Alignment Choice For "End Justifies The Means"

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Hey,

I've been experiencing some 'definition' problems concerning my character's alignment. The problem is not that I do not know his alignment, but rather that I cannot put a D&D standard name on it.

My char can best be summarised as the following:
A strong believer of the philosophy: "The end justifies the means".
However, not only does he adhere to this proverb, he is also convinced that Evil itself is the best mean one can ever use, as any means of Good is per definition unfit for battle; that is: Good seeks peace, not war, therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war.
His goal is usually Good though, but it is mostly what he might deem to be Good himself; it is definitely never inherently Evil or pointlessly destructive.
There is of course also the slight urge of any tiefling to be just that tad Evil and to overdo a little bit when it comes down to 'creative' problem solving.

So now I'm torn between three specific alignments:
- Lawful Evil: His actions plainly radiate Evil. He's an infernal warlock who praises the pact of his ancestors with the Devils of Asmodeus and uses it fully. Yet lawfully he adheres a very specific set of rules (which he deems to be Good though).
- Lawful Neutral: His intentions are lawful to a set of rules, but his means tend do go any way he pleases. If Good were more fit for battle he would most likely use it more than Evil, so he doesn't really care much for what alignment his actions indicate, but more for the goals they acomplish.
- Chaotic Good: His intentions are primarily Good (but that's a big point of dispute since he himself likes to define Good...) and he'd use any means to accomplish them, even downright Evil.

Actually, a lot of other alignments fit too, but I never find the description wholly pleasing to my character's persona.

Any input, or alternative alignment names that do not fall in the standard 3x3 alignment grid?
I would recommend abandoning the concept of alignment, and just playing the character.  If you're torn between Lawful Evil and Chaotic Good as being equally apt for your character, then it would be clear (to me, anyways, YMMV) that the distinctions between Good and Evil and Law and Chaos are meaningless anyways.

Or, if your DM is forcing you to pick one, just pick plain old Neutral or Unaligned.
Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Das Fliegende Spaghettimonster helfe mir. RAmen.

Your character is patently evil.  I wouldn’t say that he necessarily radiates evil like some fiendish space heater, but, yeah, he’s evil.  Evil characters don’t necessarily have the blood of devils flowing through their veins or make pacts with the Powers Below, although this guy did.  What makes this guy evil is his uncompromising stance that the ends justify the means and that the most efficacious means must be employed regardless of how vile those measures may be.  The fact that he might be working for what he perceives as the general welfare does not absolve his black, black heart.


 Whether he is lawful, chaotic, or neutral is probably best determined by his relationship with authority or his general temperament.  If he works well with others and wants to build a society, then he’s more lawful, whereas if he is more anti-establishment then he would be more chaotic. 


 

Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
I agree with BvBPL.
Thanks for the replies ;)

Well, I've noticed that you've based your opinion on the fact that you think that "The End Justifies The Means" is evil. However, I might be a loner in this specific opinion, but I do quite follow the above proverb myself and think of it rather as the greater good.

Consider the movie "V for Vendetta" that stars a lead that is so clearly in touch with "The End Justifies The Means", yet in common appreciation everyone considers him a hero... and he's labelled Chaotic Good.

I understand the common conception to label anyone who considers any means whatsoever as a cold and ruthless bastard, but really, if I were to save a hundred lives by shooting some serial killer, I'd do it in a heartbeat... and almost nobody would object.
And it's no different than saving hundred lives by shooting a beautiful princess, because the line we need to cross is not in 'how pure is the blood that I spill' (the means) but 'how much good did it do' (the end).

That's just my personal opinion, but you see, following your above logic in my own logic is as if saying that my character is actually Good.
On second though, considering the fact that he clearly prefers to use only Evil means (instead of any means whatsoever, Good whenever possible and Evil when need be) does indicate that his alignment is undoubtedly Evil.

Thanks
Definitely Evil.  You can't accomplish Good by performing Evil.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Definitely Evil.  You can't accomplish Good by performing Evil.



I think that's right, but I'd like to point out that a character that is interested in the general welfare of his people to to the point where he is driven to perform vile acts can be said to do evil for the cause of good (or at least his perception of good) makes for a really interesting tragic character.  Like Cepheus and Cassiopeia who tried to sacrifice Andromeda to quell the wrath of Poseidon and thereby save the people of Jaffa.  Or any other number of other tragic characters throughout myth. 


Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
I'm with the Salla and BvBPL on this one.  The main thing that makes the "Ends justify the means" stance so morally repugnant is the way it trivializes any evil that is done.  A character trying to be Good will generally let his actions be inefficient if it stops more evil from coming about.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
Thanks for the replies ;)


Consider the movie "V for Vendetta" that stars a lead that is so clearly in touch with "The End Justifies The Means", yet in common appreciation everyone considers him a hero... and he's labelled Chaotic Good.




It was actually V's fault we started using Magic TCG colors (and combos) instead of alignment in our games.  Rosewater did a series on what color or colors sifferent referance characthers like V were and why.  the explanation of Red/White using either law or chaos to achieve the other was great and he used V to show how a ridgid prepared precicely executed act could cause liberating chaos.  I'd reccomend giving it a try to anyone who plays both games.

..........nevermind, don't wanna get into an alignment argument................

Fill in "Utilitarian Consequentialist" on your character sheet.  Congratulations - you have a character with an actual ethical system.

Don't listen to the people telling you your character is evil.  Philosophers have puzzled over ethical systems for millenia, and very few have been conclusively determined as evil.

You could argue that you're the most virtuous person in your group - you're concerned with actual results, spreading the benefits to as many as you possibly can, and you won't stand by and let evil happen just because stopping it would violate some arbitrary principle.  It may get dark sometimes, but that's a burden you've accepted to help make the world a better place.  If this was Watchmen, you'd be Adrian Veidt.  Everyone is shocked and appalled at what he did, but never forget that he's the one who actually saved the world while everyone else was too helpless or aloof to accomplish anything.

Remember, no one thinks of himself as evil.  If you're playing in Eberron, you'll fit right in.

If you must have an alignment, go with Unaligned.

EDIT

Also, set aside this "evil is more useful for battle" thing.  That doesn't really make sense.  Evil isn't a tangible thing, it's a judgment.  You could say that he fights dirty, and that's evil, but we don't really think that all the time do we?  Remember when Indiana Jones just shot the guy with the sword, or when Han Solo popped Greedo in the bar (HAN SHOT FIRST DAMN IT)?  Were they evil?  So you don't believe you have to fight fair - lots of heroes don't.  You'll use whatever tools are available and effective.  That's not necessarily evil.  If one nation is fighting another, is it evil for one nation to poison the other's water supply?  What if doing so causes the other nation to surrender more quickly, and ends up saving lives?
I had a character like this, and he was unaligned as it makes the most sense. Though honestly, in my mind I thought he was justifiably good. If he does some bad things in order to reach an overall good end, I think that he is a good person. If some innocents must die in order to save the world, can you really call that evil?

I could throw in a lot of references to Neitzsche here too, and that by being selfish one is bringing the most to the world. After all, there is no such thing as good or evil, really. Lawful is inherently wrong, since by conforming you are limiting yourself and not doing as much good as you could. In that interpretation, the idea of evil is heavily skewed, and conformity shares more links to evil.

Alignment doesn't play a huge role in 4e as it is, though. If you can find a way to justify it, then by all means call yourself whatever you deem appropriate.

This is what brought me to unaligned. The definition clearly states, you just do what you do without too much pause to whether it is good or bad.

Currently Playing: lvl 6 Pixie Skald in Home Campaign lvl 2 Human Bard in Forgotten Realms ---
First of all, I really appreciate everyone's input, I like the suggestions this discussion is bringing.

Now,
Also, set aside this "evil is more useful for battle" thing.  That doesn't really make sense.  Evil isn't a tangible thing, it's a judgment.



I agree, but my character clearly uses his pact with devils and clearly vile powers types such as fear and necrotic to accomplish his goals. Not only because it was easily accessible to him through his pact, but because he actually thinks that to fight evil he must quite explicitly use the means of evil. He prefers it that way, he actually likes both the irony as the effectiveness.
You see, an avenger could easily have the same ideals as my character and just use radiant powers and sometimes (as avangers do have plenty) a necrotic power. But you cannot really say that such an avenger is in the same boat as an infernal warlock who is bound to take Archlich as his epic destiny...

I'd say that a tiefling (especially a warlock) has that undeniable urge to prefer commonly considered vile powers over commonly considered good powers. And there is always that inevitable play that he might be drawn to become evil himself because of it, and lose sight of the overall good of his ends.

But (Utilitarian) Consequentialist would probably do the trick, since my character is called Putrid... which covers about the entire alignment question.
Don't listen to the people telling you your character is evil.  Philosophers have puzzled over ethical systems for millenia, and very few have been conclusively determined as evil.
...
Remember, no one thinks of himself as evil.  If you're playing in Eberron, you'll fit right in.

...

 Evil isn't a tangible thing, it's a judgment. 



After all, there is no such thing as good or evil, really.



But, how many philosophers exist in D&D?  I have my doubts as to the general need for a philosophy of ethics in a world where deific powers regularly and overtly interact with mere mortals.  If you have a question about the ethical aspects of a course of action, you can ask your god and obtain a direct answer.  There just aren’t any real ethical mysteries or nuances in D&D because for any ethical dilemma there is likely an existing divine precedent provided directly to mortals that establishes the morality of the action; even if there isn’t, gods are just a ritual away from providing guidelines.


 


Evil IS a tangible thing in the Manichean world of D&D and there can’t be any real doubt or much subjectivity about it.  To borrow from Kipling, good is good and evil is evil.


 


Now, this objective view of evil is in contrast to our postmodern philosophies, which can make it difficult to wrap one’s head around it.  Personally, I think this is a good thing as being a postmodernist myself, I find it very interesting to roleplay in a morally objective world
Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
Who says the gods get the final say on morality?  Just because they're divine?  Even setting aside my own personal arguments with monotheism, we're dealing with gods who are specifically NOT omnipotent, omnipresent, or omnibenevolent.  Some are explicitly described as "evil."

So if we give gods the moral authority to determine what is good and evil, how do we know which gods to listen to?  What if Lolth calls Correlon evil because he betrayed her?  Do the primordials have any say?  If his PC eventually becomes a god, then is it left to him to decide what's right and what's wrong?  Does his word go no matter what it is?  If Bahamut demands that you cut off a man's hand because he tried to steal bread for his starving family, is that the morally right act?
If Vecna keeps hidden an arcane power that could destroy all of creation in inept hands, is it evil?

You're asserting an answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma without actually giving any reason for it.

I would assert that granting gods the moral authority to decide what is wrong and what is wrong is just as hollow as granting that authority to a government official.  The truth is that we have to decide for ourselves what is good and what is bad, and we have to try to reach some sort of consensus.  Morality can't be dictated, and shouldn't be.

It doesn't matter how many philosophers there are in the D&D world - it only matters if he plays his character as one.  The rest of the world might find him utterly incomprehensible.  That's fine.  It doesn't make him wrong, and it opens a lot of interesting roleplaying opportunities. 

But, how many philosophers exist in D&D?  I have my doubts as to the general need for a philosophy of ethics in a world where deific powers regularly and overtly interact with mere mortals.  If you have a question about the ethical aspects of a course of action, you can ask your god and obtain a direct answer.  There just aren’t any real ethical mysteries or nuances in D&D because for any ethical dilemma there is likely an existing divine precedent provided directly to mortals that establishes the morality of the action; even if there isn’t, gods are just a ritual away from providing guidelines.


On the other hand, I can see a lot of philosophers debating over the nature of ethics as communicated by the gods. Are gods themselves subject to an objective universal moral compass, or were the rules that we consider "good" and "evil" created by them at the same time they created us? If there is a universally constant morality, do the gods have some special access or method of knowing this morality, or are they in the dark the same as us but are better at hiding it? Does Bane consider himself evil? D&D definitely embraces a more Greek-like approach to godhood, where the gods are fallible.


And all this assumes that deific powers "regularly and overtly" interact with mortals, which I'm not certain is a foregone conclusion. Divine characters are nominally ordained and invested with power by other Divine characters, and even when a god invests a character, such as an Invoker or rare Paladin, directly, it's not clear that there's a clearer message than a sense of: "I like what you are doing and want you to do it more with my power backing you." Consider the article Deities and Demigods: Bahamut in Dragon 378, which describes extremist factions of Bahamut's worshipers and makes it clear that Bahamut does nothing to correct their excesses. If Bahamut was just a phone call away to confirm the morality of a course of action, how could such an overzealous or corrupt group continue to exist? Granted, the same article makes it clear that Good is not a relativistic concept, but that still leaves the problem of figuring out what "Good" is and whether anyone, the gods included, have it "right."


Edit: Ninja'd. I still think that article raises an interesting point, though. If good and evil are objective forces, but people can't get clear-cut definitions even with gods who purport to represent them are around, does that really change anything in the way people think about and act with regards to ethical questions?
We're also assuming he's in the default setting.  If he's in Eberron or Dark Sun, the god situation is different.
Who says the gods get the final say on morality?



The gods say...

/discussion
Circular logic - You can't break through, it's a perfect circle!

Basically, I'm encouraging you to play your character like this:
tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NayT...

Who says the gods get the final say on morality? 



I was assuming that gods are more or less capable of providing moral guidance to their members and that good and evil goods would not condone evil or good acts.  You and Neylo raise some good questions about the nature of the D&D gods and those questions poke some holes into my arguments.  I’m not really prepared to address the questions about the nature of the gods; I simply don’t have the expertise to do so, at least in a Fourth Edition vein. 


 Instead, permit me to reiterate my other point, that being that the D&D universe is Manichean.  In a Manichean universe, good and evil are in direct opposition and are real forces that act or react to the world.  While alignment-based effects, like protection from evil, are uncommon in Fourth Edition, the fact that alignment does play a mechanical effect in the game indicates that the cosmic laws D&D universe recognize the difference between good and evil.  So alignment matters because the rules (and therefore the physical universe) say so.


 As for “nobody thinks of themselves as evil” well, maybe nobody thinks they are evil in the real world, but plenty of people do recognize their own evil acts and consider some acts they commit to be vile.  Interestingly when examining actions and their motivations, people generally ascribe situational reasons for acting when they themselves act poorly but consider the same actions to be indicative of another’s character when that third party performs the same act.  As a point of reference, think about the last time you saw someone driving wicked fast on the thruway, dodging in and out of lanes and traffic to get ahead.  You might think to yourself “what a jerk!” but the last time you drove in a reckless manner your probably justified it as necessary to make an appointment.  In short, people, as a rule, define others by their deeds but define themselves, or others with whom they closely identify, by their intents.


 Being good or evil person isn’t a matter of intent for the most part.  Instead, being good or evil is generally the cumulative total of one’s morally charged actions.  People don’t think of themselves as evil because they dislocate their actions, particularly the actions they are ashamed of, from their self-image.  Consequently, the definition of who is good and who is evil ultimately comes from outside of the individual.  In the real world, it is the morals and ethics of one’s society that defines evil, but in D&D morality is enforced by some unnamed outside force as I’ve documented above.


 Consider the case of a barbarian leader who raids a village, kills all the adults whether or not they are armed, and enslaves the children to force them to work at a grist mill.  That’s evil.  It doesn’t matter that the one remaining child grows into a well-oiled Austrian who returns to kick the barbarian leader’s head in and thereby dissolve the hippy death cult the leader had built around himself, nor does it matter that the chain of events could have arguably resulted in the best possible outcome for the Austrian and that the barbarian leader took credit for the Austrian’s success.  It doesn’t even matter if the barbarian leader had planned the whole thing from the start or that he might have needed laborers to mill the grain so that he could feed his family.  Killing noncombatants and enslaving children is an evil act and even James Earl Jones can’t escape that fact and that makes the barbarian leader evil.


 What’s more, the genre needs evil villains because that is the nature of the game.  This whole game is based on over-the-top action and over-the-top moral situations are a great way to bring in the action.  Not every enemy need to be a mustache-twirling rogue who’s tied a damsel to the train tracks, but in most games the players and DM accept a level of moral objectiveness as an element to the genre.  Presenting an unambiguous moral situation is a good way to engage the players and their characters and a good way for the players to develop a rapport with their characters.  It is just part of the genre, doesn’t always need to be part of it, but it is present in a great many cases.  Plus, when you do play with the mustache-twirlers, it makes the occasional morally ambiguous antagonist that much more interesting; the contrast brings out more in the shadows of gray.


 What does this mean for Mastema’s character?  It all boils down to the character being evil because he commits evil acts. It doesn’t matter whether or not he is doing these evil acts for the good of another because the acts themselves are inherently evil and taint him as such.  Nor does it matter what his intent is as talk is cheap.  He might be a tragic figure who brokered his soul with the devil to save his people, he might have a flawed moral compass, or he might just be a jerk, but the fact is he’s evil because he does evil.  Evil to him who evil does.

Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
Who says the gods get the final say on morality? 



I was assuming that gods are more or less capable of providing moral guidance to their members and that good and evil goods would not condone evil or good acts.  You and Neylo raise some good questions about the nature of the D&D gods and those questions poke some holes into my arguments.  I’m not really prepared to address the questions about the nature of the gods; I simply don’t have the expertise to do so, at least in a Fourth Edition vein. 


 Instead, permit me to reiterate my other point, that being that the D&D universe is Manichean.  In a Manichean universe, good and evil are in direct opposition and are real forces that act or react to the world.  While alignment-based effects, like protection from evil, are uncommon in Fourth Edition, the fact that alignment does play a mechanical effect in the game indicates that the cosmic laws D&D universe recognize the difference between good and evil.  So alignment matters because the rules (and therefore the physical universe) say so.


 As for “nobody thinks of themselves as evil” well, maybe nobody thinks they are evil in the real world, but plenty of people do recognize their own evil acts and consider some acts they commit to be vile.  Interestingly when examining actions and their motivations, people generally ascribe situational reasons for acting when they themselves act poorly but consider the same actions to be indicative of another’s character when that third party performs the same act.  As a point of reference, think about the last time you saw someone driving wicked fast on the thruway, dodging in and out of lanes and traffic to get ahead.  You might think to yourself “what a jerk!” but the last time you drove in a reckless manner your probably justified it as necessary to make an appointment.  In short, people, as a rule, define others by their deeds but define themselves, or others with whom they closely identify, by their intents.


 Being good or evil person isn’t a matter of intent for the most part.  Instead, being good or evil is generally the cumulative total of one’s morally charged actions.  People don’t think of themselves as evil because they dislocate their actions, particularly the actions they are ashamed of, from their self-image.  Consequently, the definition of who is good and who is evil ultimately comes from outside of the individual.  In the real world, it is the morals and ethics of one’s society that defines evil, but in D&D morality is enforced by some unnamed outside force as I’ve documented above.


 Consider the case of a barbarian leader who raids a village, kills all the adults whether or not they are armed, and enslaves the children to force them to work at a grist mill.  That’s evil.  It doesn’t matter that the one remaining child grows into a well-oiled Austrian who returns to kick the barbarian leader’s head in and thereby dissolve the hippy death cult the leader had built around himself, nor does it matter that the chain of events could have arguably resulted in the best possible outcome for the Austrian and that the barbarian leader took credit for the Austrian’s success.  It doesn’t even matter if the barbarian leader had planned the whole thing from the start or that he might have needed laborers to mill the grain so that he could feed his family.  Killing noncombatants and enslaving children is an evil act and even James Earl Jones can’t escape that fact and that makes the barbarian leader evil.


 What’s more, the genre needs evil villains because that is the nature of the game.  This whole game is based on over-the-top action and over-the-top moral situations are a great way to bring in the action.  Not every enemy need to be a mustache-twirling rogue who’s tied a damsel to the train tracks, but in most games the players and DM accept a level of moral objectiveness as an element to the genre.  Presenting an unambiguous moral situation is a good way to engage the players and their characters and a good way for the players to develop a rapport with their characters.  It is just part of the genre, doesn’t always need to be part of it, but it is present in a great many cases.  Plus, when you do play with the mustache-twirlers, it makes the occasional morally ambiguous antagonist that much more interesting; the contrast brings out more in the shadows of gray.


 What does this mean for Mastema’s character?  It all boils down to the character being evil because he commits evil acts. It doesn’t matter whether or not he is doing these evil acts for the good of another because the acts themselves are inherently evil and taint him as such.  Nor does it matter what his intent is as talk is cheap.  He might be a tragic figure who brokered his soul with the devil to save his people, he might have a flawed moral compass, or he might just be a jerk, but the fact is he’s evil because he does evil.  Evil to him who evil does.




I like your moral example, and I think I can come up with a scenario where you can argue that it's actually good, from a utilitarian perspective.  I don't think the results you offered really work from a utilitarian standpoint - utilitarianism is about the greatest good for the greatest number, not just grasping for some silver lining in a massive dark cloud.  But moving on:

First, that intents are irrelevant to morality isn't agreed upon.  Immanuel Kant felt that intent was the most important thing.  This is the difference between an intentionalist and a consequentialist - we agreed to call Mastema's character a consequentialist, so he'd agree with you.  He's focused on results.  As a utillitarian, he's concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number.  Utilitarianism is a laudable goal, but without more Kantian caveats (Kant is famous for his categorical imperative, which basically says "don't do anything that you wouldn't want to be made a universal law, and don't use people as a means to an end") it can lead you to some very dark actions.

Let's return to your barbarian.  Let's say he's trying to unite warring tribes against a looming threat, but they aren't listening to him.  This town is in a vulnerable place, and he knows they're going to be the first to go.  Without the tribes setting apart their differences, this town and all others will fall to the... gnolls, let's say.  So he comes up with a plan - he and his trusted soldiers burn the village to the ground and make it look like a gnoll attack.  They slaughter everyone present, leaving no survivors.  On its own, this is horribly evil.  However, because of this atrocity, the warring tribes do, in fact, set aside their differences and recognize the gnolls as a true threat.  Because of this, they are able to prepare in time and turn away the gnoll invaders, saving thousands more lives.

Let's even say that the gnolls would have somehow missed the village in question, and gone on to ravage only the other lands.  Would it have been better for the barbarian to let that happen?  Or, and let's keep in mind that in this scenario we're not offering any other options, was the more moral act to sacrifice this village to save the kingdom?

Let's offer a different scenario - the barbarian knows that a warband of gnolls has come ahead of the horde and it plans to attack the village.  He could warn the village and aid in its defense, but if he does then the tribes still will not take the gnoll threat seriously and, scattered, they will be overwhelmed by the horde.  Conversely, he could allow the warband to destroy the village, doing nothing himself, so that the tribes unite.  Which of these two options is the most moral?  If you're a Kantian, it's the former.  If you're a utilitarian, it's the latter.  Neither is "good" or "evil" in any objective sense.

Some people don't like this level of moral complexity in their D&D games, but I can only imagine getting bored constantly playing in a black and white world.
I always hate when someone brings Watchmen into the forum, because there is an event in which the end did NOT justify the means. If you are planning to bring a benefit to society as a whole, you need to be sure of two things: first, that the catastrophe that you are planning to prevent will actually happen (or is at least extremely likely to happen); and second, that your plan, if it involves the sacrifice of a massive number of lives, will not be foiled by your own incompetence.

Show

For all of Veidt's supposed genius, he really didn't think everything through, especially since he should have just asked Dr. Manhattan to remove any evidence of his plan. In the end, his plan would ultimately fail, because the proof that he had orchestrated everything was uncovered and would eventually be shared. In fact, if aggressions could have been cooled in other ways, such a controversy would probably result in war with more likelihood than just leaving everything alone.

Point being, if you want the end to justify the means, make sure that the means result in the end you intend.

Sorry about this rant, but I really hate when people bring Watchmen into a philosophical debate and hold it up like some philosophical Bible. Alan Moore was a great writer, but many of his works don't age well, and Watchmen in particular is a problem because it relied on most of the heroes being not only fallible, but downright stupid, and even more ignorant of events surrounding them than an average person. And, since Veidt's ultimate victory is implied to soon be overturned by the truth, the narrative goes from moral ambiguity (was Veidt right in what he did?) to just an exercise in futility. Maybe it's just me, but after reading Watchmen, I didn't feel impressed, or inspired, or anything like that. I just felt hollow and vaguely annoyed. As a catalyst for debate, Watchmen seems to have served its purpose. As a credible novel worthy of conversation and analysis, though, not so much. Everything is laid out for everyone to see, with very little subtext or implication. In order for something to be considered a great novel, it should make us rethink the human condition, either as what we are capable of doing (To Kill a Mockingbird shows us just how much evil some people are willing to commit to preserve their own sense of decorum), or inspire us regarding how much humanity can achieve.
Watchmen does neither. In its utilization of superheroes, it actually shoots itself in the foot, because superheroes are inherently viewed as not like the normal human race, so any lessons that could be gleaned from it are already watered down. It's not particularly inspiring unless one is planning a similar cataclysm in order to save the world (and in such a time of religion dictating wars, it probably wouldn't work anyway. Doom-crying terrorist organizations would just devour the planet claiming that God wants to smite the earth anyway), and unless one has led a particularly sheltered life, the characters aren't particularly startling. Hell, they're not really complex, either. Any character development isn't actually shown, as we don't get to SEE Veidt's descent into plotting his little Armageddon. We got some with Rorschach, but to me it just felt stilted rather than dramatic or disturbing, and it still didn't really explain the process through which he went unhinged, just that he became mentally unstable. Rorschach is easily the most interesting character, although even his political views are pretty straw-man. His opening monologue is pretty much par for the course among most of the radicals, even a little tame.


Sorry for derailing this thread, but I just had to get that off my chest.
Thank you for your time, and goodnight.

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.

Adun, while I appreciate your perspective on the material, I think your entire post should have been preceded with a giant *SPOILER ALERT* for those who have yet to read Watchmen Tongue out.

(It may have already been spoiled, but yours is the only post I read.)

Also, Rorshach is awesome!
I hardly think we're going to solve anything by focussing on the discussion whether the ends do justify the means or not. Point being that some of us have made a clear conclusion in opposite directions and -well- we're not really going to crack that nut here, are we? At least not in a fully conclusive manner.

An idea that I found most interesting came from my own party, namely that if we were to define something by a value as intangible and actually plain undefinable as an alignment, it should be done by the maniest and loudest of voices. Simply put, no one holds judgement over right and wrong, but in a whole we are the only ones capable of ever giving judgement (unless you wish to adhere to a god's word, which as pointed out above is just as selfserving and subjective as the word of any of us, so even then you'll have to listen to more or all gods which is just an aristocratic version of the above).

So actually, what my party suggested was that at specific intervals we could hold sort of a discussion on what the alignments are of everyone in the party, perceived by the party members and the DM. Regardless of whether you think it's right, you'll be given the alignment that your party thinks you are and the alignment they will respond to. There is after all no licence to show your party members that you are indisputably good. If your party thinks you are evil, you perhaps aren't but that doesn't matter since your party surely thinks so and will treat you like it.

Similarly, it is up to your DM to decide how local villagers or gods perceive you, based on what they've seen you do and accomplish in respectively their limited or elaborate knowledge. If you destroyed a temple of Kord to prevent his barbarous followers to have slaves competing against each other in life and death for some kind of feast in Kord's honor, Kord will perceive you as evil for destroying his temple, or even good for stopping this feast which he had not licenced. Many other gods (evil, neutral and good) will perceive you as evil for the plain act of destroying a temple. However some others, like the patron gods of the slaves will see another picture and perceive you as good. But then again, if these patron gods were evil themselves, good gods might perceive you as evil anyway, regardless of the saving of lives.

Anyway, the point is that no matter how you turn it, even in the mechanics of D&D, you are subject to the re-actions of the others in your campaign setting.
So perhaps you should prefer to build a decent background and ethical system for your character, and better leave the exact alignment question unanswered and only filled in by the necessary interactors when they need to respond to you.

It would be a nice effect for my character to suddenly realize that everyone in his party considers him plain evil, while that was never his intention, which opens opportunities for a plot-turner and introduces possibilities for character evolution.
Adun, while I appreciate your perspective on the material, I think your entire post should have been preceded with a giant *SPOILER ALERT* for those who have yet to read Watchmen Tongue out.

(It may have already been spoiled, but yours is the only post I read.)

Also, Rorshach is awesome!


It was pretty much spoiled by moviegoers to their friends after the movie came out (and I read the comic, I didn't watch the movie), but I may as well throw it into a sblock.

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.

Mastema, I think that's an awesome solution and will lead to some really cool roleplaying hooks.

Adun - [spoiler]Well, right, but that just raises the question again doesn't it - was it right for Rorschach to get the word out, or was it wrong?  From a utilitarian standpoint, he was wrong.  From a Kantian standpoint, he was right.
Actually, that's not even the argument I was bringing up, since philosophies tend to conflict too often to have a definitive answer.

Show

My point was that the end didn't really justify the means, because he didn't take enough precautions to ensure that Rorschach didn't get the word out (or anybody else potentially getting the word out, for that matter). It was just a bad example of this viewpoint overall, in which one leak automatically undoes the end, and therefore the means are not justified.


Now, I'll present another controversial (although less so) case: In Warcraft 3, where Arthas has to slay an entire city in order to prevent them from becoming undead, the end actually did justify the means. The people were going to die anyway, and if they were allowed to go "peacefully" in their sleep, they would rise as undead and devour more innocent people. Although Arthas pretty much went bat-crap insane after that, I never saw the event as such an abomination because the "culling" felt more like a kindness, killing them instead of letting them be damned to undeath, where they may or may not be able to see every atrocity they're forced to commit; not to mention the lives potentially saved from being overwhelmed by a resurgence of undead.

What do you think this represents, if you suspend your knowledge of how Arthas ends up and just focus on the event itself, in which a paladin slaughters a city doomed to become mindless undead? Evil character who butchered innocents because it was the quickest solution, good character whose hand was forced due to time constraints and the threat of being overrun by former innocents? Something different altogether?

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.

I'm with the "yep, he's evil" crowd here.

In particular, something caught my eye in your original call:

"Good seeks peace, not war, therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war."

You realize how patently incorrect that is, don't you?  And that war is a tool of diplomacy?  If this is your PC's mindset, I don't see anything other than simply chaotic evil for him.  

Good characters can be among the best war-makers, simply because the most efficacious strategies end the wars fastest.  

Go rent a copy of "Seargeant York" - it might help you see that side of things.  Plus it's a decent old movie ).

  T 
Yeah. I did just kill your BBEG with a vorpal frisbee. Problem?
You realize how patently incorrect that is, don't you?


Well, considering the plentiful of examples already raised above of how evil saves the day when good would fail... does indicate that it isn't such a patently incorrect statement. I agree it is short-minded to only use evil, or good for that matter, but that's just a tiefling warlock speaking. What had you reckoned his opinion would be? Throw puppies and flowers at the enemy? I reckon he'd go for the infernal tortures of the Nine Hells... I'm just saying, his opinion is bound to be biased that way.

Good characters can be among the best war-makers, simply because the most efficacious strategies end the wars fastest.


You just said that good characters are the best war-makers, because they are the most efficient.
My character sais that evil characters are the best war-makers, because they are the most efficient.

My character would really need to hear a better argument than a simple inversion to conclude that good actually is more efficient...
Thomas J.'s argument also seems to be based around which "side" you're fighting on; as in, you're automatically Good-aligned if you're in a WWII movie and on the Allied side, and automatically Evil if you're a Nazi soldier. Speaking of old movies, go watch Kelly's Heroes, The Dirty Dozen, and even Inglorious Basterds for a new example of this. Try telling me what alignment the protagonists of those movies are.

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.



First, that intents are irrelevant to morality isn't agreed upon.  

The character in question is obviously and knowingly intending to do evil and there isn’t any evidence to suggest that his evil deeds are in any sort of higher service to others.  The character thinks that his goals are good, but he also defines good to suit his own purposes.  He appears to be dismissive of whatever normative morality exists within his community; otherwise he wouldn’t have to justify himself by developing his own internal morality.  If he were a real person, I’d say that his attempt to develop his own morality to justify his actions is indicative of the guilt he feels over them (that is admittedly reading a lot into it though).  In any case, the fact that he has generated his own deviant morality demonstrates that he is a prideful, self-interested man who cares less about his community than his own works, and while those character traits may not be evil in and of themselves, they certainly are the cause of many woes in the world.  His deeds are evil and his intentions, if not inherently evil in and of themselves, are a stone’s throw away from evil.  He’s evil. 



Some people don't like this level of moral complexity in their D&D games, but I can only imagine getting bored constantly playing in a black and white world.



Personally, I think that black and white morality in D&D is cathartic to some extent.  Moral questions abound the in the real world and it is nice for me to escape a little from them around the table.  I don’t think that this makes the game any less mature or interesting; it is just a different style of play from what you like.  Plus, a black and white world actually helps the shades of morality come out a little more when they do appear because they are novel and makes them more interesting because it is more of a quandry about what to do with morally nebulous characters or situations when everything else is black and white.  I know that's sort of counterintuitive, but it really is the case.

Rule one isn’t “The DM is always right.” Rule one is: Everyone should be having fun at the table. Plans for 5e: Kill the d20, and replace it with a bell curve for task resolution.
You realize how patently incorrect that is, don't you?


Well, considering the plentiful of examples already raised above of how evil saves the day when good would fail... does indicate that it isn't such a patently incorrect statement. I agree it is short-minded to only use evil, or good for that matter, but that's just a tiefling warlock speaking. What had you reckoned his opinion would be? Throw puppies and flowers at the enemy? I reckon he'd go for the infernal tortures of the Nine Hells... I'm just saying, his opinion is bound to be biased that way.



I think perhaps I didn't make my point clearly enough.  The statement of:

"Good seeks peace, not war, therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war."

Is incorrect on a number of fronts.  

"Good seeks peace, not war," - I think it would be safe to say that Good prefers peace over war, but when confronted by certain choices, will engage in war.  Evil as well is in the same circumstance - peace under different conditions is preferable to a state of conflict. 

"...therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war."  

That's just a blatantly ignorant conclusion to draw.  While there are undoubtedly some fairly evil people among the professional warrior class, the real world demonstrates the incorrectness of this statement and dismisses it out of hand.  

For example, many career military officers are extremely good at waging war.  One example familiar to most people in the USA would be Ike Eisenhower.  I think it can be safely said that Eisenhower was a "good" person, from a moral standpoint - and he was extremely good at waging war.  Chester Nimitz would be another.  Arguably, Erwin Rommel could be considered a "good" person (the argument being that he was sold a bill of goods, and when he realized how truly evil the purpose for which he was fighting was, he turned against it) - and he was undeniably an excellent warrior.  

As a personal example, I am exceedingly good at war, as well as individual tactics in hand-to-hand and firearms combat.  However, if you were to ask my friends, coworkers, etc., I have every confidence that the opinions you would get from them would be that although we might have disagreements at times, they would have every confidence that I would always choose the good and ethical path.  

Your implication with the general statement seems to indicate that Evil seeks war.  That is simply not true.  Evil is less concerned about the consequences as they impact the lives of others, true, but what evil overlord, safely ensconced in his tower overlooking the rule of the entire world, says to himself one day "Things are too quiet with me in charge of everything.  Let's stir the pot up a bit." ? 

I would be in agreement that Evil will perhaps elect to engage in war with less reservation, and will perhaps resort to it sooner as a decisive move that costs the Evil person less.  For instance, when presented with "You have an overwhelming army, you may choose to use the threat of it diplomatically, you may go to war and you are certain of a resounding victory with little loss of productivity in the target province" I would certainly see an Evil person bypassing the diplomatic route and going directly to war as a swift resolution to the issue.  

Although the available data is a little slim to make a convincing claim to this, I suspect that you may have somewhat conflated the concept of "Evil" with "Psychotic."  A psychotic might seek conflict simply for entertainment, and would certainly qualify for being Evil.  However, simply being Evil does not denote an inherent need for, or proficiency at, war.

By the same token, Good bears little correlation with a lack of proficiency, or an unwillingness to engage in, war.  

  T
 
Yeah. I did just kill your BBEG with a vorpal frisbee. Problem?
You realize how patently incorrect that is, don't you?


Well, considering the plentiful of examples already raised above of how evil saves the day when good would fail... does indicate that it isn't such a patently incorrect statement. I agree it is short-minded to only use evil, or good for that matter, but that's just a tiefling warlock speaking. What had you reckoned his opinion would be? Throw puppies and flowers at the enemy? I reckon he'd go for the infernal tortures of the Nine Hells... I'm just saying, his opinion is bound to be biased that way.



I think perhaps I didn't make my point clearly enough.  The statement of:

"Good seeks peace, not war, therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war."

Is incorrect on a number of fronts.  

"Good seeks peace, not war," - I think it would be safe to say that Good prefers peace over war, but when confronted by certain choices, will engage in war.  Evil as well is in the same circumstance - peace under different conditions is preferable to a state of conflict. 

"...therefore it doesn't have either the motivation nor sufficient knowledge to wage war."  

That's just a blatantly ignorant conclusion to draw.  While there are undoubtedly some fairly evil people among the professional warrior class, the real world demonstrates the incorrectness of this statement and dismisses it out of hand.  

For example, many career military officers are extremely good at waging war.  One example familiar to most people in the USA would be Ike Eisenhower.  I think it can be safely said that Eisenhower was a "good" person, from a moral standpoint - and he was extremely good at waging war.  Chester Nimitz would be another.  Arguably, Erwin Rommel could be considered a "good" person (the argument being that he was sold a bill of goods, and when he realized how truly evil the purpose for which he was fighting was, he turned against it) - and he was undeniably an excellent warrior.  

As a personal example, I am exceedingly good at war, as well as individual tactics in hand-to-hand and firearms combat.  However, if you were to ask my friends, coworkers, etc., I have every confidence that the opinions you would get from them would be that although we might have disagreements at times, they would have every confidence that I would always choose the good and ethical path.  

Your implication with the general statement seems to indicate that Evil seeks war.  That is simply not true.  Evil is less concerned about the consequences as they impact the lives of others, true, but what evil overlord, safely ensconced in his tower overlooking the rule of the entire world, says to himself one day "Things are too quiet with me in charge of everything.  Let's stir the pot up a bit." ? 

I would be in agreement that Evil will perhaps elect to engage in war with less reservation, and will perhaps resort to it sooner as a decisive move that costs the Evil person less.  For instance, when presented with "You have an overwhelming army, you may choose to use the threat of it diplomatically, you may go to war and you are certain of a resounding victory with little loss of productivity in the target province" I would certainly see an Evil person bypassing the diplomatic route and going directly to war as a swift resolution to the issue.  

Although the available data is a little slim to make a convincing claim to this, I suspect that you may have somewhat conflated the concept of "Evil" with "Psychotic."  A psychotic might seek conflict simply for entertainment, and would certainly qualify for being Evil.  However, simply being Evil does not denote an inherent need for, or proficiency at, war.

By the same token, Good bears little correlation with a lack of proficiency, or an unwillingness to engage in, war.  

  T
 


This is pretty much everything I have been lurking and trying to figure out how to say for awhile now.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
I also forgot to clarify this:

"Good characters can be among the best war-makers, simply because the most efficacious strategies end the wars fastest."

I'm not saying Good = best automatically.  I'm saying Good can be the best, because they do have sufficient motivation to become so.  Evil could be the best as well, for different motivational reasons - perhaps the drive to victory, vengeance, desire for ethnic cleansing, whatever, regardless of the collateral damage.  

  T

P.S. - Glad I could help there, Pashalik ).


Yeah. I did just kill your BBEG with a vorpal frisbee. Problem?
Don't worry, I agree with you completely, but there is actually a different interpretation that I make between good and evil.

How I've often perceived the world of D&D, I've come to the conclusion that good characters have this annoying impediment when it comes to doing 'what is necessary', while evil character more often just do as they please.
Just a simple, stereotype example: kill one to save a hundred... A good character would often really consider this a difficult decision, and (at least how I've always read the books, comics and plain character descriptions) the good character would quite often not even do it (or be expelled from his religion, smitten by his god, etc...). The evil character does not have this impediment at all, and just does whatever he deems necessary. Hell, even if there'd be a peaceful solution to be concocted somewhere in diplomatic discussions that would perhaps only take a few hours, the evil character would still just shoot the damn bugger and be done with it. You can opt that the result is not the same, as the one man would be dead by the evil character and alive by the hand of the good character, but if you consider solemnly the efficiency...

I'm just saying, how I've seen things, good character (simply because of their good nature) are inherently less motivated to commit the plentiful of things they consider evil (murder, theft, deciet). Indeed, they are perfectly capable (many chaotic goods are) but simply because of their goodness they cannot fully support an 'evil' act like murder with the same motivation as an evil character.
Don't get me wrong, you can undeniably state that there are plenty of examples where good and evil can be just as efficient, but seeing how the first does have this moral code to adhere to (or even just shortly to consider) and the latter can just do as he sees fit, you must see that there is some advantage for the latter.

Even more, considering that my character is making the above conclusion solemnly for the means and not the goals, indicates that he would prefer to employ means that have no impediment or moral discrimination at all rather than having to suffer the internal discussion (no matter how short) of whether the means can or cannot (will or will not) be employed. Even if this internal discussion is nearly null, how is he supposed to know but after a decade of experience with using good means himself? The only thing he can state conclusively is that evil does not have any impediment of sort as he has discovered by his own experience with his infernal pact. While good... he doesn't quite know, but it can't be better than no impediment at all; it could only be equally eficient and the risk to find out is rather unnecessary since he already has a means that has no impediment at all.


First, that intents are irrelevant to morality isn't agreed upon.  

The character in question is obviously and knowingly intending to do evil and there isn’t any evidence to suggest that his evil deeds are in any sort of higher service to others.  The character thinks that his goals are good, but he also defines good to suit his own purposes.  He appears to be dismissive of whatever normative morality exists within his community; otherwise he wouldn’t have to justify himself by developing his own internal morality.  If he were a real person, I’d say that his attempt to develop his own morality to justify his actions is indicative of the guilt he feels over them (that is admittedly reading a lot into it though).  In any case, the fact that he has generated his own deviant morality demonstrates that he is a prideful, self-interested man who cares less about his community than his own works, and while those character traits may not be evil in and of themselves, they certainly are the cause of many woes in the world.  His deeds are evil and his intentions, if not inherently evil in and of themselves, are a stone’s throw away from evil.  He’s evil. 


 



Some people don't like this level of moral complexity in their D&D games, but I can only imagine getting bored constantly playing in a black and white world.



Personally, I think that black and white morality in D&D is cathartic to some extent.  Moral questions abound the in the real world and it is nice for me to escape a little from them around the table.  I don’t think that this makes the game any less mature or interesting; it is just a different style of play from what you like.  Plus, a black and white world actually helps the shades of morality come out a little more when they do appear because they are novel and makes them more interesting because it is more of a quandry about what to do with morally nebulous characters or situations when everything else is black and white.  I know that's sort of counterintuitive, but it really is the case.




I can save you a whole lot of time. The rules that govern alignment are in the PHB. There are no philosophers, there are no "well my PC's definition of evil is.... blah blah blah". See which alignment is the closest to what your PC. An evil act is an evil act in D&D, it doesn't matter what the end result is. Yes it is black and white. Deal with it.

In the real world, this sort of alignment system doesn't work but it's intent is to work in the game world and help define a general moral outlook for your PC.

Please don't listen to the wall of text responses that only serve to drudge up the "old alignment" arguement that has been going on since the dawn of time. Incidentally, your character is evil.
I must say, all things considered, I like how well you've thought out your character's morals, and his own views about them.  It's this kind of depth that makes a character so much more believable. i have to wonder what he might think if he partied with a Good character who showed him how efficient you can be while maintaining good ethics.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
You problem is you have a complex character with grey subjective ethics and values living in a black and white absolute comsmology. By the absoulte  alingment system of D&D prior to 4e, the character is Lawful Evil. He has a personal code that he follows to do "good", but he is ruthless and tyranical in the methods he uses to achieve that goal. In 4e, I'd just call him unalinged and play him as you stated.
"Good seeks peace, not war," - I think it would be safe to say that Good prefers peace over war, but when confronted by certain choices, will engage in war.  Evil as well is in the same circumstance - peace under different conditions is preferable to a state of conflict.



I'm reminded of the write up on the Paladins of Rao in Veluna from Greyhawk.  Sure, they were Lawful Good (we're talking 3rd edition days) and they followed the god of Peace, Reason and Serenity, but they had no illusions that peace must be achieved, and maintained, at the point of a sword.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
This is actually one of those odd questions that really depends on your DM rather than any of the people here.

D&D ethics is one of those things that has to be handled by the DM, because otherwise it doesn't really make sense.

For example, in many campains a low level party might come across a town with goblin raiders.  The party will then hunt down these goblins, enter their camp, and kill every one of them they can find.  In any impartial court this would be first degree murder.  In D&D this is a something that "good guys" do all the time.  In this kind of world, the intent of the person and the cause for which they fight are the things that matter to whatever decides your alignment.  In this case your character would be good, as long as the cause for which he fight for is good.

Whenever I DM, I don't allow for such cop-outs.  Any character willing to do evil, no matter what the circumstance is at least skirting the realms of neutrality or even down right evil.  Stealing the master plans from the BBEG is still theft, but is one action among many (theoretically) good ones.  However is your character's first response to any situation is theft, then they are not really "good" any more, are they?

One last thing.  Being in opposition to evil in your world is not the same thing as being good.  Just because all the people you want to kill are evil, that does not make you good.
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