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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default The Council Of Whitestone: Dragonlance readthrough alignment discussions

    I'm creating this thread as a companion to The Illustrated Dragonlance Reread . Several people within that thread requested that alignment debate be moved out of the main thread, so the main thread can be used for reactions only. This thread, then, allows us to argue as much as we like without driving our fellow fans crazy. Well, craziER

    Quote Originally Posted by bguy
    What you are saying would certainly be relevant to consider in determining whether Raistlin's actions were reasonable or necessary or wise, but that wasn't the original question. The original question was whether his action was evil, and I don't think an otherwise evil action loses it's evil character simply because it is the most expedient or even the most effective way to accomplish an otherwise good goal. (Otherwise, pretty much any atrocity could be called non-evil as long as it was done to promote "a good cause.")
    If I recall Book of Vile Darkness and book of Exalted Deeds -- which Dragonlance predates -- there aren't that many actions considered Evil as such. Most actions are neutral -- that is , they can be good or evil depending on context and circumstance.

    For example, killing, stealing, and lying are all neutral actions in D&D despite the abhorrence real world moral systems have for these actions, because good or neutral characters do kill (enemy combatants) do steal (from dragon hoards) and do lie ( when infiltrating dungeons).

    An Evil action is one where there is no reason for a good character to do it ever. Necromancy, torture, rape .. these are all signposted in D&D as things no good character can do at a table and retain their alignment, if they persist in the practice.

    So where do mind-affecting actions like Charm Person, Dominate Person, etc. fall?

    It looks to me as if those actions are "neutral" in the sense that killing is. Not a good act by any means, but something an Obi-Wan Kenobi would do in special circumstances. Especially when not using mind-affecting tactics means killing or torturing.

    Quote Originally Posted by bguy
    And you really don't see a difference between mind fogging enemy soldiers (who will absolutely try to kill you if they discover you have the droids they are looking for) and mind fogging slaves being held by the enemy who have no hostile intent towards you at all?
    Those slaves constitute a threat. Not that they are able to fight, but they can spread the alarm to draconians or Khisanth herself , which would result in TPK , as a party of 4th-6th level adventurers is unprepared for such an encounter.

    Given the antipathy felt by the other peoples exemplified by Flint's hatred, the Gully Dwarf slaves have precious few reasons to help our heroes and many good reasons to run and tell Khisanth as quickly as possible. For one thing, even a stupid gully dwarf can see this party of heroes has no chance against an ancient black dragon. It doesn't take a genius to see what's going to happen if they ever actually enter the dragon's lair. Or what Khisanth will do to any slave who helped them.

    So, yes, The gully dwarves are an obstacle and a threat in the same way a barking guard dog is a threat. Not dangerous physically, but more than capable of bringing a world of hurt down on the heroes. Raistlin prevents this with magic. I believe this use is not evil since it was a necessary action.

    Sturm was clearly alarmed by the Friendship spell.
    My understanding is that Sturm has a revulsion of Raistlin period, and with good reason.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."

    -Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Re: The Council Of Whitestone: Dragonlance readthrough alignment discussions

    I feel like I should stake out my positions very clearly here, because I'm looking at this from 3 different angles.

    1) Does this, from a literary standpoint, foreshadow that Raistlin is not a very nice person and going to go full Evil later on down the line? This is what the spirit of the "Raistlin Evil-o-meter" in the main thread is about. Raistlin does something evil, and the party overlooks it for whatever reason. Foreshadowing! And my answer to that is a firm no. There were much nastier ways the party could have dominated the group of gully dwarves, and the intended reading of the scene is clearly to give Raistlin some humanity. Acting like a street performer and interacting peacefully with the gully dwarves. It's clear that whatever we may think 30 years later that the authors did not consider this in any way an Evil act. If Raistlin had been a sunshine and bunnies wizard instead of...well...Raistlin, he would have taken the same action because it was the best one available at the time. It's not foreshadowing anything, the story doesn't count Raistlin as doing something evil, ergo the Evil-o-meter shouldn't move.

    2) Does this, from a gaming standpoint, count as Evil? Would I ding a character on the Good/Evil axis for taking this action in the same way that I would if they murdered someone, or mind controlled them into giving up their possessions? For that I'll simply refer to Pendell's post. It's a Neutral action done without malice towards the gully dwarves, and there are many practical reasons to be doing it. If Tas stealing everything that's nailed down doesn't budge his karma, I see no reason why this would either. It's not nice, but then D&D parties inherently aren't. If you actually look closely at D&D parties a helluva lot of what they do can be considered evil. Is it Good to kill an Orc raiding party, or Evil because said party was only raiding because the humans pushed them out of their lands and they're trying to feed their starving families? You can get morally ambiguous real quick if you want to. Such things can be fun to talk about, but it's rare that it makes good gaming. Hence why we tend not to talk about it too much. If this situation came up in a game I was playing and I was asked to make a ruling, I would come firmly down on the "Not Evil" side because otherwise every other action would be getting scrutinized.

    3)If this were a real situation, would it be considered immoral? And here the answer is "Yes, but at what cost?" It is very much wrong to fiddle with someone's emotions, and the gully dwarves are innocents. From a strict black or white morality perspective, yeah, it's kinda evil. The problem is that the world is under threat and from what our heroes can tell the way to stop that threat is in this city. The gully dwarves are in the way. Do you take the moral stance and try and find another way, risking failing your mission? Or do you try and get the gully dwarves out of your way in a fashion that does the least harm to them and provides you with the best chance of success? I think I would wind up in the "don't like it, but don't see any other solution" party. There's simply too much at stake. I would probably be pretty insistent that the gully dwarves be released from the spell as soon as feasible and that every effort is made to keep them out of harm's way. It's nice to play the paladin, but at some point you have to weigh whether the temporary evil of clouding their minds outweighs the long term consequences of the world being conquered by the forces of darkness.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Council Of Whitestone: Dragonlance readthrough alignment discussions

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    If I recall Book of Vile Darkness and book of Exalted Deeds -- which Dragonlance predates -- there aren't that many actions considered Evil as such. Most actions are neutral -- that is , they can be good or evil depending on context and circumstance.

    For example, killing, stealing, and lying are all neutral actions in D&D despite the abhorrence real world moral systems have for these actions, because good or neutral characters do kill (enemy combatants) do steal (from dragon hoards) and do lie ( when infiltrating dungeons).

    An Evil action is one where there is no reason for a good character to do it ever. Necromancy, torture, rape .. these are all signposted in D&D as things no good character can do at a table and retain their alignment, if they persist in the practice.

    So where do mind-affecting actions like Charm Person, Dominate Person, etc. fall?

    It looks to me as if those actions are "neutral" in the sense that killing is. Not a good act by any means, but something an Obi-Wan Kenobi would do in special circumstances. Especially when not using mind-affecting tactics means killing or torturing.
    I agree with all this, but that is why I specified "using enchantment magic to rewrite part of the brain of an innocent sentient" rather than just saying "using enchantment magic." I would agree there are circumstances where using enchantment magic could be a neutral or even good act depending on who you were targeting, but in this case Raistlin wasn't using it on a hostile force.

    Those slaves constitute a threat. Not that they are able to fight, but they can spread the alarm to draconians or Khisanth herself , which would result in TPK , as a party of 4th-6th level adventurers is unprepared for such an encounter.
    Except there's no indication the slaves intended to report the party. Quite the contrary in fact as the slaves did not report the party upon first seeing them (despite Caramon acting in a somewhat aggressive manner towards them) and subsequently acted in a friendly manner towards the party where they seemed receptive to further diplomatic efforts.

    (It's also worth noting that Tanis came up with the idea of trying to persuade the gully dwarves to help them before he knew Raistlin had access to any enchantment magic. Thus Tanis clearly thought regular diplomacy was a viable option here. It was Raistlin and Raistlin alone who decided to unilaterally resort to enchantment magic.)

    Given the antipathy felt by the other peoples exemplified by Flint's hatred, the Gully Dwarf slaves have precious few reasons to help our heroes and many good reasons to run and tell Khisanth as quickly as possible. For one thing, even a stupid gully dwarf can see this party of heroes has no chance against an ancient black dragon. It doesn't take a genius to see what's going to happen if they ever actually enter the dragon's lair. Or what Khisanth will do to any slave who helped them.
    Flint was a prisoner of the gully dwarves for three years, so he can hardly be considered the typical feeling on gully dwarves. As mentioned above, Tanis at least, a well traveled and generally sensible adventurer, seemed to think the gully dwarves could be persuaded to work with the party.

    Spoiler
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    Besides which you could say the same thing about Pax Tharkas, where the slaves there would have no reason to think that this party of heroes had any chance against Verminaard and Pyros. Or Icewall, where the Icefolk would have no reason to think that a party of heroes would have any chance against Feal-Thas and Sleet. Or Palanthas, where the Palanthians had no reason to think that a party of heroes had any chance against the entire Blue Dragonarmy. Yet in all those cases the party was able to successfully use diplomacy to get people to work with them, so there's no reason to believe that magical mental coercion was the only option here.


    My understanding is that Sturm has a revulsion of Raistlin period, and with good reason.
    Sure, but despite that general revulsion of Raistlin, Sturm doesn't seem to have any specific worries about Raistlin using Sleep or Burning Hands, while he does have a specific worry about the Friendship spell. That suggests an unease concerning enchantment magic that goes beyond his general revulsion against Raistlin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodin
    It's not foreshadowing anything, the story doesn't count Raistlin as doing something evil, ergo the Evil-o-meter shouldn't move.
    If this isn't meant to foreshadow anything then why make note of Sturm (our paladin exemplar) being worried about the spell. The authors don't really need to show that concern just to highlight that Sturm doesn't like Raistlin (that has already been well established by this point.) Sturm's worry suggest this is a darker magic that Raistlin is using here than his earlier spells.

    2) Does this, from a gaming standpoint, count as Evil? Would I ding a character on the Good/Evil axis for taking this action in the same way that I would if they murdered someone, or mind controlled them into giving up their possessions? For that I'll simply refer to Pendell's post. It's a Neutral action done without malice towards the gully dwarves, and there are many practical reasons to be doing it.
    Except Raistlin did take Bupu's possessions while she was under the Charm spell.

    And again there being practical reasons to do an evil act doesn't make it stop being evil.

    Spoiler: Rise of Solamnia trilogy
    Show
    Consider another DL example. In the Rise of Solamnia trilogy, Jaymes Markham uses a love potion to make a princess fall in love with him and marry him, so he can get access to her father's army to help him defeat a hostile invasion force. Markham has a good motive there (defeating the invading army), and isn't deliberately trying to hurt the princess, but his action is still an incredibly heinous one. (And is treated so within the story.) That is was an expedient way for him to accomplish a good goal, doesn't make the action any less evil.


    If Tas stealing everything that's nailed down doesn't budge his karma, I see no reason why this would either.
    Well Tas is effectively mentally ill and as a result of that mental illness is unable to recognize that it's wrong to steal, so he really can't be considered morally responsible for his thieving.

    If you actually look closely at D&D parties a helluva lot of what they do can be considered evil. Is it Good to kill an Orc raiding party, or Evil because said party was only raiding because the humans pushed them out of their lands and they're trying to feed their starving families? You can get morally ambiguous real quick if you want to.
    Well as discussed in the main thread, the Chronicles are actually pretty good at mostly keeping the heroes within justified uses of force. They are fighting for a good cause (keeping a genocidal army from conquering the world), and generally fight in an ethical manner (abiding by principles of distinction, proportionality, military necessity, and the avoidance of inflicting unnecessary suffering in how they fight.) Thus regardless of how a standard '80s D&D party might have dungeon crawled Xak Tsaroth, the Heroes aren't playing by those kind of rules.

    It's nice to play the paladin, but at some point you have to weigh whether the temporary evil of clouding their minds outweighs the long term consequences of the world being conquered by the forces of darkness.
    But again that goes to the question of whether an action is reasonable, necessary or wise, not whether the action is moral. Raistlin's action can be an evil action and still have been the right thing to do.
    Spoiler
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    Though as mentioned in the main thread, Raistlin's action ultimately backfired on the party, since far from protecting the party from being betrayed it led them straight to Phudge who did betray them to the dragon.

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