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View Full Version : Is Neutral really a two way street?



GrassyGnoll
2008-03-12, 10:20 PM
There are plenty of characters who play the using "evil for good" card, neutral dread necromancers, malconvokers, etc. But what about characters who use "good for evil"? Not only does summoning and tricking a group of archons into slaughtering a village sound extremely difficult, it's arguably more evil. The only way I can think of using good for evil would be feeding the poor to conscript them as an army on the cheap. What say you moral contortionists? Can a character consistently commit evil deeds in "good" ways and land soundly in neutral territory?

Azerian Kelimon
2008-03-12, 10:26 PM
See, that, I believe, is simply evil, not neutrality. Neutrality is acting on your interests, while getting archons to kill for you is a purely evil act.

That said, you've just given a perfect example of neutral there, with the feed-the-poor-for-an-army thing. It's exactly what a neutral uncaring would do.

quiet1mi
2008-03-12, 10:30 PM
hmmm... seems like an interesting topic....

Mark Hall
2008-03-12, 10:54 PM
That's simply acting to corrupt good, not morally grey. Moral grey is using good resources for selfish purposes... taking money from a poorbox, and buying food from your business to feed the poor. Yes, it feeds the poor, but it also enriches you. Leading a crusade against the evil orcs to drive them off the land, making the farmers safe again, but having as your motivation that you get a lot of sweet land.

Ponce
2008-03-12, 11:02 PM
Simple example? Casting a [Good] spell to malicious intent and purpose. A cop out, I know...

But I have trouble finding anything else. It seems to me that unless a particular act is good -no matter what- if its used to evil purposes, that makes the act evil. Much in the same way casting Animate Dead is an evil act by virtue of its descriptor, using a spell with a good descriptor is a good act, which can then be used to further an evil goal. For example, it would be an evil deed committed in a "good" way if you ran to the center of a goblin tribe and cast Holy Word for no reason other than to slay them all and steal their precious loot. A more general act, such as giving to the poor, etc, is ultimately defined by WHY you are doing it, not the results. If you feed the poor so they fatten up and make better zombies later, well, that's an evil act in its entirety. You aren't TRYING to alleviate suffering. You don't care.

Silverbolt
2008-03-12, 11:06 PM
taking money from a poorbox, and buying food from your business to feed the poor. Yes, it feeds the poor, but it also enriches you.

I dunno, I'd almost call that evil, even though it's more selfish than anything.


Anyway, Neutral and Evil PC players are boring, it's like playing D&D on "easy mode".

GrassyGnoll
2008-03-12, 11:16 PM
A more general act, such as giving to the poor, etc, is ultimately defined by WHY you are doing it, not the results. If you feed the poor so they fatten up and make better zombies later, well, that's an evil act in its entirety. You aren't TRYING to alleviate suffering. You don't care.

To be fair you are alleviating their immediate suffering of starving. A good act by definition. It's the ulterior motive that makes the whole of it evil.

Mephisto
2008-03-12, 11:20 PM
Doing things "For the greater good" would fall under lawful neutral, I think.

For example: Cleansing a quarantined village by killing everybody in it and burning it. You're making absolutely sure that nobody else will contract the disease, and you've averted a lot of potential future suffering, but at the cost of everybody who was quarantined.

Dr Bwaa
2008-03-12, 11:21 PM
This is a really cool topic.

I agree that it is the intention that makes an act either good or evil. Getting archons to slaughter a village would be a terribly evil act, twofold: you're slaughtering innocents, and what's generally even more evil (I think), you've corrupted something good. That's probably biblical or something, but I know it says somewhere (and probably many somewheres) that the highest evil is causing good to fall (now I remember, it's in the Ex-Paladin section of the Blackguard description... kind of like the Bible).

But really, you're looking for "doing bad things in a good way." So, your necromancer can have his zombies save children from the burning orphanage, and your [neutral-rich adventurer] can go around the slums giving out huge amounts of gold to everyone he sees--with the intention of ruining the economy of the capital city of an influential country. Or a monk or paladin (well maybe not paladin so much, but who knows) can go around to leper colonies, doing minor good deeds/just cheering people up: just to win bets with his friends that he won't get leprosy no matter how many hot leper babes he sleeps with.


...So I guess my answer would be "yes, it does go both ways" :smallbiggrin:

Ponce
2008-03-12, 11:48 PM
To be fair you are alleviating their immediate suffering of starving. A good act by definition. It's the ulterior motive that makes the whole of it evil.

I guess you could look at it that way, but I don't think raising intelligent beings for the slaughter constitutes a good act, even if they would go hungry otherwise. Yes, suffering was relieved as a result of your actions, but you acted simply to create even more suffering than before, for selfish reasons no less. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were.

But I think we're on the same page anyway. Some acts in dnd are good acts, regardless of context or intent. When used for evil ends, they become good for the sake of evil.

Demented
2008-03-13, 12:21 AM
I direct you here (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0435.html), for the fun of it.


As far as neutral doing good that serves evil, there's always lawyers. =P
You could also classify public relations (and the military principle of winning hearts and minds) in the same vein.
Even evil needs to be defended from time to time.

Xefas
2008-03-13, 12:31 AM
I once had a Cancer Mage NPC release a horrible magical virus on the populace of a kingdom, sowing great suffering and mayhem throughout.

The PCs are confronted by a second NPC who is a Cleric that wants to be protected while he goes around curing people of the plague. Obviously, the Cancer Mage is going to want to stop him.

In the (sort of) end, the Cancer Mage is defeated, the plague is destroyed, and everyone is grateful to the Cleric because they saved them all from horrible agony.

In reality, the Cleric was administering lesser versions of Remove Disease over a longer period of time than was required so that the virus would evolve an immunity to magic eventually. Long story short, the following year, the super plague resurfaces, and all those fancy Pelorites that the kingdom trained should such a thing ever happen again are out of luck in regards to curing the virus.

Then the virus began spreading, as even the larger surrounding kingdoms with their legions of clerics can't do anything to stop it...

It was very interesting how the PCs stopped it in the end...

Anyway! Just an example of doing good deeds to cluster-kabootal everyone later.

Dr Bwaa
2008-03-13, 02:10 AM
*Cancer mage sneakery and evilness*

Wow. Pretty advanced for a medieval knowledge of medicine =P

But seriously, that's awesome.

Learnedguy
2008-03-13, 01:01 PM
I've always thought of the average neutral as, "What would Joe Schmoe do? The guys an ordinary dude, he doesn't dedicate himself to a special goal or anything.

Sure, he'll stand up for his friends if they are in trouble, mostly, but you won't see him risking a life for any beggar on the street. Adventuring is just another work for the guy who likes to put his life on line, he's not doing it because of some altruistic end.

Sure, he'll want to save world (there's where he and all his friends live!), but you won't see him jumping in fronts of bullets to save single mothers. But neither is he some kind of sick pervert out to make everybody miserable.

Unless you're playing an extremely bipolar character:smallwink:

Ascension
2008-03-13, 01:13 PM
The problem, Learnedguy, is that there's a whole heck of a lot more difference between "big N" Neutral and "little n" neutral than there is between the extreme and mild flavors of good and evil. Neutral covers everything from apathy to well-intentioned extremism to not being smart enough to choose. It covers a LOT more ground than good, evil, or even law and chaos ever can.

Joe Schmoe who is neither a zealot nor a sadist? Neutral. Mad druid who tries to play both sides at once to bring balance to nature? Neutral. "Dumb" animal? Neutral. Etcetera, etcetera, the list goes on. And don't get me started on the stereotype of chaotic neutral as "I can do anything and none of it's out of character!" That's not chaotic neutral. Or maybe it is, but it's not how CN is meant to be used.

I would argue the true thrust of this topic is discussing the use of "good" tactics by evil people vs. the use of "evil" tactics by good people. Neutral doesn't really enter the picture.

Person_Man
2008-03-13, 03:42 PM
Altruism: On the outside, this is the selfless concern for the welfare of others. In reality, psychologists have found that altruism is usually caused by:
1) Personal Pleasure: Helping others makes me feel better.
2) Recognition: Helping others causes others to publicly thank me.
3) Reciprocation: Helping others causes them to give other stuff back to me, even if its not an immediate quid pro quo.
4) Loyalty: Helping others forms bonds. This can help get you friends, lovers, promotions, etc, which you value more then the initial "selfless" giving.

The only "real" altruism is anonymous giving, which is exceptionally rare. And even then, the giver usually does it because it gives them tremendous personal pleasure to do so, or because they feel that they will be rewarded by Karma, God, etc.

Respect for Life: By creating a standard of "its Evil to kill," Evil people are protected by society. When they want to kill someone, they do it privately or through intermediaries, and then cover up the evidence. In public, they hold themselves up as paragons of virtue, thus making it less likely that someone will just walk up to them and kill them. The businessman or politician who embezzles millions by providing lax mine safety equipment to his neighbors/employees is far more Evil, and will kill far more people, then a vagrant who mugs strangers on the street. But every Sunday the businessman goes to church, lectures others on the importance of morality, and chides others to act more like him.

Intelligent Evil people always keep up the pretense of being Good, whether its purposeful (HAHAHA! I'll pretend to be good while my plan unfolds, but once the Annihilatrix is online...) or delusional (I'm the best Governor/Senator/Congressman/Preacher in the world, in fact, I've built my entire career on denouncing immorality and fighting crime. This indiscretion with a prostitute, intern, Congressional page, etc, is just a setup.)

For me, these are the best BBEG, and antagonists in general. Anyone can take down an Orc warlord. It takes serious roleplaying and investigation to take down the Evil demon disguised as the head of the Church of Good, who has spent the last 10 years spreading "Good" doctrine while corrupting the souls of the town.

Learnedguy
2008-03-14, 02:50 PM
The problem, Learnedguy, is that there's a whole heck of a lot more difference between "big N" Neutral and "little n" neutral than there is between the extreme and mild flavors of good and evil. Neutral covers everything from apathy to well-intentioned extremism to not being smart enough to choose. It covers a LOT more ground than good, evil, or even law and chaos ever can.

Joe Schmoe who is neither a zealot nor a sadist? Neutral. Mad druid who tries to play both sides at once to bring balance to nature? Neutral. "Dumb" animal? Neutral. Etcetera, etcetera, the list goes on. And don't get me started on the stereotype of chaotic neutral as "I can do anything and none of it's out of character!" That's not chaotic neutral. Or maybe it is, but it's not how CN is meant to be used.

I would argue the true thrust of this topic is discussing the use of "good" tactics by evil people vs. the use of "evil" tactics by good people. Neutral doesn't really enter the picture.

That's why I said the average neutral person, which should be the majority of a population (not adventures though. Adventurers are strange social rejects) when you think about it (although I suppose most people got a slight leanings towards lawful or good as well). Besides that, yes, there's all kinds of neutral. That's just the way you want to play your character.

I mean, the game would be pretty boring if every paladin would be a carbon copy of every other paladin out there, right?...Right:smalleek: ?

Dan_Hemmens
2008-03-14, 03:58 PM
The problem with both the "Does good by evil means" and the "Does evil by good means" guys is that they're kind of mutually exclusive, and neither of them make much sense in D&D.

There's nothing you could conceivably need to do in D&D that you couldn't achieve trivially by entirely Neutral methods. This itself is a side effect of the class/level system. Unless the Dread Necromancer is actually more powerful than a wizard of equivalent level, his "evil methods" are going to be no more effective than Good Methods, so he's really just using evil methods because he thinks they're cool.

To give a less dismissive but potentially more controversial answer, you could argue that "evil by good methods" is basically the premise behind a lot of Free Market Capitalism. Everybody is purely out for their own personal gain (Evil) but they realize that the best way to achieve personal gain is to do things which other people need done better than anybody else does them (Good).