affects one of his multiple personalities and unfortunately it's the one that can use his superpowers, Nebula and Gamora acquired their abusive stepfather after said stepfather murdered their real parents etc etc etc. The closest thing is Tony Stark, who has regular PTSD, except unlike Wolverine he didn't get it from some hamfisted parable about the military-industrial complex and government overreach, he got it from fighting in an appropriately superheroic atomic war against space alien invaders

Samoja1
2021-07-25, 04:16 AM
okay honest question because I'm admittedly kind of confused, and this just came to mind.

What exactly is the problem with Always-evil races?:smallconfused: Like, what is actually wrong here?

are you worried about evil babies or something? Because you can always just... not have evil babies...

maybe it's just the headache, but I'm not sure i understand what the problem is here.

To me the issue really is that it creates a less interesting world. There are no surprises when you encounter always evil race, they are kill on sight. This prevents you from developing individuals of that race into compelling characters, even compelling villains. They don't need elaborate reasons to do evil things, they just do it because the book says they do.

Bohandas
2021-07-25, 04:41 AM
I feel compelled once again to point out that there are no always evil races

Vahnavoi
2021-07-25, 04:59 AM
What exactly is the problem with Always-evil races?:smallconfused: Like, what is actually wrong here?

It's not "the" problem. Different people have different perceived problems with the concept depending on what moral philosophy they approach the concept from.

For J.R.R. Tolkien, there were two problems. The first was the idea that evil cannot create, only corrupt. He played with the idea of orcs having been created by Morgoth, but abandoned it because it clashed with that idea. The second was issue of free will. If orcs are corruptions of humans or elves, they must have free will, the ability to choose between good and evil. Against that background, there ought to be chance, however slight, of redemption for orcs.

You're not Tolkien and don't have to share his views, so you could just say orcs are a natural evil (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_evil) instead of moral evil and be done with it. Or you could ascribe to some moral philosophy that doesn't have hang-ups about free will and evil being able to create.

For practical purposes, free will is the potential to choose between several courses of action. However, while you can value this potential, you cannot actually perceive it. You cannot go back in time and see the same person in the same situation making a different choice. Only one branch of the decision tree is ever actualized and visible to you. So, instead, you are forced to look at other persons in similar situations and see if they make different choices. Everything we practically consider proof for free will is really just proof of variance.

But there is no real need for variance in behaviour of a free agent. The simplest way for a free agent to be always evil is for them to always choose evil. There is no actual contradiction in that statement. Whether we're talking of a single being or a group of beings doesn't matter. You can have an entire species always choosing evil as easily as an individual always choosing evil. It simply feels off for a human to think of a free agents with invariant behaviour, because variance is what we expect to observe, variance is what we normally use to prove there's more than one option. If someone could do something but never does it, how can you know they actually could? The answer is that you can't, but your inability to know doesn't preclude it being true.

For people who aren't Tolkien, other problems typically have to do with perceived allegory or perceived similarity with whatever they happen to consider controversial this morning. It's impossible to give an exhaustive list and I don't want to rehash the examples from earlier this thread.

Bohandas
2021-07-25, 05:07 AM
Being good isn't necessarily an advantage to survival.

That's not quite true - to a great extent, in real life it is an advantage. Just societies that are mutually helpful (good, taking care of others) tend to thrive.

Most major empires have had slavery in one form or another at some point of their history and most of these could not have reached their height without it. Additionally, I think you'd probably be hard pressed to find one from more than maybe 50-100 years ago that didn't have a completely draconian system of laws

EDIT:
You don't know the power of the dark side

Samoja1
2021-07-25, 07:43 AM
Most major empires have had slavery in one form or another at some point of their history and most of these could not have reached their height without it. Additionally, I think you'd probably be hard pressed to find one from more than maybe 50-100 years ago that didn't have a completely draconian system of laws

EDIT:
You don't know the power of the dark side

Eh, i'm not going to argue that slavery wasn't evil, but even then there are degrees of evil in there. I recently read an anecdote about a roman emperor who went to visit one of his wealthy subjects and one of the slaves dropped a cup. The emperor was outraged when he found out the slave was to be brutally executed for such infraction and personally broke every cup in the house and told the master he could not execute a slave for something he did too. There are degrees of evil. The most distinct trait of evil creatures seems to be sadism, killing and torturing with no apparent reason.

OldTrees1
2021-07-25, 07:52 AM
To me the issue really is that it creates a less interesting world. There are no surprises when you encounter always evil race, they are kill on sight. This prevents you from developing individuals of that race into compelling characters, even compelling villains. They don't need elaborate reasons to do evil things, they just do it because the book says they do.


I feel compelled once again to point out that there are no always evil races

@Samoja, I don't think you have responded to Bohandas's comment. What context is the thread assuming? D&D generally avoids inherently evil species. The 3E Monster Manual explicitly mentions exceptions exist. 5E is less clear but also has no always evil species by my reading.


For practical purposes, free will is the potential to choose between several courses of action. However, while you can value this potential, you cannot actually perceive it. You cannot go back in time and see the same person in the same situation making a different choice. Only one branch of the decision tree is ever actualized and visible to you. So, instead, you are forced to look at other persons in similar situations and see if they make different choices. Everything we practically consider proof for free will is really just proof of variance.

But there is no real need for variance in behaviour of a free agent. The simplest way for a free agent to be always evil is for them to always choose evil. There is no actual contradiction in that statement. Whether we're talking of a single being or a group of beings doesn't matter. You can have an entire species always choosing evil as easily as an individual always choosing evil. It simply feels off for a human to think of a free agents with invariant behaviour, because variance is what we expect to observe, variance is what we normally use to prove there's more than one option. If someone could do something but never does it, how can you know they actually could? The answer is that you can't, but your inability to know doesn't preclude it being true.


A free agent has the capacity to make moral choices. That capacity for choice means they could invariantly choose the immoral option. Just like you can travel along a binary tree by always picking the right branch.

We can extend this from 1 individual, to 2 individuals, to a population of N individuals, and let N grow to equal the current population of the species. We could have a species with the capacity for individuals choosing otherwise but have no example exceptions in the population.

This is where the free will based objection ends. The species has free will. The species is not inherently always evil with no moral agency despite the entire population having used that moral agency to be evil.

meandean
2021-07-25, 08:05 AM
The X-Men actually never worked particularly well as a metaphor for whatever social movement was going on at the time, or at least I never thought so, because most of the assumptions that historically went into "an anti-bias bill is the best solution for this" specifically don't apply to them. For example, maybe your anti-bias bill imposes an elevator or ramp mandate on private businesses as the "least restrictive means" of accommodating the disabled, since in the past we debated this extensively and found that plenty of people would be able to use these same facilities and it wouldn't really constrain operations of the business (you could load through the same ramp and so forth). But how does the "least restrictive means" test start applying when you have a guy who is eight feet tall and weighs as much as the building, or who only breathes methane? Can you ban the guy who shoots lightning blasts out of his eardrums from school grounds under GFSZA or is this an IDEA act violation? Is it even permissible to impose costs on members of the public at all based on their presumed bias if mind reading is a thing, and you can tell who is actually biased? (Maybe we just have Charles Xavier get warrants from FISA court?)

That goes along with what I'm saying, though -- to the extent that the X-Men interacting with the fantasy-US political system is at all interesting, it really needs to be "the X-Men" doing it, with the story then addressing the questions that are unique to fantasy superheroes. C-Span would not be made more watchable with a spandex and black leather dress code.Alright, I mean, that's your opinion about, in some different hypothetical world, it could be done in such a way that appeals to you more. My point is that, in the world that exists, they've spent half a century using it as a metaphor for current political issues, and it's made them billions of dollars and (more importantly) meant a lot to a lot of other people.

In "God Loves, Man Kills", Reverend Stryker doesn't hate Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler because of the details of how phasing or teleportation would function in a real-life context. He hates them because they were born different than he was.

NorthernPhoenix
2021-07-25, 08:08 AM
Personally I've always thought the whole "oh no, innate evil!" thing is a bit of red herring. Even if you take that out entirely, you still have entire societies of creatures that are basically entirely "evil" (in the colloquial sense of the word) by nurture. The difference is usually pretty minimal in practice.

Samoja1
2021-07-25, 08:20 AM
@Samoja, I don't think you have responded to Bohandas's comment. What context is the thread assuming? D&D generally avoids inherently evil species. The 3E Monster Manual explicitly mentions exceptions exist. 5E is less clear but also has no always evil species by my reading.




A free agent has the capacity to make moral choices. That capacity for choice means they could invariantly choose the immoral option. Just like you can travel along a binary tree by always picking the right branch.

We can extend this from 1 individual, to 2 individuals, to a population of N individuals, and let N grow to equal the current population of the species. We could have a species with the capacity for individuals choosing otherwise but have no example exceptions in the population.

This is where the free will based objection ends. The species has free will. The species is not inherently always evil with no moral agency despite the entire population having used that moral agency to be evil.


I don't know why everyone seems to be so hyper focused on DnD when my original post never specified it was about that. It's really about fantasy trope in general. But ok, let's focus on dnd and accompanying literature, since there is no denying it was extremely influential for modern fantasy. Whether or not the races are technically not inherently evil pretty much everyone, including authors writing for official WoTC settings treat them exactly this way. So it's basically the same thing. There may be some non evil orcs somewhere out there, but you never see them so they may as well not exist.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-25, 08:40 AM
Marvel's X-men are a poor sub-topic for this discussion for two reasons:

1) mutants have never been portrayed as inherently evil. They've always been portrayed as morally varied and people making sweeping generalizations about mutants have always been portrayed as wrong in X-men stories.

2) the X-men franchise has become a posterboy example of mixed metaphors undermining the fundamentally benign message its trying to tell.

Put differently, X-men are the opposite of what "always evil" fantasy races are claimed to be. Rather than unintentionally sending a bad message that's effective at making the world worse, X-men are intentionally sending a good message and failing at it. :smalltongue:

Bohandas
2021-07-25, 08:50 AM
I don't know why everyone seems to be so hyper focused on DnD when my original post never specified it was about that.

That's fair enough, let's go through the list

*Pathfinder is explicitly a D&D clone
*Exalted doesn't really have anything that falls between "human" and "not even remotely human"
*Paranoia only has humans and robots
*Warhammer 40000 is the trope namer for grimdark, plus I think it does a good job of justifying orks, genestealers, elves, and humans being overwhelmingly evil
*Toon is deliberately played for laughs, no matyer what is going on in the game

the only thing I can think of that's really problematic are the Tcho Tcho from Call of Cthulhu, which IIRC are basically "Darksun halflings except inexplicably asian because Lovecraft" and really it's only that last part that makes them problematic. Plus the Tcho Tcho aren't exclusively evil either, despite Lovecraft.

OldTrees1
2021-07-25, 09:03 AM
Whether or not the races are technically not inherently evil pretty much everyone, including authors writing for official WoTC settings treat them exactly this way. So it's basically the same thing. There may be some non evil orcs somewhere out there, but you never see them so they may as well not exist.

Could you clarify?
1) It sounds like you are talking about when an author decides to treat a species as inherently evil.
2) It sounds like you want visible variance rather than confirmed capacity for variance.

I am trying to bring this back to the generic topic since you mentioned this thread is not specific.

PS (no reply expected, just providing data): In the 5E Monster Manual (pg 246) they have a sidebar about King Obould Many Arrow who carved out the kingdom of Many Arrow and then established peace with the neighbors. This is a summary of events that happened in 3E accompanying literature.


@Bohandas Thank you for going through that list.

hamishspence
2021-07-25, 09:28 AM
In the 5E Monster Manual (pg 246) they have a sidebar about King Obould Many Arrow who carved out the kingdom of Many Arrow and then established peace with the neighbors. This is a summary of events that happened in 3E accompanying literature.


True, but after the 5E MM came out, Many-Arrows collapsed, in the novels.

https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Many-Arrows

As the battles raged, Bruenor and his men were able to defeat the last of Chief Hartusk's forces at Dark Arrow Keep, before restoring control of the fortress to Lorgru, the son of Obould XVII, who had been framed for the assassination of his father. His name was cleared, and he took control of the remnants of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, retreating back to Dark Arrow Keep and the Spine of the World, to try and continue his father's legacy of peaceful integration with the people of the Silver Marches.

...

As of 1484 DR however, Many-Arrows was ruled by King Lorgru in the wake of his father's assassination and the coup staged by War Chief Hartusk.

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (1484-1485 DR)

https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Archmage_(novel)


Realm Year: 1485Ė1486 DR

On the surface, Dark Arrow Keep is dismantled and Lorgru and the orcs of Many-Arrows are banished into the Spine of the World by the combined forces of the three dwarven kingdoms, the elves of the Glimmerwood, and the humans of the Silver Marches.

Bohandas
2021-07-25, 09:39 AM
Alright, I mean, that's your opinion about, in some different hypothetical world, it could be done in such a way that appeals to you more. My point is that, in the world that exists, they've spent half a century using it as a metaphor for current political issues, and it's made them billions of dollars and (more importantly) meant a lot to a lot of other people.

The X-Men films are good despite their hamfisted aesops, not because of them.

It takes a lot of fighting and explosions that stuff over and it still only kind of works.

Samoja1
2021-07-25, 09:57 AM
Could you clarify?
1) It sounds like you are talking about when an author decides to treat a species as inherently evil.
2) It sounds like you want visible variance rather than confirmed capacity for variance.

I am trying to bring this back to the generic topic since you mentioned this thread is not specific.

PS (no reply expected, just providing data): In the 5E Monster Manual (pg 246) they have a sidebar about King Obould Many Arrow who carved out the kingdom of Many Arrow and then established peace with the neighbors. This is a summary of events that happened in 3E accompanying literature.


@Bohandas Thank you for going through that list.

Ok, let me get this across. If we want a balanced portrayal of different races then not only do we need individuals of inherently evil races that fall on the other side of the isle, but even those individuals who are evil should have a variance as to how far they are willing to push it. Just because someone is willing to take part in a sack of a city does not mean they are willing to set fire to an orphanage just for fun. It's not just that evil seems to be all encompassing and all consuming, but it seems to also be completely uniform. Everyone on the evil side likes to murder, torture and stuff equally.

Also the evil side seems to be completely overpowering, even humans who join team evil immediately become ok with everything, they don't even mind the same evil army burning down their home village.

But the most irksome thing is most of this settings preach some kind of ideal of balance, which seems kinda skewed when one side consitently has people jump ship while the other has such a tight grip on their pawns thay none of them seems to ever question their actions.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-07-25, 10:16 AM
Ok, let me get this across. If we want a balanced portrayal of different races then not only do we need individuals of inherently evil races that fall on the other side of the isle, but even those individuals who are evil should have a variance as to how far they are willing to push it. Just because someone is willing to take part in a sack of a city does not mean they are willing to set fire to an orphanage just for fun. It's not just that evil seems to be all encompassing and all consuming, but it seems to also be completely uniform. Everyone on the evil side likes to murder, torture and stuff equally.

Also the evil side seems to be completely overpowering, even humans who join team evil immediately become ok with everything, they don't even mind the same evil army burning down their home village.

But the most irksome thing is most of this settings preach some kind of ideal of balance, which seems kinda skewed when one side consitently has people jump ship while the other has such a tight grip on their pawns thay none of them seems to ever question their actions.

Let's take one of the most hide-bound settings on this matter. Forgotten Realms.

In that setting, we have
* more than one good drow (one of the poster boys for "evil races"), as well as wide variance on how evil they are. Both at the cultural level (some cities are hellholes, others are, if not enlightened, at least less baby-murdering) and at the individual level. You have Jarlaxle, who is evil...but will work with good people and is mostly a mercenary. And who fights evil pretty frequently.
* at least one novel where a devil acts all good for a while (it turned out to be somewhat due to meddling by another, but they were genuine as long as their memories were gone)
* many cases where evil creatures care about each other
* many cases where good people turn to evil but don't go all indiscriminate puppy-kicking
* etc.

I think the portrayals are way more nuanced than you give them credit for. And this isn't me having some particular attachment to alignment and aligned races--cosmological alignment and aligned races (in any direction) were one of the first things I ripped out (and will never add back willingly) from my personal setting. Yes, that includes outsiders. Angel, devil, demon--these are statements of how you get the necessary energy to survive, not which cosmic team you're signed up for. Dragons retain their color-coding for elemental purposes, but not at all for alignment or personality. Alignment is entirely a derived quantity of an individual, and exists only as a role-play aide.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-25, 12:19 PM
To me the issue really is that it creates a less interesting world. There are no surprises when you encounter always evil race, they are kill on sight. This prevents you from developing individuals of that race into compelling characters, even compelling villains. They don't need elaborate reasons to do evil things, they just do it because the book says they do.

i'd think a solution to this is to not try and focus on the evil race as individuals, but rather as a whole. if you can't do "Skoll has been reading books and is beginning to think farming might be a better alternative to raiding", then instead do "The Dogoz splinter faction has set up camp in a location filled with strange fruit, and has begun incorporating them into their diets. Now they're addicted to the fruit and can't wander too far away from their new settlement or face withdrawals, this has caused them to clash with other factions even among their own kind. Being set in one place for longer has also allowed them to develop new technologies that other splinter groups might not have thought of yet."


A good example might be the Tyranids from the Warhammer 40k universe. There are no individuals in the Tyranid species, there are breeds and fleets. So your genestealers have wildly different personalities and interactions with the world then your rippers would, and one fleet might have vastly different tactics or even "Personality" from other fleets. Some fleets send out a massive bulk swarm to overwhelm their opponents, others send smaller, thinner forces to surround their conquest and approach from multiple angles, cutting off sources of supply and reinforcement. If a swarm found itself falling off a cliff, some of the bigger, more valuable members would likely claw and scrape to try and save themselves, while the smaller creatures would resign themselves to their fate and let themselves fall.

These are still all distinct and valid personalities and stories that can be just as compelling as "Steve the baker who became a soldier who got trapped fifty years in the future and really likes football now."

Vahnavoi
2021-07-25, 01:16 PM
As far as drow go, it's worth noting that R.A. Salvatore codified drows for Forgotten Realms with the Drizzt novels, which also codified the idea of a good defector from decadence in Drizzt. The idea was so popular that for a while, every drow you actually saw played were good defectors from decadence, and other works, like Order of the Stick web comic by Rich Burlew, could base jokes on that cliche. :smalltongue:

(Drows did exist before that, but Greyhawk drows created by Gygax and Sutherland are less iconic than the Forgotten Realms version.)

Vahnavoi
2021-07-25, 02:45 PM
More likely Salvatore just straight ripped that from the game materials. (Salvatore had author's notes or foreword for some printing of the early Drizzt books where more or less tells outright which parts he took from the rules and which he invented). Doesn't matter; Drizzt is what made that popular.

Sapphire Guard
2021-07-25, 03:00 PM
The thing about avoiding that is that most often rather than examining the implications, instead stories just move that 'always evil' label somewhere else. It's instead okay to kill bandits or slavers, or members of the Church, or members of the army, (and conveniently, none of those people ever have noncombatants) instead.

Anymage
2021-07-25, 03:19 PM
The thing about avoiding that is that most often rather than examining the implications, instead stories just move that 'always evil' label somewhere else. It's instead okay to kill bandits or slavers, or members of the Church, or members of the army, (and conveniently, none of those people ever have noncombatants) instead.

If they're actively doing bad things, preparing to actively do bad things, or intrinsically key to the doing of bad things people have a lot easier time not overthinking the moral qualms. It's when you start to show no regard for people who are at best incidental (e.g: killing captured support staff) and sometimes innocent of any relevant wrongdoing (e.g: caregivers and children left back at camp) that you see a lot of people start to get uncomfortable.

jjordan
2021-07-25, 03:32 PM
The most distinct trait of evil creatures seems to be sadism, killing and torturing with no apparent reason.Like killing an orc because it's an orc? Not trying to be combative here. Again, I generally agree with your basic point about there being no inherently evil species. To me it makes logical sense and feels more real and less racist-ish. But, again, I think most players like the idea of inherently evil species because it's a strong good-vs-evil trope that simplifies a lot of their game play. And by "simplifies a lot of their game play" I mean it justifies their characters' murder-hobo life-styles. :) I also mean that it avoids a lot of real-world issues that players don't want to drag into their recreational activity.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-25, 03:56 PM
I also mean that it avoids a lot of real-world issues that players don't want to drag into their recreational activity.

Exactly, how many times have you seen in game or in media "Oh that Orc mook you just killed who was guarding the BBEQ and his evil scheme? Well that Orc was just doing his job and had a family. after punching out he was going to go home and kiss his pregnant wife and attend his son's first baseball game before meeting up with his parents and taking his dog for a walk to it's favorite park. DON'T YOU FEEL BAD NOW!?"


Like, you don't need that. You really, REALLY don't need that kind of stuff when you're trying to actively prevent the evil lich from taking over the world or whatnot. Having a race, group, faction, or whatever else that is solidly and consistently evil helps prevent this and assures the readers / viewers / players that they're not going to be gut-punched with a "YOU'RE THE REAL MONSTER!!!!" BS backstory.

When you're playing left 4 dead and you shoot a zombie, you don't get into the details of who that zombie used to be or how they got into that situation, you just shoot the zombie because it is trying to eat you!

The heck are you supposed to do if you find out that all the zombies have loving home lives and their own feelings? they're still trying to eat you!

Batcathat
2021-07-25, 04:05 PM
As I brought up earlier, people are usually fine with games where they kill humans, so I don't think having certain groups being inherently objectively evil is a prerequisite. I don't think the only options are "this is an objectively evil inhuman monster" and rubbing people's faces in killing someone.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-25, 04:19 PM
Most major empires have had slavery in one form or another at some point of their history and most of these could not have reached their height without it. Additionally, I think you'd probably be hard pressed to find one from more than maybe 50-100 years ago that didn't have a completely draconian system of laws

EDIT:
You don't know the power of the dark side Actually, I do, and I find your assertion otherwise to be bizarre. It would appear, based on the vehemence of your assertions, that you believe that the whole of humanity has been evil until recently. Not buying that box of soap.

The X-Men films are good despite their hamfisted aesops, not because of them. The third one could have made the whole pretty good, but, it didn't. Quite a disappointment after a nice start. And we are back to fiction...

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-25, 04:25 PM
As I brought up earlier, people are usually fine with games where they kill humans, so I don't think having certain groups being inherently objectively evil is a prerequisite. I don't think the only options are "this is an objectively evil inhuman monster" and rubbing people's faces in killing someone.
sure, there are more options. but "this is an objectively evil inhuman monster" is still a valid option just like all the others. You don't throw away the black and white paints when making a colourful painting after all.

Samoja1
2021-07-25, 07:26 PM
Like killing an orc because it's an orc? Not trying to be combative here. Again, I generally agree with your basic point about there being no inherently evil species. To me it makes logical sense and feels more real and less racist-ish. But, again, I think most players like the idea of inherently evil species because it's a strong good-vs-evil trope that simplifies a lot of their game play. And by "simplifies a lot of their game play" I mean it justifies their characters' murder-hobo life-styles. :) I also mean that it avoids a lot of real-world issues that players don't want to drag into their recreational activity.

Again it's not black and white morallity i am complaining about here, it's black and grey. Imho it should either be black and white or grey and grey. You can have different shades of grey for different factions but black and grey just makes the world feel overly bleak and depressing, and when it comes to the settings that preach balance it feels way too lopsided in favor if the team evil.

vasilidor
2021-07-25, 08:41 PM
Lets consider the Illithid as described in the book lords of madness. Here they are biologically compelled to torture, eat and otherwise be nasty to sentient beings in order to survive. they are obligate parasites with their reproductive cycle being that they have to tunnel into some ones head and eat the brain in order to grow from larval form into adult form. they are textbook definition of cannot be good. Yes I am aware that the boed has a illithid as a good guy in it, but that guy would just starve to death really.

OldTrees1
2021-07-25, 09:43 PM
Lets consider the Illithid as described in the book lords of madness. Here they are biologically compelled to torture, eat and otherwise be nasty to sentient beings in order to survive. they are obligate parasites with their reproductive cycle being that they have to tunnel into some ones head and eat the brain in order to grow from larval form into adult form. they are textbook definition of cannot be good. Yes I am aware that the boed has a illithid as a good guy in it, but that guy would just starve to death really.

IIRC
Illithids can live off of rothe brains. (I think it would be unfair to mention rings of sustenance).

Illithid tadpoles are unlikely to be moral agents (they are not intelligent enough).

The Neothelids life cycle skips Ceremorphosis and eventually becomes intelligent enough (Larval Flayers from complete psionics) to make moral choices about which brains to eat (rothe or intelligent life).

And, while the Illithids were secretly slaves of the Elder Brains, 5E made that involve more overt control than the 3E lore. The moral agency, and thus moral culpability of Illithids is decreased while under that mind control.

So I think Illithids can be good, but are highly unlikely to be good.

Edit: Also fans of Illithid lore will want to know about "The Adversary"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illithid

an Illithid legend of a being called the "Adversary". The legend holds that, eventually, an Illithid larva that undergoes ceremorphosis will take on the host's personality and memory in its entirety. This Adversary would, mind and soul, still be the host, but with all the inherent abilities of an Illithid.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-25, 10:56 PM
from what I've heard, if an Illithid finds itself separated from the giant brain's influences, it can be more civilized and even work alongside other races. But that's only so long as it's not under the Brain's influence

Mechalich
2021-07-26, 03:40 AM
Illithids are an example of a species with a physiological inclination towards 'evil.' Their sustenance requires brain matter, which means they are obligated to kill other creatures of a certain intelligence to survive - not necessarily sapient beings, but definitely creatures of some intelligence, and you can forget about vegetarianism. Theirs is an extreme case, but any species with a hypercarnivore physiology (this generally includes that well-known fantasy standby, cat people) is going to be more inclined to prey upon others than omnivorous humans.

There's lots of trends and gradations at work in terms of physiological and psychological factors that might incline a species to be more or less 'evil' than humans when placed in a single universal moral framework. Importantly there's a lot of room between 'a species whose median individual is born more inclined to evil than the median human' and 'born as bad as a fiend.'

Psyren
2021-07-26, 09:56 AM
RE:cats - it's worth noting that while cats are carnivores, their diets can* be supplemented by plant-based proteins, especially legumes. This is why many cat foods marketed as "grain-free" include filler such as peas or lentils. Fantasy catfolk could expand on this by cultivating such crops in their settlements to go along with the livestock, poultry and fish you might expect, and thus more credibly scale up to match other humanoid societies in a setting like halflings or dwarves.

*I'm not commenting on how healthy these fillers ultimately are as I'm not an expert. But for a fantasy author, it's at least an accepted enough practice in the industry that you could have your catfolk do that without raising too many eyebrows. They are humanoid after all.


Lets consider the Illithid as described in the book lords of madness. Here they are biologically compelled to torture, eat and otherwise be nasty to sentient beings in order to survive. they are obligate parasites with their reproductive cycle being that they have to tunnel into some ones head and eat the brain in order to grow from larval form into adult form. they are textbook definition of cannot be good. Yes I am aware that the boed has a illithid as a good guy in it, but that guy would just starve to death really.

IIRC for an illithid, eating non-sapient brains like cows is sustainable, but akin to a very bland diet like gruel and boiled vegetables. The BoED illithid and those who follow his path would essentially be ascetic. He/they wouldn't starve, but the chances of getting widespread conversion to such a path would be extremely slim.

vasilidor
2021-07-27, 03:34 AM
RE:cats - it's worth noting that while cats are carnivores, their diets can* be supplemented by plant-based proteins, especially legumes. This is why many cat foods marketed as "grain-free" include filler such as peas or lentils. Fantasy catfolk could expand on this by cultivating such crops in their settlements to go along with the livestock, poultry and fish you might expect, and thus more credibly scale up to match other humanoid societies in a setting like halflings or dwarves.

*I'm not commenting on how healthy these fillers ultimately are as I'm not an expert. But for a fantasy author, it's at least an accepted enough practice in the industry that you could have your catfolk do that without raising too many eyebrows. They are humanoid after all.



IIRC for an illithid, eating non-sapient brains like cows is sustainable, but akin to a very bland diet like gruel and boiled vegetables. The BoED illithid and those who follow his path would essentially be ascetic. He/they wouldn't starve, but the chances of getting widespread conversion to such a path would be extremely slim.

A diet of just gruel and veggies would not be able to sustain a person for long unless they were mostly sedentary. even then the lack of proteins would lead to health problems. I could see Illithids having similar problems.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-27, 04:40 AM
Again, Illithids aren't evil just because they eat people. Eating people is a naive signal of evil, but it's not the be-all-end-all. Illithids are evil because they are supremacists and your suffering makes your brains tastier to them. Hence, they consider it their right to treat you badly for their own benefit.

Merely eating meat isn't evil. Lizardfolk are also described as eating people, including their own. But the situations this comes up is when lizardfolk are hungry or panicked. They aren't supremacist, they don't consider it their moral right to treat you however they want.

Since fantasy is fantasy, you can make this aspect even clearer by eradicating the moral difference between eating plants versus animals versus people. They're all living beings with spiritual worth of their own and virtue dictates a conduct of respect and moderation towards all. So a herbivore than overconsumes and disrespects the land is just as bad as an omnivore or carnivore that overconsumes and disrespects their prey.

This gets to AD&D's concept of True Neutral. Principled neutrality is about maintaining status quo of the natural world, it's ecological conservatism. You can't have people hacking forests into farmlands to feed an evergrowing population and still have that. You can't uncritically accept the idea that benefit of people always trumps benefit of animals and plants and still have that. This is why AD&D druids get away with sacrficing people or abandoning few babies in the woods without being evil. It would be pretty easy to make game where AD&D druids are the "good guys" and civilized humans are basically the exact moral equivalent of Illithids and just sore about how Illithids do to them what they do to the natural world. :smallamused:

awa
2021-07-27, 07:15 AM
Additionally lizard folk are rarely depicted killing people to eat them instead eating those they kill an important difference.

Lizard-folk are also rarely depicted leaving their swamps they are not normally the aggressors while the implication is often that the evil humanoids are leaving their territory and coming into your to raid.

The main exception to this is when they are controlled by a lizard king a type of evil lizard man the exact nature of which varies from edition to edition.

Course all this is complicated by the fact that alignment shifts from edition to edition and monster descriptions dont always shift with them leaving some stuck on the wrong side of the new paradigm. Its Also not immune to bad writers.

The TSR era true neutral of making sure you kick a baby for every orphan you save would be considered evil by most post TSR alignment systems.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-27, 12:41 PM
The TSR era true neutral of making sure you kick a baby for every orphan you save would be considered evil by most post TSR alignment systems.

That's a strawman version of the original. Granted, it's a strawman that sometimes pops up in real games, but it's still a strawman. The non-straw version is that for every tree you cut down, you should plant and nurture a new tree. It's about preserving a status quo, of avoiding extreme one-sided action. Applied to humans or animals, it means you will neither kill more nor let live more than what nature allows. So, you abandon a few kids in the woods, if feeding those extra mouths would require hacking too much forest into farmland, and you adopt a few orphaned kids, if those kids dying would threaten a species dying off and screwing up the foodchain.

I know some people would consider even the non-straw version evil. They don't want to think of humans or other sapient species as being part of a zero-sum game where a person's worth is circumstantial and weighed against some state of nature. This goes double if they think that state of nature is miserable and evil by itself. The joke is, in context of AD&D alignment, these are valid ways for Good people to view True Neutral people, especially principled neutrals like druids. True Neutral may not be Evil, but it's also not Good and its goals are not Good goals.

vasilidor
2021-07-27, 04:11 PM
Old school TSR had a chaotic good race that would sometimes murder you if you gave it a gift. the greater cyclops in the deities and demigods book 1st edition AD&D. I do not consider old school TSR a guide to good and evil for a reason, thank you very much.

Palladium had a better alignment system that actually made sense, even if their books were a mess.

Psyren
2021-07-27, 04:15 PM
I didn't say Illithids were evil just because they eat sapients. But choosing to do so when there are sustainable non-sapient alternatives certainly would be.


A diet of just gruel and veggies would not be able to sustain a person for long unless they were mostly sedentary. even then the lack of proteins would lead to health problems. I could see Illithids having similar problems.

"Veggies" was shorthand; there are plant-based proteins and other vitamin/nutrient sources. My point was that a non-evil Illithid can probably find ways to not starve, but the level of self-sacrifice/ascetism involved likely explains why few attempt this.

Duff
2021-07-27, 07:11 PM
To me the issue really is that it creates a less interesting world. There are no surprises when you encounter always evil race, they are kill on sight. This prevents you from developing individuals of that race into compelling characters, even compelling villains. They don't need elaborate reasons to do evil things, they just do it because the book says they do.

I have 2 points of disagreement here
- The existence of always evil races says practically nothing about the interest of the world. Middle earth with morally ambiguous orcs might be a shade more interesting, but I don't think it would make a meaningful difference to the books we have, nor the stories we can tell if we set a game there. You want moral ambiguity, use Easterlings or greedy dwarves or corrupted wizards or elves drunk on power.

- Always evil=kill on sight. Not if you don't want that to be how you run it. You want shades of grey with moral ambiguity? Lets assume Illithids are always evil* They approach a city which has multiple existential threats with an offer. "We'll take your worst criminals, your people who've been sentenced to death, and in exchange we'll keep our hunting to the other nation that are one of your threats. Or "We actually need cash more than brains, pay us and we'll leave you alone" or "We'll give you cash to do this non-evil job for us" or "We'll work with you to get rif of the drow city that's making both our lives miserable. We want half the magic items but you can have all the real estate and we won't hunt you in the drow city for at least a year so you can get settled"

* And set aside whether they are or not, and whether they can be moral agents if they are always evil. In fact, lets simply assume that the Illithid community in this example are all evil and not worry about the rest of the species

awa
2021-07-27, 07:26 PM
That's a strawman version of the original. Granted, it's a strawman that sometimes pops up in real games, but it's still a strawman. The non-straw version is that for every tree you cut down, you should plant and nurture a new tree. It's about preserving a status quo, of avoiding extreme one-sided action. Applied to humans or animals, it means you will neither kill more nor let live more than what nature allows. So, you abandon a few kids in the woods, if feeding those extra mouths would require hacking too much forest into farmland, and you adopt a few orphaned kids, if those kids dying would threaten a species dying off and screwing up the foodchain.

I know some people would consider even the non-straw version evil. They don't want to think of humans or other sapient species as being part of a zero-sum game where a person's worth is circumstantial and weighed against some state of nature. This goes double if they think that state of nature is miserable and evil by itself. The joke is, in context of AD&D alignment, these are valid ways for Good people to view True Neutral people, especially principled neutrals like druids. True Neutral may not be Evil, but it's also not Good and its goals are not Good goals.

that may be how it is used in some book, I cant say I have read every advanced D&d book but, it is not how it is universally described.
In my phb it describes making sure the forces of good or evil remain in balance, switching sides if need be to always fight for the underdog.

pg 68 "although it looked like the forces of order would have the upper hand in this battle, he knew that their had been a general trend toward chaos and destruction in the region that must be combated."

Pg 65 True neutral characters do their best to avoid siding with the forces of good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see that all of these forces remain in balanced contention"

Pg 65 "to a great extent, they are compelled to side with the underdog in any given situation, sometimes even changing sides as the previous loser becomes the winner."

It also notes on the same pg that very few people are true neutral something not said about any other alignment. (in fact it says it twice "true neutral characters are extremely rare")

Under the general alignment section no mention of nature conservation is every made the only balanced mentioned in that portion of the book is the balance of good and evil, of law and chaos. In some ways that's worse than evil most realistic evil people don't think they are evil and certainly don't set out with the stated goal of reducing the amount of "good" in the world.

So I suppose in one way you are right based on these descriptions it would not be about the neutral character kicking a baby it would be about him alternatively defending the baby kickers or the orphanage directer until the amount of good and evil in the equation were balanced.
So that sounds to me like if you have a bunch of Evil slavers and a bunch of people fighting to no be enslaved your objective is to make sure their are always some slave and some free. Because you cant let the balance of good and evil get out of wack.


They may have stated it differently in some other place or book but I can site pages so its not a straw man.

Bohandas
2021-07-27, 08:10 PM
Actually, I do, and I find your assertion otherwise to be bizarre. It would appear, based on the vehemence of your assertions, that you believe that the whole of humanity has been evil until recently. Not buying that box of soap.

If we were on a different site I could make a stronger argument, but the unfortunately forum rules frown upon talking about specifics of real world history (as the moderators seem to consider it part of "politics") and so I can't go into examples here.


To me the issue really is that it creates a less interesting world. There are no surprises when you encounter always evil race, they are kill on sight. This prevents you from developing individuals of that race into compelling characters, even compelling villains.

I disagree. Frankly I think the most interesting characters in the entire game are actually the archfiends and evil gods.

And speaking of fiends, I'm pretty sure it's still evil to kill evil creatures unprovoked, even if it ultimately serves the greater good. The Blood War doesn't really make any sense conceptually otherwise.

EDIT:
also
"You hear that Stu? I think she wants a motive. Well I don't really believe in motives Sid, I mean did Norman Bates have a motive? Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lector liked to eat people? DON'T THINK SO. See it's a lot scarier when there's no motive." -Ghostface, Scream

hamishspence
2021-07-28, 06:14 AM
And speaking of fiends, I'm pretty sure it's still evil to kill evil creatures unprovoked, even if it ultimately serves the greater good. The Blood War doesn't really make any sense conceptually otherwise.


BOVD is the main source for that idea, stating that killing a being purely for profit (normally Murder, a very Evil act) is not evil (though not good either) when the victim is a creature "of consummate, irredeemable evil" such as a chromatic dragon or, by implication, a fiend.

Later it says that killing a fiend is always a good act, and that allowing one to exist is "clearly evil".

The later BOED, by contrast, does suggest that killing evil beings "in the name of good" is not acceptable when they "have been doing no wrong" - the implication being that you need more than just an evil alignment - you need evidence of specific wrongdoing.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-28, 08:22 AM
that may be how it is used in some book, I cant say I have read every advanced D&d book but, it is not how it is universally described.

1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook, page 33: "The "true" neutral looks upon all other alignments as facets of a system of things. Thus each aspect - evil and good, chaos and law - must be retained in balance to maintain the status quo; for things as they are cannot be improved upom except temporarily, and even then but superficially. Nature will prevail and keep things as they were meant to be, provided the "wheel" surrounding the hub of nature does not become unbalanced due to unnatural forces - such as humans and other intelligent creatures interfering what is meant to be."

1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, page 23: "Absolute, or true, neutral creatures view everything that exists as an integral, necessary part or function of the entire cosmos. Each thing exists as part of the whole, one as check or balance to the other, with life necessary for death, happiness for suffering, order for chaos, and vice versa. Nothing must ever become predominant or out of balance. Within this naturalistic ethos, humankind serves a role also, just as all other creatures do. They may be more or less important, but the neutral does not concern himself or herself with these considerations except where it is positively determined that the balance is threatened. Absolute neutrality is in the central or fulcrum position quite logically, as neutral sees all other alignments as necessary parts of a whole. This alignment is narrowest in scope."

The exemplars of True Neutral are druids, the protectors of the natural world. In fact: "Druids are a sub-class of Cleric. They are the only absolute neutrals." 1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook page 20.

Underlines for emphasis. You are correct True Neutral is not universally described like this - most importantly, in addition to absolute "true" neutrality, animals are often (but not always, in AD&D) described as neutral due to inability to hold moral convictions, and animalistic humanoids and humans without strong moral convictions are sometimes lumped in the same category. Non-AD&D interpretations muck about with the definitions to make True Neutral less narrow, but those non-AD&D interpretations aren't what I'm talking about.


In my phb it describes making sure the forces of good or evil remain in balance, switching sides if need be to always fight for the underdog.

pg 68 "although it looked like the forces of order would have the upper hand in this battle, he knew that their had been a general trend toward chaos and destruction in the region that must be combated."

Pg 65 True neutral characters do their best to avoid siding with the forces of good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see that all of these forces remain in balanced contention"

Pg 65 "to a great extent, they are compelled to side with the underdog in any given situation, sometimes even changing sides as the previous loser becomes the winner."

It also notes on the same pg that very few people are true neutral something not said about any other alignment. (in fact it says it twice "true neutral characters are extremely rare")

You're mostly like quoting 2nd edition AD&D. The thing with 2nd edition is that it was deliberately aimed at a younger audience than 1st edition and this entailed watering down alignment. True Neutral wasn't the worst victim of this, Chaotic Neutral and Evil alignments took the brunt of the change. Even then, if you actually compare those page quotes with the 1st edition quotes above, you'll realize the 2nd edition definitions directly follow from 1st edition's - the connection to status quo of the natural world is just explained worse. (In addition to 2nd edition, this phenomenom continues in 3rd and 5th editions. They copy the outward shape of 1st edition alignment and the "great wheel" cosmology, but they don't actually explain it any better.)

None of these quotes support the idea of True Neutral alternating between kicking babies and saving orphans. That's the strawman and continues to be a strawman. Per the 1st edition DMG page 23 quote and 2nd edition page 65 quote, True Neutral neither kicks babies nor saves orphans unless it's been positively established failure to act disrupts the status quo.


Under the general alignment section no mention of nature conservation is every made the only balanced mentioned in that portion of the book is the balance of good and evil, of law and chaos. In some ways that's worse than evil most realistic evil people don't think they are evil and certainly don't set out with the stated goal of reducing the amount of "good" in the world.

How did the John Galt quote from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged go again? "In every conflict, there are two sides: the right and the wrong one. But the middle is always evil."

As already noted, I perfectly understand why some people would consider AD&D True Neutral to be evil, and from viewpoint AD&D Good it is evil, but it isn't, by straightforward reading of the rules, actually Evil. And it isn't unrealistic - the straightforward application in form of ecological conservationism is perfectly realistic.

awa
2021-07-28, 09:01 AM
Just because second edition had a worse interpretation than first does not make me mentioning it a straw man, its literally whats written in the book. Make certain that the forces of evil never defeat the forces of good, make certain the forces of good never defeat the forces of evil. Its dumb but not a straw man.

Tvtyrant
2021-07-28, 09:44 AM
If we were on a different site I could make a stronger argument, but the unfortunately forum rules frown upon talking about specifics of real world history (as the moderators seem to consider it part of "politics") and so I can't go into examples here.



I disagree. Frankly I think the most interesting characters in the entire game are actually the archfiends and evil gods.

And speaking of fiends, I'm pretty sure it's still evil to kill evil creatures unprovoked, even if it ultimately serves the greater good. The Blood War doesn't really make any sense conceptually otherwise.

EDIT:
also
"You hear that Stu? I think she wants a motive. Well I don't really believe in motives Sid, I mean did Norman Bates have a motive? Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lector liked to eat people? DON'T THINK SO. See it's a lot scarier when there's no motive." -Ghostface, Scream

I don't know about Hannibal Lector, but Norman Bates had a very clear motive that was explained in a full exposition briefing in the movie. They literally sat the audience down to tell them why it all happened.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-28, 09:48 AM
If we were on a different site I could make a stronger argument, but the unfortunately forum rules frown upon talking about specifics of real world history (as the moderators seem to consider it part of "politics") and so I can't go into examples here.
I understand. I likewise had to censor my terms.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-28, 12:16 PM
Just because second edition had a worse interpretation than first does not make me mentioning it a straw man, its literally whats written in the book. Make certain that the forces of evil never defeat the forces of good, make certain the forces of good never defeat the forces of evil. Its dumb but not a straw man.

The thing I was calling out as a strawman was this:


The TSR era true neutral of making sure you kick a baby for every orphan you save would be considered evil by most post TSR alignment systems.

That's a strawman even of the 2nd edition version. True Neutral doesn't kick a baby for every orphan they save because they'd only be saving those orphans in the first place because those orphans dying is a threat to balance. Kicking babies would hence restore the unbalance they were trying to fix and be against their philosophy. I agree 2nd edition alignment is dumber than 1st edition, but it isn't dumb in that particular way.

I do still grant the silly strawman neutral does sometimes pop up in real games.

Bohandas
2021-07-28, 01:18 PM
BOVD is the main source for that idea, stating that killing a being purely for profit (normally Murder, a very Evil act) is not evil (though not good either) when the victim is a creature "of consummate, irredeemable evil" such as a chromatic dragon or, by implication, a fiend.

Later it says that killing a fiend is always a good act, and that allowing one to exist is "clearly evil".

The later BOED, by contrast, does suggest that killing evil beings "in the name of good" is not acceptable when they "have been doing no wrong" - the implication being that you need more than just an evil alignment - you need evidence of specific wrongdoing.

Even in the context of BoVD by itself it's at best inconsistent as it would make the Blood War a redemptive act and 1. none of the fiends would want to do it and/or 2. the lower planes would be hemorrhaging sould left and right


How did the John Galt quote from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged go again? "In every conflict, there are two sides: the right and the wrong one. But the middle is always evil."

Is that the book about the anti-religious anti-union messianic figure who organizes a mass walkout?'


I don't know about Hannibal Lector, but Norman Bates had a very clear motive that was explained in a full exposition briefing in the movie. They literally sat the audience down to tell them why it all happened.

IIRC he had a voice in his head telling him to do it, which, IIRC, is also the motive for 5e orcs, only instead of a murderous little old lady it's a murderous deity

Psyren
2021-07-28, 02:31 PM
BoED doesn't say anything about killing fiends being a ticket up. The most it says is that "demons and devils are best slain, or at least banished, and only a naive fool would try to convert them" - but that doesn't mean that slaying them counts as a good act. (Redeeming one certainly would be, but the chances of success are effectively nil.)

Vahnavoi
2021-07-28, 03:02 PM
Is that the book about the anti-religious anti-union messianic figure who organizes a mass walkout?'


Yes, I suppose, why do you ask? You could always check by reading it. :smalltongue:

---

Regarding killing fiends being a ticket to Heaven, there are a fair few computer games based on AD&D which give you alignment for killing opposed supernatural beings, but even they aren't this dim. You have to have ethical commitment to the alignment your killing them for, for it to count (Nethack and ADOM come to mind at least). So a Good character only becomes more Good for killing fiends if they've already pledged themselves to a Good cause and have something to show for it. Neutral and Evil do not move towards Good for killing fiends, though they don't move further toward Evil either.

Lacuna Caster
2021-07-28, 03:56 PM
First, the fact that there is no satisfying slam dunk answer to moral philosophy. Dwarves can perfect paragons of morality according to a particular ethical school of thought, but that's likely to create situations that look alien and unsatisfying to your average reader. Evil, meanwhile, comes in many forms that the vast majority of people agree are evil. Slavers and serial killers are not the same, but there's pretty wide consensus that they're both really nasty.

This is a silly argument. Some other author somewhere couldn't keep their angels good, therefore I shouldn't have evil demons?
I forget the exact source, but someone said "There may not be a Heaven, but there absolutely is a Hell."

I'm supportive of an author's right to stipulate that species X, Y and Z are innately inclined toward altruism or sadism or what-have-you, even to the point of being immutably so, especially in a fantasy universe, but I don't think the moral extremes are totally symmetric either. Thermodynamics at work- 'good' is a complex regulatory optimisation problem and 'evil' is more-or-less anything which intentionally knocks that regulatory process outta whack. It's always going to be trickier to convincingly depict the guardians of paradise than the agents of sin.

Bohandas
2021-07-28, 04:43 PM
It is absolutely fair to criticize someone for something they didn't intend, if that thing is still harmful. You don't have to intend to cause harm in order to be harmful.

Like that Beatles song Helter Skelter?

vasilidor
2021-07-28, 09:19 PM
So we have evidence that we can have evil cultures, and members of that culture being predominantly evil.
Remove a creature from said culture and it is any alignments ball game.
That is my current take away from this, including the Illithids.

OldTrees1
2021-07-28, 09:36 PM
So we have evidence that we can have evil cultures, and members of that culture being predominantly evil.
Remove a creature from said culture and it is any alignments ball game.
That is my current take away from this, including the Illithids.

There may still be tendencies once culture is removed if the entity's natural state puts them in morally precarious predicaments.

For example an Illithid that matured from a human taking a swim in a tadpole brine pool of a recently destroyed Illithid city might not have any of the Illithid city's culture. However it will quickly learn that it wants to eat brains. Shortly thereafter it will learn it needs to eat brains. As it grows hungry will it fast until it finds a lower lifeform, or will it rationalize the available brains as being a sufficiently lower life form to make the feeding acceptable? How will its choices and experiences shape its opinions and self image. How will those opinions and self image shape its future choices?

While it is any alignment's ball game. I predict more of these very very rare Illithids will feed on drow/dwarf/human brains than will feed on on rothe brains. They have the moral agency to choose, but it does not mean the right path will be easy.

Mechalich
2021-07-28, 10:22 PM
There may still be tendencies once culture is removed if the entity's natural state puts them in morally precarious predicaments.

For example an Illithid that matured from a human taking a swim in a tadpole brine pool of a recently destroyed Illithid city might not have any of the Illithid city's culture. However it will quickly learn that it wants to eat brains. Shortly thereafter it will learn it needs to eat brains. As it grows hungry will it fast until it finds a lower lifeform, or will it rationalize the available brains as being a sufficiently lower life form to make the feeding acceptable? How will its choices and experiences shape its opinions and self image. How will those opinions and self image shape its future choices?

While it is any alignment's ball game. I predict more of these very very rare Illithids will feed on drow/dwarf/human brains than will feed on on rothe brains. They have the moral agency to choose, but it does not mean the right path will be easy.

There's also the likely impact of beings placed in moral jeopardy by their very nature removing themselves from the calculus - primarily by suicide - which means the only beings of such kind that you encounter will be at least moderately morally compromised. This is a common thread in vampire narratives, ie. that you don't encounter saintly vampires because saintly people either refuse to become vampires in the first place or walk into the sun shortly after being turned rather than chose to willingly exist as monsters. Going against fundamentals of physiology and psychology is incredibly hard - human organizations that impose such requirements usually face staggering rates of deception and non-compliance.

Well members of every species may be equally free to choose good or evil, variances in fundamental physiology and psychology mean those choices are not weighted equally across all species. Essentially, it's harder for an Illithid to be good than it is for a human.

Tvtyrant
2021-07-28, 10:44 PM
IIRC he had a voice in his head telling him to do it, which, IIRC, is also the motive for 5e orcs, only instead of a murderous little old lady it's a murderous deity

More exactly, he killed his mother in a jealous rage and then because he couldn't admit to his own depravity he pretended she was alive and made a mirror version that was as jealous of him as he had been of her.

Lacuna Caster
2021-07-29, 06:54 AM
There's also the likely impact of beings placed in moral jeopardy by their very nature removing themselves from the calculus - primarily by suicide - which means the only beings of such kind that you encounter will be at least moderately morally compromised. This is a common thread in vampire narratives, ie. that you don't encounter saintly vampires because saintly people either refuse to become vampires in the first place or walk into the sun shortly after being turned rather than chose to willingly exist as monsters. Going against fundamentals of physiology and psychology is incredibly hard - human organizations that impose such requirements usually face staggering rates of deception and non-compliance.

Well members of every species may be equally free to choose good or evil, variances in fundamental physiology and psychology mean those choices are not weighted equally across all species. Essentially, it's harder for an Illithid to be good than it is for a human.
Yeah, there was actually some discussion (https://forums.giantitp.com/showthread.php?550809-Gobbotopia-Subjective-or-Objective-Alignment-or-Morality/page4&p=22849466#post22849466) of this topic in an older gobbotopia-related thread. It's hypothetically possible for an illithid to be good-aligned if they were, say, restricting themselves to victims who were themselves evil or otherwise killed in honourable combat and entirely refrained from reproducing. Something like the fantasy equivalent of Dexter Morgan. But the baseline physiology of the species heavily incentivises going after easy prey, without even getting into a discussion about innate biological differences in temperament (which could be just as consequential.)

hamishspence
2021-07-29, 06:57 AM
Given that a good-aligned illithid is statted out, with a backstory, in BoED, it's a bit more than hypothetical. There's a neutral-aligned one in Underdark as well.

Lacuna Caster
2021-07-29, 07:44 AM
Given that a good-aligned illithid is statted out, with a backstory, in BoED, it's a bit more than hypothetical.
Can you remember the page no.? I browsed BoED a while back but it's not coming back to me.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-29, 07:56 AM
I'd give that only slightly more weight than the Succubus Paladin. Even discounting simple errors in following basic rules (not meeting feat prerequisited etc.), some of the splatbook characters are outright paradoxical. They exist because an author wanted to make a point, but don't follow basic rules of the game. In BoED's case, I think they wanted to stress that everyone can be redeemed. My own copy is lost, so I can't check.

hamishspence
2021-07-29, 08:14 AM
Page 17 - Redeemed Villains.

http://archive.wizards.com/dnd/images/boed_gallery/75028.jpg

False God
2021-07-29, 08:21 AM
I'd give that only slightly more weight than the Succubus Paladin. Even discounting simple errors in following basic rules (not meeting feat prerequisited etc.), some of the splatbook characters are outright paradoxical. They exist because an author wanted to make a point, but don't follow basic rules of the game. In BoED's case, I think they wanted to stress that everyone can be redeemed. My own copy is lost, so I can't check.

Pg 17. Thaqualm LG Female illithid monk.

hamishspence
2021-07-29, 08:24 AM
They exist because an author wanted to make a point, but don't follow basic rules of the game.

And the rules of the game, in the MM, allow for non-evil members of "Always X Evil" races, including fiends. Mind Flayers aren't even "always Lawful Evil" - they're "usually Lawful evil".

Lacuna Caster
2021-07-29, 08:38 AM
Page 17 - Redeemed Villains.

http://archive.wizards.com/dnd/images/boed_gallery/75028.jpg

Odd. I have a .pdf copy and searching for 'illithid' and 'mind flayer' turned up no matches. Strange description- "She joined a monastic order, and has now retired to a life of contemplation. She has sworn a vow of nonviolence and works hard to redeem any evil humanoids she may encounter, hoping to set them on the same course that..."

...given the vow of non-violence, how does she eat, exactly?

Anyway, curiosity aside, none of this rebuts the point I was making that good-aligned illithids are likely to be very rare for reasons largely independent of culture, per se.

ross
2021-07-29, 08:56 AM
There isn't any such thing as "should". Run your games however you wish.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-29, 09:03 AM
And the rules of the game, in the MM, allow for non-evil members of "Always X Evil" races, including fiends. Mind Flayers aren't even "always Lawful Evil" - they're "usually Lawful evil".

My point is that even if the prior rules had stated Illithids honest-to-God can't be Good, they probably still would've had a Good Illithid, because that fit the theme they were going for. The BoED Illithid is hence not a good example of how a non-Evil Illithid could or would look like - it's an extreme corner case in a book dedicated to extreme corner cases.

In Forgotten Realms, IIRC, there's an entire subspecies of non-Evil Illithids based on gnomes. They are a more numerous and down-to-earth example... and they are also lame compared to the iconic Evil version and I would basically never recommed using them for non-FR games where moral issues surrounding Illithids are supposed to feature heavily. The speculative Illithid feasting only on criminals on the death row is more interesting than the canonical version.

EDIT: somewhat similarly, the idea of the "Adversary" is most interesting as an Illithid myth, as a story Illithids tell to other Illithids, as it tells what they fear. Making that myth a reality, or worse, a common occurrence, makes it less interesting, because it gives an out to people who had a larva implanted in their skull. Part of the horror of that happening to you is that even in context of D&D, it's a very permanent death sentence and violation of your basic nature. Mind you, I have similar thoughts about vampirism. And lycantrophy. The easier it is to get a cure or basically come out of the other side as yourself but with nifty extra powers, the less weight the whole ordeal has.

hamishspence
2021-07-29, 09:05 AM
Odd. I have a .pdf copy and searching for 'illithid' and 'mind flayer' turned up no matches. Strange description- "She joined a monastic order, and has now retired to a life of contemplation. She has sworn a vow of nonviolence and works hard to redeem any evil humanoids she may encounter, hoping to set them on the same course that..."

...given the vow of non-violence, how does she eat, exactly?


She eats evil nonhumanoids, presumably. The vow of nonviolence doesn't actually prevent the vower from killing other living things - that's the Vow of Peace.

Lacuna Caster
2021-07-29, 10:26 AM
She eats evil nonhumanoids, presumably. The vow of nonviolence doesn't actually prevent the vower from killing other living things - that's the Vow of Peace.
The canonical description (https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Mind_flayer#Diet) heavily implies that an illithid needs to consume the brains of intelligent creatures- at a bare minimum the brains of animals would be a lot less nourishing. It would be something like a vampire trying to subsist on rats or insects.

I wouldn't object in principle to a good-aligned illithid sample character, but the backstory-as-written doesn't really contend with the difficulties of making the concept work, and even if it did it could still be the case that 99% of illithids are varying flavours of evil.


My point is that even if the prior rules had stated Illithids honest-to-God can't be Good, they probably still would've had a Good Illithid, because that fit the theme they were going for. The BoED Illithid is hence not a good example of how a non-Evil Illithid could or would look like - it's an extreme corner case in a book dedicated to extreme corner cases.
This.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-29, 11:13 AM
The vow of nonviolence doesn't actually prevent the vower from killing other living things Bad writing strikes again. (But that's not just evident in the edition of D&D we are discussing)

hamishspence
2021-07-29, 01:12 PM
Bad writing strikes again. (But that's not just evident in the edition of D&D we are discussing)

It's more a vow of "nonviolence toward Humanoids and Monstrous Humanoids" than "vow of nonviolence toward everything".

Bohandas
2021-07-29, 03:13 PM
Has anyone brought up the Vulcans from Star Trek yet? Not the Klingons, the Vulcans. If you're not familiar with the finer points of the show's lore, the Vulcans aren't naturally emotionless, their society is built around brainwashing them into not feeling anything at all because that's the only way their society can remain stable in the face of the Vulcans' inborn tendency towards sociopathy and violent outbursts.

And that's kind of how I imagine creatures like Orcs, Hags, and Goblins. Given the right circumstances they can be good, or even good more often than not, but their predisposition is to be evil.

OldTrees1
2021-07-29, 06:06 PM
Has anyone brought up the Vulcans from Star Trek yet? Not the Klingons, the Vulcans. If you're not familiar with the finer points of the show's lore, the Vulcans aren't naturally emotionless, their society is built around brainwashing them into not feeling anything at all because that's the only way their society can remain stable in the face of the Vulcans' inborn tendency towards sociopathy and violent outbursts.

And that's kind of how I imagine creatures like Orcs, Hags, and Goblins. Given the right circumstances they can be good, or even good more often than not, but their predisposition is to be evil.

That model, is one of the models I use. It establishes the moral agency without ignoring the pressures different species might face. In the case of Illithids you would see almost always evil (and usually lawful evil) but a non evil or even good Illithid is possible.

I liked how 3E D&D included hunger rules and dietary requirement rules for undead.
Oh, has anyone watched Threnody by Missmi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nIbvxn4HzU&list=PLvdxcB2LtEUv2CM_FSrgujwnzgicZ3HLu)? Part 5 slightly touches upon a vampire and their relationship with their diet.

Beleriphon
2021-07-29, 07:08 PM
Has anyone brought up the Vulcans from Star Trek yet? Not the Klingons, the Vulcans. If you're not familiar with the finer points of the show's lore, the Vulcans aren't naturally emotionless, their society is built around brainwashing them into not feeling anything at all because that's the only way their society can remain stable in the face of the Vulcans' inborn tendency towards sociopathy and violent outbursts.

I'm not sure that the idea is quite right, having spent the last few weeks up to my armpits in Reddit's Daystrom Institute. I might suggest it is more that they choose to have extreme control of their emotions through "logic" in an effort to not having those extreme outbursts.


And that's kind of how I imagine creatures like Orcs, Hags, and Goblins. Given the right circumstances they can be good, or even good more often than not, but their predisposition is to be evil.

I'm willing to swing that hags are naturally evil. They might not be out to eat your face 100% of the time, but nothing they do is anything but selfish. They're inherently magical, which to me tends to make them less flexible than something like an orc. Orcs always feel the pull of Gruumsh, but they aren't obligated to follow it but it's always there telling them to get violent; sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, but ever present.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-29, 07:21 PM
Like that Beatles song Helter Skelter?
Have you read Bugliosi's book?

Psyren
2021-07-30, 10:52 AM
...given the vow of non-violence, how does she eat, exactly?


VoNV only applies to humanoids and monstrous humanoids. She can eat all the cow and even unicorn brains she wants, though I'm guessing she limits herself to the former. (In whatever village she lives near, those cows are getting killed anyway.)

Bohandas
2021-07-30, 11:41 AM
Have you read Bugliosi's book?

No, but I've read about the case.

And the point is, that the fact that someone's wack misintepretation of the song caused significant material harm doesn't and shouldn't make the writers in any way culpable

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-30, 01:17 PM
VoNV only applies to humanoids and monstrous humanoids. She can eat all the cow and even unicorn brains she wants, though I'm guessing she limits herself to the former. (In whatever village she lives near, those cows are getting killed anyway.)

i mean humans can't eat cow brains right? waste not want not!

awa
2021-07-30, 02:52 PM
I dont think that is correct
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_brain

Bohandas
2021-07-30, 03:12 PM
How about, "Humans can't eat cow brains without placing themselves at needless risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease"? Does that work?

paladinn
2021-07-30, 04:45 PM
I'm late to the party; but is this only involving PC races or in general. If in general, I'm sorry, demons and devils and the like are Evil.

Grim Portent
2021-07-30, 05:01 PM
How about, "Humans can't eat cow brains without placing themselves at needless risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease"? Does that work?

The disease is a relatively modern concern caused by the habit to feed cows other cows. Under normal circumstances the only risk is if you eat a cow that spontaneously mutated the disease, which is extremely rare.


I think feeding a friendly mind flayer might be rather expensive all things considered. IIRC they need to eat one human brain or an equivalent each month at a subsistence level. Cow brains are smaller than human ones, and other livestock smaller still. It takes about 2 1/2 cow brains to mass the same as a human brain, which is a lot of dead cows over the course of a year for one person, especially since they'll need to be slaughtered at varous different times of the year that might not match up with normal farming practices. Obviously other people can eat the rest of the cow, but routinely slaughtering three adult cows each month would be rather odd for much of human history.

Not impossible by any means, but even a large farming community would only be able to support a few mind flayers at a time without having to make some difficult decisions about how they raise their livestock. A city that gets livestock brought in to market from nearby towns semi-frequently might be able to have an 'ilithid quarter' of sorts, though it would be very small.

OldTrees1
2021-07-30, 05:14 PM
I'm late to the party; but is this only involving PC races or in general. If in general, I'm sorry, demons and devils and the like are Evil.

The conversation can happen at many levels (Human vs Human, Dwarf vs Orc, Flumph vs Illithid, Angel vs Devil)

Questions:
1) Do you let angels have moral agency?
2) Do you let demons have moral agency?
3) If your answers differed, why did they differ?

Two common arguments in favor of moral agency are:
If an entity does not have moral agency, then I don't think it makes sense to claim it is morally culpable.
The OP thinks it is more interesting when IF good has moral agency, then evil has moral agency.

For example, in D&D 3E almost all Demons are Evil. However since being evil requires moral agency, there can be exceptions that are non evil demons.

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-30, 06:01 PM
angels and demons are basically MADE of the very embodiment of Good and Evil themselves aren't they? Saying Demons can't be evil because they didn't get to decide to be evil is like saying a water elemental can't be wet because it didn't get to decide to be wet.

Bohandas
2021-07-30, 09:15 PM
The disease is a relatively modern concern caused by the habit to feed cows other cows. Under normal circumstances the only risk is if you eat a cow that spontaneously mutated the disease, which is extremely rare.


I think feeding a friendly mind flayer might be rather expensive all things considered. IIRC they need to eat one human brain or an equivalent each month at a subsistence level. Cow brains are smaller than human ones, and other livestock smaller still. It takes about 2 1/2 cow brains to mass the same as a human brain, which is a lot of dead cows over the course of a year for one person, especially since they'll need to be slaughtered at varous different times of the year that might not match up with normal farming practices. Obviously other people can eat the rest of the cow, but routinely slaughtering three adult cows each month would be rather odd for much of human history.

Actually, it would possibly be more like 5. IIRC the intelligence of the brain makes a difference too, so it could be argued that five 2 INT cow brains would be required to replace one 10 INT human brain

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-30, 10:16 PM
get a big enough city and you'd probably be able to make 5 cow brains in a month easy. I'm in a small city near a big city with local cattle farms myself. from the amount of beef in the grocery stores, it's VERY likely we slaughter dozens if not hundreds of cattle every month.

you'd need the people for it certainly, but it's far from impossible.

OldTrees1
2021-07-30, 10:37 PM
angels and demons are basically MADE of the very embodiment of Good and Evil themselves aren't they? Saying Demons can't be evil because they didn't get to decide to be evil is like saying a water elemental can't be wet because it didn't get to decide to be wet.

If an entity is not a moral agent, then they are not morally culpable for their actions. You can say the mindless automaton was constructed out of solidified evil. But without moral culpability I cannot call them immoral. Thus to have immoral demons, I have demons with moral agency. This is how D&D 3E demons exist.

Now I fully expect a moral agent made as the embodiment of evil would initially be evil. They would probably stay evil. However to be morally culpable, they need moral agency. The embodiment of evil includes the agency to continue to be morally culpable.

The alternative is to claim that Evil is detached from moral culpability or that moral culpability is detached from moral agency. In either case you enter a world where "evil" means something other than the topic we were discussing.


@Tanarii I did not appreciate the heckling. Why join a conversation that you consider so terrible?

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-30, 10:57 PM
what if they just don't have agency then? Or if they do, it's extremely limited.

A demon has agency in that he's able to decide between torturing souls, ripping mortals asunder, or planning material-plane domination, but he's just flat out incapable of deciding to go and adopt a puppy.


now that could certainly change with outside influence. maybe when the demon was made, he wasn't made entirely correctly, giving him a small "bug" that lets him choose to do good things from time to time, and if practiced, could lead to the demon being fully redeemed. or the demon could learn good moral choices from angels or heroes, again allowing for the possibility of redemption.

but a demon in a vacuum just does not have the ability to do good things intentionally, it's physically impossible for them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Again, if a Demon can't be evil because it didn't have the moral agency to be evil, then you also need to agree that a water elemental can't be wet.

OldTrees1
2021-07-30, 11:09 PM
what if they just don't have agency then? Or if they do, it's extremely limited.

A demon has agency in that he's able to decide between torturing souls, ripping mortals asunder, or planning material-plane domination, but he's just flat out incapable of deciding to go and adopt a puppy.

now that could certainly change with outside influence. maybe when the demon was made, he wasn't made entirely correctly, giving him a small "bug" that lets him choose to do good things from time to time, and if practiced, could lead to the demon being fully redeemed. or the demon could learn good moral choices from angels or heroes, again allowing for the possibility of redemption.

but a demon in a vacuum just does not have the ability to do good things intentionally, it's physically impossible for them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Again, if a Demon can't be evil because it didn't have the moral agency to be evil, then you also need to agree that a water elemental can't be wet.

If a being does not have moral agency, then they are not morally culpable for the moral choices they don't have.
If a being has extremely limited moral agency, then they only have moral culpability for what extremely limited part they have moral agency over.

Consider a human barbarian that can only control their right fist. The rest of them is controlled by some Illithid. The Illithid can force the human barbarian's body to do terrible things. However the human barbarian has extremely limited moral agency. Occasionally they can choose to grab a pole with their right fist to delay the slaughter OR they can choke a neck. Is the human barbarian morally culpable for what they can't control?


I don't see why saying an entity without moral agency to be morally culpable lacks the moral agency to be morally culpable, would require me to say a water elemental can't be wet. It is a rather bad analogy. Also did you notice I said that Demons do have moral agency since they can be morally culpable. If an entity is made up of solidified "moral culpability resulting from choices made with moral agency" then why wouldn't it have the moral agency to allow it to be morally culpable?

Draconi Redfir
2021-07-30, 11:24 PM
I don't see why saying an entity without moral agency to be morally culpable for would require me to say a water elemental can't be wet.

If a creature made of evil can't be evil,

then a creature made of water can't be wet.

i don't know how else to describe it really. You have Demons, physically built out of evil, they tourture people, kill people, consume souls, seek to destroy and / or conquer the mortal realm, killed Daisy the bunny, would love nothing more then to see you slowly suffer for trillions of years, and actively take part in ensuring all of that happens as soon as possible.


Demons are Evil.

OldTrees1
2021-07-30, 11:40 PM
If a creature made of evil can't be evil,

then a creature made of water can't be wet.

i don't know how else to describe it really. You have Demons, physically built out of evil, they tourture people, kill people, consume souls, seek to destroy and / or conquer the mortal realm, killed Daisy the bunny, would love nothing more then to see you slowly suffer for trillions of years, and actively take part in ensuring all of that happens as soon as possible.

Demons are Evil.

1) A creature made out of water is not made out of wet. They are made out of water and water has some properties. Those properties include making things wet. If a creature is made out of Evil and Evil has some properties like being the moral culpability resulting from moral agency, then you should expect the creature to have moral agency in the same way a water elemental makes things wet.
2) Wet is descriptive. Immoral is normative. You know about the is ought barrier. Water makes things wet. Evil is the word we use to describe a normative concept.

I too have Demons, physically built out of evil, they torture people, kill people, consume souls, seek to destroy and / or conquer the mortal realm, etc etc. The have moral agency because that is why they are morally culpable. A wolf kills people. A demon is the embodiment of choosing the immoral choices. But that comes with the consequence of demons like Fall-from-Grace (https://torment.fandom.com/wiki/Fall-from-Grace) being possible exceptions out of the literally infinite horde of demons.

Without being moral agents, demons become amoral entities that are the fallout of someone else's evil.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-07-30, 11:59 PM
Is it possible that demons (et al) are uniformly evil not because they don't have a choice, but because they have a choice and all made the choice to be evil? Because any outsider who didn't make those choices is, by definition, not a demon? Outsiders are their choices, made an eternity (or an instant) ago and followed ever since. A demon that makes different choices ceases to be a demon. Or one who had the potential (not the possibility, but the probability) of making different, non-evil choices never became a demon in the first place.

A (hypothetical) uniformly saintly man has just as much moral agency as a wicked one, despite (hypothetically) never having done evil. Never having chosen evil. They can choose evil, they just won't (to 100% certainty). So angels are the set of those types of people. And demons are the inverse.

OldTrees1
2021-07-31, 12:03 AM
Is it possible that demons (et al) are uniformly evil not because they don't have a choice, but because they have a choice and all made the choice to be evil? Because any outsider who didn't make those choices is, by definition, not a demon? Outsiders are their choices, made an eternity (or an instant) ago and followed ever since. A demon that makes different choices ceases to be a demon. Or one who had the potential (not the possibility, but the probability) of making different, non-evil choices never became a demon in the first place.

A (hypothetical) uniformly saintly man has just as much moral agency as a wicked one, despite (hypothetically) never having done evil. Never having chosen evil. They can choose evil, they just won't (to 100% certainty). So angels are the set of those types of people. And demons are the inverse.

I believe this if 5E D&D's version of Demons. Those demons have moral agency but the agency causes delayed body transformations.

hamishspence
2021-07-31, 12:07 AM
Celestials are quite capable of falling. Sometimes, when they fall, they become demons or devils. But sometimes they don't - they just become evil-aligned - while still retaining their [Good] subtype. Avamarin, the planetar in the Elder Evils splatbook, is a good example of the latter.


So, proof that "a celestial who becomes evil ceases to be a celestial" is not always true.


And, just as celestials can fall, so fiends can rise. Fall-from-Grace is far from the only "risen fiend".


5e did away with alignment subtypes - so you can have a celestial that is evil-aligned, and there's no Good subtype to provide rules complications. It also had examples of evil celestials (Radiant Idols from the Eberron setting, and a medium-sized percentage of Empyreans (MM).

Samoja1
2021-07-31, 01:58 AM
If a creature made of evil can't be evil,

then a creature made of water can't be wet.

i don't know how else to describe it really. You have Demons, physically built out of evil, they tourture people, kill people, consume souls, seek to destroy and / or conquer the mortal realm, killed Daisy the bunny, would love nothing more then to see you slowly suffer for trillions of years, and actively take part in ensuring all of that happens as soon as possible.


Demons are Evil.

If i understand my D&D cosmology correctly demons and devils are made from human souls that were juiced of all energy previously. I guess some of them could have been originally Angels or just been made as demons outright, but at least all those who were made with the core of a human soul should be able to be redeemed somehow.

hamishspence
2021-07-31, 02:13 AM
Yup - both were usually mortals once, though there's ancient demons - "obyriths" which were never mortal souls.


Many demons incorporate "sins" or other evil concepts into their makeup though. Succubi are both "the souls of CE mortals" and "made from the sin of lust". Possibly a mortal soul whose primary sin in life was lust, attracts energy that remakes their form from that of the weakest and most basic tanar'ri form, the mane.

The oldest tanar'ri, Demogorgon, was made mostly from "mortal fears" (though down at the core of him, is the soul of a CE mortal - as the first tanar'ri created, he was probably created using the first mortal soul condemned to the Abyss).

Psyren
2021-07-31, 02:46 AM
If a creature made of evil can't be evil,

then a creature made of water can't be wet.

Obligatory (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugyqOSUlR2A)



Consider a human barbarian that can only control their right fist. The rest of them is controlled by some Illithid. The Illithid can force the human barbarian's body to do terrible things. However the human barbarian has extremely limited moral agency. Occasionally they can choose to grab a pole with their right fist to delay the slaughter OR they can choke a neck. Is the human barbarian morally culpable for what they can't control?

I'd say that actually depends. Can they use their right fist to incapacitate or even kill themselves to stop the rest of their body from committing atrocities? If not, then they are not culpable for what their body does, but if they CAN and they're unwilling or afraid to do so, they could indeed be moral agents. In other words, inaction can make you a moral agent too, provided your actions can materially affect the outcome (trolley problem.)



I think feeding a friendly mind flayer might be rather expensive all things considered. IIRC they need to eat one human brain or an equivalent each month at a subsistence level. Cow brains are smaller than human ones, and other livestock smaller still. It takes about 2 1/2 cow brains to mass the same as a human brain, which is a lot of dead cows over the course of a year for one person, especially since they'll need to be slaughtered at varous different times of the year that might not match up with normal farming practices. Obviously other people can eat the rest of the cow, but routinely slaughtering three adult cows each month would be rather odd for much of human history.

Not impossible by any means, but even a large farming community would only be able to support a few mind flayers at a time without having to make some difficult decisions about how they raise their livestock. A city that gets livestock brought in to market from nearby towns semi-frequently might be able to have an 'ilithid quarter' of sorts, though it would be very small.

I don't know that I believe that 2.5 cows per month is harder to sustainably source than 1 humanoid per month. For an isolated community maybe, but once you pass a certain number of cows in the region then sustaining that mind flayer becomes easy.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-31, 04:55 AM
Yup. That's the problem with trying to being in real world moral theory. It's a niche specialization that doesn't really have much to do with games.

Kinda like being a LARPer or an Archer or taking Kung Fu classes. It doesn't really improve the games to try and bring that knowledge into games.

Untrue. Knowledge of real moral philosophy will allow for better portrayal of it in games. Real archery has overlap with LARP archery and will allow you to be a better LARP archer, construct better LARP bows and help making rules for LARP archery. Fighting with kung fu weapons has the exact same relation to fighting with LARP weapons.

EDIT:


get a big enough city and you'd probably be able to make 5 cow brains in a month easy. I'm in a small city near a big city with local cattle farms myself. from the amount of beef in the grocery stores, it's VERY likely we slaughter dozens if not hundreds of cattle every month.

you'd need the people for it certainly, but it's far from impossible.

How sure are you that the economic paradigm and how city people think of and treat cattle, is different from the economic paradigm and way of thinking Lawful Evil Illithids apply to humans?

OldTrees1
2021-07-31, 08:07 AM
I'd say that actually depends. Can they use their right fist to incapacitate or even kill themselves to stop the rest of their body from committing atrocities? If not, then they are not culpable for what their body does, but if they CAN and they're unwilling or afraid to do so, they could indeed be moral agents. In other words, inaction can make you a moral agent too, provided your actions can materially affect the outcome (trolley problem.)

Agreed, they are morally culpable for the moral choices (action and inaction) within their limited control (only the fist). If the best they can do is grab onto a pole/railing to momentarily delay things, then they have a moral choice between inaction and grabbing that pole/railing. However the moral culpability ends at the end of moral agency.

In this case I suspect the barbarian that can only control their right fist (not even their right arm) would generally not have the ability to incapacitate or kill themselves. However I will not rule out the possibility (being lucky enough to be able to grab a weapon that can reach their body).

awa
2021-07-31, 09:08 AM
I think culpability is the wrong question, because I think it doesn't matter.
What does matter in game and in setting is.
1) can it be detected (assuming alignment detection is an ability that exists in the game)
2) can it be used to predict future actions.

If you know a monster is going to go out and eat peasants at night it does not matter if it is doing so because of an unbreakable curse and might feel bad about it or if it just likes hurting things.
What matters is its killing people and will continue to kill people until stopped.

If orcs have a extreme temper, low impulse control and little inhibition against using violence against non orcs, sure it might not mean you need to exterminate all the orcs but maybe you don't let large group of armed orcs into the city. Maybe you only let them in when disarmed and a few at a time even if that's not considered necessary for "good" races who are given the benefit of the doubt.

jjordan
2021-07-31, 09:30 AM
Untrue. Knowledge of real moral philosophy will allow for better portrayal of it in games.
But is adding real moral philosophy to the game fun for all participants AND what all participants want?
My experience argues the answer, from the player standpoint, is almost always no. They don't want to struggle with difficult decisions or moral ambiguities. They want clear paths with decision variables that are pretty much binary.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-31, 09:34 AM
No, but I've read about the case. Recommend it. Likewise his book Outrage.

someone's wack misintepretation of the song caused significant material harm doesn't and shouldn't make the writers in any way culpable I concur. (A similar thing was brought up in the 80's but we are straying from topics and towards the edge of the flat world of the forums, so I'll stop).

The oldest tanar'ri, Demogorgon, was made mostly from "mortal fears" (though down at the core of him, is the soul of a CE mortal - as the first tanar'ri created, he was probably created using the first mortal soul condemned to the Abyss). Is that 2e lore? The original Demogorgon from Eldritch Wizardry was not described thusly.

Untrue. Knowledge of real moral philosophy will allow for better portrayal of it in games. Yep. Gygax never went to college (Arneson did, and was described by his peers in the 60's as being very smart/intelligent). But a great many of his successors in 1e and subsequent D&D editions did, and they all failed miserably at folding moral philosophy into a game. Maybe that's because moral philosophy is really hard to gamify, but is an interesting thing to talk about.

How sure are you that the economic paradigm and how city people think of and treat cattle, is different from the economic paradigm and way of thinking Lawful Evil Illithids apply to humans? FWIW, I have always found the parallel to be apt, but, since mind flayers are more or less Lovecraftian horror monsters, aberrations as a creature type, the overlap between how they think and how humans thinks is bound to be well less than 100%. (Visually, think of intersecting sets; how large is that pointy oval that illustrates where the two sets overlap? Is is skinny or wide?)

Mind Flayers are far better monsters, as are beholders, when we consider that overlap to be skinny ~ they are more horrible when one cannot grasp their thought processes. (See also the TV Trope three axis alignment ~ like the slaad, they are on the bacon/necktie axis). Or, go full Lovecraft, conceptually.
The problem is that Players are human, the DM is human, and it takes Work to portray them as mad/inscrutable/alien. A great many gamers can't be bothered. One of the things about all of the folks who created D&D out of the primordial ooze of war gaming + something Diplomacy + that spark is that they were avid, voracious readers of fiction, mythology, history, pulp, speculative fiction, and were also immersed in movies as story telling mediums.

Heck, people have trouble with elves. (Fine article in GiTP somewhere about 3.5 era "so you want to play an elf" tries to capture some of that ... it does a fair job).

As I've gone through the stories of Vance and Lovecraft recently, I am tempted to dig out my collection of Conan stories again, and am getting a recharging of the 'feel' of the horror of monsters from "way out there" that the Far Realms are supposed to embody. I am also reminded of how 'paid by the word' can induce a lot of bloated prose. :smalltongue:

OldTrees1
2021-07-31, 09:39 AM
I think culpability is the wrong question, because I think it doesn't matter.
What does matter in game and in setting is.
1) can it be detected (assuming alignment detection is an ability that exists in the game)
2) can it be used to predict future actions.

If you know a monster is going to go out and eat peasants at night it does not matter if it is doing so because of an unbreakable curse and might feel bad about it or if it just likes hurting things.
What matters is its killing people and will continue to kill people until stopped.
So Detect Alignment (Hostile or Killer)? That would also ping for man eating tigers. Which seems consistent with your objective of only focusing on the killing rather than the agency.

That is a consistent position, although it might cause confusing if it uses a misnomer (see https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html).

Similarly when alignment is used as an allegiance/faction system rather than having a moral element, it behaves similar to your description. It also satisfies my concern because it stops assigning moral culpability to entities for things they did not have moral agency over (because it stops assigning moral culpability at all). Although using a misnomer can confuse the issue if it fails to clarify and communicate the departure.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-31, 09:44 AM
So Detect Alignment (Hostile or Killer)? That would also ping for man eating tigers. Which seems consistent with your objective of only focusing on the killing rather than the agency.

That is a consistent position, although it might cause confusing if it uses a misnomer (see https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html).

I thought that tigers were "alignment, hungry" in D&D. :smallconfused: Sharks too.

OldTrees1
2021-07-31, 09:46 AM
I thought that tigers were "alignment, hungry" in D&D. :smallconfused: Sharks too.

I agree. :smallbiggrin:

I thought Hostile, Killer might better describe the man eating tiger in awa's system since they were focused on the killing rather than the Hunger.

awa
2021-07-31, 10:11 AM
So Detect Alignment (Hostile or Killer)? That would also ping for man eating tigers. Which seems consistent with your objective of only focusing on the killing rather than the agency.

That is a consistent position, although it might cause confusing if it uses a misnomer (see https://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html).

Similarly when alignment is used as an allegiance/faction system rather than having a moral element, it behaves similar to your description. It also satisfies my concern because it stops assigning moral culpability to entities for things they did not have moral agency over (because it stops assigning moral culpability at all). Although using a misnomer can confuse the issue if it fails to clarify and communicate the departure.

You cant clarify D and D alignment because it changes from writer to writer and from edition to edition. Every reader sees a slightly different thing and even when they don't the perception of the evilness of any given act will vary as well. People cant even agree on what evil is philosophers have debated it for as long as their have been philosophers. Even if 6th edition unified every thing it still wouldn't work because people would bring in baggage from past editions.

My definition is imperfect to be certain but though wibbly wobbly it is practical from both a game play perspective and a world setting. Where as a serial killer/ sapient species who has a genetic predisposition for extreme sadism and a low impulse control and thus detects neutral would not be satisfying for player or useful in setting. In the end no answer will satisfy everyone because peoples definition of evil is different from person to person.

That said I have seen settings where people with exceptionally unusual psychology being able to slip past something akin to an evil detector was a key part of the story, but it was a setting lacking non humans and the story was about exploring the flaws in this system.

Batcathat
2021-07-31, 10:36 AM
But is adding real moral philosophy to the game fun for all participants AND what all participants want?
My experience argues the answer, from the player standpoint, is almost always no. They don't want to struggle with difficult decisions or moral ambiguities. They want clear paths with decision variables that are pretty much binary.

My experience is pretty much the opposite with most players enjoying some degree of difficult decisions and moral ambiguity (though to what degree can be quite varied, both between individuals and occasions).

Then again, most people I've played with dislike D&D alignments (or other forms of objective morality) for similar reasons and the fact that those remain in edition after edition might suggest that a majority agrees with your experience rather than mine.

hamishspence
2021-07-31, 10:38 AM
The oldest tanar'ri, Demogorgon, was made mostly from "mortal fears" (though down at the core of him, is the soul of a CE mortal - as the first tanar'ri created, he was probably created using the first mortal soul condemned to the Abyss).


Is that 2e lore?

Late 3e (Dragon Magazine's Demonomicon: Demogorgon article, written by the same person that wrote Fiendish Codex 1).




As mortal life appeared and their souls came to the Abyss, the Queen of Chaos was among the first to cultivate and nurture this new brand of evil. For as they grew, they transformed into a new breed of demon- the tanar'ri.

The first of this new breed of demons was a twisted, deformed abortion of evil with boneless arms, twin simian heads, reptilian legs, and a twisted tail- a snapping, howling and ultimately uncontrollable monster formed from the primal fears of mortal souls. The Queen of Chaos tossed this creature aside, and those that came after were less broken. Succubi formed from mortal lust. Glabrezu from mortal envy. Alkiliths from mortal sloth. And more, and more. And as the tanar'ri grew, the obyriths called upon their greatest fleshwarpers, the sibriexes, to adjust and transform them more. Before long, the tanar'ri had grown to rival the obyriths in variety and speciality.

The most powerful of these was Miska the Wolf Spider, and when he matured to a demon lord to rival any of the obyrith lords of old, the Queen of Chaos crowned him the new Prince of Demons and marched on the outer multiverse.

Bohandas
2021-07-31, 10:48 AM
I think, even though he's a demon, there's at least a 50% chance that that "formed from the primal fears of mortals" is metaphorical