Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 78
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Jowgen's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2013

    Default "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Due to an ongoing debate in another thread, the question arose how a Good aligned creature might come to change in alignment all the way to Evil without:

    a) taking any Evil action.
    b) being subject to any alignment-altering magic.

    Falling is generally much easier than redemption, so seems to me there should be routes towards this, but can't point to anything atm.
    Last edited by Jowgen; 2021-04-16 at 08:45 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by afroakuma View Post
    Ugh. For the record, I hate you. I hate you very much.
    The Voidstone Arsenal

    The Redeemery

    Feat-buying resource

    Magical Plants and Where to Find Them

    Floating Disk Utility

    Taking 10 resource

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Maat Mons's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    There may be situations where inaction is the Evil option.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    MaxiDuRaritry's Avatar

    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Daring to play a paladin under the wrong DM.
    Tanuki in the Playground.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Saint Paul, MN
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jowgen View Post
    Due to an ongoing debate in another thread, the question arose how a Good aligned creature might come to change in alignment all the way to Evil without:

    a) taking any Evil action.
    b) being subject to any alignment-altering magic.

    Falling is generally much easier than redemption, so seems to me there should be routes towards this, but can't point to anything atm.
    You can fall from Goodness immediately by taking one Evil action, but I believe you can't fall from Goodness merely by failing to do Good only once – unless you are motivated by obvious cruelty. For example, if you refuse to share water with somebody who's thirsty or refuse to share food with somebody who's starving, even though you could easily end their suffering, this qualifies as Evil, because it's just cruel.

    If you fail to do a Good deed not because you are cruel, but because doing this deed would cost you dearly or put you at risk, then I think this failure is moral Neutrality, not Evil. A single failure of this kind shouldn't make you fall from Goodness, in my opinion. However, if you make a habit of neglecting to do Good deeds when you are called upon to do so, you can't qualify as Good for long and must soon become morally Neutral. It's up to the dungeon master to decide how long this takes.

    Especially you're a cleric, and even more especially if you're a paladin, you and your dungeon master should have some shared understanding about what can and cannot make you fall. It's always good to consult a Phylactery of Faithfulness if you have any doubt about how to remain true to your chosen alignment, but this really only means that it's good to consult your dungeon master.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2019

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    I don't think it's possible.
    In general terms, a character has the Evil alignment if they consistently do Evil actions.

    They could fall to Neutral by consistently failing to do Good actions, but they wouldn't lead to Evil.

    I guess they could be considered Evil without actually doing Evil if they constantly think about doing Evil but don't because of fear of consequences (eg they constantly think about raping or murdering people but don't only because they are afraid they'll be arrested.) But this is unclear and up to the DM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Depends if “ignoring a cry for help from a suffering innocent person in need” counts as an evil action according to your DM.

    But alignment issues have no winners in the internet. Talk to your DM is the only way through this thicket that I can see.

    Light the lamp not the rat LIGHT THE LAMP NOT THE RAT!!!

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Seattle, WA

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Hmm, I've heard it said that Good is defined by deeds, and Evil by intents. So even if you keep doing the same actions, if your motive changes from "the right thing to do" to something selfish or even cruel then you'd certainly become Neutral, and maybe even Evil.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Segev's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    If you do nothing, it is almost always going to be a neutral action. Refraining from evil is a neutral action, not a good one. Choosing not to actively do a good deed is a neutral action, not an evil one. Motives can color this, but if the worst that cruelty and sadism lead one to do is fail to prevent people from suffering, I think the worst that can be said is that he is "not a good person." Likewise, even if watching people suffer causes a character pain and he refuses to engage in it, the best that can be said of him should he also do nothing to prevent it is that he's "not a bad person."

    Inaction would have to be very very hard-motivated by aligned designs and be almost deliberately set up to enable the outcome to have a non-neutral alignment. If the reason the bomb is about to blow up the orphanage is because a villain set it there to kill them all, him choosing not to stop it is an affirmation of his earlier evil act, so might be considered evil rather than neutral. Not that it matters, since neutral inaction plus evil prior action still nets "evil."

    Maybe a case could be made that it's evil not to clean up your own mess. Bob sets the dynamite to blow up the orphanage for its planned demolition. He has the means to stop the countdown in hand when he learns a person he hates is tied up inside the building, and will surely die. At this point, he set up the bomb and he has the means to stop the death his action inadvertently set in motion; one might argue he has responsibility to undo his action lest he be culpable, now that he knows of the probable outcome.

    But all cases where "you do nothing, so you're evil" comes up are cases that required prior action. So you can't really be said to have "done nothing" and fallen to evil.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Does what happened with Baalzebul count? When he was an archon, he became so convinced of his own beauty and perfection that he became vain and self-absorbed. And then he just woke up one day in Baator.
    He never really did a thing that caused him to fall; it was the change of his personality that did it.

    Yes, I think that would be my answer. If you roleplay a slide into evil over a long time, I would allow an alignment change without any specific evil deads.
    Ich erträum' mir ein Gefieder.
    Dieser Zauber hat Bestand.
    Und so flieg' ich immer wieder
    Wie der Nachtwind über's Land.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Nottingham, England
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Good and evil are defined in most detail in 3.5 at the start of BoED and BoVD, and they largely support what most people here have said: that an evil alignment requires actively evil deeds.

    Personally, I would regard it as an evil act if you could prevent the death or suffering of others with no risk or loss to yourself but chose not through a complete indifference to their misery, but it's hard to imagine such situations coming up often enough to cause an alignment shift on their own unless the DM was deliberately contriving them to happen.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Clistenes's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    About being Evil because of inaction, I would say it depends on how dangerous, expensive, hard would be to act... if saving somebody requires that you risk your life or lose everything you have, I think inaction would count as Neutral...

    If all you have to do is to call an ambulance, give somebody dying of thirst a glass of water or pulling out a baby that has fallen into a pool... yeah, I would say inaction would count as Evil...

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    You can fall from good to neutral by inaction, but not to evil.

    In many ways it's what makes most neutral creatures neutral, they're not doing anything particularly wrong, but also aren't choosing to do good.

    You have to actually do evil things to become evil.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Telonius's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Wandering in Harrekh
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Yeah, "acts of omission" would be the thing that first comes to mind. If you have the means and opportunity to provide help to someone in a way that doesn't put you at any particular risk, and you decide not to do that, it's basically Evil by negligence. This would have to be something pretty egregious though, not just "I didn't help that old lady cross the street" level. Think, guy crawls out of the desert and collapses just before the oasis. You're the only one around, you see him, and realize that nobody else is going to help him. Giving him some water would save his life. You aren't on a time-sensitive world-saving quest. He isn't an obvious enemy or threat. You have plenty of water, giving it to him would be an extremely minor inconvenience to you at most. If you decide to let the guy die, I'd call that Evil.

    You could probably argue that deciding to withhold the water would count as "doing something," but it's the only thing I can think of that would

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    EU
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telonius View Post
    Yeah, "acts of omission" would be the thing that first comes to mind. If you have the means and opportunity to provide help to someone in a way that doesn't put you at any particular risk, and you decide not to do that, it's basically Evil by negligence. This would have to be something pretty egregious though, not just "I didn't help that old lady cross the street" level. Think, guy crawls out of the desert and collapses just before the oasis. You're the only one around, you see him, and realize that nobody else is going to help him. Giving him some water would save his life. You aren't on a time-sensitive world-saving quest. He isn't an obvious enemy or threat. You have plenty of water, giving it to him would be an extremely minor inconvenience to you at most. If you decide to let the guy die, I'd call that Evil.
    I mean, at this point we're basically trying to rules-lawyer ethics in order to obtain an alignment change without "technically" committing Evil "actions". Which is still a very doubtful interpretation, because making an active decision to let someone suffer simply because I don't feel like helping them (or worse, want to see them suffer) despite the fact I could help them with very little inconvenience to myself is something I'd argue counts as an act of Evil even it is done through inaction.

    You could probably argue that deciding to withhold the water would count as "doing something," but it's the only thing I can think of that would
    Yep. Any time you have a choice, you're engaging in some form of action, even if at the purely mental level. Neutral isn't simply "doing neither Good nor Evil", it's about not going out of your way to do either. Refusing to give a starving man a piece of bread when you have a buffet all to yourself is still Evil, because you're actively being a selfish jerk. Which is different from eating your buffet while also having a vague idea that there are people out there starving, which is merely Neutral.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Troll in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Italy
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    yes, there are definitely times in which failing to help people would be evil by criminal negligence. as a general rule of thumb, when there are people at risk of life, and you are passing there, and helping them would entail no risk to you and only minor inconveniences. do notice that many of those instances would also qualify as criminal in the real world.
    whether we would call them "actions" or not depends on semanthics
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    SangoProduction's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Depends on the degree of the inaction.

    If you're the king's guard and you hear that the assassination will happen on Friday... so you call in sick on Friday... that's a huge dereliction of duty, and in most countries of the world, you could be implicated in the conspiracy, despite not taking an "active" role in the assassination.

    Same for being a get away driver, even if you weren't aware they were going to commit a crime.

    Similarly, refusing to kick a murderer out of your home, and not reporting them, could be considered sheltering them.

    Criminal neglect is a crime that happens when you have a duty of care, and you fail to uphold your duty.

    Many people consider the act of not telling the (national socialists) the locations of (persecuted religious folk) to be an act of bravery and defiance - and definitely Good - despite specifically being a lack of action.

    And the list goes on.

    In general, inaction is not in and of itself evil (or illegal, to make that distinction). But there are cases where inaction is as good (or Evil) as action.
    Last edited by SangoProduction; 2021-04-17 at 01:14 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SangoProduction View Post
    Sometimes you get eaten by a giant purple earthworm.
    Journals from my D&D campaign
    Player Expectations
    Spheres of Power / Might Builds / Homebrew
    Spheres in Review

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Ramza00's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    So to get metaphysical for a bit here.

    Our current society and culture in the real world, likes to think in a linear way similar to physics. Cause leads to effect.

    Well sometimes we become so practice with one way of thinking that mental habits get build up without realizing it.

    Moral guilt leads to moral responsibility. This type of thinking is similar to cause leads to effect.

    But I will argue that it is not just moral guilt that leads to moral responsibility, physical proximity also leads to moral responsibility. If a child is lost it is our duty as individuals and society to help the lost child. Likewise we have a moral responsibility to help our neighbors even if we did not harm our neighbors, that is part of being in a community, being part of a society is mutual aid. Maybe not all of the time but some of the time, this is what we owe to each other.

    —————

    What I said above is not a new concept but it is a concept our culture currently obscures and makes us less familiar with compared to our past history but also how other cultures have been organized. To explain why this happens is to explain history, philosophy, economics (where person X benefited from resources at that time but not person Y from the same time) and so on. I will not go further due to forum rules, but I bet everyone here is already somewhat familiar with the history we just have to remember and to look. To see what is proximate now in the present and what was proximate in the past.

    Sidenote this is one of the flaws with the Lawful Neutral Chaotic, and Good Neutral Evil dichotomies. They are things in flux with different definitions in different books with different authors and this 9 way grid is partly influenced by a culture and its value system without realizing what it is obscuring and what it is highlighting. It is a messy definition system and a messy sorting system. Yet it exists even though it is in flux and has no shared meaning all agree too.
    Stupendous Man drawn by Linklele

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Live in a large city.
    Every day, I see bull**** of the highest order. Drug users lighting meth and crack near children at bus stops. Thieves riding around with stolen bikes. Shoplifters in stores. Assaults. Harrassment both racial and sexual in nature. And if you try to do anything about it such as step in or call the police, you become the bad guy. I was told by the police that I should have minded my own business instead of stopping a woman from repeatedly slamming a car with a shopping cart.

    Doing good in a major city is the quickest way to lose all faith in humanity and want to end everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Jerusalem
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    Live in a large city.
    Every day, I see bull**** of the highest order. Drug users lighting meth and crack near children at bus stops. Thieves riding around with stolen bikes. Shoplifters in stores. Assaults. Harrassment both racial and sexual in nature. And if you try to do anything about it such as step in or call the police, you become the bad guy. I was told by the police that I should have minded my own business instead of stopping a woman from repeatedly slamming a car with a shopping cart.

    Doing good in a major city is the quickest way to lose all faith in humanity and want to end everything.
    I have things to say to that, but this is not the place to have this discussion. I'll only say that I live in a large city which I'm almost certain has more issues than wherever you live. I didn't come to the same conclusion. At all.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by H_H_F_F View Post
    I have things to say to that, but this is not the place to have this discussion. I'll only say that I live in a large city which I'm almost certain has more issues than wherever you live. I didn't come to the same conclusion. At all.
    Eh, fair. My point is the overwhelming pushback when you try to stop rotten things from happening is more than enough to fuel a complete change in perspective. It can easily change from "I want to help as many people as I possibly can" to "Please drop a nuke on this city."
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Troll in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Italy
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    Eh, fair. My point is the overwhelming pushback when you try to stop rotten things from happening is more than enough to fuel a complete change in perspective. It can easily change from "I want to help as many people as I possibly can" to "Please drop a nuke on this city."
    to be fair, the thing about "duty to act" is more on the kind of helping an injured person - at least, that's how i interpret it. the kind of situation where there isn't any doubt on the right course of action and no risk involved.
    I mean, let's take the situation you recounted with the woman. consider the police perspective. the woman was committing vandalism, which is a minor crime; minor in that there is no damage to people. By intervening, a random civilian could escalate it into a brawl, with damage to people. from the police perspective, this is a bad outcome. it would be against forum rules to discuss the morality of this approach, though there are pros and cons. but in any case, there is a risk, and it makes it more of a grey area.
    in the case of helping someone in immediate, dire need, there is no such risk - ok, technically there is a risk if you try to perform first aid on a wounded without knowing first aid, which is in fact the reason one should not try first aid without knowing what one's doing. but one can at least stop there, call for medical help, and then stay and check that medical help arrives.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    to be fair, the thing about "duty to act" is more on the kind of helping an injured person - at least, that's how i interpret it. the kind of situation where there isn't any doubt on the right course of action and no risk involved.
    I mean, let's take the situation you recounted with the woman. consider the police perspective. the woman was committing vandalism, which is a minor crime; minor in that there is no damage to people. By intervening, a random civilian could escalate it into a brawl, with damage to people. from the police perspective, this is a bad outcome. it would be against forum rules to discuss the morality of this approach, though there are pros and cons. but in any case, there is a risk, and it makes it more of a grey area.
    in the case of helping someone in immediate, dire need, there is no such risk - ok, technically there is a risk if you try to perform first aid on a wounded without knowing first aid, which is in fact the reason one should not try first aid without knowing what one's doing. but one can at least stop there, call for medical help, and then stay and check that medical help arrives.
    But that's the very point of this thread. How could someone go from good to evil without taking evil actions? By witnessing so many evil actions and being pinned as a villian for attempting to intervene. Having numerous evil deeds done in front of you and to you and being ridiculed and attacked for trying to stop it. Getting hurt over and over again and start wanting to hurt the ones who hurt you and those like them. You will quickly fall from good to neutral. And when you genuinely want to destroy the city and everyone in it? Congrats, you're now evil.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    So picture this a man is betrayed and imprisoned in solitary unable to take any meaningful actions. While in prison he spends his entire time imagining more and more depraved vengeance against an increasingly large array of people. The person who betrayed him, and then when fantasizing about hurting them is not enough imagining hurting their family and so on. Its not just an idle whim if he has the opportunity to do it, he will take it.

    He hasn't done anything evil either through action or inaction but I would consider it enough to make him evil.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2019

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    I think it is important to realize that choosing not to take an action actually isn’t possible.

    See, choosing not to act is an act in and of itself; thus the quote, “Not to act is to act!”

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    Hmm, I've heard it said that Good is defined by deeds, and Evil by intents. So even if you keep doing the same actions, if your motive changes from "the right thing to do" to something selfish or even cruel then you'd certainly become Neutral, and maybe even Evil.
    I would disagree with this as the “means justifying the ends” vs the “ends justifying the means“ argument is best how to understand the Chaotic vs Law argument, therefore Chaotic Good would not fit the mold of Deeds vs Intents. CG can be some of the best Villains.

    Ultimately, intent is the basis for both good or evil.

    If a Good Character saw an individual fall overboard and just ignored it, it would be an evil act. If a Good Character chose not to speak up to provide witness to save another individual who was innocent of crimes, that would be an evil act. A Good Character can easily perform acts of evil by not doing a single thing, because choosing not to take action is actually choosing an action.

    That said if the person falling overboard was the spy that was trying to cause a mutiny, and the rogue of the party managed to get him drunk as part of the plan to have him fall over the side, then it wouldn’t be evil, as maybe the Good Character decided to allow fate decide the mutinous spy’s life, and his falling overboard would save lives.

    The DM asking a player to explain his character’s actions or non-actions is needed sometimes.

    Depending on how bad the inaction is, it could go straight to evil, especially if it causes the loss of life to a close party member. I wouldn’t penalize a character stuck in a tough call for taking no action, especially if the thought was to take no action only to take action with a better scenario down the road, but yes falling to evil when a simple action knowingly could have done good instead of evil is likely, even though falling to neutral is more likely.

    Really it comes down to the DM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Clistenes's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by awa View Post
    So picture this a man is betrayed and imprisoned in solitary unable to take any meaningful actions. While in prison he spends his entire time imagining more and more depraved vengeance against an increasingly large array of people. The person who betrayed him, and then when fantasizing about hurting them is not enough imagining hurting their family and so on. Its not just an idle whim if he has the opportunity to do it, he will take it.

    He hasn't done anything evil either through action or inaction but I would consider it enough to make him evil.
    I dunno... how do we know for sure that he would do any of that given the chance? How can we be sure that, when confronted with a real child, he won't back out and he won't be able to hurt the family of his enemy? I wouldn't call him evil until he crosses the line and actually does something...

    Of course, if you have a deterministic view of reality, you can argue that his mind works in such a way that, given the chance, we can be sure he will hurt his enemy's family... but is the D&D universe deterministic? Or do people in the D&D universe have freedom to choose between Evil and Good...?

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2021

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clistenes View Post
    I dunno... how do we know for sure that he would do any of that given the chance? How can we be sure that, when confronted with a real child, he won't back out and he won't be able to hurt the family of his enemy? I wouldn't call him evil until he crosses the line and actually does something...

    Of course, if you have a deterministic view of reality, you can argue that his mind works in such a way that, given the chance, we can be sure he will hurt his enemy's family... but is the D&D universe deterministic? Or do people in the D&D universe have freedom to choose between Evil and Good...?
    Sounds like there is a little of the old question, "Is alignment prescriptive or descriptive?", in there. I happen to come down firmly on the side of the latter, such that a being is evil because it does evil acts, as opposed to saying a being does evil acts because it is evil (granted, there is some wonkiness in there thanks to aligned planes and the denizens thereof, but that topic is full of wonk). Now, "descriptive of what?" is a valid question as well. Some people say acts alone, so you can have whatever horrific fantasies you want so long as you never act on them. I'm not sure that is feasible outside of GM fiat saying "The minds of people in this world work completely differently than those of real-world humans", but I suppose you could do it. My thinking is that, if you have these fantasies and derive some sort of pleasure or enjoyment from them, that itself weights your description toward Evil; you are indulging in fantasies of clearly evil acts and gaining something from doing so. Maybe it's outweighed by other factors,

    However, there's another aspect here: the difference between an in-world observer saying someone is evil and the GM or player saying a character under their control is evil. For an in-world observer, they would have to mostly rely on acts as the indicators since most beings can't flawlessly observe another being's internal thoughts and motivations. However, as the actual controller of a character, no matter how much effort you put into RP considerations, you know/decide the answers to any given hypothetical. To use the example of the prisoner dreaming of revenge, the controller of that character knows the answer to "Will he try to make those dreams reality upon his release?". Put another way, you are a perfect version of the precogs in Minority Report: you know whether the character will actually commit the crime before that opportunity comes. And if the answer is Yes, I would describe that character as Evil even if all he can physically do for now is sit in a prison cell. Even beyond that, you know whether the character has a sincere desire to act on those fantasies regardless of ever gaining the ability to do so. Because of this, again, I would say you could determine whether such a character is Evil even if he will never be able to commit an evil act.

    It's not a claim that the world is deterministic, just that you have perfect knowledge of a creature and what it would do in any given situation. This gets back to a much, much older question of whether a deity knowing in advance what actions you will take means you do not have free will, to which my answer is no because knowing your choice is not the same thing as making that choice for you.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2019

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    Sounds like there is a little of the old question, "Is alignment prescriptive or descriptive?", in there. I happen to come down firmly on the side of the latter, such that a being is evil because it does evil acts, as opposed to saying a being does evil acts because it is evil (granted, there is some wonkiness in there thanks to aligned planes and the denizens thereof, but that topic is full of wonk). Now, "descriptive of what?" is a valid question as well. Some people say acts alone, so you can have whatever horrific fantasies you want so long as you never act on them. I'm not sure that is feasible outside of GM fiat saying "The minds of people in this world work completely differently than those of real-world humans", but I suppose you could do it. My thinking is that, if you have these fantasies and derive some sort of pleasure or enjoyment from them, that itself weights your description toward Evil; you are indulging in fantasies of clearly evil acts and gaining something from doing so. Maybe it's outweighed by other factors,
    I think you are conflating Good vs Evil with Chaotic vs Lawful.

    Recently there was a discussion about the difference between Devils and Demons. Both are Evil, but one is ruled through emotion and the other through willful thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    However, there's another aspect here: the difference between an in-world observer saying someone is evil and the GM or player saying a character under their control is evil. For an in-world observer, they would have to mostly rely on acts as the indicators since most beings can't flawlessly observe another being's internal thoughts and motivations. However, as the actual controller of a character, no matter how much effort you put into RP considerations, you know/decide the answers to any given hypothetical. To use the example of the prisoner dreaming of revenge, the controller of that character knows the answer to "Will he try to make those dreams reality upon his release?". Put another way, you are a perfect version of the precogs in Minority Report: you know whether the character will actually commit the crime before that opportunity comes. And if the answer is Yes, I would describe that character as Evil even if all he can physically do for now is sit in a prison cell. Even beyond that, you know whether the character has a sincere desire to act on those fantasies regardless of ever gaining the ability to do so. Because of this, again, I would say you could determine whether such a character is Evil even if he will never be able to commit an evil act.
    Again Minority Report had two different types of colored balls that would come down, one representing the emotional act (the more common) and the one of willful planning (being extremely rare). The movie made a good point that while some would act on what was perceived, some may not, and for that reason those found guilty were released.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    It's not a claim that the world is deterministic, just that you have perfect knowledge of a creature and what it would do in any given situation. This gets back to a much, much older question of whether a deity knowing in advance what actions you will take means you do not have free will, to which my answer is no because knowing your choice is not the same thing as making that choice for you.
    I agree with you view of free will, because knowing and controlling are two different things.

    However, thoughts are an extension of who a character is. Lets discuss two examples.

    Two characters have the same thoughts of killing someone because they want their riches or do not like the individual. One acts on it and the other does not. This is not Good vs Evil, it is CE vs LE.

    Two other characters have the same thought of killing an extremely evil king. In parallel universes each of these characters kill this king (LE). This could be characters of CG vs CE, where the CG character did it because he thought it would bring freedom and a chance for Goodness to grow, and the CE character did it because he was looking to increase his power in the kingdom. The same act is not what determines Good or Evil in this case.

    So we can conclude action does not define Good or Evil, it might define Chaos or Law, but even then it stems from who the character is, making it actually Prescriptive. An evil being will do evil acts, because it is evil.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Mar 2021

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by MR_Anderson View Post
    I think you are conflating Good vs Evil with Chaotic vs Lawful.

    Recently there was a discussion about the difference between Devils and Demons. Both are Evil, but one is ruled through emotion and the other through willful thought.
    I disagree that I'm conflating anything because it seems silly to suggest that fantasizing vs acting is somehow intrinsic to the Chaos/Law axis. Chaotic creatures are, if anything, more prone to acting on their desires than Lawful ones, given that planning, restraint, and delayed gratification are more typically Lawful traits. In the prisoner example, though, I don't think anything given suggests his tendencies toward either side of that axis.

    I also can't see the Chaos/Law axis being about emotion or lack thereof. Instead, I see it being about impulsivity vs deliberation, instinct vs reason. Everyone has fundamentally emotional motivations underlying their choices. Just ask "Why?" enough times and this becomes obvious. I doubt Demons or Devils are any different; the instant a Devil has a desire, that's emotional no matter how orderly his actions to fulfil that desire. The Demon just wears its heart on its sleeve (sometimes literally), while the Devil obfuscates its desires under layers of protocol and planning.

    Quote Originally Posted by MR_Anderson View Post
    Again Minority Report had two different types of colored balls that would come down, one representing the emotional act (the more common) and the one of willful planning (being extremely rare). The movie made a good point that while some would act on what was perceived, some may not, and for that reason those found guilty were released.
    I think that point was actually supposed to be that people made aware of their future can then change it, basically saying that knowing a future necessarily invalidates it and spawns a new future that may or may not resemble the old one. That and the element I was pointing out, the impossibility of humans having perfect knowledge of future events (incidentally present and past ones as well) and the flawed judgements passed because of imperfect knowledge. I don't recall the impulsive vs planned element having much to do with that, but it's safe to say you don't plan a murder without an emotional reason behind it. Again, emotion isn't the opposite of planning; impulsivity is. The emotion can be exactly the same in both cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by MR_Anderson View Post
    I agree with you view of free will, because knowing and controlling are two different things.

    However, thoughts are an extension of who a character is. Lets discuss two examples.

    Two characters have the same thoughts of killing someone because they want their riches or do not like the individual. One acts on it and the other does not. This is not Good vs Evil, it is CE vs LE.
    I disagree. It could be Good vs Evil (depends on the reasons the one character decided not to go through with it), and the killer could absolutely be either of CE or LE. I don't get the association of Chaos with action and Law with inaction here. Nobody would claim Devils' Lawfulness stops them from acting on their Evil desires. They just don't act impulsively. In fact, it's a common trope that the methodical, deliberate planners are far more dangerous in the long run than the rampaging hordes. The former are hard to anticipate and are perfectly willing to just outlive great obstacles while the latter tend to be very straightforward, impatient, and prone to wasting strength against strength.

    Quote Originally Posted by MR_Anderson View Post
    Two other characters have the same thought of killing an extremely evil king. In parallel universes each of these characters kill this king (LE). This could be characters of CG vs CE, where the CG character did it because he thought it would bring freedom and a chance for Goodness to grow, and the CE character did it because he was looking to increase his power in the kingdom. The same act is not what determines Good or Evil in this case.

    So we can conclude action does not define Good or Evil, it might define Chaos or Law, but even then it stems from who the character is, making it actually Prescriptive. An evil being will do evil acts, because it is evil.
    LG and LE characters could just as easily carry out such a killing for almost identical reasons: LG may do so because he believes there is no way within the system to overthrow the king (or that doing so will take too much time during which further suffering will be spread), and LE may do so because it improves his position in the kingdom. I think all this shows is that practically any character can have justifying circumstances for killing an Evil target.

    It does touch on another point I believe, though: Good vs Evil is about motivations and objectives. Chaos vs Law is about methods.* I think this may actually lie behind a lot of the problems people have with the classic 2-axis alignment system: it is presented as mapping motivations on 2 axes but actually maps motivations on 1 axis and "style of pursuing motivations" on the other. Splitting the axes up entirely (and maybe adding a couple more) might actually make it more comprehensible. This is also why some pure-Law and pure-Chaos creatures seem just nonsensical: some of them embody methods without objectives. About as common is giving them an objective like perpetuating and spreading their method, which seems almost a sort of meta-objective, like busywork when you lack a real goal. It's a fallback option because almost everything else has Good or Evil baked in, and these things are supposed to be Neutral on that axis. That's not to say there are no interesting and well-developed LN or CN groups, just that it's hard to make them compelling without drifting towards G or E. They have to have a mixed set of G and E objectives that roughly balance out or exist in the realm of Blue vs Orange Morality. I really enjoy the rare case of the latter done well.

    *This is why I have problems with the Golarion setting's Hellknights (or at least with GMs who run them as if the surface description were true). The claim is that they treat Law as an end unto itself, but that doesn't really work. Law is a method, not an objective. Nobody maintains a structure or the status quo for the sake of the structure or status quo; they do so because they believe those things serve some purpose they hold. In addition, I hold that most attempts at amorality (as is often claimed of the Hellknights) devolve into Evil by default, which the Hellknights largely seem to bear out.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2019

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    Really the first thing that needs to take place is a discussion on what constitutes who someone is, and where their alignment comes from.

    I firmly believe that someone has a soul and is made up of Mind, Will, and Emotions (Tied to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma respectfully). This is why when you use Magic Jar these attributes travel with the soul. Therefore someone’s Mind, Will, and Emotions make up who they are and thus the character’s alignment.

    I have in the past explained how Wisdom is closely tied to the alignment of Law axis. While not every alignment is tied to an axis of the alignment system, really only Wisdom shows a connection to being the bases for Lawful tendencies. Wisdom is the basis for Monk, Paladins, and controlling things in the planes of chaos; more so the classes that cannot be Lawful do not utilize Wisdom as a defining attribute.

    This is a stretch, but there is a connection and I wanted just to show that Lawfulness is somewhat tied to Wisdom and someone’s willpower, and I would argue that so too would the Good or Evil, as Goodness is not tied to Intelligence or Charisma, nor is Evilness.

    This means we’ll pin an Alignment to someone’s Will. This is the same check to overcome Charm and Suggestion from an Emotional Drive, as well as to overcome Illusion and other deceptions of the Logical Mind. So, if we go back to Mind, Will, and Emotions then Will becomes the check on acting out when emotion tries to provoke you to act, and Will is also the check when your mind tries to deceive you. Will also determines whether or not you succumb to Evil thoughts if you are Good and start having a drive towards revenge as in your prison example.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    I disagree that I'm conflating anything because it seems silly to suggest that fantasizing vs acting is somehow intrinsic to the Chaos/Law axis. Chaotic creatures are, if anything, more prone to acting on their desires than Lawful ones, given that planning, restraint, and delayed gratification are more typically Lawful traits. In the prisoner example, though, I don't think anything given suggests his tendencies toward either side of that axis.
    Allowing a character’s mind to dwell on Evil thoughts when they are a Good character would corrupt them, as clearly the Will to stop those Evil thoughts would be lacking and instead the Will has become to embrace Evil thoughts in the mind, instead rejecting Evil thoughts. Therefore, by refusing to stop fantasizing about something Evil, a character could be come Evil, because the Will to enjoy or accept the fantasy has become the character.

    It is the evil being that will do evil acts scenario from before, as who the individual is has already become Evil.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    I also can't see the Chaos/Law axis being about emotion or lack thereof. Instead, I see it being about impulsivity vs deliberation, instinct vs reason. Everyone has fundamentally emotional motivations underlying their choices. Just ask "Why?" enough times and this becomes obvious. I doubt Demons or Devils are any different; the instant a Devil has a desire, that's emotional no matter how orderly his actions to fulfil that desire. The Demon just wears its heart on its sleeve (sometimes literally), while the Devil obfuscates its desires under layers of protocol and planning.
    Yes, but Willpower (Wisdom) places emotion and the mind in check allowing a sense of order to one’s thoughts. A devil can have a desire (emotion), but it will seek to achieve that desire through the sense order, rarely breaking form. Law isn’t about being void of emotion, it is about not letting emotion to disrupt what ever order that is being followed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    I think that point was actually supposed to be that people made aware of their future can then change it, basically saying that knowing a future necessarily invalidates it and spawns a new future that may or may not resemble the old one. That and the element I was pointing out, the impossibility of humans having perfect knowledge of future events (incidentally present and past ones as well) and the flawed judgements passed because of imperfect knowledge. I don't recall the impulsive vs planned element having much to do with that, but it's safe to say you don't plan a murder without an emotional reason behind it. Again, emotion isn't the opposite of planning; impulsivity is. The emotion can be exactly the same in both cases.
    Overwhelming emotion to drive someone to impulse, like a Barbarian Rage is Chaotic, where as a Monk that learns to have a Still Mind is Lawful.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    I disagree. It could be Good vs Evil (depends on the reasons the one character decided not to go through with it), and the killer could absolutely be either of CE or LE. I don't get the association of Chaos with action and Law with inaction here. Nobody would claim Devils' Lawfulness stops them from acting on their Evil desires. They just don't act impulsively. In fact, it's a common trope that the methodical, deliberate planners are far more dangerous in the long run than the rampaging hordes. The former are hard to anticipate and are perfectly willing to just outlive great obstacles while the latter tend to be very straightforward, impatient, and prone to wasting strength against strength.
    I gave you the reason in the example, Greed or Hate are the driving forces. Maybe I should have said Desires instead of Thoughts to make it more clear, but it is CE vs LE. As for LE being more dangerous than CE, that is relative to the power, but I would tend to agree, as if I play evil, it is LE.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cortillaen View Post
    LG and LE characters could just as easily carry out such a killing for almost identical reasons: LG may do so because he believes there is no way within the system to overthrow the king (or that doing so will take too much time during which further suffering will be spread), and LE may do so because it improves his position in the kingdom. I think all this shows is that practically any character can have justifying circumstances for killing an Evil target.
    A LG character would not just overthrow another Lawful Ruler, even if LE, unless there was additional cause. Other than that, yes the characters could have been CG, NG, CN, N, CE, and NE. The point of the example was to demonstrate that acting or one’s actions don’t determine the alignment, as in this example the same action was take by opposite sides of the Good/Evil axis.

    The two examples were to show you:

    1 - that taking action is does not determine which side of the Good/Evil axis a character is on.

    2 - that the same action could be both Good or Evil depending upon intent.

    These examples were to break the thought that taking action was required to determine alignment and that Alignment is not descriptive.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Segev's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location

    Default Re: "But I didn't do anything!" - Falling to Evil without taking actions?

    It is interesting to examine just how common the phrase "at minimal cost to you" comes up when discussing this topic. I'm not saying it isn't understandable; I think we all do agree that refusing to do some trivial thing that costs you next to nothing to save an innocent's life that is in immediate and obvious danger with the solution equally immediate and obvious is morally questionable. (I could be wrong, but I definitely sense a broad consensus, here.) However, it always hinges on that "costs you next to nothing" or similar phrase. If you had to sacrifice your own life to save that of another, we would probably mostly agree that choosing to do so is a good act, but I doubt we'd generally agree that it is evil to refrain from doing so. Obviously, "your own life" is not "minimal cost." There's certainly no duty to let your heart by transplanted to another just because they'll die without it (since you, too, will die without it).

    So, what really constitutes "minimal cost to you?" You have an oasis in a desert, and a man dying of thirst drags himself up to it. You give him some water because it costs you only a bit of exertion and some time dealing with another human being to do so, and you'd feel really bad if you just let him die out there. The consensus seems to be that to do less might be evil, not neutral.

    How much greater would the cost have to get before considering NOT helping him was neutral, rather than evil? Is the risk that he might be a bandit who would repay your kindness with theft or murder enough? How serious must that risk be? Is the frequency with which travelers dying of thirst dragging themselves to your oasis a factor, and if so, at what point does it become such? Is the fact that you have an oasis enough to mean you owe it to anybody you see collapse to go rescue them, no matter how often it happens? How tired do you have to be before "no, I just can't go drag him back here" is neutral rather than evil?

    Then, there's the other side of the coin. Just how much benefit must accrue to the beneficiary through your action before it is required you perform the action for their sake, lest you be "evil through inaction?" We're setting up extremes, here: they'll die of you don't." Is that the limit? What if they'll just be in great pain? Are you evil for refusing to take action to prevent somebody from losing a limb, if you know they'll survive? What if you refuse to prevent a beating that you easily could stop, because you know the victim will live? What about preventing a theft; are you evil for not taking the time to look over and glare at a thief to let him know you see him when he's about to snatch a little old lady's purse?

    If a group of people are absolutely convinced that anybody who doesn't bear the holy symbol of their faith is going to bring the wrath and destruction of their god upon their entire town, are you evil for refusing to wear that holy symbol in their town, even if you're absolutely positive they're wrong about it? What if wearing that symbol is offensive to you and your culture?

    Instead of wearing a symbol, what if their belief is that refusing to eat a particular food in a daily ceremony will bring down that wrath? Are you evil for deciding you are too busy for the ceremony? What if the food is absolutely repulsive to you, are you evil for refusing to eat it, then, or for faking it and hoping they don't notice?

    Are you evil for inflicting the terror they will feel at knowing somebody is violating this stricture, by refusing to adhere to it?

    Just how much harm - physical or emotional - must be the consequence to others of your inaction for your inaction to be evil, not neutral? Just how much cost to you must accrue in taking action for inaction to be neutral, and not evil? At what point do those who expect/demand your action become the ones who are committing evil for their requirements that you act as they demand, in terms of cost to you? At what point do they stop being evil for making these demands or even compelling your action if their need is great enough?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •