Alignment: Truths and Misconceptions

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Chiba_Monkey, I find it a bit simplistic to dismiss point 1 and 3 merely as a flavor issue, especially point 3. If you use alignment to restrict certain options, such as for example the fact that paladins need to be lawful good in 3e, and then assign punishment to deviating from that alignment, as is the case with the paladin, then all of a sudden the RAW can potentially lead to debate between the players (including the DM). Of course, if people accept the ruling of a DM, then there is no big point of debate, although the DM can certainly ruin the fun of the player in regards to playing that particular trope. It is certainly one reason why I usually stick to a lawful good fighter if I want to play the knight-in-shining-armor trope with a new DM or at public play. I find it a bit simplistic to purely blame DM or players in those debates, especially since they might not be there if there were no alignment restrictions. Of course, simply blaming the alignment system is equally simplistic. It is an interaction between RAW and the unwritten social rules of the table.
Well... a lot of good stuff here.  And a lot of pretty damn smart people posting (not being sarcastic).  I mean, Zoroastrian? What the heck is that?  You guys know your stuff!



That's not necessarily as admirable as it might first appear. In my case, chalk it up to having entirely too much time on my hands.

I'd like to comment on the pervasive theme of nihilism I see among the thread, and how I'd like some clarification from you regular posters.  I understand this thread is focused on moral themes in a fantasy setting, but I strongly believe that our real-world beliefs on moral systems is important to our storytelling, as it gives meaning and substance to story, metaphors, and the like.  A fantasy story without substance pertaining to our real-world paradigms isn't as compelling; a hint of allegorical substance gives life to the story (in my personal opinion).



Personally, I think the concepts of desire and identity can do all of this better than morality. While morality can do this, I feel like it's an inferior vehicle for accomplishing the purpose.

So, I ask you this:


  • Do you believe, for at least some situations, there is a basic code for how one ought to act?  For instance: "One ought to take care of their children."  Again, this is for some situations; you can believe in moral objectivity, and simultaneously think most situations have no moral value and are therefore purely subjective in nature (i.e. chocolate ice-cream or vanilla).


I would like to caution you as I think asking these kinds of questions might be against CoC. I personally have no problem with being asked or answering this, or pretty much any other question really, but what one person finds perfectly fine, another might get offended at. That out of the way, my answer is at once yes and no. I do believe that there is a way each person should act, but that will most certainly end up looking different from person to person. I think people should be honest with themselves, in word and deed. I'm not going to say anymore than that simply because a real explanation would demand much more time, effort, and patience than I currently have.


Or do you believe any code for behavior is always subjective, and any statement detailing how one "ought" to act is merely describing preference.  To use the previous example, it would be: "I prefer that people take care of thier children, as the idea of parents abandoning their children is displeasing to me".  This statement is describing your personal preference, and not alluding to some code of conduct.


This is likewise hard to answer because I don't think how someone "should" act can really be reduced down to a code. I do think there are ways people "should" act, because of the value that I place on life, I believe that a certian way of acting that increases that quality is valuable and should be sought after. That may sound similar to what Mill said about there being a right way for everyone to act, but I don't agree with what he was actually saying at all.


For clarification, I am using the word "ought" to describe a rule based on objective standards of behavior not reliant on personal preference of outcome or nature or value.  While a nihilist can say "One ought to study if one wants to get good grades," this use of 'ought' is saying "If you value good grades, you ought to study".  However, this discussion is about a statement of "You ought to value X" independant of personal preference, which is the basis for moral objectivity vs. subjectivity.


Ah. Well, in that case I can say that personal honesty to oneself is inherently valuable, and should therefore be valued. In that way yes, I would fall more on the objective side. But I recognize that personal honesty will likewise cause someone to decide for themselves what they value, and so long as those values spring from personal honesty, then that is okay. Whatever those values may be. That said, I wouldn't expect everyone to agree with those values, and there isn't anything stopping me from being honest with myself and saying those values are sick and wrong, or virtuous. I guess some warped combination of the two then?

If your opinions favor nihilism (that moral values are always based on subjective preference), then you must fully accept that you can never use reason to explain why one ought to have a specific preference over another based soley on thier attributes.  While it may be a fact that "being compassionate to people is a nice thing to do and helps people of the world", it does not logically follow that "therefore, you ought to value compassion".


Actually, nihilism (Guessing you mean moral nihilism and not existential nihilism, or any other kind of nihilism.) is the belief that nothing has any moral value whatsoever. What you're describing is prescriptive moral relativism, which states that people can give something moral value, and for them it does indeed have that moral value. I think prescriptive relativism is pure bunk, for a variety of reasons, but I won't go into those here. Now, descriptive relativism on the other hand, which states that people can hold different values to different things, is kind of an inarguable fact. Descriptive relativism also allows for the possibility that those values might be misplaced though.

If you truly favor nihilism, you may have personal preferences favoring compassion and kindness (most nihilists do, I'd wager),


I can't say here what I think of most of the nihilists I've met without getting in trouble. Suffice to say I wouldn't use words like compassionate to describe them.

but that means that any use of moral values as having any real substance in a fantasy story is fairly meaningless.  Good vs. Evil, Chaos vs. Law, becomes just as meaningful as Chocolate vs. Vanilla, or Black vs. White.  All it does is describe the preferences that are motivating the characters, without any substantive value to those preferences.  In my humble opinion, this removes alignment as any meaningful element to a story's overall purpose or allegorical value.


So what about the ability to make value judgments on the alignments themselves? There are plenty of ways other than morality to measure quality of "alignment good." Say for a moment that there are in fact objective moral standards in the real world, clear ways to measure good and evil. Well, then at that point, people still have to decide which one they prefer, based on whatever criteria they value. Subjective value judgments still exist simply because the only thing that actually changes is the context in which they're made. Don't forget, that alignments aren't just morals and ethics either. They are the mechanical expressions of cosmic forces, those cosmic forces being metaphors for the drives, influences, desires, and identities of real people in the real world.

Really, things like Fate, Magic, and Gods are much more real than people realize. Alignments too.
Chiba_Monkey, I find it a bit simplistic to dismiss point 1 and 3 merely as a flavor issue, especially point 3. If you use alignment to restrict certain options, such as for example the fact that paladins need to be lawful good in 3e, and then assign punishment to deviating from that alignment, as is the case with the paladin, then all of a sudden the RAW can potentially lead to debate between the players (including the DM). Of course, if people accept the ruling of a DM, then there is no big point of debate, although the DM can certainly ruin the fun of the player in regards to playing that particular trope. It is certainly one reason why I usually stick to a lawful good fighter if I want to play the knight-in-shining-armor trope with a new DM or at public play. I find it a bit simplistic to purely blame DM or players in those debates, especially since they might not be there if there were no alignment restrictions. Of course, simply blaming the alignment system is equally simplistic. It is an interaction between RAW and the unwritten social rules of the table.



All a paladin player should ever need do is ask the DM "What is the Good answer to this situation?" so he can recieve an answer that doesn't break his connection to cosmic goodness without making an informed choice to do so.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Well... a lot of good stuff here.  And a lot of pretty damn smart people posting (not being sarcastic).  I mean, Zoroastrian? What the heck is that?  You guys know your stuff!

I'd like to comment on the pervasive theme of nihilism I see among the thread, and how I'd like some clarification from you regular posters.  I understand this thread is focused on moral themes in a fantasy setting, but I strongly believe that our real-world beliefs on moral systems is important to our storytelling, as it gives meaning and substance to story, metaphors, and the like.  A fantasy story without substance pertaining to our real-world paradigms isn't as compelling; a hint of allegorical substance gives life to the story (in my personal opinion).

So, I ask you this:


  • Do you believe, for at least some situations, there is a basic code for how one ought to act?  For instance: "One ought to take care of their children."  Again, this is for some situations; you can believe in moral objectivity, and simultaneously think most situations have no moral value and are therefore purely subjective in nature (i.e. chocolate ice-cream or vanilla).

  • Or do you believe any code for behavior is always subjective, and any statement detailing how one "ought" to act is merely describing preference.  To use the previous example, it would be: "I prefer that people take care of thier children, as the idea of parents abandoning their children is displeasing to me".  This statement is describing your personal preference, and not alluding to some code of conduct.


 For clarification, I am using the word "ought" to describe a rule based on objective standards of behavior not reliant on personal preference of outcome or nature or value.  While a nihilist can say "One ought to study if one wants to get good grades," this use of 'ought' is saying "If you value good grades, you ought to study".  However, this discussion is about a statement of "You ought to value X" independant of personal preference, which is the basis for moral objectivity vs. subjectivity.

If your opinions favor nihilism (that moral values are always based on subjective preference), then you must fully accept that you can never use reason to explain why one ought to have a specific preference over another based soley on thier attributes.  While it may be a fact that "being compassionate to people is a nice thing to do and helps people of the world", it does not logically follow that "therefore, you ought to value compassion".

The result of this world-view means you cannot use reason or logic to explain why something ought (or ought not) be done without referring to personal subjective preferences.  A nihilist cannot say the nazis were wrong in their extermination of millions of jews using reason alone.  Afterall, the nazi can simply say: "A jew is repulsive to me, so I chose to value antisemetic violence"; in a nihilistic world-view, this is just as reasonable as saying the opposite.
This scene from Inglorious Basterds points this out better than I can:
[video=1514527]
Hans Landa ("the Jew Hunter") is a nihilist, and explaining his point of view.  The important bit of dialogue here is, even when he explains why the animosity to a rat (as opposed to a squirrel) doesn't have any strong logical basis to it (which the farmer finds "interesting"), it still does not affect how the farmer feels about them.  And his subjective feelings about a rat are all that matters in a nihilistic world-view.  Substitue "rat" with "jew", and you've got what Hans was really getting at.

If you truly favor nihilism, you may have personal preferences favoring compassion and kindness (most nihilists do, I'd wager), but that means that any use of moral values as having any real substance in a fantasy story is fairly meaningless.  Good vs. Evil, Chaos vs. Law, becomes just as meaningful as Chocolate vs. Vanilla, or Black vs. White.  All it does is describe the preferences that are motivating the characters, without any substantive value to those preferences.  In my humble opinion, this removes alignment as any meaningful element to a story's overall purpose or allegorical value.



Great post.

I stand point the point that arguing for subjective morality in a game of "HEROIC FANTASY" eliminates at least half one of those words and possibly the other as well.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

YagamiFire: Thanks!
Zaramon: Excellent points.  My response:


So, I ask you this:


  • Do you believe, for at least some situations, there is a basic code for how one ought to act?  For instance: "One ought to take care of their children."  Again, this is for some situations; you can believe in moral objectivity, and simultaneously think most situations have no moral value and are therefore purely subjective in nature (i.e. chocolate ice-cream or vanilla).



I would like to caution you as I think asking these kinds of questions might be against CoC. I personally have no problem with being asked or answering this, or pretty much any other question really, but what one person finds perfectly fine, another might get offended at. That out of the way, my answer is at once yes and no. I do believe that there is a way each person should act, but that will most certainly end up looking different from person to person. I think people should be honest with themselves, in word and deed. I'm not going to say anymore than that simply because a real explanation would demand much more time, effort, and patience than I currently have.


Certainly I do not mean offense, and don't see how it could be offensive unless someone is super-duper sensitive.  But if so, I apologize to them!

In regards to your answer, it seems two-sided.  When we're speaking about the property of the world, not a property specific to you, it cannot be both objective and subjective at the same time.  You are focusing on internal subjective experience, while I am focusing on a property of the world itself independent of experience.  
So, for example, we might say something looks objectively green to you, while it could just as easily look objectively blue to someone else (both of you are not deciding on how it looks, it just appears that way to you without subjective choice).  However, those are internal experiences.  I'm discussing morality as something set within the world itself, just as much as laws of physics or chemistry.


Or do you believe any code for behavior is always subjective, and any statement detailing how one "ought" to act is merely describing preference.  To use the previous example, it would be: "I prefer that people take care of thier children, as the idea of parents abandoning their children is displeasing to me".  This statement is describing your personal preference, and not alluding to some code of conduct.


This is likewise hard to answer because I don't think how someone "should" act can really be reduced down to a code. I do think there are ways people "should" act, because of the value that I place on life, I believe that a certian way of acting that increases that quality is valuable and should be sought after. That may sound similar to what Mill said about there being a right way for everyone to act, but I don't agree with what he was actually saying at all.


Part of your answer seems to favor moral nihilism, in so much as you say people should act a certain way because you choose to value life.  Another way to put how I read your post (which may be incorrect on my part) is: "I prefer people to act in a manner that does not destroy life recklessly, therefore I value life."  Or a simplier way to put it, is that you're discussing your value on life, as opposing to discussing the inherent value life has.  I may be mincing words here, so my apologies if I am.
A moral objectivist would say "people ought to value life", period, and then make choices based on that objective law of behavior, instead of the other way around. 


For clarification, I am using the word "ought" to describe a rule based on objective standards of behavior not reliant on personal preference of outcome or nature or value.  While a nihilist can say "One ought to study if one wants to get good grades," this use of 'ought' is saying "If you value good grades, you ought to study".  However, this discussion is about a statement of "You ought to value X" independant of personal preference, which is the basis for moral objectivity vs. subjectivity.


Ah. Well, in that case I can say that personal honesty to oneself is inherently valuable, and should therefore be valued. In that way yes, I would fall more on the objective side. But I recognize that personal honesty will likewise cause someone to decide for themselves what they value, and so long as those values spring from personal honesty, then that is okay. Whatever those values may be. That said, I wouldn't expect everyone to agree with those values, and there isn't anything stopping me from being honest with myself and saying those values are sick and wrong, or virtuous. I guess some warped combination of the two then?


The bolded statement leads me to believe you are a moral objectivist (i.e. personal honesty is something one ought to value; that it is inherently valuable, regardless of someone's personal preferences regarding personal honesty).

This is a good time to say that I find any sort of "relativism" to be moral nihilism.  If it's relative, it's not objective.  If morality is not objective, than it's personal preference.  If all code of behavior is just personal preference without a basis on some objective standard, then it's moral nihilism.

but that means that any use of moral values as having any real substance in a fantasy story is fairly meaningless.  Good vs. Evil, Chaos vs. Law, becomes just as meaningful as Chocolate vs. Vanilla, or Black vs. White.  All it does is describe the preferences that are motivating the characters, without any substantive value to those preferences.  In my humble opinion, this removes alignment as any meaningful element to a story's overall purpose or allegorical value.



So what about the ability to make value judgments on the alignments themselves? There are plenty of ways other than morality to measure quality of "alignment good." Say for a moment that there are in fact objective moral standards in the real world, clear ways to measure good and evil. Well, then at that point, people still have to decide which one they prefer, based on whatever criteria they value. Subjective value judgments still exist simply because the only thing that actually changes is the context in which they're made. Don't forget, that alignments aren't just morals and ethics either. They are the mechanical expressions of cosmic forces, those cosmic forces being metaphors for the drives, influences, desires, and identities of real people in the real world.

Really, things like Fate, Magic, and Gods are much more real than people realize. Alignments too.


Moral objectivity would hold that moral values (whatever they may be) are inherently valueable.  Any attempt to make judgments on them would be just as meaningful as making judgments on how fast the speed of light is given a current environment, or how strong gravity is given a current mass.  There is an inherent value that exists independent of your knowledge of them, and as such your judgments should focus on finding that, instead of assigning a value that "feels right".

Like scientific laws, moral laws (if they indeed are objective) could be very complex and difficult to decode, making it a messy subject to decide what moral laws exist (i.e. what ought we value?).  But that wouldn't be evidence that they do not exist.

Just to be clear: I am not arguing on whether you should or should not be a nihilist (or moral objectivist, or whatever).  My main point is that, if you are a moral nihilist, the use of alignment lacks any substance in terms of a story's allegorical or metaphorical value.

How about this. I am perfectly okay with making a categorical statement that people should tell themselves the truth, and not lie to oneself. I definitely don't subscribe to prescriptive relativism or any kind of nihilism. Again, descriptive relativism is kind of an inarguable fact.

Now, as to what you said about value judgments and morality. See, while it would be odd to do this, you could indeed decide how you feel about the nature of gravity, and it would certainly be true, at least, if you aren't lying to yourself. In the same way, I can decide the level of personal value I place on "alignment good" and being good. Maybe I place negative value on the good alignment because of all the personal sacrifice involved.

That isn't a moral judgment, but a value judgment on the quality of life that moral law produces. Personal value judgments still exist, and they still have value, the context just changes. In the 3.5 PHB, each good and neutral alignment has a value judgment at the end of it for identifying each one as the best alignment for various reasons. It comes down to a question of, "would you rather be good, lawful, chaotic, neutral, evil, and why?"

People can choose to place value on those alignment independent of any moral quality. People don't have to care about being good, evil, neutral, lawful, or chaotic. In fact, a lot of characters in traditional D&D with traditional D&D alignments don't care about alignments for the sake of alignments. I can't think of a single character that actually lives "for great justice" or "for the evulz." They value good and evil actions for reasons other than any objective moral quality said actions possess.
You either don't understand what I'm saying, or you don't understand how you are coming across.
I have never said that "90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" or anything to that effect.

You cited the claim that YOUR GROUP understands it (not proven) and don't see a problem as proof that the mechanic is good and as proof that the presentation is acceptable.

Which means that everyone who finds a problem, or who doesn't have a problem only because they've thrown out alignment mechanics, has (according to you) a fundamentally incorrect understanding of alignment.

What I am saying is that if this many people have a fundamentally incorrect understanding of alignment, there is something seriously wrong with the presentation. And if it turns out that your understanding of alignment is wrong, rather than theirs, then there's something wrong with the mechanic itself.

Don't claim that this is what I am trying to say, doing so is Strawman Fallacy

I may be guilty of a bit of hyperbole, but quoting you is not ME constructing a strawman.

First off, you state that it is somehow an objective fact that alignment "sucks"

I put conditions on that. YOU chose not to quote those conditions, and treat my conditional statement as an assertion of objective fact.

Strawman much?

That's grossly untrue.  If alignment rules were objectively and factually bad, then the problems would be universal.  ANY evidence of example that they are not automatically disproves that.

I also explicitly left open the possibility that it was the presentation, not the mechanic, that was bad. You also chose to ignore that, thus reinforcing your strawman with additional dried grass.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
All Chiba has ever said, was that every complaint he has ever seen about alignment, he has found to be due to a misoncstruction of RAW on the parts of the people who had problems with it. He has never said that everyone who has a problem with alignment has the problem because they are doing it wrong, at least to my knowledge. If you're trying to say that is what he said, you are indeed engaging in strawman.
You either don't understand what I'm saying, or you don't understand how you are coming across.
I have never said that "90% of D&D players are doing it wrong" or anything to that effect.

You cited the claim that YOUR GROUP understands it (not proven) and don't see a problem as proof that the mechanic is good and as proof that the presentation is acceptable.

Which means that everyone who finds a problem, or who doesn't have a problem only because they've thrown out alignment mechanics, has (according to you) a fundamentally incorrect understanding of alignment.

What I am saying is that if this many people have a fundamentally incorrect understanding of alignment, there is something seriously wrong with the presentation. And if it turns out that your understanding of alignment is wrong, rather than theirs, then there's something wrong with the mechanic itself.


I added underlines to emphasize the "ifs" in your statements.  You're trying to build a case to determine facts based on a great number of "ifs" that you have provided no proof of evidence for.  As you have not backed them up with any hard facts, they remain "ifs" and your claims are not facts.
Furthermore, I addressed this in my post you were quoting, ironically right after your stopped quoting and responding to it.  Here:

You go on to presume a great deal about what Zaramon, Yagami and myself have been saying.  What we HAVE said is that many of the people who have problems with alignment experience those problems because they (or their DM) were deviating from RAW, and that if all problems with alignment only stem from deviations from RAW about alignment, then alignment itself is not inherently bad.
Now, if you could somehow prove that the number of people deviating from RAW was as high as 90%, then you would be correct, because that would be objective evidence that something about the alignment RAW makes those rules hard to follow.

But you can't.  That kind of data does not exist, and NOTHING exists to support your claim that the problems are THAT widespread. 


I added some bold in there.  I fully acknowledge that IF there was evidence that the problems were that widespread, then that would, in fact, be proof that something about the presentation makes it hard to follow.
But you haven't proven that at all.  You operate as if the idea of "90% of people who play D&D have problems with alignment" is some kind of already proven fact, and go from there.  But it isn't.  And you have provided zero proof to support that claim.  Ergo, your initial premise from which you build your case is flawed.  And the resulting case is flawed.

Don't claim that this is what I am trying to say, doing so is Strawman Fallacy

I may be guilty of a bit of hyperbole, but quoting you is not ME constructing a strawman.

But you didn't quote me.  You responded to the argument "90% of people are doing it wrong".  Which I did not claim.  As Zaramon pointed out:
All Chiba has ever said, was that every complaint he has ever seen about alignment, he has found to be due to a misoncstruction of RAW on the parts of the people who had problems with it. He has never said that everyone who has a problem with alignment has the problem because they are doing it wrong, at least to my knowledge. If you're trying to say that is what he said, you are indeed engaging in strawman.


You admit to using hyperbole.  Well, when you use that hyperbole to present MY points, and then address THAT presentation of my points, you are using argumentum ad ridiculum at best, and strawman at worst.  And since you continue to claim that such was my point, I'm going with strawman.

First off, you state that it is somehow an objective fact that alignment "sucks"

I put conditions on that. YOU chose not to quote those conditions, and treat my conditional statement as an assertion of objective fact.

Strawman much?

Those "conditions" you put on it was you strawmanning my point as "90% of people are doing it wrong", and your respose was "well if that's true then it SUCKS.  Exactly how and why it sucks is still open to debate."  And you have been arguing ever since then as if those tings were true without any facts in evidence.

I strawmanned nothing.

That's grossly untrue.  If alignment rules were objectively and factually bad, then the problems would be universal.  ANY evidence of example that they are not automatically disproves that.

I also explicitly left open the possibility that it was the presentation, not the mechanic, that was bad. You also chose to ignore that, thus reinforcing your strawman with additional dried grass.



Again, I did not ignore it, and you are strawmannign again, here.  If you had just quoted the very next paragraph in the post you are quoting (which I quoted for you, above), you will see that I DID, in fact address the issue of presentation.  I just pointed out that you had no facts to back up how widespread the "problems" are.  Just because I didn't agree with you doesn't mean I didn't address it.  And deleting that section of my post, only to turn around and claim that I did not adress it, is Strawman at best, and at worst, an intentional misrepresentation and a lie.  I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt.



Just to be clear: I am not arguing on whether you should or should not be a nihilist (or moral objectivist, or whatever).  My main point is that, if you are a moral nihilist, the use of alignment lacks any substance in terms of a story's allegorical or metaphorical value.


I'm glad those two addressed your other points, but you are beginning to go off-topic.  I wanted to address your ultimate point as it relates to the topic.
I disagree with your last point here.  Completely and utterly.  What you are suggesting is exactly what I have been making a point against, because ultimately, what you are saying is that you SHOULD impose your own moral values into the D&D game.
What Yagami, Zaramon, and I have been arguing about alignment is that the moral objectivity presented in the rules is part of the rules of a FANTASY world.  As such, one's own moral preference should have NO IMPACT on that game.  But rather, use the system presented in the RAW, which is objective values of Good and Evil.
And this is about alignment RAW. As soon as you want to impose your "moral nihilism" into the picture, you have deviated from alignment RAW, and are outside the bounds of this thread's discussion. 
I'm glad those two addressed your other points, but you are beginning to go off-topic.  I wanted to address your ultimate point as it relates to the topic.
I disagree with your last point here.  Completely and utterly.  What you are suggesting is exactly what I have been making a point against, because ultimately, what you are saying is that you SHOULD impose your own moral values into the D&D game.
What Yagami, Zaramon, and I have been arguing about alignment is that the moral objectivity presented in the rules is part of the rules of a FANTASY world.  As such, one's own moral preference should have NO IMPACT on that game.  But rather, use the system presented in the RAW, which is objective values of Good and Evil.
And this is about alignment RAW. As soon as you want to impose your "moral nihilism" into the picture, you have deviated from alignment RAW, and are outside the bounds of this thread's discussion. 



You're probably right, if the topic is merely about RAW for Good vs Evil alignment woes.  As such, I secede to your point.

So I suppose I can just end by saying, in my personal opinion, discussing Good vs. Evil in a story without any allegorical or metaphorical substance removes the entire purpose and meaning to alignment.  It becomes just as meaningful as "Alignment A vs. Alignment B", and how the RAW define them grammatically.

I think the entire reason why Good vs. Evil is so prominent in fantasy stories is precisely because of their value in real-life.  Defining the value of alignment as it pertains to the story seems to be the most important element, then discussing it's rules as it pertains to the metagame.  However, if this thread only cares about RAW, then you are indeed correct and my discussion doesn't belong here. 


You're probably right, if the topic is merely about RAW for Good vs Evil alignment woes.  As such, I secede to your point.


It's about any alignment woes, and the contention between what is RAW and is not RAW.
So I suppose I can just end by saying, in my personal opinion, discussing Good vs. Evil in a story without any allegorical or metaphorical substance removes the entire purpose and meaning to alignment.  It becomes just as meaningful as "Alignment A vs. Alignment B", and how the RAW define them grammatically.
I think the entire reason why Good vs. Evil is so prominent in fantasy stories is precisely because of their value in real-life.  Defining the value of alignment as it pertains to the story seems to be the most important element, then discussing it's rules as it pertains to the metagame.  However, if this thread only cares about RAW, then you are indeed correct and my discussion doesn't belong here. 


I understand your opinion, and I think it's entirely reasonable.  I also think it's why so many people have trouble with alignment, as they use their own values of Good and Evil as references, instead of solely using the RAW.  It does become "alignment A as defined as alignment A vis alignment B as defined by alignment B".  That much is true, and the inability of some people to seperate that from their own preconceptions of "A=Good, as defined by my own understanding of Good vis B=Evil, as defined by my own understanding of Evil".  This, I think, leads to a great many of alignment problems.

I do, however, want to thank you for your well-reasoned input, and am happy that we could come to an agreement.


I don't mean to re-dredge this up too much, but aren't Alignments just a "fluff" part of the game like "how many brothers and sisters you've had", or "I was orphaned at the age of five and had to learn how to survive on the streets sometimes using illicit methods."

IMO, making alignment a hard system is like saying that charisma determines your looks and chest size (to quote our game group 25 years ago).


jh

Gamer Chiropractor - Hafner Chiropractic 305 S. Kipling st,Suite C-2, Lakewood, Co 80226 hafnerchiropractic.com

I don't mean to re-dredge this up too much, but aren't Alignments just a "fluff" part of the game like "how many brothers and sisters you've had", or "I was orphaned at the age of five and had to learn how to survive on the streets sometimes using illicit methods."


Not when things like class choice, and the effects of a Holy Word spell are affected by one's alignment.  That's a mechanical effect.  By definition, fluff has no mechanical effect on a character.

IMO, making alignment a hard system is like saying that charisma determines your looks and chest size (to quote our game group 25 years ago).


jh


Well, you are certainly welcome to your opinion.
But, strictly speaking from RAW, neither of those is true.  I will concede that a lot of people interpret charisma as a reflection of stuff like that. 
I don't mean to re-dredge this up too much, but aren't Alignments just a "fluff" part of the game like "how many brothers and sisters you've had", or "I was orphaned at the age of five and had to learn how to survive on the streets sometimes using illicit methods."

IMO, making alignment a hard system is like saying that charisma determines your looks and chest size (to quote our game group 25 years ago).


jh



I think a major issue occurs when people "hard code" the wrong stuff into alignment. Alignment is hard-coded into some interactions with things like spells and magical items, etc...but people try to strawman arguments where "Alignment forces a player to make their character do certain stuff!" when this is clearly not the case. A person's actions determine their alignment, not vice versa...but people often invoke the argument to try and attack alignment when really it's a case of A) a bad DM or B) them trying to construct a blatantly false situation that they can argue from.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I don't mean to re-dredge this up too much, but aren't Alignments just a "fluff" part of the game like "how many brothers and sisters you've had", or "I was orphaned at the age of five and had to learn how to survive on the streets sometimes using illicit methods."

IMO, making alignment a hard system is like saying that charisma determines your looks and chest size (to quote our game group 25 years ago).


jh



Like others have said, it depends on exactly what is alignment dependent and what isn't. Thinks like evil spells that slowly shift your alignment closer to evil as you use them, are pretty cool I think. Same thing for holy swords that do more damage to evil creatures. The only time I can imagine this causing a problem, is again, what others have said about forcing characters to do stuff, which isn't how alignment is supposed to function. Regardless of what alignment a player possesses, they have the right to do as they wish, and should exercise said right at every opportunity.

I understand your opinion, and I think it's entirely reasonable.  I also think it's why so many people have trouble with alignment, as they use their own values of Good and Evil as references, instead of solely using the RAW.  It does become "alignment A as defined as alignment A vis alignment B as defined by alignment B".  That much is true, and the inability of some people to seperate that from their own preconceptions of "A=Good, as defined by my own understanding of Good vis B=Evil, as defined by my own understanding of Evil".  This, I think, leads to a great many of alignment problems.

I do, however, want to thank you for your well-reasoned input, and am happy that we could come to an agreement.





Yes, I think you're right about my statements have little to do with RAW, but rather what to do with alignment.  I also agree that the understanding of Good and Evil is important.  This was part of my original point, that if we define them as "whatever feels right", then there really is no "wrong" answer and as such there's little internal struggle.

An Example:
Very recently, we played in a story that focused on the nature of Good and Evil.  Our characters went as embassadors to an orc village.  The village has had a very tentative truce with the nearby elf kingdom, and this is mainly because of two reasons:

  1. The elf king is very powerful and could crush them (but chooses not to, which is important in the story).

  2. The established leader of the orc village had some understanding of morality, and as such didn't favor extermination of all elves.  This second point was odd, since in our game orcs are not really moral agents in the way humans are, as they are inherently evil.  While the orc leader was not exactly Good Guy Greg (not even close, actually), he was a moral agent, and understood the concepts of right, wrong, righteousness, justice and injustice, etc.

There was a large faction in the orc village that opposed the orc leader, and found him weak.  This actually happens a lot here, but the orc leader is strong and an excellent combatant, and was quite harsh about keeping his orcs in-line.  In our game, orc become leader of a tribe by challenging the current leader in one-and-one combat-to-the-death and winning.  Since this orc leader was strong, he's lasted a long time... but he's getting old, and the recent opposition will likely kill him.  So our characters where there as embassadors to do the following: 1. find out what made this orc different that allowed him to be a moral agent, and 2. replace him with someone similiar (since the current leader was old and growing too weak to maintain his position, so he was about to be replaced by someone anyway).  If they failed, the elf king would be forced to exterminate the orc village entirely, which he does not want to do.
Besides combat (which there was plenty to be had, since 95% of the orcs were not too pleased with us being there), the problems to be faced where as follows:


  • If orcs are inherently evil, and not moral agents (i.e. not capable of choosing between good and evil the same way humans are), then is it right to call them morally evil?  A massive earthquake causes plenty of death and mayhem, but we don't call it "evil" since it's a force of nature that has no choice (and as such not a moral agent; an earthquake does not have "Alignment: Evil" but an orc does).  So how do our understandings on moral evil mesh with the "Evil" of the cosmos that created orcs? If orcs and earthquakes both cause bad things to happen without a lot of moral agency (choice), then what is the nature of orcs that makes them "evil"?  This is why I made my post on moral nihilism previously... because if moral evil and "Evil of the cosmos" and "things that are bad but have no agency of choice (such as earthquakes") are all the same thing, it removes morality as a purposeful or meaningful concept.  It also means if morality is relative, it didn't make a difference regardless of moral agency.

  • There were plenty of discussions on "Why don't we just kill 'em all?" Would it be right to utterly destroy an entire village of orcs, including women and children orcs, because of the potential for evil they might do later?  So if you're Lawful Good, would genocide of orcs just because they are orcs (they weren't an invading army) be in-line with your understanding of morality, or against it?  .... tougher to answer than you might think.  The elf king's answer for this is "No, it's not morally right", and favored attempts to keep the orcs in-check, even when it was risky.

  • What made the current orc leader different, and are all orcs capable of understanding morality as he does?

  • There was one scene where humans from a nearby town attacked us on the road because "we were helping the orcs", and therefore they saw us as bad.  Were these human bandits committing an evil act?  Did they deserve death for such aggression, or were they trying to combat evil by attacking "orc sympathizers"?  If you strive to be morally good, what is the best way to deal with this?



I've already typed a lot, but suffice to say it was a wonderful story, and the focus of it was on the nature of Good and Evil as moral concepts in a fantasy world where Good and Evil are also elements of the cosmos.  If Good and Evil are relative to our understanding and nothing more, then the entire story would've been totally meaningless.  The heart of the story was that morality (as a real, inherent code of behavior) is not relative, but understanding it's nature fully is very difficult, and very rarely (if ever) black-and-white.
If we saw morality as relative or non-existant, then there would not have been a struggle to discover what the right choice was, since whatever we felt at the moment would have been the answer.  Given the inherent complexity of the issues presented to us, the DM most certainly did not present us with "the answer", as I don't think anyone in the world can answer this plainly or simply... but the idea of a moral standard to strive to reach was at the core of this struggle.


I think a major issue occurs when people "hard code" the wrong stuff into alignment. Alignment is hard-coded into some interactions with things like spells and magical items, etc...but people try to strawman arguments where "Alignment forces a player to make their character do certain stuff!" when this is clearly not the case. A person's actions determine their alignment, not vice versa...but people often invoke the argument to try and attack alignment when really it's a case of A) a bad DM or B) them trying to construct a blatantly false situation that they can argue from.



Agreed with this.  Not only what they are doing, but why they are doing it.

Sounds like quite an enjoyable campaign.  I'm cutting down the quote to address what looked like actual questions.

Besides combat (which there was plenty to be had, since 95% of the orcs were not too pleased with us being there), the problems to be faced where as follows:


  • If orcs are inherently evil, and not moral agents (i.e. not capable of choosing between good and evil the same way humans are), then is it right to call them morally evil?  A massive earthquake causes plenty of death and mayhem, but we don't call it "evil" since it's a force of nature that has no choice (and as such not a moral agent).  So how do our understandings on moral evil mesh with the "Evil" of the cosmos that created orcs? This is why I made my post on moral nihilism previously... because if moral evil and "Evil of the cosmos" are the same thing, it removes morality as a purposeful or meaningful concept.

  • There were plenty of discussions on "Why don't we just kill 'em all?" Would it be right to utterly destroy an entire village of orcs, including women and children orcs, because of the potential for evil they might do later?  So if you're Lawful Good, would genocide of orcs just because they are orcs (they weren't an invading army) be in-line with your understanding or moralty, or against it?  .... tougher to answer than you might think.  The elf king's answer for this is "No, it's not morally right", and favored attempts to keep the orcs in-check, even when it was risky.

  • What made the current orc leader different, and are all orcs capable of understanding moralty and he does, and as such not being evil all the time?

  • There was one scene where humans from a nearby town attacked us on the road because "we were helping the orcs", and therefore they saw us as bad.  Where these human bandits committing an evil act?  Did they deserve death for such aggression, or were they trying to combat evil by attacking "orc sympathizers"?



Since I am espousing RAW use of alignment here, I will answer with it.  Bold added for emphasis.
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104:
Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.


So the default answer is that orcs are inherently DRAWN towards evil as a generality, but MAY vary from that.  Furthermore, orc society tends to reinforce that evil, so that an orc raised in an orc society is more liekly than not Chaotic Evil.
As far as wiping them all out, there's no alignment-based "right answer".  One Lawful Good person might have a background and personality that involve extreme prejudice against orcs, and would favor wiping them all out.  Another LG person might favor killing the adults (even the women, orc females are not helpless), but putting the children into other homes where they could potentially be indoctrinated away from CE.  Another LG person might only advocate killing the warriors, and leaving the children alive, and the women to raise them, cautioning them against committing the same offenses, but be unwilling to kill them for offenses they haven't committed.  Alignment doesn't determine what the "right" answer is to that question, because it's a character choice.  All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil.  The elf king was merciful and optimistic, not necessarily a result of alignment.  But his authority dictates doctrine for that elf kingdom.
What made the orc king different?  Well, either he was raised outside of an orc community, or he was an uncommon societal abnormality.  One that is certainly possible with any orc, but much less likely.
And the humans were certainly doing what they thought was right to protect their community.  Was it evil?  No.  Is killing them evil?  I suppose that depends.  Were they attacking you with lethal intent?  Then defending yourself is never evil.  If some of them die in the course of you guys defending yourselves, then such is an unfortunate result, but it happens.  By definition the MOST righteous thing to do would be to defend yourself, and try to not kill them.  But accidentally killing them in the course of defending oneself carries no moral weight.  OTOH, if they were just accosting you and demanding that you stop aiding the orcs, and NOT attacking you first, then yes, killing them was wrong.

And, to address your italicised point above, about moral evil vis cosmic evil: How does the two being the same thing remove morality as a purposeful concept?  "Cosmic Evil" refers only to the fact that there is an objective scale by which all acts and people are judged.  So even a sociopath who views the atrocities he commits as morally righteous has an evil alignment in D&D, because his attitudes, outlooks, and actions are objectively evil by the definition of Evil in D&D.  Moral evil in mortal races is a microcosm of the greater evil in the multiverse.  This is shown to be true because spells like detect evil and holy word affect the orc and the balor in the same way.  Now the "moral evil" of mortal races is a microcosm because mortal races have free will, and are subject to their environment, which may or may not override or reinforce inborn moral characteristics.  Add to that that the experiences of an individual can cause one to change one's moral outlooks and attitudes.  All of that, as opposed to a demon, which is literally physically comprised of chaotic and evil energies that, upon that creature's death, return to their plane of origin and re-constitute a new demon.

I've already typed a lot, but suffice to say it was a wonderful story, and the focus of it was on the nature of Good and Evil as moral concepts in a fantasy world where Good and Evil are also elements of the cosmos.  If Good and Evil are relative to our understanding and nothing more, then the entire story would've been totally meaningless.  The heart of the story was that morality (as a real, inherent code of behavior) is not relative, but understanding it's nature fully is very difficult, and very rarely (if ever) black-and-white.


This is a lot like what I was saying.  An individual's perception of Good and Evil can be subjective, but in D&D, there is an absolute scale by which said individual is judged, and alignment is determined.

So the default answer is that orcs are inherently DRAWN towards evil as a generality, but MAY vary from that.  Furthermore, orc society tends to reinforce that evil, so that an orc raised in an orc society is more liekly than not Chaotic Evil.
As far as wiping them all out, there's no alignment-based "right answer".  One Lawful Good person might have a background and personality that involve extreme prejudice against orcs, and would favor wiping them all out.  Another LG person might favor killing the adults (even the women, orc females are not helpless), but putting the children into other homes where they could potentially be indoctrinated away from CE.  Another LG person might only advocate killing the warriors, and leaving the children alive, and the women to raise them, cautioning them against committing the same offenses, but be unwilling to kill them for offenses they haven't committed.  Alignment doesn't determine what the "right" answer is to that question, because it's a character choice.  All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil.  The elf king was merciful and optimistic, not necessarily a result of alignment.  But his authority dictates doctrine for that elf kingdom.
What made the orc king different?  Well, either he was raised outside of an orc community, or he was an uncommon societal abnormality.  One that is certainly possible with any orc, but much less likely.
And the humans were certainly doing what they thought was right to protect their community.  Was it evil?  No.  Is killing them evil?  I suppose that depends.  Were they attacking you with lethal intent?  Then defending yourself is never evil.  If some of them die in the course of you guys defending yourselves, then such is an unfortunate result, but it happens.  By definition the MOST righteous thing to do would be to defend yourself, and try to not kill them.  But accidentally killing them in the course of defending oneself carries no moral weight.  OTOH, if they were just accosting you and demanding that you stop aiding the orcs, and NOT attacking you first, then yes, killing them was wrong.

And, to address your italicised point above, about moral evil vis cosmic evil: How does the two being the same thing remove morality as a purposeful concept?  "Cosmic Evil" refers only to the fact that there is an objective scale by which all acts and people are judged.  So even a sociopath who views the atrocities he commits as morally righteous has an evil alignment in D&D, because his attitudes, outlooks, and actions are objectively evil by the definition of Evil in D&D.  Moral evil in mortal races is a microcosm of the greater evil in the multiverse.  This is shown to be true because spells like detect evil and holy word affect the orc and the balor in the same way.  Now the "moral evil" of mortal races is a microcosm because mortal races have free will, and are subject to their environment, which may or may not override or reinforce inborn moral characteristics.  Add to that that the experiences of an individual can cause one to change one's moral outlooks and attitudes.  All of that, as opposed to a demon, which is literally physically comprised of chaotic and evil energies that, upon that creature's death, return to their plane of origin and re-constitute a new demon.



You make some excellent points, which is precisely why the story was a fun one.
I don't view "cosmic evil" as the same as an objective moral standard.  An object can be evil, a certain location can be evil, or a magic spell can be evil regardless of how it's used, and as you said living thinking creatures can be pure evil without moral agency.

Having read your post, though, I think we agree more than we differ.  In the end, though, I'm breaking my own word.... since I seceded to your point, and think you're right that this thread's main subject is more about alignment RAW.  I need to shut up =P

Sounds like quite an enjoyable campaign.  I'm cutting down the quote to address what looked like actual questions.

Besides combat (which there was plenty to be had, since 95% of the orcs were not too pleased with us being there), the problems to be faced where as follows:


  • If orcs are inherently evil, and not moral agents (i.e. not capable of choosing between good and evil the same way humans are), then is it right to call them morally evil?  A massive earthquake causes plenty of death and mayhem, but we don't call it "evil" since it's a force of nature that has no choice (and as such not a moral agent).  So how do our understandings on moral evil mesh with the "Evil" of the cosmos that created orcs? This is why I made my post on moral nihilism previously... because if moral evil and "Evil of the cosmos" are the same thing, it removes morality as a purposeful or meaningful concept.

  • There were plenty of discussions on "Why don't we just kill 'em all?" Would it be right to utterly destroy an entire village of orcs, including women and children orcs, because of the potential for evil they might do later?  So if you're Lawful Good, would genocide of orcs just because they are orcs (they weren't an invading army) be in-line with your understanding or moralty, or against it?  .... tougher to answer than you might think.  The elf king's answer for this is "No, it's not morally right", and favored attempts to keep the orcs in-check, even when it was risky.

  • What made the current orc leader different, and are all orcs capable of understanding moralty and he does, and as such not being evil all the time?

  • There was one scene where humans from a nearby town attacked us on the road because "we were helping the orcs", and therefore they saw us as bad.  Where these human bandits committing an evil act?  Did they deserve death for such aggression, or were they trying to combat evil by attacking "orc sympathizers"?



Since I am espousing RAW use of alignment here, I will answer with it.  Bold added for emphasis.
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104:
Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.


So the default answer is that orcs are inherently DRAWN towards evil as a generality, but MAY vary from that.  Furthermore, orc society tends to reinforce that evil, so that an orc raised in an orc society is more liekly than not Chaotic Evil.
As far as wiping them all out, there's no alignment-based "right answer".  One Lawful Good person might have a background and personality that involve extreme prejudice against orcs, and would favor wiping them all out.  Another LG person might favor killing the adults (even the women, orc females are not helpless), but putting the children into other homes where they could potentially be indoctrinated away from CE.  Another LG person might only advocate killing the warriors, and leaving the children alive, and the women to raise them, cautioning them against committing the same offenses, but be unwilling to kill them for offenses they haven't committed.  Alignment doesn't determine what the "right" answer is to that question, because it's a character choice.  All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil.  The elf king was merciful and optimistic, not necessarily a result of alignment.  But his authority dictates doctrine for that elf kingdom.
What made the orc king different?  Well, either he was raised outside of an orc community, or he was an uncommon societal abnormality.  One that is certainly possible with any orc, but much less likely.
And the humans were certainly doing what they thought was right to protect their community.  Was it evil?  No.  Is killing them evil?  I suppose that depends.  Were they attacking you with lethal intent?  Then defending yourself is never evil.  If some of them die in the course of you guys defending yourselves, then such is an unfortunate result, but it happens.  By definition the MOST righteous thing to do would be to defend yourself, and try to not kill them.  But accidentally killing them in the course of defending oneself carries no moral weight.  OTOH, if they were just accosting you and demanding that you stop aiding the orcs, and NOT attacking you first, then yes, killing them was wrong.

And, to address your italicised point above, about moral evil vis cosmic evil: How does the two being the same thing remove morality as a purposeful concept?  "Cosmic Evil" refers only to the fact that there is an objective scale by which all acts and people are judged.  So even a sociopath who views the atrocities he commits as morally righteous has an evil alignment in D&D, because his attitudes, outlooks, and actions are objectively evil by the definition of Evil in D&D.  Moral evil in mortal races is a microcosm of the greater evil in the multiverse.  This is shown to be true because spells like detect evil and holy word affect the orc and the balor in the same way.  Now the "moral evil" of mortal races is a microcosm because mortal races have free will, and are subject to their environment, which may or may not override or reinforce inborn moral characteristics.  Add to that that the experiences of an individual can cause one to change one's moral outlooks and attitudes.  All of that, as opposed to a demon, which is literally physically comprised of chaotic and evil energies that, upon that creature's death, return to their plane of origin and re-constitute a new demon.

I've already typed a lot, but suffice to say it was a wonderful story, and the focus of it was on the nature of Good and Evil as moral concepts in a fantasy world where Good and Evil are also elements of the cosmos.  If Good and Evil are relative to our understanding and nothing more, then the entire story would've been totally meaningless.  The heart of the story was that morality (as a real, inherent code of behavior) is not relative, but understanding it's nature fully is very difficult, and very rarely (if ever) black-and-white.


This is a lot like what I was saying.  An individual's perception of Good and Evil can be subjective, but in D&D, there is an absolute scale by which said individual is judged, and alignment is determined.



In your quote you yourself make a mistake that perfectly represents why alignment sucks.  You state that a lawful good person could commit genocide on orcs because of a prejudice and be completely within alignment.  I'm sorry, but if orcs are not inherently evil as your quote stated then, killing innocents is an evil act. end of story.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is an evil act.

In your quote you yourself make a mistake that perfectly represents why alignment sucks.  You state that a lawful good person could commit genocide on orcs because of a prejudice and be completely within alignment.  I'm sorry, but if orcs are not inherently evil as your quote stated then, killing innocents is an evil act. end of story.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is an evil act.


This is exactly the kind of biased, unsupported blanket statements that I requested people not make in this thread.
First of all, someone commiting an act outside their alignment does NOT change their alignment.
3.5e PHB, page 103 (bold added on my part for emphasis):
A creature's general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment...

Alignment is a tool for developing your character's identity.  It is not a straightjacket for restricting your character.  Each alignment represents a broad range of personal philosophies, so two lawful good characters can still be quite different from each other.  In addition, few people are completely consistent.  A lawful good character may have a greedy streak that occasionally tempts him to take something or hoard something he has, even if that's not lawful or good behavior.  People are also not consistent from day to day. A good character can lose his temper, a neutral character can be inspired to perform a noble act, and so on.

 
From the next page (104),in the section titled "The Nine Alignments"
Each alignment description below depicts a typical character of that alignment.  Remember that individuals vary from this norm, and that a given character may act more or less in accord with his or her alignment from day to day.


So, yes, someone who is Lawful Good can commit an evil act and remain Lawful Good.  This is RAW, deal with it.  It's not a failure of alignment, because it's consistent with human behavior.  Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we do bad things.
I posited the example of someone who WOULD commit the genocide as a Lawful Good character who's background and character personality invovled extreme prejudice against orcs.  Such a person might not have been willing to commit the same kind of mass slaughter against a group of kobolds.  So you literally just attacked me for describing a choice that was determined NOT by alignment, but by a character background and personality feature, which was independant of his alignment.  A character with that kind of background/personality quirk could be of any of the nine alignments.  Sometimes good people have irrational hatred for others.  Is it fair to say in the real world that every person with racist or homophobic tendancies is a horrible, evil person?  Of course not.  I chose Lawful Good because I wanted to demonstrate that the choice of whether or not to commit said genocide was not a choice that is dictated by alignment, because ALIGNMENT DOES NOT DICTATE CHARACTER ACTION.  Character outlooks, attitudes, beliefs and actions dictate alignment.
I also demonstrated the versatility of alignments by also showing that there were any number of personalities and choices, all of which were in keeping with an example of someone with a LG alignment.  All 3 of those people I gave examples of were Lawful Good.  Only one of them made the choice to kill the children, and that's because the character in question vitriolically hated orcs.  Not because he was Lawful Good, but because of an element of his background.
So...how did I "perfectly represent why alignment sucks"?  You failed to show any flaw in the alignment system due to my examples.  Given that RAW explicitly states that each alignment covers a broad range of personalities, and that people are not always consistent from day to day, I would say that rather than show flaws in alignment, I demonstrated how versatile alignment really is.  Furthermore, once again, one evil act does not change your alignment.  Even paladins who commit an evil act do not automatically change alignments.  They lose their powers from commiting even one evil act, but they do not change alignments.  And I did not say that any of those 3 LG people in my example were paladins.  Paladins would, of course shy away from commiting an evil act due to violation of CoC.

On a side note:  You also expressly stated that "orcs are not inherently evil as [my] quote stated".  This is wrong.  You either misread or are misrepresenting my quote.  Here...I'll quote what I said for you, and bold for emphasis.  Not only about the inherent evil of orcs, but about alignment.

As far as wiping them all out, there's no alignment-based "right answer".  One Lawful Good person might have a background and personality that involve extreme prejudice against orcs, and would favor wiping them all out.  Another LG person might favor killing the adults (even the women, orc females are not helpless), but putting the children into other homes where they could potentially be indoctrinated away from CE.  Another LG person might only advocate killing the warriors, and leaving the children alive, and the women to raise them, cautioning them against committing the same offenses, but be unwilling to kill them for offenses they haven't committed.  Alignment doesn't determine what the "right" answer is to that question, because it's a character choice.  All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil.  The elf king was merciful and optimistic, not necessarily a result of alignment.  But his authority dictates doctrine for that elf kingdom.


And my support for the inherent evil of orcs comes from RAW, and is not merely my opinion.  What RAW says is:
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104:
Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.


Bold added for emphasis.  According to the RAW, orcs have an inherent bent towards chaotic evil.  Their society reinforces that, so orcs raised in orc society are almost always chaotic evil.  But even an orc raised in human society is only "less likely" to be chaotic evil, meaning that there's still a chance that removing that orc from orc society won't be able to wipe out that ingrained bent towards chaotic evil.
Now...there is, of course the obvious complication that even an orc who IS born chaotic evil probably hasn't actually commited any evil acts yet.  Is he still an innocent?  This kind of moral quandry could be interesting.

I will, however agree with one thing you said, killing innocents is an evil act, according to RAW.  No matter what.  I want to put out a disclaimer here that I'm playing devil's advocate with the pointing out the "inherent orc alignment" thing, and I do not personally advocate the killing of orc babies.  This is a great example of how my personal moral code differs from RAW.  My personal view is that, despite an inherent bent towards CE, these orc babies haven't done anything yet that would merit death, and so killing them would be wrong.  
But the RAW says that orcs have an inherent tendancy towards CE.  Which means that if there's any confusion, they would register on a detect evil spell.  And, according to RAW, the ones that do register as evil are a green light to kill, and as a DM, I would have to adjudicate the rules as such.  Of course, if I was the DM, I'd make sure at least some of the orc babies didn't register as evil.  See what the players do with that.

Anyway, my whole point with this side note is about proof.  You made any number of unsubstantiated claims in that last part of your post.  I chose to humor you.  You did not provide proof that orcs are not born evil.  Quite contrarily, you said that in my post that I said that, which, as you can see from reading my quote from RAW, is not the case.  You then claimed orc babies are innocent.  Facts not in evidence.  You then made a case about why alignment "sucks" using this gross distortion of my point as an example.  This is called Strawman Fallacy, and it is dishonest.

If you are going to enter this debate, be prepared to back up your statements with facts.  Facts that come from the RAW. And if you try to Strawman my points, I will correct you.  If it was because you misunderstood my point, I could understand.  But please, do not try and use dishonest debate tactics again.
After reading and re-reading the section for alignment with the book I came across a particular passage that I believe many will cite as the source of the "problem" with alignment.

"Choosing an alignment for your character means stating your intent to play that character a certain way.  If your character acts in a way more appropriate to another alignment, the DM may decide that your character's alignment has changed to match her actions"

The question becomes when and for what reasons can a DM decide that a character's alignment does not match what they have written down.  We'll use Lawful Good as our example here, but before getting to the question we'll cite the book for guideance on what might make up a Lawful Good person.

In Good vs Evil section:
"Good Characters and creatures protect innocent life."

" "Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for dignity of sentient beings.  Good characters make personal sacrafices to help others"

" Being good or evil can be a conscious choice, as with the paladin who attempts to live up to her ideals or the evil cleric who causes pain and terror to emulate his god.  For most people, though, being good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose."


In Law vs Chaos section:
" Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

""Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability.  On the downside lawfulness can include close mindedness, reactionary adherence to tradition, judgmentalness and a lack of adaptability.  Those who conciously promote lawfulness say that only lawful behavior creates a society in which people can depend on each other and make the right decisions in full confidence that others will act as they should."

"Devotion to law or chaos may be a conscious choice, but more often it is a personality trait that is recognized rather than being chosen."


Under the Nine Alignments section:
" Nine distinct alignments define all the combination of law vs chaos and good vs evil.  Each description depicts the typical character of that alignment.  Remember that individuals vary from the norm, and that a given character may act more or less with her alignment from day to day.  Use these descriptions as guidelines not scripts"


So the question that I'm going to ask is when is it right for a DM to change a character's, in thise case Lawful Good, alignment?  Even if we start to look at the defintions given we'll find that there is alot of vagueness within the defintions the system suggests.


Just looking at the first couple of quotes for good we run into a few non-defined questions.
What defines  "respect for life" is it life for all creatures, those that it finds friendly, or any of a variety of otherways we could define it?  What defines "innocent life" does it only apply to good people, does it apply to the young of those who are only evil because their society is, what about people forced to do evil actions on threat of death are they innocent, and of course their are a number of other ways to define what "innocent life" means.       
 
So back to the DM changing a character's alignment.  How many infractions to the definitions provided does a character get?  Who get's to decided what the definitions to things like "respect for life" are?  The book does mention exceptions for individuals and that it's not a straightjacket for restricting your character, but at what point does stepping away from what is written and not fully defined count as another alignment.  Where does someone draw the line and say that you're no longer alignment X you're alignment Y?                   
        
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Great post.

I stand point the point that arguing for subjective morality in a game of "HEROIC FANTASY" eliminates at least half one of those words and possibly the other as well.




you know i've been reading these discussion and have seen you bring up "Heroic Fantasy" as the RAW genre of DNDas a basis for your arguments, that isn't correct.

On Page 12 of the 4E DMG, there's a section on "DM Style" and it offers a number of "extremes" which the DM's style may choose to utilize, where both sides are equally viable options based on the desires of the group. The last row lists "Morally ambigious ...or... Heroic" it then goes on to elaborate on this:

"Are you comfortable with a morally ambiguity, such as allowing the characters to explore if the end justifies the means, or are you happier with straightforward heroic principles, such as justice, sacrifice and helping the downtrodden?"

Both are considered to be equally viable options- it seems that not only is heroic fantasy explicitly not the default (with Moral Ambiguity being an equally viable option) but also that alignment isn't assumed to be absolute- in other words, subejctive morality is just as acceptable to DND as absolute morality- it no more dictates cosmic moral forces for the game than it allows for them.

Similarly, the DMG later talks about Sub-genres of Fantasy in and of themselves(pg. 136), reinforcing the idea that DND covers the wide range of fantasy tropes:

"Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game, but that broad category has room for a lot of variety. Many different subgenres exist in both fiction and film. Do you want a horror campaign inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith? Or a world of muscled barbarians and nimble thieves, along the lines of the classic sword and sorcery books by Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber? The DND model can handle either of these models and many others"

neither of the examples presented in this paragraph are heroic fantasy (swords and sorcery itself tends to be morally darker, according the section on it that follows:

"a grim, Hulking fighter disembowels the high priest of the serpent god on his own altar. A Laughing rogue spends his ill-gotten gains on cheap wine in filthy taverns." it even outright states that even in "old-school DND" heroic fantasy wasn't the default "A swords and sorcery campaign is old-school DND... here you'll find a dark gritty world of evil sorcerers and decadent cities , where the protagonists are more motivated by greed than altruistic virtue" The very opposite of heroic fantasy and morality as a 'cosmic force'

going by RAW, Moral Ambiguity IS an acceptable and equally endorsed version of the game to Heroic Fantasy- as are other types of games. Your assumption of DND dictating these objective moral truths is therefore incorrect, and the rest of your argument concerning the idea that there isn't any kind of real conflict when it comes to morality in DND is patently false.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

A cultural bent is not inherently evil.  Your quote from the PHB states that orcs are not inherently evil.  My statement did not say that one evil act would change a persons alignment.  Your statement was that a LG player could be within his alignment to kill an entire village of orcs including women and babies.  If killing innocents is an evil act and orcs are not inherently evil, which they are not, then killing orc babies is an evil act period.  I didn't say the allignment of the character would change only that they would be commiting an evil act.  Again your quote and the block about races below it in the PHB does not say orcs are inherently evil.  If they were then all orcs would be evil and the rules specifically state they are not.  So once again killing orc babies evil act.  Only the creatures in italics are always of the alignment in the table.  Orcs are not in italics.  Only the creatures in italics are born into the alignment and it is inherent to their nature.  Orcs are not in italics.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is evil.  A LG person is not acting according to alignment when killing orc babies.  Doesn't mean you have to change the alignment of the character.
Though I'd argue that killing an entire village's worth of orc babies is enough evil acts to be pulled past Good, at least into lower Neutral.
 you: " All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil. "

me: "In your quote you yourself make a mistake that perfectly represents why alignment sucks.  You state that a lawful good person could commit genocide on orcs because of a prejudice and be completely within alignment.  I'm sorry, but if orcs are not inherently evil as your quote stated then, killing innocents is an evil act. end of story.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is an evil act."

You are calling it lawful good.  I make no statement that it would change the characters alignment only that it is an evil act.

You:   This is exactly the kind of biased, unsupported blanket statements that I requested people not make in this thread. First of all, someone commiting an act outside their alignment does NOT change their alignment. 3.5e PHB, page 103 (bold added on my part for emphasis):

My statement is perfectly supported by your rules quote.  I make no statement about changing the character alignment only that it is an evil act. 

Your rules quote so you can read it.
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104: Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.
    
 Bold removed because I can read without it.  Tendancies do not make all orc babies chaotic evil.  Killing them is an evil act because they are innocents.  Prejudices have no impact on what actually is LG.  Cosmic forces and what not don't care if you hate orcs killing innocent babies is still killing innocent babies.
 you: " All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil. "

me: "In your quote you yourself make a mistake that perfectly represents why alignment sucks.  You state that a lawful good person could commit genocide on orcs because of a prejudice and be completely within alignment.  I'm sorry, but if orcs are not inherently evil as your quote stated then, killing innocents is an evil act. end of story.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is an evil act."

You are calling it lawful good.  I make no statement that it would change the characters alignment only that it is an evil act.

You:   This is exactly the kind of biased, unsupported blanket statements that I requested people not make in this thread. First of all, someone commiting an act outside their alignment does NOT change their alignment. 3.5e PHB, page 103 (bold added on my part for emphasis):

My statement is perfectly supported by your rules quote.  I make no statement about changing the character alignment only that it is an evil act. 

Your rules quote so you can read it.
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104: Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.
    
 Bold removed because I can read without it.  Tendancies do not make all orc babies chaotic evil.  Killing them is an evil act because they are innocents.  Prejudices have no impact on what actually is LG.  Cosmic forces and what not don't care if you hate orcs killing innocent babies is still killing innocent babies.


I understand your point, but your are 1) failing to read the full RAW instead of taking what you want from it, and 2) misrepresenting my point.
I made it clear that I at no point said that killing innocents is not an evil act.  I posited 3 examples of LG people, only one of which would have advocated the killing of the orc children, and that was due to a non-alignment related character trait.  The reason I included him was to highlight that EVEN SOMEONE WHO IS LAWFUL GOOD might advocate killing the orc children, if it was in keeping with their character.  The other two, of course, had no desire to kill children who had not been guilty of anything yet.  The whole point of that is that alignment does not dictate or mandate character action.  THAT was the point.  You harp on 1/3 of the examples I posited and expound that into a gross misrepresentatino of my point, going so far as to say that I claimed that killing orc babies is a Lawful Good act.  This is Strawman Fallacy.
When I said "Acceptable as LG", I meant that a LG character could find such an act acceptable.
And it is "acceptable within the confines of alignment" because the alignment system allows for a broad range of personality types within each alignment, and allows for character to commit acts outside alignment and retain their alignment.

Again, the thing about arguing the orc children's alignment was a side note, and I admitted to playing devil's advocate.  But to humor you...
You claim "a cultural bent is not inherently evil".  You did not fully read the section from the PHB which you quoted.  " For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members."  So, while orc culture tends to reinforce their CE, orcs are, as a race, born wiuth a tendancy towards CE.  So, are all orc babies evil?  By a strcict RAW reading, no, but some probably are.  Those that were would have a faint evil aura.

Nnow, that doesn't mean I advocate killing orc babies, even evil ones, as a non-evil act.  After all, they haven't DONE anything evil yet, have they? I would like to remediate one of my earlier statements.  Nothing in the PHB says that pinging on detect evil is a green light to kill.  I often posit the example of the evil bartender.  He's not a criminal, he's just a greedy, selfish, miserly old man, and he's unarmed.  Killing him is evil.  Likewise, killing the orc babies is an evil act.  EVEN THOUGH some of them ARE evil, according to RAW.

So please stop twisting my words. 
The question becomes when and for what reasons can a DM decide that a character's alignment does not match what they have written down.  We'll use Lawful Good as our example here, but before getting to the question we'll cite the book for guideance on what might make up a Lawful Good person.



Page 134 of the 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide covers this in detail. A week's worth of consistent behavior that matches a given alignment will cause said alignment to move closer to the alignment the behavior matches by one step.

For example, if a lawful good character consistently performs evil acts for the duration of a week, alignment changes to lawful neutral at the end of the week. Note that the DMG says a week is minimum, and the DM can allow for more time to pass between changes if they wish, but not less.

There are also incredibly rare and extreme circumstances where a characters alignment can shift more than one step at a time due to, as was noted, rare and extreme action. Again, for more info, read the quoted page.

Though I'd argue that killing an entire village's worth of orc babies is enough evil acts to be pulled past Good, at least into lower Neutral.



Depends on whether they glow red or not when detected.

[On Page 12 of the 4E DMG, there's a section on "DM Style" and it offers a number of "extremes" which the DM's style may choose to utilize, where both sides are equally viable options based on the desires of the group. The last row lists "Morally ambigious ...or... Heroic" it then goes on to elaborate on this:



Moto point since were discussing primarily 3e alignment RAW, as 4e pretty much has no alignment RAW. Alignment plays a much smaller role in 4e than 3e, so we're kind of setting it aside in this thread.

Thank you for pointing the area I need to look Zaramon. While it did clear a few up a few things with relation to answering "when" it still leaves a bit of the "why" part unanswered.

 How many times can a character act outside of their alignment, and still retain their alignment? How does is a DM supposed to interpret the guidelines within the player's handbook? For example what exactly qualifies as "innocent life" for a good character? What constitutes making sacrifices to help others?
 
It still just seems a bit subjective and open to interpretation in some form.

How many times can a character act outside of their alignment, and still retain their alignment? How does is a DM supposed to interpret the guidelines within the player's handbook? For example what exactly qualifies as "innocent life" for a good character? What constitutes making sacrifices to help others?



I don't believe a limit is placed on number of acts. The metric they used for 3e was time-based rather than quantity-based. You could theoretically perform as many acts of evil as you wished without actually changing alignment any closer to evil, so long as the evil behavior isn't shown to be consistent. If you want to figure out what they mean by "innocent life" just look it up in the dictionary.

Long and short of the dictionary definition is "without moral stain or taint." In otherwords, not evil. There really isn't a whole lot of interpreting that needs to go on there. Just use the words foro what they mean. Sacrificing to help others is likewise pretty simple. Just look up "altriusm" since that is the word they use for that in the PHB.

Really, I've always found the alignment rules to be pretty clear. It's pretty hard to misinterpret meanings when you just stick with what the words actually mean.
How many times can a character act outside of their alignment, and still retain their alignment? How does is a DM supposed to interpret the guidelines within the player's handbook? For example what exactly qualifies as "innocent life" for a good character? What constitutes making sacrifices to help others?



I don't believe a limit is placed on number of acts. The metric they used for 3e was time-based rather than quantity-based. You could theoretically perform as many acts of evil as you wished without actually changing alignment any closer to evil, so long as the evil behavior isn't shown to be consistent. If you want to figure out what they mean by "innocent life" just look it up in the dictionary.

Long and short of the dictionary definition is "without moral stain or taint." In otherwords, not evil. There really isn't a whole lot of interpreting that needs to go on there. Just use the words foro what they mean. Sacrificing to help others is likewise pretty simple. Just look up "altriusm" since that is the word they use for that in the PHB.

Really, I've always found the alignment rules to be pretty clear. It's pretty hard to misinterpret meanings when you just stick with what the words actually mean.



Sorry for being difficult here, but what defines moral stain or taint?  Is something more morally staining or tainting than another action?  What if someone did something morally staining but eventually turned over a new leaf are they considered "innocent" now or does their previous crime always brand them as such?  

How far and how much must a character do to be considered sacrificing to help others?  Do they have to give out their gold, or just their time and help?  Is not going above and beyond considered neutral if you just protected people you don't know? 

My question a quantity pertains to the time period it happens in.  If a character performs a bunch of evil acts within one week, but ends up good the other 99% of the time does the DM change their alignment one week and then switch it back?  What defines conistently evil behavior, how much and how often does it have to occur to be considered consistent within the period of that week?
Sorry for being difficult here, but what defines moral stain or taint?  Is something more morally staining or tainting than another action?  What if someone did something morally staining but eventually turned over a new leaf are they considered "innocent" now or does their previous crime always brand them as such?

  

First, I want to say you shouldn't apologize for asking questions. If anyone ever tries to make you feel bad for that, don't trust them.

All the word "innocent" really means is "not evil," at least in the context of morality. There are other definitions of the word innocent that can apply, depending on context. So if you're talking about a morally innocent person in the context of D&D and alignment, you're talking about someone who isn't evil aligned.

How far and how much must a character do to be considered sacrificing to help others?  Do they have to give out their gold, or just their time and help?  Is not going above and beyond considered neutral if you just protected people you don't know? 



It just says sacrifice. It doesn't give specifics on what you sacrifice, or how much. So it could be pretty much anything. Protecting people that you aren't previously commited to via relationship is actually specifically called out as a good-aligned act according to 3e RAW.

My question a quantity pertains to the time period it happens in.  If a character performs a bunch of evil acts within one week, but ends up good the other 99% of the time does the DM change their alignment one week and then switch it back? 



The 3e DMG says that consistent alignment change shows a lack of commitment, meaning neutrality. Another way to look at this is, what happens when someone does a bunch of good acts and a bunch of evil acts, within the same week? It amounts to the same thing.

What defines conistently evil behavior, how much and how often does it have to occur to be considered consistent within the period of that week?



Well, for that I think we should take a look at the dictionary definition of the word consistent, since there isn't a RAW definition, consistent must by nature have the same value as its default meaning.





































1. showing consistency; not self-contradictory
2. in agreement or harmony; accordant
3. steady; even: consistent growth
4. maths  (of two or more equations) satisfied by at least one common set of values of the variables: x + y = 4 and x -- y = 2 are consistent
5. logic
 a. (of a set of statements) capable of all being true at the same time or under the same interpretation
 b. Compare complete Also: sound  (of a formal system) not permitting the deduction of a contradiction from the axioms
6. obsolete  stuck together; cohering


I think the definition that applies most is number 3. It's just a question of whether or not the act is aberrant, or a regular occurence. Is evil behavior something a character engages in often? If yes, then their alignment should move a step in that direction.

Sorry for being difficult here, but what defines moral stain or taint?  Is something more morally staining or tainting than another action?  What if someone did something morally staining but eventually turned over a new leaf are they considered "innocent" now or does their previous crime always brand them as such?

 
The 3e Book of Vile Darkness has some good notes about this.  It dictates what acts are evil, and how some are more damning than others.  Lying, Cheating, Theft, Greed...these are things that can be evil, or are minor evils, or can lead to greater evils.  Murder, Animating Undead, Consorting with Fiends,, Damning or Harming Souls...these things are vile, reprehensible evil.
And the DMG posits the exact example you posted 3rd.  An evil character who is moved by the selfless actions of good people he accompanies.  His transition to a new alignment is gradual, so the previously CE person becomes CN on his way towards CG if his change of heart continues (which is likely if he remains with his good companions).  "Innocent" is a bit far-fetched, though, because he still did his past misdeeds.  Although, if his change of heart is genuine, he may seek atonement or forgiveness for them.

How far and how much must a character do to be considered sacrificing to help others?  Do they have to give out their gold, or just their time and help?  Is not going above and beyond considered neutral if you just protected people you don't know? 

My question a quantity pertains to the time period it happens in.  If a character performs a bunch of evil acts within one week, but ends up good the other 99% of the time does the DM change their alignment one week and then switch it back?  What defines conistently evil behavior, how much and how often does it have to occur to be considered consistent within the period of that week?


Ultimately, since alignment is just a gross generalization of a person's overall outlook, attitudes, and actions, what it boils down to is: when the new actions reflect an actual change in the character's outlook and attitudes.  Unless you have a Bad Player who is intentionally acting contradictory to each new alignment in ways that are not consistent with any kind of actual character in a metagame attempt to just be disruptive at the table, any kind of constant switching should not be too much of a problem.  Because really, what kind of situation can you come up with that isn't contrived or metagamed where a good character commits a bunch of evil acts over the course of a week and then switches back over to good, selfless acts?
But like Zaramon said "Indecisiveness Indicates Neutrality" is what the DMG says.

 you: " All of those solutions are acceptable as LG, because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil. "

me: "In your quote you yourself make a mistake that perfectly represents why alignment sucks.  You state that a lawful good person could commit genocide on orcs because of a prejudice and be completely within alignment.  I'm sorry, but if orcs are not inherently evil as your quote stated then, killing innocents is an evil act. end of story.  Orc babies are innocents.  Killing orc babies is an evil act."

You are calling it lawful good.  I make no statement that it would change the characters alignment only that it is an evil act.

You:   This is exactly the kind of biased, unsupported blanket statements that I requested people not make in this thread. First of all, someone commiting an act outside their alignment does NOT change their alignment. 3.5e PHB, page 103 (bold added on my part for emphasis):

My statement is perfectly supported by your rules quote.  I make no statement about changing the character alignment only that it is an evil act. 

Your rules quote so you can read it.
From the 3.5e PHB, page 104: Normal sentient creatures can be on any alignment.  They may have inherent tendancies toward a particular alignment, but individuals can vary from this norm.  Depending on the type of creature, these tendancies may be stronger or weaker.  For example, kobolds and beholders are usually lawful evil, but kobolds display more variation in alignment than beholders because their inborn alignment tendancy isn't as strong.  Also, sentient creatures have cultural tendancies that usually reinforce alignment tendancies.  For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members.  A human raised among orcs is more likely than normal to be chaotic evil, while an orc raised among humans is less likely to be so.
    
 Bold removed because I can read without it.  Tendancies do not make all orc babies chaotic evil.  Killing them is an evil act because they are innocents.  Prejudices have no impact on what actually is LG.  Cosmic forces and what not don't care if you hate orcs killing innocent babies is still killing innocent babies.


I understand your point, but your are 1) failing to read the full RAW instead of taking what you want from it, and 2) misrepresenting my point.
I made it clear that I at no point said that killing innocents is not an evil act.  I posited 3 examples of LG people, only one of which would have advocated the killing of the orc children, and that was due to a non-alignment related character trait.  The reason I included him was to highlight that EVEN SOMEONE WHO IS LAWFUL GOOD might advocate killing the orc children, if it was in keeping with their character.  The other two, of course, had no desire to kill children who had not been guilty of anything yet.  The whole point of that is that alignment does not dictate or mandate character action.  THAT was the point.  You harp on 1/3 of the examples I posited and expound that into a gross misrepresentatino of my point, going so far as to say that I claimed that killing orc babies is a Lawful Good act.  This is Strawman Fallacy.
When I said "Acceptable as LG", I meant that a LG character could find such an act acceptable.
And it is "acceptable within the confines of alignment" because the alignment system allows for a broad range of personality types within each alignment, and allows for character to commit acts outside alignment and retain their alignment.

Again, the thing about arguing the orc children's alignment was a side note, and I admitted to playing devil's advocate.  But to humor you...
You claim "a cultural bent is not inherently evil".  You did not fully read the section from the PHB which you quoted.  " For example, orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members."  So, while orc culture tends to reinforce their CE, orcs are, as a race, born wiuth a tendancy towards CE.  So, are all orc babies evil?  By a strcict RAW reading, no, but some probably are.  Those that were would have a faint evil aura.

Nnow, that doesn't mean I advocate killing orc babies, even evil ones, as a non-evil act.  After all, they haven't DONE anything evil yet, have they? I would like to remediate one of my earlier statements.  Nothing in the PHB says that pinging on detect evil is a green light to kill.  I often posit the example of the evil bartender.  He's not a criminal, he's just a greedy, selfish, miserly old man, and he's unarmed.  Killing him is evil.  Likewise, killing the orc babies is an evil act.  EVEN THOUGH some of them ARE evil, according to RAW.

So please stop twisting my words. 



I'm not "twisting your words".  You made a list of actions that a LG character could do, then followed it with the statement that all of these were acceptable as lawful good.  They may all be actions a lawful good character could make, I'm not arguing that they aren't.  They are not all lawful good actions though.  The statement all of these are acceptable as lawful good was made saying the actions were acceptable lawful good actions.  You even justified this stance with the statement "because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil."  Why would you justify it in this way if you were not refering to the action as acceptable as LG. 


Now on the orcs being CE thing.  You are the one not reading the entire rule about typical alignments.  You are then stating I am the one not reading the entire section when it is you that are reading words that are not there.  First the races that are inherently a certain alignment are italicized in the chart in the PHB on page 103.  Orcs are not italicized.  What that means if you read the entire section is since italicized means: are always of the alignment, with the exception of paladins BORN into the alignment, and the alignment is an inherent part of their nature.  This means those NOT italicized such as orcs are not inherently CE, NOT born CE, and it is not completely inherent to there nature.  So basically orcs tend to be CE, and their culture tends to reinforce CE, but they are not inherently CE, they are not born CE, CE is not inherent to an orcs nature.  So orc babies are innocents.  This is reinforced by the fact that as the rules state not all orcs are CE.

Maybe you didn't mean to say it was an acceptable LG action, but that is the way it reads.  So you admit you made a mistake, but I did not twist your words.  Those were your words.  I did not make a strawman fallacy, because you did claim it was a LG act.  You can back track and say otherwise, but that is what you stated.  The quote is that it is acceptable as LG.  If you had said as you claim to have meant that they were acceptable actions a lawful good character could make even if some of those actions go against the LG alignment then sure I would be making a strawman fallacy and twisting your words, but that isn't what you said.  You said acceptable as LG.

Once again I'd like to thank you Zaramon I'd like to thank you for replying. You did address the points that were weighing on my mind, but once again I think I need to further clarify myself.

Innocence being not Evil is something I can understand, and would make sense. I guess my main question concerning innocence is it being used in other contexts of the definition. An example to illustrate my confusion is that a small LG child who was just born falls into the same category as a LG paladin who's been hardened some by the world and its dangers.

As for the example that I presented you're looking at it with hindsight. As a DM if a character acts consistently with an alignment/s that they are not with the week context, then should you change their alignment? I guess my main concern is not the eventually what happens down the road, but what should you do in the more immediate time period? Should you wait until you have more info, or just start them down that path of change? This choice is a choice each DM makes when confronted with the situation, and I'm not sure there is one right answer.

Then we get to the problem of consistency again, and perhaps it's just a problem with the word itself. The definition that is the most applicable is defining itself with itself, which really doesn't help when trying to figure out when to apply something. While I admire your definition of it, I think we can both agree that often and regular can be a bit vague in meaning as well. However, I see your point is that in the long run you're just looking for what alignments the majority of actions the characters performs fall into to determine their alignment.




   

         
Once again I'd like to thank you Zaramon I'd like to thank you for replying. You did address the points that were weighing on my mind, but once again I think I need to further clarify myself.



I'm always happy to help in whatever way I can. That said, I feel like I do the most good when I can help someone find their own answers.



An example to illustrate my confusion is that a small LG child who was just born falls into the same category as a LG paladin who's been hardened some by the world and its dangers.


As far as I can tell, yes.



As for the example that I presented you're looking at it with hindsight. As a DM if a character acts consistently with an alignment/s that they are not with the week context, then should you change their alignment? I guess my main concern is not the eventually what happens down the road, but what should you do in the more immediate time period? Should you wait until you have more info, or just start them down that path of change? This choice is a choice each DM makes when confronted with the situation, and I'm not sure there is one right answer.


The week is only the minimum. It says right in the DMG that you can stretch it for longer if you wish. Once they behave in a given way for the requisite time period though, that should cause an alignment change, much like someone dying when they lose all their hp. Once I establish what the requisite time is in any given game though, I stick to it. I have found the week minimum to garner the most success in my own games.


Then we get to the problem of consistency again, and perhaps it's just a problem with the word itself. The definition that is the most applicable is defining itself with itself, which really doesn't help when trying to figure out when to apply something. While I admire your definition of it, I think we can both agree that often and regular can be a bit vague in meaning as well. However, I see your point is that in the long run you're just looking for what alignments the majority of actions the characters performs fall into to determine their alignment.


Pretty much.

The 3e Book of Vile Darkness has some good notes about this.  It dictates what acts are evil, and how some are more damning than others.  Lying, Cheating, Theft, Greed...these are things that can be evil, or are minor evils, or can lead to greater evils.  Murder, Animating Undead, Consorting with Fiends,, Damning or Harming Souls...these things are vile, reprehensible evil.
And the DMG posits the exact example you posted 3rd.  An evil character who is moved by the selfless actions of good people he accompanies.  His transition to a new alignment is gradual, so the previously CE person becomes CN on his way towards CG if his change of heart continues (which is likely if he remains with his good companions).  "Innocent" is a bit far-fetched, though, because he still did his past misdeeds.  Although, if his change of heart is genuine, he may seek atonement or forgiveness for them.

Ultimately, since alignment is just a gross generalization of a person's overall outlook, attitudes, and actions, what it boils down to is: when the new actions reflect an actual change in the character's outlook and attitudes.  Unless you have a Bad Player who is intentionally acting contradictory to each new alignment in ways that are not consistent with any kind of actual character in a metagame attempt to just be disruptive at the table, any kind of constant switching should not be too much of a problem.  Because really, what kind of situation can you come up with that isn't contrived or metagamed where a good character commits a bunch of evil acts over the course of a week and then switches back over to good, selfless acts?
But like Zaramon said "Indecisiveness Indicates Neutrality" is what the DMG says.




Sorry I'm not too familiar with the book of Vile Darkness so I can't comment too much on that. However I am curious are any of those evil actions considered not evil or less evil if they are used for just means? Does a cleric animating the dead to protect a village from an approaching army count as a reprehensible evil? What if you bargain your own soul with fiends to help others than yourself?

While I was not clear with my original example it's a little different then what is in the DMG. As detailed in my post above I was meaning to refer to a LG person that had committed evil actions for a week (perhaps because of some character background, or a particular circumstance that the character perceived as the only means to do something, or maybe a player that wanted to try role-playing differently and found out that they didn't like it).

As for the example let's not go too far and just assume that it's a contrived because a player engages in some form of Meta game. That's a topic for another post, and there really has been enough of those posts too, and it really is just a preference on the DM how much a player is allowed to engage in it.



Just a few quick questions that I was pondering:

Should a DM to change the alignment of a class with an alignment restriction if a player is behaving in a manner that is only a one step change? For example a paladin that is really neutral good or a monk that is more neutral than lawful. This is an opinion question so there isn't a really right or wrong answer, I'm just more interested in learning your thoughts on the matter.

What would be the "Good" response for a group of knights that encounter an orc hunting group assuming that both groups see each other, and that the orcs don't seem hostile? Let's assume that these hunting grounds are common ground, and that the orcs don't have any human bodies with or nearby them. Once again I know there isn't one right answer just interested in your thoughts.



As for the example that I presented you're looking at it with hindsight. As a DM if a character acts consistently with an alignment/s that they are not with the week context, then should you change their alignment? I guess my main concern is not the eventually what happens down the road, but what should you do in the more immediate time period? Should you wait until you have more info, or just start them down that path of change? This choice is a choice each DM makes when confronted with the situation, and I'm not sure there is one right answer.

The week is only the minimum. It says right in the DMG that you can stretch it for longer if you wish. Once they behave in a given way for the requisite time period though, that should cause an alignment change, much like someone dying when they lose all their hp. Once I establish what the requisite time is in any given game though, I stick to it. I have found the week minimum to garner the most success in my own games.




I guess I'm just mostly curious as to how strictly a DM should stick to that week time-table, and when they should make exception.  Granted this is all opinion at this point but I think that might be where some DMs go wrong.  Not that they're bad DMs, or maybe not bad overall, but that they don't have a set time period and strict rules for making the changes.

Consider this more a brain teaser trying to get some ideas about alignment now, but I was wondering if you'd do me the honor of answering a few questions to your thoughts on these situations.

How do you go about telling their character is going to change alignment?  What's the warning system like?  How often do you find yourself having to use the alignment change rules for each new group?  How often do you find yourself having to use the alignment change rules within a group?  Have you played or been in a group that you felt the DM was being too "judicious" in the rules of changing alignment?


I'm mostly interested because while I started D&D with 3e I was a lot younger and less experienced in all things D&D. At this point I only play 4e, and while alignment is still available, it's mostly just a role-playing aid without as many distinctions or any mechanical connections. I just would like to hear about the thoughts about alignment from someone with a bit more experience on it.
I promise I'm not ignoring this thread, and when I have more time I will give proper attention to it, but after I go post something real quick in another thread, I've actually got to go eat and then crash. But I swear I will get to this sometime tomorrow, probably late in the afternoon.
I guess I'm just mostly curious as to how strictly a DM should stick to that week time-table, and when they should make exception.  Granted this is all opinion at this point but I think that might be where some DMs go wrong.  Not that they're bad DMs, or maybe not bad overall, but that they don't have a set time period and strict rules for making the changes.



I don't think exceptions should be made, once an acceptable timetable is established. Rule consistency is a big deal in a game, because it means world consisteny, which builds player trust and aids in suspension of disbelief.

How do you go about telling their character is going to change alignment?



I don't. I let everyone know the conditions required for alignment change, and then they have the power to change their alignment through their actions. If a player doesn't seem to realize their alignment is changing, I let them know. If they try and argue with me when it happens, I re-explain the system to them, and let them know it's no different than if all their hp had run out resulting in death. I've never actually had to go that far though. The farthest I've had to go is a simple re-explanation of point one. 

What's the warning system like?



If I see someone grossly behaving against a selected alignment, I ask them if they're doing tha because they're changing alignment, or if they're acting out of character. If it's the first one, I say something along the lines of, "ah, I see." If it's the second one, as in they don't mean to be lawful and are trying to be chaotic, I let them know that they are acting out of character, and give a very brief recap of what lawful and chaotic are. 

How often do you find yourself having to use the alignment change rules for each new group?



The last time I invoked alignment changing rules was as a player, and before that, I can't really remember. But I changed my wizard from neutral good to neutral. He was a wide starry-eyed kid with dreams of making it big as an adventurer and heroically battling horrible villains along the way. His first adventure rolled around and two of his friends got butchered and he almost died, then he started to suffer from mild PTSD and a strong overriding desire to protect the people he cared about. This caused him to delve into some pretty nasty magic, and as time went on and he was exposed to more and more of the world, he just got more cynical. So he ended up neutral. 

How often do you find yourself having to use the alignment change rules within a group?



The time it happens most often is when I run games, but even that's rare. No one generally seems to be interested in alignment changes. 

Have you played or been in a group that you felt the DM was being too "judicious" in the rules of changing alignment?



Actually yes. Me, when I first started out and I didn't have a solid grasp on any of the rules yet. This was a decade ago though and it only happened a couple times before I figured out what I was doing wrong in that area.

I'm mostly interested because while I started D&D with 3e I was a lot younger and less experienced in all things D&D. At this point I only play 4e, and while alignment is still available, it's mostly just a role-playing aid without as many distinctions or any mechanical connections. I just would like to hear about the thoughts about alignment from someone with a bit more experience on it.



Personally, I think it's cool that there's a mechanical voice for things like dangerous dark magic, holy swords, wild spirits, and things like that. It makes sorting magical effects a lot easier and more sensible for one. I think some of the alignment based effects are too fiddly though. "+2 Against a spell from the enchantment school if cast by an evil creautre on X plane of existence for a number of rounds equal to 2+charisma mod. This ability funtions 3 times per day." I don't think that's a problem llimited to alignment effects though. That said, I think alignment effects should be above and beyond simple small stat bonuses.

I'm not "twisting your words".  You made a list of actions that a LG character could do, then followed it with the statement that all of these were acceptable as lawful good.  They may all be actions a lawful good character could make, I'm not arguing that they aren't.  They are not all lawful good actions though.  The statement all of these are acceptable as lawful good was made saying the actions were acceptable lawful good actions.


I clarified that for you later.  What I mean was "these actions are all acceptable as a LG person".
 You even justified this stance with the statement "because orcs DO have an innate tendancy towards evil."  Why would you justify it in this way if you were not refering to the action as acceptable as LG.  


I said they have an innate tendancy towards evil, which is what the RAW says.  I did not say that they were inherently, irredeemably evil.


Now on the orcs being CE thing.  You are the one not reading the entire rule about typical alignments.  You are then stating I am the one not reading the entire section when it is you that are reading words that are not there.  First the races that are inherently a certain alignment are italicized in the chart in the PHB on page 103.  Orcs are not italicized.  What that means if you read the entire section is since italicized means: are always of the alignment, with the exception of paladins BORN into the alignment, and the alignment is an inherent part of their nature.  This means those NOT italicized such as orcs are not inherently CE, NOT born CE, and it is not completely inherent to there nature.  So basically orcs tend to be CE, and their culture tends to reinforce CE, but they are not inherently CE, they are not born CE, CE is not inherent to an orcs nature.  So orc babies are innocents.  This is reinforced by the fact that as the rules state not all orcs are CE.


Again, you are not only failing to read the RAW, you are failing to read what I wrote, or are attaching meanings to what I said beyond my words.  Orcs are not italicized because they are not inherently, automatically Chaotic Evil, yes.  I addressed this earlier, you ignored it.  HOWEVER, what you ignore is the part about orcs having an innate tendancy towards Chaotic Evil, that their Chaotic Evil culture reinforces.  This means that the inborn instincts of all orcs, lead towards Chaotic Evil behavior.  An orc raised among humans is not guaranteed to erase these tendancies, but is just less likely to be CE.  So something inherent in the orc condition makes them more likely to be Chaotic Evil.  That's all I said.  And I have said several times that I was playing devil's advocate on that point, since you continue to insist that orc babies are blank slates, much like human babies.
I happen to agree that even if some of those babies register as evil to a detect evil spell, that killing them is an evil act, because they haven't done anything yet.  Much like a Neutral Evil bartender who is just a miserly, greedy, selfish old man, but not a criminal...killing those babies would be an evil act.  Pinging on a detect evil spell is not a moral green light to kill.
So you continue to misrepresent my point, because you continue to insinuate that I am saying that all orcs are CE, when the rules expressly disprove that.  This is why it is Strawman Fallacy, because I am arguing no such point.  Whether that comes from you misunderstanding me or not, the very fact that you present this as my point and argue THAT, is Strawman, even if it's just a mistake.

And what you have not addressed is that the RAW do, in fact, state that "orcs tend to be chaotic evil, and their culture tends to produce chaotic evil members".  The generalities posited in this sentence mean several things:
1 - All orcs have leanings towards CE, whether they are raised in orc society or not.
2 - Orc society is more likely than not to produce members of the CE alignment.
From that, the following is also true:
A - Orcs raised in orc society are very likely to be CE.
B - Humans raised in orc society are likely to be CE.
C - Orcs raised in human society are less likely to be CE.
D -  It is possible for an orc raised in orc society to NOT be CE.
E - It is possible for an orc raised in human society to be CE.
F - It is possible for a human raised in orc society to NOT be CE.

This is a complete breakdown of what I have been saying, leaving no room for misinterpretation.  You somehow chose to read what I said as "all orcs are inherently CE".  At no point did I say that. Even when you quote me, the word TENDANCY is there.  That's all I said, and it comes from the RAW.  Stop reading into it and claiming that I am making some other point.
Maybe you didn't mean to say it was an acceptable LG action, but that is the way it reads.  So you admit you made a mistake, but I did not twist your words.  Those were your words.  I did not make a strawman fallacy, because you did claim it was a LG act.  You can back track and say otherwise, but that is what you stated.  The quote is that it is acceptable as LG.  If you had said as you claim to have meant that they were acceptable actions a lawful good character could make even if some of those actions go against the LG alignment then sure I would be making a strawman fallacy and twisting your words, but that isn't what you said.  You said acceptable as LG.


Again, I clarified what I meant, and I'm sorry if it was misleading.  But that's not what I meant.  I meant it was a LG character could find acceptable.  
However, I also posited 2 other examples of LG characters that did not find it acceptable, so I really don't see how you took it to mean that.  The only way I can see how you got that is by taking 1/3 of the example I posted and taking it completely out of context.  As soon as you look at all 3 examples together, which is how it was originally posted and meant to be read, you see 2 LG people who don't find it acceptable, and the only one who does is a LG character with a vitriolic and blind hatred of all orcs.  This was meant to highlight that alignment does not dictate what to do in said situation, character personality dictates character action, alignment is affected by those choices.  And the fact that the "kill the orc children" voice was in the minority, should serve as an inidcator to a reasonable reader that the posited action is not supported as a "Lawful Good action".
I can see how you interpreted what you did, given that you took 1/3 of the example I posted completely out of context.  But that doesn't make it a valid representation of my points, as it was incomplete. 
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