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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default What Makes Good...Good?

    Out of curiosity, I'm wondering what, exactly, makes good good? Opinions are gonna vary, and it'd be neat to hear multiple perspectives on this one.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThinkMinty View Post
    Out of curiosity, I'm wondering what, exactly, makes good good? Opinions are gonna vary, and it'd be neat to hear multiple perspectives on this one.
    In the context of DnD and the like, right? Else I'd say this is the wrong area to pose such questions.

    I've always held a simple definition of the word. It might not be complete, and it may have some flaws, but it goes as follow.

    "Good is any action that provides happiness and or peace, that is not at the serious expense of others."

    Ex)
    The trickster gnome might play pranks on people, but they're ultimately harmless and make people laugh.

    The savage raider who kills for fun might make his clan happy, but not the people who he/she is killing.

    The noble knight who sacrifices himself to save the world has done good, because it preserves happiness at the expense of his own.

    The evil henchmen who willingly sacrifices their self for his/her darkmaster is not good, because their darkmaster gains joy at the expense of others.
    Last edited by TheFamilarRaven; 2015-11-25 at 03:53 PM.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    The same three reasons why evil beings are evil, but applied differently:

    1) They are literally made of good - embodiments of known virtues. They can only do evil by accident or when forced in a situation where no good act is possible.

    2) They have inborn instincts and intuitions that reward and drive them towards altruism, non-violence, generosity etc. Good behaviour. On the reverse, they might feel instinctive revulsion towards hurting others etc.

    3) They exist in an environment which encourages and rewards good actions, likely while punishing evil ones.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThinkMinty View Post
    Out of curiosity, I'm wondering what, exactly, makes good good? Opinions are gonna vary, and it'd be neat to hear multiple perspectives on this one.
    Which setting?

    Different settings have very different explanations.
    Last edited by LudicSavant; 2015-11-25 at 04:09 PM.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    The way I see it, Good is something that tries to help others who are in need. Neutral is something that cares predominantly for itself. And Evil is something that tries to harm others who are innocent.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Whatever the setting says, as interpreted by the GM.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    I think that a good (), general definition of Good could be:

    "Any action made with selfless spirit with the intent of providing a benefit for someone with little-to-no harm for other creatures or other creature's possession. If harming someone is inevitable, the damage should affect the person that is accomplishing the Good act before anyone else".

    Here you have the attempt to make other people's happy without hurting anyone in their person and possession (which automatically excludes things like "kill him and i'll be happy!", "rob him and i'll be really happy", and the like) and the idea that the one that is accomplishing the good act must be responsible on what he is doing, willing to accept most of the damage that could be needed to make the benefit possible and, most of all, altruistically not concerned about the eventual benefits he could get from his action.

    If you are thinking about a D&D setting and alignments you could add the word "and freedom" after "possession" to gain a general Chaotic-oriented Good. Adding "accordingly to the laws and rules appropriate to the time and location in which the action is performed" you could to gain a general Lawful-oriented Good

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrNobody View Post
    I think that a good (), general definition of Good could be:

    "Any action made with selfless spirit with the intent of providing a benefit for someone with little-to-no harm for other creatures or other creature's possession. If harming someone is inevitable, the damage should affect the person that is accomplishing the Good act before anyone else".
    And you have settings where this definition does not work.
    That's the problem, you can always find or make a setting where one or more definitions you have does not work. The only way you can actually discuss this is on a case by case basis. There will probably be some (or even a lot of) overlap and similarities between one and the other but I cannot see that there is any single universal element other than "there are things we consider Good/Evil".

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Keeping brainwashed slaves. Just ask the elves from Dragonlance.
    Last edited by Komatik; 2015-11-25 at 05:02 PM.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    One issue I have with "defining" good and evil is how, as BWR said, it is difficult to create a blanket statement that covers anywhere close to everything. Sure, you might have your beings incapable of not being and acting whatever alignment, but IRL their actions are ultimately controlled by a human, so you cannot depend on that. Essentially, I'm trying to say that there is no science to defining good and evil. There isn't an algorithm that can take in a situation, even if it had all the context it is possible to have, and then spit out an answer. The only real way to address this is to just evaluate each action on a case-by-case basis and trust your gut intuition and instinct. In RPGs this will be up to the DM, maybe with input from players, but I really don't think the process should be subjected to any kind of systematic analysis.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    And you have settings where this definition does not work.
    Can you provide some examples?

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Tentacle View Post
    One issue I have with "defining" good and evil is how, as BWR said, it is difficult to create a blanket statement that covers anywhere close to everything. Sure, you might have your beings incapable of not being and acting whatever alignment, but IRL their actions are ultimately controlled by a human, so you cannot depend on that. Essentially, I'm trying to say that there is no science to defining good and evil. There isn't an algorithm that can take in a situation, even if it had all the context it is possible to have, and then spit out an answer. The only real way to address this is to just evaluate each action on a case-by-case basis and trust your gut intuition and instinct. In RPGs this will be up to the DM, maybe with input from players, but I really don't think the process should be subjected to any kind of systematic analysis.
    That sounds like the chaotic good definition. ;)

    To try for a more "lawful" version... Although "define by example" has fallen out of favor, it is still largely the way we teach children language. We say "tree", and show them a tree, or several trees. Sure, they may decide that a bush is also a tree, so we either correct them when it comes up, or we provide counter examples: x is a tree, but y is not.

    So it is perfectly valid to provide either specific or general examples of either what is or is not good, to generate, if not an algorithm, at least a heuristic, as a framework for discussion.


    As to my opinion on the matter... I hate to say something that sounds like shades of grey, but...

    Suppose we hold peace and happiness as our desired result. Questionable, but a good place to start.

    Actions that tend towards our desired results in a way that are consistent with them are good. Actions which tend towards our desired results, but contradict them (such as your standard d&d adventures murdering the monsters) are good if, in the setting, there is no better alternative; otherwise, they are not. Actions which are consistent with our goals, but tend against them may have "good intentions".

    Now, Warhammer orks well tell you that happiness and peace are mutually exclusive. If all the universe were orks, we would need to define our desired outcomes differently.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Wiser men than us(and women), have been arguing on this topic since the dawn of reason.

    My short answer is: I don't know.

    A solution that I find workable for this problem whenever it practically arises, is doing whatever the society that is concerned with your actions(and by extension judging the goodness of you actions), finds most desirable as a behavior. In other words, society makes good, good.
    Last edited by Kriton; 2015-11-25 at 09:29 PM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Within D&D, I don't particularly expect any alignment to 'make sense' in a broad fashion. Each action has a little marker that says 'the writers called this one Good' and 'the writers called this one Evil' and that's all there is to it. There's the superficial appearance of consistency, but since the writers and the settings and so on varied over the entire run of D&D, that appearance of some kind of underlying consistent rule breaks down when you look closely.

    If I were to rebuild it from scratch but at the same time I was forced to keep 'good' and 'evil' as the key concepts, I guess what I'd do is as follows. I'd say forget about actions, and look at what a person cares about and why. In those terms, the tendency of good is to assign fundamental value to things outside ones-self for their own sake. That doesn't preclude making mistakes that get people hurt or killed, or even making hard choices like one person's value as being higher than another. But rather its when those mistakes or trade-offs become acceptable - the point where the individual is no longer seriously attempting to avoid them, but begins to accept them as inevitable or even welcome in a self-aggrandizing way (look at me, I'm the only one willing to make the hard choices!) - that it starts to become something else. Basically, it stops being good and becomes neutral or evil when the value of others is being seen as relative to the self - what that person means to me, what I will feel like if that person suffers, etc - rather than as intrinsic value.

    That's why sacrifice is often associated with good. Because if something has intrinsic value independent of the self, then preserving that thing even at the cost of one's life is rational given that value function. Sacrifice wouldn't be necessary for good per se, but it'd be a strong test.

    Also for this kind of thing, you could have a person who assigns external value to their kin, but not at all to strangers, and other more complex cases. So 'good' isn't an intrinsic property here, its a relative one. This person can 'good' to one group of people, but 'evil' to another group of people, without being inconsistent. If there's some deity in the setting who gets to declare Good and Evil, then it might as well be 'if you assign intrinsic value to all the things that this deity says should be valued, you're Good with a capital G'. Which is as consistent as you're going to get with any absolute morality.
    Last edited by NichG; 2015-11-25 at 09:43 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    There is a line between good and evil. Sometimes it's thin and fuzzy. Good is the side that cares where the line is.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Can you provide some examples?
    L5R, where a bigoted, racist, xenophobic caste system is instituted and approved of by the highest metaphysical authorities in the setting. While compassion is a virtue, you can be an abusive, oppressive ******** and still be a paragon of honor (you have at least one faction in the game that exemplifies this possibility).

    CoC - 'good' and 'evil' aren't really things in CoC or any Mythos-inspired setting. You have only 'comforting delusions of humanity' and 'reality'.

    You can bring in plenty of other settings where the ideas of Good and Evil are irrelevant, like CoC. There may be one or more internal moral systems in the game but the setting as a whole does not make much of a issue about a universal and objective standard. Most of the WoD games, Dying Earth, etc., fall into this category.
    Last edited by BWR; 2015-11-26 at 10:34 AM.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    I seldom bother to come up with objective definitions of Good, Neutrality and Evil. I find it's more more interesting (and relevant) to work out a subjective definition for that character, and find out whether they think they are Good, Evil or Neutral.

    However, when pushed to declare a perceived-by-the-world-at-large D&D-style definition, I tend to judge by their actions using something like this;


    There is a room, entirely sealed, with a pool of lava, the character and a complete stranger. The character is told the terms; the only way to get out is for either they or the stranger to jump into the lava and die. Whoever survives will have their memories of the event removed, and be released. The one who dies gets to stay dead. There is plenty of time to think, all the time in the world so this is not a snap judgement. There will be no judgement, no word of the event will ever get out. The stranger is also absolutely incapable of preventing whatever course of action the character undertakes for the purposes of this situation.

    If the character would jump into the lava to save a perfect stranger, then they are Good.

    If the character would push the stranger into the lava to save themself, then they are Evil.

    If the character would do neither of these things, then they are Neutral.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Broadly speaking, Good considers the welfare of others before the self, while Evil considers the welfare of the self before others.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aneurin View Post
    the only way to get out is for either they or the stranger to jump into the lava and die.

    If the character would push the stranger into the lava to save themself, then they are Evil.

    If the character would do neither of these things, then they are Neutral.
    Erm... I was under the impression that Neutral people would save their own lives, which means they would push the stranger into the lava as well. Heck, given enough time, the Good person might end up deciding to get out and actually do something good (such as saving kittens, kingdoms, or the world) instead of get stuck in this lava room forever.

    If this is a repeatable test done on enough people, "amount of time taken for person to push stranger into lava" may be a simple way to roughly gauge the goodness/evilness of the person
    Last edited by goto124; 2015-11-26 at 10:59 AM.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    Broadly speaking, Good considers the welfare of others before the self, while Evil considers the welfare of the self before others.
    Which means that the vast majority of people in these settings, the ones that basically just want to live quiet life minding their own business and not getting involved in anything more important than the local farmer's market, are evil.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    I consider "do not do unto others what others should not do upon you" as a very good example for "Neutral"
    "Good" then goes way beyond that, as in "improve general quality of life for all beings, as much as you want to have all beings improve upon your quality of life"

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThinkMinty View Post
    Out of curiosity, I'm wondering what, exactly, makes good good? Opinions are gonna vary, and it'd be neat to hear multiple perspectives on this one.
    Knowing when too far is too far, knowing when someone needs help, knowing when you need to correct something and when to let it go, doing all that you can to improve things within your capability no matter how limited, knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can't, knowing when you need to suffer for others to be happy, and when you don't need to suffer at all for everyone to be happy, knowing when you need courage to stand up for whats right, knowing when you need to compromise, knowing that you may someday need to admit your mistakes and fix them, knowing that your uncertain in how good you are and having to try your best anyways, having principles but not being blinded by them, knowing when a philosophy is wrong and when it is right, knowing the difference between someone being wrong and a disagreement, and so on and so forth.

    Good is complex, made of many things, many virtues, many little parts. It is closer to a vast ecology of little things that can be called good in some situations but not others than a single thing that we cannot see the shape of. a healthier view I think, than thinking of it as some big singular principle above all others. rather it is many things combined that make it up, with many ingredients, and it does not always turn out the same. such an abstract concept is closer to a word that applies over many subdivisions than an actual thing unto itself.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    Which means that the vast majority of people in these settings, the ones that basically just want to live quiet life minding their own business and not getting involved in anything more important than the local farmer's market, are evil.
    No, it doesn't, unless you choose to deliberately misconstrue the "broadly speaking" qualifier. That is, of course, your prerogative.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR
    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon
    Broadly speaking, Good considers the welfare of others before the self, while Evil considers the welfare of the self before others.
    Which means that the vast majority of people in these settings, the ones that basically just want to live quiet life minding their own business and not getting involved in anything more important than the local farmer's market, are evil.
    The local farmer's market is already a moral challenge. Are they honest on the quality of their products? Do they practice fair prices? Tiny Tim might not see another spring unless father brings some money home...

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Victory, of course.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    No, it doesn't, unless you choose to deliberately misconstrue the "broadly speaking" qualifier. That is, of course, your prerogative.
    I think what BWR means is that Evil is enriching one's own happiness/good at the expense of others. Enriching one's own happiness/good and simply being unconcerned with that of others would almost always be moral-Neutral, in D&D terms.

    The pithiest way to say this is that Good is going out of your way to help other people, without a specific motivation of helping yourself. Evil is going out of your way to hurt people, for your own sake (even if it's just the emotional satisfaction of inflicting harm).
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama
    I think what BWR means is that Evil is enriching one's own happiness/good at the expense of others. Enriching one's own happiness/good and simply being unconcerned with that of others would almost always be moral-Neutral, in D&D terms.
    Perhaps by RAW but I would expect most stories to ultimately make those potayto potahto.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    I think what BWR means is that Evil is enriching one's own happiness/good at the expense of others. Enriching one's own happiness/good and simply being unconcerned with that of others would almost always be moral-Neutral, in D&D terms.

    The pithiest way to say this is that Good is going out of your way to help other people, without a specific motivation of helping yourself. Evil is going out of your way to hurt people, for your own sake (even if it's just the emotional satisfaction of inflicting harm).
    Which is, broadly speaking, the same set of parameters I listed and which he argued against. . . unless you're also ignoring that same qualifier.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Not being seen when gutting Kender.

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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by goto124 View Post
    Erm... I was under the impression that Neutral people would save their own lives, which means they would push the stranger into the lava as well. Heck, given enough time, the Good person might end up deciding to get out and actually do something good (such as saving kittens, kingdoms, or the world) instead of get stuck in this lava room forever.

    If this is a repeatable test done on enough people, "amount of time taken for person to push stranger into lava" may be a simple way to roughly gauge the goodness/evilness of the person
    I personally don't feel that deliberately sacrificing someone to preserve your own life is a Good act - and remember, this is a perfect stranger. It could be anyone from the greatest hero, to the lowliest peasant, to the blackest villain. While you make a good point that the character could perhaps do a great deal of Good if they survived, I would still hesitate to call them a Good person if they were willing to sacrifice another to do it - especially if that were their line of reasoning, since putting their own life's value above that of another smacks of arrogance and hubris.

    For the sake of clarity, in this case I was considering the Neutral path to be one where the character is unwilling to sacrifice another for the sake of their own survival, but is also unprepared to give their own life up for a stranger.

    The lack of time limit's just in there to make clear that this isn't a snap decision, really. It's not about how a character would act in the heat of the moment, it's about how they act when they have time to think and consider. The alignment check is, as far as I'm concerned, complete as soon as they make their decision - or find themselves paralysed by the choice and unable to decide - even if they eventually choose otherwise.


    It's not a perfect system, and I'd certainly not bother trying to apply it to real-world morality or anything else. There's also a bunch of things it just doesn't cover - like personal reasons to survive/not survive - because I really can't think of a way to work them in without making the whole thing needlessly complicated. But I find it's a decent base, when I've no choice but to declare a position in a black-and-white objective morality system. Normally, though, I just won't bother - to me, it's much more important to understand the character's beliefs on the subject and where they think they stand in terms of morality.
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    Default Re: What Makes Good...Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    I think what BWR means is that Evil is enriching one's own happiness/good at the expense of others.
    Amphytron, but yes, I did get that. It was just inaccurately formulated.

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